How Intercom leveraged content to drive adoption and increase retention

John Collins


Former Content Director at Intercom, startup consultant and advisor


Intercom & Ramp
John Collins
John Collins

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have John Collins, Former Content Director at Intercom, startup consultant and advisor.

In this episode, John shares an overview of the early days at Intercom and how they laid down the foundations for their content team with the primary focus on delivering value.

We then ran through Intercom’s content team structure. How they used events and content to drive adoption and expansion within their user base and we wrapped up by discussing how the same principles were applied to a different business model with success during his time at Ramp.

Mentioned Resources



Laying the foundations of the content team at Intercom 00:00:00
Using events to expand customers 00:00:00
The Intercom content team structure 00:00:00
How Intercom used content to drive adoption and expansion 00:00:00
How content was used as a driver for engagement and expansion at Ramp 00:00:00


Hey John, welcome to the show. Thanks, Andrew. Glad to be. It's a pleasure for the listeners. John is a senior marketing leader with experience in content coms events and community building, primarily in b2b. John Starter's career in email marketing is the managing editor at Newer.

He then moved into journalism as a freelance and spent over seven years with the Irish Times reporting predominantly on business and technology. In 2014, John Made is wearing to sauce at Intercom as the managing editor and Lyft as the director of content before joining RAMP as their head of content and communications.

[00:02:00] So my first question for you, John, is what motivated you to make the switch back then in 2014 to join the tech company?

[00:02:08] John Collins: Well, I think, uh, it's no secret, and I mean actually prior to as well in the media world, but it's no secret that, um, media business models, particularly legacy media that was trying to transition online, you know, just weren't, weren't adding up. Um, It was constantly, you know, looking, looking for more, trying to, doing more work, uh, less opportunities for, for growth.

Uh, and actually I worked, uh, interesting though. I mean, the Irish Times, you know, was going on that digital transformation path and like, you know, did, did some interesting stuff on it. Um, and actually got involved in a project where we did an online running course actually, and I, I, I ran it and collaborated with sales and marketing on it, which, you know, is not that common in the media world where the editorial side tends to be a.

Sniffy I would say about sales and marketing. And, you know, two things sort of happened. Uh, [00:03:00] the actual project worked really well. We got 10,000 people sign up. Um, but there was just also like, it just made me realize that the company wasn't set. Like it was gonna be really hard to go through that digital transformation cause it was just too hard for sales and marketing and, and editorial to work together.

Um, once things happened during the project, but also maybe kind of realize, hey, you know, having previously worked. In tech for a period during the, boom that, uh, actually really enjoyed that kind of work. And so, uh, yeah, reached out to, to intercom, uh, who were on a bit of a role at the time. Uh, they just raised their series B.

And you own the CEO there? I'd actually said like he was a business contact of mine when I was a reporter. So, um, yeah, reached out to him and, and, uh, both own and his co-founder trainer had a real vision for what content could do for a company. Like, like Intercom obviously met them and kind into that vision and had seven pretty successful years.

There happened to, to ring out to. 

[00:03:58] Andrew Michael: Yeah, I, I [00:04:00] think it's like, uh, when I saw Irish and, um, Intercom, like it made a lot of sense as well. There must have been some sort of connection, uh, there. Uh, I think it's, it's probably one of Ireland's biggest or biggest successes. Uh, is there anybody else that compare?


[00:04:17] John Collins: certainly the current, uh, current generation of, of startups, but I mean, there's, there's, I think there's like seven seven unicorns, uh, that. Come out of Ireland now. Uh, Irish founded, obviously, you know, uh, Stripe is quite different. It has Irish founders, but truly is a US company, I think. Whereas, you know, Intercom was four Irish founder founded in San Francisco, but you know, always from day one had.

Uh, you know, the product was being built in Ireland and, and like, I think, I think to this day, I think, uh, Dublin is, is the biggest officer Incom even obviously they have a very big office in San Francisco and Chicago, Sydney, London. Um, but yeah, no, there's a bunch of really interesting, um, Our, our startups, uh, you know, and actually [00:05:00] I'd be interesting.

I've been dealing since I've moved to consulting, uh, six weeks ago, I've actually bit of journalism, sort of looking at some of the issues in the startup ecosystem here locally. So, yeah, excited to see where you, What else emerges from, from the Irish market Center? Yeah, 

[00:05:14] Andrew Michael: it's really interesting. Like I went to Web Summit a couple of times, actually went once to the surf summit, which was a little bit crazy.

