Jon Bishop is the Director of Growth at Heap Analytics, a self-serve analytics SaaS product that has changed the ability for non-technical professionals to access deep insights driven by data without the assistance of an engineer.
Previously, Jon worked at Periscope Data, another data analytics growth company, in which he multiplied revenue by 48x. Jon was the first marketing hire at Periscope and an early marketing hire at Heap. He has also worked as a growth consultant for venture backed startups.
Here are some of the topics discussed in this episode.
Exponentially Increasing Value for your Customers
The world of marketing automation and artificial intelligence has some marketing professionals concerned about the job prospects as the technology continues to develop. Why would a company need to hire data scientists when they already subscribe to a platform that does the work for them?
“The thing that we actually found out—which was really wonderful because it made us look better, and it made the analysts happy—was that when teams actually bought Periscope, the analyst teams expanded. Basically, they started to see more value.”
Instead of replace marketing professionals with tools, it’s actually possible that these new technologies will improve the ability of marketers to do high quality work and focus on the creative elements that can’t be replicated by AI.
Attracting Educated Customers
Marketing a product almost always involves some level of education for your target users on what your product does and why they need it. Depending on the product and the stage the target user exists within the buying cycle, the type of education required will change.
“The nice thing about that, though, is that people tend to be educated when they come to us. A lot of times, they’ll have used other solutions, and these solutions fell short. That’s actually a great situation because they felt one of the key pains that we address. Those are some of the best people coming in to talk to us.”
A technical product, especially in the SaaS space, is conducive to attracting target users who know what they are looking for. In this case, they already know much of what they need in order to make a decision about trying or purchasing a product.
The Power of Small Marketing Teams
Even though it’s ideal to have a different manager for each of your marketing channels and across all stages of the buying cycle, modern marketing and advertising technologies have made it possible to run multimillion dollar campaigns without a complete team of full-time marketers.
“I can produce a lot with just the tools I have, and that is a very big change from a few years ago, 10 years ago…
Also, we’ll interview people, and they’ll come from certain well-known tech companies that have small teams—much smaller than you’d ever expect. We’ve talked to people that were companies doing $80 million or $100 million, and they have a team of 10 people, and that’s really impressive.”
While operating in these smaller marketing organizations is challenging, these leaner teams powered by technology can still generate seven figures in revenue year after year.
Note: this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ander: We’ve had a few guests on our show who we are customers, and Heap is actually one of them! And, it’s really exciting to be sitting down for this podcast with their Director of Growth, Jon Bishop.
Jon, thanks for coming to our office today.
Jon: Thank you for having me.
Ander: Again, thank you so much for coming in. Your office is just around the corner.
I’m a huge fan of your product. When I was in high school and college, I was not the statistics or analyst-type guy at all. Even though I’m now much better, I can do all kinds of things using Heap that I would never be able to do otherwise.
Why don’t we start with your description of the company and product? I told people in the introduction a little bit about what Heap is, but it’s going to come better from you.
Jon: Yeah. Heap, in one line, is about self-serve analytics. It’s a web analytics product. We also have a mobile library as well. Essentially, it’s about making it easy for marketers and product managers to jump in and get the data they need.
Data is power. When it comes to company data, data is knowledge. You can do things with it. You can make better arguments with it. It’s important that these groups, who typically have a lot of trouble getting access to this data, can actually get it easier and also at their own pace. It’s something that they don’t have to sit there in a typical organization where we submit a request on Friday, and we have to wait another week to submit more requests, and maybe we need something in the meantime. They can go in today and get the answers they need.
Ander: Very quickly, too.
Ander: And you’ve only been at Heap for less than a year, right?
Jon: Yes, I started in January.
Ander: So, what was your story? What’s the nutshell of your professional journey?
Jon: I was actually in the nonprofit world. That was exciting because it taught me early on how to do a lot with little.
Ander: Especially with marketing.
Jon: Yeah, and it was also where I fell in love with marketing, just because I’m like, “This is powerful stuff.”
Especially with web marketing. There were a lot of early channels appearing and everything—the early days of SEO and that type of stuff—including analytics and really looking at the data. This was back when Urchin was what you pretty much had. It was great. I had a lot of great lessons come out of that. I had always been interested in tech, too, so I finally moved up to San Francisco. My first job was selling ads for Yelp, which was quite an experience.
Ander: I’m sure it was.
Jon: And then, after that, I ended up consulting for a while. There was one point where I ran marketing for a mobile agency on the east coast. They did apps for Mashable and things like that. After that, I moved back to a full-time job at Periscope Data. I ran marketing there for almost 2 years, and that was a great experience. After working so long remotely, it was nice to be in an office.
