My guest today has over 20 years worth of experience, has worked with more than five major companies during that time, and was VP at four of them. He's currently chief marketing officer at Gong, the revenue intelligence platform.
In this episode, Udi Ledergor talks about how he draws on these experiences whenever he starts with a new company and what steps he takes to make his role a success whilst building a successful team.
Everyone explains that making your business different is vital — but NO ONE (not even experts) explains how to actually do it... Until now.
Just click on that big fat red button, answer a couple of questions, and learn to stand the f*ck out in a no-bull, super-practical way:
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"When are you going to do something in French so I understand it?"
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour and welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com. The no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast for people sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I'm your host Louis Grenier. In today's episode, you will learn how a super experienced marketing executive will start anew in a new company and basically underline the principles that he's using to be successful at his job and make his team successful.
So my guest today, as you guessed, is super experienced. He's chief marketing officer at Gong.io, which is the revenue intelligence platform. Before that has been four times VP of marketing across two decades. And I was talking to him just before we started to record, saying that 20 years in this space is worth maybe a hundred years in others, given the pace at which it changes under pressure. Udi Ledergor, super happy to have you on board.
Udi: Glad to be here, Louis. Thanks for having me.
Louis: So here's the challenge. You've done that five times already, which is by that, I mean, you've actually started in a new company, I mean, the company is not new, but you are new, as VP of marketing. And what I want to try to extract from you today, the fundamental principles that you kind of always have been using, and maybe they have evolved a bit, but the things that are the underlying truth about your work and what you try to put in place, I know, you know, your shit around content marketing, category creation, building a brand.
That's kind of what we can touch on, but really love for you to start describing, you know, even before you join, what are the things you do? What are the things you, you know rely on, rely on to, to, to generate revenue and reassure your results. So let's say for the sake of the argument, you're leaving, you're joining a new company, or we can go back in time and say, you're joining Gong again.
What, what is the very. The very first thing you like to do?
Udi: So prior to joining a company, there's, there's a few things. And I think every time I joined a company, I, I learned something new about the due diligence that I should do when joining a company. And I've, I've found that some of the principles are helpful for others as well.
So. A few of the things that, that I look at when I join a company are one, looking at the founding team. Now you know, there are no absolute truths here because what I'm about to say I'm sure some people won't agree with about first-time founders and just their chances of succeeding are infinitely lower than experienced founders. And of course, people will give me examples of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. And they're amazing first-time founders. They are the outliers, they are the exception. And of course, if you found a first-time founder or you are a first-time founder, I don't want to discourage anyone.
And I wish everyone best of success. I found that that looking at previous success stories of founders can be a good predictor for me. Not only on the chances of these people to succeed but also that they know how to work with, with a management team, that they know how to hire the right people, that they know what a great company looks like.
It's not just about you know, the impressive resume, but are these, you know, more mature people that won't, you know, explode with every little crisis or, or, or act in a way that I won't be able to work with. So for me I, I honestly don't see myself going to work with a 25-year-old first-time founder.
Again, I'm having to advise those people and I do it a lot, but I probably don't see myself working full-time with, with young first-time founders. That’s one It affects so many things, you know, their ability to, to get funding without experience it's, it's infinitely harder, et cetera, et cetera.
But of course, there are the outlying success stories as well. The second thing is all around the market and the product. So one thing that I've found in recent years that. The closer I am to the buyer persona that the company is trying to sell to. In the case of Gong, we're selling to sales leaders which is pretty close to it, to a marketing leader.
My, my own persona, the closer I am to the buyer persona, the easier and more excited I can get about my job and to give contrary examples, you know, in the past, I've marketed to diamond manufacturers. And to, IT managers upgrading their ERP systems. Now, these are all great people, but I had to work so much harder to understand what they're going through, what challenges fill their days and how our solutions can help them.
I, when I was marketing at a company called Seren Technologies, I was there for seven years. We went public. It was a great success story. But I really had to put my mind in what is a diamond dealer and diamond manufacturers life look like? I took a gemology course. I got certified. I can rate diamonds and other gemstones, and I really had to go deep into that to be able to come to them and talk with confidence, whether it's through my marketing or the seminars or webinars that I gave, or the marketing materials that I put out for them to make sure that I don't come off as a fraud, that I really understand what they're going to, what they're going through and how I can help make their day easier. And so I learned that if, if I'm not excited about the buyer persona that I need to market and sell to, and if I don't really feel capable of getting into their shoes and understanding what they're going through, I'm probably not going to do a great job and I'm going to find it hard to get excited about it.
So that's one tip that I think a lot of people will relate to. Right.
Louis: So to piggyback on that just briefly, it feels like this advice is, is, can be also applied to folks who are trying to sell their own company and they are going after a market that they don't have a clue about or. Where they don't know that many people in this market.
And exactly, as you said, it's going to take a huge amount of time to actually go through the pain of trying to understand your audience. And as you said, like diplomas and courses and interviews after interviews until you get there, but it could take two years, three years sometimes to get to this point.
Right. So, yeah. I think this advice is very much, you know when you're a founder or you want to create a new product, you're a creator. You want to create a course. It's much better to, to get closer to home, like to, to who you are, to what you believe.
