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Rob is VP of Growth at Workable. With over 6,000 B2B customers ranging from high growth startups to enterprise clients like IMB and EMC, Workable is the fastest growing recruiting software provider globally. 

Having joined the company in its infancy, Rob, originally from London, is now based in Workable's Boston office. As an early employee Rob has been a hands-on leader of the sales and marketing teams that helped Workable scale so rapidly. Over the last 3 years, he's seen the company grow from less than 10 employees to over 110 people in 3 international offices.

Rob is now focused on launching Workable's latest product, People Search - a new way for recruiters to discover and connect with talent. This role combines Rob’s success and experience in sales, marketing and go-to-market.

You can follow Rob on Twitter: @_RobLong

He will be live on Jan 5 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which time he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Rob, thanks for doing this AMA. I assume based on your title that you guys have a growth team at Workable. I'm curious how important you think your experience in sales, marketing and business development was to successfully implementing a growth team at Workable. What caused you guys to decide to create a growth team and how is it structured?

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      Hi Sean,
      I guess it changes slightly the way I view some aspects of growth and how we approach it - perhaps sometimes we're likely to choose physical over digital more often than another company or growth team would. Growth for us is baked into other teams too, like our Demand Generation department which incorporates the content team. I often say that our best growth hack is our amazing support team because they generate so many word of mouth referrals!
      The analytical aspect is partly done by the team but we also have a Business Intelligence/Analysis team who work cross-functionally are able to do the heavy lifting where more detailed analysis is required, this has been a huge benefit for us and something I'd recommend to others. The same goes for Creative, we have a team that works cross-functionally to service sales/marketing/deman gen/content etc. They are exceptional and are able to produce creative work way and above what I could achieve if I had creative in my team.

      4 Share
  • MB

    Marco Burgin

    2 months ago #

    With such rapid growth you had to redo your Marketing Plan for how much in how much time approximately? And what is the main factor that your company observes when it comes to changing and improving the Marketing Plan?

    6 Share
    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      Hi Marco,
      Sure, we've adapted the marketing plan as the company has grown. A lot of that is organic change over time but we've probably been through 2 or 3 major updates (strategy/budget split) which have aligned either with identifying a new channel that works or with the goals of the company (target company etc). This year for example we will be investing much more in raising the Workable brand through Marcomms/Promotions activities, something we've never invested heavily in before.

  • SA

    Shaker A

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Rob,

    Thanks for doing this AMA.

    1)How did workable get their first customers when workable didn't have any customers and momentum to show potential customers that they could solve the problem that customers were facing?

    2)What are the most important lessons you've learned in your career?

    Thanks

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      1) One option is what our founders did, they hired someone that looked like a user. That was me. I was in recruitment before joining Workable so I could understand the challenges we were looking to solve and translate that to prospects whilst talking to them as a peer about hiring, I'd been doing their job until I joined Workable after all. This seems to be a popular approach for many early stage companies. Our early adopters (growth startup tech companies) also tend to focus more on what can solve their challenge and less on what others are doing.
      2) Make changes, if you feel too comfortable you probably need a new challenge. Don't be afraid of making a big move, personally I've never regretted them and I've heard the same from most people who've done the same.

      2 Share
  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    about 2 months ago #

    Bonjour Rob,

    Thanks for this AMA.

    In your experience, post product-market fit in the growth cycle of a B2B software company, what is the most scalable channel?
    Why?

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      We're doubling down on content. It has worked extremely well for us and it's a gift that keeps on giving. When you're creating strong content you're able to identify which content is performing the best and use that to inform your content strategy going forward whilst content you created in the past keeps growing traffic. It's also extremely helpful for sales teams, can be syndicated etc.

  • SK

    Sil Kreulen

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Rob,

    Great to have you here. A few questions in relation to growth process/culture at Workable:

    1. How do you make sure you execute as fast as possible? Any tips and tricks in relation to culture, processes, procedures etc.?
    2. What's your perspective on maximizing the learning curve within a growth (marketing) team?
    3. If a researcher aims to dive deeper into the topic growth hacking/marketing, which specific area would you advise him to focus on? Insights in which topics could help the growth of your company?

