SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Aashish Dhamdhere

demio saas breakthrough featuring aashish dhamdhereAbout Aashish Dhamdhere:

Aashish Dhamdhere leads the marketing team at Skilljar. Skilljar is the leading customer training platform for enterprises to accelerate product adoption and increase customer retention.

Prior to joining Skilljar, Aashish was the Vice President of Marketing at Amperity. Aashish built the global demand generation function at Apptio. He was also the Vice President of Customer Acquisition at LiquidPlanner. Aashish served in various Product and Program Management roles on the Visio and Azure teams at Microsoft. He earned a Masters in Material Science from the Michigan State University and an MBA from the University of Michigan.



Show Notes:
02:45
Focusing on Customer and Partner Education
05:50
Pivoting to Focusing on Businesses and Specific Verticals
08:50
Inbound Flow, Customer Events and Sales Enablement
11:50
Customer Education Benefits and Results
16:00
What a Marketer Should Do When Joining a StartUp
17:15
The OKR Framework
17:50
Flip From Product Centric View to Customer Centric
20:15
Link Education With New Releases
21:20
Three Ways to Leverage Webinars
25:15
A Two Tier Approach to ABM
30:00
KPIs: Mix of Lagging and Leading Indicators
32:10
Startup Growth Is Not Linear
33:50
Growth Numbers
34:30
Next: Increasing Specialization, Events and Content
36:40
Lightning Questions
Transcript:

DA: 02:46
Hey Aashish, thank you so much for joining me today on the SaaS breakthrough podcast. I'm really excited to have you,, have Skilljar here. Such a well known awesome company. How are you doing today?

AD: 02:58
I'm doing great, David. Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure. I'm excited to talk about all things marketing growth and startups.

DA: 03:06
Oh, that's fantastic. Yeah, the pleasure is all mine, but let's just jump right in. We have so much to talk about. Why don't you give us a brief overview on Skilljar the company, when the company itself was founded, who the customer base is and what you guys are doing uniquely in the market place.

AD: 03:23
Fantastic. Yes, we can charge much founded in 2013 and our focus is on customer and partner education. The way we think about it is all the technology companies in the world want to change the world for the better. And that really happens when your users start using your product and start adopting your product. And we help you do that through customer education, customer and partner education. There are a few things, help us stand out from other learning management systems or even education platforms. And number one is experience, we give you the tools to create an education experience that feels like it's an extension of the product. So that's number one. Number two, we give you data and analytics on what's working, what's not working, at the individual customer level, team level, company level. And then we help you integrate with all the other business systems you have from Salesforce to Marketo , Gainside, Zendesk, all of that. And finally, if you want to monetize your customer training, we give you the tools to do that as well. So we've got a bunch of great customers like Cisco, Horizon, Zenefits, Tableau, that are using our product and we're excited to work with them.

DA: 04:45
Would you say that's a primarily a more enterprise SaaS focus or just primarily just SaaS in general is like the customer base?

AD: 04:52
That's a good question. We have a mix of customers. We think about technology as being the biggest segment of users that we have. We do also have, customers that are in the financial services sector, in technology a lot of SaaS customers as you pointed out, but also some like Cisco that are hardware lenders. And then we also have a few customers that are in the healthcare life sciences (inaudible) as well. Within software, within SaaS, we have companies of all sizes. So we feel fortunate that some companies that we work with, and started working with early on have gone on to IPO. Or would have gone, had a multibillion dollar exits, through acquisitions, while others are earlier in their journey. And you know, we see a strong correlation between companies that invest in customer education early on and growth patterns, definitely a reduction in churn as time goes on.

DA: 05:50
Yeah, that's fantastic. We'll talk a little bit about, education initiatives here in just a second. I only asked that question because I think it's, it's so interesting when you have like a product that serves a wide market and then you're trying to market it to a specific use case. So we're the same way here at Demio where we're like, we have this wide, there's wide product that can fit so many people and then it gets hard to focus on that one specific target market. So how did you guys initially pick that product market fit you willing to go after, whatever it was? Maybe it was the software channel, and has things kind of evolved basically as your product has evolved as marketing has evolved?

