Why Community Is the Key to Growing Demand for Your Business with Hopin’s Anthony Kennada

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This is a podcast episode titled, Why Community Is the Key to Growing Demand for Your Business with Hopin’s Anthony Kennada. The summary for this episode is: <p>What does the future of corporate events look like? That’s a question Hopin, an event technology platform, was asking even before the COVID-19 pandemic.&nbsp;</p><p><br></p><p>Anthony Kennada (Hopin’s CMO), experienced the marketing team go from 5 to 50 employees and reach the coveted unicorn status – all within his first six months.&nbsp;</p><p><br></p><p>In this episode, he and Tricia discuss how events foster community, why community is the secret to category creation, and why building an internal community between sales, marketing, and customer success is critical to growing revenue for your business.</p><p><br></p><p>Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Tricia and Anthony on Twitter at @triciagellman, @akennada, and @DriftPodcasts.</p><p>​</p><p>Want even more CMO insights? Subscribe to Tricia's newsletter here: https://www.drift.com/chief-marketing-officer/</p>
Virtual events are not going away
01:17 MIN
Hosting a multi-site event around a singular experience
01:09 MIN
Using Hoping to bring communities together
02:55 MIN
Strategy behind creating a category or disrupting one
02:28 MIN
What is our role as CMOs?
01:45 MIN
The biggest lesson Anthony has learned in his marketing career
01:01 MIN

Tricia Gellman: Hey, everybody, and welcome back to CMO Conversations, I'm Tricia Gellman, the CMO of Drift. I am joined today by Anthony Kennada, who is the CMO at Hopin, a hyper- growth company that has totally taken off in the past year and a half, and we're going to have a really exciting conversation about the changes we've seen in marketing and in the world of marketing in the past year and a half. So Anthony, at the beginning of the pandemic you ran a CMO coffee talk, like let's learn from each other kind of thing, and it totally blew up. I mean, maybe we could start by talking about why you started that and what you think drove the huge success of it.

Anthony Kennada: Yeah, totally. It's almost hard to believe that was a year, almost 18 months ago now at this point, but I think really as COVID started being a thing. Originally we heard about the virus outside of the states and all of us I think were still planning to run our marketing teams the same way that we would've otherwise. There was a moment, I think it was February, March, in 2020 where we said okay, this is real and this is going to impact us quite significantly. I reached out to a lot of folks in my network and asked them, " What's going on in your funnel today? Are you seeing leads slow down? Outbound, is that still a thing?" We were asking some of these very tactical questions. It was a pretty good chance for me to compare notes and better understand what others are seeing. Then it hit me that there actually aren't a lot of... I was very privileged to have that community of people I could turn to at CMOs at scale companies, that there are many folks that might feel isolated or on an island that they don't have potentially that network access that I was fortunate to have. So it was a pretty simple idea, if I could find some other CMOs in my network to do a very informal, basically livestream where we just crowdsourced questions, there was zero prep. We just would show up and crowdsource questions in the audience, and we didn't have all the answers but we were going through it together. It was a chance for us to compare notes as a community. So we ran that for I think about eight weeks or so and talked to amazing CMOs such as yourself, folks from DocuSign and Outreach and all of these great, great companies. I think it was a really great opportunity, both at the time and kind of wish I was still running it now but conversations like this are great reminders that the marketing community as a whole definitely bands together in these moments and we learn from each other. So excited to now be here and chatting with you.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, that's great. I think one of the things we can do a lot of talking about, what did we learn in the past 18 months? What do we think will stay with us and continue? I think this idea of community and letting your guard down and just really sharing where am I, what am I learning, what am I sharing, how can we all grow up together? I think that's just a great thing that I see continuing for a long time, and I'm so grateful to have the networks that I had started previously in my career, but that really have become such rocks in the past 18 months.

Anthony Kennada: Totally.

Tricia Gellman: So one of the things that's interesting about that is, we have this growth of community and you were at a totally different company. You were CMO, and then you switched now to Hopin and I think it's interesting because Hopin is something that has totally blown up in this time period as well. So how do you view what's happened in the past year and why did you make the jump to Hopin?

