How is Pocus building a category, community, and product all at once

What started as closed community of 20 members has grown into a 1300+ members strong Slack community buzzing with PLS leaders from organizations like Slack, Calendly, Airtable, Asana, and more.
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Priyanshu Anand
November 29, 2022

The focus of Pocus

Alexa Grabell, CEO and Co-founder of Pocus, felt the pain of running a sales and operations strategy while leading the team at Dataminr. She would constantly get requests from sales, marketing, success, and leadership teams to build dashboards around product usage reports. Result? The teams were never fully satisfied and the tools that she used only did half the job while the process of curating the tools itself wasn’t something she would enjoy doing.

Alexa gradually realized that she wasn’t the only one facing this problem. Having spoken to hundreds of go-to-market teams, one thing became apparently clear: every team needs proper product-usage data to power their sales, marketing, and customer success efforts. What most companies have been doing is putting together various tools to function as a ‘plausible solution’ but that takes years of engineering efforts and the results are not worth it.

This is why Alexa and her later co-founder Isaac Pohl-Zaretsky started Pocus, a Product-led sales (PLS) platform that lets all go-to-market teams turn product into data. And the best part is that they don’t have to worry about having an engineering team create dashboards as non-technical teams can use the data to identify new revenue opportunities in less and with no coding.

Co-founders Isaac Pohl-Zaretsky (left) and Alexa Grabell (right) - source

Creating a new category

You must’ve noticed the term Product-led Sales (PLS) in the previous paragraph. Well, in case you’re wondering what it is, Pocus defines it as a go-to-market approach that relies on existing users of the product to drive revenue, including conversion, upsell, cross-sell, and expansion. But that sounds awfully similar to Product-led Growth (PLG), so then what’s the difference?

Pocus interviewed hundreds of GTM leaders and found that 98% of them either have sales teams or are looking to hire a sales team soon enough. But these sales teams didn’t behave like typical sales teams. They were much more data-oriented, concise in their approach, and consultative. This was not sales-led growth but it wasn’t entirely product-led growth either. This was a whole new category, something that puts sales in the center without actually doing it.

Pocus pioneered PLS as a whole new category and defined it as method that is more than just about converting self-serve users into paid customers. And despite sounding like it’s specifically designed for sales teams, PLS is for everyone from GTM teams to customer success and even marketing.

The future of SaaS is data-driven

A little over a year after founding, Pocus raised $23 million as Series A in June 2022 led by Coatue. Angels from some of the biggest PLG companies like Notion, Gainsight, Postman, Slack, and more, have invested in Pocus and believe in their PLS approach to building a robust future for revenue generation and customer success.

Pocus wants to shape of future of non-technical teams by providing them with the right resources. A flexible data model that can adjust to customers’ needs and doesn’t enforce a rigid data hierarchy. And no one should have to learn ho to code in order to reap the benefits of data. What’s more, Pocus makes it extremely easy to turn insights into actions. Pocus’ insights are fully transparent to give the teams as much or as little detail as they desire. From these insights, they make it easy to take actions like setting up Slack alerts, updating the CRM, launching a new email sequence, and more.

Pocus’ mission - to bring the power of data to non-tech teams - will only get more relevant with time as companies are increasingly growing fond of the idea of having a data warehouse as a the sole system of record. Pocus is building on top of this warehouse and, as they say, helping product-led companies convert prospect into leads is just the beginning.

Not just a product, a movement

Community is quite important at Pocus. Before even starting out, Alexa knew that she didn’t just want to build a product but also a category with community. When you’re building a category, it’s also important to educate people and you can’t do that within your organization.

“That’s why we’re not just building a product, but also a community and category. We need to learn, grow, and build the best Product-Led Sales motions, together.” - Alexa

In talking about community-led category creation, Alexa gives us a little window into how they scaled from an idea to $23 million in funding.

In the conversations that she had with hundreds of salespeople, her understanding of things further solidified as more people agreed to not having tried such an approach before. However, the lack of resources and not knowing how to execute such strategies made them desperate for more resources, frameworks, and best practices. And the best way to get that was to connect and network with others who were trying to do the same thing/had done it before.

An organically growing community on Slack

Pocus’ community started as a simple 20 member strong Slack group. They had their first event on Zoom where they brought in a sales leader who previously worked with Stripe to have a casual conversation and answer some of the questions that the people had.

People go value out of it, there was positive feedback and the best part was that people were able to implement what others had been doing. Soon the Slack community grew to 700 members  and the conversations became more intricate. A great thing about being a part of something new is that no one knows everything. You can get involved in healthy discussions and hash out frameworks crafted from the minds of some of the smartest minds in PLG.

Once you have enough to start experimenting, you do exactly that and share your experiences with everyone else. This is a self improving model that is also self-sustaining. The more people learn and grow from each, the greater will be advocacy and outreach of a PLS approach.

Currently, the community has grown into a 1300+ members strong invite-only Slack community buzzing with PLS leaders from organizations like Slack, Calendly, Airtable, Asana, and more.

Join Beth McLeads, Kevin Salesbury, Denise Quota, and more amazing members to discuss PLS strategies and how can you drive revenue by optimizing the sales funnel.

The Product-led Sales blog

All things PLS in the blog series that covers category best practices, playbooks, resources, product updates, community recaps, etc.

Community Spotlight

Community spotlight aims to celebrate their PLS community members. They shine light on thought leaders, uncovering the career paths that brought them where they are, their experience in the product-led space, their advice, and aspirations in this space.

Meet Ben Pollack, Head of Marketing at ChartHop

AMA recaps

Pocus’ “Ask me Anything” sessions are for PLS experts to share their best practices, frameworks, and insights on this emerging category. These AMAs recaps recount the wisdom they shared in their Slack community during the session.

In their recent AMA, Kim Walsh, SVP of Sales, Partnerships, and Customer Success at Apollo talks about the early days of sales at Hubspot and all about sales-assist motion.

Community, category, product

“Building a community is not just about starting a Slack group. It’s a big time and resource investment, so you need to evaluate that this is the right decision for your business,” said Alexa. After speaking to other community leaders who were also investors in Pocus, she realized that there’s no point creating something that already exists. And this is specially true for communities; if you don’t offer value that’s unique, there’s no concrete reason for anyone to come and be a part of your community.

Category and community go hand-in-hand because when you’re establishing a niche with an unexplored category, there’s a lot that you can give that’s not only unique but also formulative in it’s approach. Building a category and community is similar to building a product, you need to ship out an MVP and then experiment and reiterate to scale things.

There’s no way of knowing what the outcome would be without going through the process. And that’s what community building is all about.

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