If you haven’t heard of Zapier, you should check them out. If you’re growing a company and trying to bring together multiple services to talk to each other, you either have to write custom code or use Zapier. They’ve built an impressive business, and today Wade tells the story and the lessons they’ve learned.
Zapier’s founder Wade and I have been connected online for a long time (and I am a happy Zapier customer), so I was super excited to hop on a call with him to talk about the Zapier story and specifically how they’ve grown from the three founders to a company of over 100 and growing fast.
- How they got started by solving their own problem;
- How they got Andrew Warner of Mixergy to be their first customer;
- The growth levers they used to grow through product, not marketing;
- How their team structure has changed over time and what they do to keep people communicating well;
- What they’re doing next to grow Zapier.
- How to pronounce Zapier correctly.
John: All right, everyone, welcome back. Today, I have with me Wade Foster, who is the founder, CEO of Zapier. I just learned this is how it’s pronounced. Zapier makes you happier. So, Wade is, as I said, is the founder and CEO, and he has built out an awesome company there, obviously with help from a lot of other people as well. And so I’m super happy to have him here with me today to talk about Zapier and really what they’ve been doing over the last couple of years to really take their business to the next level. They’re a company that I’ve looked up to for a long time, that I use, I pay them every month to help me automate a lot of my business. So, Wade, welcome. Thanks for being here, and if you would, tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and then Zapier.
Wade: Yeah. Thanks for having me, John. So, yeah. As you know, Zapier, we’re a workflow automation company. We help you set up integrations between all of the common business tools you use. So if you use things like MailChimp, Trello, Slack, Dropbox, Google Apps, you name it, where you can set up integrations and workflows.
John: I use all of those.
Wade: Yeah, yeah. You can set up workflows and integrations to automate any of that sort of stuff. And we kinda got our start, so we started back in 2011. And before, even before that, to give you a little more of my background, I was kind of like a self-taught marketer, web developer. Like, I did a bunch of technical marketing work. And me and a buddy, Brian, did a lot of freelancing and we would get asked to do…we’re in a small town, Columbia, Missouri. We get asked to do all sorts of just general web work, right? Like, “Help us with this WordPress site,” or, “Do this MailChimp thing,” or, you know, just whatever would pay a buck for us, right? We’re right out of college and, you know, any money is green money, right?
So that’s what we would do. And along the way, we would get asked to build integrations from time to time, so we did like a Paypal QuickBooks thing for someone, we did like a WordPress Salesforce thing for somebody. And Brian messaged me one day and was like, “You know what, I think we can build a thing that lets folks set this up on their own instead of hiring us.” And I was like, “Ah, that’s genius. If people could hook this stuff up, like, that would allow them to do all sorts of interesting things.” And so, we ended up teaming up with another friend, Mike, and just put our heads down, started working nights and weekends like crazy on the Zapier thing to try and get it going. And, you know, six years later, here we are.
John: That’s awesome, that’s awesome. So you’re paying the bills with consulting, and then started building this out with your friends?
Wade: Yup, more or less.
John: Wow, that’s awesome. And I don’t wanna dwell on the, you know, on the beginning stories too much because I’m sure you’ve told them a million times. But how did you get your first customers? Were they your consulting clients? And then how did you decide to go, how did you take it from, you know, idea and building it nights and weekends to, you know, where it is now with, what, 100-and-some employees?
Wade: Yup. We started by…our first customers came from me, mostly outreach, to people that seemed to need this thing. So we would find folks on forums that would be talking about, like, integrations. I remember Highrise had a forum where people would ask for feature requests and was like, “When is there gonna be a Google contacts integration?” And it was four years old with several hundred comments. And so, it was clear that there wasn’t gonna be a Google contacts integration. And so, you know, I made a comment like, “Hey, you could build this yourself with these APIs. Here’s some links to the APIs. Or if you want something that’s a little easier to use, I’m working on a project that might help you out. Link to how to get in contact with me.” And so, I would do that across all different forums, just making a similar variance of that comment, and…
John: Just straight hustle.
