Hey Theresa, welcome back to the SaaS breakthrough podcast. Super excited to have you back again, to have Showpad back a year later, kind of hear there more about what's been going on. How are you, first of all?
Thank you so much for having me back, David. I am great and I am very excited to kind of tell you what's been going on over the last year. It's been a wild and fun ride.
That's what I've heard. I've heard you guys have been on a pretty amazing trajectory and I want to learn more about this. So, let's just jump right in. Tell us a little bit about what's been going on since the last time we spoke.
Well, just to start the sales enablement space has exploded around the world. I mean, just really grown like crazy and in reflection, Showpad has been growing like crazy. So, we've expanded in Europe, so opening offices in Munich in London in addition to our headquarters in Belgium and here in Chicago, our US headquarters where I'm based, we've grown from a hundred people when you and I talked last year, to over a hundred and fifty today.
So, that was huge. Last year we acquired LearnCore, the leading provider of sales onboarding training and coaching software and nine months later that was fully integrated into the Showpad platform. So, I mean all this just means like new teammates, new customer, it's been, it's been a really fun strong growth here.
That is fantastic. I mean sometimes just looking at the number of team members and the expansion there is, just such a great indicator of what's going on inside of a company. So, that's fantastic and congratulations. Last time, we were kind of talking about would it look like from the global expansion point of view and now looking back, you guys have those multiple offices. How has that experience been kind of just building out the international side?
It's been fun and it's been a challenge. I will say that there were some lessons that we learned as we went globally and one of the ones is just in understanding the nuances of international markets. So, what problems are top of mind? What messaging resonates? How do we approach public relations? How do we balance global content with regional content?
So, we're in a great spot right now but it was definitely a journey really understanding what was important for those markets and how to be globally consistent and regionally relevant. So, great problems to have, growth problems but we did learn a lot over the last year.
Was there ever a moment of just frustration having to deal with so many different pieces of that equation in so many different locations at one time?
I wouldn't say frustration, I will say again it's just trying to balance because every, doesn't matter how big your organization is whether you're 10 people or 500,000, no one has the resources to do everything you want to do and so the learning lesson was to really understand the market, understand and align with the sales people and then, just share with them what the priorities are.
And often, people want the whole list but if you just focus on priorities and you agree with the top ten and that's where your budget ends, you might be equally disappointed but at least it's a shared set of priorities. So, it was definitely more work if you're just in the US or just in one country. It's easier but it's, I think, like anything that's more challenging, it's more fun when you finally crack the code.
Definitely. That's the best part of the challenge there and I think last time we talked about that prioritization so it's so great to hear that it has won out and became such a big part of the growth process. But let's talk about some of those key experiments that you guys are running. What do you think really helped with that, that stellar growth across the past year outside of the acquisition? Were there key things or initiatives that you took on?
Yeah. I'm going to probably say this word a lot as we talk through but I'm going to talk about aligning with sales on priorities because I will say there were a couple of times where for example, we aligned on what we were going to do but we didn't align in what we weren't going to do. And it's equally as important to have that conversation with sales. One of the marketing tactics that is really visible to sales is events.
They can see them, they see the people, they feel them and so you may give them a list of “Here are the events we're going to go to” but equally important, you need to say “Here are the ones we're not going to go to” and get alignment on that. Because when salespeople see competitors there, maybe they heard a colleague went, it brings it up so you will just have that continual conversation about prioritization.
So, I'll keep coming back to that but experiments, there were two or three I might want to highlight. The first one is our mix of digital and events by region. And this varied according to both what the culture of the region was, in what the market maturity was, what digital channels were available to us, what content did we have in that language?
So, over the last year we did a lot of experimenting with how we can leverage digital more effectively in different regions. So, just playing with the split between digital and events and then within digital the different channels. So, that's something that worked out really well. Probably the other one that I am pretty excited about is ‘Transform’.
