Be Loved, Be Bold, Be Authentic – Core Values to Fuel Mollie’s Hypergrowth!

When online payment processor Mollie redefined its key values to put “being loved by customers” at the top of the list, the Amsterdam-based fintech company found that they began to approach every business decision they made quite differently — from hiring, to partnerships, to adopting a unique localization strategy that focused on fewer markets while still unlocking global growth.

In this episode of Growth Hacks, Katja and Kunal are joined by Ken Serdons, the chief commercial officer at Mollie. Ken explains how Mollie’s key value of being loved by customers has influenced every part of the company’s DNA, from how they assign responsibilities, to who they hire, and how the company structures and manages its relationships with external partners. Ken also explains to us how Mollie has reworked its partnership model in a way that helps them extract full value, something he credits to — you guessed it — Mollie’s hyper-consumer-centric mindset.

Here’s what you will learn:                

  • Why Mollie adopted a customer-first mentality
  • How to drive partnerships that unlock their full potential
  • How a localization strategy that prioritizes fewer markets can unlock hypergrowth
  • Why they don’t do any bespoke development at Mollie
  • How to hire candidates for their future roles

To hear more on this, settle in and press play.

Please find the transcript below, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Katja Gagen: Today we’re thrilled to speak with Ken Serdons, Chief Commercial Officer at Mollie, one of the largest and fastest growing FinTech companies in Europe.

A little bit about Ken – he likes to grow things which was clear from an early age. As a child, he used to grow all sorts of vegetables and pumpkins, and his passion for growth is now focused on helping customers grow their e-commerce business through the financial services that Mollie offers. Welcome to Growth Hacks, Ken.

Ken Serdons: Thanks for having me, Katja.

Kunal Mehta: Ken, it’s such a pleasure to have you here. Where does this podcast find you today?

Ken Serdons: I’m working today out of our headquarters here in Amsterdam.

Katja Gagen: Nice. And Ken you are Chief Commercial Officer at Mollie. Tell us about Mollie and what your role is.

Ken Serdons: So at Mollie we provide online payments to now over 125,000 active customers across Europe.

We differentiate by offering not just great products, but we also really care about design and making sure that the checkout is optimized for conversions and in some cases we can improve conversion by up to 7% versus more traditional players.

We are hyper localized in every market that we operate in. And we absolutely love the customer, which is definitely a unique selling point in the payments industry. So I look after commerce, which includes partnerships, sales, and marketing.

Kunal Mehta: Awesome. You know Ken, I’m a huge fan of partnerships because it just creates this multiplier effect. And what we observe is partnerships rarely see their full potential because they’re not activated well. And Mollie’s philosophy on activating partnerships drives a win-win for everyone. Maybe you can talk a little bit about how you get that.

Ken Serdons: Yeah, you’re right, Kunal. Partners are absolutely critical to the success of our business. They provide a super scalable growth channel. Our customers work a lot with different types of software and tools to run their business. So at Mollie, it’s important to work with as many of them as possible.

I’ll give you a couple of examples, how we get to a proper win-win situation. I think the first thing is, we don’t just care about the partners, but we actually also care about their customers, who of course, are also our customers.

We try to do our utmost best to provide the best possible experience to these merchants. If something goes wrong, we not just try to solve it with the customer, but we also inform our partners. And that creates a lot of transparency and a lot of trust. Again, happy merchants create happy partners.

That’s the core part, being extremely customer centric, both on the partner side and on the customer side.

Second is we look at creating value for our partners and value that goes beyond the traditional money incentives. For example, one of our partners did not have a very good view on their own customers. At Mollie we process payment transactions, so we see a lot of data about our customers, and we could help that partner with understanding which of their customers are growing, which industries they’re playing in, etc. All that information we could provide to them so they could actually identify for themselves which segments to focus on.

And finally, we spend a lot of effort in building amazing integrations with our partners. And that’s really helpful for developers that actually drive a lot of the decision-making on which PSP to select.

Katja Gagen: That sounds great, Ken. It looks like you have a really good playbook in place. It also sounds like there’s a lot of resources involved to activate a partnership. What types of resources and skills come in handy here?

Ken Serdons: That’s right, Katja. So first of all, we have split the job of partner managers in two. We have hunters who go after new deals, who get the thrill of signing up a new deal. And there you of course looking for the traditional sales skills, but also the creativity of how to structure deals.

We then we split that role from managing those relationships for success in the future. So we have what we call partner success managers. They really think about how we can create joint growth with the partner.

We also have technical people. Solution engineers who help design the integrations, technical partner managers who help them solve problems, etc. And overall, we have people that think about creating programs for partners, standardized programs, including joint marketing activities, etc.

Kunal Mehta: Katja and I have had a chance to work with you on round tables, and Mollie and you are deeply introspective. I’m just curious. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Ken Serdons: We try to do many bold things and sometimes things work – sometimes they don’t, and if they don’t work we course correct quite quickly. Looking at partnerships I think one of the mistakes that we made was that we were too focused on creating new deals, on the hunting part.

We did not spend enough effort into nurturing those relationships going forward. When we identified that some of these partnerships were not reaching the ambitions that we had when we created the deals, we started investing a lot more in those partner success management capabilities. And it really has created more trust with partners. And obviously more businesses flowing through right now.

