What is Amium?
Rodrigo: Okay, we’re live with Jeff from AeroFS/Amium. Can you tell us about Amium and what you do there?
Jeff: I’m the VP of Marketing at AeroFS/Amium. Amium is our new product that we released in August 2016. It’s a collaboration app that makes it easier for teams to collaborate on files. You can think of it as Slack plus Dropbox. So you can have one-on-one conversations and group conversations, but what really makes us different is that we have “file channels” where people can collaborate on files together. So we handle the versioning of the files, syncing the latest version in everybody’s devices just like a file signature product. Also, we have all of the conversations about that file that stays in one place in the file channel, and it works with any file type. So you could work on presentations with your team, graphics document with your graphic designer, CAD files with your engineers, and so on. It makes work much more efficient.
What does a VP of Marketing do at a company of your stage and size?
Jeff: Our company has 25 people right now, mostly engineers, and on my team, I have 2 marketers working with me. A demand gen person who is awesome and then a real rockstar that does events and social media. So that’s my direct team, but of course, any marketing team also has lots of external help. So we have a PR firm that I work really closely with and an external graphic designer. We have an internal graphic designer on the product side that also helps us out. And then we have teams that help us out with SEO, PPC, and things like that.
How do you and your teammates use Amium?
Jeff: I think we probably get the most use out of it than anybody in the company. Everybody uses it but we certainly use it a ton because we have so many files. For example, this morning, my CEO is on vacation in Toronto and my events and social media person, Rachel, is sick today. So we’re all able to continue working because we wanna sign up for some trade shows before the end of the year, and we are able to continue working remotely on the same files. She puts all the prospectus in a directory and makes notes on the file channels, and then we can go ahead and take a look, and decide what we wanna do. So that’s just an example of how we use it today. But of course, we use it for just about everything. Whether it be web design files or anything.
Can you walk us through your marketing launch strategy?
Jeff: Our co-founder and CEO has a Y combinator part-time partner. So we have access to some things that maybe some startups don’t. For example, we know the ProductHunt people very well and Hacker News of course is part of Y combinator. So those are two of the places where we really focus our efforts to start with, and it really made a difference. We had thousands of downloads in the first day and 10,000 in the first week. So downloads are really helpful for us. We also have another product called AeroFS, which is an on-premises file signature product. You can think of it like Dropbox behind the customer’s firewall. So we had an existing base of many, many tens of thousands of people that we can go back to as well. So we want to leverage those guys too. And then, finally, we launched the product with Microsoft Office online. We did that with a Microsoft partnership, so we leveraged that quite a bit as well. Those are the 3 prongs of the launch. Of course, all that supported by social media, advertising, SEO, webinars, events, things like that, but from the very beginning, those are the 3 main things.
How much did you consider your buyer persona in choosing these 3 channels as part of your marketing launch plan?
Jeff: Well, that’s a really good question because if you look at the people who are focusing on Product Hunt and Hacker News, a lot of those folks are kind of engineering focused, much more technical. And that’s not necessarily the focus of our product, Amium. The Amium really thrives in marketing organizations, designer organization, contract, designers, anybody who works on files. You can even think of somebody like professional services working on an art piece together, but probably not quite as much of an interest for engineering folks. At least we do have some engineering-focused integrations with things like GitHub and things like that, but it’s definitely more of a marketing-focused tool or team-focused tool. So it was really interesting to see how many of the people that worked from ProductHunt and Hacker News that picked it up and was like, “Hey, I think there are things I can use this for,” even though they’re not from marketing teams. So it was an interesting test and turned out, it worked.
Rodrigo: That’s fantastic and it sounds like Hacker News, Product Hunt perhaps was your best performing channel based on kind of how we’re talking about it. Would you say that’s true?
Jeff: It was at the beginning, but of course, those are kind of one time launch tools and it’s not gonna give you long tail for anything. Since then, we focused a lot more on watering holes, where we can find people that will be interested with the product, and things like advertising and SEO.
Rodrigo: Given the product iš self-service SaaS, it sounds like the kind of product where if I use it, I wanna recommend it to teammates inside of my company or even other companies that I’m aware of.
I have to assume there were some conversations about viral coefficients during the marketing launch plan. How did you think about that and did it work how you wanted it to?
