As Ammon Brown tells it, x.ai starts with individuals and “tiny teams” and snowballs into enterprise contracts with brands you’ve definitely heard of (Disney, Nike, and Coca Cola to name a few). It all starts with a standout guest experience including one touch scheduling and rescheduling. Even if you’re not marketing a SaaS product, you’re sure to take away some inspiration for how his team makes growth happen by working together and aligning to the same north star.
Here's what you can expect on today's episode:
Read the full transcript:
All right. Welcome to another episode of Growth Marketing Camp. I'm excited to be joined by Ammon Brown who's credits. We're going to get to shortly here, but just to set the stage Ammon I am fully expecting at least one excellent pun in this interview. Okay. LinkedIn description says you're Jack of all trades master of pun.
You got to sneak it some way into the interview. Okay. That was it right there. That's right. Jack of all trades, master of pun. All right. So we're expecting a little bit more. I love it. So Ammon, you come from a long history in marketing and, in growth at Google in 2004, several agencies. And then maybe what's most fascinating to me is kind of a fellow entrepreneur is you founded a social sharing software company.
It was acquired by AddShoppers. And now most recently you're the VP of growth at the what I'll call the incredibly domain name, rich x.ai. Done some really cool things in marketing Ammon. Welcome to the show. Thanks for being with us. First question. Have you ever had a role you weren't excited about getting out of bed for, cause those sound like some pretty cool things.
I would say yes, because every role has days where you're not excited to get out of bed. For myself, whenever I feel like a role is stagnating or getting a little bit narrow in scope, that's when I start getting bored and checking out. But as long as I've got a lot of different things to fill my day, then I'm raring to go every morning.
I love it. Yeah. And you have an energy. I can just tell you, bring that to the team. So that's awesome. What was the role, let's say where you had the richest learning experience? Because I've been at all kinds of different places. My guess agency life, but I'm interested to hear, where did you have the most rich learning experience?
I think it, it really varies. It depends on what you're trying to learn. If you're trying to learn self-sufficiency while being a solo entrepreneur and building, growing a company is a totally different ball game than fitting into a large organization. I think that I would say probably sales jobs early on teach you the most because you really have to think on your feet, you really have to be.
Talking the talk to prospects, you really need to kind of understand the pain of the marketplace. And that really gives you a lot of tools that you can leverage later on and totally different disciplines. Just being able to talk to people. Yeah. Love that. Well, thinking about x.ai right now, and you know, the company that you're currently heading growth for with, I mean, so many potential customers, right?
This is a calendaring tool. Above, you know, the average calendaring tools, capabilities but thinking about the different types of people that you can sell this offering to, and then you can target with your marketing. Are there particular areas of focus for you guys right now? Like any segments or sizes of companies or things that you look at yeah.
It's interesting cause people say who's your target market? And I'm like, I don't know. Everybody schedules a meeting. You've got a calendar. What we're finding is that we're really successful with what we call individuals and tiny teams that doesn't necessarily mean tiny companies, because we have customers across the fortune 500.
We have customers who are solo entrepreneurs. It's really just You know, when someone really feels scheduling pain, they adopt the platform and it's just that simple. And then as they schedule meetings with other people, it grows through the organization and eventually we're signing an enterprise contract.
So it's sort of a bottom up approach, but there's not really any single profile of individual user. That we specifically and explicitly target, we do have a number of personas that we're saying, you know, real estate agents have a great deal of scheduling pain, especially right now they can't, um, open houses, things like that.
And entrepreneurs, especially at small companies love us because you know, they're just resource constraint and scheduling meetings tunes up hours every week. Yeah. Well, that makes perfect sense. I love that idea. And we're going to get into sort of this ground swell product led growth concept.
As we talk about your campaign focus. Do you have any example of maybe some customers who we would have heard of or something that you'd like to talk about? Like a particularly unique use case? One that I've really liked recently is a company called Seesaw. They are an app for schools, for teachers, parents, administrators, all communicate within the app.
It's a great app. They're using it for sort of just in time support. So they're building these round Robin scheduling pages for their support teams. And, you know, a teacher says, well, I'm stuck. I don't know how to use the app and schedule a 15 minute call. And they're on a zoom moments later with a support rep.
