In this episode we have Srikrishnan Ganesan, he's a good friend, has been a, a friend for a very, very long time, but most importantly two times startup founder. First he started with Konotor in 2012. Later exited to FreshWorks, and then now CEO and co-founder at Rocketlane one of the hottest SaaS startups from India out.
July 13, 2023
Srikrishna Factors.AI: Hello everyone. Welcome to the factors.ai podcast, where we talk to SaaS leaders, CXOs marketers, and sales professionals on what takes to grow a SaaS company specifically around marketing, but also other insights from other divisions as well so that we learn on how we actually grow and marketing is all about growth. In this episode we have Srikrishnan Ganesan, he's a good friend, has been a, a friend for a very, very long time, but most importantly two times startup founder. First he started with Konotor in 2012. Later exited toFreshWorks, and then now CEO and co-founder at Rocketlane one of the hottest SaaS startups from India out.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Welcome here. Very, very happy to have you here. And I'm pretty excited to talkto you as well.
Sri Ganesan: Thanksfor having me on, Sri. It just feels weird calling each other Sri because, youknow, this is not how we usually call each other, but yeah, thanks for havingme on.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Oh, yes true. But yeah, it's I think the namesake has kind of a line ofgreatness associated with it, so let's keep it that way.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Anyways I mean, one thing which most VCs do talk about, but also other founderswhen they go through their path of the hard path of founding a company and takingit up to sales and revenue, product market fit, they say that Second timealways works much better. I mean, when you are a second time founder, thelessons learnt, what you know, what you don't know, and most importantly, howyou take risks, et cetera, is lot more better thought out and comes out well.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:We would like to hear your journey right from your first startup. How did youfirst end up starting up in the first place leaving a nice job and then intostarting up again as well. And we'd like to hear that journey. Please. Thefloor is yours.
Sri Ganesan: Cool. I,I think if you are doing second journey in associated Space at least.
Sri Ganesan: And itfeels like, you know, there are some learnings you can carry over, for sure,right? Mm-hmm. The previous journey actually started off b2c, not even b2b. Forthe first few months at least, we were trying to be, build like a B2C product,taking on WhatsApp, then pivoted into b2b, luckily. And this, this was 2012.
Sri Ganesan: And toearly 2013 we built a product called Phone on, which was like basically a voicemessaging app and 2013, we pivoted to say, okay, let's actually focus onbuilding a B2B SDK for messaging. Mm-hmm. And this went into apps like Zomato,Swiggy, Big Basket Bank Bazaar, Faasos, dine out, lots of popular apps in, inIndia were using our S D K for their you know, chatting with their customers,giving that messaging experience inside their apps. And we thought we weredoing well given the kind of brands we were bringing on, and then we gotacquired by FreshWorks in 2015. went in there and, and saw what true momentumfeels like, right?
Sri Ganesan: I thinkwe spent four and a half years. At FreshWorks con, you know, built that chatbusiness. It eventually became this product, which is now called Fresh Chat.And when we relaunched Fresh Chat in 2017, it really took off in a big way. Thekey difference was we had been building our product only for mobile apps, andwe sort of, when we relaunched, we said, this is for web and, mobile.
Sri Ganesan: And thatone change, which is something we discussed before launching that, hey the, thebiggest problem we had and why we had like more chunky growth and so on wasbecause the market. Was more, I, I would say, you know the demand was more forweb chat than for in-app SDKs, et cetera. That was, you know, still not yetthere in 2015.
Sri Ganesan: Ithadn't like, become a thing yet. And we discussed that in 2016, launchedrelaunched in 2017 and this became like the fastest growing product insideFreshWorks to hit various revenue milestones. And that gave us a lot of. Youknow, things to think about if we optimize for momentum, right? It really feltlike so many things come together easily.
Sri Ganesan: Youstill have problems running any business, but the problems seemed happierproblems when you have momentum on your side. It felt more joyful, I would say.And the challenges that came to the team felt like these were challenges thatwere creating opportunities for people to level up and grow rather than just,you know hard things being hard things, right? So that, that was, I would say,what was the biggest thing that drove us to even think about starting up again,having experienced the momentum, we felt, Hey, what if we build one morestartup and this time optimize for momentum from early?
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Okay. That's awesome.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:I think one thing of course As any founder it would have felt like, okay, whydidn't I see what I saw in 20 16, 20 17, much earlier, maybe in 2013. Did thathappen in terms of, like, I, from what I hear, it was like a shift from, let'ssay, mobile only to web plus mobile experience, and web was always there andthere were multiple the same.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Why didn't I mean, did that happen or did you what was, how did you analyzeyour thought process at that point in time?
