Des Traynor, Co-Founder of Intercom
Everything You Know About Content Marketing is Wrong, with Des Traynor of Intercom
In 2011, four lads from Dublin were running a successful business that let programers and engineers know when a user encountered a problem with their program. The problem was that none of them were particularly interested in the world of programming errors.
Instead, they found their passions centered on why it was so difficult for online businesses to talk to customers. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were about to reinvent the concept of content marketing.
So Des Traynor and his three co-founders sold their successful business, packed their bags, and moved to sunny California.
“We were four Irish founders and basically our previous company, we had already done the bootstrapping thing. … When we were going through this change of business and this change of approach, we said, ‘What’s the opposite of running a bootstrapped business off the north side of Dublin?’ Well that’s come to Silicon Valley and raise a million dollars, and that’s what we did,” Traynor says.
It turned out to be the right move, as the company that now known as Intercom raised more than $160 million in the past six years, building a customer base of over 17,000 customers, and making over $50 million in revenue. Their mission was simple: to make online businesses feel less like talking to a robot and feel more personal instead.
The solution to that was to help businesses talk to their customers through their own websites and apps instead of the usual mish-mash of emails, texts, and phone calls. Intercom built its reputation and customer base through the power of content marketing, but in a way that might surprise you.
Instead of following the traditional strategy of hiring a content team, focusing on SEO and backlinks, and churning out at as much content as possible, Intercom went in the completely opposite direction and developed a unique content strategy that led their business to go viral within the startup community, while building a beloved brand.
“We’re not one of those people that do all that black hat stuff. I really, really hate that. We had a recommendation recently to go post on discussions.apple.com and write a piece that links back to your site, and it was just so puke-worthy. I could never get excited about gamifying the Google algorithm and building the business on such a messy, fragile house of cards,” Traynor says.
Traynor goes in-depth with us in this episode about why the conventional content marketing strategy doesn’t work anymore, and how to really get your message across.
- How to move quickly and stay lean while managing an international team
- Where to find top-tier talent for your startup, no matter where you are
- A sly way to make your business go viral
- No to SEO! The biggest mistakes marketers make when using SEO
- Why you don’t need a content marketing team to get half a million page views per post
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Des Traynor
Nathan: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Foundr Podcast. My name is Nathan Chan and I’m the CEO and host of this show. Now if you’re a new listener we interview extremely hard to reach founders that are either number one or two in the industry with the company that they’ve started and they’re disrupting a marketplace that they serve. And yeah, we’ve interviewed some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our generation on this show. And we also have a magazine and do a ton of other content around entrepreneurship and startups. So if you’re new listener welcome. If you’re an
existing listener, I want to say thank you so much for taking the time to listen and as always we have an absolute treat.
This interview is with a really, really, smart founder Irish fellow actually, we don’t really interview many people from Islands. There’s really transparent vulnerable guy. I love talking with him and he’s the founder a company called Intercom. We’re big fans of intercom. We’re a customer and we use their tool for all sorts of really, really, cool things around user on-boarding, but then also just speaking to visitors on our website. Okay, a really cool story you might find this interesting. So when we had a sale for one of our new courses that we launched with an instructor Thoth Greta what we did is we put Intercom on the sales page and a lot of people would come on the sales page and they get an automated pop-up it’s because it’s like a chat software and what would happen is we would say, “Hey let us know if you have any questions.” On automation and then like a lot of people are asking us all these questions on automation. And then like is there a guarantee on this product? When does it start? Is it a live class? Is a pre-recorded? How does it work? Can you tell us more about Greta’s businesses? And all of these questions that people were asking that was like gold feedback we’re like okay we need to put this into the sales page to communicate exactly what you get.
