SDS53: Rob Hango-Zada, Joint CEO + Co-Founder
Simon Dell: Welcome to the show, Rob Hango-Zada. It’s very nice to have you. How are you?
Rob Hango-Zada: I’m well, Simon. Thank you for having me on the show.
Simon Dell: And whereabouts are you in the world today?
Rob Hango-Zada: We’re based down in Sydney, so that’s where I’m today, in sunny, humid, muggy Sydney.
Simon Dell: You do have the best surname that I have had on the show so far. As I said to you before we started, it does sound like a cool Star Wars character, and I’m sure you’ve heard that about a thousand times. Where’s the background from the name? Because I actually used to be double-barrelled myself. It’s a very long story which I shan’t go into now, but was it a double-barrel when you got married or was it someone previous to that?
Rob Hango-Zada: I wish there was some type of New Age reason behind the surname, but frankly speaking, it’s kind of a hangover from I guess the Middle East, and the Ottoman Empire, and all that sort of stuff. The origins of the surname are traced back to Armenia, but prior to that, god knows. I’m told that Zada is actually a symbolism for greatness or a suffix for greatness, and it was appended to the last name back in the 1800s at some point. That’s all I know about it, but I was born and raised in Australia and there aren’t too many Hango-Zadas around, so it helps with my SEO, so that’s good.
Simon Dell: My father is threatening to do one of those DNA tests where you track your ancestry. I’m kind of fearful for that because I think he’s got a few skeletons.
Rob Hango-Zada: Worried about what’s hiding in the closet.
Simon Dell: Yeah. I think there is a few back there. Actually, I think we’ve got a branch of our family from around the same sort of area, that sort of Armenian kind of space. Anyway, we could talk about this but this isn’t why we’re here today. You are the joint CEO of an organization called Shippit. Tell us a little bit about Shippit.
Rob Hango-Zada: No problem. Shippit really is about simplifying the post-purchasing processes for businesses. Everything to do with shipment, fulfilment, and even the returns process for retail business. Specifically, what we do is really enable our retail customers to save money on shipping by giving them the best services available in the market and reducing the time it takes for them to do that, deciding which carriers to use and how to actually ship their products out; finally, one the shipment has been booked, the entire end-to-end tracking experience for their end customer.
It can really improve the customer experience the customer’s getting for the retailer and also reduce the inbound inquiries that that retailer usually gets around, “Where the F is my parcel?” Finally, the returns piece is really removing all the friction that exists in the returns process today for retail merchants. Our mission here is to really simplify the way people send things to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Simon Dell: Who would you be working with? Throw us some names out there of people who we might know, unless it’s secret, but I’m assuming it’s not secret.
Rob Hango-Zada: We work with some pretty impressive retail brands and some pretty impressive founders at the lower-end of the spectrum. Some of our more prominent names that we work with are Sephora, General Pants, Temple & Webster, Harvey Norman. These are some of our really important flagship clients. We work with smaller businesses you may never heard of businesses that you see pop up in the Instagram feed every now and then as well. Brands like Thankyou, The Horse watch company, Quay eyewear, and a number of others all the way down to Simon’s T-shirts that you sell on eBay, mate. That’s our customer base.
Simon Dell: Been going for about, it’s coming up to…
Rob Hango-Zada: Five years from the beer that Will and I had where we discussed the idea, but the fourth year in market. We actually launched the business in February 2015.
Simon Dell: Tell me about that beer. Where were you? What was the beer and where was that light bulb moment for you guys? What sort of triggered it, that kind of pattern of events that triggered that kind of conversation?
Rob Hango-Zada: Basically, what got us into this mess, right? Will and I, for better or for worse, have known each other around 15 years. We’re good mates back in uni and we obviously frequently catch up. Being close as we are, we’d often grab a beer. I think we were out at a bar somewhere in Surrey Hills. The beer was probably an Asahi or something to that effect. We got to talking and we’re always talking about some random crap. We got to talking about delivery experiences.
At the time, my wife was already hell of a lot online and I was the sucker who was going down to the post office to pick up all the unknown items that we’d get these delivery slips for in the mail. I was talking about how bloody annoying that process was. And then Will turned around and said, “Funny enough, I’ve got the same story. I got a vacuum cleaner online, so I bought a Dyson from then Masters, which is the Bunnings competitor, and it was being delivered by a company.” They called him whilst he was at work in the CBD and they said, “Look, we’ve got a vacuum cleaner to drop off for you. Are you home to sign for it?”
He said, “Obviously, I’m not. I’m at work.” And then it went through that whole rig and roll of not being able to leave the parcel because there was no authority, back and forth with the reality, back and forth with the courier. Long story short, Will had to drive his car into the city, pay for parking in the city, get a big vacuum cleaner delivered to his mail room, to which the mail room administrator was not very happy with him, and we both looked at each other and said, “How on earth is e-commerce supposed to grow if the delivery experience is this inconvenient?”
