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Season 2, Episode 9

Finding Community: Seeking Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions

With Jake Randall, Chief Operating Officer at Common Room

As COO of an early-stage company, Jake Randall understands the importance of building community and solving complex problems with listening and empathy. 

In fact, that’s exactly how Common Room came about. Common Room is an intelligent, community-led platform that helps businesses deepen their relationships, build better products, and drive impact for their customers. 

As Jake points out, companies often try to solve their most complex problems in silos. By pausing to listen to internal teammates and external customers, you become better equipped to overcome your community’s greatest challenges, wherever that community resides. And when you leverage platforms like Common Room, you can gather impactful, qualitative data about the problems people are solving and the strategies they’re using to solve them. 

As Jake puts it, “Customer empathy is our No. 1 value. Everyone has a community; [they’re] just not always listening.” Find the people who are talking about the problem you’re trying to solve. Then, find a better way of solving it. 

Empathy and awareness extend beyond an organization’s thought leaders and industry experts. Customers want to feel listened to, too. Focus on customers’ greatest needs and their biggest challenges, Jake says. Then, scale that approach as you begin to tackle today’s biggest economic and industry-related challenges.

What’s next? Speaking like a true innovator and problem solver, Jake says, “Remain agile.” Don’t make the mistake of trying to solve the same problem with the same solution over and over again. If it’s not working, find a new way. Test, pivot, execute. The rest will fall into place. 

Jake and Jen talk about:

  • Building community to nurture authentic connections (3:12)
  • How collective problem-solving breeds collaboration (8:19)
  • “Everyone has a community; you’re just not listening” (14:32)
  • How to mitigate risk and prepare for shifts in your industry (25:32)
  • What? So what? Now what? Leading with authenticity and building trust with your team (29:09)


Speaker 1 (00:01): Welcome to the Intelligent Inbound Podcast, a conversation with industry leaders who have seen firsthand how the game changing approach to inbound marketing, sales, and customer success can propel their businesses forward.

Jen Spencer (00:16): Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Intelligent Inbound Podcast, brought to you by SmartBug Media. I'm your host, Jen Spencer, and today I'm excited to be speaking with Jake Randall, who is Chief Operating Officer at Common Room. And if you're not familiar with Common Room, they're an intelligent community-led platform that really helps businesses deepen their relationships and build better products and drive impact for their customers. So welcome, Jake. So happy to have you on the show.

Jake Randall (00:47):
Thanks, Jen. It's fun to be here.

Jen Spencer (00:50): We were just catching up about inbound and being there, being in Boston recently and talking about just the embodiment of this community and how important community is for HubSpot, for their customers. It's been very intentional for HubSpot in what they've done and how they've leveraged their community and they're not alone. I'm continuing to see other high growth companies invest in communities, and when I think over the years of being in marketing specifically, it's something that kind of used to be a nice to have and now I see it becoming this integral part of an organization's go-to- market strategy. So help us, what does it mean for a company to have a community? And since this is the Intelligent Inbound Podcast, I want to know what role does that play in inbound? And if we want to talk about outbound, I'll allow it. We can talk about outbound too.

Jake Randall (01:56):
I feel like outbound's probably like a four letter word or something on this podcast right now.

Jen Spencer (02:01):
You know what? For me, outbound is an opportunity to use inbound techniques to have better targeted
outreach. But that's a whole other... We can have-

Jake Randall (02:10):
A whole other conversation.

Jen Spencer (02:13): Yeah.

Jake Randall (02:13): So no. Well, first of all, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be on and I actually grew up in Boston, so it's great to be an inbound this year. Little known fact, I was actually in the Laborers Union. I work on the Big Dig. So for any Boston listeners out there, deep Boston roots, but on communities specifically, it has become a hot topic, certainly. And HubSpot is a great example of the power of community. And what I'll say first of all is I think when we talk to companies, lots of folks think that community, it's a certain place, it's your forum. So you go to That is not actually what we think about when we think about community. Community is really anywhere your users or for that matter, any place people are gathering to talk about the problem that you're helping them solve.

