The pros and cons of a Freemium plan and how it impacts churn.

Mark Tanner


Co-Founder & COO


Mark Tanner
Mark Tanner

Episode Summary

Today on the show we have Mark Tanner, co-founder, and COO of Qwilr.

In this episode, we talked about what it was like for Mark taking the leap from a cushy job at Google to start his own business, why they built Qwilr, the motivation behind it, and what's the big plan for the future.  

We also discussed Qwilr’s on and off relationship with a freemium plan of their product, how first impressions always matter, and churn and retention in the context of sales.

Mentioned Resources



Taking the leap from a cushy job at Google to start his own business. 00:03:57
Why they built Qwilr, the motivation behind it, and what's the big plan for the future. 00:06:55
Qwilr’s on and off relationship with freemium. 00:16:63
First impressions matter - The impact the amount of time a user spends in their first session on retention. 00:22:61
Churn and retention in the context of sales 00:27:03
How the team is structured at Qwilr. 00:32:26


Andrew Michael: [00:00:00] Hey, Mark. Welcome to the show.

Mark Tanner: [00:00:02] Thank you for having me.

Andrew Michael: [00:00:03] It's a pleasure for the listeners. Mark is the CEO and cofounder of Qwirl a platform that allows you to design perfect proposals, quotes, client updates, and more in minutes prior to finding color, Mark was a strategic partner development manager at Google.

We manage many of Google's largest book publisher partnerships and launched the Google play textbook vertical. He was also responsible for launching the Google play books, magazines, and Google newsstand products. So my first question for you, Mark, is what did it take for you to make the leap and resign from your cushy job at Google to start your own business?

Mark Tanner: [00:00:39] So I was lucky, very lucky that I, had some startup experience before Google, because it is a very nice, cushy, happy place to be. So I traded at university. I had, I was lined up to go down the sort of management consulting path. But very luckily for me, I'm wound up by a few bits of luck [00:01:00] at this ebook company.

This was like 2008. and eBooks were finally exploding, the Kindle and the iPhone had come out in 2007. And this long promise of eBooks, would you be in seriously talked about since the late nineties find that as having its moment and this ebook started out as part of had this unbelievable first year, that I was there where we grew, I think five X, and life was amazing and everything was great.

And then it quickly became increasingly clear that. The particular bit of work offering the market was becoming commoditized and heading towards zero. And it was incredibly lucky for me that my job was largely, looking after publishers and book publishers. And I of had this fantastic connections across Australia and New Zealand, all the sort of local publishers and all their ebook, arms and stuff like that.

Just as Google was looking for somebody to come in and do all that work for what became Google play. It was one of those, again, like a lot of [00:02:00] lucky in getting into a startup straight out of university. Yeah. In 2008, the startup scene in Sydney was really pretty nonexistent. And then very lucky to find my way into Google and had a few years in Sydney. And then a few years in New York.

Andrew Michael: [00:02:13] Yeah, it's definitely up and coming though, the Australian, ecosystem, or at least for the last two, three years now. Definitely some really good startups coming out of Ozzie, but interesting. Like you managed to find yourself in the right place at the right time, to join Google, but you didn't really answer the question though.

Mark Tanner: [00:02:29] I didn't. I realized that it, since I stopped, so I apologize. I'll keep going. So I think that the thing that made it actually quite. There were two things that made it easy. one was that there was a girl. and so I wanted to come back and she is now my wife and mother of my child. So that was a good move on my bus.

Yeah. Thank you. but the other one was that if I'm honest with you, I  even more, but one of the ones was that the great fun of those few years at [00:03:00] Google was that there was this big battle between Android and iOS. And who could launch, the most content verticals and to get the best apps and sell the most devices and do the best deals with carriers and staff.

And it really was for those and the partnerships team who were doing these big deals. It was just awesome fun. And there were some huge deals to be done and quite complex negotiations and all that sort of stuff. And even battling Amazon to some degree. Really by about 20. So I started at Google in 2010 by about 2013.

Both sides had won what they cared to win. Google won all of the distribution. Like Google had, I think, like 80% of the market and Apple won all the profits. They had 80% of the profits. So it was this interesting thing that it wasn't an interesting job anymore. and so I was a bit bored and then I was also.

I knew that I wanted [00:04:00] to, if not start my own company, be very early in a company again, I could see myself wiling away the rest of my twenties inside Google being paid well, but not really doing anything. and so I was very happy to pull the trigger and as I moved home, Largely without a plan.

