I recently enjoyed chatting B2B SaaS, Customer Success, BuildingConnected, the origin story of Flatirons Tech, and tech diversity & inclusion in the Bay Area and Boulder on the Boulder Tech Cast podcast. This episode was recorded during Boulder Startup Week 2018 at Dojo4.
I’m proud to be co-host of a new technology podcast called Helping Sells Radio. Helping Sells Radio is a podcast about helping customers discover, adopt, and thrive using your software. In the inaugural episode of Helping Sells Radio, my co-host Bill Cushard and I talk about what Helping Sells Radio is, why we are doing a podcast, and what listeners can expect in upcoming episodes.
There are a lot of technology podcasts, but none that specifically address the topic of helping enterprise customers buy, adopt, and get the most out of the software they use. Even more specifically, there isn’t a podcast that talks about how this idea of helping customers, without expectation of reciprocation can actually help both customers and software vendors (or anyone that sells anything for that matter).
Helping sells can be summed up by looking at many of the areas in business where helping sells can help people thrive.
- In Marketing: Create marketing that educates people to help them make a decision.
- In Sales: Sales that challenges and helps prospects. Help prospects improve their own businesses.
- In Consulting: Geoffrey Moore described it this way: Strategic acts of generosity.
- In Customer Success: It is not about the renewal. It is about helping customers do their jobs better or otherwise achieve a desired outcome.
- In Training: Not just teaching features, but education people on a new way of working.
- In Support: Proactively helping customers with things they have not even asked about yet. Anticipating their needs and addressing those, but customers think to ask.
We plan for show guests in all of those areas to discuss their particular helping sells approach to technology and business. In our first few episodes, we talked to experts from Optimizely, Gainsight, Evernote, Zuora and more.
We’re also proud to announce that our podcast Helping Sells Radio currently ranks under “New and Noteworthy” for the categories of “Technology” and “Tech News” in iTunes! Thanks to everyone for listening and helping the show top the charts!
I recently wrote a rebuttal to Neil Patel’s post on hiring marketing consultants, and simultaneously reached out to Neil to see if he’d be interested in doing an interview with me to discuss the topic. I’m delighted to report he agreed, and to share our dialogue with those who have been following the debate on whether or not you should hire a marketing consultant. Topics covered: what’s the difference between a consultant and a contractor, and what should entrepreneurs keep in mind when hiring?
Sarah Brown: In your post, you mention how successful you were as a digital marketing consultant; you said you got rave reviews, and still receive tons of inquiries from companies wanting to hire you as a consultant. You clearly delivered real value to the companies with whom you worked. Even so, you say companies shouldn’t hire digital marketing consultants in most cases. Can you explain why you had this change in perspective?
Neil Patel: Hiring a consultant is great if you want to speed up your growth. Most people look to hire marketing consultants to solve broad problems. The issue with this is most consultants aren’t jack-of-all-trades. For this reason you should only look to hire a marketing consultant when you want them to help you solve a specific problem that will result in an increase in growth.
SB: You qualified your pretty controversial article title by saying that companies should sometimes hire marketing consultants, but only after they’ve laid the groundwork themselves and are truly ready. How do you define “readiness” for taking on a digital marketing consultant? Can you elaborate on this?
NP: Once you have a business that is generating revenues well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, and you’ve tested a lot of different marketing channels and approaches yourself, you can then take that data to consultants and see what they can help you with.
SB: You mention that digital marketing consultants can’t solve every problem for a client. I completely agree! But, I’m curious, are you really seeing a lot of consultants billing themselves as miracle workers to prospective clients?
NP: A lot are. Consulting shops make more money when they are full service, for this reason they try and do everything even if they aren’t experts at “everything”.
SB: I totally agree that a CEO needs to lay the groundwork before they are ready to hire anyone (sales, marketing, customer success, PR, etc.). But can’t a consultant help with that process, especially if they’re super experienced in the market niche? Wouldn’t that be a good case for companies to hire a consultant, as long as goals and deliverables are clearly defined?
NP: In this scenario it would work, but it is an expensive solution. Unless your business is well funded, I wouldn’t recommend this solution. Nonetheless, if you hired the right consultant, it would speed this process along.
SB: Sometimes, startups can’t afford to hire a full-time expert in content marketing, social media, PR, etc. but they can afford an expert consultant for part-time work. In that case, the marketer is more like an “in-house asset” vs. an employee or typical consultant. Would you still recommend companies hire interns or college students rather than take on an expert in these cases?
NP: Yes, I would prefer to hire hungry college students. Ones that are quick learners and can help you with a lot of your marketing problems. At the beginning you don’t need an expert to come in and solve your problems. You need someone junior who can just execute and lay the ground work. An intern is going to be much cheaper as consultants rather not focus on the execution part.
SB: Given the growing remote workforce movement, would you recommend a first hire be a marketing employee vs. a consultant? Or, maybe an employee-ish consultant? Maybe we’re having trouble with terms, here. I consider myself an in-house asset or contractor, someone who strategizes and executes vs. what you’re describing. What do you recommend for startups?
