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What can Tony Robbins teach you about product led growth?

With Patrick Ward of Rootstrap

Link to full episode

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: Hey, everyone! This is Jason from up market.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: so excited to speak, with Patrick, for today. He's a vp of marketing at Bootstrap, a custom development consultancy that scales products, processes, and people as the founder of NATO. Global An expert led platform that helps companies hire, grow, and do business globally. So excited to have you, Patrick? Thanks for joining us.

Patrick Ward: Thanks for having me, Jason.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: So can you tell me a little bit about your business and your company.

Yeah. So Rootstrap is a custom software development consultancy. But I always say that means nothing to know one because there are thousands of app developers out there in the world. So the thing I always tell people is we are the tech team behind masterclass. So if you learned to Gordon Ramsey recipe during the pandemic that was using our technology.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: that's amazing. Tell me a little bit about the type of technology and companies that you work with. Typically.

Patrick Ward: Yeah. So the typical company that we work with it's it's usually one of 2 people, either. It's a founder who's looking to bring an entirely new product to market. They're trying to grow it from essentially an idea and bring that to life. That's a typical non technical founder who needs a technical partner like ourselves to come in and and understand all the intricacies of what it takes to bring a technical feasibility to their idea.

Patrick Ward: Obviously, technology is such rapid pace in terms of the developments that come into this industry. The types of programming languages and frameworks that are out there, and so no individual tech team can know everything. And this is where a technical buyer comes to a company like ours in Rootstrap and understands. Hey? Maybe you guys have some very specific technical skills that my in-house team doesn't have maybe that could be a useful augmentation to what i'm already

building. So those are the 2 main ways that people interact with us in terms of the the spectrum of companies. It it really goes all over the place. You know You've got all the way down to the solo founder who is raised, you know, a series, a or a series B, and it can go all the way up to really large companies, people like Google and even masterclass, which I mentioned before, you know, right now at a 2 billion dollars valuation. So we really cover the spectrum.

Patrick Ward: What I say is the unique identifier, as we make sure that we are providing that technical thought, leadership and expertise to companies, because, as you can imagine, that is such a premium in today's market, and it's so necessary for for all companies, whether they're in the tech industry or not.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: That's interesting. And I think that what's unique about you is that you're not just thinking about the technical aspects of it. You're thinking about actually taking a product to market

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: and getting users onboarded, and making sure that experience is really thoughtful

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: in order for the company to be successful. So tell us a little bit about MastercCass. You know. MasterClass is an incredibly successful business. They've been able to take a technology product, take it to market onboard people, and those people are gaining value so quickly.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: How have you helped to think about how MasterClass goes to market, and what are some of the things that they've done really well, that's helped to be so successful.

Patrick Ward: Yeah. So MasterClass is a really interesting example, because everyone knows them for the interface, most people's first interaction with MasterClass is usually through an AD right. It's the typical modern score, says the AD. Or it's Chris boss, or it's Natalie Portman. It's these well known people that

Patrick Ward: obviously are very influential figures in their relative industry. So that's the first piece the marketing. Then you see the platform. The platform is a premium experience. It's obviously a more elevated level of streaming service. No disrespect to the other streaming services, but obviously MasterClasses cultivated that image. But the really interesting thing is while that is how you and I, Jason, as consumers interact with the MasterClass platform that, funnily enough, isn't the true key to their success, because when we started working with them they only had a handful of beta users, you know. They started rolling it out in small incremental markets, and what they quickly realized was technical limitations. Were going to be the key consideration for them to scale. So what do I mean by that you might not realize it as a consumer. But any particular platform consumes vast amounts of data and use vast amounts of processing power.

Patrick Ward: And this fluctuates, you know, in a world where cloud is the dominant, you know, back end, if we will, of technology, we need to think about what is the user experience. When a 1,000 people are using the platform, 10,000 people. 100,000, even up to a 1 million people, and you as a consumer, Don't, care how many other people are using the platform at the same time as you. You just care. That there is excessive buffering, am I able to use the platform on my mobile device, stop watching, turn on my TV and start from the exact same spot. These sort of little elements of the user experience are backed, not by front end, not by design, not by market, as even, but by a true technical foundation, a scalable technical foundation, and that, I think, is one of the most interesting things that often doesn't get rewarded. But when you really think about it, sometimes it's the most boring, mundane parts of it, just making sure that that technical implementation is done correctly, that no matter what how a user, chooses to interact with your platform, they're going to get the same experience.

