What’s the secret behind crafting successful go-to-market strategies that stand the test of time and market shifts? In this episode, Mark Kilens, people-first GTM champion, shares how do you align customer problems with product offerings amidst the rapid commoditization of software development, and what role continuous learning plays in this ever-evolving landscape. Join us as we unravel the mysteries behind sustainable marketing, experimentation, and the pivotal role of people-first approaches in activating exponential growth for brands.

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People-Centric GTM: Mark Kilen’s Framework for B2B Growth

Why don’t we start with the signature question, which is, how do you view and define go-to-market?

For me, it’s pretty simple. It’s obviously not, but the way you define is pretty simple. You’re just trying to match people’s problems and products. That’s it. Right? I mean, it’s it’s much more complex than that. But at a minimum, if you don’t focus on those three things, and focus on executing those three things really well. On the people side, the problem side, and the product side, you’ll have you’ll have some tough times. 

No, I agree. I like the way have you simplified it. It is Yes, three things, which are people, then problems, and then the products, right, and you start with the people first and then their problems. And yeah, once you get into the mechanics and the machinery of what is go to market, then you need to bring in the different parts of the organization. It’s product marketing, sales, customer success, tech, everyone in between, and more

A lot of moving pieces, a lot of it’s very complex, it’s more complex. You know, how big the organization is, you know, obviously, based off what you sell, how you sell it, who you sell it to super important. Yeah, it’s, you know, it gets complex. I do think, though, that the CEO should ultimately be the one to always decide on the most important go-to-market decisions, they are the person running the go-to-market. Usually, the CMO, maybe CRO, is the one that is going to be the closest partner to the CEO to make sure the go-to-market plan that they design and the decisions they’ve made. gets done.

Yeah. And then so many things, I’m sure we’ll double-click on all of those things in our conversation the next 45, 60 minutes or so. Pretty cool. So let’s take a step back. Why don’t you introduce us to the person Mark? I mean, forget the go-to market and the leadership stuff and the leader and what do you do as a professional? But But who is Mark? And what is what has been your career journey like so far?

Yeah, I live in Massachusetts, I have two young kids, and another one on the way. Been b2b go to market for about 17 years now. The longest stint was almost nine years at HubSpot. Yeah, then I joined three other companies before I started my own thing, but seven months ago, can’t please only been seven months feels like two years, but seven months ago called Tack. Yeah. And yeah, I mean, it’s it’s all about continuous learning. For me, it’s, if you’re not learning, that is a problem. And I don’t really care who you are. I really think that’s true. I mean, the reason why you are probably so happy as a child, for the most part, is you’re always being exposed to new things, new learnings, new adventures, new people, new subjects, all these things. So for me, learning is foundational to a person’s well-being and happiness. So I’m always seeking out how to learn. 

Very cool. Yeah, I’m looking at your LinkedIn profile. You started at Sales Quest as a research analyst. Well, therefore, what two years, four months, and then you grew into an on your brought into or grew into the role of director of marketing were there. 

I mean, I was a bootstrap startup during the great recession, you kind of do anything you can write and that’s how I found out about HubSpot. I went to Google and typed in how to generate more leads. You can guess what came up HubSpot I used HubSpot for a little bit was like, wow, this is going to transform the industry. I think inbound marketing is going to be huge. The assumption was right after all through the teamwork of 10s of 1000s of people who made that happen. But yeah, I mean HubSpot was an incredible experience. You know, the 140th employee I left there’s 3000 people so helped to kind of go from 15 million to 600 million in revenue. Joined a company founded by two HubSpot leaders. It was actually the two people who founded Pavilion. At drifts, you know, 25 million to 90 million in like three years, you know, private equity firm acquired us for a nice valuation. And then did a quick stint as a CMO of an early-stage 5 million or so dollar company called AirMeet. And then I just saw this opportunity in front of me and I was like, I gotta do this other opportunity. The time is right, the market is saying that this kind of time is right. And I think from here, I’ll probably go on and probably build some software at some point, we definitely have some ideas brewing and whatnot. But the way in which you build software today is being disrupted. So yeah, we’re not going to build it. I’d say the ways in which I saw at HubSpot or Drift even because it means, I’m not a coder, but I now can code which is pretty cool. 

Very cool. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I was working on helping out my son, my younger one, for one of their, Lego League projects. And one of the things that’s required is doing a community, project that helps or shows impact in the community. Right. And what I’m helping him do is he, whether he’s like a fifth grader, so 10 years old, so he’s not into coding yet. But just the ease with which you can bring together and stitch together like markups. And the flow in a matter of 15 minutes is amazing. So it’s a no-code platform. And he was able to do it in 15 minutes. So to your point, yes, we quote-unquote, marketers, we are not coerced by designers by profession. But with the advent of like, low code, no code platforms, and AI Gen, it definitely makes our lives easy, for sure. 

Oh, Yeah. I mean, that’s where like, you know, if your only differentiation is software, you’re in big trouble. You know, you know, at a minimum, you’re gonna need something else like brand or data, or some type of proprietary distribution. You know, the most famous one, is Google buying apples, right? I mean, you know, you need you need something. Because yeah, creating software is only going to get easier, just like how starting a business has gotten so easy in the last 10 to 20 years. 

Yep. And software is going to be more and more like a commodity. It’s eventually the brand that really differentiates and why buyers are attracted to you, right, the best, or most recent example that comes to my mind is liquid IT. They’re amazing in terms of what they’re doing in terms of brand building brand awareness and attracting their consumers. And at the end of the day, if you look at the product, it’s nothing Wow, our mind. It’s not like a major invention, right? It’s flavored water at the end of the day. But what they’ve done with their branding, and the messaging, and they’ve actually created more than just a committee, it’s almost like a movement.

Well, just people first go to market. I mean, people are gonna be your key differentiator. It’s always been that way. But, you know, you just kind of forget it to some degree. And I mean, if you think about Nike, what is Nike’s most important differentiator people Michael Jordan? 

Yep. Exactly. And talking about that, yeah, I’m reading this book, Shoe Dog. It’s phenomenal in terms of just hearing and listening to his story, the struggles, early struggles, and then how Phil Knight has built is a huge lesson in itself.

Yeah, and of course, early days, there’s always like, these advantages you can find, right? There’s, I mean, you know, to be a good business owner, it’s not just people, I mean, there’s true economics behind that you got to you gotta find, you know, find the advantages and how you actually either, like build the product, you know, distribute the product, what the product does, right, like how it works, but that means Yeah, everything at some point, there’s a spectrum of commoditization, right, so it’s going to get ripped off commoditized or whatever enough. 

Yeah, yeah, for sure. Let’s go back to your career trajectory, something that pops into my mind and which is unique, and its kudos to you is, that you have a knack for picking the right opportunities, the right companies especially when it comes to HubSpot and rest. So what is your if you have a formula, and you want to share it with our listeners, like what is your founder in selecting a role and company?

Are the big problems in the right people? I mean, it’s it goes back to those three things, problems people, and then if you know if those things align, you’ll figure out the product. So yeah, I think everything boils down to like, pretty much in the startup world. Yeah. People and problems decide the market both people being like, who could you be? Who could be your customers but also, who will you be working with? Who is creating the brand and the products? Who doesn’t go in under the who’s hiring? David Ken’s first hire at Drift, when they started, was a recruiter super deliberate. He worked at performable, at HubSpot. So yeah, I mean, it’s I think I think it´s those two things.

Very cool. Early in your career, you have gravitated towards more of the teaching side of things like the academy at HubSpot, and then content and community at Drift.

I mean, everyone is a teacher, I think this is where like the word education teaching community content saw it, I mean, you know, a, my opinion is a good marketer is just a good teacher, at the end of the day, right? You know, Liquid Death is teaching you that you want this thing because they’ve, they’ve trained your mind. And through the use of psychology, human psychology, behavior analysis, right? Who resonates with you, in some way? And they’re teaching you that, most likely subconsciously, through those efforts, right? They’re saying to you, either through someone you already respect or trust that is drinking Liquid Death. And that person is teaching you most likely, again, in this example, probably subconsciously, that you need or want both, you need water. So that’s never mind, knees out the door, you want that type of water. And here’s why you want that type of water because it means something to you. I mean, it’s every salesperson is just the teacher at the end of the day, just the good ones. I mean, you know, there are obviously exceptions to that. But I learned that I thought through my time at the University of New Hampshire, studying a ton of different things, I changed majors five times, and I was very restless with what I wanted to do. And you know, I even did undergraduate research for a year and it was published through one of the professors who used to be the dean of the business school there. And, you know, I spoke at a conference as an undergrad, remember this vividly about the research we did. And that just showed me all of that, like the importance of education, the importance of teaching other people how education outside of say like the weather and the money and money is was one of the top five if not like, the third most powerful thing? In the world. So yeah.

Yeah. So what are the techniques? I know, we’ll get into maybe probably in maybe a GM success story or failure story, right? What are the techniques that come to your mind Mark when it comes to growing? Inbound at an academy? Or how do you grow a community? Like, what was your thought process like and how did you gravitate towards that? And what did your higher-ups saw that, Hey, Mark, is the right person right fit for this role?

Well, I mean, it was HubSpot was an experiment. I mean, that was that was me using customer empathy to its fullest. I was a customer. I saw a problem. HubSpot needed to do more to support its customers, there was an opportunity to teach more people how to use HubSpot, the software plus inbound marketing, to get better business outcomes. I joined HubSpot with the idea, idea that I was going to actually do it, I realized quickly the culture that Domitian and Brian created, which is exceptional, allowed for that, especially at that time of the company. So I just worked nights and weekends and built it up with the help of people around HubSpot. It was like four months into joining Hub Spots, five months in, I started working on it. And then just pursued that for a year and a half and just showed two things. business value. 

So what was the value to the enterprise that was HubSpot, you know, they call it or maybe they still do an EV enterprise value? And then CV customer value. What was the value for the customers? And that’s it right? And you built it through a deep partnership with customers through the voice of the customer, you know, it’s like, and that’s where a lot of founders get stuff wrong and how they do their go to market. How did they their product, they just built it like in their own mind or their own team and you build it with other people. That’s by the way how you build a community if you actually want to start a community. You build it with other people. So like, Yeah, I mean, I look back and I don’t think anything I did was like remarkable, quite frankly, I just it’s relentless execution. I don’t think a lot of people spend enough time pursuing something for you know, two years, three years it takes to pursue something to see really great results, you know, you can’t give up after a year. Definitely not. Unless you’re extremely lucky for it to hit. And even after two years, you know, you need more time. So you have to dedicate time to things. And then that’s I think one of the downfalls that people just make is they just don’t spend enough dedicated consistent effort on something.

Yeah, I mean, a couple of thought process topics, we can dive into. To your point. For any experiment, first of all, someone has to have the mindset to do an experiment, create a mindset, an experiment, which you did, on nights and weekends at HubSpot, experimenting with and doing which became HubSpot Academy. Right. So that’s one thing. The second is you need to give it time. It’s not like, Hey, you try it for 1,2,3 or six months, it takes much longer than that to see if it’s really worth investing and seeing some traction that it’s worth investing in. So how did you build a business case? Or how did like termination others see the value at HubSpot, that, hey, this is something that we need to invest in, in building that?

In building it, I mean, I just did it no one I mean, they could have stopped me, there was again, like it was a very different time then. And a lot of the issues that companies are facing or can’t address correctly start with the culture of the company. Yeah. And it starts with the CEO, the leader. So if you’re a co-leader listening, you got to ask yourself, like, how good am I at creating an environment where Jerpoint experimentation, and just the act of trying things and doing things is taught? It’s not just tolerated, but is recognized and rewarded? 

Yeah. Exactly! 

So a lot of issues just come down to culture. And those that are people issues, I think it was, who was it? 99% of all businesses, people 1% Is everything else? I pretty much 100% believe that. Um, so anyway, like, for me, it was just trying stuff out and then collecting early data points, you know, listening to what the CTA was initially, initially a customer success type initiative. And then you know, after time, we realized this could be a huge, you know, creator of more demand at the top of the funnel will help turn demand into revenue, and it does all those things today, but it was just like, how do we help our customers be more successful with inbound marketing better understand it and how to do it with the HubSpot software? And back at that time, it was very simple software’s blogging, SEO, some social media keywords, etc. It’s gone into email a little bit. And we just showed not just the data and how it was helping but also like, what was what was the customer’s reaction? What would a customer say about this? 

