Lessons from crossing the Series A to C chasm with Ruth Zive

Agreed, marketing is all about choice. But the core of a company’s marketing strategy is not just what it chooses to do and not do.   

It is also about knowing when to switch it up. Especially if you just joined a hyper-growth Series A startup.

And this is something Ruth Zive, SVP, Ada excels at.

“In Ada’s case, the urgency from A to B was more so around the volume of the pipeline. So how do I build those systems on the demand or growth side to put in front of sales as many at-bats as possible? That was the key driver from A to B. You know, turn on all the faucets and get the water flowing,” Ruth says.

“And then from B to C, it was about the quality of water. Is it the cleanest, best-tasting water that we could deliver to sales? We started to refine our strategy. Turn our attention more to the brand. And really define our ICP and zero in on the best quality of leads for sales so they can close at the highest win rates,” she continues.

In this chat with Trinity Nguyen on The First 100 Days podcast, Ruth Zive shares lessons from her journey growing Ada from series A to C and achieving unicorn status in three years.

Prefer to give it a listen? Here’s the link to the interview. Otherwise, let’s jump in.

Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Nothing beats the data you get from the market

Every company is different.

“But right out of the gate, you just want to pitch your company and value proposition as many times as possible. Because whatever assumptions you’re making without having had that experience are probably wrong,” Ruth says.

“So, get in front of as many people as possible. Test your message and value proposition. Learn the sales motion. Then you can start to refine it,” she continues.

Early on, Ada struggled to position itself effectively inside consumer-facing verticals. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know,” Ruth says. Ruth admits they underestimated compliance considerations, sales cycle complexity, and back-end integrations despite having great customers in the travel, hospitality, and telco spaces. 

After many at-bats with different industries, “because I didn’t constrain my ideal consumer profile by industry at that early stage,” she says. They discovered Ada resonated most with digital-first industries, such as e-commerce, and zeroed in on those industries. 

Today, Ada is revisiting their initial industries because now “we’re much more mature. Our product is more sophisticated and robust. We have lots of back-end integrations. We've met certain compliance thresholds. Once we understood the challenges in those industries, we could return to them,” Ruth explains.

“The takeaway is that, in those early days, the industries where we thought we would have the greatest traction were the ones where we actually had the greatest trial,” She adds.

The rightful place for the BDR function? Marketing

Rolling up the BDR function is excellent for sales and marketing alignment.

“I’m opinionated that the BDR function should sit within marketing,” says Ruth. “I think it creates better alignment between sales and marketing. It gives me a deeper line of sight into the funnel and the leads that I'm delivering to sales.”

“It gives sales a much better qualified meeting or opportunity because we've touched it several times before it lands in their hands – and it meets a lot of other qualification measures. So, sales can focus on more down funnel activity, which I think is effective as well,” she continues.

Two things need to happen for it to succeed. The first is that sales must support it and buy into the paradigm.

The second is that there has to be a clear progression path for BDRs into sales. “Most BDRs want that path available to them. Again, you need the sales organization to really be supportive of that. That is absolutely the case at Ada, which is great,” says Ruth.

You learn by doing

“The best way to learn and understand anything is to do it yourself, “Ruth says. “If you want or need to move quickly, the best DIY hack is to find somebody who knows how to do it better and then get them to do it for you.”

She adds, “If you can't get them to do it for you, then copy them. Not everything needs a new playbook. You want to be innovative, but some things just work already – and it's okay to copy those things.”

But don’t be scared to take on something because you don’t know how to do it.

“The only way you are going to learn to do it is by going through the motions. And if you fail, it’s okay. That’s your opportunity to learn. That’s how we get better. If you’re scared about it, start small,” Ruth explains.

 

For the full interview with Ruth Zive, tune in to The First 100 Days wherever you get your podcasts.





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