Oct 12, 2020
Jeff Reekers joined Aircall when it was a small startup looking to break into the US market. Here's how he's built a marketing strategy that fueled 15X growth in just three years.
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Aircall CMO shares the marketing strategies he's used to help the company achieve extraordinary growth in just three years.
When he first joined Aircall, Jeff was one of just two marketers on the team. Now, the marketing department alone has 30 employees.
Jeff shares why the company's international-first approach, along with its emphasis on partnerships, allowed Aircall to scale quickly.
Check out the full episode, or read the transcript below, for details.
Resources from this episode:
Kathleen (00:00): Welcome back to the inbound success podcast. I'm your host Kathleen Booth. And this week, my guest is Jeff Reekers, who is the CMO of Aircall. Welcome to the podcast Jeff.
Jeff (00:25): Thanks Kathleen. It's a pleasure to be here.
Kathleen (00:27): I'm excited to talk with you. Aircall has such a fascinating growth story and you know, one marketer to the other, I'm always interested to kind of try and pull back the curtain and see how the, not to use too many analogies, but see how the sausage is made. So, but before we dive into the Aircall story maybe you could talk a little bit about yourself, what your background is and, and how you wound up in your role at Aircall.
Jeff (00:53): Yeah, sure. So I've had a few different experiences before joining Aircall. I started my career going way back. I'm from the Bay area originally. I moved out to New York city to start my career originally, didn't really know what I wanted to do, had a economics major and I was coming out and hoping to do grad school at the time. And ended up getting a job at Forbes, which is where I started my career. Mostly doing copywriting, ad copy, a little bit of journalistic ghost writing when I was asked to do it. And it was an amazing experience and it got me introduced into marketing. But interestingly, one of the articles I had to write was something called best of the web, but essentially you know, interviews with entrepreneurs we're getting started in the New York city area.
Jeff (01:50): And somebody I came across in my research for that was a company called Lawline, which was an online education startup for attorneys who needed to recertify their license. And it was just like the emerging time when you remember like real time player that they, that was a, that was a thing. And the videos were just starting to go online. And so this was a first step towards online education for attorneys who all have to recertify their licenses. And we were the first to do that, to move online. That was an amazing experience because it was just from the start and we scaled and we grew, and, you know, I had that traditional experience of kind of doing everything in a company from being joining it early. And I realized immediately that that startup life, that was exciting to me and having a real impact was exciting to me. And so that was sort of my springboard into the the startup world. And I got deeper into marketing thereafter headed demand at a few different companies. Think HR, Handshake, which was recently acquired by Shopify. And then I joined on with with Aircall about four years ago now.
Kathleen (03:03): Awesome. And what does Aircall do for those who are not familiar with it?
Jeff (03:06): Yes. We're a business, a hundred percent cloud based phone system for support and sales teams. So focused on the SMB. So any inbound, any teams that are receiving inbound inquiries, e-comm companies, whatever it might be, that need to efficiently route calls and know who their customers are before they call them, or the sales organizations that are looking for a productivity boost or to have better insights into the customers that they're calling. There are two main focus points.
Kathleen (03:34): Great. And the reason I was so excited to talk with you is that you came in at an earlier stage with the company. It wasn't really all that long ago, three, four years ago. And at the time how big was the company?
Jeff (03:51): I have a trouble remembering the exact number of employees. We had around 40, 40, 50 employees somewhere around there and you know, a couple million in revenue at that point.
Kathleen (04:03): Yeah. And, and today, how big is the company?
Jeff (04:08): Larger than that. We're we've, we've gone from, you know, that stage closer to the $50 million mark. So we've grown quite well over that time. And we've expanded into the U S, which is essentially one of the initial points of myself joining on in the company was helped build out the U S and we scaled other regions as well across the, across the country. And now we're at about 350 probably going on 400 pretty soon employees.
Kathleen (04:39): Wow. And if I understand correctly, like I'm not a big math person, but I try to, I try to do math in my head if I'm doing it correctly. It sounds like you, as a company, you grew by about 15 times in three years. Is that roughly accurate?
Jeff (04:55): Yes. I think that sounds, I think that sounds pretty accurate. Yeah.
