About Keith Messick:
Keith Messick is the CMO at Dialpad, a business communications company.
Previously, he served as the CMO at Lucidworks and also held senior leadership roles at Topsy (acquired by Apple), Get Satisfaction, and SuccessFactors.
About Keith Messick:
Keith Messick is the CMO at Dialpad, a business communications company.
Previously, he served as the CMO at Lucidworks and also held senior leadership roles at Topsy (acquired by Apple), Get Satisfaction, and SuccessFactors.
Hey Keith thanks so much for joining me today on the SaaS breakthrough podcast really excited to have you and Dialpad on today's episode I think we are going to talk about a lot of amazing different topics around SaaS, around video and voice communication and just what it takes to be a great B2B company in 2019. How are you doing today?
Great thanks for having me, I'm going to work really hard to live up to your intro around the word amazing.
Well I'm confident as well really I've heard a lot of great things about you and your knowledge just from your team, so it means a lot to have you on and I guess just kind of kick us off with a brief explanation of Dialpad, who the customer base is and what you're doing uniquely in the marketplace right now.
Sure, so Dialpad was founded by the creators of Google Voice so if you think about voice hangout all those things, that team was actually pending acquisition and then that team left Google and started Dialpad, you know Dialpad is voice, video, text essentially you know enterprise communications in the cloud. What's unique about it is if you think about the world sort of like depending on the age and experience of the listeners, think about the world back to like Siebel and Salesforce. So Salesforce was really compelling because Salesforce was SaaS, it was not just the models, this idea of like hey, can we take all this on-prem software and move it in the cloud, there's lots of good reasons why.
Dialpad sort of competes in that same type of environment most of our competitors if you think about telephony it's a pretty old space, everything from carriers even to what we consider to be more modern, aren't actually cloud native. I mean if you think about just the market just core telephony just making the phone rings at your business there's about 700 million on-premise phone lines in the world which is pretty crazy for business and only about 10 million of those are in the cloud so far and in the next decade we think that'll reverse and it'll be something like less than 100 million of them will be in the cloud versus on-prem. So there's a huge-huge market opportunity to replace the sort of classic you know SaaS cloud versus on-prem we just do it in terms of telephony and communications.
Our customer base is really honestly one of the both, I would say the most interesting and the most challenging things about this space is that you know you have to provide telephony and communications and video conferencing and all this for a five person company, not that differently than you provide it for a five thousand person company. So there's definitely a surface-area, opportunity, slash challenge from a marketing standpoint but you know if you think about it it's like do you have a phone in your office, do you have a desk phone does that make a lot of sense, do you want to be able to take those business calls from your personal device, from your laptop and also from your desk phone all of those questions are sort of what our customers ask and really sort of gets at the future of work and distributive work etc-etc. So big market opportunity for Dialpad, fun company great product.
Well I guess that's kind of where my next question lies, we are a webinar platform, we're based on web RTC which is a cloud-based solution for video and voice communication but with the change in distributed teams, with the change in how business is being done in 2019, where do you see kind of the marketplace shifting? Do you see like actual, like on-premise telephones going away, is that part of the future of what you guys are looking forward to or a part of?
So I think that we use… before I got here we set that slogan of kill the desk phone and I really liked what we found was it wasn't really good for our enterprise customers, it's sort of like a fold up but personally and also as a company do I believe that the desk phone as a piece of hardware will disappear? 100% yes with very few exceptions, hospitals, government and EDU to be specific. It really doesn't make a lot of sense it's a terrible piece of technology versus your iPhone or your Android or your laptop. So just in terms of pure UX it makes no sense to keep a desk phone long-term but I'd say bigger trend is that you know enterprise usually follows consumer and the majority of American households no longer have a home phone, so those you know the kids that grew up in those environments show up at the office and it doesn't make a lot of sense to them to have a desk phone it's like they're like what is this thing
Yeah would they even know what that thing does
And we even see even on like startups there's questions around do we give, are we supposed to give employees a phone number like even just sort of a lot of existential questions about the telephone and the telephone number because we're all used to this thousand-dollar device in our pocket. So it's a really good question, I do believe that the desk phone goes away and I do believe that video becomes more important in internal conversation related to distributed teams.
