Growth Marketing Camp
Growth Marketing Camp

Episode 12 · 1 year ago

How x.ai Turned Growth on Autopilot With Product Virality

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

As Ammon Brown tells it, x.ai starts with individuals and “tiny teams” and snowballs into enterprise contracts with brands you’ve definitely heard of (Disney, Nike, and Coca Cola to name a few). It all starts with a standout guest experience including one touch scheduling and rescheduling. Even if you’re not marketing a SaaS product, you’re sure to take away some inspiration for how his team makes growth happen by working together and aligning to the same north star.

Welcome to growth marketing camp, where we sit down with our favorite marketers, tod mystify growth and give you the insights to help turn your next campaign into a major success. Let's get into it, all right. Welcome to another episode of Growth Marketing Camp. I'm excited to be joined by Amon Brown, whose credits we're going to get too shortly here, but just to said the stage. Am and, I am fully expecting at least one excellent pun in this interview. Okay, Linkedin description says your Jack of all trades, master Pun. You got to sneak it some way into the interview. Okay, that was it right there. That's right, Jack of all trades, master Pun. All right, so we're expecting a little bit more. I love it. So, am and, you come from a long history and marketing and growth at Google in two thousand and four several agencies, and then, maybe it's most fascinated to me is kind of a fellow entrepreneur is. You found it a social sharing software company, it was acquired by ad shoppers and now, most recently, you're the VP of growth at the well it all call the incredibly domain name rich x dot AI. Done some really cool things in market am and welcome to the show. Thanks for being with us. First question. Have you ever had a role you weren't excited about getting out of bed for, because it sound like some pretty cool things. I would say yes, because every role has days where you're not excited to get it for myself, whenever I feel like a role his stag meeting or getting a little bit of narrow and scope, that's when I start getting bored and checking out. But as long as I've got a lot of different things to fill my day that I'm rare to go every morning. I love it. Yeah, and you have an energy. I can just tell you bring that to the team, so that's awesome. What was the role? Let's say, where you had the richest learning experience, because been at all kinds of different places, my guess agency life, but I'm interested to hear where do you have the most, you know, rich learning experience? I think it really bears depends on what you're trying to learn. If you're trying to learn selfsufficiency, well, being a solo entrepreneur in building growing a company as a totally different ball game than fitting into a large organization. I think that I would say probably sales jobs early on teach you the most because you really have to think on your feet, you really have to be talking to talk to prospects, really need to kind of understand the pain of the market place, and that really gives you a lot of tools you can leverage later on and totally different disciplines just being able to talk to people. Love. Well, thinking about Xtadai right now and that, you know, the company that you're currently heading growth for with, I mean so many potential customers right this is a calendaring tool above, you know, the average calendaring tools capabilities, but thinking about the the different types of people that you can sell this offering to and then you can target with your marketing. Are there particular areas of focus for you guys right now, like any segments or size of companies or things that you look at? Yeah, it's interesting because people say who's your target market and I'm like, I don't know. Everybody that covers a meeting. You got to count. What we're finding is that we're really successful with what we call individuals and tiny teams. That doesn't necessarily mean tiny companies. Yeah, because we have customers across the fortune five hundred. We have customers who are solo entrepreneurs. It's really just, you know, when someone really feels scheduling pain that they they adopt the platform and its just that simple. And then as they schedule meetings with other people, it grows through the organization and eventually we're signing an enterpress contractor so it's sort of a bottom up approach, but there's not really any single profile of individual user that we specifically and explicitly target. We do have a number of personas they were saying. You know, you know, real estate agents have a great deal of scheduling pain, especially right now they can't yeah, house open houses, things like that, and entrepreneurs, especially at small companies, love us because they're just resource constrained and scheduling meetings choose up hours every week. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

