Sara Varni
January 10, 2020

Scaling “Scrappy” and Growing Your Audience

Guest: Sara Varni - Chief Marketing Officer, Twilio

One of the integral questions most marketers face is: How do I expand my audience? Well, you could draw up a new campaign, make a new product—heck, you could even bite the head off a bat; Ozzy Osbourne definitely reached quite a few new people in the 80’s with that stunt. Well, maybe that last one isn’t the best idea for businesses. Anyways, an important aspect is: you have to do something that works with your brand, resonates with the people who want to use your product, and is relatively product agnostic. Now, while they may not be dining on any small nocturnal mammals, Twilio’s marketing efforts certainly capture the aforementioned guidelines, and take on a spirit of boldness and experimentation, all in the service of expanding their audience.

In this episode, Sara Varni, CMO of the cloud comms company Twilio, discusses how they’ve created marketing that they know their users will like and respond to. It ranges from gamified tutorials, to dev conferences, to sponsored hackathons at client offices and so much more. To learn more about these efforts, and the scrappy, startup-mentality that drives them, tune into this week’s episode of Renegade Thinkers Unite.

Full Transcription: Drew Neisser in conversation with Sara Varni

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers. My guest today is Sarah Varni, CMO of Twilio. What I think is interesting about this conversation that we’re about to have, you never know with a Renegade Thinker’s episode where we’re going to head, but I think one of the areas we’re going to head is how do you expand your audience? How do you go from a niche where you’ve been really successful to an enterprise customer?

This is a really interesting challenge a lot of our clients face and I know every business faces to expand. Either you want to penetrate to get this existing group or you have to add some other group, you have to make it bigger. So with that, Sarah, welcome to the show.

Sara Varni: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Drew Neisser: My pleasure. At one point in your career, you were an equities trader. I like to think of you as a Wall Street refugee.

Sara Varni: Good Description.

Drew Neisser: So you started there and it was like, this isn’t for me?

Sara Varni: Yeah. I was actually just telling the story last night on a panel. I was recruited on my college campus by Charles Schwab to work on their equities floor in Jersey City, New Jersey. They had their big sell weekend and I got on the desk and it was, you know, dot com boom. It was a casino and I was like, “This is work? This is awesome. Sign me up.” But by the time I started, the market was already starting to fall apart. There was not a lot of trading to be had. And don’t get me wrong, trading can be an amazing career, amazing hours, it can be super lucrative, but I just didn’t see myself doing that for 30 years, and so I decided to do something which I thought was going to be less stressful, which was that enterprise software marketing and look where I am now.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, look, one thing I did notice—I have a couple of friends who were Bucknell grads—how does a California girl end up at Bucknell?

Sara Varni: It’s a good question. I think, again, it speaks to my renegade nature. You know, I’m the youngest of five kids and all of my siblings had stayed pretty close to home. We are a big Santa Clara University family and my oldest brother gone to Stanford. My parents were super strict, and I was like, “I’m going to show you. I’m going to go to school in the middle of nowhere where, you know, I can be my renegade self.” So that’s how I ended up at Bucknell.

Drew Neisser: Hilarious. Now, one of five that’s got a mean life is just easy for you. Your older siblings paved the way. You got away with murder. I have no doubt about that. Am I right?

Sara Varni: You would think. I don’t know that I was on my family’s agenda so there was a big space between me and my closest sibling. In the course of the 8-year difference between me and my closest brother, I think that they forgot all the things that he’d done in college. So, it’s kind of like starting over.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. I think there’s the girl thing too. All right. Well, we’re going to fast forward. You spent almost a decade at Salesforce, which must have been a fascinating period because the company was just growing like crazy. What were some of the key things from a marketing standpoint that you think you took away from that experience?

Sara Varni: It was an incredible time to be at Salesforce. When I started at the company it was about 1100 people, $400 million in revenue, and now it’s the tallest tower in San Francisco and 35,000 people. It was just really an incredible place to learn and grow. I had three major roles over the course of 10 years there. I started on the AppExchange, which is the Salesforce cloud ecosystem. It pre-dated the Apple App Store. It was a great job as a marketer to basically go after ISBs and traditional software companies and try to encourage them to build on a platform that was very early in its making. But that really pushed me as a marketer and helped me really grow and challenge myself.

