Top ten secrets to hypergrowth

Bill Macaitis, Former CMO @ Slack & Zendesk Macaitis Advisory
Sales & Marketing Stage
Ascent Conference 2020

[00:00:01] Hey, everyone, Bill Macaitis here, thank you so much for taking a little bit of time out of your busy day. I’m gonna be talking with you today about some hypergrowth, strategies that hopefully you can leverage for your own companies. So let’s kick this off when we start sharing my screen here and there we go. So, yeah, unicorn growth strategies, let’s dive in. So a little bit of my background. I’ve been doing online marketing leadership roles for 20 years. I did my first startup right out of college. We had no idea what we were doing and we didn’t even know there are things about leases that give you money. And so we we had to use every, you know, organic inbound growth method out there. We use like SEO and viral and word of mouth PR, anything that would help grow that sites and Magots a 10 million members. We had an early three year subscription model. We were profitable. We ended up selling it from there at once, worked for had a larger Internet media type property. So I joined Entertainment Run Tomato’s Ask Men built it up to about one hundred million revenue and decided to go public. But at the last minute we got we got acquired by News Corp and I continued on there. And so I led a centralized marketing team for some really great properties like Fox Sports and Wall Street Journal and American Idol. They had a really big network and we helped build that up to the third largest network in the world. Loved it because I liked building, you know, helping with these brands and helping build up the growth strategies. And around that time, we actually I got a call from Salesforce and Mark was looking to infuse some BTC into the company. And so I had an awesome chance to come in with Salesforce pretty early and help build that out. And it was a lot of fun because Salesforce at that point was not at the salesforce that we know today. It was still like cloud was a new thing and helping create that category and educate people and start to like really create the brand and the messaging and the growth engine behind. It was super fun. And I love this. I worked for about four years there, then went over to Zendesk, an awesome opportunity to come in as the CMO and help build up that marketing team. We took them to an IPO process. And lastly, most recently with Slack and where I came in again really early as CMO, built up the team there and also took out more of a CEO type role. So I let the sales success, support and marketing all the customer facing teams at that point about about twenty years. I was really fortunate about we had about four or five exits in there and just decided that I wanted to kind of shift and help leverage other companies to, you know, tap into that knowledge. And so now what I do full time is I run advisory business where I either come in as an advisor, as an independent board member and help companies grow and scale and kind of teach them all the great things and strategies and tips that helped our companies grow, helped build up their marketing or helped build their tech stock. So I love it. I love working with great startups. I think this is the golden age of building companies and it’s such an honor to be part of some great companies. So with that, like, let’s dove in like, hey, you know, if I had to distill down, like, the top strategist that I thought really helped us out at Salesforce, Anderson Slack, these are all those little mini lessons. The first one is this idea of customer centricity. Right. And it was something when I came to Salesforce, Mark was always really passionate about Marc Benioff, always talked about the customer and their customer success. And, you know, when you think about it, the brand, it’s not your you know, your logo or slogan. The brand is the sum of every single experience that someone has with you. And if you think about it, like in B2B, a lot of times we pollute those experiences. Right. Like, you know, we have someone come to our website, then they have to fill out a giant form to read any content or even see a video about what the company does. The minute you fill out those 17 fields, you get harassed immediately by sales, asking you to buy it, buy it, buy it. You know, when you do finally buy it, all the salespeople run away and you’re assigned one one thousand of the customer success manager. And if you just need some support, that link is buried on the website, you know, four pages in and you get a response two weeks later. Those are horrible experiences. Yet a lot of times like that’s kind of standard for me to be. And this idea that, you know, thinking about a brand where you delight people and you try to optimize around his experiences, it’s just different. And it was something I thought was really important through my evolution career. So I start to think about like, well, hey, as opposed to just running with these classical B2B metrics, like, can we innovate and can we deliver a better experience? So when I went to Zendesk, I said, well, this sounds great, but how do we actually operationalize that? How do we give people metrics that incentivize them to provide those delightful experiences? And so one of the big ones for me was like starting to think like, hey, well, OK. What are these types of metrics, right, and the good news is like they’re out there, right, like NRPs or Net promoter score, CISAC, customer satisfaction, these are metrics that you can use. And we used it Zendesk really extensively to help incentivize teams to improve those metrics, which a lot of times are really just based on experience. So NPS, it’s a one simple one question survey. