Growth strategies in Asia with David Fallarme (HubSpot)

In this episode, David Fallarme (Asia Head of Marketing at HubSpot) talks about:

  • How HubSpot has built a blog that generates more visitors that Harvard Business Review and TechCrunch combined
  • Looking at content as a long term growth strategy
  • Why Asia requires a portfolio of growth strategies due to its fragmented nature
  • Why it is important to make bold moves
  • How your employees can become your marketing channels
  • How he manages his information diet to ensure personal growth
  • His personal productivity and personal growth stack

 

Podcast information:

About the guest

David Fallarme is the Asia Head of Marketing for HubSpot – an all-in-one sales and marketing tool for scale ups. Prior to that David was in charge of marketing at Pie.co, Referral Candy, EA and App Annie. He currently runs a private community of Asia marketers called APAC Marketers. 

Find him here:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dfallarme/
APAC Marketers: https://www.apacmarketers.com/

Books, tools, people, frameworks mentioned in this episode:

David Fallarme 0:00
Anybody who has done growth or marketing in Asia falls into this mistake. And obviously myself included, which is trying to go through too many markets at once.

So instead of just thinking about I need to grow this region, you actually have to chop that region up into different markets and then stack rank them around which ones are most deserving of your time, I should be able to justify why I’m going after Thailand, as opposed to going after Singapore, because maybe an incremental dollar in Singapore is more valuable than going into Thailand.

Ricky Willianto 0:29
Asia is a highly fragmented region, and growth strategies that work in one part of the continent may not necessarily work in others. In this episode of growth multiplier, David flarm, Asia’s Head of Marketing for HubSpot talks about why a one size fits all strategy does not work, and why it is important to adopt a portfolio approach in your growth efforts in Asia. Listen to this episode to hear more about David’s experience growing HubSpot in Asia, his view on personal branding and his efforts in building the marketing community here in Asia.

My name is Ricky Willianto, co founder of Ravenry and the host of the Growth Multiplier podcast. Through this podcast, I hope to uncover the pathways, startups and companies have taken in their journey of growth, share some stories from the trenches, and hopefully identify patterns and hacks that can be replicated by businesses in Asia and the rest of the world. I hope you enjoyed the show.

Hey, David, thank you so much for joining me today. Really nice to have you. Before we begin, maybe we can get you to introduce yourself really, really quickly to the audience and also where you work at right now.

David Fallarme 1:35
Sure, Ricky. Thanks for having me, everyone. My name is David. I work for a company called HubSpot. We do a CRM platform where you can also plug in your marketing and sales and service teams. So it’s a super powered CRM platform. But what I do there is a head of marketing in our Asia business. So I look after all of these except for Japan, in Australia, and primarily work with our sales teams to make sure that they’re getting the leads that they need. But also I’m working on stuff like growing our brand awareness so that more and more people within Asia know about HubSpot.

Ricky Willianto 2:04
So you’ve been with HubSpot for a while now. Right, David?

David Fallarme 2:06
Just under four years, around three and a half, four years.

Ricky Willianto 2:10
And how has the company grown so far, in the past four and a half years,

David Fallarme 2:14
It’s been pretty wild. So I thought that when I joined HubSpot, it was already public for I think, like three to four years. And I thought that he would reach that stage where it starts to become more corporate starts to slow down and becomes I guess a bit more hierarchical. But it’s very interesting of the way the company leadership thinks about it. So every year we do like a reorg. Because we are continually trying to grow and grow and grow. So I think I joined the company when it was something like 2000 employees, and now it’s around like 4000 plus. And within Asia itself. It was around 40 to 50 people when I join just in Asia. And now we’re like, around 200. So it’s been a pretty interesting growth journey for sure. When I joined it was primarily thinking about inbound marketing. And our sales machine was our sales product. We’re just getting going. And now we’re really thinking about sales as a CRM platform. So as we shift from marketing to sales, and now CRM, I think we’re up for another interesting period of growth.

Ricky Willianto 3:14
Maybe Can you share with us a little bit, you know, the early days of when you joined HubSpot, which is about four years ago, you mentioned that the company was more focused on inbound marketing activities, what are some of the things that you had to do back then, to help the company establish itself in Asia?

David Fallarme 3:28
I think so when I joined 40 people, and it was just me and a contractor for marketing. So we really had to build up a lot of the Asia marketing site from scratch. And we didn’t know exactly what was going to work. So we tried a little bit, got a little bit of everything. We tried contributing to our blog, we would rewrite email sequences, so we just experimented a lot. But we eventually found to be most effective was realising that we were original team. And like most original b2b marketing teams, you exist to support the sales team. So anything you do to make sure that they’re successful as possible, so that when prospects talk to them, they’re already a bit somewhat educated. And that way, they can have a better, more productive conversation. That’s where we ended up focusing our time. So it’s the kind of bread and butter b2b stuff, webinars, ebooks, paid ads. But I think the interesting part there is not necessarily the channels, but the strategy behind them. So how we would create the content? And how will we make sure it was tied up to what the sales team was giving us in terms of feedback? That’s what we found to be most effective? Yeah, what was what were some of the most successful, you know, strategies you’ve implemented in the early days of when you join HubSpot? I think the early days actually not as interesting, just because we were trying so many things. And it took us some time to refine all those tactics until we could figure out okay, this one, like stop doing that, and this other thing, do more of that. So I’ll give an example from last year, which was the year of COVID. One of the things that I think is going to work across any industry is providing insights through data and like trends and helping understand stuff. So one of the things that was most impactful we did last year was we have a huge customer base.