I knew Dylan, my co founder of Qwirl. And so we, and we've been talking about it, but it wasn't a lock at that stage now, some other ideas and plans and schemes as well, but I just knew that I wanted to. Get back in there and give it a go.

Andrew Michael: [00:04:35] Yeah. So that's your, you felt you got the time nice for early on, and then it was something that you just needed to get back to as well.

I think definitely once you're an early stage startup and you see the excitement, you see the momentum, the movements, like there's something new all the time when you had locked into something a little bit more predictable. And like you said, getting towards the end of Google a little bit less exciting because everything had been done already. definitely I can see the motivations tilting towards it. [00:05:00]

Mark Tanner: [00:05:00] and I think there was also a degree of some of the work I did at GE. I remember. So when I left Sydney to go to work for Google in the States, I was like, Oh, wow. because all the deals in Sydney were like the local version of these international deals and all the international deals for media were done out of New York.

And then you get there and you're like, Oh, it's just the same. it turns out high level sales, like sales is just that. Yeah. So just more lawyers involved. And so it's It's realization. Yeah. So took again, like it was still a lot of fun and very enjoyable, but it when you're young and thirsty to learn, there's just no better way to do it then than start up life, at least that I found.

Andrew Michael: [00:05:35] Absolutely. Okay. so tell us a little bit about Qwirl then. Like where did the idea come from? What's the motivation, what's the big plan for the future?

Mark Tanner: [00:05:45] Yeah, so the core, so the core idea behind Qwirl is that, files and documents like word PowerPoint, PDF, just suck in the age of the web. So they're all, all wonderful tools that were all built in the [00:06:00] eighties and nineties.

But the web allows you to do so much more. And so this idea, this sort of, the idea behind Qwirl and Qwirl, really all it is a way for anybody to create their sales and Mark getting collateral, as. Beautiful simple webpages that, can push and pull data from your various sources of truth.

Can have analytics can be interactive. can have a buying experience across the B2B side. It's much more akin to e-commerce. and all of this sort of stuff, like all of the possibilities of the web, obviously it looks fantastic on mobile, blah, blah, blah. but all the possibilities of the web.

Sort of only exist if you commit to and embrace the web, they don't exist in PDF land. And so really the idea came to my cofounder, Dylan. He was running his own little agency in Sydney. he would routinely pitch for work. He was working with. He was actually often worked for other big agencies like Ogilvy and Sasha and Saatchi and others.

and he would do his pricing and [00:07:00] Excel and do his copy in word and take the boat into InDesign and then send out something beautiful InDesign. And then the client would want a bunch of changes. So we'd come back and we put all apart because in design is crap for that. And we'll keep doing this and kept being like, how do I make this sort of something that is cause he was doing, he was a developer and designer.

That's why he's like, how do I make something that's much more native to the kind of work that I actually do because we started hand coding websites for every proposal he did. Now, these were pretty big projects. He was working on, 50 grand or a hundred grand sometimes. But hand coding website is like a few days worth of work, even if you're very good at it.

And the first sort of version of Qwirl was like a bunch of bash scripts and eventually some level of like slightly product dies paths. That really the breakthrough came when he pitched 'em that the MD of Saatchi and Saatchi New Zealand, he pitched him in the mall, had a phone call about the job in the morning, sent him a website in the afternoon and then got a call that evening being like, how on earth did you do this?

Did you turn [00:08:00] around a website? Is this a product we can use? how do we do this ourselves? And Dylan had already had a product company before, and so it was slightly reticent at the start to dive back in, But the more time he spent thinking about it, and this is a roundabout 2012, the more he kept thinking, like why on earth, isn't there something.

And so just part time throughout 2013, he just started tinkering and building and had a, a better sort of prototype. And then, he and I reconnected and then I quit my job and moved time and we kicked things off properly. And in 2014,

Andrew Michael: [00:08:34] Very cool story. Yeah, I was, we were talking about this a little bit before the show, like funny enough, over the weekend that chemical across a guy called Ted Nelson and he supposed to be one of the earliest inventors of the internet before, Tim Lee burners and, his whole sort of proposal and arguments, I think with.

It's a society even as is today, is that we made a mistake when we moved to the internet and by just taking paper and putting it in a digital form back, you say it in [00:09:00] the form of a PDF or a Google doc, when the opportunities are so much more when it came to digital and what you could actually do with documents and sharing information, and he had this proposal, that's now Tends to be the biggest vaporware of our time, Xfinity basics, but was really about how can you share and distribute information almost in the same light in which the brain works and the brain shares information and gathers ideas, thought is interesting concept, but then obviously, like I see there's some parallels in what you're trying to do is that you're trying to move away from the typical like word doc or spreadsheet or, and really trying to create this medium for people to.

create these proposals or, get these messages across to their clients that are living, breathing, elements, as opposed to a fixed PDF that we used to send. very interesting.

