Builds Growth Strategies on Foundation of Buyer Knowledge
Challenge: Rapid growth results in disconnected teams and activities
Avalara is a leading developer of indirect tax compliance SaaS software. When General Manager of Avalara Tax
Research, Sanjay Puri, arrived at the company in 2017, he was employed as Vice President of Product Marketing
with a mission: build a disciplined approach to marketing and sales.
“The first thing I noticed,” says Puri, “is that we didn’t have any foundation we could build upon.”
Understanding of the customer was “tribal knowledge” based on the founder’s vision. While his ideas were
strong, and he had successfully led the company until it had reached 1,200 employees, the lack of a
common, shared understanding of the customer inhibited further growth. “As we grew,” Puris says, “we
weren’t all as attuned to the founder’s thinking.” Avalara needed a formal foundation of customer insight,
Puri says, “that had a structure and framework we could communicate at scale.”
Solution: Pursue unbiased insights the whole organization could leverage
Puri’s objective was simple: “How can I build a view of target customers that would help marketing and sales?”
He read the book, Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing
Strategies, and Win More Business, written by Adele Revella, the Buyer Persona Institute’s (BPI’s) founder.
Inspired, he conducted interviews with around twenty of Avalara’s current customers. Although the insights
were rewarding, Puri found them limited. “I needed a proven framework to capture what I was hearing to make it
relevant to the entire company.”
As a result, Avalara commissioned multiple rounds of buyer interviews with BPI to confirm their targets and
determine their most urgent needs. Subsequent survey research confirmed the statistical validity of the initial
study, and the BPI work became the platform for relevant marketing messaging throughout the company.
Avalara went public a year later. Within two years, Avalara nearly quadrupled in revenues and overall size, and
the regulatory landscape had changed, particularly for eCommerce. To ensure the relevancy of their marketing,
Puri commissioned additional research that confirmed that they were on the right path.
Results: A common ground that eliminates arguments, sustains forward momentum
“Without research,” Puri notes, “you’re basing your marketing on conjecture, your guesses about what buyers
want. With the BPI research, we got confidence that we had the right targets. We knew we were on the right
track with the right triggers and problems.”
The research did more than inform content and campaigns. “It moved our internal conversations forward,” says
Puri. “People used to blame failures on ‘wrong’ targets; our research eliminated that argument. We know the
truth because we talked to real buyers.”
“Most importantly, the BPI work gave Avalara a common language across the entire organization. “We can talk to each other beyond product marketing, to bring in prospecting, sales, and executive leadership. Today, our buyer insights are not something that lives in product marketing but are communicated broadly in Avalara and leveraged to drive meaningful actions.”