B2B 53 | Aligned

B2B 53 | Aligned


Success in today’s market isn’t about rigid plans, but the ability to adapt and evolve your go-to-market strategy. Our special guest, Gal Aga, co-founder of Aligned, shares his experiences, challenges, and successes in building effective GTM strategies that adapt to changing markets. Gal emphasizes the importance of understanding your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and why it’s crucial to niche down before expanding. He further explains how this laser-focused approach can unlock doors to previously untapped markets and foster rapid growth. Discover how Gal moved from traditional direct sales to product-led growth (PLG) at Aligned and the transformative power of shifting strategies in response to market dynamics. In this transition, Gal proves how it requires a flexible mindset and the willingness to unlearn and relearn. So, if you’re navigating the turbulent waters of go-to-market strategies or seeking to redefine your approach, this episode is your compass. Tune in now!

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The Aligned Approach: Secrets To Navigating Complex Sales Motions With Gal Aga

Welcome to this episode of the show. Thank you so much for taking the time to tune in to yet another episode, or maybe it’s your first episode. My sincere thanks for that. I have the pleasure of hosting another founder. This time, it’s an Israeli-based startup founder. His name is Gal Aga, and he is based in Israel and is the Founder of Aligned. I’m sure we will dive a lot into his go-to-market thinking and go-to-market approach. With that, welcome to the show, Gal.

Thanks so much. I am excited to be here. Go-to-market is one of the most interesting and close-to-heart topics, so I am very excited to discuss it.

I feel the same here. That’s why you are on this show. I am super excited for that. With that, how do you view and define go-to-market?

It’s one of these things that there are a lot of different versions out there. When you go and start building one, a lot of people put a lot of things into the mix. For me, it’s on a high level first. It’s a strategy or blueprint of how you deliver your product or service to your end users. It involves all of the different elements around it. From who is the buyer persona, which targets or which markets are you targeting, the ICP, competition, your sales motion or sales strategy, how you are going to promote the product, whether you are going to market it, and the pricing element. That’s how I have done it in the past.

It involves all of those things. You did mention about the different functions that you need to work with internally. That’s the product you start with, and then there’s marketing and sales. If you are a SaaS business, there’s the customer success element, which is the wholesale aspect as well. I know you are implicitly referring to it, but at the end of the beginning, it always starts with the buyer and the customer in mind in the go-to-market.

The best ones and the clearer ones that I have seen have always started with the buyer persona, defining all these different people. There is more than one. There’s the decision maker. Who’s the potential champion? Who’s the economic buyer? What are they, buyer persona or end users? From there, it’s easier to build the rest of it.

There is a whole ideal customer profile. It goes at the account level as well as the different stakeholders at the account level and so on, which I’m sure we will dive more into our conversation going forward. This is a great start. Let’s take a step back. Why don’t you tell our audience about your career story exactly why and what got you to the point in starting your startup and what you are doing?

I was fortunate to find my passion early on, which was in sales, and then, at some point, building go-to-market teams or revenue teams. It was then more to the wider scope of go-to-market. I have been in SaaS B2B sales for several years. I took the path from AE to sales manager, sales director, head of sales, VP, and CRO.

I have built. I love building. I was typically very involved early on when you need a lot of methodologies and hands-on strategy. I love building playbooks and go-to-market decks. I have done that multiple times. I had the opportunity to be involved in taking the company from the early stage of $1 million to $10 million. At some point, I also did the $20 million to $100 million range. I was very curious to see how that would work. I started in a telco sales, selling telecommunication technology.

That was Orange Telecom?

Yeah. It was a huge school. I started from the basics. It was before SaaS was something that people even were talking about. I fell in love with sales there and started researching and saying, “I want to build a career there.” There were these superstar sellers there that were selling the more strategic telco equipment. I remember seeing how they were selling, how much they were earning, and the potential.

I started researching and found this thing called SaaS. I researched SaaS and started my way there. My company very quickly understood that this is where I want to be, self-learning all of the insight sales methodologies and all of the SaaS methodologies. At that time, the CEO saw the potential and promoted me to head of sales.

I did, at that point, the decision to go back to selling after building. That was very early. I was building a sales organization myself. I went back to selling and did the enterprise AE path. I wanted to learn from experts. I found someone, a mentor. From there, I went from the sales director, VP sales, CRO, and Aligned. What brought me to found my own company is I knew that it was going to come at some point. Leading, finding more challenges, and doing more things have been my big passion. The opportunity came very early on. I had a passion for sales, so everything got connected. That’s where I am.

You are lucky in so many ways that you found your interest and passion to be in sales from day one of your career. Not many are fortunate. Kudos to you for realizing that and then making the bold steps to seek mentors and create self-learning paths inside sales as well as whom you want to work with. You were even going down the ladder so that you could grow up exponentially in a sales career and sales path. You have done that.

There’s always the notion. It’s not so much where sales or a salesman and salesperson has a very negative stigma, especially if you think of a card salesperson. That’s not the case. We all know that, especially for those who are in the industry. I’m curious. How do your family or your friends describe what you do at work?

The first thing that comes to mind is my son. I love Tesla. I am an Elon Musk fan. I was talking with him a lot about Tesla. He is interested in Tesla. He chatted with me a lot about the potential and the idea. At some point, I explained in one of the chats about the stock market. He describes to his friends, “My dad is Gal Musk.” My son already knows how to say it, but I’m far away from it. Hopefully, one day, I will come close.

It’s interesting how the kids perceive and what type of monikers they bring or gives to the parents when they learn what they are doing at work. Coming back to Aligned, you started Aligned clearly because you were motivated by what you have done in sales. There have also been the gaps that you started seeing while growing up in a sales career. What is Aligned about? What are you trying to solve and for whom?

Aligned is a customer collaboration platform that helps revenue teams better manage the complexity of their deals and their customer success projects. Think about a typical sales process or onboarding process where you have more than 1 or 2 calls to close that is not very transactional. Your customers are juggling a lot of different email threads, e-links, attachments, and tools you can get to mutual action plans in a spreadsheet.

B2B 53 | Aligned
Aligned: Align is a customer collaboration platform that helps revenue teams better manage the complexity of their deals and their customer success projects.


There are a lot of these different things all in attempts to go and enable a champion to sell for you internally or to enable multiple people to get what you do or get your offer. It brings all of these elements into a single collaborative customer-facing workspace where you can centralize all resources, mutual action plans, and key discussions with the customer.

It is a single link instead of all of that back and forth. Everyone involved in the deal can stay on top of the next steps and timelines. Stakeholders always have everything in front of them. It helps your champions sell free internally when you are not in the room. It helps sellers access more stakeholders. It helps keep onboarding or a sales process on track. It helps your action plans. It helps you sell smarter by also analyzing buying behavior in that workspace. That’s pretty much it. Overall, it reduces churn and closes more deals faster.

What prompted you to come up with or pursue this idea in the first place? Why this?

Specifically in my sales career, I have focused on the complex selling motions more like mid-market sales or getting a new startup off the ground, pioneering into a new category where you need to do a lot of why do anything, why ask stuff, excelling, and challenging. One of the cofounders, also named Gal, used to work together at the same company called Syte. It was a very complex sales motion to the retail tech.

We were hiring AEs. I was seeing all the time in my mind what makes a difference between the top sellers and the rest. It was a huge difference. The top sellers were doing $500,000 deals and $700,000 a quarter. Most of the reps were either 70% of target or some of them hitting $100,000. It was a huge difference. I remember one of the reps was closing a deal. She was doing a lot of things in that deal where she wasn’t selling. That was the a-ha moment. We saw that she was not selling. She was curating a buying experience and making it easy for the champion to sell for her while she was not there.