Ander: Yeah, I hear you! I can certainly relate to that, certainly.
Jon: You have people around to talk to. Yeah, and then I worked at Periscope Data for a while. I had always been interested in data products. I’m at Heap now, and I think something that’s big for me is having a product I can use that it’s easier to market because I know it well, but also because there’s going to be more passion along that instead of something that’s this abstracted idea that I know developers might use it, but it’s so technical that it’s something I could never play with.
Ander: Right, right, and I can relate to that here at Instapage. Our product is integral to everything that we do. I totally understand.
Ander: You were recently hired in January as the Director of Growth at Heap. You are running marketing at a company that is growing tremendously. You just raised that Series B. You’ve got some really killer clients, killer users on board using your platform, and you are a marketing team of one.
Jon: Yeah, basically. I’m lucky in that I get help from one of our co-founders, Ravi, that I work really closely with.
I also have to admit: The sales team has stepped up to help write content. People help out a lot, which is great. It would be nice to have more dedicated marketing people, and that’s what we’re looking for this year.
Ander: Of course.
Jon: Otherwise, I get treated well here for being the only marketer.
Ander: So, how do you prioritize your time?
Jon: Yeah, that’s a fun one! I mean, it’s difficult at any startup. But it gets a lot harder because as only one marketer, there are a lot of cool things we would love to do and things that we know would be very impactful and impact us very soon.
I think that basically it comes down to discipline around the funnel and saying, “Here are the steps that people are taking. This one step happens to be worse off than we think it could be. We think with a couple of different experiments or running different ads or something like that, we can raise that percentage.” I try to just focus on that. It can be hard, too, though. There are a lot of needs coming from sales and a lot of people coming in with ideas, and our company is very collaborative, which is great because they have all of these ideas. At the same time, it’s just a lot of stuff I can’t do.
Ander: Awesome. That certainly makes perfect sense. You also came in from Periscope. What specifically was your role there?
Jon: I was running marketing. I was the third employee there. I got brought on because they had four engineers, including the two founders. They actually had some success with Facebook ads, and it was interesting. I had even run Facebook ads for a product that I was doing before earlier that year, and I did not expect it to work for something that was sales-driven and that cost that much. It killed it. We continue to use them to this day with the companies I go to.
But yeah, it was interesting. Again, a lot of hard things to prioritize. I also was in a similar position where I was, basically, the only marketer up until a month before I left.
Ander: Wow, OK. I was not aware of that.
Jon: Which was hard. There were a lot of things, too, where we had an abnormal budget. We were spending a hell of a lot more than people normally would at our stage, so it actually made it hard to go find peers to talk to and prepare notes with, because I’m spending more and more each month than I have experience with. The last month was already the record I had, you know? That kept things exciting.
It was interesting. I think that, especially with Periscope, I had already focused on data a lot. I felt like I was pretty strong as a marketer with data, but Periscope was a lesson in that I had a lot more to learn.
Ander: Yeah, I totally understand.
Ander: Speaking of Periscope, a data product and Heap as an analytics tool… Statistics and analytics are difficult things, especially for marketers who are not quite as technical. Maybe they come from more of the creative or content background, like I originally did. Especially with these tools, it’s sometimes hard to understand the value proposition of them until you actually see it in action with your product, and until you can actually get your hands on it.
With these kinds of products, how do you communicate that value proposition when you face that challenge?
Jon: I’ll be honest: It’s hard. At the same time, we’re lucky and not lucky. The analytics industry is very crowded. There are new startups popping up every day. There are already established companies large and small. The nice thing about that, though, is that people tend to be educated when they come to us. A lot of times, they’ll have used other solutions, and these solutions fell short. That’s actually a great situation because they felt one of the key pains that we address. Those are some of the best people coming in to talk to us.
Besides that, I think a lot of it is just getting down, talking to customers, talking to sales, talking to customer success, and the solutions team, basically all these customer-facing people. “What are the words that people use to describe things? What are the features that they’re excited about?” Dig into that and make sure you do it, of course, across a wide enough group among customers and everything, and put that back into the messaging.
A lot of people fall into the trap of still, to this day, of using internal jargon in messaging and things and not really communicating as well with their customers and realizing that you’re talking a different language. It’s not going to work.
Ander: Now, perhaps this perception of mine is wrong, but it seems to me, like you said, there are so many analytics tools and analytics products out there. Do you think that part of the reason that Heap is able to do what it’s able to do in terms of marketing and sales is that there’s a lot of dissatisfaction?
