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In this Heavybit Fireside Chat, Netlify Head of Marketing Erin Symons and Kamal Thakarsey, VP of Growth & Demand Generation at Algolia, share the stage to give their tips on a successful early-stage marketing strategy and team.
Topics include when to hire your first marketing person, how to deliver content and messaging around user personas, and which tools can help you scale up. Erin and Kamal turn to the audience and answer questions around what activities to invest in (is re:Invent worth the dough?), how to approach developer- versus enterprise-based marketing, and when to bring on an external PR or marketing firm. Check out the full talk and transcript below.
Erin Symons: I think we’ll get started. We’ll tell you a little bit about who we are, a little bit about what we’re going to talk about, and then we’re going to chat for about a half an hour. And after that we’ll do Q&A.
Kamal Thakarsey: Perfect.
Erin: I’ll start. My name is Erin, as she mentioned, and my background for the past 10-ish years has been in some variation of business-to-business technology marketing.
I’ve worked for some super sexy companies like Github and OpenDNS, also been the first marketing hire at a really tiny startup that didn’t go anywhere. So we can talk about all those experiences today. That’s me, yeah.
Erin: Yeah make it difficult. I want to talk about benchmarking conversion rates.
Kamal: That’s right.
Erin: Okay, so what we think would be a good place to talk, because I think all of you come from different backgrounds, we have some people who just started their companies and some people who have been working in very specific roles in marketing. And so we’re just going to start from the beginning.
Where do you get started if you’re just growing out your team? And then we’re going to talk a little bit about scale. How do you then build on what you’ve started? And then ultimately, how do you use tools and technology to extend that even further? And then we’ll jump into a Q&A.
Kamal: Yeah perfect.
Erin: We thought a good place to get started is actually getting started, some of the earliest tactics that you can focus on. We want you to have some practical things to walk away with.
So if you’re just a couple of co-founders, maybe a couple of engineers, maybe even you have a support person. Kamal, you want to dive into what you might think about as earliest tactics?
Kamal: Absolutely, yes. This is like the Vegas of vague questions to start with. I think maybe it’s perfect because there’s so many different directions and things you can point your direction when you’re thinking about marketing, especially even before you have any marketers.
You can focus on content and digital and events and docs, and there’s so many different things. I think one of the key things that I’ve learned along the ways is just that there’s a different path to success for every single company. No company gets to that success looking like every other company before that’s done there and been there, and so I think
one of the things that we want to take away is be flexible and be open-minded about where you want to try and where you want to test.
That then leads me to, you’re early, you probably don’t have any marketers. What are the first few things that you may be thinking about to really get started and to really start thinking about where do we, actually maybe just point our direction to get that first few momentum pieces going.
One of the areas, I think, is really just building that culture of marketing within any organization. And almost that thought that every single person in your company is a marketer.
What I mean by that is there are so many different aspects and interactions you have, whether you’re at a meet-up, you’re actually talking to customers in a support role, you’re at a conference, you’re thinking about going to, or writing a blog post.
Every single one of those interactions is marketing in itself, and so building that early culture and getting the employee buy-in, and allowing them to help participate too.
Going back to my PagerDuty days, one of the things I remember fondly of, the first week I got there, the first person, there was like nine Daves when we had 50 people, and one of the nine Daves comes up to me and is like, “Hey, I was the first PM and I’m doing the search.” Started the page search and then there’s another Dave that comes up, he’s like, “I’m the one that helped build the website.”
There’s all these different people along the way that contributed in different areas. It was just refreshing to see that everyone was really thinking about marketing and was really behind what it needed to do to look like success. So finding those people, building that muscle early on I think is really important.
Then I think it’s really some of the tactics, and I think you’ll get to some of that. I think you probably have some thoughts around this, but content early on is key. I think figuring out the content, starting to talk about what you’re doing and what’s important to you and how you’re changing the world, really matters.
Going to events, speaking at meetups, interacting with others, talking about and sharing your experiences and learnings I think always starts that momentum. And then I think the other big thing is
your website is your biggest asset outside of your product. Really think about optimizing your website.
There’s so many companies that I’ve been at or I’ve seen where the website is so poorly constructed, doesn’t really tell you anything and you’re probably leaving dollars and leads on the table.
So those are probably the areas I’d start at. I know you’ve probably had a lot of experiences along the way and maybe things to share too.