Mark Tanner: [00:09:46] Yeah. I think, as you say that I can't help, but think of other impractical ideas like Esperanto and others that are wonderful on the surface of this perfect new language that will unite the world, but.

I actually live around the corner [00:10:00] from the Australian Esperanto center and it is always empty. I'm afraid, but, but I do think that there is some yeah. Magic in what some of these visionaries have instead of conceit. I think, look, we've got an internal document inside Qwirl. that my cofounder Dylan wrote and opens it with a quote from Briskin Stein, which is the limits of my language are the limits of my mind or my world.

I can't quite remember the exact quote, but basically saying that if you don't have the words for something it's off, you don't have the mental model of something that can be incredibly hard to express yourself and. Or to even have the idea itself. And, I think, look, we are just one small part of these net, but something that we truly believe is that the work that, you know, companies like notion and Coda.

Doing internally for teams as they work between product and marketing and sales or trying to stay aligned. And why does the doc, why does it need to be different [00:11:00] docs, spreadsheets and numbers and data, and then something different for copy and something different. for something more sort of image based or story-based as PowerPoint, should be used as, why can't there be a mashup of those various things and Qwirl, we have a similar, we have approached it from a different mindset to some degree, cause ours have always been public facing external, externally focused communication.

I'll see a lot of proposals and presentations and pitch decks, but it does come to the same truth, which is that. the Microsoft monopoly has kept us in ms. Office or it's clone, G suite, which my time at Google was an explicit and known policy that Google was just cloning office.

I think it's a great, they've built a multibillion dollar business off it, all, all power to them, but, yeah. But I do think it is a limit. And I do think as people become more comfortable with the web and also just to be [00:12:00] Frank again, another high level, like I just, I do fundamentally disagree.

I agree with him in that bike or not disagree, but a bit more that the reality of how humans interact with technology is that it is very hard for them to have a huge break from it from a mental model that already exists. And you can see this in the design of a lot of software today. you often have to do things that.

Even if it isn't the perfect way of doing it, you'll if you can, do something that is similar to something that already exists. I mentioned model that exists out there often can be a better way for getting adoption, and make it easier for people just to get started. So I do think that entire breaks from the ways of doing things to tinted in fact, be impossible and they need to evolve at a time. And our hope is that this time is now.

Andrew Michael: [00:12:44] Yeah, definitely. I think even like design, you a big trend in skeuomorphism trying to bring like the real world into the digital like desk. So create things, familiar for people to be able to adapt and work with. Nice. let's dive into a little bit more detail [00:13:00] here at quitter and, on the topic of the show, chatting and retention.

What's the team that you lead, what are you responsible for and what is exciting you at the moment at the company?

Mark Tanner: [00:13:13] Yeah, I look after the business side. So to my cofounder, Dylan. Yeah. he's actually technically our CEO and I'm the COO and he runs the product and engineering and design parts of business.

And I run our go to market side as well as our ops. so marketing sales, success support, What's going on and things that are exciting. I think so one of the things we talked about, obviously, as this year we've been steadily moving up market and we had a bit of a redesign and a reorg of how we think about success, which is something that I'm obviously very keen to talk to you about.

and I'm excited by that. I'm also just generally excited that. To be perfectly Frank, we had a marginally scary April, with covert, just, a whole bunch of people who are on our month to month plans were like, ah, do I need [00:14:00] this? we had a couple of weeks there that weren't very pretty in terms of churn.

but since then it's been, I think, fantastic. And I think that, I think us like a whole bunch of other sort of SAAS tools have benefited from this. There is this sort of interesting shift. That's happening societaly as we all moved to this, working from home arrangement due to the horror of COVID and coronavirus.

And I think that, that's it's been this interesting sort of shift see how that sort of all happened. and I, I know the cross, my friends and other SAS companies, it's been this sort of this interesting trend. That's a whole host of tools and that site have seen some real growth and real benefit.

We're certainly sort of part of that and trying to think to ourselves, like, how do we. Know, keep accelerating this trend. but I certainly think that's the macro economics of it all was helping as well.

Andrew Michael: [00:14:46] Yeah, absolutely. I think as well, like when it came to, coronavirus and cupboard is this just accelerated the inevitable for the company.

