B2B Category Creators Episode 5 Transcript

Mark Huber

Feb 16, 2021

B2B Category Creators Episode 5 Complete Transcript

Jason Widup:
All right. Hey, everybody. Welcome to Episode Five of B2B Category Creators. I’m guest hosting today. My name is Jason Widup. I’m VP of marketing at metadata.io, guest hosting for our CEO, Gil Allouche.

Jason Widup:
Today, I’m incredibly excited. I’ve got two really marketing powerhouses on the program today, one, I actually have the opportunity to work with.

Jason Widup:
So, first, I’d like to introduce Elissa Fink. Elissa is currently board member at several companies, but most well known for being the CMO at Tableau from I think it was 2007 to 2018, when I was there. Growing that from 5 million to a billion dollars. I also got to work for Elissa for the last year, I think, of your tenure there. And it was just a great experience for me. So, Elissa, welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Elissa Fink:
Thanks, Jason. It’s such a pleasure to be here and to see you and to talk with you. Yeah, we had fun together, didn’t we? Did some great stuff. And so, it’s a total pleasure.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah, I’m really excited. I mean, as you said, I was at Tableau from about 5 million in revenue to over a billion in rev. I left right before the salesforce.com acquisition, which I’m really happy about, didn’t get trapped in that. Not that that … But it would have delayed my retirement. And I have to say, I love being retired.

Elissa Fink:
And I call it semi-retirement because as I joke, I’m old enough to be retired but too old for Denny’s at 4:00, so, I’m serving on a few board, doing a little advising and doing a little teaching at University of Washington, and it’s been really fun. So, thank you. Thank you for having me.

Jason Widup:
Yeah, yeah. Awesome. And also, we’ve got Udi Ledergore, who is the CMO of Gong for about the past four years, VPs of marketing, other kind of technology companies before there. Udi, I’ve followed you for a while. I really, really love what you guys are doing at Gong from a marketing perspective. I also love the product. And I really love the little that I know about what you do and what you value in your personal life.

Jason Widup:
And so, I’m really excited to have you on the podcast today. So, yeah, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about Gong too in case there’s somebody out there that doesn’t know.

Udi Ledergor:
Sure. Thanks, Jason. I’m thrilled to be here. I’m Udi. As you said, I’ve been with Gong for a little over four years now. I was the first marketer at Gong. This is the fifth time I’ve built a marketing team from scratch. And the third time I’ve worked with my CEO, Amit Bendov. So, for the past 22 years, we’ve been chasing each other across three different companies on and off. So, yeah, I can probably give you a good run for your age, Elissa. We were not teenagers when we started. So, that is the short version of my career.

Udi Ledergor:
I have been living in the Bay Area, in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last two years. And prior to that, I was born and raised and spent most of my working years in Tel Aviv, Israel. So, I’ve got that perspective. Even at Gong, I’ve worked for Gong two years out of the Israel office and two years out of the San Francisco office, making it a unique perspective. And really, really glad to be here today.

Jason Widup:
You got a little pooch back there.

Elissa Fink:
He’s our COVID dog so to speak. We arranged for him before COVID, but he arrived the night before, so [inaudible]. Anyway, yeah, where’s your doggie? Let me see.

Jason Widup:
Maggie, just keeping an eye on me over here.

Elissa Fink:
Oh yeah.

Jason Widup:
Yeah.

Udi Ledergor:
All I can offer to this discussion is the bearded lizard, the bearded dragon that I have.

Elissa Fink:
[crosstalk] going to see that. It looks like an aquarium back there. So, that’s cool. Look at that.

Udi Ledergor:
Literally, the bearded dragon.

Elissa Fink:
Little higher. Let’s see. Oh my god. It’s so cool. That’s awesome. That is awesome. My son would be jealous. We have two cats and two dogs and he wants another pet and I’m like, “No more mammals.”

Udi Ledergor:
These are pretty low key though.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah. Okay [inaudible].

Jason Widup:
Do you guys have alcoholic drink with you?

Udi Ledergor:
I did.

Elissa Fink:
I do.

Jason Widup:
Sweet, sweet. All right. Great. I almost forgot it actually.

Elissa Fink:
It was nice [inaudible]. Thank you for sending that by the way.

Jason Widup:
Yeah, yeah, it’s a little thing that we’ve been doing. We’ve only had one person on that doesn’t drink. It was Dave Gearhart. But we sent him coffee and here’s what happened. I asked the admins. He lives in Vermont. Like, “Hey, can you find a little like specialty coffee shop? Get him like a nice coffee,” because I knew he liked coffee. Starbucks shows up at his door. I’m just like, no [inaudible], no. So, I emailed Dave. I’m like, “Dave, I can send lame gifts, but like Starbucks lame. So, I’m sorry about that.” So, yes, I’m glad you guys [inaudible].

Udi Ledergor:
That’s funny.

Jason Widup:
So, I’ve got, it’s pink, you can’t quite tell, but it’s a strawberry habanero scratch margarita that I buy from this bar down the road. And they marinate the tequila and habanero. They make this strawberry-habanero syrup and then I just put it together and that’s their simple syrup. That’s really, really good.

Udi Ledergor:
I love spicy drinks like that.

Jason Widup:
Yeah, yeah, me too. My wife got me into it. Udi, what do you got there?

Udi Ledergor:
I have a Villa Antinori Italian red wine that I opened the bottle for the last night for dinner and had about half a glass left. So, I’m like let’s [crosstalk] this down before I open a new one for tonight’s dinner.

