Abhishek GP

Episode 5

Abhishek GP

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Franco Caporale:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the DemandGen club podcast. I'm your host Franco Caporale. Today, I'm thrilled to welcome have Abhishek GP, head of demand generation at Freshworks. Freshworks is the platform that helps sales, marketing, support, IT and HR teams deliver the best customer experiences. They have all their 3,000 employees and have raised over $480 million in venture funding. GP has 10 years of experience across demand generation, grab marketing, digital marketing and sales. Before Freshworks, GP was Head of Digital Marketing at American Express and Philips Lighting. So I'm happy to welcome Abhishek GP, Head of Demand Generation at Freshworks.

Franco Caporale:

Abhishek GP, it's absolutely fantastic to have you on the show today. Thank you for joining us.

Abhishek GP:

Thank you for having me on the podcast Franco. Nice to be here.

Franco Caporale:

And you said you go with the GP as the name you normally use.

Abhishek GP:

That's right.

Franco Caporale:

Okay, perfect. So we're going to go with GP. So I'd love to begin with a little bit about you and how you got started with B2B demand generation to then become the Head of Demand Generation at Freshworks.

Abhishek GP:

So my entry to B2B demand gen has its roots in my experience as a digital marketer and then marketing in earlier roles. And thankfully I've had exposure across B2C and B2B organizations as well. I feel that I got a good understanding of the performance marketing side of demand gen from my stint as a digital marketer and the audience creative and copyrighting sensibilities from my stint as a brand marketer.

Franco Caporale:

Awesome. And so, what kind of... I know you had quite a bit of the experience before Freshworks, including, I saw American Express and you were at Philips. Can you tell us a little more about those experiences before you started working at Freshworks?

Abhishek GP:

Sure. The commonality between those two companies are that they are large multinational corporations and they have both B2C and B2B arms, even though the B2C arms are slightly more popular because they have scale. They have an equally matured B2B segment as well. So I had a great exposure to working in marketing for the B2C and B2B, which had very different, completely different, go to market motions. And in both those companies I was heading digital marketing, which means I was responsible for content, creative, acquisition, working with the traditional marketing team, mark comms team, for integrated campaigns. And of course demand gen from a performance marketing angle.

Franco Caporale:

So tell us a little more about your current role at Freshworks. How's your team like? What are your responsibilities and what you do there?

Abhishek GP:

At Freshworks I lead a team of content marketers, campaign managers and sales enablement specialists. Our goal is to generate demand for our small businesses and mid-market and enterprise customers across the globe. My team is responsible for signups of free trials from the SMB segment and I'm responsible MQLs and pipeline for the mid-market segment.

Franco Caporale:

And how big is the company in total, Freshworks?

Abhishek GP:

So we have about close to 2,500 employees across the globe.

Franco Caporale:

And how do you divide? Because you said you're also taking care of both the small business side, which I assume they have their own sales team and process as well as the mid-market/enterprise. How do you divide those responsibilities as well as the efforts, the budget and everything? Is it siloed between the two or you guys are sharing the work, and the time and the efforts between those two segments?

Abhishek GP:

That's a great question Franco. Right now it is siloed. So let's say I have a team of about 11 people and six of them are on SMB and the rest are on mid-market and enterprise. The reason they are also split is, like you mentioned, the sales teams are different, the go to market motions are different, the channels and formats that you use would be different. So SMB is over-indexed on inbound and paid as a primary channel, while mid-market and enterprise is a lot more about LinkedIn influencers, offline events and whatnot. So right now at this stage, the budgets are fairly siloed. It's definitely over-index towards mid-market enterprise because that's where larger spends are and that's where a higher by-plan managed ambition opportunity is.

Franco Caporale:

This is a very interesting structure that you guys have. So I'm very curious about your system that you use like tech stack. Do you, for example, share the same database or system and just segmented it, or you have a separate, I don't know, HubSpot or Marketo or separate CRM. How does that work?

Abhishek GP:

The advantage that we have at Freshworks is that we use a lot of our own products. And for example, our marketing automation system and CRO is Freshmarketer, it is something that we launched last year, it's doing fairly well. Our CRM is Freshsales and then, of course, we have a bunch of other products around it. For example, we have Allocadia for marketing, planning, ROI and attribution. We have just introduced a new Leadspace for lead scoring, ICP and profiling. So a bunch of tech stack that we have, but at the center is our product, which is our own marketing automation, CRM.

Franco Caporale:

And so your teams, the SMB and the mid-market, they're all sharing the same instance you just have different segmentation in terms of leads and scoring, or assignments and all of that.

