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Product Led Growth with Thomas Peham & Julius Hemingway from Storyblok Episode 28

Product Led Growth with Thomas Peham & Julius Hemingway from Storyblok

Thomas Peham is the VP of Marketing and Julius Hemingway is an Analyst Relations Manager at Storyblok. Storyblok harnesses a headless, API-driven CMS architecture empowering developers to build anything, publish everywhere, and integrate with any technology stack.

· 29:28


Jack: Hi everyone. You are listening to Scaling Dev Tools. The show that investigates how dev tools go from zero to. I'm joined today by Thomas and Julius from Storyblock, which is actually a first for us having two guests on the podcast. Thomas and Julius, could you tell us a little bit about Storyblock and about what you do at Storyblock?

Thomas: Amazing. Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much for inviting us today actually here in person in London. My name is Thomas and as VP of Marketing, I get the chance to lead an amazing team of 30 plus team members, who do marketing Storyblock. And I will guess we have a deep dive around what that exactly. means and as, as a B2B software and service marketer, I've been in this space since 2014. Worked for small startups, scale up and large enterprises. And actually before joining Storyblock, I've been a freelancer working with different after service businesses of all sizes here in Europe. Storyblock is a headless cms, a headless CMS that powers more than 140,000 projects in more than 130 countries. And yeah, we're absolutely proud about our growth and still feel that this is just the.

Julius: I'm Julius. I work as an analyst relations manager, uh, at Storyblock. A niche of, of public relations work where what you really focus on at the end of the day is, is making the most out of the relationships that you have with different analyst firms like Forester or like Gartner.

It's a very interesting role because I really get to speak to a whole variety of analysts about topics that I never thought I would get to talk about with them. Try and use the insights that they gather out of talking to some of our clients and also some of our competitors to help people like Thomas, but also the other executives in our business. Colleagues on my level, uh, on, on our level to, to make better decisions and strategic decisions, in their daily work.

Jack: Amazing. That is really, really interesting. And I think we're quite lucky to have an analyst relations manager on the podcast because, uh, that's a really exciting area. Yeah. Yeah. The first time that I spoke to Thomas about Storyblock, I was amazed at how fast you've grown from something like 30 or 20 employees when you joined to now, like 200 plus. Could you talk a little bit about how you've grown so fast?

Thomas: yeah, I think there are some, pillars coming through that growth, but, when I joined in mid 2020, we were about 20 people on the whole company and I mean, it's crazy for me to see how today, At this point, the marketing team is larger with like 30 team members compared to the whole company when I joined as a with we've grown to about 200, I think we're now 220 people actually on, on the whole company. So I think there are a couple of things to maybe unlock or, or share in regards to our growth journey. Because at the end of the day, Storyblock itself started in 2017. Um, it was actually founded by two co-founders, Dominic

Andos and both of them, while both of them are originally from Austria, since they won this, started to work, fully remotely together because Alex moved with his family to Brazil. So since 2017, Dominic and Alex had to work, remotely together, fully distributed across Europe and Brel. when it comes to our growth, one of the main things is we're fully, we are still to date, fully remote. We have several offices. We have, I think now people in more than 40 nationalities. And

I think the reason I always compare it with other Austrian companies, right? I'm based in Austria, Vienna and I think it wouldn't be possible to grow at such a speed, um, when. Bound yourself to one specific location or maybe multiple locations. So I think for us, the foundation really lies in the people, right? And that we're able to hire great people no matter where they, where they live, and where they, where they really wanna work from. So I think that's really the foundation of it. And. Dominic, our founder always tells the story that, it's such a kind of, such a weird thought process when you think about it, when you think that you as a business only are able to hire people within a certain radar, mild radar, or radar of.

Your bubble, right? So I think that remote mindset really is something we, we have since day one, but the second factor, our product, right? We wouldn't be able to grow so quickly if we wouldn't have a good product. So our block is a headless content management system. And if you look at that market and industry, the market in itself is growing, especially in the last few.

