#Marketing: Lessons From The High Volume Business – Scaling Hootsuite, Vidyard & Constant Contact with Steve Johnson

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This is a podcast episode titled, #Marketing: Lessons From The High Volume Business – Scaling Hootsuite, Vidyard & Constant Contact with Steve Johnson. The summary for this episode is: On this #Marketing edition of Seeking Wisdom, DG syncs up with legendary marketing operator, Steve Johnson. Together they discuss his time at Constant Contact, Hootsuite, Vidyard and more. Before you go leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review and share the pod with your friends! Be sure to check out more insights on the Drift blog at drift.com/blog and find us on Twitter @davegerhardt @seekingwisdomio. In This Episode: 0:33 - Intro with Steve Johnson 1:29 - The rise of social media 2:31 - Hootsuite and social media 3:51 - Lessons from the high-volume business 4:16 - Lessons from Constant Contact 4:34 - Fremium 5:43 - How did Hootsuite grow? 6:33 - Community marketing 7:25 - Ambassadors to reach area influencers 8:16 - Hoot-ups 10:52 - South by Southwest and an owl bus 12:02 - All a matter of marketing and public relations 12:34 - The move to enterprise 14:46 - The proliferation of free/enterprise combinations 15:44 - A lesson from Survey Monkey: switch to annual subscription 17:12 - A lesson from Survey Money: use an agency 17:28 - The most recent parts of Steve’s journey 17:40 - Lessons from Hootsuite: purpose and model 18:26 - On the need for an international move 19:24 - Things learned from Vidyard 20:45 - GoVideo success 21:30 - Fremium is good for horizontal markets. 22:25 - The attitude needed to build a big company

David: So, hey everybody, we're back. Steve Johnson is here, in town, and we said, you know what, while you're here, why don't you come by and let's talk about marketing and SAS and whatever else you've done. And so I'm super excited to talk to you because I've known of you. And then we worked at the same company together but didn't really know each other then I've just through osmosis have learned a bunch of things from you over the years. So I want to try to unpack a couple of those lessons.

Steve Johnson: Absolutely.

David: How do you describe who you are and what you do?

Steve Johnson: That's a good question.

David: You're always kind of operating guy right?

Steve Johnson: An operating guy, I look at solving real problems, so I love that kind of stuff, something that's real. I also am purpose- driven so I like to have something that's got meaning to me.

David: Yep. Let's rewind like back from Constant Contact, HootSuite Vidyard, Natla. Give me the last like 10 years.

Steve Johnson: Sure, sure. So we ran across each other at-

David: Constant Contact.

Steve Johnson: Constant Contact-

David: Yep.

Steve Johnson: Then I came in as Sero at HootSuite. Employee 27.

David: Yep.

Steve Johnson: Just when we started monetizing it.

David: Okay.

Steve Johnson: So Vancouver and so did that five years. We went from 27 to a 1000 people and grew all around the world and some great revenue.

David: Mm-hmm(affirmative).

Steve Johnson: Now it's 150 million.

David: What was it when you joined?

Steve Johnson: So it was 300,000. Revenue. So I turned it down a couple of times because I wanted to wait and see if somebody wanted to pay for this. So Ryan great guy, but he pinged me and said,"we've got this free product going to start monetizing" and like-

David: That was a super interesting era. Wait, how long were you at Constant Contact?

Steve Johnson: So I was there two years, two years from-

David: Yeah, to learn the volume business basically-

Steve Johnson: What 2009 to 2011 would be my guess crosstalk because I was there 2011 Yeah 2009 to 2011. And so at that Time was I think the rise of social media.

David: Yeah-

Steve Johnson: Right. crosstalk Because there was a lot of stuff happening at that time. It was like Facebook was blowing up.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: Instagram was just blowing up. It had just been acquired by Facebook. Twitter was just starting to take off. LinkedIn obviously was a platform. Google plus was a thing back then.

David: Oh man-

Steve Johnson: All these social tunnels.

David: We were a premier partner on that.

Steve Johnson: Right? And thought this was game changing.

David: Yeah, everybody in the world. And I actually remember being at constant contact, there was a social media marketing product for Facebook.

Steve Johnson: Yeah.

David: And Facebook pages used to be able to basically gate your Facebook page. You remember?

