At the start of his career, Yoni Argaman was an eager young lawyer helping companies IPO and thinking, “Wow, I’d like to be on the other side of the fence.” He loved the complexity, speed, and pressure. So he switched, and it’s led to him running marketing at Salto, a startup tackling four markets at once.
Yoni’s story, philosophy, and strategy are all so interesting we had to sit down with him to ask, “How does one tackle four markets with limited resources, and still beat your goal?” And while his advice seems specific, we’d encourage you to think of how broadly applicable it actually is—we would all do well to think harder about how we can rely on subject-specific experts.
Yoni: At Salto, we spend a lot of time thinking about message-market fit and channel-market fit. Everything we do falls under one or the other—story or distribution. So, we spend a lot of time asking, which stories should we be telling, and to whom?
Salto is a bit unique in that we have one product with adaptors for seven systems, and four primary ones that we’ve taken to market—Salesforce, NetSuite, Jira, and Zendesk. At a regular startup, you might have one product that solves one pain point, and then expand. But we’re effectively solving four similar problems for four primary groups of people. And those groups often have overlap at the executive level, they don’t always.
Early on, we put our heads together and came up with an overall mission and category story that encompassed it all. It really resonated with those executives, investors, and analysts, who had a complete view of how the four systems are interconnected. But with time, we realized it wasn’t translating directly into business.
Yoni: Well, the head of business systems who liked that story would then introduce us to their Salesforce lead or NetSuite developer or Zendesk operator, and those individuals weren’t necessarily interested in the unification story. They wanted Salesforce, NetSuite, Jira, or Zendesk-specific stories. The philosophy was there, but we came to understand that application-specific people needed application-specific narratives.
Once we started telling those adapter-specific stories, we started to win their attention and then, their business. But then the challenge became, how do we generate this attention consistently for each category? Especially given that we were communicating with highly technical individuals who were deep specialists in their specific applications.
We came to understand that application-specific people needed application-specific narratives.
Yoni: The answer was we needed a way to develop deep enough expertise in each of those areas to really add value. Mind you, each ecosystem is very different. They each have their own language, thought frameworks, pain points, and competitive landscape. In some, we have direct competitors, and in others, we don’t. In one market, they call a software deployment an “instance,” whereas in another, it’s an “org.” If you mix those up, your reader will be confused and they may not take you seriously. That makes it difficult to write for everyone.
So, we analyzed each landscape and looked for the communities where experts were discussing the problems we solve. And by observing, we identified the experts in each community who commanded respect. Often, we found we could enlist them to write super specific content for that audience. That led us to the conclusion that our approach to all four markets would have to be very different—even though, again, it’s all one product.
With one application, the market is highly competitive, so we led with the free version of our product. That lets us go into communities and answer questions without selling. Whereas in other markets, we’ve selected an ABM approach because while the addressable market is worthwhile, there are relatively fewer people than in other markets.
Leading with our free tier lets us go into communities and answer questions without selling.
For one application, our team met an expert with 12+ years of experience in this field who’d built a free product for one of the use cases that we cover, and we hired him. He understood the problem better than anyone, and he turned out to be a rare type of expert who can both understand and evangelize. He quickly produced a dozen articles and videos that were precisely what his community needed to hear.
Now, we’re approaching each market with a pod of experts—a Salto engineer, product manager, and product marketer, plus at least one community expert. They package our narrative so it’s relevant to that audience. So if we launch a feature that allows you to discover broken rules, we go to market with a very specific message for each administrator which uses examples of rules they encounter.
Yoni: So far, the approach of treating each market differently seems very promising. Rather than try to create the same set of materials across all four markets, and duplicate lots of work, we’re letting that market tell us what it needs. That’s the only way to create true value-adding, attention-grabbing content with the team we have.
And when we launched our free product in just specific markets, we were really surprised by the success—all of a sudden, we were several quarters ahead of our goal.
I think it all comes back to spending a tremendous amount of time thinking about market-message and channel-market fit. What stories are we telling, to whom? And then letting each market tell us the answer.
Want more advice from Yoni? Follow him on LinkedIn.
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