Hey Agata how you doing? You got David Abrams here. Hope you're doing well today. How's everything going?
I'm great, thanks, David. How are you?
I'm awesome. I'm doing really good. I'm actually really excited to talk with you. I'm really excited to learn more about what you guys have done. I think you've done some really interesting things in the, in the Webinar areas for marketing influencer campaign, so let's jump right in and talk about some of this stuff. If you want to start off, I guess give me a bit of a background on SimScale, who the customers are, what you guys are doing uniquely in the marketplace, would love to learn about that.
Yes. I would love to share as well. So SimScale is a provider of the first cloud based cloud native 3D engineering simulation solution and that is changing the way engineers, designers and students designe products applications and buildings and our customers spread across different industries. So it's ranging from AEC, architecture, engineering and construction to automotive or even drone manufacturers. And what makes us different from our competitors, I would say it is that we focus on making engineering simulation really accessible to every engineer and designer independent of their budget or their know level.
That's incredible. So you've kind of bridged that gap of the experience level that's needed, the technology that's needed and given a simple, easy solution for people to do this stuff, which is very advanced, very technically amazing that you guys can do that. Would you just to give us some background, when did you join the team? What was the company like at that time? Maybe just some metrics so we can get a better picture of when you joined.
Yes, sure. So I joined SimScale in 2015. It was two and a half years after the company was founded and back then we were around 25 people and we had less than 50 customers, mainly small to medium companies, and primary from Europe and within three years now that I've been with SimScale, we have doubled the number of our employees, but also we grew our customers base by over 1000 percent. Yeah. And our customers now are really spread around the globe and they are in more than 45 countries.
That is incredible. Well, congratulations to you guys. That sounds like incredible growth in a short period of time. We'll talk about what you guys did for that. When you came in at 25 people, were there any people in the marketing team already or were you the first marketer coming in?
The team was very small, so we had mainly working students. And so I took over basically the management of the marketing team. I joined the executive team and I was responsible for building the whole team and that was also for both marketing, but also our PR and a community since it was before the launch of the community plan that we have right now at SimScale, so we also had to hire community managers.
Gotcha. What was the major pain point you guys were facing when you joined and you know, how did you take that as your first initiative?
So when I joined SimScale, our primary source of lead generation was Google Adwords. So we were spending a lot on PPC ads. The campaigns weren't really optimized, we were targeting very generic keywords and as a result the quality of the leads wasn't very good. And before joining SimScale I have been actually working for six years at Google within the Google Adwords organization. So like a very good, good fit here. And so my first initiative was to take our spending under control and kinda come up with a more sustainable and efficient ways for generating our leads. And within the time, like what I was really focusing on, I have built a strong team and together we have really shifted our focus towards organic traffic referrals and social and communities. Those were our main acquisition channels and within these three years we were able to decrease our monthly marketing spend by 3x, the cost per acquisition by 8x while at the same time improving the quality of our needs and also increasing the number of marketing qualified leads by over 100 percent.
Incredible. Incredible. I want to talk about some of the specifics of those things. I think that's the key, kind of magic here. So you came into a company, they were still figuring it out. They're spending a ton on Adwords, which is always hard when you're just starting a company figuring out, you know, your acquisition costs, where you can afford your budgeting. Were you finding that, that initial pain point of like where their marketing spend was, was because they were in kind of this advanced space that hadn't yet been disrupted and they were trying to break into it, were they trying to find product market fit or do you think it was just kind of lack of knowing what channels maybe to go into and how to actively bring in the right customers?
I think mix of the two. So we didn't have our product market fit figure it out back then, we actually took us a bit to really like find the right one. We did a lot of experiments and we right now we know actually where to focus on and we are really developing the product for that specific market as well. But there was also this additional aspect of not knowing really which channels make sense. So we were trying. This one was easy, right? Like you would just spend the money. We didn't have video optimized as much and for me because I really, I'm a true believer of a data driven marketing, I wanted to know which channels are actually driving, not just leads but also customers. So one of the first steps as well, where I wanted to spend time was to establish proper tracking. So we would have the knowledge of the channels that make sense as well for us and understanding where we should be investing more, both money and time.