Anthony Kennada: Yeah, totally. A lot there, so I think my journey to Hopin actually started at Gainsight, I was fortunate to be the CMO there for about seven years, built that business. For us, events were a core part of how we built that category, how we engaged our community, ultimately how we grew the business on a revenue side too. It was the nucleus of everything else that we did from a community and brand building perspective, was this event program called Pulse. So after seven years at Gainsight, I actually left the company to start an event tech company. I had a lot of passion for this space and was fortunate the folks at Batter Ventures had me come in and start incubating that company. Turns out the founder journey, the entrepreneurial journey's a very lonely one, wasn't for me. I missed being part of a team and so I ended up joining an amazing company called Front where I spent just I think it was 15 months total, building that company, really navigating COVID with them as we were figuring out what this would become. I think that was where we were doing our CMO conversations, but that context I think helps paint the picture. When the opportunity at Hopin came along, it's more than a job for me. This was an industry I care so deeply about, one that has been tremendously impacted with the pandemic, and a chance to be a part of coauthoring with the community, the future of what the event industry is going to look like. How are we all going to move forward? It was too good to be true, type of moment. So joined the business in February of this year, been here for almost six months now. So Hopin has actually done something really interesting. They saw this trend coming of, how do you make events more inclusive and accessible to people who otherwise couldn't be there in person? The story, our founder's story was really what shaped this. Again, long before COVID, he contracted an autoimmune disease that kept him home bound for two years. Two years, and as a founder, as an entrepreneur, you really rely on your community for things like meeting potential investors, meeting other founders, these types of things. He was completely on the other side of it, and so his whole profession was effectively halted while he was really battling this condition. So he being a developer, built Hopin as a tool to basically create immersive video and interactive video experiences for in- person events that don't treat the outside viewer like a second class citizen. They're just as much in the room as someone that's physically there. So you can imagine the timing there of all this happening just before COVID.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, that's crazy. I mean, it's very insightful, but then now to say oh, it's insightful at the time that all of a sudden COVID takes off, it's crazy.

Anthony Kennada: Yeah, totally, absolutely crazy. For them, they were seed funded at that point, raised a little bit of money, I think there were like five people at the company. We're talking by the way, 18 months ago. Again, this wasn't a long time ago, and they were faced with this decision, we can either continue our effort of thoughtfully scaling this business, so on and so forth, or we can drop the waiting list and let everyone in and see what happens. Obviously this was a season in the history of our industry where everyone's in- person event had to move online. So they opened it up, scaled as fast as they could, and the rest is history from there.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I mean I think it's an amazing story. Actually, I didn't know the founder's story, so thank you for sharing that. I don't know that everybody knows it. They know like, "Oh my god, there's this Hopin company, everyone talks about it," but they don't maybe know the full background on it. That, I think it's interesting because pre- pandemic I had a friend who was having a baby and I was in charge of organizing her baby shower. She ended up in three months hospital bed rest.

Anthony Kennada: Oh my gosh.

Tricia Gellman: So we canceled the shower. We're like, oh, people can't get together, we're not going to have a shower. Now looking back on it, it was like, holy cow, why were we so closed minded about what we were doing?

Anthony Kennada: Totally.

Tricia Gellman: Could've had a virtual shower. I mean, Zoom and these other things were there, but it didn't even cross my mind. So the fact that the founder was really motivated to bring people together and to think about that from his personal journey is really cool.

Anthony Kennada: Yeah, totally.

Tricia Gellman: I think a lot of us, you've had experience working in hyper- growth companies. What's interesting to me is that you're now leading marketing in a hyper- growth company where the category you're in is actually changing dramatically every single month, in a way that you can try and drive it. Usually as CMOs, we're trying to drive the category, the definition of it, but the event landscape is changing so much based on what's happening with the virus. So how do you manage this idea of you're doing something, your providing a solution, but at the same time what people need in a given time is so dramatically undecided?