Abhishek GP:

That's right.

Franco Caporale:

Okay. Awesome. That's very cool, you guys have all your own internal system that you can leverage for free, I guess.

Abhishek GP:

Exactly.

Franco Caporale:

Cool. So what it the main challenge that you are trying to solve as a team today from your marketing perspective?

Abhishek GP:

I still would expect from a fast growing company with multiple products across different markets, there are quite a few challenges that the organization is trying to solve today. One of the challenges that my team is trying to solve is to build a scalable and reputable demand gen model for mid-market and enterprise segments. I think that's the number one challenge that keeps me awake. Which means a bunch of things. Which means, what's the status of the sales/marketing alignment? How are we sort of progressing on the SAMA? So are we different teams, or we look at ourselves as one single team? Then you're talking about having a bad ass database, audience and segmentation, campaign and content development and execution, and finally analytics. So there's a bunch of seemingly disparate elements that you want to sort of put together and make them work, and that's what our focus has been for the last one year.

Franco Caporale:

Very interesting and from a metrics perspective, now that we talk the system, I'm always curious to ask about the metrics. And again, you can make the segmentation on the SMB or mid-market, but what are some of the metrics that you track constantly that you have on your dashboards?

Abhishek GP:

Yeah, from the mid market perspective, at the very top we, of course, track leads and incumbents. The next level of metrics are what we would call the impact measures, where we track marketing source and influence pipeline and we keep a hawk's eye on that. And then finally the cost measures which is return on advertising spend. So that's for mid-market. For SMB, the lead metric that we track is traffic and then eventually what we track and report month on month is signups from our customers and eventually conversion to paying customers. But those would be the metrics that we track separately for mid-marketness.

Franco Caporale:

Do you use any tool to track the funnel for SMBs, when you have traffic versus signups, versus conversion to paid customers, or you do that on Excel or some other system?

Abhishek GP:

We use a bunch of internal tools right now. Like I said, all website behavior is captured on Freshmarketer, which is our own internal product. And then of course, you have GA at the back end to track all conversions and activities on the back. So a bunch of regular tools available in the market and a couple of them would internet transact use.

Franco Caporale:

But then are you able to aggregate all of this data into one single location, from GA for example or any other data, or if your rep sends email out? There's a lot of different touches that can happen to a prospect or an account. Are you guys able to pull them together?

Abhishek GP:

Yeah. We will be able to pull them together, I would say, they're almost getting, but it's still slightly disparate as a system and track... And then, for example, the last line conversion, which is conversion to paying customers and activity beyond, is something we'll have worked together post facto, something we don't have available as of now, if you were to ask me. I do have that intent of getting there fast.

Franco Caporale:

And going again on the metrics, which kind of leads me to talk about attribution for the mid-market enterprise. How are you tracking attribution? Are you a last touch type of company or you look at first touch multi touch, what kind of model do you apply?

Abhishek GP:

Yeah, so we use a multi touch attribution model today, Franco, and use a weighted multi touch attribution model today, and that's based on experience. So we've been using last touch for quite some time, we all know the pitfalls of last touch, we also know the pitfalls of first touch. We have tried out time series and whatnot. So we have finally arrived at multi touch weighted attribution and thankfully we've also got a bunch of tools to support that. So we've got the integration between our CRM and marketing automation system that is then connected to Allocadia, which helps us with ROI and attribution. The Allocadia in turn is then connected with Copper, internally, which is our spend tracking software. So we've got a bunch of technology together, which eventually helps us both track spends and the attribution to the spends.

Franco Caporale:

That's awesome. I like how you guys are pulling also the campaign spend. Because, which is, a lot of companies are doing it manually today. So if you guys are able to get it from the actual sources, it's pretty awesome. In terms of, you mentioned what's called a weighted attribution, multi touch attribution. What is the weight that you are applying there? Because I've seen it done in many different ways. You can have a weight based on the timeframe or it can be based on what kind of touch it is, on the sales cycle, or based on the stage or based on the role of the person. What is the weight that you apply?

Abhishek GP:

It's based on two parameters as of now. The first parameter is the timeframe, which is, we started with 180 days touch, then we moved to 120 days. So touch is, within a certain timeframe is a parameter that we use. The other, of course, is the number of times that we engage, the prospect engaged with any of our content. So it's a function of both engagement and a function of timeframe as a comparison metric.

Franco Caporale:

And are you also able to pull data from offline events, let's say trade shows, or I don't know, VIP dinners or anything like that?

