Glowforge 3D Printers, Breakout Growth that Started with a $30M 30-Day Crowdfunding Campaign

Episode 26 June 18, 2020 01:00:21
Glowforge 3D Printers, Breakout Growth that Started with a $30M 30-Day Crowdfunding Campaign
The Breakout Growth Podcast
Glowforge 3D Printers, Breakout Growth that Started with a $30M 30-Day Crowdfunding Campaign

Jun 18 2020 | 01:00:21


Show Notes

In this episode of The Breakout Growth Podcast, Sean Ellis interviews Marlo Struve, Glowforge’s Vice President of Growth. Glowforge is a 3D printer that allows crafters and makers to create unique and innovative things using a subtractive manufacturing process. Where traditional 3D printers add layers of material to create items, Glowforge carves away material using a CO2 laser to reveal a maker’s ideas for prototypes, parts, crafts, and gifts. Breakout growth started with a hugely successful 2015 crowdfunding campaign that yielded more $30 million dollars in 30 days, and while that did demonstrate incredible demand for the concept, it would actually take two years before the first Glowforge printers would be delivered to customers. 

In this interview, Sean uncovers how the team built off of the excitement and anticipation of the original crowdsourcing campaign to transform customer love for an idea into a flywheel effect that now drives sustainable growth (28:36). He also discovers how the company’s growth mindset stressed the idea of “growing the market while you sell it,” to unlock opportunity and expand the potential userbase (23:02). 

Perhaps the most interesting part of this conversation is a deep dive into how Glowforge intentionally and skilfully uses friction to unearth a white-hot core of passionate fans and users (19:44). The idea of always working to reduce friction is ingrained in the minds of growth professionals through books, conferences, and interviews, but this discussion may make you think differently about how you might apply “educational friction” to accelerate growth. 

We discussed: 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00 <inaudible> Speaker 1 00:03 <inaudible> Speaker 2 00:08 Come to the breakout growth podcast where Sean Ellis interviews, leaders from the world's fastest growing companies to get to the heart of what's really driving their growth. And now here's your host, Sean Ellis. Speaker 3 00:25 All right. In this episode of the breakout growth podcast, I'm interviewing Marlos <inaudible> who joined Glowforge about four years ago as their VP of growth. So Glowforge is an at home three D laser printer, and they are on a mission to enable anyone to print or make anything with the magic of lasers. So they've been on a rocket ship, right from the start. They actually set a crowdfunding record by raising nearly $30 million in just 30 days, uh, as an innovative product, they faced the challenge of having to create a market while they're also selling to it. But their passionate customers have been a huge asset in helping them to get the word out there. So let's jump in with my interview with VP of growth Marlowe street. Hey Marla. Welcome to the breakout growth podcast. Hi, Sean. Great to be here with you. Yeah, it's going to be exciting to dig into your business. We haven't really done much in the way of hardware, so a couple of them, but, um, I'm excited to hear how you guys are approaching things. So before we dig into the growth, can you tell me a bit about what Glowforge is and what problem that solves? Speaker 4 01:35 Yeah, of course. Uh, so go for it. Just a really unique product. It is a three D laser printer. It prints really, really beautiful things like jewelry, purses furniture, and just minutes from materials like wood, leather, glass, stone, even chocolate. Uh, any of our customers even take things found around their home, cutting boards, spoons, flasks, et cetera, and put them into the Glowforge to personalize and customize them. Um, go forward was originally a crowdfunding campaign. We were actually the largest consumer crowd funding campaign in 2015 when we sold nearly $30 million of our product over a 30 day period and have now been available direct to consumer for over two years. Speaker 3 02:19 Oh, wow. Yeah. That's uh, and then you have been there, how long? Almost four years. So you said you've been available direct to consumer for two years. What'd you do before that? Speaker 4 02:27 Yeah, exactly. So originally when I started at Glowforge I was hired as one of the lead product managers. And so we were building out like what experience would be. We were building out what a catalog of patterns or designs for the laser would be. Um, and we were doing a lot of pre-work before we eventually launched broadly to our consumer audience. Speaker 3 02:50 Okay. So you really were able to find that demand was there through the crowdfunding campaign and then, because this is a fairly complex product, it took a while to get it to the point where you felt like you could start scaling growth around it. Speaker 4 03:03 Yeah. Yeah, it definitely, uh, I mean, the interesting thing about Glowforge is that we had this massive consumer crowd funding campaign, but then it actually took two years of, uh, manufacturing and supply chain because we had, you know, thousands and thousands of thousands of orders we had to fulfill. And it's a really complex hardware device complex to manufacture, simple to use. Um, but we ended up taking, we had a few years of delays, but our customers stuck through us through it with us. And, uh, then we fulfilled all of our preorders by about early 2018. And that's when we launched, uh, into realtime orders and have been growing like gangbusters ever since. Speaker 3 03:44 Well, that's fantastic. And then, um, the one other thing I, I not sure if I heard from you is really what you guys set out to solve, what problem you saw in, in, in the world that you were trying to solve with this when you first took it to market. Speaker 4 03:57 Yeah, no, that's a, it's a really good point and I'll touch a little bit on our customers too, cause I think that'll help. You know, one thing that's really unique about Glowforge is the number of problems that this a single product can solve. It was not, you know, in traditional startups, especially the ones that I've done prior to Glowforge, it's really been the, what's a problem in the market that we're solving. But with Glowforge it's we have this vision of something that's almost like the great, great grandfather, I'm the star Trek replicator. In many ways we believe would provide a ton of value out in the world. So, you know, we haven't focused on a major pain point, but rather with a Glowforge you can fix a kitchen appliance with a custom part or create a custom gift for your dad's birthday or entertain your kids for hours. Speaker 4 04:42 So it's less about the problem that golf Glowforge solves and more about bringing creativity and the ability to create parts or pieces or designs for nearly anything in your home or your business or workshop or schools. Um, some describe it as like a mini factory within your home. Uh, and a bunch of our customers talk about this idea of like micro manufacturing, you know, is as opposed to ordering something that it takes weeks to get here from overseas. We think about how can it all be, you know, within the comfort of your home. And so it, that relates a little bit more to our customers where, you know, Glowforge really, isn't just for those who like fun, fancy gadgets, which a lot of people, when I speak with them, they're like, Oh, that's for like just makers. We have thousands of different types of customers that we serve from, you know, someone who wants to take their craft game to a whole new level, to an engineer who wants to prototype at home to parents who are putting together many lesson plans with their kids, um, to existing and future small business owners. Um, we really are creating this product that enables so much for so many and it's, it's changing the way people