So, you’ve got a really convenient way of purchasing but it’s almost like the morning after the big event, right? It’s like, “Shit. I regret doing that. I’m never doing that again.” That’s what scratched the itch, and we basically went deeper into understanding what drove that.
Simon Dell: Right, and here you are five odd years later with this business.
Rob Hango-Zada: Yeah.
Simon Dell: What were some of the early stage challenges of it? Because obviously, I’m kind of guessing, and we’ll talk about your background in big brands and retail later on, but I guess you probably didn’t have that much, other than being a consumer, you didn’t really have that much experience of the whole shipping industry.
Rob Hango-Zada: Mate, nothing at all. No logistics experience, which is a double-edged sword that I’ll kind of talk to in a minute, and no real experience in online retailing or software for that matter. It was a complete whitespace territory for me other than the fact that I was an avid consumer of online retailing, and Will was a very similar story. He had a bit of experience in tech working the fintech space through consulting, but none of us really knew what we were getting into which was probably a bit liberating for us.
Simon Dell: Tell me about the logistics and the challenges delving into that.
Rob Hango-Zada: Obviously, at the time, I was running a pretty big team for Unilever in the Shopper — at that time, I was in marketing for cup of soup and the dry soups category for Unilever. Will, on the other hand, was running a fairly big team for PwC, frequently travelling overseas to the UK. I was frequently travelling to Singapore, down in Melbourne, and all around. So, the biggest challenge for us in the early stages was just getting the head space, the time to actually start looking into this.
And it became a little addictive in the early days because we started curiously digging, and looking into data, and looking into what other businesses are doing in the space, buying more online to see how the experience is different across different retailers, really trying to see what the problems were. The biggest challenge in the early days was pretty much time management and committing to doing stuff. I’m sure a lot of your listeners and even yourself in the past, Simon, have had ideas, but you’ve never really acted on them because it’s just being, “Well, that’ll be a good idea, but if only I had the time.”
I think in the early days, what really helped us, was Will and I would speak to each other almost on a daily basis and we’d sit to each other, “Well, alright. We got to commit to something here. What are the five things you’re going to do this week and what are the five things I’m going to do this week?” And we’d send each other an email every Monday morning. I would call it the week-commencing email, and it was, “These are the five things I’m going to do.”
One could be, “I’m going to look into industry trends and stats,” or “I’m going to review this competitor,” or “I’m going to look at this market opportunity.” We’d come back, circle back, and kind of then figure out, “What does that then mean for us?” That was the initial challenge. Learning was really interesting. We could jump into a new territory, Will coming from consulting, I was doing a consulting role at FMCG businesses and being able to learn about a new territory or a new domain was really interesting for us. That’s what drove the passion in the early days. But then as it started to get a bit more real, time got even more challenging.
Simon Dell: What did you do at the early stages? Presumably, you’ve got a product, you’ve got something that you can take to market. What were the first steps to actually get people using it out there?
Rob Hango-Zada: Even the process from that initial bit to having a product took us a whole year. Working out full-time jobs, moonlighting as these co-founders of a really successful business that didn’t have a business. Because when you show up to a customer, it’s a bit like a uni graduate trying to get a job. Everyone wants a graduate but everyone wants a graduate with experience. At the same time, everyone wants a business with a track record. There’s a bit of creative license that we used in the early days to influence and attract new customers.
The build process was really challenging for us because we bootstrapped it, so we’re trying to run it on a budget. And secondly, because we wanted the best outcome of all of that to take to a customer and say, “We have everything that you need.” The reality of it was in our first instances of selling to customers, we didn’t even have a product. So, putting the cart before the horse literally was the most important thing for us at that time. Because if we wasted our time building the perfect product and then taking it to market, we never would’ve launched.
Simon Dell: When you’re pitching to potential customers, you pretty much had vapourware. It didn’t exist.
Rob Hango-Zada: Absolutely. We always paint a vision, and even when we sell today, we’re always painting a vision and understanding what customer needs are and building to that effect. But in the early days, you’ve really got to lead with a concept. So, what we did was a beautifully-designed website on WordPress which I created in my spare time using Photoshop and the like, and then we had business cards printed at Officeworks. We had sick leave or annual leave we could take when we needed to from our day jobs to actually represent the company that we were building.
It was basically showing concepts, presentations we’d come up with. And then as we started to get more of a product actually built, showing clickable prototypes, and showing our customers what we could do, and then once we gained commitment from our early customers, we went ahead and built exactly what they needed and pivoted from there. That’s been the ongoing trend for our business since.
Simon Dell: Who is the very first customer?