Erin: I think particularly as we’re talking to developer tool companies, we sort of have a luxury of knowing that we’re all pretty much like-minded and that creating content, super useful content to help developers do things. And building community is really important.
Let’s assume that even as an early-stage, team early-stage company you’re thinking about those things. I wanted to call out some pro tips for how to divide your time. One of them is, like you mentioned, every moment is a marketing moment.
Maximize your encounters. If you are getting a lot of really great tweets, turn those tweets into conversations that turn into case studies that turn into content on your website.
If you have support questions that are requiring a lot of time from your one support person or your half-time support person/engineer, turn that into an FAQ that turns into an update to your docs that turns into content on a marketing landing page. So make the most of every encounter.
You mentioned using the marketers you have. I’ve been at companies where marketing is kind of a scary term. I don’t want to be a marketer, I want to be a developer, I want to work in docs.
I would just flip that and say, figure out what makes people feel satisfied and excited. We have an open source project and encouraging other people to make their first commit to an open source project, that is marketing.
But if your docs person gets excited by doing that, then help them build a goal around getting people to make their first commit to your open source project. It’s not always just giving talks and writing blog posts. It’s just creating and reinforcing those moments.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but be ridiculously generous. I don’t know, how many people in here are wearing a company T-shirt, have a sticker on their laptop or a hoodie?
Swag is kind of our currency, but generosity goes beyond swag. So if you’re already doing that well, figure out other ways to be generous.
Especially as a founder, taking a minute to reply to people’s tweets. But even anyone in the organization. If you’re an engineer, taking a minute and having coffee with someone just starting out and helping them understand how you built your own architecture. Writing a blog post on how you’re building your stack.
Those are all ways to be generous where you’re sharing what your experience was and you’re giving back to a community in a way that I selfishly call marketing.
And then the last one, I think this is close to your heart too, but avoid the “shoulds.” And this applies as much at five people as it does at 35 with a team of five in marketing.
You don’t need to go to South by Southwest and have a massive activation. You don’t need an April Fool’s joke. You’re never going to do it as good as Google and it’s a massive waste of your resources. You mentioned a really good one, don’t spend 100 grand at re:Invent.
Kamal: There’s so many different things, yeah it’s easy to get stuck in trying to do everything at once. Just really focus on the few things and try to do those right. I think that’s the key.
The swag thing was really important. I think the reason I wanted to say is PagerDuty had this really quirky brand early on. And we had these cool “Don’t hate the Pager, hate the game” tag lines.
Those resonated so well and people would line up out the door to grab these T-shirts and you’d see them all around the city and you’d see them all around different even cities you’d go to outside San Francisco.
I think that kind of branding really helped take us off in the developer community, beyond, and just spending some money on some AdWords or other things that might, that might be another alternative.
Erin: The best time to do that is when you are really small. Because when you hire a marketing team and tell them to come up with something clever, it’s like when someone says, “Be funny,” or you speak another language and someone says, “Say something in French.” That never works how you think it’s going to work.
Let the founders, the people who are super close to it come up with those tag lines and the swag and ideas that are going to connect with your audience.
Because ultimately, they’re building something for themselves.
Kamal: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So maybe next topic, I think hiring always comes up when I talk to people. People are always curious, “When are we ready to hire the first marketing person?”How would you answer that and what advice would you give?
Erin: Okay, great question. When are we ready to hire the first marketing person? I think the scenarios that we’ve just described, all of them pull attention from core product development or even if you’re a technical co-founder doing engineering work.
And so when you feel like you’ve had your attention repeatedly pulled in these other directions, but you’re starting to feel an itch, and I hate to say this, there’s just a gut feel, but
you’re starting to feel this itch of, “I’m spending all of my time over here and I no longer know what’s happening over here,” that’s probably a good time to hire your first marketing person for a couple of reasons.
One, you’ve probably spread yourself thin enough that you don’t know what your programs are doing or whether or not if you do more of the same it will have returns for you. You also probably don’t have enough bandwidth to start introducing dimensionality or different kinds of experiments.
So having somebody who’s focused on marketing to start thinking about those things, to take audit of what your site looks like, what your messaging looks like, how your AdWords are performing, what your very basic email campaigns are doing. And then think about optimizing those and introducing some new core programs, is probably the right time.
Kamal: Yeah, makes sense.
