Dive into the latest episode of the B2B Go to Market Leaders podcast, where sales expert Tom Slocum shares his comprehensive approach to go-to-market (GTM) strategies. As the founder of The SD Lab, Tom brings valuable insights into marketing plans, sales motions, and customer success. 

Learn about his journey from a sales representative to an entrepreneur, his strategies for building and scaling SDR teams, and the importance of collaboration and client involvement in crafting effective messaging. This episode is a treasure trove of actionable advice and nuanced understanding of modern marketing tactics.

Listen to the podcast here:

Expert GTM Insights from Tom Slocum: Building Effective Sales Teams, Collaborative Messaging, and Optimizing Outbound Efforts

Let’s start off with the signature question of the show, which the listeners love. And that is how do you view and define go to market?

Such a good question. This one’s so finicky. You know, you get people always talking about GTM leaders, you know, all this different stuff and influencers and whatnot. For me, how I define GTM, first and foremost it is to go to market, right. Go to market. Right.

And I think it is a full holistic view of an organization proactively going to their market. So they’re going after their ICP, their buyers, people that would be needing help in solving the problems that this that your organization solves. And that means what’s the marketing plan? What’s the sales motion? What are all the pieces in there? You know, how is CSM going to run? What’s their goals? And really putting a holistic view together on going proactively to your market and making sure that the entire engine runs as a full piece. It’s not just outbound, it’s not, oh, phone calls and emails and that’s going to market. I just don’t believe that. I think, you know, to be a GTM leader is those people that would sit in a room with a CEO, a CRO, and a CMO and a board and be able to actually lay out a plan on on what we would be able to do to get you into your market, find success there, and be able to grab market share and funding and growth as a very holistic view.

Completely agree with a lot of those points. I’m sure we can add more to that, but what you tell and what you share, Tom, actually reminds me of my time back when I was exposed to go to market for the very first time as a product marketer about, what, five, ten years ago or so. So for me, when people talk about go to market and there’s a hey, product marketing owns go to market, you’re responsible for it. My view back in those days, it’s a very limited view, which is do we have all the right elements for the launch? That was it, right? I mean, it’s almost like a bomb checklist. When I say bomb, it’s a bill of materials checklist kind of thing, which is okay, do we have the training material, has sales been trained on it and support as well? Do we have a pitch deck, web page pricing and so on. It’s more like a checklist kind of thing. But over the years, for me, I’ve had the good fortune of leading marketing teams, working with CEOs, sales leaders and other counterparts.

My view of the good market shifted and evolved, thankfully. Yeah, it’s a lot in that it’s not just, hey, do we have the list of things for the launch? But also how are we? First of all, do we have the right definitions of our ICP? What are our big metrics? Not just launch, but beyond that? And how are the different parts of the organization evolving? But there is also another element. So goes back to what you mentioned earlier, which is very internal centric, which is okay, how is the marketing, how the marketing, sales, customer success working hand in hand, but then having an external view? I mean, who are we solving this problem for? Who is it that we are solving this problem for? Right. And then is that messaging coming across? And how are we measuring that leading indicators and so on. So there’s also an element of product I mean yes, marketing, sales, customer success. They’re critical but without product.

There’s only so much you can do. But not much we can do. Yeah.

Yep. And that’s it. You know, making sure that it’s actually what your market needs. Are you listening? Are you pivoting or are you implementing the feedback, you know, quickly? All of that is part of, you know, going to your market. You need to make sure things are ironed out. Now, some things can happen on the fly. There are adjustments. Even in my own company. You’re right. You start in one direction and a few months in years in, you might pivot to something completely different. and it can, you know. Go through a rebirth, but that’s simply just by listening to the feedback of your market, really getting into their world and understanding, and then aligning, you know, the ship to, to go that direction. Yeah.

So let’s take a step back. Big picture. why don’t you share with our listeners your career journey, professional journey and what you do and what led you to what you’re doing today.

Yeah, so I am a 16 year sales vet. I started in 2007, started in financial services, at Discover Card, and then I moved into for profit education for a couple of years, dealt with a couple layoff, within that space just because there were for profit schools. So it was a lot around numbers and different things, not state funded. and then I moved over to companies like GoDaddy, Yelp, SMB, web design, and paid media. And then I jumped in around 2015 when I was at Yelp, I really fell in love with just booking the meeting and hunting for business more so than a closer. So I always kind of explained, like I kind of had like two two jersey retirements, like in a sports, you know, I’ve got the number 24 and the number eight like Kobe, because for almost a decade from 2007 to 2017, I was a full sales cycle rep. I did everything sourced, closed, didn’t matter where I worked, I had to own everything. to where.

Then in 2015, 2016, I started discovering just what an SDR was. So in 2016, I joined a company and was just purely an SDR and I absolutely loved it. It was great. It was stress free. It was just booking the meetings, making sure things were qualified and hoping to ease on the back end what they needed to do. And then in 2017, I had my first chance to get into a leadership role, and I built and helped scale a SDR team over three years from 0 to 30 enterprise space. We had a great run. It was a lot of fun. After that went on a second run, grew a team from 0 to 7 and that was during Covid. And so during that time, I got to learn how to manage remotely through all of that, being fully remote after having a 30 person SDR team in person. And then in 2020, I found a community, just because of Covid, things started happening. People all over the world secluded. So I fell into a place called Rev Genius, which is a sales community with like 40,000 people.

Right? When I joined, it was only like 2000, led by Jared Robin. And he kind of took me under his wing. I fell in love with the community side of it. It lived in slack, and I ended up birthing a micro community in there called Rev League, where I had about 2000, 2500 folks that were SDR sales leaders. And I recreated this virtual sales floor for people with cold calling, workshops, competitions, tech that we provided them as partners, help people land jobs, all that good stuff. For almost three years we had an eight week curriculum. We would cover all that good stuff. Then I jumped back into the sales motion and I went to be a VP of sales for an SDR boot camp, and I helped them move from the UK to the US market in five months. And then that run ended abruptly. And next thing you know, I didn’t know where I was going to go. I had been in the community for a while. I then went into this organization to help them.

I didn’t know where to go. I wasn’t looking for a job or having any pipeline. So after talking with some friends, you know, I’ve been in the game for 15 years. At that point, it was time to go all in because when running the community and doing that stuff, I started getting side hustles, right. That’s how it always starts. People were coming to me for workshops and hey, help my organization. You get SDR land very well and go to market. So I launched The SD Lab in September of 2022, and I birthed my own consulting and outbound agency, September of 2022. So we’re now in month 19. I am just a few months away from entering year three. And, you know, it’s just been really fun. Now I’m the founder. I am building this business out to where we’re helping organizations either build an internal SDR motion and a go to market plan, or we’re just doing it for them and are doing an outsourced appointment setting. So if the org doesn’t want to do the whole lift and re haul internally, they can just give it to us to help them find proof of concept.

You know, put some meetings in the pipeline before they look at building one internally, if at all. so full, full house, outbound agency got a crew now, about six months away from that three year kind of move. and that’s just been a journey. So about, you know, 16 years now, I’ve made 500,000 cold calls and counting. I still actively co call every day. It’s my number one channel. And now, you know, after all those business, you know, doing ten years of an individual contributor and full sales cycle rep to another five, six years as being an SDR land and helping, you know, build out these teams to now, you know, almost two years being a, founder and CEO.

Very cool. I mean, quite a few nuggets, that pop out to me in your storytelling. I mean a couple of things. One is early on in your career, you worked at big brands, reputed brands. I mean, discover, GoDaddy, Yelp and so on.

And reputation is another one. And you go into different aspects of sales. While doing that, you fell in love with SDR specifically, right? Is the SDR just creating opportunities, creating meetings and creating the next step for account executives to close? So that is a sweet spot. And something else that popped out as you’re sharing your story is being part of a community. Rev genius. And a quick fun fact sidenote Jared Robbins on this podcast. Great guy. We learned a lot. Yes, in that conversation with him.

Was a strong mentor of mine. I owe a lot to that guy. We had a good relationship. We still talk very often. even after I kind of pulled away from the community side. But, yeah, a guy took me under his wing, and basically helped me get to where I am just by giving me the opportunity to kind of build a micro community there. And I was community manager of Rev Genius for a while. Ran with the team, help them go from I think we were like 2500 members when I joined to almost 30,000, 35,000 by the end of the run.

Yeah. help with sponsors and, you know, closing deals on the back end with us. And then, like I said, running that little micro community in there. Great guy. Yeah.

And then something else that popped out is, as you are very active in Rev Genius, creating the micro communities and running workshops around SDR and go to market broadly. Something else that popped up for me was folks started reaching out to you in terms of workshops, hey, can you do this? This is your sweet spot expertise. We have a gap here, right? It’s almost like it is not almost. It is inbound and referral. Yeah. For you. That’s you putting yourself out there with your expertise.

100%. You know, I always preach this when going to market or with organizations is the best way to get your outbound to transition and kind of funnel your inbound. Is this not about pitch slapping? It’s not talking about your value prop, but it really is just about giving, giving and giving some more in that entire time and running a community that was free.

One, the no. None of those reps being a part of that channel paid a thing. We ran for two and a half years before we put a paywall up and started offering a curriculum and a more structured process. But for the first two years I ran that it was just me spilling 15 years of knowledge, and people would pop in with questions and say, hey, I can’t get over this objection. This is what they said, you know, or me building out a resource and saying, hey, here’s five tips that really worked with me and could call and try them out. So it just builds a lot of trust and credibility. And when I was hoping to end up with these skills and these eyes, well guess what would happen. They’d get promoted, their numbers would influx, they would start kicking butt to where when a manager asked him what changed, what’s been going for you? Oh, really? Being in Tom’s community and Tom, he’s met with me three times in this last month and just been really helping me to where then next thing you know, the manager was DMing me, hey, what would it look like to help the whole team? Or, you know, I saw what you did with them.

We’re really stuck in that process. Or you know, we don’t really have a good SDR handoff, you know, would you come in and do a workshop? and then I started ending up on podcasts like this, and it just started letting people see who I was. My thought process. And all I did was just give because I didn’t have a business at the time also. Right. I was a director at a company, I was getting paid, I was building my team, so there was nothing for me to gain. So I was just unloading everything I had of any tip I could give, any conversation that could be a part of right where then? Yeah, it started building out the side hustle because then people just started coming to me. Naturally, I started succeeding in those and I was like, oh, I have a little bit of a business model here. Maybe this is something I could get into. And then my hand was forced, you know, in September of 2022 and I went in and now it’s been great.

And there’s a lot of companies that don’t know how to build a sales motion. They just don’t. And I spent 15 years to where I almost say, like, I’m a brown belt at a karate level in sales, development and in sales. I’ve done 500,000 cold calls. I’ve worked B2C, B2B, I’ve done enterprise, mid-market, SMB. Anything you could throw at me, I’ve seen, and I built in skill teams. So I know how those work and making those decisions and hiring, firing all these things. And then the kicker was I got to go through the remote world, right? So then I got to learn how to manage in-house, but then also manage outs in the remote world. And most leaders right now are only learning about the remote world. Some of them don’t even meet their team anymore. They don’t. They’re just hiring out remotely and might not ever meet these people. Or some are transitioning from, you know, 20 years of being on a field floor to now learning how to do it remotely and they don’t know what the heck they’re doing, or how to keep their team motivated and in touch and without being a micromanager, all that stuff.

I got that experience too, and I did it well. So it’s just different. and it’s just valuable stuff that I can share. And the results, you know, and the impact that I bring speaks for itself, right? People are like, dude, you take my learning curve from 12 months down to three months, you know, four months. And before I know it, I’ve got a repeatable, you know, structured sales process that actually makes sense for how we’re trying to go to market. Fantastic.

So let’s dive into The SD Lab. I mean, you did mention what led you to The SD Lab. So tell us more about the lab, who you serve and what services are programs and products that you offer.

Yeah. crazy. You know, flab started, again September 2022. Started kind of throwing out the kitchen sink in the beginning. Didn’t really know what like my actual as we talk about going to the market, like, what is that package? What is it that you’re trying to do? I just kind of went all in no capital, no run rate.

It happened within four days. I was, you know, done being a VP of sales. And I said, hey, I’m going all in on this. So for the first four months, it was just kind of just consulting, coming in, helping organizations. I really went in on all in on founder led sales folks that were maybe 1 to 2 years in their business now looking to transition from founder led and get their first sales hire. And instead of hiring that player coach and kind of making those mistakes, get in between that spot and say, hey, let me come in first. Let me get you all set up, and then you can bring in that player coach. And they’re not having to formulate the plan for you and all those bumps and bruises. Yeah. So I started doing that. And then about six months in and all of pretty much last year people were pushing me and my deal cycles on. Well, can you do it for us? Like what about that? Right.

And I did not want to get into the appointment setting space. I didn’t think it had a bad name. I had plenty of friends who were doing it that were already reputable and doing it for a long time, so I just started outsourcing. Unfortunately, they were dropping the ball. It really wasn’t performing, even though these people were the best that I knew in the market, it still was just really rough. Yeah. And so, you know, up until September of 2023, so a full year later, after that first year of building a foundation of the business, kind of figuring out my products. So by month six, I was doing what my core offers are, were, 14 week revenue accelerator program, where I’ll come in for 14 weeks and we meet weekly. We go through your entire under the hood process. We’re looking at the three pillars: people, tech and process. So we’re going to look at your tech stack. We’re going to make sure everything’s in play. Find out if we can condense things, get you the right CRM, the right tools.

And that’s all custom to, you know, again what your go to market strategy, what your ICP. Not everybody needs all these tools. Look at your processes. Right. As a founder led to a lot of times you’re just running a gun and there is no process. You just do what you do every day and it works. So then trying to bring somebody in to come start booking meetings and run a sales cycle, they don’t know what the heck they’re doing because everything’s in your brain. 

You just did it every day, right? So I’d come in and fix that, iron that out, and then we’d look at people. I’d start helping them hire, find people in my network that might be a fit, help them build job descriptions, show up on interviews with them, and kind of help them find the pieces they needed. And then I built custom playbooks. I really enjoy building playbooks, so I started building them in Canva, Google sites, and some companies would just hire me because they were looking to scale, but their reps were all kind of doing something different.

So before they doubled their headcount, they wanted a unified playbook on like, what’s our messaging like, what is our process like? So I built them for them before they doubled up on their headcount. So when those people came in, they just referenced the playbook and they were right up to speed with the rest of their reps. Yeah. So I was doing that. That’s our main offer. And then in September of 2023, I dove into after some business mentors and some conversations, people were like, why not just do the appointment setting stuff? You keep putting it off and you’re actually getting more requests for that than the other stuff that you’re doing. Yeah, I said, okay, so I launched it. So, since September of last year, that’s what I’ve been doing, is now moving kind of really into just an appointment setting. because I want to change the statistics. I think the stat that I share all the time and I’ve seen is 92% of the companies that rely on outsource appointment setting fail.

There’s like an 8% success rate. And I realized when I was outsourcing it and giving it to people, it was just because nobody brought in the consulting element. It was more like a painkiller. It was just, hey, we’re just going to throw out meetings. We’re going to run our own messaging. We’ll just give you those meetings every month and let us handle it. And then it would just end up on a blind line item, and I’d be talking to these clients and prospects and they’re like, well, we’ve had this place for six months. We just pay them every month just because. But we’ve gotten like four meetings over six months. I’m like, what are you doing? And they’re like, are we forgetting it and leaving it. And it’s just been kind of running. So these new people come into the org and fire that, and they cut the line item and be like, Tom, we’re trying to look for a new company. So I bring in the consulting side where I’ve got my reps.

They’re going to do the code calls, they’re going to do the email, all the outreach. But I am going to be on top of that account with you. And we’re crafting messaging together. We’re doing buyer persona exercises like, I end the job if I actually do care. And I do want you to get numbers on the board. If that’s not happening, then what? Why is that? And I talked to a client earlier this week where he was like, oh, you craft the messaging with us or you will do it. And I was like, yeah. And he’s like, man, the last company we used, they just started sending emails without ever clearing it with us and just kind of went out there and we’re sending campaigns. They said, we’re tested, right? And like it didn’t do anything. And I was like, oh no, no, no, no, no. I would never represent your company without your involvement. Like, that’s crazy to me that somebody was just out there and it was like, look, we just wanted meetings.

So we trusted them. And I was like, no, no, no, no, we’ll build everything together. Because whether you work with me, you know, for the time or not, I want you to be able to build that internally and kind of figure out what your process should look like. So we’re building it and you’re involved. So since September I’ve been doing that. Now it’s going really, really well. Our ICP is really, you know, pre-series to series B, kind of where we live through their founder-led sales organization that’s, you know, pivoting, to running a full sales motion or obviously a series A or series B where they probably have, you know, 7 to 20 reps. Things are kind of broken. They’re not unified. One rep does it this way. One does it that way. You know, they’re potentially looking to optimize everything. and then industries, a lot of it was SAS for quite a while because that’s where I’ve been for about four years. So SAS kind of software as a service now it’s kind of getting into manufacturing.

Automotive, digital marketing agencies is where I’ve been targeting probably for the past like four months now, is we really found our sweet spot with digital marketing and media because yes, they know how to build leads and funnels and marketing stuff, but honestly, they have no idea how to run a sales operation. They don’t even know what an SDR is. They’re just good marketers. They build a cool product or, you know, platform to help you with your SEO. But they get all those leads, but they don’t know how to run it. So that’s been a good space for us. But we’re kind of going to non SAS industries companies that you know are looking for that outsource team to kind of take that recent client with like cryptocurrency that we got into. So just a little bit more unorthodox industries, but ones that could really use a sales motion and honestly appreciate my knowledge because it’s so foreign to them, even to this day. They don’t know about the video. They don’t know voice memos. They don’t know these innovative methods.

They don’t even know the tech stack. They get so overwhelmed with opening LinkedIn because they’re not tapped in. So hey, there’s five data providers. Tom, who in the heck is the right one? Like, I hear it every day, but like, how do I read through that? Yeah. So that’s where my expertise comes in. And so yeah, that’s kind of where we’re at now. we’re doing the accelerator program, custom playbooks. We do team coaching workshops. So if you just want to hire for, hey, come teach our team a little bit about cold calling or social selling or cold email. And then now, the outsourced, appointment setting services, trying to become a full house, outbound agency for these orgs that, you know, if you come to me, doesn’t really matter what you got going on in your outbound motion. There’s something we can do for you and help you. But as you know, when you’re going to market, you’ve got to be super clear on, like, who you’re working for and with and like a very niche versus a huge wide net.

But realistically, anybody comes inbound, we pretty much can work with them. But as far as our outbound targeting, we are fully in pre-series to series B digital marketing agency. And that’s kind of been our bread and butter for about four months now and kind of just targeting them.

Yeah. Very cool. I mean definitely excited to see how you grow as the lab from just yourself to offering different services and building a team. So a couple of questions that come to my mind as you’re sharing your story. One is how did you get your initial set of clients? And then I’ll ask the follow up later.

So that all came initially from my brand and referrals, to be dead honest with you, took a little while to get the outbound motion going. I was unknown to a large world of businesses, but on LinkedIn, I’ve been building there since, you know, July of 2020. When I got into Rev Genius, I didn’t have anything on LinkedIn before, then started getting in. Now I’m a top voice, 25,000 folks and so after almost two years from 2020 to 2022, before I launched, I had built up almost 20,000 people.

I was well known. So when I went all live and got to leverage LinkedIn, all my friends started helping me and finding me business or opening conversations for me. and that really, really was where I started. My outbound motion didn’t actually start working until almost month four. To be dead honest, it took probably 90 days to really let a campaign actually run. Let people be aware of what I could bring to the table. And then two, I just had to get some actual clients. I had some side hustle stuff going, but it was never under my brand of this company. Right. So I had to start getting a couple clients in, start to see how they were, seeing results, getting some testimonials, and then probably around month six and eight started really being able to now book stuff cold and outbound. But to this day, you know, for 19, 20 months now it’s been referrals. People that know me from either my client that worked with me opening up new deals, or my peers in my market being like, hey, I trust this guy, I genuinely do.

He’s doing appointment setting and consulting like, you need help, talk to him. So a lot of it comes through that.

Very cool. And yeah, I think you answered my follow up question, which is how has that GTM evolved? It sounds like it’s still your presence on LinkedIn plus referrals and inbound mostly.

That’s really it. My outbound motion isn’t really that solid. I’m not trying to do math outreach. I’m not spamming. Right. I’m taking on very few clients a quarter. you know, and doing what we can. And so it works. But I use my outbound to generate my inbound more. So I’m not pitch slapping in emails. I’m not trying to just throw out all these crazy 5000 emails a day. It’s more just to build awareness because, again, I’m brand new to a market even two years later, like there’s a lot of reputable outbound agencies. There are bigger organizations, ones. So I spend my time outbound to educate, give a lot of free stuff.

I create guides, resources, all kinds of things to where as I message you, whether you work with me or not, I am taking up. You know I am taking up space in your inbox or on your phone. You’re walking away with insights that you can implement for no cost at all. Write a guide, you know. Hey, I’ve been talking to other sales leaders. This tip’s been working for them. I’d love for you to try it on your team and let me know how it goes. That’s the type of email I’m just dropping free stuff to these people and then through my referrals. And then from that activity, I get people to hit my website, book a call, they’re coming in and they’re like, hey, got your email. Thanks. Yeah, we could probably talk about this. And then they’re coming through the website and booking. So my outbound kind of turns into my inbound which is what you want.

Yeah. Outbound more for education awareness and giving value that turns into inbound automatically.

Very cool. 

So yeah, great stuff. I think you emphasized and reinforced some of the key aspects of go to market in your own go to market, which is it’s not outbound and cold calling and setting up appointments. It’s more outbound to give value education. And then that turns into inbound. I think that’s critical in terms of demand generation and growing your brand and awareness out there and the credibility as well.

I tell a lot of founders, a lot of organizations, you know, activate your brand. You know, LinkedIn is a great resource. Now, mind you, for the listeners and stuff. Not every market lives there. I’ve worked with clients to move over to Twitter. Instead they’re going after cybersecurity engineers. Way different space. Maybe Facebook has a better play for you depending on who you’re working with. So the point being, create content. Get out. The thing about going to market nowadays, I started in 2007. This stuff really didn’t exist and a lot of it was 1 to 1, right? Emails, cold calling, just going out and just randomly calling people up and maybe seeing if they had a need.

Where now with social media being as wide as it is and so many platforms, you can get out to the masses with just one piece of content, and if it hits just right with the right content, you get a couple DMs and you turn them into a couple meetings and you now you’re just booking meetings by creating really valuable pieces of content that engage conversation versus having to pave the pavement as hard and going to 1 to 1, or adding a parallel dialer in so you can pick up a little bit of value. Covid really destroyed a lot of stuff, right? Email is so saturated it’s pretty bad. Then you’ve got cold calling where most buyers nowadays are 30 or younger, most sales leaders are at 30 or 35, and they’re not. They’re a little bit different now. They do DMs and social comments, and they’re not really picking up the phone, and they don’t want to pick up on no numbers. You’ve got Google and Yahoo strapping on spam filters, and now on your phone it’ll tell you if it’s spam.

So it’s just easier to create a brand for yourself. Really educate your space. Let people see who you are at a wide scale. I’ve done business with people in India, Australia, New York all over the world, and yet I live in my room right here in these four walls in Arizona. Right? You don’t, you never got to do that stuff. Right. so it’s just different.

Yeah. So do you have an example of a content that really worked? I mean, I completely agree with you. I just want to get more tactical into giving more value to my listeners of the podcast. So any example of content that comes to your mind?

One that definitely comes to my mind, that I’ve repurposed a few times is one that went super viral for me was what they call a carousel. So like on LinkedIn or Instagram, you know, it’s like slides and you kind of can put this complex idea together through a visual. And what I had shared was how I booked 12 meetings in a week.

And that was my hook. Here’s how I booked 12 meetings in one week. And then this whole carousel with breaking down just those common practices, my tonality and my phone call. I gave a script on what I was using, what was my email like, what was basically the process. And that thing got over 35,000 views and generated me like seven more meetings from people being like, hey, we could use you, you know, come talk to the team or hey, really like that. They got to save the carousel even and reference it moving forward. So it’s stuff like that to where this was just a great way to show them, hey, here’s how I did this, and here’s the full process. Take a look at it. And it was done. You know one too many got in front of 35,000 people. and it was very, very cool. Right. And it did. Well, carousels were really cool because you could take an idea. They’re the best things you can do online, like infographics, handouts, guides, things that people can save and reference.

Because that’s how they’ll take them. You know, for me, I want to bring my content to their team and find wins. So a lot of times I’d get DMs a week later and be like, hey dude, you were in our Monday meeting, some of my teams followed you, or implemented what you said on your cold call script, and they booked five meetings today as a team. That was incredible. Do you think we could talk further about this? Because there might be something we could do together. Now I’ve got a meeting. So that was the kind of stuff that really worked for me. Another one was a carousel in the SDR playbook. A lot of times that’s a broken process, right? So I guess what I’m getting at is highlighting a pain or problem that is really in your space of buyers and giving them that information that you probably repeat to every client you’re ever on the phone with. Like the real simple stuff. It doesn’t have to be high level, but it’s stuff that you’ve repeated on every call.

It’s a commonality. Everybody always calls me and says, Tom, what’s your best opener when you cold call? You’ve made so many. What have you found to be the best one? Well, now, after hearing that ten times, I flipped that into a piece of content. Hey, I hear all the time. What’s the greatest opener to work for you? Here’s three that I rotate. Let me know how it goes for you. And then I break those down on why they work and what it’s structured like. An example. That post will go viral for me. And then, you know, a couple of days I’m getting a couple DMs from either the reps telling me they used it and it worked, or a manager saying, hey, I brought that up in my team meeting team. Put up a couple of points with that. and it changed for them. One of my best ones was, I tell people all the time, like my opener, instead of saying, how are you? You could say, how have you been? So it’s a little bit more different in tonality.

It’s just like, hey, how have you been? How are things? And it makes it sound friendly or that you’ve spoken before? and that when I get DMs all the time like, man, I changed my, my opener to that and people actually talk to me, they’re like, hey, I’m actually okay, what’s going on? And then you pivot into, you know, hey, the reason for my call is, you know, I saw this. I saw that this is what led me to you, you know, where are you at with that? So stuff like that. That’s the stuff that has done well for me, is when I, like, can break down an actual process or something that’s saleable or something they can take to their team meeting. That doesn’t break my bank. What do I care about openers? That’s not going to affect my bottom line. That doesn’t do anything. Like if I put that content out there, it’s not going to hurt. It’s not like I’m giving out my secret sauce.

Right. but it builds trust and credibility because they’ll find wins in that. So I always tell people, give people stuff that they can make micro wins with. That’s how you get instant trust and credibility if you told me to go do something, if I go buy a TV right now and I’m not really looking, but I’m like, hey, I’m trying to do this with my TV. And this rep tells me, hey, you know your current TV, if you actually go in the back and do this, it probably does the same thing. why don’t you try that and then let me know I go home, I try that, I’m like, Holy crap, you change the whole quality of my TV right now. I’m going to go back to you when I need to get a TV, because you showed me your credible and I can trust you. And you gave me something that actually helped me without looking for anything out of it. You were just being a good rep and you’re like, hey man, timing may be off to get a new TV, but based on what you explained, here’s like three things you could do with your current TV that might buy you some time and Band-Aid until maybe that pain threshold gets, you know, the TV goes just, you know, breaks or, you know, the pain threshold of it isn’t there anymore.

Or it’s high. Then they trust you.

Yeah. And I think you just get a complete playbook or tactical playbook of how to build good LinkedIn content. So switching gears here, as you and I know, Tom. I mean, go to the market is a mix of success and failures. So from your worst experience, either from your time at the lab or with your clients, if you can share a success story and a failure story, that’ll be good. I’ll leave it up to you with which one you would go first.

Let’s go with failure because people always try to shy from that, right? I’ve, I’ve been doing this for, you know, 19 months. I’ve been in sales for 15 years, and they’re still failures. I even told you the stat without an appointment setting is 92% technically fail or have an unsuccessful relationship with the appointment setting. So in Q4, that happened to us recently. In Q4, we took on two clients, and we didn’t make it work. and it just didn’t really.

And after three months of working with us, we couldn’t actually generate any meetings for them. they actually rolled viewers. Now, that wasn’t a lack of effort. That wasn’t a lack of the numbers. And us, you know, doing everything we needed to do. But it was market fit. It was messaging. Sometimes, as much as I want to be there for the company and support them, they don’t even know their own stuff. There was one client in Q4 where every week he actually got frustrated at me because I had to push him and really dig in because he’s like, well, we’re going after, you know, high growth companies. I’m like, okay, cool. What does that mean? I don’t know, just companies that are looking for high growth and like, maybe they can. I’m like, no, but like, what is a high growth company? Like what are you looking for? And I had to push it to get frustrated. Then on messaging he couldn’t even relay or package up like what he was trying to position or kind of where I was in the first 90 days of my own company where he was just trying to grab it.

He’s like, I don’t know, just anybody that will want to work with me. And I’m like, okay, we’ll go out and call. And my rep was putting in conversations. We were sending recordings and trying to work at it, but it was just there was too many problems under the hood and for what they were paying, you know, all the other stuff I couldn’t, I can’t, I’m not Superman and I can’t come in and save you. Right. This is a partnership, a collaboration. We are going to do everything we can to help you find success, but sometimes you just don’t have product market fit. And that’s in our book. Out of that three months, that was still a win for another client. Same thing. Very technical rev ups, Mops space, super technical. They have tried outsourcing three times and under like two years and it all failed. And so they came to us off a referral with like hey, this is going to be the best option you can get.

And we failed too. And she was like, I don’t understand. And I was like, look, your best option. And out of all of this still proves you need internal outsourcing. This isn’t actually a fit. Not all. Not everybody can outsource and say, hey, go book us meetings. There are some orgs where highly recommend, and your best option is to build an internal team. You need somebody in your org who lives and breathes it, understands it because again, we’re part time, we’re outsourced, we’re fractional, we’re of course we’re learning your product, your market. We’ve got the experience. We’re going to do what we can, but we don’t live and breathe it right. And we have other clients we’re supporting where if you get an internal team, that’s all they’re focused on. And so those were kind of two recent GTM failures that we had where we did try to help them go to market. And it wasn’t a failure per se. Yes, it was based on performance and meetings, but it was actually a win because both of them walked away with a plan of attack.

And now this is now what, in March, April, they’ve now gotten meetings. The one client came back and said, look, you helped me really exercise and go through. I left them with a full playbook of questions and frameworks to help him iron out his business. Similar to what I had to do helped him get clearer. And the other one brought in three stars, built it out with a good onboarding program, and is now actually getting meetings on the books. So it may be a failure per se, but it was, and it still showed them market fit and what kind of actual playbook they would need for go to market. I told you, every market is different. You have to really know your business. And maybe cold calling doesn’t even work in your industry. LinkedIn doesn’t work at 80% of the industry. So do we even need to talk about it? No. Some clients we do. So those are my failures, right. And why they were failures and kind of, you know, where we were at.

