The domain of B2B marketing is perpetually in flux, adapting to emerging trends and technologies. According to Statista, the expenditure in B2B advertising and marketing in the US is expected to reach $37.7 billion in 2024 and confirm its continuous growth.
At the heart of this growth lies Apollo.io, a trailblazing entity providing a robust GTM solution for sales and marketing teams. With an impressive 9x ARR growth since 2021, Apollo.io is a testament to the potent amalgam of ingenious software and a profound understanding of the B2B marketing realm. Serving over 500,000 companies and three million GTM professionals globally, Apollo.io's footprint is broad and impactful.
DesignRush spoke with the man steering the marketing helm at Apollo.io, David Malpass. Having joined the company a year ago, David brings a wealth of experience from his illustrious journey through tech giants such as Autodesk and Meta's Redkix.
David is the SVP of Marketing at Apollo.io, the leading go-to-market solution for sales and marketing teams. David joined Apollo.io in October 2022 and leads a global team of over 30 seasoned marketers responsible for driving subscriber growth, engagement, and retention. He also directs Apollo.io's brand, product marketing, and demand generation strategies. He is a strategic marketing leader with over 15 years of experience building B2B marketing teams.
This podcast transcript has been edited for clarity and readability.
Vianca: Before joining Apollo.io, were there specific strategies that guided your marketing ethos? Have you had to recalibrate that approach since you came on board with Apollo.io?
David: My learning has always been hands-on. Early in my career, I was fortunate to join a budding startup called Prezi when it had just three individuals in the US office. That experience allowed me to delve into the performance-based aspect of marketing, building our demand generation from scratch, which was a thrilling learning curve. We soared to around 100 million users, but due to some technological hurdles, I had to transition to InVision.
At InVision, my previously successful tactics didn't quite hit the mark. It was a realization that led me to pivot from a solely performance-based approach to a brand-centric strategy. Despite the technology being rudimentary, focusing on building a strong brand and community propelled us to about a hundred million in ARR.
As I moved on to another company, I amalgamated the essence of both performance-based marketing and brand-centric strategies, which yielded positive results. What this journey underscored for me is that marketing isn't a one-size-fits-all domain. Every venture brought forth a unique market, product, and challenge that enriched my understanding and approach.
I've carried two central principles along:
- The importance of brand focus alongside a metrics-driven approach
- The integration of brand, demand, and product marketing
In rapidly growing companies like those I've been part of, the pace leaves no room for micromanaging. Hence, smart hiring is crucial. Bringing in adept individuals and ensuring a cross-functional, integrated approach among the demand, brand, and product marketing teams has been the linchpin to navigating the marketing sphere successfully.
At Apollo.io, these experiences have been invaluable. The emphasis is on harmonizing brand and demand generation while fostering a collaborative environment across teams to drive success in a dynamic market landscape.
Having been involved with Autodesk and Meta's Redkix, how would you say the marketing playbook changes post-acquisition?
I often liken a startup to a fighter jet—it's fast, makes a lot of noise, burns a lot of fuel, and the journey is exhilarating. If fortunate, you don't run out of fuel or face a catastrophe, but instead, land on an aircraft carrier, symbolizing an acquisition. The aircraft carrier, albeit more powerful and stable, requires a collective effort to maneuver, reflecting a shift from the agile nature of a startup to a more structured, larger entity.
Specifically speaking about Autodesk, it's a remarkable firm that transitioned from an archaic license model to a thriving SaaS brand. When they acquired us alongside a few other companies, it was a strategy to venture into construction tech. Initially, the assurances of autonomy post-acquisition are abundant, although the reality often strays from that promise. However, Autodesk did provide a level of autonomy, albeit within its operational framework. This transition introduced us to new tools and processes, undergoing various training, and having access to a legal team.
One notable advantage post-acquisition was the financial bolstering. At Building Connected, we had three distinct products, which expanded to eight or nine under Autodesk's umbrella without a substantial increase in team size. This infusion of capital allowed us to maintain startup-like efficiencies while benefiting from the resources of a larger organization.
Of course, being part of a large company brought a semblance of stability, something often elusive in the startup realm. It's not uncommon to see individuals serving in large corporations for decades, a contrast to the transient nature of startup tenure. However, this stability also comes with more political nuances, an aspect I hadn't navigated much before.
Even if there's a promise of autonomy, complete independence is rare post-acquisition. There's an inevitable level of integration that occurs, posing its set of challenges. Yet, with the right people and company culture, a degree of autonomy can still be retained. The interaction also exposes you to individuals with diverse career trajectories, contrasting from the typical startup journey, enriching the collective knowledge and strategies as you continue in the marketing realm within a more established setup.
Could you provide a snapshot of Apollo.io's mission and the business conundrums it's striving to solve currently?
Apollo.io was conceived from a fundamental necessity—enabling sales, marketing, and startups to grow their business and generate revenue, which is especially crucial in the current market scenario. The challenge kicks in when you're tasked with setting up a go-to-market strategy for a startup aiming to hit 10 million ARR.
The inception stage involves identifying the right audience, crafting effective messaging, and testing your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). During my tenure at Meta's Redkix, we experimented across various market segments, from small businesses to enterprises, and scrutinized different market entry strategies.
I often compare devising a GTM strategy to constructing a self-driving electric car. You could either embark on a painstaking journey of acquiring knowledge, procuring parts from disparate vendors, and spending an exorbitant amount of time and resources trying to assemble it. Or, you could opt for a ready-made solution like a Tesla or a Rivian, and be on the road almost instantly.