Abhishek GP:

Not yet, that's something we... Plans for it, will come out this year and we would have loved to do that starting 2020 Q3, but that's when this all hit. So thankfully we are all digital right now and digital is all 100% trackable in the organization.

Franco Caporale:

Awesome. Yeah, that's a problem I hear every single time and there is a lot of, also, miscommunication with the sales team when they attend trade shows and they're not able to bring the data back into the CRM. You have maybe a bunch of business cards and data spread all over the place. I want to switch gear a little bit, instead talking only about metrics, I want to talk about campaigns a little bit and understand. So if you look today, what are your top lead sources at Freshworks and probably you again have to make the distinction between mid-market and small business.

Abhishek GP:

Sure. If he took over SMB, the top key lead sources is definitely inbound and paid. The combination of search is what our top channel is and it's been so for years. Like our founder says, we have been talking to the fortune 500,000 companies across the globe and Google as a channel is readily available to everyone. And so we do a fairly good job of tapping into that demand and therefore search is by far our number one channel when it comes to Google with a very handsome payback period as well. When it comes to big market, LinkedIn has been working really well for us, especially after it turned on interesting formats like conversation ads. So for example, we've been using a bunch of formats on LinkedIn, including sponsored content, sponsored content lead gen form, conversational ad and InMail, and the way they've worked together has yielded very good results for us.

Abhishek GP:

So LinkedIn is definitely our number one channel. And then we have third party partnerships. Partners that have access to audiences that we don't have access to, and they have built those relationships for several years now and that has been a reliable source of leads as well. But not to forget the regular channels, which is, the referral traffic coming from review sites, our partner sites. Know that there is a steady stream of traffic that comes from there every month and then of course, inbound traffic. I also get a common misconception that mid-market and enterprise customers or prospects don't search, which means everything has to be outbound, that's not true at all. We do see a fair share of inbound signups, are coming from mid-market and enterprise customers as well. So those collectively would be my top three or four channels.

Franco Caporale:

I cannot agree more on the last part. Definitely, I see even very senior people from Fortune 1000 companies downloading white papers or coming through search traffic. I completely agree with you. And what about account based marketing? Are you guys active there? Do you guys track by account or what's your current model?

Abhishek GP:

Yeah. So we haven't actively kick started account based marketing yet, definitely not the one as to one account based marketing that we talk about so often. But what we do is we do a one to many account based marketing, which is, on LinkedIn for example, we have a set of accounts that we really want to get deeper into and then we have activities with our SDR team, AEs and the marketing team often getting together and identifying and targeting those bunch of companies. But is it happening at a one to one or one to few level? Not today. I think we'll get there in the next couple of quarters, that's the part of the plan.

Franco Caporale:

Yeah. To me, I always thought account based marketing doesn't have to be one to one or one to few, it can be, but it really depends on your model or resources and how much value do those accounts bring. So I think you guys are doing pretty good job already on the ABM side. I want to talk about your sales, the relationship with the sales team. So if we look from a sales alignment perspective, how do you guys work with the sales team? Do you have regular meetings? Do you have a process in place to hand off leads and then nurture them back? How does that work at Freshworks.

Abhishek GP:

Yeah. So the closest engagement that we have is with our SDR team sitting out of the same location. And that is a key relationship for us because that is where you get a lot of insights from what's happening in terms of customer calls and therefore what are the interventions that the demand gen team can have for it. Is pricing an issue, is messaging an issue, is positioning an issue? So there are lots of big decisions that get made because you're so close to your SDR team, I think that's step one for us. Step two is, Hey, you identify those gaps, based on your interactions, based on results and conversions and then you sort of feed back sales enablement materials and coaching and have sessions with them]. Step two is to think about a deeper engagement with AEs, what was that one step away?

Abhishek GP:

So the engagement with AEs are a lot more about having supporting them in a lot of deeds and a lot of big dream, especially. So that is where a lot of demand gen and AE interaction happens. But a majority of the discussions that happen are between the demand gen team, the SDR team and the AE team. So what we do is, of course we have SLAs, I'm going to stress in terms of the lead hand off time. In fact, we go back to the drawing board also, and we think about campaigns together.

Abhishek GP:

So there are deep discussion that happened on what kind of campaign should we be doing. Why should we be doing some campaigns? Is it solving a certain audience problem? Is it opening a certain market segment for us? So these are the questions that we start off discussing with the AE teams across different markets and once that is set, and once the lead start throwing in, there is a handoff SLA that happens. And then there are monthly meetings on certain accounts in terms of their behavior and how would they have been engaging with us in terms of conversion and sales cadence, et cetera. So there is a deep engagement that we have with AE separately, but a majority of interactions that we have are with SDRs in terms of feeding insights, handing off feeds because they are our primary customer.