Um, basically since 2015 when we've seen an explosion of many different channels, different front ends being built by different businesses, not just thinking about web, mobile, but also ar, vr experiences, voice, um,experiences. So with those explosions of front end channels, one of the first questions that many businesses have, and I also had as a marketer myself in many different cases.

Thomas: Where do we actually host our content? Right? Where do we manage a content for VR experience? Where do we manage content for an Alexa skill? How, how do we make that accessible for all the different team members?

So with that explosion of the front end channels and the, the industry trend around headless cms. Storyblock has really evolved as this next generation had less content management system that gives both the developers as well as the, the marketers and content teams

At the end of the day, the experience they want to have or they need in order to build those front end experiences, those content experiences as we call them. We do that through different business motions. Storyblock itself is a, is a self-service product. So anyone, any developer, can go to our website and use the product, product for.

We provide a lifetime free version for single developers and single users,

And that is really the foundation of our, of our business model,because we believe,that, developers wanna build great cool stuff, right? They wanna test new channels and so on and so forth. So we, we always want and will have a free version available for them, , and through that motion until 2020.

We were able to grow like as a two men team, Dominic and Alex, to I think more than 20,000, 25,000 users globally and that really laid the foundation for myself coming into the inbound marketing side of things, but also for our sales team coming together and for our partner team coming together. But up until 2020, it was basically the two of them scaling this product in a self-service motion to those mentioned numbers. And for me, that's still impressive and I haven't seen that journey before. And that that was one of the main drivers Why I wasn't really hyped in joining Storyblock and Sell Hype today. But since 2020, we also built the enterprise sales side of things. So we do have a, inbound sales team, but also an outbound sales team, at the end of the day selling Storyblock or globally to, to mid-sized and mid-market and enterprise businesses.

from e-commerce, finance, FinTech um, or may tech in, in more, more general. Um so that, that motion really allowed us to, to grow, to accelerate that growth, right? We would see organic growth on the self-service side and screw the sales motion we were able to utilize, and grow even faster there because, that motion also, To certain enterprise only features, like enterprises, obviously at the end of the day care about different features than freelancers, right?

Or developers who are just building side projects with Storyblock. So with that focus, with that shift in focus, we were really able to accelerate that growth.

And the third motion to mention is our partner motion, because at the end of the day, A lot of brands, a lot of businesses turn to agencies when it comes to the implementation of, for example, in the simplest format, a new website.

Right. I've worked both on the agency side as well as on the brand side, and most often you don't have the in-house resources. You don't have the in-house designers, developers, marketers who can, who can pull off a relaunch project or a new, a new website, for example. So you would go to an agency, right, for Storyblock was really able to grow to, I think right now, 1,300, registered agencies. And we do have about a hundred plus certified, agency partners. What does it mean? It means that those agencies, Have full technical knowledge around the implementation of Storyblock as a content management system. And they're truly able to pull off not only quicker, um, results, quicker returns for, for those clients, but are also able to, to utilize our technology in new ways that we haven't even imagined being possible. Thinking about like a lot of add-ons integrations towards Storyblock, because at the end of the day, Yes, we are a cms and you can say, well that's quite a boring industry on niche.

But at the end of the day, we see so many cool use cases evolving, that are built on top of Storyblock. And our agency partners are, are really, are really true partner who, who showcase that daily on what they built with Storyblock and on top of Storyblock.

Jack: And it sounds like they're kind of the fact that you had such a strong product market fit at the Kind of feeds in the whole journey. And then, like you mentioned previously, you had like 0% churn in your enterprise clients. Yeah. And uh we still have You still do Yeah. I was a bit scared to uh even mention that in case.