Rob Hango-Zada: Our very first customer, I’m proud to say, is a business by the name of The Minimalist, theminimalist.com.au, which is a home wares and gifting online store. They had a physical store in Albion Street in Sydney, Surry Hills, and Leah is the founder and owner of that business. And so, the serendipitous story behind that is we had bought a new side table for our house and the delivery experience was pretty average. I emailed Leah directly myself and said, “I’m going to come out and show you what we can do.” And famously, she was our very first customer. We’d built an extension into her shopping cart technology and went live, and she’s still with us till this day. That’s been a really, really cool journey for us with her.
Simon Dell: That was pretty much a cold email?
Rob Hango-Zada: Absolutely. Basically, getting a reason to send an email to somebody, right? So, if I hadn’t purchased from her, she probably wouldn’t have read my email. But because I did, then there’s some genuine care and concern in that relationship being built. In fact, that’s how we earned our first three customers, was basically on the receiving end of the delivery experience, we went back and said, “This is how I as a customer could probably make it better for other customers in the future.”
Simon Dell: Your customer base now, are you generally finding it more… Are you still doing the outreach, or have you got a mix of people that are identifying that that shipping process is an issue for their business and they’re coming to you?
Rob Hango-Zada: I think we were quite fortunate riding the tailwinds of e-commerce growth. I think the projected cater of e-commerce back when we started the business was circa 10-12% over the next five years. Over the last five years, looking back, it’s actually been close to 15-20%, so it actually exceeded analyst predictions. In the early days, it was very much an outbound, outreach strategy. It started with Will and I literally going out to try and find more customers like the ones that we were able to successfully get on, because you want to try and replicate that success.
So, home wares, gifting, that was the space we focused on. We went to a few gift fairs and tried to sell to exhibitors who, funnily enough, don’t want anybody to sell to them because they’re there to sell. We figured out a few different techniques and strategies to speak to these types of people. And then very quickly, about 12 months or so in, we got a bit of positive PR in the mainstream press, and then the inbound started hitting our team. Around about May 2016, the funnel completely inverted and it was complete inbound lead management.
We had a lot of our loyal customers thankfully advocating the brand and recommending us to their friends. They would then come through and then they’d recommend more friends, and then the press releases that we would do would then generate more demand for our business. We had to figure out what our inbound lead conversion strategy was and how best to consult to our customers because we just had to deal with that level of demand without dropping the ball.
Simon Dell: How did you do that? If all of a sudden, you’ve got this giant pipeline of people emailing you and calling you, how did you prioritize those?
Rob Hango-Zada: The first thing was, and we still try our very best to maintain this today, is really the speed of return contact. When somebody’s inquiring on your website or they’ve created an account on your website, you really want to try and speak to them at that very moment which is really tough for businesses to do, particularly as it scales and you get a lot of inbound interest, and then looking at how we automate that process in a way that delivers all the relevant information to the prospects at the particular time of their inquiry, and then as they’re starting to navigate through your product. That’s the journey where I’m in now, but previously, it was just throwing bodies at it, right?
“Okay, we need more sales team members to actually support new customers coming through the front door, and we need to actually give more support through the on boarding experience as well.” We’ve over resourced in those areas, but when you start to resource those areas and you get more demanding, you’ve then got to resource again. It’s just constant chicken and egg balance, and we do unfortunately drop a few eggs here and there which creates a negative customer experience. But on the whole, creating a positive experience is everything the guys are driving toward at the moment.
Simon Dell: It’s funny because we have a cloud-based software client and one of the things we’re working on at the moment is automating that on boarding process. The danger that we see is that if it’s too automated, they feel that there’s no human… People still like that human contact when they’re on boarding even if it is a cloud-based piece of software. You find that as well?
Rob Hango-Zada: Yeah. I think nothing beats a personal touch in that respect. It’s a real dichotomy. I think the theory says if your product requires significant process change, then a phone call, an in-depth consultation is critical for the success of that customer with your product. If I’m getting you to completely rip out everything you do today in terms of how you fulfil orders to customers, which is a very delicate and precious moment for you as a business owner, because it’s all about reliability, if I really screw that up for you, you will never come back and you will never stay with us. If I get it right and I continue to get it right, then you’ll stay with us for the lifetime of your business.
And so, it is a delicate balance. You don’t want to over-rely on technology to do the on boarding for you. But then you look at some products like Zendesk for example, or even products like Intercom which is a product I’m obsessed with, there really isn’t anyone that you can call to speak to about how you use those products. You learn. I think it is a delicate balance because those businesses prove that you don’t necessarily need a phone call. But in the earlier days of your business, I think phone calls to customers and even having long-winded demonstrations and consultation with customers is so critical because you’re learning what your customer’s challenges are from their very words.
