Hey Aaron, thanks so much for joining me today on SaaS breakthrough podcast. How you doing today?
Doing great, David. Thanks for having me on.
Yeah, it's gonna be a lot of fun. Where are you joining me from?
I am in San Diego, California.
Oh my God. One of my favorite cities ever. Amazing. How's the weather out there?
It's good. We've had these fires in California, but that's starting to clear up a little bit, so, no complaints.
Yeah. I heard things are getting a little bit better out there, but that's fantastic. Thanks so much again for joining me. We're talking about ClickUp today and for our listeners who don't know, maybe you want to kick this off by explaining a bit about ClickUp, when it was founded, who the customers are and what you're doing uniquely in the marketplace.
So ClickUp is the only work platform that replaces all productivity software in a company with one app for tasks, docs, chat, goals, and essentially everything related to the team management. So we work with well over a hundred thousand teams and millions of people on the employee side to just be more productive and help them save a day every week, really through our platform. So with that said, company was founded in 2017. I've been on the team for about 11, 12 months now. So we've been doing some major pushes on the marketing side, but we're growing like crazy. So it's really fun. And I'm excited to dive into some of those key things on the marketing front. For teams and like types of customers that we have, I mean we're actually more built has one app kind of everything for everyone. So we have every single feature that we're trying to build that just simply help enable work and productivity and really serve that mission of bringing work in one place. But with that said, we do have key verticals that we do focus on on the marketing side. But it's mainly a sub facet of, you know, having a broader strategy on the product side. So we can talk about that with some of the marketing experiments and stuff like that, that we'll dive into but really that's sort of a high level.
That makes a lot of sense. How big is that marketing team and when you came in what were you initially tasked with coming in as a director of marketing?
Yeah, so when I joined, we had two people on the team and we had one agency and now we are up to seven people on the team and we have about three agencies and consultants that we work with. When I first joined I kind of was the, the filter for everything that our CEO wanted to execute on to start off with. And the other things that I was working on was getting our attribution system set up, which was, which is a fun one, which is working now. It did take some time though, cause every attribution model and system is going to be different for, you know, software products. So we, we got that aligned and then really just building processes, systems, programs, you name it. So, and then also doing a lot of the the executional work too on my end where, you know, we have a team of seven, but for most of the folks we brought on, I was doing you know, most of what would be either working with our design team or our video team or whomever, or even doing a lot of the SEO stuff myself, just from the get go before we hired.
So I've been doing this for a long time, so it's not anything I'm not used to on the executional tactical side. So it's it's a delicate dance that you get to play when you are you know, running a marketing team. And I think it's important to be able to hop in and do those things while at the same time knowing where and when you need to hire. So we're, we're going through that phase, we're going to be growing pretty heavily here in Q4 on the team side, but that's a high level there.
Well, congratulations there. We just got through the process of hiring a director of marketing, our first director of marketing. And it's very interesting to hear kind of that generalist role that you're talking about, where it's like some management, some execution, especially on smaller teams, like both of our kind of companies as we're building up and getting traction and all that stuff. So very exciting. One of the things that I think, you know, is kind of unique about both of our products is that we are a product that can be open to everyone. We're webinars, you know, you guys are productivity. How have you had to approach or how have you been challenged with messaging and positioning, which is always a tough one when you have an open-ended product?
Yeah. The question is always where to start, right? Because you, but ultimately where we, where we have started is off of what we've anecdotally heard from our users and from the teams using us. But what where we're moving toward is, you know, using that, you know, supported by data, right, and supported by, you know, who we know is actually using the platform and having better enrichment and all that sort of fun stuff to help make those decisions. So, you know, from a starting point, you can always start testing and, you know, use that anecdotal evidence, but we're moving toward data driven decisions on how to better verticalize really you know across different markets. And that's kind of guiding our decisions for where to start.
We're in that same process of now going through an enrichment period of our own data. Who are you guys deciding to use for that enrichment?
We've chosen Clearbit. Clearbit is who we use on the enrichment side. Now there's a lot of other platforms involved as well that we'll be continuing to implement, but Clearbit is the one that we have been starting to use on the enrichment side.