Jon: That’s interesting. That’s not something I’ve ever thought about. I think that could be part of it. When we talk about having only one marketer, we’ve never had much in the way of marketing staff before.
But at the same time, we actually do get a lot of benefits out of our free badge program and just offering free plans, so there’s always been a flow where a lot of companies would need more marketing at this point. That’s definitely a piece of it.
Like I said, our best prospects are the people who are dissatisfied, that are educated, and that know exactly what they need. We offer things like the Auto Capture. That’s huge for people. We’re doing exercises right now, like talking to our customers around positioning and that kind of stuff—the exact stuff where we’re trying to get better messaging and everything.
But it’s very clear again and again. They’re tired of the process of having to go through this process that they don’t control with talking to an engineer to go help set those events up and everything. But too, they would rather just do it themselves and, again, at their own pace. It’s big because we address that very well, and that’s a key problem that people are seeing in the industry. That’s why we get a lot of these people coming to us. They’re dissatisfied with other tools.
Ander: Who are these people coming to you? Are they PPC managers? Are they content creators who don’t know the first thing about analytics? Who are these people?
Jon: That’s a good question. I think that it’s a mix. There are project manager titles when we do the analysis. Marketers as well. We get heads of data sometimes. Probably the most common path is that it’ll either be a head of analytics, and it could be someone on the marketing side, the product side, the data side, but they are in charge of data in some regard. They’ll reach out.
Something that’s interesting to us is a lot of times we’ll see a developer. They’ll actually find us, but they’re not the one who actually signs up. They go have the marketer sign up. We’re seeing there’s something to explore there. Are we popular with developers, but then they’re just passing us off to the right person at their company? That kind of changes marketing at that point.
Ander: It certainly does. One of the most interesting things to me about B2B, especially SaaS products is this idea of the bottom-up or top-down approach.
Ander: How are you communicating this value proposition to the person with the purchasing power, to the business stakeholders, people using the tool, people who are benefitting from the tool but not using the tool? What is some of your experience or some of the observations that you’ve made in that regard?
Jon: Sure. I think that it’s maybe a little overhyped. I think it’s one of those things that works for a lot of the newer companies out there, but there are a lot of companies that just aren’t quite ready to do that. They’re just good at doing top-down, talking to the executives, and I think that’s the way they should continue doing it.
A great example is in Periscope Data. Key competitors we were working with that point: Chartio, Looker, Mode as well. Our marketing could not be more different across those four companies. Chartio and Looker tended to be top-down, where Periscope and Mode were bottom-up. Between Mode and Periscope, Mode focused very much on content, whereas Periscope was very heavily focused on advertising, especially after a certain period. We had great blog leads coming on, but it was mostly advertising. It’s interesting because all these different approaches that people take to try to get something across.
I think that it depends on the product ultimately. Periscope was built as a better tool for the end user, so it was harder to sit there and differentiate among the other more established tools with an executive because he’s like, “Well, Oracle has this stuff and this stuff,” and it has the stuff he is looking for, but that doesn’t make the job easier for the analyst. It was almost a necessity that we definitely reach out to the people using the product at Periscope. Though I will admit, when it comes to larger enterprise deals, there’s just a point where you have to talk to the executives no matter what.
Ander: Of course.
Jon: So, that comes into play a lot.
Ander: But you also have to be enabling the executives to make sure that whoever is actually using the product is going to be satisfied with it.
Ander: Now, as we’ve talked about many times, there are so many analytics tools out there. There are so many tools where you can look at your funnel, figure out where the holes are, where people are falling out at the float, etc.
A conversation that we have here a fair amount at Instapage is the idea of the best-in-breed solution versus the single vendor—the full stack that meets all of the needs that you could possibly imagine.
Ander: And our thinking with our own product is that Instapage is an advertising personalization tool. It’s for optimizing your digital ad spend or your email marketing or whatever it is.
Ander: What’s your perspective is on that? Do you think that best-in-breed solutions are the best way to approach your marketing stack, or any stack for that matter? Or is the single-vendor umbrella solution is something that works for people?
Jon: Yeah, I have strong opinions about that. Ultimately, it really depends on the situation Ideally, the best people want to use the best tools, and you don’t find that with something like HubSpot and Marketo. Like you said, they do a bunch of stuff all right, so there’s definitely always that desire. But at the same time, while that can work for startups, because it’s less people to deal with, and less integrations to worry about, once you get to a certain size, just trying to keep these companies and products together and keep it organized becomes a lot harder. I don’t blame people for having to go buy HubSpot even though maybe they want something that’s the best SEO tool, the best landing page tool, and all that stuff, separated tools.
