SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Matt Epstein

demio-saas-breakthrough-featuring-matt-epsteinAbout Matt Epstein:

Matt Epstein is Chief Marketing Officer at Rippling where he’s responsible for the company’s brand, growth and marketing strategy.

Previously, as the first employee and Head of Marketing at Zenefits, Matt created a leading HR brand and helped grow the company from $0 to $65M ARR.

He’s a self-described former D-List YouTube celebrity who loves storytelling and hockey stick growth curves. He splits his time between New York and San Francisco.

meetdemio · How Rippling Dominates Their Category Going “All-In” On Creative Campaigns

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Show Notes:
First Way For Businesses To Manage And Automate Everything That Touches The Employee
Lessons Learned At Previous Fast Growing SaaS
The Mistake Of Having A Growth-at-all-cost Attitude
A Stack Ranking System To Decide Where To Put Your Focus
"My stack rank is basically based off of first of impact, you know, what is the level of growth that this thing will be able to help us achieve? The second is time. So how long will it take to do this thing? The third is scalability. And, you know, so what is the ceiling on this channel? And then four is ultimately cost."
Finding The Message That Works When You Have A Product That Is Everything To Everyone
Using The Language Each Audience Uses
The Process To Come Up With Creative Campaigns That Cause Abnormal Growth
"And we start the brainstorming process under the assumption that we have unlimited time, money and resources. Cause what I constantly find other marketing teams making the mistake of doing is shooting down ideas too early because, Oh, that would cost a ton of money. Oh that would, you know, I would take forever. And when you, when you, when you, the problem with that is that you might cut off a good idea early, and you could come up with an idea that it is true, that it takes way too much time, way too much money, way too much resources, but you should still do anyway. And if it works, then invest the time, energy into figuring out how can we do it in a scalable way."
"I like to think about it as a pond. And so oftentimes you have channels where everyone is fishing in the same pond. So you know, Adwords is a good example. I mean, really most channels. And so the only way to have abnormal growth in that channel is to fish in that pond in a way that no one else is fishing, or just go find a completely new pond or channel or tactic that no one else is doing. And so oftentimes we produce work, where it's just very clear, it's neither of those things. And then the other thing, at least I personally try and distill on the team is to, you know, take a step back and, remind yourself that you are a human being outside of work. And to ask yourself as a human being, would this catch my attention? Would I remember it?"
The Pizza Box And The Billboard Campaign
"I think if the marketing you're doing is not making you nervous, not making you uncomfortable, then you're probably not taking risk. And no, you know, no great marketing comes with zero risk."
"If you take risks, you, you either go all in or, or, you know, don't go all in at all. Or just don't do it at all."
Using Creativity To Get An Interview For A Job With Google
KPIs For Creative Campaigns
Having An Organization That Is Able To Adapt On The Fly And Move At Lightning Speed
Lightning Questions

DA (03:02):
Hey Matt, thanks so much for joining me today on the SaaS breakthrough podcast. Excited to have you and Rippling here. How are you doing today?

ME (03:09):
I'm doing good minus the global worldwide pandemic a social unrest, but outside of that, I'm doing pretty good.

DA (03:16):
Yeah. We're shooting at a very interesting time in the world. What a week it's been, I've been absolutely swept up in things all week myself. So it's a tough one, but perfect, well, listen I have a lot to talk about today with Rippling. It's a very interesting topic for us to go through, but for our listeners who don't know, maybe you can explain a little bit about Rippling the company, when it was actually founded who the customers are and what you're doing uniquely in the marketplace.

ME (03:44):
Yeah. And so it was founded in, in 2017, I've been here for about two years. And what Rippling does is it's really the first way in the world for businesses to manage and automate everything that touches the employee. So not only their payroll and their benefits in HR, but all of their devices, all of the apps they use, facilities, operations. So with that, just to kind of illustrate for listeners, what that looks like in the real world, is just as an example in Rippling, when you want to onboard a new employee, you just enter in 90 seconds, you know, name, salary, things like that. And the system automatically sends all of their paperwork for signature, sets them up in payroll, enrolls them in all of their benefits. It actually purchases, configures and installs all the software on the employee's computer and ships it out to them. Instantly creates all the user accounts that that employee uses, you know, Slack, Zoom, and adds them to the office door system.

