#65: Mike Volpe

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This is a podcast episode titled, #65: Mike Volpe. The summary for this episode is: If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. ----- Mike Volpe joined us live at Drift for lunch with the team, so we hit record for Seeking Wisdom. Mike is the CMO at Cybereason and a friend, investor, and advisor to us at Drift (but you probably know him as the former CMO at HubSpot). Tweet at Mike @mvolpe and let him know you heard him on Seeking Wisdom. Here’s how you can support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the show: 1. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only. 3. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. 4. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com. PS. We just announced our first annual conference, HYPERGROWTH. Get your tickets at hypergrowth.drift.com

Dave: No, you can use it.

Mike Volpi: I can use it? It's just so I get comfortable with it?

Dave: We have probably ...

DC: Yeah.

Dave: About 50.

Mike Volpi: Do you think that many?

Dave: Yeah.

Mike Volpi: I was going to go more like 25 or something like that.

Dave: There was half a million downloads last week.

Mike Volpi: We got half a million downloads, so that was good.

Dave: Yeah. Yeah.

Mike Volpi: You're doing a good job on that, dude.

Dave: Thanks.

Mike Volpi: Somebody should hire you to marketing. Yeah.

Dave: Yeah. You should say that. Say that again. That was nice to hear. Okay, DC, why don't you tee this one up with the background. You and I talked earlier about the background for this, yeah, we're on now.

DC: We're starting? Okay.

Dave: Yeah, yeah.

DC: Did you do welcome? What's going on?

Dave: So, let's do a welcome.

DC: All right.

Dave: This is weird

DC: crosstalk.

Dave: This is weird-

DC: crosstalk.

Dave: ...because we have the team here, so I have to say what-

Mike Volpi: I don't hear the cool music in the background.

Dave: I have to say... It's coming in. It's coming in later.

Mike Volpi: All right.

Dave: All right. So, we got a special guest today, we're here in the office with Mike Volpi. Mike is a CMO at Cybereason, a former CEO at HubSpot, Drift friend, family, investor, advisor. So, that's who you are going to hear in addition to DC and I today. What's up, Mike?

Mike Volpi: I'm doing awesome. I'm pumped to be here.

Dave: All right, we're glad you're here.

DC: Yeah, thanks for joining us.

Dave: So, DC, tee us up a little bit. What do we want to talk about?

DC: There's so much that we could talk about with Mike, but I want to frame it in a way that will be helpful for us, so selfish, and for the people that listen, and talk about kind of like since you were the third person in at HubSpot, Mike, your journey from zero to 200, and now that same journey, that journey that you're going through right now from zero to 200. I don't think Cybereason's 200 people, are they?

Mike Volpi: Yeah.

DC: Oh, you are?

Mike Volpi: We're about 250 now.

DC: Okay, 250. Okay.

Mike Volpi: Oh, yeah, I know. That's crazy, yeah.

DC: Oh, my God.

Mike Volpi: But just been the best 12 months. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

DC: Yeah, yeah. That inaudible your over 200?

Mike Volpi: Yeah, but that's zero to 200 people, yeah.

DC: Yeah, just like contrast-

Mike Volpi: It's easy. It's usually like six months and just kind of-

DC: It's easy.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, yeah.

DC: Do you hear that?

Dave: So, you joined HubSpot in 2007, so this actually is a good story, well, it's a good story anyway, but 2007 during HubSpot at zero, and now, 2016 joined Cybereason around the 200 or whatever stage.

Mike Volpi: Yeah. I skipped the hard part. The start. Let's do that, yeah.

Dave: All right, so let's talk about that first, like what is the hard part. So, you joined HubSpot as the third employee and you're there to run marketing, right?

Mike Volpi: Yeah. I mean I'm the only person doing marketing. It was like co- founders and one developer, and we had to outsource developers. We had this guy, Ivan, out of the Ukraine that was literally a little crazy. We parted ways with him after a couple of months. We had two guys. Actually, you probably know these guys-

DC: Oh, yes. I know.

Mike Volpi: The two guys in Egypt?

DC: Egypt, yes.

Mike Volpi: They built the whole original version of the products-

DC: All of HubSpot, basically.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, the part that Patrick Fitzsimmons didn't build, they built the rest of it. Basically, those three guys built all the first version. It's crazy. So, the team was tiny. We had a couple, it was like Dharmesh's wife was a customer, and Brian's buddy from his fraternity in college or something was a customer, but that was it.

DC: That's awesome.

Mike Volpi: It's just the first five or ten customers, as you guys know, is just so hard, and convincing those people to get on board is hard. Convincing anyone to give you money for something that's brand- new is hard. Like that stuff, like the first zero to a few is incredibly hard.

DC: Yep.

Mike Volpi: Yeah.

Dave: What were you selling? We know what it is now, but when you got those first 10, 15, 50, 100 even customers, what were you selling? Were you selling inbound marketing, or were you selling marketing software that does X, Y, Z?

Mike Volpi: Yeah, it's interesting. I think, so the inbound term came a slight bit later, but we were still selling the same vision. It was interesting. It was like it wasn't like we were selling some piece of it and getting people just to buy and love that piece, which I think is a strategy a lot of people do. Our strategy was sell people on the entire vision, sell them this product, and then, basically, build the product over time to fill the whole vision. Because the vision was 200 feet big, the early product probably only actually fulfilled 20 feet of the vision, and even that was a little shaky and probably might crash a couple of times a day. So, we were definitely selling the big, big vision, and it wasn't even until, really, four, five, six years later that I felt like we really had a product that truly fulfilled that whole vision that we were selling. But we were definitely selling people on the vision early.

Dave: What does your job look like as marketing? So, obviously, the first five, ten customers is hand- to-hand-

Mike Volpi: Knocking on doors.

Dave: Hand-to-hand combat.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, literally Mark Roberge literally would go to a landscapers office, knock on the door and be like, " Hi, I'm Mark Roberge. Have you heard of inbound marketing?" And the guy would be like, " No, I cut lawns."

Dave: They're like, " Oh who?"

