BUSINESS SIDEKICK

#24: Bill Macaitis/Slack: How to Scale Your Business the Way Slack Does
23 February 2017
00:00 00:00 CC Download
“You can absolutely do it. There’s never been a time in history where the cards have been stacked in your favor. If you’re having a great product, a great solution and great service, the word is going to get out there.”

From today’s episode you’ll learn:

Today's guest

Bill Macaitis
Bill Macaitis has served in executive go-to-market leadership roles for 3 of the 5 fastest ever growing SaaS companies. At Slack he served as the CRO leading up the marketing, sales, success and support teams. Before that he served as the CMO of Zendesk taking the company public at a $1.7B valuation. Before that he served as SVP of Online Marketing for Salesforce where he helped grow revenues from $1B to $3B. Currently Bill serves as Advisor and Independent Board Member for select SaaS companies.

Podcast transcript

Hello all, this is Justyna, content writer at LiveChat, a company that creates online live chat app for ecommerce, and this is Business Sidekick, a podcast helping to grow your online business.

Today, my guest is Bill Masaitis, a tech industry expert, former Salesforce and Zendesk executive who was hired as Slack's first Chief Marketing Officer in 2014.

We’re discussing how to grow your business, about the most important metrics, about the importance of customer experience, and I couldn’t resist it, I had to ask about the biggest mistake and biggest success.

I hope you’re curious enough, so, here comes the chat, I hope you’ll like it!


Hello Bill, it is a great pleasure to have you on Business Sidekick and thanks a lot for accepting my invitation.

Of course, thanks so much for having me.

Can you please tell our listeners something about yourself, you have been working on so many exciting projects!

Yeah, you know I had been really fortunate. I had the opportunity to work with some incredibly fast growing startups so, I have worked with Salesforce for about 4 years there as SVP of online marketing, went on to Zendesk as their CMO and took them public, and then went to Slack as a CMO/CRO. I led marketing sales, customer success, customer support.

And just recently I actually, switched over to full time board role and adviser role, helping other startups kind of go through same growth trajectories that I saw with those companies.

OK, so you currently offer your knowledge about the market, about business and customer service. So, please tell me is there a secret recipe for success?

Yeah, well what is the secret recipe? That is a pretty broad question there but...

I think, one thing I found out over the years to is, there is not one single playbook that works at every company. What we did at Salesforce is completely different to what we did at Zendesk and what was different at Slack.

So, I think all of the take a very customised approach and that is going to vary a little bit based on the company, the dynamics and kind of the market position.

The funny thing is that people think that there is one golden strategy that could help them to be successful, but the truth is that, if we copy someone else's strategy, it will not bring you a spectacular results.

I think from a tactic stand point, it certainly holds true, maybe I go on a lecture and contradict myself and maybe say, one thing I applies to our company is - I am a very passionate believer in customer-centric companies.

So, companies that really listen to their customers. Companies that understand what their pain points are, companies that track things, like their net-promoter score and run CSAT surveys, and just have a really close pulse on the customer and just being obsessive about delighting them and going over and beyond.

I think that is one truism that will stay no matter what company you are at, and that is going to make you successful. I never met a company that has really customers that absolutely love them, that was not successful.

Now from a tactic standpoint, yeah, I did a ton of ? back in the 90s and the early 2000's and that was hugely successful. That was when I was more on the B to C side and I worked for interactive media and IGN and we grew and empire of 175 million visitors.

Yeah, I was supposed to ask you about a couple of tips, but I see you already shared it. And you also mentioned NPS and as far as I know that is one of the most important metrics for you, is it.

I am a strong believer, so yeah it is NPS's is a net promoter score and it basically asks your customers on a scale of 1-10 how likely they are to recommend you. And there is also a very simple follow up question which asks why?

And you know what? At the end of the day, just asking that simple survey question to your customers, allows you to understand, what are the popular reasons that people are recommending you. And what are the popular reasons that they are not, and they are both really important to know.

