SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Mikko Luhtava

demio saas breakthrough featuring mikko luhtavaAbout Mikko Luhtava:

Mikko Luhtava is the Head of Marketing at Vainu, a real-time company data provider for salespeople and marketers.
An early employee at Vainu, Mikko has been working in tech marketing and sales for 7+ years, in both Europe and the U.S.


Show Notes:
03:00
Helping Companies Have Personalized Conversations That Ultimately Close More Business
05:25
Joining The Sales Team On The Way To Building A Marketing Team
06:45
Using The Data To Be Better Sales Persons
07:45
Changing ICP As People Now Sell A Bit Differently
09:40
A Full Rebrand To Look And Feel The Part As Well
11:15
Starting The Rebranding Process
13:50
Steps In The Marketing Process To Do A Major Rebrand
15:40
Testing To Validate It
18:05
The Concept of Real-time Sales
20:35
Identifying And Using Behavioral Triggers
27:00
Unique Challenges In The European Market
29:05
Advice to U.S. Companies Looking To Expand to the European Market
31:20
Hard Lesson Learned: Commit To Less And Put More Effort Into It
32:40
Next: Taking Personalization Even Further
36:35
Lightning Questions
Transcript:

DA: 02:36
Mikko. Thank you so much for joining me today on the SaaS breakthrough podcast. Excited to have you and Vainu here. A lot to talk about today. I know lots of things going on over there. We are at the end of the year here at the end of Q4 2019 so there's always a million things going on, but I appreciate your time. How are you doing today?

ML: 02:53
Hey David, thanks for having me. Yeah. Trying to get everything done before the holidays. Kind of an intimidating to be at work, but it's always good.

DA: 03:01
That's exactly how it feels. It's just like this overwhelming mountain of things that will accomplish (inaudible) Well, thanks for joining me. For people that are listening that don't know your company, why don't we start off this conversation by just explaining a little bit more about the company, when it was founded, who your customers are, and what you are doing uniquely in the marketplace?

ML: 03:22
Sure. So at Vainu we're building a real-time company data platform for salespeople and marketers. Basically what we do is we provide them with company insights directly in the business systems they use. The goal is to, for them to have personalized conversations, which ultimately will lead to closing more business. The company was founded five years ago back in 2014 in Helsinki, Finland, and we're now at about 160 people in Europe and the US and we're completely bootstrapped, which is, it's a different kind of company and it definitely shows in the culture there. What makes us unique, I'd say is the technology that we use to both collect random pieces of information from the web and then transform that information into something that a sales person actually can use on a daily basis. So the under the hood side's pretty cool. Also, obviously being a Nordic company, we have very strong data here in the Nordics and, and it, it's kind of in how we approach data overall. All the information is fairly open in Finland, for instance. So we have things like data on what vehicles people drive to you know, anything that's written on a company's website. So, the data itself I guess would be the unique selling point there.

DA: 04:44
Wow. First of all, congratulations on company growth, a bootstrap company at that size, revenue size. That's fantastic. So congratulations to you guys.

ML:
Thank you. Thank you.

DA:
Yeah. So we actually had a, I think one of your competitors on here a few months ago, maybe talking about some of their unique qualities. I think you guys have a very unique thing, which is like almost geographic access, which is a very unique thing and the first SaaS I've talked to that really has as big kind of leg up there.

ML: 05:12
Very interesting. Yeah. And you know, in Europe with things like GDPR these days, how to build the company database is very different in Europe compared to the States, for instance. So, it's been an interesting journey from our perspective than coming to the US and seeing how that side works as well.

DA: 05:28
Yeah, yeah. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of changes there. Maybe talk a little bit about that in a little bit here, but, before we do that, why don't you tell us, you know, when you actually joined the team and what that looked like when you're actually joining?

ML: 05:40
Yeah, I joined back in 2015. I think I was employee number 20 at the time. My background is actually in marketing, but interestingly enough, I started in sales at the company back at that time Vainu's marketing was pretty much creating blog posts and gated content to get leads that then sales people sold. And it was very, very bare bones at the time. And, and, then since I've been in different sales positions, and then I started on the marketing side in January of this year. So fairly recent on the marketing end of Vainu.

