The Product Marketing Aspect of Outbound Selling: Jordan Con of Esper.io

We’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most cutting-edge and accomplished SDR leaders in SaaS over the last year. These leaders and their teams at fast-growing companies like Esper, Hiya, Carrot Fertility, Amperity, iSpot, and more have helped shape the Relevvo product. Here’s the next post in our series where we share some of these gathered insights with you.

We’re thrilled to welcome Jordan Con, who leads the product marketing and account-based marketing motion at Esper. Jordan has spent the last 8 years in marketing roles for cutting-edge technology companies, from startups including Bizible (acquired by Marketo, then Adobe) to AWS, where he did product marketing for their emerging services: IoT, robotics, and quantum computing.

Esper has partnered with Relevvo over the last year to help improve its account prioritization and Sales effectiveness. We were thrilled to get a chance to sit down with Jordan to get his thoughts on account prioritization, the partnership between Sales and Marketing, and the iterative process of honing in on your TAM and SAM.

Aashish Dhamdhere (AD): Jordan! Thanks for joining us! Let me start with the million-dollar question. It’s tricky to figure out who you should go after when you have a product like Esper because it’s a general-purpose product. So how do you decide what industries and companies to target? 

Jordan Con (JC): The interesting thing about Esper is that we are an emerging technology product that is both niche—the layperson isn’t going to be familiar with dedicated device management or DevOps—yet is so broadly applicable at the same time. There are hundreds of use cases that we could possibly go after, and while many are reasonably valuable and could be a good fit, from an ABM perspective what we need is to focus on the best fits and highest value accounts. 

The vast and diverse potential targets were a big challenge for the company right when I joined. They had spent the previous six months trying a ton of different things, pivoting and testing a bunch of different approaches, so I got to benefit a lot from this previous trial and error and learnings. I ended up speaking with our Sales team early on because I wanted to further know what they were hearing from our customers and where the solution was resonating the most. Based on what I learned, we were able to bring a level of focus using a mix of a quantitative and qualitative approaches to find the industries where the timing made sense. The question of “who cares a lot?” is not just about technographic and firmographic data—situational timing is meaningful.

To give you some examples, we adapted our targeting approach to the pandemic that saw technology shifts in some key verticals. For retail, all of their innovation seemed to be going towards e-commerce and the connection of online ordering to delivery or pickup. The in-person touch experience became less of a priority for them so the use case isn’t really there. Maybe it will come back in a year or two. Telemedicine or more broadly just healthcare has been another interesting one for the same reason, but the pain points and opportunities have worked in our favor. A lot of it is going remote and online. So we had a hypothesis based on factors that came into play and then it became a kind of a race to see how fast we could test these hypotheses and get signals. 

For us, there’s a lot of firmographic and technographic noise out there but Relevvo has helped us really prioritize target accounts based on the signals that matter. We went from hundreds of possible use cases to a handful that were really good. Of course, it’s constantly changing so what we are doing this year could be totally different next year. 

AD: That’s a really good structure. Following up on that, and I’m sure you’ve heard of the explore vs exploit conundrum. Do you keep exploiting what you’ve found or do you look to keep exploring new areas? How do you deal with that? 

JC: We’re still so early that we’re never really happy with how well covered we are in a certain place. At this point in our journey, it’s a matter of resource allocation. Like the restaurant industry is a place where we’ve had a lot of success both on the operator as well as the technology vendor side. So we will continue to invest there, but it will only be around 30% of our total resources. We have to have a balance, and we’re always going to be spending probably a fairly large percentage exploring for the next opportunity. This ties in directly with our need to expand our TAM.

AD: My sense is that you’ve probably covered 5% or 10% of your TAM at this point so you “explore” wins as long as you’re picking up meetings and getting enough deals from the “exploit” investments. Tell us more about that with regard to the partnership with the SDR team. How was it going through the journey to develop that relationship? 

JC: There’s a certain amount of trust building that needs to be done at the beginning when you’re a Marketer. I didn’t necessarily know the histories of each SDR, their pre-Esper relationships with Marketing, or what kind of expectations they had of us. I invested a pretty large part of my first three months trying to get as close to the team as possible. Empathy is probably not quite the right word but I really tried to develop a better understanding of the day-to-day workings and challenges of an SDR. 

