SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Hilary Murdock

demio saas breakthrough featuring hilary murdockAbout Hilary Murdock:

Hilary Murdock is the Head of Product Marketing at Threekit, a product visualization company.

She’s spent her career doing positioning strategy for brands across the category spectrum, including Bridgestone, Kellogg’s and Pepsico.

She’s also been a speaker on the topic of digital transformation and a contributor to AdAge, Startup Nation and more.


Show Notes:
03:20
Helping Provide The Most Immersive Helpful Online Visual Product Experience
04:55
Coming In To Create And Solidify Brand Positioning And All Things Website
06:05
Emerging Categories And Languaging
11:05
The Number One Challenge When Disrupting A Whole Market
"The number one thing is just like getting in those conversations where people are talking about how they're solving the problem today and then trying to raise our hand and say, Hey, you know, like we actually can help you out here. Particularly if you have a lot of product or highly customizable product, we can be an extremely efficient solution for you. But it's really all about to your point, getting out there and making people aware."
13:15
How To Approach Search Marketing When You're Early In A Category
"It is a healthy mix I think, of establishing and getting so domain authority in those terms that are innate to your product and where the category is moving. But also to make sure you're capturing audiences who only know to solve problems one way right now and let them know, Hey, like there's a new better way to solve this. Come check this out."
16:25
The Benefits For Companies Of A Better Visual Experience In This Visual Economy
20:20
Leveraging Content Published By Others
22:00
An Efficient Outbound Process And A Cool 3-tier Campaign
27:40
The Number One KPI And The Reason For It
29:55
Hard lesson: Providing More Deep Technical Content And Product Feature Details
"If there's one thing I would have done earlier is give our web audience a little bit more credit and providing more deep technical content and product feature detail on the website."
33:05
The Majority Shift That Is Going To Happen Because People Are Now Learning New behaviors
"Like with any major disruption, whether it be a new product or a technology or unfortunately in this case a global crisis, things won't go back to exactly the way they were in the aftermath of all this. (...) we're going to see what we call a majority shift."
36:35
Lightning Questions
Transcript:

Hey Hillary, thanks so much for joining me today on the SaaS breakthrough podcast. Excited to have you and Threekit here. How are you doing today?

HM (02:51):
Pretty well, David. Thanks for having me. This will, this'll be fun to be a nice break from the monotony of working at home, I guess.

DA (02:59):
Yes, yes. And as a remote team, that is just our life all the time. So this is not a big change for remote teams I'm sure. But, excited to have you here. And for those of our audience who don't know the company at Threekit, why don't we start off by just giving us a background on Threekit when it was founded, who your customers are and what you're trying to do uniquely in the marketplace.

HM (03:20):
Sure. Gladly. So Threekit is software that helps companies provide the most immersive, helpful online visual product experience possible. And this typically manifests in a few different ways, 3d product configuration, configuration and customization, photorealistic, 2D images that look almost indistinguishable from actual, product images and augmented reality. So what we like to say is that we're visual technology that brings products to life. And officially we were founded I think back in 2005 by, Ben Houston. He was using the same technology that he developed as a visual effects designer in Hollywood. So you can actually see, some of the effects that he himself created in, shows like Game of Thrones and, movies like the Avengers. But in 2014, this thing called WebGL was launched. And this is what made it possible for, e-commerce brands, B2B companies, to actually show interactive visuals online. So Ben had this idea to apply this technology to the world of commerce. Did that for a couple of few years. And then about a year and a half ago, he joined forces with Godard Abel who'd built and sold a couple of CPQ software businesses and, kind of inherently recognize the need for product visualization in that world and in that space. So they came together, you know, about a year and a half ago and the rest is kinda history. That's what resulted in the current iteration of Threekit today.

DA (04:57):
That is pretty amazing. So (inaudible) and really, really, really powerful. Just absolutely a great story. And when did you actually join the team?

HM (05:06):
So I joined in August of last year.

DA (05:09):
What did you have to do when you're first coming in?

HM (05:12):
So my charge was kind of twofold up front, first to create and solidify the brand's positioning and develop the language that we use to convey our value. And then also basically all things website. So content, SEO, design and the like. And where the brand positioning was concerned, the first thing I did was just sit down and talk to as many people internally as I possibly could, kind of drinking from the fire hose and just asking them how they would describe what we do. And I did what I call a language audit of all the existing marketing assets and everything I gleaned from these conversations. Basically this huge database. What I learned was that we weren't all exactly on the same page of, of how we were describing Threekit, you know, to some, it was describing software itself, to some people it was just describing our benefits and that was to be expected for a couple reasons.

