Speaker 1: Hey there, product lovers. Welcome to the Product Love Podcast, hosted by Eric Boduch, Co- Founder and Chief Evangelist of Pendo, and super fan of all things product. Product Love is the place for real insights into the world of crafting products, as Eric interviews founders, product leaders, venture capitalists, authors, and more. Let's dive in now with today's Product Love Podcast.
Eric Boduch: Welcome lovers of product. Today, I am here with Shay Howe, who's the VP of Platform Strategy at ActiveCampaign. Shay, why don't you kick this off by giving us a little overview of your background?
Shay Howe: Yeah. Well, Eric, thanks for having me. I appreciate it, excited to join you. My background is largely in design, that's where I started. That's been the orientation of my love for a long time, but it's always been about design in the sense of how to use design to solve a problem. And throughout my career I've been in hypergrowth organizations, and in those you do a little bit of design, you do a little bit of product management, you do a little bit of engineering, I mean, all things oriented around how do you solve a problem. And that's exactly what I've done at ActiveCampaign. Originally I started to lead the design team but as we quickly grew and scaled I ended up leading the platform engineering team for about half a year until we hired a CTO, which then led to leading the marketing team for about two years until we hired a CMO, and doing all of that alongside leading design as well. So I've been in the R& D side of ActiveCampaign, I've been in the go-to- market side of ActiveCampaign. And currently overseeing our platform strategy, I straddle both ends of that where I oversee a team that does all of our partner management and thinks about what is the platform and ecosystem by which we have integrations and developers building on top of our tools and where is all that heading as well as still having the design and an influence there. So it's quite a breadth that I dig into.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, absolutely. Talk to me a little bit about that, design, product, even some engineering. What have you liked the most or maybe even what do you like about each one and don't like about each one.
Shay Howe: Ooh. Likes and don't likes will be... We can go an hour on that alone. I think to get to it the heart of it is around solving a problem. If you're to ask me what do I do at the end of the day it's I want to build things and generally speaking that's businesses. And it's the job that you have to do to do that, whatever that might be. I've always been influenced the same way. A lot of folks will be like," Shay, what should I be learning?" And I'm like," Well, find a problem and let the problem dictate what you should learn." Whether that's a very specific programming language or an application that helps you solve a given problem. It's always been around, what am I trying to achieve? What do I got to go learn to do that? The design and engineering side it's, from the design end it was I think I have the right solution, I think I know what I'm designing is going to be what solves this problem. But I was always left wondering like, is it? I don't know. Until a customer actually starts using it you never really know. And that Eric led me more into the engineering side to say," Hey, let me go and build this. Let me actually get this into the hands of customers to make sure my hypotheses at the beginning are true." Learning I was often wrong it was like, hey, maybe if I put all the time and energy into designing and developing it I should spend more time figuring out what is the real problem and how are customers solving that today? When did they run into it? Is there even a market that makes that viable to solve? Which pushed me more into that product management space. I love the right and left side brain, both of those, honestly I get excited about the balance of all of those. I know even when I was hired at ActiveCampaign talking to Jason and our founder and CEO, I was pretty clear. I was like," Hey, if you want a design leader and someone to stay within that line I'm not your guy. I want to really stretch across the breadth of it and dig into the problems as they are and that includes all the gray areas. That's what honestly gets me excited.
Eric Boduch: Talk to me about now VP of Platform Strategy, what does that entail, what teams do you oversee, and what problems are you solving in ActiveCampaign?
Shay Howe: Yeah. I got into this role as I was mentioning from being on the R& D side and the go- to- market side. And to give you a little bit of context, I started ActiveCampaign we were about 100 employees, today we are well over 700, so a pretty significant growth in that last three years. And there would be things that pop up that no one really knew where they should go. We would launch an integration and build a partnership and it's like, who should own that relationship? And they started just falling into my house of, hey, I think like Shay could be good at managing that relationship and ensuring we're going both to deepen the marketing capabilities of what we could do with that partner, as well as the integration and the product we put forward to our customers is strong. And that is continuing to grow. On the platform strategy side it's overseeing the strategic and technology partnerships and that includes the platform and ecosystem that supports them. That splits itself up into a number of different teams. We have a platform strategy and operations team who's thinking pretty deeply around how do we make our platform more extendible, how is it growing? That includes a partner management team that ensures that folks building on top of the platform are able to do so easily, that after they launch an integration that they have the co- marketing tools and assets to help grow their organization. That goes into developer relations, so that we're actually fostering and growing the community around ActiveCampaign. And then all of design on top of that as well, which is, can be broken in between product design, brand and marketing, communications design, as well as the design systems team. To peel back like you asked, what's the goal? What are some of the things we're solving or driving towards in there? For us, it's all about innovation and customer automation or CXA. Each team has, I'd say slightly different goals and layers within that. I can walk through those if you're of interest of where the platform strategy team is sitting as well as where design seats-
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I'm a fan of hearing about organizational design. So, please.