And then two on the success side.

Actually, before we go to the success story. Yeah, yeah, two things. And commentary that that sticks out for me is in a simplistic term, you cannot outsource your problem to an outbound agency. As simple as that. The reason, I mean, if I have to re articulate or reshape and share what you shared in terms of your clients failures, the first person didn’t know or they’re still trying to figure out who the IC is, and they’re outsourcing that finding the product market fit problem to your agency. And that’s where again, back to your stats. 92% of the outbound agencies fail. It’s because of that. I mean, first of all, you need to know yours. And then once you build a system, you can outsource that or partner with them. That’s one second too. Point, which is, first of all, figure out an SDR or outbound system internally and then you can scale up with an agency.

And that’s a big piece of it.

Now, some people, obviously I can help you get that structure to I get it. Not everybody has that, and they’re just trying to figure out market fit. I’ve had clients where they don’t. They’ve never even tested it. And they’re like, Tom, we’re not looking for meetings per se out of this success for us in the next three months. Is it just that we actually have something here? Like, is there a market for this is, you know, we just want to learn from the people you talk to because we want to see if before we double down on bringing an internal SDR, building out all this stuff, we just want to know if we have something first. So that was one of my clients for three months. There was really no expectation on meetings. It was just have conversations, go see what the market says, tell us what they’re looking for out of this product. And that was a huge win for them, right. Because then two months later they did realize, hey, there’s a market here.

This is good. Now they’re putting all their resources and doubling that out and scaling that. Right. So it’s a lot of times that too is yes. Sometimes you don’t even know if you have a market. We can help you. That’s why outsourcing is good because it’s less costly and less commitment. And if it doesn’t work, no harm, no foul. You kind of save yourself a lot of money, a lot of strength, a lot of tech that you might not even need because, okay, we could go buy all this tech, try this. But in three months, if it doesn’t work, we’re out 40, 50 grand that we could have put into other things right before we got here. Or now we got this tech and contracts that like, hey, this didn’t work, give it to us. We have tech. We have everything very low overhead for you. So we’ll go test it. And if it’s actually producing, cool. Now let’s pivot and start helping you build your internal operation.

Show you the tech we’re using that’s making this all possible. And now you have an actual plan moving forward.

Fantastic. All right. So switching to the go to market success stories that you’re going to share.

Yes. So then on the ones that did work, we had an opportunity, that I worked with a client that was a recurring client, for five months, last summer. And it was an organization where the bar manager was let go. things were kind of broken. They had seven servers, they had solution engineers, and they had eight inches. So this was like a company already in motion, making good money, doing great things. But this PDR manager was doing some stuff they had to Canham. They then, brought over their sales enablement person to come over top of that, didn’t know what they were doing. Sales enablement is very different from running an SDR team. Yes, enablement. But like they’re looking at it from a different view as a whole, as a company then, hey, how do I just work with SDRs? So again, another referral friend came in.

He was an aide at the company. He was like, hey, this is where we’re at. I’m going to set you up with this person. We ended up getting a deal. And so I came in and for three months it started off as and this was more a consulting deal, and I helped them redefine their SDR handoff. We did team coaching on cold calling email, social selling. We then went and partnered with marketing. I helped them roll out an ABM program, helping them align their sales and marketing department with a content calendar. All these things to get sales and marketing to actually be cohesive. My next thing you know, they had an actual, reputable and scalable process. Things turned around. Then in month four, they had me come back for messaging to just craft some cadences and some sequences for them. Then in month five, I actually got to work with their UK extension of their team. So then I got a referral from the US house and they’re like, hey, our UK side would like to do the same thing.

So then I went and did the same stuff on their UK team that was also their SDR department, but on that side. So that was one that was super successful. We had a great time. I was able to get under the hood, help them unify a lot of growing pains. You already had stars doing their thing. You already had A’s doing their thing. It just wasn’t unified. And they were looking to scale and bring in, you know, another seven reps. And before they did that and kind of, you know, maybe lose four of them, maybe lose half of that because it’s just the processes and stuff. We ironed everything out, tested it with their team. Everything worked out more numbers, more open rates, more replies. They then were able to scale. So that’s one. On the appointment setting side, we had an automotive org in Q4, that already reputable business in the automotive space. They had a new product that they wanted to test, so they built a new product based on feedback.

They wanted us to go out for three months and just pitch it to the market and see what the response was. So they gave us a very dedicated list. They said, here’s the 500 people. We want to work. Here’s the messaging. Just go see if these people will buy. We booked 45 meetings and 90 days for them to where we overwhelmed their pipeline. We paused in Q1 and they were able to work out those deals. They got tested that their market was good. They found out the product was fit. They did make a few tweaks based on what we were hearing on why people wanted to use this kind of platform for E-signatures, it was like a DocuSign kind of setup, but for automotive. And it worked out. So 45 meetings. That was another referral, actually. a friend from an older company back in the day, which was even cooler. Yeah. I worked with them. She was like, look, I trust you. We’re looking for this outbound. All.

You were doing it. Can you help us? so I took that on. and that was a success. That one worked out just because ultimately they did the heavy lifting, like you mentioned before, they knew their ICP. They already had tested stuff. They gave us the dedicated list of who we needed to call, already vetted. And they basically gave us a script on how they wanted this presented, what some objections were that we were probably going to hear where they were going and building the product with a couple of roadmap features, so it was really transactional for us. It was just a real setup. Get in, send some emails, do some cold calls. And we were able to generate about 45 meetings in 90 days, just being fractional for them. And now they’re running smoothly. That product is now reached out. They generated almost 400 400 K in Q1 from those opportunities. So things were good. and they might come back. But right now it was really just a test for them on that product.

And things are good.

Very cool. Yeah. Thanks for sharing both that go to market success story and failure stories. I think, quite a few lessons, reflections and learnings from that in terms of build your system and then outsource. Was outsourcing a problem? I think that’s very clear. And second is, I think going back to the good market success story, which you shared, just kind of like an e-signature for the auto industry, where they had the initial success and they required your company team services around setting up meetings to build pipeline. Again, once you have the ICP, once you have the messaging, the value prop, and here’s the contact list or accounts that you need to go after, just outsource that. That’s when they can see the success. Very cool. so another area of expertise which you mentioned. And we didn’t deep dive yet a whole lot. And I would like to get your thoughts on this. Tom is founder led sales. You did mention that. So what have you seen? I mean, where do founders really fumble when it comes to founder-led sales and advice on how to avoid it?

My best analogy.

So what I’ve found with founders is one, they love their baby very, very much. You don’t want to call it ugly. They really pride themselves on. Hey, I know what my market wants. I’ve been building. We’ve gotten some sales in, but the way I always reference it, and I even wrote a post on this because again, it’s one of those things I kind of go back to many times and share the story is it’s like a person who was a really good cook at home or, you know, really loved to cook and and connect with people via food. Okay. Well, now they want to open a restaurant because they’re like, my food is so great. People come to me, they want my food. They open a restaurant in 6 to 8 months. That thing fails like no other because at the end of the day, they’re really good at putting together food and that’s their baby. That’s what they love to do. But they don’t know a lick about business on that back end.

They don’t know how to run books, accounting, staffing, hiring, all these other elements. They just know how to make really good food that really connects with the people they give it to a mom being a baker and making goods for the moms around the neighborhood, right? Next thing you know, she’s opening a business. All that stuff is crazy, and you’ve got to have some knowledge or you make a lot of mistakes. So a founder led sales, that’s it. They don’t have a formal process. They built their product, they went out and they’re doing it the best that they can to keep their head above water. They’re looking at VC money to maybe give them some capital because they’re not getting, you know, the product in their hands. And then when it comes to, let’s say you being founder led, you’ve generated a couple, six figures in revenue. Now you want to bring in somebody. Well, now you’re hiring a player coach and you’re expecting them to build your business for you.

Well, you’re the expert, you know, like we don’t know. And now you’re holding this person’s hand because every day they’re like, hey, this customer said this. What should I say? Hey, where do I find this? Hey, what do I do here? And now the founder is getting frustrated because the whole point of bringing this person in was to relieve you. And it’s actually more of a headache because they’re asking tons of questions and they’re trying to get up here into your brain where all that stuff is that you’ve never put on paper or formulated or created a process around. So when I come in with these orgs, that’s really the pain is that they’ve already failed with the player coach or the player coach left them because they were getting paid peanuts and there was no process, no tech. And the founder was like, well, it worked for me. You know, I was doing this and I was great. So a lot of times that’s where it’s at, if they’re really good chefs.

They know their product, they’re engineers. A lot of times they build really cool products or they’re offering a service, but they don’t get a clue about ironing out an ICP, ironing out a marketing plan and strategy of like, what are you going to do there? Do you have resources you’re sharing? Which is okay because for most founders, just move, don’t be held up on a lot of stuff, right? A lot of times it’s just move, take action. You’ll make bumps and bruises. But after that first year, year and a half, you got to have a lot of that stuff ironed out by then, right? You really do. You should be taking the time to put in processes, build on notion, an entire knowledge hub, you know, do stuff to set yourself up to where when you bring in those next people, they can just catch right up to where you are and take off. Otherwise you’re in a whole problem. No onboarding. You don’t got tech, you don’t have a process, and they don’t know case studies.

The Org I worked with was running out of Excel for 16 months when I came in, that was their CRM, color coded files and sheets. And oh, we’re here with this person. And the SDR would double book things and the founder would get mad and be like, man, I already talked to that person. And it’s like, well, how am I supposed to know that? So guess what I did? I recalled and built them an entire HubSpot CRM within under like three weeks. And they were like, Holy crap. And the founder hit me up and was like, this is amazing. I can just go in there and like, I know where we’re at and all of this. And I said, yes, now you have visibility. Everybody’s on a page. They had dashboards to show the amount of activity. I’m like, gosh, I don’t know how you made it a year and a half on Just Excel. But that ain’t it. Don’t do that. so it’s stuff like that where they just don’t know that back end stuff and just kind of how to set their org up.

And that’s what I find at founder led sales is they want to transition, but they just hope somebody will come in and save them. they now know that they’ve got market fit. They know they’ve got a couple clients in. Things are going well, obviously time to scale and double up, but they just have no idea how to do that successfully.

Very cool. Again, I keep hearing this over and over from you, Tom, which is building systems. And you did mention the notion. So as the founder is seeing what’s working and what’s not, the ICP, the messaging, the pricing and all of the and even case studies put it out there. So it’s easier when someone comes on, it’s easier to onboard them and they can run with it and build from there up versus starting from scratch and picking your head and both of them getting frustrated and end.

That’s it. Yeah. And that’s where I hope. With the learning curve, you know, is like, look, you can go through this for the next two years and potentially bankrupt your company, piss off your VC, all this stuff, or lose people.

I had another buddy who did that, and he went through four phases in under eight months, and it was because there was no process and it was just, hey, let them solve the problem for us. And then you’re also paying a lot more money for that, because then you get in this pickle of, okay, now I’m going to hire Tom. Do I spend more and get somebody experienced and seasoned, or do I spend less and get, you know, somebody who may not know what the heck they’re doing? And I got to hold their hand, and then it’s in that pickle that they have a problem with, too, because it’s like, why do I have 100 K to give somebody and hope that they can build this out for me, but I also can afford 50 K, but then I know they’re not going to be like that. Great. They’re not. I still have a lot to do. So it’s always those kinds of pickles too, to try to help them navigate.

Fantastic. I know we’re coming up again at the end of the hour. A lot of good nuggets and a lot of good insights here, Tom. So the parting question for you is what advice would you give to your younger self if you have to roll back the clock to day one of your go to market journey?

A good one. In my beginning days as somebody going to market working in sales, I was really attached to the outcome. I was very fast paced. I talked a lot, I rambled, I would get very defensive in objection handling, my messaging wasn’t great. Now, looking back, I wish I could have. I could go back to him, you know, 15 years ago and share what I know now, which is, number one, detached from the outcome. Man, you’re not going to win. You’re not that great to where you can have a 100% success rate with every phone call or every email. Focus on other things that matter more.

Learning from those insights, just having a conversation, whether it goes to a meeting or not, taking advantage that you have somebody to talk to. Learn from them so that you can be better for the next call. Or go make a product or a guide or something that will help the next person. So just being insightful on, you know, letting go of that stuff like, yes, we’re going towards that and that’s what we’re working for. But it’s not all there’s other ways to win in the sales process. 

That is not just your identity of, well, how many meetings did you book and how much revenue have you driven? That’s not the only answer. so detached from the outcome was a big one for me. Pausing, slowing down. when you are talking to folks, in your messaging and when you’re going to market, don’t be all about your value prop and what they call pitch slapping and writing these really lengthy novel emails. I wish I could go back to myself and say, hey man, like write emails that focus on them and that are conversational and showing them how you can help you know that you understand their world and really seek to understand and then be understood.

A lot of times I made a lot of assumptions when going to market. I’d be like, oh, you got this broken and this and that, and they’d be like, where are you getting your information from? That is not correct. And I would get so frustrated and be like, oh, cool, just hang up because I’m already mad. where now it’s like, you know, seek to understand, ask questions, bring a natural curiosity and your go to market, because that will help you in the long run. And, you know, just focusing on your prospects and what gets them to want to buy, what are their pains and challenges, understand their world. Those are things I wish I could go back to my younger self and understand that, and then niching down and being very clear on your offer and what you want to help people with. Yes. Can you help everybody? Yes. Do you just want revenue? Yes. But at the end of the day, really, really make it clear.

Who are you working for, why and what can you do for them that will help you in the long run when going to market, especially in the early days of going to market, really, really iron out and put yourself through the exercise of who do you want to help? What inspires you every day? Who do you want to be working with and really drill down on just that one thing? That way your go to market strategy is super clear. Otherwise, if you’re all over the place, that’s just too hard. Like, how do you even create content for that? Or marketing collateral when you’re just everywhere? And oh, I can help everyone. You can’t help everyone. What are you trying to help? Really think about that. For me, it’s founders, number one. I really want to help founders that are trying to transition into becoming an enterprise company, a big deal company down the road. But they need help. That’s who I really, really, really want to work with.

And a market that I really want to work with is digital marketing, because it’s something I’ve done my whole career. I know SEO websites and honestly, they’re the ones that need my help the most. Are there other organizations and everybody else? Sure, those will come inbound and I will still take them and I will still do good work for them. But ultimately, the one that I really want to work with every day and help are these folks, because I’m going to win big there, and I’m going to show them how they can transition into that sales motion. So that’s another one. And then lastly, say no a lot more often. Be comfortable with that. I think when you go to go to market, you try to take everybody, you’re like, oh, cool, you want to pay me? Great. And you know dang well you shouldn’t take that client or you probably shouldn’t do that project. And there’s some times where it’s okay because it might push you and, you know, hey, believe in yourself.

You’re probably doing it. I took a couple projects that I really probably shouldn’t have. And then I killed it. Right. And I did well. And I was like, whoa. Like, I really didn’t think this was going to be good. And here we are. So just being comfortable with saying no, though, and really saying, look, it’s okay to disqualify people when going to market. if it’s not fit, it’s not fit. Let them know that you will replace it with somebody who’s better on your books that you do feel passionate about, that you do want to help. Don’t just say yes just to collect some money and, you know, do what you need to do.

In this episode, Saima Rashid, an accomplished marketing leader and SVP of Marketing & Revenue Analytics at 6sense, shares her experiences, expertise, and guiding principles in navigating the dynamic world of marketing. From balancing the demands of parenthood with a thriving career to harnessing the power of data-driven strategies, Saima offers valuable insights into modern marketing practices. 

She delves into her career trajectory, emphasizing the fusion of analytical prowess with creative marketing instincts.

Listen to the podcast here

Storytelling and GTM Insights through Revenue Ops: Saima Rashid, SVP of Marketing and Revenue Analytics at 6sense

Welcome to the latest episode of the B2B Go to Market Leaders podcast. Thank you once again from the very depth of my heart. I know, you have a lot of options out there, but you are taking the time to listen to the podcast and continuing to learn and grow when it comes to go to market. Now talking about learning and growing, I have yet another amazing guest on the podcast, she is Saima Rashid and she is the SVP of Marketing and Revenue Analytics at 6sense. So with that, welcome to the show, Saima.

Thank you so much, Vijay. I’m so excited to be here on your show.

Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. I mean, an amazing career. You won a lot of industry awards. You got a good really almost like a rocket ship career growth. And I’m sure you can share a lot of the stories, anecdotes, and insights with our listeners around anything and everything around go to market, as well as on your personal side and career front.

Yeah, I’m happy to chat through it, and I think there’s always learning to come myself.

Like I’m just excited. You know, you talk to a lot of go-to-market leaders. So I’m interested in your POV as well.

Signature question: How do you view and define go to market?

Yeah. So I mean, at the end of the day, a go-to-market is really a comprehensive plan in the way a business is going to be bringing a product or service to the market. Right. Very simple. Now that’s, you know, an overly simple definition. The devil is of course in the details, right? You want to think about it. If you are bringing a new product or service to market, you want to understand the risk. You want to introduce, you know, some intelligence around your target market and really refine who this is for. You want to position it accordingly. You want to have a great marketing plan in place, a great distribution strategy, a great sales motion that’s going to, you know, make it happen.

And on the flip side, you also want to make those customers successful. And so it’s all of those things wrapped up into one, which is of course why I said, you know, the devil is in the details because on the surface, you know, a lot of companies go to market. I think not every company does it well. And because there’s just so many inherent risks and money and people involved, you know, you want to really plan it appropriately.

No, totally. I mean, I’ve been speaking with a lot of go-to-market guests on this podcast and even outside. They range from founders to functional leaders that include a CMO, CPO, CRO, and customer success leaders. Right. And the perspectives vary. The definitions of go to market vary. So, for example, if you ask someone from marketing or even product marketing, they say they quote and unquote are responsible for go-to-market, but that’s more of a checklist.

And here is what we need to do when we launch a product versus if you talk to someone in sales, they say we are a go-to-market, period because we are the revenue generating, the customer-facing team for the most part. And, the other nuance is a go-to-market for a version one product from a startup that’s just about starting and testing that go-to-market motion will be completely different from, let’s say, a company like 6sense, for example. Right? 

Absolutely. And I think that it’s so interesting that you get so many different POVs, which tells you it isn’t just one thing. It really is the harmony of marketing, sales, and customer success together to provide that really rich experience to not only your target, accounts your ICP, and your target buyers, but also, of course, customers as they come on board.

Yeah, absolutely. You touched upon marketing, sales, and customer success. Curious, what do you think about the product and go-to-market product too?

Oh, see, I did it, I did it, I forgot the product.

No product is actually so in the sense of, you know, I feel like the product marketing team, which I do own at 6sense, they are in lockstep with the product. Very much so. Right. Like them, we are nothing, you know, go to market really without a product and having the product informed by what we’re seeing in the market from a marketing perspective, from a competitive intelligence perspective, and then also having product information. Well, here’s what’s realistic, here’s what’s doable. Here are the timelines. Here are the features that you know will be a key differentiator for us. It has to be a negotiation and a really well-orchestrated launch.

Yeah. And especially if you’re talking about product lead growth, I mean, the product is front and center at least for the initial individual buyers and users. And then, of course, you have the sales motion that’s on top with sales assist or sales lead for a product like growth. But yeah, the product is a critical component.

Critical.

Yeah.

Absolutely. So yeah this is a great start. So let’s take a step back. Why don’t you share with our listeners your career journey all the way from I mean, it’s up to you where you want to start.

I was born in no, I won’t go that far back. I will say I am. I think the fact that I sit in as the head of marketing at 6sense. Is an interesting story because my roots are very much in the data and analytics world. So this shows you kind of how much of a data-driven company we are. I started my career doing consulting for very big companies that were generating a lot of data. Right. It was at a B2B and B2C consulting company based in Toronto, Canada. And that’s where, you know, we operated as the analytics team for all the big banks, all the big telcos, you know, big tech companies that were generating a lot of data but didn’t have dedicated resources analyzing the impact of their marketing programs and what not and understanding their customers.

Yeah. 

And so that’s a great place to learn because you’re working with different types of data, different industries, and so on. And then once, you know, I was there for about ten years, I moved into a role at a company based out of Boston. It’s a tech company called PTC. And there I was hired to build really the marketing analytics program. And during my eight years there, I actually ended up owning all analytics. So marketing analytics, sales analytics, and customer success analytics. Yeah. Renewal analytics services analytics, data science. So again you know it just goes to show that if you can build a culture of leveraging the data to drive insights, to inform what the functional or functions in an organization need to do. Yeah, it’s hugely valuable. And so in my time at PTC, I think that was a big hallmark of it was always supporting internal functions. So I’ve always supported, you know, marketing, sales, CS and all of that, but all with the goal of all right, here’s what the data says we should do. Let’s go do it. 

And by the way, if you won’t do it, you know or you can’t do it, we’re going to go do it. Right. So it was always taking it to that last mile. And so much of analytics I think tends to fall flat in. Here’s my deliverable. Here you go. Here’s a dashboard. Here’s a report. Go do something with it. And I think the best analytics teams are strategic partners to the functions. And we’ll go that last mile and say, well actually let’s let’s execute on this together. And that led me to 6sense where I was hired to again build out the analytics function. But through informing so much of the marketing, when the role opened up and our CMO was promoted to CRO, I was tapped to lead marketing and I couldn’t be more fortunate. I have the best team. It’s wonderful. It’s just I’m so proud of everything that they put out every day.

Fantastic. Thank you for sharing your journey. And then congratulations on the promotion and owning and leading marketing ad success that’s a huge responsibility. It’s a fun journey as well.

Absolutely. It’s huge and I don’t take it lightly. But I’ve got a phenomenal team behind me.

Yeah. By the way, I didn’t expect to assess, but since you shared this piece of news, I’m curious, like you, throughout your career, for the most part, you were responsible for the analytics, like the Revops equivalent right across organizations versus now you are responsible for a function within go to market. So how are you preparing yourself for this big shift?

Yeah. So I think over the years because the analytics translated to what are we going to do about it? What should the function do? I’ve kind of been preparing for the role,, for over 20 years now. And so I’m bringing a lot of those strengths to the way we’re planning for the year, the way we’re executing on campaigns, the way we’re evaluating which campaigns are working and not working. And then I really, you know, any good leader has to rely on the team around them.

And my leadership team has filled some of those, you know, areas where I’m not as strong or might not have as much experience. Right? I’ve got product marketing, and I’ve got R and PR under me. I’ve got, you know, a wonderful AB team that is building beautiful experiences for our prospects and customers. And I think, you know, a team that is too similar in their skill set is not a team I want to build. I want everyone to bring their own unique strengths. And, you know, lift up where there might be gaps. And so, you know, I think on-the-job training, like I’m in it, I’m in it and it’s happening. But I’ve got a great team of, you know, behind me as well as my peers. One of the most unique parts of my role at success is, yes, I lead marketing and analytics there, but I lead marketing at a company that sells to marketers. And so I am the target person. In fact, my entire team is the target persona for what we sell.

And so we have to be customer zero. We have to be the best. Possible customer of our own platform. And so that’s been phenomenal right? Coming up with net new use cases of how marketers should be adopting all of the wealth of intelligence that a tool like 6sense brings. Also in this role, I’m fortunate enough to lead a community called CMO Coffee Talk. And there are 2000 CMOs in that community. We meet twice a week, so I run two sessions on Fridays, one East Coast, and one West Coast. So not only am I learning from my team and my peers, I’m learning from the best in the business, right? And we’ll talk about topics that are, you know, to, key, you know, relevant, timely that everyone is talking about. And so there’s great learning from the ecosystem as well that I’m just so fortunate to have.

Yeah. No, this is great. And when you did mention the community, it reminded me of something that I preach. Not preach. “Preach” is not the right word, but it’s almost like a put to practice, both for my own business as well as for the clients that I work with. Right. When it comes to go to market. And curious to get your thoughts on this, when it comes to go to market I’ve studied top go-to-market leaders, and typically more often than not it comes down to three things. They get this right, which is content. The second is community and the third is experiencing/events. So if you have these three things, I mean, if you are strapped for resources, you can pick one and be really good at something similar to what Kong is doing when it comes to content. Yeah, but ideally you want to have these three. And you did mention community. So I’m eager to get your thoughts around the content community and events. And maybe I’m missing some other pieces in this.

No, I think you’ve got it. I mean, content, community, and experience. And I think we cover all three at 6sense, right? We pride ourselves on sweating the small stuff and really, you know, taking care of all the details, the experiences that our, our events team and our IB team put on our, you know, industry-leading content that we put out and we leverage, by the way, you know.

New tools. We’re looking for ways to always improve our content. putting it out in a way that is so consumable. Right. We adopt a no-form strategy on our website. Everything is un-gated. So the content that we do create and we create a lot of it is reaching our target audience. It’s all about reducing friction in what we’re doing. And so I agree with you. I think content, experience as well as communities is critical. And we do invest in each of those. And I think beyond that, also, you have to be thinking of what’s next and what marketing is producing. What’s next is, well, what’s going to be the hours and what’s going to be sales? And so we have to hold that responsibility as well. And so that does come down to. Really refining your ICP and knowing who you are going to create the content, community, and experiences for making sure that we’re not selling churn right. We want to be in front of the audience that we care about.

And so it really does come back to marketing. Who is at the top of the funnel to make sure that it’s all very relevant and focused?

Yeah. And I’m actually curious to get your thoughts on go to market. First of all, what’s been the go-to market for 6sense in terms of all these different sales motions, positioning, the ICP, targeting the content and so on? And then how you as a CMO, the new CMO, are you planning to evolve this like in 2024 and beyond?

Yeah. So it’s always, you know, evolving is what I would say. So, you know, we’ve had a traditional go-to market, we sell, you know, we launched. I actually maybe I’ll start there six and started ten years ago as a company that was looking to solve a very simple problem. If we only knew which companies were in the market for the things that we’re selling, wouldn’t our job be so much easier as sales as a sales org, as a marketing org, if we just knew who was interested? And that’s the answer that we’ve been looking to solve.

And we launched our, you know, revenue for marketing, product way back then. And since then, we’ve not only answered that question, we’ve answered, well, okay, who’s in the market? But also what are they interested in how do they want to be spoken to, and who specifically in the organization should be reaching out to and how? And so, you know, it’s all of those answers along the way that have evolved our go-to-market journey. Right. We have a product for sale now that is, you know, out there. And we launched it last year and have had huge success. Forrester just named us a leader six months into that product being launched. I mean, it’s kind of remarkable. And, you know, we’re exploring, of course, always exploring additional strategies like Plg motion as well. But, you know, the goal is to always be evolving and meeting our prospects where they are.

Yeah, no. Very cool. And on a lighter note, how would your family describe what you do? Yeah.

I love that question. I have two children who hear me on Zoom calls a lot, right from the other room. When they come back from school, they hear me, and they make fun of me and I feel like they’ve got my intro said, they always say, mama does marketing and mama does analytics, and it’s the data. And so, you know, they’ve got the gist of it at least. But what they do know is, you know, I hope they see that I am, you know, excited about going to work every day, doing really cool and interesting things, you know, that I think they see that and I hope they see that.

Yeah, I’m sure I mean, especially the fact that you talk and you get involved and it sounds like you are very close to your kids and you spend a lot of time with them. I mean, you are a great parent, but that’s one thing that’s coming across and I’m sure they’ll see you as an inspiration going forward.

Oh, I hope so. They’re the best. They really are. And that’s the goal of all we do, right? Especially as a working mother. I think there’s always this struggle to find balance. And, you know, if you’re over-indexing on the work, you feel like you’re, you know, not giving the kids enough time. If you’re spending too much time with the kids, you feel like you’re missing out on work. And I think, you know, I have great kids, I have a great partner at home, and we’ve been able to find a really good balance that works for us.

Very cool. So switching gears a bit over here, Saima, what advice or insights would you give to our listeners? So because looking back at your career, you gravitated towards analytics and data, something I don’t know if it came from your days and when you were studying or maybe early days of your career, but something, gravity, something pulled you in towards data analytics, and then at a later stage you gravitated towards being a marketing leader.

So what advice would you share? Or if you can share your journey, like what should people look for in terms of signals?

Yeah, I think when people talk about data or hear about data, you know, everyone thinks that their data is just too bad or they don’t have a complete data set or, you know, there’s almost barriers that they put in front of them. And I just want to dispel that notion because nobody’s data is perfect, right? Let’s be honest. We are all dealing with legacy systems. Things are captured. There’s always going to be some blind spots that we have. My recommendation would be to always start with what you have and build upon it. And iterate. Even if you do measure the same thing and you start measuring it consistently, you’ll start to see trends emerge. You’ll start to see a story emerge, right? Are we doing better or worse than we did last week, last month, last quarter, last year? Those are the types of things that you’ve just got.

At least start to have the data inform what you’re doing and patterns start to emerge. So I always say don’t let perfect get in the way of greatness. Start now and go on that journey. And everyone can benefit from leveraging the data in marketing. And marketing has tended to always, you know, probably 20 years ago, you know, marketing wasn’t as data-driven as it is now. But we’ve had a digital transformation. There’s so much data and intelligence and tools out there that we should be harnessing because guess what? If we’re not going to do it, our competitors will. And so you want to be making use of everything that is out there. If you know that 7% of your ICP is in-market and actively exhibiting signals of interest, wouldn’t you put your sellers on those accounts? Wouldn’t you have your BDRS focus on them? So especially in today’s economy where there are limited budgets, limited headcount, it’s almost more critical to rely on predictive analytics, and AI to really inform what we’re doing. And so I always say, you know, I think it’s come out of necessity, but also just it’s good business.

We should be operating every function in a way where we’re looking at the data and deriving insights and actions from it.

Yeah. And then the second part of the question was why marketing out of all the other possibilities?

Yeah! It’s funny. I’ve always had a, you know, I feel like I’m both right and left-brained, whatever that means. But, you know, I have an analytical background, but I’ve been creative. I’ve always been interested in art and creating beautiful things and, you know, advertising and the power of a great jingle, a great campaign. You know, we grow up, kind of seeing these things all around us. And so I always knew that that was something that I was interested in as well. And so I did study that. I actually had a minor in marketing when I was in school and, a major in, you know, analytics and information sciences. And that was the goal for me. I need to be, you know, hitting both sides of that to really feel fulfilled.

And I’m just so lucky that the first job I got, in Toronto, Canada, was for a consulting company that did just that. It was marketing analytics. And so I think I’ve just been fortunate. And then since then, I’ve carried on and I’ve been able to. I think that’s why I don’t let the data just be the data. It really is about telling the story and then saying, what does this mean for the marketing function, for the sales function, for the BDR function, what should we be doing from it? And that’s, that’s, you know, what’s made my career so fulfilling?

