Join us in this dynamic and insightful conversation with April Dunford, renowned expert in product positioning in the SaaS industry. April delves deep into the nuances of effective positioning, the difference between positioning and messaging, and shares her unique approach to analyzing competition. Discover key strategies for startups and established businesses to optimize their go-to-market approach, understand customer needs, and outshine competitors. Whether you're a startup founder, a marketing professional, or simply interested in business strategy, this episode offers valuable lessons and actionable insights.
Key Topics Discussed:
- The essence of product positioning
- Differentiating positioning from messaging
- Analyzing and leveraging competition
- Effective strategies for both PLG and sales-led motions
- Adapting to changing market dynamics
- Real-world examples of successful positioning
- Practical tips for businesses of all sizes
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April Dunford:When the economy's good, everyone's growing, your customers are growing, and so they're trying to make money, right? And so if you come in and say, oh, this is going to help you make money and expand things, that's always a better sales pitch than A, here's how you're going to save a couple of bucks.
Andy Mewborn:What are some tactical things that you do or you employ your customers to do or companies you work with?
April Dunford:The big thing at your phase is win analysis. It's a really, really big deal. Like every time you win a deal, you need to understand exactly why and how. Who do you compete with? How are you different? What's the value you can deliver that nobody else can? Who's a really good fit for that value? What's the market you intend to win? Once I understand that, write some messaging for that. The defensibility is more in the point of view. It's not that they couldn't do it. It's that they won't do it.
Andy Mewborn:But gosh, we are on with the product positioning. Queen in SAS here. This is amazing. Yeah. Super nice to meet you. So I read both your books, obviously. Awesome. Great sales pitch. This morning, just before this, I did also listen to your episode with Lenny on Lenny's podcast, where you talk through some of your book stuff, which is just amazing. The setup. Yeah. So it's all amazing stuff. And I have some amazing questions for you, as you know, you probably don't know. I was at outreach.io for seven years or so. So it was early there, spent a lot of time there, working with a number of organizations on go-to-market side, right? And so all the mistakes you can see, I've seen them, all the great stuff that you can do, I've seen them, right, and all that. So yeah, would just love to get your take on, I think it'd be fun if we got creative today, April, I recently just even launched a new product. And what if we like roasted my landing page? Would that be awesome for you? Or maybe that's a little too much.
April Dunford:So here's the thing. So people often get positioning confused with messaging. And so when they come to me and they say, hey, look at my website and tell me whether or not my positioning is any good. I'm like, how could I tell from looking at your website? Because there's so much missing information. So in order for me to figure out whether or not your positioning is good, I would need to understand, well, who's your competition? And what's your target market? And what's your differentiated value? And if I understood all of that, then I could say whether or not your messaging was capturing your positioning properly. but you can't actually just look at someone's homepage and say, oh, positioning, you know, or like people, people will do this thing where they'll say, well, I don't understand it, therefore it's bad. And it's like, well, if I was selling to, I don't know, airline mechanics, I wouldn't expect you to understand it, would I? And it might be perfect positioning for airline mechanics. And so, you know, it doesn't necessarily have to resonate with your grandmother in order to be great positioning, unless you happen to be selling to grandmothers. In which case, maybe it should resonate with your grandmother. Yeah. So that's the thing. Like, so I, you know, we can't actually do positioning on the fly like this. Like people say, Oh, let's, you know, we'll be a bit, I'm like, No, that's like walking up to me and saying, like, is my positioning good? Or please position this product. It's like, well, we would spend hours trying to get enough background in order for me to be able to do that. So I made the classic mistake. I made a classic mistake. It's one of the tricky things about positioning, right? It's just not that simple. Like positioning is an input to our messaging. If you came to me and said, April, what should the homepage say? I'd say, well, I'd be happy to write you a copy for the homepage. But first, let's talk about who do you compete with? How are you different? What's the value you could deliver that nobody else can? Who's a really good fit for that value? What's the market you intend to win? Once I understand that, yes, then we can go write some, you know, write some messaging for that and assess whether or not that messaging is good. Cause we got something to assess it against, but we can't just look at it and say, Oh, I don't understand it. Therefore it's shit. But no, unless I'm the target, unless I'm the target audience, then you know, what I, what my opinion doesn't actually matter at all.
Andy Mewborn:Yeah, so the main people I'm competing with today are, um, we've built a product that competes with seismic and high spot. I don't know if you know those two, those two products, they're kind of the, they're the big dogs in the space. Um, so those are who we're competing with. Right. Um, so, and I'll just, I'm very honest about this and we'll be honest on the pod. I was at outreach, saw these products, implemented one of them, and was just like, oh my gosh, like, okay, this took forever. And then once it was implemented, no one liked the product, right? And that was actually what really pushed me to start Distribute, which is this product that we have now. It's just basically competing after those folks, right? I think they were great for their time, right? And again, I know we're not supposed to talk bad about competition and all that stuff. And this is a question that I actually have for you.
April Dunford:I think we can talk about competition, to be honest.
Andy Mewborn:Oh, really? Okay, okay. Well, let's get into that. Like, I, I mean, there's this people love drama, I feel like in the in the in the sense of like, you like punching, you know, fan of drama, like, we're gonna go there.
April Dunford:I don't know. I don't know. I'm advocating for drama.
Andy Mewborn:Here's where my mindset goes. I have a good following, I have a good amount of email subscribers, and I'm thinking of just really punching up towards these two folks. What's your ammo?
April Dunford:What have you got that they don't have?
Andy Mewborn:What have we got that they don't have? I mean, now this is what we're, before I actually start doing that, we're not at feature parity yet, right? We're still super early. So we don't, do we have everything that they have? But you don't need to. Do we have the 80% that most people find value out of, right?
April Dunford:No, but what do you do better than them? Why pick you over them?
