How Unique Content Can Generate 3K Demos In a Quarter

Udi Ledergor
CMO
Gong
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How Unique Content Can Generate 3K Demos In a Quarter
What follows is an article based on his appearance on the Techie Talkie podcast.

Tell Your Brand Story Like Drift and Disney

Right now I think my favorite marketing tool (and my favorite tech company in general) is Drift.

Gong has actually taken quite a bit of inspiration from them. They're very conversational. After all, it's built into their category - they're a conversational marketing tool.

But also their brand is extremely conversational, it started in the days when Dave Gerhardt was their VP marketing. He’s already moved on, but his influence stayed, and they just built a brand which is enjoyable to talk with.

Drift was one of our inspirations when we wanted to build a persona that people would enjoy talking to. To get you feeling like you're speaking with people and not with some uptight corporate logo that sounds like a Gartner analyst.

As for my favorite non-tech brand. Disney, that's easy.

They are the world champions at storytelling. If you’re gonna learn storytelling from someone, who’s a better example than Disney?

Everything they touch manages to do the impossible. In marketing they teach us that you can't be something for everyone. But then you watch a movie like Coco, which I’ve watched this week for the tenth time. And I'm sitting with my children who are five and seven years old, and they're crying and I'm crying, and they perceive their layer (of the story) and I perceive mine. It's magic, it's just magic.

Inbound and Outbound are Both Key

The short answer is:

You do the outbound with everything you got, before you run out of money, and at the same time you're building the inbound for that moment after you'll run out of money.

Today, Online is Key. But don’t Ignore Offline.

Another big choice though, something that pulls marketers in either direction (although today,  not as much), is the question of online or offline.

Well, the answer for right now at least is absolutely online. I think that up until four months ago we all lived in this reality that offline is also a must.

One of the things that I'm celebrating these last four months is that I don't need to wear pants.

I don't need to board a plane. I don't need to go to any conference. And if you'd like then we'll talk a bit about the virtual conferences we did in the last four months. It's just a huge event, from every aspect.

Get Creative with Billboards

But we’ve also done a lot of billboards for a startup of our size. And it has an amazing effect, because most startups don't do it.

Billboards are not that expensive. This is something that characterizes much bigger companies, mainly B2C companies and that's why startups that use it can really stand out.

We used it for a branding campaign for an office in Tel Aviv, where we wanted people in that area to know that there's a closer office, so we did a very cool campaign on billboards in Tel Aviv.

In San Francisco we held a few campaigns in order to celebrate our distinguished employees, we put up posters that show our distinguished employees with their dogs and their partners and their grandmother and people absolutely loved it.

It also generated a ton of pride and team spirit, as well as an inner competition between people that wanted to be on the poster next year. Also candidates were talking and asking me how they could be on next year’s poster. It created an amazing conversation.

Like, employees were going and looking for their billboard in the most remote areas of San Francisco. We’ve made a kind of treasure hunt out of it. I took fifty signs in San Francisco for this last campaign.

Now people go and take a selfie with their billboard and send it to their mothers, and it's like "Hey Mom, I made it, I'm on a billboard in San Francisco", it's fucking amazing.

So people absolutely adore it. It's fun, and I managed to put up a project in February, a minute before Corona started, here in San Francisco and also in Tel Aviv. The upside is that no one bought the signs since, so I have dozens of billboards which I'm not paying for anymore and they're still in the air.

Brand Like you’re Two Years Ahead of the Market

That might have been a cool one-off campaign. But the “killer move” in the strategic business sense was a lot less flashy. But had a lot more impact.

Our big thing was actually two separate things.

The first was launching our brand after Round A, which is rather early for a lot of companies. We did a big launch, including billboards and such. And it made us look like we're two years ahead of where we were in effect at the time.

I think that that's a good shortcut, how the marketing team makes the company look like it's two years ahead of where it actually is.

It greatly facilitates all parts of the business.