    Thanks! Sil

  • EB

    Eytan Bensoussan

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Rob,

    Thanks for taking our questions!

    Based on your own experiences, is there a role for growth folks in a company still building its product? If so, how can they be best deployed?

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      Hey Eytan!

      My role has developed a lot since I joined Workable. When I first joined we had a product in the market but it was far less developed and we were still working on product market fit. At that time I was really a sales/bizdev executive. I spent almost all of my time out meeting the companies we wanted to sell to either to sell or make sure they knew about us, build a relationship and learn more about them and how our product could help them so we got to product market fit faster. I think that was a very valuable role and one I would hire again next time round!

  • AA

    Aldin A

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Rob,

    thanks for doing this AMA.

    1)Can you talk about some of the challenges of scaling businesses and how you've overcome them?

    2) In your opinion what are things early stage startups have to do to not only survive, but thrive? Conversely what do you see startups messing up that they can't afford to, and how do they fix them?

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      Hey Aldin,

      1) hiring. It's the biggest challenge. It's cliché but it's true. The times I think of that were the most challenging were because I hadn't planned or been able to hire a new team member at the right time. It has knock on implications far bigger than other challenges.

      2) It's prioritisation again which came up in another question. I'm advising another SaaS company at the moment and we talk about it a lot. There is always a temptation to test every new button, every new webpage. I am not against testing, not at all. But focus on the important parts. Whether a button is blue, green or red is not going to be what makes or breaks your startup (and the right answer is probably online anyway!).
      2) Avoid events. OK, not all events, I say that having attended a lot of events, but they all had a purpose. Pick the events and networking events you go to wisely. Too often (and I see this in London more than the US) people attend breakfasts, lunches, dinners, afterwork drinks thinking under the guise of work when I'm sure there are 100 other things they could be doing that would be adding more value to their startup. Absolutely go to events and meetups and learn from others, but pick the events wisely.

      2 Share
  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Rob - so cool to have you on!

    Can you talk about a growth experiment - either at Workable or elsewhere - that was either a really big win or provided some deep insights you didn't have before?

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      Hi Anuj,
      Thanks so much for having me, really looking forward to it.

      The best example would be when we decided to build a refer-a-friend feature. We knew we were getting a lot of word of mouth referrals so
      a) give something back to our customers that were referring new customers and
      b) wanted to through some fuel on the fire for word of mouth referrals.

      It was the first time we'd approached this type of feature and we fell into a well documented trap, that you can't simply build a nice refer-a-friend feature and expect it to be a great success without a really strong plan for how to promote it to you existing and new users. We don't only miss out but our users miss out on the referral rewards too. It's something we're going to be looking at this year to make sure it's visible and valuable for our users so they're being rewarded for helping us grow.
      We're not the first to fall into this trap, it's actually well documented but we perhaps took for granted that our users would want to refer people through the app since they were already doing it casually to friends and colleagues.

      It's a lesson not just for refer-a-friend but any other similar projects we undertake in 2017.

      3 Share
      • MR

        Mike Rizzo

        about 2 months ago #

        Interesting!

        We have a similar experience at my new company (Orange Logic) and our word of mouth referrals have been great thus far. I'm considering leveraging a program to help improve those referrals over time.

        I'm curious, did you find a program you like for this? I recently checked out Ambassador. http://mbsy.co/gzZLm

  • SV

    Steve Valencia

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Rob-- Thanks for doing this! Curious to hear your thoughts on how you go about structuring/qualifying your engagement funnel in terms of selling higher value/enterprise accounts? Is it a land/expand-type strategy or do you have a dedicated enterprise sales team that drives leads exclusively?

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      We actually have a mix of both.
      We have a free trial and so we get inbound leads from larger enterprise companies. Oftentimes that is an individual department or regional office of an enterprise company that starts using Workable. From there we are able to expand into other departments and regions and we do work to achieve that.
      Alongside that we have been building our sales organisation so we can drive leads into enterprise that way. We've also adapted our marketing plan/spend to focus more on that market, something we're working on a lot at the moment in fact.

