Chandar Pattabhiram
Why Marketers Must Shift from the Funnel to the Flywheel
Chandar Pattabhiram breaks the mold on demand gen with his theory that marketers must ditch the funnel and switch to the flywheel marketing model.
Coupa Software is the cloud platform for business spend management (BSM). Coupa delivers “Value as a Service” by helping our customers maximize their spend under management, achieve significant cost savings and drive profitability. Coupa provides a unified, cloud-based spend management platform that connects hundreds of organizations representing the Americas, EMEA, and APAC with millions of suppliers globally. The Coupa platform provides greater visibility into and control over how companies spend money. Customers – small, medium and large – have used the Coupa platform to bring billions of dollars in cumulative spend under management.
Internet Software & Services

Chandar Pattabhiram is a seasoned marketing executive who brings to Coupa more than 25 years of experience in strategic marketing and management consulting. As Chief Marketing Officer, he is responsible for driving all aspects of worldwide marketing including strategic segment marketing, product marketing, growth marketing and corporate marketing. Prior to joining Coupa, Pattabhiram was CMO at Marketo, where he was responsible for all aspects of marketing and in charge of positioning Marketo as the digital marketing industry’s innovation leader and the best solution for high-growth and enterprise businesses.

Episode Summary

This episode features an interview between Ian Faison and Chandar Pattabhiram, CMO of Coupa. Chandar has more than 25 years of experience in strategic marketing and management consulting, including his previous role as CMO at Marketo. As CMO of Coupa, he is responsible for driving all aspects of worldwide marketing including strategic segment marketing, product marketing, growth marketing and corporate marketing.

On this episode, Chandar breaks the mold on demand gen, explaining why you should be thinking of it in terms of growth marketing and revenue gen, and he illustrates his flywheel approach to marketing that goes far beyond the traditional funnel model. 

Key Takeaways

  • Expand your view of demand gen–view it as growth marketing, and even as revenue gen. Those terms are important because what you call it and how you view it gets permeated throughout your organization.
  • It’s important to view marketing as a flywheel of activities as opposed to the traditional funnel model. The flywheel approach consists of awareness, acquisition, expansion and advocacy.
  • A step that’s missing in growth marketing in a lot of organizations is adoption marketing. Adoption marketing is about ensuring that your customers are successful with what they’ve already bought before you go about trying to expand your presence in their business.
  • Instead of running big virtual events and claiming victory on vanity metrics, marketers should consider the value of “circles,” which are smaller, more intimate gatherings that are easier to engage and have a much greater impact on deal-acceleration.


I don’t use the words ‘funnel’ or ‘demand gen.’ We call it revenue marketing. Because why do any marketing, unless it’s for revenue?
Your job in marketing is to find the fastest path to the most dollars for the sales organization. That’s the guiding principle at the end of the day.
Value is one divided by vanity. You have to take the vanity metrics out of it...We are looking for value not vanity. If my goal is deal acceleration, I should not be worried about vanity metrics, I should only be worried about value metrics.
Advocacy marketing is not them advocating for you, it’s you advocating for them. If you’re doing it well, you’re showcasing how your customers are driving transformational change in their organizations.
Your best salesperson is your customer. if you’ve done a good job of driving value, they’re going to do the selling for you.
I view our website as the most strategic weapon in marketing...I view it as a vehicle for conversation, not just one-way information dissemination. It can be a vehicle to start a conversation and move it forward in the journey. It’s an important asset for us in that way, and it’s a top lead-generation tool as well.

Episode Transcript

(6:30) Out with Demand Generation, in with Revenue Generation, Growth Marketing, and the Flywheel

  • The entire Coupa marketing team calls it “revenue generation” instead of “demand generation,” because why do any marketing if it isn’t for revenue?
  • They’ve replaced the traditional demand gen team with a growth marketing team
  • Growth marketing team doesn’t look at their work as a funnel activity, but instead a flywheel activity

(8:33) How Marketers Find the Fastest Path to the Most Dollars

  • The guiding principle for marketers is how to find the fastest path to the most dollars for the sales team
  • This starts with having a unique playbook for each of your market segments
  • To create the playbook, start with defining your ideal customer profile (ICP) and translate that to a set of target accounts, industries, and regions you want to focus on, then design plays to go after that ICP

