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Revenue Operations for Product-Led Growth

From Marketing Operations to Revenue Operations

Barry: Tell me about yourself, and how you got into revenue operations.

Mathias: I’ve been working in marketing stuff for the past 10 years, approximately, and I came from a marketing operations background. I started in B2B industries, building material industry 10 years ago. It was not the software world, but playing with marketing stuff and email marketing automation. I’ve done maybe four years of that.

Then I joined a software company where I had the privilege to implement a marketing automation platform and dive deep into what marketing operation is and what the impact is on the company. I had the chance to build those teams.

Finally, two years ago I joined Unito and went from just marketing operations to sales operations, CS operations, and product operations. All of that makes revenue operations. And I’m today leading the revenue operations practice at Unito.

Unito is a no-code workflow management platform. You can think about us as a two-way, sync tool that you can use between different tools you integrate. We are close to Zapier somehow, but we have the two-way sync offered on the market. Take your project management tools, CRMs, and marketing automation, and try to sync those tools together, that’s Unito.

What is Product-Led Growth?

Product-led growth is a business strategy where the primary driver of growth is the product itself. This means that instead of using traditional marketing and sales methods to drive growth, the product is designed and built in a way that creates value for users and encourages them to spread the word or continue beyond their free trial.

This approach can be particularly effective for companies who have a great product but may not have the resources to invest in marketing and sales. By focusing on the product, they can create a cycle where users drive growth, which in turn enables the company to reinvest  in product improvements to make it even better

Barry: Awesome. Let’s talk about product-led growth strategy. From my experience, some of the best product led growth focused companies come from marketing operations because marketing ops are very process-oriented and very tech-oriented, and a lot of product led growth is like that, it has similar patterns. Not to say that sales ops don’t, but that there’s, I would say a higher concentration from the marketing ops perspective. Would you agree with that statement?

Mathias: Of course. Definitely. Maybe one way to explain is that those technologies, marketing technologies often cover larger ground within the company. Think about the CRM, the database, the way you communicate, and that kind of stuff. And so, I’m not surprised to see a lot of people coming from this, once, very ungrateful territory, which was marketing operations, to something that is a bit more important and strategic within the company.

I think companies started to realize that the tech and the way you adapt them can have a direct impact on the strategy. The go-to-market strategy or the way a company is handling those stuff. So we see more and more of those sales operations tools or sales automation tools, but marketing is owning that, the territory of tech processes, data mindsets, and go-to-market. So I’m not surprised. In a few years, people will start from sales and maybe go to revenue operations, or back to marketing operations. Who knows?

Barry: Yeah, I think there is a marketing-tech landscape that’s so big that you can’t even find it. That’s how many logos there are in the marketing tech landscape. So it actually makes a lot of sense.

Mathias: That’s crazy, yeah.

Unito: Product-Led Growth Example

Barry: Let’s talk PLG. Let’s just go straight to the business of Unito. Because I think in order to talk PLG, we have to understand what Unito, a little bit more on the pricing strategies in the product-led growth model and the sales team.

Mathias: Unito offers a two weeks free trial. So our go-to-market is you can sign up, try the tool, and eventually convert. As a traditional, go-to-market, we’re not premium. We’re offering those two weeks free trial. At the end of the day, we have this volume of people that are interested in using the product or not. The challenge is to triage through this noise and try to focus on the highest potential leads you can find in this area. So yeah, I guess Unito needs to triage, classify those users and sign up and then focus on specific ones. We have a sales assist motion in place. We started with an inbound model, which was fully inbound. We were waiting for people to solicit us to ask us questions, to ask for some help.

And we slowly move to, and also practice motion where we basically tell our SDR or product specialist to go after specific leads. But back to PLG, everything is driven around the product. It means that our SDR or product specialists need to know everything about the product because that’s the main focus for our trailers and signups. This is not about intent anymore.

This is not about the way a company wants to organize itself. The product decides if somebody is interested or not, it has to be easy to use. And of course, we need people to be there to assist and give them the best chances to activate. Activation enclosed conversion in that model, if you activate the product, if you use it in the right way, there is a higher chance you’ll convert down the road. Of course.

Barry: Absolutely. So the go-to-market just to recap, is a two-week trial. Obviously, they find the,  guess from marketing or word of mouth, we’ll talk more about that, service from before that, then people do a trial. Do they put in their credit card for that trial or is the credit card free?

Mathias: Credit card, that’s our main model. We have online terms and we try to privilege that. Of course, sometimes we face companies with a more complicated procurement cycle. We need to work on legal stuff, but we try to keep it on the low hand. I don’t know how to say that. We’re always focused on this credit card expertise and at the end of the day, we might activate several teams within the same company. It’s better for us if the product does the job. So if five or six people want to try the tool, that’s okay, credit card. And then that’s a different discussion. But if we go enterprise or when we go enterprise, it changes. But I’d say that 80% of our transactions are through credit cards. Yeah. The self-serve motion is very important for us.