ME (04:44):
And, you know, things that usually take two weeks to do for a new hire, it takes literally 90 seconds in Rippling. And the equivalent of that is really Salesforce, which is, you know, the way for business, for businesses to manage and automate everything that touches the customer. You know, there is no Salesforce equivalent on the employee side and that's what we've built. That's what makes it special. And, and it's, it's an interesting and challenging and, you know, exciting opportunity as a marketer because a product like this doesn't exist and who wants to market something that's a little better, a little faster, a little cheaper, but you know, you can sell it to every single business in the United States or really in the world to almost every single department HR, IT, operations, the CEO, the CFO. So it's a big marketing challenge, but also an exciting one.

DA (05:36):
Definitely. I mean, it opens a lot of doors like you're saying, but it also makes creating that message a little bit tougher. And as you're just saying, you know, kind of the pitch, it instantly sounds beneficial to me solves a ton of problems, even for us as a smaller company. As someone that has two weeks of onboarding. I mean, it takes us still a day, but that's a huge win and

ME (05:56):
Be careful. I'm a CMO, cause if you tell me that immediately after this call, will be emailing and try to get you on a demo.

DA (06:01):
Boom. I like it. I want to see that email. So now I'll break it down and learn from it. That's awesome. So you mentioned you joined the team about two years ago. And I know before you joined Rippling, you were with another incredibly fast growing SaaS company in the HR space. You had a little bit of an experience coming from Zenefits. We all know the stories of Zenefits and how powerful and explosive it was in the marketplace. But you know, going into this new HR space company, coming into Rippling, what things were you most excited about? What were the big lessons you were able to bring with you when you joined?

ME (06:36):
I could probably do a whole podcast about all the lessons I learned and things I did wrong at Zenefits, but you know, I guess if I was sort of racking my brain and, and listing things out in no particular order here, I would say, you know, first just do things that don't scale. So set aggressive goals and ask yourself what if I just had unlimited time, money, resources. And, and when you kind of, you know, when you think with that mindset, you know, you oftentimes end up in a place that gets you abnormal growth with that kind of mindset. So the second thing I would say is just speed, I think is the most important factor in success. And I personally think that for the first two years, if you're happy with the work that you are putting out, that you are moving too slow, I mean, you should have seen the website and landing page for for the first year and a half.

ME (07:37):
I think the third thing is, you know, I'm taking this from the Wu Tang clan, but data rules everything around me and really investing in marketing operations from day one which is really how you start on a foundation of just, you know, operational and data excellence. And then, you know, I think Zenefits specific, I think, you know, one of, you know, if I look back one of the mistakes I regret is just across the board, having a growth at all costs attitude and here at Rippling, you know, it's, it's the polar opposite of that. I think, you know, most of what we care and talk about is really creating a great product, investing in in the brand and our culture and really on the growth side you know, you know, cost efficient marketing. Things, that we would have ran at Zenefits, we would never run here because we want to ultimately build a a long term profitable business that's going to withstand the test of time. And then, so that, that I think the growth at all costs sort of mentality was probably one of the biggest regrets.

DA (08:47):
Was growth at all costs about speed, or was it just about like, it doesn't matter and to use this term, like, I guess kind of like the ethical approach to the marketing side of things or what was like the underlying philosophy of that?

ME (09:02):
We didn't necessarily do anything unethical, but you know, when Zenefits came out, similar to Rippling, actually when Zenefits came out, nothing like it existed and it was just so green field and we were just gobbling up huge parts of the market that, you know, we never sort of stopped to ask ourselves, you know, yes, we can hire 50 sales people a month, but, you know, should we hire 50 sales people a month? So I think it was, it was a lot of questions like that where, you know, we, we were and had the, were able to grow and have the option to grow. But there's a lot of downstream consequences of, of just growing too fast. And then I could again do a whole podcast about that.

DA (09:43):
Yeah, no, I think that that's fabulous advice and sometimes slower, stable, smarter growth could be the better approach for the longevity of the business. And I guess that really leans into what your outcomes are for your business and what you're trying to ultimately achieve. And for you guys, it sounds like you said long profitable, sustainable, and you have to grow in a very smart way. The other question that came to me as you're kind of talking about you know, some of the lessons, you mentioned, you know, doing fast experiments at the beginning, just trying to do unscalable items. When you first come in, are you putting together like an ice chart to figure out like, which experiments to do, or how do you weigh out which ones we should do first? Cause you can't do everything, especially when you're just getting started. So how do you organize, like I'm going to do it in this order, I'm going to move quickly through these or you just coming up with like the best idea comes to the forefront?

