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How Doist's unconventional marketing playbook has fueled its growth Ft. Brenna Loury (Inbound Success, Ep. 193)

Productivity app maker Doist has 25 million customers and is experiencing 100% year over year organic growth. And it's achieved this while breaking many of the conventional rules of marketing.

How Doist's unconventional marketing playbook has fueled its growth Ft. Brenna Loury (Inbound Success, Ep. 193) Blog Feature

May 8th, 2021 min read

How has productivity app Doist acquired 25 million customers without tracking KPIs or using paid ads?

Brenna Loury headshotThis week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Doist Head of Marketing Brenna Loury shares the company's unusual growth story. An all remote company from its start, Doist has experienced steady growth as a result of a clear vision and mission, a product-led approach, and deep empathy for the customer.

Today, the company is experiencing 100% year-over-year organic growth, has more than 50,000 email subscribers, and more than 25 million customers. Incredibly, it wasn't until the past year that they began measuring and tracking KPIs, looking at Google Analytics, or using paid ads.

In this episode, Brenna breaks down the three things that are the secrets to Doist's growth.

Check out the full episode, or read the transcript below, to hear what Brenna has to say.

Resources from this episode:

 

Brenna Loury and Kathleen Booth
Brenna and Kathleen recording this episode

Transcript

Kathleen (00:01): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I'm your host, Kathleen Booth. And this week, my guest is Brenna Loury, who is the head of marketing at Doist. Welcome to the podcast Brenna.

Brenna (00:24): Thank you so much for having me, Kathleen. I'm so excited. Honestly, I have been listening to your podcast all week in preparation and I can't wait to be here. It's such an honor. Thank you.

Kathleen (00:35): I'm really excited to talk to you because I am a big fan in general of not always playing by the rules. And so quick preview. What we're going to talk about today is how you can not play by all the rules of marketing and still get great results. But before we do that Brenna, can you tell my audience a little bit about yourself and about Doist?

Brenna (01:00): Sure, definitely. So I have been with Doist since pretty much the very beginning of the company. My background. I studied communication and business in college and for one reason or another ended up graduating and then going to live in Chile for a while. And I was working for the Chilean ministry of economy and a program called startup Chile as the head of communications and PR. And that's actually where I ended up meeting Amir who is the founder of Doist. He was participating in the program at the time.

And then I left the ministry of economy to go start my own sort of boutique PR firm for tech startups in the Latin American scene. And Amir was one of my first clients with ToDoist. It was about 2012. And he was getting ready to launch the first versions of Todoist for iOS and Android. And I was helping on the PR side of things. So that's how I got involved with Doist and have worn a lot of different hats ever since. And yeah, I just, started taking on more and more responsibilities and eventually became a full-time employee of Doist in 2014 and have been growing the marketing team ever since.

Kathleen (02:32): And tell me more about what Doist is.

Brenna (02:34): Yeah. So Doist well, we're, we're a fully remote productivity software company. We've been fully remote since day one. Today we're about a hundred people in, I think, I think over 35 countries at this point. And so we create tools that help people live more productive and healthier lives.

And so our main as I mentioned before is called Todoist. It's a personal productivity app that has been on the market since about 2007. We have about 25 million users of Todoist these days. And in 2017 we launched Twist, which is a team communication app that we created out of our need to communicate remotely.

So yeah, those are our two products then we've been remote since the very beginning. So it's been kind of an interesting ride in the last year with COVID to see, you know, the whole world switching to remote and yeah, it's, it's been very interesting so far.

Kathleen (03:40): Yeah. You guys were really ahead of the curve with your remote team and so I think it would be, I feel like we could do a whole nother podcast just on like what companies that are transitioning to remote should know.

But one fun fact for anyone listening, because obviously, they cannot see you, but Brenna is literally going on maternity leave. Like what tomorrow?

Brenna (04:10): So today is Wednesday and my last day is Friday and my due date is in two weeks from yesterday.

Kathleen (04:18): So you are just on the cusp. Will this be your first?