Elissa Fink:
When I studied in Florence in my junior college, I actually studied at the Palazzo Antinori in downtown Florence, the Antinori family that makes the wine. And so, every time I see people drink Antinori, when I see it, I’m like, “I got to drink that because [inaudible].”

Udi Ledergor:
Such a small world. I’m originally from Israel. So, we have more access to European wines in Tel Aviv than I can find here at my supermarket. So, either great California wines, but I do miss some of the classic old world wine making countries.

Jason Widup:
Awesome. Well, let’s start off with a little cheers. We all got a little drink here. So, I’ll raise a glass, everybody. Thank you.

Udi Ledergor:
Cheers, happy holidays.

Elissa Fink:
Happy Holidays. Cheers.

Jason Widup:
Yeah, happy holidays, just a couple days out. So, as everybody knows, we’re talking about creating categories in those podcasts, and so we’re really going to focus on that. We’ll probably go off on tangents here and there, but we’re really going to focus on the category.

Jason Widup:
So, to start, just so we kind of know which categories we’re talking about from both of your perspectives, Elissa, why don’t you talk a little bit about the category that Tableau ended up in. I don’t know how many different ones it went through, but at the end of your tenure, what category was it in, and maybe just talk a little bit about that category?

Elissa Fink:
Sure. At the end of my tenure, or we were in business analytics, business analytics platforms. When I started, we were considered a data visualization tool. And we didn’t love that because at the time, data visualization was kind of a sciencey thing and kind of a niche thing. And also, it wasn’t something that people had common use for. And so, pretty early on, I was like, “Listen, we need to be in the business intelligence category,” but we do it differently.

Elissa Fink:
And so, it kind of birthed the model for us, which was like, find a category that you belong in, that people budget for, that people recognize the problem, break it. That’s what we did. I feel like what we did is we broke the old business intelligence category. We broke in first of all, then we broke it. And then we broke out of it. And we said it isn’t these business intelligence, the platforms that take forever to install, only specialized people can use them. It’s a service model to everybody else. Frustrating, it’s a different thing. And so, for us, it was category breaking and then category reinventing.

Elissa Fink:
So, we ended up in a platform that Gartner renamed from business intelligence to business analytics. And I think that’s true. I think we did sort of help bring that movement forward. So, it was revolution, but a lot of evolution as well, which with industry analysts and people out there, sometimes that’s what you got to do.

Jason Widup:
When analytics was really pretty stuffy. You know what I mean? I’m thinking back probably to like 2006, ’07, ’08 when it was like, and I don’t really even know the players. I just remember I did some consulting and tried to bring in like, MicroStrategy, you know what I mean, like Cognos and like these, and it was just like, there was no fun to it. It was just so stuffy and just square peg, square hole that kind of thing. And Tableau, I feel like was the first one to really like, no, this can be fun, this can be exciting. It doesn’t have to be stuffy. This doesn’t have to be just for that deep analyst.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah, that’s right. That’s exactly what it was. It was a heavy platformy installed months and months to deployment. Don’t serve people or specialists that you’re working with, everybody else can get in line and wait for those specialists to do the work. And then you get what you get.

Elissa Fink:
And that’s the category that we entered into, broke into and then like I said, broke it and then broke out of it. And said, “Hey, no, analytics is for everyone. This should be done differently. This should be fun. This should be powerful. This should be empowering to everybody, not just those precious few.”

Elissa Fink:
So, yeah, for us, it was that kind of motion for category creation, so to speak.

Jason Widup:
Yeah. Udi, let’s talk a little bit about your category. So, again, Gong, this is an interesting one. Because maybe start like at least I did with the category where you know how it’s named now. I don’t actually know if it’s gone through, I’m assuming it’s gone through some iterations. It probably didn’t start with where it’s at now, but yeah, let’s go through that same.

Udi Ledergor:
So, it’s interesting to hear your story Elissa on how it happened, more as an evolution. I think at Gong, we’ve been very good intentional about our category play. And here’s sort of the nutshell version of it.

Udi Ledergor:
So, for the first three or four years at Gong, we played within the conversation intelligence category that someone had coined that term before we showed up, shortly before we showed up. And it was a very early stage company, the last thing you want to do is take on that heavy lift of creating categories. So many companies they do that and die because it’s a very, very heavy lift.

Udi Ledergor:
We were first like, okay, let’s build a product. People actually want to use them. We’ll worry about the budgeting part and where we fit in. And the category service well, for the first three or so years.

Udi Ledergor:
And then about 18 months ago, we had increasingly come to the conclusion that we had outgrown the conversation intelligence category and we needed something new. And I can share specifically the two challenges that we wanted to solve with a new category, where one, differentiation, the very basics of conversation intelligence are you can record a call, you can listen back to it, and you can use that for coaching and other things.

Udi Ledergor:
Now, that part of conversation intelligence was a novelty four years ago. It is now almost a commodity. I mean, we’re recording this call on Zoom. Compensation intelligence didn’t do much more than that four years ago. So, this is quickly becoming a commodity. And we felt that by associating ourselves with conversation intelligence, we were frequently compared to these niche note taking tools, that that’s all they did, they recorded a call.

Udi Ledergor:
And we cringed every time we heard someone put us in the same category as these niche companies because we already have a product that is so far reaching compared to everything else in the category.

Udi Ledergor:
And we have a product roadmap that is lightyears ahead of what anyone in this space is thinking about even today, that we felt that it would become more and more difficult to differentiate ourselves within the conversation intelligence category. But if we were in a different category, we could just say, “Oh, those are conversation intelligence. That’s Gong of 2016.” Revenue intelligence is the present and the future. So, that was one problem we set out to solve.