(03:12): And so an example to use HubSpot, since we're talking about inbound conference is HubSpot did a great job building a community around the practice of inbound marketing. And their community initially was, "Hey, there's a different way to do this. You don't need to do outbound," as we laugh about what we were just saying. "There's this different way to reach your users, that's more authentic, that's more value-driven. That community of practice didn't necessarily mean you were coming to It meant you were out there, there's blogs being written. This is probably before HubSpot is doing it, but in today's day and age, it's tweets, there's LinkedIn posts, there's all these things. And eventually that community of practice and that knowledge starts to bring you closer to that company and how they can help you solve those problems and then you start to build a community of product.

(04:07): And in HubSpot's case, that's where they've had a lot of success. That's what Inbound becomes. Inbound becomes this massive community gathering for them where you can come together, share best practices, etc, where you start to feel this sense of belonging. It's very value-driven. Honestly, HubSpot's an amazing example of the power of community. So that's kind of how we think about community. And so what I'll just highlight there is it's not one place, it's everywhere your users or your potential users are talking about you and the problems you can solve. And then obviously how does that relate into inbound? Well, we think of it as it's honestly kind of the top of funnel to inbound or to a PLG motion.

(04:51): How do people discover you? Well, they talked at Inbound this year that email open rates are way down, that most Google searches don't end in a click so SEO is down. People still have problems they're trying to solve, people still have questions out there, but instead of clicking on the ads you've served up in the Google search, they're tweeting about it or they're in a Subreddit or they're asking their community, their peers on LinkedIn. And so that's how we think about it is how do you then harness that organic conversation to help people understand the ways that you could help them in their business?

Jen Spencer (05:36): Wonderful. And it's that vague or ambiguous sort of word of mouth.

Jake Randall (05:45): Yes.

Jen Spencer (05:45):
How do we get the word out? "I get my business from word of mouth," what does that really mean and
how do you start to define it? How do you start to measure it?

Jake Randall (05:56):Yeah. And I'll say people are more digital than never for all the reasons that people talk about. Something happened over the last couple of years. We're all working from home and more digital. So that word of mouth is more and more becoming digital. And that creates a massive opportunity to have... I thought that the team at HubSpot did a great job at Inbound talking about this evolution of value and the process of selling and it's evolved. And I think now with all these great new channels, with this broad definition of community, there's an opportunity to have a totally different value prop and the conversation with your customers and users.

Jen Spencer (06:41): I'm trying to think back of when. Maybe it was two years ago, I saw, and I think it was HubSpot and maybe there was someone else out there. I mean, I'm sure there was got to be some... I don't know what every company in the world was doing, but I saw they had roles, they were hiring people for community-led growth. They started putting money there. Whereas this was something that a marketing manager in the past might have sort of handled. It might have lived there, it might have lived maybe in customer success, but honestly I feel like it's lived more maybe in social media. Now we're seeing that these roles are being carved out. So that means money, head counts being allotted to these roles. And I know companies don't just allot head count for the sake of it. There's a reason why. So let's talk about some success metrics, right?

Jake Randall (07:41): Sure.

Jen Spencer (07:43): How do you know when your community is successful? What are the key performance indicators that you should be thinking about? And then the big question I have is how long do you give that endeavor to actually take off?

Jake Randall (07:55): Yeah.

Jen Spencer (07:55): Because in my seat as a CEO, I know I am very impatient and I know I'm not alone, but it's obviously something that I'm assuming has to be nurtured and has to be kind of fed and taken good care of. How long do you give it to see this success?

Jake Randall (08:19): Yeah, so I'll just say, yes, it takes time. I think there's a lot of things. Think about inbound and like SEO and writing blogs and content that's going to drive traffic and move you up in the ranks, that takes time also. So I think most of these techniques honestly takes some time, right? Just gone from a large public company to being the COO of a startup, I wish I could just turn SEO on overnight. It takes time. So there's a couple ways to think about it and I'll kind of go through it. So we work with a lot of different companies. HubSpot's a customer of ours, companies like Figma, Asana, Atlasian, Web Flow, Grafana, Crib, DBT. So companies that we've heard of that have really leveraged community to grow. They've all come at it a little bit, or they're at it in different parts of their journey.

