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Liz Cain is the VP of Go-to-Market at OpenView where she leads market insights, recruiting and sales and marketing strategy as part of the firm’s Expansion Platform. The GTM practice focuses on helping portfolio companies acquire and retain the right customers and talent.

Prior to joining OpenView, Liz was the AVP of Worldwide Business Development at NetSuite, the leading provider of cloud-based financials / ERP. Liz’s experience spans technical support, sales operations, account management, and marketing. Most recently she launched NetSuite’s Business Development Representative (BDR) and Solution Consulting Associate (SCA) teams, which she successfully scaled to a 170-person global organization. Across these teams, Liz was responsible for inbound lead qualification, outbound prospecting, the development and administration of product, sales, business and industry training, and campaign execution.

For resources on growing your software business: http://labs.openviewpartners.com/ 

You can follow her on Twitter: @elizabethjcain

She will be live on Oct 3 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which she will answer as many questions as possible.

  • JV

    Jelle Van de Vliet

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Liz!

    What are the top 3 tools in your Marketing Stack, and why those tools?

    Thanks!

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      OpenView doesn’t operate like a startup would, so our mar tech stack does and should look different than the companies we invest in. That said, some of the tools in our stack include:

      Hubspot
      Salesforce.com
      Optinmonster
      Google Analytics
      Wordpress.com
      AddThis
      Zapier
      Typeform
      Contextly
      ReadyTalk

      If I think the about the average startup, the few things that are top of mind for me: 1) CRM, 2) marketing automation and 3) a data provider - building a database with complete, accurate and up to date information from the beginning is key to future marketing, sales and retargeting efforts. Whether you use Salesforce, Hubspot, Pardot, Marketo, etc...is less important to me than the processes and structure you put around it.

      We also surveyed 500 SaaS Marketing Professionals and you can see the tools they couldn’t live without here: https://labs.openviewpartners.com/state-of-saas-marketing/

      5 Share
  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    about 2 months ago #

    Bonjour Liz,

    Merci for doing this AMA.

    I have a couple of questions for you:

    1) Imagine you run lead generation at a B2B SaaS company and your goal is to grow SQLs to boost the top line. What's the most effective method in your experience to score leads to move the revenue needle?

    2) At which stage in the growth lifecycle of the software companies you target do you look to invest?

    Thanks!

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      Question 1: In my experience lead scoring relies on 2 key things: demographic/firmographic information and behavior/engagement. You first need to understand your ideal customer profile (what segments have the highest win rate, where is LTV:CAC ratio most attractive, what are the sizes of those various segments, how easily can you reach them?). Next, you can layer in the behavior metrics to show how those companies and individuals are interacting with your website, content, social presence, and sales team etc…

      This approach works for both inbound and outbound. If you have high inbound traffic, you should use this exercise to point your team at the highest quality leads and remove distractions. On outbound, ICP and firmographic information is most important to start, but then you watch for signs of engagement - an open, click, social view, etc...and can adjust your touch plan accordingly. It’s also interest to point this lead scoring at your existing database to plan retargeting tracks.

      Finally, lead scoring should evolve. Too often I see companies set up an approach to lead scoring and forget about it. You should be regularly re-assessing to ensure that your lead scoring metrics continue to correlate with win rate and your best customers.

      Ashley Minogue, on the OpenView team, put together a quick primer on the topic for startups : https://www.slideshare.net/OpenViewVenturePartners/a-startups-guide-to-lead-segmentation

      5 Share
    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      Question 2: OpenView invests exclusively in expansion stage software companies. What that means to us...a company that has found product market fit and really starting to scale. If you look at our investment history we’re generally leading B rounds, but we’re letter agnostic - it’s more about aligning with that stage

  • TS

    Tonya Sims

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Liz! Great to meet you and thank you for doing this wonderful AMA. My question has two parts:

    1. How soon do you recommend a company focus on growth? From the very beginning or sometime after acquiring more customers and working the kinks out?

    2. Do you normally have a plan in place for growth? If so, what does it contain? Growth strategies? Metrics?

    Thanks,

    Tonya

  • GH

    Glen Harper

    about 2 months ago #

    Thank you for joining us today, Liz.
    You are the first person I've come across in such a role at an investment firm.
    Is that me just not knowing enough or is this something unique to OV?
    If it's the latter, what led the team to realize that such a role is needed?