AD: 06:26
That's a million dollar question, right? Product market fit is so important as you pointed out. We, our journey has been, it's been an organic journey if you will, our co-founders both come from Amazon and they both been interested in the education space for a while. So the company was started interestingly as a platform for individuals to deliver training through the Internet. The goal for Sandy and Jason was let's build a platform that you know, if you're an expert in fly fishing and I'm just making this up, if you're not an expert in fly fishing in Montana and you want to teach the rest of the world how to do it, we'll give you the tools you need to set that up.

AD: 07:07
And then what they found was while individuas were signing up quite a bit, businesses seemed even more interested in individuals at that point. And a lot of them were technology companies that are still our customers today. So that's what really drove the pivot or drove the focus and specialization businesses as opposed to individuals and then on specific verticals within that as well. And it makes it makes a ton of sense why this move happen. I think it was a good case of, timing, and (inaudible) that focus properly because the relationship between companies and customers has changed fundamentally. There's no doubt that we're living in the age of the customer. And when you think about SaaS and technology companies in particular, that relationship is of the utmost importance. If you don't get that right, it can be an existential threat to companies. On the other hand, if you get it right, it leads to all kinds of good things, with, better retention, better upsell, more product usage, all of those things, more revenue. So we, I think we, we landed on that space through timing, and having a product that met the needs of those companies. And that's what we're focusing on mostly at this point as well. We, like I said earlier, we have customers and the technology, financial services, healthcare, and some manufacturing as well. And we're seeing a ton of interest in other industries as well, but we're focusing on those four for the most part right now.

DA: 08:43
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And so incredible to hear those journeys and kind of how and why the pivots happened along the way. Just kind of evolving and growing. That's so fantastic. So along the way, you joined the team, I believe it was about a year ago. What is it like coming into kind of a product that's growing like that, what were your first initiatives coming in?

AD: 09:03
Yeah, we, I feel fortunate to have found this opportunity where there's a, a product that works and that's loved by its existing customers. So when I took over, it's, it's been an year almost to the day, in fact, the three big things that I looked at as soon as I came in. First, we've traditionally been an inbound shop, where people who have been looking for solutions, looking for, for customer education tools have found us. So I spent a ton of time with the team in optimizing what our inbound flow look like. And this involves things like building a leads and ops funnel, sales stages, exit criteria in partnership with our VP of sales. It was implementing Salesforce. We were on a different CRM before that. it's partnering also to get the right reporting in place where we could track what the movement of leads and activity and conversions look like. And then, you know, tweaking paid investments to really connect to funnel progress. So that was a big area focus, especially more so in the first couple of quarters that I was here. What I was doing hand in hand with that was building up the team so we would have a very lean team. When I got here, we only, we were about 30 people when I got here. And we've almost tripled in the last year, which has been amazing. So fantastic, you know, tons of great experiences in the journey. And so it's, it was really building out the team and getting specialists in the role for product marketing, for demand content marketing design, things like that. And that's been a fun journey. Doing our very first customer event was, this was the second area of focus. and this was on, its really the broader umbrella was customer marketing. But we did an in person event, where we had 200 of our best customers in town in November of last year. We're doing it again this year. We call it Skilljar Connect. So that was a big area of focus. And then third, but not last was sales enablement. And then this was around building out the personas, the buyers journey, building out enablements certifications so that the team would be best armed to have the right conversations that were a good combination of problem and the solution that we haven't placed in matching the two. That's been, that's been sort of the big areas of focus for the first six months or so enrolled.

DA: 11:25
Makes a lot of sense. And obviously when you're coming in, and it sounds like you guys were getting ready to, to accelerate there, you have to set up those new systems, otherwise you'll get so deep into things and will be like, oh man, we're never get reporting done. You have to do it. So it makes a lot of sense. It's always, it's a good question to ask because I think a lot of marketers learn more about, you know, what do I absolutely need to prioritize early on, especially starting new. But that's fantastic. And we talked a little bit about the customer education cycle before and how important that is. And I think before we even get into marketing channels for you guys, outside of the event that you just spoke on, let's talk about, let's talk about customer education benefits results. What are you seeing for you guys right now? Like what is, what is education doing for growth and acquisition and maybe also retention in Skilljar?

