Declan Mulkeen (strategicabm) - So today I'm joined by Yaag Ganesh, who's the Director of Marketing at Avoma. Yaag – thanks so much for joining us today.
Yaag Ganesh (Avoma) - Hey, absolutely. Declan, thank you so much for having me on your show. It's such a pleasure. I've been a great fan of your work, and I've been looking at your work and admiring it pretty much everywhere, it's such a pleasure to meet you today.
Declan (strategicabm) - Well, it's obviously, the LinkedIn... well thank you, but obviously, the LinkedIn algorithm is obviously serving up my content to you, and then conversely, I'm seeing your content, so clearly, LinkedIn wanted us to meet.
Yaag (Avoma) - Absolutely.
Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, and obviously we're both members of the Peak community, and we love hanging out on there and sharing our advice and insights with the wider marketing community there. So, and I've obviously been a great fan of yours for a long time, Yaag, so thanks for joining us today.
So just a bit of a prelude really, 'cause normally on Let's talk ABM, I talk to ABM experts who are currently doing ABM, who are either at the beginning of, or in the middle of, or even seasoned experts in Account-based Marketing.
And when we were speaking earlier, that is not quite the case for you yet, at Avoma. Although you are clearly an ABM expert from your previous roles and your previous experience with other companies. So I thought, this interview's going to be a little bit different, because as you said to me earlier yourself, "we're not there yet with ABM".
So I thought it would be good to dive in a little bit, to find out about, you know, what you're doing at Avoma, and what you think you need to 'get there' with ABM. How does that sound?
Yaag (Avoma) - Yeah, absolutely. That's a great idea. Let's dive in right.
Declan (strategicabm) - Okay. So let's just share briefly with the audience a little bit about Avoma. I think your artificial intelligence meeting assistant tool, I mean, I've been looking at it and it just, it's absolutely fascinating, but I don't really want to steal your thunder. So could you tell us a little bit briefly about what it is, what it does, what problem you solve?
Yaag (Avoma) - Yeah, absolutely. So, broadly speaking, Avoma is in the Conversation Intelligence space. But for starters, you know, if anybody is curious what Avoma means, it's an acronym for "A Very Organized Meeting Assistant". So that's what Avoma means.
And we operate in the Conversation Intelligence space, pretty much when you look at other people in the same space, like say, the Gongs of the world, or Choruses of the world. They are predominantly focused on Sales as a target audience. So, predominantly they are looking at VP of Sales and, you know, Sales Managers, so on and so forth.
But on the contrary, Avoma is one tool that is more horizontal. The way we believe is that... Conversation Intelligence does not necessarily, doesn't need to be confined to Sales alone. The whole idea is, if you can democratize the intelligence that you get from conversations across customer-facing ones, as well as internal ones, and make it available for everyone in the organization, then everybody can gain some kind of insights. It'll be useful for collaboration, and so on and so forth.
So, the way we started positioning ourselves, we started calling ourselves a Meeting Lifecycle Assistant. What we mean by that is, every meeting, every conversation is going to have a life cycle, a set of things that you do before the meeting, during the meeting, and after the meeting. That is, how do you get prepared, and how do you reduce no-shows in the meetings?
And then, you know, during the meeting, what happens like there is an automatic transcription, there is automatic note-taking that gets updated to the CRM, and then post conversation, the things that you want to collaborate with your internal teams, and it could be cross-functional, and then there could be a lot of workflows from there.
So the entire thing goes on. So that is what Avoma is all about. And yeah, it's important to make sure that you start... ...you might start with Sales. But it's important to scale across your entire organization, because the insights are for everyone. And that helps you as an organization move towards your goal in a unified manner.
Declan (strategicabm) - Sounds fascinating, Yaag. Let's just dive in a bit more to that. And the company I think has been around for about four or five years now, And I saw that you had received about $12 million of Series A funding. So first of all, congratulations on that. Talk us through where Avoma is on its growth journey.
Yaag (Avoma) - Yeah. It's actually a fascinating time to be in at Avoma. I joined the company somewhere in April 2021, and the company was about three years plus at that time. And you know, I've been there for almost a year now.
