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7 Things Uber’s Michelle Lisowski Has Learned from 15 Years of B2B Marketing


February 17, 2021


January 19, 2022

As part of our Fall Webinar Series, Right Side Up Founder Tyler Elliston sat down with Michelle Lisowski, Uber’s Global Head of B2B Marketing, for a fireside chat on all things marketing strategy. You’ll find the key takeaways from their conversation below, and you can tune into the full session on-demand here.

Michelle Lisowski grew up at Google. After starting out on the media side in a time when media sat squarely within the brand and creative team, she not only developed her analytical muscle, but absorbed knowledge and strategy from Google’s early creative directors as they discussed campaigns and critiqued agency work. By the time she left 13 years later, she was the Head of Google Cloud’s global growth marketing team.

After Google, Michelle joined Kabbage, which she described as a startup whirlwind. As Kabbage’s head of brand and growth, she led everything from the nitty-gritty of SEO to building out TV campaigns with a celebrity. 

Today, Michelle is Uber’s global head of B2B marketing, where she oversees Uber for Business, Uber Freight, and the merchant side of the Uber Eats platform

The common thread in all of the roles she has held over the years? She has focused on B2B marketing from the very beginning. Here are seven things Michelle has learned about B2B marketing strategy.

1. When it comes to SMB vs. enterprise marketing, balance is key

Should businesses prioritize SMB or enterprise marketing? This can be a loaded question, as many businesses want to do both. Each comes with its own set of strategies and challenges, and depending on the size of your business, you may not have the resources to tackle SMB and enterprise at the same time. It’s therefore important to understand the key differences between the two.

SMB marketing tends to be more transactional, like consumer marketing. It’s minimal touch/touchless, and marketing and product are typically the primary levers for growth. Enterprise marketing on the other hand has longer sales cycles and requires consistent support to and from a sales team in order to close deals.

Last year, Michelle’s B2B marketing team at Uber had to get really good at both ends of the SMB-to-enterprise marketing spectrum. They doubled down on self-service for small businesses; if they could figure out how to drive a low-touch business with shorter sales cycles, they could turn the self-serve aspect of Uber into a growth engine to scale. On the other end of the spectrum, they focused on improving lead generation, lead nurturing, and their partnership with the sales team. Being forced to each end of the SMB and enterprise spectrum enabled the team to work both of those muscles.

Prioritization for early-stage companies going to market who feel they have applicability across the SMB-to-enterprise spectrum

Michelle faced this challenge on an annual basis during her time at Google, and she’s facing a similar challenge at Uber. She offered a few ways to think about this prioritization:

1. Look externally. Where do you have a good product-market fit? What are your competitors doing? Where do you think you can win?

2. Look internally. Who can you service really well? Under Michelle’s leadership, Uber is focusing on building a better self-serve engine to remove friction from their business sign-up flow. Prior to 2020, Michelle says Uber wasn’t ready to double down there, even if they had seen a really good product-market fit.

3. Make sure you’re instrumented on the sales side. If you’re going to service enterprise organizations, it’s critical that you’re able to measure and track what you’re doing on both the marketing and sales sides.

In Michelle’s experience, deciding whether to target SMBs or enterprise organizations is ultimately a business decision. That said, you should always ask yourself where marketing can have the biggest contribution.

2. Identify your predictable marketing levers

Whether you’re targeting SMBs or enterprise organizations, it’s critical to identify which marketing levers you have at your disposal to bring in more small business sign-ups or leads, and then work towards making those levers predictable. Michelle considers this process fundamental to success.

Examples of B2B marketing levers:

1. Events: In-person events were highly effective prior to 2020. These days, virtual events like webinars and fireside chats are playing increasingly important roles in many B2B marketing strategies.

2. Paid social: In other words, LinkedIn and Facebook ads. Facebook ads tend to work better when targeting SMBs (vs. enterprise orgs), although it takes time, investment, and expertise to develop a mature B2B Facebook ads program.

3. Content: There is a wide range in the type and use of content for a B2B funnel. Content can be published on your website and optimized for search, promoted via paid social, incorporated into email, provided to the sales team, and more. In order for content to succeed, it’s important to understand how it fits in with your other marketing channels, to develop a solid distribution strategy, and to build out a strong nurture flow or SDR function, since content leads tend to be early stage and require quite a bit of warm-up. Content is also a great way to establish your brand platform through thought leadership and provide value for your customers. More on content below.

4. Direct mail: This channel can work very well for both SMB and enterprise. That said, it can be difficult to dabble in for SMB marketing, as response rates are very low, meaning you need volume from a cost perspective to achieve economies of scale. For enterprise, it can be a great early lead capture tool for higher touch clients or way to delight them through a more personal experience.

When you find your predictable levers are providing diminishing returns, you’ll know you’re ready for marketing channel diversification.

3. Find a healthy tension between sales and marketing

It’s healthy for there to be a bit of tension between sales and marketing. By necessity, sales is focused on shorter-term conversions, while marketing leans toward the longer-term. If there’s a good partnership between the two teams, you can end up in a great place.

This is where the importance of predictable levers really comes into play. If a company isn’t able to control the amount of leads coming in, the sales team will be either overwhelmed or idle. As marketing and sales try to find that equilibrium, it’s normal, and productive, for there to be some back and forth.