So, ‘Transform’. It will be the largest sales enablement conference with more than a thousand attendees split between London and Chicago. So, Showpad had done another event in Belgium called ‘Transform’ for several years. We've rebranded it as ‘Transformed’ and launched it in Chicago last year. In our first event, I think we had about 300 attendees which was great for our first year but now, we're making it into a kind of a two continent event really focused on best practices for sales marketing and sales enablement.
And it's been a great way to give something back to the community and to grow the Showpad brand. So, that was a big experiment that that went really well and then the third one that I think everyone is playing with is account based marketing. We did a pilot last year in Europe. A small pilot and just learned a lot from it and got the excitement from sales and we're going to be launching a U.S. pilot and then expanding that, moving forward.
So, those are like three experiments that we learned a lot from and that we're expanding in the coming year.
That is fantastic. Super good detail there as well. When you do a lot of the digital initiatives, do those change in the different regions or you just kind of rolling out like for each different region we're going to do Facebook Ads, some SEO and content marketing and we're just going to do them each area and then figure them out for that or is that can just kind of adding too many variables into it? You just start with one, how does it?
First, we start with our waterfall model to set really specific targets for each region according to their revenue target. So, everything we do is like, I was an English major I never thought I would be doing so much Math but in the end, marketing is a lot of Math.
That was pretty diverting.
So, is having those really specific targets and then the channels do because we look at performance. And so you look at performance and that tells you do you invest more in LinkedIn or do you invest more in Facebook? Or for example, in Germany, there's a LinkedIn like platform called Zing. So, that's something we do in Germany, we don't do in the other regions so we really do look at it by a region.
And as we go, we're getting more content and more assets in French and German and we'll continue to get more granular in terms of our testing of what types of ads resonate with the different markets. Because we do know that different messaging resonates. So, it's just a continual process of experimentation and measurement and in iteration.
I love it. I love that. What about product marketing and product launches? How has that been over the past year? I think last year on the show, we talked, we were talking about some upcoming new things, upcoming new features and functions and things you're really excited about and how kind of Showpad was being used by the company itself. Any major lessons you've learned during this process as you've just grown the product?
It's been great because not surprisingly basically because we focus on sales enablement. We've spent a lot of time in the last year focusing on enablement even before we go externally so we look at product launches just making sure the entire go to market organization. Because sales enablement is where most organizations start because it's the closest to revenue.
But you're looking at revenue enablement or go to market enablement so professional services, client success, just making sure that everyone is interacting with customers is ready for that product launch. So, for us that means having the right content for every part of the conversation that they can share using the Showpad content solution as well as making sure that we use our own technology for sales onboarding, for training and coaching, not only for product launches or sales kickoffs but for continuous learning.
So, a lot of progress and focused this year about now using our own technology and building processes to support product launches as well as just continual learning and then again, to go back to the global part of this is understanding and setting clear expectations with all the regions, with all of this, how much of it is going to be a global content or global processes and how much will be adapted for those regions? And as long as everyone is aligned on that, you set clear expectations people are quite happy with that.
This is kind of an odd question but more operational. How are you actually disseminating some of that information? We've recently gotten Notion and have been doing more and more systems based in there to really try to make sure information is spread throughout the company. Everyone knows the language, knows the wording, knows how to talk about those different pieces of the product updates. What do you guys actually use to make sure that people are reading and updating and are focused on the new language and how to sell stuff?
Wow. I could not have paid you to ask a better question, David. Thank you so much. We use the Showpad platform. So, Showpad has two major modules. The first one is content so it's allowing sales to easily find the content that they want to share with customers and then making it easy to share with the customers. On the backend, marketing can see what they're sharing and measure the impact of it including what's tied to close one revenue. So, we get to see what's actually working.
The other part of it is show that coach which is onboarding training and coaching. So, we actually talked about a recent project that we did so we were rolling out a new sales presentation and new messaging. So, my CRO, Donald Taiko and I, walked through the presentation not only to give the presentation but to give the context behind it.