It was all about educating and bringing success criteria formats, building decks, putting in the decks throughout the process in a lot of the next steps and timelines, and updating the decks. She was summarizing all the time the next steps over email. She was creating a mutual action plan over email. A lot of the time, email summaries that mutual action plan.

We saw that, and a few years later, Gal opened a line together with Yotam, our third cofounder and CTO. He always had that dream to open after Syte. I was a CRO at that time. When they started Aligned or started thinking about the idea, he brought me as an advisor. We look back and remember that we knew we wanted to do something in sales. We looked back at these experiences and said, “That’s it.” We researched it more and saw that buying is getting more complex. Buyers are shifting away more from the seller. Gartner is writing about this all the time. Only 5% of the buying journey is spent with the seller. Meaning, most of the time, sales happen when you are not there in the room during the sale.

When we look at how selling happens, it has not changed for years. The sales stack is bloated, but the actual selling and execution of the deal, not emailing and getting pipeline. The actual deal management is still PDF, PowerPoint, or Excel while you have Miro workspace, Slack, Notion, Figma, and workspaces for collaboration in every other area of this. That is the inspiration and motivation. That’s the long version of the story.

The term that caught my attention and which should resonate, and maybe you should use it in your positioning and messaging if you are not already, is curating a buying experience. That’s key. You revealed the playbook of top sellers. That lady was not selling but made it easy for the internal champion to “sell internally” on her back.

That’s what it’s all about. With the budget scrutiny and especially everything that’s going on, if you are not doing that, it’s so easy to choose the status quo. It is so easy for the CFO to challenge your business case when you, as a champion, go there. If you have not been enabled throughout the process, if you don’t know the answers to everything, and if someone didn’t support you, you are going to get stuck as a buyer.

B2B 53 | Aligned
Aligned: If you don’t know the answers to everything, if someone really doesn’t support you, you’re going to get stuck as a buyer.


That’s the origin of Aligned. We all know that developing the product and having a hypothesis is one thing. How was the early days? I believe the company was incorporated in 2021 or 2020, depending on where you look at all the legal aspects and things like that. How were the early days? What is the hypothesis around the ICP? How has that evolved?

In the early days, we made a mistake there. We were thinking already too long-term. We were saying, “This is going to take all over the world. This is CRM level category,” which we still believe it is. We can have CRM level scale, but we were saying a little bit at the beginning, “Anyone that’s selling should be able to use this.” At some point, we understood that the beauty is in going a bit more niche at the beginning and tailoring and doubling down on targeting. We optimized it to not be any B2B, but B2B tech. B2B tech is probably going to have higher complexity in the sale process or early adopters of tools.

Secondly, we were defining what complexity is, so anyone that has more than 1, 2, or 3 touches to close. There has to be either a lot of stakeholders to manage, a deep process like a POC to manage, and a deep onboarding or long onboarding. It could even be a pretty transactional sales process with a lot of content sharing because of a lot of education and enablement. That’s where we narrowed down the ICP.

Your sales team or outbound team is focusing on these in the discovery call and prospecting.

That’s correct.

Let’s go back to our conversation earlier in the show, which is the definition of the ICP and how that has to constantly evolve as you evolve your go-to-market. Thanks for sharing your lessons on how you evolved your ICP for Aligned. Coming back to some of the growth aspects and the growth story around Aligned. Feel comfortable to share only what you can share in a public forum. How has Aligned evolved or grown in terms of funding and fundraising the number of customers, revenue, and even the number of employees?

We closed our seed round in the craziness of 2022. It was July or August 2022. We founded the company in October 2021. We did initially a pre-seed almost a year later. We closed the seed round, and when we closed the seed round, we already had the signed partners and initial revenue. From there, we, a year and a little bit after that, have been growing between 50% to 100% quarter-to-quarter.

I can’t share everything, but we are, at the moment, 17 employees around 10,000 users of the product, and around 150 paying customers. That includes also free users in the freemium. Aligned has actual two go-to-market motions. One is product-led and the other is direct sales. That’s one of the biggest challenges to get off the ground with the product with that go-to-market because you are constantly building both. One is for optimizing. These are the high-level details. Was there anything else that I missed?

You did cover the funding, the number of customers, and the number of both the free trial and the paid user. I appreciate that. You did cover the number of employees as well. That’s fine for a public forum. I understand that. Let’s get into the go-to-market success and the go-to-market failure story. You have seen both. I would like to understand your thought process around how you are managing product-led growth like PQLs, MQLs, SQLs, and so on. That’d be good to dive into as well.

I can start giving a high-level about that first. It’s even three motions. It’s PLG, PLS, and direct sales. I have built three sales go-to markets in the past. The sales part involves the product. It involves a lot of marketing within it. This is the most complex that I have done. When you nail all of them together, they are very powerful. For PLS, a lot of people don’t know that term. It’s Product-Led Sales. That means that it’s not only free users who are converting on their own, but you are using the free pool or free trials. It might be a free trial or a freemium type of model.

The free users involve decision-makers in larger companies that typically might buy a few individual seats. Users will pay out of pocket from small budgets or they will not maximize the potential. You are using that to get to a higher level of authority to build a sales opportunity and do a standard sales process. These are the three things that we are focused on. We have inbound leads and an outbound engine that’s driving demo requests top-down. We have inbound signups that are driving free self-serve deals and the product that sells. We are doing trade shows and driving deals there as well.

We covered both the go-to-market success and the failure story. What can you share from a go-to-market success point of view?

One of the things that come to mind that I can share is around pricing. We realized that we had, in Aligned, only a free and a pro package, and then the enterprise contacted us. We did a big research in the market. We saw that in the entire sales stack industry, there was almost no company that had that initial pricing point for self-service.

We opened $35 on a monthly. We opened that tier, experimented with it, and saw an interesting thing. In the beginning, a lot of people weren’t even buying that. It increased our conversion for the pro, but it created more differentiation. People were safe. They felt safer that there was a smaller one, but they wanted the one with more features. That was a big success.

In terms of failure, it connects a little bit to something that I said earlier. It’s another perspective of it. Our platform helps the entire revenue organization, both sales and CS. There’s even a partnership use cases and some SDR sales development use cases there. We initially looked at and mapped all of these buyer personas and defined them. Think about it. You have AE and VP sales. You have both the end user type of buyer persona and the authority for direct sales. You are looking at AEs, VP sales, CROs, revenue operations, ESMs, and partnership managers. It’s a lot.

We were trying to build it like that initially. It’s very helpful, but then we realized that if we are trying to target all of these in terms of building channels like marketing or sales channels to go to market with, it’s going to be an overkill. In messaging, when you try to better one burdened hand, so you try to get all of them together, you are getting nothing. You are getting messaging that’s too fluffing.

If we're trying to target everyone in terms of building channels, marketing or sales channels, to go-to-market with, it's just going to be an overkill. Click To Tweet

Those were the biggest challenges. It took us a while to figure it out. We are still serving all of them. We are starting in sales. From sales, we are expanding. A lot of times, during the sales process, the sales VP will bring the VP of CS or the CRO will want to buy for sales. That’s the core messaging that we put out there. We do 80/20. We decided to do 80% of sales and 20% of the rest in messaging or effort. The CRO will start up sales. From there, during the sales process, it will expand to others or post-sales, it will expand to others.

