Pivoting A Consumer Network Of Million Users Into A Consumer Insights Platform With Matt Britton

Pivoting A Consumer Network Of Million Users Into A Consumer Insights Platform With Matt Britton

Key Stats on Suzy:

  • Generating $20m in revenue
  • 250 customers

Key Takeaways on Suzy:

  • Customer feedback essential for effective decision making
  • Provide consumers some rewards to get customer feedback
  • Leverage existing users to build a bigger network
  • Consumers hate filling out surveys
  • The older you get, the older your network gets
  • Companies need to have their finger on the pulse of the customer
  • Recurring revenue model can be really helpful if you have great customer relationships
  • Getting the client on the phone is the most difficult part in sales cycle
  • Having a great customer success process is essential
  • Great customer success team makes up for some of the gaps in the product
  • Churn is the most detrimental thing that can happen to a company
  • Marketing research is all about askers and tellers

Transcription:

Hammad:

Hey Matt, thank you very much for being on the show. So, you're running Suzy. I mean, you guys are doing incredible $20 million plus in revenue. You've got what 250 customers. So I would love to know who you are, and how you actually got to build this incredible company. 

Matt:

Sure. Well, I'm Matt Britton.

I'm the CEO and founder of Suzy. The impetus of Suzy was actually a spinoff of an ad agency. I had found that way back in 2002 called Mister Youth. I started Mister Youth after a couple of false starts and trying to start my own business out of college but Mister Youth was a marketing services business built to help major companies, target teens and college students.

It was right when the internet had kind of taken hold as a mainstream, consumer habit. And a lot of brands were really struggling to figure out how to use the internet, which sounds crazy, but it's true, to target consumers besides using banner ads, which is the only thing companies are doing it at that point.

So we really were an early pioneer at helping these big businesses do things like influencer marketing and content creation and the very earliest stages, working with companies like Procter and Gamble and Microsoft and Coca-Cola. When social media first launched, more importantly Facebook in 2004, we were one of the first companies to ever sell ads on Facebook.

I actually sold one of the first ads ever on Facebook directly, with Mark Zuckerberg back in 2004, late 2004. And that really started a big, kind of transformation of our company from being a youth marketing company, becoming a social media marketing company. We ended up being Coca-Cola's first ever social media marketing agency of record in 2007, rebranded the company as MRY to better reflect our position and the marketplace in 2008.

And the company was eventually acquired by the Poulos group in 2011 but before the company was acquired, we'd incubate it and spun out a software company called Crowdtap, which I rejoined as CEO in 2016 and quickly realized that the business needed that reinvention and rebranded it Suzy, which launched in 2018 and here we are today.

Hammad:

Okay. Let's talk about the business. So the product, what does it do? Let's talk about that. 

Matt:

So Suzy is a consumer insights platform. There are two components to Suzy. There is a consumer network of over a million US consumers who are on a gamified platform called Crowdtap, it's a mobile app, both Android and iOS that consumers can download and essentially earn rewards for answering questions from companies.

The other side of what sits on top of the Crowdtap network is a software tool called Suzy. Suzy is licensed by companies and companies that licensed Suzy had the ability to ask those Crowdtap consumers questions in a variety of different formats to get instant on demand results. So say you are in a meeting with three or four of your colleagues or a zoom meeting, and you're trying to decide what type of packaging to use for your new macaroni and cheese product.

You can ask consumers, any specific type of consumer, your previous customers, your competitors, customers who you're targeting, what packaging they liked the most. And instantly find out while you're on that zoom call. So it's instant on demand consumer feedback and market research for companies to really allow them to get the voice of the consumer into every single decision that they're making.

Hammad:

Wow. Okay. So look, as you were telling me, I'm thinking, okay, how did you even build Crowdtap with 1 million people? How did you get to that point? So the impetus behind that network is we had spun out the software Crowdtap in 2011. The reason that we'd built software to begin with is one of the main pieces of our business dating all the way back to when we started Mister Youth. 

It was the student rep software. So one of the things we were doing for a lot of companies where it was hiring and managing college student representatives for Microsoft and Coca-Cola who would, you know, promote those companies on campus and we'd built software called Crowdtap to measure, manage, and incentivize these students.

Then what started to happen is a lot of agencies and publishers started to call us asking if they could license the crowd tab for their own purposes, for their influencer or blogger relations. So a light bulb went off in my head that this is a value creation opportunity and we spun out Crowdtap and I put in a different CEO.

