With deep experience in cloud marketing and self-service sales, Brantz shares the key funnel metrics she and her team uses every day to gauge effectiveness. She also highlights the importance of customer loyalty and appreciation, plus how she’s helped her team stay connected through fully remote work - with some fun games and online Icebreakers.
Michael Pollack 0:09
Hello, everyone, and welcome to Selling in the Cloud, a podcast about the business of cloud sales and marketing, brought to you by Intricately, the authoritative source of digital product adoption, usage, and spend data for sales and marketing teams. I'm Michael Pollack, and I'm here with Sarah E. Brown. And we are your co-hosts.
Michael Pollack 0:38
Today, we're joined by Carly Brantz, CMO at DigitalOcean. She's going to share a little bit about some of the amazing growth that DigitalOcean has experienced and some of the amazing growth that it's probably going to experience into the future. We're really excited to have her join us today.
Sarah E. Brown 0:52
Carly, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for joining us.
Carly Brantz 0:56
Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Sarah E. Brown 0:59
I'd love for you to tell us a bit about your background and a brief history of how you got to be where you are today as DigitalOcean CMO.
Carly Brantz 1:05
Yeah, sure. So I joined Digital Ocean in January of this year. So it's been quite an adventure. And prior to that, I spent nearly a decade at Sendgrid, which was later than acquired by Twilio. And throughout that time, I had started with the focus more on inbound marketing and evolved that to focus on growing our self service revenue.
Carly Brantz 1:31
So owning that end-to-end self-service customer motion, where really a prospect navigates through an entire product experience and signs up for an account without ever having to interact with a single person.
Carly Brantz 1:47
So sort of eliminating the role where Sales is driving most of the revenue generation at Sendgrid. And now at DigitalOcean, most of our revenue, the lion's share, is really coming through this self-serve motion.
Carly Brantz 2:02
And then earlier in my early days as a marketer, I worked for many years at ReturnPath. And during my time there, I sort of bounced from different specialty areas. So I did some partner marketing, some channel marketing, some content marketing, event marketing, which later has really benefited me in just having more of a wide scope and understanding different areas within the Marketing department.
Michael Pollack 2:29
That's awesome. Carly, I appreciate that background. And I'm curious to understand is you've moved through your career on the marketing side and the evolution of some of these technical products. I guess moving from ReturnPath to Sendgrid to to DigitalOcean. Increasingly, it seems like the products you're marketing are increasingly self-service.
Michael Pollack 2:48
I'm curious, how has that shaped your mindset as a CMO? How is that different than an enterprise motion? How have you approached that? How have you altered your thoughts or your opinion or your approach as a result of that?
Carly Brantz 2:59
It's interesting, because I've spent so much time in the self-service area or arena, I guess. I think I would be hard pressed to know a lot of the tactics that do serve that enterprise space. But when I think about self-service in that motion, it's really in thinking about how to put the customer first and sort of figuring out each of their needs at each step of the funnel - almost before they even know it.
Carly Brantz 3:26
So I'm thinking as right when they're doing a Google search, how can I help them find the information that they need? And then when they're on the website? How can I give them the materials in order for them to be successful? And then, ultimately, as they onboard, how can I give them the resources so that they can be a successful customer stay within our platform, and even add on additional products and features as part of their journey.
Carly Brantz 3:56
But I almost you know, compared to psychology, because it's trying to figure out the customer's needs before they even know that they have those needs.
Michael Pollack 4:05
And it's helpful. And maybe to take a step back, you're even new to start for our audience. I think it might be helpful for you, in your own words to articulate who DigitalOcean is and what DigitalOcean does.
Michael Pollack 4:16
I would just pause here for a second call out that Intricately is a long-time DigitalOcean customer. We're fans of the people that work there. We're fans of the product and fans of the business. So I'm not sure if our audience is as familiar as we are. But I'd love to hear from you to share with our audience the problem, why digitalocean does it better than anybody else? And kind of the impact you guys make for your customers?
