How Marketing Helped Gusto Grow

In the young world of Silicon Valley start-ups, an oft-adopted mindset is that a good product will attract attention on its own, sans marketing. While that’s often how these snowballs start rolling, they’ll usually find marketing is required to really achieve a high level of success. This is sort of how Gusto got started—4 years after its launch and initial success, Gusto launched its first ad campaign, and shortly after hired Tolithia Kornweibel as CMO, to help them get to the next level.

Kornweibel wanted to demonstrate how marketing could be a lead-gen machine, and how it could amp up product-driven growth. A couple years later, with the support of marketing, the company is enjoying a $3.8B valuation, about $200M in VC funding, and is forming a strong, purpose-driven brand. Take a look at how they’re building their purpose-driven image in their newly launched brand video, and read some highlights from Tolithia’s recent interview with Renegade Thinkers Unite, below!

Meet the Companies that Work with Gusto [Videos]

How did Gusto get going?
I think that this was a company that grew quickly early on because the product quality and experience blew the competitors away. To this day, we continue to get a ton of our growth from word of mouth. And we have an incredibly high NPS, and we’re incredibly proud of that. We’re a very customer-centric company, and we love spending so much time serving and understanding our customers. 

Is there anything especially renegade and creative about your marketing?
I think that the renegade thing may be there weren’t super high expectations for marketing as a strategic function within the company, and as a nexus for growth. Some of that is due to traditional enterprise points of view around sales-led growth strategies, and some of that is traditional product-led points of view around product quality-led growth strategies. I’ve just been on a mission internally to demonstrate, and then educate, how thinking about our customers in their natural habitat and creating the proper positioning and outreach to them is a strategic way to grow a business. It’s not a go-to-market afterthought. 

How are you balancing segmenting with preserving the overall brand?
Such a great question. I have resisted verticalization for the two years I’ve been here for exactly the reason that you mentioned and, given that we’re still in early stages in terms of brand awareness, I think there is a real big danger to becoming known for too many things. So far, I think we all collectively, as a leadership team, align around having a very horizontal approach which in terms of product development is pretty efficient, too. If you can find a sizable population where a horizontal strategy for both your product and your brand works, that’s great. With us, if we can build strong brand awareness for our core value prop and build that customer love we focus on every day, then when we add in specialization, it won’t dilute our awareness. We’ve got to build before we specialize more.

What tools have helped your pipeline? What’s your tech stack look like?
We have proprietary algorithms for the scoring, and I’m a big proponent of that. I think you can use lead scoring tools and partners, especially if they bring unique data into the mix. But I have never found scores to be as effective when purchased, versus when developed and tooled internally, especially if you have multiple channels happening. We have a data science team that helps us with that. On the tech set stack side, we have Marketo piped into Salesforce, and then we have a bunch of pretty typical tools. There’s a landing page optimization tool we’re currently using called Spiralyze, and Kenshoo on the search side. We’ve probably got about a dozen tools in the stack. 

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