Yes exactly, and you know, I was speaking recently with my colleague about NPS and he said that it is something that works the best for enterprise companies. Because this score is not really useful for small of medium businesses, is it something you could agree with?

I do not know, I mean I might disagree a little bit with that. Let me tell you, NPS is an incredible signal. You know it is not the be all, end-all you know metric and, but I think it is one of the most important metrics out there.

I think there is a lot of different philosophies on how to implement a net promoter score. Some companies will do the bare minimum and only survey 1% of their users and get statistically insignificant score.

I lean towards a little bit more proactive, where you actually, you want to know the NPS on every single one of your customers. And when I say, even customers, I will even break that down, so for instance at Slac we had a customer that, say like IBM was a customer of ours.

It is not just knowing what one person at IBM thinks, but knowing every single person that uses Slack at IBM thinks. So, that allows you to understand what is the pulse, the health of the entire accounts.

It also helps you understand, OK, who are your best champions at IBM, who really does not like you and maybe the head of procurement does not like you, that is a warning, right?

Or if you are filming a video case study and you know who is giving you a 10 out of 10 and they are just waxing on how great you guys are, that is probably a good person to approach to get their testimonials, so, I think that does apply to small companies too.

Now you could argue, I think NPS sometimes is a little bit more reactive on the features that customers want, and sometimes, you know, like an iPhone, I do not think that anybody through an NPS survey said, "I wanna see an iPhone" so I think for your vision you have to think a little further out, but I think for just listening to kind of the core issues that customers have with your product, and being proactive and addressing them and having a great dialogue with your customers. It is an incredible tool for that.

Yes definitely, but there are other ways you can make customer experience even more amazing.

Yeah, it is a great point, and you know I have always thought the brand is not just a logo or a slogan.

The brand is the sum of every single experience that someone has with your company. When you think about that, that transcends teams and functions, it is not just marketing that is influencing the brand, it is your sales team, it is your customer support team, it is your product, it is your trial.

It is when they have to deal with someone in legal. You know all those are little micro-experiences and are they having a great experience, with your brand or a crappy experience with your brand.

Those add up, at the end of the day, you either going to have a promoter that is out recommending you to 20 people or you are going to have a detractor saying "never use this company". So, I think when you think about the overall experience you just have to sit back and go "look, this is every single team in the company" which is why actually, I think NPS is not necessarily a marketing metric, I think it is company metric, that should be company goal, much like saying "we wanna hit x level of recurring revenue or we wanna have this many users" Like this NPS score.

Now at a micro-level, I think you could get more feedback, so NPS is good for your overall, but what we like to do too, is we do CSAT survey, so customer satisfaction surveys. An individual point in that user’s life cycle, so for instance, one of the things we did, which I thought was pretty cool, we did a survey after someone bought from us.

So, if you worked with the salesperson, we would, after you finished that engagement, we would go back and ask that buyer, "hey did you have a good experience with the salesperson, were they responsive, were they helpful, did they give you a domain expertise on the topics on the questions you were asking."

And that allowed us to maybe counter balance the traditional metrics that you would [ ] a salesperson, I am just paying a pipeline, where they are until the deal is closed with like "hey are they living up to the values we do, we want them to have a good experience too.

We do not want to oversell people, we do not want to promise features that do not exist. So, I think you can embed that experience in every single function of a company.

But everything starts with people right, you cannot send thousands of surveys just to check if your department is doing a great job. So, how to manage people, how to make them understand that behaviour towards customers should be always top notch?

I think, you know it starts off in a couple of ways and you said it right, you have to be really careful not going survey-crazy. Nobody wants 1000 emails, so, the couple of things I would recommend there is one: when you do a survey make it really short, and this is one of the reasons why I like NPS it is 2 questions. It is not a 40 question, questionnaire.

The second is like we would put in rules so no one will get more than 1 survey over 6 months. That would out limit it.

