#Exceptions 1: Gusto

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This is a podcast episode titled, #Exceptions 1: Gusto. The summary for this episode is: In the very first episode of #Exceptions, we meet a company so excited about building a brand that it kind of feels like they name the whole company after how they feel. In this one, Jay explores Gusto, a SaaS platform that helps automate and improve your payroll, benefits, and HR processes. They launched in 2012 and employ over 500 people across San Francisco and Denver offices. They’re valued at over $1 billion. In 2018, Gusto was named to the Fintech 50 by Forbes. They’ve also made the list for best places to work in both office places. Today’s big idea: Be better than a commodity Use the promo code SEEKINGWISDOM when you get your tickets to HYPERGROWTH 2018 and save $500 today (just $199 for your ticket). Visit https://hypergrowth.drift.com/ to get your tickets today and come see speakers like Jocko Willink, Molly Graham, Chaka Pilgrim, Amelia Boone, Grant Cardone, and more in September. PS. The Seeking Wisdom Official Facebook Group is live! One place, finally, for all of us to hang out, get updates on the podcast, and share what we’re learning (plus some exclusives). Just search for the Seeking Wisdom Official group on Facebook. On Twitter: @jayacunzo and @seekingwisdomio

Tomer London: What we saw is a lot of pain. And again, the word payroll, if you don't have the context, has been so not delightful, it's like saying delightful surgery. So although you have incumbents and huge companies in the space, the problems are still there and that's an opportunity.

Jay Acunzo: Hey there and welcome to Exceptions, the show about the importance of brand in B2B. This is where we go inside some of the world's best B2B companies to understand why and how they're proactively building a brand that stands out. In today's world where there's infinite supply, infinite choice, on the side of the B2B buyer, creating a great experience between the customer and the company is the opportunity for B2B marketers, but they can't simply act like everybody else. To build a great brand, you have to find and follow what makes you an exception. Exceptions is a Seeking Wisdom original series and it's a partnership between Drift, which is all about bringing conversations and people back to B2B sales and marketing, and me, Jay Acunzo. I'm the host of the podcast, Unthinkable, and author of the upcoming book, Break the Wheel. It's a book about questioning conventional thinking when you're surrounded by endless amounts of it and few places are surrounded by best practices, and tips and tricks, and past precedents, quite like B2B marketing. So on this series, we're going to go headlong into that mess, try to make sense of it, and try to tease out what the best in B2B are actually doing to build great brands. In other words, what makes them the exceptions. Today we meet a company so excited about building their brand, that it kind of sort of feels like they named the entire business after how they feel, because these people are building their company with Gusto. Gusto is a SaaS platform that helps automate and improve your payroll, benefits, and HR processes. They launched in 2012, originally named ZenPayroll, and employ over 500 people across offices in San Francisco and Denver. Gusto serves more than 60,000 businesses, or 1% of the market, and they've raised over 176 million in VC. And yes, they're valued at over$ 1 billion, unicorn status. But, they serve companies that are far smaller than them, which is an interesting challenge that we're going to talk about a lot today. In 2018, Gusto was named to the Fintech 50 by Forbes, while PC magazine called them the best in payroll software, benefits admin software, and best in HR software. They've also made the list of top places to work in both cities that they call home. Now, all the brands that we'll profile on this show have a lot of things in common, but the most important thing to them all is that they are customer centric. So of course that's where we should start every episode of this series. So it's time now to get one customer's experience of the great experience that is the Gusto brand.

Taylor Poindexter: My name is Taylor Poindexter, I'm currently a Back End Engineer at a DC- based startup called Crowdskout.

Jay Acunzo: A marketing platform for politicians and nonprofits. I first encountered Taylor's love for the Gusto brand on Twitter, where she had sent out a screenshot of an email she received, sent from her company to her, through the Gusto platform. It said...

