Episode 30

Applying B2C Tactics in a B2B World

In this episode of Good Data Better Marketing podcast, Dan Visnick, Chief Marketing Officer at HoneyBook, discusses leading marketing efforts with an authentic voice, applying B2C tactics in a B2B world, and using AI to build customer experiences.

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Guest speaker: Dan Visnick

Guest Bio - 

Dan is the Chief Marketing Officer at HoneyBook, the leading business and financial management platform for solopreneurs and freelancers. Before joining HoneyBook, he led global marketing for Change.org, was head of consumer marketing for Google Shopping, ran marketing at a startup that was acquired by Google, and served in a number of marketing leadership roles at Yahoo!. Dan attended the University of California, Berkeley and currently lives with his wife and two sons in Lafayette, CA.

 

Episode summary

In this episode, Kailey and Dan discuss leading marketing efforts with an authentic voice, applying B2C tactics in a B2B world, and using AI to build customer experiences.

 

Key takeaways

  • Customers have grown tired of the corporate spiel in marketing. Approaching your marketing with an authentic and unmanicured tone of voice makes your company resonate with customers in a more human way.

  • Just because you’re a B2B company doesn’t mean you can integrate B2C practices and tactics. As Dan learned, building an inbound funnel, referral programs, and providing premium assistance can actually help you reach higher levels of efficiency in the long run.

  • If you’re not using AI to build customer experience, you’re already behind the curve. For example, chatbots can help reduce support tickets and enable your support team to have faster response times. AI can also improve conversion rates by providing instant gratification to customers.

     

Speaker quotes

“We've also been using predictive modeling to target who is relevant for our business. We started off with an internal algorithm to identify what segment someone is once they started a trial. Then we could speak to them and personalize how we address their onboarding journey. But now, we're using that externally well to identify who are the best product market fit in advance so that we can have higher efficiency in our own business and acquisition.” – Dan Visnick

 

Episode timestamps

‍*(02:56) - Dan’s career journey

‍*(07:05) - Trends in the customer experience journey at HoneyBook 

‍*(08:10) - How HoneyBook uses AI to build customer experience

‍*(16:46) - How Dan applies B2C tactics in a B2B environment 

‍*(23:42) - How Dan defines “good data” 

*(32:32) - An example of another company doing it right with customer engagement (hint: it’s Duolingo and USAA)

‍*(36:57) - Changes in customer experience in the next 6-12 months

*(38:25) - Dan’s recommendations for upleveling customer experience strategies

 

Connect with Dan on LinkedIn

Connect with Kailey on LinkedIn

 

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Dan Visnick: We've also been using predictive modeling to target who's relevant for our business. We started off with an internal algorithm to identify what segment someone is once they started the trial and then we could speak to them and personalize how we address their onboarding journey, but now we're using that externally well to identify who are the best product market fit in advance, so that we can have higher efficiency in our own business.

Producer 1: Hello and welcome to Good Data, Better Marketing, the ultimate guide to driving customer engagement. Today's episode features an interview with Dan Visnick, Chief Marketing Officer at HoneyBook. But first, a word from our sponsors.

Producer 2: This podcast is brought to you by Twilio Segment. 92% of businesses today are using AI-driven personalization to drive growth. However, successful AI-driven engagement is only as good as your data. Be it targeting your top accounts with relevant ads or delighting customers with personalized experiences both online and in store, Segment has helped thousands of companies like Intuit, Fox, IBM, and Levi's be AI-ready by laying a foundation of data that they can trust. Want to get your data AI-ready? Learn more at segment.com.

Kailey Raymond: Being a B2B company doesn't mean you can't find inspiration from those in the B2C space. Take it from HoneyBook CMO Dan Visnick. Because his clients are small businesses, he takes inspiration from both worlds, blending the authenticity of B2C voice with the tactics of B2B, like a strong onboarding program in which he leverages things you might not see very often from a B2B company like memes and GIFs. This kind of consumer psychology creates a human connection between you and your customers and sets up your funnel for repeatable success. In this episode, Dan and I discuss leading with an authentic voice driving conversion through AI and improving efficiency with B2C tactics.

Kailey Raymond: I am very excited today. I have Dan Visnick here. He is the Chief Marketing Officer at HoneyBook. They are a leading business and financial management platform for solopreneurs and freelancers. Dan has over 20 years of experience and prior to joining HoneyBook, he led global marketing for change.org and has had some leadership opportunities at Google Shopping as well as Yahoo. So super excited to have Dan here with me. Dan, welcome to the show.