Carly Brantz 4:37
Yeah, so our mission at Digital Ocean is really to simplify cloud computing so that the developers and businesses who are customers can spend more time building software and applications that can change the world really. And our target audience is really startups SMBs really individuals or developers who are Running websites, applications, open source projects. They could be running ecommerce sites or SaaS applications, or even managed hosting providers that are running their hosting infrastructure on our compute services.
Carly Brantz 5:15
So, the way I think I can simplify it the easiest is we really have products for any stage of a developer's journey. So, there are three primary ways of sort of building apps in the cloud. And those are IaaS, cloud native, which is also known as Kubernetes, and then PaaS.
Carly Brantz 5:38
So, we support all of those stages of the journey through our Droplets offering through our DigitalOcean Kubernetes service, and then our recent launch of our app platform. so that developers can really build their businesses in the cloud. And we're definitely seeing an acceleration towards the cloud right now,
Michael Pollack 6:00
So, to unpack that a little bit, Carly, when you talk about working with customers across kind of their digital transformation, do you find, and are you seeing a lot of customers perhaps start as a hobbyist instance, and then expand substantially from there? Do you see that the enterprise is perhaps growing faster than some of your self-service or earlier stage companies? How do you kind of break out the universe? Where do you guys allocate those efforts? And where are you seeing the biggest growth?
Carly Brantz 6:27
Yeah, so we are definitely seeing a lot of growth in those individuals that are coming to DigitalOcean to just learn. And that could be learning programming languages, they could be working on some open source projects. And, then once they start to build their application or their business, it expands from there. And so we're seeing a lot of traction with smaller individuals or small startups.
Carly Brantz 6:53
But we're also seeing tremendous growth in sort of this SMB market as well. So more established companies are coming and running their businesses on DigitalOcean. So our focus is definitely not on the enterprise. We're sort of more aptly fit for that SMB market. And for the individuals, like I said, who are just getting started, or students who are trying out new things, and seeing what's available on DigitalOcean.
Sarah E. Brown 7:21
I would love to understand, you know, as you're building out your marketing programs to reach developers at these different stages, it sounds like you're talking about education, how do you identify what their education levels are, where they are in their maturity as you're selling to them?
Carly Brantz 7:35
Yeah, that's interesting. So, one of the things that I've been really blown away and very impressed by when I joined DigitalOcean is just sort of the breadth and scope of the community. And so really, what that entails is through our community site, we have over 5,000 tutorials, so people really are coming. And if you talk to most developers, they're like, oh, yeah, I go to DigitalOcean all the time and find information.
Carly Brantz 8:02
And so it's that valuable content that it's bringing people in. And it really ranges for all types of developers and it all types of sort of experience as well. And so I think that we can continue to sort of identify different stages of that education, sort of the education funnel as well. But at this point, we've just tried to meet the needs of everyone, no matter where they're at, if they're just first learning to code, or if they're experienced developers, we really have all the content to meet their needs.
Michael Pollack 8:38
You know, on that topic of education and content, I think I was at RubyConf in Miami in like, I don't know, 2013, or something like that. And DigitalOcean was kind of the keynote sponsor of the event. And I'd say about DigitalOcean, versus many other companies in the cloud space, very deeply embedded into their DNA has been community and education. And I think that's paid enormous dividends.
Michael Pollack 9:03
I'd love for you to unpack a little bit: You know, clearly today, there's enormous competition for the wallet share of cloud spend. But obviously, to get to that wallet share, you got to go through hearts and minds. And so I'm curious for you characterize how DigitalOcean thinks about that.
Michael Pollack 9:18
And if you want to comment about how some of the competitors, perhaps approach this or where you think there's differentiation, I'd love to hear how you as a CMO, think about that investment in education, how you think about it as it returns in the form of net new customers or growth or mitigating turn.