I love that idea. We're going to get into sort of this ground swell product led growth concept. As we talked about your campaign focus. You have an example, maybe some customers who we would have heard of or something that you like to talk about, like a particularly unique use case. One that I really like recently is a company called seesaw. They are an APP for schools, for teachers, parents, administrators all communicate within the APP. Yeah, it's a great APP. They're using it for sort of just in time support. So they're building these round robin scheduling pages for their support teams and you know, a teacher says, well, I'm stuck, I don't know how to use the APP. The schedule of fifteen minute call and they're on a zoom moments later with a support rap. So interesting. So they're sort of taking that as a use case and there across multiple time zones and so managing it was kind of a headache and they're being pretty successful with the system. Now, oh, that's awesome. Yeah, I like that. That's not what I expected. I love it. Well, let's break down your campaign, which kind of from our pre show conversation, there is in the traditional sense of like hey, we paid this much in these channels to advertise for this period of time and drove this mini sign ups. But do you guys are going about in a different way. You're thinking about this from a product led growth standpoint. What does that mean to you? First of all, what does it mean to drive growth through the product? Well, we're in a very lucky spot. We have what I would refer to as inherent virality, simply because if I'm scheduling a meeting, I'm usually not doing it with just myself. We have this natural sort of outbound power that people are scheduling meetings with one or more or dozens of other people, and so each person who has a meeting scheduled with them by our system, whether it's over email with our ai or whether through one of our calendar pages, they're being exposed to our platform. And so with that natural exposure we're able to try to build in loops and try to like, you know, really nail that experience for the guest, because if it works really well for them and if we can blow their mind, they're going to sign up immediately. And so, you know, we're really just sort of leveraging that inherent outreach that exists by the nature of what we do. I would think of it as kind of analogous to Docu sign or companies like that, where you know you don't just sign your own contracts, you need to share over someone else, and so you know you can. As long as you nail that experience and make it just so flawless and dead simple, then people are going to love you and they're going to eventually pay you. Yeah, that makes sense, and you mentioned earlier that you start sometimes with small teams within larger organizations and maybe automatically you eventually arrive at this enterprise contract. But even with the virality of the product, I imagine that doesn't just happen in and of itself. Like nobody's asking you for a contract to sign a thousand seats of XTT AI. At what point does that get transitioned over to a sales represented? But what point are you going from like hey, we have a lot of users at this company, to maybe somebody out to reach out and like group these together and start talking about larger use cases? It really depends on the customers needs. In the case of seesaw that I mentioned, we have a large bank here in the US as well. When someone says, Oh wow, this is working really well, I want to rule this out to a larger team, at that point they usually contact us because now you're in the territory of well, these people aren't adopting it immediately just to solve their own pain. It's sort of an organization wide pain, and so you know, there's a little bit more training and handholding that is necessarily involved because they're not just self on boarding. With that said, we do try to make it as easy as possible for even a large team to on board themselves. Obviously you're not there, but there is an inflection point at which it's not just my tool anymore, it's not my company's tool. Yeah, and that can be anywhere from, you know, five seats to fifty to a hundred seats where they start going well, we should probably start moving into a larger territory. Sure, and I imagine it could be occasionally where it's from. Hey, everybody on their own credit card, happy to pay, you know, the small...

