B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast
B2B Growth: Your Daily B2B Marketing Podcast

Episode 1720 · 4 weeks ago

Creatively Showcase Your Product in Action, with Evan Davies

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Benji talks to Evan Davies, Head of Marketing, Partnerships, and Growth at Coda.

We discuss:

  1. Creative ways to showcase applications of your product or service
  2. The power of team rituals & incentives
  3. Evan's key learnings after helping to build the Coda gallery

Conversations from the front lines of marketing. This is be tob growth. Today I am joined by Evan Davies. He's the head of marketing, partnerships and maker growth over at Coda. Evan, were so glad to have you on the show today. Man. Yeah, thanks for having me. I got to say you're probably the first person that I have ever interviewed who has maker growth in their title. So break that down for me a bit, tell me what that entails. Yeah, I you know, it's makers. Makers are the customers of Coda and I think marketing, at least from my point of view, is all about understanding your customers, empathizing with them, working with them to tell your story. So definitely a big part of my job. I love that as a as a title and yeah, you just having them as the center and then you knowing that that's part of your role. It's got to be pretty cool to be like that, close and kind of in the action. Today. Really, I invited you on the show because I want to pick your brain and have a conversation around the code of Gallery. It's an approach in a method that I think marketers more broadly can learn from. Maybe let's just start with a high level sort of explain what the idea for the other gallery is and where that sort of started. Yeah, for sure, and probably worth starting even from the beginning of just what how we think about marketing in general. I CODA and and just my philosophy on this is a started, maybe as a bit of background to I a lot of my philosophy on this has been informed by a career that's been spent in a bunch of different areas. Inside of you to be company, to book any tech companies, from product to customer success in sales and now to go to market. So a lot of the ways we think about our marketing strategy here is based on that. And just as a quick background or I've I started, I cut my teeth in product as a PM at accenture. was...

...working actually pretty an early stage team inside of obviously very large company building out a new technology stack for trading practice that was being rebuilt when I, when I joined the company from there, moved into a services role inside of a inside of a product team. So I actually joined box pre IPO and kind of their hypergrowth days building out their box consulting arm, which is basically their internal services team. But I quickly expanded to thinking about how to productize and operationalize a bunch of different services offerings that we had and think about how that supports our overarching company strategies of growing into BB companies, going up market it professionals, that sort of thing. And then was joined code as our kind of earliest go to market higher in two thousand and seventeen, back when we were in stealth mode. We're actually a different name at the Times. My favorite first projects worked on was renaming the company. For Those Unfamiliar Code as this a new all on one doc for team. So think best parts of Docs, spreadsheets, applications all in one flexible tool. And since I know a lot of your listeners are marketers, I think everything from how you manage launch briefs and Messaging Strategy Development, the actual launch calendar and asset creation to even signing off reviewing content to actually crane Dow Boards on Channel and campaign performance, all that stuff can happen inside the Coda and my team, as we think about what the gallery represents, is responsible for all parts of our marketing motion, from product marketing to PR and communications to how we engage and enable our sales force to God and tell our story. But it also includes this kind of ecosystem component, or this maker component, which is how do we grow the understanding of our product through our user base, through our maker community, which is the group of people who are really leaning into the product,...

