Events are becoming an increasingly essential part of any successful digital marketing strategy.
Palash Soni is one of the co-founders and the CEO of Goldcast.
He is trained as an engineer but moved on to business and product leadership roles at a Mobile AdTech company. He began pursuing an MBA at Harvard, but after meeting his co-founders and developing the idea for Goldcast, he took a leave of absence to pursue his vision of helping B2B marketers run engaging digital events. Palash loves to read, especially science, biology, and history books.
In this conversation, we cover the market tech, evolutions in the event market ecosystem, and how you can build a high-performing product, culture, and team that will give you wins in the market.
- Evolution and changes in the market tech
- How to build a successful software business
- Shifting markets and the criteria Palash used
- Building a successful product for a market in another country
- Palash’s catalyst to starting Goldcast while in school
- Incorporating a company as an immigrant in the US
- Formative experience: Learning how to win during adversity
- How to differentiate from your competitors
- How to run B2B companies like media companies
- Evolutions in the event marketing ecosystem
- What goes into running a great digital event that drives value
- Building a high-performance team as you scale and grow
- Check out goldcast here
- Connect with Palash Soni on LinkedIn
- Connect with Omniscient Digital on LinkedIn or Twitter
Listen to the podcast:
16:40 – Building a Successful software business
To build a game-changing software business, you have to be close to your customers.
“To build a really great business, you need to be close to your customers, right? So not only does the market need to be good, and the timing need to be right, but you need to be very close to customers, which I found it hard from India, right? So that’s what motivated me to actually come to the US. And for an immigrant to come to the US and have an open space for exploration. A master’s degree is the best way, right? So that’s my. I applied and got to HBS. And I actually came in with a very, very focused intent of coming to HBS to startup, so I spent the first year in a very non-traditional way. And traditional MBA is partying, traveling, and networking. And I did all of that, but in much in very high moderation I would, I was very deep into the tech ecosystem and exploring, you know, what could be something that I could pick?”
18:20 – Shifting market criteria
There are things you need to consider when shifting markets or building in to be successful.
“So when I was making this decision in 2018, there were a few things that guided my experience, right. One is my own first startup experience, where I didn’t, even though I was like next to the customers I didn’t talk to them as much. I was like, I had my own ideas and how things should I was titling them with the with customers, and I didn’t do listen to customers. So that and then, in my state at Moby I was a product manager for the last one and a half years Right. And, and I realized that even though it there are success stories, right, like FreshWorks, will already was already becoming a success story by then. And Zoho was another one. I realized, I’m probably I didn’t have confidence that I could pull it off, right? It was not that simple. And I tried doing that in as a pm right? I had a decently big charter by the end because I had spent time in the company and, and I realize that whatever we came up with was always one step behind competition and market, right. We didn’t have that real connect with the customers, just because of the friction of timezone and everything else, and not having a core understanding of what your customers’ day-to-day and life is like so long answer. It’s also like a short answer is it’s also a personal preference, right? Yeah. It is hard to do that from India even today. Although there are a lot more success stories to kind of guide you about.”
27:51 – How to incorporate a company as an immigrant
You can establish and incorporate a company as an immigrant in the US.
“So the great thing is that anyone who has not even stepped on the US can be the owner of a company. We just cannot work without a work visa. And as a student on student visa, you cannot do it. You can only be a student. And then after student visa, any like regular visa that students typically get allows you to only be an employee and not an owner. The visa that we were gunning for was, required you to actually inshort have a term sheet, which will help us prove that we are what in immigration language called extraordinary. So we needed a VC to bet that, you know, we will get this visa. And we needed the term sheet to actually get it. But then there were VCs who were saying, well get the visa first and then we’ll give you a time sheet. So it was pretty. They were they were like okay, if you don’t get it, then you are back to school, and then my LPS will curse me for giving money, so had nothing to lose. Right? And this was also just to remind you in 2020, right, this was like middle of 2020, and the immigration was really challenging at that point of time.”
40:01 – Positioning your product in the market
Be intentional in reaching the right people and not just going after a wide swath of users.
“I think I just from my own experience, thought that going wide is, like going super wide puts a lot of a lot of noise in the system. And the signal that you get from customers is something that money and its partners cannot buy, it says time, and you have to put in time. And so we wanted to reduce that and go in there, you know, in a territory, which we understand well.”
41:18 – Running B2B companies like media companies
For B2B marketers, digital events are the only way to run an engaging media company.
“B2B marketing, pre-2018, right? It was very demand gen-centric, right? You give people you try to get people in, so you’re building content, but it’s for SEO mostly, right? And your goal is to snipe leads, right? And, and now, that’s not enough, right? Because SAS markets are big, they’re so specialized and, and just sniping leads is not enough, right? You need to almost market like a b2c firm, right? Where you have your content is, is also your product, right? So content is as much your product or message, your thought leadership, as is as much of your product as the product itself is your company’s product. And this is, is in some sweat of tech companies, especially in the mid-market tech companies. This is something that people had internalized, but in the broader big, basic b2b ecosystem. It’s not right. So, for example, companies like Drift and Outreach and, you know, send those are some of the modern ones. They have been doing this, right, where they are content, people were coming to the content, even though they had, they didn’t want to buy, right, and they were engaging with them just for the content. And the content was as much of a product right as the product itself was. So that’s what we mean by media company, right? We will help. We want to help marketers jet build, generate and distribute content in an engaging way. So that it helps them build their own audience, right? And the other sort of trends, that that you know, and then the last part, building an audience, also comes from the all the issues that people are now having with third-party systems, right with the cookie data. And, you know, people being sick of zoom in fours, you know, leads, and, and all of those things, people want to build their own audience. So the only way to build audience is to build great content which people can really engage with.”
