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12 Enterprise SaaS Startup Lessons Learned in 120 Days at Percolate

Four months ago, I joined the marketing team at Percolate, a marketing technology platform. We work with brands like GE, Mastercard, Unilever to help them plan, create, publish, and analyze their marketing content — with a big vision to transform marketing through technology.

It’s been a blast. I’m responsible for the company blog and lead many of our content marketing efforts (whitepapers, case studies, video, etc). I love my team (we’re hiring) and there’s a lot of great momentum at the company.

Having worked primarily in consumer or SMB software companies in sub-10 person teams in SF, I’ve already seen a lot of differences in how a successful post-Series B enterprise software company based in NYC operates. Just like I did when I moved from SF to DC, I’ve tried to capture some useful ideas here (some big, some small) that might be interesting to you as well.

1. Adopting / switching software is a major decision at bigger companies.

It can affect the workflow of dozens, hundreds, potentially thousands of people in various departments and even external organizations. There might even be changes in power dynamics (ex: maybe with the previous software, finance had total visibility but now they need to wait for a report to get exported by the head of marketing). Making the wrong choice could really screw things up and hurt your career — that’s why people often go with the “safer” big corporate option like Oracle or Adobe or Microsoft. Continue reading…

13 Strategies to Get Buy-In for Your Great Ideas [art of buy-in 3/3]

13 strategies for buy in title image

Photo Credit by Highway Agency

This the final post in a 3 part series on the art of buy-in. Post 1 explained why some people almost always get their ideas shot down. Post 2 was a story about how I overcame the naysayers and got buy-in for my team dues idea . Post 3 outlines 13 specific strategies you can use to get your great ideas implemented.

——- 7 strategies I used in my effort to get a team dues implemented —–

1) Build a base of supporters

For a good idea to be adopted by a group, it’s not enough for most people to be on board – you need a few very vocal supporters to champion your idea. As captain, I had some positional authority, but I knew it would be important to enlist the support of former captains and friendly teammates before the presentation even happened. Taking the time to have one on one conversations to sell your idea to people you trust within the group is time consuming but vital to ensuring your pitch to the full group is successful.

2) Prepare to address objections

This seems obvious, but people generally don’t prep enough for objections. If you just dismiss people’s viewpoints, they don’t feel respected and will be more likely to fight your proposal. In this case, I knew there were at least three objections I had to address and I took time to appropriately address each one.

  • We don’t spend that much money as a team – I built out a very detailed spreadsheet with our team’s expenses which meant it was harder to challenge the amount I was requesting
  • I don’t have money on me – More of a timing thing, I waited until the guys had received their per diem
  • I don’t want to overpay – I promised my teammates we would stick to the budget and if that if there was money leftover it would be returned to them

3) Neutralize nay sayers

Even after addressing objections in a way that will please most people, there are often still nay sayers who just refuse to change, don’t want to do anything or perhaps dislike you personally. Making sure that Eric and Luke wouldn’t shut down my idea in front of the group was a key strategy for getting team dues through. Depending on your situation, there are a couple tactics you can take to neutralize naysayers:

  • Try to win them over in a one on one - Sometimes nay sayers just want attention.  Other times, they have a genuine concern or misunderstanding.  When you meet in person, you can create a safe environment to speak honestly, identify the underlying issue, and figure out what to do — without the pressure of egos or an audience.
  • Have someone they trust/respect win them over – you might have the right message for the naysayer but perhaps they need a different messenger. If you can convince someone they trust to make the case for idea (see building base of supporters) they might be able to get through when you couldn’t.
  • Use peer pressure to force them in line – if you have enough support, you can make them look like the bad guys – the ones holding everyone back from pursuing this great idea and thus pressure them into going with your proposal. This isn’t always easy to do and it could backfire.  Plus, I had a feeling Eric and Luke would just dig their heels in.
  • Cut them a deal - I used this technique when I offered to let Eric and Luke pay individually.  This can be a risky move, because if people find out about the special treatment, they may doubt my integrity and overall motives.  Why do some people get a deal but others don’t? Do you have to suck up to Jason or make a ruckus to be exempt from rules in the future?  In this case, it was worth taking a chance because I felt like most people would understand.
  • Strong arm them into agreeing – this is typically a last resort move – threatening to make their life miserable or eject them from the group (if you have that authority) are blunt objects that can work but will definitely cause some collateral damage and are best avoided.