Shay Howe: Yeah, yeah. And then our organizational design I would say is probably not, it's not common. I think I probably have a unique skill set that has afforded a little bit of that organizational design, but I'd say that's also true ActiveCampaign of we're not wanting to just run a playbook, we do look for to the opportunistic ways to structure an organization as well as the teams. But from the platform strategy side it is, how do we build those integrations and the relationships that support our strategic partners? Those are folks that we would be building into and growing with. Example of that would be Salesforce. We have the number one marketing automation integration inside the Salesforce app exchange. That's an integration we're building, maintaining, as well as the relationship we're continuing to grow. The other side of that would be folks who come to ActiveCampaign. We have 130, 000 plus paying customers. A lot of businesses look at ActiveCampaign and say," Hey, I can build an integration on top of ActiveCampaign to help grow my own customer base." And the platform strategy team who wants to work with them deeply too. And we're thinking not only through the integration space and the partner management side, but also how do we make our platform, our tool more extendable by nature. What are the different areas and touch points by which they want to extend the channels we offer? Where do they want to start to extend the levels of personalization we can dig into the interfaces of ActiveCampaign? So really providing them the tools to go do that. The design side of that is slightly different. Design is broken up into a few different ways, but largely we're digging into how do we deliver intuitive and innovative solutions to our customers. How do we get incredibly close to them and understand what their problems are, what their needs are, and how do we deliver that to them? All the while, how do we improve and stress upon our brand awareness? What are the distinctive brand assets we own? How do we deliver a consistent and accessible experience to all of our customers? It's a bit of a mix between those.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. And it's interesting too because of your background. You've had exposure of design, engineering, product, and there's often friction between those departments. Talk to me a little bit about that, how you manage friction between those departments both at your experience at ActiveCampaign and maybe other places, and how you make sure that all the voices are represented. Because it's great you have a design background because design is often a voice that is underrepresented in the product org. Sorry, I threw a lot at you there, but it's very informative.
Shay Howe: No, no, it's good. One of the interesting things about ActiveCampaign is like our CEO went to art school. Design's always had a really strong voice within the organization. Jason was the first designer, the first engineer, the first product manager of this company. A lot of design leaders talk about having to get that seat at the table. We're very blessed and fortunate, I've always had it. I haven't really had to argue for that. The other side of it is we've got to make sure design shows up and carries the value that the organization sees in it. But that friction is an interesting one, it's healthy. It has to be channeled the right way, but there should be a little bit of tension there. Those different pillars, be it engineering and product and design are going to want it to dig into their areas. So I think there needs to be a healthy friction amongst those. As I lead those teams, as I talk to them and think about it, it's doing a healthy culture more around is the customer in that scenario and momentum of delivering to them and that can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. But the tension is fine so long as we have momentum, that ensures that everyone's probably getting their slice of the cake as we continually build and develop. And where I like to start with those teams is really distilling down the work into what is just the smallest possible project, to be honest with you. The one thing I can almost guarantee is that the scope in what we want to build is going to balloon as we get into it. There are a number of unknown unknowns as we start to build our products. So as we begin we should probably start from a position that's pretty uncomfortable, uncomfortable for design, product, and engineering to say, this probably isn't what we need to deliver but we know it's going to grow as we start to peel back the layers of it. And if we can do that, if we can start small and we know that we have good momentum around our delivery, we should be able to plan and dig into those things and iterate fairly quickly. And the last thing I like on that note is accounting for design and technical debt along the way. To give that the equal priority as you would net new functionality or features, making sure that that is part of the culture as well.