(09:18):And so when it comes to what are some of the initial KPIs, it's really looking at just members of your community and what is the growth of that. And so honestly, there's a lot of similarities to social in that regard. I think we are probably more familiar with that. That's something that's been more prevalent over the last 10 years. But are you getting more and more people to talk about you? Are you getting more and more people to engage in the topics that you care about and think about? And there's a lot of different ways to do that. I'd encourage everyone, Claire Butler, we work closely with at Figma that just had a great outcome. I'm sure everyone saw it. She wrote a great article about how community-led growth was at the core and the foundation of Figma's story and how they approached that.

(10:10): But the net of it is they started with, "Well, who are the influencers? Who are the people out there who are talking about design in their case and how do you get close to them? And how do you influence the design community?" There's a different way to do this, right? Similarly, how would you go influence marketers? You can do inbound marketing as a new way to do it. So I think you start with that and then ultimately what we see with a lot of successful communities is that they start to be a place where your community members are answering each other's questions. So we even see as that Common Room. We have a community, so if anyone is interesting in community-led growth, you can come join Uncommon. It's hosted in Slack, but people will post something, "Hey, I'm thinking about how to do X, Y, Z," and instead of my salesperson or marketer or whomever needing to go answer them, another community member will say, "Hey, well, have you thought about doing X?"

(11:12): And it's not always, "Do it in Common Room," it's just best practices generally for how are you a dev leader, how are you a community manager? And so you start to see those sorts of things happen where it's not just that you're getting more conversations, but it is truly this kind of self-sustaining, value-added organization. And then I think the last thing that we get into is then tying that all out into how is it affecting the business metrics you care about. So we just did a big study with Asana, who's a customer of ours. They've got a great community, a great kind of PLG, community wide growth story. And what they were able to show, they have millions and millions of users-

Jen Spencer (11:53): Yeah.

Jake Randall (11:54): It's kind of B2C/B2B but folks that are engaged in their community have a 3X higher feature adoption and in turn, a 2.5X higher spend. And you're talking about millions of users on either side of that bright line. And so there's actual data saying, "Hey, no, you can do this differently." Another great story on this, I'll say in terms of the success metrics is we work with a lot of commercial open source companies. They're inherently kind of community driven, right?

Jen Spencer (12:28): Right.

Jake Randall (12:29): These products were created by communities of developers in GitHub basically. In that case, we're seeing SDR teams saying, "Oh, our new inbound marketing is actually folks engaging in our community." And by the fact that they're asking a question in GitHub or in a Stack overflow, that's the same thing as filling out a form or however you would say that. In traditional marketing sense, they're raising their hands saying, "I want help. I'm looking for an answer." So they're like, "Why are we sending emails? Go meet them where they are, answer their question." Massive increase in conversion.

(13:14): And there's a way to do that. It's not the traditional message, but it's a value-driven story. It's, "Hey, we noticed that you asked this question in a subreddit, in stack, in the GitHub discussion, via Twitter. Have me jump on a quick call and help you answer that." And you're like, "Oh great, yeah, I wanted an answer and now I have one. I didn't want an email. I wanted someone to come tell me where I told them I wanted an answer, right?" So I don't know, that gives the perspective of how we see communities grow, get people engaged, get them talking to one another, and then how does it actually drive that impact on the business.

Jen Spencer (13:52): I mean, it makes a lot of sense and it's something I would a hundred percent prescribe to any organization that's like, "All right, I need to do marketing, I need to do sales, and our buyer is someone like a developer." Or I'll tell you what, a lot of folks in financial services, brokers, agents, they're just more challenging to market and sell too. Especially a developer is like, "Just give it to me. Let me play with it. I want to try it. I don't want to talk to you. Yeah, I don't want to schedule a meeting."

Jake Randall (14:32): I think about this. I mean, it's funny just on that. So I a hundred percent agree, yes, but also I joke. Everyone has a community, you're just not listening, which is kind of like marketing-ey, right? But the reality is, I don't know, think about anything. There's people out there that are talking about it, right? If you Google anything, one of the beauties of it is that you can usually find an answer, right?

Jen Spencer (14:59): Yeah.