AD: 12:11
Yes, a great question. So this is, it's interesting because we get to see what's happening with our own customers and we also get to see what's happening with the hundreds of customers we have and how customer education is helping them. So my answer will be informed by both our first hand experience and what we see with our customers. What, what, the patterns that we're seeing are, people are typically grappling with a few issues when it comes to customer engagement. And investing at the right time with customer education can have massive positive impacts across the board on the customer life cycle. So it starts early with product onboarding and reducing the time to value. As you know, you have a set period of time. It could be days, it could be weeks where you have to make sure that people that have bought your product have started using it and are getting value from it. And customer education has a massive impact in one, getting people to engage with your product, to getting them to value as quickly as possible and three, giving them a pathway to keep growing beyond that first Aha or magic moment that you have set out for them. Second thing would be onboarding in many ways is a, is an ongoing process. It's not a point in time exercise for a few reasons. One, your product evolves, you add new functionality and it's important that you keep educating people on it. So that's number one. Number two people change roles, leave companies all the time. So you have to make sure that you're giving your customers the tools they need to keep onboarding to the product all the time. So I think that's, that's the product onboarding, customer onboarding and engagement piece. The second thing you start seeing is the more engaged your customers are with education and with the product, the better health and retention tends to be as well. And the, I think this is a, this is an easier, an obvious correlation to understand, but the more people are getting value from your product, the more they understand how your product helps them, the better the outcomes both for you and the customer. What goes hand in hand with that is a reduction in the amount of support tickets that you have. So if you educate your customers that helps you proactively address a lot of how to tickets that you might otherwise get and have to address to your support team and you're supporting can then focus on higher value items on three on one, four on one level questions as opposed to one on one level questions of how do I do this, which can be addressed through customer education. In fact, that's a really (inaudible) cycle where you're using support tickets to create new education. And we can speak about that later if you like. And then the final thing that I would say is scaling the customer success team is something that a lot of companies, startups are, focused on. And it's because as you grow, as you go from 50 to 100 to a 1000 customers, it's hard to scale the customer success team and do a lot of things manually or in a one on one fashion that you were doing. And on demand customer education can help you scale the team effectively because you can get, you can, you can record some of your best education lessons using video and use other tools like quizzes and articles and really educate customers on scale, at scale. So these are the four or five key impact points where we're seeing customer education help our customers. Obviously doing this leads to more customer revenue, Higher LTV, it leads to lower support costs, and in a lot of cases, we're seeing companies monetize training where the money that they generate from in the services business particularly, becomes a self sort of self sustaining self funding model for continued investment in customer education. I'd say that those are the, those are the big points. I also want to go back to it, if I can, to your point earlier about, taking a step back and sort of evaluating what you should do when you, when you join a company. I can do it now or you know, we can do it later in the podcast. It's your call.

DA: 16:14
Yeah, let's do that now. That's, that's fantastic.

AD: 16:16
I think the, the key as you pointed out, the key thing for a marketer to do is to figured out what the system's view of what they're doing is. And it's, it's figuring out one, what the business needs, two what levers you have that you can pull to help meet those goals. And three, at least have a clear picture of a, it's the, it's the Eisenhower Matrix of what's urgent and important and what's important but not urgent. And you really have to have both of those conversations because if you buy us only towards, important and urgent, you end up playing this endless sort of game of catch up of Oh, you know, start up growth is step,function driven. So you have to try do new things that you haven't done before. And if you don't make a concerted effort to start doing that from the day you get to a startup, it's really hard to start doing it in midstream. So that's, I would say that's something that it's super important to keep in mind when you start a new job.

DA: 17:14
Yeah, no, that's really, really great advice. And that's more what mindset would you say versus the system driven?

AD: 17:21
That's exactly that. I think it's a, it's a combination of it's, you're right. If you don't have the mindset, if you don't ask yourself the question, and then you know, you could call it growth mindset, it's not going to happen, but too then you have to figure out, well what systems am I going to put in place to ensure that this is happening on an ongoing basis? And there are multiple frameworks that have to do that. The OKR framework as an example. Super helpful in sort of bringing this down to the brass aspects.