And while you’re figuring out that you want to move from Ops into a marketing leadership role, do you experiment and test? Okay, this is what I want to do, and I know I’ll be successful.

Like everything, everything is testing. Yeah. If your listeners take one thing away, just know that if you don’t have a way to measure success for something, why are you even setting it live? Why are you putting the budget, time, and effort of your team, or your company into something that you have no way of saying? Is this working right? And it doesn’t have to be a perfect measurement? Again, let’s not forget.

But something that will be a great leading indicator is this working. That’s what prevents, you know, big failures or big wastage. There was an article, a research brief, actually, that Boston Consulting Group put out last year where they estimated that sales, marketing, sales, marketing, and CSS teams were collectively leaving $2 trillion of waste on the table through, you know, misaligned programs, missed opportunities. That’s a whole lot of waste. That’s 12 zeros, you know, in a trillion. And so it’s really our duty as stewards of the budgets that we carry, of the people on our teams to really make what they do meaningful. And so you should be testing and iterating. It can be a simple view, but just always, you know, when you’re setting anything live, really think through what you want to accomplish. And sometimes even that alone. What is the objective of this thing that we’re going to launch or this thing that we’re going to do? Sometimes that alone is enough to determine, whether is it worth it or not. Is it laddering up to the strategic priorities of the company? Yes! No.

Yeah. No. And assuming you did something similar on your personal front, and on the career front as well, where you did okay, this is an experiment. These are the leading indicators and success and failure criteria before I take on a full-time CMO role.

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, every, every career move, you’ve got to outweigh the pros and the cons and determine what is, you know, your growth trajectory here. Am I working with people who inspire me and or who are doing great things? That’s what keeps it interesting, right? I think, you know, I’ve been lucky enough to have opportunities come my way, but every opportunity that I’ve taken has been a little bit scary. And that’s a good thing, right? If you’re just it should always be a little bit daunting to take on something new, because that’s where the real growth happens.

Absolutely. So something that really caught my attention and I wanted to get your thoughts on Saima is, you talk about ICP and you talk about data. So how do you use data to figure out your ICP? I know there are standard ways people keep talking about, okay, this is a job title, the company, the industry, and so on. But I’m sure there are a lot more vectors out there. Not just these.

Yes. Oh, absolutely. So our ICP is determined again by 6sense. We drink our own champagne, we use our own product. And so for us, there’s a couple of components to it. number one, your ICP really. You know, for us, it starts with, does this company look like the types of companies that have bought from us in the past? And 6sense gives you what’s called a profile fit score. And so that’s really the first component of our ICP.

Is this a strong profile account based on our historical wins? Right. That’s a great starting place. Then you know, you want to overlay other data points like who does 6sense sell to. We sell typically to companies that have certain techno graphics in place. They own a CRM. They have a marketing automation platform. So we’ll overlay the ICP with those thermographic data points, then think, sorry, those technographic data points. Then think of firmer graphics we sell to companies of a certain size revenue range industry. Right. And so we’ll overlay NAIC codes, SIC codes, and revenue data to really refine that. And that’s kind of, you know, a starting point for us. Then of course there’s the question of where we want to go in the future. And you know that that’s a little bit different from that backward look of who we have sold to in the past, and what’s the profile of them. And for us, you know, there’s a geo component there we want to break into new geographies.

6sense launched you know an EMEA office about two years ago. And so we added those countries to our ICP. And we also are constantly looking to break into new verticals. And so in those cases, we add those geo data points, those industries that code and we kind of refine the ICP. And that gives us a really strong starting point. Now, because our ICP definition lives in 6sense, it’s dynamic. So as net new companies start to meet those criteria, start to, you know, start to show intent, those are pulled into the ICP. And so as a team, we internally meet twice a month to look at the ICP data and make sure there aren’t any blind spots. Look at net new deals that we might have closed one or closed lost. Are they, you know, in a certain pattern? I can keep going back to the patterns, but are we seeing something there that we should add to the ICP yes or no? But it really is a crucial exercise that I encourage everyone to spend the time on.

And then, of course, this is what marketing puts together. And we have our rev ops counterparts, our sales counterparts, and our CSE counterparts in the room. And we continue to refine that based on retention data based on, you know, upsell data. Where are we expanding? Those are the types of accounts we want to get more of. And so that’s why it’s so critical for us to keep that dynamic view of the ICP and continue to refine it.

Yeah. And the way I’m reading this is, ICP for the new market would be different from ICP for okay, this is the pattern of customers we’ve been selling to before. The success versus ICP for expansion will be, again, different.

Absolutely. You should always have, you know, the backward view, but the forward view and the lateral views in place.

Absolutely. All right. Let’s go even further deeper here. I’m sure across your career you’re seeing both go-to-market success and a good market failure story. So if you can share, I’ll let you choose which one you want to go with. First, let’s cover both the success and failure story. Yeah.

So I am on the success side, you know there’s a lot. And I’ve been again fortunate to work for companies that are doing a lot of really cutting-edge, innovative things. And the one that comes to mind most recently is what we, at 6sense, have done just over the past 12 months. We embarked on what we call our BDR transformation. So for us, you know, we don’t rely on inbound leads necessarily for our motion. We want to proactively get in front of those accounts if they’re, you know, a part of our ICP. And so we look for intent data and signals and will, you know, get our bidders engaged at the right time. And so for us, we really wanted to tighten that process of the BDR org, which, by the way, does report into marketing and it’s part of my remit. And so we started out by making it really clear on expectations. Right. So know what good looks like.

Then you set the filet accordingly. And then you inspect. And so we know we win more deals when we’ve got x number of contacts involved. And when it’s x, y, z persona we win more. Our win rate doubles. Yeah. And you know, we convert more accounts to opportunities when we reach out to them within X amount of time. And so that’s where you start to build your SLA. All right. When an account hits a certain intent stage BDS, you have, you know, 20 minutes to do your first activity against it. And I expect you to reach out to at least three personas in that account. And I expect you to do X number of touches along the way. So number one, just setting that standard across the board allowed for consistency with that team, and it almost just dispels any guesswork. Everyone knows what they need to do. They’re going to come in. They’re going to follow the process. Boom boom, boom. And then I mentioned inspection.

Right. So we’ve got really great scorecards in place that are our BDR manager’s own. They will track activity levels of BDS attainment. We look at it. We review it as a team every Monday. You know. So there’s again that okay we said we’re going to do this. Are we actually doing it right? And then we do other things right. We saw that our teams were performing more when they were in the office. And so we did implement a return to office procedure for the BDR team. And they are in the office three days a week in our key hubs, in our key offices, and they are learning from each other. They’re coaching each other. They’re talking about how to handle objections with each other. Right. So it’s just fostered a really great culture within the BDR org. we have implemented, you know, better, more around dialing and getting bars on the phone. How can we automate some of the more repetitive tasks that they do using our own AI product, having an AI assistant do that initial outreach via email so that the bars are able to get on the phone and speak with the prospects more?

And, you know, there’s probably ten other things we did, but it was just about, you know, it’s not that or wasn’t performing. But we recognize the critical nature of it to our go-to market motion. And we wanted to even improve it more. And since then, I can tell you, I actually made a post about this on LinkedIn this week. Our win rate for our outbound activities is higher than inbound, which I think is unheard of in the industry. But it’s just about, you know, again, if you put a program around the data and the intelligence that 6sense in ten is providing you, it will yield results. And so for us, that’s been a great, great success story. And we’re, you know, continuing to push the envelope there. in terms of failure, I will say. If you’re measuring what you’re launching something shouldn’t fail to the degree that you would call it a failure. I would say, you know, fail fast within a week or two.

You should know if this thing working. Is this thing resonating? And so I wouldn’t call. I don’t think I can even give you an example of a failure, because if there has been something that we launched or even if we planned to do something one way and very quickly we determined, nope, it’s not working. All we do is we pivot, we iterate, and it’s that testing and kind of iterating that really allows you to avoid those big failures. And so, you know, I, I think that’s why, you know, when you asked me, what advice would you give to anyone? That was my answer. Always have a plan in place to just be able to gauge early on. Is this worth the time, effort, and budget that I’m putting into it?

Yeah, no for sure. So whenever I frame the word failure, I hear different variations, especially the very successful or go-to-market leaders that have a high impact. They don’t see it as a failure. They see it as a feedback loop and a learning lesson to pivot, as you said.

Yeah, yeah for sure. All right. So let’s switch gears a bit more over here. So what did you mention you would now be head of marketing at Sixth Sense. What are your typical interactions with product marketing? when it comes to either launch or what are the big challenge areas or initiative and focus areas that you’re looking at when it comes to product marketing?

Yeah. So my product marketing team is wonderful. and they really sit at the intersection of marketing, product enablement, and sales. Right? There are so many teams that they’re touching. They’re the ones really coming up with the best way to position a new product, the best way to train and enable our sellers on it, the best type of content and messaging that we should be putting out with it. And so they do all of that and more. I think they’re one of those, you know, Swiss Army knives that will plug them into whichever project needs to be happening and they’ll run with it. And so from a launch perspective, absolutely, they run the launch process, in conjunction with our business technology team that is kind of running the mechanics of the launch.

And it really is about working hand in hand with the product organization, around what is being launched, what are the real success criteria and value drivers that it’s bringing. And then I think more importantly, beyond that, then before launch, do we have a really robust alpha program where we’re testing this internally because again, we run 6sense for 6sense. So we have to be our best customer. And the goal is that by the time a product does go to launch, we’ve, you know, tested it. We’ve come up with best-case scenarios. We’ve come up with pro tips that we can give even a playbook that we can offer up to our customers as here you go. Here’s how the internal team, you know, drove success with it. So an alpha, then a beta with, you know, other customers to come up with more use cases and, and things that, you know, we might have missed. And then of course, get to a place where we’re doing a really successful launch.

Yeah. No, for sure. Typically what I’ve seen, like really successful product marketing organizations do is they have like five, six or even seven eight programs. Starts with positioning and messaging. That’s the first and most important responsibility. And then there are customer insights which go hand in hand. It’s a combination of primary and secondary research. Following that would be sales enablement, especially if your sales lead or you have a heavy sales mission, it’ll be sales enablement. And then you have the new product launch, new market launch, then you have product adoption. And then, of course, product content, all the content that has to be.

Absolutely. We also have competitive intelligence in that team as well. So we’ve got a really great competitive intelligence team that’s keeping, you know, us all up to date because we’re in such a, you know, competitive industry. The MarTech landscape has, you know, been constantly evolving. And so we’ve got a couple of folks dedicated to that as well.

Yeah. And curious I mean, you do have and you wear the hats of revenue ops analytics leader as well as marketing that owns product marketing. So who do you think should own and who drives like, tests and sees the product adoption, whether it’s right or not, even product expansion, and who like, what kind of programs or initiatives?

Yeah. So it’s a great question because, you know, it could live in both. And for us, the teams actually collaborate on that. So product marketing owns the launch. They own, you know, identifying, you know, who’s going to be part of a beta program. How we’re going to go to market. But I have somebody on my Mops team who runs the alphas, and of course, she works again hand in hand with product marketing. Together they are coming up with success criteria for the launch. How are we going to deem this alpha, you know, a success? What test cases are we going to run? And so it’s Mops and a product marketer together.

But the ultimate responsibility of running that alpha and that testing is with Mops. And then the product marketing team takes, you know, those results and runs with it.

Understood. And where does customer success come into play, especially for expansion?

Yeah, I mean we Customer Success 6sense invested a lot in our customer success program. We have phenomenal leaders. And so then you know, there’s a very sort of clear handoff even before a deal is closed. We’re keeping them in the loop about, you know, the customer, their pain points. I think having a single source of truth in the data is great for that. You know, they can get all those notes and do a really nice seamless transfer between sales and customer success. And then they are involved even, you know, believe it or not, they’re even involved obviously in, you know, expansion and upsells. But way back, if we close that loop to even defining the ICP, yeah, we have KSE have a voice in that meeting as well because ultimately they are the ones making those customers successful.

And so their feedback is also critical to which types of customers we are going to be targeting!

Very cool. All right. and now let’s switch gears again. Going back to your career overall, I’m sure you must have come across mentors, folks who have played a big role in either directing you or guiding you and then shifting your thought process. So, yeah, maybe a few people who come to mind and how they have influenced you, if you can share that.

Yeah. It’s funny because we talked a little about parenting early on. I’m going to start with my mother. She, you know, did her master’s degree at a time when not many women did. I think there was one of them. She was one of four females at the college that actually graduated from the master’s program the year she did. And, she instilled that, you know, career mindset with her four daughters. and her son. But, you know, she really always pushed us to make a career for ourselves.

The importance of an education, the importance of being able to take care of yourself first. And that has very much been a guiding light for me in my career. And then I’ve been so fortunate to have managers along the way. And, you know, next-line managers who I learned from, who guided me, I will say my first manager, he really taught me about telling a story with data and taking it to the next level. my, you know, my subsequent managers have really taught me about. Being bold and taking the risks. And, you know, you’ve got this, I think for somebody to, you know, show that confidence in you and to push you to do the thing that, you know, might just be an idea, but could help propel the business to a place where, you know, it wouldn’t if we kept with the status quo. I’ve been really fortunate to have my last two or three managers be the ones that have said, go do it, let’s test it, let’s make it happen.

And you need those folks in your corner. And so, you know, obviously, those are managers. I’ve worked with peers and my team who have consistently guided me. And then I mentioned the CMO community. Right? I mean, that in itself is a great place of inspiration and learning. Just today, we had Guy Kawasaki, at our community event and he, you know, for an hour inspired us about what makes a remarkable leader. I mean, moments like that, you know, even just an hour spent with folks like that will really, you know, be inspirational and guide you. And so I find inspiration everywhere.

Very cool. You touched upon something really important. I think one of your earlier managers instilled in you the importance of tying data to telling, and how you tell a story around it. So is that a skill that people reach out to you? And if you can give tactical advice, like how do you tie storytelling and data?

Yeah. So if you know, people come to me really, for a couple of things, but I would say data number one.

And then probably secondly, you know, simplifying communication up, leveling it, how do we, you know, present this to an exact audience. And on the data side, I’ve. I told to my analytics team. If someone asks you for a number or a report, you don’t just send back the number or the report. Right, right. My expectation is, that if I’ve asked you for the answer to this question, you’ll answer it. But you’ll also think of the other things around that I might not have asked you about. Look at the bigger picture. Extract yourself from just that really narrow mindset, right? And even if you are sending someone a quick number report, always include the well, what does this mean? Here’s how I would interpret it. Here’s what this means for you. Is this better or worse than what we’ve seen? Are we on the right trajectory? Yeah, that piece is really the difference between. Data and analytics. And so that’s the goal. And sometimes, you know, teams will not assume that that’s part of their role.

Like you know, I’m an analytics team. Here’s the data. Here’s the dashboard. And guess what? You could create the best dashboard in the world if nobody uses it or looks at it. Who cares? And so, you know, it’s always about facilitating what is going to happen from this. What is the action and the insight from here? And that’s you know, without that, what’s the point?

Yeah. It reminds me of my conversation with my youngest son yesterday where he was talking about the debate and the framework that they use to make an assertive statement, and back it up with reasoning. And here are the reasons why. 

Yeah. 

And I see a lot of parallels with this, which is okay, you got all this data, but what does it really mean and why should someone care about it?

Why should someone care if data drives on its own? Drove. Action without you having to do anything. All of us would exercise every day. All of us would floss our teeth twice, you know, and every day.

And like, there’s just these things that, you know, the data tells you you’re supposed to do, but. You know, people don’t do it. And so it really is about explaining the why, what it means to you, and what this will do for you.

Yeah. I mean, I think you have a magical mix. If you can tie in data to what is the action that you want someone to take and how do you tell a story for them to take that action? Yeah.

Yeah. And influence. I mean, we didn’t talk about influence, right? You have to establish yourself. And I’m not just talking about an analytics team at this point. This is anyone. You’ve got to establish yourself as a trusted advisor, as a thought, you know, as a thought partner and a strategic partner. Only then can you really influence anything in a business to move forward, whether it’s, you know, the next marketing campaign, whether it’s the next, you know, dashboard or report, whether it’s the next product launch, how do you establish trust with amongst each other and, and influence things to continue to move forward? That’s really a big unlock.

Absolutely. I know we can go on and on so many topics here, but let’s wrap it up with one final question for you, which advice would you give to your younger self if you were to turn back the clock and go back to day one of your go-to-market journeys?

Wow. I would say, you know, you’ve got this. And I think, you know, some of that advice that my managers and mentors have given me is really just trust in the path that you’re on and lean into your superpowers. And this is not just advice for me, by the way. It’s advice I give my children. It’s advice I give my team. I actually did my, we had started our new fiscal year about a month ago. And at our kickoff, with my marketing team. I said there was just one mantra. I said, lean into what you’re good at and get comfortable sharing it. That’s what I want to see. You have a superpower.

There’s something that you can do better than anyone on this team. Lean into that and get comfortable sharing it and you will be successful.

In this episode, Div Manickam, product marketing leader, product marketing coach, and author defines GTM as a three-letter acronym focused on achieving alignment across stakeholders and teams within a company, particularly when launching new products or entering new markets.

Let’s step into the world of product marketing and discover the keys to thriving in today’s competitive landscape.

Listen to the podcast here:

Personal Values, Mentorship, and Career Growth: Div Manickam’s Journey in Product Marketing

Hello again. Thank you for taking the time to listen to the newest episode. Or maybe it’s your first episode of the B2B Go to Market Leaders podcast but I’m deeply, deeply grateful for you taking the time. I know you have a lot of options out there, but yeah, thanks once again. And, yeah, look forward to hearing from you at some point in time as to how things are going with the podcast. And if you have any feedback with that, I would love to invite the newest guest on the podcast. She is Div Manickam. She is a product marketing leader, product marketing coach and author. So quite a lot of ground to cover here. So with that intro, welcome to the show Div.

Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

Yeah. So it’s my pleasure. I’m looking forward to our conversations. So I always start the show with this question which the audience loves as well as the guest. It gets the conversation going in the deep end, if you will.

Signature Question: How do you view and define go to market?

I like to think of it as the three acronym, three letter acronym that we all want to be better at, but we are so striving towards it. For me, whether I’m working on a launch, whether I’m working on a new product or packaging existing products or services into a new market, go to market. GTM is what gives us the focus and alignment across stakeholders and teams within a company.

Got it. And, yeah, I’ve heard quite a few variations. And typically it boils down to like 2 or 3 points, which is it always starts with who is it that you’re really solving for, what is the specific problem you’re solving for, and how do you convey that value, so much so that they get interested in buying your product or service? Right. So that’s external. And then there’s the internal which is who owns Goodyear. Good. And well who owns GTM and go to market.

And again, go to market has a lot of variations. If you ask someone from product marketing, they’ll say, hey, I have the best view, or I own go to market. But then if you talk to a sales and revenue organisation, they say we are go to market, period. Right. And then there’s another which no one really has any real control or influence because go to market involves a product. It involves marketing, involves sales, involves customer support and success as well. So there’s no one person who owns unless in the more mature organisations it’s typically the CEO who has the influence. It’s not that it’s his or her day to day job, but, yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, the CEO will need to be involved in the go to market. So yeah, I would love to hear your thoughts on all of these things.

Absolutely. And I think you touched on a very key part, which is one of the reasons why I’m excited about where I am right now, leading product marketing for a new product launch that we are working on this year. And our company has evolved where our chief growth officer is now the head of sales and marketing, and we have brought the teams together. So we have a GTM. Alignment and all those things that are needed as part of it. I’m a true believer that if you are trying to bring GTM to life, it’s not just a matter of who owns it. Yes, product marketing touches different stakeholders in different teams. So we are well positioned to be the, the champion, the chaperone, the ambassador, whatever way you want to think of it. But a big part of it is how do we bring these teams together and have shared goals, shared OKRs so that we are all working towards the same outcome?

Yeah, we’d love to. Div. I’m sure we’ll touch upon those things, especially the shared OKRs alignment and working together. But let’s take a step back. Why don’t you walk us through your career journey? I mean, what brought you to what you are today and who do you serve in your current role?

Sure. Yeah. So a lot of. I would say a decade of experience in product marketing across fortune 500 companies and startups, primarily and mainly in the technology space. This has given me opportunities to dive in both feet, and hands and everything all in to figure out what product marketing is. How do we define it, what does it look like? And doesn’t matter which company, which team I’m in? There’s always an educational aspect of trying to understand where the company is today when it comes to product marketing, how is it perceived, where is the value? And then figuring out how can I as a contributor, as a team leader, bring those aspects together? across the journey, I think, with the Product Marketing Alliance, I’ve been fortunate to be, one of the top 100 product marketing influencers, and that has probably given me the confidence that maybe some of the questions that I’m asking is not just me, that there are others also, having similar questions and concerns and also challenging the status quo.

So I truly believe in empowering folks, whether it’s to be their best selves, to be their true, authentic selves. And so I’ve published books on my journey, all the way from stress and anxiety to leadership to product marketing and everything in between, I guess. And, I love to share my experiences on career growth, on authentic leadership, mindfulness, mental well-being, and product marketing. So you’ll see flavours of that through my LinkedIn and every, every aspect of the social sphere that I’m in.

Yeah. Very cool. So if I do go, I mean, I’m looking at your LinkedIn profile, and if I go back in time, I mean, you started off as a marketing intern, then you did some stints and Mark Marcum and then analyst and then went into technical product marketing and then eventually product marketing. So what got you into or what aspects of product marketing gravitated or pulled you in?

I knew that after I got my first job after my MBA, that product marketing is where I want to be.

It was just a matter of time for me to get there. And every job, every interview that I had at ten, 12 years ago, it was, hey, we love your energy. We love what you’re saying. But we just found someone who has got the product marketing experience. So I didn’t quite land that first job, but I knew that that was where I was headed. And so the first opportunity after my marketing communications role was to become a sales enablement manager. So I had a chance to dive into the adjacent aspects of product marketing before I really went into product marketing. So it was a long winded path. But I finally made it, and, I realised that this is right where I’m supposed to be and, kind of building my career around it. So. Yeah.

Yeah. And you also mentioned you’re not just a product marketer, but you also dabble in other aspects, including being a wellness or a leadership or a mentor and a coach, and you’re also a book author. So, yeah. Tell us about each of those. 

Well, there’s plenty more. I recently got to have my first photo exhibit, so I love photography. just a personal passion of mine, and, I think I am, an individual and an explorer who likes to try many firsts. And this is another first into my book of living. I am a big believer in wellbeing, primarily because I have experienced stress and anxiety in my own career and want to make sure that as I’m navigating through the next ten years, in the next decade that’s coming forward, that I’m thinking about those aspects as well. the books came into existence primarily from that. So the first book that I wrote was A Broken Teacup. This was my journey, going from an always optimist person to always worrying and always anxious to now finding mindfulness and self-care as part of my own well-being. I’m also part of the Chief Wellbeing Officer program at the World Happiness Foundation. going through that program right now, and I want to see what I can do to help, folks, my mentees, my students, I teach product marketing at the PMA, the Product Marketing Alliance as well.

So I like to do many things. I’ve realised that doing one thing doesn’t satisfy my own curiosity, if you will.

Yeah. I think this is the first time I’m having someone from a background with a background in mental well-being and happiness. I know we can carve out a separate podcast and deep dive on that topic, but then let’s just spend maybe a minute or so. So how do you, How do you think of happiness? Because happiness is again such a. It’s one word, but can mean so many things similar to go to market. Yeah. How do you define and how do you guide and advise folks around it?

For me, it has been the journey of opening up and being comfortable with your fears, being comfortable with your vulnerability. I got my U.S. citizenship in 2021 and I was like, I’m on my pursuit of happiness. And that was my path. And I was like, what does happiness mean? And then there are other words: joy, different aspects of it.

And so where I’m landed right now, in the past five years of my searches, I think well-being is more rounded, especially when I think about workplace well-being. And that’s the area that I’m focused on, because a lot of times we want to create that sense of belonging. We want to create that sense of camaraderie, collaboration, everything. And I think this goes very neatly to GTM, right? If all of us are not rowing in the same direction. And I take the analogy of rowing because I’m right by the Marina and we have the rowing teams around here every morning at 5 a.m., 6 a.m. it’s a team of six, seven folks, and you all have to move in the same direction. Otherwise that boat is not moving. Right. so it’s a similar analogy when I think about wellbeing and, thinking about belonging, because I have been in teams and companies where I have thrived. Right, I have and you’ll see in my LinkedIn career as well. Right. Like my path has been paved out because I was able to do the things and I had the support system, I had, everyone helping each other out.

Then I’ve been in companies where it has been a totally toxic environment, where I barely lasted a few months. And, as much as I’m an empathetic person and a leader, who’s imparting empathy in all shapes and forms, with their teams, I also realised that that is a key part to whatever you’re trying to do or achieve in a company, right? I’ve joined this new company here, and I’m just a few months in and we had our performance review, and the feedback I got was, hey, you’re doing great. And it feels like you’ve already been here for years, right? That shows that you’re doing something and that your peers recognize you, the peers, appreciate the value that you’re bringing into the team. So that’s, that’s where I think all of it comes together when it comes to well-being. Thinking about what happiness means for you. And same as the question about success, right? What does success look like for you? And if you had asked me five years ago, I would have had a totally different definition for success and happiness as compared to today.

Yeah. Success. Happiness, how others perceive you, the others expectations, your own expectations, vulnerability. I mean, so many of these things. Right. And and again, you might be happy one moment, but then the very next moment things just flip 180.

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. We just lost a very dear friend last week. And there are times where you’re like, oh my gosh, what are the life choices that I’m making? And every moment is precious, right. Like that, I think the coming back to mindfulness in some way, like being in the present and being fully present, I never understood that until just a few years ago. So yeah, I hear you loud and clear.

All right. bringing the conversation back to go to market. So tell us about what you do and where you are nowadays and what is your role like and who do you serve?

Sure. So I am the director of product marketing. It’s illegal and I am supporting the data integration product.

And this is something that we’re working towards to launch this year as part of my role, my key stakeholders are product sales and marketing and the customer success team. So we are working towards serving our internal stakeholders. But at the same time, our customers and partners who are in the data integration space, so who are looking to better understand and make sure that the data is in the right places, whether it’s going to data warehouses or data lakes and. Bringing data insights and analytics from that.

Yeah. And one key stakeholder I didn’t hear you say maybe it’s embedded within, which is the buyers and the customers. Like how do you spend time or do you spend time and how much time do you spend in understanding the buyers? And is it like a direct one on one, or is it through sales call recordings or a mix of various things?

So when I was talking to you about the external stakeholders, right. My customers and partners are equal, equally embedded into the equation.

For me, it’s all about understanding the voice of the customer, the voice of the market. So I always like to think of it as threefold. Right. Who are we targeting and why now? Right. Something has shifted in the market. What is this new thing, new opportunity, new market trend that is driving this? Yeah. Are we catching up with the market or are we creating a new wave? Right. So that’s the competition, the market landscape, if you will. And then what is our unique differentiator that will help us stand out? So we have different methods. customer one on one interviews are always top of mind for me. That’s number one. But then similarly, we also have our product Advisory Council where we are bringing customers and partners together as we are building the product and as we are doing our work on design. And what does the experience look like? We are getting that validation right. So understanding the personas, understanding the customer use cases, what is the key challenge that they want to solve right now at this moment in time.

And then kind of fine tune, our messaging positioning everything from the get go to create that go to market launch.

Yeah. I mean. 6 to 8, programs come to my mind when I think about product marketing and when I speak to other folks in the industry. Right. So it always starts with, the customer program, like the customer insights. It starts with that. And then you move on to the positioning and messaging that that’s a program or an initiative in itself. And after that it goes into sales enablement. If you are a sales lead component, or it can be like a variation, like maybe a partner lead or a partner enablement and so on. following that will be a new product launch. it can be a new market entry. And then there is product content that’s a big piece, right? At the end of the day, product marketers are really good. Product marketers are and will be good storytellers. And so how do you frame that is just not putting together a data sheet.

But then how do you frame that and convey stories in different channels and formats? Following that would be like product adoption. and I’m sure I’m missing 1 or 2. Right. But broadly speaking, this is how I think. So anything that I’m missing or anything that stands out and where you invest your time and energy into in all these.

Sure. I like to think of it as the buyer journey. Right. So that end to end from the buyer or the prospect came across a webinar, came across a demo, came across, maybe a review on a website somewhere. That’s that first touchpoint. and I like to think of it as five phases. Discover this is where they have they’re like, oh, I think I have a problem. I need to find a solution or validate whether I really have a problem. The second is your learning phase where. They’re still absorbing the information that’s out there. They’re learning about what are the challenges, what are the problems that they’re trying to solve. So this could be product web pages, content that can initially serve that initial need.

Then I’d like to look at the aspects of what am I going to do? I’m going to try. Right. This is my try phase. I’m going to try to use a demo. See what this product can do. Maybe even check out some product webinars, things like that. Then it comes to that buy phase where now they’re at the point where they’re making a decision. So they’re probably looking at analyst validations. They’re looking at customer reviews, review sites, all of the information that can come in. And then after the buy phase comes the advocacy phase, right. This is where. And this is how I think about product marketing is all of those touch points, not just, oh, I got customers to buy and my job is done. I’m going to try to bring more customers in. My job is done when I’ve actually created those customer success stories, when I have created those advocates so that they can go and build the momentum that we have started with. Right. So that’s how I like to look at it.

And, I have a ten step, product launch process so similar to what you were touching on all the way from your. I like to start first with OKRs. Right. I need to know. Yes, we need to launch a product that is crystal clear and we need to drive revenue. But I need to also know what am I working towards and what is this driving towards for the organisation at the same time? I also have 30, 60, 90 day follow up metrics and goals that we are setting within each team, right? So the marketing team has a goal product as a goal, sales as a goal. Customer success might have a goal. Even our certification training team might have a goal, right? Like, yes, we have a new product, so we need to make sure we get X amount of certifications started by day 30, completed by day 90, whatever that is. Right. So all of that has helped in becoming more methodical in the process, but also understanding that all of this feeds into keeping the buyer in mind.

Right at the end of the day, everything we are doing is for the customers, and if what we’re doing doesn’t matter for them, it’s all going to be just another piece of content that’s going to sit on the shelf.

Yeah. And in terms of OKRs, I’m sure somewhere along the lines you must be measuring specific metrics. would you mind sharing like a couple of metrics that are always on your radar and what and how you think about it.

Yeah. So, there are different ways to think of it. And, oftentimes I like being a data person, I like to think of data as the essence, but not the data as the number is going to decide your fate. so I like to look at what I can influence. Right. So when it comes to product adoption. So if we are working on in-app notifications and in-app messaging, how is that going to drive from a customer who’s currently using a part of the platform and now has this opportunity to use a new product? Right.

