This is the SaaS breakthrough podcast uncovering what's working today in SaaS marketing by the actual SaaS marketers who are building companies day in and day out. Let's get started.
Hey Chris, thanks so much for joining me today on the SaaS breakthrough podcast. How you doing today?
I'm doing great, David. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, absolutely. Where are you based out of?
I'm currently based outside Boston, Mass.
Oh, nice. I was just there about, it was last weekend? The weekend before and it's gorgeous up there.
Oh yeah. It's leaf peeping season up here already.
Yep. Yep. Those leaves were amazing. Coming from Florida, we don't have that kind of stuff. So it was absolutely gorgeous to see, but we have a lot to talk about today with Platform.sh, a lot of great different tactical strategies and implementations that you guys are doing over there. So why don't we kick it off by getting a little bit of a background on the platform when it was founded, who your customers are, and what you're doing uniquely in the marketplace?
Sure. Well Platform.sh is you know, what we call the, the end-to-end web platform for agile teams. And I kind of unpack that as in three important ways. So what we do is help teams in organizations build, maintain scale their web applications in two dimensions. So, you know, we have customers that run very large websites, eCommerce platforms, et cetera. And we have customers that run massive fleets of web applications. So it's that horizontal and vertical scaling. And we do it in a way that allows them to be agile and be responsive and reactive to their business needs and really refocus their energies on the things that the business cares the most about. So the things that influence how revenue is created how content is and experiences are delivered to their end users, how business metrics are driven.
So I kind of described all of the possible work that a marketing and an IT organization can do on the web as this iceberg and the little bit that you see floating above the surface, it's all that stuff that faces the end user, but there's this huge amount of work that exists below the waterline, that teams in marketing and IT working together have to manage historically. And Platform.sh has really focused on taking away as much as possible of that below the waterline kind of invisible work and allowing teams to really refocus on things that create value. So we've been around since 2010. We are, we were founded in Paris and Michigan. So an interesting mix of countries and we've kind of expanded that to be, I think in as of now 33 countries. So we're a fully distributed organization.
I work from home as I said, outside of Boston, but everybody is spread around the world from the marketing team to engineering, to customer success. We serve a pretty wide variety of customers. You know, so they're the biggest focus is, as I said, in kind of these large website fleets. So these are companies that are in consumer products. They are in healthcare and life sciences. They are in higher education. So customers like, you know, the University of Missouri. We just did a case study with with Mentos and their agency partner that had built a platform for global marketing within their organization. And we serve some of the largest CPG and life sciences companies in the world to deliver thousands of web applications and websites for their different brands and business units worldwide.
A question that I have for you on the product-market fit. Those different customer types. It's a question that I deal with all the time here at Demio, but you know, you have a product that fits so many different types of, you know, consumer facing products, B2C, B2B, you have healthcare, you have education, you have Shopify, you said, or like, you know consumer goods, how do you guys build that ICP, that product-market fit for your marketing team? I mean, you could go after all of these different segments. How do you write the language? How do you make the messaging, the right messaging for either mass audience, or are you segmenting down to these individual segments? How do you guys deal with that?
Yeah, I mean, we definitely have, you know, segmented it by audience in terms of how we tell the story, but, you know, the underlying story really remains the same. So it's, it's kind of a shift in language as we move from industry to industry. So, you know, the CPG industry is going to have different terminology from education or from life sciences, but they have, you know, the underlying challenge is very similar between them in terms of kind of managing the chaos that comes from this horizontal scale managing, you know, a mixture of global teams or even local teams that are under lots of different silos, say that in a large university system where, you know, you have you know, different departments, different schools within departments or maybe the other way around and, you know, ownership of different technology platforms and different messaging platforms are very much split.