What do they think feel like? And from there, you just, you just worked and worked to teach people why this was a good idea. Looking at the data said it wasn’t a good idea, then we would have pivoted or stopped doing it or whatever. But like, the data and the feedback, we’re saying, keep going, keep going, keep going. We kept iterating and iterating and iterating. And then sometime in like 2012, I think it was like March or something we got funding to do as a three-person team mean to other people. And kind of the rest is history in terms of like how that’s grown. Now. It’s like, I think 60 people, plus a big supporting team of people. Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s impressive. I mean, they, you know, and we deliberately did it too, I was able to sell it so much through the help of other people. It wasn’t me selling it, it was the data of the customers. 

And then the other people who were involved at HubSpot, helping me sell it, people who led the partner program, people who were on the CST, and people who were CSMs like those, the more people you can get to help you sell something. 


Market something, the easier it theoretically and probably will be. So that’s another lesson. And that goes into your question on community building. You’re just trying to gather enough energy and energy in the form of people to help you, you know, continue it or bring it to life or get that funding that investment, whatever that goal might be. 

Fair enough. And again, it goes back to the number one thing which is culture, right, having that culture of encouraging, and, and supporting people doing experiments. I think that’s what that’s where it all starts. So that brings me to what you’re doing today with both ClubPF and TACK. So why don’t you tell our listeners what are those things and what are you trying to do over here but for those initiatives?

Yeah, I mean, Tac is three things. It’s a media company and a go-to-market firm at the end of the day, and we’re focused on people first go to market. The three things that are part of Tack are we have a media side of the business where we help companies, and brands produce shows, and we produce our own original shows, it’s part of usually what we call the Tack network, tacknetwork.com. So that’s one leg of the stool in the business. The second leg, the second part of the business is ClubPF a community all about People First go to market for people who are in go to market, marketers, CEOs, entrepreneurs, it could be anyone, anyone who wants to learn about this new way to go to market, join the club. And it’s not just teaching marketing, right? It’s teaching how to bring products, and the people who have problems together in a way that is efficient, and sustainable, but ultimately creates a like, sustainable, lovable brand. Like really activates the word-of-mouth flywheel. And you know, if you get some kind of critical mass, you build an ecosystem with this approach. This is just how all the great companies have gone to market over time. And some of them lose this over time. But people first go to market is something that we’re teaching and talking a lot about in the community and club. And then the third one is we coined it on demand go to market services, it’s Tak GTM. And that’s just helping go to market leaders. Find the right people to solve the problems they have. So like, the classic example is like it’s Uber for go-to-market leaders, a go-to-market leader once it gets to this destination called Tack GTM. Who’s the Uber know we’ll find you the right driver and the right car to get you to the destination 

Nice. Pretty cool. All right. 

So Mark has great insight, as well as thought-provoking comments that got us going down a different path. And something that you said, By the way, I fully agree with you, which is, every company, every business, every founder, they always start with people first. But then as they grow somewhere along the line, that focus gets lost. So tell us more. I mean, I fully agree with you, I want to understand your thought process and what you’re trying to do at TACK and helping your customers on that.

Yeah, we built this new approach. It’s an evolution of inbound marketing to some degree, it brings together these seven pretty common growth strategies. And we built this model that helps businesses bring products to the markets to match the way people buy. That’s the easiest way to think about it. So yeah, I’m happy to go as deep as you want. I was actually on a podcast earlier today where we spent 45 minutes going through the whole thing with examples in detail. But yeah, just need to let me know. 

Yeah, go go for it. Why don’t you introduce us to the framework? And let’s and based on that, we can go into like a couple of boxes.

So yeah, I mean, the the framework has, like I said, The Seven growth strategies surrounding the sixth in the center is partner low growth. So partner-like growth is not a sales-only thing. It involves everything like right now, this is a former my opinion, a partner like growth, you’re interviewing me, like you’ve done with many others on this podcast, to create content, which is content like growth, that and use it to activate your community-led growth strategy. So you you alone, just in this one example, have activated three of the seven growth motions, how well did you activate the activated? And that’s a whole other question. Um, but there are partnerships, right? And there’s all these types of partnerships. Before we go, before we go any further though, the definition of this model is, that it’s a strategy that uses storytelling, relationships, and partnerships to help businesses create, capture, and convert demand into revenue. That is, that is what it’s trying to do. The three things are the most important to really, you know, hit on there. It’s storytelling, relationships, and partnerships. Within the model, were you gonna say something, sir?

No, go for it. 

Within the model, there are these three channels, I mentioned, community-led growth, which is the tip of the spear, it’s how you activate the audience engaged in the conversations, create an interest for the brand, then there’s member-led growth that’s much newer, if you can call it that. It’s probably the newest and least understood one in the entire model. We can double-click on that if you want to. But that’s about how to create a deeper relationship with the audience that you now have their attention to and how you pull them into the brand in a way that allows you to learn more about them and allows them to learn more about you and strengthens the relationship. 

Then customer-led growth is when you’ve created and captured that demand. Now, how do you convert that demand into new demand? How do you convert your customers into advocates, partner with them, partner with your customers, and spin that flywheel to do those three things you need ways to build trust and value within that audience and within the markets. 

The three things that we recommend you use and it’s very common, our content like growth events event like growth and products, product lead growth, to build that trust and create the value that is pretty much it’s definitely needed to turn someone into a customer because the old way of companies being gatekeepers is so long gone, the customer is in full control for the most part, so you need to empower the customer so that they can see that you’re your trusted, reputable, whatever word you want to use entity brand that they would want to possibly give you their hard-earned money to. To trust with and to solve those problems. So that’s it at a high level there’s so much to unpack and we need multiple podcasts probably. But it’s why we like I said built ClubPF and other resources.

Yeah, no, I completely. I get in fact I align with So many of those different go-to-market motions. And something that I’ve been saying over and over on my podcast as well as with the customers and the clients that I work with, right? So if you try to uplevel, the winning go-to-market playbook. So I’ve been studying go-to-market leaders for a good part of like past five years. And think of the analogy, Mark. So the NBA, the National Basketball Association, you got Legal For 30 teams. But there’s something magical about the top one, two, or three teams, that something they do over and over again, that they end up being in the playoffs and the champions on a consistent basis. So they’re doing some habits, they’re doing some actions, that’s creating that winning playbook for them. 

So if I take the same example and apply it to the go-to-market companies and go-to-market teams, it boils down to content boils down to community, and it boils down to experiences slash events. And I’m seeing a lot of parallels with the framework that you’re doing it Tack. And again, it’s centered around people, all of these are people-centric. If you think about content, how are you creating that valuable content and unique content that people can find only in your community or your place? An example of that that’s been done well, is drift, for sure. And gang, what they’ve done so well when he talks about community, you got some Graham, who’s been doing it for years now. He’s done that for at his previous company terminus, and now he’s doing it with the GTM partners, right, again, he’s actually mixing a couple of widgets, community, and events as well, in that, yep. So I see a lot of parallels with that framework and what you’re saying.

Yeah, I mean, you don’t have to, you don’t have to do all seven. And you probably shouldn’t, when you’re just starting out. The most successful companies do all seven, and even small companies like I was just giving someone an example today, there are small, you know, 10-person agencies. And I asked him a few questions. I said, Yep, you’re doing all seven of these things. And their mind was like, Oh, my God, I am. So yeah. And then I said, Well, how far and wide and deep you want to go there, you know, depending on who you sell to what you sell, what your product is, you know, why you sell it, your growth, ambitions, you all these things that create context to then tell, or suggest to someone how you would use this model? That’s what you have to consider. 

But yeah, I mean, you the, the thing that I always tried to do, and I learned this from Brian and Mash is study people and be human anthropologists, you want to be a human anthropologist because that will give you the signal of what’s going on in the lives of people or what could be going on the lives of people or give you some line of sight into like, what’s going to change, because of things that we don’t have any control over for the most part like AI?, because we can’t control you know, everyone developing AI, and how that’s going to affect people, your customers or future customers? start there, then start to look at the problems maybe. But you have to think bigger and wider. And from there, then you start to look at like, you know, well, what’s broken these days. 

And from a go-to-market standpoint, there’s, there’s a lot of stuff that’s broken. It’s kind of like between 2010 and 2020, it was easy living interest rates were cheap, at least in America, and not much changed for the most part when you had to think about your go-to-market. But now many forces have created a storm of change. And it’s probably because the status quo is finally kind of crumbled out from within itself and like you got to replace it with something. And also just the economic conditions have changed how people think about the value of things, you know when you think about buying something for your go to markets, or your front office, your back office, I should say, you know, the tech stack. But even if doesn’t matter, you could be selling to cabinet makers, which is one of our, you know, customers of ours that we’re working with how to like reach cabinet makers, cabinet makers, they need this. That’s actually how you want to go to market to cabinet makers. You don’t want to use ads, they’re not going to click on ads. We did the research. They’re going to mostly rely on word of mouth and through the places where they talk to one another on what cabinet-making software they want to buy.

I’m pretty sure so let’s make it even more real for the listeners which is if you can share a go-to-market success story and go-to-market failure story maybe at your time at Airmeet or Drift or even HubSpot. And then you can double-click in each of those areas.

Yeah, really simple. I’ll give you multiple. So they’re fast and you unless you want to go really deep. So success story is when you do a great job of enabling your sales and customer success teams with the content, the stories, and the process they need in order to serve the customer. In HubSpot did such a good job at this drifted a really good job. Airmeet was not a success story. We did not do a good job at that. And as some of those are partially my fault, like you, if you don’t, if you don’t enable your teams to be exceptional at what you‘re asking them to do. You know, I don’t know. I mean, you can’t really blame anything, you know, that starts with hiring by the way, and hiring for the right profile. But yeah, I mean, I’ll pause there, I have plenty of examples. I can go deeper than that. But I can just!

You know, for us to go deep. And it’s up to you. I mean, you can either pick Airmeet or Drift or HubSpot. Right. Let’s start with like, I totally agree with you that it starts with hiring the right folks and enabling and empowering them. But then let’s make it even more real and tactical and useful for the audience here.

What do you want to go deep into that?

How about the one addressed? 

Specifically? Like you when we go deeper, like how we did the training? Or how we enabled them post-hire like, what what piece?

So okay, if I look at your role at drift, your VP of content and community why don’t you walk us through an example where you had to hit a KPI or a goal or like 123 quarters? And how do you achieve that?

Well, yeah, so I mean, so the thing to know about me, and you ask anyone I used to work within any of these companies, I never just did my job. I actually did revenue enablement for a year at adrift, I enabled all go-to-market teams. So let me go back to enablement. Step one is to understand what people need to do in what timeframes. So a new hire comes in. Okay, this is the job we’re asking you to do in these timeframes. And these are the outcomes we really would expect you to get to in these timeframes. So it’s the job and the outcomes. It’s called backward planning to some degree. So using those things, to help you build a backward learning plan to help someone go from not knowing almost anything about this stuff, other than of course, what you innately hired them for, which is you know, in this case, a sales skills, salesmanship to knowing how to like to sell this complex thing and sell the story, the vision, the product, the features, how to work with the team, how to like, you know, do contracting, how to work with legal, all these things. Yeah. 

That is where most companies do not spend enough time and money, especially startups, especially startups that are, you know, A, B that are post-product market fit. So you’re listening to your post-product market fit, and you haven’t hired an enablement person or training person. And you’re more than two salespeople. You gotta you gotta hire someone right away. Or you have someone do it as like 50% of our job. Because you want repeatability. Like you’re spending all this money on marketing, right? And other things to bring people into the funnel. And then if you if you don’t equip and enable the team correctly, you’re just basically pissing away the money at the top of the funnel. Yep. So what’s the point? Um, so yeah, I mean, the lesson here is that Drift we are very deliberate. We were very focused. David can sell really believed in this stuff. HubSpot was just machina came to this. When I joined HubSpot, they had the most robust training that an early-stage startup like ever had, I’m still proud to this day, they had one of the, I mean, it is incredible, like, remarkable, the training that I went through for being 140 person company, just insane. 

