The SaaStr Co-Selling Space was a-buzz last month when Zoom’s Head of Marketing (and the company’s very first marketing hire to boot) Janine Pelosi sat down with SaaStr COO Mallun Yen to share her thoughts about topics such as brand awareness, lead gen, freemium models, and so, so much more.
Check out the full video and transcript from the event below, and don’t miss out on our next Insider’s Guide session, taking place at the SOMA-based CSS next Wednesday, September 5th! Snag tix and come hear Slack’s very first Head of Product (and employee #50!) Merci Grace share her experience and offer advice on how to build a great product.
Mallun Yen: Again, welcome. I’m Mallun Yen, and I’m one of the co-founders of SaaStr, and I’m thrilled that you guys are here today, and I’m super excited to be talking to Janine today. We’re going to have somewhat of an informal Q&A here, so there will be an opportunity for questions. You can answer them, you can hold up your hand while we’re speaking, and depending on the flow, I may stop and take a question, but otherwise we’ll reserve some time at the end for questions, okay?
Janine Pelosi: Great.
Mallun: So, Janine, welcome.
Janine: Thank you.
Mallun: We’ve all seen Zoom on the billboards, and on the buses, and in the airport, and on the Warriors, and we’ve also seen Zoom winning all kinds of industry awards from industry analyst reports, but also the ‘Best CEO’ recently. Congratulations. What was that, that was Glassdoor in the … which category?
Janine: I think it was, I want to say the U.S. But it was in large size companies. So, I think it was U.S.
Mallun: It was U.S. so, it was the 1,000 person or above category, which is a really big category and it included folks like Marc Benioff and Jeff Weiner and other folks like that. I’ve had the opportunity also of knowing Eric for a very long time and well deserved, and congratulations.
Janine: Yeah, he’s wonderful.
Mallun: So, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to speak with you today. So, Janine is the mastermind behind the marketing brilliance that helped drive triple-digit growth for Zoom. So, please join me in welcoming Janine. Let’s give a round of applause. So, Janine, you were the first to marketing hire at Zoom but I think it’s a little known fact that you were hired not until after the Series C. Is that correct?
Janine: Yeah. So, technically the first marketing hire. There was a gal who’s still there, her name’s Priscilla. She’s wonderful. I call her my gift. She was like jack of all trades of anything that was, whether content, getting ready to go to a customer or anything. So, I like to say she was technically the first but she was our gift, yeah.
Mallun: And so how did you end up at Zoom?
Janine: So, I was with the WebEx team before the Cisco acquisition, so I had the privilege of working with Eric in the past and our Head of Sales, Greg, and a few other folks there now since the leadership team has expanded quite a bit. There’s definitely some blood from that era as well as others, but knowing some of the team ahead of that and then I stayed on with Cisco after the WebEx acquisition for quite a few years and then made my way to Zoom.
Mallun: Great. So, let’s back up, so Series C, what year was this?
Mallun: 2015, so just two years ago it was Series C and you get brought in and Eric says, “Okay, come and join this organization. Now go!” What do you do? What guidance did he give you?
Janine: Yeah, so I mean I came in … yeah, so it was January 2015, probably a month after the Series C, so the intent of that round was to really scale sales and marketing. The product was in a really good place. We had some really great customers ready to put pedal to the metal. So, we started with … you know, we had had some content out there. We had a blog that we … one rule, if you’re gonna do a blog, you need to write to it frequently. We weren’t following that rule before. Now we do quite a bit.
So, making sure …. I knew our job was two-fold. So, it was driving preference for the brand because it wasn’t a new category. It was actually an incredibly crowded category that it was and that we still are in. And then, I knew that we couldn’t go out there and say the same damn thing as everyone else. ‘It’s easy to use.’ ‘It’s reliable.’ The rest of it, because everyone’s saying the same thing. So, I knew it had to come from customers, analysts. So, we really spent a lot of time focusing on the third-party validation.
Mallun: So, tell us a little bit about how you went about doing that.
Janine: Yeah, so those first couple of hires, first phone call was a guy Peter who’s on the team now for digital marketing. I knew people. Sorry, I’m gonna bounce around here a little bit but the word demand generation is funny to me because I think it’s just marketing. So you do stuff to drive awareness of your brand and then you do stuff to capture that. So, I think about it in kind of those two categories. So, that’s how we thought about the hiring. We needed to get search up and running. We knew we wanted to do some top of funnel advertising to really make a splash in the market.
So, somebody kind of focused on advertising, webinars, and demos. People have to experience the product. We have a great free product and a really strong freemium, but we wanted to be able to start driving. When I talked about scaling both sales and marketing, we wanted to make sure we were getting leads over to the sales team. So, focusing on programs to do that. And then social was the other.
Mallun: So, if step back for a second. So, you join, you’re hired, you know Eric, does he have a vision when you come in of saying, “Here’s what we’re gonna do with marketing now”, or did he bring you in and say, “Can you figure out what we need to do with marketing”?