So there's a lot of commonality though in terms of how the product interfaces with them. But we have to think about how we shift in terms of our storytelling for those specific audiences, whether, you know, so there's a different story for, you know, a large government organization. You know, they still have the same kind of core concerns around security and compliance, but you have to kind of language shift and terminology shift to meet those specific needs. In terms of where we focus though, you know, we've been, you know, we are both you know, we're still opportunistic as we were kind of in the earliest days when we launched you know, the product around, you know, trying to meet any development team's needs and marketing teams needs to launch a single application. And we still have a go to market motion that's based around our free trial onboarding process and a healthy self service business. But you know, in terms of where our, our main go to market motion is it's focused on these larger scale enterprise customers that have, have this complexity that comes as they start to scale up and have to address you know, the management things that have a pretty large horizontal expanse
And you chose that primarily just because of the business economics, stickier customers, larger ARPU, stuff like that?
Exactly. Yeah. I mean, so it it's you know, customers are, tend to be sticky across the board. I mean, that's, it's one of those things that are, is nice about the business that we're in and the platform that we built where, you know, customers tend to build around what we've provided. So we are the platform on which they build their, their business and they, you know, we take away a bunch of the, kind of the technology and management aspects that are, you know, fairly, you know, they're more generic. They cross you know, many lines of business and allow them to focus on the things that are truly unique about their business and their process. You know, so that's how we've, we've kind of evolved you know, our focus. So you know, those things, once you build around them are hard to, harder to move away from, you know, you have to, you have to retool, you have to rebuild.
And to be honest, you know, a lot of our customers are ones that have kind of a mask, what I call scar tissue around their do it yourself projects that they've run in the past, trying to build, you know, similar systems or build platforms internally and found that, you know, those things take a tremendous amount of time, money effort to even get off the ground let alone sustained. So, you know, we become an integral part of you know, the business for these larger organizations you know, and they see the value right away because they've tried and you know, had less success than they hoped doing it internally or with kind of, you know, lower level primitives tools.
That makes a lot of sense. And it puts you in a really great opportunity for being there. And I guess your marketing cycle is, is pretty nice because you're there when they're in pain, when they have that scar tissue, you have this great platform to really alleviate those pain points. And when did you actually join the Platform.sh. team?
About two and a half years ago. So and it was, you know, part of my journey here has been you know, not only, you know, kind of expanding as a marketer. So my, my background really is, is on the product and engineering side of things. But it's also been helping to build out this team. So we've, you know, we've gone from having one and a half people in marketing in 2018 when I joined to having, as of, I guess, Monday we'll have 16 people.
So it, and the, you know, the growth of the company is tracked in a similar way.
That's fantastic. That's, that's a huge, a huge win, big win there. Lots of growth, very exciting. So let's talk about some of those marketing strategies, you know, a lot of times you know, launching marketing strategy means deploying lots of technology in your own business. Right now we're, we're constantly talking to different MarTech tools on this podcast and marketing teams are now dealing with more tooling than ever, you know, why, why is it becoming so heavily involved with bringing in all these different technologies? Why does this matter so much for marketers and how are you guys dealing with that?
Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, so we look at tools from two different levels and they're, they're really, they end up being very complimentary to each other, but one is on kind of the, the experience creation and storytelling side. So, you know, tools to, you know, get our campaigns and get our content out in a really agile way and often have many different things in flight at the same time and have have tooling you know, that helps us do that, especially as we grow. So we've got a team that is, you know, creating content across the board you know, with folks that are specialized in that we have writers on staff. But we also can, we have in house design team, but we also have a robust developer relations team.
So, you know, we are are we have a technical sale. We have developers as kind of the, you know, one of the core constituents and champions of our product. And that's been one of the things that has propelled our growth is that developers like to use what we have. So we have to have you know kind of a content engine and the technology to support that content engine that allows all of those folks to be working in parallel versus having to go through this kind of serialized linear process to create content. On the other side of that, we have to know whether that's actually working and if we're sending it to the right people and identifying who we need to engage with, it's especially important as we evolve our model to be a hybrid of, you know, our historical kind of inbound model and an ABM strategy that layers on top of that, as we kind of climb up the stack in larger and larger organizations where more stakeholders are involved.