Erin: What do you think?
Kamal: For me, I think it’s also that the “when” is also important, you never want to do it too late. From personal experience, I’ve always gone into a company where I am hired and in the first month they’re like, “Okay, these are your goals that we’ve already set for you because you missed the planning session.”
And then you need to double your leads by month three or something. So I’m like, “Okay, well, if you wanted us to do that, you probably needed to hire me six months ago.”
I guess the recommendation is how do you plan in advance and foresee the challenges? Because your leads or your signups or your trials or whatever you’re doing, you’re not going to scale linearly.
Maybe early on you’re getting a lot of momentum, you think things are great and we can put off hiring the marketing person now or wait a little longer. But sooner than you think you probably are going to need that help and that muscle to start thinking about what’s next and what do we do beyond this.
Hiring takes a long time, so you could think about a three-month process of just finding the right person.
Then I would think once that person is hired you’re probably looking at about a three-month ramp for them to get up to speed.
Just like any sales rep comes aboard and there’s that sales ramp. You’re going to be trying to get up to speed yourself in a marketing role too, learning all the systems, learning what’s worked, what’s not worked. Even trying to figure out if some of this information is available and then start putting the programs in place to actually get going.
So for me one of the advice I give is just really think about, start foreseeing some of the challenges and areas you want to grow into maybe six months in advance. And don’t wait before it’s too late, because I think then you get stuck in this place where you needed the help and now you’re waiting for this person to ramp up and maybe you have this unrealistic expectations for them to start, off the bat.
Erin: Yeah and I think that I’m going to talk a little bit about what that first hire might look like. But to your point about not waiting till it’s too late.
The thing about it is, if you make the right first marketing hire, there’s no shortage of work.
What I mean by the first marketing hire is I think of this person as being sort of capable of doing what I would call “the five C’s,” which makes sense, he’s a marketer so I give things clever names. So, customer, content, community, campaigns…
Kamal: I don’t even know what the other one is. Community, customers, content, campaigns…
Erin: I don’t know, there’s one more C in there. Tweet at me, I’ll tell you. But basically your omni marketer, this person is probably really, really good at writing. Maybe they’ve spent a couple years at an agency and they’ve done, put a lot of pitching, they’ve put together some basic social media programs, some messaging, they’ve written a ton of blog posts.
Even if you’re a developer tool company and you’ve already got somewhat of a content creation engine from either a dev advocate or somebody who’s straddling that role with engineering, maybe it’s coming out of docs for support.
This is a person who can think about taking that content and making it most relevant to the people that they put in front of, sort of framing a story around it.
Even if you’ve got basic information on your brochure website, they can think about organizing that information in a way that’s responsive to the people who are starting to arrive at your site so that they ultimately sign up for your product.
I think the thing that’s especially interesting about hiring someone with this type of profile, is that they can expand in a lot of different directions.
So they have basic skill set and basic breadth around introducing your first real email campaigns or starting to organize your content strategy or what looks like a strategy at that point. But they also have the potential to drill into each of those avenues and then optimize some of the MBPs that they put together.
Kamal: That makes a lot of sense. Cool.
Erin: I think one of the other things that we were chatting a little bit before and you mentioned is like even if you have these skills you can hire a person that looks really good on paper but they don’t necessarily have the right temperament or the right skill set, the right profile to be your best first hire. Do you want to talk about some of those?
Kamal: I worked at large companies, I’ve worked at small companies that have scaled, and I’ve seen the differences in the profiles and people and what they look like. I think there’s a couple personality traits that early companies should be thinking about in terms of what they should be looking for. And I didn’t think of this myself.
One of the articles I’ve come across was this Google article about what they look for in employees. And you’re probably going, “Google’s like tens of thousands of people. Why is this relevant to startups?” But I think it actually hit me home and it really applies here.
One of the first things is hiring a profile of someone that’s very curious. So someone that’s really coming in and not just accepting things as it is but really trying to figure out what’s working, what’s not working. Challenging why are we doing it this way, why can’t we do it this way, can we improve here? And really pushing the boundaries.
Then the second trait that was listed in this article was just persistence, the idea that you’re curious and you have all these ideas and some people are always thinking about the ideas and the strategy and so forth, but they can’t execute and actually make it happen. The idea of persistence of someone that actually can drive this cross-functional change, influence cross-functionally what needs to happen, get the buy-in and so forth.