It's much easier for sales to sell, and for support to support, and for the CEO to raise funds. Everything gets easier when the company looks two years ahead of where it actually is.

So we pulled it off, and we did that by launching a brand that stood out and was different and unique.

The Right Brand Category is Everything

The second move happened less than a year ago, and that was the decision we made to pull ourselves out of the former brand category we were in "Conversation Intelligence" and form a new category around us that's called "Revenue Intelligence".

I warned you that it wouldn’t sound so glamorous. But it's an extremely significant strategic move that moves us to another league. And it’s had consequences which I can't discuss in full as of yet.

Hitting on the right brand category is huge. It really put us in a different place.

Going from Conversation Intelligence to Revenue Intelligence opened up a dialogue with senior executives that care exclusively about revenue. And already 18 months ago we understood that they didn't really care much for conversations.

Most of our competitors are still stuck in this world of “conversation intelligence” and therefore, they're not succeeding in selling anything that resembles Gong. They’re also not getting the same valuations and market traction as Gong. That's because they're speaking to people that are quite low in the organizational hierarchy -- people that buy tactic tools

The change in conversation around revenue intelligence is something that interests the senior leadership, and it's a tremendous turnaround from what we’ve been doing.

Going from a category that speaks about "how", to a category that speaks about "why" -- it’s a fundamental switch.

Redefine your Brand Category as you Grow

And it really is a matter of supporting our vision, long-term.

Gong's vision is already a few years out ahead of the rest of the market, which is primarily about recording sales calls and things like that. We’re taking a much broader, more forward-thinking view than that. We’re talking about giving visibility to your entire deal pipeline, which has nothing to do with improving the sales skills of your sales personal.

We'll talk about collecting the voice of the customer and about executing strategic motions like a new sales method, extremely complex stuff.

The combination of this vision with a category that people have already started to grasp as one that includes certain things, made us feel that we outgrew our category. That we got too big.

You know like when a kid is too big for sitting on first grade chairs?

That's how we felt, that we are held back by these kids’ chairs, and as long as we are telling people Gong is about conversational intelligence, we’ll always be seen as a tool that just records conversations.

And already today (and even 18 months ago) -- we’re something much bigger than that.

So these two reasons combined were enough to make us say "okay we need a new category that won't hold us back, we need a category that will go with us for the next five or ten years.”

The Power of Going All in on the Right Brand Category

After a very interesting internal procedure, with the help of all kinds of clever people, we landed on "revenue intelligence" and we organised a big launch during the first conference we held last October in San Francisco. And on the same day, there was the press release and the CEO's keynote, and endless posts. We also put up signs all over the San Francisco metro with the slogan "Goodbye opinions. Hello, reality".

This slogan summarized the concept behind this category, which is "Enough with making strategic decisions, based on the opinions of sales people and information that's inserted manually to the CRM -- it's time to look at the reality as it is"

And that's what Gong is enabling our customers to do. It was a dramatic launch that no one in the industry could ignore, and to this day people are talking about it. Right after that, we launched a Revenue Intelligence Podcast that within a few months reached almost 20,000 listeners.

People are really buying into the vision and today it's clear to anyone who's in this market, that Gong is up here and all the rest are somewhere else.

Also according to the data we have, we are holding about 75% of this market, and the ownership of this category is a substantial part of that.

How to Build a Lean, Mean Content Machine

There’s a ton of potential in a strong brand category. So much in fact, that once you have it, you can build a super-charged marketing machine around that direction fairly easily.

Gong, for example, currently consists of 320 people, give or take. We raised in Round C altogether about 134 million dollars if I'm not mistaken. We have 1,200 customers, among them companies like Linkedin, Paypal, Slack, Outreach and other big companies I can't reveal. Really amazing companies. We have customers from small startups to the biggest enterprises in the world. I had a look at companies that resemble our company in size, budgets and growth-stage.

Usually in those companies, about 10% of the company are the marketing teams. In our company it's less than 4%, the whole marketing team, including me, is 12 people in Gong.

