Atlassian’s Jay Simons talks SaaS marketing

Jay Simons is the president of Atlassian, a 12-year-old SaaS company that makes household name productivity tools like JIRA, HipChat, Stash, and Confluence.

Atlassian is also one of the hottest pre-IPO enterprise companies in Silicon Valley, with the kind of high-growth numbers that belie its size and longevity. Last year it reported just shy of $220 million in revenue and was valued at $3.3 billion. It has been profitable for the past 12 years and growing at a compound annual growth rate of over 40% for the past five. All this with 1,300 employees, six offices, and more than 50,000 paying customers.

Before he became president, Jay was Atlassian’s first head of marketing, and incidentally my former boss. In 2011, around the time Jay became president of the company, Atlassian famously hit $100 million in revenue without a sales team. It’s not facetious to credit much of Atlassian’s phenomenal growth to its non-traditional, product-focused go-to-market strategy.

I visited Jay recently at Atlassian’s office in San Francisco. We discussed his early days at Atlassian, his thoughts on scaling a marketing team, aligning marketing functions to different parts of the funnel, and much more. You can listen to it in full below.

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If you’d rather not listen, you can read a lightly edited transcript of the conversation below.

Matt Hodges: While I had the pleasure of working with you before I joined Intercom, maybe just for the sake of our listeners, could you briefly introduce yourself?

Jay Simons: I’m Jay Simons. I’m the President of Atlassian. I joined the company in 2008. Prior to that, I worked for about 10 years for Plum Tree Software, that got acquired by BEA Systems. Then BEA got acquired by Oracle. That’s the history. Grew up in Washington. Hail from San Francisco since ’97.

Matt: Great. What is it exactly you guys do at Atlassian?

Jay: We make collaboration software for teams. Our key products are hopefully ones your listeners have heard of; JIRA for managing shared projects and activities, Confluence for creating and sharing content as a team, HipChat for team messaging and communication, including audio, video and chat, Bitbucket for development teams to share code, and finally JIRA service desk for service team collaboration – things like IT and legal help desks.

Matt: I remember back when I started, you guys were only at 90 people. How many people have you added in the last year?

Jay: I think we added over 700 people in the past year – we just crossed the 1500 employee mark worldwide. Probably about one in every two Atlassians is less than a year old. A lot of growth.

The central space in Atlassian's San Francisco office

Matt: Where are you guys at in terms of revenue right now?

Jay: We last reported revenue for our fiscal year ’14, which ended June 2014. That number was just shy of $220 million in revenue. I think we’ve also been on public record as saying our compound annual growth rate for the past 5 years has been north of 40%, so a relatively quick growing company in scale.

Matt: Atlassian is 13 years old and growing at that scale, has growth slowed down for you over the years?

Jay: Actually the opposite. We’ve had 3 successive years of acceleration, which I think is unusual for a company of our size. We’re just shy of hitting what we planned 10 years ago as our big hairy ass goal, our BHAG, which was 50,000 customers. We’re just shy of 50,000 customers globally.

We define a customer really conservatively, as a single organization. It wouldn’t matter if we sell to Ford in 10 different ways. If we sell to Ford Brazil and Ford Inc., if you’ve got Ford in your email address, you count as one of those 50,000 customers.

Growing Through “Land and Expand”

Matt: That touches on what I know you guys refer to as your “land and expand strategy”. Could you talk about that a little in terms of how you believe it has impacted your growth over the years?

Jay: We have a number of products, so there’s a couple of logical starting places for customers. Land and expand for us begins with understanding what are the key critical pain points that customers have that we can help solve. We’re pretty thoughtful about not trying to over complicate the marketing of our products, by encouraging the customer to adopt too many things too quickly.

JIRA is a really common starting point for teams. JIRA sits at the center of organizing shared projects and shared activities. It becomes the brain of what your team is trying to accomplish and organizes all that for your team. We find that if a customer’s looking for that, we want to help them understand that we’ve got JIRA and it can solve this specific problem. Once JIRA actually becomes successfully adopted and users become engaged, we then get permission I think to talk to that customer about products B through F or other things that we think could augment and integrate with JIRA but also are going to solve a different set of problems than the customer might have had originally.

For us, it’s been key. We’ve got I think a lot of opportunity once we land an initial customer to expand with other parts of the portfolio over time.

From Generalists to Deep Specialization

Matt: Great. I think that’s a nice segue into starting to talk about your go to market strategy and how you’ve structured the marketing team. Since you were Atlassian’s first VP of Marketing, perhaps you could tell us a little bit about what the marketing team looked like when you started back in 2008.