Oh, interesting. So they're sort of. Taking that as a use case and they're across multiple times zones. And so managing, it was kind of a headache and they're being pretty successful with the system now. Oh, that's awesome. Yeah, I like that. That's not what I expected.
I love it. Well, let's break down your campaign, which, kind of from our pre-show conversation here isn't the traditional sense of like, Hey, we paid this much in these channels to advertise for this period of time and drove this many sign-ups, but you guys are going about it in a different way.
You're thinking about this from a product led growth standpoint. What does that mean to you? First of all, what does it mean to drive growth through the product? Well, we're in a very lucky spot. We have what I would refer to as inherent virality, simply because if I'm scheduling a meeting, I'm usually not doing with just myself. We have this natural sort of outbound power that people are scheduling meetings with one or more or dozens of other people. And so each person who has a meeting scheduled with them by our system, whether it's over email, With our AI or whether it's through one of our calendar pages, they're being exposed to our platform.
And so with that natural exposure, we're able to try to build in loops and try to like, you know, really nail that experience for the guest, because if it works really well for them, and if we can blow their mind, they're going to sign up immediately. And so, you know, we're really just sort of leveraging that inherent.
Outreach that exists by the nature of what we do. I would think of it as kind of analogous to DocuSign or companies like that, where, you know, you don't just sign your own contracts, you need to share it with someone else. And so, you know, you can, as long as you nail that experience and make it just so flawless and dead simple, then people are gonna love you and they're gonna eventually pay you.
Yeah, that makes sense. And you mentioned earlier that you start sometimes with small teams within larger organizations and maybe automagically you eventually arrive at this enterprise contract, but even with the virality of the product, I imagine that doesn't just happen in and of itself. Like nobody's asking you for a contract to sign a thousand seats of x.ai.
At what point does that get transitioned over to a sales representative? At what point are you going from like, Hey, we have a lot of users at this company to. Yeah. Maybe somebody got to reach out and like group these together and start talking about larger use cases. It really depends on the customer's needs.
In the case of Seesaw that I mentioned, we have a large bank here in the US as well, when someone says, Oh, wow, this is working really well. I want to roll this out to a larger team. At that point, they usually contact us because now you're in the territory of, well, these people aren't adopting it immediately just to solve their own pain.
It's sort of an organization wide pain. And so, you know, there's a little bit more training and handholding that is necessarily involved because they're not just self onboarding. Well, that said we do try to make it as easy as possible for even a largest team to onboard themselves. Obviously you're not there, but there is an inflection point in which it's not just my tool anymore.
It's not my company's tool that can be anywhere from, you know, five seats to 50, to a 100 seats where they start going. Well, we should probably start moving into a. Larger territory. Sure. And I imagine it could be occasionally where it's from, Hey, everybody on their own credit card, happy to pay, you know, the small fee per month that they're paying to get your access to your tool to suddenly the whole team wants it.
Now, the managers getting involved in starting to think about budgeting. And so they're probably asking for maybe a deeper dive with a sales team member, so that's more common where they're actually reaching out to you because they've gotten to that point. Yeah, we're entirely inbound at the beautiful, we're not really doing much in the way of outbound outreach, because again, we've tried to sort of top down where you contact the CMO, the CEO, whoever it may be and say, roll this out to your whole organization.
Yeah. And, you know, unless they have a salient need that they need to fill like their customer or their customer success team is 40 people and needs to be able to schedule amongst themselves. Then you're going to have an adoption problem when you go top down with something like this. So, you know, as we go bottoms up, you're finding that we're having much more success and we're growing more naturally, organically and reliably.
Boy that's, an interesting insight I'm thinking about, of course, our own company here at Opensense, in some of what we do the end users who love the capabilities, but it is not as easily installable cause we install at the server level. So you have some natural advantages to your product.
But you're also in a fairly competitive space. I would say there are well-known brands who provide at least on the surface, a very similar experience from again, somebody looking at this and saying, okay, category, this is a calendaring tool. Right? Great. I know other calendaring tools. I'm going to go look at those as well.
What are some of those unique functionalities? And this isn't a product pitch, but I really want to understand from a product led growth perspective. How do you trust your product to drive that growth? What is it that's unique about the way you've built the product that you can trust? That it will actually continue to carry that out, you know, ahead of other competitors.