Jake Randall (15:00): By definition, there's a community out there of people that care about this, that are creating content, that are having discussions. You end up in some Quora or some Reddit or there's a YouTube video on how to do XYZ home improvement in your house. I do that all the time, much to the chagrin of my wife. I'm always like, "No, we don't need to hire someone. I can just go do it myself," because there's a community of people that post YouTube videos of how to do home improvement. And I think that's the thing for people to think about too, is that it doesn't have to always be about your company. I think a great way to start is go engage with this community of practice concept and go find the people that are talking about the problem that other folks are there for listening to. And if you can get them to understand what you're doing and how they can help, that is this, again, organic value-driven conversation.

Jen Spencer (15:56):Yeah. And I would say that's a far better place to start than it being about your product for sure.

Jake Randall (16:02):Yeah, don't just assume that you can get everyone to join your Slack or your Discord or your whatever, right?

Jen Spencer (16:06): Yeah. I mean, I think product related for your existing customers, sure, probably, right? But if you're wanting to use it as a marketing channel, you want to go where... And even more so, I would look at, "Well, where are there people being underserved? Where is there not someone who is championing that community, who's leading the charge? And how can you go in and be part of that conversation and help be a leader, right?"

Jake Randall (16:37):Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's very close early on, I would say, to this idea of influencer marketing, honestly, right?

Jen Spencer (16:47): Yeah.

Jake Randall (16:47): Influencers are influencers because there's a community of people that care about whatever their influencing about. And so how do you get close to them? How do you understand that so that you can start to build this sense of belonging around the folks that you want to be interacting with and how you can help them?

Jen Spencer (17:08): So I guess, what would you say to an executive team that's thinking about doing this that would get them to fund it, to put energy there? How do you know as an organization that it's the right time for you to make this kind of investment?

Jake Randall (17:29): Yeah, it's a great question. What I would say is that one of the beauties of community is you're not going out and buying some enrichment provider where it's super expensive. It is kind of organic and as I said, everyone has a community. I talked to a company this morning, they sell a security tool. It's like, "You have a community. There's a bunch of CISOs out there, they're trying to figure out how to solve this problem." And it was their head of demand gen and their CMO. And they're like, "Oh yeah, wait, I was thinking about this as this massive thing that I had to go do, I had to go spin up a Discord server and I had to go..." And it was like, "Nope, you have a community. You just got to go meet them where they are and start the conversation."

(18:20): And so what I would say is that it becomes a much more organic way to drive that traffic. And what we see is that it is the growth engine for a lot of these companies I have already mentioned. I mean, my guess is most people listening to your podcast or this podcast are very familiar, if not users of HubSpot. I would argue a lot of HubSpot's story, and I talked about that at Inbound was they built a community around, "There's a new way to do marketing," and that ends up being their success. So it's never too early to invest in it, because fundamentally, what you are trying to do is help people understand there's a different way to solve their problem. And the best way to do that is to find the people that are talking about that problem in your community, and engage with them in a value-driven way.

Jen Spencer (19:19): Well, maybe this is a takeaway kind of homework assignment. I would love to know of any case studies, of any examples of organizations that have actually replaced outbound sales with investments in community.

Jake Randall (19:38):
Interesting. So one thing I'll say, I don't know if it's a hot take, but I think it's hard to say, I don't know
, that you can fully replace any individual channel, right?

Jen Spencer (19:56): Sure, sure. Yeah. I was saying choices, right? You can only do-

Jake Randall (19:56): Yeah, you have choices.

Jen Spencer (19:56): So much, right?

Jake Randall (19:57): Yeah. Well, I think what I'd say is that there's definitely companies that we know of that have... You still need to generate awareness. And unfortunately, what I'd say is outbound is often the way early on to generate awareness.

Jen Spencer (20:17): Sure.

Jake Randall (20:18): But then what we see is companies, I'll say, changing that journey into something where they want to drive them into their community, it becomes a differentiator. I'll say even at Common Room, we're like, "Hey," even when someone comes inbound to us, one of our calls to action when we respond is, "Join our community." And what you see is they're like, "Wait, hold on. There's thousands of people that are doing the same job that I'm doing, that are trying to answer these questions, and now I can go ask them." And what you've immediately established is this idea of trust, essentially. "Hey, if these other folks are in Common Room's community, talking about the things that I want to solve, then it must be that Common Room is providing value to them."