Dan Visnick: Thank you, Kailey. I'm really excited to be here and love the title of the podcast.

Kailey Raymond: I love it.

Dan Visnick: It is near and dear to my heart.

Kailey Raymond: Perfect. We'll talk about, hopefully, both good data and marketing that is better. Because of it today, Dan, tell me a little bit about your career journey. How did you get to become CMO of HoneyBook?

Dan Visnick: Yeah. Ironically, when I was in college, I wouldn't have thought it at the time, but I studied rhetoric and everyone asked, "What are you gonna do?" I didn't know. Told people I'd be a lawyer, so they'd stop asking me that question. But in retrospect, what it really instilled in me was understanding your audience and a sense of empathy that I think has served me throughout my career and made me walk a mile in other people's shoes, including the customers that I've served throughout my career. And so after studying rhetoric, I started off in PR and then moved to Yahoo where I saw what was happening on the marketing side and one of the things that attracted me about marketing was the ability to get data in that instant feedback loop. That was something that kind of frustrated me about PR, where it's a little more squishy and kind of qualitative in how you measure success.

Dan Visnick: And with marketing, especially digital marketing growing at the time, it was an instant feedback loop and you could tell whether something was working or if it wasn't working and then kind of iterate and better, and so I found that really attractive. And in the early days at Yahoo and that was still at the top of the kinda internet and a huge brand way back when, developed a lot of the early digital marketing practices there, which was a lot of fun. And the only experience you couldn't get at Yahoo at the time though was working at a small startup, and so I left, joined a six-person startup around daily deals aggregation, which we later sold to Google. That's how I landed at Google and there, had an opportunity to run really acquisition and marketing at scale in a couple of different businesses there. But I've been pretty intentional throughout my career about the moves that I've made and trying to learn something different.

Dan Visnick: And I think always being curious and wanting to learn more has driven a lot of these decisions, and before... I took some time off after leaving change.org and was really thoughtful about this search and what attracted me about HoneyBook was its mission and culture and also the alignment of the revenue model with customers, 'cause I've been at places where that's not always the case and that creates some issues. And so HoneyBook has a really great purpose for trying to help these independents be successful doing what they love, but it's also got a solid financial model and so the combination of those two things has proven really great over the past six years that I've been there.

Kailey Raymond: I love it. Small businesses and entrepreneurs are really the lifeblood of what makes our economy hum. I've always had that thought too is like all the startup accelerators that come in and they give you the package like, "Here you go, this is how you do it." I would love to do that for like a local bookstore around the corner that's opening, and it sounds like you have quite a few of the tools to make a lot of those folks successful, which is really exciting.

Dan Visnick: Yeah, we have actually a lot of people on our ecosystem that do exactly that for these independent businesses. We have what we call an educator program, which is kind of a affiliate influencer model, but it's people that are educating in the space and so they actually work hand in hand with a lot of these businesses trying to level them up and show them what they need to be doing to run a successful business. Whether that's something technical on their field or whether it's how to use business management software like HoneyBook.

Kailey Raymond: I love that. So you're kind of partnering with folks that are really driving relationships and making sure that you have a community that's backing up a lot of the folks that are learning how to use your platform but also open a business. It's amazing. It's very cool.

Dan Visnick: Definitely. Yeah, community has been core to what we're doing from the start and remains that way.

Kailey Raymond: I love it. Well, you've had experiences across startups and across really large internet companies. You mentioned you were kind of in the forefront of building a lot of those digital marketing practices at Yahoo. You've probably seen a lot of things come and go in your day in tech and the trends that people are watching and the ones that went up in flames and the ones that ended up being what we're doing today. I'm wondering what's on your mind now. So what are the trends that you're currently looking at and watching?

Dan Visnick: I'd be remiss if I didn't say AI, although reflecting on my career, pinpointing it long horizon that you mentioned, it's interesting, the inflection point that we're in now because at Yahoo in the early 2000s, I was using AI to make predictive targeting models already. So that was machine learning, it's not as sexy, it's in the basement behind the scenes. I think the difference now is with generative AI, it's exposed it, it's put it a little more out front, it's made it more accessible, and some of the stuff that it's doing is more unique. But AI has been around for a long time and in each of my roles I used it or leveraged it to some degree. But I think right now this explosion is really interesting and because it's more forward-facing, what I'm interested in is how can we enable independent businesses that we're working with to be more productive, more efficient using AI. And so that's something that's really interesting for us in general.