Anthony Kennada: Yeah, totally. So I think we, especially as I was coming on board to the company, the category that I think the market would've put us in was virtual events software. There haven't been... it's pretty nascent, there's some other players now in the space but in general, this was meant to be a software category that suggested the tools that are just utilitarian video are falling short from adding the interactivity and the immersive- ness that events give us, and how can we create more of this shared experience? I think Hopin was, long before I joined, the pioneer of this kind of new movement. However, that isn't our ambition at scale. I think there's much more of what we want to do, and a lot more coming I think in the news here shortly, but the big moment that we saw was this idea that virtual events will continue and so we can unpack, but I think the idea of like, your webinar strategy and now that you have this access to tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people who can attend your virtual event, versus doing your in- person program in a random city. We're not going to forget about that as marketers, as demand marketers, those are people we want to engage with, maybe community marketers. So we know that virtual will have a place in the stack and we want to honor that and build for that use case, but we also know people will want to get back together in person. Our belief is the true north of the default setting for a lot of these in- person events in the future is going to be what we call hybrid events. Basically having both an on- premise, on- site, as well as a virtual component to it. So one thing we noticed and as the vaccines were coming and all these types of things, people were starting to have this hybrid conversation, we've mobilized to really go from both a product perspective, from an M&A perspective, as well as from a marketing, more product marketing perspective, expanded the category from virtual events to tell a broader story. So we did this in a couple ways. We acquired a company called Boomset that many folks in I think the SAS event space have known for a while, that does on- site badging, on- site lead retrieval for sponsor booths. I'm sure folks on this call have used a Boomset app at some point. We've acquired them and a few other solutions and zoomed out from saying we're not just virtual events anymore, we are competing in the all- in- one event management category, a$1. 7 trillion market where we can do anything from building your event marketing landing pages to accepting registrations and charging tickets, and integrating all that with Marketo and your marketing automation systems, to having your in- person audience register and have the badge and all these types of things, get all that data collected again, back into your Marketo infrastructure, and have your virtual event program using your streaming service on the back end and using Hopin's virtual venue. All of these things now give us an all- in- one vision. So I think we have many steps on this path expanding the category but the first big one for us was not just being a virtual events player, even though obviously we have good product market fit there, but zooming out and solving all of your event needs regardless of whether it's virtual, in person, or hybrid, or even internal events. As we think about people working from home doing things like all hands meetings and workshops and team socials, how do we solve for that world in the future? So, that's I think our next step along the journey to building a much bigger category.

Tricia Gellman: I love this idea of the M& A activity, helping to redefine the category and really build from maybe where you were, which is like, how do I actually make a virtual event, to, how do we actually redefine events? Therefore, we need a higher platform for that. Have to make a plug for your GC, Irene. I worked with her in my last role and she's an amazing female-

Anthony Kennada: She is.

Tricia Gellman: ...GC leader, and I know she's been doing so many deals with you guys.

Anthony Kennada: She has.

Tricia Gellman: It's just impressive how you've taken off on the M& A but really interesting from the marketing perspective to think about how that helped you to grow the category. So one question I have for you about that is, I mean as a CMO I'm thinking to myself, what do my events look like in the future when I actually have in- person? We've debated, we definitely want to make sure that we're doing in- person and having an amazing experience for that, but then also reaching these huge audiences because we're now all addicted to this border- less world where we can get-

Anthony Kennada: Yeah, totally.

Tricia Gellman: ...thousands of thousands of people. I mean from my perspective, it's very hard to cater an on- site event to really be relevant and have that feeling for the virtual. So from your perspective and how you guys are looking at the category and the platform, are you thinking that marketers are going to do full on, on the same day, I'm trying to reach my virtual audience and in- person audience? Or are you seeing that people are recording content and then you're going to have your platform to be able to do a spin- off virtual after? What have you guys seen and how do you view that?

