Marie Gassée
Achieving a $4.5B Valuation Through Product-Led Growth
Marie discusses the heavily data-driven nature of her role, the product-led growth model that she embraces to maximize revenue, and the leadership philosophies she uses to empower her teams.
Confluent, founded by the original creators of Apache Kafka®, pioneered the enterprise-ready event streaming platform. With Confluent, organizations benefit from the first event streaming platform built for the enterprise with the ease-of-use, scalability, security and flexibility required by the most discerning global companies to run their business in real time. Companies leading their respective industries have realized success with this new platform paradigm to transform their architectures to streaming from batch processing, spanning on-premises and multi-cloud environments. Backed by Benchmark, Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital, Confluent is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. and London with offices globally.
Computer Software

Marie Gassée is Vice President of Growth at Confluent. She runs Digital, Lifecycle Marketing, Product-Led Growth & Cloud Self-Serve, and Sales Development (Inbound & Outbound motions globally). Prior to Confluent, Marie served as Sr. Director and General Manager of the Online Sales Business Unit at Box, where she spent 5+ years. Marie holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Episode Summary

This episode features an interview with Marie Gassée, Vice President of Growth at Confluent, the enterprise event streaming platform provider that garnered a $4.5B valuation last year. 

Prior to Confluent, Marie served as Senior Director and General Manager of the Online Sales Business Unit at Box, and she holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

On this episode, Marie discusses the heavily data-driven nature of her role, the product-led growth model that she embraces to maximize revenue and ROI, and the leadership philosophies she uses to trust and empower her teams.

Key Takeaways

  • SEO and SEM can be some of the lowest hanging fruit and some of the highest leverage tactics in your arsenal. Even small changes can make a meaningful impact on your business
  • Data data data. If you’re a data-driven organization, partner closely with your analytics folks or your data science team, and you can also see additional benefit from hiring marketers with a level of analytics proficiency
  • Hire great people that you trust, then open the purse strings and advocate for them


“I'm really into the product led growth model...we focus on acquiring folks into the product, getting them onboarded, getting them active…Really trying to view it as kind of a pipeline mechanism. If I do my job well, I have a bunch of small teams active in the product, not spending a ton of money, but getting value from the product. And then we focus on handing that off to sales in a thoughtful way where they can add value and they can think about having a longer term relationship with Confluent.”
“The way I approach things is really to build a super strong partnership with our analytics folks, and then do everything in my power to unblock them--to give them budget, to help them hire, to give them head count…Ultimately I'm just going to sign the check for whatever my team says is good. That's my mentality: hire great people that you trust, and then if they say they need something, my job is to open the purse strings and advocate.”
“I think a lot of marketers maybe aren't as close to their data scientists or their analytics partners. For me, the quantitative part of marketing is what my job is, and so we certainly can't do that without our data science counterparts. The other thing I'll say is just a level of analytics proficiency for everyone on my team. That's another way to partner really well, is just making sure we hire folks who can self-serve a lot of their data, who can do high-level analyses, who value our data scientists and who love partnering with them. That's a big part of how we structure our team.”
“On the web optimization side, I enjoy it because it's like a puzzle…It's such a fun tactic, but also crazy impactful. You can make changes to your CTA or to the look and feel of a page and have meaningful downstream impact on your business. Not just in B2C, very much in B2B as well. I find that to be such an impactful, but also a satisfying tactic. You can do an AB test and meaningfully change the direction of your company. That's so insane and should be fully exploited.”

Episode Transcript

(2:10) Marie’s Path to Confluent

  • First marketing role was at Cisco, working towards SMB
  • She was always the one asking “why” relentlessly
  • Now she is VP of Growth at Confluent
  • Confluent is company based on an open source technology called Kafka, and they provide a new category of computing called event streaming
  • Customers get instant access to massive amounts of data in real time

(4:32) Her Demand Gen Strategy

  • Marie focused on an inbound go-to-market model, capturing and converting demand
  • She favors product-led growth - getting prospects into the product early, showing value and onboarding from there
  • Favorite tactics are website optimization and SEO - she focuses on the numbers
  • Her org structure today has three teams - digital growth, email nurture and lifecycle
  • Target personas are divided into two groups: the practitioners (developers, architects and operators who are using the product) and the technical executive persona, who buys and makes the decision
  • Their target audience is so broad, most companies can use their product, so that’s why she gravitates more towards inbound momentum

(9:28) Reaching New Customers

  • She focuses on the part of their addressable market that already knows what Kafka is
  • They work hard at being the go-to source for anything Kafka
  • From a sales perspective, they focus on getting engaged champions in target customer organizations
  • On the marketing side, they focus on acquiring and onboarding users into the product
  • So if she does her job well, she has a bunch of small user teams active in the product, getting value but not spending much money, and then hands them off to sales to see how they can develop that relationship

(13:55) Marie’s Uncuttable Budget Items

  • Her first: measurement and data analytics tracking to track the whole demand gen motion
  • Her second: SEO and web optimization, to get fruitful organic traffic
  • Her third: SEM and paid social

(15:29) Building a Data-driven Growth Org

  • She does everything in her power to unblock their data scientists, give them budget, to help them hire, to give them head count
  • She expects a good level of analytics proficiency for everyone on her team - they should be able to answer questions about content performance and persona conversion
  • Data science team helps them understand more in-depth how to score leads and build their infrastructure
  • It’s critical to have platforms that share clear data about who is visiting the site so you can segment them or personalize their experience
  • Small tactical changes to optimize SEO on back end of the website can have a big impact on organic, high quality traffic
  • Data team runs correlations to assess website behavior and how it affects conversion
  • Website experiences are becoming more helpful, less sales-y

(27:17) Items Not in Her Demand Gen Budget

  • Paid content syndication
  • Trade shows - she hasn’t seen the ROI there
  • Not a fan of direct mail - except for in very high touch, personalized outreach

(30:17) Her Favorite Recent Campaign

  • They’ve seen success recently with LinkedIn ads, she likes their persona targeting ability
  • She’s been able to generate a bunch more revenue from A/B testing their pricing page; adjusting design, experience, content

(36:52) Marie’s Quick Hits

  • She is a rider and her current favorite horse to ride is Anton, in Petaluma
  • If she wasn’t in marketing, she’d work in analytics, or as a veterinarian
  • Favorite pandemic TV shows have been West Wing and Schitt’s Creek

(39:15) Advice to other VPs of Growth and Demand Gen Leads

  • Recognize your team members’ achievements and hard work
  • Make sure to provide people with clarity and prioritization
  • She thinks an effective demand gen leader should be thinking about how their employees are doing, and that while it’s not a number to track, it’s important to have people that feel fulfilled and respected in their jobs


Demand Gen Visionaries is brought to you by, the #1 Conversational Marketing platform for companies that use Salesforce and the secret weapon for Demand Gen pros. The world's leading enterprise brands trust Qualified to instantly meet with buyers, right on their website, and maximize sales pipeline. Visit to learn more.


Top 24 CMOs Share Their Uncuttable Budget Items