Kailey Raymond: That's great. I'm curious to hear a little bit about what your thoughts are there. So are there any use cases that you're trying to develop with building customer experiences and AI to help a lot of the folks that work with you?

Dan Visnick: Indeed. Yeah, so we're already using some. For our business itself, one example is with our customer support team. We're using an AI chatbot and we've seen that that's reducing support tickets 20 to 25%. And so that enables the support people that we have, have faster response times and focus more on those kind of high level or harder to solve problems and so we love that. In helping our businesses, we recently launched two tools. One is what we call Priority Leads and the other is the AI Composer. But basically, it's based off this insight that we have that the kind of time to response for these independent businesses is critical. So 80% of people will book the business that responds to them first and you can... In this Amazon application...

Kailey Raymond: Whoa.

Dan Visnick: Yeah, what people, customers have gotten attuned to just instant gratification, right? And so for these small businesses that applies as well, but they're not set up to do that. So HoneyBook helps with that in general and we see higher conversion for those people who have quicker response times and we enable that. But we've layered on two things. One, if we've identified which of their leads using predictive modeling are the most important likely to convert and higher value, and what we've seen is those leads we identify are two times more profitable than other leads. And so that... If you have a lot of leads coming in, that tells these people where to focus their time and effort. And then we've also launched what we call our AI Composer, and so that drafts basically an email response that's tailored to the inquiry that they got.

Dan Visnick: So if it's specific date and time and involving kids or something like that, it'll draft a response that's tailored and personalized for that inquiry so they can just hit send or lightly edit it and then respond to that. And we're seeing a great response and uptake from that.

Kailey Raymond: That's super cool. So you're using a blend. You're using a blend of both predictive and generative AI in a lot of your use cases right now. That predictive model that you were mentioning of the folks that are coming in the door and they are bringing in more business and higher to convert. I'm wondering what are some of kind of the components of that? Walk me through, is it geography, is it vertical? What are some of the data points that you're feeding this to to learn that?

Dan Visnick: Yeah. So it's all data that is publicly available or data that we have in the system that we know. It's a little black box-ish because it is a ML algorithm and so there's different inputs, but how it weights that varies. Yeah, it's based on that data that we have or is publicly available. And because we booked more than 11 and a half billion in business on the platform, we do have a fairly large data set that's helpful for that.

Kailey Raymond: That's interesting. And you mentioned the speed to lead is critical for any business, but the first responder in your business seems to be like really, really critical. Is there a timeframe that you know you need to respond in? Is it like an hour or 24 hours? Do you hold that standard in that SLA?

Dan Visnick: Yeah, we jokingly say it used to be like 24 hours to get back, it's now 24 minutes. That's a little anecdotal, but it's kind of around there. You need to get back pretty quickly because when our members, clients are shopping for something, for a photographer, for instance, or whatever, they're in the zone, you can think about this use case yourself, when you're looking for that, you're checking out multiple things, sending out a bunch of inquiries, and if four of them don't get back to you and one does like really quickly, you're gonna start engaging with that. It's important.

Kailey Raymond: 100%. Absolutely. So talking about things that are happening kind of right now as it relates to AI. Where do you see some of the use cases in the future? Any big ideas that your team has as it relates to how you might be using both predictive and generative AI in terms of building customer experiences a year or two from now?

Dan Visnick: Yeah. So we're definitely... We have a specific roadmap for AI that we're building out over the next year. And I think we're looking at those use cases twofold. One, that can help us from our business perspective. I'll talk about one example there that we're already using in a moment. But then how can we help our members and make them more efficient? And so examples, I gave you there, but how can we make them more productive? There's a lot of writing work that they do, for instance, that AI can help with getting more organized and insights into their own data. So using AI to actually make tailored reports for their business that are different than kind of the high-level things that they might get. Those are things that we're interested in, what we're using on the business side. We've also been using predictive modeling to target who's relevant for our business and we've seen a lot of great results there.

