How to Re-think Your Virtual Meetings & Communication w/Darin Dawson, BombBomb Ep#145
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Anthony: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, folks and people to this episode of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. My name is Anthony Taylor, the Managing Partner at SME Strategy. We facilitate strategic planning sessions, and help teams implement their strategic plans, and we're always looking for new ways, tools and expertise to help our clients and friends accomplish their goals. And so today, I'm very excited to speak to Darin Dawson, who is the Co-founder and President of bombbomb.com. Darin, what's happening today?
Darin: How's it going, man? Thanks for having me. I appreciate that.
Anthony: I'm so excited to hear. I mean, we chatted in our in our pre roll kind of thing about what you've learned as a CEO over the past little while, like growing and and building your company. But for those that might not know you by name, tell everybody who you are what you do. What gets you up in the morning?
Darin: Yeah, so I'm the Co-founder of BombBomb. I started this crazy video messaging platform back in 2006, technically, is when we founded the idea of the business and got it going. I quit my day job in 2011. So I've been doing this just over 10 years, it's been a wild ride - went from you know, me and my buddy and like three people to now over 150 folks who work in mostly Colorado. And then eight other states in the US. So yeah, it's been quite an interesting time - I think we have almost 100,000 users worldwide. So crazy. Yeah, lots of fun, lots of hard. It's all both of those things most of the time.
Anthony: I got that. What have you learned in those 10/15/20 years growing your product from 100,000 users like both as a CEO and as a person? What are some of those kind of formative things that you've really taken away? Any key learnings for you as you've grown?
Darin: Yeah, gosh, there's a bunch of them. And I think they're cyclical, meaning that they kind of come to you in these different - I think business has these different phases either in its age or size of a number of employees. You have a number of customers, you have types of clients. We dever to have what we call a 'beachhead strategy' in the beginning. We started in real estate, we found a good go to market strategy, and that I think we learned a lesson I'll unpack a bit.
The pandemic, I feel taught us a lot of lessons. I think that I can kind of roll back into more recently. But we started with a beachhead strategy and thought we just want to own something and make it very defensible. And so we found that our product which is if you don't know, BombBomb, we make it easy for you to create video messages and anything you're using. So you can create video messages and LinkedIn messages via messages and email. And if you're thinking, Well, can't I do that already? Well, you can but it's hard. Like this phone that I have right here makes huge videos that don't how the recipient receives them. And we make that consistent with the experience for the recipient, where we focus most of our time, the trackability of that, the calls to action involved in that. But it's about video messaging. We believe that people have intrinsic value, and we want you to build more connections with more people more often. I think that's becoming more popular now the personal versus the automated. And so that's what we do.
But back then we wanted to create a beachhead strategy and just really defend that space. And we did that very well. We grew quickly to 50/60,000 real estate users. And then we branched out into other verticals like mortgage, insurance, financial services. Then pandemic hit, which we're still going through. And what happened in March of 2020 really was a rush to our service. So we had a huge - I mean, our revenue goals for second quarter were met in the month of April, just by itself. So we had explosive growth. And what that told us you know, listen, at that point I had been doing this for like nine years. I've been doing it for 10 now. And we thought.. it's finally the year of video. So forever since I started this business, it's been kind of the year of video.
But video has its own problems. People don't like how they look, they don't like how they sound, and adoption sometimes it's tough. And so we really work hard on that with our customers. We've really gotten through that but with a pandemic. I was like, man, everybody has to do this now. And they did. And so we launched and we thought now would be a time to go more horizontal. That this is really for everybody and everybody's our customer. And the lesson I learned is that yeah, but we should stay true to our focuses. So people who we help the most with video messaging, maybe this is you listening, are people who work with people where repeat and referral business is a big deal.. that I'm going to continue to transact with you over time is a big deal. Also, when a human being is necessary in the transaction, it's a hard thing. Like planning your finances for your future, or how do I buy this house? Or what kind of mortgage should I get? or I'm building a new home, what's required of me?
