SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Anna Schena Walsh

demio saas breakthrough anna schena walshAbout Anna Schena Walsh:

Anna Schena Walsh is the Director of Growth Marketing at Narrative Science, a SaaS that turns data into stories.

Anna leads marketing initiatives including brand, content, digital, and demand generation. She has previously led product marketing for both of Narrative Science’s products.

Prior to joining Narrative Science, she did product marketing for ThreatConnect, a cybersecurity software company based out of Arlington, VA.

Anna hails from Detroit and graduated from Canisius College with a degree in Psychology, Business, and Studio Art. She currently lives in Chicago with her husband.

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Show Notes:
The SaaS That Turns Data Into Stories
Joining The Team In Product marketing And Moving Over To Growth
Finding Product Market Fit With A Certain Psychographic Profile: Innovators
You Don't Really Find Innovators, They Find You
"Make it a prioritization to provide value and provide value about things that innovative people would care about, then at the end of the day, the idea would be that they find one of those things that come back to you. And then you can talk about purchasing of a product as opposed to going out and saying, try, try, try, or we're better than competitor A."
"We have storytelling pillars here. There's many of them, but a few that I think are important to cover. All stories have to have a point. All stories have to drive action and good stories inspire further questions."
KPIs and Organic Word Of Mouth
The Organic Story Framework That Everyone Goes Through
"When we roll out new pitches or new messaging, we take the time to walk through the storytelling arc and try to give examples of ways you could overlay this into different scenarios or use different examples from your own life. (...) that has inspired a group of much better storytellers. It's not a bunch of robots saying the same words, it's people taking our mission, taking the messaging, really internalizing it, putting it into ways and words that matter to them and then taking into account the people in the room and making sure it resonates with them as well."
The Story Behind The Book "Let Your People Be People"
Strategies To Get A Book Written
Distributive Initiatives For A Book And Results So Far
An Important Lesson Learned: Lean Into People's Unique Talents
"When I think about building brand, I think about people and not just about, you know, getting out there and talking about the company all the time. And I think that has been the biggest learning for me and the biggest positive change we've had in the way we approach our brand, the way we approach our marketing and approach our sales."
Carrying On Empowering Companies To Unlock The Value Of Their People Through Storytelling
Lightning Questions

DA: 00:55 Her team has been using this book to help market Lexio and it's an incredible story, and on today's episode we'll talk about AI driven storytelling and the power of Narrative Science. How would you develop the mindset of internal storytelling, what it means to tell a story in a cross departmental way, how product marketing can break through the noise with better stories. And finally we'll discuss the process that Anna used to write, launch to distribute her new coauthored book. Let your people be people in just a few months. This was a great episode. Anna is so wise, has a ton of great nuggets that you're absolutely going to love. So let's go ahead and let's jump on with Anna. Before I begin today's episode, I just want to quickly
DA: 02:40
Hey Anna, thanks so much for joining me today on the SaaS breakthrough podcast. Excited to have you and Narrative Science here on the show. How are you doing today?

AW: 02:49
I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me, David. I'm excited to be here.

DA: 02:53
Yeah, I'm excited to have you. Talk with such an innovative company. You know, I would love to learn more what you guys are doing, when the company itself was founded, who your customers are and what you're trying to do uniquely in the marketplace.

AW: 03:07
Sure. So I work at a company called Narrative Science. We're based in Chicago. We are 10 years old. We were founded 10 years ago. We actually started out of Northwestern, so we actually got our start with data storytelling and we started actually in automated journalism. So we started with automating the writing of sports stories. We actually still have some products that do that today. One of our apps is called Game Changer and writes Little League stories, for parents and for grandparents. And that writes about 7 million Little League stories a year, which is pretty cool.

DA: 03:46
That's awesome.

