B2B 48 | Proof Analytics

B2B 48 | Proof Analytics


Proof isn’t just about data – it’s about unlocking the potential within every decision. Harness the power of data-driven navigation and make your go-to-market journey a triumph of strategy and success. In this illuminating discussion, we sit down with Mark Stouse, the visionary founder of Proof Analytics, a groundbreaking analytics solution that’s revolutionizing the way businesses approach marketing performance. Mark shares the trials and triumphs of building Proof, detailing the meticulous process of finding the right market fit and fine-tuning its offerings. He also highlights the power of iteration and feedback loops to the success of the product’s direction. From identifying the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), embracing the feedback wave, and predicting the future of analytics, Mark reveals plenty of wisdom and strategies in the episode. Tune in now to explore the wonders of Proof and understand how to navigate success!

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Proof Analytics: The GPS For Data-Driven Go-To-Market Excellence With Mark Stouse

Thank you for taking the time to tune into yet another and the newest episode of the show. I have the pleasure of hosting Mark Stouse who is the CEO of ProofAnalytics.ai. I’m excited and I look forward to the conversation. Welcome, Mark, to the show.

I’m glad to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Let’s get right into the meat of the conversation. How do you view and define go-to-market?

I had that question in a customer demo call. It’s a highly situational thing but a definition that works for almost every situation is this. Any part of your business that is customer-facing that has a provable substantiated role in whether or not someone does business with you and continues to do business with you is go-to-market. For example, we have a couple of customers like this that include customer experience with accounts receivable, contracting, and things like that.

In go-to-market, that’s a pretty rational decision because both of those areas can piss off somebody. It has nothing to do with product sales and marketing. The only way you find out about it is if someone says something to a customer success person but that presumes that you have a customer success team that’s engaged and has relationships with your customers. That’s the way I would answer that. I don’t think it’s the classic or the big four in sales, marketing, customer success, and products but I do think that we don’t get to define it. Our customers define it. It’s like a brand in that sense.

You are probably one of the fewest or the first guests on this show who has expanded the scope of go-to-market beyond the big four within a company. Something that caught my attention is when you mentioned a team or a function like accounts receivable that can have an impact on go-to-market. Do you know of any stories where a customer stopped buying a product or a service because of a bad account receivable experience?

I can share one firsthand inverted. Some years ago, we had a very large multinational that treated us as though we were a bank for them. They were paying our invoices somewhere between net 120 and net 150 no matter what the conversations were. They had an outsourced relationship with their accounts payable team. It was outsourced. In their contract with our mutual customer, they were incented in various ways to hold onto cash. They went way beyond, and because we couldn’t get any satisfactory resolution, we fired our customer. We said, “Under these circumstances, we can’t do business with you. We’re not going to renew the software contract.”

I like how we got started on this conversation and the definition of go-to-market. Let’s expand and then shift gears here. Why don’t you tell our audiences about your career story and your journey without spending too much time? You had an expansive career. What led you to what you’re doing now and who you serve?

The most important thing that I could say about myself or the most relevant thing is I have been an operational executive for a long time for big companies where I was either in the C-Suite or one down or reported to someone in the C-Suite. As a marketer, I was like everybody else. I was always under the gun for proof of impact, ROI, and all this stuff. Years ago, at HP working for Mark Hurd, it got intense both for me and my peers because Mark was not going to have it.

I had to make a choice between whether I was going to remain at HP maybe even as a marketer or do something to fix it. I had a conversation with him and the CFO of HP at that time. I came away with some very clear expectations and then started getting reacquainted with a lot of the principles that we all study in high school and university math. Regression is a big one.

I started on that journey. By the time 2008 to 2010 rolled around, my teams more importantly than me had gotten to a place of strong maturity on this journey. Ultimately, I was recruited into Honeywell Aerospace pretty much on the basis of that work being able to tie the non-linear marketing multiplier into impact on linear sales productivity, net of time lag, and net of multi-variable type of stuff. Honeywell was the ultimate large-scale POC but the problem was because we were very successful in terms of the mission.

People always say, “How do you define success?” Does the business believe you? Does the board believe you? Do they make business decisions based on your analytics? That’s success. Transforming a functional marketing conversation into a business strategy conversation is what it’s all about. By that measure, we’re very successful but it was still a brute-force solution. We were having to spend $8 million or $9 million a year hiring loads of data scientists because the key part was we had to get the latency on the calculation down so that it was relevant. This whole deal of recalculating big models twice a year or once a year is ridiculous. There are not a lot of companies that are willing to spend that kind of money. It was obvious that automation was going to be a big next step.

A bunch of things came together for me personally, and I stepped out of Honeywell and did an interim privatization role at BMC where the analytics was super important not only to the company but to the PE firms that we were taking as private. Based on all that, I then formed Proof, and we started building the platform. It’s part of a rapidly expanding category that includes companies like Google and Meta. There are a lot of different variations on a common theme here.

COVID and the ramifications of COVID poured a lot of gasoline on it. The deterioration of the macro environment poured a lot of gas on it. Nothing makes people want to look further down the road and around corners like bad situations. Real forecasting, marketing, impact on sales, sales velocity, recruiting and retention, or whatever is important to the business has spiked.

Nothing makes people want to look further down the road and around corners like bad situations. Click To Tweet

One of the huge ironies seen in the analytics is that if you wanted to depict a common corporate function marketing, that should not ever be in doubt about its ROI. Marketing is it because the same dollars drive so much value in so many different directions and aspects of the business that you cannot lose. At any given time, 20% of your marketing spend is some speculative thing that you’re testing. A lot of times, it doesn’t work. You lose that money but if everything else is performing so well typically in so many different areas of the business, you can’t lose.

That’s pretty impressive, especially the anecdote that you shared where the great late Mark Hurd pushed you on talking about the numbers and whether it’s working or not in whatever you’re doing in the marketing or corporate communication space. That’s a great eye-opener. If I were in your shoes, my first reaction would be, “Am I screwing it up big time?” We get over it and then let’s figure out how to make this happen.

It also shows you how much has changed in the workplace. Mark was a very intense physical person, and he did not acknowledge the idea of personal space. When you say, “Pushed,” he didn’t put his hand on me and pushed me but he got so close to my face that I had no option but to step back and then hit the wall behind me. I was trapped. He did not care how I felt about that. That would not fly in a lot of companies, even at HP. No one thought anything about it.

That’s connecting the dots on your career journey. What led you to what you’re doing with Proof Analytics? I’m looking at your website. You have big names pretty much throughout. You’ve got Dell. You mentioned AWS, Google, and Salesforce. What is a common driving factor as to why they’re buying your product?

That has changed in 2022. As probably most marketers have already experienced to their chagrin and pain, finance is in charge. There are large budget cuts and large people cuts, even the money that’s left behind as a budget. There are a lot of finance oversights and approvals on spend. There’s a lot of lost autonomy over people’s money. The third leg of this is that cheap money is gone. The money that they do have to spend is prized even more than it ever was because it’s so hard to replace. The opportunity cost of the money is more significant.

It’s happening now and it is accelerating rapidly. FP&A or Financial Planning and Analytics teams are taking over accountability and optimization for go-to-market and a lot of other functions that have nothing to do with go-to-market. The general feeling is that marketing in particular has had lots of time to get a handle on this. For a variety of reasons like lack of capability, lack of capacity, lack of desire, and some combination of the three, they’re not doing it. We have seen that.

Historically, with Proof, we cater to true believers who know that it’s real and want to go on that journey or hyper-mature companies and marketing teams that have been doing this for a long time the old-fashioned way and want a better, faster, and cheaper alternative to doing it. More and more what we’re seeing is the pipe is dominated by finance.

The deals and the increasing number of economic buyers are finance. Even if the name on the contract is the CMO, it’s dictated by finance. It is run by finance. The proof is increasingly run as a piece of software by finance teams in collaboration with marketing, sales, and other stuff but it’s not peer-to-peer or equal-to-equal. It’s first among equals. That’s a big change. I don’t think that’s going to stop anytime soon. For example, I’m not trying to say that it’s all one reason but money would have to get a lot cheaper and a lot more accessible for that to be relaxed.

That’s going to be some time. What we experienced cheap money at 2% or even less for the last almost decade is going to be some time away. There’s going to be a driving need for you.

An optimistic projection on that is 5 to 10 years. Depending on stuff that no one can forecast, it could easily be 10 to 20.

We’re switching gears here. I was not planning to ask this but based on your story and your background, I wanted to dig a little bit into what led you to build a founding team and the early days of Proof. Can you share about the early days of Proof? How do you test the concept and your co-founder, if you have co-founders or not? How do you do that?

This is not something that you can do by yourself. Number one, we were very averse to hard-won experiences earlier in our careers and VC money. We went after a limited amount of family office money plus bootstrapping. That fundamental parameter dictated some other things that go to your question. We needed people who were experienced, who preferably had already made a lot of money in their careers one way or another, and who at least in the early days did not require any cash compensation for full-time effort.

This was before it all became fashionable and then controversial. We were remote from day one. We prioritized talent, meaning the people, over the location. That was pivotal in retrospect to being able to do this. Particularly when you consider the fact that, unlike a lot of SaaS where you can get away with a true MVP and then scale it, in analytics, you’re either complete or you’re incomplete. If you’re incomplete, no one cares.

We had to build a back end. In a sense, our MVP was our back end, which had complete analytical capability because there weren’t a whole lot of surprises there. It is what it is. The wildcard was the UX and not the UI although that was super critical too. We raised money off the back-end capability or the technical capability and then started to do focus groups and a lot of other things to figure out what the UI and the UX needed to be.

Interestingly enough, it was supported by a lot of other things but the in-the-moment big epiphany was with a large retail customer. They were using daily data in the models and on some models, hourly data. The automatic recalculation of the models was now so fast. The latency was so low that you could see it operating. What jumped off the page or the screen was a GPS. It was working exactly like the GPS on your phone.

That took us into a certain perspective, and now I’m even more convinced of it years later. Almost every question you have in business, and you could even say it about life, is a navigation question. It’s a GPS question, “How am I doing against what I think is my goal? What are the things that are screwing me up or speeding me up? If something changes, what do I do? Do I turn right or left?”

B2B 48 | Proof Analytics
Proof Analytics: Almost every question you have in business, you could even say it about life, is a navigation question: How am I doing? What is my goal? What are the things that are screwing me up or speeding me up? If something really changes, what should I do? Do I turn right or left?


In the movie Lincoln, there’s a great scene where one of his political opponents is saying that the moral compass regarding slavery had ossified in White American men and women. It’s a very powerful and undeniably true statement. Lincoln said, “I agree but as a former surveyor, I can tell you that as important as it is to know True North. The compass tells you nothing about all the swamps, barriers, and mountain ranges in your path.” If all you’ve got is True North, what’s the value of knowing True North? You have to know the rest of it too.

In many ways, that is Proof. That’s what a GPS does for you. It’s tracking your progress along a particular forecasted route. It’s also tracking all these other factors that you can’t see. You may know that they’re important but you can’t see them until it’s too late. It’s saying, “There are lots of traffic ahead. This was a good way to go. Now it’s not a good way to go so let’s reroute you over here.” That’s exactly what Proof does. It lets you know the most important factors.

Going back to that retail customer, it sounded like that was your first pilot and proof that there are legs to what you are working on.

It wasn’t our first pilot in the overall sense but it was the one that gave us the epiphany on how to think about the UI because one of the problems is that business and marketing people specifically seem to have an allergy to math in general and graphs in particular. If all you’re doing is giving them a beautiful visualization of data science output, you’re not going to get what you want. It’s not going to help them. It needs to help them. We had to interpret the analytics through the lens of a GPS, and that made a huge difference. That’s where UI and UX fused and became one and the same.

B2B 48 | Proof Analytics
Proof Analytics: One of the problems is that business people in general and marketing people specifically seem to have an allergy to math in general and graphs in particular.


Did you have a strong UI-UX person in your co-founding team? Did you have to bring in someone from outside?

We had some pretty strong players but everybody agreed that we wanted somebody so good that we could not afford to hire them as an employee or even as a permanent contractor. We could just hire them on a project basis. That’s what we did. It was fantastic. It was great. It’s hard to say personally whether I’ve learned more about go-to-market than I ever knew before as a result of running Proof, or I learned more about business decisions as a result of running Proof.

Especially in the early days, you need to figure out your own go-to-market. It’s almost like Meta. If you are serving go-to-market teams, you need to figure out your go-to-market while you’re helping them figure out their go-to-market better.

Fortunately, if you’re sitting in our position, you can learn a lot of lessons from your customers. In our particular case, we can’t see their analytics or their data unless they click a magic button to give us that ability. Most of the time, they don’t, and that’s fine but invariably, we get into conversations where even if they don’t give us permanent access, they give us a few days of access because they need our opinion on something. You learn a ton. It’s like being in a giant focus group.

Proof was founded in 2015 and here we are in 2023. What financial details can you share in terms of number of customers, employees, and revenue ballpark?

We were not in the market that long. We have only been in the market for a few years because all the rest of it was development. You only know this in retrospect but the marketplace wasn’t ready for it yet. The timing wasn’t right, looking back on it. That worked in our favor because it gave us the time to build. No one else was being encouraged by demand signals from the marketplace to build something competitive for us at the time.

When we entered the market, we had a pretty significant advantage. That category has now been validated by Meta, Google, and Apple. There are a lot of offerings in the space now. They’re beautiful products but they tend to be far more technical or data sciencey. Ours is a bridge between those two. We will probably finish this fiscal year in excess of $3 million ARR. All the normal caveats apply to that. That is probably 30 or 40 customers but that’s the other wild card on this thing.

What we have seen in 2022 is significantly different than any other year before. Doing a year-over-year comparison without a lot of explanatory information is not even possible. Our pipe is probably in the vicinity of $15 million to $20 million. We have two different products. We have the analytics product and we also have the only MRM tool that’s native to Salesforce.

That’s very popular but they have two completely different sales motions, ACVs, and all that stuff. We run them effectively as two licensed trading companies, which some might call subsidiaries. In this case, it’s not but it’s the same idea. You have to take that all. Lord-willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say in Texas, and from my lips to God’s ears, we could be substantially higher.

Thank you for sharing the founding story. That’s something intriguing and interesting to a lot of the audiences. The idea of founding a company is as exciting as it may sound and be but building a company is a whole different ballgame. That’s why I was pushing you and trying to extract those points around that.

I’ll add one more thing that is so important. Defining your ICP correctly is huge. Its impact is huge. One of the reasons why we have grown more slowly than some people might have expected is that we defined our ICP so tightly. We did not want to have a lot of churn. We were aiming for no churn. We were very picky for the past few years about who became a customer. Everything is cause and effect-related. You make that choice. You are probably going to grow more slowly at least for a period but that has been great for us because the learnings are not achieved without customer input. We were able to do it in a more methodical way and a less freaked-out way. That has been super valuable.

B2B 48 | Proof Analytics
Proof Analytics: The learnings are not achieved without customer input.


It’s interesting you say that ICP is supercritical. I was talking to another member of my team about how we had to evolve our ICP. It’s all ICP. I was talking to another guest who was leading marketing at a fastgrowing Series A funded by Sequoia. He was talking about the importance of ICP. ICP is super critical for sure. You did touch upon that earlier about how you have evolved the ICP or how your ICP has evolved due to the market conditions. Earlier, it was mostly the CMOs but now, it’s more on the CFO’s side of the house.

It’s mainly finance as opposed to ops but it can be both. There’s a level of urgency in the business around accountability and optimization that is driving these changes. The revolution that we’re seeing is being generated from the top, not from the bottom. Like every revolution in history, it’s going to have its excesses. There are going to have to be course corrections. As sure as God made little green apples, people are going to overcut. They’re going to cut too deep and do crazy stuff that then will have to be walked back. That’s the way it goes.

One of the ways though that we are trying to help people is to say, “If you use Proof or for that matter something similar to Proof, you will break less glass, or you will break pretty much only the glass that makes sense to break.” That is something that we see resonating with everyone, not just finance or the functions. They are both concerned about that but probably for very different reasons. That’s where it is.

For example, a great subset of this is MarTech stacks or tech stacks in general. The MarTech stacks are being winnowed at a tremendous rate. Being able to figure out what you can dispense without breaking the whole thing is super key. It’s not a new criteria. It’s just that people have suddenly become switched on about it. If you have bought technology and you don’t have the team in place to extract a lot of value from the technology, they will whack it. No questions asked. That’s new. Historically, when money was a lot cheaper, you would buy the tech and then get the recs approved to hire the team to run the tech but that would take you a year all in. Your first year on the tech was valueless. They’re not prepared to entertain that anymore.

There are two things that are of real interest to the audiences of the show. One is a go-to-market success story, and on the flip side, a go-to-market failure story. Pick yours. You can go with either one first, and you can either talk about Proofs success or failure or a client of yours.

I’ll talk about it in terms of a failure, specifically my failure. A lot of founders go through this but I’m going to say that I went through it. I tended to think at the very beginning that I was not an outlier and that I was more representative than not of the ICP. I was so wrong. In the beginning, we had some great customers who didn’t pay us much in money but paid us a lot in feedback and all that stuff. What you kept on hearing again and again on real sales calls was, “This is the future,” which in the beginning, you take as extreme validation until a sales guy one time reinterpreted that for me and said, “What that means is not now.”

It’s in the future, not now.

Technically, it took a while to get it all straight because it took a while for all of us to get the go-to-market. What I will say to audiences who are in the middle of a similar experience is this. The temptation is to believe that somehow you got something structurally wrong and that you need to shut it down. The odds are very low that’s true. You just haven’t found the point or the use case at which enough people to make the business viable can see the value.

The temptation is to believe that somehow you got something structurally wrong and then you just basically need to shut it down; the odds are very low that that's true. Click To Tweet

You wanted X to be a use case. You need to be willing to let go of that and let customers and prospects tell you what the use case might be. Classically speaking with customers that use the software, the failures are almost always not about execution. They are about something far more fundamental. Your perspective was off. It’s not dissimilar to my problem. What you thought was important isn’t. You forget that it’s a maxim in analytics and data science. Two-thirds of every model should be stuff you don’t control.

Our bias in the most fundamental sense is what we do matters. I have a news flash for you. You are trying to surf a wave that is every bit of 60% to 65% of the equation. You will never control the wave, whether you wipe out or finish with a flourish on the beach is related to your skill. That would be execution, the feedback loops that you build between yourself, and your board in the wave that allow you to anticipate what’s going on to react more appropriately to what’s going on in the wave and not wipe out. That’s it, but if you don’t have the feedback loops and you, for whatever reason, aren’t acknowledging the importance and the centrality of the wave, you’re going to have a big problem.

We had a customer who had an uber-creative marketing team that was creating campaigns that were cool but fundamentally irrelevant to the business and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to do so. If you’re the CFO, you’re like, “What could I have used that money for? Even if I had let that money fall to my bottom line and give it to the street as EPS, that would have been huge.”

This is the inextricable relationship between success and failure because when you recognize the failure and the wrong direction, you move in the right direction. Over time, it’s a huge success. You’re wiping out the negative and embracing, obtaining, and earning a whole level of positivity. A classic is we go in and sell the software. They implement the software. The first 1 or 2 cranks on the models typically show that 20% to 25% of marketing spend is performing suboptimally or not at all.

A lot of people tend to see that purely from a position of ego and thus judge in black robes saying, “You screwed up.” It’s a coach that says, “I’m coming in. I’ve seen this many times before. I’m going to save you a lot of time here and whack this stuff.” You go from 28% suboptimized spend to realistically 2% to 3% suboptimized spend. You do that very quickly and reallocate that money into areas that are winning.

Since you’re running an S-curve or an optimization curve, you know that you’re also not past the point of diminishing returns. It’s a net plus. That’s a huge win. That’s the way I would describe this. Going back to the GPS thing. By using the GPS, you cannot be an hour late for your business dinner but only be eight minutes late with an explanation for that. How is that not a win? That’s a huge win.

We are coming up against time over here. Our final question for you is this. If you were to turn back the clock, what advice would you give to your younger self?

How far back? How young?

Day one of your go-to-market journey. How about that?

It’s almost like a Law of Nature. The thing that scares you the most or that you dislike the most is very likely to be super important to your life and your success. I had the opportunity to go back to my high school not too long ago. She was super close to retirement now and all that stuff. I ran into my Math teacher. When I told her what I was doing now, you could tell that she didn’t know what to do with that because I was not a Math guy in high school. I was an English guy, a Literature guy, and a creative writing guy. I was all that. I made no secret of my distaste but it was fear of looking stupid in Math class.

When I went on this journey with Mark Hurd for a while, I got ahold of a Math tutor. Every single Math teacher anywhere should teach Math like this guy taught Math. He changed me. It was like going to psychotherapy as much as it was Math class. I would encourage you to confront your fears, your dislikes, or whatever word you want to put on them. Confront them transparently, voluntarily, and openly.

Confront your fears, your dislikes, or whatever word you want to put on them. Confront them transparently, voluntarily, and openly. Click To Tweet

In another different area, I had a fear of heights when I was younger. When I was in my mid-twenties, I was dating a girl. She was a nurse who did pararescue. She would jump out of airplanes and things like that. I wasn’t about to look like an idiot. When she asked me to do a tandem jump with her, I did what probably 99% of all males would do. I jumped and discovered that I liked it a lot. I continued to do it for a period but what’s interesting, and I was never able to get past this one, is that if you asked me to do the same thing from a stationary platform or a cliff for what’s called base jumping, I cannot do it. I have not ever been successful in getting past it. I share that as well because I have the same limitations.

Those are great conversations and great insights. Thank you for your time, Mark. I wish you and the Proof team the very best.

Thanks so much.


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B2B 47 | Achieve Competitive Advantage

B2B 47 | Achieve Competitive Advantage


Selling is always challenging, but it only takes a great marketing strategy to help you sell successfully. In this episode, Sandeep John, the Head of Marketing at Outplay, dives into the go-to-market Strategy to achieve a competitive advantage in marketing and maximize your chances for success. Repositioning yourself as the product of SMBs changes everything and that’s what he shows in Outplay. Touching on building the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) for the Sales Development Representatives (SDR) team in marketing, Sandeep also explains how Outplay assists sales representatives to make their jobs easier. Let’s dive into this episode and learn from the success story Sandeep shares today!

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Go-To-Market: Achieve Competitive Advantage In Marketing With Sandeep John

I sincerely thank you, the audience, who’s taking all the time from your busy day or evening and up your game when it comes to go-to-market. Be it marketing, sales, product management, or even the revenue-generating aspects of go-to-market. With that as a context, thank you once again. Now I’m excited to announce my newest guest. His name is Sandeep John. He is the Head of Marketing at Outplay. That’s a startup based in India. Welcome to the show, Sandeep.

Thanks, Vijay. Welcome to all of the audience as well. Pleasure being on the show.

Without too much interest or any barriers, let’s get right into the meat of the conversation. How do you view and define go-to-market?

To me, go-to-market essentially outlines how a product will be launched, marketed, and sold to your target audience. If I have to further simplify this. It’s about introducing your product to the right audience in the right way at the right time to maximize your chance of success. That’s how I would define go-to-market.

That’s the ideal scenario. As you and I know, the ideal is not how it plays out in the real world or in the practical world. Clearly, a lot of challenges, especially when it comes to, as you said, the right buyer, the right time. How do you identify it? That’s a big challenge, especially when it comes to go-to-market. Overall, I completely am in line with how you view go-to-market but then when it comes to practicalities, that’s where we need to double-click. I’m sure that conversation will double-click it to a lot of those areas. That’s a good start for sure. Let’s switch context. Why don’t you share your overall career story and journey leading up to the point of what you’re doing now?

I essentially started off my career in tech sales. If you’re an SDR out there, I was doing your role. I’m picking up the phone, calling people, and trying to sell. In fact, originally, I was selling services. For folks out there, services selling is hard compared to products because with services selling, there’s only a proof of concept that you’re trying to achieve for a product. It’s a free trial or an equivalent of such.

I went through the grind of being an SDR and grew up in sales. At some point, I pivoted in my career where I found, “I’m probably a creative by nature. Do I move and navigate to another part?” As with most folks in India who are based out of India as well will do a strong engineering degree but never end up doing engineering after that. I worked in an engineering company in my earlier career, then transitioned. I did a course in Australia, came back into town, and started off working in a so-called FinTech services/future, becoming a product company for almost five years. It’s a company called Data Tracks. That’s a great company and it’s doing well now.

From there, I moved on to start something on my own. I started doing the whole entrepreneurship journey. I was super excited. I wanted to do something, but back then, GTM probably as a word wasn’t well defined. I had probably the worst GTM strategy in the world. I wasn’t sure who my target market was like you earlier mentioned as well. I completely failed. It bombed and I jumped into getting back into the corporate world. I took up a role in a company where I did both sales and marketing. That was the first real instance of my glimpse of what the world of marketing could hold.

I then joined a famous company called FreshWorks, which went IPO. That company gave me the opportunity. My journey there was building the SDR team and then I moved fully into marketing at some point. I did everything from campaign marketing to field marketing. I was taking care of a couple of regions, and then the opportunity at Outplay presented itself, which was a few years ago. Now I cover all bases in terms of what I do in marketing from product marketing to marketing operations, whether it’s content, campaigns, and whatnot.

That’s how I transitioned, but my unique opportunity or the viewpoint I’ve always had is that I empathize with our sales folks a lot more because I have been there. I have done the grind, to say the least, within being an SDR or sales rep as well. I always try and wear that hat when I think of marketing as well. Am I doing things that are doing activities that can help my sales counterpart? More often than not, all of this is one unit and one team.

Fantastic journey. I don’t think I’ve seen too many of the marketing leaders coming from the sales world. Definitely, I’ve seen a lot of marketing leaders coming from the product side of the house, and then coming and growing into product marketing, and then leading marketing teams. I think you are one of the rare reads. You have started your career in sales as an SDR, picking up phones, cold-calling, emailing, and everything.

Your way up from SDR and individual contributor to building an SDR team and function, building field marketing organizations, running campaigns, and eventually leading marketing teams. Kudos to you. Good track record in there, I’m sure. Why don’t we jump into a couple of areas? You mentioned something unique early on, which is very critical, selling services versus selling products. What are the challenges that you saw when you were trying to sell services early in your career?

Honestly, when I moved into the product world, I was transitioning into a particular company. The company is called DataTracks. We were initially selling service, and then we built a product and the whole world changed. If I’m selling a service, I’m more often than not to be absolutely blunt. You’re probably selling air. There is nothing tangible that you can show to someone like, “This is how it works.” The least I can do is have a presentation deck that can walk someone through. The meat of it lies in the proof of concept. If I’m doing a small pilot project of whatever I’m doing, whether it’s a paid or a free project, that’s what I got to show.

The meat of selling services essentially lies in the proof of concept. Click To Tweet

Even to get somebody to get to that stage is much harder than. Let’s say, I am selling a product. More often than not, even if I don’t have a free trial, which most products now have some version of a free trial or a free version of the product, I can at least showcase something to them. Normally, people get enamored by, “There is a visual. I can see moving parts. If you’re a tangible person, you can see some of these things work.”

That’s where I believe lies the big difference because if you’re showing something and you’re selling, you’re more often than not likely to get a better response versus when I’m selling services, it’s so much harder because there’s nothing to sell. I’m vouching for the kind of clientele that I’ve had and similar companies that I’ve worked with in the past. Case studies become my go-to there, so I think for me personally, when I moved into the world, I was like, “It’s such a different. It’s a revelation almost for somebody coming in from that world.” I believe that’s how I would look at it.

