SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Casey Armstrong

demio saas breakthrough featuring casey armstrongAbout Casey Armstrong:

Casey Armstrong is the CMO at ShipBob. Casey drives high-growth at B2B SaaS companies by integrating the entire marketing toolset to focus on rapid execution and aggressive, customer-centric strategies and has consistently acquired millions in net-new annual recurring revenue, managed millions in digital advertising spend across multiple channels, and driven billions of organic pageviews through a cross-functional, data-driven approach. He has driven growth at top tech companies like BigCommerce, Watchmaster, Mavenlink, Pivotal, Pantheon and more.

As an end-to-end fulfillment solution, ShipBob provides warehousing and package delivery in 1-2 business days, with a network of fulfillment centers across the US. ShipBob’s software combines order and inventory management, customer communication, predictive insights, and optimized shipping for online merchants.



Show Notes:
02:40
Empowering SM Ecommerce Businesses With Amazing Fulfillment and Logistics
04:40
Joining to Take Marketing Initiatives to The Next Level
07:00
Sweet Spot: Lower SKU High Volume Sellers
11:20
Going Well Beyond The Digital Side of Marketing
15:00
Knocking on Businesses Doors
18:50
Partner and Event Focused Initiatives
20:45
Leveraging Partnerships
27:25
Attracting High Quality Attendees to Events
29:15
The ROI of Doing Events
30:50
The Operational Element in Scaling SaaS
33:20
Ecom Challenges: Brands Have to Become More and More Creative
42:40
Lightning Questions
Transcript:

DA: 02:27
Hello Hello Casey. Thanks so much for joining me today on the SaaS breakthrough podcast. Super excited to have you and ShipBob here. How are you doing today?

CA: 02:36
I'm doing great. How are you, David?

DA: 02:37
Doing really good, Casey, thanks again for jumping on. I'm excited to talk about all of these different topics with you today. We have a ton to discuss, but before we do that, why don't you give us a little bit of a perspective on ShipBob, you know, a little bit about what you guys are doing, when it was founded, who the customers are and what you guys are doing uniquely in the market place?

CA: 02:59
Yeah, definitely. So the company was founded in 2014 and in ShipBob, we're really trying to bring Amazon level fulfillment and logistics to small and medium sized direct to consumer ecommerce brands. And, and by that I mean, you know, there are all these fast growing brands. It can create these, you know, these digitally native vertical brands, that, you know, they can't provide that one day, two days, maybe even three days shipping to their customers. And those are the expectations that their customers have. And we're really trying to help them deliver that, not just with the software, but we have currently five fulfillment centers across the US, LA, SF, New York, Chicago and Dallas where we can help them distribute their inventory to get to the customers faster. And yeah.

DA: 03:51
That's fantastic. So you guys have both sides. You have to deal with the app, the SaaS itself and getting customers and as well as the distribution side of things, which is a lot of logistics I'm sure on the other end.

CA: 04:01
Yeah, it's, it's definitely been interesting to see all of those at play because like you said, it's not just software, but it's the logistics side. And, and something that I actually did not realize until I joined was we built all of the warehouse management software that we use in the fulfillment centers as well. So that's something that our customers never see. But we probably, at varying times have, let's say between 40 to 60, 40 to 60% of our engineering capacity is focused on internal only software.

DA: 04:34
That's incredible. I had absolutely no idea. And I know obviously it's a hard thing to sell, like to pitch to users and stuff like that. But that's fantastic that you guys are doing that. And I guess when did you actually join the team? Was there a company ARR going on or is it pretty early on during that stage?

CA: 04:52
So I joined about seven or eight months ago. I was at BigCommerce prior and they, they started recruiting me, I want to say a little over a year ago. And yeah, it was, I joined right before we closed our series C round and you know, just we've been off to the, they were off to the races beforehand and just, I've been trying to, you know, pour as much fuel under the fire.

DA: 05:23
That's great. What kind of, what role specifically did you come into?

CA: 05:26
So I came into the CMO role and I oversee all marketing, all business development and partnerships.

DA: 05:32
Was there already a lot of marketing stuff happening inside of ShipBob and you were just coming into overall manage more or just to build a department deeper?