...building amazing things that we would have never thought of and bringing those out into the world and engaging our our target audience. And so you ask the question at the beginning of you know what the gallery where came from, why it exists. There's a lot of reasons for it, but I think you know at the beginning when we were in stealth, you know our biggest first question is like how we going to what are we going to do when we launch this product? Like it's a horizontal tool. You can build any kind of will with it. You want any kind of solution. How are we going to anchor or messaging strategy? Can't you can't just say the tool for everybody? Yeah, it's almost like too much white space, right. Yeah, exactly. It's like it's a huge opportunity, but it's also a huge kind of challenge. And so if you can imagine some of the earliest parts of that conversation, we're okay, what's our core positioning and messaging? What's our main target audiences we really care about very deeply. But then there's this other part, which is how do you inspire potential users with what's possible with Codea? We already knew in the earliest days of talking to our customers that really clicked for them when they saw a compelling example or the way another person was using it. Less so like the perfect onboarding experience inside of the product, and so we knew we wanted to create a space to host some of those best examples. We kind of split the difference between, okay, partially going to be used for inspiration better also, for many will be used to get started. People take one of those pieces of content and probably want to try it out. And it really is evolved significantly since there. But that was kind of the first inception point of the gallery and it was truly when we launched, it was like fifteen individual docks. It was kind of a very simple single landing page, code iohe Gallery, and it's ground a ton since then. Yeah, well, maybe talk about how it's evolved as well over time. The reality is, like, not everyone listening to this is going to be working with a product that's like open source and we're not all going to maybe apply this in the same way, but there's several fascinating pieces to...

...creating something like a gallery and we're all thinking about like how can we make our product more accessible, how can we show it in use, and that's some of what fascinated me originally about the gallery. Is like, I don't work with an open source product, but if I could show how the thing that I have is can be used and give examples, templates, that sort of thing, there's a lot of use in that and I think a lot of our listeners would be in that space. I know one thing that you guys have done a lot is think strategically about partnerships and within the gallery, how does that kind of work? How has the gallery impact of the way you think about partnership specifically? Yeah, I am. I mean it's interesting. I think part of like you mentioned, not every company is an open source product, so it's hard to think about, you know, the same kind of strategy. The end of the day, I feel like the gallery is the best parts of customer marketing, which is definitely a big theme awesome in marketing in general. I was listening to your previous podcast of Russelan, who's actually somebody of a few times before. Is that thrive, but the idea of customer marketing and telling really compelling stories through what your customers are able to accomplish the product. I see this as an evolution of that and you know, you mentioned partnerships as a component of this. I see the best customer marketing relationships were creating our feel like partnerships at the end of the day. They don't feel like a point in time. We're building one thing together. We're doing one CO marketing push on this asset that says like, you achieved x amount of value with our product and and I can now put in a sales deck and then send that out to people. It's really about these the folks were working with to tell our story are deep advocates of the products and this is an opportunity for us to not just tell a great story that we can re use in other parts of our marketing and sales motion, but opportunity to deepen that relationship and and have that customer feel connected enough to revision, to advocate for us and to help us grow through word of mouth. I think there's so many strategies folks on this now everyone talks about community is...

...like, Oh, communities the like holy grail of like how do you grow in the early days? I see this is a very core part of that. It's building relationships with your user base such that they feel connected and excited to promote, promote you. Word of mouth is the best, best acquisition channel you can have in this is one way to do that and this is a very public way of word of mouth. So it's it's not quite just word of mouth, it's like word of mouth through a megaphone. Give me an example of how this works, like these partnerships and how this is used in in the gallery? Yeah, yeah, I think I'll give a few different examples which kind of speak to different target audiences that we work with with Coda. I mean CODA is used at tens of thousands of companies, but it's also used individually. It's used in small teams and start ups. So we often have to kind of segment our strategy and figure out, okay, how do we best support those different use cases? And so the way that we do this gallery base marketing is, is this somewhat a line to that so starting with kind of like the example that I think people be most familiar with is like the turning the case study on its head. You have a customer with a brand that's reputable credible, they use your product. You find a really compelling scenario that you want to share broadly in some story of like what the value is they achieved with your product. Companies like Phigma or Uber. We've done kind of those types of relationships with and you know we start with a similar thing. That's probably expected. You work with that team to build out the story. You understand what the problem they had was, why Coda was a great solution with value they achieved. We go a step further in that model, which is our goal, is to make their idea actionable for the person who reads that piece. I think, like you, there are millions of blog posts out there of case studies of product usage, of like how can I do XYZ process better? But the moment that you can actually quickly take that idea and turn into action or try it for yourself is...