In HubSpot, right, like right now I think we have like 100,000 customers. And so what we did was we looked at the data in Asia to be like how has COVID impacted website traffic? Because we can generalise since we had enough of a sample size, right? How has it impacted CRM usage? How has it impacted people like leaving support tickets, marketers and emails. So we package all that up. And then we, you know, tried to get pressed with it, we use it as a way to get people’s attention that normally would not have been had posted on the radar. It was also a great way for all those people who were like, Hey, we need now to do digital transformation. Because offline, you know, you’re not allowed to be offline in a physical store. And so that was something that really helped us the LCS because it put HubSpot in the conversation of, I need to put my business online, who is a company that looks like the credible when it comes to all this stuff. And we had this campaign around data, how to adjust the COVID that was super impactful across the board from awareness all the way down to helping the sales team. The takeaway there is every business has some sort of interesting data that they can collect, whether that’s first party data, or synthesising second party data. And so for anybody listening who wants to use a similar strategy, you don’t need to wait for COVID for you to use that. It’s kind of just like, anytime there’s something topical or relevant to what your target audience thinking data is usually a bread and butter evergreen strategy for any business to take.

Ricky Willianto 6:21
Can you can you give us some specific examples of how HubSpot has actually leveraged that through the COVID period?

David Fallarme 6:27
Oh, yeah. So we did a microsite where you have like interactive charts around how email sending has changed in APEC. website traffic has changed. It’s really interesting because when you break it down for country, you can actually see how the different lockdowns and how they went into effect affected online business. So like I did, nom had a different curve than Singapore, which had a different curve in the Philippines, like Japan had different curve. So it was it’s kind of cool to see how businesses were thinking about it from online traffic and email sending, and how that was translating into real world economic activity. So it was interesting on from so many angles. So that was a win for getting people talking about HubSpot within Asia, but also when sales reps were talking to your prospects. And usually they were either educated about HubSpot, or that was a piece of content they could use to rewarm. And like re engage people who they haven’t talked to in a while.

Ricky Willianto 7:21
Yeah, starting a topical discussion is interesting. But how are you able to collect link a lot of these topics back to your business? Because, you know, like the data that you just mentioned to me to Microsoft they built may not necessarily be directly linked to what HubSpot can do. Right. So I’m just trying to understand a little bit on how you’ve got like, you know, connected those dots. Yeah,

David Fallarme 7:39
it’s a good point. I think part of it is because HubSpot, the content strategy we have is just played a really, really long game. And that’s how the business has grown. So it started from a blog that now writes things like how to make a GIF. Like what does that have to do with marketing or sales and sending good emails, right. But we just try to be as helpful as possible, try to create as much value as possible, build that goodwill. And we just trust in the universe and karma to come around so that whenever we do have a solution for a problem that you have, then you’ll think of us first. So that’s kind of how we think about it. And it’s worked for us for like 15 years, right? So that’s how we think about it. I think there’s there’s probably some ways you could have been a bit more bottom of funnel about it more salesy about it, but then it wouldn’t have had the reach, it wouldn’t have had the the feeling of being helpful, which was so important during the COVID period, where it’s like people were really sensitive around people trying to sell them stuff. So in general, our strategy is to be as helpful as possible and create as much value as possible, and just trust that all the pieces fall into place. But it was especially important during that time.

Ricky Willianto 8:48
And how do you even decide the topic then? Because I think when we talk about something that’s trending, it’s, it’s not easy to pick it out, right? Especially if you are if you want to be one of the first movers around those things. So how do you actually decide like what kind of content to create and to publish?

David Fallarme 9:02
We have a really strong internal Northstar around who our customer is and what problems they have. So I think everything just comes back down to that. So we knew that Marketing Leaders and sales leaders around the time had a lot of uncertainty around, hey, should I be sending emails? Because everybody’s appears to be sending emails? Or is it okay, if I, like try to sell things to my customer base? Is that okay? Like people have a lot of uncertainty around that. And so when it came time to decide, hey, should we push this piece of content, it wasn’t so much that Oh, my god COVID is happening. Therefore, we have to be in the news. It was more like our customer has this problem. Our target audience has the problem, let’s be as helpful as possible. And if we get news coverage, then that’s a great side benefit. But it was just trying to be as helpful as possible. And that showed up in the stats like we had a lot of referral traffic and direct traffic. So people were sending it to each other people were talking about it, and it wasn’t so much it was just like clicks from our our email database.

Ricky Willianto 9:58
So like, I don’t care Who are like your target personas because I’ve used your product before. And from my understanding, it can actually address a lot of people’s problems from SME to startups to large corporations. Right. So who specifically are the personas that you’re talking about? And how do you make sure that you keep updating on like, what they care about? Because I think that’s something that is also quite challenging for a lot of business.

David Fallarme 10:19
Yeah, right. Now, we’re focused on what we’re calling scaling companies. I think if you ask this question, maybe five years ago, everybody would have unanimously said, Yeah, we’re going after like SMEs, or startups, or people just, you know, under a certain employee size. But right now, we’re more thinking around companies that are growing. And so we feel like that opens us up to people who want to just get started with our free CRM. But also more and more we are being able to serve really large corporations, like Survey Monkey uses us, you know, a couple of really huge universities use us. And in some cases, some governments around the world use us. So we don’t want to restrict ourselves to just saying that we are for enterprise or for startups, we think of ourselves as for companies who want to keep growing, specifically, from a job title perspective, that’s depending on the stage, right? The founders, CEOs, marketing directors and sales leadership, typically, that’s who we’re talking to when we’re in a by composition. So as a C suite, are people who make decisions around front of front of house business decisions,

Ricky Willianto 11:14
and how do you make sure that you’re always you know, like, keeping abreast with what, you know, is top of mind, for example.

