PLS Community Spotlight: Karishma Rajaratnam

Meet the former behavioral psych academic turned growth marketer

Sandy Mangat
November 21, 2021
PLS Community Spotlight: Karishma Rajaratnam

We wanted a way to find a way to highlight and celebrate the forward-thinking work of our PLS community “Product-Led Sales Community Spotlight” was born. 

In this series, we interview members of our community to highlight their career path, how they found their way into the world of product-led, their advice for newbies, and their predictions for the future of product-led sales. 

Meet Karishma Rajaratnam, Growth Marketing at Vidyard

Karishma is currently leading Growth Marketing at Vidyard focusing on activation and monetization strategy for their asynchronous video-sharing product. Karishma has held various roles in SaaS marketing for the better part of the last decade. She was an early employee at the subscription billing platform, Chargebee, helping the company build out the growth, marketing, and partner marketing functions.

However, marketing was not always Karishma’s dream - in another life, she was destined to be an academic pursuing an advanced degree in behavioral psychology. Instead, she channeled her knowledge of human behavior into building a successful digital marketing agency before making the transition full time into SaaS growth & marketing. 

Tell us about your role at Vidyard

I manage the Growth Marketing team that focuses on our activation and monetization strategy in my current role. So that is everything post sign up. We look at what the user is doing from onboarding, to activation to retention all the way up to monetization. The role is really focused on our freemium strategy and specifically, how  we take our free users and make them successful with the product, enough that they eventually upgrade to a paid plan. My team works very cross-functionally, with product, sales, and other members of the marketing team like marketing automation to enable this conversion. 

Tell us about Vidyard

Vidyard is an asynchronous video platform that allows you to quickly and easily make videos and send them to your sales prospects. Our best users are still very much sales teams but we’ve seen more people from various teams signing up and using the product, from marketing to many other teams sharing content internally. 

We’re in the process of moving Vidyard from a sales-led go-to-market to a product-led strategy. We’re focusing more on selling to end-users and enabling them through self-serve but with intentional and impactful human touchpoints via our sales-assist team. 

How’d you get your start in Growth Marketing?

So I started my career a little unconventionally, I was studying behavioral science and psychology, and I wanted to get into academia. So not at all interested at the time in the industry side, I wanted to get into teaching psychology. Halfway through that process, I realized that it wasn't for me and I wanted to actually implement what I was learning in the real world.

At the time, I was studying in the UK and then moved back to India, but there weren't a lot of companies in India applying behavioral psych to digital marketing so I decided to start my own consulting business in the space. Fast forward, I managed to get some pretty big clients in North America and slowly started to pick up marketing skills on the job. I worked with my husband and he initially brought more of the digital marketing skills and I brought my behavioral psychology training to the strategic side of things. 

Through that journey, I met the founders of Chargebee and at the time I was looking to make the switch from selling my services to working from the ground up on a product. So I started off there in a  traditional demand gen role which over the course of the next five years would morph into many other things, eventually spearheading some of the growth efforts around PLG and scaling the growth team up to 8 people. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced moving the company towards PLG?

Moving to Product-Led Sales requires a behavioral shift within the sales team where they have to move away from selling directly to decision-makers. Instead, they are selling to end-users and buyers. The challenge is the buyers may not always come with a budget or they may have no intention to ever pay for the product. Like they may just want to use the free version or they’re testing the product, so they’ll only be ready for a purchase conversation once they’ve seen value. Then they may go to their manager or boss and ask for a budget. 

A behavior shift for sales team

So the old way of doing sales where you go directly to that budget holder boss, VP, or Director is very different from this motion. In this motion, sales teams have to be more patient and pay more attention to how users are using the product. They need to be supportive rather than selling right away.

Another major shift is the ability to use product-level information in your sales outreach - it’s critical to success these days, but it’s not something a company that is historically sales-led would be used to. Sales teams may not be used to looking at product data and then tailoring their outreach to the user based on that product data.

Product-led vs. sales-led

Interestingly there are similarities between the behavior shifts you need at a company that is moving from sales-led to product-led and a PLG from scratch company that is moving upmarket. When I was at Chargebee we were doing the latter and we faced similar challenges in introducing new ways of working. 

When you move upmarket, you end up hiring salespeople who come from backgrounds where they're used to selling big enterprise deals, so it's like you almost deal with the same problem even within those organizations.

What is a challenging project you’ve worked on recently?

I'd say one super interesting, but also challenging project is around building a lifecycle marketing strategy that's aligned with our product onboarding experience.

We have guided onboarding inside of our product, but our marketing communications today aren't 100% aligned with that guided onboarding. 

It's quite challenging from an operational perspective because:
1) You need all the right product data inside of your marketing automation and,
2) You need to account for the fact that as a big organization you have multiple teams emailing users. 

So you might be emailing users about a webinar, you might be sending them a welcome email post sign up, and there's a ton of communication already happening. So how do you make sure that you're emailing these users with product triggers but also not spamming them? 

Eventually, I visualize all of this data being in one system so we don’t have to deal with these silos of information. You need everything in one place. So making sure that that one system is solid and has everything in it is really important.

What’s the most fun aspect of your role?

That it’s always changing. There are always new opportunities that come up and I feel like there’s growth every day. So the fact that it never gets mundane is something that I really enjoy. 

I also like that marketing and growth are getting so data-driven today. 

I personally feel like it's so important for marketers to be on top of data. And so, the fact that within growth marketing you have to keep looking at data means that already you're building skills as a technically savvy marketer.

Advice for your younger self?

Be more aware of the larger business strategy at play. 

Regardless of whether you're a marketer or what your role really is, understanding the overall business strategy will help you come up with a ton more ideas and also empathize with the executive team. So instead of focusing with horse blinders on, explore the entire business and truly understand how it works. 

Especially when you're in an early-stage startup, there are so many opportunities. Sometimes you can get a bit daunted and scared by those opportunities and be like, ‘Oh no, that's too big a problem for me to tackle’. My advice is to just go for it - take as many of those opportunities as you can because they normally open up other massive opportunities for you. 

Where do you see Product-Led Sales and PLG in the next five to 10 years?

I think in the next five to 10 years, you'll see that salespeople are already adopting these strategies in their day to day and it will be the new way of selling. You're gonna have this generation of sales folks who are going to spend the next five to 10 years of their careers learning about being more data-driven and product-led, and they will eventually move on to  become the next set of sales leaders - that will change things dramatically and create a new standard in sales.

Rapid-fire fun round

Favorite TV show currently? Definitely Squid Game

Favorite emoji? 🔥

Travel bucket list? Italy for the food! 

Thanks for sharing your story Karishma!

If you're new to product-led sales or looking to connect with experts, join Pocus' Product-Led Sales community by requesting an invite. Want to nominate a member of the community for a spotlight? Connect with Sandy Mangat on the PLS community slack.

Sandy Mangat
Head of Marketing at Pocus
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