Dan Visnick: We started off with an internal algorithm basically to identify what segment someone is once they started the trial and then we could speak to them and personalize how we address their onboarding journey, but now we're using that externally well to identify who are the most kind of best product market fit in advance so that we can have higher efficiency in our own business and acquisition. And we've seen 20 to 30% reduction in our CPAs from using that.

Kailey Raymond: Wow. So you're basically taking, you're ingesting your customer data, you're putting that into your models and you're creating lookalike audiences and then feeding them into your advertising channels and that's leading to lower acquisition costs.

Dan Visnick: Yes.

Kailey Raymond: Very cool. That is probably the dream right now. I feel like everybody's been talking about doing more with less and being able to do that and make sure that your ads are as efficient as humanly possible is something that certainly a lot of our customers are aspiring to do.

Dan Visnick: Definitely.

Kailey Raymond: Very cool. I'm wondering, we talked about AI a little bit, no surprise, there it is on the top of anybody's mind. Any other trends that you would wanna chat about related to customer experience and things that you're noticing?

Dan Visnick: I think a softer one that we've seen in the market is just how brands are presenting themselves to their customers lately, and this has been something over a few years, but in the past year or two, we see it continue to happen, where it's a more authentic and as someone on my team said, a little less manicured if you will. And so we see a lot of brands doing that and the internal example ourselves is when Red's launched. We took kind of a new approach with our tone and voice there and was a little bit more unmanicured and we saw within the first week we gained like 3 to 4x the following on threads that we had on Twitter after being on that channel for a number of years. And so that's resonating with people and I think that they're looking for that more kind of real company and not the corporate marketing spiel that they're used to and I think that's gonna continue.

Dan Visnick: Related to that is personalization as well, making sure that you can develop a personalized customer journey. People are just used to that now, right? Five, 10 years ago, we talked about personalization but you couldn't implement it that well, now there's a lot of good ways to do that and if you're not doing that, people are gonna notice it and it's gonna fall.

Kailey Raymond: I fully agree with you. You already mentioned how you're building onboarding journeys that are specific to the customers that are coming on board. I'm assuming that's increasing the adoption rates for your business. It's a great way to do it. And I do love this example of authenticity. Something that I talk about quite often is at the end of the day, you're B2B, sure, but you're still talking to a human being that's purchasing something from you.

Dan Visnick: Definitely.

Kailey Raymond: And I think that people forget that. I wonder if your rhetoric roots are coming and saying like, "Ah, yes, here we are. We're finally talking like humans again."

Dan Visnick: Definitely. And for us, it's even more acute because we're B2B on the outside, but because most of our customers are individual or micro businesses, it's kind of a consumer psychology and so we're not neatly B2C or B2B, we're somewhere in the middle. And so it's a kind of intellectual marketing challenge and that authenticity and how we speak to them is really more important because they're not just one of 50 people at an enterprise that's making a purchase or something like that, they are the individual, they are the brand, they are the business themselves.

Kailey Raymond: That's interesting. I wanna dig in there. That sounds like it could be quite a challenge to come into. You're walking into the business as CMO, you're B2B, you're selling into companies, LLCs very likely, and you're probably taking the tried and true B2B lessons that you've acquired over the course of your career and trying them out on this audience. And assuming over time you're learning what's working and what's not working, but this kind of like conundrum of, "Are we B2B or are we B2C?" Because we're really just talking to maybe individuals or a couple of humans. Anything that you wanna point out in terms of what's been successful, what you tried and didn't work, any lessons learned there?

Dan Visnick: Definitely. So when I came in about six years ago, we were primarily sales-driven, had a relatively large sales team for the size of the business and we were kind of using those B2B tactics and more like outbound, et cetera. When I came in, I thought I saw an opportunity because of this, the audience and some of those insights that we had to bring some more B2C-type strategies and tactics, if you will. And so we started building more of an inbound funnel and we saw as we started scaling that up, it kept working, and unlike most of the time where you lose a lot of efficiency when you're scaling that, as we continued to scale that we weren't losing efficiency, we actually started gaining efficiency in some ways. And the more money that we put in, the better it performed. I think the other thing that was really helpful and different there too is the recognition.