Udi: Of course, of course not every person in the company can be a domain expert on, on who you're selling to. Right. But certain pivotal roles, like the head of product, which many times is the CEO in the early days. But. If not, the person who's building the product has to be the number one expert on the daily lives of your user. Otherwise, how the hell are you going to succeed there? And then everyone's selling to that user and anyone marketing to that user and their customer success.
People, they don't all have to come from that domain necessarily, but they definitely have to get a crash course and, and feel comfortable enough to use the right words to describe the, the daily lives and the problems and the solutions that these folks are using because, you know, people are very cynical and, and we all have bullshit meters.
And if we smell that someone's, you know, picking up a few words that he learned just yesterday, but they've never seen someone like me do my job. I'm not going to buy from them. Like, why would I.
Louis: You mean, you don't like disruptive big data synchronization and
Udi: Forget blockchain and crypto and
Louis: AI to AI-powered machine learning algorithm et cetera, et cetera.
Okay. So those are those first two things. So your vets, you like to look at. What are the founders I've, I've experienced? And you look at whether you're close enough to the persona, what else is it that you look into?
Udi: So the third biggest thing would be looking at the product. And these are the questions that I ask and try to answer before I can, I can join.
And I, I do this even when someone asks me to advise their company like if I can't answer this questions in a way that I'm satisfied, I don't think I can help them succeed. So one thing is, are there enough people who are experiencing the problem that this product is trying to solve? Okay. I have some big problems, but I might be the only one with that problem.
You're probably not going to build a big scale company. If you can only solve a problem that one or two or a hundred people have. So, you, you want to have a target account market of at least several thousand really big companies or millions of consumers or tens of thousands, small to medium businesses, but it has to be a sufficient size audience.
So, so that's one angle at which I look at the problem that the product is trying to solve. Is there a big enough audience that needs a solution to this problem too? Is how difficult is this problem to solve? If the problem is not very painful if it's just a minor inconvenience to the audience, that probably tells me that they're not going to invest a lot in a solution to solve that problem.
Right. I don't know if I'll give just a silly example. I'm thinking of right now, we all spend a few seconds a day, at least we did before COVID, tying our shoelaces before we go out of the house. It's a, it's a minor inconvenience. If someone built the best machine in the world to tie your shoelaces in half the time, yes, there's a big enough market for that, but is it a big enough problem that people are willing to pay money to solve? Probably not. Right. Like maybe I pay a dollar for a machine to tie my shoelaces. I wouldn't pay a hundred dollars. So, so looking at how deep the problem is, how painful is it to the target audience?
That's the second angle that I would look at. And the third is how do you do that? You go and talk to people who have the problem. If you talk to 10 people and nine out of 10 say, Oh my God, I would give my right arm to solve this problem. You know that there is a painful problem here. If they all go like, you know, it's a minor inconvenience I've learned to live with it.
Like if you give me a solution for free, I might use it, but I, I'm not going to go out looking for a solution, paying money for it. Then you want to rethink it. And I've seen so many solutions that are just solving a minor inconvenience. Right. The example, Ooh, now I'm going to really get in trouble. It's, it's interesting. I'll, I'll mention a company that already died, so I can't get into trouble. I, I last year they, they made headlines when they, they raised a few hundreds of millions of dollars. I think maybe like a billion dollars that the company that made this juice presser for, for home use.
Do you know what I'm talking about?
Louis: Yes. I heard of that.
Udi: A Product that they were gonna they're, they're gonna make a living on selling subscription and selling these bags of fruits and vegetables that you put into the machine and it applies and applies incredible pressure to squeeze the fruit and vegetables and produce fresh juice for, for the folks who want to drink fresh juice and don't wanna, like, I don't know, buy their own fruit and vegetables and, and figure out how to mix them for the ideal morning shake and use just a regular Vitamix or other mixer or blender to make it. And when, when people started sort of looking at beta prototypes of the machine, they found that you know, this incredible machine that were, they were trying to sell for thousands of dollars, if you just took your two hands and squeeze the bag of fruit, you still extracted the same amount of juice from the bag. And so they were like scratching their heads. Okay. Is this really a problem that someone is going to pay thousands of dollars for?. And it's got this robotic arm that, that puts all this pressure to squeeze this bag of fruit, to produce juice.
If I can do this with my two hands, why would anyone pay for this fancy machine? And of course, I was just one of the problems with, with the company, but I think that's an example of you, you, you build a tank to, to shoot a fly. Like nobody needs this. It's, it's a minor inconvenience. So. So that’s one example.
And, and so the three angles to the problem. One, are there enough people suffering from the problem? Two, is it a painful enough problem that they would want to fork away cash to, to solve it? And three is, do they have the money and the authority to pay you for the solution? And here's what, I mean, many times if you're selling, say to salespeople, they don't have the money and the authority to buy.
Your solution, unless it's like a $20 a month solution, say someone wants to upgrade their LinkedIn license. I think you can do that for like 40, 50, 60 bucks a month. They have the money and authority to do that themselves. But if you're trying to sell a thousand dollars a month solution to a salesperson, salespeople are not going to buy that from you.
And then you've got to think about, okay, are they really our buyer? Or are they just my user? And if they're just my user, then who is the buyer? And then ask the same questions for the buyer. Okay. Do they have that authority, the money is it a big enough problem. Is it a painful enough problem? So those are the three angles that I think are most important.
There are others as well for looking at the viability of your solution and the company, you've got to have a big enough audience solving a painful enough problem and make sure they have the authority and money to buy our solution.