NP: I prefer a contractor. This way you can pay them for the time you use, yet they won’t charge you an arm and leg like a consultant.
Thanks to Neil Patel for engaging in this dialogue. In the comments, I’d love to hear your views on the subject.
Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 online marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world. He was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 35 by the United Nations. Neil has also been awarded Congressional Recognition from the United States House of Representatives.
I’m so excited to share today’s interview with Carly Brantz, Boulder, CO-based Director of Revenue Marketing at SendGrid. Carly generously spoke with me about the challenges and rewards of leading revenue marketing for a successful tech startup, as well as insights into increasing diversity and empowering women in tech.
Sarah Brown: What’s your background, and where are you from?
Carly Brantz: I am a Boulder native and have spent my life in the beautiful bubble of Boulder. In college I studied Business and Spanish with big hopes of working internationally and using Spanish. I found myself working in tech immediately after college, working for a data analysis and visualization software company. For the last ten years, my focus has centered around email and email deliverability in a variety of marketing positions. I began working at SendGrid when we were less than 30 employees and it has been an adventure being part of an extremely fast growing company. Email is constantly evolving and it makes my job interesting to stay on top of the latest changes and how that is impacting what we do.
Sarah: What’s your favorite part of your job as a revenue marketer for SendGrid?
Carly: I love having clear goals and expectations of me so the transition I’ve had over the last year of being tied to a revenue number and having a quota has been exciting. I am so proud of my team and the extremely sophisticated programs they have created. It is rewarding to see them in a constant state of improvement. The executive team has given us the freedom to try and test new opportunities, which allows us to be creative about new things to experiment with.
Sarah: As a revenue marketer, how do you fit into the bigger picture of the goals of your organization? What departments/teams do you usually work with directly?
Carly: At SendGrid, we have four primary revenue stripes: Direct, Self Service, Partnerships and Customer Success. My team is responsible for supporting each of those stripes with relevant content, lead generation, outbound advertising, nurture programs and optimizing landing pages and emails. In addition to that, I am responsible for the Self Service revenue number with clear goals and focus around growing that revenue number and making it simple for customers to sign up for a SendGrid account on their own. I work very closely with others in the Revenue department to ensure we deploy tactics to improve conversions, close business and provide an excellent customer experience. I work with and depend on our Business Information team to provide the details on each stage of the sales funnel to make informed decisions. Lastly, I work closely with Finance for closed loop reporting and ROI so that I can analyze the impact of programs and our revenue attainment.
Sarah: What are the biggest challenges you face on a day-to-day basis working as a revenue marketer? How do you meet those challenges?
Carly: With my team supporting all four revenue stripes, it can be a balancing act to figure out the right resources to allocate to each of those stripes. Much of that is addressed by continuously tracking and testing everything we do in order to find the sweet spots. I am a very data driven person and I’ve never liked the assumption that marketing decisions are based on a hunch. That being said, it is sometimes challenging to find the data or know where I need to dig in deeper to find the answers I need. Fortunately, we have great tools and people to help provide me the analysis I need but there are times that customer behavior changes or website traffic is in flux and I don’t have one clear explanation.
Sarah: As someone who blogs on the subject, what do you think are the biggest challenges women face in tech?
Carly: I have been reading a lot about women and our hesitation to try new things or take risks because we are afraid to fail or lack the confidence to take a firm position. I can certainly relate to that as I am pretty risk adverse. I believe many women in leadership roles and in tech lack the confidence and the feeling of being worthy to try something that may not work. There is beauty in mistakes because you learn how to improve.
Sarah: Are you connected to other women in tech? If so, what has it been like to compare roles and discuss the growing trend?
Carly: I wouldn’t say that I specifically seek out other women in tech roles to form relationships. I am connected to other women, but it has developed more naturally. I think it is important to identify themes that women are noticing in technology, to share what we are learning. I am always fascinated to hear how other companies break out their teams and learn from where they have found success or where they noticed changes needed to be made.
Sarah: On SendGrid’s blog, you wrote a great post about “sitting at the table.” Can you share more about what this entails?
Carly: I was inspired by Sheryl Sandburg’s book Lean In. She articulated so many of the things I have felt and seen in my career but couldn’t quite pinpoint. I know personally, I have a tendency because I am grateful of everything I have in my career, to limit myself by not asking for more. Men ask for more, all the time, I see it every day, they don’t think twice about it. We need to ask for what we want (and more!) and encourage other women to do the same. I also find it easier to advocate for others rather than for myself. I have been extremely fortunate to have an incredible role model and boss, Denise Hulce, VP of Revenue, who has encouraged me to ask for what I want, to voice my opinions and speak up when something doesn’t feel right. This has helped push me out of my comfort zone.
Sarah: SendGrid is an active ambassador with NCWIT. What is the organization working on and why should people learn about their efforts?
