An interview with Gong’s Udi Ledergor

This is the seventh in a series we’re running about the new B2B GTM playbook. You can find the other blogs in the series here.

This is an interview with Udi Ledergor about the real goal of content marketing and the 95-5 rule.

GONG. That’s the sound of a successful sale. 

Or, as our guest today calls it, the sound of winning

Udi Ledergor is the Chief Evangelist at Gong, an AI-powered revenue intelligence platform built for sales teams. 

The company practically invented the RevOps category as we know it today. And it did it with a fistful of mojo.  

Just take a look at their 30-second spot at the Super Bowl in 2022: 

Gong Super Bowl Commercial 2022 

Fun, visceral, LOUD.

So, I caught up with Udi the other day to get his view on where Brand — with a capital B — stands today. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing my thoughts on:

1: The modern B2B marketing malaise and what marketers like you can do about it 

2: The emergence of a new B2B marketing playbook 

3: Why strategy and data must work together to drive pipeline 

4: Why most tech firms’ organic SEO performance – despite lots of effort and investment – is plummeting 

5: The chasm between Marketing/Sales 

6: Interview with Jon Miller: Why the old B2B marketing playbook is now outdated (and the way forward)

And in this blog, Udi helps us explore how the B2B marketing playbook is changing and helps us understand how Marketing can be a better teammate to Sales.

Udi, we’ve been making the case that the inbound-driven era of Go-to-Market is morphing. How is the face of B2B marketing changing?

Companies used to think it was enough to build a great product — founders had a “Build it and they will come” mentality. This approach failed to grapple with just how hard the go-to-market challenge is.

In recent years, investors, VCs, and private equity are making it clear to founders that GTM matters as much as your cool product idea — because at least as many companies fail on go-to-market as they do product.

In fact, it’s not always the best product that wins anymore — a mediocre product with a great GTM plan can beat a better product with lackluster GTM. 

Right, just as Microsoft has demonstrably proven over the last three to four decades — you can win markets with a product that’s not necessarily the best, providing you have great GTM. 

If you have the distribution channels, united marketing and sales organizations and effective partnerships, you can take a sizable share of the market. Of course, the real magic is when you excel at both. There’s a great quote by my CEO Amit Bendov.

He said, “We built a product so good that a mediocre go-to-market team could sell and we built a go-to-market team so great that it could push a mediocre product. If you build them both, the sky’s the limit.”

What other shifts are you sensing?

The second shift is the move from the old thinking of everyone copy the best practices of successful large enterprises — budding startups need different moves from the biggest companies on the planet.

When younger companies try to mimic the authority and thought leadership of large incumbents, it can sound stuffy, condescending, and unearned — they end up talking at their audience instead of with them.

And I think part of that stems from misattributing how those companies got to be as successful as they are.

The multibillion dollar conglomerates they admire didn’t start with the stuffy, corporate press releases that their legal departments comb through, diluting any fun or life out of it.

They got started by doing something fresh and exciting that really connected with their audience. That’s how you earn authority — doing an impression of that without building your credibility first is going to have the opposite effect. 

Talking with your audience is something you talk about a lot. You’ve described creating super fans in some interviews. That feels like audience building or community building. Can you talk a little bit about that?

I developed my thinking around this based on the famous 95-5 rule — only 5% of any given market is actively looking to buy at any one time (the other 95% aren’t looking to buy right now). 

(We’ve explored the 95-5 rule more here).

So, you start to ask: 

  • Why is most of our marketing sales related?
  • Why do we only talk about our product, case studies, benefits and differentiators if only 5% of our market is looking to buy right now? 
  • Why are we ignoring the 95% that might be in the market in a year from now? 
  • Why are we pushing them to unsubscribe and unfollow us right now by badgering them with our incessant (and irrelevant) sales offers?

And so that leads us to the big question: How do we treat the 95%? (And how do we ensure our marketing is as efficient as possible in the process?) 

Because now we need to cater to almost 100% of buyers out there — not just the 5%.

And the way to do that is with brand building — impactful experiences that create memory links between your company and the thing 95% of your audience might need to buy one day (but probably won’t think about until then).

‘Memory links’ is a great visual for long-term brand building. How do memory links build communities? 

Let’s say I’m selling home storage solutions. People buy those once every few years.

I send my audience tips every week about how to organize their kitchen cabinets during the Spring cleaning season and give them a list of energy-saving home solutions and then occasionally throw in a sales offer every 6-12 months. When that person finally gets fed up with how untidy their home is, they’re gonna think about my brand. 

I’ve been providing them with all this valuable content, creating those memory links that are activated at the right moment when they need that.

Whereas all my competitors have been doing is trying to sell to them, incessantly sending them sales offers they’re not ready to use yet. The customer has probably tuned out from those a long time ago and that memory link fades and disappears because they’re just not getting any value from that brand.

And that is really the whole idea behind creating a community.

How do you put those principles to practice when you’re marketing complex technologies with AI and machine learning? How do you make sure your content is valuable?

