Achieving a $4.5B Valuation Through Product-Led Growth

In this week’s episode of the Demand Gen Visionaries podcast, we’re joined by Marie Gassée, VP of Growth at Confluent.

Achieving a $4.5B Valuation Through Product-Led Growth
Corinne Pearce
Corinne Pearce
February 25, 2021
min read
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Apple Podcast LinkGoogle Podcast LinkSpotify Podcast Link

This episode features an interview with Marie Gassée, VP of Growth at Confluent, the enterprise event streaming platform provider that garnered a $4.5B valuation last year. 

Prior to Confluent, Marie served as Senior Director and General Manager of the Online Sales Business Unit at Box, and she holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

On this episode, Marie discusses the heavily data-driven nature of her role, the product-led growth model that she embraces to maximize revenue and ROI, and the leadership philosophies she uses to trust and empower her teams.

Tune in to the episode to hear Marie reveal her demand gen strategies, including:

  • Data data data. If you’re a data-driven organization, partner closely with your analytics folks or your data science team, and you can also see additional benefit from hiring marketers with a level of analytics proficiency.
  • SEO and SEM can be some of the lowest hanging fruit and some of the highest leverage tactics in your arsenal. Even small changes can make a meaningful impact on your business.
  • Hire great people that you trust, then open the purse strings and advocate for them 

Want to skip ahead to the highlights? Check out these can’t-miss moments:

Episode Highlights

(2:10) Marie’s Path to Confluent

  • First marketing role was at Cisco, working towards SMB
  • She was always the one asking “why” relentlessly 
  • Now she is VP of Growth at Confluent
  • Confluent is company based on an open source technology called Kafka, and they provide a new category of computing called event streaming
  • Customers get instant access to massive amounts of data in real time

(4:32) Her Demand Gen Strategy

  • Marie focused on an inbound go-to-market model, capturing and converting demand
  • She favors product-led growth - getting prospects into the product early, showing value and onboarding from there
  • Favorite tactics are website optimization and SEO - she focuses on the numbers
  • Her org structure today has three teams - digital growth, email nurture and lifecycle
  • Target personas are divided into two groups: the practitioners (developers, architects and operators who are using the product) and the technical executive persona, who buys and makes the decision
  • Their target audience is so broad, most companies can use their product, so that’s why she gravitates more towards inbound momentum

(9:28) Reaching New Customers 

  • She focuses on the part of their addressable market that already knows what Kafka is
  • They work hard at being the go-to source for anything Kafka
  • From a sales perspective, they focus on getting engaged champions in target customer organizations
  • On the marketing side, they focus on acquiring and onboarding users into the product
  • So if she does her job well, she has a bunch of small user teams active in the product, getting value but not spending much money, and then hands them off to sales to see how they can develop that relationship

(13:55) Marie’s Uncuttable Budget Items

  • Her first: measurement and data analytics tracking to track the whole demand gen motion
  • Her second: SEO and web optimization, to get fruitful organic traffic
  • Her third: SEM and paid social

(15:29) Building a Data-driven Growth Org

  • She does everything in her power to unblock their data scientists, give them budget, to help them hire, to give them head count
  • She expects a good level of analytics proficiency for everyone on her team - they should be able to answer questions about content performance and persona conversion
  • Data science team helps them understand more in-depth how to score leads and build their infrastructure
  • It’s critical to have platforms that share clear data about who is visiting the site so you can segment them or personalize their experience
  • Small tactical changes to optimize SEO on back end of the website can have a big impact on organic, high quality traffic
  • Data team runs correlations to assess website behavior and how it affects conversion
  • Website experiences are becoming more helpful, less sales-y

(27:17) Items Not in Her Demand Gen Budget

  • Paid content syndication
  • Trade shows - she hasn’t seen the ROI there
  • Not a fan of direct mail - except for in very high touch, personalized outreach

(30:17) Her Favorite Recent Campaign

  • They’ve seen success recently with LinkedIn ads, she likes their persona targeting ability
  • She’s been able to generate a bunch more revenue from A/B testing their pricing page; adjusting design, experience, content

(36:52) Marie’s Quick Hits

  • She is a rider and her current favorite horse to ride is Anton, in Petaluma
  • If she wasn’t in marketing, she’d work in analytics, or as a veterinarian
  • Favorite pandemic TV shows have been West Wing and Schitt’s Creek

(39:15) Advice to other VPs of Growth and Demand Gen Leads

  • Recognize your team members’ achievements and hard work
  • Make sure to provide people with clarity and prioritization
  • She thinks an effective demand gen leader should be thinking about how their employees are doing, and that while it’s not a number to track, it’s important to have people that feel fulfilled and respected in their jobs

Episode Quotes

“I'm really into the product led growth model...we focus on acquiring folks into the product, getting them onboarded, getting them active…Really trying to view it as kind of a pipeline mechanism. If I do my job well, I have a bunch of small teams active in the product, not spending a ton of money, but getting value from the product. And then we focus on handing that off to sales in a thoughtful way where they can add value and they can think about having a longer term relationship with Confluent.”
“The way I approach things is really to build a super strong partnership with our analytics folks, and then do everything in my power to unblock them--to give them budget, to help them hire, to give them head count…Ultimately I'm just going to sign the check for whatever my team says is good. That's my mentality: hire great people that you trust, and then if they say they need something, my job is to open the purse strings and advocate.”
“I think a lot of marketers maybe aren't as close to their data scientists or their analytics partners. For me, the quantitative part of marketing is what my job is, and so we certainly can't do that without our data science counterparts. The other thing I'll say is just a level of analytics proficiency for everyone on my team. That's another way to partner really well, is just making sure we hire folks who can self-serve a lot of their data...who value our data scientists and who love partnering with them. That's a big part of how we structure our team.”
“On the web optimization side, I enjoy it because it's like a puzzle…It's such a fun tactic, but also crazy impactful. You can make changes to your CTA or to the look and feel of a page and have meaningful downstream impact on your business. Not just in B2C, very much in B2B as well...You can do an AB test and meaningfully change the direction of your company. That's so insane and should be fully exploited.”
“Something I've reflected a lot about, in terms of hopefully being an effective demand gen leader, is just the people side of things. That's the stuff that keeps me up at night--how I feel about work, how my employees feel about their work, are they fulfilled? Are they respected? It may not be a number or a metric we're tracking, but in the last year, that's certainly what has felt the most impactful to our business metrics is do people feel good in their jobs.”

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