Barry: Right. And this is just getting really detailed, but the credit cards are they corporate cards? Are they personal cards? Are they team cards? Are they, sometimes a marketing team has a card, and sometimes there’s an org card. Do you have any thoughts on that? I don’t know if that’s even trackable, but I’m curious if that’s something that you’ve tracked.

Mathias: Yes. It is tracked somehow, but it’s tied to our user base. We have a lot of what we call personal old plans. Those are people alone working on their own and activating Unito, spending 20 bucks a month. This is going to be their credit card, but a segment of the market, which is growing very fast for us are those midsize companies. And we start to see those team credit cards popping up all logic of giving a budget to a specific sub-team within a large corporation. So yeah, it’s happening more and more and it’s tied to our growth and the type of companies we’re working with over time.

Involving Customer Success in New Customer Onboarding

Barry: Cool. And also really cool that you can track that. Okay. So then the customer purchases and they can start using it right away. Do you have an implementation team? Obviously, I guess the product has to be easy enough, that they don’t need the implementation team, what’s going on after they put in the credit card information.

Mathias: Of course. I was talking about sales assist, pre-conversion, for our customers, there is a continuity, so the product might be easy to use. The product might prioritize this self-serve approach. But at the end of the day, we need to connect with them. So yes, we have an onboarding process in place. We don’t offer sales assistance to every free trial account, but as a consequence, we don’t offer onboardings for all our customers as well.

It depends on the type of plan people will convert on and the type of expansion we want to achieve within a specific company. But yes, we have a CS team dedicated to those onboardings and workshops. It’s very important for us to help them realize the value of Unito. And I would say, that’s not because the product is difficult to implement, but that’s because the product can expand within the company. You can integrate more tools. You can activate more teams within the same company and we need to make it sustainable. So we need to connect and we need to sell this value as well.

Barry: Yep. No, it makes a lot of sense. Has your implementation team or customer service, I think implementation team, have they ever spoken to within the two-week trial period or does that only happen after the two-week trial is done?

Mathias: That’s an excellent question. It’s happening in some cases for us. Let’s say you’re talking with this large company, this company has large requirements. We need to get a pricing for 300 users at that stage, before we sign the contract, we need to make sure that our solution or our product can match all the expectations and can answer all those questions.

That’s because of the experience that we had with previous customers that we realized, okay, we need to involve the CS team before we signed the contract because what happened in the past, you signed those large contracts and it’s very appealing, right?

So 300 people will use our product within the company, but then you didn’t take enough time to test the product at scale within that kind of company. You might face security issues, authentication issues, and single sign-on issues within the company. When we did not take the time to evaluate that before, we created friction after the purchase, which is the worst thing that can happen with a new customer. So yeah, the system will be involved in very specific cases where we know that our product needs to be implemented in a specific way, with specific consequences. Yeah.

Customer PQL Scoring

Barry: Let’s talk about data points in a product-led company. I’ll tell you about my experience just from PLG. Sometimes some data is marked off by how many users are there? For example, monday.com, it’s a local company in Tel Aviv. They reach out if there are multiple teams coming and then the sales guy consolidates it kind of thing, we can actually, did you even know, people don’t even know that other people are using monday.com, which is really cool and a really special PLG motion to have that privilege.

Then there’s the other thing that is something that I’m sure you’ve done in marketing ops, right? How do you the classic, hub lead score, this person has gone to your website and this other person has used your app 10 times, or let’s say five times probably more reasonable in the past week.

And then they use it again the next weekend. So they haven’t churned that within two weeks. Then you’re looking at the churn, the usage, and then, so that’s, I guess tier two, then tier three is how deep they go in the product, right? Not about how often they sign in but are they using advanced features during the trial? I’m sure that also has something to go on. So of those three things, I guess, where do you guys start? Do you hit all three? Are there different sales reps and four different scenarios? We’d love to go in and deep dive into the different pillars.

Mathias: Thank you so much, Barry. This is very accurate. Yes, we implemented a specific scoring maybe 18 months ago, which is a PQL scoring. To give some background about that, maybe five or six years ago, when you implement a scoring for software companies was mainly marketing intent and demographic profile. The mix of two was supposed to be enough to go after the best leads with the highest potential.

But when you think PLG, of course, product usage needs to be the best indicator of people using your product in the right way or not. So what we did is that we implemented this trial score, if you want, which is made of three different subs scoring. So product usage, how do you use the product? And then you mentioned a specific feature. And this is the important thing. It’s not about, who is using the product or not.

It’s about, how they use it during the trial. Let’s say for Unito for example, if you use a custom field, when trying to map fields between different tools, that’s an indicator that you’re going to be a good lead for us in the sense that your needs and requirements will be more important. That just sends this data here and there. Our scoring is made of product usage, but also marketing intent, and demographic profile. What we did is based on that, we defined three different buckets.