Thomas: No, we're, we're super proud about that. I've worked in previous SaaS businesses and I think that the product market fit, as you say is really unique and really allows us.To basically grow faster. Because at the end of the day, everything we do is from a marketing and sales side is, is is investing into the future. Because we believe that that, the way we as marketing teams, the way we as general businesses run CMS is might be out to date if you think about that traditional content management systems that we all know and we all have in our mind, Steve were built at a time where we would use a web desktop browser, right? Where we would sit in front of a computer building websites, building web experiences, but those systems were never built for what I would say, the 21st century, where we have that explosion of front end channels and Therefore we, we do believe we have a proud future. But yeah. Let's see.

Julius: I think one thing I'd add as well to that is, our solution focuses so much on, on breaking down silos ultimately between developers and between marketers.

I think that's core to where we really differentiate from people. I've worked together with many businesses in the past. I've rarely seen a business own that internally as much as well, where as marketers we're constantly speaking with developers about how does everything resonate with you, first and foremost before we go to the market and then market it to developers and that sort of stuff.

There's very few silos within our business. We're constantly chatting with partner people. In fact, we have a, a person who's working within the marketing team but is directly responsible for partners and sits kind of between both channels and those sorts of things. I find so rare, and I think it's something where we, we saw an issue within the market, but we then also didn't, We also then adopted.

You know, that solution, not just from a product point of view, but also from a company culture point of view. And I think that's something that really attracted me, to work at Storyblock as well and something I still see succeeding today.

Jack: What advice would you have to other startups where they're kind of, they've got more than one stakeholder that they want to appeal and one of them is developers, .

Thomas: It's such a great topic, and also discussion that, we also have internally regularly because as you just

mentioned, we are not only doing marketing to the develop audience or to the marketers, Right? At the end of the day we market to both groups and in the.

Funnily enough, I always thought, well, it must be a really a big pain point to have so many different personas involved in the decision making process. But the interesting thing with Storyblock is at the end of the day it comes back to our promise that we wanna deliver the best products, the best, features, the best capabilities for both the developers as well as the content teams, the marketing teams.

When we tried to, to position Storyblock to, to the developers and also help them convince other stakeholders, it comes down to, to the simplest form of what's the value of the product for the developers. And yes, that is a headless API first architecture, but also what's the benefit for the marketers, the benefit for the marketers, the market. Can work, independently from development teams being in full control of the content. In a lot of businesses, we would find a situation where marketers would end up filing tier tickets for developers for simplest content changes, right?

So, When, when you put that question out, how do we make that bridge between those personas? At the end of the day, we don't see it as a bridge because at the end of the day, it comes down to allowing both personas do a great.

By giving them the tool they need, but then also making sure that everything stays in one, one system, in one central content hub.

In a simple way, we, convinced, or , we helped, we helped developers by, by showing them the benefits their marketers will have. And most often developers will be like, Wow, that's really great, because now my marketing team. Publish content themself, and they don't need to keep me busy with content changes so I can focus on creating new features, creating innovative, cool stuff.

And that is what developers wants, but also that's what the marketer world wants, right? At the end of the day, it, it comes down to, to those simple things that, we need to serve. We wanna serve both groups because at the end of the day, we. Giving the marketers the tools and the developers, the tools will allow both groups to work more efficiently together and therefore have a better front end experience for their customers, for their users, be on a mobile phone or on a, on a desktop web browser.

Julius: In simple terms, it's, not asking people to do something that they're not good at. That's really it. Like we're enabling both sides. You're not asking a developer to suddenly be good at marketing and vice versa. You are telling both groups, focus on what you're good at and we'll provide what's in between, And we give you the tool to collaborate. Like we recently introduced a new version of our CMS where we really focused on that collaboration aspect. Think about Google Docs, think about Figman and how those systems brought real time, but also synchronous collaboration into the design world or into the content world. If you think about that, that is basically what we do on the CMS part, where we believe that, collaboration has to sit there natively because you wanna see actually the the content outcome and how it will look like for your customers. But that is also the place where the content creators create the content, manage the content, but also that is where you can ask your developers for feedback, where you can ask developers to add new components that you need for, for example, your new marketing learning page. So we really believe that it comes down to that central content hub at the end of the day. Teams can collaborate. One, last statistic. We, we've done, um, a recent, um, report around the state of content management. And so with businesses in the US and in Europe on how many teams are involved in content, um, management, how many people create content, published content, how many people are. How many teams are involved in that? And I think on average we saw that six to seven teams are usually involved in, in businesses when it comes to contact management. Yes, we simplify between developers and marketers, but at the end of the day, it's much more, it's um, each, our teams, publishing chop descriptions on, on websites, it's sales teams being involved with sales collateral.

