SaaS Founder Interview with Jeff Coyle, Founder of Marketmuse


hey everybody welcome to the sas
founders show joined as usual by my
co-host andy helco
when you think about content marketing
what are some of the challenges that
come tonight
well you know what when it comes to
content i’m a huge fan because you know
i love search optimization but the
hardest thing is actually creating the
content especially good stuff
because there’s never enough time
never right you know enough knowledge
all of those different things so it’s a
big challenge why do you ask
i ask because we have some someone today
it’ll be very interesting to hear from
it’s jeff coyle he is the co-founder and
chief strategy officer over at market
muse and market muse is an ai platform
that transforms how you research
plan and craft your content so with that
let me bring jeff on jeff how you doing
hey how are you thanks for having me on
the show looking forward to this yeah
thanks thanks for joining so just uh i
gave the little descriptor tell us about
market news sure like you mentioned
we’re a content intelligence platform
that really sets the standard for
content quality so we’re focused on
giving you insights that tell you what
it means to be an expert on any given
concept and also give you you know real
insights as to how well you’ve done that
so far so where are you strong where are
you weak where do you have gaps on your
existing site or collection of sites we
work with publishers agencies you know
companies of all shapes and sizes and
even you know solopreneurs to give them
kind of an unfair advantage with the
content that they’re creating so that it
is differentiated
and it also has the chance to perform
that’s awesome
as i mentioned you know
asking andy we you know in the in the
marketing space we realize content
marketing is super important
uh there’s a lot of challenges though
that i think you’re you’re solving so i
would love to hear what the origin where
did you come up with the concept and how
did you bring that to life what did that
look like
well the concept uh wow so it’s i’ll
give you the short version of the really
long story that could go all day but um
so i’ve been working in content strategy
search engine optimization lead gen um
inbound every element of inbound you
know whether it’s a b multivariate
testing lead gen paid organic whatever
you want i probably have done it in
started doing that in about 99
2000 um
and really focused on lead gen in the
early part of my career and that
converted into you know a heavy focus
on the needs of content um huge unmet
place in the market the understanding of
the buyer journey and b2b understanding
that you need content at all stages of
the funnel um in order to be there when
people care about you so i tell that
story because
the first company i really worked with
for a long period of time knowledge
storm we were acquired by techtarget
which is a major p2p publisher
in 2007.
what i realized was that there was a
huge huge gap in my knowledge there was
a huge gap in the market for truly
giving great advice to great writers and
editors which they had hundreds of right
because they were a huge publisher
going through those manual processes a
tremendous amount of processes on
editorial teams on writing teams are
and we’re also we ask those people who
are subject matter experts who are
product experts who are just beautiful
writers and storytellers we ask them to
do a lot of work they can’t possibly be
good at the stuff that is for conversion
rate optimization the stuff that’s for
keyword research or seo so you’re asking
somebody who is you know
expert knows their stuff to do things
that they’re not good at
and then the value that we provide as
you know content strategists as search
engine optimization professionals as
demand gen experts for lead gen or
conversion rate optimization or even
multiple variant testing it’s not put in
a great format for writers to digest and
embed into their workflows so a lot of
times what happens is shoot me the draft
i edit the draft i make it worse but for
me it’s better then we lose we continue
to lose trust um so after going through
all those processes and living those
pains the pains of people not
understanding the value the true value
of content the true costs of content the
true value of editorial excellence and
of subject matter experts um
i had started to research are there
better ways to automate these processes
my co-founder akiblog had built
some of the early technology uh that’s
the infrastructure and foundation of
market muse um i reached out to him
um and piloted it
uh for myself and it immediately worked
and i was like oh oh wait this is what
i’m talking about this is the thing
right this is and so a little bit after
uh that
um i left to go pursue uh an effort with
a private equity firm
um and aki reached out and he said hey
jeff we’re gonna take this to market
full blast and you understand these
workflows because you’ve lived the
painful bloody ocean right uh and i’ve
you know i have in these cases
i’m also i have a background in product
management as well as you know computer
science so i’ve got kind of a lot of
different um experiences that i was
going to be in addition to being subject
better expert it was going to work out
so we then the two of us
um you know jumped off the cliff and uh
began actively pushing this into market
um in that first quarter we picked up a
number of mid-market enterprise clients
that you know told us that this was
going to work
and that it was a huge unmet need
but it was super early in the market um
so we were trying to sell something no
one even knew existed in
2015-14 so that creates its whole other
challenges but what it did show was that
these are problems that every writer has
that every editorial person has that
subject matter expert has they may not
even still know it um and that every seo
and content strategist wish that they
get solved
yeah it’s really cool so you know one
thing that i like to ask and i think
helps our audience really understand
your software what’s a day in the life
look like for one of your customers
market muse that’s a great question i
love that question um
and it’s it really tells the story of
the difference between product-led
growth and enterprise software as well
um and i saw i’ll actually weave it
together to a common narrative in
product management um
and uh and this wasn’t even planned so
this is probably a really good story to