Kathleen (04:58): Wow. That's unbelievable. And, you know, selfishly, like, I, I want to know, I want to know what went into that, cause that's, that's such a crucial stage of growth. I'm also a startup marketer. I love the startup world, right. That's like the Holy grail that everybody wants to experience. You come in when the company is smaller and you ride that rocket ship and you're a part of that story and you contribute to the growth. So, you know, from a marketing standpoint, like, I'll just turn it over to you. Maybe you could kind of set the stage and talk about like what you did in the beginning and some of the key leavers that led to the growth of the company.
Jeff (05:31): I think, I think what's important to realize is one is yes, I like to believe that there's been things on the marketing and we've done that have had a major impact here, but even going before that there's, there were some inherent aspects of Aircall that stood out at the time that I joined, even though we were small, that that indicated we had a really positive opportunity, big, really big opportunity for growth. And a friend and former colleague and great, just start up mind, his name is Preston Clark, I remember he wrote an article years ago about I think it was how to become a VP of sales in SaaS. And he wrote about uncovering the hidden opportunities or how to, how to find those small companies that were just going to take the, the I'm really going to explode it in the next stage.
Jeff (06:22): And so there were, there were some things I recall when I joined our call that really made me feel that this was something special. The first was there was an early product market fit. We sold there was traction in a very specific segment of the market, which is SMB market. There was inbound demand for the product already. And there was positive, you know, positive growth. And you could see that from an early stage, there were some things that had to be improved on certain customer segments. We had to go further into further develop who our real customers were, all these things, but there was something, there were part of us put out in the world and people were finding it, signing up for it, sharing with their friends. And that was a really positive sign. The second was, we were just getting started in a new market, which is the U S and so we had proven traction in Europe and we were just starting on the U S side.
Jeff (07:21): And so that was very exciting to me. Cause you could see the ability for the product to adapt over into the U S market. And third was probably most important because it's the sustainability of the company is Olivier, our CEO wanted to build a great company to work for and you can't really accomplish what you like to accomplish. If that's not true, is this harder to stick with a company it's harder to be there for four or five, six years or for the long haul, if you don't have that. And those, all those things were really true. First off at Aircall that I think helped us. And that, that to me was the foundational part that all their marketing tactics or strategies or how we sold it, came from that base in a way.
Kathleen (08:11): Yeah. That I love your point about wanting to build a great company because it is true, you know, to support growth that fast. I I've, I've owned a company in the past. I've been a CEO and any CEO can tell you that growth can either be the greatest thing that ever happened to you, or it can be the thing that kills your company, you know, and growth is the thing that kills your company. If you're not building that, that strong culture, like a place where people really want to be where they're inherently self motivated and excited about the mission and all that. So it's interesting that you brought that up because it's seen as something outside of marketing, but I think it's, it all goes back to that philosophy of like you companies only have customer service to the extent that they have happy employees is sort of the same principle.
Jeff (08:57): Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. And you know, from there, it was from there, we grew up our, our strategy and we scaled fairly logically. So we had a good presence already in France and other parts of Europe and we wanted to expand those, get into a few new markets. There's Germany, Spain, UK, that we wanted to grow more aggressively. And we had some early ground already coming from a few other regions like Australia. And then we, you know, we really needed to focus on, on us and let that expand as well. So we had an international strategy as well from the start, which I think was very advantageous to us because we were able to spread very quickly and have an infrastructure that that was global from day one and...
Kathleen (09:51): Now just a clarification. When you joined the company, how many people, including yourself, were in the marketing team?
Jeff (09:56): There was one other person.
Kathleen (09:59): Oh, wow. Okay. Yeah. Were you the first US hire on the marketing team?
Jeff (10:03): No, we were just starting our us office and our one other employee was also in the US.
Kathleen (10:10): Okay. So they, so the company had grown outside of the US without having like fulltime in-house marketers. Is that?
Jeff (10:18): Yes. Correct. So we had I think we had a couple people writing content local content out there. But really our first marketer was in the U S and Olivier, our CEO, was very adamant about going to the US market very early in the company's history. So it didn't become this sort of you know, stepchild or the hated stepchild or the always in the back seat or something like that. And so was very adamant about building and moved from Paris to New York city. And so he started the first office out here with a few other, a few other employees that were hired soon after that, including our first marketer who's a sort of a junior generalist at the time.
