Joining me in this episode is Dan Graap, a product manager at Drift.
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Jacques: [00:00:08] Welcome to MQL.fm, the marketing operations podcast. Joining me in this episode is Dan Graap. Product Manager at Drift
How are you doing today?
Dan Graap: [00:00:20] Yeah. pretty good. we got, four inches of snow in Boston this weekend. So we’ve been dealing with that.
Jacques: [00:00:25] Are you a skier or snowboarder?
Dan Graap: [00:00:27] I am. Yeah, I ski. so it is hopeful, but then it’s also going to be, you know, like 70 next weekend. So we’re, we’re almost there. Yeah.
Jacques: [00:00:37] well, thanks very much for joining me. so you are one of the products managers at Drift.
Dan Graap: [00:00:41] Yeah. so I, product manage our email product right now. I’ve been doing that for about a year and a half at this point. Yeah.
Jacques: [00:00:49] And where were you before there?
Dan Graap: [00:00:50] I was in school actually. yeah. Yeah. So I started at Drift a little over three years ago on the support team. so I was, the second support person there, kind of worked through that, scaled that organization out, and then moved over to the product side.
Jacques: [00:01:03] That’s cool. That’s an exciting first job, I think, straight into the startup life.
Dan Graap: [00:01:09] Yeah. Yeah, it was quite the learning curve at the start for sure. We survived.
Jacques: [00:01:15] I think the first Job you go into after university is the first time you realize, okay. University or college did not prepare me for anything.
Dan Graap: [00:01:24] Yeah, there was a lot of stuff I wish I learned in school that I did not have to learn on the fly,
Jacques: [00:01:29] What did you study?
Dan Graap: [00:01:31] I was a political science major and computer science minor.
Jacques: [00:01:35] Nice. that’s an interesting combo.
Dan Graap: [00:01:38] I get that a lot. And I joke that I needed the computer science and math and stuff to try and keep me sane from writing all those papers.
Yeah. You need a break from the 20 pagers.
Jacques: [00:01:51] God, you must be finding this week very interesting then.
Dan Graap: [00:01:54] It’s funny. I talked to, a lot of the friends that I made in poly-sci at school. And I think at this point, a lot of those people are just very apathetic.
Jacques: [00:02:05] Yeah, I can see how that would happen.
Dan Graap: [00:02:07] Yeah. if you like study it formally and then go through all of that, you’re just like, I just need this to be over.
Jacques: [00:02:15] So how did you get into, the email side of things? How did you pivot from support to product management?
Dan Graap: [00:02:22] yeah, the, the email side of things is interesting. I, it was really just dumb luck and more just like this was the role of it that kind of needed to be filled on the product side and where, where the company was going strategically and everything. which has been funny because now that I’m like, decently into the, the email community.
I didn’t even know it was a community. Right. And then there’s this, so there’s this whole, thing built up around kind of email marketing and email ops and deliverability. but yeah, I was, I was on the support team and the actual need that we had at the time was, for someone to do just deliverability management.
We were scaling out our emails, at least on the transactional side as a SaaS product and then moving into the marketing email space. so that was the actual initial burden that I took on. And then it turned out we were going to do so much more with email as a product line. so I just slowly shifted into the PM capacity and do a little bit of the deliverability stuff on the side. Yeah.
Jacques: [00:03:17] Nice. Yeah, I guess the deliverability side of things, I, I still don’t fully understand the, I speak to people. I’ve got, a call with, Laura Atkins on Friday.
Dan Graap: [00:03:26] yes. Wise Laura, shout out.
Jacques: [00:03:28] so I’m going to be diving into that, but it’s, it’s so complicated. It’s so I can’t even imagine it doing it from a MarTech perspective.
So I’m looking after like the platform’s deliverability. It’s just insane.
Dan Graap: [00:03:43] Yeah, especially because you’re, you’re managing so many other people that are also using it as a channel for their product. So it’s like you have the messaging team that is doing it for chat follow-ups and stuff, and all kinds of other user invites and everything. And it’s like, how do we get all these people to obey the rules that we set up? But yeah.
Jacques: [00:04:04] So what does the email product look like at Drift?