Louis: That reminds me of the five qualifiers or five sets qualifiers that some, I don't remember the name of the person who coined them, but it's pretty much summarizing you know, your thoughts, what you said.
They have bleeding neck problems. It's a massive problem. They can say yes themselves. They have the money, like another market to me that is obviously those folks need help sometimes for a lot of stuff. But another, another market that is typically a lot of startups would touch on is like the student market, you know, folks who studying in college and whatever. And one of the key questions is, okay, do they have money actually, to spend? An issue gain, so it's not, they don't, they don't have any money. And so when you try to sell something like that is above a certain price range, almost always no. Unless it's very niche and maybe there's a huge problem for certain kind, you know, that those people won't be able to say yes.
Udi: If you have a great solution to a big problem that millions of students have, and you can market it for $20 each, they might be able to buy that and then you can make a big, a big fortune from that. But if you're trying to sell a thousand dollar solution to a, a broke student on student loans, you're probably not going to build a huge company out of that.
Louis: Indeed. Okay, so we've covered the first two steps, how you pick those companies. I'm sure you have a bit more, there's a bit more details and finesse to the way you do things. But I think what's going to be interesting now is let's consider you joining the company, is there a particular stage you want to focus on like where you tend to join?
And again, I don't want to mean that you're planning to leave or whatever.
Udi: That's fine.
Louis: But just for the sake of the argument, like when do you like to join and what example we'd like to take, to take that further?
Udi: So all the companies that I joined had between I think, 15 and 50 people in them. So always very early stage usually after the seed round, but before the A or around the A round.
That's when I joined all of the companies that were venture-backed. One, one that I joined was structured a little bit differently, but it's still. I joined as employee number 20 so that that's like the average employee number that I usually have is around 20 at Gong it was 15. And when, when I joined Gong, just to sort of briefly connect that to the criteria that I talked about earlier People ask me why I joined Gong. So there were three reasons really quickly. One is the the leadership, the founders. So Amit Bendov, our CEO. He and I had worked previously twice at two different companies at ClickSoftware. And so over the course of the last 22 years, we've been working together on and off at three different companies for most of those years.
And when he called me in July of 2016, exactly four years ago. He said, Hey, you, do you remember that crazy idea I told you, about six months ago? We built the product. We rolled it out to 12 beta customers. And 11 of them wrote us a check after three months. So we won't shut off their beta. I think we better start some marketing.
Are you free to come help? So I said, what took you so long? I dropped everything and I came. And the reason is that I, I know Amit he's a serial entrepreneur and leader and I would follow him anywhere, you know. As you can probably see pretty much everything he touches turns into gold, and this is the person that I wanted to work with again.
So that's one leadership to the product. When I came in and I saw the ugly beta version of Gong, my jaw dropped, and I said like, wow, this is going to change an industry. Obviously the industry, just to show how sort of I did the parallels with the criteria that I gave that they're not theoretical. There are I think a hundred million salespeople or something around that in the world. There's a huge, huge tam for that. Their leadership has budget. They have huge problems around not understanding what's happening with their customer interactions because today sales teams rely on salespeople manually entering information into their CRM systems.
That doesn't always happen when it happens. It happens late when it happens late, they only put a fraction of the information that actually happened in the call. And it's always biased to make the salesperson look good. So there's like five different problems there that each one alone is probably deep enough and painful enough to want to solve all of them together are really a bleeding neck as you called it, Louis.
So I saw the product. I'm like, wow, this is going to change an industry. And three is the buyer persona. I was really excited about marketing to salespeople. Again, after selling to some other buyer personas, which you don't always get a lot of feedback from like IT managers, they tend to kind of not be as vocal on social media and, and kind of secretive about their work.
But, but salespeople, they're, they're out there, they're completely transparent. If you do something cool that they like they'll share it and amplify it. If you do something that they hate, they will put it on social media and tell you that you, you did wrong and, and, and they'll get very nasty, but that's great because you get immediate feedback and you know, what's working and what's not.
Louis: Okay. So that's a great overview. Let's say you're starting as VP of marketing. I mean, there's not any need to try to create a fiction, a fictional scenario. Let's, let's go back four years in, in time. Right. But let's try to extract the key fundamentals, the things you kind of tend to always do, even though yeah tactics may change or whatever. But the underlying principles. So you joined Gong four years ago. If you, if you can recall from this experience before, what other core mistakes you've made, the core lessons you've learned, like the things you tend to do in order, even though I understand that sometimes happens in parallel.
Udi: Of course, so again, the first sort of to, to set expectations. I don't have all the answers and, and there's more that I don't know than things that I do know. Yeah. And all of our expertise is just the sum of our own experience. So I'm missing big parts of the experience that other people have, but I can share what I've learned along the way.
So when I came to Gong we set out to do two things and, and I'm going to get tactical for a minute in, in the marketing sense. What every startup is concerned about is demand generation. How do I bring in enough customers to survive until the next funding round? And how do I show some traction?
So investors want to invest more money, right? And so based on my learning so far, this is how I addressed it at Gong and how I'd probably look at it at the next company as well. You want to build two flows of demand gen one of them is inbound, one of them is outbound. Now let, let, let's dive a little bit deeper into sort of what, what attributes each of those has. Inbound is a marketer and a company's dream because the cost per acquisition is very low, right? It's magic people come to your website. They ask for a demo. Since this morning we'd had more than a hundred demo requests on our website. The actual number that I checked before I jumped on this call before 8:30 AM.