CA: 05:39
Yeah, no, I mean they definitely had made a lot of traction. I mean, the success that they had, you know, before I joined was, you know, one of the, the many things that I saw in the opportunity and you know, I, I saw the team and I was very impressed with the skill set and what they done with a relatively small team and, I just, you know, saw ways where I thought I could come in and help, us, you know, take certain initiatives to the next level and, and obviously let the team members keep running as they are. And then of course, helping with the partnership and business (inaudible) side as well, which is something that they, they kicked off about a year ago. And then I came in, especially with my experience in the ecommerce space, just trying to help us think through how we continue to expand in the ecosystem and you know, really provide value to a lot of the major players in the space, which of course translates into a lot of value to our customers outside of our core focus area, which is of course the fulfillment and the logistics and the technology.

DA: 06:47
Makes a lot of sense and that's incredible to hear. It's always good to see when a small team succeeds and then you know, you can come in and really just bring it all together and expand that traction or expand that momentum. But you mentioned that you were coming over from BigCommerce and amazing company in its own right and you probably have tons of experience on that SaaS side, but coming from BigCommerce to ShipBob, did that change things for you? Was it a totally different shift from target markets or did you have to change your approach in marketing, did that change kind of your perspective of things?

CA: 07:19
We are, our go to market on both the marketing partnership side is different. But what's interesting and I think helped put me in a position to hit the ground running faster was we were really going after a pretty similar customer set. I mean there are nuances in how they're different and there are customers, and I can get to that in a minute that ShipBob definitely exceeds with, that BigCommerce would too but, just, just staying in the same thing in the ecommerce world, which is what I was in before BigCommerce as well, that that definitely helped a lot. And cause like we ShipBob where we really knock it out of the park are these, these lower SKU high volume sellers and with BigCommerce, you know, they, they can knock those out of the park as well. But a place where BigCommerce really thrives is definitely on a catalog complexity. And, just, just complexity really across the board when it comes to, you know, an commerce SaaS solution

DA: 08:28
Makes sense. And I always think it's so interesting how companies find product market fit. I think that's such a hard journey. Now you joined later in the process of ShipBob, but what was the story like for them to find product market fit? How has it evolved and you're mentioning these lower SKU, you know, higher selling or higher volume sellers be your target market now. Kind of like the key sweet spot for you guys. How'd you find that? How do you hone that in?

CA: 08:57
So, you know, everything I share prior to me joining of courses, the stories that I've heard, but you know, I of course talked to the founders and people across the board all the time about this. And you know, especially at the beginning, it's, I mean, you know how it is as running, running a SaaS solution, it's, you basically try to take on anybody and everybody and you're just like, all right, we need, we need to make some, we need to make some money. And I think it's through that trial and error that you really start to grasp who are, who are the best types of customers for you and what helps us or I guess is what, what played out for ShipBob was to take advantage of the fulfillment centers that we have across the United States. And there there's a reason why they're in the cities they are because they're closer to the end customer. But again, to take advantage of the distributed fulfillment centers is you need to have fewer SKUs because then you can place them. If you have let's say 210 a hundred SKUs, you can place all of them across one, two, five fulfillment centers. And also you're not having to order excess inventory. And so it helps us as well because it reduces the complexity in our packing and, or picking and packing. But it also helps our customers from a cash flow perspective where they don't need to have, let's say, multiple items of 10,000 of their 10,000 SKUs across multiple fulfillment centers.

DA: 10:31
That makes a lot of sense. So it's simplifying the process. But doesn't like downgrade the amount of sales they have. Are these mostly big businesses? Are they more, sometimes it's like mom and pop shops that just have a few products but they sell really well.

CA: 10:44
Both. I mean that's where a lot of the, I'd say product market fits evolved for us. Where we can now take on these bigger sellers were before, let's say a big seller for us would do 5,000 shipments a month and now you know, maybe they're doing 50,000 shipments a month. And so... That's where, where we've really evolved. We do work with some smaller brands as well. Some of our biggest customer started off as Kickstarter projects. We work with a company called Rebel Girls and another called Backblade and they both started as Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects. And you know, now they're doing thousands or tens of thousands of shipments a month.

DA: 11:22
That's incredible. And as you've kind of evolved in, started to get to these bigger shippers, are you doing things outside of digital marketing? We're going to talk about, you know, some of the digital channels here in just a second. But what about, you know, stepping outside of that? Is that something you guys had to think about to go up market? I guess essentially quote unquote?