4) Show them you have their best interests in mind

People need to know that you care about them and aren’t proposing an idea that really only benefits you. The best way to do this is to have a track record of generous contributions to the group (and to remind them of this track record).

In my case, I mention talking to Susan, who was an administrator in the athletic department and tried to get our team more money (by increasing the number of days of per diem we got from 4 to 6 or 7, which is what we usually got). I wasn’t successful but I mentioned it as a reminder of “Hey, remember, I’m out there busting my butt so we can get more money. Keep that in mind when you think about this.”

Find a way to show people you care about them and want what’s best for them – it will help them trust you when you suggest something new. Continue reading…

Why Everyone is in Sales

This is a multi-part series on Sales, Marketing and Persuasion. To see the blog post that inspired this series, click here. To see a list of all the blog posts on this topic: How to Sell Market and Self Promote.

If you’re interested in creating passionate users, or keeping your job, or breathing life into a startup, or getting others to contribute to your open source project, or getting your significant other to agree to the vacation you want to go on… congratulations. You’re in marketing.

You are a marketer – Kathy Sierra

I want to talk about sales. Specifically, I sell you on the idea that sales doesn’t have to be sleazy and that in fact a great deal of your success in life relates to your ability to sell.

First let’s talk about what I mean by selling:

Selling [in this context] is about creating an offer that convinces other people to do something that benefits you and usually costs them their money, time, stuff, political capital, etc.

An obvious example of sales is when you list your old Macbook Pro on Craigslist, you get money by creating an offer (Give me money in exchange for this Macbook) that was worth it to the buyer.

However, sales is also when you make an offer to your manager to get transferred to a new project at work (“if you transfer me to this new project, I’ll make you look really good by delivering big”) because your manager had to expend political capital and time/energy coordinating the move. Your offer needs to motivate him to take action and expend his resources.

In this light, selling is everywhere. Selling is getting people to try your new web app, or tweet your blog post or have coffee with you or recommend your services to their friends.

This post is called “Why Everyone is in Sales” because when you think about it, pretty much everything you do requires the cooperation of other people. Unless you live entirely off the land on a remote island, you will encounter other people and will need their help. Having money helps, but many of the things you actually want are only indirectly gotten with money.

You will need to sell. So it might be helpful to get better at selling.

From the book You, Inc. by Harry and Christine Beckwith:

Living is selling.

Start from childhood and remember all the sales calls you made. You worked up a sales pitch to get your parents to take you to Disney World, raise your allowance, and extend your curfew. You pitched them on sleepovers, a nicer bike, perhaps your first car. For that matter, you sold them on the accident that “wasn’t really my fault” and on a report card that seemed to suggest some backsliding. And on and on.

Your childhood sales career prepared you for adulthood, when you tried to sell your college on admitting you, an employer on hiring you and the car dealer on dropping $500 from the sticker price.

The question is not, are you a salesperson? The question is, how might you become more effective?

Now I realize this makes sales sound pretty self-serving but that’s because I’ve only explained half of the equation. The right way to sell is to create an offer that’s compelling and addresses your buyers wants and needs. You’ve got to provide something of value that is greater than the cost that the other party has to pay.

Give people what they want, and they’ll give you what you want. That’s how you sell without the sleaze. More on this later. For now, the take-away point is:

Recognize that your life is filled with situations that require skill in sales. Developing that skill is important and a worthwhile endeavor that does not require you to turn into a jerk.

I’ve Heard Great Things About You – A nondouchey guide to personal branding and self promotion

This is a multi-part series on Sales, Marketing and Persuasion. To see the blog post that inspired this series, click here. To see a list of all the blog posts on this topic: How to Sell Market and Self Promote.

I recently gave a talk at the Stanford Marketing Group on building a personal brand and doing self-promotion without being a douchebag. As this is part of my grand “how to sell” program, I’m including the presentation here along with some presentation notes.

The Definition and Purpose of Building a Personal Brand

When you think about traditional marketing, there are three major elements – identification of user/customer needs, building a remarkable product that fulfills those needs, and finding ways to communicate your products value at scale. Your product’s brand plays a huge role in how people talk about, buy and use the product.

All you have to do is swap product/service for person and you’ve got a system for doing personal branding.