Katja Gagen: That’s right, and Mollie has been on an expansion path, which Kunal and I have seen firsthand. We see your competitors carpet bomb their way into markets, but Mollie takes a different approach.

I remember reading all your German materials when you went into that market. And I know localization is really important to you. Tell us a bit about your strategy for expansion and going into new markets.

Ken Serdons: Yes. As you said, Katja, we believe that a very localized approach is required to create a truly unique experience for our customers and their shoppers.

They’re probably about three components in our international strategy. First one is focus. The second one hyper localization, and the third one is creating and standardizing the playbook that we talked about.

In the beginning we did not have this international expansion playbook in place and then it’s actually very difficult to roll out new markets at speed. And when I joined, we were active in about six markets, and we wanted to be present in as many markets as soon as possible. But I quickly identified that that was probably not the right way to differentiate ourselves.

We took the decision to focus. Drop Italy, for example, where we had a very small sales team in place, to really focus our efforts and resources on the markets where we saw a lot of traction. Mainly Germany and France, and later on the U.K. as well.

Hyper-focused on what really works, we’ve managed to achieve really fast growth. So Germany, for example, last year we were growing at a thousand percent year over year.

The second point about hyper localization. And this is really how we differentiate from, for example, the global PSPs, that process transactions across the world. Every market in Europe is different. They have their own nuances, their own local payment methods.

We localize our offering to not just include all the local payment methods, but also to make sure that the integration of those payment methods is optimized for conversion. So there’s never a redirect. You always stay as a shopper within the branded experience of the website that you shop at.

We also have localized the onboarding experience, tapping into local databases, using the right language. So we make sure our customers understand the documentation that they need to provide to us. Obviously, we also provide localized customer service in the local language. A German person likes to talk to a German support agent and it’s the same thing in every single market.

Finally, on creating that playbook. So when you go to a lot of markets at the same time, you really need to know about what you need to do at which sequence. We have created a playbook that includes how you set up partnerships upfront, how you start hiring the right sales teams, how you structure the team at different stages of the journey. That playbook really helps now to speed up the expansion to different markets.

Kunal Mehta: Ken, talking about focus. How is this reflected in the choice of the customer segments that Mollie serves?

Ken Serdons: One of the guiding principles from the get-go was that we never wanted to do any bespoke development. Bespoke development creates legacy technology and that’s expensive to maintain, but it’s also not scalable.

When we started, we focused on the small customers first, with a simple and easy to integrate product. We started off with a focus on one payment method back in the day, which was iDEAL, which is the preferred payment method in Netherlands. We really optimized that user experience and over time we really created an amazing journey for our customers.

Kunal Mehta: I love hearing two growth hacks in one answer. No bespoke development. It’s just too expensive to maintain and start with SMB because you just learn at scale in that segment. That’s really great.

Ken Serdons: Indeed yeah, I think it’s an easier way to disrupt the market if you start from the smaller end, add more features then as they go up market. The other way around is a lot more painful when you have to really simplify a complex product that you are using for larger customers to simplify it down, to go off smaller customers. That’s a really tricky job.

Katja Gagen: And what we’ve seen is that Mollie has grown up a lot in the last 17 years and learned a lot. But we also at TCV really focus on value and mission driven companies. So, how have your values evolved over time at Mollie?

Ken Serdons: Yes, they have evolved quite a bit, actually. So, we started off with five rather generic values. It’s a typical thing that you see at pretty much every corporate companies. We had passion, impact, courage, honesty, and friendship, and those values were good values, but they didn’t really resonate. So, we decided to upgrade those values and we selected three values that fully reflect what we do and who we are.

The first one is “Be Loved”. We aim to be the most loved partners for our customers, for our partners, but also be the most loved employer for our “Mollies”. And that’s important because for our customers, we always try to do the right thing. Every person you speak to at Mollie is absolutely passionate about our customer. We take care of them. We provide them an honest service. There’s never hidden fees at Mollie. And we’re super transparent on pricing, which is quite unique in our industry.

The second value is “Be Bold”. We’re not afraid to fail. We try lots of different things, make bold moves, and then if things don’t work out, we quickly iterate at a fast pace.

A good example of being bold is that we never locked our customers into a long-term contract. Our customers can leave at any point in time. And while that sounds a little bit scary sometimes, it actually is the best sign of confidence that we believe in our own product.

Finally, the third value is to “Be Authentic”. We want people, our colleagues to bring their best self to work. They can truly be who they are. We have lots of different nationalities, people from different backgrounds, et cetera. And it creates not just a fun environment, but also an environment where we encourage diversity of thought.

Kunal Mehta: You often don’t see “be loved” as a value. And that’s so refreshing to see, how does that show up at Mollie?

Ken Serdons: Yeah, I think in many different ways. So first of all, in all the interactions with our customers. In the way we think about pricing, in the way we optimize our products, et cetera. But we also look at our values in our performance appraisal process.

So every half year, every “Mollie” is being evaluated and we evaluate also our colleagues on which values they represent the most. And also the hiring process. We look at our values when a person is in front of us, we really check is this person reflecting the three values that we have? And one of the key things I like at Mollie is that we always hire people with low egos.