Got it. That's more just a selfish question for me to know, because we're trying to figure it all out ourselves. That's exciting. You also mentioned there was rapid growth this year. I'm assuming, because of obviously the push for remote work and this transformation in kind of this post COVID world, how has that affected some of the data that you're getting in? Does that shift your guys's focus on those customer segments? Is that data affect how you're looking at it or are you just accepting of this new change, and it's just about trying to stay in front of that change?
You know, what's really interesting about it, David is we thought initially when this stuff started happening, that, and it, you know, do keep in mind, we have seen, you know, continued growth month over month, but we've just been consistently growing at, you know, higher and higher percentages every single month. And I think us being a productivity platform of course plays into that with, you know, the current state of the world. With that said though, I mean, we're growing at, you know, slightly higher growth rates every single month. And we've been on that same trajectory this entire year even prior to COVID. So it's kind of just a catalyst that is added on top of already what is like a really strong, you know, organic and product led growth engine that we have. And then we've been adding other things on the marketing end on top of that to really support that.
But that foundation is really what's driving us the most right now. And then luckily we're able to be a platform that helps people during this time, you know, with COVID going on and with enabling remote work. So it's kind of like a dual, a dual play really where we where we help the market, obviously with what's going on in the world and enabling remote work and remote teams and productivity. But outside of that really, it's just been following the initial threads of what we built, especially heavily on the content side and on the product led growth side.
That makes a lot of sense. And so from an acquisition standpoint, since you had some of this stuff, as you just said, like set up prior to, you know, late April, March or early April and March kind of time, what were you guys doing as far as, or what have you built out as experiments or initiatives for acquisition in your marketing side?
Acquisition specifically I mean, so, like I said, we're, we have a huge organic growth engine and we actually have more recently kicked off what would be, you know, paid marketing as that tool for acquisition. We've done a ton of testing on a ton of different channels and really within that process, you know, making sure our attribution was set up really is the foundational tool. Cause you can spend a bunch of money on paid marketing, but if you don't know really like what the true value of that marketing is, and really being able to track it down to the user level for, you know, how your results are coming in and what you know is contributing from a channel level to, you know, first touch, last touch, you know, position base, time decay, or even linear attribution and really being able to have that, that data.
That's, that's the biggest thing, but paid marketing across the board is what we have kicked off. And we're really scaling up right now alongside using that for, you know, yes, attribution on what's happening on the performance marketing side, but really for brand impact too, and starting to drive higher brand awareness. And, you know, that's all post funding announcement for us and we're still pushing that right now. Cause yeah, the biggest thing is we have a great user base for growing a ton and we just, at the same time too, on the marketing side, getting more people to know about us and just, you know, stop flying under the radar really. So that's what we're, we're pushing for right now. You know, alongside everything else, but acquisition primarily paid marketing and then using, you know, our attribution platform that we've set up and our internal systems as well for attribution to really audit, you know, how each channel is doing.
What is the attribution system that you set up?
We actually use this platform it's just called Attribution. So their website's attributionapp.com, but they're, they're awesome. You know, there's tons of tools out there, you know, there's bigger tools, there's other ones, they're most directly comparable to Visible, but they have a lot more features and functionality. And we went through a pretty heavy value evaluation phase between them and then looking at like platforms and, you know, platforms really like, thinking of the other ones right now. We are evaluating like Improvado and Funnel.io. And a few others, but we came down to them for what we were looking for and they've been really great and supportive throughout the process. And yeah, they're, they're great. I mean, from the top down, their CEO will hop in if we ever need help too, which is really great. And they're, they're growing fast too, but that's just the platform that we on the attribution side.
I just looked it up and I'll have to do a little bit of research on it. I know on our end again, we're also looking at that. But next question on that, what you mentioned paid paid advertising is a big push. Are there specific channels or locations you're doing that paid advertising? Each one's so different.
