Ep. 204 – James Gill, GoSquared Founder on Building a Small Business Platform

Ep. 204 – James Gill, GoSquared Founder on Building a Small Business Platform

Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast that brings you the best and the brightest in the world of startups and innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger, founder of InsideOutside.io, a provider of research, events, and consulting services that help innovators and entrepreneurs build better products, launch new ideas, and compete in a world of change and disruption. Each week we give you a front row seat to the latest thinking, tools, tactics, and trends in collaborative innovation. Let’s get started.

Interview Transcript

Brian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today with us on our second IO Live event is James Gill. James is the founder of GoSquared. Welcome to the show, James.

James Gill, Founder of GoSquaredJames Gill: Hi, thanks for having me, Brian pleasure to be here. Looking forward to chatting.

Brian Ardinger: Well, I’m excited to have you back on the show and regular listeners will know that we had a chat probably about a year ago when you were on the show. Talking about some of this no code stuff that was just popping up and that. And so, when we decided to go to a live event, I figured, Oh, I want to get James back in to talk about…a lot has happened in the last year or the last week. Exactly. Why don’t you give the audience a little bit of background about your journey as a founder, a long time ago when you started GoSquared as a wee lad, as I like to say, and then we’ll go from there.

James Gill: Thanks again, Brian, for having me. It’s crazy times. Sure, we’ve got a lot to dig into. Just as a bit of background on me, I’m one of the founders of a company called GoSquared. We’re a software as a service business. We perhaps haven’t taken the traditional route of a software business. We started the business, back when I was in school with two of my friends back when we were just wee teenagers.

James Gill, founder of GoSquaredSo over 10 years ago, we’d been together running a company. We used to build websites together and stumbled into building software, and we really love it. And fast forward to today. Continue to be a self-sustaining profitable software business. We got thousands of small businesses that use our software all around the world. GoSquared as a platform is all about helping small businesses grow online. So, we help you with that full customer journey from acquiring leads at the top of the funnel through to engaging with them throughout their journey, and ultimately looking after them and keeping them happy as they continue to be customers of our customers.

We really love running a business. It’s been a wild ride. There’s so much to get into, but myself I’m pretty much a self-confessed like product geek. I love design. Obviously, there’s a lot we can dig into in terms of software. We use GoSquared, and the lessons we’ve had since becoming an entirely remote team and trying to keep things running smoothly.  Happy to take whatever questions people have.

Brian Ardinger: Let’s start there. You’re in London right now? Talk a little bit about your team. And did you have an office? Were the people working remotely? How are you hanging in there?

James Gill: First of all. Yeah, I think were hanging in there okay. Thanks, Brian. I hope you are too, in terms of how we operate. It’s a weird one actually. When we were at school, we used to all work from home. We used to work from our family homes, you know, probably coding away in the early hours of the morning or in the night when we should have been doing homework, building things and working from home. That was how we started building GoSquared back in the day.

Then as time went on, we became more of a proper business and gradually we moved to London and then we sort of centralized there and that’s kind of the way we’d been until literally like a month or two ago. And we always had a team in London that was always when we had face to face, lots of benefits of that. But last year, one of the team. Well, he moved up to Scotland with his partner and he really pushed us to think like how do we operate with everyone in one office and one person in Scotland. And so, it started making us rethink quite a few things around how we communicated, how we operated.

As 2019 went on we found it was working really well. And then we made our first hire from the outset. There was a remote employee and we brought in someone who is based in Costa Rica of all places. By the end of last year, we already had two people full time, remote employees, and he really taught us a lot about how to communicate, how to make sure people are, hopefully not left out of the loop, how to prioritize sort of asynchronous communication because Costa Rica, you’ve got a time zone issues too.

And so, we’ve kind of tried a lot of that stuff out and, but the rest of the team remained in the office. And then obviously with this all happening, as soon as things started getting serious, like we insisted on everyone working from home. We didn’t want to take any risks. And, you know, all, any of us need really is a laptop to work from home.