Anthony Kennada: Totally, I mean I think in general the answer's, all of the above. I think everyone's going to have a different application of how their event formats will evolve. We have an in- person only event that we're hosting for an executive audience that we think there's value to the closed room discussion, physically in a place. We have a virtual program we want to do quarterly, and we have a webinar program they do biweekly. Webinars have a bad rep these days or historically, because they're a one- way window, there's no interactivity or immersion and that's something that I think at Hopin we can help solve for. So I think there's several ways to skin the cat. One thing that we tried doing in June was really testing ourselves to figure out, what would a true one- time live experience that had an in- person virtual component look like? We tested things like a fireside chat with somebody, a moderator in the room and a guest speaker on screen. A panel that had two people in the room, two people virtual. Interactivity, people asking questions from the audience, whether they're there in the room or otherwise. What we found is actually, that was one of the best events that we've ever hosted, it was from an NPS perspective, some great qualitative feedback. So I think folks that want to do a truly one- time experience can do it in a way that there's a digital component as well as an in- person. The question is, you have to really fine tune the agenda around the format type because doing 45- minute panel after 45- minute panel all day on a virtual setting, we're used to that Netflix type of 21- minute or whatever quick consumption.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, we never do more than 20- minute content, so.

Anthony Kennada: Exactly.

Tricia Gellman: 45- minute is way too long.

Anthony Kennada: Totally, yeah, so you have to adapt it for that audience, but I think the ideas regardless of what you want to do, there are options for you. There's a different reason for all of these things to exist, but one thing that I find really interesting and companies like Salesforce are actually evolving Dreamforce to meet this moment. This idea that like, what if you hosted a multi- site event around this singular experience, because watching a recording is really good and impactful and has a role but being there during a live experience has this much more profound, I think, emotional meaning. So what if you can create these types of experiences that have many cities around the world where you can bring your VIP customers and prospects. inaudible we have 100 of our VIP customers in London, and New York, in on the West Coast, maybe in Australia or whatever, and you host a virtual event that has on- site activations for smaller audiences that are more high touch and that sort of thing. I think that's an interesting model that we want to keep a close eye on and figure out if that's a way to get the community engagement at scale, but then get also the in- person intimacy from some of your most high value customers or prospects.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I think that that's really interesting. I spent nine years ago Salesforce, and so community's a big part of Salesforce. When we used to do launches way back then, let's say six years ago, we actually would do community hosted events, we would send a community leader a full on package with swag and everything else, and try and get together as many little multi- city activities for a decent sized launch. Different than the main Dreamforce thing that they're doing today. To bring it full- circle to where we started, you started with the CMO coffee talk, building this idea of community. Now you've mentioned that people are doing these multi- site activities, which brings together community. You mentioned really quickly that people are using Hopin for community. So it seems this is a theme, we have been isolated for so long that people want to be connected to community, whether it's in- person or virtually. So how are people using Hopin to actually bring communities together, versus thinking of it as an event?

Anthony Kennada: Yeah, totally. My gosh, this is such an important topic and one that's close to my heart even outside the context of Hopin, but just as a marketer. We've again, COVID accelerated this trend but we were talking about community and brand and building relationship with our market long before this happened but I think there was a lot of limitations to our ability to actually execute that vision. One was technology and companies like Hopin have helped with that. Another is geographic barriers. We want to host a world tour for our event and you pick your favorite six cities, but then the rest of the cities are alienated from that. We have subsets of our audience that can't actually be there in person, whether it's illness, family responsibility, financial reasons, what have you, travel visas. There's all of these reasons why members of our community have not been able to engage. So I think that's where this exciting new world that's honestly like a renaissance for us from a marketing perspective on, how can we actually think community first and build community first? Then have everything else, in terms of demand and all these other things we have to do, flow out from that motion. So I think the way we need to do this, and I'll plug Hopin in a second but, is to think about our 365 day vision for building a community engagement. So what does that mean? We might... Drift does such a good job with this, with insider and with podcasts just like this. You guys have become the lifestyle brand for people that are in the sales and marketing function. They subscribe to your content, they come to your event programs, digital or otherwise. They listen to the podcasts and you help serve them and create value for them outside of just selling them software. I think that's the mega trend is like, how can you put together that media company effectively, that you're building on top of your software business that creates all of these types of engagements for you? So the vision behind Hopin I think or part of it at scale is, we think that our technology as well as our thought leadership, our community efforts, everything that we're building can help people feel closer. They can feel closer to the conversations that they care about, to the communities that they care about. That geographic barriers that existed in the past that limited their access to opportunity should no longer be a thing in this new world that we're now emerging into. So you can think about, what is the data set that exists underneath all of these different things that we talked about, all these different engagement programs, be they a virtual event, an in- person event, a livestream that you're hosting with your audience, a virtual workshop that you host, a maybe online community even that you moderate and for your folks. All of these different touchpoints and one underlying system, I think that's part of the vision for where we're headed.