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like long surveys. So I like that was one question and it literally is likely to recommend this business to a friend or colleague. And so I love that. And this was a way for us as a North Star to kind of say, hey, we want to hit this score and we also want to mine the results. We want to see like, hey, what is driving our score? Like, what is hurting us on the upside? And so it was really interesting because when we ran our first NRPs survey, we did a pretty broad one to almost everyone. What we found out was that. You know, we had we had a user profile, we had owners, people that bought the software admins that would set it up and users, the customer support reps and ironically, like the users had scored a soloist. And that was a little concerning because we’re like, well, we thought we had, like, you know, great comfort that the users loved. And what we found was we had kind of got caught in this trap or we were building really power features for the enterprises, you know, and everybody needed I need this feature and this feature and this feature. And we’re building triple regression forecasting modules that like one company would use. And when we actually asked the end users, like, hey, why were you scoring a slow? They’re like, you know, can you just make the upload faster? Right. Like I’m in this 10 hours a day and or can you make basic search work better? Right. Like I use Google and that seems to find the answer, like, why can’t I find the answer for a previous ticket and how it was answered. Right. And so that really helped us and helped us shift our road map to the more common things that were more were, you know, implicitly pain points they were experiencing versus kind of building out all these enterprise features, which, to be honest, I don’t know if we even need it. Right. Like and ironically, you know, product roadmap, the more features you add, the more complex it gets. Which brings us to the other side, like on the apps we saw. Why did people like us? And over and time again, it Zendesk. This also happened at Slack and some of the other companies that are on the board for you found that the number one reason SaaS companies get recommended is it’s simple, it’s easy to use. Right. And, you know, ironically, that is you start growing. You just want to add more and more and more stuff. And so that simplicity was really important and allowed us to kind of go back and rethink about like, how can we make things simpler, make it easier, make the user sign up, flow easier and simpler. We can get value faster. Right. So time to value friction. And Cassie said these are all like experience type metrics. And I thought having those metrics really helped us with our growth. It was a great North star for us. Another thing, and this was just kind of a kind of a more of a mission, I would tell my team. So it’s back again. I had like the sales marketing success support teams all reported to me. And how do I sound like, look, guys, the bar is not getting someone to buy from us, like the bar is getting them to recommend us. And I just thought, like, that was a higher bar and a harder bar. And it did make you think about, well, how are we building out these experiences? So one things we did at Slack was when I was there, we did see surveys. So after someone did a sales engagement with us, we would go back and go, hey, you know, Rebecca was your EHI. How helpful is she? You know, how knowledgeable was she? How responsive was she? You know, courteous was she not just did she get you to buy the absolute most stuff and even stuff that maybe you didn’t need, but just more like kids. Do you have a good experience? Right. We wanted to incentivize the team based on those experience type metrics. And I thought that was something that really helped us again because we wanted to get the recommend. You know, the recommend was so powerful and such a huge growth driver for us that we spent a lot of time thinking about that. So I mentioned this a little bit, that’s simple, easy to use, it’s so powerful, right? And I just say, you know, just be cognizant of this. You know, it’s so easy to add features and you’re going to get a lot of feature requests when you’re so sure start selling to the enterprise. But we need this feature. Otherwise we would have bought it or I need this feature. I need this feature. And it’s really easy to make your product just so, so hard to use. Like I remember, I was helping out a company and I had to use like their billing system for like an invoice. And I think it was Reeva Sorafenib. Everyone’s on the call. But it was the most confusing software I’ve ever used. I couldn’t believe, like submitting a purchase order or an invoice. It was so hard. And I was like, oh, my God. It’s just it’s just it’s just hard. Right? And so, you know, I think this is something to wear, you know, maybe a more marketers looking at this. But I do think, like a marketer, part of your mandate is to work with products, you know, be part of like more of a product growth initiative and and help them make it more simple, help them make it more fun to you know, that’s another thing you want to have, you know, some vibrancy, some brand to it. So it’s a big part, I think, of what you can do and how you can make it better kind of along those lines, like you think of like product, like growth. Pricing is a huge part of that. And I definitely think like a big secret to our success in cycles. Like we we evolve that from a pricing packaging