Thomas: And so on as a fourth. So it's, it's a whole range of teams really being involved And therefore we believeit's it's about empoweringall of those groups so they actually get a system they, they like to use.

Jack: it seems like collaboration is a big theme here, so absolutely. The next question is how do you collaborate with your partners as well?

Thomas: Oh yeah that's, that's a great question. And we like, the partner team always is a rather new team, which came together in like 20, 20, 21. And it, at the end of the day, we, we. Partner collaboration around, three different aspects. And that is everything starts with, enablement, right? We, we want our partners to be enabled to, to create those projects for their brands and clients, right? And that means technical trainings. That technical collaboration and support. Um, we do have a. Quite a comprehensive, documentation, SDKs, tutorials and so on, to, to support those of the developers within those agencies. Um, that, that's really the foundation because at the end of the day, yes, you can provide, in your partner program, you can give them some nice perks and benefits but at the end of the day, again, comes down to the the true product? Well, you for an agency, right? And our, our, well you, the well we provide for agencies is [00:17:00] by giving them a technology that allows them to implement projects faster, um, more cost effective, and that is the true business roi, right? That is why agencies team up with, with us. Yes, they also get a revenue share, to get some nice co-marketing exposure and so on. And we, we want to support them to grow, like, and help them grow, um, if that is their goal. And we also want them to, to find the right clients for their industry, be it e-commerce or whatever the, the industry focus of, of your agency really is. But everything goes to

Thomas: what is the core product value. And that's that, that is mostly around the implementation efficiency and, um, that obviously gifts. The main perk and benefit of teaming up with us, what do we do? We have a growing partner team as well. Um, the partner team is spread around partner enablement. We do have a learning management system. Think about it like a partner portal where you can go, where you can find resources, you can find tutorial rails documentation and so on that enable you both on the developer side, but also on the content editor side. So I would argue we, we provide agencies with a lot of resources that again, help.

So if they're clients, right? And help them onboard their clients for, for example, for that new cms. So that is like the one aspect. Partner enablement, the other aspect is partner success. , we do have a partner success team that, teams up with, um, the different agencies in the different regions globally to, to support them with their key priorities.

And if the key priorities around getting that new big client, we help you get that new client. Speed again, through, through the material we provide, through the, the enabled technical sessions we might do for you and.

Julius: so on.

Thomas: Um, so the partner success is really where, where, where the, where one big aspect of the partner team sits. And, um, the third focus point for the partner team is really around partner growth. Yes, we want to grow also our partner network, , globally, but we also want to support geo grow as an agency in terms of people or, yeah, other business metrics that you might have. So that is the current structure of the partner team. But at the end of the day, Storyblock comes also from an agency background. Both of our founders, Dominic and Alex, um, used to work for an agency where they would implement big e-commerce B2C projects. And, that is why I would argue a lot of features within our CMS are really also built for those agencies. And, Help them a again, be more productive Effecti.

Julius: There's also such a thought process into co-marketing and how we can help each other really grow together. We started a partner fund at some point, where businesses were able to get access to , some of the fund in order to to market.

Storyblock and how they've implemented it at certain times. And some of the things we got to see what people did, you know, when they submitted those were just incredible. Some of the implementations and ideas that people have for how it could be implemented and how they could market Storyblock together with themselves.