...fee per month that they're they're paying to get your access to your tool. To suddenly the whole team wants it. Now the managers getting involved and starting to think about budgeting and so they're probably asking for maybe a deeper dive with a sales team member. So that's more common where they're actually reaching out to you because they've gotten to that point. Yeah, we're entirely inbound at the beautiful we're not really doing much in the way of outbound outreach because, again, we've tried this sort of of talk down where you contact the CMO, the CEO, whoever may be. Itsay, rolled this out your whole organization. Yeah, and you know, unless they have a salient need that they need to build, like their customer there's their customer success team is forty people and needs to be able to schedule amongst themselves, then you're going to have an adoption problem when you go top down something like this. So you know, as we go bottoms up, we're finding that we're having much more success and we're growing more naturally organically and weeliable. Boy, that's an interesting insight. I'm thinking about, of course, our own company here. It opens sense in some of what we do the end users who love the capabilities, but it is not as easily installable because we installed the server level. So you have some natural advantages to your product, but you're also in a fairly competitive space, I would say. They are are wellknown brands who provide, at least on the surface, a very similar experience from again, somebody looking at this and saying, okay, category, this is a calendaring tool. Right, great, I know other calendaring tools. I'm going to go look at those as well. What are some of those unique functionalities. And this isn't a product pitch, but I really want to understand, from a product led growth perspective, how do you trust your product to drive that growth? What is it that's unique about the way you've built the product that you can trust that it will actually continue to carry that out, you know, ahead of other competitors? So I would hesitate to call it a calendaring tool because it's a scheduling tool and beautiful. We call it a scheduling engine. You know, it's not about exposing your availability. It's about getting meetings on the calendar and getting it don't it's a fine distinction, but we have a number of ways that we approach this. So, you know, a one to one meeting. Internally, you're going to go to Google calendar and find a time that you're both open and just click go a onetone meeting. Externally, you can send a calendar page. I've et her send an x Didai calendar page. They're really beautiful and convert well. But then when you start getting into the territory of well, now I have six people that all need to be in the room at the same time, a counterpage starts falling apart and so our email scheduling ai is able. You just see see everybody and it will arrange the meeting on your behalf. Now this is kind of a good segue into the product led growth campaign that I wanted to talk about, because when everybody involved, internal or external, has a calendar connected to x Didai or accessible to the system, it just picks a time and schedule, it puts it on everybody's calendars. And when that happens in a six person meeting, when I send an email and it comes back less than a minute later and says great, it's on everybody's calendars now, it's mind blowing. So that's sort of the functionality that we're really trying to expose to people, that hey, we can do all of this negotiation in the background as long as everybody has at least a free account. Yeah, beautiful. Okay, so then one of the things that you've had to enable is a free tier, some ability for people to expose their calendar to the tool so that then they're now a part of that ecosystem, they're aware of it. There's a connection there that you can leverage. I'm really curious, supposing that they have a great experience but then they forget because they've held the meeting and something else has happened. What is the follow up marketing look like from you guys? By follow up marketing, do you mean for a guest? Yeah, do you do anything to reach out to them, or is it just the expectation that they they handle that on their own? Because they're so enthralled with the experience it's kind of an expectation that they handle it on their own. So we're very protective of the guest experience and if you schedule a meeting with someone and then suddenly the tool that you used as emailing that guest, you're not going to be happy with us. Yeah, you know, we have a little...

...five star rating for guests and it hovers just shy of five stars all the time and we were very protective of that. But when someone signs up for the platform, even if they're just connecting a calendar and they're not going to schedule meetings, they're just sort of a passive participant, that's fine because that creates value for everyone else involved. So we do have a number of sort of ongoing engagement triggers. Once you sign up, we have an email that goes out the evening prior that says, here's what's coming up tomorrow. You got some conflicts, this one might need intension, this one's missing a location. So that's sort of a daily reminder of here's all, a helpful little tool. And then we also allow you we insert rescheduling links, so one click reschedule on every meeting in your calendar really helps you access the tool. And you know, re experience that magic. If I click reschedule in a six person meeting and it goes okay, cool, I just moved it to Tuesday at too. I'm like what Rad so we do try to expose those features in the surface area where you're always interacting with your day, regardless, which is your calendars, sort of the central source of truth people. Yeah, brilliant. Okay then now what I want to dig into is really how do you have a part to play in that? So, as a VP of growth, you also have this history that is obviously sales and product and marketing, which all kind of plays into what you do today, I imagine, because you're kind of straddling the lines between all of those who are the team members that come together to make this all happen. Good questions. So it's kind of everybody. You know, I think of growth as it's not just straddling a line of different departments. It's its own department because it necessarily has to be. It's an amalgam of, like you said, sales, marketing, product, advertising, tech, analytics, whatever it may be, and it's always going to be just a little bit different in every in any organization. In my current role it's more product heavy because, you know, like I said, we're a very product left growth company, and so I work closely with the product teams, with the engineers, are tvp of engagement, who's awesome, as well as our CEO. So growth is kind of everybody's responsibility and we're also working together to move this thing forward. You. As a company, our goals are Aligne in that we want to grow x amount in why? I am out of time. Fascinating. Okay, I love that idea of everybody's job is growth right, that they're all connected and makes a lot of sense. You guys certainly have a unique way of thinking about that, thinking about what you're doing right now through product that growth. Are there other engines that you're tapping into outside of the product itself? Is it partnerships? What other channels are using to promote your product currently? Oh, yeah, I mean product led doesn't mean product exclusively. Yes, you know, we have a bare bones sem campaign that just sort of brings in a fair bit of new users. We have a very active blog that has a number of peace content pieces that pull things in. OUR NASCENT API just launched with its first partner company, and so you know now we're doing co marketing with any a partners that we're working with, as well as you know, just the general elbow Greece of Hey, schedule a meeting with US and call us up and we'll sit there and talk to you. We know it doesn't scale, but it really helps at and I also host just little sort of Demo webinars twice a week and people show up for those frequently just to get an orientation for the platform. But for me you'll useful because I understand how people are using it and what they need out of it. So there's a lot of customer communication, there's a lot of traditional channels, but then there's a great deal of sort of product optimization to really get people coming through the product itself. I love the idea of having more conversations with those users and learning about that, which I'm sure influences product, I'm sure influences content. Does what you see happening from an analytics perspective in the product also influence what you're doing on the content in the marketing side, kind of outside of the product? A hundred percent. Yeah, what are maybe a couple of...