So as far as I’m concerned, as software businesses and SaaS businesses, like we are in no rush to get back to the office. Like we are very happy to be the last businesses returning to offices. The more we can stay out of public transport and mingling with the rest of the people. Like there’s no urgency for us to be back. More than happy to chat more about like some of the stuff we’ve been doing more recently to make this work.

It’s been a whole lot of stuff from tooling. Like we use Slack for team chat, but we also obsessively use great a tool called Notion for like internal documentation. We obviously use GoSquared to understand and communicate with our customers. There’s been a bunch of lessons from that and also just process things as well like how we engage with the team.

Brian Ardinger: Let’s talk a little bit about this no-code movement. You know, one of the things that how I found GoSquared is I’m not a technical cofounder, but I put a lot of stuff together and I cobble and hack together stuff. And I found GoSquared as a really easy way for me to take a lot of the marketing automation and specifically the chat robot. I put that onto my events and that, so I could have real time interactions with customers. So, talk about how you’ve seen the no-code movement come to bear. And how’s that affecting your customer’s ability to actually interact and do more stuff with their customers.

James Gill:  I think it’s an interesting one, I guess, adopting that term “no code” has made it a movement, but from my perspective, I’ve always viewed it as making stuff easier to do and use. And, and I think just fundamentally, like we’re just continuously on this train towards enabling anyone to do what they need to do online and brew software. And so I think a lot of it could be replaced from like from code to no code to just stuff that was hard to do, that’s now easy to do.

From my perspective, I’m not a coder. I can tinkle around with HTML and CSS, but I’m all about design and how it looks, how it works. Whereas I’ve always been very fortunate to have co-founders that are now a team that can actually code and engineer and develop real hardcore software. It’s always frustrated the hell out of me whenever I hit that block of like, not being able to do it, you know, if you need to write some Java script or whatever, and it makes engineers almost seemed like magicians in many ways.

Cause it’s like, you want to get this idea out of your head, and I can take it so far, but having to hand it off. And I’m so excited about just the wealth of things out there now. The tools out there that can help you take those ideas into reality and into working things. And so even from design tools, getting closer and closer to like a real piece.

We’ve always used Sketch for designing things, but we increasingly started using Figma, which you can mockup a pretty realistic interface with scrolling behavior and fixed layout components and linking between things. And you can get very far as a designer, without any coding knowledge to getting a working prototype is something you can put in front of real customers to try stuff out, which I think is just incredibly exciting for anyone who’s not taught themselves to code just yet.

And also, you know, there’s amazing tools. Like we use Zapier a lot for connecting stuff together and all of our stuff is not just that. It’s obviously easy for someone without an engineering background to do. It allows you to do things you’ve never been able to do before because the effort to reward ratio just wouldn’t have made sense.

You know, it wouldn’t make sense to take one of the engineers off of core product work to connect two things together because it might take two weeks and it might not work out and you might have nothing to show for it.  Whereas Zapier makes it a five-minute thing, which anyone on the team could do. So, I think there’s all of these great tools, which are just so dramatically changing what you can do as an individual. It’s incredibly exciting as someone that can’t, you know, if I sit down at a terminal window and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

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Brian Ardinger: It brings that democratization to other folks in the organization. And like you said, it opens up additional opportunities for the developers that are, can actually code the hard stuff. They can go back to coding the hard stuff. And it gives you, or the marketing person, of the creative person, an opportunity to test and experiment and build some stuff that doesn’t require you to have either as much, or you can allocate your team a little bit more effectively. So on that side of democratization of marketing, really, you are providing tools in GoSquared that gives more functionality and more capabilities to the average small business marketer out there. And I know you’ve been adding a lot of new stuff to your platform. So maybe talk about how you see marketing automation evolving and how’s that playing out?