I don't want to embarrass her, but one CFO of a big and famous company wrote me a week ago that she assigned this and that amount of money for their content machine, and she'd like to learn from our machine, and how many people are on that operation.

I told her that up until four months ago there was one, and now I have two. And I explained to her what we do with the content. We're a tiny team, lean and mean, and that's how I prefer it.

Hit the Ground Running from Day One

As of August 1st, I’ve officially been at Gong for 4 years. Crazy to think back on how we got here, and how it all started…

On the first day I got there, I asked Amit, my CEO. "Do you have any content, perhaps an eBook I can start publishing so I can start working on the inbound?"

He didn’t have anything

All they had in the entire company was this five slide presentation.

I asked for it, went into the PowerPoint, pressed save as PDF and I said okay we have our first eBook.

I took that and put up some Linkedin ads, I downloaded some software for building landing pages and built one, then I downloaded emailing software. took a few email addresses we had in our CRM and I published our first mail campaign with content.

That's the first thing I did on my first day on August 1st 2016. I swear.

So on my first day I started building the inbound machine, but at the same time, in that first month we recruited an SDR and we sat him down and told him to start calling people and selling Gong. And also make appointments for the CEO that was the other salesperson back then.

So yeah, those were the two moves that worked for us. Perhaps it won't work for every company in the world, but it did work for us.

Striking a Balance Between Inbound and Outbound

We did two moves simultaneously, one was outbound. Why? Because inbound is something that takes time to build.

Until you'll build a brand, and until you'll have content, and followers on Linkedin, and a list of emails of people that want to receive content from you, and until your brand will have some kind of character, and until you could expert in something you'll be known for, it takes years!

So, don't postpone it, because if you postponed it in one year, it will start being beneficial a year later.

But at the same time you have to do two things:

One is to start working outbound, especially when you arrive at a company in the seed phase or Round A, you're living every moment on borrowed air.

You need to get to the next fundraise, you need to show traction, you need to show that you have actual customers. The way to do that is through aggressive outbound.

You need to take the list of phone numbers and emails of the people that seem like the sweet spot of your clientele, and get a person that will dial the phone aggressively, that will send mails, LinkedIn messages, that will get them to an appointment and show them the demo.

If the product is good and a good fit for the market, they'll try it - and perhaps in the future will also buy it.

So that's the outbound we did from day one, and that's how we reached to our first fifty or so customers.

At the same time we started to build the content machine and the inbound. Here is a number I don't usually reveal, but in this last quarter we received at the Gong website more then 3,000 requests for demos.

Take a second to think about this. Now, I'll remind you that we are a company that’s been in the market already for four years. This didn't happen overnight.

Now, if I would wait for the inbound machine to get to it, we would’ve run out of money a long time ago.

That's why today and for a while now that we are enjoying the fruits of the inbound, and now it's at an all time record.

In Q1 we had over 2,500 demo requests, and in the Q2, during the Covid pandemic it went up to over 3,000 demo requests from the website. And the inbound's income today is between 40-50% of our entire pipeline. The other half comes from outbound.

So yeah, that kind of proves my point. They’re both very important.

Brand is a Force Multiplier for Marketing

That being said, brand takes precedence over both inbound and outbound marketing.

Look, a brand allows you to collect 20% more than your competitors.

A brand is something that will make the prospects choose you when all the rest between you and another competitor looks the same to him.

With Gong, we see that everyday. We are the most expensive player in our field, we have competitors that sell at half the price we're selling and even less than that. They'll do anything to seal a deal.

We have customers that switched to us from a competitor and are paying us three times the amount they paid them, and they moved to us in the middle of the contract with the other company. Why?

Because we have a brand. We have a real brand.

And here I have to put up huge brackets and say that we wouldn't be showing off our marketing today on this episode unless we had an amazing product with an unbelievable product-market-fit.

That's the start of everything.

My team can be heroes, and if you put me in our competitors company I wouldn't be succeeding as much as I have with Gong, because they don't have a product like this.