This changed everything, both in the simplicity of going to market and in conversion success. Long story short, and it repeats itself, niche down as much as possible and be very accurate with the target market through ICP and then expand over time or find other ways to expand during the sales process or post-sales for expansion.

B2B 53 | Aligned
Aligned: Niche down as much as possible and be very accurate with the target market, your ICP.


We keep coming back to that core insight in the go-to-market, which is the ICP. You need to be clear. You can say, “I’m telling to sales organizations,” but that’s such a huge market in itself. You need to hone it down into who within sales. Is it SDRs or AEs? Is it the sales leaders? Is it the inside sales or the SDR leader? Is it the rev ops? There are so many of the personas.

We didn’t even talk about the different segments. We talked about the verticals. You said you are focusing on tech. There are so many industries. Even within tech, there are so many segments in terms of $0 to $1 million, $1 million to $10 million, and $10 million to $50 million or $100 million. There are so many of these segments as well.

I have seen some companies and it’s not my experience but an opinion, narrowing down a bit too much. For example, they are doing something like a specific industry within sales or one very simple and small problem. The challenge is positioning-wise. You might be very accurate, but when trying to do PLG, you want more volume. You want to go to a bigger audience.

Also, positioning-wise, you are, from the get-go, creating positioning of something too small. There’s somewhere in the middle. That’s what we are trying to go after. We are trying to be something that tells a story, tells the vision, talks about the long-term, can move quickly, and is not trying to build all versions at once.

You also mentioned the complexity involved in managing the PLG, the self-serve, versus the PLS, and then the actual direct sales. From a lead gen perspective pipeline and then close, how has that mix evolved for the last couple of months?

It has all been growing. It’s almost impossible to build everything at once. We didn’t try to do the actual at the beginning. We tried to only do and only build the PLG virality to acquire the leads initially and then move quickly to capturing demand, creating demand, and doing thought leadership. We focused a lot on that at the beginning because we wanted to have a very clear funnel. We have people signing up and buying. It is people signing up and us helping them unlock value. It is then getting from there to authority and then building a product-qualified account.

It's almost impossible to build everything at once. Click To Tweet

From there, there is the sales process. That’s going to be a sales process that’s post-value. It has post-value validation or value realization. You have a team already used it for a while, and then you don’t have a trial through the sales process. We were doing that while we were running referrals a little bit. We had a lot of referrals from VCs and a lot of connections and we were still getting inbound. That was already very hard because it’s a different sales process.

You have the people who started top-down. They have already trying and using your product for a long time. You are going through building business cases at a high level where this helps, doing discovery with the leader, and helping with comparisons, and negotiation. Whereas if you are starting top-down, even not the outbound and putting outbound aside, then suddenly, in the lead process, they were telling us, “I want to go and use the free.”

One of the biggest challenges that we had there was figuring out how to separate the two. It was only the point where we felt that we were executing a different sales process well. With top-down, we are executing in a certain way versus bottom-up. If it’s working and things are closing within a few weeks, then we said, “To unlock growth and drive enough pipeline, let’s also start building an outbound machine.” We were having all of these things together that we constantly worked on and optimized.

It’s a big challenge trying to build.

It’s taking the long road a little bit, but it builds a lot of strength for the company. It’s optimizing all of these small pieces. We are going to market in a lot of different directions.

It’s a big challenge. I was responsible for building a PLG, and a product-assisted sales at a Series B startup last year in 2022. The go-to-market motion that the board and the CEO decided to evolve from earlier was inside sales and closing to inside sales. The decision was made to grow the free trial pipeline and then make it self-serve and a close buy to the free trial. In addition to that, it was to move up to mid-market and then do a sales-led.

It was a mess trying to do all of these in 9 to 12 months. We had a whiplash. It was a challenge to figure out what direction we needed to give to the people on the product side, the marketing side, the content side, and the sales side. Who do we hire from a sales point of view? Is it someone who can do product-assisted sales or someone who can do cold outbound and close, or they bring their book of business and close? It was such a huge challenge. That was a massive failure story in the end. The company had to lay off 80% of the employees because they struggled with all these different go-to-market motions.

How big was the company?

When I joined, it was around 150 employees or so, and then we brought it down to 75. Eventually, they went down to 15 to 20 employees. That challenge is always there.

On one hand, it’s harder to do when you are that big because then, it’s product, marketing, and sales. It is so many things together with a lot of processes already in place, so it is hard. At this stage where we are at, it’s a lot of agility. On the other side, I also wouldn’t recommend going and trying to do what we did unless you have one of the founders that have done sales and built go-to markets in the past.

We had the confidence that we were two founders that have done these things in the past. We had the confidence that we could experiment with this quickly and get to conclusions or do this quickly and bring more strength. It is generally a best practice to try only PLG and then go to PLS. Try maybe only outbound and at some point, later on, add the PLG. If you can be a PLG company, it’s better to be a PLG company from the beginning. That’s always true.

The advice I give to my clients as well as folks who I advise in general is to think about how you build and layer on marketing channels. You need to nail 1 or 2 channels, whether it is LinkedIn, email, or something that’s working well. Maybe it’s SEO or content inbound. Something has to be working well, and then you start experimenting and layering on top. The same thing goes with this. If it’s PLG from day one, that’s fine. Figure it out and go all in into PLG. Fireflies.ai, for example, I had the founder here on the show. They were all into PLG. They have PLG motion. Once you have that going, then you can layer on sales. It’s not to throw things at the wall and see what sticks. Especially for the early stage, you are doomed to fail if you are going that route.

You need to give it time.

This was a great conversation. There are a lot of insights for the audience. Switching gears a bit over here. What are the 1 or 2 go-to-market skills or strengths that people look to you for? Maybe it’s PLG, sales, or fundraising.

It’s a few things. It’s one in the product-led sales that I have been having more people speak with me about. Secondly, it is specifically around the problems that we solve for our product, which is improving sales effectiveness in complex sales motions and how to standardize sales playbooks. We optimize direct complex or direct sales motion. People go upmarket or they go multi-product. They go into a more competitive space. This is where we typically help the most.

You must have had a lot of helping hands, mentors, or resources along the way. I know that you are a member of Pavilion, as an example. You also mentioned early on that you specifically joined the company to get the mentoring experience from a world-class leader. What resources or who are the 1, 2, or 3 people that have played a pivotal role in your career inflection points?

Professionally, there have been a lot of people. It’s hard to pinpoint one sales guru or go-to-market guru. There’s Aaron Ross with Predictable Revenue in the early days, The Challenger Sale, and Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. There were a lot of these different people. If I can say a few that were the most unique, life-changing, and big dramatic shifts, they are from actual people in the self-improvement space like Tony Robbins and Jim Rohn.

I have been turning personal development into a lifestyle. That’s one of the things that Jim Rohn talks about. Work on yourself more than your job. That’s one of his mantras. That’s a big part of it, following people like that all the time and watching their clips on YouTube. Tony Robbins specifically talks about thinking habits. He talks a lot about thinking. Nothing has any meaning except the meaning you give it, how to control or how you interpret situations, and which labels you are putting on situations.

Work on yourself more than your job. Click To Tweet

Especially as a founder, I had a huge euphoria or huge event and then a few dramatic things going on that take you 180% degrees to the other side. You start telling a story to yourself of, “Everything is going in a bad direction.” You can find how you can flip it and focus on that and how it can turn out for the best. This is one big thing that affected me. The third person is my wife. She is a huge part of my life. She is always listening when I’m down. She knows how to pump me up and just be there.