I’m completely on board with you on that. In product, you see something that is tangible, especially with a free trial. It’s a no-brainer. Within 1 week, 2 weeks, or 1 month, you either make a decision, yes or no, versus services. It’s nothing tangible. That’s one thing. The output would be a tangible thing. Something like either an implementation of a system or a software, or it can be in the world of marketing, it would be like a pitch deck or blog articles and things like that. Something else that I noticed is services typically are higher priced compared to a product. On product, you can start as low as $5 to $10 a month per user, but services, a decent, high quality, good service would start anywhere from $500 and can go all the way from $10,000, $50,000 and so on.

Something else that caught my attention is you grew in the world of SDR. In between, you did your own entrepreneurial journey and stint, which is a big learning curve in itself. Somehow you got transitioned into the marketing side of things. What is that transition like? What made you feel that you’ll be good at marketing?

I was fortunate enough in previous organizations where I had worked. DataTracks was the company I was working for I was hired to do business development sales or SDR role. It was a small company back then. Now it’s a much larger organization. I got to work with the CEO hand in hand. There, everything that I was doing was partly marketing. We were building the website. I was writing content and working on positioning. I was doing all of that without knowing what it was.

For me, the journey opened up when I came to FreshWorks. I was helping build the SDR team when I joined in, and it reached a certain stage. I was always doing a little bit of marketing or looking into sales enablement because I was trying to, “How can I enable my SDR team to be successful?” We didn’t have sales enablement back then, so I said, “Let me pick that up and do it.” Somewhere, all of this was tying in.

This was during my time at FreshWorks. At that time, there was no better company for me to learn, understand, and grow in marketing than FreshWorks because they were taking some great strides in terms of how they were positioning a product. I was like, “I got to find a way to get into the marketing space here, but I don’t know how. Luckily, FreshWorks, at that point, was building a mid-market org. Up until that point, FreshWorks was very assembly-focused. Everything was built around that and that juncture was a very new space that they were entering as well. They had local teams on the ground doing stuff. The opportunity presented itself because the SDR team was built to cater to the mid-market industry potentially. That was my first opening. Once I got in, I never wanted to get back.

Once the opportunity came, I powered my way through, whether it was campaigns or field marketing, and then grew into different roles. When I kept growing, curiosity was always there. I’m always constantly challenging myself to learn newer things. If there’s something new that’s exciting and I want to get into it. That’s how it’s always been for me up until this point.

Talking about SDRs and building an SDR function from scratch, there are different ways to go about that. You can start hiring junior folks, train them, and ramp them up, or you can hire somewhat senior and then ramp them up, or hire agencies. Maybe there was some other combination, I don’t know, but what is your approach?

At that time, we did everything from hiring an agency. When I say agency, I mean local agency. When I say local agency, back then, we were based out of India. We’ve done everything from hiring a US-based agency, an India-based agency, your own team with inexperienced reps, and your own team with experienced reps. All formulations and combinations back then. I’ll restructure what the thing should eventually be the SDR function. I think the SDR you need now has changed. I don’t fully believe that you can hire junior reps working in SDR. You can take them for an early BDR kind of role because now if you’re a buyer, the way they look at stuff and think is they want an intelligent seller.

They don’t want somebody blasting emails to them, picking up the phone, and narrating something that’s written on a script. They want a seller who empathizes with what they’re looking for, who understands their problem, and who’s taking those steps to solve their problem as well. I don’t know. This is my opinion because I’ve been away from the larger setup of the deep day. We have a smaller team here, but I think you need to have the right mix of folks within the team. You can have structures and layers.

This is not truly my idea. I picked it up from another peer in the industry, Saad Khan, who’s one of the top SDR/sales leaders that exist in the market. In a conversation with him, he had a very great tiering system where he would have experienced reps and inexperienced reps working on certain kinds of accounts. Over time, the inexperienced reps could move. A tier-based approach in terms of how the reps were there. I’m not saying that juniors can’t have a role. Of course, they can have if they have the right base skillset and can be trainable. You want someone like that.

What you also want to have are reps who understand it. If you’re selling in the SaaS world, you want someone who understands the SaaS world and selling a particular kind of tech that understands that as well. The role of SDR has changed. There’s no more basic entry role. You have to think of an SDR like the way you’re thinking of an account executive. You can’t just stop. You won’t expect them to close deals, but do they have the potential to be able to show a full-on demo if required? I would build a very tiered system if I’m rebuilding this or starting again from scratch, or something like that.

Agency, I don’t know. I personally do not have great experiences, so I can’t. This is an experience from the FreshWorks side of the world when I tried it out as well. I think if a company does not have the wherewithal to hire immediately, it’s going to take time and you don’t get something going, or the outbound motion is something that’s going to work for you, there is no harm in trying it out. You can work with a good agency that can help you scale.

If a company does not have the wherewithal to hire immediately, you can work with a good agency to help you scale. Click To Tweet

If you’ve got a smaller team and you think, “I don’t want to have too many more reps sitting and being on the payroll. I would rather have an agency that I can switch on and switch off whenever I require based on specific business needs,” you can do that as well. I’ve seen both models work in different companies. For me, it has not worked before, but that doesn’t mean it’ll not work for everyone.

I’ve seen that as well. Agencies are definitely a hit or a miss. Same with the hiring, but if you have the right hiring formula and the timeline with the patients, I think that pays off in the long run, but then there are outstanding agencies. I did have a guest early on in my show, his name is Tito Bohrt. He’s a world-class SDR leader and SDR agency company builder as well.

I follow Tito as well. He’s one of those folks I’m looking at and watching what he’s posting on LinkedIn as well. He’s well-known in this space. He knows his stuff.

Something else that is critical for the success of the SDR is the ICP, like target accounts and definitions as to who the potential buyers are. How did you build that ICP? A lot of times, you do expect things coming from marketing, but more often than not, marketing teams, when they deliver, lack the level of detail that’s needed for the SDR to be successful.

That’s spot on. That’s the most important thing now. You can leave everything out on the table. If you don’t get your ICP right, everything should fall around that. If you get your ICP right, marketing, sales, and product, everything is going around that. Whatever you’re building for that ICP, whatever you are positioning and message for that ICP, whatever you’re selling, you selling to that ICP. We’ve had our own versions of that as well. I remember when I joined the company Outplay, my first role was trying to understand our ICP. What is our ICP now? I always initially classify ICP as like, “Who are we winning with?”

B2B 47 | Achieve Competitive Advantage
Achieve Competitive Advantage: You can leave everything out of the table if you don’t get your ICP right. Everything should fall around getting your ICP right.


Who are the kinds of customers we have? Everything from the size of the organization and kind of organization. Is there any industry vertical we are winning in persona? Who are we winning inside the company? Are these sales leaders? Are these SDR leaders? All of those nuances were important to me. My initial goal was, can we have those conversations and understand that? Also, try to understand if there is an aspirational because we were still very young as an organization when I joined in. We were still trying to figure it out. The product market fit hadn’t yet happened. The case was we still try to move that needle to try to identify what is the right ICP for us where we are getting a lot more wins.

The first initial phase was around customer interviews. To talk to the folks who we are winning with and who are open to having those conversations. We also drew parallels in terms of, “I know who I am. I know who my competition as well is. Can I get an understanding of what their world looks like? Can I draw parallels in terms of understanding my customer based on what’s happening there as well if they are the right fit in those terms as well?”

The third one was very hard because it is more trying to go out in the cold and getting folks who you think are your ICP to walk into conversations with you with a deal of trying not to sell something. To be very clear here, I’m not trying to sell. I just want to try to understand. That was very hard because most people know if you want to come under the conversation, more often than not, you’ll be trying to sell them something.

I could only get a very few of those conversations through some network, but it was enough to give us an understanding of, “This is what our ICP looks like now.” This is where you want to go aspirational. We’re still trying to achieve PMF at that point in time. That’s the journey that I do, and then, of course, map out what pricing looks like based on this ICP once we agree that this is whom we should go for.

For the audience who are not aware of what Outplay does or who you serve, can you give a quick 30-second intro?

We are a sales engagement platform built to help sales reps make their job a lot more easier. It automates, semi-automates, and helps you personalize at scale to make sure you’re removing all those mundane tasks and getting sales folks to sell. We typically target SMBs. Our tool is a plug-and-play. You buy it, you use it. There’s a free trial as well as a full free version with limited features that you can use if you’re not sure about what the journey is. If you’re looking for your reps to get better at selling, whether it’s reps, SDRs, or multi-channel across different channels, Outplay is something for you to give a shot.

B2B 47 | Achieve Competitive Advantage
Achieve Competitive Advantage: Outplay is a sales engagement platform built to help sales reps make their job much easier. It automates to help you personalize at scale, to ensure you’re moving all those mundane tasks, and to get sales folks to sell with typically target SMBs.


The reason why I asked is I’m tying it back to our conversation around ICP. With Outplay, what you defined, you did touch upon it earlier, is you got SDR leaders or sales leaders. How did you go about a double-click of how you built the ICP for Outplay?

We took a change. When we started off, what we assumed was who our ICP was. We always thought we were an SMB company aspiring to be a mid-market company or targeting a mid-market organization. For every campaign that we would run, our initial positioning was very much around the pipeline. Any position like building a better off. Understanding that a mid-market company might have a team of 20 to 30 plus SDRs. What’s important to them is in terms of pipeline and all of that. That initial narrative for us, a lot of it was around that ecosystem.

It is only later in the journey that we realize that this is not exactly the ICP that we should be going after. In fact, we were winning a lot more with the SMB base than we were winning with the mid-market base, although we aspired to be mid-market. When we were on the table for an SMB discussion, more often than not, we were winning against the competition. Mid-market was always hard. We would win here and there. You’d still get the big players coming in and going.

That’s when we tweaked down our messaging and understood that this is the tool that is for SMBs and helping SMBs scale. We took that narrative. We changed that ICP document. We changed the way we looked at ICP almost like 3 to 6 months. Within that period, we realized it was not the way we thought it was, and then we went back and said, “Let’s re-look at our ICP again.”

This is something I’d always echo with folks out there. An ICP is not a static document. It’s a dynamic or a living document. You have to have a phase. You can do a quarter. I would say a quarter is a good roadmap or timeline to go and re-look at whatever. If you’re not winning customers on the base and you think you’re supposed to be winning it, maybe that’s not even your ICP. We went one quarter and then to the second quarter, and we were like, “Something is off here. Let’s go back to the basis and figure it out.”

We are the product for SMBs and we’re super clear about that. When we did that and repositioned ourselves, that’s when things changed because the marketing, sales, and whatever we were building in the product also focused on that base. We weren’t building from mid-market and enterprise. We’re building for SMB and we did a good job of it. When we decided on that, we changed everything around that narrative and things changed. We would see a lot more business, lesser churn happening, and several other positives that came over.

It also goes back to a discussion which you are defining as to how you go-to-market. You talked about the right buyer and this is exactly what it means. Having a clear understanding of your ICP and evolving your ICP equals the right buyer. Let’s switch gears again. I can take the conversation in so many directions over here. I’m trying to figure out which one to take it into. Can you share a bit about your go-to-market success story, and then following that, we’ll cover a go-to-market failure story as well?

This is 2 to 3 campaigns tied into this narrative. The story here is we are a small brand. Outplay, in the early days, at least when I got into the business, is in a saturated market. There are multiple players who do exactly what we do or do different versions of what we do, but all sales engagement platforms are very similar in terms of how they operate. The challenge there for that initial stage for me is, “How do we draw awareness to the brand and as a result, drive demand?” I’m a true believer that if you’re not looking at awareness, demand is never going to be able to create, you’ll never get more signups, and you’ll never get more traffic.

If you're not looking at awareness, demand is never going to be able to create more sign-ups and traffic. Click To Tweet

Brand plays a vital role in all of this. I’m in fact doing another session somewhere where I’m talking about the actual narrative of how brand drives demand because I have use cases and examples of how that works. When we started off, that was the narrative. Nobody knows who we are. We took a call and said, “Can we build campaigns?” I’ll also define my ICP here. My ICP is exactly my sales/SDR leader. To be more specific, it’s an SDR manager. That’s my ICP. In some companies that are small, it might be the CEO, but that’s okay. For practical purposes, we’ll say an SDR manager.

Any specific regions or is it worldwide?

Worldwide. We were 60% favored towards the US, 30% towards the European UK region, and the remaining percentage towards India and APAC. Typically, we were built in terms of what we were doing. We launched 2 to 3 campaigns in almost quick succession in terms of what we were doing. The goal of these campaigns very clearly is, I’ll call it out again, not to drive signups. The goal of these campaigns was purely to put the brand out there, drive people to come to the website, and educate themselves about the brand.

How we did it was slightly different. We still do it. It’s a campaign called SDR 30 UNDER 30. It’s almost like a nomination thing where we put it out on social, get people to say and submit something in terms of their best calling scripts and best email scripts. We ask them a bunch of 4 or 5 questions. It’s not an easy form. They have to fill out a few details, and then we get a jury that evaluates who the best SDRs are. The 30 SDRs, we announce to the world and we give them a prize as a result of what happens.

That took off in a big way when we did it the first time because, until that point, nobody was given the role of SDR being such a difficult role in picking up the phone, calling, emailing, and whatnot. Nobody was truly recognizing them in the open. There were other companies that had versions of this. There was a company that had a BDR Appreciation Week, but no calling out because everyone else was getting called.

Even if you look at a typical sales environment, you’ll have the AEs getting recognized. Your SDRs are not often getting recognized. We did this campaign and it blew up. What happened is because we were targeting SDRs, SDRs got excited about it. SDRs started sharing, “There’s this competition. I’ve nominated myself.” It took off. I remember the first edition. We didn’t expect too much to happen. We were like, “We’ll do this and we’ll see what happens.”

In fact, I had a discussion saying, “How is it going to take off? I’m not sure.” 300 to 400 applications came in that first lock when we pushed it out. People were doing it. When we crushed it down and came up, we announced the 30 winners. For almost 1 month, 3 to 4-week period, it was 30 under 30 all over our social because it was not us sharing it. These 30 SDRs shared it. Their managers shared it. Their companies on their handle started sharing it. Suddenly, this cascading effect where the SDR now got the manager involved and the managers feeling proud of the SDR, they’re like, “Who is this Outplay?” That’s the conversation.

On the second one we did, we also realized that one thing that was missing in all of this, in the cold-calling world, because calling is an essential part of what the product also does, is there were calling scripts online, but what about real call recordings? We put the word out there and told people, “Can you submit your call recordings? If you’re publishing and want to use it, we’ll give you a $50 Amazon voucher to do that.”

Suddenly, we built this entire library of call recordings that never existed in the world. Salespeople, sales reps, sales managers, and SDR managers could use that as a repository to train their reps and not just call their ecosystem. It’s called Call of Fame. It still runs. We have more than 3,000 subscribers to that now. In fact, I said, “To hell with the subscribers, let’s put it on Spotify.” I made it accessible to everyone. We took the entire Call of Fame and dumped it on Spotify, so anyone anywhere can have access to the entire library and they can listen to it on their walks or in their car drive wherever they want to. You don’t have to subscribe to the product as well. The intention being you’ll know the brand because of this. They will come to us. Traffic went up.

The third thing in this whole stuff that we were doing is something called Cold Call Battle. James Corden has a show called The Late Late Show. On The Late Late Show, he’s got something called the Rap Battle where he’s got two celebrities, or it’s him and a celebrity who are going out to each other. I said, “What if we had a cold call version of this? What if I put one caller against another caller? Each one playing the prospect and the seller and then each one switches down. I have a moderator right down the middle who will take a call between who’s the best and let’s make it LinkedIn Live.”

The reason for LinkedIn Live is we get more people engaging. What we did was we asked people to nominate the winners on the call. It would end up like two people going head-on. We position it like that. Two people going after each other. One person here. That was a hit. We get easily around 200 to 300 people showing up for a live show for that. We don’t do it as often. We do it once a quarter to get that whole excitement going and then we moderate. All we do is moderate it. We give them 3 to 4 different scenarios and they’re at each other. It’s a lot of fun. Everyone was looking at it and people were saying, “This call could have been better.” These three big initiatives drove people to the brand suddenly from a, “I don’t know who you are.”

There was a fourth one, I forgot to mention as well. Early on in January 2022 when we started a few of these experiments, we have a podcast and we do seasons. Season one was very interesting because the objective of season one was, “Can we get billion-dollar valued CEOs coming onto this podcast and talking to us about their 0 to 10 or 0 to first 100 customers? How do they get it?” The podcast called is The Hype is Real. It was done in collaboration with Outplay and Revgenius. We did this together.

We got 4 or 5 of the big-name CEOs. I’ll call them out. CEO from Gong, Clary, Gainsight, and the CMO of 6Sense coming and talking to us. It was very intentional. The idea there was suddenly you have a brand like Gong, Clary, 6Sense, or Gainsight. In a podcast with Outplay, who is Outplay? That was the response we wanted. We wanted people to question like, “Who are these guys? What do they do?” When they land on the website, “You guys do this.”

You’ll see these programs still running. All these will constantly run and these are our own properties and we keep these properties running apart from any webinar or anything else happening. This is what gives us the largest surges in traffic whenever we need them to achieve that larger goal. I think this is one of the biggest. These 3 or 4 narratives all towards the same purpose of driving that brand awareness piece.

Driving that brand awareness will give the largest surges in traffic whenever we need to achieve that larger goal. Click To Tweet

These are all great success stories, so thank you for sharing all of them. I would love to double-take into each of those 3 or 4 initiatives that you did, but we are definitely short on time, so let’s pick one. For example, you did mention podcast and the goal of getting billion-dollar company CEOs talking about how they build from 0 to maybe the first 50 or 100 customers. How did you pitch that? What is your process like?

It was the easiest hack in the book. The question for us is how we want to get that first person. For all context, Outplay is a Sequoia-funded company or a Series A-funded company. Our first catch was to acquire a network. We knew who we wanted. We tried through our connects. We get through Gong. What we would do is, at the end of every podcast, we would ask the guest, “Is there somebody else you think might be a good guest for this podcast, who would that be?”

Each of them provided the other name. Of course, we didn’t know the other person. We didn’t have a direct connection, but imagine the CEO of Gong emailing the CEO of Clary and saying, “I did a podcast with these guys. It’ll be great if you can join. Have a word with them.” That’s all. The person is of course going to respond because it’s the C-level person talking. Literally, that’s the chain effect that we got. Every single guest we’ve had on the podcast has literally come because of that.

It’s all about getting that first guest. Definitely big thing that went your way is having the Sequoia brand. It’s absolutely a big thing. That builds credibility right away. Otherwise, it’s not easy getting those big names.

It’s not easy for sure.

Fantastic GTM success stories that you shared starting with the SDR 30 UNDER 30. You also mentioned the SDR playoff or face-off and then the podcast getting the billion-dollar CEOs to your network. As you and I know, especially since you have seen this from day one, it’s not always up and to the right. Clearly, it’s not successful all the time. You also have failures. What is a GTM failure story and the lessons that you learned that you’re applying now?

One thing that we later realized in our journey was that while we were talking to customers, were we listening to them. I’ll rephrase that in a better way. For example, one of the things we were trying to do and one of the exercises was, “Why was churn happening?” We were trying to say, “What is the majority cause of churn?” If it’s a product thing, of course, we can fix it. There were a lot of complaints of, “This is not working for me.” We’re like, “Did they sign up for the wrong thing? Was it a wrong sell?” We were trying to understand that because the goal there was how to reduce the churn rate.

At times, you would see customers who would say, “My product is not working.” It would be very trivial. They were like, “This is not what the product does.” We would try to understand and we understood later on it was not a product problem. The product was working fine. It did everything that it had to do. All that was fine, but when I say we weren’t listening, it was the fact that what they were not trying to solve was the product was not working or didn’t do that. What they were trying to solve for is outbound. I’ll put it in a simpler way. Outbound in itself is not easy. It’s complicated. They typically come and buy a tool like Outplay to help them with outbound and that whole multi-channel process.

B2B 47 | Achieve Competitive Advantage
Achieve Competitive Advantage: Outbound calling is not easy. It’s complicated. A tool like Outplay helps sales reps with outbound to help that whole multi-channel process.


How does one do outbound? We’re understanding the nuances. As you mentioned earlier on, hiring the right kind of folks, building the right kind of scripts, all of that. A lot of the folks who came to us at that point in time were trying to build their outbound. In fact, the ones who were churning at least were trying to build it. They had some inbound narrative going on. They wanted to scale and do something in outbound. They were starting up all together and they wanted to get the outbound piece going. They got a tool, meetings were not happening, and nothing else was happening. They’re like, “The tool is not working for me. I don’t want this tool. I’ll go away.” That’s what I meant by not listening.

When we were seeing them, they’re like, “What are we doing wrong here? Everything seems to be ticking the right boxes.” We never got it up until the point that we realized they are trying to solve for outbound. Although we are a tool that can help them do this, we also need to enable them to succeed in outbound as much as we can. The amount of insight, whether it’s providing them with content assets that can help them draft better cold emails, calls, and whatnot. Because we had all these assets with us, it all existed. We were doing it to drive demand but we are not doing it back into our customers and saying, “You can use this to do this part of outbound. You can do this and that.” That was not happening. We are going on one track.

It was like we knew everything and were doing everything. Everything was working in silos and we were not listening to our customers. It’s a big mistake on our part. The moment we changed the narrative and told customers, “Do you know we have this with outbound?” In fact, we are running a series right now called Outbound for Dummies.

It’s literally to break down every nuance of the outbound function as simple as possible with real practitioners. The people I’m interviewing there in that series are people who are doing it, who built their SDR team, either from that first ten hires or trying to scale. They are talking about what they have done. All those lessons, again, why it create demand for me in general. The purpose of that is to feed into my customer base to tell them, “This is another thing you can do too.”

One of the check-ins that we do with our customers is we don’t even ask them how the tool is performing anymore. That is one part. You set up the tool. We’re like, “How is your outbound working? What success are you seeing in outbound? What is working for you?” Even to reposition ourselves as outbound consultants in that larger sense. this goes for anyone. The big learning for all of us is, generally, to listen to your customers and listen to what they’re trying to solve. Your tool is only one part of that solution. It may not be the entire thing. Most tools cannot solve everything. It might give you only one part.

For us, the lesson was to get down to understand what they’re trying to solve. Try to fix or at least enable them to solve that problem. You are going to have a lot more loyal customers and these people are going to become advocates at some point in your journey. The mistake was not listening. As a result, we’re going on a tangent. Once we realized it, we said, “This is what they want.” Everything that we have done from there on has been keeping that in mind. Even if you’re building an asset, we’re like, “Are we thinking about what we might need from this?” I think all of that helped.

What I liked about this realization and the failure turning into success is you, when I say you, the team including yourself, dug deeper into this outbound feature within your product, but the users are trying to build an outbound system using this feature, but the outcome is, “Is the outbound system working or not?” The feature can only get them to some point. Something else that caught my attention and I enjoyed listening to your eventual success story is the content that you build to drive brand awareness. The cataloging and the resources that you provided for these users to be successful in outbound. How did that come about? Who’s brainchild idea was that? It’s not like you designed it with that in mind though.

Are you talking about the demand gen or the realization?

It’s both. You’re talking about outbound, the feature failure, and then the content from the demand gen can be used for your users.

Honestly, I don’t know if it was designed in such a way. It was designed by accident. When we are thinking of all, it wasn’t thought like that. It was like, “How can I drive demand? I know my audience. Can I build something for my audience?” Eventually, it tied back together, but in my world now, with every piece of content from my blog, my social, and my webinar, the only underlying rule I have for my team is that no content will be in isolation.

We know who we are building it for. We know what we are building it for. Every piece ties into some other piece. If you’re putting a social post, what is that post for? Is it tying into a blog, a webinar, a customer point, a pain point, or something? I built one narrative. I have one diagram somewhere because I love things when they’re black and white. I don’t like ambiguity in terms. For me, that’s the same thing I expect of my team. The least I can do as a leader is to give them clarity. I built one convoluted-looking diagram. I’ll probably share it on social someday.

You should.

To explain, this is the narrative of how you should build content. If anything is outside of this, it’s not worth your time so don’t bother. Build it only for this. If it’s ticking all the boxes there, we’re sorted. We’re pushing stuff back into the realm. We are keeping that flywheel motion. It can’t remain in isolation. To the first point, I don’t think it was planned. It was by accident. We came to the realization, “We already have this. There’s a gap here. Can we push it back?” It was more of an afterthought, but that’s how it came.

That’s a great point. Thank you for being so honest over there. It was not done by design, but then your team and you, yourself as a leader, had that inkling of thought, “This is a resource we can put to reuse.” To the uber point that you mentioned, which is every piece of content that you’re designing, can it be repurposed? That’s the basics of content marketing. It’s not content creation, but how do you get the flywheel effect with one piece?

One podcast can turn into one blog, plus a bunch of social media posts. One podcast can turn into a blog, social media posts, and videos, especially if it’s all serving not your target audience, but even your existing customers and users. That’s a holy grail. What resources do you lean on, whether it’s podcasts, communities, or blogs to up your game? Is it SDR, marketing, or marketing sales?

Do you mean personally?


For me, in terms of resources, not as many books because I can’t sit and read. For example, my biggest cheat code for books is I have Blink. I use Blink to catch up on my non-fiction book. If any book on management or on marketing. Anything that I want, Blink will tell me in fifteen minutes what the entire book is. I don’t have the patience to honestly read a whole book. I read fiction. I can spend an average amount of time reading fiction, but I struggle reading nonfiction. These are the two things I do well. If you go to my LinkedIn and if you look at the number of posts that have been saved, I see a bunch of countless stuff. I’ll be screenshotting stuff that I’m seeing. I’ll be reading stuff.

For me, it’s always something that will trigger some narrative. There are 4 or 5 people who I adore on LinkedIn that to me are my biggest influences. Some of them I know, some of them I don’t. I’m following their content and keenly watching stuff that they’re putting. I’ll call out few of their names, Anthony Perri and Robert Kaminsky are my all-time favorite in terms of product marketing.

If you’re a product marketing person ever getting into this or even if you’re a leader, follow these guys. If you want to hire them, hire them as well. I think they do help startups and help them scale. It’s the most brilliant, clean, and the most clarity I’ve ever seen. Anything that they’ve put is so well-designed. Everything about what they do is unbelievable. I’ve spoken to Anthony in some chat conversation once but these two guys work in tandem. They’re phenomenal.

Another good friend who I’ve worked with in the past is Adam Goyette. He’s a phenomenal marketer. He used to work in G2 as well. There’s David Fallarme. He used to be the VP of Asia for Hubspot. He runs his own community, which is a great community as well for APAC marketers. Of course, there’s the brilliant, there’s a guy called Kyle Poyar of P&G. I love his stuff. I love everything about that company. If anyone puts something out there, I’m always digesting that.

A lot of the learning for me comes from these things. Podcasts, not as much. There are very few podcasts I listen to that are specific to the industry or whatever, but folks that are posting stuff. There are a bunch of communities I am in. I block two hours of my calendar every week to go into the community and look at what’s happening. I’ll try to find something I can help with someone or whatever. I will always go.

