Ep. 10 Ethan Beute
[00:00:00] Corey Quinn: Welcome to the Vertical Go To Market podcast, where you'll discover new opportunities to grow your business. From seven figures to eight, from the world's most successful agency and B2B SaaS executives. I'm your host Corey Quinn, today I'm joined by Ethan Butte. Welcome, Ethan.
[00:00:20] Ethan Beute: Thanks so much. Excited to be here. Glad we connected, and uh, I really appreciate your focus around vertical
[00:00:26] Corey Quinn: Oh boy. Thanks for that and I cannot wait for our conversation today. It's gonna be great. Could you please introduce yourself with those listeners who may not be familiar with you and your background?
[00:00:35] Ethan Beute: Sure, absolutely. I've been at a software company called BombBomb for almost a dozen years, full-time. I was doing project work with the two co-founders for a couple of years before that, uh, I was the first and only marketer for some period of time here. We brought on our C M O I became VP marketing. We built out the marketing organization.
[00:00:53] Um, I transitioned for a story that may or may not come up into a chief evangelist role, so I've been, that's, that's how I've [00:01:00] been serving, uh, for the past four years in this context. and we certainly, I would certainly tell, um, the vertical story as any part of our story of bootstrapping past, you know, 25 million.
[00:01:12] Corey Quinn: Awesome. I wanna unpack that before we do. Into unpacking and sharing a little bit about what BombBomb.
[00:01:19] Ethan Beute: Sure. Absolutely. we are a software company. We make it easy to record and send video messages. That's the mechanics of it, but really the essence of what we're doing is making it easier to put the messenger back into the message. So much of our digital communication is happening a in noisy and polluted digital channels, right?
[00:01:37] Like emails. Text messaging, LinkedIn, um, social dms, et cetera. And they're noisy and polluted channels and faceless, typed out text doesn't give people what they really need, uh, in so many cases. Uh, and so I teach people and we empower and equip people and teach people, um, how to record simple video messages [00:02:00] to add more clarity, to add more connection, ultimately to increase conversion any way that you would define it.
[00:02:05] Anytime you're seeking a yes video can. In most of those cases.
[00:02:09] Corey Quinn: That's awesome. And for the listeners, could you share what could you share about the company in terms of the business today as far as number of clients or revenue, employees, whatever you're comfortable sharing.
[00:02:18] Ethan Beute: Yeah. So, uh, when I joined we were fewer than 10 people. Uh, we had a couple hundred customers. A lot of them, as a lot of software companies start, they're like, you know, Would you please try this at no cost? And if it's useful to you, we'll figure out how to pay. You know, we just need users on the platform to, to figure it out.
[00:02:38] Uh, so we started from there. Almost no revenue, almost no customers, almost no employees. Again, it's been a dozen years. They've been a little bit, uh, lumpy. They're like fits and starts as, as, as goes with any company that has given themself the privilege and the challenge of bootstrapping. Um, you know, 110 hundred and 20 ish people.
[00:02:57] Um, we used to all be. Almost [00:03:00] all be on the front range in Colorado Springs and Denver. but now we're everywhere, kind of post pandemic and, um, you know, 75,000 plus ish active customers. Of course, we have a free trial model. Um, and so those people, lots of them come, some of 'em stay. and of course, you know, among among customers, some of them come and some of them leave.
[00:03:21] Um, so that, that's about like current active. You know, paid accounts.
[00:03:26] Corey Quinn: And tell us about your role there as chief evangelist.
[00:03:30] Ethan Beute: Yeah. So, um, I had come up in the marketing team. I was the first and only marketer for some period of time. I was not a digital, so this is like 2011, late 2011. And, um, I was not a digital marketer per se. The guys brought me on because, Um, we knew each other. I worked with one of them at the, at the role that I was in full-time when I was doing project work for them.
[00:03:52] So, like, my reputation, my, my work ethic, my abilities in general were a known quantity. Um, [00:04:00] so my default was, It was really social and storytelling because I came up in, in running marketing teams inside local broadcast television. So I was very comfortable writing, producing, and editing content in general and video in particular.
[00:04:13] Um, I shot a ton of photos just for fun. It's something I enjoyed doing, like primarily hiking, but you know, some urban stuff too. So I was very familiar. Uh, I had written thousands of pieces of short form promotional messaging. Um, I had worked a lot with video. I was comfortable with photos, and so this all lent itself really well to that era of email.
[00:04:36] Social webinars, stage presentations, use cases, customer stories, et cetera. Like that was my whole mo out of the gate was like, who's finding us? How are they using us? And how can I build relationships with the people that are finding success with us? Learn more about that and teach it to other people.
[00:04:55] And so that was kind of like the, the start of, a customer in [00:05:00] intimacy, a storytelling, and all of this that led to. Uh, I don't know if you want the whole story of the evangelist thing, but, uh, at this point I'm untethered from operations. I still sit inside marketing. Um, I'll go as deep as you want on this, by the way.
[00:05:13] I, I love
[00:05:13] talking about it.
[00:05:14] Um, not just for myself, but I've talked with dozens of other evangelists. I think it's a very interesting, um, opportunity for a lot of companies who are innovating. But, um, I, I, I, I sit in market. I'm a free agent with inside the organization. I'm working with our salespeople sometimes to strategize an account or for direct, uh, prospect interaction.
[00:05:35] I'm, I'm working with some of our CSMs and sometimes direct customer interaction there. If we have a stage presentation or a webinar that's been earned or paid for, I will often deliver that. Um, I've written both of the books behind me if, to the degree that people are watching, um, In the context of the work here, I started the first one just outta pure passion alone.