And so that early entrepreneurship mindset of just curiosity and persistence I think is something that I always test for in interviews and try to weed out good candidates/bad candidates. And when I say easy, it’s easy to ask for people’s experiences.
But I really try to nail into, we were trained in behavioral interviewing at PagerDuty and the concept is
really ask for specific examples of how they did something and really drill in what they did, how they did it, who they worked with and really find out how that it would apply to you and your company.
So those traits always stuck out.
Then a third thing, which is a little different, is being adaptable. There’s people along the way at every startup that are going to fall off because they just couldn’t scale and they just couldn’t figure out their fit.
I’ve said this to our Algolia team in one of our offsites recently, is there was this article on First Round I probably read like five years ago. This one was about the analogy was using was Legos.
You’re a kid playing with Legos and someone kind of takes one of your Legos away and your first reaction is to grab the Lego back, because it’s mine. And so thinking about that, it’s like all the things that you own when you’re at an early startup.
You focus on a lot of things. You might be doing like five or six different things, as Erin said, but over time you start adding more and more employees. People are taking things away, and I think
the key thing is finding people that are adaptable and not that have that big ego.
People that can think about, “Okay, what’s the next big problem I can solve? Where is the next big impact I can make?” Because that’s really going to help the company scale and become more efficient, rather than trying to keep tinkering with the one thing that you already working on.
So those things have always resonated with me in terms of who I’m hiring for, in terms of like their personalities and skill sets and so forth.
Erin: I think what you said actually makes a lot of sense because I was thinking about my fifth C. It’s actually communication, but someone mentioned conversion and when I think about that first profile actually I think about those five Cs, the breadth of them really being about reach.
And so when you think about conversion, it’s about taking that reach and turning it into your funnel. I don’t know why I rolled my eyes, I think funnels are cool. But so when you start to put people down that funnel then you’re thinking about conversion.
I think what you’re getting at is how can that first hire become adaptable so that as you start to, okay, we’ve figured out audience, we’ve figured out awareness, we’ve figured out how to get our message out there.
Now we need to make sure that when these people actually become aware of our product and that it aligns with their problem, how do we get them to sign up and use it to solve it?
So, do you want to talk a little bit about the different maybe first areas that you could start to add as you expand? As you start to think about things like beyond just awareness but growth, conversion, upsell, etc.
Kamal: So in terms of what? Like tooling?
Erin: I think we have field marketing, operations. We have communications, PR, some of the different disciplines that we might add to a smaller team.
Kamal: As I think about the next few hires, you maybe have a core of two or three do-all people. There’s probably a content person, a product/product marketing person. You might have a demand-gen person or a customer person. There’s probably a couple like early roles that are, like we talked about, that jack-of-all-trades.
The next group of maybe four or five roles that I think are important to start thinking about are really around operations.
As you start getting bigger and bigger, you really want to track and measure and make sure you’re setting up your infrastructure and all your systems correctly and aligning it with the sales motion and the product instrumentation and so forth. And so I think that’s a very important hire.
You probably want to start thinking about that demand-gen-growth-hybrid player depending on your motion, if you’re going after enterprises or you’re going after a large developers and figuring out what are the programs and initiatives that are going to drive some of that motion and inbound.
We dabbled in a lot of events, not just going to trade shows. We’re also talking about hosting our meetups and community events and thinking about local field events where we would go to a city and invite prospects or customers and really show off some of the cool things we’re doing, high-touch, low-cost way.
Those may be the first three or four roles after that initial wave that we hired that we looked for. And then as you start going into new markets, new areas, you start beefing up customer marketing, PR, you start thinking about maybe more content writers and folks that are really start thinking about the next piece to scale some of these programs that are working.
Digital marketing, etc. It kind of all comes in waves and so forth and to be honest, every six months we were changing. So every six months we were really re-assessing what are the needs, and not just what we need now but what do we foresee we need six to 12 months from now, as we talked about.
Erin: Yeah and I think even as you’re approaching maybe 10 people on your marketing team, as long as you’re thinking, because those early roles are going to have so much breadth to them, as long as you’re thinking about hiring someone not to do a job, “Oh, we need an events person, we committed to all these sponsorships, and we’re hosting all these minutes, we need an events person.”