Tricia Gellman: That's really cool. So I think what would be interesting is maybe to help people understand a little bit more about building community. So you mentioned that Drift has a really big community, and I think one of our big things is that we pride ourselves on educating sales and marketers about the future of marketing. So we've taken the approach that we're defining this new category and therefore we need to help bring you there. That's our thing, which is, we're going to create great content, it's not just going to be content for the sake of like, oh, I did 27 E- books, but you really learn things from the content. I think in other cases, I've done user group communities where you go into the field and you find out, what is it that the teams need? Then you bring the content to them to help them learn and grow locally and things like that. What's your perspective? You wrote a book on category creation. To create a category and then build a community around that, do you have to lead like Drift is doing or are there other models and ways that you've seen for building community?

Anthony Kennada: Yeah, no it's a great question. I think the, whether you're creating a category or you're disrupting an existing one, I think the underlying strategy beneath it, let's call it brand, brand building. It's the difference between creating or disrupting I think is where you're spending, where you're focusing a lot of your effort. In the case of category creation, you've identified a problem that exists in the market that no one else has before. So you're spending a lot of time defining the problem, evangelizing the problem, getting your customers to say, " Oh yeah, that is a problem." You can point to again, Drift is one of the classic examples, what Gainsight did. We talked about churn, no one was talking about churn, everyone was talking about closing that new deals and we said this is a problem, we need to get proactive with customers and so on. When you're disrupting a company, disrupting a category, typically the problem set is understood and so in general what you're doing is positioning a new solution. But in either of those cases, you need to take this posture of educating a market, of mobilizing a community of people who either identify with the problem that you've proposed or the solution and the new approach to the solution that you're proposing. That can feel that valued from you, and they've learned something from you as a brand, regardless of whether or not they're a customer. That ultimately can play it back to you, that they can validate two things. One, that the problem you've observed or the solution you're proposing are real and that you as the brand are the thought leader that's helping, that's leading the market and leading the conversation and the discussion in this category. So the underlying tactics beneath this are the same. Content marketing strategy to your point. Building the online blog or... blogs are bad terms these days, the editorial property or whatever, Salesforce Plus inaudible that news, building a streaming service around education for your community, this is powerful and by no means a small feat. Doing your events and building your event strategy around that, all of the different tactics underneath it are frankly, existential to your ability to exist as a brand in 2020 or in this decade. You can't not do that. So I think that's the opportunity going forward, regardless of whether you're creating category or not, but certainly there are nuances.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I think that that's really cool. So we're building these communities, we're building these categories, we're creating a whole new dialogs and saying there's something bigger, you have a problem, we're solving it. In the end of the day, I think all of this is in the service of building the company, not just building the community but tying back to revenue. So let's talk a little bit about, how does this relate as CMOs to revenue and the relationship that we have with sales?