Dan Visnick: We have a referral program and the educator program that I referenced before, so those things don't necessarily work in an enterprise or pure B2B play, but here where it's an individual, we found that the conversion rates for people who were referred by that were much higher than others and it was a great way to spread the word. So we invested heavily in that as well, so that's something that really worked. And over time, we had a holdout bucket of people that were onboarding those who got sales touches and those who didn't, and we didn't see a big delta between those two things. And so we started transforming those salespeople into CSMs and customer support, people who are now focused on helping our high-end members who need a little more white glove service and a little more hand-holding. So that's been brilliant.

Kailey Raymond: Interesting. Yeah. So the motion that you're doing with your sales reps, your CSMs is mainly driving adoption, it seems. And then hopefully upselling or cross-selling to additional kind of products.

Dan Visnick: Exactly. So instead of focused on that initial sale like they used to be, they're a little further back. Once that person onboards, subscribes and starts transacting, they'll help them be successful.

Kailey Raymond: Walk me through what that transition looked like as you were kind of building something out from sales-led to more of a product-led motion. Any things in particular that related to the customer journey and experience that you would wanna highlight that are like must-do, must-assess programs to run?

Dan Visnick: I think not as much in that transition, but I think one thing I would just highlight is how you listen to your customers. And I think that's been really important for us. And so it's obvious, listen to your customers, but I think the big difference is how you listen to your customers. And so over time, what we've seen, like our support team, for instance, now uses memes and GIFs, animated GIFs, and people post about it in social media and everything like that. And what it does is it makes a company seem smaller and more human. And when you're dealing with the customers that we are, again, who are these individuals or work for small companies, having that human element I think is really important. And so in that transition where it's important, we thought we were gonna be losing that human element because we were transitioning the sales team kind of a little more behind the scenes, it was really important to make sure that we showed up in other ways that made the company seem smaller and more human so that we're trusted by this customer base.

Kailey Raymond: That's interesting. I think that one of the themes that I'm kind of picking up on today and one of the strategies that is clearly working for you at HoneyBook is leading with an authentic voice, and that comes from both the brand and kind of the programs that you're running, as well as internally in how you're speaking to customers, probably how you write your documentation too. Everything I'm sure has this like ethos around it, which is really interesting. I like that.

Dan Visnick: Yeah, no. And it starts internally. You can't just say, "Hey, this is what we wanna be outside." You need to start that internally and that's a reason why the culture that we have is really focused on our members. We call them members, for instance, not customers, and it's subtle, but a customer implies something transactional and a member is kind of you have a different relationship with a member and that's why we call our customers members. And it's subtle things like that that are woven throughout the company and the culture that make a big difference and make everyone realize who we're serving and why that's important.

Kailey Raymond: That's so right. This is actually a theme that's come up multiple times recently, which is the power of language as it relates to how you're interacting with your customers. And that small tweak, that calling somebody a member, is building that community, it's building that inclusivity. It's changing the perception of that relationship in a lot of different ways. And while it seems like it might be trivial, it's not, it's a very important thing and it can completely change the way that you're thinking about that dynamic in that relationship.

Dan Visnick: The little things matter.

Kailey Raymond: They definitely do.

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[music]

Kailey Raymond: One of the things that we've talked about a lot is obviously predictive models so far, that's feeding on a lot of data points, as we mentioned. So I'm wondering, especially in this kind of like age of AI, you need to have pretty solid, clean, good data to have the outcomes that you want, got to make sure that that foundation is set. So do you have a definition for good data as the namesake of the podcast says?

Dan Visnick: When I think of good data, I think of something that provides an insight, a new learning, perhaps something surprising and helps in decision making, so that's like the first layer, I guess. And then underneath that, I think is accessibility, so making sure that that data is not just owned by a data scientist or analyst in the org, but that people throughout the organization can access that. I tell my team, I'm very transparent and open with them because I believe the more data and information they have, whether that's a piece of data or just like news company or whatever, the more informed they are, the better that they can operate and make decisions themselves. I can't be making all the decisions. You need to push decision-making down in any organization in order to scale and move quickly. And so data is a big piece of that. And so making sure that everyone has access to those insights and those learnings so that they can operate themselves and move quickly is super important.

Kailey Raymond: How do you bring it all together? One of the things that we talk about a lot here at Segment is oftentimes a company's data is siloed. The marketing will have their things and sales will have theirs and every different team starts to have these silos of information, and then the decision-making can feel like it's not necessarily taking all the correct things together and blending them. So I'm wondering how you are thinking about that? How are you bringing together all of those insights to be able to push all that information down to people and give them the robust information that they need to make those good decisions?

