#Growth 4: How to Spend 10X Less But Do 10X More. Drift’s Mad Scientist & VP of Growth Weighs In On Must-Have Tools.
Matt: Hello, and welcome to another episode of hashtag Growth. I am Matt, the guy with the beard, and I'm super excited today to have Drift's math scientist, our VP of growth Gee Gion Kaban to join us today, which I am super excited about. Thanks so much for joining us Gee.
Gee: Thanks Matt. Hey everyone. I'm the guy with the French accent. What are we talking about today?
Matt: Yeah. Great question. So today we're going to talk all about tools, right? I have been working with Gee for a year now, and I've seen how he uses tools to accomplish things that other people do for 10 times the cost, or it takes them four months longer to get implemented. Right?
Gee: That's a good one.
Matt: Yeah. And so I watch you hack all these things together and find these tools and use them to achieve great things. And so I want to talk to you and ask you some questions around those tools. Is that sound good?
Gee: Yeah, that's good sound.
Matt: Great. So I want to start off with a question around, how do you find new tools? I watch you roll in with lists of tools every single day. It's all right. We should look at this thing or try this or that, is it just people outbound emailing you all the time, telling you about these tools or where do you uncover these things?
Gee: Yeah, that's a really good question. I think part of it is strategy, and part of it's just me being opportunistic. I strongly believe that being on the lookout for new tools gives me a competitive edge. And the reason for that is if you select tools and you stay with the same tools for six years, eight years, maybe longer, eventually what happens is that you work with the previous technology wave, and you can't compete with the marketers who are using the latest technology. And that's very clear. And so the question comes like, well, how much time do I devote to finding those tools and how do I find them in? And of course, some of it is people reach out to me. And the fact that I do some of the speaking here and there, or some podcasts definitely helps because I always say, and I'll repeat it here. I will invest 10, 15 minutes looking into your tool and trying out to see if I can get value from it. If you send me a trial access, that's true for everyone. Right? And that openness though, no it seems reasonable is not shared amongst most marketers. Most marketers will shut down and will invest zero minutes of their time looking into new tools. So, that's one part. The other part of it is I have a pretty strong peer network and growth of people who recommend, talk about the new tools that they are testing. And so I do get that leverage.
Matt: Yeah. So you mentioned that marketers generally will shut down tools or not try them. Why do you think that is?
Gee: Because of sales. Just aquas of sales tactics and they don't want to go, and I don't want to go into a sales demo and watch a slide deck about how the marketer on the other side has told their sales rep to pitch their tool in fantastic ways and illusions of grandeur. Right. And it's true. It's like, I hate that because it's going to be a 30 to 40 minute call where I get zero value. I might learn something, but I get zero value. And I can't prove that it's going to be useful for me. The best way, honestly, just say, hey, this is what we do, here's the trial access go ahead, right. Because I'm good enough that I should be able to get value on my own, if I can't then there's an issue.
Matt: Okay. So let's say you find one of these tools, maybe you don't get on a demo because you clearly don't like those, you start trying it out. How do you find the value in something? Right. There's people listening here that are probably like, okay, so they use tools. That's great, we all use tools. But I watch vendors come back to us and you specifically, a month after you've had access to a tool and they say," whoa, I've never seen anyone do something like this with our tool before." How do you uncover that value in there? And is it just you being crazy coming up with this stuff? Or is there more to that, right? Or can other people leverage that too?
Gee: Good question. Yeah, I think everyone should be crazy. I think I'm crazy, but I think everyone should be crazy.
Gee: I think you agree to the fact that I'm crazy.
Gee: We know that. I think that the tool in isolation has limited value. It has value, but it's rare that a tool itself is going to be the eye- opener, the thing that's going to change my entire year. Right? However, we already have a significant stack. If you're looking within the growth team here at Drift, we have, I'd say between 30 and 40 tools that we actively use on a week by week basis. And the value we get mostly is by stacking those tools together and sending data or using one tool in combination with another one. And that's what vendors don't see too often is because most of their customers have a limited tool set, and they only use the tool in isolation, which means they only go with a use case that's recommended. Now there's a thing I want everyone to understand here. The use case that is recommended, everyone's doing that. You're not getting a competitive edge, unless that tool was very new and no one's using it. Let's say you take a fairly common tool, a tool that has paying market, paying user base. And you go with the top two or three use cases. What are you doing to create a better experience for your customers, that your competitors are not doing? Answer nothing. Right? So how is that marketing better? Answer, it's not. Right. So you're not going to bring those customers from your competitor over to you. The only way you're going to do that is by creating a different experience and a better one. And that's only going to happen if you use the tool in a different way, in a way that creates value that others are not. Right. And that usually happens when you either hack the tool or you ask for features that don't exist, or you just connect those together. Yeah. That's what I'm trying to do all the time. It's an active process is what I could say.