There are a few communities I’m active in. There’s something called Revenue Circle started by Justin from Demand Base. There is APAC Marketers, which is run by David Fallarme from what used to be at Hubspot. There is Genius, which is a great community run by Jared. There are probably 6 or 7 of them, but these are the 3 or 4 that I’m constantly looking at in the sales enablement community. There’s a Revenue Marketing Alliance or RMA. For me, it’s the community and the individual LinkedIn folks. These are super important.

I appreciate you calling out the names of both the people that you look up to and follow as well as the communities. Switching gears once again. What are the 1 or 2 GTM relevant skills that people look up to you and they come, “Sandeep is cool and created it. I’m struggling with this. Let me go and ask Sandeep.”

Given my past of SDR and sales, more often than not, I get called into conversations for outbound. This is everything from setting up your SDR scaling outbound. In general, how does one think of outbound? When do we need to go outbound? This comes a lot within the realm of wherever I am. I also get into conversations with folks trying to figure out how to sell to SMBs in terms of how they scale. I’m getting customers that I’m running page channels or running organic channels as well. I want to double-click on this. Where should I put my money? How should I invest? What should I look at?

I get the second part based on my activity because a lot of what I do at Outplays is that, but I get the outbound conversations because of my past as well as helping build scale and what that world looks like. I get into conversations. Essentially, if people are looking at outbound or scaling what their SMB looks like, I will more often than not end up in a conversation.

The last question before you sign off. I know it’s pretty late for you in India. If you were to turn back the time, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Talk to more people. That’s all. I’m not kidding. When I started interacting with peers, mentors, future mentors, or people I aspired to, it changed the world for me. It opened up something that was not there in books, in LinkedIn posts, or in articles. These were real people talking about real problems and real ways that they were solving stuff. The best of my knowledge comes from practitioners who’ve done this before. I do an equal spirit. I also tell them like, “I’m not getting in this. I’ll tell you what I’ve done. We keep this whole discussion mutual.”

I wasn’t doing it up until the Outplay journey. For me, the Outplay journey was when that world changed because as a leader, I needed to be able to talk to peers and understand how they were trying to solve things. Up until that point, it’s a small team. I was managing a few people and a big company. It’s a lesser opportunity or even the need was less. The need was higher here. I needed to figure this out. It wasn’t like going to be a small company.

You have to get stuff done. I started talking to people either through the network, some other network, community, and all that. It changed. At that point, I was like, “I could have done this five years earlier as well. I didn’t know.” The reason I think most people also don’t realize it’s there and they don’t do it is because people are scared to reach out to people to have conversations in general.

What’s the worst that can happen? Somebody is not going to respond to you. The reason people will not do it is because they’ll think you’re going to sell it to you. If you’re super clear about that, then I don’t think people will refuse. What if you get a few rejections? That’s perfectly fine. As long as you can have those few great conversations that honestly will change your life forever. Talk to peers, mentors, and people you aspire to be, it’ll make a world of difference. That’s the only advice I have for myself.

B2B 47 | Achieve Competitive Advantage
Achieve Competitive Advantage: Talk to peers, talk to mentors, talk to people you aspire to be. It will make a world of difference.


It’s been a great conversation, Sandeep. Good luck to you and your team. I’m sure people find you on LinkedIn. Is there any other ways than LinkedIn?

I think LinkedIn is the best place for me.

I was wondering, we left out so many topics. I think we need to do a round two. For example, we didn’t dive at all into how you grow SMB. We didn’t talk about the different channels and so on. At some point in time, I would love to have you back on the show, but it’s been a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much, Sandeep.

Thanks. I enjoyed it as well. Some great questions got me thinking. I had to do my homework on this, but it was a good refresher to get back in all this stuff. I appreciate you. Thank you.


Important Links



B2B 45 | RevGenius

B2B 45 | RevGenius


It is uncommon to get disenfranchised from your career and journey toward your passion. Discover the remarkable journey that led today’s guest to success. Jared Robin, the Co-Founder of RevGenius, navigates through his journey to find his core in building an amazing community. He also shares how LinkedIn helps him acquire amazing people around his business. Jared also explains the value of diversity and inclusivity in a community. Today, we are thrilled to embark on an incredible journey with the one and only Jared Robin. Get ready to dive deep into this captivating episode!

Listen to the podcast here


RevGenius: Building An Amazing Community With Jared Robin

I hope you’re having a great day or evening, whatever may be the case. Here I am, super excited to have a new guest on the show. I’m thrilled to host Jared Robin. As you may have heard, he is a man of many backgrounds and many achievements, one of which is the RevGenius community. Without further ado, let’s welcome the guest and dive into the details here. Welcome, Jared. I am super thrilled.

Thank you for having me. I’m so amped to be here.

Likewise. The first question I always ask each and every one of my guests, and this is where discussions get going, is how do you view and define go-to-market?

A cohesive plan and strategy to bring your product or service to market. It is plain and simple. There are lots of nuances in there from different sales motions, marketing, rev ops, etc., and the nuances between the plan to do it. It also is continuously evolving because it’s not just bringing it to market. It’s also when you’re in the market recalibrating, doubling down, and scaling.

Especially the last portion that you mentioned, I believe it’s Sangram Vajre and quite a few others who mentioned thinking of go-to-market as a product and it is evolving. You have a version one. It especially depends on the stage of the company or the stage of the product you are in. It’s going to evolve. You need to be in touch with your market, customers, and segments. Depending on whom you’re targeting, it has to evolve, plain and simple.

There are no two go-to-markets that are identical, even if the founder is identical. There are nuances. There’s so much that could change including the actual market.

You have grown up the ranks, especially in sales. You started your career at FedEx. Why don’t you share your career story, and then we can deep dive into the specific timelines over there?

I went from being an individual contributor at FedEx to being a Head of Sales at early-stage companies later on. What a journey. I went from a Fortune 100 company seller to technology sales. I was running a fashion magazine on the side, and then culminating before running sales and growth for a couple of two-sided marketplaces early that didn’t find product market fit. One of them didn’t. The other one could have and should have, but there were some nuances that the founding team didn’t address that probably held us back from that. I certainly felt like we were there. Also, being the first seller leader at a marketing agency before the pandemic and then founded RevGenius.

If I were to go back in time, you are talking about companies like Granify. You were at Flipkart, which is pretty impressive.

I was at a company that sold Flipkart. That was Upstream Commerce. I was the Director of Enterprise Sales there.

You were at Granify. What did Granify do back in the day?

Predictive analytics and eCommerce. We looked at 400 attributes every second of every visit of every website visitor. We were able to understand who was going to buy or not buy on their website. We then figured out what they needed to see, when they needed to see it, and how they needed to see it to overcome the why and get them to throw something in their card and close the deal. We held ourselves accountable against a control group to show that we were impacting revenues. That was several years ago before all this AI stuff. That sounds pretty close.

Something that catches my attention is you started off as a sales individual contributor then went into more of biz dev, and then eventually sales executed roles. You also crossed or touched upon different industries. You touched upon eCommerce. FedEx is completely and entirely different. You went into leading a digital fashion publication magazine. You were editor-in-chief.

I did that as a side project.

What is driving you to pursue all these different diverse activities?

I went into FedEx because I was a supply chain major. My dad met a FedEx rep at a barbecue. I’m like, “Wow.” I wanted to go into sales, not the supply chain part. This was a logistics company. It meshed both together and made a lot of logical sense and a pretty good career progression. I left that because my ambition wasn’t being satisfied. It was hard with a Fortune 100 company to put your stamp on things. Even if you were in leadership, that would’ve taken a lifetime to get to the director level. VP level may or may not have happened, but even if you got there, it is still hard to put your stamp on that company. You could have, but it was a long path and one where I didn’t feel I was driving enough impact.

I went into tech because I wanted part equity in something. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. At Granify, we didn’t have a product-market fit early. I got to create something that I wanted and realized that fashion was something I liked. I figured that out along the way. We built a fashion magazine and got 10,000 monthly readers to it. We built quite a bit of credibility in the fashion industry and won international fashion film awards in other countries. We were in other international fashion film festivals. That appeased my creative side.

I ended up putting it down because, and we’ll talk about this later, from the go-to-market perspective, it didn’t generate any money. I wasn’t thoughtful about the plan to do it. I thought a passion project would turn into a money project by osmosis but realized later that intentionality is an important factor in a lot of things. Also, I could have probably stuck out, gotten smarter people, and brought in somebody to leadership to help my gaps. I probably should have.

During the daytime, I found an opportunity that bridged this technology and fashion together, which was Swipecast. It was a two-sided marketplace where I brought on the first sales connecting models, photographers, and hair and makeup stylists to brands. I had a salary doing that. That wasn’t a high salary. I took a pay cut to do that, but it was a passion.

After everyone there was let go, I went to a two-sided marketplace called Portion, which was art on the blockchain. I love this idea of creativity and technology meshing. I told you about the fashion part. I told you about the tech part. We never hit product market fit there. Investors stopped investing and all of that stuff.

It is interesting you made the change or jump from fashion to blockchain. It’s completely like night and day.

It’s not. Some of the principles are similar in terms of creativity. From a blockchain perspective, we were selling art and collectibles. We were selling creative products that were tokenized. Picture Artsy on the blockchain. There wasn’t enough interest from people in the art world to have blockchain behind the stuff. There was more interest in creating NFTs. That was the gap. We were trying to bridge the worlds together. It was a great learning experience nonetheless. Better GTM would’ve helped there, for sure, but the product market fit wasn’t there. I’m not even sure that that would’ve been perfect. I then stabilized after that whirlwind at a marketing agency.

Is that Deux you’re referring to?

Yes. It was Deux that dealt with eCommerce clients, so full circle. That was a good experience, but I lost my job at the beginning of COVID and decided to start a community. The community is important because that was one of the things that connected all of those jobs if you think about it. With the fashion magazine, we threw events. There were lines around the corner. There was a community of artists and designers that we were featuring.

In two-sided marketplaces, whether it’s Airbnb or ones that you might not have heard of like Swipecast or Portion, there’s a community of people. Marketplaces are like communities with a business model. Here are fractional CROs on this side. Here are companies that might need them on this side. They are all in a community together to learn and there’s a business model in between. I’ve been in two communities. Hanging out with friends and being a part of some exclusive communities for some time, inclusive communities, and all of that, I’m like, “Let’s do something that aligns at my core in community with that.”

It’s pretty interesting. It’s only in hindsight you’re able to connect the dots. You went and pursued your passion project around fashion.

It was a smart decision.

That led you to a different opportunity, which was around eCommerce.

Fashion didn’t lead me to eCommerce. FedEx led me to eCommerce. When I went to fashion, it was out of the blue.

That’s pretty interesting. That did lead you to Swipecast. Portion is the blockchain for NFTs and other creative forums.

My brother-in-law was the COO there. I wanted to get in and I had an opportunity through him.

I completely can relate to what you’re saying about marketplaces. To build one is super hard because you’re talking about two “communities” coming together and they’re finding values.

That’s the supply side and demand side.

It’s not easy. You figure out it’s the chicken and egg situation. Which one comes first? That’s a whole different ballgame.

Whatever people pay for comes first, and then you get the people to pay for it because you have their supply.

That’s correct. That led you to RevGenius. You identified that you wanted to do something with communities or build a community. Why sales, and how did you start out? What were your early days like?

Why sales is a great question. It’s because I became disenfranchised with sales. If you can’t tell, I tried everything in my power to get out of this from the side projects of running a fashion magazine to one foot in with any of the day jobs I had. I was in sales in cool industries to me. When I was thinking about what to create, I first wanted to create something in the creative space because that’s what I like. I wanted to create a community of creative directors, like an actual creative director community, because I thought the space was lacking it and that member clubs like Soho House, which I’d been a member of, are more of a social seed than the people doing the creative.

I asked my partner who is the creative director of a massive publication. She is the creative director of Cosmo magazine. I’m like, “Would you pay $100 a month to be in a community like this?” You watched her face not even comprehending what I was asking. I’m like, “I’m not even going to ask five other people. I live with you.” There is an opportunity there, but it is a fact that maybe it’s not mature yet.

The old-school creative space, fashion space, and art space are not ready for disruption and may never be, and that’s fine. The true creatives aren’t ready for disruption. I’m like “I like the idea, but I don’t like the space.” I looked back at the space I was trying to run from, which is sales, and said, “I need to make this for me right now in this space. If I don’t do it, who’s going to do it? Who’s going to have an open, inclusive, and free community for everybody?” That’s how we lift the space. We have to have access for everybody. There are other communities that are wonderful. They’re doing great. Having that free entry point was important because I felt like I could impact the most people.

In the early days, I didn’t even know I was going to build a community at first. A lot of things converged together. I thought that the problem that needed solving was that there was so much content coming out in so many directions and there was no place to centralize it. People might want to go to it. A couple of years ago, people did want to go to it. This time, I’m not as sure. You have to put good stuff in.

A couple of years ago, people wanted to go to a lot of it, multiple webinars a week. Maybe they still do if it’s good. They were curious and were looking at more stuff. They were more likely to go then. I thought we needed an Eventbrite for sales and marketing events and that it was going to be on a spreadsheet. Every Sunday, I’d sign up for every single mailing list so that I would know all the events and then pick my favorites or I’d sign up for every single mailing list that I respected. It was a lot.

We put a group together. There were four of us on LinkedIn in a message group. That grew to 25 or so. I was trying to circulate the events to them. I’m not sure that they ever went to the Google sheet. Maybe they did. What I did know is they broke the LinkedIn app every single day because they were talking to each other so much and enjoyed each other’s company. These were all salespeople or one-off revenue people. I had to move from LinkedIn to Slack because it wasn’t usable. At that point, I surveyed the landscape and was like, “Is there no open, inclusive, and free community for all revenue professionals?” If there was, I didn’t know about it. It didn’t seem like others knew about it either. We made it and started figuring it out from there.

There are so many points I want to deep dive into in all those things. The first thing that stood out is you wanted to create a community but at the same time, you wanted to test it out. You asked one of your fashion creative directors to see if she’ll pay $100. That is a very early test, and that’s critical. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to build a tech product, service, or community. It’s a simple test. Kudos to you for that. Moving away from that, something else that caught my attention is you wanted to do or pursue something in an area that you were “trying to run away from” initially, but then, you said, “I need to do it for myself.” It was more therapeutic and coming out, which is good.

I don’t know if it was therapeutic. I saw it’s such an obvious need. I’m like, “Whether it’s good or not, it’s important.”

You also mentioned that you brought together a few sales folks on LinkedIn initially. How did you identify those sales folks?

They were people who were around. They were people who were active on LinkedIn.

You knew them prior or you saw that they were active and then you reached out to them?

I knew them for a short period prior, not for a long period. A short period means some a month if I knew them prior. I forget how I met Galem. We probably went to a webinar together, hopped on a call, and then threw a Slack group together. She is the Cofounder of RevGenius.

We saw some people commenting on posts on LinkedIn that seemed cool and invited them into the group. It was one person and he brought somebody. We had the four musketeers. From there, I said, “Can you bring other people in that have the same energy as you?” They did. That’s how we got to 25 people.

That is very cool. It’s a common thread in the sense that number one, all are interested in sales. Second, they’re active. Third, it’s not necessarily that you knew each other but there was a common factor that was bonding, bringing all of you together to engage with each other.

Fourth, it was a social channel that we could use as a channel for acquisition.

That was LinkedIn initially.

It still is, but it’s way more organic. It was organic then. The definition of organic is not paying for it. When I say it’s more organic, I was reaching out to people then and asking them to join. This time, I’m not and they’re joining.

I can see some parallels. It is similar to my show. I’m sure you can relate to this. Initially, I used to reach out to the guests. Later, I’ve been seeing a lot of inbound coming in. It’s less of an ego boost. It’s more of validation that there’s something that I’m doing which is right and it’s resonating. Those like-minded folks are getting attracted to it.

You’re being seen. That’s it.

It is pretty cool. That was year one or the first few months where you had 25 to 50 folks in the RevGenius community.

25 was the first couple of weeks, three weeks. We then started acquiring about 1,000 people a month. It was 1,000 in month 1, 2,000 in month 2, and 3,000 in month three.

It was all because either you were reaching out or folks in the community were reaching out to others and inviting them. That is very cool. Something else that caught my attention is you kept mentioning a community that is diverse and inclusive. What do you mean by that? What did you see that was missing in other similar communities from diversity and inclusivity?

The ability to come in at no cost allows every type of person to come in. The act of putting a fee down excludes people. The act of requiring a certain title to come in excludes people. If you have both those levers, it could exclude a lot of people. Removing those allowed everyone to come in and have the energy that everyone is welcome in. Combined with that is how it got promoted.

That is very cool.

That’s important because you need to lift the whole world.

You mentioned titles. You mentioned the ability to pay or need to pay.

Some communities are paid and you need a title or something. In some communities, you don’t have to pay but you need a title. In some communities, you might have to pay and you don’t need a title. The fact that you have neither and you create an environment that’s welcoming to everybody in addition to that helps quite a bit.

B2B 45 | RevGenius
RevGenius: Create an environment that’s welcoming to everybody.


That is very cool. You mentioned a couple of things, which are inclusivity and diversity. You talked about not needing to have a specific title and also not needing to pay for membership. Those are the two main criteria.

Since we have paid memberships as well for senior leaders, to be clear, it was important to have an entry point that is accessible for all.

I’m looking at the timeline. You started Rev Genius. The early days of RevGenius were right around the time of COVID. That helped. From a timing point of view, you couldn’t ask for anything better. Clearly, that helped, for sure.

It helped people wanting to be in a digital community, for sure.

Since we are way past the COVID days, especially around people, you’re talking about digital events fatigue.

Bad events fatigue is real. Good events, if they’re digital or in person, people will show up.

Let’s expand and expound on that. You mentioned organic acquisition. Is it still organic, most of your growth from a new membership perspective?

Yes. We’re not throwing a lot in the top, so to speak. We’re fixing activation. We’re improving activation and engagement following first. It’s a long project. We have 37,000 members. We have enough to go crazy and bring a ton in. We need to have a plan to have everyone hit value as fast as possible.

We need to plan to have everyone hit value as fast as possible. Click To Tweet

From my personal experience and even from others that I’ve heard who have been part of communities, people get excited. It is initial excitement. They join the community, but then, there is something missing or lacking after some point. Maybe it’s week 1, month 1, or something. How did you tackle that gap or the pain?

That’s activation. I onboard people directly. I give tasks on how to hit value as quickly as possible. I understand what people want. It’s about the intake form, and then it’s about creating programming that meets their needs. It’s not easy.

That was one of the reasons that motivated me to have you on the show. It’s not easy to build a community. You guys have done something. Even 36,000 is not a small task with what you guys have done.

Thank you.

That is what got me excited about having you on the show. We are double-clicking on the various topics. Clearly, there have been such stories and failure stories as you’re building along.

It’s hard because if you’re bootstrapped, you have to build with a really small team. You’re constrained by resources.

You also mentioned in the early part of your career, you started a passion project without intentionally focusing on bringing in money or making revenue. Has that changed? Are you looking at the monetization angle for RevGenius? How are you doing that?

I do this full-time. I pay a team of seven. The government’s not giving me checks to do that. That’s a real burn. That’s a real payroll. We monetize through sponsorships. That’s our primary driver. RevRoom is growing. That’s membership paid for VPs in C-Suite. We’re looking at other products to potentially add as well that are probably aligned with 1 of those 2 drivers. Either the companies pay or individuals pay. I don’t know who else would pay, but it is aligned with either sponsorship or individual memberships.

It is sponsorship or membership. I would assume that happened not necessarily in year 1 but maybe in year 2 or year 3.

It happened about 6 or 7 months in when we got our first sponsor dollars. I could have probably gotten it earlier, but I pushed it off to understand what we had because the members were so tight. They were so fiercely linked to one another that I wasn’t sure how bringing a sponsor in would counteract the vibes that were there. I also knew that I needed to bring in revenue in some way.

This is a saying. It’s very easy to follow. You need to take care of yourself to take care of others. From an entity perspective, you need to take care of the initial members and yourself personally for the benefit of the bigger pursuit and vision of RevGenius.

You have to take care of yourself personally because you can’t take care of the members at your downfall.

B2B 45 | RevGenius
RevGenius: You have to take care of yourself because you could take care of the members at your, uh, at your downfall.


Walk us through how you approached or identified that initial or first sponsor.

They came to me. When you’re growing 3,000 members a month and everybody’s hitting and hollering on LinkedIn, people will see that. That’s a key takeaway. When you’re giving such immense value to those you serve that they’re screaming from the rooftops and you’re not asking them for anything, people will notice. That’s an anomaly. Everybody asks for something. They’re like, “Are you kidding me? Who is this psycho?” That’s how you create a movement.

You really hit it on the head.

They’re like, “Who is this psycho? He must be creating a movement.”

I love this. That is the peak of our conversation. We hit it at the top level over here. It looks like I ticked something on your side and we are hitting it at the right level over here. You cannot pursue a community initially to be like, “I’m going to do this so we can monetize,” versus delivering value and keep delivering value so much so that your customers or users scream and promote. That’s what you guys did.

There was so much value that people got from adding RevGenius to their LinkedIn profiles. That’s a cool growth loop. Thank you. Some people are getting more value than we’re getting from it. That’s phenomenal. I had somebody reach out to me from India. He said, “My firm got let go by a US client, but because I had RevGenius on my profile, they hired me directly instead.” I never met this person. I define that as a value at $0. Are you kidding me? Getting a job is a big value driver for a lot of people, especially if they don’t have one. It is very big.

B2B 45 | RevGenius
RevGenius: Getting a job is a big value driver for most people, especially now if they don’t have one.


I keep driving us back to that initial 6 months to 1 year. That was a crucial phase. Clearly, you guys hit that product market fit back then. You got started getting inbound sponsorship requests. What are the high-value activities that the members were seeing in their first 1 to 3 months?

Networking. It was having a connection with so many people. It was also being a part of something really cool and fast-growing. There’s a lot of value to being a part of the wave. There are so many events that people associate with or tie themselves to because of how many people are going for it. How many people want to run a marathon? In the New York Marathon and all these marathons, before there was an event around it, how many people honestly wanted to run 26.2 miles?

Not many.

1 or 2 maybe because they are idiots. You have these marathons. It’s like a notch on the ladder for what people are doing. People are training all the time. They are praying that they get in and then paying for the opportunity. They have created a movement. There are other things outside of what the actual marathon people did, like the health stuff and all of that. You don’t need to run a marathon to be healthy, do you? No. You don’t need to run a half marathon to be healthy. You could run 2 miles 3 days a week and eat well and do very well.

That was my story several years ago. I never could have even thought of or dreamt of doing a half marathon. I trained myself and ran three half marathons within a span of 1 or 2 years.

That’s amazing. There’s a lot of value in being a part of something is where I’m getting at. With belonging, there is value in belonging. If you said you had 5,000 members, how many members got a new job? Maybe 50, maybe 5. I don’t know. Maybe 500. Them being a part of something was invaluable. They were part of something cool. That’s what culture, being a part of something cool. Why do people wear a certain company or T-shirt? Why do you need a Gucci T-shirt? It’s culture.

There's a lot of value in being a part of something. There's value in belonging. Click To Tweet

How do you see RevGenius spanning out? What is your big vision? Where do you want to take this? You already have 36,000 members, which is no small amount.

North Star metric has moved correctly to more about the value that the members are getting in engagement and things that we could measure. We can measure net new members. If we’re at 370,000 members, there’s value in that. I don’t know if there’s value in 370,000 people being in the same Slack together unless it’s organized very incredibly well, and I sense it wouldn’t be. We want to create the defacto most important space for go-to-market and have it be community-driven. We want to create a category that becomes important because of the impact it drives on the space and the world. I want to be helpful to so many people.

The vision is to build out collaborative growth, which is what community ultimately is. It is to help pass the message, not just to leverage X for go-to-market of Y. X led growth, but it is to sustain X and make sure that the pie is bigger in the process, not leverage events and not care about the people that come. I’m not saying that people do that, but lift the people up in the process so that we can create a higher ceiling of abundance for everybody. Community when done right is the most powerful thing in this world. It’s right next to love. It’s a connection to love, which is the most powerful thing in this world. It is a positively powerful thing. Fear is equally as powerful, but love could solve that.

B2B 45 | RevGenius
RevGenius: Build out collaborative growth, which is what community ultimately is.


That is cool. I’m pretty impressed with what you guys are doing. Do you have a breakdown of the professional backgrounds of the members, like sales versus marketing versus product versus founders?

Yes. We’re probably about 50% to 60% sales. Rev ops and marketing are next. They are 15% to 20% each, and then customer success. The community is about 60% to 70% manager and above. We are about 42% directors and above, which is quite a lot of directors, VPs, C-Suites, and a bunch of founders. About half the companies in our community or a little less than half, like 40% to 45% of the companies in our community, are 1 to 100, and then maybe 15% over 1,000. It’s a pretty normal range for that many people. In RevRoom, everybody is VP or above. We have two senior directors. We have companies from Series A to public companies.

That’s very cool. What advice would you give to folks? Maybe they’re in the SaaS tech space and are either starters or mid-market. What advice would you give them? A lot of things that we are hearing are all about community-led. People are impatient. They want to see results in months 1, 3, or 6.

If you want to see results in months 1, 3, or 6 and you do all that, then you don’t care about the community or anything outside of the company. That doesn’t mean that it’s not going to work, but it means you’re full of crap. You need to care about the community. A lot of people who do community-led work do care about the community, but they have a gentle balancing act with getting results.

If you set up growth metrics, do things the right way, and drive enough value, the results will come. The advice I’d give for people who want to lean into the community is to love the people that you’re serving. Understand. Do the things that don’t scale, especially with community. Even if your company has scaled already and you’re launching a community, have a human touch to onboard the people at least in the beginning. When in doubt, have a human touch in so many spots. It will show the people when you show up or the leaders on your team show up that you care. That’s felt in a big way.

I told somebody people are always asking about what platform you start on. I’m going to keep it super simple. Start on a platform you’re already on. It’s this simple. It could be a text message. You have WhatsApp, Slack, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Whatever you have, start on one of those, and then figure it out before moving to Mighty Networks, Discord, or all the other ones. If you don’t have it, there’s a good chance most people in your space don’t have it, too. If they had it, you would have it. It’s not that it won’t work and all of that. I get it, but start simple. Start with something that’s in your hands already. That’s my two cents.

That is a great piece of advice.

Also, have a point of view when starting a community. That’s important. Many communities don’t have it. They serve certain people, but they don’t have a powerful point of view as to why people should pick. If there are two sales communities, why one over the other? One serves AEs and one SDR. That works for a while until the second one comes that also serves AEs. Why one or the other? It’s the point of view.

Be ferociously behind your people. Make sure that you’re solving an actual problem with anything that you create. People don’t need a 500th community necessarily. They need something that hasn’t solved their problem yet. If you have a company and you’re creating a community, it’s obvious to create a community to support your company.

People don't need a 500th community necessarily. They need something that hasn't solved their problem yet. Click To Tweet

If you’re doing sales engagement, you could be like, “This is my sales engagement community.” I understand, but what part of that person’s life do you want to deal with? An AE, SDR, rev ops leader, or whatever, where are they struggling not to get help with? What part is it consistently? How can you drive value to that? That also is aligned with your product in a way. What problem can your product solve that’s an actual problem there? How can you build a community and take your product out of it because you’re not trying to sell something that’s related and that hits people’s needs? That’s all. Thank you for reading.

This is a great piece of advice. If you were to tie it back to RevGenius’ early days, the point of view that you guys took, and the initial pain point, what would those be?

