Pradeepa Kolli and Martin Garvey on the Role of [Redacted] in Sales and Marketing

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Kris Rudeegraap
Pradeepa Kolli and Martin Garvey on the Role of [Redacted] in Sales and Marketing


Kris Rudeegraap: Hello, hello, everybody, and welcome back to another episode of the GTM Roulette Podcast. I am your host, Kris Rudeegraap. I am the CEO and Co-Founder of Sendoso. And today I've got some amazing guests. I'll let them each introduce themselves. Let's start with you, Deepa.

Pradeepa Kolli: Hello. Hi. Thanks, Kris, for having me. Very excited to be spending some time here with you all. So, I am Pradeepa. I'm currently working for the Edeco Group, which is a Fortune 500 company. We are the world's leader in talent solutions and HR space, which means we provide end-to-end HR consultancy services. My previous experience has been working with three successful startups, have been a huge fan of Sendoso and have used it with my team, where I'm running a sales development function here for strategic prospecting, specifically around enterprise segment, so been using it for a good four to five years now. so I'm excited to share any best practices.

Kris: Thank you so much. Welcome to the show, and I’ll pass it over to you, Martin. 

Martin Garvey: It's a nice segue from what Deepa said. So, I’m Martin Garvey, I head up enterprise sales for Gong in EMEA, been with the company for nearly two years now. First actual official role in SaaS. Started life as a management consultant and then had a few other jobs in various big companies, but as I said first job in SaaS and loving every minute of it. Phenomenal company, and like yourselves, Deepa, we work very closely with Sendoso as well.

Kris: So I'm going to do the fun part of the show which is where we kick off and spin the wheel to see what channel we are going to go deep on today. So I'm going to share my screen here and we will get going on this spin the wheel.

[Roulette wheel spins]

Kris: And today's topic is going to be…community! All right. So this is a fun topic that we'll get into. I'm gonna stop sharing my screen so we can jump in and start talking about community.

Kris: So I think let's get going just a kind of general, like how have you seen, you know, community play out in sales and marketing over the last few years? Any first topics that anyone wants to chime in on?

Pradeepa: Community in the sense of prospecting community or customer communities?

Kris: Yeah, I think it could go all the different ways. I think there's customer communities, I think there's peer group communities, like Pavilions of the world. I think there's communities like advisor communities where you leverage your advisor community to drive prospecting or brand awareness. I've also seen communities around potential topics like if you're really into sales development, there’s sales development communities and using those as a means to learn from and market into.

Kris: So I think communities, we could take it in a couple of different ways. I have a few ideas myself as well.

Martin: Happy to jump in and share one of the things we've been doing at Gong. We've built something called the Visioneer Community. What, effectively what it is, is it's customers, customer networking. And so there's different questions, customers are posting, they're sharing best practices, we have leaderboards where people earn points.

Martin: It's kind of that peer-to -peer customer network. It's the first time I've really experienced this here. It's relatively early days for us, but the feedback so far has been incredible.I mean, it's all well and good working with Gong, but like what's better than working with us is understanding how other customers have experienced something, be it like interacting with Salesforce, like a desktop app or heavy extract calls, whatever that is. So we're really trying to create that community amongst our customers to continue building what we continue to call like “raving fans”.

Kris: I love that. Yeah, I think the thing that I see a trend there is that, you know, as buyers are looking to, you know, I think, reinvent the sales process at times to figure out how do they want that journey to figuring out what's the best solution, figuring out you know amongst their peers what tech they should be buying, the community like you said is a great way for somebody to go in and talk to another customer versus maybe historically you know, 10 years ago your first entry point would be maybe talking to sales right away. 

Kris: And so I think companies that are embracing this, like, “Let's let our customers engage with our prospective customers,” is creating some really interesting goodwill and a really new buyer's journey, which is ultimately generating more pipeline and more leads quicker into the funnel. 

Pradeepa: I think from my perspective, Kris, I can start with the prospecting first. So we used to sell an internal comms product at Meta called Workplace, which is now integrated into Workvivo with Zoom. So as a part of prospecting, the SDRs used to check for internal comms leader communities on LinkedIn. So it really starts from, you know, for example, if you're talking to HR leaders, there's HR leader community, like sales development communities. So there's a lot of opportunities we generate just right from that community.