Does that mean that you guys were actively doing some of these other channels that ended up working for you? Or when you came in you said, okay, let's start experimenting on these and seeing if those do provide better results for us?
We did a lot of experiments with different paid channels, not just Adwords, but like, you know, also Linkedin advertising. Also native content and other page advertising. We still do some of it. It's not like, you know, we completely stopped. We still do Adwords. We also do a PPC advertising with review websites. We do a lot of things as well with Quora. So there were a few experiments with, for example, we found out that like Quora has worked really well for us as well. Working with influencers has worked for us as well. But on top of that we were also talking a lot with different startups, right? Like, I'm always interested to basically exchange best practices with other marketers and I find it very helpful. Obviously something that works for someone else doesn't always work for you, but it gives you some initial ideas as well where it would make sense to focus.
And actually from one of these conversations, it came out that you know, since we do have a community where there is a lot of public projects and a lot of user generated content, this what would make most sense for us to really try out to focus on with the organic traffic because with the user generated content, like we could naturally always have a lot of new web pages that could be indexed by Google as well. And so that was like kind of like the first direction. Like we should focus on organic traffic. We also talked with the companies for whom it worked and we did like a really big project around this and that was like one of the most successful things for us. So in 2017 we are able to grow our organic traffic by 2x a year, over a year and then more than 70 percent of our new paying customers right now are generated through organic traffic as well. So we did this large project with a full audit. We worked with an agency there and we did a lot of improvements in terms of like technical things that had to be changed within the website and the community. Also content like large focus on content, link building, a lot of effort to where we like, you know, one by one we're tackling different SEO related problems and right now we are able to sustainably grow leads from organic traffic, like growing organic traffic by around 15 to 20 percent each quarter organically.
That's incredible. And I think like one thing that I've really taken from that is you guys had to move the product in a way to get a free plan out there, which then builds your community, which then made you realize, hey, where you can use this for SEO organic traffic. So it was kind of this natural progression to get you there to get you to that growth. And that became, this is a long term, a traffic channel that you guys can ride forever. It's not based on just spending dollars. That's incredible. When, when you guys. I mean that first of all, that's awesome that you have that and you built that, but I want to take a step back because you had started talking about partnerships because I think that's an interesting thing too. I think you guys have done really well with partnerships. Would love to know, I guess more of the tactical, maybe how you've mapped out the right partners and your niche, what you've done to kind of open the door, maybe even build relationships to get in there. And then how do you guys do partnerships?
From the beginning we really believed in this, that you know, we want to rather focus on partnership versus competing, right? So we are really interested at this. What brings value to our customers. We know that engineering simulation is just like one of the tools, aspire to like a software stack that's engineers and designers are using. So for us it was kind of natural as well to look at the tools, cutting tools that our customers are using or the target audience that we're going after. Right. So that's why we developed also partnership with Onshape since they are a cloud based, cut provider. We also started partnership with Fusion360 and we are not ending there, right. Like we are the whole whole time like looking for other partners, talking with the customers to understand which products they are using. We are doing a lot of partnership based workshops and webinars. We did recently a series as well with Ryan now, which is also a cut tool but we also do a lot of partnerships with different organizations that define standards for let's say AC industry, also with other communities, and there is a lot like also on the market. So we, we do a constant check as well, like what are the tools that would be relevant for our target audience and where does our target audience spend time online, so we could like add value as well for them. Right? Like, it doesn't make sense really like that you are competing and you kind of try to force your customers or users to like drop the tools that have been using for years. It makes more sense to integrate with this tool. So it's like a better user experience as well for them. And actually the whole marketing team, we talk with people a lot. We spent a lot of time networking, we network with other marketers, we network with other companies. Whenever we are doing something and integration, we opened the SM like, you know, are you open to do a cross PR effort like cross marketing? Could we do a webinar together? And in majority of cases like people are very open, like I think they are often surprise as well because, you know, other people maybe don't offer it, but it's way easier than many people would think that it would be like, you know, you first have to ask and usually the answer you get is a yes as well.
Did you ever get like initial resistance from not having enough of an audience? Was it really only after the, like maybe the community build that you started having the leverage there behind you guys that helped them? Or have they always kind of been open to that? I think the reason I asked that, I think there's kind of a preconceived notion that you have to have leverage on your side for them to want to work with you.