HM (06:07):
First, you know, we're in this emerging category so there isn't so much existing precedent for talking about this kind of product. And then also we had these kind of how I mentioned before, these coalescent groups, like the legacy Threekit people, people who go Godard brought in from his past companies and places like Salesforce and Oracle and then newcomers like myself all trying to assimilate in the same space. So it was my job up front to do that groundwork to get us all talking in the same language, about Threekit. And I would say, you know, that process continues to go on. We're a young company and brands and it's something that will evolve over time. But it was, for me, it was all about putting that stake in the ground and then concurrently having to tackle the website, particularly setting up a content machine and keep that moving, which meant guiding our writers and actually just one writer at the time, determining what topics to tackle and then in some cases just like getting my hands dirty and writing some of the content myself.

DA (07:07):
Yeah. And I think we're going to talk a lot about content marketing today. Also, you know, how you're setting these language, these terms in a new SaaS kind of space or an innovative space. But I'm interested to know in this first part, as you're going through kind of this brand audit of the company, which is such an interesting idea and I think we had Aweber on, a couple episodes in the past and they kind of talked about doing the same thing, doing this audit internally with the team to learn what people thought about the company. When you have all this feedback from the team, how do you then take the next step of like, organizing it? What are you looking for when you're looking for the, the right words, the right language? Like what's that next step?

HM (07:46):
Yeah. I think part of it was the blessing of being a new person and kind of an objective observer. I wasn't, you know, kind of tainted by past experience within the company and I hadn't yet worked in a particular group or function that kind of swayed me one way or the other. The first thing I look for is just like patterns. You know, what comes up the most? Is it about scale in product visuals? Is it about incredible quality? Is it about just, you know, describing overall the value that, good product visuals bring. And there were some patterns within there that I kind of glommed on to and then just put on kind of my brand positioner's hat. And looked at the market, looked at our, target audience and thought from their perspective, what are the problems that they're having? How can we provide value instantly? So it was taking a look at both how we wanted to position ourselves internally and how we had, but also I think what I brought was that consumer lens. And when you bring those two things together, that's when you start to develop a really, you know, powerful position because you're making sure to take the, the customer into account and talk about your product in a way that, will help them solve their problems.

DA (09:09):
And what about actually getting on those customer calls? Actually talking to the customers to hear, what are your pain points? What are you thinking about? What are the right words?

HM (09:18):
So what I did was basically, I wound up being a, silent observer on a lot of our initial sales development calls, listening to, listening for a few things, you know, to your point, just the pain points, what, what are people experiencing out there that they can't seem to overcome? And in our space it typically had that, that came to light in a couple of ways. It was either, a scale issue. So, Hey, I'm really interested in 3D configuration, but I've got all these different products and, you know, I don't even know where to start. You know, I'm not familiar with this technology. I, this is something I'm really interested in, but I don't know how to get this thing going. So part of our job was to make it really easy for people to understand the technology and then to implement it.

HM (10:08):
And the other thing we were hearing is, you know, for people who had traditionally done, you know, the way that, the way that our software solves our software solves a, a creative problem. And the way that's been solved in the past typically is with traditional photo shoots. I mean, think about any retail, you know, site that you go on to. Most of what you see are pictures, images and all that gets accomplished by doing product photo shoots, which can be very time consuming. They can be, limiting in terms of how much product you can actually photograph and generate. So we were hearing a problem of those wanting to do 3D configuration, not knowing how, and then also wanting to scale what traditionally has been, an unscalable thing. And just listening in on those calls again, looking for patterns, those were issues that were coming up again and again.

DA (11:04):
So as kind of a new SaaS, you're disrupting the status quo of that whole product photography market. It's like a total new idea being built in. What are the challenges that you're faced with? You know, these, a lot of the, your users are probably having this problem, but they're so unaware of what solutions are out. There are oftentimes users are afraid of change, of accepting new processes and procedures, as things have worked the way that they've worked in the past? What did you guys have to figure out from the brand perspective to maybe break through this, this disruption?