Sri Ganesan:Definitely. I think when we started up, we were all coming from like differentcompanies. I had worked in a startup before. Vignesh was at Zynga. Deepak wasat eBay before the first startup.
Sri Ganesan: And whenwe got in, we had some notion of, okay, what we built needs to be new in someway. And we actually heard from our sales guy, like we hired one sales rep in2015 and he used to keep saying, Hey, if you make this for web, I can sell itmore. And we were like, no, you don't understand. There are hundred otherproducts for web and you know, there's only like one product like us that isreally special and doing this for mobile and it's a different.
Sri Ganesan: Youknow, experience that we're trying to deliver, but you wanna work in the weband so on. And even after the acquisition, actually Girish, very early on,asked us, Hey, why don't you also do this for web? And we were like, no, web isa different product altogether. The experience needs to be different for web,different for mobile.
Sri Ganesan: And wehad all these notions in our mind about what it should be, you know? And thereality hit when we saw Intercom grow from like 1 million to 50 million inthree years. And on the other hand, anyone in our space who was doing onlymobile SDK was growing much slower. Drift also was growing fast on web, right?
Sri Ganesan: And wesaid, okay, you know, maybe we should like give this a serious rethink. Thereis a modern web messenger as well. Mm-hmm. And we had been looking at the oldschool live chat, et cetera, and saying, Hey, You know, that market exists has,has like hundreds of players. Why do we want to create one more in that space?
Sri Ganesan: But oncewe built this modern and mature messaging product for web there was real demandfor it. And yeah, so we, we definitely discussed that quite a bit. That hey,shit, we should have done this much earlier.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:That's true. So one thing which also stands out is of course the marketfeedback, right? I think when the sales team comes back and says, or whensomeone else comes back and, or even investors or people in the industry saythat, okay.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:The space looks much better and other the thing and validating that space andthe thing. And interestingly last week in another podcast with Jen ofJJellyfish, she also brought in the importance of early feedback loops. Thatis, go validate your idea, ask the hard questions, invalidate a lot of yourhypothesis before coming in.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:And given of course though you lost couple of years in actually doing this andthen coming back. How did this learning help in your moving into your nextstartup? And how did you.
Sri Ganesan: Yeah,yeah, definitely. I think the first startup when we were doing it, we wereunder the notion that we should be creating something completely net net newfor the world.
Sri Ganesan: Youknow, that, you know, things that already exist and are improving will continueto improve. So what is our contribution then? How do we create the dent? And inour heads, it was like the messaging experience that we are so familiar with towork with our. To, to engage with our friends and family. We wanna bring it tohappen with businesses and the best way to do it is through mobile, right?
Sri Ganesan: So wewere trying to will something that wasn't there yet, the world wasn't ready forit yet into being. And the biggest lesson we had was, hey, you know, chasemomentum, which is there and you are spending your best years. Building abusiness, right? Like we're in, usually we are, we plunge into entrepreneurshipwhen we are at our height of our confidence and we think we can pull offsomething great.
Sri Ganesan: Andyou're, those are your best years, really. And if you spend that chasingsomething that is unlikely to happen, you're like working against the odds,right? Instead, try to work with the odds and I, I think when we startedRocketLane the first thing we did was, okay, we need to really spend a lot oftime on deciding what we want to build and validating it.
Sri Ganesan: So wespoke to like 70, 80 companies before we wrote a single line of code. We haddifferent ways in which we tried to understand the priority behind, like theproblem we are trying to solve, right? So we spoke to. CEOs to understand ifthey were aware of problems in this space. Mm-hmm. Did they care about theproblem?
Sri Ganesan: We spoketo investors to understand if this was something that got discussed at a boardlevel. We spoke to people who are doing the role to understand how they'redoing it today. Are they trying to buy software to do stuff? Are they trying tobuild stuff internally? Like to what extent are people going to solve theproblem?
Sri Ganesan: Right.And we also started for the people in that role, we started asking them, whatare your top five challenges? What are your goals for the year, et cetera, tounderstand if our product would, you know, be able to align with what theirpriorities and goals are for the year. So, and that's something we still doeven today because the world changes every year, how people have their goals in2023, given the macro could be different from what those goals were last year,right?
Sri Ganesan: Wheneveryone was still in hypergrowth mode, at least early 2022. And so it helps tokeep validating not just one time, but. Always understanding what are your toppriorities? Because when we tell them about the problem we are solving and weask questions, leading questions often about what we do, that's gonna give youone picture which makes you, which fools you into thinking what you're doing isimportant.