AW: 03:47
Yeah, it's fun for, you know, kids that don't usually get covered in the sports story realm. but from there we actually went into the enterprise space. And so the technology, which turns data into language and into stories, we entered the enterprise reporting space. So we went into a lot of the parts of big companies where there was a lot of reporting needs. So you can think like financial departments, stuff like that. And then from there we actually moved into more operational reporting. So we took our technology and added stories into dashboards across the company. That's our product. We call Quill and then now what we're actually doing is taking all of that knowledge from the past 10 years and we're rethinking the analytics experience for the everyday person. So like me or somebody like you that doesn't have a lot of data skills or that doesn't want to take the time to look through dashboards. What we're trying to do is have data turn into stories and bring that to people in a way they like to work today. That new product is called Lexio. The experience is kind of like a newsfeed for your business. So if you think of, think of like a sales team at a company, as a sports team, they have a ton of different stats about how they're doing and that is important for people across the company to know. We want that information to be brought to people in a very easy to digest way. And that is through stories.

DA: 05:06
Yeah, I think that's the key. And we started doing more reports and like analytical looks at like different parts of our company. And I always say like, what is the takeaway? What is the insight? We're just trying to like boil down numbers to an actionable thing that, that matters, that helps you make a decision. And, it sounds like that's exactly what you guys are doing with all that, all that data. That's amazing. When did you actually join the team? I know it's been around for 10 years. When did you join the team?

AW: 05:33
So I joined Narrative Science about two and a half years ago. I actually started within our product marketing function and I was specifically working on some of our integrations with our BI tools. And exactly what you're saying is what I was hearing all the time with these first clients I was talking to. And people are looking at the data or looking at dashboards today, all they're thinking is what is the story here? What do I need to know and what do I need to do about it? What change do I need to make to my day to day? Otherwise, why am I looking at this data at all?

DA: 06:04
That's exactly right. Yeah, that's, that's the actionable side of it. So you move from product marketing into head of growth. How did that change come about?

AW: 06:12
That is true. I did start in product marketing and moved over to growth, which is a fairly unusual shift. You see a little bit more of it lately. But what we were seeing is we were taking an innovative approach to product marketing. So for us instead of talking about features or talking about, I don't know, different use cases, things like that, what we are taking is actually a storytelling approach. So we were really putting ourselves in the minds of these users, we're interviewing people and we were putting that into story arc to use within our product marketing tasks, which actually led to a much bigger brand effort in a much bigger company story effort, which actually led to me moving over to more of a growth role to more of a top of funnel role, but actually into really taking the storytelling concept and using it across our marketing and sales and go to market teams.

DA: 07:07
Got it. And something I know we're going to talk a ton about today on this interview, so we'll go a little bit deeper in that and how you do that in product marketing and storytelling and all that kind of stuff. I just kind of still get a good idea of Narrative Science. When you were coming in, I'm assuming some of those products that are already found product market fit, but it sounds like you have a variety of products, especially when you moved into the head of growth role. How are you finding product market fit for each of these roles? How are you keeping them organized within the marketing department? Like how does that whole thing work out?

AW: 07:36
To be honest, I think it's one of our biggest challenges and one thing that keeps the job really exciting and fun. But I think the piece that holds all of our ICPs together the common thread, whether it was people looking for automated stories back in the day, whether it is people that have these hardcore reporting needs within the enterprise, or whether it's people that are just completely dissatisfied with the way we're looking at business data today. All of these people, the ones that we engage with have a certain psychographic profile. They're innovators, they're people that think the status quo is to be honest, just plain silly and that there's a better way to do things. So within each of our products, every place we've been over the past 10 years, the people we have found product market fit with are all within that particular group, this innovative group.

AW: 08:31
But where we see issues, I guess not really issues but see challenges for us is when you look at the demographic side, our products fit in different size companies. They fit in different departments. Depending on what data they're talking about. So that can be hard to keep track of at some points. But overall what we've seen is that when there is a big pain point for people wanting to know a specific type of information, that is where we fit best. So for example, our newest product that Lexio product, the newsfeed for the business. When you think about what everyone in the business should care about, everyone exists in a company to help drive more revenue for the company. That obviously manifest itself in many, many different ways depending on where you sit. But that is something you should care about no matter who you are. So for us a natural first place was starting to talk about those top line metrics. So bookings, pipeline, how was the company doing and how will the company do. And so from there we're able to narrow down on who cares the most about that information and go out from there.