Google, YouTube, review sites for software reviews. And I mean that's on the digital side and most of our spend is digital right now. We are exploring some, you know, non-digital and more traditional channels. You know, billboards is one of them that we've driven into, which has been fun. And we can dive into that as a completely separate topic. But with that said, those are the key ones, you know, Facebook, Google, YouTube within Google and then mainly review sites where there are, they have a PPC based model that we can, we can leverage alongside already having a strong profile set up. Like Capterra, that's a PPC one that you know, we have a strong profile and you know, our users have left us some really great feedback on there that we leveraged. There's a ton of others as well.
G2 is obviously a great tool to leverage, but it's not really based on the PPC side. More just they're more buyer centric rather than focusing on, you know, the companies and helping enable them. But they're, they're great. They're a great platform and they're, they're mostly centered too on helping provide intent data, which is a whole different conversation, but that's mainly what we've used to date, are the review sites that do have like a PPC leveraging ability where we have strong profiles and then, you know, the normal be that Facebook, Google, YouTube, and then hopping into programmatic and all that fun stuff here in Q4 is something we're kicking off.
Sounds fantastic. I want to jump in to the billboards. That sounds so interesting. You know, why did you guys choose billboards? I think we also talked with Matt Epstein from Rippling who, who talked about doing billboards as a strategy for them. And it's just, you know, living in such a digital world, it's such a funny medium to talk about. What made you guys choose it? What was that process like? And why'd you or what kind of results did you see coming from it?
Yeah, that's a great question. And it actually started off with a push from our CEO. Our CEO has been, you know, he is integral into everything we do marketing and, you know, today he's kind of been the lead on all, you know, the product vision as well as the brand vision, right. So really choosing to engage. It was, it was his, his choice and we were able to, you know, make it happen and, you know, work with, we work with Clear Channel. There's of course other vendors, we work with Clear Channel. We chose San Francisco as a place to start. So we wanted to focus on a target geo where we have a lot of customers, but at the same time we thought it would be a great place to test and in doing so you know, we, we of course use the normal measurement with, you know, using Google analytics.
To just see if we saw a traffic lift or a lift in users for that target, you know, geo, which we did, which is great, right? So that's one way of measuring success, but also just hearing from people, right. Hearing from our customers and people that we talk to, Oh, Hey, we've seen your billboards. And you know, they all love and our design team and our entire team actually did a great job on putting those together and then, you know, working with a great vendor too, but you know, having some great placements and doing it in a very, in a very cluster like fashion so that, you know, if you're driving in and out of San Francisco, it's, it's hard not to see one of our billboards. Right. So that's part of the mindset that we took into that, how we've measured successful. Mainly just using Google analytics and measuring traffic lift and, you know, user conversions and, you know, measuring the value of those users that have converted from that geo you know, the normal stuff. What we're going to be integrating will be more actually a measurement on the brand awareness side. So measuring aided and unaided awareness for some of these geos that we're targeting. Be that San Francisco. I wish we had done that at the start to kind of get a really true baseline, but we're going to be kicking that off there, and then we're targeting some other key verticals and cities as well to start positioning those. But yeah, it's been a combination of, you know, using of course what would be your analytics platforms to try to get a gauge and then actually just listening to the word of mouth feedback, we've gotten great feedback from customers, candidates, you know, you name it and it comes down to positioning, right.
And what people think of your brand. And, you know, obviously when you see a billboard for a company, you think about them differently, you think, wow, they must be somewhat like legitimate, right. Or they have a billboard at San Francisco, you know, that means something, right. So we kind of use that as a, as a play to back up, you know, the validity of our brand, which is already there and it exists, but it's just something that helps support that greater push for stopping from flying under the radar. Right. And really like letting people know about who ClickUp is, and then getting them to just know the name, right. There's only so much value. Of course you can sell on a billboard of what the platform is and what not, but without said, it gets us in people's minds. Right. And how we reengage them after that, that's a whole different conversation, but of course you can build really targeted audience for folks from that geo that have visited your website, or even just how you choose to reengage thereafter, you know, there's tons of ways to do it. But that's what we've done to date. And we'll keep expanding on that. Cause we're still early on that side, but that was one of the cooler tests that we did. Cause we didn't really know what was going to come out of it, but it's been really positive. So we're, we're excited,
That's super exciting and congratulations on it working so well, that kind of your first experiment. So many questions come to mind though, but I kind of want to know like operationally, how you guys sit down and come up with experiments. Do you guys just do a marketing meeting? Do you have like a backlog of ideas as a smaller team? You know, I know like time is time is the number one resource we have. So are you guys evaluating maybe like an ice score on which experiment to take on next and you know, your CEO's like this one we want to do more branding. This is a brand awareness idea that we have, or did he just come in and like one day was like, Hey, I want to build a billboard cause I think this could be good. Like, was there a, like a strategic decision being made to use a billboard?