I would go on to manage and build the agency but the person that was running Crowdtap took the business after we spun it out in a slightly different direction. What they started to do is recruit not just college students, but all types of consumers to sign up for Crowdtap and those consumers who signed up for Crowdtap can earn rewards for creating and sharing content on behalf of brands.

So it was almost like a programmatic influencer platform. And over time, over the period of seven years, eight amassed a million consumers to sign up for this. Platform. And when I rejoined as CEO of Crowdtap, after I sold the agency, that original business idea wasn't doing too well. So those consumers that signed up, you know, create and share content for rewards, that model really wasn't in demand enough from advertisers, but they were highly engaged with the consumers.

So I just knew that there was an opportunity to leverage these consumers. For a slightly different purpose. And as it turns out that purpose was consumer insights. So that's where Suzy was born. So the consumer network was built over a seven year period and all that work had been done. I just had to figure out how to unlock the value and Suzy's how I unlock the value.

Hammad:

You know, I'm going to take you back again. So let's go back to the start of building that network. Let's talk about how you recruit them? I mean, I'm sure you tried different ways and some failed, some didn't work and you probably run ads and stuff. So how did you recruit them and how did you keep them engaged over seven years?

Matt:

I can't take credit for that. I mean, I was busy running an agency in the early days when Crowdtap was being built. It was really a guy named Brandon Evans, who I put in as CEO to build Crowdtap in its earliest stages that was responsible for building a network.

But I know that they were doing very successfully, a lot of referral and word of mouth programs, where they were always leveraging the existing users to refer and evangelize and bring in new users. 

And they were able to create a compelling experience for the users where there's always something for them to do when they logged in, for them to be able to work with a lot of exciting brands and for them to, you know, take photos of them with their new pair of Nike sneakers, which they would upload, and then Nike would approve it and they could share it their rewards. 

And that was sort of like the business model. And Crowdtap did a great job of engaging these people over time. And over time, they sort of built this network of super users who log in every day. And once you have 25000, 50,000 super users, you're really on your way to building that engaged large scale network of consumers.

Hammad:

Oh, wow. So let's talk about the technology. I'm just going to go a little bit deeper. How do you manage the second segments and how do you make sure that you have the right people in the right places then when you need to ask the question? 

Matt:

Yeah, that's great, so there's two sides to that question. I can answer the first one on the audience side.

So we have a 15 person audience team at Suzy and their sole responsibility is to make sure that we have a statistically significant network of consumers across different demographics, Age income, gender, geography, et cetera, ethnicity. So we are constantly sort of modulating that network to make sure that we have the right representation of those core demographics.

So if our client wants something like a general population response, they can make sure that it's adequately weighted, or if they want to go after a specific niche that we'll have enough people to answer those questions. On the Suzy side, when you're asking the questions, we have a variety of targeting tools that allows companies to not only target, but re-target based upon a variety of different criteria.

So you could target 18 to 24 year olds who live in Chicago, who previously told you that they owned a Ford vehicle, and you can go back to those people. And ask them how they like their car. So there's no shortage of different ways that our clients are using Suzy to make sure that they're getting feedback from the consumers that matter.

Hammad:

Wow. Okay. So I'm going to actually talk about how you basically built Suzy on top of it and how you grew that to $20 million plus in revenue. It's actually quite obvious to me now, because as you're telling me, I'm thinking, okay, you've got something which can't be replicated. You just can't replicate.

You can't just come and build a network of million, million plus people who actually give you feedback straight away and give you answers on any kind of questions straight away. So I'm almost thinking, Oh my God, you know, that's a great business, but so let's talk about Suzy, when you built that component on top, how did you build it?

How did that grow over time? 

Matt:

How did I grow the Susie network? Are the Suzy’s customers or users? 

Hammad:

Users. 

Matt:

There's and it's again, just providing the crowd that product, just continuing to innovate on the product, optimizing the user experience, making sure that it's something that's easy to use.

Fun, lightweight, and frankly, is worth the consumer's time. So, you know, what we've learned early on is that consumers hate filling out surveys. So most, especially the millennial consumer, you know, who has a mobile centric life, they're not going to sit on their phone and answer 20 questions, about a particular product.

But what they will do is answer one question and then another question about something else. And then maybe that first company can go back to them three days later and ask them a follow-up question. It's gotta be fresh. It can't be boring where you're just talking about the same thing all the time. So what we've built with Crowdtap is something that is very sort of like, it's almost like built for the flick, like Instagram, right?