That, you know, that’s what you need to do. That is, I am 100% Convinced that so if I ever started to scale my business, that’s one of the first things I would like to hire or do like train everyone consistently, because at me, like, you know, we didn’t have that focus. And some of that was I probably didn’t impress hard enough to do that. We didn’t have the right people to do that. But yeah, I mean, that that creates a lot of downstream problems, and now you know, advising and working with a lot of companies. You know, I see it clear as day.


Yeah, cuz they are the day people are the ones that are delivered to your go-to-market. And when you don’t have sales and CS people and support people and even marketers alike, understanding why you do what you do and what you do and how it works. It’s gonna create problems quickly. 

Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, for my own experiences working at different startups earlier, right? I mean, I’ve invested and been involved with my team and creating unique content programs, and unique content. But then, if we don’t carve out the time to enable, especially in Series A and Series B, or even if the startup is going or doing a pivot from sales lead to PLG, there’s always the pressure to show results. There is no time for experimentation, the C-level and the leadership cannot stand up to the board. They can but not to a large extent not enough, they’re not strong enough, right? And the pressure comes downwards onto the GTM, functional leader, and down to the individual contributor.

Well, yeah, and it’s, um, I like to call them enablement or upskilling programs, content is a part of it, right? The way in which you like, to package up your contents, you know, it can either be used for education, educational purposes, or maybe not. But yeah, no, I mean, I agree. Like, if you leave it up to the the people who do not know how to do that. Oh, good luck.

Yeah. Very cool. And then so what are your ways some of the programs or initiatives or experiments that are doing a tag to educate the startups around? Hey, you need to Yes, it’s good to invest in content programs or committee programs, but you also need to invest and give the time for new folks to ramp up. And they should be properly enabled. So any thoughts or any initiatives that you can shed light on? 

Not really because I can be the company that’s two people, it’s me, my co-founder, right? So it’s not it’s not like one of these other companies we’ve been talking about? I mean, I say we’re doing it from an external standpoint. So you know, what I saw and did drift in HubSpot and Airmeet to some degree, is the one-to-many, maybe one-to-one-to-few approach. And that’s why we actually started the whole business with a proof of concept, and an MBA of community and owned community, I should say, through ClubPF, so built up a membership. And then we were using that to educate people. We’re using just the classic content, lead growth, and inbound marketing playbook of creating great resources and educational content to teach people about it. But we’re not big enough. We’re only just over seven months into this thing that, you know, we have anything really formal, we’re going to be building what we are building, we’re not launching soon an on-demand course. All that other stuff, tell people to learn about it. 

But yeah, it’s crazy. I mean, you know, we work with big public companies and small Series A, you know, to Series D companies, and just the lack in I guess, yeah, just the enablement piece. But not just on the employee side, the customer side, the mean, and a lot of them these, I mean, they’re actually doing it, but they’re just doing it in such a brute force way, meaning they’re just using one to one resources that should be much more tactically deployed, meaning strategic CSMs versus training centric. CSMs.


It’s crazy. What I see and it’s, it’s, it’s because there is this is not taught in college. This is not taught anywhere, there’s no people regressing to, you know, what they know and think is best, there’s no harm. There’s no fault of their own. But um, yeah, there’s just the whole thing when it comes to software and SAS and startups in general, there’s just still so much education that can be had and done. And that’s why we tried to create a way that matches, you know, how people buy to match how you go to market and teach people about it. 

Yeah. So talking about community, like, what are some of the resources folks or communities and maybe books or people that you lean on around your own growth?

Oh, man, I mean, I’ve read, I read a lot of books. I don’t watch a lot of TV. I like right now the way I consume stuff. I do really curate newsletters. So I mean, let me just let me just look, because I don’t know all the names. I read about, I don’t know, 10 to 15 newsletters a week, which gives me access to hundreds of different ideas and articles. So you’ve probably heard of this one. I’m sure Benedict Evans is right. That is one of the 15. He curates a ton of great stuff every week. I mean, he’s got wanting 25 links in a week in that article. On the other end of the spectrum, I subscribe and I read almost daily, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times I know most of my passion. I don’t think any one of my friends does that, which is fine. But I’m a ferocious reader. I’m in the middle. You know, I got newsletters that are specific to any one of those different products, starting a product, but people first GTM kind of motions and strategies. So I’m trying to consume stuff that’s completely outside of what I’m doing. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, 10, gentle. I got stuff that I’m subscribed to for AI. I think books are good. Like, I like books. I like a good collection. I’m just looking at my books, nonfiction versus fiction. But they also just get dated so fast. It’s so yep, that’s the bad but that’s the problem with books at least from like a business book standpoint. So yeah, I don’t know what some of the favorite things you read. What are some of your favorite newsletters?

Newsletters? Yeah, that’s a good question. So I read, for me, it’s just not GTM-only newsletters. I also look at others outside. So things that come to my mind, let me look it up Sahil Blooms, Curiosity Chronicles. That’s a good one. It’s all about mindset. How do you keep pushing yourself even though you’re at the peak, but then you can do so much more? The other one is around health and fitness. Dango. I don’t know if you know him.

They’re all subscribed to that. I saw him I do. Yes. But yeah, okay. That’s good. 

Yeah, sure. And then new ones be familiar with this. Right? Exit five. They’ve got that. That’s one. Yep. I read. No, it’s

A good one to Scott’s newsletter. Just it’s on substack Scott’s newsletters. Very interesting. It’s once a week. You know, Shane Parrish, a great one. You know, podcasts. Fantastic. Lenny’s podcast is very good. And it’s more of an industry-specific ones. His newsletter comes out ad hoc, but yeah, I mean, again, it just goes back to what I said, I don’t know. 40 minutes to learn. Learn to be a sponge and then apply. You have to apply though. The biggest thing applying doesn’t mean going like actually applying. It could be just this, write something down.

Yeah. Well, very cool. So yeah, the final question for you Mark is what advice would you give to your younger self?

If you were to turn back the clock to day one of your go-to-market journey? 

Okay, So to like to eight to two, there’s a focus on 100% always on the customer, on the people. I didn’t learn that lesson until I was kind of like getting into HubSpot a year or two in so it was like, Oh, my God. Yeah. And actually, at that point, it was like 2012,13 Dharmesh created sold for the customer. Yes, FTC. Yep. That will never leave my body. So solve with the customer.


By delving deep into the nuances of your product, market intricacies, and understanding the needs of your customers, you pave the path to unparalleled success.

In this episode, Rabi Gupta, cofounder and CEO of EvaBot (Eva AI) delves into the intricacies of go-to-market (GTM) strategies. With a wealth of experience spanning consumer products, B2B sales, and enterprise solutions, Rabi Gupta shares invaluable insights gained from overcoming setbacks and seizing opportunities. 

He also sheds light on the different flavors of GTM and discusses the critical success factors essential for launching and scaling businesses in today’s competitive landscape.

Learn from Rabi Gupta’s triumphs in sales success, as he reveals the essential factors that drive GTM effectiveness, empowering entrepreneurs to overcome challenges and achieve their goals!


Tailoring GTM Strategies: 2x Founder Rabi Gupta on B2C, B2B2C and selling to enterprises


Let’s step back and address and look at a much bigger perspective and journey and question around. How do you view and define go to market?

Yeah, it’s, it’s very interesting, because I mean, I’ve had like, three different type of products in my life until now, 11 years of being an entrepreneur, the first product was more like a consumer product, which we sold, you know, it had like, 5 million monthly active users in India back in like 2011, 2012. Then I had my second company, which was a, which is still what I’m doing. But it’s like the third product, like it’s another product in the company. The first product we had was more like AI for corporate gifts. And there, we started more as a viral product product lead growth. But there we learned a lot about, you know, b2b marketing. From there, you know, we started getting into sales processes, so build like mid market sales motion. And then from there, we start getting inbound into enterprises. So I started getting into enterprise motion. And, you know, in the last one, one and half years when things got really, really tough for salespeople, and for a lot of sass companies, including ours, and then, you know, this, this new ray of hope, which was like AI came into picture, we started building a new product. 

Because we were trying to sell to enterprises in a very tough market, we learned a lot of things like learned a lot of challenges that sales teams actually face. And then when this new AI came out, we realised that there are a lot of interesting ways in which some of those fundamental problems could be solved. And so our journey has been like, right through from consumer to like, you know, in a b2b to see and then from there, actually getting to b2b. So, I’ve seen a lot in terms of GTM.

Yeah, now, that’s what is unique about your background, you’ve seen b2c, you’ve seen b2b, b2c, and you’re seeing now you’re doing like b2b. So what do you think are the different flavors? I mean, have you found like, Hey, this is how and what I believe is go to market? And how are you helping shape your company and team around that?

Yeah. So again, like for different types of products, go to market can look completely different. You know, if you if you are in a consumer space, then you have to, of course, look at some sort of virality, and, or social, you know, things in the product that automatically help you grow, because, you know, paying Google and Facebook to help you grow is not sustainable at all in consumer space. So there needs to be some sort of either partnership. So just one example like, when we were doing a couch app in India, we built a very cool feature, where, you know, as you know, it had like, a lot of chat rooms, for people who are watching TV shows, right? So we had, we used to generate a ton of content around those TV shows and all of that. So then we went on and partnered with, like, these TV channels, which used to show that content as a ticker on TV when the show was live. And that gave us a lot of organic users, right? So things like that you have to think about when you’re in consumer space. When you do b2b to see because we came from a consumer space, we had a lot of ideas about, you know, how do you build a motion that kind of gives you virality in the product, right? So we did that and you know, so when we build this AI for corporate gifts, we try to create such a unique experience. 

In the gifting process, the person who received the gift remembered us even after like, three, four or five years, I remember the experience. So that gave us a ton of, you know, fortune 500 customers, right? For example, we started with real estate. And in real estate, you know, real estate agents are sending gifts to all these people who are buying houses, right. And all these people who are buying houses are working for some good company, right? And so we got Microsoft from there, because one person worked at Microsoft, he told his assistant, his assistant then called us and then, you know, we Microsoft became like, 100k account right for us. So things like that happened in that space. But then so so when you’re doing a product, lead growth, things like that is very important that you know, every person who is experiencing your product, they should really like it and have a very unique experience and talk about it and helps you expand.


Then the final frontier is actually enterprise sales, where you just do like outbound right, and you have to try to convince people and that is completely different than every other thing right? There, what we have learned is, you know, it’s all about building trust. I mean, a good product always helps, you can never win without a good product. So a differentiated product, a great product that solves a particular pain point is always helpful. But on top of it, you also have to do a lot of these relationship building things, you know, building trust, and then you have to be more patient, right? Things don’t close in like a day. Yeah, that’s the biggest challenge. 

For sure. I think, if I had to summarize, I mean, clearly, I won’t do justice. But the way you articulated actually told a chair Dr. GTM experiences across b2c, b2b, b2c and b2b. I think the common thread if I had to summarize is one is definitely you need to have a good product slash service that consumers or customers love, the users love that that’s one thing, and it should make the life easier. You did also touch upon one point, Rabi, which is to focus on one thing, one problem and then do it well, that leads to building the virality aspect. And then in terms of like growth, how can you now network/multiplier effect growth, and especially in organic and consumer, the example that he used of sharing user generated content with the TV channels? Right, all these are clearly unique aspects across like product, marketing, revenue, customer services, and eventually tying it to the problem with a specific user. 

That’s correct. Yeah. Yeah. 

Fantastic. So I’m actually eager and excited now all the more not that I was not but even more given your varied experiences. So let’s take a step back now, Rabi , and then why don’t you share with our listeners your career story? You’ve done your undergrad at BIT in Ranchi. Is that right? 

So BIT, this college is in Meerut. Okay? Yeah, it’s not BITS, BITS is different. So this is BIT in Meerut, I studied there. Luckily, I have two very good friends who then became my co-founders from college. So yeah, I mean, like a lot of great things happened there. And then after college, I worked at Wipro technologies for like, two and a half years. But during our college, we had a senior who was very involved with entrepreneurship. And we used to like, you know, just be very curious about like, both me and my other co-founder Satwick was with me, we both used to be very curious about like what is this like what is entrepreneurship and like? So he went to IT Bombay. At that time, IT Bombay started this Eureka business competition and he won a five lakh rupees prize and we were so amazed by all of that.

