B2B 8 | Go-To-Market

B2B 8 | Go-To-Market

 

 

Businesses go from one level to the next. The further you are along, the more complex your business strategy will become. In terms of the go-to-market, startups and mature businesses also differ in their approach. Taking us through these stages, Vijay Damojipurapu invites Ajit Deshpande, the Vice President of Demand Generation at Marqeta, Inc. Here, Ajit shares his thoughts and observations between startups and businesses that are further along in the game and reveals some of the best practices of go-to-market leaders. He gives pieces of advice to leaders on building traction and scaling up—from marketing to leading a team with experimentation—and then reveals how they are working towards their goals in the company as a FinTech startup. 

Listen to the podcast here

The Go-To-Market For Scaling Startups With Ajit Deshpande 

I have with me Ajit Deshpande, the Vice President of Demand Generation at Marqeta, who is based out of Silicon Valley. Ajit has a unique profile and track record in the sense that he has grown in the ranks and in the roles of go-to-market oral function all the way from marketing planning, business operations, marketing leader role, now in Demand Gen. At the same time, he’s been active in the whole startup ecosystem. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Welcome to the show, Ajit.

Thanks, Vijay, for having me.

I always like to start off with the real key question around the whole theme of this show which is around go-to-market. How do you define a go-to-market?

When you think of a corporate entity in any company, there are two main roles that exist in the company. One is the role of making something, whether it’s a product, service, software, or whatever and then there is the role of selling it. When you boil it down into those two things, go-to-market is the second half. For something that exists, how do you find the right customer for that product, service, or the solution that’s been made? Finding the right customer, reaching out, selling, retaining the customer in the long-term, and then hoping that the customer becomes an evangelist. That whole process or gamut is go-to-market. When you think of it in terms of corporate functions that will then contain marketing, sale, customer success, deployment, and it will include support operations. A lot of these teams work together to get the go-to-marketing going. That, to me, is a go-to-market.

I like the broad perspective that you bring to the table. This is a common theme that I’ve seen occurring with the go-to-market leaders I’ve been speaking with. It’s always a very holistic and broad perspective. The reason why I share this is I myself have been guilty of this whole process years ago when I started in product management or even a product marketing role. For me, back then, go-to-market is all about how to get this thing out of the launch door. It’s all about the launch process but over the years, my perspectives and insights have evolved.

It’s in line with what you shared and the various guests have been saying as well. It’s an inside view but at the same time, and more importantly, an outside view of, what is happening outside the company and how we tie those two things together? As you said, you build and innovate but how you take it to market. It’s an ongoing process. Share with the audience about your journey, how you started specifically go-to-market role? If you go back in time, how did you evolve your journey and how did you land at the role that you’re in now?

I’m an engineer by education and training. I studied mechanical engineering in India. I did my undergrad there then I came to the US.

You did your undergrad from one of the top Institutes in India.

At the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay is where I finished. I immediately came after my undergrad to Stanford to do Master’s in Mechanical Engineering. I’m a hardware engineer by education. After that point, I did another eight years of engineering work all in the Bay Area in Semiconductors and then in Cleantech. I was a robotics engineer. I designed robots for these industries and it was all great. It’s quantitative, solid work, and satisfying in its own silo, so to speak. Part of it, for me, was I didn’t understand what happened after my work was done.

Marketing is just making the right offer to the right person at the right time. Click To Tweet

These robots then got integrated into other systems. That system then would get sold to a customer. The customer would make chips and then those chips would come back to me through our laptops and then phones. It was a little bit of a roundabout existence to connect what I was doing, the end outcome for the consumer. I was always curious as to what being closer to the customer’s need and customer validation might feel like. I did go to business school with that intent, which was to transition out of engineering and into more of a business role. I didn’t know what I would do in business. I wanted to explore it. I went to Berkeley towards the end of the last decade and did my MBA there. During this time, I originally explored finance as a function.

I looked into multiple different streams within finance, investment banking, I did some Hedge Fund work, venture capital work, and I was doing all of this pro-bono exploration during business school. I realized that it was the technology piece of it that was still exciting to me. I tried my hand in venture capital and recruited into it heavily. I was able to get into the VC world at a firm called Opus Capital back in 2012. As it turned out, none of my hardware experience mattered because Opus focused on software investing for the most part even though it was B2B enterprise. They hired me partly for my drive and my perceived potential to figure things out.

When I went to Opus with all the hardware experience that I had, I had to learn everything from scratch. I had to learn about databases, networking, mobile SaaS, etc. In that process, what was logical for me was to look at all of these early-stage investment opportunities that the Opus came across. I came across from the lens of how these ideas would scale and get taken to market because I was not necessarily a technical architect that would get into the weeds of the product based on my previous experiences. The go-to-marketing came second nature to me as I was looking at startup. As I was doing that, I had a lot of these notions that are developed on how marketing, sales, and customer success might behave.

After two years of doing it, I started questioning whether I had the right notion in the first place. I decided to move from venture capital and try to get into the business side in a functional role. As I was recruiting, I was hired by Salesforce back in early 2014 onto their marketing team to lead business planning. I would never have expected myself to be a marketer at that time. For me, marketing was like any other aspect in go-to-market. It’s big in many ways, unsolved problems. You could think of it as a challenge and with first principles, you could solve all of that.

I thought it was an excellent opportunity for me. I went to Salesforce and marketing and then I spent five and a half years there learning about various facets within marketing whether it was the business planning piece that I started with or over time I scaled into various other aspects, mostly on the marketing operations, analytics, and strategy side but then in the process, I got exposed to marketing quite a bit. More so, I got exposed to a lot of top-notch people at Salesforce that is at the forefront of B2B marketing.

I learned a lot from them. I understood their psyche and my own psyche, so to speak, and I got more and more interested in that piece of it. Later on, I went from Salesforce to Stripe. A lot of it was driven by a couple of objectives. Number one, as I understood Saas to be an excellent go-to-market business model, I also had this notion that with all the consumption-based aspects that were happening in the FinTech world, that things might be different and interesting to understand. Stripe was one of the key companies that have been driving that thought process forward. I was at Stripe for a year where I was more in the finance team that supporting sales and marketing.

In that sense, I involved in go-to-market strategy but from the financial angle. After a year of doing that, I transitioned to marketer which is also in the FinTech space, smaller startup than Stripe but a leader in card issuing as the category. With that transition and back into the marketing role where I’m now responsible for Demand Gen, I go from high touch events to account-based marketing, inbound online paid, Demand Gen, SEO, and to marketing ops. A much broader scope across Demand Gen and it’s a way for me to contribute to this company’s success.

That’s a great journey there. I can go into several of those areas and we can have a deep dive discussion around those for the value and benefit of the audience. You clearly being very closely associated with the go-to-market when it comes to early-stage startups. When you were at Opus, you are seeing that and evaluating businesses from that point of view but at the same time, at the other end of the spectrum, you have been very closely involved with go-to-market for the more mature businesses at Salesforce and Stripe, and now at Marqeta. What are your broad thoughts, paradigms, or observations that you see on early-stage versus more mature?

One way to boil it down is that when you’re on early-stage or a small company, it’s pretty much hand-to-hand combat. You are going after that next customer, next small business, and next small vertical that used-case that you’re willing to put a lot of energy into winning. That’s the focus for a smaller company. What that also means is that the objectives are simple and the alignment across the go-to-market chain. When you think of marketing, sales, and customer success, everyone is extremely aligned on that objective. Once you go past a certain scale and you go into the large company more, you’re looking at aggregate sophistication.

B2B 8 | Go-To-Market
Go-To-Market: When you think of marketing, sales, and customer success as a startup, everyone is extremely aligned on their objective. Once you go past a certain scale and go into the large company, you will start looking at aggregate sophistication.

 

Before we go into more of the larger scale, it’s easy to get the alignment between go-to-market functions like marketing sales, success, or support but the challenge is there’s no playbook into how, which market segment? Who is my customer, who within the customer, how will I engage them, who is the buyer, what is the buying cycle look like, it might hit my revenues, and forecast? It’s all topsy-turvy at least for the first couple of years until we hit scale. Any thoughts on that?

That’s the beauty of innovation and being in a startup because you’re trying to do something that is brand new. The existence of the lack of playbook being in place is a logical outcome of your own pursuit. It is in some ways a competitive advantage to come up with the thought process and a playbook to create that winning combination for yourself. With that said, the absence of a playbook is somewhat compensated by the simplicity of the objective, which is I need to figure out which customers might like my product. How do you find that out? You interview five prospects and you find the one that resonates on your thought process. There is a lot of manual needs to the work and a lot of ingenuity that has to be brought in but at the end of the day, because the goal is a relatively simpler goal to go for, the efforts can still bear fruit.

That’s broadly my thought process. Number two, when you think of go-to-market, matter product, user experience, or any aspect associated with the business, the logical first principles-based approach to looking at any of these situations typically will be a winning approach more often than not. Marketing is making the right offer to the right person at the right time. If you could find the right person, you could make the right offer when they are ready, you will succeed. The question is, how do you get it done?

Simple concept but hard to execute.

It is very hard to execute but you can use first principles and say, “This is how I can plan my work to get the best of what resources I have.”

Clearly, you’ve been very closely involved in startups, not just from an operational but even as an investor and advisor. If you look back and step back, what do you see the common 2 or 3 top recurring themes as best practices and something that you would share with founders and go to market leaders for the early-stage startup? I’m talking about seed or even Series A.

Is it from the standpoint of go-to-market?

Yes.

The few principles are objectives that any founders should have. I’m getting into a little bit of a philosophical thought process but hopefully, it’ll all connect together. Number one, one has to be extremely unbiased in their thought process. A lot of entrepreneurs and corporate individuals, entities are biased in terms of the potential for their product to succeed for what the customer may or may not want, etc. and that bias affects a lot of the decision-making. Can someone be unbiased in their thought process? Number two, always customer-centricity makes a difference. What does that mean? Any startup for success as to monetize what they are building. If what they’re building is not used by anyone then it makes no difference to the world that is a product.

