Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of Three Minute Marketing, where we interview some of the world’s leading growth marketing minds and condense it into three-minute value bombs.

I’m excited today because we’ve got Rob Gonzalez, co-founder and CMO at Salsify. Salsify is a commerce experience management platform that empowers brand manufacturers to win on the digital shelf.

My question for him is, “Salsify has grown tremendously in a short period. What are some of your secrets there?”



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Show Notes:

  • Salsify’s team has grown their pipeline while having the same size team by focusing their time on the most impactful things.
  • The team doesn’t run social media ads. Instead, they focus on doing well with paid search.
  • By doing less and attending fewer meetings, you’re able to make what you do more impactful and high-quality.

Transcript:

– [Chris] Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of Three Minute Marketing, where we interview some of the world’s leading growth marketing minds and condense it into three minute value bombs. I’m super excited today. We’ve got Rob Gonzalez, co-founder and CMO at Salsify. Salsify is a commerce experience management platform that empowers brand manufacturers to win on the digital shelf. Prior to that, Rob was at a really interesting career, he’s run product management, he’s run marketing. It sounds like you’re a classically trained programmer. You spent some time at IBM, so very impressive individual and exactly the type of growth unicorns that we love to have on the show. Welcome, Rob.

– [Rob] Hey, so happy to be here.

– [Chris] Yeah. So, hey man, one thing has stuck out to me about you and Salsify, obviously you guys have grown tremendously and in a short period of time, but you seem to do a lot with the marketing resources that you have. Like, just based on, you know, like the pipeline dollars per person, for instance, if you looked at that as a metric. I think it’s exceptional. What are some of your secrets there? And that’s when that’s when your time will start now.

– [Rob] Well, let me tell you one that I’ve been spending a lot of time on recently, a lot of mental cycles and whatnot as we scale up. We’re going to be IPO scale this year, so we’re doing a lot of stuff to get there. And our gross bookings target is over 40 million in ARR, the marketing team’s generating over a hundred million in pipeline. So we’re doing a lot of stuff at scale. But, we’re not increasing the team at the same rate of increasing the, you know, the company goal. So, the pipeline targets doubled but the number of campaign managers and the marketing budget, doesn’t double.

– [Chris] Okay.

– [Rob] And so the, strategy is like, how do you be more with less?

– [Chris] Mmnhmm

– [Rob] Or how do you get more scale out of the things that you’re doing? What we do is we take time to create tent pole pieces of content. And sometimes it’ll create take three months for us to create a report, but then we can use that report in a hundred different ways. And the way that you you break above the noise is you do something of materially good quality, and that takes time and it means going slower. And it means doing less. We don’t do a lot of social. We’re not on Facebook. We do paid search on Google and Bing but it’s really just evergreen campaigns that run on their own that you don’t have to update that often. And so on and so forth. Our big view here is that we want to spend our time very intentionally on the few things that work and do it well. Part of the way that we do that is by making actual time for people to do work. You know, a lot of marketers can have this frenetic energy where they’re bouncing meeting to meeting to meeting, and their meeting with sales and their meeting with product and they’re meeting with a PR agency, and it’s like Zoom, 30 minutes, Zoom, 30 minutes, Zoom 30 minutes, email, email, email, and you just go crazy. And you’re not sure what works. And so, what we do is we block huge amounts of time off during the week. Literally, right now, 16 hours a week for the whole department, that’s unbookable by anybody called ‘Focus Times’ where people actually have time to get work done. So, if you’re a campaign manager you know exactly what you’re supposed to be working on, the span of control that you’ve got in terms of focus is narrow, and you’ve got dedicated time to be able to get that work done without distraction. And that for us is the formula of scaling with relatively few people. Now, on top of that, the only final thing that I would add is, you know, we’ve got a content team, we’ve got a product marketing team, we’ve got a community marketing team. There’s a bunch of others that would contribute to growth and pipeline development. The way that those teams coordinate is not a bunch of back and forth emails like, “Hey, can you help me with this thing? I need content for this. Can you help me write an email? Like, where do I find this?” It’s not that stuff. Everything’s done in Asana everything’s done in Workflows, everything’s done asynchronously. And it helps people be calm. It means that we can have quarterly planning, which is structured, which is not a thousand back and forth emails, which gives all the campaign managers the focus they need. So, in the way that the Navy seals like the talk is “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” And that’s, that’s how we’ve been trying to operate.

