Main illustration: Justin Pervose
It has been a year of extraordinary growth at Intercom.
Intercom, the product, continued to develop at a fast pace with hundreds of new features big and small – from an entirely reimagined Messenger to a thriving Intercom App Store to next generation chatbots, Custom Bots and Answer Bot. Meanwhile, Intercom, the company, welcomed hundreds of new hires across the organization and opened a new office in Sydney.
Here at Inside Intercom, we did a lot of growing too – adding new editors in Dublin and San Francisco, saying farewell to others, and entirely redesigning this publication right here, creating a brand new platform for our range of content. We invested in more social and video content as well to connect with more of you.
“The journey from startup to scale-up is a fascinating story, and we thoroughly enjoy sharing our perspective, our insights and our experiences”
The journey from startup to scale-up is a fascinating story, and we thoroughly enjoy sharing our perspective, our insights and our experiences as we continue on that journey.
We hope you have enjoyed the material we have published this year and have found it enriching and informative. What can we do different and better in the year ahead? If you have a few minutes, we’d really appreciate it if you could fill in our annual reader survey.
Here is our collection of the Inside Intercom highlights from 2018.
The best of the blog
Significant digits: 240 blog posts, 18 videos
Eoghan McCabe, CEO, and Matt Hodges, VP of Commercial Product Strategy
“Consumer expectations of real-time interactions online are exposing some real human limitations. Bots have the potential to deliver radical efficiencies and help businesses meet consumer expectations. In the face of this technology, businesses have three options – ignore it, see adoption as a box-ticking exercise or embrace it and think long-term. In Intercom’s next chapter, we intend to deeply embrace automation and bots to help businesses dramatically enhance their customer experience and achieve faster growth.”
“Scaling a company inherently means getting further away from our initial skill set, the actual abilities that got us up and running in the first place . . . The challenge for us all is that as our ideas flourish and our ambitions scale, we get further from the thing we’re actually good at. The thing that made us excited enough to start this thing in the first place. And the distance is necessary.”
“It’s high time we UX people stop moaning. Stop navel gazing, and grow up. I really believe this. This is a seminal moment in the history of this discipline. There are different ways this thing can go, and I think we need to stop doing this. Stop having this existential crisis about what we do and who cares, and who values what, and who talks to who, and instead go out and talk to other people. All these other people. Analytics, biz ops, marketing, sales, support, recruiting, finance, HR. Talk to these people. If you do that, I think that will be the next great leap for our industry.”
“We live in interesting times. Everything is changing rapidly around us, at a faster pace than ever before. This growth has many unintended effects, and when things speed up, they also get more complex and break down. So, how do we break out of this pattern? When it comes to managing complex systems, the famous economist F.A. Hayek suggested we should think of ourselves less as craftspeople trying to achieve a specific outcome, and more like gardeners cultivating an environment for healthy, sustainable growth.”
“History is littered with cautionary tales of introducing change. When Twitter changed its ‘faves’ icon from stars to hearts, users threatened a mass exodus. Similarly, the same pitchforks are raised every time Facebook tweaks its design, with users threatening to delete their accounts unless the site reverts to its original design. (It never does, and people quickly forget.) On the surface of it, the evidence looks clear: users hate change – even when it improves their experience with the product. How does anyone ever introduce anything new then?”
“Intercomics are a very special part of our culture, acting as a highly visible way that we recognize and celebrate each other. As their work anniversary (or Interversary as we call it) approaches, people feel a real sense of excitement and suspense – each comic is a closely guarded secret until the day of the anniversary, when their manager posts the portrait alongside a note talking through their achievements for the year on our internal message board.”
On Product Management
“We at Intercom are still big believers in the product-first philosophy, so this post isn’t written to tell you that product-first is a mistake. It is, however, a philosophy that comes with hidden traps. Here’s how our product team at Intercom has pulled ourselves out of them – hopefully with only a few minor flesh wounds to show for it.”
“The entire genre of product management books, articles and podcasts is basically focused on telling people how to manage competing priorities. I just got a head start with all those games! Some people never learn how to handle priorities and weigh up trade-offs, but if you play simulation games as much as I did, you can’t help but learn the importance of carefully allocating your resources.”