Wade: Yeah, and people would message me and say, “Hey, I really would like this.” And I’d say, “Great, here’s kind of what it’s gonna look like. Here’s kind of what our beta process is. Do you wanna go forward with that?” And some people would say yes, some people would say no, but we would get a handful of folks. And I remember, the very first one was super fun because it was Andrew Warner of Mixergy, who’s this guy I’ve looked up to for a long time. And he’d left a comment on, I think it was like one of the stack exchange sites, saying, “Hey, can someone help me with a PayPal Highrise thing?” So I e-mailed him, cold e-mailed him and said, “Hey, you know, are you interested in this thing?”
And he’s like, “Oh, I already solved that, but do you have like a Wufoo AWeber thing?” We didn’t, but I said, “Oh, yeah, of course we do.” He was like, “Great, I would love that.” So I was like, “Brian, Mike, we got to build Wufoo AWeber right now.” So we built it that night, and the next day I messaged him and he was like, “Great. How much money do I owe you?” And I was like, “I don’t really know.” And so, I was like, “Uh, 100 bucks.” And he’s like, “Great. How do I pay you?” And I was like, “Oh, crap. Here’s my PayPal address.”
John: And he sent it with his PayPal account, yeah.
Wade: Yeah. And, you know, we had our first customer. So it was very much just, it was very hacky. Totally not, like, the official way businesses should do stuff, but you can’t…like, when you’re just starting, you don’t have any of those luxuries. You just kinda gotta work your way to it, and that’s kinda how we do it early on.
John: Absolutely. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, you know, I’ve been working for myself for two-and-a-half years now, and my starting story is very much very similar in terms of I got in a lead that I couldn’t take, and it was for a buddy’s agency. I e-mailed him and I was like, “Hey, would you be willing to pay $50 for this, like, introduction?” He’s like, “Yeah, I know the business. What’s your PayPal?” Three hours later, I had $50 in my account, made the intro, and they made, you know, thousands of dollars off of it. So, I sold it for way cheap but, you know, you just start and go from there. So there’s no, like, set way that people really start businesses. Bootstrappers, everyone is just like, “I tried this thing and it worked, and I kept pushing on it,” right? Which is awesome and a great way to build a business.
So, Andrew was your first customer, your first customer that paid you, which is hilarious. That you found him on StackOverflow as well. I found so many like…I haven’t come across Andrew but I came across, like, Michael Hyatt in WordPress forms, like, seven years ago, asking how to do something. I was like, “Why is this guy writing…like, trying to write WordPress, killing himself?” I respect Michael a lot, but…that’s really funny. So, you’ve gone from…so, Andrew being your first paying customer, charged him 100 bucks for this integration that you already built for him overnight. How many customers do you guys have now?
Wade: Let’s see. We’ve got about 100,000 customers today, and two million-plus users.
John: Two million-plus users, 100,000 paying customers.
Wade: Yep, mm-hmm.
John: Awesome. And across all different levels, I’m sure. I’m sure not everyone is paying 10 bucks like I am.
Wade: Oh, yup.
John: So you have a really good business. So it’s taken you, what, let’s do the math, six years to get you to 100,000 paying users, two million users.
Wade: Mm-hmm, yup.
John: So what were the, if you could and just riff on it, what were the like…what were the major things that got you to this point? Like, what were kind of the step changes that you’re like, “Okay, we’re kind of flatlining,” and then you do something and all of a sudden it like takes off? Or there haven’t been any of those things. I’d love to hear that as well.
Wade: Yeah. There’s not a ton of, like, step function changes. And even, like, step function changes are kind of like a myth. You do have things that accelerate it a little bit but there’s not a lot that are just, like, you know, we were plotting along and then we tweak this thing and, like, now it’s amazing, right? Like, you tweak this thing and it’s, like, a little better. You tweak this other thing, it’s a little better. Then you tweak this other thing, they’re like, “Oh, wow, that one was actually really good.” But it’s never like…you know.
John: And all six of those in aggregate add up, but…yeah.