HM (11:38):
I mean, I think you kind of nailed it in the question. It's the number one challenge is just awareness that this is actually a solution. You know, people are used to implementing, you know, again, thinking of this as a creative problem then implementing entire creative teams. Then to go it, they're not thinking, Hey, I'm going to go search for a software that's going to help me accomplish this and then scale it. Like that's not the way that things have been done in the past. So I think a lot of it has been around education and trying to create that mind shift and then where 3D configuration is concerned. It's something people are aware of as a concept. What they don't know is that it's possible for it to look really good, with the technology that's come along, and that it can actually be interactive in on their web experience.

HM (12:23):
So users can actually be online looking at something, wanting to configure and customize something in real time and actually see that happen in real time. So yeah, the number one thing is just like getting in those conversations where people are talking about how they're solving the problem today and then trying to raise our hand and say, Hey, you know, like we actually can help you out here. Particularly if you have a lot of product or highly customizable product, we can be an extremely efficient solution for you. But it's really all about to your point, getting out there and making people aware and the way we've done that is largely through content, CRM and outreach, really smart targeting to the types of companies we think would be ideal for our solution. And just taking advantage of those PR opportunities wherever we can as well.

DA (13:17):
So I want to deep dive on the content and the outbound as far as an initiative standpoint in just a second here. But you know, I think the, the other interesting thing for me is, you know, you're going into a space, like, as you said, where there's not probably a buyer intent search volume. There's not established languaging. You have new words, new technology. This is so early. So for early SaaS companies that are disrupting or early verticals, what is the challenge or what do you have to do from the thought leadership perspective to build up those terms? Are you guys actively looking for words, languaging? Cause maybe from a content marketing perspective you're looking, and we'll talk about this in a second, but like looking for long tail keywords that answer questions, but you're also trying to build these categories. How are you choosing which ones are the right ones?

HM (14:06):
That's a really good question. And I think the first thing is you have to, when you're early in a category and you are in essence defining the category, you have to look at it as an opportunity. Part of the challenge for us is, is really been establishing that vernacular. So, we've kind of created, you know, identified and socialize terms like, visual customer experience, and something we call the visual economy as well to come up with a large body of content that educates users on best practices and standards. And we're really creating a discipline and methodology in a place where, you know, until very recently there was really nothing to speak of. At the same time, you know, to your point, how do you reach people when they don't know to look for you? So from a search perspective, it's meant kind of going analog in some cases and appealing to people in ways that they're looking to solve the problem today because they don't know to go search for 3D product configurator.

HM (15:05):
And that's one of the learnings that we had. We of course are going after search terms like product configuration and product visualization. But when we first started creating content, we were heavy in those terms and then we kind of took a step back and realized, so you know, the way that people are trying to accomplish this today is they're searching for eCommerce product photography or something of the like, you know, they're searching for things in ways that they know, you know, their problem is solved today. And so it's part of our job to also get in on those conversations, wave our hands and say, Hey, you know, have you considered our virtual photographer product? That's another way to solve this problem you're having with creating e-commerce product photography. So it is a healthy mix I think, of establishing and getting so domain authority in those terms that are innate to your product and where the category is moving. But also to make sure you're capturing audiences who only know to solve problems one way right now and let them know, Hey, like there's a new better way to solve this. Come check this out.

DA (16:08):
That makes so much sense to me. That was such a, a well-stated answer there. I can kind of see it almost like you're piggybacking off the current traffic and use cases to offer a new opportunity, but you also have to trailblaze the new terms to stand out in your category in the future.

HM (16:23):
Absolutely. That's what it's all about.

DA (16:26):
That makes a lot of sense. So from a content marketing perspective and things that you've done, you mentioned kind of this report about the visual economy. Talk to us more about that. What are you guys seeing is becoming more and more important for conversion and refunds from the visual economy standpoint and why that report as a content marketing initiative?

HM (16:45):
So the visual economy is how we like to think about the broader cultural context that actually dictates the need for a solution like Threekit. So in short, it just means that today people are used to being communicated to like very visually, like we assimilate ridiculous amounts of imagery daily, you know, through our phones, through our laptops, TVs. Something like 83% of people say that they consider images the most influential factor when they are buying something online. So brands need to respond to that in kind. People want to be entertained visually, but they also want to be sold to visually as well. When we were thinking about content that we wanted to kind of use to set the table for our solution, kind of creating this handle and doing a bunch of research around it has really served us well. We've, we've found a lot of people coming in from different industries to reference that piece of content.