So product adoption metrics are some that I would consider. I also look at the sales, pipeline, metrics. So the average deal size is one that I’m always keeping an eye out for to say, okay, today our average deal size is x. Now we are starting to go up market to the enterprise. Our deal size should grow. Right. Like that’s a metric I think I can influence, because it all comes down to how we’re positioning ourselves. Who are we talking to? The persona, all of that good stuff. 

So those are a few, top of mind, but there are many others, depending on what levers we have, to pull within the organisation, how we can tie it back to our campaigns and our go to market strategy itself.

Yeah. Very cool.

So, yeah, you just touch upon the different KPIs and how you think about OKRs, working with the different teams as your partners and stakeholders. So let’s switch gears. Let’s make it even more real. Let’s get even deeper into maybe you can share, like a customer or go to market success story and a go to market failure story. And I’m sure we’ll double click on many of those. I’ll leave it to you on which one you want to go with first.

All right. Let’s always start with success. So for me, I think one of my best, success stories and probably one of the propellers in my career has been, the opportunity I had to create a whole new platform positioning and a new path to our go to market. at a company that I worked in a couple of years ago and this success story, I think the winning together has been the mindset that helped us. Right.

So as a team, we were working together as one team. This new positioning, this new narrative that we had reshaped, how we talked about ourselves as an organisation, how we talked about ourselves to the company, to our customers, to the analysts, to the media. Everything was changing. So this was a big pivot going from we’re talking to the technical buyer to now we’re going to talk to the line of business, to the business. audience. Yeah. that meant a lot of things that meant how we sold, the conversations we were having in our sales pitches. We’re shifting the people who are in those buying committees. Right. So this brought that intersection between business and it coming together. And I think that’s where the story needed to evolve, because we were not just talking to the technical audience anymore. Right. So and.

Was this at Lenovo or somewhere else?

This was at Boomi.

Yeah. Okay.

Yeah. Yeah. So this was our opportunity to recreate our story for what it looked like.

And I was able to apply similar principles at Lenovo as well as part of the data centre group as well. So this was our opportunity to recreate and have a new narrative on how we want to think about who we are and how we position ourselves. So the Boomi example was at the platform level, at a product level, and at Lenovo got to apply similar principles to create a narrative for our services organisation. So this was a great example of. Bringing teams together, right? Very quickly. As companies grow, we and as companies are in the process of growing up, a lot of things can fall apart. We might not have all the right pieces of the puzzle yet figured out, but we are all moving, right? We’re creating the rocket ship, and we’re building it and moving along the way. So that, I think, is where it all came to. And I had the opportunity to work with the product team, the sales team, customer success, documentation, user experience, everybody and anybody.

I think being the ambassador of the new story and the new message and the new go to market that we’re working on, was critical and it paved path for us to start thinking about what is the story that we want to tell the world and how are we going to tell it. And I think the success came when we were at our user conference. Fast forward nine months into the process, after we got everything from the website to every piece of information out there, how we told the story and our customers, our CEO, everybody was telling the same, platform story. I think that was the big shift that we could see. analysts were saying the same thing. We started seeing that go far and wide into the ecosystem. And that, I think, was my success story, if you will.

Well, and then I heard quite a few, important critical product marketing elements in there. You mentioned messaging, you mentioned about the shift of the buyer persona to more of a technical buyer persona.

To a business.

From a technical point of view. Yeah. So I got that wrong. So from a technical to a business buyer, you mentioned messaging, you mentioned storytelling. So walk us through that process. Like how did you come up with the personas shift, how did that translate into the positioning and messaging and then into storytelling?

So the first shift was, we had an acquisition, which led us to, go from the layers of different products to how do we think about us as a platform, how do we start looking at the acquisition? It gave us an entry point to talk to the business. Before, we were always talking to the technical buyer, the it, leader. and that led to what is our story now? How do we tell our story now? And that 360 degree pivot, is what opened up the conversation for okay, what is our story and how do we want to position it? So we had workshops to brainstorm collectively as a team to come up with that new narrative and come up with, how are we looking at it? What does this mean? That touched everywhere from new iconography to the product to new product naming conventions? Everything was getting revamped, right? And this became more holistic because it wasn’t just over launching a new product.

It was as a company, we are, we are relaunching ourselves. And so that led to the storytelling aspects and how do we tell our story, the pitch, how do we look at what is the essence, what are the themes? What are the taglines? Right. So connect everything, engage everywhere. Like that became part of the story. And, it started having that sticky factor because now the analysts were saying the same thing back to us. We were hearing it from our media publications, everything. So yeah.

Yeah. And how did you get the validation if the messaging and the story resonated with your buyers? Because at the end of the day, the real proof comes if it’s resonating with your business buyer person.

Absolutely. Yeah. So we have a customer advisory board. And so whenever we have a new shift or a new message, we test it and validate it with our customer advisory board. These are our top, 1% of our customers who believe in us and are with us in, in the ride, to the new future.

Right. So this is our opportunity to validate with them. We did a similar validation with the analysts as well. And that’s the approach that I take whenever I’m launching a new product or a new go to market, plan itself to make sure that who we think we are going to talk to is still the same folks and that they see the same way. And as I mentioned earlier, like in the user conference, our customers were telling the story back to us in their own way. Right. And that’s where things started falling in place. And you’re like, yep, this story definitely works. And, it’s still the story that is continuing to be championed. So I’m really proud of being part of the team that was able to bring that story to life.

Very cool. Yeah. So one of the things that I do when I work with my customers, I provide product marketing and growth services to B2B SaaS companies, both big and small. And one of the things that I do, and we’d love to get your thoughts on this, the as to how you would tweak or if this is resonating or not is I have like a series of interviews, interviews with my customers.

Okay. And that goes along the lines of what were you trying to solve, what made you look for alternatives in the first place. And then the next one would be who were you talking to and why did they choose me or us, depending on what we are, the entity and the organisation and follow up to that, our follow up to that would be what is the impact? I mean, how did your day to day change because of this buy or the purchase that you did? And I would also wrap it up with how do you describe us to appear in your industry?

Yeah. I have a similar set of questions. I call it my interview, question bank, if you will. I use a similar approach. Right. Like, I like to understand what their day in their life looks like. What are the current challenges that are in the industry? Right. Sometimes industry and industry to industry, the needs might be different. regulatory industries may have a little bit more friction in getting to where they want to get to.

And so those are all factors that I do consider. And I also like to understand. If these are customers that are using the product, let’s say they’ve used the product for a year or so, then where do they see the value? Right? Like I have a value proposition for how I’m seeing based on my initial customer interviews. But once the customer started using the product, I would like to understand where they are seeing the value today? What is it that we are still missing and that creates a path for our future roadmap as well. So I’d like to leave that into the customer interview or the voice of the customer process as well. Yeah. Looking forward to it as well. Right. Like where if we are continuing this and where do you see yourself in the future? What are your goals? What are you working towards and how can we continue to be part of that partnership together and be a trusted advisor at the end of the day.

Right. And then how do you bring it to life in the sense, yes, it’s good to get these interviews and insights, but we’re doing a disservice to ourselves and the organisation if it’s not, if we’re not bringing it out in the world.

So how do you, what is your process and how do you take it out, like in terms of storytelling, messaging, website content and so on.

So that is the ten step process that I talk to you about, right? Like all the way from OKRs to creating the go to market kickoff. Right. It’s not just me as an individual launching this. It’s a collective. And so bringing the team together is a big believer of cross-functional collaboration. So having and bringing the peers and stakeholders early on in the process is important for me. Right? We don’t want to walk ten steps only to realise now we have to walk back 20 steps. So we try to bring folks along. Right now we’re working through some key elements of initial foundations right? Pricing, packaging, naming, like what are we going to call this product. So this is all happening as we speak and it is bringing the teams together, but also making sure that we have the resources and the time to put all of this together.

So our go to market launch process can be anywhere from 3 to 6 months to nine months, sometimes. Right. depending on the scope of the project that we’re working on, depending on what it is that we’re working to launch. So these are all things that are part of the launch process and launch template and start with the initial planning all the way to execution, which is all the content we need to put together web pages, assets, demos, webinars, everything that goes into getting this message out there in the world. So that’s part of the process as well.

Yeah. Very cool. And then going back to my question, the earlier question was just there is a good market success story and there is a go to market failure story. So let’s talk about the failure story and the lessons learned.

Well, the failure story is more that the teams couldn’t quite see the end light. and so we started working on, we know today, right in the world that we are in, there’s a lot of competition.

Everyone is always out to get a slice of the pie, if you will, and where it gets difficult is where it doesn’t feel like we are all working towards the same goal. And unfortunately, there are situations like that where the teams are competing with each other and they all have different goals and different priorities. And so even moving one step forward can feel like you’re climbing a mountain. And, sometimes you’re also stepping on each other’s toes because everybody is trying to do the same thing, duplicating the efforts. And that doesn’t go anywhere either. Right? So those are the environments that I was talking to you where it can get very toxic very quickly. And, as much as everybody wants to move forward, we are all pulling each other backward. And that’s not a good place to.

And was it again a Dell Boomi or somewhere else.

It was a different company. Yeah.

Okay. Yeah. Got it. And then what were the learnings and how did you take it forward. Like how did you correct it going forward.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to correct it, but I definitely learned a lot from it. because it is important to have a team that is supportive and that is, it comes back to that sense of belonging. Right. as much as your job was giving you the paycheck, that’s not primarily why we are doing what we do. We are equally just as passionate about what we can do for the organisation, for the company, and for our customers. So bringing that alignment and holding on to your values, right? I, I’m a big believer of, three key values. The first one is inspiring. So it’s important for me to build that trust and credibility. Number one the second one is about influence. So I am a big believer in extreme ownership. Right? Own the good, the bad and the ugly. And the third is about impact. So this is all about results and relationships. As much as we are working towards achieving those OKRs and numbers and all of those metrics, if you will, when I look back at my career, it’s not the numbers that strike out for me.

It’s the relationships that I built. So those three have been the. Values that I have held. True and that has kept me grounded and has also helped me realise that if some things are not working out, it’s okay to find other paths. And, you don’t always. And this also was part of my stress and anxiety that I navigated through. So I think it all comes full circle at the end of the day. But, understanding what is important for you is just as, just as much required.

Yeah. In my mind, I mean, the biggest learning is more at a personal level in this case, where as much as you want to and want to have an impact, at the same time, there are factors outside your control, the environment and the people that are not in your control. It goes back to mental well-being and it’s okay. I need to take care of myself. I need to be kind to myself. And, this is what I can do. I did my best. From an input point of view, output is also how much I can control and again goes back to the bigger one, which is go to market, who owns go to market.

And it comes back to that. And that’s where I think there’s a lot of division of The ownership aspect, right? If it was a co-ownership or co-creation? I think that’s a much more feasible model, if you will. Like today, product marketing doesn’t function by itself. We function in parallel to our product management team. And when I’ve had an amazing product manager, we have seen success come and come through because we are both supporting each other and we are both working towards the same goal. But when that doesn’t happen and when there’s friction within the organisation, right. Another big topic that just came to mind is where does product marketing sit? Is it under the product? Is it under marketing? And sometimes that can also lead to part of the friction. So I’ve seen it play out in different shapes and forms.

And I’m sure we can have debates and discussions along the way. But that, that is critical when, when you’re trying to figure out what does go to market mean and how is that structured within the organisation? Are you a sales leader? Your product lead like all of those factors play a big role. But once you know where you are and where you’re headed, it’s very important to bring the teams along. And, for those, it doesn’t make sense. there are other parts for that for sure.

Yeah. So we touched upon quite a few points over here. I mean, clearly there are learnings that lessons and the new frameworks and and things that we all I mean, for me, me, myself as well, I mean, this is one of the reasons why I do podcast is allowed to meet experts out there in their own fields and, and then learn and share the learnings. So along those lines, I know you authored a couple of books. You’re also with the Product Marketing Alliance. So what other resources do you lean on, or what is the 1 or 2? What are the 1 or 2 resources that you lean on or people you lean on daily?

Sure. So, I came up with this idea, or what I call the skills that are must have, for us to be successful as a product marketer as you’re working on launch or go to market, whatever it is. And it’s the CEO mindset. And by CEO I’m talking about curiosity and openness, right. We should be able to challenge the status quo. We should be able to. Understand where the friction is and find creative ways to come up with solutions that will move things forward, to drive growth, to drive innovation. So every time, it’s always been those synergies and bridges that you can build. And fundamentally it’s about understanding people at its core. Right? it’s not the job title. It’s not the role, but it’s the individual that you’re working with and how you can support each other. So. Books have been a big, big part, for me, ever since I took the path of being a leader, supporting my communities, whether it’s the PMA, whether it’s other mentoring communities that I’m part of.

That has always been an engaging factor for me, just meeting other folks. That’s one of the reasons why I love to be part of podcasts is I get to connect with other folks that are in the same mindset, in the same environment, and they’re also coming with new perspectives. So lots of resources out there. I think there are lots of books that have guided me through the process. I think “The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho” is one of the number one books that I think over the past five years have been following me, through my journey. And every time I have my doubts, I literally have the book in hand to help me guide myself. So I’ve been very fortunate. There have been lots of folks that have influenced my career. I always give a shout out to my fearless leader, Steve, who probably believed in me more than myself and saw something that I could go from an IC to a leader and was always there for his team. Right? It comes back to that sense of belonging.

Like, you knew that whatever you did, you were always working on the right thing and that he had your back. And that’s life changing. Having a leader like that also helped me realise what kind of a leader I wanted to be, right? Someone who’s authentic, who’s not saying one thing and doing the opposite on the other side. Like, that’s the kind of person that I want to live up to. so being able to empower everyone along the way.

Yeah. For sure. So the other topic that comes to my mind and which is unique and it brings out a good discussion, which is like, what are the 1 or 2 things that people in your organisation reach out to you for? Like, for example, if they come across a challenge or a situation from a go to market perspective and they say, hey, you know, what is the person that I need to speak with? So what are those 1 or 2 things that they come to you for?

Probably more for brainstorming than anything else.

I am a big believer that collectively we can solve any problem at hand, but we should come with that open mindset, right? That CEO mindset that I talk to you about, having empathy, is one of the reasons why I’ve had my mentees, my students, my teams come to me and say, hey, this is what I’m going through. This is what I’m navigating. one area that I think since I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder in 2020, has opened up doors for others to feel comfortable because I’ve been sharing my story, and it was only after I shared my story that I realised I had two team members of my own team who had similar struggles, but they never felt comfortable sharing before. Right? So those are the things that people generally come to me for advice. I think I took a path. I have my own personal OKRs, and every year I look at it and say, okay, what is my next year going to be? And to be a mentor, to be a guide, is something that is important for me.

It’s one of those things that matter, right? Like when I look back at my life, that’s one of the things that I will cherish. And so that’s the opportunity, right? How can you be a sounding board? Can you share experiences so that they can maybe take something from it and then apply it onto their own thinking?

Very cool. So, yeah, it looks like you built your career in product marketing, and now you’re a product marketing leader, potentially leading a team. But we never talked about the team and the marketing organisation. So can you shed some light on that?

Sure. So today I’m an individual contributor. But in the past, I’ve had opportunities to lead teams. So I’ve had, from a team of four, I’ve grown the team to 13 in 18 months. in my experience at Lenovo. I’ve had a team of both product marketing and product management, a team of 25, in, literally ten countries around the world, from North America to Latin America, EMEA, as well as Asia Pacific.

So, yeah, I love working with teams, and I think that’s what led me to become the mentor that I am today, because I see the opportunity in unlocking their potential and helping them see what they can do and just be a guide for them.

Yeah. So did you want to go into an individual contributor role? I know people who have aspired to be people leaders. They did the people leader thing, and then they realised, you know, what individual contributor role in a senior position is what they are meant to be and how they can deliver impact. So is that something that you did intentionally?

I wouldn’t say it’s intentional, but I’m always open for opportunities wherever the path takes me. And this opportunity has given me the work life balance that I’m looking for, the opportunity to try and do different things. and this is where I call my portfolio life. So I am, maybe five parts, right? I’m a product marketer. I’m a mentor, I’m a teacher, I’m an explorer, a photographer, an author, all of those things.

And I want to do the things that matter. And I’m a student at the same time. Right. I’m learning languages on Duolingo just because I want to learn. And I don’t think all of those will be feasible if I have what I had before. And now I’m also taking care of my own mental well-being and taking care of the people that I work with. So it’s a cross collaboration. At the end of the day, whether I’m a people leader or not, I know I’m a people leader, and that’s that’s all that matters. I’m not a big believer in titles and positions. I think product marketing has taught me that influence and inspiration comes from within. And you can lead, folks, whether you have the title or not.

Yeah. No. Fair enough. I think that’s a much bigger discussion. We can have a whole podcast topic around how you build your identity. First of all, do you tie your identity towards a job title? Why or why not? Why should someone care? Why should others? Why should you care?

That’s pretty much how we have been trained, through life.

Right? It’s the credentials that define who you are. And I want to break that stigma as well, amongst many other stigmas that I’m working to break from mental well-being to, just taking care of your own self. It’s okay to take care of your own self, because if you can’t take care of yourself, then you can’t take care of your team. You can’t take care of your mentees, your family, your community for that matter. So yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

For sure. Yeah. So the other part, the other part of the question, which I didn’t get answers for, is you did mention about the product marketing structure, but how about other parts within marketing? And you also mentioned I think the CRO now owns both marketing and sales. So sheds light on the idea and sales. 

Yeah. So how. Yeah. If you can share of course, without going into too much detail in terms of how the marketing and the sales are structured, and then how do you interact, like how do you shape your interactions as the product marketing leader?

Yeah.

So it is part of the GTM, right? It is driving the growth factor, into where we want to be as an organisation. 

Yeah. 

And that has been part of the equation of how do we bring those teams together so that we can all work and grow in the same direction, if you will?

Yeah. Fair enough. All right. The final question for you is what advice would you give to your younger self if you were to turn back the clock and go back to day one of your go to market journey?

I would say be patient, to myself, to really listen. Because sometimes others perceptions can shape or break your identity and what you are working towards. And then please, please be empathetic to yourself if things don’t seem to be working, if it feels like a struggle day in and day out, it’s not worth it. I’ve had so many students, so many mentees come and share short stories after stories of what it’s like in their organisation or what is working, what is not working.

And it’s appalling sometimes to be like, how can we keep doing this day in and day out? And it still continues to be the case, right? We’re all going through layoffs, in organisations and. Somewhere down the line. I think we have to be really mindful of how we look at employee satisfaction, right? We all believe in customer satisfaction. We talk about customer lifetime value, but not much emphasis on employee well-being. And, as much as we’re doing what we can. Right. Mindfulness app is not going to solve the internal challenges that an organisation might have. So. I’m a big believer of Simon Sinek, so the concept of starting with why has always got me to ask the question, and also shape the future of authentic leadership across right where without people and without values, there are no companies. So maybe we can part with that thought.





Experiment and learn from failures, rather than seeing everything as either a total win or a total loss.


In this episode, Jessica Gilmartin, CRO of Calendly, shares her perspective on defining go-to-market and the importance of coordinating customer-facing teams like marketing, sales, and customer support. Join us to explore the challenges of serving diverse audiences and keeping employees focused on the customer through initiatives like a brand manifesto.


Listen to the podcast here:

Being Customer Obsessed: Insights from Jessica Gilmartin, Calendly’s CRO 


Let’s just get right in, which is how do you view and define go to market? 


So I really think of it as the coordination of the strategy and execution between all the customer-facing teams. So when I think of customer-facing teams, I typically think of customer support, sales, and marketing.


Understood, and where does the product come into play over there?


So obviously, the product is really important and plays a very different role, whether you’re a PLG company or an SLG company, I’ve worked in both. But really, I see the role of marketing as the liaison and a link between our customer-facing teams, our customers, and our product team. So very important, square rectangle, triangle, however, you think about it, but the product really is the definer of where we’re going. And sales and marketing are the ones who bring it to life for our customers.


Yeah, for sure. And in fact, I love this. This is the exact reason why I started this podcast because there are so many perspectives on how people view and define think of go to market, there has been one variation. And this I think, really captures the essence of the go-to-market for me, which is it always starts with “who are you solving for”? And “what is the problem that you’re solving”, and “how are the product and the solutions”? And then you have all the go-to-market aspects, which is exactly what he talked about, which is you got the marketing, you got the sales, you got the customer success support. And then of course product, and bringing all of these teams and functions together again, going back to the problem and for who you’re solving.

 






Yeah, and I would say that the function that is most left out is typically customer support. What I have found so interesting in my career is how much people think about, you know, the initial signing customers up and getting their revenue, and how little we think about supporting our customers once they are customers. And I think that that’s such a big mistake. And it’s something that I really spent a lot of time thinking about. So now when I think about go to market, I think that the relationship between sales, marketing, and support is incredibly important. And something that I just think a lot of people are alike.


Yeah, absolutely. You’re spot on on that. Right? I wish more people thought about customer support and leaned on customer support, even in turn in terms of thinking about the cold market. So as an example, if I like a product market or building content and campaigns in marketing, I would absolutely lean on the customer support team or even the customer success team in identifying and sourcing, like how are the customers? How are the customers changing because of a product? Better is it bad? Why not write and tell the stories to bring and build that brand about your company?


Yeah, nobody knows your customer is better than your support team and your customer support managers like nobody. And so if you’re not taking advantage of that, then I think you’re missing out on a lot of that richness.


Yeah, fantastic. So you did mention, actually, even before I get into the details of that, so why don’t you share with us your career journey and story and what you do at Calendly today?


Yes, so I have a super weird journey. If you’ve ever seen my LinkedIn, it does not look like most other CMOs or CROs pass. So I started my career in investment banking, I did that for quite a few years and then realized that I wanted a career change. I just didn’t know what it was. So I went to business school, which was a great opportunity for me to reset and took my first marketing class and fell in love with marketing there and ended up getting a job at Dell as a brand manager. And my husband, I always kind of talked about moving out west. And we moved out here and said to start my own business and started the chain of yogurt stores, which turned out to be very, very successful and sold those and somehow ended up stumbling my way into tech marketing. So that could be a whole other podcast about that whole process. But a lot that was that was the short version. 

No, for sure. I don’t know why I didn’t. By the way. I noticed that you did your undergrad at Cornell University. And I got my MBA from the Johnson School. Oh, nice. So we have a common connection there. 

Yeah!

Yeah. Very cool. Yeah. So yeah, let’s dive into several of those aspects that you didn’t mention you started off your career in investment banking and back to business called Wharton. And then more and more into the brand and the marketing side of the world. So what really attracted you, and what aspects of marketing and border market did you gravitate towards?

So when I first took my first marketing class, what I realized was how important both the creative side and the data side were. And, and I knew I already obviously had all the data, you know, my background in banking, I had a lot of financial background, a lot of financial knowledge and interests. But it was when I started taking marketing classes that and realized how much of it was an art, as well as a science. And I realized, gosh, this is such a great way for me to bring together both parts of my brain, and really think about the beauty of marketing and storytelling and customer engagement, but also grounded in data. And so I think that that’s something that I’ve always taken with me through my whole career is really focusing on the art of storytelling, the data creative, but also the data. And I think that really, any successful CMO kind of has to have both and be interested in both. 

 

 

 

Yeah, yeah, I see that your first role after your MBA was being a brand manager at Dell. So that’s the creator and the storytelling side. And somehow something got into you and your husband so you decide to start a yogurt store chain. So what is why I mean, why didn’t go down that path?

To be very clear, my husband did not start with me. It was emotional support. But that was about it. So when I moved to the Bay Area, I reached out to a good friend of mine from business school, and she was interested in starting in business, she had been looking at business ideas and asked if I would be interested in starting a business with her. And so we thought, Gosh, this sounds really cool. I was young in my 20s. I thought, why not? And then we just started batting around a bunch of different ideas. And I think, for me, what was the most important was finding something that I was really passionate about. And then again, going back to the creative and the data, which is, what do we love to do? 

But then also, where do we think that there’s a big market opportunity? And one thing that we kept thinking about was that there are, you know, a lot of unhealthy choices for food, you know, so if you want to give yourself a treat, get ice cream, and cookies and cupcakes, but very few healthy options. And we thought there’s got to be a market for health-conscious women who want to bring their kids who want to bring their friends who want to treat after a hard workout. And that just didn’t exist. And so we kind of kept batting ideas around and we ended up coming up with the city of yogurt. And then the more that we thought about it, the more that we felt like we had a really unique opportunity to build something that was something that we personally believed in, but also felt like it was a big opportunity.

 

 

Yeah, I mean, sure, and just share a personal story and experience from my own thing, which is having been at business school, yes. I’m thankful for all the courses the professors and the guest lectures and the speakers who share their experiences. And I so wish I could apply a lot of those things. So as an employee, myself at different companies, I got to think about and be responsible for applying maybe half or even less, yes, marketing, sure sales, kind of, sort of, though, because I need to interact with them. And there is a financial aspect. But it was truly only when I decided to go down my own path. That’s when it really kicked in, in terms of the sales. I mean, there are different aspects of sales even before that there’s a psychological aspect, which is, why does a human being any person care about it? Why should they care about you in the first place, even if it means giving you one second of their airtime? 

Yeah. 

And for me, when I got in, when I started going down that path, that’s when it really hit me all those fundamentals of a little part of what we learned at the school, but a lot more from life lessons outside. 

Yeah, I have a lot of conversations with people who are interested in going to business school, and they asked me if it’s worth it. And my my perspective, you know, obviously just mine is that I think it’s incredibly valuable. If you don’t know what you want to do if you’re switching careers. And it’s an incredible opportunity to meet a lot of super smart people understand their career paths, and get exposed to, you know, amazing guest speakers and professors and, and, you know, different subjects and sort of learn what you love to do. If you know, if you’re like a tech marketer and you want to stay in tech marketing, you’re probably not gonna learn very much, you’re better off just staying in your job and sort of advancing that way. 

 

 

 

Yeah. Imagine not just the time that you spend like one to two years, but even the opportunity cost and the tuition. Even those one to two years if you decide to go down the path of starting something on your own. That’s an invaluable experience and lessons learned from that itself, if done.

It’s not cheap. 

It’s not cheap. Yes. Yes. Fantastic. So yeah, we got stuck at the yogurt shop and yogurt business. So going forward. So after that, you joined Google

So some Yeah, so So basically, I was at a startup. So I joined us as the first marketer at a wonderful social media startup. And we just hit the definitely right place at the right time. And we ended up getting bought by Google. So I was there for a few years. And that was a really amazing experience, I learned a ton, and I think, what I learned a lot was that I really am very passionate about building businesses. And so as much as Google has a great culture and a great company, I’m fundamentally an entrepreneur at heart. And so that kind of really solidified to me how much I enjoy working at smaller companies, and just having an impact, you know, sort of a broader impact on on a company. And so that was very helpful for me. And so I’ve kind of been at various stages of startups ever since that opportunity.

Fantastic. And then you grow. Then you shifted more into this C-Suite and senior roles after that, which are Chief Operating Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, GM, CMO, and then CMO now CRO at Calendly. Yes. Very cool. Yeah. So tell us about what you do at Calendly, who do you serve at Calendly? And the role of AI in all things?

 

 

 

 

Yes. So if you’re not familiar with count, I think most people are but it’s it’s basically the world’s largest scheduling automation platform. So we really help people create better meetings and more effective meetings. And it’s, it’s incredibly rewarding to be accountable. Because everybody loves it, everybody uses it, it’s so fun. No matter where I am, I could be literally under this totally happened, I was in a with a guy who was coming down the mountain after skiing. And I said I was, you know, CMO account leader, oh, my God, let me tell you all about how I use Calendly and how critical it is in my workflows. And so it feels really good to be to be selling something that people use to, to feed their families. And it’s really important for me to be able to have a job that I believe contributes in a really meaningful and important way. 

So I run, I run all our go-to-market functions on our sales and marketing teams. And we sell to anyone from solopreneurs up through the largest enterprises in the world. And really, the common factor is, you know, anybody that relies on external meetings for their success. So we typically sell to recruiters, entrepreneurs, small business owners, salespeople, marketers, customer support, and financial advisors a really big market for us. And then when we look at industries, it’s typically you know, sort of technology, financial services, professional services. So that’s kind of how we think about and generally, sort of individuals to small teams within those organizations. And, you know, of course, AI is something that we think about a lot, the one thing that we take very seriously is the fact that we have millions and millions of users. And we want to be extremely careful with how we deploy it and make sure that it is valuable. And they show that it really enhances our existing customer’s workflows. You know, I think we all talk a lot about AI. It’s kind of like a requirement these days. And I think what’s interesting, we can only do a status scheduling report. And one thing that we learned was that you know, 94% of our respondents said they were really interested in using AI, and only about a third of them are actually using it. So I think that that delta to me is kind of that hype, that, you know, we’re I think we’re at the mass of the hype cycle. And so anything that we do and anything that we’re working on, we want to make sure that it is really valuable.

Fantastic. So something unique about Calendly is, as you mentioned, right different personas, different segments. It’s a b2c, it’s a b2b. And I don’t know maybe there’s also a partner angle where it’s sort of a reseller angle. So how are you thinking in terms of how you position Calendly, even today versus going forward? And who is the primary message targeted towards? 

So I think, you know, because we have the plg angle, we have the SOG angle, which I’m used to from Asana, you know, it’s something I’m very comfortable with. And I think a lot of companies are going this way, you do have to be really tailored and targeting in your messaging, it’s hard to have one message for everybody. And so you know, if you go to our website, we very explicitly focused on sort of small teams, we focus on that recruiter, salesperson, marketer, customer support persona, but we make it really easy for you, if you’re an enterprise customer, if you’re a financial services customer, we make it really, really easy for you to try to get to that information as quickly as possible. 

So I think the important thing is just trying not to boil the ocean with trying to have every message on your homepage, but getting people as quickly as possible to pages that speak very deeply to them. So if you’re a financial services company, you’re one click away on our website from getting a huge amount of extremely tailored information like case studies, and you know, and talk about your security and integrations with financial services platforms. So I think that that’s a really important part is to be incredibly thoughtful about understanding the customer journey and making sure that you’re just getting people to the right place. So you can have a very specific message for them. You know, obviously, also in our advertising, we try to be really sophisticated and how we segment our customers and make sure that when we are serving ads to them, we’re doing it in a way that feels really relevant, really meaningful to them. But it’s hard. It’s really hard. 

It is. Yes, yeah, absolutely. Maybe, yeah, I was not thinking about this. But then just based on what you shared. Jessica, it is what really attracted to what attracted you towards Calendly, what are the big challenges that you’re thinking about in terms of pushing your team towards?

So the reason I came to Calendly was, it’s always about the people. And I’ve learned after all these years that, you know, the places that I love to work the most are the ones that I enjoy the executive team, I have a good relationship with the CEO. And I feel and I feel like marketing is respected, and has a seat at the table. And that was very clear that that was the case here. So that’s number one. Number two was just I love the product, I’ve always loved the product. And so you know, it’s hard for me to imagine selling a product that I didn’t love and believe in. And so that is really valuable and meaningful for me and I love the product so much. And I know everybody else loves the product. 

