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2018-07-17T19:36:21.464Z
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{"feed":"Inside-Intercom","feedTitle":"Inside Intercom","feedLink":"/feed/Inside-Intercom","catTitle":"Business","catLink":"/cat/bussiness"}

Today, we’re announcing our new HubSpot and Marketo apps, which allow you to seamlessly sync your customer data so that you can nurture and convert more leads.

Sales and marketing teams today have access to more tools than ever before. These tools help with everything from increasing website traffic to upselling customers, but the abundance of tools on offer brings its own challenges – not least of which is having your customer data in many different places. This often means that you waste time switching between tabs, copying and pasting, or worst of all, losing out on sales opportunities.

At Intercom, we want to make sure that all of the effort you put into driving visitors to your website, capturing their details and interacting with them pays off with higher conversions and customer growth. Our new HubSpot and Marketo apps, as well as our existing Salesforce app, do exactly that – they give you all the context you need to nurture and convert more leads and increase revenue, no matter which tool you’re using. Specifically, by syncing leads and conversations, the apps enable you to keep track of all of your leads, follow up with them faster, access key data easily and have a complete view of every lead’s journey with your company.

Never miss an opportunity to nurture a lead

As you generate leads from the Messenger – whether via auto messages...

The fact that SaaS products are so easy to evaluate and buy is a double edged sword.

Yes, on one hand it’s easier for people to sign up and try your product, but on the other hand, a lack of commitment means that switching costs between products are lower. People can leave as fast as they joined up. Therefore it’s necessary for your prospects to get the most out of their free product trial, and thus the main challenges of customer acquisition lie in:

  1. Getting as many people as possible to sign up for a trial, and
  2. Ensuring that they are successful in that trial.

Fast, smart and collaborative communication is crucial to delivering a
high trial conversion rate

The easier your software is to try, the less value a prospect might attribute to it. Without the commitment of buying a product, the prospect loses some of the intent to buy. This means that the urgency to deep dive into the product doesn’t exist, and that lack of urgency means that for many companies, trial-to-paid conversion is not where it should be. Typical trial conversions for opt-in trials are around 25%, opt-out trials being higher at 60% or so.

Maximize the value of a product trial

Free product trials typically manifest themselves as leads for your sales team. Sales reps will typically love to work a trial lead because someone who has entered their email, selected a product and perhaps even put a credit card on file represents a much higher...

You can spend months working on a great idea, pour tons of time and energy into crafting the perfect marketing, but without customers your business will cease to exist. All future growth hinges on one thing – customer acquisition.

While this may sound simple, it can be incredibly challenging to find new opportunities for growth and customer acquisition in an increasingly crowded marketplace. There are a billion emails sent every day by MailChimp alone. There are over two million blog posts published each day. In today’s world, you’ll only win by acquiring customers in a way that differentiates you from the crowd and builds an enthusiastic customer base that sticks around.

To help you understand and improve your customer acquisition, we asked SaaS leaders within and outside of Intercom to reveal their top customer acquisition tactics. Hopefully this will give you some ideas on how to build sustainable growth for your business.

Want more advice like this? Get your free copy of The Growth Handbook, brought to you by Intercom.

Mobilize your influencers to drive customer acquisition

When it comes to getting the word out about your product, ask yourself, “Who do my customers and prospects turn to for advice when they are looking to learn about great solutions or make a buying decision?” Understand who influences your prospects most, then earn the trust of those influencers. You’ll need to win both their hearts and their minds.

Before I joined Intercom, I led all of Intuit’s small-business products and...

As VP of Corporate Strategy at Twitter, Elad Gil was a key player as company headcount skyrocketed from 90 to 1,500 employees.

This wasn’t Elad’s first experience with hyper growth – Google grew headcount 10x during his time as a product manager there – nor the last. He’s also co-founded Color Genomics and invested in and been an adviser to companies like Airbnb, Coinbase, Instacart, Square, Stripe and more.

To help codify his learnings throughout those experiences and share the most repeatable frameworks, he’s published the High Growth Handbook, available from Stripe Press on Tuesday, July 17.