Dan Graap: [00:04:10] so right now it’s in the, marketing automation platform space ish. so the main focus of the product right now is just making sure that, leads get touched, leads, get followed up on. And so at the moment, that’s, looking like basically setting up nurture streams, in the product.
And so the, the kind of spin that we put on that, was that we also handle all the replies that come in. so the, the products which started out as, acquiring a company that did this at scale, like directly with Marketo or Eloqua or Pardot, and kind of, you know, like receiving and all the replies and processing.
so now our product does the sending and then we’ll also take in the replies and filter out which of these are human replies, which of them are positive ones and make sure that they get over to sales reps. when the person replying is ready to talk.
Jacques: [00:05:00] Yeah. And I guess that kind of feeds into what I guess at Drift is called the conversational marketing and the, I want to say the death of the MQL and the shift towards, a conversation between a sales rep and a potential customer lead.
Dan Graap: [00:05:11] Yeah, it was definitely taking that stance was, it was a hard stance. and you know, there there’s some amount of you, you kind of have to just make noise to get people to pay attention, you know?
Jacques: [00:05:21] Oh yeah. I think was it Wistia recently who came up with this whole new marketing thing? They called it it’s marketing. Right. not inventing anything new. They’re just putting a new label on some things,
Dan Graap: [00:05:31] Yeah, everyone, everyone has a framework. It is interesting. and you also definitely have to respect the, the amount of work that goes into setting up something like that from the marketing side. but yeah, I mean really when it comes down to it, it’s just about, making sure that people are having conversations.
And you know, when someone is ready to talk to someone from the company, It’s, you know, we’re at a point where there is so much supply of SAS products and companies that you could work with. That really the people that are replying quick as having the conversation, the quickest are winning. So it’s really just about, someone’s ready to, to talk to your team, get them over to the team.
Jacques: [00:06:09] Yeah. it’s hard to argue with that kind of approach, as opposed to like the traditional got a score, them got to do all this enrichment, got to do all this stuff, and then maybe we’ll send them to the, to the sales team. which is, I guess like the trad approach, which, yeah, it’s, people want a reply now these days.
Dan Graap: [00:06:26] yeah, I, I think it’s really just, you know, pretty simple when you actually, when it comes down to it. and I, I was talking with someone, just like going through that, that old, the CQL is dead, or the MQL is that eBook and everything. And I was joking. How all, like 90% of the graphics in there are, like, if someone asks you to describe just a business presentation to just very generally, like, what would you see in it?
That was all of it. Cause all the, all the funnels and the here are all the different stages and everything. so I feel like it was, it was a complicated presentation of a pretty simple idea.
Jacques: [00:07:00] Yeah. So what does the email products look like? what can you do in Drift from an email perspective? What else can you do in Drift in general? I Understand that it’s a conversational platform. So chat, obviously.
Dan Graap: [00:07:13] yeah, yeah. Yes. yeah, so there there’s a lot of different channels that it kind of marries together right now. so at least on the email side, right. You’re, you’re setting up a bunch of different nurture streams and then, you can also set up how the bot handles the replies and routes people over and do all that stuff.
On the chat side. you’re probably familiar with the chat bot, as it shows up on the website. and so behind the scenes, in the platform, you’re doing a lot of different orchestration on, you know, like, which, bot flows do we want to show people at different times, whether it be by, lifecycle stage or kind of which page they’re on, you know, generally which, which bucket of your audience they fall into, And, and so there’s, there’s a couple other things in there around like, enabling sellers to do better conversational selling.
That’s kind of where the, the video product comes into play as well. where you can, you know, send out videos to prospects and have a conversation on the video. so really all the products that we have kind of tie back to this idea of just having a conversation with someone who wants to have a conversation.
Jacques: [00:08:10] The video thing is really interesting. I remember when I kind of first started in email. Nine years ago, maybe 10 years, probably nine. everyone was excited about the idea of you can embed an HTML video in an email. and obviously the reality was no, you can’t because I think. It may be worked in one version of iOS and then stopped working, but gmail didn’t support it or all the stuff you expect from email right.
Right. but that was like a big conversation happening at the time around how can you do video, in email. And it’s kind of nice to still see that. Idea kind of happening? I believe it’s, is it BombBomb who their product is video email, and they have pivoted quite significantly from when I first discovered them nine years ago. and what their, what their service offering was then to what it is now. what do you think is kind of interesting in, in that kind of space?
