May 18, 2022

World-class Content Marketing w/ Devin Bramhall (Animalz)

We speak to Devin Bramhall, CEO of Animalz – behind companies like Wistia, Airtable, and Intercom – about what it takes to use content marketing as a lever for growth.

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The host

Nima Gardideh

President of Pearmill, ex-Head of Product at Taplytics, ex-Head of Mobile at Frank & Oak. YC fellow.

Our guest(s)

Devin Bramhall

CEO, Animalz

About this episode

For a lot of founders, content marketing may mean having a blog, social media and maybe even email campaigns. What some forget or don’t know is that content marketing isn’t just about the picking the right content format for your business. It’s more about how you’re providing value to your existing and potential customers and constantly analyzing content performance to reach them.

On this episode, we chat w/ Devin Bramhall, CEO of Animalz (a best in class content marketing agency) about implementing a strong content marketing process is the key to drive performance. Plus learn how by focusing on creating quality content and being a people centered leader helped Devin grow Animalz at a cheetahs pace.

More highlight include:

  • What encompasses a content marketing program
  • What are the key factors in creating valuable content
  • How refreshing and optimizing existing content can drive growth
  • Stages to hire an agency and when to begin content marketing
  • Embracing yet forgoing process for teams to be less constrained and more creative

The Hypergrowth Experience

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[00:00:00] [MUSIC FADES IN] 

Seth Bindernagel: It's this really delicate balance between knowing your product from like a pure, intuitive sense, what the right thing to do is, and then using data to support those things. 


Sean Byrnes: If you're in a growth stage company, there's things happening all over the place. There's lots of distractions. You can get lost in your own world, rising above it. And putting yourself back in that customer seat is such a superpower. 


Amy Sun: In the early stages and you might not want to hire someone dedicated to growth until you have some sort of repeatability demonstrated.


Aaron Glazer: The industry is not staying static in terms of like, what do you need to make these decisions? And how can you grow?


Scott McLeod: I always like the notion you're like a mad scientist are mixing in a beaker of like all your different variables. You want to keep some constraints. You want to keep some variables, let's say a little bit more of this and you want to see how it reacts.

Nima Gardideh: Welcome to another episode of "The Hypergrowth Experience". I'm your host, Nima Gardideh, co-founder of Pearmill. We're a growth studio helping startups [00:01:00] scale through art and technology. We started Pearmill out of a curiosity to understand what it takes to take companies through hypergrowth. And I started this podcast out of a love of talking about art technology and of course, growth marketing. My goal with this podcast is to take you on a journey with founders and marketers from around the world who have scaled brands at hypergrowth speeds.

This week I'm so lucky to have Meltem Kuran, the Head of Growth at Deel and formerly Director of Marketing at Bench. Both B2B companies grew at a massive pace globally while Melton was at the helm. She shares her success stories and practices around; solving for and building high brand trust, choosing the right data to avoid company politics, what teams you should and shouldn't over-hire for, plus how to prioritize content experiments. Hope you enjoy learning about Melton's hyper-growth journey. Let's get to it!

Transcript of the episode


Yeah. I'd like to start with getting to know who you are as a person before we [00:02:00] get into marketing and growth. You like somewhat of a similar background to me. So tell me, where are you from? Where do you live? Why are you there? what did you study in school? Maybe was a good start and then we can maybe take it from there.

Meltem Kuran: Yeah, for sure. I mean, are you ready to go on this journey? [laughing]

Nima Gardideh: [laughing] 

Meltem Kuran: I'm originally from Turkey, Istanbul, I was born and raised there. And when I turned 19, I came to Canada, specifically, Vancouver to go to university and at university I studied business and in business and marketing. I did a double degree in it.

And then after that, kind of looked at my options if I can move back to Turkey and not really have a lot of career options, or I can stay in Canada, which is, an amazing country to be an immigrant in, and also a very growing economy and have options.

So I moved between graduating and now which was 2014. I moved between Toronto and Vancouver a few times. Right now I call Toronto home for the most part. I still visit Istanbul and Vancouver quite frequently. [00:03:00] So I would say about half of my time is spent away from Toronto, but my home address is in Toronto. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, that's a good way to play. I have a similar sort of thing going on in Toronto and San Francisco. But my home address is in Brooklyn. 

You did business and marketing combo, so that's relevant to what you ended up doing. What was the first entry? Like, did you, I guess like why that combo what was interesting for you to start there?

Meltem Kuran: So I went into business because it just seemed the most versatile. I didn't grow up thinking I want to be a lawyer or a doctor, a very specific profession. I just knew I wanted to have a career. So business seemed like the most versatile thing that I can get into to then follow wherever it leads me.

And as I started school I was lucky enough that I didn't have to pick my major right away around second year. That's when all of these digital platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook were separate at the time. Instagram wasn't even around maybe they were all starting to allow companies to self-serve and run ads.

And that's when I realized that. [00:04:00] The digital marketing landscape is going to change a lot in digital marketing. As we know today is going to become a thing. And that felt like a very exciting time to switch into marketing and join it then. And, haven't really looked back since then. So I really made that decision to go into marketing specifically because of that shift that was happening in digital marketing space with ads being available for self-serve instead of only through agencies. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, it's, what was quite interesting is I miss that feeling of thinking you understand the future. So obviously because when you're a kid, you have such high conviction on all the tools that you use where you're like this is obviously going to be the feature. We're not have to spend so much time, like getting rid of my assumptions of what is actually the future going to look like, because it's harder for me to agree with some of the things that are out there and then rewire my brain to say, actually, maybe, okay, maybe there's a crypto world that I will live in or a metaverse world that we will live in. But the default state of my being doesn't want to conform to that. 

Before we get into like your marketing experience, like, [00:05:00] how do you think about that? Because that's like a big thing in marketing of finding the new channels that are cheaper and the best things uh, to go after. How are you staying on top of all of that? Because I find it emotionally very hard to do it's like something I sit down and like spend hours on every few. To double check my assumptions of are these channels, the right channels?

Meltem Kuran: A lot of actually where that comes to me is when I start spending time outside of marketing. When I stick my nose in places that have nothing to do with my job, the way I got familiar with what's happening on the crypto ,the metaverse and everything was because I watched. I had friends, coworkers, my husband around me that were just like very curious.

And I went down those rabbit holes and realized there's a whole other world here. That's really untapped by our market or people in my world. And, asking that question of why. How can we exist here? And can we make it work? Is always something that I asked myself and sometimes, the conclusion is no, this is a terrible place for us to be in. [laughing]

other times when you ask that question of why not, you actually come up with some pretty [00:06:00] creative and fun ways to be involved in something to you and, quick way to test it. And then sometimes it sticks. Sometimes it doesn't. But those moments where I found the new channels have always been, when I'm curious outside of the usual order of business.

Nima Gardideh: That's good. So you're building sort of like baseline curiosity about the world and things around the kind of steeps into marketing and how things are moving in the world. 

Meltem Kuran: Yes.

Nima Gardideh: Cool. So You finished college, you went into marketing immediately. Am I right about that?

Meltem Kuran: I did go into marketing immediately. So Mad Men was a thing when I finished university and they all worked at McCann, which was the ad agency. So I applied for a job there. Turns out nothing like the show. And I was very quickly realizing that I do not want to be in the agency world. Even though it's an incredible agency and it's like one of the world's leaders, it just wasn't my place.