Eric Boduch: It's interesting. I mean, we've always talked about technical debt but there's also design debt.
Shay Howe: Absolutely, yeah. It is especially at scale as you grow a different team design start to go in different directions. As customers use it they provide feedback on the usability and accessibility of it. You accrue a debt there the same way you would as you might on the stance of the more people using your product you have to start to think about what is the throughput of it? How's the infrastructure that's set up? Design is the same way, and how we scale that with consistency.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, absolutely. Two things you mentioned in some of your answers I want to go back and dig into one's customer experience and one's feedback. Let's touch on customer experience first. Talk to me about customer experience, what the ideal customer experience is, how you try to build towards that?
Shay Howe: Yeah. We talk about helping businesses meaningfully connect and engage with their customers. And so if I were to summarize that and say the ideal customer experience would be one where I feel as I'm treated as if I'm that business's only customer regardless of if they have 10 or 10 million. You should really get down to that personal level of a customer experience. And that is one that is connected experience where everything from the initial awareness to acquisition and conversion of customer experience through onboarding support and turning that person into a little advocate, it feels as if it's one holistic seamless connection across all those channels. You've probably had an experience where you're going through the notions of buying a product and sales is quick, you email them, you get a response back, you call them, you get a call back. And then you convert and you're getting set up and you're like," Hey, you know what? Actually, I have a question of how to do this feature or this functionality." But if you're not met with the same promptness you got from sales as you are the customer success or service team, that experience starts to fracture, it starts to call on a question a little bit of the trust of that organization, how you're going to work and connect with them. We want to help with that. As we think about the tools we build across customer experience automation is we really want to help automate the easy stuff in that nature and we want to bring humans into what there is complex, where the questions are resolved. So the blend of automation and human touch as we look at it, but really the idea of customer experience is going to be a connected one where you truly feel you're getting a personal experience.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, yeah. Talk to me about building to that. How do you think through, how do you approach that, how do you get your team to build to that? What metrics do you use to make sure that you're talking about how quickly you get a response? Do you track that? Talk to me about the details.
Shay Howe: Yeah. It's difficult and getting harder as we grow even. We basically run a monthly process right now where we have some core KPIs throughout the org we track too. And they talk a lot about that customer experience, everything from what is the pipeline of leads we have, all the way through what is the NPS, what is the C stack, how do you really start to peel back the layers of that connected customer experience? And it's a worn-able awareness because that customer experience is evolving right. As the team grows, as the product changes, as we change our processes we might change how we route leads, we might change how we support customers. It's having the right data and touch points around that to understand what's changing and taking a critical eye to it every month to say," Hey, here's what changed. Let's put some commentary around that. Can we actually understand what we did to impact that positively or negatively?" And really just starting to understand where's that headed, what is the momentum we have? Are we trending well or not and how does that look across the customer experience? In terms of building to that, we've had a lot of different customers that we've dug into throughout the pandemic, ones of which a lot of businesses have had to pivot their entire customer experience. They may have been running more traditionally a brick and mortar business, or they're doing online classes or facilitation. One the more inspiring parts of ActiveCampaign is seeing some of those stories in the last few months where these businesses have been able to completely pivot into largely just being an online, very specific organization. From taking online classes, or excuse me, in- person classes to online classes, being able to use our platform to dig in and operate with them and completely pivot their customer experience. And those stories they balloon up. We have been seeing them and circulating them throughout the organization. Vice versa we've seen, that would be from the small business side, you've come from the enterprise side. A lot of folks have gotten cost- conscious, they're really trying to bat down the hatches and make sure that they can weather the storm of the pandemic. And we've seen them in large migrate to ActiveCampaign from a stance of, we have a lot of the firepower that there's this thing tools might have or they might have more firepower than those tools that they're not using to where they can set up ActiveCampaign and accomplish the same level of a customer experience, albeit not be paying at the threshold they were previously.
Eric Boduch: Awesome. The other topic I want to talk about or other thread I want to jump down, there's lots of topics I want to talk about, but feedback. You talked about 130, 000 customers. I'm sure you're getting a ton of feedback. Things customers want, things they actually need, how do you manage that? How do you differentiate between things you should be building and things that maybe that customers are asking for but maybe they don't really want, or don't really need. Do you have a framework for this?