Steve Johnson: Oh yeah.

David: It was like, you could have an offer and say, hey, I'll give you a$2 coupon if you like my Facebook page. Facebook then demolished that, open up this whole-

Steve Johnson: Killed a whole bunch of companies.

David: There was a ton of companies that had just made-

Steve Johnson: A lot of money-

David: Apps on social media. And so my guess is there was during that time, which is like the rise of social HootSuite started to blow up because there needed to be some way to manage all these channels. Right. I remember at Constant Contact there was four or five people on the social media team using-

Steve Johnson: Yeah.

David: And using Hootsuite.

Steve Johnson: Yeah. Well, and it was interesting people thought originally it was a stupid idea. I got told many times that I was making the dumbest career move in my life.

David: What, leaving constant Contact to go to HootSuite?

Steve Johnson: Yeah and I said well I was an enterprise guy, I wanted to learn the volume business and constant contact was the best at that, at that time. Right. So learn a ton. But to me it was sort of just self obvious that social media was just yet another communication forum. Right. So you first do face to face, then the mail, then the fax and email, fax, phone, email, or whatever the order is. And then social media was just the next logical iteration. So I'm like the world has shifted and companies, if you thought social media is a fad, then you didn't need Hootsuite.

David: Right.

Steve Johnson: If you thought it was real, then are you going to manage it all natively? No.

David: Right.

Steve Johnson: We were underfunded at that point. So we had 1, 000, 000 9 in funding. Couldn't get funding. All the smart money was on Seesmic if you remember Seesmic?

David: Yep.

Steve Johnson: So Marc Benioff.

David: Yep.

Steve Johnson: Reed Hoffman.

David: Yep.

Steve Johnson: All these guys they'd raise 20 million to our 1. 9. And then as soon as I joined Hootsuite, Twitter bought Tweetdeck.

David: Tweetdeck, man I used Tweetdeck, I loved Tweetdeck.

Steve Johnson: I thought we were hosed. We were like" this is awful." So we were a Twitter tool only. That's when we added Facebook and start adding these other platforms.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: Now there's like 150 platforms.

David: Actually I think a great focus for this episode would be lessons from the high volume business.

Steve Johnson: Yeah.

David: So let's unpack some of those-

Steve Johnson: Yeah.

David: But first, what was the playbook at... Well, I want to talk about all of them. I want to talk about lessons from Vidyard, I want to talk about lessons from Hootsuite-

Steve Johnson: Yeah-

David: Lessons from Constant Contact. But-

Steve Johnson: Yeah-

David: There's kind of some key themes along the way.

Steve Johnson: Absolutely.

David: Right? What things did you see work really well from Constant Contact that you then took to Hootsuite and said, okay, there's 30 people here. Here's what we're trying to get to my first 90 days, three months, six months I'm going to do, what?

Steve Johnson: So what I took from constant contact was definitely the rigor and the data analysis of things that you need from a volume business. So looking at all this page user acquisition, making sure you're constantly iterating and iterating and testing all this kind of stuff. So we did that and leverage the pro- business really, really well. The other thing I took away from Constant Contact was really the freemium looking at MailChimp. You know, I'm like the freemium really, really works. So our brand proceeded us.

David: Can you unpack that? Because we worked there. And so like, I don't think most people will know the story, but Constant Contact did not have a freemium email model. MailChimp came into the market and basically started to eat a big portion of that by having free.

Steve Johnson: Yeah. And Ben Chestnut wrote a blog on it and I don't know if it's still up, but I can remember reading this and before I went to Hootsuite, I'm like he told this whole story and basically the whole thing was how do you get people into a product, into the business? And they started late in the game. They didn't start with a freemium, like Hootsuite started with a freemium. They added it later on and you know, the numbers were just, it was just a home run.

David: So did you add freemium when you were at Hootsuite?

Steve Johnson: We had free to start with, and then we added pro then we added enterprise. So those are the three things that we added. So it was, I think it was roughly half a million free users. When I joined my left, we had 15 million free users and then the pro product was, we were starting, I remember we were adding like a hundred pro per day and then the weekend it would dip, and after a while we broke the 500 a day on the free signups, I should say. And then finally you get the point, we were signing up 10, 000.