Brenna (04:21): My second. Yeah. So I'm trying to combat pregnancy brain as much as I can. So I'm hoping I'm coherent enough for everybody today.

Kathleen (04:31): Oh, I think you're going to do just fine. And that's exciting. So congratulations. I remember the last few weeks they tend to go a lot slower than you want them to

Brenna (04:42): Yeah. Counting down the minutes basically.

Kathleen (04:44): Yeah. Yeah. Well, one, as I said, when we started out, the reason I was so excited to chat with you is that you guys have an unusual story. You've grown considerably, as you mentioned, you have a huge user base, you've introduced additional products. But you really have not followed the traditional marketing playbook. So I guess let's just start out, by having you share, like what, what have you done for marketing and what do you credit to your success?

Brenna (05:15): Yeah. I personally really love talking about our story with marketing because it has a lot of different aspects that I think today would kind of be impossible. So it's hard honestly, to make sort of a playbook out of it, but it is really fun to look back and see what worked for us back in the day because like I mentioned so to Doist was created in 2007 by Amir.

He posted the app while he was in college. And then a few years later, I think it was in 2011, he kind of started noticing that the app was taking off. People were starting to pay for it. So to be honest, we have been a profitable company from day one which is why we've never raised any VC funds. So that's another part of being against the status quo in our history.

Brenna (06:16): But in terms of marketing, it has been a fascinating ride because we started out a super small team and we are still a small team like today we're a hundred people and we manage two different software apps and three different brands.

So we don't have like this crazy bandwidth that a lot of other larger companies have at their disposal. So when I started my expertise was in PR and for those of those people listening, like the PR landscape has changed dramatically. Like very, very much since I was working in this in 2012.

So PR was a huge portion of our initial success, I think because we really invested a lot of resources in that. And by resources, I mean, like me writing out press releases, which today, like you can't even imagine, you know, writing a press release.

Haven't done that in years, but so we started out with PR and a lot of journalists really engaged with Todoist and began writing about it organically, which I think contributed to a lot of our initial momentum. And from there,

Kathleen (07:39): Sorry to interrupt you, but a question. In those early years, when you were working on the PR, you know, I'm sure a lot of my listeners do PR. My take on it is that it's worth doing a press release if you genuinely have something newsworthy, like, you know, there are definitely things that happen that are easy to get coverage for because they're, they're big news.

You know, that could be well and big news is all relative, but like that could be raising an S a substantive round of venture capital. Like what you said you did not do. It could be you know, integrating with another platform that's more well known.

There, there are a lot of different things could be getting a huge client. What was it that you were doing your press releases on that, that enabled you to garner coverage?

Brenna (08:29): Yeah, so I'm, I'm having a flashback right now of like the first few press releases that we wrote. And I think that the first big one was when we launched our first mobile apps and this was in November of 2012.

So if you kind of like take a walk back, you know, at that time there weren't like a ton, the app ecosystem just is not what it is today. And so there were far fewer companies that had mobile apps especially for like the personal productivity space.

So we were one of the first ones who actually created apps for both of these two platforms at the same time. And yeah, I'm trying to think back to the, to the other ones that we would, that we would write. It was always product-based. We've always been a very like product-led company. And a lot of, most of our marketing is, is led by the advances that we make in the product.

Kathleen (09:37): Fair to say that the coverage was driven by news around innovation?

Brenna (09:41): Yeah, definitely. I mean, we never had any press release that yeah, like you said before, we never raised any funds or we never had any like fancy people to our board. We don't have a board.

So every press release we did was based around product news. But today, you know, I wouldn't even like almost dream of writing a press release for one of our product updates. Even when we do a massive product update, we don't do press releases anymore.

But that's partly because we have close relationships with journalists and things are just very different these days, to be honest, like Product Hunt didn't exist back in the day.

Kathleen (10:23): I just did a Product Hunt launch a week ago actually. And it's, it's true. It's interesting. Like we, we wound up number one product of the day and I did get lots of reporters reaching out to me. So it's funny how there are these other channels.