Shay Howe: Yeah. More than any organization I've worked in we have a surplus of customer feedback, 130,000 voices in that conversation. And even with 130, 000 customers keep in mind that can mean multiple accounts are focusing using our product within that heart 130,000 so that number isn't exponential of that. And we have a number of different channels. NPS is a large one for us but it's any cancellation feedback, it's our online communities, it's our ideas form on our website, it's the community forums on our website. It's the numerous marketplaces by which we have integrations and listings where we get feedback. It's G2, Capterra, it's all over the place. And I think our CEO has done a great job instilling a practice of staying very close to that feedback. And himself Jason reviews our customer feedback every single day. For myself, and for our core leadership team, every single NPS survey that goes through I get those results emailed to me. Every single cancellation, I get those results emailed to me and it's a long morning to go through those and see what those say. What we've done is how do you break that down? How do you get those into the right teams? And there's been a few different practices we've set up. We've built an entire, what we call our customer experience, having CXA team that goes through all of that feedback and starts to categorize it to really understand, okay, what did that relate to? Is that about usability of the platform? Was that about a geography of language? Let's start to categorize all of that. And they build out a voice of the customer report for us to review. But they go further than that. They really help disseminate that feedback into the right ethos of the origin to say," Hey, here's the trends we're seeing on your product or your feature. You might want to dig in and hear the customers who said what." So that we can follow up and have conversations with them. And we don't stop there. That is a way to start peeling back the layers of it. Even on the design side very specifically we have a design NPS channel. So any NPS feedback that mentions let's say UX, UI, usability, intuitive, difficult, certain key words, we have piped into a Slack channel where the entire design team is. And the designers do a great job of self- selecting and saying," Hey, you know what? I'm going to follow- up with that customer." They mentioned the product I'm building, I'm working on, and they'll follow out. Will directly reach out to those customers and then within a threaded comment of Slack also say," Hey, here's the conversation I had here in my notes," and start to share those learnings back across the team. We have a pretty healthy practice of how we hear those customers. Now, the other side of your question is how do you prioritize all that feedback? There's an avalanche of feedback coming in, what really do you use and where do you take it? And that's a difficult thing to do, honestly, to learn and prioritize from it. With the customer experience advocacy team we're really starting to get these strong signals of, hey, this is really something we need to address or dig into quickly, or, hey, this might be easy to knock off because it doesn't seem the weight of it is going to be too hard. An example of that would be Q4. We're going into the holiday season, a lot of shopping. Last year we had released a landing pages product. And one of the pieces of feedback was," I need a buy button on a landing page. How do I actually set up a buy button?" And for us it's like," Hey, like that makes complete sense, that's actually really good feedback." And there is an opportunistic time to go do that right now. A buy button in Q4 means more than a buy button in Q1, post holidays. It was going back to those principles of product development. All right, let's go start at the smallest level. What would make us uncomfortable to start with? Well, what if we just use a buy button from one of our partners, via PayPal or Stripe? Okay, we could probably just do that with HTML embed code to drop on the page and certainly peel back the layers of what's the easiest way to set that up? The idea of the feedback from, hey, we would love a buy button on a landing page to actually being able to use that in the product was I think a number of weeks, to be honest with you, within Q4. So, you're juggling what is most commonly heard versus what is opportunistic that we can tackle quickly.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. And it's a tough juggle.
Shay Howe: Yeah, very much.
Eric Boduch: You mentioned COVID in your story. How has that impacted some of your metrics, your data, your product KPIs?
Shay Howe: Yeah. Like most businesses I think we braced for impact. March we weren't really sure where things were going to go. What we did was double down on our existing customers to say," Hey, let's make sure that they can really set up and work with their customers. We want to support them through this." And we saw pretty few interesting things happen. One, with our existing customers they started adding more contacts into their systems, they started building out more automations. They started sending more campaigns to those customers they had because now more than ever they're saying," I have to be in contact with these folks. I have to let them know how my business is pivoting, how it's changing, how we're moving things to be online." And we saw more activity and volume across our platform that honestly we've ever seen. We have some seasonality spikes and we were blowing those out of the water back in March and April. We really saw our existing customers double down on the platform which proved they were getting value from what we were offering to them. The second interesting thing we saw was new business started to grow. In those times of downturns recessions you see a lot of new businesses starting and more now than ever is they're starting with that digital first footprint, which is something we can help them set up and get going on. 2020, we onboarded over 40,000 customers, which is an incredible number and some very significant growth through that.