Customer centricity always makes a difference. Click To Tweet

They have bigger problems in the sense of entity will collapse.

That could be but more so, every action for individual and founder has an opportunity cost. That opportunity cost is they could be doing something else. If they’re putting their time into solving a problem then that problem is something that the customer needs. Being customer-centric and unbiased, those would be your starting points. Again, going back to first principles. How can someone envision the future? Can you imagine where you’d be five years from now? Can you slowly peel the onion back from five years later? What does that mean for next year? What does that mean for three years from now?

What is my five-year goal? If my five-year thought process is to be the dominant CRM company in the world, then how do I create the CRM market? How do I get ready to sell into it? What products do I need? What will the technology landscape be in five years? To be imagining it, boiling it down, and bring it back to the eventual tactical outcome, that’s the third aspect of it. The fourth piece of it, which is personal for me but in the startup world, this is something that a lot of successful founders to practice in the first place. It’s always to be doing something, iterating, getting to the next step, not be thinking about something, big strategic objective, and rather small wins will combine together to get to the final outcome.

Going back your first point, it’s all about having that intellectual curiosity. That’s how I term it. When you say unbiased, you need to be sincerely and seriously honest with yourself and led data. Sometimes, not always data will dictate but you need to be intellectually curious and honest with yourself. To your last point, it’s all about the market pull you in that direction. Switching back and going down to the more scaling part of the business which are being closely involved on a day-to-day operational basis over the last few years. Continuing on your thought process there, we are moving the needle from go-to-market for early stage, which is all about building traction to now, you’re talking about go-to-market for scale up. What are your thoughts, lessons, and advice for the audience?

As a company matures and scales up, it’s filled by the nature of its evolution. It will start becoming a combination of a lot of specialized functions, so to speak. For example, at market, we have sales and BD team that exactly understands what our product-market fit is. At a very early stage, they can gauge pretty well whether a prospect is right for us to pursue or not and it saves us a lot of time from their perspective. We are not engaging with prospects, which will lead us to a dead-end because FinTech is a rapidly evolving business. Time is of the essence as far as getting product-market fit at scale. Our BD team is smart. Our marketing team on what we are doing is as full-scale as it can be for the resources that we have. What that means is we could do many different ways of getting to market.

We could have the website be extremely sophisticated. We could have big Demand Gen and scale. We could do SEO and account-based marketing. There are all these things which we do to some extent. For us, a lot of the goal is to try to create the right mix of effort from our side in order to match up with our sales goals. That’s the other piece. For me, as we look at marketing, the scale of the company makes a massive amount of difference. In a small scale startup, you could use one channel, one tactic, and that may be enough for you to feed your entire sales objective.

As you get to a marketer style thing, you are looking at more of a full-scale marketing effort that has elements of almost anything that you can think of within marketing but with prioritization and a mix of objectives or channels based on the skill that we are looking for. As you go further into a large company such as Salesforce, you’re doing everything at massive scale. You are doing everything from 60,000 people dream force down to an end event portfolio of hundreds of events, lots of digital marketing, a pretty sophisticated website, and so on. At that point, every single channel is a necessity. For a marketer, it is a question of prioritization.

You shared about the different go-to-market channels and Demand Gen avenues. You mentioned about ABM pieces including events, inbound, and outbound from a combination of email to SDRs and BDRs, and then the account executives closing the deal. What is your broader approach or what is the guidance to the team? When I asked this question, I think about you are given the charter for the next 3 to 6 months. How do you guide your team and what experiments you need to experiment, at the same time, you need to deliver on those across this channel? How do you approach and give guidance to your team?

Let’s start from the last part first and then I’ll get to the first part of the question. Experimentation is a cultural thing more than anything. What that means is at any given skill, you’ve got to be experimenting all the time. One utopian goal that we have, at least for myself, my team, and the product organization, is we would like to experiment with 10% of our resources all the time. What that means is if I have $100 to spend on digital advertising, we should be trying to invest ten of those dollars on things that we don’t know much about. We know for the future whether these things work out or not. On the fringes, there is value to having some investment in experimentation, always, in the perspective of what it is that you’re doing.

Do you report those on your weekly/monthly dashboard?

B2B 8 | Go-To-Market
Go-To-Market: The beauty of innovation and being in a startup is how you’re doing something that is brand new. The existence of the lack of a playbook paves the way for a logical outcome of your own pursuit.

 

In B2B marketing, it’s very hard to break out the impact of one piece against all the other things that are happening. The end goal is still an end goal which is we need to deliver leads and pipeline to the sales team. To the extent that we are doing it with the resources that we have, you’re okay. To the extent we are not doing it, there’s a problem. The point here is experimentation is more of execution on the scientific method. What that means is you have a hypothesis that something might be interesting and you put in some investment and some resources into it. If it works out, great. If it doesn’t work out, you move on and go back to what is the basics and what works for you. That’s one piece.

There’s two levels of experimentation. One is within a given tactic and then there is the experimentation around tactic mix. Should I be doing more online and less events or vice versa? It’s an experiment. It’s all the same money that is being invested across these things. There is a significant amount of art form to try to figure out what decisions will result in that mix shifting more time. That is part of the challenge and part of the opportunity for a role like mine. That’s number one. Your second piece was more around how Demand Gen, whether it’s events, ABM, or inbound, etc.

How does it align with your quarterly?

How to think of it in the context of the company’s objective so to speak? At least from my personal perspective, that part is more of a top-down thought process. The way that I personally look at it is in Demand Gen, sales have certain goals. That certain goal that is downstream on revenue translates to a certain goal upstream at leads, traffic, or conversion rates, etc. That’s the starting point. The next question is, what is the mix I’m going to use to achieve, what are goals that I need to deliver? That would be based on what has worked in the past and, correspondingly, where is it that I need to grow? There is always that eventual plug, which is the rest of it has to come organically.

You could call it a miracle, product-market fit, or some vitality in our scale or brand and all that. There is always an organic component to all that we do. Once we’ve figured out what it is that we are looking to shoot for, then the next thing is for us to make sure that there is resourcing across each of these key initiatives. To make sure that we all measure ourselves back with the understanding that at the end of the day, whatever it is that we are projecting is not going to happen. That will be some variant of what we think is going to happen.

However, the total of all of our mistakes will still end up to be zero. That’s what we are looking for. We are pretty much looking to, again, have that point of view to make sure that we are invested to feed or achieve the objectives associated there. For us, whether it’s the experimentation culture or the delivered results culture is to be this passionate. It’s to evaluate whether we achieved or underachieved because of intent and how much of that was luck. How much of the market is turning in our favor or against us is what matter. Look, evaluate, trade, fix more.

One thing is very clear based on what you’re saying, Ajit, it’s very clear in your mindset as to how you’re applying a financial portfolio management thinking into this. You mentioned about you win some and you lose some but the net game should be zero. It is the same mindset that you’d use when you’re building a financial portfolio. You’ll have some stocks or some investments where you’ll hit it right out of the park and others which can go downhill. At the end of the day, are you net positive? It’s the same mindset that you are applying.

I would extend that a little bit further. Every leader for every function thinks the same way or at least should be thinking the same way. Whether it’s the CFO of the company saying, “Should I invest in sales, marketing, or product?” They might same think, “Where is the biggest bang for the buck for what I have?” It’s the same thing with the salesperson saying, “Which deals should I put my energy into?” The product person is saying, “What features are important?” Every one of those things has that logic. I want to also say that every function has its own complexity and nuances.

Marketing also has those nuances. At the level of making decisions on what to do in marketing, such thought process make sense. At the end of the day, marketing is a very massive art form. Marketing needs the intuitive feel, brain, and gut feel of the marketer to be the right intuition and the winning field. That is very much driven by the marketers themselves being smart and more right than wrong and all that. The right people in the team make this difference happen. That skill, intuition, and thought process comes with experience and time. If a team has great people in it, it will be very fun.

FinTech is a rapidly evolving business. Time is of the essence as far as getting a product-market fit at scale.  Click To Tweet

How big is your team? Can you also share some details around your MarTech stack?

The marketing guard at Marqeta is around twenty people. Demand Gen is 1/4 of 1/3 of it. The company overall is 500 people. As the whole entity scales, so with marketing, Demand Gen, and every that function within. As far as the MarTech stack, it is robust from the standpoint of addressing all the automation needs that we have but we still have some ways to connect all of the elements of the stack together. Our MarTech stack at its core is represented by three nodes. Node number one being the Salesforce, which is where sales puts all of that information. The question is, how do you break it down? Node number two is HubSpot, which we have data from all of our campaigns. This is how we have done all of our campaigns, whether it’s our email campaign or outbound campaign. All of that goes through HubSpot.

The third mode for us is Engagio, which is the entity that helps us consolidate the work that is happening on both sales and marketing from the standpoint of the end account. With Engagio, we can look at what meetings are happening, who’s coming to our website, who’s responding to our campaigns, who are we sending emails to, and all of that. Those are the three core nodes. Around those nodes, we have a lot of different MarTech elements. We have content delivery, project management, ad service team, and lead enrichment, and all sorts of things that would be required for a typical effective ABM program. The last piece for us, as I said, is continue to connect all of these together so we can have a more holistic view on an ongoing basis.

That’s an art form. How are you thinking about your goals or objectives? Can you share a bit about that?

From the standpoint of where we are as a company or FinTech startup, that comes a lot of companies with lots of transaction volumes as our key customers and also prospects for us to go after. As we look at our ecosystem of prospects, we are focused on high touch marketing as an ongoing thing. We are not as focused on super small business marketing. That is not the right product-market fit for us at this stage. Our goal is to keep figuring out better and more effective ways to convert our prospects into customers for these high volume type account. That’s our goal.