At the end of the day, your personal brand is one of many tools (others being skills, location, network, knowledge, experience, technology) that you can develop to achieve your goals. Your brand is never the goal, it is the vehicle for getting to your destination, whether that’s finding a job where you can be successful, or spreading an important message via your blog or improving your child’s school as PTO president.

Seven Ideas

I also discussed seven strategies to help you build that personal brand with integrity. Here are the highlights (I’ve adjusted the titles a little since the talk):

[1. Work on Interesting Projects]

This is the heart of it. It’s difficult for me to overstate the value of working on interesting projects — in general, but particularly for building your personal brand. When you work on interesting projects, you develop your interests, your passions while gaining great experience, learning new skills and interacting with the right kinds of people.

Follow your nose and you will be amazed to see where it takes you. Many of my projects –  the nonprofit I founded at Stanford, the videos I made for my gymnastics team, this blog even – these things have been invaluable to my career and my happiness. I use the things I’ve learned and network I’ve built from these projects everyday at Ridejoy.

[2. Build Relationships with Great People]

This is a natural extension of working on interesting projects, but it deserves its own section. Building a personal brand necessitates having relationships with people. By working with smart, passionate, nice, ambitious and innovative people, you gain so much. Their awesomeness rubs off on you, and your awesomeness will be shared with others through them.

If you run into someone you think is really awesome, find a way to work with them. Create a reason for you two to do something mutually interesting/beneficial together. It’s worth being proactive here – the payoff is enormous.

[3. Discover Your Mission]

This might sound cliche, but understanding what your deeper mission is is essential for building your personal brand. Great brands stand for something. Nike. Apple. Starbucks. Target. They all stand for something — they have a mission that is beyond profit, and their businesses are aligned to work toward that mission.

Similarly, when you understand your mission (which can and will change over time) you can better orient your activities and your network to help you move toward it. Remember – your brand is a tool for helping you achieve your goals. What is the larger purpose behind your goals? That is where you find your mission.

[4. Give Freely]

Perhaps you wish to be seen as an aloof,  disinterested mogul. This guide is not for you. This might be a little normative but I believe that you want to be known as someone who is a valuable resource who gives freely. Someone who has a great deal of knowledge, skill, experience, contacts and wisdom – and is willing to share that with the world.

This is the natural way to spread word of mouth. When you help someone do something with no direct compensation asked, not only will they think more highly of you, but they will spread the good word. “So-and-so is amazing – she totally saved my butt when I needed help with Project X”. This works both internally (inside a department/company/organization) and externally (helping people who don’t directly work with you).

This doesn’t mean you can’t charge for things or make money or ask for help/favors to be repaid. But always try to keep a positive balance – give more than you get back, all the time. It’s like a magic bank account, the more you spend on others, the more you’ll get back for yourself. Keep sending good stuff out into the world.

Of course, the danger is that you get taken advantage of. Be mindful of that, but don’t let a few leechers ruin it for everyone else. Protect yourself, but err on the side compassion and forgiveness. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of

[5. Be a People Hub]

Again, I find myself repeating the people things. One of the most valuable things you can do for someone is connect them with the right person. But there’s a huge difference between handing Person A the contact info of the business card you have of Person B — and gracefully facilitating a mutually beneficial connection / relationship. The former is almost worthless, the latter is priceless.

I’ve written about how I do email introductions and how carefully I craft them. I do this because I think it’s worth the time and effort. Nurture your relationships (you know, the ones you’ve earned from working with great people on interesting projects) and look for opportunities to connect those people together when it makes sense. This is an incredibly powerful way to build your personal brand.

[6. Build a Distribution Platform]

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty. You need build a platform. To really scale your personal brand, you need to be attached to something greater than yourself. Whether it is an important company initiative, a blog or email newsletter, a senior executive (careful on this one, can be dangerous) or a YouTube channel, Twitter feed, interesting project, SOMETHING.

What you have to remember here is to be careful what you attach yourself to. Ideally it’s something in your control. My blog is my public face to the world and if I post something horribly offensive here, my brand goes with it. On the other hand, with work and diligence, I’ve been able to nurture the community here and blogging benefitted me enormously. This is my distribution platform, but for others it could be Twitter, it could be a private newsletter or something else. Find your channel to scaleably add value to the world in a visible way.