Yeah I think it's a big piece of the relationship building aspect as well for B2B especially internally for teams, it's just so easy now to click a button have a video call that's instant communication, just something that I had access to that you know when we kind of first started video online. So with all this happening and these big shifts in the marketplace, how does that play into your guys's marketing the story that you tell, how do you stand out in a crowded marketplace with so many different video and voice communication platforms out there.
Well it's hard, so that's the first step you know we do a couple of things really well. If you think about… so the Gartner Magic Quadrant just came out last week for u cast, so it's you know unified communications as a service which is the long sort of category for business telephony and with the exception of one other company that's about to go public, we're the only private company on the Magic Quadrant and not only that like our core telephony products been in the market GA for four years and the average age of the people on the quadrant it's 27 years.
So one of the things we do differently is we're just… our ethos is just different, it's just we were built post iPhone, we were built post cloud like we're legitimately like when we say we're mobile first, we're mobile first when we say we're like cloud native we're literally cloud native like we're built on GCP, so there's just some like actual, factual technological differences in terms of how the product is built but then also when your product is four years old versus thirty years old you just think differently, you move faster, you take bigger chances, you're a little more creative, I think it's easier to do that as a privately held company than a public one.
So part of it is it's just we're willing to do things that our competitors want and also we can do them faster and we can iterate and test and things like that and it's just sort of the classic like slow-moving incumbent versus the faster moving sort of upstarts and that dynamic exists in just about every industry and technology right now and if you think about cloud adoption, telephony and communications is really the last mile you know CRM and then it was file-sharing you know and then it was email right it wasn't that long ago that people still had their email on-prem and then the last logical thing is telephony and communications and what's crazy about it is the market for communications is actually bigger than all the previous three markets I mentioned combined. So it's a pretty big opportunity, it's highly competitive as you would imagine, we'll never out spend them so we just have to be more creative than they are and move faster.
I think that's you know very valuable point but what's an example there of being more creative, I mean obviously there's plenty of examples of industries having that new innovation because it's just something that hasn't been kind of revamped a long time and new businesses startups coming in and doing that but what's an example that you guys have done to move fast to experiment and do creative options and how can companies like you know company coming into a marketplace get into that mindset to think and feel that way?
Yeah so great question, I mean one design is a great equalizer between and UX in general just a great equalizer when you don't have the budget of your competitor. So, people obviously are very emotional beings and when they see something and they see something that's designed sort of like more like they are consumer or sort of their everyday life they're drawn to that more than something that's sort of again sort of stodgy, large incumbent etc etc.
So, we focus a lot on design, we focus a lot on design and marketing, we focus a lot on design and UX and product but I'll give you a pretty good example of just something we recently did, we have a couple of billboards here in the Bay Area which is pretty common for startups and our competitors all have billboards as well and you know they're billboards will just be something like you know like trusted by X percent of the fortune 500 or whatever it is, it's just sort of like your classic corporate billboard and we looked at it as like okay well we have two billboards and sometimes only one billboard and you know it's not that it's that expensive but how do we create something that's sort of memorable and what we did is we had every employee submit their most awkward childhood photo and then we put everyone's pictures, we would flip these billboards pretty frequently and the gist was like mine is like a really awkward photo from middle school and the tagline said you know middle school was hard your phone system doesn't have to be and then we would swap out the photos and it sort of served two purposes and we would change the copy.
One, employees loved seeing their picture they thought it was hilarious so you have a lot of just natural virality of people wanting like when's the last time every employee started tweeting out or sharing on LinkedIn or showing their friends like your company billboard right never and then two, it got us a lot of traffic and a lot of awareness and a lot of people calling in and saying I saw your billboard that's hilarious I had to figure out what you guys do and so little pieces like that are places where you can take like your spin for a billboard and make it you know that you're trying to build awareness right, our competitors everyone already knows who they are we're trying to get on people's radar, so just making creative decisions like that and having a little more fun is a really good way to get a return on that investment.
I love that and when you're trying to get awareness are you trying to think about relatability with that audience, are you looking for mostly humor or is it just shock factor, is it just like what can we do to get eyeballs on us so people will go wow that's interesting, is that kind of the approach that you're taking when you're think of that?