Andy Mewborn:Why pick us? Well, there's, there's a couple of reasons. The first reason is that the way we actually allow you to host content, we, the way we do it is we help you host content that then pushes the next step with the prospect. So versus it being like a, Hey, um, you know, here's a piece of content. You can measure that live and see who's viewing your content. That's about the main value that these others provide. What we do is we can say, Hey, here's a piece of content. We can add conversions on top of that content without you needing a Marketo developer, any type of developer, and actually pop up the reps calendar on the content to push the next step. Add a personalized rep chat bot that allows the person while they're on the content to chat directly with the rep about the value. So what we're doing is kind of meeting the prospect of where they're at versus then throwing them into some MQL queue. and saying, Oh, well they downloaded it or they looked at this thing. Now they're in MQL. No, it's more personalized. So now you can actually, what we do is push a conversion on top of that piece of content so that we can say, Hey, you're in this, you're engaged. Once you're engaged, we then ask, would you like to meet with us? In essence, it's kind of where we're going, right? Versus it being this static thing that you look at and the rep maybe gets a notification. Hey, you looked at this. And then the rep has to go, well, let me go email you. Let me see if I want to chat.
April Dunford:You're giving the customer the opportunity to opt in as opposed to the rep is going to, is going to outbound it. I get it. And so, so who cares about that?
Andy Mewborn:Who cares about that? So there there's kind of two personas that would care about that, right? Like one, the, the marketer would care about that because what they would say is like, Hey, Oh, we're getting on top of this prospect as soon as, as we can. Right. That's one, but then the sales rep also, or the CSM, right. Or the account manager, whoever's basically owning the prospect at the time would also care. Cause they would say, Oh, Hey, like this thing's automating that one step for me. That's trying to get them on the phone. Right. Like a next step is always like the next conversation.
April Dunford:And how's it, how's it, how's it like, have you got, like, what's the, what's the value of that? Like, so, so I, so I could certainly see it improving, um, uh, the lead quality, for example, because the, the only people that are actually going to fill that thing out and say, yes, are the people that are really ready to talk to a rep. but I could also see it decreasing the amount of leads you get overall, right? That's obviously gonna, maybe it's gonna go down or does it stay the same?
Andy Mewborn:Yeah, well, that's what we'll have to test, right? Is this thing launched yet? It is, it is, it is, but not, we just launched a couple of weeks ago, not enough data.
April Dunford:Oh, so you don't have it yet. Well, so here's a piece of advice. I think when you've got something new like this, What you've got is in essence, what you should have at this point is what I would call positioning thesis, right? And the thesis is, you know, here's our competition. It's these guys you listed. Here's what we got that's better than them. And it's this, you know, this capability of being able to capture, you know, let the customer opt into the thing in the moment. And the value of that we assume is going to be. whatever you think that is. Better leads, higher quality leads, better rep efficiency. I don't know what your value is, but you should know. So here's the value we assume this is going to be. And then the next bit is here's the kind of company that really cares about that. And, you know, I'd be thinking about that if I was you, because, you know, I, I think a company potentially, like one way to think about this might say, you know, we got a company with just way too many, like, like we get a lot of traffic. We get a lot of MQLs, the MQLs are mainly garbage. Um, we're wasting too much of the reps time. Therefore, you know, we want to make sure that, that we're only converting people that are ready to convert. And so that would not be appropriate to a company that has very scarce MQLs.
April Dunford:Right. So bigger size deals. So I'd be looking for lots of deals, lots of traffic, lower dollar value, maybe. This is my thesis. So whatever my thesis is, I would write it down. I'd say this is what I think the value is. And this is the thesis of the kind of company that I think is going to love this thing. Right. Therefore, this is the market we're going to win. That's my positioning thesis. But you don't know until you sell a bunch of it, right?
April Dunford:That's why it's a thesis. It's not the position, it's just a thesis.
April Dunford:And so the first wave of customers you get on this thing, what you should be trying to do is validate the thesis. So every deal you win, you're in the customer's face going, you know, so, you know, why'd you pick us? Who'd you compare us to? Why'd you pick us? You know, what's the value this thing is delivering and does it map with your thesis? And what you'll find is generally you do that first wave of customers and, you know, we're never entirely correct. It's like, usually we're not entirely correct. Like sometimes we get the big ones answered. We nail those, but the smaller details, maybe we didn't get right. Or we think this is going to be the value. And then we get into it. It turns out the value is something slightly different. Or, you know, we thought people would love this thing, but it turns out this other thing that they love or whatever. And so what you should be doing with the first wave is trying to validate the thesis. And then once you get that first wave through, you'll start seeing the patterns in who loves your stuff and why. And then you can get really tight on the positioning after that. But at this phase, you shouldn't try to over-tighten it because you don't know. You don't know the answers to the questions to be able to tighten it. And you don't want to tighten it so much that you're blocking off potential good prospects because it didn't meet your thesis that was just a thesis. So that would be my advice to you at this point.
Andy Mewborn:So don't basically, cause right now they're all assumptions or they're thesis as you would say, right? It's like, I think this is why people would want it. Right. I think this is it, but we don't know is basically what you're saying.
April Dunford:You got a good guess though. Cause you've been in that space before you understand how the competitors work. I assume you did some customer discovery before you built the thing. Like it's a pretty educated guess is what you got, but it ain't, you know, but, but having launched. a lot of products myself. Not once did we get it perfect. But you didn't get all of it, right? So I would be, what are you doing with these customers after you close them to validate or invalidate the thesis?
Andy Mewborn:Yeah. Yeah. And what, what are some tactical things that you, you do or you, you employ your customers to do or companies you work with?