I think we went surfing in like the middle of November. Uh, I've never been so cold in my life, like I couldn't feel my feet and my hands and stuff. But it was a lot of fun and I really love like the Irish people as well, like super friendly. And, uh, really had a good time there. 

[00:05:37] John Collins: So, So hopefully you had your, your thick, wet 

[00:05:39] Andrew Michael: suit,

Yeah, it was thick, but they didn't give us gloves or like booties. So I mean, it just sort of defeated the purpose cuz that's where all the heat was living from. So it was like, yeah, insanely cool. Um, yeah, but so intercom time and you mentioned as well like, uh, Des and Owen had like really. Mindset and strategy when it came to content and they saw the [00:06:00] vision.

I think Intercom is actually one of the earlier companies I think that really sort of locked into content and doubled down and, uh, saw that as a growth channel. Like what was those early days like for you in the content team and, uh, how did, like things get started? So you reached out to her and you said like, I wanna join, um, what was next?

Like, there was a vision, but what was there and how did you get things up and. Uh, well, I think vision 

[00:06:26] John Collins: was that, you know, d in particular had written, I think, uh, first 19 three of 100 blog posts on the Intercom blog. You know, like this really came from the founders and so like, that was not gonna be sustainable.

You know, Des is being believer in, uh, you know, do things that don't scale in, in the early days, but like, You know, it was two, two, just over two years in at Intercom at this point. And so, like, you know, the two strategy officer having the write blog post every week, which he literally was like, he had an RSS set up from, uh, like the blog to campaign monitor and sent out an email every Wednesday at five 30.

And so if he didn't write post. [00:07:00] Uh, it was gone out empty. So, you know, it was a huge commitment there, but it was like, how do you transition that? How do you then bring in a content marketing team and, and sort of scale that production and still maintain that focus on high quality? Because I think we also had this vision of sort of more of a publication, uh, and more of something that like gave value to people rather than maybe a.

A very SEO driven content marketing strategy are very, like aggressive in terms of conversion, uh, strategy. Um, you know, I think, uh, HubSpot nailed the, the sort of the SEO strategy, but you know, it was, I respect for HubSpot and what they've doing, I think they've really shown the way. But you know, that model, particularly for HubSpot, I think is like, An inch deep and a mile wide.

And so, you know, as a relatively small company, you know, with the headquarters in San Francisco and a bunch of people in Ireland, how we, like how many startups started in San Francisco in 11, you [00:08:00] know, like hundreds probably. And so how were we gonna stand out from the, And so it was always that, that focus on quality content that like, You know, the way, one of, one of the guiding sort of principles we had in the early days, which myself and dad talked about, was this idea Reid Hoffman has, and he, he said numerous times that like building a startup is like jumping off a cliff and building, figuring out how to build the plane on the way down.

Uh, and our sort of taken off was that actually with our content, if we can help people. Even figure out like how to like build a landing courage or, you know, put a wheel on or just do anything that like, helps them build that plane. Um, we're gonna, you know, we're, they're gonna value us and they're, you know, they're gonna come back to us when they have an opportunity to use Intercom.

They're at least gonna give us consideration. And, and so that meant that we create a lot of the content that wasn't, wasn't about Intercom, wasn't like thinking about conversion from day one was just like, Hey, we know that like, Sales to startups and product people. Um, and so if we can share [00:09:00] what like the subject matter experts internally at Intercom, it wasn't like what John or the rest of the content marketing team thought it was really us working with like engineers, designers, heads of product, all that kind of stuff.

And really sharing like, here's things that we've learned about, like how to build a company and how to build a product and that we think will be useful to people who are in the market by. It's very interest. 

[00:09:21] Andrew Michael: Longer play. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's very interesting cause I think it was a little bit contradictory at the time, uh, back then, like everything was generating content.

It was like top of funnel. We wanna try and drive conversions and trying to measure the roi, whereas, like you say, it's a much longer play. With the focus really being on value and what you deliver, I think there's a lot of additional value that's not counted for when it comes. Well, specifically, like people might say, what does content have to do with churn and retention?

Uh, but ultimately, like you've mentioned a few different things. There's one, like, you've created really good, strong brand value, uh, by just being able to be there when people have a problem or need, and then knowing that they're gonna come back to when they do so. In one way that's [00:10:00] like, uh, retaining, uh, potential future users and bringing them back to your product to service.

And then by also focusing on like what is the end value and how, uh, can we help our users? Like ultimately the more successful your users become, the more successful, like your expansion, uh, motion works within the company. And there's many other areas, I think, where you can really start to see how content can be a driver for attention and help increase growth from the other end.