DA: 09:39
That makes sense. And I think you also mentioned like the psychographic, like the innovator space, the mindset. So I'm assuming languaging and saying the right words, the copywriting to appeal to that mentality to that person, but also using some of those demographics you just talked about. How has over the past 10 years, I guess like leadership in the marketing culture evolved to take on this quote unquote like innovative mentality. And you mentioned before like a word that you used before was story and I'd be really interested in that.

AW: 10:10
I think that's a great question and a really good point. I think we've always been very lucky in Narrative Science has a very innovative culture. Doing anything here in a new way is not only accepted but encouraged, which has been really helpful. But I think at the brand level, in order to reach innovators, you have to make sure to showcase that you keep pressing the status quo both from a marketing perspective and from a product perspective. So for us, one of our biggest learnings as we, interacted with more of these innovators was that innovators, you don't really find them, they find you. So the important thing is to go out into the market and spread knowledge. As much as you can really about being a brand that gives and gives knowledge to people without really expecting a lot in return. And that is how these people find you.

AW: 11:01
If you continue to make it a prioritization to provide value and provide value about things that innovative people would care about, then at the end of the day, the idea would be that they find one of those things that come back to you. And then you can talk about purchasing of a product as opposed to going out and saying, try, try, try, or we're better than competitor A. What we've done is actually gone out and said, what do we know? What are we experts in? What do we know that other people might not? And how can we share that knowledge with the world? So that can be our executives going out and sharing their experiences. That can be people all across the company telling their stories about how they do things differently. Or for us just sharing our expertise in general on whether it be artificial intelligence, how computers can write language from data or storytelling in general. These are things we spend a lot of time thinking about and we want to be able to provide that out into the market whether people are purchasing from us or not.

DA: 12:01
Yeah, that's a great way to do it. And I think a lot of times, you know, companies that are in markets that have people like actively searching for things or like direct buyer intent, like it's a little bit easier. You guys have to be very much on the side of thought leadership, figuring out where you can provide value and how you can lead them into certain thought processes. Again, you mentioned story before. And I think when you're creating these value based content pieces, whether they be, you know, written content or video or however you do it, you know, you guys talk about storytelling a lot. How, how are you guys defining that? How are you turning your content and your, your value driven marketing, into an initiative that people can relate to and understand and, and like.

AW: 12:49
I think to answer that question, it's best to tell a quick story. So for me, when I came into Narrative Science, it's a very inspirational place to work. So here, like I had mentioned before, we have data storytelling software. So for us to create products that take data and write stories from it, you have to spend a lot of time thinking about what makes a great story. So we have all different types of backgrounds here, whether it be AI, journalism, linguistics, so many different lenses on what makes a great story. So what we did a few years ago is take a step back and say us, at the time for me product marketers, but marketers and salespeople were selling products that tell great stories, are we good storytellers? And we had to take a new lens on ourselves and figure out if we were doing this in the correct way.

AW: 13:42
And the answer at the time was actually not really and there was so much room for improvement there. So what we did was go back into some of these other things we're doing in the company. Some of the research we've done around what makes a great story and overlay that into all of our materials. And that has really driven a big change. So we have storytelling pillars here. There's many of them, but a few that I think are important to cover. All stories have to have a point. All stories have to drive action and good stories inspire further questions. So if you think about this within a software perspective is our products write stories from data. They have to be concise and informative enough to drive somebody to do something. And hopefully inspire them to ask for their questions, which also prioritizes how we build out new features within that product.

AW: 14:33
So anticipating those further follow up questions, things like that. So with that framework, for us, when we're looking at the stories we're telling about ourselves, about our clients, about how people use the products, are we telling them in a way that drives action? Are we telling the story in a way that makes somebody either want to try it themselves, or at least question the way they do things? And then does that inspire the further questions from them? And by taking that lens, just a very simple framework over a lot of the materials we were using, whether that be videos or I dunno, product sheets, things like that. It really turned things upside down for us and to think about not only being great storytellers from a software perspective, but the need for us to become great storytellers from a people perspective.

