Growth Hacks – Moving the Metric

When open-source database company, Redis decided to undergo a rebrand, their first order of business was to identify what the rebrand was solving for. In Redis’ case, they wanted to connect even deeper with the developer community and unify the entire Redis community towards a single vision. To harness the power of the developer community, Redis adopted product-focused storytelling and prioritized building a growth funnel to fuel bottoms up adoption. By building that bridge between the Redis product and its key audiences, the company now has a pipeline to a community that not only knows about early life-cycle Redis products, but whose usage can better inform Redis’ demand funnel as well.

In the latest episode of Growth Hacks, Katja and Kunal speak with Mike Anand, CMO of TCV portfolio company, Redis. Mike explains how Redis derived its product-focused marketing strategy as part of its larger rebrand, and how that strategy has helped Redis build a vocal community of developers. He also talks through his top priorities as he makes Redis’ marketing operations more agile and data-driven, and how Redis has taken a use case first approach with analysts to build stronger relationships and garner better coverage.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How to run an effective rebrand that resonates with your primary audience
  • Using outside-in messaging to become a product-focused storyteller
  • Unlocking the benefits of building growth and demand funnels in tandem
  • Leveraging use cases to build strong relationships with analysts
  • Why making marketing at Redis more agile and data-driven is a “number one priority”
  • The importance of mission and social responsibility in modern recruitment

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

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

Kunal Mehta: Well, today we have the privilege of being joined by one of the coolest marketers in the portfolio and a veteran in the software industry. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Mike Anand, the CMO of Redis. Mike also held roles in large companies like Amazon and emerging companies like AppD.

He’s going to be sharing his experience in leading the transformation of the Redis brand. Mike, welcome to Growth Hacks.

Mike Anand: It’s a pleasure to be here today on the best podcast in the universe.

Katja Gagen: Awesome and we love to have you. I know we’ve been attached since we had made the first investment in Redis, but for our listeners, tell us one fact that nobody knows about you.

Mike Anand: One is that I have a twin brother and I’m five minutes older than him. I met my wife while she was looking for volunteers for Earth Day.

I’m blessed with two kids, a son, and a daughter. I have the best of both worlds.

Kunal Mehta: Fantastic. I’m sure you let your brother know you’re older than him. For our listeners that don’t know what Redis does, maybe you can give us a quick elevator pitch.

Mike Anand: Before the elevator pitch, I’ll just give you the framing from the outside-in. If I take that outside-in view, we’re at the intersection of two developer-driven trends. Mass rapid adoption of open-source software and the cloud itself. And that is fueling tremendous innovation in the database market.

I mean, look at all the database companies that have emerged in the last 10 years that are attracting a huge amount of investments. So Redis’ unique differentiator is really about simplicity for developers, to help them build real time applications for the real time world.

As enterprises see disruptors from digital native companies, a whole new adoption of technologies and tools like Redis allow them to move faster, innovate faster, and create differentiated experiences for their customers.

Katja Gagen: That’s great, Mike. And across industries, organizations are accelerating the digital or cloud transformation for long-term growth and profitability. But we also know that organizations remain untested in the face of digital challenges. And their digital readiness is a bit uncertain.

What’s your take on that? And who do you believe will be the biggest winner in this trend?

Mike Anand: Yeah, Katja. Look, I think change is hard, right? If you want massive change in an organization, I believe you have to make it personal and you have to make it about people. There isn’t a technology that offers a silver bullet. You’re asking people to change the processes that they have relied on successfully for years.

I believe the heart of a successful transformation is really lining up your business objectives to your DNA and really understand how it ties to your team. And paramount to all of this is making sure that you have an executive sponsorship. And I believe the big winners are those who set goals and objectives and then gain alignment. But actually, start small and then gradually add more complexity and scope, based on what they have learned.

Kunal Mehta: What are the major trends in digital transformation that companies should be paying close attention to, and who do you believe has advanced in these key areas?

Mike Anand: You know, I think innovation and transformation is all around us. If you look at the FinServ industries, they’ve always been leaders in everything from customer experiences to new products. I mean, how people bank, how we invest today, how we trade stocks. All of it is upside down from when I grew up. Retail and that whole sector has been forced to adapt by Amazon and even more so accelerated under COVID. Healthcare is seeing early innovation and transformation across patient communications to prescription delivery, really exciting stuff happening around drug discoveries.

I think the biggest example is entertainment. Gaming is now the world’s biggest form of entertainment with 2.7 billion players and getting bigger every day. Gaming is now bigger than the movie industry and sports industry combined.