Eric Boduch: Wow. Yeah.
Shay Howe: Yeah. And it's been interesting to see those existing customers grow and new customers onboard and find that success as well. So I would say we are incredibly fortunate to be accelerating our growth through some of these times.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, that's awesome growth. I mean, it was always interesting talking to your CEO about the ActiveCampaign story and how things grew slowly and then all of a sudden just took off, right?
Shay Howe: Mm-hmm(affirmative).
Eric Boduch: And you guys just exploded as far as your growth. It's got to make a lot of these things so much more difficult because you're adjusting all of these plans, you're dealing things with customers and how their business is being impacted by COVID. You're dealing with all this feedback and you're doing it while the company is growing it at a dramatic rate, so huge challenge. Huge kudos to you guys for pulling that off.
Shay Howe: No, thank you, I appreciate it. It's 18 years in the making. ActiveCampaign is not a young company by any stretch and a honest testament to that early team who really put the business through the paces of that product market fit, really learn to understand who their customer is and what they needed, and honestly approach it from a healthy mix. We're not tied into any one vertical or one geography. 55% of our business actually happens outside of North America. Our verticals, no vertical is greater than 15% of our general customer base. So there's a lot of time that goes into that, it actually makes that work. I think-
Eric Boduch: Yeah, let's talk about building those teams. Talk to me about building teams, product teams in particular, what makes that successful team, and then how do you scale that? ActiveCampaign is a great story. They're chugging along, learning, getting that product market fit, and then all of a sudden, boom, something goes off and they grow three or four X every six months. It's crazy.
Shay Howe: Yeah. Well, it starts with division. You have to have a pretty tight and aligned vision so that all of the energy, all the efforts we're putting into this are going in that same direction. We want the momentum channeled in terms of where we're seeing that growth. My goal is to be able to walk around the company and ask folks why? What's going on? What are you working on? Why is that important? And ideally that work is always getting tied back to the customer impact it's having and that impact is tied across the different teams. I'd say that's the key part of it is that vision. Second to that is it's an entrepreneurial mindset. We talk about operating as owners. If I own this company how would I run it? What would that look like? And in many scenarios that's you got to be fairly self- sufficient. The folks who do really well in ActiveCampaign, they come in and they're not waiting on the direction, they're not highlighting problems. They're saying," There's an opportunity here, I'm going to help Stripe to solve it. I'm going to pull together the right people to dig into this. We're going to work on this together." They're not coming to work to occupy a desk and run the business, they're coming in knowing we need to grow it and they have that level of passion and persistence that pushes things forward. From our leadership team it's about then trusting the team, knowing that you have the right vision, these folks have that entrepreneurial mindset, trust them. Let's let go of our authority and let's work with them to set standards, to enable to weed out the prune, to really start to agree on the type of changes we want, but let the team run that, let them really dictate where that needs to go. If we do that well then let's celebrate the work, let's really recognize their work, let's encourage them. Let's go a layer deeper into the psychological safety of the type of organization we're building. I think those are the core key things I'm always thinking about juggling. It's the vision, the entrepreneur mindset, trusting the team, and learning to celebrate with them.
Eric Boduch: Now, I'm curious as you're going through that, those characteristics, how you're building a successful team, how it's being driven down, are those characteristics you talked about instantiated in your core values at ActiveCampaign?
Shay Howe: Yep.
Eric Boduch: I mean, do they map pretty well? I don't know that they should, I know maybe they should.
Shay Howe: Absolutely, sure. The values are how you behave, it's what you live by, right?
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I'm assuming you have core values at ActiveCampaign. How close are they to the things you just described?