CA: 11:39
Definitely. And that's something that they, that they did well before I joined. And it was actually one of the things that really intrigued me with this opportunity. And it's interesting how there are, there's no, there's of course no one right way. And I was actually thinking about some things to talk with you about before we jumped on that because I know that, you know, your listeners are varying degrees of their career and I think it's interesting where if you, if you spoke to me let's say five years ago versus if you spoke to me just let's say a year and a half ago versus speaking to me now, you know, my advice would, would vary. And of course that's depending on my experience, but it's also like kind of the role and focus that I'm in now. And so with, and, and, and with you, just like with all these other technology solutions, you know, the goal is basically, efficient and sustainable growth. And you know, making sure that your cash flow is positive and hockey stick up into the right. And so, and I know that's just a bunch of cliches there, but the tie back together is what, what's interesting is like, whether it's ShipBob or BigCommerce, you know, they both have that same objective as well. And so with BigCommerce, both of the co founders, they were very technical. They built a solution, but they taught themselves inbound. They both taught themselves inbound marketing extremely well. And so what powered a lot of the growth at BigCommerce for a long time and including when I was, there was a lot of digital and just inbound marketing. And so that's how we would see a lot of the revenue growth and a lot of the, the sales leads and opportunities. And at ShipBob, it's interesting where the founders are technical and operations focused. And, the, I guess kind of joke that I always throw out with them is, you know, to, to get their growth, they, you know, brought on, including some of the co founders where, you know, these like Chicago, they're based in Chicago, like these Chicago street hustler types. Where they were like literally walking down the street and bang on doors. And so as much more of this like outbound sales approach. And so their, their end goal is ultimately the same, which is, you know, high growth (inaudible). But, they, one went inbound, one, one outbound. And so that's, that's what's really driven a lot of the growth of the business today. And then they kicked marketing off a couple of years ago and then, and then I've come in and a big focus from ours as well is, is really going well beyond the digital side and how do we, how do we work with our, our partners, whether they're technology partners, agency partners, to provide value to them and then vice versa. Cause, you know, they work with some of the biggest brands in the world and are often the decision makers, you know, that that validated third party. And then of course blending in you know, a handful of, of you know, digital marketing efforts, whether that be paid or organic, and email to help drive, you know, the right top of funnel, the right opportunities and the right, ultimately the right customers cause that that's how we have success as well because then they won't churn. We don't, we get fewer support tickets and get them onboarding as, as quickly and as well as possible.

DA: 15:00
Really good answer. Complex answer. You mentioned a couple of things that I want to touch base on. You know, one of them being partnerships, one of them being the paid opportunities, but you mentioned the outbound process that you know, some of the cofounders were doing where they literally just going to different like online ecommerce shops in Chicago and just going in there and just offering their opportunity?

CA: 15:24
Yeah. They were not even just online shops, just like are you selling stuff? And so they started off the business, which is, has evolved into ShipBob where they were basically shipping kind of odd shaped products where people wanted to ship something and then they would go and pick it up and ship it out for them. And then of course that's evolved very quickly into, you know, this very professional solution that we have today. But they were, yeah, they were literally walking down the street and just knocking on businesses doors and selling in person.

DA: 16:00
That's freaking awesome. I love that.

CA: 16:04
Yeah. I mean, there's just so much value there in, in doing that just because, it's, it's so easy to just hide behind the computer and, you know, I'm not always perfect at this and, and have, you know, I've been at fault for this at times as well, where you, you, you know, you just, you view everybody like a data point or a number in an excel spreadsheet or like a pixel and like, but, but getting out there and, or even if you run surveys and everything and of course you need to do things digitally to like do things at scale, but, you know, a way, if you and I both answered the same question with the same words in a survey, you're not seeing like, well, what, what does my face look like and, and, and what's the tone of voice when I'm giving you that answer? And so I think just, you know, really it's really getting out of the building and talking to people. And, and that's something that, especially like on the partnership front that we're pushing a lot. And, when I joined I was like, okay, let's, let's get as many case studies as possible. Cause also outside of the extreme value of that provides us, you know, it was able to, for myself selfishly and for the rest of my team is like, ok let's hear from the customers and what they're experiencing. And, you know, I was fortunate even though it was very tiring to spend the last basically two and half weeks on the road visiting partners and customers and just kind of seeing how they explain things and like, you know, where's their like inflection points and what do they really focus on and the good and the bad. You know, that's, you just learned so much there to like really shape your marketing efforts versus just always looking at, okay, which channel is driving, you know, which leads and they're converting at what opportunities and basically just looking at these like digital funnels, but, you know, really extracting more from, from the individuals.

DA: 17:56
It almost sounds like you can get caught up, just looking at numbers and thinking of them as numbers and you forget that they're real customers with real problems and looking for real solutions and you can learn so much. My question would be a kind of a followup to what you were doing. You went on the road for two weeks. One, how do you approach as a CMO, how do you approach the leadership team? Or if you're a marketer, how do you approach your, your superior and say, hey listen, I think we need to do case studies. I think we need to go out and see our partners, see our top customers. Are you bringing film equipment? How much budget do you need to do those things? I think those are really interesting questions. I just have never been in that position that we've done that. So how did you set that up?