I hosted Elad on the podcast for a conversation that ranged from the key themes of his new book to scaling a healthy culture and ins and outs of mergers and acquisitions. If you enjoy the it, check out more episodes. You can subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation. Short on time? Here are four quick takeaways:

  1. Before hiring a COO, founders first need to ask themselves whether the function is best served with a single hire or distributed through multiple roles.
  2. Re-orgs are a necessary part of growth. Execute them rapidly (within 24 hours if possible) to avoid causing your employees unnecessary anxiety about the future of their jobs.
  3. Acquisitions can help fuel growth, but often go awry when the company fails...

The problems people encounter in their lives rarely change from generation to generation. The products they hire to solve these problems change all the time.

If you’re building a new product, it’s because you believe you can create a better solution that people will want to use because it delivers a better outcome. A strong understanding of the outcome customers want, and how they currently get it, is essential for you to succeed in product development.

Focusing on outcome … lets you understand your real competitors

Maybe your customers want to be entertained, or spend more time with their friends, or understand what projects teammates are working on, or maybe they want to project growth for their business. If the desired outcome is real then they are already achieving it through some product in some way. Your job is to improve upon that.

Sidenote: If you can’t find what product they’re currently using, the chances are that it’s a fictitious outcome (“Wouldn’t it be cool if…”) or an aspirational one (“Of course I want to lose weight”). Espoused behavior never reflects reality.

Focusing on outcome, rather than category, industry or product type, lets you understand your real competitors. The second a company focuses on “the industry it’s in” rather than the “outcome it delivers”, it loses touch, and shortly after, loses customers.

Newspapers, for example, believed they were...

In order to make bootstrapping work, you need to be scrappy, ruthlessly prioritizing your actions and avoiding non-essential expenses. Having one tool that helps you do all your most important work – sales, marketing and support – makes life so much easier.

We’ve been pretty vocal about our love for Intercom as we’ve grown Ad Reform and Userfeed, our profitable, bootstrapped SaaS businesses over the last year. We run both entire businesses through the platform.

However, when I talk to other entrepreneurs or startup folks, most of them ask:

“Isn’t Intercom just a chat app? Aren’t there lots of those out there?”

I’ve been asked this so often that I figured I’d share exactly how we use Intercom, the benefits it provides our business and more importantly, the benefits it provides our customers. I’ll break it down into standard use cases, and some of our more unique use cases that Intercom enables.

Standard use cases Support

Support is one of the most common use cases people think of when using Intercom. By giving your users the ability to chat directly with your team, not only does it give your team the ability to solve support issues faster, but it allows your users to engage with your company in a much more human way.

Nobody wants to go write up an email or fill out a form for support anymore. We’re in the age of messaging, so it’s important to connect with...

Shipping product fast and often means more opportunities for Sales to delight customers and engage with prospects. But your sales team needs a lot more than an email on launch day to maximize the opportunities that product launches present.

Here at Intercom, Sales Enablement is responsible for ensuring sales reps have the skills and resources they need to capitalize on product launches. Before Sales Enablement became an official function, our sales team didn’t have a way to learn about features before they were shipped. That led to some awkward conversations where customers would tell us about what’s new instead of the other way around! Today our sales enablement team acts as a filter for the massive streams of information that accompany launches and distills it to what reps need to know to sell the new feature effectively.

The work of Sales Enablement begins as soon as the product roadmap is set. We partner with stakeholders in Marketing and Product to assess what’s coming down the line and determine the best way for Sales to get new features into the hands of customers and prospects. The goal is to make sure, through a robust, cross-functional approach, that the investment we make in our product pays off in the market. At a high level, our process looks like this:

Having recently led our sales enablement efforts for our new Messenger, I’ll use that launch...

If you’ve ever looked at your diary, notebook, sticky notes and email inbox in the middle of a busy sales period and thought, “This isn’t working,” you’re not alone.

For years, I used to try to organize my thoughts and ideas without structure, missing sales opportunities and forecasts as a result. Then, I found the answer – the concept of a sales pipeline. I now had order where there had been chaos. I could take the initiative with existing opportunities, control the entire sales process and close more deals.

The best thing about a sales pipeline is that it’s easy to get started. Here are a few of the ideas that worked for me when building a pipeline.

1. Decide what your ideal sales pipeline looks like

Let’s start by mapping out your pipeline so we can see how it looks. When you get those first ideas about people and companies that might need what you sell, you’re already taking the first steps in building a pipeline. You probably have more than one idea for prospects. Some of those will go all the way through and close; others won’t. But these conversations and how they progress will form your pipeline. You build a pipeline by creating a number of steps to go from that initial idea to a closed sale – these are your sales stages.