Dan Visnick: So two things there. I think one is systems and processes, and the other is cultural, kind of like we talked about, embedding some of those things throughout the company and culture. It's how do you create norms or ways to do that as well. And so on the system side, not to be an ad, but we've actually been working with you all because we saw exactly that where the data was siloed and we had trouble moving it around, or we need an engineer... We need to get an engineer and it'd be like, "Hey, we need this piped over here." And with Segment, we're not totally there, we got more work to do, but we've made a lot of headway on kind of taking that out of the silo, getting people that are able to move it around themselves and use that to create audiences, tailored experiences, et cetera. So that's been really helpful. So systems is one piece. The other part is, again, creating these norms and ways for people to interact. And one example we have on the marketing team is every week we do something which we call the Batter's Box.

Dan Visnick: And it's an opportunity for people to share testing and learning that they've done and insights that they've gotten and it's called the Batter's Box because baseball is about failure and trying to encourage it's okay to fail, even the most successful hitter fails seven out of 10 times that they're at bat. And so I want to instill that. When we're testing and learning, it's not always going to work, we're going to fail a lot, but from those failures, you also learn quite a bit as well. And so just kind of open forum where people can talk about data and those insights like that and embedding that in different ways, whether it's a small team or larger opportunity in the organization, it's really important.

Kailey Raymond: That's great. I do think that is exactly right. You can have systems, but not culture and that doesn't work, and you can have culture, but not systems and that also doesn't work, and so making sure that you're blending those two things together. Any kind of programs or campaigns that you would wanna share as it relates to how data is influencing your marketing at HoneyBook?

Dan Visnick: Yeah. I think another one that I haven't touched on yet is what we're calling intent-led onboarding. It's something that we've been working on quite a bit. And so we saw through data that people were coming to the site with different types of intent, some people just wanna send an invoice, some people wanna start with a contract, some people just want to get organized. And those people already, without us doing anything, have very different levels of conversion throughout the funnel. And so the hypothesis was, "Hey, if we tailored this journey to what that intent was, that we could improve that experience." And that's proven to be true. We're still in the middle of it and expanding that, but the testing that we've done and what we've done so far is just... Even on landing pages, we've increased the visit to trial conversion by 25%.

Dan Visnick: And then deeper in the product, we've tailored that experience as well to try to get them quicker to what they're trying to do, and we've seen a 15% uplift in our subscriber conversion there. So these things are definitely paying off and something that we're investing in. And I think it goes back to that trend, too, around personalization and making sure that you're tailoring those journeys for your customers, specifically for them, based on what type of business they are or what they're trying to do.

Kailey Raymond: Those aren't small improvements. Those are quite large improvements in conversion. That's really cool. I'm wondering, what are some of those intent signals that you're capturing? Is it like as simple as a form fill or like a survey?

Dan Visnick: Yes. Some of it, it's just an onboarding quiz for the actual intent. It's basically, "Why did you come here?" It's like you can check multiple things. And so they say, "I wanna send an invoice." But then there are other signals that we get as well, what they're vertical is, the predictive modeling we do estimates like how much business they do in a year and potentially like how many clients that they might have and we can use that to tailor their experience as well.

Kailey Raymond: That's really interesting. I like that. This is something that... A term that's kind of come about in the past couple of years, but I think is gaining momentum, which is funny because it's just a very old idea, it's a survey, but they're calling it zero-party data now, right? It's like...

Dan Visnick: Wow.

Kailey Raymond: Yeah, the data that you are form-filling and you're saying like, "Here, this is what I want." And pairing that together with your behavioral data and your click data and all of that is supposed to give you a more trusted sense of your customer. I think it's pretty funny that it's like, "Yeah, sometimes going back to the basics is exactly what we all need to do."

Dan Visnick: What's old is new again. I think one thing that's interesting there, though, it does depend on what you're asking because we have... Like if someone said, "Why are you coming here?" They're pretty much going to tell you, right? But when you ask like, "Hey, how much do you make in a year?" Can't recall right off the top of their head or they wanna be aspirational, and so we've seen deltas in some of that information, whereas with something straightforward, then it's like, yeah, they're gonna give you the straight stuff. So you need to be thoughtful and careful about that and kind of validate between different signals, I think.