James Gill: Yeah. Yeah. I think again, like a lot of what I love about us building our own software and running our own company is our own desire to make stuff easier and simpler. It’s very easy to get sort of boxed into like categories or market segments and definitions. One of the things I love about running this company and kind of almost controlling our own destiny as much as we can is that we’ve tried to avoid getting too caught up in like, looking at competitors or looking at market definitions of things.

And I think it’s just zooming out and thinking in terms of marketing, the marketing space. Well, even just zooming out even further than that, for like what are most small businesses wanting to do online then, and it’s not that they’re necessarily, or looking for marketing automation. Marketing tools themselves, are not necessarily what you need.

It’s that you want to win more business and you want to ideally keep those customers with you and you want those customers to really like your business. So for us, it doesn’t really make sense in many ways to sort of pick up one tool for doing the marketing analytics bit and one tool for the live chat bit and one tool for the, and marketing automation, one tool for your customer support because you’ve got one customer moving through that journey. The more you can make that a seamless end to end experience, the more that customer is going to have a nice experience. And the more you as a business are going to understand what the hell is going on.

From our perspective, a lot of it is really about trying to build a really great, easy to use platform that takes people from end to end. And so that sometimes means building maybe more than you would say having just any one tool that specializes in any one category, but we have sort of that functionality that helps you do what you really need to do end to end. We will freely admit, like we don’t have every feature in the world for what you can do in marketing automation. We don’t have every feature in world for live chat, but what we really feel is just ultimately the experience is so much better for the end customer. And as long as we keep following that, like what do our customer’s customers benefit from? Then the better we can do, I think.

Brian Ardinger:  What kind of feedback are you getting from your customers specifically around nowadays? I would imagine pandemic and all, driving revenue is a very important thing for customers out there. And what are you hearing or feeling from your customers?  What’s happening and then how’s GoSquared helping them?

James Gill: Oh, you know, I’ll freely admit I don’t, I don’t want to be like some big sales pitch on GoSquared on it. There’s a mixed bag. We have loads and loads of customers that use us and some of them are struggling and some of them are doing better than ever. That’s just been something that’s been really eye opening for us like in terms of how some of our customers have fared through this.  Well, all of our customers have some sort of online presence, but some of them are software companies that are naturally online and some of them are like, offline events companies that sell tickets to offline events. And so, you know, we’ve seen some of our customers really struggle and we’ve been trying to be as helpful as we possibly can.

You know, we get the situation right now. And so, we don’t want to sort of part ways with customers permanently over this. We want to ideally see them once we’re through this again. So, I think a lot of like engaging with those customers to try and make sure we can help them out as best we can. And then yeah, some of our customers have been skyrocketing and off the charts, like we’ve got churches that have become some of our most traffic sites are the weekends because they’re doing that sermons online and their congregations coming online.

It’s like these customers you wouldn’t think of as like needing software to grow. We’ve got customers like that. We’ve got learning platforms and things like that, where, you know, they’ve just got this crazy, like 10 times as much traffic than normal, where people are just wanting to learn more. So, their coming to some of our customers like that and yeah, a whole range of what we’re seeing.

We feel very lucky to be able to well with a lot of our customers and hopefully be…we do hear from our customers and other software vendors and other vendors in general are not being as helpful as they might really should be. I think we try and look at us and see, like, how can we help right now? And how can we do as much as we can to be the good guys and just try and help out wherever possible.

It’s been a mixed bag. I’ll freely admit that, and it seems to be changing, you know, as we, go through. Things are just evolving all the time. And I think it’s also been seeing things develop. We’ve got quite a global customer base. So it’s seeing things develop in different geographies.

Brian Ardinger: We’ve got one question coming in from the chat. How do you distinguish GoSquared against other SaaS products in the market? Like Intercom and that. Because you do cross, like you said, you have bits and pieces of feature functionality that compete against different products. I would imagine. So maybe give an overview of that.