Udi Ledergor:
The second one was, and this one’s a little more subtle, we found ourselves in conversations with senior sales leaders, who were the only ones who were actually at power to get budget to buy a system like Gong.

Udi Ledergor:
And when the CRO of a large enterprise heard us describe our category as conversation intelligence, we usually got bumped down to someone like sales enablement or sales ops because the VP of sales or the CRO doesn’t care about conversations. That’s a tactical thing for a large sales organization. And we thought if we could only talk about something that the CRO cares about, we could get and keep her attention before getting bumped down to enablement.

Udi Ledergor:
And to make a long story short, we brought in a very talented woman on my team, Sheena Badani, whose job title is leading our category creation. That’s what she does for Gong. And within our first six months, she took us through the process, which is kind of similar to a rebranding process that I’m sure you’re all familiar with. But it was all about the category creation. And we came up with different options.

Udi Ledergor:
And we weighed them according to different criteria of how many other companies are already using it and how would people get it? And would this appeal to the senior sales leadership? And who else is playing there? And we came up with revenue intelligence, and we launched that just a little over a year ago.

Udi Ledergor:
So, this is still very new. We launched it, specifically on October 8th of 2019, at our inaugural industry conference, celebrate San Francisco. And Amit, our CEO, got on stage and gave his keynote, and the press release went out that day, and the website updated and all the materials updated. And now we were revenue intelligence company.

Udi Ledergor:
And it was a very intentional move, it all happened in one day. And we’ve been pushing that since then. And I’m sure we’ll talk a little bit later about some of the things that we do to keep growing and maintaining that.

Udi Ledergor:
But I’ll say that so far, we’ve seen some amazing traction, both with the huge enterprise deals that have become gone customers in the last year. And we’ve obviously been able to get and keep the attention of the senior sales leaders there, to very repeatable analysts like constellation research, just today, the day that we’re recording this, they recognized us on their list of best enterprise software whatever company of the year. And they talk about it as a revenue intelligence technology.

Udi Ledergor:
So, this has now becoming a thing that the analysts are now using those words. A year ago, nobody was using these words and now, Gartner and Forrester and Constellation and Aragon and other analysts are becoming more and more familiar with our vocabulary, and that’s where you want to be when you’re creating categories.

Elissa Fink:
That’s an amazing story because being able to make that move and then what CRO doesn’t want to talk about revenue.

Udi Ledergor:
Right? That’s the one thing she cares about. It’s in her title.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Udi Ledergor:
Chief revenue officer.

Elissa Fink:
Have a category people care about. And I agree with you, conversational intelligence could be, okay, that’s for my sales ops, or that’s for training or whatever. But revenue, that’s my thing.

Elissa Fink:
But what’s interesting, too, I was just realizing, our category that we were in when I joined was data visualization, small, nichey kind of category, and we had to get out of it, and in a way, but that’s what we could deliver at the time. That’s [inaudible].

Elissa Fink:
And in a way, I would say, Gong is kind of similar, right? Conversational intelligence is what you were and what you could deliver at the time. But then you realize you can do more and you can add more value, and you can do bigger things. And I don’t know if there’s something to realizing that.

Elissa Fink:
And a lot of startups, you start off doing one thing really well, that’s important. And then you try to use that as footstone, or foundation or a headstone or not a headstone. But as a starting point to build into your big vision and your big ideas. Because I’m sure you guys always, like us, we always had a big vision for like, hey, this software is going to change the world. We really believe that. And I’m sure you guys at Gong think the same thing. And we believed it was way beyond data visualization. And I’m sure you believed from the beginning, it was way beyond conversation.

Udi Ledergor:
Exactly.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah. But you start somewhere.

Udi Ledergor:
The stories behind Gong is that when Amit was the CEO of SiSense, so this is a real story, he had a quarter that he describes as a quarter from hell, where sales were going down, forecasts were not being met and nobody could explain why. And you were looking at all the charts and dashboards, and there was not even a clue to what was going on. And he started listening to a couple of sales calls.

Udi Ledergor:
And if you’ve ever done that at a normal speed, you know how excruciating it is. It’s horrible. To listen to one hour conversation, you have to listen for one hour. And when you’re done, you only have a data set of one call. How are you going to learn quickly what’s happening across a sales team of 100 sellers by listening to a couple of calls. It’s just not scalable.

Udi Ledergor:
And he was thinking, there’s got to be a better way of quickly gauging customer interactions and understanding what’s really going on into my market now. And not just listening to the opinions and excuses of salespeople and their managers.

Udi Ledergor:
And that’s how Gong was born. And Gong was born with the premise of presenting sales leaders and other sales professionals with a true grasp of their customer reality of what’s really happening in all of their customer interactions, so they can make better business decisions on which deals to focus on, which deals are going south, and give them leading indicators on these things, not just the lagging indicators.

Udi Ledergor:
And so, that was the vision from day number one. And the starting point was, well, we need some data from customer interactions, let’s start recording calls. And we did that and it was an instant success. And people love the idea of being able to not only listen to a call, but to search for a word and see where it came up and listen to the call the double speed and see, just like a table of contents you might get on a book, we can do that to a call now. We can see where the discovery started and ended, where the demo happened, where the pricing was discussed and where next steps were brought up or not.