Kathleen (10:58): So that's okay. So, so you come in your, did you have a background in international marketing at all?
Jeff (11:05): That was pretty new to me. That was pretty new. Only other really other English speaking countries, you know, UK, Australia but not real dense in across the European markets was that intimidating was exciting to me, to me that was exciting. And that was it was the perfect, that was the perfect balance because there was something to offer on both ends. You know, I was going to get to know those markets extremely well. And at the same time my first and foremost focus was how do we do this in the US? How do we replicate this in the US? So I was allowed in a lot of the opportunity to really focus on the U S for the first six months or so, because that was objective number one, build pipeline in the US. So I didn't care about product, I mean, there was no care about or no focus on product marketing. No we weren't yet on post, you know, post sale customer marketing. We cared about it a lot, but
Kathleen (12:09): Got it. You can't boil the ocean. Right. So what did you start with? Like, how did you come in? You've got good bones is how I would describe it, right? Like you said, you've got great product market fit. You have the start of a really great company and you've got inbound interest. So you've got all the good bones, like, what do you start with?
Jeff (12:27): Yeah, there were two things. One, our product demos really well. It's a beautiful product. Ease of use. The design is really what stood out as a differentiator. So first was what makes this product different? And, you know, I came from a background where I had set up phone systems in the past. One of the many things I did at Lawline of all my jobs there was I set up our company phone system. It was ShoreTel. It's actually a company called N5 networks, which was acquired by ShoreTel soon after, but I set up that system. And so it was like, you know, it's a baby boy product. He still had the landline, phones, everything plugged into some thing in the, in the back room. Every time I went to go troubleshoot it, I was unplugging wires and shutting off the internet accidentally.
Jeff (13:12): I didn't know how to train anybody cause it was just difficult to use. And so I recall my first experience using Aircall and it was just, I signed up for my own trial. It was just this wow moment because what took me weeks to set up, I already had this, I was already set up in the app. Like I signed up for trial. I had a phone number. I signed up for a Zimbabwe phone number. I was adding my teammates, I had everything set up. And so to me that was this wow moment where I really felt that from the side that I, when I was a consumer, I could empathize with that. And so first thing I really, we really thought about what is, how do we just show that to people right off the bat? How do we get that out? And so, you know, we've always focused on trial experiences and trying to get people to the point of a demonstration. And so we focused a lot on events, inviting people into our office, holding community events. We'd demo people and show the product at, at those at those events. I used to do a lot with webinars, like really bottom of funnel webinars, product driven, and just get it out there and get some early customers coming in the door.
Kathleen (14:27): And when you say events, did you, do you mean like local events or describe to me?
Jeff (14:32): We did both. We would do some trade shows. Really costly. So we were cautious, cautious of doing too much there, but yeah, we would do local events, invite people into our office and gather 50, 60 people in the sales or CX community, holding events. Do a little bit of a community around it. And then eventually we were able to follow up with them, you know, show them a demo, something like that. And it gets some early cost get, just get a few customers in the door, essentially. Yeah. Yeah. And then that would say that scaled into more questions. Okay. So we've got some things working there. Then the more challenges came with, how do we really scale and grow that more quickly? And I think one thing that's been very unique to Aircall in our marketing has been our focus on partnerships and integrations.
Jeff (15:28): And so by far the biggest driver of growth in North America has been that we've partnered with very strong companies to integrate the product for one and then to drive co-marketing and co-selling efforts. And so how do we build a brand in North America? Well, easiest way to do that was to try to attach ourselves to HubSpot and Intercom and Zendesk and companies that were already doing a great job. If we could just attach ourselves to that, that would be fantastic. And so we worked really hard to build integrations, drive up app rankings on their app exchanges, do co-marketing efforts where we did all the work. Just hope that the, let us slap the logo on there and, and help distribute it. We worked to get into onboarding emails. So it came out from a HubSpot, for example, you know, like you signed up for HubSpot, they'd recommend Aircall, one of the apps to sign up for. And so we just started attaching ourselves to these brands through product integration and then co-marketing efforts and it kind of organically grew from there.