Jeff: That’s another good question. We have detailed documents about increased virality and sharing. The product lends itself to that naturally because it’s a team-focused product. It’s hard to collaborate by yourself, but we start to work with external collaborators — when I was talking earlier about our PR firm and our external designing firm. Right now, the product doesn’t have a lot of robust capabilities for that because it’s brand new. We want to focus on internal first, but in Q1 next year, we’re building a lot of that stuff. That’s really where the virality will get interesting. We do have some incentives, things like if you share with a certain number of people externally, you’ll be able to get more storage or other perks like that. But we haven’t committed any of those yet because so far, we just want to get the basics going, making sure that worked and people are liking it. And then, next year in Q1, we’ll start those viral capabilities.
How do you measure success both in the short term and the long term as you execute the marketing launch plan?
Jeff: We do a lot of measurements. One of the things we spend several months working on before we launched the product and even after is setting up the analytics that will let us measure every step of the process from submitting your email, to creating a team, to inviting more users, and finally, to sending messages and sharing files. Because we wanna make sure that people are using it and they’re not dropping off at different parts, and that process was really a lot harder than we expected. We had to implement 6 different analytics products before we finally settle with 4 that would work for us. So we ended up actually implementing some things and ripping others out, and putting new ones in. A lot of it had to do with the way the pricing models worked, but also the fact that they’re not always designed for marketing. A lot of times they’re designed for success teams or customer service. So it’s really not as easy as you’d expect against the reports that you want out there, but we did find some things that worked and we’re getting the measurements that we want now. To answer your question, how do we measure success, it definitely starts with conversions. So getting people to sign up for the product — that’s the most important one. And then, after that, the stickiness — are they using the product? Do they continue to use it after the first 3 days or the first 7 days, things like that.
Rodrigo: I wanna ask so many different questions here. I’m gonna put a pin on success, conversions, stickiness and measuring cohort analysis. Before we go to that though, I want to know:
What four softwares did you use to set up your analytics?
Jeff: Well, there are a lot of technical pieces to it, but the biggest pieces were that the engineers on our team have certain outputs that they’ve already built in. So we use Aero’s API for this. And then, the next piece is actually called Segment, which takes that information and makes it available to other platforms. We’re also using Totango and Hip analytics as well. From a marketing standpoint, we touch Hip Analytics and Totango, and we have to use both of those products because each one of them doesn’t provide everything we’re looking for. So we have a daily sync up on the executive team, where we look at all the numbers from the previous day and the previous week. I have to use both of those products to pull out the data, put it in a spreadsheet, and then that’s the spreadsheet we look at everyday. So that tells us the number of total visitors we had the previous day and previous week, the number of signups, the number of people who submitted a domain or team name, which is the next step in the process. And then, there’s a couple more steps. And then, finally, we look and see over time are they sticking. A week later, are they still using the product? So that is the main metrics that we’re looking at in the short-term.
Rodrigo: You hit a nerve for me. Sometimes I find myself looking at my Google Analytics, breaking it up by conversion events across different marketing channels — my LinkedIn ads, my Facebook ads, my ListenLoop ads — all these different things. I look at them everyday, right? And sometimes I look at it and I’m wondering, “Why the hell am I looking at this?,” especially when I do it daily. What am I missing, Jeff?
What do you think about when you’re looking at your analytics everyday (other than trying to detect abnormalities in the data)?
Jeff: Well, there’s a couple of things. First of all, my team has goals for traffic and for conversion rates. Conversions meaning signups and then also conversion to paid accounts, and we’re compensated on those. So those are important to us. But we also look at this just to make sure that our cost for conversion is reasonable because it changes quite a bit. In fact, we were using one site where our cost for conversion was super low and we were getting tons of conversions. And then, apparently, one of our competitors realized that it was a good channel, came in, dumped a ton of money on it, and our conversion cost went through the roof. We hadn’t been looking at it everyday. We would have spent a lot more money than we did, and I can tell you, that one day costs us a lot of money. This particular site doesn’t have a lot of controls like Google, CPC. You can’t tell when it blows through your budget until the next day.
Rodrigo: So it’s about being nimble, not to overuse or misuse the word, but truly, the truest sense of the word agile in terms of quickly changing your attack if you need to.
Jeff: Absolutely. In fact, that’s what we did. We realized the next day that it blew through our entire budget, and so we reduced our maximum cost so that it would never go above the certain rate. And then, we ended up focusing most of our money in different sites.
Rodrigo: Let me go back to measuring success. We were talking about conversion, stickiness, I presume some kind of cohort analysis about how long people are staying in the product.