[00:05:55] But, um, I host our podcast and I guessed on a ton of podcasts. [00:06:00] Um, here we're talking about the nature of the business, but more often people are hosting me to talk about video messaging. Why does it matter? Um, you know, what are the trends in it? I've been a part of the entire, like video messaging wasn't a thing when we.
[00:06:14] Like this company was legally founded in oh six before the iPhone existed. But the interesting thing is the original founder's vision is alive and well today in our customer base. And so I'm telling that story arc to the degree that it's useful for people. I'm giving use case prescriptions, I'm doing discovery and diagnosis and prescription informal and informal settings.
[00:06:34] And so I'm just a free agent in the organization working internally and externally to advance our perspective on how this can and should be done, why it matters. And that type
[00:06:43] Corey Quinn: What an amazing resource that the company has in you and being able to do that. That's really great. Could
[00:06:49] Ethan Beute: a joy. It's a, it's just such, it's a great fit for me and, um, I appreciate your observation. It's, uh, I hope that everyone around me feels the same way.
[00:06:57] Cause I would like to keep doing it.[00:07:00]
[00:07:00] Corey Quinn: Can we dive a little bit into the early days of BombBomb? Maybe when you were joining, you share with me that, uh, one vertical in particular happened to have an influence, very positive influence in your ability to get to the next level of the business. Could you share with us more about that, time and, and that.
[00:07:17] Ethan Beute: Yeah, absolutely. I'll tell you the story, like probably it'll wind up medium length just knowing myself and, and I think it is, I think, I think it's super relevant to what you're trying to do here. And then, and then as soon as I kind of wrap it, we can go back into any details that you want to fill in on it.
[00:07:31] But, Again, a free trial model. It was a two week free trial model. Um, so we were getting, you know, x number of free trials a day back when I joined the company full-time in fall of 2011. And the volume was not such that we could not literally get on the phone and send personal video emails to, or try to get on the phone and send personal video emails to.
[00:07:51] Every single person that started a trial, and certainly every single person who bought an account, and the questions were, and it was intimate, like every morning, standup was the entire company. [00:08:00] And so whether, and it was like one support person, the two co-founders, me, uh, one or two sales people that were doing a lot of this, uh, the customer communication.
[00:08:10] So like we, you know, the, the CTO and his right hand guy at the time. Um, and so we all were talking about exactly what was going on in the business. And so, You know, the, the, the essence of what we were trying to get at from each of our seats was who's finding us? How did they find us? Who are they? What do they do?
[00:08:30] How are they using us? Um, is, is their use of video messaging, is it additive to everything else that they were doing before? Or do video messages replace some of what they were doing before? If it's replacing, why is it replacing these cuz it's faster and easier for them. Is it because it produces a better result?
[00:08:47] Like all of this, this is this kind of like, What's going on here, right? Because you, and so, um, because, you know, we are running some paid ads at things like video, email and video, email marketing, but the volume on it was like [00:09:00] nil. And so you need to know as much as you possibly can because again, highly innovative.
[00:09:07] 2011, the search volume on video email or video video messaging. I don't think there was any search volume on it. Some of my earliest presentations, again, this is just kind of an aside for context, some of my earliest presentations, uh, I was talking about marketing through video versus relationship through video.
[00:09:25] So, and that was just to say, We're talking video in a business context, but completely unlike the way you think when you think video in a business context in 20 12, 20 13, 20 14, you're thinking lights, scripts, drones, green screens, budgets, timelines, YouTube to some degree at that time, Facebook, um, homepage, videos, et cetera.
[00:09:49] You're not thinking. Hey Jeff, it's Ethan. Wanted to reach out and say thanks so much for filling out that form on our website. I'm using that generically. Um, wanted to introduce myself and let you know [00:10:00] that I'm the person who wrote that thing. I would love for you to get into that. And if you have any questions about it at all, just reply to this email.
[00:10:05] I included my phone number down below. Just reach out in the meantime, thanks so much. Hope you find it helpful, right? Like that is not, Writing and scripting, uh, video. But, but that's what everyone thought. When you start talking about video email, they're like, oh, I can just take these videos that are, and you can, you can take that YouTube video and put it into email and send it to the people who've given you, you know, permission-based email addresses.
[00:10:27] It's a, it's another channel, but that's not exactly what it is from the way that we were reviewing it, again, consistent with the founders story. So, One day, one week, uh, we keep hearing the same name on the phone as we're talking to people. Um, you know, we doubled or tripled free trial lead flow that week.
[00:10:44] You know, it's like maybe a Wednesday or Thursday. We're like, we are up this week. It is amazing. Like, why is this happening? Like, that's the other thing you wanna know. Um, and uh, and by the way, it's typically not getting mentioned in some article on some website. You
[00:10:58] know, like it's just not we. Some of [00:11:00] that happened for us too, but there
[00:11:01] was. It, it's just so short run, um, as a benefit. So, so a sustained thing. And we kept hearing this guy's name on the phone, this guy named Steve Paselli. So, uh, our, one of our co-founders picked up the phone and called and was like, Hey man, thank you. Uh, we keep hearing your name on the phone this week. Like, how'd you find us?
[00:11:21] What's going on for you? And he and a buddy of his, We're selling software into the real estate community. Um, c r m was the main product of theirs, um, but they were selling other things as well. And so these two sales guys were clever enough back then to start a Facebook page, start an email channel, et cetera, doing tech reviews.