DA: 17:45
I love that. Yeah. The OKR framework is fantastic and what we'll do is we'll link to that in the as well. So if people are unfamiliar with that, they can check that out. You did mention something in the prior conversation around education that that was interesting. You talked about onboarding being a continual thing with product education or customer education. How do you keep onboarding going past just that initial onboarding cycle? Like, what are you specifically doing there? Is that, is that webinars, is that just continuing to reach out to them? Is it when they're doing specific actions in your product to make sure that you send them the right messages? Like what does that actually mean?

AD: 18:20
Yeah, that's a great question. The, what I would say is for customer education to work well, it's super important that the two or three functions that work closely are customer success, obviously marketing and product and it's mapping the customer life cycle, the customer journey that you have to inflection points to saying when people start in the first 30 or 60 days, here are things we want them to do in the next 30 60, 90 days, here's the things we want them to do. And then linking this back to courses that you can deliver. The, the hard thing always is, in startups we often have a very product centric view of the world. That's, I think that's good for the most part, that helps us build amazing products. But we have to have empathy for the customer and, and we have to, we have to, we have to flip that view when we're talking to customers and think in terms of problems that they're trying to solve or goals that they're trying to achieve. And if you can link your customer education, your product, your communication with your customers to that evolution and the problems that they're facing and the things that they're looking for, you'll see really good update in terms of education, yes, but more importantly, the product itself. And there are many channels that you can use to do this. The easiest way to do it obviously is to link your marketing automation platform to your customer education platform, like Skilljar. And then you'll get a view of people that have started taking training, people that have not started taking training, or only gone a certain way. And you could do targeted email campaigns to get them to be engaged with the education and the product. You can even use prompts in things like Intercom, Drift, or tools like Walkme in Pendo where if people are interacting with a specific part of the product, you're giving them a prompt saying, hey, here's some training that will help you get the most out of this functionality.

AD: 20:15
One of the things that you can do is link education with new releases. So if you're releasing a brand new feature or functionality and you're sending out an update to your customers on it, you can link that back and say, here's some new functionality. Here's how it helps and here's some training that will help you learn this in an ongoing basis. when you do, when you deliver training, it's, it's super important to have pathways where people understand sort of what the evolutionary path looks like for them to become masters of the product, but really off of their own function. And if you do that, people will organically move up and take additional training beyond what you shared with them. The trick is to make this as easy and as simple to understand as possible.

DA: 21:00
Man, that was a great answer. Super thorough and so thank you very much. Speaking about that stuff you talked about a couple of times courses like doing a deeper training course rather than just like articles or something like that. That's fantastic. What's your take on Webinars as well? I know you guys do them for top of funnel customer education. I know you have quite education with The Skilljar Academy which is fantastic. We started working on our university too so it's just a great resource to have and we put webinars in there as well. What are you seeing? Is there a specific medium that's working best? Are you trying to hit multiple types of mediums? Anything's working well with webinars that you thought you could share?