Once you actually get enough data together, you can then see what the common trends and patterns are to then formulate the right strategies and full service as well. Because there is a group of people, particularly as we market to small businesses, that actually don’t want to speak to anybody. They want to do things on their own. There’s a big DIY crowd that actually just want to be enabled to get going on their own. And I think you’ve really got to have that jewel focus when it comes to on boarding.
Simon Dell: That’s really key for me because a piece of software that I’ve been using about six to seven months now, LawPath, I don’t know if you’ve ever used them or heard of them, but it’s basically legal agreements or templated legal agreements. So, if you need a staff contract or whatever, you just go in there, and pull one out, and rewrite it a little bit, and adjust it. When we signed up for the trial version of that, we were just getting bombarded with phone calls, and emails, and their sales team trying to upsell us.
We’re like, “All we wanted was one contract here.” And it just seemed hideously, over the top, pushy, for what, for us, wasn’t an essential service. To us, legal agreements are, we need them, but we don’t necessarily need them right now. Our business isn’t going to fall apart if we don’t have them. It’s a nice-to-have. And interestingly, of all the emails, and sales emails that we got, and all the phone calls that we got, the thing that actually tipped us over the edge to pay for an annual subscription was an email that said, “For the next 48 hours, you can have an annual subscription for 50%.” And we went, “Oh, 200 bucks. Do it.” That was all that it took.
But the other interesting point that you made there was, Zendesk and Intercom, and Intercom is a product that, Matt, my business partner, froths at the mouth at. He loves it, and Zendesk not quite as much. The interesting thing with both of those versus your product is, again, Intercom and Zendesk aren’t what I would describe as business-critical systems. They’re nice-to-haves. A business could kind of survive without them, whereas you are an essential service. And maybe that’s why there’s more of a need for, not necessarily a face-to-face conversation, but at least a human contact.
Rob Hango-Zada: We talk a lot about core versus non-core activities. And so, is it a process which is a profit driver for your business? It’s funny, because shipping sometimes fits in the same camp as customer service, yet you can offshore it or you can outsource it to a third-party logistics provider. But the predominant view in an Amazon era is really about ownership of that logistic stack. So, more and more, fulfilment is being seen as a core process to a business, so that critically plays into it. But you’re absolutely right. I could do my finances in Excel but it’s better to do it in Xero.
I could do customer service in an email inbox, but it’s better to do it in Zendesk. Shipping tows the line a little bit, kind of tithers over the edge, because you could do your shipping manually by hand, you just got to throw a hell of a lot more people at it. The reality is, if you’re scaling like crazy, you need a solution that scales with the business and doesn’t add operational overhead. That’s where we come in. I think your point with LawPath was also about really understanding the intent of your prospects. The person inquiring, where do they fit within the business? Are they the decision maker? Are they an influencer? How big is that business? How do you profile that business well enough to understand what sales approach you need to take?
Identifying for us if you’ve got an entrepreneur who puts an inquiry after 5:00 p.m., we know that they’re probably more likely to do their own thing. So, email is probably more accurate strategy for that prospect. However, if it’s a fairly large business and there’s somebody who is a key decision maker, they want information right there and then. You make as many phone calls as you can to get in touch with that person because they’re just craving information.
You’ve really got to understand your audience well enough to then tailor your approach, and that’s something that we’ve evolved into overtime. Sometimes, we get some very honest feedback from customers like you would’ve with LawPath. “Shit, guys, just leave me alone. Don’t make me regret the fact that I clicked the button.” I think that’s really important to understand.
Simon Dell: What have been the best ad channels for you? Because in terms of reaching your end users or your customers, because I think I’ve possibly heard you on some podcasts. I can’t remember the name of the podcast. It was an investment finance podcast.
Rob Hango-Zada: In terms of ad channels, when you’re a new business, you really need to establish some form of credibility in the market. So, really talking about your wins is a critical component to an early stage business. I remember in the early days, kind of founders of businesses that I really looked up to early in their stage said to me, “It’s funny, nobody wanted to write about our business until I wrote about our business and sent it to them.”
And so, you take that in your stride and you think, “Well, I could sit here and I could try and show myself up as a growth hacker” which is a dirty words these days or a “growth marketer” and try and find these tactical ways to drive them million sign ups in 24 hours and hack the system. But the reality is, the most effective channel for any new business is PR and targeted PR.
So, understanding what channels you’re going after, and understanding where your customer is, and who you’re actually reaching with that communication. I think for us, early on was harnessing the power of PR. We kind of stumbled across it because we were doing a pitch. I think it was Innovation Bay, basically pitching everywhere we went, every chance we got even if we didn’t have a product we were pitching.