DA: 06:12
But you've already kind of had some of that experience prior to joining, so you were able to see what the marketing process kind of build up, add new value ideas?

ML: 06:21
Yeah, that's correct. And I was, I was running the New York office as well. So, you know, working with the marketers very heavily because U.S. is a completely different animal in terms of the business environment over there. So a lot of collaboration with the team before jumping into the position now.

DA: 06:36
Gotcha, gotcha. So when you swapped to marketing this year, you went to New York to do that? That was a kind of a transition there?

ML: 06:43
No, the opposite. I was doing sales in New York and then we came over to, to run the marketing here from Finland.

DA: 06:48
Gotcha, gotcha. So a European based marketing role, what was the first things that you're looking at doing when you're coming into that new position?

ML: 06:54
Well, it started with where we were at. I think our company's been very good at creating high quality content, around sales and, and you know, we started off purely as a prospecting tool back in the day. So it was very focused on those sales people, you know, this kind of content, what you can do with that content or sorry, what you can do with, with the data to be a better salesperson. Very, very basic there. And then, so doing a bit of analysis around things and then kind of figuring out this is where we want to go from there. The team's also grown fairly much now. We're at 12 people compared to five when I started back a year ago. So a lot of hiring, happened in the very big getting as well based on based on what I saw from where we were at.

DA: 07:42
Got it. Got it. Okay. So did that product market fit change, you mentioned it started as kind of like a prospecting tool. Did anything have to change with that ICP or did you help with anything there? Was that just something that's kind of just found its fit as you guys have developed the product?

ML: 07:58
It's definitely been changing. You know, back in 2013 when, when the company was originally, or 2014, sorry, when the company was founded, people were buying cold lists of phone numbers and emails. Obviously a lot of people still do that, but that seemed to be the norm back in the day. And then what we were adding basically was, you know, better filtering to that list through these different data points, bringing things such as changes that we're identifying that are, that these companies are going through and that was doing innovative at the time. I think we were pretty lucky that competition, especially in Europe was very scarce and it was very easy to scale up with that message of a better way to do sales, to, to get up to maybe 10 million in ARR. But then since then, I think that the market has really evolved as well and people now sell a bit differently.

ML: 08:50
We've noticed that in our existing client base, we have over 2000 hundred customers. A lot of those customers that only use us for prospecting are the ones with the highest churn risk. So it's then really more about getting our data into their existing workflows, the existing business systems, like the CRM and marketing automation, and then that creates better retention for us, helps us kind of grow from there. So the ICP now, I'd say it's a bit more up market. We sell a lot of larger ticket prices, which are based on, you know, selling a solution to people with data needs beyond just being that prospecting tool. And then, as a result we've updated, you know, the ICP also to include things like they must have a CRM and an existing sales process, et cetera.

DA: 09:38
I want to kind of talk about that transition and that kind of bigger ICP. I think we've gone through a similar kind of approach where it's like our ICP itself hasn't changed, but the use cases for those companies have become wider because if someone's using, for instance, webinars in one specific avenue only, they're at a higher churn risk than someone who's doing it in four or five different departments or something like that. Right. That pushes you to go up market. So I want to learn about your process to do that. But I guess when you looked at the product over time, did that mean like the brand and messaging, everything had to change with it? Is that one of the reasons why you guys looked at doing maybe the full rebrand that you've been working on?

ML: 10:18
Yeah, we did a full rebrand this year and it kind of links back to that ICP shift. We hadn't really, we hadn't done any intentional branding before this year. I'd say, you know, we bought our, I think our logo is bought off a crowdsourcing site for 10 bucks back in the day. And you know, bits and pieces were gathered here and there and you know, all of a sudden we had a slide deck and we have this and then we went to an event and it was like, how do we want to talk about things for this audience? And then, you know, what we were as a company was changing based on our audience, which, which it was kind of scattered all over. And then, you know, we just felt that now at the size we're at with the ticket size is growing and with our customers, especially our happiest customers were, you know, looking for a data vendor to solve challenges across the whole enterprise. And we just felt that now is the time that we need to look and feel the part as well. And in addition to having the excellent data behind it.