DA: 15:19
How do you guys track results of something like this? First of all, this conversation reminds me a ton of our amazing Wistia podcast where Kristen and Brian was talking about brand affinity. And they're kind of doubled down on that long term brand playing and what that means. I think you guys are doing a very similar route, but you know, talking about stories and the power of story. And, and I always ask like, how do you, how do you track a long term initiative? How do you know if you're, if the value you're creating is doing anything from a growth perspective?

AW: 15:50
I think that's a great question. And I think for us, one thing we do uniquely in terms of KPIs is what we're starting to look much more closely at is what we call organic word of mouth. So talking about KPIs, we look at the standard ones that all companies will look at. So for us, the growth team, the marketing team, we actually share KPIs with our sales team. So opportunities, revenue, things like that. We have obviously inputs to that, whether that be leads, web, things like that. But what we're starting to look at is we're becoming better storytellers is are we creating stories that are passed on? Not just from us. So when we talk about organic word of mouth, are people finding the knowledge we put out into the world reading or watching or listening to our stories using our products and does that inspire them to tell somebody else?

AW: 16:42
So are they sharing it with their networks or are they telling their friend on the train, whatever it may be, are we no longer the people that are talking about these things, are other people starting to spread our stories, our products. And for us that is the mark of a good story that it drives action and inspires those further questions and then inspires them to share it with somebody else. This is an interesting one to track because for us, you can't always know when these things are happening, but you can see it a little bit via social media channels. You can see it via referrals when people come in to trial, things like that. And the more we see that where people find out about us, our products, our mission from somebody other than us, we know our stories are permeating farther than just our voices might be.

DA: 17:33
Do you guys use like onboarding surveys? Do you get on calls to people and ask, how did you find us to see if you can like aggregate the data? That's something that we started to do because, you know, word of mouth for us was such a big thing for, for understanding product market fit and just, you know, all of the different variables for growth. And we just literally put in our like onboarding survey. Like how'd you find us? Just cause we had no way to know if people talked about us.

AW: 17:56
That's interesting. So it's not currently in our onboarding today. It's certainly a good idea. I think we will in the future as we expand. Yeah, I think it's great idea. I'll bring that up with the team.

DA: 18:12
Yeah, no, no, it's just a hard one to figure out. Just cause people will talk about you and you just miss it and you don't know. But a really good point. You mentioned before, you know, when you were originally on the product team, you talked about kind of the storytelling focus that you had on the product teams. And you mentioned like you were doing things differently than use cases or just like basic product comparisons. How does story permeate outside of just external marketing? How product team is able to drive story or other departments? Like how does that actually come out, publicly or forward facing?

AW: 18:47
I think the best way to answer this would be to give an example. So it makes a good example of this is when I was in product marketing, we, awhile ago when I started, we were banging our heads against the wall trying to put together a messaging framework that could fit in a bunch of different situations. So if you asked any product marketer, they've used messaging frameworks before, they're usually annoying because they're not, they're taking too literally or they're not taken seriously enough. There's many ways these things go wrong. So what we decided to do instead was to construct a story around our pitch, I guess, but really around our users and start to tell these stories when we were enabling our sales team and when we were telling the stories, the next thing we did was we actually, instead of just handing over the framework or I don't know, testing them on it, what we did was we implemented this thing we called ambush.