So, in our coach solution, we delivered the presentation, the training, that Don and I did, a script and then the reps could not only view that but they were required to do what we call a pitch IQ so they had to give the presentation virtually for their manager to review and provide feedback. And what's great about that process is that we find with our customer base, that customers will on average practice view a presentation 6.6 times before they submitted.
So, just the act of asking them to submit a presentation essentially forces them to practice it. So, it's a great way to roll that out and not just throw it over the wire but really ensure that people are engaged with the content that they retain it and most importantly that when they get in front of customers, that they are that skilled salesperson that trusted advisor that the buyer is required today.
That is awesome. I love that feature. That's fantastic and so I'm going to flip this question because we talked before about some of the things that have worked well over the past year. But what about some major fumbles along the way? We all kind of misstep along the way, I think those become our biggest learning moments. Anything you can point to over the past year?
I talked about one earlier in terms of understanding nuances of international markets and I think that really has been one of our biggest learnings over the last year. And I'll have some hubris on this but I think as Americans, we often think that global means US first and then, we'll figure out the rest of the world.
And if your revenue is there and your team is there, it's a natural starting point but very quickly you have to understand that while it's a large market that there are other markets that are also big and that have different dynamics and there are different stages of growth perhaps for the products that you have to sell. There may be different industries there and for example, in Germany there's not a word for sales enablement. It's brand new there so it's very different than selling in an established market like the United States.
So, again we're in a great place now but it really took listening closely to my marketing colleagues to the sales team who they're my clients as well as to the people in market to understand what are the problems that that market is trying to solve and how can we message that in a way that's consistent with the Showpad brand in a way that resonates. And it hasn't been a smooth journey but it's been a really fulfilling one.
Yeah. That makes sense when you're going into a market that is maybe a little bit earlier, you now have to go through all the education process for that market and it's no longer the same marketing messaging when you go and you realize okay, Germany is really maybe too early for sales enablement. Is that you see that opportunity or would you see that as maybe we should move to a market that's already established for more low-hanging fruit and why would you make those different decisions?
Well, in this case, we saw it as a massive opportunity because while they may not have a term for sales enablement, their sales team have the same challenges that any other sales team has. They can't find the right content and I think marketers worldwide cringe when they see materials that sales is building and sales is building content because they don't have what they need. So, when we talk in that market, we talk about increasing sales productivity and increasing marketing impact.
Those are the two big values that we bring and that resonates really well with the German market. So, it's really what we're finding. We're not even needing to change the messaging, we're just leading with those direct benefits to sales and marketing and talking about aligning marketing to deliver the best buyer experience and that's been resonating great. Because they have the same problems, they just haven't necessarily coined the term for it yet.
Yeah. Pain points the same, just not the same language. That makes a lot of sense. That's what the experiments are for right? To figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Well, that's fantastic. You mentioned that sales enablement has blown up over the past few years. Why now and why do you think it's been so great at this exact moment? Is it just great timing for you guys or have you guys been pushing into thought leadership more and kind of expanding it yourselves?
Well, we certainly have been focusing on thought leadership especially in some of these emerging markets so I do like to think that we're contributing to the sales enablement growth and the conversation. I think the other part of it is that buyer expectations just continue to be more and more demanding. I mean all of the experiences we have as consumers are very rapidly changing our expectations as B2B buyers and sales needs not only the right content and buyer experiences.
So, not just focusing right on that top of the funnel and having a great website and then when you get to the salesperson, you have a content that looks old or your sales person is not knowledgeable. But really thinking about that buyer experience from the first anonymous web visit to creating hopefully an army of customer advocates. I think that's why it's blowing up now because as buyers, buyers are demanding it and organizations need to know how to handle both that the content part as well as upping the skills on a continual basis for their team.
Yeah. That makes sense and with it moving so fast, the marketplace and the tools that we have, where do you see it all going? Do you see it just continuing to get more personal and more relationship driven?
