SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Dan Levy

demio saas breakthrough featuring dan levyAbout Dan Levy:

Dan Levy currently serves as Editorial Director at Smooch, which helps enterprise businesses connect with customers through conversation. An experienced manager, strategist and leader, Dan specializes in helping mid-stage startups and SaaS companies build and grow their content strategies and teams.

A journalist by training and content marketer by accident, Dan Levy has spent the last decade navigating the fascinating waters of media think tanks, global marketing agencies and fast-growing tech startups.



Show Notes:
03:25
Making Communicating With Brands as Seamless as Chatting With Friends
06:40
Joining a Team on The Cusp of Finding Product Market Fit
07:50
The Challenges of Going From Classical SaaS to Enterprise Model
09:25
Three Big Differences in Marketing a Classic SaaS and an Enterprise Model
13:25
Using Conversations At All Levels to Make Strategic Decisions About Content
19:05
Defining the Content Initiatives and Calendar
21:40
High Level Strategic Editorial Content: State of Messaging Annual Report
25:50
Baking the Distribution Strategy Into the Content Itself
30:45
Industry Editorial Newsletter: Curating All the New Stories In the Space
37:00
Growth Numbers: Over 500%
37:40
2019: Massive Marketing Opportunity from New Business Messaging Channels
40:50
Lightning Questions
Transcript:

DA: 02:51
Hey Dan, thanks for joining me today on the SaaS breakthrough podcast. We're really excited to have you. How are you doing today?

DL: 02:58
I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me. This is exciting.

DA: 03:01
Yeah, I'm excited too. Where are you joining us from?

DL: 03:04
Joining from Montreal, Canada, Beautiful Montreal, Canada, but you know, our winters are less beautiful, so....

DA: 03:14
That's one of my favorite cities in the world and I ultimately want to live there in the summers, but I, give you a lot of props for living there during the winter, because it is cold.

DL: 03:24
It is cold, but it's a great time.

DA: 03:26
Well, that's awesome. Well, again, thanks for joining me and today we're gonna be talking about Smooch. For those of our listeners who have not heard of your company, I would love to have you give a little bit of an explanation about what Smooch does, you know, what it was founded, who your customers are, and really what you guys are doing uniquely in the marketplace today.

DL: 03:46
So Smooch, so essentially we were founded about three years ago, and what we do is we make it possible for businesses to have conversations with customers over any single messaging channel. Basically so that communicating with brands becomes as seamless as it is chatting with your friends and your family. So the way we do this is by maintaining really deep technical integrations with all of these channels. So that's your Facebook messenger, that's your WhatsApp, that's your SMS web and Mobile Chat, you name it. We integrate with these channels. And then we unify all that conversational data, all those conversations into one API that brands could plug their software into and essentially maintain one single conversation across all those channels.

DA: 04:36
That's super interesting and very powerful in this new world of different messaging functions and types from, like you said, Facebook messenger to maybe WhatsApp to live chat to email, all those things. So with those functions, who do you guys actually serve, who are, who are the typical customers that you bring to the table?

DL: 04:56
Sure. So we have a broadly two groups of customers. One is what we call, we refer to as software makers. So these are, it could be a customer engagement platform, CRMs, live chat software, chat bot makers, and in these cases, what we do is that we integrate directly with those software makers to extend the capabilities of their software so that their software can communicate with these messaging channels. And then in turn their customers have access to those, to those channels through, through their software. So that the term of hierarchy is OEM and we basically OEM or integrate under the hood directly with those, with those customers that are kind of as they are white labeling us into their product. So that's one group of customers, so our second bucket of customers is brands, so these are brands that maybe using their own proprietary software or they may have their own suites or their stack of different types of software that they use to communicate with customers. It could be for marketing, for sales, for customer support, and they choose to integrate with Smooch so that they could communicate with their customers through all these messaging channels and using all these different systems. and then not only could they access these channels, they can also really take advantage of the conversational data of those, of those customer conversations, the words that customers are telling them and use that to, to inform their own, their own business operations, their own marketing and create more personalized or more contextual customer experiences.

