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Emily Ritter is the Director of Marketing at Mode, a San Francisco-based startup building the collaborative analytics platform that powers decisions at 500+ data-informed companies. Emily joined Mode just over three years ago as its first marketer.

Prior to Mode, Emily led product communications efforts for buyer-focused initiatives at Square, and managed projects at Tesla to educate and engage customers both online and within its innovative retail experience. Before that, Emily was a product manager at Equilar, a company providing executive compensation data to HR professionals. 

Emily loves the craft and science of marketing, thoughtfully combining empathy and analytics to bring brands to life. Out of the office, you'll find her in the mountains or at the beach.

You can follow her on Twitter: @emilyarden

She will be live on June 15 starting at 930 AM for one and a half hours during which time she will answer as many questions as possible.

  • BH

    Benji Hyam

    4 months ago #

    Hey Emily,

    Really happy to have you here...

    1. Career wise - it seems that you've been able to get into all of the right companies right before they blew up (not easy). Were you just at the right place at the right time, did you leverage your network to get into companies you thought would do well, or is there some hidden secret we don't know about?

    2. How did you go about building out your marketing team after joining Mode? Who was your first hire and why? And then how did you decide who all of your next hires would be?

    Thanks in advance :)

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Hi @benjihyam - great to see you here! Thanks for the questions!

      RE: #1 - Honestly, I think it IS a mix of all three (with a ton of hard work thrown in, too). The “secret” part is what fresh-out-of-college Emily couldn't comprehend but feels blatantly obvious in hindsight. I wish I had known back then that the advice to “build your network,” and “connections matter” isn't something you really just go do, or that happens in the ways you expect.

      Yes, I landed an incredible job at Tesla because I was in the right place at the right time. But the right place/right time didn't show up because of stuff I read about in career advice articles.

      It happened because, after a few years of working in Silicon Valley, I decided to do try something I had never done before: quitting. I moved to the California foothills to whitewater kayak every day, and think hard about what I really wanted out of life and work. It was on the river that I met the person who helped me get in the door at Tesla.

      Some of the best “networking” I've ever done has happened over beers on an epic powder day on the mountain.

      Basically...do what you love and be good to people. Say “yes” to things that push you. Enthusiasm and passion for life will shine through, and people will take notice.

      8 Share
    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      RE #2... @tymagnin and @jdquey this one's for you, too!

      As a typical “first marketer” at a startup, I wore a lot of hats, and experimented with a bunch of stuff. My approach to hiring was to double-down where I saw things working. The first place was content, so we hired a content marketer. Around that time I hired an agency to help out with paid advertising as well—it didn't need to be full time at that point (I was spending a lot of my IC time on product marketing, which I love).

      Post Series A, we brought paid advertising in house by hiring someone to run demand gen—our sales team also started scaling a bit more around that time and the needs started getting more complex. We also added a product marketer to the team. As we continue to scale the business, the marketing team continue to double down by hiring in areas where we see opportunities to move faster. We've hired various contractors from time to time to work on content projects as needed.

      Pretty early on I hired a designer, and for the past six months we've also had an engineer on the marketing team. If I didn't work for an analytics company, I would have probably hired a dedicated analyst/ops person earlier on as well. I think it's important for a marketing team to make the case for dedicated design & engineering resources—this is especially true for growth-focused marketers (and being growth-focused is basically just table stakes at this point...)

      P.S. We're looking for great people to join the team! Come work with us!!! https://about.modeanalytics.com/careers/

      6 Share
    • TM

      Ty Magnin

      3 months ago #

      Benji asked my question too. Would appreciate if you go deep on #2. Perhaps you can include freelancers/agencies in addition to FTEs.

    • JQ

      Jason Quey

      4 months ago #

      Great questions, Benji, and likewise curious about these :)

  • GB

    German Baryshnikov

    4 months ago #

    Hi, Emily!
    I think that in Mode you definitelly have top notch experience in targeting B2B customers.

    1. How do you think, what is the best way to target Enterprise customers?
    2. What channels do you think has the best ROI for targeting on B2B/Enterprise users?
    3. Can you describe the best tests that you organized for B2B/Enterprise user acquisition?

