Welcome back to our 2Inspire Interview Series, featuring entrepreneurs, managers, experts, and creatives ready to share their first-hand experience, tips and advice on how to make it in today’s dynamic business landscape. In our previous episode, Matthew Howells-Barby of HubSpot shared useful tips on how you can boost SaaS acquisition, engagement and retention. So if you haven’t yet, make sure to also watch the full interview with him.
In this episode, we were delighted to have Matt Bilotti join us for a chat. Matt is currently Product Lead at Drift, the reputable revenue acceleration platform that coined the term “conversational marketing.” He joined the company as employee no. 6 and contributed to its growth from $0 in revenue to hero in the industry. He definitely has some interesting insights to share, so stay tuned for this. Matt also hosts Drift’s Growth Podcast, which aims to uncover everything growth-related (spoiler alert – he’ll uncover some of this in our interview as well 😊). Although Matt’s professional background varied across multiple departments, he admits that his “core footing” remains in product-based roles.
As expected, we’ll discuss a lot about Product in this interview – Matt will share what it takes to develop a career in Product and then will deep dive into useful tactics and approaches you can apply to improve your product strategy. He’ll explain from his experience how to build successful viral loops, how to leverage conversational marketing and make the most out of freemium offerings. He’ll also cover some overlooked growth strategies, as well as B2B and B2C differences. To learn about all these and much more, make sure to watch the full interview!
Check out the full interview below:
Q1: Why product management out of all the other functions? (00:15)
I sort of fell face-first into Product Management. I wanted to work with a friend of mine who reached out and said “Hey, we need a Product Manager and I think you’d be really good at it. Do you want to do it?” And I agreed because I wanted to work with him. Then I immediately Googled what a product manager was. And I’ve kind of stuck around with it because I think it gives amazing exposure to all the different aspects of a business – to learning all the different functions, to learning what a great company looks like and trying to help build that up as a nucleus of a lot of stakeholders.
Q2: What is the most enjoyable part of your job, and what is the most difficult? (00:57)
The most enjoyable is seeing something that you’ve built, provide a really great customer outcome or experience. So, I work at a company called Drift and we build a revenue acceleration platform that has chatbots and live chat. And every now and then I’ll just be browsing the Internet and I will come across it on a website of something that I was looking at. It’s so cool to see that thing that we built on these pages.
And I would say the most difficult part is, probably in each product management role, the process of finding product-market fit. It’s really an exhaustive journey, and in those early days, it is really, really hard to get it right. But it leads to a really great reward when you start to see your customers adopt the product more and more and more.
Q3: How are product marketing, growth marketing, and growth hacking different and where do they connect? (01:48)
You know, somebody can be a product manager, but that means wildly different things in different places. I think it’s generally the same thing for growth and the term that growth is applied to – so, like you were saying, growth marketing, growth hacking, product-led growth. I think of growth, generally, as a team or a person, usually with a technical aspect, that is applied to a business lever. So, it’s something like activation, retention or a similar outcome versus a part of the product or a marketing channel. So I kind of think of it as a little bit of a catch-all. You have to understand what’s going on at that company and what that person is owning.
Q4: How did you implement the product-led strategy in Drift’s exponential growth? (02:43)
Drift has gone through all sorts of phases over the years. We started from the free offering type and then built the product out from there. We’ve built up this natural progression where people came in, they were signing up for the free product, and then they would use it. Then we would either find ways to get them to buy through product changes or through a sales organization that we had.
I think that we’ve built ourselves on top of an amazing marketing engine in those early days and a lot of the product played catch-up to it because Marketing can iterate a lot faster than Product can. And so we kind of had some product-led growth functions built-in along the way.
Q5: Can you share more about viral loops and how to successfully build them? (03:34)
I think the most successful viral loops come when the product has an inherent viral lever in it. Let’s take a quick example – you can’t use Zoom unless another person is using it. The value you’re getting is that another person also has it and you connect with them.
I think Drift has a different type of virality where people install the Drift chat widget on their website. So we wind up on all these websites across the web and we can put our own branding on them, which powers a viral funnel for us.
Q6: How does conversational marketing change the way online businesses engage with buyers? (04:20)
Conversational marketing has shifted this mindset where marketing is all about the numbers, funnels and people aren’t really treated like people. Sales and Marketing used to be really conversation-driven before websites became more like a statistical funnel. So we think conversational marketing has shifted it back towards the goal of having conversations with these people that come to your website, finding out what they’re looking for, finding out where you can help them and then building a relationship from there.
Q7: What is your most effective retention strategy? (04:58)
From what I’ve seen, I think the best retention strategy is a really good acquisition strategy where you get somebody value quickly, and a lot of value again, because if somebody gets value quickly and they get the value again, then they are more likely to say, “I understand this, I see why I’m getting value, I want to continue getting value.”