Matt: Yeah. So I feel like, it could sound you need to know how to code, to put these tools together, right? Where you talking about stacking tools, right? Don't you need to be technical to know how to do that.
Gee: Here's a secret, I don't code. I cannot write a single line of code. So the answer is no. And sure, I'm going to use stuff like Zapier or Trader IO or other things. And we also have some engineers, but most of the time I do that without involving engineers, just on my own.
Matt: Okay. So you throw something together. What does it then look like to say, all right, this is the thing that we should invest in more, or we're going to go on to the next tool, right? I'm sure that there's a lot of tools that you try out that you do that.
Gee: Yeah. And that's something I can bounce back to you in a second on like, how do we know when we have enough potential value? But just before I send that question back to you, I usually try to prove that the new use case, or the value I'm creating is possible on my own by using Zapier or whatever. And I show it's possible, that there's a new use case that's possible. And then I will send it to Matt. And what I'll do is just say, hey Matt, here's this data point. I'm able to link it here and there and change the user experience in that way. And then Matt is going to go and figure out what's the potential value of that new experience. You want to touch a couple of words on that Matt?
Matt: Yeah, sure. And I want to start off by saying, Gee makes it sound like he hands me this nicely packaged thing that's easy to understand. But usually it's like, he's inviting me into his basement where there's papers all over the walls, and chalkboard marks everywhere. Right? It's this crazy set of things, but it's really cool. And he hands it over and it works, right. It doesn't look great. It's kind of falling apart in some places, but it's functional and it's showing that it can accomplish something. And so I then will take that thing, see if it can stand on its own for a little bit longer and try to apply it to a couple of different use cases. Right. So, maybe we're trying to figure out how to generate more leads right now. And so a thing that he pieced together can apply to that sort of use case, or we're trying to get people to engage deeper with the product. Huh. You know what this thing can actually go here. Right? So we take this contraption has been built, see if it can address a business need or a business problem. And if it's clear that it can, and it does a few times over, then it becomes apparent that it's time to get an engineer to work on this. So it really is like Gee is building the MVP of what would take an engineer, maybe two weeks to put together in the first place. He can throw it together in one of his crazy fits of inspiration in just a few hours.
Gee: Yeah. And I think then the role of Matt who's the PM on the group is really important, because Matt is going to evaluate not only the opportunity size, but also the potential cost and the risk of this failing or going over cost. And then we say, hey, should we do this thing or not? Right. Or should we completely kill it? And sometimes those stuff that works in the contraption, but we don't do it because it's just not worth it.
Matt: Yep 100%. And something that you mentioned a little bit earlier is that, the growth team is the number or we're using 30, 40 tools on a weekly basis. And something that we were talking about earlier today is that growth is actually our growth team, which is only seven people out of hundreds of employees at Drift. We are the number one buyer of new tools and vendors. What do you think that means? Is that a normal occurrence? Should the growth teams be the main buyers, are other teams missing an opportunity?
Gee: Yeah. I think if every team buys as much MarTech as we do, the finance team would go crazy. The security team would go crazy and the legal team would just disappear. But I think there's one thing, I think I have a natural appetite for tools, but they don't solve only our team, right. We service many different teams with what we buy, and some of our biggest purchases in value, actually service the entire organization. So that's one thing. I think part of it is this team is pretty good at getting good prices. And so it's natural for us to handle some of those purchases. And some of it is, yes, the numbers, not the variable, the count of tools, the high kind of tools we have in our team comes from the fact that we are trying to get that competitive edge. And I know I'm repeating that, but it's important. We are trying to keep, maintain, preserve a competitive edge in our marketing stack so that we can have a competitive edge when we create a marketing experience. And that's why we're going to have a large number of small tools. Whereas most other traditional teams will have a small number of traditional tools.
Matt: So you mentioned in there, that I want to pick apart. Maybe share one of our secrets here is you say, we're good at getting good prices on these. How do you go about getting good prices on tools, right. I'm sure there are people out here that are like, oh man, how do I get good deals?