So everything becomes easier when you have an incredible product-market-fit, and it must not be forgotten. Your brand positioning needs to be spot on.

The brand helps with every step.

You know, I get tagged in Gong conversations where the sales person starts talking to someone for the first time, and the other guy is holding up a doll of Gong’s mascot Bruno that was sent to him, or some CRO book that my AVM campaigns manager sent him because she knew he'll read it with great interest.

When he's waving in front of us this bit of content we sent him, you know that you’ve really built something here, and that this person got to this conversation already on board with the story.

B2B Marketing Has Exactly One Job

That communicates with the purpose of marketing in a B2B organisation.

What's that purpose? To make sales easier, that's it.

Anyone who thinks marketing has its own right to exist or a higher goal, it's not true. The purpose of marketing in startups is to make sales easier, and we manage to do that each and every day, and we manage to show influence on most of the company's pipeline, whether it's outbound or inbound, which is the easiest to measure.

You understand that our brand makes people talk about us in a positive way, and favor us over competitors. Even when the competitors suggest their services for half the price, and also if the client is in the middle of a contract with them, they’ll still come to us if they understand that the product and the services the other company they’re working with aren’t what they expected.

B2B Event Marketing in the Remote Age

Gong, believe it or not, is doing events and having more success than ever. So you had physical events which were highly successful back in ancient history, a few months ago. But now it’s all about virtual events, obviously.

We succeeded here because we saw the trend playing out and acted decisively and quickly.

Back in March here in San Francisco, people were starting to work from home, but it was still an open question if it would be permanent.

We saw this and we were like, “Look, nobody’s going back into the office any time soon. Now what?”

So we decided that within two weeks we would organize and hold a virtual conference. It would be the first virtual sales conference in the industry. Our thinking was if we act fast it'll be a good one, and people will show up because it's the first of its kind. We predicted that within two months, all the other companies will get it together and also start having virtual conferences, and then you need to fight for attention against a million other virtual conferences.

And as we all know, Zoom fatigue is real.

So we said let's do it fast, before people get tired. Within two weeks we put up a virtual conference, it was in the first week of April, I think April 7th. We put up the first virtual conference. It was an eight hour conference, morning to evening. 3,000 people signed up, 1,200 out of them showed up for the live event. There was not one session that held less than 400-500 people. It was just an incredible event, and it gave us a lot of desire.

This year, we were planning on having one huge event in October and we budgeted it accordingly.

But then we said, wait a minute, if we can manage to bring so many people to an event we organised in two weeks, let's do one of these every quarter.

It will bring in an immense number of leads to the sales department, but in a way they can handle.

Because if I'll get them 10,000 leads from one conference in October, it will take them days or weeks to go over them. If every quarter I'll get them 5,000, they'll be able to handle it.

So we held another conference two weeks ago, it was the first week of July, it was our second virtual conference, and 4,500 people signed up for this one. 2,000 showed up. It was a crazy and amazing conference and we're already working on our next conference that will be held in October.

So we decided we're having a conference every quarter, and it works.

2 Simple Steps to Crush Virtual Conferences

We developed the machine, and I'll give a few tips as to what we did and what worked for us.

First, it's all about the content okay? If you have mediocre content, a few people will show up but they won't show up for the second time. If you have incredible content, people will talk about it throughout the conference, they'll talk about it to everybody after the conference, and they'll sign up to your next conference right away. So you have to have incredible content.

Now, a small tip in regards to content. We learned that it's better to focus on one buyer persona or maximum two, and build all the content like you’re intending it to the 45 year old IT manager named Shmulik that’s responsible for his ERP systems.

You have to get one persona and build a whole day that will fascinate them.

This is one of the problems you see in conferences, certainly in conferences that last a few days - something I don't recommend doing virtually. Their problem is that they're trying to disperse themselves over a few personas, and you end up having this mess of content from all kinds of subjects, and that's not a conference for anyone, so no one is coming and if someone happens to come to it, he doesn't stay.