Janine: He didn’t have a direct vision for what he wanted to do. That said, I feel like I’m incredibly lucky that Eric gets it. Some founders and CEOs understand the benefit of advertising and awareness and some don’t. That said, he definitely drives to performance as all of us do. We’re a performance driven team. I know a lot of folks probably even in the room are going, “Well, how are you spending so much in the top of the funnel and doing all these buses and billboards and then being still very performance driven?”
I think that you can … you just kind of find ways in which you can look at your own KPIs and find the before and after in anything that you’re doing. So, you know kind of what, for your own business, is interest or not. Whether it’s web traffic, new organic, new signups, people purchasing in their zip codes, etc. Kind of putting that altogether and then understanding kind of what the before and after looks like.
Mallun: So, when you came in and you needed to put together a strategy for what your first year, first three years, first five years, how would you describe what that strategy was?
Janine: We definitely didn’t do a one, three, five-year plan. It was like … I think one of the great things about Zoom is we’re very much one foot in front of the other. We understand the context in what we’re trying to do but we try and stay really focused on doing a couple of things really well and then kind of moving to the next. So, we kind of knew where we wanted to get to but it was one foot in front of the other. I mean it was those next sales hires and making sure lead gen was keeping up.
And then, we started building relationships with the analyst community really early. I mean it was probably in my first two months that we were having conversations with Gartner, which is really rare because we weren’t … you know, we had hoped to kind of get in to the enterprise and we had some of that interest coming but … and we probably grew faster in the enterprise than anyone expected, including us. So, I’m really happy that we made those decisions early on. But, it was very much one foot in front of the other.
Mallun: So when you say we know where we wanted to go and one foot in front of the other, how would you describe where you wanted to go?
Janine: I think at that time we weren’t so much thinking about obviously where we are now. We’re doing very well, both up market and in the small business kind of freemium, pro-sumer side of things. At that time it was very much customer acquisition. We were looking at how many pre-users were coming in. The logos, looking at the MRR. So, we look at things based on MRR versus ARR. We just wanted to kind of … it was one of those like little things. When I talk about staying humble, for us, you know, talk about the smaller number even though it does equate and allows business to a larger number.
Yeah, that’s a tough question because I think … it was customer acquisition. It was making sure that we were growing the business at a steady pace, week, month, year over year.
Mallun: And then I think one of the things we talked about is that in five weeks you made five hires, which helps you attack the five different areas that you focused on in order to have user acquisition. So, what were the first five hires you made?
Janine: Yeah, so it was digital marketing, somebody to do webinars and events, social advertising, and events I believe was the other. Live events.
Mallun: In retrospect, was there an area that you might have invested in more or less, with the benefit of hindsight?
Janine: You know, we’ve talked about this before, I don’t think so. Honestly, I think we did the right things and it was because we started out small in everything that we did and then as we saw traction, we would go and kind of double down. So, there wasn’t anything that we … it just isn’t kind of in our DNA to go full speed without testing and trialing.
Mallun: So give an example, I’ve heard about this double down strategy, which is Eric is a very frugal individual. I think every time that he has raised a round, the previous round almost the entirety of it is still in the bank, right? And so, even though you’ve come in out of Series C, knowing Eric a little bit, I don’t think you were like, “Oh, blank checkbook.” I think you had to still be very disciplined about it. So, tell us a little bit about this double down strategy.
Janine: Yeah, the great thing was, I mean honestly, I would come to him with sound reasoning and we would have these conversations about what it meant to do the activities that we were gonna do. I describe us as a very practical team. We don’t over-architect things. We keep things very simple. I mean you can see it in the messaging and just the way we execute. And so I think Eric was always able to understand what it is that we were trying to accomplish.
I know it sounds so simple and it is hard to do, but I think keeping things simple and being able to make sure that the person that you need, you know, I need Eric’s support, especially in marketing when so much is art and science. I think keeping it to a place where we understood why we were doing everything that we were doing was how we got buy-in. We have a lot of money in the bank, we still do. We run the company … we have on our digital signage all over about spending. If you’re going to spend a dollar and you spend, what is it … no, you’re gonna spend $100 and you’re gonna spend a minute of your own time thinking about it, spend two minutes thinking about this.
He really thinks about it as investor’s money. It’s not our money. We need to think even harder about how we spend that. And so, we do. We take it very seriously. I think that’s why the business is doing as well as it is. I still, up until like a month ago when it broke, had the IKEA desk that I built when I joined there three and a half years ago. But, yeah, I think keeping things really simple was part of why that worked.
Mallun: So, are there any tips to working with the CEO/founders in terms of marketing and then also from there, any tips for how do you work successfully within sales and make sure that the strategies are aligned?
Janine: Yeah, I’d say … how many in the room are founders? Okay. Okay, so I mean you better understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Obviously if you’re a founder I think you have a good sense of that in most cases. But, if you’re gonna go join an early-stage company, there was very few employees. A lot of those were engineers in China. So on the go to market business side, there were very few people and I still remember walking in to my first day and calling my husband and saying, “Okay, I guess I’m really doing this.”