...examples of places where you've seen something in the product that's educated you on ways you should be marketing differently. Well, so just today I was looking, you know, hunting for new API partners, and so I looked at our referrals and Google nalytics and said, okay, who wrote content about us that is sending clicks over to us from their blall? And you know, obviously Zappier's at the top. They wrote up a nice article on us. But then there's a few others who are adjacent to your business but they're not co editors, because a competitor wouldn't do that. And so that that's a really good source of potential partners. there. will also do things like we have google analytics events and other things throughout the product, and if we're optimizing a CTA within the product, then we're watching that very closely and making sure that you know, oh, well, after someone schedules a meeting, if they came through a calendar page, we should probably try to show them this message that says get your own free Colendar pages versus get your own scheduling Ai, for instance. So there's a lot of things like that where the data is coming in from the product and it's helping inform that. But then there's the general traditional types of things where you're looking at the traffic that you're getting from Seo and using that to sort of go buy some keywords. Yeah, US across Google. Yeah, that makes sense. Now thinking about just because there's so much collaboration and obviously happens and you guys are a smaller team for what you're capable of doing, and I imagine that there are some very specific people have to be involved doing different things. Is it a growth department? Is it a marketing department? How do you think about that it? Do you have specifically a marketing department within growth, or is it all kind of just one big happy family? It's all kind of just one big happy family. I mean, you know, we all have our titles, but then it's really just I work with our headed products day and day out. I work with our head of engagement, I work with, you know, pretty much whatever tools you need to get things done. I might be pairing with an engineer to go through and wire up some new analytics Hook or put something in place. So it's really just draw from whatever tools you need to actually get accomplished what you need to accomplish. Yeah, this is gonna be really interesting for our audience because we've had a lot of very traditional marketing structure folks on the show. I mean I can think of like a friend of mine, Kevin Babowski, who talked about we pick a channel, we do a great job, we put a director over, we got a two manager, you know, a manager, and we've got, you know, a couple of folks executing at the bottom of that funnel, if you will, and that structure and you're saying, Hey, we're one happy family, are all working and talking together and figuring this thing out together. I mean it's beautiful, it's very different. It really stands out. It works well when you have a team that's comfortable with sort of figuring it out as you go, with a freendetic case of test, measure, repeat I think when you're under fifty people startup land, it's easier to do things this way. Let's you start growing larger, I think it becomes difficult to say, well, I need two engineers on that as like. Well, slow down there, they're over there on that project. But when the entire company is still a small team and they're fully aligned on what the goals are and then fully aligned on how to get there, then you know everybody's kind of on board. Yeah, then thinking about those goals, because you mentioned them. How do you set them? I mean traditionally, maybe a CEO says, here's our objectives. Hey, VP of marketing, how are you going to accomplish this? From an MQLS standpoint? Sales leaders, how are we going to accomplish this? From a close one, revenue, and it seems very structured and obvious. Who's going to do what in terms of planning for those goals. How do you guys think about that today? Well, there's really two different types of goals, all of which feed the sort of our north star metric. So right now we're focused on growing our monthly recurring revenue. That's the bottom line, and then there's a lot of different ways to do that. But that's sort of gets fed by monthly meeting scheduled. So the more meetings get scheduled, the more people are exposed, the more people suress are certain predictable percentage of them are going to pay us. Yeah, but then each individual project...