DA: 06:41
This is really cutting edge stuff and I think it's very powerful for these different buckets of customers that you have that you're going after. but I guess Smooch is a newer concept as far as how we look at conversational data. So when did you actually join the team knowing that this is something new? Maybe what was the company size or ARR at that time? So we just kinda have a little bit perspective of, of kind of how new this all is and when you kind of joined.

DL: 07:06
Sure. So, so Smooch was founded in October, sorry it was founded in 2015. I joined in October 2017. At that time the company was still below a million dollars in annual recurring revenue and we only really had about five meaningful enterprise customers. We had, we had some legacy customers from previous iterations of the business, but we were just sort of, I would say on the cusp of finding product market fit and had a handful of, of enterprise customers that were either just signed with us or were working on proof of concept at the time.

DA: 07:44
Awesome. That makes a lot of sense. Okay. So you're coming over from a different company. You were at Unbounce before, right?

DL: 07:51
I was.

DA: 07:52
Awesome. So you're coming from Unbounce. It's, it's a classic SaaS company, you know, a free trial, self serve model, and now you're coming in, you got these five enterprise clients, you're going a little bit in a different direction, more technical style, a SaaS with much bigger complex ideas behind what you're solving. What's it like to have this transition coming from Unbounce at the end of 2017 and going into a pure SaaS to enterprise model. Now you're really going after that enterprise. Do you have to have a change of mindset? What does that look like for you when you first came in?

DL: 08:27
It's totally a change of mindset, which was, you know, which was an interesting challenge at the time. And I don't know going in how much I realized how different it was, but, but it was, it was clear pretty soon. I mean, I mean, Unbounce like you said classic SaaS model. It's a 30 day free trial. You know, very quick sales cycle if you will. I mean, there wasn't really, you didn't, we built out a sales team leader in my days at Unbounce, but for the most part it was just a self serve sign up tool, and so the, you know, kind of low friction and then, and then the product itself, you know, it's a drag and drop builder, so, you know, relatively easy to use, you know, you could sort of try before you buy versus Smooch where we're, you know, we're essentially selling, you know, a series of APIs and SDKs, you know, things that I was aware of before I joined but didn't really understand, you know, as, as a marketer and not a technical person. And and so it was, it was a very different approach to marketing. And, you know, I would say kind of approach it differently. And I'll, I'll, I'll give you a three, a through three ways that it's different. But the first is, you know, it's less about building audience than it is about building credibility. So, you know, at a, at a SaaS, you're really, it's about volume. It's about driving people to your website that may be through content that may be through paid or social, whatever channel, and you're quickly trying to convert them to get, get on the free trial. So it's really about getting people, building up this audience that you could, that you could market to. In terms of Smooch, you know, when I joined the focus was less about building audience and more about building credibility.

DL: 10:16
And the idea there was that, we had a pretty robust sales team, a pretty robust business development effort where we were, you know, we had drawn up a list of customers that we want to go after. And that was really, you know, between maybe 50 and a hundred companies because at this point we were focusing primarily on that, that, that first bucket of customers I mentioned that software maker market. And so, you know, there aren't that many companies at the enterprise level in this space. And that's who we're going after. So a lot of what we did on the marketing side was really making sure that when we reached out to those customers, as we build relationships and build trust on the sales and on the product side, that we were reinforcing our expertise, we were enforcing what we were telling them on our one on one sales conversations with our marketing efforts. And so, you know, from a, from a content editorial perspective, that meant, you know, stuff like, you know PR, so that when people Googled us that, you know, really great credible links came up, that, you know, that show that we knew what we were talking about because we're either writing in publications like Forbes or TheNextWeb or we were being covered in those publications you know. I'll talk a little bit more about some of the other campaigns that we ran, but it was really about, you know, high level of content that demonstrated our expertise, more than the kind of, let's say SEO driven content that's, that's meant to attract customers.

DL: 11:48
The second difference I would say was focusing on quality versus quantity. So similarly, when you're, have a typical SaaS model, you probably have a blog and you're trying to rank for various different keywords. You're trying to build up an audience and that, you know, that involves creating a lot of contents and, you know, in, in our, in our model, it's really less about creating a lot of content and more about picking really strategic contents, that has something to say that, that, you know, offers unique value and that, you know, again, demonstrates our expertise.