...what it becomes powerful. Code obviously is a unique position to do that because our product is a mixture of content and and actual implementation. But I think everybody can if they think about it this way. You can find creative ways to do that within your product. And so with Phigma as an example, they run a lot of their product roadmapping process on CODA. They do a lot of their product requirements development and review inside of Coda, and we worked with one of our main champions there, who's the head a product, to kind of codify this this experience that they've created into a template that also had this kind of longer form case study and really start focusing on like the small experiences that made it delightful. It's not just about like here's this big product solution you can go adopt in your org. It's like here are the philosophies that this person who implemented the product has, here's what's unique about how pigma operates that made the solution compelling and here's where you can play with it and see it for yourself and action. And for other products you can just be as simple as showing the screenshots with the gifts or the you know, a video walk through. For products like ours, it's we want you to be able to touch and feel the solution that they use every day. As you're reading about it and that just creates kind of a really it's both a brand association. You know, CODA plus Phigma. Obviously we have a really great relationship with that team. They use our product, we partner with them in a bunch of different things, but it's also creating this understanding of the individual user behind the solution. You get to know Yuki, you get to know his philosophy on product management and US having a close relationship with him means that he's more likely to take that story into other other conversations with other product managers, cpos and you know, we've we found ways of kind of connecting. The thing is that the philosophies the FIGMA has on product to a bunch of other companies that are interested in how pigma runs and how they operate, and we try to help mediate or make that those conversations happen. I love the...

...idea of content and implementation, story and interaction kind of happening simultaneously, because we all have interacted with enough content on the Internet where you're like this is another blog and another basically like static page that's telling me how to do something but not giving me like a way of interacting with it, and I don't think you have to have. You guys obviously are in a unique position, but I think it's easier to just default to a blog format than to think like how can I make what I'm doing more interactive, even if it's breaking it down and some is video, some it's like do you could use different types of mediums all in one longer form piece of content? That would just make interaction easier, right, which is one of the first things that I would like in as I was looking at your guys as gallery, I'm just like, man, we have to be creating more interaction. And I know people are doing this on the sales demo side right, like getting rid of maybe the person that has to run the demo and you could just test out the product. But actually think there's ways marketing should be doing this as well and just implementing this in the content we're creating. And so I find this absolutely fascinating and worth all of our time to just like dig in and ask ourselves a few more questions to go like how can we make our content more interactive and not just maybe a blog? Yeah, yeah, I mean even just thinking about the dynamics of mean we offer and think of the content that's publish the gallery. Each individual piece is its own almost small APP it's, you know, the more the market place feels almost like a you know, the new kind of APP store, but you know, it might feel like a blog when you first lay in there, but then as soon as you start interacting with stuff. Each of these is a compelling, unique solution which is both a new entry point for the product but also an opportunity for folks to to kind of build up a set of docks that represent their philosophy.

It's an implementation, it's almost a set of products that they're they're putting out into the universe and they can build their own communities and their own interest groups around that content as well. Like Bei, there's some gravitational pull when you have a okay, here's how I think about managing product. Here's a specific way that I've implemented that philosophy in a company that I work at, and invite people to comment on it, to kind of share their own versions of that. You know, another example of this is actually something that we've started building out internally, which you keys this this pigma example fits into this larger story of our founders SASHIMA Rocho used to work at Youtube, RAN PROC design engineering on the youtube products for a number of years before we founded Coda, and he's just had, you know, hundreds, if not thousands of conversations with thought leaders, heads of products, engineering design, all these different folks with unique perspectives and how to run these team, teams, these organizations, how to build great products, and so we've actually turned this into this this book that he's running called rituals of great teens and the ideas. How do you like take all these unique perspectives and bring them together and kind of show them side by side and allow people to kind of navigate and experience not just the like content side of it, but experience what it feels like to actually have those implemented in your own teens and feeling a little bit like a choose your own adventure of like Hey, I have this I'm trying to figure out how to solve planning at an organizational level and evolve it for my fast growing team that's now distributed all the way down to I just want to do I want better one on ones with my with my team, and you can find really compelling customer example of just their philosophy on oneones in general, Code Agnostic, and then you have the like and here's how you can try it for yourself in one click version. Yeah, which is really compelling. It is really complete. Okay, I want to talk a little bit about some of...