David: How are you growing? And maybe the answer is just dump a bunch of money into SEM and paid and-

Steve Johnson: No so yeah, good question. So initially we didn't have any money, we had a million nine and then we got a 3 million convertible note. That's the untold story of Hootsuite. It was actually a very capital- efficient, because people heard the, we raised 250 million, but that was years later, most of it didn't go in the business.

David: So the growth in the freemium model was not relying on paid. What's the playbook?

Steve Johnson: So the playbook we looked at and we said, get out at$ 5, 000 a month in marketing spend-

David: That was the budget? That was the marketing budget?

Steve Johnson: That was the budget. So I'm like, this included paid user, this included everything. So you're like, okay, so you remember the book flip my funnel. I'm like, all right. We had a lot of raving fans out there that loved our product. So our whole marketing team-

David: Joe Jaffe, John Jaffe?

Steve Johnson: Yeah. The whole story was community marketing. We're like, we got to go after this community marketing. So we would start and find all these influencers that liked our product and that was our vehicle. And we got a bunch of interns that would come in. So in every market we would want to go into, we go, okay, we need somebody in Vietnam and we would get an intern in and you could actually see almost like radio. You could see the community marker would start working and you'd start to see the lift in signups.

David: Huh? From that-

Steve Johnson: From that market, from that geo, I remember it was just like, you could just do it by clockwork.

David: Would the intern actually be at Hootsuite?

Steve Johnson: We would try to bring him over for like a summer or three months.

David: And they would focus just on that?

Steve Johnson: Yeah.

David: And how do you do that from an office digitally? Like how do you drive signups in Vietnam?

Steve Johnson: It's all based on finding out who the influencers were in Vietnam.

David: Okay. This is amazing. So the playbook is you guys had a bunch of, free users, you found out where the really passionate ones are and then what? You give them swag and make them feel-

Steve Johnson: Yeah so-

David: Feel loved.

Steve Johnson: It's a really fascinating story. Again, we had no money. So we would get these interns, we just pay, barely anything we could do to scrape together. Bam then with, look. Okay. So you have three things you've got to do as an intern or as an ambassador, we call them an ambassador. You became an ambassador for us. And by the end we had almost 1200 ambassadors around the world with 25 paid community markers. But early days it was like, didn't have that. So you're an ambassador for, let's say for Vietnam or, or wherever.

David: Boston.

Steve Johnson: Yeah Boston. What no, no, we had them for North America and then we got in different regions. So it would be, all right, who are the influencers in that market?

David: Yep.

Steve Johnson: And so guy Kawasaki was one early on like he was influencer. So we would start to build a relationship with them. So it was like the whole story that you had to be kind of what I called higher. It had to be a holistic story. That was the age. I won't go through all the other ones. But so we build this relationship and then they would then start sharing it. So the first would be, get the relationship the second we'd call them Hootups.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: So you bring people into a little bar venue and we had no money. We had just, initially we'd just go. We literally would send stickers. Sounds really, really cheesy. But we had these little HootSuite stickers.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: We'd mail out.

David: No, like I'm getting flashbacks. This is amazing.

Steve Johnson: Yes. And people loved it. And then later on when we had money to start funding it, we would send swag and beer money or drink money. We'd go you got to do a Hootup.

David: Yep.

Steve Johnson: You got to do it once a month to be an ambassador. And then you also have to post socially about this. So the swag would be like an owl mask or something like this.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: So then we had this whole social channel.

David: Was there any ask, was there like and you have to sign up X people.

Steve Johnson: No-

David: Or was it your expectation? Like if we can make these love us and they have these community events by osmosis, like people are going to sign up for our product.

Steve Johnson: Yeah.

David: And that's what you saw-

Steve Johnson: It absolutely was. So we toyed around a little bit with trying to get some sort of an ask, but most of these people are volunteers.

David: Yep.

Steve Johnson: So the biggest thing was just simply getting the brand out. Because we knew if we could get the free brand going.

David: Right.

Steve Johnson: We would convert X percent of them to our pro.

David: Right. It wasn't like every influencer had some like, magic affiliate link and you'd track it all down. It was just like hire people in these segments go.

Steve Johnson: Yeah. Yeah.

David: That's amazing.