Drew Neisser: Salesforce is an interesting brand. They’ve bought a lot of companies and they do all these different things, but at the end of the day, it’s what we call a branded house. It’s really one giant brand. I’m imagining that if you were at the app desk or you had one of these other smaller units, that it was kind of hard to say, “Hey, over here, we do this.”

Sara Varni: Yeah, it was, and I think in a lot of ways you were working at a small startup within Salesforce. I think that’s what really helped me in my marketing skills. I wasn’t on the flagship product to start. I was on the AppExchange ecosystem and then I was on a company we acquired that was called Desk.com, so I really had to think creatively about how not only could I get our customer’s attention, but how I could get my internal constituent’s attention and make sure that we were getting our fair share of marketing attention and the right stage, time, and all of those things. If I had started on the flagship product, which is actually ironically where I ended up at Salesforce, I might not have been as scrappy in my thinking, in my approach.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting point as some of the listeners are managing their career and think, “Oh, well I really should work on a big brand” and so forth. I mean, the good news for you is you were within a giant organization—even when you started, you still had a lot of people, you had the air cover, and everybody knows what Salesforce is—but you also had the opportunity to be an entrepreneur and you had to be scrappy. I think that’s a great little light bulb there for you marketers thinking about your career, seeing if you can find a unit within a big company to do it.

I also like the fact that you mentioned having to fight for resources, because I think a lot of the Chief Marketing Officer’s job is about that, whether it’s on the grand scale of saying, “Hey, don’t hire more salespeople. Let’s think about a little bit more marketing.” You’re always fighting for resources and you’re fighting for share of mind from an employee standpoint in terms of helping them understand the brand and having them inform you. Interesting. All right. So you get to Twilio. To describe the situation a couple of years ago, where did you find yourself when you got there? Did you have a mandate?

Sara Varni: Similar to Salesforce, I started Twilio at a very similar size in terms of employee count and revenue. Just like you’re talking about with my experience on AppExchange, I love coming into an opportunity where the foundation has been poured, I don’t need to worry about fundraising and the doors being locked or any of that. The foundation’s poured, it’s a solid company, but it’s not dry by any means. There’s still an opportunity to drive impact and change. When I came over to Twilio, I think what helped me come into this role was that I did have the enterprise experience. Twilio traditionally, prior to about two years ago, was largely a self-service operation. It was a very developer first, developer-centric company and over the last couple of years, we have definitely built out our go-to-market motion. With that, there is a requirement to make sure that you’re not just thinking about online optimization and all the growth tactics that you would use online, but how to build the connectivity between marketing a marketing organization and a sales organization, and how to build programs where that handoff is super smooth and you’re maximizing pipeline.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. We’re going to dive into that. Just one observation. Again, speaking to so many CMOs, one of the things that some struggle with is understanding their personal brand and what they’re really good at and the fact that you see you’re not a “put the foundation in” person. It’s like take it a little bit and then help it grow exponentially, which I think is great. One of my early show guests, Gina McDuffie, her nickname was “Gina the Builder” and that was what she was really good at. Companies that were kind of in trouble, often they were family brands and suddenly they were making a transition and they needed to grow up. She was good at building marketing expertise in-house.

Sara Varni: Well, I’d love to expand on that, because I do think it’s interesting. I have found that what your brand is might morph or shift depending on what the company needs are and what their value system is. So, you know, at Salesforce, I was a traditional product marketer. I was doing keynote presentations and I’d help with our roadshow and think about messaging and positioning, and I would say that that’s my lead as opposed to demand gen and the online side of the world in programs. Coming here, I’m much more known for my establishment of programs and that kind of connectivity between sales and marketing and more the campaign side of the house. It’s been really interesting for me in this transition to see how people view my brand and how that’s changed over time.

Drew Neisser: Right. Before we get into the real meat of this, did you have some very specific goals? When you were sitting with the CEO or the CFO at the very beginning, did they say to you, here’s what we want to accomplish, here’s what success looks like?