DA: 11:15
Got it. Yeah, that makes sense. So you're looking at this overall marketplace, things are shifting, customers are wanting to use the product in a different way. It's causing you to change your ICP. You got to change your messaging. Who was the one that actually like came up with the idea of like, let's actually just do the full rebrand and just go through this process all together? That's a big process.

ML: 11:35
Yeah. And, and it kind of links back to that original, you know, when I started in the role in January, we were kind of doing our own analysis of where we at. We started back then, we had a lot of interviews. We kind of knew that something was wrong with the brand just because it, because nobody's actually actually ever summarized it or had it at that point. So we just started with a lot of interviews. We interviewed our customers, we interviewed prospects, we interviewed employees, we spoke to external advisors. And based on that we kind of created this brand strategy where we laid everything out and we there that in that moment in time, it was a couple of conversations where we decided, okay, we're keeping the name and updating everything else to better fit the market. And that's kinda where we started the rebranding process from.

DA: 12:22
Got it. I love that. It reminds me of this conversation we had on this podcast with Aweber's CMO and they basically, when he first came in just did a round of interviews with all of the employees and recognize that like the brand message and like the company message was different for like almost every employee. So that was like, you know, a major light bulb like we need to update our branding and get that concise. So you saw that on both the customer side internally, like prospects and that's becomes like the the main reason to say, okay, we need to do something to kind of solidify this and do a better message.

ML: 12:54
Yeah. And we were surprised how obvious the actual things we ended up changing where it wasn't like we had to, you know, because we are 160 people, there were enough opinions in the group to come up with, you know, the logical choices for a lot of different things. So it ended up being that most of our rebrand and the reasons behind it were actually internal ones. And especially with the rollout, we really focused on getting away from that situation where we had all these different mixed messages across the company. And you know, we're having hundreds of customer meetings a month in sales for instance. And people are saying different things about what we are as a brand that, now when we're in a situation that people are more coherent about it, we get much more of a branding and a marketing benefit out of it. When everybody that speaks with us, here's the same, you know, message about this is what the company actually does. So that's something that now, now that the brand has been rolled out, we're really putting emphasis on is hitting those core messages home.

DA: 13:53
Yeah, it makes sense that you want to have kind of a unified front of messaging, especially from sales because it changes expectations. Changes product, like all kinds of stuff there. So when you were looking at the marketing shifts and changes, you're looking, okay, internally we need to change our messaging and unity it. Is this also mean like, Hey, we need to do our website redo, we need to do like product changes. Are there steps that you lay out in the marketing process to do a major rebrand? Like are you going like priority one through 10, you're trying to get it all done and roll it out in one thing? Is it just like you start internally and then you go next? How does this actually all work?

ML: 14:29
Scattered I guess would be the accurate term. But basically we started with the core and then we started with the visuals after, after that brand strategy, we used an agency externally to help us out with the visual side of things, the visual identity, we rolled that out internally in terms of big picture messaging. Then externally to our customers. That's when we updated the website and all our channels. And, and kind of the core messages there. And we're still going through this from the sense that now, in January we're actually rolling out new products that, that better kind of convey the setup wearing as well. So it was piece by piece, but obviously the big parts in terms of who are we as a company and who are we, you know, who are we solving problems for and what are those problems and how do you communicate around that? Those came at once and then then kind of the, the product offering and everything is, is I guess it's even, you know, we're making decisions as we go that now better reflect the brand position that we chose. So it's, it's kind of a ongoing process I'd say.