Pradeepa: And then once the prospecting is done, and there's also a lot of emphasis on user clubs at Nutanix. So going back into my good old days at Nutanix, there was a huge emphasis on hosting user club events from customers. Customers like speaking opportunities, the CEO firmly believed in bringing customers together, 10, 12 customers per region, and a customer thought leadership series on one customer. And it's a good one to really invite prospects who are already in the pipeline stage. Not the brand new prospects, but really prospects who are in the opportunity or in the stage four of the pipeline.

Pradeepa: So those kinds of communities is an expense, but the return investment is huge, you know, almost like 5X for user club communities to what Martin is saying, which is more customer communities on Gong. 

Kris: Goes well into another topic within communities is measuring the impact or the ROI. I think there are certain areas where it's easier to measure the impact. I think some of these, like some of these third-party user groups, like, let's just say it's a group for SDR leaders. And you might have a thread where you're talking about Sendoso. And then, you know, somebody then comes and says, ooh, that's cool. I read it in a thread on this community forum. And then they go to the website and request a demo. 

Kris: Our marketing team is gonna think about that as a direct web visit. They're gonna put attribution around Web Direct when really it was a community lead that is just really hard to attribute. And I think potentially that's where sales or SDRs during the qualification process could maybe dive in and say, hey, how do you hear about us? But how do you think about the measuring of results on how communities are working for you? And how do you invest more if it's working better, any thoughts there?

Martin: It's funny, I was at a meeting with our marketing team last week and all about this attribution model and how we're looking at adapting it going into H2 for this very reason. And I don't think perfection is the goal 'cause I just don't think it's gonna exist with this, but it's how do we get a little bit more accurate? 

Martin: And I think something deeper said as well is that we're now looking at it, it's not a quantifiable piece, but we're looking at some, we run breakfasts, and we bring in customers, we bring in net new prospects, whereas we might run a dinner where it's people within the pipeline and advancing that pipeline. So it's actually seeing and having different tailored events for different parts of our community, be it advanced stage or early stage opportunities and then seeing what the impact is and how quickly that progresses through. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but it's one of the ways we found to help with the attribution of that.

Kris: I think one thing that I see is just more of a, what I would say is like an executive bet or an initiative that you say, hey, we're going to invest in communities. We know that it's going to pay off big and we're going to forego some of the trackability of it. And I think for any, you know, marketer listening that you're foregoing some of the tracking, they're probably, you know, maybe stopping this podcast right now saying, what are you talking about? You can't say that. 

Kris: But I think there is a bit of a bet on the community as a whole. And knowing that you're almost building brand, but that brand is going to drive in leads, then purely looking at it like a digital marketing channel like ads, where you're like, okay, I can see every click, every view, and I can track it perfectly. I think you just have to believe that it's part of your brand building and brand's going to drive demand.

Pradeepa: I mean, if they're splitting the marketing budget into branding exercises, I think 40% should go into brand. And I think we can't attribute directly to communities. It's branding. The lead gen aspect is more white papers, the webinars, the events, that could be tracked. Those are still high value conversion leads. I mean, white paper is a third, right now what I'm seeing, I don't know if Martin sees the same, is really the SEO, somebody coming into our website, asking for a freemium model, trying it out, contact us. Then comes a webinar and events and then comes the white papers and communities, events also classed as branding, you know, it's very branding awareness. At some point, they'll come back to us. 

Martin: And I think it's also, is that like, so the attribution of difficulty with that as well, Kris is, is that like, if you have an opportunity, it opens and then it goes quiet, and then somebody else comes in, how do you attribute, like you said, the second contact with the first contact, because they may have come through a community with that. 

Martin: So we're slightly trying to alter our thinking a little bit on this, and Deepa, absolutely, like we are seeing now through self-led product tours on the website, they're converting quite strongly, but they may not be the only activity, they might do that, they might join an actual webinar, they might download a piece of content, and then they might come to an event. It's the premium challenger, but I like what you're saying, Kris; maybe it's just not something we can absolutely measure what we believe and know that it's worth. 

Kris: A buzzowrd that I have to talk about is AI. I think it's on everyone's mind and I'm kind of curious if we think that there's any AI affecting communities right now, whether it has a big role. You mentioned SEO right before this, Deepa, and I think SEO is like an obvious one where AI is coming in and trying to write content. But have you seen any pros or cons to AI as it relates to communities?