Anthony Kennada: I think this is such an important question, Tricia, because you can get a lot of retweets for saying something about category creation or something along those lines, but the rubber hits the road with your CFO, with your CEO, with the board, if you can actually show the path to monetization, show that all of this stuff actually turns into revenue. The good news is it does, but I think it's something that's... we need to be pretty explicit on how as we build the case for content marketing, for hosting a large conference, all these types of things. So philosophically, I think that things like paid media, things like buying lists and doing this type of stuff, it's important, we have to do it. It's table stakes as demand marketers to make sure that we're being thoughtful and responsible and monetizing in that way, but you're starting that relationship with the customer, with the prospect rather transactionally. They were searching for your competitor and they happened upon your landing page or something along those lines. They saw a banner ad and they couldn't help but click, and these are transactional but important, a ways to start relationships. But if you find, if you're able to attract an audience that is engaging with thought leadership content, that comes to your events, that is coming... that thinks about you and your brand as again, a convener, a market leader, a place that I can go and learn for free and get value and grow in my career. You're starting from a very scalable and important place in that customer journey. What we found at Gainsight is those are the customers that end up renewing, that end up being engaged as advocates, that are referring their customers. When they go onto their next jobs, they're bringing you in into that new company. So I think the relationship based marketing is a scalable way to... and if I said it another way, brand building, community building is a scalable way to drive demand over the longterm. It takes time though, and I think that's where when you got a number to hit in this quarter, it's very hard to sell the vision of an SEO strategy that takes time, and sell that vision. So you need to do the paid media stuff and all of these things to bridge the gap for that longterm. But I found that nothing has been more sustainable and scalable from a demand creation perspective than building a content marketing strategy, an event program, all of these different things that we can bubble up into community. So that's I think the piece. Now, how do you tell that story? I mean, I think you need the funnel metrics, you need to show hey, we're growing our newsletters, subscriptions, number of insiders that have signed up this month has grown, XYZ, we're now nurturing those folks, we're generating MQLs out of that audience, all that type of stuff. So you can build a bridge from an early stage funnel perspective to how that content is then driving downstream revenue, but I think that it's becoming the default setting now for marketing companies or for B2B companies where maybe a couple of years ago it was this novel thing. Now it's like, we all have to do this or you're just not going to be relevant.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I think that that's really interesting. Now you mentioned tweeting and building communities. So recently you tweeted about the relationship of sales and marketing and how marketers are really needing to learn a lot about servant leadership. So let's talk specifically, not so much as our role as marketers in building the brand and the community, but in the relationship that we have with sales and really translating things into revenue in partnership with sales. How have you been doing that when in a way I would think that Hopin is so in the right place at the right time. Maybe it's not as important that you have this great relationship with sales because there's a lot of product led growth.

Anthony Kennada: There is, there is, but I think in general this is one of those truisms that exists regardless of what any company really. It's a controversial point of view because a lot of people are like, hey, marketing isn't meant to be a service organization to another company, another team, that feels weird to think about, I want to be empowered. I think true empowerment comes to those that are willing to sacrifice and those that are willing to put others before themselves. So I think I disagree with the notion that by isolating ourselves as a team, we're going to be somehow better or more respected. The tweet was that when it comes to marketing's data versus sale's word or perspective or opinion, sales will always win from board's perspective, from the CEOs perspective, they will take, they will side with the sales team's point of view over the marketing's data. I learned this the hard way and I think many of us have over time, where in a previous life I've come up with a great report and pulled the right things out of Salesforce and Drift and Marketo and all of our tools and said, " Look, marketing is generating early stage pipeline, we are hitting our numbers." The problem is when the SDRs send the pipe over, it's not converting. So I looked. Guess what? I looked at the activity data, we're not following up fast enough. Our emails are not good, we only had one touch-

Tricia Gellman: This is like the ongoing conversation.

Anthony Kennada: Right? We talk about this and I was like, aha, got it, I'm right, I found the data. The problem with that is, you bring the data to the sales leadership or whatever you come into the pipeline call or whatever, and sales says, " Look, that could be true but at the end of the day our coverage for the quarter is off and here's what we're learning. Maybe they're not getting back to us or those conversations, they were tire kickers." We're like, yeah, but we had bant, they made it through bant. They weren't tire kickers. Ultimately when the CEO comes in as a tie breaker, it doesn't matter to him. Ultimately what we could be saying could be true but it's not translating to revenue and then that's a problem. The charter-

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I mean this is my big point of like, what is our role? We have to step up to think about the revenue because if you're in this conversation and you're finger pointing and you're on the leads and I filled the funnel and this CRO or whatever the inaudible is, is on the like, yeah, but I'm not making the number for the board. If you're not saying my role is to help make the number for the board, you're always going to be second.