So that’s just one of many ways we’ve used Intercom to grow our business and its really interesting to hear Des’s thoughts on email messaging because this is a new thing that’s happening, like if we’re recording this early July 2017, who knows what it’s going to be like in a couple of years, but messaging is becoming a massive thing with you know app messenger chat BOTS, and all these other things. So these guys are on the cutting edge and one way they grow their business is through content marketing. And they’re quite masterful at it you’re gonna learn a lot about it. It’s a buzzword that’s thrown around a lot and these guys do a very, very, good job we talk about all sorts of things as well around growing, scaling, hiring,challenges around that, leadership, you name it. So that’s it from me. If you are enjoying these episodes please do make sure you take the time to check out any of our other content just go to foundr.com F-O-U-N-D-R.com. We’ve got a ton of awesome content to help serve you. And if you are enjoying these interviews as well please do take the time to leave this review on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, wherever you’re listening. All right guys that’s it from me. Now let’s jump into the show. All right so the first question that I ask everyone that comes on is, how did you get your job?
Des: So I guess this is like a multi-part answer, but my immediate job I got by starting a company called Intercom and but maybe a more useful thing to do is maybe dial it back a little bit. So after college I attempted a PhD which was focused on teaching people how to teach computer science better. And I got bored with academia after I guess two and a half three years. And I dropped it to become a usability analyst out of consultancy. And I got bored of that after a year. So I quit that and started a consultancy with own, who is to CEO of Intercom now. One of the things we did while running that consultancy was we built our own side business called exceptional which is an error tracker for developers. And over time we realized it was a much bigger problem we had with our business exceptional that we cared about a lot more and that was we were totally out of touch with our customers and was really really hard to communicate with them. So
we sell Exceptional and started building a solution to that problem which went on to become Intercom.
Nathan: Gotcha. Now, you guys are everywhere now I heard about Intercom probably about three years ago and yeah you guys have really, really studied it to a massive traction like most startups use Intercom you see that icon somewhere in the corner whether its front end or you know using in a SAS product. It’s everywhere so can you talk to us about the early days you said that exceptional was was sold or you guys acquired. Did you like was with us all to a big company. I don’t come from a development background so yeah I’d love to love to hear a little bit more about that before we move and delve into the Intercom in the background.
Des: Yes, certainly so Exceptional it let programmers or engineers know when a user had encountered an error in their product basically. And we had like thousands of customers it was genuinely a successful piece of work for anyone’s standards. It was just sadly the case that neither me nor our own were particularly passionate about programming errors effectively and we were quite passionate about this bigger a problem which was why is it so hard to see who our customers aren’t so hard to talk to them? So we got talking to a lot of different people at a few different events about kind of we had started building a intercom actually inside of Exceptional originally as a way to just send messages to our customers and see who is using our product. But we were just so much more passionate about that challenge so ultimately exceptional went on to become a part of Rackspace which is public company but it wasn’t sold directly then we sold it to a person who packaged it with a few other tools and sold it on. And you know, what that gave us was basically enough freedom to work on this at the time untitled problem which was basically there are thousands of SAS or like software businesses out there with like lots and lots users and it is so hard to see who is using my product today. And I really mean who they’re as in what customers so at the time like Google Analytics was very popular but that just told you only page views he had inside your part which wasn’t really a useful stuff from a business point of view. And we really cared about who was using our product and what they were doing and we look to talking to them about what they were doing went inside the product.
So basically that became the origin of Intercom we started off with this idea of like basically being able to push messages inside your product and then we extended it from there to letting users reply to letting users start conversations to showing the the business owner here’s who’s active today here’s who has been active this month. And from there like we kind of came up with this thesis which is that like all businesses will become internet businesses but the experience when you move from like bricks and mortar to online is quite impersonal and it’s you know, it’s very like… that it’s very a ticket based and dear valued customer and all that shit that people hate. So we we really wanted to go against that so we sort of said our mission is to make internet business personal, and we wanna create a world where if you use a product a lot or if you frequently cite a lot whether it’s like a Shopify store or order it’s a publications such as founder if you go there a lot your recognizes viable customer you’re understood to be a good person people won’t try and sell you shit you’ve already bought till you know it they won’t call you a ticket number they’ll just engage you in conversation and as for business owners you’ll know who you should engage with in conversations.
So our mission really is to try to just personalize a lot of conversations that businesses and customers have and that’s where we started working I think it was like 2011 when we started you’re saying our last three years. It’s been it’s you know being getting traction it’s fun like it’s it took it took us I guess three years to become that sort of overnight success in some sense but you know, it’s being quite a journey like we just released it on the start to better business trees recently we now have like 17,000 customers we’ve 100,000 monthly active users we’re… definitely hit some sort of like you know a tipping point where people finally understand we’re out there we as we said recently we’re about $50 million in revenue at this point and if people care about revenue.