Taylor Poindexter: "Hey, you just got paid. Expect the direct deposit in your account soon." So what caught my attention about it, was that it was a woman of color on it. So originally I was so unaccustomed to seeing something like that, that I assumed that they had somehow figured out my race, but I was like," There's nothing in Crowdskout's documentation that I filled out that would allow them to figure that out." And I couldn't figure it out, but then I asked my coworkers and they said it was the same for them as well, no matter what their race. And that's when I realized that they were just making the initiative.

Jay Acunzo: So why is that meaningful to you?

Taylor Poindexter: Because I feel like it's so rare. I know that a lot of people talk about diversity now, but even in marketing slicks and such things like that, it's not very common that I see a person of color as the sole representation of some type of advertisement or outward going piece of mail. So I think that it's important to increase that amount of representation, everything like that. So as a black woman, it just surprised me and really made me happy that they were doing that because they don't have to. Because most people don't notice because when I brought it up to my white coworkers, like," Oh, I never noticed that." But since black people aren't used to being represented in things, when we are represented, it comes as a shock.

Jay Acunzo: I asked Taylor if she would describe this email in detail.

Taylor Poindexter: All right, so when I opened my email, the title says," Hooray Taylor, you got paid," and it gives the date. Then it's a depiction of," Happy payday," with flowers growing from each of the letters and there's a black woman kneeling and watering the Y of the happy. Then they go into details about how much I got paid and everything like that and then list some fun facts like, did you know, there's over 43 quintillion legal positions of a Rubik's cube. Then they break down at the bottom with a pictograph how much of my money went to taxes, whether federal taxes or state taxes, and other deductions that I may have had taken out.

Jay Acunzo: Gusto calls these messages, payday emails, and they're intentionally designed to turn what typically feels like a corporate or mundane transaction into something to celebrate." Hey, you! You got paid. That's great. You earned this because you worked hard. Congratulations. Here's some personality, some warmth, a fun fact, and some helpful detail on where your money went and why." It's something so simple, but as we'll later hear, it's had a profound effect on Gusto's business.

Taylor Poindexter: So if I were to describe it, I would say that Gusto seems to be forward thinking, that has ideals that are very similar to mine, and that they're very focused and committed to making a streamlined product that actually helps the customer. I feel like if they knew it would help the customer, they would do it, as opposed to some older companies that may be set in their ways. So I like the fact that they're not stagnant.

Jay Acunzo: So if Gusto was a person in your life, who would they be?

Taylor Poindexter: I would say it'd probably be one of my friends, obviously in like the finance sector. He's very trendy and cool, but he's very knowledgeable and he actually wants to help me with a lot of things. So like, well, we could kick back and drink a beer. We could also do productive things that are going to help me be more financially stable and financially sound as I progress through my career.