But I also learned a ton about how these massive companies make decisions about their media buying. I was specifically on the media buying [00:07:00] side. So that was an amazing kind of way for me to learn about. How the money is spent in the marketing world. And then from there, I went into Vice Media where I was more on the publishing and doing, working on the brand integrations.

And then after that going more deeper into tech. I kind of made my switch over to tech right before coming to Deel. I was at venture counting then Deel. But I've really found tech to be the place that's exciting where you combine tech and marketing together. But my career has always been in marketing. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, this is an interesting, like the path of first being in an agency must be interesting. My, my path was like completely different. I was an Engineer and Product Manager before it was into marketing. I wonder if, and you did some like publishing and branding stuff before. And just for context for the audience before we decided to do this, Melton was like well, I don't even know if your audience is going to be interested in what I'm going to talk about because mostly I care about data and I was like I'm pretty sure people are going to love, love that. Cause that's kind of the whole audience.

[00:08:00] But what took you from, Hey, I'm in the branding and like we can world of basically it's just a brand marketing agency to a very large extent. Maybe they're doing some performance now to coming into tech and being very performance driven. What, What was it that got you interested in that? Or what are you always looking for ways to calculate maybe ROI and the value of what you're doing?

Meltem Kuran: I think the way I ended up being very interested in data and kind of shifting my career towards where data was king has been from two things. One marketing can be very subjective and at times it should be, but data is. You, can't not, you can't argue that as long as you made your correct assumptions. And as long as your data spotless, you can't really argue that.

Which means there's no place left for politics. There's no we're going in this direction because you know, this higher ups suggested it and I want to be on their good side. And when you take that away from an equation, just in your career in generally, you get to then just focus purely on being productive, doing [00:09:00] the best work, which is a huge stress reliever.

And that stress becomes excitement. So data has always been my tool to say, I'm not picking sides, just look at what's happening. And this is the direction we should head in. And that's served me very well. And beyond that data numbers just made sense to me more than opinions both of my own and of others. So it just became very natural. But the main thing that made me fall in love with it is how easy it was to avoid politics. Once you have that solid thing to point to. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, this is like, this is a huge thing. I think that's what attracted me to it as well when I was younger because people were not listening to me until I had something like data to back up what I was saying. And that made me realize, oh, all I have to do is just care about this way of speaking and presenting my ideas.

And it kind of lands a lot better, in these organizations. Especially like the tech ones are very prone to it because it has become the de facto standard of how they operate. Yeah. I relate to that a lot. It just had flashbacks of, of being [00:10:00] in startups when I was in my early twenties and I'm trying to get stuff done.

 You did this like McCann, Vice, and then you went to Bench. So what was it, the data part that attracted you, but, or you thought technology was just cool and interesting and you wanted to be in it. What was the shift for you there?

Meltem Kuran: It was a little bit of both. Obviously I want it to switch into tech. So I knew that was a change I wanted to make. Because I saw that tech was and still is the only space within the business world where you can have the fastest impact and encouraged to fail, but also expected to win.

So that combination of a very dynamic work life was very attractive to me. So I knew that I wanted to make a conscious switch into tech. And then, so then the question for me became, what are those companies that I can, I believe I can bring value to and transparently speaking I don't have.

I give back to charity, so I've always wanted to make sure that whatever I do with my life, like the way I add value to the world is by working and whatever I do with that, I want to make sure [00:11:00] that there's a positive impact of it both financially for the company, but also for the world at large.

 So what led me to Bench was, at the time it was the best automating book, keeping service. It is still today. And most small businesses, they have no idea how to manage their finances and it has serious impacts on your day-to-day decision-making could also lead you to running out of business.

So I really connected to what the company was doing and what Bench was trying to accomplish in the world. So that was the reason why it piqued my interest. And then the challenge I was given there was at the time I joined, they had already gone through a few rounds of fundraising and they were really looking to unload the, unlock,these channels where they can drive some cheaper growth.

So inbound funnels they needed to be built out. So that felt like a really good challenge to me, coming from a background of, being more on the paid side and spending the money switching from being the person that spends the money to the one that actually creates the channels, what you don't actually constantly feed the money into it. That was a very exciting challenge for me. So [00:12:00] that's why I jumped into it around 2017. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. And then just maybe setting context on Bench and correct me if I'm wrong. And we were users of Bench for quite a few years in the beginning of our company. Is like services meets technology. All-in-one right. Like, it's, it's a little bit different than maybe what you're working on now with Deel.

Can you walk me through how you thought of marketing something that is so high trust? And there was still people involved. Like we would end up going on calls with, people on the software end. And so there's still like a bunch of stuff go manually going on in the background.

It's not like a pure SaaS play. Was that the same? Did you feel like it was harder? Did you have to think about it differently when you were trying to market the product? What was different about that?

Meltem Kuran: Okay. We did have to think about it differently, but the core principles remain the same. So where we had to think about differently from a pure SaaS play was we were still solving a solution. We're, sorry. We were still providing a solution and solving a problem for people. So we still needed [00:13:00] to communicate the problem and explain to them how we're resolving it.

Where it came to play was because Bench was a service. It wasn't a self-serve tool. So, you are familiar with this. You would connect to your, all of your bank accounts into the system and the software would actually categorize and organize all of your books. And then there would be a bookkeeper on the other hand, who has on top of that auditing and making sure that it's actually done correctly, who's also your person coming into it.

We know that small businesses need that partner. So we focused way more on the human element and the fact that we made it efficient and cheap, the software is there because it made it efficient, cheap, but you're still gaining access to the service that you would otherwise get for so much more money.

So the messaging was different in that sense. We had to communicate it differently because it wasn't self-serve. But at the core of it, we were still solving a real problem for people. So a lot of the tactics remained the same with between software and service installed. 

Nima Gardideh: So it's almost like not enterprise SAaaS, but close to it where there is like a handoff happening with your team. Uh, so th the, the funnel is a little bit [00:14:00] less clear or like straightforward, and then self-serve. 

I'd love to hear about how you were thinking about this inbound part of their business? Were you using a similar sort of experimentational based model to go through ideas compared to paid, because paid, it has to like such clear inputs and outputs where you can run experiments. Like how were you thinking about going through the process to figure out what works?

Meltem Kuran: So the biggest bulk of experimentation happened on the website. One of the biggest things that we did on the go-to-market side was to really build out a massive blog and, No fluffy in theory, but when you think about it, if you're teaching someone by the time that they're already ready to find the final solution, they need it's too late.

So we thought about what are all the points that of someone needing answers to their questions along the way.  And we answered all of those questions to a point where, we had a blog that was bringing in millions of people to the website on a monthly basis. So once we built that, then all of a sudden there are tons of people coming to the [00:15:00] website, which made the website itself the best place to actually test out things.

So A/B testing was massive, And that was some of the ways in which we drove, the biggest changes in the funnel by just, improving something by 50 basis points. But then that results in so much more revenue, just because of the volume of people coming through the funnel.

Nima Gardideh: Correct me if I'm wrong. Sounds like you were running essentially like the UI tests where you also running A/B tests on the con the content layer, or mostly on the sort of user experience after someone lands.

