Marketing leader, SEO expert, and singer-songwriter in a cool snapback.
We caught up with Gaetano DiNardi, VP of marketing at Sales Hacker on the community’s journey and to get a piece of his mind on marketing for startups.
What first started as a side gig (invite-only local meetups) of 4 to 5 members, newsletters to a closed community, sales hacking playbooks, and follow-up meetups after long business hours, grew to hosting bigger conferences with 2000+ attendees, 6000+ active course enrollments, and today has a total of 60000+ sales professionals across 30 cities in its kitty.
Sales Hacker arms its community with a myriad of sales stacks – actionable blog articles, growth-focussed webinars, sales consultations, and self-learning courses.
“Sales Hacker is a full-service media company that does publications, sales conferences, and meetups in 30 cities all over the world. The idea is to build a community from the events and get high-level people involved.” – Max Altschuler, Founder, Sales Hacker.
Prospecting, Email management, Messaging, ABM, CRM, Analytics.
The tools to sell and schools of thought on how to sell have something in common – imperfect competition. But the expertise to master these is still scanty.
Max Altschuler, the founder of Sales Hacker, was assigned with the formidable task of increasing the revenue of the company by 20% month-over-month at Udemy, the company he was previously employed at. With a negligible marketing budget, he hacked his way through the targets by building a virtual outbound team that helped with customer acquisition and bought Udemy thousands of new users.
Max slowly brought some of his peers together to bat around sales hacks where similar technology is leveraged to get more done. This was the story of his first meet up.
Gaetano believes it was passion, a growing need, and great storytelling that worked in favor of Max and Sales Hacker.
Wisdom from the trenches for aspiring community makers
Start small. Start specific.
The community is meant for sales professionals in the B2B SaaS industry, and was initially geographically limited to reps in and around the bay area. The registration model was invite-only to keep vendors outside of the discussion and build authenticity and trust among members.
Identify and memorize your differentiator.
Sales Hacker’s community’s differentiator is enabling its members with ideas to do more with less and develop a growth mindset through a sharp and lean playbook.
Encourage participation. Turn your first members into advocates.
Use the offline networking camaraderie of meetups to encourage turnout. Give your speakers 10-20 minutes to deep dive into sessions. Increase engagement and get your initial members to become advocates and help with organic amplification.
“We are internalized with the idea of building a product first. We most often forget about building an audience. At Sales Hacker, we first built a community, and are now slowly monetizing our offering, thereby building a product.”
If you don’t have a brand story, you’re not marketing, really.
“The most significant and crucial part of our marketing strategy is building a brand story, and building enough top of the funnel awareness. Nobody cares much about a given company’s cutting-edge product features versus others. You have a story? You will have listeners. And thus, buyers.”
Local meetups helped Sales Hacker acquire its early members and has been the prima donna of the community since then. Some of the ways in which they are rethinking events:
Get the objective straight.
Root for authenticity and trust as the primary intangible objectives.
Eliminate webinar panels. Introduce deep dive sessions.
Attendees will get a greater bang for the buck from a 20-30 minute deep dive setting with actionable insights and focused outcomes.
Don’t sell, yet. (Attendee lists or speaking slots)
If you’re just starting, look beyond monetizing your slots and aim at creating value and building a brand.
The first few community members were acquired through:
- Local meetups in San Francisco
- Newsletters on hacking sales with technology
- Knowledge sharing through actionable content pieces and
- Co-marketing with thought leaders in the domain
Driving community members to engage
Getting people to sign up is not even half the battle won. Getting them engaged and invested in your community is where and when you decide if your idea has set into the right orbit.
Two questions Gaetano and his team find themselves asking:
- Offering Value: Is Sales Hacker consistently offering unique perspectives on sales subjects to their audience members they won’t find outside the realm of the community?
- Distribution: Is the content disseminated to the right audience at the right time?
- Ask the audience what they want! Gaetano and his team administer engagement and NPS surveys often. Those results often dictate what happens next.
- Don’t be afraid to be bold and stand out. Everyone around is following the norm. Take risks and experiment.
- It’s okay to say no to content pitches. Anything that is not in alignment with what you want to communicate as a community, is not what you need. Remember, authenticity.
- Actionability, uniqueness, and quality – 3 pillars for content success
- Get scientific about segmentation.
“Get scientific about segmentation. It’s a no-brainer, yet overlooked theory. We wanted to reduce the churn rate of the number of C-level executives leaving the community. We tackled this by building content relevant to their challenges – Executive newsletters and actionable guides that would be useful for their sales teams.”
At Sales Hacker, where the core is building a community, audience growth is measured by looking at these key numbers:
- Email list growth
- Month-on-month growth in course enrollments
- Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter follower growth
- Webinar signups & attendance rates
- Return visitors to the blog
- Social shares and comments
- Brand mentions and backlinks
- Landing page conversions
- Email opt-in rates
“We haven’t done anything too crazy here. We provide value and people share our stuff like wildfire. Organic and natural amplification has done the trick for us. It again boils down to building a brand story, building trust, and everything flows perfectly afterward. If your story fails, everything else fails too.”
Favorite success story
“A stellar sales rep we recently hired scouted through all our material online to prepare himself for the interview. I think that’s unparalleled and is easily my favorite community success story.”
“We also have community members reaching out to us all the time to let us know how our content has helped them with their sales process – especially when it comes to closing big deals.”
Marketers, help sales?
- Number of MQLs we bring to sales: Assuming GTM strategy is aligned, there needs to be some compromise on what’s a fail or a hit target wise and what numbers need to come from marketing. Sales cannot have crazy or unrealistic goals. Set the right expectations from the beginning.
- Get inside each other’s positions: Gaetano helps sales folks with content they can share on their social channels, along with helping them building a personal brand for themselves, and creating micro-messaging campaigns for target account profiles.
- Sales enablement: Creating sales enablement material (PPTs and other Bottom-of-the-funnel content that helps with purchasing decisions).
Gaetano is also the in-house SEO expert. He has worked on SEO strategies for companies like Pipedrive and GoSkills. Here is where he thinks startups can go wrong with SEO:
“Planning fallacy. Optimism bias. Unrealistic planning and KPIs. And copying what everybody else is doing are the best ways to ruin your SEO efforts.”
“Companies just starting out need to take a targeted approach. Going after long-tail keywords and mapping content to each stage of the buyer’s journey is a good start. Start with bottom-of-funnel content and move your way up to the top-of-the-funnel content.”
“Compare yourselves to what gets ranked at #1 of the page of your target keyword. Closely monitor the number of links, primary and secondary keywords, and content structure of the page and see how yours does versus the one doing the best. You can’t growth hack SEO. You can only work hard for it, be meticulous in your approach, and battle your way to the top of the rankings.”
Actionable growth hacks
Scraping and prospecting.
“Scrape lead lists on relevant websites, find prospects on exhibitor lists of event pages, and on Linkedin. Become friends with your competitors. Learn what they are doing, and then figure out how to do it better. Build Lead IQ lists. Do social listening. And get yourself a tool like Buzzsumo.”
And in the meantime, if you have questions for Gaetano or the Sales Hacker community, leave them in the comments section!
Gaetano is the VP of Marketing at Sales Hacker – with a proven track record of success working with B2B SaaS brands, Gaetano leverages a unique hybrid of expertise in both SEO & Content Strategy to win business results. Outside of marketing, Gaetano is an accomplished music producer and songwriter. To get in touch, follow him on Twitter via @gaetano_nyc