DL: 12:25
And then finally, you know, it's that difference between strategic versus tactical content. And so, you know, in Unbounce we were going after, you know, our customers, were marketers in the trenches and these were, you know, marketing managers, people who were sort of involved everyday tactically executing on marketing campaigns. At Smooch, we're really selling to, you know, VP's of product, VP customer experience, CMOs, CTOs. and so, you know, the level of content is much more strategic. It's much more about thought leadership and frameworks. and you know, surfacing high level business problems and agitating those problems so you know, the nature of the content a little bit different. It's a little bit more high level and and yeah, it was, it was kind of a different challenge but it kind of refreshing to be able to flex it a little bit of a different muscle from an editorial perspective.

DA: 13:27
That's really interesting. And I know we're going to go into some of these, the tactical strategies that you did in these areas and I'm excited to talk about them, but I guess my question is like what does that process for you guys to initially find the product market fit, the right customer base, the VP of product. How did you dial in on that, to have that evolution to say, you know, this will not be for the down and dirty tactical marketer. This needs to be the VP of Product is that, you know, survey questions before you come in? Is that part of your process when you're in, you know, with marketing trying to come up with the content? Because when you're creating your content plan and you're saying, hey, we want to go tactical or strategic, we want to go, you know, very specific quality content over a lot of content with SEO. It has to be based on that one thing which is our customer persona and we need to track them right. Where you'd have thought leadership over just SEO acquisition ideas. How do you come up with that and that that's a critical step to make all the right decisions after that.

DL: 14:28
Absolutely. So, I mean, essentially it comes down. and it's funny saying this, but it comes down to conversation. And you know what I mean by that, it's, it's, it's conversations at, at all levels. So primarily it's making sure that we're constantly having conversations with, with our own customers and with other, other people in this space. So to truly understand our customers. So that's customer development. That's one on one sales conversations. It's making sure you're not just having those conversations but documenting them well. One thing that I found really useful when I joined Smooch is that we actually record every single one of our sales conversations. In fact, any (inaudible) conversations that we have on any level, pretty much gets recorded using Zoom and it's in the cloud somewhere. So I was able to come in and watch these really strategic high level conversations that may be between, you know, our CEO and the CEO of a giant contact center.

DL: 15:29
And, and really, so through those conversations and through exposing those conversations, you know, we've got to really understand the problems that this people were facing and discovered pretty quickly that these were very high level problems that often involved various different departments. So we weren't just always, you know, solving marketing problems. It wasn't just about a sale, it was about customer experience ultimately, and customer experience of course, you know, spans product marketing and sales and support. And then of course, because we have such a technical solution, it was really important to bring product people, and, you know, technical people, developers into the conversation, you know, because you have so many brands that are relying on us to keep their conversations safe, security was super important and so often people were talking and wanted to bring in their own security and privacy officers or their technical people and, you know, we would bring our counterparts on into that conversation. So, so essentially, you know, we realized through the sales process, through these, these conversations that this was, not a product just for marketers. Not a product just for developers. But this was, something that took the buy in from multiple people across the departments. And therefore we really need to talk to the decision makers at these companies, these, these product strategists and visionaries. And, and so, you know, once I understood that through watching these videos, through talking to our own team and, you know, I mentioned conversations, a lot of my job is having conversations internally with, you know, our product strategists, with our CEO, with our, with our sales team to understand what they're hearing from the trenches and then to translate that into, you know, interesting stories and messages that resonate.

DL: 17:34
So basically through all these conversations throughout all these learnings, it became clear that, you know, investing in messaging was ultimately a strategic decision that impacted various parts of the, of an enterprise. and so it only made sense that the marketing we're putting out there, that the content that we're creating, spoke to people at those levels about these sort of higher level issues around customer experience and personalization, you know, and what, you know, what AI means, because of course, you know, one thing you could do at Smooch is plugging in chat bot to the conversation, you know, and and so there, there's so much, there's so many sort of things that you could do by having access to these conversations with these channels that made sense for us to talk on that level, you know, really strategically and not just tactically in terms of, you know, how you connect to channel A, channel B mostly because, you know, it's not, it's not that simple.