AW: 19:48
Essentially what it was, was everybody had to be able to do our pitch based story at the drop of a hat within any scenario. So anyone across go to market could go to anybody else and say, hi Anna, I'm John, I work at this company, I'm this role. Tell me what you're about. And what that did was it forced all of our teams to learn not just a messaging framework or not just not as a box pitch, but actually really retain the storytelling arc and be able to overlay that arc into every different scenario that we're talking about. So to this day when we roll out new pitches or new messaging, we take the time to walk through the storytelling arc and try to give examples of ways you could overlay this into different scenarios or use different examples from your own life. They are much more genuine to those people and we found that that has inspired a group of much better storytellers. It's not a bunch of robots saying the same words, it's people taking our mission, taking the messaging, really internalizing it, putting it into ways and words that matter to them and then taking into account the people in the room and making sure it resonates with them as well.

DA: 21:02
I really love that. In our last episode, we talked a lot about how important it is to have that like cross department communication between product and sales and marketing and everyone on the same page. And this is just like an evolution from that. I think you guys are taking it one step further and you have like this organic story framework that everyone goes through. Everyone is learning on and hearing other people tell a story from a certain way. And then they're, they're growing on top of that. So that's an amazing idea. I love that framework. That's fantastic. Well, I know you also just recently released a book, wrote a book, freaking awesome. Congratulations. "Let your people be people" which is about how business leaders can tell a good story. And obviously this comes from your guys' culture and initiatives of storytelling, but why, why now and why did you decide to, to write this book?

AW: 21:53
Well, first of all, thank you, I appreciate that. And the reason we decided to write it. So I say we because I'm actually a coauthor on the book. My friend Nate Nichols who also works here, we wrote the book together. So he is, he's worked here basically since the very beginning. He is essentially responsible for all artificial intelligence within our systems and making sure our products can tell great stories. So he and I, we are friends, were also mentors for each other. We meet every two weeks. He and I, a few months ago at this point, we were having coffee one morning, really inspired about all the things we were doing across the company to instill this storytelling culture to make sure our products told good stories. And we decided that we really, we just had to start getting some of this stuff on paper. And so when he and I started putting our heads together, really think about all the unique knowledge we had in this area we thought, we decided to start putting it down, started to get longer and longer and we realized we actually had a book on our hands.

AW: 23:00
So we wrote it really quickly and we really leaned into the message of the book. Let your people be people. It's self published. And every single part of the book was done by somebody here at Narrative Science. So our designers helped us with the cover, they helped us lay out the book. We had contributors across the company with some of the chapters that are more specific to them and their experience. And we had everyone really band together to bring this book to life extremely quickly. And we really think it captures the essence of storytelling, how you can be a good storyteller, how you can create a storytelling environment within your company, why you would want storytelling products. And then also things that really represents us as a brand.

DA: 23:41
Were there moments like when you guys were just kind of brainstorming at the very beginning when you looked at each other and you're like we should make this as a book to market like the company, cause it sounds like it just kind of started as an organic brainstorming session.

AW: 23:56
It definitely started as organic and then as we, as we were thinking about this, we looked at each other. I feel like we had this moment, our eyes lit up and we're like, this is real, this could be great. And we could use this to share knowledge of what we know, but also really increase the visibility of Narrative Science at scale with people that fit into this innovator infograph or I'm sorry, psychographic. So if the theory would be, if, if people care about this type of thing, if they want to be better leaders and better storytellers, maybe they also would be interested in what we're doing at a product level. So it really goes into that give brand we want to be able to put this knowledge out into the world but then also maybe down the line that helps us determine some of that intent. Who is leaning into this, who do we think would care about this and that would help us with some of our growth initiatives at top of the funnel.

DA: 24:48
Yeah, no it's an amazing top of funnel initiative. It's something that I know we've thought about and it's just a great thing to do cause it is so value driven. I think about the Basecamp guys and their books and I absolutely love them. They give me value but they also, you know, bring me into their brand and a lot of way into their story of how they built in, their ideologies and all that good stuff. So that's fricking awesome. I know you guys are constantly busy. He's obviously on the engineering and like AI side. That's got to be crazy busy. You have, you know, probably so many initiatives and growth. I understand, I feel the same way. How did you guys actually find time to do this? You had to, you had some of the people on the team help out, but like how did you even find time to do, break it out? I need tips for people who would be interested in going down this route of an initiative like this was just blocking time in the calendar and just becoming a priority initiative for that quarter or, you know, how did you do it?