Family support, for sure, goes a long way. Going to your second point, self-help gurus. As cheesy as they may sound, they play a very critical role. For me, I lean on Tony Robbins and Robin Sharma. There are quite a few. Jay Shetty is the newest one on the block in that relevant space. It goes a long way. Marc Benioff credits Tony Robbins a lot.

For the readers out there, don’t think it’s very cheesy. They play a very important role, all these self-help gurus. It’s more up to you as to what and how you lean and use those resources and coaches. I have a final question for you. If you were to turn back the clock to day one of your go-to-market journey, what advice would you give your younger self?

The answer that I’m going to give applies to a lot of different things in the workplace. It took me time to realize this. I’m very methodological. I like formalized. I like finding the, “This is how it should be done.” What I have learned over time is that any formula that I learned and then swore by, you need to throw it into the trash at some point because there are constant changes.

It is being flexible to unlearn about how go-to-market strategy should look like for a company that does this and that because that changes. I have done public sales and direct sales throughout my entire career. I built a PLG company. People tell me, “Why are you doing PLG? Why are you not doing only direct sales?” It has changed. The world has changed.

I 100% agree with you on that. The ability to question your beliefs when it’s not useful and unlearn and learn new habits is a big secret for personal success. In the early days, I used to focus on being perfect. I was detail-oriented. Being an engineer by tradition in the early days, it was all about that. Especially in the early days, if you are doing early business building, you cannot be detail-oriented, process-oriented, and strive for perfection. That will not work. A great conversation. Thank you for sharing so many of these insights. Good luck to you and the team at Aligned.

Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. I enjoyed this conversation.


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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!

Listen to the podcast here


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 24 | Marketing Courage

B2B 24 | Marketing Courage


Marketing is always about finding your ideal customer. You need to really study their problems so that you can find a way to solve them. You have to have a unique and creative insight into your product to compete with the competition. This all requires a little bit of courage. Join your host, Vijay Damojipurapu and his guest Aditya Kothadiya on how to be a marketing leader. Aditya is the founder and CEO of Avoma Inc. He is well-versed in go-to marketing and product-led marketing. Learn how to find the courage as a leader to push through all the uncertainties in the business industry. Find what makes your business unique today!

Listen to the podcast here


Finding Courage In Marketing With Aditya Kothadiya

I have with me Aditya Kothadiya, who is the Founder and CEO of Avoma. Welcome, Aditya, to the show.

Thanks, Vijay. I’m excited to be here.

We have a common connection, Yarg, who made the intro and as you know for sure, hopefully, the readers also know is that he is a profound podcast geek and host as well. He had great things to talk and share about you. I’m excited and glad that we are connecting.

Same here and he talked highly about you as well and all the go-to-market-related initiatives and expertise that you have. I’m so excited to geek out on this topic.

Let’s start our conversation with my signature topic and question that I ask each and every guest which is, how do you define go-to-market?

I don’t want to give a very theoretical answer. To me, it’s simply a strategy and execution plan to take your product into the hands of your customers. The way about it is that, where are you going to reach out to your customers? How are you going to reach out to them? What is your unique and fair advantage that you are going to reach out to them? The core competitive advantage that you are going to do uniquely that others are not able to do it. That’s also a part of the go-to-market strategy. It’s to find out what is the uniqueness of that strategy. That simply, to me, a go-to-market and a lot of elements that go into it. You have to define what market it is that you are going after. Within that market, who’s the buyer persona that you are going or the decision-maker personas? You have to have that crystal clear definition of that.

Once you reach out to them, you are also trying to figure out how do we reach out to them. Is it through cold email, cold call, paid ads? Where do they live? What are those channels through, which you are going to make them aware about you exist? Once they are aware of your product or service, then the next question also comes around is, “What is the buyer experience that you want to provide to them? Do they need to talk to you? Can they go and try the product themselves? What is that experience going to be?” You talk about that as well.

Last but not the least, what is the pricing experience? What is the pricing packaging that you are going to do based on who are the personas that you are targeting? What happens when they want to expand, start and how are you thinking about the pricing in general? Those are the areas. To me, there are a lot of different areas that you have to talk about but a combination of all this is a go-to-market strategy or plan that I would say.

Have unique advantages that only you can do and others are not able to do. Click To Tweet

You started off and you hit it on the head, which is it starts with what are you providing to your market and your buyer? It all starts with that. As you and I know, it’s always a shifting goalpost. There’s no one point in time where you can say, “I just completely nailed my go-to-market.” It’s never going to be that way because early on, you also mentioned defining your ideal customer profile and nailing it but there’s no way you can say that you are 100% confident. It’s going to be iterative and we also talked about going from defining to how you get it into the hands of your buyer, creating awareness and pricing.

I would even say if I had heard this term and we had done this at a milestone, you know what’s your ideal customer profile as well but the difference between the staging and how you think about different go-to-market strategies for different go-to-market stages or your startup stage is. What is the initial customer profile within that ideal customer profile? You might still have an ideal customer profile that’s a little bit broad enough but eventually, your vision should be broader, ambitious and all of that great stuff. You are trying to take another stab of fruitlessly prioritizing within that ideal customer profile. Who do I go initially? In our world, we had that remote knowledge professional where we talk of more solutions and give you a one-liner. What Avoma does is it’s an AI meeting assistant, which records, transcribes this meeting, summarizes the notes for you and analyzes conversations to give you actionable insights.

When you think about it, the market was huge. All knowledge professionals who are doing meetings over Zoom technically could be our target customer base but we knew that you can’t go that horizontal early on as an early straight startup. That’s why we had to figure it out within that market, who has this pain the highest? Who is willing to pay the most? Who depends on this information? Who uses this solution or who needs a solution more frequently than other people?

Marketing Courage: You need to know your initial customer profile within that ideal customer profile. Your vision should be broad and ambitious, but at the same time, prioritizing that ideal customer profile.


The more customer development interviews we did, we identified sales or customer-facing teams like customer success. These were the people who needed the stronger. That’s where I said, “We will build a product so that it can scale to these other people in the future but not now.” We cut the corner on a lot of things and we ended up prioritizing things that only were relevant to the customer-facing folks. That was what we defined as our initial customer profile from a go-to-market strategy point of view. That’s why, to your point, it is not a destination. It’s a moving target as you continue to get mature in your stage, your product and all that offering but that’s a great point.

One of your LinkedIn polls that come to my mind, which is very relevant is that woodpecker allergy. A woodpecker can go and peck on thousands or even hundreds of trees but it can only go far and so much versus pecking one tree for 2,000 times and over, then it gets the food and everything that it needs. Here’s the thing, the catch is it has to peck maybe a few tens of trees before it can find that one tree to go deep into.

I use that analogy to inform everyone of the value of focus or obsession about certain domains and things. I have talked to a lot of founders and people reach out to me. Early on in our journey in Avoma when I started telling people that this is what we are doing. I used to hate this question when people were asking me, “Is this what you want to do or are you testing it out, throwing it on the wall and seeing if it’s sticking or not?” I hated that question partly because I didn’t like trying to throw it on the wall because nothing will stick if you are that shallow of an understanding of the customer. You’ve got to get obsessed about the problem or obsessed about the domain and the solution may not work whatever the solution that you are building as an early version. Eventually, the more iterations that you do, you will find a way where the solution is serving the specific needs of the customer and you can do it better than anyone else in the industry as well.