We had 110 requests on our website, but that's kind of unfair because yesterday we had some big news announcement on, on our latest funding. Normal days, we still get a few dozen of these every day, but. I'm four years into this game. On the first day that I came, we had zero demo requests coming into our website.
So you're starting to get the good and the bad of this. The good is once you've built it, it's scalable. It's very cost-effective, but it takes a long time to build. And that's why you can't put all your focus on inbound. On the first days. If you do that, you will run out of money far before you get enough inbounds to, to support the business.
So. On the first day, I started building a brand and I started working on the inbound flow, but I knew that in the first year I'm going to get almost zero from it. So that's one thing. But the later you start, the later you'll enjoy all those benefits. So you do have to start early and I'll get back to that if you want to.
The second flow is outbound. Outbound Is where you get your first customers from. Okay. You never get them from inbound. As far as I know, I've never gotten them from inbound. To do outbound, you need to create some content. You need to bring an SDR. Get them with the list of prospects and give them a script to start working with and have them call and email and LinkedIn, those people get them on a demo call, do some discovery, understand what they need and see if your solution is a match. That is outbound and you can do that on the first day. Right? You get a list of names, you get an SDR to sit them down and they start calling. So by doing those two things simultaneously. You use outbound SDR to start having calls every day. If you sit back and wait for a demo request to come in on your website, I mean, you know, it's going to take months, so yeah.
Doing those two things in parallel outbound for immediate results, but you also get a lot of feedback because, on every call, people are going to call you out. If you're talking bullshit, if you're not addressing the problems they actually have, or if your solution doesn't solve their problem in a way that they're interested, you'll learn very, very quickly every day.
And at the same time, you build the longer-term inbound flow. That's the high level. I'll pause here.
Louis: That's that's the way you like to see it. Okay. That's, that's super interesting. And just to, to describe to define just SDR sales development representative, right?
Udi: Sometimes called also BDRs or business development representative, or ADR account development representative. And there are other names, but the function is basically the same.
Louis: So let's go to one concept that you briefly mentioned, which I think is incredibly powerful. You said from day one, I started to build the brand, right?
That's probably those three words I used so many times with so many folks and it's almost impossible to get to the bottom of what the fuck do you actually mean? What do you actually do? So maybe we can try to cover that. Because I would invite everyone listening to this podcast to go to Gong.io, which is the website, just look around look at the copy, the design, how the system works, how everything seems to be connected and increase a feeling right.
Even as a first-time visitor, even though I don't care about the product, cause I'm not in sales. I get it. And I understand what's the feeling you're trying to give me. But let's let me ask you okay, what building what does it, what does it actually mean? And what did you actually do?
Udi: Sure. So I'll try and cover two things here.
One I'll talk about the brand and two, we'll talk about the content marketing which is something we're kind of famous for. And, and it's, it's the second content machine that I built. The last one was at Panaya, that was hugely successful and contributed to a lot of our inbound and outbound demo flow.
But let's start with the brand maybe. I think with the brand, and of course, every company in every industry will will need their own brand. And even with the, within the same industry, every company should have a different brand. If, if you're, if, I mean, if you want to be a me-too brand and just copy someone else, that's also a valid tactic.
We have plenty of those in our industry, but we never want it to be one of those to summarize our philosophy on brand, I would say, and I didn't make up this motto. We just live by it. So I don't wanna take credit for making it up. It is different is better than better. I'll say it again, different is better than better.
And I'll explain what I mean by that. When you're trying to stand out in a crowded space, and if you're not in a crowded space, you want to make sure you're in the right room. Because if no one else is there, maybe nobody needs your solution. But if you want to be in a crowded space, which we all do, right?
If, if, if you build a successful company, the competition will come. If you've been at this for three years and there's still no competition, maybe they figured out something that you haven't. But going back to assuming you're in a valid space. To stand out amongst other players, by doing the same thing, they are but doing it better, you have to be 10 or 20 times better than they are. That's extremely hard. That's extremely hard. Like how many things can you do that are 20 times better than the best people in your industry? I don't know that I can do many things 10 or, or anything that's 10 or 20 times better than, than others.
And so a different approach is to be different. And if you see everyone zig and you zag, by definition, you're now the best at zagging because nobody else is doing it. You're you're the first, the last and the only, and if you think of that brand building and content building, and other aspects of marketing that way, by doing something very different from everyone else.
You're going to stand out by definition, right. Because everyone else looks at people's websites. Okay. I'm going to give us just a really trivial example. Open up 20 B2B software company websites. I can guarantee what you're going to see at the top of all of them. There's going to be a Mac screen.
There's going to be an ugly screenshot of their product at the top. And then they're going to attempt to explain three bullet points of why it's so great. And then ask you for a demo. We, we don't have that screenshot at the top. We have an English bulldog woofing at you, and we've got a diverse group of people who represent a Silicon Valley sales team.
It's a very human approach. It's very different. There are zero stock images or illustrations on our website. There's nothing that you will find on another website in the world. These are all actors and actresses that we auditioned and brought in for a photoshoot. And we, we bought their clothes for that Photoshop, that these are exclusive characters, I'm serious.
