Meet Stuart Balcombe, Product Marketer at Arrows. Shifting the pricing model, shifting the ideal customer profile, shifting the positioning, and then aligning. How to use Charlie Munger's inversion, the Cupcake model, and guardrails. Go talk to more customers, repurpose absolutely everything, and look for ways to create proprietary insight.
19 insights. 6 rapid-fire questions. View the transcript.
What are 3 ways that your team converts your market into revenue?
We have two motions. We have a relatively normal split. We have some inbound and we have some more outbound strategies.
1) Our outbound is a little more interesting to talk about. We use the Happy Customers podcast pretty specifically to have targeted conversations with folks. It is a more top of funnel marketing channel for us. But, we use that pretty specifically to 1) identify and have conversations with ideal accounts that we think should buy Arrows, but 2) we also use it as a research tool to really understand, what are the problems? What are the current pain points and the challenges that folks are having? It's a great way to have a conversation that is not sales-led, but helps align on how we think about the problem-space and the market as a whole. Then, there's no obligation on the back end of it. That's not the strategy, that we're going in, “Hey, this is going to lead to a sales conversation.” But the goal is to, in a very targeted way, have organic conversations that lead to a much more direct sales conversation. That is the primary way that we're doing outbound today.
2) We also have an inbound funnel predominantly driven by LinkedIn organic and educational, SEO-focused content on the website, which drives people into a demo flow. There’s two entry points, but ultimately the experience looks pretty similar. 1) You can request a demo, or 2) you can request a strategy conversation, or a strategy call, which is much more focused typically for folks who are a little earlier in their onboarding, or thinking about their high-touch onboarding program. We can in a fairly hands-on way, help you step through (we’re building a maturity-model around that), essentially answer the questions that you need to have answered before Arrows is actually a good fit for you. So we do that, both if you went to asking for strategy, and also if you come in asking for a demo but aren't quite ready. We are heavier on that education side.
What are 3 hard problems that you recently overcame?
So the big one, I'm a little past 90 days at Arrows. The big ones that I've been tackling are shifting the pricing model, shifting the ideal customer profile, and then lining up how we think about the things that we prioritize on the marketing and product side to actually align to that.
1) From a pricing perspective, specifically, we moved from a seat-based model to plans as an Arrow-specific value metric. The goal there was to much more closely align the value. If Arrows is working for you, you should be using more plans, and you are happy to pay for more plans. Seats were, in some cases, a proxy, but didn't always map directly to the value that you're actually receiving.
2) On the ICP side, we've made a shift. This is sort of aligned with the maturity-model that I mentioned in the “how we turn the market into revenue” question. Moving from folks who are using ad hoc solutions, are less structured, and have less rigor around their onboarding program, to teams where their onboarding pipeline lives in a CRM. They are looking to optimize how they move people through that pipeline. Measurement and efficiency is much more important to those teams.
3) So that's been the big shift, which obviously comes with messaging changes and some product changes. Probably less changes on the product-side, but certainly narrowing in on: “This is the specific use case. These are the specific pain points. These are the ways that we are very differentiated for that group versus folks who are trying to solve different problems in their onboarding experience.”
What are 3 roadblocks that you are working on now?
1) The shifting of the positioning and aligning. I think this is just a common early-stage problem. You always have marketing positioning and messaging that’s at a slightly different stage than where the product actually is today. So, making sure that we are, as best as we can, lining those two things up. So it’s clear when you see our marketing, “this is the problem that we're solving.” The first experience with our sales team or success aligns with that, and it's moving you through that journey to bridge the gaps between the things that you wanted to do, and the things the product can do directly, or that you can do directly by yourself in the product.
2) Then, similarly, handling objections. It backs into a lot of stuff around the maturity-model. How do we help you bridge the gap or make sure that you have the things in place to actually adopt Arrows in this way? We found that even shifting to an ICP that is using a CRM (the reason there is that we have deep integrations with HubSpot and Salesforce), everybody sets up the CRM differently. We have found there’s sort of some reasons that setting up your CRM in a specific way helps you do other things, is more efficient. So helping people understand, “yes, you may be using the CRM, but if you are able to make this change, you will unlock this new capability.” Trying to do that earlier in the journey through content and education. That’s certainly always a theme. How do we move things that previously have been only once you buy the product or only once you talk to somebody? How do we move those things earlier? I know we’ve talked about this before. How do you move those things earlier so that by the time somebody gets to that point, they've already answered a lot of the questions that they might otherwise have had?
3) I don't know if it's a roadblock directly, but a very strong positioning angle that we're taking is going after some of the common onboarding metrics. We’ve found that there was a pretty big divide in how Success teams think about onboarding and how an onboarding team that lives under RevOps or under Sales thinks about onboarding, and measurement, and rigor, and all these things around that. So, we're trying to help. We try to have a very strong opinion on how you could do it and then make it really easy to actually do that with the product. Getting people to make that mindset shift is a process.
What are 3 mental models that you use to do your best work?