Meltem Kuran: It was mostly on the user experience after someone lens. We didn't run a ton of tests on the content level because we had a very aggressive content strategy where we would produce 10 articles a week. So we didn't have to run tests. We just published everything that we believed was valuable. 

Nima Gardideh: Gotcha. Yeah. I remember reading this from this growth engineering team at Pinterest, where they found a way to A/B test at the content layer. I just thought that was like very cool, but you also need to be at the scale of Pinterest, I think, to be able to do things like that. Which is interesting. So, so you ran a [00:16:00] bunch of tests there and it's quite interesting to see this blog path still working so well, do you think it's because of the specific niche that Bench wasn't, that was I'm sure competitive, but you were able to carve out portion of the traffic of folks that were searching for things that were related to the product, or there was something unique about how you were choosing. The topics to write about that was working?

Meltem Kuran: So a little bit of both. So Bench had the benefit of the topics we would write about were not dominated by news articles. So if you are writing about a topic where the top 10 is constantly changing, because everybody's writing about it, your SEO is not going to be your biggest strategy. So the top static topics were still very successful.

So we had that benefit beyond that, when you read about, bookkeeping and accounting for businesses, it was primarily written by CPAs who knew a lot about what they were doing, but they didn't know how to communicate that information to someone who's not thinking about a day in and day out.

So we set the rule and saying, we're not going to write [00:17:00] above, fifth grade reading English level. It's a tough thing to write about bookkeeping and accounting at fifth grade. And it was challenging, but that really was what allowed us to see that more time spent on site and people actually understood the content we were writing and then they kept coming back to it.

So while the unique visitors grew, so did the repeat sessions. And so did the amount of people that were just landing on Bench and then searching for their questions because they knew we were giving that answers to them very quickly. So a combination of being able to write static content that was not dominated by newspapers as well as writing at that fourth level English fourth to fifth level English where everybody else's writing, maybe at college level allowed us to just really, when that really. 

Nima Gardideh: That makes so much sense, especially in the world of SMBs. Like there's just so many folks coming in. Immigrants are just creators of businesses. So like you're probably tapping into so many people that just have issues, understanding the content. That's very cool. And also shows how much you [00:18:00] understood the folks you're going after the potential users of the product.

Meltem Kuran: And everybody's what I found specifically in that kind of space was everybody who was writing content was trying to sound smart, but nobody was trying to be helpful. So that was just realizing let's make sure whoever leaves this website actually understands what they came here for. That was just the main lens that we put on it, which was a lot of people just didn't seem to think about that. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. I mean, it's somewhat counter-intuitive when you say that, because like I've thought about doing more on our blog for instance. And I always tend to think I could write about what a customer acquisition cost is, but I feel like everyone knows that, but I may be wrong about that, you know? And, and I want to write like growth theory, blog posts much more than I, that I want to talk about these like very minute obvious things that are clear to me, but maybe the larger audience cares about yeah, it sounds correct when you say it, but intuitively does is not what I want to be doing.

 So walk me through the org structure. So what was your position at [00:19:00] Bench, and then how did things work? Who reported to who? Who was producing the content? Was that going through you or were you like at the same hierarchy? I have this theory around growth where so much of org structure actually is important towards how growth happens in companies. I may be wrong about this theory, but I'm super curious about it. So I always wanna understand what was going on inside of those companies and how people collaborated.

Meltem Kuran: Yeah, that's for sure. So I was the Director of Marketing at Bench and the way we set up the org was we had an for example, for if we're going down the SEO path, we had an in-house editor who was incredibly talented, who worked with an army of freelancers. So that was what allowed us to be able to produce 10 articles a week.

These freelancers were primarily people that were maybe laid off from their newspaper jobs. So these are amazing journalists who know how to research topics and, explain it to the masses. So we had an army of freelancers of anywhere between 10 to 15 people at peak actively working on this on content.

All rolling up [00:20:00] to one editor who was responsible for making sure that it lived on the website and represented the brand. So that was kind of the strategy that we had where internally there was always one owner. The goal that we're trying to achieve, but then they always had this elastic capacity that we supported with external people.

And that also stopped us from hiring too many people and then trying to create work for them or creating these levels of hierarchy where it doesn't need to exist. You just need people focused on moving the needle. So, you give someone a clear role and then allow them to, obviously, if you repeatedly are using the same freelancer, maybe 20 hours a week, bring them in house. You probably have a lot for them to do. But in most cases, people, over hire immediately and then kind of regret that decision and work on things that don't actually matter. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. I think particularly in marketing org people and sales, orgs people over hire because they think they should. I think if you're over-hiring you should do that on the engineering and product side, as much as possible, as opposed to the marketing side of that. We've had clients where [00:21:00] they're like at massive scale, like spending millions of dollars, millions of users, but there's two people on the marketing side.

And because the product is so good because they overhired at like really cared about the product piece and that's much more important. And so it makes so much sense to me. And then, so when you were working with this editor, were they reporting to you or were they reporting to the CMO? I'm super curious about that structure.

Meltem Kuran: So there was no CMO. Um, It was me and I rolled directly into the CEO and they were reporting into me in that. 

Nima Gardideh: Gotcha. Okay. So you were like the de facto CMO there. Yeah. I think that, that structure makes so much sense to me on the SEO side. Where are you also handling the other channels or because you presentea this is a challenge, but it sounds like maybe they did have a larger mix of areas that we're going after. 

Meltem Kuran: Yeah. So there were partnerships channels. There were a lot of different channels at various points. We cut some of them and, focused on the other ones. SEO was the main focus because it really ended up being the bulk of the biggest channel that was driving the leads. Which was [00:22:00] amazing because it reduced our cost of acquisition so much.

At various points, we had product marketing that at one point sat in product, then moved into my org. I'm not sure where it sits currently. So it was a very transitional I would say org structure at different points as we were trying to kind of go through different iterations of what it's going to look like. 

Nima Gardideh: And I feel like that's quite normal for start ups or you're just going to change things up every few months, just to figure out what works better. Do you think, and, I think a lot of growth theorists talk about this where there is like some form of a power law with marketing channels where something like 60, 70% of your growth comes from one. Do you believe in that or do you always think there's going to be like a healthy mixture of channels that bring into use?

Meltem Kuran: So I believe in that, in a sense that I think it's correct, that happens, but not because that's the right way it should be. I believe people recognize that certain channels are working really well, double down on them. And those channels end up being successful. So [00:23:00] successful, but almost there's that complacency that kicks in, they don't pursue the other channels as much.

You know, If you're hitting your targets, It's very easy to say this is a good mix we have. And as long as your 60% isn't coming from paid ads, you're probably not spending a lot of money, but I do also believe if people questioned it more and more, they would probably have a more diverse looking breakdown.

Nima Gardideh: It's interesting. So you think it comes from exploitation of the channel and then not really caring about exploration afterwards because you just, it's just working as opposed to fundamentals of how gross.

Meltem Kuran: Yes, because if you ask for, if you ask different companies, they will all have a different answer. So if every company was saying 60% of our growth is coming from paid ads, then maybe I would believe that to be a universal rule. But seeing a lot of similar companies see a different breakdown just tells me that leaders just focused on different things and they executed on better on some versus the others.