...or each individual product launch might have its own goals attached to it. So, you know, if we're for pushing a particular top of funnel type of tidbit, yeah in the product, then that might have a goal attached to all. We want a bunch of sign ups out of that. You know, it's not necessarily revenue driver, but we know that that revenue will come out further down the funnel because again, we convert at a predictable rate. And so each project might have slightly different metrics and goals attached and you know they might miss but in aggregate they all kind of bubble up to that revenue driver. Okay, that makes sense. You have a North Star. You guys are building other goals off of that. That makes perfect sense and I guess thinking about what you've done in product led growth or thinking about the way that you guys are growing today, is this influencing anything you're planning to do in the future? Right it typically, when we talk to a guest, they've done a very specific campaign that is now influencing other campaigns. Are there things that you're learning today that are going to influence the way that you're going to market in the future? You think yes. So we have this notion of the scheduling network where you can invite people to connect their calendars so that now you can schedule those instant meetings that I was talking about. HMM, and there's a lot of value in that. We, by by we I mean me and all of us. I guess we want to do more with that, because that was sort of put together as a hack. We said, well, we have this instant background scheduling. It's really cool. It's mind blowing when it happens to people. Let's let them now that we have a free version, let them just connect with people and then just say that person, that person, that person, click meat go yeah, and it's been very successful. People are getting value out of it and so exposing that value in more places, being able to show you that, hey, these six contacts and you you're all available Tuesday at one. You want to book that? You know, surfacing those types of moments to the customer where they're like well, legit, you can do that. Cool. That's sort of pushing us in a direction towards adding more value to having a contact within the network, because that helps solidify our position, but it also helps add value to our customers. You know, if I can instan schedule with you, why wouldn't I, versus some knowl and having you click on my link or have the AI start sending you my times and those sorts of things, just book it instantly and Mo on, show up at the meeting and smile. Yeah, I like that. Okay, there's going to be some folks here who are listening or maybe watching and they see an opportunity to maybe pivot. They haven't been so product led, growth minded and now they're thinking, Hey, that's inspiring, there's an idea. But how do they start that conversation? And obviously it seems like from the very beginning Xtia, that's been a part of your company's DNA. Well, let's suppose it's not. Do you have any advice for those who are thinking and maybe we can do something with the product, because there is some inherent potential virality. But we're not doing it today. How do you think they could start that conversation? You really want to start with sort of the the overall customer and guest experiments. So if someone's using a product, whether it's, you know, a radio flyer wagon or whether it's scheduling software, if they really like it, if it's helping them, if their experience is a positive one, then they're incentivized to talk about it. Sure, and you know it takes a little bit of a leap of faith. I talked to a friends company a while back and they were just kind of dabbling with a fremium product, a free version of their product, and you know, you kind of have to trust that your product is good enough that people are going to have a good enough experience when you open the doors that they're going to stay put. Yeah, and that's what we're finding is working for us. For them, they kind of open the doors and then it inspired them. They said wow, okay, well, now that it's free, we can still upgrade at a certain predictable rate, and they're actually doing better that way. But again, you want to start with what value customers are getting, especially what value they're getting out of sharing it. And it's not necessarily monetary. I don't think that giving people...