Kathleen (16:38): So what I think there's a lot of people that talk about co-marketing and talk about channels and things like that. Can you talk a little bit more about what it takes to, to really make that partnership successful? Like you talked about doing a lot of the work, like dissect that a little bit for me.
Jeff (16:56): Well, it has to start with the need. And so we tried to go beyond the co-marketing was a way that helped promote a dual need that their customers also had. And so the integration product part is really critical. And I think, I think that's been a core thing is that the product and the marketing are really integrated at Aircall. And they always have been whether it's that trial experience and getting the customer to a wow moment, whether it's being able to have a, an amazing UI UX that we can demo really well. Or if it's on the integration front so that we are partnering with companies, building integrations into their product, to help them solve a problem. And then leveraging that from a marketing standpoint, how do we comarket with them? And so, you know, HubSpot, for example, timing is great.
Jeff (17:46): They're building out their CRM system, a sales hub, soon after they started building out support hub. And what's something you needed, you go from Salesforce to HubSpot, you need a dialer on top of that. And so we built that integration and we solved that problem for them. So somebody goes from Salesforce to HubSpot, I'm a HubSpot account executive, and I'm getting an inquiry of, okay, I'm using, you know, NewVoiceMedia with, with Salesforce. I need something new because you guys don't integrate with HubSpot, or you guys don't integrate with NewVoiceMedia. What can I use? They, and eventually we got top of mind with the HubSpot team so that, Hey, we promote Aircall and that's fine.
Kathleen (18:24): And how do you get top of mind? Like what, what, any advice? Yeah. Like what would be your advice for somebody who's just starting that process?
Jeff (18:31): A lot of work. We, we put a lot of focus on our partnerships from both the, we have that team. That's been a part of marketing, but we focused on the partnership itself, relentlessly. And so first to get one customer and do unscalable things, you know, if we got, when we were trying to really grow on certain apps with certain apps like HubSpot or a customer with it, with a K or a Intercom, those first customers, they were very meaningful. They, they have an issue. You've got to hop on it immediately. If you just got up to go above and beyond to show that, okay, I've referred over, you know, Aircall on top of HubSpot and, or I have an app that comes into attaches in the HubSpot. We have to know that if I'm the HubSpot team, I'm probably going to get a question about this integration of it's not working.
Jeff (19:24): And so if that sort of stuff comes up, you have to solve it immediately. Give HubSpot a really good experience from your side. Let them know the partnership's valuable. Gain traction over time with getting good reviews you know, lots of installs. Helping them. If you think of HubSpot, for example, they had a lot of focus on growing their ecosystem. One part of growing their ecosystem was showing that apps are getting installed. So how do we get as many apps installed as humanly possible on top of that ecosystem, regardless of whatever we have to do, and we can get their attention in that fashion. So we really focused on just hustle, really? How do we, how do we get a lot of installs? How do we drive an amazing experience with those partners? How do we solve a need for them? And then eventually if we can service them enough and give enough value, we can be top of mind for them.
Kathleen (20:16): Was there anything in particular that you can point to that really drove the growth in installs?
Jeff (20:25): There's a number of things that say there's no, there's no one magic thing. I can't think of one magic, you know, activity we did that that opened the flood Gates. It was just a lot of work. It was getting one, doing one-on-one on outbound on just a specific focus for three months, sign up many customers in the segments. It was SEO, you know, searching for what competitive terms around our partner plus phone system or call center or apps on that exchange. Could we do it was positioned our website in a certain way that facilitate people to go towards one direction. So let's just, a lot of activities, you know, they all come, they all sort of compounded. I think that the main thing is that we, we focus that as a core part of the strategy and the product was solid there. And so we, we combine the, the marketing effort and the product effort together. I think that was the, you know, that was sort of the kicker. And then was just a lot of activities after that.