So from a technology perspective, we've been making investments this year really heavily in tools that help us with you know, understanding buyer intent and, you know, making investments in integrating our own in house data, around how our product is being used, how people are engaging with the, either the free trial or the self service product and how that impacts our you know, our enterprise go to market strategy and that account-based go to market strategy. So it's tools, you know, like 6 Cents and Drift that we use you know, our marketing automation systems to kind of pull all the data together. And, you know, frankly, we have to you know, build some stuff around the edges to integrate stuff from our products suite to basically understand where people are engaging with either our content or, you know, third party content or intent signals are, and the product itself to form a more cohesive picture of, you know, where things are working and who we can engage with at the appropriate time.
Fantastic answer. Obviously, even just listening and going through this process on our side too, in Demio, it sounds overwhelming, and it is overwhelming, right? Like trying to get all that data and then understand how are we tracking the data? Where is this attribution coming from? How are we learning from this attribution? What are our goals, all that kind of stuff. And you're also scaling up your team and you're just dealing with the daily objectives and stuff as well. So my question then becomes, when you look at thebeginning of the year coming up here into 2021, you guys are going to set your yearly goals and objectives. How are you doing this for the year with this bigger team? How are you breaking this down to be easy to tackle goals that are also broken down into your different segments of your marketing team? And then how are you translating those into actions? Because I think it's, it's easy to just set huge goals, lots of goals, but then it also becomes a very overwhelming process when you're just doing way too much. And you're not focused on like really what the real mission is.
Yeah. I mean, I think that we try to keep our big goal is pretty straight forward. So, you know, we have goals that are based around, you know, revenue growth. We have goals that are based around the composition of that revenue as it relates to the health of the business overall. So how, you know, we'll look at new logo versus upsell and renew real growth or retention. So those were kind of the guiding, you know KPIs that I share with my colleagues on the sales side of things. As we look at how we break down, you know, the initiatives that we have in the marketing endeavor all space, I like to think of it in the same way that I would, you know, when I was working with product teams, you know, they need to be you know, relatively you know, short term and kind of discreet in scope so that, and they have to be well defined in terms of the data is that we will get out of, you know, an experiment or an initiative in the short term.
So I kind of think I'm thinking of them, not, not in a really formal, you know, kind of a sprint sense that an engineering team might have, but I think of them as, as kind of this greed initiatives that are aligned well with those top line goals but are, you know, done in fairly short timeframes. I don't like to usually think in terms of like, you know, the entire quarter or the first half of the year, or like that, like, what are we, what are we doing to create change in, you know, the scope timeframe of, you know, weeks or a month or so and, you know, do we have ways that measure the success of it to understand whether we are creating the potential for improvement or not. And then we can evaluate as, as we go through that agile process to say, okay, let's do more of that.
Let's expand the scope of it. Let's start on something that we can keep small measure easily. And even if we have to, you know, kind of do things in a semi manual way before we figure out like the full, you know, crazy automation scope that we might ultimately want to do with a particular idea or a particular experiment, so kind of start small you know, iterate rapidly and make sure that we are able to measure things to the extent we can, or at least collect enough qualitative data you know, that gives us a good feel for, you know, the success or failure of of a particular initiative.
I like the idea of the agile marketing methodology, right. Instead of just engineering, bringing agile thought processes into everything you're doing. And you mentioned a couple of channels experiments that you guys were doing earlier, you talked about ABM and some of the other ones. Let's talk about those. What have been some of the channels that you've seen working in Platform.sh in the last year or so?