And we auditioned seven dogs.
Louis: That's what it takes.
Udi: That's what it takes. We audition seven dogs and only on made it to stardom.
Louis: The only one who could speak. It's a nice story.
Udi: And that's how specific we are when we say that we want to be different. Just try chatting with, with Bruno the, the dog on our chatbot, you, I can guarantee you've never had that chat experience on any other website.
Like he might bark at you. He might show you stuff. He might ask you very casual stuff, but you know what? He books hundreds of meetings every month. And that's automated. There's no human behind that.
Louis: So let me stop here because this is incredibly important than perhaps. We, will switch the course a bit and focus on this because it's probably the most critical aspect that would say the rest follows.
I think once you have something that stands out as a clear difference, your content marketing, your, your, your, your, even your, your, your outbound, everything starts to. It's it gets easier. Doesn't it? It's just, the grind is less grindy it's anyway, it's, it's it feels like you're part of a wave and, and your surfing it.
You're not behind it or in through much in front of it. So there's a very good book called actually Different by Youngme Moon. And she talks about this innovation by augmentation, which is exactly what you described. You know, the razor. 20 years ago, razors had two blades, then three, then four, then five that's just fucking slightly, better slightly more, slightly faster, slightly cheaper.
Udi: And I will always buy the latest blade.
Louis: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So there you go. But like that's, that's, it's not because they are different because you know them and that's part of your memory structure. Like you just, you just habit you just buy them because they are the leader, but that's not what we're talking about here.
I'm talking about radical differentiation in a sense, you mentioned Zag, which is another book by Marty Neumeier. If I'm not mistaken, talk about that very well. And then you have the blue ocean strategy on top of it, which I think is something that maybe we want to mention because yeah, the story of the dog, the story of the actors you audition, that's a nice little story, but it's part of a bigger thing.
So let's dive deeper into the next layer. How did you engineer this different? What did you look into to consider, okay, this is what we're going to do differently. This is what we're going to stop doing or not even attempt to do.
Udi: Yeah. Yeah. So so I think I should, I should talk about two things here to answer your question.
One is the brand personality or brand attributes. And. And, and the other is, is our content strategy. Let's start with the brand since we're already on it. We sat down two and a half years ago, and this was after around A. So the reason I'm mentioning this is it's a relatively early stage to be thinking about the brand.
And I think there's no early and too early stage to be thinking about the brand. And I think the most successful B2B companies today look at companies like Drift. They built a brand before they launched their product. I joined Gong a full year before our first VP of sales joined us. Because Amit our CEO believed that we need to start building a brand and authority and, and drive demand gen before we can expect a salesperson to sell to these people.
And I think a lot of companies get this wrong. They bring a salesperson and after a year they fired the salesperson or, or leader because they're not succeeding. They bring a second one. She fails too, and then they're like, Hmm, maybe we need some marketing support. We should find a marketer to build a website and make some brochures.
But, but that's, that's the wrong way to do it. You have to start either together or bring the marketing earlier. If you want to create a brand, if you want to create dimension and then you're setting up your sales team for success, then they come in and they're like, wow, there's actually demo requests coming in.
Like, wow, we actually have materials and content. We can send our prospect, okay. With this, I can work. And so. What we did is we sat at a very early stage, like two and a half years ago. And we, with that, we sat with the branding agency and they facilitated this, this process. Of course, we, we initiated it and we discussed for days, what is our brand personality?
If our brand was a person. Would it be male or female? Would she be older, young, would she be playful or serious? Would she be like an upper-class or everyday commoner? And we talked about all these things and we mapped them out. And then we, we looked at like six or seven dimensions of our brand personality and we picked all of them.
And then we started looking at how we connect them together. Can you really be authoritative yet? Approachable. And if you ask most B2B brands are, don't ask them, just go look at their websites. You'll see that most brands confuse authoritative with boring. And you see a lot of websites. I don't want to mention names, of course, but you look at a lot of websites and you see that they're trying so hard to look authoritative, even though they're like a one-year-old startup.
So they make everything so serious and they use everyone's blue and grey colors, which they think adds more authority. And it's all, you know, these silly icons, but. We decided that we're going to be authoritative. We're going to be the number one authority on what works in sales. And I'll get soon to the content strategy that helped us create that part of the brand.
But we're also going to be extremely approachable. And one sentence that we use internally all the time is we take our work very seriously, but we don't take ourselves seriously. And you, you mentioned our website and if people go there, they'll very quickly get that vibe that we don't take ourselves too seriously.
And if you've been following our social media on LinkedIn or Facebook, you see that we don't take ourselves too seriously. We love goofing off. You can find a video of me and my underwear on our website. Right? Go, go, go, go check it out. You'll find it. We do these crazy things because people want to relate to other people.
They don't want to relate to this no, [inaudible] brand or something that they, they wouldn't want to have a drink with after work. And I think we create a brand that people want to go have a drink with after work or at least come pet our bulldog.
Louis: So did you, so look at what, obviously you do look at other competitors and try to look at their personality and you purposely then, looked at this map, but said, we're going to go all the way to the edge of this map while leaving all of the others there. Right?