standpoint. So one of the big things we did was we didn’t go with a free trial like a free trial is either usually time bound or user bound. You know, you can only use it for two weeks or only three users can use it. And we wanted something that would allow everyone to use it. And not only that, but use it after their two weeks ended. Right. Like, if you think about it, a freemium model, which I’m a huge advocate for, is really like a subsidized growth engine. Right. Because that’s something that always super price sensitive. Some will pay for it, some won’t. But the idea is you want to have as many people using your product as possible and recommending it like that’s so powerful. And a lot of times I’ll talk with companies and they’ll be like, oh, I have this awareness issue and no one knows about it. And a lot times are only selling to the enterprise because they’re like, oh, awesome, because we can’t make money off them. So we’re not going to, you know, focus on that or we’re just going to abandon that market. But the thing is, there are a ton of assemblies and also people move jobs. You know, think of your own LinkedIn history. You’ve probably gone from a tiny company to a big company to medium size company. People take tech with them. They, you know, recommend it to say, hey, we should start using this. I used my last company was great. So I found that really that’s really powerful. Like having that. I don’t think we did innovate it. Slack was we said like, hey, you know, we’re only going to charge you or you’re going to get refunds or credits back if if you stop using the product, you know, and that was really powerful, especially at the S&P level, again, because they’re super sensitive. And this idea of like, hey, like, you know, we don’t have to pay unless we are actually using the product. And we would send little emails out like, hey, Sarah has stopped using the product for fourteen days or no longer. Do you know Billu for that? That was kind of cool, right? Because a lot of times even sace you sign up for these annual models and you’re on the hook for X amount of seats. And I thought it was just innovation. It was. And it was an experience based innovation to write because you want people to have a good experience with you. So and it was like there’s lots of opportunity there on the pricing side to continue to innovate. I’m also a huge fan of brands with personalities that was budy like, you know, was an early Zendesk kind of representation. We had a Love Your Help Desk, and it was it was fun from the perspective of if you looked at that image, you instantly were like, OK, I get it. Like they do customer support headset. Right? Like, and if you’ve ever done customer support, it’s really, really, really hard. I’ve done it like some days of people yelling at you for like eight hours, 10 hours a day. So this idea of like achieving Zen while doing it, inner peacefulness is really powerful. Right. Like that was that was great. And it was different, too. Is very bold colors. Right. You think Aslak right? You know, not boring black and white, but a very, like, tartan plaid. You know, that was the hashmark. And I’ve kind of switched it subsequently. But, you know, this idea of just having some visual identity or having a strong editorial tone and voice like those are really important. Right. They’re going to help differentiate because then we also the I think most B2B brands are very boring, sterile, bland. They look just like the other ten companies and their space. And, you know, at the end of the day, people are humans. Right. You know, whether we’re buying B2B stuff or B2C stuff. We loved having a brand that we can have an emotional connection with. So the visual identity, I think is really important along those lines. You know, as we started to grow it business, it’s like we started doing some paid campaigns. Right. And paid paid is definitely, you know, a great vehicle to help accelerate your growth. It is more expensive, but at the same time, you’re organics. Not always are we found the replacement is going to grow. You want it to. You might want to get into a new segment, you might want to get into a new geo, you might want to get into a new vertical, but organic won’t always take you there. Right. So there’s a way to help accelerate that growth, get little beachheads in these areas so that organic can then take over. So when we started creating our campaigns for business and slack, you know, we could have easily taken the path of. All right, let’s make a very Oracle esque video and, you know, just, you know, very like Blandon. But we said, no, let’s have some fun here. Right. And so the top two or the amazing teams campaigns for CELAC, you can look them up on YouTube. The bottom two were Zendesk campaigns. We did. But you can see they look very different than a B2B type ad. And again, I always heard a lot of people have fears of our enterprise. We have to show up in suits and ties and, you know, say boring stuff and say acronyms and say we’re the platform disrupting X, Y, Z. But I think at the end of day, if you can make someone smile or laugh like that, emotion will transfer to your brand. It’s by the way, if you ever watch the Super Bowl, most of those ads make you laugh. And that’s because they’re trying to transfer like that positive emotion onto their brand. So I thought that was really helpful and it helped just differentiate us against a lot of the other companies in that space. So I’m all for these brand campaigns and doing these paid investments, but, you know, the same time, you know, I was a big believer, like, hey, we need to measure