Yeah I mean we try not to be, I never liked to be clever for clever sake right, it really depends on your audience and you know you can be really funny and clever and if your audience it's a huge mess but it's also what does your company actually believe. So, the first product that Dialpad ever launched was a product called uber conference and uber conference became sort of famous because of the hold music and one of the founders Alex Cornell wrote this really ridiculous hold music about sitting on hold a country song right and I actually remember the first time using it years ago and…
I remember that song too right
And so the hold music even today uber conference has been a product in the market forever and if you go to Twitter today you'll still see people they're like you know oh my god I was on his teleconference and the hold music was hilarious and so you know we're pretty fortunate that we're able to take chances and have some fun where it’s supported behavior it's what I would say. I've been at companies where it's not, I mean I think we're sort of naturally like we think we're funny which isn't always true that everyone else believes you but we sort of enjoy like a good laugh and so we're able… it makes our creative, it gives us a lot more wiggle room to take some chances when you feel supported and like I said the hold music still endorse a day as something people still talk about and actually we just had potbelly which is a national brand reach out to us and they recorded some hold music wanting to use it on uber conference and then we had another national brand an airline if you can believe it or not just recently reach out and see if they could do the same.
So, I think creative and humor it works right I mean I think there's just this idea that B2B buyers are logical and that this is not true.
Well I think that they're human beings right, they still are you know related to a lot of the different emotional things like anyone else is so the people making the buying decisions or any of those decisions are still going to get attracted by humor or quirkiness or anything like that and it sounds like a lot of the values of your company have been built into that marketing, that humor, that fun and I love that. Now you mentioned feeling supported, I know you guys obviously have raised money and you're probably feeling supported maybe by the investing team too but my question is really around raising and marketing, do you think that it's critical nowadays to raise money to build a company like Dialpad to have the ability to have that freedom of creativity and different initiatives to work it.
That's an excellent question it's a hard answer to generalize on, I believe a lot of it depends on your go-to-market right, so depending on how your product structured in your competitive landscape etc-etc in your target market, I think the capital requirements can differ. In our world we have any you know a massive market filled with legacy companies who were mostly all again almost all of them are public they I can see their financials they're doing fine right and so in that environment we can't out spend them but we also can't you know say like well we're not going to participate right because that's just not going to work.
So in our situation actually increasing spend makes a lot of sense, I mean we want to be responsible about it but we're also able to do some things like okay let's do a little more out of home we're sponsoring some sports radio around here we've gotten really good feedback on that, we're looking at other markets, there's just some things that we have to do again like we don't just throw good money after bad, so we try to iterate and test and iterate some more and measure but in our case capital definitely helps in terms of out-growing faster than the market I guess what I would say and then just you know again I've also been in companies where I think you really didn't need a lot of capital in terms of marketing because it was just a different you know you were either way upstream and or it's just you're selling to engineers and so engineers and marketing don't always go hand in hand etc-etc. So I don't think there's one answer but in our case 100 percent being able to increase our spend has shown up in the results.
That's a really good answer and I think it's like you said probably very dependent, it's hard to generalize that but I guess you know with a crowded B2B market do you think that you can still win being bootstrapped with the exceptions and maybe like the engineering examples where marking doesn't really work that well in that marketplace, do you think that we have to kind of move faster or can you still win with content generation and just that pure creativity that you talked about.
So I think that I mean the raising capital definitely is a little different especially early and I think it's mostly a positive, so I do think that more and more like Paul Graham just tweeted something two weeks ago about Y Combinator and just the sort of you know taking a smaller round getting you know getting profitable or near profitability, being more capital efficient sort of working out some of the kinks before you take a large round as being a better sort of indication of success. I think I generally agree with that so if I were starting a company today I think it I would approach it differently than you know probably six years ago but it was sort of like you know raise money to figure it out and there's lots of reasons why but it's just so diluted like early stage capital is really diluted so you're an entrepreneur you're just sort of early on giving a lot of control and finances away of your company which sucks. So, I do think that has changed I think that's a positive.
