About Episode Five

In today's episode Greg and Owen are joined by Sarah Berkowski, Chief Revenue Officer of fast-growing SaaS company, Tradify. Sarah discusses the fundamentals of global business success, how she applied this to her marketing strategies over time, and the importance of visibility for attribution reporting. 

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Episode Transcript

GW: Hi, and welcome to Growing Tech with Owen Scott and Greg Williamson of Concentrate. Today we're really lucky to have Sarah Berkowski, Chief Revenue Officer at Tradify, with us. Tradify is one of New Zealand's fastest growing SaaS companies, and Sarah brings a wealth of experience in the marketing and growth parts of tech businesses. So just welcome first, Sarah. Great to have you here.

SB: Thanks. Great to be here.

GW: First, just wonder if you could tell us a little bit about your career and how you've got to where you are now?

SB: Sure. Yeah. So I'm a Kiwi born and bred but spent 18 years in Canada. So I actually did a marketing degree down in Otago and started my career at what was then called Telecom New Zealand, now Spark. So started out in the sales and support team in Wellington before moving to Canada. So I spent a lot of my early career actually in the telco space, which is pretty interesting, and then moved back to New Zealand eight years ago and joined the Promapp crew, and now leading sales and marketing globally at Tradify.

GW: Cool.

OS: Yes, it's really interesting your career, where you've worked obviously in New Zealand and overseas. When you worked in that Canadian environment, you obviously worked there for a number of years, what insights did you find there into growing businesses?

SB: Yeah, it was quite different to what I'm doing now, although there's certainly common things I guess, that you'd still focus on. So when I first moved across to Canada I was in the telco space, working for Sprint Canada. It was right after that industry had just deregulated. And so I was working for, well, it's not really small by New Zealand standards, but what was then a small company in Canada, that was the underdog and coming in to compete against the former monopoly. So it was quite interesting from a marketing perspective with an industry that was deregulating, where you had to really focus on competitive switching, which is quite different than my focus these days at Tradify. So really focusing on competitive differentiation to address that inertia of switching from an existing service in the telco space.

And then my other insight I guess, which is why I work for smaller companies now, is just there are pros and cons I guess, working for very large North American companies, and my preference would be small agile New Zealand companies, that's for sure.

OS: Yeah.

GW: Yeah. That's really interesting. And I can understand one of the attractions of the tech industry would've been that smaller agile ability to really influence the direction of a company. What other things attracted you to get into tech once you came back to NZ?

SB: Oh, it's really just very interesting, I think. I think the New Zealand tech scene, there's so much going on. I love seeing the impact of the tech on people and companies. I think we're offering such great solutions across a variety of businesses, so they're solving real needs and are creating new solutions for people to adopt. So changing the ways that consumers and businesses operate. And then one of the things that really appeals to me personally is just the size of the companies. So even, I think I was number 25, seems to be my employee number, so I was employee number 25 at Promapp. Employee number 25 when I joined Tradify. We're now about a hundred employees. In a company of that size, I think it's just great that every single member of the team can really see the direct impact of their contribution on the business, so the ability to have an impact.

It's also super rewarding from a sales and marketing perspective and growth perspective, as you're doing things you can see the impact of those that make such big changes to the business, so it's super rewarding. And personally, I like to operate pretty quickly and so the ability just to do things very, very fast really appeals to me.

OS: So, I suppose moving on to Tradify, what do you see as the biggest growth challenges to overcome now that you're working there?

SB: Yeah. I think when I think about that it's probably the same in every business, just to a different degree. There's so much that you can do to try to drive growth. There's always so many different options and so many different things that you can do, so many things to try, and you always have limited time and resources. So whether you're a one-person marketing team, whether you're a three-person, 30-person team, there's always going to be too much to do. So I think one of the key challenges is always going to be that prioritisation and figuring out. With a fast-growing company what's key is to try lots of things quickly, to learn quickly, and then to prioritise on those things that are working. So gradually becoming more focused. And then once you've identified those things, the best things to work on right now, being a bit ruthless in terms of prioritising that.

So one of the approaches we've taken at Tradify is to go a little wide, I guess, find a few things that work and then go really hard on those. Get them up and running, then they roll into the BAU, and then you look for the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing that's going to continue to build on that growth.

GW: So, I mean, obviously Tradify, our perception would be its relatively sophisticated in its go to market approach for a Kiwi tech company. But it'd be interesting, in your views more in general across the industry, if you look at it and then compare it back to your corporate Canadian experience, whether you see across the industry some real gaps in the way we take our tech products to market, especially global markets.