Brenna (10:38): Yeah, yeah, definitely. So I mean, that worked really well for us and PR has, you know, it was a huge piece of the pie chart of our marketing, but today it's, it's considerably smaller to be honest.

Kathleen (10:56): So I stopped you, you were talking about how back in the day you were doing press releases, you were getting press coverage and then you were going to kind of go onto something else. And so I want to, I want to go back to that.

Brenna (11:06): Yeah. So I think a lot of, you know, one sort of fun anecdote about marketing and Doist is, you know, this is the year 2021, and it was only in 2020 that we began like barely dipping our feet in paid advertising.

So, you know, from when I started working on marketing at Doist in 2012, until 2020, we never spent a cent on paid advertising. All of the other marketing campaigns were really focused on like creating a community around our existing users like announcing these big product updates to tech blogs and things like that.

And for us, that was, it worked really well. Like we have grown organically and never invested anything into paid ads. And I'm, I'm looking forward to talking more about like, you know, how we how our mindset around empathy for the user and, you know, putting ourselves in their shoes has helped us grow in this like very unconventional way.

Kathleen (12:18): Let's dig into that because you and I talked about that a little bit when we first met, and I think this is something that I, that I find really interesting because there, a lot of people talk about authenticity and empathy and things like that, but, but there's no handbook for it and you kind of can't fake it, you know?

So, so let's break down. What do you mean when you say empathy for the user and, and describe to me how that plays out in your marketing?

Brenna (12:44): Definitely. So it's, it's, it's really interesting because we have these two different brands, right? So we have these two pretty separate apps. So Todoist and Twist.

For Todoist in particular, what we've learned along the way is that people tend to download like this, you know, task management productivity app in kind of times of like personal crisis, to be honest, you know, if, if or not necessarily crisis, but like, you know, something big is happening in somebody's life.

You know, they're getting married or starting a new job, or you know starting a new semester at school and they really need a way to get themselves organized. So there's this kind of driver that leads people to sign up for the app, and really putting yourself in their shoes and understanding what they're going through at that moment has been, has been key for us.

Brenna (13:38): And it's similar with our other app called Twist because it's also this sort of like light bulb moment that people have for those who are listening that don't know, Twist is a team communication app.

That's based like very heavily around asynchronous communication. It's very much like an anti-Slack, anti-Microsoft teams tool that allows people to disconnect and spend, you know, a couple of hours working on what they need to work on without getting distracted.

And so, you know, when people start searching for this app, it's clear that like something in their workflow or in their teamwork is not working and trying to meet those people at that sort of moment of that light bulb moment or that moment of crisis and providing them the education and the resources that they need to kind of come to this conclusion a little bit sooner and get onboarded into our products. I think has been yeah, pretty beneficial for us.

Kathleen (14:41): So how does that play out in your marketing? Like, I would love it if you could share some examples of say, you mentioned the example, for example, of somebody who's going to college and they need to get or getting married and they need to get organized. How do you, how do you weave that into your marketing strategy?

Brenna (14:58): Yeah, so we have a big portion of our marketing is content marketing. We have a blog that I am very proud of. My team is very exceptional.

So we create a lot of content that is very in depth and like very comprehensive in terms of like creating a guide for students, for example, or, you know, for Todoist in particular, we have like a bank of templates, you know, if somebody is starting a new semester in school, like how can you organize your tasks to make the most out of your education, for example.

So we do work pretty heavily with like we're really into SEO, sorry, I'm having like a brain of disfunction there. Like SEO is very important for us. We have increased the organic traffic to our blog, like a hundred percent compared to like 2020 compared to 2019.

So that's great. Just really giving people the resources that they need to like have this light bulb moment and then take action on it as best as they can.

Kathleen (16:17): So to that point, and this is sort of interesting, like we have a lot of content marketers that listen and they get basic SEO, but but the debate I hear a lot is around like how top of funnel do you go?