HM (17:42):
And I think within that is where we talk about just the increased expectations of consumers on both the customer side and the B2B side. You know, product images. people used to expect about three, per product on a product page in order to buy something as recently as like 2016. Today they expect, upwards of eight and maybe more. And that's just product images. That's not counting video, that's not counting any other way that you are describing what it is you're selling. So product images are really important. Increasing the number of those, but also as it relates to the visual economy, people should, companies should really consider 3D and AR as well. Just this past month kinda got buried a little bit obviously with all the other news going on, but Apple and Spotify have made huge announcements, and how they're now doing they're now supporting 3D and AR and they tend to be kind of the bellwethers of where things are going in terms of how people shop and, and where people shop. And there's just a wealth of data to support that these kinds of really immersive product experiences can go a really long way and like boosting conversion and just as importantly helping to reduce returns. E-commerce returns are a massive problem in retail, like $550 billion, in waste annually. Yes. you know, a lot of that can be blamed on, product images or poor representation during the buying process. So people simply can't tell exactly what they're buying half the time. So part of what we do is we scale the ability to do 3D product representation, customization configuration. And then with the AR aspect, you know, if you have an appliance, a piece of furniture or something that you want to make sure fits in your space and it looks nice, we also offer that ability as well.

HM (19:47):
So the in store experience becomes less germane to the buying process. And then the one other thing I would add is that on top of the waste monetarily for businesses, returns have had a really negative impact on the environment. So if you think about the emissions and the waste associated with them, that's also a part of the promise of better visuals is this, you know, less environmental impact. So pretty much every way you cut it better visual experience in this, visual economy is beneficial for companies, who are willing to, you know, invest in it.

DA (20:21):
Do you also have to pay attention to a lot of these major kind of PR initiatives that are happening in other companies and then piggyback off them? You mentioned like the Spotify one for example. Are you also trying to leverage content, when those things happen to, you know, piggyback of the volume of those things and kind of talk about new technology. By the way, that report sounds amazing and fantastic. I just have so many, so many questions come from it, but that was my first one.

HM (20:48):
Yeah. yes. So we're always kind of, you know, keeping our pulse on, you know, what are the latest developments from the biggest players. And even from an agile perspective, we typically have our, head of product, you know, do an interpretation. So when Apple announced their support for, AR recently, he kind of dissected all the news about it and said, well, Hey, here's what this is practically going to mean for retailers. Here's this practice. How is what this is practically going to mean for the people who, are using AR on the ground and he'll do, you know, just a short write up. We make sure to distribute that, do a blog post, get it on our social media feeds. Every time there's a new announcement, you know, we are visual technology nerds. So, it's something that, you know, almost everyone instantly a post on Slack like, Hey, have you seen this? And, just as a company we like to socialize that kind of news. And listen, anytime you can piggyback back off something that, you know, Apple announces and it's really relevant to your product and, sets you up as a solution, that's something that you're going to want to take advantage of.

DA (22:00):
Definitely. No, that's a fantastic idea. And I love that that product team is part of that so heavily. That's amazing. I want to flip over to outbound because I have a feeling that also contributes to the content perspective as well, but when you're doing outbound outreach, and by the way, I know you mentioned that you guys use Outreach.io, which we've had Harmony Anderson, their director of demand generation on the podcast. She was fantastic. We'd kind of talk through

HM (22:27):
Yeah that was really interesting.

DA (22:28):
She was a great guest and a lot of good information for anyone interested in outbound. But from your guys' perspective, how have you been doing this? I'm very interested in how you've had to learn probably through trial and error on again, what languaging is right? What content do I share? Who is the right person to talk to because you're bringing this like new technology, new idea to them. Like what does that whole process look like and how have you had to build it out?

HM (22:54):
Well, number one, you know, thank God for Outreach because that is what helps us to personalize and automate and measure the results of our campaigns, you know, manual processes are now kind of a thing of the past and they help make that really efficient. What it does is it gives us the ability to determine each campaign success. You know, how many touches, you're right is about trial and error and a lot of cases, how many touches it does it take to reach our target? How many people do we need to reach to actually see, positive response. And additionally, it gives us kind of unprecedented ability to tailor messages. So our sales reps can personalize messaging by persona or person who they're reaching out to and they can replicate, kind of the things that work the best and duplicate successful campaigns because Outreach will track all that for us.