just pull out right um so the uh
the the
the user of this type of technology
the day-to-day user that’s touching
content right they’re actually touching
their outcome
is and their for their appropriate
experience which i reference
uh is that i want to every every change
or every update or every creation or
update motion that i do with content i
want it to be informed by data that i
get out of market news so that could be
information about
ways to make this page better from a
comprehensiveness and quality
it could be information that’s
competitive uh has a competitive angle
it might say make sure that we only
publish things that are equal to or
better than our competitors
every time and you can have that that
can be like a goal of yours that you can
be successful with um it can also be the
experience of a writer who’s receiving
content briefs that are created by
someone else
uh and i i bring that on because this is
kind of that user perspective
for a i’m the one doing the work i’m the
one researching this i’m going to want
actually touching the content in some
organizations that can be an seo
uh or an editor doing that same role so
for those types of roles they’re they’re
strategic at the page level
or at the small collection of pages
level but maybe those people aren’t
making decisions about what we create or
what we update from a you know high
level view so the experience for those
persons would be they’re receiving
briefs and they’re writing content that
complies with those briefs and allows
them to not have to do manual research
or to feel like maybe they’re writing
something that’s not going to be
successful they’re always confident in
the content that they’re creating and
the content that they’re touching that’s
the experience for the writer the editor
the search person
um the experience for the strategist or
the cmo or in some teams editorial
is that
a little bit different they can also do
those things they can also touch pages
and do that research but what we also
provide for those personas is insights
as to where we’re strong
what our quick wins are going to be if
we need to achieve a goal i want to own
this topic i want to defend against this
competitive threat
i need to put my best foot forward on
this existing editorial plan
that insight is there also in the form
of an on-demand content inventory and
solution so i can jump in look at any
page and understand exactly whether i
should update this one
how should i update it and how much
value that can bring me in a predictable
way so if you’re a contest strategist
that experience is to say i can predict
how much upside there is in doing this
and i can also put a why behind my
content the biggest miss in all of
content marketing is people aren’t
obligated to say why i’m writing this
article okay why do you have any data to
back that up and it’s not to stunt
growth it’s actually to empower the
writer and to empower the editorial lead
to say we’re writing this piece because
it’s an important part
of the buyer journey and we’re missing
it why are we missing it because people
didn’t value expertise they often value
data points that don’t matter like
search volume wow there’s like a fighter
jet flying overhead i don’t know if you
can hear that
um did you hear that uh i’m in
jacksonville i’m not in a war zone um so
the uh um
the the that they don’t necessarily
always have to a justify
the creation but they should want to
because in all cases expertise and
subject matter experts and editorial
excellence will often drive the bus
because at the end of the day that’s
what’s successful with performance um so
i think giving editorial teams content
strategists and search professionals the
why for content
is the easiest way i describe what we do
that’s great i you know words stood out
to me there enterprise you talked about
different personas you know since we’re
talking to founders one of the things i
always like to think about is you know
early on how did you figure out who to
and you know part of the question is a
software like yours is valuable for any
so was it like we go after the agency
market enterprise small business i mean
there’s so many different avenues for
how do you guys strategically look at
where do we take our product
we still every day
it’s every day all right
it’s hard because in content marketing
and in marketing and martech
you have to make the decision to niche
you also a lot of teams
there they have no inbound machine
right so if you have an inbound machine
you have to be able to service people
successfully from any walk of life right
you can target outbound efforts or kind
of resource based efforts um but you
know so i’ll just the short story is we
started out
um because the product wasn’t mature
enough we started out with a traditional
uh sales led growth model
you would be interested in some way you
would show your interest you’d raise
your hand and then you would be walked
through it with a sales representative
but that then
tends to glean is the outputs are teams
you’re selling to teams um you’re
selling to a particular higher end what
that turned us into is somewhat of a
uh you know we got
we got um high on our own drugs right uh
we uh
when we were successful doing that
we said okay well this is really awesome
let’s not necessarily focus
the product onboarding experience let’s
not focus on automated sales enablement
let’s not focus on maybe a free trial
having a free product
yet because we’re doing this other part
so successful so we can make an edit we
can make a 10 person content team
successful by selling them right by
having somebody do onboarding by them
you know being making bespoke processes
uh and
we can have a great business that way
but then we realized that that was very
resource intensive
and we also realized that targeting was
tough so what happens in that scenario
you end up selling somebody who maybe is
right at the early stage of being able
to be successful in that zone or you
realize at the high end bigger teams are
really hard to manage and resource
against from account management customer
success so we lived that the hard way
and we end up doing this whole thing you
know from theoretical product we did it
right so then we said okay well let’s
get down market
because there’s so much opportunity
there plus the product works even for
the largest publishers in the world so
obviously this is going to be an easier
journey most startups fail because they