Well, I mean, everything's kinda gone upside down, in the first half of this year. So it's, it's honestly been a story of change and kind of being as adaptable as we can. So, as I said, one of our areas of strength and it has been kind of the developer experience and, you know, one of the changes that we've had in our go to market strategy has been to layer in this, this account based strategy on top of what was more of a you know, inbound and frankly land and expand sort of a strategy where, you know, a developer or a team of developers, a, you know, a brand within a larger company, a department would start using Platform.sh and they'd see success from that.
And that would drive kind of horizontally and then ultimately vertically through the organization and lead to larger scale adoption. So, you know, as such, we were very focused on, you know, communicating with developers where they happen to be. That meant going to tons of trade shows and developer meetups, and you know, doing a lot of really face-to-face stuff and handing out a lot of stickers and tee shirts and those types of things. So we've had to pivot that you know, given the lockdown worldwide in events and the, and the move to, you know, things like online you know, events and meetups and stuff, but we've also really taken that opportunity to make a shift from kind of borrowing that audience from you know, from events. And trying to create more of our own audience.
So it's been, you know, development of web content channels. We have a podcast, well, it'll be a podcast soon. It's a, it's a live webcast that we do every Friday called Deploy Friday with our Dev team. And they interview folks from the technology industry and, you know, talk about, you know, both really DTE and the weeds topics, as well as more general ones about, you know, things like accessibility and, you know, hiring and technology culture related things. So that's one of the big things that we've shifted to, to really kind of develop more of our own brand visibility outside of those kind of more traditional channels we're reaching developers you know we'll be converting that into a podcast soon. And the other thing that we've ramped up quite a bit is you know, just our, our overall you know, paid and organic digital strategy.
So in addition to really amping up the content volume we've been broadcasting that through a wider variety of channels. So been having some good success with paid media in, especially in LinkedIn and and Google Display interestingly in order to generate new engagement in personas that have not been our traditional strength. So, you know, we've, we've had a good conversation and still have that good conversation with the developer and technologists. We're trying to reach other folks, you know, like, like us. So people that are running marketing teams that need to figure out how to better you know, take on, you know, control of, and, you know have agency in their own you know, actions that they create with technology. Help them understand the impact of technology on marketing and you know, kind of the you know, the achievement of business goals more broadly. So those events are some of the channels that we, you know, pushed our our content through in order to get to, you know, personas that are head of marketing or head of digital platforms other sorts of things like that.
For this new audience, you know, kind of talking to the marketers dealing with technology. When you started learning about this new audience, how did you guys determine the languaging, the messaging that you were going to use for some of this outbound or advertising that, you're using to marketing technology to marketers, any specific learnings that you found throughout?
I'm not sure it was hugely different from our core stories. So I think one of the things that we had to you know, make some adjustments to was just, like I said earlier with kind of the, the crossover between you know, different verticals. I think there's the crossover and the, and the translation, I guess maybe these different type different personas at different levels of the organization that we had to focus in on. So you know, it's a shift to a story around well, two fold. So one is, is making sure that we are kind of shifting the language around to kind of the value creation story. So, you know, for an it decision maker, it means a certain thing, and they have a certain set of you know, concerns and KPIs that we help them achieve. For a business or marketing decision maker it's going to be slightly different, but it's you know, it's really oriented around time to value. It's about, you know, how do I get more of the time that my team spends? So my team being, you know, both people that are creating content and the folks that help them get that to market, the developers, the designers, the engineers, the operations people, how do we, you know, get them to focus more of the effort that they're spending on the things that people are going to see versus the things that sit behind behind the scenes, or like I said, below the water line. So that shift in effort and the therefore the potential shift in speed you know, to get to your business goals were kind of the key translations that we had to make in the message that we were sending.
Cause we can say the same thing to the head of IT, you know, about how you're going to spend less time you know, patching your, a fleet of, you know, WordPress sites oryou're going to have, you know, less surface area for attack on your database tier in, your applications because it's all being taken care of by platform this age. So that means you can do more of the things that are are going to build you a better relationship with your, your friends in marketing and the rest of the business, or, you know, you can have more time to do things that are more specific to how your business is different from others. So it's, it's really, you know, figuring out how that, how to make that transition over to over to the marketing persona.
