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What do Tumblr, AirBnB, Slack and Pinterest have in common?

CultureAmp!

The VP of sales at CultureAmp, Ramon Elzinga, shares an amazing story of how they took a targeted customer profile to build an inbound sales funnel that has delivered explosive and consistent growth over the last four years.

Now that CultureAmp have a thorough and impressive understanding of the metrics of success for their inbound sales & marketing funnel they are embarking on a new challenge of creating a sales driven outbound channel to identify new customers segments to achieve their ultimate goal of 10,000 customers.

To support their outbound activity they are leveraging their solid base of existing customer and clear understanding of their ideal customer to simplify their message to address the needs of the individuals making the business decisions and leverage their impressive list of reference sites to be relevance when they reach their outbound prospects.

Culture Amp is on the charge and this Startup Story is filled with startup sales gold that will help many early stage and mature businesses.

We hope you enjoy this Startup Story!

What is your elevator pitch?

We try to bring to HR what a lot of departments have had for sometimes. If you’re the head of sales, you probably have a sales board, dash board or something similar. If you’re head of marketing you might be using HubSpot. HR never had real time analytics, that’s what we thought in 2011 and on the back of that we’d be growing a 10% month to month for four and a half years.

When did you first realise this is a problem that needed to be solved?

Like most startups, it was through sufferings. Our CEO had been to business that fluctuated up and down. It was a visual effects company. He used to getting good data in finance, he understood his customers, but he had no way of knowing what was going on internally.

He like many leaders understood that, it will start with the employees that you have inside your company and he was very frustrated and not having a real time source of data to understand what was going on with people and culture. He was software engineer and he started Culture Amp.

Can you tell us more about your revenue sales story?

In terms of the sales funnel we’ve been inbound since the start. We’re fortunate that we strategically pursued brands early on, I guess punch above their weight and also we pursued communities to some extent.

So we went into areas where we knew that there were lots of clients who might talk to each other. For us we started in San Francisco, particularly with high tech communities, a lot of the logos, people’s phones, appliance of ours and places like Tumblr and Pinterest and Slack and AirBnB – all clients of us. But they probably have fewer employees than what you’d think. It makes the sales process a bit easier. We started with direct contact to clients. When nobody knows what you do. Over time we built a web presence and started to work by organic presence and then doing some paid to get inbound flow, sort of fast forward from where are we now.

Each sales rep gets roughly 200 leads geographically on a monthly basis that tend to be 30 demos, out of that we probably get 8-10 clients onboard. And it seems to be pretty consistent across most market places. We just toying with a little bit of outbound now. Our long term vision is to help 10,000 companies who have got just over 500 now. I think as we look at our client base, we’ve got 20000 people trials or 20000 subscribers to our content. Of those may be a thousand gone a little bit further and played with tools and so on. The addressable market is anyone who’s got more than a hundred people and probably a high tech functions. So there is hundreds and thousands of companies out there where we want the opportunity to reach out to them and let them know we exist. So we’ve just started on that process.

What is your biggest challenge in sales?

Like any organization, we have lofty dreams, we grow up more than any country does in the world every month. We have to keep doing that. It’s part of get to where we want to reach in a reasonable time frame and how do we scale both the sales side and business, the support side of business and every other part of business. When we’re selling a product that is about culture, if we don’t scale our own business and manage that process, then we don’t have a brand anymore. That’s the challenge for us.

For those that prefer to read there is also full transcript but here are the highlights;


 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Andy: Hi everybody and welcome to another installment of Startup Stories. Really excited to have another fantastic Aussie startup joining us from Melbourne. We’ve got Ramon to talk through his role at CultureAmp.

Ramon: Sure. Relatively straight forward, I look after the Sales Division. That used to be just me. Now we have 2 people in Melbourne, we have 3 people in San Francisco and New York. I was in London last week trying to find some people put the flag down for us. So we’re slowly spreading around the globe.

Andy: Very very exciting. That wasn’t one of the questions that we’re going to ask. There are 4 questions, part of these interviews. The first one is to ask for your elevator pitch.

Ramon: Elevator, probably mean short, I’m not usually too much to the point. We try to bring to HR what a lot of departments have had for sometimes. If you’re the head of sales, you probably have a sales board, dash board or something similar. If you’re head of marketing you might be using HubSpot. HR never had real time analytics, that’s what we thought in 2011 and on the back of that we’d be growing a 10% month to month for four and a half years.

Andy: Fantastic. That’s a very exciting story. When did you guys figure out that this was a problem that needed to be solved?