CA: 18:32
So when, with the latest, this was all pretty much partner and event focused and so there is really like, okay, you know, these are, we have a goal to acquire, you know, specific, specific partners. And we think that certain partners will be able to drive, let's say x number of leads and opportunities, which will translate into x number of closed won deals, which will then equate to a certain dollar amount and our contribution margin is x. And so this is what we think, like the payback period and the ROI will be. And so, you know, we'll, we'll do those with different initiatives. And then with the case studies, it was, you know, we did that for free. It was just who working with, our account management team to identify our, our best, our bestselling and happiest customers or people that weren't happy to get their insight as well. And really just frame it as ok, you know, we wanted to highlight some of the successes our customers have had and, and talking with them, I mean, that's all you're paying. There is your time, you know, that's really easy. But yeah, again, with like the travel and the events, it's, you know, what is, what do we think the ROI and output will be from, from these inputs. And, and also I think it's trying to find ways, honestly to get certain wins to buy, I don't know if the best word, maybe like leeway or room to run with also some uncertainty because I think sometimes the best, the best initiatives are run without necessarily extremely hard goals in mind. You just have like, you know, based off experience and your hunch, you think that a handful of tactics can work and you know, if you carve off like a, a percentage of time or budget to test these opportunities, you know, you can't just do everything based off of an excel spreadsheet or what you've done in the past. You know, you really need to, to get creative and, and you know, some of the, the best and fastest growing brands out there, you know, that's what they do. Whether it be Dropbox from years ago to the stuff that, you know, companies like Drift is doing today.

DA: 20:44
You mentioned, you know, putting together that ROI specific kind of spreadsheet to look at like which partners, deliver these amount of numbers for these amount opportunities. My question to you is for the, for the marketing teams that are looking to leverage partnerships, how did you guys identify the right partners? How did you know or estimate what those numbers would be from them and whether or not they were, you know, one of the best partners to go after. And then I guess the followup to that would be like, how do you build that initial relationship if you don't have one?

CA: 21:18
Yes. So that starts of course with thinking through who are your best customers today and who do you think your best customers tomorrow we'll be. And so once you have a strong grasp on that, that can, you know, that's where you can really start to think through or identify, you know, who are the technology solutions that are working with these individuals or these brands. And, which of these solutions, best compliment, our solution today. And so it's starting there on the technology side, on the agency side, similarly, it's okay of the brands that we're targeting or work with today to provide value to them as well. Who are the types of agencies and how can we identify them in mass quantities and then start prioritizing from there who we should go after. And so that's really how we went after the tech and the agency side or, or certain strategic partners, from, from creating this, you know, top down kind of forecasting model. It's, it's based off experience and also, you know, not just myself but the entire team and I think a lot of it is, okay, let's focus on what do we think that inputs that we think we can obtain ours such as new partners and the right partners. And then thinking through like what could those outputs be? Like these are the opportunities and this is what the conversion waterfall will look like. And, and some of it is, it's just like everything, it's an educated guess. Once something's like saved in an excel spreadsheet, you know, it goes out the window, you don't know until you try it. But as long as we're focusing on the right actions that we think will create the, the end results we're looking for, you know, we can, we can modify, we can modify our approach from there.

DA: 23:12
That's fantastic. And then from a strategic and tactical perspective, once you have those partners, what type of strategies are you doing to do work together? I know one of the things that I've recently seen is you guys run partner webinars. I saw you guys ran a webinar on Demio with Gorgeous, but like what, what type of things are you guys doing together with partners to see that ROI?

CA: 23:33
It's, I think it's a mix of both the online and offline. So unlike the digital front, it's definitely, you know, it's, it's the webinar approach. So like you mentioned companies like Gorgeous and you know, by the way, that was the first time I use Demio. It was very slick. It was, it was actually one of the easiest things I've, I've had to use, you know, from compared to, I won't name names, but some of the other solutions are a bit cumbersome. But you know, like Gorgeous is a great example. So let, let's talk about them when identifying partners. Is they they offer base. So if we were very simply give you a spiel on ShipBob, it's Amazon level fulfillment for ecommerce brands, with Gorgeous, they're basically Zendesk for ecommerce brands. And so they're providing that customer support element. And so with us, we're really providing that post click experience. We're trying to give you, give your customers the best experience of you purchase this. Now you have full confidence and transparency that you're going to get what you want within a certain timeframe and this is going to get there very quickly. With Gorgeous they offer that post post click experience as well where it's, hey, I'm a customer, I received this package, I have questions, you know, allow me to communicate with the brand. And so we're from, from that perspective and like the ecommerce stack we are, you know, it's tough to find a, another solution that's better aligned with us. Also we work with a lot of higher end Shopify and then also Shopify Plus brands. And I think right now they only integrate with Shopify and Shopify plus. So from a customer, if we had like a Venn diagram of target customers, you know, there'd be an extremely strong overlap.