Udi Ledergor:
So, that became an instant hit. And on top of that, just like you said, Elissa, we’ve been building other layers like deal intelligence of okay, this is useful not only as an individual analysis of one call or helping a specific rep, we can actually rally the whole team around a certain deal that needs help and get market intelligence on which competitors are coming up more of this quarter than last quarter, and understand how our new messaging is landing or how the new pricing is being discussed.

Udi Ledergor:
So, there’s so many other layers, but we definitely needed that first killer app, as it’s often called, to get that initial market traction and product market fit with.

Jason Widup:
You mentioned, Sheena, you hired somebody that actually is specializing in it. Did she have that experience from before? Has she done that before? Because that’s not a normal title, you know what I mean? Or normal roles, what’s the makeup of that person?

Udi Ledergor:
So, it’s a great question. So, Sheena has kind of a midstage career marketing executive. Her last role was the VP of marketing at a small startup. And so, she’s got some traction under her belt. She was looking for our next challenge. And originally, she came in to interview for another role, which was our head of product marketing. And we really, really liked her. But for that specific role, we felt that she didn’t have enough sort of vertical deep experience.

Udi Ledergor:
Product marketing is one of the toughest roles to hire for as any marketer probably knows. And it’s one of the few roles where we really value experience equally or more than potential and happy to do a separate conversation on how many of the roles I hire for potential rather than experience. And so, we really liked her and then we had another candidate that have more experience. We ended up hiring him for the P&M role.

Udi Ledergor:
And at this time, we were having those management discussions about a new category creation. And we knew that we needed someone to own this and facilitate this process otherwise, it would just fizzle out. And after Amit and I met Sheena, Amit suggested why don’t we hire Sheena to do that. Just offer her the role. And I’m like, “That’s a great idea.”

Udi Ledergor:
And I pitched her with idea. She was completely taken off guard, because this is not the role she was interviewing for. And she took a few days to think about it. She talked to some of our investors and some of our customers. She did her due diligence. And she talked to other mentors. And they told her that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, not only because of the role, but because of the company and the industry that she’s joining, and that she could really leave her mark. And I’m thrilled that she took their advice and joined us.

Udi Ledergor:
So, she’s been learning as we go along and teaching us as we go along. And now she works with industry analysts and with the press and she launched the Reveal podcast, the Revenue Intelligence podcast. And she just crossed 52,000 downloads of her podcast episode, something incredible. She’s rocking it.

Jason Widup:
I’m excited when we get a couple 100 downloads of our podcast.

Udi Ledergor:
Yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean like that.

Jason Widup:
No, no. You give me something to shoot for, you give us something to shoot for.

Jason Widup:
Cool. Okay, so let’s talk about the intentionality of it. So, Udi, you already said like we went into it intentionally. So, Elissa, how about you? So, when you first started and you realize, okay, we’re in the database category, was it an initial focus area? Or was it more like, “Oh, we’re doing this thing. We’re doing what we need to do. We’re doing great. We’re building the brand. We’re building the company. Oh, and now, oh, shoot, there’s this category thing we need to figure out.” So, at what point, you know what I mean, did you realize that category is important. And did you happen into it or were you like, “Yes, let’s do this category?”

Elissa Fink:
I guess for me, I was pretty intentional about it. In part because I knew, again, we want you to be grow huge, right? We want to be big. I knew that Tableau could sell enterprise deals, you know what I mean?

Elissa Fink:
At the time, we were selling onesie, twosie seats to analysts as a tool, as a tool, as a personal productivity tool. In fact, sometimes we got bucketed in personal productivity tools, which maybe it’s okay for office but it really isn’t Adobe, but it really isn’t where you want to be, because they kind of leave it to people to buy individually, and you sell one or two licenses. And I knew we wanted to be enterprise and I knew to go enterprise, you’ve got to be an enterprise piece of software born, raised that way and blessed that way by the analysts.

Elissa Fink:
And so, part of it was definitely my recognition that god, if we’re going to sell this into the enterprise, analysts have to like it and know what it is and endorse it. And if they don’t endorse it, at least recognize us, at least recognize that this is a bona fide product that does this thing. And they cover their certain categories. And I knew we had to associate with a category in order to get that. And also, I think, it was clear. It is just clear coming in, that we needed to be in a category or associated with the place where people have a problem where they gather.

Elissa Fink:
The other reason why I like the model of break into a category, break it and break out is, and you mentioned this Udi, was if you’re little, man, you cannot invent your own category. You just don’t have the money or the resources. So, I knew that was true. I knew we were going to be a different kind of product. But I knew was also true that we couldn’t have to spend the resources and time and money to build our own category.

Elissa Fink:
So, that’s why I was like, we got to break into one where people are commonly aggregating, analysts, job roles, media. There’s people there talking about this problem. We’re going to make them talk about it in different ways. We’re going to break in, break it and break out.

Elissa Fink:
And so, it was fairly intentional to do that. I think just as a marketer, I kind of believe in the, what is it? Recent trout old philosophy of every customer starts with a position in mind. You don’t end up in their brain fully formed exactly where you want to be in a way you start from somewhere. And you have to get them to move to where you want to be.

Elissa Fink:
So, for me, it was like, okay, where are we starting? What’s our journey to where we want to be? So, that’s why I sort of gravitated toward an existing category. Let’s get associated with that. Let’s break it and then let’s break out of it and make it different and change it.

Jason Widup:
So, since I’ve been starting to just kind of pay attention to this a little bit more. Categories seem to be like biological entities, almost. You know what I mean? Like, they come in, they rise, they fall, different ones come in. It’s just like this constantly evolving thing. And that’s kind of where I’m at now, is like we’re at metadata associated with the ABM platform category.