And so both me and Satwick, we wanted to build a company but after college, we just started working right. But two, two and a half years, I was like, No, I really want to do something. And because 2008-2009 was the time when the internet was really the internet, startups like Flipkart and all those guys were picking up right so there was some ecosystem getting built with some angel investors and all of that was happening right. So then we decided to just jump on at that point Satwick didn’t join but my other friend from college Ashish, both he and I like we both started this company. And then we raised some series like some small funding from Morpheus accelerator, raised some angel round, you know that Rajan Anandon like who right now works at Sequoia India. So we did, we did all of that and we built the product to like 5 million active users profitability. It was like a very hard journey. I mean, because like, it was a very young ecosystem. So everything was hard hit getting the right people. 

And you’re referring to the I-coach app at this point, right? At this point?

Yeah. Anyways, we did it for like four or five years, then eventually sold it to another company called Video Li, which was trying to expand into OTT space. And during that time, we were building on other video apps. And some of my friends told me to go and visit Silicon Valley. And I was like, Okay, I have a US visa, because that was the one thing that we provided for me was getting a US visa. Yeah. So I just came here. And I, as soon as I landed, I just loved this place. I was like, Oh my God, I didn’t even know that a place like this exists in the world. And I was like, I want to live here. Right? So. So what I did, like, I struggled, like for six, seven months stayed at Airbnb, we were building some apps at that time. But I was meeting a lot of people. And I wrote a blog post about my whole journey of moving to Silicon Valley on a business visa, and trying multiple things that got some views that got picked up by your story and other other publications. And then somehow, like, you know, few angels actually contacted me like, hey, you know, let’s catch up. 

So I met these angel investors, and like, I was able to raise 100k. And they just invested in me like, and there was like, really surprising about Silicon Valley. They were like, I don’t know what you’re doing, whether it will work or not, but I like you. So I will just invest 50k. I said, Wait, so, so I got 100k. And I’m like, okay, 100k is good enough to get started in India. Right. So I went back, built this small team, with my same co-founder, but then, at this time, Satwick, also joined me who was working at Hotstar at that time. And then like the three of us thought, you know, let’s start a new company. So then I in Satwick, we both came to us, again on business visa. And we thought, you know, what could we build? So one of the ideas was, hey, you know, let’s build something in gifting because we don’t have a relationship or network here. And the fastest way to build a network is to give someone something.

Oh, wow. Okay. 

We had a very weird idea. And then we thought, okay, we are both very bad at gifting. So how can we make the experience cool, right? Can we make it very simple? Yeah. And so we came up with this idea of Chatbot. Because during 2016-2017, chatbots were very popular. So we built a chatbot that used to ask questions from people and collect their data. And we made it very emotionally intelligent. So for example, if we just met, after meeting, I’ll send you a link. And I’ll say that hey, you know, thank you for the meeting. I just want to gift you something small. Just chat with this spot to get your gift. We realized that kind of, first of all, creates curiosity, right creates curiosity in the gift receivers mind. 

And second of all, they were able to share all the details, because it was not an awkward conversation. Right? If I asked you right now, I want to give you a gift, like tell me something about you. It’s very awkward, right? So the bot used to ask all the questions like Do you have kids? Do you like wine? Do you like coffee? Like what type of coffee you like us to ask all the questions. And we had a 99.9% chat completion rate. So that thing started picking up really fast, because if I send you a gift like that, you like the experience, and you’re like, hey, I want to use it for my team, I want to use it for me. 

And that’s how it started growing. But then when we started doing sales, we picked like an industry we first picked real estate and mortgage because we saw very repeat behaviour there that every time there is a closing, they want to send a closing gift. Yeah. So it started picking up really well in real estate and mortgage and then through virality, we got into Microsoft, Cigna, like a lot of these big companies that are customers.

Yeah, so actually quite a few nuggets over there. I can dive into many of those points. But one thing I want to get your thoughts on is how did you nail on real estate and mortgage or real estate? Audience? 

Yeah, so by that time, we had raised money from Bloomberg Beta, Precursor Ventures and, and you know, they are like very smart people, right? So they were telling us that, hey, you know, BLG is good, but you’re doing it in a very generalized way. You have to pick a vertical and grow really deep in that vertical. So of course, it was growing randomly where there was no focused path to growth, right. So they told us to do that. And then we started exploring, okay, what are the areas where we can go and because we didn’t come from a sales background, we knew that we cannot do door to door sales or like in person sales, right? So, Satvik had some experience with marketing. So we thought, let’s put ads on Facebook and see which industries like this idea, right? And when we started doing that naturally, we saw more and more real estate people coming in through ads. And then we thought, like, why are they coming in, then we because we didn’t understand the real estate context in the US, right? 

Then like, our investors told us, oh, real estate agents, they, whenever they close a house, they want to send a gift. And I was like, Okay, that’s cool that there is a repeat behavior. So that’s how we picked that and what happened was because real estate agents were also sending gifts to their mortgage friends, for referrals, right. From there, it started going into mortgage as well. And in August, then we saw that there are a lot of big companies like Guild Mortgage, you know, loan depot, fair mortgage. So, we started getting, then we started selling into mortgages, right. So from pure marketing, it started becoming more of a sales motion. In mortgage. That’s how we got into the mortgage. Yeah.

Got it. Yeah. So that was during what? 2017,18, 19 till COVID time? 

Yeah, after COVID. So during COVID, we started doing the sales motion in mortgage. It scaled really fast at that time. On the back of it, we raised our Series A.

Got it. Okay, and, but that was not. So that was VZ. That was a gifting. Evabot. Yeah. 

VZ, was more like, you know, a company name that we then later changed to Evabot

Got it. So it was Evabot, and then you had to pivot. After that.

We pivoted Yeah, in the last one and one and a half years. So the gifting side was going well. But as soon as this, like the tech recession, and the ZURB era ended, first of all mortgages got a huge hit mortgage and real estate. So our revenue started dipping there because it was mostly usage revenue. The more you pay, the subscription was only 20%. So that was one reason. The other was all the big companies we were already targeting like Microsoft, you know, Cigna, they all had some sort of budget cuts or budget free fees, right? So we realize that, you know, it’s nice to have business, right? When the times are good, it will come back again. So, either you wait it out, or you build something new. And because in a startup, you always want to keep growing you don’t you never like.


And there was this new AI. So both things combined, right like that. Okay, there’s a new opportunity as well. So we are trying to sell to mid market enterprises, we are seeing a lot of challenges. So we have an understanding about the problems in this space. Yeah, that kind of gave us good enough confidence to build something in this space.

Fantastic. And then, depending on comfort level, like what revenue point did you have to pivot? What were you clearly starting from zero to x number of dollars? 

Yeah. So with the gifting business, we crossed $10 million in total revenue, it was doing between four to $5 million in revenue, when we raised our Series A, it got to like almost half at this point, like it is still like the organic customers are still using it, but it is it is half of that. So we realized it as soon as it started dropping down. And like in the past one, one and half years, it’s more like starting up again.

Right. Right. And then something else that caught my attention, right? I mean, it goes back to having a good set of angel investors to always guide you and have faith in you. So going back to your point, when you came to Silicon Valley for the first time, people were just coming, reaching out and saying, Hey, I invest in you. Right. And that is a testament to the success you had with Ico chap. If you didn’t have that no one would reach out to you.

For that, that was one part. The other part was, of course, you know, when you meet you share your ideas and like with angels and like early seed stage investors, of course, because I had done one startup like I had some wisdom. And I did not like making rookie mistakes. So that helps. But yeah, I mean, yeah, if you have done one startup and you have failed miserably, that’s also a great thing to get started again!

For sure. And then the other point, the reason why I asked in terms of how you identified and arrived at mortgage, right, I think you also mentioned about Bloomberg, 1 of your investors or advisor, so, so my Uber point, Rabi is having good set of investors and advisors is really key in terms of when you’re facing a roadblock, or you’re hitting a wall or you don’t know what to do. And that’s my thought process, or that’s what is my takeaway, what would you say to that?

So two points. One is, you know, first of all, investors should be supportive. Right? Yeah, that is always like, number one. And, you know, we are fortunate that, you know, 99% of them are, especially during tough times, I mean, like, good times, everyone is happy. Sure. Yep. The second point is, yes, investors can definitely, you know, really help so, so, you know, we keep them updated, like, if not every month, because, you know, if things are hard, then you try to keep them updated every quarter, right? And you try to meet with them every once in a while. And like, try to, you know, share the problems and get some insights, also your board, in our case, Comcast is on board. So the board should also be pretty supportive of whatever you’re doing. I think that gives you the space to experimentation and make mistakes. And yeah, but sometimes, if you’re stuck with an investor who has, who is very opinionated, and also kind of controls the board, then it can become very hard. For sure. Yeah.

So switching on a lighter note, what does your family think about what you do? How do they describe you? Or how would they describe you, either your kids or wife or parents? How would they describe you? Your varied journey throughout?

Oh, that’s a very interesting question. I think I always try to be thoughtful about everything. So yeah, for me, you know, everything is important, like my friends, like family, work. So I try to give time to everyone. Like, luckily, my friends are also working with me. So you know, kind of that, you know, the world takes care of that as well. Sometimes. For family, as you know, in the US, you have very little support so my parents.. My mom is in India. So yeah, I mean, like, you have to then spend time with your kids and wife because there is no other option. 

How would your kids describe what they think that you do for a living? Your kids? 

Oh, my kid is just three years old. So he doesn’t know. He just knows that. Whatever I tell this guy he will do. 

I got it. Very cool. All right. 

So let’s go back to what you do today at Evabot. So why don’t you explain or just share a quick overview of who you serve? And who are your customers? And why are they buying your service and products?

Yeah, so, as I said, like, when we, when we started pivoting to this new product, of course, it was more like starting from zero, right, like, So, you have to do all the basic things, right, like, have an idea and then validate the idea, then kind of build something, talk to potential customers learn from them. So all of this takes time. So in the past, I would say six to nine months, we learned a lot about, you know, specific challenges that for example, our ICP is biz dev people like BDR, SDRs, AES right. So, we are sending to their head like VP of sales or head of biz dev or CRO, what we have learned is that most of the products in the market today try to sell tricks to salespeople that seem like, don’t worry about fundamentals, follow these tricks, you will get some leads. 

So everyone is just focused on tricks plus leads and like what are these tricks tricks are more like, oh, this person changed jobs, right? And send this person a wine and then ask this person to give you a meeting, right? It has nothing to do with whether this person is your right ICP, right? Actually need your solution? Nothing, right? The other trick can be, you know, this person, these people are hiring STRS. Now, okay, like, if I’m hiring SDR, that could mean 1 million things, right? That doesn’t mean like 1 million companies should now start reaching out to me, right? So all these things, basically, if you see, and then in the sales process itself, when the SDRs are BDR, they are reaching out to potential customers, they are talking very surface level things, right. And again, like following trying to follow tricks. For example, if you’re writing an email the trick is that the email should be as short as possible. Now, sometimes the emails are so short that they lose meaning. They don’t care, right? So basically, what we realized was at the end of the day, what is a really good sale process, right? Looks like it, right? So if you look at top 0.1 person salespeople, they do all the fundamentals, right? 


So, instead of sending 1000 emails, they will say, I will send 100, very educated or informed emails, so that my conversion rate is higher, right? They will try to learn everything about the account, they are trying to reach out everything about the prospects they are trying to reach out, right. And I agree, this is a very hard process. So not everyone is built to do one point. We realize that LLM is more than the generation capability generative AI capability, right? The biggest capabilities they have is reasoning ability, and also coding ability, right? All these all these? What do you call that? Emerging behavior? elements. So we realize, let’s look at the emerging behavior, like reasoning capability, for example, analyzing tons of data, right? Just to give you an example, if you’re an SDR or an AE, if I could look at all the accounts you’re trying to reach out and look at their 10k reports earnings call news, right? 

Look at who are the prospects you’re trying to reach out look at their LinkedIn profile, the college they went to their experience everything right, and then crystallize the information, make it relevant to what you do as a as a company, make that as is relevant to you and then give you in a very snackable format that you can read and understand about the company. So instead of looking at a 130 page 10k report you just read three paragraphs relevant to your company that is today possible using the LLMs. So we thought that this is a fundamental thing to solve. If you solve the fundamental problems then eventually people would understand and buy.


So that’s how we started building on this idea.