DA: 15:40
Yeah. I think, I mean you guys will always use your, your kind of brand now to make all the right moves from, from product decisions to sales decisions, how you build the company, what product options you need to go after. I mean all of that is still based on that ICP that you guys are now changing for. So it's like ICP to brand message and then everything fell from that. My last kind of question here on the branding is when you're going to do like new marketing for the website specifically or like changing your marketing online with lead magnets or your content marketing and you're trying to shift your brand with it, how are you guys testing this? So that you're not just rolling out this new brand that you think is like, right for what you're doing but you're not 100% sure you're obviously still testing. How do you guys go through that kind of trial and error process to make sure what you're doing is actively, going to be reflective of what your prospects are wanting and looking forward to if that's new?

ML: 16:30
Yeah, I think it's always going to be in flux. And then the, then the kind of skill is how much of that messaging can we edit without sounding like we're a completely different company as well. But, the, the testing wise we've, we obviously validate a lot of the terminology that we use both in the, in the interviews we did with customers and prospects and understanding also the language that they were using about our space. Then we just, some of it's very basic, you know, we'll A/B test different, different taglines in different situations and see does that affect how people actually interact with our website. A lot of what we do these days is also keyword research. Just, you know, staying top, on top of what are the, what are people searching for in our space and for our industry. I don't know if this applies to everybody, but we've noticed for instance, that the terminology people use for different data points or different solutions is still very much in flux and it's completely different compared to what it was back in 2014 when we started. And then if you throw in the mix, you know, things like different languages, it gets a lot more complicated, especially with SEO where, I think the Dutch market is a good example of they have four, I don't speak any Dutch, but if I've understood they have four different terms for prospecting and then it's, you know, which one do we choose and what's gonna work and what's, so then we will use things like keyword research and, and kind of, validating with people and then testing different copy on our website to see what works the best.

DA: 18:04
Yeah, that makes sense. And that's, that's a lot of things to test. Obviously the European market probably has unique challenges. Maybe we can talk about that a little bit. Especially with language. That's really interesting. So obviously kind of some of that SEO keyword options on your inbound marketing. You talked about, content generation before, so you're creating kind of this traditional inbound pipeline. But I know you guys specialize also in, you know, identifying prospects at the right time, getting more of that sales data. How do you guys actually utilize some of this external data to kind of trigger a, maybe an outbound or inbound pipeline and maybe give us some ideas of like how you can utilize that data in a sales process?

ML: 18:44
Yeah, yeah. This is a big topic for us internally and this is kind of our mantra for how to do sales overall. We talk about this concept of rea- time sales, which for us, it's not just about, you know, responding to chat messages quickly, but it's also about acting on external data points, quickly in real-time when they take place. So for instance, or you know, essentially just reaching out to people with the right message at the right time based on the things they're going through. So at Vainu our product is actually looking for relevant buying signals on any group of companies. The idea is that anytime you, there's a relevant change that happens in an ICP company, for instance, you'd get notified on that. And, if we take the example of, you know, let's say you're selling to sales, those notifications or those changes that you could get notified on could be anything from changes in the sales leadership to open sales positions or maybe it's around a funding or they implemented a new CRM or they're expanding their business, whatever that change is.

ML: 19:54
So then what we've done basically is we've set up a workflow where any time one of these notifications pops up, it'll trigger a sales and marketing outreach campaign that's, you know, to, to that prospect in question that's tailored to their specific situation. And the idea obviously behind it is to have a better conversation with them, which would lead to higher conversion rates. And at least for us, you know, our, our conversion rates are at almost at the same rate, if not in some cases even better than than with traditional inbound leads. If, if, if it's a very clear trigger that's relevant to our offering, the, the conversion rates are very, very high.

DA: 20:34
That's amazing. A couple of things pop up when you say that stuff. One. We're doing something right now with, with a system similar where if someone has buyer intent, they're coming to our website, they're staying on it for a certain amount of time and they're coming to our pricing page, they're checking us out, we're doing like an outbound campaign to them just reaching out to get in touch with them, like a basic email and really have not had great response with it. So I think are interesting that you guys have these like behavioral triggers as the moment, not just coming to the website. Maybe you do also have some website, but we recently did.