AW: 25:45
I think there's a few things we did. First of all, when he and I made the call that we were going to do it, we committed to it. So we said, you know what? This is going to be a book and we're going to write it and we're going to write it fast and it's, we're going to be, it's going to be something we're going to be proud of. So he and I had outlined it and then we actually told other people here that is something we were doing. And that I think helps keep you focused on the fact that it is now put that people are expecting and that is something that you tie yourself to. So for us what we did is he and I committed to half a day a week. Whether that be working from home half a day or blocking no meetings half a day.

AW: 26:30
We wanted to make sure half a day every week was committed to taking time to write out our respective chapters or respective sections. And with that dedicated time and because it's a subject we're so passionate about and have so many resources here about anyway, we were able to write it very quickly with that focus time and seeing that progress every week. The build by build, half an hour from him, half an hour from me, there's another few chapters. It was really encouraging to see it expand over time. And then once we got to the end of the timeline, we saw it lined up really well and we were really excited. So for us it was just about blocking that time and committing to the goal. And from there just making sure you take those incremental steps every single week.

DA: 27:18
Really amazing feedback there and a really good idea on how to just keep that focus. I think having that nice feedback loop was priceless, so great for you guys getting, you know, the validation from each other that a half day is providing value. You're seeing the book get bigger and bigger. You know, some of these initiatives that we work on growth can take so long or you know, it's sometimes impossible to get those feedback loops and you struggle sometimes to get that momentum. But that sounds amazing. And again, congratulations. When you guys were going through it, a question that I have just from a personal side is, you know, was there a time in this process that you started thinking about how are we going to distribute this? How are we going to get this out there? You know, cause that's equally, that's traction equally as important as the initiative and the writing itself. And since it's been out, have there been any initiatives for distribution that have worked well?

AW: 28:07
I am lucky because sitting on the growth team, I have a ton of amazing people that work for me that and work with me that are very skilled in this area. So the company knew we were writing this book. Nate and I were writing it. Obviously a lot of people were involved. And a woman on my team, her name is Andrea Watts, she is a wiz with this type of thing. And immediately started to put together a plan for distribution. So she was one of the first reviewers of the book. She knew what it was about and immediately put together a plan for how to get this out in the world as widely as possible and in front of as many innovators as possible. So for us, a few things we've done, again, it's only been out for a few weeks, but we've leaned on some of the traditional areas like paid advertising.

AW: 28:56
We've leaned into some new channels for us. Things like, I don't know, Instagram, Facebook, but some of the really cool stuff I think she has done is really utilize our people here. So the whole book is about letting people be people through storytelling. So we had so many people raise their hand to volunteer to share their story about why the book meant something to them and share it through their channels with their people and watching that organically grow and people pinging out different favorite parts of the book or different reasons that the book meant something to them from a culture perspective or from an opportunity perspective for people who helped out with the book itself and putting that out there has caused a lot more organic traction than I would've ever expected. And it's a great culture thing for us here for everyone to be bought into this notion.

AW: 29:47
And then we also ran a promotion for physical copies of the book. So many people that are big readers really love the true traditional printed book method of reading. So we're running a promo for the first month that if you sign up you can get a physical copy and we'll send it to you. And she got some really great packaging. We write individual notes with the books to everyone we send it to, to really create that best experience possible for those readers. And it's been really, really successful so far. We've had tons of people raise their hand to say they want to read it, which has been pretty amazing for me. And obviously a great validation for someone that's doing great work on the distribution side.

DA: 30:29
Huge validation and a lot of great insights in everything you just said there. I love the idea of having your team do distributions. I've heard something similar to like how Drift does product launches. I think that's so genius. Love the idea of putting a physical book when you sign up. That's awesome. Again, just brand affinity, brand marketing, they're so good and so powerful. Obviously it's still so new. You guys have only had this out for a couple of weeks, but have you seen any direct conversions from the book yet? I know from a, from a brand perspective it's amazing and that's going to take time to measure. But what does it look like from like a general acquisition? Is that even a goal?