It has been quite a journey but it started with a kind of a very a deceptively a simple sounding but deceptively hard challenge which was how can we make talking to online businesses easy,simple,personal for one.
Nathan: I see. So it sounds like you have an accent. I can see you guys are based out of San Fran where were you from?
Des: Ireland, Dublin.
Nathan: Gotcha and same with your co-founder?
Des: Yeah, yeah so we Intercom we started it and I like on the mean streets of Dublin if you like it was like we’re four Irish founders and I’m basically we had our previous company we had done the whole bootstrap thing we like kind of ran it in you know in the remote streets of Dublin. I often like to joke although it’s actually just a fact we do is there was a single street in San Francisco where we had more customers than we did in all of Ireland at the time. So you know, we figured when we were going through this sort of change that of business and change of approach, what’s the opposite of running a bootstrap business in the north side of Dublin? Well let’s come to Silicon Valley and raise a million dollars so that’s basically what we did.
Nathan: Gotcha. So now you’re fully migrated and you living in San Fran?
Des: I live in both locations I have a place in both cities we like… the other four founders our CEO is here in SF I’m here most of time in SF and then we have so we actually have two offices from the very start today we’ve three offices but we started with a San Francisco office and the Dublin office and today we employ maybe I guess like 320 people or so across all three offices.
Nathan: Gotcha. And core team where’s mainly core team focused how do you manage that because we’re we’re based out of Melbourne we’re gonna need to set up an office in the US next year and I’m really curious, how do you structure that do you structure core team in San Fran? still Dublin? Like can you talk talk to you about that?
Des: You know, the big sort of thing we got right I mean it’s a challenge to split and to risk bifurcating your company and bifurcating your culture but like the same we got right was like functional divisions where there are geographical divisions so all of our Oren Diaz in Dublin the product is basically built and maintained in Dublin. And we have a sales presence and a support presence there now as well but like the product is primarily Dublin and then all of sales and go to market in general marketing etc. is primarily in San Francisco and that just kind of reduces the amount of like difficult transatlantic collaboration that order eyes will be necessary so it kind of impairs the leaders to make local decisions and a new fast effectively would happen to wait for another office to wake up before they can progress.
Nathan: That’s interesting. So you know for for like you know a startup that is is right it was founded and you’re starting to build the team core team out of you know whatever that city and it’s not in the US what’s not in you know, one of these startup kinda clusters is that what you always recommend to do if you can?
Des: So it’s hard like I mean I… I’m tempted to say yes, I think was granite I given that it worked out but like I can’t help but feel it would have been easier like even today I kind of a feel it would be easier if everyone was in the same place and that place up and be the best place to build software. But reality comes out too fast you know, so I think like in our case it wasn’t you know for a lot of reasons it wasn’t gonna be easy for us to entirely up the entire team and move to San Francisco to start with so to some degree it was driven by a necessity more than it was any sort of tactical or strategic sort of focus in general.I would advise people to follow that similar line of logic which is like for example a four-year folks you’ll struggle to move the entire office to San Francisco because visasm will come out to the cost of living will be tricky etc. So I think do what you can do to add that optimizes best sort of strategy for you for us our CEO was always gonna need to be here because we wanted to do like we wanted to raise money want to raise real venture capital not to sort of make EOP stuff that maybe exists in non-startup pubs and that meant being here in amongst it you know, just like actors go to Hollywood and finance people go to Wall Street like startups come to San Francisco.
Nathan: Yeah, you know that’s that’s a really good point so I’m really curious as well around talent. You said products built mainly out of Ireland. You guys have access to enough programming and and engineering software engineering talents to to do that because it’s a great product like we’re a customer we’re a very, very big fan you know we do a lot of cool stuff with Intercom. So yeah, that’s that’s something that I was really curious about.