You have to absolutely put the customer first. You have to put the company first, we’re growing so fast.

Katja Gagen: That’s so refreshing, Ken, and such good insight. We also talked about hiring people and that’s really important to Mollie. You’ve said that you’re not just hiring people to do the job now, but the job in the future. Why is that important to you?

Ken Serdons: We’re growing at a very fast pace, effectively doubling every single year. And we also do a lot of things that have never been done before at Mollie. Opening new markets, expanding into different products, and we don’t have the big supporting structures in place that you’d typically find in large corporates.

We need people who not just know what good looks like but who also know how to implement it and how to get the job done. So when we hire people or when we promote people from internally for a job, we often get people who are too big for the initial role, knowing that the company will continue to grow and the job will expand.

If you hire a person that’s just about right for the job right now, the chances are very high that they might struggle the next year when the company is twice the size. And if you think one year ahead, they might be underperforming as the company keeps expanding. So we really want to hire people who can do the job still two years down the line.

And I think that only works if you hire low ego people. People who put the customer and the company first.

Kunal Mehta: Katja and I cover a lot of different companies. And one of the common questions we get asked are, “Hey, what’s the cool facts?” And I’m curious, what are the cool facts about Mollie?

Ken Serdons: Yes, we have about 125,000 customers and we have about 400 customers signing up on a daily basis. I think our biggest onboarding day was around 800 to 900 customers a day. Out of our top 30 best onboarding days 25 of them so far we’re in March 2020 when Corona hit and lots of merchants were scrambling to move their businesses online. So we helped a lot of these companies go online.

We have about 44 nationalities at Mollie, so a really diverse group of people. Last month was the best month ever in terms of hiring, we hired 62 people which is more than 10% of our total population.

Katja Gagen: All right, that’s pretty cool. We also have a few more questions. We always end with a rapid fire. So let’s go ahead. What’s the company you admire the most?

Ken Serdons: I love Apple because I think they’ve set the standard on providing delightful experiences on pretty much every single touch point with the customer.

Katja Gagen: What’s your go- to book, what’s on your nightstand?

Ken Serdons: So I regularly check in on a book called What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There. to really get some reflections on how to get better as a leader.

Kunal Mehta: Cool. Ken, just curious what’s the social media influencer who you follow the most?

Ken Serdons: Yeah. So I like to read stuff from Robin Sharma. He is a leadership coach. He’s a bit over the top, but his advice is always a great reminder on how to do things differently.

Katja Gagen: I totally agree. I like his 5:00 AM club as well Ken, and that gets me up in the morning.

Kunal Mehta: Well, it should make the next question super easy, morning person or night person?

Ken Serdons: Morning person. So I do try to get up early and enjoy the quietness of the mornings to work on myself and to get stuff done.

Kunal Mehta: Fantastic. And what’s your proudest achievement at Mollie?

Ken Serdons: It’s been a really fun journey the past two years, but I think what’s most memorable is I think all the efforts we did to help customers move online when the pandemic hit. And during the time we also expanded our market share substantially in all markets.

Katja Gagen: Well, thanks so much, Ken. We covered a lot today. Partnerships, expansion, culture, hiring, you name it. And I think we could have talked for a few more hours, but thanks for joining us on Growth Hacks today, and for all the insights you shared.

Ken Serdons: Thanks so much. It was my pleasure.

***

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Turning a Continuous Improvement Mindset Into Successful KPIs

When growing and scaling sales teams, stasis can set in even quicker than a sales leader might realize. That’s why Marty Sanders, head of American sales at cybersecurity leader Vectra, prioritizes continuous improvement as a strategy and goal for every member of his organization.

During this episode of Growth Hacks, the trio discuss how Marty hires sales leaders that are hyper focused on growth, and how Vectra supports their employees with a culture that allows them to excel. Marty also walks us through how his new hires generated 50% of revenue in just six months…and how they cut their sales cycle by more than half along the way.

Here’s what you will learn:

  • Why Vectra treats recruitment with the same focus they do dealmaking and sales
  • How to recruit and hire talent that has an improvement-focused mindset
  • The strategy behind implementing a culture of continuous improvement
  • How Vectra shortened its sales cycle while growing revenue generated by new hires

To hear more on this, settle back and press play.

Please find the transcript below, which has been edited.

Kunal Mehta: In today’s episode, we have a special guest, Marty Sanders. Now a little bit about Marty.

He started his career at EMC, where he eventually led a division from a hundred million in revenue to a billion in three years. After that amazing run, he became CEO of a Tony Robbins company that focused on doubling sales in 24 months or less. He went on to work for one of our venture advisors here at TCV, Mark Smith, at a fast-growing company called Rubrik.  Now he’s at the helm of America Sales at Vectra, who is a leader in cybersecurity and a TCV-backed company. And I’m sure you’re going to share some incredible best practices. Welcome, Marty Sanders.

Marty Sanders: Thanks, Kunal. So great to be here.

Katja Gagen: Awesome. Marty, where does this podcast find you today?