this, right? We need to be able to prove that the stuff works. And so what we did was it’s exactly right. When I got there, we started measuring a lot of the brand awareness type metrics that we measured, aided recall and unaided recall and sure voice sentiments. And we would run campaigns. Right. We’d run campaigns in a particular G.O. So we’d say, let’s run this campaign in Denver, Austin and Seattle. They were doing all outbound. Right. Or I’m sorry, all outdoor. Right. We’re doing billboards or doing bus wraps, but let’s run them in a couple cities and let’s have a couple of control cities that are very similar that don’t get it right. And then you measure the pre and post awareness. You see, like, how much should the awareness go up? You can also do the country level, right? Like it’s like we ran our first big national campaign, but then we had Hail to World that didn’t get that, you know, that big awareness campaign that we can measure. What was the lift in awareness also? What was the lift and pipe and Maxwells and Asheville’s, you know, kind of going through there. So we we got it down to really we could measure exactly, you know, how much it costs us to get a point of awareness, how much it costs us to get a new million in pipe. And that was really powerful for us to build confidence, you know, with finance, with the board, with the executive team that, hey, we could allocate this capital very efficiently. So another secret I found was just testing, you know, I mean, I think that, you know, as you kind of go up through the ranks, I don’t know what it is, but they all seem to think like they know everything. And a lot of those are wrong. We are absolutely wrong. And so, you know, it’s like, oh, my God, we went through like 40 versions of the home page. We’re constantly testing, testing different headlines, testing different images. And there would always be debate right before it. Oh, that’s one word. That one’s going to work. And, you know, usually the higher you’re up, the worse you are guessing which one would actually work it. So I just love this idea of testing. We did this a salesperson’s, unless it’s like like just test the stuff. Right, as opposed to you guessing which headline is most going to get your users to go through the funnel, like test it out. Right. You don’t have to just go on a share a lot of these things you can test. Along those lines, too, I thought building out and spending resources on attribution was really important for really like Zenda sales force our growth there. We spent a lot of time like bringing like best of breed, multi touch attribution modeling. You know, I found during the advising stuff that a lot of companies still just use like first or last click. And that gives you a very distorted view of your marketing dollars and how they’re moving people through. Because, you know, it’s not likely to be, at least for us. You know, people don’t see one ad and buy, right? They might see five, 10, 20, 30 interactions with them before they even sign up to become a lead. Like maybe they start a free trial and then it might be another 10, 20, 30 interactions before they finally buy from you. And that could be so 36, 60 interactions. And you’re getting all the credit to the very first thing they did. Like, that’s you know, it’s crazy talk. It’s great stuff. So having systems that could just give us a better feel for it right here. Introducers here closer’s. Here’s all the things that nurture. And again, we spent a lot of time to in some marketing, which I’ll talk about, it’s important. You just need to be able to know that. So, again, you feel confident with those dollars that you’re investing. Content marketing, good transition. So, again, like if you kind of come from this customer centric viewpoint, I love the content marketing play because it helped educate people, it helped give them just little more information about the space. And I loved good content, not crappy content. I feel we’ve all been there with crappy content where you just know it’s some slimy brochure where that’s like bias, bias, bias, where awesome or awesome or awesome. I like content marketing, where you talk to your users and your customers go, hey, what just what are pain points in your daily life? Right. And so for my customer support, for instance, this was Zendesk. You know, we talked to and said, like, hey, I have to hire a lot of people. You know, I haven’t had a lot of experience with that. And so we’re like, well, let’s write an article about, you know, the top 10 interview questions for customer support agents like that was one of the most popular pieces of content. Every month we would get, you know, thousands, hundreds of thousands people coming that would start ranking on and just searching for that. Right. And it would introduce them to Zendesk. And we’d also say, hey, you know, here are some trends in customer support that are happening or here’s how to run a virtual support team, you know, that’s talking about the product yet. But we were building out like a very top of funnel. And let me introduce them to our mid funnel. Let’s let’s show you some customers, Zendesk and, you know, success they’re having or maybe we show you a demo or, you know, slowly move them down the funnel. That was really important for us. We also use this across a lot of channels, not just email, but we would use this in retargeting with users and social content where our ads and a lot of cases and that was super helpful for us. So next, ruthlessly staggering. I got this from Salesforce, Mark was a genius with this and they actually had a process that was called the