Wade: Yeah. So, for us, you know, the first year was the three of us just like heads down, like trying to make it work and get this thing rolling, you know, making a little bit of money but not really enough to make really much of a living, to be honest. Kind of a key inflection point for us was we built the first, like, 50 integrations on the platform ourselves, so just kind of like through brute force getting to where we work. And then we got an e-mail from Aaron, the CEO of Box, saying, “Hey, why is Box not on Zapier?” We realized, hey, if a company like that cares enough to be on Box, like, maybe…or to be on Zapier, then maybe there’s an opportunity for us to ask him to do the work himself. Like, he’s got freedom engineers that might be willing to go to bat for this.
John: Yeah. And you’re like, “Good question. Why isn’t it on Zapier? Do you want it on Zapier?”
Wade: Yeah. It’s like, there were three of us. We just haven’t gotten to it, right? So, we built the first version of our developer platform in 2012 and that was like a big difference because now we started getting lots of apps coming from the broader ecosystem and it wasn’t entirely dependent on us to do that work. And so, we had gotten to that point where the demand was high enough that folks were knocking on our door. So that was a big change for us.
John: That’s like a year in, right?
Wade: Yeah, about a year in, a little less than a year in but right around that.
John: That’s great.
Wade: And then not too shortly after that, we hired our first employee. And that was, like, a big change. You know, you start…you know, you have to have, like, books and payroll and, like, all that sort of stuff, which is every business that ends up being like a…
John: [crosstalk 00:09:10]. Hey, we have money in the bank account, let’s split it three ways, right?
Wade: Yeah, exactly, yeah. It’s a totally different thing. So that was… And you’re also, like, managing a person, even though when you hire one person, it definitely doesn’t feel like you’re managing them. It’s just like a…it’s more of just a relationship. Like, true management didn’t come until much later for us. But it’s still somebody that you’re like, you know, I could technically fire this person if I decided that they weren’t doing well. And that’s different than maybe your co-founder relationships. So that was certainly a big change for us.
John: And what did that allow you to do? Outside of the just having more hands on deck but…
Wade: The biggest thing we needed was, at that point in time, I was waking up and doing customer service from the moment I woke up until about 2:00 or 3 p.m. in the afternoon. And that’s how long it took me to just get through the back log of support questions. And so, we just needed help…
John: Everything from, “Hey, this integration isn’t working,” to, “How do I build this integration?” All your developer needs, all that stuff.
Wade: Yeah, exactly. And so we just needed help answering customer questions. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do that, it was that I was just doing too much of it. I think it’s very important that you continue to explore your customer support. But I needed to take my learnings from customer support and apply them to the business, and actually spend time fixing stuff. So that was a big inflection point for us. I’m trying to think when the next one came around. Probably the next most important inflection point came around, I’m gonna say around 20 people or so. So that was when we first had to start doing, like, real management. You know, but less than that, like, everyone kinda knows what everybody else is doing.
Everyone knows each other really well and you just kinda, everything just goes in one direction sort of magically. And around 20 people, like, you have to start paying attention to, like, career paths and career development. And not a ton but just a little, like some of those stuff start to bubble up and you have to make sure that everyone is kind of…there’s some coordination overhead. You know, I was less aware of some of the stuff that was happening in engineering at that point, so I was like, “Hey, Brian, can you own more of this engineering stuff because, like, I’m not good at it, and like, you know, you’re way better at it anyways.”
John: So you talk kinda define out roles?
Wade: Exactly. Like, we kinda had defacto roles, but, like, you know, we started just being a little more defined about it. So that was a big change. And then two things kinda happened at once about, I guess about a year after that, which was we added…we had a big fundamental change in the product, probably the biggest fundamental change we’ve ever had, which was we added Multi-Step Zaps. So it was before, you just had a single trigger and a single action. When we added Multi-Step, you could have many actions on it which opened up a whole new set of use cases for Zapier which really helped from like a growth and differentiation standpoint. So we started having a ton more customers come in, which was amazing.
John: That’s what got me paying you, by the way. Once you launched Multi-Step Zaps, I was like, “Done. Game over.”
Wade: Yeah, it really does. Like, it takes it from, like, this nice thing to like, “Oh, wow, I can build, like, full back office processes with this thing.”
John: Yeah, yeah.