David Fallarme 11:19
So it happens at several levels. And this kind of question is, it really has to come down to the way the leadership team, and even the founders view how important this is. Because there’s a lot of ways you could do this. But if if there’s no action taken on it, it’s kind of useless, right? So our founders really believe in this. So Dharmesh, our co founder and CTO, he wrote this thing called customer code, which basically just tells you how seriously we take this. It says, like, how we should deal with our customers, how important the feedback is, how we can improve. So that just permeates throughout the entire organisation. So when it comes to how do we make sure we’re in touch with the customer that’s really in every department. So from the marketing and sales side, so speaking about Asia, I’m always in touch with people in our audience, as in marketing leaders, and sales leaders, and always trying to understand what they’re thinking what they’re doing. And whenever the our sales team has feedback for me, we catch up on that. So I have a persona or avatar of our customer. And that’s a regular interval that’s called every quarter, I’ll run it by our sales managers in Asia and be like, Hey, does this sound right? Does this look like the competitive set that we’re up against? Is this the budgets we’re talking about? These are problems you’re hearing on the phone? And then I’ll supplement that qualitative insight with some quantitative data on what kind of industries are we signing up kind of employee sizes are we seeing because we have that from our CRM data as well, right. And then sometimes I’ll just do a sanity check with a tool like Gong, which is a call recording software. And then that allows me to do like search transcripts of what the words of prospects are saying. So from a tactical perspective, it’s those things with the sales managers. But from a cultural perspective, there’s a lot of stuff happening as well. So that’s what’s going on from the sales and management perspective. But as you can imagine, the UX people have their own customer discovery process support team has findings and incentive together, they showed us the org and same thing with our CSM. And we have a central team also focused on how I’m thinking about how our target customers evolving over time. So there’s a lot of different inputs within the org. But I think the core of it is that we just really care about it. And so it shows up in every team. And so we’re never really wondering what’s going on with the customer, because every team on the front line is feeding that information back to each other.

Ricky Willianto 13:34
And how do you how do you organise all this information? One of the key challenges I face is that we have so many input, right? We have feedback we have you know people’s behaviour on our platform. We have like our audience behaviour on our funnels. Right. So how do you collect, consolidate all this information in a way that makes sense to you, but also to the rest of the organisation? Because you’re essentially also a source of information, right? For a lot of these people that’s working together with you. How do you make it easy for everyone to be on the same page about who your customers are? And what are the problems they’re facing?

David Fallarme 14:03
Yeah, the short answer is it lies in our product marketing organisation. So they’re the ones who have the canonical definition of who our persona is, and what the narrative is that we’re going to be going with for the next year, two years. So it’s just with them. So at the end of the day, there’s a tonne of inputs, you’re right. And sometimes it doesn’t need to escalate or be funnelled back to the central product marketing function. So maybe if it’s Asia specific, we like we don’t need to tell them about that and feed into their persona development process, right. But the most important thing is if you want to have it aligned across the org, there has to be a person slash team who’s accountable and responsible to it for synthesising all those inputs and making it digestible to everyone. So every year or so we’ll get like a slide deck says here’s what we’re going after. Here’s the narrative. Here’s how we think about it. Does anybody have any questions? So yes, now let’s go forward with this.

Ricky Willianto 14:53
And so how do you see the business growing in Asia then, like, what’s the narrative for Asia? And you know, what kind of market trends are you expecting Asia

David Fallarme 15:00
So it goes back to that scaling companies thing. We’re looking for companies who are at that phase of growth, that they’re starting to feel the pain of, Okay, I started my company, but somebody told me I have to have a blog. So I get WordPress, made to have an email list or I sign up for MailChimp. Oh, by the way, I need Google Analytics, because I need to know what’s happening on the website. And I’m running Facebook ads. So I have Facebook Ads Manager, oh, yeah. Somebody told me to do a B testing. So now I’m using a B testing platform. And next thing, you know, you have like eight to 10 different apps, they have the login just like your business. That’s not even talk with the CRM. And he’s like support software you have. So we’re talking to companies who are having that problem. We think of it as like this like Frankenstein, marketing, tech sales tech platform, where you just combining different pieces. So it’s those sets of companies who we are a great fit for who just tired of having to train people up on different software. And I think we’re in a great position, because the more and more money’s moving through Southeast Asia and India, so I cover India as well. And so the more venture funding that is, there’s more tech startups and more growing businesses who have that problem. So it’s, it’s going well, I can’t give you any specific numbers. But if the macro environment in Asia has been very positive, and I think if we eventually find a way to tack on China and Greater China to that, then I think it’s going to be even even more.

Ricky Willianto 16:20
Sounds good. Yeah. And what is what are some of the ways that you used to only help you identify and you know, build your pipeline of prospects as well. I know like you guys have been really, really good. But even for me, I think my HubSpot account, I have a bunch of discounters waiting for me, right? So you guys are already targeting me as a potential user. So like, how do you actually like, you know, build that pipeline of leads,

David Fallarme 16:41
we are in a very lucky position, and that we have this asset, which is our blog, which to give you context, it’s bigger than TechCrunch. And bigger than Harvard Business Review combined. So that alone tells you where our attention and awareness is coming from

Ricky Willianto 16:59
bigger, bigger, and like what

David Fallarme 17:00
what metric in terms of visits and traffic.

Ricky Willianto 17:03
Okay, that’s amazing.

David Fallarme 17:04
So it’s huge. It’s huge. And so that all starts because we play the long game, like I said, and so a lot of my job is taken care of, because some HubSpot blogger in 2013, wrote a set of blog posts are great in Asia. So that’s that’s the vast majority of that. In the last couple of years, we’re seeing our free CRM also start to take more and more of the percentage of where people hear about us and how they get into the HubSpot ecosystem. So there’s a content lead growth and a product lead growth aspect to where we’re to how we think about growth. I think the interesting thing is, in everything we do, and this is gonna sound cheesy, and everything that we do, we just try to create the best experience possible. So our CRM is free, and has like a really high NPS. And so we know that if we just take care of it, it’ll grow. It’ll kind of take care of itself. Of course, we still have to layer on acquisition efforts and all that kind of stuff. But in a world where there’s just so many blogs, and so much content, podcasts, clubhouse, like YouTube, sometimes if you just create a good piece of software that solves a problem, and just worry about that, then a lot of pieces tend to fall into place.

Ricky Willianto 18:13
So would you say that content is like the biggest channel of acquisition right now for HubSpot?

David Fallarme 18:17
Yeah, I will say it’s the content of the free CRM. And let me just try to make this actionable and not too fluffy. For anybody who’s not in the HubSpot position. We have a giant media site, I would think about who your target customer is, like in any business. That’s where Ground Zero is right? And what media do they consume, what channels with media channels are the spending the most time on and then build for that? If we found that HubSpot was primarily consumed by people who read magazines, or watch TV, then that’s where we’d be. That’s where we build our expertise in terms of getting their attention. But it just so happens that marketing software marketing people like to read blogs, sales, people like to read tips on social media. And so we just make sure to grab those platforms.

