Mastering Startup Growth: Chris Rodriguez’s Proven Strategies for Driving Results and Boosting Brands
Chris Rodriguez is a 19-year marketing veteran with a passion for driving growth and tangible results for brands and entrepreneurs. He has worked with over 30 startups across all tiers of funding (Seed Round to Series E) and sizes (<10 to 100+), generating brand awareness, web traffic, signups, downloads, and most importantly customers & revenue.
Chris has helped grow 1 unicorn (Dapper Labs), 3 startups to acquisition (Contactually, numberFire, Speek), 1 startup to growth equity (Phone2Action), and 1 startup to the INC 500 (Contactually). He has left a positive impact with countless companies and colleagues, as is evident from his 60+ LinkedIn recommendations. He has taught students, developed courses, and mentored startup founders at companies like Techstars, General Assembly, Springboard, and Platzi.
Topic Chris Rodriguez Covers
- What Speek is and what it does
- His experience being part of 500 Startups
- Breaking down AARRR!: 5-Step Startup Metrics Model
- And a whole lot more
Link and Resources
Watch the Interview
READ THE TRANSCRIPTION
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Chris Rodriguez with us. Chris, thank you so much for joining us.
Chris: Thanks for having me, Bronson.
Bronson: Absolutely. And you are you actually took some time out of your schedule during South by Southwest. You guys actually arrived there yesterday, is that right?
Chris: We did, yes. The whole team is is here in full force. We have our co-founders, John Bracken and Danny Boyce, as well as a few other members. And yeah, we’re excited to be here.
Bronson: Absolutely. I’m jealous. I wish I was there.
Chris: Yeah. You know, we try to we try to make it happen in terms of just getting out there and obviously getting the brand out. So everybody’s representing the T-shirts and, you know, just we’ve got a nice campaign where we’re directing people to a specific URL. So in this case, it becomes S.W. and we’re incentivizing folks to get a free, free version of our of our product, which is getting launch in a couple of weeks.
Bronson: A true growth hacker look. And we start the interview out and he directs you where to go. That’s the way to do it. You go and learn, folks. Watch it like, all right, so let’s talk about your staff a little bit. You need to enable them to speak and that’s you speak, is that right? Correct. All right. Tell us. Well, what is speak? What does it do?
Chris: So the short story is we are super simple conference call. All of the pain point we are solving today is eliminating the need to remember random phone numbers and random pins. So instead you would have your own customized URL. So in this case, for example, speaker slash Bronson or speaker slash growth hacker TV and you direct people to that URL and they simply enter their phone number and we’re suddenly on a call. So that’s that’s the that’s the, the barebones of what we’re doing. And from there, we are expanding, simplifying business communication through various features. And I like to make this very clear and noteworthy that we are we practice what we preach. We are very much a lean startup. You know, we test and then learn and then build. So that’s.
Bronson: Great. I mean, in my mind, growth hacking is kind of lean marketing. So I like, you know, lean startups. I think growth hacking, I think it goes hand in hand. Chris What is your current role at the company? What do you do there?
Chris: So my title is Director of User Growth, but really I like to consider myself a bit of a Swiss Army knife. So whatever is needed at that time, whether it’s obviously working on product features for growth or working on a marketing campaign or even doing some sales outreach, whatever needs to happen, I’m, I’m generally available for that.
Bronson: Yeah. With the small team, that’s usually the way it is. It’s hard to have one role and only one role because, you know, everybody to make it happen, work together. So that’s cool. So I’m interested in this because speak was a part of 500 startups, is that right?
Chris: Correct. Yes.
Bronson: Yeah. So let me ask you, Dave is very good. Dave McClure for those who don’t know the the guy that started five startups and he’s literally invested in almost 500 startups now, I know he was about ready to cross that threshold recently. He might have already crossed it, but he has got a knack for sizing up a company in just seconds. I mean, he can hear your pitch, hear your plan. He thinks about it for half a second and then either loves it or hate it. Right? Right. So many startups. What got Dave most excited about speak because obviously he got excited about it. He accepted you guys into his somewhat prestigious program. So what got him excited?
Chris: Well, I would say that the the most exciting part about what we’re doing is we are simplifying something that just about every small, mid and enterprise business professional has the same pain point. And we’re not, although obviously we are we consider ourselves to be visionaries and we have a long term plan. We’re not getting lost. We’re not getting lost in the end where we’re going to be in two, three or four years. We’re looking at today to iterate and build and solve this pain point and then find other customer pain points and continue to grow in that in that sense.
Chris: So I think just the, just the tightness of what we’re about and what we’re doing was it was appealing and a little bit more context here. So the other partner of 500 startups, Paul Singh, Paul saying actually doubles his time between San Francisco and Washington, DC. So that really got the ball rolling. Our CEO, John Bracken, met with Paul while he was while he was in DC and that was really what what got us going. I like to think that we’re within the startup scene. We’re known at this point throughout Washington DC in the DMV area. So that was definitely a help for us as well.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. How was the experience overall being a part of 500 startups? Would you recommend it? Do you think you guys could have gotten where you got without it? How instrumental has it been for you guys, if it was?