1) The Cupcake model. It’s one that I am a huge fan of and it goes by a lot of different names. It’s talked about more in Product, but I like to think about it everywhere. Essentially, instead of going and trying to bake the full cake at the end, and getting there by making an individual slice and then adding another ingredient, and adding another ingredient, which means that the cake isn't actually that tasty until you get to the end… start with just a smaller version of the complete thing. So really trying to think, for anything that we're going to go out and try to do, what is the smallest, complete, valuable version of that? It's really helpful to be able to measure the impact much quicker and get signal. This ties to a belief that I have: the first version will be wrong in like 99% of cases. You'll be wrong the first time. So getting there faster and making sure that you get signal that you can actually use to make the next version better is important.
2) Defining guardrails. Essentially, what is this not, like explicitly? So the thing with Arrows, and this has been the core of the positioning shift, is: Arrows is not a project management tool. Which is very different than X. That's a big thing. High-level positioning. Arrows is not a project management tool. As soon as you do that, and you can do that at any level, but as soon as you say what this is not, you can then much more easily focus on what it is. And, it's much easier to say “no” to the things that are potentially distractions and shiny objects that don't align with that.
3) The third one, which came from Charlie Munger, is inversion. So, instead of thinking about, what is the success? What are the ways that this could be successful? What is the potential of this?… What are all the ways that we can fail? And similarly to how do we move value earlier in the journey? How do we handle the objections early? How do we identify all the objections as early as possible and handle them upfront? So that hopefully we don't even get asked the question. We're just already handling those things in how we design the campaign, design the product, and design the project.
What are 3 techniques that GTM teams need to try?
1) Hopefully in 2022, everybody is doing this, but go talk to more customers. You can never talk to too many customers. I think finding ways to do that in a way that compounds is beneficial. This is why pretty much the first thing that I did at Arrows was start a podcast. It's just an excuse to go talk (it’s not just an excuse) but it gives you a really good reason to go talk to tens, there will be hundreds probably by the end of the year, of the exact people that you want to be talking to you because they're the people who you're trying to solve problems for. So looking for ways to talk to customers. It doesn't have to be a rigid, “this is an interview, and I'm going to ask you research questions,” right? There are ways to do interviews in a way that still gets you the unbiased insight that you want, but also can be repurposed and reused and other ways, which gets to my second technique.
2) Content repurposing. And I use this one pretty broadly. Repurpose absolutely everything. Content repurposing doesn't have to be approached as a waterfall. What I mean by that is it doesn't have to be linear. So you don't have to start at the beginning and go to the end. You can start in the middle and go backwards. You can start it in the middle and go forwards. So an example from Arrows: we record all these conversations for the podcast. Both with external folks and I also interview our Head of Success every week based on research and questions that we know our audience wants to answer and then we just go find the right people to answer those questions. Sure they might be recorded for the podcast, but they'll probably be published first in the newsletter. They'll be published on social first. So it's not necessarily that we created this big thing that we published and then we distributed it. We sort of break it up much earlier and repurpose from the start.
3) Look for ways to create proprietary insight. This is something that takes some thought to do, but is really impactful when you do it well. So, what are the things that only you can do? What are the things that only you can talk about because only you have the data. Typically it's data, or you may have had conversations, or you've made a connection that other people haven't made. Because pretty much everything is commoditized, product differentiation will only get you so far and probably won't last very long. People might be able to copy the features of your product, but they probably can’t copy the data that you have inside of your product, which is just one example of proprietary data. Just to give you the whole playbook: if you've recorded a podcast with 20 episodes, go pull the best clips across those episodes and pull them into something that's new. That essentially becomes a research paper that nobody else has because you did all the interviews. Whether you release the actual interviews themselves or not, you've created something that nobody else has access to.
Who are 3 operators that should be our next guests and why?
Yeah, this is a hard question. I can't keep this to three.
1) Marc Thomas. Powered By Search. Pretty much all things content and growth. The level of execution, it's impressive. And he also has this high-output marketing framework which is really great. He's really intentional about building systems and processes around getting the execution to a place where you can, not set it and forget it, but it's in a state where it's self-sustaining and you can go test the next thing.
2) Katie Mitchell. Sprig. Sprig has been on a tear. They are growing really, really fast. She came from b2c, is now working on a b2b product selling b2c customers, but has really interesting thoughts around how do you do social? How do you build a team? Lots of thoughts from being deep in scaling.
3) Amanda Natividad. SparkToro Again, all things content. But also, how do you do creative things with your marketing that, maybe are unintuitive and sort of don't scale in the way that you might think. A lot of marketers look only for the things that can scale and where you can see the top line potential of them, but she's great at doing things that aren’t necessarily that.
4) Sean MacPherson. Alyce. VP of Success there. Came from Drift. Has a really great perspective on from a Success point of view. What does it mean to build a go-to-market model that really makes customers successful? And I think you probably talk to most people from early Drift days, but how do you tie your go-to-market motion with building a brand that is self-sustaining? And that is not just about the one-to-one things that you're doing, but actually rolls up into something much bigger.
5) Kristen LaFrance. Repeat. She's Director of Community there. She has a ton of interesting experience from both DTC and SaaS. Lots of very strong thoughts on why you should build community early and why actually making customers successful is going to be the best driver of growth for the business.
Work with Stuart → Arrows is hiring!
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February 2022 · Interview by Chris Morgan, Host of Market-to-Revenue