Shay Howe: Yeah. I talked about trusting the team, the first core value start with trust. It is a direct impact to that. I talk about that entrepreneurial mindset. One of our values is make the customer a hero. It's dig in with them, really move forward with them in what they want to solve. Another value is iterate everything always which is also backed up by that. We talk about trading well, so that's having that aligned vision, understanding why. We want to deliver an incredible experience behind that. Another value we have is pursue growth with gratitude. And that is, we're doing a lot of incredible work, let's also celebrate that. Let's give back to the community to make sure that not only do our customers grow but we are all growing in our careers as we grow the organization and the business and that there's value and opportunity and all of that for us. But let's do that with gratitude. I can continue to name a few other of those values, but yeah, they are directly related.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. Now, that's awesome. And part of the interesting thing I find is how the team is structured. You talked about that earlier, the importance of design, your CEO coming from a design mentality, design background. Where should design have a seat at the table? Where should that sip in? What tools should they be at?
Shay Howe: I have a horrible answer for you, Eric. It just depends. I think the organizations are all a little bit different and it depends on what you're building and how that org is run. ActiveCampaign, our core audience is small businesses and we're building some pretty difficult tooling for them. The weeds of this, there's a lot of power behind what we do. And in that scenario design's got to be at the forefront, it helps to help lead that change. We need to build things that are simple but not simplistic. They have to be intuitive to use but they have to have the fire power you want to actually run your business in the different ways you want to get into it. You need to have a consumerized level of experience there. All these different folks are using email, they're using social platforms. They're attuned to a pretty clean, clear interface. We have to provide that back to them so design takes a far heavier seat at the table in terms of what we're delivering to them. If we were a BI tool or the like, we're probably more engineering- oriented. If we were building an algorithm, we're probably deeper into the data science of it so design might play a lesser role in that scenario or type of organization. But it just depends in terms of I think what you're building. I am also incredibly biased and I would say design can influence everything. Everything around us is design, everything. There is intentionality and thought that went into the shape of a can, the handle of a scissor, all that was designed and I like to be a part of that. I would say design could sit at largely any table, if that makes sense.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it makes sense. The reason I asked, and I totally get that it matters. If you're a developer API company, design might have less of that C level role at the company than it might if you're say Apple, where design is very important in the hardware and in a lot of different components of their business that they have. I was just curious to see your perspective on that. And I understand at ActiveCampaign, especially selling to a huge number of customers at a lower price point it means that things need to be intuitive, that the design needs to be well thought out. And I think that almost always needs to be the case, but I can see it as being more important at types of companies like you discussed.
Shay Howe: Yeah. Well, it can vary too I think based off the season of a company too. Early on design, super important at ActiveCampaign. We have to make the tools, the product simple to use. As we've grown, as we've added more customers, we're adding customers with larger contact basis, we're trying to do more actions within automations. There's a moment in time where design while important might not be the most important because we really have to think about our infrastructure and the performance end of how, what is our speed? What is the load time? It doesn't matter really what we design, if it's not operational it's not going to matter too much. I think you see seasons of companies too where that can shift. I think you're seeing design seasons more often than not right now. Google, heavy engineering culture. But as you look at their material design patterns and where they're growing, that's changing a little bit. You're seeing far more of an influence from the design side inside that organization. And I think it's not fixed, it's not binary as if it's design- led and it's going to stay that way or vice versa, you're going to have changes to that over time too.
Eric Boduch: One of the things I wanted to jump back to you touched on earlier, tech ecosystems integrations, you guys have done a great job at that. That's obviously has a huge impact on customer experience. How have you seen it impact customer experience and how has that impacted the business model of ActiveCampaign?