Jay Acunzo: Later in the episode, we're going to find out how this compares to the way that one of Gusto's co- founders would describe the brand. Is it similar or is it way off? That's later in the episode. For now, think about just how little most B2B companies care about cultivating their brand. Think about your own company. How much do you proactively talk about and purposefully build a differentiated and refreshing brand in your niche? Today, you simply can't build a great brand if you look and sound like most of us imagine most B2B companies. Dry, droning, void of human personality. And I don't mean fun and quirky is the way to go, I just mean have a personality, be human, not robotic. So let's ditch all those terrible emails, stop with the ridiculous stock photos, and take out the trash that is most B2B brand building, and let's explore today's big idea. Be better than a commodity. B2B companies don't necessarily avoid building brands because they dislike great brands. After all, we're all consumers regardless of where we work during the day and so we can all likely appreciate amazing consumer brands from food to media to shoes to technology. So I don't think the real problem is we don't get what a great brand looks like, I think it's that in B2B, we believe we don't sell commodities. And that's the problem. When you sell, say a shoe, you're used to competing against a ton of other shoe brands. So if you're Nike, you need to compete against Reebok and Under Armour and Adidas and the list goes on. Nike's basketball shoes are up against every other basketball shoe, and there are tons of options. What's more, you then have dozens of subcategories of shoes to worry about. And it's not just in apparel of course, think about consumer packaged goods. Why buy Dove soap or Gillette razors or that bottle of NyQuil, when you can get the generic versions of all those things for cheaper and yeah, they're basically the same products? So for years, consumer brands competed not on the product, but on brand and story and emotion, because that was the differentiating factor. The experience separates them from all the commodities of their space. Now, today in B2B, we all have to realize we sell commodities too. There's more competition in almost every niche than ever before. And maybe before we could get by, by being the first or saying that we're the best or saying," Hey, we solve your problems, business buyer, so go with us." I mean, how many B2B companies brag about being number one in the space, the market leader? Does Nike ever run a campaign about being the number one shoe or does Red Bull say they're the number one energy drink in the marketplace? No, but B2B is obsessed with beating the competition on competency. In reality, we should be beating them on experience, on emotional pull between us and the customer, because the customer today has all the power. In a world of endless supply, endless options and feature parody, the focus has to change to better serve the demand side of the equation, AKA the customer, by providing a great experience. In B2B, we have to be better than a commodity. So let's explore this big idea with two people from Gusto offering two different perspectives. We'll get the bird's eye view from Tomer London.

Tomer London: Tomer London, I'm one of the founders of Gusto and Chief Product Officer in the company.

Jay Acunzo: And bringing us the frontline view is Micah Panama.

Micah Panama: I'm Micah Panama and I lead Brand Studio, the internal creative team at Gusto.

Jay Acunzo: Just wait until you hear more about that group. As a creator, I just love it. But for now, let's start with Tomer. I asked him, if Gusto was a person, who would they be? Remember that Taylor had said it was a smart friend who could both coach her on her finances and kick back and have a beer. Here's Tomer's answer.

Tomer London: I think the person that comes to mind for me is just someone that you know for many years and is a close friend, but is very, very trustworthy. So it means that on one side, it's someone that you know and you trust and you went through ups and downs together and is a friend that you know a lot about them too. So you know about them, they know about you, and you connect on a personal level. But on the other side, you can talk with them about things that are kind of sensitive and professionally really important and you really trust their work as a result.

Jay Acunzo: Pretty damn close, that's not too bad. And when I told Tomer the story of Taylor and the email and the Tweet, of course, he loved it.

Tomer London: Oh, it's awesome when customers notice the craft, notice the small things. We have our personalities and we have who we are and what we believe in and we try to bring this to everything that we do in our work. It makes me really proud, it makes me feel happy to see that people notice these things.

Jay Acunzo: When you're in B2B software and you're in your space in particular, there's a lot of incumbents. And so what did you guys see that was broken? Or what was the opportunity when you first started out?

Tomer London: What we saw is a lot of pain. When we looked back at our own time running small businesses and look back at our time with our families, we saw that there's all these problems that small businesses feel that although you have incumbents and huge companies in this space, the problems are still there. And that's an opportunity.

Jay Acunzo: Gusto found that about 40% of small businesses are fined hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year because they don't do their payroll or taxes correctly.

Tomer London: By the way, and when you think about these fines, like hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars of fines, mean the world for a small business that's just trying to make a living.

Jay Acunzo: And so Tomer and his two co- founders CEO, Josh Reeves and CTO, Edward Kim, started the company with a clear purpose.

Tomer London: The mission of the company is to create a world where work empowers a better life. It's a very broad mission, and it's focused not just about what businesses will get from Gusto, but also what their employees will get from Gusto. It's an internal mission that we use a lot when we talk internally, what we're trying to do in the world. But when you talk outside with customers, you need to talk with them about what you're currently selling to them, because that's the needs that they have. So for us, the way that we're describing what we're giving to customers today is, earlier on and when we just started, we only had a payroll system, we called it Delightful Payroll. So basically this idea of taking a task, like thinking one of these multiple hats that small businesses have, the payroll hat, we take this off their head, and then not just helping with that, but also making something that's extremely painful and making that delightful. And again, the word payroll, if you don't have the context has been so not delightful, it's like saying delightful surgery. So we try to show that there could be a better future.