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      Definitely a unique role. OpenView’s founder, Scott Maxwell, realized there was a need to provide not just funding, but also the operational support to help companies scale. The team has evolved over the years and the skill sets of the team have changed to meet the growing needs of our portfolio, but because we only invest in expansion stage B2B software companies we are truly experts in this space.

      I’ve met peers at other firms and what strikes me as substantially different are the number of people and breadth of experience the OV team brings: We are a team of 38 people and we lead 4-6 investments per year (the portfolio is 25-30 companies at any given time). We are able to go deep, learn about every company and help in a hands on way.

      We've been at this for 10+ years and it's great validation of the model to see so many VCs adding a platform-type model to their firm. We think the model works best at a firm like ours - the focus and size of team allow us to have real impact.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        about 2 months ago #

        How did you find about this role and ultimately land it?

      • VJ

        Vivek Jaiswal

        about 2 months ago #

        This is very unique for a VC firm and it shows how OV is not just investing in dollars but in people too. Great job you guys at OV.

        PS - Even the content from OV is just awesome! The recent PLG handbook has completely changed how I have been building my product.

  • VJ

    Vivek Jaiswal

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Liz, thanks for the AMA.

    I have one question:

    When planning your GTM and SaaS business growth, how do you plan for people?

    I don't know if my question is very clear. What I mean is how do you build the right team to make growth sustainable. What kind of skills to look for? When to hire for which role and what outcomes to expect from those roles in what timeline?

    Thanks,
    Vivek

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      Hi Vivek,

      This is an awesome question. Let me tackle this in 3 parts:

      First, what I look for --Regardless of stage of company or role, I look for horsepower - to me, this is a balance of intelligence and motivation. I need someone smart enough to grasp our market, product and customers, but also intrinsically motivated and willing to put in the work to get things done. Put simply, I prefer to hire for talent and attitude over experience.

      Second, how to plan --The people and skills you need in the earliest stages of growing your business are rarely the same as you reach your next stage of growth. Putting a plan in place to segment the various activities that need to get done in a day, while remaining results focused is key. One of our partners shares a great approach with founders - continue to work yourself out of a job. Every quarter or so, get in a room with your team and write down every job you do on post it notes. Then reorganize those notes into like job functions. And keep ONLY the ones no one else can do today. You’ll start to see patterns/jobs appear and will free yourself up to work on the next big project.

      Finally, expectation setting --It takes time to ramp in a new role and you can’t expect to flip a switch and have someone fully understand your market, product, customers and culture right away. What you can do is prepare them for success. By agreeing to key goals and milestones over the first 15, 30, 60, 90 days and holding yourself (as the hiring manager) accountable for regular check ins, you will both set clear expectations and ensure you are supporting that new hire through the pivotal transition

      3 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        about 2 months ago #

        Gold!

      • VJ

        Vivek Jaiswal

        about 2 months ago #

        Thanks for the response, Liz. Sorry couldn't join you at the AMA, it was an odd hour for me in India.

        Interestingly, I operate with the mindset of hiring someone who can get me out of the job so I can take up the next big project. Where I was failing was expectation setting. I think I am expecting too much too soon.

        Time for me to rethink and implement some of the suggestions you have shared, especially coming to an agreement on key goals and milestones. Would love to hear more from the community and from you, Liz, about what kind of goals and milestones to set in a growth/GTM role.

        Thanks a ton!
        - Vivek

  • CC

    Courtney Chuang

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi, Liz!

    Thanks for hosting this AMA.

    I'd love to know, what books have had the most profound impact on your career and/or GTM practices?

    Our sales team has a book club where they discuss new and old ideas, tactics, and strategies. I'd love to suggest some additional must-reads to them (and read them myself)!

    Thanks,

    Courtney

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      Hi Courtney,

      I love to read and there are few books that I continue to return to:

      1. Who: The A Method for Hiring - if you are building a team, it's a must-read
      2. The Sales Acceleration Playbook - Mark Roberge from Hubspot shares his approach to scaling to 100M. This books shares advice on hiring, building sound and scalable processes and a culture of coaching
      3. Demo to Win - if you demo any kind of product, just read it. It will dramatically improve how you approach a demo and reduce the feature tour dilemma
      4. To Sell is Human

      Would love to hear your recommendations as well!