Steve Johnson: And also they became our amplification. So we had, the Hootsuite, Twitter, we called it our death star. It became pretty powerful. So we wanted to blast the message out.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: The ambassadors would actually send out that message-

David: And those are the days on Twitter where like there was, a couple accounts, not everybody was on Twitter yet. If you were on Twitter-

Steve Johnson: You're on.

David: You're already kind of like the 1% of marketing nerd people. Right.

Steve Johnson: Yeah. And then like inside of that, the people that are like connected to Hootsuite and using social media tools, that's like a whole different sphere.

David: Oh yeah.

Steve Johnson: And it went on steroids, like I really think the community program just because we didn't have the budget, we used to write on a small whiteboard where the Hootups were.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: It's like during the week, you'd see them. By the end, we had a whole cafeteria that would be like a hundred feet of whiteboard where all around the world these could ups are going. It'd be like multiple a day all over the place. That was actually pretty exciting.

David: That's amazing. Do you think that not having the budget for stat solutions?

Steve Johnson: Absolutely. Absolutely forced it. It became less critical later on as we started getting budget and we started spending more and more money in the paid user. Because, for every paid user pro that we would get, we drag six free along. Right. And then those six free besides the brand.

David: From the same company?

Steve Johnson: From the same spend. And the same-

David: Oh just from a cost perspective.

Steve Johnson: Yeah so it's like not everyone would sign up for a trial, but those that didn't would sign up for free and we knew we would monetize a certain percentage of those free.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: And then that also had a chain effect too, that those free people would drink and pull us into enterprises.

David: I've been to South by Southwest twice.

Steve Johnson: Yeah.

David: One time I was there, there was an owl, a big bus-

Steve Johnson: That's tight man.

David: A big bus that was an owl, everybody was talking about it, getting-

Steve Johnson: Yeah-

David: Pictures with it, tweeting it. And that was pretty early in that-

Steve Johnson: Was really early-

David: That was 2011-

Steve Johnson: Was one of our biggest marketing spend when we finally squeezed the money together.

David: How much did the bus costs?

Steve Johnson: The bus cost, and I'm trying to remember the actual exact number. It was not as much as you think. We had it configured and built in Austin.

David: Yeah. Yeah. But you're probably still under a million in error at that point, if you had just joined, 300,000?

Steve Johnson: Yeah. When we did the bus, we were probably around a millionaire error.

David: The bus was great.

Steve Johnson: Well, let me think about it. We grew... I can't get the numbers, but it was a really fast ramp. This is basically hacking South by Southwest. What are you going to do? How do you get attention? You get a booth. Everyone has a booth. If you do food.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: Everybody does. You throw a party. Everybody throws a party. So we were like the bus with this owl and we got on USA today.

David: It was amazing-

Steve Johnson: Journal-

David: It was everywhere.

Steve Johnson: And the today show, everybody picked that thing. And that was a home run.

David: Was any of that stuff inspired by the Constant Contact kind of like field education playbook? Or was it separate?

Steve Johnson: A little bit. So the ambassadors was a little bit that, but I also saw what I saw happened at the ambassador program when they tried monetizing it, I'd left by that point. That to me didn't seem like it worked super good. Like this was all marketing and PR.

David: It's free. It's got to be free.

Steve Johnson: You try to hold them accountable, they're not going to do it.

David: We should buy your beer and pizza and let you do it. And the faith is the brand.

Steve Johnson: That's exactly right.

David: We've thought about freemium that way here, which is like freemium is our number one marketing thing that we have. Right. And there's a million lessons from that. The Constant Contact email had the viral footer. Right?

Steve Johnson: Yep.

David: MailChimp sent by mail chip. Like there's always some element of that. All right, so that's Hootsuite. There's one free lesson. This is why I love doing this podcast. Then from Hootsuite, we go to Vidyard.

Steve Johnson: Yeah. And before I could jump into the Vidyard thing, we also knew that we had to move into the enterprise.

David: Oh yeah. That's important.

Steve Johnson: When we start monetizing who was a hundred percent pro. And so we were like, okay, we got to get this to an enterprise. So we start out with five reps, just dialing for dollars.

David: Hunting.

Steve Johnson: Hunting, completely hunting.

David: No leads?