There’s a great virtuous cycle that you can develop if you build a relationship with the SDR team. They’re the ones talking to the prospects every day which makes them a gold mine of information that helps us marketers do our jobs better. It helps us with our content that then goes back to them being able to have better conversations. If you’re not building those relationships and talking to them then you’re going to have a more difficult time relating to the end user. 

I think my time investment really paid off and we still continue to work closely together. We even went so far as to name our go-to-market team “ABX” because we don’t see account-based marketing as separate from account-based sales. 

AD: You just gave us a good formula for getting Marketing and Sales closer. A part of it is listening and learning and the other is helping each other in some fashion. If you’re not doing this, then you’re going to have a challenge getting your ABX motion to work. The SDR team is really the place where the rubber meets the road.

JC: Oh yeah, we have a regular meeting in place for SDR feedback so marketing can close that loop. We make sure that we hear back about everything we’re rolling out and how it’s landing on calls or emails. We want to get their feedback on what assets they need because we might be completely missing something. Like we might try something that just no one believes and it didn’t work or maybe it does and then we want to do more of it. So it’s really important that we have those touch points and get a chance to speak with them.

AD: That’s really good. Is there anything non-intuitive or counterintuitive that comes to mind to you with this journey of building a partnership? Anything that you would do differently?

JC: That’s a good question…I think the SDR team is far more effective than I would have expected at being, and I hate to mix metaphors, like the tip of the spear. Sometimes marketing might think something like “hey, we have this idea, can we point one person at it for a day or two to  figure out if there’s anything to it?” I know some SDRs have their process and don’t really like changing it too much so it can be difficult to do those things. I think when we have asked people to do that, they’ve really stepped up and have been super effective at getting really important feedback really quickly. Which just speeds up the process that we can move. It might be dangerous in some ways, so a word of caution, but it has worked for us when we’ve deployed it thoughtfully.

AD: Don’t be surprised if a bunch of people reach out to you based on what we’re sharing here because this is a very common problem that’s typically unsolved because most people don’t even know that they have it. Your approach has been very scientific though. You came up with those hypotheses and tested them against a variety of factors which is exactly what you have to do. There’s no magic here, you have to put in the work. 

Following that, I wanted to ask, how has Relevvo helped you?

JC: Yes, so we already talked about the complexity of identification in scoring for us in our particular case and I think it’s pretty obvious how Relevvo was instrumental in helping us operationalize a lot of that because it would typically take someone days or weeks to do very effectively. 

I think on top of the identification in scoring, what really stood out to me was when you came back to us with additional insight into the keywords we were using. We had a bunch that we thought were useful but it turned out that they weren’t at all. They were just adding more noise to what we were finding. So you came back to us and said “hey, this is the signal. This is the noise. What if we simplified it and took these out or changed the query to this?” That was absolutely amazing. 

So going above just the account identification and scoring has really helped us to fine-tune our motion, find better accounts faster, and reject fewer ones. All the good stuff leads to a strong motion where we are able to book meetings and create a strong pipeline. Is that keyword analysis part of the product roadmap by the way? To see if the keywords someone is running are actually useful?

AD: 100%. We’ve had this concept of account scoring but we’re thinking of actually moving to an account tiring approach instead where you then correlate that with outcomes. Tracking meetings booked and opportunities created and mapping them back to the tier. So then every quarter going back and analyzing what worked and where the account was because it could turn out that Tier 2 account could actually be a Tier 1 or a Tier 3. 

JC: Oh yeah, that would be really helpful to see. We actually do something sort of similar internally with priority levels. We have P1, P2, and P3 where the SDRs focus on the first two, and the third is just put onto marketing campaigns. We found that even though our SDRs were putting equal effort into both P1 and P2 accounts, the P1s actually end up with more efficient outcomes. Interestingly, the P2s have a higher ACV but that is likely due to volume that I think will probably even out over time. It was still good to see that the P1s were actually better though because it proved our concept around account prioritization. 

AD: That’s fantastic. I absolutely love to see it. Jordan, I really appreciate you taking the time. Again, don’t be surprised if people reach out to you after this. You’ve really developed a great system at Esper that I think will be pretty interesting to a lot of people.