James Gill: Every vertical, every and sort of industry within SaaS has tremendous competition. And I’ve been to many conferences and things focused around SaaS. And you sort of meet all these other tools though. Hey, wait a minute. You all do the same thing. I think one of the greatest things in our space is there is this tremendously large market. Like there are more and more small businesses than ever, and there are many, many existing dominant players in the world of marketing software alone, many companies already worth billions.

From our perspective, some of the players in our space, some of the better-known ones, they’ve got an established name, but they’ve also raised tremendous amounts of money as well. I think what we’ve seen is a lot of them moving, shifting further and further up market and into much higher paying brackets, you know, more like the realms of sort of the Salesforce and enterprises like that.

You start looking at these people and they, like, it feels like they used to be on the side of the small businesses and due to a lot of those pressures that perhaps various dynamics have caused, they’re moving higher and higher, further upstream. So we see a tremendous number of customers coming to us that feel somewhat alienated, by the way, those guys have been moving a lot of like forced on pricing changes, not the nicest behavior towards their own customers.

We see a lot of that and yeah, I just think, again, it comes back to some stuff I said earlier, around controlling our own destiny a bit. It’s like we ourselves are a small business. I feel like we continue to understand small businesses better than anything. Well, I didn’t think we’d be that great right now, building truly like enterprise level software or adopting enterprise level sales techniques.

We love building self-service really easy to use software. The company is just like us. And we do that better than anyone. And you can look at a feature checklist and compare that way. Or you can look at the whole package, which is the platform, the team behind it, the customer service we offer, the way we treat our customers, the way we just ultimately help you grow as a business. I think a lot of that’s more nuanced and you don’t necessarily build that understanding until you get in the door. It’s not one thing that makes us different. It’s the whole package.

Brian Ardinger: Do most of your customers come in through a particular feature set? So live chat, for example, is that the feature? And then they just get in there and decide oh, yeah, you can do all this other stuff. There’s analytics, there’s workflow and that, or, yeah. Talk a little bit about how people have utilized your, your service and how you’ve grown the business and how, how you’ve decided, which features to add and that.

James Gill: Let me start it out. We were primarily like building websites for other people and at the time obviously the software landscape is very different, but we were always very frustrated at the state of analytics tools at the time. This was sort of very early days of Google analytics. But other than that, you sort of had hit logging tools and things that. Everything looked like an ugly Excel spreadsheet. And all the charts were like images and nothing was interactive, and everything was like a 24-hour delay before getting data out. And so why we started was around analytics, this idea that you shouldn’t need to wait for data, everything should be instant. So, like if you’ve got five people on your website, you should see a number of five people online right now.

And, and also reminding you that these were not hits or sessions like these were people on your side by every person coming to your site is a, a potential customer. And to try and bring that a bit closer that like the business and the customer getting closer and more human. So really from the early days, like that was kind of where we focused a lot of that energy of like representing that data in a nice way. The analytics has become this, the area where we’re strongest known for. And that’s certainly still really one of the biggest ways that people start using us. You know, they’ll maybe building that first WordPress site, or they’ll be starting off as website and you can use GoSquared for free, if that’s what you’re doing and then grow with us.

And naturally, like once you can see who’s on your site or traffic sources that are driving people. You naturally want to start acting on that. Whether that’s popping up a message to like ask, if you can help with pricing or just turning any of those visitors into a lead, capturing an email address, it’s sort of the start of that journey. And then we’ve got all the tools to help you go beyond that. That’s definitely a big part of it because there’s, there’s just a lot of content out there about us and being a good analytics tool.

So that’s naturally like just been a big driver for us, but then also, yeah, live chat as well as big because we, in this very fortunate position where every customer that comes in they’re putting a bit of JavaScript on that side, a bit of code onto their site, or they’re using a plug in and put GoSquared on their site and if they say, use chat then that’s a bit of our product that is in front of our customers’ customers. So naturally like one customer can often lead to many, many more customers due to that exposure.