Kathleen (21:32): And you talked about also one of the things that was key was really getting a lot of reviews in their partner marketplace, if you will, or their app marketplace. Were there any strategies in particular that you use that you found to be successful for getting those reviews? Cause I've, I've been in the position of having to get reviews before, and sometimes it can feel like, like pulling teeth, trying to get people they'll, they'll say yes, yes, I'll do it. And then they never do. Or, you know, like how did you, how did you approach that?
Jeff (22:01): Just pay people. An email and pay then a $25 gift card. This is pretty much our only tactic.
Kathleen (22:09): Yeah. Well, Hey, if it works, if it works. Yeah,
Jeff (22:12): Yeah, yeah. Pay for the review.
Kathleen (22:15): And did you, did you invest in any like review site marketing outside of your partner relationships? Like, did you do any G2 Crowd or any well now?
Jeff (22:25): Yeah. Yeah. So, so I'd say on top of the partner, which, which has always been still is one of our key drivers. We've always had an intense focus on inbound as well. So review sites have always been a core part of that. And you know, we could, we could control that. And so we tried to look at like, what are the things in the world that we can control? We have customers, lot of them are happy. We can control number of reviews that we have on G2 and Capterra. We just have to hustle and do it. And so we focused heavily on the first, the app review sites where we thought we could gain SMB market share, which is what we were more focused on at the moment, really small business. And we focused on Get App, Capterra. Sort of winning the awards for those those categories or those those platforms promoted them and so on. And then eventually we would spend money on them to help promotions as well.
Kathleen (23:23): Nice. So, all right. I totally took you down a winding path there cause I love, I just like getting into details. So you formed these partner relationships and that really began to kind of like heat up your, your lead gen and customer acquisition. I'm going to turn it back over to you now.
Jeff (23:41): Yeah. We did it with HubSpot, Intercom. We had a great with, still do, and that makes sense. Aircall plus Intercom, you've got chat and phone together. So I'm really focused on co-marketing with them. Co-Marketing calendars with them. We developed a couple of unique products with them as well. We have one product called Aircall now. It's not something we still actively promote, but I had a ton of buzz around it at the time, which was you could convert an Intercom chat directly into a phone call and that phone call would go directly to the rep that you were chatting with at the time. So when you got really innovative with the, those types of activities, and then we turn that into an app ecosystem. So initially we hustled, we built all the, all the apps.
Jeff (24:28): We tried to create partnerships with them. And then at some point along that growth cycle, we thought to ourselves, well, we could be that company that other companies are building into and then trying to get leads off of with us and partner with us. And then we could do lead sharing in that way. And so at some point we turned that into an open marketplace for apps that could be built on top of the Aircall market, on top of the air call API. We publish them on our app exchange and that's something we've been focused on the last year and a half, two years or so. And we've had 60, 70 companies build out apps on top of us and that's scaling quite well. And so we kind of use that as a, okay, we had to really hustle, get it done. We still do that. How do we enable other companies to do that also? Create a flywheel effect from that.
Kathleen (25:21): And now you're in the opposite position of people wanting to, whereas you were bending over backwards to make a relationship work with HubSpot, hopefully now there are people bending over backwards to make a relationship work with you.
Jeff (25:31): Yes, it's both. It's both ways still. Yeah, we grew those out. Gorgeous customer. I think I can name many, many partners that we've had that have been really strong for us. And that's been a big driver in other areas, you know, inbound, outbound.
Kathleen (25:49): When did you add outbound into the mix? How soon?
Jeff (25:53): Early? Pretty early.
Kathleen (25:56): And did you insource, like, did you have your own team doing the outbound or did you outsource that? How did you handle it?
Jeff (26:03): In house? From the start and different regions respond? You know, the international part is very interesting with with outbounds in certain regions. You know I think of France, for example. The response rates are just 3X, 2X higher than they are in, in the US for example. And so we've grown them everywhere. We've had SDRs, we have an SDR team in France for Germany, Spain, for UK, for APAC and North American team as well, although it has slightly different oddities and unique points to the local markets to grow. But yeah, we, we scaled that out and built it early. We want to do it in house and I found it particularly valuable, not just from the pipeline generation standpoint, but early on when we were first starting to go to market. I mean, that's how you get to know and experiment who your customers are. You can try different segments out, you can iterate, you can see what messages that respond, that you get are being responded to.