That’s why that obsession mattered and rather than if you try to do too many things in parallel without going deep into any one of the areas, you are never going to have that unique insight to really say that this is why we understand this market or segment the best. These are still unsolved problems from this market that other competitors have not still solved. That’s where we come across a better solution compared to other ones. That’s why I felt the woodpecker analogy as and it was also related to when you tell someone about what you are trying to do and immediately they will say, “You can solve this other problem and you can also go after that market as well.”

It’s very tempting to go after many markets, many verticals and try to do whatever you are doing. For example, we do transcriptions. A lot of the time, people will tell, “Why don’t you go after medical professionals? Doctors have this huge problem.” I don’t deny that they do have a huge problem but I need to pick my battle. People who were telling me, “Can we deploy this to cohorts and legal industry where there are transcribers who are transcribing these legal conversations and disputes. This would be hugely valuable?” It would but I would want somebody else to go and solve that problem, not me because I have picked up the problem and space. This was a conversation I had and it was on top of my mind to talk about it.

We can deep dive into so many of those go-to-markets and we dove very quickly into this early on in this show. Let’s step back a bit and look at the bigger picture. I definitely want to come back to some of the topics that you mentioned but let’s step back and talk to us about your career journey. When I looked up your profile, you have an Electrical Engineering background and then you went into more of a Systems and Design Engineer at Altera and Emerson. That’s a whole different world versus what you are doing at Avoma, and even before that, what you did at Shopalize is completely different. Talk to us about evolution and I will pick more of those things.

It is a great journey when I look back and does feel good about where I landed and what I had but I will tell you one thing. I do believe that I always had a dream to start a company. Growing up, I used to look at the factories that you would see driving around. I always wanted to build something like that. I used to always wonder what happens inside that factory or inside that building, what people are doing and how they create stuff. Creating something from scratch or manufacturing was always on top of my mind.

I did not go into the manufacturing route, fortunately, or unfortunately. I ended up learning more about Electrical Engineering. Even Electrical Engineering, you also learn Computer Science there. Programming is part of the thing that we also learned there as well. Right after my Master’s, I joined Altera in a chip design role where I was designing chips like a real hardcore Electrical Engineer. I had the dream of starting a company. I realized that starting a company in the hardware industry is going to be a lot more difficult. That industry is more about how many years of knowledge, science and experience you have under your belt and there were a lot less scope for creativity. I do believe that a very creative mind but at the same time, obviously an analytical mind as well. It’s a combination of both and I had both strengths. I felt in the hardware industry, you cannot apply creativity as much.

I was looking at all my software industry counterparts like my colleagues and my friends. If you have an idea, think about the problem and solve that problem. Very quickly, I realized that I don’t want to stay in this industry if I want to start a startup. That’s one of the reasons I started learning about web development and all the other things like iPhone development part-time while I was working full-time. I built a few apps part-time, started picking my own problems, build some little web apps on iPhone apps based on some small problems. That was the beauty of it. You observe a problem, think about a solution, build a solution and see the solution in the working.

B2B 24 | Marketing Courage
Marketing Courage: Throwing ideas at a wall and hoping it sticks is not a good plan. Nothing will stick if you have a shallow understanding of the customer.


When you talk about the hardware industry, you have a chip that you want to manufacture and you can’t do that. I realized that if I want to let my creative energy as an outlet, I would rather switch to the software industry. There was a rough period where I did not have a green card and I could not switch to the software industry even though I wanted to do that but that’s fine. I stayed there and continued to build these things part-time, and the day I’ve got my Green Card where I was able to officially work on something that I truly loved, I left my job in hardware, jumped full-time and started my first company which was Shopalize. It was into the social commerce and marketing space. It was also a SaaS company so then I ran that company for 2 to 3 years.

You were doing chip design at Altera and then I completely see where you are going. Of course, if you want to start something in hardware space, it’s a lot more expensive. It’s CapEx intensive and it’s heavily based on the expertise, experience and team that you can build around those aspects. I get that part but then, what made you shift to Shopalize, which is completely not related to what you have been doing? Is it related to a problem that you were experiencing or what is the genesis like for that?

That genesis also happened serendipitously. I started solving problems that I had. At that time, Twitter and Facebook were very popular and I’m not an avid shopper wherever I would go and shop my own things. One of the interesting observations I had was I started discovering whenever people were recommending products on Twitter and based on those social recommendations, I would go and take a look at it and would probably purchase those things. There was this discovery serendipity from your network and I have discovered that.

The initial version of that was that all the tweets that people are sharing, could we analyze those tweets, identify the shopping-related tweets, and help people discover what the popular products are that everyone is talking about. Are there any popular deals or coupons that people are sharing? It was more of a discovery engine early on. Back then, I didn’t have an experience with what the SaaS product was and all of that, I was just building an app and it was more like a social app. We started growing that consumer app. We had, at a point, almost 30,000 visitors using the product every single month but it was not monetizing well.

Was it just you or did you have cofounders back then?

No. It was single-handedly. I was managing it and I learned the web development from the ground up and made tons of mistakes, learned the UI, and all of that stuff single-handedly early on but then it was not making money. We realized that the way to make that money was that whenever somebody had the shopping affiliate link, you would get some affiliate commission. We were making like few hundred bucks here and there. It was not great money with the amount of time I was spending. Through that process, one of the things I realized when I was talking to one of the eCommerce retailers that this is what I’m doing and he suggested to me that, “We love getting traffic from this website. Is there anything that you can help us get more traffic and promoters or do something about this? We would want to have more customers from our site to share these and all of that.”

At this point, did you go full-time into this?

Finding your ideal customer is not a destination. It's a moving target. Click To Tweet

This was still the part-time thing I was building. It was not at all monetized well. It was a side project, I was completely learning, doing something and it worked. Some things started working and then I kept working on it as customers or consumers were giving feedback but it was still not a real business. As I mentioned, we were making some ad revenue and affiliate revenue here and there. When I had this conversation with the retailer, he gave me some insight that this is something that they want from a marketing point of view and they would want to buy it. I realized that there’s probably more opportunity to sell this as a solution to retailers rather than trying to make money from consumers and their engagement.

I had that a-ha moment that this has a business model and had business potential. Back then, I used to follow a company like 37signals and all of these other companies. I felt SaaS was becoming popular back then also and that was my first attempt to build something from scratch so I took what learning I had from the early version of Shopalize as a consumer app but converted it into a B2B SaaS app. I shut down everything that I hadn’t started a lot of things from scratch as well but that was the moment I said, “Now I can leave my job,” because I had a clear path to revenue. I knew how much I can charge and these customers that all the eCommerce retailers were out there and to part of your go-to-market strategy also.

One of the earliest a-ha moments was that Shopify, which is huge now, was still a nascent startup back then. There were all these Magento, Big Commerce and all these eCommerce retailers were there. Everyone was coming up with this eCommerce extension or apps model. My a-ha moment was that, “Why don’t we build an app on these platforms and then through these all the eCommerce retailers who are only using Magento? I can directly reach out to those and say that, ‘Here’s your Magento store. I will build this app to get more social sharing from your application and get more customers from your customers and referral customers. Would you buy it?’” I had that clarity and that’s when I said, “I can now leave the job, build this startup, then you eventually start selling.” That’s when I jumped full-time on the early version of Shopalize.

You hit a very important point, which is you can do a side project based on your hobbies, but then very quickly, you pivoted to, “How do I build a business around it? What is the business model like?” It comes down to who are my potential buyers, and then going and speaking with them. It’s that whole lean startup, Agile Steve Blank model. Nothing gets built if you are sitting in the building. You need to go out of the building and talk.