How do you balance striving for early indicators of success (form conversions) in the top of funnel versus bottom funnel (people who actually purchased)? And how do you measure and compare those two? Which one are you actually focused on and why?
Jeff: Well first, people are the most important to us. But we set the product up so that it’s free to use for unlimited number of users, unlimited number of time until you hit certain gates. Things like storage use, if you want more file version history of more than 2 weeks you can pay — things like that. Number of integrations as well. So we set it up so we don’t expect to have people really signing up until about 3 months after they’ve been using the product. Because it takes a while to get your files in there, get upto 2gb — things like that. Now, we ended up having paying customers in the first week, which is great. But right now, we’re mostly focused on just getting users and making sure they stick, because if that all works, then the money will come. They’ll sign up, they’ll pay, and things will go well from there.
Rodrigo: Wow, that’s the healthiest perspective or attitude I’ve ever heard from a B2B. “Three months sales cycle? That’s okay, I’ll wait.” I presume you’ve done marketing at a prior business-to-business organization.
Can you compare what it’s like to wait for B2B sales cycles in different industries?
Jeff: I’ve been doing marketing or product management since 1995, mostly in the security market. So it’s very, very different across industries. The sales cycles in the security market are 9 to 18 months. So to have a 3-month sales cycle with Amium, where you don’t even really have to get salespeople involved, is amazing. Both of them are very interesting, but Amium is definitely the SaaS model, where it’s mostly self-served, focused on teams. So you’re not calling into the IT team necessarily. You might be just calling to line a business if we even do calling, which we do but not as much as just trying to get our name out there so people can get to it themselves. It is pretty interesting and it is almost like nirvana, you’re right.
Rodrigo: I was re-reading Andrew Chen’s law of shitty clickthrough rates. Are you familiar with the post?
Jeff: I’m not.
Rodrigo: Essentially, he talks about how every new marketing tactic performs really well at first when you’re the only company doing it. And then, eventually, other people figure out what you’re doing, they pile a bunch of money in it, and as a result, pushes a lot of new noise into that channel, which reduces the clickthrough rate or effectiveness of a channel. And it sounds like you are dealing a little bit of that with this particular channel you were using, where a competitor figured it out that that was an interesting channel and crowded the channel. That as the baseline, the question for you is do you see that happening? And how do you deal with it?
How do you explore and find new channels, yet make time and leave budget to exploit the ones that work well for you?
Jeff: Yeah, that sounds very familiar because that is exactly what happened. I recently went to the Traction Conference in Vancouver earlier this year, and I heard a speaker say, “Find your watering holes and own them — become a household name there.” And that’s really what we try to do. We try to go and find places where people are the right targets for our product, hang out — whether it be design forums or similar. We found a lot of those that worked really well. Whether it be martech sites, and then just try to either do advertising there or even better if it’s contributed articles, things like that where people are learning value without feeling like they’re being advertised too. Those are the most successful things for us, and that’s what we really try to do. Everyday, we look for new ones. It’s a constant job to go and try to find places like that.
Rodrigo: Our audience is interested in account-based marketing, ABM, and I want to talk about that. I know you’ve got a SaaS product, it’s free to start. At some point, I assume, you will be targeting enterprise-type customers for big deals.
Have you considered an ABM strategy and why?
Jeff: Yeah, we certainly have. I mean, it’s definitely the hottest buzzword of the year at MarTech shows and online – and it makes a lot of sense. I know a lot of friends of mine and peers that are working on ABM strategies. For us, we’re not quite there yet. We just wanna make sure, like I said earlier, that the product is super solid and people are liking it before we move into focusing on the enterprise, like you mentioned. But I do think it will make a lot of sense because it’s a team product, right? So ABM makes even more sense for something like that because you’re targeting multiple people who will end up probably using the product anyway. So I think probably in Q2, 2017 is probably when we’re gonna start working on that.
Aside from timing to get your content ready, what are some of the challenges that you’ve seen in implementing an ABM campaign?
Jeff: Well, I think targeted content generation is always a struggle, especially for the small teams and to me that’s the hardest part. It’s not the strategy, it’s not the technology, it’s just building the things that you need to build that are gonna be interesting to each person. And I also think, and this is coming from somebody that hasn’t used ABM tech before, so maybe this is not as big of an issue as I think, but I think not inundating the targets with too much or creepy info — everybody’s getting something at the same time. I think that’s important because I know that for a lot of people, for example, retargeting ads work great. We know that they convert really well, but they also creep out people sometimes when you got things following you around. Me personally, I get Amium ads all over the web now because I’ve been clicking on them. So I think it’s important to make sure you use a gentle hand so that you’re not weirding out your customers too.