These might be:

  • Targets – very early days, not yet contacted
  • Contacted – you’ve called or emailed
  • Meeting agreed – you’ve set an agenda...

Doug Landis often sees an unsuccessful sales pitch stumble straight out of the gate. Specifically at the very first slide in the pitch deck.

The problem, Doug says, is salespeople tend to focus too much on their company and the names on their client roster, rather than connecting with their audience. The easiest way to do that? Tell a compelling story.

Today, Doug is a Growth Partner at Emergence Capital. Previously, however, he ran sales productivity for teams at Google, Salesforce and Box. His time at the latter culminated in the title of Chief Storyteller, where he rewrote the script for how Box sales team talked to and about their customers.

In this episode of our podcast, Doug and I chat about what makes a compelling story, how to distill a founder’s high level vision into something more relatable to individual buyers, and much more. If you enjoy the it, check out more episodes. You can subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation. Short on time? Here are four quick takeaways:

  • Your job in sales is to build credibility, and you do that by being relatable and using the voice of your customers. You use their stories– where they were and where they are now – to help paint a picture of what’s possible.
  • Rewrite your first call deck. Your...

One of the lures when I joined Intercom in 2014 was that it sold itself as a product-first company. We continue to repeat that mantra to ourselves today, and we say it to anyone who’ll listen.

We thump our chests when we say that. It’s a badge of honor – a badge of legitimacy – a badge of a new, better way of building a company. But, there’s a hidden arrogance inside that product-first mindset, and traps that await those who adopt it.

What are these traps, and how can you avoid them? This was the basis for my talk on the 2017 Inside Intercom world tour. Below you can watch me deliver that talk in London’s Roundhouse, or read on for a written account.


The term “product-first” is implicitly set up in contrast to what came before, which were mostly sales-driven companies. Their approach: “First we sell it, then the product team has to quickly build it.” At a glimpse, this actually makes sense – if customers are willing to shell out cash, surely that’s a great way to ensure you build only valuable stuff. However, we all know how that story ends. Big clients end up dictating the roadmap, there’s no product vision, and your product quickly turns into incoherent bloatware.

This led to an era of marketing-driven companies. They were slick, polished, and most of all, promised the moon. These companies are comfortable selling an idea that has, at best,...

Technology firms have a long and storied history with commercials. Just reading that sentence you’re probably already thinking about half-time Super Bowl commercials. Or annoying YouTube pre-rolls that leave you puzzled as to what the company actually does.

In fact there’s a whole genre of tech company videos that are so clichéd – fast edits, shiny happy people, repeated lines of script, emotional cues and images of bakers (think about it) – it’s become easy to poke fun at them. Why does creative advertising have to be so hard?

Earlier this year, Intercom decided to run an integrated marketing campaign that would speak to the value we can bring to sales and marketing teams. Our Demand Generation, Product Marketing and Brand Design teams collaborated to produce the messaging and our Brand Design team brought it to life. You might have seen our billboards on Route 101 in San Francisco, our digital signage at the airport in Austin, Texas or the display ads we ran on properties around the web.

The most recent element of the campaign were our video ads. Obviously, we didn’t run them as TV commercials but we took inspiration from TV’s 24-hour shopping networks. Embracing that “shitty-good aesthetic” led Kyle, one of our brand designers, to believe we could produce the commercials entirely in-house.

Which the Brand Design team did – soup to nuts. The voices you hear are Carly, one of our producers and Dani, one of our designers. Chelsea, our copywriter, was...

When faced with a problem or new process at work, most people usually don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they look for patterns and frameworks that are widespread and valuable.

A common challenge for many teams is how to run retrospectives. There are plenty of solutions, and one of them is Start, Stop, Continue – a framework to structure a retrospective for a team, career or project.

For example, at the end of a sprint, you think about what else you should do, what you should stop doing and you should continue to do. Or at your performance review, you might wonder what you should start doing to get a promotion, what is blocking you and what you are currently doing that works well. Start, Stop, Continue can be an actionable, motivational and straightforward way to critically think about how you are working.