Anthony Kennada: Totally, totally, if you find yourself any quarter where you're ringing the gong as a marketing or SDR team but sales misses the number, you should really think about that and think about whether or not that gong needs to be hit or effectively really unpack what's happening underneath the hood because that's what I think has led to potentially some continued friction between marketing and sales. But this idea of us being one revenue team and wearing the revenue hat together, honestly just from my experience and maybe others hear this, but it's not going to come from sales, listening and doing whatever marketing tells them to do, it's not. It's going to come from us going, taking a posture of humility and going to sales and saying, " What can we do to help support you in hitting the target? We have some ideas, we have some insights that we can bring to the table, but ultimately we want you to know that we're with you, we're here to help support you. When you win, we win," and if you bring that posture, not only will you get the better outcomes from a business perspective but the relationship which we long talk about, in terms of marketing sales alignment. The relationship between you as a marketing leader and your sales leader is in a much better more constructive and collaborative place than it would be otherwise.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I totally agree. It's interesting that you built Gainsight and created this concept of customer success as well, because one of the other things that I see is that today, especially in so many SAS companies, revenue isn't just about the new business. How do you fill that funnel for the SDR, but it's about the relationship of marketing with sales, with CS, with whatever titles you have that are really owning new business expansion and that renewal. So I think this idea of having the revenue focus, that also puts you on a customer focus because you really have to start thinking like, what is this life cycle versus just how do I fill a funnel?

Anthony Kennada: Totally, completely agree. Yeah, you can sub out sales with your CS leader, whoever in that same topic, that same perspective. Totally agree.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, and I think one of the things that we've been doing at Drift in that vein is we... and you mentioned this, but we've literally been talking about building the revenue machine. So you're not finger pointing as like, oh, I'm bringing you this and you're bringing that, but it's like, how have we filled this bucket? What are all the pieces that are coming into the bucket? Is it expansion, is it the renewal, is the new business? Where is it going to come from? Then, which team really needs to pull which lever as a one team, one dream get together?

Anthony Kennada: Totally, yeah, no, I think that's awesome. A vision we bought into, we're excited. We've kicked off with Drift two months ago, I think at this point. Already seeing a tremendous impact to our funnel and of course our conversations with our sales teams and sales development and everyone. So truly buy into the vision, and I think it's something that is going to help shape how we grow the company from here moving forward.

Tricia Gellman: I love that and we're really excited to have you as a company. We've also seen that with your acquisitions that it's helping to bring Drift into other companies as well, as you start to build inaudible all- in- one platform, which is great. So where are you going to go from here? I mean, it feels like it's so successful already. You I think have really set yourselves apart in that virtual event space to this all- in- one platform that's doing everything. Where do you see Hopin going? Where do you see marketing going as it follows along, in terms of what Hopin can offer? What's the future?

Anthony Kennada: Totally, so I'd say there's probably three things, oh, maybe four that were buckets of things that we're really focused on. First is hiring, inaudible great marketers listening, they're looking for a job, please let me know. I joined in February as the fifth marketer. We're doing this interview at the end of August, there's 45 of us now, we've added 40 people in those five months. We'll be at 65 I believe by the end of this quarter, so we're growing the marketing team quite a bit which hopefully is going to be helpful to be able to execute. Second is, we're re- articulating our brand narrative. The world knows us today as an events company, we spent the majority of our conversation today referencing Hopin as an events company but through our M& A, through our organic product development, it's actually a much bigger story that we're telling, that we want to tell. So part of that will be, we're going to share a bit of our renewed purpose as a company in September. Then almost a rolling thunder approach from there, you're going to be seeing much more from us in terms of new visual identity and logo and new website. Then all of this refresh articulating our multi- product story going even beyond the events use case. So that's probably the second big focus. Third is the, all right, so what category is this then? If you take events and all of these different things, what is that bigger category? I think there might be a category creation play for us, just aren't a ton of incumbents that are really telling this sort of story so can't quit it. I can't run away from it despite my attempts to, there's an opportunity to create a category I think here. Finally, I think for this audience too and just the latter part of our conversation, to grow. So we grew from in these 18 months from zero to 100 million of ARR across our portfolio. We want to grow much, much faster and a lot of that came from inbound direct lead flow, and our job is to actually go out and create a lot more demand, not just fulfill it. So we're building the revenue engine. I mentioned bringing in Drift on board and several other tools to actually go and do what all of you were doing, evangelize this problem that we see in the market. Building the right tool set and processes and rules of engagement with our friends in sales to monetize that intent and hopefully to grow the company in a more predictable way over the longterm. So, I think it's those three things, hiring, brand and demands, are the three big buckets for us right now.