Mallun: How many employees did they have when you joined?
Janine: It was a little over 100 I think. I don’t remember the exact number.
Mallun: And how large are you now?
Janine: Probably right around 1,300. So, it’s grown substantially. I forget what we’re even … what was the question that we were going after?
Mallun: Well, I guess we have a fair number of founders in [crosstalk 00:12:53] so hiring for marketing flexibility. Yeah, I think marketing is one of the hardest areas to hire for.
Janine: Yeah, you need trust. I think Eric really does know that I am super passionate about Zoom and I always have been. I think about it as I wear my business hat first and I bring in my marketing subject matter expertise. And so, I think what that allows is, to the point about even the relationship with sales, I have a great relationship with our Head of Sales, with the sales managers, with all the individuals because we’re not thinking about it as marketing throwing something over the fence and then sales … it’s not this constant back and forth that you’re gonna see most places. We probably have one of the best marketing sales relationships that I’ve ever experienced or heard of.
I think it’s because we kind of all think about it as we’re in it together. And so that at the end of the day is what’s gonna drive having that good relationship. When you’re making those hires, bring in someone that you know is gonna be super passionate and care just as much as you do or as much as they can care because that’s gonna make all the difference in the world.
There’s a lot of decisions. When I think about hiring, I’m trying to hire for their judgment and their intuition. I can’t be there for every single decision but I need to be able to trust the decisions they’re gonna make. And so, you can teach people a lot, especially in marketing. I mean especially in this valley. There’s an acronym for everything. There’s conferences every day of the week on every subject that can really fill up your time in your head and get you away from staying practical. So, stay practical.
Mallun: Sometimes there’s a tension between sales and marketing, right? Marketing might sometimes say, “Well, sales isn’t doing their job.” Sales might say, “there’s not enough good leads.” Are there any tips or suggestions or things that you’ve found that creates a more collaborative relationship between the two?
Janine: You know, whether it’s …
Mallun: Or maybe it’s a healthy tension.
Janine: Yeah, no, I think whether it’s sales and marketing or any other … I’m thinking about the leadership table and some of those golden rules that you hear about early on, like don’t go to a table of 12 people without having some conversations ahead of time. You want to bring people along with you and I think we do a good job of that at Zoom. If we’re thinking about entering new markets or bringing in new campaigns, we’re all gonna kind of talk about it before we go and execute. I think some of the tensions kind of come from misaligned expectations or roles and responsibilities, but I think we do a pretty good job of making sure people understand the why and then we go and execute. That helps, I think, relieve the tension.
Mallun: Yeah, I mean it may seem obvious but it seems like collaboration and understanding that people have their eye on the same goal and how are you achieving that.
Mallun: I’m gonna back up for a second and ask you so you joined at Series C, so even though Eric is very frugal and you didn’t have an endless budget, obviously you had more budget than probably many of the people in this room. So, if you step back and you were to be part of a earlier stage startup, do you have suggestions on how … where would you focus?
Janine: I mean I think about like even markets that we’re entering in to, like new countries, we’re not gonna go and just write endless checks. I think it’s making sure … you know, start with those early customers. Some of our early customer are still some of our greatest friends and supporters. They’re gonna go out there and tell everyone in the world about Zoom. They’re gonna be … I have customers calling me saying, “Hey, I need some t-shirts because I met this guy on the plane and I have his address”. It’s like we have a customer doing that for us. That’s incredible.
So, I’d say really cultivate the relationships with your early customers because that will go a really, really long way. Do as much content as you can. I think about our blog as the hub of our strategy. Staying authentic in your voice I think goes a long way, too. Doing events in your space, I think that’s one of those like kind of old-school practical things. Building the relationships and there’s a lot of events out there that aren’t that expensive that you can join.
Mallun: So focusing very early on with the customer relationships, making them your expansions of your voice. And I think you guys have been very successful at … Zoom is … you could describe it Zoom is video conferencing. There’s a lot of video conferencing but you’ve made people happy about Zoom, feeling like it’s part of the culture. One of the things we actually have here in the CSS is that the CSS here is we have a number of teams who are maybe headquartered in another country or another state and part of the team is here.
And so, they actually just leave Zoom on all day and we have a really good, big pipe here so we’re good. And so, and it really is like they just chitchat with their friends. And so, I think it’s interesting that you’ve been able to take videoconferencing, which could be very sterile and made it part of people’s work life.
Janine: Yeah. Yeah, I mean I also don’t use the term B to B and B to C. No offense for people that do but I just think about it as you’re selling to people. They’re all gonna have their passion points. I think too often that gets forgotten. So for us, yeah, so if you see something that says happy you kinda can’t help but smile, right? That was not intended to be what it is today I think. We knew we liked it and wanted to have fun with it but now it’s just become something that is now so a part of us.
Mallun: So, a lot of us here are SaaS-based companies, and some of them are in the marketing space, so share with us a little bit of what your marketing stack looks like. What are some of your favorite tools, and what do you wish existed out there that doesn’t?