Sri Ganesan: But whenwe have like a open-ended, what are your top three goals? What are your topthree priorities this quarter, this year? That gives you the real you know,real picture of whether what you're doing is important or not.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:That's interesting. I think it should, it would help quite a lot of founders togo through this exercise before actually jumping in.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:More from the kind of a PhD mode of like creating something net new to actuallyactually looking at what are the priorities, where there is momentum and thenbuilding, so one thing is priorities in others. How did you come upon themomentum part? Which areas have momentum? Which areas have kinda,
Sri Ganesan: Welooked at.
Sri Ganesan: Whatpeople were using for, you know, doing what we were, you know, the, the spacewe were building in, what were people using to solve problems over there, andwhether that use case was contributing in a significant way. For example, welooked at project management tools, very horizontal project management tools,and did some research and figured that 50% of projects that run on these toolswere actually.
Sri Ganesan: Customerfacing or multi org projects. And that became a thing. We also looked at, therewas a new category on G2 called Client onboarding. And there were some newplayers getting listed there who had like, one of them had I think 50 reviewsby the time we were deciding on this. And in our heads, if there is a productwhich has 50 reviews that makes the problem a little more real because there's,at least, you know, maybe you need two 50 customers to get 50 reviews, and thatsort of made us again feel, hey, there is something over here and so let's domore research.
Sri Ganesan: Right.And, and But I think the true momentum check comes when you actually launch theproduct and, and you can't be sure, right? I think when we had a sort of earlybeta going, we had given the product to a few folks. We were waiting for themto use it. We weren't seeing, you know, huge adoption for it.
Sri Ganesan: And thenwe did a product hunt launch. Mm-hmm. We had, I think over 250 people sign upfor the product. From the product hunt launch, out of which in the first two,you know, not all 250 were serious. Of course, let's say there were one 50serious signups. From that, we were able to convert 30 into paying customers inthe first two and a half, three months.
Sri Ganesan: And thatis what told us there is real momentum, right? Like, People are buying theproduct. And that gave us a certain confidence, which I think helped us to, to,from there, you know, keep growing.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Awesome. That's interesting what you also mentioned in terms of like findingthe momentum through G2 Crowd reviews, whether G2 has a new category around it,because it's more a early emerging category rather than a more of a late stagecategory.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:And also the momentum which you would get from more of a open source Saleschannel, like something like a product hunt, et cetera, that like people comeand sign up, they like to rate products and this thing that's prettyinteresting. But the next part, which I just want to move into is like, wheredoes how did when did marketing start coming into the pay that is like, youknow, you are getting into a.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:I mean, this is pre-product launch, just like you choose the category, youstart writing code, you start getting some beta customers, get the first 30customers, et cetera. Then you would did you start about thinking aboutmarketing after that or did you start about thinking about marketing beforethat itself?
Srikrishna Factors.AI:And how did it change between the first two first company to the secondcompany?
Sri Ganesan: FirstCompany marketing was basically We had somewhat of a website. I, I don't wantto even look at that website again, to be honest. We had a blog in which I wasthe only one who wrote blogs. Mm-hmm. And I wrote it whenever I really was, youknow, I had urged to write something.
Sri Ganesan: One fineday. I figured out, okay, I will force myself to write something. Otherwise ithardly had any updates. I think it was only like a one page website that wedidn't even have like multiple. We had a pricing page, we had a home homepage,no SEOs. We never spent a dollar on ads through that whole journey.
Sri Ganesan: So trulysort of didn't do any marketing, right? Like we, we had some product deck thatwe created, you can say that is sort of like product marketing work. Mm-hmm. Weoccasionally posted something on LinkedIn and Twitter or Hacker News, right? Sothat was it. We were more doing sales you know, pitching the product, sendingcold emails.
Sri Ganesan: That waswhat we were up to. And this time it's been extremely different, you know,completely different journey from the last time. And I actually, one of our VCsvery early in the journey said, Hey, I hope this time you guys will spend someenergy at around marketing and like, have focus on the right storytelling andso on for what you're building.
Sri Ganesan: Andincidentally, I think the first thing we did once we decided this is what wewere gonna do I actually read this book called category Creation by AnthonyCanada. Mm-hmm. And from early on, every single call we had with, you know,prospects, customers you know, anyone who we were validating the problem with,all of that was recorded so that we could mine.
Sri Ganesan: Forlike, how are people talking about the problem? So we started building a lot ofcontent from very early I actually wrote. The names of chapters of a book wewould write about customer onboarding. As you know, in, in, in the first monthof after we decided this is what we would build, I actually had like, okay, ifI write a book about customer onboarding, here are the names of the chapters,and started filling out content within that as well.