Dan Graap: [00:09:00] I think there there’s a lot of companies that are doing really interesting stuff on the, on the video side. Video is obviously a big one, and when you see some of this kind of this like true personalization at scale, because you know, you talk about video and kind of the whole selling point of it is, you can deliver a truly personal message to someone, but obviously the caveat with this is you can’t do it for everyone, right? This is, it’s just a better tactic for the people that you absolutely want to have a conversation with. but so then the question obviously becomes if this converts at a much higher rate, how do you scale it?
And so you see a lot of this stuff coming up where you can, you know, scale out the personalization of just the thumbnail that you put into the email. Right. So it’s, you know, it says like the person’s name that you’re emailing, but then the video is the same, no matter who you’re sending it to,
Jacques: [00:09:50] I used to work with, uh, well, I used to work at a company called curse and we had a big video department there, who did a lot on YouTube. And it was really interesting hearing their insights in terms of what worked for thumbnails, um, on the YouTube platform. But then there’s no capability or capacity for people on YouTube to AB test thumbnails to do any sort of testing with thumbnails.
Dan Graap: [00:10:14] Okay. Right. And so what, what year was that?
Jacques: [00:10:17] This was five years ago, maybe.
Dan Graap: [00:10:20] interesting. Okay. Cause I feel like even in the last five years, just the patterns that you see on a media service like YouTube with the thumbnail specifically has changed a
Jacques: [00:10:30] Yeah. Yeah, definitely. and the kind of stuff I see, lots of bright yellows, lots of bright greens, anything, lots of funny faces, like anything to grab your attention. is that the kind of stuff you see working with videos on your platform, or do you not really get to see those insights?
Dan Graap: [00:10:47] Yeah. I, I don’t know that we’ve looked into kind of the, the best performing across our customer base. I’m sure. You know, the, some of the like engineers on that team, might’ve taken a look into it. but yeah, I think there’s been some kind of Metta marketing that we’ve done on the video side, where.
We’ve said, okay. Oh, take a look at this. Like, absolutely ridiculous. you know, to the most extreme video that we could think of. I think kind of use that as a selling point to be like, all right, you know, this got your attention. Like you can make it just a normal conversation and it will probably get someone’s attention.
I remember we had one of our VPs that has a giant Lego head that he put on for the thumbnail of the video. And we, you know, we encourage people to like, hold up a whiteboard and have like the person’s name on it. or some, you know, fact and kind of use it for illustrations throughout the video, just to make it a more engaging video overall.
So we’ve definitely kind of pushed that stuff more to just push the envelope of how people think about what constitutes business to business communication. Because I feel like that’s a lot more of the wall that we’ve come up against and kind of what the boundary that we’re trying to push, versus, you know, just how crazy can you get with a video?
It’s more of like, you know, how personal, can you be in business communication?
Jacques: [00:12:05] Yeah, and I guess that’s actually kind of important in time. We find ourselves in where people are working from home. People do need to be more. Personable in terms of, you know, I’m dressed very casually for work. And I expect that the salespeople I talk, I speak to probably going to be as well. and how that degree of, casualness, kind of now is typical across the B2B world.
Dan Graap: [00:12:29] Yeah. All of a sudden whether anyone liked it or not, these barriers have got absolutely torn down. you know, you see children walk into TV news, anchors, screens, and, cats running across the keyboard mid call. one of our customer success managers always posts the recordings of the calls that she does with customers where her cat just moseys on over.
Yeah. So I it’s kind of, that’s become the, the main mode of, of communication and the style of communication, whether people liked it or not, it turns out, you know, we think it’s at least a better one.
Jacques: [00:13:00] yeah. How do you find product management? how has the, the field progressed since you’ve been doing it?
Dan Graap: [00:13:06] Yeah. you know, it’s interesting because, I’m in a position where I’ve only known it at one company, at least to really thoroughly, obviously in the, in this time that I’ve been a PM, I’ve gotten to talk to other people and kind of hear, the struggles that they come up against. My roommate was a product manager, and we would just kind of riff on stuff all the time.