(21:08): That's the implicit thing that's happening there. And so this is a long-winded answer, I don't know personally of anyone who said, "We're not going to do outbound. We're going to replace it with community." But I know a lot of companies that have said, "Oh wait, here's what community is doing. Oh, when someone's engaged in our community..." I mean, we've gone through with large public companies, and if someone's engaged in your community, which could be they're tweeting about you, that could be anything just like your forum, higher ACVs, faster sales cycles, higher conversion rates.

Essentially, it's a referral based peer-to-peer sale. You're establishing trust.

(21:51): And so can you create different motions, different playbooks if you will, that help you leverage that and therefore can affect those outcomes in a more scalable way also, right? Because I'll tell you, I spent 10 years at Okta. We were going back to the same customers and the same people over and over being like, "Hey, can you do a referral for this deal?" And that's tiring for them. There's only so many bottles of wine you can send, right?

Jen Spencer (22:24): Right.

Jake Randall (22:25): Instead, now it's like, no, people don't ask for referrals. I haven't gotten asked for referrals since I've been in Common Room. So there's thousands of people in Uncommon, your community telling me this is the right choice, right?

Jen Spencer (22:39): Right, right. Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. This morning, actually, I was on LinkedIn and someone who I don't know posted a question about how to do something. It was an integration with HubSpot and ZoomInfo. No, sorry, HubSpot and Zoom, the webinar platform.

Jake Randall (23:04): Okay.

Jen Spencer (23:04): Slipped there. And someone else who I don't know shared an article that we have written about exactly how to do it and all the pitfalls and everything. And it's the most beautiful thing about content marketing, producing great content, and then having a community that you don't even know it's there. I don't even know that I have this evangelist out there that I didn't even know about.

Jake Randall (23:30): And so that's a lot of what Common Room then helps you with is, "Okay, well, how do you understand that?" So that in your case you're like, "Wait, hold on. Who is this person? What do they do?" And they're sending people to original content, happens to be your content. But that whole idea, I mean, what we see too is people are creating content around your product or around these areas, and how do you discover that? How do you find it? I have a story, someone that we had never spoken to, but I'll say they are in a senior role at a large search company, tweets out, "Hey, has anyone ever used Common Room?" And because of what Common Room does, we know this is happening and it gets fed directly into our Slack channel. And everyone's like, "Oh, my god," looking at it.

And all of a sudden, there's just this stream of our customers tweeting back saying, "We use it, we love it. It's much better than this competitor. Yes." And you're like, "This is incredible." And they didn't come inbound. They're asking their community, which overlaps with our community, if you will. And they're saying, "Yeah, no, it's a great tool. You should definitely go try it." And that's what drove them to then sign up for it, right? Similarly, I'm sure with this LinkedIn post that you're talking about, they probably hit your website and were like, "Well, there's a bunch of cool stuff here that would be helpful." That's amazing, right?

Jen Spencer (25:09):

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Let's talk about more of kind of day to day, your job, your responsibilities, and maybe even we can also think about it through the frame of lens of Common Room's about 50 employees, right?

Jake Randall (25:28): Yep.

Jen Spencer (25:29): Versus coming from Okta-

Jake Randall (25:31): More employees.

Jen Spencer (25:32): Much, much larger. Larger company. But so one first question I have is just as you're leading this team, how are you preparing them for shifts or changes that are happening in the industry, whether it's in your industry, maybe the competitive environment, maybe in the market, maybe with other kind of MarTech solutions that are out there?

Jake Randall (25:58): Yeah, no, that's a great question. So this is common across a lot of companies, but our number one value is essentially customer empathy. So really what we care about, and when you think about the changes that are happening... And particularly I would argue if you're going to join a startup. This is my third startup. My first one did okay. I joined Okta when there's 30 people and no revenue. And then I left when there was more people and a lot more revenue.

Jen Spencer (26:29): And that did great.