And the third thing is just that it’s so interesting for me to be at a company that is in this sort of scaling phase, where we have strong product market fit, we have millions of users, but I feel like there’s so much opportunity and there’s so much more to do. So I love you know, coming into organizations that are still having to solve really hard problems, and we’ve got lots of problems to solve. And because that is really fun for me. And so, you know, some of the problems that we think a lot about are, you know, how do we tell this message? How do we focus? How do we sell to everybody at the same time, but also being really specific? How do we get people to understand how sophisticated Calendly actually is when a lot of people think of us as a scheduling link? And so it’s a really interesting problem to solve where it’s we have incredible brand recognition, but not everybody actually knows all of the things that we do and all the very sophisticated and complicated use cases that we solve for. And so that’s for me, like really fun is thinking about, like, what’s our brand message? And how do we get that out of the market?

Very cool. Yeah, and I’ve heard this, you haven’t heard this, say, or you mentioned this quite a few times and your own conversation, which is being customer obsessed. And maybe if I had to deduce there’s also the data angle, you didn’t mention going back to your earliest job. There’s a data angle. So how do you tie or combine both? And do that at Calendly?

Yeah, so I probably have a broken record around being customer-obsessed, because I just don’t know how you can do great marketing, do great sales do great products without really deeply understanding your customers. And I’ll give you an example of sort of how we did this recently that I’m really proud of. So we recently codified our differentiators from our competition, super important, right? Understanding, how are you different? How do your customers see you I know like a lot of companies would just hire an outside firm and do this whole big research project and come back, and you know, with a lot of like, very big words, and it sounds very sophisticated, but ultimately not necessarily grounded in what our customers are actually saying. 

So we took a very different approach. And we started by interviewing our customers, we interviewed our support teams, we do your salespeople, we have this great service that looks at all, a lot of our closed, lost and closed one opportunity and actually interview live those, those sales, those prospects, and those customers to understand why we won and lost those deals. So we took sort of all of that information, both at our community, we looked at our support tickets. And we looked at online reviews. 

Then we basically organized all that data to come up with the four pillars that really differentiated us from our competition. And then we like ran that by our salespeople, we actually, you know, my team actually got on calls with customers, and, you know, did the pitch to them, they got feedback and whether it resonated or not. And then after all of that, they felt comfortable rolling it out. And I think that that process of using customer language and using what our customers actually say and did, really helped make it really powerful and really specific and meaningful and very effective.

Very cool. You did mention a couple of data sources you didn’t mention about the support tickets, you didn’t mention about the close loss and close one. So how did you tease out the way I’m reading this, Jessica it’s almost like going back to the drawing board figuring out and doing like a positioning and messaging exercise in terms of who is currently and what are the alternatives are out there. Why should anyone care about that? 

Yeah. 

And the brand pillars the value pillars? 

Yes. Yeah. Brand pillars should come from why your customers are buying from you and to me it is so rewarding when we look you know, I still look all the time obviously about why we win deals, why we lose deals, and you see that language being parroted by our customers is so meaningful to me because it means that we’ve got it right. You know, when our customers say, hey, you know, I bought, can we because you had the best security? Or because you had these integrations with Salesforce. And you know, our competitors didn’t. That makes it very clear to me that we have a right. 

Yeah. And so how are you making? Sure, because you did mention you serve different personas, you had got the individual people, the buyers from a big portion, they can be like solopreneurs or freelancers. And then you have the agencies, and then the different personas within an enterprise. So how are you making sure that you’re actually servicing and targeting most of these personas?

Yeah, and I think you obviously can’t get it 100%. Right. I mean, there’s no way. And I think the just making sure that when you’re looking at the breadth of customers when you’re looking at review sites, we’re looking at all this, that you’re really taking a representative sample. So I think, you know, what I have definitely seen mistakes happen is people will only look at enterprises, or they’ll only look at small businesses, I think it’s really important for you to look across the organization, look at all those personas and figure out the commonalities, you’re not going to get it 100%, right. But you should get it to about 80 to 90%. And then of course, if you have certain use cases, or personas or industries that are very different, then that’s totally fine. I mean, it’s fine to have a set of differentiators that are specific to one industry if they are very different than another one. And obviously, even within countries that can be very different. So what you know, what Germans care about is very different than what you know, people in the UK care about is different than what the US cares about. So it’s important to also take that lens and be willing to adjust. But it should be, you know, a 20 to 30% adjustment versus something completely new for every single customer that you serve. Is that if that’s the case, then it means that you’re not you’re not getting it right.

Yeah, I mean, I’m going through a similar exercise myself, I’m working on one and I’m working with a Chief Product Officer of a 100 million plus company that’s launching a brand new product in the auto industry. And then on the other side, I’m working with a co-founder at a pre-seed and angel-funded startup who is looking to come out of stealth. And I’m doing similar exercises just who is reserving Why should anyone care about us? What are the alternatives that are out there without our product or service? And the core pillars, the differentiator’s exercises that came out? And I’d love to get your thoughts on this Jessica is a manifesto. It’s actually a brand manifesto, or it can be a product manifesto. But typically, it’s a brand level. It’s all about what we stand for. Why should someone care? And to even give their time or dollars for that matter? And what can they be confident about our promise to them? Yes, to spend time with us? Right? So so curious to get your thoughts. Do you have? Or do you currently have a manifesto initiative or a project or maybe that’s in the pipeline? 

I wouldn’t say we have a manifesto. But I think we have a lot of different things. So you know, we do brand surveys, I think that, again, it always comes back to what our customers are saying about us. And so in our brand survey every year, we asked, you know, what are words that you would use to describe Calendly. And that’s incredibly helpful for us, because we take that, and that’s the language the customer stories we use. But I love the idea of a brand promise, I think that completely makes sense. And I think the important thing is for everybody within the organization to agree on that and to live that every single day. Because if you know, every person that’s interacting with a customer should understand that and should live that. And, you know, and and express that. 

And I think like, for example, I think of the Four Seasons, that’s gonna be the classic example of a company that has a brand promise, and every single solitary employee lives and breathes that. And that’s always something that I think a lot about, which is how do you make sure that no matter what the situation, everybody comes back to what are your core values, which to me is kind of similar to the brand promise, the core values are internal, the brand promise how you express it externally. 

Yeah, yeah, totally. And that’s exactly I mean, that’s one of the primary reasons why I pushed for working with these folks in terms of why you really need to have a manifesto, because every, it’s very common and very often you have new employees coming and joining onboard and and even the existing employees, they lose sight in their day to day work as to what they’re doing and why they should put in and the customer obsession or customer focus, right, it’s almost reminder because very often again, it’s not intentional, we are so in the weeds in our day to day on a week to week basis. And then it’s it’s really good to step back and just do like a 10-15 minute read of the manifesto that reminds you as to this is what I’m trying to do. This is why I should invest in this initiative, even though there are a lot of challenges of friction. 

Yeah, and the way we do that is just bringing customers in all the time. Yeah. So we are constantly bringing and we’re bringing customers into all hands. And it’s to me, it’s incredibly rewarding. I think it’s rewarding for everybody to understand the tie between their work and then real customer value. And so when an engineer launches the future, and then a customer talks about how important that was to them, that is that to me that that like a manifesto, that’s the moment that people recognize how important their work is. And so it’s constantly reminding them that we are building for real people, and we’re solving real problems. 

So yeah, we touched upon a lot of points over there in terms of customer obsession in terms of talking about the different teams that make up the go-to-market. But curious, I mean, are you in as a CRO at Calendly? How do you actually manage a line? I think that’s the biggest challenge when it comes to go to market. Typically, what I’ve seen from my own experience and others, Jessica is, there’s like a one to two-day workshop we do every quarter, we talk about alignment, we talked about the big goals, but then between the workshops, and between the quarterly, something happens, things don’t fall in place for what really happens. How are you making sure it doesn’t happen currently? 

Yeah, I mean, you just can’t be once a quarter. So we and obviously, I have to say I think every marketer should run sales. Because it has been really game-changing for us, I thought we were really aligned, I thought that we were very sales-centric. But it was only when we were actually ingrained in each other’s day-to-day that we saw so many opportunities for more alignment. So I think it’s just really been game-changing for us. So I’d say the number one thing is just you have to have the teams feel like they’re part of the same team. So you know, the sales operations team, the marketing operations team needs to be meeting constantly, they need to be sharing feedback with each other they need to be I think one of the big things too, is there need to be looking at shared data. Because I think what I’ve seen one of the biggest issues is when sales has a bunch of reports that they’re looking at marketing has reports they’re looking at, and they don’t, they’re not looking at the same data. And oftentimes the data is even more complex. 

And so I think having a shared set of dashboards and a shared set of goals. And then we meet every single week as leadership, team, sales and marketing. And we talked about those shared goals. We talked about the pipeline, we talked about the work that marketing is doing to drive the pipeline, we get feedback right away on, you know, hey, this campaign was great, this campaign didn’t, didn’t work great, you know, you’re sending us a bunch of leads, these are really good leads, these aren’t. And so I think that that’s really important is just the constant alignment and feedback and marketers being open to that feedback and sales, giving feedback in a constructive way. I think just everyone being part of the same leadership channels, the same strategy discussions, so that we can understand that when things move really quickly, everyone is aware of them. And then they can share their opinion right away versus like a month later, when we realize, oh, we made these changes in sales. Do you really understand the ramifications of that?

Yeah. So something that comes to my mind and this is something that I’ve seen as a marketing leader and a growth leader previously in my previous roles, is, to your earlier point, whenever I’m tasked with leading marketing teams, I make sure that the folks in the marketing team are playing or playing the role of a salesperson, either one day a month or once a quarter just sitting there, as calls listening to the calls. So that’s really crucial. That’s one that’s one way to build empathy. The other. And the other piece is a mix of PLG. I mean, you did mention the go-to-market motion. The cycle currently is a mix of PLG and SLG. And in between, maybe it also includes partners. So when you have that weekly meeting, the alignment between marketing and sales, I would presume that it’s mostly around the sales lead aspect or sales assist aspect. But what about the product lead aspect?

Yeah, so we have totally different committees and motions for that. So that is really our growth marketing team and our demand gen team working really closely with our product team. So we have actually our support team. So we have an operating committee and a steering committee really just focused on the first 30 days of a customer’s lifecycle. And so we’ve got really tight alignment between, you know, how do we get those customers to the site to sign up? What do the lifecycle marketing efforts look like? What do the in-app notifications look like? What’s the first sort of product experience? And then when, what does that trial experience look like? And then that post-trial experience, and so I’d say we have tighter alignment than I’ve ever seen here, either here or at another company, because we identified, you know, a couple of leaders within each group, and they meet very, very frequently. And then the executive team, we’ve formed a steering committee. So then this team will come to us with their recommendations, their ideas or blockers. And our job is really to help them move quicker.

Yeah, I think a couple of things, especially when you’re looking at a plg motion. One thing to keep in mind is the time. I mean, there are so many flavors and so many aspects. One is what are the different channels in which you’re on the radar of your target users and how are they signing up? That’s one aspect of it, and once someone has signed up, are they seeing value within the first day or two for them to actually use the product? I think that’s the biggest step right within the first day or two after signing up, if they’re not using your product, it’s as good as you lost them. 

Yes, has to be you have to hit them from all sides. So it can’t just be email, it can’t just be in products. It can’t just be in-app notifications, it’s got to be a combination of all of them. And you also have to have really great support, you have to have opportunities for people to, you know, ask questions at the moment so that they can understand those blockers. And so having that consolidated view between support and marketing and product is incredibly important.

Right. And that’s that exactly goes back to my earlier point, which we started in our conversation, which is the role of product in go to market. Yes, for sure. Yeah. Something else that I want to get your thoughts on is? How do you see the difference in terms of roles, responsibilities, and outcomes between growth and dimension?

So I think it depends on every company, you know, Asana definitely was very different than Calendly. So my perspective is that the demand gen job is to get people to the point of action. So whether that is to sign up, or a lead, and then growth marketing, his job is to take them from action through to revenue. So we’ve got, you know, demand gen team is really focused on all of our top of the funnel advertising, you know, basically everything that we can do to drive awareness to drive people to our site to sign up. And then growth marketing is responsible for our website, conversion, activation, and then all of the emails, the nurture, emails, peak URLs, anything that really supports someone understanding why they should move from signup through to a conversion page conversion, or a paid lead that goes to sales. 

Yeah, and you’re totally spot on, right? I mean, growth and demand take different shapes and perspectives, depending on the leader as well as the organization. So I’ve seen one definition of growth, which goes beyond just the signup and the initial revenue, there’s also okay, how do you think about expansion? How do you convey this to customer success? That, hey, by the way, this account is a quote, unquote, it’s a dirty word, but it’s right for expansion. Yeah. And that is growth. It’s not just from the initial awareness to sign up to initial conversion, but even the adoption and expansion piece.

The adoption experience piece is incredibly important. I think that that’s the one that is often missed by growth marketing teams. But nobody knows how to market to customers better than marketing does. And so when you think about, especially in a plg motion, just because a customer signed up, as you said, doesn’t mean they’re going to use the product. And so marketing can play an incredibly, incredibly important role in creating really strong content, and really thinking about the customer journey after a signup, to enable a customer to understand why they should use this product that they signed up for. And then, you know, what are the features that they’re missing if they didn’t continue to pay? And then also, as you said, over time, great, you love it. So how do we then encourage you to think about the value that you might have if you now have three members of your team 10 members of your Team or 100 members of your team on Calendly? Right? 

And then there’s also product marketing. I’m assuming there is a product marketing function at Calendly. What is their charter and the biggest challenges, if you will?

I think it’s just the same challenges that we all have, which is they are really doing two separate jobs split between the PLG motion and the SLG motion and supporting both, they are totally different. And they support me, it’s basically two different jobs. And so really figuring out how to prioritize that is, is challenging. So you know, they, they really have two fundamental fundamental jobs. The first is that, is helping us launch products, not surprisingly, right? So they do a fantastic job of that. And the year they launched it both within our sales channel, but also within our field G channel. The second is they are really helpful in helping us to understand our customers well enough so that we can build really high-quality materials for them, for onboarding. So one thing that we’ve actually done over the past few months is we’ve looked at all of our onboarding materials and tried to make them much more specific. And so when a customer joins, we try to ask them, you know, but when someone signs up, we try to ask them, Hey, are you a salesperson or we try to, or infer that if they, for example, do a Salesforce connection, we kind of guessed that they’re a salesperson. And then we try to take them on a very bespoke path for salespeople. And so you know, they can now view an on-demand webinar about what it’s like to you was counted as a salesperson versus just an M, it’s different if you’re a recruiter, and it’s different if you’re a financial advisor. And so I think that creating that very customized path is really important. And like growth marketers, that’s not their strength in creating content. They’re extremely good and understand the customer and think about experimentation. But you have to partner with people who deeply understand our customers and our product to be able to create really high-quality onboarding content.

Yeah, that’s a key, right? It’s super hard for someone to be really good at in terms of like growth experiments and hypotheses and how you test it out versus at the same time, can you also create the content. It’s extremely hard for some.

Yeah, I think it’s, it would be unfair to ask the same person to do both. It’s just not the same thing with demand gen, you know, the people that really deeply understand our channels, and deeply understand how to experiment and how to think about reducing cost per sign up, they’re not creative. They’re not, they’re not like amazing at, you know, building beautiful designs and thinking about our ad copy and how to do 50 variations or a copy, you just, it’s just not fair to ask them to do it. And so you really have to have that specialization, and you have to have dedicated resources to really helping the demand gen team, think about let’s create a 100 variations of ads and see what works. 

Yeah. Very cool. So I’m sure in your many, many roles as a hands-on executable player, and as a C-suite leader, you must have seen a lot of go-to-market success stories and go-to-market failure stories. So if you can share one of each, I’ll let you choose which one you want to start with first. 

Sure, maybe I’ll start with the failure story. I don’t actually believe that anything is a failure just because we’re all experimenting so much. I mean, I really encouraged my team and challenged my team to experiment nonstop. And like, of course, not everything that would be successful. So I’d say like, I don’t really think about campaigns that are not successful as failures, I think more about the process, that could be a failure. So one example recently was we launched a really huge campaign, it was everything, I think it touched every single person in marketing. And I think we were like, exercising a lot of muscles that we hadn’t exercised before. And it was during the retrospective that one person got really upset because they felt like they hadn’t been heard. And they felt like the process was really chaotic. And to me, I felt like there were like quite a few failures in that, which is, you know, maybe we didn’t have a culture where people felt comfortable speaking up, and sharing in the moment that they were frustrated. And so I was upset that you know, if somebody is upset, they should be able to speak up, and we should be able to fix it, that should be our culture. The second is that we just hadn’t thought through the process well enough to be able to understand how to get those touch points at the moment. And so like I took from that, that we really have to train our team on how to give feedback, how to give feedback in the moment how to beat the learning culture. So I’d say for me, the failure is never in the outcome, the failures of the process. So does that make sense? 

Yeah, in fact, I can pay any sense that you’re a good leader and a good people person, just based on that story. 

I try. I mean, my job is all about people. My only job is to attract and retain great people and keep them motivated and excited to do great work. That’s what I tell people. So that is my job. And then, oh, go ahead. 

No, I’m just going back to your point. There’s no failure, it’s more of a learning. And how do you take that learning and apply going forward totally aligned on that as well? 

Yeah. And if you don’t give people the room to not succeed, then nobody will ever try anything. I mean, that. And the reason I do marketing is because I love to try new things. And I love to experiment, I love to learn. And I love how marketing is so dynamic. And I’m, I’m hoping that everybody that works on my team feels the same way. And so if you’re not creating an environment where people can feel safe to make mistakes, then you’re never going to be able to progress, which I think would be a big shame. 

Yeah, for sure. And then go to the market success story. Let’s!

So I am actually really, really proud of this one. So, one of our big challenges which which is a great challenge to have is that we have an enormous amount of leads that come into our website, just an unbelievable amount. Because our product is so viral, and everybody knows it. And we have a kind of a very typical lead flow, which is somebody would sign up on their website, we would do some data enrichment, we would eventually get it routed to the right sales team, they would reach out and that will be you know, then maybe a small percentage of those who responded actually booked the meeting. 

And I thought gosh, you know, we’re scheduling company we got to this a little better. And so we worked really really, really, really closely with the sales team. And we’ve iterated probably 30 or 40 times on this. But we really have an amazing process now where we use calumnies on products. So I’m also super. And whenever a, someone comes to the website, and they want to support, or they want to talk to us about, you know, a small team deployment or a large enterprise deployment, we get them immediately to the right person. So they basically come to our website, we do all sorts of data enrichment, but also people’s, you know, sort of fill out forms and right on the website, and plus, they would self select. And either if they want support, or if they’re a very small business, they can chat right away with a support agent and get exactly what they need. If they want a small team deployment, they can set up a meeting right from our website and get to one of our Velocity Sales Team reps. 

And if they’re a large enterprise, they can schedule a meeting right at that moment, and talk to an enterprise rep. And that has been game-changing for us, you know, we’ve seen just absolutely skyrocketing in terms of our lead to opportunity rate. Our salespeople love it, we don’t have you know, lead purgatory where leads just accidentally get routed to the wrong places, though, it sounds very nuts and bolts, but you know, when you think about these precious leads that come to your site, and we’re now able to capitalize on them, and most importantly, we provide a much better customer experience, because customers don’t have to like wait anymore, they can get exactly what they want in the moment. I’m incredibly excited about it. I’ve just been really, you know, really energized by the feedback that we’ve gotten. And I just think it’s just a great a better experience for everybody. 

Yeah, and I can sense why this is really critical, right? I mean, for me, if I’m on the other side, I love but I’m a big user of Calendly in my day to day, it just makes my life so easy and so comfortable. And if I sense that I need to speak with someone in support, or get someone, let’s say, get someone on the other side who’s in sales. And if I don’t hear back, it’s going to be frustrating. So I’m excited that yes, the product is exciting. But there’s also the other elements, the people the processes that have to be really tight, not just a product alone.

Well, also the way that people buy is totally different than it was a few years ago. I mean, people are only buying after they’ve made a ton of decisions on their own. So people have done all of their own research, they’ve usually narrowed it down to a couple of vendors, and then they’re reaching out and they don’t want to wait a week, they want to wait even a couple of days, like they want to talk to someone right at that moment. So if you’re not responsive to them, and you’re not getting back to them, they’re just gonna go with somebody else. And so the way I think about is like every one of those leads is real dollars to calumny its real value. And because usually, those leads have done their research, they’ve educated customers, and I want to take advantage of that as much as I possibly can. 

Yeah, very cool. So in our conversation, I mean, he’s been speaking for about 40-45 minutes or so there’s so many aspects that came that popped out for me about you, I mean, the person Jessica, right? And so I’m curious, like when others reach out to you, or when they are struggling with a challenge in terms of go to market? What are those one or two things that they say, Hey, you know what, this is something that I need to speak with Jessica about?

So I’d say for sure. It’s around just orchestration of very complex workflows, and like, so basically, how do you take? How do you take very, very, very complicated systems and people and data? And how do you sort of make sense of it? I think that that’s something that is very underrated when people talk about being a CMO like everybody thinks about being a CMO, as you sit around and have a bunch of just, it’s like the ad was a madman where you sit around and talk about branding, I don’t get to do that very much. I’ve got lots of people that do that. And I’m very jealous that they get to have really interesting conversations about brands. That’s not what I do, though, you know, so much of what I’m doing is, really, is, is providing the strategic direction for my team. 

So, you know, obviously, I have access to information that my team doesn’t have because I’m talking to the board, I spent a lot of time with the other executives. And so you know, really understanding what’s our product direction, you know, who are we selling? To? What, what, what’s the path forward? What are we what does success look like in a year or two? And so I’ve got to then take all of that information and work backward and say, How can I share that with my team in a way that they can understand and digest it, and then turn those big strategic priorities into ways that they can execute and to very clear goals. And so that’s a really big part of what I do, which is just, you know, create that strategic direction, give them the information that they need to be successful. And the other thing that I think a lot about is talking to my peers, and really thinking about where is the direction going. Where’s marketing going? So how do you know, it changes so much? And so I think that that’s really important is, you know, and when I share with other folks that asked me, you know, how do I think about what a modern marketer does? And how do I think about that blend between the traditional marketing tactics of email and you know sort of Google search and billboards and all kinds of home, and product marketing and messaging with all this stuff that we’re seeing new, which is social influencers? And all the dark, social, all the things that are incredibly important, but then how do you balance those things? 

Yeah, no, I’m glad you touched upon product marketing, right? I mean, for me, I do have a bias because that’s my expertise. And that’s a service I do provide, but at the same time, to be fair, and when I look at it from a good market perspective, unfortunately, product marketers are almost, quote-unquote, abused, and not seen in the right way, because they’re seen as reactive order takers, and hey, by the way, sales need this content or a pitch deck. I saw hated to the core versus product marketing done, right are like your growth engines?

Yes. Yeah, I always joke, I say I have a no martyr rule, which is like my product marketer job is not to just be a ticket taker for sales and product, they need to be at the need to be, you know, at the table, making decisions, and our product marketers understand our customers better than anybody else within the team. And so they’re the ones that are really driving those insights. So they are, and our product marketers are excellent, I have a fantastic team. And so they are partners, true partners, with the product team to figure out what is our how are we bringing products to life. You know, how are we bringing them to market? What’s the customer value? What’s the story there? So they are definitely not order takers, and I would never, ever have a team that was order takers. And the same thing on the sales side, you know, it’s like, Hey, you’re, you’re a partner to them. And your job is to figure out what they need, and to suggest things to them and to work together with them to come up with the priorities, and to come up with a roadmap, but you’re not just you know, they’re not just giving you tasks that you complete. That’s not what a good product marketer is.

Fantastic. And clearly, again, going back to your career and growth journey, I’m sure a couple of people must have played a big role in your inflection, at your inflection point is shaping you. 

Yeah. 

Who are those people who come to your mind in terms of mentors? 

Yeah, so I definitely have so many I mean, I’ve been doing this for a while. I’d say the first one was this woman, Darcy, who I reported to at Dell. And she was the first person that gave me really hard, but really good feedback. And it really changed my perspective on how I showed up at work. And from what I learned from her was that you could be really direct, but also really kind. And so that’s something that I take with me all the time is that the kindest thing that you could do is give people feedback, so they can be better. So that’s like, for sure. I really respect her and really appreciate everything she did for me. The second one is, that when I was at Google, it all came back to feedback. Because it’s how it’s hard. But that’s how I get better. So when I was at Google, I was incredibly lucky to be accepted into this leadership program. And it literally changed my life, it changed the entire trajectory of my career. And there was a VP of ads, her name was Lisa developer, and she concepted and executed, and built this whole program on our own. And it was extraordinary. And I absolutely would not be here without that program, because I got some incredibly difficult feedback during that process. And I changed my whole perspective on life and my career because of that. And so I’m super, super grateful. And then probably the final person that has been really meaningful for me was Dave King, who was the CMO of Asana. And I reported directly to him. And he just has a way of building relationships and caring about you. And I just learned so much from him in terms of how I want to show up as a leader every day, you know, he, when he left Asana, he put together kind of a little dossier on me to give to my new boss. And it literally, I was like, God, you know me better than myself. And that was like, that is the kind of leader that I want to be as somebody that people say, you know, they know me, and they care about me, I could trust him with anything. And I would always want people to have that kind of faith in me. 

Yeah, I think you’ve touched upon two points. And thanks for calling that out. It eventually depends on the impact that really happens during the performance review and feedback time. And feedback plus being kind. I think that’s a real combination if you really care about that person.

Yes. I mean, the worst thing that you could do is care about a person and not give them the tools to be better. Right?

For sure. All right. So the first I mean, I don’t know why I say first, but it’s the last question. I so wish this was the first I just know that speaking with you, Jessica. Yeah. The last question is what advice would you give to your younger self if you wanted to go back in time on day one of your go-to-market journey?

Say don’t worry about any of the external trappings of success. Don’t worry about money, don’t worry about the title. The only thing you should worry about is finding a culture where you really enjoy the people that you work with, that you feel like you can make an impact, and that you love what you do every day. Fantastic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Listen to the podcast here:

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. 

Yeah. 

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.

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.

Yeah!

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.

 

Have you ever wondered how marketing strategies evolve in the face of rapidly changing buyer landscapes? In this episode, Priya Doty, a seasoned product marketing leader, shares the challenges and triumphs of shaping a team to meet the evolving needs of the market. Learn how she transformed a business unit by aligning it with the cloud, the challenges faced, and the strategies that shaped success. From the intricacies of product launches to the art of effective messaging, get ready for a deep dive into the complexities and triumphs of go-to-market strategies.

Listen to the podcast here

Strategizing Go-to-Market Triumphs: Customer Insights, Positioning Strategies, and Sales Enablement Tactics.

The signature question: Yeah, fantastic. So given your varied experience across large companies, startups, different roles, product marketing, and, even CMO kind of roles? So how do you view and define go to market?

Well, this is where it gets really interesting, because the core of it is, like, it’s a process, right? It’s a process of getting the product into the hands of customers, and doing that at scale and doing it profitably. And that is what I ultimately think of as a go-to-market. But, you know, saying that it’s a process makes it sound, almost too scientific maybe. And if you actually go and you look at the industry, and even just, you know, the world, in general, customers may always need the same products, but the way that they consume the product, the way that they get the product that changes all the time. So when I started my career, the way that a customer would receive the product, you know, maybe would be primarily sales lead, and now it’s moved to partner lead or product lead, digitally lead, and in the future, it might be more driven by mobile or driven by some other channels. 

So I think that’s what’s really interesting about go to market, because there’s a tendency we have, as professionals, to want to break things down into methodologies and frameworks and say to ourselves that, you know, if we know this framework, we know what go to market is. But the reality is that every challenge you have is a little different, you know, and it’s it requires some creativity, it requires some testing, to figure out what the right thing is. And over time, there are these big discontinuous jumps in the way that products are delivered, you know, starting with the advent of digital web-based solutions, moving from that to mobile, moving from that to social moving from that to cloud. And you know, now where we find ourselves with AI, eventually becoming essentially a platform of distribution. So I think that’s also a really fat, you know, an interesting factor about go to market, which is why, you know, what keeps our jobs challenging, right? 

Yeah, for sure. And for me, as you’re stating your views and perception about how you view go to market, one word that caught my attention, and which is very key, and I just want to emphasize that for the listeners, which is process a lot of people when they hear that word, it’s very project management, or like a program management kind of thing. And that’s the perception at least I get And a lot of folks get that. But the key thing I want to emphasize and for the listener to take away is it it’s a process in the sense is iterative, right? So think of it as I mean, if you look at like a tech, in the case of a tech product, you have a version one, version two, version three, and so on. 

And same thing goes with go to market in terms of like, how we are positioning, who are you targeting? How is the messaging coming across? Is it coming across or not? And the different channels in which your effort records blog, or sales, lead event community, and so many of these combinations? So it’s an iterative thing. It also depends on the stage of the company stage of the product stage of the market, and so on. 

All Yeah, all of that, all of that. I mean, I think half of the battle for a smaller company is actually creating a process in the first place. And half the battle for a large company is sometimes testing, you know, multiple iterations, feedbacks, versions, and things like that. So yeah, but you know, I guess, I think in a very sort of methodical way that

That sticks, so with that big picture, let’s actually take a step back, why don’t you share with the listeners your broad story as to how you started your career in the professional? And what got you to where you are today?

Got it? Well, I guess I always start this discussion by saying that I started as a techie, I started as a developer. And I say that because that is at the core of who I am. I mean, I’m not writing code today. But that’s how I started. And so the way I think about technology, why I care about it, is because it’s always had the power to change people’s lives. And that was true when I started and it’s true today, and the interplay of technology and people is what makes me excited about working on it. The other thing that I could say is that, because I like technology, because I like change, I’ve always been at heart, I’ve always been an intrapreneur, which I essentially define as somebody who can make change within an existing organization. 

And so, you know, as I’ve grown in my career, I’ve mostly worked in larger companies. But I’ve also had stints at smaller companies. But the continuous thing has been this sense of like, okay, how can I help start something new at a bigger company, or transform something at a bigger company? And when it comes to the bigger companies, I’ve had, you know, experiences at every place from IBM, where I was product marketing, and CMO of a larger server division, CA Technologies, Samsung, UPS, Verizon, so lots of big names. But you know, like I just told you, I just wrapped up a stint at a startup, called Neuroblade where I was CMO for this data analytics startup. And so it’s, you know, my career has taken a lot of Divergent Paths. 

You know, at one point, I actually also worked in the ad agency world at Ogilvy. But what I’ve always enjoyed is, again, seeing the technology up close and personal, and just kind of understanding how to make people’s lives or companies, jobs, and sort of customers better off. So yeah, that’s, that’s a little bit about my journey. It has not been a completely linear journey. But I have definitely moved and progressed, you know, that path from individual contributor to manager to director to VP to CMO. And you know what I think at every step, it’s been an interesting jump in terms of the learning.