So that short term churn that everybody saw, like a lot of those people were gone three months ago and you just didn't [00:15:00] realize it yet. And they've got a reminder when things come around. but definitely as well, likewise I'm at Hotjar like we saw a big dip. But then we also saw a really good recovery and we actually seeing better numbers now than we did pre COVID, due to the lights as well.

That general attention actually made an improvement. surprisingly, so you talked a little bit about as well, the pricing, and we have talked about this before the show, like you've experimented quite a bit with freemium, switching it on and off, and the impacts that it had on your business. maybe you want to talk us through a little bit about this?

Like when did you first decide to start working on your pricing? Like, how did you start, maybe let's start at, what was your pricing on day one? what did you launch with.

Mark Tanner: [00:15:40] Yeah. So day one, we've had a big Odyssey here, so I might have to summarize various bits and pieces, but, but day one we had, so we had a free offering.

And then I think, very much following the advice with a bunch of other founders. We had some priced offerings, even though our pricing was pretty random. I think it was, I think it was day one that [00:16:00] was free, $10, $25 or USD, obviously. and then relatively quickly it became free. 25 50 is our sort of, as our various teams.

And I think in the early days, this isn't right for every company, but there is something useful about free and the other days, just in terms of, especially for us, like we had a, at that time, a relatively S of the SMB prosumers sort of product. and I think that in that sort of space free makes a hell of a lot of sense.

but also just like getting users and getting data makes a lot of sense. And so it really is quite thing, like just useful just to remove as much friction as humanly possible on that path. And then I think there's, it's not a truth, which is that, if you are good enough to convert someone yeah.

From free into a paid product. But I do think that tends to mean they are a relatively good customer and you can benefit from you can benefit from that. The impact on your churn can be good. [00:17:00] That being said, we then experimented with what about a 30 day trial? What about a 14 day trial or on a seven day trial?

We ended up living on living mostly on the 14 day trial. And I think one of the things with regards to churn that we as we later came back to experimenting with freemium, one of the things about, I think about freemium and churn that you it's incredibly obvious, but still can slap you in the face a little bit.

It's If all you're doing with freemium is offering some sort of feature gated or at usage, gated version of your base tier. you should expect to have like pretty high churn in that tier, as people say, I like this product, but I can also just have it for free and I lose a little bit of this, or I have you lose a bit of that.

and that was certainly something that we saw a few times and was like, again, one of those sort of. Obvious sort of secondary impacts that kind of, to be Frank turned us off. There are a whole bunch of other things that, to be Frank that turned us off. And I'd say one of the most important ones for us was around activation, which is just if you've got a 14 day trial, [00:18:00] you're more likely to spend actually considerably more time in our instance, in the first session, clicking around and trying things and trying to make it work.

And we just found just a real correlation between the amount of time that you spend that first session getting out of our sort of tabula rasa problem. Obviously we've done a whole bunch of work around that to try to make that better and faster and smoother. but there is a, I think a real challenge on that side, but also this sort of challenge of If you go to freemium, then all of a sudden you see Oh, your activation dropping a little bit, which is dropping your conversion rate because of free.

You have this 14 day gate, therefore your sales cycle increases. And on top of that, your churn from your cheapest tier goes up. Like not hugely. That goes up a bit, like all of these compounding factors. Really do add up to not an awesome time for a few months after the transition, which is I think to be understood and expected.

And we've obviously got a bunch of nice benefits. Like Qwirll is a lightly viral product. and, and [00:19:00] certainly. A whole bunch of people who have been on this podcast who X type form gave us a bunch of advice at Robert. One of the founders there is a, is an investor in Qwirl. And so we spoke to that team a lot about how they thought about virality.

And so we've got a big boost to our, by reality, but at these Abby's whole host of other costs as well. And so in the end, we've had this sort of hot cold on again, off again, relationship with freemium. And it's currently called and off. Although I do think we do, we do look at it seriously as something that we probably will give another go to at some stage.

But I think that the important thing is how do you, one of the important things is like, how do you structure it in a way that your free product is. Awesome. It's like it was genuinely excellent and speaks to the core user group that you want to go after, but isn't necessarily like a, sort of a derivative of your core product.

Like it, isn't some sort of lesser state of your core product. I think that park [00:20:00] can work, but I think the best ones are ones where it's something that's slightly to the side. the can drive and interesting upset they'll and cross sell into your main product rather than this being like a degraded version of your product.