Franco Caporale:

And so I assume the SDRs reports under sales at Freshworks, right?

Abhishek GP:

No at Freshworks, SDRs report at the SDR director who in turn reports into the VP of Global Growth and Marketing. So SDRs at Freshworks report into growth and marketing team.

Franco Caporale:

And so in your opinion, do you think it's better when the SDRs has reports under marketing or under sales, or maybe a combination of the two?

Abhishek GP:

It's a good question, Franco. I've been thinking about it for some time now. There are definitely advantages of SDRs reporting into global growth and marketing, because I feel that while there is a very deep engagement that SDRs have with AEs, there is a lot of value that demand gen marketers can extract from this relationship with SDRs as well. For example, what I've seen traditionally is that, if the SDRs report into sales teams, it gets really difficult for marketers to get regular access to them. Because, for example, all the issues and insights that on inside generation, call listening, enablement and coaching, all of them become far difficult when they report into sales because the objectives were very different. In this case, at Freshworks, we work hand in glove. So the problems that SDRs are facing, these are our problems and likewise. So I have begun to strongly towards SDRs reporting into growth and marketing and it seems to be working better for us.

Franco Caporale:

That's awesome. It's usually a controversial question when I ask because I heard every kind of answer and maybe there's not a right answer, but I always like to ask it. I want to ask you a few more questions in terms of campaigns, just something that we can learn. What is the most successful campaign that you've run? It doesn't have to be at Freshworks, it can be maybe in a previous experience, something that really worked out well, maybe more than what you expected. And then at the same time, what is the least successful campaign that you ran? Something that maybe got your zero results and something you wouldn't do that again.

Abhishek GP:

That's always a great question because it forces you to introspect. A successful campaign that is fresh in my memory is what we call The Silent Revolution. Now, this was for our product Freshsales, which is the category of CRM. Now the core insight behind this campaign was that we've been hearing murmurs from sales decision makers about how not so satisfied they are with the CRM. Some of them believe that the CRMs were large, clunky, difficult to use. They always see new adoption rates and of course the time to value is high and eventually the ROI, it doesn't make sense at all. So we've been hearing these murmurs for some time now and we thought, "Hey, why don't we pick up on this and think about a campaign around this." So that's sort of the idea really germinated and what we needed at that stage is really to quantify that pain.

Abhishek GP:

Are there numbers around this pain? What percentage of audience is not so satisfied? What percentage of audience is happy with the CRM? So it's a graded report. And who better than someone like Forrester Research? Who we could commission, it's a neutral expert entity and being in quantitative survey with them, with sales decision makers, to really understand their experience around CRM. And eventually where they happy, not happy? We started that satisfied with the job. The next step, of course, was to take this report out to the market and bring this campaign to life. You know, that's where we used, your multiple channel at one time. So we had a fairly elongated pre-bus stage where we used a lot of influencers to share their perspectives on what CRM ought to be. So what CRM promised a few years back and where it is today, for example.

Abhishek GP:

And then we used multiple channels like Display and LinkedIn and whatnot to convey this message around X percentages of sales users being not so happy with the CRM. Then we did a bunch of webinars with Forrester and other entities just talking about this concept. So the key message and the learning here was that you need to really reinforce your message over a period of time and across samples and formats, and only then does it concept freely sink in. And that took some time, the campaign duration was about two and a half, three months, it was that long. Which also meant that we had to focus only on this and say no to everything else. So this campaign did go a great distance for us in terms of fleas, MQLs, and all of them are in the pipeline right now. So we hope to generate good results out of this campaign.

Abhishek GP:

On the other question of what's not worked as a campaign. And that's a more interesting question because it's the same campaign that we did several months ago that was not successful. And it's a funny story, and you might ask why. So the previous version of the campaign that we did, didn't do as well. And the insight was the same, nothing changed. But there are a few key reason that come to mind why it might not have as well. One was that, the acceptance of your message by the audience is dependent also on the level of awareness of your product. A product that is new to the market, that hasn't really done much of outbound and the audience is not aware of the product. If you go to them with a message that's surprising, that's different, that has a point of view, they might not really believe you. You need to go through that chain of no light trust, which we hadn't.