Patrick Ward: and we know this because users expect a lot these days, like they're not going to forgive you if I've watched 30 min of an episode. And suddenly I view it on another device, and it goes back to the start. That's that's a real pain for a lot of users. They don't expect that. But you have to have the right technical implementation and the right technical team in place in order to achieve that.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: Oh, so I mean what you're really getting to is reducing any type of technical frustration that these users are going to have as they engage with the product. And that's what you found to be really successful with MasterClass. Is that what you're saying?

Patrick Ward: Very much so because the technical frustration, particularly for a product like MasterClass right? It's not a core, you know. Need this isn't our basic necessities this isn't, you know. Food, water, shelter. This is entertainment and education. You know it's a higher level of the Maslow hierarchy of needs, and that it means that when people are interacting with that product they have a much lower tolerance, you know, if it's not good enough fine. I'll go to Netflix. I'll go to HBO Max. I'll go to Amazon Prime. I'll go to Youtube, Even you can all these other areas. And so there's a lot of competition there and given. There's a lot of competition there that means the platform that reduces. I love. How you put that reduces that technical frustration the most makes it a seamlessly part of the users lifestyle, and and how they, you know, conceptualize of themselves.

Patrick Ward: That is critical. And that's something the MasterClass has done very well because it had all of the marketing. It had all the experts, all of the people at the top of their game. So it allowed users to say, hey, if I get a MasterClass subscription, you know i'm not just, you know, playing with a random expert, or someone who's, you know, a charlatan. These are people like Scorsese, who have decades, long careers in their fields. You know these are people worth learning

something from. But if they're worth learning something from then you need to make sure the platform supports that level of expertise, that level of quality of you know human intuition that has been captured here by this product?

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: That's amazing. I mean, I would imagine, as well that because MasterClass also has a subscription model, the risk of losing users who aren't satisfied with the experience, is extremely high. It's very different than, let's say, for example, B2B SaaS where you have a little bit more of a lock in. So keeping this really thoughtful, clean experience, keeping them engaged and giving them exactly what they want. Helping them realize the value of the advertisements and the marketing that they're getting. That must be really foundational to the service that's being delivered

Patrick Ward: Absolutely, the the greatest benefit of a platform like MasterClass, is, it's greatest curse? The fact that it is easy to sign up, You know one of the first marketing campaigns we collaborated with last class on was the buy one, get one. So this was the Friday deal where you could buy a subscription to MasterClass and give one to a friend of yours or a family member, you know, creating that network, offend effect. Super successful campaign drove up a huge amount of subscribers, but naturally given that it is a subscription model. It's month to month and given that low tolerance doesn't take much to push someone to go. You know what maybe I don't need to tape subscribing to this company. Maybe I don't need the value that this product is providing because I don't lose anything, even if I unsubscribe. I can always resubscribe later. And so that is really critical to your point that as soon as someone has consumed the marketing messaging as soon as someone has got an idea of the anticipated value of a platform like MasterClass, you need to immediately. The second may sign up. Be delivering that value, because the clock's ticking as soon as they've signed up. They're now evaluating. Was this the right decision? 250?

Or am I going to encounter purchasing regret. Now, if it's the right decision, as we hope that someone has by interacting with the platform, they will stay subscribers for long, long time.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: Did you run any experiments to try to change subscribers from a monthly model to an annual model? If that was offered.

Patrick Ward: so that side of it tended towards the corporate innovation arm. So it was really interesting where we knew when we were first running the campaigns towards individual users. They expected month to month, because that was honestly the way that they had you know, conceptualized of the streaming marketplace. If you will Certainly most of the competitors aligned within, that you can offer some discounting, obviously, but most subscribers still defaulted towards that month to month model which is understandable.