Des: Yeah, and like this sort of smartass answer is like you kinda answered your own question I you know purely to product if you like to product how much obviously we find the people for that but what I would say is them… like it’s kind of a multi-part answer what I’d say is like you probably can’t name a single public software company that doesn’t have a significant footprint in Dublin and that means that there are clearly a lot of Engineers for Google Microsoft Facebook Airbnbstripe slack you name it they’re all office all have offices in Dublin. So there is talent there like what are things that benefit us specifically like University is a third level education aka University is free in Ireland which means you tend to have a good degree a good amount of like of engineers coming off you know currently leaving universities looking for good places to work.
We are definitely one of the more prominent startups in the city so we you know that kind of works in our favor too, but there’s also this big other thing called Europe beside us which which we can also draw on them and does definitely you know a large degree of talent there as long as we can motivate them to move to the beautiful weather and sunshine drenched to Dublin that we have to offer.
Nathan: Yeah, gotcha.That’s interesting because here sometimes I I find it same with Melbourne like I think there is good talent here and and you know sometimes people always ask me you know can it be you know can you build a solar team is there talent here and and do you think that you know where if you’re not in San Fran you still can build and and you kind of you know, eventually build something of true worth like you guys are building with Intercom even if you’re not based out of San Fran to start.
Des: Yeah, you know I I absolutely believe that and like and you know I think that there are so many examples that are of great software companies that didn’t originate and maybe in some cases still aren’t in San Francisco. Even like looking specifically at Australia you could argue you could argue campaign monitor looking around America you can see like you know Qualtrics, SurveyMonke, MailChimp. None of those are Silicon Valley companies and they’re all multi-billion dollar companies you know. And even like going download I would like to startup scene even somewhere I was like somewhere like if I was to say startups in Melbourne and surely at that point it gets challenging but it actually doesn’t like we have plenty of customers there and some really really good product companies coming out of the place. So l 100% believe like you know, you can start a company anywhere I do think the challenge you run into is when you want to kind of take it take the next step and this is not necessarily product but like what specifically on sales and marketing side we’re like we might struggle in Melbourne is to find somebody who’s an expert at product marketing for a SAS business selling to developers there’s maybe eight of them in Melbourne and they probably already have good jobs. And that’s kind of the challenge that you have whereas there’s maybe like 850 of them in San Francisco. And at least 10% of them are looking you know.
So I think like in general I think you can build a product in a lot of places for sure there’s more engineers and designers etc., right here now that’s kind of a double-edged sword and that you like you know it was there’s a genuine question around like employee tenure and the value is different I think than it is everywhere else. I think people might like you know, Europe at the very least you’re trying to cling on to your employees it’s harder when there’s like every other cool startup is next door also looking for them that can be a challenge. But I really feel on the sales and marketing side that’s where the skills haven’t kinda distributed evenly so… you know, again a simple example but I take it come to that campaign monitored rate they never have an office over here you know. It’s I think when you want to take sales to the next level take marketing to the next level that’s when you might find your hometown lacking.
Nathan: Interesting. So you guys went through 500 stops, right?
Des: We were part of that batch but we didn’t go shoot our program in the traditional sense we weren’t based in her office we weren’t attending to series or anything of that. I thought but yeah we did take their money early on.
Nathan: Yes, got you. And are you guys Bay able to share if you guys are profitable?
Des: We have no comment on that.
Nathan: Yep that’s cool. That’s no stress at all. And tell me about how you guys are fueling growth like I can see definitely for sure one of your biggest you I guess natural inhibitors of growth is just when somebody sees that little icon on the bottom right hand corner or wherever it is and you know powered by Intercom that that must be massive. Because I see that everywhere that’s how I found out about you guys, but tell me else so talk to me about like other things that you guys are doing to to build you know that your SAS company and grow it.