Kunal Mehta: Wow, that’s an incredible stat. I’d love to hear a story about how Redis is equipping some of these companies to grow so quickly.

Mike Anand: I think if you look at all these industries, what do they have in common? They have to differentiate themselves from digital native companies. They have to provide experiences for consumers, like never before.

If you think about the world’s largest taxi company, owns no taxis. The largest content creator doesn’t have a writing staff. But one thing that is common is that it’s about age of real time. And Redis is the fastest database out there helping all these companies across all these industries, where they need to make sure that their applications can leverage the real time data to drive business intelligence and insights.

Kunal Mehta: Outstanding. And I think that foundational firepower is critical to all of those transformations that people are talking about.

Katja Gagen: I know Mike, you just did a rebrand at Redis. How did you go about this? How did you lay the foundation and how did you build on it?

Mike Anand: I think it’s really important when you start a rebranding exercise, to keep it simple, keep your messaging simple. You need to build a pool of people that you can use as your listening post, as also the people that you can understand and dive deeper with. And I think also the second-most important thing that you have to think about is, why are you actually doing the rebrand? In our case, a rebranding exercise was all about breaking the silos between our open-source project and the company, which was perceived as only focused on commercial business.

You have to really understand why are you rebranding? And then when you think about creating the buzz and excitement it’s very, very tempting to out-think yourself. But as you build that process, as you build that engine to create noise and buzz, you really have to think about, how can you tie this launch to the stakeholders, right? And who are the key stakeholders that you want to make an impact with?

This is where your tone matters. This is where leveraging your simplicity of your message matters. I would try to bucketize the activities in those larger categories.

Kunal Mehta: You know, my follow up Mike is when I look at your work specifically with the analyst community, it went from largely on the fringe to big mindshare with key analysts. Maybe you can just give us the three things you did to grow your mindshare with companies like Gartner.

Mike Anand: When think about analysts and then community, I really think about building a relationship. Look, analyst community has a tremendous power and knowledge of what is painful for your customers. The first part of connecting and building that journey with that analyst community is to not only just make a hard pitch and sell them what your products can do, but it’s actually help you understand from them better, what do your customers need? It is no longer about companies; it’s about use cases. When you reach out to analysts, I highly recommend you, you step away from, ‘Hey, how many inquiries are you getting about X technology or Y?’ Really focus on use cases.

That was the angle that we took at Redis to help us understand the use cases that matters to the customers, tie our story to those use cases, and then build and foster a relationship from that point on. That way both of us get mutual benefit out of the conversations.

Kunal Mehta: I think we have kismet on this. The use cases are worth so much with the analysts and then even introducing them to some of the companies that are driving this innovation – just a well done move there.

Katja Gagen: I agree. And I think what’s also true is we’ve seen things are evolving right? In the technology business, but also when it comes to the role of the CMO. Mike, how have you adapted over the years and how have you seen the role of marketing change? Tell us a little bit more about field marketing and account-based marketing, that are some of your sweet spots.

Mike Anand: It’s a very exciting time to be in marketing. Marketing is going through tremendous evolution. The enterprise buying journey has completely changed. Developers hold a special power and the new ITDMs, right? And if you think about it, buyers are anonymous and distributed, sales is getting involved later and later in the cycle.

I truly believe that modern CMOs have to think about and take the role differently. And they have to become a bigger partner to the CEOs, and the role is bigger than just creating demand and building brand. Modern CMOs, I think, really have to be technology forward leaders. They have to be agile, and data driven. And they have to find a way to inject technology in a sensible way that allows them to get both the leading and lagging insights about the business itself.

Second, I really think that CMOs have to think about not just being storytellers, but product focused storytellers. They have to build the bridge between what’s being built and sold, but they also have to be the community builders out there. Get the community to participate in promoting your story and your technology.

Lastly, about ABM, it’s very exciting, it’s all the rage. But the way I encourage people to think about it is actually think about account-based revenue. Because that’s when you can tie both sales and marketing to joint MBOs.

Kunal Mehta: Well in this shift that you’re talking about, how are you creating top-of-the-funnel motions?

Mike Anand: Yeah, Kunal, it’s a perfect segue, right? I really think that there are two funnels. There are growth funnel and demand funnel. Early on in the company life cycle, a lot of people are focused on growth funnel, but for a company like Redis and where we are at the stage of ARR and the growth that we are, I’m really building two funnels in parallel.

Product led growth funnel, is all about creating the groundswell among developers and creating those little fires everywhere. And it doesn’t matter if some of these sign ups don’t convert into enterprise business, it’s okay. We just have to let people get their hands on the product and experience for themselves the benefits that Redis provides to give them real time data, to build their applications.