Ricky Willianto 18:59
That’s why you’re taking care of the Asia market. Do you see huge distinction between the market here and the market elsewhere in the world for HubSpot?

David Fallarme 19:08
Asia is not one place. So I think it depends on which market we’re talking about. Right? Like if I think about Singapore, it’s probably similar to a lot of other English speaking, developed markets. The dynamics are very similar. But then if I talk about a country, like let’s say, India, the dynamics look very similar, similar to Brazil or parts of Latin America, even though it’s English, just because of the ability to pay and willingness to pay and size of population and all that kind of stuff. So it’s similar, depending on the country. I think the from a regional perspective, the difficulty comes from having to juggle all those different things. So let’s say that I’m a regional marketer. In the UK, I have a very different set of problems than if I was me in Asia, because in the UK, it’s one language usually developed economy. So buyers probably have heard of HubSpot. They can afford HubSpot. Whereas in Asia like yes, people in Singapore slash Hong Kong typically can afford HubSpot. But if you go down to like, let’s say Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, then we have to look a bit harder for people where we can add value, and have the ability to pay for HubSpot. So it’s necessary to think about it from a market level perspective.

Ricky Willianto 20:19
So how do you make sure that you are able to cover all the different geographies? Because I think in Asia is super fragmented, right? As you mentioned,

David Fallarme 20:26
yeah, you’re touching on a regional marketing or slash international marketing strategy. And you have to think of it in terms of the relative ease of which you should go after the markets, right? So instead of just thinking about I need to grow this region, you actually have to chop that region up into different markets, and then stack rank them around which ones are most deserving of your time. Because going into a market, you have to think of it as an expensive, expensive luxury. So just because let’s say Thailand is there doesn’t mean I’m going to go after it, it should, I should have a strategy around it, I should be able to justify why I’m going to Thailand, as opposed to going after Singapore, because maybe an incremental dollar in Singapore is more valuable than going into Thailand. So I think it’s more about that thinking about the markets from that lens, and then deciding there how to then plan on my go to market with the sales team. Sounds good?

Ricky Willianto 21:20
And what are some of the things that have, you know, not worked so well, in your experience managing, you know, such a big region, or such a fragmented region?

David Fallarme 21:29
Anybody who has done growth or marketing in Asia falls into this mistake, and obviously myself included in which is like, trying to go through to to market too many markets at once. So, you know, you think that Oh, yes, you start out thinking that they’re all English speaking markets, and therefore, you can just go after them, where you see that you’re getting tonnes of traffic in the Philippines, and therefore you should invest in the Philippines are getting a lot of interest in the Philippines. But it comes back to that ability to pay willingness to pay and cost of serving, will they retain will they renew? So I think that’s the problem that we ran into a few times on probably still are making this mistake, which is we still haven’t totally identified very cleanly where exactly to put our efforts and our resources. And then it’s still it’s still a work in progress in terms of where knowing exactly where all of our resources and investment should go. And I think it’s not going to be changing for a while, because because Asia is very dynamic things are changing with this tiny thing called COVID, which is not, we’re not out of the woods yet. So that’s going to change the equation a bit. But overall, I think that’s a problem that a lot of companies need to run into whether they’re based in Asia, or whether they’re a multinational, like HubSpot.

Ricky Willianto 22:38
Sounds good? And what are some things that work really well, in experience? You know, specifically, if you can, you can choose any specific examples within different markets in Asia as well.

David Fallarme 22:48
I think that there’s a few things that we did. Let me try to make this concrete, there’s a few things that we did last year that I thought was interesting. And let me know if this is relevant. And I can go into another example, if it’s if it’s not satisfying. So during COVID times, you know, how I mentioned we had that data, or when certain economies are opening up, and when like, some are slower than others to recover. We noticed that since we have this data, we combine that with this realisation that a lot of companies around the world, were cutting their ad spend budgets, because they’re like, Oh, my God, what’s going to happen? So people was really uncertain. And we viewed that as an opportunity to like double down on some of the markets in Asia, because, you know, Facebook clicks were cheap. Nobody was really advertising. But we knew that in tech, like it didn’t really slowed down in tech in a lot of different ways. In fact, it’s sped up. And that was definitely the case for us. So we combined those two things. So our internal data, or knowledge of the markets, and realising this macro event of people cutting adspend, and we just doubled down on adspend. So it was a great opportunity for us to increase awareness, iterate a lot again, and see what was working and a very cheap way and test a lot of stuff. And that was something that really gave us a huge tailwind going into the back half of the year when a lot of the economy started opening up. So I guess, let me try to make that takeaways. Like there’s insights you have inside the company, there are macro things that are happening that affect the standing of your, your company within the market. And if you’re able to take a bold guess or a calculated risk around those to do the math, and you’ll likely be rewarded if you’ve thought about it in when you Zig when everybody else is zagging or is it the other way around something like that?

Ricky Willianto 24:36
Is any tips on how to Zig properly because I think again, this is one of those things where you have to spot the trend correctly. Right. So how do you actually like you know, go through that process in a in an organised way as well as well, especially in a in a large organisation.

David Fallarme 24:48
I don’t think you’ll be able to Zig or I don’t know how the saying goes so butchering it. I don’t know, like if you can Zig 100% of the time correctly. But what I’m saying is at least open yourself up to the actual I’m trying. Because when we realised that this was happening, use even though like, theoretically, it makes sense everybody’s cutting advantage. We can accelerate, it’s still kind of a gut check moment, like, Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is kind of thing? And I guess it’s similar to stock investing, right, you have to have conviction behind your your zigs. So it comes down to that you can do a lot of academic thinking and reasoning, why it’s gonna work up in a day, you just have to pull the trigger. In a lot of times, like, even if you Zig 10 times, it only works one time, sometimes that one time is enough for it to be worth it.

Ricky Willianto 25:36
No, that makes sense. That’s, that’s, that’s basically like the portfolio strategy, right? Just like one of them to cover like the rest of the failures.