Patrick Ward: When you compare, however, on the corporate side, this was an interesting repositioning of the value. Suddenly we weren't positioning master class purely based on this idea of hey, You know it's a it's an alternative form of education and entertainment. It was corporate development, and that unlocks very different types of buyers. These are buyers who are thinking. Can I help my staff members get and professional education that gives them the edge in their particular field or discipline that was really compelling towards annual models, because they already had these budgets set aside, you know. Then it's more a positioning of. Do you choose as a company for your learning bonus to invest in a master class subscription for your employees, or do you choose something else? And naturally that's where the premium nature of the master class offering did very well. Suddenly. People are looking to this going? Oh, like a benefit of joining Company X is they subscribe to master class so suddenly? I'm getting to tap into all of these a list celebrities a list experts, you know. Industry decades long leaders in their fields suddenly. That's really compelling to me. But yes, it what your point is is very valid. Those expectations really dictate a lot of how you can set up the model towards growth, because obviously. All companies, particularly in this subscription growth, oriented role wants to think about how we can retain customers for the longest possible time 250. Needless to say, the easiest way to lock in a customer is with the longest term contracts. But you can't always do that when a customer has a certain expectation, and that expectation can be influenced by a company. But you've also got to understand the space you're in and understand the mindset you're in, because naturally longer term contracts, while they are more beneficial to the business. They also then put a lot of strain on the start of the process by the marketing because the convincing someone to part with larger and larger sums of money takes a longer sales cycle. It creates friction for the growth process. So you've got to balance all of those competing needs.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: One great point that you're you're alluding to is showing value upfront with the marketing, you know, showing what you might gain from this product if you signed up for a subscription. Can you talk a little bit about your experience using productas a marketing tool to help people understand and see the value before they even sign up.

Patrick Ward: So this actually goes to another client of ours. That was a really good example of this Tony Robbins. So many people are familiar with Tony. You know, one of the most pre eminent, motivational and transformational speakers on the planet, and they probably familiar with the core of his business model, which is multi day. Sometimes we can long, sometimes week, long seminars and people spend lots of lots of money to go to these seminars to experience that transformational growth. What we encountered with Tony is that when we first started working with them, most of his products were what you would consider analog. They were on physical Cds. They were in books and all driving towards people signing up for the seminar. We what we realized early on with Tony is that he had this vast array of knowledge. This is the knowledge that he'd become well renowned for, and it's ultimately the best conversion to any type of service offering that he wanted to deliver those seminars. So we packaged all of that knowledge into a very easy to use app.: Now that app is not the main product. Unlike most other companies that we do, we we deal with a lot in the SaaS space, where where product is everything, right product is where the value is being generated in order to generate the ultimate value for a company which is revenue and suddenly use that to drive results in terms of sign up for those seminars to get people to get to the highest value, offering not only for themselves, but obviously for Tony's wider business, which is those 10,000 15,000 dollars seminars.

Patrick Ward: That was what was really interesting. Is that what we were taking was the lessons that we'd learned from interacting with so many different product oriented companies, and turning it into a marketing based tool that I think was fascinating where one so often people are thinking in the shortest possible term. They're thinking. How can I turn this product into a moneymaker? Yes, you can, and that model still is going to be successful. I'm not disputing that there will still be many sess oriented products and software based products out there for the foreseeable future. I would, I would hope so. You would have so right that that's also comes back to your business model. If your business model is geared that way great. Not just because your business model isn't necessarily tech oriented, but they will download an app, and then through that app and those interactions they will get exposed to a whole new method of consuming his content, and ultimately being a part of his funnel, being part of his community, then drives the ultimate design result for both himself and his business

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: that's so interesting with your customers when we think about desired result. We think about conversions. Are there any particular companies that you've worked with outside of the 2 that you've already discussed that are really good examples of driving conversions, both from the marketing channel down into sales after the products been been used.

