Marketing

Claire Suellentrop, Founder of Love Your Customers on how customer-first marketing can save your startup

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Interview by Breanne Thomas

Hi Claire! Can you tell us a little about what you do and how to came to work with SaaS companies?

Sure! I work with high-growth SaaS companies on their “product marketing” — an umbrella term for many efforts including customer research, product messaging and positioning, and more.

This work comes on the heels of my time as Director of Marketing at Calendly, where I wore all these hats at various stages — and fell completely in love with the customer-focused model of marketing.

Many SaaS companies focus all their marketing efforts on acquiring new customers, but when you consider the fact that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%, and that 80% of your company’s revenue will come from just 20% of your customers, it becomes clear that the real money comes from the people who already know about you — not strangers.

So I help companies tap into that group of people — the ones who are already on their website and in their app — to learn more about what’s really going on in their worlds, and maximize opportunities to convert those people into happy, long-term customers.

Plus, I share everything I know (and everything I’m learning) with the folks who subscribe to my Love Your Customers newsletter.

What is the #1 thing tech companies misunderstand or miss completely when it comes to their customers?

There are two huge things tech companies misunderstand when it comes to their customers:

#1. If the copy your visitors read before signing up is weak (e.g., on a landing page or across your website), you are definitely leaking money right now.

#2. As a founder or early-stage team member, it’s impossible to unlearn everything you already know about your product — you’re inherently biased. And building a signup or onboarding flow from that biased standpoint results in terrible adoption rates because your new users just don’t have all the information in their heads that you have in yours. So instead, they’ll struggle to use your product successfully.

If a company wants to see the 25–95% profit increase that comes from higher retention rates, it’s crucial to get out of your own company’s bubble and experience firsthand what your customers are actually doing.

That’s why I’m such a cheerleader for Jobs To Be Done customer interviews(which I conduct for companies, and which I teach companies how to conduct themselves long-term). And it’s why I believe every company selling products online needs a way to watch what people are doing on their website. FullStory is a great option for this.

Where do you hope to take Love Your Customers in 2017 and beyond?

In 2017, I want to work 1:1 with a bunch of high-growth SaaS companies to amp up their product marketing and get more value from the people who already know about them.

I also want to teach marketers and founders what Jobs To Be Done is all about, and how it can help them (which I’ll be doing in June at Unbounce’s Call To Action Conference).

Beyond that, I want Love Your Customers to play a major role in tech’s shift toward customer-focused marketing. It’s too early to know what that will look like yet — maybe it’ll become a series of workshops? A conference? A community? A library of “how to” resources? Who knows!

3 Questions with a Tech Lady: Cynthia Bell, Sales Operations Manager at Industry Dive

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Hi Cynthia! What are you working on these days?

A little bit of everything! For my day job, I’m constantly looking to improve my Salesforce skills. I’m currently learning Apex (which is an object-oriented programming language, a bit like Java) so that I can automate processes for my team. I’m also hoping to take and pass the Salesforce Admin exam in the spring.

Outside of work I’m teaching myself (slowwwly) a bit of HTML and CSS so that I can host my own website on Github Pages. That has been a ton of fun. I also just received a sponsorship to participate in Microsoft’s Codess and Microsoft Professional Program, which is a 6 month online course that teaches you the basics of data science.

Can you tell us about the Microsoft Codess sponsorship and how you found it on Tech Ladies?

Codess is Microsoft’s initiative to create a community for female coders and help promote diversity in the field of computer engineering. This specific sponsorship is focused on data science — a cohort of us will be going through the 6 month online program where we’ll learn the the basics of data science. We’ll also be paired with a mentor from Microsoft who will assist us with questions related to careers in data science.

I found the application for the sponsorship through the Tech Ladies Facebook group. I think I was just scrolling and reading posts while taking a break at work and I saw it posted as an #OFFER to apply. I’ve been thinking about taking a class to improve my data skills and this seemed to just fall in my lap! I took it as a sign and applied that evening. This is the great thing about being connected to a community of over 8,000+ awesome women — resources and opportunities are constantly presenting themselves.

What’s some career advice you would give to your younger self?

My first piece of advice would be “Take a deep breath, it’ll all work out.” I have gotten way too worked up over things that ultimately worked out. Worrying and stressing does nothing.