I guess there’s another movement around like product led growth. And for us, we take that very seriously and that we don’t want to build a product that is like, Buy GoSquared, all over the place. We want to make the best product we can. And if we keep doing that, it drives tremendous referral. And that’s how we continue to get a large bunch of customers. Aside from that, there’s also just classic sort of inbound marketing or content marketing. But I was talking to someone the other day about this. It’s just you know, content marketing has changed a hell of a lot since the early days.

And it’s like, you can’t just write a blog post and hope people are going to see it anymore. You can’t write a blog post against the specific Google search term and expect it to do well, like as has always been the case, but more so than ever just writing thoroughly, considered great content and producing great content, whether that is written more video or audio. Producing great content is the best way to get your name out there. And I firmly believe that’s not the fastest thing to do, but it’s the best sort of long-term strategy to grow a business to just consistently do good quality work.

Brian Ardinger: There’s no silver bullets anymore.

James Gill: I know exactly. And so, you know, any of those quick hacks or cheats or whatever, you know, some, they might work for a little bit, but I’m just always on the assumption that any sort of trick in the system is going to get closed down at some point. So you can spend your time, keep you on top of all the little hacks and tricks, or you can spend your time with the customer. Yeah. That’s our approach. And maybe that doesn’t suit everyone, especially if you’ve got like a finite runway and you’ve just raised a ton of VC money, like, you know, that might know what makes it great, but for us, like, that’s just how we’ve approached things. Yeah. And that’s what we continue to do.

Brian Ardinger: This is an interactive podcast live event. So, if you have questions, please put them in the Q and A session. One of the questions is I’m studying math and cyber at a University Nebraska, Omaha. How do you bake in security during development? It seems that cyber folks and development folks are at odds with each other. Can you talk a little bit maybe about that?

James Gill: Sure. that’s a great question. I wish I had one of the team to go deeper on the backside here, I don’t know if I can do it total justice, but I think, yeah, for, from, from my perspective, yeah. Security and privacy as well, which often gets bundled in which we take as seriously as we possibly can. You know, it’s incredible to see how, how much more they are in the public eye than, than ever. You know, rewinding back to when we started GoSquared and you know, back when, rewinding to like, thinking about when the first iPhone came out, you know, you just used to get your iPhone swipe to unlock your access to your whole phone.

Now we’ve got like military grade security better than military grade security on everyone’s device, they carry around. Looking at things like Zoom and how front page of every newspaper in the UK is like Zoom security related stories. So, security’s become such a, the thing in the of people’s minds. So for us, we take it very seriously and there’s a number of things…its perhaps an overused used term but like security by design and that literally when we start working on any kind of new functionality.

We start with an outline of what we’re trying to, the problem we’re trying to address and how we’re trying to solve it. But within that, doc is elements around, you know, how is this thing going to work? How are we going to roll out to customers? How are we going to measure the success of it? But there’s things like, and what are the privacy implications of this and what are the security implications of this and its to make us think about that stuff before we even right. A single line of code.

There’s that side of things, which is quite like a fundamental level thing. And then once you get into building stuff, it’s like, you know, having good code policies, good testing frameworks, you know, we have a pretty rigorous pipeline for how we ship updates to customers. So yeah, sure. We run a software as a service platform. And so all of our customers are running the latest software. You know, that with Zoom, you’ve got to install a new version of Zoom every time they release an update.

With GoSquared, you log in to GoSquared in your browser. You’re running the latest version of GoSquared, which helps a lot. But us pushing software to production, we have pretty rigorous testing there. We sort of run things on an alpha branch, a beta branch, and have various third-party tools as well that are constantly sort of firing lots of vulnerability, scanning and testing. We also partake in a few things like the hacker one, there’s various communities out that way you can sort of put up rewards for finding vulnerabilities.

We’d rather reward someone for finding a vulnerability than for someone to use it maliciously against us. So there’s all sorts of things like that. It’s a topic we could dive into more, but, you know, we could probably do a whole podcast on that. I think one of the things that is a really interesting thing your guest asked, is it sort of that there is actually this trade off often of security and usability and ease of use.