AD: 21:37
Yeah, absolutely love Webinars, love video in general and I think the importance, the points of video would only keep increasing in in all its different formats. Bite sized, do something that's more than (inaudible) like Webinars. We, I think about webinars in terms ,in three sort of three different ways. One is we have a lot of customers who use education as a mechanism for lead generation. So this, I should have brought this point up when you asked me earlier about how customer education can help growth beyond your existing customers. You can get a bunch of new people interested in your product and you're disciplined by offering up free education. And even better, you can tie certifications to it. So you can say as an example, you should have big data vendor. Here's, some training that you can use a lot of our customers map out and actually does this, here's some training that you can use to become a big data expert and it's offered on a free or a freemium basis. And then as people get certified, the odds of them taking your tools when they join a company are super high. So that's a good way of driving acquisition. (Love that.) And you can do webinars. You know, obviously you can use webinars to do that. For us, webinars are a great way of engaging, this, this, this will sound funny, but later, early stage prospects. So, webinars are not always the best way to get new people interested sometimes. And I'd say about 20% of our attendees are people who have not been exposed to the product or the customer education traditionally. But they're a phenomenal mechanism for engaging with prospects that have engaged with you to some degree and are looking to continue their education. And so what we do is one, all our webinars, and we do one every month are with a, with a practitioner and typically with a customer that's used the product and has built a customer education program and two the focuses is on actionable insights that people can use to continue their own customer education journey, things that they can use the job right away. And three, it is to, to share a bunch of the insights that you've gotten in the webinars through blog posts, through social updates, sometimes even through ebooks. So then you can continue that learning process, I would say. So that's number two. Number three, we, educate our own customers through our own, what we call Skilljar Academy. And sometimes we'll take webinars that we've done with prospects and take sections of those webinars and packages them up and use them for customer education. So once, once you have great content and once you have great content that you've created in partnership with your customers, one, it's, it's timeless. You can keep using it forever, really, two, you can slice and dice it and use different portions in all kinds of things including email nurtures, etc. and three, a lot of times the conversations that start to webinars end up leading to additional sort of content that helps further along in the, in the buyer's journey. So long answer, but that's, that's love webinars and I could geek out about webinars all day.

DA: 24:45
Yeah, we can talk about webinars all that. I'm fine with that. No, that's fantastic. I love answers. I got though, I mean drawn out but full of actionable real things that you said. That's the word actionable. Just really great stuff and I love that, that answer there. And you talked about the multipronged, you know, part of webinars where you can take that content and you can make more videos and posts on social, utilize in your academy, make graphics out of Infographics, just fantastic. Fantastic. I want to move forward to actual marketing initiatives that you're doing for acquisition outside of education. I know you guys are doing some work on ABM as you go after these kind of, I guess targeted software companies. Would love to hear what's your kind of goals are with ABM and, and what you're looking to do with that.

AD: 25:35
So as I said earlier with traditionally been an inbound shop, where people have found us through search, through social and we've, we've realized that to continue growing and to meet our really ambitious growth goals. We need a more balanced strategy to grow. And the goal for us is to get to where we have 50% of our source deals coming through ABM or outbound or you know, those terms are thrown around a bit interchangeably in the industry, by the end of the year. So we made a bunch of investments to start walking in that direction and the steps that we followed our one having a really clear understanding of your best customers. So this is, the ideal customer profile and it's really a combination of formal graphic geographic, technology stack information because the company sort of what industries are, are a good match for us within those industries. What are the personas that we should speak to? What are the problems that they're facing, how do we help them? Having a really clear understanding of this is really step number one. And we went to this exercise that helped us create the skier map. Step two was then figuring out the buyer's journey and saying, and I, and I love the challenger Customer Book, saying what is problem definition look like? What does solution identification look like and what does vendor selection look like for us and for our prospects and how can we best help them in each stage of that journey? When you start having those conversations. Three, getting down and saying, great, let's, let's define the Tam. Let's figure out how many companies we want to go after. So we're doing, we started really simple and said we'll do a two tiered approach, for first year it will be accounts and contacts that the, our sales team is going after in partnership with the marketing team.

AD: 27:28
And the second tier, which is about four x, the number of accounts as the first tier is accounts that marketing will nurture and target on social and other channels, and, and see if we can promote them to the, to the first tier, over a period of time. So we started doing this about three months ago and we've had really strong results were, it's the, the meetings that we've booked are still working their way through our funnel, but we're already seeing about 40% of the top of the funnel coming from ABM and outbound. So that's hugely encouraging and that tells us that we're on the right path and that we have to keep going. But I think it's, it's one of the, one of the hard lessons learned for me is you always want to start ABM a quarter before you started it. It's like that old Chinese proverb of the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today. So that side of it, we followed.

DA: 28:23
Best time to start ABM is one month ago on a quarter ago even. Exactly. No, that makes a lot of sense. And I do have one question. You mentioned that you have 40% being nurtured by marketing through maybe advertising, retargeting, something like that. When do you make the decision to move to that other 10% that's ready for the sales team? Are you utilizing different points in your CRM of like downloaded an ebook or got into education? What makes the qualification to then move them to that next tier, that higher tier to start talking to someone? and how are, how are you kind of figuring that out when to do that?