two mom, you can look it up if you want, but the idea was that basically every year Mark would go in and he would go look company beginning of the year. These are the 10 top most important priorities we want to do. And now that they are stack ranked and I don’t know if you ever stack rank something in a multiproduct company, but it’s not easy, right? You’re choosing babies. You know, you’re like, which one is the most important? But it’s super, super helpful. So as a marketing team, when he would come in and maybe say, hey, this year, service cloud is the most important. Right. Or this year we want to really get into Japan. Right. We want to crack that not we want to get in there. We’re going to get more adoption. Well, you know, the bigger the company of a lot of centralized teams that are trying to support a lot of different initiatives. And so that was really help for us. OK, like we got to how can we help the service be more successful? How can put more PR weight behind? How can we put more paid ads behind it? How can we do our events better there, whatever it was? Right. And, you know, I always thought a good litmus test for this was, you know, after this call, just ask a couple of people in your company like, hey, what are the top three priorities of the company? Can they answer them? You know, are they right? Are they in staggering order? This idea of just stack ranking, that was really helpful. It also taught us like, hey, we don’t need to do these other things. Right, because they’re not on the list. Right. Not on the list. That’s not important. So I thought that was super helpful. Just maintaining focus, especially as Salesforce started to get bigger. As Mark used to say, everybody wanted to go in a thousand different directions and that document and philosophy brought us all together. Another thing Mark was super passionate about that I tended to really believe in as well, was this idea of customer stories. So as opposed to you saying like, hey, this is why Salesforce was great and you should sign up with us, just let your customers talk, right? Like they’re the ones that more people are going to believe. They’re more authentic. They’re just they’re going to wait what they say a lot more than you will. You know, you’re the one that’s selling the the products are are good. So I love the idea for anyone’s ever been to like a Salesforce event, you’ll probably see, you know, giant posters of all these customer heroes and kind of highlighting what they’ve been able to achieve with Salesforce. And it’s great. It’s always like a winning strategy for marketing, you know, and a lot of times even on our homepage, we would go, you know, marketing. We create some really cool architecture graphic and how this all works. And Marko’s Shonali customers. Right. So I always love that. That was great. You know, customers are huge and their big playbook for hypergrowth. Girl, so kind of wrapping up here in the last couple of minutes, shared metrics is something we did it it’s like a lot. I really thought it worked great. We had three primary metrics around A, to use and peace in Iraq. And the idea here, too, is, you know, it’s kind of gets back to like this product growth philosophy and that product growth doesn’t mean product people do it. It means that all the teams work together in the product to give a better experience. Right. And along those lines, like, it’s really easy for B2B just to go, OK, marketing your exclusively in charge of leads or sales salesroom exclusively in charge of a Ferrari. But in reality, all these teams are working together to help drive that growth. And so I love this idea of like we share these metrics across and obviously there’s a fine balance of accountability versus team. But, you know, by having certain metrics, these, you know, our teams really wanted to work together and allowed us a singularity of focus that I thought was really powerful. And the last one is just to stay crafty, so this is a fun story. When we were in Zendesk. We had we do a lot of SEO, I always loved Nescio, I did last thing, especially in my kind of BTC media days, and what we found was that a lot of people would search for brand name alternative. So sales force or turnover or turnover or Zendesk alternative. And we were kind of like, wow, what if we created some content to actually rank on the phrase Zendesk alternative? And so what we ended up doing is, you know, over the weekend, these were all people on the marketing and creative team. We shot a video of the Zendesk alternative band. And it’s it’s like a five minute video. You know, it’s on YouTube. You can probably search for it, find it, because there’s this alternative and find it. And I think, you know, for the longest time, it was ranked number one, because a lot of people just, you know, it was kind of funny and they would link to it or like it. And of course, that’s really helps out with the algorithm. And so, you know, when you search on this alternative, you would still find Zendesk. Right. And it was a great chance to introduce them to our brand and show them a little bit who we were. And that was just kind of fun. Right. And I think with all this stuff, you have to have fun when you’re doing it. You want to make the team excited and moving forward. So anyways, those were the big ones. Thank you so much again for taking the time. Thank you. A sense for allowing me the opportunity to speak. I hope there’s some actionable insights. If you’re going to get a hold of me, there’s my contact information and I hope you guys have a great rest of the day.

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