Wade: So it really was a game changer for a lot of our customers. And right around that same time, we had a couple of things kinda happen in, like…in right in row. So we launched that. We had a huge influx of new customers, about like a 60% increase in sign ups on a week over week basis, and it stayed that high. Like, usually, when you do feature launches, it’s kind of a spike and then it goes back down. But for us, it just spiked and then stayed there. So, that was crazy.
Wade: And the part that was really tough was, again, customer support. Because you got 60% increase in users and that’s probably about a 60% increase in tickets and questions. And we had had a support where six people in our support team. One just went on parental leave, so we’re down to five. And now we had a 60% increase in questions from users. So, we’d always had this philosophy from a hiring standpoint, don’t hire until it hurts, which I think is a fantastic strategy for early companies. Because you know then when you’re hiring someone, they are gonna do this job that really is painful for us to try and get done. And so, it really makes it a good cash flow management strategy and also a really good onboarding strategy because you’re not gonna have a lot of people just twiddling their thumbs.
But, at that point in time, we realized, wow, we had gotten behind the eight-ball on hiring for customer support. And it takes…knowing then, it was like, you know, it takes us like a couple of months to find a person and then it takes us a couple of months to train them up. And so, we are now behind by like three or four people and we’re probably like three or four months out from actually having those people in the door. So, we started getting, especially on the customer support side, less so on other parts of the business, but customer support we really changed our motto, which is we need to start forecasting our demand and our growth to make sure that we have proper staff on board to handle the growth of the company.
So that don’t hire until it hurts thing, we kinda were like, yeah, maybe that strategy that served us well, we should probably tweak it a little bit. And then along with that, this was about around 40 people as well, we added it in like a real…like kinda full management suite. So we promoted our first person in support to kinda, like, head of support and he started managing all the support teams. We had someone manage all of our, the marketing team, the budding marketing team. We promote it. We hired someone external to grow our platform team out. So, like, you started to have, like, more of a traditional management structure which was a really important change.
And for me, this was probably an area I was weakest in, to be honest. Coming into this, I never managed before. I’ve never been a part of like… Most companies I’d spent time with were relatively small, like 10 people or less. I had a short stint at like a 800-person company but not long enough to really pick up on, you know, how big companies organize themselves. And so, like, I had to start learning what does it take to be just a good manager, period. And there was this podcast, the “Manager Tools Podcast,” which is a little corporatey [SP] but is fantastic. It just gives you…
John: I’ve listened to it. It’s really good.
Wade: Yeah, it’s just, like, no nonsense, here’s the words you say to a person to give them feedback so that they don’t freak out that the CEO is giving them feedback. And it’s like, “Oh, that is easy. I can say that stuff.” And, you know, you just…I find that first-time managers have like a bit of a, sometimes you have these weird misconceptions about what a good manager looks like or what a bad manager looks like based on who your own previous managers are. And you may not have had a good manager, so you might be, like, mimicking stuff that was kind of weird. And so, the “Manager Tools Podcast” just gave me, like, a great framework for how to think about, “This is what good management looks like.”
And it just made a ton of sense for me, so we just started rolling that out to everyone and made sure that anyone who was in a management function understood, “Hey, this is how we’re gonna do management at Zapier, basically.”
John: “This is the Zapier way of management,” yeah.
Wade: More or less, yeah. So that was a big… All three of those things happened, like, right in a row and it was kinda…that was like a pretty stressful period of time. Because I remember, you know, I’d show up at work that day and I’d do a full days of work. And then I’d eat some dinner real quick and then I would just jump on customer support and do customer support through the evening because we had so much support coming in. And I was like, I don’t want our support team to quit because there’s so much volume coming in, so I’m gonna do whatever is in my capabilities to try and share the burden with them.
And, you know, it took us about four months to really get through that. And we got through it and no one quit. Like, everyone… It was exciting too, though, because, like, we have this new feature, people love it. Like, yeah, it was a lot of work but it was like the kind that’s exciting. It’s like, “Oh, my God, this is winning. Like, we made something that is really fun.” So definitely stressful but, like, in a way that…in the best way possible.
John: Yeah. So let me ask you a question there. You jumped in…obviously, you did support first, hired someone, hired a team and then you jump back in again here. And how long ago was that?