DA: 18:33
Well said. I think you just nailed that answer and you said some really interesting things that I have honestly not heard before, but the idea of kind of your job being this middleman, not only distilling the conversations direct with customers from the sales team or listening to those, but also the interviewing process of your own team. Boiling the information that you need down to make the decisions of how to, I guess, speak to the prospects and you just learned, the big thing here is this is a cross company decision. We need real strategy. So let's talk about, do you know, the content marketing decisions you make. So you know, this, you now have this very specific identified, you know, messaging that you need to make. So then how does that boil down to content initiatives? How does that become, okay, this is what we're going to write, this is how we're going to do it. And this is the schedule, how do you boil that down into, I guess content experiments you might call them?

DL:
19:35 Right. So through these internal conversations, it became clear to me that in order to, for these decision makers to ultimately make the decision to invest in connecting with Smooch and invest in all these new messaging channels, they really had to, you know, we really had to address three high level questions. One of them was why messaging, right? Why, you know, why are these channels so important? They've already invested in, in social media, and they might've even built out some of these connections themselves. Why is it important for their product? And again, I'm talking here specifically about our software maker customers, why is it important for them to invest in messaging? That's number one. Second is why now? So I think we realized pretty early on that we're pretty aligned for the most part for the people we're talking to that messaging with something, that this was, this was how people were communicating now, right? I don't know about you, but I speak to my friends, my family, you know, my parents primarily through, through messaging apps, whether it's, you know, imessage or SMS or WhatsApp. In fact, I, speak, I use all of these different apps to talk to like different family members, different groups of friends. I think. I think people, it wasn't that hard for people to get to that level of, of why messaging. But the second question was why now? Right. We've been hearing about the channels for forever. Why is now the time to sort of make this strategic investment? And then finally that third thing is, is why Smooch? So, that might be the stuff that you typically address through marketing right away, which is why should you buy my product? But because we were so early in the market, really had to check these other boxes first. Which was why messaging, and why now, and so when we look to build out our initial content calendar was really fundamentally answering those two questions.

DA: 21:39
That's amazing. And it makes a ton of sense and I love that you guys are breaking these down so much. So you guys have something called State of Messaging Report, something that you release. That's a thought leadership initiative for content and you just released one in 2019. How did that fit in? Was that part of your major initiative to say why messaging? That's what you're answering in this?

DL: 22:03
Yeah, exactly. You know, I know once I sort of delved into this space, you know, and learn more about it, it became clear to me that, you know, this was a massive trend and shift in the way people communicate. You know, I think I knew it intuitively, but once I sort of looked at the data out there, it was astounding. Like one survey, basically said that nine, nine in 10 people have said that they want to communicate with businesses through messaging. If you look at the numbers of people on these channels, 1.5 billion people on WhatsApp, 1.3 billion people on Facebook messenger, you know, if you look at China, Wechat, which is their messaging app is basically the, you know, it's not just a chat app, it's how people order a pizza call a cab, it's how they make payments. And so once I started looking around, I was like, wow, there's so many interesting proof points here around messaging, but, and you know, I could find articles and stats here and there, but nobody was really collecting these in, in one place and then sort of making the case for messaging. And so, so that was the idea was, you know, we, we filled that space and created the first and so far, only that I know of, industry report on the state of messaging right now. So we did the first one in 2018 a few months after I joined last January. And, you know, got some really good traction with it and we just released our second report State of Messaging 2019 just, last month, which was, you know, blew the other one out of the water, partly because of the growth of Smooch, but also just because so much has happened in the last year, and, and actually in the last year and it's moved from the why messaging to why now that's become really, really obvious because of all the momentum in this space right now.