And by pitching everywhere we went, you actually don’t know who’s going to be in the room. On one of those occasions, there was a journo from SMH who heard us talk and said, “Wow, this whole delivery thing is going to be a really big issue for e-commerce. I want to talk to you about it.” So, we did an article with him, and a month later it went to press, and then that created our first big inbound push from people wanting to learn more.
Once we got a taste of that, we said, “How do we do more of that?” So, we actually targeted startup press because we knew that that was important to establish some credibility with the investment community and some early startup businesses, and then we pushed into mainstream press.
We couldn’t do that unfortunately to the front door. We had to go through a PR agency to do that, which is a significant cost for a new business. That was a very effective strategy in our first year or two of operation and something that is now easier to come by in terms of talkability. But understanding your channels, your market, what messages you need to push out I think is critical for any founder or marketer to really embrace.
Simon Dell: How did you keep that PR agency honest? Because I’ve worked with PR agencies. I’ve had business partners involved in PR and one of the things I see a lot of in PR is that they take your money and then they tell you they’re going to do lots of work, and pitch lots of things, and at the end of month, there’s nothing. A lot of people then don’t understand that, and I’m kind of guessing you’ve had that same experience. How do you keep them honest, or is that just part of the gamble with PR?
Rob Hango-Zada: Partnerships are so incredibly important early on. You can’t do everything yourself. You’re not a specialist, and the fact that you’re getting into a new business or you’re trying to grow a business means that is your primary focus. So, the fundamentals of your customer’s experience is a critical channel for you to influence. What you can’t do necessarily well is going and speak to press. You need someone to help you with that.
Now, often times, more business owners think that they don’t have a hell of a lot of choice and a lot of larger firms that are servicing those businesses don’t tend to value them as a business. For us, we ran our selection process like any large business would. We put out a request for tender to the market. We said, “Here are the three agencies we’re comparing. We want you to pitch back to us based on our needs and we’re going to evaluate you using all this criteria.”
We did that and then we actually found that one of three agencies we evaluated gave a real shit about our business because they actually thought about the future of our company and where they could help us take it. They didn’t just give us a generic credentials pack and say, “Here are all of our credentials. If you want to be with us, here’s our retainer.”
We negotiated hard on price, and then as a counterpart to that negotiation, what we said was, “We want a weekly work plan, and we want a weekly check-in call, and we want to make sure we’re tracking activity, not just the outcome.”
It’s similar to your question on sales process. If the dollars aren’t coming in, the first thing you’ve got to do is look at your activity. Are the team making enough phone calls? Are they having enough demonstrations? And the same view: If you’re not getting enough articles published, are your PR representatives having enough conversations with journalists, and are they writing enough content for you to then get you to that outcome?
A lot of PR agencies probably hate me saying this, but that’s the way that I would definitely recommend anyone working with any retainer-based business as a service provider to them operates. “What is the activity you were doing for my business this week?” And if it’s not good enough, you terminate the contract.
Simon Dell: Just out of interest, how much were you spending for the PR guys? What was the budget you were allocating to them? And you don’t have to answer that, but I’m just interested from an early-stage business like that how much budget you were putting into them.
Rob Hango-Zada: I’ll give you a range only because I can’t remember the specific number, but I know it was somewhere between $5,000 to $10,000 a month, which is a significant amount to spend as a small business. But the business that we received on the back of that was definitely worthwhile. And if you think about it as a full-time employee to a business at that scale, then you need to work them like a full-time employee.
You shouldn’t let them just get away with, “Look, this is the way the industry works, darling, this is why you’ve got me on board.” You should be saying, “Well, this is what I expect and this is what I need.” But you also need to be open to pivot and open to feedback because they are the expects in their craft and they will recommend what’s going to get you a better hit rate, so you’ve got to be flexible.
Simon Dell: Did you look at any other channels? Were you using things like AdWords, or Facebook advertising, or mechanic search, that sort of thing?
Rob Hango-Zada: Yeah. SEO was a little bit of a longer-term strategy for us which in the early days you don’t have the luxury of spending a hell of a lot of time and money in. Critically, paid channels have become very important, and we’ve experimented a lot. We lost a lot of money on things. We’ve made some early wins.
AdWords was a key part of our strategy and it always boggles my mind about how much money Google makes at AdWords for a small business like us to spend what we spend and thinking about all the others out there, but AdWords is a critical channel. If you’re not discoverable, you don’t exist.
And secondly, we did dabble with social but social is a real tricky one. It’s an easy way to lose a lot of money, particularly because cost of acquisition on those channels is really tricky. Content marketing was the first foray for us and then promoting content. But we found that a more internet setting for us was selling through expos, and events, and partnerships, and that indirect channel was a really important channel for us to win their business.
We had a three-pronged strategy. We were always on with AdWords for searchability and PR, because that aids searchability and also improves your SEO like you wouldn’t believe. And then the second channel was referral through indirect channels, so consultants that would recommend shipping products, really understanding what their customers needed, and making sure that we did what they needed, not just giving them a referral clip. We don’t believe in paying commissions. We believe in delivering the best solution for our partners.