start at product-led growth they try to
scale up the teams and then the system
doesn’t work
what system it could be the product it
could be the marketing it could be their
ability to scale the ones that do go
you know one person
you know 1995 right
having a viable a team sale market that
is you know the dream right we already
had that and then we pushed down market
which is very unusual so you don’t see
that happen um so in our case
what we did was we really heavily
focused on the user experience we
heavily focused on differentiated value
and having an experience where somebody
can walk in the door
see the value see that aha moment in a
few minutes or less
and then either buy or become an
advocate for their company
and in that
scenario when you have that situation
all i need is for somebody to have a
culture of content internally
long-winded way of answering the
question to
it’s if i have to put energy in i want
it to be targeted against people i know
can be successful right but if it’s on
the back of the product i don’t care as
long as they have a culture of content
we’re not selling you the content’s good
that’s not our job that’s not the
software’s job you gotta you gotta you
gotta already come in the door with that
but any other aspect of who you are you
can be successful with market news and
that’s super exciting it’s completely
ubiquitous it’s like spell check
or grammar check like when you first
used them it was completely immature you
were like this thing could never work
perfectly now yeah how many people you
know that don’t use hemingway or
grammarly i mean
it’s total ubiquity ubiquitous right
well it was unusual for someone to
believe that there are assistance
at the site level for strategy or the
page level that could give them advice
about how to make their content better
from a
lens of expertise so some people still
don’t believe it right you’ll be writing
an article about
you know a content marketing strategy
and you’ve written it this is pretty
good right because subjective quality is
what we’re trained on quality is
subjective is in in art and content
marketing that’s what people believe
well we inject an objective measure
and we say you didn’t talk about
target audiences or buyer personas
the journey um those are things that an
expert would have
maybe you want to consider expanding
your article right
and that’s just a blind spot that a
human will naturally have
it’s it’s a blind spot that even an
expert might have but certainly a
non-expert they need that helping hand
so once you experience that
and then you get more tactical and you
say whoa nobody who’s writing about this
has really talked about buyer personas
but i know that’s tremendously relevant
to this i’m going to write that section
or add that article it’s going to make
me differentiated once you experience
those two types of things
you’re like oh wait this is a
this is an augmentation this is an
amplifier for my expertise it’s not
someone telling me what to do and once
you make that leap
the game’s over for you you’re you’re
hooked forever why would you ever want
to live without that it’s like saying
why would you ever want to live without
spell check
like why they give me a good reason why
would you ever want to live with someone
telling you you can’t live without
live without grammarly right but yeah so
that’s the story and the kind of the
spirit of and then if you think about
that at the site level why would you
ever want to make a decision about
creating a content item without knowing
how much investment and content you need
to make
to be successful right all right
once you’re on that you know once you’re
hooked on that it’s saying well
we might need to write five articles
about this topic but wouldn’t you rather
say i know that if we write five
articles on this topic it will have a
rate of
like or would you rather do it without i
mean how how do you ever justify going
back once you have access to those data
points and that’s how that’s what ai
brings it’s data points you never knew
you needed but you can’t live without
them once you have them
jeff uh fascinating stuff and it’s
interesting because andy and i were on a
call this morning with our team talking
all about content strategy right so
we’re addressing a lot of these things
that you’re you’re bringing up right
okay so
totally relevant for the day but um
i would love to hear how did you get you
mentioned you know grammarly or spell
check when you first used it you’re like
oh this will never be accurate right
right so
how did you get market muse to where
you’re at that mature point where
content is
somewhat of a
complex process right all the things you
need to consider so how did you get it
there and then after that i’m going to
want to hear about the mvp but i would
like to hear how you got it to this
point you’re at today
you know really
first of all certainly a lot of
uh testing empathy you know thinking
about users
but also it was examining
manual processes um so for example the
first content briefs we ever sold
were manually built in you know word
platforms right
and then when we were able to sell
uh those we said wouldn’t it be great if
we could automate
the creation of these outlines and the
bill and the development of these
blueprints and these content briefs we
were the first person to bring an
automated uh brief to market as software
and that was exciting people weren’t
ready for it right but that’s been our
history it’s
things that are manual processes
that we can automate and make them get
continuous we want those things to get
continuously better
over time both from manual efforts and
product improvements plus using
technology that naturally sharpens its
own knife
all right and that kind of breaks
people’s brains sometimes what am i
talking about um i want the technology
to know how good its own output is
so when we’re building a topic model
that says what does it mean to be an
expert on this topic i want the
technology to acknowledge how good its
own model is
and say this was a good one
this one was terrible
this one shows signals of fractured
intent for example so some people who
are writing about this are writing about
it from an early stage awareness
perspective some people are writing
about middle funnel there’s some
ambiguity in this
topic model so i wanted to be able to
self-check i wanted to know how good its
brief is
that it generates um and so when we are