Sri Ganesan: Withevery call we do with someone, if I learn something about customer onboarding.A new topic, a new dimension, a new, you know, type of aspect to the problem. Iwould document all of it. I would add it into like my you know, blog structureand so on. And I also wrote 10 blogs very early in the journey.
Sri Ganesan: Wedidn't publish it, but I had it written. A few months later, we hired like ourfirst sort of. Marketing lead as well as we had a content marketer freelancingwith us. The content marketer started working on Getting this, you know the 10posts that I had written, getting into proper shape because I took it to like85% completion and left it.
Sri Ganesan: Mm-hmm.Like I had the core content, how I wanted it to start, et cetera, but I didn'tclearly try to turn it into a post. So I, you know, gave it to this person tostart churning out content. We hired after that full-time content marketer. Wehired someone in marketing design like a creative director of sorts who couldmake videos, who could, you know, do various things like that.
Sri Ganesan: And thenwe started making videos as well. Right. So you'll find a lot of video usage inRocket Lane. We had like a podcast from, I think four months before we launchedthe product itself. Mm-hmm. So when it was time to launch the product, weactually had a podcast season that had been recorded. We had. Community withclose to 700 people at that time.
Sri Ganesan: Today,it's more than 2,700 folks globally. We had, you know, a full, beautifulwebsite, many pages. It had also you know, a whole bunch of blogs alreadywritten. Return on it. So if someone landed on our site, they would actuallyassume we've been around for a couple of years, at least it wouldn't look likea new company.
Sri Ganesan: And thatwas sort of a intentional thing we did to ensure that at every point, you know,we should look bigger than what we are. That is sort of the idea. And with thatgoal, we sort of built out all of this early and. Once we launched, I thinkthat product hunt launch is also sort of engineered a certain way.
Sri Ganesan: We madesure like marketing was working on that, right? And after that very soon westarted some s e M campaigns. So basic $10,000 a month, let's start spendingand understanding what works, what doesn't on Google Ads. Listed on G2, spentenergy on pushing our, you know, customers to review us on G2 from early on.
Sri Ganesan: That'sserved us well. We eventually, I think within like three quarters, we becamelike the number one product in the space on g2 by number of reviews, by highestrating, all of that. So and events. So we've been doing a lot of things on themarketing side. This time we've been turning up at events.
Sri Ganesan: Mm-hmm.Like two events a quarter with thought leadership that we present. So thethought leadership content we sort of probably reuse. We make like three piecesof big pieces of content every year that we reuse through like a four monthperiod and then introduce something new. So yeah, it's, it's, it's been.
Sri Ganesan: Fundoing so many things. We also run our own customer onboarding conference now.We've done it for two years in a three year journey. So definitely takes a lotof effort from the whole team, but we are active on the marketing front
Srikrishna Factors.AI:clearly. I know. And just that of course, it was starting to just think aboutthe function of activities which you're doing, but broadly you started withVery early, starting with the kind of the content structure.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Like if I'm going to write a book about this problem, how I'm going to writeit, what are the kind of chapters based on the chapters would be the blog ideasand subparts of it, and this thing, that was the first thing. Second, youstarted a community along with it so that you can have this thing. Third, youstarted podcast, which is more of like more interviews with thought leaders orpractitioners within the customer onboarding space so that you the same, allthree in parallel.
Sri Ganesan: Contentwriting happened very early. Community was started in October, 2021, sorry,October, 2020. Along with community, we started doing two events, small eventsa month within the community. And s C M we started in August, like a couple ofmonths before, sorry, S C m, August, 2021. So that comes later.
Sri Ganesan: Productand launch also is launch product. And launch was June. Yeah, so June was alaunch. August onwards. We started doing s e m podcast was in Jan to March,2021 before the launch. So it's staggered in a way. It's like once one quarteryou have like one or two new initiatives that you're doing.
Sri Ganesan: Mm-hmm.Once you get comfortable doing those, you add a new thing that you haven't donebefore. And then you get comfort comfortable with that. It becomes part of therhythm. Then you add one more thing. So that's sort of how it's been working.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:That's interesting. I mean in terms of a structured, as a startup, as you aremoving towards PMF and launch and they're saying how you actually market the wholeproduct out and then takes up this lot of learnings around this, in this thing,going a little more deeper around this.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Communities I mean it's 2,500 people is pretty anonymous, that two globally.How did, how were you able to scale up your community marketing? How did thathappen? Because it's like, I mean, content, people understand it's, you getcontent marketing, you also understand what's the problem you solve. To anextent, I do understand podcasts also.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:It's more solid interviews with thought leaders, but community to 2500. How
Sri Ganesan: did thathappen? Yeah, so there was no other community in this space, right? Unlike, Ithink in many spaces, if you take sales for example, or marketing, there'll bedozens of communities that people are already part of. But there was exactlyzero Communities for people in implementation, onboarding, and we started.