But then the third part which I think a lot of people overlook is really the customer experience you’re giving to your existing customers. I can’t remember the stats, but off the top of my head, I think it is seven times cheaper to basically get a customer to repeat purchase than it is to get a new customer to buy. And so, it’s so critical that you keep your customers loyal, but then also that they refer new business onto you. That can’t be done through giving them just an incentive. “Hey, I’ll give you $100 if you just bring me another business.” So, that whole Uber referral model works for some businesses but not all.
What works 9 times out of 10 is over servicing and giving the best customer experience to your customer. In our early days, that was all we did. We made some questionable decisions. Even for one of our customers, where we delivered an item to one of their customers and it didn’t arrive on time, the margin we would’ve made on that delivery was under a dollar, but we sent them a $50 pack of cupcakes to make up for the misery of that problem in our very early stage. That does not scale, but what does scale is the impression that you’re giving to customers at that time.
Anyway, long story shirt, and I can talk about it forever, customer experience and being obsessed with that is really important. As you scale, it gets harder to do that. Right now, I’m trying to drive by wire. You’re trying to get feedback through data rather than feedback through voice, speaking to a customer. So, making sure your organization is charged up behind customer experience is really critical. And right now, NPS is our central focus at Shippit.
Simon Dell: There’s a dozen more questions I have for you and I’m going to try to be selective just based on the time we’ve got. One thing I do want to touch on, you mentioned earlier on about software. What are some of the software that you guys use internally, some things that you, certainly from a marketing perspective that… You’ve mentioned Zendesk. You’ve mentioned Intercom. Is there anything else that you guys are sort of, “That’s our go-to piece of software for doing that.”
Rob Hango-Zada: Early doors, we were using Mailchimp for email automation. But as we scaled, it wasn’t giving us all the metrics that we needed right away through the funnel. To my knowledge, it wasn’t the best tool for lead nurturing, et cetera. We used a whole suit of things. WishUpon was in there, Unbounce, all of these other products, ad roll.
But what we actually found worked quite well was looking at an all-in-one solution. We had our sales CRM sitting in a different product and our marketing automation sitting in a different product. It disconnected that journey for the customer and our sales and marketing team.
We implemented Zoho pretty recently, and the jury’s still out as to whether or not it’s the best solution for us, but bang for buck and feature wise, that’s something that we went down the path on for marketing automation and CRM. It’s eventually found its way into project management, and it’s found its way into digital signature, and it’s finding its way into calendar management. It’s one of those products which starts to take on more.
The other piece of software which we use quite religiously is Xero, and that’s been quite critical for us from the get go. Wrecking my brain, but obviously the Atlassian suite is indispensable for us, Confluence for knowledge sharing, and JIRA for issue tracking and feature development have been quite critical for us.
Simon Dell: Are you a Slack office? Are you all on Slack?
Rob Hango-Zada: That’s the one that I forgot about. We’ve been on Slack since day one and it’s been amazing how much money they can make from you as you grow. It costs you nothing for ages, which is the same as Zendesk, and then all of a sudden you are paying thousands for chat. That’s us, and we’ve integrated bloody everything into Slack. It’s really handy, though.
A little nifty app called HeyTaco! is a great integration for Slack. Not sure if you’ve heard of it, but basically, think of Taco as like frequent flyer points for your staff. If somebody does something good, you basically throw a taco emoji into the Slack channel, and you tag their name, and they get a taco. Every 50 tacos, our team members can redeem a gift voucher, or a movie voucher, or a day off. It’s one of those little things that gets away from you.
Simon Dell: How many staff have you got now?
Rob Hango-Zada: We’re at 60 at the moment.
Simon Dell: Cool, so there’s a lot of tacos going out there every week, it sounds like?
Rob Hango-Zada: I could simply do another podcast about the taco economy and the need for inflation.
Simon Dell: Is there dirty back street taco exchanges where you can get things that…
Rob Hango-Zada: Yeah, you see it, mate. There’s a lot of taco trading that goes on. Days off these days are really cheap, so we’ve got to up the prices, I think, of these rewards.
Simon Dell: How many for a day off?
Rob Hango-Zada: I think you only need 100 tacos, mate, and you can get 5 a day. It’s pretty easy to get a day off these days if you know the right people.
Simon Dell: The other I really want to touch on quickly before we wind up is your previous experience with some of the big brands. With Unilever.. Was it P&G as well?
Rob Hango-Zada: Yeah, P&G.
Simon Dell: What was your favourite brand in all of that that you’ve worked with?
Rob Hango-Zada: It’s like choosing your favourite child, Simon, come on.