Sara Varni: Yes, absolutely. I think some of them are further up in the funnel and harder to measure, like how can we make a bigger market for Twilio? How can we make a name for ourselves in the contact center space? Then, you know, more tactically, how can we drive a certain amount of pipeline to feed our sales team, which is growing at X percent a year? I think that that’s pretty standard for any CMO. I would anticipate that’s pretty standard for any CMO role where the management team is thinking holistically about how to drive a healthy funnel and business long-term.

Drew Neisser: Right. They didn’t say increase the pipeline by 70%? They didn’t give you specifics, it was just “grow the market?”

Sara Varni: No, they absolutely did give me specific targets. It was tied very tightly to how we’re growing our sales team and what quarters are. We like to say at Twilio that we are a 10-year-old company with a one-year-old sales team. We’re now a two-year-old sales team, I would say. Where it was tricky coming into this role was figuring out those right ratios between sales-sourced pipeline and marketing-sourced pipeline, and the tactics that are going to drive this business. At Salesforce, I had the advantage of having like 15 years of data and it was very formulaic. Here it’s been a little bit more of an art to really figure out what are the right tactics that are going to create a healthy funnel for us.

Drew Neisser: Perfect. We’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we’re going to dive into making this transition from a developer-driven to more of an enterprise sale. Stay with us.

BREAK

Drew Neisser: We’re back, and Sarah Varni and myself, have been talking about helping companies transition. Here you are, you arrive. I’ve had the CMO of Magento, which was very developer-driven, obviously, they were bought by Adobe. Let’s see, I’ve had Red Hat, also very developer-driven, and Acquia. Red Hat and Acquia being open-source companies, there’s a very interesting part of that.

When a developer community embraces your brand, they feel like it’s theirs. They own it and they want to be part of it, and they get very upset with you if you break it somehow. I mean, this goes back, by the way, to years ago. We worked with IBM when they were targeting the developer community. It’s the same, it’s just larger and bigger and they’re more important. As you started to think about going upstream to the enterprise, how did you make sure that you were still taking care of your developer community?

Sara Varni: The line always here is, the cardinal rule of marketing developers is “don’t market to developers.” Coming from the world I came from, that was very opposite. I was used to a traditional funnel, start with the e-book and thought leadership, go down through more product demos, and then get to pricing pages. In SaaS, it’s a pretty well-established playbook, and so for me, I had to come into it with a beginner’s mind and say, “All right, how can we preserve the great culture and the great energy in our developer community while additionally talking to line-of-business buyers who have a need for Twilio products, but are not necessarily technical and steeped in APIs?” And so the way I’ve approached it is, how can I make the developer’s life easy or easier in making a case for using Twilio up the chain.

We come at it from two angles. We still maintain all of our developer-led initiatives in terms of building the best documentation in our space, in terms of having onsite hands-on training, in terms of developing programs like TwilioQuest, which is a really fun, interactive video game-style approach to learning Twilio. But then also, how do we get networking events? How do we build content to get the people that are in the decision-making chain for the product or program that they’re trying to launch up to speed with Twilio, up to speed on why it’s a more quality choice in terms of performance and reliability, and get the two groups talking earlier than they might have been previously.

One really interesting tactic that we’ve seen pay off recently is the concept of an enterprise hackathon. What we’ll do is we’ll bring Twilions on-site to a big enterprise customer and we’ll facilitate all of the day, we’ll bring development teams together, they can hack on Twilio, and at the end of the day, they walk out with three to four proofs of concept. The management teams at these companies love it, too, because they’re giving their employees new skills. They don’t have to do anything. We basically show up on-site and make it super easy for them, and that’s been a great way, within the course of a day, to really get these two types of roles in an organization on the same page and excited about Twilio.

Drew Neisser: Very cool. And how are these hackathons at existing clients?

Sara Varni: We do these for people that are in all sorts of stages in their relationship with Twilio. They might be just starting out and kicking the tires a bit. They might be someone that’s been working with us for years and are looking at their next project, but I think it’s probably most impactful on the companies that have not been doing a ton with Twilio to date because it really just fast forwards their usage of Twilio and gets them really fired up and excited about the power of what our APIs can do.

