Building Account-Based Marketing: Interview with Nick Mehta

Nick Mehta knows what it takes to create and grow a new business category.

Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, knows exactly what goes into building a new category. While I have been working hard to build the account-based marketing category, Nick is going through the same exciting process with customer success.

Even as a young company, Gainsight is successfully creating a huge buzz in the customer success landscape, and I wanted to know exactly how Nick and his team are accomplishing this. I also wanted to learn how his experience with customer success differs from mine with account-based marketing.

One of his secrets behind the growth? Using Pulse (Gainsight’s annual conference) as a way to spread awareness of the customer success category.

I recently had the privilege to catch up with Nick on a Google Hangout, and he offered some stellar insights on his strategy for building a new category with a relatively new company. Before we hear his tips, let’s get to know him a little bit better.

Favorite book and movie?

“I’m a science geek, so I will definitely have to go with The Dark Knight as my favorite movie. One year I plan to have Christopher Nolan at the Pulse, and that’s when I will know that I have made it. On the book side, I’m kind of obsessed with quantum mechanics, so my favorite book is Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. The book somehow makes science really relatable. I highly recommend it.”

Who are some people you want to give a shoutout to?

“There are so many inspirations everywhere. It is really amazing how much you can learn from anyone. But I would say someone that I have learned a lot from is Tien Tzuo, the CEO of Zuora. He is a really intelligent guy, and I really appreciate all of the advice that he has given me. Also, someone that I learn a lot from is Eoghan McCabe, the CEO of Intercom.”

If you weren’t leading the charge to customer success, what would you do?

“Well, being an Indian-American, my mom wanted me to become a doctor, and still to this day she would want me to go to medical school. But my heart would probably love to do some combination of something in science and philosophy.”

Check out my full interview with Nick Mehta here:

Here are some of my favorite moments from the interview:

Gainsight’s Growth Engine

At Terminus, we use #FlipMyFunnel conferences as a way to generate buzz about account-based marketing. I wondered if Gainsight uses their annual conference as a growth engine to fuel their category as well. Pulse has been going strong for four years now, with 2016 being their best year yet by far. The conference attendance nearly doubles each year, bringing the grand total to 3,200 attendees this year.

“Growth is great for any new company, but the feeling of having a successful event is even better,” Nick explains. “People in customer success are awesome, and seeing everyone come together to collaborate towards customer success is a great feeling.”

What about the difference between account-based marketing’s growth engine and customer success’ growth engine? Nick has this to say:

“Whether or not this [conference] is our growth engine is a tough question to answer. As a business, Gainsight has a different way of thinking about goals overall. Most companies have a bottom line or end result that they are always striving for. We care about those things, but that is just one of our main values.

“Another of our main values is success for all, meaning success for customers, employees, employees’ families, communities, and our investors. Things like Pulse do drive growth and business results, but it’s just part of what we do. It drives customer success in the community, and we really enjoy the idea of connecting people and connecting the community.”

“We have to make customer success successful, and we have to make sure that people want to work in this field. This conference does that for us.”

3 Tips for Building a New Category

Account-based marketing is a fairly young category, so I am familiar with the steps created to make account-based marketing thrive. I asked Nick what his top tips to build a new category were and realized that these tips are not much different than those used to create account-based marketing. These are his top 3 tips that have helped him expand the customer success category:

  1. You have to respect that no category is truly new; it is an evolution. Customer success is a new term, but it’s an evolution of lots of other concepts.
  2. You have to understand you didn’t create the idea. To be successful, you must respect the people that did it before you. For example, early SaaS companies pioneered the term “customer success,” and it’s important to give credit where credit is due.
  3. Think about the people first and the technology second. Creating a category puts more of an emphasis on the human side of things than any other type of business activity. It is hard to replace in-person connections.

Double Down on Your Strengths

With Pulse being such a successful event, I found myself wondering if Gainsight does other events throughout the year to expand the customer success category. To my surprise, the company does around 100 events per year, including Pulse, the European version of Pulse, breakfasts and lunches, and many other conferences and road shows.

“Once you find something that works, double down on it,” says Nick. “We happen to be really good at getting people together. Some people can’t travel much, so you have to think about how to bring the show to them. You also want to build a persistent network because some of the biggest things are the things that happen after the event. You create a bond between lots of people who will continue to network together, and your event lives on. We’ll be doing more events going forward.”

Size Doesn’t Actually Matter

If you have ever attended one of Gainsight’s events, you too would think that their marketing team must be more of a marketing army. The multi-day conference is an amazing experience with a lineup of really powerful speakers. Again to my surprise, Nick reveals that even after more than doubling in size, his marketing team is made up of only ten people.

“Last year at Pulse, when we had 2000 people, we had a four-person marketing team. The culture of the company is uniquely mission-driven around our overall vision. All of our employees, marketing or not, rally around the needs of Pulse and the customers. Events like this make your employees more motivated. People think that these events are put on by a big company, so we have to live up to it and feel like a huge company.”

At Terminus, our marketing team is currently made up of seven people. With all of the recent buzz about account-based marketing, our team is on top of all the account-based marketing content circling around the web. While a large team can be helpful, a small team with a focused mindset can be more impactful. As long as you have a talented, collaborative team, size doesn’t actually matter.

Nick is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to creating a new business category. What are your thoughts on these innovative initiatives as they apply to account-based marketing and customer success? Did you learn anything you can apply to your industry or category? Let us know in the comments section below.