Those things require human beings to walk you through. So we crush it for people who are in that type of business, right? Because we help them explain complex things through video. If I send you an email, and it's black text, and a white screen, kind of just looks the same. But with video, I can walk you through these things.
We can help you align your team around a clear vision, mission, values, goals and action plans,
so you can lead your organization more effectively and get better results.
Anthony: So that was a lot there. So I want to summarize that. So - started this company, great traction in that core metric, because the core metric really at the core, the beachhead as you would call it, really met that outcome that you wanted. And then what I really took away from what you shared as it relates to communication, and not just your product, is that recipient experience. And so now where you guys crush it, it's using video for people to use as a tool to make sure that the recipient is having a good experience around the communication. Because you and I both know that it doesn't matter what I say if it doesn't land with the other person. And so one might say it's around human centered communication, would you say that's kind of fair to say?
Darin: That's right, you're feeding me there. Yeah, we recently wrote a book called Human Centered Communication. And we hit the Wall Street Journal bestseller on that. Was a great book written by Steve Pacinelli, our CMO and our Chief Evangelist Ethan Beute. And it really just centers on this idea that look, the more complex the communication, the more necessary something like video is to deliver it.
So we want to automate these things. So if it requires a guidance, video is for you. And a lot of people want to grab video and use it in sales, it's a great place to use video. They want to use it in customer success, another great place to use video. But it's best used in those instances, in any role, really, when it's a complex thing you're communicating. You can do screen share with our software, but more importantly, as we're looking at each other, now you can see the person sending the message. And human beings have this ability that our brains are taking in the information. And when I'm looking at another human, for instance, if you can see my hands, our lizard brain, our ancestral brain goes, you can trust them, they're probably not hiding a weapon behind them. Right? Like, it's just these nonverbal pieces of communication that we lose the context, when it's just black text in a white screen via email, or social media, whatever that is.
And I mean, we've all had a message that's been misconstrued, that's been taken the wrong way. That's typically when it's that type of communication. Because if our brands can take the feedback, or the receptors in of their eye contact, how they emote, the tone of their voice. These all tell you, Anthony, something about how I'm trying to communicate to you right now. And so when we remove those things, we really put ourselves at a disadvantage. And that that's what we are all about. And that's what we wrote the book about. And so, yeah, if I could tie it all the way back to the pandemic, I think everybody grabbed hold of it. But then at the same time, I think focus is really the key and then staying true. We kind of got too broad in our approach. So the lesson I learned was sometimes market conditions can move you off of your path that was working very well. And it's not a shiny object. I know that's used a lot. But all the indicators told us that man, it's time to go big, horizontal. We got too broad in the problem we were solving. Does that make sense?
Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. So there's kind of two things - kind of two simultaneous tracks, it's good thing we got video to make it more clear. So one is, there's the medium and the message, so regardless if you're using video. But the reason that you guys blew up so fast was the pandemic and this environment around it took away a tool that people had relied on in person communication, because that was the only communication we knew - we still had to do our jobs. And so we had to say, Hey, how can I replace this and I believe augment in a lot of ways. There's a lot of cool stuff you can do with video, that asynchronous communication more effectively. But really making sure you got the medium and the message, so you get the result. So that's one part.
The other piece that I took away from lessons learned is I deal with a lot of CEOs in our strategic planning practice. March 2020, some businesses skyrocketed and got so busy, some businesses really got crushed - it was kind of like a 50/50 mix. But what was interesting in both cases was a reaction to market conditions. So even if you had a strategy, what happened in March, I try not to say the word because it doesn't do well on YouTube. But yeah, what happens is your strategy gets blown up. And so either way you kind of have to - and it sounds like where you're at right now, you're trying to get into your sweet spot, so that you guys are still like outcome focus of where you really can provide the most value. So that in five years or three years, you don't get so diluted that you become a commodity in the marketplace.