So I would hesitate to call it a calendaring tool. Because it's a scheduling tool and beautiful, we call it a scheduling engine. You know, it's not about exposing your availability. It's about getting meetings on the calendar and getting it done. It's a fine distinction. But we have a number of ways that we approach this.
So, you know, a one-to-one meeting. Internally, you're going to go to Google calendar and find a time that you're both open and just click up a one-to-one meeting externally. You can send a calendar page, I'd prefer to send an x.ai calendar page. They're really beautiful and convert well. But then when you start getting into the territory of, well, now I have six people that all need to be in the room at the same time, account-based starts falling apart.
And so our email scheduling AI is able to just CC everybody. And it will arrange the meeting on your behalf. Now, this is kind of a good segue into the product led growth campaign that I wanted to talk about. Because when everybody involved internal or external has a calendar connected to x.ai or accessible to the system, it just picks a time and schedules it and puts it on everybody's calendars.
And when that happens in a six person meeting, when I send an email. And it comes back less than a minute later and says, great, it's on everybody's calendars now it's mind blowing. So that's sort of the functionality that we're really trying to expose to people that, Hey, we can do all of this negotiation in the background as long as everybody has at least a free account.
Yeah. Beautiful. Okay. So then, one of the things that you've had to enable is a free tier, some ability for people to expose their calendar to the tool, so that then they are now a part of that ecosystem. They're aware of it. There's a connection there that you can leverage.
I'm really curious supposing that they have a great experience, but then they forget because they've held the meeting and something else has happened. What is the followup marketing look like from you guys by follow up marketing? Do you mean for a guest? Yeah. Do you do anything to reach out to them or is it just the expectation that they handle that on their own?
Because they're so enthralled with the experience, it's kind of an expectation that they handle it on their own. So we're very protective of the guest experience. And if you schedule a meeting with someone and then suddenly the tool that you used is emailing that guest. You're not going to be happy with us.
You know, we have a little five star rating for guests and it hovers just shy of five stars all the time. And we are very protective of that, but when someone signs up for the platform, even if they're just connecting a calendar and they're not going to schedule meetings, they're just sort of a passive participant.
That's fine because that creates value for everyone else involved. So we do have a number of sort of ongoing engagement triggers. Once you sign up, we have an email that goes out the evening prior that says. Here's what's coming up tomorrow. You've got some conflicts. This one might need attention. This one's missing a location.
So that's sort of a daily reminder of here's all, you know, a helpful little tool. And then we also allow you we insert a rescheduling link. So one click reschedule on every meeting in your calendar really helps you access the tool. And, you know, re-experience that magic. If I click reschedule in a six person meeting, And it goes, okay, cool.
I just moved it to Tuesday at two I'm like what rad. So we do try to expose those features in the surface area where you're always interacting with your day, regardless, which is your calendar sort of the central source of truth for people. Yeah, brilliant. Okay. Then now what I want to dig into is really, how do you have a part to play in that?
So as a VP of growth, you also have this history that is, you know, obviously sales and product and marketing, which all kind of plays into what you do today. I imagine because you're kind of straddling the lines between all of those who are the team members that come together to make this all happen.
Good question. So it's kind of everybody. You know, I think of growth as it's not just straddling a line of different departments. It's its own department because it doesn't necessarily has to be, it's an amalgam of, like you said, sales, marketing product. Advertising tech analytics, whatever it may be.
And it's always going to be just a little bit different in every, in any organization. In my current role, it's more product heavy because, you know, like I said, we're a very product led growth company. And so I work closely with the product teams with the engineers our VP of engagement.
Who's awesome. As well as our CEO, so growth is kind of everybody's responsibility and we're all working together to move this thing forward. You know, as a company, our goals are aligned in that we want to grow X amount in Y amount of time. Yeah. Fascinating. Okay. I love that idea of everybody's job is growth, right.
That they're all connected and it makes a lot of sense. You guys certainly have a unique way of thinking about that. I'm thinking about. What you're doing right now through product led growth. Are there other engines that you're tapping into outside of the product itself? Is it partnerships? What other channels are you using to promote your product currently?