SB: Yeah. I think it all comes back to the fundamentals, really good marketing fundamentals, around understanding who your customer is, really understanding how they buy. And then as I said, testing a number of different approaches and then doubling down on those that work. I think in the New Zealand tech space, I mean, one of the challenges that many of these small companies have, you just don't have large teams so it's a resource constraint. So it's really making sure that anything you're doing is very aligned and built around how your customer purchases, as opposed to just taking a SaaS playbooks. There are consistent channels probably that will be used. There are consistent approaches that will be used, but you can't just take a playbook that works for one company and use it for another. So, it's figuring out how to adapt that for your company.

So I think, look, there's some really capable marketers in the New Zealand market across in lots of the different tech companies. The key is that most of these companies are pretty lean, so where you don't have the same maybe budgets or resources, you'd be really smart about what you spend your time and money on. But there's no reason, it's been proved by lots of companies, there's no reason that you can't take on the world from New Zealand, that's for sure.

OS: So your role at Tradify is Chief Revenue Officer, so I'm intrigued, that's a relatively new term in the Kiwi marketing context. I mean, is it finance, is it customer experience? What is that role?

SB: Yeah, I think the book ends move a little bit, depending on the company in terms of the CRO role. At Tradify the definition for my role is sales and marketing, so I think everything from attracting a visitor to a digital property through to closing a sale. So I lead the sales and marketing teams globally at Tradify. Half of our team is here in Auckland and half the team is in London, in the U.K.

GW: What role in that Tradify growth story I suppose, has the tech stack played? I mean, we're seeing that's one of the biggest shifts in recent years is the need to use technology cleverly to sell your technology. It'd be interesting to see what your experience has been at Tradify in terms of that whole CRM, marketing, automation, et cetera, the whole breadth of tools that you use.

SB: Yeah, for sure. So I think the tech stack's really important. If you get it wrong it's going to cause you a lot of pain, that's for sure. If it's not well managed, it's going to really hinder. I think it's challenging again, from a small company perspective. Often companies that are too small to focus on that, to focus on both the investment in the tech and the investment in the skill set, the operational skill set to manage it, but it's the most important thing. From a foundation perspective, if you've reached the point in your business growth where you think you need to invest in that, it's probably too late. You need to do it before you get there. So, to plan that in advance.

For Tradify, we service New Zealand. Australia's actually our biggest market, and U.K. are rapidly chasing that. So most of our channels are digital. So certainly the website, we're a HubSpot customer. But the use of the tech, it's fundamental to our success, for sure.

GW: Yeah. Just to follow up on that, I think what Tradify seems to have done quite well is sometimes the temptation with tech companies we see is there's so many great apps out there for sales and marketing, but they tend to just get this proliferation of them and then they get to a point where it's really hard to manage it. But You've been relatively focused around having say, the HubSpot platform. Has that made a difference, do you think, your ability to manage the stack by not having 30 different apps, trying to standardise around a smaller set?

SB: Yeah, for sure. So where you can limit the number of different suppliers or vendors or tools that you use, you always want to do that as long as they're meeting your needs. I think it's also understanding we're obviously living in an age where there's an app for everything. In fact, there's probably five or 10 apps for everything and just because there's an app for it doesn't mean you should use it or do it. So looking at anything to say, we would search for apps to solve solutions or to close gaps, as opposed to seeing an app and thinking that'd be cool and adding it in.

I think the other thing that is really closely tied to the investment and operation management of the tech stack is the reporting and attribution. So as you're growing a company also, that insight to make sure that you're basically getting good data and insight on what is actually working. So right through from whether it's looking at traffic volumes, lead volumes, but also conversion to customers. And that's one of the things, and to be honest, a lot of that work had been done even before I joined the Tradify organisation and so that's a real strength. I think for us as a company is having really good visibility in terms of our attribution reporting. So understanding what's working and what makes sense to invest more time and resources into.

GW: Great.

OS: So I suppose looking at that experience you've had overseas and then your experience with Tradify and Promapp in the Kiwi tech sector, what would be a key piece of advice or growth advice for other Kiwi tech companies?