Jay Acunzo: I think Tomer just described something pretty interesting that I hadn't considered before. I don't know about you. There's this broad internal mission that helps the company keep building towards a better and brighter future, but then externally, they only let a little bit, a specific piece, of that mission out into the world because they have to describe the value they provide right now. So for instance, their homepage right now says they tame the chaos of payroll, benefits, and HR, but Tomer just described this huge mission to create a world where work empowers a better life. It just so happens that the way they're doing it right now is listed on their homepage. And I think that's an important nuance if we're going to build great B2B brands. There's this theme that comes through of broad specific. Let me give you an example. This is from Micah Panama, the head of their Brand Studio, who we heard from very briefly earlier, and he describes this project they created, which he calls the Yelp of accountants. The goal is to help tons of people in the Gusto ecosystem in a very broad way, even before they buy and even if they never buy. Here's Micah.

Micah Panama: We created a marketplace for accountants and bookkeepers so that small business owners can find the right partner for them to help run their business. So in this case, we recognize that our customers have this need, they need accountants, and our accountants actually are a really important part of the Gusto ecosystem. So we have a bunch of great accountant partners who use Gusto, and they actually use that to run payroll and even HR and benefits for their customers, the small businesses. And so we recognize this need on both sides of our customers to connect together. And so what we did is we actually built this kind of... Imagine like a mini Yelp for finding these partners. And what was cool is we were able to partner with Product Design, so they were building the accountant side product and that was to allow the accountants to build their profile and we were building the small business facing product where they could go in and search for the right partner, put in the parameters. So we did a bunch of user research to find out what was the most important thing in picking a partner. And then we built this beautiful site where you can go in, you can do your search, and then you can look at the profiles of these folks, get to know them, understand what they specialize in, and then find the right partner for you.

Jay Acunzo: This project adds a ton of value to the world, to the audience, and it provides a great experience to the people they hope to reach. Not to mention, it exposes that audience to the tone of voice, the warmth, that helpfulness, the Gusto brand.

Micah Panama: Which is very much aligned with our mission- driven approach, of we want to empower all these small businesses. So if you don't use Gusto, we can still provide value for you. And to me, that's the way you build a great brand. If you come in and you have this great experience and you didn't even pay for it, and your takeaway is like," Wow, Gusto helped me with that." That's a huge win for us.

Jay Acunzo: Now, I mentioned before that Micah leads Gusto's Brand Studio, which was originally called Brand Design.

Micah Panama: We ended up changing the name of the group to Brand Studio because we're this cross- disciplinary group of creatives. So the team today is designers and writers and front end developers, brand is kind of the result of everything you do, right? It's the way your customers feel about you and your prospects feel about you based on those actions. And so as far as Brand Design goes, we see ourselves as the ones crafting the story of who Gusto is, and then helping the entire company, equipping them with the tools to express that.

Jay Acunzo: One popular way they express their brand is the payday email. It's that email that Taylor had mentioned earlier. Here's co- founder Tomer, again.