Getting the buy-in at the executive level is critical for us to be able to retain them over time. That’s because the executives will be looking at it [the product] saying, “We know why we’re bought into this, we know why we need to be investing in this, we know the outcome that we want, let’s continue to build that out and get it.”
Q8: What do you see as the difference between B2B and B2C customer journeys in SaaS? (05:43)
I think it all comes down to the buyer cycles, authority and autonomy.
I think in B2C, the person signing up or using it has all the authority and autonomy to make a decision. It’s just a decision that you personally can make.
In B2B, it gets a little bit more complicated, because generally, you’re making a decision to use a piece of software, not just for yourself, but for other people on your team or at your company. So, there’s a much longer cycle to get to a decision and it’s much more considered.
Q9: How can SaaS businesses make the most of their freemium offerings? (06:31)
I think the most critical thing is understanding the free-to-paid conversion percentage, so the number of people that are signing up for free and how many of them are paying. I think you have to look at benchmarks to see where are you. Are you getting 20% of free people signing up and paying – that’s pretty amazing. Are you getting .02% – that’s kind of rough, right, and you need to reconsider if that model is really going to work. So I think the free-to-paid conversion is the most critical part to take a look at.
Q10: What would you say is a growth channel that online businesses often overlook? (07:08)
I think a lot of online businesses focus on the classics, which are inbound, content, sales and outbound motion, like cold emails and more.
We’re seeing that there are many, many other channels to really double down on. One that I learned about was all about podcast advertising. Companies like Zenefits have been really successful in podcast advertising.
I think some other companies are really successful with communities. Building a community around your brand and your company is often overlooked. So not just about content that people might find due to SEO but content that people can engage with and say, “I agree with this, I see that there are all these other like-minded people that also agree with this, let’s have discussions about it.” I think that is a really important lever that’s often hard to measure, but it can have great long-term benefits.
Q11: How do you ensure synergy between self-service and sales-assisted channels, so customers can enjoy a seamless experience if they need to switch? (08:14)
It’s all about finding the perfect moment where a user is hitting a tipping point. That’s when bringing a human in from your side is the best thing for them, as it makes it a seamless experience to go from free to paid through a sales-assisted channel.
I think that it is looking at the data to understand things like where are people coming from when they do purchase, where do they spend a lot of time, how does the flow look like? Or where are people coming from when they really fall off? That’s where you want to bring a human into the conversation.
So, I think it’s all about looking at data, understanding those critical moments, and also just talking to people, either that do convert or don’t convert and understand what made them do that. That’s how you can create things to make sure that they are more successful next time.
Q12: What is an online tool you most rely on, and can recommend? (09:13)
I feel like the classic PM answer to this is Google Docs. I also use an email tool called Superhuman. I never thought I’d be paying for an email client because Gmail is free, but here I am, and I think that’s an amazing product. I learn product stuff from using their product because I see how smart their decisions are and how meticulous they are about the customer experience.
Q13: Who are some inspirational people that you look up to and why? (09:47)
I really look up to the two co-founders that Drift. I think that they’ve gone through an incredible journey in their life and to see them build the types of things that they do today and focus on their team and empowering people – I think it’s is really special.
I also really love this band called The Maine. They have been making music now for 13-14 years and have built themselves by being fan-driven and fan-obsessed. I think that’s such a good correlate to business where the best companies that can build great brands are customer-obsessed and customer-focused. They’re so fan-driven and it’s the same thing, right? The fan is the customer to a band.
Q14: What is the best book you’ve read? (10:38)
A book that really changed my perspective and approach to things is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It’s all about building relationships. I read it right before I started college, and it really changed my trajectory of growth through the principles in that book. I can’t possibly recommend it enough.
Q15: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? (11:04)
I think great opportunities just don’t show up all that often – this is something that the founders of Drift say all the time. This is so important because being prepared to take advantage of them when they show up is one of the best things you can do for yourself. You can manufacture opportunities by working really hard and finding your way into being there at the right time.
When those opportunities do present themselves, really take advantage of them because not everyone always gets them all the time, if at all. That advice has just really stuck with me.
Q16: Have you done anything differently in the past year at Drift, in order to cope with COVID? (11:45)
Our company has had to adapt, like most companies out there which, especially in the B2B and SaaS world, immediately had to go to fully remote and that changes the way that teams operate and organizations function. I think it’s been tough, but if you have resilient people, they’re able to do resilient things. And so, I’d say our team hasn’t been all that affected by it.
Stay in the know
We hope that these insights will give you some inspiration for your upcoming business projects. Until our next episode, make sure to watch our previous 2Inspire interviews as well.
- 2Inspire Interview with Will Critchlow, Founder of Distilled and SearchPilot
- 2Inspire Interview with Matthew Howells-Barby, VP of Marketing at HubSpot
- 2Inspire Interview with Kevan Lee, VP Marketing at Buffer