How to maintain authentic brand voice when pitching new customers
When Sara Varni started as CMO of Twilio two years ago, she received some advice: “The first rule of marketing to developers is don’t market to developers!” Twilio had aready cracked the code when it came to engaging developers, having grown to more than $650 million in sales by providing APIs used to program communications like SMS into apps. For Varni, the big challenge was to maintain strong relationships with developers while expanding to the very different enterprise buyer.
Getting it right was not about changing the essence of the brand, but instead meant “maintaining an authentic brand voice” while speaking to the new target. Developers “want to make get their hands on products right when they are announced,” says Varni. “So, if you ever attend a Twilio event, we’ll make sure you get to interact with our technology, whether you are a full-time coder or not.” Varni discusses how her team found creative yet consistent ways to extend the brand to the new target.
What did you need to do internally to begin targeting a new audience?
It’s important to build strong teams that speak the language of each audience, and it’s also important to make sure those teams are talking to each other. We have a corporate value at Twilio called “Wear the Customer’s Shoes” and, as CMO, I try to make sure my team is out in front of both business buyers and developers often to really understand what makes them tick. The ideas for the best programs and content are often outside of your building.
How do you make sure that your developer targets, the folks that got the company this far, still feel special?
Developers will always be at the heart of Twilio’s business. Our CEO is a developer, which means everyone from our developer education team up through our executive team approaches the market through the eyes of a creative builder. This is core to our ethos. Beyond thinking about how to provide the best possible developer experience, we try to celebrate and provide real value for our developers on the platforms they’re most active.
Can you provide a specific example?
We built a full-fledged video game for developers. TwilioQuest is a desktop game we created with the goal of teaching millions of developers how to code and uplevel their skills. It’ll come as no surprise that when you make learning fun, people want to do it more—we saw this over and over again as we offered iterations of games that grew coding skills over the years. So, we built it out fully and launched it in 2019. TwilioQuest now takes users on a variety of mission-style trainings that help developers of all backgrounds improve skills (beyond Twilio) and even learn new coding languages.
Did you do events?
Yes. To connect with our developer community in real life, we’ve created hands-on events like Superclass and Twilio Engage. At these events, developers, business leaders and IT executives alike come together to share, learn and brainstorm how to create better customer engagement and communications solutions for their business.
Can you provide a brief description of your developer awards program?
We celebrate developers who are making the world a better place with code through our Twilio Champions program. These are a special group of people that have proven that they inspire others with their creativity, connect diverse branches of people, help teach new developers, and build projects that push communications forward.
Can you talk about the Enterprise Hackathons? What are they and how many have you done?
The Enterprise Hackathon is an initiative Twilio created to bring together executives and developers from the same company to brainstorm and then build solutions for their business in a single day. We think of it as real-time digital transformation that gets everyone from the CTO to the ground-level engineers excited about building. We’ve done more than a handful now—we most recently hosted enterprise hackathons at a major airline and a national food corporation—and are over the moon about the impact we’re seeing so far.
How do these hackathons work?
Twilio hosts a day of creative problem solving at the company to address a major communications challenge or opportunity the enterprise is facing. The enterprises’ own developers map out solutions and Twilio is there to provide hands-on guidance and support as they build in real time. At the end of the day, the developers demonstrate what they’ve built to their executives. It’s amazing the kind of ingenuity that comes out in just a few hours. We’ve seen multiple solutions built in a day that turn into real tools that are implemented and scaled after the hackathon.
Have these events bridged the gap between your core developers and your enterprise target?
Enterprise Hackathons have been an incredible way for our customers to jumpstart development on a project, and also get engineering teams skilled up quickly on a new toolset. Getting developers and the C-suite into a single room really gets everyone aligned and excited. The developers get to build and experiment with Twilio guidance, and the executives get a better understanding of the technology and its potential impact on their business. It’s a win-win.
How did you have to adjust content strategy to add your enterprise target?
Serving developers means Twilio has always provided really robust documentation and technical content for our community. Naturally, what’s valuable and motivating to enterprise decision-makers is different, so we make sure we have a separate content engine to highlight customer stories, showcase business impact, and deliver strategic thought leadership that is more relevant to enterprise partners. An example is "The Hub," a new blog we’re launching for our business audience, that highlights customer engagement best practices from resident Twilio experts, industry analysts and our own customers.
Can you speak to what metrics really matter in the enterprise sales process?
Pipeline is typically the name of the game when it comes to enterprise, but you also want to make sure you have a healthy volume of deals and that you have a good balance across big and small opportunities. If all of your pipeline is sitting in a few big deals, it can be feast or famine. Building a healthy funnel across segments will help protect you from these swings.