ML: 21:06
Sorry to cut you off. We do have both inbound and outbound, so the same kinds of trigger setups would be built for somebody visiting our website, but then also for things like, you know, those, those external changes that are data points that we're finding.

DA: 21:19
Are you having the same success with both of those things?

ML: 21:22
Yeah, and it would depend per trigger. Obviously, you know, a demo request is going to have a very high conversion rate, but somebody visiting the website may not, the same way. So then we get to things like those external, you know, let's say a sales director starts in a new role and then we reach out to them based off of that. And the content that we, you know, the messaging we do to them is basically, Hey, we've noticed that people in the new sales director role, you know, these are the things that they typically focus on in the first 90 days and here's some content to support you with those objectives. And then that, that's kind of the messaging. And then that's usually been a very good way for us to open up that discussion. And then, you know, then they'll realize, Hey, we need to fix our data set up for, for us to actually be impactful. And then, then we opened the door and then we book a meeting with them, et cetera. So that's, that's the idea behind it. But the, the conversion rates are very good when those triggers are, are relevant to that case. And if you think about us, you know, for sales prospecting for instance, obviously somebody starting in a new role is a good trigger for that.

DA: 22:26
So kind of these personalization points, knowing when people are starting in certain positions, those behavioral triggers, how did you guys actually even uncover that those were the right times to do this? Is this just conversations during the sales process and then marketing is just sitting down for like sales alignment to understand who the best prospects are, what they're going through right now, what their situations are?

ML: 22:46
Yeah, it's, it's very deeply embedded into our company. When, when our, you know, our founders started out, they, they came with a sales background into this space and they were like, they'd struggled figuring out, you know, if I'm only going to be able to make 10 phone calls today, who should they be with? What should I be telling those people to have the best possible sales approach? Right. And then, then that's, that's kind of where we, where we started with it. And essentially what we then do is we've worked with, together with sales to identify different triggers that could work, identify what kind of contents relevant for those prospects in those situations, relative to their pain. And then we use that as a guide for us internally to create content around those topics so that they have something to send in those messages. And then then we test it, you know, basically after that we're just seeing does the trigger work for us or not? And if the conversion rates aren't high enough, then maybe drop that and maybe we'll test out another one. So over time we've seen that these are the, you know, for sales for instance, it's, it's those ones where people are changing, where there's company growth, expansion goals that they need to hit and they need to invest more into sales. That that's the time that they'll typically invest in buying your software as well.

DA: 24:03
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And I think you're also saying something that's very interesting. A lot of our campaigns lead directly to almost like a demo. It's like, Hey, you, you know, were interested in this. Do you want to talk more about it? So like direct to demo, which probably is way too aggressive now that I'm listening to this. So you,

ML: 24:18
Yeah, we typically spread, spread the content first and even, you know, we've run ads at the same time as sales people are reaching out and we'll start with the content always first. Sales people will typically follow up. If we're seeing that they're interacting, then the sales people will follow up and suggest that meeting because we can then show them in practice how they can set up the data to be successful in that situation, et cetera. So, it's, it's in there, but we typically start with the content first and see how they respond.

DA: 24:47
Right?. So you're kind of, you're designing an educational content piece that will educate them but leads them down the pathway that you want to take them down, which is educating them on why they need a certain thing with a specific maybe call to action to learn more. You have a retargeting pixel maybe on there. Then you're retargeting them with Facebook ads to also stay in front of them. If they're actually behaving with this, like reading the articles, hitting the ad, stuff like that. That becomes new triggers for the sales team then to reach out because that is an interested possible buying prospect right there.

ML: 25:18
Exactly.

DA: 25:18
Gotcha. On your content post as you're writing them and you obviously are writing them with here's our outcome, let's make a topic around it, kind of lead them through this, this pathway, this journey of what we want them to know. At the end of that post, is there a call to action to schedule a demo or is it just like pure education? There's no call to action.

ML: 25:35
Our footer has a demo request, so it's, it's down there for sure. There's also links to or suggestions for other content topics and then often we'll also, if somebody is reading a blog post, there will be, you know, a relevant ebook CTA directly embedded there as well. So there, there's multiple different conversion points in those situations.