Kailey Raymond: That's very, very good advice because that's exactly right. It is like there are some things that you should probably really trust people telling you information and other things that, yeah, they're probably bluffing a little bit and you might not wanna use that as the exact thing that you're gonna remarket them against. Have you learned anything surprising about your customers in any of your data sets? Any insights that you would want to call out, things that shocked you.

Dan Visnick: One thing that was interesting was during the pandemic, so like many companies, pandemic hit, we were actually a little bit ahead of the game because part of our company is based in Israel and it hit there first. So we actually knew what was coming and we actually started preparing our members before things got shut down in the US. However, we pulled back our marketing spend and we're battening down the hatches like everyone was at that time. But interesting thing that we saw was our acquisition just tanked for a lot of our event-based businesses, naturally, because all the events were closed down. But then on the side, we saw that even though we reduced our spend quite a bit, there was still a lot of demand that was happening from certain verticals. And so when we dug into that, it turned out to be these non-event verticals, consultants, et cetera.

Dan Visnick: Which at first blush was surprising, but then when you think about it, it wasn't that surprising 'cause these are the people who are already doing business digitally and delivering things digitally. And so that was an interesting insight that then helped propel us through the pandemic as we saw that these people were still in business which tried to help the other businesses. We did a lot to help them out and make sure that they survived. But those other businesses, we kind of doubled down on acquisition there and saw a lot of great growth as we were coming out of the pandemic. So that was an interesting insight.

Kailey Raymond: Interesting. So a tailwind that you might not have expected when the world is shut down and noticing different segmentations within your own base. Very cool. Who do you think is doing it right in terms of customer experience? Do you have any brands or companies or people that you look to for inspiration?

Dan Visnick: Yeah. We have another exercise that we do on the marketing team, it's called Purple Cows. Seth Godin used to work [0:32:50.4] ____ back when I was there, and it's about sharing remarkable marketing. And I look back on the document that we have of what's been shared lately, the company that stands out, it has multiple appearances there is Duolingo, and people have highlighted that for a number of reasons. So one, just the Love Island parody and how from an advertising perspective, that's really fun, but also their lifecycle marketing and the emails that they're sending people as well and kind of the tongue-in-cheek way that they do that. So across their customer journey, they're really tailoring that and being authentic, but in a fun way that really seems to resonate with the audience. So put them at the top. Personally, it's boring, but USA is a favorite of mine because...

Kailey Raymond: Shout-out.

Dan Visnick: For a financial institution, an insurance company, you don't expect that from a company like that and I just personally always had great experiences with them. And also the thing I call out is that they're proactive. So one time we forgot to take a car off the insurance or something like that and sold it and like three or four months later, they called us and said, "You forgot to take this off and we've been billing you. Here's a refund." Who does that?

Kailey Raymond: That never happens.

Dan Visnick: Yeah. But it happened.

Kailey Raymond: I like that. That's amazing. That's one of the things that like they could have been icky and sneaky and just taken your money, but now you're always gonna remember that and say, "You know what? The referral value of that one action is worth way more than the money they would have gotten for you."

Dan Visnick: Amazing.

Kailey Raymond: Which is very, very smart marketing.

Dan Visnick: Definitely.

Kailey Raymond: I also love the Duolingo example because I feel like it's kind of reached... It's like peak cultural moment. It was in the Barbie movie of like the husband on the couch, such a perfect... Everybody could feel that and they totally understood. I have plenty of friends that have their streaks going and they can't miss a day. So they're doing a great job.

Dan Visnick: Yes.

Kailey Raymond: Do you have a favorite piece of data or data-based campaign that either you've run or you've seen out in the wild?

Dan Visnick: Not a campaign necessarily, but a strategy, if you will. I love the Google 411 story, which I don't know how familiar you are with that. This is... It was probably a decade ago when they needed to improve their voice recognition, they needed a larger data set, and so they had acquired a company, I think Grand Johnson, like a year before that. No one understood why they acquired this company and they launched Google 411, which was a pre-competitor to 4-1-1. No one uses this anymore, but back in the day you used to call up 411 and it'd charge you like a quarter to figure out where a business was or something. And Google did this, provided the service for free, not because they wanted to get in the 411 business, but because they needed a data set of people talking that they could listen to, to train their algorithm. And so they shut it down like three years later once it got enough information, but that became the backbone of all of Google's speech recognition and flashforward Google Assistant, et cetera. And so I'd say not a campaign, but strategic use of data and knowing that that's what you need to accelerate that development, I think is a favorite one of mine.