Yeah, no, definitely a very, very accomplished career path for sure. And there are so many things that I want to dig into over there. But let’s just focus on two one is something that stands out is a thread of how you’re shifting it from adjacent roles or in HS in companies. So for example, like delighted to work at Leo Burnett, and then Thomson Reuters to Verizon, IBM, in between Agosti. And like, you’ve clearly evolved from a very product-centric, product-oriented to going all the way to like a brand and community. So what is the thought process like and what are your learnings initiative, different product or brand to now product-centric? Cm?

Yeah, that’s a really interesting, interesting question. So I started Yeah, I started in tech, and like, you know, more product, like you said, and what I loved about product, again, was the idea that you could help customers solve their problems. And I was doing everything from, you know, writing PRD documents to briefing engineering and handling pre-sales for customers, and a lot of the things you would do as, you know, a product, you know, product manager or product leader, yeah. And when I decided to make the jump over to Ogilvy, it was actually a bit of a leap, right? Because the common thing that I had was the strategy. I knew how to do marketing strategy.

And I had that working for me, I understood, you know, financial statements and numbers, but I didn’t know anything about marketing, communications, or branding. So, I had a very creative side to me, which is why I wrote and that piece of It was missing on the pure product side for me. So Ogilvy was a great experience because I always think of it as almost like a second business school. And for people out there who are interested in a career in marketing, you know, I would almost suggest they try the consulting route. Because to get an amazing experience, and you know, learn a little bit about a lot of things. And then once you’ve figured out what you like, you can go into what you like. And so that’s kind of what I did. I spent, you know, about four years at Ogilvy, I did brand strategy work for Samsung, and I did digital strategy for UPS on the UPS account in a couple of other projects. But what I realized was I had learned a lot, and I liked the product, sort of branding, product marketing, product strategy, whatever you want to call it, that’s about when I went back into the tech side. 

And so I had a chance to work at CA and that CA I was in, one of the software divisions, was a $2 billion division, I was hired by a VP of product marketing, who at the time was sort of building out her team, and it was an awesome opportunity to just kind of come in and help her build it, then ultimately work with a GM who was in the process of transforming the unit. Ultimately, that whole division as well as CA as a total got sold to Broadcom It was a really cool experience to kind of be a part of that transformation and helped to transform the way we marketed and told our story to customers, then you know, and then from there, I went to IBM, where I took over a CMO VP for a large server division. So over $7 billion, I think much more than that, and practicality. And you know, that was again, a chance to be a part of a big division that had a lot of impact on the ecosystem of the server of IBM Z, you know, there was a lot of impact in terms of the just the, the breadth of the product and the type of customers that we were dealing with. And then yeah, and then I took a little bit of a leap of faith to try something new at a startup and get to see kind of the other side of the world and learn a little bit about data analytics and the world of chips startups. 

So, yeah before, I definitely want to dive into like how the links and the intricacies that you had to deal with, and and handle when you worked as a CMO at a large company like IBM. But prior to that, I think I want to go back to the time how you landed at Ogilvy, mainly because I completely endorse your view and recommendation that folks who are really committed to and want to grow in marketing, definitely have to be involved on the more heard side of things like brands where you can’t really measure but that’s really key, like how do you tell the story? Why doesn’t a brand even exist in the first place? And for more major brands, things like I mean accounts that you mentioned about Samsung and use, what was the role that you played there and why it mattered, right? And as you’re talking about that Korea will help are also saying or sharing how you broke into and got on the radar of your hiring manager at Ogilvy because you’re on a very product-centric career path till then. So what do you make a decision? 

Okay, so, yes. So how I broke into Ogilvy was, like I mentioned through the strategy route, you know, so I would say, look for something you have in common, that they are looking for some skill that can be transferable. And in my case, it was strategy. I had a business school degree, and I understood, you know, go-to-market strategy from my time at Verizon. And so I was able to take that skill that they needed, which was a marketing strategist for the UPS account. And that got me in the door. Okay, the minute I got in the door, I was part of the UPS account. And that meant that there was a team of about 15 or 20 people probably more. And they had a whole circle, right there were the people who were the creatives, there were the strategists and planners, the account people, media, you know, events, the classic advertising buyers, all kinds of different people demand gen people, right? And so I was part of this circle of people. But because I was curious to learn about marketing, I really spent more than just the time on my particular particular function I really tried to learn everybody’s function and understand what they were doing so that I could learn more to write. So that’s probably one piece of advice if you can just get in the door, then you can start to learn from your colleagues and understand what they are doing. 

One of the projects I took on, which was really useful was I helped to launch UPS My Choice. And so this is a brand that is really interesting, and I think it actually follows a similar pattern to a number of b2b brands, at least at the time that I was working with it. They have a core b2b Focus, most of the b2b focus, they generate sales and revenue using sponsorships, right? So they sponsor large, large football or NASCAR, whatever. They use sponsorship packages, the hospitality packages in order to generate business. So most of the advertising work that we did at Ogilvy was actually focused on the small and medium business sector, which were the people, the everyday mom-and-pop shops, the small businesses, everything from one person all the way up to, you know, four or 500 people. 

And for those people, you can imagine there are 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of small businesses around the world. And so our job at Ogilvy was to help brand ups for those people and get them excited about using ups. Like a lot of other B2B brands, customers didn’t always know all of the services that UPS offered. And so one of our jobs was to get people to understand the breadth of the services. But it was also to create a little bit more heart around ups so that people felt more connection to the company. So that was really the role of the brand. In terms of my role on the team, I helped to launch a new mobile app called UPS My Choice, which I believe still exists today. But when we launched it, it was brand new, it was the first V to C mobile app that UPS had ever launched. They had no idea what they were doing in b2c. Yeah. And our team had a goal of having a million subscribers in six months, sorry, in a year. Okay, we hit that goal in six months. 

Nice.

And I believe today, if you were to go look at UPS, my choice, it has 67 or 65 million subscribers worldwide. So this product was designed to basically remove a pain point in the experience of buying and sort of receiving products by giving the customer more control over the delivery delivery process. And back to your question about lessons learned. And back to the original point, we were talking about a go-to-market, this was a totally new way to deliver a product for UPS, no pun intended, because this was a mobile product. We went to market with only digital and social channels.

Can also see how your product background really helped in shaping that app, for sure.

Indeed, but again, it was all digital, it was all mobile and social channels, a ton of experimentation, you know, testing and learning from different channels, figuring out what worked and what didn’t, and using that to optimize, and grow the number of subscribers that we did. So that that was you know, kind of learning, I guess, is you know, to your point, the experimentation. But I think if I step back, I think the bigger learning in these agencies is for these larger companies. And even for smaller companies, the branding is actually incredibly important. And if you really take a step back, and you look at, you look at brands that do well, there’s a strong correlation between having a brand that people relate to, and feel good about and have some understanding of with market share with relevance with all kinds of different things. So that is true. Across the board, whether you’re selling you know, diapers, mobile phones, or even servers.

Yeah, know, for sure. And clearly, the larger, more mature companies, understand the value of the brand. But for me when I’m doing this because just a quick background on what I do, I am a product marketing-oriented, go-to-market consultant. And so and I’ve made even with younger, smaller companies. So for example, yesterday, I was in a conversation with a co-founder, and CEO of a really early-stage precede not even seed-funded precede startup. And just I was just emphasizing the role and importance of brand and shaping your story and how you want to proceed. Even as you come out of stealth mode. It has to be from those early days. 

Absolutely. And like, I’ll tell you like just the work that I did just recently with neuro blade, you know, I was so impressed with that team because they understood the need to have a brand and in their mind having a nice you know, and so, we we kind of fused the concept of the brand and the product category built together. So, you know, what we did is we had the, you know, the branding, the look and the feel you know all of that, but we also had the brand values, the brand personality. And at the same time we built the category, we said we wanted to be compute made for analytics, essentially, instead of having a GPU which handles AI-based processing, we were going to have an SPU sequel processing unit that was going to handle analytics. 

But so we were building the category and the branding at once. And the value of that is that you know, sometimes I feel like Product Marketing tends to get very bogged down in the features, the functions, you know, the demos, all of the things we need to do to sell. But we don’t spend enough time thinking about how to tell a story how to make it cool and how to make it stick. And so there’s, there’s a happy medium between those two, where if I were going to go talk to that founder that you were talking to, yesterday, I would tell them, like don’t be scared, you know, it doesn’t have to be a Superbowl ad. It’s about knowing what you stand for. It’s about knowing, you know, what, what is your look and feel? How are you going to behave? And then, you know, hopefully, building a category that is valuable and interesting at the same time and sort of doing that together?

Yeah, for sure. I mean, we were having that discussion, right? I mean, and nowadays, obviously, a lot of the founders are so hell-bent on building a category. And I say it’s good category thinking is good. But hold on, don’t don’t just jump the ship yet. Because it’s a lot of effort, and a lot of involvement is this the time to invest in building a category, you as a founder, and especially early stage startup, first of all, is going to take a lot of money and a lot of your time, are you shifting your money and time away from trying to figure out and build product market fit, because that’s what your priority should be first, before thinking what category it’s good to think about the category. But it’s a much bigger discussion as to when is a good time to think about category. Right? I know, we’re going down this rabbit hole. But just to come back. Come back to the bigger picture over here, again, the role of the brand role of what go to market is, has to be evolving. The point over here is it has to start right from your pre-launch days and continue even if they are as large as UPS or a Samsung would play.

And you can do little things right like your brand, if you have a strong sense of the brand. The brand can be who the founder is, what they stand for, or maybe it’s the founder and the co-founders, and what they stand for, and what they look for in their employees. And that might be the beginnings of a brand, that can actually translate into, you know, how employees feel an affinity with your company, how, you know, potential customers feel affinity with your company. And it can be as simple as you know, the poster or the t-shirt you have, you know, in the early days, all the way to again, you know, the big Superbowl ad and the hospitality suites and whatever. Like it doesn’t exist on the spectrum, right? But it’s, it’s what people will remember about about your company is not is that and not the other things.

For sure. So great discussion there. In terms of how companies, it doesn’t matter what stage or what size, you’re at, how they should be thinking about, go to market and brand. Right, so bringing everything back closer to home, and what a deep dive into your stint at IBM. And if you can share how you brought together like product marketing, product background brand communication, and what was the charter at IBM? And what are the challenges, because you’re switching from an individual contributor to the director, a senior director, and then now you’re like a CMO at a business unit. What is that?

Yeah, well, I think first of all, let’s just talk a little bit about the role and the scope. And then we can talk about some other stuff. So the role itself was to be CMO of a business unit, which was approximately $7 billion, which was IBM Z, and pieces of IBM Cloud. This is all in the infrastructure and cloud space. And the role had an interesting dynamic, because at IBM, you know, a central business unit owner, like myself had a team direct, you know, they have direct teams of product marketers and product marketing professionals. But in reality, there are five to six times that number of people in matrix organizations. So it’s the entire suite of everybody from people in product functions and go-to-market sales functions and enablement, Field Marketing, demand generation, communications, analyst relations, and you name it. So yeah, my scope was basically to be that person.

And then, you know, the thing is, like, when you move from sort of more of an individual contributor or director level to VP level, really the big difference is that the things you focus on change. So, at that level, you’re, it’s assumed that you know how to do the job. So what it becomes is, number one, it’s about building relationships with other people. across the table from you, your peers and product, your peers in sales, and all of these types of people. Number two, it is about managing the people around you building the talent, motivating them, and holding them accountable for delivery. And essentially leading them through any that’s going on. Number three is you have to set the direction. So you have to set the direction, the vision, the strategy, and all of the measurement on the back end of you know, is this working is this successful. And the fourth then is any sort of involvement on day-to-day projects in terms of, you know, overseeing them, making sure that they’re working and all of the day-to-day that goes on. So it’s it really changes if you know, if I think about those four components, you’re going to have elements of all of those as a director, and you know, even as a manager, even as an individual contributor, but the balance and the proportion changes over time. And so it, it starts to blend a little bit more where your day becomes as many meetings, as many people discussions, as it is, you know, some quiet time to think about strategy, as it is, you know, time with, you know, with projects and people. 

Yeah.

So that’s cut. That’s kind of the lay of the land. And what reminded me now from here, what else would we like to dig into here?

Yeah, so just expanding on that, like, what were the challenges, especially when it came to your day-to-day and quarterly in terms of what were you responsible for, in delivery, like OKRs KPIs? And how were you shaping the team towards that? 

So, I mean, at the end of the day, the OKR, and KPIs were always, you know, what is the revenue? Right, and making the revenue numbers? And I think there’s often a debate over, you know, is it the marketing pipeline? Is it the sales-generated pipeline is it both, I think, ultimately, marketing should be responsible for all pipelines. And, of course, there are going to be varying degrees of how much is generated purely through marketing, and how much is generated purely through sales, right? So once we get over that, and we say that our goal is, you know, revenue, great, everybody will say that the obviously the devil is really in the details. And a lot of what my team was responsible for, was transforming the platform and keeping it relevant. So going back to this notion of change, and going back to this notion of, you know, the way buyers consume things change, you know, we were really having to get a handle on the cloud. So early on, when I came into the role, you know, I came into a role where a lot of, the activities were happening. And they were dispersed, you know, we weren’t selling as a platform, we were marketing pieces of the hardware and pieces of the software. 

And we weren’t marketing marketing them together, which was actually the way the buyers purchased. And so one of the first things I did was kind of combine the campaigns. But then the second thing I did was really look and see what was happening in the buyer’s mind. We did a deep piece of research with the buyers to understand what was going on. What were they thinking, how are they buying? Right? Did they see us versus the competitors? And we use that research to inform basically, the way we manage the business for the next, you know, two, three years, which was to start to shift towards a cloud and hybrid cloud sort of mindset. That was not an easy transition, actually. Because the majority of the people in the business unit at the time didn’t have that mindset. So we almost as a marketing team had to start thinking as change agents. We all went through cloud training, and we all took a look at our language. And we started changing the way we spoke to talk about it like cloud, right? And we started to work and shape with our product teams. You know, okay, if our goal is to start to position ourselves as adjacent to the cloud or tied to the hybrid cloud, we started to work with the product teams to shape. 

You know, we would say let’s, let’s think about the next launch. Let’s think about the next milestone. How can we create excitement in the customer’s mind about this particular type of thing? So I think like that was that was the strategy and the direction and the guidance that you had to kind of not just do the day to day and like, keep the, you know, keep the shed thing running, but it was how do you shape this business unit to go forward?

Yeah. So yeah. As you’re articulating that and explaining to the listener what you did, and the scope and how you’re shifting? A couple of things that I wanted to highlight is definitely thinking of like six or even eight product marketing programs in terms of customer insights. You mentioned understanding your customer doing market research, which I would presume would involve focus groups primarily as well. A secondary interview. Right and you shifted to like, I would presume you must have done a positioning and messaging exercise. 

Yes.

When you said shifting the message into cloud and cloud-related, right, what does that really mean? So that’s the positioning and messaging exercise. And then you talk about enablement, sales enablement, field enablement. 

Yes. 

From that, it would be a new product launch as well as a new market entry. 

Yes. 

From there, I would go and what comes to my mind is product content, and product adoption programs across all these six to eight programs. 

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, yes. All of the above. Yes. We, if you think about, like, what the pieces were of this were, it was the, you know, the branding upfront, which led to an understanding of our core brand values, the positioning, and messaging, and then the positioning and messaging, once that was established, that was kind of locked. Okay. And then there were numerous product launches. From there, there were numerous sales campaigns and sales sales places. From there, it almost spawned numerous different product programs, that kind of led to their own things, you know, so we had a big, gigantic product launch, we had smaller pricing launches, we had specific sales plays, but the, you know, the kind of the underlying theme was, how are we going to get in front of our customers, and show them that things are changing and show them that things are different? And I think that, you know, the customers too, started to pick up on it and adopt it over time. So it was interesting to to be part of the customer councils, and to see and hear from them. What was landing with them and how they were seeing it? 

Yeah, it goes back to Yeah, once you log a positioning and messaging exercise, after doing your customer insights program, you still need to go out and test within stores, and then maybe on social media channels, and then eventually, on like a more static, like a web page.

Yeah, absolutely. And we like when we did when we launched the IBM Z 15. You know, that was a billion-dollar program, revenue project, and marketing, you know, I think all of the events that we did with sales that generated something like 30, or 40, maybe even 50% of the revenue. So testing, the messaging mattered a whole heck of a lot. And I would say at the final stage, at least, in b2b, most of the testing was at the analyst, and the sales and customer level. So in the consumer world, I think you can do more of your testing with lead consumers. And you can use market research, and that can work. Even if you’re doing like a product that’s digitally driven, and b2b, you can test it, you know, just do some digital testing and AV testing to see what’s working better. So that’s also an option. But in our case, you know, I think the analyst, community, the sales community, the customer community was like kind of the final, the final sort of tests.

Tests that are testing grounds. Yeah, fantastic. Yeah, I mean, without knowing we got into like a go-to-market success story. So thank you. Yeah, and just switching gears as you and I know, Priya everything is not a success story, we all enter and conquer failure. So what would you characterize or share as a go-to-market failure story and your learnings from that?

So I have an interesting one, actually, because this is something I’m going to share with your listeners that I don’t think most people have ever done. So I had a role at Verizon, where I was in charge of the product portfolio. What that meant was having an understanding of every product development project that existed at Verizon at the time, and having to approve that project, as it went through its ideation, concepting, early business case, business case, and so on, and so forth, all the way to go to market all the way to doing a 360 review to see had it been successful. So over the course of that, I have probably seen three to 400 projects side by side, and seeing, you know, what worked and what didn’t, it was a kind of an interesting experience, because I don’t think, you know, most of the times when you work in a big company, you know, you work on different projects, but you rarely get the chance to like actually scientifically look back and see what worked and what didn’t. 

So what I can say from that experience, is that the things that did work and didn’t work, really came down to the four P’s time and time again, you know, product motion place, pricing, and of course, the target. And if you know, the one that always stuck in my mind the most was there was a case of there was a portal that was being developed for an SMB customer base. And there was a demanding sort of an ask for you know, let’s move this forward. And we know this is going to work and these consultants have told us that this is a good idea and really ended up becoming a build it and they will come situation because the product was built and you know over objections from the people who were doing the market research, and the product was built And they came back and they said, you know, we found that actually, we were targeting the wrong sub-segment within SMB. 

And unfortunately, that’s a very common thing that happens in product market fit, you know, you go out to market thinking that it’s going to target one customer, and you find out that it’s a totally different customer segment. And maybe it’s more serendipitous than you thought. So I think that’s, that’s probably the one consistent lesson that I’ve seen is just, it’s not always what you expect. So the more testing you can do, the better. 

Yeah, So in this case, looks like the product was launched, even though the market research team was pushing on emphasizing that, hey, guys, you are launching it, it’s good. But you’re launching it and targeting the incorrect segment. Understood. So what do you think led to that decision of not reading and actually acknowledging the signals coming from market research?

Ah, so this is where we get into more political conversation, right? So this is hubris, right? Every product manager will feel that their product is perfect. It’s their baby. And they can see all the positives, they know all the things they’ve done to work on it. And they, you know, no one can tell them that it’s not a good product. So I think this is where having to go to market professionals, who can play the devil’s advocate who can give you feedback, neutral feedback from the market, you know, neutral feedback about the size of the market, the fit of the market. It matters a lot. Yeah.

For sure. 

We all have blinders on, unfortunately. And we do it in marketing, too, right? We think I have an idea. And I think it’s great. Therefore, it’s a great campaign idea. But I’m an audience have one, right? We all do it.

Yeah. I think there are different approaches or different thought processes. I mean, if you’re approaching from, hey, let’s get it out there test, get feedback, and iterate that that’s one way to do it. But more often than not, especially in larger organizations. They’re really slow. And as you mentioned, it’s very political. In nature. And hubris. Ego hates my word, let’s just get it out. Versus having the humility and accepting it’s not the right decision.

Exactly. And in bigger companies, I think the biggest challenge is that you know, to get the machine running, you do have to do a year’s worth of work and business case development and approvals. And this, that, and the other. Even if you wanted to do that test and learn it never ends up being that way, you know, 

Alright, switching more to the fun side, and the lightest phase, you’re an author as well. So what made you draw good on that pattern? Right? The book is, Finding Warrior Pose.

Yes. So I wrote an indie novel called Finding Warrior Pose. It’s a yoga thriller. So it’s, you know, it’s it’s a thriller, but there’s this component of self-discovery and mystery and suspense in the story. And yeah, it’s how did and it’s available, you know, on hardcover, paperback, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. But, how I decided to write was actually, it was like, I got into writing, actually, when I worked in the ad agency because I had to do a lot of copywriting and things at the time. And I really loved it. So I had a chance to start writing creatively. I had a little time when I started writing it, and, it’s just something I enjoy doing, really. And I think as a marketer, you know, so often we tell, we tell people, we’re storytellers, and we’re going to explain things or educate customers. And this was a chance to really write a story and not a 32nd, or a five-minute story, but a, you know, 65,000-word story. So that’s, that’s, it was just a challenge, you know. And so I took on the challenge, and most of the people who’ve read the book have said that, you know, it’s something they can’t put down that they really enjoy it, but it’s fun. And I had fun writing it. So It makes me happy to hear that people had, you know, fun reading it, too. 

Yeah, I’m actually on chapter five or six. I mean, just at that point where it’s, so it’s a good read, for sure. And kudos to you for taking on that challenge or the mission of writing. And I would definitely emphasize and, and encourage, especially the marketers who are looking to up their game. Right, especially in the creative world of Creative Writing copywriting, for sure. So in your case, you mentioned being in an ad agency, Ogilvy So was it copywriting that led you to writing the book or writing that led you to copywriting or things were happening in a pattern not connected at all?

Actually, I mean, I’ve always been a writer I think it was it was the practice of having to do daily writing as a copywriter. That got me into thinking that I really enjoyed it. But now that I’m out of the agency world, I would say like most of the people who are in b2b, are writing copy for communications for prs. 

Right.

They are writing copy for websites. Yep. So there are plenty of places where you’re doing it all the time, you just don’t realize it. 

Right.

Yeah, because of the thought process, especially I’m sure, I would love to hear your thought process and your approach. Typically, there is how you get into the zone, even before you write and then you do the writing. And it’s not always that you are in the zone of writing, right? We you and I know about writer’s block, we all Okay, say, Hey, we’re going to open this laptop or a page, or a page or a book, and begin to write but then when we start to write, things don’t flow. Typically how I have addressed that Priya, is to read a good article, read a good book, and a few pages of a good book, and that gets me into the creative mode. And that’s what I do. So is that a similar process? Or I would like to hear your thought process like before you get into creative and copywriting. What is your routine like?

Oh, that’s a good question. I love the idea of using a little bit of inspiration as a way to do it, you definitely need focus. Yeah. But I usually find that. So there are two different styles of writing, right? There’s the people who need an outline. And they will brainstorm a little bit and they’ll write it out, you know, they’ll kind of figure out what they want to say. And then they’ll go write it. And then there’s the people who sort of just start typing and let it flow. And then they’ll kind of keep iterating and make it better. And there’s no good, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. So I tend to be more of the person who sort of designs the information. First, I think about what is it, I want to say, kind of give myself an outline. And then I start writing. And, usually, the first time you write something, you’re writing it for yourself. So you still need to go back and read it from the perspective of the reader. And then you’re going to improve it as you go. And so that’s it, I mean, but at the end of the day, good writing is a lot of editing. 

That is what I learned in my book, you know, when I wrote the book, is you got to be willing to kill off. I mean, I killed off characters, I killed off scenes, you know, there were so many things that I loved, that I killed, you just just got knocked out. And that’s something you learn very quickly in writing is, you have to be willing to let go of certain things that aren’t serving the story you want to tell. Even if you fell in love with them, you still have to let them go in a professional context, the way I would see that happening. This is a curse that plagues many of us product marketers the desire to fit every single thing we want to say and one very, very long run-on sentence. You know, don’t do that. Right? Figure out what the key things you want to get across, don’t try to be everything to every person and make every single faction of Product Marketing or product management happy with you just you know, just say the key things and the rest will follow.

Yes. For sure. In fact, that just reminds me I mean, even though it’s top of mind for me to ensure that the messaging of the copy will resonate with the target audience and the reader more often than not, we tend to make that mistake. So case in point as an example, just last week, I was working on a positioning doc for a brand new product for a company that’s doing like 100 billion revenue, and they’re trying to get a brand new product in the next six months. It’s like a big, big revamp, which means for me as a product marketer, and a consultant, helping the chief product officer, figure out okay, what should be the positioning, what should be the messaging, what should be the approach. As you and I know, Priya, one of the exercises that we do in a positioning document is what we call value teams to call out distinct capabilities, or at a brand level and a product level. And then we call out the value themes. And in one of the value themes, it was it was important for us to highlight enterprise-grade or enterprise-ready aspects of the product. 

And as I was writing that I was putting together like and writing down like three, four, or five capabilities. And once I wrote like version one, version two, and version three, and as I was reading it out to the chief product officer and her team, one thing that came out and stood out was it’s not a kitchen sink, we don’t need to mention each and every feature and itinerary capability. Right? And to your point, we should cut it out if it’s not serving the purpose at that time we should remove it.

I think the way to do it is to think about the form and the two. Right? So people are very simple. What is the form of this statement and what are the two? You could give them the narrative at the top. Everything in the bottom can flow down it could be bullet points it could be He couldn’t have your run-on sentence. But you just have to get the message across at the top, and then everything else, you know, can flip through. 

I know you’re coming up against time here, like the last couple of questions for you, you had a very impressive career and career growth over the last several companies’ roles and a tragic crease in go-to-market product marketing, product, and brand. So who are like, your inspiration, folks are mentors or role models that played a big role in your career? 

You know, I was always told by people to have mentors, I’ve never had mentors. So actually, the people who’ve played the biggest role in my growth have been, you know, people, there are a couple people I can think of, I don’t want to name them here. But there have been a couple of people that are like close colleagues, you know, people who I’ve worked with his peers, who I’ve become friends with, who are connectors, they’re people who know a lot of other people. They have connected me time and time again, into interesting opportunities to meet new people, or they’ve given me sound advice on a problem that I didn’t quite know the answer to. So, interestingly enough, it’s been lateral for me more than it has been, you know, a specific mentor. The one other person I can think of is I had a boss early on, and she just for me exemplified a calm, cool collected leader, who could keep moving things forward and never be sort of overly emotional. And so I’ve always looked up to her as somebody that I would like to emulate, you know, she just had this level of which, you know, she was never going to get overly stressed out over things. 

Very cool. Yeah, for sure. Each of us can relate to and identify with folks who have played or shaped our careers in so many ways.

I mean, listen, a career, it literally doesn’t exist without all of the people who you’ve worked with, and who have given you advice and helped you along the way. So in many ways, I’m a product of all of the people, you know, who have helped me along the way. 

Yeah, we’re really cool. And then a good segue into our closing section over here is what advice would you give to your younger self? If you were to turn back the clock? And when I say younger self on the day, one of your go-to-market journeys? 

Oh my gosh, okay. Well, day, one of the go-to-market journeys was probably day one of the first day out of college, because, you know, I started out implementing software at Deloitte and implementing, you know, ERPs and E-commerce and CRMs. The advice I would give my younger self is everything you do matters and everything you do counts, the advice that you know, the experiences that I had at Deloitte, actually implementing software, and seeing people wrestle with a change was more useful as I learned how to actually market software, and drive go to market, in many ways, understanding how they actually, you know, lived it. So I would say, there’s the sense of like, Oh, I’m still figuring out what I want to do. And maybe this will never matter. But actually, everything you do matters. Everything you do has an opportunity for learning, looking around, and learning from other people around you. And I wish I had known that sooner.

Fantastic. Great conversation for years. So thank you so much for the time and for sharing all the advice and insights and good luck to you. And yeah, we’ll stay in touch. So any closing thoughts, comments, or where people can find you and learn more about you?

Well, yeah, first of all, Vijay, thank you so much for having me on your podcast, you ask a lot of interesting questions. And I know you have a very deep experience in product marketing and go to market yourself and as your as do your listeners. So yeah, no closing thoughts. But folks can find me on LinkedIn, feel free to ping me and reach out. And if you’re interested in the book, you can find Finding Warrior Pose on Amazon, Kindle Barnes and Noble, and others. Thank you very much.

What does it take to master the intricate art of product marketing? Ever wondered what goes into crafting a compelling product marketing strategy? Or how decision-making delays can be navigated to drive success? In this episode, host, Vijay Damojipurapu, is joined by Saranya Ramamurthy on the B2B Go-To-Market Leaders Podcast. She is the director Head of Product Marketing at inFeedo. With a spotlight on the power of having a sales champion and insights into customer needs, she provides an insider’s view of the dynamic and challenging world of product marketing. Fasten your seatbelt and tune in now for an adventure into the heart of product marketing!

Listen to the podcast here

Decoding Product Marketing Success: Data Utilisation, Customer Narravites, Cross Selling, and Overcoming Challenges.

The signature question: Fantastic. So with that, yeah. I mean, the standard question that I always taught and ask the guests on my show, which is how do you view and define go to market?

So if you simply ask this to anyone, there’s definitely a textbook definition, right? So if you ask the Product Marketing Manager, they would say like, you know, product market managers are the ones who are building the product, and product marketing managers are the ones who are taking the product to the market. But I would like to add a little nuance here. So I would probably approach it like this, that, you know, it’s about educating your ICP, which is your ideal customer persona, about the solution you’ve crafted for their pain point. So it’s beyond clean-handed person education, in my opinion, it’s about knowing your ICT, knowing your problems, knowing which channels they are active on, and just delivering that message with an educational note. Right? Once you’ve educated them, and if the person is confident that it is solved, or one of their pressing problems, and it is also one of their priorities, they buy it. Right. For me, you know, education is everything. And education is CDN. 

Yeah. So it’s interesting that you take the angle of education. And so this is an interesting perspective. I’ve not spoken or had a lot of product marketing folks on the podcast, but at the same time, it’s funny to say that because I started my marketing journey and career in product marketing. So I see that evolution. So when I started back in the day at Microsoft, I was super excited, enthusiastic, and just eager to find out. Because in my job title, it said, go to market, right? And I was really eager to find out what that is. But as I learned over the last decade or so working at large companies and small companies, something that I’ve noticed is go to market. 

First of all, the definition is so varied, and also something that started percolating and became more and more clear to me is go to market is not just within the realm of the product market, even though that’s part of the job responsibility. If you see the job spec, they say, go to market aspects and activities. Right? So what I would like us to deep dive into is, first of all, the role of Product Marketing in go to market, but then also the gaps. I have a few thoughts, but I want to pause and get your thoughts because I’m sure you’ve also seen this in different organizations, you’ve been at really leading brands. So what are your thoughts on go to market, specifically, when it comes to product marketing?