April Dunford:The big thing at your phase is win analysis is a really, really big deal. Like every time you win a deal, you need to understand exactly why and how, like, and, and people will get all caught up in loss analysis. Like, you know, every time we lose a deal, we'll tear our hair out and go, Oh, why, why did we lose? Why? Why? And it's like, dude, you're a little wee startup. It's amazing you win any deals. There's a million reasons for you to lose. There's a thousand reasons you're going to lose. You're just some crappy, unproven startup at this point. But every deal you win, you should treat that like the little miracle that it is and find out why the miracle occurred. You know, so what were they doing before? What made them think they had to do something different? You know, how did they actually build a shortlist? How did they find you? Why did they pick you? When they did pick you, what happened? Like, and I would be interviewing every single deal that comes through the door to make sure I really deeply understand that because that's how you're going to figure out what the positioning should be in the future, how you're going to sell this thing in the future, how to tighten that up in the future. And if you're not talking to those people after you win, all you're doing is you just got assumptions about why you win, which is, you know, that's all you had before. So what you should be doing is win analysis. You treat every win like the little miracle it is and find out why it happened. And I, me personally, and this is, you know, Some people would disagree with me on this, but my personal opinion, having done a pile of this stuff is I don't learn anything useful from loss analysis because there's a million reasons to lose in a company this stage. Everything good can be learned from the wins. So you had to really examine the wins and find out what happened in the wins. If you can do that, then, you know, you're going to get much smarter, faster if you focus on the wins and just, You should never win a deal without doing this interview afterwards.
Andy Mewborn:Yeah, that's really good. Yeah. And I will say all the companies I've been with was just loss analysis, never win analysis. I don't think I've ever done one of those.
April Dunford:And what did you learn from the loss analysis, right?
Andy Mewborn:It's all, I mean, yeah, it's the same stuff. Like you don't learn anything. You just validate what you already knew.
April Dunford:You validate what you already knew. And like, like here's the thing, like we used to do it when I was at, when I was at IBM, great big company and we had giant named accounts and in a giant named account, we should never lose a deal was the thinking, right? Giant named account. If there's a giant named IBM account, why would we ever lose a deal? Like we already have footprint all over the account. We have coverage all over the account. We shouldn't lose a deal on anything where we sell product in there. That was the thinking. But if I'm a little startup, I, you know, like the assumption is I'm going to lose 90% of the deals.
April Dunford:All the deals, all the deals.
April Dunford:And so I could go talk to people and you'll hear things like, well, you know, it just seemed kind of risky. Well, we picked those guys because they're the market leader. What are you going to do about that?
Andy Mewborn:Yeah, nothing.
April Dunford:OK. Yes. Yes.
April Dunford:Great. You know, like the only thing I ever learned at a startup from doing loss analysis is occasionally you'd learn that you got a really bad rep that just pisses people off. I hope that's not me.
April Dunford:You know, why didn't you pick us? And they'd be like, well, we're going to pick you. But your rep was such a pain in the neck.
April Dunford:This we can fix.
SPEAKER_02:Yeah, this, yeah, yeah. Interesting.
April Dunford:But other stuff, it's just stuff you can't fix. It's like, most of it has to do with risk. Cause you are risky. You're a super risky bet. And so, you know, you're going to do as much as you can to reduce that risk. Otherwise you wouldn't close any deals, but you can only go so far at the end of the day, it's going to be way less, it's going to be way less risky to pick seismic than it is to pick you.
Andy Mewborn:Mm hmm. Mm hmm. This is true. And how do you handle like, how would you handle? I have so many questions for you. But the first one is, we have two motions almost, we have this PLG motion, and then we have the sales led motion. Right. And so
April Dunford:Do they connect to each other? Like you do PLG and then you get some users and then sales comes in over top? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly.
Andy Mewborn:Again, we're still early, but we're starting this motion, right? And then the question I have for you is like, how do you, what's the perfect mix of the messaging to the PLG people versus the, the sales led motion, right? Because the PLG people, you're talking micro, benefits, let's call them, right?
April Dunford:You're talking like for you individually. Yeah, and generally the positioning is pretty, generally the positioning is different. Yeah, exactly.
Andy Mewborn:And so that's what I'm like, how do we do it?
April Dunford:Generally the positioning is really different. So generally what you have is you've got positioning, so the PLG motion is for the end users. And so you've got end user positioning, which is all around, this is going to make your job easier. And this is, you know, like instead of doing this manually, now you're going to do this this way. And it's usually about something like that. Right. Or there's some other value, but it's value to the end user and it to the individual end user, typically. And then what you have is this sales motion that comes in over top that says, Hey, you got a lot of individual end users in your company doing this thing with our thing. Here's the value you could get if everyone was using it. And that's different. And that's the thing the manager cares about, or the executive cares about, which is, you know. don't you want to make sure this is standard across your organization? Here's the value you get out of that. Or you're going to want visibility into what's happening across all those things. Here's the value you get out of that. Or, you know, there's some kind of support, compliance, security, some stuff like that. Oh, here's the value you get out of that. But you're going to have to figure out, you know, whatever the, whatever the value is for the end user to actually give it a try is going to be, you know, what you're showing on the webpage or wherever people come to get your thing. And then you've got this sales motion over top. And so maybe there's a, you know, an enterprise page or something buried on your website. That's for those people. And you've got this sales pitch, which is completely different. It comes in over top and says, Hey, here's the value you could unlock. if this was used across your organization in a consistent way.
Andy Mewborn:Who do you think is doing this best right now?