ME (10:35):
Yeah. So I think there's two questions in there. And one is what is our, you know, what is our process for creative out of the box thinking, but I think I'm going to focus on the first part, which is essentially how do we decide where to put our focus. And I've, I've had a system for a long time now and that's basically a stack ranking system and especially cause I've, this be my third company where I was one of the first few employees and one of the first people on the marketing team. I, my stack rank is basically based off of first of impact, you know, what is the level of growth that this thing will be able to help us achieve? The second is time. So how long will it take to do this thing? The third is scalability.

ME (11:19):
And, you know, so what is the ceiling on this channel? And then four is ultimately cost. I mean, it's really those first two things that I spend the most time thinking about. Because for instance you know, assuming growth, which makes sense on the time side, if it's going to take, you know, six to 12 months to do, and VCs are ultimately judging you on not only your growth, but the speed of that growth, then maybe doesn't make sense. So an example of this is like a partner channel. I think the partner channel is incredibly, I think, interesting and exciting to a lot of businesses because there's so much potential there, but what you find in almost every sort of partner situation, it takes years to actually get it off the ground. And so is that really where we want to put our focus right now when you have very, very limited time and resources?

ME (12:07):
I mean, so, you know, just as an example of this stack ranking exercise and email for me is almost always the first thing on the list because it's, you know, the growth impact is big, especially for us when you could sell it to every company in United States, it's incredibly fast. You can get it off the ground. You know, the ceiling is quite large customer again, for us, we can, we can email those companies United States. And then from a cost perspective, it's, it's probably, you know, one of the cheapest options out there. So that, that's sort of how that stack ranking goes. And then what I do is I look across that list of 20 things and then pick the top three and then go into a deeper sort of creative exercise of, okay, these are the three tactics channels that we want to leverage. How are we going to leverage it in a way that no one else is leveraging it and it's going to result in abnormal growth.

DA (12:59):
Super helpful answer. I love that. Yeah, that's great. Now you mentioned this in that answer is that you guys have, you know, this very open ended product. Every company in America could use you. Industry, niche, doesn't matter. You know, you can go to different gatekeepers at the companies. The hard part of that obviously is that you lose the ability to niche down your messaging and have very specific messaging for marketing channels. How have you guys approach this? How do you deal with that with such a wide open message?

ME (13:29):
Yeah, it's, it is, it was my biggest concern when I joined the company and it's still my biggest sort of concern and challenge today. Obviously, great marketing is about not being everything to everyone, but we fundamentally have a product that is everything to everyone. And so it's, you know, I don't, I don't think we have the answer today, but what I can tell you is just, I think how I think about it and I'm not saying this is the right answer, but for us, and then also go into the process. But for us, you know, I think about the core platform as the underlying system of record for employee data. So in the same way that Salesforce is the underlying system of record for customer data of which support software is built on sales software is built on, and all of those things are marketed towards those functions.

ME (14:22):
And in Rippling is very similar, where the underlying platform can be positioned and sold to every single company. And then the products built on top of it are geared towards those people. Now, how I think the more interesting question I think for your audience is how do you find the messages that work for those audiences? I think there's actually a very quantitative way to actually figure that out. And doesn't require four months of agonizing internal debate of which, whatever you come with in the end, you have no idea if it's right or not. And I think there's sort of three things here. The first is to just speak to the actual people buying the thing, speak to as many of them as possible and actually do demos. So I think the greatest marketers are also the greatest salespeople. At Zenefits I probably closed our first 50 customers.

ME (15:13):
I must have done, I must've done at least a millionaire of myself. And it was through that process that I just deeply understood the buyer and like, you know, how they spoke, how they talked. And then the second thing is on the quantitative side, using display SEM and Facebook as a way to figure out your message. So you know, at Zenefits for instance, I spent my first three months just running all types of concepts you know, three, five work concepts, all in one HR, employee management software, all kinds of stuff. And in the end through that testing, which is essentially just a click through rate and, you know, realize that all in one HR payroll benefits compliance was the winning message. You fast forward, seven years later, everyone in the space now is essentially a carbon copy of that message, but that's essentially how we found it.