I would say you know, go to market is actually product marketing. That’s how we are seeing in India, right? So it’s part of you know, what we do, and maybe you know, what we do here is defining the messaging defining the ICPs, and tightening them for the market. But taking it to the market or doing the ads is something that an integrated marketing team or segment marketing team would do, right? So PMS scope is basically validating the ICPs problem, right? So which is the first part of PMF in itself, right? So if you have a new product that you want to launch in the existing market, or you want to launch an existing product in the new market, for example, you start off with a problem validation. So that is an important JDM exercise, since it’s a pre-JDM exercise, I would say. Once you’ve validated that, once you validated your ICTs priorities, like say, for example, your ICP could have this unmet need that you’ve defined, but they might probably have 10 plus unmet needs, where do you stand? What is your priority? And what? And how is their willingness to pay a price for this solution like yours? Right? 

So this is the PMF stage, and during the JDN stage, we take all the learnings and craft the messaging for it. And that’s a very important step. Right? So that is your delivery, right? So educating, right? So for me, it is education, because I’ve done most of my job in PMF. Right? So right now, what I’m doing is just indicating that I know you have a problem like this, and I have the solution for you. Right. So this is what we do in a product marketing function related to GTM. But after defining the channels, and what sort of communication goes on each of these channels, there is a different team that takes it over.

I think what you touched upon is an important, but one piece of the go-to-market, I mean first step, obviously product marketing. Typically, what I’ve seen is product marketing, in conjunction with product management. Pier would do the problem discovery, validation, and come up with a hypothesis for the product market fit, right, and then this product marketing function would then run with Okay, now that we believe this is our hypothesis that this is the problem we are going to solve for this persona. And in this market. And for these channels. Now we start creating content, there’s also the sales enablement that has to happen.

And there are a lot of other things. But then beyond product marketing, that’s the initial step for go to market. And then it goes to sales. I mean, you got SDRs, As, you got other aspects. And then there’s customer success once a product is sold or bought by the customer based on the product, the problem hypothesis. Now, are we ensuring that the customer is seeing value? First of all, are we onboarding them in the right way so that they can see the value? Right? So for me go to market is a more expanded view, yes, it starts with product management and product marketing, but then there’s a much bigger view, which spans across products across marketing, sales, and customer service as well.

Totally, a lot of alignment is required in there. So if this is just, you know, one part of it that you’ve covered in the first bit, definitely, you know, imagine like you’re doing an ad and somebody’s landing on your website and becoming a lead and you put in the messaging, and the sales staff something totally different. Right? Starts with totally missing. So that’s why this has to be extremely connected. So from the messaging that they see on the ad to the website landing page to you know, what the SDR talks about is what the AE gives as a demo. Right, and to, you know, onboarding them on a pilot program, or, you know, onboarding them on a trial package, whatever it is, since they should definitely, you know, see that sort of benefit that we promised in the messaging, right?

Absolutely. Fantastic. I’m sure we’ll cover a lot more of these nuggets in detail. But let’s step back, zoom out, and then help our listeners like, tell who Saranya is, I mean, what is your journey like? And how did you end up in what you’re doing today?

So I’ve been a marketer for about 10 years, I’ve worked with both Sass companies and agencies, a good blend of both b2b and b2c. And I worked on social media marketing, I worked on Regional Marketing, GTM, product marketing for a combination of both b2b and b2c companies. So if you look at the SAS companies that I work for, it include FreshWorks, Zoho, and Airmeet. From an agency experience, I’ve worked with brands like Facebook, Vodafone, and Lenovo, right, so reasonably, these companies were focusing on markets like APAC, the UK, and the EU. At Zoho predominant focus was the UK and EU and FreshWorks. Like I was looking at both the APAC and North American markets during my agency experience I’ve got good market intel about the Middle East and African markets. So this is predominantly it. So I joined as a you know, a consultant for a software reseller starts that’s where my foundation came from. And then I slightly moved away to an agency environment to get the skills of you know, all things that a marketer should do, all the creative skills, and then dive back into the SAS space. That’s my journey, overall.

Oh, yeah, no, very, very cool. This is something that I’ve started seeing. I mean, founders in India, when they think about a software company, they’re not just talking about The Indian footprint or the Asian footprint, but it’s more about how we go global. And that vision or that pursuit is translating to different functions as well, including product marketing. And that’s what I’ve seen. That’s the biggest change I’ve seen over the last 10-15 years. Right. And it’s really cool that you got to work in agencies and got first-hand experience in how the different parts of the regions worldwide, like marketing to something in the Middle East is entirely different from how you market in APAC, versus how you would market in North America.

Absolutely. A lot of regional nuances. The notes here. Yeah.

Yeah. So you started your work as a consultant, and then you shifted to the agency. So what specifically were you doing in an agency?

So at an agency like ours, predominantly doing a marketing strategy and social media strategy? So this is for all B2C companies, right? So with Vodafone, like, you know, we worked on their social media, and at Lenovo, we were looking at their video marketing. And with Facebook, it was more of a strategic partnership. So we help them with all the top 50 customers, AD, AD creators, ad copies, strategic narratives, etc. So yeah, it’s a mix of all things with agencies, it is just for you to dive or explore all the creative possibilities, all that you could do, right as a marketer. So they’re all things operations in all things, creatives and agencies.

Understood and then you shifted to product marketing. So was that like a natural transition? Right? How was the shepherd? And why do you choose product marketing?

So since I already had a software foundation, it wasn’t hard for me to move into product marketing. So the role that I entered like, right after my agency experiences is called the role of a first marketer in the UK, and EU. Right? the company wanted to explore a new market, and they wanted a full-stack marketer, right? So they don’t want anybody that is doing just ads, they don’t want anyone that’s looking at just, you know, copies messaging, they don’t want just, you know, one event person doing events for them. So even just one primary demand generation channel, right? So they want a full stack marketer, with a primary focus on copy messaging, and positioning, I think it was a right fit for me because I kind of gathered all of that from agencies and the software foundational experience. And then I moved in, and it was a good, very, very smooth transition, in my opinion.

Okay. And today, you are the Director of Product Marketing at inFeedo. Are you the Head of Product Marketing over there?

Yes.

Okay. Yeah. Got it. And what is your charter? What is your responsibility, like at inFeedo?

Multiple things, it’s been six months. Crazy, right? So I’m the first product marketer. And in these six months, I’ve set up a team of five product marketers doing different things. inFeedo has two products, one looks at employee engagement, and the other one is an employee Support Platform. So we are looking at all things you know, GDM, we are looking at all things messaging, positioning, pricing, and sales enablement. Sales Enablement is a very crucial piece because it’s a sales lead organization. And we wanted a dedicated person to look at enabling the STRS, enabling AES. And there is product two, which is actually a zero-to-one product. So it’s a very new product in the market. And we are supporting the launch of the product. We support, get, and explore new markets, how we launched this in the existing market, and launch also interesting sales plays like cross-selling, like how do we capitalize from the existing customers that they already have? 

So these are some things that we’re doing away from the usual charter, like, you know, enablement, customer advocacy, AR and VR extra. So that’s the usual pillar, but these are some things that we’ve been touching upon in the last six months.

So when I work with my clients, I mean, typically I help them build or execute and accelerate any of these six to eight product marketing programs starting with positioning and messaging, and then we have the customer insights, do you have a good customer insights program in place? And then there is the sales enablement as you mentioned, especially for sales lead organizations, you need sales enablement, then you have a new product launch, and you have a new market launch with two related but entirely different concepts and approaches. Then we have how do you build and do you have a good product content program in place? And adding to that is how are you tracking and evolving product adoption within your customer base? And then the final piece is customer expansion, which you mentioned about cross-sell and up-sell right from these eight categories. First of all, we’ll pause there. I mean, would you agree with these or would you expand with all these categories?

I think they are good. I think the important piece that you might probably have to add here is customer advocacy as a piece as well. So more than intelligence, you know, PMMs usually do advocacy as well, you know, go and ask them how they do their products. This is basically building customer proofs for your product, right? So this is also a part of Product Marketing’s responsibility. That’s something that I observe as a trend in India, I don’t know, like, you know, how it is in the US, but that is one thing. And the other one is AR and VR. That’s also one of the biggest pillars like talking to analysts, constantly keeping in touch with them, having a relationship with them, and informing them about things like, what’s coming in the product, right? Keeping them posted about what’s coming in the product, what the means, and if there are any features that they could do with it. Right. So that’s also one of the important things that we did, that we would cover under PMF. I think that’s predominantly, you’ve covered it all. 

So it basically is like if you work in a very, you know, scaled-up organization, you will have timelines for these like launching new products or markets or exploring a new market in itself. But right now, like you’re doing all of these things, so all that you said, like you do all of those things, because inFeedo being in that stage, so we are a new product marketing team, so we have different spots, taking care of different things at the moment.

Understood. So how did you structure your product marketing team? You said you have like five product marketers. What is your thought process in how you have structured or like, what is your research methodology, and how do you build a product marketing organization? And then how are you structured? 

So if you ask me, like, you know, my usual way of looking at it is, you know, there should be one person that takes care of all things, product launches, and feature launches. And there is one person who is dedicated to enablement. There is one person dedicated to customer advocacy and customer proof, anything customer Intel, market, and Intel intelligence comes from this third person. And the fourth person takes care of AR and VR, right? So that’s how I would probably separate, but looking at the budgets that we have, looking at the areas that we want to invest in, this is how I’ve done it now. So I have a couple of people under engagement as a product, one person taking care or one person is closely aligning with the product and doing all the things that the product wants the product marketing to do, and the other person closely aligning with sales and customer success, and the JDM organizations to kind of get out or to enable them to grow, to enable them to sell, right? That’s something this person is doing. You know, in and out enablement tool, you would know that. 

And there is this third role led mature role is this. And it’s an all-in-one end-to-end TNM role for a new product. So this person does anything around product enablement, anything around sales enablement, and until customer enablement. Once we, you know, launched this particular customer and implemented the solution and the customer, please, how do we increase adoption for that organization until then, right? 

So starting from launching the product to going into the customer place and increasing adoption for the product usage. So that’s something that we do on that call. And we also have a generalist who has all things PMM for the products. And there is a designer, of course, to look at the design needs of the PMO organization. That’s how you structured it now, but there are definitely some gaps. And at inFeedo, the interesting part is customer advocacy is handled by content marketing. Unlike, you know, organizations that I’ve worked in in the past FreshBooks, Zoho, or Airmeet, customers would seize it by content marketing. That’s one thing less for us to worry about at this point in time. That’s how I’m looking at it. Because there’s a lot of things going on. And AR and VR are something that I’m doing myself.

Understood. So can you reiterate the customer advocacy? Who is responsible for customer advocacy at inFeedo? 

It’s content marketing.

Content marketing? Okay. Yeah. Fair enough. Because you’re looking to build its family around case studies and success stories. 

Yes!

So that’s the angle that you’re taking for customer advocacy at inFeedo?

Yes, it’s been I mean, that person is very comfortable, very senior enough. And I don’t think I can get somebody that is senior enough to look at customer advocacy in the pm team at this point in time. 

Yeah!

It’s so I think I’m super comfortable that you know, she’s handling this for us.

Fantastic. And you also mentioned designers. So does a designer report to you within product marketing or is it adjacent?

No designer reports.

That’s unique. I mean, yeah, that’s a very interesting odd setup. So for me when I speak with other good market leaders, I also peek into like how they’re thinking about building their organizations and teams, and something that So that for me, and I think that has to be called out, which is, especially for product marketing, you need to have someone in design closely working with you. And a good thing. You’re already starting in that direction from the get-go. 

Absolutely, yeah, that’s very important. That’s been a major miss in my previous organizations, I made sure that the designer comes under the PMM purview so that everybody is comfortable getting the work done from them. And I say it’s very, very important to have a designer in-house. 

Yeah. So something that I’ve seen, and this is a constant question I keep getting from listeners and other folks I speak with, is like, especially when it comes to design. So what is your guidance and playbook? Let’s just pick an example. Maybe it’s like a product launch or customer expansion program. So how are you guiding your team in interacting with the designer on your team? Right.

So one thing that I’ve taken as an added responsibility is rebranding, right? So definitely, you know, inFeedo needs a little bit of rebranding, in terms of, you know, how we present ourselves to the world. So this is something that you have taken up with the consultant, right? And the color consultant will define a playbook for us. So right now, we don’t have a playbook, we only have the colors, we have the font for now, and we don’t have any styles like, you know, what photographs to use? Or what illustrations to use, What style do we use? So every time you know, it’s me and DB marketing, sitting and defining this process, like why it is very important that every time a designer starts over a design work, they always start from scratch, there is no, you know, means for reference for them to go back. No playbooks or brand guidelines for them to reference. 

So always start from scratch, which in turn takes a lot of time. Like say, for example, if they need to do a tech, they will take two or three days, unlike if they had brand guidelines, they will only take half a day, right? So then we invested in this effort rebranding that’s happening in the sport in October, November, and December. And it’s expected that the consultant will actually give us the brand guidelines, like with all the prerequisites that we already discussed, and that will act as a guide for the design. And that’s so that’s something that we are looking at, and all entail and insights from the CXOs would be passed on to the consultant and then you know, we will arrive at something together. So that’s a project that I’ve taken up, I don’t think so this is under the Product Marketing super view. It’s branding, we don’t have a branding person internally. So I’ve taken that as a side game.

You answer my next question, which is Yeah, typically, it’s under mark or brand? Who would typically do this? But sounds like you just mentioned it, because someone is not doing I mean, no one’s taking that responsibility. You just ran with that. And you’re working with your VP of marketing around brand and design as well. 

Absolutely. Because we are looking at it as a product branding, the product brand, you know, we are the ones who are naming these products, we are the ones who are leaving these bots and you know, naming any new launches that we are new products that we are launching in the market. So if that’s the case, then they could also probably be a key contributor with branding, until like the senior branding person in-house.

Got it? And what is the whole that the branding consultant is doing? Is it around the style guide or the content writing style guide? Or is it something beyond and more than that?

It’s the design style guide.

Got it.

Only that, so messaging positioning, you know, all of it will be done by us all the content boilerplates and content guides will be made by the content marketing and product marketing together. And he would be looking at all things design and a lab kit that essentially kit like that. So brand guidelines like this website should look like this are what your sales bulletins should look like! And what social posts should look like! So it just gives you you know, all the guidelines.

For consistency across all channels, which is good. So sorry. Yeah, that’s a great insight. Thank you for sharing how you thought about how you built your product marketing team and organization as well as the role of the designer in your marketing overall. So something else related to that, which is how do you track and measure the impact of Product Marketing, like KPIs you mentioned about I know, before we hit record, you mentioned about your quarterly offset and things like that. So talk to us about how you think about KPIs and how you show the impact to the leadership team.

Yep! So if you’d asked me like, six months ago, my definition would probably be different. But now you know, my ideology changed a little bit like inFeedo gave a little bit of you know, change in my you know, thought process here. So, to define it simply, Product Marketing wouldn’t have like, you know, one universal KPI to chase because obviously we are intersecting with multiple cross-functional teams, like say we are being we are intersecting with sales and impacting revenue, we are intersecting with products and impacting adoption, right? Awareness or option activation, all of these KPIs, and we are also doing a lot of awareness-related stuff, we are building a pipe with growth marketing, right? So we are helping with messaging for new advertisements or any change in the messaging pillars. It’s so, it’s about the goals that we own in that particular quarter along with the cross-functional stakeholders. For example, if the product focus is to drive activation for a particular feature, at the end of this quarter, so many customers should be activated for this new feature. Right? 

So that means like, you know, product marketers, one of the KPIs would be around, you know, activating, right? So, we take a shared goal, so that there is no alignment mismatch, right? So you go to cross-functional stakeholders. So there’ve been a lot of times in the past that, you know, I go to a cross-functional stakeholder and ask for something that I want to do. And it’s not even there in their KPIs. It’s not their job, right? Like, they did not do this. Right? So right now, it’s very easy because we all do share KPIs like we all take shared KPIs, and from a sales enablement perspective, we take KPIs on when rates conversions, it could be, you know, and MQL’s to SEO conversions. Right? So any improvements there, right? And it could also be a number like, you know, I need to do the classes for so many deals, so that like, we help the sales sell faster and smarter. So that’s predominantly it, it’s multiple KPIs, and each one and each board will take multiple KPIs basis, you know, their alignment with the product, or sales or you know, growth marketing teams. 

How do you track? I mean, first of all, the two angles to this, which is you’re giving your priorities to your product marketing report and the designer to ensure that the KPIs are being tracked and you’re making progress. At the same time, you need to report progress to the cross-functional peers and the leadership team. 

Absolutely, Yep. I should do that. So for example, if I have a launch person in the team and they take a launch or activation around KPI, the loaded KPI is also my KPI. Right? So anything, what is the launch sell as it helps, it helps customer expansion. It helps customer enablement, right? So I’ll take a loaded KPI and the team takes an operational KPI or tactical KPI, right? You know whatever the product wants to achieve, right? And there is part two, which is the enablement KPI. The enablement person has a goal like a link by helping the SDR to have a better Enfield SEO conversion and a better win rate in the mid-market and enterprise segment whatsoever it is right. So I’ll have a builder or a combined KPI. All things covered like that will be my KPI. Product will be my KPI 1 sales will be my KPI two and the 3rd will be any strategic projects that you’re doing launching new products in a new market, or launching an existing part in the new market. I think that all of it aligns with the company goals,

How are you thinking about how you’re spending a budget? First of all, do you have a budget, or as most of the budget, typically with the demand and media side of things? 

Yes, so product marketing, sure, doesn’t have an exclusive budget. So we have a shared budget as a marketing team. So bases priority like for example, like you know how we got a branding consultant this quarter. That’s because like, you know, to other stakeholders, like from demand had to let go of our priority projects, right? So it’s us discussing and debating, which is more important to the organization. And it’s just the overall marketing budget that we shared.

And then talking about KPIs and something that I’ve seen, and obviously, you’ll relate to this sorry, which is product marketing plays a key role in go to market. But then the KPIs are the needle that they move, it takes one or even two quarters for them to see the impact that pays out. So how are you? First of all, beating the drum rightly so that your team is doing the right things and working on the right priorities. And how are you ensuring that the budget or the people are not taken away while people are waiting to see the results of product marketing activities?

Absolutely. That’s an interesting question. So, these are my VP marketing books, right? So every other activity has a leading indicator and a lagging indicator. So a lagging indicator could have multiple leading indicators to it. So there are just you know, phases of this project that we need that we need to define at the end of phase one, I should operationally complete this stuff. At the end of phase two, I should have completed, you know, this task, right? And at the end of the project itself, that’s when we start implementing this or rolling this out entirely and then start reaping the benefit of Laurie. Right? So, my VP of marketing said, but I would probably say that you know, it’s not that difficult to have a metric-centric KPI for a quarter. 

So not all things are lagging. Maybe like, you know, it’s, for example, if you say like, my sales lifecycle is huge. And that’s why I feel like you know, all things that I’m doing in the classes will probably help, right, most of the deals are in the early stages and not converted this quarter. So if I have a win rate conversion KPI I’m not needed. So it’s, it’s impossible, because obviously, like the built on a pipe, and there are a lot of deals in the closing stages in this quarter two, right? So definitely, like, you know, we can frame our KPI in such a way that you know, we could put a metric and that would also be achievable. And we can definitely go back to the leadership and tell them that, you know, so far it’s worked that way. So we’ve taken quarterly KPIs. We’ve taken KPIs for two quarters, and it’s worked well for us to date, except for the branding project. Right? Which is, which is definitely not a product marketing project. It’s definitely something that we’re doing for awareness and better branding purposes.

Okay, cool. Obviously, not everything is a success or a failure when it comes to go to market. So why don’t you share with listeners one go-to-market success story and one go-to-market failure story, either at inFeedo, Airmeet, Zoho, or whichever brands you’re part of?

That story, I’ll do a little confidence sitting here. So I’ve named the condiment basic skills. So this company that I worked with had a couple of products, right? And imagine product A is our flagship product. Product B is the one that is new, very young and isn’t giving much revenue to the company. So it’s easy to call it my least favourite product, right? So, I was paying for this least favourite product, unfortunately, but I’m happy with it because we were able to do a lot of experiments there. And we were running multiple validations in existing markets. And we were also running PMs in jet engine new markets, right? So while doing the research around the market, on the competition, looking at our own product sales in the last two years, we kind of figured that 50% of the accounts that are using product B are also product A users. So they are using this product together, right? 

We also spoke to a few of these customers and invalidated multiple things, you know, on the problems that product A solves for product B solves for. Also, we kind of validated this beautiful narrative that ties both product A and product B is USPS site. So this is something that we’ve not done because the data gave us this. And then we started getting on calls with these customers and started validating this narrative. And it was all successful. And we figured out that you know, with the help of product A, they were able to solve a functional pain point, right? At a functional level, there is a pain point and the product team, we were able to solve it. And with both the products, they were able to expand it a little further and create more visibility cross-functionally, right? 

So it definitely had some sort of global impact. Yeah, like with our A, there was a functional-level impact. And product B there was an all-global impact. So this was a huge narrative for us. Right? So that gave us a good reason to go behind the product is installed and we quickly launched like in weeks time like we launched a cross-sell play. Right? That’s a sales motion that we launched with a very lean effort. We were a three-member PMM team and only like, you know, one head of marketing and brand myself focusing on this initiative. And the sales numbers were, you know, already busy selling the flagship product. How do we motivate and how do we train them? And we launched this process like we launched all the training, we launched the latest content pieces, everything around it. And we had a brand city list that we went behind, and we created a pipe of 1.5 million in just one quarter. Right? So all with the existing resources. I’ve even asked for extra budgets, everything organic, and even asked for extra members to focus on team members. Yeah, and the key here is what we’ve built is enterprise and midmarket pipe in the future with converts, right? It’s less likely to churn according to the data that we had as well. Right? So the earnings here is the sales motion that we are looking to create the narrative that we’re trying to craft, and PMF that you’re trying to find, like, everything is right in front of us, we may not actually start with a clean slate, we can’t start a narrative, do we not open an empty document and start paring down on the narrative, there is something that you can get from your customer conversations or prospect conversations, you need not start of a playbook without having an idea on like, you know, what is making an impact and what’s not making an impact? Because there is already a lot of data in front of you, a lot of intel that is kind of you. So I think that it’s been an eye-opener for me to rely on. 

That was a good success story. I mean, the insight that he got was product be elevated product a functional impact and product be elevated to a cross-functional and organizational impact. How did you arrive at that insight? Like, what places were you looking at for the data?

So basically, like, we never combined product A and product B together in the first place? Right? So we were looking at this as a, you know, a product separately, and we were looking at this as a product separately, right now, you know, at inFeedo as well we’re trying too hard to bring a story together for engagement and support as a product together. But it’s not blending. Yeah, right. At that point in time, like, we never looked at a blended use case. But we knew that there were some benefits that could happen. But we strengthen the integrations a little bit, right, even after, like during the validation stage. And after validating we came back, strengthened the use cases a little bit, and then it became a little more effective, right? But still, you know, we were able to see the narrative through, right? So that was, it’s just that, you know, it just has to happen, like you need to discover, you need to sit with data, you need to understand that and see if there is a story behind every number that you see. 

So what are the data sources wherever you’re looking at for this?

So these are basically our internal sources? Because it’s just our own products.

Was it CRM, or was it product adoption metrics? 

It’s an analytics tool. Yeah, in general.

Understood. Okay. And then switching gears a bit over here. So what’s your go-to-market failure story, and the lessons that you learned from there? Yeah,

A lot of interesting things there as well. Obviously, like, you know, we all have our own successes and failures, definitely a lot of failures, like, because, you know, when you start off is when you fail the most, for me also, it’s the same, like, you know, when I switched to the SaaS company, that’s when, like, you know, I kind of understand like, you know, this is not how SaaS companies work. Yeah, but it says it could probably work this way. Right? So that is the trend, right? So I’m not a big fan of writing behind trends. So from your agency experience, you could probably rely too much on trends. But in a SaaS company, it wouldn’t probably work that way. So it’s actually I fell in a lot of cases, because, you know, I’m saying this, because right now, I’m working for an AI company, which is a trend trading, right? So both the products are powered by inFeedo. And I also used to work for this company called Air meet, which was into virtual events during the pandemic, which was the trend and so I tell you, like, why I, I kind of hate trends right now. Because, you know, trends could come and go, but products should ideally have a larger purpose, and it has to look at the larger problem than it should solve. Right? So for example, during the pandemic, the trend was virtually guns. And, we used what events will be like in the year, we abused the term virtual events, literally. And then it evolved into a hybrid? Like once things started opening up a little bit, right? Everybody was talking about, okay, let’s talk about virtual events. Let’s go hybrid, right? And now it has completely changed. And I’m sure like every other word will even look at a different route altogether. So the trend is not distinct. Definitely. So the flip side of the trend is also that like, what if your ICP like my current ICP is the HR leaders? What if they don’t get this point? They don’t know this, they need a master class, or what if the staff are not trained to use an AI? Right? 

And what is it just, you know, scares them like, okay, like, you know, everybody’s talking to you all, say, really complex. And there are also multiple platforms like LinkedIn and all of these learning sources and communities that talk about these trends both in a positive and a negative way. And what if, you know, when they’re talking about the negative things about AI or virtual events like it could impact my ICP’s decision-making as well? When somebody talks about the flip side of AI, you know, HR community, right, I would get more questions during my, you know, calls with the customers. 

And the most important part here is, if you’re looking at enterprise, and midmarket as your customer segment, you clearly shouldn’t go behind the trend, because they would not rely on a feeding trend, they know that it’s going to change today’s AI towards something else. So they always go behind a trustworthy product, and they are the go behind a trustworthy founding team. So that’s why, you know, I’m totally against it. And the second thing that has actually failed me is the timing of both. 

So, we kind of launched or focused team effort with proper dedicated budgets. I told you about the cross-sell motion, which was like a clean effort, with no known budgets, but we still did it. But this was dedicated, we got the budgets, and we got the focus team as well dedicated to selling it to a vertical, but this is when the companies were heavily downsizing, restructuring, and cost-cutting, cutting was advantageous for us because we wanted to replace the KOSPI. antenatal right, but still, at that point in time, nobody was evaluating all our bonds, which were not answered. Right. Nobody was in the mindset already to spend that time to replace the solution, give that implementation time extra, right? So that’s also something that failed me. So friend, timing, both are my villains at this point? 

No, no, for sure. Timing and trends, for sure.

So I, right now, after the pandemic, meeting them in a physical, you know, the event has actually reduced. So we have been meeting them more virtually now. So it could be like on a weekly basis like we get on sales calls, we get on, you know, validation interviews with customers, right? to validate an idea or submission. And we also, you know, it’s not just, you know, you going on a call with them to understand that it is also in the communities, right? you can go and be a part of the communities that they are most active in, right? Especially HR communities, there are plenty of communities, there is a channel called Slack channel called people, there are a lot of HR communities on LinkedIn, where they put their daily day-to-day problems, right? So that’s where you consume these kinds of content. So it’s also important for you to consume raw content, right? So when you’re going on a call, maybe like you’re just posting, like, do you like this? Are you okay with this? Is this your problem? Right? 

Like, we asked a lot of pointed questions, but when you go to cog communities, you tend to get raw data on, you know, how their day-to-day is looking like. So that’s also one of the avenues that I usually go on. And the third could be any recorded calls. So even if I’m not able to catch up with customers in person, so I go on customer calls, listen to them, read customer calls, listen to them, like understand, like, you know, what their pain points and unmet needs are, and then come back my drawing board and change, make changes or tweaks in the messaging, if any?

So do you have any specific cadence or frequency for each of these on a weekly basis?

I do this daily. 

Okay, good.

My 10 to 11 is actually locked to know the customer. 

Nice. That’s what I was hoping to hear. I’m glad that you said it’s daily, I just want to give guidance to the listeners as to how they should be planning that day and week when it comes to knowing the customer.

Yeah, so my 10 to 11 is actually prepare and know the customer. So it has links to all the communities that I follow. So I can quickly go and check if there are any new messages in there and eat anything or listen to a chorus calling a new chorus call. So that’s all I do. 

So when it comes to I think based on what you shared, you have a very good product marketing DNA and Product Marketing Muscle based on how you structure the organization, the right people in the right seats, and you’re prioritizing customer knowledge or insights. So given all these things, what would you put as the top one, two, or three challenges for Product Marketing? Like where is your biggest shot for gaps?

The biggest shortfall is you know, you might tend to face a lot of delays in decision-making because there are a lot of stakeholders involved and making a product marketing decision. Like for example, if you’re exploring a new market, it is not just you, but you are a part, right? There are CXOs in the team that are LT members, leadership team, there is product leadership, sales leadership, and multiple exits are really effective to get all their points of view. But curating all those points of view and having a proper plan of action could probably be different. So that is something that we need to be extremely patient about. It is going to be delayed. This is something that I’ve been trying to solve for a long time. Right? So I think that is one of the biggest disadvantages. And the second could probably be, that not all your ideas will be approved, right? So getting a buying is really difficult. Until and unless you pack it with data, you back it with all the intelligence that is available in the market. So getting a buy is not a joke. It’s, that you cannot probably have an idea today and toss it to your cross-functional, leaders tomorrow definitely if you have an idea today, you do your research tomorrow, and then invest a little more time in talking to cross-functional leaders and understanding their perspective on this on day three, and then go to them with that, right. So we always need to spend that time doing that research. So yeah, I mean, buying and delays in launching something or delays in crafting a plan of action is something that’s a disadvantage.

So those are all valid. I mean, it can apply to any other function as well. I mean, buying and delays, obviously not. Because you have so many investors, not investors, but stakeholders that are part of the decision-making process. That’s a given. But when it comes to, for example, those 8 or 10, product marketing programs that we talked about earlier, where would put your finger and say, Okay, that’s the challenge that I want to invest in going forward, like the positioning and messaging, customer expansion, new product launch, new market launch, ERP, our product content, customer insight. 

Yeah, I mean, if you look at it, like inside every other part that you’re talking about, there is a challenge, right? There’s only one challenge or the other, like, for example, in sales enablement, you might probably craft a narrative, you might think that you know, this is the best thing that you could probably do. And while taking it to sales, there are a lot of objections that you might probably want to have, right? So they will not implement it, they will say like, you know, we are comfortable with the old narrative, right? Like, why are we changing this now? What are the reasons we are changing it now, even after training, they would still be very comfortable with all that change management, and getting that adoption for all the sales clutters that you’re creating, you might create such useful villagers. Everybody will be reacting fire on it, like whenever you put it on Slack, but still, like there is no usage, then you can’t metrics to the leadership team as well. So that is one of the challenges like under sales, anything. 