AD: 28:56
Yeah, it's a good question. We, we've kept a pretty high bar for now because we're seeing good engagement for the tier one accounts the, that the sales team is going after. For us, it's a, it's a, an active or an explicit opt in is what drives promotion from tier two to tier one, as we call it. And that's somebody comes in and registers for a Webinar or downloads an asset or signs up for our blog. At that point, we flip the account over. And even then we give that as a choice, to the sales team when we say, here's a set of a hundred accounts as an example that have raised their hands in this month, which of these we recommend that you take these, but which ones do you want to work with? And which ones should marketing keep nurturing? And I suspect as time goes on, we'll get better at that, at those promotion rules where it won't be just the explicit optins, but it'll be implicit optins as well. Like was it the website, and things like the, the types of assets that they're downloading, indicating their position in the, in the buyer's journey. But for now it's, it's, we're trying to keep things as simple as possible at this point.

DA: 30:02
Yeah, that's a good point. And when you're looking at this, are there like specific KPIs that you guys laid out? Like are you just looking at total number of leads, total number of optins, total number of clothes, you know, move, maybe move to sales team, total number of closed accounts, you know, total number of accounts after two months. Is that something, are you guys actually going deeper looking at like number of downloads, number of like direct optins for different things?

AD: 30:27
No. Great question. So we, we've tried to keep a mix of lagging and leading indicators in a deal in many ways as the most lagging of indicators. So yes, we're looking at, we start there and we say, Oh, you know, what's, what's the percentage of deals sourced by channel per a quarter because that's sort of the right timeframe for us. From there, we go to opportunities. From there we go to meetings and from there we go to things like connections and conversations. So we're saying if the ADR team, and the account exec team is having a certain set of conversations in a given week, how many of those were sourced through organic or inbound channels and how many of those were sourced through paid inbound channels and how many were sourced through outbound, outreach that we did, where the company, we were not on the company's radar, but it's this cold outreach that helped start the conversation then we double click a little bit more and say, well, what, what message was it that resonated and what personas are we saying are we seeing, a better set of connection and match rate with than others? So again, early days we do have plans of getting a bit more sophisticated. Our general philosophy is to start doing things with the tools that we have and you know, sort of hack our way for the first couple of quarters. And then as we see good results, then invest in more specialized tools. So we've kept our tech stack really simple right now, but I suspect that will change what a period of time.

DA: 31:53
I think that's one of the best ways to do it. Kind of have that minimum viable experiment going there. Right? Just the baseline, get the data, make sure it's working first. Really understand are we, are we talking to the right people are messaging right? There's just so many variables when you get there. So I think that's the right way to do it. That's fantastic. So you mentioned a hard lesson around, you know, just starting ABM the planning process, getting ready for it, but were there any other things over the past year that didn't work out the way you expected and missed opportunities or things that you, you're looking at as, as the lessons now?

AD: 32:24
Yeah, I think the, the, the broader lesson, and I hinted, hinted at this earlier in our conversation is startup growth a lot of times it's not linear, it's not smooth. always. Sometimes it can be, a lot of it is step function growth. So the things that get you to a certain point don't necessarily help you beyond that point. And a key lesson learned for us beyond the ABM one is the paid media mix can vary dramatically based on the types of deals that you want to sign and paid search in particular. So if the, there was a pretty strong correlation for us between the types of terms that we were advertising for and the types of deals that we were sourcing and the company profile that we were attracting. So I think that's something that I would have done a little bit differently, which is one experimented with a broader set of keywords to kept tracking the progression in the funnel a little more closely and we've gotten better at it. But I think that's something else that definitely stands out as a lesson learned.

DA: 33:31
Yeah. Not every lead is equal, right? Or not every customer is exactly right either. And so it's something that we've made mistakes on as well and you can get excited about, you know, growth for growth's sake, but that's only, that doesn't always equal, you know, the right customer type or something like that. That's a great lesson to learn from. Again these are all just things we've learned to get better from. But that's fantastic. Well, over the past year, kind of looking at everything now, you mentioned the team grew by about three times the size. How is the company actually done since you've joined?

