Rob Eleveld | Crain's Portland

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Rob Eleveld


Headquartered in Seattle, Whitepages offers digital identification verification services for both consumers and businesses. Whitepages Premium gives consumers access to public records to verify contact information, phone numbers, bankruptcy history, and more. Whitepages Pro provides businesses with enterprise-scale APIs and web tools to help identify legitimate customers and prevent fraudulent transactions.

The Mistake:

Not having a go-to-market strategy.

Whitepages has a B2B solution called Whitepages Pro, which provides identity verification for companies dealing with online fraud. Our core market was e-commerce companies. But over the past couple of years, we slid into what was broadly stated as financial services, which encompassed banking and online lending. We hadn’t, however, focused down on which elements of financial services were best fit for our products, and we didn’t have an aligned strategy.

Instead, we just had a couple of salespeople build a sales plan to go after both banking and online lending. We took a positioning effort we had used for e-commerce, and kind of threw it at the wall for financial services. And we missed. We didn’t hit our numbers, and had to pull back and reset.

We should've had an aligned go-to-market strategy for financial services, rather than just a sales plan.

The Lesson:

We should've had an aligned go-to-market strategy for financial services, rather than just a sales plan. In the B2B world, a go-to-market strategy differs pretty dramatically from a sales plan. A sales plan involves hitting a number that rolls all the way down to each person’s compensation plan and associated quotas. They can work it out for themselves or coordinate with broader management on how they are going to hit that number.

A go-to-market strategy involves integrating the product, the sales and distribution channel, the product marketing and positioning, and the sales team or partner team that will distribute that out in the market. It’s the whole effort. When only a couple of those things are aligned, you either end up wasting resources or you miss your targets and goals. That happened to us.

We’ve since spent the last six months kind of resetting and putting together a cross-functional team comprised of a product manager, a product marketer and a sales executive to create an integrated go-to-market strategy for online lending.

Had we done that sooner, we would have known that the product was a much better fit for that market, rather than traditional banking, where most people are still going into branch offices and there’s less disruption in the market. But we know that now.

Follow Whitepages on Twitter at: @Whitepages

Pictured: Rob Eleveld | Photo courtesy of Whitepages

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