I don’t think that is going to change for the period of time. Within marketing as we evolve, we have a pretty solid MarTech stack that allows us to in silo be effective at any given tactic or approach. One of the big goals for us is to go from there into a true influence approach in marketing. Now, we can track success at every step but our goal is to look at the big picture in a one-click automated manner. That’s one of the big goal for us, number one. Number two, the goal to be a good partner to sales. That goal was a 2020 goal, it will be a 2021 goal, and it’ll always be a goal for us.

In FinTech, the beauty of the evolution is new use cases would come up every single day and every single week. A lot of inbound interest comes to us with use cases even we don’t think of. The goal for marketing is to help discover those use cases, help figure out what the potential and possibility is with those use cases, work with sales to close the loop, and make sure that we are ready and defining the category around all of these use cases. Startups innovate and companies are building out all of these use cases. In fact, ranging from the largest banks all the way to the smallest FinTechs, everyone is thinking in a unique way. As someone that provides the infrastructure for a lot of this evolution, our goal is to be ready for it. As we go forward, the goal for marketing is to become better at evaluating and anticipating, and then be a partner that is more true at the top of the funnel than who we are now. That’s an ongoing pursuit as well.

Is it your team or is it in combination with product marketing or some of the functions that you identify all these use cases?

It’s all of us together. Partly it is because we only have so many people and we don’t have the luxury of having 50% of agencies that can do the research for us. We are this crappy organization. There are some other aspects to it. Sales team gets the most exposure to all these upcoming teams. We have to leverage them and they have to leverage us for making sure that all the execution and positioning is in place. That exploration within sales and marketing at the top of the funnel, those two pieces are very important. Beyond that, it happened at every single level. For a marketer who is a startup at this point in time, our exec team will come up with referrals and use cases. Our board will send things done our way and say, “I have this portfolio company that is trying something.” We get exposed to this innovation from many different angles and our goal is to be effective at responding to it.

I’m extrapolating and continuing the discussion on the 2021 piece. If you were given an X-number of dollars, where would you channel that? Would it be more on the OPIC side or more than a headcount, or is it a combination of those?

B2B 8 | Go-To-Market
Go-To-Market: Don’t think about something as a big strategic objective; rather, think of small wins and how, when combined together, they get to the final outcome.

 

Headcount would likely have much more impact than necessarily OPIC’s. That is also because we don’t have a very massive universe of decision-makers that we are going after. We are looking to engage with payments professionals that are working on transaction volumes at scale. These professionals are becoming more and more common across many different companies. Even your classic tech company now is starting to have payments professionals to automate, whether it’s their internal corporate expenses or any of the use case within. First of all, payment is becoming more common but broadly speaking, the universe of decision-makers that they’re going after is not that massive. There’s not so much for us a money game in the outside online paid work. What it is for us is, do we have the right content that we can put in front of these prospects as they’re exploring?

Content is a big objective, especially in FinTech, the better the content can be in terms of quality in terms of its ability to explain our business to our prospects, the better suited we are. Content is a big priority if we’re given more resources. The other piece, as we think of customer-centricity, if I were to look at scaling up, I would look at ways and means to get insights out of customer product use, scale, retention levels to get that intelligence to be a feeder into the marketing thought process. That would be the second objective. Beyond that, marketers are scaling across all facets. The more we keep doing what we are doing, we’ll still continue to get returns. It’s not like we are anywhere close to getting diminishing returns for anything. The more we invest, the better we are going to do with marketing.

It’s not surprising you say that content is a big challenge. Who I spoken with like the different CMOS and even the VP of Marketing at different organizations so far continue to say, it’s content. If I have to bubble it down, especially around the notion of, “Am I understanding my buyer and the user well enough?” Again, it goes back to not having the bias. Going back to a startup world where you don’t have the internal bias but then truly and out of curiosity, you’re trying to understand the problems of your buyer and the user. If you package all of that into content, that’s the key.

That mindset and skillset is extremely hard in the tech industry. That’s a recurring and resonating theme that I’m seeing across in the tech space. I have some pointers and guidelines as to what I’ll be sharing with my clients. That’s something that I can do offline. We’re coming up on time, so going into closing section over here, if you were to look outside in the industry across the B2B SaaS space, Salesforce, or other industries are hurting in the Startup world, who would you give a shout out to those 2 or 3 whoever leaders from go-to-market perspective who are thinking and executing very well?

Generally, I’ve been very fortunate to have been a part of Salesforce for such a long time. To be extremely honest, marketing is a first-class citizen in a large company. There are lots of large companies in the B2B world where overtime, marketing gets relegated into second-class citizenship a little bit. In many situations, sales become more and more powerful and then it starts becoming a one-way path a little bit more. The innovation died away but at Salesforce, that’s not the case. Lots of execs at Salesforce and everyone that I’ve had a chance to engage with have been accomplished and impactful on their own. I was lucky in that as someone that initially started their time at marketing doing business planning. I was a little bit on the buy-side.

I was able to ask questions to every single entity within marketing at Salesforce, if not to understand then to probe. Over time, there’s been a lot of friendships that have been built. A number of them are CMOs. CMO at Marqeta, Vidya Peters is from MuleSoft but now that’s a part of Salesforce. She’s been a highly impactful leader at Marqeta. I wouldn’t want to not name anyone but if you think of any exec Salesforce now, a number of them have been there for a long period of time. They’ve been inspiring on their own right. For me, it’s more of a shout out to that ecosystem. I’d say more of a shout out to the fact that they have been able to be so impactful for such a period of time. It’s helping out the entire tech ecosystem with all that they’re doing there.

Well said, Ajit. I completely agree with you. Salesforce is one of the few large organizations where marketing is a first-class citizen in your own words. It’s part of the DNA and it comes from the founder. If you look at Marc Benioff, he’s completely a marketing and a sales visionary and that trickled stone. Salesforce overall has been fortunate to have that whole thing and is still embedded in the DNA. The final question that I have for you is, if you were to rewind time and go back to the early days when you started in a go-to-market function, what advice would you have or what advice would you give to that person?

Let me make a couple of comments and then I’ll get to that piece. When I started at Salesforce back from my time at Opus Capital then I transitioned from venture capital into marketing, my whole thought process was someone that is smart can come in into marketing, look at the entire landscape, use hopefully, first principles driven approach, can understand the problem, solve the problem, and optimize the situation. That was the thought process that I came up with. Years later, when I left, I was nowhere close to having a solution to any of this. There’s one learning here which is to understand that go-to-market broadly, even something that is as black and white as sales is still an art form.

It is as good as what you make of it. It is as good as the effort that each individual in that organization puts in. The goal for a go-to-market lead or even a contributor needs to augment their strengths in pursuit of product-market fit for their company. That’s one advice. The other advice that I would give to myself, which I aligned to that shortly after was simplicity wins as complex as you can think, marketing, sales, or any of these things might be. The simplicity piece is what rules every day. Do you believe in your product?

As complex as you can think marketing might be, simplicity wins. Click To Tweet

Do you think your product is a winner? If it is, then figure out how best to showcase it in the right way. Keep it simple, keep it to the point, and think of it from the perspective of the other party. The other party understands less about your product than you do by default then bring it down to the level that they will understand it. If there is a need with your thought process, they will become customers. To the extent that they are customers and you continue to keep them happy, they will become your evangelists. That’s what it boils down to.

I think of those two words. The words that summarize everything are simplicity and empathy. That’s what I would say as well. Well said, Ajit. Thank you for a wonderful conversation. It was a pleasure to have you on the B2B Go-To-Market Leaders Podcast and good luck to you, Ajit, and to your team at Marqeta.

Same to you, Vijay.

Important Links: 

About Ajit Deshpande

Vice President of Demand Generation at Marqeta, Inc

 

B2B 6 | Lead Scoring

B2B 6 | Lead Scoring

 

Lead scoring is a vital element that sits in the intersection between marketing and sales. It’s something that companies need to think about from an early stage. It is a simple idea but it is often so poorly implemented that it doesn’t produce a lot of the results it is designed to produce. Breadcrumbs attempts to address the fundamental flaws of this process through a simple interface where people can design their own lead scoring model within a matter of minutes. The company is the latest among several startups founded by Armando Biondi, the former COO of the digital marketing platform, AdEspresso. An active member of the startup ecosystem since 2009, Armando has a depth of knowledge and experience when it comes to go-to-market challenges and strategies. He articulates some of these in this conversation with Vijay Damojipurapu, where he also shares the story of AdEspresso and the recent work he and his team are doing at Breadcrumbs.

Listen to the podcast here

Breadcrumbs: Scoring Leads The Way It Should Be Done With Armando Biondi

I have with me, Armando Biondi. I’m super excited. I’ll run through the background of you and all the great startup journey that you had. Welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me.

I looked at your bio. The reason I was excited and looking forward to having you on the show is a couple of reasons. One is around the breadth and depth of experience, having done either the C-Suite roles, the founder roles or even a board member role in six or even more startups. You have the depth that is needed for the go-to-market and the breadth. The second reason is you have been, and you continue to be, an active member in the whole startup community and startup ecosystem. You are an Angel investor, so that’s a big deal. You are also a mentor and a board member. You’re not seeing the go-to-market challenges from the companies that you’re working at, but you’re seeing it across the entire startup ecosystem, maybe tens or even hundreds of startups. I’m excited about that. Let’s start off with the most obvious and the signature question for the show, which is, what is your definition of go-to-market?

The way I think about go-to-market is the all-encompassing definition. Meaning, everything that has to deal with how you bring to market a product or service or the combination of the two. There are marketing, price, and packaging element around it. There is a service or a support element around it to some degree as well like how you fulfill the promise of it, how you commit to that promise and the mechanics behind it, so there is an element to it. Those are the main categories that come to mind when I think about the go-to-market.

