Episode #29

"Focus on personalizing customer centric communication the right way"

"Focus on personalizing customer-centric communication the right way"

Highlights of the talk:

  • First few customers sets the baseline for future customers
  • Adopting a product-led marketing strategy and implementing it the right way
  • Diligently building a product that customers love
  • As a marketer, believe in your strengths and avoid being influenced by too much advice

Bethany Stachenfeld is the co-founder and CEO of Sendspark, a video creation platform that helps companies to strengthen relationships with existing and future customers. She is a former B2B marketer having worked with leading companies.

What was the first feeling when you became a founder?

When we started, my co-founder and I had talked about different ideas for types of companies we could start. We were quite excited as we were solving problems for our customers and we saw so much potential in our product. We were excited about what we were doing.

It was an interesting and liberating phase for us to leave our jobs and build something that we really believed in.

“Building the best way to communicate with customers”

What kind of problems do you solve and how do you help your customers?

Our goal is to build the best way to connect with customers online and our platform right now is centered around video. Sendspark is used to create video messages or video emails, and then send them out to potential or existing customers or any of your usual channels like Gmail, LinkedIn in or HubSpot, wherever you're already talking to people. And then you can also request videos back from customers.

So if you want to see what's going on from their side, from their point of view and understand an issue or get a customer testimonial then you can request video messages from them. So it's a two way conversational video platform. As the whole world is moving remote, it's just the new way to communicate.

Although text messages have their place, if you are limited to texts you will never have that real personal and authentic connection. The visual component is super important specially if you are selling something like a software stack.

How do you really humanize your brand?

The key thing is that you can create videos really quickly, as opposed to if you're doing a zoom meeting or something that kind of takes an hour, you just don't have that reach.

With Sendspark, you're able to create these short personal videos and then send them out all throughout the customer experience and just add a human touch. Like someone signs up for your product. You can send a video suggesting they upgrade their account. So it's all these microwaves that really add up to being a more human brand overall.

First few customers set the baseline for future

How did you acquire your first five customers?

We looked locally. We really just went into people's offices and told them- Hey, we're trying to help you connect with your customers through videos. Is it something that'd be helpful to you? Anyone that gave us the lightest bit of a maybe then, we talked to them a lot more and tried to learn more about their process.

We just went from there and, you know, started really small and really we were literally in their office.

When you're starting out, you need to be really picky about who your first few customers are, and they're going to be the baseline for who you have in the future.

How do you really help your customers to nurture their leads?

It depends on what our customers are trying to do. We give them a better way to communicate, but then that kind of poses the question of what are you trying to communicate and why.

So generally Sendspark is integrated within the CRM of what kind of the milestone you're trying to help your customers get to like sign up. Now you're trying to get them to start using the product as part of a free plan or maybe they filled out a lead generation form on your website or you're trying to get that first conversation. So we're always trying to help people get to that next step, but it's so different depending on the different types of business.

We're a communication tool. So what are you trying to communicate? We can help you get that across more effectively. It's super versatile based on your needs.

How did you build your marketing team?

We're really taking a product led approach. So we really look at product and growth to be one, and what can we do to help get people to use the product. Because like when you're using it, people are seeing it. And that's what we kind of expect to be our main marketing channel. It also helps us align our interests with our customers.

Adopting a product-led marketing strategy

What kind of marketing mix do you have to drive traffic to your website?

It's really product-led so we want people to create these videos and send them out. Sometimes people are sending more one-to-one videos, which aren't going to get a ton of traffic, but then we do have some customers who use them for newsletters or even like online courses not actually a webinar, but maybe like an invitation to a webinar or a followup after it. And those videos would get a lot of traffic or like invites to events. So it's about empowering people. They're the ones driving the traffic, but we don't do any paid ads right now. We do write a bit of content, however, we have been highly focused on product more than any other strategy.

What do you believe in- investment or bootstrapping?

Both strategies are great. It just depends on your personal goals for the company. In our case, we did choose to go for the VC for a couple of reasons. One is that we believed that there is huge potential in our idea.