[00:11:40] For real estate agents and real estate broker owners. They, at the time, their Facebook page was maybe 25,000 people, which was pretty legit at that time in particular. Um, ES especially cuz organic reach was still a thing on Facebook at the time. You could actually post something and like 20,000 people would see it.
[00:11:55] And they were also sending emails and so they were [00:12:00] using a competitor of ours, well, an email marketing platform. I should. A mainstream email marketing platform that we would all
[00:12:06] know, and he was just tired of. It, didn't like it was like, I need to find an alternative. So he was looking for email marketing platforms, happened to find ours.
[00:12:17] Realize this video thing was actually interesting. Obviously these guys are a little bit progressive in their sales techniques and their community building and their education as the means to edgy sales type thing. Um, so they took to it right away and he ended up writing up a tech review publishing it, sent out the email using BombBomb to all of the people on his list.
[00:12:35] Put it on their Facebook page and it just kind of blew us up. So we, we talked with him and he was like, love you guys. This is super interesting. I think you guys would kill it in this space. Um, the next big event is, and by the way, we, we'd seen some real estate, you know, like industry was one of our dropdowns on all of our forms.
[00:12:51] Um, we had seen some, some, a little bit of momentum there anyway, but this was just like the, Dumb, stupid, obvious, you should go in this direction, or you at least need to experiment in this [00:13:00] direction. He's like, the next big event is in February. You should reach out. You should be there. we muster up the cash, we round take everyone who's not answering a phone on a daily basis, put 'em on a flight to Orlando, to the Orange County Convention Center, and we functionally triple the business in three, four days of, of hand selling on the floor.
[00:13:20] And our process was garbage. I mean, the next show we went to is way faster and better. It was so crazy that it got to a point where people were handing us a business card and a credit. Hey, I can't stand here and wait to get signed up anymore. I need to go to this next session, but I'll be back here in one hour and just gimme my credit card back.
[00:13:40] But, you know, sign me
[00:13:41] up. Like, that's how crazy it got.
[00:13:43] Corey Quinn: I want to back up a, just a little bit, so previous two, so what you shared was, You were doing sort of, um, you were advertising online before, you noticed about the, the, the trend in real estate from the free trial lead flow before that happened.
[00:13:58] How, what were you, how were you [00:14:00] marketing the, the software in, in general?
[00:14:04] Ethan Beute: Yeah, it was, it was really, and this was, this was before our mobile app. This was even before we had a live in-app recorder, which sounds crazy in hindsight because anyone thinking about video email or video message now is like, yeah, I just record that in Gmail, or I just record that in the mobile app, or I just record that in the web app, or I just record that in the Chrome extension or whatever the case may be.
[00:14:24] Um, but we didn't even have that at time, so it really was a video email marketing platform. And so the idea was, You know, put yourself into your email marketing, right? Be there in person when you can't be there in person. and it wasn't as direct and personal and one-to-one at that time because it was really designed as like a MailChimp or a constant contact, but with video baked right in,
[00:14:47] right? So the whole process of making it and sending it is under one roof. All of the analytics are under one roof. The opens, the clicks, the video plays. Kind of like a, a relationship score slash lead [00:15:00] scoring. It was not lead scoring cause it's not a full crm, but like, you know, people get points for engaging with your messages.
[00:15:06] So you can easily, quickly see like, who are my most engaged on this send and who's the most engaged in this list? And then who's the most engaged across all my lists? Like, that was, that was the spirit of it in the beginning. So it really was video, email marketing, um, and. We had some relationships in nonprofit and so we built a couple nonprofit integrations.
[00:15:26] the trick there, this is actually interesting for the vertical, I didn't even think about it coming into this conversation, but, we had a lot of relationships there too. And by the way, Steve Paselli wound up becoming our chief marketing officer several years later. Uh, just
[00:15:38] Corey Quinn: That's a great story.
[00:15:39] I love
[00:15:40] Ethan Beute: for the quick call back there on that.
[00:15:42] But, um, so we had a lot of relationships in nonprofits and, uh, so we went to a couple conferences and built a couple of integrations. And the trick there was, it was just a much harder sale. They were very loyal to their email marketing platform in general, and they made decision by committee. It's like, [00:16:00] so we'd go to a conference, so unlike people handing us credit cards and saying, sign me up, I'll be back.
[00:16:05] I like you and trust you enough in our five minutes of conversation to give you my credit card physically like that. Give you my credit card number.
[00:16:12] Like here's my credit card, sign me up, I'll
[00:16:14] be back. Um, In, in contrast, some of the, the early events I went to in my first month on the job, people were like, this is amazing.
[00:16:22] I can see all these great ways to use it. This is a great way to engage our community and engage our audience and to to do small group communication, and this is fantastic. You know what, let me go back. And they weren't saying this, but this is functionally what's happening. Let me go back to my organization next week and see if I can run this by a committee of 10 people and get the, get them all to agree to change vendors.
[00:16:49] Like it was just so slow. And we also had a nonprofit discount, so it was, you know, it was less money to start with and it was just a much like, that's part of this vertical focus as well. It's not [00:17:00] just, Where's the exact product market fit? Like who can get the most value from this platform? That is part of it.
[00:17:07] But if you're a I, I would guarantee that a number of your listeners, whether you're in a software company or an agency or something related, That what you do, like the actual functional delivery of your product or service could serve all kinds of people. One of the things I like to say is that I sincerely believe is the reason I've been here so long.
[00:17:28] One of them, I sincerely believe that everyone working professionally can and should have video messages is part of their communication mix because it takes the best of what you and I are doing right now, Corey, which is like a live video. Best is in person. Um, third best I guess would be a phone call, like live synchronous communication, real human to human interaction.