Des: Sure. So what you just referred to there it’s kind of what we call it powered by Intercom or we run on the Intercom I think is the current text. And that’s kind of like our sort of semi-viral element where basically you will see us everywhere which is awesome. It’s definitely good for like extending and sort of spreading the brand and it is a leaper of growth first but a lot of our growth comes in. Like in the early days I guess you know when we were starting out, a lot of what we tried to do was just we knew we had a product that we could sell to startups so all we wanted to do was produce content that startup folk would want to read and if that content happened to like point them towards, “Hey maybe it’d be good if you talked to your users after they log in.” Then we might just occasionally trow in an occasional screenshot of Intercom or maybe link up a sign-up page. And that probably got us our first like what fair few hundred customers. And to this day like you know we’re now look over 500 posts on our blog and we’ve kind of you know I for sure I wrote the first like 90 out of them but like today we have a whole content team and that’s been a significant leaper of growth for us as well. And the nice thing about like that content marketing which I hate that phrase because it really isn’t what we’re doing but it is genuinely a leaper of growth. The nice thing about it is it pays off longitudinally like there are literally articles I wrote in 2011 that still produce customers for us today. And you get that like a sort of long term you know if we stopped publishing today the wrong momentum of the blog coasts really well first and it is genuinely a significant part of our growth as the businesses matured as we raised you know $116 million of capital and all that sort of stuff.
We’ve definitely added in some of the more traditional stuff we do actually advertising places now. And we sponsor the occasional blogger podcaster we particularly liked. And so like today I’d say our gross is a blend of like of like the viral stuff you talked about content marketing the raw quality of the product helps a lot like the the sort of effusive way you spoke about it. That generally tends to be how people speak about Intercom which means be really strong word of mouth which when you factor in things like Twitter word of mouth becomes super powerful when it’s when it’s positively
rooted in the strength of the product. But yes, I think that that’s what kicked us off and then you know for any of the more traditional stuff like advertising sponsorship re-targeting etc. We do all that as well but like it’s that’s probably our less… our last like you know hot tips that have style stuff
Nathan: Yeah, gotcha. So for your inbound stuff you guys pretty hardcore on SEO?
Des: No, we’re not really to be honest with you. I don’t like the I’m just to be clear on the inbound piece like we are 100% inbound so we aren’t we only customers only come to us to buy the product we don’t we don’t like cold call people or anything like that. So I think
on the SEO question like we we try to not be dumb when we would speak about our own product if we’re talking about how to acquire customers we will link up our product which helps you acquire customers. However, we’re not what these people who like do all the
black hat shit I really, really hate that like we had a recommendation recently oh you should go and post on discussions apple.com and write a piece that like links back to your site. And it’s just so cute wordy I could never I could never get excited about gamifying the Google algorithm I’m building a business on such a messy fragile house of cards that just damages the web. I think like you know, I think doing those sort of things it’s like it’s like taking weight-loss pills instead of going to the gym like it’s just not a good idea like you know, I’d rather grow Intercom on the quality of the product the quality of the brand the quality of the marketing. Not like knowing about one little weight it’s a Google SEO algorithm will over a reward a punitive back link or whatever I just don’t care.
Nathan: That’s fair enough but do you guys have a strong focus on links and and link building and stuff like that, is that right?
Des: It depends on what you mean like we don’t have we have anyone out there trying to create links back to our site on the web. The focus we really have is like if you know, there was a long period of time where we would be talking about a product I’m genuinely forget to link it up and so I like to think we’ve gotta stop that behavior, but now we don’t like I mean are genuinely like we do have a lot of like organic traffic which might otherwise be known as SEO. But like that has come from running a really popular blog it hasn’t come from like any sort of link rams or any strategies like that.
Nathan: I know, gotcha. And what’s been the premise besides producing great content over a long period of time. Like if somebody wants you know they’re building a SAS company and they wanna and we won’t say the word content marketing but you know produce you know have a great blog that you know it’s quite iconic. You know, you guys are really well known around your customer support and stuff like I know that blog I’ve read your content. What else piece of advice would you give people besides you know great content long game because yeah, I’m really curious around that
Des: Yeah, like I can give you some sort of tactical stuff but I would say like you know 80% of it is actually you know as you said like it’s you know good content relating to the market on a cell and on long game. And long game isn’t for everyone because you kind of need to you know it doesn’t match to all businesses do you obviously be around for the long came to actually for it to show up. But like stake you know to be just one degree more specific when we say great content what we mean basically is what products do we sell well we sell a part that appeals to customer support people as you said and we sell a product that appeals to marketing people or occasionally growth marketing or occasionally product people and that’s our engaged product. And so what we try to do is make sure that we frequently hit on content that is interesting and useful like so not not keyword spammy bullshit like 11 top tips or whatever. But just stuff that’s like genuinely like well thought out well written well Illustrated well-diagrammed and practical and tactical and applicable for people who we think could actually one day want to buy Intercom.