44:57 – Evolutions in event Marketing
The evolutions and changes in the event marketing ecosystem were long overdue.
“There are a few sort of fundamental changes that are still happening in events, and they started with COVID. Right? But they were long overdue. So one of them is events being a very core integral part of the whole marketing effort. So what that means is that it’s not enough now to just do a big splashy user conference and you know, call it a day, right? And that’s what the approach was in the past. And that maybe worked, right, maybe did not work, no one knew. And now it’s not enough, right? So you’re what we are seeing, especially with companies that are at the forefront of all of this, is that their event strategy is very adaptive to what the market, what you know, the company goals need, what the sales team needs, what your pipeline requirements are. And, and, and the digital competent helps you adapt that data. For instance, a company, which has a mid-funnel problem is going to have a very different dimensionality from the one which has a lot of leads, say a big company but has a bottom-funnel problem, they really want to convert big enterprise customers and things like that. So the latter would actually do very focused, targeted, say, digital events and smaller field events, versus a company which has a much tougher problem could actually do with, say, for regional big user conferences, right? So that is how the digital element actually adds a layer of adaptability to event strategies that did not exist before, right in the absence of digital events as a channel. And, and so as a result of that, the biggest change is not that events have become Omni channel, it is right. And it will would have happened without COVID. But what it actually did was events becoming a very core part of the overall integrated marketing strategy, and as adaptable as, say, digital advertising is or email marketing is. And so our guess is that digital will and continue to be a very important aspect of how, you know, event marketing teams go to market, and it helps them give a bigger seat at the revenue table, right, by being adaptable to the company’s goals?”
48:26 – How to drive value from digital events
A great digital event strategy has to be hyper-aware of what the company needs.
“A great digital event is, is essentially a combination of a few things, right? So one is the content, and the content should appeal to what you want, right? So, for example, one of our customers is ZARA and ZARA. They’re, obviously, they have no paucity of top panel like or everyone knows ZARA. So their events are actually very frequent. And they would be like three to four-hour events and very hyper-focused on a particular type of personas. So topics such as you know how to topics about a subscription economy that would appear to say a VP persona, right? So maybe they don’t have an in an enormous amount of attendance, but they have the right thing that say the VP persona needs in that event. So they will have a VP level, you know, customer coming in and talking about how they have been sold for a particular use case, or thing. And then they will have thought leaders coming in talking about how you know how this world is evolving in general, and how do you, you know, thrive in a subscription economy. And then there will be people who would want to come into the event live because they want to talk to that thought leader right? And ask a question live and engage with them. So there that’s one example of how you know a great event strategies looks like.”
54:01 – Building a high-performance team
It’s possible to build a strong culture and a high-performing team and keep the bar high as you scale.
“There is no one answer but a few things that have worked for us. One is that, actually, there are a bunch of things. One is that whenever someone comes to me with feedback, right, say a product is coming saying, okay, CES is doing XYZ, which they should not, I would ask the product leader to give that feedback and ask them if they’re comfortable giving that feedback to the CSV then and report back to me how it went, right. The other thing, which I always say, in all hands, and QBRs, and every opportunity I have with the larger management team is that we should not fall into fundamental attribution error, right? Anything that’s should have given us feedback doesn’t mean that it’s about you, right? It’s about the situation, and you should not personally take it and we are all in this together. So just reiterating that all it sounds very obvious, and I was like, okay, you know, every other that withstands it, it’s, it’s actually not true. Because in the heat of the moment when you’re getting feedback, you’re primitive brain doesn’t let you remember this topic. So that’s another thing. The third thing is I encourage. I give very candid feedback to people, so starting with me and I pushing my co-founders as well to do it and the exec team, at least within us, we want to be super candid. But another thing that you know, that you brought up is that, and the which I am very sort of anchored towards now, is that the at least the management team should be in some ways co-located.”
56:40 – The most significant role of founders and early teams
Understand the market and the opportunities better and operate something that can be learned easily.
“one thing, which I believe when I tell a lot of especially young people say coming out of business school, which I have a lot of exposure to, is that I think people overrate operating, especially in this time. I think the biggest role of at least the founders and, you know, the early team is to understand the market and opportunity better and operating, I think, something that can be learned much easily versus, you know, the former, so I encourage, actually people to go into early stage VC if they want to be an entrepreneur. And I know it’s very counterintuitive, but I found that to be more critical, right? You could, you can always fix execution in most cases, right? Obviously, it’s very important, but you cannot fix your market choices and your timing. And that’s something that good, especially if you have worked with a good VC you have a very acute understanding of.