I was talking earlier that our point of view was okay, but it wasn’t as strong as it was going to be. We’re evolving it. Our point of view is that there needs to be a single place for everybody. It’s a good noble point of view. Maybe it is a movement. Maybe I’m not giving it enough credit, but other people came in with similar things and there wasn’t anything that differentiated.

There needs to be a single place for everybody. Click To Tweet

The problem we’re solving is that there was no place for everybody at the time. It was important for us to bring together sales, marketing, rev ops, and CS in one space. It doesn’t sound niched enough. I heard that a long time ago. I don’t hear it anymore because GTM is evolving so much. Alignment’s evolving. People’s roles are evolving. People’s titles are evolving. You have demand gen running outbound for some companies, not SDRs. If you have sales, it’s going to be myopic if you don’t have everything. It was critical for us to have the whole revenue work.

That’s pretty cool. I know we can go on and on. There are so many things I want to deep dive into.

We’ll come back. We should do part two.

We should do a take two in a few months’ time. This has been great. The final question for you is if you were to give advice to your younger self, what would that be?

It’s going to get really hard, but your older self has your back. We’ll make sure everything is okay, so do what you’re going to do.

That’s Fantastic. This was a wonderful, full of energy and passionate conversation. Thank you so much. Good luck to you and the RevGenius team.

Thanks. You mean the world to me. Take care.

Thank you.


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B2B 44 | Sales Team

B2B 44 | Sales Team


Sales isn’t just about hitting the numbers; it’s about creating transformative partnerships, driving revenue growth, and making Wall Street dreams a reality. In this episode, we dive deep into the world of sales development and go-to-market strategies with Tito Bohrt, founder and CEO of AltiSales. The discussion kicks off by shedding light on a common pitfall in sales development: focusing solely on meeting quotas. Tito reveals the flaw in this approach and explains why exceeding expectations and delivering real revenue outcomes should be the ultimate goal. As the discussion unfolds, Tito reveals how his company has transcended traditional sales development, transforming it into a venture capital powerhouse. He shares how his team not only sets up meetings but also invests in early-stage companies, taking on shared risks and reaping rewards alongside their partners. Tito also delves into the nitty-gritty of setting up successful sales development teams and shares the meticulous operation he has built. He emphasizes the importance of finding fulfillment beyond monetary gains and shares the heartwarming story of his promise to his mother. If you want to discover how to break free from conventional norms, deliver exceptional value, and ignite the true potential of your sales team, then this episode is for you. Tune in now!

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Passion, Promise, And Wall Street Dreams: Building High-Performing Sales Development Teams With Tito Bohrt

I have an exciting guest. I have with me Tito Bohrt, who is the Founder and CEO of AltiSales. He is championing the world of SDR. I’m curious and interested in knowing and learning about the story behind SDR and what prompted Tito to get into this. Without further ado, I’m going to welcome Tito. Welcome to the show.

Thank you. It is great to be here.

I’m going to start with the signature question my readers look forward to, which is, how do you view and define go-to-market?

I define go-to-market as the set of motions that a company has to do to get net new customers. That will involve, according to the type of company you are, potentially different teams. It could include marketing, sales development, and sales. If you have PLG motion, it could include the product. If you are not a PLG product, you won’t include the product. It is the set of motions from the people who are interested or involved in achieving net new customers.

I like the aspect and point that you did call out the product. That is something I see most folks miss out on. Kudos to you for that. I like the fact that you are bringing in and tying in all the key functions that, include product marketing and sales. Something that caught my attention, which you emphasized and focused on, is net new. What about the expansion piece within existing customers?

You are saying, “Go-to-market.” If you are going somewhere, you are not yet there. If you are expanding, you are expanding something where you already are. That can’t be go-to-market. That might be stay-in-market or growth-in-market, but it is not go-to-market.

I never looked at it from that angle. It is interesting you share that perspective. I will keep my eyes and mind open on that part.

I believe that renewals, expansions, cross-selling, and upselling are incredibly valuable, but I do not consider them as go-to-market. They fall outside of that definition.

Something else I had done and seen, especially when I was leading product marketing and marketing teams at early startups, there is acquiring new logos, which is a net new opportunity. There is also the aspect, especially in more mature organizations, when you are looking to add a new product to the product line, you are looking to expand, cross-sell and upsell within the existing accounts. In that perspective, it is a sliver of a go-to-market of a new product within existing accounts.

If you are going with a new product to these accounts, you would say you are in go-to-market motion for a new product because you are penetrating new territory.

That is a context setting for the readers. Let’s deep dive more into your story. Can you share a bit about your career journey? Why, and what prompted you to get into sales and SDR? What do you do now?

I will keep this short because I could spend a whole hour talking about the whole journey and how I got to where I am. I started the company I now run. I started version 1.0 of the company I ran when I was in college. I had a different company. I had a textbook marketplace. It seems like everybody and their mom has started a textbook marketplace in college.

I did this at Duke University. We were fairly successful there. I sold $50,000 worth of books during our first semester. Through that, I met a Duke alum, and while speaking with them, I learned they had an SDR team. They called it lead generation. There were a bunch of people making outbound calls. I read a book about outsourcing and moving operations to Bangladesh and different places for low cost.

I asked them why they weren’t doing that. That spurred a conversation into them wanting, due to language reasons and time zone reasons, people in the US. I had a better idea, which was all my friends in college wanted to travel. Why don’t we set up shop in a beautiful location like Costa Rica or Mexico? You set up operations there and hire people in the US, but you let them work abroad for six months.

That was version 1.0 of the company I launched. I run with it for about three years up until 2015. We only had them as a client. They became my client when I proposed that idea. We shut that down for a few years. I worked in Silicon Valley, and I restarted the company again with the same name. It is AltiSales.

The concept was a little bit different. I understood that employees could work remotely. They could work from anywhere. What was a constraining part was trying to set up a team in Costa Rica, bringing people from the US and hiring a few local employees. Our talent pool was limited. I wanted to create a company that was 100% remote. You can work from anywhere in the world. As long as you were excellent, we would trust you. We would build the right metrics and processes. You could work with us.

Nowadays, that concept has further evolved. 2.0 was a fully remote outsourcing company. What I would call AltiSales 3.0, which is the current version is. As we started outsourcing, all our clients were wondering how our processes and our SDRs get 2, 3, to 4 times more successful meetings, pipeline, revenue, or however you define it, than their internal SDRs.

We started consulting. As we were consulting, our clients wanted our metrics. We also launched our software. AltiSales 3.0 is a company dedicated to being a go-to-market accelerator, mostly for B2B SaaS. We have had a few clients outside of SaaS as long as you are an enterprise. We do it through cold calling and cold email. We can also do internal audits of your team. We also provide you with some tools that have been the key to our success. If you start using them, they will lift performance. That is where we are now. We have a big vision for where we are going, but I will save that for another time.

I can pinpoint and pick a lot of places or points in your journey, and we can dive deep into that. Let’s do that. The first point in your journey that I want to dive deep into, Tito, is back when you were at Duke, you launched this company named Shelf Relief. Somehow you got the founder’s DNA. Were you aware of that? What prompted you to even start a company in the first place at Duke?

Both my parents are entrepreneurs. They run their own businesses. When I was a kid, I thought I would work in the family business. I had a vision of finishing college, working for a few years, getting an MBA, working in the family business, and running that or starting my own when I was 30-something. Life goes faster than you think. I’m in my early 30s. I have been running the company for several years. I have been more successful than I ever thought I would be. It is exciting.

It was in my DNA because my parents were like that. I saw my dad sometimes work Monday through Saturday, ten-hour days. He gets home at 8:00 PM. Sometimes I see him take every Wednesday off to go golfing. That is the beauty of being an entrepreneur. You decide the intensity at which you want to work. I loved both his passion and flexibility in how he approached life.

The beauty of being an entrepreneur is that you get to decide the intensity at which you want to work. Click To Tweet

Those two things that you mentioned stand out for me, which is freedom, which you refer to as flexibility. You are committed to something. When you are an employee, you are getting a steady paycheck, but you are not digging into why you are working, where you are working, or what is getting you to get up every single day. Imagine the other state where you don’t have any income and clients, but you want to figure out what will wake you up in the morning, get you excited, and do that day in and day out. That is the passion piece.

The most helpful thing for me was to be an employee for a period of time. I was an employee at a few other companies. I approached it as an entrepreneur a little bit differently than most other people approach it. A lot of people that have an entrepreneur DNA take a job and don’t put a lot of effort or heart into it and try to work on their side hustle as much as possible because they want to do something for themselves. I approached it the complete opposite way. I went all in and deep into making that company as successful as I could.

The reason I did that is I saw it as a learning experience. If I can do it for Reputation.com, App Buddy, or the companies I worked at, imagine for myself, I can do it for myself. If I could build a pipeline, create a go-to-market strategy, build a data research team, set up CRM, and do this, I tried to do it as perfectly as I could, and I worked long hours.

The way I transitioned from my first job to the second job in the interview, they asked me, “What is one thing that you know at your company that nobody else knows? What is your competitive advantage that is making you successful?” My answer to that was, “The lights at the office turn off at 11:30 PM, and there is no way to turn them back on.” I will be in at 11:30 PM in the office almost daily. I was dedicating my life to work. I thought it was important. I wanted to be successful. I’m hungry for success at that moment. It turned out good. It paid off, but I worked for somebody else. I worked hard for those businesses. I saw it as a way for me to learn.

I checked out one of the videos you created when you launched, and you are running Shelf Relief, which is the how-to and explainer video about the marketplace for selling used textbooks. Was it all you who created and wrote that script?

I wrote the script.

Readers, you should go and check it out. I add it to the show notes. What it tells me is there is a marketer in you. How do you tell the story?

My background is in behavioral economics and decision neuroscience, which is the science behind how people make decisions and what persuades people. I was no expert in copywriting, but I found Epipheo Videos, which is an outsourcing agency or a company that would create videos for products. I found their YouTube channel, where they would publish all their videos. I found their library online. I had to watch 2 or 3 of their videos in the past, not knowing it was them. They were all fascinating and excellent.

I have also read books like Made to Stick, and Contagious is another one. All these help you understand the psychology of virality. With those, I reverse engineer the steps of the video. How are they creating these? What is a formula? If you have only 2 or 3, you can’t do it. Once you watch 25 of them, you could reverse engineer their process. I inquired with them to see if they wanted to build my video. The cost was $25,000 at the time, maybe higher. I didn’t have the money. I hired a freelancer on Upwork for $800 to do both the video plus the voiceover, and I wrote the whole script.

B2B 44 | Sales Team
Sales Team: I had also read books like Made to Stick, and Contagious is another one.


You got a good template, and you study the playbook inside out as to how to explain a video should be. Always start with a problem. You also talk about the alternatives and why your solution is better than the alternatives. You don’t focus on how you are going to address their pain point, which is buying and trying to sell books. They are getting only pennies on the dollar for the book they are selling. You also talk about easing their pain point after not using the purchase, but it is almost like a complete life lifecycle. You have them for the complete lifecycle.

The market is small. When you are in college, you think that textbook costs are the craziest and biggest problem in the world of a student. Once you realize all the other problems you can solve, you realize it was tiny, and there are better things to focus on. It is fun learning.

When you're in college, you think that textbook costs are the craziest and biggest problem in the world for a student. Then once you realize all the other problems you can solve, you realize that that was tiny and that there are better things to focus… Click To Tweet

In hindsight, you are able to connect the dots. That was a connecting dot to the next big thing, which is AltiSales 1.0. That is where you said you hired folks in the US, but you get the flexibility and option for them to work from exotic places.

We would set up an office in Costa Rica, Mexico, or Bolivia. We would fly a group down altogether on the same day. We would give them apartment space. There is a cleaning service that cleans their house once a week. We had adventure sports, water rafting, bungee jumping, jet skiing, or whatever we could find nearby. We would organize weekend trips, ATV riding, or whatever came to mind. It was a lot of fun.

The company in the early stages, AltiSales 1.0, was based on the premise that by locating your team in a lower-cost-of-living location, you could make it more cost-effective. It wasn’t about being an excellent sales development team. It was about being as good as your in-house team, except a little bit cheaper because it is in a lower-cost location.

That worked for a while. It gave me the opportunity to become one of the best sales development leaders in the world. I run sales development in 0.01% of teams in the world. I understand how to architect, execute and optimize everything within sales development much better. That led to 2.0 and 3.0, where we are focused on building world-class sales development teams for companies.

Can you shed some light on your system? I have studied entrepreneurs and marketers. There is something magical. Take the example of the NBA league. You got 30 teams in the NBA, but only the top 1, 2, or 3 teams consistently win the matches day in and day out. If you dig deeper, they have a system around how they train each player and how and what role they give to each player during every game system around creating playbooks. They have a system around mindset, the coach upping his or her game, and the players. There is the system, process, and training that goes behind it before the actual game. Similarly, it looks like you mastered a special source system for your company around SDR and sales development.

There are some things I can talk about. There are some things that I can’t talk about in that system. We believe SDRs solve problems, not solutions. It is step number one. Number two, everything gets measured and managed. We look for leading indicators rather than lagging indicators of success. The way we manage and think about our team’s success is slightly different.

B2B 44 | Sales Team
Sales Team: SDR sells problems, not solutions.


I talk to SDR leaders that are still asking, “How many dials did my SDR make now, this week, or this month?” Those are some of the principles. When I’m evaluating the performance of an SDR, the first thing I look at is how many meetings have been completed. Have they gotten every month with the target accounts and the right buyer personas? If they haven’t had the number of meetings completed, I look at the number of meetings set. If I don’t have the number of meetings set, I look at the number of conversations. If they don’t have the number of conversations, I look at dials.

What that allows us to do is focus on outcomes rather than inputs and get the SDRs focused on their outcomes rather than their inputs. If I can get to my goal of 60 dials a day, nobody cares. If you are not getting the goal of 60 dials a day, that trickle-down effect will get us to ask you about the dials and the effort you are putting in.

At the same time, we know what the benchmarks of conversions have to be. By starting at the bottom of the funnel, I say, “Your show rate should be about 80% to 85%. If you are in that range from the meeting set to meetings completed, you are good.” Let’s say your goal is ten meetings a month. If they are setting fifteen meetings and they are only having eight complete, I’m like, “You are at 53%. That is not going to cut it.” We have a checklist on how to troubleshoot your show rate.

It is the same with the calls. We know what our connect-to-meeting ratio needs to be. If 100 people pick up the phone, how many meetings are we going to get? I know what that number needs to be across our clients. If they are not there, I’m going to dive deeper. When I’m diving deeper, I don’t say, “You got to make more calls. You got to improve your conversion.” I say, “If you make a phone call, and somebody says, ‘Hello,’ what is your opening line?” Within the opening line, what percentage of time should an SDR have their opener turn into a pitch? That for us is in the 80% something range. If you are not there, I have a checklist on how to help you improve your opener.

You got a detailed system. If you talk to most CROs or marketing and sales leaders, they will talk at a high level about the conversion metrics between sales stages or marketing stages. What stood out for me, Tito, in your system and the way you are thinking about it is you are going down to the minute in the life of an SDR on any given day, and you backtrack.

The outcome is the meeting show up. The meetings they booked are one thing, but showing up for the meetings is a real success, and that is when they hand it over to the AE. Before that, there are steps leading up to that point. You nailed it down. You mentioned a lot of times the outbound calls and phone calls. Is it only outbound? Is that the only channel you are relying on, or do you explore others, like emails?

We are multi-channel. We are doing LinkedIn, email, and phone calls depending on the type of interaction. Sometimes when our SDRs interact with somebody, the prospect says, “Can you send me a quick email?” We say, “Do you mind if I send you a text message instead?” The prospect might say, “Yes, that works too.” Now we are texting with a prospect’s permission. We do LinkedIn ads for certain clients, especially when there are specific target accounts they want to get into. We have a system to do specific ABMs. It is multi-channel. We think that is the way you win.

B2B 44 | Sales Team
Sales Team: Multi-channel might be the way you win.


You alluded to what works for outbound and outreach. It is not just phone calls, but it is multi-channel. Going back to the go-to-market tactic, that makes sense, given the context of your customer or client.

You got to be smart about it. If you are doing this well, channels are feeding off each other. When you leave a voicemail, you say, “John, I’m sending you an email. There is no need to call me back. My name is Tito. I was trying to XYZ123.” That is a good way because people don’t call you back on voicemail, but they will go open your email.

It is similar on LinkedIn. You can say, “Did you see my email?” On a phone call, sometimes they will say that too, like, “Can you send me an email?” You can say, “Yes, I will connect with you on LinkedIn. I sent you an email a few days ago, but I will ping it back to the top of your inbox.” You reply with a ping. It will come to the top of the inbox, and they will see it. Those strategies work.

This is where I see your Duke Major in Psychology and Human Behavior coming into play. Whatever you mentioned here is similar to copywriting. If you take the example of an email, the main activity or outcome you expect the email subject to do is prompt the reader to open and go to the opening line. Each line should take them to the next line and eventually do the call to action.

I’m switching gears. This is good. This is almost like creating, teaching, and emphasizing the basics at a nitty-gritty and microscopic level. I want us to get into a go-to-market success story and failure story. If you can share a go-to-market success story, either with your own company or, depending on the confidentiality agreements, you lay out the private number metric. If you can share a go-to-market story, that would be great.

Two ways to approach this. I have a client that when they started working with us, they were pre-revenue. They had raised money on a napkin idea because their founder had sold another business to IBM for billions of dollars. They hired us for their go-to-market strategy. Their initial valuation was $25 million. It was a seed round. When you are an experienced founder, you get those much more easily than when you are a first-time founder.

Within a few years, we help them close deals like American Airlines, Procter & Gamble, Altair, and some big logos. In aggregate, those deals were millions of dollars. Their valuation skyrocketed to $400 million. That is one way to think of a success story. The amount of revenue generated and whatever else. At one point, we represented 40% of the revenue they had. Our one SDR doing outbound had sourced 40% of the revenue for the company, which is insane.

You only had one SDR, and that pushed their valuation from $25 million to $400 million in one year.

They also closed some other leads via inbound, marketing, or friends of the founder. They were pre-revenue before they started with us. You have to remember this a couple of years ago when valuations were higher. If you are at 40 times revenue for your valuation, to be a $400 million company, you only need $10 million in revenue. If you close American Airlines for $1.5 million, you are 15% off your way. One deal can increase your valuation by $60 million. That is a good success story a couple of years ago.

I want to give you the most recent one. We had a prospect that picked up the phone. We got a meeting with one of our clients. The company that we got a meeting with replied back and said, “That call was excellent. The way you executed was amazing.” I have a screenshot of the Slack channel because our customer screenshotted that. He let the prospect that we booked a meeting with know that they worked with us. The customer came inbound. I had a discovery call with that company. It is only the details. When you are doing great work, people notice. When they notice, they ask. When they ask, the word gets out that you are doing excellent work. That is how it is.

That is a great showcase or a proof point of how once you do your work reference. It is all references after that. This example was a referral. Sorry we had to go back and forth over here, but you are such a story that prompted me to take myself and you back in time. Back in the day, when you created 1.0 of all these sales, you didn’t have any references yet. How did you land your initial set of customers?

I only had one customer for AltiSales 1.0. It was a Duke alum that had a lead generation team. I prompted them with the idea of why don’t you set it up in Costa Rica or Bolivia, or Mexico. They went down to the location to check it out. I gave them a tour of Bolivia. I said, “You guys should do it. If you want to do it, I will help you out. My family is here. I was born and raised in Bolivia. I can set you up a team. I love to eventually get a job with you guys.” They said they said, “No, Tito. We don’t understand the Bolivian market. We don’t want to deal with all the real estate. I love the idea, but the only way we would do it is if you drop out of college, start a company, and will be your first client.” I was like, “Done, I’m doing that.” I took it in a heartbeat.

How about 2.0? Was it outbound or reference, or you got your own network?

It was at a coworking space. I hacked my way into it. I got hired as an account executive for a company. I told them I wanted to be hired as a contractor because I wanted to be able to work remotely. They said, “Yes.” I said, “As part of the deal, I would bring one of my SDRs to book meetings for me.” I paid for that out of pocket because my SDR was in Mexico. It wasn’t expensive.

That SDR was sourcing me 10 to 15 meetings a month. I was working two hours a day while I already had another W-2 job. I was closing deals left and right. I was doing good work. They were like, “That guy that he had is a genius. He is getting many meetings. Let’s continue this. This is great. Can he start booking meetings for other people?”

I tried to negotiate the contract. It got dicey. I’m not working out. Soon after that, I was working out a co-working space in San Francisco. In that coworking space, I found my second client. It is the same co-work space because I was doing all the work. I was making some cold calls myself to try to figure out the script. I found my third client.

We started doing runs for ourselves for a small period of time. We found a couple once. The other thing that drove a lot of clients was I launched a website. I started writing on LinkedIn about sales development, and people kept coming. I have a client now that we sourced the outbound ourselves. They take it longer, but the clients get excited. I can dive deeper there if you want to.

That will be good because some of the readers are founders, and you are sharing your founder’s story as to how you got an initial set of clients.

Here is one incredible thing that happened as we went outbound. When we meet with clients, we believe in making the 30 minutes they are spending with us as valuable as possible. I have a PowerPoint presentation. At this point, it has about 100 slides. It is all visuals on the way I see the world and sales development, go-to-market, conversions, and all the stuff we believe to be true.

When we meet with customers, we spend seven minutes showing them about twelve key slides. That means less than 30 seconds per slide. I don’t read anything on the slides. Those are mostly graphs. When they see those graphs, and I explain how we believe sales development should be run versus how it is run now, it creates an impact.

It happened to us with an outbound call with this company. We show them the slides. At the end of the call, we send them our deck. Several months later, we closed the deal. They had gone cold. We marked their clothes lost. Several later, they came back. They were like, “We want to chat a new app gets reopened again.” Eventually, it closes.

When we’re doing onboarding, the CMO who we had the meeting with tells us, “Let us show you how we think about go-to-market and our personas. This is the deck we show the board.” They are showing their screen. They are showing us slide 26. I look at the slides on the left side because you can see them in Google Presentation. Slide 29 was the slide I showed her several months earlier. She showed these slides to the board. That was the most exciting moment.

I knew I was a great seller. I knew that what I believed to be true was resonating when that happened. Some other people were like, “Were you annoyed?” I’m like, “I’m proud. I put something out there. A customer who was cold-called came into a meeting with me, spent 30 minutes with me, must have loved the presentation so much, and I must have clicked in their mind well that they took my slides and presented them to the board.” I got a contract. It is hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of services. We are doing a great work. It all works out in the end. The way to get more customers is to be incredibly insightful, especially when you are doing outbound. You need to explain why the world is the way it is and why you see it that way.

B2B 44 | Sales Team
Sales Team: The way to get more customers is always to be incredibly insightful, especially when you’re doing outbound. You need to explain why the world is the way it is and why you see it that way.


The principles of power and influence, you are a living example of that, which is to give without any expectations. It all comes back not right away, but it all comes back.

Robert Cialdini is smart. His book Pre-Suasion, prior to Influence, is good.

Do you have a past go-to-market failure story that you can share with the readers?

I will share a good one. This is AltiSales 2.0. When we were outsourcing, clients didn’t see us as a company to rely on insights or anything beyond meetings. We signed a contract with a customer. We promised about 100 meetings for the year. We delivered 217. Why is this a failure story? When we were three weeks away from renewal, I marked this renewal at 100% chance. I was trying to up my rate by about 15% because our prices had gone up that year.

I tell the founder, “I want to hop on a call and chat. Your renewal is coming up.” He says, “Sure, let’s talk. Let’s schedule this time. I want to let you know in advance there is no way we are going to renew.” I had to mark that at 100% percent probability. We started the conversation. I discovered, and this is what teaches me to go and solve this problem, that out of the 217 meetings they had taken, they have sold one deal. They were expecting to sell 20 to 30. It was a small deal. It was $10,000. They had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on us, and what they had to prove for that was $10,000. They said, “The meetings are garbage.”

I started looking deeper into that because I’m a data-driven leader. I was like, “That is interesting to hear. I don’t want to fight you on it, but let me look at the data. Let me bring the data.” I looked at it, and all our meetings were the right target accounts because the accounts were given to us. There was no problem with us setting up the wrong accounts. It was, 98% of the time, the right buyer persona. There were 2 or 3 that weren’t good. They were excellent right accounts personas.

I said, “Do you have call recordings, or Javier, the account executive, is taking these calls?” I started watching those. It was apparent within five minutes of watching the first recording that it was a problem. The account executive would hop on the call and say, “VJ, I’m John. Thanks for taking a call with us. What is keeping you up at night? What problem are you trying to solve?”

Most customers were like, “Nothing. You guys called us. What do you guys do? I’m lost. We are not on the same page.” The seller was like, “You don’t know what we do.” They are like, “No idea.” He was like, “Why don’t I give you a quick overview?” He would go on a canned PowerPoint presentation mode, eighteen minutes of like, “Here is what we do.” They do a tiny demo and be like, “What do you think? Do you think you guys want to buy this?” The prospect was like, “I don’t think so.” He was like, “Keep us in mind for the future.” He would hang up. He would not set up a follow-up. He wouldn’t ask for good discovery. There was nothing.

It wasn’t their fault. This designated account executive had worked in customer support for the company for a couple of years. They didn’t have a sales team. They made him the seller because he was knowledgeable about the product. It is a big lesson for us. That was a big failure. What we should have done, and what we do now, is we will review the calls with the sellers when the client signs up with our service. I’m going to check how good they are at taking those calls.

We have a scorecard. We are going to score and benchmark them. I’m going to tell the VP of sales where are the strengths of weaknesses of the team. We are going to present a go-to-market report every quarter a week before their board meeting so that we can align our presentation to our CRO or CEO with a presentation they got to put together for their bosses, which is the board. That is how you learn. It sucks. I have a 100% chance of probability of renewal. I had delivered 217% of my quota. I lost a deal. That sucked.

Two things that stood out for me, Tito, is one is signing up for a number and delivering beyond. That is a relatively easier thing to do. That is where a lot of the SDR and outbound teams make mistakes, especially if that SDR team is within marketing versus if they are reporting to sales. The marketing leader says, “We signed up to deliver 100, but we gave you 150 leads or meetings.” It is the same thing. It is tracking against a volume or metric versus the real outcome, which is revenue. The smart thing that stood out in what you guys are doing is you are starting with the end in mind. In this case, the AE call once that meeting is set up and the first meeting that the AE does.

You got to track everything. We are diligent. We have come to help our customers to find their sales stages and set up automation and their CRMs. The AEs get reminders. If the AE doesn’t pay attention to a reminder that was set up for them saying, “VJ, you got to follow up with this opportunity. You put July 2nd as your date, and now July 3rd.” If you don’t follow up and move that date, three days later, it is going to ping a public channel. Once it has ping the public channel five times for any given seller, we send a notification to leadership like, “CRO, this seller is always late on their follow-ups. We are taking them out of rotation. No more SDR calls are going to them.”

For all these sales, you guys are not into setting up meetings. You are a lot more than that.

We are a venture capital company. I’m not a sales development company.

What came to my mind and what I mentioned is almost all these sales are 1 or 1.5 versus where you guys and what you guys are doing now is completely different.