Oh, yeah. I mean, product led doesn't mean product exclusively. So, you know, we have a bare bones SEM campaign that just sort of brings in a fair bit of new users. We have a very active blog that has a number of content pieces that pull things in. Our nascent API just launched with its first partner company.
And so, you know, now we're doing co-marketing with any API partners that we're working with. As well as, you know, just the general elbow grease of, Hey, schedule a meeting with us and call us up and we'll sit there and talk to you. We know it doesn't scale, but it really helps. And then I also host just little sort of demo webinars twice a week.
And, people show up for those frequently just to get an orientation for the platform. But for me, it's really useful because I understand how people are using it and what they need out of it. So there's a lot of customer communication. There's a lot of traditional channels, but then there's a great deal of sort of product optimization to really get people coming through the product itself.
I love the idea of having more conversations with those users and learning about that, which I'm sure influences product I'm sure. Influences content does what you see happening from an analytics perspective in the product also influence what you're doing on the content, the marketing side, kind of outside of the product a hundred percent.
Yeah. What are maybe a couple of examples of places where you've seen something in the product that's educated you on ways that you should be marketing differently? Well, so just today I was looking, you know, hunting for new API partners. And so I went and looked at our referrals and Google analytics and said, okay, who wrote content about us?
That is sending clicks over to us from their blog. And, you know, obviously Zapier's at the top, they wrote up a nice article on us, but then there's a few others who are adjacent to your business, but they're not competitors because the competitor wouldn't do that.
And so that's a really good source of potential partners there. But then we'll also do things like we have Google analytics, events and other things throughout the product. And, if we're optimizing a CTA within the product, then we're watching that very closely and making sure that, you know, Oh, well, after someone schedules a meeting, if they came through a calendar page, we should probably try to show them this message that says, get your own free calendar pages versus get your own scheduling AI, for instance.
So there's a lot of things like that where the data is coming in from the product, and it's helping inform that. But then, there's the general traditional types of things where you're looking at. The traffic that you're getting from SEO and using that to sort of go buy some keywords across Google.
Yeah, that makes sense. Now thinking about just because there's so much collaboration that obviously happens and you guys are a smaller team for what you're capable of doing. I imagine that there are some very specific people have to be involved doing different things. Is it a growth department?
Is it a marketing department? How do you think about that? Do you have specifically a marketing department within growth or is it all kind of just one big happy family? It's all kind of just one big happy family. I mean, you know, we all have our titles, but then it's really just, I work with our, head of product day in, day out.
I work with our head of engagement. I work with, you know, pretty much whatever tools you need to get things done. I might be pairing with an engineer to go through and wire up some new analytics hook or put something in place. So it's really, you just draw from whatever tools you need to actually get accomplished what you need to accomplish.
Yeah. This is going to be really interesting for our audience because we've had a lot of very traditional marketing structure folks. On the show. I mean, I can think of like a friend of mine, Kevin Bobowski who talked about, we pick a channel, we do a great job. We put a director over, we've got a manager, and we've got a couple of folks executing at the bottom of that funnel, if you will.
And that structure, and you're saying, Hey, we're one happy family. We're all working and talking together and figuring this thing out together. I mean, it's beautiful. It's very different. It really stands out. It works well when you have a team that's comfortable with sort of figuring it out as you go with a frenetic pace of test.
Measure repeat. I think when you're under 50 people start up land, it's easier to do things this way, unless you start growing larger. I think it becomes difficult to say, well, I need two engineers on that. It's like, Whoa, slow down there they're over there on that project. But when the entire company is still a small team and they're fully aligned on what the goals are and then fully aligned on how to get there, then you know, everybody's kind of on board.
Yeah. Then thinking about those goals, because you mentioned them, how do you set them? I mean, traditionally, maybe a CEO says here's our objectives. Hey, VP of marketing, how are you going to accomplish this from an MQL standpoint, sales leaders? How are we going to accomplish this from a closed one revenue?
And it seems very structured and obvious, you know, who's going to do what, in terms of planning for those goals. How do you guys think about that today? Well, there's really two different types of goals. All of which feed the sort of our North star metrics. So right now we're focused on growing our monthly recurring revenue.