For the demand funnel, it’s about taking those product qualified leads, and understanding, out of those, what are the population? What are the accounts? What are the segments that you really need to engage, that you really need to go after?

How can you leverage the product usage data to actually drive insights for your demand funnel? And then if you can marry those two together, then I think you can build a very healthy top of the funnel business.

Kunal Mehta: Outstanding. Mike, as a marketing organization, what are the biggest challenges you are facing right now?

Mike Anand: One of the biggest things for us, that I’m focused on marketing, is how to make marketing in general, more agile. Traditionally, marketers have relied on a certain set of metrics and a longer bake-off, to be able to make the impact. And for the world that we really live in, my number one priority and the goal for marketing organization to become more agile and data driven. And it’s identifying those leading indicators that gives me an idea of how each of our campaigns are doing, and when and how we need to course correct.

The second big challenge is we have some really exciting products out there that are early in their product life cycle. So, it’s about creating that awareness of those products in the mindsets of Redis developers, and customers and partners. This is where I alluded to the comments about, you have to really make the messaging all about product and product focus with an outside-in driving messaging.

I think the third one is, we are today sitting in the age of a great resignation. I think, as a marketing leader, you have to really think about your team and who’s on the bus. What sort of people do you want on the team? But how can you connect what these people want, to a bigger, broader mission than the job itself. What role does the marketing organization play in taking social responsibility? And that mission is bigger than just the job and the company itself.

Katja Gagen: Awesome. Thanks so much, Mike, we’re going to shift now to a rapid-fire format and ask you a couple of quick questions. I’ll let Kunal start.

Kunal Mehta: As you walk into your office in the morning, what’s your favorite metric to look at, where you know things are going well?

Mike Anand: One of my favorite metrics is sales velocity and knowing how quickly we can convert those leads into a closed one. That’s got to be my favorite.

Kunal Mehta: Maybe you can talk about the company you admire the most today and why.

Mike Anand: Yeah, I’ve had three related careers, Kunal. As a product manager, I really loved the working backwards approach from the customer for Intuit. They make such a complex products like taxes and accounting, and they make it so simple. As a storyteller, really enjoyed Stripe’s journey of how they tied the story into their products and the evolution of that.

As a full stack marketer, I really get excited about looking at some of the consumer companies who inject fun and personalization into the brands and how B2B companies learn from it. A few examples of that are Pinterest and NextDoor that are building communities, it’s super relevant to us. Target is another one that makes shopping fun and how they take on Amazon. A small brand like Tieks, who sell only one product out there, but they make it personal, they make it simple, and they give you that experience every time you get that box that is so unique. And I think there’s a lot that B2B companies can learn from some of those brands in the consumer world.

Katja Gagen: Thanks Mike. If you were to mentor someone who wanted to get their feet wet in the marketing pool, what’s your advice for getting started? How do you build your career?

Mike Anand: I think you have to really find a way, Katja, and try a few different things. You’re going to get a lot of advice. You’re going to get a lot of coaching. But you have to really take your journey and really think about what’s important to you.

Early in your life, I would really ask you to expose yourself to a few different roles, a few different types of companies. Go work for a big company and understand how things work, but then also go work for a startup, where there are no swim lanes, there are no processes, and you have to disrupt yourself almost every single day. Think about it from that perspective and stay hungry.

Kunal Mehta: Mike, if I was working for you, what would be your biggest pet peeve?

Mike Anand: I’d be blessed if you were on the team, but at the same time, look, kindness is not an optional, I’m an empathy driven leader. It’s a mandatory requirement.

Second is preparation. Meetings in the zoom world are happening all the time. Every five-minute conversation is now a meeting. One of my biggest pet peeves is showing up to the meetings unprepared. I really want people to do the due diligence of putting together, hey, what is the outcome you want to drive from the meeting? Why are you coming to the meeting? What are people going to get? And do the prep work before you show up to the meeting so you can drive a better outcome out of it.

Katja Gagen: Thanks so much, Mike, for sharing all these nuggets of gold with us. I really like how you emphasize that brands start with empathy and listening. And you talked us through the process of how you can build a brand that galvanizes both your developer community, but also internal stakeholders.

The other takeaway I really liked is to keep the message simple. It’s easier said than done, but it’s something that is so important. And lastly, how the role of the CMO has changed and what it takes today, and in the future, to be successful.

Katja Gagen: Thanks for being on the podcast, Mike.

Mike Anand: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

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