think about creativity. Speaker 3 05:57 Very cool. And so how does actually work? Is it, um, you mentioned the replicator kind of, can it, can it actually like scan something and make a copy of it or is it always off of some plan you upload? How, how does it work for those of us who've never played with anything like this before? Speaker 4 06:12 Yeah, no, no, no. It's, it's, it's really interesting. It's interesting to try to describe it verbally. Oftentimes I send people links to really fun videos. Um, but so the, the Glowforge printer itself is about a three foot by two foot by 10 inch tall, um, machine that sits on your kitchen counter or sits on your desktop. I have mine in my studio where I typically work. And, um, what you do is you, it is a co two laser, a 40 or 45 watt laser that shoots a beam of light at a material or at a product and can cut and engrave on that product. So for example, um, one of the things that I've done a lot at home is create little plaques for my friends. Who've had kids with the like footprints. And so what, and it's amazing cause we have a bunch of cameras in the, um, in the printer as well. Speaker 4 07:07 So for example, they, they give me a piece of paper, which is their baby's foot stamped onto this piece of paper with something, I stick it into the Glowforge. I close the lid that camera in the lid of a Glowforge can take a picture of that. And a lot of people do custom cutting boards with this functionality to, you can take a recipe that your grandmother used, put it into the, Glowforge take a picture of it. You can then take it out. And then you've got that picture and you can stick in anything or stick in a blank piece of material and, you know, engrave the footprint or engrave the recipe, do a cutout amongst it, or excuse me around it. Um, and then a lot of people use it to build huge 3d objects, right? People make stools and huge art pieces. So you basically take materials or a found object, put it inside the bed of the Glowforge, you close it, you control it via a web based app. And then you click print in the app and print on the Glowforge and it'll start to cut and engrave this magical delightful thing. Speaker 3 08:08 Wow. So I have seen with three D printing in the past where it's sort of like a material that sort of piles up, this sounds like it's more about cutting away with a laser. Is that a good differentiation? Speaker 4 08:19 Yeah, Sean, that's a really important point. Traditional three D printers are additive technology, right? Where you take a resin or something and it piles over time. Um, and that has definitely come a long way. Um, which is pretty interesting, but yes, this is a D like, this is a detraction, um, mechanism where it is cutting away pieces of that wood, or it's cutting away pieces of that acrylic or plastic, um, or it's engraving. And it's the precision. One of the things that makes Glowforge really amazing is both the software that enables you to do so many amazing things. Cause we're updating the software all the time and adding new functionality, but also the precision, it can cut to the width of a human hair and I get the smallest text on little key chains that I make for friends. It's really, really pretty amazing what you can do with it. Speaker 3 09:09 That's fantastic. So, yeah, I think, um, but obviously it's, it's solving a need that people haven't solved necessarily in the past, or I guess solved that in very different ways, like getting something sent to them. Um, so how, I mean, you mentioned that you have the crowd funding campaign and that as we, as we both agreed, really showed that there was some demand out there, was that enough to feel like you had an indication of product market fit or did you still, did you still need to kind of iterate on the product after you saw that initial demand to, to make sure that it satisfied the need that people thought they had Speaker 4 09:48 With the exception of software enhancements? The product is the exact same product that was sold during the crowdfunding campaign. So in many ways we think about it like the Apple two, that was one of the top selling computers for 10 years where the hardware itself is so advanced and so amazing. And you can do so much with it. We built in so much into the machine that with really incredible software enhancements piled on top of that, it's actually been just this incredible machine for years, which is wonderful in the hardware world, right? So many other hardware companies are trying to release a new version of their product every year. And we don't, it has been because the product is so transformative. We've had the exact same hardware product for many years, but the software just keeps getting better and better. Speaker 3 10:39 So it reminds me a lot like of, of Tesla or something where, um, you just sorta every every six months or so you, you have a, almost a new car in terms of the, the capabilities that are there and it sort of makes the hardware feel more updated even though the hardware itself isn't changing. Would you think that's a good comparison? That's a great example. Cool. And then, um, did you, so were you there when the first unit ships shipped Speaker 4 11:05 Was we actually shipped five all at like the first five and it was, it was just magical to see. So one of the things that has really been instrumental to Glowforge of success has been our customers. And, you know, we had all of these customers who joined us during the, the original, uh, premotor crowd funding campaign. And then, um, Dan, our CEO much to his credit was he, we, we had this forum where everybody was super active and Dan would go into the forum every night for hours on end to share ideas and talk to our customers. And this was all through our crowd funding campaign or excuse me, after their crowdfunding campaign, before we were shipping. And then we launched, uh, we shipped the first five units and like the entire company was like piled up, waiting for them to be delivered. And it was just, it was just absolutely magical. Our first customer who got, um, who received one, um, his, his handle is named Marmac and he, he created glasses and he created rulers and, and he just went to town experimenting with all of these different things. He was so excited to get it. Speaker 5 12:16 That's awesome. And did, did, did you, were you a little bit worried though, as those initial units went out that, um, that people might like try it a couple of times and then just like, ah, that's not what I thought and then just, just give up on it or were you guys pretty confident that once, once they got their hands on it, that that they were going to be pretty engaged and keep using it. Speaker 4 12:36 So I think we had hopes and dreams, but you're never really sure about the reality, right. That's part of what makes a brand new company is a really interesting and scary and exciting all at once. Uh, we, we had fairly high conviction internally that this was going to be transformative for so many people. Um, but you know, you never know what you never know. So we, the, the proof is really in the pudding. We've now seen our earliest customers use their machines for years on end. And, and what's great is we see them not only using it, but then like their spouses or their partners are like, Oh, Oh, wait, you mean I could do this with it. And sometimes we see like the original purchaser, their spouse like takes over the glow forge, but like, wait, wait, what happened? I wanted that. I'm at where their kids take it over. Speaker 4 13:29 Like one of our, um, one of the members of the Glowforge team, his son is building a surfboard. Um, like it's, it's pretty, it's pretty exciting to see, see what people do with it. I mean, in people find so many different things that they can do with their Glowforge. We see a lot of people who buy it for fun, but then ended up turning it into small businesses. We have, we've got this customer, her name is Kristen, where she basically is now an