The first one is the ‘Ignore’ bucket. You don’t use the product, you don’t fit demographically speaking, okay. We don’t care. It’s not we don’t care and I’m going to go back on that. But the sales teams will not focus on those. Then we have the ‘to pay attention’ bucket in between, okay, they’re using the product a bit, and we’re close to a good demographic fit. They visit the website and stuff that.

Finally, we have the ‘act now’ leads, these are the best leads. They use the product in the best way. They have the best demographic fit. I want the sales team to jump on those ones as quickly as they can, act now. To give you maybe another view, the ‘Act now’ leads for us are maybe 5% of the entire signup base, only 5%, but they represent the highest conversion rate and the highest RPU as well, average revenue per user.

Then how do we organize the sales team to address those buckets? And this is when you start differentiating between the inbound SDR, answering those questions, and the proactive SDR. Okay. You focus on those 5% act leads and you go after them. So you have those sales sequences, you try to place a phone call. You try to do whatever can to connect to them as soon as you can. So I don’t know if it answers your question, but this is what we’ve implemented and how we are today structuring ourselves assist motion.

Barry: It’s an SDR, not an account executive at the point of act now?

Mathias: It’s an SDR, still in SDR. Because we are going after individuals and our account executive is working on different kinds of leads. We call them Expansion qualified leads. The strategy is very similar to the one happening at monday.com, the example you took. How can we identify people from the same company in different teams and what level of intelligence can we compile so that the DAE can slowly go after another team, try to put people into relation, and try to expand the usage of the product.

Barry: Yeah, Okay, cool. So the SDR, let’s say the SDR attacks the tech now, and then they get a yes. So then are they closing with them? Are there any contracts sent? Does the person need to just stay on past the two-week trial? What happens after that?

Mathias: It depends on the type of ‘act now’ leads. For example, they may be a very small company but are willing to pay $300 a month. So this one can be closed by the SDR because once again, no procurement, no legal, no NDA, that kind of stuff. However, you can still make business with a very large company activating within a very small team.

If there’s a specific procurement and red lines on the MSAs and stuff that, then this is the AE business. So our threshold is based on the complexity of the procurement cycle. Of course. And those ‘act now’ can be both. Of course, we want them to generate the best MRR but it’s different whether you generate this MRR within a small company or a big one.

Sales Conversations About Competitors

Barry: So now to be pretty specific, let’s say you do ‘act now’, and then they’re in conversations, right? Do the sales assist people talk about competitors? The reason that they became ‘act now’ is because they went to a very deep product part, of a different part of the product in theory. They get the product, they get what it does they get, and they know what it does.

They had obviously a need for it. The need is clear, but do you think they’re also doing that with your competitors’ products? At the same time, and if they are then obviously your sales rep has to do that, but if they aren’t do the sales rep, you can talk about competitors. These questions come from this Product-Led Growth standpoint. Once people are actually on it, are they working on it with multiple products at the same time?

Mathias: That’s a delicate line. So of course we need to assume that they’re trying and testing our competition and different solutions. Sometimes they are very transparent about it because this is one of the questions that we ask during the signup process. We don’t trigger that question for everyone, but we get this information. But at the end of the day, Product-Led Growth, being about product, the sales team needs to make sure that we address the use case in the best way possible. If we do, we are better than the competition anyway, because it’s hard to find, to treat the same use case, in the same way, using work Workato or Zapier, using all those tools out there.

Our sales team and SDR have that mission to make sure that the use case from the customer is implemented in the best way possible. That’s the only way for us to differentiate ourselves vs. the other company. But of course, we have those discussions and we are prepared to handle the objections if you want. There’s a traditional sales approach, but we don’t force this approach. We let the customer talk about the way they use the product and we try to help them as much as we can.

Barry: Yep. Is pricing transparent on your website?

Mathias: It is. Yes.

Sales Assist Channels

Barry: So then there should be fewer surprises on pricing for the users also at that point. Let’s talk about the sales assist. When we’re doing sales assist, you mentioned sequences before, is that what’s happening? They get a score of ‘act now’ then you just start messaging them in email or you can start messaging them in the app. What are the ways to reach out to these people?

Mathias: Great question. We tried everything. That could be a discussion about experiments, but we tried to diversify the channels, of course. So we work on the copy. We work on the condensing, but that’s mainly emails. I guess the challenge for us when it comes to ‘act now’ is to generate this first connection. And this is the most important part. People will use the product and they don’t come to you spontaneously. You need to go after them and trigger that first reaction.