Double-clicking or diving in from a go-to-market perspective for an early-stage company or a product will be different from the go-to-market for a more mature product. The flavor of go-to-market for a product line versus go-to-market for a company, it’s entirely different. I’m curious about your thoughts on those.

This is already a potentially big topic meaning that if you want to summarize it relatively quickly and up to you how much time you want to spend.

We have plenty of time. No worries about that.

If I think about the go-to-market from a startup perspective or at least stage company, the reality is that the vast majority of people tend to overthink things. If you think about successful companies out there at an early stage or successful exits up to $5 million to $10 million ARR or revenue if you’re thinking about the SaaS world, the idea is that most of those companies need to nail one go-to-market strategy/back. They don’t need too many on top of that. If you accept that thought, one of the things that you see over and over again is founders being constantly in search mode.

Not realizing per se that they stumbled upon something that is working so continuing to look for other things without doubling down on the stuff that’s working now and that can continue to work up to a certain point. These can come in flavors. It can come through an inbound, content, outbound or paid even for the B2C company that we’re talking about. The reality is that most of the budget and funding that any B2C company would raise through pay. You have to nail one go-to-market strategy to be successful or even lead to many more.

Being your first customer helps a lot because you gain a lot of insights into what's working, what's not, and what people like you need. Click To Tweet

That will progressively change as the company matures and grows because at some point if there is one thing, which is always true about go-to-market strategies, is that there is a ceiling. They start to work less effectively or not as well as they were before. You exhaust that potential and you need to look for additional sources of growth. That is when you start expanding into multiple go-to-market strategies that you keep executing on in parallel and you have working in concert with each other and to drive growth.

Usually, what happens as well is that companies tend to move from high-performing, highly measurable type of tactics/strategies. If we’re talking about advertising DR, direct response-type of motion and as they evolve and they start topping out that channel, they start migrating towards the less performing and less DR type of channels. It’s more brand-related and intangible and then layer all the different strategies on top of each other. That’s very common when you’re thinking about these types of companies in motion.

That’s a good summary. That’s the last topic. We can pick and do an entire episode on that one question, but we have a lot of ground to cover over here. Switching gears a bit, I did a quick research and looked at your profile in how you grew up the ranks. You started out as an employee first and then went up to the VP of the C-Suite level and then somewhere along the way, the whole startup bug caught you. You’re done Pick1 and then the Batch 5 & 7 then, of course, AdEspresso, but now we’re talking about big names. AdEspresso got acquired by Hootsuite and then now you’re at MailUp. I’ll also let you share the new thing that you have on your mind. Walk me and the audience on how you grew from the ranks of “employee” to switching on going into the inside.

That realization is that I generally have always been a very bad employee. I’m not an employable person. The reason for that is I tend to get excited about hard stuff or hard things. I constantly challenge myself. As a consequence, I tend to ask a lot of the people around me as well. I am the most excited when I can participate in the upside of the value that I’m contributing and creating. The reality is that the employee world is not built for that. What you’re trading off when being an employee or when you’re making the decision, consciously or unconsciously, is creating security for the upside.

When you’re an employee, you have a series of guarantees, stability, paycheck, benefits and all that good stuff. To some degree, that takes away a little bit of the upside that you can get. You’re accepting that the upside is going to be captured by your employer. When I started realizing those things inside my head, I said, “It’s time to try this entrepreneurial thing.” I started my first company which was Pick1. I started my second one, which was social market research for enterprise companies based on Facebook. Based on that experience, they don’t go super far. We ended up selling that. It was a good outcome. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s great learning. As a consequence of that, I started AdEspresso realizing that Facebook cared more about the advertising side as opposed to the research side and was willing to produce data, but not keep data away.

AdEspresso is essentially Facebook advertising and split testing for medium businesses as medium enterprises. At the time, Facebook split testing wasn’t the thing. They ended up taking “inspiration” from many of the ideas that we had implemented in the product. As a company, we ended up growing very aggressively in three years from 0 to 50 people for about $6 million in ARR and about $300 million in Facebook advertising budget process through the platform on a yearly basis.

AdEspresso is one of the top five ad tech partners for Facebook globally and the number one by a number of advertisers because every ad partner was focusing on a small number of big advertisers while we were doing the opposite number of small ones. That led us to the relationship with Hootsuite and we ended up selling it to Hootsuite, which was an acquisition that made a lot of sense back in the days because social media management solutions out there on one side were the biggest mid-market, Facebook advertising partner on the other side. Through that experience and then stayed on with Hootsuite as a global head of growth operations, overseeing ads products within the portfolio as well as the ads that we showed up growing about 3X since then.

There are a couple of realizations. One, the laws for speed and growth to the obsession of not only growth but also efficient growth. You can spend a lot of money to buy a lot of growth, but that only lasts up to a certain point. Only a number of companies can do that because it’s a functional market that you have available. One of the things that are very interesting about the times we live in is that we live in a world where we have the biggest markets available in terms of the number of customers and companies in those. We live in a world with the biggest markets ever and the most accessible ever because everyone has a smartphone in their pocket and a credit card attached to that. It’s a lot of new dynamics that are different compared to many years ago where getting in front of customers was a very expensive endeavor. Nowadays, not so much anymore. That unlocks a whole city’s off new dynamics and behaviors, which are very interesting to observe.

B2B 6 | Lead Scoring
Lead Scoring: Go-to-market strategies have a ceiling. Eventually, they start to work less effectively than they did before.

 

You mentioned about AdEspresso when you started it. There was a Facebook audience and Facebook usage taking off on a daily basis. On the other side of the Facebook platform, you have the advertisers and into the edge, Facebook was investing a whole lot because, at some point in time, they need to monetize. How did you run to the idea of creating this platform for advertisers and what were the steps you took to test and get traction with the initial set of advertisers? After you land 5, 10, 15, 20, you see a blueprint laying out but learning was 5 to 10 is a key.

It’s a combination of two things. On one side, AdEspresso was born out of a need that we have as a concept. We were the first customer of the product to some degree and we are very clear. My cofounder, Massimo, had an agency back in the days when he was building products for bigger organizations on one side, on the other managing small Facebook advertising budgets on it. That’s one insight. Being the first customer always helps a lot because you have a lot of expertise, knowledge, as well as insights into what’s working, what’s not working and what the need of other people like you. The other piece of insight is tied to the realization that because Facebook back in the days was this new and upcoming ad channel that was trying to compete with Google.

They had stolen Sheryl Sandberg from Google to go and replicate the Google Ad infrastructure inside Facebook. The special insight that we had was realizing that there was a mid-market study that other companies were not necessarily paying attention to. If you looked at the Google history, you could clearly see that they started from enterprise big brand type of spenders and then bought down-market to the mid-market, and then smaller guy type of them. You can imagine that Facebook would follow a similar path. If you cared more or were particularly intrigued and interested in that mid-market space if you squinted, you could see that these people or this new wave of advertisers would be having money to spend but not much knowledge in how to do it. There was the opportunity in enabling them to tell that story through content, which is what we did and how we ended up winning the market and being a big household name when it comes to Facebook advertising.

Having that key insight was very smart of you. You say your cofounder, Massimo, who had that insight into, “As our customers, we are running into the same challenge that other advertising partners and customers would have.” The takeaway for me from all of this is where the big company like Facebook and Google are going after the bigger brands and the bigger budgets but then there’s a runway of, which is exactly what you tapped into, “No one is addressing the mid-market or even the SMBs or how do you tap into that pocket.” It’s a great learning experience for me as firsthand from all the experiences or insights that you have there. Switching gears over here. You did touch upon this, Armando, which is if you have to say the 2 to 3 paradigms into your common thread across the startups that you have gravitated towards from an investor or even startup that you founded. What are the common threads, if you will?

In terms of things that are different/have changed.

If you give an example of what you mentioned about AdEspresso.

There are a bunch of things that are significantly different. In particular, when it comes to go-to-market, the most fascinating thing that I observed over and over again is that if you think about now versus 10 to 15 years ago, it’s interesting because we tend not to think about it, but the internet is more than 25 years old, which is nothing if you think about it. We are the last generation that is going to remember a time before the internet. You think about the new generation, it’s like, “They thought it was there already. It was already a thing.” There was no ICQ or like that weird stuff. If you think about that and years ago, there was a significantly smaller number of people online.

An order of magnitude. If not, almost two. It was significantly more expensive to reach those people and was inefficient in building a business relationship that would lead to the transaction. Those are all things that are fundamentally different days compared to then. There is an order of magnitude and more people online that it’s significantly more efficient and faster to be able to establish that relationship with them and to turn that into business or relationship to get to the point where you execute the transaction. It costs almost nothing. It’s not nothing but comparably, it’s cheaper, faster and efficient to be relevant. I thought whenever there is an order of magnitude more of simplicity, there is also another magnitude more of competition.

It’s easier but also more crowded. It’s easier to reach them out, but how it stands out. It’s a different game in that sense because it’s not about being efficient as possible in reaching those customers out. It’s how do you stand out compared to everyone else who’s trying to do the same thing and reaching them out with the same level of efficiency. It comes down to that content adamant that I was mentioning before like, “What’s your story? What’s your brand? What’s your unfair advantage in terms of better perception or telling the story that’s closer to the segment or the cohort or the vertical of customers you’re trying to attract?” In that sense, going back to the other element around markets being the biggest ever, one of the things that are very interesting to me is that years ago, you will have niches of verticals of needs and problems that would be very small because many people are having those problems.

Brand has power. It talks about the story and the story is everything to people. Click To Tweet

Now, those issues are tens, if not hundreds of millions of people or companies. You see these companies that are very super niche, very specific, and deep in how they define themselves and speak to an Ideal Customer Profile, an ICP. How they define that, they are specific in that as well. Because those niches are as big as ever, they end up being companies that are $10 million, $15 million, $20 million, $25 million, $30 million, $50 million companies a year. That is the single most fascinating thing that I can think of when it comes to go-to-market. The companies that end up winning now are better at this new game of standing out and how you do that in this new playground where everyone can be efficient as everyone else is a new compelling problem to address.