But yeah, I think it’s, it’s difficult for me to say. how we, do things differently. I hear, we, we do things differently as product managers, if I haven’t gotten to experience the truly bad version of it, I think, yeah, I, I will say that, I think the, the structure, I don’t know, it’s probably a function of just the size of the company kind of the stage that we’re at right now as well.
But just, you know, being super agile, and not in the formal agile sense, but more just like we can pick up work, when things are, when we need to pick things up when they’re the most effective. so I think it’s generally moving towards this kind of, move away from these year long multi-year long plans of, okay.
Here’s, what we need to do, versus actually listening to your customers. And if they have something that’s an acute pain, you know, you’re kind of dealing with it, more readily,
Jacques: [00:14:18] How do you handle that kind of feedback from customers?
Dan Graap: [00:14:21] yeah, that’s the rub, right? It’s to actually have that, that feedback loop in place, and then also be able to act on it quickly is, uh, you know, you have a lot of plates spinning at once. I think the important thing is to. we make sure that everyone is, is in contact with customers all the time, including the engineers.
And that has to be a regular thing for them. And by regular, I mean, weekly, at least. and so when, when you make sure that, everyone feels this responsibility and is also having this exposure at a regular cadence, Then you enable people to have their own thoughts, form their own opinions and come to their own conclusions about what’s actually going on with customers.
What are the problems that they’re facing and then how can we solve them? And so, yeah, I, I think it’s really about just making sure that everyone has a part in it and obviously it’s the product manager’s job to kind of synthesize all that. And then also recognize the, the large trends just because they get more feedback.
And then also, marry this with the business goals and the product work goals that are set out. but if at least everyone has a hand in it and is close to customers in that sense, then I think it’s a lot easier to have these really productive discussions about, what do we prioritize? How do we solve this particular pain?
Jacques: [00:15:37] Yeah, so I’ve worked in a few businesses with PM’s and I guess my experience has been, I mean, it’s been different across all businesses,, and that’s fairly standard, but it seems like it’s something that at least in the UK we’ve only really started getting PMs. as A job function, at least in.
SMBs within the last three, four years. maybe that’s just my experience. but it’s, it’s interesting how it’s really starting to percolate through here, how it’s starting to be part of the culture here. And people are more conscious if someone needs to look after the product the customer is valuable.
Not just in, in feedback, but, you know, and understanding. Product market fit and all these kinds of areas.
Dan Graap: [00:16:18] Yeah, it, it does feel like the product manager role is going through this, this glamour cycle. so whereas people didn’t really know what it was, then all of a sudden it’s become the new thing. And then it’s the thing to do in Silicon Valley. And when you graduate from Harvard business school or something like that, and then it kind of loops back around to, okay, all these tech companies have it.
And now it’s more just a role on the team that is an important one, but, not necessarily more important than the tech leader or something like that. But yeah, I think that the approach is, is going to be shifting more towards, the, the VPs at Drift, like to push that the product managers don’t have to bring the problem to the team.
They bring the team to the problem. And so really enabling the team to autonomously figure out, how do we actually solve these things in and bring them to this evidence and this pain, as opposed to just. Serving it up and saying here’s what we need to do.
Jacques: [00:17:14] Who do you think is doing really interesting product or who’s building really interesting products in MarTech at the moment.
Dan Graap: [00:17:20] Ooh. That is a good question. and, oh man, I really wish I had a good answer for this.
Jacques: [00:17:31] I don’t know if there is a good answer.
Dan Graap: [00:17:32] yeah, this is, this is really tough. I think the, just the general move to this platform experience for a lot of these different companies is, is something to keep an eye on. so I mean, you see this with, a lot of the players that were just in the data enrichment space, and, and kind of these moves toward also incorporating, obviously using the, the vast, vast amount of data that they have.
To kind of enable, interactions and interaction setups. So almost moving into the same space that Drift is in, and it’s the same space that, Marketo and whoever else are in. So, you know, their moat starts to become just the sheer amount of data that they have. And they’ve played a role where, at least through now or up until now, they’ve partnered really closely with a lot of companies to provide that data and empower those companies’ interactions. It’s going to be really interesting to see do they start, you know, lopping off some of those partnerships, and decide to, just use that data as their own, and, and just have that be the winning factor for them to say like, well, we have this proprietary, huge amount of data that we can provide.
Like you should build your interactions with us.