So we said no, we're going for sales leadership, and you know what? More than 50% of the participants were sales leaders. We got exactly the right persona.

Second, the format. We kept this line of short conversations and lectures, 20-30 minutes for each one.

Because maybe you can sit for 90 minutes in an auditorium, but nobody wants to do that on Zoom or on any virtual conference platform.

We kept the sessions between 20 and 30 minutes, except for a panel that held 4-5 people. We gave that one 45 minutes, so everybody gets their chance to speak but that was also fascinating and it kept everyone engaged. So one thing is the content, second is the participant's experience.

Creating Amazing Experiences in Virtual Conferences

We understood that virtual conference is not a long webinar.

Get that out of your head, if that's how you imagine a virtual conference, how can people sit in front of a computer for eight hours, so it's not a long webinar.

It is completely different, and it's also not just copying the conference that was held in the conference centre with stands and swag and nonsense and coffee breaks.

It's a whole new, third entity that needs to be invented, and we are still inventing it. So I'll tell you a few things we did that were great.

First of all, at the reception, for the first half an hour, before people started talking, when we were waiting for everyone to show up, and during the lunch break, and in the happy hour - we brought a live DJ that played for the participants. You could see his whole stand with his equipment. People loved it, "How come we never thought about it, we never saw a DJ in a zoom meeting or in a virtual conference".

That DJ got booked for three more events following ours, because everyone went to talk to him afterwards.

So that's one thing. Second, we wanted to give people a bathroom and lunch break. We said, if we turn off the screen for one hour, people may go away and not come back. So we brought in a magician...

...there's such an occupation called Zoom magician, it's a new thing, I'm not joking.

We brought Dan Chan The Magic Man, and he gave a 45 minute performance with four participants, interactive via Zoom, and he amazed everyone. People were absolutely captivated. The attendance didn't drop during lunch break because we had a magic show, and people loved it. It was an amazing conference, it's possible to watch the whole conference on our website. Everything's recorded and available.

For the executives, during the happy hour at the end of the day, we brought a mixologist, a bartender from one of the highest rated bars in New York that took us through a cocktail workshop.

We sent in advance to dozens of participants these small mix kits that contained a small Tequila bottle, one lime, spices, shakers and whatever else that was needed. We were dozens of people in front of this bartender from New York, and we learned how to make this crazy Margarita.

It was only for VP's and CRO's, and you understand that what we created there was the closest experience to going with them to a real restaurant.

Some great relationships were formed there, and the conversation was easy going, everybody was laughing and drinking, and it was just joyful. So we created an amazing experience, with content and participants' experience from morning till evening, it was nothing like anyone had ever seen, so that's regarding the experience.

Really, the takeaway here is that, for as much as you innovate, you also have to entertain.

The Secret to Killer Content: A Britney Spears .gif?

This is one lesson we learnt in a big way, a few times this year. But there’s an example that’s always first on my list when I want to illustrate this idea.

At the start of this year, all kinds of privacy laws changed, and everyone who had a mailing list had to send an email that said "We updated our privacy policy". Do you remember that in January you got 700 emails from all the newsletters you ever signed for? So we also had to send this privacy email, because our lawyers told us we need to.

So in most companies they let the lawyers write that email and that's how it looked like.

In our company they gave this assignment to my team. I went to my team, they asked me what's the brief?

I told them, "Don't make it boring", and that's all, I went away.

They sent the mail, I swear I didn't even see it before it went out, and it exploded in a good way. It had a Britney Spears .gif, I won't even try to explain the context but it suits in this case.

The subject line of the email was, "Our lawyers made us do this"

and I don't remember the exact number but I believe 39.5% of recipients opened the mail. Crazy engagement. Do you know how I saw it? Because people started to screenshot it and upload it on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

They said, "This is the best privacy update email I've ever received, Gong you did it again."