Tomer London: We started that project really thinking about where is some interesting moments of delight where we can connect with employees on our platform. We knew that for us, employers and employees both are really, really critical for the success of our company and we cared about both of them. And we actually started by looking at the pay stub. We were like," You know what? Look at that thing. It's so ugly. So hard to read. Everyone's having a hard time. You use it when you need to get a loan or get a new landlord or move apartments and stuff. So let's just redesign that, make that beautiful." And we started there then really quickly we were like," You know what? That's nice, but it's not that frequently that you experience your pay stub. Is there a way to do this better?" And then we had that idea around like," Well, the email that we send to deliver the pay stub is actually the thing that everyone sees, how can we do that better?" So we did a couple of design sprints, and we had this idea of talking to people in their own language." Take a breather, take a step back. You got paid, you're doing a good job." Enabling the employers to put in a note saying," Thank you for your accomplishments the past couple of weeks," and really making it the moment of stepping back as opposed to like," Keep going, go, go, go." Then we launched it and people can't stop talking about that email. Everywhere I go and the meetups and the conversations, and it just keeps showing up and people just love that interaction and it just makes you feel so good as a creator that you found something makes people happy. Even if it's a tiny bit.

Micah Panama: Every time you get paid, we actually send you an email because it's a big deal. You worked and you earned this money. And before, that transaction was one that you probably didn't even see. Those are the things where nobody in the industry was thinking to create things like that. But when you start with a customer point of view of what would be good for them, then you can create stuff like that.

Jay Acunzo: Believe it or not, this email not only helps with customer acquisition and loyalty, it helps with recruiting. For Micah, it sealed the deal that Gusto was the place he wanted to work to lead their Brand Studio.

Micah Panama: When I first started talking to them, I wasn't really aware of them. I kind of knew of them through some people that I knew, but I had never been paid through Gusto. So I started talking to people that I really trusted, and it was so funny because I had this same experience where I would go," Hey, I'm talking to this company Gusto," and before I could finish the sentence, they would go," Oh my gosh, I get these emails from them. They're a payroll inaudible but I get them." The funniest one was, I told my wife, I said," Hey honey, I'm talking to this company Gusto." And she cut me off again and said," Wait, the people that pay me? Like the people that send me those fun emails?" And I was like," Yeah, you know who this company is." And it was so telling to me in terms of like," Wow, this company is not only really thinking from a brand centric place and a customer centric place, but their audience is different than any payroll provider." You think about the audience of an ADP or Paychex or these big companies, it's only the person who's going to be making the purchase decision. But for us, it's anybody that interacts with the product and so not only does it mean that we care about brand, but think about the footprint that our brand has now when you expand it beyond this small audience of the person making the purchasing decision and you put it to everybody who's using the product. So that was something that for me, was so telling and actually really sealed the deal for me in terms of like," Wow, this is a place I want to go to and this is a brand that I'd be lucky to help build."

Jay Acunzo: I asked Tomer, where does hiring and team building fit in this idea of creating an exceptional B2B brand?

Tomer London: So there's two pieces. One is the hiring piece and making sure that you bring in the right people that are aligned. And two is making sure that you keep repeating and emphasizing the messages internally so everyone really hears the same thing from all leaders in the company and know that this is what we're really about. So you hear me in the podcast say," Customer love, customer love, customer love." I say that a hundred times a day and it's not just me, it's a lot of our... Like all of our product leaders, our design leaders, our folks in marketing, customer love is this huge north star for us as a company. And then when you come in from another company that that's not as important, or maybe that's just one out of many things that are important, you just start hearing the same thing and you kind of get excited about it because you're aligned with our values and you feel like this is actually quite a cool way of building a company. So that's that piece of making sure that you know exactly what you stand for and keep repeating it all the time. Internal brand is external brand. It's the same thing. Again, it's about what I mentioned earlier, it's about inaudible. And then on the other side around recruiting, we try to hire people that have qualities that we believe will fit our message and fit who we are. So we're trying to hire people that are humble and are open to learning new things and have growth mindset and know that they don't have all the answers and actually, it's quite cool to not know a lot of things and then learn them over time and improve.

Jay Acunzo: And speaking of employees who have to learn over time and improve, Gusto faces quite an interesting challenge when hiring people to serve their customers. See, most people at Gusto are digital natives with business acumen and digital savvy. They live and work in tech hubs like San Francisco or Denver. And most of them have never built their own small business or had to worry about payroll, benefits, or HR. Their customer, however, is the opposite. She's less like the Gusto team and more like a 30 year- old baker in a small town in rural America who opened up shop on main street, not to run a business, but to bake for other people and now she has to think about all these back end business processes and figure that out. So how do you build a great brand when your employees are often that different from your customers?