able to do that we know that
we are going to improve ourselves but
it’s going to also continue to improve
and when you combine those two things
you can really have an effective small
product management team uh which we if
we have a very small product management
team but it’s very effective because
we’re constantly thinking about those
things but the mvps have always been
except for that initial technology have
always been manual
outputs that then get automated
and that’s really a
pretty great process
our applications
unpersonalized pieces of the brief
so if you really dig in what’s the brief
have the breeze has uh recommendations
structure recommendations for title
recommendation for subheadings uh topics
to include questions to inc to answer
internal and external links
right so those are personalized for you
based on your effort so what did we do
we built apple each one of those steps
we built an application for it to give
you non-personalized data
right so it was like we know this works
all in one place now
in pieces it will work for people so
they can jump in do one thing jump out
um the inventory view is kind of the
dream of all marketers it’s to say i
have an on-demand content inventory most
people believe you can’t do that but
once a year um they wish they could it’s
got to be buried in a spreadsheet i mean
i still work with publishers where they
like they all work out of one big old
or error table it’s still a spreadsheet
you’re working on a big old spreadsheet
right um and
you get data
that that is um not personalized
um it’s not for you so when you’re
making a decision on you know difficulty
for example
there isn’t a metric in the market
that’s personalized for difficulty
except in market means there isn’t a
metric for authority in the market that
actually reads the content on the site
and gives insights as to whether you’ve
covered great content or not
here’s the litmus test right go write
the best article you that anyone’s ever
the new iphone
all right
go publish it on your blog
good luck
good luck for with that that producing
performance but if you go publish that
thing on cnet you better believe it’s
going to be a lightsaber why
the answer isn’t just links
the answer is because
they’ve already showed the world that
they know that topic
they already have authority on it
they have historical momentum
they are covering other
phones they are showing the world that
they have the ability to write great
so why wouldn’t you account for that why
wouldn’t you account for your existing
and expertise and authority and
consistency at writing great content
when you’re doing your planning
right and the world of tools for search
don’t account for one’s own content
and that
frankly is bananas it creates so many
inefficiencies um and so that was the
main problem that
our strategic components of our platform
solve it’s no one
thinks about that they use correlations
they use flawed
a lot flawed logic paths
and they come in with bias so they go
uh i know we typically do well in this
space so we must be able to do well in
that one
or they use links
even if you’re a 82
with link data you still can’t go write
an article about kitty cats if you’re a
site about marine shipping theory
it ain’t gonna work and that’s the truth
so anyone that tells you that you can do
cohorting by just looking at off-page
factors like links i know i said a bunch
of vocabulary words there but they’re
saying you can’t just look at who’s in
the search results and say i’m bigger
than them or i’m equivalently big as
them thus i should be able to write and
it’s not true
but that’s
what’s spewed into the market
and we’ve
built technology that
illustrates that that
not true a and shows you how to do it
the right way and that’s a beautiful
thing for those who have lived that pain
of someone going hey
we can go write this article because it
looks easy right
i don’t even know who these companies
are that are ranking
uh when the truth story is probably not
something you mentioned little ranty
today but hey you got
you got real talk yeah today i love her
something you mentioned to me really
stood out
excuse me
uh you said in onboarding getting
someone to the aha moment quickly
so i love that we talk about that all
the time i signed up for your software i
saw how you know when i got in there it
really got me in very quickly
tell me how was that a conscious
decision to figure out
we need to solve that problem and how
did you do it for other people that you
know have software products and are
trying to do the same thing
you have a bunch of theories
um you have experience if you’re doing
manual demos of what’s that aha moment
but you don’t have what is um if you’re
thinking about this from a product led
growth vocabulary words you know i try
not to use as many
acronyms as as most but
uh you’re a marketer so you’re full plg
product led growth i can just sit here
and name off acronym so there’s a
concept called pqlink product qualified
right so that would mean when somebody
has used the platform in a way such that
you can be very confident that they
desire to be either a paying customer or
a paying customer at a different level
than they’re currently paying
if everybody’s used slack for example
i forget the exact definition but it’s
something like once you work on a team
with that has sent more than 7 000
messages you are a pql
and that’s a beautiful pql i mean that
drives that’s against the main usage
it’s validable it’s clear and clear to
understand so
if you’re a product or a sas founder
your drive if you are trying to get
people in the door to buy without sales
intervention or upsell without sales
intervention flywheeling them which
means they’re in one sale path and they
go up to a different sales a different
group maybe your manual sales group or
another package level right so in
slack’s example
small team goes up to buying a team plan
and paying per user right um
you’ve got to strive for that um so what
we had we had theoretical we had
hypotheses of the experiences that it
was it was actually by persona initially
so we knew the stuff that the seos loved
we knew the stuff that editorial leads
loved so we were running a sales demo
you order the demo in the right order
see what i’m saying yeah
how can you make that happen in a
actual product that’s really hard right
um and it also
you have to take into account whether
you’re flying in a where you whether
you’re playing in a blue ocean or you’re