And, and I think that was also really something. Yeah. Collaborative again,

Thomas: we, we launched our partner marketing fund of 1.5 million. Four month ago, or sir which basically means that every certified agency, every certified agency partner of ours can get, like by default, 5,000 euro or USD per year for co-marketing activities. That could mean.

You wanna sponsor a local meetup, you want to go at a certain industry. When we provide you with that 5K to, support you, and it's, no question to ask you can get that and you do something cool and fun with that. We'll see where it takes us. We also run like fun competitions around that, where we. Double the amount to 10 K. That is recently we've, we've completed such a competition and it's, For us, it's also, to be honest, a real source of inspiration because there's so many ideas coming from those agencies all the way from Australia to the US to Europe, and. It's just very cool to see what, what those agencies make out of that. Maybe the last part in regards to partner to our partner program Dimension is, technology partners. We do have a tech ecosystem now of, plenty different, technology partners of ours because at the end of the day Content management,
CMS is one part to it, but if you're an eCommerce business, you're also thinking about what's the eCommerce system, right?

You, you're using b Shopify, BigCommerce commerce tools, et cetera. If you think about going, going international, you think you start to think about in, translation management systems, and how that works together with your content hub. If you think about personalization and how to personalize, experiences depending on the. You might need a personalization engine and so on and so forth. So we are aware that at the end of the day, yes, we see ourselves as the central content hub, but there's so much more that you can connect two Storyblocks through Storyblock and. Therefore we've created these, this ecosystem, tech ecosystem, , which we also.

Julius: Like recently we launched To provide, again, both agencies as well as our customers, the integrations, the apps and the tools they need to, to be more efficient. Because if you're like an e-commerce business, for example, you, you would like to, you most likely would like to connect your crm, your eCommerce system, as well as your content hub because that's the only way when you're able to truly personalize. Content experiences, or in a simplewayonly if you feed the CRM data into the, the cms, you're able to to define which content should be seen by whom in your, CRM system, for example. And through those integrations, we are basically making this possible.

Julius: I think that boils down to the whole idea of, being a headless business at the end of the day as well.

You have to make it easier.

Certain technologies to integrate with each other at, at the end of the day, you are gonna, you, you want to be as flexible as can be as a headless business because that lies at the very core of your solution. And I think that was something that we identified as well, where we said we need to work together.

We, we have a real opportunity here to enable businesses to compose what is a technology. That they can use for their digital experiences. We wanna make that easier for businesses. , and in and doing that in a genuine attempt. Collaborate with a lot of different technology partners in order to, to enable businesses to do that and to have really what? everyone can consider their best of brief read text act for that, for their own business to never dictate that with, So for someone else, what sort of technologies they should be using, I think that would go against what we consider to be our values as a headless, as a headless business.

Jack: One final question I think, for today is as you're, attending the Forester, Conference this week in London.

Obviously we've got Julius here who is a specialist. I just wonder for like really kind of early stage startups in the dev space, like what opportunities do you see out there in kind of working with these analyst companies?

Julius: That's a great question. I think in general, analyst firms can, can really help businesses in the first place. To avoid mistakes. I think there's so many learnings that we have in that are difficult to come by. I mean, there's so many different sources of information, about how to best grow your business.

That sometimes it's really difficult , to know where to start when you're looking for that information. And I think working together with analyst firms can really help sometimes. speak to someone who's got both the ear of the clients, so that really have an understanding of, of how our technology's being implemented.

How are businesses seeing the market? Where does, you know, where is their education left to be done? We see that a lot. There's a lot of areas where, we hear from analysts first and foremost. It's not really about you. It's much more about, you know, headless trust isn't that known yet in that place and.

It helps us understand, okay, if we now change some of our messaging to educate the market about headless, that might actually be a better place to start. And I think the smaller you are as a business, the less room you sometimes have for mistakes. At the same time. Sometimes you have more, but, mistakes can be a lot more costed.