Got it. So essentially, you’re trying to first of all, make the sales people, the outreach process more relationship oriented versus just follow these tactics blindly. 123 tactics that’s one thing. The second is you also make it easy for them to get the information that is irrelevant to build a relationship. Is that a fair summary? 

Correct! And when you do that you’re not doing anything, which is fundamentally incorrect, for example, it’s not cheating, right? If I give you the right information for a particular account and a person, the only thing I am doing is saving you time. I am not saying that let me do the let AI i do the outreach on your behalf, that would be cheating, right? So I’m telling you that, you know, you spent two hours doing this research. I can reduce it to two clicks, and then you have the same information that is more relevant. 

Yeah. Very cool. So this is super helpful. Clearly, the way you’re thinking about GTM, in terms of how you do the pivot, how you think about the ICP is what is the pain point and what is not the pain point and the value prop. All of those have clearly come from your vast knowledge of GDM success and decay and failure stories throughout. So why don’t you share with the listeners both a GTM success story and a GTM failure story? I’ll let you pick which one you’re gonna go with. But because it’s up to you, yeah,

I would say we’re like 99% of the GPM failure stories and maybe 1% of success.

But the 99% is actually powering that one person to a larger scale.

Yeah, failure is important. Correct. So GTL’s failure story would be, in a way, in our previous company, what we feel like the previous product, I would say, with EvaBot, but the gifting product, because it was mostly driven by product lead growth. It’s very hard to build relationships in those cases, right? So those businesses face harder times when, when the need for the product or the budget cuts and all those things happen, right? But if your hypothesis is if you build a more relationship driven sales process, like Oracle or Salesforce, right. And if the times are tough, they will try to sell some other things to you, right? Because the product is just, I mean, just one additional thing they are selling what they’re basically selling is the relationship. So I think relationship driven sales is the ultimate winner in any market. Once you’re able to do that, then you can just, of course, not sell bad products. But if you combine that with a great product, then that is a more sustainable strategy. 

Yeah, for sure. And going back to your journey, I mean, if we look at I-coach app, even though on surface, it has nothing to do with relationship, but if you see, for those who take it to the next level, they’ll see that it’s essentially helping build is helping the TV brands and the TV content producers build relationships with their users through UGC. 

Yeah, that’s correct. Yep. Yeah!

And same thing with a gifting can Oh, you’re doing it with Evabot, where it’s all about relationships. So if I have to capture your mantra, your unique value prop as a team, it’s about solving the relationship problems in different cases.

That’s true. And one other very interesting thing I recently realized is in all my companies, we actually worked on recommendations. So everywhere, it was all about, okay, you watch so many TV shows, let me filter out the best TV shows and give it to you. And then you know, you have so many ways to get a gift. But let me filter it out and get the perfect gift for you. And now we are doing it, you know, for sales in a way that you know, let me filter out the right information and give it to you.

Pretty cool. So, curious, how big is your team at you right now?

We were close to 23 People like 22-23 Yeah.

Okay. And so as a founder, because you’ve done so many go to market motions, I’m just curious and want to get your view of how do you view or what do you think is the role of Product Marketing overall in go to market?

Yeah, that’s very interesting. We recently hired a product marketing person, he is a good friend, he has been an entrepreneur. And I didn’t hire anyone in Product Marketing, because I know that it’s a very hard role to fill. And it’s, you need to have, you need a variety of skills, you need to have a deep understanding of technology products, and then you should fundamentally understand how do you market your product? Right. So we recently hired him and we are learning from him a lot. But yeah, the one thing I’ve learned is product marketing, again, like as the name suggests, it starts with the product. It doesn’t start with marketing. So like 99% of the people. We’ll see that there’s no product marketing. As soon as you reach out to them, they’re like, Oh, I will not write content for that. We have content writers, I will do ads, I’m like, That’s not product marketing.

Yeah. So what prompted you to reach out and hire a product marketer in the first place? Why does it take so long?

So yeah, again, comes from the failures that we have seen, right? So we realize that at EvaBot, the first product or around gifting, we did a very poor job of branding and marketing. And that is why you know, when you have BLG, it kind of kind of, you know, saves you from all the other mistakes you’re doing, right, including, not building a very strong brand and all of that. But when you’re doing sales, you know that people should hear about you and should know about you somehow, so that when you’re reaching out, they already kind of know your brand. And so we knew that there’s a major gap. 

And we had a lot of ideas, me and my other co-founders, but when we had other things we could never execute. So I think we always knew that the gap existed. And if we couldn’t, if we wouldn’t have found the product marketing person, we just found that gap might have still been there. So we are trying to fill the gap. And it’s, we see the benefits of it for sure. 

And what the reason why I’m asking this, Rabi is I’ve seen quite a few founders make that mistake. I also see like, Chief Product officers, or even chief market officers make the mistake of not hiring Product Marketing early on. So what is your advice to them in terms of having a product market? Or, like, what do you see are like the checklists or guiding guideposts about what they need to look out for and when they need to hire a product market? 

Yeah, so once you have a good product, of course, you know, you build the product by talking to your customers, like, at least not by talking to everybody, at least have them around when you’re building your product, so that you’re not building in blind, right? So one is that once you have the product, then the thing is okay, if some people like it, right. And if you say you’re selling to any community, say we sell to a sales community, you might be set into the IT community, and it can be anything, right. So depending upon the persona and where they go, for example, our persona goes to LinkedIn, right, and they are on LinkedIn most of the time. So you have to have a very strong presence on LinkedIn, and like thought leadership in that. So once you have a product that you kind of feel that people will see value, but now you just need to reach out to a lot more people. At that point. As you’re doing sales or marketing, you should start thinking about product marketing. 

So why did you hire? Why wouldn’t you recommend a brand or a content or demanded person? What is unique about the product market?

That’s very interesting, so we have done all of this, right? Because when you raise money, you basically try to just hire people, and you make a bunch of mistakes. We made a bunch of mistakes, whoever we hired, we then had to fire 90% of the people. And it’s not on them. It’s basically on us because we we we didn’t we didn’t realize who we needed to hire first. We hired head of marketing, we hired marketing people, we hired Head of Content content people, like we didn’t realize that they can help and then scale. A solution, a scale up process that is already working. 


They cannot build the process to build the process. You again need an entrepreneurial mindset, right? You need someone who will say that what you’re doing doesn’t, for example, the new product marketing person, he said that, Oh, you don’t need to hire anyone. I will first build the motion, do everything. And when I can’t scale myself, then I’ll ask you to hire the right people. So that is the right way, right? You need to find the right person who understands how the product works, and then understand where these communities go and then start building relationships. And then you can scale that process. 

Yeah, I mean, the way I’ve seen this work, and I’ve seen this personally on my side as an employee, as well as with my other clients, to your point is you the first marketing hire once you have a product that has some traction, the first marketing hire should ideally be someone who’s Senior who can do it independently, but who is essentially a product marketer, who can do multiple things, who can think brand who can think go to market strategy who can think demand, all of these things, positioning messaging, channels, content, all of these partnerships and then to point once that person reaches a stage where, hey, I think we have tractions in ABC but beyond this, I cannot scale myself, I’ll be the bottleneck, then hire the next function. Maybe

it’s demand, maybe it’s brand, maybe it’s content, depending on the gaps. 

That’s true. Yeah. By the first time I realized marketing is a very, very different type of role than any other role.

Correct. Now, this is super good. I mean, I’m actually glad I don’t know what came to my mind to ask this question. But I’m actually creating what I’m calling as champions of Product Marketing, you will definitely be one of them, I’ll showcase you on the webpage. Seeing other CEOs and even CROs realizing this, the role of Product Marketing and when to hire product marketing. Right. Thank you for sharing that advice. And hopefully, that’ll help save the trouble and mistakes for other founders in their go to market journey. Yep, that’s quick. I know we’re wrapping up almost like 5-10 minutes against the time. I know you have other things that are easy to take care of, as well, Rabi. So switching gears, by the way, I didn’t I didn’t cut you off, where you did share, go to market failure story, but not a go to market success story.

Yeah, I mean, for us to go to market success. Small wins, right? Like yesterday, we had a win. So today’s a great day. But yeah, go to market successes. I think I and my other co-founders always believe in doing fundamental things and be happy about it. Versus again, like trying to find tactics to do it. So I think that more than more than success stories, it’s more about more, it’s more about you know, you have to spend time, right? Like, everything takes time. So if you’re doing anything, which is fundamentally right, it will take some time. So we knew that, you know, okay, this new product will take time, but eventually it will happen. And we had to learn a bunch of things like should we do free pilot? Should we not do pilots? So we tried with three pilots and it didn’t work, then we removed the pilot? And then And then yeah, eventually we are at a stage with this new product where people are buying. 

Very cool. And are you comfortable sharing the revenue range with this pivot?

With this pivot? I mean, it’s, I can share, but it’s like, it’s more like, you know, a seed stage company again.

Fair enough. Yeah. No, it goes back to the Uber point, which is, eventually investors bet on founders who can pivot. They don’t bet on products. I mean, if they have the right founders, founders will always figure out how to make it work and pivot. And, and that’s a testament to you, that is exactly what you did. Right? And that’s a testament to you and your team. So I’m thrilled and super happy for you guys. So the other pieces are like, what resources do you lean on? When it comes to really understanding go to market like best practices? What’s working? What’s not working? In your case? You didn’t mention tactics, but the bad tactics for sales? So what resource do you lean on to improve your go to market thought process? 

Yeah. So as we started learning more about enterprise sales and bear market sales, we first of all, we do have a very good advisor on sales. Like she has a lot of experience. So one is that if you don’t have the experience yourself, have someone as an advisor or consultant right. Now, who gives you tips like, how are you reading calls? How are you asking questions, like all those things, right? discovery calls, discovery questions, all of that. But the second thing is, we look at like a lot of these influences on LinkedIn, we have really good content. So there are two types of influences on LinkedIn. Right? One, again, will use tactics. Other ones will write very thoughtful posts, right? So we follow those people who write thoughtful posts, and we try to get their content. So sometimes that content is paid, for example, I think there’s some p club. 


So that content is pretty good. 

Chris. Chris. 


He’s amazing. 

Yeah. So we try to learn from all these sources. And then YouTube, you don’t find a lot in terms of open information. Yeah, I think that’s what especially for this, this new GTM that’s, that’s where we are learning from and then by the way, the other thing which I would highly rate is having some potential customers but as advisors, so that, hey, no strings attached. You don’t have to buy my solution. Just be on my side. give me feedback every two weeks or every month. And we have like three or four people like that, who are their top sales leaders. But then, you know, they just give unbiased feedback on the product and our GTM.

What is in it for them? Why will they sign up? Even though they’re not buying anything? 

So sometimes, you know, you can offer from your side. See all I always offer either advisory equity or some cash component because I know that it’s their time. But then if you, you should not attach it to the point that, hey, you have to eventually get your buying team to purchase it, because then it becomes more biased!

Or it’s very transactional against the ethics of relationship building.

Correct. So it’s like, okay, we value your time, we’ll give you either equity or cash. But then you just give unbiased feedback. If at any point you feel that your team can benefit, then let’s talk. 

Pretty cool!  And then, the final question to you is, what advice would you give to your younger self if you were to go back, go back in time and start day one of your GTM Journey? 

Oh wow! Yeah, I would definitely do the product marketing thing more earlier. That is for sure. Yeah, the other thing is.

By the way, I didn’t endorse or prompt you in saying this. It came from you!

Definitely. The other thing we would do is yeah, try multiple things like when the product is early, right, like when you’re just launched, you feel that the product is a must have, right you by default thing. So a product becomes a must have when customers are ready to pay for it. Right. Before that, and especially in tough markets and easy markets, everything was must have, right, like people were just buying all the tools. In a tough market, I think when someone says I’m ready to pay for it, that means you have that must have or you have reached that tipping point. So before that, I think we did less experiments, I think we should be doing more experiments to get to that point quickly than data.

Yeah. Very good piece of advice. Yeah. And that’s something that I’m reminding myself as well and trying to get myself to do, which is to experimenting in terms of positioning messaging with channels, which ICP, what is written, anything, what is not, to your point? It’s an ongoing cycle. I mean, as a founder, you will realize that whatever got you from zero to one will be different from what will get you from one to five, one to 10, five to 10, and so on. So that experimenting mindset has to be there. Maybe at a later point, once you get to the 20-50 to 100 million mark. Rabi, I would love to have you on the show again, and ask you around how you’re building the experimenting culture in your team once you have like 200-500 people employees?