It makes a ton of sense. Your value propositions are set. You really understand how the product is affecting the user's lives, how it's making them better, all those great value props, and then it's wrapping the language around them to appeal and speak the language of that target market and that different person changes and where they are in that pipeline. So, well said makes a lot of sense and really some great lightbulb moments for me, any hard lessons over the past two years as you've been there that you know, or learnings that you had from experiments that didn't work out as expected?
Yeah. So one of the things that we've we've struggled with and we've kind of had an off and on sort of, you know attempt at making successful is kind of driving our you know, driving kind of user groups or cohorts of individuals that we want to you know, kind of showcase as ambassadors. So we've, we've you know, we've done a lot of outreach to folks in order to try to drive you know, things like a developer ambassador program, but they, you know, what we found is that it just, it takes a lot of, kind of, you know, individual effort. So one of the things that we've done more recently is, you know, when we try to develop kind of user groups or communities if you will, is actually, you know, engage specialists and engage people that are going to be entirely focused on it.
Cause there are certain things like, you know, driving the growth of the community that is really hard to do, unless you're really focused on it with, with the majority of your energy, it's hard to kind of distribute that across, you know, a group of people that have lots of other things they're trying to get done at the same time. So we're, you know, we've just, we're in the midst of launching a an initiative around that focus more on, you know, less on the developer, but more on, on this kind of you know, digital experience practitioner and digital platform manager sort of persona. And we've brought in some folks to manage that as their sole sole project. So they own all the KPIs around making that successful, obviously with the support of others in the marketing and broader team. But you know, that's been one of the things that we've learned over the last year is that that focus really helps when you're trying to launch that type of initiative, which is kind of like creating your own market or your own user community from, from the ground up.
Definitely a huge lesson to learn. A lot of good wisdom just from that, that challenge there for you guys. And I guess you mentioned this earlier, but this year was really about adaptability for a lot of marketing teams and for a lot of businesses, just period with COVID, looking forward into 2021 wrapping up this crazy year, are there any new opportunities or, you know, maybe new roadblocks that you see moving forward?
You know, I think we're gonna, we're still gonna see a continuation of the move from, you know, in person events, as much as we, we frankly enjoy them. And, and we, we love the chance to meet with our users and our potential customers, I think we're still gonna see that being a challenge in 2021 and, you know, we are we're really doubling down on our efforts around digital, but also around, you know, trying to build communities in a, in a way that is thoughtful and creates value for our you know, the people that we're engaging with. I think people are at this point, you know, in addition to dealing with the, you know, often their lives being upended and having you know their, their routines disrupted, they're also been bombarded with all sorts of new opportunities to engage with brands online.
So, you know, there's, there's a million webinars a week. There's, you know, a new you know, online event that you can spend, you know, two days in. And, and I think there's going to be a lot of fatigue from that. So figuring out how we create value for, for people that are, even though they're there, you know, spending less time commuting, they're still probably spending a lot more time invested in their work and in their family life and in all of the proliferation of these different channels and content opportunities. I think we have to figure out how we're, we're really creating value in a, in a way that's going to you know, not overwhelm and not, not get them to, to just tune out you know, the messages that we're trying to send out.
Very well said. And I think that's a very interesting kind of thought the noise level is going to be different in that digital atmosphere. And now it's about trying to find ways to stand out and also to just add value in a unique way. So it will be a very interesting 2021, we know what we're going into, but it will still be a challenge. But I love that. And so thank you for sharing those those answers. And what I want to do now is flip over to our lightning round questions. Just five quick questions that you can answer with the first best thought that comes to your mind. You're ready to get started?
All right. Let's do this thing. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?