You have few thoughts and few comments over there but starting off on a lighter note, you mentioned something very relevant. By the way, we are disclosing our ages over here which I have no qualms around is we are the last generation and after our generation, everyone we’re born with the internet. On that, I took my kid to one of the safest local cities over here. He went and looked at one of the vending machines. By default, he was touching the screen and expecting that screen to be a touch screen. I thought that was funny and that’s something the audience would love. A couple of points, you mentioned about companies that are vertical and niche-focused and that itself is a very large space.

I’m sure there are several but one of the names that come to my mind is Veeva. The CRM for the healthcare industry. You’ve got big elephant or their Salesforce. When you talk about CRM, it’s Salesforce, but then you got the other players who are also making it big, which is Veeva and Surado. Your point is well-taken and well-noted which is you can pick a niche or niches depending on which part of the geography you’re from and you can create a big play for yourself because that’s a big market. Another example that comes to my mind and I was at the startup earlier in my career before I started my company. I was at Greenbits. Bits are essentially doing point of sale and compliance software for the legal cannabis industry.

It does a huge and growing market. You talked about point of sale, you’ve got Square and several others, but then you focus on the cannabis industry, you’ve got all these big players. Small players but aiming to be big. One other point that caught my attention in your narrative is the emphasis that you invest a lot in the story and the brand from the very early days of your startup. Not many founders do that. That’s a flaw in my mind.

We live in a world that’s extremely DR-oriented. You can measure anything and everything. It’s a very analytical and direct response. You put $1, you want to get $1.2 out. That’s good. The fact that you can do that is mind-blowing. If you think about it, it was never the case before. That as a consequence, thus take away a little bit of attention from this idea of a brand and brands have power. Brands talk about affinity and stories are everything to people. You use brands up there like Nike, Apple and Disney, there’s nothing more powerful than that.

This is where you are having that go-to-market DNA within yourself, that’s given you an unfair advantage compared to other founders who typically come from a very technical background. They don’t think about brand and storytelling from day one. Hats off to you and your team for investing in that from day one. That’s a good segue into what you’re doing with your latest startup. Do you want to share some story and background around that as well as how you’re investing in the brand? I looked at your website, it’s amazing. I can imagine those visuals and associate them with your company. I let you share those details with our audience.

The name of the company is Breadcrumbs. It’s a simple idea. We talked about this idea of efficiency and efficiency growth. The idea of marketing being a core of every company is a growth engine. The reality is that’s necessary but that’s not enough particularly in a world where you can attract a lot of attention. At some point, the vast majority of the companies that can do a good enough job will attract some attention. One of the elements that are always forgotten or thought about too late, or not truly understood. As a consequence, you dump a lot of resources and a lot of time to get an okay result if not crappy result is this idea of the scoring and fortification or how an MQL or Marketing Qualified Lead, becomes a high performing SQL or Sales Qualified Lead.

If you think about this element of the intersection between marketing and sales as functions within organizations, it speaks about lead scoring. The way this happens from a mechanical perspective is lead scoring. Lead scoring is an unsatisfying concept. It’s a simple idea but poorly implemented. You get a lead, you score this lead, you assign a body to this lead based on a series of criteria like how big is the company, how much revenue and funding, how many customers, geography and which industry. You then pass it over to your CRM and you put in the date. Every operator knows that following up on promising lead tomorrow versus three weeks from now is fundamentally different. The time element, there is a decay of that value. There is a shelf life that’s not yet accounted for in this system.

B2B 6 | Lead Scoring
Lead Scoring: In this environment where everyone can be as efficient as everyone else in reaching the market, the companies that end up winning are the ones who are better at standing out.

 

What we believe is that it should be a more sophisticated way of thinking, talking, measuring and acting on these leads more programmatically at scale, more dynamically including this time element. Not only the time element, but there is also conversation around lead scoring being most of the time a BlackBox. No one ever in the history of the human species ever trusted the BlackBox. It’s your company, you want to know what is going on. You want to see what’s inside. That’s another fundamental flaw of how lead scoring has been thought off so far. What we are doing with Breadcrumbs is we want to give people more freedom and a simple easy-to-use interface to create and design their own lead scoring model in minutes instead of weeks of work. It’s not only faster but it’s also better because it does take into account that timeliness element that no one has considered. That’s the idea around it. We’re building a product. Hopefully, it’s going to be useful for other people out there.

I personally have seen having run marketing teams in different companies earlier. I’ve seen initially early on, there’s no lead scoring. There’s this constant fight between marketing and sales. The quality of leads you pass, you are just meeting a quota, but I’m not meeting my sales quota. That constant tussle is there. If you go to the next level, which is, “Now we start assigning a score to each lead, it’s more of a personal opinion and bias versus taking the data out there.”

The relationship between marketing and sales is flawed all the way through from the very early stage to the very later stage. If you think about it at the core, that type of antagonism is due to the fact that marketing measures in a very quantitative way. How many leads are you getting on a monthly basis and sales measures leads in a very qualitative way? How many of them are closing and how fast? There’s a fundamental disconnect between those two things. There is a need for something that translates one language into the other from your marketing stack to your sales stack or from your marketing teams to your sales team.

There is more general awareness and acknowledgment that’s happening. At least, I’m seeing based on the marketing and sales leaders I’m speaking with which they do realize the friction and they’re consciously looking to address that now. If I hear or speak with any of the VP marketing or even the CMOs, back in the days, it was the top KPIs or MQL are traffic coming in. Now, there’s a lot of awareness and alignment on, “That’s good to have metric but the real metric is how many leads am I giving for the sales to close this quarter or this year or the next quarter?” There’s that element which is marketing celebrating that they hit their MQL quota versus marketing is celebrating their sales hits, their number for the quarter. That shift is happening now. I’m seeing that.

Everything is crazy if you think about it. We can talk about this however you want. Now, information is still very siloed. If someone visits the pricing page of your website five times, we don’t know about that. If someone starts and is very engaged with the product, someone else from the same company signs up for a trial, and someone else visited your pricing page, you want to know about that. There’s traffic around not only timeliness but also frequency, recency and the costing of that activity in time. There are activities happening very close to each other disproportionality amplifies value. That also is not captured or represented in any way.

People talk about intent to purchase and all of these are key attributes. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of technology out there to build and incur with that intent. The aspect that you are mentioning, I’m eager to see how it takes off. I’m cheering for you guys. This is a core problem in the go-to-market space and I’m looking forward to the success story of that.

It’s mind-blowing to me thinking about this. One of the reasons why we started Breadcrumbs in the first place is that even the most sophisticated people, the ones that do it like it should be done, spend six months and several hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement iteration one. Because it’s so time-consuming and energy-intensive, they never touch it again. Meanwhile, their social organization or their marketing organization changes. Their strategic priorities as a company and pricing structure change. The idea of having something that’s significantly more flexible and not only you can implement it in minutes instead of weeks, but you can iterate on it as quickly.

It’s extremely powerful. The most sophisticated people not only have one lead scoring model, but they have multiple ones. They have one for acquisition, attention, upselling or sale. Not only they have one for each and every one of these things, but they test multiple models in parallel to see which one performs the best based on which assumption. The more you can enable that, the more you can enable companies to be successful in accelerating their growth trajectory because if you can identify programmatically higher-value opportunities for you as a company and boost them up to the sales team, everyone’s going to benefit from that.

Based on what you’re saying here, there’s some sense of a machine learning aspect that’s going on. The machine has to do the job which people are either not capable of doing or it’s time-consuming that they ignore to do that.

The most sophisticated operators think about growth as something that can be designed through a combination of strategy and tactics. Click To Tweet

I saw a counter-intuitive thought there. If you talk with a lot of people in the industry, they will speak about ML for a long time and they will use this in their pitch as well. We think that machine learning is valuable. We also think it shouldn’t be the whole story, meaning that what machine learning can do is essentially digest a whole lot of data and find others there and surface things that will be hard to see or hard to compute otherwise. That’s by and large. What that doesn’t include in the conversation is what about the strategic direction that the company wants to go after for the next 6 to 18 months. Even if you are an enterprise company or your customers have been $50,000 ACB but either shape wants to go downmarket. Optimizing for and prioritizing $25,000 to $15,000 ACB, machine learning is not going to know that. How do you balance those two things out?

Data model and data modeling is a vast topic in itself. At some point in time, I would love to get a data scientist to talk about the impact in the go-to-market but that’s a topic for a different conversation though. I’m sure you’re spending a lot of time there but in the next 6, 12, 18 months, what do you see are the key go-to-market challenges are broadly the challenges for Breadcrumbs.io?

For us specifically, but you can generalize this to every company. Going back to the two things that I mentioned. On one side, how do you stand out in a world where everyone can reach anyone very effectively and how do you do it better. It’s a very interesting question. We can talk about tactics there.

The story, brand, colors, and visuals that you have on the website is pretty cool. It’s one part you need to scale it out and see everything.

I appreciate that. I love it. The other thing is how do you tie things back to growth? You can do a great job at all levels and then struggle anyway to generate revenue and/or to grow. One of the fundamental ideas that I’ve been thinking about for a lot and partially led to this Breadcrumbs initiative or, in general, it’s a very powerful idea is engineering growth. Meaning when the word engineering usually refers to technology and product, how you build stuff and that’s usually coding. If I think back to AdEspresso experience or the companies I’ve been involved with, what I see is the most sophisticated operators. Thinking about growth in terms of some things that you can design and the way you do that is a combination of strategy and tactic. Tactic for the short-term and strategy for the long-term.