My personal preference, though, again, is very much best-in-breed, and I peeked at HubSpot for a long time. I mean, I don’t want to trash them too much.
Ander: Sure, sure. HubSpot is a great product for the right people.
Ander: Different people, different needs, etc.
Jon: Yeah, and my approach was just every time I would check it out, I would see lots of tools and a very holistic approach, but I wanted to go much deeper with SEO. I had much better tools available, and I didn’t have this need to have all these systems connected, and I can make it work without that, so it just made sense. I would much rather use something like Moz or some of these PPC tools out there, rather than relying on HubSpot. The same thing applies to email and a lot of the functions that HubSpot offers.
I think I would fight tooth and nail to use the best-in-breed products for as long as I can, but I can see a stage 2, where you need things to easily integrate with Salesforce or [inaudible 00:17:09], other tools, other enterprise stuff because it’s not just the marketing needs that will have to become more enterprise, but we’ll have more tools on the support side, even sales, all this stuff. That’s where I think HubSpot is very strong in that regard.
Ander: Another thing that is also fascinating to me about marketing technologies and analytics tools is that obviously, you’re using your own tool to determine insights and make the right decisions and everything.
Ander: At an analytics company, what are some of the ways that you can identify the right marketing stack to use in conjunction with your own tool?
Jon: OK. I’m going to be honest: I default to the tools I’ve used before.
Ander: Yeah, yeah.
Jon: I do try to have a weak bias there just because I think that you can hurt companies, too, sometimes when you try to force something, and it’s not a good fit. But I would probably start with the tools I’m familiar with.
It depends. If it’s something as easy to sign up for as Moz, that’s an easy decision. I don’t stress at night about “Oh, I didn’t sign up for this other tool,” but when things get more expensive, there’s more work to integrate them, then that’s where there’s going to be a much heavier research process. It’s a much more standard thing than people are used to, I guess. That’s basically the approach I take.
Ander: Shifting gears a little bit, let’s talk about AI. I actually did a podcast interview a little while ago with a company called KickFactory—social, real-time advertising, and it’s built on AI.
AI, obviously, is something that is in discussion with the tech community as a whole, but it’s also a very, very interesting technology that applies to marketers, that applies to analysts, that applies to anyone working with data.
Heap is such a powerful tool for people like myself, people who might not have the very, very intense analytical expertise. I can figure out what I need to figure out, but analysts are still important right now. We still need analysts, and I’m predicting that it’s possible that that might change in the future.
Do you think that it’s possible AI might completely replace analysts if we’re going to have all the tools we need to get all the insights we need and if we’re going to be able to find these things automatically?
Jon: Yeah, I think if it fulfills all the promises that people have made about it, yeah, it’s definitely possible. I would say that what’s going to happen is probably some of the last jobs would be ones that delve into creativity, and I think that good analysts have to be very creative, so I think there’s going to be some job security in that regard.
I will say, up until that point, they will get much more powerful. A lot of the tools they’re using, involve asking “What are the right questions to ask?” That’s where the creativity gets involved, and it just makes it much easier for them to ask those questions to get those answers, instead of having to go through and write the right SQL queries, struggle with some SQL, go down the wrong path when you thought this might be a clue to why this thing went up or this thing went down. You kind of see some of the stuff, too. There has been a lot of promise in the marketing world around analytics in general. The marketing world is kind of notorious for overpromising on tech and everything, but you are seeing some different things.
Some of these analytics products they’re coming out with have more automated insight type features and things like that, which I think it makes sense. It’s definitely something people want. If you’re designing something for a very non-technical, very un-data-friendly person, that’s very ideal because they just get to ask a question, and they get their answer back, without having to do all of this work, without having to talk to a team. I think there are a lot of benefits to it.
I think these tools ultimate taking over analysts is way off. I could see, though, analysts getting more powerful in the meantime, as products are built out. One thing is that little story about when I was working at Periscope. At Periscope Data, we were selling to analysts. That was our key market at that point. And a lot of this was discovered before I even got there, but there was a concern. It was almost the way the founders thought of the product was that this is meant to replace your data science team—or least reduce it—because someone still has to run the reports, but it’s something that makes them a lot more powerful. Well, then you kind of assume, “OK, well, then that’s going to mean less people.”