playing in a red ocean right so the red
ocean’s bloody there’s a lot of
competitors that do almost the same
thing as you
right if you’re in a blue ocean
not too many so
when you’re in that blue ocean you can
uh exactly what you want in the you
build your own narrative you don’t have
to worry about anyone else that’s why
it’s the dream right but if it’s very
bloody you have to consciously
understand that someone having a first
experience with your product is
comparing it to other things
that they know
those things may be good or they may be
maybe bad for you
um so i’ll use my example uh i use
market muse’s first experience example
you may use a
software product that uses off-the-shelf
and i’m using a vocabulary word here
word vectorization models
you may use one that does that uses
keyword density or correlations to show
they just it looks at the top 10 search
results smooshes them together
does a sort descend by keyword density
or co-occurrence and then plops out on
the page
six years ago you’ve never seen that
before because it didn’t exist but now
in the landscape there are technologies
offerings that do that right you may
look at something that provides
competitive insights
based on like
things like uh how many characters are
in the title tag
or stuff like that right so you may be
comparing this to those offerings during
your first experience so it’s more
important for the aha moment to
illustrate both the aha moment and the
differentiated value if you’re in a red
erosion and the red the by the way if
anyone’s never heard that analogy go
read 10x marketing or something like
i’m a huge blue ocean person so so
that there’s bloody there’s blood in the
water because they’re actually in a
product comparison
persona when they’re using your product
for the first time right and that’s a
scarier thing for a product designer is
because they might not understand that
um so that’s where the aha moment has to
be aha differentiated aha
instead of just aha so you need ha-ha
differentiated aha or differentiated
when you’re walking through that
experience so in our case
while we’re walking what we want you to
go through if you’re a walk-in
if you’re a writer i want to see that
solutions giving me insights
as i write on a topic to make me more of
an expert
and make me have to do less
manual labor on research and also
protects me of writing content that
isn’t good enough
i it also i want you to analyze a
competitive landscape
and that aha moment is when you see the
heat map
and what i’m describing is basically a
an experience where i actually view the
top 20 search results through the lens
of the way that an expert would
if i’m a writer and i have those two
i realize i can’t live without this
i may
have used something similar to it before
so what what i have to do better in that
experience is make sure i communicate
the differentiated value
and that’s your you should take your own
product and really really focus on that
experience to say
am i expecting some someone to to input
um so luke roblewski for example uh is a
writer he wrote a web form design if
you’ve never read any of his work luke w
online he’s one of my uh
one of the people i i value the most in
the usability space um one of his things
is is not rel don’t be relying on inputs
most directly to forms right uh the more
fields in your form
the more more the worse you’re stuck
right um but don’t for product the
analogy there is don’t rely on something
to come out of a user’s head because you
don’t know them
they could be pissed off today
they could just not be very creative
they could
write the wrong thing
you don’t want it to be contingent on
doing something really well
for you to have an aha experience that’s
another piece too don’t make them enter
something in an empty state don’t make
them come in to an empty room
give them an option for an assist
but don’t react poorly if they do
operate it wrong when they operate wrong
an operation of wrong for me if someone
types in a really crappy word they go
right mortgage
like okay you know there’s a lot of
intent fracture in mortgage right or
they write cat or bad i’m going to test
this ai
yeah that’s a great thing to do why
would you care what value does that
bring the world for you to test the ai
give us a real use case how do you get
bees out of your garage right um you
what’s you know what’s the capital of
north dakota you know give us something
real don’t just write you know dog i’m
going to trick this thing right
and so those are the experiences you
still have to handle elegantly if you’re
a product manager i bring them up tongue
in chief but you’ve got your own dog cat
in your in your experiences go watch
them and by the way i’m a huge advocate
of dvr-ing and i call dvr-ing is the
industry of watching
things like hot jar and users yep full
story watch them watch them like
it’s an amazing experience go get the
popcorn and just watch them i’m a full
story super nerd um i can’t wait to see
what microsoft does with that new
offering clarity i think it’s called um
which is free can’t believe it um so um
watch them work and and watch them make
mistakes and rip the ego out um you know
you’re a founder you got an ego whether
you like it or not um get the ego out of
there get the emotion out of there um
really try to be empathetic and
and the output’s gonna really it’s gonna
show it’s gonna show in and you know i
struggle with that all the time i
struggle because i’ve been doing this so
i’m i’m pretty good at this stuff
you know
i’ve uh i i know i know seo pretty well
um i struggle to try to
you know
put myself in someone’s shoes right
who’s used a tfidf tool only
or who’s used a you know name uh another
piece of software and they come in
and i’m watching them and i’m just like
no that’s not it like you’ve clearly
used the or you’ve you know and and this
is why
you’re gonna have a problem but the the
reality is that’s your problem that’s my
problem that’s not their problem
and that’s the key like realizing that
their problems are your problems and you
can’t use excuses
uh when you’re building no more excuses
no more they did it wrong
figure it out
figure it out
you mentioned red ocean how much do you
think about your competitors because
i’ve seen the space that you’re in
expand a lot the last couple years yes
how much do you pay attention how much
do you care
you know how much do you use that in
your strategic planning
okay deep breath um so
early on not enough