Sri Ganesan: So wesaid, Hey, we need to make this happen somehow. And initially there was oneevent that we were Hosting, like a friend was talking to me, told me about howhe sort of shrunk his implementation time from six months to six weeks. And Isaid, Hey, can you talk about this in front of a bigger audience?
Sri Ganesan: He said,yeah, sure, I can do that. So just posted on a SaaSBoomi Enterprise groupsaying, Hey, do you folks wanna listen to how Nimish at rock metric reduced theimplementation time from six months to six weeks and there were like, I think20, 25 folks who said, yes, we wanna do this, and we also want ourimplementation leads to join.
Sri Ganesan: And so Ijust said, okay, just, you know, next Saturday, 4:00 PM we're gonna do this,join this Zoom link. And once that happened, I could see how engaged peoplewere, how many questions they were asking, and it was one hour. People were notdone asking questions, so I just said, Hey, why don't you all join this Slackgroup?
Sri Ganesan: I'mstarting. You can continue the conversation there. And that's how the communitywas born. We created that Slack group, invited people, and then started doingthese sessions once in two weeks where we had like someone we invited to talkabout what they're doing in their implementation. We call it implementationstories.
Sri Ganesan: Mm-hmm.Every time, what we would do is we would say, Hey, if you need access to jointhis session, you need to join the Slack group. And so people will join theSlack community. And then whoever has joined the previous sessions, we wouldadd all of them into the calendar invite. By default, we wouldn't ask theirpermission.
Sri Ganesan: So the,the event started growing in a way. Growing. Okay. Yeah. And that gave a goodfeeling about the community as well. Mm-hmm. And then we started doingoutbound. It connects on LinkedIn for people to just join the community insteadof pitching Rocket Lane. Because we hadn't launched yet. We were just saying,Hey, come join the community.
Sri Ganesan: And evenwhen we went for events or if someone came on a demo with us, whatever happens,our whole team was aligned that we are proud about the community. So in anydeck I present at an event, I will mention the pre-flight community at. In anysequence we send to people who joined our events after the event, let's say Iwas sponsoring Customer Success Community event.
Sri Ganesan: Afterthat event, we'll get their emails and we'll be sending like a five emailsequence. Perhaps. In those five emails, one email will be dedicated to thecommunity and you know, Anyone we meet in this space, we will mention thecommunity, we will send them the link to join, et cetera. So we made it like amission to, you know, grow that community because I think.
Sri Ganesan: It's along game. We don't look at it as a lead gen mechanism to be frank. We look atit as something we want to do that people will eventually recognize us for.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:And it's been, what, more than two years of the community? Almost two and ahalf years.
Sri Ganesan: Yeah.It's been two and a half years.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:At any point in time, of course it's more of a long term and it's more customeronboarding for knowledge sharing and this thing.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:But did you see the effect of the community back into your sales cycles interms of either more leads or better conversations or faster deal cycles? Anythoughts on that?
Sri Ganesan: I thinkit's definitely helped us look like a bigger company. So I think it does helpthe brand. And when we are in a sales conversation, I think people acknowledge,they see us as the thought leader in the space, right?
Sri Ganesan: Mm-hmm.Versus other companies, because we are the ones who have a conference, have apodcast, have a community, et cetera. So that helps. And. Have we had leadsfrom the community? Definitely we have, right? But it's not something we areactively measuring or tapping into. It's, it happens. We know it happens.
Sri Ganesan: Weacknowledge it from time to time that, oh, by the way, this company, they foundus through the community, but we don't try to make it a agenda for thecommunity. We are not measuring our community success by. Did we generate somany leads? Instead, we are looking at, hey, is it engaging? Are people findingit useful?
Sri Ganesan: What islike the feedback about the community? That's what we want to measure.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Actually, that's a very unique thing around marketing as well. It's like whereyou take a step back rather than metrics of revenue or a pipeline generatedrather, you look at it as like how the company is perceived in the market, bothin terms of thought leadership and also in terms of.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:How big they are or how, how big they look or like, how trustworthy they lookat a fundamental level to trust as a brand. So that's a very good insight. Sogenerally I come from the other side where I generally look at metrics acrossall these things, but this is something which is very different for me to lookat.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:So this is one on the community side, but as I was also going through some ofthe research on your company as well, I saw some newspaper articles oninnovative marketing techniques. By Rocket Lane, including rap songs and how itthe same can you shed light on? Like how did the idea come out? What was theimpact and how did it work out?