April Dunford:So a company that I did some work with that I think does an excellent job of this is Postman. So Postman has a Postman. So they're a tool for end to end API life cycle. And so, but they have a free tool. The free tool is mainly focused on API testing and to a certain extent, API development. Um, and so, and everybody uses their tool. There's like millions and millions and millions of users of their tool. Like absolutely everybody. If you've got techie guys that are doing stuff with an API, guaranteed they're using Postman. There's everybody's got it. So they've got this tool and it's everywhere. And then again, they've got a sales motion that comes in over top with a completely different message. Like the sales motion over top is look, like if you really want to build quality APIs, if you look at the smattering of tools that your teams are using across the life cycle, they've got one tool for development, one tool for testing, one tool for documentation, one tool for distribution, one tool for, you know, packaging it up and all the test cases and all that kind of stuff. Like it's, and it's, it's a garbage pail full of tools and none of them talk to each other. And so because these tools don't talk to each other, it's really, really slow and inefficient to get an API out the door because every time there's a thing, it's got to switch departments in a different tool and in everything else. So the. Teams can't collaborate together. So it really slows down the process to get the thing out the door and results in these really low quality APIs because not everybody can get in and see the same thing across the whole life cycle. So in a perfect world, what we'd have is a platform that allows us to collaborate and manage and everybody's using the same tool. to manage getting this API out the door. You get it out the doorway faster, get out the door much higher quality. So that's the value at the executive level. The value at the PLG motion level is this is just a really great API testing tool, man. Really easy to use, open source. Everyone can get it. Everyone uses it. It has all the bells and whistles, has all these things. If all you want to do is API testing, it's the world's greatest API testing tool. Totally different pitch.
Andy Mewborn:Totally different and totally different motion, right? Like, yeah, totally different.
April Dunford:They might like, do they have like two marketing teams? You know, intricately tied, but, but from a positioning perspective, you got to make sure like this, this positioning for the manager, the API tester doesn't give a shit. Yeah. The wrong message for those people, right? So I got to have one message for the, for the free motion. And then I've got to have this other positioning, which is, you know, why, why should we adopt it enterprise wide, which is a completely different story.
Andy Mewborn:And so because these are two different motions, right? Like really, I mean, just doing a sales led motion, that's kind of my background where I come from. Like that in itself is a lot of work. And then doing a PLG motion, more of like a B2C motion is also a lot of work. Cause you have to fill the funnel with a ton of users, right? In order to like find the signals that you want to do to go sales ladder that will help you in the sales lab and give you leverage per se. So how are teams internally managing this kind of motion from positioning? Or maybe that's two in the weeds for you, and you're not that involved in that side of it. Maybe I'm getting two in the weeds.
April Dunford:Well, I'll tell you, like, you know, again, usually you've got a growth team that's focused on what's happening in the PLG motion. And that is connected with the sales team. And you have agreed upon, you know, here's the criteria when, you know, when this reaches this level, that's when a sales team gets involved. And here's how the sales team gets involved. I mean, that's one of the key things is figuring out when does sales get involved. Like if I, again, if I took Postman as the example, one person in the company using the tool and testing probably ain't enough.
Andy Mewborn:So how many people is it? Yeah. What's the sweet spot, right?
April Dunford:It might depend on product. How many people is it? What does it have to look like? You know, what's your criteria? And usually it's not just one thing. It's a, it's a checklist of things. Like, so if all these things are true and it's worth it for my salespeople to try and get engaged.
Andy Mewborn:And how do you see like, what's your take on product positioning? First, let me tell you the story. You have these companies. Right. Things were amazing. 2021, 2022, beginning of 2022. Right. And they were selling everything like hotcakes. Companies were buying like crazy. Right. And now it's hard as hell to sell anything. Right.
April Dunford:Like these companies are having... Not true. Not true. It's really easy to sell security software right now. There's a lot of stuff that's really easy to sell right now. It's hard to sell your stuff. True.
Andy Mewborn:Hard to sell anything. Yeah, exactly. Let's clarify. Yes. Hard to sell my thing.
April Dunford:So anything sells and go to market well right now. And then like in other things.
April Dunford:Yeah. Healthcare things are on fire.
Andy Mewborn:There's lots of fire security dev tools. I just talked to a friend at Verso, right?
April Dunford:Some dev tools going okay.
Andy Mewborn:Yeah, so not all, but my question for you is with these macroeconomic changes that we have, like, what's your take on how do you optimize your positioning for that? Or should you optimize it for these macroeconomic changes, right? Like, what's your overall take on that?
April Dunford:If you think about it, if we're selling to businesses and you think about the value we can provide to business, if I abstract that value all the way out, I really kind of only got two things. I'm either helping you make money or I'm helping you save money. That's all we can do for a business. Make money or save money. Now, when the economy's good, everyone's growing, your customers are growing, and so they're trying to make money, right? And so if you come in and say, oh, this is going to help you make money and expand things, that's always a better sales pitch than, A, here's how you're going to save a couple of bucks. So when the economy's good, to make money is way better than to save money thing. When the economy goes bad, sometimes it flips. And so your customers are no longer in growth mode. They're in hunker down and try to survive mode. And what they're really trying to do is do the same thing with less people and less budget and less whatever. So if you come in with a value proposition all around saving, That actually sounds better in that situation. So that's the first thing is I would look at, you know, is your value about growth or is your value about cost saving? And maybe a cost saving value prop works better right now than a growth value prop because your customers aren't growing. So that that's the first thing I would think about. The second thing is, I think when companies like your buyers are under price pressure, one of the best things you can do is get really tight on your targeting. So instead of trying to just target everybody, you're looking for the part of the market that is still spending and you're targeting that. So the thing we were just talking about, like you were saying, nobody's spending any money. And I'm like, not true. Not true. Lots of parts of the economy are spending like crazy right now. And so is there a way to focus on those customers? that are still spending, still have budget, still have money. Like if you were to take your whole target customer base, can I segment them and say, well, these folks don't have any budget, but these folks do. These folks aren't growing, but these folks are. Is there a way to get more targeted on that and tighten up our positioning there? And then all of that means you get to do more with less, right? It means your marketing is going to work better because it's more targeted. It means your sales going to work better because it's more targeted. So when the economy gets tight, we don't have the luxury of just kind of spraying and praying and hoping our stuff lands. I think in times like this is when companies would really do themselves a favor by getting really tight on targeting companies that are most likely to buy. It's good discipline to have anytime, but it's usually about our life and death when the economy is really bad. Nobody's buying anything. It's like, you know, what you need to do is take a step back and say, well, who is buying? Who does have money? How can we just target them?