Chris: Well, I would say this the most important aspect of being. A part of 500 startups, in my opinion, is the access. So access to advisors, access to obviously events that you may you may not have had access to prior. So that to me is is is the biggest benefit of being a part of an incubator at that level?
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. And it makes total sense. One of the things I love about doing this program is all of the smart people I get to talk to, I feel like I’m building my own network because every day, sometimes twice a day, I get to speak with geniuses and I’m learning connections. I mean, it’s awesome. So I hear you. The networking is a huge part of it. It’s one of my favorite parts of all what I’m doing. One of the things about 500 startups that’s gained a little bit of press has been his Web strategy for pirates. Right. You see it on YouTube and you see his PowerPoint slides. I’m going to have you kind of walk us through that through some of the questions I want to ask you. Because because being a profile for startups, I’m sure you were exposed to it quite a bit. Is that accurate?
Chris: Yeah, I would say so. And I mean, even beyond just being involved with 500, it’s become just sort of commonplace to understand these five parts of of how to grow, quite frankly. So so I would say, you know, to get into it.
Bronson: Obviously, I want you to tell the audience why. Why is it called Web strategy for pirates? Because when you first see it, what does pirates have to do with this at all? Are we talking about pirating software or what is this?
Chris: Sure. Sure. So it’s obviously the are. Right. So the the acquisition activation referral revenue, you know, that’s where that’s where this comes from. And. Yeah. I mean, it’s more. I guess we like to consider ourselves pirates, ninjas. I don’t know.
Bronson: Yeah, you got to fit on both levels, right?
Chris: It’s just a it’s just a play on words, you know? Yeah. We, we just try to get rid of the, you know, the the law of pirates. Yeah. And just focus on just focus on getting it done.
Bronson: Absolutely. Okay. So break us down. That acronym. You said it was R, right? A r r. So to walk us through each of those five just a little bit and tell us what they mean if somebody hasn’t had exposure to it, what it really represents.
Chris: Sure. So the first part of the funnel is, of course, acquisition. So what we’re talking about there is using any and every channel to get some of those eyeballs, quite frankly, on your site, on your product or and so everything from in the traditional sense, from PR, SEO, email marketing, general bartering with other types of companies. So just any, any, any way to get you into our world. Mm hmm. And that would be the the the acquisition part. That’s kind of step one.
Bronson: Step step one. All right.
Chris: Step one. And so obviously, you want to convert as many of those folks as possible, you know, with with various AB testing on home pages or landing pages, etc.. And the goal is to obviously acquire the user in the moment they’re in your sequel database and you can consider that. You can consider that part of it completed.
Bronson: Okay, perfect. That’s the A and then from acquisition, you’re trying to activate them, is that right?
Chris: Correct. So it’s interesting because this part of it this part of the our metrics is sort of depends on your individual definition of what it means to activate. I tend to think of it as from from registered user to active user and what what the goal for any and all start ups should be. The cliche that’s going around is to find your quote aha moment. Right. And so that would be what is important relative to your product and what are your what do your users need to do in order to continue to stay? And so generally there’s onboarding. So giving some sort of an educational screen or flow of screens that explains your product or having some sort of action that that brings you formally, you know, into the the core user bucket as opposed to just a, you know, sort of a sci based fly by day user. So for us in particular, we have we have actually found that that metric sooner than than many who are possibly in our in our public beta stage. And so our aha moment is any user that any user that uses our product twice. So in other words, they create and deploy. Two calls a day are four times less likely to churn. And and so so that is our goal is to activate you on your cross on your way to that second call.
Bronson: Yeah, I think for sure that helps make sense of it. Absolutely.
Bronson: So as you’re talking, it reminds me of like who was at Spotify. They were saying in their own language. They said if they can get somebody to create a playlist, they have a long time user. There was something magical about the creation of a playlist for them that was kind of there. They knew if they got cross that threshold, then it got easier for them in terms of keeping that customer around. And so starts need to find that that’s great. So you acquire them, you activate them depending on what that means for your startup. Where do you go from there after acquiring and activating them?
Chris: So the the next goal is obviously to keep them right. And so one of the biggest hurdles for any startup is churn. Just a marketing department or just anyone for that matter, has, has brought the traffic to acquire the user. Product product team has done an excellent job of activating that user, but you want to keep them and so you generally keep them so that the first ah of our metrics is retention. Yeah. And you want to keep them by providing value and being top of mind quite frankly. So I would say sending emails, providing value on your blog and just being timely about your correspondence. So we find hyper targeting our messaging. So for an example sake, let’s say you had your your startup had 10,000 users. There’s a purpose. There’s a purpose for the the entire blast. So blasting the 10,000 users and then there’s there’s there’s a separate but arguably even more important period where you need to actually email folks to do a particular. Or I think we call them transactional emails, of course. So yeah, so those types of, of, of emails help tremendously with retention.
Bronson: Yeah. As a side note, who does speak used to do transactional emails. I run stories myself and I’m always using and trying different things. And that seems like such a pain to me to get that set up the way that I really wanted to be. And what do you guys use right now, if you don’t mind saying sure.