For two days the whole of Linkedin celebrated with this mail. So that's an example, you don't have to be boring. Even with the most potentially boring email in the world, you don't have to be boring.

If we managed to get to a 40% open rate for our privacy update email, so every email you have has the potential to be more interesting.

Leveraging your B2B Data to Create Killer Content

And the crazy thing is, most businesses out there really do have the goods when it comes to creating great content. Look, first of all there are a lot of companies that are sitting on top of crazy good data. What they need to learn how to do (and this is the really hard part) is tap that data, pull out great insights and package it in a way that’s not boring.

So in the last four years we have created content which analyses millions of real calls between our customers and their customers, in an anonymous way that does not endanger anyone's privacy, and we see what works and what doesn't work in sales.

And that's why you can find articles on our website like which "call to action" via email works the best? We rated them for you after analysing millions of calls.

What is the worst time of the week to have a sales call? We checked the calendars of tens of thousands of customers for the times of their meetings and we saw which of them got cancelled because the customer didn't arrive.

How many questions to ask in a conversation? Is it a good idea to curse?

Give Conventional Wisdom the Finger

Is it a good idea to curse, that's a story that exploded in a good way.

Our research team found that you have a nine percent higher chance of winning a deal if you're using curse words that are placed strategically correct.

For those who won't read the article, I'll tell you its TDLR (Too Long Didn't Read). There's a technique called mirroring, that anyone who ever studied anything with social psychology knows. People like to talk and to be around people that are similar to them, so like you've been told before a job interview, to look at the interviewer and try to imitate their body language a bit, it's the same thing with a sales call.

If you're speaking the same language and slang and subjects as your customer, you'll have the highest success rate.

We found that if a customer is using here and there in curse words like "Fuck" or "Shit", and you also start using these words in a non-transparent manner, you will sell more. We wrote an article about it, and a story I wrote about that data got published in fastcompany.com.

I started getting phone calls from radio stations that put me on air because it was on the breaking news, that Gong discovered through research that it's better to use curse words in sales calls, and I went on air. Of course Linkedin went crazy about it.

Harness your Employees to Boost your Content

Not only do we tap our team members to help create content regularly. We also harnessed the company's employees in a very low-tech way to help boost our content across the web.

We reserve our right to bother everyone in the company once a month, for when we publish a significant Gong Labs post.

We mark a 15 minute event in the calendar of everyone in the company, "Please share!". And one minute before the event we update the link when the article gets published. And we're asking, please press like and share and comment because it helps a great deal.

The LinkedIn algorithm is looking for articles that were shared dozens of times within the first hour, and then it enhances their visibility. The people are doing it with a smile on their face, because they see their customer's comments on what they shared, and they tell them how great, important and educational this is. And now they have the opportunity to have a conversation with a customer that disappeared a month ago.

We are showing the value of marketing to the sales people, and the value of building the brand.

Our HR people love it because it helps them in developing conversations with candidates they want to recruit. We are just showing them how marketing helps them, and how they help us by clicking the share button, something that takes a second of their time, but they understand how this helps them in their lives.

So my small marketing team’s not the ones you're seeing sharing these articles, but you're seeing the saleswoman and the HR woman and the SDR sharing it. They're sharing because it helps them in developing conversations they want to develop, and of course it brings us back to the basics, they wouldn't have shared something boring. They won't share the webinar invite, they'll share something that is controversial and interesting, and that will help engage in a conversation because it's edutainment and it's relevant for their clientele.

And in a way, this all comes full circle right back to the employee branding, and amazing content and marketing we do to inspire people.

All this feeds on itself naturally, and creates a virtuous cycle, like a flywheel effect, where you gain momentum and are off to the races.

But at the end of the day, all roads in business and marketing lead back to the power and energy you invest into building your brand.

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Udi Ledergor is a five-time serial CMO, in companies such as Panaya, Yotpo and currently Gong. He is an amazing writer for Forbes, he lectures and shares a lot of highly enjoyable stuff on social media.

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