Udi: Yeah. So I will say that, you know, looking at competitors I think is a little bit overrated, depends on what your market position is. If you're a number two or three or coming very late into the game again, I'll give you, Drift is a great example. They came in originally to a space of online chats, where there were established players like Intercom and LivePerson, Olark and, and there are many players and they decided, okay, we're going to, we're going to essentially start by building a me-too product. In a very competitive space because there was enough room for, for other players, but we're going to build a completely different brand and they did, right?
Like most people couldn't talk about the other brands that I just mentioned, but most of us know Drift because they're doing amazing stuff. And. Gong came into a different position. We came into a space that we were just creating. There were a couple of very, very early-stage startups that are now far, far, far behind us.
And so we never looked at them to see what they were doing and see, okay, if they're doing this, I'm going to do something else. We're like, okay, we have a completely blue ocean. As you mentioned, we need to figure out what, what, what the leader is going to do in this space. And it's a challenge that I prefer.
That's why I tend to join companies that are creating a category or are in very early stages of a category that you don't have to look at others and just think, okay, what do I want to do a little bit different or better? No, let's, let's figure this out for the first time. It's way more exciting for me than coming into space where they're already three established players.
And now you're trying to figure out your niche angle. So, I mean, we did look at other B2B companies. We looked at other sales tech companies, but there was really very little inspiration in our immediate field. So we had to make all of this up.
Louis: The key here is that I think, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you had the confidence as a team, as a founding team to fucking go for it, right. To actually go and stay there. Like not diluting things, not making the curry less spicy, not, you know scratching off the, rounding off the edges and making everything average. Now you, you. Because that's what happens. I sat in on a lot of meetings with brand agencies where you decide and fucking reinvent the world and we're going to be this and that and that.
And then the Monday morning you come back and like, I'm scared. Let's just go back to average. Shit. Is that, is that a fair assessment?
Udi: Very fair. I love the analogy of, we didn't make the curry less spicy. That’s a perfect description. If there's something that we talk about a lot in my marketing meetings and in our brand management meetings we are not afraid of being controversial and polarizing and saying things that are going to piss off some people, because here's what I believe really strongly.
If you're not pissing anyone off, you're also not exciting anyone. If you're trying to please everyone, you are going to bore everyone to death because you're not saying anything exciting. The worst thing that could happen to your content. Look, look at like 99 out of 100 brands who have a LinkedIn page.
You go to their LinkedIn feed, you look at their posts. How many reactions do they have? How many likes and comments do they have? Two, seven, 12. Nobody cares about what they're posting because they're playing it so safe. Or as you would say, making the curry so bland that nobody wants to eat it. There's nothing exciting.
They're not starting any sort of conversation. If you look at posts, we regularly post stuff that gets hundreds and sometimes thousands of reactions and hundreds of comments, because we're pissing some people off, we're creating an argument that people either want to say, yeah, exactly that. Or tag someone else, this is what I've been talking about or say, Hey, Gong, you're completely wrong. How dare you recommend that people go and swear on sales calls, but what do you know? Our data actually shows that increases your win rates by 9%? If you do it correctly.
Louis: Does it?
It does. Are you happy now?
Louis: Like I like
Udi: If you're not creating something that people can argue with or like have a double take on like, wow, I never thought about it that way. Or I always thought A but Gong just showed me data that suggests that B is actually true. If you're not, you know, tinkling their, their, their curiosity. They're not gonna engage in a conversation.
It's going to be just boring.
Louis: So you, you pick something, you go to the edge you, you have, you had the very nice position to be the first in that category, which is not. Which is rare. Like it doesn't, it very rarely happens for real. A lot of companies try to create a category, but it's not real.
It's mostly the side of the red version and all of that, but I won't go into that too much. So you picked those and you went for it. You had the confidence to go for it. Well, it seems to have happened as well. And then we can mention content strategy because I'm probably a good segue. If you looked at the places, the things that are currently done in the industry in joining the sales industry, software sales, and you kind have said, okay. For example, LinkedIn, everyone is on fucking LinkedIn fine. Every company has a LinkedIn profile fine, but every single one of them is boring as fuck. Could we do something radically different there? Is that the way you approach it or am I creating a story that didn't happen?
Udi: That's very close. I would just, the only correction I would make is that LinkedIn is just one channel, but the content strategy is something much bigger. And, and of course, you know, people consume content in many ways by, by email and webinars and on, on-stage performances. LinkedIn is one of our very successful channels, but yes, we, we thought about.
How can we create so much noise? And here's another sentence that we use internally all the time. When we sit down in our monthly or bi-weekly and our content meetings, we're thinking about creating content so good that people would pay for it. Try applying that, filter to your content calendar, look at your calendar.
How many of those pieces would people pay for it? I can show you actual emails of universities and sales teams sending us emails, inquiring about pricing because they want to license our content marketing to use in university courses in sales, enablement courses and sales kickoffs. And of course we grant full license to all these people to use it freely just to credit Gong.
But every time we get those emails, we smile and say it worked. We created content so good that people are willing to pay for it.
Louis: How do you do it in practice?
How do we do it in practice? All right. So it's a lot like developing a product. Remember the questions. Do we have a big enough audience? Do they have a painful enough problem?
And are they willing to pay for it? So here's how we applied to content. So once again, Gong is selling to salespeople and sales leaders. So we looked at what other problems they have that I can solve with content. And here's the thing we found that if you go on Amazon, you'll find, I forget the exact numbers, probably at least 4,000 books on sales.