That's the bottom line. And then there's a lot of different ways to do that, but that sort of gets fed by monthly meetings scheduled. So the more meetings get scheduled, the more people are exposed to more people will sign up, certain predictable percentage of them are going to pay us. Yeah. But then each individual project.
Or each individual product launch might have its own goals attached to it. So, you know, if we're for pushing a particular top of funnel type of tidbit into the product, then that might have a goal attached to, well, we want a bunch of signups out of that. You know, it's not necessarily a revenue driver, but we know that that revenue will come out.
Further down the funnel, because again, we convert at a predictable rate and so each project might have slightly different metrics and goals attached. And you know, they might miss, but in aggregate, they all kind of bubble up to that revenue driver. Okay. That makes sense. You have a North star, you guys are building other goals off of that.
That makes perfect sense. And I guess thinking about what you've done. In product led growth or thinking about the way that you guys are growing today, is this influencing anything you're planning to do in the future? Right. Typically when we talk to a guest, they've done a very specific campaign that is now influencing other campaigns.
Are there things that you're learning today that are going to influence the way that you're going to market in the future? You think. Yes. So we have this notion of the scheduling network where you can invite people to connect their calendars so that now you can schedule those instant meetings that I was talking about.
And there's a lot of value in that. We by we, I mean me and all of us, I guess we want to do more with that, because that was sort of put together as a hack. We said, well, we have this instant background scheduling. It's really cool. It's mind blowing when it happens to people, let's let them, now that we have a free version, let them just connect with people.
And then just say that person, that person, that person clicked meet, go. Yeah. And it's been very successful. People are getting value out of it. And so exposing that value in more places, being able to show you that, Hey, these six contacts and you you're all available Tuesday at one, do you want to book that, you know, surfacing those types of moments to the customer where they're like, Holy s@#t, you can do that.
Cool. That's sort of pushing us in a direction towards adding more value to. Having a contact within the network, because that helps solidify our position, but it also helps add value to our customers. You know, if I can instant schedule with you, why wouldn't I versus, you know, and having you click on my link or, have the AI start sending you my times and those sorts of things, just book it instantly and move on, show up at the meeting and done smile.
Yeah, I like that. Okay. There's going to be some folks here who are listening or maybe watching and they see an opportunity to maybe pivot. They haven't been, so product led, growth minded and that other thinking, Hey, you know that's inspiring. There's an idea, but how do they start that conversation?
And obviously it seems like from the very beginning, x.ai, that's been a part of your company's DNA. Well, let's suppose it's not. Do you have any advice for those who are thinking. Man maybe we can do something with the product because there is some inherent potential virality, but we're not doing it today.
How do you think they could start that conversation? I think you really want to start with sort of the overall customer and guest experience. So if someone's using a product, whether it's, you know, a radio flyer wagon, or whether it's scheduling software, if they really like it, if it's helping them, if their experience is a positive one, then they're incentivized to.
Talk about it. Sure. And you know, it takes a little bit of a leap of faith. I talked to a friend's company a while back and they were just kind of dabbling with a freemium product, a free version of their product. And you know, you kind of have to trust that your product is good enough that people are going to have a good enough experience when you open the doors that they're going to stay put.
Yeah. And that's what we're finding is working for us for them. They kind of opened the doors and then it inspired them. They said, wow. Okay, well, now that it's free, we can still upgrade at a certain predictable rate and they're actually doing better. Yeah. That way. But again, you want to start with what value customers are getting, especially what value they're getting out of sharing it.
And it's not necessarily monetary. I don't think that. Giving people, cash kickbacks is always the best way to go. It's not the best motivator, but you know, there's motivators like, Oh, Hey, this is a really exclusive club like this app clubhouse, well, you need an invite. Only special people are allowed in.
And it's like, you know, you're going to start building this desire to be in the cool kids club. There's other ways of just saying, Oh, Hey, look at this really cool software. I love scheduling meetings with people. And I just at mentioned the scheduler. Say meet, send, and I'm like, look how cool that was.
And so there's kind of this cache to doing certain things with certain products, you know, nobody spends $10,000 for a handbag just because it's worth $10,000. They spend that because it says something it's cool. So when you have those types of experiences and you have that type of product love, then you can start leveraging that in subtle ways, or even blatant ways with like a referral program.