sas theories
are a lot of times super theoretical and
they’re not practical there’s a lot of
sas theory that says
you know
put your nose up and keep walking you
know the priorities keep walking don’t
worry if you’re doing things the right
way they all come out in the wash
i feel very very strongly in the other
direction and always have um
my new job at market muse is chief
strategy officer we reorg the
team so that i can focus on products we
haven’t launched yet horizon scanning
and competitive analysis
both for purposes of partnership uh
uh introing type
networking plus
staying on the pulse of what’s going on
it’s not just for competitive
stuff but it’s true you’ve got to know
you got to really be thinking about why
people are doing what they’re doing um
so for us we are we always want to
all the different places where we kind
of fringe into or we are you know
directly in um and why think about why
somebody is making the decisions they
when you have a competitor who’s making
decisions to fill your gaps
the number one thing you need to
okay in content competitive analysis and
competitive cohort profiling is and i’m
people would blast me on this it’s the
number one skill you need is competitive
analysis because if you have no site
you haven’t built anything yet
the only way you can predict outcomes
and do a good expectation setting for
your investors or for the money you’re
putting in is to do competitive analysis
it’s it’s the base um and you have to
understand to predict outcomes you have
to understand competitive so in product
it’s no different in product though
other challenges you have is
you may have
a huge monster
you may have direct competitors or
adjacent competitors
but you may have adjacent competitors
who become direct competitors and so
you’ve got to know that and you got to
figure out why are they doing that
what’s the reason for it you don’t want
to burn too much time um you know
with speculation but you do want to
understand what’s going on
are they worth your time right now
and also are they worth
the time of your employees
that’s really the key
if they they need to know
your confidence level and being able to
be competitive and differentiated that
needs to be communicated from above what
you don’t want
is somebody
on your team thinking oh wow we have a
third-rate offering and here’s why i’m
reading this stuff i’m reading these
reviews some of them are fake most of
them are fake some of them are real by
the way most of them are fake you want
to know how whether a review’s fake
uh user a link grabber and look at all
the links check out if they’re wrapped
um that’s how you know for reviews
reviews fake or not uh if you want to
know if a facebook group is fake go to
their website right click on all their
links see if they’re wrapped um not
saying that you can’t do an unbiased
review if you’re paying paid for it but
you ought to know whether something’s
bias or not and if someone’s selling
somebody else’s advice and that other
person has wrapped links
that’s all part of their flywheel but
anyway i digress so in this case um you
basically have to get to the point where
um the competitive landscape is good the
the tough part about this and for every
product man for every product owner or
founder here
convincing your team that parody-based
are a part of their journey and what
does that mean i’m releasing this
it exists somewhere else
and people think it’s something that is
part of the product
for it to be competitive
it’s not coming from our own brain it
didn’t come out of our own product
prioritization it didn’t come out of our
own maybe we use smart google smart meth
or google heart methodology maybe we use
mrr plan methodology where you actually
uh revenue
or prospective revenue to each feature
right maybe it didn’t come out of there
but part of your journey
part of the frustrating part of your
journey is you’re gonna do stuff
solely because someone else did
and that hurts that hurts morale that
hurts product morale it hurts
development morale but you got to be
when you are operating in a painful
competitive environment sometimes that’s
a reality um you wish it wasn’t you wish
it wasn’t part of the world that you
live in
the teams that do that well and move
usually win
the last thing um they usually win um
because they’re not hung up on their own
and uh they can they can accept when
someone else has done something really
that they haven’t and that’s real hard
it it still is hard for me every day but
i you know no product manager wants a
release or a sprint
or an epoch to be solely competitive
parity focused none of them do but
depending on the lev the number of
players in your space
sometimes it’s inevitable you gotta you
gotta get real with them
just to dive into that a little bit
right the competitive parity
and needing to you know focus on that
area i think
the question i have this has been some
sage advice and really good stuff you’re
sharing um really eye opening
you mentioned you know
looking where others your competitors
are looking to fill the gaps now in that
regard those are competitors that are
critically looking
creatively thinking how can we
take advantage of this situation so
you as you know the leader of an
organization that others are looking at
in that respect
how do you keep your team
where they have the awareness
of the different perspectives that the
product might be looked at
oh gosh that’s such a great question
not well enough
i we don’t do that well enough uh it’s
one of my
pain points it’s one of my personal i’d
say personal failures of currently is
not doing that well enough um and and
i’ll give you a couple of reasons why
one is
too much
you got too much on my plate just you
know but you know play the violin over
there for me okay
but the other reason is
sometimes you get stuck
in how to communicate this information
from an agnostic front right um how do
you communicate this in an unbiased way
how do you communicate this and have it
be read as not
me pushing or me or the equivalent of me
pushing an agenda
or what i reference as you know toxic
and that’s real hard toxic campaigning
would be um
hey you know uh
yuck yuck just released this pub this
feature the one that we de-prioritized
last quarter
they released it people love it
right and sometimes when i speak it
comes off that way i get that sometimes
that’s actually the impact that i want
that’s super toxic that’s not good i
i own it