[00:10:26] John Collins: We, like, we did not of like, content's job was just to get a new customer and not like, Hey, you know, when they've become a customer, that's it. Like, we knew that like a lot of customers were, uh, reading our content and engaging with our content. And so, and that was, we, we knew that was gonna help keep them sticky.

Um, so for instance, one of the major sort of initiatives I worked on with, with my partner, uh, Megan Chardon, who ran events at Intercom was we ran a couple of world tours. Uh, and, you know, We went to cities around the world where we knew there was a big startup community. We put on [00:11:00] these shows. It wasn't like a standard sort of mini conference.

We didn't make it all about ourselves. We, again, it was very much about lessons learned from, from our own journey and, and the limited amount success we'd had at that stage. But like the way we, one of the major measures of success for those vents. Like the customers who attended, like do they expand their, their, their spend with us in the, in the six months following their attendance.

Uh, and they, they were huge. I mean, people bought into the, the brand bought into the, the philosophy and like what the vision that Intercom was, was, was offering in terms of like how to communicate with your customers, how not to be spammy, how to think about like, building products that like. Actually people, you know, not just get hooked on, but actually get value out.

Uh, and so I think there was like a whole community that, that built a brand product and that definitely helped with, with, um, with churn and retention. Um, yeah, so I think that, that, yeah, it was, while content really grew the top of the funnel at Intercom, it was not the only way we, [00:12:00] we, we thought about content.

[00:12:01] Andrew Michael: Yeah. Thought about it. Yeah. And you mentioned a couple of things as well, was like the philosophy and um, the way that you positioned as well, your. Within the market at the time, I think definitely resonated a lot with startups at that time. And I think because they had been used to being, uh, like this heavy pushing conversion optimization work in front of them.

And it was like sort of a, a fresh like, Breath of fresh air, uh, like seeing content that was just really there true to live. And I think that also resonated with a lot of startups at the time, saying, Okay, like, this should be the way, uh, like we are gonna be following Intercom. And that way you develop, like you said, this community of users and uh, companies that really buy into the philosophy that Intercom is trying to lead.

And how much was that part of the strategy as well? Like when it came to, um, when you thought about the content you produced and what you put. 

[00:12:53] John Collins: Yeah, I think, I mean like content was really the way we sort of, um, built the brand in the early days. Uh, [00:13:00] like I had this conversation a few people recently, you know, and it's like, I think a big problem marketing, uh, these days, you know, certainly in the last five years is there's so many new channels.

There's so many things that people are trying to do at marketing. Like a lot of startups try to do everything at once. Uh, like they're trying to do all those jobs. And actually, if you look back at the Incom, We were really strong in product marketing. We were really strong events. We were really strong content.

Then we kinda had a design studio that worked with us that like. Top of the game. But, you know, certainly I would say things like digital marketing, like paid advertising, you know, we're not as, as strong in the early days and we're not something that like we, like we, we were comfortable with, uh, you know, sort of building some of those organic channels and, and, and really, really gone strong on them.

And then the other things came in and, and followed. The other thing I think as well, which you kind of touched on there as well. Like we were manic that there wouldn't be a disconnect between our marketing and the product. Um, and probably part, partly because of like [00:14:00] wanting to come, uh, does in terms of like, yeah, helping onboard customers and, you know, we were like in terms of the product building, the product we were thinking about like that onboarding experience and what happens there.

But just making sure that, you know, we've all been in this experience that like you have this lovely, shiny, beautiful marketing promises, the. And then you get into the product and it's like, holy crap. You know, like 2005 called and they want their UX back. And it's like, you know, it's, it's, it's totally different.

So we, we always said like that with their marketing, it should see the world. Like you should see the world through the lens of your, your product. Um, and, and sort of like the, the same philosophy that's in your product should be in your, your content, in your marketing. So for instance, you know, when we. Um, we would talk about like, good customer messaging on the blog we would talk about like the need to be like targeted and focused on your messaging and like right messaging, right time.

That was just all the things that, like Intercom as a product allowed you to, like, we literally, it's almost impossible or was almost impossible in Intercom to message [00:15:00] all your customers at once because actually we don't think you should be messaging all your customers with the same message at once ever.

That's like kind of spam your messages should, should we targeted. And so that kind of, that through throughline went from like the top of funnel content. Wrote about customer engagement and good messaging strategies right through to what you actually saw in code in the product. And like what we told people to join the onboarding stage and like we had whole customer engagement team that we, uh, as content marketing team, like we literally sat right beside them and worked very closely with them.