Simon Dell: We all know we have a favourite child, mate. Let’s not try and deny that.
Rob Hango-Zada: To be honest, it’s really tricky. There are two which stand out and I’m going to pick one from each business to be fair. My favourite from P&G was Gillette only because of their obsession with the customer. It’s probably a dirty word to say that now in marketing land, but just the sheer fact that they could — what they were delivering to customers in South East Asia, at least, for me was confidence, and the ability to get jobs, and to basically live the life that you want to live. That was one of the products I was really obsessed about when I was living and working in Asia.
And then the product in Australia that I loved was Rexona. Rexona is one of those little battler brands. They’re quite a large brand but it’s kind of been in everyone’s cupboard from day dot. And just how that brand is evolving and what it does to actually really drive benefit to customer, that’s something that really sits with me. They were two brands.
Simon Dell: You’re going to have to give me your two cents about Gillette because we actually. In Episode 50, we had a conversation about Gillette. Give me your two cents about the recent ad.
Rob Hango-Zada: It’s quite interesting, right? I’m going to dance around this as much I can — no, I’m kidding.
Simon Dell: I heard a deep breath of avoidance there. I heard that.
Rob Hango-Zada: No. Look, it’s really interesting to see how the internet really influences what brands do and vice versa. I’ve read the literature, Mark Ritson’s very clear view on it, some of which I tend to agree with but a lot of it that I don’t. I think that it’s really great and bold for a brand to really embrace this.
If you think about a lot of overtly masculine brands, it’s hard for them to come back. Links had this problem when I was working with Unilever where it wasn’t about female empowerment and people wised up to the fact that, “Well, the same company who owns Lynx also owns Dove, which is all about female empowerment.”
You’ve got this dichotomy where you need greater transparency, and I think Procter and Gamble, their primary customer is female, and they’ve got this overtly male brand that they need to come to terms with. I think it was a natural evolution for the brand. But on the contrary, I think it was too focused on trying to be topical to create conversation, which they succeeded in, but it kind of backfired in a way for them as a brand.
I think addressing them into movement head on versus talking about the problems around overt masculinism and what it does to the whole society in general, I think they probably went too far in one direction where they probably didn’t need to as a brand. It’s content marketing that’s gone beyond.
You need to live a brand purpose and I think the brand purpose really links back to a product. And at the end of the day, if you forget about your product and your customer, then you’ve done something wrong. That says something about Gillette today, who is still trying to sell razors with $50 cartridges that people don’t use anymore. The brand has other fundamentals to focus on in my view.
Simon Dell: It’s interesting when we spoke about it. Patrick Condren, who was on the episode then, who is a news reporter for Channel 7, he made the point that says, “Do men or boys need to hear this message? Yes, they do. Do they need to hear it from a razor blade company? Probably not, no.”
Rob Hango-Zada: Exactly. That’s kind of the view.
Simon Dell: Absolutely, and I think my point as well to add onto that was that the tragedy of this situation is that you cannot be on — certainly on the internet, certainly on Twitter, you are either on one side or the other side of the conversation. You cannot be in this grey area where you go, “Look, you know what? I don’t appreciate that advert but let’s have a discussion about it.”
Because as soon as you say you didn’t agree with the advert, you are then classed as a misogynist wife beater. That’s where I find that — there’s no opportunity for discussion when brands do these things. You’re in one camp or the other.
Rob Hango-Zada: I think that’s a real concern for freedom of speech and for transparency because businesses and individuals are going to tow one line or the other because that extremist… Everyone is waiting on Twitter with pitchforks, ready to roast whatever opinion sticks its head out of the sand. I think what’s really concerning to me is that people are really filtering what they say and what they do.
And famously, you look at Trump winning the election in 2016. Not a lot of people said that they would vote for him but people did because they didn’t want to be heard to have voted for him but they actually really wanted him in. This transparency fading is a real concern that I think everybody should be worried about.
Simon Dell: I made a comment two or three days ago on Twitter about philanthropy. I was like, “If rich billionaires want to spend their money on curing diseases and helping kids build schools, let’s go ahead and let them do it.” The pitchforks came straight out because people were saying, “Well, philanthropy is an indication that society isn’t taxing people properly”, et cetera, and I’m like…
Honestly, it came from every angle and I’m like, “Woah, woah.” And I’ve done that before as well. I think it was about a year ago when I made a comment about how I thought internships were a great opportunity for older teenage kids, and kids at university, and then the pitchforks came out about how you shouldn’t ask people to work for free. And I was like, “Well…” Anyway.
Rob Hango-Zada: The world really is turning into a YouTube comments section, mate. That’s what it is. The dredge just floats the surface at the moment and it’s amazing.