And so right now, the space that we are in, as you rightly said, we just raised our series A funding, which means we are on a growth path. In a sense, right now we are amidst a lot of hiring and scaling. And you know, anybody listening to this, if you would like to work at Avoma, do get in touch, obviously.
But you know, the phase is very, very, you know, the way I can put it is, it's a great space to be in, because we have a differentiated positioning. We have a differentiated approach. We have a differentiated voice. And right now is the time for us to step on the gas and make ourselves, or put ourselves in front of the audience as much as possible and then give them the right kind of experience.
So, yeah, right now we are bolstering our Customer Success. We are bolstering our Marketing and Sales and Account, you know, Account Executives, SDRs, and all of that.
So the key change, if I have to tell you from a GTM perspective, we have been largely inbound so far. And now what we are doing is building an Outbound team so that we can get that 'twin engine' going together.
Declan (strategicabm) - So, let's just talk a little bit more about that GTM strategy. So what would you say today are the main pillars of growth?
Yaag (Avoma) - Right. So the way we look at our GTM, we like to call it a Product-led and Sales-assisted model. Just to give you a definition of what it means is see, typically you have a product-led SaaS company, where people sign up and there is no touch, and they go on, they trial the product for like say, seven days or 14 days, whatever the time period is, they educate themselves, and they go on to become paid customers.
And then on the other side, there is the Sales-led model. Somebody signs up for your demo. They schedule a demo with your Account Executive or whoever is doing the demo. And then they go into the Sales process. The conversation happens, the demo happens, discovery happens. And then ultimately they become customers.
Now, the way we thought about it was, yes, we have both, but at the same time just because somebody doesn't want to reach out to your Sales Executive and have a demo, it doesn't mean that you know, they 100% understand your product. And as a company, you know, you are going to know your product best, which means it's also your responsibility to make your customers successful with whatever they're trying to accomplish, even during the trial period.
So the Sales-assisted model is where you try and identify opportunities to break the friction in that path, and reach out to them and suggest, ‘hey, you know, looks like you're doing this. You're getting stuck here. Let me help you how to do this’. And this reach out part is not necessarily about selling, or trying to make a conversion there. But it's about removing the friction, educating them, and then making things easier for them.
So when I look back at pillars that contribute to this there is going to be Customer Success. There is going to be Sales and there is going to be Marketing. All three of them work together. But as an extension, there is always the Product team, who is also working closely with this.
So what I mean by this is that there is always a loop going on. In a sense, the AE is going to reach out, the conversation starts, but the CS team is always in the loop throughout. They know what is happening because we use a product like Avoma in the backend, so every call gets recorded.
While that handoff happens from AE team to the CS team, they have the context of what has happened so far with this entire account. And, you know, when we, from any part of the team, we look into a particular conversation, we also understand what is the current stage of this particular account? Are they right now stuck in compliance? Or is it the negotiation stage? Where is it, you know, where is the balance hanging?
And you can bring in the right person from whatever side of the company and get the conversation across and get that thing going because you need support from all corners. It takes a village to win a deal. And then it takes a lifelong effort to keep the customer happy with you.
So all these three pillars work hand in hand, and it's not one after the other here, we are always there around, but somebody takes the main face, and there are a couple of others in the backend helping them.
Declan (strategicabm) - And which marketing tactics are kind of driving the most interest and the most engagement with your brand at the moment?
Yaag (Avoma) - So right now for us, it's been heavily inbound. So largely the inbound is driven by two aspects. One, we produce a lot of content, and our content drives that inbound engine. And then there is also the second aspect, wherein the customers themselves refer newer customers.
Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah.
Yaag (Avoma) - So, to speak about the content side of things, why it has worked for us is because we are focused on one thing, you know, we don't produce the content that is already available on the internet that people can easily find. Because at the end of the day, you need to answer the questions that your customers have in mind, that they're not able to find everywhere.
So let me give you an example. What we did sometime last year in June, was we created this content piece called Gong versus Chorus. So just to give you an idea why we did this, now, anybody who was buying Gong's product was evaluating Chorus, and anybody who was evaluating Chorus was also looking at Gong. But when you try to compare these two, and when you Google them, all you found was either a G2 review or a Capterra review. And these were just review sites. You were not getting detailed information where you could compare these two.