Shay Howe: Yeah. This is an incredible question, one of my favorites. I've talked a little bit about customer experience automation and how that includes building automation into the entire customer life cycle. So that very moment of awareness all the way through building low axes of customers. Now, a lot of automation platforms focus on marketing automation, and that might mean an auto responder or a drift campaign. You might have sales automation platforms that help do lead scoring and routing. When we talk about customer experience automation we talk about automation across that entire customer life cycle. So it's not just the forefront of sales and marketing or pre- conversion, but it's that end how do you support someone as they move throughout the customer life cycle? And one of our core beliefs is one business is not going to run on one platform. That every business should be able to use the platforms that are best for them, the tools that are best for them. And for us, that means integrations. That means, hey, how do we help all those different tools come together? How do you get a lens and visibility into the customer experience across all of those different tools? And it's changed a lot of the business model to think about that, of how are we bring those tools together so that the sales reps don't call on accounts that have outstanding issues? And that the support reps can understand, hey, here are my highest value customers, I need to prioritize those versus somebody who might be on a free trial. The visibility across those tools is something we think a lot about. And how do you not only orchestrate data from going one side to the other but how do we enrich it? How do we make it more powerful as it comes through the system, and how do we build automation into tools that don't historically have it? And that again, applies to the entire customer life cycle. There's a lot that's changed in that. And even ProfitWell, they've done a lot of research but they've came out and said," Customers with four plus integrations have basically 25 to 30% higher retention." That number is holding true. The average business today is using... The average small business has over 100 SaaS applications they're using. We believe all of those tools should be able to work together. And as you drive more integrations you start to think a bit deeper around the ecosystem of that, what is the marketplace for app store by which all of those could play in? And you can go deeper into how do you begin to monetize that? What does that start to become and how does that grow? I'll be honest in saying I think we're in the early innings of what that will be for ActiveCampaign. We're more focused on how do we deliver that customer experience first, and that goes back to the ethos of the business of let's get the product market fit right and then think about how we scale and grow. And I'd say right now we're thinking about how do we get that marketplace right and then how do we scale and begin to really grow upon it? If you look at Epic CRM by Salesforce, it's a$ 2 billion a year business, it's over 20% of their revenue. So there's opportunity there as you look at what that marketplace could become. First up though we got to nail the value piece of it.
Eric Boduch: It's bizarre, their marketplace there you argue as marketplace, you're really talking about automation. You're talking about getting things to work together, some kind of thread and workflow. That feels like it's moving from the stone age to the bronze age. There's a big difference between automating the interactions between pieces of workflows or products and a marketplace, right?
Shay Howe: Yeah. Well, I take that step further. To be honest with you it's not just about the automation components of it. I think if you think about automation it's too easy to think about that as workflows, of I want when this trigger happens go take these actions, go do these things. That I think has been the origins of automation to date. But I think as you think about layering in those integrations you start to gather a lot more data, you start to get a more unified model of who a customer really is. And for us, it's about taking that data and start to say," Okay, well, how do we bend that into a more personalized, a more predictive model that allows those automations to start to make some decisions to say," Hey, let's not email, Eric. Let's have Shay call him." Because we can begin to predict that's the type of experience and the level of personalization you're going to want, rather than saying-
Eric Boduch: We're moving from marketplace to automations to what do you call that?
Shay Howe: An ecosystem is what is... I don't know that's the right word but that's what I continue to equate it to.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I mean, I get what you're saying too though, but you can see it's a big move up from a marketplace where now we're trying to understand to piece together all the parts of a customer's touch point with the company, understand how that impacts the actions you should take. Right?
Shay Howe: Yeah. You're correct.
Eric Boduch: It's interesting. I mean, I agree with you it's the future, it's probably the future. It'll be interesting to see what we have to do to get there. Right?
Shay Howe: Sure.
Eric Boduch: But I think it's a big step up from the Salesforces might be doing today though they're probably touching on it with some of the stuff they've done with Einstein and other things. But it's very interesting to think about that Salesforce has a$ 2 billion marketplace. Imagine if that was not just automations on top of the different components of the marketplace but a more holistic view and model that you can take actions on based upon your own learnings or the underlying data driving those learnings.
Shay Howe: Yeah. It's maturity too. A lot of platforms start as an integration platform the thought being we're going to use an integration and those become, I'll say point to point solutions. When this happens I want to create a calendar event. And the focus in that is we're going to create efficiency and we're going to strengthen our product market fit to drive retention. That thought of," I know our customers are going to want to do this so let's go ahead and build an integration that helps them do that, that should help them be more retained." The problem is that that doesn't solve the visibility into the customer experience and it doesn't inherently make the data used in that integration all that usable. And it becomes more commoditized, it's difficult and frequently or, excuse me, infrequently monetized. I want to flip that to say, it's not about point to point solutions around efficiency, you're talking about an automation layer with deep platform extensibility in the sense that as you build integrations they open up new capabilities. Every app that's layered into ActiveCampaign starts to add new channels, new platform capabilities, more data. Each of those apps then begin to make one another more valuable, and so having an app begins to make the Calendly app more valuable and vice versa. All of those can begin to be stacked upon one another. The platform there has more tangible relations to what is that customer relationship? What is the experience being derived to that? You have visibility into it. And if the data is organized into usable model, it makes all of that more richer, allows that to be benefited and taken action on versus just being stored in a given area. And you have a lot of influence there right across the entire customer experience. And I think as you do that, well, monetization then starts to get layered into, hey, I have all these tools. Can I centralize my billing and pay one person? Or, I want to pay for added value in certain aspects. I have maybe a point to point solution that's free. But if I want to go into that next layer I can start to charge or play around with what would be more premium services there. But I think the heart of it what we really got to look at is it's not point to point solutions around efficiency, it's really a deep layer of platform extensibility built around a unified data model by which all of those integrations can take action on it, if that makes sense.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, yeah. It does. Well, this has great. I'd like to wrap this up by asking you a little bit about yourself. As a guy with a lot of experience on different parts of the company, I mean, we didn't even touch on your running marketing. Probably interesting in of itself-
Shay Howe: For sure.