Micah Panama: Yeah, that's an interesting question. I mean, one of the things that's cool here is if you walked up to anyone at Gusto and you said," Who is Jessica?" They would tell you who Jessica is. And so Jessica is not an actual person, it's this archetype for who our customer is. We define Jessica as this millennial minded, non- HR pro. That's sort of the shorthand for who she is, but then we can unpack that with more data and more information. So that is a subtle thing, but it has a huge implication on how we think about brand, because we start with who is this person and who are we talking to and how do we build things for her? So as far as how we measure it, I mean, one of the really important measurements that we look at is NPS. So net promoter score, that's basically measuring how people feel about your company. And the important word there is promoter, right? So how many of your customers would actually recommend you to a friend or a colleague or someone they know. We're super proud of our NPS score. I think right now it waivers between like 76 and 78, which is not only extremely high for our industry, it's extremely high for even just a consumer brand. So at the end of the day, we could ship amazing graphic design or great advertising, but what we really want to measure is our customer satisfaction. So that's one piece of it. The other part of it is brand awareness. So this is something that doesn't say so much about whether or not people like you, but if they're aware of you. That one's a little bit tricky because one of our competitors, Zenefits, has had really high brand awareness for a long time, but it's not for anything good. It's for the bad news that they've been in the press for, but it is something we watch because I think when you create a message that resonates with folks, that awareness gets higher and higher. And then on top of awareness, what we measure is brand sentiment. And so this isn't something that you can really boil down to numbers necessarily, but it's really looking at what are the words and emotions that are associated with your brand? So when you talk to people who are either your customers or people who are in market for what we offer, and you say," What words come to mind when you think of Gusto?" We watch that really closely and that's something that we measure on a quarterly basis to see, how are people feeling about us? What's the sentiment? So it's definitely a squishy thing. And if you're not comfortable with that, then it's going to be hard for you to invest in building a brand.

Jay Acunzo: I asked Tomer, as a co- founder of a company betting on brand and thriving, why don't most B2B companies do the same?

Tomer London: I think it's because it's very hard to measure. It's very hard to measure the impact of a well- crafted moment in the grand scheme of business. Like, how much does this move your revenue? How much does this move your margin or improve your churn? But as an individual component or effort or project, it's extremely hard to prove the business impact. What is possible to prove though, is if you bundle all these projects together and really say," This is a philosophy of how we build things," and then look at the success of that philosophy over time, that's where it's very, very easy to see. And these are things that I know, and we know here from just our experience, are a great predictor of organic growth and word of mouth, and that's how we grow. So the reason why Gusto is confident in investing in these moments, is because we've seen it work since the beginning so we have that internal confidence. So we don't keep questioning, is it worth that time to craft that moment? It is obvious for us.

Jay Acunzo: Does that have to come from the founders or at least the executives? Is there a belief system that has to be spread throughout the company? And if so, how did you make sure people you hired were on board with that? Or is this something that you can, if you're listening and you're not in the position of ultimate power in the C- suite, you can somehow disseminate?

Tomer London: That's a really interesting question. I think it's the culture. When you can't measure things easily, it means that it's hard to obviously prove things and then your ability to create change within an organization is... It's not like a linear prove. It's either you're in that power or place of influence or you are able to form and change the culture. That's one of the hard things, again, you look at the big incumbents and the big companies that's in our space, they're not stupid. They're really, really smart people, accomplished executive, accomplished teams build great businesses. The problem is that it's very hard to change the culture once it's formed. So my advice, I would say for folks that are seeing that opportunity within their companies, is to look at this as like, our goal is to change the culture of this organization to be focused on craft. And craft is important by itself. It's a value for itself.