Janine: I’m gonna start with what I wish existed. Maybe somebody can build it. There’s so many data visualization tools out there. It’s not their fault because it’s what you do behind it. It’s only visualizing that data. I still think something that could just … I guess the AI space is gonna help here. I really hope. I cross my fingers. But, it’s just keeping things up to date. All over the place, no matter who I talk to, nobody trusts their data. I know it’s the conversation everyone’s talking about. That’s my biggest frustration probably. I still feel like I have to double check everything I guess is the actual negative of that.
And then, in terms of marketing stack, we use Pardot. We use Salesforce. We, let’s see, spend a ton of money on Google, as I’m sure most of you either do or will at some point. That’s a big net, right? Let’s see, what else in that marketing sect, Zoom. So we use Zoom for all of our webinars. I live on … I was just saying I step away from my Zoom chat for like five minutes and it’s overloaded. Those are the big ones. Yeah.
Mallun: So the question is do you use anything for project management?
Janine: Let’s see, the answer is yes. I’m trying to think what it is. I can’t remember off the top of my head.
Mallun: So there’s certain things that you did in terms of your strategy, which is you can measure things like okay, we want to have more social media reach. We want to have events where you have people. There’s certain things that lend themselves to metrics and measurement very easily. Okay, we’re gonna build relationships with the industry analysts so that they write good things about us and that we’re highlighted. There’s some things though that I think are a little bit harder to measure, at least at a superficial level and that’s brand awareness, something that you have put a lot of effort into. So, how do you get measured on whether or not you’ve achieved your goals in terms of brand awareness, which then of course you know, just want brand awareness for brand awareness, brand awareness for the purpose of ultimately converting in to more paid users. So, how do you measure that and how do you measure … are there other aspects of what you do that you measure in a way that could be helpful for us to think about?
Janine: Yeah, I mean I think we touched on this earlier, you’re gonna know which KPIs affect your business, whether it’s new users, existing users coming to your website, people signing up for your product for free, request a demo, contact sales forms, calling you, chatting. All of those are gonna have something that tells you where those people are coming from so you’re gonna want to aggregate that, figure out what is most important to you, and then test it. So, we obviously started in the Bay Area. We could see what happened in the Bay Area before and after we ran things to be … you know, make conscious decisions about when you start different tactics so that you can actually measure the effect of them.
I’d love to say it’s like … I don’t have the perfect answer to this, but we just took a really pragmatic approach to it and looked at the before and after of our key metrics and they worked, luckily. So, I mean right now the business is doing well and it has been for a long time. So, that’s kind of the elephant in the room. When things are going really well, when it stops going well, when you stop seeing that growth. But, for us, we’ve continued to see that, to the point where I, true story, had my team look up the population for the Bay Area and the amount of people over the age of 18 because I was looking going, “How many more free users could we possibly get in the Bay Area?” Luckily we still have room, but we’re getting close there. So, I think it’s also important to make sure you think about those other markets that you’re gonna expand into.
Mallun: I’m gonna pause in a moment after this next question to see if anyone else has questions. And if there aren’t any, I have like ten more. But, along those lines of free users, was there something that … so the way that Zoom works is that at 42 minutes, is it 42 minutes …
Mallun: 40 minutes.
Mallun: So anyone can use Zoom for free but at 40 minutes it cuts off. Why did you guys pick that? So freemium to paid is a question that how do you do conversion, but you picked 40, explain why you picked 40 and then how did you get those 40 to become paid customers?
Janine: Yeah, so I mean for us, it is our free product is full featured. That can be controversial places. People think that it’s gonna cannibalize your business. I’m not saying it won’t for anyone but for us, it certainly helped things. I think about it as if I’m gonna meet with someone and I happen to have a free version of something and it’s not that great because I chose not to pay for it, all the other person’s gonna think is the product wasn’t that great. They’re not gonna think about the why behind it. So, part of some of the thinking as to why we kept it full featured because also most people are not gonna be meeting by themselves. They’re gonna meet with someone else. So, we have that organic nature inherently built in to the product.
So, one to one meetings, there’s no time limit. It’s only when you have that third person come in that you’re gonna have a 40-minute time cap. That’s based on the average amount of time people spend in meetings. That’s how we got to that.
Mallun: Which is like 42 minutes or something like that I think.
Janine: I’m sworn to secrecy.
Mallun: It goes back to the data. Let’s see, oh gosh, question?
Audience Member: How do you track your KPIs that you’re using? How do you get that in to a single view so that you have a one snapshot?
Mallun: Okay, so the question is how do you rack the KPIs that you’re using? How do you get that in to a single view so that you have a one snapshot?
Janine: Yeah so I mean we use Domo today. When I started I was in Excel every day, going to all the data sources, putting in Salesforce, yelling at reps for having open leads, all that kind of fun stuff. So, relied on doing that myself. And then, we also use Google sheets for others.
Mallun: Go ahead.