And I think having that additional level of, security that you can make,

An insight based decision on your strategy as opposed to having to go with your gut instinct or what you saw in some blog post is sometimes just better. It gives more confidence, gives more, gives more expertise. So that's something that I would say really.

Thomas: I mean disclosure, I have several analyst relations background

Thomas: I've learned a lot. But I would alsosummarize it as Yes, as a startup.M maybe creating duff tool tooling who, uh, who are out there.You do get product feedback, right? You get market feedback on what's the industry.It's all, it's sometimes simple things like what's the market category that I'm in? Right? And sometimes it's, it's not really well defined. And you might, you might find your first use case in some area, but if you, if you start talking to, to those business analysts, you might also find yourself in a situation where you, you discover. Other use cases that your product can fulfill. So that's really one thing. And the other thing I wanna highlight is, especially if you are building. a developer first tooling or, um, mid-market or enterprise, the enterprise set of things you will get a lot of tremendous,um, resource on market and customer feedback. Screw those business analysts.And, I think that really helps, helped us And helps, other startups out there to, to learn faster. Therefore be able to integrate that in your product roadmap or your product strategy overall.

Julius: It's also a category creation type of topic sometimes. I mean, analysts can definitely also help in, you understanding really, you know, I'm creating this new product that, you know, I haven't seen anyone else do yet.

How should that be communicated with the market? How, you know, are those com Are you having conversations with businesses where you see a need for. New product that we're creating. And if, you know, that can be refined in order to really have it honed down and as optimal as possible. I think there's a lot of value, in that area of things.

So for us, it's really helped make a lot of strategic decisions. But it also has to be, there has to be a, a willingness for that feedback. I think that's something that really.

A year ago when I, I was thinking about joining Storyblock. In order to do this, I'd work together with a couple of businesses in the analyst world, you noticed sometimes that they weren't always so willing to take on some of the advice or that sometimes, you know, they'd gone down Journey for the last six months and weren't willing to make a U-turn and correct that course.

And I think that's also something, you know, credit to the people in our business.

There,there's an acceptance and a willingness to be challenged on certain things and, to justify why we want to do it that way, and to correct if we're not on that correct course.

It's definitely not only a marketing discipline, not at all those relations. It's not at all. There's an

Thomas: impact on the product roadmap, on sales,

Julius: on that rail and so on. You just have to be open for that. That's really the big thing.

Jack: And thank you so much both of you for coming on. It's been really fun. And where can people learn more about, Thomas and about Julius and , story?

Thomas: You can learn more@storyblock.com. If you're interested in about CMS or had less cms,
You can find me on Twitter at Tom Pham or,Can, Search my name on LinkedIn.Thomas Pham,And you'll

Julius: find Meira as well Yeah, same here. I'm on LinkedIn, uh, mainly, so Julius Hemingway.

And as for Storyblock, I think we've got , a really exciting website for people to, to dig [00:29:00] into with, so much information. Not just about Storyblock, but you know, some very, very interesting reports about, the state of content management, some absolutely incredible content that our content.

We're so prepared. So lots of interesting resources. It's not just a place to learn about Storyblock, but about content management in general.

Jack: Amazing. Thank you. And thanks everyone for listening and we'll see you again next week.

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Creators and Guests

Julius Hemingway
Julius Hemingway
Analyst Relations Manager at Storyblok
Lydia Melvin
Lydia Melvin
Editor of Scaling DevTools
Ronak Ganatra
Ronak Ganatra
Free WiFi enthusiast • Pizza purist • Director of Marketing at Lano • Maintaining https://t.co/Rua1KUBFgu & https://t.co/9RsjTg2WCG
Thomas Peham
Thomas Peham
VP Marketing at @storyblok // Prev.: @dynatrace, @usersnap // totally into: SaaS, photography, running, coffee, tech and football


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