Chris: Well, we used Mandrill and Mandrill is an extension of MailChimp. Yeah, right. So it’s, it’s specifically the transactional logical emails. Yeah. But using but using their infrastructure and we find that just too easy play. You can upload the templates within MailChimp. Yeah. And see the metrics as you would any MailChimp marketing email. Yeah. So, so we like that infrastructure play there, but you get super hyper targeted in terms of, you know, hypothetically speaking, a group of 20 users who have all done the same action and you want to email those folks we’ve been using mixed panel engage. Yeah. So the email, the email capabilities within Mixpanel and there are other tools that we’re experimenting with as well, specifically intercom dot IO and yeah, that’s, that’s where we’re at right now.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. I like to get some of the specifics because sometimes that’s helpful for our audience to really learn. Oh, they’re using Mandrill, oh, they’re using Mixpanel and Gauge because you know, once you know these tools that the normal tools that are used but until you’ve been exposed to them, you know, it’s hard to know where to go to do different things. So that’s right. So you’ve you’ve acquired them, you’ve activated them, you’ve done your best to retain them. What’s the second R in the equation?
Chris: So the second one is, I guess from a from a gross hacker’s perspective, this would be the secret sauce, right? So creating your creating your viral loop and having each user be logically incentivized to add another user to your user base. And so there are there are different ways that you can do that. So refer ten users and get something right. So get a T-shirt, get money, get a gift card, get a prize. But in our opinion, the most successful ones are those that have virality inherently baked into your product. And so what that means is similarly to Dropbox, when you when they give you a file URL to share, by definition, you’re bringing someone into Dropbox’s world, right? And so they can use your product or they can register at that moment. And so everything related to converting when you send that link. And so for us we feel very strongly about scheduling a call. By definition, a conference call should have obviously at least two people on it, but more than likely three or more. And so that gives us an opportunity to really drive home the invite process as well as a conversion process for those other parties that are not already registered. So that that is something that we’re very excited to ramp up over the coming weeks and months.
Bronson: Yeah. Let me ask you a little about that. This you may not have the metrics yet. I’m not sure. Do you find that people that have joined a conference call that somebody else set up, that you do convert some of those people have you find that loop to work somewhat? Yeah.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. And we validated what I had just said about focusing on schedule call. We validated that by actually using Mixpanel to see our events and we have we have an event for Start Call and so registered user who starts a call and we have an event we have an event for join call which is I guess either a registered or non registered user, but someone who is joining the call and join the call, join call, dominate, start, call, four, two, one. And so we had seen that that was a big play for us.
Bronson: Yeah. So when you say dominated, just more people join calls and start calls, which you would expect.
Chris: Exactly. Yeah. So, you know, there’s one thing to say. Yeah, sure, that’s logical, but we obviously want to validate that and we have and and so that’s why we’re going to be focusing on that as a not so much as a feature, but as a as a product, as a product, as a flagship or part of our product.
Bronson: Absolutely. And then when that person who joined the call comes back and actually creates an account and starts a call, do you then track that as well? So you know that there was joining a call. Okay, perfect. So you’re closing the loop and you’re knowing that by the time you retain them, it was because of them joining a call initially at some point in the past. That’s great.
Bronson: So you’ve you’ve retained them and then what’s the what’s the third or the third.
Chris: Ah, is revenue. Right. So how do we make money. Right. And so that’s an important one. Right. You know, and you might you might think of the, the, the powerful startups that are out there, the Facebooks and Twitters, for example, they there there was controversy. Even while they were having millions and tens and hundreds of millions of users, there was controversy as to how they would make their money. And so they leaned on the advertising model, obviously. And and, you know, I’m sure they. Be better tuned to how they’re doing than I could. But obviously it seems like they’re doing quite well. Right. And in our case, we are implementing a well, we have a freemium model that in our paid version of our product will simply have a few more enhanced features than the free version. Yeah, that’s what we’re that’s what we’re leading with. Like anything that would need to be tested and validated will be launching that in a couple of weeks. And we’re we’re excited to do so. So some of those features would be, for example, unlimited amount of callers on a call. So the free the free version would have up to five callers on the call, whereas the obviously unlimited opens up a world of opportunity for maybe a broadcast usage. So for use case, a good use case would be PR professionals. So being able to mute all people on a call and just simply broadcasting your voice and at that point unlimited, unlimited callers is quite appealing. Yeah. And another feature would be for call recording. So call recording is is going to be part of our paid model. And you would essentially have your audio file to do what, what you will to continue that use case of a PR professional. Say you you want to take that and make it into a podcast or a webcast or what have you or or just keep it for your own purposes or make some edits to it. So that will be part of our, our paid model as well.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. So thanks for kind of walking us through those five. I think it’s a really good overview you’ve given us and if people are familiar with it, dove into a deeper go learn this because his hour has gotten popular for a reason. It really hit on the core of what it means to work with users and your product. Let’s take you back to the beginning of the funnel a little bit, back to the acquisition phase. You mentioned that Dave list off several things as a part of the acquisition. Some of those might be PR campaigns, contest, assume SEO blogs, there’s all those kinds of things, right. Do you think from your point of view as somebody who’s in a startup and you’re trying to grow a start yourself, do you think that you should focus on all those a little bit, or should you just find one and really focus and zero in on it? What do you think would be a best practice for that?