Mike Volpi: And Mark would be like, " Oh, well you're doing it all wrong. Let me tell you how you should do marketing to grow your business."

DC: The world has changed. Yeah.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, exactly. And the guy's crosstalk...

Dave: Like I'll listen to you sharped- dressed man.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, exactly. Well, I mean that's the thing, you've got to have a good- looking sales guy, which you guys have now, so that's good. It's a big step forward. No, so my job was to basically figure out how we went... I mean I remember we used to get, and it was all actually from Dharmesh because Dharmesh was somewhat famous from his prior endeavors, he had built a company, bootstrapped it, and sold it. We would get one lead a day, and that was on the homepage, we had a way to sign up for beta, which is put in your email address. One person a day would put it in there, and it would usually be somebody from outside the US. All Gmail, AOL addresses, like nothing like zero quality there at all, and that was it, and it was like, okay, how do we get from that to getting 2, 000 leads a day that are really good high- quality? And that's the eight- year journey. So, in the earlier days, it was just like how do we get noticed? How do we stand out? How do we sort of build some authority, reputation? How do you get people to find us? And there were two things early on that worked really well. Our blog worked well, and I think there was a number of reasons for that, but one of the reasons were company blogs were less popular back then, so it was relatively unique thing, and we had the content was coming from myself and then Brian, and Dharmesh, so we had the top people in the company, theoretically, writing the content of the blog.

Dave: All three of you.

Mike Volpi: All three. Yeah, the entire company was writing for this blog. All three of us were writing for the blog. And then the second thing was, Dharmesh built Website Grader, which is this awesome free tool. It still exists, although the format now is totally different. I'm actually not a big fan of the way it works now. I think the original, original version, because I'm old- school that way, but you would type in your URL and get this awesome report within a minute or two about your site and what you were doing right or wrong marketing- wise. And that spread virally. And there were a lot of things I did to push that and get that to go. But it was really those two things in the early days that started us kind of up that growth curve a little bit.

Dave: You did something similar at Compete with that, right? This was like-

DC: Yeah, we had a free tool. A long time ago, 2005, 2006. A free tool that people could come in and see how they ranked versus other people. And actually, how I met Dharmesh was in 2006 when he was starting to build the Website Grader, and he was looking for data sources, and so we had an API, and so we were talking about using Compete data in there versus Alexa data.

Mike Volpi: Yeah. I mean free tools are awesome, especially if you're a software company. So, one of the things we did at Cybereason starting, we launched it back in December, and there's a free product we made called RansomFree, which is like antivirus, except it blocks ransomware, which is really nasty stuff that most antivirus can't block. We had some advanced technology that works on behavior algorithms, it helps you block it, and we decided for the consumer market, just to launch that for free, just for buzz, to get attention out of it. And so we launched that back in December. Only through PR, we got like over 200 PR mentions, PC World, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, whatever, we have 150,000 users of that now, just in nine years.

DC: Wow. Do you hear this? Do you hear this?

Dave: Why do you got to say stuff like this?

Mike Volpi: I know. I know, sorry, dude. Yeah, yeah, sorry. But I got to push you, man. crosstalk.

Dave: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mike Volpi: Yeah.

DC: Yeah.

Dave: All right, so you have a sales team, you have free tools, that's Website Grader. At what point did you go from you're just blogging, and not just blogging, but you're blogging and creating this stuff, to like holy shit, I have now salespeople and we have to start cranking this stuff up a little bit?

Mike Volpi: Yeah, so I'd say the early part was like, Roberge knocking on doors, and I was actually selling. I was actually following all the web leads we got, my job was follow up on them and try and give them demos, and I'm giving them lots of demos.

DC: So, you were BDR?

Mike Volpi: I was like a BDR and a sales rep, not that successful. I did close a few deals, but not that many. I think I did lots of demos, did awesome demos, but I was a bad closer.

Dave: Were they PDF demos or real?

Mike Volpi: So, I will say, the first, first, first version of the product, the pages would load so slow that to do a demo you'd open up like 15 different tabs in your browser and you would open up dropdown, so like, show them like, " Oh, look at all this different reporting options." You'd open up the dropdown, but you wouldn't click on anything because it would take like a minute for the page to load. And so then you'd quickly switch to the next tab and be like, " Oh, let me show you this other part of the product that does this thing." But you wouldn't actually live show any of it, right?

Dave: This is right up Vic's alley. It's like his favorite thing.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, I know, I can see him. He's like, " Oh, what's going on?" So, yeah, but I mean yet again, you're selling people on the vision, and all the contracts were month- to- month, and so it wasn't like you were locking in people for a long time. And a lot of people, like at that time, the state of the art was a very different place, software- wise than where we are today, and state of the art for marketing tools is a very different place, so even though the product was a little slow, and a little buggy and crashed, it was actually tremendously valuable for the right people. So, we didn't feel bad about doing it, we were doing the best we could. It was software was just harder back then.

DC: You heard that, Vic?

Mike Volpi: So, in the early days... Yeah, it's so easy now, right?

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike Volpi: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. DC, going, "I'm going... Oh, God. The whole team here is just going, you're going to be grinding people all day off of this stuff. I'm just giving DC material crosstalk.

DC: It's back when it was hard.

Mike Volpi: Yeah. So, for the first couple, and so we basically were selling ourselves. Brian was selling. Dharmesh is an introvert, so he wasn't really selling, but basically, Brian, Roberge, and I were all selling, and then once we started to close a few deals, we started to see a little bit of repeatable pattern, like okay, when we pitch it this way, people, in general, seem interested. This seems like they're willing to pay for some of it. I hit up my whole network of other VPs in marketing at the time and sold a couple of them. Then we started to say, " Okay, it seems like the idea and the rough pitch seems like it works, and now we can probably package that up and give it to someone that is like a professional salesperson." And then we hired two sales reps, and the first two that we hired were sales reps that had worked for Halligan and had just sold tons of stuff. And the reason to do that was you knew if they couldn't sell it, it was a problem with the pitch or the product, right?