i own it i own it that it hurts when we
de-prioritize something
that i or members of my team
researched and said should have been
prioritized and for one reason or
another we don’t prioritize it right and
then we watch someone else do a better
job at it
i own it that’s hard but
it’s equally bad for your business if
you don’t look at that and you don’t
think about it critically versus it’s
equally bad to like do a toxic
comparison um of it you gotta own it and
you gotta be clear
a great example of that for us is the
natural language generation market
we were one of the first people with a
product in the space
and then we’ve been working on it you
how we could have we could have really
really dove in and
and and put you know dozens of people on
it but we kind of we wanted to see if it
was if it had legs we wanted to see what
would happen in the market
and you know then a billion dollars of
investment into open aiken a billion
venture money and we’re like oh
this is crazy what’s gonna happen okay
then they release an api and then like
anyone can buy it
right and so like
piles of people created these products
that are based on only they’re they’re
not creators really they’re api owners
and so like this market went from zero
to 100 players in you know a few minutes
um and we’re sitting there like hey we
look first
and you know you don’t want to be a beta
you want to be a vhs right
and and so but what happens is if you’re
not watching the game you’re not
watching the competitive the horizon
you’ll become a beta and that’s you know
when i say beta i mean beta max i’m old
i’m 42 42 years old so i’m i’m talking
about those big tapes that you put in uh
beta just so people know the reference
beta was a better product
um had a smaller pro a smaller a smaller
higher quality
lost the war um you don’t want to be
standing on that soapbox holding the
beta max tape going mine’s better
because you waited and so many sas
are standing there going mines better
and watching the world crumble
because they don’t have any product
management expertise and they haven’t
watched the horizon um and
the worst punch you take is the one you
know isn’t coming
so how do you quick question along those
lines like going back to the betamax
example i think that ties into that
whole putting the ego aside yep
how do you
how do you personally do that and how do
you work with your team
on on working on that so you guys can be
more objective and remove that ownership
it’s human nature i get it it’s you’re
never going to figure out 100
but how do you improve because that’s so
i i’m weird
um i read all my sent mail
i re-read all my sent mail
i reread all my messages
after the moments that happen and guys
people might think what what is he even
talking about i’ll get to the end um
i reread it i really really do uh i
watch all tape
where i’m recorded um
all all the products
i really really use them
as best i can all the competitive
products i’ve used them all i know how
they all work i’ve probably reverse
engineered components of them i’ve used
them all um i really really i have so
much passion about this that i i have to
check it and when i say why do i read it
i’m looking for my own biases
i’m looking for
team biases
i’ll give you a great example i posted a
um update for a product release from
a customer of mine who is also a partner
who is also some people think we’re
competitors but we’re really not i’m not
going to say who it is
i posted it in slack
and the thread that responded was people
taking a p-o-o-p on top of it and i was
like no no no you all are biased this is
a good product release and here’s why
and people when they think competitive
the first inclination if they’re biased
is to crap on them right i don’t know
why i spelled out poop and said crap but
we’ll talk about that
i have a three-year-old and a
five-year-old um and so i i commonly
spell words out for one reason or
another um so um
so i but i check my own bias and i’ve
got so many
i i
you know
like you you start thinking things about
people and and you just you’re painted
um so how do you do it
hard hard ass work
uh you know and and really being trying
to be real with yourself i know i know i
can be
real rough on people and i and i can you
i can
and i and i i just
i want i want to
know where i have problems i want to
know that like when i look at a blankety
press release i’m like
come on that’s not what you do y’all are
you know a boiler room sales org and you
cold call people and no one likes you
like like get that out of your brain
because if you think that way about your
they’re going to punch you in the face
when you’re not looking and it’s going
to hurt
that’s the truth
so in talking to founders you know what
is there anything that you can look back
at over the time that you’ve done this
that was a big catalyst for growth
um i’m always looking for i know one
thing doesn’t do it
but is there something that was a
turning point or an inflection that you
could point out that you know other
people might be able to look for
i got so many
one uh
for us we’re in the midst of it we
launched our first free offering
that’s going to be we’re going to look
back on that
years from now and that was a big point
but that’s happening right now by the
way um
and uh that’s about being confident in
your product
right you can’t launch a free product
unless you feel confident in it and we
feel very confident and it’s
differentiated value um
the other one though is
heavily and for founders take note
hiring people hiring great people
hire people who are better than you at
the thing they’re being hired as their
primary responsibility
and you’ll never regret it
that’s the inflection point every time
we do that
it’s a it’s a stair-stepper
our cto
better at technology than me better than
technology than my co-founder
who was hired as our svp of sales
uh then a cro he’s now our ceo
better leader
than both me and my co-founder by far
um and
our vice president of marketing
absolutely able to
do these things better than
um what she would her responsibilities
better than anyone else at our
organization um when those things happen
you see
the impact on the business so i think
one of the one of the big it’s so trite
to say hire smart so i’m not going to
say hire smart i’m going to say for key
roles make sure those people are better
than you
make sure they’re better than you and
you will never regret it make sure they
treat them
with respect as much as you can