    Thank you

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      #2 - That's a tough one, and is really business dependent. Some questions I would ask are:

      * How competitive is your market?
      * Are people searching for solutions to the problem you're solving (or adjacent ones)?
      * How specific can you get about the skills people have that would use your tool?
      * What's your average contract value / lifetime value?

      While there are some businesses that find one magic channel, in B2B it often takes a few channels working in concert. This is primarily driven by the fact that the purchase consideration process is longer. I'd also say that if you're not using data enrichment tools, you're missing out on a lot of opportunity to pull people down the funnel more effectively.

      3 Share
    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Thanks, German! I'm pretty lucky to work with such an awesome team.

      #1 - I think it's all about getting really clear on who you're targeting and why. Figure out exactly who your audience is and build out your ideal customer profile (ICP) — both on a company level and a person level. Armed with those pieces of information you can start to build marketing programs that find them. Keep in the back of your mind that your ICP might change over time. Be ready and nimble enough to shift as you go. In a fast-growing start up, a message, assumption, or test that worked six months ago might need to be thrown out the window.

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      #3 - Working on one I'm pretty fired up about right now. Can't share results yet. ;) It's related to the answer to Amitabh's question. Mode is on a mission to help analysts do the best work of their careers. We looked for some opportunities adjacent to our product to provide value that amplifies their team's ability to deliver game-changing work.

  • AS

    Amitabh Songara

    4 months ago #

    Hi, Emily!

    As a marketer, what are the best ways to surprise your audience/customers and make them click/download/interact (with) our content?

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Thanks for the question, @iamsongara ! If you're looking to “surprise” people into interacting with your content, I think you may want to take a second look at your approach.

      I'd go back to first principles. Figure out who your target audience is. Talk to them. Learn about what makes them tick. Think about the problems they're trying to solve that are adjacent to the ones your product does. Can knowledge sharing help them solve the problems your product doesn't? Delight them by providing value, and the interactions will come.

      Ultimately, getting someone to click on your content is asking for someone to do something for you. In the case of gated content, you have very few (maybe only one) shots to build trust with your audience. With the content you provide, you need to make sure that your reader knows that when they do something for you (ie giving you their email address), you're doing even more for them. I'd also recommend heading over to the Drift blog to read some of their thoughts about killing lead forms on your website—I'm a big believer in that school of thought. http://blog.drift.com/no-more-forms

      2 Share
  • D.

    DanTri .

    3 months ago #

    Hi Emily, We're glad to have you here

    I have a few questions:

    1) What has been the biggest obstacle in your marketing career? Why?
    2) What are the 3 biggest mistakes marketers make when they first start out?

    Thank you :)

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Hi @dantri_ ! Thanks for having me!

      RE #1: Sort of counter intuitive, but I'd probably say being trained that spending money is a bad thing. :P

      Tesla is notorious for not spending money on marketing. But they're a pretty special snowflake. If you've got your LTV & CAC sorted out, and know what you're optimizing for with your CAC targets, then investing more money can help you grow faster. Of course, the flipside of this is that a not-spending-money mentality opens up a lot creative thinking.

      3 Share
    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      #2 A few thoughts...

      T-shaped marketers are awesome teammates. I'd say that one mistake is not building deep expertise in one area first. Some junior marketers I talk with have tired a lot of different aspects of marketing. Experimentation is great. But articulating where you want to go deep is pretty inspiring to see in folks earlier in their career.

      Related to the first mistake, is saying “yes” to too many things. If you're a hustler, your one gear is to say “yep, I can take that on. Give me more to do.” Sometimes you're better off saying no to things so you can focus on a specific project, make time for testing and iteration, and really understanding a channel's mechanics. When you're stretched really thin, it's hard to go beyond the surface. So, when you're building out the top of your T, start with things directly adjacent or semi-related, you'll be able to scale your skills faster.

      Not getting data literate fast enough. “I look at data” is not a strong enough answer to questions about experimentation—you need to be able have hypotheses, and have answers to the next level of questions people will inevitably ask you about the work you're doing.

  • JQ

    Jason Quey

    4 months ago #

    What three resources would you point a marketer to who has the basics of Google Analytics down, but would like to learn more about getting more from analytics?