David Fallarme 25:42
Yeah. And that goes, that goes from marketing campaigns to picking companies to like organising your career to investments. So I think a lot of people realise that that makes sense when you think about VCs, but when it comes down to marketing campaigns, applying that can result in huge payoff as well, as long as you think about it properly.

Ricky Willianto 26:01
One of the challenges around that is obviously to kind of like get the culture, right, because people get very scared when you ask them to do something completely different, right? So how are you able to collect balance that as well within the organisation? Yeah, helping people take that risk. And also still doing the BA you that works?

David Fallarme 26:16
You’re 100%. Right. And I think that’s one of the core advantages we have as HubSpot is we are very tolerant of failure. And that allows us to do a lot of stuff. Like if you’re completely right, like, it’s easy for us to say this. But if you’re a marketer, or you’re a leader in a company, where this kind of stuff is frowned upon, like, if you fail, and you announce it, it’s not celebrated. It’s kind of like, okay, you failed, so you’re fired, or you failed, now you have less credibility. Whereas it’s important to set up a culture where you never fail, you just learn. And I know that sounds cheesy, but if everybody lives, it is actually extremely powerful, because then now you’ve enabled it empower everyone to experiment and try things. And yeah, sure, maybe everybody’s gonna fail four to five times, just not one time, you added up in the aggregate, and it could be meaningful for the company. So an example here is we we used to run free events all across Asia, to like educate our market. So we would go to different countries and do something called grow with HubSpot, which is basically will teach you about email marketing, SEO basics, one on one, blah, blah, blah, blah. But because of the fragmentation of Asia, and the different abilities to pay, and all that kind of stuff, we took a step back and realise that the ROI of these events wasn’t quite adding up like there was making a profit. But if you add in the ROI, plus the amount of time we had to fly their book, hotels and do all this kind of stuff, ticketing, it was probably not worth it. So instead of flying to all these different countries, I ran an experiment where we would do it in Singapore, instead of get people to fly to us, and then charge for the tickets and not make it cheap. I think it was like 400 $500, to attend this event, he had to fly in yourself on your own, and then pay to attend this event, as opposed to us going to your city going to you for free. And having the event for free. Right. So it, it’s kind of a risky thing to do. Because we had this thing, we could report on it, it was free. And it showed like positive ROI. It was growing like attendance is growing every time we were doing it. But then we just made a call that said hey, let’s experiment with this new way of doing it. And it turned out to be a great success. So it started off in Singapore, then we replicated it in Australia, and then we’ll be doing it across the world this year virtually. But also once everything is back to quote unquote, normal, we’ll be doing it in different regions.

Ricky Willianto 28:34
What do you think is the psyche behind that change in behaviour for the customers, right, who’s currently decided now to spend money and actually fly and go through the pain of travelling to you to actually attend these events? What do you think is the you know, the behavioural change the psychological trigger that made it successful for you to change this dynamic?

David Fallarme 28:54
If you work backwards from an event where people are paying money and flying you as a marketer, and as an event producer, you realise it has to be worth it for all that trouble. And so when we would do these free speaking events, these free like smaller meetups, it would usually just be a HubSpot speaker, and then maybe a customer who talked about their use case. But when we made it a conference that we had to get tier one speakers, we had to get people from like brand name companies to fly in. We have to make sure the agenda was super good at the content was good. So long story short, we just had to make it worth it. And the event NPS and the fact that we sold out spoke to that

Ricky Willianto 29:32
sounds good. So I want to change tack a little bit and talk a little bit about personal branding. I know you’re you’re very good. You’re very active on social media, you’re always highlighting the different trends insights, you know, from the marketing world. So HubSpot is taking a very corporate view, right like I think a lot of the content that’s being produced being marketed through HubSpot is HubSpot branded. A lot of other companies are actually experimenting with a very different view which is they are taking like, you know, specific people in the organisation and trying to get them to be the face of the company, right? What’s your take on using personal brand or like building a personal brand as a way to kind of grow your business?

David Fallarme 30:07
Yeah, 100%, I think it’s inevitable that that’s the way that social media especially is going to go. We’re fortunate that our founders are quite visible on social media, sort of my CTO has been doing talks since forever. Same thing with our CEO. And we have members of our VP level team that are also quite active. So I think we’re good from the leadership front, we probably have some ways to go on the non leadership front. So I’m trying to do my bit to change the tide on that, at least in Asia, I think it’s inevitable that people become marketing channels. So right now, like people think of the company account still as like a way to tweet out links, or to publish press releases, which is just a very 2011 way to think about it. I think it’s inevitable now, especially like generation has grown up in the one coming up after that people are used to publishing online, people are used to developing their own voice to not try to do it, we understand that, like us speaking, does not necessarily always represent your company. So you don’t need to do that disclaimer, but these are my views the company provides, nobody really cares about that anymore. So I think it’s inevitable. And we are hopefully making progress on that. But I know there’s a lot of other companies like I look up to Gong company called Gong, they’re like, super good at this. And I’m very envious of their social media strategy, because it’s very obvious that they’ve put a lot of thought into it. And I think they’re executing the hell out of it.

Ricky Willianto 31:25
And the specific, you know, campaign that they’ve run that, you know, you kind of like,

David Fallarme 31:30
you know, how compelling so that’s awesome. That’s the thing, Ricky, it’s like, it’s not a campaign, it’s as though their approach to social because they they’re selling to salespeople, right? What’s a platform that salespeople spend most of their life on, like LinkedIn. So isn’t it obvious, just by reasoning that you have a really good LinkedIn presence. And they figured out that the a good LinkedIn presence doesn’t mean Gong, pushing out ebooks and shit on their platform, but it’s their cmo, their VP of sales, their account executives, talking about tips, talking about things that they’ve learned from their own careers, but also every now and then plugin Gong in a really non sleazy way. So I think that’s how they did it. They just realised the platform where everybody’s spending most of their time. And then they’re trying to add value, which is they can

Ricky Willianto 32:09
what are some of the things that helps was doing to try to be a little bit more personable, in a sense, right, on social media as well?