Marty Sanders: Got off the plane a couple hours ago from Chicago and I’m looking around and I think I’m back in my home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Kunal Mehta: Well, Marty, I got to tell you my first day at TCV, I walked off at jetway and I was greeted by these incredible superheroes. And I remember thinking, this is just incredible branding. I loved it. I loved how they had a superhero for cloud, network, data center, but then I realized it was Vectra, a TCV-backed company, and they’ve kind of cracked the code on simplifying cybersecurity. Maybe you can give us your quick pitch on Vectra.

Marty Sanders: Absolutely. I do get excited every day here at Vectra because we’re fighting bad guys. We’re helping companies prevent the serious damages that come from cyber-crime. What Vectra does is we provide peace of mind that your mission-critical assets are protected from cyber-crimes, like ransomware and supply chain. And we do it by detecting adversaries and responding to adversaries at speed. Thanks to our superior AI and ML platform.

Katja Gagen: That’s interesting Marty. So, what is most important prevention or adapting as quickly as possible? And since we hear about ransomware and security breaches every day in the news, has demand gone through the roof for Vectra’s solutions?

Marty Sanders: Thankfully they have, but you know, sadly it’s because crime is getting very, very bad. And one of the challenges that companies have today is they’re spending way too much on trying to prevent and stop and block threats that can’t be blocked. So, the new wave companies who are doing a great job defending themselves against ransomware and supply chain are focused on detection and responding to adversarial threats versus prevention. Because eventually somebody is going to get in. So, it’s all about identifying them and getting them out as soon as possible.

There’s about a 300% uptick in ransomware I saw in the Washington Post recently. We are seeing a significant uptick in early indicators of ransomware amongst our current customers. But the good news is we are seeing the early indicators of ransomware with our current customers, thus being able to identify and respond to that. That’s why our customers are out of the headlines.

Katja Gagen: Right. And obviously cybersecurity is a really hot topic and being ahead of the game is key to fight the bad guys, so to speak, right? How do you find good talent in an industry that is in short supply? And what are your secrets for hiring and for ramping people quickly?

Marty Sanders: There’s a lot to unpack there, Katja, and I will tell you it’s tough and it’s never been tougher. But we’re having great success, despite all those headwinds. And part of it is a culture and treating recruiting with the same level of focus that you treat any large transaction or large deal in the forecast.

And it starts at the top, making sure that I carve out time to do recruiting and leveraging my network and tools on LinkedIn. Then it goes down a level to my managers. So, when I’m inspecting their business, it’s not just a forecast and pipeline review. It’s also a review of their recruiting activities.

So that’s really important to us, that we treat recruiting like we treat multi-million-dollar deals. The second thing that we’ve done is we’re a lot more efficient in our recruiting and we’re getting a lot better predictable results by using a personality DNA test from company called OMG. What we’re able to do is very quickly after we identify a candidate — do a 10-minute interview — we ask them to take this test and, you know, if they fail the test, we don’t move on. It gives us back a lot of time because it’s customized for us, and it’s able to take into consideration the skills and the wills that makes sense for the candidate and it makes sense for us here at Vectra and we don’t have any exceptions. You pass the test, or we don’t move on.

Kunal Mehta: Marty, I love, just the science that you apply in terms of hiring. We spend so much time training sales reps on qualification. Whether it’s through MEDDPICC or MEDDIC or whatever, you’re using the same approach on hiring. Maybe you can give us a little bit more color about how you apply that process to hiring?

Marty Sanders: Absolutely, because now we’ve done a good job at sourcing candidates, and we get somebody that passes the test. There’s still a lot of work to do so in closing the sale because it is a sale, and we use MEDDIC as part of our hiring process. Understanding, what is the metric that the candidates are looking for, which is typically income or upward mobility, you know, who’s the economic buyer? Many times, I’ll be on with a candidate, and I’ll say, Katja, do you discuss this opportunity with your significant other or spouse? And she may say yes. And I’ll say, would it be helpful if I got on the phone with your spouse and talked a little bit about the opportunity, to make sure I’ve answered all questions? Just making that offer goes a long way in the recruitment of a candidate.

Kunal Mehta: And what’s the result at Vectra through this process?

Marty Sanders: Well, I adopted it as soon as I joined the company about seven and a half months ago, and the last two quarters, in what used to be considered a long sales cycle, over 50% of our revenue is coming from folks that have been hired in the last six months.

Katja Gagen: Well, thanks, Marty. I also want to drill a little bit into the sales cycle. A lot of our companies in the portfolio have very long sales cycles and then they hire these industry superstars with a big Rolodex, and they pay non-recoverable draws. What’s your take on that?

Marty Sanders: My take is this is a problem that many companies are facing, where we hire the person with the expensive Rolex and the nice suit, and they make all these big promises and nine months go by and you really don’t have the right scorecard to see if they’re doing a good job or not.  So, I address it in a couple of ways.

Number one is what can we do to shorten that long sale cycle? And I’m obsessed with that. And making sure when I use the sales, like a DNA test or personality profile, does this person have the ability to do transactions? Even though you’re not a transactional business, just having that transactional ability really goes a long way in shortening sales cycles.