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Oh wow, @jdquey ... I could talk about analytics all day. :)

      Analytics is all about asking good questions. When Google Analytics is your analysis universe, you're pretty limited in the kinds of questions you can ask. To move beyond this, I recommend reading things that 1) increase your technical ability to work with data and 2) expand your world view and 3) help you ask better questions.

      Shameless plug for technical skills: community.modeanalytics.com/sql Increasing my SQL ability, has really changed how I think about data and the kinds of questions to ask. It's a critical moment when you start hitting the walls of GA. You can either decide to say “welp, it's not in GA, I guess there's no way to know.” Or, you can start to learn the basics of databases. Learn about how to get the data out of GA (and the other 5 zillion tools you use) and into a central place where SQL allows you to explore it more completely. It's a whole new world.

      World view: Read a ton about higher level metrics from a variety of different perspectives. Learn about how sales quotas are calculated, customer lifetime value, the minutiae and variations of churn calculations, etc. Marketing touches a ton of other areas of the business, and by better understanding the mechanics of your business as a whole you can start optimizing marketing efforts around the big picture rather than local maxima. I can't recommend one source specifically because I find the pattern matching across many different sources to be the most meaningful. Andrew Chen's blog is a great place to start. I try to read a few metrics-focused posts per week from various VCs (skimming the Mattermark Daily email is usually a good recap of the latest stuff).

      Better questions: Read up on “5 Whys” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys). When you see something happening in GA. Ask “Why?” and then ask it again. And again. Don't let the limitations of the data prevent you from at least thinking what those “whys” might be. Talk about these questions with analysts or engineers. There's a lot they can do to arm you with more data—you just need to come with the right questions.

      3 Share
  • DH

    Dani Hart

    3 months ago #

    Hi Emily - awesome to have you on here today... really looking forward to learning from you.

    a. Does Mode have a North Star Metric? If so, what has worked for you to rally your entire team behind it?
    b. Do you have a formal growth team over there? If yes, how is it structured and where does it belong organizationally? If not, why not?

    Looking forward to reading what you have to share.

    Cheers!
    Dani

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Hi @danihart ! Stoked to be here. Thanks for the awesome questions.

      RE #1:

      We have two North Star product metrics that work to balance each other. We spent a lot of time as a cross-functional team crafting these metrics, and used the framework outlined in this book: https://www.impactmapping.org/. One of the metrics is focused on content sharing between new users and the other retention. The idea was that if we only had one, we could end up optimizing for an engaging “single-player” experience at the expense of virality, and vice versa. We have dashboards that track these metrics, built in Mode, that push into Slack each morning. Keeping these metrics top of mind for the entire team, every day, has been a game changer. Getting metrics right into where the conversation happens has led to a lot of great ideas.

      With regards to marketing, we track every stage of the funnel, and the key marketing metric (for now) is Sales Accepted Leads and their cost. We chose a step deeper in the funnel than Marketing Qualified Leads because that metric can be pretty arbitrary. Tracking something we don't have complete control over helps us forge a super tight partnership with our sales team and keeps communication really productive. One team, one dream. :)

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      #2 - Nope, no formal growth team. Growth is something that's super cross functional, and that's how we approach it at Mode. As a result of a collaboration between marketing, product, and analytics, we recently built out a powerful set of reporting tools for running experiments. It allows us to better understand the interactions between treatments in one part of the signup flow/product and actions taken later. We're probably going to “open source” these reports pretty soon. Is that something that people would be excited to check out?

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    3 months ago #

    Bonjour Emily,

    Thanks for doing this AMA.
    What makes Mode unique?

    Merci!

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Whew, an easy one... merci, @renaissance17 ! ;)

      Mode is a collaborative analytics platform. What makes us unique is that the product is built by analysts, for analysts. Ad hoc analysis, dashboards, and data tools built Mode start with SQL. SQL is the lingua franca of data, the most powerful and flexible way to answer a business' highest-value questions. That's why we started there.

