Ep. 4: Oli Gardner Reveals The Three Big Unbounce Bets for 2018
SaaS Marketing Insights, Episode 4: Oli Gardner, Unbounce
Unbounce is betting big in 2018 by redefining its products, markets and technology all at the same time. Co-Founder Oli Gardner reveals the company’s plans to bust out of the landing page niche and expand into new accounts while improving adoption and chasing higher lifetime value and lower churn. All aboard the Unbounce rollercoaster for the ride of your life!
Recorded at SaaS North, November 2017. Sorry about the awful sound! All recordings after this are lovely to listen to (we promise).
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Episode 4 Transcript
Paul: On today’s show I have an interview with Oli Gardner, Co-founder at Unbounce. Oli and I talked before he gave his keynote on data-driven design at SaaS North. Hope you enjoy it.
Welcome to the show and welcome to SaaS North Oli.
Oli: Thank you for having me on Paul. This is awesome.
Paul: So you’re the headline set in gig terms tomorrow. How do you feel about that?
Oli: It’s great, it’s always a little bit risky being the last, people get tired and they just want to go to the bar, so we’ll see if it’s still full.
Paul: Are you going to talk about something new and exciting because you guys have got a lot of big news at the moment?
Oli: Yeah, i’m talking about data driven design, which is two kind of parts. First part is it’s about dysfunctional marketing teams because I see that nobody works.
Paul: There’s a ton of those.
Oli: Well there’s a lot, they’re everywhere so I want to fix that and part of that is an optimization, free market upgrade called data driven design.
Paul: Is that the spreadsheet thing that you showed us? It was a work in progress then.
Oli: Yes it’s a lot more, back then it was just a slide, now it’s an actual tool that I built to run projects and just to help gain access to the data you should be looking at when you’re working on a project.
Paul: That’s fantastic, I’m really looking forward to finding out more about that when it’s ready. So, you guys just brought out the landing page testing tool?
Oli: The landing page analyzer.
Paul: Has that got AI in it or is that smoke and mirrors?
Oli: No, some of it is leveraging our AI, so there are two portions in there that do, the main one is the analysis so it looks at our machine learning algorithm and what it’s learned from things like word count and reading ease. Which of some of the things that it uses. In the pure sense the algorithm can look at any page and just based on the copy analysis alone, know with any % certainty whether it’s going to be a high performer or low performer.
Oli: Based on the comparison to hundreds of thousands of other pages.
So we do a fun kind of marketer verses machine which we did at CTA conference. Not that well, no actually it was me when I did it at the beginning it was terrible. When we have the audience doing it, it was great.
Paul: Yeah no, I didn’t do it, I don’t know who won that but they must have been pretty good, I got nowhere near.
Oli: Yeah it’s difficult to out predict the machine.
Paul: So lots of other developments at Unbounce, you guys continue to grow, you’ve got an office in Berlin now?
Oli: We do yeah, we wanted to get over to Europe, we have a lot of European customers who want customer access to be there for support hours. Also We’re doing a lot of international marketing so we do German, Portuguese and Spanish, translate all our content.
Paul: Wow! So you’re a Co-Founder, I can’t remember the name of your fellow founder. I know it’s terrible, I did meet him at your Call To Action Conference.
Oli: We have 6 Co-Founders so you can’t be blamed for not knowing all their names.
Rick Perreault the CEO, that’s probably who you’re thinking of.
Paul: I met Rick yeah, we had a chat, he’s a nice guy.
So you guys got started way back when?
Oli: August 14th, 2009.
Paul: Indelibly marked in the back of your mind. So you’ve had quite a meteoric rise in a short space of time, it doesn’t probably feel like a short space of time.
Oli: No, it’s definitely the longest job I’ve ever had.
Paul: So what were you doing before you guys started Unbounce?
Oli: I started way back. Well I was horribly misled in high school and ended up doing a degree in electronic communication engineering.