Carly Brantz 9:33
Yeah, I think that focus on developer love and loyalty has been a cornerstone for everything DigitalOcean has done for many years. And we are seeing the return of that just based on, if now a developer is at a more established company, they've gone to DigitalOcean, like I said earlier, and consume the content and benefited from that in some way - so that when it's time to choose the cloud provider, they're just intuitively going to choose DigitalOcean. And I think that that's hard that kind of, you know, brand loyalty is hard to come by for some of the bigger players.
Carly Brantz 10:12
And what we need to continue to do now. And it's a focus for me this year, and certainly in the years to come, sort of taking that community approach and providing value to the community, but also figuring out how to, in a gentle way to market to those developers. So in addition to providing value and educational content, then showing what you could actually do on Digital Ocean.
Carly Brantz 10:39
I think that, you know, oftentimes, especially with a target segment of developers, marketers, and really companies as a whole are a little, I don't know, scared to market to developers. But I think you can do it in, like I said, a gentle way. So giving them the content, but then also bringing them to the signup flow, showing them how to get on boarded, giving them the right products and features to use at the right time in their journey. So I think now it's taking all that content, but then giving them some calls to action in order to take their journey with Digital Ocean, not just coming to consume the educational content.
Michael Pollack 11:21
So when you unpack that, and you just look at the year that 2020 has been and you look at how many of the companies in the cloud space, invest in ordinate sums and it kind of, again, winning developers hearts and minds, whether that's large events like AWS reinvent, I imagine for you on your side that this substantial investment has been, again in content and education and making it actionable.
Michael Pollack 11:44
Can you comment a little bit how 2020, if at all, has changed your strategy in terms of getting developer attention and curious just to get your opinion on kind of the state of things, given what's happening, and particularly as it pertains to developer attention?
Carly Brantz 11:59
Yeah. So I was giving this some thought of just how 2020 has changed. I mean, we're seeing a ton more adoption of the cloud in general. And as companies and developers are moving there. As far as our approach and strategy, it will continue and has continued to be on more tutorials, more content, more answers to the questions that developers have,
Carly Brantz 12:22
I think the biggest, most profound changes around events, you had mentioned a couple of events that you had seen DigitalOcean. A, we had a ton of different meetups associated with our Hacktoberfest event, which obviously we're not able to attend in person this year. But we've really shifted a lot of our in person events and try to have some innovative ways to bring that online.
Carly Brantz 12:49
So just today, actually, we wrapped up our first-ever 24-hour virtual conference called Deploy. And so, this had literally streaming content for 24 hours for all time zones for all types of developers and SMBs, as well. So I think in Hacktoberfest, which I mentioned, it's all online, and we figured out how to do a lot of those meetups in a virtual format.
Carly Brantz 13:20
And then we've taken a lot of what we would normally do in person events in terms of developer relationships, and community engagement to some of these tech talks that are online and very regular.
Carly Brantz 13:33
I think that will honestly I think it will be a change that will continue for many years to come. It's just so much easier to reach more people in this virtual setting, when we've found ways to try to connect in the best way that we can with breakout sessions and panels to sort of recreate more of a live setting. But I think it's just so much easier to reach more people in a way that's comfortable and flexible for their schedules to in this new environment. So I definitely think that the event space will I think forever be changed in some way because of 2020.
Sarah E. Brown 14:13
Great, I'm imagining you FedEx-ing Red Bull just for a 24-hour event around the world. You know, I'm curious as you think about building your ideal customer profiles, identifying your total addressable market, you know, running account-based marketing campaigns, you know, without sharing specific numbers.
Sarah E. Brown 14:29
I'm curious to hear how you're using data to inform your strategy. I imagine that you have access to a wealth of data. How do you think about building each of those, given your target market?