Jacques: [00:18:49] So, who do you think is doing that right now?
Dan Graap: [00:18:52] I think, there’s definitely Terminus is making moves on this, ClearBit and you know, a few others.
Jacques: [00:18:57] Yeah, it’s interesting because that space is potentially at risk, in terms of things like the GDPR and I guess CCPA and. Whatever other things are in the works. I heard someone spoke recently about a Texas-based privacy law. so I guess that areas constantly changing. but it’s interesting that, you know, all these sectors are fairly at risk.
So the big data aggregation services are fairly right. These regulations in the UK, we just had, Experian, subject to, An enforcement notice by the regulator. so it’s definitely very interesting to see what’s happening there.
Dan Graap: [00:19:31] Yeah, that’s going to be a space where a lot of change happens pretty quickly. you know as soon as the law comes in and gets passed that part of it for them. I, yeah, I don’t really see them being completely shut down. I’m sure there’s definitely pivots that can be made. but regardless, it’s going to be something to watch out for.
And especially because, maybe it’s a situation where, them providing this information to other companies is no longer okay. But then keeping your own data is fine. so then that kind of accelerates this move to them as being, you know, these in-house, fully stocked, marketing platforms.
Jacques: [00:20:10] It’s interesting. So. It’s gone from the big marketing cloud. So like Salesforce marketing, cloud, Oracle, Adobe, all these different platforms to now the more siloed approach where maybe you have something like a segment or whatever, CDP use TDM or whatever, sitting in the middle, and then having all of your different little specialized platforms.
So your Drift and your Clearbit or whatever else you might want to use, working together. I think that’s quite an interesting way. Look at how things might move. but certainly having used things like Salesforce, marketing cloud, the newer approach is, at least nicer from the perspective of someone who has to actually use the technology on day-to-day basis.
Dan Graap: [00:20:52] Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s, it’s going to be interesting because I would say, everyone wants to be the platform. Everyone just knows, that’s where the money is. And that’s where the influence is. so as people try to, you know, push on as companies, try to push on it and make good on that promise.
It’ll be interesting to see if they like, at least continue to enable these, these integrations and, take the stance that for some of these specialized things that we’re still going to partner with the best, or it’s going to be, you know, kind of just us or, you know, go with someone else.
Jacques: [00:21:25] Yeah, I guess there was a, quite a good example recently of, so Shopify and MailChimp used to have a very good integration. and I believe last year that’s, They both said, that’s no longer going to be happening. And Shopify then launched their own email product and MailChimp launching their own kind of e-commerce ish products.
So it’s interesting to see how that kind of space continues to grow. because there is everyone wants to be the big central monolith, I guess. but whether that’s what marketers are looking for, is, another matter. Cause sometimes, you know, you want a really good e-mail platform and you want a really good SMS platform and you just want something in the middle to do the data, but you don’t necessarily need your email platform to do everything.
Dan Graap: [00:22:12] Yeah. Whether people want to admit it or not. If you have a team that is focused on just this very specific thing in the air, the absolute closest to the people using this thing and needing to use it and get results from it, they’re probably going to do it better.
Jacques: [00:22:25] Yeah so what challenges do you see with product management? at least in MarTech.
Dan Graap: [00:22:32] Hmm. the, the challenges are definitely, varied. I would say. I think it was some of the biggest ones that we’ve come up with. I mean, the, the interesting, kind of shift we had to make, was. servicing marketing ops users, just wholeheartedly and kind of that being the bread and butter of the email product, the, the drip tab.
And then, you know, we, we kind of shifted it to this more revenue generating, you know, like nurturing, email stream platform. And so that, I think part of the challenge of that has shown that like, Now we have to, you know, if you’re just working with marketing ops, you’re just working with marketing ops.
But if you’re working with the demand gen team, then you still have to work with marketing ops so you, you have just generally a lot of people that are very interested and it’s just a very visible product. Especially when you get into things like, okay, now you’re, you’re nurturing leads and you’re, you’re doing a marketing to sales handoff.
Then sales has a lot of opinions on how this is done. sales leadership has a lot of opinions on, lead quality and lead volume. so I think there’s just a lot of just very strong opinions in general. yeah, I think that that’s probably been one of the biggest challenges for us. Can’t think of too much else.