Rodrigo: Yeah, I’m sure that was doubly true when you were working in the security industry.
Jeff: That’s where I came from, you’re right.
Rodrigo: You said targeted content generation is a struggle. I loved that phrasing. If ABM was the buzz in 2016, I think “dynamic, scalable content” is going to be the buzz for 2017. I understood you to refer to things like microsites built for each company you’re targeting or ad units personalized to each company you’re going after — these kinds of targeted content that are one-off or feel one-off to the recipient. Is that what you were referring to?
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely.
Have you ever implemented a targeted content campaign?
Jeff: I have but it was all manual. Probably the last time I did it was like 2010, so there was no ABM tech back then. And we knew there were some companies that were looking for our products and so we built something specifically for them, but it’s heavy lifting. I mean, there’s a lot of work there especially when you have a small team.
How did your manual ABM campaign perform? Was the squeeze worth the juice?
Jeff: Yeah. That was a different company where a single sale might be half a million or 2 million dollars. So, yes, in that case, you only have to succeed once. For something like our product where the sales are gonna be a lot more sales but lower price, at least to start with, then it would have to be automated. You couldn’t do it manually.
Rodrigo: And I assume measuring the outcome of whether it was worth it or not was some kind of comparison between accounts that have been exposed to the microsites versus accounts that haven’t been exposed. Perhaps you measured things like deal size, deal velocity, engagement. Is that how you were thinking about it back then or was it more about one-off campaign, “Hey, let’s give this a shot and see what happens”?
Jeff: Well, I wouldn’t say one-off but it was a handful. But we still look at it the same way, which is can we get the deal to move faster because of this? Do we get them to buy? Those sort of things.
Have you ever received personalized content as the VP of Marketing?
Jeff: Yeah, physical content for sure but not online that I’m aware of.
Rodrigo: I love to hear from the CMO of Walmart or someone like that who surely is having microsites built around them, right? And it would be interesting to hear their thoughts on the value of “a personalized microsite.” It seems like such a small thing but perhaps it makes a big difference.
Jeff: Yeah, it could. It really depends. I mean, I know that especially during the holidays, you get personalized marketing whether it’s just a season’s greetings or offer. Those are always interesting. Sometimes they’re not executed very well but sometimes they are. So I would expect that they would work well online as well.
Rodrigo: I’ve been looking back towards the end of 2016 and I’ve been asking myself what’s the most interesting thing I’ve learned, but I wanna hear from you.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in marketing in 2016?
Jeff: Well I think it goes back to some of what we were talking about earlier — measuring SaaS conversions and activities still has a long way to go. You’ve got marketing automation for emailing, but the analytics are totally separate. Most of the time, the really good ones are not focused on marketing. They’re focused on customer success teams and getting all that stuff plugged-in together was as hard as getting marketing automation set up back in 2007. It was a lot of work and it required a lot of tweaking. It’s measurement, but the thing that surprised me most this year I think was just that those tools have a long way to go and there’s probably some consolidation that will occur in those markets in the next few years.
Can you share your marketing stack with us?
Rodrigo: I’d love to hear how you’re tackling the challenge of acquiring leads, marketing to them, and eventually converting them into paying customers.
Jeff: Sure. We have Salesforce of course. I’m not sure you can do marketing without it these days. We’re also using Pardot, but we’re turning that off right now because we don’t need it based on the way the new product works. With this product, Amium, we’re much more focused on analytics and kicking off drip campaigns based on what customers do. On the analytics side, we have Segment.io, Hip analytics, Totango, and then that integrates with Salesforce.
Rodrigo: I didn’t hear Intercom there. I thought for sure, you’re gonna say an Intercom to trigger emails based on events inside of the SaaS app.
Jeff: You know we looked at Intercom and I can’t remember off the top of my head whether it was a pricing issue or what, but there was something about it that made it not work perfectly for us. But it is a good product and we know the folks over there, they’re good people.
Rodrigo: Great. Alright Jeff, well that’s it for me. Is there anything you wanna leave us with?
Jeff: No. I think this is probably it for me.
Rodrigo: Thanks a lot for your time, Jeff. Stay tuned for the next episode.
Jeff: Okay. Thanks for having me.
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