So I’m technically an engineer, then I did a masters, part of it in digital electronic like semiconductor. Total waste of time but in part of that I learned how to code. So my first job I was working in London financial district as a pretty hardcore back end coder. That was not for me, I was good at it but not quite good enough.
Paul: Did you wear a suit?
Oli: Yeah! A 3-piece. I remember when I started my first job in London and my boss was like okay ‘you look way better than all of us’ we have to get you down to some of our customers before you ruin the suit. Just to make it look good.
Then I gradually transition to more web back end then front-end, design interaction, design usability. Then when we started the company I became a marketer, on day one. Which was interesting because prior to that I did not like marketers.
Paul: That’s really funny because that resonates with me because I started out before there were computers as a Graphic Designer.
Do you remember that? Like paste up board and Cow Gum. Seriously that’s how old I am. Then over the years sort of, and it was the same thing, graphic designers, marketers have this love-hate relationship. Then I turned into, over time into a marketer and then you see marketing in a different way.
Oli: Yeah when you’re doing it
Paul: Yeah, the rest are slimy, you’re alright.
So on this journey that you guys have been going on with Unbounce you must have learned a lot about marketing and about SaaS marketing in particular if you had to think about one thing that was a game-changer or a total failure is there anything that springs to mind where you thought we really got that right or that bombed, don’t do this?
Oli: Yeah. No it’s interesting I said for the longest time when people ask about mistakes, it was always a no. We didn’t do anything wrong, we did everything right to a point. We’ve made some mistakes recently which we can talk about if you want.
Back then, we were one of the very early adopters of content marketing, there wasn’t many other companies doing it, it was much easier to stand out. I mean I did it in quite a ridiculous way, it was always very big and bold which still works today, more then you average, generic kinda stuff. I would say it’s the way I pushed that but also the way we approached choosing our technical integrations and tools.
Paul: What like just making sure that they were small and strategic? Or that they were things that were gonna explode your marketing for you?
Oli: Yeah well it was a mixture of the types of tools that marketers would most need to connect with landing pages and lead generation and stuff but also who.
So the way we did it, we put a sticky on the wall for every possible integration with a MarTech company we could think of.
Paul: There are thousands.
Oli: Back then not as many. We probably had, ones that made sense, about 200 on the wall.
Then we used Compete.com and Alexa to figure out what the multiple was in terms of, as an estimate, their traffic. So we’d say oh they’re 40X us, they’re 1.5, they’re 0.6. So that we could find out companies that were not crazy because if they were crazy big they don’t care right. They’re not gonna put any effort into the inspirations so we picked people that have brand values like us and were around, a little bigger.
So that’s how we did it.
Paul: Aspirational partners.
Oli: Yes and it worked beautifully. MaleChimp was our first and that went crazy. It was perfect, they are still our biggest numerical integration even though landing pages are more applicable for PPC marketers but still very common for email.
Paul: Yeah so you’ve got quite a list of integrations now are there any new ones on the horizon?
Oli: About a month ago we released a new integration with Zapier. Lots of people have integration with that but nobody has a native one like we do, we just built an inside integration so 60 of those are right inside Unbouced right now, which is amazing. We already had like 15, now we’ve got 75 without having to leave. Usually you’d set up a loose connection and it would all be somewhere els.
Now it’s in the build which is fantastic.
Paul: Yeah there’s a lot of devil in the detail with Zapier as well because the detail of how those things connect and just what you can do with them in terms of API to API, it’s not always perfect.
Oli: Yeah and it’s a lot better then it used to be, we were a very early adopter of theirs. it’s great to do this deep integration now that they’ve built a platform that’s a lot more solid.
Paul: Great so that’s held you in good sted. I’m sorry, I mean, you said we could talk about that later but I’ve just been thinking about the problems that you’ve run into lately or the mistakes you think that you’ve made. I mean, I’m sure everybody wants to hear that Unbound still makes mistakes.