HM (23:46):
We've seen a huge increase in pipeline generation and visibility. You know, which has given us the ability to make changes as soon as we see something is working or not working. I'd say that in terms of a specific thing we've done on outreach, one of the cool things is we tried launching or we launched a three tier campaign where we targeted manager level employees, director level employees and executives all from the same company. But with individual campaigns, individual messages to each one of those tier people. You know, we personalized that messaging and got content for each group. And we wanted to test which highly personalized content work for the companies. And after testing our hypothesis, we actually found that the highest open rate, we got with those, highest tier executive employees, I think we got like a 50% open rate.

HM (24:37):
Whereas with the other two tiers, it was much lower than that. So what that does is tell us where to spend more of our time. You know, who, who is going to be interested in this. Let's replicate the stuff that works, here with other companies so that we can experience better results overall. Outreach it's just a really intuitive tool and incredibly transparent and it's given us this capability to easily build campaigns and launch, you know, really in, in a matter of days. You do, you do quite a bit of work upfront to research and get things in place. But once that campaign is in place, it just kind of it rolls. It's really, it's really been a powerful tool for us.

DA (25:20):
I guess I'm still a little bit interested in how you are figuring out like, and tweaking these campaigns along the way. So you find one of those three different experiments has a 50% open rate. Okay. That's great. That's fantastic. Let's continue to, scale this out. We're going to get more leads for this ICP, in this position. What's the next task? Is it now let's tweak languaging, let's change the content, let's approach a different pain point, or you're just doing all of it. And then how do you track that? How do you not get too stuck in the weeds with like the specifics?

HM (25:52):
Well, we typically, we try to do one of those things at a time, right? So I think the first thing we did coming out of that executive campaign was, okay, let's see what the responses are with the, the first contact that we made, we were sending out a specific piece of content typically, around trends in the industry that we're seeing. Because that's the thing that kind of sets up the, Hey, this is why you need to consider us because this big thing is going on and this is how it's relevant to you. So we would test out some of our specific, you know, pieces of blog content or even video content that we thought might be relevant to them and kind of amplified the stuff that seemed to be working. And then also went, got really specific with subject headings. What are the things that are really, you know, grabbing these people, and, you know, kind of tweaking language based on that.

HM (26:46):
And then some of it as well as up to the individuals who are actually, executing the campaign. So our BDRs our sales folks who, really on the fly are going in and, if there's a relevant piece of news that day or, something that feels very timely, tweaking language according to that. So they do have, it's not like it's a completely automated thing. They do have some autonomy and ability to be really timely. And how we track that is you know, within Outreach, you have all that, that dashboard, those results in front of you. And then, you know, also through some of our own methods within the team, whether it's tracking it through Google sheets and sharing that information, or, you know, just through conversation. But it is, it is a lot of, a lot of conversations and ongoing optimization and, and luckily, you know, we have a tool that's, that's helped us do that.

DA (27:43):
That's awesome. And from a KPI perspective, are you guys really mapping the whole pipeline, trying to look at like actual LTV that comes out of each individual segment or, or you know, ICP that you talk to? Are you guys in marketing just focusing on one specific area or do you need that whole thing to kind of then help direct where content goes next? We need to double down on this content because this has our highest LTV. Like is that just one big process?

HM (28:09):
I'll tell you what, I wish I had something more provocative to say here, but the truth is the number one KPI we look at, is pretty basic and it's qualified ops. And the reason that's the chief indicator is because it is the best single gauge of how pretty much everything else is working. So I have traffic and content and lead numbers that I need to hit, but if I do that and our qualified ops aren't happening, that means there's something like there's something wrong in the sauce, there's something wrong in the recipe here. It means our messaging is off. It means our targeting is off. Like, something's not right. So that's number one, the number one thing we look at, every week and then everyone kind of pivots off of however that's doing. If the qualified ops are wrong, what I'm thinking about is what is our traffic?