[00:17:49] It takes a lot of that quality, but d packages and deliver, its delivers it with a speed, convenience, and asynchronicity of email, slack, text messaging, LinkedIn, et cetera. Right? [00:18:00] So it's, it's, it lives in a perfectly unique zone between those two communication functions. So it's like everyone should have.
[00:18:07] But you can't go to market that way. And some of the, so, so, and this happened all the time. New employees would come like, oh, you know what, I've got a couple friends that run veterinary clinics. You should, we should definitely be in that space. I can think of 10 use cases, like, give me 30 seconds and I could come up with 10 more.
[00:18:24] But the answer is no.
[00:18:26] you, know? And so, and, and part of that, so there are other factors
[00:18:30] involved. I'd actually be curious to give it back to you here and, and see what, what other factors come to mind for you, but certainly how people buy and how those, and this actually kind of bit us a little bit with real estate in a way that we may or may not have time to get to.
[00:18:43] Um, how people buy is one of a number of other factors besides could people get legit value? Five x 10, x hundred x ROI, and their spend with you. Like that's not the only criteria for what verticals a good fit because all the verticals fit us that way.
[00:18:59] Corey Quinn: [00:19:00] So that, that's a great lead in to the question how, as a, let's say, a listener is an agency who has taken more of a broad market market approach. And they have their employees who are saying, you should be in veterinarian, you should be in legal. And there's all these really great ideas. How do you navigate that and what is the process that you, maybe you took through BombBomb or, and you shared a little bit about this, but, or would you recommend, the listener take when they're considering evolving their business into more of a vertical?
[00:19:30] Ethan Beute: Yeah. So I mean, for us it was a long learning process. It was so, so bootstrap company. People wanna give us money. It makes sense. We see the use cases, they seem. Unlike that other kind of group that I mentioned, ready and willing and able to make quick decisions. Um, and so we ended up spending the vast majority of our discretionary time and money over the next three or four years or so, focused exclusively there.
[00:19:54] Going to all the conferences, meeting all the companies and brands, getting access to the executives in those [00:20:00] companies, meeting all the coaches and consultants and influencers in that, in that business. Um, and. Building our network and relationships in that space. And so to turn that into an answer to your, to your question, I think, who do you all enjoy working with?
[00:20:16] Who are your, like everyone, like some, a lot of these people will give you money and a lot of people are getting value, but you personally, Enjoy or feel better about your team, feels better about some accounts and companies than others. What's consistent about those? It may be vertically based, it may not.
[00:20:35] That's another caution, by the way. I mean, our vertical focus over the years causes us to think a little bit too narrowly sometimes when we're trying to solve a problem and we look at all of this data. And we chop it by vertical and like you start, look, you start looking at it that way a little bit too much.
[00:20:51] So it may not be vertical. That is what fits in that zone. Um, another one is where do you have relationships? Another one is for your business [00:21:00] development people or your leaders or your founders or the other people that are gonna be doing a lot of this, um, advancing in a vertical or in an industry or in a community or in a, in a network of some kind.
[00:21:12] Um, Look at the next five conferences coming up. Which ones get you really excited? Which ones would you actually want to attend? Which ones? Um, you know, if you're hosting a podcast, let's say, and you're talking with people in a variety of industries that you serve, look back at those episodes. Which ones did you enjoy the most?
[00:21:31] Which ones did you learn the most? Which ones felt like a more natural fit for you? I mean, some of this is, uh, could be done from a quantitative perspective, you know? Who spends the most on initial take? Who stays the longest? Who puts in the fewest support tickets? Requests Who? Who doesn't treat the world like it's on fire all of the time.
[00:21:52] And so they're easier to work with, you know? Um, and, and, what are the hard costs associated with that? So you could look at it quantitative, but there's also a [00:22:00] qualitative side too, because this is a privilege you're giving yourself. In some cases, it's a necessary decision you need to make. In other cases.
[00:22:08] You're privileged in that you can be of legit service and value. You can package and price what you offer in such a way that a lot of people will want to have that conversation with you. So you have the privilege in that case of saying. But what do we really wanna do? If I have to do this seven times outta 10 in a particular way with a particular type of person around a particular type of problem and solution and opportunity?
[00:22:32] Where do you want to do that Now, that wasn't the decision we made. We were like, you know, cash flow. We need cash flow. We're a bootstrap business, you know, so we're selling more annual subscriptions than month to month, and incentivizing that so that we have cash, so that we have cash, that we have cash.
[00:22:48] And so for us it was like, um, a situation of opportunity. But in the, the way that you phrased that question, I think if someone has the ability to look at what's worked, what hasn't worked, what they like, [00:23:00] what they don't like, where the best margin is again, and there are a number of levers around margin.
[00:23:06] Um, that's a privilege. Uh, and a great, that's a great exercise. Even if you're not thinking about verticalizing right now, a, you probably should. B you probably are cuz you're listening to this podcast. Um, and C regardless of whether that's true or not, it's a, it's a totally useful exercise.
[00:23:21] Corey Quinn: Let's jump back into those three to four years back when real estate, yeah. Uh, when real estate was the, it sounds like a, was a primary focus or one of the primary focuses from a go-to-market perspective? for the company. What did you do in those three to four years to really build those relationships, to build the authority and build the momentum in real estate?
[00:23:40] Ethan Beute: Yeah. Uh, we went to a ton of events. We partnered up specifically with a couple of particular brands. Um, we got involved in a lot of the National Association of Realtor stuff. We went to their events, built a lot of relationships there. Um, I was running a lot of our marketing or almost all of it in that period, and so I would [00:24:00] cut the newsletter into six segments.
