As part of our Insider’s Guide series, we invited Zoom’s Head of Marketing Janine Pelosi (the company’s very first marketing hire!) to sit down in our SOMA-based Co-Selling Space with SaaStr Co-Founder Mallun Yen to talk all things marketing. She offered excellent advice on how to get started from scratch, build the right marketing team for your business, better align with sales, and much, much more. Below, we highlight a few key takeaways from the informal-yet-informative discussion and AMA:
On how to make a dent in a crowded market
Zoom came onto the video conferencing scene when there were already several established players in the space, which meant they had to get creative when it came to making some noise. Janine’s strategy? Instead of saying the same thing everyone else was already saying ad nauseum—”It’s easy to use! It’s a reliable product!”—the team counted on third party validation to rise up above the competition. By partnering with industry analysts such as Gartner, along with happy customers, Zoom was able to get their name out there, inspire more trust in the product off the bat, and build relationships that still continue to benefit the business. Janine’s team also used creative content to not only generate awareness, but also drive preference for the brand. As evidenced by the business’ growth over the past few years, this out-of-the-box approach obviously worked.
On hiring your core marketing team
Janine’s first five marketing hires were for digital, webinar, events, social, and advertising roles. Why these five specific folks, you ask? Because, as Janine said, when you figure out what’s working for your business, you double down and put more resources in that direction—and these specific tactics were helping Zoom generate brand buzz, acquire new customers, and grow the business. Janine told us that when she’s hiring, she wants to see more than just a certain refined skill-set—she’s looking for good judgement and intuition in candidates as well. As a result, she can trust her hires to make the right decisions for the business on their own. When asked about whether it’s better to hire talent internally or outsource, Janine suggested that leadership teams figure out which core competencies are crucial to the organization’s DNA, and then bring those competencies in-house.
On trusting the marketing stack
When asked about her ideal marketing stack, Janine told us that the the one thing she consistently hears from marketers of all kinds is that no matter what tools they use, nobody trusts their data. She added, “I still feel like I have to double-check everything.” It ain’t all sunshine and rainbows in the wild world of marketing technology.
On sales and marketing alignment
Janine praised the sales and marketing teams’ relationship at Zoom, saying it’s one of the best she’s ever heard of. Her advice for teams looking to align is this: at the end of the day, what’s going to drive the organization forward is a mutual passion for what you’re doing. That means you have to really agree to be in it together, not fighting each other at each step of the way. One way to do this is by making sure everyone understands the ‘why’ for every initiative before you go forth and execute on anything.
On offering a ‘freemium’ product
Zoom offers their product with its full range of features for free, with the cutoff at 40 minutes. Why? Janine told us that this model has actually helped them sell their product better—if the free product offering isn’t great, why would anyone testing it out believe that the product isn’t great overall? She also told us that this model has also helped the team sell into the tricky enterprise. When these bigger companies are allowed to go in and kick the tires a bit before committing, they’re more likely to give it a go. The most challenging thing about selling into enterprise is that no one wants to be the first to make the move away from the status quo and adopt a brand new product. By offering a great freemium experience, Zoom takes that riskiness out of initial product adoption within larger organizations.
On where to focus efforts
When asked for advice on where to focus early marketing efforts, Janine’s answer was four-fold. Her top suggestion was to cultivate good relationships with your early customers because those relationships can go a really long way for you. A lot of Zoom’s success is a direct result of a) how great the product is, but also, b) how well they treat their customers. Every employee within the organization is empowered to do what he or she thinks is right by the customer, and this customer-centric approach has helped the marketing team succeed in its third-party validation strategy. Janine also suggested that marketing teams can aim for success by creating as much content—consistently—as possible (the blog is the hub of Zoom’s marketing strategy), staying authentic in their voice, and participating in events in their spaces. There you have it, folks!
One other fun thing we learned from Janine? That she’s a bit of a badass. When asked to reveal one unexpected fact about herself, she told us that at 8 months pregnant, she grouted her entire new bathroom. We must say we’re impressed!
Keep an eye out for video from this awesome event with Janine, and don’t miss out on our next Insider’s Guide session and AMA in the Co-Selling Space. Next up, on Wednesday, September 5th, we’re featuring Slack’s very first Head of Product (and employee #50!) Merci Grace. See you there!