Andrew Michael: [00:20:13] Yeah, that's an interesting concept as well. And I think to your point, freemium can work for certain types of businesses. And I think that the point that you mentioned about, I think Patrick Campbell talks about this a lot from price intelligently or ProfitWell now, is, That it's a acquisition model and it's not a business model freemium.

And when you think about it in like the context of maybe your business or Typeform or even Hotjar, freemium potentially does work well because you have the vitality inherently built into it. So people share. Your documents are that people see them, people respond to polls or to see an incoming feedback widget on the website and ultimately brings in drives traffic.

But there's a couple of, I think with come with these things is one is actually measuring the impact. Pact is often very difficult because a lot of it then becomes word of [00:21:00] mouth. which is inherently something that freemium does drive. But, the other point you mentioned, which I thought was very interesting.

I want to dive into it more was, and this is something that I think Sean class on one of the episodes mentioned that Atlassian found out in the early days when it came to attention was their activation period and retention one of the biggest drivers and the most important things they ever found was the amount of time that user spent in their first session was that.

Because that correlation they had with retention. And how did you come to this realization yourselves? Like how were you going about tracking it and measuring it?

Mark Tanner: [00:21:33] so to be honest, sorry, first of all, hindsight is 2020. w we we weren't paying us. We're very good at tracking our activation metrics and.

As we went to explore this in a, we did a retro after we actually, decided to kill freemium. again, we did a retro on it and we're trying to understand what actually really hurt our activation rate [00:22:00] and the. From memory, I'm pretty certain, this is the case that the most important part was at the time spending.

And honestly, it was literally just time of session. It wasn't anything more interesting than that, but the longer you spent had a much higher correlation, do you coming back for a second session? That second session would be closer to the first session and that second session would have a greater chance of a third session, blah, blah, blah.

And of you hitting the activation goal that we had, And I think to be honest, it was just, again, we track all these things in all the various tools, whether it's, amplitude or Kissmetrics, whichever one. But, we, I think we just, we had that data and we had, if we went through and tried to look for things as to what was statistically significant, it was quite clear that one was critical.

I think cliche, like cliche, but First impressions matter, it matters that you have a nice time there. And I think, Qwirl, we have this sort of mantra across my team on [00:23:00] the sales side, especially if just to help them have a great time, which is just generally speaking, we only get one go around on this life and no one's here to have a bad time, just, treat people with respect and help them have a great, but I think that's also incredibly true with onboarding.

It's you're here. All the various things you can be doing in the world. So I decided to quit today and have a play around. We shouldn't treat you or your time with disrespect, we should try to, how do we make it as easy and as nice as possible to get started? Now I say this. We still suck, I wish we could be better and I'm, it's a journey and you always keep doing it and

you're always gonna suck in your own mind.

Exactly. Founders feel a real mixture of incredible pride and also instead of embarrassment, about their products, I think. but yeah.  

Andrew Michael: [00:23:48] yeah, definitely. I think they're like that first session matters. And I think this is actually a theme that's come up a lot in the podcast is that concept of urgency and a lack in the light to have sort of a [00:24:00] freemium versus a trial.

Like I think with the trial, like you alluded to as well, is that. You have the sense of urgency and like your first session is like the most tension your customer or user is ever going to give you, because you'd like to say we all have other things to be doing, and we've decided at that point in time, pay attention.

So trying to maximize their time, I think is obviously in your best interest, always and trying to not like. Try and unnecessarily rush people through processes, but making sure that they're getting the value out of that first session, they're paying attention and you're making the most of that attention while they're there.

Jana Bostow, as well thos episode comes up a lot  in conversation, but they did a very interesting thing. Like you mentioned as well, you tried and tested with your different, pricing, your trial lens. And, they actually used the trial length and they gamified the trial process to actually get people to.

textbook he actions. and they actually saw conversion increase, and activity increased by actually shortening the trial period. And I think partly due to them, like we say, you've created an extra bit of urgency that people need to [00:25:00] get the most out of their time that they have, whereas freemium you.

Like I have all the time in the world to get things done, and then you never get things done.

Mark Tanner: [00:25:08] A hundred percent. Yeah,

Andrew Michael: [00:25:11] nice. now  in the  company as well, I believe as well from your background that you're leading the sales team. and I think like we talked about the school, but just before starting is that like sales itself is all, has a big influence on churn and retention, directly and indirectly.

And, I'm interested to see like how you see this now within the company. As you try to move a little bit more at pockets, as you start to work with. It's a sales team and start to build it out. Like, how are you thinking about churn and retention in the context of sales?