[00:24:02] three of them real estate, three of them, not real estate, three of them real estate, three of them, everybody else. And it was like what I called pretrial. They had engaged with us on a webinar or they subscribed or they downloaded some of our content or we met them in an event like pretrial, um, customer.
[00:24:19] And expired trial. Um, and, and you know, we followed, uh, Canadian Anti-Spam Law and then eventually GDPR to kind of like figure out how to manage that properly and when to let people go and how to do good lead scoring to let people go anyway. was one of them. And so you would stack stories differently.
[00:24:37] You might put something in one and not in another. You might prioritize one over another. In one. You might emphasize the fact that this is a real estate agent that we're telling this story about in the, in the mainstream one, it's a sales producer, you know, who happens to be a real estate agent. Um, and, uh, we would do unique.
[00:24:56] And unique onboarding experiences. And it got to the point where we, we were doing [00:25:00] unique onboarding experiences by real estate brand or by, you know, the a-list, uh, coach in the space, um, that we had a relationship with. Uh, we had a unique onboarding for all of his people.
[00:25:14] Corey Quinn: What would, I'm
[00:25:15] Ethan Beute: and so,
[00:25:16] Corey Quinn: real quickly, Ethan, so what was different about the real estate version of the onboarding versus everyone else? I'm curious.
[00:25:23] Ethan Beute: Uh, use cases we gave them very sp thank you for the, thank you for the detail question there. Um, very specific use cases and written in their language, acknowledging the fact that they're a real estate agent or a broker owner, and giving them, putting it in their language. And some of it was like, we teach this all the time.
[00:25:40] We've been teaching it this way for two years, but we're using the exact same. So every. Approximately is generating leads. Some people are generating leads from their current customer base or their, you know, their network. As the dominant source other people are doing online lead gen as their dominant source.
[00:25:58] That would, those were two [00:26:00] tracks of training and education within real estate. and so we would speak a lot of the same use cases that we would outside those bounds, cuz everyone needs to generate leads. Everyone need, everyone is setting appointments and following up after appointments.
[00:26:12] Everyone is trying to become the choice against a direct competitor or against the biggest competitor of all. No decision. There are video use cases along that whole track. You can speak it in real estate lingo or you can speak to it in general business lingo. So we decided to do both,
[00:26:27] um, and try to get it to the right people as often as possible.
[00:26:30] Corey Quinn: I am gonna ask kind of a, a strange question, but how has specializing in real estate back then, specifically, what impact has that had on your ability to generate more real estate clients versus if you were just a generalist?
[00:26:43] Ethan Beute: Uh, great question. I feel like it's an underhand softball. I don't think it's strange at all. I mean, it's straight up like,
[00:26:49] The more you focus, the more momentum you get in a particular area. For us, it was all about word of mouth. Right? And we ended up, by the way, getting, you know, mortgage and [00:27:00] title as immediately adjacent because who are these, who are these real estate agents sending video messages to?
[00:27:05] Mostly well clients for sure. And those are everybody, which is a benefit to the business cuz everyone can use our product. Um, and certainly they could start free trials and buy it on their own and use it for their. Whatever business they're in. Lawyers, um, financial advisors. We ended up getting a lot of folks in that zone too, because that kind of fits in the zone a little bit.
[00:27:26] Um, teachers, um, all kinds of people, like literally all kinds of people in our database. And a lot of that came because. The people we went, we spent time and money. This is the key where you have time and money, and that's why I use the word discretionary. There are things you have to do to run the business.
[00:27:43] There are things that you'll accept as you like, and, and we're a, we're a low-cost product, right? So the dynamics are gonna be different for different people. But by focusing on this group, we got other groups adjacent as a consequence, and we had all of this momentum and word of mouth. [00:28:00] I, it's not a gross overstate.
[00:28:02] It may be an overstatement, but it's not a gross overstatement to say in 2013 to 2015, our brand name was synonymous with video in real estate,
[00:28:12] Corey Quinn: It's.
[00:28:12] Ethan Beute: know, uh, and, and, and you don't get there by dabbling. You don't get there by hedging where we had a choice about, okay, there are four events that we would think would be good for us in, um, in q3, let's say, which ones are we gonna go to?
[00:28:31] Well, Where are our best, like which ones are in real estate and which ones aren't? Where are our best friends? Whether that's a brand, a thought leader in a brand, um, a coach or a consultant who has a massive following and they have a stage presentation and they've told us that they're gonna make us in video messaging.
[00:28:50] Part of that presentation. that stuff doesn't happen unless you focus and you can't leverage it unless you focus. And so where you have discretionary time and [00:29:00] money, You're not gonna turn down inbound leads in most cases, unless it's just a terrible fit. And the way our product and our product experience works, we're not turning anyone down.
[00:29:08] Anyone can come in and try it and buy it on their own, but in the case that it isn't very infrequently is someone gonna go out of their way to say, listen, it's gonna be obvious, I think, for both parties and like an agency. Re let's just say it's gonna be a a six figure. Annual agency relationship, it's gonna be pretty clear in the first few conversations whether or not it's gonna be a good fit and someone might proactively shut that down.
[00:29:31] Um, I don't know what the level of discipline is for someone, uh, initiating agency relationships to shut something down, but a customer may feel like it's not a good fit. So that, that's a pretty obvious one. But in this case, it's um, When you're available to everybody, if you are not focusing, it's, it's just a bad situation.