Drew Neisser: I think it might be helpful for the folks that have been listening 15 minutes in to actually stop for a second and explain what Twilio does.  I’m going to take a stab and then you’re going to correct me just because I’m going to put it in terms that my father would understand, which is my 93-year-old dad who was a guest on the show. Episode 100. So, dad, what they do is there are little pieces of code called APIs that connect information in communication, so when you hit the Uber or Lyft app, their API manages to connect to, say, the cell phone information with your order or something like that. You’re basically connecting communications, right? Getting various systems to talk to each other. Is that a decent explanation?

Sara Varni: It’s a great explanation. We’re a customer engagement platform we deliver a series of APIs for essentially any way you want to communicate with your customers. SMS is probably our most well-known, but we also deliver APIs for voice and video, even facts. You name it, we help you communicate with your customer. Fax is still a very widely used use case, especially in spaces like healthcare. Fax is alive and well, you’d be surprised.

Drew Neisser: No, I’m not. People always talk about how these things, sometimes they take a long time to change. I remember years ago, 15, 20 years after the computer, there were still a million typewriters being sold because people liked to use them for very specific reasons. I think it’s going to be a while before faxes die, but I hope it’s sooner than later because we don’t have a fax number or a fax machine, so it’s a pain in the butt. But SMS, I just want to again, let’s say you rented your car for a person who travels a lot on business like myself. I love getting that SMS with that: “Hey, Mr. Neisser, your car is ready at X slot.” It’s just so great.

Sara Varni: That’s 100% use case that Twilio would support. If you get a confirmation from your hair salon that says, “Are you going to be here at 11:00? Text ‘y’ to confirm,” there’s normally a Twilio product or Twilio partner behind the scene. You’re probably using Twilio every day, you might just not realize it.

Drew Neisser: There you go. All right. Thus, an ingredient brand, which is something that I was going to start with. That’s an interesting place to be in the technology world, certainly, Intel has made a very good business out of being an ingredient brand. But you’re not alone. There are a lot of other API companies out there. What have you done to help distinguish Twilio from some of your major competition?

Sara Varni: I think a few things really make Twilio special. In our foundation, we have what we call the Super Network, so we are constantly maintaining relationships with carriers across the globe. If you are a multinational company, let’s say you’re a ridesharing company, I’ll just say generically a ridesharing company, that needs to stand up service in a number of different markets. To manage all that, all the routing and all of the telecom infrastructure behind that, that is a full-time job. It’s a full team job, and with the Twilio Super Network, we are constantly managing those relationships and make sure our customers have the best routes, that they’re able to deliver their messages at an extremely high success rate.

With an example like a ridesharing business, it’s really critical that your message gets there within a certain amount of time. This is a matter of seconds, not minutes that you have to spare to really build loyalty with that brand. I think that at our foundation is what we do really well. I’d say secondarily, over time, since we are a leader and pioneer in this space, we’ve built a lot of logic and intelligence on top of our core APIs. In seeing what our customer base is doing and seeing some of the patterns that our customers have developed, we’ve started to package up some of that know-how ourselves so that people don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, especially for scenarios where it’s not going to necessarily differentiate their business at the end of the day. We want to constantly be thinking about how we can abstract away more complexity for our customers so they can really focus on the elements of their communications experience that are going to be differentiating.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Both of those points are sort of very product-driven and technology-driven. From a brand standpoint, and this is an interesting case because a lot of tech companies lean into their technology and for good reason. You’re the category leader, it sounds like you pioneered some of these things, and that makes it a lot easier so tech people can find you. Where does brand fit in, if at all, in the Twilio story?