Similarly, Apollo.io aims to be that ready-made solution in the GTM realm. Instead of investing in multiple tools for data, intelligence, and engagement, and hiring a sizable RevOps team to orchestrate it all, you could leverage Apollo.io's integrated platform. The conventional approach not only demands a hefty investment but is also feasible for a minuscule fraction of companies who can afford it.
Apollo.io aims to get companies up and running with their GTM strategy within a week. We have instances where chief revenue officers, upon joining new firms, were able to initiate sales calls within seven days, thanks to a swiftly established outbound motion via Apollo.io. Our mission, in a nutshell, is to democratize world-class GTM strategies, which have been traditionally accessible only to the top 1% of companies, making them attainable for all.
How does Apollo ensure it meets the service needs of companies featured on B2B marketplaces like DesignRush, especially with its service offerings?
One of the key things about Apollo.io is the emphasis on creating a product that customers love and find valuable, which in turn fosters a competitive edge. Unlike other platforms that tie customers into lengthy and costly contracts, Apollo adopts a more flexible approach. Customers can opt for a monthly subscription, and if they find that the platform isn’t meeting their expectations, they are free to leave. This model not only ensures that we are continuously striving to enhance our product but also makes it accessible at a price point that's realistic for a wide range of companies.
The entry barrier set by many competitors in the market is considerably high, often requiring a substantial initial investment which can be daunting for small to medium-sized businesses. In contrast, Apollo’s model is designed to be more inclusive. For instance, one of our clients transitioned from using a competitor’s platform that costs a million dollars per year to Apollo.io, which offered a better product at about $50,000 per year.
The ease of access to Apollo's platform is another factor that sets us apart. Whether you are a small business owner, a founder, a marketer, or someone in sales, Apollo is crafted to cater to your go-to-market needs. The platform is free to start with, allowing users to experience its capabilities without any financial commitment. This approach has contributed significantly to our growth, as individuals and businesses find value in what we offer and it's within their financial reach.
Furthermore, the simplicity and efficiency of Apollo's platform enable users to initiate customer interactions within minutes of signing up, as opposed to navigating through or integrating multiple tools. Our core aim is to democratize world-class go-to-market strategies, making them accessible not just to enterprises but to small and mid-market companies as well.
Around 73% of marketing professionals are currently using generative AI for creating content. How is Apollo leveraging this technology to stay competitive, and do you foresee any traditional marketing roles evolving as a result?
The conversation around AI taking over jobs has been quite prevalent, especially earlier this year. At Apollo.io, our approach to AI is geared towards the automation of repetitive tasks, freeing up individuals to focus on more strategic and relationship-building activities. The fear of AI replacing jobs might still linger, but we believe the essence of AI in our domain is to enhance productivity and effectiveness.
Our focus is on automating mundane tasks such as updating fields in CRMs or other repetitive actions, which traditionally take up a significant amount of time. We believe that salespeople are not hired for their data entry skills but for their ability to build relationships and close deals. Therefore, Apollo aims to take the operational load off their plates, allowing them to concentrate on what they excel at.
One of the advantages Apollo has is the extensive data throughout the sales execution funnel which is instrumental in driving our AI initiatives. Our AI is enriched by this proprietary data, setting us apart from others who might be relying on publicly available information. The saying, "AI is only as good as the data you put into it," holds in this scenario, and we are in a unique position with our world-class data.
We have developed AI-driven functionalities that can outline an entire sales play based on AI recommendations. While we provide a structured framework through AI, we still ensure that the human element remains intact. Salespeople can review, customize, and send out these communications, ensuring that the personal touch is not lost.
AI at Apollo is seen as a tool for enhancement rather than replacement. It's about augmenting the capabilities of our team, ensuring they can perform their roles more efficiently and effectively. As for the evolution of traditional marketing roles, there might be a shift towards more strategic and analytical responsibilities as AI takes on more routine tasks. This transition, we believe, will lead to more insightful and impactful marketing strategies, driven by a harmonious blend of AI and human intelligence.
The future of sales engagement and lead generation is undoubtedly evolving. How do you envision this landscape transforming in the upcoming years?
The landscape is shifting, and a significant part of this transformation is seen in the changing role of Sales Development Representatives (SDRs). At Apollo, we are harnessing the full potential of our platform to generate around 2,000 leads for our Account Executives (AEs) without the need for manual email drafting or follow-ups; it's all automated. This shift underscores a transition towards more strategic roles for SDRs, moving away from the traditional task of sending out a large volume of emails and responding to them.
As tooling becomes more sophisticated, it frees up time for both SDRs and AEs, allowing them to engage in more strategic and insightful activities. The concern about job security amidst automation is understandable, but the essence is not about job elimination but evolution. The role is becoming more strategic, providing a richer learning experience and effectiveness in executing sales strategies.
Furthermore, there's a noticeable move towards hyper-personalized and targeted emails, which is a positive step towards reducing email spam and enhancing engagement quality. Utilizing Apollo.io to its full extent means sending out fewer emails, but these emails are significantly more effective due to the precise targeting and personalization embedded in them. Our platform, with its robust lead scoring and CRM integration, aids in identifying and reaching out to individuals showing intent, rather than bombarding every person in a company with emails.
This level of sophistication in tooling and approach is what we believe will characterize the future of sales engagement and lead generation. It's about refining the process, making it more intelligent, and consequently allowing sales professionals to focus on meaningful interactions and strategies. While there's talk about consolidation in the industry, the core evolution is towards a smarter, more efficient, and highly strategic sales engagement landscape.