You always have these three timeframes in front and center, short-term stuff, mid-term stuff and long-term stuff. If you think back to the most successful companies out there like Facebook, Google, Uber or Slack, you look at their growth trajectories, you notice, most of the time, inflection points. It’s breaking points where they were going in one direction and at some point, they tipped up and afterward, they’re going in another direction. What happens there? That was sometimes happen by chance. Other times, it was intentional. It was researched and experimented on for a while and implemented the right way or they had been implementing this for six months and waited for the right moment to deploy that. If there was something that was interesting to you at some point, but I think the most sophisticated operators or go-to-market growth revenue people out there, they most of the time, think about growth in this sense.

They’re the usual set of tactics, milestones and goals that you need to hit when you are in a very early-stage company. That’s a playbook that you’ve done over and over. That’s the least of the challenges for you and the team and then there’s the market aspect. You can control the market only so much. There’s not much but you are investing in the story, the brand and your milestones that you want to hit over the next 6, 12, 18 months. It’s a good initiative there. If you were to look at and share some of your investment areas if you were to hire 2 or 3 hires in the next 6 to 12 months, who would they be and why?

We’ve been covering the bases. Strengthening the engineering team, marketing, sales and support. Now, we are looking at the sales function. That would be the structure for and at this point with the company, we are about fifteen people involved. With that specific addition, we are going to have our base covered. For the next 3 to 6 months, it’s going to be a function of growth and market validation. Engineering, product and design would be a topic. You can never get enough of those. One thing in operations, we didn’t strengthen too much operations just yet. It’s going to be a topic very soon.

If you are to extrapolate, you’re going to invest in the product side, engineering side, sales of course, and the revenue. In Breadcrumbs.io, who is your target market for the next 6 to 12 months? Is it the small, medium size, similar to what you did with AdEspresso? Is it the enterprises or a mix and why?

B2B 6 | Lead Scoring
Lead Scoring: There is a need of something that translates one language into the other from your marketing stack to your sales stack.

 

It’s mid-markets. One of the other thing behind Breadcrumbs is people or companies think about lead scoring too late in the game, they should start earlier. We want to start early with them and grow with them. We want to help them grow and we want something that’s easy to set up and implement at first. It grows in sophistication as the complexity and maturity of the company grow as well. It was more of that growth, but we do want to start simple, easy early. In that sense, the companies we are optimizing or focusing on for now are generating $1 million to $5 million or $2 million to $10 million types of annual revenue. They have a marketing engine that works that’s generating a few hundred leads per month or more. They have a system motion, so they have an initial sales spot off and a couple of people that they hire. It’s the initial adversarial relationship, marketing and sales and things that are not picking up yet.

At least, from a hypothesis point of view and even from a validation point of view, that’s a good sweet spot to start off. That’s where the most pain is felt initially. Coming back to my Greenbits days where I was the head of marketing there, I see that we were in the single-digit like the $4 million or $5 million range, and that’s where the whole marketing and sales friction as the CEO and the CROs say, “Get me the leads.”

That’s the sweet spot when this topic becomes when we get paid.

We are heading towards the closing. I know you need to get back to other more important things for Breadcrumbs.io. One final question for you is if you were to do a shout out to 2 to 3 professionals or peers in the industry who are doing go-to-market very well, who would you look up to for inspiration, advice or brainstorming?

The company that I very much admire, which is HubSpot. They’re doing an extremely good job at go-to-market. They have been for a long time now.

Can you speak names there?

No, but they are doing a great job. For younger companies, no specific name comes to mind. The golden standard for me is absolute when it comes to go-to-market both because they have a lot of the elements that do contribute to a healthy growth trajectory. You can see that in their revenue. They have an inbound first. Atlassian is another one. They have an inbound first type of go-to-market like a bottom-up. You should list up very cheap and they end up being very expensive. They have a cross-sell, upsell type of mechanics that they built in the product. They not only have self-service of great paths but also commercial enterprise ones. It’s the most sophisticated go-to-market that I can think of right now.

I can see where your inspiration for your go-to-market is coming from. It’s the bottom-up approach. It’s clearly there. It’s a wonderful conversation, Armando. Thank you for your time and good luck to the Breadcrumbs team and to you as well. I’m looking forward and I’ll be sharing from the side.

Thank you so much and best of luck to you too.

Thanks.

Important Links: 

About Armando Biondi

B2B 6 | Lead ScoringAs part of Hootsuite’s Senior Leadership, he oversees all things Ads from a GTM/strategy perspective. He also oversees all things Inbound on a series of properties generating more than 2M unique visits monthly, as well as other high-potential special projects.

-Co-founder @BreadcrumbsIO (previously Co-founder & COO @AdEspresso, acquired by @Hootsuite). Angel investor in 150+ startups. Board Member @MailUpGroup.

He also served as a Mentor/Advisor for more than 15 startups and currently serve as an Independent Board Member. He likes to pay forward and have fun doing some angel investing (75+ startups so far). He love to learn new things, he accepts to suck until he become good, and doesn’t stop until I’m awesome. 

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMO

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMO

Marketing is the perfect job for people with co-dominant brains, because it demands both right-brain creativity and left-brain execution. Before becoming the CMO of Aryaka Networks, Shashi Kiran has had more than two decades of experience in business and technology roles across a spectrum of organizations, ranging from early-stage startups to industry leaders. Trained as an engineer but tempered in the industry as a marketer and a leader, Shashi has had the most experience in marketing and product line management, with some roles straddling the two. He joins Vijay Damojipurapu on the show to talk about the nuances of marketing for early-stage startups versus that of more established organizations. They touch upon the importance of getting everyone on the same page as to what marketing means, building a dynamic marketing team and culture, keeping the team focused on set marketing goals, and the biggest challenges and opportunities for marketing in the present day.

Listen to the podcast here

Marketing Across The Spectrum: From Startups To Industry Leaders With Shashi Kiran, CMO Of Aryaka

I have with me Shashi Kiran, the CMO of Aryaka. As a way of introduction, as well as background, the reason why I’m looking forward to this conversation with you, Shashi, is your track record with the various industry leaders including Cisco and Aryaka, as well as your involvement in the whole startup ecosystem. It’s a fascinating and exciting background. Welcome to the show, Shashi.

Thank you for having me, Vijay.

I have a bunch of questions for us to get started. As you know, this is the show around B2B go-to-marketing. How would you define go-to-market?

I look at it as the way to transfer value from the point of creation to point of consumption. B2B is a fairly complicated landscape with different decision-making levels, different target personas, different geographies, regulatory requirements. In this context, to be able to rise above the noise, there’s a degree of brand awareness that you need to bring in. There is a greater degree of messaging clarity that you need to bring in terms of clearly identifying who you are, what you do, differentiation, your value proposition. Being able to feel the resonance of that value through different stakeholders, whether it be your employees, salesforce, channel partners, technology relations, customers. That is all of what is driven by a go-to-market entity. It’s a broad foray, but if you can successfully transfer that value from the intent of the creator to the need of the consumer, then that’s a job well done.

In your last line, you hit it well, which is you shift your focus more into the consumer that you understand. That’s where the empathy and the listening are key not just from a CMO individual perspective, but how do you build that DNA into the outbound go-to-market organization. I think that’s key. A funny story and more of an incident from early in my career. The way I was thinking about go-to-market is typically from a traditional product marketing outbound which is, “We got this launch coming up. How do we line up the various things, including the collateral, positioning, messaging, sales enablement, as far as the pipeline goals we need to hit?” That is go-to-market. It’s a one-time event. That was my notion earlier many years ago, but then my perspective shifted. You validated and explained that well. That’s a great perspective. What will also be valuable for the audience over here is if you can share your journey from a personal as well as from a professional perspective on how you grew in the ranks of marketing and how you became a CMO, that would be great.

I’ve been fortunate in my journey. I’m an engineer by education and a marketer by profession. It was clear to me as I was doing my undergrad that I wanted to go into something that involved people, a balance of creativity and logic. In marketing, you see it as a bit of a right-brain as well as left-brain activity. There is a lot of creativity that you need to apply but to the point that you were making earlier about doing a launch or doing something in a more tactical way, executing against a certain deliverable, that requires a logical approach. Usually, the most successful marketing organizations are the ones that can combine creativity with execution.

I enjoy that. Fortunately, most of the jobs that I had, the responsibility that I was given far outweighed the title I had. That allowed me to learn more, make more mistakes upfront, and establish a good network of people that value you and you value them. Technology becomes a by-product in such environments because technology keeps changing. You have to still perfect your craft of how do you message, position, scale and execute. My career has been a combination of some startups and some larger companies. I’ve had roles in product line management with P&L responsibility. I’ve had marketing roles and roles that straddle the two like in my position. I oversee the product management technology partnerships as well as marketing in all of its forms.

When you reference companies like Cisco, I had more of a product and solutions marketing role there. The portfolio I had was large, tens of billions of dollars. It was one of the largest portfolios that Cisco had in the networking domain. At the same time, we realized that in a lot of things that we do, there are multiple fast through mechanisms whether it be our sales teams or channel partners or other stakeholders. What we create and what we put out goes through a series of filters. Sometimes, it takes a long time for you to realize the impact of what you did. There isn’t an immediate feedback loop. I have worked in such companies where I have scaled a lot of these go-to-market initiatives, helping grow businesses from zero to multibillion-dollars in revenue. We’re taking advantage of ecosystems that are built with a lot of sales teams, large channel partners organizations, direct marketing or direct sales.

The most successful marketing organizations are the ones that can combine creativity with execution. Click To Tweet

That has been one element of my DNA. At the same time, for the last few years, I have been more immersed in startups. After I decided to leave Cisco, I joined an early-stage startup, which was to help determine the new product-market fit and getting an idea off the ground. That ended up getting far fairly quickly at a series of startups in the cloud-native application delivery space. I joined a mid-state startup, which was building routes to market. It had an Israeli engineering team. For me, it was great to work with that culture. We also solidified a lot of routes to market. Part of this journey had also been getting in front of investors to raise funding. We raised the next round of funding.