Yeah. I think relationships personalization are key trends and our vision is that the best buyer experience wins and we really are thinking about experience first. It's how it's how we're driving our strategy and I think that is where the industry is going to go, is thinking about experience and thinking about the buyer. So, while it's sales enablement, I think what the industry is going to continue to do is look at our expectations and figure out whether its software or processes or tools.
How can we help the people who work on the front lines with customers exceed us by our expectations that helps them differentiate from the competition in accelerate sales by exceeding those by our expectations? So, I think that's where the sales enablement industry is going to go so probably broaden a little bit over time.
Yeah. You're definitely also feel like that's never going to go away, right? I feel like some of the talk to SaaS marketers are working in a company that's very niche and solving a specific pain point, you guys are solving a very industrywide is B2B specific pain point that i think will always be there but in a really smart fashion.
I was going to say the other trend that i think is super interesting depending on the industry and the market is there are some industries and markets where people still do a lot of face-to-face selling. So, manufacturing or medical devices and then there are fields like software and technology that do mostly virtual selling. And then, there's a whole lot of industries that do a mixture of both and that's probably the majority.
And I think as more of the traditional industries incorporate more virtual selling or inside selling, both the need and the opportunity to focus on experience is going to grow because when you're not standing with someone in front of them and having that personal relationship, you rely on your digital presence to convey that experience. So, sales enablement and solutions like Showpad are going to have an even bigger impact is that that trend moves forward.
How do you feel about video selling like video demos and webinars and stuff like that, is that going to be a continual big piece of that?
I think it will. Part of it is I've been in enterprise software sales my whole career so of something, I'm very familiar with but we're seeing even again more traditional industries using video even when they're face-to-face or using a mixture of virtual meetings and face-to-face meetings so that trend is going to continue to grow and the line between field sales and inside sales will blur and people will just use a combination of both.
Yeah. I think that's like you said part of the industry changing itself more tools for video more tools like Showpad that can actually give you overall understanding of what's happening in that sales process just making everything so much easier. So, that's a fantastic growth opportunity for the entire industry for B2B. I'm excited for that, I'm a big proponent for better relationships especially through sales so that's amazing.
What about hiring through this whole process? Over the past year you went what five times on your team size. Are you part of that hiring process? What does that like to bring people into these different markets and this growing marketing team?
So, I love building teams. It's something that's been really exciting and rewarding and I'm happy to say I have a really great team and when people outside the organization meet my team they tell me how great they are
Yeah. Thank you. It makes me really happy. So, some positions have taken longer than we wanted for sure and then when I had a few that we're just serendipitous. Like the perfect candidate appears just as we're posting the job reg so that's great but thinking about some steps to smooth hiring. One, I use this word a lot right, alignment on the job description and clear success metrics so that everybody is aligned.
Everyone like all the co-workers, the management, the recruiters and the individual coming in that everybody has the same expectations that has been really important. Having a great talent acquisition partner, we're lucky we have a great recruiting team in-house but we have a process and we have a kickoff call, we review profiles on LinkedIn so everybody has a shared vision of the ideal candidate.
We have scorecards so that we can all provide feedback on the skills or experiences that are most important and every interviewer has to complete a scorecard or an offer won't be approved so it's a great discipline for the team. We do weekly syncs with our recruiters to make sure that they stay focused and just like we focus on a great buyer experience, we focus on a candidate experiences.
So, like we have generally for interviewers, a clear process to make an offer so we have defined and again, this is something like if you asked me a year ago, I didn't have this process but we've worked over the last year and it's really helped streamline the hiring. And then, I think equally important is onboarding so we have a strong onboarding program both at the corporate level and the go-to-market level and using our technology of course.
But some members on our marketing team, we hired a lot of people over the last year and they just expressed that there are a lot of things that it took them a while to know or to find and they wish it had been more programmatic. So, three people who have started within the last six months put together a marketing onboarding program and we've had I think two hires since then so it's been a great way for the team to put processes in place to scale.