Chris: Well, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t put some sort of effort in each one of these spaces. And so I would say from a marketing perspective, you want to at least lay the groundwork, right? So from it, from an SEO perspective, you find your your key terms, your key opportunities, you place them and you see what works and you tweak accordingly. ACM is, in my opinion, a little more straightforward. It’s more of just the the optimization of the landing page as well as the, you know, just finding your terms and having your appropriate bid and creating your budget, etc.. But I definitely think that there needs to be energy there. Others might like feel differently. I’ve definitely seen other perspectives, but I’m a big fan of CRM so long as it’s managed and done correctly. Yeah. With regard to social media, obviously, I think that that bodes well for users having conversations about your product or works very well for customer service. So being able to just ask general questions and I definitely think there needs to be some energy there. Yeah. So outside of that, I mean just getting creative around getting inbound traffic. So you might want to create a contest or you might want to have have something that again brings your brand on top of mind. I definitely think I think I definitely think especially in the early portions of a startup, business development is key. Luckily, we have a rock star at the helm of that. Conrad, shout out to you. And I think that with that, partnerships are important to to use already existing already existing fan bases user bases and and find logical ways to interject yourself into into these groups.
Bronson: Yeah. Let me ask you this. Let’s say as you’re going, you find one of these channels just really performs well. I’ve had people on the show before say that they stumble upon a channel that really brings them 80% of the growth. Do you still feel the need philosophically to focus on everything if you really no one thing is working extremely well? Are you okay letting other things be a little bit on the sidelines if you see that in the metrics? Or do you still feel the need to really diversify?
Chris: Well, I mean, I’m a I’m of the mindset that, again, you need to put effort and energy in each one of these spaces. Right. Realistically speaking, you know, we are a small team. Many, not many startups are even at the seed at the seed phase. And so that’s why I’m a big I’m a big fan of setting up the infrastructure. Yeah. Such that I think you let things sort of go by the wayside by any stretch, but things are moving while you’re working on other aspects.
Bronson: So you set up systems.
Chris: Of getting.
Bronson: Things. So you’re not daily managing every possible acquisition channel, but you spend time setting up systems. So they’re doing what they need to do and you can move on to other things or whatever you need to be focusing on.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I mean, you’re definitely checking daily, of course, certain things you want if you want to put out any any firestorms. Mm hmm. But, yeah, I mean, in any given moment, you only have X amount of hours in a day. And so there there’s always that that that ramped up feature that’s going to lead to, you know, our hypothesis would be, oh, this is tripling our growth. And so you’re focusing on that while you check in on SEO, while you check in on us here and while you see, hey, we’ve got this awesome write up from from such and such a PR outlet, so. Mm hmm. That’s. That’s generally the process as I see it.
Bronson: Yeah. And I wanted to dig in because you’re actually leading growth at a startup. So I want to kind of get a feel for how you view just a normal day, you know, what it looks like and and what you’re actually focusing on. So I want to drill down a little bit there. Let me ask you about this. With the AR, you know, kind of metrics and everything, the AR system, do you think that it puts an unhealthy focus on the customer acquisition, customer attention and all those things and maybe Nano focused on the actual product itself? I’m not saying you’re doing this at all, but is it possible for startups to do that? Or they think it’s so much about getting customers, keeping customers, charging customers, they forget that the product is still massively important. Do you think there’s a problem there and how do you guys balance it?
Chris: Well, I wouldn’t say there’s a problem there, but I would even take it a step prior to say even before the product. It’s about the user. Right. So gathering as much feedback from the user as possible or from the potential user as possible as to what he or she might want to see in this in this product.
Bronson: All right. So kind of customer development. Steve Blanc’s, customer development.
Chris: Customer development is everything, quite frankly, because who wants to build something that no one is really looking for? You need to make sure you validated that pain point. So I feel confident that that we have definitely done that here. And we and we continue to grow features based on customer development.
Bronson: No, I think it’s I think it’s a great answer because if you jump into the AR system, but you haven’t done customer development, now you’re marketing for marketing sake and you’re not necessarily marketing something that’s a market fit or, as you know, bridging a need that someone has, a pain someone has. So I like that a lot. A lot as you guys have went through kind of Dave strategy and you’ve heard him speak I’m sure many times you see you get his coaching on things. What part of his strategy help speak the most? You know, you mentioned the five things, you know, the acquisition, you know, all those things, activation of those five. Which one did you see at some point was like, wow, this is really a hole for speak. This is really something that we haven’t wrestled with thoroughly. We don’t have the answers. We don’t know what to do next. Which of those five really kind of, you know, made you guys sit up and deal with?
Chris: Well, I would say retention is key. And so to that point, we want to make sure that folks think of our product top of mind versus the competitors. And so, again, continuing to have informative emails or or our messaging on platform is helpful. That is definitely a challenge that not only we face but I would say all SaaS products. Yeah, face.