Jay: In 2008, I think we had 5 or 6 people in the marketing organization, super tiny. The team was a really smart and wonderful collection of generalists, which I think is pretty common for companies that are younger and smaller. A generalist is somebody that can off-road across a number of different marketing disciplines, anything from PR to demand generation to product marketing. You had one person that basically was pretty adaptable and do what you needed to do at the time.

What attracted me to Atlassian really early on was it had the key ingredients needed for great marketing, which were awesome products. It’s really, really difficult to do great marketing for crappy products. It had really fanatical customers and strong word-of-mouth. I think any marketer will tell you word-of-mouth is really the hardest thing to earn. It comes from the first point, great products.

If you’ve got customers that I think see a lot of value from what you do, they become promoters for that. In effect, they join your marketing organization, helping spread the word about what you do and the problems that you solved for them and hopefully for companies like them. Then the third thing is it had really meaningful, interesting problems that our products were solving. In team collaboration, there are a billion people on the planet that are working in some capacity. Those billion people are part of millions of teams at millions of companies around the globe.

Helping unleash the potential of what they can accomplish by providing products that help them work better together is a problem that every company in every industry in every corner of the planet has. That’s pretty exciting. Then I think the fourth thing was the company itself was just extremely data-driven and oriented around experimentation which as a marketer, 10 years ago wasn’t as common as it is today. I think marketers now have a lot more access to data and using that data can try things more. It shortens the cycle for understanding what’s effective and what you can use to encourage growth or adoption.

Understanding the Customer Problem

Matt: What did you focus on in your first 6 to 12 months? How did the team evolve in that initial period?

Jay: Early on, we focused on nailing and enhancing position. I mean everything begins with really understanding the customer problem and how to message in the most effective way that you’ve got a solution to that problem. That’s what you’re trying to do as a marketer is basically describe what you do for the customer in a way that helps them understand the value they’re going to get from your products or your service or what you do. I spent a long time doing that.

Over time we began to focus on specialization. Where we had one person that might have been spread across demand generation and PR and product marketing, we began to expand the team and really find people that were specialized in a certain marketing discipline, like PR as an example. Naturally, as you grow, you’ve got more surface area where you could have one person concentrate on that discipline. Then as you grow further, you begin to get even become more specialized.

Take demand generation as an example. Early on you might have someone that can move across PR, demand gen and product marketing. Then you have someone that just focuses on demand generation. Demand generation by itself has a lot of surface area to cover. Now today, we have a demand generation team of over 10 people where we have a couple of people that are only focused on social advertising and demand generation through social channels. Another group of people are only focused on display advertising. It’s a skill or a muscle that they’re really, really adept at. They’re constantly focused on improving or refining that muscle and getting better at it.

Early on we focused initially on positioning and then expanding the set of capabilities that we wanted to apply to growth. Once you build those and you find people that are really good at it, you just go deeper and deeper and deeper.

Matt: Could you also talk a little bit about the other functions, outside of demand generation, that allowed you to structure and build out the team?

Jay: We began with a really deep core investment in product marketing. That was important to us because we’ve got a wide portfolio of products. You need individuals that understand who the buyer is, understand the problem that they’re solving, understand how to describe the features and how those features apply to problems that customers have.

We had a group that was focused on demand generation that would work with product marketers to understand, “When I want to run a campaign and build awareness for a particular product or a customer pain point, what are the different channels that I could use to get a customer’s attention and start to push messages through?”

We had a communications group that focused on PR, a really important awareness building tactic, just to help the company and its products get mentioned in places that people were congregating. We had a design and development team because naturally the web is a really important broad channel for us to reach a large part of the market. A part of any campaign is going to involve some deliverable that you’re going to produce and publish and share with people.

We had a creative and interactive team that would again work with campaign and web to come up with different things that we could do to get attention and trying to do something unique as a marketer. A small example of that is we ran a campaign called Cash For Clunkers that coincided with the US Federal Government car allowance buy-back program where they were trying to give you a rebate if you traded in your old, gas guzzling car for a more fuel efficient car.

We ran a campaign called Cash For Clunkers that did something similar. We encouraged companies that had our competitor products to basically trade in that competitor product, in exchange for ours, for a little bit of a discount or something. The manifestation of that requires a lot of people working together to both create and promote and put that campaign in action.

Putting Pen to Paper

Matt: When you started you were about 5 and I think within the span of 12 months you say were you were about a team of 20 or?