I do think you can… I mean I think you can bootstrap and be successful 100% I think it really depends on like how traditional your marketing mix is right if paid is a viable channel for you it's really hard to bootstrap, if out of home and sort of general awareness matters for you, you know you got to spend the money there. So everything can't just be this quote/unquote growth hack I think depending on your market you sort of it's sort of a yes and you want to do that plus do some of the more traditional things but I don't believe in a world where like I don't believe in zero-sum games market wise right and I don't always believe that the best funded person wins, so I hope that answers your question.
No it does like I said it's a complex question because like you said it's not one-size-fits-all it's really I think like you said dependent on the marketplace and how you're going to approach it and I agree about the capital you know kind of needing to have some of those numbers together, your customer acquisition cost knowing some pipeline ideas of how you're actually going to scale before you just bring in money and then just burn it on experimentation but speaking about that and kind of figuring things out I know you guys have an AI enhanced solution that's right?
We do, we'd never say the phrase AI enhanced but I'll allow you to do it.
What do you guys typically said?
So we've actually I think I know where you're going with this I think you're sort of asking is AI our buzzword is that correct?
Yeah exactly I just want to know how important that is in the process you know along with capital is there something that you need that really helps you just kind of angle your product for differentiation in the crowded marketplace, I think we often see these kind of changing landscapes where buzzwords really come up and are helpful to move faster or be creative or really be different I just want to know what you guys to take was on it.
Yeah, so it's a great question I mean do I think AI is a buzzword 100 thousand percent yes, sort of insane being a big data and you know which didn't really turn out that great. I think that… so I don't think AI really means anything anymore because most of what we talk about AI in terms of enterprise isn't really a AI like it's not really autonomous, you know technically speaking it's usually more like natural language processing and machine learning which is different from like a self-driving car but I do think that, I sort of think of it as art so we call it voice intelligence and the way we think about it is this, if you if you took all of the business calls that take a ten person company, you take a hundred and ten thousand person company doesn't matter. If you sort of ranked all of the calls that happen in a day, internal calls, external calls whatever and you assigned a value to them the calls to the far right the most valuable calls would be sales and support calls, I don't think that's controversial it's actually quantifiable right. Meetme talking to Accounts Payable it's not sorts of its part of my life, it's part of business but it's not like a super high value like quantifiable call.
So there's this whole thing of like the market has mostly been focused on the phone right when you think of the low value calls you're like hey like does having on-premise hardware make any sense like can we build a better phone, can we move the phone to the cloud, why would we do that well it's a lot cheaper to maintain you know it's more reliable etc-etc right, so all the reasons you move something to the cloud but if you think about the more valuable calls you're starting to instead of thinking about a better phone you're actually thinking about a smarter call because if I can make the sales call more productive that's really good news, if I can make the first call resolution on the support called higher that's really good news that's quantifiable, exciting right.
So when we think about AI or voice intelligence we think about those high-value calls and so we think about what can we do pre sort of during and post call to make that call more successful but we don't think of it as like we're replacing the person on the phone does that make sense?
It does and I guess kind of some of the question behind it was when you guys were working through product marketing and stuff like that it's still just how do we add more value to our customer base, how do we add more value to our product it's not hey let's create you know this product so that we have you know marketing collateral that we can use to really stand out in a older marketplace.
Do you know what ADAS is A-D-A-S
No I don't
So it's the sort of catch-all phrase for advanced driver assistance system. So if your car has like a little light that turns on when someone's in your blind spot or if it beeps if you're you know about to bump into something or you know if there's any sort of alert that says hey like you know you're about to hit something and you're parking it you're about to park, you're in reverse and you're looking at the camera and it's showing you the little lines etc etc. So most cars now come with some form of ADAS right and the thing about that is that like it's a really fascinating thing it greatly reduces the number of like accidents sideswipes people you know bumping into the wall when backing into a parking garage etc-etc but it's not AI it's actually augmented intelligence like it's just saying okay like you are still driving the car, you're still in complete control of the car and we've just surrounded you with technology to make you a better driver.
In many ways voice intelligence the way we think of it for sale and support is like an ADAS for a business call which is a weird thing to say out loud as it flies out of my mouth but it's basically like how do we make that experience better for the agent and the prospect or you know the rep and the prospect or the agent and the customer but not by sort of replacing any of the people involved by just sort of giving them better information, giving them guidance in real time and giving them insights post-call that would make them have a better experience the next time they pick up the phone, that's really a way we think of it, that's I think that's pretty unique and so what we've seen is this sort of just being sort of really cloud native and kind of having this AI or voice intelligence first-angle, we've been able to sort of take those high-value calls and create a really interesting and unique experience for our customers and obviously for our prospects.