international toy designer, but she originally bought her. Glowforge just to make, um, like building blocks and toys for her kids at home. And now she sells them on Amazon across the world. Wow. Speaker 5 14:07 But that is amazing. I mean, it sounds like, I mean, so much of when you're, when you're understanding the value of the product, that so much of just those individuals and the use cases that they have, and because there's such a variety of ways the product could be used, it's probably probably somewhat difficult to, to sort of settle on a, on an individual user. But, um, I guess through the, through the collective user base and all the people you engage with, you start to really get a picture of, of what makes us unique. Speaker 4 14:34 Yeah. It's definitely the, the breadth of our customer base is one of the most exciting and challenging things about growing the business, because there isn't one clear value prop for, because there's like thousands of value props depending on which is totally against all growth marketing best practices, like never go after a broad audience, except we have. Um, Speaker 5 14:59 I was, I was actually getting a lecture the other day from someone about know who your ideal customer is. I was telling about a new, new project that I was working on. And it's, you know, it's, it's one of those things when you appeal to a broad range, part of it is part of it is you almost kind of have to step back and say who, who loves it the most and kind of almost let people be your, um, your experimenters to see if it matches to what their, what they think their needs are and what they ultimately become. Speaker 4 15:25 Yeah. It's funny, Sean, you, you touched on something that for us is really important. You S you said like, who loves it? The most? One of the things that we talk about is less selling the product and more, how do we get someone to fall in love with the product? Right. We talk about, like, we start off often with paid ads and, you know, early in there, we think about how do you just get someone excited by, by what it could do? You don't have to know how it works, right? You described like, well, how does the laser work? You don't really have to know that at the beginning, you just have to be like, wait, it can engrave on a white and put someone's super, super excited. And then our goal is not to just sell you the product. But our goal is for you to fall in love with the possibilities and for you to get your family to fall in love with your POS the possibilities or your colleague goats, or, you know, the other teachers at your school. We see a lot of teachers buy these for work with our students. Um, and so how do you, and for everybody, the path to love is slightly different. So the interesting thing thing that our growth team has been has been doing over and over again, is how do we iterate on different ways of falling in love with the product and how do we create different, choose your own adventures to get to that final, um, love part where you just can't, you can't stand it anymore and you have, Speaker 3 16:46 Right. Right, right. That's great. And, and then, um, so obviously there's, there's been lots of, uh, lots of things you've need to figure out along the way. And it's pretty, as you said, it's a, it's a pretty unique product and unique set of challenges. Um, but you also said that you have had really consistent growth over the years and things are really good. So what, as you've gone through all of that, is there something that you feel like you really figured out or tapped into? That's been a key driver of that growth, or maybe a couple. Speaker 4 17:15 Yeah. I mean, the first thing that's been really critical, which is really just the foundation is the quality of the product itself, right? Simply put Glowforge is the best home crafting, making, experimenting, entertaining machine. You can get, right. It's this beautiful design works flawlessly. Um, and you know, this might seem really boastful, but one of my team members describes it like the first iPhone when everybody else is using flip phones, right. It's just this iconic thing that people don't realize how much it'll transform, what you're doing. I feel like I'm overusing word. I use transform a lot, Speaker 3 17:52 Your whole business about transforming things into other stuff. So, Speaker 4 17:56 Um, so, so I think one, we, there's no way that our growth team could do what we do without having this really amazing product, like, you know, shipping all of our preorder units and then having our customers come back telling us how much they love it and what they're doing with it. Like I had a, one of our growth marketers started a year ago and she was reading through a lot of the customer reviews and comments. And she's like, I can't believe she's like, this is a growth marketers dream, the things they say naturally about the product, or like what you want them to say. So first and foremost, like having an incredible product has really, I'm really spoiled by it. Right. I know that if I put a Glowforge in your home, you're going to love it. You're going to love it because there's something that it's going to be that that's going to be magical for you. Speaker 4 18:47 Um, the other factors that have been really pretty critical, um, for us has been, you know, really leaning in and working with our customers right. When you have this preorder customer base and you can really engage with them and get them to talk about your machine and share what they're doing and be really vocal and excited about it. That's been a really, really critical part of driving our success today, right? How do we get people to fall in love by describing how others have fallen in love with this product? So, you know, we, we do customer spotlights. We do stories. We use quotes from our customers, describing their experience with the product to then, um, help us ideate and hypothesize around brand new ad campaigns because it's, it's resonating somehow for them. And those are their words. How can we turn that around into a thematic campaign that we believe will work really well. Speaker 4 19:44 Um, and then I think another thing that's pretty critical, and this isn't the case for all products from a growth marketing standpoint, but we've done a pretty intentional job of creating friction through, out our, our like funnel or we really talk about in terms of loops or flywheels. Um, and so that's been, that's been really critical is thinking about like, we don't want you to fall in love quickly and then lose interest, right? We want this to be a deliberate relationship that we're creating with you. And so creating friction through different tactics and different engagement points with every single prospect has been a really key, key part of our success. I'm happy to, Speaker 3 20:26 Yeah. Let me stop you there on that, because that's, that's an intro. That's obviously most people it's all about how do we take friction away, but if I understand what you're saying, I think what you're saying is if, if you build friction in the right way, it's, you're essentially saying rather than just almost like using your business rather than just printing customers, I would rather err on the side of printing fewer customers, but printing ones that are going to be like in love with this product and ultimately be, be a fuel for getting a lot more other customers. Is that a correct way of, okay. Speaker 4 20:59 Yes, absolutely. If you can slow down your, if you were fortunate enough, not all companies are right, but if you can slow down your acquisition strategy and think about how you can make it a sustainable strategy longterm, then your retention is going to be higher. Your lifetime value is going to be higher. Your referral rates are going to be higher to give you a sense. Actually, 50% of our sales are through our customer to customer referral program. Wow. So, Speaker 3 21:30 And is that incentivized or is that Speaker 4 21:32 As a give get