AW: 31:03
I would say it is not the primary goal for the book. Eventually yes, for sure. It is so new. So in terms of net new people that downloaded the book to customer, it's just too short of a time period to know right now. However, what we've seen is we've seen a lot of current customers download it, we've seen a lot of current prospects download it and our sales team and our customer success team who are so amazing have actually started to utilize it. When they go to meetings, they'll bring it with them, they'll send it to people after as well. So it does have impact on the current funnel and hopefully it will start to move people into it. But again, it's really about just taking the knowledge we have in the company and giving it out into the world. And the idea would be eventually, maybe some of these people would find interest in what we're doing from a product perspective. I mean, I think what we're doing is amazing and everybody should look at it. But if they just want to read the book, that's okay too.

DA: 32:03
Yeah, no, that's totally, totally understandable. And I think, you know, it's an intangible. It's something like, again, your sales team bringing it to meetings and giving it out. Like that's an unmeasurable item, but 100% helps through the process in some way and it's, it's really amazing. A great initiative. but cool. I want to just look forward, and to do that, I like to look back sometimes over your tenure there. Over the past two and a half years, you said you were there, any hard lessons, any experiments from the product marketing side or the growth side, things that you've done that have not worked out as expected? Not as cool as the book, any opportunities you wish you could redo?

AW: 32:44
So, I mean, working in a disruptive technology, I mean, we make mistakes every single day. We're trying stuff all the time. We're always trying new things. I would say over two and a half years. I think here I've learned more than I could in 20 years at another company, so you name it. I've probably tried it and it probably hasn't worked, but I think what I've, trend I seen is that the truer I can stick to what I believe about people in the workplace and giving them their voice and helping them to be genuine. Those are the things I see actually work because that's real people shining through. So anytime in the past two and a half years we've run like a traditional playbook because it's something we think we should do. That tends to either all or have, you know, minimal to average results. When we start to think out of the box and think about what value can we really provide people and how can we lean into the talents and the voices of the people that work here who are also amazing and get them out there. That's when you really start to see the needle start to move and you start to see things really be different. And so for me, when I think about building brand, I think about people and not just about, you know, getting out there and talking about the company all the time. And I think that has been the biggest learning for me and the biggest positive change we've had in the way we approach our brand, the way we approach our marketing and approach our sales.

DA: 34:18
I think that's such wise words really, truly. And until you go through the process of finding so many failed experiments and then leaning into the skill sets that you have and really kind of being introspective on where can we win at, what can we do well? What can we do unique? Do you really understand what you just said and how powerful it was? So you guys there listening, that's just a great takeaway. And sitting here in January, looking forward across the year 2020, new decade new year, anything you're excited about from a marketing point of view, new challenges or new opportunities that are out there?

AW: 34:52
I am so excited to even lean harder into everything I just talked about. So I think we have just started to scratch the surface of leaning into everyone's unique talents here, empowering other companies to unlock the value of their people through storytelling, whether it be through teaching people to be better storytellers or using our storytelling technology to free up people's time, lean into what makes them amazing. I think there's such a great story there and you can go so deep into that and I think there's so many creative things you can do that I really feel like we're standing at the top of the iceberg. So I'm excited to keep chipping away at that and keep really bending my brain to think about what, what do people want? What do people need? How can we give them new knowledge and how can we help them be better? And how can we empower all the people that work here to do the same thing.

DA: 35:55
So really exciting time. And it's funny, a question that we're about to ask you in the lightning round questions, you know, is what's one vital skill for marketing teams to improve and build on? And a lot of times the answer most commonly is copywriting and a lot of copywriting or most copywriting is storytelling. It's communicating, it's the language of people. So it's great that you say that. I think we can all improve. Telling stories is, you know, one of the most basic parts of, of being human and we've been doing it for thousands of years and you know, the better we get at it, the better we can tell our story, our message, our value exchange, all the great things. So excited for you guys for what's coming. Be'll be definitely watching over here on the sidelines and you know, excited for you all. but based on time, what I want to do now is I want to jump over to our lightning round questions. Just five quick questions that you can answer with the best first thought that comes to mind. You're ready to get started?