Kathleen (27:16): And did that team sit in marketing or in sales?
Jeff (27:21): It sat in, it sat in sales. Yeah, it sat in sales, but worked really closely with myself. And there was a brief period of time, again, this is like startup sort of life, I guess, but there's a brief period of time in 2018, late 2017 and most of 2018 that I headed up the North American sales team. And so it's kind of a blurry question because it was all coming in to me.
Kathleen (27:46): So that, you know, it's so funny because I always say like, every marketer should work as, as a salesperson at some point in their career, it makes you such a better marketer.
Jeff (27:54): Yeah, totally. And there's no better way to get to, yeah, to get to know the customer, to understand what messages are resonating. I mean, the, the campaigns we're running to figure out what what pockets of customers are responding, what messages are they responding to?
Kathleen (28:12): And to know how, like what salespeople need from marketing.
Jeff (28:15): Yeah, exactly. I mean, that's, that's, that's how we figured out what integrations to build. That's what we figured out. The messaging on the website, and we're still using a lot of that copy today. And a lot of the information that we found throughout balance is, is, you know, actively in our, our our marketing today.
Kathleen (28:31): Nice. Now I really want to hear like, kind of the parallel story of all of this is happening. This is what you're doing from a strategy standpoint. How did your team evolve? Because you joined and it was you and one other person and how many marketers are there on your team right now?
Jeff (28:51): There's approximately a 30 marketers.
Kathleen (28:53): Oh my gosh.
Jeff (28:55): And then we've got another 10 or so in channeled partnership.
Kathleen (28:59): Talk to me about like, how did that evolve? Like what positions did you add first?
Jeff (29:06): Yeah, so we're very demand focused. Most of our early hires were in demand. I like that mentality when you're first starting because demand can hack, not a word I'm using frequently anymore, but demand can kind of piece together and hack product marketing to a degree in messaging. We could figure out contents because you have to answer those parts to get the, to get pipeline generated. So by default, you have to experiment, you have to figure things out. You could start the other side and really focus on product marketing and messaging did not solve the demand part, not piece everything together. And so I think first off was what am I okay. Being okay. And what would I like to be really great with? And we really want to be good on demand, acquisition marketing, build up our SEO strategy, figure out what channels could really work for us.
Jeff (30:08): And then have an experimental mindset when it came to customer cohorts, you know messaging, all those activities. And so our first hire was in demand for North America. We hired multiple content marketers at that point to build out our SEO which you put a lot of effort into. We then hired we, then continued on events cause we have been marketing early on was, as I mentioned, was working well for us. We hired on events. We started adding on partner account managers to handle our partners. And it, it kind of scaled from there. Eventually we got to the point where everything was being housed in the US and I started seeing a huge imbalance at that point. We're putting all this emphasis on the US and then just trying to translate things for Europe which was a mistake.
Jeff (31:03): You can't just translate content and call it localized you know, localized market ready work. And so we then, one of our first hires then went out to Paris to lead our growth efforts in Europe. And she ended up building out a pretty large team. That team was actually larger than the US team at this point because we localized everything, we built original content for Spanish market, for the German market and so on. And so we've really focused heavily on that content marketing portion there. And then I would say we delayed product marketing till about hire 15 or so, a year and a half year. And I hired our first product marketer. It was too late, but I think at that point, for every role that we've had, and, you know, I think we, before we expand into a new area, if it's demand focused, want to know this is what to double down on.
Jeff (32:00): If it's not demand focused, then I really want to feel some pressure. Like we have to have it, we can't hustle any harder than we're hustling. And if we don't have this, it's really going to hold us back versus versus getting into that mentality when you start to scale, which is you know, like, Oh, we really need customer marketing, but really nobody's, we could do customer marketing if we just prioritized it internally, or, you know, it gave somebody a new opportunity or figured out a way to move pieces around. And so he, we brought product marketing on second. We brought operations on third. We don't have a director of operations though. We've kind of more leveraged our revenue operations team for that. And then more recently we brought on brand marketing as well. So if I go through our lineage, it was demand, content, and then doing that same thing in Europe. Product marketing next. It's really help us figure out what cohorts and sort of scaling different verticals, enabling sales to go up market and these activities. And then starting to bring on brand managers to think about, you know, our, our, how we are competitively different in terms of our style, our tone of voice, all these activities that we have. We have a good longterm vantage point of our our strategy.