And for us, the way we thought about it was, ‘hey, this is not the time’. I mean, during that period, Avoma was not amongst the top three names as it is right now. And during that period, what we thought was, ‘hey, it's not important for us to write a doc that says, or a comparison that says, Gong versus Chorus versus Avoma. Let's try and be helpful, and guide the customers. And as long as they find it helpful, we are happy about it’.
So we took that, and the moment people came into that article, I mean, still today, it drives us at least two or three customers every month, purely from that one particular article. So we decided that we'll make that our content strategy, in the sense that we will create content that is useful for the people, and not necessarily look at, hey, if this is generating demand, or if this is driving conversion.
And that is something that our CEO also told us from the very beginning, he said that, ‘hey, as long as you are being helpful to the customer, things will happen. Just make sure that you're doing the right things, and you keep the customer experience at the heart of everything that you do’. So that's been our main focus.
Declan (strategicabm) - That's a fantastic example. So clearly you've gone thinking, well, this piece of content, which is clearly something that people will be looking for out there in terms of comparison, like from an SEO keyword point of view, comparing X brand with Y brand, you obviously, content, you push it out there, you publish it. It then is obviously, you know, found ranked very highly on Google and other search engines. And that then engages that market, and then those people find that of interest, they say, ‘Well, who's Avoma, what's this company all about?’ They'd click, go through to you and say, oh, that's interesting. These guys do something similar. And then that starts the conversation, right?
Yaag (Avoma) - Yeah, absolutely.
Declan (strategicabm) - So that, that leads on, Yaag, very nicely onto brand, and brand awareness. I know when we were talking earlier, you mentioned that the last 12 months have seen a pretty significant increase in brand. And obviously you measure that with several methods and several ways.
Talk us through that brand expansion, or that brand increase that you've seen in the last 12 months.
Yaag (Avoma) - Right, so to just give you an insight into this, the way I put it is, a lot of people think that brand is something that is not measurable, but there are certain yard stakes, which gives you an insight into whether your brand is growing or not.
For example, the very search volume for your brand's keyword. Like, say, when we started around sometime last year, the search volume for Avoma was probably under 10, and right now it's close to 2,000. And this is, I'm talking about the search volume per month.
And what has happened in this period is, because of some of these content articles, and then see, there are three factors that contribute here. One is content. Two is the way our Sales-assisted model works, because we are not trying to push. We are creating the best experience as much as possible.
And then our customer tenure with us is also quite longer compared to most other companies, which means when people stay longer with us, they're not just staying with us, not just expanding their accounts with us, but they are also referring us to a lot of their network, and the word of mouth keeps going.
So when we start back to that original idea of offering the best experience possible, that extended to our content, that extended to the way we did Sales, that extended to the way we delivered customer service, and the nuances that we took care of within our product, wherein we said, every single thing that we add, we'll make sure that it's easier to find.
You don't need to really teach, because we make it easier, but yet also have this assisted model on top of it to make sure that if people are thinking about something, they find it right there, or they at least have an option to instantly make a click and reach out to one of us and start a conversation, and get their problem solved.
So once people are happy in terms of their experience, then they're going to talk about you, and it continuously goes on and on from there.
Declan (strategicabm) - And I think that's a really nice point there. And I think it kind of leads nicely to the next question I have for you.
We were talking a few weeks ago, in preparation for this interview, and just to get to know each other a little bit, and one thing that you said that kind of jumped out to me was something around Avoma's point of view. And why is it, and you said something like, I think the way you said was, "why it's important to frame it, to name it, and to claim it".
And I love that. So can you tell a little bit more about that? 'Cause I just love that, I'm probably going to steal it, but I do love that.
Yaag (Avoma) - Yeah, absolutely. So the reason why I say that, ‘name it, frame it, and claim it’, is because you as an organization, because any product in the SaaS world is going to quickly become a commodity. So when you say Conversation Intelligence, then you're going to say, okay, there are 10 other tools in this industry. Probably there's one new tool coming up every week, almost. Well, once that happens, then pretty much every tool is looking alike. Why should I come to you, versus going to somebody else? Is it just pricing, or is it just a set of features?