Sara Varni: I absolutely believe it fits into the Twilio story. If you hear Jeff Lawson, our CEO, talk, one of his mantras is that code is creative, and he loves that the Twilio platform and the way that it’s structured attracts people from all different walks of life. We have everyone from a Grammy Award-nominated rapper to a magician, we have a Twilio a magician, literally, and all the traditional developers that you’d expect in an enterprise entity. I think that Twilio really likes to build a platform in a way that it can be useful to all types of organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit and you really see that in the types of applications that ultimately end up in the hands of end-users. These are some of the most disruptive products that people are really liking to interact with today. Airbnb, Uber, all of the experience-driven brands that didn’t necessarily create a new product. Uber didn’t invent the taxi, Airbnb didn’t create the concept of hotels or even temporary rentals, but what they did is create an amazing experience around that, and largely at the core is communications.

Drew Neisser: Yep. Got it. We’re going to take a quick break and then we’re going to dive into this enterprise sales transition. Stay with us.

BREAK

Drew Neisser: We’re back. Now, can the developers download the API kit for free? Is there some kind of easy way for developers to start with the product?

 

Sara Varni: They can. Yes. They absolutely can get started with a certain amount of credits and then as they use more, they’d be pushed on to paying plan.

Drew Neisser: Got it. You mentioned these enterprise hackathons, what else are you doing from a marketing standpoint to get this enterprise customer? What did you have to change in order to get those folks into the pipeline, so to speak?

Sara Varni: What’s largely changed—and I saw this transition and evolution happened at Salesforce, too—I think when you start a morning terrorization, the marketing team will do a lot of online content and just hope it shows up in the lead queue in Salesforce down the road. I think where you can really optimize and drive the maximum amount of pipeline is if you’re coordinated on what those outbound efforts look like. So, you know, if you decide the theme of the month is how to build incredible IVR, you know, the phone tree that we deliver on Twilio’s platform, it’s one of our common use cases.

Well, I could just buy a bunch of media, I could go to SEM and Facebook and use all the traditional online tactics, but what’s going to make that even more powerful is if I’m also at the same time training my inside sales reps on that use case, driving a webinar within that month and having them drive registration to it, and then also training our AE organization too, our sales rep organization so that everyone is singing from the same hymnal that month. You just get more energy and leverage if you’ve got your whole sales organization working for you at the same time.

Programs like that have been something that I have brought to Twilio over the last two years and I think there’s also huge value in driving consistency and repetition with programs like that, making it a monthly cadence, and making it part of the sales religion here and the way that we operate.

Drew Neisser: It’s interesting. Theme of the month. Is that part of your plan that every month you have a content tent pole idea and that’s what everybody is going to be talking about and sharing?

Sara Varni: We do. I have a bunch of different analogies and some are better than others, but I think of this organization between sales and marketing as a grocery store. Sales often looks to marketing content when they need it as opposed to proactively considering it. I wish, in a perfect world, they were waiting by their inbox, waiting for my monthly update and reading every slide deck and memorizing the pitch, but I know that’s not reality. Where they’re going to use my content is when they’re in the middle of a deal and they need to get more detail on that use case and get to it.

I think one of my core jobs is to make sure that, going back to the grocery store analogy, that my grocery store is well-organized and when they have that need, they know exactly what aisle to go down. They’re going to find pickles in the middle row and be able to get to the pickles as quickly as possible. But I also think there’s value in the mailer that you get every Sunday that says, “Hey, steaks are $4 this week” or whatever it is and that’s where the monthly cadence and drumbeat is really important to get sales, new reps especially, established on what the core use cases are.

I always say, “Let’s make sure we’ve got 80% coverage for our core use cases and that sales really understands the main ways they’ll be successful,” but then also it’s an opportunity to get out new products, new releases, new features through that mailer approach. That’s my way I approach it. I think that there’s a mix of push and pull tactics that you’ve got to use with sales to be effective.

Drew Neisser: And you really are dependent on them in many ways. I imagine these are long sales cycles with multiple people involved in decisions and so there might have been some sales folks think, “Hey, I got the right person, I’m going to close the sale,” but it doesn’t seem to happen on an enterprise level. I mean, we’ve had Brent Adamson of Gartner on the show a couple of times and we probably spend an hour and a half talking about buying committees, sales cycles, and so forth. How long is your sales cycle?