You know, it was something that actually came up when I first came on board and we had been talking to, you know, the vendor that we chose to work with and it took us some time actually, we didn't do billboards until our funding announcement. So it came down to timing for choosing that experiment. The question regarding processes and backlog, we of course use ClickUp our own platform for managing everything when it comes to work. So we have processes and systems and tasks and, you know, areas we've created within ClickUp to collaborate on everything marketing related, right? So that's, that's the process and the way in which we do it. Of course we have our normal cadences of meetings to discuss these things where, and when they're needed, but honestly just using our platform to manage it and collaborate and communicate across the team is huge.
I mean, for myself as a marketer, I have used other project management platforms prior to ClickUp. So coming in and having, you know, easily the most robust platform I've been able to use, that's at the same time the most user friendly is, is really cool. So we keep it all within ClickUp and we have like designated places from, you know, dedicated conversations to dedicated tasks to to really just dedicated areas for creating even mind maps, for example, for how we'd want to go about something. And it makes it really cool when we're, you know, working as a team cause anybody can take initiative there. Right. And it kind of gives you a free flowing area to be able to do so. So that's how we do it. And we'll typically categorize things accordingly, but with the billboard specifically, it came down to timing really. We, we wanted at a time with our funding announcement. So that was part of the motivation there as well.
Yeah, no, that definitely makes sense. Like a big PR kind of brand awareness move while that funding round is going on. That's amazing. And again, congratulations on that. I want to flip over to one more topic and you had mentioned this word earlier, you guys are very big product-led growth team. Talk to me about that, how you guys are focusing on that, what that word means for you guys and how you're implementing it?
Well, and that's, that's a great question cause it really, we have an incredible, incredible product and engineer team. They have literally built a product that has more features and more functionality and less time than any of the other competitors in the industry. And that's, what's really exciting for me because the pace at which we move and in which we innovate really is incomparable for any software platform I've ever seen. So product led growth for us. We we've created an incredible momentum among our user base for people that are really just, they love our product. And one of the best things that helps enable that is really just how fast we ship features and iterate, right. We ship new features every single week as an example. So that's something that keeps our users like really excited, but also it creates that buzz, that organic engine, right to where people are talking about it, but it also comes with what's built in the product to help, you know, enable that, right.
Be that paywalls for specific features, you know, be that, you know, really easy ways to collaborate with others and share and, you know, bring people on to ClickUp, to work with them there. Right? So it's a combination of things, but I really say foundationally, it starts with, you know, simply the pace at which we're able to innovate and bring in new features and functionality. And people love that. That's, that's really one of the things, if not, you know, one of the core things that's really helped us grow so fast and in such a short period of time comparably while at the same time building a great system for, for really engaging and for working.
Question for you on that. Do you ever feel as a marketer, you can build too many features that makes things too complicated to sell the product and it kind of starts to hurt you in that way?
Yeah. So I noticed you preface the question as a marketer, right? So as a marketer I'm excited about that because that gives me and our team like more ability to extend our reach. Right. Now we have two different strategies, right? That's, product is building everything for everyone, because, you know, frankly, that's the vision of our product. When it comes down to marketing, we're working on how we center that. Right. And have you marketing as the center point for, for product vision, right? So like how we're able to take that and then turn that into something that's really laser-focus is actually my favorite part of the process. So as a marketer, it's a huge opportunity for myself to say, cool, this is great. How can we center this and make this so easy to understand for people? And how can we personalize the experience around maybe that specific feature as much as possible for, let's say people that are searching for that feature, right. Or people that are looking at specific software categories for that new feature, which now puts us in that new category compared to competitors. Right. So as a marketer, that's exciting for me. And it's one of the best opportunities about working with ClickUp is, you know, the fact that we're able to do that on literally a week-over-week basis. So it's incredibly fun, but that's how I personally view it.