And so made sure that that that through line continued and that we were all sort of singing same he. 

[00:15:35] Andrew Michael: I love that. Cause I think this is also like another big disconnect and breakdown is when you have market marketing promising something on one end and then product delivering something on the other end.

And this big disconnect and gap between like the marketing fits and uh, the product fits. And as you say, like people get wild and in order of like this fancy marketing site and then they arrive in their product and it's just not there and it's not meeting expectations. So it's really important that they meet together.

And then [00:16:00] secondly, also, Touched on a couple of other things. Is that the content that you'd been working on, sort of it went throughout that funnel, during that onboarding stage and helped them, um, through that early stage? Because I think this is another area as well when we think about churn, retention, really like, uh, from, at least from this podcast, like the number one thing I think people always mention is the onboarding experience.

Uh, when it comes to like, how are you gonna influence and how you're gonna impact us? And thinking as well, our content is not just really about this acquisition phase, but it's also about, okay, what can we do and how can we purpose the content we have? To help our customers and our users onboarding. How did your team structure themselves then in, in terms of like the content that they produced and, uh, how were you thinking about like, the different stages?

Obviously acquisition being the main, uh, goal of the team, but really like how was it structured and how were like the pieces then, uh, like translated into different parts of the product. 

[00:16:50] John Collins: Yeah. So I mean, I would say that, yeah, like it was definitely about sort of, uh, priming, you know, thinking that like your, your, your top of content is priming people for success later.

Um, [00:17:00] so the, towards the end, like we, we kind of had like, um, three pillars in, in the content marketing team. Um, Which were like our sort of like brand, our editorial content, which is pure, sort of top of funnel. Um, then we, we had like our channels team, which were like SEO and podcast, which were like very specific, you know, they worked across both sides.

And then it was like enablements, which was the team that thought about like, Exactly what you're saying there, which is like, we're craving all this content at the top of the funnel. How do we make sure that that content is available or repurposed or tweaked so that it can be used by the sales team or, So it can be used by other parts of marketing for campaigns, but then also as I said, working just really, really closely then with the, the customer engagement team, so that like it from the outside, you shouldn't be able to see like where, where have I gone from?

Like, like sort of being in the world of content marketing to being in the world of customer engagement and making sure like, You know, Intercom to. Support, uh, [00:18:00] sales and customer engagement. And they were sort of the, the, the, the three parts of the product. And really making sure that, like the messaging and how we talked about those different, not even like our product, how we talked about our product, whatever, how we talked about like how, what does good support look like?

Like just how do we think, you know, you should do support. Make sure that flowed all the way down from, from the top of the funnel to the, the actual to when you were in the product using the product. Um, And so that was again, just, yeah, I think, uh, a huge part of it in, in the early days for company is just having that physical proximity.

Uh, and this is an unpopular opinion these days with everyone being remote. Uh, and, and maybe if you're a hundred percent remote, you can make it work, but. I believe like for us in that time, like it really helped, like that content marketing and customer engagement we're in the same office, physical office as, as like the main product builders.

Um, which just really, really helped in terms of like making sure you had those, those through lines, uh, throughout. There wasn't, you just didn't disconnect at some point. 

[00:18:59] Andrew Michael: [00:19:00] Yeah, I can see the advantage of that being, uh, in a single environment. I agree with you. I think like, um, in a pure remote environment, which is what, uh, I, I was previously at Hotshot as well.

I think like you have these established communication lines and like everything is thoughtful and de from the beginning it works. But if it's like a mix and a hybrid, I think you miss out on these really good connections and interactions you have between departments and teams, uh, to create effective. I 

[00:19:24] John Collins: think it needs to be hundred percent remote are ideal, are in office, but like hybrid is really.


[00:19:29] Andrew Michael: I think, and what I loved as well, cause the argument David do this year used to make is like if we have this hybrid model, there's always going to be those like conversations that happen in the corridor, that those that aren't in the office are gonna feel left out and then to come back, Oh, what happened?

Like it feels like I've been gone for a week and they just missed like, The drinks on the Friday night or , I found it really odd in The Bean as well. Even like the co-founders at the time, they lived in the same place and same city. They never met up. Uh, and the reason was this was like, they just didn't want to have that, uh, interaction that would [00:20:00] cause others to think, Okay, like, what did I miss?

Like, where have I been all this time? Um, yeah, so very interesting. I think, uh, like Intercom obviously is a great, uh, case study to look at when it comes to their content and they didn't like your team and yourselves did an unbelievable job, I think of sort of like shaping, uh, what content is today for a lot of startups.