[00:29:51] You're gonna get yours in the end, across the board. Even when we focus completely, it maxed out at [00:30:00] like 55% of our lead flow. Maxed. Even though that was where all of, if we had a choice on how this time and money was spent, we spent it there. It maxed at 55% and that was in part because what they were doing was bringing more people alongside.
[00:30:15] Last thing I'll share is we ended up creating our first, um, higher level product. Subscription. It was like two and a half x the normal subscription price. Um, and we developed it specifically on the problems that we learned by being intimate in an intimate relationship with our real estate customers. We saw what they were doing with our product, what they wanted to do, what they struggled to do, and you could provide training and education, you could train, you can change.
[00:30:43] The topics of your customer webinars, you can change some of the onboarding emails to address it, but ultimately there's some hurdles that people aren't gonna get over until you build it into the product experience. And so we ended up creating a, a, a, a unique product experience for them based on what [00:31:00] they really needed and wanted.
[00:31:01] Did a massive launch and did, you know, seven figures in a, in the first month? That was our goal for the first quarter. Of this launch. We did it in the first month of the launch. And so, um, again, you never would've gotten there if you didn't focus and really get to know them better. So it's not just window dressing was part of what I talked about before was window dressing.
[00:31:22] Like just change the language, create a different version of about the same thing. That's iteration one. Iteration two is like really go deep on solving their problems in a unique and specific.
[00:31:33] Corey Quinn: That seven figure launch for a new product around your specific vertical is a great testimony on the power of of doing this. Are there any negatives to taking a verticalized approach to market?
[00:31:48] Ethan Beute: Yes, absolutely. Um, I think the biggest one was that as competitors came into the space, so [00:32:00] our first era of of competitors are dead or irrelevant. Like the ones that were around in 20 11, 20 12. They're like long gone. Um, but the space, this isn't gonna be big to a lot of people, but it certainly feels big in a space that we've been.
[00:32:12] Trying to pioneer and make from nothing. Um, along with our customers in broader community and certainly with our competitors now, um, hundreds of millions of dollars of VC has now come into this space. And, um, if anyone wanted to sell against us, it was like, oh, well that's fine if you're a real estate person, but I know that you're not.
[00:32:32] It's like, you know, like that kind of a thing. And so people will weaponize that against you. Um, And you know that sometimes that's fine and sometimes it sucks.
[00:32:49] Corey Quinn: You can't control what your
[00:32:50] Ethan Beute: And, and it also, I'll also say, I mean, something that none of us should take for granted is that the fir this is, this is one we've toyed with freemium a long time. And I mean, [00:33:00] that's a whole separate conversation. But for me, one of, because I've always been kind of spoken against it, one, literally, everyone else in the space is doing it. And we would be moving into that. Like that sound feels like we're playing someone else's game. The second piece though is that we can never underestimate a first impression. And in this case, I mean, if someone comes to you and feels like you're a free product for these two or three things, then you are a free product for those two or three things like that is, and that's how other people are talking about.
[00:33:33] Right. So instead of saying, um, you know, oh, oh, if you wanna build your real estate business and stay in touch with your past clients and make sure every transaction is moving forward seamlessly with better communication and have people feel like they know you before they ever meet you at your, you know, at a, a buyer or seller appointment, you need BombBomb, right?
[00:33:53] Like the other side of it is, um, Oh, that, that's [00:34:00] the product that you use for free for these couple of things. Oh, you want a free screen recorder. This is how you, who you go use for that. And so that's another kind of a negative. So you have to be the, the challenge of balancing that so that someone shows up on your homepage and feels like they, this is what everybody wants.
[00:34:18] I feel like I know why I'm here. I feel like I'm welcome here. I feel like I know what the next steps are. I feel like I know why I wanna take those next steps. This is just basic psychology, and so it becomes a really difficult balancing act to say. Um, oh, are you a real estate agent or not a real estate agent?
[00:34:37] Because we'll talk to you differently both of those ways. I don't know. There's tech that will help you do that, um, more gracefully today than certainly back then. But, um, there's a chance that you can make some people feel unwelcome. Um, because you're, maybe, maybe they jumped into the wrong track. Right?
[00:34:53] So I used to write, um, stupid code that would identify some of the keywords and email addresses [00:35:00] where if it wasn't, uh, if they didn't self-identify as real estate, I could still bring them in and give them real estate oriented stuff. And of course you get some false positives in there. And so now you're talking to someone who isn't in that industry.
[00:35:12] They just happen to share a bunch of letters in there. Maybe their last name is Holmes. Without an L in it, right? Like that was one of my key words. And so like, you know, you, you can, you, there's potential to make people feel unwelcome as well. So
[00:35:26] there's a, there's a, smattering of
[00:35:29] Corey Quinn: I, I, you, you know, it reminds me I used to work at an a multi vertical agency. In other words, they focused on about five different verticals and we had. Brilliant idea for a minute, which is, if you came to our website, our website was built like five different verticals. So five effectively different versions of the website, but it was all customized in case studies and client stories and everything specifically to the vertical and the, uh, the, the, the idea that.
[00:35:57] Um, that we had was if you came into the site [00:36:00] on a vertical, then we would basically just keep you on that vertical and we wouldn't let you kind of transverse the site. And of course, if they somehow were a dentist and they arrived on the legal version of the website, they would be on a website for our business that was completely, uh, irrelevant to them.
[00:36:16] And so they weren't able to get to the medical part. So it was this, you know, we were overthinking it. I think, you know, at that,
[00:36:22] Ethan Beute: And then they come to this understanding that you are a legal service provider. You, I am not welcome here. This is not
[00:36:29] Corey Quinn: is not for me. And then we lose that. Otherwise, potential customer,
[00:36:33] Ethan Beute: Yeah.
