In today’s SaaStr podcast episode, Harry Stebbings sits down with Ryan Bonnici, Chief Marketing Officer at Whereby to chat about how to market at scale. Prior to joining Whereby, a browser-based video meeting platform, Bonnici was previously CMO of the world’s leading software review platform G2.com and in 2020 was shortlisted at #26 in Forbes’ ‘World’s Most Influential CMOs.’ A globally-renowned digital marketing and sales leader, he sits down with Harry to discuss how to hire marketers at scale and how to use marketing to set your brand above the rest.
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Below, we’ve shared some of the top takeaways from the session:
#1 On what order to build out your sales and marketing teams
Ryan Bonnici: “I think it depends on what you’re selling, right? If you’re selling a product that sells online, a product that grows as a business, it’s freemium, then you’re hiring product first and then people to help promote the product online, so more so marketing. On the flip side, if you’re dealing with an enterprise sales go to market, you’ll want, from the get-go, to have salespeople testing the product in the market with people to see what does and doesn’t work. So I think it really depends.
“I’m personally a big fan of hiring marketing because they think that marketing really helps prepare the market for whatever it is that you’re wanting to get into them. So at HubSpot, for example, before we were launching into a new region, before we hired a salesperson for Japan, we launched the Japanese HubSpot blog because we wanted people to start getting our content, start reading it, start building up a database, so that there was enough inbound demand coming from the market already.
“And the benefit there is marketing actually being conserved as a way to test the market and see if the market is or isn’t ready. So I’m a big fan of obviously a marketing-led approach, but I think it really depends. And it really comes down to the go-to-market function of the business and whatever product or service it is that you’re selling.”
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# 2 How to attract the best marketing talent
Ryan Bonnici: ” I think it’s a tough one even if you are a marketer to work it out sometimes. I have about 20 open roles on my marketing team at Whereby and I think in the last three weeks, I’ve probably done about 250 interviews. A lot of them have been Loom videos that people have sent to me that I asked them, I built a bit of a streamlined process.
“The challenge with marketers, I think this is similar to salespeople, right, is they can use their craft to sell you or to market to you during the process, which I think makes hiring good sales reps and good marketers that bit extra difficult.
“I think for me, I have just a very structured way in which I interview, and when I’m interviewing someone, what I ultimately really care about, I typically start all my interviews, outside of just to get to know you elements, I really immediately want to ask and I do ask, what was it that they were brought into their company to impact?
“And so, from the get-go I understand, do they understand their role, and their roles’ relevance and importance in the broader company? And so, an example of a good response there would be if I asked an email marketer what they were brought into the company to impact, their response should be, ‘I was brought in to grow marketing source revenue, and the way I do that is through the email channel, and the email channel, when I joined was responsible for 10% of our marketing source revenue, and now it’s responsible for 80% of our marketing source revenue since I joined.’
“So I’m really trying to understand how they connect the tactics of what they do with the impact at the highest level because there are so many buzz words in marketing that you really need to keep going level upon level deeper to really understand if they truly understand how it works.”
# 3 How to market at scale
Ryan Bonnici: “Simplify marketing into short-term and long-term. Short-term, in my mind, is growth marketing, the things that will drive leads and revenue right now, and I think of long-term marketing as brand. The brand bucket is the things that you’re slowly building up over time so that people trust your company, they trust your product, and they want to use you.
“I really like to measure brand, and I think you can do it in a really objective way, by looking at the direct search to your side. So direct traffic. How many people are actually typing in your website and coming to our product site? Now don’t get me wrong, if we do paid ads or social media ads and other things, those things will impact direct and will give it some lift while we’re running it, but if we turn all of those things off, you get a pretty nice idea of a baseline for how many people are organically coming to our site directly. And that tells me that there’s brand recall because they’re literally coming to our site. They haven’t gone to Google, searched best or easiest video meetings tool, and then come to Whereby. That’s not a bad thing, but that’s obviously great. So that would be one of those things.
“And I think the big asterisk, I would say is to make sure you are doing the right short-term marketing initiatives. As long as, in the short term, you are growing revenue like you need to, then I think you can be a little bit more lax on the brand side in terms of experimentation. But if you’re not meeting revenue goals through the form of new users, new activations, and whatever it is that you care about in your business then I would always lean into those things first.
“That said, I think there’s a ton of ways in which you can combine the two, and I’ll give you an example. So a few weeks ago I randomly tweeted something around, “Hey, it’s my first week at Whereby, I’m curious. If we planted a tree for every time you met on our platform, would you be interested in trying it out?” And the overwhelming majority said, yes.
“And so, we’re planting millions of trees. We’re starting with a million. And so basically, for every time you meet on whereby.com, we’ll mark a tree and you’ll see it in your portal. It’ll show how many trees you are responsible for planting. And I think, to me, that’s a good example of something that is doing wonders for us from a brand perspective because people are noticing us because we care about people, we care about privacy, and we care about the planet.
“So that to me is a good example of something that helps align our users and our future users with the values of our company and why they should care about us. But it’s also going to drive bulk net new users to the platform as well to try us. The way we’re marketing is we don’t care what other video meeting tool you use. You can keep using that, but switch a couple of your one-to-ones each day onto Whereby. It’s completely free to use, and now you can plant a few trees every day and just do some good.”