DL: 24:03
So, so yeah, this was an opportunity for us to answer those two questions, and you know, really put out high level strategic editorial content that no one else was putting out there. And so if fulfilled, what you know for me has always been sort of my guiding principle, for content creation, which was provide unique value, right? There's so much content out there in the world. There's no, there's really not much of a point in just creating a different version of an article that's out there. Yes people do that all the time. Yes, there may be good reasons to do that for SEO and for ranking, but just on a, on a human level, you know, it kind of pains me to create any content that I don't feel like is uniquely valuable. And when I say uniquely valuable, I mean it's something that no one else is doing and that we're really uniquely qualified to do because of our position in the industry and the state of messaging, You know, we really were because we integrate with all of these messaging channels and we work closely with your Facebooks and your, your Apples and your Googles and your Wechats and fibers and telegrams. And then we also integrate with all these different systems on the other end, you know, we were kind of uniquely positioned to have a really informed but at somewhat impartial view of the industry because we do work with everyone. So it was just sort of perfect. Perfect storm for us to, I'm going to mix my metaphor here right now, but I'll say it was, it was just a great piece of content for us to, to, to put out there and kind of put a stake in the ground.

DA: 25:39
No, I love, I love that you found such a unique opportunity and you're really kind of honing in on what's missing and be also, you know, answer the questions you need to, but go after the persona you need to with the right strategic content. Now a lot of people can come up with the good strategy, which, you know, it's, it's easy to say, okay, this is what we're gonna do. And then you take the time and resources, you build it out and then you put on your blog and crickets. There's no distribution is just on your blog or your website. That happens all the time with the content and that, you know, you expect the SEO then to pick up over time and you'll get more visitors to that blog post. But I think a lot of times people struggle with, how do I now distribute this amazing piece of content that I have, what are you guys doing in terms of distribution to get the, you know, the eyeballs on this amazing content or, you know, editorial piece?

DL: 26:28
Yeah. So I think, I think State of Messaging offers a good case study here again, because, you know, from the get go we, we had that exact same question. It was like, okay, you know, we're relatively new in this space. This was personally the first piece of content I was putting out there. Nobody really knows who we are. So it's one thing to create a great piece of content, but who's going to, who's going to find this? And so we decided to do is really bake the distribution strategy into the content itself. And the way we did that was by making sure that the piece featured original quotes and insights from some of the industry's best and brightest. And so, last year for the first report we went out there and I, you know, I talked to, I think it was about 17, you know, product leaders at, you know, a mix of our own customers and you know, other, companies in the space that we were talking to and other people, we sort of reached out to colds and got some really big names including, you know, the CEO of Drift, which you're probably familiar with

DA: 27:35 David Cancel?

DL: 27:37 Exactly. Yeah. So we've got David Cancel on in there. We got a quote from somebody at Genesis, which is the one of the biggest contact center software platforms in the world. It's like, you know, it's, it's not, it's not a SaaS tool, it's literally a, you know, a contact center platform that's now, you know, like a lot of these platforms expanding from, from your voice and phone into different messaging channels. We got somebody at Uber, to give us a quote because of course

DA: 28:09
That's was pretty awesome.

DL: 28:10
Yeah. So, so, so yeah, we're basically, you know, reach out to these people, got a really good response because (inaudible) the fact that like most of the people had no idea who we were and you know, and so that when we published the piece and we were able to not only market the fact that all these people were featured in it, but we incentivize these people, and their companies to go out there and share it on their, you know, through their own social media and other channels.

DA: 28:33
What's the incentive for them to share it?

DL: 28:36
Well, basically, first of all, I'd like to think that they, you know, they ultimately found the piece to be high quality and really valuable to their audiences and also, you know, there's a certain amount of, you know, I think the term, the term is Ego Baits. You know, people and you know, I'm just as guilty, like I'm totally gonna share this podcast when it comes out, right? Because, because I'm featured in it. So, so, so yeah, basically the incentive, the incentive is to showcase themselves as thought leaders in this space. So it's sort of a, it's kind of a rising tide lifts all boats mentality where, you know, exposure for, you know, thought leadership around messaging and how it's impacting customer experience is something that I think a lot of these people, all these companies want to kind of be a part of. And sort of a share. So yeah, that, and then this year we took a similar approach, but you know, had gained a little bit more credibility who gained more relationships, and actually spoke to 34 people, this year, including, people at Intercom, at LVMH at, trying to think of examples off the top of my head. We have somebody at a Jetblack which is this really cool conversational commerce startup incubated by Walmart. So we sort of layered on not just, you know, these software makers, but also these, some of these brands that we're talking to, and, and really, you know, magnified our, our exposure that way.