AD: 34:00
Yeah, the company is doing, you know, I'm touching (inaudible) over here, is doing really well. We've essentially doubled or more than doubled in the same period of time and see great opportunity. And we see, we see, what's most gratifying is to help customers and to see your customers get promoted, to see them becoming successful, see, them IPO. that's, that's the best part of this job. And we see opportunity to do a lot more of that in the market.

DA: 34:29
Well, I love that. That's my next question, is what's happening next? Do you, do you see challenges or things that you think you're gonna be able to build into that you just, you can't wait to get out, what does 2019 look like?

AD: 34:38
Yeah, great question. We, our ABM journey will continue, we're early and I think it will be a journey of increasing specialization and sophistication as time goes on. and I think that that specialization will be driven by a combination of personas, industries and use cases. I think it will be, an intersection of those three, those three dimensions. So I see a lot of work happening for us on that front too. I think events, traditionally we've only done customer focused events, but that's something else that we're looking at very closely to see if we can do, you know, intimate. I don't think we'll ever go out and do, at least not the next year a huge events. But our target audience is educators, they love to learn, they love to meet with their peers so that we might do something that facilitates those conversations a bit more. And third, I think content is something that you have to keep investing in all the time. So we are getting more sophisticated in how think about content investments, performance that we use and the stories that we tell, story telling is so important. if I think about this a lot, which is what's the one piece of advice that I'd give myself if I could go back in time, 10 years, marketing advise let's, let's keep it to that for this conversation. And it would be that a lot of, B2B marketing, your bad B2B marketing anyway, is your marketing to a blob in the company, right? It's, it's this sort of hybrid message. and if you do that, you're not going to succeed. You have to really speak to individuals and you have to account for the fact that not human beings are not fully rational, which means we have rational sort of explanations, justifications for behavior a lot. But you really have to connect with human beings at the emotional level. And it has to be a combination of, of cold hard facts and logic and the emotional piece. And that's not easy to do. I think that's where the art piece comes in, in marketing. but I think that's something else we'll take a really close look at it and invest in and test and get better at.

DA: 36:42
That was a fantastic answer. That was really, really good. You even kind of jumped into to where we're going next, which was our lightning round questions. Just five quick questions. And the first question, you kind of already answered it. It's what advice would you have for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today? And it's probably the same advice you would give yourself 10 years

AD: 37:00
Yeah, I think that could be it. The one other piece of advice I would have for founders, you know, I'm not marketer but founder is invest in marketing early, especially if you hope to create a market. This is not something that you should wait around on a marketing isn't just telling the story. Marketing is also figuring out what the study is and if one exists and a good marketer will help you do both.

DA: 37:21
Well, what skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today? Is that storytelling?

AD: 37:26
I think so. Storytelling is important. I also think about, integrative thinking to get a little geeky, which is I'm always looking at other disciplines and trying to figure out what marketing can learn from them. Sometimes it's marketing in other industries, but sometimes it's something completely different. Psychology is a good example, behavioral economics is a good example. This will sound bizarre, but, and I think you have, you know, the Toyota is a company that inspires me now, not, not just the marketing piece, but how Toyota is a very systems driven company and it's a company that, that interestingly is very long term focused, which is rare to find these days. So it's this combination of purpose, mission, and systems that surround that. But all built around humans and understanding how humans function and that are, there are great ways to bring that concept over and set up your own team instead of your own company, but also start thinking about marketing, which is human beings. you know, the controversial way of sort of a provocative way to say this is nobody cares about your product. what they care about is the problems that they're trying to solve, the goals that they're trying to achieve. So figuring out how you can reach those, those people in that fashion.