SB: Again, it maybe sounds quite basic and foundational, but I think it's really important. Before you even start looking at which channels you are going to use and you are going to reach the people and all the different marketing activities and investments that can be made to reach audiences and communicate with them, I think if you look at the companies that do this really well, it's actually because all of their marketing activities are actually built on a really strong foundation of understanding why the target market actually needs your product, what they would do if they didn't have that product? So what are the alternatives, and how good or bad are they? And then really understanding how that target market purchases.

So as I talked about, I've worked in a couple of different SaaS companies, worked in different tech companies as well. I can tell you the purchase process and it's completely different for all of those customers. And so I think sometimes as salespeople and as marketers we're very focused on our sales process and our marketing funnel and we're looking at the way that we want people to come through. But the companies that really do a good job, I think are the ones that actually really understand how does someone buy? Are there multiple decision makers? Is it one person? Where do they get their information? How long does it take to make a decision? What are the alternatives? And also, being really mindful of whether it is a situation where it is a category creation, or is this person going to be a first-time user of your type of software or app, or is it competitive displacement? Because if you haven't figured that out, what you're going to do on the marketing side, it's not going to match, it's not going to be successful.

So it's almost, I would say in terms of the impact on success, nailing that, really understanding that, is going to be the key. It's not going to be how much do you spend on one channel or the other. You're not going to get that right without that understanding.

GW: Okay. Well, thank you, Sarah. That's the questions we had today. We really appreciate your input. And I mean, I think that insight is, we don't hear it enough, that focus on the fundamentals because they're basic questions, but not always that easy to answer. They take some real grunty work and thinking. But like you say, you build everything on top of that understanding of your market, what you're selling to your market, what your value proposition is, what the route to market is, all those things. So for that alone, we thank you very much. It's a great message to get out to the tech community. So thanks for your time and we'll look forward to seeing you around the tech scene very soon.

SB: Awesome. Great.

OS: Thanks Sarah.

SB: Thanks guys.

OS: Oh, that was a great interview with Sarah. I think that understanding how she did a typical journey of started in New Zealand, international experience, came back and then had some great experience with Promapp and Tradify. What did you learn out of that, Greg. Any insights?

GW: Yeah, I mean, I think the whole focus on the foundation was fantastic. That's certainly our philosophy. Concentrate is born of that need to really understand what you're trying to sell to whom, with what sort of proposition to really understand your market. And I think it's interesting that in such a really modern, SaaS sophisticated, digital business, that the fundamental is still there.

OS: Yeah. I really liked when she talked about the attribution reporting. That's something we always talk about in marketing, about measuring return and understanding what's working and what’s not working. Stop things that aren’t and invest in things that are performing well. But I think actually we've really struggled to do that. And it's just recently with digital marketing and all the tools that we have available, now we can actually see everything and we can measure everything, and that makes us be able to do our job much better.

GW: Yeah. And building on that I suppose, the other thing I really liked was her philosophy on using tech in sales and marketing, which is not,I'll grab something because it's really cool and add it to my stack. So it was like, oh no, we'll identify a real gap in our business, the problem we want to solve, then we'll find the solution to it, whether it's an extension of what we've got or a new app. Which I think we see that a bit in the tech industry because they're clever tech people and they just love all kinds of apps, and that can go against the whole idea of trying to build an attribution analysis if you've got lots of different tools as well.

OS: Yeah. We do see companies in their lifecycle, don't we, that they start off with some apps and then all of a sudden, they have a bit of an explosion of apps. And at some point, they need to go through a consolidation and agree the platform for growth, whatever that be.

I think that Sarah also touched on, at the start of the interview, around this you call it agile, you call it moving fast, trying things, don't be afraid of failure. Just get on with it, try things, see what works. And I think it's almost stuff we might talk in our product development. In our technology thing we talk about doing things fast, agile, get something that's used by the customer as quickly as possible. And she's saying that same philosophy in marketing, let's just try a whole lot of stuff quickly as possible, and some of it will stick and we'll use that, and then we'll slowly build this program of stuff that works and is tried.

GW: Yeah. No, that's great. Okay. Well, thank you for watching another episode of Growing Tech. We really enjoyed that discussion. Hopefully you get a lot out of it as well. We look forward to seeing you on a future podcast. We've got a whole bunch of guests lined up for this year, so stay tuned and we'll be posting about our next podcast pretty soon. Thanks.

Interested in learning more about growing your tech business? Make sure you check out our blog which covers all things New Zealand tech. You can also subscribe to our podcast channel on YouTube, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

See you next time,

Greg and Owen.

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