Patrick Ward: Yeah. So I think when I look through the the different companies that we have, I think, a lot of the different examples really tie towards either leading to the product, providing the value itself in the case of master class. And there's you know, many that simply do that on an E. Commerce example ownable was a client of ours for a number of years ownable was a rent to own platform before this became like a fairly particular big space, with the sort of by now pay later movement. What we did with ownable was very much about converting people through reducing friction, and they were ultimately deriving value by being able to purchase. I rent particular tech gadgets. That's a very one to one in terms of conversion. But then you compare it to something like better up, which is another client that we've worked with, where once again it's more similar to the Tony Robbins model like Yes, you can interact via the chat feature you can make sure. Manage your subscription. You can manage your access to different, you know, digital learning, tools and content that helps you become, You know a more polished professional, a more well rounded professional. It gets a lot into your mindset, but at the end of the day the biggest value are better up is their coaches, and that is once again a way where product is facilitating the value. But it is not the value in and of itself, and that, I think, is a really important thing for a lot of people to conceptualize, because it's often too much that we focus on product being everything we need to realize as humans, like, while technology is transformational. It's not the only way that people generate economic value in today's marketplace. There is still value in in person interactions. Otherwise, why would we have seen the rise of community? Why would we have seen the value systems that are created based on mastermind groups, mentorships, these other types of business models that in many ways are not tech oriented at all.

Patrick Ward: But that's the key is that with the right component of technology, suddenly even a service based business can realize the potential gains, the extra economic value that comes from that conversion. Because that was what we saw. We better up is that, you know, when they first started it was very much a one to one coaching model, but suddenly, by packaging it within a product you were able to amplify. You were able to convert at higher rates. And more importantly, you're able to convert a larger volume of people. That's the power of technology. It allows you to take something that maybe is only scalable to 50 people, a 100 people. Suddenly you're scaling it to millions of users.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: Yeah. Now, it's the service delivery. I think, in those cases that you're referring to that they really thought through in the case of better up how to identify what is the highest value thing someone's getting from my product or my service, and then deliver that at scale in a way that's that works for both parties

Patrick Ward: very much so. I think the key when we expanding that definition is, you

often the first type of person that comes to us. The the entrepreneur crowd that someone who's bringing their vision to life. They're just trying to get to. You know, the first 100 customers, and

rightly so, they're trying to prove product market fit. They're trying to prove in order to gain investment, or if they've been put completely Bootstrap, they're trying to get revenue that they can reinvest into the business makes total sense. But the thing that we see once people hit this inflection point of scale is, it really becomes a lot more about usage and experience, because suddenly it's not about whether we're going to survive. You know today tomorrow that is an early stage entrepreneur problem to face, and I certainly sympathize with that is someone who spent a lot of time in that early stage. But when we're in scale it's less about. Are we surviving. It is more about. Okay. What what type of business is this? Is this: a 10 million dollar business? Is this: a 50 million dollar business? Is this a unicorn? Is this a 1 billion dollar business? And answering that question really comes down to that idea of scale, comes down to that idea of again, like you said, how much value is being generated here? What can we realistically foresee one? And how many different people can we get this product in front of now. It might not be the product itself. It might be facilitating a service delivery. It might be the product facilitating the scale of the entire business. But answering that question really gets to the heart of what you are trying to accomplish like, how are people going to use it? And what is their experience with it? Because if you can unlock a higher level of that suddenly, you are not just generating $1,000 a value Suddenly it's $10,000 a value, a $100,000 of value. And when you multiply that over multiple, different people, multiple different user personas, multiple different cities, states countries. That's when you start getting into. You know the unicorns that many of us are familiar with the apples of the world, the Googles of the world, the companies that have literally transformed the game across the entire planet.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: I I love that. I I think that there is a lot to be said for crossing the chasm between figuring something out and then getting it to scale. I'd love to hear more about what you would suggest to entrepreneurs that are trying to figure that out today.