Wade: This was in 20…heck, this was in 2016, yeah.
John: ’16, yeah, yeah. I remember when you launched because I was already working for myself. Would you do that again? Would you jump in and do support like that again?
Wade: Absolutely. I think, you know, as a CEO, you got to do…sometimes you got to get in the trenches and help. And I think the thing that was really important there was I…folks saw me doing all the interviews and all the hiring during the day, so they knew that I was working on trying to build the team and pull that stuff in there. But, you know, in the evenings when, you know, people aren’t gonna do interviews and stuff, I was in there just like everyone else, saying, “Hey, like, let’s take care of our customers. This is really important.” And so, I think it goes a long way when you…when you’re going through, like, these tougher times. And in our case, this is like the good kind of tough, to say, like, “Yeah, we’re all in this together. Like, I’m not gonna ask you to do anything that I’m not willing to do on my own.”
John: Totally, totally. That makes a lot of sense. And it sounds like you also messaged it because sometimes I found employees can feel like you don’t trust them because you’re jumping in. And it’s important to message it as like, “You’re doing a phenomenal job. You know, we have so much going on right now, like, you know, I’d like to jump in and help out just because, like, we need additional hands on deck,” sort of thing.
Wade: Yeah. And for us, it was a kind of situation where, like, I can certainly…I have had times where I’ve had to learn that lesson of when is the right time to jump in. But there’s a point where the workload gets so heavy that people kind of just…egos go out the door and it’s just like all hands on deck. Let’s just help. Yeah, it’s like, look, there’s just so much that it…you know, even if someone was doing amazing, like killing it at their job, it just didn’t make that much of a difference. You literally just need more people, more hands to help. And that was the kind of situation we were in at that point in time.
John: Cool. That’s awesome. And it sounds like you kind of go from like Wade the CEO during the day to, like, Wade the customer support manager in the evening. You just had to do it. And that probably also helped you out a lot in the business as well, with the vision of the business because you’re actually hearing, “These are the challenges going on.” And because you’re there up top, sometimes, as we all know, sometimes stuff doesn’t go from, you know, the first line of defense up to the CEO, or up to like the VP or something like that.
Wade: Yeah, and that’s a big reason I still do a support shift every week. Every Friday afternoon, yeah, I get in and answer tickets from customers because it helps me just see what folks like and don’t like about the business and the product.
John: Nice. And it sounds like you found that to be super valuable?
Wade: Yeah. I wouldn’t change it for anything. In fact, we have everybody do that. Everybody at Zapier does a four-hour shift every week in support, just to stay close to the customer.
John: Yep, that’s amazing. I really, really respect that. I read something similar. So, Zapier is a remote company, right? It’s 100% remote. Do you have any people there, like, in the same city as each other?
Wade: We have a handful. There’s a bit of a competition right now with Austin and Portland to try and have the highest head count there, which is kind of a weird competition.
John: Yeah, it is.
Wade: But I think there’s like ten and ten or so in both of those cities, you know.
John: Okay, gotcha. So, have you… I love this conversation because it’s so different from other conversations I’ve done on here. So, how did you come to the…and it actually really interests me because I’m building out a remote team. I have three part-time people working with me that are all remote. Actually, I just hired one here in Denver but I work from home, she’s not gonna work from here. So, how did you come to that decision of building a remote company and how do you think that has, like, has played into your, you know, your growth? And what’s that allowed you to do?
Wade: Yeah. I think it was part just circumstances for us. It wasn’t like a big strategic decision at the beginning where it was like, “Gosh, do we do an office, or should we do remote?” You know, we had…Brian, Mike and I had all moved to California for YCombinator in 2012. And then at the end of that, Mike was moving back to Missouri because his then girlfriend now wife was wrapping up law school. And so, you know, we’re not gonna kick him out of the company because he, you know, wants to go back home. Like, that seems silly and we’d worked like…you know, this is a thing we were doing on nights and weekends, so we got used to working via chat and poll requests, and Trello, and stuff like that. So, to us, an office didn’t feel like a necessary thing to win. And then, another thing that added to that decision was, when we started to hire that first support person, we had never hired people before. This was the first time having experienced hiring, and we weren’t good at it, to be honest.