Srikrishna Factors.AI:How did you make it happen really well? Because these are all things you needto execute well as well. So
Sri Ganesan: yeah, Ithink the execution is down to this talent. And there is some luck as well.Definitely. Right? Mm-hmm. Not everything lands always we. We had come acrossthis rap video by a company called Lia.
Sri Ganesan: Mm. It,it was it was fun, but it wasn't like the most polished piece of content. But Ihad, you know, I'd seen this guy do this rap, and then his CV. Came our way.Mm-hmm. When we were trying to hire a content marketer, and I was like, youknow, today I think every company is like a, in a way it's a media company,right?
Sri Ganesan: Mm-hmm.And so it would be a great asset to have someone who can do that rap. Maybethere is some amount of tweaking what our brand feel is and how to, you know,make it go with that brand feel. But we brought him on as a content marketerand we also said, Hey, you're gonna have your freedom to explore some of those,you know, creative ideas that you have.
Sri Ganesan: And whenwe did a Series A, we said, Hey, for the series A announcement, let's actuallytry to make a rap. Interesting thing is the, I mean, you would expect at aseries A stage, a stage early team. The guy is just a few months into the teamthat there will be a lot of iteration on the lyrics. Lot of iteration on theidea.
Sri Ganesan: Heshowed me one lyric. I added one comment to say, Hey, this particular angle ismissing. Can we add this also? And he immediately incorporated that. He sentlike a you know, one recorded version of what it would sound like. I was like,oh my God, this is great. And then he made another polished version of it, andthen they shot the video on a $200 budget.
Sri Ganesan: And, youknow, it's, it's just, it insane how good it came out. I don't know if we canrepeat it again, to be honest. It, I mean, it blows my mind to think about how.How impactful that has been for us in everything from hiring to, you know,every conversation, starting in a very happy way with every single Zoom callbecause that's our Zoom waiting room video now.
Sri Ganesan: So ifyou join a call with Rocket Lane, first two minutes, you'll be listening to raponly then we'll let you into that. You know, zoom call itself.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:That's interesting actually. I mean, one key thing about marketing is aboutmaking memorable experiences and when you land one and when you find it's good,you also.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:How you actually used it in other places. Also, of course, a great rap. It wentfor one event. But how you used it on a continuous basis around your Zoom callsand in your sales conversations and how you're able to get your clients to talkabout it, that's something which is pretty interesting. Now moving on to themore traditional marketing, beyond that, the demand generation and how you hadstarted spending on ads.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:First startup, no ads FreshWorks with fresh, yet you would have spent on a lotof ads.
Sri Ganesan: Yes.Channels and activities. Yeah, we, we did ads. Mm-hmm. There was content ofcourse, as well that the team was writing. We did a few events, not too many.We probably did like three or four events. Mm-hmm. And yeah, but it's, it's Iwasn't entirely involved in Running ads or managing demand gen at FreshWorks.
Sri Ganesan: So it'sbeen like more like a new, new thing to learn while building this startup.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:So at, when you were running demand gen I mean of course now I think it wouldmoved beyond the $10,000 or monthly budget, and then you had the thing inmultiple channels and other the thing can you share the learnings and how it'sscaled?
Srikrishna Factors.AI:What are the mistakes or how do you look at metrics around that?
Sri Ganesan: So,Yeah, so we initially outsourced the whole thing. We just said, Hey, $10,000,spend it every month and give us leads to like an agency. My learning is you,you do need to be careful about what every ad looks like, right? So you want towork with the agency, you want to tweak it every day.
Sri Ganesan: Youwanna see what worked, what did not, and have like a regular cadence oftweaking it. Which, you know, you need some forcing function to make thathappen. It's very easy to say, okay, let someone handle it. And you know hopethat it starts working. But I think it, at least for early stage, I think it needslike, Founders to be personally involved and figure it out or mm-hmm.
Sri Ganesan: You havelike a marketer who's been there, done that, who's super confident about like,demand gen, who you can bring in. Right. One of the two needs to happen. Mm-hmm.I think we made a lot of mistakes. Definitely. And learn from them. I can thinkof so when you give a team a target saying, okay, you need to give me so manymore leads then the team may be looking at.
Sri Ganesan: I needto hit my target. So how can I increase the leads they may not think through?Are we going to dilute the quality of leads, et cetera, and mm-hmm. You know,simple decisions of which markets to advertise in or should I have only likeexact match or close matches or any of those things, right? They all becomeSmall decisions that people make, which may be the wrong decision for thecompany, but may help them hit their goal.