DA: 30:18
That's incredible and congratulations to you guys. I mean, it's one thing to strategize these things is another to execute and execute well on all areas, the content, the distribution, you know, the guests and then of course the ROI of it. So that's pretty amazing. And I, you know, I asked those questions about distribution. I think so many people struggle with that question of how am I going to get this amazing quality content out there and how can we do it well, but I love the idea of like the ego bait, like you said. So you have this major report that goes out, you have to go out I guess yearly. And then it's kind of your report for the year. Maybe kind of a lead magnet there for you guys, but you also do an industry editorial newsletter called The Message. I want to talk a little bit about that as another content initiative, like why you did that. But I guess, my other question is when do you venture into doing multiple strategic content pieces and kind of breaking them off and how do you make a decision to kind of split focus? Should you stay focused on one before the other or would you say, you know, build one first and then do the other one, like how do you not get into these multiple content pieces and then just get overwhelmed?

DL: 31:24
Yeah. So, so when I was on Unbounce I was leading a content team of about seven people and we were, you know, working on multiple pieces at any given time, and yes, we had more people, but I did find that it was very easy to get, to split our focus and also to get into a habit. And this is not just, you know, at that company, this is, you know, anywhere that I've been where you kind of get into this. One of my former colleagues used to call it the publishing hamster wheel, where, you know, you're, you're just so used to building your editorial calendar and pumping out content that you sort of just do it without necessarily being that strategic about it all the time. And, and, and ended up splitting your focus as you say. So what I've tried to do here is, you know, really take that slow content approach, and, and make sure that everything that we do is part of a, of a bigger picture. And so you mentioned The Message, our newsletter, and I think that's a good example. Because, the, the, the idea there basically, so this is a newsletter that I write personally. It goes out, every two weeks. It's biweekly, which is a cadence that we thought made sense because, you know, it's, it's often enough that it kind of, you kind of keep us top of mind, top of mind. You don't forget about it, but it's not too often that we don't get into this cycle where we're just putting it out just because, and whatever we have to write about, we just, we just do because we have to. So, so basically the concept here is we are, we're curating all the new stories that are happening in our space, every, every couple of weeks. And so, like I said earlier, when I started delving into this messaging space, I realized that there was so much interesting stuff happening, so many great stories and so many different angles. And so, you know, because we're not just talking about messaging apps, we're talking about essentially this, this big tech battle between Facebook and Google and Apple to dominate this space, which is a fascinating technology and business story.

DL: 33:31
You're also talking about the rise of voice assistants like Google Home and Alexa, you know, and that brings out all sorts of issues around, legislation for one, I don't, I don't know if you remember last year, Google came out with a technology called Duplex, which was essentially mimics human speech. So you would call up, let's say a hair salon, you talked to the receptionist, but it turned out that a receptionist was actually a Bot that got really, really good at mimicking human speech. And that set off ethical alarm bells. And it was just a really interesting story in the news that eventually actually led the state of California to pass a law requiring companies to disclose when bots are part of the conversation. So, you know, this might seem like I'm on a tangent here, but that, that's sort of the point that like, you know, once you open up the conversation about this technology, you get into all these really interesting threads around legislation, around ethics, around diversity, because now there's a question of how do you program these bots to respond, you know, to, all sorts of different people. How do you program voice assistance, understand different languages and different accents and how do you avoid kind of replicating the biases of the developers who develop this technology. So, there's all these interesting stories in the space and then, you know, messaging, in, in lots of parts of the world, this is really how people communicate. So, you know, in India, you know, WhatsApp has become kind of a flash point because, because it's encrypted, it's really easy to spread, you know, viral this information and so called fake news. And this has led to all sorts of societal issues. There was a story recently that in, in Ghana, an email suggested that instead of having a Muslim, the Muslim call to prayer out loud, which some people found disrupted, you could do it through WhatsApp, through messaging apps. And so my point here is that there are so many interesting stories happening about this space that there was nobody covering it all in one place.