– [Chris] I love it. Perfect. That’s exactly three minutes. So that is the end of our official episode. Let’s keep rapping, Rob. Real quick, if folks want to learn more about Salsify what’s the best way to do it.

– [Rob] Salsify.com. Also, we have the Digital Shelf Institute as a community for brand manufacturers trying to win on the digital shelf. There’s some excellent original research and podcasts there. So, digitalshelfinstitute.org.

– [Chris] Love it. Yeah, and we’ll include links to both of those things in the show notes. You don’t, by chance, uh, are you familiar with traction or EOS? Do you follow that?

– [Rob] No.

– [Chris] The rocks and the data and the rhythm?

– [Rob] Nope.

– [Chris] It’s very much, it’s EOS stands for Entrepreneurial Operating System, and it’s basically like a growth, like a business operating system, but it functions in quarterly cycles and they force you to focus by having what they call rocks. So each quarter you set certain rocks and then all of the activity flows from those rocks.

– [Rob] Yeah, the rock productivity concept comes from Stephen Covey, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Rob] You’ve got the big rocks and the small rocks and the pebbles and the sand.

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Rob] And the idea is, like, you know, focus on the big rocks.

– Yeah. So how do you, one thing that I know that I struggle with is like, it’s easy for me to get sunk into rabbit holes, you know and convince myself that it’s useful. So like for instance, some new feature in Google ads comes out and I’ll go and read all about it. And next thing I know, 30 minutes later, and six tabs later, you know, I have completely lost track of what I’m doing. How do you stay focused during that focus time? Like, do you have any mental tricks or any other methods to just like, you know resist the lure of jumping into something that’s, you know, mindless but potentially educational?

– [Rob] Yeah. So, first I would highly, highly, highly recommend two books. One is “Deep Work” and the other one is “Digital Minimalism”, both by an author named Cal Newport. He actually just has a recent book about workflow management within a company called “A World Without Email.” That’s also excellent. So, that’s like kind of a trilogy of how to do, you know, really intentional focus, high quality work. “Deep Work” in particular talks about this topic. And, what you really have to do is, you’ve got to have intention for, for the time. So for me, if I’m entering a block, these days, I’ve got two little kids, I’ve got everything going on at Salsify and I just don’t have spare time, right. And the only hobby I have is that I exercise and that’s it. And, and so if I’ve got a block of time that I’ve set aside, you know, two hours on a Monday or something like that, to get work done those two hours have got to count. I can not make that time up elsewhere in my life. I can’t do it in the morning cause my daughter wakes up early. I can’t do it in the evening because my wife wants to spend time with me. And I can’t do it any other time during the day because I’m in customer meetings and I can’t be like, you know, multitasking. And so, those two hours have got count. So, I entered those two hours and I’ve already assigned what those two hours are meant to do. So, at the beginning of those two hours I enter in, the two hours have a job. The job is ‘create an analyst relations deck’ or ‘create a pitch deck’ for like, I get invited to speak at manufacturing conferences as a thought leader on e-commerce. And it’s like ‘create draft outline for deck’ or ‘gather statistics or materials for this presentation’. Or, you know, here’s five documents that the team has sent me to review over the last two days, you know, over this two hour block. I’ve got to read through, comment, review, you know give feedback on these five documents. So, at the beginning of the block, like,that’s the time that I’ve got. And I just know that I just cannot spend it wasted. It’s got to be open the doc work, work, work work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work. And then, you know, at the end of the time, the times over. Like there’s not going to be more time.

– [Chris] Interesting. Yeah. That’s, that’s a good way to think of it. So tell me about, as you guys began this, and I’m not quite sure, maybe you started this way with the large blocks of focus time, but how did you determine, or how do you determine on an ongoing basis what the best area of focus is? So, just like a thought exercise and a conversation or is there some kind of methodology that you use?

– [Rob] Well at Salsify we use a methodology that we borrowed from Salesforce called V2mom. V2mom is a vision values, methods, obstacles, measures. And the way that V2mom works is Jason, my co=founder CEO, will have a set of methods, like eight methods at the company level. You know, the first method will be customer success in it’ll have KPIs around renewal, net dollar retention rate. The second method, it’ll be growth and it’ll have KPIs around gross bookings, you know, new business logo growth and attainment and so on and so forth. So, it sets the company strategy. And then Mike, our President, who was the Chief Customer Officer of Salesforce, he runs all go-to-market. He’ll have a V2mom for go-to-market, which takes the company methods and specifies what the go-to-market team is going to do. And then I’ll have one for marketing. So I look at, you know, the company and I look at Mike’s V2mom, and I say like, what are the priorities for marketing? And so, every quarter it’s clear for me. And it gives a lot of clarity. It’s clear for me what are the metrics that I’m looking to move? And it’s clear to all of my people what are the metrics that they’re looking to move? And so, you know, at any given month the question is, what are the things that I have to do in order to move those metrics, right?

