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AMAs

Brianne Kimmel leads growth marketing at Zendesk. She’s currently working on competition and the Zendesk for Startups program. 

Prior to Zendesk, Brianne lead performance marketing teams at Orbitz and Expedia where she focused heavily on user acquisition, paid social and international growth.

Brianne advises a number of startups including BounceX, Grabr and Outbrain. She’s recently visited Sydney, Paris and Vienna as part of her ongoing “tech world tour” to meet and advise international startups. 

Outside of work, Brianne loves cycling around San Francisco and drinking matcha lattes. 

You can follow her on Twitter: @briannekimmel

She will be live on July 20 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which she will answer as many questions as possible.

  • AC

    Andrew Chen

    3 months ago #

    How does marketing at Zendesk (a B2B/SaaS company) differ from your time with Orbitz/Expedia (consumer companies)?

    • BK

      Brianne Kimmel

      2 months ago #

      In my previous roles at both Orbitz and Expedia, I ran RFPs for new vendors including a customer support software solution. Having first hand-experience as a buyer has been a huge advantage.

      When it comes to day-to-day marketing activities, the longer sales cycle has been a transition.

      Online travel is really competitive.
      Consumers have many options between Expedia, Priceline and search aggregators like Kayak. When someone searches for a flight, it's high intent. You have a short window to get the user to convert, so a frictionless experience is key.

      I love working on our self-serve business at Zendesk, since it's a similar experience. Our goal is to test new acquisition sources and create a frictionless trial experience.

      4 Share
  • AC

    Andrew Chen

    3 months ago #

    What are your favorite newsletters to help you stay up to date with the industry and best practices?

    • BK

      Brianne Kimmel

      2 months ago #

      I spend a lot of time reading the Reforge newsletter.
      Susan Su does a great job interviewing experts in growth.
      She takes a recent business challenge at a top company and walks through a strategic framework for how to solve it.

      For general tech: Techmeme (everyday), The Information, Wait but Why and Product Hunt (I spend way too much time on PH).

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    2 months ago #

    Hey Brianne, thanks for doing this AMA with us. Do you think there is a difference between performance marketing and growth marketing? If yes, what is it?

    • BK

      Brianne Kimmel

      2 months ago #

      Thanks for having me!

      I think it depends on the size and stage of the company.

      While I was in consumer, I transitioned from a performance marketing role to a growth PM role because I wanted more influence over in-product levers. Generally performance marketing focuses on paid acquisition and doesn't have much influence over the product experience.

      For many B2B SaaS, growth marketing generally sits under product. I really like this structure and believe growth teams should have dedicated engineers, designers and data scientists.

      I'd love to hear how other people think about this!

      4 Share
      • BO

        Brandon Ong

        2 months ago #

        I work for a made-to-measure menswear company where booking an appointment to get fitted in the showroom (after lead signup) is part of the sales cycle. We have an inside sales team to qualify new leads for fittings. It's almost as though we are operating like a B2B company.

        As a performance marketer, I found myself needing to develop and test ideas lower down the funnel to drive up number of appointments/week (our north star metric). That includes testing different landing pages, retargeting ad campaigns, email strategies, as well as new workflows.

        So for my case, I don't think there's much difference between performance marketing and growth marketing because optimizing our paid channels is just one part of the growth equation.

        Although I work with a very small team, I think it's important for performance marketers to adopt a growth mindset that expands beyond paid acquisition. If lower parts of the funnel are broken, your efforts at the top of the funnel will essentially go to waste.

        - Brandon

  • PF

    Pauline Fumeron

    2 months ago #

    Hi Brianne,

    Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA!

    1/ As a SaaS B2B company, on which metric do you focus with your growth team?
    2/ Could you share how your team is organized? How many people? Which background? Who does what? Could you be more precise about your role inside the team?
    3/ How does your team work with the sales and product team?

    Thanks a lot :)

  • AC

    Andrew Chen

    3 months ago #

    What are the 3 top questions that new marketers ask you in your General Assembly classes?

