If you’ve got that entrepreneurial spirit, then there’s probably a lot on your list of ideas and desired accomplishments. Your brain probably never stops whirring at all the possibilities out there!
But sometimes, the best way to embark on a successful entrepreneurial journey is to let your passions guide you and know when to strategically say no. You can’t do it all, and contrary to what the media might show, not every phase of the entrepreneurial process is easy.
Although you might have some ups and downs while building your business, there are ways to set your growth marketing up for success early on, which will benefit you in the long run. Make sure you have the right go-to-market strategy and timing, get to know the pain points of actual prospects and customers, and don’t be afraid to say no.“So one of the things I would advise anybody who's trying to scale up their go-to-market is to spend as much time as possible in the trenches selling to customers. And learning why customers say no, as well as why customers say yes.”
Growth Marketing Lessons from an Entrepreneur
In this week’s Growth Marketing Chat episode, Alejandro Rivas-Micoud, CEO of Userlytics, reveals some key takeaways from his own entrepreneurial journey:
- Timing is everything, so save your money until the time is right to launch your product
- Let your passion and personality guide your direction
- A good user experience will differentiate you from competitors
- Talk to customers to figure out what they want
A strong growth marketing strategy comes from staying focused, strategically saying no, and preparing for whatever might come.
Watch the full interview for more lessons from an expert on how to ensure your growth and revenue marketing start out strong... and stay that way.
NICK: All right, today we have a very exciting guest Alejandro Rivas-Micoud, CEO of Userlytics. Userlytics is a user experience remote testing platform. Alejandro, welcome to Growth Marketing Chat.
ALEJANDRO: Thank you for inviting me, Nick, glad to be here.
NICK: Thank you so much for making time. Alejandro, you've had a very interesting background. You've been an executive, a board member, a partner, and a founder at different companies throughout your career. Can you talk at a high level about your journey, and what you've learned along the way?
ALEJANDRO: I'll give you my best shot. I found that I've tried many different things throughout my professional life. And somehow or other the ones that had something to do with entrepreneurship prospered. And the ones that had to do with more of a corporate setting did not. So I guess one of the lessons is... Your temperament your personality, your background, all that will orient you in a certain direction. And if you try to push back against that direction, you're kind of pushing against the wind. And ultimately it's better to just go with it, go with the flow, and things will work at out better in that direction. Yeah, that would be one main lesson from the journey, if you will.
NICK: Yeah. And at what point did you know you had a passion for entrepreneurship, how did that develop? And how did you foster that passion?
ALEJANDRO: Well, when I was young, I remember when I was 14 I started a business with a local supermarket in a coastal town in Spain to deliver groceries to the home. It didn't work out unfortunately. But that was my first significant venture. And, we did get it rolling, we got a partnership going, we got clients, revenue, all that kind of stuff. But it was not the right time
NICK: It was ahead of time, in fact.
ALEJANDRO: Well, that leads to an important point, sometimes it's not good to be ahead of time. Actually timing is everything is very true. If you think, for example, about Newton tablet that Apple launched in the 1990s, not really that different from the iPad. Except that screens were not touch sensitive, cellular data was not so advanced. There's certain things in the ecosystem that have to be there for any idea to actually be launchable. And if you start too early it's just as bad as if you start too late. That's a tricky one.
NICK: Yeah. I've heard different variations of this advice, a lot of times when you're starting a business it's better to... Or, maybe it's better to do something that's already done and improve it, rather than launch in a brand new direction that's uncharted.
ALEJANDRO: I think that's much easier for sure, because you're improving on an existing process. If you think about the invention of the printed press, Guttenberg, he went out of business. A lot of his peers went out of business, and it was only when certain conditions changed, and I won't bore you with the details, that all of a sudden became a fantastic business. And I think that it's like that with lot of things. Having said that obviously we all tend to read the stories of those exceptionally rare events when somebody... Builds something completely out of left field and is hugely successful. But most of the time those things they're pretty tough to make them a success.
NICK: Yeah. No, I agree. And I think there's a big discrepancy between the literature and the story, and the lore of entrepreneurship. And the actual execution of the entrepreneurship journey, because you hear about these stories but you don't see what went into it. And you don't see all the people who failed to pave that path. that's why I love talking to actual practitioners of the art like yourself, who can share their insights.