Uh, and I agree with you as well, like you mentioned your strength and I found that interesting as well, like in the beginning. How did the team go about sort of evaluating where they felt most competent in? And I think obviously it has to do with hiring, but you mentioned like you were really good at product marketing and I agree with that 100%.

I always used to like seek into for inspiration. But uh, then you realized sort of like paid and other areas weren't your strong points. Like what did that look like, that strengths and weaknesses discussion and then deciding on like which channels you really wanted to own and focus on. Yeah. So I think 

[00:20:54] John Collins: Incom actually again, is something we, we, we wrote our blog and [00:21:00] spoke conferences would've just this idea of like, um, most famous cupcake's idea of like, you set about making a wedding cake.

You don't just start. Baking wedding cakes and, and or, you know, or you don't even sort of start making icing and in isolation from like, the actual cake makes you know, itself. You start with like a cupcake, like a mini like thing. So you can actually see like, Oh, do these flavors and the icing work together?

Do I have like a hotspots in my oven? Like you're, The smallest kind of thing that will give you feedback on the overall big thing that you wanna make. And, and that was something that we, we, we did right across the company. And so, you know, like if you look, look at what happened in, in, in content. I came in and, and I was, uh, a team of one for, for the guts of a year.

Um, but it was really like, okay, can we create an editorial machine? Can we up the frequency of what we're [00:22:00] producing? Can we get more like people from around the company who maybe aren't comfortable writers? Can they work with John and. He can help get their thoughts and, and ideas out on, on the blog. Uh, and we saw that worked and then, then it was like, okay, let's, let's bring in a team.

Let's have a podcast. Let's see if there's actually an audience for people to listen to this kind of content as well as like read this kind content. And so it kind went from there and it would've been the same. Um, say with events, we. We started with some small meetups in the office. Saw there was an appetite for there, like Megan, who I, I mentioned, who went to become Producer Summit, like amazing career.

Like she, she, she literally had a different role in the company and just like organized some, some events in the office. Um, you know, not quite on the side, but you know, like it wasn't, wasn't her main role. And so she, The company saw the potential there. She pitched some ideas for, for what we could do, and it was like, yeah, let's double down and invest in this.

And equally I think, you know, just product marketing. Uh, we hired an amazing product marketer as our first marketing hire. I [00:23:00] was, I was like actually number two in the marketing team, but hos who, who, who is Atian now and you know, he just was great in terms of like, Positioning and, you know, messaging and pricing and like, you know, where, where, where does, where does Intercom sit in the market and what are people looking for?

And again, that was just like, okay, we've shown like the value of product marketing and, and like we can do amazing launches, really impact the launches. That's our more product marketers. Um, and so I think it just took a little longer in some of those other channels to, to sort of like do that same thing of like, okay, like have we got something here that we can double down on?

And, and, and, uh, yeah, just invest in further. 

[00:23:38] Andrew Michael: Very nice. Yeah, I love that analogy. Start with the cupcake. Uh, yeah, it's a good one. And so then, uh, obviously I think like we've spoken quite a bit now about Intercom in the journey, and I think it's clear as well like the impact that the content has had on the company, not only from the acquisition standpoint, but then also really from enabling customers, uh, and growing within, uh, within their [00:24:00] accounts.

You're now, uh, then you moved as well, Sorry to. And I think that's a totally different, uh, ball game. It's a different product, different audience. And I think you mentioned all before the show, different ways of monetizing. So maybe talk us a little bit about that experience and, uh Sure. 

[00:24:18] John Collins: Yeah. So RAMP is, uh, it's FinTech based in New York, has been on opposite growth spurt.

Um, RAMP is like a whole sort of like, um, spend management, expense management platform. Um, People probably know it, like you obviously get a ramp, ramp. Credit cards, they're very active. Uh, they're for businesses in North America, but like you get, you get a ramp card and that's kinda like our, our kind way into our land and expand our way into the company.

But then, like we have bill pay product, uh, since I've left, obviously worked on it before left, but just recently launched a flex, which is his ability to, to pay bills in 30, 60, or 90 days time. And, and arm ramp will arrange that for a fee. [00:25:00] But it's interesting, the core sort of like card business is based on interchange, which is, you know, obviously when you swipe a credit card, uh, anywhere between sort of like, you know, uh, two to 3% of, of that goes back to the card issuer.