And I would love to be proven wrong. I'm happy to kind of put this to the test, but that's always been the lens through which I approach any channel mix [00:24:00] we have. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, I mean, this is interesting because part of it for me is that you are getting to that stage of sort of, let's say power law dynamics, because your product also ends up shaping to match this channel that you've discovered some things are working with. So you almost like pigeonhole yourself in it, but in a good way, because you end up creating an advantage in that channel.

And the example I like using a lot is sort of looking at TripAdvisor versus Booking.com. Uh, And TripAdvisor's done a great job with SEO as I'm sure, you know, and, and they've shaped their whole product to be an incredible SEO generated product. Where booking.com and they both make money in very similar ways, by the way.

But booking.com is almost solely focused on getting people to immediately purchase, which means paid search is the best channel for them, right? So they have shaped their products in such a way that attracts or like it makes sure that the channel that is the power law channel for them is the, [00:25:00] is converting the best.

but you're saying that there is a way where you can have the product almost be versatile enough that you can take advantage of all these different channels to a better degree than this power law of 60, 70% of things coming from one area.

Meltem Kuran: Yes, I, that, I definitely believe that. I think laziness kicks in at every one. And you just need to constantly challenge yourself to not be that way. And you can optimize for SEO and create a different user journey for people accessing your websites or your properties through that, and create a completely different user journey for people accessing you through your paid advertisement. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, I like this way of thinking in general, because it just ends up putting you in this mode of like, oh, well, can I create the same level of advantage on this other channel? Like, why am I stuck in this one? you know, in the case of booking.com, their businesses over time is going to get worse and worse because there's more competition on paid search over time.

So there are like downsides to this, like over-indexing on one channel. And yeah, I mean, I don't wanna, I don't wanna spend the whole time talking about [00:26:00] this because I think that it's just hard to, first of all, get answers to it, but I'm very curious about it. Let's shift it to your experience at Deel.

So you were at Bench for almost two years or something like that. If I remember correctly. And then you decided to go to Deel. Ground us on when you joined Deel. And first, maybe tell people what Deel is to begin with because you're still working there. And then I'd love to hear how you describe it.

Meltem Kuran: Yeah, I guess I'll start with what Deel is. So we are a platform that allows companies to hire internationally. We take care of the compliance and payments. So if you are sitting in Brooklyn like yourself and you want to hire, you know, one person in Tokyo, another person from Dusseldorf, you can do that to Deel with literally minutes.

I think someone on our team counted it. It's 18 clicks to hire someone full-time internationally. And we also take care of the payments. I joined the company in July 2020, so really peak pandemic. And the reason I made the switch to join was both personal and also very much [00:27:00] business-related. It was very personal for me because as I said, kind of earlier in our conversation, I'm Turkish and I made the decision to move to Canada.

I absolutely love it here. I'm an aspiring Canadian, any moment now I'm going to become a citizen. And I had, I made the conscious decision to not move back home. Because I wanted access to the opportunities that being here would open up, open the doors for me. So doing that, working at Deel allows literally anybody in the world to get access to those opportunities everywhere.

So I could have been in Istanbul, working as the head of growth at Deel today, had that been the path that I've chosen to take. So seeing that happen over and over at different companies, they hire these key roles that previously they would've just hired in the Bay Area. Now they're going and hiring people from all over the world.

That change to me felt like a very important thing to be a part of and push the world towards that. So that was very personal. Another thing that I always thought about Deel was, if Deel wins, nobody loses. There is no negative externality to our [00:28:00] success. People are literally just better off.

You can choose to hire internationally. You don't have to, we're not forcing you to, but if you choose to do that, great, we're aligning to do that. And nobody's worse off at, along the way. So that was very important to me that my work didn't have a negative externality. And from a business perspective just looking at the world is changing and Deel was literally the best company to usher in this change. 

We're seeing people hire internationally recognized that whoever I'm working with doesn't need to live down the block from me. And when I met the team at Deel, you know, I said, this is literally the best people in the world because they've hired all over the world. And if anybody's going to solve this problem, it's going to be this group of people. And I want to be a part of that. And, since then it's been proven a million times over that was the right decision. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, that's awesome. And for transparency's sake. We're big users of Deel. Our whole team except for the American team runs on it. And we're also their remote company. So we have folks from 13 countries or something like that. And we're big fans of it. [00:29:00] What's interesting to me, I think the timing of this company was just so brilliant. How much of the success do you feel was tied, because people went through COVID and then they realized, oh, we can hire a team fully remotely. Do you feel like there was like a headwind that was coming because of the global situation of the pandemic that made it, such, that companies woke up to the reality of, Hey, we can actually hire the best people from around the world?

They don't want to live in the U S they want to live in all these different places. And we're just going to enable that. And obviously you joined at just the beginning of that. So do you feel like there were headwinds there and there continue to be headwinds that helped?

Meltem Kuran: I, definitely think so. So, it's important to differentiate though, is did this happen because of the pandemic or did the pandemic open people's eyes? So the way I look at the pandemic was it forced people into a pilot of what it's like to work from home. And a lot of companies realized, Hey, I actually don't need to show up to the office. I don't need to spend an hour [00:30:00] and a half commuting. My teams can be just as efficient and productive working from home. 

And then they started questioning their decision making around, who am I hiring and where am I hiring and why? So while it definitely, it certainly helped that everybody was forced into this and it probably sped up what was already coming, but Deel was actually started before the pandemic.

So we already saw this trend happening and it really pushed it forward, but it's now kind of past that inflection point where there's no going back. There's no world where everybody's going to go back into their offices and start hiring locally, you know, exclusively. That's just, there's no going back from that.

So there's not a part of me that's at all concerned about what's going to happen to our business after the pandemic. I almost think of it as this Yeah, it was great. A lot of people got to be got to see what it's like and how you can actually build your life anywhere you want in the world.

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, I think they're using the inflection point mythology makes so much sense of Hey, it was happening, but then more people and unless more companies woke up to the [00:31:00] possibilities of it. I think for us, it was so clear going into it and maybe this is oh, where we're younger founders. And it's so obvious to us because who knows? I, when I was a teenager I had global friends because it was on this IRC chat rooms and talking to people from all around the world and stuff. And then Slack didn't exist back then. But IRC was basically the same protocol Slack is built on. And so clear to us.

And that's when I remember seeing Deel because they're also a YC company. We're, I'm a YC fellow. Coming up it was like, this makes so much sense. This is exactly what I would have wanted to look for. And I had all these like weird ways using I think wise, transfer wise to transfer money before Deel existed and then makes things so much easier.

Awesome. So walk me through the challenges as you walked in. So what was the scale then? I don't remember what funding round you were at that time. And what were the challenges you were presented with and when you'd like the first growth person? Like what was, yeah, it's like ground us on the team structure as [00:32:00] well.

Meltem Kuran: Yeah. So I joined back when the team was 19 people. So I was actually a number 19 on the team and right after we raised our series A. So up until that point, a lot of growth revenue growth specifically was, through the personal networks of our co-founders, the YC community. And a lot of people just adapting it kind of hearing about it.

We had, I inherited an amazing, super hardworking, kind of one woman show on the marketing team who was running everything. She was a jack of all trades. It's insane. And so I came in as the Head of Growth and it was the two of us for awhile. And from there, we started building out the teams that now run Growth at Deel.