Once you up your level of service this much, now our goal is to work with companies that are early stage. We took a company from a $25 million valuation to $400 million. For a few years, they have worked with us. For us building that revenue on that team, we must have charged them $500,000. We might have produced $200 million worth of value, and we captured $500,000. That is not fair to me.

We have two pricing structures. One is for big companies or what we call the regular companies, where they are going to pay cash, and they are going to pay a higher amount, or you pay our regular amount, and you got to give us investment rates. Now we have the ability to invest in your company within the next six months. If we invest, we have an upside. We will put somewhere between $50,000 and $300,000. If I would put $200,000 into that company, and it went from $25 million to $400 million, that is 18X of my money. I would’ve turned $200,000 into $16 million.

You guys are upping the game in terms of where you are playing. You are not a small player in the SDR setting up the meetings world. You are putting your own risk, and you are putting down the money versus saying, “We will deliver on the number of meetings.” You are going way beyond that. They win, and you win big.

That is what I tell them. The day you ring the bell on Wall Street because your company has IPOed, I want to be next to you. If you don’t want me there, you pay me more money now. I promised my mom I make it to the New York Stock Exchange and ring the bell. I got to find a partner that wanted to help me get there and make my mom happy. That is more important than the money for me. I will give you a discount if you give me equity. That is what it is.

Coming to the closing section over here, I know you need to jump. You got other things going on in your world. The second to last question I have for you, Tito, is, what are the 1 or 2 things people reach out to you for? You are a sharp founder. You have a sharp entrepreneurial brain and thinking. You are sharp when it comes to go-to-market, marketing, sales, investing, and finance. What are the 1 to 2 things that people reach out to you for advice?

It is all about setting up SDR teams, everything from where to hire, how to hire, how to think about it, tools to use, how to set up SDR compensation plans, and how to manage one-on-ones. We have created an operation in which we are taking care of all the small details because we know all the small details. People want to learn more about those and copy bits and pieces. They try to see if they can replicate part of our success.

I would say all things sales development, but there is a big range. We have a specific way of doing comp plans. Our best SDRs are making well over $100,000 to $120,000. It is because they are experienced, good, and exceeding quota. If you are not exceeding quota, you might be making right above your base because it is exponential that we don’t pay our SDRs the same amount on every meeting. For the first few, they get no money. For the next few, they get a certain amount. For the next few, they get a lot more. It is fun.

The final question I have for you is, if you were to turn back time and roll back the clock, what advice would you give to your younger self?

That changes over time. I don’t know what I would change.

What advice would you give?

I would tell my younger self, “You don’t need as much money as you think you need. If you don’t have a use for the money you are making, it makes no sense to make more money.” I focused too much on working hard and making as much money as I could. Once I had made all the money I wanted to make, I was like, “No, I want to double that.” When I doubled that, I was like, “I want to double that again.” It is nonsense chasing a number. It doesn’t change anything.

You don't need as much money as you think. Click To Tweet

There is a point at which time is a lot more valuable than money. I’m trying to spend more time enjoying and less time working hard on the business. The advice I would give myself is don’t go too crazy trying to build a big business fast. There are a lot of founders in their 20s or early 30s who exit for $800 million or $300 million. You don’t need that. It doesn’t matter.

If it comes at the cost of the personal side of health, it is not worth it at the end of the day.

Luckily, my health is excellent, but it is the enjoyment. I look at the last several years, and I can remember sleeping in the office several times. As I was saying, “What did I know that nobody else knew is that the lights turned off at 11:30 PM.” That type of craziness worked well for me and gave me some big advantage, but I didn’t need to do it for as long as I did it. I could have chilled, traveled, and enjoyed a little bit more. I have been to 44 countries. I have been all over the place and enjoyed it more, but I wish I turned that switch sooner rather than later.

On that note, I’m cheering for you and the team. I’m sure you will go much higher. I’m excited, and we will be tracking your journey. Good luck. I wish you the best.

Thank you. If anybody wants to find me, connect with me on LinkedIn, that is the easiest way to continue to follow the journey. I post a lot about sales development and open advice. Hopefully, people get a lot of value on there. Thanks for having me.


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B2B 43 | Human Centric

B2B 43 | Human Centric


Success in the evolving world of go-to-market lies in embracing a paradigm shift – from company-first to people-first strategies. By placing the individual at the center of your approach, you can reach the true potential of B2B relationships and pave the way for enduring success in a hyperconnected world. In this episode, we have Nick Bennett, B2B SaaS Marketing Advisor, discuss go-to-market strategies and how they have evolved. Throughout the episode, Nick touches on various aspects of marketing principles, such as storytelling, values, and authenticity in building connections. He emphasizes the transition from B2B to H2H (human to human), where the personality and leadership behind a brand play a crucial role. Additionally, Nick shares his own career journey and emphasizes the power of consistency and showing up. He explores the importance of aligning values when selecting new opportunities and roles, and how treating marketing as part of a revenue organization leads to greater success. Nick challenges the notion of saturated channels and highlights the pivotal role of people in cutting through the digital noise. Don’t miss this episode of learning how to get ahead in this evolving industry. Tune in now!

Listen to the podcast here


From Company-Centric To Human-Centric: The Evolution Of Go-To-Market With Nick Bennett

I have Nick Bennett. I’m sure if you are active in the marketing world and/or if you’re active on LinkedIn, it’s very hard for you to escape the name of Nick. I’m sure he must have popped on your radar several times. Without further ado, let me welcome Nick. How are you doing?

I’m good. How are you doing? Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Same here. There are so many topics, conversations, and deep dives. I’m looking forward to it. With that, I always start the episode with this signature question. That’s what this show is all about. How do you define go-to-market?

I’ve been thinking more about that lately. I think the new way to go-to-market is people-first. Before I get into why people-first is the new way, going back to the old way, a lot of marketers have that mindset of it is a company-first go-to-market. When I think of company-first go-to-market, I think of brand spam. I think it’s more about the lead quantity. It’s all about capturing demands and transactional. You feel like you’re out on your own.

Now, the B2B go-to-market has to evolve because of the convergence of AI, channel saturation, cookie list future, and all these things. It moves to a new way, which is that people-first go-to-market, so it’s putting the person first. It’s meaningful interactions. It’s the lead quality versus the quantity aspect of it. It’s create-demand relationships, and partnership-centric as well, which is a big thing. You think about the ecosystem. I know there have been some events that have been going on recently where everyone is talking about the ecosystem, and how that plays into go-to-market today. For me, people-first go-to-market is the move for not only 2023 but beyond as well.

I completely agree with that viewpoint. I saw your LinkedIn post, which is about personalization at scale is what will matter. Doing a persona exercise is cumbersome. It’s time-intensive and resource-intensive, but not many people actually get to use it or don’t know how to use that. I’m completely on board with you on that. Here is the challenge, and this is obviously the million-dollar question that’s facing everyone.

Especially in the startup world or even beyond the startup world, there’s always the pressure of, “Give me more leads and build more pipelines.” At the same time, we all know that quality is what trumps or what works versus quantity, but there’s constant pressure because you either need to appease the leadership team or the board. There’s always this dynamic. I completely agree with you on the people first. What is your answer? How do you approach that situation?

It comes back to understanding the five principles of a people-first go-to-market. One is a story or a point of view. You have to have a point of view on something and it has to be meaningful. The second piece is values. Going back to the values of people and putting people first, it’s not transactional. It’s being transparent in having pricing on your website or having an email come from an actual person. Many times, companies send out marketing emails and it’s like marketing at XYZ company. Why can’t it be from the person that wrote that email? Why can’t the eBook that your company put out have an author page for the content team or whoever worked on it?

Relationships and how authenticity shines through are so important. We all know it’s not B2B. It’s H2H, so human-to-human, and people buy from people. It’s the partnership, the personality, and the person behind it. You need to have the leadership, and not only marketing leadership but executive leadership buy into this mentality of empowering people both internally and externally. You have to rely on having those conversations at the right time and realizing that, so many times people like to say, “This channel is dead, email is dead, events are dead, or MQLs are dead.”

It’s all about how you can turn that into a positive moment and take learnings away from it to drive impact versus saying something is dead. Every channel is saturated. How do you cut through the noise in the digital world? It goes back to the people. Everything that you do, like ABM, PLG, and inbound is ultimately still about people at the end of the day. Having people both internally and externally that can champion your brand is huge in today’s world.

The first filter, and maybe one of the key filters that one has to apply when selecting a new opportunity or a role is around the values. Does the leadership team, founder, CEO, marketing team, or revenue leadership teams, whoever they are, subscribe to this H2H mindset? That’s the biggest thing. They should not be afraid. They should be encouraging the email marketer, the customer success person, or the content creator to have their name or their stamp on that email or on the website.

I don’t want to say this is all marketing leaders or all leaders in general, but so many people are bought into the old playbook of what worked five years ago. What worked five years ago doesn’t work today. It’s just like anything. Technology evolves year after year. Apple convinces us to buy a new iPhone every single year and pay thousands of dollars for it, even knowing it’s a very incremental change. The brand has empowered everyone. Everything that they do makes us go out and buy that. You have to be bought into modern-day marketing for this to be successful as well.

Let’s switch gears. I would love to have you share your career journey with the audience. There are a lot of cool nuggets. It’ll be interesting to see. I would be interested in understanding your inflection points and where you made the transition, so bring it on.

I have a little bit of an interesting background. I played baseball all through high school and college. I went to college for Sports Management. I didn’t want to go to college, to be honest with you. My parents pushed me to do it. They were like, “You’re going to pay for it because we don’t believe that you’re going to graduate. You’re probably going to flunk out and we’re going to end up paying the bill.” I took out student loans and did my thing. I was like, “If I’m going to go to school, I’m going to go for Sports Management. I thought I would get out and be some big athletic director, sports agent, or something like that.

I got out and realized that I could go sell tickets for the Red Sox making $10 an hour. I was like, “This isn’t what I thought it was going to be. I’m out of school. I need a big boy job now.” I went into sales. It’s not tech sales. I never worked in tech sales per se, but I worked in inside sales for some tooling companies. I ran AT&T. I worked for Motorola, and AT&T was my account. Going back to the iPhone, I used to sell up against iPhone every fall. We would have to try to basically get AT&T to buy through a bunch of products.

It helped me then figure out that I was good at sales. I knew what I was doing, but I hated having a quota hanging over my head every single quarter or every single month. I came across a channel marketing role. I was like, “This is cool.” I get to work with all the partners. At the time, it was a 100% channel company, so all they sold through was the channel. I got to work on cool campaigns with that. Originally, what that helped me do was move into field marketing, because it was pretty much the same. The only difference is field marketing. You have the internal sales team channel. I worked everything through the channel. I got into field marketing and I was like, “This is awesome. The sales are my customer. I’m getting to do all of these amazing things without a quota hanging over my head, but I’m still being a part of the sales team to a certain degree.”

I never looked back. I did field marketing for tech companies, mostly in the series-B to series-D stage, for the last ten years. I went through multiple layoffs and multiple acquisitions, and one company ran out of runway. I’ve seen everything at this point, then I was like, “Let me transition into ABM.” I moved into ABM a little bit and started talking about that. I then recently did customer marketing as well. In my most recent role at Airmeet, I headed up an event-led growth, which was a new term we were trying to coin, as well as communities, social media, and this whole creator aspect.

I realized for me that people-first in the creator economy and B2B is where things are moving and this whole evangelism. How do you evangelize not just executives within companies? Executives should evangelize. I think of Sangram and all these people that are executives. That’s part of their job. What about those people that work for your company that have followings for themselves? They can become bigger evangelists and drive meaningful impact through pipelines and close one revenue.

Somewhere along the journey, something magical happened. You were not Nick who was doing a day job, but you were Nick who was doing the day job and being active on social. If my memory serves right, that encouragement or the transition happened when you were at Clari. Did I get that right?

Yes, absolutely. For everyone tuning in, I used to report to Kyle Coleman. He’s very well-known on LinkedIn. He’s now SVP of Marketing at Clari. At the time, he was heading up our sales development team, our enablement team, and our growth marketing team, which field marketing rolled up into. We were in Laguna Beach, California. We were at our revenue kickoff. He was the one that was like, “You should start posting about field marketing on LinkedIn. No one talks about it.”

It was crazy because the more I thought about that, and even in my past, so often people would just share a company post. They weren’t creating content. It’s like 1% of people would create content. At the time with 650 million users, no one talked about field marketing, what it was, the misconceptions to a revenue organization, and all of those things. I said, “I am going to do that.” I doubled down and talked about that. I tried to share my experiences of programs and things that I was working on.

I speak with a lot of not just marketers but even others within go-to-market teams and even founders for that matter. They all want to be active on LinkedIn. They know that being active on LinkedIn is the magic bullet to get more brand awareness and pipeline. The intent and desire are there, but to translate that into an action or a habit is a huge jump. How did you make that transition?

It’s all about consistency. Consistency doesn’t have to mean that you’re posting every single day. Consistency means showing up, whatever that means to you. Maybe that means showing up and posting 2 times a week or 3 times a week. At least at a minimum, you should be engaging with other people. People have to start to treat LinkedIn as a community to a certain degree. All your buyers are there. I’ve read something recently that there were almost a billion users on LinkedIn. It was 970 million or something like that. I’m sure they’ll hit a billion users before the end of the year. Think about that many people on LinkedIn. At the time, 1% of people were creating content.

B2B 43 | Human Centric
Human Centric: It’s all about consistency. And consistency doesn’t have to mean that you’re posting every single day. Consistency means just showing up, whatever that means to you.


I did read something that said by the end of 2022, they were close to 4% of people that were creating content. I’m sure as you’ve seen, it has gotten noisier. How do you cut through the noise? For those people that started like me three and a half years ago, it’s a little bit easier. If you’re starting now, you have to find like-minded people that you want to engage with and engage in their posts. You don’t have to create your own content.

If I see you posting every single day about go-to-market, I can add value there, and then I can be one of those first people that comment. I’m going to organically build that base back to my own LinkedIn page before creating any of my own content. I always recommend that now. If you’re going to get started, you don’t have to jump in and create content five days a week. Go engage with 15 to 20 people that you want to learn from every single day. I guarantee you that it’s going to pay off more than just jumping in and posting content.

That’s good advice for someone. Clearly, someone can put that into action this week or even next week. Let’s zoom back a bit and talk about how you approach go-to-market. You did touch upon several aspects around people-first. In your last couple of roles, how were you thinking about go-to-market at companies like Airmeet, Clari, and you also were at Alyce? How are you thinking about go-to-market in all those organizations?

The biggest thing is you have to think of it as a revenue organization. You can’t treat it as silos. Often companies are like, “I don’t have silos. There are no silos between sales, marketing, CS, BDR, or SCR team, but I guarantee you, every company has silos, whether you want to admit it or not. If you can treat it as a true revenue organization where marketing, sales, CS, and everyone is involved throughout that entire buyer’s journey, it’s going to be a lot more successful. Everyone is going to be a lot more willing to jump in and be a part of it versus just marketing saying, “I’m going to go drive MQLs.” Salespeople don’t care about MQLs. If you say, “Here’s how I’m going to put an extra $30,000 in your pocket for this quarter,” I guarantee you people are going to listen to you. That’s for sure.

B2B 43 | Human Centric
Human Centric: If you can treat go-to-market as a true revenue organization where marketing, sales, CX, and everyone is involved throughout that entire buyer’s journey, it’s going to be a lot more successful.


One thing that caught my attention, which you forgot to mention and I’m eager to hear your thoughts on, is you did mention marketing, sales, and customer success, but you omitted product.

It’s interesting because the only company where product has rolled under the revenue organization was Clari. They rolled product under there as well. The first time that I saw it, I was like, “This makes a ton of sense because they’re playing a big piece into the revenue side of it.” Between Alyce and Airmeet, product was never part of the go-to-market strategy, which probably isn’t a great thing now that I’m thinking about it.

Being in MarTech and selling to marketers and things, it’s something where I understand the pain points because I’ve been looking to solve these for so long. It’s a little bit easier for me now. If you go into IT or some of these other industries, it may be a little bit harder. I think that I influence the product roadmap a ton because being a marketer, it’s things that I want to see. It’s interesting because I don’t see products rolling under GTM a ton, although they should now that I’m thinking of it. It’s weird. Clari was the only one that did that.

Let me be honest. I don’t expect a product organization to roll under a go-to-market umbrella. That’s super crazy to an extent because the product is all about innovation. You want to keep that separate from the actual go-to-market tactics. What I’m getting at is more around when you think about the go-to-market strategy. If you review on a weekly or monthly basis, product should be in those discussions.

A couple of weeks ago, I had Karen Steele, who was a CMO at Sendoso. She was talking about before the actual tactics or before the actual meeting, she sits down with the marketing and sales entire team. She initially has the leaders from product, marketing, revenue, and customer success. They talk about at a high level what’s working and what’s not. It’s not that they’re pinpointing or poking holes in someone’s metrics in that specific meeting. All that deep dive and roadblocks of what’s working and what’s not will happen at a subsequent meeting. There are ways to go about and do this.

I do agree. We do that a ton. It’s something where we have regular meetings with the product team that understands. It’s not like the product team is siloed, doing their own thing, creating the roadmap, creating features, and shipping stuff just because they think that’s what people want. At Airmeet, we had 100-person engineering and product teams. For a smaller company, we could ship a ton of new features and stuff. We talk to the marketing team on a regular basis. The product team was good about listening to customer calls and listening to prospect calls. Also, taking a lot of that feedback and implementing it back. It’s like a feedback loop to a certain degree, so that was definitely key too.

Switching gears a bit over here. Can you share for the benefit of our audience a recent go-to-market success story? I would you to share both a success story and a failure story. It’s up to you which one you want to pick and go with first.

I would probably say a success story first. Something that we believed in at Airmeet was this whole creator studio. Originally, when I joined the company, part of my role was to build out this creator studio. The vision for it was a collaboration with other creators because we agreed that collaboration between creators is a huge piece in a people-first go-to-market. I wanted to see if there was going to be anyone that would find value in that. Unfortunately, we’re not going to see it come to fruition, but there were so many people that submitted a video submission of something they wanted to create and collaborate with other creators.

We weren’t even giving them a ton of things. We were just giving them access to our design and our brand team, and helping them out when they maybe didn’t get there. Many people had creative ideas for things they wanted to create. We were going to use that and we did start to use that as fuel to the top-of-funnel aspect within our go-to-market strategy because we’re borrowing trust and authority from a lot of these creators. It’s like influence marketing to a certain degree, except instead of the brand telling the influencer what to do, why not collaborate with a bunch of creators?

I would always use the analogy of you go to an art studio and you paint, but when you go to the art studio, there’s a bunch of other artists there. What if all those artists want to create a painting together because you’re in one spot? That’s what I was trying to create. The early results that we saw from it were very successful. If we ran it for the rest of the year, I’m sure we probably would’ve seen even bigger results. For running it for six months, I definitely saw very good early results that impacted our revenue. It’s good to see there.

The negative side from the GTM side of it is my last role at Alyce. One of the things we were trying to fix was outbound is broken. How do you leverage gifting and direct mail in an outbound strategy so it doesn’t suck at the end of the day? We had a good vision of how to fix outbound to make it better, and how to make it not sound so spammy, which now that I’m thinking about it, that’s people-first. You were trying to put people first at the front of it. It goes back to everything. We want to put people at the center of everything that we do. The tactics that we were trying to deliver between sales and marketing, we didn’t want to call it ABM per se. We were calling it targeted marketing, but it was part of the larger GTM strategy side of it.

Put people at the center of everything that you do. Click To Tweet

We didn’t have the correct tactics in place throughout the buyer’s journey. We were driving a ton from the top of the funnel, but we were accelerating nothing. All of those opportunities were basically dying. We had the messaging, assets, and awareness. We just couldn’t accelerate those. I wish we did some things differently looking back, but it was still successful to a certain degree. I just think that it could have been so much more.

Hindsight is 20/20. You learned so much from that for sure. It all boils down to we need to get a campaign or a program up and running. It’s more of let’s experiment around a set of hypotheses, and see and test what works and what doesn’t. It has its own challenges and drawbacks. A good metric is if your experiment failure to success ratio is more like 30/70 or even 40/60. That’s a good place to be in versus trying to get a 100% success rate, but you’re just doing one experiment in six months or a year.

That’s the thing too though. Often, a lot of younger people in their careers are afraid of failing because they think they’re going to be blamed for something. Leaders within these organizations for years have always pointed the finger at someone if something didn’t go right or a campaign failed. Think about how many campaigns failed before you have a successful one. People don’t talk about failures. I love talking about failures. Think about LinkedIn. Everyone talks about, “I’m driving millions of dollars and all this good stuff.” What about all the failures it took you to get there? You have to be willing to fail fast and accept those failures, but what are the lessons learned that you can take forward to do something with?

Think about how many campaigns failed before you have a successful one. Click To Tweet

I completely agree. That is a very critical point that you mentioned, which spoke especially of those who are just in the early phase of their careers, their efforts, and failures. It’s upon the leadership team and the leader to encourage failures and do the shielding with the peers. That’s totally valid and relevant there. Let’s switch gears. I know you talked a lot about event-led, community-led, and partner-led. There are so many of these variations and variants around go-to-market. What are those 1 or 2 things that are keeping you on your toes or getting you excited? You did mention people-first. Do you want to expand and expound on that?

Going back to the people-first, it’s three big things because I feel like a lot of those other pieces fall under this. It’s create-demand, capture-demand, and convert-demand. Many people talk about create-demand and capture-demand, but how do you convert that demand? You have your channels, your metrics, and your offers below that. The overarching theme is partner-led growth, which fuels this whole ecosystem thing around it. When you think about channels for create-demand, it’s all about community-led growth. Community-led growth will drive to member-led growth, which is under the capture-demand. You have the community aspect. You then have these members or the audience that you’re looking to capture.

You could even use this for a podcast. Ultimately, you’re going to convert that demand into customer-led growth, customers, renewals, and advocates. There are metrics for create-demand and capture-demand. For create-demand, it’s all about your followers, engagements, and leads. For capturing member-led growth specifically, it’s about members, SQLs, and opportunities. When I think about the offers for those three pillars, content-led growth is fueling community-led growth, which is fueling create-demand.

You have event-led growth, which is putting the attendee at the center of everything. It’s through experience, engagement, and data. Those are the three things that make up event-led growth. That focuses on the capture-demand. You then have product-led growth, which is on the convert-demand. Ultimately, you still need a product that people love and want to use once you convert them. I think of it this way. The partner-led growth and ecosystem fuel the entire thing across all three pillars.

Something that I’ve done over the last couple of years is I’ve been studying CMOs, especially those who are what I call the winning CMOs. Take the analogy of the NBA, the league. There are about 30 basketball teams, but there is something magical about the top 1, 2, or 3 teams that they are consistent versus the remainder of 25 or 26 teams. From that viewpoint, I started studying. There are so many of these CMOs, but there’s something magical that the winning CMOs do that sets them apart.

During my study, it boiled down to three things that they do well. One is around content. They create unique and engaging content that resonates. An example that you and I know is what Gong has been doing so far. The second is around the community, so what Sangram has been doing and many others. It boiled down to Sangram’s mantra, “Without a community, you are a commodity.” Third is what I would call experiences/events. If you mix these three and if you do it right, not necessary that you have the resources and the budget to pull all of them and execute all of them at the same time. If you sequence it right, that’s your magical mantra or that’s what all the winning CMOs do.

I agree with all three of those. One thing is none of those three can be seen as an afterthought. Many people think of events or communities as an afterthought, but they don’t tie it into the entire GTM side of it, which you have to do to be successful. It can’t be its own individual thing with a team running it. How does that play across all the other functions as well?

What are the biggest areas or what are the things that you’re curious about, and what resources do you lean on? You did mention people, podcasts, books, and the community. What are those 1 or 2 things that you’re curious about? Who do you lean on or what do you lean on?

The biggest thing for me and I’m super curious about how this is going to play out is the creator economy in B2B and how that’s going to impact how companies operate their go-to-market models. I’m writing a book on this right now. The whole thing of influencer marketing. Part of the survey that I’ve been doing is 88% of brands are at least willing to try influencer marketing in 2023. That’s a pretty high number of companies willing to at least test it or say they’re going to test it once or have done it. I think that’s heavy in the MarTech and sales tech space. Once you get out of those two, it’s probably a little bit less maybe outside of IT.

I’m curious about where that is going to be. I think we’re very much in the early adopter phase on this whole creator economy and creator-led growth. How do evangelists that our employees play into a brand long term? That’s the biggest thing that I’ve been wondering about lately. What I’ve been writing a lot of my content, going back to the people-first, plays a piece of that. Creators and influencers in B2B, taking from that modern marketing playbook, are going to be so impactful if done right. It can’t be the brand telling the creator or the influencer what to do. It has to be very much integrated into your go-to-market strategy.

B2B 43 | Human Centric
Human Centric: Creators and influencers in B2B, taking from that modern marketing playbook, are going to be so impactful if done right.


I’ve been following certain people, big creators, small creators, and people that are talking about the creator economy. For the last 4 or 5 months, that has been my big thing. I’ve been listening to some podcasts. I have some community sides of it, and then the whole event. I’m hosting an event in Costa Rica in the first week of November. It’s the first-ever creator’s retreat. I’m getting twenty creators together. We have Airbnbs right on the water in Costa Rica. For four days, we’re holding workshops on how to be a better creator and how to come out and learn new things.

For example, we’re going to have experts that talk about YouTube shorts or Instagram reels. People that have been doing this well that maybe other creators in B2B aren’t doing right now, but they want to. Those types of things and those types of micro-events and experiences are one where I’m learning a ton but two, where I’m doubling down on.

Costa Rica is a fun place to be in. Which place in Costa Rica?

Playa Hermosa. It’s where Surf & Sales, Scott Leese does it. That’s where we found the spot. They do it right down the beach from where we were doing it. We have someone that’s been helping me with this. She flew out there and did a bunch of scouting for it and found these three Airbnbs right next to each other on the beach. We were selling tickets for it. I was like, “Is anyone going to buy a ticket?” We sold all the tickets except two so far. All I did was make one LinkedIn post. People are like, “I’m willing.”

I don’t know what is considered expensive or cheap, but it’s $3,000 to go and everything is included outside of your flight. For a learning experience, especially if you can expense it back to your company, it’s a pretty reasonable cost for being able to learn. We have some CMOs coming. We have some solopreneurs coming. We have some people that have been doing this well. I’m excited to learn a ton.

I’m a big believer in the influencer economy and the role of influencers. They clearly play a role in the B2C world. One name that comes to my mind is Jay Shetty. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this guy. Jay Shetty is big in the whole spiritual and personal development space. He was hired by our partner. He’s partnering with Calm and even Noom around mentioning them or having a personalized ad run in his podcast, and giving special promos for people who subscribe to Calm or Noom. That’s clearly working, It’s about how you bring that playbook to the B2B world.

It’s easier than you think because you can do a lot of those same things. I feel like on TikTok and Instagram, you see a lot of those B2C ads that are typical, but on LinkedIn, you are seeing more creators starting to talk about specific companies. Not so much products per se, but more companies. There was one that I saw. There were a bunch of people that posted about it. I think it was called Win.ai. They’re trying to not be the typing CRM, but it stuck with me because so many people created videos around it. They sent them a box and they opened the box on video. I was like, “That’s super smart.”

You have all these people. Think about how many impressions, engagements, and clicks you’re getting on that. Think about how much you would be spending if you were going to run paid ads for a specific campaign like that. You’re going to probably be saving a lot more money paying creators and influencers than you are running extra paid ads or something.