The way to use it is just super lightweight and easy where you can jump on for a couple of minutes and jump off. And instead of going on words with friends or Minecraft and wasting time, you actually can earn some rewards and get an Amazon or Spotify gift card by just filling out these questions. So, people do it because it's fun and they like giving feedback and they like entering questions about themselves.

And because of that, we've been able to maintain and grow this user base. 

Hammad:

Great. Great. Let's talk about customers. I know you're an enterprise sales model. Let's talk about how you started getting your customers and how did you grow that to $20 million plus in revenue? 

Matt:

Yeah, I mean, that's kind of what I've spent my career doing.

First of all, I was running an ad agency for 15 years. Right. And we'd go our business up to 50 million in revenue as an ad agency. And through the period of doing that, you know, I was able to not just myself, but people as part of our team have been able to build lasting relationships with people who, the older you get, the older your network gets.

Sometimes means they get to be in more positions of power in organizations where they can make larger decisions. So when we launched Suzy, we had a compelling offering. It was something where I think the timing was right especially now in this pandemic, more than ever, companies need to have their finger on the pulse of the consumer.

And they need to know what their consumers are thinking and feeling. And Suzy allows companies to do it. So with those relationships and with a product that companies get value from, it's not that hard to kind of get it going, right? So the first 5 million in revenue, it was really just reaching out to people who we knew were low-hanging fruit and things like that.

After that, it's about really scaling a go to market model. It first starts with making sure you have the right sales management, sales training, and sales people that understand how to sell and demo the product you need, the right lead gen or demand gen tools to fill the top of the funnel. We have a network of 15 sales development representatives or SDRs they're spending all day identifying new leads and opportunities to a very aggressive content marketing platform.

The great thing about Suzy is it is a content creation tool. We can use Suzy to basically create infographics or a piece of content or story. So for example, Halloween is coming up. We just did a huge study about how consumers are going to act this year during Halloween, given the pandemic.

And that created a ton of content that we turn into blog posts, webinars, et cetera. We use that content to distribute it to a wide audience of people who are prospects to generate leads. Those leads go to our salespeople who demo the product and try to convert into sales. And we also have a very, I think, effective kind of pricing and business model, which is an annual license model.

A lot of our competitors that sell online market research, sell on a per survey or in some instances per response basis. What we do at Suzy is we sell an annual license where companies spend anywhere between $12,000 to $500,000 a year to license Suzy. 

The price drivers, being the amount of questions you have in a year, the amount of events targeting, et cetera and we work like hell every single year to make sure that our customers are getting enough usage and value out of the product. 

So they renew and in many instances, expand their usage of Suzy the next year. And that recurring revenue model can be really powerful if you obviously have great customer relationships that you can expand over time.

And that's really been part of the magic of our success. 

Hammad:

Great. So how long is your typical sales cycle from the point where you've distributed content and someone's showed up? 

Matt:

So our sales cycle is basically one day for every thousand dollars in annual recurring revenue, a deal. So if it's a $90,000 deal, it's usually a 90 day sales cycle.

If it's a $120,000 deal, it's 120 days. I was like, Oh, it's a $12,000 deal. It's a 12 day sales cycle because it usually is a smaller business. That's generally how it's working. 

Hammad:

How does it look? For example, if someone says, okay, for example, someone bought a $90,000, give a hundred thousand deal, and it took you 90, a hundred days.

What were your sales team doing at that time? 

Matt:

The components are, first our sales cycle starts with the clock starts ticking on our sales cycle when a company agrees to take an initial call. So an initial call is basically a, Hey, what are you guys all about? and many times during that call, we don't even show the product.

We're essentially trying to extract as much information out of the client as possible and seeing if there's any type of fit and, and telling them just enough about Suzy to peak their interest. So, you know, that will take seven to 14 days to schedule. And then after that, if we get their interests, then basically we set up a more comprehensive demo call where we'll take all the information that we've learned from them.

And give them a more detailed one, our product demo, where we will show them how the product works in the context of what we know about their business, probably takes two to three weeks to get that scheduled. So now we're already six weeks in, and we're going to give them a demo of the product and then there's back and forth follow ups, pushing them, trying to basically get them to agree to, you know, to buy the product. 

We'll send them a proposal, we'll negotiate their proposal back and forth, and then we have to go through legal. And so basically each of those sections, whether it's getting to the point of the first evaluation call, to getting to the point of us demoing the product, getting to the point where we're saying in proposal to finally getting it closed, that's where your 90 days goes.