And then the third is, you can be very prescriptive in when you send those surveys. In other words, throughout the life cycle, and just think about really important, like where you want to get it.

Now, at the end of the day it is people, and I do like to metrics to in sensitise people for the right behaviour, but at the end of the day, it is true, you I really have to think about what are your company's core values. Have you gone through that exercise where you articulated, here are the 3 values of our company and what we would do a lot, at Zendesk and Slack, we would hire people off those values.

A lot of our interview questions were actually trying to tease out: did you hit the value, so for instance at Slack, we had a value of empathy and we would try to understand, is this person, could they put themselves in a customers' shoes.

It is little thing, during an interview process, did they open the door, did they ask if you need some more water, or just are they thinking about other people. And that was a value that was really important to us.

I think it is one of things that I always recommend to the clients that I work with, is, in B2B, brand can have a personality and it should have a personality.

You want to think about the voice, the tone, you want to have fun. You know most B2B applications, are crap, right, built by giant enterprises, they are painful, they take 6 months to learn how to use and you have this whole new wave of SaaS applications coming out that are consumer grade, they are easy to use, they are fun.

And it is one of the most important things, I think a lot of companies have this debate, they are moving upmarket or we are selling to businesses, we cannot, our brand cannot be funny or it cannot have a personality.

It is something I can emphatically say that is not true.

I have sold to largest enterprises in the world with brands that have personality. Zendesk, we had booty for a while that was great, at Salesforce we had Sassy, kind of a mascot, at Slack, we tried to infuse that brand that personality that tone, into everything we did.

Now all of you think, that is hard right, you have to think about: what is your tone, particularly that you have to train people, you have to certify people. And again, the brand some of every single experience, you are not just certifying and training your marketing team, you are training your customer support team, your sales team.

You are infusing their brand into the product, helping the product people on how to infuse that in. So, it is tougher to do, but I think it creates a much greater affinity with your overall brand when you do it.

But we are also talking here about content marketing, that is also something that is very important for branding, right?

Yeah, of course, I am a huge supporter of content marketing and you know.

I think, you have to do content marketing in the right way though. Sometimes you run to a company who tries do content marketing but it is just because you are aware, it is just a glossy pamphlet, telling prospect why the company is awesome.

To me that is not content marketing, content marketing is about when you understand the pinpoints of your customers and you are talking about those. And you are giving them helpful information, and you are guiding them and you are educating them and you not putting a hard sell on them.

Essentially what you are doing is, you are building up trust with them, you are building a relationship.

I would give the example of on the B2C side, if you were out buying a new TV, right, and you are like "whoah, there is this 4 knout and LED and LCD and I do not know where to start".

You start researching and you are going to look for information to help educate and understand you and sometimes some retailers are really good at giving that information out and guiding you, through and when you are ready to make the decision, a lot of times, "OK, I trust this brand, I'm going to go with them, I trust this retailer, they helped me out".

I think the same is true in B2B, a lot of people, when I worked at Zendesk for example, one of the most popular articles which got us, literally, like 100 000 views per month, was an article just on your questions, interview questions to ask when you are hiring a customer support agent.

And you got to understand a lot of times, you get promoted up you are now a manager, you are hiring a team, and you have never interviewed someone before in your life. What questions do I ask right?

It is so, you know, they find Zendesk, they read that, they start to see all these other articles that we have like how to manage a virtual team, which metrics to use, they develop a relationship and then at some point you know that customer support manager maybe they try out Zendesk and they bring them into the organisation or maybe they then go to another company and recommend Zendesk.

Content marketing is basically just a way of saying, "do good by your customer". It is like that whole customer-centric philosophy, you know help them out, be on their side. Put yourself in their shoes, what pain-points do they have and help them.

At Slack, we took it one step further as opposed to just traditional marketing which is usually just writing an article and having resource, we did podcast. And it was incredibly successful, we had millions and millions of views and we got our cost for listen down so low, it is almost like 5 or 6 cents per listen.