Number two is building a scorecard to measure if they’re doing a good job and then three, and most importantly, tying that draw to the KPIs on that scorecard. I will not give a draw just for the sake of giving a draw, that you get money just for showing up. We’re going to make sure we tie that draw to MBOs that are great leading indicators that we’re building pipeline. But even activities like identifying stakeholders, meeting the stakeholders, getting the senior leadership like me or my CEO in front of the customer. Identifying use cases, modeling a TCO, developing unsolicited proposals. And most importantly, have you identified pain in any part of an organization? Just making sure we’re paying that draw and tying it to hitting these KPIs.

Kunal Mehta: Marty, I think those verifiable outcomes that you’re talking about and tying the draw payment to that is incredibly refreshing to hear. I know you have this great way to onboard, ramp, even identify talent, but you also have an incredible way to think about just continuous improvement as folks come in. Maybe you can talk to that a little bit and how you’ve compressed things like sales cycle.

Marty Sanders: Continuous improvement has to be throughout an entire organization, and everybody has to be obsessed with that. Probably my biggest obsession right now, is shortening the sales cycle. When I came to Vectra, our sales cycle in America was 241 days, and now we’re down to 111.

Last quarter we had five new customer transactions, brand new net, new customers that closed in less than 30 days. So, we’re certainly trending in the right direction. And the pillars to get that done is — a big part of it is culture and not allowing that limiting belief that all of our sales cycles are nine to 12 months.

One of the things that you have to do again, going back to the sales DNA, is making sure you hire people that do not have that limiting belief and agree with me that we can shorten that sales cycle. Number two is making sure all your sellers can articulate the value prop in 90 seconds or less. You can get that in less than 90 seconds; you can build a 90-day sales cycle.

Next is building a culture of compression where every Friday is treated like month end, every month end is treated like quarter end, and every quarter end is treated like year-end. By the way, this is tough. It can wear people out, but you have to maintain it. But because it’s tough, you have to do two things. Again, hiring people who are built for that.

And then number two, really being aggressive in recognition and making sure that you’re checking in on your people, that they can continue to maintain that pace.

Kunal Mehta: That level and that mindset is incredibly important. And I remember Marty, when we first met, you talked about no goose eggs ever. Maybe you can just explain to our listeners how that mindset is so critical in your own organization.

Marty Sanders: A great example is, you know, a sales rep who doesn’t clearly have a deal to commit, you know, from a forecasting perspective. And they’ll say their commit is zero. You cannot allow anybody to put a goose egg in their commit.

They must put something. Something has to be in there because if you allow them to have a zero forecast, you’re basically giving them a mulligan. You’re giving them the subconscious right to fail. By getting them to commit to something, anything, even if it’s $50K, that commitment now is tied to a moral obligation, and they are morally obligated to get to that commit. So, it’s very important that none of your managers can ever accept somebody committing to zero.

Katja Gagen: So, it’s a lot about having growth in mind, but also being very focused. That leads me to lifetime learning, Marty, and I know you’re passionate about learning. So, tell us, who do you learn from and who has had the biggest impact on your career?

Marty Sanders: I could literally chat for a week answering that question, as there’s been so many people that have influenced me and helped me. But my go-to book, the book that I ask all my managers to read, the book that I read on an annual basis is Dr. Robert Cialdini’s Influence, and his new book called Pre-Suasion. It’s all about using tools like neurolinguistic programming and the seven most powerful words and subconscious laws of influence to get people, to do what you want them to do. To lead them, to make the right decision. And the premise is: there’s no such thing as free will.

Kunal Mehta: Well, I love any books that have to do with influence and persuasion. Maybe you can talk about how that impacted you and your personal life.

Marty Sanders: The beauty of Cialdini’s work is the impact it has had on my personal life. And I’ll go back to a sales campaign, talk about long sales cycles, this is a sales campaign I started about 15 years ago. I had seen John Chambers do a presentation about the need for more engineers and said, “if you have small children at home, do what you can to get them to be engineers”. And I went home that day with a moral obligation to make sure my daughters became engineers. So, I looked at my four- and six-year-old in the eye and said, “you guys are going to be engineers one day.” And they laughed. They giggled, they went back to dance class and her piano lessons, not knowing that over the course of the next 15 years, I adopted every piece of learning from Cialdini that I could apply to influence my girls, to become engineers. And up until the day they were doing their college applications, they still didn’t realize what major they were going to do, but yet they somehow wrote down mechanical engineers.

And as I look back today, I’m very proud of my two successful daughters who are going to be big, big players in women in STEM.

Kunal Mehta: Marty — they’re going to know about it now, this lifelong campaign.

Marty Sanders: Cat’s out of the bag.

Katja Gagen: And so, taking this to the influence and persuasion in selling, what’s your number one tip that you can tell with our listeners?

Marty Sanders: I would probably start with, are you using the proper pre-framing techniques before you message to a customer? Here’s one of my favorites. And this came out of a result of doing presentations and I thought I was doing a great job, but they weren’t taking the actions that I wanted them to take at the end of the call.

And a lot of us have great calls with no actions. So, I’ll start a call and I’ll go, “Hey, Kunal, thanks so much for having me today. I’m really excited to be here. What I can tell you Vectra is very data-driven, and we actually take a look at the results of every time we do a presentation like today. And what I can share with you Kunal, is at the end of this presentation, the data says, that 75% of people who go through this take action at the end. Now that action may vary. The action may be a deeper dive, talk to a reference and some cases they just want to accelerate the move to a procurement, but 75% of the people who see what I’m going to share with you, take action.”