Carly: Since our inception in 2009, SendGrid has partnered with NCWIT—the National Center for Women and Information Technology. NCWIT is an incredible organization that provides resources, research, and community outreach that help to create more opportunities for women in technical roles. Over the past few years, we have sent groups to NCWIT’s summits and we are committed to continuing to participate in discussions that will create more opportunity for women in technical roles here at SendGrid and at our fellow tech companies as part of their Entrepreneurial Alliance, Pacesetters program, and their “Sit With Me” initiative.
Sarah: Anything else you’d like to share or elaborate on?
Carly: As a mother of two young girls, I have learned a lot over the past few years about treating myself with understanding as they grow up and as my career grows. I think all moms have guilt one way or another and I was someone who was limiting myself because I was a mom and I was judging myself if I wanted more in my career because I didn’t want it to negatively impact my kids. I think it is really healthy for women to have passions outside of their children and I believe that my kids benefit from seeing me in a successful career and having a focus in areas that are not centered around every move they make.
Carly Brantz is a veteran in the email deliverability space working to make email simple and easy for developers by regularly writing whitepapers, research briefs and blog posts about email, technology and industry trends. Follow Carly Brantz on Twitter.
A while back, I reviewed the wonderful service Bidsketch, a tool for creating successful, highly professional bids. Today, I’m thrilled to post an interview with Bidsketch founder Ruben Gamez. While working full-time as a software developer, Ruben harnessed psychology principles to build tools to help create bids to close seven- and eight-figure deals. Ruben eventually built Bidsketch as a premium tool to help take the pain away from the proposal process, and turned it into a full-time business. Ruben answered my questions about how he got started, why Bidsketch is so cool, and what he’s learned in the process of building his successful company.
Sarah Brown: Why and when did you start Bidsketch? Was it a sudden decision or had you been thinking about it for a while?
Ruben Gamez: I was working full time when I started Bidsketch. A friend of mine asked me about web design proposals. He had never written one and was about to go to his first client meeting. I searched for templates online and found a product that allowed web designers to create proposals. Unfortunately, it was an old-school downloadable software plugin for MS Word. I couldn’t find anything that was web based so I decided to build it myself after doing some keyword research to measure demand.
Sarah: My blog focuses on b2b digital marketing news and insights. Why should marketers use Bidsketch to help get clients?
Ruben: Customers tend to use Bidsketch to cut down on the time it takes to create proposals and help them land more clients. We build Bidsketch with those things in mind. Of course, it’s not a great fit for all businesses, but if you’re creating client proposals (instead of product proposals), I think it’s worth checking out.
Sarah: Is your team made up of contractors? If so, have any of them applied through Bidsketch?
Ruben: Most of the people that I work with are technically contractors (and one full time employee), though I treat everyone like they’re part of the team — because they are. I’ve actually worked with several people that first started out as Bidsketch customers. Often, I’ll get into conversations with customers and sometimes that results in us working together on important projects.
Sarah: How do different types of freelancers/agencies/etc. use Bidsketch differently?
Ruben: Freelancers generally tend to send out less proposals than Agencies. So often they’ll use it in batches — heavily for a month and lightly for a couple of months after that. Some agencies send out proposals on a daily basis so there’s a major need to collaborate and cut down on the time it takes to write them. In all cases, they benefit from the online features like electronic signatures and instant notifications when a proposal is viewed.
Sarah: What’s the best success story you’ve ever had from a Bidsketch customer?
Ruben: There have been some great success stories, but my favorite is a customer that used it to close his first million dollar deal. He emailed me and was very excited and mentioned how Bidsketch helped him close the deal. It’s great to know that people are paying a few dollars a month and are closing deals in the tens (or hundreds) of thousands. I love that.
There have been some great success stories, but my favorite is a customer that used it to close his first million dollar deal. – Ruben Gamez, Founder of Bidsketch
Sarah: How has being a part of Bidsketch changed you as a person?
Ruben: That’s a good question. I think I’ve always had the attributes that I have now; the biggest change is in how I get to spend my time. Nowadays I spend my time working on things I love, and get to spend a lot more time with my family. My schedule is much more flexible than when I worked for someone else.
Sarah: Do you have any life philosophies or strategies that motivate you?
Ruben: I think the biggest thing for me has been to stay focused. New opportunities come up all the time. That’s why many of my competitors have gone out of business. They get distracted and start doing something else then wonder why their business suffers. This works for pretty much anything that you want to get really good at: Stay focused and take massive action, and you’ll get there.
Sarah: Where do you currently live, and are you active in your local tech community?
Ruben: Right now I live in Spokane, WA. There’s not much going on as far as tech is concerned here. That said, I do go to tech conferences and have a couple of mastermind groups that helps me stay connected. We’re also going to be moving to the Seattle or Portland area soon.
Sarah: Anything else you’d love to share?
Ruben: Since we’re on a blog that focuses on b2b marketing, readers might be interested in checking our free eBook that goes over several simple marketing tactics that will help them get more clients.
Thanks again to Ruben Gamez of Bidsketch for taking the time to share his insights! If you haven’t already, definitely check out Bidsketch and see if it’s right for helping your business. Follow Ruben Gamez on Twitter: @earthlingworks.