DL: 35:31
And that's really what we aim to do with The Message. And really curating these stories and, you know, offering our own sort of layer of insight to it, connecting it back to what it means for your business. And so that's sort of the crux of it. But then we also use that as a distribution channel to write about, to, to distribute the content that we're pretty up there. So in State of Messaging Report, byline articles that we write for different publications, you know, we're writing about this stuff too. And so, you know, this way we have this, this, you know, and then sometimes I'll write something for the newsletter and that will then, you know, become an article that we pitched externally. So it basically, the idea here is that we're looking at this stuff holistically, and we're making sure that, you know, every, everything sort of works as, as one ecosystem. It doesn't detract from our focus, but it gives a distribution channel to our contents. And, and also, you know, we create content based on the, what we write for the newsletter to make sure that we're repurposing everything that we do.

DA: 36:32
Well said that was very, very, very well explained and I really liked it. I can totally see how, as you're explaining these different projects, these different initiatives, how again matches up with the three things you're trying to solve. Like why messaging, you know, get that thought leadership, all that kind of stuff. So it all kind of rolls into one and this is really powerful. And obviously you guys are in a very new market, there's a lot of stuff changing, like you said, from the technology to the regulation. There's a lot going on, so you guys are in an exciting place, but you know, with these content initiatives since you've joined in 2017, where have you guys gone? You said you were sub 1 million ARR in, you know, at the end of 2017, where are you guys now as the space is growing?

DL: 37:18
Yeah, so I'm basically, so I think I said were sub 1 Million ARR and we had about five enterprise customers at the time. Since then our ARR has grown over 500 percent. I know we now have over 50 enterprise accounts, so pretty. Thank you. Yeah, pretty, pretty great growth in a little over a year.

DA: 37:38
That's fantastic growth. Yeah, you guys should be very proud and like I said, it's, you know, it's a new space, it's a it's kind of a new world is pretty crazy just listening to you talk about those different stories and the different places and how things are really changing. So I guess looking forward through the rest of 2019, you know, after you kind of produced already your State of Messaging for 2019, what are challenges or opportunities that you're looking forward to this year? Maybe from a marketing point of view specifically?

DL: 38:04
Yeah. So I'm, I'm basically keeping a very close eye on this, brewing face off really between these three tech bohemians, Facebook, Apple and Google. And so all three, last year in 2018 open in early access these Beta programs for these business messaging channels, they opened it up to a few select brands to essentially allow them to. So in, in Facebook's case, through WhatsApp, they released something called the WhatsApp Business API, which allows businesses to talk to the customers through their existing software using their API. And Google supports this text messaging standard called RCS, which is basically an upgrade on SMS. And one of the benefits of this is that businesses could create their own business profile. So that messaging with them, you know, it looks a lot more like messaging through, through something like WhatsApp or imessage you know, there's branding there, it's verified, you know who you're talking to. And then finally Apple through imessage coming with something very similar called Apple business chat. And so all this stuff kind of open their doors very slightly in 2018, but in 2019 they're expected to go into general availability, which means that pretty soon, pretty much any brand is going to be discoverable to message through search results. So when you Google, you know, any, any, any sort of brand right now you have the option to give them a call, soon you'll have the option to message them. And that's going to be, I think, a real game changer in terms of discoverability and in terms of business is figuring out how to message our customers at scale. And so for us that's a massive marketing opportunity because, you know, we're obviously right in the middle of that transformation. And I think it would be a lot of opportunity to, to tell that story and of course, to explain how Smooch allows businesses to handle this.

DA: 40:16
Count me in as a new subscriber on the State of Messaging and in The Message, you know, you just sold me on messaging and where the future is going, I think it's, it's really exciting and it will be interesting to see how everything plays out this year. And I'm sure you guys will continue to have this amazing growth as the, the opportunity expand and businesses understand this more. You guys are already on the, you know, the, the leading edge there of thought leadership. So, keep it going. You guys are doing awesome. I'm excited to see which way '19 brings.

DL: 40:46
Thanks so much for the support and the opportunity. This was a really great chat.