That is so right because, in the first version, I had not talked to anybody. That was my own problem. I was building in my dorm room or whatever the room in and just launching something that I know. I also realized very quickly what were my weakness and strengths. I was not a great consumer social user. Consumer apps also are popular. You have to have the DNA to think about that marketing in a unique, different way. I didn’t understand a lot of cultural things here when I landed in the US and I was trying to build this company at the time. I lacked the DNA to grow the consumer app but I knew that from a B2B perspective, I can go and talk to customers individually. I can sell to them and convince them of the value that they would get.

I realized that rather than trying to get to the millions of users and make some money, you can reach out to a hundred customers and still make the same amount of money. That was my personal realization. What are my strengths? What do I feel comfortable with? Having that clarity to make revenue was a lot better for me. That’s one of the reasons I ended up focusing on switching gears from consumer apps to converting that into a B2B SaaS app.

That reminds me of one of my earlier clients when I was offering my go-to-market services, the Founder came to me saying, “We built something targeted at consumers but we want to pivot to B2B.” Doing and building something for a business, our app around the consumer, especially if you are looking to get the initial traction and then go and pitch to investors, it’s an entirely different scale. You need to hit hundreds and thousands or even millions before you can get that funding versus with the B2B, it’s a handful. You get the validation. My advice and expertise around that were, “How do we pivot from a B2C exactly as what you went through in this ride? How do we pivot from B2B to know who the potential partners are or customers we need to go out and set up a meeting with and then get that feedback? You also hit a very important point, especially for the readers who are to be our aspiring founders, which is to figure out your DNA, limitations and strengths. You may or may not be that consumer app founder mindset, someone with that mindset versus maybe your strength is more on the B2B side.

It’s natural. You are fresh out of school. You have not worked in any industry. You don’t know what problems businesses have so it’s very likely that people don’t think about business ideas at their first ideas. They think about consumer ideas as their first ideas because they are consumers, they can see all the problems around them and think, “I can solve this problem and I can build something there.” Once you start building it, that’s when you realize that to get to that scale and then from the scale to get to the revenue of what you are trying to do is a different ball game. At that time, while social was popular, paid advertising was also equally popular, which is still there and I somehow didn’t feel that comfortable going and putting a lot of money to grow this with the paid channels without having the confidence that it is growing organically on its own and there’s enough need there.

That’s the reason I realize that it’s a lot easier for me to convince somebody, one individual business, to buy a solution. The whole SaaS promise was humongous. You can sleep and it still makes money. The advantage of recurring revenue, which adds up, was amazing. That definitely, I fell in love with that whole industry and never looked back. I still don’t think of myself as a great consumer or user as well and I don’t think I can build a consumer app but my mind is geared towards thinking SaaS and everything to do with SaaS.

Let’s come back to your early days of Shopalize. You talked to a couple of eCommerce retailers, either Magenta, Big Commerce or other customers and you were able to get that initial traction handful of customers. Did you bootstrap or how did you go about building that business after you saw the initial validation?

B2B 24 | Marketing Courage
Marketing Courage: Nothing will be sure or set in stone. It’s the job of the founders to find certainty in all the uncertainties presented in front of them.


We bootstrapped it. Shopalize is on a bootstrap journey and I worked almost six months full-time on it, left a job and was not making any money. Nothing is coming in so I was completely building it out of my savings. There was a reason. I was nobody. I didn’t know investors back then. You asked me the question, “Did you have a Cofounder?” It was not that I did not want to have a Cofounder, I struggled to get Cofounders because every Computer Science smart person that I would know when I will reach out to them would look at it and would say, “I can build it myself. Why do I need you and why do I need to partner with you?” I was coming from a hardware background so I was not bringing anything great on the table as my own assets to say, “I know this best and then you can partner with me.” I did not have a lot of Cofounders early on so then that’s when I said, “Screw it. Let’s take things into our own hands and started building and learning stuff.”

Once I launched the app and I initially had the traction, now I was having some credibility, then people started taking me seriously to some extent. Even with this, the second iteration of Shopalize, when I did that first version, I’m still with myself, we had few customers, then I again went back to one of my friends and convinced him that, “I have done this so far. This is what the progress has been. This is the first prototype and we also have some paying customers but it’s still early in the journey. Would you want to join?” At that time, a friend of mine joined the journey as a Cofounder.

You shared quite a lot of insights as part of your whole Shopalize founding days. Back then, you also mentioned the story about how you went about and the struggles that you had to go through to eventually find your Cofounder. Talk to us about how did you go about finding complementary skills or strengths in your Cofounder because that’s again, a key part of the go-to-market, especially in the early days. It’s about how do you find that complementary Cofounder for yours?

You ask about this from Shopalize days. At that time, obviously, I was naive. I didn’t know enough and even with Avoma’s journey, when I was looking for a Cofounder, I also probably made a few mistakes early on and I will share where I’ve got that clarity to find a Cofounder that I currently have. You asked about complementary skills and that is exactly how I was looking at it. It’s a wrong way to go about it. Skills are not what you should go after and I will tell you, early on again, my Shopalize Cofounder, I went with the skillset of having a software engineer or developer and that worked out great. He was a great Cofounder. We had a great outcome even in Shopalize days as well and we are friends so that’s not an issue as such.

In Avoma journey, also when I looked back when I left the job and wanted to start the Avoma journey, I was trying to reach a lot of Cofounders trying to find who can help me to build this whole machine learning, AI­-based advanced solution. My natural instinct was to look for all the PhDs and the people who have had worked at these awesome companies like Google, Facebook, and have built something in machine learning and whatnot. I overoptimized that skillset and their background. For almost six months, I did not find a great Cofounder because everyone was getting excited about the ideas. I almost talked like I was making a spreadsheet. I had 26 different people that I had reached out to in those six months. You talk to them multiple times and then they say that they have Visa issues, planning to buy a home or have a baby. Nobody was ready to jump to do this full-time.

I think this was after your acquisition.

Shopalize was acquired, then I was at a larger company, [24]7.ai, for a few years. That’s when I had another idea about starting Avoma based on some of the problems I experienced there. I said, “Now, I’m going to jump full-time to start Avoma.” I don’t believe in running too many things part-time as well. I left my previous job, went full-time on Avoma and was looking for a Cofounder while I was doing customer development as well. I could not find a Cofounder. I struggled for six months to have somebody willing to do this full-time.

This was while you were doing the customer development process and working full-time on the Avoma idea.

I had already left the job. I believed in the problem, I thought we need to go deeper into this and continue to do the research. The way I realize in the process of searching, I found two people. He’s the one person I met who is my Cofounder and he changed my perspective of how I should think about this. When I met him, he had all the same issues that everyone else had. He did not have a Visa. He had just purchased a home and a newborn baby. Every single thing was there but the one thing characteristic I felt unique about him was he was bold and courageous. Nothing else mattered to me. He said, “I believe in this idea.” He had done a startup also in the past so I could see that level of maturity in thinking compared to everyone else who was the first-timer, who didn’t have that level of courage and this Cofounder of mine, he said, “Don’t worry about the Visa. I will figure it out. Don’t worry about the machine-learning domain, I will learn it and figure it out.”