And so I'm curious, we'll use the example of the person who's getting married. Are you publishing content around how to get organized for getting married or is it other topics around getting married? Like what does that strategy look like?

Brenna (16:47): Yeah. So if we're going to use that example it would be something like the keyword would be, you know, wedding checklist or wedding checklist template, something like that.

And then we would create content around, like, you know, this to-do is template that you can import into your own to do is and probably, you know, interview some productivity specialists that may be active in the, you know, wedding planning space, who knows.

But we, we are pretty particular around like the breakdown of our content attacking like the different stages of the funnel, because we do have a lot of active users of our apps that, you know, want to know what's going on and what is the latest news product updates and to-do list.

And then also kind of like killing two birds with one stone, I guess, in terms of finding people who are exploring these topics and, and might need a tool to, to them.

Kathleen (17:50): So when you say you're particular about how you break down, I guess I would characterize it as like the customer journey or the steps in the funnel. How, what do you mean by that?

Brenna (18:01): Yeah, so we have different sort of categories of content on our blogs. So for example, a post that we published recently was around how to plan your day. So the keyword there is, you know, I think just planning your day basically. So that's anybody who is looking for some guidance on like how to deal with the work that they have to manage.

So that will be the top of funnel, obviously like anybody who's Googling, you know, how, how do I plan my day? And then in the middle, we'll have content that is, you know, more related to our products, maybe some news about like new integration partners or things like that. And then at the bottom of the funnel, we do regular product updates as with these like what's new campaigns.

So we'll gather, you know, two or three months of product updates and package them into a campaign called, like what's new in Todoist, or what's new in Twist, where all of our existing users can go in and read about what we've been up to and what's new in our apps.

Kathleen (19:08): So is that all on the one blog or do you have separate blogs for your like educational content versus your product content?

Brenna (19:15): Yeah. This is a fun question we really grappled with for a while, at the very beginning, we had separate blogs and ultimately we ended up bringing those under one umbrella under our Doist brand. So it's just you know, the newest blog and that encompasses all of our, you know, everything basically.

But we do have separate sites. For example, we have a compilation of like productivity guides and a productivity quiz for Todoist users, and that lives on its own site. And we also have a set of guides for remote working and that lives on the Twist domain, but everything else, yeah, it's under the Doist umbrella.

And that was honestly like a really, really hard decision to make back in the day. Because the audiences are, you know, while we create productivity software, like the audiences, not aren't necessarily like seeking the same content at the same time.

And then we have this other audience on top of that, that is looking for content related to like thought leadership around remote work. So it's, it's kind of a lot of puzzle pieces to fit together and doing that well is yeah, it's, it takes a lot of thought actually.

Kathleen (20:34): So I really want to pick your brain on this selfishly, because I'm in the same boat, I worked for a company that has two products that loosely fall under the umbrella of digital engagement security, but they are very different products for very different audiences. And so, and I'm sure there are people listening that have this situation too. I'm I'm curious, I guess first, why did you decide to put it all together?

Brenna (20:56): Yeah. it's, it was a tough decision. Like we deliberated about it for a long time. And even to this day, I think there are some times where we're like, Oh, should we have done that?

You know, would these things live better in their own domains? But at the end of the day, like we use our dual brand umbrella to kind of guide everything that we do. So that means like do us as a company, we are really like, our mission is to help people live more productive, calm, fulfilling lives.

And part of that is, you know, the way you work part of that is the way that you manage your day, you manage your time. And so these things kind of like loosely fallen together.

And our reasoning was that like, you know, if somebody is interested in being more productive in their day and they're a Todoist user, like what's to stop them from being interested in content that will help them be more productive in terms of teamwork as well.

So it was really driven by our company's mission and our vision for the future that we ourselves want to work in. So I think your brand, like the parent brand really dictates, like if those should, should live together or separately,

Kathleen (22:18): That makes sense. And how do you functionally manage creating blog content and also I'm assuming you have some email marketing thrown in there, like how do you manage all that in a way that you don't leave, like part of your audience feeling alienated or, or how do you prevent unsubscribes too?