program, Speaker 3 21:34 But that's great. I mean, I, I still, I don't think people respond to an incentivized referral program if they don't already love the product and you wouldn't already have a high referral rate. Speaker 4 21:43 Yes. Yeah, yeah. I think it's pretty important. Speaker 3 21:46 Yeah. So I do want to dig back, continue to dig on this on this one point, because it's so unique and I haven't heard someone say that, but I actually had it come up in a meeting recently with a company that I'm helping, um, that we're where someone made the point that, Hey, if we reduce the friction, we're going to have a lot lower quality of people in the product. And you know, for me, it was sort of like, Oh geez, well then you might as well add more friction, like, you know, and just have one super customer. And so it sort of rubbed me the wrong way when he said it, but somehow it feels the way that you're describing this, that it's, it's not just friction, but it's, it's friction that essentially that essentially it's, it's more like educational friction. So it's not just sort of saying I'm going to give them another hoop just for the sake of the hoop too, so that they, they have, um, you know, the only more committed people get to the end, but it's sort of saying, I'm going to, I'm going to actually nurture them through that, through that funnel. Speaker 3 22:44 So that even if that nurturing might turn some people off, because that impulsive desire to purchase then disappears. It's not just getting rid of those people, but it's making sure that the ones that get through you give them that extra oomph where they're, where they're actually going to get a lot more value from the product. Speaker 4 23:02 Yeah. And I think that's in for me. Um, and I'm, I'm not sure how much, uh, Sean you've touched on like flywheels or loops. Uh, Brian Balfour's Reforge program talks a lot about growth loops and we use the term or the concept of a, of a flywheel internally. Um, that's modeled off of like the Amazon flywheel, if you, if you've seen that out in the world. Um, yes. And I think there's, there's a really important point to add on top of that. So yes, not only can creating friction in your flywheel help you obtain, um, higher quality customers that are likely to retain longer, but also it's going to enable you to like, if you, if you bring in those highly, highly qualified customers, and if they are just itching to use your product and love your product and share your product longterm, then that gives you that content and the fuel to grow your market while you sell to it. Speaker 4 24:05 And, and that for us is super, super critical at Glowforge because if I say I'm like, Hey Sean, you should totally buy a three D laser printer for your house. You're going to be like, what, excuse me. And so how do you, and so the way that Glowforge is going to expand its its total addressable market, um, in a way that compounds over time is to do that through customer love and excitement and project examples. And so, so if we do a really, really great job of, um, making our customer acquisition, um, that the top part of our flywheel, uh, like creating anticipation and excitement and get them getting them excited, like I would love for every single Glowforge customer to the time when it ends up on their doorstep, for them to already have a hundred projects that they want to do, they've already scheduled a party, you know, post COVID a party with their friends where they're going to come over and make things together because they are so excited about it. Speaker 4 25:08 And they're going to create a bunch of clips and throw it on Instagram stories or throw it on YouTube and for a product like Glowforge that going back to the beginning of our conversation that doesn't have, um, this like problem, it is specifically solving it, these messages of excitement and these, these videos and the diversity that the, the breadth of things that our customers are doing will help us attract and get the next set of customers. So it's funny, I have it on my to do list and it always falls off every day. But to write a blog post titled something along the lines of Tam is dead for brand new unique products because you can grow it while you sell to it. Speaker 3 25:55 Right. And then I think there's, so this is a really, I don't usually spend this much time on this section, but I just, I think that there's, there's some pretty interesting things here. So one, I almost feel like the referral piece that you're talking about building up that referral loop is, is a necessity in this business because you, you don't necessarily have a lot of people knowing to, to search for this. And so the more that you get customers with those great use cases, loving it, the more you build that, that, that, that engine of, of referral, like you said, it becomes more compounding, but it's, it's, I think it's, there almost might not be any other way to grow this, even if you had tried to take, take a different approach. Um, and I'll let you comment on that in a second, but the other thing that I want to kind of tie it all back together with, as you talked about, you're like, all right, you, you were able to identify the demand through the crowdfunding campaign. Speaker 3 26:53 And then the quality of the product itself is amazing by the time they get their hands on it. Um, and clearly, however you went about generating the demand, um, the product delivered on that promise. So it feels like kind of where demand meets quality and an experience that really delivers on the promise that people were looking for. What we're talking about. There is product market fit to a large degree. And then everything else that you're talking about is really about kind of spinning around that product market fit in, in a tight way that just gets really passionate customers and then leveraging that product market fit to, to unlock that referral growth that, um, does compound in is so much more sustainable over time. Speaker 4 27:36 Yes, I think that that's a great way of summarizing it, um, and experimenting with lots of different channels and ways to get people excited and inspired. Um, we've, we've done a number of different tactics that are more unique, um, to get people excited and engaged as they're thinking about, um, whether or not the product's right for them. Speaker 3 28:01 And so clearly you through that process, that's, that's the end game of what worked, you talked about some experimentation, um, the whole idea of experimentation is that a lot of it doesn't work, so that's fine. Find your way into what works if you're experimenting and everything works, then you're just doing and instead of experimenting. So what, what were some of the challenges that you faced along the way and, and even taking it all the way to the present day, how has COVID affected, you know, has, has it introduced some new challenges, some new potentially even opportunities. Um, but let's start with the original challenges that you faced along the way and then take it to the present day. Speaker 4 28:36 Yeah, for sure. So I think one of the original challenges was frankly, just getting a growth program off the ground, right? So many companies in my background is more in marketplaces and software. So, uh, you know, you're building the product and you're trying to find that perfect product market fit ongoing, but Glowforge had this interesting timeline where we had this massive crowd funding campaign. And then we went dark for two years. We were not investing money into marketing because we were just trying to build the thing. And so for us, it was getting growth going again, after it had stopped. So, you know, we had to, you know, go back and think about what was going to motivate our team and create a sustainable strategy. So that's where I, and I mentioned that earlier, right? We leaned in on, um, longtime employees and we leaned in on customers. Speaker 4 29:29 Um, and that was really, really critical. If