And at the end of my presentation, I’m not going to have happy talk. I’m going to say “based on what we just went through Kunal share with me your next action. I’m not asking you; I’m telling you to share with me your next action.

Katja Gagen: That’s really great advice, Marty. I love that and our listeners will love it too. So now as we’re getting to the end, we’ll finish with a quick lightning round. So, tell me what book is on your nightstand?

Marty Sanders: Awesome book by my friend, Randy Seidl. Your Go-To Sales Adviser.

Kunal Mehta: And I just wanted to know maybe the company you admire the most and why?

Marty Sanders: It has to be EMC. EMC sales DNA is sprinkled all over Silicon Valley and companies like ServiceNow, Snowflake, Cohesity, Rubrik, and now Vectra.

Katja Gagen: What’s the one thing you wish you had known earlier in your career?

Marty Sanders: People matter. Hire right? Sleep at night.

Katja Gagen: And Marty you’ve seen good and bad sales calls. What’s the best cold call opening line? What’s the worst?

Marty Sanders: Well, the best cold call opening line that worked for me when I was a young lad was: “Hey Katja. This is Marty from Vectra. We do a lot of business with other venture capital companies, and research says that it takes me nine calls to reach you. So, you could save us both another eight calls by returning my call and just give me three minutes of your time. If I don’t prove value in those three minutes, you’ll never hear from me again, Katja.”

Katja Gagen: I would definitely return that. What’s the worst one?

Marty Sanders: “Hey, Katja. It’s Marty from Vectra. How are you today?” I can’t tell you how many times somebody said, like “I’m horrible, my wife just threw me out of the house and my dog died. How are you doing?”

Katja Gagen: Well thanks so much, Marty, for sharing all your insights for salespeople and for life. It was so nice to have you on Growth Hacks today. Thanks for joining us.

Marty Sanders: It was a blast and I hope you two have an awesome day.

Katja Gagen: Thanks for listening to Growth Hacks. You can follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. To learn more about us and TCV’s CEO and founder podcast, go to TCV.com or email us at growthhacks@tcv.com.

***

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Building the Brand Reputation Playbook: Aligning Business Objectives to Drive Perception and Growth

Communications and marketing teams are often siloed yet need to work hand in hand to build and scale the brand perception that can hypercharge growth. In the inaugural episode of “Growth Hacks,” Kunal and Katja are joined by Gabrielle Ferree, head of public relations at OneTrust, the leading privacy, security, and data governance platform. Gabrielle reveals how she pulled in stakeholders across the company when planning a five-year anniversary campaign that celebrated the startup’s early successes, and how she aligns PR objectives with business objectives. The conversation also serves up strategy for successfully simplifying your company story, along with smart ways to work with the media. Here’s what you will learn:

  • How partnering with stakeholders throughout the organization can organically expand your campaign reach
  • How to create a PR playbook from scratch
  • The importance of aligning with C-suite business goals and marketing teams
  • Understanding the changing rhythms of newsrooms and working with media in 2021
  • Expanding the definition of communications into other arenas, including sales and HR 

For all this and much more, settle back and press play.

Please find the transcript below, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Katja: Today, Kunal and I are joined by Gabrielle Ferree, head of public relations at OneTrust, a widely used privacy, security, and data governance technology platform. We learn from Gabrielle how her team collaborated with stakeholders across the organization to execute OneTrust’s five-year anniversary campaign, what she prioritizes when setting her communications strategy, and how she aligns with marketing and business strategy on her PR efforts.

Welcome to Growth Hacks, Gabrielle.

Gabrielle: Thanks, Katja. Thanks for having me.

Katja: Awesome. So where does this podcast find you today? Where are you?

Gabrielle: Very specifically, I’m in my daughter’s closet. I’ve learned from my favorite podcasters, when they go on vacation, they’d go in a closet for the best sound. So I’m here in Phoenix, Arizona, which is where I moved mid-pandemic, back home to be close to my family.

Katja: That’s awesome. And talking about your employer OneTrust, which is one of our portfolio companies and a leader in the trust space. How did you end up at OneTrust? What does the company do? And what do you do?

Gabrielle: Yeah. Absolutely. So OneTrust is actually the number one fastest-growing company on the Inc. 500 this year. We create a suite of technology products that help companies build trust with their customers, their employees, and the community of people who work around them. We were founded about five years ago and today have 10,000 customers, 2,000 employees, and a group of incredible investors, including TCV. Myself personally, I have a deep background in technology, PR, and communications. I worked with a lot of the OneTrust leadership team on a previous company called AirWatch, which was acquired by VMware in 2014. And now I’m leading communications, public relations, content marketing, social media and our community marketing at OneTrust.

Katja: So Gabrielle, you lead a strong team that’s working remotely. How do you drive collaboration with your team members?