So that's where having a point of view makes a massive difference. Because once you have a viewpoint, you are going to build your product in a certain way. And then that means you are going to add a set of features that, you are thinking, that's your problem, because you understand what your customer's problems are.
At the same time, you also have a North Star in your head, as to this is where I'm going. And that helps you build the right kind of features. So if you don't do this, and if you don't have a point of view, you are always going to be looking at what your competitor is doing, and trying to match up as much as possible. And you are always going to be behind by at least a quarter or so.
But on the contrary, when you have a viewpoint, just to give you an example, right? So we call ourselves a Meeting Lifecycle Assistant, which means we don't look at it purely from the Sales perspective, we look at it horizontally.
And that means we realize that a meeting has three different phases, that is, before, during and after. And then you realize that, okay, once this happens, where are the different places that people need help?
So to give you an example of a feature that we built very differently compared to our competitors is that most of the people in this space have transcription, and that is about it, right? So there is a transcription. And then there is the other side of automation, about analytics.
But the real problem, when you look at what an AE or a Customer Success person goes through during the call, is that I'm having this conversation with you. And then I also have to take notes on the side. There are going to be these awkward pauses. And then still, while I'm doing this, I'm going to miss a few points during this conversation. I'm not going to be 100% there. And then on top of these things, I'm going to have back-to-back calls then, which means that these notes remain somewhere. And the last thing that these people hate to do is go to the CRM and update things manually. And even when you update, sometimes the notes are not going to be perfect, right?
For example, when I go back and look at a CRM update that says, we lost this deal because the customer found this to be too pricey, that doesn't tell us anything. It doesn't tell you whether they didn't see value in the product, what actually happened, what was the context? Nothing.
Now, when the product, once we realized that this is a problem, then, okay, we thought let's automate these low-value tasks for which the person is not paid for. You know, let's automate and take these notes for them, and automatically update it to the CRM.
And the moment you have this point of view, you are going to start thinking about features like this. Then it is going to translate into the way you communicate, because your stories come from that point of view. And the moment you have that, people are going to recognize you for that.
So what happens is even if you like, cover your hands on the brand, and just do a similar blind test, the way you would do for a Coke or a Pepsi, you do it the same way for this content. You read four lines and you realize that, okay, this point of view sounds very close to what Avoma would say. That means you've reached where you are, because people understand this to be your voice. And that is what I mean by having a point of view, naming it and claiming it, because this is the way you think, and it has to be distinctly you.
Declan (strategicabm) - Love it. I love it. I think you should write a book about this, yeah? I think I can see a book coming to compete with Sangram and those other great guys out there. I can see the title on the Amazon website already.
So, obviously this podcast is called "Let's talk ABM." So let's talk a little bit of ABM. When we spoke, obviously previously, I mentioned at the beginning of the recording that you said before, when we talked about ABM, you said that you weren't 'there yet' with ABM. What does "there" look like?
Yaag (Avoma) - Right. So when I said that, what I meant by it is it also ties back to the story that I told you where I said right now, largely we have been so far being driven by inbound, and we have not gone outbound, right?
So the reason why is that when you have a lot of inbound coming in, you don't have the control on the deal size. On the contrary, when you go outbound, you can make sure that you target accounts of a particular kind, it could be in terms of revenue, it could be in terms of number of people, or it could be looking at a specific team, whatever your criteria is, right? So that is what I meant.
And it is also about the priorities at that moment. So we were a small team at that point, which means we were getting ourselves spread too thin, across too many things, that one person was doing across different functions. And to do ABM, it is important for us to have a clear execution path.
I don't mean that, for ABM, you need a lot of tools. This is something that I very strongly believe in, because a lot of people, when they think of ABM, they think about it from a tool-first perspective. It could be for somebody, ABM could mean that doing a set of programmatic ads for somebody else. It could mean marketing automation, so on and so forth.
For me, what it means is, fundamentally, it starts with understanding your set of accounts that you want to go after, and have a clear reason as to why they are a good fit that you should go after. So it could be even a simple pilot of 10 accounts to start with. And then you can have a plan saying that, okay, these are the 10 accounts that I want to go after, because of XYZ reason. It could be that it's your sweet spot, because you've done well in that industry, or that kind of a company size, or specific set of people in that company, so on and so forth.