ME (16:06):
And then the third thing is email. So once you use display advertising to find that, that sort of core idea that resonates with people. How do you, you know, use email, you do use email to essentially A/B test the pitch. And through that process, you know, you find ultimately the messaging that works and look all in one HR payroll benefits compliance as a marketer that puts me to sleep. I don't even like that message, but it is quantitatively just what happened to work. Yeah. Now at Rippling it's different. I don't know if that message still works. You know, the old Zenefits message works today because it's, I think it's so saturated, but yeah, that's ultimately how we found the messages and how we continue here to find the messages for specific buyers.

DA (16:48):
And then I take that one step further. That's a great answer, but take one step further into the marketing channels, knowing that like not every necessarily industry or niche is utilizing different channels. Do you guys have to segment your kind of marketing by niche into channels, or are you kind of just trying to hit as, as the wide range of channels? Like you said, email, SEM, just basic SEO items and you just doing more of like a mass approach to it?

ME (17:14):
I mean, channels, channels are just a distribution method. It's, they're not, there's nothing to channels. There's nothing that makes them unique. I mean, yes, you're creative. The opportunities creatively are different, but like fundamentally they're just distribution for a message. That's all they are. I mean, email is no different than SEM or Facebook. And so the important thing is to have a message that resonates with people and then to understand how that message needs to change based off of the buyer. And then when you get to something like Facebook, it's really just a question of, okay. You know, we need to create our audience for HR people. And if we deeply understand the message that works with HR people then, and only then do you get into well, what is like a creative way to communicate that message. But I, you know, I never sort of start at the top with a tactical channel. At the channel level. Excuse me.

DA (18:11):
No, that makes a lot of sense. And do you guys have like a list of those industries by priority that you want to go through in a similar stack that you talked about before that you do with like your priorities of experiments?

ME (18:22):
Yeah. We def and then industry is another factor. So again, the biggest marketing challenge here is our matrix is just insane. And so, you know, for a blue collar company, for instance, the message is very similar to a non blue collar company. But we speak in their language. So for instance, in our, in our blue collar emails, you know, we spoke to a bunch of construction companies and they call contractors subs. And so in our email, for instance, we talk about subs, whereas everywhere else we talk about contractors.

DA (18:55):
Yeah. That makes a ton of sense using the language that they know directly for them. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And I like the way you, you stated that. So once you kind of get momentum and you guys have done this really well, kind of get momentum, get off the ground in even this wide range of companies, you guys are also very good at creating the creative campaigns. You kind of mentioned it before on the two part question, like, how do we create creative campaigns? I know you've done recently, billboard ads, you've done like national outdoor advertising campaigns. What are some things that you're seeing that you're doing to gain extra attention? We've had other people on here talk about like creative campaigns from billboard perspectives. But I think it's very interesting to hear like how you figure out or how someone gets into that brainstorming process. How do you come up with these ideas? And then what kind of results are you actively looking for since you're doing something that's so open ended as a creative.

ME (19:49):
Yeah. So why don't we, why don't we, I'll talk to the creative process and then I'll give you a few examples. How about that?

DA (19:53):
Perfect. Love that.

ME (19:55):
So on the creative side you know, first it starts with the message and you need to understand what, what you're trying to say and, and then thinking about, okay, what are the channels we want to distribute this message through. Then as you go channel by channel thinking, how can I leverage this channel in a way that no one else is leveraging it? And whether that could be technically, are there tech, are there technical things you could be doing with this channel or creatively, just the ad itself. And we start the brainstorming process under the assumption that we have unlimited time, money and resources. Cause what I constantly find other marketing teams making the mistake of doing is shooting down ideas too early because, Oh, that would cost a ton of money.

ME (20:40):
Oh that would, you know, I would take forever. And when you, when you, when you, the problem with that is that you might cut off a good idea early, and you could come up with an idea that it is true, that it takes way too much time, way too much money, way too much resources, but you should still do anyway. And if it works, then invest the time, energy into figuring out how can we do it in a scalable way. And then, you know, I think the question that I think we constantly ask ourselves is, at least in my experience at Zenefits Rippling and where we've seen abnormal growth you know, twice in a row now, I like to think about it as a pond. And so oftentimes you have channels where everyone is fishing in the same pond. So you know, Adwords is a good example. I mean, really most channels. And so the only way to have abnormal growth in that channel is to fish in that pond in a way that no one else is fishing, or just go find a completely new pond or channel or tactic that no one else is doing.