I mean at the beginning we started with academic related things, right? Like even when SimScale was an unknown brand, we didn't have that many customers from the beginning, we were doing things that were partnership based related and we started with webinars and workshops which were focused more on academic users. So it was free like free content, for let's say, so we had one person on the team (inaudible) who actually she was very involved in f1, so she had a lot of connections there as well. So this is how it started as well. And we already sold the value there and it's a bit easier when you do it for academic purposes or community because obviously it's not for commercial use. So partners are more open there, right? Like, because a majority of organizations, even media partners, even if it's like magazines, they are interested to create content for academic purposes. So it's way easier to get partnerships like that. Obviously when it is more commercial focus is a bit more difficult. So it's definitely helpful that you already have some sort of a brand created that you have done webinars and workshops in the past, but usually when we were pitching the ideas we were also using the feedback that we have received in the past from previous participants or from the partners as well. And that has helped a lot.
Wow. Really informed that. That really helps it. I think that's a really great answer. And, and you mentioned a couple of times that you guys have done webinars, both educational and lead generation. What are you guys doing right now with webinars and you know, how important they are for you guys?
Yes. Again, because we are data driven, we always look at the impact of the things that we do. So last quarter for example, 13 percent of our sales pipeline was generated through webinars and workshops actually, right? Like, so this is also the reason why we think investing in webinars and workshops make sense. And so we have an ongoing schedule off charter webinars which are more application focused on solving specific problems that we saw that our customers have as well and that are relevant for them. So we do webinars around this and we try to make sure that, at least every second webinar is a partnership based. So now what is new as well, what we haven't done in the past is webinars with our customers. So we are inviting our customers as well to present basically like, you know, their customer success story with SimScale and how it has worked for them and basically teaching others how they could leverage the tool as well for themselves. But also then we do a series of workshops which is courses, and this we do in partnership with different organizations. We did one with Qatar Green Building Council. Now we're going to expand it. Going to do it also with the European Green Building Council and the German one and here we'll also offer certification to (inaudible), so they can get a specific certification which is relevant for people working in architecture and construction business as well.
Wow. You guys are really doing some amazing stuff there. You guys are writing all this content yourself and when you come up with this or just like you're coming up with a strategy of who you want to talk to you. Okay. We want to bring on our customer's user generated content. Do you give them an outline of what you want them to talk about? Are you for each of these partner webinars, you're writing all that content yourself?
Majority of it we do ourselves. So for example, the partner one, we do a lot of research what is relevant for the customers and when we do partners, the partnership based workshops, let's say with organizations like the Green Building Council, we talked as well with them. What is relevant for the audience. They know it as well because they have members and they have specific standards that they follow. They know also what, in what type of content that our audience is interested in. Right. So we usually have the initial call when we discussed with them and like, you know, what would be relevant for us, for you. We bring some suggestions what we think will be good, but often like, you know, it's, it's a matter of discussion as well, like, oh, we get her some ideas from them and then from our side when it comes to the customer base where we nurse, we talk also with the customer, like where did they see the success, will listen to their feedback and based on this we come up with ideas what could be relevant for the audience, for a larger audience and where we could add value as well with the webinar.
So actually we try to involve an extended team as well to generate these ideas. Right. We have been sending spreadsheets where like the whole company could add their ideas as well for webinars, topics which would be good. And I think it comes as well from this that, when we were looking for product market fit and in general, like was part of the values within SimScale too. We all try to talk with our customers, right? Like, it doesn't matter in which department you are, you can be a developer, you can be in sales, you can be one of the founders, a person on the marketing team. We activity, even look on Linkedin too, trying to find people who match our target customer profile and we talk with them, grab a phone, even if, let's say they have never used SimScale trying to understand their problems and that helps us as well a lot to generate ideas and the same even with partnerships. Often when we get connected with people, we find it all. We do similar things and you know, we have a similar audience, that could be interesting for the audience. And let's, let's do some partnership together. Let's do a workshop for them.