Steve Johnson: No, no leads. Cause we had no marketing except for the community marketing.

David: Right.

Steve Johnson: So as we started building marketing never drove more than 30% of our leads though. So I had BDRs that drove, 25 to 30 percent marketing drove 25 to 30 and the reps were required to do it. But by the end of five years, 70% of our revenue is enterprise. So we'd completely crossed that mark. And I segmented it going from a everybody doing everything. Then I segmented at year two, where we called corporate Strat. So corp was inside sales and Strat were field. And then the third year we segmented even further. So under corporate SME mid- market large enterprise. And then we had Strat.

David: Was there one marketing team that fed those different segments?

Steve Johnson: No, somewhat. And it's changed since I left-

David: Sure.

Steve Johnson: But I talked to a bunch of different people about this, for Envision and Zendesk, Survey Monkey and a bunch of these guys, I felt we had to have a business owner of enterprise and a business owner of the free pro product. So I had a VP of basically of that online business. He was the first employee in that team. He built it up to a global team of 50 he's now CRO at Bench who was great, phenomenal guy, Craig Remoto. And then the enterprise had an enterprise leader that did that. And so marketing owned overall brand, overall PR, and all that stuff. But the online team did their own paid user. They managed their webpages, so they could do their own testing. That needs to be so in their control.

David: So marketing entirely focused on brand.

Steve Johnson: Yeah brand and also then they did the enterprise.

David: Right.

Steve Johnson: So as we moved into the enterprise, we've got a great woman from Yammer. She came on and she's now at Movable Ink, if you know those guys-

David: Cool.

Steve Johnson: But her whole job was just to move us from a freemium brand to an enterprise. And that's when cutesy owl moved to the faded out black and white owl.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: If you remember that? And then enterprise it, so then it became analysts relations, pitch decks, demos, dinners-

David: Smaller stuff.

Steve Johnson: Dinners, events. Yeah so since I left, they've combined the marketing for both of them, which I didn't like, but it's up to them. How they want to do it.

David: Yeah of course. It's interesting. There's more companies that have that model now, which is, I think like 10 years ago, even five years ago, you'd say if you're going to sell it to the enterprise, you're either free or enterprise.

Steve Johnson: Yeah.

David: Now there's so many businesses that combine them both. I think of myself as a marketer, I'm probably not going to buy a product that I haven't tried.

Steve Johnson: That's exactly right.

David: Right.

Steve Johnson: So old PQL is going to drive everything. Had a really fascinating story. And this is Dave Goldberg, he's passed away, but love that guy.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: But he was the CEO of survey monkey. So he called and he said, look, he wanted to come up to Hootsuite and at that point just shows you the timing, how so much has changed. There were very, very few freemium to enterprise success stories. So he'd heard about what we were doing. We were partners. Could you spend a day? And I'm like, kidding me? This is amazing.

David: Of course.

Steve Johnson: So he came up, spent a day with him, like I said, an amazing guys, as a sidebar. And when he passed away tragically, it impacted me way more than I thought, because I was like, I really only spend eight hours with this guy and one other meeting. And he would answer emails and stuff, but he was just such a nice guy.

David: Yeah?

Steve Johnson: Just such a nice guy. But he opened the kimono on everything on free and pro. And I'm like do that. And I'll tell you everything on enterprise, what we did. And, and they ended up doing it. They're a big in enterprise now.

David: In the free and pro thing from the survey monkey. So what's one thing that you learned from that playbook?

Steve Johnson: So from the Pro playbook from Dave, what I learned was we were not doing annual prepays or for pro, we was just like month to month because that was the game plan. There's a low price point. Yeah. It was like, we started at 5. 99 a month, you know? And so you ask why 5. 99. And like, it's just what they decided is now, we've moved it to 15. So the thesis was everybody that's paying month to month. You will have less churn.

David: Yeah if they go annual and there's high churn in the small business segment.

Steve Johnson: Right. And people aren't going to do it. So he's like, absolutely not true. He told me his numbers for how many were and I'm like, are you kidding me? So we immediately flipped and started doing annual. He's like, you have to offer a discount. Remember off the top of my head, it was around 20% discount to do annual.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: And we did way more than half of our business on the pro came from annual.