I was looking to join a later state startup where you can apply these principles of scaling to grow. Amongst the other offers, Aryaka came my way and looking at the opportunity, I felt it was a good combination of a company that had already established a good product-market fit, had solid technology. The problem to solve was in terms of scaling the go-to-market. I grabbed it with both hands and I have been with this company for a few years now. We have the product management team as part of the CMO organization as well as the sales development team. It gives us a greater amount of ability to qualify things at the head end and thereby target people and messaging as well as streamline a lot of things, which is a positive thing.

Startups require more hands-on abilities, more confidence, a propensity to make mistakes, learn from them, and also be able to get feedback and not have a thin skin. You need to be able to absorb the feedback and react quickly in terms of changes that we want to make. A lot of other companies give you the ability to apply yourself at scale and it comes with its own share of complexities. For me, I’ve enjoyed both of these worlds. I frequently look at how do you infuse the startup mentality into a bigger company and how you bring that big company scaling function into a startup. That’s the dynamic that I enjoy solving.

You’ve touched upon several points over there. Initially, you were growing up in the product organization, but at some point in time you felt the urge to move more into the marketing side, the mix of both analytical as well as the creative side. You also touched upon an important point, which the people in Silicon Valley will resonate with this well, which is at some point in time, you want to experience that startup culture, the startup DNA. I felt that as well. I’ve worked at larger companies including Ericsson, Microsoft and Juniper Networks. I felt that urge to grow and go into smaller companies as well as earlier stage companies including seed, series A and several others.

I clearly see that and you have grown in the ranks well. The other question or the thought process that comes to my mind and I would like to chime in on this is, what do you see are the nuances or the variations? How do you think about go-to-market from an early stage, finding a product-market fit position point of view versus scaling and growth? Clearly there’s an overlap but there are also different approaches to both.

Marketing is a bit of a misunderstood profession. What I mean by that is when you talk to ten different people, their view of marketing can be ten different viewpoints depending on the lens you are viewing it from. Some will look at it purely as a branding and advertising activity. Some will look at it as generating collateral, getting your leads ready and a website. Some will look at it as a demand generation, “Where are my leads coming from?”

If we can be more blunt there, you can also get to hear from other teams, “Can you put some lipstick on the pig and make it look pretty.”

I’m sure we have made a lot of pigs look pretty in our careers. The point I’m trying to make is you can’t take one thing and say, “I’m done in the context of marketing.” It’s a nuanced profession. You can go deep in certain areas and you need to be good enough to connect the dots in the other areas. There are some people who come in especially when you get into the level of a CMO. I look at a lot of my peers. Some people come in purely from an advertising or a branding background. They’re good at proliferating the message on a global scale. Some others come in from a product background. They understand how to position message and craft the differentiation. Some others are mostly on a demand gen level.

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMO
Aryaka CMO: When you talk to 10 different people, their view of marketing can be 10 different viewpoints, depending on the lens they’re viewing it from.

 

Regardless of which function they come in from, maybe product event or some cross the chasm from engineering to marketing, it is important to see what is the problem that needs to be solved, and apply yourself into taking away that weak link from your marketing value chain. I look at different companies that I have been involved in. In some you hired a good product-market fit. The challenge was how do you let more people know about it.

In other cases, you had a good degree of brand awareness, but when you start to bring something out, how do you ensure that you’re maybe not cannibalizing something that’s already there or do it in a way that is non-disruptive? Those challenges will vary and you have to look at it in terms of the stage of the company, and what fuel do you want to put into the fire and see how can you scale things. It also goes into hiring the DNA in different companies at different stages. To see, is that the right background or DNA that we want to bring in? Those are all that’s going to make that whole journey work better.

Let me put you a bit more into the hot seat position over here. I’m sure you must have encountered this in a couple of startups or even the other areas. I don’t think there’s a problem in the larger companies. I’ve not seen or heard from the other marketing leaders. The question to you is I’m sure he must have dealt with situations where the CEO doesn’t get what marketing is even though they hire a CMO or the head of marketing. How do you tackle that situation?

You have to educate people and you have to get them to your point of view. That means being proactive in terms of sharing your thoughts, getting the buy-in early. It isn’t necessarily just the CEO. It could be a lot of other people, board members, sales leaders or maybe somebody even in the media around those communities. The thing that you’ll encounter is everybody has an opinion about marketing. Part of the challenge as well as the opportunity is how do you rationalize some of these opinions? Everybody wants to get involved in naming a new product or creating a tagline. Everybody feels that the version they’ve come up with is the best. You have to be able to synthesize these things.

On one hand, you have to ensure everybody is participating because you want them to feel a sense of ownership with what you bring out, which is where you create a ripple effect. You’re not going to get that scale, the ripple effect if your own organization, your own CEO, your own sales team doesn’t resonate with what you’re trying to put out. They need to be active stakeholders. For that reason, the participative nature of any engagement is important. The second aspect is once you’ve framed your PCs, once you have taken these opinions, eventually it’s your call to decide on the path you want to go. CEOs understand that well with the consensus builder’s decision-makers. They do understand that, “Yes, I’ve got these ten opinions but there is a reason I’m going to pick one.”

As a CEO or a leader, that is something you are paid to do. You have to make a decision, take a stand, and then comes the aspect of making sure others understand the reason for the stand that you have taken. In an organization that is vibrant and scalable, the best messages are not the ones that the creator is articulating, but what somebody who’s two steps away from the creator is able to articulate without things getting lost in translation. It means they need to absorb it with the same degree of clarity that you do and feel as if it is their own thoughts to carry. If we can make that, there is a bit of education, stakeholder engagement, and then stakeholder buy-in, then you will see a lesser degree of confusion and more involvement. That is the recipe for successful scaling.

You touched upon the messaging and you come up or launched a new product line. I’ve seen that with my several clients, which is each team member be it in sales or be it a GM, or even the founder or the CEO, each of them has an opinion around what the messaging should be as well as what the tagline should be. Taglines are a catchy “sexy” activity and everyone wants to get involved. At the same time, there is that aspect of the point which we discussed and you touched upon earlier, which is it’s not about us, it’s about the resonance with the consumer.

Will it resonate with that customer? That’s key and there’s that whole gray area. You will know when you launch it. You will only know it maybe 3, 6 or 12 months later on. Let’s dive a bit more into how you organize your marketing team. You touched upon that lightly, but you have the product organization as well as the outbond marketing organization. I would presume it’ll include the dimension, brand and creator. Can you share a bit more about how you structure your teams?

he general philosophy of hiring is to take somebody who complements you. Click To Tweet

Each of these organizations brings teams in based on what problem we’re trying to solve. In my role, I have three leaders reporting to me. One is the VP of product management, the other is the VP of product and solutions marketing, and we onboarded a VP of demand gen. We also have a marketing operations team as well. Each of these functions has its own specific mandate. You will find these functions to be fairly common across different organizations. Depending on the size of the organization and the activities that they are undertaking, you will see more or less people being added to it. It’s more important to look at the type of people that we hire in general and this is probably more exacerbated now during the pandemic where everybody’s working from home.

We had to onboard people through Zoom interviews that we have never had a chance to meet in person. For them also, they have to come up to speed on a number of things being home, and without necessarily the luxury of a whiteboarding session or somebody who can walk them through things. Culture becomes important. At the same time, we look at people who don’t require a lot of hand-holding. They should be able to make decisions on their own. There is a degree of empowerment that we need to put in where they feel confident to take decisions, make mistakes. The important thing is to be able to create clear pathways for communication, information sharing, and a feedback loop. These are things that I keep pressing on. Generally, the philosophy of hiring for me is to take somebody who complements you.

I give the analogy of if all of the fingers of our hand were the same lengths, you could never close it into a fist function. The team is your fist. You do need fingers of different sizes that come together with complementary strengths. That in a way goes to form a formidable team. If you are to hire everybody who thinks like you, if you’re to hire a yes-man team, then that fist is never going to get developed. It’s like being in an army where everybody wants to march in sync. You will never get the diversity of opinions and hard processes.

If you double click and you asked your team to work on a major campaign which runs over the next 1, 2, 3 quarters. Do you structure your team in such a way that you have the product marketing, owning the messaging, and then at the same time closely working with the creator, writer, content, social media, and demand gen? That’s one thing I’ve seen with the various clients, as well as the other organizations. There’s a challenge as to how to structure because you are the CMO and you own the entire marketing function, but if one doesn’t pay attention, it’s easy to get logged into silos. Imagine product marketing having their own set of KPIs, content and social having their own set of KPIs around each. How do you overcome that challenge as a CMO in breaking down silos even within a marketing organization?

One of the key things is to make sure that everybody is sharing information. We have to proactively create forums for people to share the work that they’re doing. I view the key aspect of roles such as ourselves is being able to connect the dots. Each dot could represent as a certain function. That function needs to be good on its own merit in a standalone capacity. If you want to drive a multiplicity of outcomes in a powerful way, then we as leaders need to take ownership of connecting the dots. Part of it is the culture that we establish where everybody understands not just their roles and responsibilities but how they function relative to others. Who to reach out to for help? Who do you offer help to and you do something?

There are fleeting problems when any new team getting formed. You can bring some tools in that will help ease the process. In my career, I have never seen a tool substitute genuine human intent and the need to collaborate. We have to foster that and make sure everybody understands that it is for the common good and establish common meetings, common information sharing mechanisms, common goals where the interdependencies are clearly mapped out. You do this for the first few times then it becomes second nature to everybody.

Any new person that you bring on board assimilates into that culture, that workflow. It’s at the formational stage that we need to think of some of these things. Maybe you grow to such an extent where you don’t know all the members of your own team. There have been instances in my career in the past where the team sizes were big that I may not be knowing intimately what every person does. That is a different order where you need to make sure your leaders and the processes at all there to help make that happen.

One of your primary jobs is to break down silos in such a way that there is a constant sharing of information. That sounds like that is a big goal and focus for you and the marketing team. Do you also think about and frame shared KPIs or goals in the context of a campaign?