I love that. I love the culture you guys have created to have everyone asking and learning and consistently trying to understand the customer better. I think that's essential there and it makes total sense on how have you been able to create so much content and learning what your customers are looking for, what they're needing, pain points and stuff like that. That's incredible. I really appreciate you talking and walking us through that. One of the things I also want to jump on and learn a little bit about, in our time today is the influencer campaigns. You had mentioned you had a background in that. How have you adapted influencer campaigns, which is normally a B2C approach, how did you guys brought it to your niche?
Yes. I think you'd see it's a good question, right? Because, usually this is what people think about influencer campaigns. That is more B2C strategy, but it has worked really well for us, not with every single influencer, but we had a few where we saw a lot of success. Well, one example was the campaign we did with real engineering. It's an influencer on YouTube. We did it last year in the summer, we had a series of videos as well with him and he had a, he has a lot of followers as well, and the content that he creates is like very, very high quality as well. And that helped us to generate the traffic that was worth of the traffic that we normally generate with three months of advertising with Adwords. So it was really significant for us. It had a huge impact, maybe not really like on lead generation, but a big impact on our organic traffic and the overall growth of the brand as well. When we were tracking also our, like Google search trends, we saw that like really like there was a significant spike for the keyword SimScale brand keyword pos this video campaign as well. How we go on I thought that you wanted to ask a question.
Yeah, no, I was just going to ask, you know, how, how did you find that specific influencer? Were you looking for people in that industry that are talking about, you know, your type of company is, or like where did you actually find him specifically?
Yes. So right now we actually looking for from influencers that are focusing more on the AEC industry, but in the past we were just looking at people who are talking about engineering topics, right? Because we, our audience, these are people who are engineers. They are more interested in technical topics. So it's like a bit broader, a broader theme. So it's easier to find because it's not that niche. But I think it can apply to many different companies that like, you know, you cannot just think about the specific area that you're in, but you have to like expand your thinking and maybe even talk with people who are from your target audience, like what are the things that they are interested in, like what type of content do they read or what type of content they watch. And that gives you additional ideas where to look for.
And, we were able to find several different influencers on Youtube, which has a huge number of followers and have very good content that like basically matches this that we know that our target audience is interested in. So it was a lot of research, like sometimes it's very difficult to get answers, like, you know, find contact information as well as to the influencers. But we were not giving up. We're still not giving up, we still do it. So we have a few influencer campaigns planned for this year as well. But it's basically outreach, is again like building partnership, and building your network as well. Right? Like, so we were like really reaching out to them. Giving them also some ideas where we think we could collaborate. So it wouldn't be like, you know, a set of cold emails where basic like there is no personalization. We would really like look through the video content that the person has, what are the topics they are interested in. And then we will think, okay, do we have a simulation content that would be relevant for their channel? We don't want them to create something that is like, you know, very promotional heavy, but we wanted to look very natural as well that it actually gives a value to the subscribers of the channel. And that was also the feedback that we got under the real engineering video. Usually the YouTube comments are very harsh and the feedback was that people said like, wow, the tool is really valuable. I didn't even know that it existed. This was the best product placement ever. So it wasn't like, you know, it didn't feel in the video that now there is an ad and like people are annoyed with it, but it was more natural because it really did fit into the content of the video.
That's incredible. So that was really smart to do it that way. And what about when you, when you do these campaigns, are these like you pay influencers up front, do they do partnership percentages with you based on revenue driven and if you, if it is pay up front, you know, when you were first doing it, were you just making a gamble on way that they would work with? Just some advertising dollars. How'd you budget for that?
It really depends on the person. Right? So some, some of them want to have a payment upfront. Yeah. Sometimes it's difficult to predict if it's going to work. And, so with some of them we did agree on like, you know, some test content or like not a full fledged promotion but maybe like let's say we would create content for them that would be valuable because anyways they were planning a specific video and then they will make the video more interesting and they would like just add this content like a video that we created or an animation that we created. They would add it into the video. So at the end of the day they will actually have value out of it. But this way we could also test the impact, right? Potential impact, if it makes sense to do a bigger video where it's like really paid and we spend marketing budget for it. So this was usually the approach that we were taking, that first we did like something smaller, we add volume to them and then later on we do like a paid campaign.