DA: 25:55
I love that. And with the ad campaigns that are running simultaneously, probably with those retargeting pixels, are you pushing them back to a demo? Are you going to, like you said, an ebook? Is it just to you know, get them to another piece of content to see how actively engaged they are just so the sales team knows how to respond to them and reach out to them?

ML: 26:12
Yeah. If we know what content piece or what campaign they came through, then we're typically, you know, recommending supporting, supporting pieces and it's all about where we're pretty, I'd say we're very good when we get somebody hooked on our content to support them with other pieces until they lead to something. So, that's, that's basically then the retargeting would be around another topic or another piece of content that they could use us for. That the site is very easy to obviously to ask for, the demo for. But then we do work very closely with the sales side of things to, to then do the final punch there. We've just noticed that it's, it's a very easy meeting to take, even if you wouldn't normally still put your contact info in. So, yeah, that's, that's the approach there.

DA: 26:58
No, I absolutely love this. This is a fantastic campaign. It's given me a ton of ideas and rethinking totally our strategy on this. So absolutely love it. Thanks for being so transparent on it and sharing so much. So want to circle back to some of the other challenges that you mentioned before. I think again, you kind of have this unique geo location specific advantage. You also, like you said, started kind of early in Europe and SaaS, which gave you probably a leg up in just, you know, advertising and content, having the sales pipeline that you needed to get in. So lots of cool opportunity there, but you do have some unique challenges in the European market. What are some of those challenges that you've had to work through? You mentioned language as a big one too.

ML: 27:38
Yeah, language is definitely one, business environment the other, you know, like what cultures are different, the legal environment, the ecosystems that people work with. With, with language, you know, it's, it's just a lot more work. It's not that it's any harder, but what we'll have to, you know, adapt SEO to every language. You'll need to update the ads. All the content we need, we work with. We need to make sure that it's relevant both for that market, but then also that it's, it's as impactful as possible. But also it's, you know, it's surprising how differently people sell in different countries. When you really get into the details of it, the CRMs that people use are different. Obviously we have the big, big ones here as well, but Salesforce being number one, but there are other ones that are also local players that are fairly significant.

ML: 28:30
Different sales approaches are, you know, are more popular in different companies. Some countries are more of an inbound company, country and then others are more outbound. Then there's GDPR with all of that, both for marketing itself, but then also in our industry working in data, there's a lot around the product and how do we communicate and explain that we're doing things in compliance with GDPR, et cetera. So there's a lot, there's just a lot more work I'd say it's not that anything is harder, but just that it's, it's double work anytime you go to a new language base.

DA: 29:05
So I think there's a lot of opportunity for like American companies, US companies to like break into the European market. Obviously there's some barriers. Nothing that you said it's overall insanely challenging. It's just about like understanding the cultural and sales processes in the countries doing, you know, operational language breakdowns. Did you guys build offices in each country? Did you bring in sales people from different countries to bring that understanding of like the culture? Like how did you guys overcome some of those pieces and what would be your advice to US companies looking to wanting to expand?

ML: 29:38
We have hired locally into the markets that we go into. I think the American traditional route, is just, you know, set up an office in probably Ireland because of the tax reasons and then have a European strategy for how you reach out to everybody in Europe regardless of the country. We've promoted coming to the Nordics a lot just because, you know, people are great with English here. They're extremely open and reliable when it comes to communicating around business. They're tech savvy. Another thing I've noticed is that outbound is extremely easy in Finland compared to going over to the States and, and seeing what it's like in New York. You know, you'll, you'll basically just make a lot less dials for the same amount of pickups. A good example from Finland would be that the, prime minister's phone number is on her website and you know, if I make a hundred phone calls, in Finland, I'm going to get easily got 40 pickups out of that and have a good conversation with a lot of people there.

DA: 30:39
Well, there you go. People that are listening. Number one advice from this episode. Start marketing in Finland.

ML: 30:46
Exactly. Start with the prime minister. I'm sure she's not busy at all right now.