David: Is there something like that happens mentally there? Is that just a perception thing. People perceive that they're getting the same product for less?

Steve Johnson: Yeah.

David: Instead of 5. 99 it's 3. 99.

Steve Johnson: Yeah. And you know what the churn was? Cut our churn in half.

David: Wow. Just by a pricing change.

Steve Johnson: Plus so you get all our advertising spin right? You get it the very next month.

David: Was it paid annually? Like not a monthly bill?

Steve Johnson: No, no.

David: People just mentally said, this looks cheaper. I'm going to-

Steve Johnson: You give the choice, right? You go, you want to do this or not? So that was-

David: That's amazing

Steve Johnson: By far the biggest takeaway I got from him. The other one was actually, it was Dave's suggestion. We were doing all of our paid user spin.

David: I'm writing notes. I'm writing notes.

Steve Johnson: So Dave was like, you know what? You should do. You really should look yeah. At an agency for this. Cause I'm like, no, no, our guys are great. And he's like, no, no, our spend was about the same as theirs for the paid user. So, but I used the same agency that he did and it actually was a huge win for us. So I think we did it for six months or so. Pulled everything out of it. And I'm actually going through the same process right now at our current company. We're just outsourcing to an agency, just to get the knowledge.

David: Let's maybe do two or three minutes before we wrap up on like the last part of your journey. And then what you're doing today.

Steve Johnson: So Hootsuite was a phenomenal run. You know, some of the lessons, their culture, like culture eats strategy for breakfast, as they say, I think Ben Chestnut said that when he was interviewed about Constant Contact.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: So that was a huge one. Really having a model that lines up. Having a purpose that matters, I think really makes a difference. To me that was always super important at Hootsuite, that everybody knew what they were doing was meaningful. Our purpose statement became we help transform messages into meaningful relationships. And what that really meant to us was it manages social. Like we weren't social, we were just managing social. If you could see them, social messages going out, it just, this cacophony of noise. So you're like, what do we want customers out of this? We want them to be able to basically pull all that noise, manage it. And I can start having a relationship with you, David. Right?

David: Because It became more of a sales channel, more of a support channel. Right?

Steve Johnson: Yeah. And we get to know that person. So that became really, really, really big for me, you know? And I think it was a really, really good win, and also the second learning I got was from, this is from Constant Contact, was move international faster. It was not late, but it was a slow move. So I watched this, I'm like, you know what, sometimes you just got to move. So we made the decision. So I joined in 2011, we went into AMEA 2012 with just a small office, fast forward three years later, we had 160 people there, 10 in Paris, five in Hamburg. And we had a global support center firmly in Bucharest and 35% of our revenue coming from EMEA. That's amazing. And then same thing with APAC. We had a Singapore headquarters.

David: You had to make that decision without a ton of data. You just felt like-

Steve Johnson: No we had to go and I looked at and my rule of thumb was, am I getting, what's the percentage of free signups? Or it could be revenue. Like a lot of companies would say pick a number. Right? I always looked at it like if I was getting 10% of my signups from a market-

David: It's time ago.

Steve Johnson: It's time to go.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: That's free. You know, you could also do it from an ARR perspective. Some people say a million, we did it a little bit less than a million when we went in.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: It was such a game changer that we did that, and it put us so far ahead of the competition for a while for that.

David: Yeah. Do you have any Vidyard lessons?

Steve Johnson: Yeah, I do. I mean, that was, it was actually really interesting, great company, great space. So I spent five years commuting from Maine to Vancouver. So that was non- sustainable-

David: You did that five years? Wow.

Steve Johnson: Five years man. I'm like I can't keep doing this.

David: Commuting from Maine to Vancouver? Not close man.

Steve Johnson: Those two things are not close.

David: Oh, brutal.

Steve Johnson: And it was never supposed to be that long. Right? It's supposed to be faster and still hasn't sold. And then Vidyard, I'd actually got to know these guys, the same investor that led around Hootsuite led around in vineyard. He was at OMERS. And then ironically, the role I have right now, he took this role as a chief commercial officer at intellects and then tragically passed away.

David: Yep.

Steve Johnson: So I'm just, temporarily helping the company out. But Vidyard, lessons were, we were selling, sort of a niche within a niche with a video for marketing, great, great product. But you know, as we kind of looked at this and like, how do we break this open? So we were an enterprise product.