Jake Randall (26:31): Yeah. Yeah, that did great. That one was a good bet, but Common Room's going to be even better. But early on, and I think there's a lot of difference around what stage you're at, early on, it's about really being empathetic and understanding what your customers are going through and building for them. And so I actually think it's a super interesting story how we approached Common Room early on, which was that we didn't just launch a PLG, "Let's go." We actually went out and we found, and I shouldn't say about founders because I joined afterwards, but found 30 of the top community leaders and said, "Tell us what you want." And it's only once folks at Atlassian and Figma and Asana and HubSpot and all these companies that I've mentioned we're proud to call our customers and our partners were willing to pay us that we actually went out and were like, "Okay, now we can go GA." But I think that's a really indicative story of, "If you're an early stage company and everything that's happening right now, what do you do?" Focus on your customers and focus on really making sure that you're helping them solve their problems because right now, what's happening with all the change that's happening and we're in a recession or weak for winter or whatever's happening out there, people that can't afford quite literally to purchase things or do things that aren't going to accrete to their goals and what they need to accomplish and so don't think that you're smarter than your customer base. Be maniacally focused on, "What do you need? What are your problems? What is your boss asking you for?"

Jen Spencer (27:33): Yeah.

Jake Randall (28:19): "Okay. If I can help you with that, then that is going to mean that we can continue to work together." That's a good answer for it, but just focus on solving folks' problems and understanding how you can help them and then everything else, be agile around that to ensure you're providing that value. I think it was obviously very different at Okta. I think there was still that aspect of things, but the biggest difference is quite frankly, you have a lot more data when you're 6,000 people in a billion dollar revenue company. And so you can make decisions at a very different level versus being more qualitative right now in how we lead and how we help people understand what to do next.

Jen Spencer (29:09): Yeah, it's interesting. You're at a small company, you're really agile. You can kind of turn on a dime. A larger company, to your point, you're going to have more data, you're going to have more resources. But man, I mean, even our organization, when I joined in 2017, I was the 28th person and now we're almost 200 and it's just rolling something out. You can't just pull everyone into a room very easily. Even a virtual room. With time zones, it can be challenging.

Jake Randall (29:47): I think I'll say on that, just try to focus a lot on the why. I think that's one thing that I learned, I won't say the hard way, but I'll say I learned it at Okta as we were scaling very rapidly, is that it's easy to... And I was fortunate. I was very senior at Okta. It's easy to make a decision and try to decree it down, probably the way to say it. And to some extent, you have to do that, that's part of your job. But I think people often almost underestimate their team. And if you give folks the courtesy of, "Here's why we're doing this, here's why it's important, here's what we're trying to do."

(30:32): You should hire people that are smarter than you. And if you explain the why, then they can help you achieve those goals versus just dictating down, "Here's what we're going to do." So I think that's the other big thing I would say on the change management side, is if you call an all-hands, "Here's what we're going to go do," we're kind of like, "Okay, here's why we're doing, here's what we're trying to accomplish. Here's what we're seeing." You'll get feedback. They'll say, "Well, there's a better way to do this," and stuff, right?

Jen Spencer (31:04): Yeah. One of the things that I've been fortunate enough to experience and then been able to bring back to SmartBug is I was at this Wharton executive program and we were taught the, "What? So what? Now what?" kind of approach to a problem and bringing that into our all-hands meetings, our quarterly business reviews, it allows you to lead with authenticity and build trust with your team, but also inform the team and can be really, really important when you're talking about organizational change for sure. What are the metrics that you look at that? In your role, if you have one dashboard you view every morning, what's on it? What are the things that you're accountable to?

Jake Randall (31:59): So just quickly, as COO at Common Room, I basically run everything that isn't EPD. So go-to-market, finance, legal, all of those kinds of fun things. The reality is, at a startup, I focus mostly on the go-to- market, right? Finance stuff, it's like every month, "Can we burn more cash than we thought we're going to?" "No, we didn't." "Okay, we're good."

Jen Spencer (32:22): Yeah.