So today we have everything from product marketing to branding that are separate teams that are focused on kind of driving those forward. And really the first challenge for us was a lot of people's reactions to hearing Deels. That can't be true. They just kind of thought we were fluffing everything up on the marketing front and the product couldn't possibly hold up to everything that we were saying.

So really [00:33:00] getting them to say, just talk to the sales team, because this is legit. I'm not selling you anything that the product team can't back up. So our earlier on our strategy was way more focused on, explaining the features and communicating that to the market and how it works. It was way more technical because it was a new product in a relatively new market.

And that overtime shift shifted into storytelling and talking about the impact we have on the world and what that means, what you can achieve for your business through Deel. But early on challenge was literally just convincing people that no, we built this. You can actually do this.

It doesn't have to take weeks and months to hire and pay a team. You don't have to work with seven different lawyers to make this happen. So building up trust and clear communications to communicate, that was the biggest challenge. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, that makes so much sense. Cause I feel like you're first of all, handling a lot of people's minds payroll, it's like the biggest chunk for a lot of companies. And then there's this unknown of, are we being compliant like that? That was like the thing that I was always scared of. And I actually tried like maybe two or three products in the space before I [00:34:00] went with Deel.

For us and always quite interesting to see was I mean, uh, we were very early users, so the founders would be on the intercom going back and forth with me answering my questions, you know? but there were quite helpful and the response rate was so high. And I really hope that even as you guys have scaled, you've maintained that excellent customer service.

Cause I, I remember feeling like I trust these people because they're so responsive. They're telling me everything there and they were quite honest cause sometimes, and I'm sure, it's still cheaper to contract someone for that person than it is to hire them full time. So they would get, your team would give me very honest answers of Hey, you can tell this person that it's actually cheaper for them to stay on as contractor then switching to an FTE.

And then now we create these like spreadsheets and show them show everybody like, Hey, we can do it if you want to feel safe, but you know, we're hiring a full-time. But you want, you'd have to do X, Y, and Z, but it's cheaper for you. Or like you're gonna end up making more money. but that [00:35:00] trust factor is very, very big.

So what did you actually do to solve that? Because it's a very hard problem to solve. And it, obviously, it sounds like you have a branding team and product marketing team, which can focus on those, but what are the first initial versions of this before you had whole teams of people thinking about this.

Meltem Kuran: I think, as you mentioned, the customer support for us was very important and it still is today. Earlier we were talking about, where you should over hire. I also think customer support is a place that you should over-hire because we're dealing with people's monies. It's their paycheck. If it doesn't hit your bank account on the right time, guess what you're going to be stressed.

You might have payments that are coming. It's not nice to have. It's a must have. So taking that very seriously and making sure that the moment something happens, you can speak to a human immediately, not go around in circles, getting lost at some FAQ channel, but to talk to a human, who's going to take into account what you need and resolve it as quickly as possible.

Building out that team early on, and, as you mentioned, our founders were kind of on those channels. And today, it would never come to that because we have so many people looking after that. But, if you didn't get an [00:36:00] answer, it will trickle all the way within 10 minutes and you will be talking to one of the founders if needed to solve your problem.

So we take that very seriously and that's very important because people are trusting us with either their company's financials or their personal finances which is very important. And also our sales team did an incredible job at communicating that showing people the demo. Very openly calling out here are the things that we are still working on,and then you're not going to yet see on our platform.

These are the early days, but we are going to get there. And because we were so open with all of that communication, people trusted that we actually did everything we said we did, and whatever we said, we will build in the next three months, we actually built in the next month. 

So that repeated  promising someone a feature and then delivering on that. And then individually following up with those people and saying, Hey, I recall you were requesting this feature a few months ago. We've now released it. Would you like to be on the beta? Here's how you can use it.  So just like really listening to the customers and putting them first was the way in which we increased trust.

Because ultimately until you have that clout, people believe that there's a human out there. That's going to make sure I'm not screwed. [00:37:00] 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, totally. It's it sounds like basically you pull up all the leavers, all the trust leavers at the same time, right? It's like responsiveness, super helpful. This bringing product features into light as soon as possible. Over-delivering on the speed of things and impressing everyone. Like So many things were done right at the same time to make this happen.

And that makes so much sense. Did you, what I actually don't know, are you only servicing American companies trying to hire remotely or are you servicing any company trying to hire remotely across the world?

Meltem Kuran: Oh, not at all. So we service literally anywhere in the world. Except for us sanctioned places. But you can be any company anywhere in the world and we can allow you to hire it goes by. 

Nima Gardideh: Interesting. So have you already done localization or is that something that's like an obvious growth lever that would come out later, but you're just focusing on it later. 

Meltem Kuran: So that's currently the thing that keeps me up at night. We have this goal that's, you know, over the next little while, we want to make sure that 80% of our audience is serviced at the top of the funnel in their own [00:38:00] language. So that's something that's very important to us. We've hired key leaders in those markets.

And the reason for that is, Quite frankly, we were very lucky because when you hire internationally, let's say you're a French company. You're hiring someone in Mexico. You're talking to them in English. So we had the benefit of people are already communicating to each other In English.

So we could just kind of like slide in there, but, we recognize that a lot of people have questions way before they're ready to make that first hire. And at that exploration stage, they still search in their native language. They still want to talk to, understand it from their own perspective.

So localization is absolutely something that we're working on and we're going to keep focusing on because ultimately we want every single person in the world to recognize that we're not an American company. We actually don't even have that many Americans on the team. we are local to them wherever they are. And that's something that we're really going to focus on bringing to both our communications and all of our go-to-market efforts. 

Nima Gardideh: CAn you repeat how many countries because you earlier told me how many countries you're all in. I just thought that was awesome. 

Meltem Kuran: Yeah. We have 700 team members in 52 [00:39:00] countries. [laughing]

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. I mean, I have so many questions about time zones alone, but we can get there later, but walk me through. So, yeah, I also just with localization, just to check in on, I think most companies do it too late in my opinion, like it's just, there's so many benefits. Forget about the language part.

Just the pricing localization itself is huge. Like people don't recognize that, if you're pricing everything in USD, it's just not going to work for so many countries in the world or just because of the conversion or because they don't rec, they don't understand how to think about it. And then there's variable costs for that because their currency changes and it's one of the number one recommendations we make to our clients at scale, where you walk in and they're like, Hey, we want to have these tier one countries, tier two countries, tier three, And you look at their tier one and tier two, I'm like there is eight languages in these two areas.

Like how come you only have English support it, it makes no sense to me. And we see it so often the [00:40:00] moment they turn on localization, it's just that everything gets better. So I'm super excited where you go through that process and to see the results. And I'm sure that you've already seen some of it.

Meltem Kuran: Yeah. I'm excited and I'm very, I wouldn't say stressed, but there's so much to consider when you're going down the localization path and I've spoken to so many leaders and everybody seems to have a different opinion on what's the best org setup and what's the best way to tackle it. So I'm really kind of excited to explore that with the Deel team to know, to see, and learn. How is what's the best way to actually tackle localization.

And luckily, because we operate in so many different countries, we can test it out simultaneously in so many different places and learn what works best immediately and kind of roll that out globally.

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. I mean, I'd love to maybe get your thoughts very briefly on that, because maybe you don't have the answers. But I remember the way Facebook did this in the early days. And of course they were in a different position than you, just because the sheer number of people that were using the product, but they had the users translate the [00:41:00] product live.