ME (21:42):
And so oftentimes we produce work, where it's just very clear, it's neither of those things. And then the other thing, at least I personally try and distill on the team is to, you know, take a step back and, remind yourself that you are a human being outside of work. And to ask yourself as a human being, would this catch my attention? Would I remember it? Just on a personal level. And I think oftentimes marketers just don't even stop to ask themselves that they're trying to do marketing. And when at a personal level, you try engage your own reaction to something. I think you'll find a lot of this stuff you produce is just not that interesting. And, and so it's that sort of process and, and, and thinking that I think is what we use as our, our sort of rubric for you know [inaudible] in terms of creative ideas.

DA (22:32):
First of all, that's a lot of greats. I just want to say, a lot of great advice there. I just put some notes down on that. I love the idea of not shooting things down early, cause you can always find a cheaper way to do something if it's gonna, you know, it's a good idea it's going to work. I really love that.

ME (22:46):
Yeah. And you know, I'll give you, so I'll give you some examples here and, you know I'll give you two, so I'll give you three actually. Cause I, I, I like this podcast and I want to spoil you guys. And so the first thing is, I'll give you a quick example is a pizza box campaign we did. So talk about highly unscalable, super, super cost effective, but we thought it was a clever idea. We shipped out 5,000 pizza boxes and literal pre-constructed, real looking pizza boxes to people. And, and when you opened it, inside was a note that said, Hey John this pizza box is empty, but it's full of potential. And then we went on to give the pitch and unfortunately it didn't work, which is totally fine. We, we, you know, we welcome failure.

ME (23:35):
But it got, you know, it got a ton of reaction, ton of responses. And, and it's just an example of something that if it worked, you know, would have been, you know, fishing in the direct mail pond in a way that no one else was fishing. A second is a billboard campaign we did. So we, we had this campaign called work magic which was sort of inspired by the reactions we were seeing on demos. People were saying, wow, Oh My God, this thing is like magic. And we sort of touted some of the features of the product. And one of, one of the, there was a few creatives. One of them was targeted at a, you know another company in this space called Gusto. And what we were finding at the time was that, and today, is that a lot of people were, were coming to us saying, look, we like Gusto, but there's just a lot of features, more advanced features that, that they're missing, that we need now that we're growing into a bigger company.

ME (24:35):
And, you know, we're hearing from a lot of our peers that sort of Rippling is sort of that, that next step from a system perspective. And so we ran a very you know, we ran a, what we thought was a creative, but fairly innocent ad. And the ad just said, you know, outgrowing Gusto question mark. Presto change-o, you know, with the tagline work magic. And you know, you know, first off it made us nervous. We were concerned, how would people, you know, how would customers think? But I, I, you know, quite frankly, A, it was true. You know, there was nothing misleading about it. That is what was, that was happening. And we thought it was a very good exercise and deep positioning, but B I think if the marketing you're doing is not making you nervous, not making you uncomfortable, then you're probably not taking risk.

ME (25:27):
And no, you know, no great marketing comes with zero risk. And, but the followup to that was actually what was my favorite, which was, you know, Gusto actually sent us a cease and desist letter, claiming that companies can't outgrow Gusto, which is you know, doesn't really pass the [inaudible] test. And so, but you know, our creativity, I think, runs across the company. And so we sat down with our general counsel and, you know, actually responded to their cease and desist in iambic pentameter. And so our, you know, our legal response, I think it was, you know, it was like, dear Gusto, our billboard struck a nerve. It seems as you phoned your legal teams who started shouting cease, desist, and other threats too long to list. And then we went on to sort of explain all the reasons why companies outgrow Gusto and so on, and that cease and desist letter itself ended up getting a bunch of press.

ME (26:25):
But you know, again, that, that whole process, I think it was just a you know, an example and a lesson in creativity and how creativity isn't necessarily just a marketing thing. It's, it's, I think it's, you know, DNA you want to instill in the company, which is, you know, look at the general counsel's response.