Sri Ganesan: So youneed to really understand what are the tweaks being made? Is it making sense ornot for the business? And should you even revise the goal then if it's not, youknow helping to, to have certain kinds of goals. So should you give a pipelinegoal instead of like, number of leads goal, right? Or.
Sri Ganesan: Shouldyou also add a you know, conversion percentage as a goal rather than just gimmethe leads so, Yeah, we, we've made all those mistakes and learned from them, Iwould say. So
Srikrishna Factors.AI:that comes to my favorite topic as well, which is more around the, the buyerjourney analytics and attribution as well, in terms of like how that, what youinvest in marketing, whether across content, whether across events, or whetherit's across campaigns.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:How does it loop back into your pipeline and revenue numbers, net new revenuenumbers, which is there? How was how did you start measuring into it? What wasthe initial challenges, which were there and how did you eventually go about
Sri Ganesan: solvingfor that as well? The solution has to be factors.ai, right?
Srikrishna Factors.AI:No, I was more coming into the more original problems which were there.
Sri Ganesan: How didyou actually lead? So I think we, we we were just looking at what is maybe thelast touch. Where did the signup come from? Not necessarily where theyoriginally found us or how things were influenced. And of course, because weused to get on a call with every customer, we had opportunity to ask them, howdid you find us?
Sri Ganesan: And wewould do that on every single call. And that's how we were learning. Oh, itlooks like actually this person came from g2. But you know, we may have thought that they clicked on the ad and came, but. That was the last action. But before that, they first noticed us on gto and that's why they even searched for us.
Sri Ganesan: So we started learning some of those things. But obviously I think, you know, from adata perspective, I would say we were actually pretty bad. We didn't have great clarity on how things were happening. And we didn't have the bandwidth to fix that problem because we were just running behind, Hey, there's more leads we need to convert from that.
Sri Ganesan: We needto hit our numbers. So
Srikrishna Factors.AI:the momentum drove
Sri Ganesan: thecorrect. So we were blind on some things, but we just continued. And that'swhere I think, for example, we didn't know, you know, which campaigns and whichleads were converting, like why were some leads. You know, not great leads forus. Why were they even in the mix?
Sri Ganesan: So weweren't paying attention to a lot of things. You mentioned a
Srikrishna Factors.AI:small thing about like not being so data driven or like, or we did respond thesame. If you look back in the last one year, two years when you had beensignificantly spending on ads and others saying like, what would have been thecost of not being data driven in terms of dollars or, or even a percentage ofyour revenue,
Sri Ganesan: I wouldsay maybe like maybe there is 2 50, 300 K that we could have saved.
Sri Ganesan: Andspent on other channels, if we were a lot more data driven as a company.Mm-hmm. If we had measured things from early on, if we had like cleanattribution set up if we were doing reviews on a more active basis on where weare spending what returns they're giving, et cetera.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:So at a series A stage, almost $300,000 of which could have been channeled intothis. Oh, that's amazing. The last part of this thing, I just wanted to circleback into one other thing which you also mentioned, like your events, you arerunning your own events and also you are running, being part of at least twoevents every quarter. And field marketing events is a significant part ofalmost every B2B SaaS company as they grow beyond series A.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Any learnings from your event handling and what were the things which helpedactually run a successful event?
Sri Ganesan: Right?Learnings one, you know if you're gonna have a booth presence, don't skimp onit. You can't turn up and look like a small company amidst bigger ones. Youwant, if you're turning up at a event, go all out for that event. So choose theevent carefully. Maybe first year you just go observe, see whether it's theright icp you know, are you able to have good conversations with people who arecoming over there, et cetera. Then you. You know, if you decided to invest inan event, invest big so that, you know you get, you should be one of the mostactive vendors in, in that event, right?
Sri Ganesan: So,Gainsight Pulse last year, I'm sure we looked like the biggest vendors otherthan Gainsight itself. Of course. We. I would say we make very visible swag.Like we give everyone the, the bags they used to carry all the other swag, andwe give some les swag that they can add into it as well. I keep hearing stillabout like, Hey my kids are using your laptop sleeve.
Sri Ganesan: My, youknow, spouse is using your laptop sleeve, so, It's spreading, right? Likepeople are giving it to others as well, and more eyeballs on the swag that we givepeople. So that's good. We make sure that we have like a high qualitypresentation that we get to do as well at most of these events so that youknow, people who watch that, at least no one's see us as thought leaders andcome to you know, get more from us, right?
Sri Ganesan: So theycome to partner with us. Based on that as well. And I would say one couple ofother learnings from events. You need to turn up multiple years at the sameevent for it to give you true roi. You're not gonna get ROI in the first timeyou turn up at an event. People, usually the same companies visit those eventsand they see you multiple times.