Carly Brantz 14:39
Yeah, so I would say I'm very passionate about the self-service revenue funnel. And it's been my primary focus this year is really figuring out how we can create this intentional experience for prospects to go through each stage of the funnel. And then order to really understand that you need to have the data In order to see what's happening at each step of the funnel and how to positively impact that,
Carly Brantz 15:04
so we are looking at how to attract at the top of the funnel. So looking at traffic and looking at attribution of different sources for where that traffic is coming from, and how much we can attribute to the different channels that they're coming from. And then we have a ton of data, we use Looker, and Segment we're looking at the data on how people move through that funnel, whether that's the signup process itself, or then what pages they're looking at. And then automating sort of their onboarding experience through Marketo, email nurture flows.
Carly Brantz 15:43
And then just looking at the data in terms of revenue, I feel like the old model used to be that Sales and <arketing were sort of tied at the hip. And what I like to say lately is that it's more of the Finance team. And Marketing needs to be very tightly aligned. So I meet regularly with our finance team to figure out what's going on with the numbers, how the activities that we're doing in marketing, are impacting revenue and revenue growth.
Michael Pollack 16:12
It's funny that you make that comment about the relationship between Marketing and Finance, because for many of our customers, today, we've really seen the rise of this Marketing Ops function that mirrors a lot of what Sales Ops traditionally has done, which is really be kind of a quantitative component of this sales organization.
Michael Pollack 16:30
And in the marketing world, similarly, particularly for this business where there's an enormous amount of dollars coming in to self service fashion. So micro optimizations, one to 2%, here or there can have tremendous impact.
Michael Pollack 16:44
So I'm curious when you think about your finance partners, and you think about whether it's the Marketing ops function, or it's actually your finance colleagues, can you share just even at a high level, some of the metrics you're paying attention to, and the places where you're continuously trying to refine that you think are unique or relevant, particularly to the self service business you operate?
Carly Brantz 17:06
Yeah, absolutely. So we really, truly break down each step of the funnel. So I do look at traffic. So we call it UX, which stands for unique visitors, excluding customers. So I'm looking at that number very closely. And then I'm looking at from you back to sign up start. So how we can impact that through different types of landing pages on the website.
Carly Brantz 17:32
And then as they go deeper through the funnel, there are steps within the signup flow that I'm looking at each step along the way. And most of that is through Segment where I'm seeing them sort of complete different steps.
Carly Brantz 17:47
And then I'm looking very closely. And I guess this ties more with the finance department is, as the revenue comes in, I'm looking at not only what revenue came in this month, but how prior cohorts have performed and continue to perform throughout the year. And so I'm looking at how the January cohort of customers is performing in October. And if there's any variation, and I'm trying to dig in to see what happened there
Carly Brantz 18:18
Another number that I'm working really closely with, with my team is around churn. So we see a lot of customers who are signing up for an account and you've spent so much time getting them on-boarded and they've signed up and you've spent the money to bring them to the website to begin with. And then that first month is sort of the prime time to make sure that they get the information they need. So, those churn numbers are really important to me too. And how we can impact those is through making sure they get the content that they need at the moment that they need it.
Carly Brantz 18:53
And so that's either through events or email nurture programs, or different types of white papers or guides, we want to make sure that we're getting them in those first few days and weeks of being a customer. So really all of those numbers I'm looking at, on a weekly basis, I meet with the team, both with finance, but within the revenue marketing team to see what's happening and what's trending with those numbers.
Sarah E. Brown 19:22
As you've mentioned, revenue marketing and working with Finance. I'm curious what the handoff to sales looks like at DigitalOcean and how you think about partnering with your sales team.
Carly Brantz 19:31
So we have a pretty small sales team. I would say the lion's share of revenue comes through this self-serve channel. But it's not to say that we don't care or partner with sales part of our revenue marketing team is definitely looking at the leads that are coming in the lead quality, how to improve the number of leads but also the quality of leads too
Carly Brantz 19:54
Also a lot of what later comes from our sales team is first generated Through our self-serve, funnel. And so what's important there is identifying based on a number of characteristics of a net-new signup, who looks interesting to pass on to the sales team. And so we're doing some predictive modeling there and figuring out how to best serve the sales team. But I would say we're in our pretty early days of that.