Darin: That's it. You know, it's interesting when you think about the recipient and the message. We kind of are doing this now in remote work. We're just taking what we did in the office, we try and make it happen in Zoom. And I think that's wrong. We got to rethink how we're doing meetings and maybe the cadence of those meetings. Zoom fatigue is real, you know, that fatigue is real now.
For us it's kind of the same thing. People grabbed our video messaging product, and they just applied it to what they were doing already because they couldn't do it anymore. And that is a problem. Okay, so look, if your sales communication messaging sucks, it's gonna suck on video. But you know what I mean? If that is not good now, video is not going to help it. But where video crushes it, and we know this, we've known this since 2006, there wasn't a freakin camera in the iPhone, when we decided to start this company. And so we help people when you have a complex message needs to be delivered. Financial services, real estate, insurance, mortgage loan officers. That's what we've been in, who've been successful with, but then apply that to you. Maybe it was listening. Yeah, your manager communicating to your team. Sometimes it gets complex. Product people talking to executives in their company about product roadmap, complexities in the product, friction in the product, things that need to be described and figured out in that application. It saves a ton of time.
Back to that how we do meetings today. Is that the same way you've been doing meetings before? That has to change a bit, I think we can save a lot of meetings, by sending some videos that talk about some of these hard things. We used to hear it's too hard or too complex, we got to have a meeting, and I'll talk about it. Or you could do a screen share with you captioned in it, talking about that complex thing, send it to those five executives, or whomever it might be new org, have that meeting asynchronously. And let them comment back on it. One of the things that we do is we transcribe the video as well. So right there, if you ever experienced BombBomb, you get the video, and next the transcription - you can dialogue and go through it. And you can jump back and forth it. So it's just a better, what we call a human centered way to communicate. So you get the feedback of the human being, along with the context and text of the communication. We believe that's a better way to do that. So what we're trying to do now is really revolutionize the way people think about doing work in this more remote environment. Because that didn't change. Everybody just stayed remote. We still are. But how can we do that differently, I think is the challenge. Now I face that every day.
Anthony: Yeah, I got that. And I think I really again, like not to plug the book, which I'm happy to do. But it's really around that human centered communication. And often people get so stuck on the what, and they forget about the why. And so it's like, hey, we need to have this really long meeting or we're going to do our strategy offsite. I'm going to communicate information. There's so many better ways to do it, that if you're focused on the recipient versus on the deliverer, it can go way more.
So for everybody listening, don't forget about the user. And that's why we're thinking about you like Hey, how can this be valuable? So Darin, we're gonna switch gears a little bit. And I'd love to take us back to, let's say, maybe the past like eight months, as your business has really started taking off, and you get what I mean by that. What were some of the things that you had to kind of grapple with, like outside of the product? In terms of growing and scaling a team? What were some of those 'aha' lessons? What were some things that you're like, I never thought I'd encounter this or this was a new problem that I never had to face before. And then how did you address it? Or how are you addressing it?
Darin: Yeah, what's interesting is on top of that growth that we had, and we had challenges around that, but the challenge really was around people at the same time. 2021, for me, is a very hard year, because we were having success, but we also had challenges in the dynamics of our people. Many of you might be dealing with this, it was called 'The Great Resignation'. And as people went remote, you know, our culture is predominantly in office and how we experienced each other in office. So we started to lose people. People were pursuing other careers. The world for recruiting became flat. We used to compete against people maybe in Colorado, and Denver, and Colorado Springs, in those cities and potentially in and surrounding states. But rarely were we competing for talent out of San Francisco, or New York, or Cincinnati, or Vancouver. So now people can still live in Colorado Springs, which has a better cost of living, by the way, then Palo Alto, but work for a company in Palo Alto. And so that became a struggle for us.