But rather to solve a problem, like, “We want to have more face time with our community,” or “We want to turn our users into fans and be able to measure that down the road.” You’re going to set yourself up better to scale.
Maybe a couple other like pro tips around that first hire or first couple of hires. I was going to say just be careful you don’t get too top-heavy too fast. You are going to meet a lot of shiny objects, you’re going to meet a lot of people that are super cool and super sexy and seem like they they worked at the coolest companies and you want to do what they did.
That is probably not the person that did what they did. There was a team of that person. So just think be careful not to hire your CMO when you’ve got 20 people.
If you are shipping something new, a feature every two weeks, there has to be it comms or marcoms person to communicate that to your users in an effective way as part of the bigger story that you want to tell them over the course of two, three, four quarters.
So make sure you hire out for that or if you scale sales because you have new revenue goals, sales that doesn’t just mean creating more demand. It doesn’t just mean creating more product marketing or case studies. It doesn’t just mean post-sale customer marketing. It means all of that.
Then the last one was, just think about boundaries.
One of the things that I see in marketing, and it happens with support and docs too particularly, there’s a lot of invisible work that happens.
Marketing people can become your words person really easily. They go from putting together a marketing strategy to writing and product copy because they’re good with words and they make things sound better. But while that work is super important, it also takes time so it can seem invisible super fast.
I’m guilty of this on the engineering side. “Hey, can you just make this one quick change,” not realizing that that might mean a full build or whatever. So just think about it from that perspective.
Okay, so we talked about marketing, we also talked about marketing. Let’s talk about tools. Once you hire some people, once you scale out your team a little bit,
the smarter, cheaper, faster way to scale is with technology.
Kamal: You guys have probably seen the Martech 5000 if you haven’t, Google it, it’s quite ridiculous. It’s this infographic that’s published every year of all the different tools in the marketing ecosystem.
There’s literally 50 categories of tools from everything from like lead scoring to advertising to account-based marketing, all these buzzwords that probably don’t really help you very much. And there’s literally 5,000 vendors across this stack, and you’re like, where do you even get started. What do you need early on and what do you need later to scale?
So we’ll kind of just give you a few tips and suggestions. My recommendation early on is you probably don’t even need much. You probably are going to be scrappy and
some of the things that you really want to focus on I would say is making sure you have your Google Analytics and your metrics and what you’re tracking, figure it out.
How are you instrumenting user behavior on your website, how are you instrumenting learning and tracking different channels of leads into your data warehouse or wherever you’re collecting information, so that way you’re building a foundation to set up for later.
And then there’s probably some sort of, I know you’ll disagree on this, but you probably need some sort of email tool where you’re thinking about how you’re going to reach your customers. And that doesn’t mean go out and buy a heavy marketing automation tool which is going to require a full-time person and that.
You might buy one of the more lighter weight tools as an interim to a leap toward a full-blown automation tool in time.
And then I think as you start scaling, there’s a lot of other tools that come into play. So some of the things that I would need in every company is an optimization tool. Today you know because we’re small and scrappy at Algolia, we’re using Google Optimize, which is a free part of our Google Analytics.
Something like an Optimize is something I’ve used regularly in almost every company I’ve been at. You’re going to want something like a Kissmetrics that’s giving you information about user behavior and the attribution on where people are going.
There’s things like Crazy Egg which helps you understand where people are doing what on your website and the behaviors and patterns of where they’re going. And then there’s all the advertising tools that you’re going to be exposed to. There’s all the attribution tools that you might need. I think those are the foundational tools, at least that I’ve started with.
Then I think everything else to me starts sounding like buzzwords and then you really have to strip out the noise. I think everyone’s talking about account-based marketing and there’s like 30 vendors that do, there’s probably account-based marketing is a discipline of 10 things and
there’s maybe 100 vendors and everyone says they do account-based marketing, and you don’t know what you need to actually do the whole thing.
So rather than fall in the trap of trying to get one thing and then not be able to do all of it, you could probably get by and do some of the principles of companies marketing through using your Google AdWords and doing retargeting to a specific set of companies, using your database and going after outbound with your reps and getting by with some of the early tactics and just being a little more scrappy until you really start thinking about needing it.
Then maybe hire a full-time person that can really figure out what its going to take to scale those programs out.
For me, it’s really about the tracking and the metrics and some of the early optimization that I would really focus on.