Jay Acunzo: When you are building a human powered customer centric brand in B2B, you constantly question conventional thinking to think for yourself. So let's take a moment now and look at a few questions that we can each ask in our specific situations to break from old norms in B2B and build better brands. Question number one, are you broad specific? In other words, do you have a mission big enough to start a movement, but relevant enough to add value right now? Tomer talked a lot about this idea of making people's lives better. And Gusto's mission internally is to create a world where people's work creates a better life. That's a broad mission. And under that umbrella, or actually said better, on top of that foundation, they can build a ton of things. But right now, they're building better tools for small businesses to execute their payroll, benefits, and HR. And so they tell the world that that's what they do, but they have a far bigger reason why they do it. So do you have a mission big enough to start a movement, but relevant enough to add value right now? Are you broad specific? Question number two, are you building your brand internally? Both Tomer and Micah talked a lot in this episode about all these internal interactions across departments, largely by the Brand Studio, but spilling across functions. Tomer also discussed his obsession with repeating the phrase customer love to his team. And it also sounded like craft was another one of those words. Regardless of your themes and your words, are you constantly and obsessively repeating the beliefs you have, internally to your employees? Brand can't be an external facade. It's not the final layer of paint on something. I think Micah says this best.

Micah Panama: I think especially in the B2B space, it's really changing where, if you offered a service and it was affordable and it worked, that was enough. And we're moving beyond that now where consumers and the buyers of these products are actually looking for something that's meaningful to them and that resonates with them. People don't want to pay for services for companies that they don't believe in. And they just have way higher expectations of the way that companies should behave. I mean, that's what brand is, right? Like how do you behave as a company?

Jay Acunzo: That second question again, are you building your brand internally enough? Question number three, do teammates whose jobs benefit from brand understand the value of it? Let's go back to Micah.

Micah Panama: I'm lucky here, we have a really disciplined marketing team and they can talk funnel optimization all day long and they're really good at it. But on top of that, they really understand the value of brand and how every single touch point someone has with us is going to be an experience with the brand and is going to inform how they feel about Gusto.

Jay Acunzo: One of the subtle things that you worked into that answer was the marketing team is great at funnel optimization, they basically are in charge of growth and conversion and all that. And then you said," But they're also aware of the value of branding." And I feel like the word but speaks such volumes to what most B2B marketing teams and B2B companies do or think about when they think about brand. So why don't you think most B2B companies see the value of brand?

Micah Panama: Yeah, it's interesting that you caught that word but, I should have said and, but it definitely-

Jay Acunzo: No, I think you're on the right path. Gusto stands out for many reasons, but I think one big one is you guys do have an amazing brand and it seems like when you say they understand the value of it, what I assume you're not saying, is they have a metric in their mind or a number of dollars driven that they can attribute directly to the brand. It's almost like an implied belief. It's like," We don't know the exact ROI of all these activities, but we know they're making everything else we do work harder and that there is indeed value in brand." And I just don't see most B2B companies thinking like that.

Micah Panama: Yeah, that's exactly right. Brand is something that is hot right now. I think lots of companies want to talk about how important brand is. To me, we're a company of... Altogether, we're over 500 people now across two offices. So we're here in San Francisco, we're here in Denver. That's not huge. And so the signal to me when I was interviewing with Gusto was the fact that they recognize," Hey, we want a head of Brand Design. It's that important to us that we want one person in charge of this and we want that person to have a team that inaudible." That speaks volume to how much we care about design. And then as far as the industry, definitely in the B2B space, I think it's something that has been neglected, but at the core of that is I just think customers have been taken for granted.