Also because we felt like the world was changing so quickly that we wanted to be able to keep up. When we first started Sendspark and we were telling people about the importance of videos in customer relations, they were reluctant to do videos. Now two and a half years later, there’s so much change in people’s attitude. The world is moving really fast and we wanted to be able to really jump-start growth and like really build out the product, build out what people needed and like to be there as the world's changing.

So that was kind of the main consideration we made but I have a ton of respect for bootstrappers as well.

Tell us a bit more about Sendspark and in which process it’s most impactful.

We definitely have people using Sendspark for prospecting, but I think that unless you have been doing like account based marketing in which you really know your accounts, that relationship and the personal touch just don't really matter that much early on. But, it becomes crucial as you're getting to know the person you're talking to you more like especially after the demo when you're able to send little micro demos that they can share internally and be able to follow up more personally.

I think it even comes back to effective personalization, where if you don't know the person, you can't really personalize that much. You can a little bit, but once you really start knowing what matters to them, that's when being able to create a truly personalized experience has the biggest impact.

So our platform is highly relevant during later sales stage for customer success like on-boarding and other touch points all throughout the customer journey, re-engaging people with new features and updates and even customer support as people have queries. Sending videos at this stage is where we see the most usage.

Sendspark is useful for marketers as well but it's just kind of a different use case more of like sending video emails or updates. It's personal, not in the way that I'm personalizing it for my customer, but more in the way that the CEO is able to give someone a personal update and be able to send out announcements like that. So, we generally see like the whole growth team using Sendspark. It's just kind of different use cases depending on the person and their job.

“We enjoy building a product that customers love”

What is your vision for Sendspark and how do you plan to make it big in the market?

The way to do it is by building a great product that's meant to be shared. So we're just building and listening. We have a lot of customers right now. We're listening to what they're saying and we're just building and trying to move as fast as we can.

Sometimes people will say- “Oh, we grow organically.” Like it just happens magically. That's not how we think about it all. We are very strategic about it. But we're trying to really tie our marketing and our growth into our customer wins and kind of get like a two for one.

We want to build a product that customers absolutely love and like to scream about from the rooftops.That's really where we're focused on now knowing that that's setting the stage for more to come and that's also what is really fun - building something that people love.

How do you help your clients know and understand their customers and achieve their acquisition goals?

Our customers usually have a pretty good idea who their ICPs are. So depending on what their process is we kind of help them get started based on that.

We try to be as hands on as possible. A lot of times, you know, people would rather just kind of get in the product, use it, have it work.

So we make sure that that experience does exist, but like when we can, we love talking to people and learning more about, "Hey, how are you looking to do it? Who is your customer? You know, how are you trying to engage them? Where can we add value?" We'll just kind of work with them and go with the flow.

Tools that matter

What are the marketing tools you rely on as a marketer?

  • HubSpot- One of the advantages is that everything's in one place like all your data is in one place, all your emails are at one place.
    We use HubSpot for most things and we'll run AB tests on it.
  • SmartLook- It is really good to get customer screen recordings. It's more of that qualitative side, where if you want to you're not going to be running like experiments the same way you might with an AB test, but you can track users on the funnel or see where people are getting lost, what are they literally doing with the recordings which is quite useful.
  • Userfeed- It is good for tracking things like feature requests and then you can let people submit their own requests. So we use that to help prioritize. These are just few among the many tools we use.

What advice would you give to any fellow marketeer, or maybe someone who wants to come up with their start-up?

As a marketer you find plenty of advice and so it can be confusing. My advice is to know what your own strengths are and lean into them. I think that you're not going to win if you try to build someone else's product or think of someone else's plan. No matter what your strengths are, if you're a marketer, a developer or a designer, there's something else like lean into that strength and let that be your superpower and make it work for your business. You can't believe every advice you hear on the media.

                    “You will not win if you try to build someone else’s product or think of someone else’s plan. Lean into your strengths and let that be your super power.”