And a perfect example of that is us making sure our login screen is good. Like we, we really pride ourselves on the login screen because it’s one of the first time you, it’s one of your first experiences with the product you use it often on a very regular basis. And we want that to be really slick and look great. But obviously it’s also the front door to your accounts. So, there’s various things. We’ve talked about a lot in the design of that in terms of how we store passwords, you know? I don’t know how deep to go on it, but then how we store passwords and how long you let someone reattempt a password. Like how long you give a delay?

Brian Ardinger: The example of Zoom. I think one of the reasons why they took off like wildfires because they were easy to use. They got rid of a lot of the frictions that probably traditional enterprise grade video conferencing systems either have in place or had to have in place because they were working with enterprises and they’re having to backpedal a little bit to kind of catch up. You mentioned privacy and GDPR, and that I’d imagine that’s changed the world of marketing automation and analytics and that. Can you talk a little bit about that?

James Gill: GDPR is one of those four letter acronyms that you couldn’t go very far without hearing those four letters in London, at least for a very long time. There was like a deadline for that legislation to come into force.  And then pretty much the day after it was in force, you didn’t hear much about it anymore and stuff went quiet and then it’s gradually rebuilding again. And I think California has got that data privacy legislation and also just companies like Apple keeps blurting out about the importance of privacy, which is keeping it in the public’s mind, which is a good thing.

I think with GDPR, we took it very seriously. A lot of our customers were looking to us like, what do we do here? How do we approach this? We certainly benefited in many ways because a lot of customers had historically sort of acquired mailing lists and contact address books in questionable ways. And, you know, a lot of them are looking to start a fresh. And so it was a good opportunity to work with them on some of that. Again, it kind of touches on some of the stuff we were talking earlier about the marketing side of things, of like, there’s a lot of people that find GDPR an inconvenience, and then there’s a lot of like asterisks you can put on things and say, Well, you know, we’re talking to business users does that mean that consumers?

And, you know, you can try and wiggle around all these things and try and question the written law. From our perspective, we feel like fundamentally GDPR is about giving consumers more control about their privacy, about where that data is stored. And that’s only going to be something that consumers care more and more and more about. And I think trying to fight against that or trying to work against that or weasel out of any of the specific laws is a losing battle. So from our perspective, it’s just, what’s the bare minimum we can do to meet the regulations, is how can we lead more on this. How can we do more than what GDPR says and do that in the best way that both helps customers and businesses?

You know, there’s a lot around educating people about the benefits because okay might be more frustrating that you have to ask permission from consumers, whether or not you can collect their email address and tell them what you’re going to do about that. But. If expectations are set better on both ends, you build better relationship and trust from our perspective, it’s GDPR is a positive, good thing, and trying to work against it is not going to get you very far.

Brian Ardinger:  Another question in the chat, what’s your ambition for GoSquared in the next three to five years, or how far out do you plan? Maybe it’s three to five months. Where do you see yourself going?

James Gill: I think, yeah, like you said, like three to five months, it’s like, there’s a lot that’s changing under our feet right now. We’re very grateful for the position we’re in at the moment. And you know, there’s a lot of companies out there that are having to make incredibly tough decisions about whether or not they can even trade next month let alone letting staff go and things like that. And, and so far through this, we’ve managed to steer the ship. Okay. And, but who knows how long this, this is going to continue for and what the economic climate looks like as we move into the second half of this year and everything.

But from my perspective, like we really get a kick out of building the company that we want to work at ourselves. We’ve had the opportunity, on several occasions to sell GoSquared and to flip it in a way. And you know, each time we’ve evaluated that or, you know, would we rather be doing that than what we’re doing here?  I have a natural desire to be someone that creates things and start things. And so I think even if we were to sell, what I’d end up doing is doing whatever I need to do to sell and then starting something again. And if I start something again, am I going to be able to put myself in the position I am now, with such a great team around me in such an exciting market building, such exciting software with all those customers.