CA: 25:23
And then also just their approach to marketing and sales is very similar to ours. And so there was just, there was a lot of a strong overlap there. So to go back to your prior question on how to identify the right partnerships, you know, that's, that's been very fruitful for both sides. So, so back to the online, offline on, on the things that we do with our partnerships. So it's things such as that, you know, of course there's a, you can do blog swaps, which I think you should only do if you understand SEO and actually can drive traffic there. Or if you're going to actually get some very interesting insights to answer some questions that your customers are looking for. And there's, you know, a handful of other types of like digital opportunities. And then the offline I think is very interesting too where, how can you identify, you know, where you have some shared customers and some shared prospects. And by that I mean by where I don't mean online, I mean like what cities and then how can you maybe put together some types of, some type of like fun event that's very, the adds a lot of value to the attendees. So for example, we were in San Diego a couple of weeks ago with, with Salsify and there's a lot of, very fast growing direct consumer brands down in San Diego that some, that work with Salsify, some they're friends with him and some, of course prospects you'd like to go after. And the same can be said for us. And so, you know, we've put together a pretty fun post work event there, which was very casual, but it just allowed, I always, when I think through these events, it's always like, one of the things I focus on the most is, how can we make sure that the quality of attendees is extremely high? Because, I think the biggest value you can get from any event is the networking that you get. And so if, like if there's anything that we help provide at these events and we'll get people to return or speak highly of them is if, if the people on to your right and your left, you know, can can provide value or just good people to know in general. And so just, just trying to find some opportunities like that. And, and that, that one that went really well as well.

DA: 27:27
Any tips on finding those are attracting those quality attendees to the events? I think that's such a helpful insight.

CA: 27:35
Yeah, it's, I think it's, you need to make sure that, well one it can't look like a sales pitch and you know, I hope nobody ever says that about ours because it's just more of like how can we create it? So one, there's a lot of value in the actual event. And so like the one we did in Chicago, we had Chris Van Dusen who's the CMO over at CBDistillery. They've gone from like zero to 20 million online in like two years. And so like the insights that he could share around ecommerce and just as wild growth are off the charts. And then we also had Web Smith of 2PMinc who is the former CMO and founder of MizzenAndMain. And so he's just another person with extremely interesting insights into the ecommerce space. And so we did a, we did a fireside chat with them at our office. You know, these are two, you know, the more successful, and I'd say reputable people in ecom in that, you know, let's say zero to 100 million in DTC ecom bucket. And so people like were, you know, happily coming in town or coming to the event. And then of course, you know, we just made it pretty casual and had drinks and snacks afterwards and it's, you know, it was trying to create some type of like unique and fun event while also like adding value on top. Versus like, it's not like they're coming in and here's the ShipBob sales pitch. Like, we didn't even talk about ShipBob. Just more of like, hey, what, what insights can, can the attendees gleam or even the, the fellow speakers gleam from each other, you know, by kind of digging into their past and what's worked well for them recently, what hasn't worked well and you know, where do they want to take the business in the future?

DA: 29:18
Where do you find ROI from doing something like that? Is that from building the better relationships with the partners and then you're doing something salesy or is it in the branding of that event and now everyone knows, you know, who ShipBob is and that you guys are thought leaders for that group?

CA: 29:33
It's a combination. So there, you know, we were able to bring in quite a few future partners that we've not worked with before, which, you know, they very much appreciated to come to something like this to be able to, connect with other brands, which could be future customers for theirs. And then part of it is honestly, it's just like the long bat where if we're not providing value to the broader ecosystem and, and really aligning ourselves with, with leaders in the space, who are also customers, often, you know, I just think you're, you're kind of selling yourself short. And so it's just, it's always a balance of staying true to, you know, strictly performance marketing where it's, everything is dollar in, dollar out. And then also the, the branding component as well, where, you know, we want, when people think of ShipBob is, you know, a highly reputable company that works with the best and the fastest growing brands. And, and it's, you know, you're, you're proud to say that you work with us and, you know, we partner with you to, to grow your business versus just, hey, here's just like another random vendor,

DA: 30:49
Wonderful approach and a really great answer there, full of great insights. You know, we've talked at length here now of wins that you guys have had at ShipBob, great strategies, great tactics, but what about roadblocks or, or hard lessons that you've learned since you made the switch from BigCommerce to ShipBob or maybe lessons you learned at BigCommerce, that you would like to share with the audience?