At the end of the day, sales and marketing need to be aligned

As always, communication is key. It’s unfortunately not unusual for sales and marketing teams to be looking at entirely different reports and data, but believe everyone is on the same page.

It’s also not uncommon for sales and marketing teams to have different KPIs. When Michelle started B2B marketing at Uber, the marketing team held a ton of metrics that the sales team wasn’t interested in. Sales didn’t want to know about leads that could be nurtured for three months—they wanted to know what they could follow up on that day.

It might sound basic, but sales and marketing need to be reporting on the same data, aligned on KPIs, and having regular conversations about growth. In the end, it all comes down to quality demand generation.

4. Create a solid marketing strategy by nailing down what you’re not going to do

Michelle outlined the steps she takes when building a marketing strategy.

Step 1: Think long term

A marketing strategy is, by definition, a long-term, forward-looking approach that guides your marketing activities over time and explains why you’re focusing on those objectives. Creating a long-term plan can be challenging, especially when the marketing landscape is rapidly changing and the baseline numbers you’re working with don’t provide many helpful trends—both of which are issues businesses of all sizes are facing after 2020. Nonetheless, it’s important to have a long-term strategy in place to put a stake in the ground and guide shorter-term marketing activities, even if adjustments are needed over time.

Step 2: Identify your North Star

Per Michelle, one of Uber’s recent goals has been to remove friction within the sign-up funnel. More specifically, they wanted to make it “quick and easy for anyone to get into their product.” This type of objective has become a North Star for organizations; any time you need to make a business or marketing decision, think about whether or not the outcome of that decision will make it quicker and easier for prospects to sign up. Having a North Star can provide the guardrails you need to effectively make day-to-day decisions.

Step 3: Make it clear what you’re not going to do 

This is a great gut check to make sure you’re not trying to do everything. Michelle takes this to an extreme during strategic planning by explicitly outlining what her team isn’t going to do. If you can’t clearly explain what it is you’re not doing, you might not actually have a strong strategy in the first place.

A note on strategies for seed stage companies vs. mature companies

When it comes to marketing strategies, early stage companies often require bigger bets and tradeoffs. For example, a seed stage company might decide to go big on SMB marketing and hold off on enterprise marketing in order to do SMB really well. Mature companies, however, often have more resources available to them and can focus on testing and balancing a wider range of approaches.

5. Get your house in order by nailing demand capture, then move on to other channels

How to think about channel prioritization as an early-stage startup

One fireside chat attendee asked: “You mentioned previously that for early-stage startups, the best results come from prioritizing single channels rather than trying to do everything. What channels would you recommend prioritizing in terms of owned, paid, and earned media at a company’s onset?”

Michelle tends to start with owned media. As she told Tyler, “What I fundamentally believe is that you have to be very, very good at capturing demand. And that’s everything from search to making sure that your website is working really, really hard to get the information of the people coming to it.”

Once you’ve nailed demand capture and SEO, you can explore paid digital channels like Google, Facebook, and, on a smaller scale, LinkedIn. Which one you focus on first depends on a variety of factors, including your industry/product and whether you’re targeting SMBs or enterprise organizations.

It’s worth noting that for very early-stage businesses, especially in B2C and ecommerce, it’s sometimes necessary to allocate a light budget just to get people moving through your site so you better understand where there is room for improvement. It’s all in service of getting your house in order before moving on to paid for growth.

6. Determine the role of content in your marketing strategy

One challenge many early-stage businesses face is deciding whether or not to prioritize content. On one hand, content tends to pay off in the long run, but on the other, these companies need a fast ROI to keep their heads above water. To this, Michelle responds that content plays a very important role in supporting a wide range of marketing initiatives.

In the enterprise space, a business going after larger organizations won’t typically win them over by showing them an ad. Rather, they need to build relationships and credibility, which is very difficult to do without compelling content that positions them as thought leaders in their industry.

In the SMB space, great content is crucial for SEO. If that’s a major marketing lever for you, then it’s very important to invest in content early on. However, if your major lever is paid, which tends to be more transactional, you may be able to get away with less of a focus on content.

7. Never underestimate the power of storytelling

At the very start of this fireside chat, Tyler asked Michelle what important soft skills she has gained from her years of experience in B2B marketing. The one she identified as the most helpful?


As Michelle puts it, B2B is often not viewed “as sexy as consumer,” especially in companies like Google and Uber. It’s a crucial skill to be able to get people excited about what you’re doing, especially within your own organization.

At the end of the day, knowing how to tell and sell your story both internally and externally is key. Figure out how to balance SMB and enterprise tactics, know what predictable marketing levers to engage, develop a strong partnership with your sales team, get your house in order, and know what you’re NOT going to do. And then...get everyone else excited about it.

Interested in discussing your B2B marketing strategy with growth marketing experts at Right Side Up? Reach out to us at hello@rightsideup.co and we'll get back to you stat.

Katie Kearsey is a marketer, storyteller, and people person with more than a decade of experience building consumer and B2B brands with data-driven programs rooted in content, SEO, social, lifecycle, events, community, and more. She's worked with early stage startups and global brands, and enjoys building relationships with colleagues, clients, and partners alike. She has dual citizenship (US/EU) and currently calls Chicago home.

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