HM (28:54):
What kind of signals is our website sending to the people who are coming in? what is the language that I need to look at, of our blog posts, which ones are actually sticking around our site, and not bouncing after the fact and is that valuable traffic? So I think it's really helpful. You know, it's so easy. Everything can be measured these days and it's so easy to get really, really bogged down in all the data. I think what having all of us looking at qualified ops does for us is give us the best gauge of what our ultimate goal is and then being able to kind of cascade down and look at the individual things that each one of us are responsible for the contribute to that. And if that's not going well, then we all kind of go back to the drawing board and see how we can use our channels that we're responsible for to help make that right and plus, you know, if a qualified op is the first step to a close deal, and if we're not closing deals, we're not a business. So it all pretty much goes back to that.

DA (29:54):
I love it. I love the idea of the simplicity aspect of it. A common question to ask on here when people talk about a lot of data is like, how do you not get overwhelmed? That's something that we get stuck in all the time. It's just the overwhelm of data. So I love that approach to it and it really does help everyone aligned on this very, very central important piece of that pipeline. And looking, looking over the past year, are there any lessons learned from maybe campaigns that didn't go the way you expected, content or outbound? Things that you missed? Things that we can learn from.

HM (30:25):
And I think the blessing and the curse of working in a really fast pace you know, tech environment is that the hard lessons are, are daily. The wins and losses things, you know, I think if there's one thing I would have done earlier is give our web audience a little bit more credit and providing more deep technical content and product feature detail on the website. I know that I talked before about like having to educate folks on the solution itself and that means, you know, going out and really starting from the basics, and starting where people are and kind of leading them along. And so I think that early in my early days that reflected largely on the website, we were talking a lot about high level benefits, about boosting conversion, about reducing returns, about efficiency and all those things are important.

HM (31:17):
But what I wish I would have realized sooner is that the people that we did have coming to our site in a lot of cases, had a lot of experience in 3D. Perhaps you know, these more mature companies who had some expertise in house. We weren't sending the appropriate signals that we were a really, deep, serious tech solution with some rigor behind it that you really can't find on any other platform. We've corrected that since and, and I think that our conversion numbers have gone up, but you know, for folks who did know the space or for folks who are coming from really sophisticated enterprise, even mid tier companies who wanted to see that this thing was, had really like tons of power and ability to scale, we didn't send those signals earlier enough. And again, like I said, we've corrected it. I just, you know, like with a lot of things, hindsight's 2020, I wish, wish, wish I'd done that a little sooner.

DA (32:17):
From my limited perspective over here. It sounds like, the target audience that you guys were going after because you are in such a new market was a very highly sophisticated user that has experimented with this. And maybe they were there because they've already been playing with these ideas and trying to figure it out. But as this becomes more normalized and people actually start looking for this that are not educated in that stuff, then that's when you kind of pull away from the technology aspect because those early adopters sound so technically heavy and they've experienced this stuff before. So that makes a lot of sense.

HM (32:49):
Yeah. The key is you got to do both. Right. And, and that is, that's, that's content overall. That's, you know, how do I make sure that I'm providing things that are relevant to folks at any stage in the journey to show that this is, an appropriate solution for them.

DA (33:06):
I love that. And, you know, kind of looking forward, this is always a question I like to ask, but this is an interesting time to ask it in the world. You know, it's going to be a crazy year this year and obviously we have no idea what's going to unfold in 2020. But are there, other than the, the current environment, are there other challenges and opportunities that you guys are looking forward to? Maybe from a marketing point of view?

HM (33:28):
I mean, yeah, it is an interesting time. You know, if you would've asked me a year ago that, you know, told me a year ago that this is what the world and, and you know, my work life was gonna look like, I don't think I would believe you. But I think, you know, we're looking at this as really an inflection point in commerce. So yes, stores and restaurants will be back, God willing. But like with any major disruption, whether it be a new product or a technology or unfortunately in this case a global crisis, things won't go back to exactly the way they were in the aftermath of all this and because of what's happening during this period is people are learning new behaviors. We're learning new behaviors in terms of how we're working at home. We're learning new behaviors, in terms of, you know, how we, how we parent, learning new behaviors and how we relate to each other.

HM (34:20):
And also, you know, learning new behaviors in commerce and the things that used to be bought predominantly in store. people are buying them online right now and they're finding out the, Hey, you know, that piece of furniture, the clothes, the electronics, the things that I've always gone into store to look at and buy and try out first. Like I don't mind doing that digitally. And, and of course some will go back to their habits after this, but many won't. What we've actually kind of done to be proactive in projecting, and just tracking and projecting what's going on with this. We developed something called the virtual shopping index that's on our site, in a blog to track this change and in it, we're predicting that in some categories, you know, electronics, furniture and home, smartphones, apparel, we're going to see what we call a majority shift.