CA: 31:13
Yeah, so what's definitely interesting where, my career is primarily focused in pure SaaS. So you know, technology or ecommerce and especially on the pure SaaS technology side, it's, you know, you can, you can, as long as the technology is built right, you can scale up and down so quickly. So let's just say with BigCommerce, if we add, you know, one person sign up today or 50,000 people sign up today, it doesn't really matter like we have, the technology is built to scale. If we had one person that put that put down their credit card to start using the solution or 10,000 people that put down their credit card to use a solution, you know, of course in the latter example we'd be probably living it up a little bit. But, you know, it's pure software so you can scale it so quickly. At ShipBob and you know, I don't know if I'd necessarily call this strictly a bad thing, I think it's a good thing because it really is a, it really makes us focus on who the right customers are. But because there's the operational element where customers need to ship their inventory to us, so we need to make sure that the teams are ready to receive everything. We need to make sure that we have space in the facility. We need to make sure that we can, we have the teams in place to get all the items out the door. There's that component as well. And so if, I'm trying to think of, if Nike was like, hey, we want to move over and use you for all of our products tomorrow. I mean, I'm sure we'd not sleep until we figured out a way to bring them on board. But, you know, we, we couldn't like take on Nike tomorrow, whereas if Nike signed up for BigCommerce or Demio or whatever it may be from a software solution side, you know, they could be up and running and really do whatever they'd like, you know, immediately.

DA: 33:12
Got It. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And oh man, if they signed up for Demio, we'd probably also need some time. I mean, that's, listen, even big customers like that, even they need time. So looking forward, what challenges or opportunities do you see for ShipBob or for ecommerce, going forward?

CA: 33:32
Yeah. So for us, I mean it's just really continuing to, I think we're, we're building the foundation in certain areas like let's say partnerships or, or demand gen that will really, it's, you know, we're, we're going through some, some, building processes that take time. It's kind of like the unscalable today that will help us scale in the future. And so that's, that's what I'm most excited about. You know, we're, we're seeing some very strong winds today and have been for a while. And I think, you know, just making sure we're putting the right things in place to allow us to create rewards in the future for, for ecommerce brands, I think that we're going to see it. I think there's a handful of things. Well, one is whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Google Shopping, the cost per click and the saturation in the channels, just continues to skyrocket. And so I think that there was kind of this, I dunno, short window, I dunno, honeymoon period where these brands were able to drive a lot of very targeted, and high intent traffic relatively cheaply or inexpensively and they're going to have, start looking elsewhere. You know, that's the same thing that we were saying in SaaS 10, 15 years ago and people are still using, you know, myself included Adwords and other channels to drive traffic. You just find, I don't even, move up market and create ACV or do, do other mechanism, focus on CRO, just find other ways to make these channels work. But I think people are going to have to start getting more and more creative and, and not just be so reliant. It's, it's pretty crazy sometimes when I talked to these brands and I would see what percentage of their revenue is going to Facebook and Instagram, they're just, you know, they're just cleaning house.

CA: 35:27
And so I think people are going to have to start thinking through the entire funnel more. And so if we had like a really simplified funnel, let's say cost per click to get the traffic, then there's conversion rates and then there's AOV or ACV. Basically the revenue you get per customer. You know, people are gonna really have to start focusing on the ecom side, on what is, how do I improve my conversion rates and then how do I increase, you know, the, the cart amount or lifetime value. And so as someone who's run SaaS and Ecom, I remember when I was in ecommerce, I was just, it took me quite awhile to get comfortable with the fact that we didn't have recurring revenue. And, it, you know, let's say February you knock it out of the park, you drive whatever, $3 million in revenue, March one comes in SaaS you know, you still have a very predictable, predictable amount of revenue coming in. In ecommerce, you're starting from scratch. And so I think customer or I think, you know, ecommerce brands are going to continue to get more and more creative. How to, how to roll out, you know, more recurring and subscription based offerings. Or think of like upsell, cross sell opportunities as well with, with related products. And then also, as you know, similar to the advertising side is, is how do they create a more personable experience. And so, you know, there's, there's brands such as Lumion and others which you can get custom boxing and some, some pretty interesting, post purchase experience opportunities where you, you know, you almost unboxing the product is, is part of the value. And that's how you really, I think, get a lot of that word of mouth and maybe even like, you know, Instagram love to help spread the word from a digital perspective.