Often, it’s going to be a high level of customization within email traditional sequence, but then we sometimes use the phone as well on top of that or SMS or In-App messages, of course. And we try to find the best association of channels and best cadences to maintain our indicators. Those are activity-based indicators, but you have this ‘act now’ sequence, we need to maintain a high reply rate and a high meeting rate. So we experiment with those and we see what’s the impact on reply rate and meeting rate.

The PLG Software Stack

Barry: Yep. That makes a lot of sense. We definitely just did a pretty deep down in the PLG motion at your company. Can you tell me maybe about the software stack? For understanding product usage and understanding the whole stack.

Mathias: So how do we architect the data and how do we get this data here and there? 

Barry: Yes.

Mathias: We used to use an ETL platform. It’s just a way to extract the data from our product, interpret the data in a specific way, and then load the data back in our tools. We use ABPO as a CRM for marketing automation, sale automation, and everything at that stage. We are thinking about reverse ETL as we speak. A way for us to put all this data into a warehouse and then get the data back in the app. So yes, we’re thinking about all of that.

And if you allow me to maybe go somewhere else based on that, we realize that product data is something important, all right? But when you get this data, is even more important and it’s all about when, so I don’t know if it answers your question about the stack and what we use, but the changes we’re making in the way we administrate the stack is getting towards those live events and being able for us to trigger the communication at the right time based on the product experience.

So the, “When” is probably much more important than the, “What”, when it comes to that motion.

Barry: Yeah, absolutely. That makes sense. What percentage of your company are sales reps? 

Mathias: We are a team of five sales reps today.

Barry: Okay, cool. Yeah. So the majority is not more than 20% sales or things that?

Mathias: Exactly.

Barry: And that’s where prioritization is obviously been more-

Mathias: Indeed, the sales yield and how do you justify those headcounts, of course.

Revenue Operations at a PLG Company

Barry: If a person wants to join Rev Ops at a product-led company, what questions should they ask beforehand? What do you think their job would be day-to-day? Because there’s always a question of what is Revenue Operations? But maybe something more specific at a PLG-type company than a non-PLG company? That’s what I’m asking

Mathias: That’s a great question. So revenue operation very much like marketing operation in the past is all about process, people, and platform. Just a way to sum it up. So you need to manage the revenue tech stack. You need to negotiate with the providers here and there, but you also work on those processes. And when we talk about lead scoring, that’s a process. When you talk about a customer scoring, we didn’t talk about that one as well, but that’s the same logic, the way you implement those processes, to make sure that all those companies are more efficient in the way they collaborate with each other and people because one of the RevOps missions is to train people, educate them on how to prospect, how to use marketing automation tool, how to use a sales operations, and what indicators we need to follow.

It’s not an easy answer in the sense that PLG might represent more marketing apps than sales apps or more processes, I’d say than tech management. That’s the main difference that I’m seeing today, RevOps and PLG. The impact of those processes is not just about the marketing team anymore. That’s marketing and sales, that’s marketing sales and CS, that’s marketing sales, CS and product. And you need to create those processes that will basically impact all the different teams. So I’d say that the process part of RevAmps is more important in a PLG environment, for sure.

Barry: I’m curious but I’ve read some RevOps professionals are the ones that also make their dishwashing packing capabilities more efficient. We’ve heard that on the podcast before. But then I’ve talked to RevOps people that aren’t as process-oriented, but I feel specifically for PLG, process-oriented is super important in marketing ops and RevOps for PLG.

Mathias: Maybe one way and once again, to sum it up, because I felt that marketing ops for larger companies and now RevOps for startups, we are there to challenge the status quo. Usually, we are that guy or those profile within the company where we are basically a big pain in the rear for everyone in the sense that we are challenging the way people work, we’re challenging the technologies that we use. So sometimes we bring a perspective that is not the easiest one to digest from those individual teams. We are there to challenge the status quo and we’re there to make sure that we don’t stay in the same state of operations. I’d say,

Barry: I think our listeners learned a lot about product-led strategy. If they have any questions on PLG or RevOps, what’s the best place to reach out to you? Are you part of any communities? Should they reach out to you via LinkedIn?

Mathias: Yeah. So I’m part of a few communities out there. So RevGenius, RevOps Go Up, for example, are some of them, otherwise, you can just check my LinkedIn and I’d be happy to keep the discussion going and live. This is something that I love to do, share the experience, and get the experience from peers.

RevOps is constantly changing and moving very dynamic. RevOps is not reinventing the wheel because we always needed people to take a look at silos and try to break them. But yeah, there’s something refreshing in a way that we get away from traditional marketing and sales and a little bit more about the product. So it’s changing everything, the skills of a sales team or the skills of the marketing team, et cetera. So I’d be happy to discuss in those communities specifically or on LinkedIn, of course.

Barry: Awesome. Well, reach out if you have any questions, I learned a lot. Thanks and looking forward to staying in touch.

Mathias: Thank you very much, Barry, for having me. Have a great day.