...cash kickbacks as always the best way to go. Yeah, it's not the best motivator, but you know, there's motivators like Oh hey, this is a really exclusive club, like this APP clubhouse. Yeah, well, you need an invite. It's only special people are allowed in. It's like you know, you're going to start building this desire to be in the cool kids club. There's other ways of just saying, Oh hey, look at this really cool software. I love scheduling meetings with people and I just at mention the scheduler say meet, send, and I'm like look how cool that was. And so there's kind of a this cash a to doing certain things with certain products. Nobody spends tenzeros for a handbag just because it's worth tenzero. They spend that because it says something, it's cool. So when you have those types of experiences and you have that type of product love, then you can start leveraging that in subtle ways or even blatant ways with like a riferl program. I like that. That's useful. I appreciate you sharing that and I appreciate you coming on and being willing to do something maybe a little outside the norm in terms of talking about growth, because this is a really different way of looking at it. It is a campaign. You're turning your product into something that drives growth and is exciting to hear how you're fine tuning that as you go. Talk to me about let's say folks want to learn, you know, more about you the company and maybe even try out the tool themselves. Where should they go? Obviously the name x ID AI. That's where you're going to go on the website. Anywhere else they should be paying attention to? Well, we did just launched some features in the Newton email client. But really just going to x IDA I shouldn't. I hope it's sufficiently self explanatory. If not, that I'm not in my job very well. But yeah, I mean we've been around for a couple of years. There's tons of content out there talking about who we are and what we are. Our product has changed dramatically last just two years that I've been with the company, and so you know it's a completely different thing. If somebody tried it five years ago, very different experience. But really, like anything that's that has a free version, coming sign up, connect to calendar. You don't like it and no harm, no fowl. Yeah, I think will, but I'm highly biased. That's right. Well then, last couple of questions here before I let you go, because I appreciate you bring all this this positive energy in these great ideas to the show. Tell me who are some other marketers who you're looking up to that we should be paid attention to? And, freakly, they don't have to be marketers. Who are some folks out there that you think have been inspiring you on your journey? I've had a number of CEOS that I really appreciate. Our currency. Oh, Dennis. If you think I'm bringing positive energy, you should talk to Dennis sometime. Okay, I just it's not necessarily always a skill set that you look up to. It's sort of an approach, just a general mindset of you know, Dennis has that, as a number of other folks whose names I'm just going to utterly blank on. What just that? That mindset of well, I don't know how to do it, but we can certainly figure it out. So let's supply ourselves and we'll come out the other end just fine. So, yeah, I'll call out Dennis his name just for that one but beautiful. Well, we'll make sure to share some links to Dennis. That's great. And I guess last question here, thinking about what growth means to you and in the way that you're doing it, is there anything that you can think of that the average growth marketer that we're out there trying to do, that we should stop doing, or maybe they were not yet doing that we should start doing? I think that a lot of times you can start over optimizing the same thing, eating that the more you optimize that one landing page, the more you try to get that much more performance out of this thing, eventually you're going to end up with just a page with a giant orange button on it because that's the most effective thing. Yeah, I think that there's this iterative experimentation that is just in the DNA of growth marketing where you're trying things, measuring it. If it works, great, try something else, but it can sort of get you down into these little silos where you're now in the land of I'm just optimizing the CTA's on my...

...blog posts. This is sometimes you need to step back and say, wait a second, you know what, people are out there talking about our products. Why don't we give them a bull horn on twitter, you know, and I was just pulling things out of thin air, but, you know, just trying some wild crazy ideas and I think the throwing brand new things out there that are probably going to fail. You might be surprised from time to time, but if you just keep iterating on the same set of levers that you're pulling, then you might miss some interesting opportunities. The other big one, and I think a lot of people say this and they're right, is talk to customers. It's just you know, I'm on around Robin Calendar Page with Dennis and a couple of other people and anyone who comes to add request a solutions call is going to end up with any one of us. You could end up talking to the CEO on yeah, is essentially like a trouble shooting call, and that just keeps you so close to an in tune with the way that people are using your product that you can you can sort of build to that and then finally use your own product. I use mine really justly. If you schedule a meeting with me not using x ID, I kind of get mad, not because not because I'm I work here, but because it's so much more efficient. Why wouldn't you just do that? It's been like if someone facts me a contract and say can you sign this, and facts it back. I'm like, have you not heard of Docu sign? What's wrong? Yeah, when you're using your product to that extent and you're in that sort of how dare you not use it territory, then you know that you're doing something right. Fascinating. I love that. Yeah, that's a good reminder. Well, you know, we really appreciate being on the show, am and thanks for bringing all these ideas. Thanks for sharing your version of product, that growth. I'm sure we will be back in touch with you for more of this and we will talk to you against in sure thing, and all, come prepared with puns next time. They very good about all right, hey, rex, thank you. I really appreciate you having me on it. Thanks for listening to growth marketing camp. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd love it if you would give it a quick five star rating or share it with a friend or colleague looking to get a little more inspiration for their next campaign. If you want to learn more about the company behind the show, had to open sensecom. That's open sken skecom. Will catch you on the next episode.

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