you were to say it is your job to sell a $6,000 white box to consumers, how would you go after that? Because if you think about a display ad for a Glowforge, it looks like a success dollar white box, and we have other price points. Of course. So a lot of the challenges are how do you get someone in a virtual growth tactic world to fall in love with this? Right. Nearly everybody I spoke with said, well, you should open a bunch of retail outlets, but the time and the money and the resource investment to do that, and then figure out if it works. Like if you, what, if you invest hundreds of thousands of dollars and it doesn't work that is not scrappy growth testing, easy roll back test. No, not at all. And so we did a lot of experimenting with like, you know, videos that captured your attention of engraving, different things around the home that people may recognize. Speaker 4 30:31 Um, and we found that that was a really great kind of top of funnel, uh, strategy. We, we then have experimented quite a bit, um, with, uh, you know, longer form emails, right? All of the best practices and email marketing are, have the shortest email possible cause people don't read well, we have really, really verbose emails and they work really well. Um, and so we did test short emails and we tested long emails. I think for me, it's about understanding that differentiators your product has, and then exploiting those in, in a good way, um, into traditional growth marketing channels. You know, another thing that we looked at and we took inspiration from some other hardware companies was this idea of a webinar, but instead of doing a webinar, we actually turned it into a live stream and we built a set in house. And now we actually live stream from our homes. Speaker 4 31:30 Um, we built a set in house where we do an hour long live stream, almost like a cooking show, you know, showing customer projects and having customers call in and, and printing in real time. So, you know, Dan, our CEO and our, our, one of our longterm growth marketers, Bailey, um, they cohost this huge live stream. So we've, so for example, we found that with paid ads, it wasn't enough just to show them 32nd clips that didn't give our, our prospects enough information to be like, Oh, and now I'll spend thousands of dollars. So, you know, it relates back to creating some friction, but we basically tested a lot of the best practices realize they didn't work for us and then thought, what are the differentiators of our product and how can we apply those to more traditional techniques? So don't host a webinar, host a live stream, cause the live stream is a much more consumer perspective, right? People turn into Instagram live all the time or Facebook live all the time. How can we take that consumer practice and turn it into something that would be fun for them to watch and just gets them more excited to more educated about the product? Um, so I would say that's early growth marketing techniques didn't always work, but then we tried to approach it with a different type of content or a different take on it. That is what we believe is going to be most important for our, our company long term. Speaker 3 32:54 Yeah. I mean, I just, just real quick before we go into the COVID piece, I, yeah, I think again, part of it's the nature of the product, that one, it is a relatively, um, considered purchase, uh, you know, like it's, you're not going to impulsively throw down thousands of dollars on something, but the second piece is because it does cost more than, than just kind of your everyday purchase. And because it's so cutting edge and innovative and new that I think that the nature of the consumer is probably wired a little bit differently. Like I look at myself, what's the one product where I consume more content even after I'd purchased, but before I received, it was on the, on the long Tesla model three waiting list, you know, it was like, I, I was so excited about what can I do with this thing? Speaker 3 33:43 And that there's some education involved that, you know, just the, the amount of, of I would be willing to go through a lot more content and sometimes not having, not having very much content, almost scares people. And so I think that there's, there's something to be said, um, in the again, kind of hardware meets software meets kind of cutting edge where there's almost this mysterious thing that you're going to receive and even that you've received and trying to unlock the power of it. So some of that seems not, not surprising that the nature of the product is that all these short form things that tend to get response in other more impulsive products, um, we're, we're less likely to work. Uh, and then how about COVID? How has that, has that changed the business very much? Speaker 4 34:25 Yeah. Yeah. It's been, it's been really interesting. Luckily Glowforge has been lucky that the company is doing well. Um, you know, we're, we're basically an at home activity maker. So if you're stuck at home and want to create a new game or do organizing, you know, we're really the tool that can help you do all of those things. Speaker 3 34:44 We're just even getting into Glowforge that much more. And I'm going to turn myself into a total power user. Um, I could see that being, because it's the stay at home and you have time to go deeper on things that you might not have otherwise been able to. Speaker 4 34:57 Totally, totally. Yeah. We see a lot of our customers, um, tackling new they're like, well, I've always wanted to try designing furniture with my glow forge and I guess now's the time. Right? Like they, they really lean into that. Um, but what was, what's been really inspiring for us as employees is especially when covert hit and there were so many of those PPE shortages, we saw a bunch of our customers, you know, stopping and saying, Oh my gosh, how, how can I help, right. How can I help my community? And we saw, um, like there's a professor, a researcher at MIT named dr. Pepper who like worked with his students to like prototype new mass PPE, you know, designs, partially using the Glowforge. And we saw other customers, you know, making masks with their Glowforge or making facials with their Glowforge. And, um, one thing that our customers started printing early on were these things called ear savers, um, which enables you to attach your mask. Speaker 4 35:57 So you take pressure off your ears, especially if you're wearing a mask all day, every day, which so many of the essential workers are. And, uh, and we, we basically looked at that and we're like, Oh my gosh, this is something that our entire community could do. So internally we quickly spun up, um, a really effective design, your senior design LA you know, released it to our entire community. And we saw thousands and thousands of customers start to print these for their communities. And so we then opened it up and did a whole campaign. We call it the 2 million essential ears campaign where, um, we are matching local makers with their local hospitals are essential worker groups, um, to make ear savers, to help their community. And we we've had incredible, incredible demands so much so that we are at Glowforge are spinning up parts of our factory to make your savers and are sourcing them from a bunch of places. Speaker 4 36:55 So like there, it was amazing. Cause what started as this like homegrown movement we saw like, Oh my gosh, this could be so impactful. Let's empower this network of thousands of dedicated customers. And, you know, they can not only use their Glowforge at a time where they're at home, but they can help their communities too. And, and we've seen such joy and excitement around that. And so, you know, even now we accept on Still people are coming every day and requesting ear savers for their community. So any, this is kind of a plug, but if anybody wants free ear savers, you can go to You can request them any heroes on the front line, any heroes in your community, we will get you