Patrick Ward: So I think, for entrepreneurs. They need to think about it in terms of stages, and so the first stage is always the scrappiest right. You're just trying to put together something that Hasn't been done before. and Don't discount the value in that as an entrepreneur, because when you were trying to come up with something that is completely new. There's never before been seen. That is a really hard thing to do, because humans are habitual creatures by nature we tend to think in terms of mental patterns, mental schema that is based on our past experiences. All of us in many ways are the sum of our past experiences. And so, when you're trying to challenge how people think about the world, to think about the world in a completely new way. That is a noble AIM, and it is a very difficult AIM to accomplish. So don't discount that. But assuming that you, Mr. Entrepreneur or Mrs. Entrepreneur, have got that first stage you've got through the scrappiness, then the number. One thing that I see, too many entrepreneurs fail is they start keeping with that scrappiness they keep preserving the way that it got him from 0 to one, because they think well, it got me from 0 to one. Why, shouldn't it get me from one to 100. And that's the problem. It's a different game

Patrick Ward: like what mattered to you in those early stages just getting an investment round getting some revenue. That's not the key to scale. The key to scale really comes back to a very simple concept.How can you delight every single one of your users. And how can you delight all of your users at scale that comes back to 2 things: one Are you delivering enough value to them. They can stay with your product with your service, and keep spending money in new ways with your product and service. And the second thing is 150.  Do you have the technical capabilities, right? Just because your technical product was good enough for the early adopters for the very tech forward crowd. Is it good enough for the Mass market crowd? You know a a timely example of this right now is good old chat. Is ChatGPT the first language learning model? No, it's not. Is it even the first iteration of AI based learning models that generate, copy? It's not even that, either. Yet the funny thing is, why did it take off? Because it enabled everyone everyone at scale, regardless of technical ability to interact with the product. That is the key. You need to think about it in 2 separate stages, right? What? It took to build your product or service in the first instance, and get that initial traction is not going to be the thing that gets it to scale.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: Incredible! Thank you so much for for having taking the time to discuss this with me, Patrick. before we head out. Is there anything else that you wanted to double? Click on

and dig into a little bit more?

Patrick Ward: I think one of the things that i'm personally obsessed about right now is this idea of

a funding environment that isn't bankrolling every new tech idea, and I see a lot of worry in a lot of entrepreneurs who still come to us, even to this day of like i'm not sure. I'm gonna raise it the same valuations as the past. I'm not sure if i'm going to have enough, you know, runway to keep my business afloat. and to that I would say, we've been here before this Isn't the first time we've had economically choppy waters. And what can you do about it? You can realize that even to this day we are in an incredible time period. We are in a time period where the barriers to entry of almost any business idea you can imagine are at the lowest point in human history. And when you conceptualize that you can realize that you have enormous potential to change the game, you still have enormous potential to delight millions of users right around the world as long as you have a concept of what you can do better for them, because people will still cry out for you understand your unit economics. You don't try the growth of all all costs that has been pursued religiously for the last decade, and you start to think in sustainable ways, because at the end of the day business is really about one thing it's about. How can I deliver a product to service that makes humans lives better. And if I can do that, that I've made a good impact on the world

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: I love that. Thank you so much. I have one more question for you. It it just came to mind when you think about delighting users with the product specifically from the engineering space. Are there any particular roles or types of engineers that you think are so important to doing this?

Patrick Ward: I think that too often the engineers that get most of the credit of the front end engineers. But I want to give a shout out to the back end, Engineers, because back end what is it back end is what you don't see Back End is technical infrastructure. It's making sure that you know. Maybe that video doesn't take 10 s to load. It takes half a second to load, and this might seem so mundane, so boring. And yet it is that work it is that work that makes the hugest difference to how a consumer interacts with the platform and experiences that platform. And this is always close to my heart, because the industry that i'm in B to be services. It, too, is behind the scenes like it's not going to get any accolades. It's not going to be the big, splashy campaign across Cannes Lions, or you know it's not going to be featured in the Oscars or any other well known big brand. You know you're not gonna run a 1 billion dollar nike advertisement around database services. You just not. But the funny thing is, it's these behind the scenes type functions these day-to-day grains. This is what really powers the world. And it's what really powers the different potential in technology that we're all trying to realize and that we're talking about today. I want to see even more kudos go towards those back end engineers because they're the real heroes

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: that's awesome. Patrick. Thanks again so much for taking the time to meet with me.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: connect and discuss your experience, working at both master class and at Tony Robbins. Yeah, we're just really excited that you had the chance to speak with us.

Patrick Ward: Thanks, Jason. I really enjoyed it.

Jason Tissera | Upmarket: Let's connect soon. Take care, everyone