[7. Present Strong]

Presenting strong is two things – it’s standing up for yourself and it’s caring about how you come across. Let’s start with the first:

At the end of the day, it is no one’s job to make sure you get credit for the work you do, get paid what you should or meet the people you want to meet. (Unless you have a publicist, in which case you are not reading this guide). YOU have to stand up for yourself and sometimes that means being a bit more aggressive than you normally are. This is the way of the world. You don’t have to be overbearing or disrespectful, but if someone attacks you/your work or tries to dismiss what you’re doing, you have to to stand up.

The second point is on the presentation. Take some time to review fashion literature and try to dress at least somewhat nicely. Get haircuts, trim your nails, shower regularly. Smile, say their name, be polite and be interested in others. These details matter a lot more than you think when you are interacting with people.

This focus on presentation spills over to your platform. Make sure your business cards are nicely designed, your blog has an attractive theme, your emails are formatted with headlines for readability, your resume is impeccable and subtly stands out with its formatting. Human beings judge books by their cover all the time – so make sure yours looks as good as it can be.

Case Study on Amit

A big part of my talk was devoted to Amit Gupta and his campaign to find a bone marrow transplant. I think this is a great example why it’s important to develop your personal brand. It just might save your life someday.

Amit has built up a great personal brand over the years through his great work at Jelly, ChangeThis and Photojojo. He’s worked with some amazing people like Seth Godin and by all accounts is a kind and thoughtful person. He’s got a great sense of design and a wonderful online voice as well.

All these things have contributed to the outpouring of support for him during this crisis. People are going out of their way to help him because they’ve been touched by something he’s said, done or built and not because he’s paying them or begging them for help.

The final point about the troll is basically that you can’t please everyone. No matter what you do, when you start standing up for yourself, there will be people who will tear you down. You have to ignore them. Treat others with respect and act with integrity and you can sleep soundly at night no matter how much the critics howl.

Everything I’ve Learned About Sales, Marketing and Persuasion

This is a multi-part series on Sales, Marketing and Persuasion. To see the blog post that inspired this series, click here. To see a list of all the blog posts on this topic: How to Sell Market and Self Promote.

I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts about sales — well really sales, marketing, persuasion, self-promotion, etc. Basically how to instill the desire in people to take the actions you want them to take — and make sure they follow through with it, while treating them with respect (ie not being a douchebag). So while I might use terms like “sell”, “buy”, “customer”, these are just placeholder

There’s a lot to cover so this will take a while. I’m going to pour everything I know into these posts – backed with examples, phrases to use, research and more. I hope it turns out to be really useful for readers. Here’s a list of the chapters I have in mind so far, with a brief description of what I aim to discuss.

  • Life is sales – Achieving almost any goal in life involves getting other people to do things (for you, with you, etc). You’ve had to sell people on things your entire life – it’s time to get serious about it.
  • Why smart people suck at selling – Smart people focus too much on facts and on being right. They think the force of their arguments is what will win people to their side, when that’s usually only a minor element of the process.
  • People buy feelings – Human beings do things because they think it will make them feel a certain way.  Figure out what that person wants to feel and show them how you can help them get it.
  • Sales is a relationship – No matter what you are selling – a widget, a web app, a political candidate or worthy cause – the key factor in the sale is the relationship.
  • Get inside their heads (and hearts) – A successful sale starts with questions – lots of them. You have to really understand where the other person is coming from. Never start with you.
  • It’s all about how you tell the story – We are a story-driven species. The stories are the ideal vehicle for conveying information and stimulating emotion.
  • Help them kick ass – The focus is not on why your thing is awesome. The focus is on how your thing can help THEM be awesome.
  • The proof is social – Like throwing a party, selling becomes a lot easier when you already have some people. Sometimes it’s better to let others do the persuasion for you.
  • Take away the fear of buying – People are more scared of the downside than they are enticed by upside. Allay their fears and win the sale.
  • Fit the ask to the task – Make it easy to say yes and hard to say no. What you ask for and how you ask for it matters – and it varies depending on the situation.
  • Followup, followup, followup – It’s never over. Remember: it’s a relationship. Stay in touch with people even after they refuse. Keep building that connection and providing value. Positive persistence = winning.
  • Special Report: Self Promotion / Personal Branding – Self promotion is a special kind of sales. Here’s how to sell yourself, without looking like a douche.

What do you guys think? Is there something you want covered that I’m missing? How can I do this in a way that best serves you? Let me know in the comments.