Kathleen (33:30): How many direct reports do you have today?
Jeff (33:33): I have, let's see. It's it's changed a little bit recently, so I have eight at the moment.
Kathleen (33:41): Yeah. That's about, I feel like that's about the max that you can have before it starts to feel like crazy. You're in one on ones all, all week long.
Jeff (33:50): Yeah. Yeah. So those teams are North American demand, European demand, product marketing, brands. We have an ecosystem head person that runs our marketplace, that new apps that are installed on our marketplace. We have a head of developer evangelism as well, who's one of our cofounders and he's responsible for essentially the marketing for developers to come build stuff on top of Aircall. And then our head of brand as well. And then the last two that sort of fringe with our North American team, which would likely now report into marketing longterm would be our partnerships head and head of channel sales.
Kathleen (34:31): Okay. All right. So I could talk to you forever and there are some more questions I have, but you are a very busy man clearly. So the question I have for you is if you were talking to somebody who right now was in the same shoes you were in three years ago, like coming in as the first, you know, head of marketing and like, and it's one or two people in the company and they, their goal is to scale the way you have. What advice would you give them?
Jeff (35:00): Well, I think there's, there's two seemingly separate concepts here. One is we really focused on what was, where could we find growth efficiently? Testing it, and then doubling down, while also placing some big bets along the way that were going to be necessary for two years down the line. And that's really critical because if we didn't do the big bets that weren't going to pay off for a long time, that we couldn't really test, we wouldn't have continued to grow. We would have grown in the short term, but not the long term. And so I think what we had done, and still do successfully is think of both the short and long term, an example. I think all the things I was mentioning earlier were sort of short term. That testing mentality and growing off of that, but then longterm, you, we had to answer some difficult questions.
Jeff (35:56): We've got to, we invested a lot in certain integrations and partnerships like Salesforce. We invested in channel which it was a lot of work to build up a channel team and direct sales. It's a lot of work to put into our marketplace and get apps to get built on top of the marketplace. On top of that marketplace, who was, are things that weren't going to payback for two years down the line, and we think they're going to work. But you have to place enough of those and and structure it in a way that you're okay if a couple of them don't work out fully and that the upside is going to be there. A couple of them do really, really well.
Kathleen (36:37): And you also, I would assume, need to have a CEO that has the same attitude. Cause it's one thing for you to feel like I'm going to place big bets and know that that's a big bet and it may or may not pan out. But like, I feel like that's the tricky thing as head of marketing. You know, there are lots of marketers who see the value in that, but if they're not really aligned with the C suite on that approach, then that can really backfire.
Jeff (37:01): Yes. Yes, totally. And I think that goes back to that original point though, which is what were the, what's the pre joining the company components that indicated this had an opportunity to be kind of special and the mindset of the CEO was a critical component of that.
Kathleen (37:20): Yeah. Wow. Well, like I said, I could pick your brain for hours, but I'm going to shift gears cause there's two questions I always ask all of my guests. So before we wrap up, I want to make sure I ask you. The first is the podcast is all about inbound marketing. So I'm curious if there's a particular company or individual that you think is really kind of setting the gold standard for what it means to do inbound marketing well these days.
Jeff (37:44): Well, I, can't not say Intercom because I just love Intercom and I'm not just saying that because of our partnership. But, but when I originally joined, I remember our, our one of, one of the members of our board interviewed me and asked me if, if we could build one company, who would you build it after? Emulate? Intercom was my go to response. Just love their brand or their content strategy. And it's just they're, they're, they're quite inspiring. I think they've always done a good job. Individual named Shane Murphy runs their marketing now. He's quite fantastic. So also love the work that there's a few answers to this from different ways. Like I love the sort of mojo that Gong has built. I find that inspiring. Drift's done a really cool job on, on social media and there's definitely parts to take out of their playbook for what they've done, what they've created. I also think that Gorgias a company that we work closely with who's in the help desk space does a really fantastic job of having that growth sort of, you know, hacker mindset. So there's a lot of companies that I think do a really admirable job on the inbound side.