And so the business model, unlike SaaS, where someone signs up and it's like, Okay, you're gonna pay us $50 a month until you constantly their subscription, it's like, okay, we've got in there. Now you're gonna pay us two to 3% every time you swipe that card or use that card. And so it's got some dynamics of a, a SaaS business in that like, you know, as you get share of wallet as we call it, you know, that you're like, Okay, during the, the sales process or discovery process, we, we, we realize this company say spends a million on your on, on parts.

And currently we've got like 30% of that. Like how do we get to 60%? Um, and so that was definitely, you know, um, An amazing growth story. I mean, RAMP is, you know, [00:26:00] uh, just over three years old. But, um, really as like, you know, pretty quickly, uh, we realized, okay, we've gotta, gotta figure out like how do we move the needle and share our wallet?

Because like, getting into to a company is just one part of it. Like, even think about it when you have a card and your personal life, you know, it's like, okay, I got a new credit. Holy crap. Like what are all those things that I'm paying for my old credit card? Like if I just cancel my old credit card, Like what's gonna bounce?

What's gonna, Yeah. And so really thinking about like, um, things like doing switching reports, like actually going in like customer success team actually going into to customers actually saying, Okay. Like, give us your last three customer, your last three credit card statements, and we will help, we will give you a report that like literally makes it easy for you to switch all your, all your payments.

Um, and really starting to, to, to invest in things about customer education. Really starting to think about like showing people like all the power of, of the platform because like really it really is with ramp. The, the card is almost like troja horse, you know? There's just so [00:27:00] much more power in the platform, you know, replacing things like, Um, just a lot of your like, finance stack, um, and we're giving you that software for free, you know.

Um, but yeah, it's, it's like the product team ramp and I think that's probably what attracted me there. Very similar to Intercom, just like a really high bar for like the quality of product I wanna, wanna build and the experiences for people like I use and find entercom. It kind of is that example almost of like, you know, 2005 called and want their UX back.

It's not nice. Like very rarely is finance software. Do people put a lot of thought into finance software and say, let's make this like a joy to experience and like create aha moments for, for customers. And if you go and. Um, you'll see like just on social media, they might have like, people are just like, Oh wow, you know, this is just so much, much easier and so much nicer than my experience.

I think that's, that's really a way that like, uh, about engagement and retention is just like [00:28:00] making sure people have these just amazing product experiences in a space where it's not known for that previous. 

[00:28:07] Andrew Michael: Yeah, where there's typically no joy. Um, yeah, I think that's like the, the power of like creating a really impactful experience is really sometimes overlooked I think when it comes to general retention.

And we often like, and actually finally of, like today we were doing an exercise with my team at, and we were just looking at, okay, what are the different stages of the funnel? Like, where do we see improvements and what can we do? And uh, like at the end of it, it just came down as, If we just really fine tune the experience and deliver these like, sort of wow moments for our users.

Like we already have a lot of good love for the product, uh, like really, really strong inps and just doubling down on that and creating this impactful experience, I think is what's gonna drive obviously top of uh, final word of mouth, but then also conversions down the other end. And, uh, it's under looking, actually, I looked at RAMP as well myself previously, but then obviously it's only us.

It didn't suit us at the time. It's interesting what you're saying as well though, because. I related a little bit [00:29:00] to, to SaaS businesses in a way, in the sense that, like, say a licensing model, you might sell a license and you get like 70 seats, and then the utilization is pretty low and only 10 people are using outta the 70 seat.

Like there's high risk of churn there. But also what you have in your case is really, like the expansion opportunity is pretty high. It's like, I think ramp, they offer a, like your pay per card or something like that. Is that correct or is it free? No, 

[00:29:25] John Collins: it's, it's entirely free. So, The, and I, it's all based on interchange and that's kind of like, well, part of the reason they're still focused on the US I suppose that the market opportunity there is just, just if you move too soon to go international, you know, you can lose your, your core focus.

But I think also like the interchange model in the us, the way the cards work there, uh, Mean the business model stacks up pretty easily, uh, potentially. You know, there's other markets where interchange is like less than 1% and round gives back one half percent on, on everything you spend. Uh, it's like tries to be a simpler model [00:30:00] than a lot of the like points and multipliers that you get with other product providers.

And so I think that like a big thing would obviously have to figure out like, well, what's the business model if you go into markets that don't have those, those high interchange fees? Uh, yeah. But, uh, yeah, and, and also like, I think the, the thing that the team that are very focused on like is yeah, like one of the adjacent, like business models.

So like Flex is the first time that, uh, RAMP has non-change revenue that they're like charging an arrangement fee for, for, you know, you paying your invoice in 30, 60, or 90 days time as opposed to this, right. 