matched with a maker, or we will fulfill them ourselves. And we can help with the COVID that way Speaker 3 37:43 I like those kinds of plugs. So this is a free product that will help people. Yeah, that's, that's great. And, um, you know, it's interesting because I've, I've been working on a project, um, for connecting, connecting students with professionals. Um, it's, it's the same sort of thing in the sense that all these professionals stepped up and volunteered their time to particularly helping underrepresented college students first-generation minorities that maybe don't have like the family connections. And, um, it's, it's just really interesting to see, I guess I, I think it's probably some of the same driving things that you were just talking about, that everyone feels somewhat helpless in the face of COVID and then, wow. I can actually do something to give back in a way that I don't put myself or my family at risk. Why would I not do that? And it's amazing how important giving people a means to provide help in a safe way actually is. And I totally underestimated how many people would get excited about doing that. Speaker 4 38:41 Yeah. It's really, it's really pretty phenomenal. Um, we've been, I'm like, I'm so glad that you received such a incredible response to that, to that program, similar to how, how we've seen that from our community. Speaker 3 38:52 Yeah. And it's, I mean, unfortunately it kind of things are starting to get back to normal a little bit. Maybe, maybe prematurely. I think a lot of people would say, but, you know, I do think that, you know, being able to have that period of time where everybody was in total lockdown mode with, with ways that, that they've just not kind of sitting back waiting for some scary virus to come get them, but they're, they're kind of taking control and being resilient and moving on, it was it's, it's been an important service and I think it will continue to be an important service, but hopefully, hopefully, um, things, things will get somewhat back to normal. Speaker 4 39:25 Yeah. But Sean, one of the things that I love about the program that you, that you spin up in partly what year savers provides is it provides a moment of connection even in this world of isolation. And so for me, my hope, uh, this might be just a dream upon a dream, but my hope is that people find new and different ways to feel connection and feel community in a way that they haven't before. Um, and, and I think that, you know, you've savers and Glowforge does part of that, but also, um, you know, you're matching, uh, you know, kiddos with our college students with mentors as is another way of doing that. And I think, uh, hopefully that will create some foundational elements that we can build off of for the future. Speaker 3 40:07 Yeah. They'll definitely be some good things. Like all of these companies that are switching to giving the option to work at home, turns out people are more responsible and able to do, um, to, to actually work without as much oversight as people have thought. And, and just all the, everything that's happened around improving air quality and, you know, there's, there's, I think there's a, hopefully a lot of things that, um, that the whole, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Obviously a lot of people have gone on the, on the, on the first part of that, but, um, it's, I do think this ability to be self-reliant, which is part of what you guys are delivering and, um, and then, you know, and also being able to, I mean, the fact that you just thinking about that you have all these mini factories cranking out and serving a need that, um, gosh, like five years ago, 10 years ago, so much of this would have been way, way harder. Speaker 3 40:58 If, if innovative products like low forge didn't exist. So it's, um, it's, it's neat, but I also think this, um, this can push forward a lot of good changes, and unfortunately it's at the expense of some, a lot of pain for people, but, um, it's, uh, you can't, you can't necessarily take away the pain, but you can try to try to make the most from it possible. So I want to get a little bit into sort of organizationally how you're handling things. So that kind of the last two things I want to dig into are, are organizationally. And then, and then, so how that organization works to turn customers into extremely loyal fans that, that you have talked about. But one of the things I, I, I look at with you that I think is pretty unique. I'm a lot of growth. People have product backgrounds, but the fact that you worked on the product in the business before you went into growth, do you feel like that gives you a more sort of holistic look at all the tools that you have at your disposal to create really happy, passionate, raving fan customers on the product? Speaker 4 42:05 Yeah. You know, I do think it does, right? Like my background is primarily in product leadership and now I just happened to learn all these new growth marketing techniques. Um, and you know, some of it gets back to basics of like having that product background is really about like hypothesize run the experiment, learn, hypothesize the experiment. So the basics are there, but yes, to answer your question, actually, one of the things that I, I think it's enabled us to do is make sure that there's a really tight, interconnected, um, uh, discussion that happens between our, um, software product, um, our app that's running the Glowforge and our growth engine. So, um, Bonnie is our head of product for software and her and I are talking constantly about how, you know, like if I spend the top half of the flywheel, how can her team spend the bottom half? Speaker 4 43:01 And, and how do we make that select culminates and people sharing what they're making and being so proud of sharing what they're making. And so, yes. So having come from the product world, I have a very intricate, um, uh, understanding of like how our engineering organization is working and how our product development organization is working. And actually we have weekly product meetings that I still attend, um, so that we can map out the product roadmap together. And I can say like, Hey, it would be awesome if we could prioritize this, because that would really be amazing, not only for our customers, but to get them to, you know, share what they're making more. And so we actually do have a lockstep weekly discussion between product and growth and part of how that's happening is I can have that mindset, you know, I can take off my, my marketing hat and put on my product hat and say, okay, how would we develop the roadmap? Right. How would we, um, you know, make it so that we're both supporting our customers and growing while we need, cause it's important to have a growth organization, especially in startup world. Um, so yeah, it's, it's helped immensely. Speaker 3 44:08 And then what organizationally, what does it look like? So it sounds like there's a separate product team. You lead growth. Is there, is, is marketing part of growth or is it a separate organization? Speaker 4 44:18 Yeah, I know marketing is part of growth. So, um, the growth, uh, organization as a whole includes like all of marketing, so a little bit of brand marketing, but mostly growth marketing techniques, um, all of the eCommerce product, and the product and design around that. Um, and then we, uh, engineering growth engineering doesn't report into a growth. It actually reports into, uh, our engineering organization, but we have a growth pod. Our engineering team is organized into pods and our growth pod actually is dedicated to the growth team and initiatives. So that's how that works. And then growth also includes all of content and creative, right? So videography photography, writing ads, all of that is within the growth organization. And that's really powerful because we're all sharing learning. So, you know, what did we learn and how should we turn that into a, um, ad campaign and, and how can those go back and