Andy Mewborn:Yeah. Yeah. And that's an interesting day, just because in my own kind of day to day, that's definitely, you know, the case you see, you're like, all right, well, my mind, like what I'm used to is selling to B2B SaaS companies, the snowflakes, the Twilio's, the this, the that, but really they have, what we've noticed is, and what a lot of people are noticing, they have tool fatigue, right? They're like, no, we don't need more tools. We're trying to get rid of stuff. And so based on that, I'm like, Hmm, Okay. Maybe we can like change our messaging a bit to be more of a consolidation play where we're not really a new tool, but we're coming in and displacing three or four that you may use. And so in that sense, we're actually saving you money.
April Dunford:That's a growth versus cost saving thing, right? Now you're cost saving. We're going to replace a whole bunch of things. You're going to save some costs. Yeah. That might be one way to do it. You could try it. Right. The other thing is like, why does it have to be, does it have to be B2B SaaS companies?
Andy Mewborn:Well, yeah, that too, right. I've kind of like noticed like, okay, well, they're, they're really tough to sell to right now. Who else can I sell to, you know?
April Dunford:And you want to test that, right. Cause the thing was built with B2B SaaS companies in mind. So, you know, going too far beyond that, you're probably in the realm of, nah, it's probably not going to work. But, um, but I would, I would be thinking about that. Like, you know what, you know what I'm hearing is. We're coming out of not just, you know, it's not just that the economy was really great and everybody was buying tools like crazy and all this stuff. What I'm hearing is that we're coming out of this big wave of all of the tool vendors really going hard on product led growth. And what I'm hearing from companies is that it got to the point where all the end users were slapping their credit card down for like everything. And now purchasing is popping their head up and going, what the heck? We've got to get some discipline in how we buy software in this company. And we can't have 500 users paying full price for a tool that if we had went and done an enterprise deal on this, we'd have got a big discount.
April Dunford:And so now that everybody's in cost cutting mode, what I'm hearing is there's this big pullback from allowing the end users to actually buy all this stuff. I went to a conference where there was a person from HR came in and the person from HR said, do you know what the number one role we're trying to fill in B2B tech companies right now is? And I said, what? And she says, purchasing. So I think we're going to see a little bit, you know, let's see how much, but a little bit of pushback from this, Hey, we'll just let it, let all the end users slap the credit card down for a thing. That's a couple of hundred bucks a year or whatever, um, that purchasing is now getting involved in saying, no, no, we actually want to negotiate an enterprise deal for this. Cause we're spending way too much money on all these individual little things.
April Dunford:Does that end up being a big trend? I don't know. But occasionally, you know, you'll hear something in the news about, you know, companies saying they're abandoning their PLG thing to go to a sales led motion. My suspicion is some of that is coming from this pushback you're getting in bigger customers that are like, we can't have our end users buying all this stuff because they're paying way too much money.
Andy Mewborn:Interesting. Interesting. And then I'm wondering also if that's because like, you get these end users, right? And like, you think like, oh, I've got five end users from Postman, let's just say, using my product, right? And maybe for other companies, you would take that at surface level of like, oh, this is high intent, or this is like, this means that there's a lot of excitement at this one company. you know to use our product and part of it too that I think is they might use these signals that were not like good signals maybe they were just noise right or the way they measured them was it just it distracted them right and it was like oh yeah we have these five users over here but then when you go under the surface and you start asking questions, you're like, okay, well, they're not based in our target market. They're a company that would, you know, some manager just randomly said, Hey, go down with this bunch of people tried. They're actually not a great user.
April Dunford:So maybe it creates distraction. Yeah. Yeah. That's important. And then it just kind of comes back to what I was saying earlier that, you know, if you're going to have this sales overlay, right. And to have this enterprise sales come in after and use the product adoption, but end users as a sales signal, it's generally not the only signal, right? It's generally a checklist of things. Like they got to fit in your good fit target segment. They generally have to tick a lot of other boxes. It can't just be, oh, we've got five users over here, therefore it's good. Usually it's, okay, it's got five users, but it's also gotta be this kind of company in this kind of space, maybe with this, three or four other things happening, and then we think it's good. For most of the companies I'm working with, like the list, the qualification checklist is actually pretty long and product adoption by end users is just one signal. It might be the signal that tells you, hey, have a look at this, but it's not the only signal typically.
Andy Mewborn:And I want to go back to this, like creating an enemy. question, right. Of like, right. Like, yeah, like going, I want to go into detail on that. And like, because there's one side of, of it's, it's, I would say it's binary. Some people are like, never talk bad about your competition. Right. Like that's kind of the way I was trained, like keep it classy, you know, um, like don't talk about the competition at all, like focus on yourself. And then there's this other side.
April Dunford:I think there's a big difference between talking bad about the competition and talking about the competition.
Andy Mewborn:That's a good, that's a fair point.
April Dunford:Right. So here's the way I like to think about it. Okay. Your buyer, right? So, so I'm a buyer. Your buyer does not just buy you in a vacuum, right? B2B generally doesn't work like that. Like they're going to look at a bunch of things and if they know you exist, for sure they know Seismic exists. For sure they know Highspot exists. So they're going to look at all three of you. right? And then make a decision about which one they're going to use. So you pretending that those other options don't exist, seems a little inauthentic to me, right? So if there's big companies in your space, like you might as well acknowledge the gorilla in the room. Now, does that mean you go out and you say, this size means a bunch of dummies.
April Dunford:No, obviously they're not.