And I love seeing this graph, there's this graph of Facebook's growth where they can pinpoint the launch of the feature, where they allowed users to click on anything on the site and then try to provide their own local version of it. And then they would collapse the best one based on like multiple people.

If, If like hundreds of people said this, you know, this word is this, they would agree. Okay, that's the word? Right. And it was like a clear inflection point and growth for them. It was kind of intense. How have you thought about are you basically finding people professionals to translate every aspect of it? Or are you thinking of tapping into your community, which is your users I don't, or even your employees, because you have people in all these different countries, like, where's your mind going towards, like, where are you maybe you've settled on this or you're thinking about it. What's your thinking there?

Meltem Kuran: So our thinking right now is we were prioritizing working with professionals for two main reasons, because compliance is a very big part of what we do. It's very important that it's not just [00:42:00] translated, but the context isn't lost, because one wrong word can send people down the wrong path. So we take, how we communicate and what we communicate very seriously in that sense, because compliance is involved.

Perhaps if we were selling jeans, I would have relaxed with who gets to translate our content, but considering how serious the consequences can be. We are working with professionals. Everything that we produce gets checked by a legal team, a tax accountant team, to make sure that it's actually correct information for the local region.

And the second part is, when you think about Facebook's interface, it's primarily, settings, click this post. And those are kind of directional words. A lot of what we communicate actually also needs to reflect our brand voice and tone who we are as a company. And a lot of that can get lost.

If you crowdsource a bunch of different people to, just translate it. It just ends up being more of a, Google translate experience rather than a well curated, conversational experience. So because we hold that brand and how we come across very close and dear we wanna make sure that whoever we work with not just understands [00:43:00] what are the complexities and translating this, but also who are we and how do we talk. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, that makes sense. It's like that the two problems of a compliance plus trust are so important that you just cannot get anything wrong, essentially, which makes it makes sense in your context. Okay, so just to step back a little, I know we've got to work your problems now. What is the channel mix for a company?

Like you said, people are like searching, which makes sense. This is a problem people have. Are you also going down discovery channels like Facebook and LinkedIn, or are you primarily looking at search and content? Like what are the areas that made sense for the product in the beginning?

Meltem Kuran: So we always focused on search and content for not just because it's going to deliver growth and revenue. It does that, but also we have a direct incentive to educate people on remote work, on international hiring so that more companies take that step. So educating companies, even if it doesn't result in direct [00:44:00] growth today is still beneficial for us because that market is growing.

So content, educational resources, those have always been a big focus for us from day one. Not just because they drive leads. We want to kind of push this market forward. Paid ads, obviously we have different mixes in different countries, every country, depending on how it looks has a different mix of, paid ads, SEO partnerships and direct coming the, you know, word of mouth or PR. So it looks very different across the board. But for the most part, I would say it's primarily driven by SEO and paid ads partnerships is rapidly growing, which is amazing to see because, you know, accessing our network and having another company vouch for us and say, you should go with Deel, they're amazing is very meaningful. And people trust that. 

And now with our communications team, we've also gotten a lot of traction in the media, through the work that's done. And, because this is very top of mind for people. Everybody wants to talk about it. So, the mix has been getting more and more exciting the more months passed down. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, it definitely helps to be like on [00:45:00] trend with a product, like when you're doing comms. Walk me through the market mix. Cause so you're across all these different markets. Are you basically having a local team for each country or is there like, how are you making sure there is consistency across or is there basically centralization and you're somehow like you're doing an ad spend across the board or are there some forms of, okay.

We know we have to also care about the specific language and the keywords there. So we want a local team where you're tapping into agencies that are global. Like, how are you thinking about that given the footprint is so similar.

Meltem Kuran: So we try to keep things in house as much as possible because executional excellence is very important to us and agencies can be great. And we've worked with some agencies that were very, very helpful us, but ultimately, you know, we need someone who's going to be responsible and own that channel. And if something goes wrong, they fix it within five minutes. You don't get that with agencies, unfortunately. So we try to keep things in-house as much as possible. 

So we have what we [00:46:00] call functional teams. So we have a centralized paid advertisement team. That's in charge of all of our paid ad channels and they work with our local Senior Marketing Managers to optimize our ad content for Japan, for Columbia, for Mexico, for Peru. Whatever country is, needs a local one versus English. So we test out a lot to see, you know, does English work better in our country or do we need a local language? And if we do need a local language, we'll work with the local leaders to then translate that content.

And, but still the technical execution is ran by the functional team that looks after the entire globe, because there's a lot of learnings that is shared across and diluting that and splitting up across a lot of regions would lead to a lot of the best practices, not being shared at this early in our stage. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, that makes sense. So it sounds like you have a centralized technical team at the very least. And then in terms of like copy and fine tuning on a per market basis, there are local managers that can help that technical team achieve growth. 

Meltem Kuran: Yes. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah. I [00:47:00] like that, that methodology, I think it'll be very hard for paid social if you were doing that. But for paid search seems like very performance, which makes sense to me. 

Are you at all I feel like you're in this like situation and going back to this marketing mix power law thing that we were talking about earlier. Is there a parallel right now for you and are you fighting against it or it's quite broad and mixed up.

Meltem Kuran: It's quite broad and mixed up at the moment. And we're not, I don't necessarily feel like we're fighting against anything. Just because there's such a strong product market fit. And I think as a growth marketer, I've been very lucky to be working with a product that the market is so hungry for.   the fact that we've built that product and I get to market that as an incredible privilege for me and everybody on my team.

And so there isn't necessarily like one channel is performing so much better than the other, and we're fighting against this. What is challenging? However, is there are so many channels still yet to be explored and how do we do it? By giving it the right amount of efforts [00:48:00] but also testing it quickly enough so that that's a constant, push and pull that we will always have.

But I wouldn't say there's any like challenge against like, oh, we have, you know, we're spending too much on paid ads and then I don't want to do that. So we're going to focus on SEO to try and combat that. Versus it's just let's not get complacent, let's keep exploring other channels. And the expectation is every channel should keep growing.

So if, paid ads is bringing in 30% of our leads today it should maybe in the future, it should bring in 20% of our leads, but I still want it to bring in net more leads than it did every single month before. So I want other channels to just kinda keep beating each other out of the rank. And it's also what kind of keeps it exciting. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, totally makes so much sense. Like you expect the channels to scale, but not necessarily in terms of the mix of where people are coming and converting from. Which is, yeah, it makes sense. You're trying to improve on the per channel places, but not necessarily have a dominate the marketing mix.

 Let's go towards the data stuff that you obviously cared so much about. have you been thinking about the experimentation [00:49:00] approach across all these channels? Is there like a central way you're prioritizing experiments? Are there her channel or per team experimentation being done? Like what is the structure there? Let's just, let's start there.

Meltem Kuran: So our product marketing team is really at the center of a lot of the experimentation that we do because they control our website and they also are a great partner in all the channels and, you know, kind of fine tuning that product market messaging. How do we go to market? The way we prioritize experimentation is really in an Excel sheet.