My second piece of advice is just because you’re not seeing progress/results right away doesn’t mean you’re not on the right track. The journey of getting from where you are to where you want to be is usually a long and winding one (reminds me of this image), and as long as you feel you’re moving slightly in the right direction then it’s usually fine. I was a fundraiser at a non-profit for 3 years prior to my journey into tech. It’s been 17 months and I’m now finally feeling like I have some clarity. Seventeen months is such a short period of time but when you’re caught up in the moment it’s easy to beat yourself up and feel like you’re doing nothing. When that happens, I recommend taking a deep breath. It’ll all work out.

3 Questions with Quinn Hubbard, who found her job at The New York Times through Tech Ladies

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Hi Quinn! How did you get your career started doing marketing for tech companies and what drew you to tech in general?

I was extremely involved in my college’s entrepreneurship scene, and through that, I became friends with developers. Unsurprisingly, when we kicked around ideas, they tended to be tech-based. So, I started reading tech news to understand the space. When it came to job hunting after college, tech companies were top of mind for me. (Not to mention that was where I had connections, which always helps!) It was an unplanned, iterative interest.

I think I was subconsciously drawn to tech for a few reasons:

  • The space changes rapidly, so it’s easy to be and stay engaged.
  • I use the products and legitimately care about everything from the details of push notification microcopy to how one brand promise differs from competitors.
  • I am in total awe of the complexity required to make and market a simple, intuitive product.

How did you hear about Tech Ladies, and how did you find your role at The New York Times with us?

TL;DR: SEO brought me to Tech Ladies. I had applied to every job (and then some) that interested me on LinkedIn and AngelList. I was finding the same postings on job sites like Monster and Indeed, and other job boards were basically carbon copies of those. So, I searched for the best job sites for tech in NYC. I stumbled across an article in Forbes about Tech Ladies, and LOVED the concept. Very little makes me happier than women helping women, so I signed up.

Later that day, Tech Ladies sent out a newsletter with a story about someone else landing her dream job at The New York Times. It inspired me to look at their open roles and that’s how I found my new job a Senior Manager of International Customer Experience and Retention.

What’s the one piece of advice you have for people who want to create a marketing career in tech?

Always be self-learning, but more than that, be strategic about what you are learning and how you are expanding yourself. For example, are you trying to be a T-shaped marketer? A full-stack marketer? Something else? Decide what types of marketing you want to focus on based on what you have a knack for: creativity, analysis, or strategy. This way you can structure your career to be aligned with your strengths.

3 Questions with a Tech Lady: Allison Schneider of IBM Watson and x.ai

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Interview by Allison Grinberg-Funes

Hi Allison! Can you tell us a little about your work in AI?

I recently left IBM Watson where I was working with startups that were building off of our platform of Watson APIs. I loved working with startups so much that I decided I wanted to join one! I am now working at x.ai where I am doing sales and go to market strategy. x.aimakes an AI personal assistant, “Amy Ingram,” who schedules meetings for you. I love being in the AI space because it is such uncharted territory. It was an incredible learning experience to be at a massive company like IBM and to be a part of the first team tasked with commercializing the Watson technology and bringing it to market. I’m thrilled to now have a completely different experience at a much smaller company that is building their own AI technology and launching in the market this fall. I joined x.ai because I think that it is an amazing example of people using AI for good. We’re democratizing the personal assistant using AI so that every person (regardless of age, role, or company) can hand over the tedious and time-consuming task of scheduling meetings.

What’s the most valuable transferrable skill you’ve acquired and how would you suggest other women work on developing their experience with this skill?

I think that one of the most valuable skills that I learned throughout my transition was the art of networking. Pretty immediately after starting my job search, I realized that dropping my resume into a black box on the internet wasn’t going to lead me to my dream role. Instead, I made a list of all of the companies that inspired me and that I wanted to work for, whether they had roles open or not. Through my own network and the networks of kind friends and acquaintances, I set up a lot of informational meetings and interviews- and by a lot, I mean over 100 coffee dates (side note, I don’t even drink coffee).