Jay: Yeah we were probably close to 4X the team. That’s probably a good guess.

Matt: At that scale, as a VP of Marketing, what did a normal day look like for you?

Jay: In a normal day for me, back then actually it was probably a lot more pen to paper than I do now. I would spend a lot of time thinking about positioning, working with product marketers on refining copy. As a marketer, nothing beats spending time thinking of that perfect headline or the perfect description, using the least amount of words in a clever way to position your product that’s super fun.

I also spent a lot of time with the team thinking of different creative ways to get noticed because I think the challenge for marketers is not to do anything gimmicky necessarily but to create unique ways to rise above the fold or at least to get attention. I’d spend a lot of time doing that. A lot of time coaching. Even though we added a bunch of people that had specialization or experience in certain disciplines, there were also a lot of people who were new to the craft of marketing and so I was spending time working with them to understand how to do it better.

Get Close To Product

Matt: If you could do it all again and start from scratch, is there anything you’d do differently?

Jay: I think one thing that we would adopt early on is bringing marketing closer connected to product. That’s been a big change for us over the past 5 years. It’s actually more common now for SaaS companies to think about the customer journey and the funnel all the way through from them learning about your product or company that first time to becoming an active, engaged user. Traditionally, marketing focused a lot more on building awareness and getting people to the point where they were trying a product. Then, in a traditional company, sales takes over.

In most enterprise software, sales is responsible for conversion. In our organization, we don’t have a traditional sales organization. Marketing really has focused on conversions, responsible for converting from trial into actual product usage. What we’ve done in the past couple years is moved marketing even closer to product, where they’re now focused on active user engagement, paired with product, because in some cases there might be some feature changes or feature refinement that’s needed to improve engagement.

There are three main metrics that we track as a marketing organization. One is traffic. Are we becoming more effective at building awareness for the company and the product and getting more and more people to discover what we’re about? Number two is trials. For all the people that are coming to discover what we’re about, are we able to convince them to actually give us a try? Then the third is monthly active usage. That one actually is almost more important than the other two because in a word-of-mouth model, it becomes the most leading indicator of your future success. If your active usage isn’t growing, then there’s a really good probability your traffic and your trial volume will also not grow in the future.

Marketing can’t, by itself, be responsible for active usage entirely because again, it’s closely paired to what’s created in the product and how that now needs to be refined. But they play a really important role in understanding, with product teams, how to improve it. From there, once you understand how to measure active usage, you really should correlate that all the way back to marketing activity. I should be able to measure how a marketing campaign actually drives downstream active usage of a product.

If I’m spending a lot of money on a paid channel, as an example, and that generates a lot of traffic but that traffic doesn’t convert into trial usage, and even from the minimal trial usage, it converts into abysmal active usage, potentially might be a tactic that I want to reconsider or avoid because ultimately the end game is to encourage more people to use the product. Also, the inverse is it gives me more fodder to actually figure out what refinements I might need to make in the product to improve conversion of active users from that channel and I want to improve that channel over time.

Long winded answer to your question, but I would focus earlier on having marketing and marketers connect all the way through to the funnel because the customer journey is one that ultimately they should be thinking about, cradle to grave.

Investing in Metrics

Matt: You mentioned those three metrics. It sounds like the marketer’s Holy Grail to have insight into all the way through the funnel in terms of where they’re coming from and where you’re spending your dollars. How did you guys get to a position where you can actually measure that?

Jay: A lot of hard work. We began early on with a pretty deep investment in what we refer to as a growth and acquisition team. Maybe the one difference is in our marketing organization, there is a fair amount of developers, and people that can actually write code. We gave them the ability to write and ship code effectively into the product. We had to put in some rails that would govern what they could or could not do, because in some cases they’re pushing code into live customer instances. More often than not, they’re pushing code into live trial instances.

The goal was if a marketer is investing a bunch of time, money and energy into an activity to generate awareness and hopefully generate people that are going to kick the tires on the product, they should be closely connected to people that can actually influence changes in the product to improve conversion and to improve engagement and then active usage. We spent a lot of time defining that and then hiring and onboarding very technical talent that were paired closely with marketing people.

Remember, the hard part of marketing is it is, in many ways, a unique combination of left brain/right brain. Right? You need to be equally parts creative; “Boy I wonder if I describe this certain thing this way or if I actually prompted a user with a quick description of how a feature would work before they use it.” Equal parts that, with the ability to measure and analyze whether or not that had the effect that you were seeking.