So you’ll see posts like you know how to scale other support team and that’s because we sell to people who guess what you just can’t ever support team you’ll see but not opposed to that customer humble why because people you know marketers tend to worry about customer on-boarding and you know the posts come very genuinely steeped in our own experience. We’re not like hiring writers who don’t know anything about the topic we’re sitting down with our marketing people with our product people and we’re asking them like how do you think about this and we’re getting them to write pieces. And our content team is like three people today and there are maybe 327 other people in Intercom and we rely heavily on the other 327 for flashing at the content.
The one thing I think most startups get wrong and especially most CEOs is like you know someone will be listen to this and think yeah that’s great Dez but where do I get to turn the blog and I would say to you like that’s I know exactly that sentence and I find it so annoying because you never if I was sitting here saying and the other nice thing about Ruby on Rails is you’re gonna create a scalable framework no one would say, “Yeah that’s nice Des wherever I got time to code.” You know, well it’s just as fucking important like it genuinely is and people don’t people don’t see it that way they they really feel like they’re you know oh it needs to be like you know blogging is some sort of optional extra but for some reason the lines of code or design are really important and that’s just not the case . If you’re genuinely serious but like we are going to have a popular blog guess what you need to be writing it needs to be people’s full-time jobs I’m not just your content people but it needs to be something that like you recognize and reward and all that holds like I would say in any given year our best pieces of content on the line I mean best is into the tune of a half a million page views a post. They come from like our VP of Product their VP of engineering a directors of design. Yeah, a CEO you name like they don’t come from the content marketing team I think that’s again that means yes we deliberately have to sacrifice time of otherwise very busy people in the company to like curate and structured our thinking in a way that can be shared and be really useful to other companies. And it’s a trade off but it’s like it’s a deliberate it’s a deliberate choice but it was like to have a good blog and if you want to copy… that’s what you have to copy you don’t you don’t acquire a team of ten content marketers and say you know go here’s your typewriters get busy you know.
Nathan: That’s really interesting. So oh, jeez I’m impressed because I thought that you guys would have quite a large content marketing. So of those three people is one of them just just working with other people in the team, just interviewing them getting that content transcribed and editing it out then going back to them what do you think of this? Does this make sense? Is this is actionable? Is this is really good? Is this helpful? Is that how you guys are doing it? Because that’s really impressive.
Des: Yeah, so we do a little bit of that we do actually we’re look you know for like a good chunk of the company like maybe 10% or so are like very talented capable and motivated writers. So we actually have people who just really, really like I’m a it’s genuine like we you know we talk to people all the time you’re like you know when they start an Intercom one of the things that they really dream to do is one day be publishing the blog and we’re like that’s awesome like that’s what we want. In terms of the activities of the team it’s it’s a mistake you know John who has the content team he would basically contest with me here I’m talking about the Magista just to the blog they actually do our podcast too and we publish a podcast every week and we also produce books so we produce English Don six books today so we have a another one coming soon and basically like what I think you know to make all that work we very genuinely and honestly we reward and request the entire company write pieces so a lot of what the content in do is they actually take
inbound if you not I mean they receive submissions from the rest of the company and they work on them they edit them they tweak them they just and they make sure they have beautiful illustrations. And then they scheduled and go live and when they’re not doing that they’re make you’re chasing their guests for a podcast order collating the best of the best and putting them at the books that we’re gonna print and send it to people.
Nathan: Yeah, gotcha. Interesting. Look, we have to work towards wrapping up a really honed in on the content piece,but let’s talk… I was speaking I caught up with the founder of BuzzSumo last week. Do you know that SAS?
Des: Is that Noah?
Nathan: No,no. It’s not it’s…I know what was…
Des: I’m sorry.
Nathan: Buzzsumo so it’s like it’s a really, really powerful SAS that they they’re constantly analyzing like all of the content like any blog posts they’re constantly analyzing blog posts everything every you know I’m talking about?