ALEJANDRO: Yeah, absolutely. I like to say there's three phases of any entrepreneurial journey. There's the initial euphoric phase where it's all joy and excitement, and then it's going through the valley of the shadow of death. The thing is most do not survive that second part. And as you say, we don't read their stories, we only read the stories of those who make it to the other side with growth, and profitability, and positive cash flow, et cetera. So, yeah, I agree with you. I think the media only tends to focus on that third stage
NICK: And with Userlytics, you're the founder and you've grown the company to over 50 employees at this point, it sounds like you've you've survived that shadow of death phase. Can you talk about that? And can you talk about the growth trajectory of the company. And just as far as the growth angle, what you went through there.
ALEJANDRO: Yeah, no, when we launched our product in... In 2009, at that time we would go to trade shows, events and show our product. And it was new, people would come and look at it, they'd be interested in it, but they wouldn't buy it. And again, you're talking about coming in too early, it was too early. Then fortunately we did survive that valley of the shadow of death. And the market took off in roughly 2015, and ever since we've been growing very fast.
In 2020 which was a somewhat strange year, as we all know, we grew 50%. Last year we grew 72%and we're accelerating. Growth is good. The thing is that no matter how much money and effort we poured into it in the early days, that was wasted money. Not necessarily wasted effort, because ultimately you're putting in seeds that will blossom over time. But if you're at that stage where it's too early, you should conserve as much as your dry powder, your cash. To really invest that when the moment comes where it does take off. And that's when you really hit the pedal to the metal, right? Yeah, we're about 50 employees now operating in Europe, in the US, in Asia Pacific, and growing very quickly.
NICK: I have another growth related question, but since you mentioned your international reach. And since you guys are focused on user experience, do you notice geographic differences in how people approach user experience. And is there certain things that matter?
ALEJANDRO: Oh yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. The hottest markets in the user experience testing space right now are the English speaking markets; US, UK, Canada, Australia for example. And, we're selling in 51countries around the world. There are a number of countries; Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Scandinavia, for sure, and Holland, et cetera that are taking off right now. And what does it take to takeoff in our particular case, if you go anywhere in the world, if you go to Taiwan, Japan, China, wherever it is. You will find people who understand the importance of what we do.
But the C suit; The CEOs, the CFOs, and the CMOs. And all these people in many of these countries they may not be aware of how important it is to their profitability and their market share. Now, once they become aware, I like to talk the anecdote. A CEO gets up in the morning reads the newspaper, Zoom worth X billion dollars, and Slack worth X billion dollars. And so he asks his colleague, "Hey, what is this Slack thing?" Oh, it's a messaging app. A messaging app worth billions? Yeah, but it's got a great user experience. Huh, what are we doing about user experience? That flash bulb going off in the heads of the top in large enterprises is what has been driving our market. And that's starting to happen in non-English speaking markets around the world. So we're seeing a lot of growth. We had globally 72%, but in non-English speaking markets we had 130% growth last year. It's starting to take off very quickly in those other markets.
NICK: In a lot of ways... B2B leads markets. But in your industry do you find that B2C is the frontier of user experience, or maybe not?
ALEJANDRO: Well, it's a great point, because in our particular industry we're bringing two things to the table. We're bringing an advanced software platform, but we're also bringing a proprietary panel of participants, of almost 1.5 million people. From a B2C angle it's super easy... For a cosmetics company to come to us and say, "I want woman 18 to 35in Germany and Holland who color their hair at least five times a year." A piece of cake. But if a company comes and says, "I want accountants working on this type of software." That kind of B2B angle is more of a challenge yeah. That has been growing because they both have user experience issues, so they both are problems need to be resolved. It's just it takes more time, it takes more money. But we deal with companies who are pure B2B, and some of the companies that we deal or organizations they're only testing their internal tools, the ones that our employees use. I guess you could also call that B2B.
NICK: Yeah, I do wanna ask also about B2G, because I feel like government needs the most help in this arena. And you might have to pay your participants more actually to endure those experiences. But is that a market of growth for you guys as well?
ALEJANDRO: Oh yeah, yeah, we have some of the largest... Governmental institutions in the US as clients, for their employees. We have a number of other organizations, both in Canada and the United States in terms of municipality or other types of state level organizations. Both oriented towards their employees, as well as oriented towards their external stakeholders. In the UK if you go to the website that... Enables people to launch anew firm in the UK remotely. And manage that firm that has been set up, it has in my view, one of the best user experiences I've ever seen; Private, public sector, anywhere. Kudos to them, because generally speaking governmental websites and apps are not very user friendly, and have a long way to go. But there are some exceptions.
NICK: Excellent, excellent. Thank you, I'm gonna go check that example out. Going back to our previous discussion about the timing, it sounds like market and the maturity of the market is one of the most important factors to growth. But if we can dig into a level deeper. Marketing, sales, execution, what do you think are some of the pivotal variables to growing if the market is right for opportunity?