Audience Member: Yes, so a couple of questions. The first one is when Zoom really blossomed, this was not the only service that was out there with WebEx and GoToMeeting and so forth, with other market [inaudible 00:25:42]. So the first question is what were the key things that made Zoom really thrive? The second question is sort of an outsiders question, so [inaudible 00:25:54] the story of what happened after you joined, when you joined you said there was no marketing team to speak of, how do you explain the success of Zoom [inaudible 00:26:04].
Mallun: Okay, so I’m gonna try and repeat that question because we’re recording this. So the first is it was a very crowded space, there were a lot of other videos, and in fact, when, I know, this, when Eric was trying to raise money no one would fund it because it’s like there’s all these other incumbents out there, no one needs another video solution. What do you attribute to the success of Zoom? So let’s start with that question first.
Janine: The product being as easy to use and reliable. I mean I think hands down. That’s what differentiated. I spent a lot of time with WebEx as it was in its growth and that was a ton of fun and then went through Cisco. And, Eric’s described it, he left because he started realizing customers weren’t that happy and it made him really sad. And so, he started Zoom. Yeah, I mean all we hear about is the fact that it just works and it’s reliable. I think he’s done a phenomenal job of scaling the product in to very large enterprises now. So, I think it’s one thing to have it come out and kick ass in a small group but then being able to actually scale it in to those large enterprises is a tough job and he’s been able to do it.
Mallun: And then the second question was you joined at a Series C and so the company was on a good trajectory. I think you caused it to go like this single handedly. But before that, what do you attribute to the success prior to it?
Janine: Yeah, so it’s been three and a half years since I joined. Before that, I obviously can’t talk revenue numbers. It was very small when I joined. But, there was a good amount of users. It was … I think once again I would lead with the product, with the virality of the product. We did have a handful of sellers who were really talented and knew how to sell video conferencing. So, they obviously were able to go in to folks they knew.
Eric’s also a very well connected founder and CEO. So, that’s another I think lesson learned. He knows a lot of … it boggles my mind how many people he knows in this valley. Sometimes he’ll be running off to lunch and he’ll tell me who he’s going with and I’m like, “What?” But I think that’s really important too because he was out there selling himself. He wasn’t just relying on folks to do it for him.
Mallun: Right there. Go ahead.
Audience Member: So in our first several months of joining, why did you decide to hire internally?
Mallun: Yeah, so in the first couple of months of joining, why did you decide to hire internally as opposed to using an outside recruiting agency?
Janine: Yeah. Or you mean like in terms of using outside agencies to support …
Audience Member: [crosstalk 00:28:50]
Janine: Yeah, so I, in my past, have done creative in-house. I’ve used large agencies, small agencies, consultants, etc. I feel that if you really know that you’re going to build something and build something sustainable, I felt very confident in what I needed to bring in and that no matter what direction we went, we would need those competencies. So, I think about it as what competencies do you need in your DNA. And, those are things you should definitely have in-house.
And then, thinking about if you’re unsure of a new market or something like that’s where I think bringing consultants and agencies can help you scale, but I … and frankly if I didn’t have the network, if I wasn’t able to bring those people in as fast as I was thankfully able to, then maybe I would have had to take a different direction, but not my preference.
Audience Member: What agencies do you use?
Janine: Zero. What agencies do we use today is the question. We do everything in-house. So all the media, creative, etc. and, we always have.
Audience Member: I work for a large company that recently switched from Cisco WebEx to Zoom, and you’ve got a giant company switching, I just wonder how do you manage to pull that off getting somebody to transition from Cisco to switch to Zoom [inaudible 00:30:14]?
Mallun: So the question is he use to work for a big company that … very large company who recently switched from Cisco to Zoom, how do you effectively get a large company who’s entrenched like that to switch over to a new provider?
Janine: It’s not easy and it takes time. Part of it is what I mentioned about the third-party validation. They don’t want to be … that large company typically doesn’t want to be the first to do that. So, getting customers who did make that choice to talk on your behalf if very hard to do in the enterprise.
I’d say that’s one of the biggest challenges that we have had, and luckily we’re at a point where we’re overcoming it because they don’t want to be the first or we need to see how the rollout goes. I mean there’s just so much legal and marketing and all kinds of things that could get in your way, but that’s a really big help. The analysts community, once again is huge.
And then the network affect too. It’s the relationships that you have to build within those organizations. For us, having that really strong product and the freemium, Gartner called it out in last year or the year before of saying one of our core strengths was our freemium product because larger enterprises were able to go in and kick the tires without needing to even speak with anyone. So, I think that helped.
Mallun: Over here.
Audience Member: Have you always targeted all sizes of companies? Like three years ago, did you have one focal point in terms of like SMBs or net market or enterprise?
Mallun: So the question is have you always targeted all size of companies? Have you SMB, enterprise, mid market?
Janine: Targeting’s a funny thing. So, depending on what your pie chart looks like of where you’re investing your time or your people or your efforts, there’s certain programs that will just naturally help you target other markets. So if I think about a billboard on the side of 101 or radio, that’s probably going to naturally help me hit SMBs. Do I need to go out there and spend a bunch of money driving leads in the SMB, no, that’s not the way we think about it. So we definitely think about our efforts upmarket. But, we know that it has a halo effect and hits on others.