    • BK

      Brianne Kimmel

      2 months ago #

      Hey Andrew,

      I get a lot of early stage founders in my GA classes, many of them come from a non-marketing background. Most of them are post product/market fit, so they're ready to start thinking about growth.

      1. When should I start investing in paid acquisition?
      2. How do I evaluate paid and organic marketing channels?
      3. How do I create and use customer feedback loops?

  • LP

    Laxman Papineni

    2 months ago #

    Hey Brianne, thanks for taking time for AMA.

    From your experience, what do you think is the single metric that every startup should look at? What's that single metric that Zendesk care about the most?

  • AM

    Amanda Milligan

    2 months ago #

    Hi Brianne -- thanks so much for doing this!

    1. Has content marketing played a role in any of your customer acquisition efforts? If so, what has been most effective?

    2. Is cycling in San Fran as hard as it sounds?? All of those hills!

    Thanks again. :)

    Amanda

  • TB

    Ted Babcock

    2 months ago #

    Hey Brianne, thanks for doing the AMA! I have a couple questions:
    1. What advice do you have on how to create delightful, valuable content that drives acquisition? The world doesn't need more generic ebooks.
    2. What are your favorite acquisition channels at Zendesk? How has the mix changed since you started there?
    Thanks!

    • BK

      Brianne Kimmel

      about 2 months ago #

      Hey Ted, I completely agree. The world doesn't need another generic ebook, it's just noise.

      1. To avoid being generic, I think it has everything to do with depth.
      Go as deep as possible on a topic, include original research, data and most importantly have an opinion.
      2. Like most SaaS companies, our self-serve side of the business relies heavily on a frictionless trial and demo experience. A high quality, on-demand demo is key.

      From a marketing standpoint, I've noticed a recent shift towards democratizing internal knowledge and content usually reserved to existing customers. The Zendesk Maturity assessment is a good example of this (http://assessment.zendesk.com/#/home/)

  • NW

    Natasha Wahid

    2 months ago #

    Hi Brianne,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

    What do you believe are the main components to an effective growth strategy? (I feel like the term 'growth' gets kicked around a lot without the 'how').

  • RS

    Rob Sobers

    2 months ago #

    Hi Brianne!

    I assume Zendesk has regional sales reps. Does your marketing team do focused activities to help specific sales reps get into target accounts? If so, what are they?

  • ST

    Stanley Tan

    2 months ago #

    What are the top 3 competitive advantages that Zendesk have over other competitors?

  • DF

    david fortino

    2 months ago #

    @briannekimmel Excited for your session. Q1: What kind of bike do you ride? Q2: What role does content play in the lead generation initiatives @zendesk?

  • BI

    Benjelloun Ibrahim

    2 months ago #

    Hi Brianne
    What has been the most effective way to convert users into customers at zendesk?
    Thanks

    • BK

      Brianne Kimmel

      2 months ago #

      Let's look at B2B SaaS in general.
      First things first, make it easy for users to experience your product.
      Create a frictionless trial and demo experience.
      Invest in content and create dedicated nurtures based on user segments.
      Most importantly, keep testing and keep optimizing.

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    2 months ago #

    Hey Brianne,

    Super excited to learn from you today.

    1. If you had the chance to tell every person getting started in growth 3 things, what would they be and why?
    2. How did you get started with your "tech world tour"? Sounds awesome!

    Cheers,
    Dani

    • BK

      Brianne Kimmel

      2 months ago #

      Hi Dani, thanks for your questions.

      3 things for anyone getting started in growth:

      1. Find your north star metric. A single metric will keep you focused and ensures your team is working towards the same goal. For early stage startups, it's your growth rate. Spend time reading Paul Graham's Startup=Growth. I see a lot of articles with quick tips and tricks, but laying a solid foundation for sustainable growth is key.