      2 Share
      • VJ

        Vivek Jaiswal

        about 2 months ago #

        Hi Liz,

        Sorry for all the cross questioning :)
        I was looking up these books, but couldn't find them anywhere. Would you be so kind as to share the links for them over here?

        I am particularly interested in Demo to Win.

        Thanks a lot,
        Vivek

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Liz - very excited to have you here.
    Has there ever been a case where you learned something from a portfolio company that you hadn't considered before?
    Can you share the biggest such insight you've ever gotten?

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      Of course! I’m constantly learning in this role. Working with ~30 portfolio companies and meeting with literally hundreds of prospective investments has given me exposure to many business models and, more importantly, great minds.

      One example stands out...I’ve never been a huge fan of the remote model. I believe that you learn more, iterate faster and can have greater impact when you co-locate teams - especially if you are hiring junior members.

      This notion was challenged recently when I met with a company that prides themselves on their remote model. They believe they can access the best talent without paying premiums in competitive markets, all while maintaining a connected culture. There are certainly some companies and teams that lend themselves better to this model, but it’s opened my eyes to the possibility of hiring and managing a high performing remote team

      2 Share
  • TN

    Tri Nguyen

    about 2 months ago #

    What from your experience with marketing in prior roles is now obsolete?
    Conversely, what wasn't something that was part of your marketing approach earlier that is now an integral part of it?

  • GG

    Grey Garner

    about 2 months ago #

    Thanks for the time, Liz.

    Congratulations on building a global BDR team and process! How long did it take to build a model you felt good about scaling and 2) how long before you saw an ROI on your initial FTE investment?

    At Netsuite, did the BDR team report to Sales or Marketing or a hybrid notion of Customer Acquisition leadership?

    Thanks!

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      Question 1: It took 6 months to feel really comfortable with the growth, but we were always making changes, learning from peers and evolving our program. We measured ROI in a few key ways:
      Revenue: we saw near immediate contribution to leads/pipeline and obviously the longer term impact of revenue. In our first year qualifying inbound leads we increased the avg value of an inbound lead by 30%.
      People: Our real focus in building this program was to create a bench for our sales org. We started promoting people out of the original class of hires at 9 months. The individuals we promoted from the program outperformed our street hires (time to first deal, time to quota, and avg quota attainment) - they had an unfair advantage with a year of NetSuite learning under their belts! Many of that original team is still at NetSuite is sales, marketing, solution consulting, competitive intelligence and leadership roles.

      I just got back from SaaStock where I shared the full story of building this team - check out the details here: https://labs.openviewpartners.com/scaling-lead-gen-growing-netsuites-bdr-team-to-170-people-in-3-5-years/

      2 Share
    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      Question 2: Short answer...Sales. As we grew, we eventually combined all of the sales support teams into one org called Sales Success that included BDRs, Sales Ops, Enablement, RFP desk, Solution Consulting and Sales Planning & Analysis

  • MG

    Marc G

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Liz,

    What is your marketing stack and how has it evolved over time?

    Thanks in advance for the AMA!
    Marc

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Liz - so cool to finally have you on!

    With all the portfolio companies you've worked with, what patterns have emerged with what they tend to get right and what do they miss or get wrong when it comes to their marketing strategies?
    With what they tend to miss/get wrong, why do you think they land up in these situations?

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      On the positive side of things, the marketers we work with are generally very creative, flexible and willing to try new things. We recently surveyed 500+ marketers and distilled our findings down to the 3 things the fastest growing companies are doing differently: 1) Leverage attribution to track marketing spend, 2) Implement lead scoring based on two or more attributes and 3) Run continuous marketing experiments. You can check out the rest here: https://labs.openviewpartners.com/how-the-fastest-growing-saas-companies-approach-marketing/

      I often see companies struggle in 2 areas: focus and speed.

      During stages of high growth, there is opportunity to become even more laser focused in your marketing strategies - this is true across customer segmentation and your marketing channels. Spreading your marketing wide and thin is a mistake we see. The teams that are most effective set strategic goals, but more importantly, say no. They acknowledge they can’t work on everything and make choices in order to focus on the highest impact project.