We kind of identify all the experiments that we're potentially thinking about running and then identify the areas that matter to us. So it could be something like time to completion, complexity potential ROI, and on each category and then in a separate, literally in a second sheet, because we don't want people to kind of see the second one  it's the outcome. It spits out a two-by-two bubble graph that allows you to pick based off of your constraints. 

So if you have, a lot of designers that have time to pick up a project, [00:50:00] and there's a project that you see there that, requires a lot of design capacity, but maybe the ROI isn't going to be that, that much. Well you'll still prioritize that project because you have the designers ready to work on it right now. They can just pump it out. 

Whereas if you don't have any design capacity, you will make different decisions. So just by grading each potential, thing that you can test on those various skills allows you to optimize which, or prioritize which one you're going to run based off of that kind of, that constraints that you have within that sprint of that week. 

Nima Gardideh: And are you the one making the last call essentially on which ones get into the sprint or is there, have you already like divided that up across teams? 

Meltem Kuran: I mean, the beauty of using that very robust way to prioritize it is the it's kind of obvious which decision you make you would need to make. So I don't even need to make the last call. Oftentimes we'll, you know, whoever happens to kind of put it in the sheet, they'll put up the list and we'll say, yep, we're all aligned because this is obviously how we need to [00:51:00] prioritize these. And we will go back And reprioritize as often as needed. 

Nima Gardideh: SO how do you solve for, I guess like the first question is anyone can submit an experiment to this sheet or how, what is the entry who gets to put things in there?

Meltem Kuran: So we have one sheet that doesn't have all of these details, where any, anybody at the company can submit ideas into them. And it's like a very long list. And we just ask, we're like, give us two sentences. You don't need to go into detail, just put it in there.

It lives on Notion. It's that sheet. Then we go through that sheet and we'll see, okay, this is, what's a good idea. Whose idea was it? Let's reach out to them. Let's get a little bit of a detail. So there's a little bit of a elimination going from that main sheet where 600 people can contribute to the shorter list of what we believe is going to be worthy of an ROI. But we do collect ideas from everyone. 

I specifically love collecting ideas from people who just joined the company, because they're still coming from us from an outsider's perspective, whatever they see we are too far in we don't see. So whenever someone joins them on that first call with [00:52:00] them, like before I tell you anything, tell me what you would do differently and, kind of soak that up from them before they become, a team member. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. We rotate team members a lot for this exact reason of like, Hey, look at this exact problem from scratch. I'm gonna give you no context and then see what they come up with is quite helpful and useful. And especially on the design side for us, we rotate a lot of designers.

And sometimes don't even share the learnings from the past design. So just to see what they come up with from scratch to see if it's going to be useful, so there's some vetting happening, and then, you then figure out how much basically effort needs to go into this thing. 

So who is in charge of figuring that out? And how do you ensure there is no scope creep because now you're like talking about building things, right? You're building a site or changing things on the side or change or producing content or whatever. 

What system are you using there to ensure that you're being as honest as possible, both on the effort front and on the potential ROI front. So then when [00:53:00] you see that bubble graph that you talked about, it's not quite obvious and you can trust that bubble graph is being fruitful.

Meltem Kuran: Yeah. So for efforts whoever's going to be in charge of executing will be the one to weigh in on how much effort is going to take. So, the growth team wouldn't necessarily assign a t-shirt size to something that we expect engineers to complete. That would be the product managers that know how much how much effort it will take.

And they would be the ones to put it in. If they're unsure, they will gut check it with engineers. And the, on the ROI front, we rely a lot on our previous experiences from both our previous roles and at Deel, obviously what we assume the ROI lift will be, gets better over time as we test things. That part I would say is like the largest part where it's like, built on hypothesis.

More so than knowing. But you know, the more we test, the more results we get to, the more we're able to say no last time we did something similar ROI lift was X percent. Let's assume that for this time or adjust that up or down, depending on what we learned the next time.

Nima Gardideh: So you're using essentially either external or internal [00:54:00] experiences or previous results to try to triangulate. What's going to be a very high ROI or very low. Is there like a range you're using, like are using the categorical numbers, like zero to five? Or are you using like actual net present values. Like what are you using there for ROI?

Meltem Kuran: So it really depends on what part of the funnel we're trying to optimize for. So if we are looking to increase the amount of unique visitors to our website, then we will be using a net number. So we will say an additional 5,000 visitors. If we are looking to increase the unique to lead at a specific page on our website, then we will be talking about basis points. So it really depends what the part of the funnel we're trying to operate. 

Nima Gardideh: AH, so you're basically like siloing it to that part of the specific funnel. 

Meltem Kuran: Yes. And then you trickle that down to lead number. So if we get a 50 basis points increase in our unique to lead on our pricing page, how many additional leads is that? Assuming everything else stays constant. And then all of those spit out [00:55:00] a lead number in the end. So you're able to say, even though, this effort is going to bring us maybe 50,000 additional uniques to our blog, but the blog converts at a lower rate than the core site is going to result in less leads than we do this little thing that brings like a less lift, but it's at a more impactful page on the website. 

Nima Gardideh: Yes. Okay. That makes sense. And the obvious question for me here, and I'm sure you have a good answer to this is how do you solve for quality in that scenario? Right? Like, cause we can, I can run probably a lot of tests that increase the number, the volume of leads, the ultimate volume of leads. But those leads are not as high quality as they could be.

Is that, does that make sense? I feel like there's a whole in this model.

Meltem Kuran: And I think that's the kind of, that's always the, that defines whether or not your marketing and sales teams get along or not. And so the marketing teams, the growth team that we have is responsible for revenue and sales, qualified opportunities leads we use as a leading indicator, but, we can try out 50 [00:56:00] things and on surface they can be very successful if they did not result in sales, qualified opportunities that then convert into revenues that was not a success.

And that's very clear and we hire only marketers to the team that are comfortable with taking that on. I've seen in a lot of companies, people will say I delivered the leads of sales. Can't convert. It. It's their problem. That's just not the kind of thinking that. Allow within Deel. So the answer is if you deliver quality leads, obviously sales is incentivized to convert them.

And if they're not converting, by the way, they're amazing partners to us and say, Hey, I didn't convert because 10% of them didn't show up. These two guys didn't even know what the hell we were doing. And these people didn't like the solution because they thought it was too expensive. So as we get that feedback, we're obviously able to improve the top of the funnel too.

But the way we solve for that problem is making sure that every single team is aligned on a sales, qualified opportunity and ultimately a revenue target as a measure of.

Nima Gardideh: So you ultimately get to this sort of quality slash revenue [00:57:00] part of these changes. But in the micro instance of the experiment, you're trying to just improve that part, that specific part of the funnel. And then if it becomes leaky, then you'll just go back and figure out how to improve, but maintain the maybe new found conversion rate, but improve the quality of the leads.

Meltem Kuran: Yes, exactly. And we, you know, I can tell people we're selling, we're giving away free puppies and get a thousand leads in five minutes and then..[laughing]

Nima Gardideh: Exactly.

Meltem Kuran: Proceed to not have a job the next day. So it's really important to maintain that alignment with the sales team. 

Nima Gardideh: I think with marketing, there's just so many of those fun ideas that you can do to just, bring on the leads. There's this part of like, the relationship between the top of the funnel of people and the bottom of the funnel. People essentially like marketers or growth people and sales and product people, I feel like is extremely important for it to not be an adversarial of a relationship and more of a collateral.