      Now, we're layering code-free data exploration tools on top of this foundation to help data experts and domain experts run faster, together. Analysts continue to produce work they way they prefer (ie SQL and Python). Up until now the results of this work was fairly static. But now, every report an analyst produces is a powerful data exploration tool in its own right. Coworkers can use drag-and-drop tools to drill down, segment, and aggregate data without writing code. Bringing these two approaches to data exploration together helps people collaborate on analysis like never before. The end result is faster, more informed decisions.

      You can check out what we're in the process of rolling out, here: https://about.modeanalytics.com/code-free-data-exploration/

      3 Share
  • JL

    Janessa Lantz

    3 months ago #

    I've always been a big admirer of how Mode does product marketing. You consistently write crisp, clear feature announcements, you've launched several releases on Product Hunt that have done quite well, and I've worked with you as a partner on launches and know that you nail it on that side of things too.

    I would love to hear any product marketing advice that you have for startups. What are the "must-have's" that you need for every product announcement? How do you keep it organized? How do you manage the hand-off from product team to marketing team?

    That's a lot of questions, but I think I can summarize with this: what's your product marketing philosophy, because you're damn good at it :)

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      @janessa_lantz ! Hi! Great to see you here. Thanks for the kind words--it's always been a blast to work with you.

      You know I LOVE product marketing. :)

      My #1 piece of advice for startups when it comes to product marketing is to figure out frameworks early. At Mode, we're incredibly lucky to work with a brilliant product team that moves insanely fast. You rarely want marketing to be holding back value from customers just to do a cool launch. That means you have to be ready when they are. To do so, I recommend starting positioning and planning in lock-step with a product development kick-off.

      I use bug language—P0, P1, P2—to define the size of launch a feature needs. Some people I know use t-shirt sizing. There's a template that defines the tactics we use for each kind of launch and helps us define messaging that ties up to higher-level stories. P0 we pull out all the stops. P2 is an in-app message, social, etc. In small startups, you have to scale yourself before you scale your team. Enabling you to take the mental energy away from “did we cover all the bases?” frees you up to find ways to build delight into launches—and spend the time you need to build internal consensus around adding delight to launch scope from time-to-time. For example, when we launched a bunch of new chart types (including pie charts) a couple of years ago, we sent all of our customers pies “a la Mode.”

      So that's all pretty tactical. The more strategic aspects is to think about story arcs (this is where things get really fun)! Ask yourself “what's our story going to be a year from now?” This means spending a lot of time with product and company leadership, and talking with customers. Your top-line messages become the framework for feature messaging (and, again, helps you move faster). If you have a general sense of where your product roadmap is headed, you can think about feature launches as chapters in a book. IE “How does this feature help us drive the story forward?” In this way, your product narrative is akin to the Hero's Journey: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero%27s_journey

  • JA

    Justin Adelson

    3 months ago #

    Hello, Emily! Thank you for taking the time to do this AMA today.

    If you were working at a startup where the majority of website and social media traffic was from mobile devices, but your sales funnel/onboarding process is more suited for desktop devices, how would you create or change your marketing strategy to acquire more users?

    Thanks!

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      hi @justin_adelson ... thanks for the cool question! This is definitely a super interesting challenge for b2b marketers right now.

      We deal with this at Mode a bit and I've chatted with other b2b startups with other similar activation hurdles better suited for desktop.

      At Mode, a critical part of our signup flow is connecting your database—it's easier with a big monitor because you're switching windows/tracking down credentials/etc. And once you get connected, writing your first magical SQL query is certainly easier with a keyboard...

      The recommendation I have is to think about how you can start to tailor your signup flow based on device types/traffic sources, as well as your pre-trial nurture emails. Experiment to find out if it's even worth it to show that signup flow step to mobile device users. Maybe a message setting expectations to complete the signup flow on a desktop, paired with an email a couple hours later will help you increase activations.

      Depending on the structure of your product onboarding and your customer-facing teams, having an account exec follow up personally might be the best way to tackle that step, especially if people are going to have security questions. Experiment!

      • JA

        Justin Adelson

        3 months ago #

        Thank you for answering my question! I've implemented the email after signup with desktop instructions for one of my past clients but was unable to view how successful it was due to timing. Good to know that I was on the right path.

  • GH

    Glen Harper

    3 months ago #

    Thank you for spending this time with us Emily - really enjoying your answers.