Gabrielle: Yeah. First off, I think it’s important to remember that, yes, we are remote, but we still have always been a global team and have had people in a number of different offices. But one of the things I like to share with anyone who is a people manager or trying to engage and inspire a team is not to forget that these are still people. So how can you make it not just about work, but a little bit of fun? So there’s a couple of things that we do on our team. We do what we call work-from-home wins, where we talk about something what we’ve done for our mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional wellbeing that last day, just to make sure that we’re doing something besides working in our work-from-home life. Then we’ll also have a question-of-the-day, which I’ll randomly assign to someone. And we all have to sort of give our answer. Yesterday’s question was, “What is something that you used to believe for many years and then found out was not true?” which I got a lot of fun responses. And then the third is I do something called Friday fun. So we have meetings on Fridays where we do a little bit of business, but then the second part is just something completely fun, not related to work. We’ve played Scattergories. We’ve had someone make pizza virtually for us. And there’s just a lot of impact you can make when you’re giving those fun opportunities that you get in the office in a virtual sense. And I recommend any manager to try and implement some fun into their virtual meetings.

Katja: Well, thanks for the insights, Gabrielle. It looks like you got to put to the test a lot of your recommendations most recently when OneTrust celebrated its fifth-year anniversary, and you led a large campaign to celebrate that. Tell us a little bit more how you designed that campaign. Who were the stakeholders? How did you get everyone on board? And how did you think beyond communications to make this a success?

Gabrielle: One of the most incredible things about working at OneTrust is that we’ve had so many opportunities even in the last year to do a big announcement that really rallies our employees from being named the number one fastest-growing company on the Inc. 500 to our massive Series C that was spearheaded by TCV to this five-year announcement. In startup world, we think five years is a pretty big deal, and I hope that we get to 50 years. But for now, we’re very proud of our five-year milestone and didn’t look at it from just a marketing lens. We wanted to see, how is this an opportunity to thank our customers, those who’ve been there from the very beginning and those who had just joined us? How to thank our community, people within the privacy, security, and governance industry that have helped us along the way. How do we engage our employees? How do we help with recruiting? How do we say thanks to our investors?

So we brought together people from all those teams to sort of execute and hash out a plan. And what we did from the marketing communications side was build really consistent branding throughout. So we had this five-years-of-trust logo. It was included on our infographics and on our videos and on our swag that we sent to employees and community members and investors. And I think we were able to have some really great results across sales, customer acquisition, across excitement on social media and participation with our community online, as well as with our employees, and a big moment of camaraderie and in coming together, even in virtual world.

Kunal: Yeah. I love that Gabrielle. And I can tell you from a PR perspective, when Katja and I get pulled in, there’s just a lot of common myths we see where folks like yourself and Katja, and you just need to deliver really pragmatic advice. If PR were a sport, maybe you can walk us through your playbook for getting started in PR.

Gabrielle: Yeah. That’s a really great question. When it comes to a playbook, this is something at OneTrust we’re really good at mastering. When you’re growing as fast as we are, we have to create these scalable, repeatable processes that anyone can take and execute on. So the way that I would go to anyone who is starting up a PR program, a startup technology company would first be, “Where are your people? Where is your public?” Right? They may not all be reading the traditional news magazines, even though your CEO may think that’s what PR is. Your people may be on TikTok. Your people may be on Reddit. Your people may be on LinkedIn. Where are your people? And then build programs around that. I think too common people associate PR with press release. And the fact of the matter is PR is about, what do people feel when they hear your brand? What is your corporate reputation? And are you managing both the proactive and reactive communications that come with your company?

So first, find out where your people are. And then second, make sure that you are aligned with what your executive’s requirements are. Too often you’ll have a new hire or someone come in that runs in one direction, but it doesn’t align with the business goals. I think one of the biggest pieces of success I’ve had in my program at OneTrust is aligning public relations and communications efforts to marketing goals. Marketing has the budget. Marketing has the direct report into the CEO. And so when you can align your communications efforts to marketing outcomes, you are able to show even more value than the intrinsic value of, what do people think about with your brand? So then third is make a process. So write down what you’re doing, and write down how you do it. And it actually is harder than you think. If you think about your day and you’re typing out everything it is that you do to craft a pitch, find media, build a social campaign or whatever it is you’re doing, it will take you a lot of time to write it down. But as soon as you can get a process set up, then you can scale. You can bring people onto your team. You can have them replicate the way that you like to do things. And then when you get more people doing those sorts of things, then you get to think about the next challenge to tackle. And then the people you bring on to sort of follow your process may come up with new and innovative ideas to do what you were doing and improve what you’re doing even better.

Kunal: I love that. And Gabrielle, as you look back over the last 5 or 10 years, what effect has technology had on PR from your perspective?

Gabrielle: I think the best thing that has happened to PR is the ability to track the efforts a little bit better. I don’t think that it’s gotten perfect yet where you can say, “This prospect looked at this article,” or, “Interacted with this piece of content that you put out and made a business decision based off of that.” But there are certain things that you can put in place into your efforts now that can help you a little bit better understand how you’re helping build into the marketing pipeline. One of the other trends that I think is important for PR professionals to understand is just the consistently changing reality of the newsroom and how much pressure reporters are under to cover such a wide swath of type of coverage areas and how you can be even a better partner with them to deliver them really good, interesting information, really great spokespeople that help them do their job better.

Kunal: So that is a huge challenge, and I completely agree with you. Maybe you can share a story on how you tackle that.