But that’s me and I come from a transactional background company. I don’t know if you guys use anything different or you guys thought about anything differently.
Erin: No, I think you really nailed it. If I had to summarize and maybe call out one or two points it would be, product-centric companies, particularly technology companies, were really good at building products and applying these principles around scaling in response to need.
But the tension is that marketers are really good at marketing. And so you imagine the people that are building marketing tools are really good at making you think that you need them.
If you can resist that tension and build out only when you need to solve a specific problem, not because you think you should be doing something, then you’ll be in a much better situation.
As a rule of thumb, if something costs $10,000 you probably don’t need it. You don’t need an analyst subscription, you don’t need PR contact software, you probably don’t even need super expensive webcast software to run your first webcast series. So just keep that in the back of your mind.
Kamal: I think just to add to that, I think you hit it perfectly home, is that you don’t want to go overboard. The cost of these tools is one thing but then you also have people to support it and that takes away from other things.
If those people leave or if those people are focused on other initiatives, that tool goes to die. And so you’re stuck with paying something significant for something you’re not even really fully using.
So just really be, in a way, leery but also be open minded to, “Is it really going to help us, what are the things that can help us do?” But make sure we have a plan on how we’re going to leverage it.
Erin: Yeah, I think that you thought I might disagree with you when it came to email, mostly because email software in particular. I wouldn’t. I think MailChimp is a great tool to grow with you and you can build really awesome integrations with Salesforce. Or maybe with something custom that you want to do based on wherever it is you’re storing your user data.
What I would be conscientious about is what the trade-offs are, do you need to figure out how to manage two separate unsubscribe bases later on? Do you need to figure out an architecture where you’ve got sales emails, transactional product emails and marketing emails that all live in different places?
So just being thoughtful of those things and knowing how hard any kind of migration is.
Try not to make the mistake early that you have to pay for later, future-us has to pay for.
Kamal: I’m laughing because I’m thinking about GDPR in my head and like that so. I think we’re out of time, actually. So we might just need to get to Q&A. But I think we covered almost everything.
Erin: I can take this one because I’ve actually just recently had this exact challenge. Netlify‘s about 25 people now and our marketing team is me and an awesome dev advocate. And as much as I’ve spent the last 10, 12 years doing B2B and business-to-developer marketing, my forte is not PR by any stretch of the imagination.
However, one thing our co-founders have done really really well is build a network of advisers and influencers.
And so what we were able to do is basically we just recently basically relaunched. We launched the new branding, we launched a new pricing model and we launched some really cool features.
What we were able to do is reach out to our experts, Malia from Heavybit helped me get a ton of PR contacts, she helped us with some of the pitching. We’re also funded by Andreessen and Bloomberg Beta, both of whom have awesome PR people who helped out.
The one thing I will say the mistake that I made is that when you get help from experts what you’re really paying for is their relationships as much as their time. So you can craft a wonderful message, that’s something I’d be wary of.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with really awesome well-known PR firms in the city who worked with really large companies. But when you’re telling a very specific story, it’s hard to get them to tell that story the way you would tell it.
Be diligent about crafting your message and then make sure you’re very clear about what you want the outcome to be.
If it’s what you want, like a quantity of specific kinds of stories, or do you need help figuring out how to position your story and then build your strategy from there. Don’t just default to, “We need PR, therefore we need a firm.”
Kamal: First it starts with who you’re going after. I assume because we’re Heavybit, it’s probably some sort of developer focused audience. What level are they? Are they manager or are they the actual developer? Try to just figure out who they are and where they operate, and so forth.
I think the next piece is then really to understand how can you reach them in a way without having to start spending globs of money. I think email is obviously one good channel and that’s where I would start thinking about how do you host some meetups, how do you actually do some of those more scrappy engagements where you can get that high-touch.
And then you might want to just think about how do you partner with other companies, how do you actually leverage some other folks in your network to tell that story together out there through some sort of partner network.
Then you talked about docs as an area that you guys focus a lot on that drove a lot of traffic inbound. Maybe you can cover that in a second.
We at Algolia spend a lot of time giving developer community gifts that are basically using our search experience and allowing them to embed it within some of their sites.
Allowing, basically, that gift to be seen by many many people, and that in turn has led to a lot of inbound traffic for us and people to see our benefits.