ALEJANDRO: So one of the things I would advise anybody who's trying to... Scale up their go to market is to spend as much time as possible in the trenches selling to customers. And learning why customers say no, as well as why customers say yes. And if you're doing that, and I spent a couple years just systematically doing that, with tons of prospects and clients. Invaluable, invaluable learning, because that really gives you insights into everything you do from a marketing perspective, from a messaging perspective, from a pricing perspective, from a feature and product roadmap perspective. The only way to really know that for sure is to actually spend time, a lot of time, talking to prospects and clients. And if you do that it's just worth every penny of your time, so I would definitely recommend that.
NICK: Yeah, I think that's invaluable advice regardless of the industry.
ALEJANDRO: Yeah. We all talk about it, but I remember when I got out of graduate school some of my colleagues were hired by a very large, well known cosmetics firm. And the first thing they did with these high-powered MBA graduates was place them into the cosmetics booth of a large department store for two or three months. And I thought... Well, I think now, I don't know what I thought at the time, but I think now it's brilliant. It really gives you a feel for what people like, what they don't like, why they like it, everything.
NICK: Yeah, and I couldn't agree more. And as a marketing firm we also like to work very closely with the sales teams of our clients. And we like to join some of those sales calls, and also to start baking sales messaging and things like that into our marketing messaging. To defeat some of those obstacles early on in the journey, to like you said, influence the messaging, influence the offer. The unique value proposition of how that's communicated, it's invaluable. But also on the product side, it's a no brainer.
ALEJANDRO: Exactly, exactly. From a feature roadmap, you start adding more and more features to your list, your list is expanding. All of a sudden you've got tons of things you want to do, you have to choose, right? So much about strategy is choosing, choosing to say no. What you're not gonna do, not what you're gonna do but what you're not gonna do. And in order to answer that question you have to, like you say, have spent time in the trenches, the more, the better.
NICK: Yeah, usually the list of what you're not going to do is much longer is what you're going to do.
ALEJANDRO: Unfortunately, yeah, that's always. Yeah, exactly.
NICK: That's great. Well, thank you, this has been illuminating. I do have one final question, and this is something that we always ask our guests. What's one growth hack or piece of sage advice that you can you can pass along. That can be implemented right away, on a more tactical level.
ALEJANDRO: I hate to say this because it sounds like I'm plugging in our own... Product. But one thing I have learned by being in this particular segment is how important the user experience is. And user experience in a broad sense, not just what we do. But everything to do with the customer experience, and the user experience. A lot of times we get asked, "What are the differences between you and your competitors?" And you list these features, the pricing, whatever. But at the end of the day, our customers like us more, we have a better reputation in terms of customer service. And in that sense, I would recommend, there was a new article recently, a Harvard business review about this. It's called... I don't remember the exact title. But basically what it's talking about is earned growth. The difference between customers that you acquire because you did some advertising, and new customers that you acquire because you were referred by somebody.
Or, simply because of your reputation. And if you start measuring that, and you say, "Wow, most of my growth is coming from advertising." That's not good. If most of my growth is coming from the latter, from reputation or references, that's fantastic. And if you can measure that month after month and move in that direction. I think that is not gonna be a short term spike in growth from one month to the next. But definitely it'll have an impact over the next 12 months for sure.
NICK: Yeah, sustainable growth. And, I think user experience has taken off in recent years, but it's still, I think, underestimated. It's still underestimated. And I think you're positioned very well for it, because people are finally catching on. It can make or break companies. And it's not just visual user experience, it's customer experience, it's the entire experience of the brand and the product.
ALEJANDRO: Totally. You walk into any mall and you look at the Apple store full of people. And then you look at other stores empty, and you say, "Why the difference? Is it only because of the product, or is there something else? Is it the experience in that store? And you could apply that to the digital realm, to the off world realm, to any realm.
NICK: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. Well Alejandro, I feel like I could talk to you all day about this stuff. As a marketing agency we pay a lot of attention to customer experience. Especially from the conversion rate optimization angle. But again, thank you so much for coming on, sharing your insights with us. Where can people find more about you and Userlytics?
ALEJANDRO: Userlytics, www.userlytics.com. And about myself, well, I guess on LinkedIn, or, yeah. But I think Userlytics is more interesting than me.
NICK: Well, thank you again, thank you for your time. And we'll follow up.
ALEJANDRO: Thanks so much Nick for having me, take care.