Bronson: It’s interesting that you mention that one because so many people mentioned something along those lines. So many people say that, you know, they mentioned retention, but they also mentioned email, email. This thing, it’s like the unsung hero of the startup world that I think is starting to get some, you know, some, you know, the honors that it should email inattention. I mean, it’s huge. They go hand in hand in so many ways. You know, like you said, having the drip campaigns initially of just play, sign up again, email, all those things, but then eventually having those event based and notification based emails that really are bringing them back in your world and using the phrase use top of mind, staying wedged in their memory and not being allowed to be forgotten. So I think it’s great that retention is something you guys have, you know, focused on and learned there. He also mentions. Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead.
Chris: Yeah, I was going to say that also, I feel that email is very tangible and straightforward. And what I mean by that is, you know, the funnel is clear. All right. There’s there’s an open rate and then there’s a click through rate and then there’s and then there’s action post click. And so there’s really only three variables that you need to be sure to optimize. And especially given the open rate, I mean, from my perspective, you focus on who the emails coming from as well as the subject line, right? So there’s only two there’s only two things to mess with there. So there’s only so many experiments you can run. And then within the well there’s also timing as well, the timing of the email. But with regards to once you’re in the email, you, you know, there’s different schools of thought. You want to provide so much value and so much task, almost blog, almost blog post ask that could that could lead to less clicks because someone has already gotten the value from there versus almost having a stealthy type of headline and say, click here for more. So there’s different there’s different ways to to go about it. But at the end of the day, every I’d like to think that just about every person living in the civilized world has an email account. And given that, given the popularity of smartphones, everyone’s got it on their hip. Yeah. So if you can nail that, that’s a huge that’s a huge win for any seller.
Bronson: And you talked about the length of the emails. It’s interesting. I think some of the more old school copywriters tend toward those super long broken up emails to sentences, to sentences, to sentences, you know, not to scroll for hours. But then it seems like the new wave is more of the 37. Signal’s short to the point. Get their interest paid. Get them over into your product. Try retain them further there. So would you say you guys lean toward more that style or do you write the really long ones?
Chris: I mean, we’ve done them all. In terms of what has been successful for us so far. I would say maybe no longer than than two paragraphs, let’s say, has been working for us.
Chris: We’re still at a phase where we’re finding our voice as well. Yeah. And so, you know, it’s not like we have tremendous leaps and bounds, amounts of traffic coming to our blog every given day, regardless of the content on it. And so, yeah, we do treat it as an opportunity to get our voice across in that email as well. So I say somewhere in the middle.
Bronson: Yeah. And then you also mentioned earlier that you use Mandrill, which is, you know, there with MailChimp. Have you guys use you know, you mentioned the timing of the emails. Have you played real time work? Very much where it kind of MailChimp automatically decides when to send it out and they kind of do it for you without making you think.
Chris: I have not. And thank you for that.
Bronson: Well, you know.
Chris: I’ll be adding that to the repertoire.
Bronson: Yeah. You know, it’s one of those things. And then there’s another thing that MailChimp does that I was trying to remember, but I couldn’t. But it doesn’t matter. But at the time, work was one of them. Yeah. So and actually, I don’t know if Time Warp works with Mandrill, so you have to look at that to see I know Time Warp works with just a normal MailChimp account, but they’re doing a little bit of homework.
Chris: Right? Yeah, no, absolutely. No, I appreciate that. Yeah, I’m definitely I mean, look, at the end of the day and just to take a step back, you know, here I am with with you branching on on Growth Tracker TV. But at the end of the day, you know, I feel that that’s that’s a title that has been thrown around. But the reality is we’re all learning every day. There’s no there’s there’s there’s there’s people who know their stuff. But yeah, I wouldn’t say anyone’s a a guru by any stretch because digital marketing and product development is, is, is growing and changing every single day. So together I kind of feel yeah.
Bronson: And that actually speaks to why I’m doing growth after TV. I just felt that there’s so much information out there, but it’s not being well distributed, well packaged, and conversations like this need to happen. They need to see what we know. They need to see what we don’t know. They need to see what they need to go figure out. So people watching this interview and they’re going to be empowered by it. They’re not going to be discouraged. They’re going to realize exactly what you said that we’re all learning. I mean, if people knew how little I knew, they wouldn’t come on the show. You know what I mean? And yet I have some success and I know a little bit about what I’m doing and know not to ask the right questions. So we’re all learning, you know, and figuring this thing out. So for you, humility, because that’s that’s what’s going to move us all, you know, massively forward.
Bronson: You know, Dave, also coming back to kind of some of the things he does. He talks about the metrics and the measurements that, you know, you can use. And he breaks them down in terms of quantitative, qualitative, comparative and competitive. Right. It’s kind of a mouthful there. Tell us a little bit about each of those. For one of those mean just super briefly, what is quantitative, what is qualitative, comparative and competitive?