Yeah, you’re making sure that I don’t repeat my mistake, right?

Yes, for sure. 

Growing your startup is not as easy as it sounds. 

In this episode, Canberk Beker, former corporate lawyer, founder, and now, Head of Growth at HockeyStack, shares the pivotal moments and strategies that shaped his success. 

Learn how to switch from a broad approach to a specialized product focus, the importance of understanding your Addressable Market, and Ideal Customer Profile for effective brand positioning, and his unique approach to decision-making by balancing data and intuition.

Join us in this episode to learn how to go from idea to scaling!

Tell us more about how you think about go to market like what is in your viewpoint and your perspective approach of how you view and define go to market.

So I think go to market should be considered like a baking polish. When you think of baking powder alone, it means that you cannot eat it, you cannot drink it. Basically, it is nothing. But if you combine it with the right ingredients, like egg with millet with foot flour, you can bake a great cake and go to market, I think this needs to be considered all together with product sales, and marketing. And if you don’t consciously go to market with other elements, and if you think go to market buy stuff is alone. I think that’s a huge mistake. So for me go to market is the combination of the harmony of sales, marketing, and product working together. 

Oh, I love your analogy. You talked about baking. And yes, baking. I mean, all the ingredients by itself don’t mean much or may not mean much. But when it comes together in the right formula right here, the right mix, and the right ingredients, you get a lovely cake, banana bread, or anything that for that matter, right? So I like that I’m gonna agree with you that it’s all of these things working in harmony. And that end product is the beautiful side effect of a go-to-market motion.

Definitely. And in my next analogy, I will be using banana bread. This is way better than normal cake.

Yeah, the reason why is banana bread is my son is into baking. He’s like he’s actually 14 years old. And he’s into baking. And folks come in his banana bread baking ability. So that’s what came to mind when he said baking. analogy. Right? Pretty good. So with that, let’s step back, big picture. Walk us through your career journey and growth and what caused you to go down this path in the first place.

I think it was mostly a coincidence. To be fair, I was a lawyer. I was a corporate lawyer. And I was working with startups actually. And I was doing all of this due diligence stuff, all of this financial stuff. And it was just boring. I hate my life. And while I was working with startup people, I was like I was seeing them and I was like, okay, these people are having fun. These people actually love what they do. And I thought to myself, Okay, I’m still in my early 20s. Let me actually quit lawyering and find myself a job. And obviously, it was not easy. Like maybe I sent like over 100 applications, and I didn’t even get one response. And I was applying for all of these entry-level positions. I was applying for all of these unpaid internship positions, but there was nothing. And then I met with someone who was actually a management consultant in McKinsey. And he recently left his job there and joined a company called Cleanzy as the head of growth and he was the king, a sidekick. To be fair, like, literally he was just looking for someone who would be helping him. And he said, Do you want a job? I said, Yeah, sure, why not? And he was hired as gross. ticket back then.

I made it for my guest to share the entire story. But this is really interesting, a lawyer who got really bored with his last job, I get that. And you met someone from McKinsey. And what is the context? I mean, what is the conversation outreach like?

So one of the law firms that I was working with, I had a colleague, and her boyfriend was working at McKinsey. And then she introduced me to him while he was a consultant, and it was just, you know, hello, and Hello, yeah. Then a year later, I was speaking with her again, since we were both lawyers. And I told her about how unhappy I was and how I was looking for a new job. And she was like, you know, what, my boyfriend now is working in this company. And he’s actually looking to hire someone else. Okay, can we meet? We met again, and he was like, okay, but you need to have an interview. And I had an interview with the founders. And it was like a seed stage startup, you know, like 20 people and the founder basically is doing entity everything. And the startup itself was like Uber for the clinic, a b2c company, basically, matching people with cleaners. Yeah. And literally, I had no knowledge about startups, I had no knowledge about anything. So we hit the interview. And it was the worst interview in my entire life. Like, I did not know any of the answers. He was asking me how to grow a company, he was just gonna have to expand, expand to a new country, and I was just boosting. But after that, they were like, do you really want the job? Sad, I do really want the job. And the salary. It was like, 3x, lower than what I wasn’t making as a lawyer. But I said, you know, what if I’m not going to take the chance right now when I’m gonna take the chance? And that’s how I ended up being a growth hacker. And almost, I almost had no idea what growth hacker meant. Then I read a couple of books before I started the company, which was built scaling by Reed Hoffman, and lean startup, the 101 Startup. And actually, those books were really helpful for me to understand, okay, what I was going into, and then I basically applied that mindset to my entire life.

Very, very cool. Yeah, I mean, so many thought processes and so many questions come to my mind, right? I mean, kudos to you to be almost sure that you definitely want to get out of the legal profession, that’s one thing. But that’s relatively the easier decision compared to okay, if not law, what else? And then you gravitated towards growth. And you had the audacity and humility to take a low-paying job going down the pay scale? Because you believe in that path? 

It was definitely like the it was more like, I knew what I didn’t want to do. But I had no idea what I wanted to do. And I was like, Okay, I might be good at it. But also, there’s a high chance that I might not be. But I hate to take the chance. And I’m so glad that I did.

Right. And and really lucky that your first startup gig actually panned out? Well, I mean, you were there for one year, three months. So what are the learning curves? Or what were you doing there in that role?

Basically, everything. And that’s actually what I loved about startups. And that’s what I loved about growth because writing about the term, the traditional work, so you could end up doing everything. And as I said, it was a cleaning company, and writing about the cleaning company structure, there’s always a problem. You will let someone in and everyone has a different idea of what is perfect cleaning. Sure. And there an the people who clean the houses, they always think they do a good job. It is not like Uber like you can say okay, normally it takes five minutes, but if he’s there in 20 minutes, it means that, okay, he’s been slow. But including, it was very subjective. And, like, we were dealing with customers and cleaners were like, okay, the good job that we were dealing with cleaners and customers were like, it was a really awful clinic. And on the back end, we were building all of his perfect workflows, like perfect email automation, and perfect marketing campaigns. But at the end of the day, I realized even even if what we do, it’s not it depends on people. And I was like, Okay, maybe b2c is not my cup of tea. Like I wanted to build products. I wanted to be in software, not a b2b, or b2c self-service industry, but that yours was like a really intensive university degree. I was able to work with the product team, I was able to work with the marketing team, and I was able to work with the customer success team. And like some sometimes I was dealing with customers on the phone sometimes I was actually working with the product team in order to implement new features. And after that extensive time, I knew what I needed, I wanted to be in the startup industry, and I knew I wanted to be doing growth. But also I knew that I would like to be in software, and I would like to be in b2b.

Nice, again, putting yourself out there and then getting, because you can hypothesize as much as you want. Again, as you said earlier, you know what you don’t want, but you sort of kind of feel that maybe this is the path, you went and took the growth job in a b2c. But then you’ve got the feedback. I mean, that was the data and feedback to you saying that okay, I like the growth part, but I don’t like the b2c part of it.

Definitely, like I would like to deal with comprehensive here, I would like to deal with the bigger picture, not every individual

Got it. And then so you went into Hobbico, and deep crawl so, so explain the transition and the growth.

So after cleansing, I actually found the product manager. So after clean zip, I want to co-fund my own startup. And back then I was actually learning programming, I was learning Java, and I really wanted to be at my own product. But obviously, I also needed money to keep my life green and also keep learning programming. So I found a contract job, it was a three-month contract, and I was going to be the product manager of a b2b company, we’re Kindle. So they hit the idea. They hit programmers, and they only needed a product manager to basically create the workflows for the website and create the whole journey. So for three months, I did that. And after three months, I actually met with someone who happened to be my co-founder at Mowico, and he was the technical person. And I was a technical person wants to be a person. And we started building the product. And it was going to be in no code, mobile commerce builders, which would be integrated with Shopify apps for E-commerce and basically no cost mobile commerce. Yeah, we built the MVP. And by the time we launched MVP, COVID happened. And actually, for us, COVID was the good news. Because with COVID, e-commerce, the demand for E-commerce got skyrocketed, right? 

With e-commerce, the demand for mobile commerce got crocodile, everyone, every company needed a mobile app. And, you know, six months, we hit like, 1000 customers. And after a year, the company actually grew from 2 people to 20 people. And we thought, okay, it is time to get to the season. And the reason for that was okay, the product was going well, but the competitors and we had competence in the US back then I was still in Turkey and the amount of money we were making, was basically not enough to compete with our competition in the US. So we needed VCs that, but then actually a VC firm wants to acquire the US. And for me, I never wanted to be acquired, like, I never wanted my company to be acquired, but the money was good. And my co-founder actually wanted that. So I said okay, if you are buying, I am not going to be a burden, but I will be cashing out, and I did cash out, okay. It took like, a year and a half like the whole journey took a year and a half from me,

That’s really, a year and a half seeing all these things. I mean, seeing an idea to MVP to traction to getting funded. That’s like Blitzscaling.

Honestly, and again, I don’t want to say this a lot, often, but COVID really helped us like it was ended product, it wouldn’t be that fast. But with COVID like it was a natural demand, we didn’t create that demand, we didn’t actually need we didn’t need to educate the audience than now. Like, the most important thing I’m trying to do in my current company is to create is to create the demand to educate the audience. But in that case, the audience was already there. already captured the demand that existed. 

Yep. Fair enough. So just on that note, add more Wiko. So was that product idea yours OR the co-founders? 

It’s me it was mine.

Oh, okay. Very cool. And then you had the co-founder, who was more on the technical side of things, building, and coding.

Yeah. And at the same time, I was trying to learn how to build how to program but obviously, he was the one with more knowledge. But I will say after like maybe 6-7 months, it is I was able to understand what was going on in the court.

Yeah, no, fair enough. And how did you find the customers or how did the customers find you? The initial set?

It was Shopify like the Shopify app store, and like rebated could bid on keywords on the Shopify store like similar to app store optimization.

You were an app on the Shopify platform? 


Understood. Very cool. And then after that, you went to deep crawl. 

Yep that time, I realized that, okay, I need to leave the country like I want to be in a better tech landscape. And I thought the UK would be a really good option. And I also realized that with Mowico, I was a co-founder. Before that, I was doing growth. And I really, back then missed being an individual contributor. So I said, Okay, let’s go back to basics. And back, then they were looking for demand generation managers. So I said, Okay, you know, what, I haven’t done marketing like I have done growth, I have done partial marketing, but I have never actually focused on the acquisition side. Okay, let me now focus on the top of the funnel, it took like, six to seven months, but they understood what I was trying to build. And they understood that I didn’t only want to perfect the top of the funnel, but I wanted to perfect the whole journey. So I was promoted to head of growth after like eight months. And I started dealing with the whole journey from the acquisition to adoption to retention referral site, which was really good, like, and I realized, if a company is like, it was ideal size 100 people, and I was able to do everything, but also that there were enough people to help me out. Like, I wasn’t getting burnout, but also I was able to see everything. And after a year and a half at Deepcrawl, There was no full offer from Cognism, and I want to have the cycle. So with Cognism, it was 1 to 50 employees then became 50 – 100 employees. Movico it was 1 to 15, 1 to 10 employees then 10 to 15. Right? We didn’t grow when it was 50-100 then became 100 to 200. Now imagine Cognism was trying to 500 I was like, Okay, I want to have this circle. So I joined that. And it was like 2500 companies, then it grew to 500 to 1000 people. And it was also performed to see the whole journey because, in other companies, I sowed the seed stage Series A, B, and at Cognism, I sold three C and D. And I was okay. Now I think I saw the whole journey. And at that point, I realized, Okay, do I want to see 1000 to 5000? And I said, No, that’s not my cup of tea. And actually, in Cognism, I realized, you know what, I need to be in a small company because I need to build I have the hands-on experience. Hence, I joined the HockeyStack once again, to the beginning of the circle. And now I will be working in a company that has 10 to 50 employees. And I’m starting from the seed stage again, once again. 

Very cool. And what is your responsibility going to be at HockeyStack? 