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And it makes sense based on your vision too, right? You want to be so much for, for like the whole marketplace, which is totally different than a very niche specific product that's trying to stay focused on maybe a specific industry, or use case or something like that.
Yep, absolutely. And a huge part of this too, that I want to preface is on the product led growth side is listening to our users, right? Our CEO literally reads every single piece of feedback that people leave on the product. And we have dedicated, you know we have a feedback board literally that helps drive our roadmap that, you know, we're literally listening to our users and letting them tell us what's important and prioritizing features based on them. Right? So building what people want and actually listening to them, our CEO and our product team and our whole team really do an incredible job of this. So that's also foundational really for like what's driving, you know, the new releases, the new features and essentially all of our product led growth in a nutshell.
Do you guys have impact scores on that? So it's based also on like some of the feedback on pain points that they have, but also on maybe new features and functions that go back to marketing and growth?
You know, it really varies case by case. And I am not personally like as involved in that process as, as our product team is, and where our marketing team plays into that is we're allowing product to like lead that effort and dive into it. And yes, at the same time too, there are those conversations though, of, okay, cool. Like if we built this feature or if we prioritize, you know, this adjustment to this other feature or, you know, et cetera, like where does that position us in terms of the marketplace and in terms of our competitors? So that's always a conversation that ends up happening around you know, every new feature we launch in that product and our entire engineer team as well, are both thinking about really. So that is part of the decision making process, but for the process that really varies feature by feature. But it's always in consideration you know, that, that true impact that it's going to have and you know, how, and when to prioritize things really.
Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. And that's always the, like the hardest part, right. Just kind of figuring out that priority line, where does growth play into this? How does marketing work with this? You know, what's, the importance, is just a churn like, you know, reason and stuff like that. So always lots to think about, but the marketing side definitely makes sense how it becomes such a powerful growth mechanism for you guys. And then I guess looking back over the past 12 months of being there, any hard lessons or things you've learned from experiments that didn't work out the way you expected?
I think it's really understanding our, our business model really, and how marketing helps enable that. So we have a freemium SaaS product, right. And, you know, with that most times for anybody that comes to be a potential customer, their first step is signing up for an account. Right. So we've tried like and thought of like, okay, there's different variations of in which people can potentially become customers, but really the biggest thing that I've learned, and this is actually very recent, it came mostly from a RQ foreplanning meeting, which literally just happened last weekend. And we got some incredible feedback from one of our investors, David Sacks who, who had mentioned to myself and our head of sales, like really just how at his former company Yammer, which has a very similar model in some sense, you know, their sales and their growth was really heavily enabled by exactly what I'm telling you.
Right. And we've been thinking, Oh man, like what else can we do right. To drive that awareness and start to build pipeline and start to build, you know, what would be activity outside of our freemium, you know, self-serve sign up model, but we've really realized that is, you know, our bread and butter. So the thing I've learned most recently that I want to focus on is really just focusing on making that better and better and better. Right. And using those enrichment platforms and using personalization on our website and using all these different tools that are available to just keep making what we're doing, that's working better. Instead of, you know, not giving it as much attention and thinking there's other opportunities out there, right. Even though there might be at a certain point, but I think with where we are now, that's the biggest thing we're focused on and that I've learned.
Yeah, no, definitely. It's like, it becomes a balancing act again, to, to another point is that, you know, you double down on what's working right now and go deeper and deeper. And then at some point you start to scale that out. But the question is like, when do you do those things? But I think so many of us often look for that next thing to do vs let's go deeper on this. That's really, really good advice.
A hundred percent.
And then looking forward this year you talked about growing the team, you talked about just some exciting growth in the company. Any other challenges or opportunities that you see looking forward, kind of wrapping up the rest of this very, very very crazy year, 2020?