Chris: Sure. So quantitative and qualitative that that’s fairly straightforward, which is tangible data versus sort of feedback or or verbiage and sort of deducing things from from customer feedback and such. They’re both equally as important in different ways. And we are of the mindset where you definitely want to make informed decisions based on quantitative data and validated with your qualitative data. So we don’t we don’t dove off the deep end, so to speak, as if two or three or four users say, Hey, we really want this feature or we’re having this particular pain point. It’s more of a note. As we as we look in the data to see if that’s, in fact, what’s happening, if there’s a particular drop off at a particular point or if there’s a certain churn rate on the timing of user lifetime. And and then we go into the qualitative and say, oh, okay, this makes sense. So that’s generally the way that we, we use those types since.
Bronson: We really use them in conjunction, you let them inform each other. It’s more of a holistic kind of reflexive equilibrium. None of them, you know, are the only thing that matters to you guys.
Chris: Right. But I said if I was on a desert island and I needed to use one, it’d be quantitative.
Bronson: That was my question. Yeah. There you go. Yeah.
Chris: Yeah. And and in terms of comparative versus competitive, comparative is some simply put, a B testing. So different types of experiences for your user base. What you know, what are we what are we seeing when users see this particular screen versus that particular screen and and using that to inform our decision competitive is looking at your competition to see what they’re doing and what’s working or not working for them and and and just making making decisions accordingly as well. Let me ask.
Bronson: About that last one a little bit, because that’s one that people don’t talk about a whole lot. And yet we all do. We’re all looking at our competitors and figuring out what’s best practices. But I read something once that was interesting. It was about I can’t remember the exact anecdotes. I apologize for that. But it was someone who ran a prominent startup and their features were being imitated even though it was on their product cycle to kill those features because they weren’t working. And yet everyone else are looking at them and thinking, Oh, they’re doing so well. It must be because of those features. Let’s copy those features. When they didn’t know they were going to be killed the next few months because internally it wasn’t working right. You know, how do we look at competitors? Because it’s hard. You know, you want to look at them and learn from them, but you don’t really have access to the data. And so where do you draw the line? How do you look at a competitor and know what to draw from it? Or is it better just to be a maverick, do your own thing and let the chips fall where they may.
Chris: So one competitive metric that I feel is is important and actually very accessible and tangible is search marketing with regards here competition. You can go to all kinds of websites, keywords, Buy.com, for example, by Fool.com and be able to see how your competitors are performing for paid, where they rank on certain keywords. Obviously, obviously, that would give you insight as to what keywords they’re bidding on. And, and with regards to free search aso how they’re performing there, where they rank on any particular page in a Google search, for example. So that gives you all kinds of insight, as you could imagine, just understanding where you want to go, where the opportunity may or may not be. If your competitor is, hypothetically speaking, on a Skype or some sort of a billion, billion dollar business, you might not be able to outbid them on certain core core phrases. For example, in our space conference call itself is one of the most competitive and thereby the most expensive terms. So we have an inherent challenge with regards to anything, anything there to organically find ourselves on the front page of conference call. Probably not going to happen for several years if at all. Whereas there are different three or four word phrasings that we can we can compete towards. And so just understanding who from our competitors are our thinking in the same way or who are missing these opportunities, I think that’s invaluable.
Bronson: No, that’s great. Thank you so much for kind of walking us through the metrics and the measurements. On the same note, how to speak, capture the data. Because, you know, measurement metrics is all about the data. What tools are you guys used? And you mentioned Mixpanel already. Is that kind of your home base? Is that the main thing you use and what are you mixing? And if anything else, are you using other tools or in how stuff as well?
Chris: Well, yeah, I would say Mixpanel most certainly is is at the core just understanding user behavior. For us, Google Analytics is a very robust and free tool. So if used correctly, if you know what particular charts you’re looking for, particular screens, you can really have a ton of value from there. If you were to say so, for example, event behavior is, is, is available within Google Analytics so long as you customize it in that in that way. But quite frankly, Mixpanel is entirely based on events. And so if you’re going to go the event route, you would probably focus on Mixpanel, for example, but maybe using some sort of, you know, distributive code like a segment I o which allows you to code for Mixpanel events, but also indicate those same events to other platforms like a Google Analytics KISSmetrics next.
Bronson: Segment that I o I’m not familiar with them. So tell me again, what exactly do they allow you to do?
Chris: So segment audio is basically and this has just come upon my radar over the last couple of weeks and months.
Bronson: Okay, good. Now, don’t feel dumb.
Chris: No, no, no. So. So basically it’s solving the pain point for developers of a guy like me, the growth guy asking to implement this particular event strategy for Mixpanel. And then suddenly several weeks and we say, you know what, we don’t want to use Mixpanel any more. We want to use platform A or platform B. And so what this does is allows you to take the already existing event code implementation and simply syndicate it very easily to another tool. Now that makes sense. It’s all amazing double and triple work, and that’s key if you’re using some of these various tools. So in our case, we are using Mixpanel, we are using Google Analytics. Mm hmm. In the past, I have used KISSmetrics. In this case at SPEAK, we are not necessarily ramping up our KISSmetrics strategy. That’s not that’s not to say any sort of negative thing about the product. Yeah, actually, I checked and she’s one of our advisors. So it’s kind of ironic there. But that said, yeah, we are we are committing to Mixpanel at the moment.