April Dunford:They're a big company. They've raised a lot of money. They are obviously not a bad company. It is obviously not a bad product. Your point of view is that it isn't the right product for everybody. And so what you have to do is clearly articulate why they do not serve your best fit customers as well as you could. That's the key. So usually what you would do is you would come in, if they're a real gorilla in the market, you could name them, but you don't have to even name them. You could say, look, there are traditional, let's call them content management systems used for this purpose. And they work like this. And what we found is the problem, the downside with those things is this. So we've envisioned a different approach to the problem. And our approach to the problem is fundamentally different from the way they do it. We do it this way. And we think that is much better for companies that look like this. We're not saying they're stupid. We're just saying they're different. And what we're saying is we're better if you care about these things, or if you look like this, or if your situation is like this. And so we're saying they're great. They're amazing. They're the market leading thing. They're great, but not for this. They suck at this. In fact, not everybody cares about this. Not everybody. So usually like in my opinion, a good sales pitch does this because the customer is, they're talking to you, they're talking to seismic, they're talking to high spot and they can't figure out what the difference is. because none of you are talking about the competition. So all of you are saying, we're the greatest thing for this. Oh, we're the greatest thing for this. We're the greatest thing for this. And you're making the customer figure it out. And instead what you should do is do the job for the customer. Come in and say, Hey, we recognize that you have choices and there's a category of solutions and they all do it like this and we do it different. So either you care about this or you don't, if you don't care about this, you should pick them because they're better. But if you do care about this, then you can't pick them because they just don't do that. So I'm not saying they're dummies. I'm just saying they're different. And so why wouldn't I teach the customer that?
April Dunford:Yeah. It's literally what the customer's trying to do in a sales situation. They're trying to figure out why you over the other guys. And we typically refuse to answer the question, which is bonkers to me. Like, why wouldn't we answer the question? That's the question they want answered. And instead we're like, ooh, there's only us.
Andy Mewborn:I've also experienced that, like what happens in that is you do position yourself like, you know, outreach and sales loft, right. Two, two companies, same space. You probably heard of both. And quite honestly, the features were like pretty much it was featured like the same, you know, there was just nuances per se, right. In terms of the product, like nuanced is that we're actually very important.
April Dunford:Well, that's it. Like if the nuance is important, then it's important. Like I wouldn't sell the nuance short.
Andy Mewborn:Yeah. Yeah. And then, well, here's what would happen, right? Is we would go in and again, honestly, I think competition's great, right? I think it fueled a lot of the growth of both those companies. But when we look at it, what would happen is, and I'm sure we did this on the outrage side too, but you say, Oh, Hey, we have this nuance thing. Let me explain it to you. And then you explain it to them. And then what does the buyer do? The buyer goes to the competitor and they go, Oh yeah, what's your response to that? And then they go, Oh, well we can do it too. Let me, let me do this and we can do it too. Right. And then you get into it and then it's just like tick for tack. But is it true? Most of the time. From our perspective, from my anecdotal perspective, I'm sure other people would have said differently, right? But from our perspective, we try to go, that was like what we said, we were like, if we don't have something, say we don't have it, right? But we would push the nuance stuff. It wasn't true from the competitor's side, right? Like, but they would do it because they'd like, we got to get the deal against them. Right.
April Dunford:And then I think you're doing the wrong thing. So like, like, I think what you got to do is, is find out what your differentiated value is and focus in that. But it can't be a lie, because if it's a lie, the other guys are going to call you on it. Like, Yeah. And who looks bad in that situation? You look bad, not the other guys. Now all of a sudden the other guys are the trusted vendor telling you the straight poop and you're the liar.
Andy Mewborn:Well, it was in our favor. Yeah. Right. Sometimes because we told the truth and yeah.
April Dunford:So you have to be super truthful on this thing. Now, if you have a competitor that stretches the truth and you say, look, they fundamentally can't do this thing. And then the customer goes over and says, Hey, they said you couldn't do this thing. And then what? We absolutely do the thing. Oh, it's really complicated. But we do the thing. Then you have to teach the customer that too. Like you have to teach the customer that too. You have to say, look, like they do it, but they do it in this way. And so if you go ask them, they're going to say they do it, but ask them how long it takes. Ask them how many people it takes. Ask them how much more it's going to cost.
Andy Mewborn:Get specific, right?
April Dunford:Right. You've got to get really specific. You've got to think about what you're actually doing is teaching the customer. You're not selling them, you're teaching them. And so you're going in and you're saying, look, there's lots of ways to solve this problem. We have a fundamentally different way of looking at it. Therefore, we do it like this. Now, can you do it with the other thing? Yeah, you can. Giant pain, expensive, time consuming, whatever. Yes. You go over and ask them, but then dig on it. Say how? They're going to say, yeah, we can do it. Then say how? How many days? How many people? How much time? How much effort? How much extra does that cost me? Oh, that's an add on thing. Oh, right. So so I got to teach the customer that otherwise I look stupid. So if you're going to make a claim of differentiated value, it has to be true. And I have to teach the customer enough that I, I can't leave myself open to the competitor going, Nope, Nope. That's a lie. Nope. What they said, not true. Nope. That's a lie. I got to teach them enough for them to be able to, you know, what we should be doing is competing on our point of view of the market. Right. Your point of view on the market is that it is, it is fundamentally better to have the customer opt in at the time that they are looking at the content than it is to have a rep follow up. And so you should be able to articulate what the value of that is. and say, it's better. And then the customers say, better why? Better how? Am I going to make more money? I'm going to get more leads, higher quality leads, better how? And so you need to be able to articulate that bid. And then it's up to the other guys to respond to that. And they might say, well, yeah, we could actually have a little form in there, a little thing that does something. I don't know if that's true with any of these guys, but if it is true, then you need to teach the customer. Yeah, but it's not out of the box. It's a custom thing. It's an add on thing. It costs services, whatever you think.
Andy Mewborn:And for like, I think something interesting, we just raised some money recently, right? Which is awesome. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. And so, you know, the big question that we would have when talking to a bunch of investors when you're raising, cause we've got some traction and all that is, is like, hey, how do you think about defensibility? Right? And I was very honest with them. And what I would say is like, look, as it comes to like building software, I don't think you can be defensible in terms of the tech much anymore. Right? Like that is, Some, yeah, sometimes you can't sure if you're building new battery technology, like Tesla, or like, you know, doing doing one of these big things, sure. But when it comes to like a software platform or tool, like patents, patents are a thing.