...what you were just saying and like team rituals and incentives I or I know have become too new focuses. But let's before we get there, let's stay kind of in fact, let's rewind. Let's go back into the past a bit and talk about the beginning. You had mentioned. It was like what, fifteen docs kind of just sitting there like this is sort of what we're going to start with as a gallery. You have to have some sort of like snowball effect to get something like this rolling. What do you think was most important to make this something you guys wanted to feature on the site have as like a cornerstone of what Coda is like? How do you gain that momentum? Yeah, I mean there's definitely a supply and demand aspect to this and I'd say the first few years that the gallery was was up and running, all of the content was was curated by someone at Coda. There was no way to kind of publish yourself. You'd like thought of form, you'd submit and then somebody in the company would take a look and and then ultimately surface in the gallery experience. And you know, just that friction alone creates a bit of a you're not going to get as much inbound interest or growth of the supply side when you have that. It did let us do a bit more of like early exploration, quality control, make sure that we're understanding what why people are bringing things in. So it created this explicit moment for us to evaluate why do people care about publishing here? What are they trying to bring into the gallery? But during that time, I think a lot of this was also just having somebody whose full time job was thinking about this experience. I hired somebody very early named Al who is a big community advocate for ours, Al Chen, and he, you know, he basically take up took on this experience of okay, you know, both figuring out what people are coming to gallery and trying to submit and helping facilitate that process. But he was also thinking about what are all the different places where we can find solutions on the Internet in our customer base that would make sense to feature...

...here either as inspiration for our users or as it getting started kind of material for people had just signed up, and just having somebody who's spending the time searching for the right composition of content aligning that to our mainline kind of strategies as a company was really affected, at least at that building that initial supply up so that it was you came to the gallery, it wasn't just twelve things. It was like an inspiring set of hundreds of documents and he did a lot of early story mining as well with our existing customers. So being able to you know, I'd say when in doubt, when you start look inward, find, you know, find the customers who are really building something awesome and find ways of telling their story effectively. You'll be able to mind a ton of gold from that. Yeah, having that person to that's just like owning and thinking through like how are we constantly improving it, and being a community advocate ends up being a big proponent of this. Even though there's like part of this is that it's content strategy, it's also very much communal and customer facing conversations, and so I like it's a mix of like almost what you need, even personality wise to own something like this. Yeah, yeah, and you could either say it's Oh, we need a content marketing person or we need a community champion type member. I think these two is very related roles, especially in a company like ours, and they should hard to find the Unicorn and folks who are really good at everything in that in that realm. But it was is great early experience working with that on this. And then, yeah, I think one of the other things is, just as you evolve your strategy, it's you know what, how do you productize some parts of this experience? I think was really important and luckily, you know she's you're coming from Youtube and thinking a lot about what it means to grow via your users and and put them friend center and your in your marketing. You know, was already we were already heavily invested from a product perspective on making this experience great and feeding it. And so in a couple of years later, we actually productize the publishing feature. So that became a...

...core part of our product experience. We built a bunch of UI components as well as reporting elements that made it obvious, you know, when you're publishing you have this really great you know, experience. You want people to have a great France landing on the content you create, as well as some analytics and understanding of how people are engaging with your content as kind of an initial incentive and the fast forwards. Now we've built a bunch of other components in that, everything from kind of the monetary incentives, like we rolled out a maker fund at our block party last year. We built a REB sharing program or filiate program around this, to just making publishing a delightful experience and and one that kind of has some obvious gravity to it, building the kind of community and engagement around that content inside of the gallery. Let's talk about the evolution and then I want to kind of come up for air in the conversation on what you would do if you were like maybe somewhere else. So that's where we'll go with the the rest of this. Let's say, I know you I mentioned it a second ago, but there's kind of new to new focuses that have surfaced for you guys, team rituals and incentives. Maybe break down those two and how they've begun to play a role in in your efforts? Yeah, I think I'd say are to kind of categorize these things. The rituals is a story arc that we can help kind of drive. That will help us prioritize who we work with and how we kind of take all these all these unique stories of code usage and tell them in a way that's concrete and compelling for a new audience. And the incentive side is more how do you create this motivation for the long tail that would kind of continue participating in the ecosystem and all the individual makers out there who may not be totally bought into cody yet? What? What are the reasons that they should engage with the product more deeply? But, sorry, rituals, I mean I think this. I mentioned the book earlier, rituals of great teams, and you know, one of the classic challenges with motion like this is very quickly...