Bronson: What you’re thinking is there because there’s going to be companies that are trying to figure out which one to go with or both or what they do. And what’s making you lean more toward Mixpanel because honestly, I had a guy on last week tell me the same thing, but they’re leaning toward Mixpanel. So what’s making that the decision for you guys?
Chris: Well, I personally believe that KISSmetrics is more about a sort of an overall high level dashboard view experience, and they’re really great at that. And so if you can if you can structure it in such a way where your your dashboard has your five, six, seven core metrics are how I’ve used it in the past, and I welcome my peers and others to sort of steer me in a different direction if I’m in fact wrong here. But how I’ve used it in the past is to almost be a check in behavior. So you go track is metrics dashboard, you see your your statistics for that day and then you can change it for the week or for month, etc. And it’s very easy and very user friendly in that sense. But with regards to Mixpanel, I feel like you can really add a lot of logic to your, to your searches and to your charts if you want to see particular users that have done action but have not done action B and within a certain time range or date range who fit a certain demographic. And I think that that is invaluable. And so that’s why I think.
Bronson: That makes total sense. And that’s what I was wondering as perfect. Let’s talk a little bit about speaks growth. I don’t know if you guys have actually publicly released any numbers. I’m not sure. Have you guys released any of your growth numbers yet?
Chris: We have not. And I would say that, you know, in terms of the overall place of where we’re at, we’re still technically in public beta. And so we mean what we say in that we are more focused on the feedback which leads to, you know, relaunches and feature ads. And one of those, of course, as I mentioned before, being scheduling a call the inherently viral nature of our product. And so I say that to say that we’re not necessarily it’s not so much like some sort of private information that we don’t want to disclose. It’s more like just not, hey, we’re still we’re not there yet. We’re not there yet. And, you know, I personally have have been on with the team. I mean, historically, I’ve I’ve been involved in various forms since its inception as a product, but I have now come on full time as as the growth role for just a few weeks now, I would say maybe one one months, six weeks possibly. So, yeah, you know, we’re we’re just about what the next year will be for us. But yeah, I don’t think gross numbers today, they.
Bronson: Don’t have.
Chris: Something to report so much as like let’s have the same conversation six months from now.
Bronson: Absolutely. What’s like you said with lean, you know, startups, you’re you’re in learning mode. You’re trying to figure out what the metrics you already have mean so that when you bring in all these other users, you know, they won’t be falling out of a leaky bucket. You’ll actually know how to retain them. You’ll know what the the value that they want really is and what it is that you’re learning right now so that when you grow, the growth is sustainable and real. So I think it’s smart. I think it’s it’s good people to hear that right now. You’ve you’ve had some users come into the system, though, because you need some users just to, you know, to get some data to try things out. All those customers. What activities have you been engaged in to get some of your initial user acquisitions in your public beta? What channels are you using? But let me ask this what channel is giving you the best results as you get people in to try to learn from?
Chris: Sure. So, you know, quite frankly, I think this applies to most startups, but PR has done well for us so far. And generally, those are spiked behavior. They’re not they’re not sustainable, but they have they have gotten a large amount of users at one given moment in which you do this.
Bronson: Because a lot of, you know, startups want to use the PR strategy. Do you think that being a part of 500 startups really gave you a leg up on being featured in TechCrunch and things like that? Do you think it’s a real strategy for people that are not a part of some other thing that already has a name? If you don’t have a big name investor, if you don’t have a five stars behind you, do you think PR is good for them or just really works for you because of the platform you’re on?
Chris: Well, PR is a loaded term, so that’s true. There’s two ways to interpret what I’m saying here. The PR is like, Hey, writer John Doe has written about us, right? That’s straightforward. But one thing that’s worked for us is guest posting. And so you think using the PR process, right. So the pitch. Yeah. To sell, but not so much telling these writers, editors on our product so much as on our, on our team and on the fact that we have a bunch of rockstars and they have a lot of valuable things to say. And we’ve actually taken that approach and been written up and everywhere from Fast Company to Forbes, we’ve been highlighted in Entrepreneur. AKAM So, you know, just just doing everything that we can to have our name and brand and team members. Yeah, visible within the PR spectrum. I think that that is something that is not solely determined by popularity or raising money. I think it’s definitely something where you just need to grind out and yeah, do as much, reach out as possible.
Bronson: Or you know, use the word grind. And I think it’s interesting that in so many the interviews that I’ve conducted on the show so far that they take a small word like PR and then they show you that really it’s a process and a lot of hard work or you take a word like, you know, viral coefficient really it’s a process and a lot of hard work and there’s a little bit of words that seem like quick add ons or quick fixes. Behind the scenes is just somebody working 60, 80 hours a week. Is it really is there there’s no easy shortcuts. Growth and sustainable growth is really just, you know, grind it out, like you said. So I like that you PR is not a moment, it’s a process. And you’re using that process to get people to understand your team and some of those kind of things. I think it’s great is a kind of close up interview here. Let me ask a few questions for you to kind of give back to the community a little bit. What’s maybe the best piece of advice that you could give to someone who’s beginning their journey as a growth lead, as a grow growth hacker, as a CMO, they’re trying to break into this space. What advice would you give to someone in that situation?