and you’ll never ever regret that that
is the ultimate check your ego at the
love it some really good stuff
uh a little brutal but true all true
tell us a bit on that point hiring
people tell us a bit about the team
oh gosh uh my team uh
is just me because technically i’m
outside of the natural org so that i
always like to tell that kind of story
as is my co-founder um but our the
market news team
um we are a uh kind of i would call us
an all-star team um
really excels at our responsibilities so
we’ve got myself my co-founder my
co-founder focuses on special project
product usage um he’s also an expert in
fundraising and business structures and
operations um my see i’m i’m terrible at
that i’m the
i’m the color commentary
uh the the dancing monkey the subject
matter expert you bring in we have a
specific question right
um our my ceo is um chuck freidenborg he
comes to us from he worked at gartner
rosetta stone
um acro links where he led sales
organizations or created successful
sales organizations right um you know
and uh marcos roca who leads our sales
account management um as our vp of sales
we have vp in marketing um and then we
have an account management team uh we
have a very small professional services
org uh and support org
data science and engineering uh who are
in montreal our boston headquarters
and then we have other offices
distributed throughout the u.s
but we’re a remote team at heart but we
find value in certain teams always being
that’s why with the montreal data
science team we build all our own stuff
by the way
we are almost almost fully independent
um so but we love to build uh
and uh we feel that that you know really
protects us
that’s great
so you know kind of a closing question
that i always like to ask is
if you were able to go back in time
before you started the business and have
coffee with yourself
what advice would you give
oh man that’s a great question
so many so many pieces of advice what
would i say holy cow um
start with
start more with your product management
expertise than your
search engine optimization and content
lean more into what you know is the best
product decision versus the best
uh driver um
earlier uh
persona based marketing and team sales
and communicate that more clearly
another one i would say is um
i had a fundamental flaw in my selling
practice and a lot of founders do
if you understand what value how value
selling works or ibm consultative
selling or inflection point
buyer selling
just you can go look those up bob apollo
is a good resource value selling dot com
ibm consultative selling their resources
um oftentimes
in that process
go from identifying a business issue
uh or
business problems
to uh
your plan or your solution
when you’re an expert you can do that
uh hopefully this isn’t esoteric what
you actually need to do is get the
prospect or the potential buyer
their vision of the solution today
as part of that process
you need your content marketing to speak
one a person’s current vision of the
solution and that also goes into sales
so why am i saying it this way the punch
line is you can’t scale sales if you
skip that step
if you skip the step
of of communicating the
prospects existing version of the
solution what are you requiring you’re
requiring all of sales to be able to be
an expert
and all of sales
will not be an expert right your your
and this your product itself if it’s
self-selling if it’s product like growth
won’t be able to sell as an expert
the first the salesperson right out of
a 10-year veteran sales rep who’s never
been in the market
equate them to the product
the product can’t sell it the person
sales person right out of school can’t
sell it the 10-year veteran who’s not an
expert in the field can’t sell it if you
skip that step
that’s what i would tell them because i
thought i was right
in the early phases i thought that step
was right because that’s what ibm
consultative selling sells
because you’re selling consulting
services that’s not
value selling um and so i would i would
get i would get ahead of that as quickly
as i could and i would have learned that
uh three years before i did
that’s great
hopefully that one’s super esoteric go
go go look at how you’re selling and and
look at that box
there’s four squares i i was skipping
the top right square
and i was successful so
was i doing you know i’m i’m successful
i’m i win
why would there be another way the
reason is because i had the subject
matter expertise why do you want to be
reliant that’s why seo agencies by the
hot tip hot splash of water in your face
that’s why sales people at agencies who
are subject matter experts do that and
then the junior sales reps are left in
cold they’ll never be successful in that
model they have to learn the solution
box i never knew that when a junior
sales rep learns the solution box they
can win until they learn the solution
box they lose every deal and you’re like
you suck i’m great because i know how i
know how seo works that’s not why the
why is they don’t know how to use the
solution box dave call from value
selling owes me a big vig on this but no
that’s the reason that’s the reason so
awesome really good stuff jeff
appreciate it um is that
where we go to check it out sign up it’s
free go check it out free offering
standard offering is unbelievable on
meter jeffrey underscore coil on twitter
um jeff
i answer everything
try to unless it says hey i like your
profile you know or something like that
uh you like it you know that one um and
but yeah so come check me out come check
us out um if you’re a small team
uh if you’re a mid-market team feel free
to shoot me a note i’ll get you set up
with the proper demo
really good stuff
jeff coyle market news thank you so much
for spending time here with us today
everyone tuning in have a great week we
will see you next time
can i get one more in
absolutely uh launching a brand new
uh next month keep an eye out for it the
relaunch of grep words um which is a
subsidiary of market muse um
largest data
uh solution
available for keyword data serp data um
and it’s it’s a butte so uh keep an eye
out for that
what is is there already currently a url
people can go
uh there you can look at grep words
today but it’s completely being
relaunched g-r-e-p-w-o-r-d-s
um so go check that out and um it’s
going to be a beautiful thing it’s a
vision we’ve been working on for a long
thanks again jeff really good to have
you appreciate it take care everybody we