So, it's that part's exciting is a marketer, it's exciting when you when product delivers something that really feels unique it doesn't last for long it certainly doesn't last forever but when you're in that moment it's a pretty exciting time and we're in that moment right now.
That is super exciting because you have unique advantage especially if you come first, I mean obviously like you said competitors will come and they'll replicate but being there first you get thought leadership you can come up with new unique tag lines and have all that creative freedom to come up with those different marketing initiatives and ideas and really trying to just get ahead of the curve. So that's fantastic. I love when you have the kind of product breakthrough and you know this is kind of a big question but looking back over your time with Dialpad, you know are there things that you look at as big lessons learned or things that you wish you had done differently that you know in retrospect make a lot of sense but I think there's just so many lessons to be learned when we look back and say oh man I made a mistake there I wish I could have done this differently and you feel like that stand out for you?
Yeah I mean as a general rule I work really hard with the team to try and take you know test and iterate so that you don't get stuck with really huge regrets, so there's like in permanence to everything which I think is a good way to not say like I wish we wouldn't have done that because you're constantly trying to sort of push it forward but tasks and then make your decisions you know my experience is that usually when you come to a new company especially high-growth startup you know the regrets are… regrets the wrong word things you do different is always usually internally, it's sort of things trying to understand how to navigate the internal politics is the wrong word of a company.
So I'd say you know I'd take early on Craig who's my boss who I think the world of you know I definitely had a moment where I thought hey I'm taking this off of his plate like oh good you know like he's hired the new CMO, I'm going to run with this and I'm going to be low-maintenance isn't that going to be a great thing and what I realized is that there were just certain parts of the marketing stack that he cared deeply about and what I realized is that not including him wasn't a favor it actually he did not appreciate that and so that was a good lesson learned, I probably should ask the question ahead of time is what things do you absolutely want to be involved in but in terms of market things, I really in terms of externally facing things, we very rarely do we feel like something is so permanent that it they just weren't working we could not do it. So, I'm really confident the process for iteration here.
Well that's fantastic, that's a great process to have but I kind of want to go back to the interpersonal things I think that's an interesting perspective that I don't hear very often on here but it's so important for you know especially like you said coming into a high-growth startup or if you're doing the hiring and bringing on new people, how would you suggest people kind of go about figuring out where the boundaries are and how to have those conversations whether it's maybe a new marketer coming to you and trying to understand their role and responsibilities or you go into your boss like is that just kind of first week sitting down and saying here are the KPIs, here's what I want you to be responsible for and then kind of ask him back and forth like what things do you want to be involved in, what things do you need to be involved in and just kind of be more clear on that
Yeah I think you know most of it mostly always comes down to communication or lack thereof right just ineffective communication or not enough communication and so as much clarity as you can provide and both how you work and also how much clarity you can get from others is the how that you want to work then it's usually I've never seen that lead to bad things you know I also think we're just in a like people are moving so fast in the company at this stage that it's very rarely malicious right, very rarely do I see a decision that's been made or I'm not in the loop on something or if I didn't include someone in the loop on something it was never malicious it was never like oh I just didn't think you know I didn't think it was any of your business but it's often negligent I think there's a huge difference and that like you just neglected to think through it because you're moving really fast so one of the things I try to do pretty regularly is just kind of say like hey you know everyone take a break like where are we, what have we accomplished, how are we doing versus our first half goals or our second half goals or whatever and just kind of sit in that space for a little bit because you just blow through it when you're moving this quickly and you know yesterday we had a we had sort of a first half recap with the exec team and my team presented and it was just a really good… you're surprised at how like people like oh wow I didn't even know we had done that or we were doing that and it's just because everyone's moving a hundred miles an hour oftentimes in different directions doing their own thing.
So communication in a start-up is both the biggest challenge and also the easiest way to make your life not miserable, so the better you can communicate the happier you will be.