Experimenting with your retrospectives

I experiment a lot with retrospectives, usually mixing different exercises that share the same goal but differ in structure. Recently, during a discussion about what else my team could start doing, I heard a bold statement that starting new things is less important than continuing what’s successful. When I reflect on that, I must say that I fully agree.

Start, Stop, Continue allows you to kick off a retro session motivated and energized with a head full of ideas of what else you could be doing. If you think about your career growth by beginning with what you should start doing,...

There is something unique about the joy of being on a high-functioning, high-achieving team – and that goes as much for a sporting team as a professional one.

We borrow a lot of the words and concepts we use to describe our engineering teams from the world of sports – from huddles and scrums to sprints and even goals, the terminology resonates from the pitch to the office.

However, we rarely stop to think about the deeper parallels between the two spheres.

I play rugby where I’ve seen exactly what it takes to build up a team out of individuals – the preparation, the analysis, the commitment, the growth of camaraderie and trust between teammates. My time as an engineering manager at Intercom has reinforced for me the parallels between team sports and being part of a successful engineering team.

Preparation and analysis

When you think of being part of a sports team, you instinctively think about the thrill of the match, the excitement of clashing with opponents in a competitive environment. But in reality, most of your time is spent practicing, preparing for the games ahead and analyzing the challenge posed by your rivals.

The preparation and analysis is critical to ensuring you build the best possible products

It’s all that unglamorous time on the training pitch that builds the sense of being a team, which culminates in those performances in competitive games.

That process has some parallels to the day-to-day routine in an engineering organization – the preparation...

There are many reasons an organization seeks out customer feedback. A support team will want to know if they were helpful, while a product team might need help prioritizing what to build next.

Whether you’re measuring success, monitoring customer trends or gathering input for a product decision, customer feedback is an essential part of staying competitive and growing your business.

With so many use cases for customer feedback, having an organized approach to ensure you’re not asking too much of your customers is challenging. Creating the ideal customer experience, while trying to maximize survey response rates can feel like competing interests. And as your need for feedback increases, so does the complexity of coordinating and managing those requests. On top of that, different situations can require feedback in different formats at different times and from different people.

So what can you do to make sure you get the feedback you need while maintaining a cohesive customer experience?

Coordinate across the organization

Sending too many messages is a real risk. Coordinate requests for customer feedback across your organization to make sure you don’t unintentionally spam your customers. Define which teams are responsible for conducting feedback and set limits around how often you ask. Using a representative sample for feedback can also help you avoid over-messaging. By keeping everyone in the loop, you’ll avoid asking redundant questions.

Find the right time and cadence

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the cadence of customer feedback requests. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s different for...

Your business is currently doing one of two things: it’s growing, or it’s dying.

This week we released The Growth Handbook, a collection of tested frameworks and invaluable lessons to help steer your company’s trajectory up and to the right. In many ways, the genesis of this new book was our podcast series and the enlightening, in-depth conversations we hosted with industry leaders who’ve grown startups to many billions in revenue.

To mark the release of the book, this week’s podcast is a special compilation of some of our favorite insights from those growth-focused conversations. You’ll learn from:

To hear each of these conversations in full, check out episodes of our podcast linked in each subhed below. You can also subscribe to the show on iTunes, follow us on Spotify or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the episode.


Andrew Chen on fighting acquisition channel fatigue


Andrew Chen: The idea is that, especially in pure consumer products, there was a period of time where we had address book importers: you got an invite to a product from a friend, and you...

Shipping product fast and often means more opportunities for Sales to delight customers and engage with prospects. But your sales team needs a lot more than an email on launch day to maximize the opportunities that product launches present.

Here at Intercom, Sales Enablement is responsible for ensuring sales reps have the skills and resources they need to capitalize on product launches. Before Sales Enablement became an official function, our sales team didn’t have a way to learn about features before they were shipped. That led to some awkward conversations where customers would tell us about what’s new instead of the other way around! Today our sales enablement team acts as a filter for the massive streams of information that accompany launches and distills it to what reps need to know to sell the new feature effectively.

The work of Sales Enablement begins as soon as the product roadmap is set. We partner with stakeholders in Marketing and Product to assess what’s coming down the line and determine the best way for Sales to get new features into the hands of customers and prospects. The goal is to make sure, through a robust, cross-functional approach, that the investment we make in our product pays off in the market. At a high level, our process looks like this:

Having recently led our sales enablement efforts for our new Messenger, I’ll use that launch...