And so, we asked around for some advice and they’re like, “We’ll just hire people you worked with in the past. Like, if you know them well, you know their work styles, you know if you can collaborate well. Like, that’s probably a pretty safe thing to do.” And none of the people we knew were in the Bay Area because we were new there. So, of course, we didn’t know anyone. But one of my old roommates who was running a massive Chicago Cubs forum, he was moderating it. I was like, “You know, if he can handle Chicago Cubs fans, he can probably handle some customer support stuff.” I reached out to him and said, “Hey, you wanna team up on this Zapier thing?”
And he’s like, “Yeah,” and he was in Chicago. So, like, we just started getting people where they were and that was a really good early hiring strategy for us. And then over time, we realized…we started to get more of the benefits that you traditionally see sided with remote work. So things like recruiting benefits are massive for us today because we’re able to hire from a pool of people anywhere in the world. So, that wasn’t something that we thought, like, really long and hard about at the beginning. But in hindsight, was totally worth it.
John: Yeah, yeah, it’s kind of a competitive advantage as well, because you can just grow that much faster if you’re pulling from a smaller pool. It’s harder to find the right person versus if you can just open it up and say like, “Whole United States or whole world, why not?” Yeah.
Wade: Exactly, totally.
John: Interesting, interesting. And so, how do you guys, how do you organize like, you know, your teams? Well, not even how you organize your teams but what are the things that you guys do as a company to kinda make sure that everyone is staying on the same path?
Wade: Yeah, great question. So, number one, I think a good, a strong management culture is really important. So, all of our managers do one-on-ones with the people every single week. And so, you know, when you work remotely, you have a person that you can go to every week and talk about stuff, stay glued in with the company. And so that helps bring some sort of, like, humanity and, you know, cohesion to the company on a very regular cadence. Two, you know, we don’t have a code of conduct but we don’t really police slack too heavily. So, all of our channels are public and we let people just go solve problems. Like, go take care of whatever needs to happen.
And so, that starts to build up a lot of camaraderie. People are poking into different channels, helping across the company. You know, you’ll see like a support person, you know, jumping on marketing channels and say, “Hey, we’ve got this opportunity that came in our inbox,” or, you know, marketing folks would be pointing out stuff to our engineers based on a site. Like, there’s this real good cross functionality that happens from that, which is important. We also have a set of…off topic channels are all pre-fixed with fun and slack, so it’s like, you know, fun, amateur radio, fun book club, like, fun whatever hobby you have. And, you know, I think if you’re in an office using Slack people are like, “Get rid of the off topic stuff. Like, Slack is for serious business.”
But in a remote team, you really need an outlet for just water cooler stuff. And so, we think that that’s an important way for people to get to know each other and build those relationships, and those friendships that then when serious stuff happens, you kinda have this shared camaraderie that you can handle more difficult problems together, which is important. A couple other things we do, too, we do pair buddy chats and once a week you get randomly paired up with somebody in the company and you’ll just jump on a call like this and just talk about whatever. It doesn’t have to be work, just get to know somebody, right? And then we also do big retreats. So, twice a year, we do an all hands retreat, fly everybody in together and have kinda like just a big celebration of the last six months, plan some stuff for the next six months and enjoy each other’s company. And so, those types of things are the stuff we’ve done to make sure that remote feels like…well, it feels like you’re working with other people, basically, and not kind of like off in your own island.
John: Yeah, yeah, totally, yeah. You’re collaborating, you’re getting to know people’s personalities even. And, you know you have that in-face or in-person, like face-to-face time every, like, six months.
John: Yeah, that’s cool. And you guys just had a retreat, right?
Wade: Yeah. We just came back. We were in Hilton Head into January.
John: In South Carolina, yeah.
Wade: Yup, South Carolina. Yup, mm-hmm.
John: Awesome, very cool. East Coast boy over here. I’ve been to Hilton Head a bunch.
Wade: Yeah, we had a few folks on the team who, I guess, that was a normal vacation spot growing up. I’d never been there.
