5 Marketing Lessons from Aaron Levie and the Early Box Marketing Team

Anthony Kennada (Gainsight), Menaka Shroff (BetterWorks), and Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, took the stage in the final day at SaaStr Annual to discuss five key learnings from the early marketing engine at Box.

Article by
Drew Beechler
Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, at SaaStr Annual 2016

Anthony Kennada (Gainsight), Menaka Shroff (BetterWorks), and Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, took the stage in the final day at SaaStr Annual to discuss five key learnings from the early marketing engine at Box.

Box has been a widely successful business, able to straddle the SMB to enterprise market successfully and overtaking some major incumbents in the process. When it comes to marketing enterprise SaaS software, we can all learn a great deal from Box. Below are Anthony, Menaka, and Aaron’s five key learnings from marketing Box.com:

1. Go Big with Your Brand and Message

Anthony and Menaka discussed an early Box billboard campaign that targeted SharePoint.

Aaron Levie noted, “We had to develop a challenger position to associate ourselves with this incumbent.”

BetterWorks took a different approach to going big with their brand and message, utilizing advertising in HBR and NPR to reach their c-suite audience successfully.

2. Create a Movement

Menaka noted that you want to build a movement that goes beyond just one product you’re selling. The beauty behind Box’s messaging was that it came in with a simple, user-centric product and translated that into a simple, sexy message.

Early on, Gainsight invested heavily in content marketing, thought leadership, and educating the market on “customer success.” Showcasing an upcoming billboard, Anthony shared new messaging and billboard for Gainsight saying, “Customer success is not a buzzword, but a business model.”

They’ve created an entire community and movement behind this idea through their content marketing, Customer Success University, events (more on that later), and thought leadership. Building a movement around customer success has had much more success than focusing on product features and functionality.

3. Iterate Different Entry Points, Early

As you’re thinking about your early marketing efforts, distribution is king. Aaron Levie told the audience, “Optimize your distribution channel for the kind of product and customer you’re building.”

Menaka encouraged marketers to start early and iterate often — “You don’t want to hold back on your demand generation efforts until later on.” If you wait, you miss out on early data and testing on your website and CTAs that could lead to game-changing insights as your products and distribution channels mature.

Menaka shared the avenues of entry they tested and implemented at BetterWorks in the following slide:

Aaron Levie noted that if you’re lucky, you might have a product that requires two or three avenues of entry (through a free trial, outbound sales process, self-service sign up, etc.). It’s important, though, to always think about what’s best for your company instead of just mirroring other companies.

Optimize your distribution channel for the kind of product and customer you’re building.
Aaron Levie

Anthony and Aaron dove deeper into enterprise sales distribution strategies, noting an interesting challenge for Gainsight’s distribution as they needed to teach their prospects “how to buy.”

Aaron Levie pointed out, “Sometimes, you can separate the enterprise-grade product from something that can bring a lot of value to the end-user.” When you can do that, you can effectively attack the full stack from SMB to enterprise.

4. Use Events to Spread the Word

The fourth key learning was focused around event strategy in the enterprise.

Aaron Levie noted the success Marc Benioff and Salesforce have had in attacking the enterprise with world-class events.

Early in Box’s life, an investor told Aaron, “You’re not doing enterprise marketing unless you do an event.” Anthony went on to say, “It’s never too early to build a conference.” Early on, Gainsight launched Pulse, their customer success industry conference with tremendous success. In 2015, Pulse had over 2,000 attendees. Conferences and events give you a platform and are one of the best ways to sell into the enterprise.

5. Build Customers and a Community

The fifth learning they discussed was building a customer community. It’s not enough to just grow your customer-base — you need to build a community around your customers and make them feel a part of the larger “movement.”

Anthony shared some of their efforts at Box to create a meaningful community around their customers including case studies, press, and their “Box Community.” He also shared Gainsight’s efforts to built a movement and community around their customers including customer awards, the Customer Success University, CCO Summit, customer communities, and Pulse.

Bonus: Market Your Iconic CEO

The bonus tip from Anthony was to capitalize on your iconic CEO like they did with Aaron Levie at Box and are doing now with Nick Mehta at Gainsight.

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