Sara Varni: It absolutely depends on what segment we’re playing in. Obviously, as you go upmarket, those sales cycles get longer and longer, and just like you’re saying, there are more decision-makers and the contract process is more complicated. It just depends on what market we’re selling to. I think we come at it from different sides too. There are some customers where you might sell one use case and expand from there. There are others where you might try and come in with a larger customer engagement vision and that company is really hungry for it. I’m not a salesperson, but where I’ve seen salespeople be very successful is understanding where that company is in their lifecycle when it comes to communications and figuring out the right approach to make them successful.

Drew Neisser: Okay. I had a note here. Hang on a second. As you’re testing these things, or whether or not you’re testing these things, have there been any of these themed tentpole, monthly things that have worked better than you expected and ones that didn’t work? By the way, you made me hungry with it with the grocery store analogy, which is why I was thrown off there.

Sara Varni: Apologies.

[Laughter]

Drew Neisser: Yes. And I was thinking specials and I was thinking I don’t know…

Sara Varni: Oh, there is so much you can do with it.

Drew Neisser: Are the avocados ripe, I don’t know? There were a lot of places that I could’ve gone with the grocery store. Clearly, having it fully stocked, I get that metaphor quite nicely. But in that mix of aisles that you provided, is there one thing that you went “Ah, that really worked a lot better than we expected” and then maybe something that didn’t work as well?

Sara Varni: My boss is a former marketer himself and one thing he always says, which I appreciate is that, internally, you’ve got to market your marketing. I wouldn’t necessarily say one thing worked and one thing didn’t work, but I would say that you’ve got to be careful. There’s a balance between creating a steady cadence of communication so people know what to expect from your marketing organization without it becoming noise. You have to create the structures so that when they get that email in their inbox, they know what it is, but you also have to be constantly thinking about how you can get their attention.

It’s not any different than how we think about marketing externally to our customers. It’s just a new internal audience that you have to cater to and think about what you’re up against. They are time-constrained, they’ve gotten multiple deals they’re chasing, so how can you even just cut through the noise internally to make sure that what you’re doing is landing. There are points, I will say, where we’ve gotten, I wouldn’t say lazy, but we’ve just kind of been too formulaic in our approach and we’ve seen the of subscription rate or the viewership drop off. Those are points out where I started to say, “All right, let’s rethink this email campaign or this email cadence, or let’s rethink this webinar series that we do for the field, to make sure that it’s aligned with what they actually need and that they’re paying attention.”

Drew Neisser: I watched a presentation that you did on content marketing and one of the things that you said struck me, which is you have to earn the right for your consumer or the customer or the prospect to consume your materials. How are you guys earning that right?

Sara Varni: I’m 100% still a believer in that statement. I think sometimes what happens that you’ll see in enterprise companies is that you get really sucked in with the headline. It’s like “Transform your customer engagement experience, turn the page” and then the page will say, “Buy Twilio.” And then it’s like, “Hey I thought you were going to change my life and now I’m just being told to buy your product.” You’ve got to really establish yourself as knowing your category, and that has to be a 100% product-agnostic for you to build credibility in the space and really show that you’re helping someone.

Drew Neisser: As we wrap up, I’m curious, as you’ve made this transition, we have a group of CMOs listening, two do’s and a don’t for them as they move from a smaller target like developers to enterprise sales, which are far more complicated. What are two do’s and a don’t for those folks?

Sara Varni: I think “do” for sure, meet with customers as early as you can in the process. That’s marketing 101. You might get wrapped up in internal meetings and those are important too to understand the internal dynamics, but make sure you get in front of customers as soon as you can to understand why or why not your product is currently resonating and how you need to reshape the existing programs or create new ones to map to that. That’s definitely a “do.”

I think also you want to make sure—this is a “do” and a “don’t” I guess because I’m going to say “do do not do this”—you have to be careful when you are looking at your website and thinking about different mechanisms for people to learn that you’re not compromising audiences too much. When you try to do all things for all people, you get into a world where you’re messaging is pretty watered down and it doesn’t hit with either audience. That’s something you just have to be careful and mindful of.