DA: 30:51
She would love our platform, I'm sure.

ML: 30:53
Yeah, exactly. But I would say that that going to different markets, having somebody speaking to them in the local language, even if it's just one local hire that can help in the situations where there may be a language barrier, culture barrier. It's, it's definitely an effective way to scale up as well. You know, we got to our first 10 million ARR in just a couple of years in only the Nordic, so it's not that hard to do in my, in my opinion.

DA: 31:22
That's fantastic. And again, congratulations. You guys are doing an amazing job and I guess looking back over this year, since you kind of joined, this marketing team again, any hard lessons learned, any things that didn't work out as planned, things that you wish you could go back and do again?

ML: 31:38
Well, I'm sure there's a lot that we missed out on. That, that's probably the easiest one. You know, especially when we started knowing that, okay, we're going to focus on brand. And that took up a lot of our time and then there's a million things we're already doing with content and building out these trigger workflows. So there was a lot that we're doing. And I think the biggest, you know, with a small team, it's always a struggle knowing what's going to have the highest impact. And I think our mistake maybe this year has just been spreading ourselves a bit too thin instead of really focusing on only a couple things and really working on being awesome and impactful in those, you know, maybe only be on one social media channel actively way. Only have one content type that you really, really focus on whatever it is. But we just had a workshop the other day and the number one takeaway was let's commit to less and, and put a bit more effort into being as high in the conversions in those, in some of those channels as possible. So I think it's more that we didn't say no enough was our biggest mistake this year.

DA: 32:36
Yeah, and I'll say just, you know, talking to people on this podcast, it's a common mistake that we all make. I think we all reach for bigger numbers doing more. So we're trying to do more things and everyone's got these smaller marketing teams, even super funded companies and it's just we can't do it all. Can't do everything perfect. So focus on like one to three things that you can do really well and dial deep on them. That's a great lesson to learn though and something you guys can definitely take into 2020 and saying that, sitting at the end of 2019 what are you guys most excited about? Any challenges or opportunities that you see maybe from the industry or from the company side looking forward?

ML: 33:14
Yeah, as at the company, I think we could definitely do more with ABM and being in the data space, you know we want to kind of take that personalization even further. We want to incorporate intent data into our setup and maybe personalize even more customer interactions. Things like, you know, adapting the website based on the triggers that somebody came to our website with, et cetera. Is, is something that we're, we're talking about, but we haven't really got there yet. So that's, that's what we're doing next. I, overall for the industry as well, especially the data field, I feel that, you know, the more data we can use as marketers and become more personalized with, with those insights that we have is really something that our industry, you know, sales intelligence should definitely be pushing because that's, I think something that we have to offer and we have the data for it. So it's, the technology is there but people aren't, aren't quite there yet, so we need to spread the word.

DA: 34:09
There's definitely a lot of tools that are coming out more around the personalization. You obviously talked a lot about the personalization and the sales process, but like website changes. I know there's like Proof Experiences that have come out. There's a couple of other software that are coming out to do like a website changes based on personalization. Is that something that you guys would use? One of those kind of tools?

ML: 34:28
Yeah, for sure. But then it's also just, you know, again, we want to bring our data into that as well, so, so that personalization shouldn't just be based on what they're doing with us, but also based on anything else happening that, that we have the information for. So it should we, you know, any situation in sales, it, I think it's about for or, or you know, any industry. But first it's about understanding the situation that the person's in and then making their experience better because of that. So, anything we can do, using the data that's out there I think is important.

DA: 34:58
I mean, it makes a lot of sense. You say this stuff and it seems like a pretty straight forward thing. It's like, Hey, the more you know about your prospect, the better your sales experience is going to be.

ML: 35:08
And you know, going back to the States is really, everybody has an activity goal, you make a hundred pickups and then that's gonna lead to some kind of outcome. And then, you know, really it's about the volume side of things and now we have the data, we have the technology to actually make those hundred pickups mean something, have a good conversation. Maybe one day you only call new sales director hires. You know, it's, it's not like it needs to be all this work and effort to have a better conversation with those prospects. It's about using the data that's available.