DC: It's a great point. Great point, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike Volpi: It wasn't like I hired a bad sales rep because they had sold like ice to Eskimos, like all those expressions, right? It's like they had done all of that.

Dave: Yesterday, we did a podcast with Emmanuelle Skala. She's a VP sales at DigitalOcean and she used a good example, like which is the early sales reps are missionaries, you just send them out, door to door, whatever it is, sell anything to anybody, that's the whole thing. Later on, as the company scales, it's more about mercenaries, which is like you're here to do a very specific job, it's a repeatable playbook.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, and I think the other thing with the early ones is you want to make sure you hire people that are very flexible and adaptable. I mean, we were changing the pitch on a weekly basis. I mean, why don't I pitch it this way?

DC: We never do that here.

Mike Volpi: Here's a new thing, right? Yeah. I mean that's right, so you need people that are willing to adapt to that. And I think if you look at some of the early sales reps, like Dave Donlon, who's over at Crayon, leading sales, he was one. It's like you tell him in the morning, " Okay, today, you're going to pitch it this way." He's like, " Okay, that sounds great." And he would try to sell it as best he could. Whereas, some other sales reps, it takes them a week or two to kind of get around the new pitch and takes them a while to learn it. They're okay to hire when you're more in that later scaling phase, but they're terrible in the beginning. Like in the beginning, you need to be changing it multiple times a day and just figuring out what works. You want them to be like kind of freestyle while they're on demos and come up with things, and then email you, and be like, " Hey, I just talked about this thing and people seemed to like that." You need that in the early days, yeah.

Dave: How do you think ... I made a list of a bunch of things you did that-

DC: Do you notice something here, there's no list? DC has no list.

Dave: No notes. No notes. These come from-

DC: It's amazing. I wish I could take notes.

Dave: A lot of these come from you somewhere.

DC: Yeah.

Dave: So, you guys-

DC: Superpower.

Dave: ...so you had webinars, you did HubSpot TV, you had a free product, you were on all these different channels, you published a book, you started to do events, is there a playbook in there that you can run today, or are things changing where like that stuff still doesn't crosstalk?

Mike Volpi: You know I love playbooks.

Dave: I know you do.

Mike Volpi: When everything's totally repeatable.

DC: Yeah.

Mike Volpi: And you do the same thing and it'll always work.

DC: In the same sequence.

Mike Volpi: In the same sequence. Exactly the same way for every company, every market, and even five or ten years later, it all just works, right?

DC: It's all the same, yeah.

Dave: Well, this is-

DC: It's what I read.

Dave: ...I've heard this from both of you separately, is everybody in separate inaudible have said to you, " Oh, that thing that you guys did, and it grew, how did you do that?" And they want you to give some perfect answer. Like, " Well, on Tuesday at 9: 00 AM we sent an email to 6, 000 people. They clicked it, and then shared it." And you've said to me, you're like, " We ran webinars and we called people. And that's literally what we did and that's how we got initial traction."

Mike Volpi: Yeah, I think, so my view on playbooks is it's like that scene when Neo first goes into the matrix and he's training with Morpheus, right?

DC: Yep.

Mike Volpi: And I'm going somewhere with this, trust me. And Neo's in there, and he's trying to figure out, okay, what are the rules of this system? How's gravity work here? What's the things? What can I do? What can I not do, whatever? And Morpheus beats the crap out of him. And then Morpheus leans over to him while he's there and Neo's breathing heavy and Morpheus just looks at him and he's like, " Do you think like the laws of physics apply in this world? This world is all code. It's not the real world." And Neo's thinking, and then Morpheus looks at him and he's like, " Do you think that's air you're breathing?" And then this light goes off in Neo's head and he's like, " Oh, right. Like, none of these rules, I can bend and break all these rules." And Morpheus even says, some of the rules are meant to be bent, some can be broken, you need to figure out which ones. And so I feel like playbooks are good for beginners to get to a certain point. But it's like in football, the great quarterbacks have a playbook and they have a play, but then they walk up to the line and be like, " Oh, well, actually, I see the defense now, and we need to do this other thing. And let's audible, and then we'll score a touchdown that way." And so it's the best people know what those playbooks are, but then you freestyle off of them-

DC: Yeah, freestyle.

Mike Volpi: ...like they're ingredients. And that's where you get the best results. It's not from just following these robotic playbooks over and over. And my biggest frustration with marketers is just like people that want this checklist of things to do and it just drives me insane.

DC: Yep.

Dave: I love that.

DC: It's that ability to improv, right? It's like great musician, you can be classically great, and then to become a great improv musician is a whole different level, right?

Mike Volpi: Yeah, you can learn the guitar really well, but there's no checklist of what are the things you need to do to become like Jimi Hendrix.

DC: Yep.

Mike Volpi: Like he's all freestyle. He's breaking the rules, but it works out in a very great way. And you would know more about this, but on the product side-

DC: Same.

Mike Volpi: ...I'm sure there's some blog post or some book that's been written about it, like how to design a product and how everything should work. But if you just follow that, it'll be okay, it'll be average, it'll look like everything else, but if you want something special-

DC: You need to improv.

Mike Volpi: Exactly.

Dave: That's why there's no roadmaps.

Mike Volpi: That's right, yeah.

DC: He stopped there.

Mike Volpi: Inside joke. Good one.

DC: Yeah, inside joke.

Mike Volpi: That's good. That's good. Yeah.

Dave: No, but the serious part of that is how do you... And this is even what you've taken out at Cybereason and HubSpot back in the day if you think that way, how do you plan? Because if you're a marketer and your job is you have X goal for this quarter, this month? I know that you prefer to do monthly planning, but how do you plan then if you can't... Sales and marketing are always going to want to have a clear number and a goal, right?