DA: 40:50
Yeah, it is. Good. Now what I want to do before I let you go, before I let you go, last thing, I want to do a lightning round question around with you. Basically where we just go through five quick questions. Just respond with the best advice that you can think and it just a quick little, you know, little lightning round. So five quick questions. Let's do it. Let's go ahead and jump right in. What advice do you have for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?

DL: 41:16
So I would say focus on what makes you unique. It's back to the idea of you providing unique value, you know, what about your product, what about your space, what about your vision is really unique to you and then lean into that in terms of the content that you create in terms of your marketing campaigns. Really focus on that and don't try to be all things to all people.

DA: 41:38
I love it. And you've done a really good job in this, in this interview of kind of explaining how you guys did that. So I love that. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?

DL: 41:48
So, you know, this may be obvious, but I would say copywriting, you know, copy is not only the cheapest, but also the most powerful way to experiment with different messages, different positioning, you know, test your headlines test your email subject lines. You could do, you can iterate really quickly that way and you could, you could learn a lot.

DA: 42:10
Love it. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

DL: 42:16
So, I'm a big fan talking about strategic versus tactical content. That's actually a concept that I borrowed from a guy named Jimmy Daily, who, who runs a content marketing agency called the Animalz. So his blog is at Animalz.co, animals with a z or zed as we, as we say in our neck of the woods. Yeah, really, really smart, thoughtful, editorial content about, about the kind of stuff that we're talking about right now, how to build a content strategy and how to do that for, for different segments of different levels.

DA: 42:50
I love that. I'm gonna check it out after this episode. That sounds really interesting. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

DL: 42:57
So I don't know how many people are familiar with this tool. It's called Mila notes. And it's basically a cross between like a digital white boarding tool and a bookmarking tool. And so I use that to keep track of relevant articles that I come across on the web. And then I bookmark those and I add them to different boards that I've set up around different themes and different topics. And that's, that's helped me when it comes to writing when it comes to curating stories for the message. I've tried a lot of bookmarking kind of note taking tools over the years and this is the first one that's really stuck and become indispensable to me.

DA: 43:34
You're giving all these great new resources and ideas. I have to check this one out too. I get lost all the time, my bookmarking tools and stuff like that. So that sounds great. What about a brand business or a team that you admire today?

DL: 43:48
So, I'm a big fan of Intercom. You know, obviously they're in a similar space to us, you know, they tackle similar problems and in totally different ways to us. But they're, you know, when it comes to thought leadership around messaging, around customer experience, you know, I think we're really well aligned and you know, when it comes to investing in high quality editorial, you know, they've, they've built up this amazing editorial team and they've really created a culture of content within the company where they have everybody from their CEO to their head of product developers and marketers in the trenches writing for their blog, at a really, really high level, so, yeah, lots of respect there.

DA: 44:33
I love that. A culture of content. That is a really good little phrase there, but. Awesome. Dan, I really appreciate all your time today. You've been amazing. Just so transparent. We went through some really deep ideas on those content initiatives, how you even got there, the strategy that produced them. So I appreciate you taking the time and sharing so much. You know, again, best wishes to you guys here in 2019, I think you just have such an amazing opportunity and the path ahead of you. So good luck. And again, thank you so much for being on the show today.

DL: 45:02
Thanks so much. It was a pleasure.

DA: 45:04
Thank you so much for listening to today's episode with Dan and myself. Dan is obviously from Smooch. If you haven't had a chance to check them out yet, you'll want to head over to Smooch.io is a pretty incredible website. Again, as we talked about in this episode, I will be signing up for The Message and for the State of Messaging that they're putting on, just so much incredible knowledge going on in the messaging space. So much opportunity going on and they are definitely on the forefront of all of this. I do want to thank Dan and the entire Smooch team for being so transparent, being open minded and talking about the numbers, talking about the strategies that have been working so well (...)

Resources:
Learn More about Smooch:
https://smooch.io/
Connect with Dan:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/danjlevy/
Follow along on Our Journey to $100k MRR
A shaky start? No doubt. Yet, three years later, we've got our eyes set on $100k MRR. We'll be sharing everything along the way.