How do you think about that? Like, how are their org structure things that you think can help here are, they're mostly like [00:58:00] just people, things of being honest about your process and explaining that to your colleagues, like what works best for you. And you've been in two organizations that have similar sort of things that are, so I'm very curious on how, if anything, if there, if you were to give advice to people on how to build good relationships with your partners in these other parts of the org, what does that.

Meltem Kuran: I think as a starting point, hiring people that don't necessarily see whatever they're doing as like, if I do this cool campaign, it'll look great on my resume for my next role. That's a very dangerous way to do a lot of cool things on the marketing front that piss off their bottom funnel. And all you've done is, you know, make yourself look good, but not really drive any business results.

So making sure that when you hire people, you're saying you're signing up for revenue. Like what we're trying to achieve here. Make sure that people can hire internationally. The way we can do that. is to build a sustainable business. The way we built sustainable business is if we can turn this into, an economically viable product.

So if someone's aligned on that and then, you will see a lot of people in the [00:59:00] interview process, they won't feel comfortable signing on up to those sales qualified opportunity or revenue targets, because they'll say, Nope, other teams manage that. I don't feel comfortable taking that on. And that's a really great tell of the fact that you probably shouldn't hire that person because they're going to say, but look at how many likes I got on Instagram.

And not really talk about all the ways in which they under delivered to their partners. And I think, every single person on my team feels an immense amount of responsibility towards their sales counterparts. If we are not delivering on leads, like I feel it at a such a deep level, and I know why the same token, our sales team is if they're, sometimes we'll hire a lot of people and if it's not converting at the rates that they said that they would, they're also feeling the same level of responsibility.

Up funnel partners, which is my team. we're putting in all this effort and bringing these people like that, they need to convert better. So it goes both ways. And so the most straightforward way to achieve that is make sure that they have the same KPIs that, you know, KPIs don't just, you know, say leads, okay, now it's on to you.

And I did what I had to [01:00:00] do. So having that shared KPI, which is sales, qualified opportunities are really good. One. That's comfortable for marketing teams because it's still high top of funnel. But also for sales teams, because they get to put in their say and say, you know what? This was a good quality lead.

Um, So aligning on the KPIs is like a really good way of achieving that. And also the way we I've always like structured teams is I don't, I haven't ever hired two people to do the same job because when you have that happen and if there's two people doing the same job and there's only one role to be promoted into people just do weird shit.

And, they just try to look good and make sure that they get the most attention instead of actually asking how can I drive the most value for this business. So again, kind of taking away that element of there is no politics. No one's trying to, I'm not trying to look better than the next person.

I'm just trying to make sure that we reach our numbers. That kind of, it helps when you don't hire two people. Two people do the same job and everybody sees that if they do well, they have an open path ahead. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. And so [01:01:00] just to repeat that, and I think this makes so much sense to me, it's essentially a combination of focusing on the same goal, which is making an economically viable business because quite obvious, right? Culturally being aligned on that, like hiring people that also have the same belief system and follow the same system and want to be in an organization that, that works that way.

And then the last part is quite interesting is removing organizational competition where I can be truly an owner and not have to compete with my colleagues for a higher salary or potential title bump. That last part I want, I don't think we have enough time to spend like an hour talking to you about that at some point. Cause I also a huge believer of that one. 

But I think people get overwhelmed in their role and then their boss sees it and then they end up hiring someone to help them out, not realizing how much damage they're going to cause by by introducing a second person in the same role. And thinking about how can they [01:02:00] maybe create systems to reduce the worker, make their job less overwhelming.

Meltem Kuran: So I think a similar thing like that happened to me, where, as I joined as the Head of Growth, we had all of the go-to-market operations, except for sales was kind of partnerships and communications and everything was rolling up to me. And eventually it became very overwhelming and our CEO recognized that.

And instead of saying, Hey, I'm going to bring in another Head of Growth and you guys are going to split the responsibilities evenly. We looked at based off of my experience, what I'm good at and what I want to continue doing, what should stay in my org and where are the places that we should potentially bring in new leaders and take it off of my plate.

So now we have a new communications organization that's ran by someone else and they're doing an amazing job. We now have a different partnerships organization. That's run by someone else and they're doing an amazing job. So I think when that happens and when someone feels that overwhelmed the right way to approach, that is not to hire another them it's to say, okay, what can I take off of your.

So that you can continue growing the things on [01:03:00] your plate, and then they become so much more and so much more exciting. And there's a little bit of an ego involved in that and feeling like, oh but I must not be doing a good job at this being taken away from me. But then when you kind of take a step back and you're like, I actually need this breathing room so that I can be better at my job.

And I'm, I'm personally so thankful that I had the kind of leader that was able to have that communication with me openly and that now I couldn't have been happier. But the right thing to do in my opinion is just bring it, take off something from their plate and bring in a leader who's going to take that on. 

Nima Gardideh: Totally. Yeah. And I think so much of that is cultural and having learning what good leadership management is like, which unfortunately, quite a lot of startups in my opinion, end up not doing well on that because they're just inherently younger. And a lot of that comes from wisdom of having tried it a few times.

Right. There's one question before we wrap up that I thought we could answer. This is around. Do you have your own engineering resources directly reporting into growth team or is it all under the product team that you get access to? How does that [01:04:00] work in your org?

Meltem Kuran: So, I fought very hard for this. We have a growth product team. They report into the product team because those are technical people that need to have technical superiors to be better at their jobs, but they are 100% dedicated to the growth team. So that product manager works very closely with our team and they don't take on any work from any other team.

But with, as an org structure perspective, they still sit with the engineering and the product teams to make sure that, they continue to be a part of that ecosystem, but their responsibilities lie with us. Same goes for data. Data used to roll up to me. We hired an amazing person and, you know, he was doing so great, but I didn't have the technical skills to make him better at his job every day.

So we built a data org where now he has a boss that's very technical who can support them to be a better data analyst. And, but he's still doing a hundred percent of his deliverables are still to the growth team. So that's kind of how we work on it.

Nima Gardideh: So it's like functional teams with dual reporting where they'll report to you on the things that you're working on, but there's like a functional [01:05:00] team that they can work on their ability to become a better engineer, a beter data person, a better product person over time. 

Meltem Kuran: Yes. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. That makes so much sense. [MUSIC FADES IN] Well thank you so much. I feel like we could do another hour of this [laughing] and I'm super intrigued to get to know you more. Thank you so much for doing this with me and thanks everyone for listening. 

Meltem Kuran: Thank you for having me. This was fun! 

Nima Gardideh: We love and use Deel at Pearmill! If your company is looking to hire internationally, they're one of the best companies doing it. This isn't an advertisement, I promise [laughing}. 

Melton has graciously shared some of the resources that she uses with her team with us. Check out the show notes for links to the docs that she mentioned in this episode. And since we're in the spirit of sharing, if you're enjoying our show, give us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This helps our show grow plus allows us to get more amazing guests just like Meltem. 

Join our live discussions every month where you can ask our guests your growth questions. Sign up at [01:06:00] pearmill.com/hypergrowth-podcast. Thanks for listening and thanks again for Melton for joining us. Until next time folks.

This episode was produced in partnership with Leah Jackson at Puka Puka Creative. [MUSIC FADES OUT]