...you just have this whole vast expanding amount of content that exists about what your product can do and how it can help solve specific problems for specific types of users, and there's only so much you can really do to kind of categorize and and structure it. Our gallery kind of has two dynamics for doing that. One is use case or target audience type categories. You know, if your product manager go here, if you're a marketer, you probably want to go here. And we have the other dynamic of the maker themselves, the maker profile. So for somebody who like a UK, who's a cpout a company, who's published a few different docs on the platform, has a place to kind of centralize all of his perspective and the things that he's built. But beyond that, you know, for the average person who's looking around for a product or for a company that is has authority and is building some deeper thought leadership on things like product management, on I'm kind of building great great teams and great products. You need to be focused a bit and you need to have like a compelling through line. So the rituals effort was partially a reflection of our CEOS experience and exposure all these great ideas, but also away for us to kind of pull all these stories together and one kind of narrative around what it means to run a great team a great process. And you know, both the context for why it's important to like address these often not really thought about things in your daytoday life, like how I run my to do list or how I run my one on, how I set up my meetings, get caidence or my calendar. Those things or maybe an afterthought, and some of our content speaks to you. Should think of that as building a product in and of itself and that will make you more effective as a leader or as a as a somebody who's kind of at the ground floor building up these products, as well as kind of just bigger picture, like how do you run and early stage company and build out these process from zero to...

...one versus scaling them from, you know, one to a hundred two thousand? And so this ritual's concept helps us tie together all this, you know, diverse out of content into a central kind of playbook that people can navigate and search around. And I think for other marketers out there, you know, we're always looking for these great stories. You know, this is this is just kind of how do you package up this huge amount of in some cases user generated content, other cases assisted content that we're working with these partners on, into something compelling and easy to understand at the highest level for friend users. I love the just thinking of repackaging what you already have. You have so many stories, you have so much content you already have, giving it a different format, giving it a different feel, but it's like you're not you didn't have to go out and do a bunch of new work right like like you're there's already content in house that you can then use, stories you already have, and that's a big thing right now. I know we've talked about even here on B tob growth over the last few months. It's just like, how are you actually utilizing the content that you have, the stories that you do have? How are you putting those in front of people in a consistent way where it's not like we've all been guilty of this, but like we made the content and now we forget the content right and like we never revisit what we have, even though we've done the work to get the story. So I think that's an easy takeaway, Evan, were coming to the end of our time together, but I want to go just okay, you done the work on the gallery. It's it's here. It's something we can go look at, people can go interact with it. CODA DOT ioh gallery. I wonder for you, when you think of this, if we were to put you somewhere where maybe it wasn't, you know, open source, where it's not just going to be as straightforward as as this. Maybe apply it for our other marketers listening, like, are there a couple key learnings that are rattling around in your head, going hey, you guys should be thinking about this, even though it's not the same product. This is an easy maybe take away from this episode and this conversation. Yeah,...