Because that's always a worry if you're creating content for lots of different audiences at different times in their lives, it's very hard to solve for everyone all at the same time.

Brenna (22:49): Yeah, that is very, very true. We have a very talented content team. I have to give all the credit to them to be honest. They're just very thoughtful about this and methodical about how we package our content together to make it as appealing as possible. And in terms of email marketing with our blog like not taking into account the email marketing that we have for our different products, but just for our blog.

For example, we only send one newsletter a week, so we're not sending people a newsletter every time we publish a new blog post, because we figured if we did that, then that would be kind of spammy. Like, you know, if I'm a Todoist user and I'm receiving like an email about a new Twist feature, like what, I don't know, it just, it doesn't compute.

Brenna (23:48): So that's why we decided to package all of those into just one single weekly newsletter. And the way that our team does that is like finding a common theme and then kind of like cherry-picking the different content from our products, thought leadership and packaging that together in a way that is coherent and doesn't necessarily feel like, okay, look, here's this section about Todoist.

Here's a section about Twist. Here's a section about remote work. It takes like a lot more thought than just, you know, going post by post. And I think that has worked well for us, our newsletter blog newsletter list just crossed, I think the 50,000 subscriber milestones. So that was exciting for us. And yeah, I think it's working and you send it out every week, every week. Yeah. And, and that's new. We had just sent it out every two weeks, but you know, our content team is kind of on a roll these days.

Brenna (24:55): And so we figured it we could, we could bump the cadence and I guess that is sort of another component of our unconventional marketing. Like we are really entrenched in the mentality of like, not spamming our users.

Like we don't send people push notifications. We only were like very, very mindful about the communications that we send out to our users and you know, try not to bother them during their day because we know that they're busy and I have a lot of stuff going on and they don't need to be reminded that, you know, Todoist or Twist exists all the time.

So that has something that has just been ingrained into all of our brains on the marketing team. And I think it's, it's different because a lot of other companies don't operate, operate that way. And a lot of the marketing playbooks, like, I don't think take that into account.

Kathleen (25:55): Yeah, yeah, yeah. You definitely have to be careful. So you're, it sounds like you're investing a lot of time and effort into content. You mentioned that, that that's a big focus for you. How are you getting your content out in front of your audience beyond, you know, organic search?

Brenna (26:13): That's a great question. And honestly, I think that's something that we could do better. It's the content that we have on our blog is really top-notch.

And I think, you know, the increase in organic traffic speaks for itself, and that has been really gratifying to see, but at the same time like we also have never experienced with like, or never experimented with running ads based on our content or doing performance marketing with our content.

At this point it's pretty much just our, like the email newsletter that I had mentioned are on our social media channels. And then also we do kind of pepper in our, our content into the, like the product email life cycle as well. So we try and find useful places where our content would fit like in the user life cycle and include it there, but it's a challenge for us. Like our team is very small.

We only have two people who work on content full-time and they're writers and editors and, you know, coordinators at the content calendar doing a little bit of everything there, right. The newsletter. And it's, it's honestly hard to find the bandwidth to like, explore all these other different channels. But that is definitely on our radar for this year.

Kathleen (27:39): And, and what percentage of your marketing effort goes towards acquiring new customers versus marketing to the customers you already have?

Brenna (27:50): Yeah, that's, that's a great question. Honestly, we focus most of our marketing on our existing users because Todoist, for example, has grown essentially organically since day one.

Twist is a little bit of a different story that has been more of an uphill battle. But because we haven't had to kind of focus on filling the funnel for new users. We've tried really hard to like aim most of our marketing efforts at people who are already using our product.

Kathleen (28:29): Do you have any referral campaigns? Like where, where do most of your new customers come in from? Are they just finding you in the app store?

Brenna (28:37): Especially before people find us in the app store, we have like many thousands of downloads a day, so it's, we're almost like we don't want to fill the funnel anymore.