David Fallarme 32:16
Yeah, I think so. On the social media specific front, I think there’s still a ways we can go. So like I said, I’d love to see more people within HubSpot doing what I’m doing, which is posting a lot. And kind of not all, not not just posting around HubSpot stuff. But just marketing or sales in general, I think there’s, there’s still a huge ways to go there. It’s starting. But I think as an industry, it’s still a weird concept to be doing that, and not not everybody’s comfortable doing that. So I get it. One thing that we’re doing is I don’t know if you’d consider email, social media, but we just acquired a popular newsletter called the hustle.

Ricky Willianto 32:50
So that’s what I love. I love that newsletter.

David Fallarme 32:53
It’s so good. It’s so good. And that’s one way where we’re realising that we can show up in a way that adds value into your inbox into the world of our customers. So if you think about why we did that, it goes back to what I mentioned before, who’s our customer? Where do they spend time? Who do they trust? How can we add value. And we identified that as that newsletter as a piece of media that everybody likes. It’s really, really well done. Content quality is very high, it adds value. And if we could find a way to bring them into the HubSpot fold that one way, then we can continue to show up in a positive way in the minds of our target audience.

Ricky Willianto 33:28
Yeah, and running back to the whole personal branding thing, I think the CEO of hustle sandbar, I think it was his his still, I think he’s also done a really good job at like, you know, branding himself and making himself known out there in the market. So definitely very aligned with, you know, what you’ve been saying about the market?

David Fallarme 33:45
Yep. I think for a lot of folks like that. It’s, I don’t know if it was a strategy for him, like, I don’t think Sam went into it thinking, my personal branding strategies, x, and therefore I will execute against that. I think he just genuinely is a curious person. And he’s one of those people who thinks out loud. And so he’s like, his stuff that he tweets is really interesting. Something he writes is very interesting. So I think the more people who realise that whenever they talk about, you should do more personal branding. When people hear that they think I need to come up with a strategy, what’s my personal brand, and they get stuck at this phase, like what is my personal brand, and they want to do, like, go into the woods and think deeply around what their personal brand is, when really personal brand, just, in my view, practically, it just means you learn about a bunch of stuff all the time, everyday, you’re learning something, just post about that, and let the personal brand develop over time. So you don’t need to overthink it. You don’t need to have this like vision quest around. What do I want to stand for? What are my values, I think you just post about stuff that you learn, let that thing develop over time. Use the prolific pneus of publishing to help you refine your voice. And that’s how you get to that end state of having a quote unquote personal brand.

Ricky Willianto 34:50
Let’s change tack here. I just want to know a little bit as well about you right and how you’ve kind of like made sure that you yourself as an individual is constantly growing.

David Fallarme 35:00
The way I think about this is your output is a function of your input. And so if you want good output, then you need to have good input. And so input I think of as an information diet. So it’s kind of just like a food diet. A lot of people fill up their diet with junk food, or stuff that is satisfying the short term, but useless long term. So they’re just eating like McDonald’s french fries. And like, it feels good at the moment, but then that’s not good for you long term, right? So the way I think about it is, if I want good output, anytime good input, input that inspires me, that gets me to think that exposes me to a lot of different viewpoints, and helps correct some of the mental models that I have or add to mental models that I have. So I really am very careful about managing my information diet. So I have the APAC marketing community, which you know about, and that helps me get inputs from a lot of different people who are solving similar problems that I am.

Ricky Willianto 35:48
Maybe tell us a little bit about this community.

David Fallarme 35:50
Yeah, I’m surprised I haven’t plugged in. It’s been like 40 minutes, and I haven’t. Exactly I’m waiting. I’m

Ricky Willianto 35:54
waiting for it. I’m good. I’ve given you a couple of ins to mention this, but okay. 40 minutes. Yeah. It’ll be that it’ll be there. Yeah.

David Fallarme 36:03
So the genesis of this started when I moved to Singapore around six years ago, and I realised there’s no communities for marketing, that we’re not shit. Every marketing meetup I went to was awful, like, made me physically ill afterwards, then I was complaining all the time that I realised I shouldn’t complain, I should do something about it. And so I started putting together small meetups every now and then free meetups, and then eventually morphed into an online community just because I was tired of hosting events. So now we have an online community where we do meetups every now. And then we have a slack, private slack team. If you’re interested in joining, if this sounds interesting, go to APEC, marketers.com. We are I would say primarily people who are at the operational stage, more and more, we’re getting more at the leadership stage, actually don’t want people who are like MD a pack, or like cmo a pack. Because I feel like they’re in a different world. And I’m not sure what value we can add. But if you’re somebody who enjoys talking about tactics, or enjoys, you know, trading book notes and stuff like that, and that’s community that I think you’d be finding yourself welcoming.

Ricky Willianto 37:13
Yeah, that’s definitely a great community, I have to kind of add that as well. My endorsement, my little endorsement. And

David Fallarme 37:20
so anyway, so that’s, that’s one thing that I use the management information diet. And so the

Ricky Willianto 37:24
other question I have about information diet is I find it very tiring to curate the information in flow for me, right? There’s so many things that we’re consuming, you know, and there’s so many different channels, they’re coming in from how do you do that?

David Fallarme 37:37
It’s not, it’s a long answer. So let me try to synthesise it, I expose myself to a lot of potential sources of input, right. So APEC marketing group, that’s one, LinkedIn is one social is one, I also have a separate email account, aside from my personal email that I just used the sign up for tonnes and tonnes of newsletters. So in that way, I’m very liberal around what newsletters I sign up for. And then that allows me to expose myself to new viewpoints and new pieces of content that I might have been gun shy to before. I don’t know if there’s a unique answer of how do you make sure that there’s less noise, because part of the game is learning how to manage the noise and come up with your own way to prune all the information that’s out there. And I think that’s what separates people who are continually finding new ways to impact and always learning is because some people give up, they just like, oh, there’s too much crap out there. So I’m just gonna let somebody else filter it for me. But if you do that, then you end up not having any ORIGINAL IDEAS yourself, because then you’re just kind of regurgitating what Seth Godin said, What Neil Patel said, or what you heard in the podcast. So I think part of the unavoidable game is doing that. And then what I think is more important is having a process for consuming and processing that information in a productive way. So I have all these inputs. And I have a regular weekly process where I go through the stuff that I’ve saved, or stuff that I’ve bookmarked that I want to read. And then I take action on those things. So whether that is to do that happens, because there’s something I read about programmatic that applies to my work, or there’s something long term strategic that I want to think about later. So everything that I do leads to what to do or leads to me refining my information diet. That way, every time I think about it, it gets better and better.