That courage was important to me, the skills and all the other issues and that is exactly the holy grail of startup. Nothing will be sure and certain. It’s the job of the founders to find certainty through all these uncertainties that are presented in front of you. That’s why I decided to go found a company with one of my Cofounders, and then he knew a third Cofounder of ours, he also had a very similar background and that’s basically what the three of us decided to join the company.

I’m glad you hit up on that point when I asked you the question about skills and how to go about finding a Cofounder. I’m glad you corrected me because in my mind and even with what I’m doing, I’m also exploring startup ideas with a friend of mine. You pointed out correctly, which is it’s not about skills but also about the mindset match, the tenacity, the grit that’s required, and the persistence. Especially in the early days of founding, it’s going to be super hard even after you raise your angel and a seed funding, it’s not glory at all. There are going to be hard days for a while.

Nothing gets built if you're just sitting in the building. You need to get out and talk. Click To Tweet

Trust me, every week, there is a new battle, literally. No day or week goes by where it’s all rosy but it has been a few years that we have been together. We knew each other. I knew one of the Cofounders. At that time, I did not reach out to him first. We had some history but I understood the characteristics were so clear to me that all the search I was doing all a lot wrong because, in your journey, you are going to have these moments where things are not going to go right. That’s when that mindset, tenacity, boldness and courage because your competitors are going to raise capital. Somebody else is going to do something else and then you are going to get discouraged. Rejections are going to be part of your life. That’s when the courage comes in. The courage to continue to push forward is what mattered. I recommend that skill to anything else. That’s what I would recommend to everyone.

I’m glad we are touching upon this topic. Many of the readers may or may not be actually a bearer or interested in this, especially given that this show is all about go-to-market but a key aspect and I want to emphasize this for the readers, which is when you are founding or looking to start up a company, having that right Cofounder is a key essential attribute of go-to-market. That is super important, especially when you are even further down along the line. When you are looking to expand, build your team and hire the right leadership, it goes back into what are the traits? What are the skillsets? What is the experience? What are the strengths that your partner or the leader he or she may bring to the table? It’s all part of the go-to-market again.

I know we digress but for a good reason, all great topics over here. Coming back to Avoma and you also emphasize something around customer development, how did you go about finding that problem space for Avoma and it goes back to early on where you kept hearing from others, which is, “We need to solve the problem for lawyers or doctors?” Clearly, you went, you’ve got out of the building, you spoke with prospective buyers, but then how did you narrow down your focus and say, “This is the market and problem I want to go after?”

First of all, there was an element of scratching your own itch thing and I had this problem myself. The way I had this problem and also the knowledge of the domain was that my previous company, Shopalize, which we were into social marketing and social customer support space, got acquired by another larger company, [24]7.ai, which historically were primarily a chat-based support solution. During my tenure at [24]7.ai, I launched a couple of other products, which are purely about self-service-based solutions for customer support like chatbots or what you can call virtual assistants and all of that.

B2B 24 | Marketing Courage
Marketing Courage: You’re going to have moments of uncertainty. This is where mindset, tenacity, and courage come in.


In that process, I was also exposed to this whole voice-based domain because we were also doing customer support for calling. We were selling to enterprises and as a product person who was launching this new product initiative, I used to be in front of customers all the time. We would have a new idea. We wanted to share the new idea with our existing customers and see if they will be willing to buy this new product line.

Once we find some early customers, I would understand the needs and problems, go back, build the MVP solution, deploy the MVP solution with few customers, and then once we see the success and metrics, then start scaling the solution and hand it over to our go-to-market team. That was the product guy. I was in the larger company while I was doing that. When we used to hand over the product to the go-to-market team, I would stop learning as a product person. I would not know what’s going on in their meetings but when I was in front of customers, I would learn a ton. I would exactly know what’s working, what’s not working and what are the key issues that they have. We were able to build products really fast based on their feedback.

I remember every new product initiative I launched within like 90 to 120 days, we would have a solution from idea to launch in a production client or production customer in the 90 to 120 days period. That was the realization I had because I have this access to customer information, and then I started thinking of how we are serving these B2B customers. It is very broken. We have all these salespeople, customer success, account managers and so many handoffs happen. I never learned anything from these because I have to chase 4 or 5 different people. There was not a single place where I can go back and refer to this information. People used to tell me, “Go look in Salesforce, we will have notes and all I would have in Salesforce would be customer said the product is expensive.” I’m like, “That is not useful insight.”

That’s what the realization that I felt. On the other hand, I was a diligent notetaker myself and I would capture these notes, share different notes with my engineering team, executive and customer. I realized that I was spending way too much time capturing the insights of these different customer conversations and sharing these insights with different teams so that they have a proper understanding. That was a combination of these two ideas that I felt that note-taking and sharing information is important but at the same time, we are not able to get those insights from the customer conversation. How can we solve this problem?

That was the genesis and one of the solutions was that, could we record these conversations, transcribed them and then do all the post-analysis using AI to extract these notes, identify key topics from the customer’s calls and help the collaboration so that other people in the company can have access to that information? That’s what I told you, when I shared this, the way I’m going to solve this problem people are like, “Transcription, that’s so awesome. We could do this and that,” but then you’ve got to still say no to all those variations and distractions. I picked up the problem that I continued to still work on because I wanted to use the product every single day.

While working in the customer support industry, I was not an agent who is doing the customer support thing. I would not know the nuances or the product issues that we would have there. It would be a lot easier to build a product that you use and identify the pains that you go through every single day. That’s how you can build a better solution. The reason I still have a combination of the validation from my own issues that I had seen then taking that problem, talking to other leaders, other people, and then validating that, it definitely helped me to believe that we need to solve this problem and can continue to focus on this domain.

Another important point when you talk about go-to-market for early-stage startups and founders, which is feeling the pain of the problem almost like firsthand. You need to have that burn. The problem is serious but at the same time, you want to solve it. It’s the problem and the solution piece, both hand-in-hand.

You have to have a unique insight about a solution as well like what is it that you are going to solve that has to be there but as you rightly said, the problem definitely comes is the most important. It’s the combination of both. Sometimes, people say, “Don’t get obsessed with the solution. Only get obsessed with the problem.” I don’t completely agree with that as well. If you are not obsessed with the solution, you are going to build a mediocre solution. You’ve got to optimize every single little detail. You need to know what’s going on in your solution as well. That’s how you are going to be proud of your solution so that your customers are going to get a delighted experience. If you are not obsessed, they are not going to get a delighted experience and you are building yet another me-too product. That doesn’t mean that you should not be obsessed with the problem. That is the primary step and foundation but this is why a combination of both is important.

Let’s switch gears a bit over here and take a step back. Where is Avoma now? Where are you at in terms of either funding? What can you share on the show in terms of funding, employees, revenues, or customers? Let’s start with that first.

We are a seed-stage company. We raised $3 million, have been in business since 2017 and a team of thirteen people. We have 200 customers using our solution, growing 15% to 20% month over month, every day.

Are the 200 customers mostly in the SMB space?

SMB/early mid-market customers.

What do you see are the big goals for the rest of 2021 going into 2022 for Avoma?

The internal revenue goals that we have are something that we continue to think growing the team and that’s the leadership position in the marketplace. We have our unique point of view that we are building the solution. Our goal ultimately will be the number one provider in the SMB space. That’s the goal that we have and everything else basically is around that. How do we raise capital, building the team, making sure our customers are getting the value that we promised to them, investing in the product, technology, scaling and the organization itself to support that? Those are the mini-goals start spreading from there.

How do you describe the go-to-market for Avoma now versus how do you see transitioning, especially around the goals that you stated?