AW: 36:53
I'm ready.

DA: 36:54
All right. You gonna do great. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?

AW: 37:01
Lean into your skillset or the skill set of your team if you have one. So everyone has a different superpower when it comes to marketing, whether it being optimizing processes, coming up with something really creative, pick that thing, pick that one channel, that one skill set you want to be great at and really lean into that and hone that as best you can for the product or service you're selling. Don't try to be everything for everybody.

DA: 37:30
I love that. That is a great answer. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?

AW: 37:37
Well, I think the easy answer for me would be storytelling because that seems like a bit of a cop out answer. The one I would give right after that would be curiosity. Keep asking questions, keep questioning the status quo. Is this really how people learn? Is this really how people interact? Is this really what people want? The more you can put yourself in the brain of the prospects of people you want to get in context with, the better off you'll be.

DA: 38:02
That's a great answer and quite honestly, I've, I'm starting to hear that more and more from that answer in answer of that question I should say, as people are saying curiosity, so a really great thing to take away from these podcasts. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

AW: 38:18
I'm a big book reader, so I read books all the time. One of my favorites I've read this year was Play Bigger.

DA: 38:25
I think I have that sitting right next to me. Yeah, I think, yeah, right here. Play Bigger. It's a great book. I'm only halfway through it, so I haven't finished it. No spoiler alerts, but it's a really great book. I highly recommended. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

AW: 38:39
Honestly Lexio the product we use here. I'm not a data person at all. I would say from a marketing perspective, I lean heavy on the creative side, not as heavy on the data side. However as head of growth, I need to really stay on top of all of our sales (inaudible) all the time. So without Lexio I probably would not be in our CRM, I would not be in our dashboard. So it really helps me keep on top of that. But again, a bit of a cop out answer because that is our product. So besides that, I've really been loving superhuman. I use that for my emails to stay on top of everything that comes in every day.

DA: 39:18
It's a really good one, really great tool. What about a brand business or a team that you admire today?

AW: 39:24
From a B2B perspective, I really admire Drift. I also really admire G2 here in Chicago. I really like what they've done from a brand perspective. But I think for us, we try to take a lot of inspiration from the B2C world. They, the B2C world has put so much more effort and energy into being great storytellers, understanding people. So we try to pull most of our inspiration from those B2C brands. We'll take a look at companies like, I don't know, Tesla, we take a lot of look at Apple. A lot of companies that have gone over the top to try to improve the user experience. So for us we try to keep a healthy balance of looking at both of those things.

DA: 40:03
Yeah, those two SaaS companies, great companies both have been on here on the podcast talk about their marketing. I think also like Patagonia is a really good example of like a B2C storytelling brand. There's a lot of really good ones out there in that B2C market that just tell amazing stories and you just want to follow along with like the company's story itself. And, so really good examples. And Anna, I just want to say thank you so much for joining me today for coming on to the SaaS breakthrough podcast, sharing a lot of this knowledge, what you guys are doing so uniquely. Again, congratulations on the awesome job with the book. It's so exciting and we'll definitely be linking to that, you know, on the show notes as well, so thanks for your time today and being so generous.

AW: 40:44
Thank you so much for having me, David. I had a great time and you're so such a great host. I appreciate it.

DA: 40:50
You're a great guest. All credit to you. Thank you so much and we'll talk to you soon.

AW: 40:54
That's great, thank you.

DA: 40:57
Well that was truly an amazing episode. I can't say enough about the team at Narrative Science. Anna has done an amazing job over there. I learned a lot on this episode. A lot of great validation for marketing, brand affinity, all the topics that have been talked about on this podcast recently, so a big shout out to their entire team. And Anna, thanks for coming on and being so grateful with your time and sharing so much transparent knowledge with us. (…)

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