And I think it really demonstrates that when you hire the kind of people who are solution developers, they see a problem, they grab it, they run with it and just makes the whole team better.
I love that. I have a huge smile on my face. I love hiring and onboarding in the systems behind it. It sounds like you guys have really fine-tuned that process and I can see how that recruiter process that whole thing is almost like the sales process, that constant alignment with what you're looking for continuing through the process and then a nice value driven onboarding sequence there and you got to love when your team turns around and finds improvements like you said.
I do want to quickly ask on the first part you said alignment on KPIs. Is that specifically where for instance your marketing department has one specific alignment or every new hire has a new maybe responsibility list and KPIs that they will be specifically responsible for? And how do you develop that? How do you actually come up with which KPIs people are responsible for?
So, for the marketing team at a high level, we do have metrics that everybody is responsible for and that is not only MQLs and SQLs. I probably said this last time but Matt Heinz has a great saying and said “You can't buy a beer with an MQL”. In the end, it's about pipeline and revenue because you can only buy beer with money or maybe good friends. So, everybody on the team is aligned to that but then, depending on what your specific role is, you'll have different metrics.
So, our PR team is responsible for a certain number of placements each quarter. Our digital team is looking at improving the effectiveness of the digital ads. I hired an SEO strategist and he's responses metric is on we have keywords and what's our progress on those keywords? So, it really helps get everybody aligned and then when you come in and like “Hey, at the end of the quarter, these are the two things that you're going to be measured on” and make sure that they're focused on the right thing.
And gives a way to for both me and the person to say “Did it work? Did it not work? How do we want to adjust?”
I love it. Yeah. That's super helpful and it makes it very easy like you said to know what they do every day as they come in and get to work. That's fantastic. And where do you see Showpad going? Where's the marketing going? What are you excited about here the rest of 2019 after such a stellar 12 months? How do you continue to move that forward?
Oh gosh. There's no shortage of opportunities. We will continue to expand geographically and I feel like everything we've learned over the last year, we're getting closer to knowing exactly what to do in each market that we go into and if we talk a year from now, I'll probably say we have a toolkit we could just drop it in there so that is one. And I think the other thing that we're really looking at is focusing more on personalization in our marketing.
So, that's another really big opportunity for the marketing team to help Showpad grow. So, the market is there in every geography. It really is for us about continuing product innovation and then just scaling the go-to-market teams.
Pretty much every guest on here recently has been talking about personalization, that's such a hot topic. What would that mean for you guys in your team? What does personalization in your marketing actually require?
So, we're looking at it in context for some of our segments and for moving toward ABM so if I back up, our salespeople are already doing some extent of personalization using our tool so being able to customize the content that they're sharing. We actually have in our tool something called Shared Spaces where a salesperson can easily create this little micro site that is branded for the company that they're selling to.
They can put all the content there, the prospect can share that with other people on the team because usually there's more stakeholders than the sales person knows about and they can collaborate right in the content. So, we've already enabled our sales team to really do more personalized content sharing and make it interactive. I think that's the other thing personalization is important but to me the back half of that is interactive, like has to be interactive from a marketing team.
That means that as we get deeper in our knowledge of our ICPs, our ideal customer profiles, our personas that plus knowledge of specific accounts, lets us partner with sales to communicate in a way that really demonstrates to those prospects that we understand them and their business.
And whether it's personalization on the web based on what they're demographics might be your previous engagement with us, we can personalize email, digital ads, based on the knowledge we have about the customer again, whether its demographics and a combination of engagement. But the more we know about someone, the more we can personalize how we engaged with them. It's like as you get to know a person, your conversation becomes more personal.
It's the same strategy and marketing as we get to know someone, we can just be more personal in how we communicate with them.