We want to continue growing GoSquared in this self-sustaining way as profitably as we possibly can. Where we’re at today with the platform and the customer base, I feel like we continue to be at a fraction of where I believe we could be. You know, I think we’re only scratching the surface of what software like ours can, can do. The overwhelming majority of the market, the software market for marketing tools and to some extent, the customer service tools, the tooling and software, there still feels so old school and so not customer friendly. And I just feel like we’ve got so much, we want to contribute to that industry in that market. And we’re just so hungry to get building it and getting it into the hands of customers.

So over the coming months and years, like we want to keep building the best software we possibly can. I think we could grow our customer base. Tenfold a hundred-fold. And I think we’ve got a really good team in place now to do that from here, we’ve got marketing through to customer success through to the product team we have. So yeah, we’re just really excited to make sure we can do a better and better job for our customers. And if we keep doing that, then hopefully we’ll keep growing and everyone wins.

Brian Ardinger: You come from a design background. And so how do you approach feature development and product development? From the design side kind of really focused on the user versus I guess how developers approach it or business people approach it, or talk a little bit about your philosophy around that.

James Gill: Absolutely. And I think it’s always very easy to talk about this. And often when I talk about it, it feels like it might be so easy, but it’s actually incredibly difficult to continuously practice what you preach. It’s a wonderful thing to have engineers. Here, ready to build things. But I think one of the challenges often in a culture of being incredibly developer friendly, and developer…valuing hugely the contributions developers make and having them in houses. Then often developers are very hungry to build what they believe they want to build. And I think there’s a real balancing act of enabling developers to make contributions successfully while also making sure you focus your energy on solving customer needs and customer problems.

You hear that kind of phrase, customer solving customer needs a hell of a lot, but it does take very thorough planning and structure to make sure you spend enough time with customers to fully understand their problems and their needs. And that that’s where, most of the really hard work is not in the building and the coding. It’s in the understanding those problems and getting close to customers to understand them and talk to them and, you know, okay at the moment, getting on a Zoom call, but getting into their office and like saying, wait a minute, we play this like role that’s maybe they spend half an hour with us in the mornings logging in and they maybe spend some time in the afternoon.

And actually, look at what the other stuff they’ve gotten their to do list in the day that’s like, competing for their attention and how much time they can spend learning, GoSquared or understanding things about GoSquared. Like it really makes…I find it very humbling to get in the room, with customers, and just see where we fit into their lives. And so a lot of the work in building stuff is that side of things that really getting your hands dirty and working with customers, talking to them, understanding them.

And then we feed a lot of that in and prioritization is always an ongoing challenge. So there’s a fair bit of got. And there’s a fair bit of where do we want to be as a company and feeding that in with opportunity of winning new business, and what the market’s doing. There’s a lot of like inputs and I’m yet to find anyone that’s got like this clearly written formula of how to here’s the prioritization, and bill those variables and outcomes the feature that will be guaranteed to make you successful.

So that’s sort of how we get into deciding what to build.  We used to like get far too quick into building stuff. Even small things, even like changing a button in an interface, can be something that can be misunderstood or misrepresented and yeah, it is always important. I think we pretty much religiously do this now is make sure something is written down about what we’re going to be building and what we’re going to be shipping.

One of the best things that, I think we stole this from Amazon, is Amazon has this philosophy of writing the press release or the announcement first, and it’s such a simple idea, but actually it solves so much if you can bring yourself to do that. It feels like unnecessary work at the start of a project, or it feels like a bit of laborious work at the stop, a project, but it’s such a good way to align everyone involved with a project that this is what we intend to tell customers.

And if you get to the end of it and what you’ve done, well, it kind of does that, but if you stand on one leg and, you know, hold the umbrella up, then it actually does this, that like, it’s a very good way to align everyone and keep it real. It’s just a really simple but effective way to align everything from day one on building stuff. And we try to have pretty high-fidelity mockups and try and get those mock ups in front of customers before we start coding stuff.