Mark Tanner: [00:25:42] Yeah,  , it's huge. And I think that. Look to tack back to that initial idea of just help them have a good time. I think that, if people, if we're lucky enough to have someone become a customer of Qwirl, we have to beat to treat them well and give them a good experience, from demo on. And then, all through how we think about [00:26:00] interacting with them, the handoff from sales to success, but if it's a particularly large deal, how that works and taking the time to figure that out and make that a good experience.

There is so much in sales these days that can be split out into different silos instead of have, this part is owned by marketing and then this part is owned by an SDR team. And then this part is handled by AEs. And then you get handed off to a customer success rep who might specialize in onboarding, and then you get handed off to an account manager.

And that is just a shit experience. Why that is just that it's five sort of five or six touch points you've gone through. And so each time. that being said, there are real benefits, cause each of them can specialize and you can turn it into a machine. And if you've ever read high output management by Andy Grove, it speaks to some degree of this sort of, how do you make a factory out of some things and what are your, there's a whole sort of interesting arguments for a pot like that.

But I [00:27:00] think that if you actually come back to what actually matters to the customer and what is an excellent experience there and how do you. handle that and you you need to have it sales reps that do arise, typically large amount of work. And I think you also need to have success reps that do a relatively large amount of work and that now maybe in time, I'll be singing from a different song sheet as I've, since we grill is only 50 people, maybe when we're 150, if we're so lucky to get there or 500 or whatever, maybe I'll be singing a different tune, but I do think that there is something important about that because I am a believer that at the end of the day software, it's just, it's all bought and used by humans and it is a very human experience.

And I think that the more you try to abstract the humanity away from it instead of have it be a perfect spreadsheet and a perfect formula, which like, listen, yeah. I love living in that world too. but I do think that the more you push [00:28:00] away from that, the more pain you tend to have, and also the harder it is, get to solve problems quickly.

Whereas if you do have good relationships and you do the work and you candidate, and not now, obviously there's a caveat here. Like this can't work a certain price point, Although I say that. And I now know that, we recently empowered our customer support team to take on SMB success.

So we've got a success team who largely looks after our midmarket and enterprise customers. It was there said to support, there's no reason you can't use these tools and you can't have some goals and numbers around this. And then, and we even give like targets and rewards and all that sort of stuff.

And they took to it with relish and have done so much fantastic stuff, including trialing like different versions of live chat and different onboarding flows and offering like training webinars. And I think yeah, so I do think you can actually do a fair bit of this stuff at some degree of scale.

but really, I think across [00:29:00] sales, it really matters for us to have that sort of great experience coming into Qwirl. Then having a good period where you, if you've done sales well, you hopefully have a champion or two inside the org. And like handing that off to success to make sure that champion stays a champion.

He's so incredibly critical. and then, I think obviously a success works with them and tries to understand like what reasons they've had to coming on board. And then, does onboarding and training is, is also as it were about like, how do we find other champions in this sort of mix and how do we nurture those ones that are already there?

it's such that you have, ideally, two or more people inside the org who love you and who understand you and who can be champions internally for you. And that's all the sort of foundational stuff that you need that allows you a, not to have the company churn, but that be for it to have a potential, to really expand in a nice natural way.

Andrew Michael: [00:29:55] For sure. And that's, what's another one of those things we hear quite a lot on the show is that the [00:30:00] concept of the champion churning leading to your customer churning and how important it is to manage those relationships. The experience you highlighted is also like an echoed a lot with me being a shitty experience because it's definitely something I've experienced being a buyer of different pieces of software and being handed over from rep to, success manager, and eventually you lose track and you get tired of it.

Explaining your goals to people like, cause every, it always starts with the same conversation again. So I just want to get a recap of your goals. has nobody written this down anywhere? do you not say being here? so definitely I think it's something that can be a big improved process all around.

cool. And then. So your sales team now, like a, so you're 50 people as well. what does the company look like as well? Let's get a little bit of a picture. So you mentioned your sponsor for the go to market. So I was six sales, success, marketing side of things. How has the team split it up and structured at the moment between engineering product and the rest?

Mark Tanner: [00:30:58] so we have, it's [00:31:00] still about half, I would say between the product. Team and the go to market team. we are, look, we feel like I don't want to, again, more cliches, but we still feel very early in our product journey. there's so much that can be done with regards to the way that documents. And so that, especially like public facing documents can be made to be much more native to that sort of web experience and really treat.

Treat them with the same level of like art and science, that webpages, and even things like say real top of funnel, things like landing pages, where you have so much science in there and actually a fair degree of art about like how to like, take these leads and take them to this conversion point of when they're putting in their email or signing up or whatever.