So, we started there with deep experimentation around conversion from visit to trial. Then the next phase was to go all the way through into active usage. To understand, how do we encourage more engagement? What are the triggers inside of products that lead to a higher likelihood of becoming an engaged user? What does the engaged user actually do? How often are they likely to beget more engaged users? If we discover that, “Wow. Once a user creates X number of projects and comments on X number of pages or invites X number of teammates, they become somebody that’s a really, really valuable word-of-mouth champion or promoter. What are the things that we could do both in our marketing and then in our product onboarding to create more and more of those?”

Again, that’s not purely a marketing responsibility, nor is it purely a product responsibility. It’s really the marriage of both of those two teams working in concert, to figure out how the activities to generate awareness and more interest and the activities that actually convert that interest into meaningful active users, how they work together.

The Right Type of Growth

The new marketing sales funnel

Matt: It sounds like the journey that you guys have been on, and the evolution of marketing at Atlassian, is very much in line with an article that Tomasz Tunguz wrote recently on the expanding role of marketing at SaaS companies. As marketing is now responsible for phases further down the funnel, how do you go about giving ownership to particular metrics to each of the different functions in marketing? Is there a particular team that owns the traffic number? Is there another team that owns the leads number?

Jay: There is. I think that the really difficult part about this is even though you can be responsible for the growth of a metric, that you have to be super tuned into the interplay between the metrics. As an example, it is possible for marketers to generate a lot of bad traffic. You could do things that drive a whole bunch of the wrong type of interest to your product.

If you’re only responsible for traffic, you could say, “Wow I just won. I grew traffic year-over-year by 35 or 40 or 50%.” If it’s the wrong traffic, if it’s traffic that’s the least likely to convert, then you wasted your time. You wasted the company’s money and you actually, in some cases, may have impacted your colleagues’ metric of trial growth because you’re going to make the conversion rate look poor. In some cases, the interplay is actually the conversion rate of one metric to another. Where that conversion rate degrades or gets worse, it means that upstream potentially somebody is either doing the wrong things or not being sensitive about the quality of the metric that they’re driving.

If I do an activity in marketing that creates a whole bunch of interest and drives a bunch of new eyeballs or new visitors to the site and they’re not converting at that steady rate into trial, what are the things that I would need to do in order to improve that conversion rate? It’s possible that there’s an opportunity with that traffic. I just haven’t discovered it yet.

We find it’s super important to have people focused on both the growth and the fidelity or quality of that metric. The quality isn’t something they can do exclusively. They have to be inclusive with either upstream or downstream activities that are related because again, it’s about the customer journey all the way through.

You’re going to start with reading a press article, being influenced by an advertisement, hearing from a friend in a bar that you should try something. Then you’re going to go and you’re going to try to discover it. Then you’re going to try it. Then you’re going to become an active, engaged user. That journey is one continuous thing, even though there’s lots of people that were involved in different stages of it.

Marketing is a Game of Inches

Matt: If those are the ways you measure marketing at Atlassian, what are the key things that have really moved the needle for you guys?

Jay: Probably two big things. One is being clear about what we’re promoting, what the buyer need is, messaging that very effectively, prioritizing the customer experience – “back to land and expand” – and the way that we think about it. With a company with multiple products, it would be easy to say when a customer comes in looking for a pair of pants, let’s make sure we talk to them about the socks, the shorts, the shoes, the shirt, the belt. Let’s display the whole wardrobe for them because we’ve got lots of clothes that they could put on their backs. In some cases that may work and it may be appropriate.

In our case, we’ve really focused on if you came looking for a pair of pants or a pair of shorts, let’s make sure you understand we’ve got the best pair of pants and shorts around. We may do very small and subtle references to other parts of the wardrobe. We don’t want to try too hard to convince you that you need to buy everything all at once. I think that’s really aided our success because customers come looking for answers to one set of problems that they have. If you start to talk to them about 18 other problems they may not realise they have, you’re just putting in speed bumps that you’re requiring them to drive over.

The other key part of our success has been focusing on continuously improving parts of the funnel. Those continuous improvements are, in some cases, microscopic. Marketing is a game of inches. I’ll butcher the sports metaphor, but you want to move the ball down the field. You just want to be going in a forward motion. I think oftentimes where people get that wrong is they think, “I’m going to run an A/B test” or “I’m going to run an experiment” and I’m always looking for long yards. Right? I want to see a 10% or 15% or 20% improvement in some metric that I’m tracking.