I’m eager to see how all of these play out and all the learnings that can come out from your event because there are so many topics. For example, how do B2B brands pick influencers and creators? How do they create that filter? That’s one. Next is how they structure the agreement. Is it term-based, incentive-based, or some metrics that they need to hit? It’s going to be almost like a sales OTE. You have a fixed versus a variable comp. There are so many of these moving pieces. You get to see all the things that are coming out.

That’s why I created my newsletter. The Creator Circle is all about the creator economy and influencer marketing. It comes out twice a month. I’ve worked as an influencer on certain campaigns with brands, and I’ve also paid influencers and creators as the brand. I’ve seen it from both sides and I’ve structured contracts. I’ve signed contracts. I have a few brand deals that I’m working with companies right now on specifically. In a lot of cases, what happens is they’re giving you a referral fee on close one deals that you both source and influence on top of what they’re either paying you for sponsored content, maybe a retainer per month, equity, or whatever.

When I was in my full-time role in my previous job, which was running product-led growth and product marketing, inner marketing at series-B company. One of the things that I was exploring with the founder and CEO was how we collaborate with influencers and help them to get more leads and more awareness for our brand, both for free trials or even a demo. We used to track that in Tech Stack or it used to be called. Now, it is called Partner Stack. That’s how we were tracking. I’m eager to see how all of these things play out. I sure will subscribe to your newsletter. I’m eager to see where this is going.

I appreciate that.

If you could look back at your career, who were the 1, 2, or 3 people that shaped, influenced, or mentored you in your career?

I’ve thought about this a lot. I don’t know if there are people per se. I do have one. His name is Pete Lorenco. I met him through Pavilion years ago. It was when they were running a mentorship program. I didn’t have a mentor. No one told me that I needed a mentor in my life. I always was doing my own thing. It turned out we had so many of the same interests. We had young kids. We both enjoyed sports and all these other things. We hit it off. He was helping me. He was VP of marketing at a publicly traded company at 34 years old. He has a really strong background.

He was giving me so many insights and helped me. I convinced him to come over and work at Alyce. He ultimately leads all of marketing at Alyce. He’s now VP of Global Demand over at a company called HYCU. I talk to him every single day. He played a huge part in helping me with a lot of different things, both personally and professionally. He’s a huge piece of it.

I think there have been not people per se, but LinkedIn has been huge for me. Just scrolling through content and seeing all these other people that have been sharing their advice and sharing their feedback. The best content that I love is when people share actual programs that they’re working on. What are the successes? What are the failures? What does it look like? Those types of people, whether it’s a one-time thing or I see it every single day, are hugely influential as well.

I completely agree, especially on the second part that you mentioned. Same here, I learn a ton from being on LinkedIn. The only thing that I have to watch out for and do is I should not be spending too much time on LinkedIn because there are tons of content, a lot of influencers, and good folks putting good cutting-edge content. To your point, I totally agree. LinkedIn is a great place for people especially those who are looking to up their game, go-to-market, marketing, and even sales for that matter. The final question for you is if you were to turn back the clock and if you were to go back to day one of your go-to-market journey, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Being a marketer, day one should always have to be revenue focused. You could be revenue-focused or you could be customer-focused. You have to tie yourself as a marketer to a revenue number. If say you’re on the customer marketing side, maybe it’s NRR, we all know it costs less to retain a customer than go out and acquire a new one, especially in today’s economy. Tie yourself to revenue as quickly as possible and figure out how you can make an impact there. When you’re impacting the bottom line to a go-to-market strategy and sales, CS, and the executive team see that as a marketer, regardless of the role that you play, you’re impacting revenue and this is how you’re doing it, you make yourself a lot more valuable.

As a marketer, or regardless of the role that you play, when you're impacting revenue, you make yourself a lot more valuable. Click To Tweet

Where can folks find you? I’m sure they can all find you on LinkedIn. Anything else that you want to mention here?

I would say LinkedIn. I have a podcast as well, The Anonymous Marketer. Feel free to check that out and make sure to subscribe to the newsletter, The Creator Circle. You can find all these links on my LinkedIn profile at the top. It takes you to my link tree with a bunch of different stuff. Shoot me a DM if you have any questions. I’m happy to help in any way I can.

Thank you once again for a wonderful conversation and good luck for your future journey.

Thank you so much.


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B2B 42 | ArmorCode

B2B 42 | ArmorCode


By analyzing the issues and collaborating with our clients, we can comprehend their concerns and provide specific remedies that effectively meet their requirements. For today’s episode, LingRaj Patil, VP of Marketing at ArmorCode, reveals the company’s go-to-market approach. He shares how ArmorCode prioritizes customer-centric problem-solving to drive meaningful impact and innovation within the cybersecurity industry. LingRaj emphasizes the significance of starting with problems and working closely with customers to fully understand their pain points. By articulating and offering targeted solutions, ArmorCode effectively addresses the problems faced by its customers. LingRaj also shares his career journey and the trajectory that led him to spearhead the Purple Book initiative. Come join us for an informative episode where we explore go-to-market strategies, solving problems with a focus on the customer, building communities, and the strength of collaborations in the continually changing field of cybersecurity.

Listen to the podcast here



ArmorCode’s Go-To-Market Approach: Serving Customers In The AppSec Space With LingRaj Patil

I have with me the pleasure of hosting LingRaj Patil, who is the VP of Marketing at ArmorCode. I’m super excited with the things that ArmorCode is doing and what LingRaj and his team are doing. Without further ado, let’s get right into the conversation. Welcome, Raj. How are you doing?

I’m doing very well. I’m looking forward to this conversation with you.

Same here. As always, I always start the show with this question with all my guests, so you’re going to be no exception to that. How do you view and define go-to-market?

In its basic sense, go-to-market is a way that you take your product or service to the market. I think there are a couple of distinct steps within that one, the way I look at it. The first one is the problem that you’re trying to solve for the customer needs to be very clear. A very good understanding of what the problem that you’re trying to solve. Especially in a startup, it becomes very important because you’re in a new space and championing a problem and a solution for that one. Sometimes in a startup, when you start out, the problem that you think is the problem customers care about is not the problem that they care about. Understanding the problem is very important.

Marketing the problem is very important. That’s the first step because customers don’t latch onto the problem. They will not latch onto the solution that we’re going to propose later. The second one is then articulating the solution and the unique way in which you solve that particular problem better than anybody else. Those are the two steps that I would say are part of the go-to-market. As time progresses, I’ve also found that it’s very important that you grow with the customers and the problems that they’re facing. That’s where building on being very tight with the customers and understanding the evolution of the problem and the evolution of the solution that needs to happen with that.

This is how I look at go-to-market. Of course then, there are different strategies and tactics like whether you use events to take that engagement with the customers, community, one-on-one engagements with your customers, prospects, or sales contact engagement. That are the tactics that I would say is what’s working in the go-to-market journey.

I like the way you put a lot of emphasis on the problems. You’re always starting with the problems. You also mentioned working with the customers and then articulating or repeating the problems. As you’re doing that, you articulate and push out the solutions of the products and services you’re building and how you’re solving those problems.

Totally. I think this is where a lot of companies go astray by not spending enough time on the problem but jumping straight to the solution, assuming that the problem they are trying to solve is an urgent problem to solve. There are problems to solve and there are urgent problems to solve. Meaning this problem needs to be fixed right now. Understanding that urgent problem to fix right now is very important. Championing that is very important. Also, the problem needs to be a problem that is a problem for enough people that it’s a big opportunity for you as a company.

One of the challenges that I’ve seen in the startup space is that they have maybe 3 to 4 design partners and their top 15 people. They found their opinion about what is the addressing problem by talking to those 10 to 15 different people. The thing is, the problem needs to be a bigger problem. With a startup, you’re always struggling with the lack of resources and time that you have and how do you reach to maybe hundreds and thousands of people. Understand that the problem is affecting those people.

In my mind, one of the things that I look at is, “Is the problem a problem for 3 people, 30 people, 300 people, or 3,000 people?” We want to solve a problem that’s a problem for 30,000 companies. That’s the market space that we want to go after. Not a problem, that’s a problem for just 30 people. The way we have found to do that is by engaging them at scale. We have used Purple Book Community as a way to basically articulate or understand what problems these leaders we seek to serve are facing and champion it for them. Sometimes the problems that they are facing need to be championed for themselves because, in organizations, they are not getting the word out.

This is a problem that needs immediate attention in terms of budget reallocation and in terms of conversation with their own peers in the industry. They’re all fighting this battle. How do you bring those forces together so that it becomes a movement? That’s what I feel is needed to solve problems. Of course, the product we come up with helps solve part of the problem, but it doesn’t quite solve the people part of it. The people part of it is very important. That’s why when we are defining problem, there is a whole groundwork that needs to be laid out to make it a success that people buy the problem, want the problem, champion the problem within their companies, and then we help them with that as well.

As you are talking about the problem size and the market size, one of the questions that came to me is, how do you estimate or how do you know that this problem is good for a lot of people? You answered it in your own words, which is one way to do it is through a community. You mentioned Purple Book Community. We’ll definitely deep dive into Purple Book Community during our conversation. Switching gears here, let’s take a step back. Why don’t you walk the audience what is your career journey like? How do you end up doing what you’re doing today? It’s not like you started your day one of your career journey and you start and thought about Purple Book Community. What is your current journey like so far?

In terms of my education, I did my electronics and communications. I was doing computer programming. I used to do networking programming, building switches and routers that powered the internet. If you go back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, that was the hottest thing at that time. The internet was very big and a lot of infrastructure had to be built. I was doing programming for that. I remember an experience that changed my perspective toward technology and marketing. I was part of a project. It had about maybe eighteen people. I’m talking about the mid-2000s. It had about maybe eighteen people, and the technology was so cool that the team was very excited about working on it and how it’s going to change customer’s life.

While I was working on it, I was pulled aside for a customer request that came in for a problem that he was facing. It was a team of four people and maybe we did that work for 3 to 4 people. It actually became a bother for me. Why are they taking me away from the school project? I just want to change the world to work on something so small. I did that. I came back but I didn’t pay much attention to that.

About maybe a year and a half after this was done, I met the product manager. I asked him about how this particular big project did in relation to the small project. He explained that the small project I worked on and didn’t pay much attention to actually had become more revenue and more profitable. I started thinking, “Why is this project, which is not even that cool, ended up becoming that much more popular among the customers?” I learned that was because it was solving a problem that was very urgent and important for the customers.

The big project that we’re talking about. We, as engineers, were excited about it. It was a cool technology that we all wanted to change the world, but this was the one that we were facing. That made me think the technology might be very exciting for the technologist. At the end of the day, it needs to solve a problem for the end-user or customers. That’s what got me thinking. I then did my MBA. I got most fascinated about how you take technology and articulate the business value of that. One thing led to another.

Technology might be very exciting for technologists, but at the end of the day, it needs to solve a problem for the end-user, for the customers. Click To Tweet

Within Ericsson, I moved into marketing. For a period of time, I have gone from a bigger company progressively smaller. Ericsson has a global giant. After that, I worked in two mini-funds, maybe 1,500 to 2,000 people. That was very exciting before I ended up at the company that I’m at. I’ve been involved with naming the company to basically being where we are now. We are a Series A-funded company now. We are close to three years old from the time of conception.

Actually, on May 13th, 2023, we are going to celebrate the second anniversary of the launch of the company. Little did we know when we started on May 13th, 2021 that the journey we would have for those two years would be so phenomenal. I feel that journey from working from a bigger company to a smaller one, and on this startup makes me think that I should have started my journey with the smaller company much earlier because of the impact they are having.

This is a great story and journey for sure. Even I can relate to a lot of these things. Even I started my journey in larger companies. That eventually progressed to the early stage and smaller companies. In hindsight, if we were to connect the dots, it’s the experiences in the larger companies that gave us or helped us arrive at the moment where we are now. I completely agree with a lot of things that you mentioned, Raj.

One thing that I want to transition into is what you mentioned about ArmorCode. You’ve been involved with the founder from day zero, our writer inception, and you’re hitting the two-year mark on May 13th, 2023. Congratulations to you and the team on that big milestone. Tell us a bit about ArmorCode. Who do you serve and what is your go-to-market approach for ArmorCode?

In ArmorCode, we solve an application security problem. To make it very simple to understand, I can explain it to you. There is a lot of new software that is getting written. Software is being written not just by the software companies. Traditionally, non-software companies are writing software in the journey for digital transformation. These companies, when they write software, are under pressure to release software faster, and they release faster to give a sense of perspective software that used to release. When I started out as an engineer, we used to release software once a year and do it twice a year. Now, we’re at a point where companies are releasing software every month, sometimes every week, and sometimes every day. That’s the piece at which innovation is happening.

Now we are at a point where companies are releasing software every month, sometimes every week, sometimes every day. That's the pace at which innovation is happening. Click To Tweet

The security team used to get tested the software. They’re not getting it right now. They are under pressure to release it faster. Consequently, a lot of vulnerabilities in the software are getting shipped. Speed is one problem. The other problem that’s happening here is there is rapid adoption of open source. What that means is, earlier, most of the software was created by you. Now, in some cases, 70% to 80% of the software that we’re creating is created by somebody else. That means if they have the vulnerability slip in, or worse if they were a hacker and they injected the vulnerability so that they could exploit it later, you’re ingesting it. That’s the second problem that we are talking about.

The software has gone from becoming monolithic software to more microservices. What we do is we help companies find out vulnerabilities that need to be fixed before the release goes out. Earlier, the customers had to look at 1,000 or 10,000 problems and figure out which ones to fix, not having enough time to fix, and just shipping it like that. We tell them, “Instead of these 10,000 problems, these are the 50 problems you need to look at before you ship it.” We give a prioritized view of what’s important that needs to be fixed so that it’s possible to fix it in the one-week release cycle you’re having.

Clearly, that technology is needed, given all the different security horror stories that we are hearing in the industry. Not just businesses but even common manner individuals and consumers are being affected by it. Who are your customers and the personnel that you serve around these AppSec problems?

The people that we serve are security leaders and security engineers. Within security, these are application security and product security. If you look at security, we can classify them to two broad teams. One team is entrusted with enterprise security, meaning making sure that my enterprise network is secure and it’s not hacked.

The other one is interested with product or application security. What that team does is whatever product and application we are building, we need to make sure that people cannot hack into that so that our customers do not get impacted by using our product. Our product is used by the team, what’s called the application security team or the product security team, now broadly called the software security team. That’s the team that uses it. Within that, application security engineers are the ones that use it. Their managers are the ones who are influencers. Chief Information Security Officers are the ones who ultimately write the check.

Who is your typical customer base? Is it mostly enterprise or mid-market? I’m assuming it’s not small to medium businesses.

It’s mostly mid-market and enterprise, even though the problem that we are solving is relevant. For somebody to use our product, they need to have a certain amount of scale for our platform to be useful for them.

Let’s talk about a GTM success story. One thing that I’ve been following and tracking ArmorCode’s success and the team’s success very well. Something that stands out is the way you went around, went about, and built the Purple Book community. Can you share some more details around what led you to come up with this whole community idea? How are we helping move the awareness of the problem with the personnel that you mentioned?

The community started way back in December 2020. I would say at least the conversation about it started then. It started out because as we were talking to security leaders for whom we were looking to solve this problem, we found out that there were lots of companies that were facing this application security problem. There were some companies that had put millions of dollars into making their application security program very robust. They had a very good understanding of what are the best practices, what are the case studies, and things like that.

There were a lot more companies that didn’t have that kind of a budget. They were not even aware of a problem like this, or they were just beginning out. We thought, “Why don’t we get together with the companies and leaders who are championing crusaders in this area and then co-author a book with them for the benefit of the rest of the community?”

It started out as a project to co-author a book with ten security leaders about the concerns, best practices, and case studies in this. Once we got these ten leaders together to write this book, they came together and said, “The problem is so big that we need to have more experts from other areas to basically chime in to fully characterize the problem.” Those people then started inviting the other industry expert that they respected. Before we knew it, that 10-people team had become 29 people team that came together to write this book. That was such a creative phase of this community that we spent a lot of time articulating the problem, challenges, best practices, case studies, and things like that.

It started out as a book which would’ve 4 chapters and it ended up as a book with 10 chapters. Once the book was done, people who were in the community had so much fun talking to each other and hanging out with each other. They said, “We need to have a community around it. Let this not end and the book writing is done.” That’s how the community continued. Now, we have 250-plus members. For the most part, it’s the only community that we have. That community is very near and dear to us mainly because we understand that the problem that we’re trying to solve is so big that it cannot be solved with technology or product.

Even though technology or product is a very important part of it, we believe there is a very strong people aspect to this problem that people are the ones who ultimately need to solve this problem. We need to have a movement around it. Mindsets need to change within the company. There needs to be greater awareness of the problem. Since we started, we have done things that we never thought we would be showcased on Nasdaq, where we have done an annual conference. In 2022, we did the first annual conference with 2,200 people from 24 different countries.

That’s the kind of scale that can be achieved only when people who are part of the community are championing the cause. Otherwise, a startup like us cannot think of pulling off a big event like that. That’s what I think is a difference. We are not a startup just focused on building a product. We’re a startup that’s focused on building a movement around the problem that needs to be solved because that’s what’s needed to solve the problem.

Something that caught my attention is you mentioned the community taking shape or taking birth in December 2020. That’s around the same time or maybe right after the startup was conceived and formally established. Walk me through the thought process between you and the Founder and CEO, Nikhil, as to what led you to this thought process of maybe you should explore and start a “community.” What led you to that point in time?

We saw that a lot of security leaders were trying to solve this problem in their own small circles. Also, there was no full characterization of the problem itself on how big the problem is and what are the best practices in solving it. There were lots of efforts that were going on. We felt that the problem that we’re trying to solve cannot be solved using technology because these people are not united in their fight. That’s when we thought we should bring all these leaders together in one place so that there’s an information exchange that can happen immediately. They can start getting solutions to some of those problems, at least the low-hanging truths, immediately by hanging out and talking to each other. That’s how we got them together. That’s how it started up.

B2B 42 | ArmorCode
ArmorCode: Problems cannot be solved by just using technology if people are not united in their fight.


This is a good validation for one of the principles of people looking to start a community. It’s always focused on 1 or 2 problems that the industry can rally around. I think that’s a very important point. It’s not about how a “community” can benefit your company or product versus expanding your thinking and view around why someone would care about this problem and why it’s important that people who are working on this problem come together.

The people I’ve seen when there is a problem, which is for any startup to be successful, we need to be attacking the problem that makes the maximum impact for the maximum number of people. The way to find that out is the way our community rallies around that problem. Let’s say for example, I was solving a problem that impacted me with 30 companies. If you try to build a community around a problem that 30 companies are interested in, you can’t build a community around it. Whereas, if there’s a problem that 3,000 or 30,000 companies are facing, then you can build a community around it. You can rally the team to build awareness about that cause.

Many times, what happens is the awareness that we’re talking about in many organizations, the security leaders are very much aware of the problem, but sometimes it doesn’t go up. We believe application security and security need to be a board-level problem. The board needs to be discussing it. Right now, look at security leaders. In almost all of the cases, they’re not reporting directly to the CEO. They are reporting to somebody who reports to the CEO. It could be a CIO or a CTO. Sometimes, they want CFO, Chief Legal Officer. This problem needs to be championed, and it’s very important.

I give an example. I think that not having a Chief Security Officer reporting directly to CEO is like not having the Head of Pentagon not reporting directly to the president of the United States. Imagine the Head of Pentagon being three levels below the president of the United States. How secure will the country be?

That’s a great analogy.

In our world, all companies are getting on a journey to digital transformation, whether they’re a software company or not, technology company or not. Even the companies that you traditionally consider, like manufacturing, didn’t have that much of a technology impact. There is a digital imprint of the manufacturing flow that they’re having. There is so much digitization that’s happening. There is a digital representation of the physical company that you’re running that needs to be secure. The knowledge about how to secure it cannot be three levels down from where the CEO or board of directors are. That’s where the community also helps. Build an awareness of the problem at a high level there is an awareness.

I think what you articulated there is very important around why it matters. You also shared some insights around why the Chief Security Officer should report to a CEO and why the security level problem should be more of a board-level problem, nothing less than that. Something else that you mentioned earlier while building the Purple Book Community is around the book, as it says in the name. Walk us through the process of why it matters around why and what led you to the thoughts of building and co-authoring a book with all these security leaders.

There was no book on this subject. That’s where the project started. We said, “We need to have a book that leaders can refer to on what’s the problem. How does it look like? You need to characterize the elephant first. What are the possible ways to basically tackle this elephant in the room that nobody’s talking about? That’s where the idea of the book came about, and the book became a community. I’ll tell you how it became a community.

Our original idea was to write a book, print it, and put it on Amazon. We realized the whole software security. Security is such a dynamic area that the moment you write a book and you say, “These are the problems. These are the best practices.” Put it, and you think you’re done. There’s going to be another attack that’s going to happen. You’re going to learn. We are in this constant process of learning and evolving. That’s why we say this book is going to be digital. We are going to put it on a website. That’s what people are going to read.

When it’s constantly evolving, that means there cannot be a date and time when we say the work is done. It needs to be community and it needs to be constant dialogue on it. What we thought we could characterize the problem. Say an elephant. We figured out it’s a shifting elephant, meaning it needs to be constantly recharacterized every attack.

What you highlighted, like community and content in this case, is a unique piece of content that you cannot get anywhere, which is the book are the centerpiece to what I have to do as a winning CMO playbook. By the way, years back, I continued to study, “What sets apart the top tier CMOs versus the rest of the pack? It comes down to three principles. You have content, community, and events or experiences. You can call it either way.

What I’m seeing happening over here with ArmorCode and Purple Book community is you got the community piece, which is the Purple Book Community. You got the book which is articulating or collating and brings all the best practices from all these best and brightest minds in the app security on security world. You’re also doing a series of events. Starting with one event and it looks like now you have chapters of events that are happening. It looks like you’re building all those things. The third piece we didn’t talk about is how are you thinking about our planning and doing all these own branded events around the Purple Book Community.

Can you restate the problem?

It looks like you are hosting and bringing together all these leaders. We are back in December of 2020 or even the early part of 2021. Sometimes you actually hosted the folks in one place. Maybe it was in Silicon Valley. That was the first. Since then, it’s taken its own movement or shape and form. You’ve got chapters and different places where these events are happening. Just explain on that.

The reason why we felt the need to have in-person events is because of the emphasis that we’ve put on building relationships. There are a lot of communities where information exchange happens, people come together and share information, but the focus is on information exchange. What we wanted to do at Purple Book Community is we wanted to build personal relationships with people among people. The kind of collaboration that happens. We have seen the magic of people meeting, discussing, and then coming up with ideas. We experienced it because we are having those meetups in Bay Area and we had a lot of fun just getting to know each other. Many of these Purple Book Community members have become friends with me now.

This is the experience that we wanted to take to different parts of the world. We looked at the concentration of all members. We saw that New York has a very big concentration. Atlanta has a big concentration. Those two cities have chapters now. There are other cities that are able to do this. India also had a concentration of members, so we have chapters in India as well.

To answer your question, why did we evolve from being one place to multiple places is to build that relationship and then enable those leaders to build a community around themselves. We have leaders in different chapters who now have their own local meetups run independently of us. That’s how w scale. You cannot be there in all the places, but these are the people who believe in the cause that this problem needs to be solved. That’s how we are scaling the community.

B2B 42 | ArmorCode
ArmorCode: Why did we evolve from being in one place to multiple places? It’s because we wanted to build relationships and then enable those leaders to build a community around themselves.


For me, why I’m excited about what you guys are doing with Purple Book is it reemphasizes the notion that in order to build and have a meaningful community, it’s not about the founder or the originator “broadcasting” to the community members, but facilitating that exchange of information, relationship, and knowledge between the community members themselves. That’s what I see happening now with these chapters.

In a way that the community validates the passion behind a problem, the moment you start doing these things, that’s when the community starts building momentum.

Switching gears over here in the sense of your role at ArmorCode. You are the VP of Marketing at ArmorCode. What are the different functions that you’re responsible for? Who are your team? How is your team set up?

When I look at marketing, I look at three main functions here. One is the brand and thought leadership. You need to find one problem and champion that. How you do that is your brand. Are you trustworthy? Are you a voice that people come to for advice? Are you looked at as a company that can be a confidant for the security leader? One is the brand part of it.

B2B 42 | ArmorCode
ArmorCode: You need to find one problem and champion that. How you do that is your brand.


The second one is product marketing, which is essentially having excellence in understanding our customers’ problems, how our product solves them, and communicating that. Also, enabling our customers to tell that story in terms of case studies or maybe podcasts and things like that. Basically, the material that you create to champion that. The third one is the demand gen part. Demand gen is very essential to create demand for the business. Those are three big ways that I look at marketing. I’m responsible for the brand, the content, and the product. For the demand, the way we set it up, part of it is done out of sales and marketing and the inbound. Some of the national events part is handled by in marketing.

The outbound is under sales versus the inbound is under marketing.

I wouldn’t say that’s a full description of it. For example, the national events, marketing still does the national events.

That’s a great story that you shared over here around the Purple Book Community. Clearly, GTM is a success story. Switching gears, it’s not every day that we see success stories like these. A lot of failures before we run into a success story like this. For our audience, can you share a GTM failure story and your learnings from that?

There are plenty of them. In a startup, one thing that we have embraced is the notion of, “Start something new, fail fast, learn from it, and then win to something that works.” There are a lot of experiments that we have done. Some of them have succeeded, and many of them have failed. In terms of the failure itself, we’ll take email marketing as an example. The effectiveness of email marketing is not very high, for reasons that I can relate to myself. I get so many emails from so many other people that I get half of them, I just delete them. I don’t even read because they don’t relate.

I feel a combination of an in-person touch or having some time compelling misconnection with the problem with the customers or the prospects, and then following it up with an email. That is a good combination. If you make email the primary tool without actually touching them, in some way, shape, or form in other formats, maybe on LinkedIn, on the website, or at events. It’s a combination of these three things that makes it effective. If you were to focus solely on email or open rates, the standard open rate is 20%. Sometimes we do better than that. There are CTRs. To progress customers’ interest or prospects’ interest using tiers, email has not worked across.

I think the big takeaway for anyone who’s looking to do or invest in email and outbound using email, is what you articulated there definitely makes sense. Don’t use email as the first cold outreach. Rather, invest in knowing that person, connecting on LinkedIn, building some “relationship” and then use the email as a secondary or tertiary vehicle to reach out.

That’s part of it, but there are limits to how many people you can meet also. You cannot always meet somebody in person and then follow it up with an email. The way you scale that is, for example, LinkedIn. We have a very strong presence on LinkedIn. That’s a lot of people who follow us and know us. That’s how we keep our followers or supporters updated about what we are doing. In some ways, they know us. We are at events. They know us even though we do not have that one-on-one interaction. If you combine that with an email, then you have a more successful strategy.

To the extent that you can share, what budget were you given to start this committee and the book project?

I think that’s probably a privy that helps to be privy to the company. I can share the details. Community is not about big budgets and big spending. The community is about identifying a problem that everybody’s passionate about and then rallying people beyond it. I feel people will do a lot of wonderful things, not for money, but for a cause that they deeply believe in. If you look at some of the biggest heroics, even in our real life, people do it not for money. If you look at the army, they’re not the highest paid, but they are the people who are so motivated by a cost that they’re willing to lay down their life for that.