And then you look at the bottom of funnel, like a proposal. And it's just none of it. it's just this crappy PDF or a PowerPoint deck, or like an email or worse. And it's [00:32:00] just there's no ability to learn and get better. There's no abilities to try to optimize things. There's no ability for like natural dynamic upselling, all that sort of stuff.

There's no intelligence. it's a really rubbish experience. And I feel like is it is a heat, more work to be done there. So we still invest heavily in product. We just made a terrific hire as our new head of engineering in sky band who's exit Lassie, and it ran confluence there for awhile and then ran their growth team for a while.

So just tremendously excited to work with him. Okay. so yeah, we're still very much on that sort of side, our go to market team. So as you can hear from my accent, I'm based in Sydney, all of our design and almost all of our engineering and product team is based in Sydney. but almost all of our go to market team is remote.

And so we've been remote from day one. I know Hotjar is obviously a hyper remote cause we're a little half. our support success, sales and marketing teams are all a role, that they don't work at our office. and it's been an interesting [00:33:00] journey, but a fantastic one.

And obviously one that's benefited us a lot as we moved into this crazy world this year where this is, and to be Frank, No, we still had to get better. Like everybody else, it was still a shock to our system. but yeah, I think it's been very powerful for us to say, where are our customers?

And most of them are in North America and a whole bunch of they're in Europe. And there are some in Asia and like, how do we have people positioned to be able to offer excellent support and success and sales and whatever the relevant sort of need is across every, every market.

Andrew Michael: [00:33:29] Absolutely. for myself now as well, starting a new company, like it's for mode first from day one, I think having lived through both working in an office and working remote, seeing the benefits from remote sites. I think maybe the challenges gets like when your seven year to the four or 500 Mark and then becomes a little bit more difficult communication.

But I think either way, like if you're in a building of, you're not at that point, you probably need to have multiple locations anyway, so yeah. I think remote is definitely the future for me. I wouldn't want to go back to working in an office ever again, [00:34:00] just too much good comes from it. Especially now having a little one at home, like being able to eat lunch, dinner and breakfast with the family, like is an amazing experience as well.

Mark Tanner: [00:34:10] Agreed. Cool ham. So we're running up on time, actually. And I wanted to ask one question that I ask every guest that joins the show. let's imagine a hypothetical. Now you joined a new company and general attention is not doing great at all. And this year has come too and is asked to turn things around for the company.

you've been given 90 days to prove some results. What would you want to be doing with your time in those first 90 days?

I am going to, I, I'm going to lean to a tactic that, that I am incredibly excited to try out at. At some point, I am almost certainly would have no impact in 90 days. So I'm sorry too bad. I'm just gonna ignore that part of the question, but the one that I am absolutely the most enamored with it, the moment.

And I [00:35:00] actually mentioned this at the start before we were chatting is, Is one that I've just noticed recently and started thinking about, which is so our sales team has a book club that we do each year, quarter, and last quarters. This one is the challenge of sale. A classic last quarters was influenced, which is the psychology of persuasion, I think, is that the sort of subtitle and one of the main chapters they have inside influences like commitment, and consistency.

And there is this sort of core thing of once you've made a public commitment to something there's this real internal drive to appear to be, and to be consistent with what we've already done so that once we've already taken a small stand towards something, every time you encounter that same thing again, you really want to double down on it.

And as we were talking about this, I kept in the sales team weekly. I kept thinking more and more about just the glorious machine that is Salesforce. And so if you've ever been [00:36:00] to a Salesforce event, whether it's so they've got huge ludicrous Dreamforce, then there were just hundreds of them throughout other sort of events that they run across the year.

But if she's gonna go to, one of their sort of big American events, like the headline speakers, Oprah or someone, and then maybe it's, maybe it's Benioff, but then it's in fact, no Benioff wouldn't do this. If it's the second top speaker as a customer. And then the third is a customer and the fourth is a customer and the fifth as a customer.

And then it's Benioff, and then it's another customer. Then it's like Deepak Chopra and that's another customer, VP, product, customer, VP engineering, customer. And like all of these customers, come into this sort of space and they are all, they've given they given hair and makeup.

They're giving speech training. They have beautiful wise. It'd be nice to design for them. It's being filmed at the end, they edit the film, but this beautiful video they can share on social media. And it's them getting up in front of a thousand people. And saying, here is how wonderful Salesforce is. [00:37:00] And then they like go and share that to like their Facebook friends and their Twitter communities and their LinkedIn and oil us and stuff.

