About two weeks ago I spoke at SaaStr Annual 2021, giving a presentation entitled A CEO’s Guide to Marketing, which discusses why marketing is sometimes seen as a dark art and then discusses 5 things that every CEO (and startup exec) should know about marketing in order to work best with the marketing team.
The slides from that session are here. Below please find a video captured as part of the Stage A stream. I start presenting at 8:01 and go for 30 mins.
Thanks again to Jason Lemkin and the team at SaaStr for having me as a speaker at this year’s outdoor, live and hybrid online SaaStr Annual 2021 event at the San Mateo Convention Center. I know the team went to great lengths (and great expense) to enable people both to connect live at an event and make it safe, with both a vaccination card and an onsite Covid test required to gain admission.
In this post, I’ll share the slides from my presentation, A CEO’s Guide to Marketing, which was designed to help startup founders, CEOs, and C-level executives have a little less angst when it comes to marketing in general and the marketing update at quarterly business reviews (QBRs). I present five things every C-level executive should know about marketing driven by two underlying themes: (1) use market research to complement the abundant data you have in your internal systems, and (2) keep it simple to avoid being sucked into a vortex of detail and numbers that can leave everyone dazed and confused.
I’ve embedded the slides below. Don’t miss the appendix with five slides worth of links to resources providing additional information! Once SaaStr publishes a video of the talk, I’ll embed that in a future post as well.
SaaStr is my favorite conference and I’ll be speaking there again this year on Monday, Sept 27th at 1:00 PM Pacific with a session titled A CEO’s Guide to Marketing. I will be doing the speech live, I’m not sure if they’re live broadcasting or not, but they will certainly record it and make it available as they have done in years past.
I chose this session title because I find that in my work with founders and C-level startup executives that people are, well, just not entirely comfortable with marketing. I spend an increasing amount of time explaining the basics of marketing to founders and startup execs, because most of them don’t come from marketing backgrounds and too many marketing leaders either deliberately hide behind marketing complexity or are just plain not good at explaining marketing.
Either way the result is the same, and e-teams often hearken back to the old WC Fields quote when thinking about their marketing:
“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.”
In this fast-paced session, I’ll:
Explain how product founders are often surprised to find themselves running distribution business.
Tell you the scariest thing a CEO can and does hear in every quarterly business review (QBR)
Discuss the reasons why marketing is confusing and misunderstood
Present the 5 things every CEO and startup exec should know about marketing
Provide concrete actions I think companies should consider taking
Include “pro tips” on managing funnels and thinking about models
Share my “magic secret” of marketing messaging
Discuss CMO hiring and pillar profiles
Provide 3 pages of links to resources and 5 recommended marketing books in the appendix
I look forward to seeing you there! Here’s the session link.
For a taste of my presentation style and/or to dive into my previous content, here are links to my prior SaaStr presentations:
Please join us tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM Pacific for the (final in this form — see below) SaaS Product Power Breakfast with Skilljar cofounder and CEO, Sandi Lin, discussing why product managers make great founders and the potential pitfalls they should look out for along the way.
Skilljar, founded in Seattle in 2013, is a fully distributed, ~150-person company that provides a customer education platform to over 400 customers that’s raised $50M+ in venture capital from top investors including Techstars Seattle, Trilogy, Mayfield, Shasta, and Insight Partners.
Sandi is well, a dynamo, with an impressive academic background (two engineering degrees from MIT and a Stanford MBA) matched by equally impressive work experience (~4 years in consulting followed by ~4 years at Amazon in product management followed by co-founding and leading Skilljar). Our prep call was a whirlwind; it should be a great episode.
Among others, we’ll address these five questions with Sandi:
Why do product managers make great founders?
How has your product planning process evolved from founder to startup to scaleup stages?
As CEO with a product background, how do you interact with your product team now? Has it been challenging to pull back?
You used to work at Amazon. What are key similarities and differences in product management from a large company to a startup?
What have you found as your blind spots as a former Product Manager?
The End of This Format; The Start of a New One
I should note that this will be our last episode in this current form. While we are pleased with the success of the podcast version of the SaaS Product Power Breakfast, the live rooms have several drawbacks we’d like to address:
The platform. While we started the series on Clubhouse as a deliberate way to participate in the evolution of a new app, I believe the platform has technical limitations for what we’re doing and, moreover, is in general trouble. We’d like to try something else.
The name. While Thomas is in Germany and I am in Silicon Valley, we nevertheless decided to call the series a “power breakfast.” That instantly posed timezone challenges for the live events (e.g., Thomas has a “power breakfast” over a beer at 5:00 pm) and didn’t translate well into the podcast. Moreover, we have strong international audience that should only grow with the recent announcement that I’m joining Balderton Capital as an EIR. So the name was a fail and that’s on me. We need a new one.
The timing. I’m not sure how to fix this one, but 8:00 AM Pacific isn’t a great time for a live event. The West Coast is just starting work, the East Coast in their last meetings before lunch, the UK is getting ready for a pint, and continental Europe finishing up before heading home for dinner. With Thomas and I separated by 9 time zones, maybe the best answer is no live event at all. Just a podcast. We’re deliberating.
The duration. While an hour is a relatively short Clubhouse room, it’s a relatively long podcast. We should take a lesson from Harry Stebbings of The 20 Minute VC and work towards a shorter format. Who knows, maybe it will be The 21 Minute Product Leader. (Think: ours goes up to 11)
To those who’ve attended the live rooms and/or listened to the podcast, we thank you. Thomas and I will be back in several weeks with a new name, a new platform, and a new format.
I’m Dave Kellogg, advisor, director, consultant, angel investor, and blogger focused on enterprise software startups. I am an executive-in-residence (EIR) at Balderton Capital and principal of my own eponymous consulting business.
I bring an uncommon perspective to startup challenges having 10 years’ experience at each of the CEO, CMO, and independent director levels across 10+ companies ranging in size from zero to over $1B in revenues.
From 2012 to 2018, I was CEO of cloud EPM vendor Host Analytics, where we quintupled ARR while halving customer acquisition costs in a competitive market, ultimately selling the company in a private equity transaction.
Previously, I was SVP/GM of the $500M Service Cloud business at Salesforce; CEO of NoSQL database provider MarkLogic, which we grew from zero to $80M over 6 years; and CMO at Business Objects for nearly a decade as we grew from $30M to over $1B in revenues. I started my career in technical and product marketing positions at Ingres and Versant.
I love disruption, startups, and Silicon Valley and have had the pleasure of working in varied capacities with companies including Bluecore, Cyral, FloQast, GainSight, MongoDB, Recorded Future, and Tableau.
I previously sat on the boards of Granular (agtech, acquired by DuPont), Aster Data (big data, acquired by Teradata), and Nuxeo (content services, acquired by Hyland), and Profisee (MDM, exited to Pamlico).
I periodically speak to strategy and entrepreneurship classes at the Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley) and Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris (HEC).