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Rob] So, it’s a classic, like, plan your work, work your plan strategy. I think that what you’re saying though, is like, If you try to make up on the spot what the most important thing is you will fail and you will end up going down rabbit holes because it’s unclear why you shouldn’t.

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Rob] And if you play, if you’re very intentional starting from the top, what measure, you know, where are you trying to go? What measures are trying to move? And you break down the problem and you spend time and energy and thought planning your work. Then it’s clarifying as to how to spend that time effectively.

– [Chris] Yeah. Yeah. I hear ya. So, you mentioned you’re not much for paid search. You don’t do much social. What are your top channels?

– [Chris] We will get, I’ll give you a sense. Partners are becoming a big channel for us. They generated close to 2 million in pipe in Q1, our BDR program, both for outbound and inbound will generate about 60 million in pipeline this year. So the bulk of it is the BDR program and that’s on the back of really compelling events, webinars, content, research reports, and whatnot that they use in cadences to work, to get people engaged and with the company and the brand. Another 30 million or so comes just purely from inbound registrations, people asking for a demo and whatnot. And a lot of that is a extremely strong SEO. You know, we do paid search, but it’s tight. It’s not like a massive budget. And there’s a very tight paid search program that we’ve got that generates some of that. And then we’ve got a content engine that produces compelling content, original research and whatnot, that converts a bunch of people. And so that’s, that’s basically the engines. I mean, for us it’s create compelling thought leadership content and then engage it with outbound cadences and then inbound honeypots. And that’s really the whole, that’s the whole funnel.

– [Chris] Brilliant. And I’m curious, as you think of the journey, you know, from 2012 until now, did you discover or did you have any major breakthroughs or did you use any like innovative sort of growth hacks? Like, I’m thinking about Dropbox, how they were like, “Hey,” you know, “refer a friend and get a free gig,” or whatever. Like, did you identify any, like, real winners that just like catapulted you guys to a breakthrough from a marketing and sales side?

– [Rob] No, not for us. I mean, we tried, you know, we tried a couple of product led growth strategies, but the nature of the buyer in this space that we’re in, is that product led growth strategies are not effective. And so, yeah, it’s not really a thing that works for us. We’re more of a classical enterprise tasks software. We’re like a Salesforce. You know, ServiceNow, Workday, you know, folks like that are reasonable comparables for the platform that we built. And so, yeah, the product led growth really hasn’t, hasn’t paid off. We’ve tried a few times, just hasn’t paid off. For us, what’s really worked and is having a really, really tight revenue marketing, like, inbound plus SDR program. And having them work hand in hand has been the most effective thing year in, year out. And so the formula is effectively spend time creating the best content in the industry. Everybody who thinks our content is the best. And with that best content, use it in a combination of inbound marketing and outbound marketing. And, you know, that’s it. Like that’s really been the formula. And then over the years all you’ve got to do is figure out, well, you know, instead of one webinar a quarter, you’re doing three a quarter then you’re doing, you know, six a quarter, then you’re doing six a month. And, you know, instead of just focusing on CVG you’re focusing on CPG and DIY and industrial and scientific and B2B industrial supply. Instead of North America you’re focusing on the UK and France and the DACH region and Benelux, and so the matrix of activities for us has grown as the company’s grown, but the fundamental go-to-market motion of relying on the SDR team and a solid inbound base and solid content. That’s been the same since day one.

– [Chris] Well, Hey man, I really enjoyed this, seriously. I have. You’re fascinating person. Congrats on all the success. I’ll see you on the NASDAQ, I guess.

– [Rob] Hopefully, ya. Keep your fingers crossed.

– [Chris] But yeah, man, I’d love to have you back if you’re open to it.

– [Rob] Yeah, sure thing. Happy to. Thanks for the invitation. Appreciate it.

– [Chris] All right. Likewise. Good luck to you.

– [Rob] Bye.

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