Jason Widup:
And when I first took over, I was like, I don’t want to be associated with that. Because in my experience, it’s a luxury to have an ABM platform. We all have to do ABM because that’s the way you market to market. That’s the way you market to other businesses as a business. But is there really such a thing as an ABM platform? Or did companies come in with great technology, call themselves an ABM platform and then define ABM for the rest of us? And that’s my perspective on it.

Jason Widup:
And I was like, I want to break us out of that. We’ll have to play an ABM for a while, while we’re small, and while we’re smaller than these others. But at the same time, it’s like, yeah, but we’re more about demand generation. We haven’t really locked on what that category would be because again, we’re small. We don’t think we will name it but we’re just the way I’m starting I think is probably what you’re talking about Elissa is trying to break it like you guys ABM is not a platform. In fact, hint, hint, we actually might have a campaign that talks about that next year. ABM is not a platform. ABM is a way you market to other businesses.

Jason Widup:
So, I find it kind of interesting what you said because I think that may be what I’m doing unknowingly but realizing like, I don’t really want to be associated with that. That’s who we were … We’re always in the ABM reports and on G2 like with ABM. It’s like, that’s okay for now, but ultimately, I want to be different. And so, maybe that’s what I’m doing. I don’t know.

Elissa Fink:
Well, that’s one thing I love about martech. And I love martech. I love marketing technology, and Gong included. And metadata.io is, man, and four years ago, god, and 5, 10 years ago, you can only imagine the possibilities. And now, dang, man, you could do these things real easy and beyond. That’s what I love, I mean, Gong, who knew, metadata, who knew we could do that stuff.

Elissa Fink:
So, ABM is a pretty new concept as a unified concept. I mean, people were doing ABM tactics separately, unintentionally, probably or intentionally, but unconnected, disconnected. So, I hear you. There’s so many new categories coming out of martech. I mean, Gong and you guys are both like, well ABM is-

Jason Widup:
Try to follow them sometimes.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah.

Jason Widup:
There’s so many categories. Yeah, yeah.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah, yeah.

Jason Widup:
But it’s good, if we need them. Because there’s so many of these technologies out there. We need categories, so that we know how to compete. We know who we’re competing with.

Elissa Fink:
Well, the buyer needs categories because, man, there’s so many vendors out there, it’s hard to keep track of who does what and why and how do you differ from that guy and this guy and give it to me straight?

Elissa Fink:
That’s the other thing I think that analysts try to do is try to tell you what they knew rather than what they espouse in a soft bolognaise kind of way. And I think that’s great. I think both you guys are straight about it. But there’s a lot of vendors are like, “Okay, tell me again, what you do, because that didn’t make any sense.”

Jason Widup:
Yeah. Okay, so you guys are both, you’re in it, you’re in the middle of it, things are happening and things are moving. You realize, okay, we’re doing this category thing. So, was there a time or an event maybe or something that happened, where you’re just like, “Okay we’re actually creating this category here.” Was there something that precipitated that? Do you remember even, you know what I mean, Elissa, maybe we’ll go with you?

Elissa Fink:
I mean, when I came in, I think I’d always been a data user. And I always was aware of it. So, to me, I knew there was this category already. And again, that’s why like I mentioned and Udi mentioned too, it was like an evolution revolution kind of a thing.

Elissa Fink:
So, I mean, I do remember saying to people, we have to subscribe to some of these analysts because in the world of business intelligence, it’s an IT dominated thing. And so, you need their help. And it was a lot of money relative to our budget, relatively speaking.

Elissa Fink:
And I remember people in the exec team thinking, what? Are you nuts? No, we’re not going to be eligible for a category for another year, or even a year and a half or two. And I’m like, exactly, that’s why we got to start talking to them now.

Elissa Fink:
Because it’s going to take time and let me tell you something, the days I don’t even think they’re doing this anymore, when they would take briefings from vendors who weren’t their clients, oh, my god, they would practically be snoring on the phone. You could practically hear them snoring. No criticism of any one or firm or one set of [inaudible].

Jason Widup:
No, that’s okay.

Elissa Fink:
Seriously, they’re sitting, listening to conference calls from firms who probably going to be out of business in five weeks, like seriously. But when you pay them, you’re a customer, man. They have to listen to you. They have to hear your questions.

Elissa Fink:
You might not be paying them to write something nice about you, but you’re definitely paying for mindshare, or a little bit of their time. And it’s worth doing, but I remember being an executive team meeting people looking at my marketing budget going, “Elissa, really, god, that’s a lot of money for that.” And I was like, I’m not like one of these analyst lover types, but I’m just telling you, we got to take this.

Elissa Fink:
I don’t know, Udi, what about for you guys? Did you sort of go through that sort of or something much different because you invented a category really straight up.

Udi Ledergor:
We did, and Anthony Kennada, who was the CMO of Gainsight, he wrote a book about category creation. And he talks about a frequently. He’s now at Front. And he has a great sentence in his book. And when he talks about categories, he said don’t wait for the analysts to define your category. They will show up after you’ve already built it. And they will describe it for the rest of the world.

Udi Ledergor:
And I think that’s a great sort of eye-opening way of looking at it. If you’re in your early days of marketing for a company breaking out into new category, creating it or breaking it, don’t expect the analyst to be the first to show up and say, “Yes, what he said, they’re creating a new category.” That’s never happened, it’s not going to happen. They are going to describe it last after you’ve got 1000 customers there.