Jacques: [00:23:52] Yeah, I guess, understanding what the customers want from, I guess it’s the handover between marketing ops and sales ops of the, what is a qualified lead?, it’s different in every business. It’s not necessarily complicated, but I think we like to complicate it because it makes our job have more meaning because the more we look like a specialist, the better we look in business.
Dan Graap: [00:24:19] right? Yeah. You don’t need to have a minimum 10 factors in your, your lead score. Otherwise it’s not legit,
Jacques: [00:24:27] Yeah. Which I’m still not sure is the correct approach. Because if you need 10, then why don’t you need a hundred? And if you need a hundred, then are you getting the right data? It’s yeah, it’s all a bit messy at the moment. I think in general.
Dan Graap: [00:24:43] Yeah.
Jacques: [00:24:44] I wonder who’s doing it. Right. Have you had any conversations with customers who you think are probably doing it better than others or who are doing it in ways that make more sense than others?
Dan Graap: [00:24:55] just added, you know, as the customer and their, their marketing organization is concerned. Yeah, I think, we obviously, as a, as a company and kind of just pushing the, the brand in the, in the category have very strong opinions on how marketing should actually be done. And so that it shows a lot in, the content that we put out.
And then obviously the content is all very reflective of how we operate internally as well. And so the customers that have definitely seen the most success with the Drift platform have been, kind of operating very similar ways and prioritizing the same types of things. And it’s interesting because.
The, the goals that they’re shooting for are always just conversations. They probably, they usually play it pretty fast and loose on, on some of the ops stuff and, and, and they just prioritize, iterating and getting things out quickly. and so I think those are the, some of the customers that we’ve seen do the best and also, just kind of have the most internal satisfaction are the ones that are, that are really well equipped to, be testing a lot of small things constantly and, and doing really quick iteration and feedback loops. and then really just prioritizing, the, these small tests and also these, you know, just driving conversations with people and actually talking to, their prospects.
I think any of the customers that. We’ve seen a lot of difficulty with have an insane amount of process behind, just setting up a new list in their marketing automation platform, or, you know, doing anything that might enable their one marketer to do a test with a hundred people. it shouldn’t be that difficult to see if something works with a hundred people.
Jacques: [00:26:34] How are your product teams structured?
Dan Graap: [00:26:36] So The product team is, myself. And then we have a dedicated product designer. And then, generally it’s, it’s one product, product manager and two, engineering teams. So that would be, five to six engineers, uh, and the designer per, we call it squad. and then we roll up into, a group. And so we have a product VP that leads the group, and then the VP is rolled up into the CTO.
Jacques: [00:27:03] And then how many squads do you have a Drift? If you can tell me.
Dan Graap: [00:27:08] That’s a good question. I want to say our product management team is maybe around a dozen people right now. So engineering squads, we probably have 17, something like that. So 17 by three engineers. yeah. And then we have kind of three major groups internally just to organize the product teams.
Jacques: [00:27:32] Okay, because I. Well, I read, Marty Kagan’s, I believe it’s called inspired. which is like for me was the first time I’d read about, you know, product marketing, and product management squads and all that kind of stuff. do you have kind of product marketers that help you find product market fit or how does that fit?
Dan Graap: [00:27:50] Yeah. The, the interaction so far with product marketing, again, at least from my perspective as a first time product manager, yeah, it’s been pretty loose outside of the, outside of major launches. So I mean, day-to-day, it’s not, super involved or super formal and it’ll definitely differ based on the product.
So at least when we were doing the first kind of, concepting and validation for my product, we, worked very closely with marketing because we were doing all kinds of things between, sponsoring Marketo user groups and putting out a ton of content and doing our own tests internally to kind of dogfood the product and stuff. and it it’s similar for, the video business unit as well as just because they’re super news, super small. And also more product led. So, the product marketing aspect comes into it a lot more. yeah, so I mean, outside of big releases, it’s not super formal, but in the release process, product marketing really takes over a lot of fat and, you know, structure all the collateral and making sure that marketing is all set also. So they, they play a really kind of orchestrator role, for those things.
Jacques: [00:28:56] so from an email perspective, what kind of, what do you think is the future of email, from marketing technology perspective, what would you be really excited to see businesses do Drift or otherwise?