[00:30:34] Andrew Michael: Interesting. And then the other features you mentioned, sort of like the replacement to spend desk and others, like those are, um, subscription service or they just part of the package if you have a ramp card, like Yeah, 

[00:30:46] John Collins: no, they're, that's all the software.

Once you have a ramp card, you get all the software for, for free. Um, so, um, Yeah, it's pretty, pretty compelling, uh, compiling offer, but obviously like spend desk and people are coming and say [00:31:00] from European market where as I said, the business model, it makes they charge. Yeah. 

[00:31:07] Andrew Michael: Okay. Interesting. And then, so like a lot of the work really is around one expansion, Like how do you get more, uh, users within a company using the card, but then also how do you get users to spend, uh, more using those cards?

And you mentioned things like customer success and so forth. So what role did content play, uh, in this component of really trying to, obviously one on the one end just acquiring customers, but then once you've actually acquired them, uh, I'm assuming as well, that's the, the opportunity. Uh, of focusing on them was maybe a lot larger than trying to acquire new.

[00:31:39] John Collins: Yeah, so it's kind interesting cuz the acquisition is generally you are create content with like to, to go after like, uh, you know, like CFOs or head of Finance or even the founder of the company. Cause they're generally the person who go, Hey, we should get in this new solution. Right? Um, we're, we're frustrated our current, but actually there's generally a controller or an accountant or [00:32:00] like a small finance team that actually like, worry about things like, You know, Hey Andrew, where's your like receipt?

Or, Hey Andrew, I'm gonna give you a new card. Or, Hey Andrew, I'm gonna give you like a limit, you know, for you're, you're going to a conference next week, I'm gonna give you a card with a, you know, set amount on it. And like RAMP was like, product was really powerful in terms of that, in terms of like, I could give you a new card with like a daily limit on it and I could actually even like, sort of get down to the category level and sort of talk about like how, um, You know what categories you could use that card to spend on.

And so actually then if you think about it, so the acquisition content was more, much more focused on that cfo, how to finance the sort of expansion content was really like opening the minds of the finance team to like, this can make your life so much easier. Like, we know you did not go to college and study finance so that you could change people for receipts at the end of the month.

And so it was like really trying to, thinking about like content to educate them in terms of. How RAMP could just make their life easier. How, how Ramp could actually save them [00:33:00] in their case really saved them time. And, and like, what could you do with that time if you got that time back? Like how you could be more strategic.

So we did things like, you know, partner did, did research reports and stuff. Uh, in terms of like, you know, where uh, finance teams were spending their time and where they felt like they were. Low value time. Like what would they do if they had free time, more free time every, every month? Cause we closer books faster and not do a lot of mundane tasks.

Um, so it was like quite interesting. And then actually a lot of the acquisitions, so I had up content at comms, but the acquisition we were more focused on like, VR and coms. Um, cause that actually really moved the needle for, for, um, in terms of like, we got a big spike in traffic after, sort of we're in the news and lot that traffic converted into new business, like really highly converting, whereas I hadn't seen that before.

In a SaaS business you will get a spike in traffic, but you know, a certain amount of that will converge, but not, not the levels we, we, we saw around. And so then the more [00:34:00] like the blog content, the, the more bread and butter content market. Was really actually more, much more about that expansion. 

[00:34:08] Andrew Michael: What do you think was the reason for that?

Like why do you think you saw a much higher converting for other, uh, SaaS business? 

[00:34:16] John Collins: Um, I think it just, the product offering was pretty compelling and like when I and co-founders. We're, we're one of the best kept secrets in, in FinTech, which, which they were at the time. Uh, and I think it was just like, because, uh, the product hit so many pain points for, for people and things that they're frustrated with that, you know, once, once we got people land on the side, um, that, that traffic converted really, really well.

Um, and I think, you know, we also. With all our activities as a marketing team. Actually we were super focused on like trying to make sure, not just that we got traffic, but like what does qualified traffic look like? So almost like pre qualifying before you talk about [00:35:00] NLS or SQLs or any of that marketing stuff, like just going.

Like, is there someone in a business in North America, you know, because particularly with SEO content, you can generate a lot of content that generates traffic. But like you always get the kind of like high school project problem as I call it. Like if you have very basic definitional content for your space, or how do you know it's not someone who's just like researching a college paper or something versus someone who genuinely is in the market per solution.

So yeah, really, really laser focused on that like idea of. Making sure that like, not just where we generating traffic, but we're generating traffic. Traffic that looked like, you know, they were in the market for a spend 

[00:35:38] Andrew Michael: management solution. Nice. Uh, so you're running Bon time, so I wanna make sure I ask you two questions.