And from there, you can have a plan as to, how are you going to go and warm up the relationship with those new accounts? You know, it's not straight away going in and pitch slapping them saying that, ‘hey, we are so and so company, and we do this’, but it's, you need to invest at least a month or so in building relationships with those people some way or the other.
You could be commenting on LinkedIn, or you could be sharing good points of view. You could be having them on your podcast. You can do whatever, but build those fundamental relationships without having an ask, for long periods of time. And then over a period of time, you realize that, ‘hey, they are going through a particular problem, which they're trying to solve for, where you can be helpful’.
That's the right time that you pitch in and say that, ‘hey, looks like you were talking about that. And this is something that I can, we have done for this XYZ company. I can show you what we did, do you want to take a look?’ And that's when we start a conversation, it can be what an SDR can do from there. It can move into your Sales cycle, so on and so forth.
So to me, that is a dedicated effort, and that means you need to have a clear plan, a clear team exclusively focused on that. And you need to have a, let's say a proper target saying that from ABM campaign, I'm going to have XYZ amount of revenue for this particular quarter, or say this particular year, and then you start from there. So that is something that we want to do. And that is what I mean by getting there, and not yet there.
Declan (strategicabm) - Yeah, I think you're absolutely right Yaag, I've been doing some posts and some comments about it last few days, actually about ABM, and some of the kind of the misleading information and the kind of poorly defined definition of what ABM is, and what ABM isn't.
And I think, you know, part of the problem, obviously, is that a lot of the ABM technology vendors have done a very good job in the marketing of their technology to such a point that they've actually taken over a lot of the ABM narrative. And obviously technology is great. And obviously, you know, we all love a bit of technology, but that's not what really ABM is about.
And ABM, it's a strategy. And we always tell our clients that you actually don't need technology to do ABM. You do not, at all. You need good strategy. And with that, you will do a very good ABM campaign, and you'll have a lot of success.
Obviously, the technology, later, once you have a good strategy, is an enabler, and indeed your strategy can actually then, you know, you can then work into your strategy. Okay, what technology do I need to kind of make this strategy work better, et cetera, et cetera.
But at the beginning of anybody's ABM journey, you don't need technology. You need good people, good strategy, good thinking, good creative, because creative, and good storytelling, working really hard, your value proposition, your unique value proposition for your campaign, for your ABM campaign.
And with that, you can go to town. And with that, you can actually build a very, very serious ABM strategy and program. And then the rest comes later. Then you go, One-to-few, One-to-one, One-to-many, and then you can go to town, et cetera, et cetera.
But I wholly support your thinking there. And obviously when we have clients who come to us, we ask them where they are, and we would do typical interviews with the company of your size and say, well, I think you are doing the right thing at the moment. And I think you'll be ready for ABM, perhaps in 12 months, and based on this criteria. So the things that you've mentioned today are very similar to what we say to our clients as well. Very, very similar.
So let's just finish off with a question here. One thing that struck me, talking to you, Yaag, earlier, was that you said something about when choosing which company to work for, there are a few things that you look for, and they're very important to you on a very human level, on a very personal level, why you choose to work for one company over another.
And I think one of them was the value system of the company. And another one was the vision that that company has. Could you tell us a little bit more, 'cause I think you were, at least it struck me, you felt quite passionate about that. Could you elaborate a bit more on that?
Yaag (Avoma) - Yeah, absolutely. So as a precursor, I'll give you, I'll paint this picture, you know, my entire life, I worked in two different kinds of companies, right? So one is a set of companies where I came in, and I was given a product to market to, and then I was given a set of goals, and I went about doing it.
And then right now, the phase that I'm in, or at least for the last few years, what I've been always looking for is, look at a product that you can be absolutely proud of, because if you don't fundamentally believe in the product that you're backing, and if that is not a problem that you really want to solve for, you don't want to wear it on your sleeve, then there's no point, you know? Yeah, you need to do your work to get paid, pay your bills, and so on and so forth. But if that lacks passion, then you cannot do it in long term.