The bar has definitely gotten higher. There are three principles to make great content that audiences actually want to engage with. 

  1. It’s hyper relevant

These are not Three Tips for a Better Life. These are Three Tips For A CMO During Budget Season In 2024 Post Pandemic, Post Office Work Life.

  1. It’s interesting and timely. 

Make it add value to something I’m trying to accomplish today. So if this is budget season, make sure to mention that in the title, and include content that makes it timely.

  1. It’s immediately applicable. 

The modern buyer wants something that’s immediately applicable that I can consume between meetings or during my lunch hour while holding a sandwich. If you have a lot of content, you can break that down and create a dozen content pieces out of it, but make them immediately applicable.

You need all three of those qualities to make something worth your audience’s time — but the vast majority of marketers are lucky if they hit one.

One problem we see in B2B tech is a breakdown between Sales and Marketing. Marketing will burrow away and produce a whole bunch of content that Sales doesn’t use — even if it fulfills those qualities. How do you solve that problem?

I had a conversation about that exact topic with my previous Chief Revenue Officer Ryan Longfield yesterday. And he put it in a very succinct way that I can elaborate on.

He said salespeople are always on the front line. They’re talking to customers every day.

Marketing should compete with Sales on who knows their customers best — their deep knowledge of our buyers and our market. And when they do that, they create trust and alignment with Sales.

That also means that they create far better content that actually helps Sales close the deal because they understand the customer almost as well as Sales does.

The common failure you alluded to happens when Marketing creates some shiny new marketing materials in a vacuum, throws it at Sales and says, “Now go try this”. 

Sales looks at it and says, “Where did these people come up with this stuff?” It’s not the language our customers use. It’s not how we’ve been successful selling our product.

That’s why Sales ignores Marketing. To earn their trust (and create materials Sales will use), Marketers have to be equally obsessed with understanding your customers and your market — by talking with salespeople, talking with customers, and then producing materials that solve real problems in the buying process. 

How is Gong’s marketing team structured?

The one thing I think we are unique in — in terms of organizational structure — is that I’ve created a wall between content marketing and product marketing. That often raises eyebrows.

Keeping content marketers and product marketers in different rooms, I get the best content marketing and potentially the best product marketing.

Product marketing is for those 5% who are ready to buy. They’re looking for product materials and documentation. They want to know how your product is gonna help them solve a problem because they’ve got a budget, they’ve got time to implement it. They wanna buy this now.

Content marketing is for the 95%. People who want valuable content but aren’t ready to buy yet. Or an analysis of some industry data that I can use. Or survey results that they can benchmark against. 

Most teams have the same people creating both product marketing and content marketing. That causes a lot of confusion and temptation. 

They’ll have a piece of content marketing that starts like a thought leadership piece. “More and more companies are doing this… Here’s what we found in our survey…” and then by paragraph three, they’re already pitching their products. “Here’s how our product can help you do this.”

That’s when I tune out. Because that just became a thinly-veiled sales pitch when I was looking for some real thought leadership.

It’s all connected to the 95-5 rule.

And that temptation is so difficult to resist if the same person is writing content marketing and product marketing. 

I saw a post on LinkedIn where you said, “brand is too important to leave to Marketing”. What did you mean by that?

What I mean is that Marketing cannot create or truly own the brand. It has to be a company-wide initiative that is sponsored by the CEO and the entire executive team. 

At Gong, our first operating principle is to “create raging fans”. Now that’s not some marketing slogan or an HR poster in the kitchen. That’s a directive from the CEO and executive team to every employee in the company.

It’s filtered through to everything. For example, we had a recruiting coordinator provide such a fantastic experience to a candidate that they went on Glassdoor and wrote a glowing review of the process — even though we didn’t hire them!

Similarly, it means our product engineers treat every customer issue as mission critical — they’ll jump on a phone call or on a plane to go and fix problems directly, because they want to learn all the details and get customers back on their feet as fast as possible.

Those aren’t recruitment or support interactions — they’re brand moments. And now every employee in the company is working hard to provide moments that create raging fans.

It’s not Marketing’s job to ring fence brand — it’s to advocate for it everywhere, and amplify those stories wherever they occur.

Consumer companies get this wrong all the time — they profess to be all about the customer, but try to actually speak to someone there and you couldn’t feel less important. 

This has been a great conversation. Before we let you go, can we ask: What’s the future in a way for the Gong brand? What’s on your priority list? 

It’s been really interesting moving from building a category and convincing the world that they need this thing now, to seeing competition in that category get busier. We’re not the only formidable company in the space anymore. 

In fact, a couple of weeks ago Forrester referred to the “revenue orchestration category” because they’ve seen companies from three different categories converge — that were previously called “conversation or revenue intelligence” and “revenue operations or forecasting” and “sales engagement”.

Ultimately, we want to become what IBM was in the 80s when people said, “Nobody got fired for buying IBM.” 

We have to prove to our customers every day that they’re not only going to get the best product from us, but also the best service and the best partnerships and the best integrations and the best marketing content.

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