DA: 38:43
Oh, I love that. I definitely wanna have to look up that Toyota story and I think Pia from Talkpush last week also talked about behavioral economics, mixing marketing. That's such a fantastic new kind of segment for me. Didn't even know that was a thing. But kind of moving forward here, what would be a best education or resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

AD: 39:02
No that's a great question. I'll start, start by addressing your last point, which is if you want to learn a little bit more about behavioral economics. You know, Danny Conoman who started the Gudo, he's written a book called Thinking Fast and Slow, which is fantastic, but I actually find a book written by Michael Lewis, who has written a bunch of great books. He's written a book called the Undoing Project, which is a really good introductory view into behavioral economics. and I recommend that a couple of other books. I'm a book person, so I'll, I'll give you a couple of recommendations. the Challenger Customer is a fantastic book. It was written based on research that, Ceb, which I think now is a part of (inaudible) conducted. It really helps you understand B2B customers, B2 B buying behavior, and how best to reach them with stories and strategies. Hugely helpful. And then the other book, it's a, it's a recent book, but it's a really good book is obviously awesome. It's by April Dunford and it's about positioning and super helpful, especially if you're at an early stage startup and you're thinking about how best to position your company.

DA: 40:07
All right. I have all three down. We'll have to put those in the show notes as sound fantastic. And I will get those myself. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

AD: 40:17
I'm very old school, so, and kind of voting, I suppose. I pen, I love fountain pens and paper. I find that writing stuff down for me is the best way of processing sort of my thinking and sharpening it. So I can't live without my notebook and my and my fountain pen.

DA: 40:33
Absolutely nothing wrong with that. That's such a great observation. When you can find like what works for you, it's always so special. I love that. What about a brand business or team that you admire today?

AD: 40:43
Yeah, I mentioned two. I'll briefly, I think another, another company that's more sort of tech new world if you will, is Netflix. And I've been, it's been, it's been inspiring and phenomenal to see their transition from a logistics company to an entertainment brand and the way they use data, but also the way that they run the company and the way that the culture within the company, and the way they have honest conversations with their employees and what's needed and what they need to get better at. That's a company that I think every marketer should, should study carefully in and track carefully to see what they're doing, the industry that they're functioning in a such a competitive industry. And such a hard industry to do well in and it's a phenomenal team. Phenomenal results.

DA: 41:29
Yeah, no, I think marketing, I think founding team, like what, you know, the executives are doing, everybody there is doing a really, really great job. So that's a great company to recommend and to learn from. I totally agree. Disrupting, disrupting a huge space as well. I mean, it changed it so it's amazing. But you know, I just want to say thank you so much for, for being so transparent, jumping on the show with me today, spending some time and sharing the lessons over the past year over at Skilljar. So thank you so much for it, for jumping on the podcast with me.

New Speaker: 41:58
David, thank you so much for having me and thank you so much for doing this podcast. I love listening to it. So, I, you know, I'm curious to listen to the next, the next episode that you have coming as well.

DA: 42:08
Well, we have a lot of good ones, including this one, which was fantastic. So thank you again and have a great day.

AD: 42:13
Okay, thank you David. Like wise.

DA: 42:18
Big shout out to the Skilljar team for coming on the SaaS breakthrough podcasts being so open and transparent, sharing so much great knowledge with us. I'm always so blown away by the quality of marketers that are in our SaaS industry. There are so many brilliant people and I'm continually learning every single one of his podcast. I hope you are finding lessons and examples to help you in your own marketing journey with SaaS. (...)

Resources:
The OKR Framework:
https://www.okrstraining.com/okr-framework/
Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It by April Dunford:
https://www.amazon.com/Obviously-Awesome-Product-Positioning-Customers/dp/1999023005/
The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results by Brent Adamson:
https://www.amazon.com/Challenger-Customer-Selling-Influencer-Multiply-ebook/dp/B00SI02FLG/
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis:
https://www.amazon.com/Undoing-Project-Friendship-Changed-Minds-ebook/dp/B01GI6S7EK/
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman:
https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman-ebook/dp/B00555X8OA/
Learn more about how Skilljar can help you educate your customers and partners:
https://www.skilljar.com/
Connect with Aashish:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/dhamdhere
Follow along on Our Journey to $100k MRR
A shaky start? No doubt. Yet, three years later, we've got our eyes set on $100k MRR. We'll be sharing everything along the way.