Yeah, I mean, I think is the, to do things or don't hold too fast to your, you know either your ideas or your technology. So I think the key is really to, to be adaptable and, you know, build with the mindset that you're going to need to change, whether that's the, you know, the message that you're sending or, you know, how you're building things. So and get those out the door as quickly as you can, so you can get them tested in real life. Change and adapt and tear down and rebuild you know, without having gone too far and sunk too much.
That agility that we talked about. I love that. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?
I think nothing trumps storytelling, so no matter how good you are at all of the other things that, you know, demand generation and marketing technology, MarTech and marketing automation and whatever else, I think, you know, hone your storytelling craft and be able to you know, really, you know, communicate to your market and write, you know, compelling headlines that lead to compelling next sentences that you know, read the compelling pieces. Beyond that though, I think technology is kind of underrated, so understanding of the impacts of technology choices you know, things like, you know, how performance, for instance, on the web impacts you know, all your other KPIs when you're trying to do acquisition in the digital realm of new customers. So, you know, what chain, what selections and choices you make from a technology perspective, how those are going to impact the end user experience, and therefore you know, how you're going to perform on, on conversion.
Love that. Really well said. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?
I've tend to kind of skew towards you know, things that are not necessarily marketing related. I like you know, getting perspectives from you know, leaders and, you know, other creative endeavors leaders and finance, things like that. One of my favorite books is Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull, which is all about, so he was the guy that was a co-founder of Pixar and, you know, kind of a father of of 3D animation and and things like that. And it's really about kind of building creative teams and creative cultures. And kind of goes back to that, that storytelling thing. So if you can build a place and a machine effectively for driving, you know, creative engagement with your audience, I think you can be successful in marketing just about anything.
I love that. I just wrote that book down. I'll have to read it after this. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?
You know, beyond my, I'll give a plug for my own product, because I like being able to work on lots of things at once. And that's really what our product brings to marketing teams is kind of that parallel workflow. Like I said, like having multiple campaigns and blog posts and other initiatives in flight at once, that's been really important, but I also you know, have really appreciated conversational marketing tools. So I mentioned, we, you know, we've used Drift for a long time. It's really important to, especially coming from a product background to really have the ear of the customer and understand customer pain points directly and, you know, tools like that enable you to have those direct conversations. And it's been, you know, often eye opening to me to have conversations where people just don't understand what we've said. So it's helps refine our messaging, but also it helps us to find where the pain points are when they engage with us through our content channels or they're engaging, with the product itself or our support channels. And it really helps you know, get feedback faster and give feedback and help, you know, make, make people feel like they are being you know, treated you know, in a, in a very human way,
What about a brand business or team that you admire today?
I guess I would repeat the same answer that I did for the previous question, which is I really admired what Drift has done. So they're another great, great company here in Boston. And, you know, they built an incredible brand and incredible library of content, but also you know, from a product perspective, that's also something that I've really admired as well. So one of the things that Drift does well in addition to giving marketers and salespeople, and even our customer success and (inaudible) people, the ability to talk directly to the customer and prospects, it also gives us great feedback. And it's something that you know, I would recommend to any product team, it gives you feedback as you're, as you're developing you know, your product, think about how you're going to create additional value for the user, or maybe the user's boss in some cases.
So Drift tells me, you know, when, you know, when opportunities have been influenced by, by Drift, and that's a great renewal tool for Drift itself. So it's one of those things that I admire both from a product perspective and a brand development perspective.
We have to start doing awards from this show from, from these lightning round questions. Drift would definitely be our number one most recommended and admirable brand that all of us in the SaaS industry love, but it's such a good answer to your point. They're doing so many things right. And so many things, well, it's just a great, a great company to admire and to look up to and learn from, so you, I just want to say thank you so much, Chris, for coming on sharing so much great information with us today and just being so open and transparent. Much appreciated, and thank you for everything.
Yeah, absolutely enjoyed it.
Awesome. Thanks Chris. Have a great day and we'll talk to you soon.
All right. Thank you.