Hammad:

Right? What do you reckon is the most tricky part in the whole cycle? 

Matt:

Really just getting the client on the phone, because, you know, if you think about it, especially in this day and age where there's so many enterprise software companies that are exploding and getting so much venture capital funding, if you are a person that has a budget at a large brand, let's just say you're in a head of brand marketing at Xbox.

You're getting, you know, thousands of solicitations every single month and to cut through the clutter, to actually get that person to give you enough attention, to set up a half an hour call with a company they may not have heard of that's very hard to do. With us, we have a great product and after we finally get that initial call, we have a fairly high conversion rate of getting them to that second demo call.

And once we get them on the demo call and they actually give us an hour of their time and we can show them what Suzy can do. We've a very high conversion rate to getting them to buy. So it kind of gets easier as the, you know, the deal progresses and the sales cycle progresses, but the earliest stages, the top of the funnel, are always hardest.

And just getting people's attention, that gets easier over time though, because we have 250 customers, each customer has four or five users. So now we have a thousand people that are on the product and those people are telling their colleagues about how great Suzy is. And someone says, you know, they're leaving their company and going to another company.

And if they like Suzy, when they go to another company, the first thing they do is call us and say, Hey, I want to use Suzy here. And that allows us to keep growing the business. 

Hammad:

Right. Great. Great. So I'm guessing you have a great customer success process as well. I mean, you're quite often putting so much effort.

Matt:

And I think you need to, because I think until you have a product like Salesforce, you know, or Slack that is essentially pipes to an organization, where, you know, those companies don't need to rely on customer success as much because once the product gets deployed, it just kind of becomes part of the, you know, the inner workings of their organization, but it takes time to get that.

Before you get to that place, often you have to rely on relationships and become a real strategic partner of your client. So you can make up for some of the gaps in your product because you know, our product is only two years old. Our biggest competitors have been around for 20 years, right?

So we obviously have some gaps and we're building those gaps. But if you have a great customer success team, that can make up for some of those gaps and you could provide more value than even a product that theoretically has more functionality than yours, right. Then you actually can give yourself enough time to catch up.

And that's what we've been effective at doing. 

As well as my agency background with so many of our other exacts has really helped in that regard. 

Hammad:

So what does your customer success slash onboarding look like? I mean, you must have a, you know, a process Royal for you, you know, you signed the deal.

Matt:

Yeah. I mean, we've been pretty robust, you know, a customer onboarding process where after a client signs up, we do a very robust sort of, you know, onboarding regiment where we make sure they understand how the tool works. 

We learn a lot about them, even more about their business, so we can start to give them use cases and applications for how they could best use Suzy to drive their business process.

We have quarterly business reviews, constant check-ins, or we're always looking at usage of the tool as a proxy for how much value our customers are getting out of the tool to understand that if there's expansion opportunities or if there's a yellow, red flag with a client or is a client at churn risk.

The most critical or I guess most detrimental thing that can happen to a company that sells annual recurring revenue is churn. And churn is obviously a death knell for a company, because it could start to accrue and really start to make it hard for you to be able to grow.

So, you know, we are very, you know, attuned to customers that are at risk for churn and have a whole intervention program if we see that occurring. 

Hammad:

Great. Great, great. So one last question. what's in the future season, I mean, you've got so far, well, you must have different plans as well. 

Matt:

So we just raised a fairly sizeable series C and we're expanding, we're expanding globally.

We are continuing to invest in our engineering and product team to add things like machine learning into our platform. So Suzy's not just giving you a consumer say, but it's aggregating all that feedback to give you real insights and direction, or really trying to disintermediate, the market research process.

If you think about it, market research is really about askers and tellers. Somebody asking a question. And the tellers are all the people who are answering it and an aggregate gives you enough information to make a decision. And the market research space right now is full of sleepy legacy incumbent companies that don't have technology that don't have data and don't have their own audiences.

And because of that, they offer inefficient products and services to the marketplace. And what we're trying to do is simplify, you know, the notion of connecting asker and teller in a way that can democratize it to anybody, not just a market research professional, and make it much more cost-effective, fast and efficient for these companies.

And that's sort of our goal as a business and, you know, so far we've been successful, but you know, there's a lot of great players in the space and we have our work cut out for us. 

Hammad:

Great. Thank you very much. And, that was great insight into your business, and I'll look forward to having you again.

Matt:

Thank you very much. Thanks so much for having me.

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