Jake Randall (32:24): So what I focus on the most at an early stage startup or growth is our goal is really just looking at the funnel. So I care about, "Are we generating essentially new contacts, new leads in our pipeline or in our funnel?" I care about how are we trending against pipeline goals, which are obviously different. There's a conversion there. And I focus a lot on, "Are we moving deals along in a way that we discussed?" And there's a bunch of different ways to see that deals that are stale in your pipeline, those kinds of things.

(33:04): But it's really about, I joke, it's like, "Is the conveyor belt running at the speed we want to run on? And are we putting enough things on the front of the conveyor belt?" And that's kind of how I think about it. That is, to me, what I care about right now. Again, that's specific to working at an early stage startup that's got a bunch of money from great VCs and that we're trying to grow quickly versus other roles I've had in the past. But I think anytime you're in any C level job, quite frankly, it's like, "Are you doing the right things? What is your business model? And are you tracking against the leading indicators to hit revenue?" That's a lot of what it comes down to. Understand your model, understand how things work, and are you going to be able to go hit the targets that you've set forth.

Jen Spencer (34:03): And what do you do if you're looking at data and it's getting uncomfortable? You're going, "Things are not looking the way I would like them to look." Do you have a go-to kind of plan for that, meaning, has that happened yet? I don't know.

Jake Randall (34:25): Oh yeah. Not in Common Room, but I mean, it's happened plenty. I mean, I joke. Again, I had this great run at Okta for 10 years. I ended up running a third of our business in my last role. So I was the GM of one of our two main product lines. Okta's a great success story, but in the moments, it wasn't a given. It was never easy. So I think the main thing on that is if things aren't looking good, there's never an easy fix. I think that's the thing maybe to keep in mind. I'd say first is that we'll call a meeting, we'll get everyone together, get in a room, talk about things, we'll get some PowerPoint slides or whatnot. It's like if it was easy, then let's assume someone would've done something, right?

Jen Spencer (35:20): Sure.

Jake Randall (35:23):
But I've been in a lot of meetings where it's like, "Well, go fix it." And you're like, "Oh, come on. That's
not reasonable." Right?

Jen Spencer (35:30): Yeah.

Jake Randall (35:34): The biggest thing I'd say here when things aren't going well is you have to create a safe place for people to try new things because quickly, things were going well and now they're not. So what's changed? Well, the reality is probably nothing and that's the problem.

Jen Spencer (36:00): Right.

Jake Randall (36:01):
It's that we haven't evolved and you're not going to bat 1000 when it comes to trying new initiatives. I
think everyone should go create a community clearly, but I'm sure it won't work for someone, right?

Jen Spencer (36:17): Right.

Jake Randall (36:17): But you should go try. You can increase your spend in paid, well, it's probably going to cost more if you do that. There's all these things that you can get into but the biggest thing I'd say is if things aren't going well, then bring in people that you trust and ask them to bring you potential solutions and then trust them to go try them. And also know that not everything is going to work and that's okay. And it's "okay" to fail as long as we're learning. That's probably what I'd say is there is no easy fix, hire the right people, trust them and let them go safely fail to some extent. And you'll find things that work to be clear and then you won't, because not everything's going to fail, you're going to learn, you're going to evolve, and you'll get better. There's actually just a great thread I was reading. So one of the things I did at Okta, from the go-to-market perspective, I led our acquisition of this company Auth0 for six and a half billion dollars.

(37:30): And someone from the Auth0 team was on their demand gen team, it's a whole thread on Twitter. They just were posting about basically the Auth0, they weren't hitting their targets. And what did they do? They pulled everyone together, they said essentially, "Half of the people on our GTM, on our go-to- market team, you're now working on "special projects,"" and they just let them go try things. That's actually a great example. I don't know why I didn't even think of it until after I gave my answer of in practice and being like, "No, no, things aren't working. So we're not just going to keep doing it." What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same things, having different outcomes or whatever that's saying is. It's like if you're doing the same things and it has not worked, well, it's not worked so go try new things.

Jen Spencer (38:23): Yeah. Well, I think in the spirit of exploration, experimentation, I love asking our guests to dream a little bit and imagine I'd give you a blank check for a campaign, for something specific in marketing, preferably, right?