Kathleen (39:00): Nice. I like those examples. You are not the first person to mention Intercom, so it's not just that he's biased. There's definitely something there. Cause I've heard people say that before. Second question. A lot of the marketers I talk to say their biggest challenge is just keeping up with everything in digital marketing, cause it changes so quickly these days. How do you personally stay up to date on, on all of it?
Jeff (39:23): I mean, I read as much as humanly possible. Both on marketing and not on marketing, I find a lot of inspiration from, you know, non-marketing books. Like there's gosh, whether it's like bio's or, you know, stories of generals and strategies type of books, I really, really enjoy. There's a book called Thinking in Systems, which is Donna Meadows, which is just a fantastic book about logical mindsets, like logical thinking and the systems that can help, can basically create the infrastructure for anything. And I find that to be a really fascinating book as, as it applies to marketing because you know, marketing is an insanely complex system as it grows kind of logically about it. You can, you can tie things back and I, I get a lot of inspiration books like that.
Jeff (40:21): And then outside of, it's more, more specific direct marketing related. I mean, any of the sort of traditional blogs, whether it's Saastr or whether it's Tom Tungaz, whether it's your traditional like SEO land, you know, SEMrush, those types of things. I love, I love inbound. I love SEO. And so I try to read as much as possible on those activities. And I'd say also Revenue Collective. I mean, gosh, I don't know what I've learned more just like life as a whole, but also marketing, because you have every great marketer on the planet in that group and you can post messages to them. So I'm giving, I'm giving a shout out to the Revenue Collective, but gosh, that's how we met.
Kathleen (41:11): That's how we met.
Jeff (41:11): Yeah. I think that's the community where I've just learned so so much. And you can just go through the logs and read old history of conversations in there and that's, that's an evening of reading right there.
Kathleen (41:21): Yeah, that's great. I would second that. So if you like autobiographies, as you said, I don't know if you've already read this, but my one hot tip for you, and I am shamelessly copying this from David Cancel at Drift because he's the one that I got this tip from, read the autobiography of Arnold Schwartzenegger. Actually has some of the most amazing like marketing and business and life lessons. I was totally captivated by it and I mean, that would not be who I would normally pick up a book off the shelf by, so yeah, it's great.
Jeff (41:55): Yeah, I will, I will. I'm gonna play this part for my wife because she knows I have a fascination with him.
Kathleen (42:03): Have you read it yet? Have you read it?
Jeff (42:06): I read like the first half of it, I have not read the completion of it. Actually. It was Audible. Like I was doing it on my own.
Kathleen (42:11): I did, I listened to it when I worked out, actually I would listen to it while I was lifting weights and I'd be like, okay. I mean, if Arnold can do what he did, I could lift 15 pounds. Right. So it's so good. I loved that book. But anyway, enough about Arnold. So if somebody is listening to this and wants to learn more about Aircall or connect with you online, what's the best way for them to do that?
Jeff (42:35): Well I always have to say this. An easy way is to call me on my Aircall number, (646) 712-9381. And you'll get a, you get a nice voicemail experience there as well as if you call it, then I've got a lot of lines. So I can, I can, I can distribute that and not ruin my you know, my, my cell phone for,
Kathleen (42:59): I think you're the first guest I've ever had who's given out their phone number. So I love this.
Jeff (43:04): That's it? That's it. You don't, you don't, don't email me. You can LinkedIn me, I suppose, because it's easy to, to find my my LinkedIn. But yeah, it's just drop an Aircall and that will get the message and tell me how to contact you back.
Kathleen (43:19): Cool. I think everybody should test that out. That's fantastic. All right. Well, if you're listening and you enjoyed this episode, I would love it if you would head to Apple podcasts or the platform of your choice and leave the podcast, preferably a five star review, but of course, whatever review you think it merits cause that's how other folks find us. And if you know somebody else who's doing amazing inbound marketing work, please tweet me at @workmommywork, because I would love to interview them. That's it for this week. Thank you so much, Jeff.
Jeff (43:47): Thank you, Kathleen.