[00:36:35] Corey Quinn: um, going back again to those three to four years, when, when you're building all that momentum in real estate, you mentioned that you went to events, you had relationships with if different thought leaders and brands in the space you were involved in the associations you created the content, the new. two, two questions.
[00:36:53] The first one is, um, what, when you went to these events, what was the strategy that worked for you to [00:37:00] help you to further, you know, build relationships as well as generate new business? And then number two is did you try to do any outbound marketing specifically to real estate agents as a result of all of this momentum you were building?
[00:37:14] Ethan Beute: Yeah, I'll take that second question first. We did not really outbound at all. I mean, we. The interesting thing about the way that we did it, and this kind of starts to tie into the event strategy, we were really bottom up, like most of our high level relationships with the big broker owners who are, you know, their business is structured around 700 agents in this metro area.
[00:37:34] Um, under, you know, all under the same, like, I'll just make up a name re max Elite. Um, but it's actually like eight different offices and like we would make our way up in those. And we did some unique, like there's a guy up in Denver. He was, he loved us. He gave us a great voice into the business.
[00:37:51] And some of the precursor to that product launch I mentioned was a, a problem we were trying to solve for him experimentally across his, you know, [00:38:00] 650, 700 agents. And so that ended up being this thing that we deployed in a slightly different way to everybody. so we were really bottom. Um, whereas I think outbounding for the cost for the return on investment, it really should be a little bit more like mid down or top down.
[00:38:18] Um, because, you know, it just, it takes time and money to outbound and it's just not worth it at our price point to outbound, to someone that's gonna give us 500 bucks a year, and we had so much in. That we didn't have time to do that anyway,
[00:38:32] um, until we started going upmarket and trying to go like mid down, top down.
[00:38:36] Then we started to like an outbounding function. but never in that vertical. Uh, cuz it just, it didn't need to be that way. So at events, uh, we did programming, um, when we were just killing it and just really had it dialed in. We were buying 20 by 20. We would put the biggest TV as high up as we could.
[00:38:54] In one corner of it, we would do seating with an aisle down the middle. We would have one [00:39:00] session that was about 15 to 20 minutes long and we'd run it at the top and bottom of every hour. By the time we went to that event, the second or third or fourth time, and we had a lot of customers there too, would come by and some of them would like hug us and like, what's going on, what's new, et cetera.
[00:39:14] We would do specific programming, so from one to two and from three to four. Um, we're gonna do like a more advanced strategy or a new kind of like feature set introduction. Um, but we would communicate that in a advance. Hey, you know, ke Keller Williams, we'd go to the two big Keller Williams events every year.
[00:39:33] We'd send an email to literally every Keller Williams person in our database, customer, past, customer expired trial, et cetera. If you're gonna be at this event, you're gonna wanna check this out, click through, and we'll give you the ca schedule of events, and we would do, I'll blend in a couple of other strategies here.
[00:39:48] We would give them our programming in the booth. Right. So they would know that two, three hours a day, um, they would know the, the hours that we were open, like as the whole, you know, trade show floor is open, [00:40:00] and the way that we were programming that day to give them an appointment. We would also do these scenarios where, because you could buy on the spot, we would spend, let's just say I'm making the numbers up, but something like anywhere from 50 to 80 grand on doing one of these events all in, and we'd walk out.
[00:40:16] Three x, four x, sometimes five x that cash bec. So because, so we could transact. So I know a lot of people go to these events and they're looking to do lead gen, and then we have a strategy for how we're gonna follow up when we get back home. That wasn't our circumstance. We were asking people for as little as.
[00:40:31] Three, 400 bucks or as much as 1500 bucks. Or if you were buying a team account, it would be more, but it's like easy to transact, right? So our dynamic is a little bit different, but this idea of doing advanced training as a reason for customers to stay in relationship with us, to make sure that they kept getting more from us, they would come to the booth with friends.
[00:40:49] They would tell people to come with friends. We would do drawings at the end of every day to bring everyone back to the booth. We would do our own email marketing throughout the event. I would personally look at the entire [00:41:00] event schedule and anyone who I knew was a friend or advocate of ours, a customer of ours who was on a stage or on a panel, they were in all of our event marketing.
[00:41:09] They were, and so like the morning, The second day, everyone who gave us an email address the first day would get a video email from me that I wrote, you know, before the event even started with a video from that day saying, Hey, happy Tuesday morning. Um, hey, today's gonna be a great day at this conference.
[00:41:28] Couple highlights you're gonna want to pay attention to. Of course, we're open from 10 to seven at the trade show floor. We're doing special uh, stuff, you know, at this time and this time. And you're not gonna wanna miss, you know, someone who we really respect. you know, at three o'clock at this thing, they're gonna be talking about X, Y, and Z.
[00:41:45] Come back and see us if you have any questions. If you haven't signed up, you know, the special's good through the end, like this kind of a thing. And it would also show up in all the social. Um, I would get to those breakout sessions, those panels, those, those, uh, keynotes and shoot photos and [00:42:00] videos. It would be in our social media.
[00:42:01] It would be in our post-event video highlight thing where the brand that hosted us was the superstar. All of our friend vendors were characters in it. All of our customers were characters in it. You would drop in little clips from testimonials. You're shooting on the spot, like we were just anyway.
[00:42:20] That was super fun.
[00:42:21] We did a lot of really good stuff. It was a ju like, it was great. We killed those
[00:42:24] Corey Quinn: I I you that just as you were sharing all that first off, I think that is fantastic. Use of the space, the investment of being there, and also your own technology, right? You're leveraging that as a, as a part of the.