Pradeepa: I mean, what I've seen is the data that is posted in the communities we could use, marketers can use it to, you know, to your point to condense it and make it more specific to our value prop. But I think in terms of communities, Kris, to your point, it's more user-led communities. So they're not very automated. You know, there's just one, two liners, people posting ideas, even the physical events of the user group, it's, you know, asking for more information. Hey, what do you use for gifting?

Kris: Yeah.

Pradeepa: Oh, who's this and this, you know? What go-to-market strategies are you finding it successful? So, I see less of AI here. Perhaps AI can help us to bring up the posts which are more relevant to Sendoso. Like maybe a tool could bring up the most gifting posts from the 100 posts we have or, you know, just trying to think how it could benefit us.

Kris: Yeah, I think you're spot on. The benefit of communities is that they're so human and person centric that that's really why they're thriving right now and why we're seeing more of these communities pop up is that need for human connection and leveraging customers who are other people and getting their feedback and insights. Martin, any thoughts on AI in communities?

Martin: No, it's not somewhere we've seen anything overly telling right now, that’s not to say in times to come, you know, that AI can develop into that. I think from an account-based marketing standpoint, perhaps like the deepest point where if you're working off sales development on an account-based approach, then like a post in a community could help being brought into that if you're using a holistic platform.

Martin: But so far, no, I haven't seen anything that I would, that I would class as AI in the community too, too great. 

Kris: Let's talk about some successful communities. And like, if you have any examples, I'd, I'd say one that I've seen, like Gainsight has done a good job of really building a good community, a good conference that brings that community together. 

Kris: And Martin, I'd actually say it's perfect timing to have Gong on as Gong has built a really thriving community, as you said. I think Gong's a perfect example that people look up to and building a community of, of raving fans and people that use Gong once, bring it to the next company, love Gong, can't live without Gong. Any other examples of communities you've been in, you've seen other companies run, you know, successful communities.

Martin: I two jump out to me. One I wasn’t a member of was, that has unbelievable detail is SaaStr. So like they're in person, they were recently in London, our CEO was on being interviewed, but the quality of the content they put out is second to none. And then the second one that I was a member was Pavilion.

Martin: I think their training courses, they'd be probably the go-to when I think about a sales community, outside of Gong obviously, is Pavilion and all that they have there across the different levels, depending if you're just entering into sales or you're at that CRO level, they just have a really clever and value add service for like all different levels of sales.

Pradeepa: And for HR communities, from a prospecting perspective, Kris, I've seen Evanta. Evanta is one of the biggest HR leadership conferences, like you, you know, tend to see a C-suite, see a CRO there. It's always great to, it's a good community of event that you want to invest in. Sometimes you'll be like, oh, it's a huge investment. I'm not getting, but Evanta, I've seen, has always delivered some good results.

Pradeepa: I remember in the Nutanix days, we used to have a .NEXT conference. Maybe you can start your own brand of user club. You might frame it as what's next, what's future, what's gifting. And it really drove a good branding. It's got its own branding. We started with 10 people. I think this year they had like 3,000 plus attendees, which is similar to VMware conference or AWS has their own conference as well, right, where they attract a lot of people. 

Pradeepa: So those communities, you know, act like their own branding within the same company. So almost like the registration starts a year ahead.

Kris: Yeah. 

Pradeepa: And there's a buzz around, oh, I need to go in there. Like similar to SaaStr that Martin has mentioned it, but it's for your own within Sendoso, so maybe we can think of driving more people to a community like that.

Kris: Well, let's maybe think about tools or software that help this community channel. I'm pretty sure I remember Gainsight buying this company called inSided. And I think that that's the software that powers your community, Martin, at Gong. But any other software that you guys have seen, heard about, or intrigued on as it relates to community? I think, you know, tough question because it's not such an obvious channel compared to like, what, you know, prospecting tools do you use? So I think you could have a list a mile long, but anything come to mind? 

Martin: The only one that I would be slightly familiar with is Mighty Networks. So it's just like bringing together that creators and entrepreneurs of different communities online courses and sales pages and things. That would be probably the only one. It's phenomenal. It adds a lot of value as well. That's probably the one that I'd be most familiar with. 