The community is about identifying a problem that everybody's passionate about and then rallying people beyond it. People will do a lot of wonderful things, not for money, but for a cause they deeply believe in. Click To Tweet

When we tap into it, all of us have that innate desire to be part of something big and play a significant role in doing something like that. I feel in the community, we essentially tap that. You tap into people’s ability to champion a problem much bigger than any one of us and then grow from that. If somebody thinks that by putting a lot of money into a community, they can become successful, that definitely is not a way to do that.

All I would say is, in the beginning, find like-minded people who are passionate about the problem that we’re passionate about, and then let that passion build from one to another. If those people are then talking to somebody else about that and that person is talking about somebody else, then you know that you have a problem that is big enough for people to champion it on their own without any big money being spent.

It’s almost similar to how you know when there’s a product-market fit. It’s the same example over here. It’s more like a community problem fit.


Clearly, you’ve got a lot of cool skill sets that people lean on you for. You definitely talked about brand, thought leadership, community, content, and events. What are 1 or 2 skills that your leadership team and other folks in ArmorCode or in the industry lean on you for? What do they reach out to you for?

In terms of what people reach out to me for is, there is a problem that we need to put a spotlight on. If there is a solution to that that we need to put a spotlight on it and create a buzz around it. That’s something that I’ve had some success in creating. It’s either in terms of getting spotlighted by Nasdaq or being invited to speak in Davos during the World Economic Forum, or even building a community around a problem that needs to be created. You create that impact, not just with what we are doing but with the activities that happen around the company and community. That’s something that I have helped the company.

Talking about looking at the different trends or resources that you lean on, what type of resources or what is in the top of your mind when it comes to taking the go-to-market of your team to the next level?

Resources as in materials that I look at like a podcast?

Yeah, it can be a podcast, it can be a book, it can be maybe other communities that you lean on, or maybe it’s even a tool like ChatGPT.

For me, I would say podcasts have been a big influencer. What you’re doing is awesome because there is so much knowledge transfer information that happens. Podcasts have been a great resource for me. Talking to people has been great. Going to events has been fantastic. We are looking into ChatGPT, we are using it in some, but I’m sure there are a lot more possibilities with ChatGPT that we would like to learn more. Sometimes I wonder, maybe I should have one person called the head of ChatGPT just sitting there and thinking about all the possibilities of what ChatGPT can do for all businesses. We’re not there yet, but hopefully, we can get that level of focus on using the full capabilities of ChatGPT.

Same here. I’m super excited about what is possible with ChatGPT. It’s creating or carrying all the time and energy to explore use cases and testing things out. I think that really matters.

There are some things that ChatGPT is great at but ultimately, ChatGPT cannot build a community. Ultimately, it’s the people connecting with the people that build it. Even though there is a lot of human cry about the number of jobs that we lost, there are things that human beings are uniquely suited for that ChatGPT cannot provide.

B2B 42 | ArmorCode
ArmorCode: There are some things that ChatGPT is great at, but ultimately, ChatGPT cannot build a community. Ultimately, it’s people connecting with people that build it. So, even though there is a lot of outcry about the number of jobs lost, there are unique things that human beings are suited for.


Bringing the show toward a close of finish. Last two questions that I have for you. Who are the 1, 2, or 3 people that have shaped, inspired, or played a key role in your career growth so far?

I think there are a lot of people. Identifying 2 to 3 people would not be telling the full story of the people that have made an impact on me. What I am is a result of influences that people around are bad either in a personal capacity or in a work capacity. If I had to pick just three people, I would say maybe my parents. They’ve had a very strong influence in the way I was brought up. I remember a teacher in my MBA school. There was something about him. He believed in me in ways that I didn’t believe in myself. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I could see that he had duplicated about me. He made a great impression on me to stretch myself. There are a lot of managers that I’ve had in my career who I don’t want to mention one or the other that has played a huge role in my growth.

Almost always, what it comes down to, which I’ve seen, is it’s not the expertise of the person that has made an impact on me. It’s that person was not an expert but that person cared. That’s very important. That person cared for me as a person, took a personal interest, and I try to do the same thing with the people that I mentor. I don’t try to view my knowledge and walk away. At the end of the day, it’s the amount of cave that I give to that person personally. That’s what makes the difference.

Finally, the CEO that I work with, Nikhil. It’s the third company that we are working together. I would say he’s one of the most phenomenal leaders that I work with. So passionate, so energetic, and still so humble. He has accomplished so much but still has the biggest mindset. He’s very humble in learning. That’s something that I learned from him. He has been one of the great reasons why ArmorCode has the success that it is right now. Even the community, he’s the big cause that it is right now.

The point that you made earlier, Raj, is around when the key role of a mentor or people who have touched you is not about the time or not when they share their expertise. Rather, when they convey or show that it’s you as a person they really care about, they sincerely care about you as a person. The final question I have for you is, if you were to turn back time and if you were to go back to day one of your go-to-market journeys, what advice would you give your younger self?

I would say to care about the problem that you’re solving for the customers. That’s very important. As I told you, in the earlier days, I was enamored by the technology and what it could do that I lost that connection with the end user who uses it. If I go back and I say, “Connect with the people who are ultimately going to use the product that you’re going use, understand their problem, the most pressing problem that they would be willing to spend time and money on and help them solve it.”

Care about the problem that you're solving for the customers. Click To Tweet

I say help them solve it, not just with the product that you’re having, but in any other way you can. Community is a way for us to do that. We are not monetizing the community, but the thing is it helps the community come together. That’s what I would say care about the end customers or the people that you’re trying to help so much that they feel that we are sincere about making their life better.

Fantastic. Great conversation, Raj. Good luck to you and the team at ArmorCode. I’m wishing you all the best.

Thank you very much. It’s my pleasure.


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B2B 41 |Thought Leadership


B2B 41 |Thought Leadership


For Robert Buday, thought leadership is the eminence an individual achieves by developing, delivering, and creating demand for a superior solution to a complex problem. If business leaders embrace this approach, go-to markets can gain so much more. This is not just about earning bigger revenue but also about delivering better value to all. Joining Vijay Damojipurapu, the author of Competing on Thought Leadership discusses the overlap between a good go-to market program and a good thought leadership program. He explains how to build compelling business narratives through his argument structure and the nine elements of exceptional content. Robert also shares some of his best success stories that show the immense positive impact of thought leadership.

Listen to the podcast here


Elevating Go-To Market With Thought Leadership With Robert Buday

In this episode, I have the pleasure of hosting Bob Buday, who is the author of Competing on Thought Leadership. Welcome to the show, Bob.

It’s great to be here, Vijay.

Thought leadership is a very relevant topic in the first half of 2023, especially for the bigger brands. I’m looking forward to diving into these topics and various comments about how you define, build, measure, and so on. With that, the first question I have that’s top of mind for me as well as the readers, is how do you define go-to-market through the lens of thought leadership?

Before I define go-to-market, I need to explain what companies compete on thought leadership as I put it in my book and I should probably define thought leadership before I define go-to-market. I define thought leadership as the eminence that a firm or an individual brings to the market and the fame or the eminence that they achieve by developing, delivering and creating demand for a superior solution to a complex problem.

You might say, “What firms am I talking about?” I’m talking about firms who will bill you by the hour and who provide expertise. Management consulting firms, law firms, accounting firms, and architecture firms are firms whose people deliver the expertise like a software company. The other firms that are competing on thought leadership and go way beyond the management consulting sector, the only firms doing thought leadership several years ago when I got into this profession were tech firms that sell complex solutions that address complex problems.

PTC is a great example of that. Salesforce.com, Adobe, and any Microsoft product. All the Metaverse vendors. Selling a complex solution to a complex problem that not enough people understand the problem that they have that the Metaverse solves. These firms want their customers to view them as experts on those problems, not just as vendors of software and hardware.

The third category of B2B firms that increasingly want to be seen as thought leaders are financial services firms. I use that term broadly to mean everything from investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz or Kleiner Perkins to private equity firms. Increasingly and we have done research on this, those firms as well want to be seen as thought leaders. We have also surveyed clients of these firms, and they are looking for advice from all sorts of B2B firms that provide complex solutions to complex problems. They are looking for thought leadership from those firms, and those who show thought leadership on the issues of concern have a leg up in getting chosen.

With that definition of thought leadership in mind and the firms that I call competing on thought leadership, and I will explain that in a bit, I look at go-to-market as not just the firms that market thought leadership that gets articles into Harvard Business Review, write bestselling books and give keynote presentations at conferences that generate leads.

People ask for business cards and say, “I’d like to talk to you more,” after or between sessions. I look at go-to-market as not only the marketing but the development of superior expertise best done through primary research that compares best practices with worst practices. I also include go-to-market with the ability to scale some expertise. It’s the people you are sending out there to consult, deliver legal advice, build systems if you are an IT services firm or design a building if you are an architecture firm. Also, if you are a software company with a consulting unit like SAP has. With the people you send out into the field, the customer has said, “I loved your HBR article PTC. I need your experts to help me think through how to leverage the Internet of Things.”

The people you send out in the field are as smart as the “thought leaders” in the articles or the thought leader who gave the keynote presentation at some conference, which precipitated interest. I have a chapter in my book. It’s the smallest chapter. It should have been the largest chapter, in hindsight, about how to deliver thought leadership content.

That is typically the most overlooked aspect of thought leadership and the most important because you can have a bestselling book. You can have a cover article in Harvard Business Review. You can be looked upon as the firm that is the leading expert in solving this problem or that problem. If your people can’t deliver that expertise at a consistent level of quality and scale, what you will wind up doing is creating a market in which your competitors can deliver that expertise better and more consistently. You will be creating a market that your competitors will take away from you at some point.

If you cannot deliver the expertise at a consistent level of quality, you will only create a market your competitors will take away from you at some point. Click To Tweet

Thanks for going over setting the foundation for how you define and view a partnership program and then how that place with a go-to-market motion. Some of the thoughts that come to my mind are that go-to-market is more around how and when you build a product and a service. Building a product and service that translates to revenue will necessitate. It will require understanding your customers very well.

Understanding the problems that they are dealing with. Understanding how to message it to them and how you reach out to them. Some of the essences are the principles of go-to-market. There’s a good overlap between a good go-to-market program and motion and a good thought leadership program, especially around customer problems and content. Once you generate the demand, are you ensuring that your in-house team is trained and can deliver on those skills either through services or products?

Any number of consulting and IT services firms you can be sure are looking at generative AI and trying to figure out how they develop new services. Customers are interested, and they want to know where they can use ChatGPT and other generative AI. There will be dozens of these things before long if there aren’t already. They’re like, “How do we create a consulting and IT service around generative AI? Clients are asking for it. Do we have it?”

The ones that win with the leading generative AI practices that grow the largest practices in helping their clients figure out where to use generative AI, build the systems, and capitalize on the technology will be those consulting in IT services firms that do primary research on how the best users of generative AI are using it, where they are not using it and why.

This is primary research. They compare that set of companies to the worst users of generative AI. The companies that have tried to use it here don’t work well. A wrong application was used over here. It’s the right application, but they implemented it poorly. Consulting on IT services firms that when what I think is going to be a big market for generative AI expertise from strategy to systems and maintenance are going to be the ones who study how the best and worst users of this technology, what they do differently to create a consulting and IT service that does more of the right things than the wrong things.

B2B 41 |Thought Leadership
Thought Leadership: The consulting and IT services firms that win are those who study the best and worst users of the latest technology. They make a difference by doing more of the right things than the wrong ones.


There are those practices given that companies began to use generative AI. There are those practices that are there for the taking that a software company, a consulting firm, or an IT services firm can learn from to help figure out and devise their service here. Those who develop superior service based on this research and then develop superior marketing and sales write the HBR article, the cover article of where generative AI is, how companies should use generative AI, and how they shouldn’t. We spend a lot of money and get no payback or negative payback. Those future thought leaders will be the ones who do the best primary research, marketing, and delivery.

Let’s switch gears a bit over here. I want to dive a bit more into how, why, and what led you to go down this path of building a thought leadership firm. Why did you write a book on thought leadership? Can you walk us through your career journey? What were the key points that led you to this moment over here?

My career started in 1977. I was a journalist. I was a sports writer first. I later became a business writer because there were no sports writing openings at a larger newspaper in Southern California whose doors I knocked on in 1980. They said, “Sorry. We don’t have any sports writing jobs, but we have a business writing job open. Are you interested?”

My father had his business, and I did a little work for him right after college. I had a wife and a kid on the way and I said, “I know a little bit about business. I will take a business writing job.” It was one of these turns in one’s career like that was a good turn going off that road. I was good as a sports writer but not great. Good sports writers are a dime a dozen. Many journalists want to be sports writers.

Like trying to be an actor in Hollywood, you are up against tons of people with incredible levels of talent. I was not a great sports writer. Maybe I could have developed to be. I found writing about businesses far more fascinating than writing about athletes and games. It was at that point in 1980 that the world of business journalism became to evolve and grow. That was probably in part because of the oil cutoffs in the ’70s.

The economy started to be an issue that newspapers put serious money into, including beefing up their business sections. I became a business journalist. I got bored at this large newspaper in California, the Orange County Register three years later. I struck out on my own. I started a healthcare trade publication and sold that within a year. I went to work for a large trade publisher in healthcare. I was tired of commuting a long distance to Los Angeles from Orange County. I was hired by a trade publisher called InformationWeek. They are still around.

They moved me to Boston. I spent two years in InformationWeek in the mid-‘80s. I needed to make more money. One of my sources for articles was a management consulting firm called Index Group and they were looking for somebody to handle their public relations and be the editor and ghostwriter of their publications. That was my entry into thought leadership in 1987. The first correct turn or right turn was out of sports journalism into business journalism. The second right turn or correct turn was out of business journalism into thought leadership.

If I recall, they are in the tech industry. They are one of the leaders back then in the tech space.

The firm I joined in ‘87 Index Group was bought by CSC, Computer Sciences Corp, the next year in ‘88 when CSC Index, which was later branded, was a $40 million firm. Talk about being lucky and being in the right place at the right time. It’s pure luck as I’m coming out of college, having an Advertising major living in England, and somebody saying, “I’m looking for somebody to market this rock and roll band. It’s called the Beatles.” Have you ever heard of them? I never heard of them. Marketing the big management consulting concept of the ’90s, business reengineering, that’s the place I landed.

It was there from ‘87 to ‘97 that I learned how thought leadership is done well and how the sausage is created through primary research looking at Michael Hammer. He was the Chief R&D Officer at this consulting firm. He and his colleagues were in the research part of the CSC Index and how we brought these concepts to market through Harvard Business Review articles, the bestselling book, conference presentations, and rest. This is the pre-World Wide Web. It was like getting an MBA in thought leadership at the time.

From that experience, I was hooked. I said, “This is a career. This is a serious profession of thought leadership.” I believed it was only going to grow because I saw it work so effectively at this firm. This is a secret to firms outside of the management consulting industry. They don’t know about thought leadership. They may have a corporate publication Oracle.

At a corporate publication was a bunch of journalists writing feature articles for Oracle. It was not thought leadership. It was not experts in Oracle writing articles. It was journalists writing feature stories for Oracle that you could have read in technology or other business publications. I thought leadership works if it’s done well. Other B2B firms and other consulting firms are going to discover this because not every consulting firm was as good at thought leadership as the firm I worked at that time.

You did mention quite a few times that leadership is more prevalent with consulting firms. If you go back to your background at CSC Index, it’s a technology firm that did thought leadership very well. What advice would you give to the technology companies as to why they should invest in a thought leadership program if they are not already? How does one know that it’s a good thought leadership program?

Technology companies need to understand what thought leadership is and is not and why their clients are looking for thought leadership, and of what types. We surveyed 5,000 business executives who were big buyers of IT services and technology, consulting, and other business products and services. We asked them to rate nine what we call hallmarks of thought leadership. “Which ones were more important? What do you want to see?”

The most important one was what we called evidence, which is proof that the solution that somebody’s recommending in their article, book or presentation works through real case examples. Customers who have adopted the solution and gotten big benefits were number one. The novelty was number two. “Tell me something I don’t already know. If you are telling me something I already know, why would I switch to your firm from my current vendor?”

My advice for technology firms is to understand first what attracts buyers of their products, especially the non-IT business executive. Proof that the software has helped the customers have decreased cycle time, increased revenue, increased profitability, and all that. Give me real stories. Give me the real names of companies and people who are vouching for this software and technology. Otherwise, it’s not believable.

Technology firms must understand what attract buyers of their products. These are proof of how the software has helped whatever customers gained in revenue and profitability. Click To Tweet

The disguised client case studies are good, but they are not nearly as good as customer case studies in which the company and people in those companies are talking and identified because they are a big, “Show it to me. I don’t believe it,” factor because it’s so much hype, especially around technology. Look at what’s happened with Metaverse.

Metaverse was a concept that was at the top of the world circa years ago, and then it’s fallen off the end of a table while generative AI is displaced from a technology company standpoint. I believe that’s in part because the technology firms pedaling the Metaverse largely did a poor job collecting the case studies or stories of companies that they use augmented in virtual reality.

It’s a little short of what the purest definition of the Metaverse is but they didn’t have enough case examples that show if you use the metaverse in things like marketing or simulating things, whether it’s training pilots or doctors how to perform surgery, without those case examples, people are not going to buy these headsets.

Can I challenge you a bit on that? The reason is it also has to do somewhat with the market adoption of this technology. It might be ahead of its time. You and I know Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. He is one of the endorsers of your book. I want to get to how you got his endorsement. Coming back to the point I was making, it might be a climb in the market where it’s still too early.

The reason why I bring those up is if you look at the proliferation of smartphones now versus part of the earliest makers of the smartphones laid back in the ‘80s or early ‘90s, it was Microsoft. The market is not ready. How they presented the product was not done right. A lot of these things were missing at that time. Coming back to my earlier point, it might be that Metaverse is still relevant, but that’s not the time for it yet. We don’t know. Only time will tell.

Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm says you need to collect those maybe a few examples that are out there of companies that have capitalized on this emerging technology or new technology. If you look at the revenue of SAP from 1985 to 1995 and they were a public company back then, you can see how they slow increase in sales and then business reengineering concept, which is the thought leadership that sold SAP R3, ERP software at the time and reengineering as a consulting practice by ’93 and ‘94. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, but you’ll see sales of SAP and ERP spiking upwards.

The firm I worked at and other consulting firms who came up with their versions of business reengineering, McKinsey, Capgemini, and all the others like Accenture and Deloitte made the market for SAP and ERP at the time. It’s a marketing that SAP could have done but didn’t. I say Metaverse. How long has Metaverse been at this? Several years. It must have some beta customers or early users collect success stories.

Find out the surgeons who have been, through Metaverse, enabled surgical procedures and who honed their craft in using some heart surgery tool and then used it out in the operating room. Collect those stories. Get people to talk about the improvements that were made. Tell those stories in a way that the average executive can understand. Executives will take notice of this.

The thought leadership marketing skills at many technology companies are need to be improved to be able to capture those stories, learn from those examples and take them to market. That is part of the go-to-market. Do customer research of this type and leadership research. Capture it. Put it in language that the average non-technology executive can understand because you are going to have to sell that person, not just the CIO.

You touched upon several important points as to how one can recognize and create an effective thought leadership program. What helps our readers is if you can walk us through a go-to-market success story around thought leadership. You did mention CSC. It’s that one because you had a front-row seat over there. If you can walk us through that, that’d be great.

That’s an old story. I will give you that quickly, and I will give you a newer story. The CSC Index business reengineering success story went from roughly 1987 to 1997. The way that I call the sausage that created the content of business reengineering was a research program much like the corporate executive board. The corporate executive board sold to Gartner but a multi-company funded annual research service that Mike Hammer and CSC Index co-owned for about ten years. That research was all case study research.

The companies that funded the research opened up their doors on whatever the research topic was and we talked about how they were dealing with the issue. As Mike Hammer said many years ago to a reporter when reengineering was big, the reporter said, “Mike, how did you invent reengineering?” He said, “I did not invent reengineering. I discovered it.”

What he meant by that was he discovered it in looking at the practices of the companies that were getting the biggest benefits from IT back in the late-’80s and early-’90s compared against the companies that got little or no value from IT. What was the difference? The difference was they built their systems across functions rather than built siloed systems.

Everybody knows that, but it was new at the time. It was a big idea. That was the research part of thought leadership. In the marketing part of thought leadership, we had an extensive series of golf events. We were in Harvard Business Review several times. We had our McKinsey quarterly-type publication insights.

We had people on our lecture circuit. We had the ability to wine and dine them. It has prestigious resorts and club resorts. We had a bestselling book co-authored by Michael Hammer and James Champy, Reengineering the Corporation. We sold two million copies in the ’90s. PR was going for us too. We had a cover article about reengineering in Fortune Magazine in ‘93 and the classic reengineering article in 1990, Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate by Michael Hammer. We had all the pieces of the thought leadership marketing mix pre-World Wide Web.

What was your role back then? How were you working with Mike and the team then?

I was the Director of Marketing. I was the number two person in marketing. I handled our publications like the McKinsey quarterly-type journal. I handled our public relations and our survey-based research done for PR purposes as opposed to the thought leadership that Hammer and the research team put around Mike in this business they co-owned.

I was an occasional pinch hitter researcher in that research service. It was called Prism so I got to see how that business operated. That was a great experience to see how the research team came up with ideas. That’s an old success story. A new one is some training that I have been doing for a very large consultant in an IT services firm. I have trained in eight classes, all virtual classes of between 10 and 20 people.

I had 22 people in a couple of sessions over the last few years. One of the most important skills in thought leadership is content development and writing, which is what I call constructing compelling narratives or agreements. I have taught this course eight times to these groups and they are in the thought leadership research function at this big consulting and IT services firm.

After each class, I have had people come back to me and say, “This is enlightening. It’s helped.” When we are done with a research study trying to analyze, we have all this primary research data. We have got survey data, case study data, and secondary research. It’s helped us once we have a raw idea of what we want to say to put it into a compelling narrative or argument. I have gotten a lot of joy out of teaching this class eight times. There will be a ninth class in June 2023, and then they want to go for more.

There’s something that caught my attention as you are telling this experience of yours. I’m sure you must have come across a lot of folks, especially in the tech industry where product marketing function and even content marketing function, not just PRN corporate communications, are all expected to craft narratives that will shift the thinking of the buyers and the user audience. What would you suggest? Do you have a framework? How do you tease out how to build those narratives?

I do have a framework and it’s what I call the problem solution, argument structure or narrative structure. It takes the form of an outline. First is a high-level outline and then through iteration with the subject experts and if you want to call them ghostwriters or content developers, they go through this sixth part argument structure and build a compelling argument.

That needs to stay in outline form until all parties have agreed that we have a solid argument and lined up all the data or all the examples we need. The logic is rigorous. It’s unassailable. We have something new, and that’s proven. We have the evidence. At that point, somebody is ready to turn into pros and maybe you could use generative AI to turn this outline into pros.

The mistake I see having been made so many times over the last years since they have been in this career is that a writer and an expert or 2, 3, or more get together for a couple of hours. They talk through an article and then write their drafts. Something he or she heard, the experts look at it. They don’t think it’s good. It might be well written but it’s superficial and not convincing.

They go back and forth. Weeks later, you are on draft seventeen and maybe the thinking is a little better but nobody’s satisfied. The writer is pulling out his hair like, “I can’t please these people.” The shortcoming there is using pro writing to build an argument, and it’s a very inefficient way to build an argument.

The best way to build an argument I have found is by working with people through a structured outline where you start with what is the exact problem in the world that we are focusing on. Who has that problem? What type of companies? What executives in that company have that problem? What is the problem? How much is it costing those companies in terms of time, money and market share? It starts with the problem and ends with the superior solution.

The best way to build an argument starts by determining the exact problem to be addressed and ends with the superior solution. Click To Tweet

The argument needs to be deconstructed over typically weeks, sometimes months to come up with a rigorous argument. What you will discover through this process is, “We want to be able to say this but we have no evidence.” “Where do we get the evidence?” “We think that customers implemented the system this way and they got big benefits. We think they did that but somebody going to need to talk to them.” “Who’s going to talk to them?” “Let’s collect that case study.”

We did that. We interviewed them. It’s exactly what we think is the new and better solution. We need to collect 2 or 3 more examples or more than that to bring some serious evidence to bear. The worst approach to thought leadership is rushing very quickly from an initial discussion between some subject experts rushing to pros and it rarely turns into serious substantive points of view that the solution is fundamentally different from anything else you have read out there.

You also mentioned in your book about there is a strong connection between a good thought leadership program, content program, and demand gen. If the partnership is done right, demand gen will be the outcome.

Thought leadership should be done for no other purpose than eminence and revenue. If your thought leadership programs can’t take some credit for new revenue coming in, then your thought leadership program is not working. I have heard over the years, “Thought leadership should not be measured by least generated.” “I say, “BS. It should be generated,” as long as you are collecting the data and your salespeople are telling you honestly, and that often doesn’t happen.

Salespeople like to take full credit for converting a lead or opening a door even if it was a publication that an executive first read and then talked to one of the sales executives. These companies are not in the business of giving conferences and publishing management journals. They are in the business of selling stuff. Thought leadership has to help them sell stuff. If it’s not helping them sell stuff, then it’s not effective. It doesn’t mean thought leadership is the wrong approach. It’s that it’s not being done well enough.

One of the questions that keep coming up is about an investment thought leadership program and how we know if it’s working or not. Fairly if done right, it should translate to a measurable pipeline and business generated, at the end of the day for sales. I’m opening the page in your book and something that you mentioned is how you know that you got a good partnership program and more importantly, how do you know that you have developed exceptional content.

Let me read it out for the readers over here. You have nine elements of exceptional content, which is it has to be relevant, novel, deep, and feasible to implement evidence-based, illuminating, irrefutable, clear, and stimulating. I like the way how you define the criteria so that it’s not subjective. It’s not like saying, “The CMO said he likes it or she likes it. That’s why I’m going to go with this,” versus the CRO or the salesperson. It’s not based on someone’s opinion. It has to be objective.

When it’s a subjective discussion that gets into what it’s good, and somebody else says, “I don’t think this content is good,” the discussions go nowhere because they can’t. Having an objective or more objective set of criteria helps people understand, “What are we building toward here?” You say having proof for evidence is the most critical. Our surveys say that proof for evidence is the most critical piece of thought leadership. It’s proof that the recommended solution has worked in the form of real case examples. You have no case examples. I would argue that your thought leadership and that content are not going to be effective and generate interest.

Your point is valid, especially if you have a product or a service where they have seen success stories but how about at a time when they are still in the early days and are testing it out? They don’t have a success story yet.

It’s harder to create thought leadership. You could create thought leadership around the problem to show how well you understand the problem. Geoffrey Moore would probably say, “They are early adopters. They will put their money on all sorts of things that are not to be effective yet.” That’s a very small part of your target audience. Your early adopters might play with that.

B2B 41 |Thought Leadership
Thought Leadership: It is harder to sell your business and create thought leadership around it without having success stories.


At some point, it’s going to have to show up in their business. They move the dial. Otherwise, they are going to face pressure from above like, “What are we spending on Metaverse? $100 million? What did it do?” We don’t know yet, especially during recessions and economies. Those types of investments tend to get wiped out where somebody can’t even say it’s moved the needle to any extent.