Ricky Willianto 39:22
What are some of the framework you use to kind of make that decision? Do you have any tools as well to kind of collate all this to do’s and action steps that you need to take after you consume?

David Fallarme 39:32
I have a blog post about this. And maybe we can link to it if people are interested. But if you Google, man, I don’t know what the title was. If you go the marketing, student production, productive reading, if you just Google those things, I’m sure it’ll turn up. But basically what I do is I read a bunch of stuff or I’m exposed to a lot of things. Every week, actually, every Friday morning, I go through the stuff that I’ve saved so I use instapaper to save articles and see tweets or podcasts that I thought was interesting, but I didn’t have time to digest. So every Friday morning, I’ll spend an hour maybe hour and a half to digest those. And then I’ll take notes on them. If it affects my work, it’s hard to do. If I really hated it, that tells me Hey, go check your information dieted on subscribing that newsletter or stop following that person, or don’t see that kind of thing anymore. If it’s something that is longer term, I might set a to do in the future to think about it. And the to do app I use called to do list, we really need to be using any note taking slash Notes app, or to do app to do that. So that’s it every week, I do that. And that helps me manage it all the chaos. I think the interesting thing out of that is, sometimes I’ll find something that is inspiring, or really gets me to think that’ll become the, the source of my next LinkedIn posts, or my next tweet, or my next blog post, which helps me crystallise those ideas. Slash gives me new ideas, which then starts the whole process over because the new ideas might inspire me to search something out, which as the information diet, which makes me either refined my newsletter list or add news newsletters or do YouTube channels, and then when I posted on LinkedIn, maybe people comment on it, and they give me more ideas, which then helps me hunt down new sources of ideas. So I think, overall, that’s my process. It’s a continuing way of finding new perspectives that I can incorporate in my own, continually managing it, because I don’t know if there’s a way around it, and then finding a way to take action on it that way. It’s not just going in here and one or the other

Ricky Willianto 41:25
thing with regards to information, one of the things that, you know, I try to do as well, it’s not just to collect, you know, create actions out of it. Sometimes it’s about also documenting what you’ve learned, like, have you been able to do that successfully.

David Fallarme 41:37
I have a Notes app, where actually, it’s just the Mac notes, but I have a list of notes every time I do this Friday, sit down, and then just take whatever notes that I can. And that way, at least I’m documenting it and transferring mediums. And that Act allows me to retain that information better. It also makes it searchable in the future. So just in case, I encounter a problem that I’ve read about three months ago, if I search something, then I’ll be able to find it.

Ricky Willianto 42:04
Got it? Yeah, I’m experimenting with this new tool called obsidian. It’s not new, it’s new to me. obsidian.md. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it. Check it out. That thing is crazy. It’s awesome. And it’s open source. So you know, a lot of people are like playing around with it. And there’s a lot of like cool edits that you can plug into the tool. Yeah, that’s what I’ve been using experimenting with. Cool. So let’s wrap it up with a quickfire round then David. So are you ready? So these are just like really short questions. And yeah, just say the first thing that comes to mind,

David Fallarme 42:31
hit me.

Ricky Willianto 42:32
First one is what is the one metric that you can most about right now?

David Fallarme 42:37
people signing up for a pack marketers after listening to this podcast?

Ricky Willianto 42:40
Okay, cool. I’ll make sure I’ll check that. Next one is What is your favourite software to help you or your business grow?

David Fallarme 42:48
Hmm. Okay, corporate answers HubSpot. But I’m going to give you an a weird answer here. And I will say Kindle. Because that’s one of my favourite ways to get new ideas that helps me in my work.

Ricky Willianto 43:01
Okay, what are some of the books that you read on that? Oh, man,

David Fallarme 43:04
this is another podcast all on its own. But I’ll give you a couple of become top of mind right now. One is, oh, boy, I forget the name of the book thinking in bets. I think it’s called something by Annie Duke. She’s a professional poker player that teaches you how to make decisions. It’s very, very good. I recommend it to everyone.

Ricky Willianto 43:18
This is the one where she she learned how to become a professional poker player. Yeah, or something like that. I think

David Fallarme 43:22
it’s like thinking in bets or how to decide. It’s one of those things, but it’s around decision making. That one’s really good. There’s a book called playing to win. It’s by the former CEO of p&g, something like that, where he documents exactly how to do a strategy. So I’ll come back to that every now and then just because it’s super, super actionable. And the other is a book called principles by Ray Dalio, which is really about like how to live your life in a way.

Ricky Willianto 43:47
But there’s so it’s like, that’s like a Bible to a lot of people.

David Fallarme 43:49
Oh, good. So good. It took me like a year to read because first of all, it’s hella thick. It’s like 1000 pages or whatever. But then I found that whenever I was reading it, I’d stopped every 10 minutes and like, think about what he just said, because it blew my mind. So those are the three books that I find myself rereading every set interval and they helped me in personal life, but also my job.

Ricky Willianto 44:07
Yeah, people have Bible next today. I bet I have Ray Dalio principles. Yeah. Because honestly, that’s that book is sitting next to my my bit so good. Okay, next one is what’s your favourite goal? A go to growth strategy.

David Fallarme 44:20
Hmm, I did not expect this question. I don’t know if there’s a go to one because it depends on the product because

Ricky Willianto 44:26
maybe maybe just a favourite one. I mean, like, it doesn’t have to be like most effective or anything just like you know, what do you enjoy? Yeah, I guess I enjoy doing

David Fallarme 44:33
I enjoy content the most. So I just like writing I like producing videos I like the written word is is something I think is my is my natural state. So if there’s anything I can do relate to writing or content or helping people through that medium, then I’m all for it.