You know, and I think it actually, you know, everyone says, I mean, firstly, let me preface that we are in a very, very different business landscape than we have been, frankly, in the past ever. I was going to say 10 years since like 2008, but this really isn't comparable. So really I think keeping an eye on that and seeing like how that's progressing and how businesses are changing and how, you know, innovation is changing as a result of this. But at the same time, I feel like there isn't a lot that actually changes with being a marketer, which means you just have to be looking at data. You just have to be understanding what's happening and you know, how yes market trends are affecting that. And I think what's happening with COVID it has affected that. Right. But at the same time, if you're a marketer, you're, you still need to be just looking and diving deep into the data all the time with whatever you're doing, whatever part of marketing, you know, there is, there is a facet of data that plays into everything, right? So that's the biggest thing that I think is going to be continued is simply just diving deep into data, right. As we continue this very, very volatile year and moving into 2021. So that's, that's really what we're most focused on. And at least what I'm thinking is the common trend for, for all the folks that are, that are marketers out there, especially.
That's actually, you know, really great advice. It's just keeping your fingers on the pulse because everything will change, that was like the only guarantee for this year, like with everything uncertain. Things are going to change. So great advice there. What I want to do now for the sake of time is jump over to our lightning round questions. Just five quick questions that you can answer with the first best thought that comes to mind, you ready to get started?
All right, let's do this thing. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?
Focus on content. And what I mean by that is, you know, build up your organic growth engine, get people knowing about you that are searching for what you do, or searching for things that might be related to what you do. But that's the area, I would start.
Love that. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?
Being aware and being, you know, in their own ways data scientists. Kind of like that last one I talked about with, you know, looking forward really you know, having, having the ability to ingest and look at, look at the numbers and want to dive deeper on those numbers and understand the why behind every marketing activity and just being curious. That's one of the things I hear, you know, a lot of like you know, heads of marketing CMOs, they always talk about, you know, what are the common threads you see in teams and are vital for teams and for marketers today. And a lot of it is just being curious. So, you know, and that goes into data. So that's, that's what I would say. Being able to dive into the data and just being curious.
It's funny you say that, cause you were, you were starting to talk about data and I was going to say, it sounds like curiosity and then you said
Best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?
I don't dunno if you classify this as a resource, but just doing things and figuring out if they work and going back to my last point, looking at the data. That's, marketing's changing so fast. And I think there, there are books on everything. But as a marketer in today's age, if you have those foundational things understood, just testing, testing is the best way to learn and grow. And the best resource educationally that you'll get as a marketer.
I love that. So true. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?
Well, I called them out today, but honestly going back a step, ClickUp is the tool I can't live without ever since I've come on board and I've started working on this platform, I'm like, I can't go back to anything else. I was going to say our attribution platform, but I realized foundationally, I can live without that. But I really couldn't live without ClickUp. Cause it helps me manage not only like my work and our team and our company, but it helps with frankly, my personal life, as I use it for everything outside of work. So that's, that's my favorite tool.
Oh, that's amazing. That does so much for you. And it's important to have, I think productivity tools are so critically important to our lives once we get into them, right? Like they help us with everything. What about a brand business or a team that you admire today?
Oh, man, I continue to, and this company has changed so much over time, but I mean, Salesforce for me is just kind of the pioneer of everything SaaS. And it's just so cool to watch them continue to grow and innovate as you know, one of the leaders and the leader in CRM, but at the same time, really that pioneer for SaaS. So that's what comes to mind and I admire them the most for what they've been able to accomplish. So there's a lot of really cool brands out there. I just admire what Salesforce has been able to achieve. And even though they've gotten way more complex with time, I still enjoy seeing what they're doing and how they're doing it.
They're always the pioneers for us. Right. They're the, the SaaS pioneers and kind of lead a lot of the marketplace. But it's a great answer. Aaron, I want to say thank you so much for coming on sharing so much incredible knowledge with us. Talk a little about ClickUp. Thanks again for your time. It was a pleasure.
My pleasure, David. Thanks for having me.
Allright Aaron, talk to you soon and have a great day.