I like that. That's useful. I appreciate you sharing that. And I appreciate you coming on and being willing to do something maybe a little outside the norm in terms of talking about growth, because this is a really. Different way of looking at it. It is a campaign that you are, you're turning your product into something that drives growth.
And it's exciting to hear how you're fine tuning that as you go. Talk to me about, let's say folks want to learn more about you, the company and maybe even try out the tool themselves, where should they go? Obviously the name x.ai. That's where you're going to go on the website anywhere else they should be paying attention to what we did just launch some features in the Newton email client.
But really just going to x.ai, should I hope it's sufficiently self-explanatory if not that I'm not doing my job very well. But yeah, I mean, we've been around for a couple of years. There's tons of content out there talking about who we are and what we are. Our product has changed dramatically over the last, just two years that I've been with the company.
And so, you know, it's a completely different thing. If somebody tried it five years ago, Very different experience, but really like anything that's that has a free version. Come in, sign up, connect to calendar if you don't like it. Yeah. No harm, no foul. I think you will, but I'm highly biased. That's right.
Well then last couple of questions here before I let you go. Cause I appreciate you bringing all this positive energy and these great ideas to the show. Tell me who are some other marketers who you're looking up to, that we should be paying attention to. And frankly, they don't have to be marketers who are some folks out there that you think have been inspiring you on your journey?
I've had a number of CEOs that I really appreciate, our current CEO, Dennis. If you think I'm bringing positive energy, you should talk to Dennis sometime. And I just. It's not necessarily always a skill set that you look up to. It's sort of an approach just a general mindset of, you know, Dennis has that.
There's a number of other folks whose names I'm just going to utterly blank on, but just that, that mindset of, well, I don't know how to do it, but we can certainly figure it out. So let's apply ourselves and we'll come out the other end, just fine. so yeah, I'll call out Dennis's name just for that one, but yeah.
Beautiful. Well, we'll make sure to share some links to Dennis. That's great. And I guess last question here, thinking about what growth means to you and the way that you're doing it. Is there anything that you can think of that the average growth marketer that were out there trying to do that we should stop doing?
Or maybe they're not yet doing that? We should start doing, I think that a lot of times you can start over optimizing the same thing, meaning that, the more you optimize that one landing page, the more you try to get that much more performance out of this thing, eventually you're going to end up with just a page with a giant orange button on it because that's the most effective thing.
Yeah. I think that there's this iterative experimentation that is just in the DNA of growth marketing where you're trying things, measuring it. If it works great, try something else, but it can sort of get you down into these little silos where you're now in the land of, I'm just optimizing the CTAs on my blog posts, which is sometimes you need to step back and say, wait a second.
You know what. People are out there talking about our products. Why don't we give them a bull horn on Twitter? You know, it's just pulling things out of thin air, but, you know, just trying some wild, crazy ideas. And I think that throwing brand new things out there that are probably going to fail, you might be surprised from time to time.
But if you just keep iterating on the same set of. You know, levers that you're pulling, then you might miss some interesting opportunities. The other big one. And I think a lot of people will say this and they're right, is talk to customers. It's just, you know, I'm on a round Robin calendar page with Dennis and a couple of other people, and anyone who comes to at request a solutions call is going to end up with.
Any one of us you could end up talking to the CEO on a what is essentially like a troubleshooting call. And that just keeps you so close to an in tune with the way that people are using your product, that you can, you know, you can sort of build to that. And then finally, use your own product.
I use mine religiously. If you schedule a meeting with me not using, x.ai, I kind of get mad, not because. I work here, but because it's so much more efficient, why wouldn't you just do that? It's kind of like, if someone faxed me a contract and say, can you sign this and fax it back? I'm like, have you not heard of DocuSign?
What's wrong with you. When you're using your product to that extent, and you're in that sort of, how dare you not use it territory, then you know that you're doing something right. Fascinating. I love that. Yeah, that's a good reminder. Well, you know, we really appreciate being on the show Ammon thanks for bringing all of these ideas.
Thanks for sharing your version of product led growth. I'm sure we will be back in touch with you for more of this. And we'll talk to you again soon. Sure thing. And I'll come prepared with puns next time. Good. All right. Hey Rex. Thank you. I really appreciate you having me on.