And to me, as you rightly pointed out, those two things, right? So what is the vision that this company has, in a sense, what are the problems that they're trying to solve for? So today it might be XYZ, which can expand to a lot of other things, but what does the vision look like? How is the founder thinking, and what are the things that they have in their mind?
And that needs to excite me, and here at Avoma, that really excited me because it's a problem statement, right? So when you look at this productivity from meetings, or it could be calls, today, you know, it could be just these two. And from here, it can expand to different types of communication or different places where you spend your time and make it, so fundamentally, the vision statement here was more like, ‘hey, I want to make sure that I'm automating all your low-value tasks, and augmenting with you on your high-value tasks’.
So that is an amazing ideal to have, and it can take multiple manifestations on the go. But more than that, to me, the ultimate value point is the value system that the founder has. So that is where I absolutely align.
So there are set of things that, you know, you principally, that needs to work out. You need to feel that, you know, ‘hey, my values and his values are pretty much the same’.
So I'll give you an example of the value system that Aditya, the CEO of this company, has, and I absolutely love, because I also believe in that. So for example, let's say looking at the competition, right?
So when you look at competition, sometimes we get these things where we see some of our competitors signing up and trialing our product. They look at it as part of the research, which is fair enough for certain people. You can do that mystery shopping, which we call that way.
But as an organization internally, we believe that it's a matter of ethics for us. Yes, if some customer who is trialing our product and comparing and giving us feedback, saying that they like our product because of ABC, compared to other competitors, that information is welcome as feedback, but we would never go back, go in and sign up for somebody else's product and trial that. That is something that's very ethical for us.
So small things like that make a lot of difference. Those kind of things, when you are ready to play that long term games with long term people, then the kind of, you know, every day you feel that I need to get up today. And I feel like working for this, because I want to make things happen, because we all believe in the same goal. At the same time, we want to do it in the most ethical manner as possible.
That gives you the energy. And that is something that you don't get everywhere. And when you see that with a certain set of people, you need to grab it with both hands.
Declan (strategicabm) - That gets you out of bed in the morning, basically, Yaag?
Yaag (Avoma) - Yeah, absolutely.
Declan (strategicabm) - Well, that's good to hear. Last, very last question. What can we expect to see from you this year?
Yaag (Avoma) - A lot of things. So right now, you know, we are looking forward, at Avoma, we are looking forward to take things forward, we want to grow at least four times from where we are. And so that is something that we'll be striving for.
Personally, I'm trying to learn a lot this year. I mean, there are so many areas that I have no clue about, which I'm thinking, every day, if I can learn something new and try some new experiments on the side, it could be growth. It could be content. It could be, you know, podcasting. That is something that I want to keep trying, and bring it back into our work.
For example, when I run my ABM Conversations podcast, I do a set of experiments, and I see how that works. And from that experience, I can bring in to the podcast that I'm running at Avoma. So sometimes it goes both ways.
So, and as part of this, it's also about connecting with a lot of people around the world and trying to have conversations like this, wherein, like, where you spoke about how you look at ABM, and these are some great insights that I cannot easily get. And that's also the reason why I started the podcast, right?
So when I have people like David Cancel, Seth Godin, and Guy Kawasaki come on the show, I cannot imagine booking them for an hour to teach me something. But when I have them on a show like this, I can ask all the questions, and all I can do is make sure that I prepare my best going into the show to ask the right questions. And I respect the time that they give me.
And those are the kind of things that I try to do every day. You know, there are opportunities to learn everywhere, and learning is my number one goal, and it will be for a long time to come.
Declan (strategicabm) - Well then, I mean, you know, I've been following your podcast for a long time, and those are some fantastic interviews you did with David Cancel, et cetera. So you're definitely great at getting some great guests. I wouldn't be surprised to start seeing you on like, you know, "Late Night with Yaag" TV show soon, or something. You know, that that could be the next thing for you. You never know.
Yaag, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you today. Thank so much for sharing your journey with us. And I wish you every success for this year, and beyond.
Yaag (Avoma) - Thank you so much. And I wish you the same. And once again, thank you so much for having me on your show, it's been a pleasure, and I look forward to staying in touch.
Declan (strategicabm) - Thank you, Yaag.