Tricia Gellman: Cool, I think it's been really impressive. Early in the pandemic, I actually did some webinars and conversations with your investors and spoke about what's going on the virtual space and really Hopin was on my radar based on some third party events that I participated in. So it's been great to watch you guys grow, it was exciting to see Irene go over and then to see you go over and there's so many great people that are building out the team over there. So just really exciting, and especially I think a great story on just the ability to be multinational because at first everyone thought, well oh, Hopin is this European startup and now there's so many leaders across all the different geographies. So it just really makes a big play for what the power is of remote work and virtual and how everybody can learn and grow together, I mean at hyper speed. I mean, we wouldn't have thought of doing this before, so that's really cool. I think you just touched on this idea of hiring, and one of the things that I also do besides this podcast is I have a newsletter, it's called, The Path to CMO 3.0. Every once in a while we do a guest Q& A and I think it'll be great to followup with you on a guest Q& A on hiring. How have you built that hiring engine? How do you attract the talent, because in the past six months I've hired 24 people, but that's half as many as you've hired, that's crazy. Then you're saying you're going to be at 60 by the end of three quarters, so yeah, I think there's a lot that we could share in just written Q& A in the newsletter. But anything else you want to include in this podcast before we wrap it up?

Anthony Kennada: No, that's great. I mean, honor to be a part of it and be invited. I think we opened saying this is a community that I care deeply about and I think one that has served such an important role in my life, me being on the listening end, as well as being a participant like this. So excited to see where we go from here and looking forward to coauthoring the future of event marketing together and everything else that is coming on the community side and brand building and all that stuff.

Tricia Gellman: Okay, so as we wrap up I have one final question, it's the same question I close with every time. That is, what is the biggest lesson that you think you've learned in your marketing career that you would want to share with our audience?

Anthony Kennada: Yeah, we talked about it a little bit earlier too. People, relationships are the human capital or the capital, excuse me, that matter most in our careers, whether it's the people that took a chance on us early in our career in making sure that we valued those relationships and maintained them and find ways to pay it forward. We're on the other end of it, we have seen some success in our career and we have other folks that want to buy you a cup of coffee or pick your brain. These are the types of things that I think are existentially the way that folks can make career, the way that folks can build relationships even outside of the work setting. It's one of the most enriching parts of the journey for me. Relationships like this with folks in our network, other CMOs and folks, other marketing leaders that we're able to lean on in tough times and good. So the value of relationships would be my big learning in my career.

Tricia Gellman: That's excellent. Now, if people want to build a relationship with you, where should they find you? Is your Twitter handle, is it inaudible, where would people want to... should they reach out to you?

Anthony Kennada: Yeah, who know? They all connect to my phone, so whichever path you would like. Twitter, is Akennada, LinkedIn, my name. Instagram, it's a lot more boring, but you can see family photos and stuff there, but yeah, would love to connect.

Tricia Gellman: Excellent, well thank you for joining us and thank you audience for joining us. I think this has been a great discussion, so many great nuggets, in terms of building categories, building teams, and building successful businesses. If you loved this podcast, please share it with others, please give us a six star rating. As I mentioned and I have my newsletter as well, so please join us in the conversation, whether it's in the newsletter, in email, or whether it is here in the podcast or even find me in LinkedIn and let me know some other topics and things that you would love to hear across my communications. So, thank you so much, Anthony, and thank you to the listeners.

DESCRIPTION

What does the future of corporate events look like? That’s a question Hopin, an event technology platform, was asking even before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Anthony Kennada (Hopin’s CMO), experienced the marketing team go from 5 to 50 employees and reach the coveted unicorn status – all within his first six months. 

In this episode, he and Tricia discuss how events foster community, why community is the secret to category creation, and why building an internal community between sales, marketing, and customer success is critical to growing revenue for your business.