Des: I think I know the product, yeah. They also have I believe a WordPress plugin right
Nathan: No, no. I don’t think so. Anyways they’re like we use them a lot of Foundr because because we can see trending topics we can see topics that get the most shares we can see you know like if we do a little bit of SEO stuff where you know we have a we have a certain you know keywords that we’re obviously wanting to rank for and you know. We have a look at who’s at the top and where those links are coming from for those keywords and you know we do outreach and we do guest post linking back to the certain blog post . Anyways long story short, these guys we use BuzzSumo and they’ve analyzed you know tens hundreds you know billions of articles from their data. And when I was speaking to the founder he said to me that you know a lot of people say you know it is a quality game and I agree a 100% but he said, “At the end of the day there’s a fundamentally a volume game as well it’s all about quality content at scale.” So I’m curious, how much content do you guys produce and do you have an interest to up that content you know, per per you know per week per month that you etc.
Des: Yeah, so we you know our current target these days is one post today and that’s that’s a challenge to keep up but like a where we’ve been hitting reliably for I guess two and a half three months. And I mostly agree with the with the sentiment that it’s photo quality and quantity game I think if you’re gonna drop by of those you should drop quantity first because I think a lot of noise is still noise. Whereas a small amount of great stuff is still a small amount of great stuff. But yeah I I’m fully agree with the sentiment like I… we shoot for one a day because we think that’s a bit all we’re capable of producing and while keeping the quality bar where it is. And we don’t ever want to be one of these blogs that degrades into publishing kind of shitty link baiter or like or like 11 like intro type of articles that like we kind of leave our user base behind.
Nathan: Yeah totally get that. We’re the same we want to produce stuff that goes deep because that’s that’s the way you get cut through because there’s so much noise.
Nathan: Yep absolutely. I think that the the quantity game genuinely came from a time when Google’s SEO algorithm wasn’t that smart when people used RSS feeds to check out their blogs and and all these other things like that basically had changed whereas like today like the majority of our traffic for our blog comes from Twitter because people share our stuff if it’s good but only if it’s good. So putting in a bad piece just means nothing happens anymore like we don’t you know for sure we publish a newsletter once a week which directs like you know a significant number of thousands of people or tens of thousands people towards content, but like that’s that doesn’t that’s not how we grow our audience that’s just how we address our audience. To grow our audience we need new qualities still shared by people to what all their followers or with all the people who who are influenced by their like sinking thoughts on the matter so look so yeah I really I fully believe in quality as a thing.
We are at the same time considering a second blog which might be a more high velocity blog but it doesn’t mean the quality will drop it just means maybe we will we won’t stretch this far to do what we don’t maybe go for maybe we’ll see less 800 words essays and maybe more like 100 words we’re considering that at the moment but like yeah content has be you know what we’ve been doing has been working but like we’re keen to bring in another tactic or and there’s a strategy on top.
Nathan: Yeah and look what we’re talking about this is all evergreen so someone listen to this you know two years from now this stuff one is not gonna change.
Des: Yeah I mean I’m very influenced by that quote by Jeff Bezos which was relayed to me by Jason freed which is “Just focus on the things that don’t change.” Like in ten years time people aren’t gonna wish our content was worse they’re not gonna wish like that you know, that our product was slower that ad that our product was harder to use you know like there’s a few fundamental core variables of human desire in content and in product. And focusing on those will serve us a lot better than chasing trends.
Nathan: Yeah I agree. So look we have to work towards wrapping up there’s been awesome conversation, man. Two last questions the first one is I’m curious around Intercom like we use intercom on the front end you know, people come to our site not our main sign or the foundr.com site but other products that we have of courses etc. and other premium products and with we see it we’ve seen a significant increase in sales just because we just asked you know, “Hey if you’ve got any questions please let us know.” And people actually have questions and only close and then we also use it on the back end around on-boarding and you know getting feedback around certain areas of force will tell the products. But what my question to you is is around that you know I was just amazed you know just just even just having it there on your site people want to talk to you you can automate stuff. Do you guys plan on doing A.I. type stuff where it’s you know, you can and I don’t know if you’ve already work on this I’m not sure but do you plan eventually that you know, when someone comes to the site site and the Intercom’s there and you have a people will have a series of like the the it’ll be a bots you know and it’l have a series of questions and if they are answered, if they’re not answered and and really use Intercom as a way to close sales when you you wouldn’t it would seem like it’s a real person?