I think about it as someone that understands that … we focus on folks with a professional need as well, but you know that if you can use it for a meeting with someone in London that it’s gonna work for your fantasy football draft too. So I think that goes … you have to look at your product once again and see what makes sense. But for us, going back to the people … and then the other piece of it too is for us it’s not just about customer acquisition because we don’t think about marketing for customer acquisition necessarily. The product we kind of focus there and then driving the preference for the brand is what we think about for that top of the funnel. So, I think it just all comes back to …
Mallun: So you’re not really focused in marketing in terms of okay, how many inbound leads is this gonna generate?
Janine: Yeah. No. I mean I’m going through that and I’m optimizing it. Believe me, I have the reps every day in each segment thinking about that, but for us, building that brand preference has helped to make it so we can focus on just the machine internally from a lead standpoint.
Mallun: So when you first started … along the lines of that question, in the first, say, couple of years at the company, what was the mix of enterprise versus SMB versus everything else? Was it primarily enterprise [crosstalk 00:34:03]
Janine: I think it was … no, I think it was …
Mallun: It was early, right?
Janine: We had a lot of high tech, a lot of education, even at this point. I think US News and World Reports puts out there top 200 universities and I want to say we’re at 96% of them right now. It’s a staggering number. So, education was definitely early for us. But, I think it was that mid-market, if I’m remembering correctly. It wasn’t the low, low end and we … it takes time, as I said, to get those large enterprises.
Mallun: Right over there.
Audience Member: I just wanted to say kudos. That was it, WebEx creating posts, Cisco app [inaudible 00:34:42] and …
Janine: What is your name?
Audience Member: Richard. I work with Alterman and Turecka, in that office.
Audience Member: But at the time I remember there was just crazy frustration building over the years of the Cisco acquisition because the new innovations stopped and basically it seemed like it became almost like a stepchild of Cisco. They didn’t really care because it was like one percent of overall revenue. But, did you see the premium piece? [inaudible 00:35:15] your guys wrote by getting in [inaudible 00:35:15] level and giving the options?
And then secondary, did everything Eric learned based on the heels of Cisco enable him to create a product that had differentiation?
Mallun: So the …
Audience Member: It was a long question.
Mallun: It was like okay, okay, my memory. So the first part of the question is did you see freemium as a key linchpin in the ability to grow adoption of the business? So let’s start with that one.
Janine: Yes, but I mean at WebEx we had freemium too. I think that’s where it comes back to the product. I mean you can market all day long but your job’s a lot easier if you have a really great product. So, yes, but it was enabled by having a really great, easy to use product.
Mallun: And we had a question over here.
Audience Member: You said that your product is [inaudible 00:36:11] lots of [inaudible 00:36:15] what have you done to sort of juice that word of mouth in terms of [inaudible 00:36:22]? How do you get more out of the fact that your team members are too passionate about it?
Mallun: So the question is Janine mentioned that they get a lot out of user referrals and customers who love their product, what have you done to help amplify that or put some juice to that?
Janine: So without saying who we use, we did try … you know, there’s tools out there that kind of say bring your community in and we’ll add the gamification and kind of we’ll do more with it. For us, it didn’t really work. Not saying it wouldn’t for any company but for us it didn’t. And so, we just focused in on our social and having an authentic relationship with folks and really doubling down there versus finding tools to help us drive that. So … it’s going in and out I think.
But yeah, I mean we just kept that authentic voice and have taken it really seriously and kept those conversations going. But, yeah, I think this was a tough one because we … in the spirit of doubling down, we think okay, well, we’ve got this great following. People love us, 72 NPS … It’s like cult following. I’m not kidding. It’s crazy. And so we brought in the tool and tried to do that and didn’t really get anything out of it. And so, we said okay, well, I guess what we’re doing just already is working. So, sorry, I wish I had a better answer for it. But we just kept doubling down on the actual social conversations.
Audience Member: What does that mean to double down on social conversations?
Janine: It means to respond immediately. It means to randomly send t-shirts out if someone says they had a really great meeting or says they have a product feature request or something like that. It means to truly listen and be on the other side of that conversation instead of just getting back to ’em the next day. It means that Eric might respond to somebody and it’s actually him. It’s not us just writing a note out and putting his signature at the bottom. Like when we go and do gifts for customers or employees, Eric will sit there and sign 500 letters thanking them for being our customer, and marketing’s not doing that.
Mallun: He’ll also wear a backpack and serve you coffee too, right?
Janine: He will. Yeah, Zoomtopia last year, 6:45 in the morning he was serving coffee with a backpack on his back.
Mallun: The coffee was in the backpack. I wasn’t clear. There’s a question over there.
Audience Member: You mentioned your focus is on preference for the brand. How do you measure that? Is it surveys or …
Mallun: So the question is you mentioned that your focus is on preference for the brand, how do you measure that? Do you use surveys or otherwise?