HM (35:11):
So more people buying virtually than in store and today or while rather prior to the Covid crisis, these were categories where people were buying more in store. So, you know, electronics was 31%, I think of, e-commerce. were bought by e-commerce, we're saying, you know, that will probably go up to around 50% and kind of making based on the ongoing kind of rollout of and what's going on tracking this so that when people come out of this, they have kind of a, something to look at and say, Hey, you know, how am I going to make decisions on my business? Knowing that people's behavior has changed significantly during this time and for industries, the challenge will be how well and how quickly can I respond to this market shift? You know, how can I accelerate my presence and my efforts in the digital space and with visuals of course, we think being a major component of making that shift, successfully.

DA (36:07):
That was really, really well said. And as you said, nothing will be the same again, I'm sure a lot of things will return to some normal, but you know, everything has changed and people are learning that it's not so scary to live a full digital kind of lifestyle there. So that's really fantastic. I'm glad that you guys are in this great position. And like you said, a lot of companies will have to make that pivot and that understanding and be very smart within the next few months. But, but really well said. What I want to do now is I want to go to our lightning round questions. Just five quick questions that you can answer with the first best thought that comes to mind. Ready to get started?

HM (36:46):
I think so.

DA (36:47):
Nah, you got this. You're gonna do great. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?

HM (36:55):
Don't build a thing until you validate the problem you're solving. If there's one thing that I've learned, it's hard to get people to try anything new. It is so hard to get people to change their behaviors, you know, they need to have a burning need or problem. And part of the thing that marketing is really helpful with is testing, messaging, talking to consumers, making sure that you are solving an acute problem. You know, I think sometimes marketing can be an afterthought in early stage companies, but the goal of marketing is to make sure that you are talking in a way that compels people to act and check you out and what you have going on. And you can actually do that prior to even building a product, right? You can go out and say, Hey, I know, you know, we could validate, Hey, I know people are having problems with product visuals and that it can be a really painful process. You know, I can, I can find out from customers, you know, whether a message is compelling and also make sure to when I'm building what I'm building, building the features that people really want to see. So go out and validate what it is, that you're trying to, to solve before you write a single line of code or build anything.

DA (38:16):
That was perfectly stated. I don't have anything to add to that. That was amazing. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?

HM (38:26):
Skill? You know, I think some would argue this isn't a skill, but I do think it's something you can practice and improve and that's just a collective vulnerability. Nothing like nothing will kill a team culture quicker than ego or pride or, or people wanting to look like they know it all. And the truth is in this space, nobody knows it all. You know, you want a team that's going to ask the really hard questions and asking questions just means that you can admit that you don't have all the answers and you're trying, you're going to try and be wrong sometimes, but no matter what you're going to learn. And then extending that psychological safety to everyone on your team to support each other through those learning experiences. That's the way that companies grow and also the way that companies get better. So it's kind of like, you know, admitting you don't know at all and, and acting anyway.

DA (39:21):
Yeah. And I would add to that being okay to make mistakes or to be wrong and to fail. Like those are the things, all that vulnerability will help you to to only find the right answers. That's awesome. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

HM (39:39):
You know, actually before I came to Threekit, about a year and a half ago, I went through an early idea stage, accelerator, called Tacklebox and it's run by a guy named Brian Scordato who has been in several, early stage startups himself and then kind of discovered that his passion was helping people and guiding people early in the ideation process. Really smart guy. He does these accelerators both virtually and in person. But in addition to that, he has a blog. He sends out newsletters regularly that just have great reminders about what really drives growth in companies, what kind of things to pay attention to, what kind of things pay off and really like why marketing is such a crucial piece to maintaining growth. He also just has some really great fun anecdotes in there. I think that the site is gettacklebox.com. So I highly recommend it. I think he has a podcast now as well. Go there, sign up for the newsletter. It's a great kind of, I think under, under the radar resource.