John: Yeah, yeah, it’s cool. That’s really awesome. So, one of the things that we haven’t talked about yet, which I feel like we should talk about briefly, is you talked about it’s… I love that you talked about these different lynch pins and growth things that you’ve done. And you haven’t mentioned marketing, like, at all. We were talking… Which is amazing. And we were talking, before you even got on here, about some of the stuff you guys are doing. So I guess I’d like to hear real quick, what are the, I guess the more traditional marketing activities, right, that you guys have worked on and thought about, you know, that have made a difference in your business and maybe that you’re gonna keep pushing on harder?
Wade: Yeah, good question. So, for us, the big thing, the lynch pin for us was our partnerships. So that was like the thing we leaned heavy on. And it was really good for us who are kind of…especially as, like, engineering-driven founders and product-driven founders, it was nice to have a thing that was producty [SP], that could drive marketing, instead of having to learn how to do a bunch of marketing related activities. So, you know, we would still use integrations…
John: And [crosstalk 00:28:49] story and blah, blah, blah.
Wade: Yeah, exactly. So, for us, it was, “Let’s build an integration.” Just reach out to the company and say, “Hey, we built this cool thing. Can we tap in…like, will you help us promote this?” And ask them, you know, “Would you send a newsletter out? Will you put a landing page up in your app directory that talks about it?” That kind of stuff. And those types of things would end up driving lots of traffic back to our site. And then, you know, alongside that we also had our own landing pages that showcased the integrations and those would get, you know, indexed by Google, and search traffic will come in that way. But really, the lynch pin was every time we could get a new partner, that opened up a new market segment for us and a new set of customers that could potentially use us.
And then tapping into those user bases and trying to get, you know, those partnerships to talk about how this thing could help them, help their users out. And so, that, for us, allowed us when we were a tiny, tiny little company with, like, zero marketing budget to kinda punch above our weight class a little bit.
John: Yeah, totally. Because you were able to build this integration and they’re like, “Hey, this is awesome. Like, why wouldn’t we promote it? Because it’s gonna help out on the customer acquisition front.” I’m sure you had some that were like, “Nah, we’re good.” But for the most part, they’re like, “Yeah, absolutely. This sounds great.”
Wade: Yeah. I would say 80% of the time folks were like, “Cool. Yeah, we’ll definitely do something.” You know, we didn’t always get everything that we ask for, right? Like, we wanted them to e-mail every single user and tell them about we wanted them to put it in their onboarding sequences. Like, sometimes they would say no to a request like that, but sometimes they would just be like, “Sure, we’ll do all of it.” And then we’d be like, “Great.”
John: That’s really, really cool. And it seems like…so you’ve been able to do that or you’ve kind of had that growth channel work and you’re like…as your basic point to build new integration, reach out to the companies we integrated with or let the ones…if it’s like an integration to one that you already had, let them know that like, “Hey, Trello, now we’re in it. Now, you know, we integrated Box,” or whatever, right? As you can kinda get that, that keeps on coming as well.
Wade: Exactly, it’s the gift that keeps giving, yup.
John: Exactly, exactly.
Wade: You know, then over time, like… So, we were building the integrations going on but, you know, then we wanted
] to have the developer platform where folks were building integration for us. And then, that gave us even more leverage because we could start saying things like, “Oh, if you wanna be public on Zapier, we’re gonna need you to do these marketing activities in exchange to be listed on it.” So, you know, over time we were able to, you know, where we could extract just a little leverage to make sure that things were done in a way that we knew would be successful for both companies. And so, that was like a thing that we’ve gotten better at over time, of understanding, “Hey, like let’s…if we all commit to doing these activities, this is gonna go really well. And if you’re not gonna commit to it, then, like, you know, maybe we shouldn’t partner up on this.”
John: Right, right. Yeah, and then you’re totally…you’re totally okay with that because you had a group of people. You knew someone else would build it, or you could…you all could build it, right?
Wade: Yeah, mm-hmm.
John: And it just, like, wasn’t gonna be something that was there. It just kinda sits there and someone asks about, you know, like, “Oh, we don’t really talk about that integration.” Yeah, cool. So I guess my last question for you is, what’s something that you all did at Zapier either early on or, you know, in more recent times as you’ve gotten bigger, that you wouldn’t do again?
