The Power of Enterprise Community Marketing | Jay Simons and Alex Bard
November 7, 2019
May 19, 2023
We all know that word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful tools, but how do you scale that? Jay Simons, President at Atlassian, shares the details of how they scaled Atlassian’s journey to becoming a $30 billion company with the power of user groups and community marketing. This fireside will dive into what you want you to know, facilitated by Alex Bard.Jay Simons is the president of Atlassian. In 2008, he joined as VP of Sales and Marketing and developed its high-velocity, low-touch sales model, which growing a worldwide customer community and programs. Jay has more than 20 years in the software industry. He previously worked at Plumtree Software, BEA Systems, and Oracle. Jay serves on the board of directors for HubSpot and holds a bachelor’s in political and environmental science from the University of Washington.Alex Bard is a career technology entrepreneur, executive, and angel investor. In 2014, he became CEO at Campaign Monitor, a global email marketing and automation company. There Alex grew the team to over 250 employees, opened offices in SF and London, acquired 2 companies, doubled bookings, and accelerated overall growth. He joined Redpoint in 2017 and is on the board of AppZen, hims, and Kustomer. Alex has also been an investor and advisor in companies that include Gusto, Narvar, Classy, Hello Inc, Moon Express, Kustomer, Xero, and Docusign. He lives with his wife and 2 daughters in San Francisco.Watch the recording of Jay and Alex's talk at CMX Summit 2019.
We have a tremendous focus on getting feedback and credit from people online. The signals involved in this are primarily focused on what we are looking to do within and among customers.
What was the inspiration for Atlassian and what problems were you trying to solve?
Atlassian was founded in 2002 and in about 2006 we had our first set of customers self organize around what our platform was doing. This told us that something was lacking in our product that they were filling in. That meant that there was some roughness there and the community would tell us where we needed to improve our product.They launched a focus group (Atlassian User Group Program) which provided an experience where Atlassian could learn from their community. They encouraged the same self organization methodology into a new offline community marketing program."Being a part of this community is a big ask though. It’s taking time from families and Netflix and plenty of other areas. We don’t want them to have to fork over payments for pizza or space. It’s a cumbersome process too, figuring out how to organize."We built the Atlassian Customer Program. There are now more than 400 users and 750 users throughout the nation. There are averaging then about 2 events per day around the world.
Can you talk a bit more about how the spark created so long ago became the program that it is today? What was the process and how did you chamption it? Was it executive down or bottom up?
There is a level of awareness that leaders have and our community leaders were very passionate about it. Our CEO knew it was useful and scalable. That means that it is a lot easier to leverage and mobilize aspects of the community. We were listening to the people on the Atlassian community team and letting them be the CEOs of their own project.The support that comes to the team is a sense of authority and setup but it also includes a level of freedom that people feel which is what spurs them to take it on.
What wasn’t obvious when you did it at the time that seems to have paid off?
It wasn’t a lot of money but we would provide seed funding to each event around $20 to $2,500 dollars or so. We try to sequence the communities such that they create their own launch amplification. By sharing new events in existing communities, it acted as earned media and natural marketing that finds its way through echo chambers. We did also have traditional media but we found that our way of community marketing outperformed the traditional methods.We sent a few people some branded swag with a call to action to spread their enthusiasm with their network. It wasn’t a press kit in a stuffed toy, it was a true request to share their excitement. This provided more word of mouth, which you can't just buy. It’s hard to be intentional about garnering word of mouth.Our communities that we already had were the way that we bought that. We respected their setup but we recognized and legitimized their enthusiasm.
You talk about word of mouth and how you get more of it, how do you measure the success of your community when it comes to that?
There is a measure of cost/savings or cost avoidance in the course of something but it’s really just a measurement of customers helping themselves, so we look at lower tickets and time saved discussing basic transactions that the community took on rather than us.In our online community we have over 2000 posts a month of customers responding to questions. There is also the lead referral funnel for product containers where communities are operating. There is a level of “I’m trying to do this thing” and another person saying “we use this product to do that.”No matter what you do, you have to do things in the service of ensuring the customer is successful.
There are a lot who are using communities as a part of their product, what advice do you have for ensuring they are successful?
Find the Atlassian community members in this room and get their advice. They did something hard and you're here to learn from them. I don’t know nearly as much as they do about how it is going to work. They know what they are doing - we just know what they need.Building these things is really hard work.
That said I’ll provide a few simple place to start:
Build a solid business case that is viable to take to leadership
Make an ethos appeal if they still don’t believe it.
What are the key initiatives you have over the next few years?
Getting products and engineering teams more deeply engaged and ensure that there is a faster feedback loop with customers. Provide more connection and interpersonal relationships. Ensure that the communication there is also active.We’re also doing thinking about evolving community functions and looking at different ways to produce items. There isn’t really a big one but there's tons of options surrounding this.This is a perfect example of what I mean when I say your brand should act as a node in its community rather than the owner on top of the community. Stop being an overlord, and start nesting your products as resources inside the community.