The problem with that, though, is that kind of looks at a flat view of work. It’s not going to change. The thing that we actually found out—which was really wonderful because it made us look better, and it made the analysts happy—was that when teams actually bought Periscope, the analyst teams expanded. Basically, they started to see more value. I think it’s hard for analysts because there’s a lot of work they do that does not come out, so it can be hard. You might see some insight. Maybe they even work on this project, and honestly, they can’t find a real answer; they can’t find something they’re confident in. For people outside of data, they’re like, “Well, are they even good at their job? What’s the point of this if you can’t find anything? There has to be something.”
But that’s not how it works. They kind of have all of this work in the background that people aren’t appreciating. So something like Periscope and these BI tools that are coming out give them the ability to look a lot better. All of a sudden, you’ve got charts and dashboards throughout the company, and people ask “Oh, who is responsible for that?” and it’s the team over here. People are grateful for that because there’s more transparency available. At Periscope, we had our major metrics available to the company in just one big dashboard. That’s a nice feeling, too. You feel trust at that point.
But beyond that, it’s just doing a better job of getting the data and being able to respond faster. I mean, we talk about this with Heap, too. It’s a very similar thing where we make people look good. That’s kind of one of our things that we’re trying to sell and as a product we’re trying to do. These are people that get asked a quick question, like, “Can you find this out for me?” Before the tool, it might have taken a month because they had to talk to a developer to get the event put together. There was just a lot of stuff they had to do.
Today, they get back within 10 minutes. Maybe they already have that report ready, and they just go look at the report, hear the updated stats, and that person is like, “Wow! Mary over here is kicking butt. This is great!” That’s the kind of thing we saw happen at Periscope. It’s a very similar thing we’re seeing with Heap. These tools actually expand the value of what people are getting out of marketing and product teams. It makes them look good.
Ander: Awesome. One of the last questions I always ask people is where marketing is going. You basically answered that. I love everything you had to say there, but the second part of that question is how can we as marketers, and how can analysts prepare for the changes that are coming?
Jon: That’s a really good question. I actually think about that a lot. I look at friends and family that had difficulties during the financial crisis, and for me, that was a huge thing because I felt like I’m always going to have to reinvent myself, and I do think about AI and when my job might go away. I think I have some solace in the idea that, again, I believe strongly that creativity is going to be one of the harder things to replicate, so that will take a while, and I think good marketers are creative. Not just talking about ads and stuff but creative ways to reach people, creative ways to actually get those answers, that kind of stuff. Creativity, though, is actually a hard thing as well to teach. A lot of times, I think people just have it or they don’t.
Outside of that kind of thing, I feel like there are certain tasks that can be automated, and I would look to that stuff. Watch the tools because it’s going to be slow until it’s really fast and things take over. You can see this. There’s a lot of promise of this advanced analytics, AI being involved, and I feel like half the companies aren’t even using anything called “AI.” It’s just a buzzword.
Ander: Yeah, yeah. Same with data science or big data.
Jon: Yeah. But, I would watch the tools, and I would start to see where people are making advances. Where are people eliminating some jobs? Or not even eliminating. Typically, what happens is you also need a smaller team. I’ve seen this trend overall, too. Over time… I mean, I would never recommend being the only marketer in a situation like I am at Heap or at Periscope. It’s hard. Luckily, I’m getting help. Here at Heap, we’re going to hire more people. But at the same time, I can produce a lot with just the tools I have, and that is a very big change from a few years ago, 10 years ago.
Also, we’ll interview people, and they’ll come from certain well-known tech companies that have small teams—much smaller than you’d ever expect. We’ve talked to people that were companies doing $80 million or $100 million, and they have a team of 10 people, and that’s really impressive.
Ander: Yeah, no kidding. That is really impressive. And for whatever it’s worth, I saw somewhere, sometime on the internet something very cool. I don’t remember where, and I should have saved this link. But it was basically, a calculator where you would put in your role, your job, and it would tell you the likelihood that you were going to be replaced by AI.
Jon: A little dark.
Ander: Yeah, it’s a little bit dark. But I put in marketers, and it said there’s only a 5% chance that a lot of marketers are going to be replaced by AI.
Ander: Interesting. So, for everybody listening, don’t worry! This random tool on the internet gives us a little bit of assurance.
Jon: Exactly. We’re all good with that.
Ander: Exactly. So, plan the rest of your career accordingly that way. And of course, I’m just kidding!
Anyway, Jon, thanks for coming in today. It’s been a really, really fascinating conversation. I love your product. I’m really happy that we can both be benefitting at Heap and Instapage from each other and from everything that our products are doing for each other. Once again, thanks for coming to our office. It’s been a pleasure, and I’m sure we’ll talk to you soon.
Jon: Awesome. Thank you for having me.