I think you just have to get creative and think outside the box. It’s like,
how do you take your product and how do you get it out to mass appeal by either building something for them, allowing them to play around with something, making something easily shareable or accessible and then going from there?
And that might be trying three or four or five different things and seeing 90% of them fail. But that one thing that’s going to stick might actually be the one that starts that trajectory. You want to add anything there?
Erin: Just one quick thought to reinforce this idea of being ridiculously generous, building open-source tools or tools that allow people to, maybe not just solve a problem but understand their problem, at that early stage is great. Email is awesome, but email is to an audience that you already own. So how do you get in front of people that you don’t own or don’t yet know that they have a problem?
I think about something like Matt and Chris built when they were just getting started at Netilfy, was, “Test my site. How slow is my site?” We build up super lightning fast. We have a super lightning fast global CDN and we can make your site a lot faster. So let’s help you understand whether or not your site is fast or slow.
That’s the type of thing that if you are just generous and spending your time doing that, people become self-aware and then they’re very thankful to you for having helped them understand that problem.
Own the fact that you’re a badass engineer or something, and you can go out and give talks and show people how to do that and show them who else has done it. Spend a lot of time, like he said, where people are. Answer questions on Stack Overflow, write articles on Medium, Twitter. Just spend a lot of time where people are.
Kamal: So your second question was around the website traffic and how you optimize that, maybe, absence of a lot of traffic. Common thing, so when we were at WebEx we used to test the shit out of everything. That was one of our core principles. I actually swore.
That was one of our core principles just to test everything and often. We used to get a lot of traffic. And then I went to Moran’s software and that testing principle is in my mind. You go there, and this is a company it’s very enterprise-y and a fraction of the traffic. So you just couldn’t test a lot of things in a reasonable amount of time to get any learnings stuff.
I think at that point you have to use some intuition and gut.
I think at the end of the day constantly understanding your metrics and the user flows like what they’re doing on the website where they’re dropping off potentially and really optimizing for the behaviors and the flows.
Google Analytics will give you like information like where people are clicking, what they’re doing, where they’re dropping off from. And there’s probably sites in other areas that you might want to just think about emulating, that are like, hey, these are like well built, they tell a good story, it’s clear to the point.
I think if I give you some more tangible advice it’s that
I hate going to sites where I have no idea what they do. The wording is just over complicated. Sometimes it’s better just to dumb it down for a second-grader tone just so it’s easy and clear, hey, this is what we do and this is how we’re going to help you.
You might want to play around with, if you’re going after developers and I think we were talking about this earlier, is your messaging going to be more towards your solution and your offering, or is it more value based?
The marketers are always taught, “Think about value before the solution.” but maybe in the early phase as you’re trying to get that momentum to that developer space and getting them to see and feel the product, you might talk about more of the actual products and features.
And so I think that’s where I would play around with a lot of that. Again like you said, you might not be able to like test this A/B, but you’ll be able to think about where are the choke points and how do you get better.
The principle of marketing is, when you’re talking about messaging you can talk about the features that you’re selling. “We have this feature that does this, we have that feature that does that,” and cool, it tells you exactly what you do. But when you’re selling to your persona or whoever you are going after, the idea that they might not care about the feature, they want to know how this actually benefits them.
So, is this saving them time? Is it going to help them make more money? Is it going to do XYZ better? And so value selling is always the direction that you want to go to because that also then shows off…
If someone’s only seeing the features they might not think they realize it or they need it but when you’re talking about the value it becomes a lot more stickier and you expose them to a lot more of the opportunity there. So, anything to add there?
Kamal: Look, I think AWS is like a great show. We go every year and we’ve actually started spending more and more every year we go. It’s just very crowded. It’s also very expensive. And unless you go in with a plan, you might not get the most value out of spending $100 thousand.
So you might want to have a presence. Maybe early on you go to AWS, you have some people that are on the floor, maybe you host something on-site where you get someone to a side meetup or a party or something around it. And then maybe as you get bigger and you start generating more revenue, maybe that’s when you start investing in something like a conference where it makes sense.
That’s how I’m thinking about it. It’s always worked really well for us. AWS was the biggest lead generator and where we anchored a lot of our messaging and releases around, too. So if done right and if you’re able to rally around your resources to that, I think it’s a fantastic conference.
I’m just trying to make sure as you think about it don’t go all eggs in basket in that one thing. But I know of other companies, which I probably shouldn’t say, but I know some companies that have gone all-in on AWS and have done really well too.