“There’s one thing all wilderness survivors have in common: they didn’t get eaten by a bear. There’s a strong parallel between surviving in the wild and starting a business. You’ll either find customers and get them to pay you, or your business will fail and your idea will die.”
“Onboarding is not a project or a feature – it needs to be an ongoing concern, a mission, a mindset, a strategy that needs to adapt over time as your product and business evolve. It must be a continual process for your business and your customers. As your business grows and gets different types of customers, your onboarding will need to adapt. You’ll never be ‘finished’ working on onboarding.”
“Email is an important channel for acquiring, supporting and retaining users. However, if not done properly, you can damage your sending reputation, meaning users won’t get your emails at all 😞 . . . Here are the signs your email deliverability is in the red zone and how to fix them.”
“Often in life, it’s not what you say but how you say it that makes all the difference. This is even more true in a customer support conversation, so getting your company’s tone just right is incredibly important . . . At Intercom, when speaking to customers we aim to be Proud, Responsible, Empathetic, Articulate, Concise and Human.”
“Before starting in customer support at Intercom, I worked as a bartender in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood. The area was exciting, busy and filled with people who had started drinking early and kept going all night. While working there, I saw firsthand how poorly handling an angry, upset or otherwise emotional customer can turn a small issue into an explosive one that can have a lasting impact on your business.”
“As Intercom’s customer base moved upmarket, it became increasingly obvious to us in sales that what worked well in our product for early-stage startups didn’t for larger companies . . . In many ways, moving upmarket – even ever so slightly – forced us to go back to our building blocks. We had to look at the problems our new customers needed to solve with fresh eyes and build a healthy partnership with Product to turn these roadblocks in the sales cycle into solutions that customers would love.”
“In ‘Moby Dick’, Ishmael is taken by Captain Ahab’s quest to seek revenge on the whale that took so much from him. Most sales reps, myself included, possess a degree of Ahab’s thinking. We obsess over closing the deal no one says we can, the white whales, and too often neglect the long tail of school fish that are abundant and easier to catch.”
“We are all in a battle, multiple battles in fact, with a lot at stake: whether it’s the fate of the company we work for or for the product that we build. In this battle, I’ve found a secret weapon hidden within one of our core engineering strategies, an idea called Run Less Software. As well as being a critical philosophy behind how we build software, it also represents how I feel about the software industry and technology in general.”
Significant digits: 3 new books, 4 long-form guides
This year, we published Intercom on Marketing, a collection of startup marketing lessons we’ve learned (and are still learning). Our love of the printed book persisted, with the release of the soft cover edition in May, plus an audiobook as well.
If the blog was our home for internal learnings, our other books this year focused on lessons from the best business leaders outside of Intercom.
The Growth Handbook shared industry-tested advice on scaling businesses from experts such as Andrew Chen and Chamath Palihapitiya.
The Sales Handbook featured lessons on growing your bottom line from sales leaders like Jill Konrath and Steli Efti
Significant digits: 49 podcast episodes
In August, our 2-year-old podcast reached one million downloads! Thank you to everyone who’ve listened to the show – your enthusiasm kept our show going.
You heard our series of growth discussions with leaders like Andrew Chen, Sean Ellis and Rohini Pandhi. We also shared a glimpse of growth at Intercom, through talks from last year’s Inside Intercom World Tour. A live podcast show at SaaStock brought interviews with business leaders like Patrick Campbell of ProfitWell and April Dunford of Ambient Strategy.
Here are some of our favorite episodes from the year:
Reflecting on the march of technology
Significant digits: 3 new microsites
To build a better future where businesses grow through better customer relationships, we repeatedly found ourselves drawn to the past to understand how things got to their current state.
Here are a few sites we built to shed light on what we learned:
After raising $125M in Series D funding back in March, our CEO, Eoghan McCabe, wrote: “Intercom customers, you are appreciated . . . We are wholly committed to giving you what you want and need, and making you ever more successful. We have more passion, energy and resources than we’ve ever had, and can’t wait to get all these new things into your hands.”
Inside Intercom readers, we have the same commitment to you. As we head into the new year, we look forward to publishing ever more useful resources that help you and your business achieve high growth in 2019. We can’t wait to get started.