forth. Speaker 4 45:18 And then because building software to run a laser is a very different mind space. Uh, our CEO, Dan Shapiro organized it so that, um, the software, um, or like, like the product that runs our app and that runs that, um, ongoing print experience and dashboard experience is a separate organization because that way my brain can be in, um, just customer love and having them fall in love and eventually purchase like Glowforge, which includes e-commerce and marketing. But then, because it takes a different mindset to think, how do you design a incredibly intuitive software application for a laser product? So that's, that's a separate product organization that we are, we're basically like sister organizations we've worked together. Speaker 3 46:07 And then what about, so, so you talked about, obviously I think that the big engine here is just customer love, bringing in other customers, which is a function of doing a whole bunch of other things. Right. But part of what you've talked about is that there's a really strong community around this. And so do you guys manage and run that community or is that a different team? Speaker 4 46:27 Um, it's pretty much shared not just between us and the software product, but also our customer success team. So we have an incredibly strong, um, customer success team that is both, you know, cultivating relationships with customers as well as responding to customer questions. So the community is shared between, um, software product and growth product and, uh, and the customer success team. Speaker 3 46:50 And would you say that the overall company is pretty experimental in things or are you guys really kind of the experimental group in terms of kind of testing and finding better ways to do things and, um, and that others because it's hardware or whatever reason maybe, or are more about just, just working specs and getting them done? Speaker 4 47:12 I, I definitely think that there is a growth mindset across the organization, um, in part, because it's been, you know, we created the official org of growth two years ago. Um, and, but that was a fairly move for the company that a lot of people think, Oh, how can we experiment? How can we learn? Um, there are definitely constraints, right? When you're developing a hardware product, you can't just miraculously experiment. And if you roll it out into tens of thousands of printers in the field, you can't have it be an experimental part. It has to be amazing and it has to be incredible. Um, and so there's definitely experimentation that goes on, you know, in our hardware teams and in our, um, customer success teams, but it's more of this mentality of always learning. How can we, you know, always learn from our customers so that we're turning that around and, um, you know, iterating quickly so that we can develop a better customer experience or a better finance process or a better, um, like the company is always saying, you know, what, what do we look like three months from now? And how is that better from where we are today and what do we need to do to get there? So less of like a ruthless experimentation and more a mindset of continual optimization. Speaker 3 48:39 And, and so is there across the entire company, is there a single number that you guys all focus on on trying to grow that, that helps, you know, that you're actually making progress on impacting customers and that they're staying engaged or does everybody kind of have their own KPIs more? Speaker 4 48:55 Um, Glowforge uses the OKR model where we have objectives and key results across the organization and then within each of our teams. Um, but in terms of like, North's, I rate your, I think you're getting at North star metrics, um, in terms of North star metrics, I mean, a core metric for us is revenue. Um, because that is, uh, because we, you know, we are a hardware product, we're a software product, but we're also an eCommerce product. Uh, and we bring in money to sustain our organizations so that we can be here for years to come through revenue. Um, and so for us, I would say a North star metric for us is definitely more revenue driven right now. Um, and that's fairly typical for more commerce companies, commerce oriented companies. Speaker 3 49:38 Do you track something like number of objects printed per day, per month, per year? And how important would number like that be for you guys? Speaker 4 49:46 Um, it was, it is fairly important. We absolutely, uh, look at print volumes, um, and those have been really, really steady. They grow as the business grows. Speaker 3 49:56 Um, is there a, is there a recurring revenue model here or is it just on the hardware? Speaker 4 50:02 Um, we do sell materials. Um, so we sell materials that work perfectly with the lasers. You can absolutely get materials from anywhere. You do not have to use our line of proof grade materials, but we do sell materials. Um, and then we do have a, uh, Glowforge premium software product. Speaker 3 50:24 And then I would love to ask more about that. We're, we're getting short on time. So I want to talk about what the, uh, my, my fault, because I get excited when I hear about some of the things you're talking about and want to go deeper on them. Um, but, uh, I'm glad I did cause it's there, there's some really cool stuff that you're doing as some unique challenges there. But, um, what I probably like most about everything that you've said is, is this idea that it's, it's all about, you know, you're trying to create these super passionate customers and, and you seem to take that to a level where I haven't seen most companies where you, where you talked about adding that additional friction and other things. So that's awesome. So can you take me through kind of that process from how do you, how do you get new people to discover this? And, and then ultimately, how do you get them to that point where they're these raving fans who love it? Speaker 4 51:12 Yeah. So, um, when we think about, uh, our, our customer experience, our flywheel, right? Oftentimes we're like, okay, how do we just get someone super excited? Oftentimes that's going to be through maybe organic social, or that's going to be through paid, um, primarily on, um, social, a little bit of SCM or programmatic. Um, and so this is just getting them excited about the possibilities. Um, and then we want you to come to our site to start to learn more. We have, um, the, the video that was originally created for our crowd fund is still, still represents the product amazingly. And we have that at the top of our website. So many, many customers come in and watch this great two minute video and learn all about Glowforge. Uh, many of them will then sign up for our emails. We'll send them a bunch of emails, which gets them really excited or really educated on the product. Speaker 4 52:03 And then we'll invite them to join us for a live stream where they can ask questions real time, um, about what they're, what they're up to and what they're doing. And actually more recently we've, um, and this is separate outside of growth of our organization, but, um, we've spun up a sales team. So if you, now, if you're like on the fence and you're really excited about it, because you've read the emails and you've watched the live stream, or maybe you've watched two or three live streams, and you're just trying to figure out if now is the time for you to leap. We do have now people who you can, you can chat with. And that's a brand new addition this last quarter, um, to just learn and get your final questions answered about, about Glowforge Speaker 3 52:44 And that's different than customer success. So customer success is only after the purchase has done. They're trying to help you get more value out of it. Speaker 4 52:52 Typically, although the sales and success organizations are pretty well integrated, Speaker 3 52:56 That makes sense. And then, um, and then you mentioned with the referrals that there's incentives that you offer on top of