Kailey Raymond: I had no idea. That is fascinating. That actually reminds me of... Isn't Pokemon Go the exact same story? Where it was like this massive success for a pretty short time period, but Google Maps doesn't have great insight into walking paths and so they put them in all these parks and all these people chasing around their Pokemon digitally. And that's an incredible data set to be able to sell back to any map provider for how people are actually taking their feet on routes as opposed to a bike or a car or whatever. Very smart.

Dan Visnick: That's another great, similar example, yeah.

Kailey Raymond: I love it. We talked about some of the trends that you're looking at now, AI, of course, being the main one. I'm wondering if you have any trends that you're watching out for on the horizon, a year from now, something that you wouldn't be shocked if it was upon us.

Dan Visnick: I think how AI shakes out is gonna be part of that. I think right now we're in this kind of hype-fueled space with AI where basically you go around the internet, everyone's doing something with AI or saying they're doing something with AI, right? And I think a lot of that is aware, if you will, and some of that's real. And so I think over the next year, there's gonna be a rationalization of some of that and what's actually working and where people are getting value is gonna start standing out more, and those things that were just some window-dressing, if you will, for some companies, it's going to become more obvious that that's the case. I think increased personalization, again, it's already here, but it's just gonna become more and more important over time as you look into the future and people are gonna become more accustomed to that. And being able to get the data that you need in order to deliver that personalized journey to people is going to continue to be really important.

Kailey Raymond: Truly one-to-one marketing. I think it's something that we all aspire to and for the most part is still pretty hard to achieve, but with more data and with AI, actually.

Dan Visnick: And more systems.

Kailey Raymond: A pile on the systems. Last question for you today, Dan. What are the steps or recommendations that you might have for somebody looking to uplevel their customer experience strategies?

Dan Visnick: Yeah. So kind of gave a little bit of this away earlier, I guess, but it's what I believe. It's how you listen to your customers. And I think walking a mile in their shoes is really important in trying to have that empathy so that you understand where they're coming from. And as big companies, people are naturally kind of skeptical of that. And so especially as we talked about these trends of becoming more personalized and being a more authentic brand, it's really important how you listen and how you show up. Another example I'll give that I like from our own that we've been successful is someone tweeted some negative feedback about our design once, and so typically, the social media manager would just reply and be like, "Oh, sorry." Or whatever kind of response. Actually said, "Hey, really sorry about this. Would you mind if we put you in touch with our designer who owns this thing?" And he said, "Sure."

Dan Visnick: And literally within a few hours, he was on a video chat with the designer giving his feedback and he was thoughtful and thanked him. And right after that, he then tweeted something about this amazing experience that he had with HoneyBook. And so taking those moments like, yeah, we're listening, but how we're listening is very different and personal and makes the company seem more human and smaller and then turns what was a negative experience into something that's gonna grow his brand affinity for us. And he's spreading that to more people. Stuff like that's really important. And also showing your customers that you're listening. There's lots of different ways that they're giving you information and ideas on what to improve, and companies are constantly rolling out new features, et cetera, but making sure that your customers know that the reason you're doing some of these things is because you heard it from them and you're listening to them is really important. It makes...

Dan Visnick: People want to feel heard, right? That's part of the human condition. And even as a customer, when someone does something like that, a big company is like, "Oh, that's something that I asked for." Makes someone feel great. So I think that's really important. And one other thing I'd say is that listening comes in many different forms. There's listening directly to customers like I was just talking about, but you can listen through data as well. All these customers are leaving lots of signals throughout their experience, and so whether that's a bunch of them are dropping off at this certain point or they're getting stuck somewhere, that's also another way that companies need to listen to their customer. And so making sure that you can access that data and make sure teams and people throughout your organization can do that is another way to listen to your customers. That's really important.

Kailey Raymond: That's great. I love that, Dan. I love the way that you highlighted the importance of that feedback loop and making sure that not only are you listening, which is obviously critical, but showing folks that you've listened and even transitioning, yeah, that perhaps disgruntled customer into somebody that is now an advocate of yours with something as simple as a design feedback call. Very cool. Dan, thanks so much for being here. I had a lot of fun.

Dan Visnick: Thank you. I did too.