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMO
Aryaka CMO: Leaders need to take ownership of connecting the dots if they want to drive multiplicity of outcomes in a powerful way.

 

We have been self-disciplined about it. At an organization level, we were aligning to things like OKRs, but OKRs are not meant to break down into a lot of execution level information. It’s for common goal setting. If you truly want to have predictable outcomes, then it is better that you have a good line of sight into the execution elements. This helps bring better structure across the different members of the team. It also aligns expectations, if you do execution reviews and if they present their plans, it allows you to connect the dots better. We have been disciplined about setting our goals for each quarter in a way that it aligns to more or less the day-to-day activities of the individuals across the different teams, and then map that to some of the higher-order objectives. If we can create that linkage, then it brings more predictability for us across the entire team.

For the leaders that I’ve spoken with and I’m in touch with, that’s the intent. It’s easier said than done. There is a challenge of what I’ve seen play out. There are quarterly offsites for doing it like a quarterly planning or QPRs. There’s great outcome, great energy during that first couple of days. People lose sight a week or even a month later. We identify the goals, but a week, a month later typically if you’re not conscious, we switched into a firefighting mode and we lose sight of the goals that we set out. When it comes to the end of the quarter, we’re scrambling. I’m sure you can relate to that. How do you handle or how do you try to avoid such situations at Aryaka?

Some of our goals are meant to be through the year. For example, we say, “We will grow at 40%.” That’s a goal at a high level. That number can be taken and a sales team can interpret its action plan for that differently. The marketing team can implement its action plan differently. I’m giving an example of how everybody can take a higher-order organizational goal, then develop plans in a way that allows you to achieve some of those objectives.

If you’re saying, “I’m going to grow 40% or 50%,” or whatever the number is across the year, it means that you need to have a certain set of building blocks in your own daily, monthly, quarterly cadence that will allow you to drive more predictability. We’ve been disciplined about taking something like that and then saying, “What should our quarterly plan be? What new products are we going to introduce? What new launches are we going to do? What agencies are we going to bring onboard? How many opportunities are we going to commit ourselves so finance can model the revenue impact?”

Each of them boils down to certain initiatives, certain projects that become the quarterly big rocks that we track, and then we communicate it. Part of it is not just setting a goal for yourself, but I make it a point to announce our goals to the entire world. We proactively share it with almost the entire company even though they may or may not be interested in the marketing goals. The moment you stand on a rooftop and say, “This is my goal,” that’s your commitment to the universe. It automatically binds you to execute on that. The team has done a good job in terms of saying, “These are the big rocks we are going to commit to each quarter and here is how it fits into the bigger picture,” and then being able to manage, track, and build upon those. It’s always a work in progress but that’s the system that we have this time.

You’ve covered how you break down silos and how you help not just the marketing team, but even the entire organization, how you educate them about the marketing goals and how you execute via marketing sales or even the engineering or finance for that matter. Going into 2021, what do you see as the top 1 and 2 challenges and then the opportunities for marketing from a good market perspective?

We have adapted well. If you were to ask me in the March and April 2020 timeframe, we were all having a sense of trepidation in terms of how the organization is going to deal with this particular situation. How are our customers going to adapt? Are we going to lose business? Are we going to be able to attract employees of the right caliber? Are we going to be able to retain them? Are we going to be able to execute the programs that we said we would? Now, I look back on what has been somewhat of a tumultuous period in the last six months of 2020. We’ve done extremely well. We didn’t lose any customers. We gained a lot more that came our way because they liked the way we were helping them, manage change in their own business, and help them transform their infrastructure.

It’s been a company-wide effort. At the same time from a marketing perspective, we have hired some good talent. We haven’t lost any significant amount due to attrition. The teams are being fairly committed and meeting their timelines. We also try to have fun in the process. Everybody’s working from home and some have gone back to other cities than the cities where they were working globally. I don’t think we’re past this pandemic yet. I would like to say that we’ve all figured out how to adapt, deal with it, and portray a sense of confidence for ourselves, our customers, and it is business as usual. With that in mind, I don’t think we have any other way of saying this than to continue to challenge ourselves.

There is no one recipe for surefire success in this digital world. Rising above the noise is a process of constant experimentation. Click To Tweet

The metrics that we have set for ourselves, we shouldn’t be watering those down. We should be sticking to our growth targets or product delivery timelines, and how we go to market with maybe partners. We’re looking at 2021 as being another year where we will continue to gain market share and increase messaging clarity. One area I’m personally looking to put more effort in is in elevating our brand. In the last 3 to 4 quarters, we have spent a lot of rejiggering our product mix, overhauling our pricing, then we completely refreshed our messaging, positioning websites, and then we started to put in a lot of building blocks for demand generation.

We’ll get more predictability, more intent-based data-driven activities. Now, I’m ready to scale all of those and put more emphasis on elevating the brand globally. That would be an area that I’m going to put more emphasis on even as we harden a lot of the foundations that we have laid across the teams and we won some good, big deals, some of the biggest in the ten-year-old history of Aryaka in the last quarter of 2020. We would want to continue to build upon that and scale our organization.

Kudos to you and the entire Aryaka team on that. You guys had a fascinating and fantastic quarter. I’m wishing you and the team the best so that you can continue to outpace and outshine yourself. This is great stuff, Shashi. Thanks for sharing a lot of details. As we head into wrapping up this show, the last couple of questions for you is, what are the top areas that you’re curious about specifically when it comes to go-to-market? What resources are you leaning on? You mentioned growing the brand awareness globally, that might be one area. I’ve seen leaders leaning on podcasts or even peer networks and rev gen, and a couple of other communities. What do you and your team lean on?

We are constantly experimenting there. I don’t think there is one recipe that is a surefire success all the time. Especially nowadays where a lot of activities have become digital and in-person events have been curtailed. There’s a lot more of an information overload, people are getting invited to more virtual events, a lot of emails, a lot more phone calls. We have to continue to figure out what pathways allow us to rise above the noise. It’s a process of constant experimentation. I wouldn’t say what worked for us two quarters ago is going to work for us this quarter because of the behavior shifts that are happening rapidly. We do multiple things. We have gotten into a place where we can predict certain outcomes, which it is always a hard thing to do for a marketing organization to be able to forecast and predict.

That’s the muzzle that we’re trying to bring about. We are investing in more intent-based tools and more data that has refined applying principles of AI and things like that where we can, and to create greater points of engagement and conversion. I don’t think we have any big challenges in terms of attracting more people to hear what we do, but we are now putting more focus on how many of them can we convert into being active engagers and buyers in taking the next step forward. Those are bringing in some interesting learning.

For Aryaka, your customers are a mix of enterprise and telcos. Can you share a bit more about the customer space?

We call ourselves a cloud-first run company. What we mean by that is we allow enterprises to get the network and security delivered as a service for them. Many of them are used to now consuming applications from the cloud as a service. Our theses are that the network should be no different. Can you make your network as easy to consume as you could any application from the cloud? Can you make it as responsive? Can you make it as agile? Can you make the experience to be overwhelmingly positive that there is no other solution that they would consider? We are a fully-managed solution for advanced wide area networks. We fall into the category of a managed SD WAN provider.

In reality, what we do is make it easy to consume network, as well as security. We’re seeing this convergence of the two happen and deliver that as a service globally to enterprises for any site or user. We have built out a global network. This is a layer two network with built-in application acceleration and optimization capabilities. We have established points of presence globally that allow us to target any knowledge worker with a sub-30-millisecond latency then we have an edge footprint, which is our services edge node. We can host security or remote access on top of that and connect to different cloud providers, SaaS providers or private clouds, essentially delivered multi-cloud networking. The whole construct of WAN including the last mile, we take ownership of getting away the complexity and being able to manage and deliver all of that as a service.

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMO
Aryaka CMO: You need to have a certain set of building blocks in your own daily, monthly or quarterly cadence that will allow you to drive more predictability

 

Good luck to you and your team. Brand and growing the brand awareness is one piece, but then there’s also the whole notion of how do you track if you’re growing the brand because you won’t know it until 3, 6 or 12 months later. In addition, you need to continue to do your messaging, the portfolio pricing, as well as the whole dimension. One final question before I let you go, if you were to give a shout out to your peers in the industry, who are those top 2 or 3 good market leaders that you look up to who inspire you and who you learn from?

There are a lot of people that I learned from. Some of the people are not necessarily marketing people, but they do a ton of different ideas. Our CEO, Matt Carter, comes in from a marketing background himself, probably more from B2C marketing. You draw many of your inspirations from people in startup environments. A lot of CEOs are marketing savvy. A lot of my peers have gone through a similar journey as I have. Every time you get together and brainstorm, we try to reach out to each other and say, “What’s working in your role?” I’m also an advisor to a few startups and venture firms. I draw a lot of inspiration and ideas from people who are trying out something new for the first time. They haven’t cracked the go-to-market nut, but there’s bright directional learning that happens there. It’s a combination of these different people. I’ve had some good bosses in the past as well as much as I have right here.

Any names that you want to share?

The thing with that is I’m always going to leave somebody out. I would rather keep it more inclusive than offend somebody that I leave out.

Shashi, thanks for being on the show. Good luck to you and the whole Aryaka team.

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About Shashi Kiran

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMOProven executive with 20+ years of experience in business and technology roles. I adopt a growth mindset and enjoy driving outcomes that create impact, value and deliver a positive experience. Building trust-based relationships based on integrity, authenticity and avoiding politics are core to my personality. I’ve been involved in marketing, sales, business development and product management at large global companies and smaller startups. Love solutions and connecting the dots to win big! Meritocracy, passion and humility are key ingredients of my team building formula.

Recent focus areas include: Data center, Cloud, Networking, SD-WAN, Software, Automation, DevOps, SaaS, Security, Artificial Intelligence (AI) for service engagement across Enterprise and Service Provider markets