Simon Dell: Anyway, last three questions for you. We’ve talked about some of your favourite software and other brands that you’ve worked with. I normally ask people about their favourite brands. But with you, I’m going to say you must see a lot of — we do see a lot of e-commerce, online retailers. Who is your favourite out there? Which sort of website should we go and look at, or the products that we should go and look at that you think is a really good and beautiful experience? Sorry to put you on the spot with that one as well.
Rob Hango-Zada: No. I’m trying not to give the obvious, right? This morning, I was sitting in a cafe, thinking, “Jesus, I’m a wanker. I’ve got Airpods, and Apple Watch, an iPad Pro, a Macbook. God, I’m using my Apple Pencil. I’ve got dongles out of my ass here.” So, ignoring Apple completely for a minute because I think they just continue to dominate in brand experience which I absolutely am passionate about, I think if I look at retails that have really got it together, Zara is an amazing brand.
I’ve got pitchforks already around, but if you think about Zara as a brand, what it actually does for the end consumer is amazing. And in terms of what they’re embracing now with ship from store fulfilment in our kind of space is pretty incredible. You can place an order at 11:00 at night and have it on your desk or at your front door by 8:00 a.m. the next day.
That, for me, is a really tremendous experience. Sephora, who is one of our clients, is really phenomenal. A lot of people say retail is dead. Just jump down to your main Sephora store on the weekend and it is absolutely pumping. Customers everywhere. The experience in really nailing what it is that their demographic want is incredible. Those would be the two core brands for me that I really look up to.
Simon Dell: What about some of the smaller ones, the little independent ones that you’ve seen, that you like their products even if the e-commerce experience is still not quite there?
Rob Hango-Zada: Do you know what? There’s a little-known brand called The Wine Gallery. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. Tom Walenkamp, is the founder of that business, was an early customer of ours and that’s how I discovered it. Just the amount of curation and detail that goes into it… Effectively, their mission is to basically deliver the sommelier experience to anyone at home by understanding what it is that you like. They’re designing to your palate. One of the things I ordered for the Christmas break was a wine advent calendar.
Simon Dell: My wife got one of those as well.
Rob Hango-Zada: Incredible, incredible. Just the packaging, the curation, the selection, each thing had a card which showed a recipe of what you could pair that wine with, the story of the origin of the wine, and everything else. I think, in a nutshell, that was one of the most impressive experiences I’ve had from a small brand and something that you’re seeing more of with more brands giving a shit about the customer experience.
Simon Dell: Good example, that one. Second to last question: What’s on the horizon for you guys in 2019? Is there anything big that you’ve got planned, or new features, or anything that you can tell us about?
Rob Hango-Zada: To be honest with you, 2019 will make or break this business, Simon. One of the things that we’ve really come to terms with is Will and I are never happy with status quo. We believe we’re not moving fast enough.
A couple of things that we’ve got on the horizon is a new product. Our returns product, which we soft launched last year, is coming out for full release in the next couple of months. That’ll be quite big for our customers and hopefully the market. We want to really improve return experiences for end customers.
The second big thing is, what we’re seeing a real trend in is democratizing logistics, a few brands are starting to do it well, but really giving smaller courier companies a chance to get after the retail market. Our platform is an open marketplace. We allow any carrier to kind of sell to our customer base, and we’re doing that because it provides the best customer experience.
I can’t give too much away on that front, but that’s something we’re totally looking at, and you’ll see a lot more couriers on our platform, delivering a much better experience. One of the new ones actually is Drive Yello. They’re an on-demand delivery experience akin to Uber. They power BWS which is Beer, Wine, Spirits and Woolworths on-demand delivery. That’s something now that everybody can take advantage of on our platform.
So, seeing hyper local, fast delivery is one of those areas that you’ll see growing within our business over the next 12 months. Just to add to it all, international expansion as well. We soft launched into Asia at the end of last year and we have a few customers over there. Now, it’s really about tightening that up and going to market in a big way.
Simon Dell: Final question. If anybody wants to get a hold of you, ask you a question, or they’re interested in your services, what’s the best way to get a hold of you?
Rob Hango-Zada: LinkedIn. If you look me up, Rob Zada is my handle. So, linkedin.com/robzada is one word, or just look me up, Rob Hango-Zada. SEO is great. You’ll find me. Add me. Or alternatively, you can drop me an email, email@example.com, and I’ll get back to you.
Simon Dell: Awesome. Mate, thank you very much for your time today. It’s been very enlightening. Some really good discussions there, and let’s hope no pitchforks come out at our comments about Gillette, but no doubt they will. It is what it is.
Rob Hango-Zada: Absolute pleasure, Simon.
Simon Dell: No worries. Good luck for 2019.
Rob Hango-Zada: Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Have a good one. Bye-bye.
For more transcriptions of the Simon Dell Show click here: Marketing Podcasts