Sri Ganesan: Theybuild confidence in, Hey, this company is here to stay. So you can't measurejust one year and let go. The second thing we've done is Sort of try to, youknow, do quick demos at the booth itself. Like someone comes, talks to you, youunderstand they have the problem. You're like, okay, why don't you take fiveminutes to just check out what we have, and you bring them in, you show them alittle bit of a demo, and then you say, Hey, let's book the next meeting rightnow.
Sri Ganesan: I don'twant to scan your badge and then send you emails and chase you. It's not nicefor you because you already are getting so many emails from all the othervendors. You won't have the energy, but if you like what you saw, open yourcalendar. Let's fix a time right now. Put it on the calendar rather than dothis whole email dance.
Sri Ganesan: Sothat's something that's sort of worked well for us. So,
Srikrishna Factors.AI:and do you look at any kind of like how you invest on events, put that datainto your crm, and also look at who you actually met at the event and that email sequences? Is that data setup or that was more of a progress over a period of time where like first event to the next event you improved on thedata capture in
Sri Ganesan: the events?
Sri Ganesan: Yeah,we've been improving on it. Now we get those You know, lists loaded up into theCRM. We are able to track it. Well. We know exactly how much business and howmuch pipeline we generated from each event. But earlier on definitely did nothave any of that. We still turned up, still did what we had to do, but probablydidn't do justice to the leads from those events.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:The last thing is also running your own event. You had been doing it for thelast two years now, and the thing how did that it's a pretty large investment,but, and also kind of like bold action on this thing, but how did that comeabout and what are the learnings on that from a marketing side
Sri Ganesan: and fromthe scaling upside?
Sri Ganesan: Yeah,again, I would say some of these things are, you know, you want to be thefirst. Add some of this because no one else has done it yet. Mm-hmm. In a newcategory, it gives you that option to show that you are the leader, you arethe, you know, first ones doing it. Mm-hmm. And it's much harder and costclear, I think for a US company to pull it off.
Sri Ganesan: So Ithink we have an advantage over there as India companies to sort of createthose. And these are virtual events I'm talking about. So, you know, you'reable to Associate with the right influencers, bring them on for the conference,and ensure that like you're giving people a good stage, you're bringing in theinfluencers, but you're also bringing some new voices in and creating like theright opportunity for everyone, right?
Sri Ganesan: Makingit truly win-win. For people who attend, for us, for the. Influencers for thevendors in the space who have other services, offerings and for like people whoare innovating in the space.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:That's interesting actually. I think running your own events and also virtualevents and getting the influencers.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:And this also pretty much on the thought leadership side also gives you a lotmore content. And how do you use this content back? You put it back into yourblogs or case studies, your
Sri Ganesan: eBooks.Yeah. Yeah. So we, we come up with a ebook for every Propel conference. We alsohave blogs, videos any, I think our community also contributes a lot tocontent, right?
Sri Ganesan: So community events, everything comes back in the form of content on our site. Andhopefully leads to more organic discovery as well of us.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Nice. That's great. I think that was a lot of inputs and also knowledge onsharing on marketing events, communities, and also early startup phases, whichis there now going to little less serious parts of the discussion, which isalso the last part of the conversation.
Sri Ganesan: Iactually realized I have a call in a minute.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Okay. Last question. Okay. Okay. One suggestion in terms of a book or a moviewhich really inspired you, which you would want all startup founders or earlystage marketers to read about.
Sri Ganesan: Sothere's this book I keep recommending to everyone.
Sri Ganesan: Mm-hmm.It's gimme a moment.
Sri Ganesan: Yeah, soit's this book called Leadership and Self Deception, and it's, I, I think it'ssomething that helps in. Business, like you're working with co-founders, you'reworking with your teams. It also helps at home, but overall, it's just how webehave, how we take feedback, how we work with others, all of that.
Sri Ganesan: I think,you know this, this book really, really has had impact on me and I, I thinkit's something that everyone should read.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Awesome. Lastly where do we find you? Is it Twitter? Is it LinkedIn? Is it
Sri Ganesan: on LinkedIn, of course. And @srikrishnang on Twitter. Happy to engage at any timeif someone wants help with their onboarding as well.
Sri Ganesan: Happy tolike, look at what they're doing today and give some tips and suggestions.
Srikrishna Factors.AI:Awesome. Thanks a lot Sri thanks a lot for taking time from your busy scheduleto talk to us. See you soon.
Sri Ganesan: Bye.Cool. Thank you. Bye-bye.