Brian Ardinger: It comes back to a couple different things too. Like how do you measure success? Like you mentioned early on where a person using your tool may only use you for a little bit of time of day.  And so, is the goal to have them use you actually less and be more productive with it, or is it your goal to have them more engaged with it and continue to use it throughout the day?

James Gill: That’s a great, a great question. I think, yeah. You look at companies like Facebook who are kind of grappling with that moral dilemma at the moment of like, as a business, we want people to spend more time at Instagram, but what does that mean?  It really varies by product area actually. So within GoSquared, you know, we have the analytics product to help you understand what’s happening with your funnel, with your marketing efforts. We have our inbox product for enabling customers to basically engage with their customers, to chat with them, to help them out, to respond to their question on live chat.

We have upcoming automation product, which is all about helping you communicate with your customers at scale. It really varies a lot depending on those tools, but we use a framework would like jobs to be done in terms of understanding the task people are trying to achieve with the different areas of the platform. So for something like the analytics product, okay, well, it’s fine if you want to spend your day geeking out, looking at graphs and numbers, but from our perspective, like if you’re spending all day looking at that, that kind of is not necessarily seeing we’re doing a good job with the product.

What we’d rather be doing is giving you clearer numbers and surfacing, what might be important or what’s changed significantly. While we’ve got a long way to go on that. So what we strive for it’s like, how can we surface answers to you rather than graphs and numbers? The inbox product is all about responding to customers.  And, you know, an aspect of that is we do want people to have that onscreen and, you know, we do want people to be using that because it means that they’re responding to customers, but we look at things like how long does it take businesses to reply to their customers? How long are they spending in the inbox?

How can we improve the workflow there so that, you know, rather than writing out 500 words to a customer, they can use saved replies or how can we even bring in some more automated functionality to understand the kinds of questions customers are asking and answer that for them? Yeah, it very much depends, but like for us time in product or time in the platform has never really been a key metric we obsess over. The numbers we care about out are whether the customers are growing their business. Are they capturing more leads and retaining their customers? Are they ultimately growing their business or they as a business, are they growing and how much of GoSquared are they using is part of that?

We look at things like net promoter score and customer satisfaction and you know, whether the customers are yeah. sticking with us ultimately. So that’s kind of how we approach that really. So we’re not trying to put like ding you with a notification five times an hour to tell you someone new, you might be going to an event you might be interested in.

Brian Ardinger: I guess I’ll end with my last question as far as what are you most hopeful for looking forward to in the next six or eight months when it comes to either personally and or with GoSquared?

James Gill: I certainly looking forward to going to the pub. I’m very much looking forward to getting back to the local pub whenever we can, because it would be great.  I think on a serious note, I think just the whole world’s going through a crazy time. And I just, I would, I just really look forward to us getting through this and you know, a lot of people are in far, far tougher times than we are at GoSquared and far tougher industries.

I just look forward to the world, getting back to some form of normality and the thing, there’s a lot of things that are going to be different. And I look forward to the things that will be better because of this, you know, the things we’ll learn and adapt because we’ve been forced to. I’m excited for the things that we’ll learn from this whole process. And I just hope we can, many of us as possible can stay well to get through it and get through to the other side. That would be my main takeaway.

Brian Ardinger: Well, James, I want to thank you for coming on Inside Outside Innovation, the podcast and our second IO Live event to share what’s going on in your business, and that and share your insights. So really do appreciate you coming on. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Hopefully it will not be another year before we have a chance to talk.

James Gill: Thanks so much, Brian. Pleasure to chat.

Brian Ardinger: Alright, thanks everybody for joining us. We’ll see you again next time.

James Gill: Thanks everyone. Thank you.

Brian Ardinger: That’s it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out InsideOutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.


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Ep. 204 – James Gill, Go...