Jake Randall (38:48): Yeah.

Jen Spencer (38:49): Where would you put it?

Jake Randall (38:53):
So obviously this is in my current role as COO of-

Jen Spencer (38:53): Yeah.

Jake Randall (38:58): Yeah. So I would put it in something that is, I'll say, very thought leadershipy and kind of pushing the envelope of how people think about things. And the background or the context on that is that I love working at startups or trying to do things differently. If you're going to go work at a startup, I think that's the whole point, right?

Jen Spencer (39:34): Yeah.

Jake Randall (39:34): Fundamentally, we believe that the way that people are going to find and adopt technology is changing. It's going to be much more socially and community driven, but our job is to go and help people understand what that looks like and what that motion will be. And so you have to, therefore, little bit get out over your skis and say, "There's a different way to do things," right?

Jen Spencer (39:59): Yeah.

Jake Randall (40:00): That you shouldn't just go sell in market the same way, right? Because people aren't listening, people aren't opening your emails, they're not converting on your paid ads or whatever it may be. So if money were no object, I don't know if this is actually what I would do tactically, but it's the billboards. What's the thing where you're like, "Wait, this is totally different thinking, this is a radical thought. I need to go look at this?" Because we have all these success stories. I've talked about some of them where we've worked with companies that I think most folks would want to emulate. I think everyone wants to go get acquired by Adobe for $20 billion like Figma. They were community-led from the get-go.

Jen Spencer (40:42): Yeah.

Jake Randall (40:46): Yeah, I would put money into something that you're like, "Whoa, that is a shocking billboard. That's a shocking campaign, but I need to go pay attention." But those are also really hard to measure as you know as a marketer. So that's why I give that answer. If money and time were no object, I would go big, right?

Jen Spencer (41:07):
Yeah. That's the point of the question because even in organizations that have a culture of
experimentation, there's still a bottom line, right?

Jake Randall (41:19): Yeah.

Jen Spencer (41:19): And attribution is really important. There's still all these things that are influencing you, and so you then are going to play it safe to some extent, right?

Jake Randall (41:19): Yeah.

Jen Spencer (41:32): Or you're going to make this one bet that you think you've got enough data to support that bet, right? And so this is me just asking, "Hey, your gut, if you didn't have to be held accountable to that money, where would you drop it?"

Jake Randall (41:48):
I mean, I think the example that always comes to mind is Salesforce's, "Software is dead," right?

Jen Spencer (41:54): Yeah.

Jake Randall (41:54):
It's like it had nothing to do actually with what they do as a technology, but it was where you're like,
"Wait, what?" Right?

Jen Spencer (42:06):

Jake Randall (42:06): Sure.

Jen Spencer (42:12): So for a business leader that's listening right now, that's thinking about investing in their own community, what's most important? What's like the number one takeaway you want them to have as they wrap up the show?

Jake Randall (42:29): My number one, takeaway would be you have a community, you're just not listening. And so don't think that it's Herculean effort to set it up. There are people out there that are talking about the problem that you solve, doesn't mean that they're necessarily coming to your website and converting on inbound assets, but they're out there and they're talking. You're just not listening. And if you can go meet them where they are, they're already telling you that they want to engage in that conversation.

Jen Spencer (42:59): Perfect. Jake, thank you so much for joining me. If anyone who's listening now wants to learn more about you, wants to learn more about the work you're doing at Common Room, maybe wants to join your community, where would do they go?

Jake Randall (43:12): Yeah, absolutely. Well, first, thank you for having me. It was a real pleasure. So thanks, Jen. is our website where you can join our community. It's called Uncommon, just a Slack community. You can also find me on LinkedIn, you can tweet at me, you can do all the fun social channels. I'm happy to talk just broadly about the topic. It's a fun thing and I really believe that we can change the way that people think about discovering and deploying software.

Jen Spencer (43:44): Wonderful. Well, thank you and thank you all for listening. Please join us next week for another episode of the Intelligent Inbound Podcast. You'll get to meet another phenomenal industry leader just like Jake. And if you learned something today, please pay it forward by rating and reviewing on your podcast listening platform of choice. Make it a great day, everyone.

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