Thing is, they took their entire company there. They flew every 40 person team at that point they were all hands on deck. Everyone was aggressive, everyone was thinking about leads and revenue and pipeline and meetings and using that time as effective as possible. So it’s really the mindset you go in with it.
Erin: This is one of my favorite topics. Nerd alert.
I think that there’s this massive misconception in developer marketing, where there’s this idea of enterprise versus developer, and that you have developer-centric messaging and you have enterprise-centric messaging. And that these “enterprise people” are like cold dark gray thunder clouds and these developers are like beautiful sunshine rainbows and that’s how we talk to them and then this is how we talk to enterprise people.
And so if I’m answering particularly around the messaging, what I would tell you is that all this, we would call it persona development, but
all this is is understanding who the people are who are actually buying your products and which type of products they’re buying and where they come into the buying cycle.
I had a conversation with our Head of Sales yesterday. One of the things we were talking about as he was talking me through his deal cycle is, when in your deal cycle, which in Salesforce his has five stages, which of these stages do you encounter someone who is not either an engineer or some sort of engineering manager? And the answer right now is almost never.
To me, that says we’re all sunshine and rainbows across the board. It’s just a matter of what type of problem we’re solving for each of those people and how we talk to them about how they understand our product and what it does for their team.
So in as far as messaging goes,
I would say avoid the trap of becoming an enterprise silo and and a developer silo.
In fact, what you’ll ultimately end up with is one really gorgeous funnel that has dual outputs. And one of those outputs puts maybe faster direct track to revenue at scale, and the other is more about growing individual usage.
And then in terms of the actual contact flow, we were talking a little bit about this earlier about how you make sure you have synchronicity between where you store your user data and where you store your contact data. So making sure that if you have information in Salesforce you can map a user all the way through.
One of the things at Github that we saw was that overwhelmingly, six-figure deals came from an individual advocate who loved Github and fought for it in their organization. And then it was an engineer and their manager, and their manager and their manager, and then maybe along the line we introduced a CTO and then it was the CIO and then it was a security team.
But we had an answer in a way of speaking to each of those personas and it didn’t have to be thunder clouds and rain and bad weather. If it’s a different persona than the individual developer that’s going and advocating for your tool within those organizations, maybe it is that VP of engineering who’s looking to understand how this solves a very specific problem for them, they might arrive on your site at a different type of landing page that has specific messaging for them.
And then you’d know that they’re more likely to be in a position where they want to talk to a sales rep, versus explorer documentation and spin up the prototype or project. And if that’s the case then you’re really optimizing for that person’s journey into a specific landing page on your site.
Obviously you want to avoid, “Sign up here. Talk to our enterprise reps here,” because that’s not the same person. And if it is the same person, look for leading indicators of how they behave in the product.
Do you have grayed out areas where people can start to add administration constraints to their account? Have they started to explore that? Give them a path to talk to sales through that avenue once they’ve indicated likelihood to buy or that they likely would have a team that would need to buy this thing.
Kamal: Yeah, I think the other thing I would just maybe add to that is I don’t think the two different call to actions were multiple is necessarily a bad thing. You might want to test out the journeys and the pathways there.
But I always am a big believer different people will enter the paths or the funnels differently and some people are more willing to take a trial and play around with it and want to be more hands-on and some people want to talk to a salesperson or some people want to see some videos.
You don’t want to give them too many options, because you want to narrow down their options. But at the same time you might want to just figure out where are they landing, where are they coming from, who is that person and what are they most likely to want to do. So if it is a VP or someone that’s a manager, they may be are less likely like play around with it and configure.
But they maybe want actually just talk to someone and think about is this the right thing for us today. Where it’s if it’s more of the developer/end user, they more likely want to play around with it and see how, is this actually going to work for us?
I’m open-ended on that I think you can kind of in worst case if you have the traffic, test it. You can figure out like if I remove one of the CTAs, are we going to get more of that one or just figure out what is actually working for us.
This has been fun.
Erin: Yeah, I don’t want to interrupt beer time.
Kamal: I know. You’re welcome, I mean, thank you all for being here.
Erin: You’re welcome.
Kamal: Thank you for being here. We’re going to stick around, so we’re happy to answer more questions.
Erin: Yeah, please.