DA (26:45):
First of all, that's an awesome story.

ME (26:48):
Yeah. And the, you know, the result of that campaign was we ended up getting a ton of people who were saying, we are outgrowing Gusto. Now look, I'm sure there's customers who thought it was probably a little iffy, you know, we mentioned a competitor name but the ad itself was, it was innocent. And it was, it was a genuine question. Are you outgrowing Gusto in the same way where are you outgrowing your small business CRM and need to upgrade to Salesforce kind of thing.

DA (27:15):
Yeah. When you do something like that, and there is the risk to it, do you guys think about rolling it out to one billboard, two billboards to see how it works, or do you just say, Hey, if we're going to do it, we're going everywhere. Cause we want like the social and the press and everything else that comes with it.

ME (27:31):
No, if you do, if you take risks, you, you either go all in or, or, you know, don't go all in at all. Or just don't do it at all. In the same way you know, our legal, our reply to their cease and desist. If you're going to go big, go big. Because otherwise, you know, you're going to be wishy washy and you know, it's going to be a whisper instead of a yell and no one's going to be able to hear it.

ME (27:53):
So when we did it, you know, we basically took over San Francisco. We had, yeah, was like four billboards, 120 buses. I mean, you know, which is why I think we were nervous in the first place.

DA (28:05):
Yeah. That's a big rollout. That's a big rollout. Was there, was there a third creative campaign that you guys did?

ME (28:09):
Oh, there's more, but I was, I was gonna tell you about my own personal Google campaign. So just again, just as an example, that not everything or an example outside of just, I think work. So I, you know, back in the day I worked in an ad agency, you know, left, wanted to go work in tech. I couldn't get a job because as it turns out, no one wants to hire a 20 year old in Atlanta with no, no formal marketing experience.

ME (28:40):
And so couldn't get a job at all to save my life. Got severely depressed and then just sort of, you know, said Yolo and spent my life savings basically trying to get an interview with Google. And so I basically recorded a video of myself with a mustache and no pants. Basically asking Google for a job, which was, yeah, I think fun. But I think my other ideas behind it were more fun. I ordered a propeller plane to fly around at their campus with my URL. I printed out six foot cardboard cutouts of myself, holding up a URL to the campaign and shipped it to all their HR departments. And I, you know, ended up getting an interview with Google, probably to their dismay because I got a ton of press. But again, it was just an example of, you know, the job market, incredibly saturated channel. How, how do you fish, how do you fish in that pond in a completely new way?

DA (29:40):
Did you get the job?

ME (29:42):
I didn't get the job. I did get offers from a lot of big companies, not with Google and although, as it turns out you know, it worked out pretty well for me. I don't think, I don't think Google, I don't think Google probably minds they didn't hire me, but I'm very thankful that Google didn't hire me.

DA (29:59):
Yeah, no, I mean, that's, first of all, those are amazing stories and I love the creativity that you have. I mean, you're sitting down and you're just really trying to think, like what would stand out. That is the big thing, what would stand out? Like you said, in the pond where everyone else is kind of fishing and you know, the tough part about this as well is when you're doing these creative campaigns. And I guess my question to you is like, how do you set what makes this a winner or a loss? Like what kind of KPIs are you focusing on? For instance you know, you could make things really complicated. You could fly around a propeller plane with your URL and it could be like, my KPI could be how many eyeballs were looking at me from the ground and you know, how many emails that I get, or maybe the only KPI you were looking for there was like, how many interviews did I land? Did I get the job? And are you only focusing on those like big, big numbers when you're doing these creative campaigns?

ME (30:46):
So I think the level of which you invest, I think ultimately just comes down to conviction. What is your conviction in the idea? How excited are you about it? And that obviously just comes down to the gut of the team. Then from a KPI perspective, I mean, you know, this is a SaaS business. What makes us a SaaS is that, you know, things that are measurable and repeatable. So for us, it just boils down to essentially demos. Are, you know, did the thing we did or, you know, was the campaign that we ran. Did it generate enough demos? Did it generate demos profitably? That is essentially the only thing that matters. It doesn't even matter if it generated five demos or a thousand demos. The question is, is did it generate demos for the sales team and did it do it profitably? And that's outside of that I'm not sure what else matters.