Janine: Yeah, I think it’s free users coming in. It’s customer acquisition. It’s keeping a very close eye on the NPS. Our CSATs. Yeah, I think those are the big ones.
Mallun: Let’s see, right here.
Audience Member: Yeah, you talked about listening to your customers, how do you that at scale? I assume you have bigger, how would you do that?
Mallun: So you talk about listening to your customers, how do you do that as you get bigger and bigger? How do you do it at scale?
Janine: It’s funny when I hear things at scale because it just kind of … scale just kind of happens. So I don’t know. Like for those of you that have been through really small to really large, there’s no point where you’re like, “Oh, okay, we’ve scaled” because I’m trying to think back on what necessarily we’ve done different or what we’ve put in place but I think it’s … you know we have pretty tight SLAs on any responses through phone, chat, email, etc.
We haven’t really touched on the culture piece. We have incredible culture at Zoom. Obviously like talking about the Glassdoor review that Eric got for this year, that matters. It means that every employee is empowered to do what they think is right for the customer. We’ve said no one will ever get fired at Zoom for trying to do the right thing, ever. Whether it means sending out a gift card, sending just a handwritten thank-you note, any of that, I think it’s making sure all of your employees are answering the call to the customer.
Mallun: Back there, yeah.
Audience Member: Yes, how do you track your brand and where does [inaudible 00:40:57] for a while? I’m just curious [inaudible 00:40:59] do you actually find [inaudible 00:41:04] and try to scale it infinitely?
Mallun: So how do you track brand awareness verus ad spend, and once you find something how do you … when something’s working, how do you scale it?
Janine: So I think we’ve touched on the brand awareness piece. In terms of the ad spend, are you talking like digital spend or what do you mean by …
Audience Member: If you build a funnel and you see that you’re spending let’s say $20,000 to Facebook, do you try to scale that off? We’re going to try to [inaudible 00:41:34]
Janine: Yes, with the caveat of you’ve got to look at what that means … I believe people don’t wake up in the morning thinking about your brand, hence why we do some of the activities that we do. So, you need to think about like why would that $30,000 in Facebook be doing what it’s doing. There’s probably another program that’s helping drive the effectiveness there. So, yeah. So making sure that you’re looking at things I think holistically as well from an attribution standpoint.
Mallun: Over there.
Audience Member: Can you talk a bit more about [inaudible 00:42:12] being partners with strictly [inaudible 00:42:13] enterprise focusing the enterprise team on the original [inaudible 00:42:18], whether it’s ABM or it’s simply [inaudible 00:42:23] to target them?
Mallun: Okay, so how does your team partner with the enterprise accounts, whether it’s ABM, mail, otherwise?
Janine: Yeah, so all the above. Going back on that practical thread, I think of ABM as kind of everything we do. One of those acronyms I almost don’t like using. It’s like okay, account-based marketing, what does that mean? It means where are those top ten named accounts for each of your enterprise reps and thinking about how you hit them from that point they wake up in the morning to going to bed.
Mallun: Okay, great. I think we have time for maybe …
Janine: We can touch more on it after, yeah.
Mallun: We’re going to do … how many more questions should we do?
Lori Luna: Probably about five more minutes.
Mallun: Okay. So, right there.
Audience Member: What do you think has been the best bang for your buck marketing channel that you’ve done?
Mallun: So what do you think the best bang for your buck marketing channel has been?
Janine: You want to turn yours off?
Mallun: Yeah, let’s do that.
Janine: Okay. I’m almost hesitant to answer that because it’s gonna be different for everyone in this room. I’m gonna say frequency. I’m not gonna say a program. It’s making sure that whatever you do, you do enough of it so that it’s impactful because I think all too often one of the biggest mistakes people make is go in, test something but maybe it needed three or four other programs to actually make that impact. So, frequency is gonna be my answer.
Mallun: Right there.
Audience Member: You talk about being really strategic in what initiatives you do, so whether you’re a marketing student one or 20, they’re working on many different things. You talked about measuring the before and after effects, but how do you attribute when you are doing many different things? Are you being strategic in saying if they were [inaudible 00:44:22] from this ad campaign during these months and then we’re gonna address something new these next couple of months? I feel like that’s unrealistic for a business. So, how do you manage that and how do you actually pinpoint the success of something to one marketing initiative versus another?
Mallun: So when you have a lot of different initiatives going on, running at different times, how do you make sure you’re being strategic and how do you pinpoint success to any one of those given initiatives?
Janine: Yeah, the honest answer is no matter what attribution models you come up with, what numbers you’re looking at, you’re not really, really gonna know. People have to start being okay with that on some level and look, like stepping back, looking at the environment, and I … but you be strategic. Maybe you decide you’re gonna run three key programs that aren’t digital. Digital is a little easier. I think all too often when you think about these attribution models, let’s all not forget it’s the first digital footprint. Anything else you’re doing isn’t gonna fall in there, hence why everyone spends as much on Google as they do.