Oli: Yeah well, basically we’ve always been a landing page platform so very narrow focus and 300 odd blog posts about landing pages. I don’t ever want to write another one. Now we’ve expanded into more products so we have Overlays and Stickybars which gets us on your website. Allows you to optimize your website not just your landing pages. However, they have different value props especially because we’ve always been talking to the campaign person or marketing team.
Versus now it’s the web team, that’s very different.
Paul: So you’re getting into new segments, is that what you’re saying?
Oli: Yeah and what we struggled with and are fixing it now is going from one product to three products, now your value prop changes and because it’s like campaign.
It was more for paid and now organic so we have to changer our value prop, we have to change how we communicate these and the hierarchy of them. So adoption was a bit of a problem. Now we are having a big focus on fixing that. People who do adopt it, great success, makes our churn way better, higher lifetime value. The churn lower, significantly but we haven’t done a good job communicating this value and that we have these things now.
Part of that was the naming, we created an umbrella term for these which is called convertibles which doesn’t immediately tell you anything. So the actual products are a bit hidden in the app and on the website so we’re changing all of that. We’re gonna fix all of that but we have three big bets this year that we’re focusing on.
That’s one of them, adoption of our new products.
Second one is really multiplying the amount of our ideal customer we have. I can’t describe what are ideal customer is because our competitors may have the same ideal customer which they may not of identified as well as we have. The third one is AI and putting our machine learning into the product.
Paul: It’s been a busy year but we’re right at the end of it, are you gunna get there? Or are you talking about 2018?
Oli: We have goals for these three events for April. Interestingly because of this learning, as a company and me, we’re really going on a new journey as product marketers because it’s something we didn’t do really in the past.
We’ve always been very soft sell and we can blame me for this. Being Canadian, our marketing didn’t often feature the product, there is a tip: put your product on the content.
Paul: It’s just all fricking awesome, you should buy this because it’s awesome.
Oli: Yeah right. Which was easy to do when you didn’t have competitors. When you do you gotta push the product abit more, it’s great, people aren’t gonna mind if you do it in right way.
Paul: Yeah. So tell me, how do you and your five co-founders, how do you keep fresh, where do the ideas come from? How do you make sure that you sharpen your mental saw because you can just burn yourself into the ground with pressure?
Oli: For me, I mean most of my job is as a public speaker now.
However when we’re discussing our metrics for adoption on new products, I was so angry at it, not at the people trying to do it, at us collectively as a team, as a company.
We’re having founder drinks, there are four of us there and I was getting mad about it. So Kara, our chief project officer, ever the pragmatist goes ‘so what are you gonna do about it?’
I said well I’m gonna… He said wait guys and got out his phone to record what I was gonna say. I said ‘I’m gonna write 30 blog posts in January’. All that product marketing and the journey were taking to solve this problem and really exploring what it means to be a product marketer.
How to do it on your blog without pissing people off. My big thing is productizing our technology because we have three main pieces of technology: Landing pages, Sticky bars and Overlays, called pop ups if you like.
When you layer on the functionality of those and then you layer on the scripts, CSS, hacks, some
other integrations you can then productize that in different ways and create many more things.
Paul: So you’re talking about creating kind of recipes for people?
Oli: Kind of like mini products which then people can use and we see the adoption of those and go ‘everybody wants this’ let’s build that into the product as opposed to…
Paul: So these are experiments.
Oli: Yeah well think of the EU bar, that’s a sticky bar, every single company in Europe needs it, every single company in the world serving Europe needs one, that’s a product.
Paul: Great, thank you very much for your time, it’s been great to understand a bit more about the Unbounce story, continuing story and as an Unbounced customer I’m excited about what you guys have got coming down the line for us.
Oli: Yeah me too and check out the landing page analyser, it’s seriously awesome.
Paul: I hope you enjoyed my chat with Oli for more info on Unbounce please visit www.unbounce.com