I think that’s oftentimes why experimentation gets de-prioritized because you don’t see those. What you fail to realize is if you simply focus on the 0.5% improvement over a period of 6 or 12 months, that adds up to your 10%. I think we’ve got that orientation. We’ve got the orientation around always just looking for really, really small wins because, in our case, we run a really high velocity, volume business. Even a really, really small win can equate to hundreds, if not thousands, of whatever the metric is, whether it’s new trials or new customers. That can be really meaningful over the long run.

One to Many Conversion

Matt: Do you think your focus and taking that approach stems from the fact that Atlassian built its success from having one of the first self-serve business models in enterprise software?

Jay: I think in part. I actually began my career in technology sales. The first six years of my professional career were in hardcore enterprise selling, carrying a bag, having a quota, really expensive software with 12 month sales cycles. One thing that attracted me to the company was an absence of that. As a marketer, you’ve actually got to run the ball all the way down the field. I think maybe it was the sales orientation in me, but that was super exciting.

Where sales tends to focus on one-to-one conversion, marketing can focus on one to many. You have that scale aspect where you can think the things that I’m going to do hopefully will have a profound, measurable impact, not just on one customer that I get to talk to, but on hundreds or thousands. That was super exciting. Yeah, I think in absence of having people talk to people and focus on conversion, marketers have to figure out different ways, and our business has to figure out different ways, of using data to improve their conversion over time.

Helping customers help themselves

Matt: You guys are actually famous for reaching 100 million in revenue without a single sales person. Has that changed at all now that you have grown and started to sell more upmarket?

Jay: No. In some cases, or in many cases, bucking convention. I think the company’s always heard, “Yeah maybe your model will work to 5 million but it won’t get you to 10. Or maybe it will get you to 10, but it won’t get you to 100. Maybe it will get you to 100, but it won’t get you to 300.” Now the refrain we hear is, “All right, maybe it will get you to the 300, but it’s not going to get you to a billion. At some stage, you’re going to have to change.”

I think the flaw there is a couple things. One is we are not anti-sales. We’re really pro-customer service, pro-customer automation. We’re ruthlessly focused on helping the customers serve themselves. I think that’s actually what most customers want. If you think of yourself as a buyer, the reason that you need to talk to a person is when it’s too hard to answer the question yourself. Even when you want to buy something online, at Amazon you don’t instinctively think, “I actually want to talk to a sales rep at Amazon to help me buy what I’m looking for” because they made it super simple for you to find what you’re looking for, to get recommendations on whether or not it’s a high quality product that other people have purchased in the past, that there’s a trust there and it’s super, super, super easy.

Enterprise software doesn’t need to be different. Even though enterprise software I think is characterized by being complex, you should focus on reducing the complexity versus compensating for that complexity by needing someone to explain it. The two companies that I think are useful illustrations for us, one is Tesla. Tesla I think is not a threat to the automotive industry because they’re building a superior car. I think that’s one of the reasons. I think the real reason they’re a threat to the automotive industry is because they’re building a better distribution model for that car. Tesla famously publishes exactly what the car is going to cost and they don’t discount.

You can go to a local showroom and the person there doesn’t really care if you buy the products. They’re going to help you if you’ve got questions, but Tesla’s MO is to put as much information as possible into your hands and let you make the decision. When Tesla has a product that’s in the $20,000 – $40,000 price point, it’s game over. Because, quite frankly, that’s how all of us want to buy a car. We want to know that we’re not getting screwed. We’re paying the same, fair price that everyone else paid, and we can understand everything about the car.

The other company I think is an interesting analog is Costco. Set bulk aside for a minute. We largely go there because we know they’ve got great product at great price. They curate those two things for us as a consumer. Now when I go into the store, sometimes I’m confused and there’s a lot of things around that I can’t find. I know that there’s somebody in a red vest that I could find and ask for help. That person actually isn’t there to sell me anything. They’re there to offer great customer service, friendly customer service. They know that Costco’s mostly oriented around helping me serve myself.

I know that if I need to buy a television set, that probably the most affordable, highest quality television set that I could buy is in Costco. Now they’ve got 20 of them. I’ve got to do my own research to figure out what’s the one that I want to buy. No one is really going to try to push me one way or the other. I think if Costco did have people that were focused on selling more TVs, they would definitely have to charge more for them. All of a sudden, it would destroy the value to begin with. Right? I probably wouldn’t go there to buy a TV.

Atlassian is pioneering just a different way to sell software to other businesses, mostly focusing on automation, and then empowering the customer to self-serve and also providing great service along the way. We’ve got a group of people that we say to customers, “If you need any help at all, we’re here to help you.” The difference is those people aren’t focused necessarily on selling. They’re focused on serving.