Abhishek GP:

So I don't think the product was there from an awareness perspective several months ago, that's the reason number one. The other reason I thought it might not have worked as well is because we've been making a possible to claim without any evidence to back it up. We didn't have a survey back then, we didn't have much data points back then. So it's very clear that when you're making a claim, you need to sound critical and therefore you might want to rely on an expert priority to be neutral and to talk about that thing versus you talking about thing. And if not be, suppose it's even more tactical, which is, did we select the right set of channels? Did we select the right set of formats? Our understanding about sales personnel as an audience was fairly limited back then. So I think a mix of these reasons really impacted why the campaign didn't really take off. So that would perhaps my least successful recent campaign.

Franco Caporale:

Yeah. I love this, it's always very interesting to hear. And this is very uncommon story to have a similar campaign, both going really well and not so well.

Abhishek GP:

Yeah. That's odd, right?

Franco Caporale:

That's fantastic. I want to ask you one last question before, before I leave you and is, can you share with us one hack? And for hack I mean, maybe something that didn't cost any money or something that was just very unusual, but it worked out really well and it was a very profitable move, that you made.

Abhishek GP:

Yeah. So I think of one that cost money, but that can integrate with this. Something demand gen marketers don't talk about often and something that I found out a few months back. It's not really a hack, but it's possibly a philosophy that one must have for every single campaign that you run on LinkedIn. So this is what happened. LinkedIn has been our top channel for some time now and I've been thinking about it quite a bit, in terms of how do you optimize better? How do squeeze a lot more out of the campaign both in terms of content capture, both in terms of engagement and eventually CPL.

Abhishek GP:

In both the experiments that we did last time, what was clear was that the frequency of reach as a parameter is a big predictor of lead capture. So what I mean to say is that, as marketers we focus so much on leads, CTR, number of leads that have dropped, CPL and whatnot, but there are some important campaign optimization parameters that we completely miss out on, that have the potential to compete transform a campaign.

Abhishek GP:

So for example, one of the metrics that we found out was frequency of reach. We realized that if we tune up the frequency of reach to, let's say, five or six, which means the average exposure of a campaign to a prospect is about five or six times in a certain duration, there is a significantly higher probability of converting that prospect. Which means there's a bunch of campaigns that we've been under optimizing for because we were really focused on frequency of reach as a parameter. Now, as soon as we dial up this parameter and we started focusing a lot more on it, there is a increase and improvement in the lead flow that we begin to get. So the two learnings here were, you need to expose your prospect to a lot of content, a variety of content and five more often. And if you do that really well, within a period of time, your CPLs will reduce, your lead flow will increase. That's the big insight that I had and I would say that's bigger than hack because that's something that works every single time.

Franco Caporale:

So in order to accomplish this, because obviously if you continue bombarding the prospect with the same content, it will actually be penalized by LinkedIn. So you need to continuously rotate new content. Is that correct?

Abhishek GP:

That's absolutely right Franco. So you need to have a bunch of, I would say, top funnel, middle funnel and bottom funnel content because people are at different stages and people move to different stages in different timelines. So it's not necessarily... The other assumption that people have is you need to start with the top full and eventually at somewhere you would move to more full, that's not okay. There is a bunch of prospects who are sitting there ready to engage, ready to have a conversation. So like you said, you need a variety of content across different funnel stages, so we really like to mix different kinds of content. For example, in top of funnel, we have survey reports and trend reports and whatnot. In bottom funnel content we have something more about the categories, something like a buying guide and mentioning the product. So if we keep all of them bunched together in one campaign and that's where we look at our lot of outcomes for our tests.

Franco Caporale:

That's awesome. And how many times do you normally swap the content? Do you wait to see if it's not working anymore or is something you do as a cadence, I don't know, weekly or monthly?

Abhishek GP:

That's a great question, Franco. So there are a couple of parameters that I look at to decide whether we want to start to swap content. The first is to look at measures around fatigue. The measures around fatigue would be declining CPR over a period of time, is is engagement really reducing, number one? Number two, are we really overextending on the frequency of reach? If we know that the ideal frequency of reach has to be about five, are we already on eight? Which means we are done with the audience, we are done with the piece of content. So these are some lead metrics that I would use to swap. And of course, the final metric that you would still think about this both the number of leads that are dropping by and other CPL. So is the CPL beginning to balloon up because of the worse CPR. So we look at those four metrics over a period of time to decide whether to pause this content and swap it out for something else.

Franco Caporale:

Fantastic. This is awesome feedback. I think some advanced tactics for LinkedIn is always useful since most of us are spending money on LinkedIn.  It was really great having you as a guest on the episode today, I enjoyed the conversation. So thanks again for joining us.

Abhishek GP:

Thank you Franco for having me, loved chatting with you here.