And people were listening for 20 minutes a half an hour in developing a brand, developing a relationship with your company so, I think content marketing can be incredibly successful for different startups out there.

Also you need to measure it somehow, I am not talking about content marketing only, but about marketing in general. So, can you share a couple of metrics that are important for you.

Sure, I think in a high level, when you think of content marketing or brand, I am a big proponent of measuring the brand metrics, so, aided recall, unaided recall, sure conversation. Those are really good metrics that help you understand, is your company's name out there. Do people even know about you, and that is an issue, because when you’re a start up, you are in a city that surrounded by other startups, and people know you.

When I first started at Slack, everybody in San Francisco seemed to know about us, and you call on them it is like you drink too much Koolaid, you like, "oh everybody knows about us, we're great". And then I will fly out to the East Coast and I will speak to the, "no one knows about you."

So, you have to understand, going into the eyes wide open, not everyone is going to know about you. And part of the goal of marketing in general is to help get the word out, but also sentiment is important, so, now do people know about you, but what is their perception of you? Are you very favourable, are you unfavourable, that is really important.

Like you mentioned before, I am big on things like Net Promoter Scores, Csat. Of course, if you in SasS, you are going to have all your traditional SasS metrics, your CAT, your payback, your efficiency. There is a lot of good ones there, but at the end of the day, like I said, I lean more towards long term thinking, helping companies build categories.

Not just to get them to 5 million but 10 million, 100 million, a billion, and to do that you really have to have long term thinking.I think sometimes marketing teams, get a little too short sighted, if they are only obsessed with just getting leads in the door, they are not really thinking about the entire lifecycle of that customer, they are not thinking about the experiences.

And not only that, if you just focus on this, you will bring bad things to customers. You can gain piece of content you have, you can, the very first experience with your brand is a landing page, called the prison landing page, you click on a scm add, you go to that, you cannot get out of it, the only thing you can do is sort all your information, 17 fields, and I don’t know what this company is. It is just a bad experience, so, I think long term metrics and and good customer-centric behaviour, those are my favourites.

So, basically, what you would suggest to make your overall, customer experience even more awesome, is there a checklist of the most important stuff?

I think, probably the biggest things I can say is, one: have organisational [ ] around it, so, one of the things that helps makes it when I was at Slack is, by having a leader in charge of all the customer facing teams. So, support, success, sales, marketing, it did allow us to have a unified goal, you know providing a great experience and having hard metrics behind that, that [ ] the team, that teams' conversation based off of.

I think that is really important, as we talked about earlier, the values, hiring people that fit those values, of what you are going after, so if you are customer-centric, having a value like a courtesy or an empathy, that helps. Now every company is different and you are going to have to decide what your own values are, that is really important.

And the last thing is, we said earlier, just recognise, that that brand is the sum of everything experienced, you have to be obsessive about everything about every single team, every single interaction, measuring it, understanding is it positive, is it negative. Have those feedback loops in place, so you are constantly getting inputs and signals from your customers.

You know it is like one of my heroes is Jack Bezos in Amazon, talk about an incredible guy. He came from the investment field, side of the house, but he is just obsessed with customers. He has a great quote...

But he is also said to be a really bad boss!

I cannot comment on that, I do not know, I have never worked at Amazon, but I do like the idea, I will give you one last example there. He talks a lot about at Amazon, their inputs and outputs. So, a lot of companies will come out and say "what is our goal for this year?"

Our goal was to have, a billion in revenue and what Amazon does, they do not do that, they do not say "we have a goal around revenue" because basically it say revenue, is an output of what you do. The inputs, for Amazon for instance are lower prices and better product depth and breadth and faster shipping times.