April Dunford:Yeah, patents are a thing. The defensibility is more in the point of view. It's not that they couldn't do it. It's that they won't do it. Because it usually the defensibility is that it's not that they couldn't build the thing is they won't build the thing because it undermines their core business.
Andy Mewborn:Yeah. Yeah. That's what I'll say. Why can't outreach just go and build this? You know, and I, because they won't, I know the road. I just know.
April Dunford:Yeah. Well, so in that, in that case, if you're, if you're, you know, if they could build it and there's no reason for them not to build it. And especially if you become successful, like there's no downside to them building it. There's no threat to any other part of their business. If they build it, it doesn't. you know, then, then, then yeah, it's not defensible. And you need to think about where else your moat can be on your roadmap, right? Like, so while they're building that, what are you building that? But most of the time, what we've got is like, So I'll give you two examples. So one is I worked for a company and we did have a defensible thing because the underlying data structure was different. And our big, big competitor wasn't going to do a rewrite of their whole code to change the data structure. So we didn't have a patent on the thing. And it wasn't that they couldn't build it. They just wouldn't. It would be way too much effort and they'd have to throw out everything they already had. So there's no way they were going to copy us. Like there's no way. And there was no way to build it on top. So we had technology that was different and we weren't special. We just, you know, their stuff was older and it was built a long time ago. Our stuff was newer and it was built now. There's no way they're going to throw the whole thing out and start from scratch. And that's literally what they'd have to do to copy the thing that we had. Defensible. Here's another one. So when I was working in the database business, I was at IBM and we were competing with Oracle. And our whole thing was openness, open standards, adherence to open standards. And part of the reason why we cared about that is we didn't sell applications. We only sold middleware, the middleware vendor. Oracle sells the whole stack. And in fact, they make most of their money on applications. And the middleware just comes with it. So if I'm in a database fight with Oracle, this is back then, I don't know how they sell it now, but back when I was selling against them, if we're in a database fight with Oracle, could they have made their database and better API and adhere to all the standards and be just as open as ours? Yeah, that's not a problem for them to build that. Do they want to? No, because they want you to buy the whole thing. That's the whole point. It'll all be open. So we could run hard at this openness thing and it was just a philosophy difference. We were like, look, databases should be open. You should be able to swap things in and out. Anything that hooks into the database, you should, you know, for, and we were like calling a platform for innovation. We take the stuff in, take the stuff out, whatever. It doesn't matter. Things change. Data stays the same. Right. They're on the other side and saying, oh no, you want to buy everything together because then you save all the costs of doing integration. It's much faster to deploy. So they had different value that they were focused on. And so we were focused on customers that cared a lot about this openness and innovation. They were focused on customers that cared a lot about cost saving. Different customers, different value propositions. So it was totally defensible, right? It was totally defensible. They were just fundamentally never going to follow us down this open path. It was too threatening to their core business.
Andy Mewborn:Yeah. And so it's almost looking at like the philosophies of other competitors as well, right?
April Dunford:Exactly. It's the point of view on the market. So if, if your competitor comes in and says their whole point of view is maximize the number of MQLs, they're not going to copy your thing. And I'm making this shit up because I don't know anything about any of these companies. But that's the thing you need to look at, right, is typically what you've got is the company has a point of view on what good is in the market and what the point of their tool is. And if your thing comes in and is it cross purposes to that, you can beat them assuming there's a customer that cares a lot about what that value is that you're going to unlock by doing it that way. And a lot of times you'll come in and do that and they can't follow you. Like it's not that they can't build it, they could build it, but they're just not gonna because it's threatening to other parts of their business. The story doesn't make any sense anymore.
Andy Mewborn:Yeah. Yeah. They just won't. And the other thing that I was thinking there is like another kind of answer that I would provide was like, I do think it comes down to brand and positioning as well. Like, and then I gave the example and, and maybe that's, that's a little bit weak.
April Dunford:They got way more money than you, man. They can out brand you every day.
SPEAKER_02:Yeah, that's true.
April Dunford:Positioning is different, right? Positioning, again, they've got their own positioning and they might not want to mess with that to chase you somewhere. So that matters, right? Again, positioning is the difference between my IBM versus Oracle example. That is positioning. That's not branding. That is positioning, right? We're open, you're not. They're like, here's the value of not being open. We're like, here's the value of being open. That's just positioning. We both have great brands.
Andy Mewborn:Yeah, it's your identity, almost your identity. Well, I don't want to say identity. It gets a little mixed up there, but like your belief system, that's what or your philosophy.
April Dunford:Again, going back to your point of view on the market. Yeah, I think your point of view on the market, like what is your like, like what is your opinion on what good looks like for a customer? And usually your opinion of what good looks like for a customer changes depending on the customer you're focused on. So if I take the IBM Oracle example, our point of view on what good looks like for a customer is, is this openness thing, because our customers are intensely concerned with innovation and they don't want lock-in at any level. So they don't mind paying some extra to do the integration work, to get it all play nice together because they're not locked in. And when they want to swap something out, they can swap it out. And so we were focused on the biggest of the big, like giant, giant, giant companies, giant companies. Oracle, now they're focused at a level below that. And those folks don't care as much about innovation as they do about their budget. And they're more worried about, can I get it fast? Can I get it cheap? And so we're focused on different customers because our value propositions resonated with different customers. So my suspicion is that you're going to come along with your thing and there's a certain kind of customer that is really in line with that. That says, Oh yeah, we, we absolutely need that value. That's actually a game changer for our business. And if you could figure out that little part of the market, then you can establish yourself there. And then you're going to worry how you're going to expand out from there and then challenge these bigger guys later.