Here's the thing, they're all based on opinions. It's people who sold a Xerox in the 1980s. They're telling you what worked for them and you should go do the same. I just summarized 4,000 books for you. So we thought, okay, there must be a better way. And then we looked inside. And we saw that we have, and this was four years ago, on my first day, we had 20,000 calls, already recorded sales calls from our customers. Now, if we could apply our AI, not the bullshit people call it AI, but actual AI and machine learning to analyze those 20,000 calls and find a few things that are clearly working for the salespeople who get the next call or get that deal and things that aren't working.
For example, what percentage of the calls should the salesperson be talking versus listening? How many questions do salespeople ask when they win the deal? Should you be swearing? How long should you wait for the awkward pause after you give them pricing? There's so many, there's like a million questions that there are thousands of books that try to answer them, but none of them have data.
So we're like, wait, we have all this data. What if we became the number one authority on what's actually working in sales and we back everything that we say with data, we don't give our opinions. We just show the data. And so I'm not kidding. On my first day was August 1st. 2016. I asked my CEO, do you have any data or something I can use to create the first e-book?
And he gave me like five slides that he presented at some conference a week earlier. And they talked about what we found in our call database. What was the optimal talk time turns out it was about 46% for the salesperson. You should be listening about 54% of the time and talking 46%. And how many questions should we ask?
And we found that for most scenarios, something between four to 11 is the right number of questions, less than that. And you're not getting any of the information that you need any more than that. And you're starting to piss off the customer and that number changes depending on the seniority. I won't get into that because it doesn't matter right now.
But we found a few tidbits like that. And then I took his PowerPoint. I literally. Went to the file menu and chose save as PDF. And that was my first e-book. And then I set up a simple email campaign and posted a few LinkedIn ads and I started sending it out. And what do you know people were downloading it?
They were actually interested in what actually works in sales. I think I called that ebook though, like five pitching secrets or something like that. Cause it was five slides and that became our content strategy for the last four years. We've been producing thousands of content pieces as part of the gong labs series.
And I actually have data scientists working for the marketing team. Going now through 20 million sales calls that we have in our database and hundreds of millions of emails that we've ingested from our customers. They're looking at them in a very anonymous, aggregated way. They never know what, who the people are companies are.
And then they surface these insights and ugly charts and Excel sheets. They give that to my content team. They look at that and say, okay, how are we going to craft a beautiful story out of this? And then they put out an article in plain English with two or three beautiful, simple charts that everyone can understand.
And we post that on LinkedIn and emails and we do webinars and conferences about it and thousands and thousands of people are consuming that. And that's how we built our authority in the sales space, by being the first company to actually use hard data to show what's actually working.
Louis: But yet again, I think the mechanism is the same as before for the brand.
Right. You looked. At the empty space, which is, which is something. Again, humans are pretty bad at this. We are very good at looking at what's there. I'm looking at patterns that what is there because that's how we survive. Right? We look at what is there. But actually, the most valuable thing to do usually is to look at what is not.
And exactly, as you said, 4,000 books on sales, what is not in there? Fucking data, real data, right? Now, you also had the advantage of generating data yourself. And so that's a match made in heaven. Right. But I guess if you had to remove your example from it and just extract the principles, it's like looking at what isn't there. Looking at the problem as you described the pains that are really painful, the bleeding necks and looking at what are the things that others don't do that will help them solve this problem? Not what are the things that people currently do and just let's make it 10 X, 10% better.
Louis: Is that a fair summary?
Udi: Ample, just to sort of show that this is not a fluke, right?
We did the same thing when I was at Panaya, we were selling, god awful boring product. It was a great product, just boring, helped IT managers automate the upgrade of their ERP systems. It's about exciting as it gets, right? And these people were working on systems like SAP and Oracle. And before every version release, you know, SAP put up like 2000 pages of documentation on their website on what's changing in this version of SAP.
Now, if you're an IT manager, how are you going to understand what's going to happen in this upgrade of SAP? And what's it going to break in your system? You're not going to go read 2000 documentation pages. So we identified that in the marketing team at Panaya, we're like, okay, we can help people like Louis, who's trying to prepare for the next upgrade.
And we had, again, we used some fancy software of our own to analyze that coming version of SAP. And we produced a two page summary of what's changing in this version and we showed hard data. This is going to affect your HR module and the finance module. You don't need to test this. You need to prepare for this.
We bruised a two page summary of the next SAP upgrade. And we put that out once and we saw how immensely popular it was. And then we start putting it out every quarter for every SAP release. And once we were late and people started emailing us, Hey, can I when you put out your SAP update fact sheet, we're waiting for it to know what's coming up.
So now we're relying on our version of documenting the SAP upgrades because we managed to do it in two really useful pages versus 2000 pages that you had to go read on their website. So. I mean, it's not rocket science just to see what problems people are actually having and how you can make their lives easier.
And in a way that's a little bit difficult that others haven't figured out yet.
Louis: I think it's a pretty good summary of what you've been talking about in the last few minutes. And hopefully, that should put some fire under your ass listening. You listening to this episode right now to test stuff and look at what is not there and, and try to solve pains differently and not just 10% better because everyone else is doing it. I think it's a, it's a great example of, of doing things differently, having the conviction to do it because you know what I mean? That's a belief of mine. I don't have data to back it up yet, but I believe that sometimes it's not really about the focus like what's, you're picking the thing you're choosing to do necessarily is just the fact that you've actually picked one thing and done it very well or just different. You could have taken a hundred other different routes, but just by focusing on one thing and doing that very well and just fucking going all in, there's already more chances to success than just trying to do everything.