We have this like very strange problem of like, we have a lot of downloads and new users and trying to figure out how to best onboard them and everything is a challenge for us, for sure. So yeah, a lot of our, our users come just from the web, from the Apple app store, Google play, and then for Twist it's a lot more word of mouth and people find us a lot more frequently through our content marketing because it's, yeah, it's a very different user journey that people have to go through.

So they're both very different, like you know, marketing to us is, it's somewhat of a challenge because the journeys for the products are so different. And they require like very, very different tactics. And I think it's interesting.

Kathleen (29:42): That you're in the app stores because I mean, I, I have not done any marketing for an app before. And my understanding is that it is very much its own beast. I would imagine that getting reviews is a big piece of that. And so can you talk a little bit about any efforts you've put into increasing your visibility in the app store?

Brenna (30:00): Yeah, definitely. So we have experimented with that more frequently in the last few years before we would just kind of like, you know, throw our screenshots up and have our app description and not do too much about it. Like we didn't have any prompts in our apps, like asking users to write reviews.

But we do now. And that has been very useful for us to find like this very specific moment in the user journey to ask people to give that feedback. Definitely a trial and error process. But yeah, having the reviews is, is key.

And then we also do spend a lot of time on the screenshots and graphics themselves making those look beautiful and it's a science in itself of like, you know, how many characters and, you know, what should, what should be on the, on the screenshot and how much does the app to show.

And it's kind of a science and we have started experimenting with Apple search ads. So that's new for us this year as well. And it's going pretty well, but yeah, the app stores are our huge source of new users for us.

Kathleen (31:23): Now, so, so recap for me your results, because I feel like that's what makes the story so interesting. You talked about a hundred percent year over year traffic growth, I think it was from your content.

Are there other results in the form of like user acquisition or any other growth metrics that would be good to add to that?

Brenna (31:44): Yeah. I mean to date, I, yeah, we have had like over 25 million people sign up for Todoist. So that has been exciting. Like one really cool marketing campaign that always sticks with me that we did was in 2016, I believe.

And that's when our users crossed the 1 billion completed tasks threshold. So that was a really exciting moment. And we created a really special marketing campaign around that, like asking our users, what is the most important thing that Todoist has helped you achieve in your life?

And the answers we got were just like, so mind-blowing and emotional and really touching to be honest. And, and that it has all been done like organically, to be honest. So, and we're also very much an anomaly in that we don't track our data or ROI of marketing really at all.

Brenna (32:52): We've never really had to, until we started investing money in ads this year. So we've never really been a data-driven company.

Like a lot of the work that we've done has been based on our gut feeling and you know, how we want our users to interact with our apps and like our hopes and dreams that we have for them in terms of like living a more productive, fulfilling life.

So I guess that is, another weird aspect of working at Doist is like, we, we just, last year, I think started like looking at Google analytics and things like that. So I don't know, like not a lot. I worry that people can't take much out of this playbook because it is so unconventional and different from a regular startup.

Kathleen (33:47): But there are some really important lessons here. And as I listened to you talk, I think there are like three that really stand out to me. And this is a very strong illustration of how you can, you know, follow the classic marketing playbook and still not see results, or you can not follow the classic marketing playbook as you did and see great results.

And so the three things that stand out to me are number one, a very clear why, like you said earlier on that you have this really clear vision of the world that you want to live and work in, and that you, and you want to share that with your users and you want to attract the people that, that share that feeling.

And so I feel like defining that sort of vision, mission, and values, and being really clear about it and, and putting some emotion behind it is something that every marketer really, really needs to start with, because that makes everything else that much easier.

Brenna (34:46): Definitely. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you totally hit the nail on the head, Kathleen like everything that we do at Doist, like any marketing initiatives that we do, we have this like a campaign brief and at the top of the campaign brief, it's always like a section that starts out with why, why is this great for the user? Why is this going to improve their life?

And that goes from like even the biggest marketing projects we have to like the smallest sort of like release announcements that we do. So that is huge for us. And I think it's a huge like kudos to our founder, Amir. He has been very clear about that since day one.