And like you have made this huge multifaceted public commitment to Salesforce and it is they've got you. you're not churning after that. Like you can't, you've now taken this into be part of your identity. I am somebody who is like, Hey, what do they trailblazer? I'm a Salesforce trailblazer.

they've got so many levels of this sort of stuff. And I know that inside Salesforce, they know those people. What sort of those advocates, those champions, they are spoken to by the success teams. And they know when they're about to move somewhere. And if they move somewhere, a, they obviously do the work to find, make sure they've got second, third, fourth champions inside the org where they go, but then B when they move somewhere, we'll like, of course that company is going to become a Salesforce company.

you've got someone who's coming on board who has aligned themselves publicly with [00:38:00] Salesforce. And I say, look, 90 days, probably deeply spirits as to whether that would have any effect whatsoever. but I do think that is one that I've just been thinking about is this idea of, and maybe it's okay.

So to bring it back, maybe a simpler way would be, doing something like, Hey, you gave us a nice NPS school, Hey, please leave a review for us on, whatever G two crowd or Capterra or something. And even that's like a, it's a small public statement, but again, it is something public.

And then there's, a candidate encourage them to share that, say on LinkedIn or something. that's maybe half off the idea, but there is, again, it really is something that meaningful about saying. I am part of this movement that I am part of this era. And this is part of, part of who I am.

And I, again, it's a little bit of a half thought through idea. but it is one that I'm very excited about. One that I would love to try, at the right point of time.

Andrew Michael: [00:38:57] Absolutely. I think Salesforce definitely done an [00:39:00] incredible job of that. And it definitely shows in there with retention numbers and, the growth of the business we've seen.

Amazing. And it's unbelievable that the software is like, so out of date and still, you can believe that it's 20, 20, 10 people are still using it, but, there's obviously that's what leads you to think? There's other things that are planned working for them. And this might be one of those things. last question then.

What's one thing, today about churn and retention that you wish you knew when you got started with your business.

Mark Tanner: [00:39:52] I think the most important one is. A better understanding. And [00:40:00] I was, I say this, even now, we don't have a perfect understanding, but a much better understanding of how like internal virality works and in product virality, the kind of thing that allows obviously we live in a, in inside, the Sydney startup ecosystem, the big shadows cost by LaSeon.

but even if I look inside, some of the other companies I talked about earlier, I think notion has amazing amazingly designed in product vitality. And I think obviously Slack is fantastic addict. but Lassie and it's just a weapon. At this thing that we'll just start in one area and then become really just deeply heavily used.

And then every new person gets added on. Now, just you can just join and be a view of a free and dah, and whatever else. Not even safe. Femur is as this a bit as well. but I would say that the way we thought about expansion was a very sort of blunt. [00:41:00] Like instruments. And I think the way you can think about this now with how thoughtful you can be with product and the various loops and all that sort of glorious stuff, that really was a real, I think it really was a revolution in thinking about how you can drive.

that's that's an in product firearm and obviously external, outside of. that's that sort of vitality that drives to new customers versus driving, deeper inside the old is also wonderful and great. but I wish I'd had, we'd had a better thought on that because I do think that if you can architect your product to embrace that and work well for that from the start.

That can be very magical. It's a big gift because I don't think it's just I don't think it's a given that you can always do it. I do think that you, if you can, you really should,

Andrew Michael: [00:41:48] and if you can make it work, it works for sure. Awesome. It was great chatting with you today. Is there any sort of final thoughts you want to leave the listeners with anything they should be aware of? That's coming up with what [00:42:00] you worked on Qwirl.

Mark Tanner: [00:42:02] Honestly. I think, nothing major have we've got a budget, we've got a bunch of exciting stuff coming up and nothing. We're ready to announce a break, any news on just yet. but obviously I sincerely hope all of them come in and check out Qwirller and have a nice first experience.

And let me know how we can improve our onboarding because. No much as I will be, try to make it nice. We're always trying to learn and do even more. So if you can, and you want to shoot me a note on, shout out for making it to the end of the podcast. And I would always love to hear any feedback or thoughts people have about how we can make our experience much better.

Andrew Michael: [00:42:37] Very cool. Yeah. Thanks. So I mentioned to you as well. I'll definitely check it out. So I think I, this morning is an old service and just realize it's a, it's not 2020 and the need to make some changes. So thanks so much for joining how I wish you best of luck now, going forward.

Mark Tanner: [00:42:53] Thank you very much, mate. You too. Bye.


Mark Tanner
Mark Tanner

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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