Udi: That's very true. And the same goes for your marketing channels. If you're trying to market on 20 channels, you're going to suck on all of them. Pick one or two, that's all you can manage. And that's going to be hard enough if you've tried to do 20 you're, you're not gonna beat the competition on any of them.
And same with content strategy, pick one and go all-in on it. I completely agree.
Louis: So Udi, you've been a pleasure. Thanks for going through this, the steps. And, and trying to understand your, your, kind of your, your thinking when you come to a new company, I just have two more questions to ask you. The first one what do you think listeners should be on today that will help them in the next five years, 10 years, 20 years.
Udi: What should listeners learn that would help them? I think I'll start with what I think the market needs today. And then, then you, you can identify your gaps, the, the best marketers who are being promoted from a specific point role to manager and director and VP and CMO, they, they are very good at using both sides of their brain.
And by that, I mean that they can merge creativity with analytics. And if you have a gap in one of those, and most people have a gap in one of those, you have to go in and fill it. You don't have to become if you're predominantly creative. You don't have to become the best analytical mind in the world, but if you don't advance significantly there, you're not going to be a CMO.
Okay. You can't be a CMO if you're just a creative guy, because you have to know how to present numbers to your CRO and to your CFO and to your board of directors. And you need to be good enough at analytics to show that you understand how what you're doing with creativity is affecting the business and the other way around if you're all numbers, but you can't come up with a creative campaign to save your life.
You've got to get people that will help you fill in those gaps. You've got to know how to guide them. You've got to know what's good when you see it. So you've got to also adapt and, and learn in that area. So the ones that are going to merge creativity with analytics the best, those are the ones that are getting promote it right now.
And I'm not a prophet, but I don't see that changing in the next 10 years.
Louis: What are the top three resources you'd recommend listeners. So it could be anything from books to podcasts, to events.
Udi: Right so number one the, my Bible of marketing is Robert Cialdini's Influence, a book that he wrote in the early eighties.
It was a complete flop when he published it, that the publisher like stop distributing it after a few months cause it was doing terribly and yeah. Yeah. Robert wrote about it, it's a, it's a great story. And a few years later when sort of data-based decision making became a thing, people started rediscovering the book and then, of course, it became history and sold out multiple additions have been translated into dozens of languages. And Robert is a brilliant scholar on marketing. It talks about the six pillars of influence that every marketer needs to learn. And, and the good news here folks is the book was written in the early eighties. We're now what? Almost 40 years. Oh my God. Almost 40 years after. The book was written and everything that you see working on Twitter and TikTok and YouTube uses the same six pillars that Robert wrote about in the early eighties before all of this crap was invented.
So the good news you can really master those six foundations, you will understand consumer behaviour. And when you create a new piece of content, doesn't matter from what channel, whether it already exists or not, you can look at it through the prisms of those pillars of influence. I could talk about his book for an hour or so.
I'll stop there, but just go, go buy influence by Robert Cialdini. You can thank me later. Wow. Other resources we, you know, we regularly look at events and content and websites of companies that, that inspire us. Some of them in neighbourhood spaces to ours, but others completely different.
We, we regularly get ideas from Disney and Red Bull and, and consumer brands that are doing amazing stuff. I think we stole an idea from Nike at some point for a campaign because consumer brands usually get to have a lot more fun than B2B brands. And if you can bring 10% of the fund that they get to have into your B2B brand, you're, you're already standing out and doing way more than, than those around you.
So don't, don't limit your, your search and, and education to, to your competitors or, or your immediate neighborhood. Just look, look much broader than that. Look at Superbowl ads, see what they're doing and what can you, they're usually, you know, very extreme, very, you know, they put some companies put 30% of their advertising budget a year into their Superbowl ad.
Look at what they did there. You might get inspiration and an idea that you can scale down to something that'll work for you.
Louis: So that's two.
Udi: Ooh, really, only missing one. Gosh. Where else do we educate ourselves to learn something good? I would say. You should, and this is maybe an unorthodox answer, but whatever position you're in go find two people that have been doing it longer and better than you at companies that you admire and get them to mentor you.
If you're a social media manager if you're an events manager go find people who are doing it better. My events manager, Danny, he's on my team, incredible guy. When we launched our first virtual events in April, he thought that other event managers might want to learn about it more. So he opened up a modest Slack community on the first day like 400 event managers signed up to learn how we're doing our virtual events.
I can't remember how many there right now. And Danny and I published an article on Forbes a couple of weeks ago about. How we're doing our virtual events that got thousands of views and questions afterwards, go find people that are doing what you're doing, but they've been doing it for a little bit longer and a little bit better.
They're more advanced. Get them to mentor you. Talk to them. You'll be surprised that people will make time for this. I talk to CMOs and other marketers many times every week. It's something I enjoy doing. And it just feels good to, to help advance other people's careers, especially in their early stages.
So. Go find a few people you admire and get, get to half an hour of their time. Once a quarter, you'll learn a ton from it.
Louis: Amen to that. Udi, you've been a pleasure. Once again, thank you very much for your time.
Udi: Thank you, Louis, had lots of fun.