Udi Ledergor:
And so, I think we need to be very realistic about the expectations we have from analysts. Without naming names, the leading analyst firm in the world was chasing me for three years at Gong before I became a paying customer. And I’m like, we’re going to become paying customers at some point. I’ve been there paying customer at previous companies. But my marketing budget was tiny in the first few years. And like, I’m measured on demand gen right now and what you may or may not write about me in 18 to 24 months, I’m not going to see that paycheck this year, you’re going to have to wait.

Udi Ledergor:
And after three years, and it was exactly the year where we knew that we needed a new category, that’s when we became a paying customer and now we’ve got paying relationships with several of the leading analyst firms.

Udi Ledergor:
And I think at this point, they want to hear from us as much as we want to talk to them. So, I would wait like, sorry, analyst friends, like I know, it’s not like great for your income. But this is not the first thing that most companies should be spending on unless you’re like in specific niches like security and other areas where you’re selling to niches within IT that do go to the analysts first before making a big purchasing decisions, you might want to consider those relationships early. But if you’re selling to the business, like I think Tableau was unlike Gong is, analysts are not going to be your savior, not on day one and only much, much later.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah, I agree. And the other thing I’ve noticed in talking to clients I advise and sit on the boards of, if you don’t have a definite category that you recognize like you belong in and there is not, they’re not doing regular writing or a quadrant or wave or what have you about it, then you do not need to subscribe. I 100% agree.

Elissa Fink:
For us, we had this category. It was long established. We knew we weren’t wanting to break that one. We knew it was, okay, we’ve got to start breaking it. But you’re right. Even though we subscribe, it took them a long time to see the world the way we saw the world. And so, they would write things that we were just like, “Oh, really? Is that what you’re writing?” It really frustrated us at times.

Elissa Fink:
But eventually, they get it. But if you don’t have like a … I know a couple of companies where I’m like, “I don’t know, man. There’s not a defined category. They don’t have a quadrant. They don’t have a this. They don’t have a that, whatever.” The apparatus of a category to break don’t invest. So, yeah, I will 100% agree with you, Udi, on that one.

Elissa Fink:
If we hadn’t had a defined category to break, I wouldn’t have subscribed. And they’ll wait around like you said to define it. Maybe they’ll use some of your input will help shape it, but it’s going to be a long ride. It’s going to be a long-

Udi Ledergor:
They aren’t paid to play it safe.

Elissa Fink:
Yes, they are paid to play it safe.

Udi Ledergor:
The old ’80s saying of no one got fired for buying an IBM, that’s exactly the world we live in. They want to show you who the IBM of the year is, so you play it safe and you don’t get fired.

Elissa Fink:
That’s exactly right.

Udi Ledergor:
And there’s very rarely a case where a young fast growing startup is going to be up there in the leaders quadrant. It just doesn’t happen. You got to wait. You’ve got to actually bring the market traction and then go show and tell to the analysts so they recognize. And it won’t work the other way around.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah.

Jason Widup:
Yeah, I had a good, really, I’ll call it a learning experience with this here about eight months ago when I first took over here is Forrester invited us to participate in a review. It was like a, what do they call it, a new wave. So, it wasn’t like a full wave, new wave of ABM platforms. So, I’m like, “Oh, yes, shit, we got invited. Let’s do this.” My first time in, didn’t have a lot of experience around me. So, we’re just taking so much time to fill out the questionnaire, meet with the analysts. I think he’s feeling me. I’m like, “Oh, he’s feeling me. He understands why I’m like ABM platform isn’t a real thing, but we’re still here.”

Jason Widup:
Fourteen out of 14 is where we showed up. It was like, oh, no, oh, no. But we were able to then kind of use that almost to kind of pivot us away from it. So, we were already thinking of it before that, but that was another kind of like, okay, maybe we actually are onto something that we’re not trying to really compete with ABM platforms, even though we kind of have to right now, but it was a learning experience.

Udi Ledergor:
Jason, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Elissa Fink:
I was going to say the same thing.

Udi Ledergor:
You’re in the list of the only 14 startups that were covered.

Elissa Fink:
Yes.

Jason Widup:
Exactly, and that is where I took it. I was like, “I felt good about that part.” Yes.

Udi Ledergor:
What it felt to be in your position. It happens to us when we’re not named number two on something, we’re like, darn. What are these idiots missing? But they were like, “Yeah, but it’s only a list of like 10 companies out of the whole world.” So, we’re okay.

Elissa Fink:
To be on the list, it’s often an inclusion list. If you don’t make your list-

Jason Widup:
Yeah, I was. I was excited to be on the list. I was excited about it.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah.

Jason Widup:
I was disappointed with how we showed up. But it was okay. It was okay. So, Udi, what about you? Was there like a time where … I mean, it sounds like you were super intentional about it. But was there a time, I’m sure there was, where you’re like, “Okay, this is like catching on?” Or do you remember, was there a feeling or was it really just like-

Udi Ledergor:
Here’s one testament I think that’s interesting. So, last October, we did our first inaugural industry event. Back then, we called it the Revenue Success Summit because we actually had to put something on the calendar even before we picked out a name for the category. So, that was the Revenue Success Summit.

Udi Ledergor:
And it was our first event. It was kind of humble. We have like 500 people show up at SF Jazz in San Francisco. And then in February, we decided to take it on the road. And by then, it turned to the Revenue Intelligence Summit. We took it to New York, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, and we have hundreds of people show up at each event. It was amazing.

