Q: “How do you know when you’re getting traction?”
A: “It’s not a discrete point in time or revenue. You’ll start having sales meetings where you don’t have to explain what it is that you do, and a growing number (say, one third) of your customers will say that life would suck without your product.”
[Mark Organ, formerly co-founder and CEO of Eloqua and now co-founder and CEO of Influitive, recently joined us to share his ideas about creating new market categories. This is the fourth and final post that’s a direct outcome of his session. If you haven’t done so, I recommend reading How to define and dominate your billion dollar category and Mark Organ’s 6 Rules of Category Creator Go-to-Market first]
This chat covered a wide range of topics, so there’s probably something here for everyone.
(I’ll be paraphrasing Mark’s answers throughout, in the bullet points; my comments are below)
How do you figure out your brand?
- Understand your zealots and tie your brand into that revolutionary experience
- Mark, quoting Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: “Brand is what happens when people are talking about you when you’re not in the room”
A lot of companies and executives make the mistake of thinking, “This is our brand, let’s spread it!”, when, in fact, their brand in the eyes of their customers is something very different. To understand what your brand really is, you need to understand what people see as being special about you. What is it that makes your company, your solution, unique or amazing? That’s the revolutionary experience that’s so important to Mark.
A lot of companies and executives make the mistake of thinking, “This is our brand, let’s spread it!”, when, in fact, their brand in the eyes of their customers is something very different.
How do you appeal to your developers, to get them excited with the technical vision?
- Inspire them with a genuine mission; developers are people, too.
Mark went on to say that the development team at Influitive take pride in being a well-oiled machine: they aren’t hackers / don’t hack, they use proven processes, they work predictable hours, etc. Now, Influitive have occasional hackathons (e.g., for bug fixes, trying out new features, etc.), but they don’t rely on such activities as a core development strategy.
I found this perspective quite refreshing, as I encounter many companies that look at hackery with pride.
Hacking is a great, and probably necessary, skill for prototyping and creating a minimum viable product, but it is not a substitute for solid architecture, development, and quality assurance.
Hacking is not a substitute for solid architecture, development, and quality assurance.
How do you accelerate advocacy?
- You must understand why advocates are advocates: it’s not for money, it’s not for swag. Typically, advocates are advocates because they genuinely love what you stand for, and they want to promote this idea.
- Additionally… (1) they want a sense of identity; (2) they want to understand the impact they’re making to your company (e.g., leads, web hits, etc.) by being an advocate; (3) social capital: they’re not completely altruistic, even if they think they are, and social capital (i.e., reputation in the market) is the return
What did you get right at Eloqua? What lessons did you learn?
- Celebrating the advocates and their successes
- Learned that to create an amazing customer experience, you first have to create an amazing employee experience (e.g., a learning environment, providing career growth, etc.)
- It’s important to have the right people on your Board of Directors; be rigourous in your recruitment and evaluation of potentials – they can be a huge asset
“To create an amazing customer experience, you first have to create an amazing employee experience”
What’s your take on investors?
- Managing multiple investors used to be a big challenge, but nowadays there are tools available that will let you manage a large number
- Influitive has something like 80 investors; that’s 80 people out there spreading the word and promoting the burgeoning category of advocate marketing
First time founders often struggle to determine when they are getting traction…how do you know?
- Authors often talk about a magical moment, but Mark disagrees, “It’s not a discrete point in time or revenue.”
- You’ll start having sales meetings where you don’t have to explain what it is that you do, and a growing number (say, one third) of your customers will say that life would suck without your product
- Paraphrasing Bill Tatham, “Anyone can get profitable by narrowing your focus until you’re the best in the world and then raising your prices”
- …but that’s not necessarily good: with a focus so limited, your growth is constrained
- At Influitive, we want to grow as fast as we can, powered by low prices and high customer breadth
How do big markets form?
- Big markets are constructed by hand out of smaller markets
While short and simple, I liked this one. Think of digital marketing, and its enormous breadth: the market is huge, but is composed of many smaller (but still significant) markets (e.g., funnel management, digital advertising, SEO, campaign management, lead management, etc.).
How do you find and use advocates?
- Customer success is the bedrock on which everything else is built
- Create and leverage customer surplus: make your customers incredibly successful, with great value, then turn the surplus (i.e., they got more than they paid for) into future sales by using their advocacy
- The market loves to hear about real customer success stories, from real customers…the market cares much less about hearing about successes from your marketing team
“The market loves to hear about real customer success stories, from real customers”
What business metrics matter most to you?
- Mark obsesses over “Lead Velocity Rate” (contributes to top-line) and “Customer Churn Rate” (bottom-line)
- If you have too few leads, then you’ll be forced to sell into ill-suited accounts, and this will increase support costs and, ultimately, churn
- Ideally, you’re able to cherry-pick the best accounts and make them super successful
- Advice: monitor sales rep productivity, rather than adding more salespeople