Des: So there’s a few like rights to that question though maybe I’ll just un-bundle it. The first one is like you know are we thinking about AI and machine learning and BOTS absolutely yes and we’ve dipped our toes in in various bits and pieces for example with our educate product if you ask a business a question and they’re using your knowledge base you will see suggested articles from a bot as part of the conversation and I’d like to think of that as like rather than artificial intelligence I consider like augmented intelligence that is like a bot sits in the conversation silently only speaking one of the things that can help and it’s very clearly a bot it’s very clearly not a human if you like. And then to the more general seem like I believe they you know human connection is still very important and I believe when you know, if it’s profitable for you to do so you should talk to your customers and I often like have to laugh when I see businesses spending like tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars on the hoping against hope that maybe one of these customers will reply and yet when the reply comes in they’re like holy shit it’s expensive to talk to these customers I don’t like how was it how was it affordable to send out that campaign but not affordable to talk to people who want to buy.
So there’s some sort of paradox there all that said like I mean I sorry… I generally don’t believe like that the future is like forcing your customers down on a bot style IV or style like you know phone trees to like to complete a purchase. I think you know if if it’s profitable for you to talk to your customers which it generally should be unless your customers or like worked very, very little. I think having a human there to aid the conversation is useful. However, there are like a large chunk of programmatic tasks that actually can be completed such as like searching a knowledge base such as like upgrading an account or like you know giving feedback on a future we’re like I
think BOTS can genuinely help and the key variables where a BOTS can help I think is like where there’s no opportunity to form a relationship.
Most SAS businesses or most recurring revenue businesses they do want a relationship but there are times in a relationship isn’t the most obvious thing to do like. So an example might be like you know, if somebody just simply wants to like council a teammate after account or they want help getting a t-shirt to put deliver to the head or something like that. I think it’s easy in those cases to use a bot to inject structured automation on a workflow where it’s generally considered not something that was valuable to either party to have a human involved in I think that’s where BOTS can help and we definitely think about it from that perspective we don’t remember anything to announce or not in the short-term but for sure like you know BOTS and messaging or very much gone together hand-in-hand and we’re definitely following that trend
Nathan: Yeah awesome yeah it’s oh it’s all moving – in-app yeah and yeah I have to ask one question. Sorry two more questions first one is do you think email will be around forever or do you think it’s going to move all to in-app. And two, where’s the best place people can find more about Intercom and yourself?
Des: Sure. Email’s one’s deep in doubt like I think today email has been relegated as being like if you think about the emails you actually get and consume today it’s basically people who are addressing you in a formal business context but they don’t know you well know such that they wouldn’t like I messaged you or Slack you or whatever you know Slack has definitely like relegated email for work significantly emails more like a point of record in communications these days. Data is the means through which all conversations happen I think then that when you look at it from a marketing perspective I think
there’s a generation of people growing up today for whom email is simply an identity verification for their Snapchat account or Facebook account or whatever. We’re like you need an email address because they ask you but like no one ever checks it and I think in that regard like the future of like email marketing it’s I’m not like I’m not down under it I think there is a good future for email marketing. I just think it might not be the best way to kind of you know grow top a funnel for the next generation of businesses that I think we’re gonna see like more and more people are spending their time in other products in your product elsewhere basically and I think in that regard you know email marketing will you know it’ll find a more of a nice use case than maybe it had five ten years ago and I think that’s just driven by the rise of messaging and the rise of workplace messaging like core chunks of where email was the best thing to do have been falling by the wayside consistently.
But that said like you know I I don’t think it’ll go away I think we’ll all have email accounts in ten years I just think their purpose will be relegated further and further and further and then I guess on your more general question and how to follow up with Intercom or myself and best basis intercom.com. And our blog is at blog.intercom.com. And that’s you know I guess we spoke a little bit I’m Dez Treynor on Twitter. And that’s the way you can keep in touch with me.
Nathan: Awesome, fantastic we’ll wrap there Des. But thank you so much for your time man it was a great interview.
Nathan: Thank you very much, Nathan.
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