Dan Graap: [00:29:08] The future of email. Yeah. I remember, What was it? We, I think it was, the, the Drift conference, last year. Obviously we didn’t, we didn’t have one this year. It’s usually in the summer. we had, like locally famous marketer, coming here. He runs a marketing agency and he was doing one of the, the sessions and his big thing was email is not dead.
And so obviously my, that guy after my own heart, right. And this is kind of become the consensus after, after the brief, shift away from it, especially with the whole work from home. so the, the, I would say the future of email is really just making sure that it’s personal, making sure that people get interactions, and the content that, that they’re most ready for, and that they can actually have conversations over email.
I think that. The big mistake that we’ve seen, play out over the last few years on email has just been using it as a one-way communication channel. And so the it’s the experience when you take a step back from it and, and kind of look at the best in class experience being. sending people this, this communication that, was the same for, you know, 10, 20,000 people besides their first name or something like that. and the entire desired action of the email being clicking, something to go somewhere else to do something. I think that’s kind of best-in-class workflow is really not considered, Just the convenience, of the person actually receiving the email. and because of that, it’s led to you know, generally low click through rates and conversion rates.
And so people have kind of understood what the baselines are, but if you take a step back, the baselines are so, so low. so actually just opening it back up as a, as a two-way communication channel would be, would be huge because then, people are getting. the emails that they want and that the content that they want, and you kind of trust in the, in the Google algorithm to actually be showing the, you know, the things that they want in their inbox.
Then it really becomes a useful tool, again, as opposed to something where, you kind of just abandoned the inbox, because it’s just flooded with communication that you don’t actually want.
Jacques: [00:31:15] from personal perspective. I think I must have 20, 30,000 unread emails in my inbox, which as an email marketer, I subscribe to everything. Cause I want to see everything, but. Oh, it’s messy.
Dan Graap: [00:31:28] I’m one of those people too and I feel like most people are, I’m sure there’s stats on this somewhere.
Jacques: [00:31:33] Yeah. I’ve never understood the inbox. Zero crowd.
Dan Graap: [00:31:37] no. Yeah, I can’t really get it. And I’ve, I’ve gone through waves. I’m like, all right, today’s going to be the day. I’m sure. So many people have, I’m going to unsubscribe from everything that I don’t want to get.
And I’m going to save people’s engagement rates. but yeah, I mean, it’s just, hasn’t even been possible. And as good as some of the algorithms have gotten about putting stuff in the promotions tab that I don’t really want to see, or I don’t want to see unless I’m shopping for something. it’s still pretty bad.
Jacques: [00:32:04] So how, how do you empower marketers to do this conversational email properly?
Dan Graap: [00:32:10] Yeah, that’s a good question. And I think that it goes back to one of the big challenges that we’ve come up against is that, some of the customers, I think. so we’ve been lucky that, when you’re building a really early stage product, and you kind of talk about the, the life cycle of adoption and kind of who is adopting at different points in the product’s growth.
Obviously the people that are buying first are super bought into the vision. and they’re just generally people that like to test out new tech and they’re interested in new tech. So the, the people so far have been brought into just the general conversational email approach and, writing emails in just plain text, and having very clear, conversational calls to actions at the end of the email, you know, just asking for a reply and being comfortable, kind of writing in this and also having a sales organization that’s comfortable with doing this communication, at scale and, and kind of.
Taking some of that workload off it off of BDRs plate. but still it’s been a challenge to get some people fully there. And so, I mean, I think one of the best ways you, you actually just convince people to start is, just running with the results and then showing the results from, from other people who’ve done it well.
And especially in their space, we were really lucky to have some, some super complex. costumers in the odd spaces to start out. And so to be able to reference those people and being like, listen, if this like lab tech company, you can do it, then you can, you can definitely do it. so part of the enablement in that sense is, is just having people like getting people to the point that they’re comfortable doing it, and kind of changing the way that they, they might operate otherwise.
Obviously there’s a lot of tactical stuff on here, like, pamphlets and, and kind of some visibility into how people are reacting to it for reassurance and stuff. so yeah, I, I think it’s been a mixed bag of just getting people to the point that they’re even okay with it. And then being like, okay, now we have the content to back up.