DA: 35:40
I think it's a big shift from the qual... quantitative mindset to a qualitative mindset. And I think, you know, thinking of ABM and stuff like that, these are initiatives that really start to focus on quality. Who are the people that matter most. More about them. Less about the dials that you make in a day.

ML: 35:57
Right. But I did, it's funny because anytime we pitched this idea, the, the sales director just answers, but we still need to, we want to fix the activity first or whatever it is. Right. And kind of our whole point is have those quantitative goals as well, but let's just make them better. Than that that's really the focus there.

DA: 36:17
Makes a ton of sense. Exciting stuff. I think a lot of this is like, you know, more just the state of where we are right now with SaaS. Having the ability to get this information. So it makes a lot of sense, is exciting for all the companies to just improve marketing and proving our conversations and relationships with our customers and our prospects. It's an exciting time. But based on time, what I want to do now is I want to flip over to our lightning round questions. Just five questions I'll ask you and you can answer with the first best thought that comes to mind. Do you want to get started?

ML: 36:46
Sure. I'm ready.

DA: 36:47
All right. You gonna do great. All right. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?

ML: 36:54
Put your product in front of as many people as possible. Either you're going to have product market fit in the beginning and you should be scaling up more quickly or you don't and you need the feedback. So really just put your product in front of as many people as possible.

DA: 37:09
I love that. Without fear. Just get out there.

ML: 37:11
Yup. Yup. That's the only way you can improve.

DA: 37:14
What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?

ML: 37:19
I'll go old school and answer copywriting. Nothing beats a good story.

DA: 37:25
That's probably our number one answer there. It's a fantastic thing. I think everyone can improve on that. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

ML: 37:35
So I have a Feedly account that has a ton of different blogs I read every single day. Currently I've been liking Lincoln Murphy's content. He's at 16Ventures. It's not just marketing, it's not just growth, it's kind of the space in general, but a lot of it is focused around around the marketing aspect as well. So I like that.

DA: 37:54
Yeah, that's a good, that's a good recommendation. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

ML: 37:58
It's called Follow Up Then. I've been working with inbox zero basically. So basically you can just forward emails to yourself in the future. I've been working with inbox zero for several years and I get anxiety anytime I see somebody's inbox that's full of stuff, so Follow Up Then if I'm not going to respond to it right now, push it in the future. Otherwise I'm archiving everything and keeping my inbox empty.

DA: 38:19
I love that. I have the same anxiety with email and I have like a news process on Gmail. I got to check out inbox zero, but I have that same thing. I even get like anxious when I have like five emails in there, so I get it.

ML: 38:31
Yeah, yeah. I try to push anything I can.

DA: 38:34
Yeah, it's a good tool. What about a brand business or a team that you admire today?

ML: 38:39
I really love what the team at Notion is doing currently. They're disrupting so many fields. It's a fairly small team and then just overall they have, you know, the quirky message and the beautifully simple design. I, I really look up to them and how they do marketing right now.

DA: 38:56
God, I love that company. I love that tool so much. That's a really good one. Yeah. Good example of someone that can revolutionize with simplicity and a good all in one tool. So fantastic job there. And I just want to say thank you to you for jumping on here. You know, sharing so much today. It's fantastic to have you.

ML: 39:15
Of course. Thanks so much, David.

DA: 39:17
Yeah, it was a real pleasure. Thanks again. Good luck next year. Congratulations and we'll talk to you soon.

ML: 39:22
Thanks. We'll work on getting, getting this year wrapped up. Have a good one.

DA: 39:27
Wow. That was a fantastic episode. Thank you so much for listening, for staying the entire time here, finishing this episode. Big shout out to Mikko and the entire Vainu team who are absolutely crushing it up there in Finland. They're just doing amazing things. Really, really proud of what they're doing as a bootstrap company, particularly. (...)

Resources:
Learn More About Vainu:
https://www.vainu.com/
Connect With Mikko:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikkoluhtava/
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