Wade: That we wouldn’t do again. Well, I mean, early on, all the customers came from me getting on those forums and answering questions and stuff like that. I haven’t done that in years because it just does not really scale. It was super nice to get a lot of customers coming from that, but it definitely was not a thing that we could continue doing. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff, like things that we’ve tried that have not…we’ve not been able to crack. So, for us, like, things like video. We haven’t really done much with YouTube and stuff like that. I feel like there’s something for us there but we haven’t cracked that nut, to be honest. A lot of social channels, we kinda have a token presence there but we don’t do great at them, to be honest.
So, like, again, I think there’s probably a strategy that does work for us but we haven’t…one, we haven’t figured it out but also we haven’t really taken the time to figure it out. Because we’re spending…I think this is the most important thing with marketing too, is we’re spending time in the channels that are working for us. It’s like if we find something that works, we know if we double our efforts there, we’re gonna extract even more efforts rather than kinda like carving off extra time to go experiment on this, you know, maybe channel. It’s like if we spend more time to double a thing that’s already pulling in 1,000 sessions a month, that’s gonna be way better than getting a killer thing on this new channel that pulls in 10 sessions, right? Like, this is just nothing. So, for us, I think it’s really important to focus in on your winners and be okay with, like, other hip, popular channels. Like, just not really having a presence there. Like, in time, yeah, maybe we will figure that stuff out. But for now, like, we’re fine letting them kinda pass us by.
John: Yeah, totally. And that’s kind of the goal or at least as a marketer, like, with a company where you can reach the point where you go, “Okay, these channels are working and we’re gonna keep pushing on and we’re gonna have people operating them and optimizing, and, you know, and search and to grow them. But then you can also bring someone in to be like, “All right, let’s crack…” I agree, there is something there for you on YouTube, but you just don’t have the hands on deck, right?
John: So, you know, you can afford to invest a bit more in, like, okay, what could be another channel that we could open up, you know, or join these other two or three? But to a certain point, it’s like you only need two. Really, you only need one channel that works.
Wade: Yeah. And you look in most businesses that really make it, it tends to be like one dominant channel that gets them there.
John: Yeah, totally. I know Dan Martell, who I’m sure you know of. He talks about one channel, one service, or one price point. Where basically, at the beginning, it’s like find the one channel that works and just press so hard on that, you know, find, like…have one offering and people pay you for that. And don’t get too fancy from the start.
Wade: It makes your decisions so much easier. There’s, like, at the beginning you have so much to do but it’s very important to reduce your decision fatigue a little bit.
John: Yes, totally. I wish I had done that. I started off with too many options. Like, this level is this much, and this level is this much. And then now it’s like, you can either go here, or you can go here. And by the way, the second one is for this type only. And it’s just the mental overhead that that reduces is absolutely incredible.
John: Yeah, cool. Well, Wade, thank you for your time. This has been awesome. I know I’ve learned a bunch. I had a few questions I wanted to ask you specifically and I got to ask them. It’s been fantastic. So, if you would, tell us where can people find you, find your company online. And I know you’re hiring as well, so if you wanna plug that, go for it.
Wade: Yeah, yeah. So, zapier.com, zapier.com. You can find our jobs page, zapier.com/jobs. We’re hiring for almost every type of role. So if you’re in marketing, you’re product, engineering, we probably have a spot for you. So, definitely reach out if you’re interested in some of the stuff we’re doing. If you wanna…
John: I just one question there. Do you have a zapier.com/happier page?
Wade: Oh, we should.
John: Yeah, you need to build one.
Wade: That’s great. Oh, man, great idea. Whew, I’m missing opportunities left and right.
John: It’s an opportunity, that’s right.
Wade: That’s definitely a good one. So, yeah. And then you can find me on @wadefoster on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org if you wanna shoot me an e-mail. I try and get back to everybody in both places once I have a chance.
John: Awesome. And if you send in a support request on Friday afternoon, there’s a decent chance they might get you, right?
Wade: Yeah, you might get me answering your support request.
John: Awesome. Well, Wade, thanks so much. This has been awesome.
Wade: Yeah, thanks for having me, John. I appreciate it.