      2. Get user feedback early and often. Feedback is a gift and you can't grow a product that people don't need. Your product needs to add value or solve a problem for your users. I first starting using Zendesk while I was going through Y Combinator. Once we set up Zendesk, we were able to quickly respond to user feedback and use Trello to track number of feature requests. It was magic. In the early days, spend as much time with your users as possible. Make sure you're collecting both qualitative and quantitative findings: user testing, focus groups and surveys, etc.

      3. Build a network and spend time with other growth-minded people. Even if it's just a phone call or coffee every few months, take time to share knowledge and connect with other growth professionals.

      4 Share
    • BK

      Brianne Kimmel

      2 months ago #

      Tech world tour:

      Technically, I started my tech world tour a little early.
      Before "digital nomads" or "remote year" was a real thing.

      I moved to Sydney shortly after college and spent my early career flying between Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney. I remember in my interview with Orbitz, I was asked "Are you willing to travel and can you learn Chinese?" At the time I thought it was a joke, but I ended up leading customer acquisition efforts in China.

      Getting international experience at a young age inspired me to get actively involved in the global tech eco-system.

      I started teaching startup marketing courses at General Assembly in 2012.
      I love spending time with early stage companies.
      They have big ideas and not a lot of money, it forces you to get scrappy.

      Recently, I joined Nomatic Mentors as a mentor.
      So myself and my boyfriend went to Paris and Vienna to meet early stage companies.

      I'd really like to democratize the knowledge and network we have in Silicon Valley.
      On a personal level, I'm happiest when traveling and meeting with entrepreneurs.

  • AB

    Alessandro Battiston

    2 months ago #

    Hi Brianne - Looking forward to this AMA.

    What is your mindset/approach when scouting and prioritizing growth ideas?

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    2 months ago #

    Hey Brianne - great to have you on finally!
    1. What is your biggest growth challenge this year?
    How are you addressing it?
    2. Is this years biggest challenge the same as last years? If not, what was last year's challenge and how did you tackle that?

  • RH

    Roger Hunt

    2 months ago #

    Hi Brianne,

    I am wondering what you think of strategies for very early stage apps that try the "Core" strategy. You know the movie the Core with Aaron Eckhart?

    So, its push one type of adoption, use that group to push another segment, then market to perpetuate the snowball...bit of a mixed metaphor, I know :)

  • JP

    John Phamvan

    2 months ago #

    Hey Brianne,

    a. What strategies worked best to acquire users at Orbitz/Expedia? Are any of those still relevant today? How are you doing acquisition differently for Zendesk?

    b. How did you tackle retention at Orbitz and Expedia given that most people don't really travel weekly or monthly?

  • NM

    Neerav Madhav

    2 months ago #

    Hi Brianne!

    Thank you for sharing your time with us today! I have two questions for you!

    1. How do you think different marketing teams within a company should be structured for best output? What kind of KPI's should each of these own.

    2. In your experience, what's the best way to get marketing teams to work well with each other?

  • RS

    Rob Sobers

    2 months ago #

    What are some of the objective KPIs you've used to measure individual performance within a role (e.g., for bloggers, email marketers)?

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    2 months ago #

    Bonjour Brianne,

    Merci for doing this AMA.
    How was your Paris experience from a startup standpoint?

  • BK

    Brianne Kimmel

    2 months ago #

    Thanks for all of your questions! I'll come back later today and respond to everyone.

  • JS

    Jeremy Spence

    2 months ago #

    Hi Brianne

    - What does the growth team org chart look like at zendesk? Or if you can't answer that, do you have any recommendations on how to structure a growth team?

  • SJ

    Sam Johnson

    2 months ago #

    Hey Brianne,

    Maybe a little late but I'm curious if you think there's any room for marketers in this product-focused growth team?

    I work at CircleCI doing performance marketing, I've done growth at other companies and consider myself a growth marketer, but I don't have the data chops to call myself a data scientist, and can't code up any product updates. Not sure how I would ever fit in to a team like that without really solid technical skills.

    Would love to know how you fit yourself into the team?

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