At first, it was uncomfortable to ask people for their time and for help but what I found is that the vast majority of people genuinely do want to connect, and it was networking that eventually led me to my new role, a role that didn’t even exist. I met the Co-Founder & COO of x.ai at a breakfast panel discussion on AI and he was kind enough to introduce me to the CEO. When I met with the CEO for the first time, I told him that I loved their product, believed in what they were doing, and wanted to be a part of the team to take it to market. I’m happy to be able to say that it worked out!

But whether you are actively looking for a new job or not, becoming a good networker is so valuable. I would suggest that everyone make it a priority to set up at least one informal networking event per week. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy- just offer to buy someone a cup of coffee (or tea in my case) and ask if they will let you pick their brain. Think about what you have to offer them in return, maybe you have specific skills or experiences or contacts that may be able to help them down the road as well. Or take advantage of different events in your city. I try to go to meet ups, panels, and speaking engagements by myself because it forces me to talk to new people that I probably wouldn’t otherwise meet. It is awesome to find a job through networking but you also just end up meeting amazing people that end up becoming friends as well.

What is an aspect of the AI field that is most exciting?

I think that there is a lot of skepticism and anxiety around the topic for a couple of reasons, the first of which being that AI hasn’t always been portrayed positively in the media (Skynet, anyone?). I think another contributing factor is that people fear what they don’t understand. The best way that I have heard others describe AI is that there are things that people are really good at (think: common sense, creativity, compassion) and then there are things that AI systems excel at, like natural language, machine learning, and eliminating bias. It is up to us to create systems that bring together the best of what humans and AI have to offer.

I personally love that this is still an emerging field because that means that those of us who work in the space have a really unique opportunity to define artificial intelligence technologies and what they are going to mean to the world that we live in. What is most exciting to me is the responsibility that we have as humans to set the parameters for using AI ethically. Right now especially, there is lot of conversation around Bots (which create personalized one-to-one interactions through messaging and can use artificial intelligence) and how people should interact with them. Does a person have the right to know that they are talking to a bot versus a human?Should there be some sort of code of ethics in place? Should these systems be held to the same moral compass standards as humans? I don’t think that we have concrete answers to any of these questions just yet but to me, the uncertainty is the fun part.

3 Questions with a Tech Lady: Emma Tangoren of Instagram

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Hi Emma! Can you tell us a little about your role at Instagram?

Hi! I’m a Product Marketing Manager at Instagram. I joined the team about 3 months ago, and I just moved out to San Francisco from New York, where I spent two years at Kickstarter.

As a PMM, I work with our product teams to ship features to our Instagram community. I work with a cross-functional team to plan product marketing efforts, often collaborating with people from communications, design, partnerships, and policy. This includes everything from strategic product positioning to on-the-ground events — Instagram definitely still operates like a startup. Being a PMM means you often roll-up your sleeves to get the job done :)

Some of my recent projects include Instagram Stories (which launched this past week) and working on the Rio Summer Olympics. For The Games, I helped coordinate our efforts across all of Instagram and alongside the broader Facebook team. Instagram has a number of events in Rio, created specific topic channels on Explore, shared dedicated editorial content, and pitched a number of stories about our Olympic efforts.

You recently launched Instagram Stories, what have you learned about working on launching new products in your career?

This is a tough one — I think the most important thing I’ve learned when launching new things is you just have to put it out there and see what people say. You can noodle on something and iterate internally until you’re blue in the face, but the best test for a new product is the people who will use it everyday.

At Kickstarter, we worked on a product called Campus for a while. It’s basically a Q&A space for Kickstarter Creators, and we weren’t sure what exactly our community wanted in this space. The fastest way we learned what worked (and what didn’t!) was by putting it out there and letting people give it a go. Our community quickly showed us what they wanted in the space, and we were able to build off of that feedback.

What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you’d known earlier in your career?

Have confidence in what you know — and be comfortable with what you don’t know. In the past I had been timid to speak up in certain situations (think: a big conference room with lots of different attendees). Over time I learned it’s important to share my thoughts and experiences, both to make an impact on the company and to build trust with my team.

On the flip side, I learned to accept when I didn’t have the answer to something. Admitting what I didn’t know helped me push outside my comfort zone and seek out new perspectives, and it’s made me a stronger person in both my career and my personal life.