Mike Volpi: Yeah. Well, I think goals are different than plans, right? And we've talked about this a little bit. And just like I understand not having a product roadmap, just like I don't know what I'm going to be doing launching the first week in December of this year in marketing- wise. Like I don't know. But I do know, I do have sense of in order to hit the revenue goal we want to hit, what are the goals that we need to hit for Q4 in terms of lead generation and opportunity generation with the sales reps and what our conversion rates need to be. So, I think it's good to have goals, but then I think you need to figure out what are the things you're doing to go after those goals in a much more kind of agile process. And we're actually implementing, like I've done this before early on in HubSpot, we were one of the first companies to do agile in marketing. And I know you guys don't necessarily inaudible to agile for software development, but I think some sort of a more rapid kind of methodology like that is also applicable to marketing. And if you don't really know where to start, agile's a decent methodology to get you going, and then, I think after you do that for a while, and once you understand again that playbook, then you can freestyle off of it, which is what you guys have done product- wise.

DC: Yeah. I think Mike said the magic words in the beginning there" I don't know" which takes like a career to work yourself up to being able to say that in public. Like, " I don't know, but I'll freestyle and I'll figure it out and I'll get there." And I think so many people get caught up wanting that playbook because they're afraid to say that and they don't want one say I don't know. They want to say I have a definitive plan for how I get there.

Mike Volpi: Well, and I think and take that a step further for CEOs, they're looking for the marketing person to come in with the plan at the beginning of the year and be like, " Oh, yes, this is a good plan. If we do this plan, we'll haul our numbers, great." And the reality is, I think it's much more looking to hire people, and this is even more junior people in your team, people that are willing to learn and teach themselves things. People that have a lot of persistence, and people that like to be measured by metrics, by goals, right?

DC: Yep.

Mike Volpi: And I think if you find people that have those three characteristics, they're always going to be growing, improving versus somebody that's going to again, come in and sort of like just be like, " Oh, where's the playbook?" And be like, " Well, why are we missing our goals?" Be like, " Well, I'm following the playbook, I don't understand why." And that's just the wrong way to think about it.

DC: Do you think the way that you hire, the things that you look for in people has changed between HubSpot and Cybereason?

Mike Volpi: I hope not because I think those things really work across different types of companies. I mean I think there's maybe some like for the experience I'm more open to people that have a little bit more of an enterprise experience at Cybereason because our deal size is 10 times bigger than HubSpot's deal size. We have a field sales team. So, there are some things that are different. I've definitely looked at candidates from companies I probably wouldn't have given a serious evaluation to at HubSpot, but I think those core characteristics of like even somebody that's worked at some big company for a number of years, I want them to display those characteristics that they're learning how to do new things, that they want to challenge themselves, that they want to be judged by metrics, and that they enjoy that and enjoy that sort of competitive spirit. So, I think those things are mostly the same, I don't know. Do you feel like product- wise it's different for you?

DC: No.

Mike Volpi: No? Yeah.

DC: No, I think it's the same. Yeah, it's similar. I mean I think there's new technologies, and new challenges, and new companies that you may look. Like you just said, like new companies may have emerged and new types of companies might be interesting to take people from, but the characteristics are the same.

Mike Volpi: Well, just like I don't think you look for people that are like, " Oh, do you know this coding language?"

DC: Mm-mm (negative).

Mike Volpi: Right? You're like, "I don't know. Have you learned a new language?"

DC: Exactly.

Mike Volpi: "Have you done a new framework? Have you done a new thing?" And be like, " Great." Because you might be using whatever the cool thing to use is now, but six months from now that could change and you guys could be using something new.

DC: Totally.

Mike Volpi: You want people that are going to adapt to that, right?

DC: Yeah, in every department.

Mike Volpi: Not someone who's like, " Oh, I'm a Java expert." Right?

DC: Yeah, in every world. I think like how much of what you're doing in marketing today, Dave, were you doing, a year before you got here?

Dave: None.

DC: None.

Dave: I mean that is at a different scale. I learned because I'd had a side project and just fucked around with a bunch of things on the side and then it's like, oh, now you get to apply these to a business and try to figure it out. But it's just like one small win after another. And this is something we talk about all the time, it's like, it's really easy to look at a candidate and get caught up on like, oh, there at this company and they're doing this thing, and they look amazing. And then they come in ad it's like, oh, I don't know. But then that's also a challenge because then there's the other person who doesn't have a great resume but might be that next gem. Like, you both have found a lot of them, and you grew a marketing team to 85 people at HubSpot. How did you go and find those things? What was your hiring process to get them?

Mike Volpi: So, I spent a lot of time doing my own recruiting and just a ton of time meeting people.

Dave: I was going to say, Keith and I were talking about this earlier, I think you, more than any other, especially marketing, but more than any other exec that I've seen or every time I look at your Twitter feed, your LinkedIn feed, something else you're always posting about, we're hiring, or this is why hiring. You talk a lot about hiring.

Mike Volpi: But every problem essentially boils down to people.

DC: Yep.

Mike Volpi: If you really, really boil it down and down and down.

DC: Yeah, yes.

Mike Volpi: Like it's all people, right?

DC: Yes. It's all people.

Mike Volpi: So, the more you can be out there and making sure you're meeting the absolute best people and just always talking to people, and either learning from them or getting referrals from them, or potentially hiring them, that's, to me, frankly, the highest and best use of your time as like an exec, or a founder, or whatever because that's like the most important thing. And you can in the short term solve problems by rolling up your sleeves and doing stuff yourself, and some of it's for our management leadership, and things like that, but getting the right people just on the bus in the first place is supremely valuable.

DC: Oh, yeah.

Mike Volpi: So, I spend a lot of time on that. You do to.

DC: Oh, it's a huge amount and it's pattern matching. It's some level of pattern matching. I was talking to a CEO of another company and they were asking about how to hire a CPO, like a chief product officer, and so I ask her, " How many of them do you know?" And she said, " Zero." " How many have you talked to?" " None." " Okay, well, first thing I would do is go talk to as many as possible from big companies, small companies, whatever, just talk to all of them. And you'll start to get some clues to what the great ones look like and what does average look like and what does mediocre look like."

Dave: Yeah, you have to go on some shitty dates to probably find the right person, right?

DC: Mm- hmm( affirmative).

Mike Volpi: Yeah, I think the other thing that annoys me about hiring is some companies approach it like, oh, I'll hire a search firm, first of all, right?

DC: Yes, yes.