Carly Brantz 20:23
But we've also had a lot of success in some of our early experiments on figuring out based on some sort of user behavior, which of those accounts need to be touched by the sales team.
Sarah E. Brown 20:36
You know, Carly, I'm sort of laughing on mute because as you're talking about predictive modeling, you know, one of the things that we've helped here at Intricately customers work on is really, actually getting to see cloud spend usage and adoption data and starting to transition over. It's something that we think about a lot here.
Carly Brantz 20:51
Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, we've just started to do the data modeling on this. But I think that there's tremendous opportunity and doing the same thing with our enormous customer base. So not even just the net new customers who are coming in, but what kind of activities our customer base taking right now. And how are they showing interest in different areas so that we can touch them at the right time in their journey?
Michael Pollack 21:17
You know, exactly to Sarah's point, Carly, I mean, what you're talking about here is the focus of what we do for our customers. And it's interesting to the analogy we tend to share with our customers is in the physical world. If we, the three of us said, Hey, you know what, let's just wrap up this podcast. And let's go start a business together. And for some reason, we decided to go into the forklift business.
Michael Pollack 21:42
And one of the logical ways we might go about finding customers is, we could get in our car and kind of drive around. And when we found an industrial park that was filled with warehouses, we might want to go knock on the door and try and sell a forklift. If we went to restaurants or retail stores, you might realize, hey, those aren't great fit for forklifts.
Michael Pollack 22:00
And in the digital world, you have a similar challenge. It's hard to tell a hobbyist who is potentially building the next Instagram versus say, a really large business was just trialing some bit of computing infrastructure. And so for many of our customers, we solve that by building kind of this comprehensive map of what is the context that somebody is using digital infrastructure? And how much are they consuming of it?
Michael Pollack 22:25
I'm curious to hear from you. What's the dream attribute you could get when you say, Hey, we're trying to do predictive modeling to understand who would really be a fit for us? Is it understanding their cloud spend? Is it understanding their cloud priorities? What's the if we just had this, it would solve it for us?
Carly Brantz 22:44
Yeah, I think there's so many things, I don't know if there's just this one. But, no, earlier I described that it's sort of trying to figure out where the developer is on their journey, whether that's IaaS or Kubernetes or PaaS, when we're seeing signups or even within our customer base, it's really hard until they start to use one of those technologies for us to understand which they've come to use at DigitalOcean.
Carly Brantz 23:15
And in the signup flow, especially, it's very difficult to tell, and they're all developers. And so I think that would be incredibly useful for us. But then I definitely think that the cloud spend piece would also be enormously helpful.
Sarah E. Brown 23:34
Great, thanks for indulging us in that conversation. You know, we could talk about this all day. But you know, sort of as we're getting close to wrapping here, Carly, I'd love to understand, you know, as a marketing leader, operating in pretty unprecedented times, you know, you and I have spoken about how you've supported your team during the pandemic and help them be successful. And I know you mentioned hosting a virtual off site.
Sarah E. Brown 23:56
We'd love to hear since we have a cloud marketing and sales leaders listening to this, who also are trying to support teams. Right now, what are some strategies that you'd advise are supporting your team right now? And maybe any advice you would give to anyone listening who wants to do a better job?
Carly Brantz 24:11
Yeah, it's definitely an interesting time. I am a huge believer in team building. And I believe that getting to know your coworkers outside of your day to day work environment is really important because if you trust people outside of work, you're going to bring that trust to work every day. And obviously, right now, it's really challenging to create that sense of getting to know each other and team building.