Dropping the Me First Perspective

Matt: For all listeners out there that are just about or just beginning to invest in sales and marketing, are there any early optimizations you’d suggest they make?

Jay: I think one is to be patient. That especially if you’re considering being a multi-product company, customers don’t need everything all at once. It sounds like a cliché but definitely spend a lot of time understanding the customer’s perspective and think about things from their perspective. I think too often marketers think about things from their own perspective. I’m going to describe this feature or even sales can be super effective because human being are great at influencing human beings. But sales is a “me first” perspective. “I want to sell.” I think you see some of that change in companies describing even their sales teams as customer success, which is a customer-oriented flavor of effectively the same function. “I want to help you. What’s in it for me is I got to sell you something. What’s in it for you is you’re going to buy something that’s super useful for you.”

The third one might be just be really data oriented. We just have so much information that we can use that’s at our fingertips to understand how to get better at what we’re doing. I think that applies across the entire spectrum of disciplines and activities within marketing, but also across all of the other customer-facing functions, like sales, and support. Too often sales, even in companies that have sales organizations, they’re not really as data driven as they could be. There’s so much information that would help understand who are the companies that you should be speaking to? What are the signals, whether it’s user browsing behavior or past professional history of the person that you’re trying to contact, what are the things that would make them either less likely or more likely to be somebody that you would want to talk to? Then what are the messages that you think would be most persuasive, given their situation? Support is the same thing. How can we use data to drive less customer contact into our support channels, not more of them?

Matt: How does having 12 products or multiple products to sell, how does that impact how you approach positioning the company?

Jay: Across multiple products, we want to understand, first and foremost, what are the problems that they solve. From the customer’s perspective, what are they going to be looking for? What are the pain points that they’re trying to identify? How can we marry what we do with what they’re seeking? That’s number one. Number two, we also want to understand what are the products that are most prominently landing because not every product is going to have the same opportunity within an account.

There may be products in our model that are more expand, that we’re way more effective selling to a company once we’ve earned their trust and gained their permission to talk to them about other problems that we can solve. It’s really important to understand that because, if you don’t, you may spend a lot of needless cycles trying to message a product more broadly than you have permission to play early on. Point number three is, it forces us to, once you zoom out from the individual product level and you really want to understand from a portfolio perspective like, “What does Atlassian do for me?” On a brand level, the way we do it is we say, “We make team collaboration software”. Our products, even though there’s 15 of them or so and they do a whole bunch of different things, when you pull out 30,000 feet, all of them work in concert to help teams organize, discuss, and complete work as a team. I think that 30,000 foot level is really important because it provides, not just a foundation but a framing for people to understand, “Okay I get the box that all the things are going to fit in. I might not need all 15 of them and I might only need one. Then it will take me three years before I need 2 or 3 or 4 or whatever it is. At least I understand what box you’re going to provide different products for me in and I can start to look for different things that I could use them for.”

Matt: If you were to start a marketing team from scratch at a SaaS company tomorrow, what would be the first few positions that you would hire for?

Jay: I think I probably would look for generalists, so people I think that have either the capacity or the capability to move broadly across disciplines so they can learn really quickly. Or I would look for someone that’s had experience as a generalist across different disciplines, someone that I think is customer and product or market oriented.

Typically I might start with a product marketer whose first job is going to be to understand the customer, the market, the problem that they’re solving, and then has the capacity to write really well and to develop a message or a set of talking points, if it’s for a sales organization, or a positioning statement that really nets out what I’m going to do for the customer that they’ll find valuable. I’d probably start there.

Then someone that I think is also one to many oriented. Marketers I think need to think broadly about the full audience that they’re going to reach. Once you’ve defined it, then you start to think, “What are the different ways that I can get in front of this with a large, large group of people or a group, even if it isn’t large. What are the different channels that I can use to get their attention?” Then, not to overload this person with too many things, but I think also somebody that’s a little bit out of the box. Someone who thinks really creatively about ways to get people’s attention, like not the unconventional because the unconventional is easy. I think in some cases, the unconventional channels are overloaded. Then you start to need to think, “Well could I do something different where somebody’s going to go, ‘Wow. I hadn’t seen that before’ and all of a sudden, you’ve got my interest.” That combined skill set would be my first hire.

For more conversations on design, product management, marketing and other startup topics, check out all the episodes of The Inside Intercom Podcast here.