CA: 37:19
And then, lastly is Amazon is, is really ramping up what they're doing and Walmart, but Amazon in particular in the B2C space, direct consumer space where, in a handful of angles, one being, they have I think over 400 private label brands that they own, which you would not know were Amazon. So if you go and in pretty much every single vertical out there. And so if you go to buy women's clothing or you know, batteries or socks or a jacket, like it could be an Amazon product that you're buying on Amazon. And so that's just going to be interesting to see how like the larger and medium sized brands compete against that. And then another is Amazon's been pushing pretty hard to get into, you know, similar space for us, as us, which is, you know, you can, you can still sell on Amazon, you can still get the prime tag that you can fulfill it yourself where if they fulfill it,it's on an Amazon box and they control all the data, but they're, they're at least showing that there might be some other opportunities. But again, then you're giving all your data to Amazon. And so I think there's just all, there's obviously, as you can tell, I'm pretty passionate and interested in the ecommerce world. There's just a lot of moving parts and I think it's going to be, you know, 2019 it's going to be a fun year and it's going to be, there's more and more saturation in the space. So I think that the brands are going to just have to get more and more creative.

DA: 38:53
How interesting. I always find these moments, the, the really interesting moments in a market where like 2017 was like an explosion of Shopify and all of these new sellers and brands, ecommerce exploded, 2018 we saw the saturation starts to happen, you know, sellers and costs going up, like you said, all those things. And so now this year we're going to see real brands come through, the people that are just using basic advertising methods are going to fall to the wayside, get killed by margins, their businesses won't survive. One thing that I thought was interesting that I've heard before and I want to hear your insight, does Amazon, as they're getting these private labels and they're doing all that, you know, all the infrastructure internally themselves, are they also able to like basically close down competitive sellers on Amazon?

CA: 39:41
I guess it depends on what your definition of closed down is. So, by being the top spot and winning the buy box or the you know, the prime tag every single time, I'm sure that they're making it more difficult for some of these brands to just succeed. And I'm sure a lot of them therefore closed down. So from a competitive perspective, yeah, a hundred percent sure.

DA: 40:10
So interesting. What, I mean, cause you're basically building into their infrastructure, their marketplace, but they can almost become a monopoly very easily if they keep buying all those like brands out and then kind of owning the, the, you know, the search algorithm and stuff like that.

CA: 40:24
I mean it was, there was an interesting example that they've got a lot of, you got a lot of pickup in at least the ecommerce space the other day where somebody put this, I don't want to call it a screenshot, but I guess, video up that they recorded where they were, I can't recall exactly what they're searching for it, I think it was laundry detergent. And so they search for laundry detergent and you know, at the top there was like some Proctor and Gamble brand and it was an ad because they wanted to show up at the top. So you click the ad and let's say the laundry detergents like $15. Well, so not only did, so you paid. So Proctor and Gamble paid Amazon, I'm pretty sure it's Proctor and Gamble but, a Proctor and Gamble paid Amazon for the click. Then you land on the Procter and Gamble product page and then Amazon hits you with a, I dunno, David's, you know, laundry detergent option, which is actually an Amazon owned brand because they say, hey, you can get David's laundry detergent for 2.90 cheaper buy here and then you're going to purchase that. So then through Amazon you're also paying Amazon for the Amazon product. So they're basically like siphoning that traffic. There's just, there's a lot they can do. They're, they're getting some interesting publicity today. Like Facebook obviously got thrown under the bus, around the ways that they were using using their data. And what's interesting is I think it's often third parties utilizing the Amazon data. What Amazon has is their, their own customer. And so they can see where are you sourcing your inventory from? Where are you shipping it from? How are you selling? What's, what's the repeat customer volume look like? Where do these customers live? What's the margin? What's the average order value? They have all of this data. And so they're just, they can just cherry pick opportunities of, you know, the different industries that they want to enter. It's, it's, it's pretty insane.

DA: 42:28
That is absolutely insane. They have like no risk and all the data and then they can undercut everyone. That's incredible. What a, what an interesting year is going to be. I'm really excited to see what 2019 is going to play out like, without, you know, thanks for going into that is super interesting. But for sake of time, what I want to do is jump over to the lightning round questions. Just five quick questions. You can answer with the best first thought that comes to mind.

CA: 42:51
All right, here we go.