Yeah. It makes so much sense to me. I'm totally seeing how it's all going to go and I think you guys are going to be in for great opportunity and you said a huge opportunity for growth if you bring in that personalization area and Showpad already just sounds like such an invaluable tool, I absolutely love it. Fantastic. Well, what I want to do now is that I want to jump over to our lightning round questions. Last time you did this but maybe your thoughts have changed maybe you have some new answers but do you have time for another round?
I didn't go review my answers so we'll see how they changed over the last year. Let's do it.
Let's do it. What advice do you have for early-stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?
Align with sales especially on metrics and that has to be pipeline and revenue. Align on priorities because you can't do everything experiment measure and improve.
I love it. Both of those things coming from the past twelve-ish months of learning and actual experience there. What marketing skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?
Communication. Marketing is really complex today and it's essential to be able to communicate clearly to your team members, to executives and other stakeholders, know what you're doing, why you're doing it and what's working.
How do you help your team improve communication? Is that something that you just continually talk about?
A lot of it is mentoring and because marketers are highly specialized, it's really easy for people to get excited and to go into the weeds of all the details are doing but to be able to bubble that up into something that is compelling for an executive is pretty hard. So, it's a lot of one-on-one working with people to help them distill the essence right. The old saying is “I didn't have time to write a short story so I wrote a novel”, it takes time to distill and so those are the some of the skills that we're helping team members build.
The essence. I love that. What is the best resource you'd recommend from marketing today?
Showpad content and the reason why I'm saying this, like I'm trying not to push my platform too much but here's the deal. As marketers, we have so much knowledge at the top of the funnel, right? You can look at it email and digital ads and who's viewed it, who's opened it, who's clicked it, what has converted to a lead? What's tied to revenue? And we can see everything.
And most organizations, when you look at the bottom of the funnel content. So, all the stuff that sales is sharing with customers and there's no quantifiable way to see what the impact is. Product marketing will survey sales and listen to the squeaky wheels and that's how they'll improve but it's really invaluable now and even internally, we're turning on some light bulbs where we have demand campaigns that have funnel all the way down to like the bottom of the funnel.
And product marketing is like “Oh. I need to create some new content to create continuity of experience between the top of the funnel and what the sales person is delivering”. So, think about that, if you think about the funnel all the way to the end Showpad or a platform like Showpad can be really invaluable.
Yeah. That's a great answer. What about a favorite marketing tool you can't live without and maybe Showpad?
Of course, it's Showpad. Okay. I'll give you another one. Just to see you think I'm not like pumping it too much and I think this is the same answer. This one I think is the same as last year which is because I know it's not super sexy but I'm going to say marketing automation and we use Marketo. But it's just the backbone of a lot of what we do.
It has great data and believe me, we have a list of like fun like sexy tools that we use and we're looking at but sometimes it's the bread and butter right that makes the world go around the mix of analogies and I think you get what I'm talking about.
Absolutely. It's about the basics always. What about a brand business team that you admire today?
So, I thought about this, the U.S. women's soccer team. They won the World Cup and they were not only great athletes but they use their platform to advocate for equal pay not just for equal work, right? But for more viewers and higher ratings than the men's team and I really admire people who use their platform for social justice, they make the world a better place.
Wow. That was a well thought out answer and I totally agree with you. I am blown away by what they did this summer and just a fantastic team, some fantastic voices there. But thank you so much for joining me again back here on the SaaS breakthrough podcast as always true, so you're fantastic you come on here and you just give so much freedom from and conversation is flies by. So, thank you again.
Thank you for having me, David. It's always a pleasure.
It is a pleasure and we'll talk to you soon. Have a great day.
How amazing was that take episode bringing Teresa O'Neil back from Showpad. The big shout out to Showpad and Teresa for coming on sharing so much, being so transparent sharing the lessons and learnings over the past twelve months. So, incredible to see when these companies come back. We get to learn from their growth and where they were to where they are today. I just love these stories.(…)