If you’ve ever looked at your diary, notebook, sticky notes and email inbox in the middle of a busy sales period and thought, “This isn’t working,” you’re not alone.

For years, I used to try to organize my thoughts and ideas without structure, missing sales opportunities and forecasts as a result. Then, I found the answer – the concept of a sales pipeline. I now had order where there had been chaos. I could take the initiative with existing opportunities, control the entire sales process and close more deals.

The best thing about a sales pipeline is that it’s easy to get started. Here are a few of the ideas that worked for me when building a pipeline.

1. Decide what your ideal sales pipeline looks like

Let’s start by mapping out your pipeline so we can see how it looks. When you get those first ideas about people and companies that might need what you sell, you’re already taking the first steps in building a pipeline. You probably have more than one idea for prospects. Some of those will go all the way through and close; others won’t. But these conversations and how they progress will form your pipeline. You build a pipeline by creating a number of steps to go from that initial idea to a closed sale – these are your sales stages.

These might be:

  • Targets – very early days, not yet contacted
  • Contacted – you’ve called or emailed
  • Meeting agreed – you’ve set an agenda...

Doug Landis often sees an unsuccessful sales pitch stumble straight out of the gate. Specifically at the very first slide in the pitch deck.

The problem, Doug says, is salespeople tend to focus too much on their company and the names on their client roster, rather than connecting with their audience. The easiest way to do that? Tell a compelling story.

Today, Doug is a Growth Partner at Emergence Capital. Previously, however, he ran sales productivity for teams at Google, Salesforce and Box. His time a the latter culminated in the title of Chief Storyteller, where he rewrote the script for how Box sales team talked to and about their customers.

In this episode of our podcast, Doug and I chat about what makes a compelling story, how to distill a founder’s high level vision into something more relatable to individual buyers, and much more. If you enjoy the it, check out more episodes. You can subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation. Short on time? Here are four quick takeaways:

  • Your job in sales is to build credibility, and you do that by being relatable and using the voice of your customers. You use their stories– where they were and where they are now – to help paint a picture of what’s possible.
  • Rewrite your first call deck. Your first three...

One of the lures when I joined Intercom in 2014 was that it sold itself as a product-first company. We continue to repeat that mantra to ourselves today, and we say it to anyone who’ll listen.

We thump our chests when we say that. It’s a badge of honor – a badge of legitimacy – a badge of a new, better way of building a company. But, there’s a hidden arrogance inside that product-first mindset, and traps that await those who adopt it.

What are these traps, and how can you avoid them? Thfilis was the basis for my talk on the 2017 Inside Intercom world tour. You can watch that talk below, or read on for a written account.


The term “product-first” is implicitly set up in contrast to what came before, which were mostly sales-driven companies. Their approach: “First we sell it, then the product team has to quickly build it.” At a glimpse, this actually makes sense – if customers are willing to shell out cash, surely that’s a great way to ensure you build only valuable stuff. However, we all know how that story ends. Big clients end up dictating the roadmap, there’s no product vision, and your product quickly turns into incoherent bloatware.

This led to an era of marketing-driven companies. They were slick, polished, and most of all, promised the moon. These companies are comfortable selling an idea that has, at best, a tangential connection to what’s...

When faced with a problem or new process at work, most people usually don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they look for patterns and frameworks that are widespread and valuable.

A common challenge for many teams is how to run retrospectives. There are plenty of solutions, and one of them is Start, Stop, Continue – a framework to structure a retrospective for a team, career or project.

For example, at the end of a sprint, you think about what else you should do, what you should stop doing and you should continue to do. Or at your performance review, you might wonder what you should start doing to get a promotion, what is blocking you and what you are currently doing that works well. Start, Stop, Continue can be an actionable, motivational and straightforward way to critically think about how you are working.

Experimenting with your retrospectives

I experiment a lot with retrospectives, usually mixing different exercises that share the same goal but differ in structure. Recently, during a discussion about what else my team could start doing, I heard a bold statement that starting new things is less important than continuing what’s successful. When I reflect on that, I must say that I fully agree.

Start, Stop, Continue allows you to kick off a retro session motivated and energized with a head full of ideas of what else you could be doing. If you think about your career growth by beginning with what you should start doing,...