So I think be strategic with what you do and where because you can run programs. You can think about different markets to run it in. There’s ways in which to run a lot of things but maybe you divvy it out to a few different places so you can kind of see the effect of it. Sometimes I’ve found even waiting a week or two, maybe you just deal it with that next out of home piece or something along those lines and then you can kind of see. You can start to see the bumps.
Mallun: Okay, back there.
Audience Member: How is the [inaudible 00:46:09]?
Mallun: So is the question Zoom partnership program, does it fall within marketing or does it fall within another area?
Audience Member: [inaudible 00:46:33]
Janine: Like channel partners or …
Audience Member: [inaudible 00:46:37]
Mallun: Okay, so how important are partnerships at Zoom and how much do you use them?
Janine: Yeah, it could totally vary as to what … like we have partnerships with the Sharks or with the Warriors, so strategic marketing partnerships. Then we have channel partners that maybe help us in certain markets that we’re not looking to go direct. So, they’re important to us, but it depends on kind of what we’re trying to achieve, whether it’s awareness or distribution reach in a market that is harder to do business in direct. I’m happy to talk with you more after this about it. Yeah.
Lori: Okay, we’re gonna do one more question.
Mallun: We’re gonna take one more question. I think I’m gonna take it from someone who hasn’t asked one. Who hasn’t asked one yet? Lori?
Mallun: Okay, Lori.
Lori: I do have a question. Thank you for being here for sure, but something you did talk about is culture, I’m interested in how your culture has or has not changed and your diversity in strategy.
Mallun: So the question is about culture, how has your culture strategy changed or not and diversity as well.
Janine: Yeah. I am happy to report we’ve been able to maintain our culture. I think what that means is just we’re all really stoked to go to work every day. I’ve told the story before, I used to tell it in All Hands more often. I should do that now but when Eric and I first had those initial conversations and talking about me coming to Zoom, he never actually used the term work. It was “Come build this. Come be a part of this.”
That’s truly what the past three and a half years have been. I think a few reasons. One, we’ve stayed a really humble group of people, like one foot in front of the other. Two, we’re super focused and I think that’s enabled by three, which is we have a very, very flat organization, which can be challenging, right? People that have been there for a long time, thinking about their growth because we don’t have the 17 layers of senior directors and SVPs and EBPs and all the rest of it. But, what that means is that people really feel connected to what they’re doing.
Going back to the question about scaling your customers, it’s an expectation. It’s an expectation that you should understand that you’re empowered to do the right thing and to raise your hand if you feel like you’re working on something that doesn’t matter or you don’t understand how it fits because none of us have a ton of time. And so, we kind of hit like natural prioritization by only getting to as much as you possibly can throughout the day. So, I think those are some of the reasons why we’ve been able to scale.
Mallun: One of the things is when … a lot of the senior leaders who are leading the functions weren’t necessarily leading functions at other organizations when they were brought in, right? You joined and maybe you were a marketing leader but you were not necessarily the CMO or the head of a particular area. And so what’s interesting to me is that to see that almost all of those people, and maybe all even, who were brought in at that level who had not done the job before are still in those positions.
Mallun: And obviously your company’s executing extremely well.
Janine: Yeah. We’re a company full of executors. We are doers.
Lori: What about your diversity?
Janine: Diversity. I think it’s healthy. I want to say it’s a conversation we have all the time internally but without this being taken the wrong way, we don’t have it that often. I think it’s because we have a healthy amount of diversity. I think that’s also from our recruiting strategies. I am responsible for recruiting for my team and over 50 percent of the folks that come in to Zoom are referrals. So we’re bringing in kind of like-minded people from this diverse pot we’re in in the Bay Area or London or Sydney or wherever we are. And so, I think it’s naturally cultivated a diverse environment.
Mallun: So I have one final question before we wrap it up and Janine has kindly agreed to hang out with us and answer some additional questions one-on-one. But my question for you is what’s one thing you’re willing to share about yourself that most people don’t expect?
Janine: Probably my dad’s a contractor and so I grew up on job sites scraping floors. I’m also the oldest of three girls. My chores were always like mowing the lawn. Maybe this goes to the diversity question, I don’t know. But there was just never those lines. So, I was grouting my new bathroom eight months pregnant. That’s a good one. Yeah. Yeah, my mom came in and started yelling at my dad. Yeah, but whatever. My daughter was fine. She’s healthy.
Mallun: That’s impressive on so many levels. Anyway, thank you so much, Janine for coming up and speaking with us today. Please let’s give Janine a round of applause.
Janine: Thank you for having me.
Mallun: There’s one announcement I’m gonna make is that you’ll receive … we love feedback at SaaStr. This is a little bit of a new format that we were experimenting with today, so when you get that host event email, please provide your feedback. We have another one of these planned for September 5th. Even though we could bring you back every single time, we’re gonna spread it out a little bit. We have Merci Grace who is coming on September 5th. It’ll be about the same time. For those of you who know her, she was the brilliant first Head of Product at Slack after Stewart Butterfield. And, she built up the growth team. She built up the product team and helped enable it to be the five billion dollar company that it is. So hopefully you’ll be able to join us. So thank you for coming.