      3 Share
  • RL

    Rob Long

    about 2 months ago #

    Well that was a lot of fun, thanks everyone for the questions and GrowthHackers for having me! There are a couple of questions I haven't been able to answer in the time but I'll come back before the weeks out to answer them too.
    Thanks again!

    • AA

      Anuj Adhiya

      about 2 months ago #

      Thanks so much for spending this time with us Rob - we really appreciate it! :pray:

  • SH

    spark Hu

    2 months ago #

    Hello Rob,
    I am a data analysis manger of ele.me (the biggest take away service company in China).
    Could you point me to what you consider to be some great learning resources about data analysis.
    I'm searching for analysis methods that can be used in our business directly and simply (ie where managers can understand the data and its implications quickly)

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      I'm fortunate that we now have a business analysis team that can support our analytical work. Personally, I am really self-taught and rely on the training I got when I was an accountant many years ago (my career path has been anything but traditional!). Interestingly, our Lead Data Scientist is also self-taught. He used Coursera a lot to complement his learning. He's now an integral part of Workable's future product development, a guest lecturer at universities and written a book on R which is used as a course text at universities too. So I'd check out coursera and possibly other sites like Lynda which offer online learning.
      Personally speaking, I've always found it most effective to give real life example of the data analysis method before jumping in to the commercial analysis, it can help bring the method to life first for whoever you're speaking to.

  • CS

    chris sweeney

    2 months ago #

    Hey Rob!

    Launching a new Fitness platform in London. Would love your views to hyper penetrate our target market in local communities? Any thoughts?

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      Hey Chris,
      Is that Fitssi?
      I'd try and get out and about, but not one-to-one. Local business offices (employee wellness?), organisations, community groups. Speak to those and see if you can promote your platform to their members/employees. It might take a little while but if you can create little pockets of connected users you can then bring them together to build a bigger community across the individual pockets.

      2 Share
  • CO

    Chris Out

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Rob, thanks for doing this AMA! What is in your experience the biggest difference in building a growth team for a B2B environment compared B2C?

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      Hi Chris,

      Good question, one I wish I could give you a good answer for! I've only ever worked in B2B so it's hard to make a comparison, maybe it's a good topic for a podcast or similar in the future though!?

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks so much for joining us! Excited to learn from your answers.

    I'm sure you've seen a lot of change as your team has grown from single to triple digits. Can you explain how you've navigated company growth as the team evolved? We're there any processes or tools you used to ensure silos were not formed and growth was prioritized for the company? Were there any specific challenges or lessons learned you encountered during this time?

    Cheers!
    Dani

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      Plenty of challenges and plenty of lessons learnt :)

      "ensure silos were not formed" - we now have 2 main office hubs (Boston and Athens) but when the company was smaller we were a more distributed team. That alone has some challenges but they're easier to overcome these days with hangouts a lot, Slack, trello, jira, intercom. That's not to say they are no challenges. I effectively worked remotely in London for a couple of years and you have to be aware you are remote and perhaps make more effort to build relationships across the company so silos don't appear, I never found a specific tool that did that well. Some make it easier but it's up to the company and individuals to make it work. We've always made sure that we're able to meet face-to-face as often as possible and we still have an annual all-hands meeting in Greece (not a bad place to go!) to make sure that everyone in the company can meet and get to know each other outside of a google hangout.

      5 Share
  • BS

    Bhaskar Sarma

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Rob,

    What's your process in evaluating a particular growth channel especially during your growth phase? What metrics/KPIs do you have to determine whether a channel is worth evaluating, optimizing or abandoning?

  • RB

    Ry B

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Rob,

    1)How do you look at hiring? Can you talk about some of the mistakes you've made hiring (and also seen others make)? What have you learned about hiring A+ talents?

    2)What are traits a manager needs to bring out the best in their employees?How did you go about empowering employees at workable?

    3)How do you look at competition, specifically when you're going up against bigger, and better-funded competitors? How does that affect your strategic plan, if it does at all? What is your mindset when you go to compete against the 800-pound gorillas in your space?

    Thanks

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      1) I actually come from a recruiting background before Workable and the biggest piece of advice is hire through referrals when you can and put overall caliber (smarts, motivation etc) ahead of direct role experience. Hire a good internal recruiter earlier than you think you should, they will ensure you're hiring the best people (more important than the time they will save you too).