Oh I love that yeah I think a big value that we have here is like always over communicate even when it feels like you're taking extra time like over communicate and I love the idea of kind of the reflections stopping, taking a look at what's working and small celebrations along the way because otherwise in like that fast-moving nature can lead to burnout when you don't feel like the work you're doing is actually accomplishing anything good so that's fantastic that you guys did that and I guess I'll kind of wrap up by asking you know in 2019 halfway through the year more than halfway, do you see any major changes or shifts happening in SaaS marketing, are things becoming more complex I mean we have a more you know crowded and a bigger B2B market these days but where are we going is there anything that we should be on the to look out for?
I think marketing in general is changing not a huge statement there but we certainly like we certainly find ourselves to be just more involved with sales and product on sort of a daily basis so you know marketing I think used to just be sort of like the last mile support function etc-etc but you know for our SMB business we're we generate of me almost a hundred percent of that revenue like pure you know what I'm saying. So thinking through marketing contribution from every segment you know in some cases marketing looks a lot like sales and in some cases marketing looks a lot like product and then in some cases marketing is just marketing so I think like the lines are getting blurrier I actually think that's a positive, I think that's a better place to be for marketing in terms of sort of justifying the existence but I've also been pleasantly surprised in the last couple of years and maybe not even a couple years, probably twelve, eighteen months, some of this sort of more traditional marketing thing out of home sort of traditional advertising has kind of made a comeback.
I think that's it's sort of a fun thing for marketers who are creative it also shows that like the cost to acquire digitally has gone way-way up so now offline is a thing and you we've seen this with all the direct mail startup that have shown, I think those things are sort of interesting as we sort of think about you know ten years ago Direct Mail felt like the end of the world like dinosaur and you know now you see all these companies and those oh and things like that they're doing pretty well like integrating Direct Mail into yourselves and marketing campaigns.
So stuff like that whether it's the billboards or the radio ads, I think that's also an interesting thing for startups to start thinking more like Procter & Gamble or Nike or all those companies whereas before we sort of viewed that approach as like you know that's old school, that's the enemy, we don't do that so I guess the short answer is that nothing is forever and things change quickly and you have to adapt.
Cyclical in a lot of ways like kind of the things in the past comeback and I think it takes that creative mindset to also look at where is the opportunity, where are you know maybe the competitors not so that we can go there and do something unique so again reflection on kind of the marketplace but that's a fantastic answer and before we wrap up what I want to do is ask you five quick questions in our lightning round, just answer with the first best thought that comes to mind it's a lot of fun you want to get started
All right you are going to do good, all right what advice do you have for early-stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?
Fund it, not fun, fund you got to give it some budget
Got it fund it. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?
I've never met anyone that was too good of a writer, everyone should be a better writer.
Any good resources you'd recommend for learning about writing or marketing?
I think just starting creative writing like just start you know go take a little class online think about creative writing it’s the advice I give literally every person that ever asked me regardless of their job, they say what's a career advice you have I’m like be a better writer.
Well I take great pride in saying that I have a creative writing major so that is awesome to hear, it actually can be do something in my life sweet. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?
Yeah work, home, pleasure anything.
Yeah, I love Domo here we use it religiously at Dialpad and it's really fantastic so I have it on my cell phone, I have it on its sort of a constantly open on my browser so big fan of Domo.
Love it and what about a brand, business or team that you admire today?
I've always loved Zendesk what they've done from the very start and how they've evolved brand and creatively and I still stand by that one, I think Zendesk has always really put marketing at the center of the business.
They definitely have, they have an amazing brand as well and I think just like you said a good company that represents the creativity that you talked about before and also coming to that kind of innovated in their marketplace really early on but fantastic answer is all around, Keith I really appreciate your time and your wisdom sharing so much good information today with us and the listeners so thank you so much for jumping on the call with me.
Yeah thanks for having me really appreciate it
All right Keith thank you so much and we'll talk to you soon.
All right bye-bye
Awesome what a great episode a big shout-out to Keith and the entire Dialpad team who worked so hard over there to actually really work to innovate amazing marketplace, a market that that really needs some of these changes and it's just great seeing startups that come through and kind of just really rethink how things should be done for a product and a service that has been done a certain way for years.