18 minutes with George Valdes, Head of Marketing at Monograph. Don’t be afraid to challenge your market. Ask, “Why do you think it needs to be this way?” Starting the community. Hire subject matter experts who understand the memes and inside jokes of the industry. A lot of those inside jokes are coming from pain. When you understand the memes of the industry, you can probably create your own. Identifying blockers. Move fast and playbook things. Irreversible and reversible decisions. Building an exceptional brand. Enabling workflows for architects.
18 insights. 7 rapid-fire questions. Show transcript.
What are 3 ways that your team converts your market into revenue?
1) Enable workflows to happen for architects and design professionals. First off, it's helpful to set the context that we service architects, or in the broader sense, design professionals. So essentially, everyone that is part of the pre-construction process, you can think of the construction process being mostly general contractors, we're really trying to enable workflows to happen for that group of people.
2) A very simple pricing structure. In terms of them how we convert the market into revenue, we have a very simple pricing structure that's on a per user basis at this point. We mostly target the largest segment of the industry, which is the SMB market, so small-medium sized businesses. Anywhere between 1-person firms all the way up to around 60-person firms. In the US and in Canada. So, we're very specific. We're really honed in on this market because we feel that this is where the most underserved area of the industry. That's the main lever.
3) Building an exceptional brand. Part of our go-to-market strategy is building an exceptional brand because we get to speak to such a specific audience. A lot of our team comes from the industry, I myself have a background in landscape architecture and architecture, we're able to speak specifically to the pain points that the industry has, with an authentic bent. We're very authentic in our own experiences. We're able to connect with people, even on an emotional level, which I think is very unique, and very special, about what we're doing here.
What are 2 hard problems that you recently overcame?
1) One that's always very difficult to pull off is a user conference. We did our second user conference, called Section Cut, about a month ago. It's hard because it's so many different moving parts, but we have a really amazing team here that was able to work asynchronously, autonomously, and in many different ways, while collaborating, at the same time, to execute an amazing show for our customers and our broader community. So I think that’s one. It's almost like two in one because it's just such a difficult endeavor to pull off.
2) Finding the right person to join our leadership team. The other thing that's been difficult, that we've been able to accomplish recently, is we have now a full leadership team. I think this is important. Robert, up until recently, our CEO, was really heading up sales, and I think we now have a team in place, with our new head of sales, that's going to allow us to really focus in and solve even harder challenges as we move forward. I think that one, just finding the right person. Why it's difficult, I’d say, is because we have a very unique culture here at Monograph. We operate, not only remotely, fully remote, but we also have a 4 day work week. And so, finding a leader that can resonate with that, as part of the challenge of operating the sales team, was really important to us, alongside the fact that, culturally, they had to really be a good culture fit, and a good addition to the team.
What are 3 roadblocks you are working on now?
1) Splitting the funnel from a “free trial” motion to a “book a demo.” We're actually going to shift, not fully, our GTM, but mostly. It's an interesting balance. We're basically going to be splitting the funnel from a free trial motion to a book a demo. The reason for this is that we're seeing higher conversions on booking demos at the moment. So, one of the things that we're doing is essentially pre-qualifying through our website folks, and then routing them appropriately to a free trial of they're out of, let's say, our ICP, or ideal customer profile, and then routing them to booking a demo. This is a whole cross-functional motion that we have to be fully aligned on in order to make it work. And so I'd say this is one of the biggest challenges.
2) We’ve recently adopted an OKR model, and the team has various levels of experiences with this. And so, it's making sure we're building the right cadences to be able to move the needle on these OKRs in a way that gets everyone rowing in the same direction.
3) How to tease out the nuances of our product to the market? We've done an exceptional job of building a great brand, and one of the things that we're working on now is how to tease out more so of our products, like the nuances of our product, to the market. That’s a piece that's really top of mind for me, that I feel very confident we can crack, because we have an exceptional team in place now on the marketing team that can help pull that all together. But, it is one of those things where, as we've been building out more differentiation in our a product, we want to continuously make sure we're having that differentiation to the community.
What are 3 mental models that you use to do your best work?
1) Irreversible and reversible decisions. I like this idea, borrowed from Amazon, of, “There are two types of decisions; irreversible ones and reversible ones.” Or like, “There's two types of doors; one-way doors and two-way doors." I learned this a lot during my time at WeWork, about the importance of being able to move quickly with relatively little information. This was actually a very helpful mental model to decide on how fast to move on something. Obviously, depending on the budget of the things that you're working on, in my case, I was working with a project that any one location that I was helping to open up was, for pre-sales, about a million dollars in budget. Thinking about the trade-offs of that, and just communicating that, was really important. But also factoring in, “Okay. Who do I need to bring in, and how quickly?” Also, making it very clear for them whether this was something that we need to move slow on or be quick on.
2) Move fast and playbook things. We use this one here at Monograph: move fast and playbook things. It's about the idea that we should do things that don't scale at first in order to understand whether they work, as quickly as possible, meaning that you're always going to make the trade off between quality and just execution. If you can narrow your hypothesis down on what you're trying to examine, and you can make that trade-off on quality, because it's not going to impact the actual answer you're looking for. So as a really clear example, let's say you want to know whether a specific channel, or a specific form of content, might work. You could spend the time belaboring on like how perfect that piece of content is, or you could really just answer the first question, which is like, “Does this new asset work in the wild, period?” And then, as you start to learn from that, then you might optimize on quality later, while also thinking about scalability, which resonates with the playbook part, of playbooking it. That was also something learned really hard during my time at WeWork. Building things up to a point where it can help other people who are blocked, because it you would just be able to move quickly.