Udi Ledergor:
And just as we were about to take it on the road again in April to other states, COVID hit, of course. And within two weeks, we pivoted to a virtual event. So, we had our first virtual event in April and 2000 people signed up and then we did the second one in July, and four and a half thousand people signed up and we did our last one this year in October, and six and a half thousand people signed up for that one.

Udi Ledergor:
We’re like, okay, this is catching on. This is six and a half thousand people who signed up for the Revenue Intelligence Summit. It is not the Gong conference. If you go to celebrate up gong.io, you’ll see how we think about the branding of this. It’s all that revenue intelligence. The branding was specifically commissioned to look different from Gong’s branding. It does not look like the gong website. It doesn’t even have our colors on it.

Udi Ledergor:
And when at the bottom, there’s a monochrome Gong logo saying this conference brought to you by Gong. So, we’re taking the backseat. We are the facilitator of this thing. We’re bringing speakers that don’t talk necessarily about Gong. Of course, there’s the odd customer too on a panel that will mention us. But we bring world class speakers. We have Chris Voss, one of the last ones talking about negotiation. We had talk about her experiences of getting through rejections and building her amazing enterprise. And we have Kim Scott talking about radical candor. We have amazing speakers like that.

Udi Ledergor:
And the industry is flocking. And all of this is under the wings of revenue intelligence on how best revenue teams in the world are using data to run their teams better. And so, this is how the idea is sinking in event by event, blog post by blog post, press release by press release, case study after case study, we’re making this a reality. It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint.

Jason Widup:
Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. I mean, so I can’t remember who I heard this. I think it was Mark Organ. I was talking to him the other day. He founded Eloqua. So, I was like, he’s on my shortlist. He just happens to be an investor today, so, we’re talked to him. He was talking about promoting the category. And so, Udi, it sounds like you’re actually doing that as well. So, it’s not just promoting Gong in this category. But it’s like, we’re actually supporting the category itself. And if I’m guessing it’s like rising tide floats all boats. So, it’s like this category does well, and we’re the leaders in it. That’s good for us?

Udi Ledergor:
Absolutely. I’ve got to tell you a great story that when someone asked me put me on the spot a few months ago and asked me what’s the best category building story you can think of? The first story I came with was not out of tech at all. It’s, has anyone not heard the campaign Diamonds Are Forever? That is the best category building play that I know of. And does anyone know which company actually pay for that campaign?

Jason Widup:
I’m going to say the Beers.

Udi Ledergor:
Yes, you’re right.

Jason Widup:
Okay. Okay, way back in the ’50s. I’m not a diamond guy.

Elissa Fink:
So, your wife is, that’s what’s the thing.

Jason Widup:
There you go. Now, way back in the ’50s, the Beers they went to their Madison Avenue ad agency, JWT in New York and said, “Look, we’re sitting on this huge pile of diamonds in our warehouses. We need to get them moving. You need to come up with something.” And JWT came up with the now immortal campaign, Diamonds Are Forever.

Jason Widup:
And the amazing thing about it is that they do not mention the brand name, the Beers in it. They weren’t even in the commercials. They weren’t in the print ad. Why? Because Beers at that time owned 80% of the world’s diamond inventory. And they were like, just like you said, Jason, let’s promote the category. By default, we’re the winner. I don’t care if everyone else also gets more business, we own 80% of it. I just want to make the pie bigger. And that is the exact position that Gong is taking.

Jason Widup:
The last thing I’ll say about this is that and few companies forget this right, it’s easier to get your audience to agree on a common problem that needs to be solved than on a solution that they will use to solve that problem. Because once you’re pitching our solution, you’re now selling when you’re consulting and getting everyone to agree that we all want more out of CRM.

Jason Widup:
We cannot continue to rely on manual data entry to understand what’s happening in our business. Everyone’s nodding and agreeing with you. Good. By the way, revenue intelligence is how you solve that. Now, go pick the leading solution in the market to do that. That is Gong’s marketing.

Udi Ledergor:
Yeah.

Elissa Fink:
I agree 100%. I always have thought of categories as like common problems. That’s what that is. If you think of a category as what’s the problem we’re solving, not what’s the set of solutions we should be up against, but what’s the problem, that’s really how categories come together. And it’s people who have this problem who start to congregate together, the analysts, the customers, the stories, the vendors. They start coming together, and they’re like, “What are we doing about this problem?” And they spend money on problems. They spend money on problems, right?

Jason Widup:
Yes.

Elissa Fink:
I spend money to solve a problem. I don’t spend money to buy a solution, I spend money to solve a problem, and then buying a solution.

Jason Widup:
Nobody wakes up in the morning wishing they had a new drill, but they do need a hole in the wall, to help them solve that.

Elissa Fink:
Yes, exactly. It’s all about the problem. So, that’s why when you’re defining your category, it’s like find where that problem is being discussed, the people are. And it must be because you got to have a market and a market, a big market with a big total addressable market where there’s common people trying to solve this problem, talking about this problem is that’s a great category.

Udi Ledergor:
And it takes a lot of I think sort of executive maturity to go that route because the intuitive thing for most of us is just scream, “I’m the best, I’m the best. You’ve got to buy me. Just please buy me. I’m the best. You’ve got to buy me.” And then spending your dollars. Imagine the boldness of the Beers spending millions on advertising campaigns without the brand name on it.

Jason Widup:
Yeah.

Udi Ledergor:
That’s incredible.

Elissa Fink:
Yeah.