Carly Brantz 24:37
So I have just tried to be as creative as possible. And so when the pandemic had first started, I had kept pushing off this offsite that we had ideally wanted to do in person, but then we did do it in person and we had a two-day event and we enjoyed Icebreaker. I've been using this great company that you login and it connects you with another person. So we did a lot of rounds of that with just personal get to know sessions, part of that marketing, virtual offside. I guess
Carly Brantz 25:11
We also did segments of the day where we did a "day in the life." So a lot of the individual contributors, people who you might not normally hear from and that type of format of a meeting, we heard, like, what's your day to day look like. And so in addition to that, I would say, almost over-communicating. So, we do monthly marketing, we were doing them every other week marketing, all hands meetings, just so people can get to know each other and connect in that way.
Carly Brantz 25:40
And then I would say we've just been trained to be really creative about how to do fun team buildings, outside of just normal work hours. So we do happy hours, we've done scavenger hunts around the house where, you know, you have to run and get these three items that are totally random. We just last week did a cookie decorating virtually where we had sent cookies that were all ocean themed to different members of the marketing department. And we all just decorated cookies online together.
Carly Brantz 26:15
I think it's just doing the most that you can do and trying some things work for certain types of people and some things, work for others, and just trying all different types of things to see what creates this community and connection piece, the best you can.
Michael Pollack 26:34
And I'm smiling as you're talking there, because we similar to you as a remote business at this time. And we have people kind of scattered and we've been trying to do similar things where we're trying to figure out how do you build camaraderie and high quality of relationships with a truly distributed workforce.
Michael Pollack 26:51
And in the past, when I had remote or distributed businesses, we do these kind of quarterly or even some instances monthly offsite to get everybody in the house and get people together. But I think your comment of being creative around the limitations that are imposed by this and the setup. That is just the way it is.
Michael Pollack 27:07
I guess I'd kind of just ask one final question here, which is, what advice would you have for other leaders around things that you think really have brought your team together? And I just rattled off a great list of things. But is there anything that was perhaps not so obvious, or maybe is obvious that you hadn't pondered prior to this that you now would adhere to? Or you think is a tool that you'll keep in the toolbox?
Carly Brantz 27:32
Yeah,what's interesting is that even prior to COVID, in 2020, we had about 65% of our workforce is remote. And so it was always going to be a challenge for me, I think 2020 just really threw in to me, to make myself be creative in these ways. I would say some of the things that I think have been really useful. I mentioned this Icebreaker company, which has been really great. All of our marketing, all hands meetings, we connect over this and it can be, you know, a silly or serious question. But it's just a nice way for different groups and people within the marketing department to connect in a personal way.
Carly Brantz 28:13
So I think that's definitely one tool that I would continue to use the other piece, I think a lot of companies do this in one way or another. But we've done a new marketing award each month as well. And that's a peer recognition award. So each person who receives the award, then hands it off to someone else.
Carly Brantz 28:34
But it's just a nice way to highlight teamwork or how another team member has helped you through that month, and someone that you just want to give a shout out to. So I think things like that just recognizing different ways teamwork comes up on a regular basis. And just acknowledging how interdependent we are, especially now I think, is something that we want to continue to cultivate.
Sarah E. Brown 29:00
Well, Carly, thank you so much for sharing this. It's really inspiring to hear how you align with your team as you're bringing in serious revenue for your business, working together on that and also galvanizing your customer community in your prospect community. For folks who want to learn more about Digital Ocean, where should we direct them
Carly Brantz 29:16
To our website: digitalocean.com.
Sarah E. Brown 29:18
Will do. Well, Carly, thank you so much. pleasure having you with us on the show.
Carly Brantz 29:22
Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
Michael Pollack 30:27
Well, that's it for us.This episode may be over but we can continue the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #sellinginthecloud. On Twitter. I'm @MRPollack,
Sarah E. Brown 31:35
And I'm @SEBMarketing.
Michael Pollack 32:01
Thank you to everyone for joining us on this episode of Selling in the Cloud, brought to you by Intricately, the authoritative source of digital product, adoption, usage and spend data for cloud sales and marketing teams.
Michael Pollack 33:12
If you liked the show, head on over to iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, and please give us a review. We appreciate it. Until next time!