Those are our inputs, so they will set goals to improve all those and the output that comes out of that is more revenue, but I see too many companies that just say, "our goal for the year is just to hit this revenue" and they are not really talking about the inputs or customer type of inputs that focus on the customer experience. That is just a lesson I always thought was a great point there.

Oh yes, knowing your customer journey is very important. Ok, I will be having our last question. I am wondering what was your biggest problem you have been able to resolve thanks to your marketing superpowers?

I will tell you something that did not work, this is a funny story, we were at Salesforce, and I had been there a couple of years and we put in some pretty sophisticated marketing technology stack that allow us to analyse our conversion path, our flow, we had a good feedback loop with customers.

And around the time we were thinking about our high-level positioning and what should we go out with. And working with Mark and the team, we had this idea of this vision of sales versus the social enterprise, it was all about social and mobile in the world switching over from email to messaging and just this idea behind that.

We put on the homepage, “Salesforce, the social enterprise”, and it was great, the press loved that message, the analyst loved that message, but the issue was our conversion rates really started dropping.

So we started talking to people, coming to the homepage, and we were like "what happened” and we were doing session recordings and a lot of surveys. Basically, everyone thought, for at least like just the average prospect that was coming to the site was like "oh I thought you sold, software to non-profits, like that is what you did".

Social enterprise right?

So, that was a good example sometimes of, I think I am positioning a lot of times you can go a little too far out there. I have often heard companies describe themselves, the next generation platform for disrupting, this vertical and they will talk to you for a minute and after you are like "I have no idea what you do."

Sometimes you just got to just use really common language, in wording that they are going to understand and that they are going to take the next step. Because at the end of the day, you know your product incredibly well, but you got to put yourselves, again, in the shoes of prospect who has never heard of you, he is going to your website, he is going to spend 6 seconds on that page and if he does not understand what it is, he is going to bounce and go somewhere else.

Exactly, I agree, and what about your biggest success.

Biggest success? For me, I have been really fortunate, for me I have so much fun watching companies scale and grow. I have had about five exits of just helping companies get to the point to where they can make those next milestone leaps. Going from 10 million to 100 million or 100 million to a billion or Salesforce from a billion to 3 billion.

Those are so much fun to me, at the end of the day, I love making...

Sounds like a great fun to me as well!

It is fun to see companies scale, but I get really personally rewarded when I think that a lot of the products and services out there, especially for SaaS, it is making the world better.

It is a better place you are helping people out with really core pain points. That is very gratifying to me, and when you can implement and go to market strategy that is based on the customer, good things happen.

That is when some of the things that I have been most proud of over the years.

Alright, thank you very much, and the last thing I would like to ask you. Can you please say a couple of words of encouragement for small and medium businesses owners that listen to this podcast?

You can absolutely do it. There has never been a time in history where the cards have been so stacked in your favour. The small business, the reason I love small businesses, my wife runs a small business, it is because the voice of the customer has never been stronger.

If you have a great product and great solution and great service, the word is going to get out there.

I often look at it as marketing is the fuel to the fire, if you can create that spark, you can apply the marketing, help get the word out. There has never been a better time, that the voice of the customer has been more powerful and with SaaS, your barriers to entry are completely lowered, you have access to so much great software to run your business where you can just focus on your core competency.

I am super optimistic, I think SaaS is an iceberg, of companies out there. And I talk to so many companies now, every single vertical having these incredible solutions coming out.

I am just so optimistic, stay with it, you can definitely do it. Every year there are dozens and dozens of companies, that are going to be billion dollar companies down the road. Just know that you have a lot of people that are rooting for you.

Alright, thank you very much, Bill that was fun.

Good deal, well thanks again so much for having me out here, it has been a real pleasure talking to you.


Alright, that’s all for today! I hope you enjoyed my chat with Bill as much as I did. If you want to listen to other interesting interviews, visit our website, livechatinc.com/podcast or subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Stay tuned as in two weeks I’m going to publish another awesome interview! All the best, take care!

#Lead Generation #Marketing

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