Mike Volpi: And then you're disintermediating yourself from meeting all those candidates and learning. And so, I much prefer to just roll up my sleeves and get my hands really dirty in that stuff. The second thing is to run this process as if it's like a job that you have to fill and the whole company will explode if you don't fill it by X date, and therefore, when you get to X minus 10 days, or two weeks, or whatever, you just pick the best person that you've met so far, and like, great, we'll hire them.

DC: Yes.

Mike Volpi: Like, you don't decide like you're going to get married by a certain date to go with Dave's analogy, and then six months before then, " Well, you're the most interesting person I've met so far in my life. Why don't we get married?" It's not the way it works, right? So, I think it's one of those where don't be afraid to hire really slow and wait for the perfect person.

DC: Yeah. One of the many ways I used to drive people crazy at HubSpot was because I didn't want to have job specs and job reqs because they did similar thing to what Mike was talking about was like then it caused the team and recruiters to think that they had an exploding time bomb that they had to hire this person, and we should hire Dave. Why should we hire Dave? Because we have this opening. Okay? Why measure-

Dave: Isn't that a measure-

DC: Yeah.

Dave: Isn't that a measure of companies and they say like, " Oh, we've had this req open for 50 weeks"?

DC: Oh, yeah. For 50 weeks, and why Dave? Because he meets these three bullets on this job req, and I say, " But I made all the bullets up. I made those three bullets up. What does that matter?" The rationale just gets crazy and as your team gets bigger and bigger, it becomes more crazy. And so, it was about, like Mike was saying about let's interview people, let's find the right person. And we have lots of challenges. We've got to figure out where they're going to fit on the team. But like this artificial notion that you have to fill a req is crazy.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, I mean you should always be hiring, and you should always be hiring just amazing people that you find, not to meet these individual reqs. I found job reqs can be interesting to help attract some candidates-

DC: For sure. For sure.

Mike Volpi: ... because somepeople won't apply unless there's like, " Oh, that job looks interesting." But you're totally right. You should see the job req as not a role in the company you're trying to fill, but it's an advertisement about why someone awesome should want to come work in the company, and then you should have this discussion on when you want to hire them. Like, let me tell you when your job's really going to be here. Based on everything I know about you and the things you're awesome at and then what we actually need, and you pair those up. And that is a very one- to- one dynamic process.

DC: Do you think you hire more experienced people now than you did at HubSpot because you were at a different stage or different experience?

Mike Volpi: I mean the stage is different here. So, I mean I brought in two VPs to come work for me because I came and the team was seven people and in the past six months, I've grown it to 15 because we're sort of behind, and the company also company- wide, I think we hired 160 people in the last 12 months or something like that.

DC: That's a lot.

Mike Volpi: It's a lot of people, yeah. It's a lot, and there's a lot of stress that comes along with that, and cultural stuff, and whatever. So, the company's growing very rapidly, so I needed a couple of just really strong folks that I could rely on to run big parts of the team because we were already getting to a scale that it wasn't like me and a few people. So, I think maybe that's a little different, but I think now that we're shifting our focus to kind of filling out those teams, no, it's a lot of... Yeah, I think it's similar stuff, yeah.

DC: Because you had a lot of people at HubSpot before you had VPs. I mean you had directors and stuff, but crosstalk-

Mike Volpi: Yeah, I mean I'd say the team was probably a little flatter for a little bit longer.

DC: Yeah. Mm- hmm( affirmative). Same.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, I think that you get more willing to kind of take a step back from it the more times you've done it.

Dave: Go into that for a second. What does that mean? What do you mean like the team was flatter for longer? Like as far as what?

Mike Volpi: Like I was directly managing more people and there was less of a hierarchal structure maybe. I mean now, I've got three direct reports. I'm trying to hire somebody to run our media marketing, which will be a fourth person, but that's it. Like all of my work with this 15, now soon to be 20 in the next two months, team, is all through those people. And yeah, I talk to people individually, I do lots of one- on- ones and skip levels and all that kind of stuff, too, but the key way I get stuff done is talking to those three or four people that work for me versus I think early on, you get your hands a little dirtier when you're kind of building from zero to whatever it may be.

Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike Volpi: Yeah.

Dave: Anything else on hiring before we go on inaudible.

DC: We could talk about hiring forever. It never ends that I think of.

Mike Volpi: You could do an entire podcast.

DC: On hiring.

Mike Volpi: ...just on hiring.

DC: Yeah.

Dave: At HubSpot, you were the last interview for everybody.

Mike Volpi: Yes.

Dave: Was that on purpose?

Mike Volpi: That I was last? No-

Dave: No, but did you want to be involved?

Mike Volpi: Oh, yeah. I had a rule that I had to interview every single person we hired.

Dave: And you didn't care? When did you start that? Day beginning?

Mike Volpi: Day one, and I mean obviously, day one it was only me, so I had to, right?

Dave: Yeah.

DC: Yeah.

Dave: Day one, Mikey got the job.

Mike Volpi: I interviewed him. But even at 85 or 100 people, I did after we got to maybe 75, 80 people, I didn't interview interns anymore, but even up to that point, every single intern before we hired them, I did the people side. And again, it's the highest and best use of your time, so I spent a lot of time on it. I will say that once we got to be 100 people and I had a number of people working for me that I really did trust and they'd sort of been cultivated their own hiring taste over time and their hiring abilities, I rarely rejected someone, and part of what I did in that final interview was expectation setting. So, I was very clear with them of like, " This is what the culture is like here. There are things that are good about it. There are things that are bad about it. Don't come here expecting it to be easy. It's going to be hard. We think hard is fun. And so I actually think most people here enjoy working and things like that, but it's because it's hard, not because it's easy and a party." And there were a number of things like that, like culturally that we would sort of go through and sort of expectation set that I would talk to them about. And then, I would also do a follow- up with all new employees about 60 to 90 days in and I would ask them, " Have there been any big surprises here or is this what you expected?" And I found that doing that expectation setting in that final interview, then there was almost never any surprises, except on the positive side that they actually even like it better or was even better than they expected or whatever. And I felt like that was really helpful in terms of retention, and also, making sure the right people come in the door. Because you don't want to... Like once people are at the job- offer stage, they're inclined to almost accept it versus you kind of want to be in the back of their head like, " Don't accept this unless you're really ready to take on the challenges that we have." Right?