(11:05) The Flywheel vs. The Funnel

  • Marketing in the traditional funnel sense has been a sequential problem; a set of activities in the early-to-mid funnel stages that translate into sales in the latter part of the funnel
  • The reality is it’s more of a simultaneous game now. Sales and marketing are simultaneously engaging with the buyer even into late funnel stages.
  • The flywheel approach involves investing equally in awareness, acquisition, expansion, and advocacy to build more sustainable growth, as opposed to heavily investing in top-of-funnel activities that have trickle-down value

(13:37) How Chandar Structures a Growth Marketing Team

  • B2B marketing’s success is dependent on sales and marketing alignment
  • The first thing Chandar does is align a growth marketing leader to a sales segment leader (ex: if there are sales leaders for corporate, mid-market, and enterprise sales segments, then there should be marketing leaders for corporate, mid-market, and enterprise marketing as well)
  • Aligning a cross-sell marketing leader is often a good approach, as many businesses have a cross-sell sales component

(16:16) The Value of Adoption Marketing

  • You need to be surgical in how you attempt to cross-sell into an existing customer; must ensure they’ve successfully adopted and have seen value with the initial products they purchased
  • Adoption marketing is a component that’s missing in a lot of marketing organizations
  • Adoption marketing is about ensuring your customers are successful with what they’ve bought before attempting to expand those customers
  • Customer success can handle successful onboarding and adoption in a one-to-one and one-to-few way, but marketing can augment that in a one-to-many way

(18:47) How to Build an Effective Adoption Marketing Strategy

  • First, assign someone to do it and invest in it. Most companies don’t even do this.
  • Partner with the Chief Customer Officer and team to really understand the journey, what capabilities are most valuable to showcase, and which capabilities are challenging to drive adoption for
  • Build an adoption nurture stream focusing on those capabilities in the first six months of the customer journey. If you wait beyond that, it’s too challenging to drive adoption and you’re running too close to renewal.

(22:41) Chandar’s Uncuttable Marketing Budget Items

  • Chandar would have previously said in-person events were critical for deal acceleration, but today’s world looks very different
  • In recent times, the first uncuttable marketing budget item is digital targeting for target accounts. This is critical to drive awareness and move deals down the funnel with educational marketing content.
  • Second is “circles,” which is a one-to-few style event that gathers a small group of prospects together in an intimate virtual setting to recreate hallway-type conversations
  • Third is content syndication, which has been valuable in the middle of the funnel when you have to earn the right to engage and educate

(29:07) A Look Inside the Adoption Marketing Playbook

  • Work with customer success to map out the customer journey starting on day zero and define what goals you have for the customer for 30 days, 60 days, and 180 days post-implementation
  • Determine which products need to be showcased in order to achieve success by those milestones, and deliver “snackable bites” (3-5 minute video content) to educate the customer
  • Distribute these training tools across marketing platforms as well as community platforms

(35:11) How to Shape a Transformation

  • Think about how to showcase how your community and personas are leading the transformation
  • Advocacy marketing shouldn’t be about how your customers advocate for you, but rather how you advocate for their success
  • At Coupa, they built a community called “Spend Setters” and are showcasing procurement leaders’ success with driving digital transformation in their organizations. It doesn’t highlight Coupa’s product, but instead celebrates the individuals and their company.
  • Making this mental shift ends up driving more long-term benefits than the old case study-centric advocacy efforts

(40:36) Chandar’s “Dust Up”

  • Chandar finds that it’s common between sales and marketing to have disagreements, but they have an obligation to dissent. Group think can be a danger.
  • In a previous company, the marketing team wanted to launch an account-based strategy for mid-market and corporate segments, but the sales team didn’t think that should be a priority over focusing on building the inbound engine
  • In the end, the account-based strategy ended up increasing the ASP by about 40%
  • You won’t have a 100% batting average in your hypothesis and tests, but it’s important to keep swinging

(42:11) The Website is the Most Strategic Weapon in Marketing

  • The website is a vehicle for conversation, not one-way information dissemination
  • It’s an important lead generation tool, not just for acquisition marketing but also for expansion marketing

(43:02) Quick Hits: Getting to Know Chandar

  • First restaurant Chandar will eat at post-COVID: Amber in Santana Row
  • New shelter-in-place habit: Drumming! He bought a set of congo drums. He used to be a drummer in high school.
  • Demand gen advice: Don’t view it as demand gen, view it at growth marketing. The way you call it and the way you view it gets permeated throughout the organization.

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.