On a lighter note, here’s one final question for you. You earned the endorsement of Geoffrey Moore and even Ram Charan. These are big names in the business world and these are advisors to the C-level folks at Fortune 5 and Fortune 10 companies. How did you get them to endorse your book? What’s your secret sauce there?

I know both of them. I know somebody who knew Geoffrey Moore very well and he got the book in front of Geoffrey, and that is my colleague Alan Alpert, who we did a podcast interview with Geoffrey Moore. Alan knew Geoffrey and Geoffrey got the book and decided to write what he wrote. I know Ram Charan, and a good friend of mine has been working with Ram to help publish how many dozen books that Ram has published over the years.

I got Ram to read the book, and Ram was positive. Ram is one of the people whom all sorts of individuals and firms can learn from about thought leadership. He has done an amazing job in bringing new and important ideas to market. Ram is the perfect example of somebody to whom I say, “You need evidence.” If you read his books, he’s got real evidence and typically from firms that he identifies and CEOs whom he works with. Ram is an amazing individual and so is Geoffrey in using real examples in their work. It makes it much more believable.

It goes back to the point that you mentioned in the book. You took the example of Jim Collins, author of Good to Great. He and his team spent five years going and digging through all the research materials and the financial report of these various companies. They came up with a “simple framework” for how to identify whether you got the right ingredients to go from good to great. It all boils down to the research element and the case study’s simple points.

Jim Collins has done that several times. His first big book was Built to Last, which he co-wrote with Jerry Porras. That was based on the same research model. We are going to interview and research a set of companies that have had exceptional financial performance over some period and compare them with competitors that have not had the same financial success. We are going to compare what these two companies and different industries did differently.

B2B 41 |Thought Leadership
Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Built to Last was based on that formula and so was the second big book, Good to Great. He’s got a bunch of researchers in this company who do copious amounts of secondary and primary research. That’s why Jim’s ideas have stood the test of time. Even though some of the companies that he said are on the great list or the best list, some of them have fallen off their search. That’s in In Search of Excellence, Waterman and Peters. A lot of these very successful companies fell off their perch later.

That’s the challenge. First of all, to get up to the top ranks is a big challenge, but to stay is not easy. We all know the different cases, and that’s a topic for a different episode for sure. One final question for you is if you were to give advice to your younger self, what advice would you give to your younger self who’s starting the journey early on?

B2B 41 |Thought Leadership
Competing on Thought Leadership

This would have been my younger self wanting to be a sports writer or starting to be a sports writer. There’s a great need to help people and firms explain complex things compellingly. There’s a big need for that, and sports writing doesn’t fit that bill. I have thought about this over the years. This is about writing about the business and economics of sports, which nobody was writing about back then. If I was to be a sports writer, that’s where I should have focused. It took me ten years to discover this field of thought leadership.

The second thing is my college major, which was Communication Studies, which is the art and science of persuasion. I should have used that to guide my career for those first ten years. I happened to work at the college newspaper as a sports writer and fell in love with sports writing at the time. Listen to what courses in college you loved the most because that’s a good sign of your career interests later.

Thank you so much for the time and wisdom that you shared here. For you, the reader, if you have not yet bought the book, buy the book. It’s been a great read for me and reinforced some of the lessons that I can apply in a B2B go-to-market space. Get the book, Competing on Thought Leadership by Bob Buday. Thank you so much. Wishing you the very best.

Thank you. Same to you.


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B2B 40 | B2B Go-To-Market

B2B 40 | B2B Go-To-Market


Success in B2B marketing requires not only a deep understanding of the market, but also a willingness to embrace change and innovation. In this episode, we have Karen Steele, Founder of Alloy, CMA of Sendoso, and a seasoned marketing executive of several tech companies. With an impressive resume that includes stints at Apple, Next Computers, Marketo, and VMware, Karen has a unique perspective on what it takes to succeed in the competitive world of B2B marketing. Today, Karen delves into her career journey, discussing everything from her early days in Silicon Valley to her current role as CMO of LeanData. She discusses the challenges and opportunities facing B2B marketers today and shares strategies for achieving success in this dynamic field. Tune in now and hear Karen’s career journey!

Listen to the podcast here


Insider Insights: The Art Of B2B Go-To-Market Marketing With Karen Steele

I have the pleasure of meeting and talking with Karen Steele. Karen has a very storied career. She has worked at big brands, including Apple and prior to that, NeXT Computers, for those of you who recall that brand. She has been with Marketo, VMware, and several others. Without any stop, let’s get into the detail. I’m super thrilled to have you on the show, Karen. Welcome.

Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here and I’m pleased to meet you. I think highly of the show, so I’m delighted to be a guest.

You’ve had a very storied career and you’ve worked at large companies. You have worked at young companies, big brands, and so on. My question to you and all the guests as always is how do you view and define go-to-market?

It’s a great question and a great icebreaker opener because it’s the crux of as a pure B2B tech marketer and that’s what I am. The go-to-market has evolved over the years. The heart of go-to-market is about how you generate revenue through whatever channels you generate revenue through with a great product that has product market fit and ultimately creates a great customer experience.

As my career matured over the years, for a long time at the beginning of my career, go-to-market was very siloed. Sales did sales and marketing did marketing. We didn’t even have this notion until we got into the SaaS world of customer success. Customer support and things like that were often siloed, and the product was often siloed as well.

The way I define go-to-market now, every aspect of go-to-market is it’s a four-legged stool with a pretty important foundational underpinning. I’ll describe the four legs first. Sales has to have a seat at the go-to-market table. That could include business development or partners, not just direct. Marketing needs to have a seat at that table. The product needs to have a seat at that table, and then customer success.

Those are the four lynch-pins. The thing that glue or the foundational piece that in my mind makes go-to-market successful is something a lot of companies call revenue operations. It’s all the people, processes, technologies, and data that bring all those things together to be able to generate the strategy and execute all the different motions, whether it be a channel play, an ABM play, a freemium product, or a product like growth strategy. Whether you’re marketing to SMB or mid-market, you might have different plays, different products, or different pricing. That team, which is so critical in today’s fast growth company is the most critical thing, so sales, marketing, customers success, and product with the underpinning of revenue operations. 

That’s the most complete definition I’ve heard so far. I say that for two reasons. One is when I ask this question with many of the guests, they typically cover 2 or even 3 functions. It’s sales for sure, marketing, and then support/success. Somehow, they omit the product piece. You are one of the few guests who has called out the product as one of the centers of pieces of go-to-market. That’s one.

The second is you also highlighted the importance of revenue ops. Granted, there were marketing ops or sales ops before over the last 10, 15, or 20 years. Over the last 3 to 4 years or so, revenue ops as a function have taken more of the center stage and visibility for obvious reasons. If you are looking to tie all these four functions, you need an organizational team that’s sitting outside of each of these functions.

That’s right, and it is held accountable. If you think about the amount of investments companies make in technology across everything I talked about, sales, marketing, CX, and product, somebody has to pull and consolidate all those systems together so you get one single version of the truth. The toughest job for revenue ops leaders now is still living in a world of silos. Not every company has adopted bringing all of those operational people into a single team. They may still operate in different places in the organization but if there’s a strategy and philosophy around revenue ops and there’s a single version of the truth, I think you have a lot of efficiency. I’ve been a huge proponent of revenue ops for quite some time.

B2B 40 | B2B Go-To-Market
B2B Go-To-Market: The toughest job for revenue Ops leaders today is still living in a world of silos. Because not every company has adopted bringing all of those operational people into a single team.


A good segue into this, you’ve gained a lot of wisdom and insights over the years. Can you tell and share your story? Where did you start in your career after schooling, undergrad or college? What led you to who you are now?

I started my career at Apple in the early days. When I say the early days, not the Apple that you know now. Apple was a hardware company. They were a computer company for a very long time and became a multi-billion-dollar company building computers. Now, when we think about Apple, we think about these devices and they’re more like a consumer electronics brand. I joined Apple while I was in school and went to school through my career at Apple.

I started in the marketing communications in-house agency side at Apple. Apple was one of the few companies at the time that had an in-house agency that cared about brand and messaging, being close to the customer, and selling to a lot of different audiences at the time. I learned a lot in the first eight years that I was at Apple. It was the backbone of forming who I became as a marketer. That’s when I fell in love with marketing and the creative process, and having an impact on the customer experience.

In many ways, I feel that Apple invented technology marketing because this is the 1980s. In the 1980s, people aren’t marketing technology and computers but Apple was trying to make the world a better place with technology. That’s what they have done over the decades since.

Talking about Apple, that one ad comes to my mind and it sticks in everyone’s mind.

That was 1984. They did some other very brilliant advertising and things over the years. I did two tours of duty at Apple. I was at Apple for the first eight years, mostly on the in-house agency marketing, communications, and advertising side. I went to NeXT, which for those who don’t know, it is the company Steve Jobs founded after he was forced out of Apple.

A brilliant technology. It was a software and a hardware platform but the crown jewels were the software and it later became the Apple OS that we know and love now. Apple bought NeXT much later down the road. I had an amazing career at NeXT and got to work with Steve Jobs directly for about five years. He was effectively the CEO and the CMO because Steve is a marketer at heart. That’s where a lot of my foundational learning and things came from.

After I left NeXT, I did go back to Apple. There was an interesting role. I went back to a time when Apple was a little bit schizophrenic. They had invested in a lot of different categories of technology but it was a plum job. I went back to run consumer brands and advertising for what was then a product called The Performo, which was an all-in-one software and hardware solution that was designed for families with children. That was a super fun run.

Was this around the time when John Sculley was running Apple or was it Steve Jobs?

John was on his way. Michael Spindler had already become the CEO at this time when I returned. A gentleman from the chip industry, Gil Amelio, came in, which you could argue was good or bad but it was not before Steve Jobs eventually came back and turned Apple into what most of us know and love today.

That was a number of years early in my career but it probably still sticks with me as the most formative. I worked with some of the best and the brightest and very advanced technology in both Apple and NeXT. I was young and Apple was a lot smaller when I started. I think I was employing number 2,000 at Apple. I got a lot of opportunities to learn. I became a manager of people at age 23 because Apple fostered that kind of growth and helps put people through school and encourage people to work and get their degrees at the same time, etc.

That’s very foundational for my career. This wonderful thing called the World Wide Web was starting to take off. I got introduced to some newer technologies. This was the Netscape Era where people were starting to build cool applications that you could access through web browsers. That’s when I went to my first couple of startups. I’ve had the good fortune of pure tech. My whole career is pure tech.

I’ve worked for large iconic brands. I’ve worked for small brands that some of you wouldn’t have heard of and early-stage startups. I’ve worked for a medium-sized company. I’ve done both public and private. It has been a fascinating ride. The second half of my career has been since about 2006. It’s the very early days of SaaS. It has been all SaaS software solutions. You mentioned VMware. I was also at a company called Informatica. I’ve done a lot in the data and analytics world but I’ve done a ton in sales and marketing tech as well, which I enjoy. 

Those brands stand out, especially in the sales tech and market tech. I’m not sure if Saba software falls in that or not, but another one that falls in that is LeanData and Sendoso for sure.

Saba was an interesting one. Their roots were in eLearning but they were trying to break through at the time to talent management, which was hot. These were the days of SuccessFactors, Taleo, and a couple of the innovative companies that got bought up by some of the larger enterprise brands. They were more selling to HR, but super good tech and great experience there as well.

That’s very impressive. Before I move off this topic, I don’t have many guests who had the fortune of working with Steve Jobs and the team. Are there anecdotes or stories of working with Steve Jobs that come to mind that you want to share with the audience?

He’s one of the most passionate and brightest. I would call him a marketing genius. People have heard and read stories about how demanding and difficult he was and could be. Somehow, I made my way into his circle of trust. I proved myself early. I had at least one boss that was a buffer initially, which helped him earn respect for me without me having to deal with him every single day on a daily basis.

Eventually, we built a strong rapport. He was involved in every aspect of marketing and the marketing experience. He was involved in every aspect of product design and the product experience and aesthetics, which for anybody that remembers what the NeXT machines looked like. They were beautiful, slick, black magnesium workstations with the best software. NeXT grew up helping corporations including the government build sophisticated custom-developed applications. That was what they did best. Those applications got displayed on these beautiful monitors that had all the latest advancements like pixel as technology, etc. It was a beautiful product experience.

When you’re trying to come up with a new creative designer campaign, you must have had a lot of interactions or input from Steve Jobs himself, I would assume.

He was involved in everything from product packaging to advertising campaigns, product naming, and messaging. Generally, he gave me enough autonomy that I never felt suffocated. I could get my job done and the buck stopped with him. For all intents and purposes, he was the CEO but at the same time, he behaved like a CMO every day.

I didn’t intend to ask this question but now that you have this unique experience, my question to you is, what made you break into that circle of trust with the great Steve Jobs?

It helped that I had a strong leader who respected me a lot that was initially a buffer. That gave me a little bit of time to prove myself in the background and not just be thrown in front of Steve for him to judge me. Knowing his personality, how opinionated and smart he was, and knowing what he cared about, I listened a lot before I spoke. I certainly had opinions and I voiced opinions when I believed that I had a strong point of view.

He would listen thoughtfully and he’d tell me if he didn’t agree with me. Often, we got to a commonplace. It was a combination of initially having a buffer where I wasn’t just thrown to the wolves, so to speak. Some people didn’t have that luxury. They immediately were a direct report to him and there was no buffer in between. I was fortunate to have a guy Steve respected a lot for the first year. During that timeframe, he learned a lot about me and my style. We spent a lot of time together, and I knew what worked and what didn’t.

I knew what I could put in front of him and what I couldn’t put in front of him. I did challenge things that I didn’t agree with. I didn’t always win every argument but I was level-headed. It always came back to we have to do what’s right for the business and for the customer. Through most of my journey there, that’s what we did.

Switching gears on a lighter note, how do your family members describe what you do for a living or what you’ve been doing and what you did for a living?

When I was working at NeXT, I bought a house and it was being remodeled. I moved in with my dad for about three months because my home was being remodeled. This is before we had cell phones. I had to make sure that Steve’s admin had my updated phone number if he needed to reach me in the evening, which was frequently.

I happened to still be at the office this particular evening, so he called but I was at my dad’s house at the time. My dad generally knew that I was in marketing and what I did. When Steve Jobs called the house, my dad ended up speaking to him for twenty minutes. I think he learned a lot about what I did because Steve told my dad how much he trusted me and relied on me and what a hard worker I was.

I could have had nobody explain it better to my family than it coming directly from him. It’s hard to describe to the general layperson who’s not a technology marketer. Maybe it’s different in B2C, where you say, “I work for Clorox. I’m a brand manager.” In B2B tech, you talk about, “We help create pipeline and promote our products, try and create customer affinity, customer loyalty, and build retention.” You get into language that if you’re not a tech person or a tech marketer, it’s hard to understand.

In B2B tech, we help create pipeline, promote our products, create customer affinity and loyalty, and build retention. Click To Tweet

From the beginning, everybody knew that I came from the communications world. I was a marketer. Generally speaking, because a lot of my other family members were in tech too, people understand. If I’m at a cocktail party with a bunch of non-tech people and somebody asks what I do, I keep it very baseline and say, “I’m in marketing at a software company.” I don’t go much further than that because it has a lot more legs than that. It’s hard for people to grasp what we do every day.

Great story. I would imagine your father must have felt proud.

He went to the golf course the next day and bragged all day long that he had had a conversation with Steve Jobs, and that Steve had called the house, to the point where my sisters were all rolling their eyes like, “He cannot keep telling this story. This is ridiculous.” I think it was special for him.

Switching gears again, back to your role. You were leading marketing and the chief marketing officer at Sendoso. Broadly speaking, I don’t think it makes sense for us to get into the Sendoso piece yet but you’ve done a whole lot of other stints and roles. If you were to go back maybe 1, 2, or 3 years, can you share a GTM success story? First of all, how do you define GTM success? What are the key ingredients that led to the success story of yours?

I think this is true at Sendoso as well. The first question you asked me about is defining what is a successful go-to-market and what does it mean. There are great people at Sendoso. We had an awesome VP of rev ops. Not every company you walk into has that. Fantastic leader in rev ops, head of sales, head of customer success and product, then with myself.

It wasn’t to say some of these people weren’t meeting on and off, but it wasn’t a weekly strategy meeting. I did what we called a core go-to-market leadership meeting for that team of five, those key functions that I mentioned at the beginning. We talked strategy and we talked if there were people issues in terms of gaps where we were running into barriers or what have you.

It wasn’t an execution conversation. We didn’t sit in a room and talk about what’s the forecast and how we are going to launch this product. It’s different places we did that. We talked more about the strategy of how we are going to hit the number this quarter. What is that and how are we going to hit our net retention goal? What kind of data do we need to share at an executive team level so people understand the scale and growth of the business?

We were at the same time bringing on a whole new enterprise selling team. When you’re onboarding a selling team and it takes time to ramp people, you have different things going on and the selling isn’t moving as quickly. We talked more about the strategy on how to scale and move the business forward. If we did get into other conversations, we did launch a PLG or a product-like growth premium product when I first joined Sendoso.

We did talk about what was the strategy because we didn’t want that to cannibalize existing sales as a free product. Those were some of the conversations that we had. What it led to in terms of the question you asked is we didn’t have these broken silos. We all knew what the key priorities for each of our teams were.

We didn’t have to go to a quarterly QBR to learn that because we had these weekly meetings. We then had these pipeline meetings and forecast meetings where you got more into the details but we had already outlined the strategy. What we did as a team is architect that strategy, knew enough about what might come up in a forecasting call or a pipeline call as we were going through numbers, and get more specific about how certain programs were affecting certain things or certain gaps, and how personnel were affecting certain things.

We had already talked about those in advance. That’s critical for a go-to-market team to have that synergy, openness, and transparency so that you can go into the tougher meetings where other executives are involved. You’re doing the weekly forecast and you’re doing the weekly pipeline updates. You’re doing your QBRs for the business segments, etc.

Did you have these meetings with the rev ops weekly? It sounded like that.

It’s weekly.

It’s rev ops. Who were the team members? Was it you or the rev ops leader?

My self, the rev ops leader, EVP of Sales, Chief Product Officer, and the VP and SVP of Customer Success.

You were putting that GTM definition into practice.

Every single week. I want to say that we did that at LeanData as well. We probably did not include the product as well as we should have but we sat with sales, marketing, customer success, and a version of rev ops. Even though LeanData talked a lot about rev ops. They do have a very strong rev ops leader now but at the time, we still had a strong sales ops person and I had a marketing ops person. They weren’t necessarily in the room because those were more second-level meetings. It was still philosophically very similar but I don’t think the product was as involved as it could have and should have been.

For you, as a CMO, going into these strategy meetings with the cross-functional leaders, how did you prepare for these meetings going into the meeting? Did you have a template?

It was fairly open. I would ask people. I was the meeting leader I supposed. I set up the meetings and I would ask people if there were particular agenda items. If there weren’t, I’d come into the meeting with a list of things I thought we should talk about. That would usually generate other discussions and other topics that other people that were either an offspring of one of those topics or something very different.

I wouldn’t say they were templatized or always had an agenda but the objective was let’s come to the table once a week. Let’s put any issues on the table, and strategy issues around what are our go-to-market challenges and issues if we’re about to launch a new motion, like the premium that I mentioned. What might our issues be with that? Pricing might come up in some of these meetings. Competitive would come up in some of these meetings but it was more at that level, which helped informed a bunch of other more executional meetings with some of the other team members.

Karen, that was fantastic the practice that you did at Sendoso, where you had a strategy meeting with all the key cross-functional leaders. I’m sure that must have played a key role in your GTM success at Sendoso. On the flip side, we all know that GTM is not always up and right, and going up always. There will be bumps and failures. Can you share a GTM failure story that comes to your mind?

Most of the GTM failure stories that you’re going to ever hear are when all those things, even if they’re siloed. They don’t come together into one leadership mode and you get the finger-pointing, “It’s a sales problem. It’s a marketing problem. It’s a product problem.” I’ll go back a long way, I mentioned that GTM has evolved over the years. I started my career in a world where sales was sales and marketing was marketing. We didn’t have the notion of customer success. The product lived in a different universe oftentimes.

B2B 40 | B2B Go-To-Market
B2B Go-To-Market: Most of the GTM failure stories that you’ll ever hear are when they don’t come together into one sort of leadership mode and you get the finger pointing.


I’ll tell an Apple story that is an interesting one and it was a GTM failure that fortunately got corrected down the road. I was lucky enough to be part of the launch of the first Macintosh, which happened in 1984. It was a phenomenal experience. At that time, Apple sold mostly through the channel. There were Apple resellers in the channel. This was a huge channel business development part of the go-to-market strategy.

We had this great idea of marketing promotion to do something called Test Drive a Macintosh. The idea was you could walk into any number of resellers and literally get a Mac for free, take it home, and play with it over the weekend. If you liked it, you could come back and buy it for a discounted price. No computer company had ever done anything like that.

I don’t think they’re even doing it now.

It was a phenomenal idea at the time. It was called Test Drive a Macintosh. I was part of the team that launched that. Everything from Apple is famous for its packaging and a lot of its promotional stuff. If you went to a reseller, you got this black glove that was logo-ed with Apple. This is back when there was a six-color logo, etc. It was a great idea in practice but we launched this program right before the holidays, which is the busiest time of year for any reseller.

What happened is the resellers got inundated with fulfilling this promotion on behalf of Apple that they weren’t going to make any money for that weekend right before the holidays. It bombed because the resellers were up in arms. That was a classic case of our channel team, our marketing team, and our product team weren’t communicating well. The timing was off.

It bombed and it left a little bit of a black eye in the confidence of the reseller channel. In every failure, that should be the case. You learn from it and we picked up the pieces. We relaunched the same promotion months later in a much different season so that we weren’t competing with holiday sales and it turned out to be very successful. It’s a classic case of GTM being very siloed, particularly on the channel side, but we didn’t have our ducks in a row. That is one that comes to mind. 

That’s a fantastic story. Nowadays, at least for some of the leading brands and companies, what they do is a pre-mortem versus a post-mortem, and identify all the failure levers or failure points. Back in those days, if there was this practice, this is one way we could have avoided it, but hindsight is 20/20. We all know that. Given your vast experience, what do you think or what are your 1, 2, or 3 superpowers that stand out? Why do people reach out to you or go-to-market?

Some of these go back to the fabric of where I come from. Apple gave me many of these gifts. I know how to build brands, brand strategy, and messaging that is differentiated and matters and it’s going to connect with the buyer. A lot of people come to me because they know that ultimately, I can help put your company on the map and make you look ten times bigger than you are if you have a messaging challenge.

In the case of Sendoso, this was certainly not all my doing. Sendoso is a fantastic product. The reason I did a fractional gig with them is because I love the product. I was a customer three times. The first time I used the product and then subsequently thereafter, they didn’t have any strong competition. Suddenly, a couple of smart companies literally copied their playbook and started using the same messaging that Sendoso had used three years ago, and was undercutting them on price.

All of a sudden, there was this huge differentiation challenge in terms of messaging, and also being clear on the category because corporate gifting is not an essential category but direct marketing automation is. That is a channel that every company should think about in the same way you think about ABM or advertising or your website or anything else.

B2B 40 | B2B Go-To-Market
B2B Go-To-Market: Direct marketing automation is a channel that every company should think about.


Direct marketing has been around for decades as we all know but now being able to do it in a personalized way with physical goods that reach somebody immediately, the emotional connection to somebody opening up a package versus getting a piece of highly-priced collateral in the mail is very high. In terms of superpowers, it’s probably knowing how to brand and message a company super well, and turning that into an amplification mode, whether that be through influencers or thought leadership. It’s not just the Foresters and the Gartners of the world. You can do so much now in the B2B space with G2 and TrustRadius and use your customers as leverage.

Customer marketing is probably another superpower, whether it be building communities or using your customers for advisory and working with customer success teams for adoption, strategies, and co-owning with customer success a net retention number. Net retention should not only be owned by customer success. That is a company metric, but marketing plays a role in that too. Those would be some of the things I would mention.

Going back to your point, the concept of gifting is very simple but not many companies and brands do that. A few years back when I was head of marketing at a CDC startup back then, I received an envelope from Marketo. It was from one of the SDRs or eco managers from Marketo. The envelope contained nothing major. It’s a serial bar and a nice handwritten letter. That caught my attention. I still remember that “gift” to this day versus collateral.

Even an email. If you think about a marketer like you in those days and any marketer out there, we’re inundated. It’s not just email now. It’s all the stuff we get on LinkedIn. It’s all the ads we see on Facebook and Instagram. By the way, Facebook can personalize ads pretty well and we’re inundated. If you can get something that can break through that clutter, the more personalized, the better, or even the more clever. Sendoso has so many great examples of customers that have done some cool things. It’s not to just open a door to set a meeting, but something to make it super memorable that ties into what the person is all about.

I know we’re going to run out of time here but I want to tell one quick story because this one is near and dear to my heart. I get inundated just like I described the rest of every marketer I know. I occasionally get back when I was in an office, it was easy to ship a gift to me. You would get somebody’s branded coffee travel mug. I need another travel coffee mug like I need a hole in my head, but when somebody takes the time to figure out who you are, not as a target to them but what your interests are.

We’re all on Zoom now so it’s harder, but maybe you have a baseball, football, or hockey poster on your back wall or you have an affinity for a particular team. I got a package and I rarely respond to stuff on LinkedIn but whoever this SDR was, he wrote a very thoughtful note. I had to give him my home address for him to send me something. I thought, “Let’s see how clever-creative this person is because I liked what he wrote.”

I’ve told this story many times but I still think it resonates. I put nothing personal on LinkedIn but I do have a Facebook page. This guy went and found me on Facebook. He researched me on Facebook and realized I have two dogs and they have their own Facebook page. When I got a package delivered to my home, it was not even in my name. It was delivered to Louie and Henry. Inside, there was a personalized card for my dogs that said, “Please enjoy.” It was treats and toys and other little amenities for my dogs. Who wouldn’t respond to that? You broke through to something that matters to me.

It’s figuring out that emotional connection. Particularly in an account-based marketing strategy, if you’re trying to break through an account, learn that business. I was at another company where tourism was one of our key targets. It was selling to destination and marketing organizations for cities and states that are trying to bring travelers to them. We did a cool custom package that included an older framed map of let’s say the state of Hawaii in a little paperweight globe.

Figuring out that emotional connection to break through an account is important, particularly in an account-based marketing strategy. Click To Tweet

It’s something that’s filling their market segment so they knew like, “They know who they’re marketing to.” It’s taking time to do those kinds of things, particularly now with all the stuff we can do with like intent data. Knowing who you want to target and doing ADM right and using intent signals, you can do that well, whether it’s a physical package or even just a message to them.

A final question for you, Karen. If you were to turn back time, what advice would you give to your younger self on day one of your go-to-market journey?

Be bold and humble at the same time. By that, I mean don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Know you will make mistakes and learn from those mistakes but be bold. If you’ve got a big idea, put it out there. Don’t wait for somebody to tell you it’s okay to do it. Know that you’re going to stumble and fall occasionally. Get back up on the horse and prove yourself better again because the only way to learn is by stumbling a little bit then you’ll get better and better. That’s the advice I would give myself.

Be bold. If you've got a big idea, put it out there. Don't wait for somebody to tell you it's okay to do it. Click To Tweet

Thank you so much, Karen. It was wonderful listening to all those stories. I’m sure our audience got a lot of insights and value. We’ll all put it into practice. Best of luck on your journey.

Thank you so much and thank you for having me.


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