Chris: Well, I think it goes without saying that you need to understand your users and not just your current users, but also the personas that you’re that you’re targeting. You need to understand not just who they are from a demographic standpoint, but what the pain point is, what they’re looking for, what tools they use. Obviously, being competitors in your space, what are they using that you want them to no longer use? Yeah, what are the pain points for that, that product? So for example, speak being a business communications tool, Skype, for example, is the highest level of direct competitor focus. So we want to always understand, okay, well, people are tired of a lot of conversations buffering or or just delays or the fact that you have to install, you know, an X file out, pardon me, I’m on my PC days, but that’s all right. You have to install you have to install a file sharing example. And, you know, we we start there. We start there and just really nailing the understanding of both user and competitive advantages you have over competition, I think is is that the key? And then from there, prioritization is very important. So we are all avid brainstorm ers, thinkers, strategists, but at the core is execution, right? So the ability to say, okay, well from these 20 different things we want to do from various insights and feedback, both quantitative and qualitative, it’s been determined that these four things are our priorities and and literally just trying to, trying to crank on a weekly, bi weekly, whatever your cycle is, just trying to continue to iterate with priority A, followed by B, followed by C and, and just keeping your head down and putting in your time. And next thing you know, you’ll turn. Round. And many of these many of these projects that you had worked on on week one are showing results on week five, for example. So, so just staying focused in terms of prioritization is very important.
Bronson: So understand your user and stack rating priorities and just work the list.
Chris: There you go. Sure. And also, I can’t stress enough, you know, virality is something that people throw around that word all the time. But it is it is very tangible. There is a viral causation, which is nothing more than a math equation. And so you want to optimize that math equation. You want to inherently send as many invites as possible without being spammy. That’s that’s the catch. Right. And so the way to do that is to provide value or to provide an inherent incentive for someone to join onto your platform. And for us, we feel very confident that, you know, conference calls, by definition, is is the space to be to create, you know, a no brainer sort of viral loop when someone says, hey, you know, Brunson’s on this conference call and he and he wants to connect with you. Click here to connect. Yeah, that’s pretty straightforward. I don’t feel like that’s as salesy as there’s other invites that I’ve received as a user.
Bronson: So no, absolutely there’s value in the actual invite because they’re exactly going on to a call.
Chris: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Bronson: Now, that makes a lot of sense. All right. Last question. You know, you’re someone who is always learning, always growing. You try to figure out what’s next. Give us a name of one resource that you just think is invaluable for somebody in your situation to stay on top of their game. What resource would you send people to? It could be a blog. It could be a book. It could be a person that you should talk to. I mean, anything. What’s a resource that you feel like we need to know about?
Chris: Well, okay, so I’m going to cop out of that question, which with a broader answer, which is, I think just continuing to fill your mind with wisdom, very excite you. You know, I just feel like having your core blogs or information sources is key. Like, for example, and there’s some irony here. As I mentioned earlier, we focus on Mixpanel and not so much KISSmetrics. But that said, I’m an avid reader and and an email opener of the KISSmetrics blog emails. Yeah, I think that Neil and Neil Patel and his team have done an amazing job of content. And so I’m learning with every email. I think that’s key. And also being able to find advisors or maybe one core advisor in your space. You know, at the end of the day, no matter how much of a rock star someone might be, they’re still a person who is in this game for the same thing you are, which is to grow and learn. And, you know, we all want to succeed. We all want to make some money. So I think I think everyone can appreciate that. And those folks who we might consider advisors were at one point on the other side of the screen right here where we are. So I think that’s that’s definitely key as well.
Bronson: Yeah. I think you said something there that’s so important. I want to reiterate it just for a second. You know, one of the resources is actually going and being a part of other people’s funnel, like actually be a user and see how they’re treating you and what they’re saying and why they’re saying it. I read a tweet the other day. Somebody said, If you have all the ads turned off on your browser and you’re a growth lead, you’re doing it wrong because you need to see people are doing when you’re moving around the web. And it’s kind of that same point. You need to be a part of other people’s marketing strategy because you’ve got to learn, you know, just by, you know, actually being the end user. And you’re going to see it with a different perspective, a different set of eyes. You’re going to see, Oh, this is how I feel with this kind of email. This is when I want to unsubscribe. This is when I don’t. This is what I want to flip through. This is when I don’t. And so you’re going to be learning these intangibles that could be probably more valuable than any book. A resource alone could be something that’s incredible advice you’ve given us. Chris, thank you so much for being a part of our program. You know, best of luck to speak. I think you guys are on to something. There’s definitely I mean, as somebody who uses Skype, often, when you say the word bumper, I cringe and die a little bit inside. And so absolutely keep doing what you’re doing. I know you’ll find your audience. I know you guys will grow, especially with somebody like you behind the helm, really looking after the user. So thank you so much.
Chris: Thanks for having me and best of luck to you. Branching and Growth Hacker TV. I love what you guys are doing here is providing value to folks who are looking to learn and I and my peers are grateful to you for what you’ve got going on here. So thanks a lot. Awesome. Thanks for having.
Bronson: Me. Absolutely. See there, Chris. All right.