Gabrielle: Yeah. Absolutely. One of the ways to tackle it is trying to help the reporter understand if this is a type of story that has demonstrated success. So if it’s about a topic that has already shown that it can be shared widely on social media, if you can let the reporter know that this type of topic or this type of trend has already performed well, they may be more likely to write about it since one of the metrics that they’re measured by is the amount of views or traffic that a certain article generates. That was something that I think can be a little counterintuitive. Right? If this type of concept or story has already been shared, why would anyone else want to write about it? But it’s something that works. So if you can show that this type of topic or story has good legs, then a reporter may be more willing to work with it.

Katja: Awesome. And speaking of pitching, what’s your favorite pitch?

Gabrielle: One or two sentences. My favorite pitch is the short pitch. My favorite pitch is like a good dating app intro. You want to leave them wanting more. And you want to not give everything away so they can respond.

Katja: And you don’t want to lead with, “I like your article,” because it’s pretty lame.

Kunal: I got to tell you, Gabrielle, to me, I think crafting the story is so critically important. How did you think about getting so ruthlessly simple with telling people what OneTrust does?

Gabrielle: I seem to have an opposite problem of many communicators in the sense that brevity is my magic. I have less time, but still can manage to write a shorter letter, as they say. And I think it really just goes with trying to talk with more and more people about what you do in your regular life so you can try and understand what is actually resonating. If I went up to my friends and I said, “OneTrust is the fastest-growing and most widely-used enterprise technology software to operationalize privacy, security, and data governance,” they would just look at me cross-eyed and not have any idea what I was saying.

But instead if I told them, “Look, there are certain companies on the Internet that you trust. You have no problem putting in your information on their website, buying a product from them. You think they’re doing good things for the environment. Right? My company is trying to build software that helps companies understand whether or not they’re trusted.” So how can you become more simple and speak like a human? And I think the more you practice, the more you talk to people, the more you write, the more you edit, the more likely you’ll be able to get those shorter pitches. The average reporter gets something between 50 to 500 pitches in their inbox every single day. They don’t have time to read really complicated pitches. They want to understand, “How is this relevant to my readers? And why is this an interesting story that I should cover?”

Kunal: Awesome. I would just say the other thing that Katja and I run into. So maybe I’ll ask you first, and then I’ll have Katja comment on it. But there’s just a lot of misconceptions people have about PR in general. I’m just wondering, what’s your biggest pet peeve misconception?

Gabrielle: That PR means press release. I think we as communicators do so much more than draft a press release. And the more people can realize the value that communications brings to all areas of the business and see how much of everything that we touch finds its way into what our salespeople are saying and how our support people are implementing our product and even how recruiters are trying to get more employees on, the more value that they’ll see that communications can bring.

Kunal: Awesome. Katja, I’m just curious about yours. what’s your biggest pet peeve?

Katja: Yeah. I agree with Gabrielle. One of my biggest pet peeves is that preparation for a good media interview goes a long way, and not everyone does that. And I hear a lot from reporters that they get to hear the 50th version of the same messaging that they’ve read in The Wall Street Journal. And they get on the phone with someone who gives them the same answer and make it sound like it’s new. So my biggest thing is prep for an interview. And on top of that, don’t oversell yourself. There’s nothing more off-putting when you’re trying to sell, sell, sell, but have nothing else to say.

Kunal: Got it. As we work with companies on PR, they always start strong and they have a lot of gusto and they talk about playing bigger. But it’s kind of like watching an ice cube melt. It starts strong. And then by the end, there’s nothing going on. What do you think the secret is to sustaining success in PR?

Gabrielle: You have to stay aligned with the business and understand what’s going on. The business is likely not a melting ice cube. The business is likely growing and booming and doing new and innovative things. What maybe is melting is your grasp on the innovation that’s happening or getting a seat at the table to really understand what’s going on. So I have always found, you, as a PR person, has such an incredible opportunity and that you get to work with the spokes people that’s most likely executive leadership and C-suite. Maintain and keep that relationship, continue to find ways to have a seat at the table, and the stories will be there. You just may have to look a little harder.

Katja: That sounds good. We’re going to do a quick lightning round… so Gabrielle, night out or night in?

Gabrielle: Night out. Except for all my nights are now in because I have a daughter.

Kunal: I was going to say Star Wars or Star Trek?

Gabrielle: Star Wars.

Katja: Awesome. Weekend lie-in or running for a quick 5K?

Gabrielle: No. Weekend lie-in for sure.

Katja: Okay. And how about watching a movie or watching the big game?

Gabrielle: Oh, big game. All day. Big sports fan.

Katja: Well, thanks so much, Gabrielle, for all your insights on how to play the PR game really well, but also how to create campaigns that involve many more functions and leaders across the organization. It was so nice to have you on Growth Hacks today. So thank you so much for joining us.

Gabrielle: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

***

Katja: It’s been fun talking to Gabrielle in this first episode of Growth Hacks. We discussed:

  • How OneTrust collaborates remotely with a team of 2,000 employees
  • How to plan for a Five Year Anniversary campaign
  • What it takes to create an impactful PR Playbook
  • What it takes to align PR and marketing with C suite goals
  • Working with the press in 2021

Thanks for joining us and stay tuned for our next episode of Growth Hacks.

***

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview and blog post are not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this interview and blog post, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.