And so again, like I had mentioned this phrase before, but like, this is just embedded in our DNA. Everything we do starts with why and everything we do is formulated under this umbrella of like, what is the future that we want to live and work in and how can we like fast track this future for more people as well?

Kathleen (35:51): I love that. And that comes through very clearly when we hear you talk. I would say the second thing that jumps out at me is you talked about being a product-led company, and I've always said, and I strongly believe that the best marketing in the world cannot make up for a poor product. Right.

And so having a focus on the product first and letting the product honestly do the work for you, having a great product, focusing on continuing to improve it, continuing to add functionality that solves for the needs of your users. Like that's big, and that's not just a marketing thing, that's a company thing. And, and I would say the vision mission values as a company thing too.

Brenna (36:27): Definitely. Yeah. And in terms of the product, I think there are a few other takeaways that I could mention that might be useful for people. Like one other sort of unconventional thing that we have done is like, we always translated all of our apps into, I think, like almost 20 different languages.

So all of our apps, all of our help center content, all of our lifecycle marketing. Part of our company's DNA is being like a, a global company. Like I said, we've been remote from day one. Our, our team is spread out all across the world. And so we are really passionate about like providing products for users in the language that they speak. So that has been one really important driver of growth, I think for us.

And then just in terms of like always trying to like innovate and not rest on your laurels, like, you know, a lot of our competitors in the productivity space have been acquired and or, you know, kind of fallen off the wayside.

Like everybody knows that like the, you know, the to-do list app space is very extensive. But just continuing to kind of like keep our heads down, focus on like what we want to see out of the app and not looking at competitors has, has worked out really well for us.

Kathleen (37:54): That the third thing that to me jumped out of this conversation was this sort of like obsessive focus on the customer and the journey that they're on and you referred to it as empathy for the customer.

And, and to me, that, and how that plays out in terms of solving for the needs of the customer through content. Like those two seem very married together, having deep empathy for the customer and then creating content that solves for them.

I feel like when you add these three things together, the clear vision and why, the product-led approach, and then the deep empathy for the customer, how that translates into a content-driven approach. Like you have basically thrown out all the rest of the marketing rulebooks, but you did those three things really well and it allowed you to not do the others.

Kathleen (38:47): Like, honestly, that's where your success sounds like it came from. And I love that because the three, those three things are things that transcend trends. It's, they transcend technology and it transcends tactics.

So like a lot of marketers get caught up in what's the latest, you know, Google algorithm or what's happening with Facebook ads and what's, what's, you know, clubhouses new, should I be on that? And all of those things are like channel changes and tactics and technology changes. But if you stay true to the three core things we talked about, which are timeless and marketing, then none of the rest of it really matters, it seems to me.

Brenna (39:28): Yeah. I mean, for sure, like our brand you know, since I started at Doist, like, we have been kind of like maniacally protective of our brand. And in fact, I was listening to your podcast earlier today with Nandini Jammi about like you know, not letting your company's ads run on these like not great websites.

And that for us has been like a really great North star ever since beginning. And that allows us, like knowing what we want out of our brand. And like knowing that the products that we create, you know, we want people to be more productive.

So for us, that's like, okay, well, productivity probably doesn't mean that like, people are going to be on Facebook all day. So what's the point of like running ads, because that's essentially against like everything that we're going for. So for us, that has been kind of essential in our process of elimination in terms of marketing tactics.

Kathleen (40:34): I love that. I love this whole story. You know, we're going to run out of time, so we've got to change gears now. And I have two questions for you that I ask all of my guests, which you've probably heard since you've been listening.

First one being, of course, we talk a lot about inbound marketing on the podcast. So is there a particular company or individual that you think is doing really amazing inbound marketing work?

Brenna (40:57): Yeah, so besides my team, because I am so proud of them, everything that they do I guess my best example, these days would be Peloton. I know it's like such a hot topic.