DA (31:34):
Yeah, no, that's super helpful to hear. Cause I just feel like sometimes you can get so wrapped up in that data and you're looking at things that, that help you. But at the same time you could go down a path and make the wrong understanding or like the wrong kind of takeaways from it. Like, Hey, we got all these impressions and just our ad cost was high, but you know, we got three demos, then you're all over the place trying to figure out what that all means, but it makes all the sense. I guess, looking back, are there any hard lessons that you learned, obviously you probably have many of these, but lessons learned from maybe creative experiments that you ran that, that didn't work out as expected or missed opportunities that you wish you could do?

ME (32:08):
No, I, you know, one thing, one thing at Zenefits and Rippling was culturally, you know, from the top on down, I think we're, we're very much about failing fast and failing often. And you know, I think taking pride in failure. So I, you know, when I look back, I, you know, I think most of my regrets were probably just not doing something or not doing something as, as fast as we probably should have, but in terms of missed opportunities and, you know, campaigns failing, I personally, you know, wear a failure as a badge of success,

DA (32:46):
Do you guys have like a failure board? I heard another SaaS company on here said that they had like a board where they talk about their failures.

ME (32:52):
No, I love that. I, you know, I think publicly I'd probably rather, I'd probably rather publish my wins, but I also, I also liked that idea. I think we fail so much that we probably don't need to remind ourselves that we fail a lot.

DA (33:10):
That's awesome. No, no. That's just like, like you said, it's the cultural DNA of what you're building around and you know, I think that's the big thing is like move fast and break things and fail and figure out what works. And looking forward here in 2020. This is, as we said at the beginning, this is a crazy time. It's a crazy year, lots going on. The entire industry, you know, from a macro economical perspective has changed. What are you guys looking forward to this year? Are there new challenges? Are you guys in a good vertical for new opportunity that you're excited about going forward?

ME (33:41):
Yeah, so I think I would say so on the challenge side, I would say the challenge is having an organization that is able to adapt on the fly and move at lightning speed. Because things like COVID, or just global events like COVID are happening more and more often. And so I would be willing to bet that Rippling was probably one of the first companies to change the way it operated once COVID came. I mean you know, we wait, you know, I think long before I think anyone had an idea that was going to get serious, we turned on a dime cut our marketing budget by 50% and maintained 80% of our demos, I think, well, before anyone even thought that this was going to turn into a real thing. And so having, I think, you know, the organization and operational excellence to do that, I think it's not innate in most teams.

ME (34:36):
From an opportunity perspective, I think for us, at least us in particular, I think our sort of Holy Grail, our opportunity is to do ABM at scale. So how can you, hyper-personalize everything you do from a, you know, from the first touch to the 12th touch across, you know, industry persona, employee size, at a, at a, you know, scale like ours, where you can, you know, we're talking about hundreds of millions of businesses. I have personally never not seen a SaaS company do that extraordinarily well. And I think that is sort of our goal. And that's what we're investing in.

DA (35:19):
That's such a hot topic. We talk about ABM and personalization, almost every single episode of this. I think everybody's trying to figure out where that is. And like, where is that like find balance and personalization and also just like marketing automation where it's not too personalized, but it's not too generic and it's gonna be the challenge over the next 12 months I think for people. I think had a really good episode on here where they were talking about their ABM and outreach. One quick question on you know, the pivoting of the business. Do you think you guys were able to move so fast there from just past experiences and just leadership and operations, or have you guys kind of created the marketing department with the idea that listen, we have to be nimble and always being able to move just as a philosophy that you have.

ME (36:04):
It came down to two factors. So one was Parker, the CEO who had lived, you know, how to start up during the 2008 crisis. And I think just knew and understood what it meant to not be ahead of the curve. You know, worse comes to worse, your judgment call is wrong and you go back to, you know, you go back to normal operations. So key was definitely the, he was the driving factor behind it, but what made it possible was our investment in marketing operations. So my, my first hire at every single company has been a marketing operations person. Because I think marketing in general is just increasingly increasingly more a technical exercise, you know, brand aside more than anything. And building that muscle and that infrastructure and that foundation from day one is super, super critical and is what allowed us to essentially operate a lot like a public company in our ability to look at a waterfall, make a bunch of tweaks.