    What is your #1 excel hack/formula?

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Hey @gunghoglen, thanks! I don't push Excel to its limits as much as I used to now that a lot of the tedious Excel tasks associated with marketing reporting is automated in Mode. ;)

      I'd say arrays though... They're really powerful if you're in the phase of having to pull data together from a lot of different sources (ie ad platforms and other lead gen tools).

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    3 months ago #

    Hey Emily - so cool to finally have you on!

    When you joined Mode, what was it about the opportunity in the analytics space that you saw as untapped that they were going after? I'd love to get some context on that initial vision and if that continues to be your main focus or you have shifted significantly as the market has evolved.

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Thanks for having me, @anujadhiya ! This is super fun!

      Throughout my career I had been on the receiving end of a lot of work from analysts. Back at Square I had a Google doc full of SQL queries that I could copy and paste and make light edits to get what I needed without having to pester people. I always wanted more—but so does everyone in a business! Analysts have super hard jobs, and need to be able to scale their ability to get data to everyone—and at an ever increasing pace as we all use more and more products that generate more data.

      When the Mode founders approached me early on about joining, I deeply understood why Mode needed to exist in the world. I was fired up to help analysts do the best work of their careers and bring Mode to market. The vision remains the same though our audience is expanding. I am more fired up today than when I joined 3 years ago, which is saying a lot. We still have so much to do. :)

  • JP

    John Phamvan

    3 months ago #

    Hey Emily
    On the home page of Mode's site, there are CTAs for a Free Trial and Requesting a Demo - with the former being highlighted to be more prominent

    1. Can you talk more about why you don't just have a single Free Trial CTA instead given that's where it feels to me you want people to go?

    2. On a related note, what is Mode's "wow moment" for users that try it out?
    How have you optimized for this?

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Hi @johnphamvan ~

      The dual buttons is actually something we're experimenting with a bit! As we work with increasingly large companies, some people want to talk to us before getting connected/starting a trial. Their buying cycles are different than smaller startups. We cater to both kinds of customers, and want to help them get them where they need to go quickly. We'll likely do more personalization in this area over time, optimizing for the presentation of only one button or the other!

      RE #2: Sharing a report with someone else at their company! We tied one of our two “North Star” metrics to this action so the team keeps it top of mind every day (see more in the answer to Dani's question, above).

  • PR

    Pablo Retamal

    3 months ago #

    Hi Emily,

    I am looking for an answer to @benjihyam ´s #2 question and can't find it - here goes again JIC:

    "2. How did you go about building out your marketing team after joining Mode? Who was your first hire and why? And then how did you decide who all of your next hires would be?"

  • DH

    David Hoos

    3 months ago #

    What does a typical day look like for you? How much of your time is divided between strategic and tactical activities? Are you focused more on managing people these days or do you still get into the nitty gritty of marketing on a regular basis?

    • ER

      Emily Ritter

      3 months ago #

      Definitely in the scaling phase — so a typical day is pretty darn packed. My job right now is to break down blockers for my team. That means a lot of interviewing to find us awesome new teammates, and contractors to offload where possible. It means coaching the incredible folks I'm lucky to have on the marketing team here—and providing frameworks that help us all move faster, together. And it means tackling IC work, too. If you're asking a team to move super fast, you HAVE to be right there in the trenches. Also, I try to make sure we're having fun, and am making time for people to grow their skills/careers.

      Also, I try to put my phone down. Go on hikes where there's no service, have conversations with people outside of tech. I find making space to let my brain un-busy itself is one of the best (yet semi-counterintuitive) ways to move faster and work through hard problems. In a phase like this, often the reaction is to just keep pushing, but slowing down at the right times can be the best thing for yourself and your team.

  • TN

    Tri Nguyen

    3 months ago #

    What's the signal that a company needs to move away from 3rd party analytics tools and build their own?
    How do you (or do you) at Mode address this?

    In any past role did you ever find yourself going down this path?
    If yes, what were the biggest challenges and mistakes you've come across with getting it right the first time?

  • AK

    Angelo Kwek

    3 months ago #

    Hey Emily,

    What would you suggest for a 19 year old who's interested in getting their first growth role?

    Cheers,

    Angelo

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