So like that there are multiple things under each of these spots. I think it’s part of our job to tackle all of these challenges. And I’m so used to, you know, sailing within these challenges that I don’t even look at this as a challenge anymore. It’s part and parcel of life. That’s why, you know, I kind of said something that’s totally relevant, right? 

Yeah. I mean, if you’re open to it, I can share some advice as to how I tackle that specific sales enablement challenge. And here’s what I tell my clients as well, right? So one thing that I do is I typically get a champion within the sales team and ideally should be like the top seller. So get his or her buying in, and pilot the program with them. If you’re trying to do a new sales Narrator piloted with that seller. And then maybe she or he would do that pitch and then show hey, by the way to the sales team, are in the annual or quarterly sales kick up, they’ll say, by the way, with this new narrative, I’m seeing so much more hype and growth and traction. This is really cool. You guys should take this on. 

Absolutely 

A salesperson be the champion on your behalf.

Absolutely. So this is something that we did as well. So we had a closed loop out at sales leadership that was ready to try it for at least two calls a week and we gave 1 month’s time. They got perspectives from all those fold-poor readers, curated all of them, got them on a call, and let them launch it. Right. So this is exactly what we did as well. I think having a champion is both valid, you know, proper deal scenario, that we should have a person inside that deal. And also, in this case, as well.

Yeah. Fantastic. I know we’re coming up against time over here, so, the last question to you is, if you were to turn back the clock and look back at your career journey so far, what advice would you give to your younger self on day one of your go-to-market journey? Um, this is more advice. Obviously, you can’t turn back the clock and change anything but then the advice that you would want the listeners to take away?

Absolutely. So I don’t think so. I could save my younger self from any of the battles that I’ve faced, but maybe I would just tell her to embrace herself and it’s completely normal to lose a battle because you know, there are multiple battles that you’d be facing on a day-to-day basis. As you know, we will be talking to Sailgp, about products like multiple batteries, multiple buy-ins and multiple decisions to be made. So you would have battles, you would have disagreements if you’re not pro. We have to sign off or anything, but you will only get stronger with time. Right? So Product Marketing just bruises on you. You don’t get it, but you will get it someday, right like on day one, it’s definitely not possible. But as you grow like PMM grows on you, and you will get stronger with time. That’s something that I would tell my younger self and people who are listening as well. Fantastic.

Thank you so much for your time and for sharing all those insights. Suranya. Good luck to you and your team.

Thanks so much, Vijay.

Continue reading “Decoding Product Marketing Success: Data Utilisation, Customer Narravites, Cross Selling, and Overcoming Challenges with Saranaya Ramamurthy”

Are you prepared for the changing landscape 2024 will bring? Is your business sustainable, agile, and profitable? Set your business’s foundations for success this year. I brought Luke Holman to the B2B Go To Market Leaders Podcast to learn how. 

Luke is a serial entrepreneur and current Chief Innovation Officer of Applied Frameworks. He shares his expertise on agile business methodologies, pricing and packaging strategies, and the 3 Pillars of Business Sustainability. Gain valuable insights into the art of client outreach, strategic pivots, and the influential role of a profit-first approach in crafting successful go-to-market approaches. Fasten your seatbelts as Luke guides you on making our business more profitable, lasting, and flexible.

Listen to the podcast here

Mastering Software Pricing: Innovation, Agile Business Tactics, and Profit-Driven Pricing with Luke Holman

The signature question: all my listeners love that I start the show, and we dive right into the meat of a topic, which is how do you view and define go-to-market?

Well, go-to-market is a set of comprehensive activities that help the organization take what they’ve created and bring it to their customers through any number of direct or indirect channels, any number of partner relationships, any number of sales team structures. Sometimes we have direct sales; sometimes we have indirect sales. We have sales reps; we have sales engineers. So, there’s a whole set of go-to-market activities that make sure that the organization is prepared to realize the benefit for themselves of what they’ve created for their customers.

Totally. I think you touched upon critical points, right? One is, obviously first and foremost, it starts with the customers whom you’re really targeting and who you’re solving for. That’s one, and then the intern aspect, you got the product team, you got the sales team, making sure that they’re aligned. Of course, you have a product, you have marketing, you have sales, and you have customer success, if it’s a software-as-a-service organization. So there are a lot of these teams that have to be aligned internally while bringing that product and taking it to a customer. 

That’s right. 

That’s a great start. So looking at your career journey and path, clearly, at least in the early phase of your career, you were very deep and very involved in the product development aspect of things. So we’ll dive into Agile practice. But just to expand and bring all our listeners up to speed? And can you share your career story like where you started? Why, what was your first job like what did you become and who you are today?

Well, I have had a long history in the technology field starting working for a very large company called Electronic Data Systems. And EDS had many, many data centers, and I was working in the technical area, literally crawling underneath the floor, cabling computers. I was working in network, networking, and then one thing led to another, and you get promoted; you become a developer. I picked up a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science and computer science and engineering from the University of Michigan. I went back to EDS, and I became a vice president of engineering at a subsidiary. 

But there’s this journey in my career of always wanting to learn how to do and create and build the best products for our customers. So that journey led me through user interface design, and usability, but I actually ended up centering on product management, which is really trying to understand the needs of the customers as best you can and then build solutions that meet those needs in a way that creates a profit for the company. 

In that journey, I became associated with the Agile software development movement, and at the very beginning helped form the first Agile conference way back in 2003, served on the board of the Agile Alliance, worked with the Scrum Alliance, have wrote several books, have started and sold companies have acquired companies. But in all of these areas, I’d say there was the foundation of Agile software development practices in Agile product management practices, all associated with creating a profitable solution.

 

Very cool. Definitely, we will get into the companies that you bought as well as the companies that you had a good exit. So, you did mention why you got fascinated and curious about agile and agile development and the Scrum process. So you did tie that back to how products get built and how they go to market and you’re really curious about the efficiencies and the gaps during the development process.

I wouldn’t equate at all Scrum with Agile. I would say that Agile is, according to the Agile Manifesto. Agile is a set of values and practices. There are many agile methods, Scrum being optimized for small organizations or a couple of teams in the Scaled Agile Framework, being by far the leading technique or method, optimized for large organizations or large numbers of teams. I have been more associated in my career and more aligned with large-scale development initiatives, with dozens of teams to hundreds of teams working on extremely large and complex systems. 

And of course, I am a SAFe fellow, which is the highest distinction you can have in the SAFe community. I was a former SAFe contributor in both agile product management and in Lean portfolio management. So I’m more associated with the challenges of, in terms of a consulting capacity, the challenges of large organizations creating profitable solutions for myself, right? I’m an entrepreneur, and so my organizations are smaller. So I think it’s important to consider which of the two perspectives I’m being asked about.

 One perspective is, how do you help large organizations with globally distributed teams work more efficiently? And also, for your own work? How have you created software companies? And then manage them? Because they’re slightly different forces? And sometimes radically different forces when you’re working with one or two teams versus say, 400 Teams? Right?

Scaling Agile with SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)

For sure. And I would like you to share that expertise. I mean, as you well articulated it, look, when you’re building your own companies, you’re obviously small and nimble we’ll be applying one methodology versus when you work with the likes of just not to say that they are the clients, but the likes of large organizations like Google or HP or Cisco, or Microsoft, right? I mean, they have huge dev teams spread across the metrology that they will use for product development and delivery.

That’s right. So let’s go back to where you want to be if all you ever want to be as small and stay small, then a method like Scrum is probably fine. For me, I’ve worked in companies, and even in my own company, every family, every company has to have a way of making a financial decision. That’s portfolio management, whether it’s you and your partner, your pair bond partner, your wife, or your husband. If you were to sit down and make a financial decision of significance, like buying a home, or buying a car, or taking a family vacation or having a child, you would do it together. Similarly, when you’re a small company, you still have a portfolio because you’re still making significant decisions. And when you’re a large company, you’re making significant decisions.

 So when people, when people equate significance with a dolllar amount, they devalue the kind of decision being made. So let’s say I’m Cisco, well, my decisions would be hundreds of millions of dollars. In terms of significance, right? That’s very different than the decision I would make at a small company. But both small and large companies have significant decisions to make about how they invest their money, how they spend their money, and where they put their attention.

No, totally. I think you hit it correctly. The significance does not or does not correlate or equal to the size of the business. But the significance matters, right? For example, my own journey – when I work at startups or for my own consulting company, as we sit today this week, I was figuring out where I should invest my time, energy, and money. Should I pursue a different go-to-market strategy? Should I invest in building a new content portfolio that will be relevant for demand gen and demand creation? Or should I work with a co-founder friend of mine where we know for a fact that I’m blacking out the AI compliance space? A lot is happening in that space. Is that the right investment area? 

Yeah. Absolutely. 

And then the scale of the decision-making and the factors will go many for like 5-10X when you talk about companies like Cisco and Microsoft, right? So, you are the founder and CEO of Conteneo. Was it a consulting practice or a software product company or both? What is that journey like?

Well, most companies are a mix of both. Most companies have some kind of a service component. It’s just the degree. I mean, some absolutely pure software companies don’t. But most companies, as they grow and evolve, have a services component. Conteneo was based on my book “Innovation Games.” What Conteneo provided were software platforms for doing games online and consulting services that would help organizations design and produce both in-person and online innovation games events. So, in the Agile community, there are many well-known games like Sailboat or Speedboat, product box by a feature. All of these games have an in-person expression, and many of them have an online expression. So Conteneo was a bootstrapped company in the B2B software space where we provided to our customers a platform for doing innovation games with distributed teams and in an online setting. We bootstrapped it. So we didn’t have outside VC funding, which is a little rare in Silicon Valley. And then we ended up selling Conteneo to Scaled Agile a few years ago. And that was a great outcome for all stakeholders.

Innovation Games by Luke Hohmann 

And again, as this is a go-to-market podcast, it’d be good if you can, at least at a high level, talk about your go-to-market journey, but continue, like early days to how you scale it and the exit?

Well, there are many aspects. I think the question is, to what degree does a given company consider its marketing strategy a go-to-market strategy? I consider that many times the marketing strategy is intimately related to the go-to-market strategy. So we followed a pattern that’s somewhat successful in business where we wrote a book, we built training. The book creates awareness and interest in the training. The training teaches people how to use the techniques, and it creates demand for consulting services and online platforms. Once we had the online platforms, we were able to serve the demand that we had created. In terms of a go-to-market strategy, that’s where I think you start to see the distinctions between how you intend to go to market and then the feedback from going to market. 

Let me explain one of the pivots that we made at Conteneo. We’ve been talking about innovation games, which is a discrete event of usually between four and eight people; they can come together and work together on a business problem. Well, we thought the right way to price that was per game, because you can think about the unit of value being a game, right? What happened was that it created a variable spend, and our customers didn’t like variable spend, especially when so much of what we do in business now is a monthly fee. You have a fixed monthly fee, but you have variable usage; sometimes you’re using the platform more, and sometimes you’re using the platform less. So we found that in our go-to-market strategy, we were charging the right amount of money, but we weren’t charging the right way for the money. That’s the kind of go-to-market change that people need to be aware of. We call that a value exchange model. In our new book, “Software Profit Streams: A Guide to Designing Sustainably Profitable Businesses,” we talked about, as part of your go-to-market strategy, you have to get your pricing, packaging, and licensing down, and there are choices that you need to make as a product manager, as a product team. How do I trade money for value? The value exchange model needs to be aligned with how the customers both perceive value and how they want to pay for value. Those were some of the changes that we made in our own go-to-market strategy and our own go-to-market journey.

Software Profit Streams by Jason Tanner & Luke Hohmann 

The brilliance that stands out in your go-to-market journey is you touched upon a very key aspect. I’ve studied go-to-market leaders, understanding what sets them apart. Think of the NBA League, with 30 teams. However, something magical happens when you peek under the hood of the operations of the top two or three basketball teams consistently making it to the playoffs and winning titles. It comes down to two or three things.

So, concerning go-to-market teams, it boils down to content, community, and experiences/events. Three crucial elements. One aspect you’ve nailed very well is content, exemplified by the book in your case. The innovation games in your earlier company, and now focusing on software pricing. What led you to that thought process? First, creating and writing a book. Then, deriving training material, followed by consulting and software development. What influenced you to embark on this path?

That’s a no. No one’s ever asked me that before. So, that’s a really interesting question. I learned the power of writing a book when I first moved to Silicon Valley. My first company in Silicon Valley was a company called Origin Systems. Origin Systems was an absolute breakthrough company. It was wildly innovative. What we did was take all of the world’s patent data and put it into a data warehouse for analytics. In terms of the utility of a patent, how does a patent get monetized? What is the patent related to? What are the opportunities for innovation? It was based on the work of a couple of gentlemen, most notably a gentleman named Kevin Rivette. I remember when I joined the company, the head of marketing was a guy named David Polio. That’s where I learned this pattern. David, in one of our leadership meetings, said, ‘Hey, when you’re creating an entirely new industry, an entirely new thing, you have to get the content first. The way you get the content first is you write a book.’ So Kevin Rivette wrote a book called ‘Rembrandt’s in the Attic,’ which was considered a breakthrough and groundbreaking book associated with intellectual property licensing. That book, in combination with our software platform, really drove that company to a successful outcome. I credit David Pulizia with showing the power of content and then building out the community and the software platform. At Origin, we didn’t have a lot of events, but we had a great software platform. I think, Vijay, the notion of the content is partially correlated to the degree of innovation or the degree of novelty about what you’re offering. 

When I wrote ‘Innovation Games,’ it was the first book in the genre of using serious games, serious game techniques, and collaborative games to solve problems. Since then, we’ve had other books like ‘Game Storming’ or ‘Reality is Broken’ from Jane McGonigal. But when you’re the first one, you really need to create that content to cement the industry and the breakthrough. That’s why we did that with ‘Software Profit Streams,’ the new book. There are books about pricing, but the problem with books about pricing is that they’re pricing pens and menu items in restaurants and wine. 

You know, consumer products pricing. 

Even in the business world, pricing gets wrapped up into things like supply chains and Bill of Materials, which are all important. But software is so different that we decided the prior work was no longer sufficient to meet the needs of what’s happening in the world. Andreessen is right; software is eating the world. We need a means by which we can look at pricing, packaging, and licensing for software-enabled solutions because those are unique in the world. We needed something new to really capture that.

Well said, and clearly, you learned your lessons, and you got the playbook. Going back to what you mentioned about Origin Systems, you really learned that system from your head of marketing back then. And you apply that in your own consulting career.

He’s brilliant. And, I think it’s a consistent pattern. We’re not the only firm that applies that pattern. But there’s enough proven success around that pattern that we should look at that.

Absolutely. So, did you take the time to write the book first, launch it, and then start the consulting practice and the training, or what is…

The book was mostly informed by years of consulting experience. We were able to mine the experience of ourselves and our customers, really looking at all the different work we had done over a near 20-year history. Applied Frameworks has been around for more than 20 years, so we had a very rich and deep history to draw from as we were writing the book. Now that the book has been written, we’re working on the software platform called Horizon and have it in the market. Now we’re just following good agile practices, continuing to improve the Horizon platform for solution profitability management.

Fantastic. So one of the questions I typically ask my guests, and I do that more in the latter part of the show, but clearly, when it comes to you. So one of the questions I ask is, what is our special secret sauce? And what should people come to you for advice? Clearly, in your case, it sounds like you’ve mastered the game around go-to-market, in terms of content, sequencing, and applying Agile and Scrum practices. That’s how I see it.

I think I would add that I would be cautious, again, about, for example, we’re not a sales training company. The art of go-to-market is treating your sales team. Our expertise is in pricing, packaging, and licensing. For example, too many organizations try to get to a good, better, best pricing model when sometimes good, better, best pricing isn’t needed. Other problems we see are companies, especially large companies, will create a solution. Then they deliver more value using Agile techniques, but they don’t raise the price, or they don’t have a strategy of how their solution architecture captures value. We see applications just get bigger and bigger. Sometimes the better approach is to keep the main application tight and focused. Then add modules or add-ons that an organization can acquire to enhance their offering. It’s really that strategy that you’re looking for that will help you determine your actual price point and how to make the most amount of money at it.

I’m looking at your book, the Software Profit Streams book. And as with any top-tier books, you would also provide a canvas. Can you walk us through the canvas for the profit stream? Absolutely.

So canvases are powerful tools; we have the business model canvas and the profit-sharing canvas. What a canvas does is it allows us to quickly and effectively capture the main elements of a causal system. I’m an engineer, you’re an engineer; we have an engineering background and think in terms of systems. When I deal with pricing, I have to manage three really related items. First, I have to manage my solution sustainability. What are the needs of my customer? What does my solution provide to my customer? How are they evolving over time? Because customers are not static, and problems in the world aren’t static. I have to have an ongoing evolution, a roadmap, etc. The second kind of sustainability is economic sustainability. Does my customer feel they’re getting good value, which is more value than what they paid? Am I creating a sustainable business? Am I making a profit? Is my revenue greater than my costs? The third element of sustainability is what we call relationship sustainability. There are really three relationships that matter for a software-enabled solution or a company. The first is my suppliers. Everyone is licensed in various technology components. How am I managing my in-licenses and my relationship with my suppliers? The second is my relationship with my customers. Software isn’t sold; software is licensed. There’s a license agreement, terms of service for a website, or a complex agreement for traditional software that defines my use of that software. What are the terms, conditions, and entitlements? How am I managing my relationship with my customers? The third component is compliance, which concerns how am I managing my relationship with regulatory agencies, and with standards? Let’s say that you and I wanted to build a website together, and we wanted to make it accessible to people with disabilities. Well, now I have to honor the WC3 web accessibility standards. It’s not a law, but it’s a choice that I’ve made. When we look at compliance, we’re thinking about laws and regulations ranging from, say, GDPR or the Australian Privacy Rights Act or in California, the CCPA, to standards and agreements. How I manage my relationships determines my relationship sustainability. If I routinely create poor relationships, it’s going to be hard for my business to continue to grow and be successful.

I think that’s a good canvas. I’m definitely going to refer to that, and I’ll highly encourage other listeners to go check out the book ‘Software Profit Streams‘ in terms of pricing and packaging. Perfect. Wonderful. Quick note, this is the end of part one. So if you can just click on the link and join the second one. To my production team, that’s the end of part one. I’ll see you on the other side. Great. So yes, I think you’ve shared a great framework there when it comes to pricing and packaging. Switching gears a bit over here. Obviously, as you and I know, go-to-market, there are so many flavors. You will see successes, you will see failures. It’s not always up and to the right. So if you can share either from your own personal experience or working with the various clients that you have, a go-to-market success story and a go-to-market failure story. That’d be great.

Sure, well, for a go-to-market success story, one of my clients is CVS Health. They had an extraordinary go-to-market success story with the introduction of their app for scheduling COVID-19 vaccines. It was created in a time of crisis, so people were stressed. It was rolled out in record time for a large company—a very complex app when you think about scheduling for a vaccine with 1000s of stores across the United States, geolocation, capacity planning, store hours, and a tremendous amount of logistics and data. From a go-to-market standpoint, they were able to create and deliver that app. In this case, pricing and packaging were not relevant because it was free. But in terms of a go-to-market success story, that would be one of them. Another one related to our work in pricing and packaging is a company called Knowify. Knowify creates construction management and billing software. When we started working with them, they hadn’t adjusted their pricing and packaging for a couple of years. They had been successful, but we got involved because they just got a post-seed funding round from a venture capital firm, Companion Ventures. Applied Frameworks works with venture capital firms and private equity firms to improve the pricing and packaging aspects of their portfolio companies. One thing we worked on with Knowify was changing their packaging. Before our work, about 20% of their customers signed up for the annual plan. After adjustments, we got that number up to 60%, improving cash flow and making it easier for their sales team to guide customers through changes. It was an amazing change for their go-to-market process and approach from a pricing change.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cvs_health_logodownload-e1705519283117.pngFantastic, a great story, and great success stories for both. So, I’ll click on each of them. CVS, you mentioned obviously it happened in the time of crisis, the COVID pandemic scenario. So what prompted CVS to reach out to you? I’m assuming they reached out to you, and who from CVS did that? And why?

Sure. So we had a prior relationship, as in so many arenas, with their head of Agile. They reached out to us as part of our normal relationship, doing agile work and scaling agile. In the case of Knowify, the outreach was initially from the venture capital firm that made the investment. Companion Ventures made the investment and then told Knowify, ‘Hey, you should work with Applied Frameworks to improve your pricing and packaging.’ Usually, in this kind of world, you’re going to see word-of-mouth referrals, etc., which is still a significant part of the business.

I think that is a smart move, obviously, on your side to work with influencers. In the first case, it was the head of HR at CVS, a good relationship over the years. In the second case, it was the venture capital that influenced it for sure.

Now, of course, as our software package becomes more prominent, we’re doing more traditional go-to-market strategies, like webinars and podcasts. Also, advertising, blogs, and normal content optimization, content generation. Those are all parts of the go-to-market mix. It’s important for people to remember that when you’re smaller, your go-to-market strategy might be more intimate. When you’re larger, your go-to-market strategy might be more volume-based with less intimacy. Either is probably right; it’s just different. Go-to-market strategies and teams need different techniques and results.

Going back to the case study and success story of Knowify, you mentioned a great result where annual subscriptions increased from 20% to 60%. So what is the process like? Going back to our first question and our discussion, it’s about go-to-market. What is the go-to-market process? I would assume that you guys had to dig into and look at all the CRM records, the pricing, and so on, and the number of customers who did that, and then why people are not switching.

In the case of Knowify, we didn’t spend a lot of time, so I would say that you’re correct. In a normal case, you would be looking at your CRM data, looking at conversions, etc. In the case of Knowify, we were able to determine improvements through what we call a customer benefit analysis. We deconstructed their features into discrete benefits, reverse-engineered market segments, and repackaged the offering to better align with the needs of specific customers. So in the normal case, we would be looking at CRM data, win-loss data, and discount data, but in the case of Knowify, we had a strong signal through customer benefit analysis that we could change the packaging to better align with customer needs.

Fantastic. It’s great timing that you shared the story. I’m working with a client where we’re doing a positioning exercise. The positioning involves identifying target account characteristics, distinct capabilities, and features, and value themes. You got the account segments or characteristics, and features, and then you map them to hone in on the best fit, the 20% or 30% of customer segments that translate to 70-80% of the value stream for you.

We call that a solution benefit map. Once I know the benefits my customers are seeking, I can look at my features and the relationship between features, benefits, and the targeted segment. It’s a rigorous process but doesn’t take as long as it might sound. It can be done quickly when working with existing customers or companies with existing data

And then going to my earlier question, which is, yes, you’ve got go-to-market success stories. But I’m sure we all have go-to-market failure stories. Anything that comes to your mind from a go-to-market failure story?

Although, I think the question becomes if I have a go-to-market failure story, to what degree of failure am I talking about? The ultimate failure is when the company itself fails. So you could argue that it’s not a go-to-market failure; it’s just that it wasn’t a viable company. It’s harder to find go-to-market failures because if the solution is successful or if the company is successful, what that meant was they had a go-to-market experiment, and the explored experiment didn’t work. So they tried something else that did work. If we had persisted in trying to force the market to accept transactional pricing, the company would have failed. But we adapted, took the feedback, and adjusted how we worked. That’s pretty profound because go-to-market is like product-market fit. Sometimes people think, ‘Oh, I have product-market fit, and I’m done.’ But product-market fit is like getting on a highway; it’s the on-ramp. Once you’re on the highway, you have to constantly monitor and adjust your driving. You’re always doing micro-adjustments, and the faster you’re going, the more subtle and frequent the adjustment. Product-market fit and the initial go-to-market strategy get you on the highway, but after that, it’s a very strong repeat process of how am I doing, and how am I adjusting.

I think that’s a very good analogy. In my mind, as you’re speaking to that, it clearly shows that product-market fit is not once and done; beyond product-market fit, it’s scaling, tweaking, and iterating. Going back to your analogy, driving on the freeway, I have to constantly adjust to oncoming traffic, traffic ahead, change lanes, slow down, pivot—all these things apply to the go-to-market world. It reminds me of the conversation I had with Geoffrey Moore, who said exactly along the lines of what you mentioned—that there are not really failures; you either have success or learnings, and there are learnings even if the business fails.

Right, and even if the business fails, there’s learning associated with it. But it’s not clear that it’s a go-to-market failure. It could be just a failure as a business because it’s the right idea, but it’s too early for the market. We’ve seen that in the technology field where ideas get recycled. An example is the original idea for Uber and Lyft, patented about a decade before Uber got started. But the technology just didn’t exist at that time. As technology evolves, things that failed in the past become viable in the future.

Well said. I think that’s a great perspective. Going back to your favorite topics and how you built your businesses around Agile and pricing and packaging, and, of course, my favorite topic, product marketing. Typically, as seen and you can attest to this, it’s a combination of product management and product marketing that has to tackle these two areas. What have you seen, the challenges, as well as things that have really worked when it comes to product management and product marketing in these areas around Agile, thinking about prioritization delivery, and pricing and packaging?

Well, I think, Vijay, that the Agile community is a little better at working on the product marketing side because we do have this idea in Agile that I’m creating a constant flow of value to my customers. This is part of the Agile Manifesto. It’s the set of metrics that we track in SAFe is what we call the flow metrics. We look at things like how frequently are you getting value from your customers. And what’s your batch size? Are you taking on features that are about the right size, so you can continue to deliver value to your customers? The reason we wrote the book is that we’re getting agile organizations who are delivering a flow of value, but they’re not producing a flow of profit. Let’s think about this from the executive standpoint. Let’s pick any size company. Executives aren’t compensated for value. That doesn’t mean anything, especially in a public company. You’re not compensated for value; you’re compensated for creating a profit. And so what we’re seeing is a bit of a backlash in the Agile community, to be honest. And what I mean by a bit of a backlash is that you’re seeing, for example, Capital One firing hundreds of agile coaches and Scrum Masters. You’re seeing different companies say, “Look, we’ve been putting millions of dollars into agile in training, etc. And we need profit, especially with our macro economy. With high inflation, high inflation rates, high cost of capital, people need profit.” So what we’re saying is, let’s evolve. Let’s own proof. Let’s actually move from creating value to creating profit. Now, let me not talk abstractly, let me ask you some really basic questions. If I go to a company that’s doing Agile, I’ll ask them a simple question. They’ll say, “I don’t worry about your Agile process. Like, I don’t care if you’re using Scrum or less or SAFe, whatever, right? Last year, have you consistently delivered value to your customers?” And if they’re an agile organization, the answer is almost always yes, we are consistently delivering. And then I say, when was the last time you explicitly raised your pricing or you explicitly changed your packaging to make sure that the value you’re delivering is resulting in more revenue for your company? And it’s not as easy as answers. Many times, the response is, “Wow, we haven’t raised our pricing in eight months, 12 months, 24 months?” And I’m like, “Okay, you haven’t raised pricing in two years? Have you paid more people in salary and people?” Then I get the response, “Well, you don’t understand. Look, we’re growing as a company. And so we’re fine.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but you’re not. No one can grow indefinitely, right? There’s always some limit to the size of the market. And you want to condition your customers that when you’re creating more value for them, you’re gonna get more value back.

So two things come to my mind when you say that. One, it took me back in time to my MBA days, when my marketing professor said one thing, which really stuck in my mind, even to this day, I’m talking like 15 years plus, it’s still very top of mind, which is pricing is the single biggest lever when it comes to revenue and profits. It absolutely isn’t. Right?

You know, pricing, typically, well, there’s two elements to this, Vijay. One is pricing improvements always, almost exclusively fall directly to the bottom line. It’s very, very frictionless. I mean, if I build a new feature for my application, and it’s really significant, well, now I have to do a press release. And I have to update my documentation, I have to update my sales team, I have to educate them on how to talk to the customers, which is great. That’s an expense. But if I simply were to raise my price, I might have some small costs associated with communicating a price increase to existing customers. But that’s a really powerful lever because it’s a low-cost lever. The second is that McKinsey has data that shows that roughly a 1% increase in price creates a five to 8% increase in actual profit and unit margins. So it’s really curious to me that organizations are not investing much more in their pricing and packaging. It’s kind of just curious to me.

And then when you’re making your other case, again, well put in terms of like, how are you measuring value and if you’re delivering the right value? So in my mind, the second point that came to me was pricing is a good test to see if you’re delivering the right value or not. Increase the price and customers are still sticking, not complaining a whole lot, and not churning. That means you’re, first of all, leaving less money on the table. And the second is customers still see a lot of value in what you’re delivering. Right? Right? Yes, for sure. All right, I know we are coming up against the R, L here, we can go on and on in all these topics.

The last two questions for you are, what resources or communities are people you lean on to stay up to date? In terms of go-to-market practices? Agile, you said Agile community. I can imagine that pricing or even understanding your target customers’ problems, like, how do you stay involved?

You know, it’s funny. I’m not as familiar with any specific communities associated only or exclusively with go-to-market. I tend to think of go-to-market as part of what product management and product marketing do. So I tend to associate with both agile and less agile aspects of product management and product marketing like the Product Development and Management Association is a very classic organization about product management. You see also in the SAFe, the Scaled Agile community, we have a lot of agile product managers from the Agile product management course. And so those are some communities that I stay involved with. And then, of course, there’s LinkedIn, there’s a couple of groups on LinkedIn that are useful. I personally don’t use Facebook. So I am sure there are communities on Facebook. I just don’t participate in those communities. Yep.

And then the final question here is if you were to turn back the clock, what advice would you give to your younger self, granted, you will be happy, and you’ll be satisfied with where you are and how things shape, but if you were to give advice to someone who’s younger in their career.

Well, yeah, it’s funny. We had a dinner party one time, not too long. A couple of months ago, and one of my friends was over, Danny, and he was just eating dinner with us. Like, he said, “What’s the one thing you would change in your life?” And everyone around the table had something they would change, and I had nothing I would change because my life I’ve lived as how I’ve gotten to here. I wouldn’t change anything, the good or the bad. However, there are useful things that, because I do consult with and coach and mentor some young entrepreneurs, right? And so I enjoy that because I was given advice from people, and I think we should pay it forward. So some of the consistent pieces of advice that I like to give to younger people include the idea that you can constantly be learning, and you can constantly be reading and listening to podcasts. Podcasts are marvelous like this because they really do expand our ability to listen, and when you’re driving in your car, why would you waste your time listening to something that doesn’t give you nutritional value? I’d rather you listen to your podcast, right? So I think it’s always about being hungry, staying humble, learning, and growing as generic advice. And now and then very specific advice. It’s staying tuned to the profound technological changes that continue to shape our society and our world. A few years ago, the most profound change was the introduction of the blockchain. Now, Bitcoin and all of the cryptocurrencies aside, blockchain is an important technology, and understanding what that technology is about and its potential uses is important. Another obvious thing that’s going on right now is AI and large language models. And that’s just I think the generic advice to younger people is we all live in very exciting times. And we get stale when we don’t stay current, so do your best to stay current.