Here’s how you do it well, here are some case studies and real examples from those campaigns that people ran and the ones that did well to say like, okay, you know, here’s what it’s proven.
Jacques: [00:34:16] I guess that’s what you’re talking about earlier kind of comes in in terms of as a brand, you attract similar like-minded brands. and so one thing that Drift does brilliantly, I guess, is that you. Eat your own dog food. You communicate in the way that you tell other people to communicate and that attracts people who are interested in adopting those methodologies.
Dan Graap: [00:34:37] Yeah, it’s I think it’s also something that people will sniff out extremely quickly if that’s not actually the case. I think when you take a stance like that, just as a brand, Anything that, negates that, or, you know, kind of goes against that experiences is amplified tenfold, when people have a bad experience with your company, and something wasn’t as, you know, conversational or as just generally human as you’d advertise, your product allows people to be, because they, it’s just such an expectation from the start.
And so. There’s a real strong internal culture on just driving a lot of these values, and making sure that you know, that, the company is kind of living, practicing what they preach.
Jacques: [00:35:21] Do you think that’s coming from customer success and customer support has given you any particular insights or strengths when dealing with product management?
Dan Graap: [00:35:31] Yeah, I think I, this is a track that I would definitely, I mean, you know, I quote unquote track out of dumb luck, fell into it as I feel at least half of product managers stay up. Yeah. the experience that I think was, it was extremely valuable for me. the experience of, talking with people when they’re frustrated and when they’re trying to get something out of the product that they aren’t, for whatever reason, whether it be a product reason or user education reason, or anything, is pretty unique.
And I would definitely recommend having some sort of experience like that. So whether it be, in the service industry or in customer support, and just. Actually figuring out how to talk to people when they’re frustrated and trying to figure out, okay, what does this person actually need right now?
And what stopped them from getting there in the first place? Those are the, the qualities that I think make a really good PM because then you start to figure out, okay, I’ve seen this type of frustration before. And I know that generally, just if we have better documentation around this thing, like it’ll solve 80% of this pain off the bat.
And, obviously, there’s, there’s kind of the live handling of people too, but I would say that’s even secondary to just making sure that you, it can empathize with people when they are having an issue and they can’t get tested.
Jacques: [00:36:51] I think it was Anthony Bourdain who said something along the lines of everyone should work in, hospitality or kind customer support roles because it teaches empathy and it teaches all the soft skills that fundamentally, we all need to kind of succeed In society. so that was really interesting to hear.
Dan Graap: [00:37:08] Yeah, I think you’ve got a really clear look at people when they are just truly frustrated and in some sense, taking it out on you because they need to, it is a perspective that, say a, you know, a career and software engineer probably wouldn’t get. and so you definitely need to bring that to the table for the team.
Jacques: [00:37:27] Do you try to surface those kind of insights you’ve learned, to your wider product team?
Dan Graap: [00:37:32] Yeah. The, so do you mean the, the career insight or the,
Jacques: [00:37:36] So I guess the, the customer insights. So, you know, if, if someone is speaking in a very frustrated manner, trying to understand what is causing that frustration. cause like you said, it could just be insufficient documentation or it could be that they feel they’ve been miss-sold on a product, or any other number of things.
Dan Graap: [00:37:54] Yeah. It’s especially stuff like the lack of clarity and kind of missed expectations, throughout the selling process. yeah. Stuff like that. Definitely. As soon as you can pick it up, you know, take it super seriously because odds are for the one person that’s, you know, voicing this opinion and invoicing it to you.
There are minimum 10 other people that had this thought or voice that to someone else. Right. especially with when the company is, is growing and, you’re just working at a larger company. So, so definitely surfacing, that stuff, is important. and yeah, just making sure that you kind of take ownership as I think generally just working at any company it’s important to take any mistake like that as kind of a personal burden, and own it just entirely for your team. And it would definitely be awful to be like, oh yeah, this other person on this other team messed up, you know, not my problem. you really don’t want to have that approach.
And so I think you really need to take it to heart and own something like that as, as your own fault. And then just make sure that it gets fixed.
Jacques: [00:38:54] Yeah. I think that’s probably everything from me. it’s been really enjoyable speaking with you. thank you so much for your time.
Dan Graap: [00:39:03] Yeah, it was a pleasure. Thank you