ME (37:04):
And by the way, Parker literally had us in a room and said, I want, I want to basically understand how we can do this within the next three hours. And so we literally pivoted the entire marketing goal, sales and marketing goal, all of our channels channel by channel over the course of like a half a day, which I can promise you is not fun, very stressful, but we ultimately ended up doing it. And as a result or, you know, I think doing a lot better than, you know, when you look at a lot of other companies in our space.

DA (37:38):
Yeah, definitely. I was going to say that was probably a very stressful day, but the right move to make and love that speed. And it makes sense. I mean, having that experience to know, you know, world events happen is a big thing and we never plan for them. We never think about them, but it sounds like, you know, just that experience itself kind of allowed you guys to pivot quickly. So congratulations. I'm excited for you guys. It's going to be a great year for you, a lot of big big stuff coming. But what I want to do now is I want to flip over to our lightning round questions. Just five quick questions that you can answer with the first best thought that comes to mind. You're ready to get started, Matt?

ME (38:15):
Sure. I'm very, I feel like I've already failed this part.

DA (38:20):
No, no, no, no. You're going to do great. This is going to be awesome. All right. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?

ME (38:28):
Recognize that VCs judge your worth on how much you are growing and how fast you're growing. Yeah. They can say whatever they want, but that is ultimately what they're judging you on. And through that lens, I think you recognize that you need to set aggressive goals, move incredibly, incredibly unnaturally fast. And two, you know, no matter what you're doing, ask yourself, you know, what are the odds that this will lead to abnormal growth.

DA (39:00):
It's really, really fantastic answer. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?

ME (39:06):
I think for the entire marketing team, not just the design or growth team to instill within themselves a sense of, am I zigging when everyone else is zagging.

DA (39:18):
Going the opposite way of someone else in the marketing side of things, like looking for unique differentiation and stuff like that?

ME (39:24):

DA (39:26):
Love that. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

ME (39:32):
I would say real life. So get out there, use Facebook, Instagram, watch TV, visit people's website. Just see what other people are doing in real time. I think everything you read in blogs and listen on podcasts, sorry. No offense. Are ultimately just tips and tricks that marketers have already moved, moved on from. And it's probably the stuff that worked six to 12 months ago, but not anymore. But ultimately it's just, you know, look at what people are doing in real time. That is, I think that is ultimately the most important thing that you could be doing

DA (40:04):
As you walk around and you check things out and you have like this swipe copy. Do you take notes of things as you go along to keep track of them?

ME (40:11):
I don't, I don't have a diary, but I'm constantly sending examples to the team and Parker himself is sending me examples as inspiration.

DA (40:20):
That's great. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

ME (40:24):
It's Salesforce? Cause they have pretty dashboards. And you know, I'm the least talented person on the team. And all I do is look at the numbers and, you know, and point fingers.

DA (40:36):
It's the best part of the job. What about a brand business or a team that you admire today?

ME (40:42):
Besides our own, I've always admired MailChimp. I think they know exactly who they are, who their customer is, what their brand stands for. And they've taken creative risks from day one. I've actually disliked almost all of their campaigns, but I also remember most of them, unlike most SaaS companies and they got to where they are today with zero VC money. And you know, they're probably doing hundreds and hundreds of millions in revenue now. And they did that just by building a great product, a great brand and grinding, which I deeply admire and respect.

DA (41:19):
Yeah, no, that's, that's also an Atlanta company right when you're in Atlanta, but where they have a headquarters or something.

ME (41:25):
Their headquarters.

DA (41:27):
Yeah, yeah. Right above Ponce market. But that's awesome. No, I think they've always kind of been in that creative space, doing a lot of, you know, edgy items, things with video you know, things that are really on the cutting edge and in SaaS. And I think that's fantastic. A great example. You guys are doing that too. And I love the creativity. I just love the concepts you talked about today. Things that I'm going to learn from, we need to do more creative risks here. I think that's absolutely true. But Matt, I just wanna say thank you so much for your time, man. It was fantastic chatting with you. Thank you for sharing the knowledge. Sharing, you know, the experiences that you've had. And it means a lot to me and the viewers.

ME (42:05):
Cool. I hope your listeners hopefully learn something.

DA (42:09):
Definitely have, definitely have. Thanks a lot, Matt. And we'll talk to you soon.

ME (42:12):
Alright see you.

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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.