that. Did you have incentives from the beginning, or was it something that you noticed that you had a high referral rate and then incentives accelerated it more? Speaker 4 53:10 We did. We we've modified the incentives slightly over time, but they've been the same for the last few years. So, you know, for example, for a Glowforge pro, if you recommend, um, a friend they'll get $500 off a pro and you will get, um, 500 to $600 depending on if you choose credit or cash. Speaker 3 53:29 And then just on kind of the last part of this, I'm just curious on sort of your philosophy on how, how you approach sort of, um, creating these, these customers that, that, um, absolutely love the product. Are you, are you more focused on studying the customers that are on that intense end of the spectrum, or are you more focused on the customers that go get away? Who are, who are the customers that buy and don't use, who are the customers that looked at it and then dropped out and didn't buy w which, which group D if you had to say, I focus more effort on which group would you focus more effort on trying to understand? Speaker 4 54:05 We definitely focus more effort on those who aren't necessarily the most focused customers, but like, if you, if you take our customer base and you say, okay, who's printing, you know, um, often and is happiest because frequency of printing doesn't necessarily mean that you're really happy with your purchase. It just means that you use it a lot. You could print a couple of times a month and be thrilled. So we really look at the happiness or the seaside ratings of our customers and try to understand those Speaker 3 54:36 Awesome, awesome. Yeah, that's my tends to be my approach as well. Like, it's really easy to put a lot into trying to understand all the customers that are giving up, but I think you get a lot more useful signal from the ones that actually are, um, are, are getting to the state that you want to get a whole bunch of other people too. Um, but obviously you can run experiments that also help you understand why you're losing, particularly losing people who, who you think have the profile of people who could have been really happy on the product, um, whole, whole other long conversation. So we won't go down that, but I do want to wrap up with one question that I do. I like to ask at the end of these. Um, I, it sounds like you've learned a ton while you've been there. And, um, but just looking maybe at the last couple of years, is there something that stands out that you feel like you understand a lot more about growth today than, than you did a couple of years ago? Speaker 4 55:26 Yeah, I, for me, um, and this really applies to, I think, all different types of growth organizations. It's been how much the marketing technology tools in this space have evolved. You know, when I first started running the growth team, I was like, okay, let's throw money into Facebook and let's see what we can learn, but, you know, understanding that there are, you know, customer data platform tools to really understand, you know, your end to end type of customer engagement. And then you can have, you know, text messages or alerts or emails that go after all of these different interactions on your site. And it's just really amazing. Like the thing that I understand now, a lot more of, and the thing that we're really starting to, to lean on at Glowforge is a much better, better, more robust MarTech stack, because you don't have to build it all in house anymore. Right. You can use something like segment as your CDP, and we use like Klayvio for, um, for our emails. And how do you, how do you combine all of these incredibly powerful tools to make a really phenomenal seamless, segmented customer experience in a way that frankly just wasn't possible five to 10 years ago, because the connected customer understanding space with, you know, unique ideas, et cetera, was wasn't there. Speaker 3 56:46 Yup. No, it's w when you start to get your head around what you can do with some of these tools, it's, um, it's very empowering. Um, is there one that, uh, you didn't have high hopes about and, um, it was surprisingly much more useful than you expected it to be. If you kind of look back at recent tools you've tried, Speaker 4 57:03 Um, Hmm. Nothing comes immediately to mind. We're really just starting to ramp up our MarTech stack now. So I'll, I'll know more in like six months. Speaker 3 57:12 So wait, when you let's take segment, for example, when you mentioned segment, um, when you added segment to the, the, the MarTech stack that you had, did you have high expectations for what it could do for you, or have you found that it's, uh, it's more useful over time as you've been using it? Speaker 4 57:29 We are just at the end of our implementation. Speaker 3 57:31 Okay. So, yeah, it's still too early to answer that question Speaker 4 57:34 Still. It's still too early to tell. Speaker 3 57:36 Yeah. I know the reason I bring segment up is that I know for myself in particular, I think when we implemented it, I didn't even know what the heck it was, but I was like, okay, if you say we need it. And, um, I, I still, I'm still not sure that I understand exactly why it's so much more valuable than say an amplitude by itself. And I know it does aggregate data from various sources, but, uh, um, that's why I'm always trying to get that answer from other people to try and figure out what are the tools I haven't taken a look at yet. Um, well, so again, I could, I could go and ask a ton more questions, but this has been super helpful for me to get my head around the business. I think some of my key takeaways that I, um, have I've touched on a bit, but I just think, I think this idea of, um, you know, just one that's, I think really the unique insight that I have coming from you that I haven't really, I've sort of seen it with. Speaker 3 58:27 I think Twitter's talked to it a little bit about cup, positive friction, but, um, I th this idea of it's, it's better to have these intensely loyal customers. And if you add some friction and loosen people by providing a bit more information along the way, it's okay. If you're, if ultimately you're creating this, this extremely passionate user base that then spins up creates that flywheel, that, that brings this compounding growth and momentum to the business. That's based on customers that truly love the product, the new people coming in, have almost mentors on how to use the product. And, um, and then you just, you know, they come in with high expectations, that word of mouth, every fast growing company that I've been a part of word of mouth ultimately ends up being our, our biggest growth engine, whether it's incentivized or not. And so it just seems like you guys have really tapped into that and, um, have, have done everything you can to understand product market fit and leverage that to, to build this, this high momentum, uh, use user base. Speaker 3 59:26 So those are my key takeaways. Any, anything that you would add that I'm missing there in terms of a key takeaway that I should mention? No. I mean, you touched on it, right? Customer love flywheel effects, grab the market while you sell to it. That's, that's it perfect. Well, it's a, there's definitely bigger challenges in hardware, and it sounds like you've done a great job of navigating those challenges and building an awesome growth engine around a really interesting company. So thank you for sharing everything with us, and then I'm excited to see where you take it from here. And thanks for everyone listening. Thanks for tuning in. And we'll get another episode out in a couple of weeks. It's been great chatting with you. Speaker 1 00:01 <inaudible> Speaker 2 00:06 Thanks for listening to the breakout growth podcast. Please take a moment to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform, and while you're at it subscribe. So you never miss a show until next week.

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