Super smart. I love that. That's a really good risk mitigation as well and just to learn about. So that's incredible. And I'm gonna move on to, as a data driven marketer, you said before you love focusing on the numbers and obviously you know a lot of your numbers. What things are you looking for on a monthly basis for KPIs and quotas for your team? Are you looking at a per channel basis? Are you going, do you want to know, obviously you want to each channel and how they worked, but are you looking at, you know, what's most important leads to customers, lead customer conversion ratio per channel? What do you specifically look for at the end of the day?
A lot of different metrics. And actually SimScale is a company that runs on OKR, so objectives and key results. We took the strategy as well from, from Google. I really liked it when I was working there. And right now every single person at the company has their own individual objectives and key results, which we revise on a quarterly basis. And on top of that, obviously we also have our KPIs which are for the whole marketing department and that's the same for every single department as well. And we usually have like three main KPIs that we focus on and obviously like a bunch of supportive KPIs. The supportive ones are, usually have one owner. Right. So it depends, like what is your ownership for ROI, if it's a website management and social media management, workshops management, and so on. The main KPIs that we have, let's say for this quarter, within the team is professional marketing qualified lead. So we used to focus on marketing qualified leads solely, but because we have different plans, we have like a professional plan community plan as well. We now know that like, you know, basically the metric that contributes to the revenue is the professional marketing qualified leads because they directly attribute to people who like buy the paid plan as well. The other metric is the inbound pipeline. And so that's basically how many of the leads that we generate, we can turn into opportunities as well. And, you know, what is the value of this approach change as well. And this is combined as well with the low cost per acquisition. So we are looking at the cost per acquisition as well. Individually the team members have also different metrics so we really split this professional marketing qualified leads by channels. So let's say a person that owns management of social media channels, they would have the number of professional marketing qualified leads generated through social media channels. The person that works, let's say on the webinars and workshops would have this PMQLs from webinars and workshops, also the pipeline generated from webinars and workshops. So, everyone, depending on their ownership area would have also KPIs matching that so they can really at the end of the quarter see the impact of the work. And we noticed that it's also very motivating for the team because obviously like, you know, it's a bit of a gamification as well, that you can add (inaudible) and that has worked very well for our company.
I love that. What was, what was the word? An OKR?
Yes, yes. Objectives and key results. So it's basically an abbreviation of this.
I love that. I'm going to have to check it out. I'm going to make sure we find some article about it from, from Google, like you said, and add it to our show notes. That sounds incredible. I would love to learn about it and I love the idea of gamification. I literally have a sticky note on my computer that says how do we gamify marketing? So I love that, I love that. So that's awesome. And moving forward, looking deeper in 2018, do you see marketing changing for you guys or is it kind of continue to test and grow those OKRs?
No, obviously like we are changing things every quarter so we continue to experiment and we now know which channels make sense for us. So we, we definitely, we continue focusing on the things that we know that work, right? Like, so SEO is still a big topic for us and will continue investing there. But on top of that we also want to focus more on building a strong brand for SimScale as well, so we have a few groundbreaking product releases and partnerships plan up for this year. So we want to use this as an opportunity to further grow our presence online. But on top of this as well, we want to experiment a bit with localization and that's also for webinars and workshops. So, the webinars and workshops that we have done so far, were mainly in English, so it wasn't very targeted for audience, for individual countries and regions. We want to localize the content now and do a more localized webinars and workshops as well, especially that this is very important for the industry that we are focusing on for this architecture, engineering and construction because the standards and requirements differ by region. So it does matter actually, right, like, you know, for each region it is, and in the past majority of our webinars and workshops that we were targeting the audience globally, and, and this way we could also adapt timing and see what works best, in this terms for the users. And, you know, the positive aspect is that our team is extremely international. We have 50 employees but over 25 countries, so we speak different languages. So it's very helpful, right? Because we don't even have to hire external people to do this webinars for us. But we can leverage our team internally to do it.
That's awesome. I was going to ask, I would love to know how the hiring goes or finding webinar host for all those different countries, but it sounds like you guys have that already together. That's great that you can use your team. We're also kind of remote based company, we are a remote based company and we have people all over, but that's an incredible use of your team. I love that idea and it's great to hear that you're, I mean I always find it interesting when you look for expansion on marketing versus just staying in your lane, but I guess it's continually going. That sounds incredible. I'm excited to see how you guys continue to grow and would love to check in as you progress in 2018.