I think. But three, three points, I'd say. One is start early, to is put your customers front and center and treat them like partners. And then the third would be experiment and make sure that you're thinking about this in a full stack way, from not just a marketer perspective but how that flows through to product and engineering and how you kind of productize the experiences. So going through those this was part of our strategy from the very beginning and we knew it was going to grow into something much bigger, which, to a certain extent, gave us this North Star that we were shooting for that we thought would be years in the making but got us. You know, before we launched the main website the product, we also have the gallery up up and running and a spirit of like making early investments that then you can kind of ship away out over time, starting right at the beginning with addressing this. This idea of how do you do customer marketing, how do you how do you kind of build up this this base of really compelling stories and use of your product, is really important. I'd say also, like customer marketing, treating your customers as partners is incredibly important and you know, if you start this process early, it means you're going to you're going to mind all these great stories for for wire users found value in your product, but also you're going to build these relationships that last for many, many years. We still work with some of the some of the users that I was working with when we only had a dozen, when we were in stealth. That was those are still people engage with today and they're people who still promote the product and still kind of bring it to new companies and new experiences that they have. And so the more you treat them like partners, both in building up your team and your process, so that you're really thoughtfully engaging with them and feeling like it's a partnership, not a I'm trying to pull a marketing story from you so I can give it to my sales team. And similarly, on the flip side, you treating them as partners, also treating like a community. That is going to you're going to invest in over time,...

...things like incentives. We talked about everything, for the monetary ones to the like. You know, how you involve these customers in events, in in kind of your strategy. That helps them build their brand, it helps them feel connected to yours and gives them a reason to participate much more actively. And the experimenting and working with the product team to kind of build out the the solution for this, I think. Yeah, most content marketing teams or folks who are in customer marketing are probably just working in the, you know, the box of I have a blog channel, I have a social channel, I have these like specific channels that I have to work with. What is to hit quotas? It yeah, and and and, in most cases, to your point, I don't have like a product that I can just push publicly through a through a publishing feature. I think if your product team is bought into this strategy and sees the value early, there's a lot of creative things you can do to both how you host this content and make it feel actionable, like we talked about earlier, to what are the different mechanisms for building out these incentive models inside of your product. It could be as simple as embedding like a discord feed into your into your blog, but those things require engineering work, they require somebody to think, you know, holistically about why and how you want that system to work, and so involving the product organ and experimenting with the things that resonate for your audience, I think are all really important to me. It ends up coming back to viewing customers as partners because ultimately, like if you're listening to the show, I know we have a variety of different stage companies and marketers that are in different spaces. So maybe start early. You Hear Evan say that, you're like, I can't start early anymore, but they're going. Okay, but we can make an active effort to make customers partners and there's so much that you can unlock there if you ask some key questions, get around the right people and start brain storming of different ways you could do that and you can make it mute truly beneficial, which is a big deal. Like there's a lot...

...of value that both sides can add when you find the right partnerships. So that's one of the big takeaways I'm taking away from you, Evan, and I love experimentation. Maybe we talked about it too much here on me to be growth. I don't know, maybe it's just a word I really enjoy, but I would say like that on that end, if you can get the main idea and then iterate and watch it evolve over time, I may a customer, customer partners and experimentation and tandem is going to you're going to see a ton of marketing results if you can lock that down, Evan. Any final thoughts here as we as we close out? No, I think just excited that I feel like there's just so many new places for marketing teams to play and a lot of new products and even technologies that have been rolled out to make some of these experiences more more effective. New Tools that make it easier for you to implement some of these community building aspects, are incentive building aspects into your into your course stack. So think a lot of opportunity and happy to chat with anybody who's who's interested in learning more of how we done it. Yeah, tell us a little bit about that. What's the best way for people to connect with you and obviously we've plugged coded out ioh, but people should obviously go over the website as well. Yeah, Evan, Evan P Davies is my handle on Linkedin. It's probably the easiest place to reach me. Wonderful. Well, thank you for stop and by be to be growth today on fascinating conversation. Love the gallery. Want people to go check that out and thanks for breaking it down for us. That sounds good. Thanks for having me to our listeners. Thanks for checking out this insightful conversation with Evan. If you have yet to follow the show on whatever your favorite podcast platform is, go ahead and do that so you never miss an episode and if you would like to connect with me, ask a question or just have a conversation, I'm available and Linkedin all the time talking about marketing, business in life. So Search Benjy Block. You'll find me over there and it will be back real soon with another episode. Keep doing work...

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