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We should cut that clip and put that as part of our interview process. Listen to Mike.

Dave: This?

DC: Yeah, listen to Mike for a little bit.

Dave: I mean the part that stood out to me is the no bullshit about this is the good stuff. This is the bad stuff.

DC: Bad stuff, yeah.

Dave: We were talking about this yesterday, in the other thing that we did, which is like in the interview stage, everybody's on a mission to get you to give them an offer. It's a script and it's a" Okay, I'm going to get to this next inaudible." And so, I think if you bring in the real nuts and say, " This is what it actually is to work here," that goes a long way in finding the right person.

DC: Yeah.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, and I think that's right, and it helps a lot with retention too. Because if people come in with a set of expectations, it's different from what it's actually like because you're right, you're both selling to each other during that process, so it's like you've got to get real at the end. Such that when people come in it actually is what they were expecting.

Dave: All right, I want to wrap up and talk about sales and marketing for a minute, and then we'll do Q and A with everybody else. Are there specific tactical things that worked for you back then 10 years ago that might not work now?

DC: You mean in the landscape of marketing and sales?

Dave: Yeah, throw out-

DC: Outside of the company?

Dave: Yeah, the landscape of marketing and sales. Like, throw out that it's a cybersecurity company, just like running marketing today verse 10 years ago?

Mike Volpi: I think a lot of the content and social stuff was easier back then because it was just less crowded. I mean I remember at HubSpot, we were early on Twitter as a company, we did this meta- Twitter thing, so we did a webinar about how to use Twitter for marketing, and we did all of the Q and A on Twitter, and we basically broke everything. We trended on Twitter, we broke the Tweet tech or whatever we were using to read all the Tweets. We had to have multiple instances of GoToWebinar running because we had a few thousand people register. It was the biggest webinar we'd ever done.

DC: A few thousand? Damn.

Mike Volpi: And at the time GoToWebinar would only have 1, 000 per webinar instance, so we tried to actually run it on three different ones and direct people to different ones. The whole thing just became this giant shit show basically, but the fact that we were early on, and this is something else maybe we should talk about, but we were early... It's like the Twitter, and the social, and the content stuff, I think, was a little bit easier back then. You could have lower quality and more volume and just you could stand out more. Now, it's like it's this much more crowded space because it's much later. So I think, again, your guys approach, I think you guys have tapped into the less of it and higher quality, like much higher singular noise ratio, which is the right way to do it today.

Dave: You did start going exactly where I was hoping that you'd go with this, and just this is something that is from both of you is do a lot of things or have a culture that's open to your marketing team, probably same thing. Have a culture that's open to exploring a lot of different things because you have to be early.

Mike Volpi: The first one or two or a couple of people that do something get these gigantic results and they're like, " Wow, look at that thing, that was so cool what they did." And it's unique, and it's novel, and people want to share it because of that and talk about it. And then, the 100th company music video, you're sort of like, " Well, it was kind of funny." Right?

Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mike Volpi: But you're not like, " Oh, my God, look at that crazy thing." So, you need to be early in all that stuff. So, I think that's why you need to sort of be willing to adapt and try new things and be willing to have these abysmal failures too, which we definitely have.

DC: Which is a good way to circle back to the beginning, which is anti- playbook, right? That's the reason because everyone wants a playbook, by the time you write playbook, you're the 100th person, and in marketing especially, you don't want to be the 100th person in anything, right?

Mike Volpi: Yeah.

DC: You need to be early.

Dave: Cool. Anything else? What did we miss? You're still on the mic and it's hot.

Mike Volpi: I'm still at the hot mic, yeah. Be careful what I say on a hot mic, right? That's a lesson we've learned over the past year, I think.

Dave: What advice would you give to us? Before anybody asks you any questions, at this stage, roughly 30, 35 employees and growing, what do we have to think about for the next six months, a year, 18 months, two years?

Mike Volpi: I know a decent amount of sort of like just from seeing the products and talking to you, it feels like the stage you're at now, is you're very much poised to grow a fair amount more rapidly. Like, you're getting out of that early trying to find product- market fit to okay, we've got it and now we're trying to find the repeatable sales and marketing process. You feel like you sort of have that or on the edge of having that and it's like, let's go from there. I think now the things to worry about are, and it's great that you guys have DC, Elias, and everyone here that's seen that rapid growth before because it's like the cultural stuff I think is hard, and you have a certain set of cultural values right now, but the way you brings those to life at 200 or 1, 000 people, the systems to support that culture need to change in order to keep the culture the same and keep those things that you want. Like the way you have this always be learning or this fearlessness or all those things, and the way you embrace it with 35 people is very, very different than 350 or 1, 000. That's the stuff that I would shift the focusing on if I was doing something here.

Dave: Mm- hmm(affirmative). It's good advice.

DC: Awesome.

Dave: Yeah.

DC: Thank you, Mike.

Dave: Thanks. Anybody got questions? Yeah.

DC: inaudible.

Dave: I'll repeat it for all the listeners.

Speaker 4: What decisions would you recommend putting off as long as humanly possible?

Dave: What decisions would you recommend putting off as long as possible?

Mike Volpi: So, I think it's better to make decisions and move forward but be willing to revisit them because I think uncertainty makes it hard for people to move quickly. I think that for a long time, let's take HubSpot for instance, we had this whole like are we selling to small business owners or are we selling to marketers of small companies, right? And DC's laughing because literally, we would spend days debating this. Days of time debating-

DC: Days, yeah.

Mike Volpi: ... overthe course of years.

DC: Yeah.

Mike Volpi: I mean literally.

Dave: When they both say days, you know how long that actually is probably?

Mike Volpi: It's a long time. Yeah, yeah.