Gee: Yeah. Some of it's really hard to replicate and I don't want to give away too many secrets because we're tool ourselves. And so I don't want people to call and be like, oh, hey, I heard you say that. That's how I'm going to get good price. But a couple of things, one, I cultivate very good relationships and I make sure that it's a two way deal and that the vendor I'm buying from sees a value. That's not only monetary, not only financial, right. And that's not everyone can create that, but I can, right. My team can, because if successful, we will talk about our success in a public way, that's one. Two, we give them a lot of product feedback. And three, because we're trying to use the tool in an unusual way. It is extremely common. It's frequent, I'd say that vendors tools actually develop use cases that they then sell to the rest of the market based on what we have done with them. And so often I pitch the fact that it's free product research and free strategy sessions, and that they're going to get free PR when we talk about it and all of that does stack up and that's how we're able to get really low prices over your tool after tool. Most of those people are making us to be customers.
Matt: It's a pretty good spot to be in.
Gee: Yeah. I learned that strategy early in my career when I was working at Apple. My first boss had this way of having vendors come in. And when at the end of the discussion, they would talk about price. He would look surprised, offended, and he would say," what? You want us to pay, but you should have said that from the start. We are Apple, you should be honored to have us as a logo on your customer list and you want money on the top of that?" So yeah.
Matt: That's hard to argue against.
Gee: Yeah. We're not Apple by any means, but I have kept that lesson.
Matt: Yeah. That's good. One of my final questions here is about the future of tools, right? We look at things like the MarTech landscape, there's thousands of different companies out there. You've been playing around with all these different tools for over a decade too, and are there clear patterns or trends of where tools are going? Certain types of tools, certain models around the tools. Where's the next step of tool?
Gee: Yeah. I think MarTech is very much like the economy does the cycles, right? It just follows the economy cycles. Right now we are in a cycle of rapid expansion in the MarTech inaudible. We all know Scott Brinker's 5, 000 MarTech PDF was all those tools by category. It's insane. Right? But eight to 10 years ago, we were in a crunch phase, right. Where there was huge tools like Marketo and HubSpot and others who totally dominated, and would crunch everything. And those tools as they arrive at technology maturity, and they start to get slowed down by the technology choices they made, new and small vendors using newer technology can escape that kind of gravity well and create an offering that is extremely competitive. They will grow, they will mature. And once they reach eight to 10 years, those who have survived will hit the same phase. My expectation is that we're looking at a crunch in the number of tools over the next couple of years, probably two to three years because the market doesn't expand fast enough to support those 5, 000 tools and the increase in tools. And some of them will just reach maturity in technology. That's really what I'm seeing. The second thing that I'm seeing is that there's really two types of strategies. One is the tool grows by being very horizontal, and tries to cover a lot of scope. HubSpot and Marketo are good examples of that. And others reach maturity by being extremely vertical. And so owning an entire vertical extremely well. Right. And I think here CLiP IT is a good example of that. CLiP IT is a data vendor. They try to do more and more and more data, they could expand into email, into other things and sales automation that is leveraged by data, but they're not, right? So those two strategies really oppose and all of those are growing extremely fast. And so there's a crunch coming.
Matt: All right. So if you're out there building these tools, listen to Gee's advice on this. If you're using tools, keep trying them out, push them to their limits. It's pretty amazing. I mean, I genuinely watch the stuff that he builds with combining all these tools and it's just this crazy stuff that no one's ever done before. And it really is something special and adds a ton of value to the business.
Gee: Yeah. And before I let you go, do think when you select a tool, will this enable me to create a better experience for my customer than my competitors can. It's a competitive market and we are the service of our customers. Right? All of what we do is to create a better experience.
Matt: That's great. Customer always comes first, even when selecting your tools.
Matt: All right. Well, Gee thank you so much for joining.
Matt: Really appreciate it. All of you listening. Thank you very much for listening. Wherever you are, if you're making dinner, you're on your walk to work. Really appreciate it. If you have any feedback, other things you want to hear me talk about, other things you want to hear Gee talk about. People you want me to interview and bring on this, just let me know. My email is matt @ drift. com. Again, thank you so much. And I'll catch you on the next episode.
Gee: Six star reviews, for everyone.
Matt: Six star reviews only.
Gee: See you soon.
Matt: All right. See you.