Ricky Willianto 44:48
Cool, cool. Next, what’s your favourite newsletters or websites to go to for growth?

David Fallarme 44:56
There’s not a lot out there to be completely honest. So I think I’d have to do an amalgamation of a bunch. I like the product marketing Alliance, I think that’s what it’s called. It’s like a slack team slash community. So they do a digest every now and then reforge. But I don’t think they publish enough to make it interesting. But they do have a community, which is pretty good. And then there’s one called Product Marketing HQ. I think that’s what it’s called, where they talk about product market stuff. But often those frameworks are applicable to any growth discipline, or just, they’re just interesting in general. So those are the ones that come to mind.

Ricky Willianto 45:33
Awesome. And final question is, who are some of your growth role models in Asia? None.

David Fallarme 45:39
And I’ll tell you I was thinking about this the other day, is because I want to say something like, go jek people or the grab team? Like that’s, I feel like that’s everyone’s default answer. But I don’t know if you’ve read that book, Thinking Fast and Slow. There’s like it, there’s a system one engineer system to answer the system, one answer isn’t obvious people. And the reason I don’t find them to be heroes, and not that they’re not they’re not smart, are they? What they did was not difficult. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, it’s hard to replicate what they did. And so the applicability is less transferability of their playbooks is very low, like I have to raise a billion dollars essentially, to do what they did. So for now, it’s all the western growth, quote unquote, growth experts.

Ricky Willianto 46:25
Why do you think that’s such a, you know, like a dearth of role models Asia

David Fallarme 46:31
were just early in the market. So I think it’s a difficult market to begin with, because the fragmentation so it’s not like us where it’s one language, one contiguous nation, we have like logistics issues here we have language, culture, economic development, like even the level of corruption is very different. So there’s just so many different factors here that make it difficult for there to be a one single person who has mastered the region. And I don’t even think that’s possible, right? Then you’ll have China which is its own thing, and I’m sure China has its own influencers. India has its own influences now. So yeah, there’s it wouldn’t make sense that there’s one Asia group of people that could rule over Asia’s growth industry, I think it’s gonna be a global thing for that.

Ricky Willianto 47:11
I’ll give you I’ll give you a chance to kind of like you know, speak speak of one role model growth role model anywhere in the world.

David Fallarme 47:20
Hmm, growth role model.

Ricky Willianto 47:25
This is have to be from marketing. Yeah, can be Ray Dalio as well.

David Fallarme 47:32
now I want to give you a good answer, Ricky. Growth role model. I’m trying to think of someone who’s not from the tech world as somebody who’s reinvented themselves a bunch of times. You don’t want me to give you a weird one. Okay, I’m gonna give you a weird one. I’m gonna say BTS. Band. Yeah, yeah. BTS. I’ll tell you why. I’ll tell you why. Because they have been really good at reinventing themselves and like always thinking of ways to create what’s the word like growth loops. So they started off with Kpop music, obviously. So they were like, run of the mill boyband. I mean, they’re awesome. So I’m not putting down BTS. But then once they realised they had a fan base that was really, really devoted and dedicated to them. They started branching out to all these interesting business models, and businesses and ventures that no other musician has done. So they started doing a cartoon about themselves, they started doing, like their social media game is incredible. Like, tier one, a class social media game in any industry, for sure the credit background goes to BTS. And then the business line that they have around the merchandising. They’re using, they made a video game, and now they’re even thinking about doing like a theme park. Eventually, yeah, it’s just crazy the way they think about it. So the reason I put them under growth is because I think they their business model, whether it’s them or whether it’s a team. So when I say BTS, let me just say the team, not necessarily just the seven guys, they they’re really good at thinking about what is the way that we can make a reinforcing loop around all these things, in the same way that like Walt Disney has created flywheels and across every part of the business, they’re doing the exact same thing. But instead of like animation as the core flywheel, it’s become like Kpop. And now the set of all these Bibles all around them, which I think is a super, super smart, and the crazy thing is they’ve been around for a while, but I think they’re just getting started. So there’s somebody who I personally enjoy listening to because they’re also but also I take a lot of inspiration from from a business.

Ricky Willianto 49:32
There’s definitely an article that you should be writing, connecting CSS Yeah, strategy with, like growth loops that you know, all these other companies can actually learn from. Yeah, thanks so much, David, for your time. And I think one one final question. Sorry, which is what’s the best way for people to reach out to you? And what kind of people do you want reaching out to you?

David Fallarme 49:49
Anybody can can reach out so I’m totally happy to help. So whenever I do like a podcast or a speaking gig, people will message me on LinkedIn. So take me up on that and message me and if you have any questions, I’m happy to help whatever I can so add me on LinkedIn. Follow me on Google, Google my name and you’ll find a bunch of places I’m at. But the best places are LinkedIn and then sign up for the APAC marketers list at APACMarketers.com.

Ricky Willianto 50:10
Awesome. David, thanks so much for joining me today.

David Fallarme 50:13
Alright Ricky, thanks for having me.

Ricky Willianto 50:15
Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. Check out other episodes to hear more growth stories and hacks from experts who have been there in that. You can find our show on iTunes, Spotify, or via our website www.theravenry.com/growthmultiplier. See you next time.

 

About Growth Multiplier

The pursuit of growth is never-ending for any business – from a small startup all the way to a large global corporation. The Growth Multiplier podcast examines pathways, strategies, and hacks companies have explored and tested in their efforts to scale up their businesses. 

In each episode, host Ricky Willianto – co-founder of Ravenry – speaks with CEO’s, growth hackers, product managers, and marketers all around Asia to find nuggets of wisdom and insights from their journey multiplying growth. 

Ricky and his guests discuss viral marketing, community building, pricing strategies, channel development, and also company culture and people. Growth Multiplier explores not only replicable successes, but also phenomenal failures that we all can learn from.

Growth Multiplier is produced by the team behind Ravenry.
www.theravenry.com

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