Ask every guest, uh, let's imagine hypothetical scenario. You join a new team channel, attention's not doing great at this company this year. AO comes to you and says, Hey John, like, we don't need to turn things around. You're in charge. You have 90 days to. What do you do? The catches, You're not gonna tell me like, I'm [00:36:00] gonna speak to customers, or I'm gonna look at data and see the biggest pain points and start there.

I want you to give me one tactic, like tactical thing that somebody could implement tomorrow that you've seen be effective at other companies. Um, what would that be? 

[00:36:14] John Collins: So, um, Well first off, um, you've stripped her in my heart when you said 90 days. Cause I do, and I this to people all the time, particularly content marketing contents.

But like, it takes a, to really have impact that. I think particularly in SaaS and that whole idea of like constantly iterating and improving the product, is that like even people in the company Dunno, like some of the shit you've released recently and that like Yeah. Could be amazing for customers. So something we did at Intercom was literally, we had this, uh, this, this feature.

We on the blog every, on the blog every month and actually on, on the podcast every quarter called what We Shipped. And it was literally just sort of like, Get one of the program managers in, uh, and [00:37:00] maybe like a researcher or someone, like, well make it more of a discussion rather than a laundry list of like, here's all the things we did, but like really just discuss about, hey, like we, this one's been on the roadmap for ages.

We've got a bunch of people we've been asking for it. Or, Hey, we released this thing actually came from a discussion with this customer. Cause like maybe we've cleared it with customer, whatever, but really just like get a sense of the velocity and like what's like the, the product improving all the time.

Cause I think a lot of times people churn. And a lot of times you actually have the thing that they're looking for. Uh, you know, I think particularly as, as you get to sort of mid, mid, mid midlife crisis maybe of sales companies in particular, um, that, you know, not everyone is gonna go to your change log and just see what things are, are not like, you know, UI starts to get credit and like you, it's just hard for people to find what, what they're looking for.

So yeah, just really hammer home that message of, and once you start creating that content of like what we, you know, you can use that for re-engagement campaigns, like people did churn, like [00:38:00] reaching back out, just saying, Hey, by the way, you, it's been six months since you left. Here's all the things we released.

You know where we are if you need us 

[00:38:07] Andrew Michael: to. Yeah, I like that. And what's one thing that you know about channel attention today that you wishing knew when you got started with your. Um, 

[00:38:20] John Collins: just the, like, just the way that actually retention, you know, like 1% retention, you know, by improving retention 1% is gonna have much more impact in a year than like, increasing acquisition by, you know, like lots of smart people run those numbers.

It's, it's probably about three and a half percent if you increase, you know, acquisition for a monthly product. Compound it. And I allow for stay an average churn rate, but like if you can increase retention, it's gonna have like, probably have like a 7% impact on your business in terms of revenue at the, the year.

So yeah, just, you know, like customers are hard to win, hang onto them, you know? [00:39:00] Um, and don't be like, Yeah, as I said, like at income. Yeah. Don't assume that like, oh, that's just a type of follow like tactic that like, you know, you can have impact right. Across the business with, with sort of marketing activities.

Like I think marketing generally is just too focused on acquisition. Yeah. I should say like your job is acquisition, but. Only acquisition. 

[00:39:25] Andrew Michael: Well, I think as well, like the job is acquisition as well, but at the end of the day, as well as to live an ROI on the investment that you spend. So if you find another way to increase the ROI of the acquisition, uh, side of things, it also adds adds value at the end.

Nice. Uh, Johns been a pleasure hosting you today. Is any final thoughts you wanna leave the listeners with or anything they should be aware of to get up to speed with your. Uh, 

[00:39:49] John Collins: no, I mean, I'm, I'm free and available for consulting and advising gigs. Uh, so, uh, you'll find me on LinkedIn, uh, John Collins Ireland, um, [00:40:00] j C one, J one on Twitter.

Don't ask was long time when I signed, but yeah. Um, yeah, love, love, love like talking to like early stage series AB companies about this kind stuff. 

[00:40:16] Andrew Michael: Very nice. Yeah, find me. Well, thanks very much for joining. For the listeners, we'll make sure to leave any of the show notes anything mentioned today in the show notes.

You can check those out later and, uh, really appreciate the time. John, wish your best of luck going forward. Thanks. Great. Cheers is right.


John Collins
John Collins

The show

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros working in product, marketing, customer success, support, and operations roles across different stages of company growth, who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.


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