      2) You have to provide an environment where people are set up to succeed. That they have the tools they need to over achieve in their role and the freedom to bring their own ideas to the table. Micro-management rarely gets the best out of someone.
      When you are small startup you really have no choice but to empower your team(s) to make choices either, when you're 10 people with 365,244 things to do no one person can do all of them!

      3) Our market is a very competitive space and you need to be aware of what is going on around you. But equally we're not just building a tool for 2017 or 2018 or to compete with 1 or 2 other products in the space. We're building a product that will be innovative and relevant in 2020 and beyond. You have to keep focus on the long term picture - what will you customers want your product to do in 5 years time? Guide your product in that direction and build a team that can execute on that vision.

  • AL

    Ana Loncarevic

    about 2 months ago #

    Hello Rob :)

    thanks for this AMA. I would like to know what is the best sales way for you, how did you get to 6000 customers?

    Thanks!

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      Hi Ana,
      Great question. We've traditionally had a very lean sales team (we're actually building it out significantly this year). When we were 9 people back in 2013 (I was the first hire outside our Dev office) there wasn't a big slush of funds and so we had to do those things which didn't scale. That means getting out and about in London (where I was based originally) and building a big network amongst our target customers, it was not the traditional SDR-->AE Sales model at all. It worked very well for us but it was not what was going to move the needle and get us to 6,000 customers. For that we need a growth engine that scaled.
      In the early days of finding product market fit we focussed heavily on building a product which provided frictionless and highly intuitive adoption. It fitted our target market of SMB customers very well at the time. We offer a 15 day free trial and so our marketing efforts went on building a very effective online demand generation engine, content and paid online being the biggest contributors.

  • ND

    Natalia Demetriou

    about 2 months ago #

    Hello Rob and thanks for the AMA.

    These are questions from a pre-launch SaaS for the entertainment industry.

    What are some good tips to calculate marketing costs to enter a new big city before launching and before product-market fit? What kind of marketing costs should we be expecting on our first year post-launch?

    Thanks a lot!

  • JS

    Jovan Sterling Noel

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Rob,

    Great to see you here.

    What is the one piece of career advice you would give to someone to get them to a role like VP of Growth?

    Cheers,
    Jovan

  • MW

    Matt Weeks

    about 2 months ago #

    what models do you recommend to calculate factors for enterprise sales cycles, fully-baked CAC and factors including external vendors, ad buys, SEO, content, et al? Thx. It seems to be a bit of a Wild West in terms of "generally accepted methodologies."

  • OK

    Osama khodrog

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Rob,

    How would you go about getting & growing traffic to a new website for classified advertisements? (I run one in the Middle East).

    Thank you.

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      I think anyone tackling a marketplace deserves a lot of credit, so kudos! Building two sides has always seemed a daunting prospect to me with the age old problem of "what came first"...
      That said, if it were me and with my experience I would probably look at content as my best option. Content that can be created for both sides of the marketplace and being syndicated. We have built some very sophisticated in-house tools for tracking the success of specific pieces/topics of content we create (how they are performing and where they are getting traffic from). We obviously didn't have that in the early days so we had to go more with our gut and see what we got right and wrong.

  • FK

    Florence Kwok

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Rob,

    Launching a digital media website/company in one month (a Buzzfeed for entrepreneurs). I am interested in hearing your views on the best methods to get and maximize hype/traffic prior to the launch in such a short time frame.

    Thanks!

    -Flo

    • RL

      Rob Long

      about 2 months ago #

      This is a really interesting area and one I think one that can become a dangerous trap. The key is knowing that the hype/buzz your creating can actually translate into paying customers when you need it too. My approach, and it might not be right for you or considered growth hacking, was to get out and speak to as many people as possible. I was always trying to meet people who I could help and in turn they could help me by letting me tap into their network with referrals and introductions. The term "influencer" is banded about a lot but it's probably the right term for the people I was most keen to meet and show our product to. So I guess I opted for lower hype but a highly quality of buzz. But I am in B2B where that approach works better, in B2C it might not give you the volume you need.

      3 Share

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