      Speed is tricky. Companies get bogged down in planning, approvals, and striving for perfection. The reality of a high growth startup is that things (everything!) changes quickly. You need to be ok making decisions, setting measurable goals and making changes when things aren’t working. Better to try 10 things and get 8 right, than try 4 and get them perfect.

      2 Share
  • JP

    John Phamvan

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Liz
    Are there certain tools you find yourself recommending for experimentation & analytics to your portfolio companies?
    Where do you recommend that such data live within their organizations?

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      Hi John,

      There are a lot of great tools in the market depending on what you are trying to experiment on and track.

      In the early stages of experimentation on an app or website, UserTesting (OpenView is an investor) is a great option to collect qualitative user experience feedback. If you’re looking to get more intel on how a user actually interacts with your product, FullStory is a great option for session replays.

      If you’re thinking more about A/B testing and personalization, tools like Optimizely or Monetate (OpenView is an investor) are definitely worth a look.

      Finally, if you’re trying out new lead gen tactics, we’re loving OptinMonster and Drift.

      Would love to hear what you are using!

  • MD

    Mark Anthony de Jesus

    about 2 months ago #

    You'll put out a lot of great content (in fact one of them is on the trending page right now!).
    How do you'll go about researching what to write about? What tools/processes help you execute on this?

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      At OpenView, we’re lucky to rely on a network of expert operators both in the firm and across our portfolio and broader community. The challenges facing our contributors or the challenges they’ve experienced in prior companies are likely the very same ones our readers are facing. By providing actionable advice on labs.openviewpartners.com, we give our readers more than just interesting ideas, we give them a plan of action to tackle the challenges they face. To make sure we’re on the right track, we constantly check what performs best through Google Analytics, on social via our AddThis plugin, what’s sent out in our weekly newsletter and elsewhere.

      Doesn't hurt that we have a stellar marketing team dedicated to identifying great authors and getting content in the hands of our readers!

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    about 2 months ago #

    Hola, Liz:
    What is the biggest internal and/or external growth related issue that face companies who are at a Series B stage face?

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      Talent.

      At this stage you’re generally taking a much larger round than you have previously and that comes with serious growth expectations. The number one problem we hear from founders is hiring. You need to pick up the pace without sacrificing quality, and at the same time provide onboarding and development to make these new hires successful. All this while maintaining the culture you’ve worked so hard to build.

      We’re noticing a trend to hire someone dedicated to talent and people earlier in a company’s growth trajectory. The role of People Ops spans talent acquisition, onboarding/development and retention strategies.

      Potentially even more difficult is coming to terms with the fact that not every early employee can/will scale with you. At this stage, the founding team needs to make some difficult decisions about leadership and ensure they have the team in place to grow.

      2 Share
  • JD

    James Dunn

    about 2 months ago #

    What does your day to day look like in this role?
    What is the most challenging part of this role?

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      It's a fun job! The day to day...I split my time about 50/50 between advisory work and projects. I work with both portfolio companies and prospects, generally with heads of sales/marketing and CEOs depending on the size of the company. On the advisory front, I get questions like “I’m hiring my first VP of sales, what should her comp plan look like” to “we’re working through 2018 planning - what does a best-in-class marketing plan look like”. When it comes to projects, my focus is generally on sales strategy and enablement. This ranges from developing sales playbooks and optimizing conversion rates, to developing BDR training content and hiring inside sales teams. Every day is different - it’s a lot of fun!

      The most challenging part of my role is ramping up on each company. In order to provide value, I need to dig in beyond surface-level generic advice and really understand what’s working and what’s not. It takes time.

  • SK

    S Kodial

    about 2 months ago #

    You said above that during stages of high growth, there is opportunity to become even more laser focused in your marketing strategies and also that speed is tricky.
    How do these companies manage being agile and yet focused so that that everyone understands what the current goals and objectives are?

    • LC

      Liz Cain

      about 2 months ago #

      In my opinion, the key is short and long term goals.

      We work in sprints internally and many of our portfolio companies do as well. We take the time to set long term goals (think quarterly and annual), but also maintain and prioritize a backlog on a weekly (or bi-weekly) basis. People assume scrum is for tech teams, but it works equally well for marketing - by aligning around priorities, you can get the team moving in the same direction and focused on results.

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