Andy Mewborn:And what's your take on last question here before, before we have to head out April's like, um, I think a masterclass in positioning and branding and all this stuff in like a point of view, right. Per se on the market is liquid death. Right. And have you seen that company liquid death?
April Dunford:Oh, yes. Most of it. In fact, most of what we think we know about marketing only applies to marketing consumer products. And even more specifically, not just consumer products, but a product that is what I would call an unconsidered purchase. So an unconsidered purchase is like buying a pack of gum, right? I walk into the store, there's only three kinds of gums there. Maybe I picked the one that I've heard of before. I picked the one that looks cool or whatever, you know, and, and there's no stakes. If I pick the wrong thing, no big deal. I just won't buy that one again. Right? So you can do things with um, packaging and brand image and, and things in an unconsidered consumer purchase that you could never get away with selling a database.
April Dunford:Now, selling a database is a totally different thing. Why is it different? Well, it's different because this is now a group decision. It's not one person decides to buy a database or an accounting system, or maybe even your thing. It's a group of people. You gotta go, somebody is the champion. And that champion has to make that deal happen by going to IT and make sure it's okay with IT, and going to the end users, make sure it's okay with users, and going to legal, and going to purchasing, and then justifying it to their boss. So they can't just go to their boss and say, I picked it because it was funny. I picked it because I like skulls. It just makes me look cool. Give me a hundred thousand dollars.
April Dunford:No, that's not how we buy databases.
April Dunford:So, so there are stakes. If I make a bad choice, bad things happen. I look stupid to my boss and users hate my guts. IT thinks I'm stupid. Legal doesn't let me buy anything again because I messed it up this time. Like bad things happen if I make a bad choice. 40 to 60% of the time in B2B purchases, a purchase process ends in no decision. And it ends in no decision because the customer is so worried about getting in trouble for making the wrong choice. They just kick the can down the road and say, forget it. We'll do it next year.
Andy Mewborn:We'll figure it out next year.
April Dunford:This is completely different than liquid death, right? Liquid death is a whole different thing. One person making a decision with a couple of bucks, nothing's on the line. If I don't like it, it's like buying a Beanie Baby, man. It's a fad. Two years from now, there'll be some other thing that we're buying because that's cool. Consumer is totally different. Right? Like, consumer's totally different. I don't have to justify to my boss or my spouse or anybody else or my lawyer. I just go buy it because it makes me feel cool. That's the other thing. There's all this value that you can get away with in consumer. I buy the thing because it makes me look cool. I buy the thing because it just makes me happy. I buy the thing because I like the color green, man, and I just think it looks good on me. Like, there's all kinds of reasons. I buy it because I think I'm going to get a date. B to B, I got to go justify it to my boss. So first of all, the emotions you're tapping in there, the big emotion is fear, fear looking stupid, fear making the wrong choice. I'm almost never tapping into fear and consumer stuff. You would sell nothing. Like maybe insurance. I don't know. But even that, that's a considered purchase. So it's more like B2B. But so, you know, and I, so I got to do all this justification. There's stakes in the game. And so people come to me and they're like, why can't we just do things like liquid death? And it's like,
April Dunford:sold any software ever.
April Dunford:There is nothing we can learn from liquid death. So anyway, so that, that sort of thing drives me a little bit crazy. And I think people come with this idea that, you know, we should be, we should do more fun stuff in B2B marketing. We should be more creative. I absolutely agree with that. We should be more creative. But at the end of the day, we cannot deny the reality of how hard it is to make a purchase happen in a B2B situation. And so our job in sales is to help that person confidently make a decision. And so we can be all creative and whatever, have the brand do whatever we wanted to do. But at the end of the day, they're not going to be able to go to their boss and say, oh, I just like this one because it's just, you know, it's just cool. They're going to have to make, even if that is the reason they're buying it, they still going to have to come up with better reasons than that when they go talk to their boss. So you're still going to have to give them the words that are going to come out of their mouth when they go to the boss and they go to legal and they go to IT and they go to end users and everybody else has all got to get an agreement for this deal to happen.
Andy Mewborn:Yeah. Yeah. Well, the thinking I was, so you were spot on. We're early, right? We can do what we want. We don't have a committee for anything. And we are trying to appeal to more of the masses right now to get some light of those PLG users in getting us feedback as we start this. So the way I thought about it was, well, how do we, how do we become more memorable in that sense? Right? How do we, how do we, and people are like, this is cool. The individual is like, Hey, I liked it just because I liked your brand. Right? And you're like, okay, great. But definitely what I think I hear you is if I'm selling to a Google, they're, they're, they're not going to look at that and be like, Oh yeah, we're going to do that.
April Dunford:For the PLG thing, maybe, but when you, but you don't make money off this, you make money coming in over the top and selling to this other person. And they're going to be like, Yeah. Yeah. Whatever. That's nice. It's cool. But why am I giving you my 50 grand?
Andy Mewborn:Yeah. Yep. And I hear it. So it's like almost when you go up market is when things kind of change a little bit too. Right. When you're kind of going up into these.
April Dunford:When there's money, like what you're doing right now is free. True. True. True. There's no stakes. Right. There's no stakes.
Andy Mewborn:Yeah, yeah. Well, this was a good ending here, April.
SPEAKER_02:I'm going to have to say, well, good for me because now I'm questioning, hmm, should I be doing this like strategy that I'm doing here?
April Dunford:I'm sure it's fine, but you know, but again, it doesn't get you around this idea of value. You're like, you're not going to be able to get away with just cool. You got to be cool plus something else.
Andy Mewborn:Cool plus a good product is what I've always, you know, kind of thought like.
April Dunford:Cool plus a good product count. Define good, right? Again, what's the value? What's the value? Pick me over the other guys because of this, right? We're going to increase revenue. Here's how we're going to do it. We're going to decrease costs. Here's how we're going to do it. Whatever the answer to that thing is, that's the piece you need to figure out.