Kris: So if you're listening and you're trying to build a community, check out Mighty Networks. It looks like inSided. Or maybe if you have any other ideas, comment in the post as well.

Kris: Well, let's switch over to other emerging trends in the future for communities. And I think I like this concept of thinking ahead with communities because, any predictions in the next three to five years around communities. Maybe I'll kick it off with one prediction that I see for communities. I think that the model of going and requesting a demo, which was pretty prevalent for the last decade in software, I think that will lead to more community requests. 

Kris: I think that Gong is ahead of the curve here in getting your prospects to talk to your customers. I think we’ll see a world where a prospect will want to go and talk in a community. You'll see that as kind of a quote-unquote demo request flow through these communities that will be great with intent data and easy to, and easier to track is one way that I think about it.

Martin: You know, in a world where you can connect a prospect with a customer and the sales person in the moment, like “Can we have a reference?” Like that's that's you you can see a natural progression for a community as well. I think it's nothing earth shattering, but I still don't think we've fully embraced going back in person with communities. I know there's people in our office who've never had on-site meetings before, like they're in their first or second job, and those types of communities, and you get a huge buzz out of it, and I still hear people, which is kind of surprising, but, “Oh, it's so good to be in person.” So I think more of those, it's an old trend, but it's reemerging now about doing, and it's got to be worth your while and the travel and the rest of it, but I certainly think the in-person side to communities is coming back in a really strong way.

Pradeepa:I think we have [G2] referral point as well. When you're looking for a product, you know, a lot of prospects tend to go to [G2] and see the ratings. I see that evolving with the AI, and especially in the mid-market, where they want to see less human touch and they're already prepared to buy, you know, maybe evolution around tools like [G2]. Oh, let me see how this product is doing in terms of rating, adaptability, usage. You know, maybe that could be a community that could evolve within mid-market segment, which could be low cost of sale, you know, low point of contact from a sales perspective, but very much product-led growth. 

Kris: What do you think about channel fatigue here? Do you think that you could be a part of too many communities? Like if you had 50 communities you were part of, is that going to reduce the effectiveness? Or do you think that if your customers were asked to be a part of multiple communities, like how do you see channel fatigue, you know, play out?

Martin: You can't see it being real, right? And I think it's, because back to the whole thing, you got to meet the customer where they're at. And I think the energy at the start, like trying to maintain that as people say, like, well, I've been asked to talk to one prospect, I've been asked to talk to another prospect across all of these different channels. If you look at that use case, so I definitely think fatigue, it's nowhere near it right now. It's not, I think we're still in very early stages with communities and the evolution of them, but like anything, like if there's any of these platforms, you can quickly see fatigue building it, if they're not adding value as well.

Pradeepa: I mean, it's too much is more dangerous, less is better, focused three top communities we can focus on, maybe drive AI driven insights from the other communities and just focus on the ones that would drive more return investment. Kris, maybe X (Twitter) like CIO group within X (Twitter) or CEO group within X (Twitter) could be a great community that marketers can follow and see which one they're hashtagging. Are they, you know, is there a hashtag on go-to-market approach or, you know, I think we need to drive more focus, and AI the rest of the communities. So we just get the insights. 

Kris: I'm kind of curious in terms of how many communities you guys are involved in or part of, I think myself, I'd probably say there's maybe a dozen communities of which a lot of those I'm in Slack channels or email groups, but you know, you guys plus or minus, you know, a dozen communities each, how many do you think you're at? 

Pradeepa: Personally, I'm just on three. I mean, I have others, but I really follow only three, like Forbes Community on Leadership, SDR Leader Community, and Trends Community on X (Twitter) for C-suite. So I just follow these three. Given the time we have, we just have to lay focused.

Martin: I think it's like, how do you maintain that connection to the community as well? I think there's a natural drop-off after time if there isn't just regeneration or something new that's coming under new ideas or new concepts, maybe that's where AI can help. You know, depending on my profile, depending on what I'm interested in, serving me up suggestions, but yeah, it'd be kind of similar to Deepa in three or four.

Kris: Well, we are just up on time here. Thank you guys both for being a part of the GTM Roulette podcast. It's a really fun topic, talking about communities for all of the listeners. Make sure you're subscribed, listen in to the next episode as we spin the wheel and chat about another channel. So thank you, Martin. Thank you, Deepa, for being on today's episode.