DC: DC and Mike inaudible of days.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, it was like a lot. And I think that either of those decisions was a good decision, but not deciding cost you something. It would've been better, even frankly, the small business owner is probably the wrong decision, and that was the decision we ended up making eventually, but had we made that decision a year or two earlier, we would've, I think, found out that it was the wrong decision, and then made the right decision faster than we actually got to making the right decision. So, to me, it's just like pick one and move on. It's more about speed, and adaptability, and agility than it is about making the perfect decision. I think we agonized over making the perfect decision far too often.

DC: Totally agree.

Mike Volpi: What's up, Leo?

DC: Leo.

Leo: So, people say that hindsight is 20/20, but I mean I'm just kind of curious to know if you were to, with the knowledge you have today, go back would you do anything differently? So what would be one thing that you'd say, " Oh, this was definitely a mistake"? inaudible.

Dave: What would you have differently?

Mike Volpi: I mean, literally, with 20/ 20 hindsight, which is sort of what you're asking about, obviously, there's some hires that didn't work out for whatever reasons. And I wouldn't have made those hires because that's bad for you, it's bad for the company, it's bad for them too, it's just bad all around. So, that kind of stuff. If you could be perfect in hiring, which no one can ever be, I think our results were generally pretty good, but there are definitely a few mistakes we made. That would probably be one thing to sort of revisit. There are a couple of individual things like dumb things we did. Like, there was something that we published on social media, or whatever, about there was something like tsunami thing we did, and it was too soon after the actual tsunami. I mean stuff that we just did that was dumb and it was like an individual person that just didn't think and they just acted very fast. And so that stuff, obviously, I'd be like, " Oh, we probably wouldn't do that again." But what I want to be clear about, and I always try to be clear about with the team was like this was a mistake, but I'm not blaming you for having done it. It's like I want people to move fast and you always got to be very careful when you're talking about not doing mistakes, that you're not creating a culture that people are too careful and move too slowly. So, even a couple of things at Cybereason, like one of the things I'm sort of pushing the team is move faster, make more mistakes, do more stuff, ship more things, take more shots on goal basically. And there was one time where we did something and a relatively big potential customer sent us this flamagram email back about how could you ever do this, this is a stupid marketing campaign and this is just crap and whatever, I'll never buy from you guys, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I took that as an opportunity to show the team like, " Okay, here's how we should change this so it's like not as offensive to this person, but by the way, I blame no one on the team for having sent this email out." The email actually got a very good response. I was like, yes, it pissed some people off, but it also actually generated some real business for us. And the overall campaign is good, and so I defended... The person internally who was responsible for that could have been crushed by other people in the company or even some other CMO potentially, and I very adamantly defended that person and said, " If you want to blame anybody, blame me, but here's why we did it. Here's all these things. Yes, we will change it and move on." Like, move forward basically. So, I think that again, if with 20/ 20 hindsight, of course, you wouldn't repeat any of your mistakes, but that's very, very different than trying to be perfect all the time because you try to be perfect all the time you just move too slowly. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

DC: Yes, I love that.

Leo: Thank you.

Dave: What's up, Connor?

Connor: You talk a lot about trying out new things, so what do you see in order for marketing in that space inaudible it crowded, how do you inaudible spaces, or what are some new things that you guys are trying today from a marketing perspective?

DC: So, what was the question?

Mike Volpi: Yeah, yeah.

Dave: The question was what new marketing trends has Mike Volpi all excited?

Mike Volpi: So, it's interesting. I'd say-

Dave: He's big on Snapchat.

Mike Volpi: I'm giant. No. Snapchat, I tried it. I truly can't figure it out. I tried. I'm getting old to figure that one out. But yeah. So, I'd say a couple of things. I think it depends on your industry. Like within cybersecurity specifically, so for Cybereason, free product is actually a new thing in that market, and so the RansomFree thing we launched, I think part of the reason it works so well is because that's unique. If I was like a SaaS marketing company, it's going to be a lot harder to stand out with a free product because there's like a ton of those flooded the marketplace. If the product's really good and unique and something new, and then there's an opportunity there, but it's definitely harder. So, I think it depends a little bit. So, like for us, free products has worked really well. We did just launch a funny video today. We launched an April Fools' product, and you can see it in my Twitter. It's called cyber blast, or you can go to getcyberblast. com. It offers 100% foolproof protection against cyber- attacks using AI machine learning.

Dave: It's all it takes.

Mike Volpi: So, it's a cool little product. And we'll see how that does. That's something we launched today, which is again, unique for cybersecurity. To do a funny video is not unique in marketing or sales software because people try to do that stuff all the time. I don't know. For you guys, I think the being extremely helpful thing works really well. I think trying to create some sort of a movement around a better way of doing things, so like the no forms thing I think is awesome. I've told Gerhardt that you guys should just become the form- free company and you should start the form- free movement and that whole thing, and have the form- free conference and write a book about being form- free and all that stuff.

DC: You heard the man.

Dave: I think we all know. crosstalk.

Mike Volpi: So, I think that's huge and I think that could become your movement, and so I think that's maybe interesting for you guys. But it's hard, it's like you're asking me what's the special thing that's coming next, and I don't know. Yeah. Yeah.

Dave: Alexa?

Alexa: What's your opinion on growth hackers? I feel like it was kind of a term that originated like more on the product side, but kind of infiltrated the marketing world a little bit. So, do you feel like it's pushing digital marketers to be more analytical, but it's going to stay a product? Like, what is your opinion on the inaudible?

Dave: What do you think about that? I love this topic for you.

DC: I know growth hackers. This is like soft inaudible.

Dave: What do you think about growth hacking?

Mike Volpi: So, my personal view on it is like as a branding and marketing campaign, they did a good job because it's worked and it stuck. And the term might have some relevance if you're like a really big, old, boring, slow company, because you're like, " Oh, we need it to get to do growth hacking or growth marketing." Or whatever. But I think to me, it's just like what you're actually describing is just like good marketing, right? And it just annoys me that people are like, " Oh, we're going to start a growth team." Well, what the fuck else is the rest of your marketing team doing?

DC: Yeah.