Then, on the “don’t” side, don’t come in assuming things. If you have an enterprise background and you’re going to a developer-centric company, don’t assume you can just run that enterprise playbook. There are so many dynamics that are different and you need to be really careful and check yourself not to say like, “Oh, well, I know how this works. I worked at an enterprise software company and this is the way we need to go.” Of course, you want to come in and have an opinion and be definitive and come in guns blazing, but you really need to be mindful of the customer base that got your company to where it is when you walked in and make sure that everything you’re doing, even if you are moving to enterprise, is still authentic to that core brand.

Drew Neisser: Perfect. As I think about some of the things that I heard today, I can always put it in the CATS framework, which is Courageous, Artful, Thoughtful, and Scientific. The Courageous part, to me, first, this is a company that started in a unique space, created a unique space, and that’s really important as part of that. From an Artful standpoint, this notion of “code is creative,” is a great phraseology and an enterprise hackathon as a way of being helpful to a customer and getting your core user excited enough to show that to a broader audience.

We talked a little bit about Thoughtful in terms of creating content that is of benefit to the customer. It was interesting, it was also content that was a benefit to the sales team internally and how you had to really think about that both in an artful way to remind them, “Hey, interesting new stuff for you to do” and then thoughtful in terms of not offering a big promise and then coming back and saying, really, this is just a veiled sales pitch. I’ve heard you talk about creating tools and ROI calculators and things like that. All of those are good.

The one thing we didn’t spend much time on is Scientific, although we did talk about your overall goals of growing awareness and filling the pipeline. I’m just going to ask flat out: can you point to a number and say your marketing is driving 30% of pipeline at this point?

Sara Varni: I obviously can’t publicly share what that contribution is, but absolutely. That was another piece of the foundation that I believe we’ve thoroughly established in the last two years. Where we might have just used to focus on developer sign-ups and really making sure that number was healthy and growing at a good pace year over year, we are much more regimented in how we manage marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, pipeline, and then now getting into what does that look like by product? What does that look like by segment? What does that look like by region? For me, that’s just table steaks when you’re growing the sales organization. You just have to make sure that not only is your pipeline healthy overall, but are you hitting all the different dimensions of your sales team and building a broader funnel that’s healthy across the globe.

Drew Neisser: Did you have to add any new technology from a Martech standpoint to manage this transition from developers to enterprise?

Sara Varni: Yeah, we did. We’re constantly evolving our Martech stack. I think there’s been some tweaking in terms of how these systems are orchestrated together, but there was a pretty solid foundation already established that I walked into. We have added some tools to our Martech stack as we’ve wanted to get to a different level of granularity on things like attribution or account-based marketing. But there was a really solid foundation there in terms of all the typical things you think about in terms of website analytics and marketing automation and Salesforce.

Drew Neisser: Last question, and this is something that I’ve been working on a little bit as I try to finish my book, it’s the notion of experimentation. Do you have a percentage of your budget that you assign for testing new approaches?

Sara Varni: I wouldn’t say we have an official percentage, but I always try to drive the team. I always say, “You need to make sure that you’re innovating year over year and not just iterating.” I was just having a conversation yesterday about our website and we were talking about some changes we were thinking about making. I said, “You know, these changes will be fine, and I think that they will drive more optimization, but it’s not the thing that’s going to differentiate the brand and push us forward necessarily.”

In the day-to-day and the way I manage and the way I try to have my managers manage, it’s about making sure that the team feels safe to take risks and that they can all look back on the year and have three to four things that they can put on their LinkedIn profile that they would be excited to share with someone like you on a podcast. It kind of takes that daily reminder to make sure that people aren’t just being reactive to their inbox and not thinking about how they can land some big programs in the year.

Drew Neisser: Very cool. We spend a fair amount of time thinking about building a culture of experimentation, which lots of folks talk about. It’s a little harder than you’d think because you get distracted by having to fill the pipeline, but the reality is, without those experiments, you rarely get any great leads for it. Anyway, Sara, thank you so much for being on the show.

Sara Varni: Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for having me. It was great to chat with you about all these things.

Drew Neisser: All these challenging things in marketing. All right. Well, to our listeners, thank you, as always, for sticking with it. Your commute was about 40 minutes today, so hopefully, you’ll get into work faster tomorrow anyway. Until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.

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