Ramon: Like most startups, it was through sufferings. Our CEO had been to business that fluctuated up and down. It was a visual effects company. He used to getting good data in finance, he understood his customers, but he had no way of knowing what was going on internally.

He like many leaders understood that, it will start with the employees that you have inside your company and he was very frustrated and not having a real time source of data to understand what was going on with people and culture. He was software engineer and he started Culture Amp.

Andy: It’s a very very typical story, borne out of their personal frustrations.

Ramon: Exactly.

Andy: You eluded a little bit earlier about you sales story with some of the people that you’ve got around the globe. But it would be great if you could tell us a little bit about the processes that you currently shaping – inbound, outbound and some of the technology that are part of your sales stack.

Ramon: Sure. May be it’s me but I like to keep things simple. I like to keep things simple, not too complicated. In terms of the sales funnel we’ve been inbound since the start. We’re unfortunate that we strategically pursued brands early on, I guess punch above their weight and also we pursued communities to some extent.

So we went into areas where we knew that there were lots of clients who might talk to each other. For us we started in San Francisco, particularly with high tech communities, a lot of the logos, people’s phones, appliance of ours and places like Tumblr and Pinterest and Slack and AirBnB – all clients of us. But they probably have fewer employees than what you’d think. It makes the sales process a bit easier. We started with direct contact to clients. When nobody knows what you do. Over time we built a web presence and started to work by organic presence and then doing some paid to get inbound flow, sort of fast forward from where are we now.

Each sales rep gets roughly 200 leads geographically on a monthly basis that tend to be 30 demos, out of that we probably get 8-10 clients onboard. And it seems to be pretty consistent across most market places. We just toying with a little bit of outbound now. Our long term vision is to help 10,000 companies who have got just over 500 now. I think as we look at our client base, we’ve got 20000 people trials or 20000 subscribers to our content. Of those may be a thousand gone a little bit further and played with tools and so on. The addressable market is anyone who’s got more than a hundred people and probably a high tech functions. So there is hundreds and thousands of companies out there where we want the opportunity to reach out to them and let them know we exist. So we’ve just started on that process.

Andy: Sounds like you’ve got a really good understanding of conversion and flow through from that funnel activity. How does that go on the other end of the funnel when it comes to that the customer retention side? Is that something that sits under you and is that something baked into to your existing process?

Ramon: It doesn’t sit under me, I’m focused on what our annual recurring revenue is and if you lose customers, you lose your annual recurring revenue. We’ve been fortunate to date our generate in the single digits. In dollar terms, we have a net positive; we’ve got a lot of upgrades just because our clients have grown in employee sides. And many people have left us, so we’ve been fortunate in that respect. I think we have a relatively sticky product because we take data sources from multiple parts and pull them together which is hard to replicate.

But it’s a constant thing. You always have to keep making….. As you grow, you’ve got more customers to serve and keep happy. So that’s always going to be a challenge as we grow and as we go to grow out across the globe. So it’s a constant focus but it’s not directly under my limit, we have a Head of Customer Success, that’s one of his matrix. I watch it closely because it relates to referrals and all the rest of it.

Andy: Absolutely. Is your team split out at all between market response and then OS and account growth or they just still at the stage where, you’re just in  geography and you look after that?

Ramon: Account growth has been fairly organic. We’re once Product Company that can’t grow because that got more employees. There’s a conversation but we’re not selling another product.

Andy: So you’re just in the order, say looking after 20% finance team G & A team?

Ramon: Sorry I missed that question.

Andy: We see a lot of times where SaaS based services, where people just dip their toe in the water going and chasing, what it looks like sort of a G & A team. We got 20 people, we can manage a little politics and see our guys from there. Is that the process that normally happens to you or is that we’re going to roll this company wide?

Ramon: That was very patchy but I think you’re talking about do we do [unclear 0:07:47]. Is that right?

Andy: Yeah or just thinking about that account growth, is that the normal path to customer acquisition going that full company or is it more getting that smaller monkey’s paw of getting a certain area  or just a little bit fraction from the business?

Ramon: Good question. Companies under 10,000 people, it’s typically the whole company, usually the problem they’re trying to solve is a diagnostic survey or engagement survey. And that’s something that goes to everyone. We’ve had quite a few instances where worked with companies like Oracle, Qualcomm or Intercontinental Hotel Group, we’ve had hundreds and thousands of employees. We typically work with an area and today we’ve had pretty good like again organically we get contacted via departments and other areas and that worked  really well for us. But when we speak to them, the project is talking about the whole because.

Andy: Cool. You mentioned you’re going outbound. What’s driving that for you?