Yeah. That'll be interesting because things change so fast. I'm sure like if we talk in half a year, everything will look different and as well will have new stories to share.
Oh, I'm sure. That'll be awesome to hear. And let's go ahead based on time here let's just jump into our lightning round questions. These are just quick questions that I'll ask, you can answer with the fastest first response that you have and it's a lot of fun. Ready to go?
It's like a quiz.
It's exactly like a quiz. All right. What advice do you have for early stage SasS companies starting marketing today?
Yeah, I just think that they should focus more on SEO related aspects. So I'm also mentoring a several startups and I see that this is like an aspect that they don't consider it at the beginning of when they are building their website or are now thinking about their online presence. I think it's like makes your work so much easier if this is something you think about when choosing your name, when setting up the website, the domain, like what is the infrastructure for the website please keep that in mind because that could save you a lot of money later on in the future as well.
Totally. What marketing skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?
Oh, okay. I'll sound like a broken box. Be data driven. I said it already. I think it is just because great marketers nowadays, especially the ones leading a marketing department at a startup, it actually matters the most at a startup need to be growth hackers and for that you can follow your guts feelings, but you really need to be able to know your numbers and this will allow you to focus on the right things and will also allow you to make the most out of the marketing experiments and the budget that you have, which is usually for the startups is very limited as well.
Yeah, no, I absolutely agree with you. It's making the most out of a little that you have, so you have to be smart there. I love that. What's the best educational resources you recommend for marketing?
Yeah, I have a few of my favorite ones. So I read actually a lot of blog posts from HubSpot and (inaudible). I find their content very valuable for learning. I found a lot of really good tips there that I also experimented with. I'm also a big fan of Medium, so I read content there and I actually publish my marketing related articles there as well.
Oh, that's great. Yeah, Medium is amazing as well. What about a favorite marketing tool you can't live without?
Again, a trust actually, it's, it's also good for SEO and marketing running on big data and I use it a lot. I also love reading their content, as I said. Also, obviously we use a lot of different other tools like WordPress, Google Analytics, Google Optimize, Envisioning for our website mockups and (inaudible) for our email marketing efforts.
Yeah, those are all great tools. So yeah, I love Envisioning as well. What about a brand business or team that you admire today?
I always will admire, I think Google is an amazing employee branding. It was really great to work there and get this experience and I think the most valuable aspect was, the people that I met there. So those are some true friendships which I really prize as great networking as well. So in this regards, but other businesses, that's come to my mind. I think it's Leeching Technologies, recently they were acquired actually but before it was like a really like great family spirit team. I was collaborating with them in the past as well, when I was working at Google and they are very data driven in terms of like community platforms. They have great solutions as well. How gamify user engagement as well. There was a great team behind the product. And I think what is valuable and what I would love to repeat this as well is their ability to build strong and lasting relationships with their customers. So real. Like they, they were friends with all of their customers and that was really incredible. I actually never experienced working like that in another company.
Yeah, we'll have to check it out. That is incredible. I think that is one of the biggest things for businesses is to create great relationships with their, with their customers and I feel like a lot of what we're trying to do here at Demio is that we do really believe in that, the relationship aspect of that, so we'll have to check them out. That's incredible. And now I just want to thank you so much for your time today. You've given so many great answers. I loved learning about what you guys are doing, webinars, the partnerships and obviously influencer campaigns is something that we're going to have to look at too here, that's an incredible idea and way to do it. So I just appreciate your time. We learned a ton and you know, thank you so much.
Thank you so much as well. I loved being here and I loved to quiz at the end. I got 100 percent.
That's right. Well, awesome. Well thank you again so much and we'll talk to you very soon.
Thank you. Bye.
Wow. After listening to this episode and listened to it back, it's pretty incredible what Agata has been able to do over at SimScale, and I love to hear the lessons that she learned at Google and what she brought over. There's so many valuable things probably in her community that she got and also in the lessons, just seeing what works and what didn't work and the experience that she brought forward, but loved being able to dive into the webinar campaigns. Love to hear the influencer campaigns. (...)