Speaker 3: Now you go from the other end, right? It was the other end. Okay. We're already doing the enterprise thing, and Steve Johnson is coming in with the free, that's it.

Steve Johnson: They weren't too happy about it. I won't say the board loved that initially. But to me it was a no brainer. Like we had to come up with something that other people could use and actually use it really, really easily. And we had a failed start at it. Initially we tried doing our original platform. I think the first name of the product was Engaged. It was built on our enterprise platform. It just bombed so kudos to the founders and the board, they let us go do again. Another try. And that was Go Video. And that was a huge, huge success.

David: Huge. Yeah.

Steve Johnson: So that's been really good. A lot of companies, I think you guys are integrated, using it.

David: Use it five, 10 times a day, at least.

Steve Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. I love it. So that went from, just the trial of free, to now let's add enterprise. I think it was three months later we added enterprise and that became, I can't say the numbers, but it became a really big piece of the enterprise business for Vidyard. After a two years there, I'm like, my mission is done. You guys are doing great. You know, we have a great team they're off and running. Yeah. That's probably the big lesson there. Not that the freemium works everywhere. I think freemium just talking to another executive in Boston here early this morning, like freemium to me is if you have a vertical, if you're a niche, it doesn't make any sense. Right. You've got a limited market, but if you have a wide horizontal market, the freemium is a phenomenal way to get customers.

David: Well and just if you think about where we are with software today, like I can find anything out without talking to sales reps, or nobody has to turn anything on in my account or give me a license or something anymore. And so I think just where the world is going, people want to try before they buy.

Steve Johnson: Yeah.

David: And people are going to win on the product experience. And so you can get people into your product. And then they talk to sales, which is like such a different change from 10, 20 years ago, which is like, talk to sales, then buy, then get you in the product. Now let's get you in the product. Then talk to sales, and then buy.

Steve Johnson: A hundred percent.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: Probably another story I would say too is like any company that really goes, and it goes big.

David: Yeah.

Steve Johnson: A founder with sort of what I call a reality to distortion zone. Right? Like I brought Ryan to meet Gail at constant contact. Yeah. And you can tell there were like 20 people and Ryan thought they were much bigger and better than a publicly traded company. Right. He just had this head about like-

David: Sure.

Steve Johnson: We're going to be really big. And you know, we all had that same attitude. Like why play small ball?

David: I think in order to lead a company, you have to have that mentality.

Steve Johnson: Yup. Yeah.

David: Right. You're not in this to build something small-

Steve Johnson: No.

David: And think your things going to change the world. And-

Steve Johnson: Yeah that's exactly right.

David: This was great. We did about 30 minutes. We could have gone on forever.

Steve Johnson: Man that was awesome. Thank you.

David: Appreciate it.

Steve Johnson: Great. Being here.


On this #Marketing edition of Seeking Wisdom, DG syncs up with legendary marketing operator, Steve Johnson. Together they discuss his time at Constant Contact, Hootsuite, Vidyard and more. Before you go leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review and share the pod with your friends! Be sure to check out more insights on the Drift blog at drift.com/blog and find us on Twitter @davegerhardt @seekingwisdomio. In This Episode: 0:33 - Intro with Steve Johnson 1:29 - The rise of social media 2:31 - Hootsuite and social media 3:51 - Lessons from the high-volume business 4:16 - Lessons from Constant Contact 4:34 - Fremium 5:43 - How did Hootsuite grow? 6:33 - Community marketing 7:25 - Ambassadors to reach area influencers 8:16 - Hoot-ups 10:52 - South by Southwest and an owl bus 12:02 - All a matter of marketing and public relations 12:34 - The move to enterprise 14:46 - The proliferation of free/enterprise combinations 15:44 - A lesson from Survey Monkey: switch to annual subscription 17:12 - A lesson from Survey Money: use an agency 17:28 - The most recent parts of Steve’s journey 17:40 - Lessons from Hootsuite: purpose and model 18:26 - On the need for an international move 19:24 - Things learned from Vidyard 20:45 - GoVideo success 21:30 - Fremium is good for horizontal markets. 22:25 - The attitude needed to build a big company