[00:42:37] Ethan Beute: That's another
[00:42:38] benefit too. Yeah.
[00:42:39] Corey Quinn: Yeah, I think that's brilliant. Um, I, I have, again, my last company, we would do a hundred events a year.
[00:42:45] We did a ton, a ton of different things at conferences, experiences, you know, things to create, shared memories, all those things. And we never did that, uh, that took that approach of the, programming. I think it's fantastic. Really, really cool idea
[00:42:59] Ethan Beute: [00:43:00] It's a reason to hang out with us and get to know who we are as people and
[00:43:03] like that's where it's
[00:43:04] Corey Quinn: Yes. Yeah. And b2b, it's, you know, people love to do business, belly to belly, as they say,
[00:43:10] Ethan Beute: Yeah, I prefer face to face, but
[00:43:12] I know
[00:43:13] exactly what you're
[00:43:13] Corey Quinn: buckle belly to belly, face to face, all the same
[00:43:16] Ethan Beute: Yeah,
[00:43:17] Corey Quinn: So as we're sort of wrapping up here, Ethan, is there anything else you wanted to share with regard to your, the story of BombBomb, leveraging this momentum in real estate to help build sort of overall momentum for the company?
[00:43:31] Ethan Beute: Yeah, I'll say it. It's, it's challenging to, to juggle, to respect everyone. We've since, you know, uh, commit, you know, I mentioned there's a window where we did this. It's, you know, I personally feel like someone who's just like overly emotionally invested in what we're doing in addition to intellectually engaged, um, and, and functionally engaged.
[00:43:50] You know, it's some, you know, you'll start to feel like maybe you're walking away from the person who invited you to the dance as you start entertaining other. Motions and other [00:44:00] opportunities and things like that be, that can be difficult. It can be confusing for the company a little bit. Um, cuz not everyone, you have to communicate the strategy very clearly.
[00:44:09] Um, and uh, would also say that we're still reaping the benefits of that investment. If you look at our free trial flow today, even though we're not specifically doing. Much in that zone. We built enough momentum there that it's still sustained. And so I just, it doesn't have to be forever. You have to, honor that relationship gracefully, um, while you continue to grow the business and do the next right thing for yourself and your team members and your customers.
[00:44:44] And it's not easy to do, but I will say focus is really the key to economic.
[00:44:51] Corey Quinn: Thank you for that. Just quick question, quick follow up. You mentioned earlier that the real estate at its peak represented about 55% of the inbound [00:45:00] interest. What is it about today? Generally speaking.
[00:45:05] Ethan Beute: 40,
[00:45:07] Corey Quinn: a very significant part of the business.
[00:45:09] Ethan Beute: significant. Yeah.
[00:45:10] Corey Quinn: Got it. That's, that's helpful. Thank you. Ethan, share with me, what is your motivation?
[00:45:15] Ethan Beute: I love learning and teaching like both of those cuz you learn by teaching. I mean, anyone who's a parent or a mentor or a coach knows that this is true. It is trite to say, but I get as much of it as they do. Um, so I re like, I believe in what we're doing. I. Business culture and business results can be transformed through this, through this practice, through this philosophy and practice, I think we can rehumanize this increasingly digital experience that we're all in.
[00:45:45] At a certain point, it's gonna be even more bot driven. It's gonna be more synthetic. It's gonna be more generated on someone else's behalf. We're gonna lose some of the human touch. We're gonna lose some of the human voice, not among people who deploy the technology the best, but you know, most people Aren.
[00:45:59] [00:46:00] You know, it's like the best of the best. You're gonna find the, like a beautiful balance, right? But most people aren't. So the, the noise and pollution in these channels where we're trying to connect and communicate with people in meaningful ways, again, belly to belly, face-to-face, referral by referral is really how businesses done best.
[00:46:18] Always has been, always will be. I think as the supply of empathy, generally speaking, people making you feel. They understand you, they hear you, they see you, they appreciate you. As the demand for that stays steady and the supply becomes harder to reach or diminished, um, this ability to reach through and connect with someone is so much more meaningful.
[00:46:45] I just, I think the world can be smaller and better and stay. Some degree human
[00:46:50] while we continue to be enamored of and invest in and, uh, offload a lot of our work to machine.
[00:46:57] Corey Quinn: Well, I resonate with that message, uh, at a [00:47:00] deep level. Uh, Ethan, thank you so much for joining and, you know, coming on the show, I'm, I know I've learned a lot. I'm confident my audience has also benefited greatly.
[00:47:10] Ethan Beute: Cool. I'm happy to, I appreciate the opportunity and um, I appreciate your
[00:47:16] Corey Quinn: thank you. Wet is a good place for people to get in contact with you if they wanna follow up with you after the.
[00:47:21] Ethan Beute: Yeah, I'm Ethan Butte. Last name is spelled b e u t e. So you can find me on all of the social networks. LinkedIn is probably best. Um, the company is bomb bomb B omb b o m b.com, no space bomb bomb on all the social networks. You can email me directly if you listen to this point in the show, I would love to hear from you.
[00:47:38] Ethan, e t h a n, at. Bomb bomb.com. Reach out to me, thoughts, feedback questions, et cetera about anything we talked about or anything we didn't.
[00:47:47] Corey Quinn: Thank you so much for joining Ethan.
[00:47:49] All right, folks, that's it for today. I'm Corey Quinn, and I hope you join me again next time for the Vertical Go-To-Market podcast. If you received value from this show, I would love a [00:48:00] five star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. and we'll see you again soon.