Mike Volpi: If you are in marketing or you're in sales, or frankly, in a start- up, you should be doing growth, and it's like who's on the non- growth team, like what are those... So, I actually find the term somewhat offensive as a marketer and that has frankly, I feel like driven a fair amount of growth, and just everyone should be that. It's like if you're in this room and don't consider yourself as part of the growth team at Drift, it's like, what are you doing here?

Dave: Mm- hmm( affirmative). That should be the April Fools' campaign. You launch a non- growth team inside of Cybereason.

Mike Volpi: Yes. That's actually would be good. See if you were a sales and marketing company, I mean that's a good idea.

Dave: Oh, yeah.

Mike Volpi: You guys should get on that in the next day.

DC: Let's go. Do we have time? Do we have time?

Mike Volpi: I'll do a testimonial for you.

DC: Yeah, let's record that.

Mike Volpi: Yeah, we'll do that.

Dave: I'm trying to generate leads, I don't have time for April Fools' right now.

Mike Volpi: How are you going to measure that, Dave?

Dave: We'll just do one or two more. Will.

Will: So, when you talk about maintaining culture, inaudible write up a post for wiki values and whatnot. You mentioned systems, maybe it's awards or the behaviors internally, maybe it's internal messaging reminding people what your values are. What inaudible find it helps kind of actually help that culture scale? More so than just a living inaudible.

Dave: How do you actually make sure culture scales other than writing a wiki post with your values on it? Like, what are tactical things that you can actually do with people inside of your company?

Mike Volpi: So, I think it depends on what part of the culture you're looking to support, but I'll give you a couple of examples. So one is definitely, with awards and recognition, you should make sure that those align with your culture. At Cybereason we've been going through a lot of this better defining our culture and things like that, and teamwork is kind of one of the core elements, and we gave some awards to individual people in the last company meeting, and somebody mentioned to me, they're like, " Oh, does that really embody teamwork?" And I'm like, " You know it's funny, the people we picked actually exhibited very good teamwork skills, but we didn't highlight that when we gave the awarded and said, 'Oh, this person did this project and they worked really well with these other groups to get it done and whatever.'" We didn't say that, so it's like the awards were sort of in keeping with the culture but we didn't use the language to describe it that way. I'll give you the second one which is like at HubSpot, transparency was always a big part of the culture, and the way transparency works at 10 people is everyone hears everything that everyone's doing. And the way it works at 35 people is there's kind of like you guys have today, there's some buzz around the office and you mostly hear about what's going on. The way that works at 500 people with people in six offices around the world is not like you overhear what's going on, so you have to put in better systems like use a wiki, and have maybe even someone curating the wiki and finding the best post, and sending those to people. Like you need to have systems that support transparency as the company grows. So it's like, I think the idea is that you have a core value of transparency or teamwork, or whatever it is, but the way you do that, and the company needs to change and adapt, so that way you're making sure the way the company works is what changes, not what the culture is if that makes sense. So, it's like, you need to look at what your cultural values are and figure that over time. And it's also very good to have people, like you got Dave, DC, and Elias, and other people that have seen those growth paths that can draw from those experiences and sort of know when the culture is going to break.

DC: And when do you think is the right time to define the culture?

Mike Volpi: I'm not sure you can do it too-

DC: In the lifecycle?

Mike Volpi: I'm not sure you can do it too early. Like it might be a waste of time when you're three or five people. But I think 10 or 12 to start to think about it because what you want to make sure that the people you're bringing in the door and hiring meet those criteria. And I think when the founders are still interviewing everyone, they're naturally doing it, but maybe as soon as they're no longer interviewing every single person, or something like that, maybe then because you need to figure out a way to get that stuff out of your head and into other people's heads in kind of like a way that they can enforce it with the new hires, I think.

DC: Yeah, I think one mistake where I made at Drift was we probably spent too much time trying to talk about it and think about it at that three to five stage.

Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

DC: Right?

Dave: Yeah.

DC: Too early, and it-

Mike Volpi: Yeah.

DC: And it's definitely better later. Once you have some people and some patterns. And part of the culture kind of emanates from that early team, right?

Mike Volpi: Yeah. And you're right, maybe because the next five people you hire they're DNA and who they are sort of effects that culture a little bit, so you might not even know what it is at three or four people, but at 10 or 12 you probably do. Yeah, that's interesting. I hadn't thought about that.

DC: Interesting, yeah.

Dave: One more.

DC: One more. Kara.

Dave: Kara.

Kara: So, we were talking about scaling and was there anything that you did at HubSpot from an early stage that traditionally wouldn't scale but you felt was really important to keep as you continue to grow?

Dave: What's something that didn't scale that you scaled?

DC: I don't think that's the question she said. Was that the question?

Mike Volpi: So, I think there were a lot of things in the early days that didn't scale like having your head of sales knock on doors to try to get customers, or having the head of marketing do all the demos, but you learn a lot from that process. Now those are not things that we ended up keeping, so I think your question is like is there anything that we did that didn't scale that you ended up keeping? Maybe some of the interview... I mean at 100 people, and we were hiring, even just in marketing, 50 people a year. I was still interviewing every single one. I would say, most people would say, " Well, that's not the right way to scale." So, that was something that I felt like it required my own attention, and I think that even inaudible who knows how big that can scale to practically, but I think even a couple- of- hundred- person team, I would still want to interview all the new hires. I don't know, that might be the one thing that will maybe stick out for me. Yeah.

Dave: Cool.

DC: Awesome.

Dave: All right.

DC: Thank you, Mike.

Dave: Give it up for Mike. Whoo.

Mike Volpi: Oh, thank you. Thanks for having me.


If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. ----- Mike Volpe joined us live at Drift for lunch with the team, so we hit record for Seeking Wisdom. Mike is the CMO at Cybereason and a friend, investor, and advisor to us at Drift (but you probably know him as the former CMO at HubSpot). Tweet at Mike @mvolpe and let him know you heard him on Seeking Wisdom. Here’s how you can support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the show: 1. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only. 3. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. 4. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com. PS. We just announced our first annual conference, HYPERGROWTH. Get your tickets at hypergrowth.drift.com