Jay Acunzo: Really sit with that thought." The customer has been taken for granted." It was assumed forever that in B2B, it didn't matter if your website sucked, if your experience felt like a stuffy, terrible place to be, if you forced people to do things like fill out marketing forms or talk to pushy salespeople or wait on hold with support for way too long, none of that seemed to matter because the buyer did not have all the power, companies did, but obviously that has changed. Customers cannot be taken for granted. Instead, they have to be taken on a journey. At Gusto, everything they do reflects an obsession with customer love. From that simple payday email to the way they hire every employee to, say, redesigning the typical and boring job offer letter that most companies send new hires.

Tomer London: It's kind of weird. It's like, imagine if as a wedding proposal, you would just show up with a huge inaudible giant pile of papers.

Jay Acunzo: Additionally, if you walk into Gusto's brand new office in downtown San Francisco, you're going to see a pile of shoes when you walk in, because the team takes off their shoes when they enter and works in socks or slippers to make their work feel like home because their brand is all about warmth and the human touch. And it's little things like that that add up to make a big difference. A great brand, the way you make others feel about you, that is defensible in a world of infinite supply.

Tomer London: That's going to achieve great results. And that cycle takes time and it takes investment, but it's really, really worth trying. Because if you don't give that time, if you don't do that, you may miss a huge, huge, huge opportunity. There's obviously like... In business, that's not just about taking on big bets and putting people together, and huge investments, and waiting years to see. inaudible definitely, definitely not advocating for that. What am I advocating for is balance. Some of your budgets, some of the work that you're doing as a company should have very quick results, very quick ROI, measurable, easy to work with, easy to navigate. But in that portfolio, make sure you also put money aside and put resources into things that actually take a long time to measure because these things actually can make huge, huge value to the company and the customer in the longterm. So it's a portfolio approach. It's not just this, not just that, we're going to do both. And we believe that that's going to create the best outcome over time. Who knew that we'll be in a place where you have dozens and dozens of people Tweeting about how much they love their payroll system every week. Like I never imagined that would actually be a thing.

Jay Acunzo: It's a simple question to ask, really, but it's time we all answered it in B2B, do you want to be a commodity or will you find and follow what makes your brand the exception? This episode was written and produced by me, Jay Acunzo, and brought to you by Drift. If you haven't yet, go explore the rest of this Seeking Wisdom channel that you're playing in right now, there's so many other good series and good episodes. Get to exploring, it's unbelievable. And while you're doing that, maybe head over to where you can rate and review this show in whatever app you use. The folks at Drift told me that apparently they only like to accept six star reviews, six stars. So how about this? I'll make a compromise with you. Leave us five, because that's physically possible, but then send me one additional star to let me know you listen and I'll say hi on Twitter or over email. I'm @ jayacunzo or jay @ unthinkablemedia. com. Jay @ unthinkablemedia. com. And I'd love to chat about this episode and the show. So five stars plus one extra for me, and thank you so much for listening to Exceptions. I'll talk to you next time.


In the very first episode of #Exceptions, we meet a company so excited about building a brand that it kind of feels like they name the whole company after how they feel. In this one, Jay explores Gusto, a SaaS platform that helps automate and improve your payroll, benefits, and HR processes. They launched in 2012 and employ over 500 people across San Francisco and Denver offices. They’re valued at over $1 billion. In 2018, Gusto was named to the Fintech 50 by Forbes. They’ve also made the list for best places to work in both office places. Today’s big idea: Be better than a commodity Use the promo code SEEKINGWISDOM when you get your tickets to HYPERGROWTH 2018 and save $500 today (just $199 for your ticket). Visit https://hypergrowth.drift.com/ to get your tickets today and come see speakers like Jocko Willink, Molly Graham, Chaka Pilgrim, Amelia Boone, Grant Cardone, and more in September. PS. The Seeking Wisdom Official Facebook Group is live! One place, finally, for all of us to hang out, get updates on the podcast, and share what we’re learning (plus some exclusives). Just search for the Seeking Wisdom Official group on Facebook. On Twitter: @jayacunzo and @seekingwisdomio