3) Identifying blockers. It kind of ties everything else, but it's like, “Can you identify the magnitude of the problem, and whether it's really a problem?” Because sometimes, and I use this with my team sometimes to help them think through a challenge that they might have, sometimes people feel that the scope of work needs to encompass X amount of things when, again, if you focus on like, “What is real question to be answered here? What is the real hypothesis that we're trying to solve?” That kind of like zero-to-one mentality. We just have to solve that first basic question and then we can cut back scope. I think it's tied to this idea of, “What is the magnitude of the problem that we're trying to solve?” Or like, “What is the magnitude of the scope that you're factoring into the initiative that you're trying to roll out, and does it need to really be that complete? Can we get to an answer faster with less scope?” I think that is from my time heading a product team where it was really thinking about this problem through the product lens of like, “Okay, what's the MVP of this?” Or like, “What's the main question we're trying to answer and how do we build just the main thing that will help us get to the next question?”
What are 3 techniques that GTM teams need to try?
1) Hiring subject matter experts. Very important—I mean, I think it's even applicable to B2C, and some companies are adopting this—but it's about hiring subject matter experts. Like, “can you hire your customers to be part of your team, whether that's in product, marketing, sales?” Especially in B2B, it's really important, because often the first thing you're trying to do is build trust. Relatively quickly. As an example, the mission statement of the marketing team is to educate and inspire the world's design professionals to be better at business. The fastest way we could do that is actually hiring folks within the marketing team, and within the rest of the team, that also come from the industry. And so, you might be making trade-offs at that point about deep, let's say, channel expertise, or things like that. But, what you gain from it is something that would take someone who might have deep domain expertise in the channel, or at least within marketing, it might take them a very long time to understand the nuances. One way to think about this too, is if your industry had memes about it, does your team understand those memes? Because memes are like the inside jokes that you have to be an insider, typically, to understand. Otherwise, it goes over your head. If you can operate at the level where you can even understand the memes, then I feel like you connect more deeply with your customer. Because a lot of those inside jokes are coming from pain. Any comedy comes from some level of pain. So, you really intuit some of the problems that they face. I think that is incredibly valuable for a team to hit the ground running fast.
2) Starting the community. Alongside with this is starting the community. We’re very inspired by marketers like Dave Gerhardt and Chris Walker, and when I joined the team as the fifth employee, first person in the marketing team, this idea of like, “How do you build content once such that it can be used as an asset in many different ways, over a long horizon span?” That was really, really fascinating. That's something we've taken to heart here, at Monograph, where we run a weekly webinar, where we invite some of the most interesting architects in the industry and interview them about things that they hardly ever get interviewed about. Which is, how do they run their business? That strategy alone has allowed us not only to produce great content and podcasts and other things that we're doing, but it's also allowed us to go from me interviewing friends to a team of us interviewing the head of the State Department’s Office of Oversees Buildings Operations, OBO, essentially, the office that manages a $20 billion budget for the State Department around the world to build embassies. That happened in less than a year's time. It just kind of shows the power of being able to build things with longevity, but you can produce various assets from it after the fact.
3) Don't be afraid to challenge your market. This goes back to the idea of, when you understand the memes of the industry, you can probably create your own, which means that you have an authentic voice, and can you earn people's trust really quickly. I hate the thought of being a vendor. It's so impersonal. If we're considered a vendor to a company, I feel like we haven't done our job properly. We should be considered more as consultants or trusted advisors. And so, that means that we have to be very comfortable with challenging the preconceived ideas of our industry. This is why hiring subject matters is so important, because it helps you earn that trust really quickly.
What are 3 questions that you love to ask and why?
Why do you think it needs to be this way? I love that question. I think that question can apply to other facets. Whether it's an interview question, because what it alludes to is, “Does this person either deeply understand a problem, or what's the lens through which they see the problem?” And hopefully, from that question, you can then figure out a potential solution, if it's a problem, or whatever. That's a really ripe question to move from. I'm going to leave it at that question because I think I can use that question three times.
Who are 3 operators that should be our next guests and why?
1) Emily Kramer. Definitely think Emily Kramer at MKT1. She's a marketing advisor. Was the former VP of Marketing at Carta and Head of Marketing at Asana. She's phenomenal. When you talk to her, she can go from like high-level strategy to really in-the-weeds tactics. It's very refreshing to just talk to her because she's also no bullshit.
2) Ailyn Mendoza. Ailyn Mendoza, who is actually Director of Customer Experience, here at Monograph. Highly recommend interviewing her. While I know that GTM is typically thought of from the lens of marketing and sales, I think that Customer Experience is actually a critical component to that, because if you don't have a team member that's focusing on retention, it's a leaky bucket. That whole idea of GTM really should extend itself to Customer Experience. She's a phenomenal person to talk to. I'd be super curious about learning about her mental models of what she applies to the industry. She's also just a sharp thinker and is an awesome person to work with.
3) Miriam Mark. CRO at Compete. She was my former boss at WeWork, and I learned so much from her about what it means to manage with both empathy, but also to really lead. It was a wild time at the time that we were both there, but she was just an amazing leader, and I think it'd be amazing to learn more about how she operates.
Work with George (and me) → Monograph is hiring!