And so what I try to do to combat that is, is use our own ability and what we know about our product to communicate with team members. So I would do 'atta girl' videos or 'atta boy' videos. I would send videos from myself to team members. I didn't get to connect with them in the office as much to say, Hey I saw that you did this, I just want to say thank you so much. You're crushing it, keep up the good work. And I tried to do those check in videos asynchronously, because I don't have time to meet with everybody, but I knew they needed to see me. So starting to do that more often. Likewise, when someone new would come into the business, a new employee, I'd send them a video and say hey, thank you so much for choosing BombBomb, we're glad you're here. We need you. We need your expertise. It's like a welcome to the business.
And then I also implemented a Friday video. So I send the video to everybody at BombBomb every Friday updating them on what's going on in the business. What our goals are, how are we doing on our objectives? And just poll everyone. What kind of content do you want the Friday video to be, right? It's kind of an all hands or a stand up that I'd usually do maybe on a Friday, or just have lunch together every Friday. Can't do that anymore. So how am I going to replace that face time with everybody so they can see me, hear me, see the direction the business is going. That disconnect became a problem. So I'm trying to combat that, and so far, got a lot of good feedback on those types of communications. But we continue now to do different things to try and bring that. How do we build culture now in this new paradigm that we're in?
Anthony: Yeah, I got that. So obviously, the talent challenge, so creating a competitive advantage from a talent place. And one of the things that I really want to focus on is, you know, so there's a great resignation. So it means that there's a lot of resignation, they are resigned, they are away. And so when you resign, you're taking a step back, which is why they're not connected. So what I heard you do and what you're doing is doing more things to keep your people connected, so they aren't resigned. Making sure that you as a CEO have that communication line, so that people are engaged. And I really liked that idea of doing like a weekly video to keep people in the loop.
My wife's company, their CEO does an 'ask me anything' once a month. And it's a great way to have that engagement, to have that connection. So people feel connected to the company. Because if you're just at home with no one else around, you know, you got your cat or your spouse, it's not a great workplace, even though work doesn't change. So, Darin, where can people connect with you? Where can people get your book? Where can they learn more about what you guys do?
Darin: Easy to find me. LinkedIn is the best place honestly. Darin Dawson, just Google me and I'm there or BombBomb, you'll find me easily. Also you can find the book anywhere you buy books. So Amazon, local book retailers, we're everywhere. So that's been really well received. I think it was a timely book. Our first book was called Rehumanize Your Business, it's also a good read. I'll say one thing. I think that again, what happened during this time period that we all just lived through. - everybody went to automation in a big way. It accelerated.
And this book, it's called Human Centered Communication, our response to digital pollution and what we think as the digital pollution escalated. So now after this time with you, I'll just get a ton of inbound towards me. But it all looks the same, right? And that got even crazier during the pandemic. And so, now we're calling people back to being more human and more connected, more personal than ever, because people still buy from people they know, like, and trust. And we want to help people walk through that. So that's why you should get the book. And that's why I think it resonated and went number one so quick. It just was timely. And so if you're dealing with that, I'd encourage you to check it out.
Anthony: Awesome. I think there's definitely a preponderance of digital garbage, and getting overwhelmed with that. And I think leaders are dealing with that every day. So Darin, thanks so much for chatting today. It's been a blast. I just appreciate the time and great to meet you. Thanks for your energy, it was awesome.
Darin: Thanks Anthony, you too.
Anthony: So folks, my guest today is Darin Dawson, who is the Co-founder of BombBomb. You can check them out, bombbomb.com. Check out the book. You know, I think that the world of technology is only going to continue. And so your ability as a leader to not only survive through the clutter of electronic information, but make sure that you're connected with your people is going to be critical. So be sure to develop yourself on that. And if you haven't yet, be sure to subscribe to our podcast so you don't miss any great episodes as we support you in leading through that change. So my name is Anthony Taylor, my guest today Darin Dawson. Thanks so much for joining us. And we'll see you next time.