Ramon: It’s just another mix in the marketing funnel. You can do Twitter ads, as you do LinkedIn ads, you can run events, there’s lots of different ways of getting people to sit down and do demo with you. For us, we’re a data driven company, we look at where the cost of acquisition is at its best and we’re just in the process of testing that. So this is just another method. We will look at anything that is a way for us to get in front of the people that we can help. That’s another one. That’s how we started the business and it worked. So I’m guessing it might work now.

Andy: You hope so. Same thing with the flavor of the last year, when it comes to SaaS based businesses and that in propping up that, it was market driven funnel. Have you thought a little bit about the technology that you might do that outside of phone and your email.

Ramon: I mean, I have a guy that I’m working with played with x-way, out way, HubSpot Signals, we use HubSpot as a CRM. But ultimately it’s not my decision, I’ve got someone that I’m trusting to make the call on the technology stack, there’s a lot of providers that will help us. Our messaging is probably the key. There are probably a few choices in most of the different stacks that we could use. Technology helps when you’ve got the message right. For us, we got the message right. We choose a technology  and run with it. I don’t have any specific ones, but there are a lot of ones that are helpful.

Andy: Absolutely. In terms of SaaS driven businesses that I’ve spoken to not many are using HubSpot as a CRM. How long have you been using it for?

Ramon: We used to use RelateIQ. The reason that we do it is mainly because we’ve initially used an inbound marketing model and that’s the strength of it. They put a free CRM a couple years ago and does it okay. It’s something that does a lot of things okay. With every technology stack, there are good things and bad things. Things you do like and things you don’t like. I’m broadly comfortable with HubSpot as a CRM process.

Andy: Cool. When there is sales [unclear 0:11:35] it’s lot easier for the reps to input the information and you got the visibility and edits, that’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing.

Ramon: That’s right. [unclear 0:11:46] not many stuffing around the CRM. We’re on sales and love doing it.

Andy: One thing you mentioned was around the messaging side, getting that right. Just really curious about how you guys do that at scale. We’ve spoken to some businesses who create their own ideal customer profiles and share them across the business, other people just leave it up to individual reps, just sort of wondering what path do you take to leverage your learnings and scale that messaging?

Ramon: I guess the first comes focus. It’s not to learn lots of different messages. If you’re marketing to one or two personas or types, it makes life a lot easier in terms of understanding, messaging and sharing messaging, so that’s probably the starting point. Once you clear on who you are marketing to, it’s about looking your customers and continually asking them why they made the jump, what the timing, what thing was it made them jump? and perhaps where they’re hanging around, what social media circle or physical circles they’re in, that gives you a bit of an idea of where people are hanging out, why they are coming to you and what are you solving? At a company level, you’ve got classic data that are easy to find, geography, size and Industry. So I think with that information, obviously you’re outbound and you’re targeting similar people and messaging becomes relatively simple, you just say last person because of this and they looked a bit like you more or less, and you keep trying [unclear 0:13:26]. That’s pretty much what we do.

Andy: Nice. It’s nice, quick and simple way to get across, what a lot of people try to make a little bit more complexity at times.

Ramon: I think the other thing I was having specially yesterday, one of the things a lot of us do which doesn’t work because we sit down and craft an email without actually thinking who we are going to send it to because we’re not going to send quite a few of them. I think as long as you actually think about some real person, you tend to write much more basic content. And then you work out how you can scale that, not the other way around.

Andy: Nice. That’s an awesome tip especially for a lot of people embarking on that outbound journey where they feel like [unclear 0:14:12] with that they go and speak to no one. And they ultimately will end up going out and speaking to none.

Ramon: Yeah

Andy: So we’ve melt a lot of these questions into the conversation. The last one is what’s your biggest challenge in sales at the moment, at Culture Amp?

Ramon: I mean for us, like any organization, we have lofty dreams, we grow up more than any country does in the world every month. We have to keep doing that. It’s part of get to where we want to reach in a reasonable time frame and how do we scale both the sales side and business, the support side of business and every other part of business. When we’re selling a product that is about culture, if we don’t scale our own business and manage that process, then we don’t have a brand anymore. That’s the challenge for us.

Andy: Absolutely. It’s going to be super tough for you, going across to having people scale across the globe. Does that mean that you’re spending a lot of the time on a plane?

Ramon: I live in Adelaide. Not much to do down inside. [unclear 0:15:29].

Andy: I understand.  That’s a great way to finish off. Where can people go and learn more about Culture Amp?

Ramon: Take a look at our website www.cultureamp.com Feel free to ping me as well. I’m always there to help. So have a little bit of look what we’re about and love to help anyone we can.

Andy: Brilliant. Thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it.

Ramon: Thanks Andy.

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