These, you know, with the COVID and, you know, people ordering bikes and stuff, it's like very trendy these days, but coming on the heels of what you just mentioned, like, I don't notice that many brands that do like this Y based marketing as well as Peloton, like as a user. I really appreciate the communication that they have with us. And I feel like it's very authentic.

Like there, I find one of the few brands that walk the walk and talk the talk. Like if they say that they are investing in diversity, like you can really tell that they're investing in diversity. And they have just done like this insane job of like building a community around the product.

And getting people like super hyped up into like all of the different offerings that they have. I appreciate us as a user. They like do beta testing and invitations that make you feel like you're part of the product roadmap. But more importantly, I feel like it's a brand that I just, I really appreciate their authenticity and their dedication to like putting their money where their mouth is.

Kathleen (42:31): Well, I too am a Peloton user. And so you can ride with me at kathslat, if anybody wants to join. I'm usually on it every morning from what is it, like 5:45 to 6:30 AM? Otherwise, it doesn't happen, but no, I totally agree with you.

And in fact, I posted something on LinkedIn recently about how they're like a marketing masterclass, because it's a community, it's gamification, it's the personal brands of their instructors that they've, they've led with.

The instructor brands which I think is really smart because people like to glom onto people. There's so much to the Peloton model that, I totally agree with you.

Brenna (43:13): Yeah. It's kind of like a never-ending story I would love to read. If somebody would be interested in writing like a book on Peloton marketing, I would totally buy that.

Kathleen (43:22): Yes. As would I. All right. Another question, marketing changes really quickly. How do you keep up to date and stay educated?

Brenna (43:32): Yeah, I actually like every Wednesday, I block off a time in my calendar for learning. So this is very important for me. It's very important. Like part of our team ethos at Doist is to maintain like your professional acumen.

So there are a few sites that I regularly peruse on my Wednesdays on my learning Wednesdays. One is the blog that Open View Partners writes. So they're, they're kind of experts in product led growth. So they tend to have pretty good content about that.

Reforge, which they focus on growth marketing, Brian Balfour. He's really good. Yeah. Marketing examples. Awesome. Just like really bite-sized marketing content that's super actionable.

First Round Review, which is another VC fund that has a really fantastic blog. And then anything by your previous guests, April Dunford, who I'm like, I think I've read her book like two or three times. So I'm a big fan of hers, but honestly, when I was thinking of this question, I do feel like I struggled to find like really well-done content about marketing that is big picture and like, not necessarily focused on like the minutia of marketing.

Like I would really love to read more content. That's like bigger picture branding, positioning, product marketing. And I, I find that it's challenging to find that these days, to be honest.

Kathleen (45:18): Yeah, there, and there is a sea of marketing content. There's so much of it. And so we didn't have to find the gems is tough, which is why I'm asking this question and, you know, hearing what other people have, have zeroed in on in terms of the needle in the haystack.

Brenna (45:34): Yeah, it's, it's, it's a challenge. Like there's a lot to sift through. So if anybody wants to share me their gems, you can find me on Twitter at BrennaKL. And I would definitely like to read some new content these days.

Kathleen (45:48): You know, it's funny, I should put together an article with all of the answers to this question that I've gotten from different people and share it out because it is a huge challenge.

So thank you for sharing your sources. You just mentioned one way people can find you that is on Twitter. Any other particular ways people should reach out and connect with you online, or how can they learn more about Doist?

Brenna (46:11): Yeah. So Twitter is the best place for me. For the time being I will be completely disconnecting from work as of this Friday, but otherwise you can learn about Doist, Todoist, and Twist at Doist.com. And yeah. Thank you again, Kathleen, for having me on it was a real pleasure.

Kathleen (46:35): This was a lot of fun. Thank you for sharing your story. And, and if you're listening and you learned something new or enjoyed this episode, of course, I would love it if you would head to Apple podcasts or the platform of your choice and leave the podcast a review. And if you know somebody who's doing amazing inbound marketing work, please tweet me at @workmommywork, because I would love to make them my next guest. That's it for this week. Thank you so much, Brenna.

Brenna (47:00): Thank you for having me.

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