Similar to the whole journey from acquisition, activation, adoption, and retention referrals. Because, again, I feel like, if we focus on one part, then we are missing the halogen. Like for me, we need to consider the whole journey as a whole. And you cannot skip that part by like, okay, most of the corporate companies most of the enterprise companies will have a different opinion. But for me, I would like to have eyes on the complete journey. Because I feel like if I don’t understand the whole journey, I can not create the perfect scenario. And I always want to create the perfect scenario. 

Yeah, very cool. And then something also that stands out for me. Canberk is the selection of the startups. I mean, he gets wanting to work in startups is one thing. But more often than not startups within the first six months or even 12 months things go either, personally for you, because you’re not a good fit for the role. Or the company’s situation is not going well. Right. But in your case, you had almost like, I wouldn’t say homeruns, but definitely, singles, doubles consistently, really good ones. So what was the secret? Was there a formula or how did you land? These kinds of roles?

So I think, okay, in your question, there were two parts. The first part was okay, the startup might go south. Also, you might not be a good fit, or I will start with the letter. I think so. I think it was my law background. Like, I always appreciated what I had in startups because I really hated my career. So even if I didn’t like the job, even if I didn’t like that company, or even if I didn’t like some aspects of the company, I stayed because I knew where I was coming from, and I always appreciated what I had. And in terms of casual fit, sometimes it wasn’t the best. Sometimes I hit really messy problems, but I was like, okay, it is still better than being a lawyer. So it was more like appreciation, appreciation of what I had and what I was doing before. But in terms of the companies, I always tried to work in a company that I believed in their product. Like with Deepcrawl, I believed in technical issues, especially for enterprise companies. And like, when I looked at the product, I was okay, I can sell this product, like I always told myself, can I sell this product, because in order to sell that product, I need to believe in that product and with difficult I was okay, I can sell this product. And it was actually a challenge for me because I knew that I was going to be selling this product, and creating the strategy for the growth of technical SEO people, which I had no experience with before. And after technical issues, I was more confident and Cognism and had a much broader perspective and much broader, personal like damage-linked marketing, sales, CSM revenue operations, and people at the same time. But again, I looked at the website, I was like, I can’t sell this product. And as soon as I was confident in myself about selling the product, I said, Okay, I want to join this company. And he was saying, at HockeyStack, I was using their product for over two years, and I love the product. And at the time, I was okay, if I love the product, I want to be in that product. 

Got it. I think the last point that you mentioned is critical, which is if you’re in like a growth, demand gen kind of a role, or even sales for that matter. The first thing is to put yourself in the shoes of the user buyer of the product and see if you love the product. Right? I think that’s a very critical point. So when you actually go into these websites, like during the interview, or before taking the offer, but you actually go into the website, trying out the product yourself and doing a competitor analysis, what is that process like?

I exactly like, this because when I work in a company, I actually give my 110% – 120%. And in order to do that, I actually need to believe in the product otherwise, I just cannot work. And during the process, like with deep crawl and with Deepcrawl, the process was different. So a headhunter approached me. And when they gave me the name of the company, I said, Okay, give me a couple of days because I want to actually look for the company. Then I found the competitors, I found Landscape and Twitter back then I had no idea what technical SEO was, I only knew SEMrush and Screaming Frog. And apparently, they were like the SMB solutions. But in a couple of days, I realized, okay, there’s an enterprise part of it, these enterprise companies actually are willing to pay good money for this product. And this product solves these problems. And then I called back the headhunter and said, Okay, I would like to continue having interviews. With Cognism, it was a bit different, because Cognism had a really good branding strategy. And they were on my LinkedIn every day. And I really appreciated the way they did marketing, I really appreciated the transparency because all of their team had been posting on LinkedIn every day, about their views on the experiments. And I was okay. Apparently, this company supports experimentation and culture, this company and encourages that. And I said, Okay, I want to join, and then they had an opening, I said, Okay, I just sent a message to the CMO. I have been following you for a long time. And I really appreciate what you do. And I would like to have a call with you. 


And back then I already knew the product. So I was like, this is your product. I know your product. I know, these are your personas. And these are how you should be serving your strategy. This is how you should be creating your strategy. And she was like, Okay, this is my calendar. Link, please. Can you book a call with me?

Nice, very cool. Very cool. This is I mean, we can go on and on. And we have a lot of other topics to cover. But thanks for sharing your career journey the transition points what led you to the next role and so on. Right, really important, especially for the listeners who are still early or mid-stage in their careers. The reason why I went down this rabbit hole Canberk is to give a formula or a playbook for those who are actually figuring out how to make the right transitions. So thank you. So you did mention that you’re joining HockeyStack as a full-time growth lead. So congratulations on taking that role. Yes, starting soon. You made me aware of that earlier. So talk to us about what is HockeyStack and who are your customers. Who do you serve?

So HockeyStack is a marketing attribution platform and actually a revenue platform in which b2b companies can collect their ad platforms, they can collect their CRM, they can collect other products that they might be using, like direct qualified, or like snowflake, Tableau, and HockeyStack, firstly, merges all of that data. So you can see the total return and spend of each platform on the campaign level on the ad level on the group level, you can see the whole customer journey like for example, if you’re running LinkedIn ads, you mostly rely on people who click on your ad. However, cookies can show you from the first impression. So even if they don’t click on that, if they saw your ad, the HockeyStack basically merges that from the first impression to the close one. So you can understand the exact return on investment of each of your ad creative each of your ad content. Apart from that, it shows the influence of marketing advantage, like, Okay, we have this advantage, every marketer claims that advantages are influenced by marketing, but you cannot prove it with HockeyStack, you can actually prove what was the art punk deals journey before they become an art band. Like if they had been seeing NS if they had been clicking in as if they had been visiting the website if they did, what the ACT what actions they had been taking. So actually, it is helping marketing teams to have discussions with their finance teams, because now marketing teams don’t only see what is the impact of inbound, but they can see their impact in outbound. Apart from that, it can do forecasting, for example, you can create different choices like I want to increase my LinkedIn budget by 5%, what will be the increment incremental impact of this in the next three months, it shows you because the data are focused, the HockeyStack algorithm is basically trained on your own data. So they have this machine learning system. So by looking at your historical trends, it actually gives you recommendations and gives you about what you can do or what you shouldn’t be doing. And again, like I had been using HockeyStack for over 3 years and 2 of my companies. And when I stopped using it, there were three people like 3 co-founders, and now the company is like 11 people, still a small company, they just got a seed round. And last year there was they were in the Y Combinator batch. So it is just starting. And I feel like it was a really nice time to join the company. Also they actually built the product with my recommendations, like Cognism was one of the biggest customers and I was the power user. So each time I wanted the product, they were like, okay, yeah, we deliver it. And now it feels like it is my product. And again, it has been the product that I used the most during my tenure at Cognism. And now I feel like since I know so much about the product since I have been a user of this product for so long. I think I can perfect the whole growth journey. And I’m joining them as the head of growth and I will basically be funding the whole growth function there. 

Very cool.Yeah.

Yeah, so thanks for sharing your overall career story career journey as well as how and why you joined HockeyStack. And now something another segment that the listeners love is more around go-to-market success, and the go-to-market failure story given your varied head of growth and demand gen rolls, so why don’t you share with us a success and failure story, I’ll let you pick which one you want to start with. 

First, let me start with the failure. And it comes from Mowico. And when I was telling about the story, I told him, it was a Shopify app. But obviously, it didn’t start as a Shopify app. Like every funder, we were like, Okay, we want to build the perfect product, we want to build a product, that would work with every ecommerce platform with every integration. So we try to build a really proper open source platform, which would be connected with Shopify Magento, all of the cost customize e-commerce platforms, and all Bosch. If you build for everyone that you don’t build for anyone, like the product, it was not working there. There have always been delays. It was slow, it was not loading. And even for MVP, like Paul Graham has this quote that I really love. If you are proud of your MVP, it means that you ship too late. It is correct. But in our case, it wasn’t even an MVP. It was just a random product that does anything fast. But it was different doing anything that we wanted. Yeah. So we said, okay, let’s focus on one thing, where most of our users will be Shopify, then Okay, let’s try to build a Shopify app, rather than an app for every other company. It took us like 2 and a half months to understand what was wrong, because we really wanted to build a product that would work with everything. But then we realized it Okay, in our target market, 8% of the potential customers were actually using Shopify. And we knew that as a two-people company, we will never be able to sell companies with like, 10,000 employees. So even though they had customers, the platforms, they would never be our ICP. So, we steered the direction, and we focused on Shopify, but it was actually a failure because we basically wasted two and a half months, trying to be something impossible. And in terms of success, I think it was with deep crawl. So when I joined, it was a technical SEO platform, and the product was built for technical issues. But then we realized, okay, the technical SEO landscape, literally every single landscape, like on LinkedIn, they’re, like 8000 people, right? Compared, if you look at, I don’t know, marketing managers, they’re like, 2 million, 3 million marketing managers. And since the target addressable market was low, at some point, we knew that we would be eating trucks. And we needed to have different stakeholders. Also, it was an enterprise product, it’s your people didn’t, most of them didn’t have the authority to buy a product, which was like 50k, they always had to include the CMOS, and they always had to include the people who would actually sign off the bill. But also, a technical issue product didn’t sound like a tool that would be interest of CMO or VP of marketing. So we need to find a way to differentiate it. And we were discussing it with the product team, we were discussing with the sales team, how we can create a different product. And then we came up with a solution. What if we, like the product was going to need some improvements? But we realized that those improvements, were going to take like maybe a couple of months, and it is definitely a time that we could wait. And after adding a couple of new features. We presented the product as a website health tool instead of a technical SEO tool, which would not only be crawling your web pages, but it would be crawling all of your images on your website, it will be crawling all of your website speed all of the technical side of it. But apart from SEO, it will also show the health of the website like how your website can be faster how your website can be, can be performing better. And we actually rebranded Deepcrawl into Lumar and actually called the podcast. Deepcrawl was the company that I joined and I don’t I just’m not good at with new names. I still call it Facebook and I don’t call it meta. Yeah. So we basically changed the whole GTM motion by basically adding a couple of new features to the product changing the name and starting, showcasing it as a website health product. And with that, actually, our target addressable market increased so fast and so big. And we were actually able to start having conversations with the director of marketing, and VP of marketing. And if it was a technical stupid product, they would be like, Okay, I’m going to invite my SEO manager. But when we said website health, then they knew that they had to invite other people, like the number of stakeholders got bigger, the product marketing people started to join, the content managers started to join, which will also eventually increase our ACV. So it was actually a really successful GTM motion for us. 

Very cool. I mean, oh, my God, there are so many lessons in both the stories that you shared there, Canberk, both in the failure story and the success story. But one common pattern or common theme is the ICP, the ICP the TAM, right? In the case of your first, in Mowico, I forgot the molecule, right? So in that you are going to broad, if you’re everything for everyone, essentially, you’re not serving anyone Simple, right and different laccase, you narrowed your ICP, and you said you only focus on the Shopify platform users and for Shopify, and even within that you narrow that further, it’s not for the large companies, it’s for the smaller within Shopify. And we look at Deepcrawl and Lumar, the newly branded version, the way you approach and the way you articulated, where if you just position yourself as a technical SEO, problem-solving product, it’s very narrow, your time is narrow, you’re just talking about, like the SEO teams, and the SEO manager at the most, versus repositioning and saying, Hey, we are all about how to make your website more healthier, more functioning, and productive for you. For you, the go-to-market team, and the marketing team, mainly. Now you’re expanding your ICP, you’re expanding how you should be pursued in the market. So, when I’m hearing all these things, all the key nuggets of product marketing come to my mind, which is you talk about the positioning and messaging, you talk about customer insights. You talk about audience insights, you talk about sales enablement, if you have a sales team, right, and you talk about a new product launch, or a new, in this case, it’s a rebranding, it’s technically a product with a much bigger agenda. And then there’s a new market launch in your earlier company does all versus knowledge, just focus on Shopify? And I can go on and on. But all the things you share are so many, master the product marketing and go to market overall.

And today, this thing I really love about working in small companies, because as soon as I realized that, I was not able to do that if Cognism, I knew that it was time to go, like you could do it in a company with 100 employees, you could do it in a company, 20 employees, but you cannot do it with a company with 700 employees. It is just too big for that. 

Alright now, for sure. And then. So who led the decision or the discussion around rebranding and expanding the TAM?