DA: 42:52
You want to do it? All right, let's do this thing. All right. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?

CA: 43:00
Talk to people that are, you know, basically a stage above you. I think talking to the operators that are in the trenches, and that have done it. And like, and by talking to them, I don't mean reading a blog post or emailing them, like literally getting on the phone, go visit them. And of course you need to find ways that you're, you're paying them back, but people are often pretty helpful. But by learning those that have done, learning from those that have done is I think hands down the best way to accelerate your learning curve.

DA: 43:36
Fantastic answer. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?

CA: 43:44
What scale? Oh, what skill? Probably psychology and storytelling.

DA: 43:54
By psychology, do you mean understanding the buyer's journey or just understanding human, like empathy and emotion?

CA: 44:01
Both, but more of like what makes people tick. And you know, there's, there's only really, I think, a handful. I mean, if you look up like, you know, Cialdini's, his book called Influence and an handful of others, like you don't need to be like some psychology PHD. I think if you understand as a handful of like root, psychology components or just even like spend a little bit of time of researching, like the craze that was going on with bitcoin and crypto like a year ago is all like, basically it was a fear and FOMO and you know, those were like the two drivers. And so if you just think through people regardless of their makeup, regardless of where they live, regardless of their gender, regardless of what their interests are, you know, there's a handful of things that get people to, to tick and then just thinking through the storytelling, like you watch a, watch like the latest Nike ad they had with Serena Williams, like talk about the psychology triggers and the storytelling like, and the inspiration that they drive there and they don't say, hey, our shoes or our clothes are awesome. They're getting you inspired. It's, it's you know, or, or watch some of like the, some of the Apple commercials, there's this one of this, this kid that was like visiting his, his family over the holidays, is a couple of years ago and it's, it looks like he's ignoring them the whole time and then he puts on this video, he was actually recording of them. It's like brings like a tear (inaudible) every time and you know, just, just watching what some of the best of best do.

DA: 45:37
I love that. That's fantastic. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

CA: 45:45
People. Similar to my first question.

DA: 45:50
Easy. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

CA: 45:54
I mean like the cheesy answer, it'd be like, I don't know your eyes and ears, but my, what my colleagues always make fun of me cause I use G chat all the time. So everybody loves to use Slack and like all these other things and...

DA: 46:08
G chat, yeah.

CA: 46:11
You're in Gmail all the time. Like, why am I using this thing called Slack? That's basically another inbox.

DA: 46:17
I haven't heard the pings of G chat in a long time.

CA: 46:20
My goodness, I use it all the time.

DA: 46:24
What about a brand, a business or a team that you admire today?

CA: 46:28
On the technology side, and this is actually don't know the team over there, but it's been extremely impressive to see what Drift has done and the way that they've really, you know, they're at the end of the day they're a Chat Bot and what they've, and they were, I remember working with a company called SnapEngage, which used to be called SnapBug back in like, I don't know, 2009 or earlier, which was a Chat Bot and that's essentially what Drift is. Granted, they have a lot of additional features and functionality and like ABM and other things, but what they've been able to do to enter the market as quickly as they have and shift it from Chat Bot to conversational marketing and what they've done from like a branding and events perspective, it's just been extremely impressive. And so from a technology solution, I would, I'd call out Drift.

DA: 47:20
That's a great answer. They're probably going to win the award this year for, the team that most people are admiring. Everyone loves what they're doing. We've had them on the podcast, they're an exceptionable company, exceptional. But but awesome, I just want to say, Casey, thanks so much for joining us today. It was wonderful to have you. You gave so much great information. You were so transparent, honest, so truly appreciate your time and thank you again for jumping on.

CA: 47:44
Yeah, David, thanks a lot for having me.

DA: 47:46
Yeah, it was my pleasure and have a great day.

DA: 47:49
What an incredible episode and a big shout out to Casey and the entire team at ShipBob for allowing us to even have this conversation going. So in depth on what is happening and how they're setting it up with these amazing growth channels. I love talking about digital strategies for partnerships, one of the things that we're actively continuing to work on here in 2019 at Demio. So I love these questions. It helps me to hone my own strategies and understand ways to be a better strategic partner to people that do come in. So hope you learned a lot as well. Again, major shout out to what they're doing over at ShipBob, check them out if you are in the ecom space, tons to learn there and if you enjoy today's episode, again, don't forget to head over to iTunes, leave us a comment or rating a question. (...)

Resources:
Learn More About ShipBob:
https://www.shipbob.com/
Connect With Casey:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/caseyflynnarmstrong/
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