We historically started with a lot more sales-driven where we were going after our customers.

Is it outbound?

A combination of outbound and we were also getting some inbound as well through referrals and marketplace integrations that we had done. We also applied the same strategy where we integrate with a few CRMs like HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho, and all of that so people discover us from there. In the last few iterations, the way it’s working, we are investing more in self-service now. As the product is getting more mature, the product is useful for even an individual. You don’t need the entire team to use Avoma. Individuals are discovering the product. We have a free trial. People sign up on their own and even we have a freemium offering where they can use the limited functionality without paying anything.

Through that, we are shifting gears. I wouldn’t say that we are going completely product-led. I also believe that product-led is also this mythical term where they believe that you don’t need awareness of marketing or sales. That’s not true. The way I think about product lead is that there are a lot of customers who will continue to find value through Avoma, continue to distribute Avoma and grow Avoma on its own. At the same time, initial marketing awareness is required.

We also call it product-led and sales-assisted because once somebody signs up and starts using it, a lot of the time they have a very unique way of looking at what Avoma is doing. It’s our job to educate them, understand the needs better and explain to them you are looking for purely a meeting transcription or meeting assistant solution, but have you thought about coaching use case and collaboration use case? When you educate them through sales-assisted conversations, that’s when people realize, “I did not think about it.” That’s how we are able to expand our average contract value. We are growing and scaling in the same account we ended up expanding. That’s another reason why we believe that product-led is how the way the product is built. The pricing is transparent on the website but at the same time, having the sales-assisted model, customer success model is useful to expand the account.

I’m glad that you are doing it because it’s something that I’m seeing across the industry, which is even though product-led growth is a big push in the industry for SaaS but at the same time, it’s almost like a hybrid model. It’s not fully product-led and product-led growth, I would say and argue, is more geared towards consumer-ish products like a Box or Dropbox more aptly, and then Zoom versus if you are going after the B2B customers. It should be a combination of product-led, which is you’ve got the freemium and the initial users but then if you want to expand, you don’t go with the purely outbound salesy mindset but it’s more of a customer success mindset, which is, “Let me come and understand your use cases first and then guide you.”

Skills are not what you should be looking out for. It's courage. Click To Tweet

Ultimately, I also think about here is what your buyer is looking for. I will give an example. A lot of the companies do not have a pricing page published on the website and you have to book a demo with them, fill a form, go through the discovery process to get some pricing information. It’s a very frustrating experience. On the other hand, people have paid directly to sign up for the trial. Here’s the pricing page. You go and figure it out. Both the approaches are also wrong if you only take those two operations. What we do is we give options to our customers. Some people like to buy on their own, try on their own so they can sign up for the trial. Go ahead and do it.

Some people still book demos with us. You will not believe that having that option, even individual, smaller users and smaller businesses want to book a demo with us to understand the product because there are so many other products. Nobody wants to also learn everything on their own. By giving that option to buyers is why people love Avoma. We had a customer who bought Avoma and he was looking at one of our competitors. They don’t have a booking a demo option on their website. He said, “I was comparing you with them and I saw Avoma had an option to book a demo. I loved it. I wanted to talk to them. They didn’t have any way to talk to me.” That’s it. It’s not just the product-led is also enough but it’s a combination based on each buyer are different. If you give them the experience that they want, you would be in a much better position.

B2B 24 | Marketing Courage
Marketing Courage: Product-led is this mythical term where people believe that you don’t need awareness, marketing, or sales.


I don’t know if it’s deliberate experimentation that you do but it’s figuring out when you put the options out there, and then in hindsight, when you look at your entire marketing, sales funnel metrics, conversion ratios, and all those parameters, that’s when you realize, “These buttons or these leavers are helping us grow versus these are giving us that awareness or interest that’s being gendered in this entire funnel.”

A lot of the time, this starts with the simple, common-sense philosophy that treats your buyers the way you like to be treated. I would hate somebody to ask me to go through the process of filling the forms only or only giving an option and not giving me an option to talk to somebody. When I felt that that’s how I would like to do business, I thought we should basically be fair and flexible and give these options to our buyers as well.

We are coming up towards the end of the show here. Last a few questions for you. What is the big topic, maybe 1 or 2 topics, that you are curious about, especially in the whole go-to-market world where you go out and seek that knowledge or test out your concepts?

There are a couple of topics I have been thinking about this. In general, the way I think about the whole go-to-market is not a function of just a marketing team, sales team or someone like that. It’s a very cross-functional, collaborative function. It has so much dependency on the product team, marketing team and sales team, the pricing, what features we should allow, what is possible in this pricing and not. It’s an extremely cross-functional team and the way the industry positioned it as it’s a pure marketing job. I feel that the needs to change in general or, to me, more of all these revenue functions that we talk about so much of it is now product and revenue teams working together as a combination of it. That’s why I feel that that is one topic that doesn’t get the level of attention. To do that, what you are trying to do is, historically, people used to tell me, “Go and look at the notes in Salesforce.” As a product person, I wouldn’t have a license to Salesforce. Nobody gives me a license to Salesforce. Now you have information siloed, I cannot learn from your different systems, and that’s a bigger issue to me.

What we believe is the next evolution is going to be a system of collaboration. You had a system of records like a Salesforce, then you had a system of engagements like tools to send emails and then the system of intelligence to learn analytics. The bigger advantage is going to be if your organization is hyper collaborative. If they are agile to communicate, collaborate and understand what is happening on the customer-facing side and what is happening on the product side. Those teams need to come together. That’s why one of the topics I’m passionate about is, how can we remove the barriers? How can we reduce the friction and help people to collaborate faster to get the job done whether sell, build better products and whatnot?

That’s a whole different show topic in and of itself because I believe that it should be the role and responsibility of either a CEO or a COO who is overlooking the entire good market functions and who the executives. After all, you’ve got the tools and the tech stack but you also need to ensure that the processes, right people and right skillset are in place. We will come back and do another show on this. That’s a huge topic in itself. One final question to you is if you were to turn back time and go back to day one of your go-to-market journeys, I know you shared a lot of nuggets, what is that one advice that you would share with your younger self?

If I want to go back on the go-to-market, I would say it’s coming from the pain that we have is Avoma’s product and our sales process is great, where we had struggle where we realize that it’s the brand awareness, not many people knowing us. To me, if I want to fix one problem in our go-to-market, I would invest in our brand and marketing, in general. Talk about us and get more out there before we had any other product built or trying to sell actively. That would be the mistake probably I have made where I did not invest in these things early on. It could be content and positioning ourselves, we were building product instead and not being out there actively promoting us. That would be the thing I would probably say.

I wish you and the Avoma team the very best. Going back to the exact point that you shared, which is a lot of founders make those mistakes for valid reasons, it’s not intentional that they are not investing in the brand building and the marketing side. It’s just that, they are so consumed in understanding the buyer and building of the product. You correctly said it and this is something that I’m talking to when I speak with other founders is I keep emphasizing that you’ve got the right pieces in place around products and other pieces but also ensure that you are building the brand. That’s going to position you. You need to think about how you are going to see yourself and be known in the next 2 or 3 years while you have your heads down in the next 1, 2 or 3 months in closing your pipeline. Thank you so much for your time, Aditya. A lot of nuggets and insights were shared and I’m sure you brought a lot of wisdom to our readers. Thank you once again and I will be cheering you from the sidelines.

Thank you, Vijay. This was fun chatting and bringing old memories back. It’s always fun to share those journeys. Thanks again.


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