Eric Boduch: But as a guy with a strong design, aesthetic, product person, done the engineering side, I'm curious to hear what your favorite product is. What's your favorite product?
Shay Howe: Oh. This might surprise you. Are you familiar with the product called Zwift?
Eric Boduch: No.
Shay Howe: Zwift, honestly, it's a video game. I love to bike, I love to cycle. And Zwift is basically a virtual reality environment where you can cycle. So, in Chicago, where winters are very cold you probably don't want to be... Really there's over a foot of snow outside. You're not going to be biking much outside. Zwift is a product where I hook my bike at the back of my chain up to a gear and via Bluetooth I peddle in these environments, these digital worlds, if you will. And it simulates a real world cycling experience. Eric, if you and I are out there riding and I ride behind you, well, it gets easier for me to peddle. The resistance through my gears gets easier. If we start to go uphill it gets a lot harder and it will dynamically change the resistance for me. We go downhill, it gets easier. I mean, they have nailed the mechanics of just the technology of how this works, to be honest with you. And they have put so many game mechanics into it of how do I beat my personal record from the last time I rode this course to how do I beat the others around me or my friends, everything around it. And it makes us something I love, cycling, a lot more enjoyable in the winter when I'm trapped inside. It is not beautiful looking, it's not the world's best interface or design but the product itself is honestly incredible, super innovative.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, that sounds really cool. I mean, I always talked about... I have a Peloton myself. I love the Peloton, but I always thought it'd be cool to have more of that virtual experience. They definitely downplay their scenic rides and there's no automatic adjustment of things like resistance even, right?
Shay Howe: Oh, yes.
Eric Boduch: It would be kind of cool doing that on a scenic ride, taking a course of the Tour de France, right?
Shay Howe: Yep.
Eric Boduch: Or a leg of the Tour de France and seeing how you would actually do that. That'd be pretty wild.
Shay Howe: And Zwift has that. Every year they actually do the Tour de France where you can go up there and ride it in the stages and see how you compete. It's...
Eric Boduch: That's the word I was looking for, stage.
Shay Howe: But it's about endurance cycling versus spin. It's a different type of workout but very fun.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, yeah. Mine is sitting crashing, I assume too. Well, that's cool, I'll have to check that one out. A final question for you. Three words to describe yourself.
Shay Howe: Yeah. Kind of where we started. I would say the first one is builder, that is where I see myself more than a designer, an engineer, a marketer, a product manager, it's builder at the heart. If you asked our exec team one word to describe me I think they will all smile and then tell you Midwestern. One where it's about your integrity, it's your most prized possession, it's what you care about the most. And you working terribly hard but you're humble in those efforts. So I'd say born and raised in the Midwest and very true to that. And then-
Eric Boduch: Where at?
Shay Howe: I was born in Lima, Ohio. A small town in Northwest Ohio.
Eric Boduch: Got it, yeah. I spent a lot of time living in Pittsburgh, spent a lot of time in the Cleveland area, so...
Shay Howe: Nice, awesome. Last one would be aware. Aware, self- awareness in how I'm growing, how I'm learning, how the team's doing, where it's all headed, doing my best to stay balanced and how are we setting those priorities and where we're going, but also where do we need to change, where we need to iterate? Where do we need to find a little bit of calm within all of that? I think awareness, it is a big one for me.
Eric Boduch: Awesome. Well, thank you, Shay.
Shay Howe: Yeah, absolutely. Eric, thank you for having me.