So back then it was my CMO. And I because we kept discussing like, okay, apparently the product is for SEOs. And the CRO has been really successful with SEO people. But my CMO, she always had this enterprise idea, like before she joined the CRO was actually if PRC had a big motion. And most of the customers were actually some big customers, they would just start using it. But my CMO actually, basically turned that motion off and focused on the SRG motion and focus on the enterprise side. But as you focus more and more there, we realized, okay, this is not going to be sustainable, because, okay, we want to sell 50k product. SEO people love us, but they don’t have daughters. But again, we were like, Let’s reverse engineer this situation. If me, as a head of growth. So about technical SEO, would they engage with it? No, I would think they want to target it to me. What would make me engage would be evoked from like just a growth, similar to growth growth is a really vague term and you can actually make out everything you can say I’m doing product, you can say I’m doing marketing, and we were like, Okay, well, what would be that vague term for marketing? People? It is a website, every marketer is responsible for their website. Okay, how we can combine what the court is doing right now with the website okay Deepcrawl growth website, is the SEO part but can two more, and then we start discussing this with the product people what we can do like what what you can do it easily, like we don’t want to. We don’t want you to work on a product roadmap for three years, what is the possible thing, what is the easiest thing that you can do, but that will also help us to not be an SEO product anymore? It was basically reverse engineering the actual product, okay, we are crawling the website, but not on now, not only we are going to be crawling the website, but we are also going to be measuring the website speed, and we are also going to be measuring all of the problems on their site, it was already in the product, though, it was only a couple of new costs to be added. And it was only like a couple of different sections to be added to the code. So once we, we were sure about it, and that time, the CTO earlier, he came up with all of this idea like, he basically plotted the whole idea into this. And once the CTO, the CTO, basically created the journey and created the ideal use cases, we were like, okay, then this means that we can call it a website health tool. And then there was no category like, the category didn’t exist. So we said, okay, website health. Is it vague enough? Yes. But Do people understand what it does? They do, it is not like, okay, so vague that nobody will own it. It is vague enough that everyone will understand. And now you can just go to the CMO or the head of growth and say, Okay, if your website doesn’t convert, then your conversion rate will increase like that, why your website might not convert your website speed, your bounce rate. And if your website is like two seconds slower, it means that you are going to lose this amount of customers. And especially again, our customers are enterprise our customers were especially customer-facing enterprise companies like b2c companies like Nike, like Adidas, and they really needed to perfect their sales. And actually, I hate the approach I use the approach that I use in Mowico, like in Mowico. Also, my customers were e-commerce platforms. So like I knew how bounce rate was important for them and how much our conversion increased the conversion was important for them. So we basically use the approach that I hit the molecule for like SMB companies, but we applied it for enterprise. But the thing is, it was the same for every company, at the end of the day, they want to maximize sales. And in order to maximize their sales, they had to perfect their website in Mowico, they had to perfect their mobile commerce platform. It was difficult, they had to perfect their website, but they had to perfect their sales platforms.

Right. Now, this is really cool. So I thank you for sharing that thought process and how you guys pivoted. But clearly, the internal thought process was not magically reflected in market understanding, and the demand creation shift and the demand capture shift. So I would assume, and there’s a very safe assumption that content brand and product marketing aspects will be played a big role. So walk us through how and if you are the CMO, shaped and come up with the content strategy, the brand strategy, and the product marketing strategy for these.

It was more like a test download. Like, As again, there was no category, we had no idea what kind of content we had to be creating. So similar to our thought process in the beginning, we reverse-engineered, okay, we want to be seen as a website help platform. So what would you expect from a website that had a platform to three points? Okay, I would expect it to be doing that it to be doing good. And it to be doing that? Right there? Okay. Who would you be targeting? If you were websites had platforms, demand managers? And if you were talking to chat managers, how would you target them? Okay. It will help you with your landing pages, it will help you with your demo submissions. Perfect. This is for b2b. For b2c who would you be targeting these two micro-managers, performance managers? And what would be saying that if your website is not good, then all of your ad spend will be for nothing? Okay, you might have the perfect ad on Google, and you might have the perfect PPC campaign. But if they don’t comment on your website, then you are unsuccessful, therefore you need to pay attention to the website help. So we basically try to find all of the pain points for contact people. The pain point was okay, you might be creating the perfect ebook, you might be creating the perfect content. But if people coming to your website don’t read, it doesn’t really matter. So you need to understand how your website is working. So it was more like okay, what they do, what can be their problem, and how we can solve their problem with the product. 

Yeah, so that’s the audience to pain points mapping which translated to the messaging, but all that messaging has to translate to content and campaigns.

Yeah, so basically, we tested like, for the content, we said, okay, website health, and what website health means for firstly for us, what does website helped mean for us? Then? What does website health might mean, for a digital marketing manager for a b2b manager for a b2c manager? Then after understanding what it meant, and what could it mean for other people we were able to create content but for that we first needed to understand then once we understood that, it was easy to create the product marketing material, it was easy to educate the salespeople, it was easy to create all of the sales materials because then we knew what we want to do. And we knew what might be useful for our personnel.

Yeah, and what kind of content and go-to-market channels did you use for this let’s start with content ebooks, videos, blogs, white papers, and podcasts.

We started with ebooks and ebooks are about demand jet engines, we created this concept of demand engine, and how to perfect your demand engine, it started with okay, you can have all the perfect campaigns, you can have all of the page structure. But in order for the dimension engine to work, it was about okay, your website so is a digital marketer. They will download an ebook about the imagination. Okay, they will, okay, I want to learn about too much change and it will start with classical ebook content. Okay, digital marketing this list is but the second part of the book will include something they they didn’t know. Okay, digital marketing brings you up until here. But in order for it to bring revenue you need to pay attention to so it was an educational piece for digital marketers, then, we also created some videos that were more like what would be happening before and after. Like if your website health is below that number. And above that number. It was the educational videos but the thing that we did, and the thing that worked the best was the URL-based marketing. I call them the UBM. So for us, we knew that the ideal customer would have at least 1 million years. And again, Shopify would be a perfect example. Actually, Shopify was a perfect ABM champion. And I was like, Okay, I’m familiar with Shopify, and I was like, I want to promote Shopify. And this time, I want to make Shopify my customers. So we create all of these websites, and then we create that list like commerce with more than 1 million euros. Then we created, ABM campaigns in which we actually did create the product actually analyzed their website and website health, and campaigns were like, hey, Shopify, we actually enlarged your website and your health score is 85.

And you have microsites and landing pages just for those accounts. 

Yes. And it was more like you are 75. But you know what? So if you want to understand why you’re scoring 985 Let’s have a call. Or with Nike, it was like, you have 75 I did not sell 77. Reebok hasn’t it? Yeah. And we can help you to get 8-5. Let’s show you how very cool it was at the actual point like that a BM motion. The UBM motion, as you might call, it was the actual educational piece and it actually helped the company to close so many enterprise deals. 

Very cool. Very, I mean, this is actually a showing the product in action, and directly pointing out the pain points. And by the way, do you know, it’s not just pointing out the problems, but we can actually help you solve those problems with this product?

Yeah, and the thing I love the most WAR iable to use the product in my marketing.


And like now, this is what we are doing at HockeyStack as well. We are creating this ABM campaign in which actually HockeyStack analyzes the active campaigns of potential companies. And once they click on that, they see their own dashboard. They see all of their lives, they see what their this might be bringing, right like using your product in your own marketing. I think one of the most powerful and one of the most beautiful things that you can do.

No, for sure. And how long did it take? So for example, let’s go into ebooks that he created plus the UBM campaigns, like from idea ideation to actually putting it out there. How long did it take and who were the people involved? Like what skill sets?

for ebooks, I think it was a couple of weeks. The first thing was okay, we need an ebook, but what if we can do and again, it was reverse engineering. It needs to be catchy enough so that people would download right, but also it needs to be able to show what we Like it cannot be on our digital marketing. But if it is only about website health, nobody would pay attention to the current. So that ideation process took like maybe a couple of weeks. But once the ideation process was over, it took a couple of days to create the demo, because we already created all of the previous ideas. 

During the ideation you just listed, okay, this is what the content should be and should not be, and go into this depth, you’re then handed over to like a content lead or someone. 

Yeah. With UBM, it took 2 days. So I was talking with my CMO and we were like, Okay, what is our ICP? Yeah, and okay, now we can go to Marketing Leaders. Yes, on the personal level, we know the ICP, but what about on the company level, we cannot just say our ICP is 10,000 plus employees, our ICP is URL. And with the MQL, we were able to count the yellow numbers. Again, it was a B2B channels product. So we basically did 100 companies, 100 companies, and then we basically reverse-engineered their number of years. And among the 100 companies, I said, I’m going to stop them. I’m going to work on the content. I’m going to deep crawl to analyze. And I just said to my designer, can you please create content in a day? She did nice. And then I basically went to the landing because we already had landing pages. So I made the changes on landing pages, and I personalized landing pages. And that was it. Like it literally took two maybe two and a half days? Because I really believed in that strategy. And after I believed it, I was like, Okay, I need to launch it now. Like if you believe it, you have to launch now. 

Yeah, very cool. Very, very cool. So switching gears, thank you for sharing all those tactics and details. And this is a goldmine for people who are listening. I mean, for all the listeners out there. I mean, key points that came out for me if I had to summarize is if you have a product and you believe in the product, put that product in use and use it in your campaigns. That’s number one. Second is, when you’re thinking about the pain points, you’re thinking about ICP, start creating content. And ebooks and videos you mentioned were critical in those as well. Right? And those really stand out for me. 

Like, if it was my current if it was turned on back, instead of ebooks, I would create, I get content because I get content is actually more education, like people actually can find that content when they are making websites search. Or you can just create a traffic ad and they can come and like they can read your content, even if it’s not giving you an email. And now like if I was doing it now, I would make it on gated. But back then it was gated.

Now fair enough. And this there’s a whole debate. I mean, you can go into a rabbit hole just talking about gated versus gated, but I’m a big believer in gated as well. But the key to making that work is your content has to be really high quality. Yeah. And it has to be consistent. It’s not like you just put one content out there and hope it works. Exactly. Yeah, for sure. So what are the different resources that you lean on in terms of like ideation, or, like, clearly all these ideas come to you? But there might be a process maybe by design or not that you’re leaning on either community, podcasts, or books or you just go for walks or friends.

It is a podcast like I listen to a startup podcast. I like to hear about different journeys, like different founder journeys. And this Week in Startups is one of those podcasts with Jason. And I do listen, to the podcast with refined labs, I do listen, to exit five podcasts. And I try to watch every TV series about startups. Like we crashed, Silicon Valley. Super pumped, all like, even though they’re like Hollywood kind of TV series. It gives you an idea. Like it gives you an idea of how you can port your product. And sometimes all you need is that veered inspiration. Because I feel like startups are like, like jazz music, you have to improvise. Like the classical music is about following a certain pattern. But it is like enterprise companies, they cannot do jazz, they need to do classical music. But the startup is just you need to improvise. But in order to improvise, you need to be getting influenced by other jazz people. And in that case, I get influenced by other startup founders. 

Very cool. I love the way you keep using analogies and metaphors. Making an article about music is really cool. So I mean, for my own selfish reasons as well, like, how did you How do you learn about these podcasts? What made you go to like all these different podcasts in the first place?

I think just I heard it from other podcasts, like, from one case, one podcast to other podcasts? Because with me, like, yeah, probably either on Twitter, I’m trying to follow every tech person on Twitter. Because I feel like, like, I don’t have the formal background, I don’t have the tech education. I don’t I don’t have that. Like, I have been here for the last five years, almost six years now. And I still feel like I’m a new person. So I’m trying to understand I’m trying to get to know everyone in the industry. So I try to follow everyone I listen to every bit of the thing that I find out about the YouTube algorithm, the YouTube algorithm is amazing. And probably I might have all of these podcasts or YouTube recommendations.

Got it. Yeah. Okay, cool. I mean, this is for my own podcast growth ideas. That’s the reason why I asked. But, yeah, really cool. One final question for you. Canberk is, if you were to go back in time, and turn back the clock, what advice would you give to your younger self on day one of your go-to-market, not the lawyer journey, but the current market journey?

Always believe in data? If you see something in data and if someone says no, that’s not correct. Yeah, always believe in data, if there is no data, but if you have a gut feeling, it listens differently. Listen to your gut.