DA (40:45):
Love that. And we'll make sure to link to that in the show notes as well. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

HM (40:53):
It's funny, we talk a lot about, tool fatigue at our, our company cause it seems like, you know, there's a new one coming out every day and, and do they make things better? Do they make things worse. I'm going to say something probably controversial here, but I'm going to say Gmail. And here's why. Like I know email is the bane of everyone's existence, right? It piles up, people hate it. It's a nuisance but looking at it from another angle, all email really is, is a searchable archive of information that's actually specific to your business. So where else are you going to find that? Like nowhere, it has so many clues of how to solve problems or how you've actually solved a problem in the past. Like that's held an email. So many great off the cuff ideas, that people might consider just throw aways during the course of conversation.

HM (41:42):
So many great even turns of phrase or ways of describing product and the value that it offers. Like that's all an email. I actually have a folder I keep for kind of put a pin in it, emails and ideas that you know, aren't important to solving whatever job I'm doing at the moment, but that I want to revisit because I just believe they're really useful or might spark ideas. So I try to review those objectively like, you know, at least once a month to see if there's anything useful there to pursue or elevate. It's been actually a great source of ideation for me. So, yeah, email, don't hate on it can actually be great.

DA (42:16):
No hate here. I definitely do something similar with marketing emails. I save them in a swipe file so I can always go back for new ideas and thoughts and angles. That's a good one. But I love the idea of like a product ideation too. That's really powerful. And then I'm expecting in the next few years there's going to be a disruptive categorical SaaS that disrupts email and how it works. I'm sure it'll come out. All right, last question for you. brand business or team that you admire today?

HM (42:45):
Today, brand, business or team. Okay. I'm going to take I'm going to take the word team very literally here. And say the women's national soccer team. Well, let me, I'm not even a huge soccer person, but I really like and admire them for a couple of reasons. They're the best in the world at what they do and they don't apologize for it. you know, I feel like they've won every game I've ever seen them play, so just really good at what they do. But also they're fighting this like very real battle with their Federation, who I believe it's considered like their bosses, when it comes to equal pay, and they're doing it as a really united front. There are no defectors. They kind of all believe in this and, are spokespeople for it. So they're kind of proving that they can walk the walk and you know, walk and chew gum at the same time.

HM (43:37):
They can be really great at their daily job, but also fight for this bigger thing. And I think there are so many lessons that business people and startups can take from that. First, you know, take pride and own your success. If you don't believe that what you're doing is going to change the world in some way, like no one else is going to. But then also don't shy away from like the bigger picture impact that you can make if you have a platform. So if your business is successful and growing and then also offers you the opportunity to make strides towards, you know, making the world better or more equitable for everyone. To me that's like Nirvana as far as I'm concerned as both doing something, doing it well, but also having, a broader, global impact. I think that that would cover all the bases in terms of what I consider a really satisfying career.

DA (44:29):
I love that. That was such a good answer. And I think they're, they are an inspiration and you know, it's, it also goes to show just, you know, the power of teamwork and hard work and focus and determination and you know, even those journeys are, are very difficult, and you just about perseverance to keep going. Excellent. I love that. Great answers. Hillary, you were a fantastic guest today. Thank you so much for sharing so much, being so transparent and open and sharing all these lessons learned. Definitely stay safe during this crazy time. And thank you again for jumping on.

HM (45:01):
Of course, David. It was a lot of fun and yeah, stay safe, stay safe yourself and hopefully we'll talk sometime soon.

DA (45:08):
We'll talk soon. Thanks again, Hillary.

HM (45:13):
Thank you.

DA (45:13):
Again for taking the time to listen to today's episode, episode number 100. If you can believe it, a hundred amazing SaaS marketing experts here on the show talking about what is working in the trenches in SaaS marketing, especially in things like this changing new landscape is absolutely crazy and incredible to see what companies are having to do now to survive. And predict how this landscape is going to change. A big shout out to Hillary Murdock, the entire team at Threekit for allowing them to share this, this great content that's information being so transparent and valuable to our amazing SaaS community. We all appreciate you, the SaaS community here. Keep working hard, keep your heads down and stay optimistic. We're all here for each other and I want to continue creating content here that helps everyone to find ways to survive this new landscape. (...)

Resources:
Resource Mentioned For Idea-Stage Founders :
https://gettacklebox.com/
Learn More About Threekit:
https://www.threekit.com/
Connect With Hilary:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/hilary-murdock-36929b6/
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