Udi Ledergor:
I haven’t gone quite that far. You will find the Gong logo on our campaigns. But, but you will find our slogan which is now goodbye opinions, hello reality, revenue intelligence by Gong. Gong is the smallest title on that ad and poster and billboards and everything I do. It’s not about Gong. It’s about revenue intelligence and solving that problem.

Jason Widup:
Udi, when you guys came out with that, were you the first ones to use that category name?

Udi Ledergor:
We did find, I think it’s either one or two companies that do something very different from Gong that also use the words “revenue intelligence”-

Jason Widup:
Yeah, that makes sense.

Udi Ledergor:
… on the website. And we’re like, “Okay, we can live with this.” We did a cursory trademark search. We trademarked what we could and what we needed to and you’re looking for clues that it’s working. In the last 12 months, I can name at least three companies much closer to what we’re doing that have now the words “revenue intelligence” plastered-

Jason Widup:
That’s where I was going to go next. Yeah, like, have you seen others now adopt that category?

Udi Ledergor:
The odds, right?

Jason Widup:
Yeah, yeah.

Elissa Fink:
Everything.

Jason Widup:
Yeah, yeah. Elissa, in terms of what role did competition play? You know what I mean? Because you need competition, right, in the category?

Elissa Fink:
Yeah, yeah. It could actually play a pretty important role. And I have to give a lot of credit to two other firms that were in the same sort of headspace a little bit as Tableau, which was Qlik, Qlik Tech, and a company called Spotfire. And oh my gosh, Spotfire got bought about a few months or six months after I joined and I was like, “Oh, yay, when you get bought, man, that just kind of puts everything you do on hold for two years. So, goodbye Spotfire.” Sort of my thinking.

Elissa Fink:
But Qlik, Qlik Tech was definitely a formidable competitor, especially in our early years. And they were there. They were there also doing the same kind of thing trying to break the category, but they were kind of staying in the confines of a pretty technical solution for IT or not just for IT, but trying to bring it to the masses. But a little more traditional.

Elissa Fink:
And so, I think Tableau, we just went all in. I mean, in a way it was so freeing and I don’t know for you guys at Gong if you have this, like the old story about Hertz and Avis. When you’re number two, you try harder. You have less to risk. You can Just play this game. You just go out there because you go … Every time Qlik would, when I’d look at their website, and I’d be like, “Oh my god, it’s so good.” They were ahead of us for many years.

Elissa Fink:
And so, it was just like, god, we got to push hard. We got to do more. We got to say it more. We got to be out there more strongly about what we’re breaking and how we’re changing, and we’re democratizing data and bringing it to the people. We just have to go all the way in on that, because we were willing to take risks.

Elissa Fink:
So, there was these two competitors, but particularly Qlik, that really also helped sort of carve this space out there. But I think we just were so focused on the mission of democratizing data and bringing it to everyone, and bringing it to people and doing it in a pretty different way. Our route to market was pretty different. And I think that gave us a lot of energy that helped us. But Qlik, they did great marketing and they were a great competitor, and it’s a good thing to have great competitors, it’s a good thing. I don’t know for you, Udi. Do you look at some out there and go, ugh or ooh, these guys make us better?

Udi Ledergor:
How do I do this in a way that is not condescending and not put anyone down? I’m not sure I found a way yet. First, I’ll start with I, of course, agree with you, Elissa and Jason, you said this, unique competition. A very big warning sign is if you do not have competition. You’re the only one who sees the light and the need, you’re probably not in the right room.

Udi Ledergor:
So, we love having competition. And especially in the last couple of years, probably every month, we see a new company that somehow in our space pop up from somewhere. It’s not just the US anymore. There’s European and companies in other spaces that are popping up, which is amazing. I love this. And when someone gets down because like oh, shoot, they’re copying us now, and they’re trying to eat some of our pie, I’m like, here’s how I think about it. We just got more marketing budget because everything they’re spending is promoting revenue intelligence.

Udi Ledergor:
And since eight out of 10 customers by Gong, if they’re in the category, eight out of 10 by Gong, I’m enjoying their marketing budget. They’re doing all the top of the funnel marketing for me. And all I need to do is show that Gong is better at the bottom of the funnel. And we do that really well. So, I love having competitors.

Udi Ledergor:
You said when you’re like the contender, you can risk more and you have a little to lose, well, also when you’re when you’re the leader, the clear leader of the category, you have a lot to lose. And it’s just a different challenge. It’s a fun challenge. Let’s not lie about this. Everybody wants to be the leader of their category. It’s still a challenge. There’s never an easy day. And it’s just different sets of challenges.

Udi Ledergor:
As we grow bigger, I do get more scrutinizing eyes from my board, my CFO, my CRO. He just did this off color joke in a commercial, is that really like the kind of company?

Elissa Fink:
That’s true. I lived through that too. Boy, oh, boy.

Jason Widup:
Yeah, Elissa, you had some fun ones. I know just from being there. It was great, And Udi, I love a lot of the stuff that you guys are doing too. And thanks so much again for your time today. Thanks so much for participating with me. Again, everybody, thanks for listening. You guys have a great holiday.

Udi Ledergor:
Thank you so much.

Elissa Fink:
Happy holidays.

Udi Ledergor:
Happy Holidays everyone, really enjoyed this.

Elissa Fink:
Me too.

Udi Ledergor:
Take care.

Speaker 1:
Thanks again for joining us. I hope that you enjoyed today’s discussion and will tune in again. Find all the B2B category creators episodes at metadata.io and if you have any feedback, topics or would like to be a guest on the show, please reach out.

B2B Category Creators Episode 8 Transcript

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