DoubleDutch Says Mobile Apps Are Becoming the “Remote Control” Of Our Lives
By Erin Sherbert
You don’t have to be in the high-tech industry to know the value of a great app — they help you keep track of life, whether it’s getting enough sleep or cutting back on all those extra calories.
But in the case of Russ Hearl, vice president of sales, mid-market for DoubleDutch, a world-class mobile networking app for events and conferences, he prefers apps that will deliver his lunch and dinner.
And one day, he hopes to stumble across an app that will physically make his morning oatmeal.
Hearl spoke with Salesforce recently where he talked about how his business has been wildly successful at delighting customers with awesome apps, and what the future holds for his industry.
Tell me more about your company, how you got started, and the business solutions you offer people.
Nearly three years ago, we had the idea to leverage our mobile app platform to transform the experience at live conferences and events (there are more than 5 million conferences and events each year). Meanwhile, the event format and experience for attendees and exhibitors has changed little in the last several decades.
DoubleDutch captures insights from event attendees using sentiment analysis to enable event organizers to accurately measure the success of their events. We also equip exhibitors with live event audience targeting tools to precisely target attendees with offers in the DoubleDutch mobile app. DoubleDutch enables marketers to target event attendees much in the same way they would if they were running a Google AdWords or Facebook campaign.
So what’s the story behind the name of your company?
The name of the company is the source of much company mythology. It is rumored that the co-founders coined the name of the company after one or two cocktails at a bar in San Francisco. I happen to know the origins of the name, but I have taken an oath to never divulge this information. So, I hope you’ll excuse my coyness.
What have been some of the biggest pain points/challenges you have faced, especially when trying to expand your pipeline and attract customers and businesses of all industries and sizes?
Anytime you are attempting to carve out a new market or where your product is a significant departure from what has come before, you face the challenge of defining your target markets and executing on a go to market strategy. Successful startups learn that they need to focus on one or two market segments. In the $268 billion market for events, there are many different types of events being produced by a diverse array of companies, including tradeshows, corporate internal events, weddings, festivals, sporting events, conferences, and association conventions. In our case, we would have diluted our market penetration efforts considerably if we had tried to go after every type of event producer. So, we decided early on to focus on two or three segments of the market we felt could benefit the most from our mobile technology. Once we decided on the market segments to focus on, the next challenge we faced was simply generating leads for our sales team.
As I quickly found out, it wasn’t so simple and we needed to devise an innovative way to source and work leads.
To provide a little more context, there are less than 10,000 keyword searches on Google each month for search terms related to our solution. Since there is relatively little exogenous demand, we needed a systematic way to create demand and attract new customers. It doesn’t matter if you have the best product on the market (as we do) if you can’t efficiently source and close new customers.
What have you done specifically to overcome those challenges?
When I was brought on to build the revenue engine for the company, we lacked a systematic way of building pipeline that could predictably generate new customers. On my first day at DoubleDutch, I logged into Salesforce to find a grand total of 350 leads.
That is when I realized we a lot of work ahead of us and we needed a solid plan of attack. We needed a process that would bring the right leads into Salesforce and one that could maximize the velocity of our sales engine.
I knew our sales process could be productive and efficient if it were structured and instrumented like an assembly line. To make such a process work, we needed a data-driven approach to be able to measure each step of the process and configure Salesforce dashboards to visualize the flow from lead sourcing to contract renewal. I borrowed ideas from Henry Ford and Michael Dell and, unconventionally, applied them to the creation of the DoubleDutch sales process.
We look at the “manufacture of a new customer” much the same way Henry Ford looked at the mass production of automobiles or the way Michael Dell drove innovation through the use of just-in-time manufacturing principles. To borrow a manufacturing metaphor, an opportunity with a prospect is already a work in progress.
If I looked at your phone right now, what apps would I find on it? What is your favorite non-business related app and why?
Since running a large sales program is an all-encompassing passion for me, time is my most precious commodity. So, I have been on a mission to simplify my life by using apps to automate as much as possible. I’m a terrible cook, so I use the Sprig app to deliver my lunch and dinner. I’ve also been using a really cool wake-up call app called Wakie. Each morning, I receive a wake-up call from a different real person at 4:36 a.m. Sometimes, I have conversations with complete strangers delivering the wake-up calls that are downright interesting.
I also don’t want to waste time walking or trying to find a parking space in San Francisco, so I use Uber every day. I request an UberX as I descend my elevator each morning at 5:24 a.m. and it is waiting for me in front of my apartment at 5:26 a.m. so I can reach the office no later than 5:45 am. This level of precision and automation has been a game changer for me and has allowed me to be far more productive.
As an aside, I’ve been looking for an app that could trigger a sequence that begins cooking my instant oatmeal and then makes my Keurig coffee in the morning (similar to the opening scene in Back to the Future). If such an app existed that would be another game-changer for me in my quest for peak productivity. Maybe I will build that… ah, maybe not.
What advice do you have for other small businesses attempting to break into big, highly competitive markets such as mobile technology?
Keep in mind that the mobile space is still in its infancy. This is especially true when considering the enterprise mobile software market. We are at a phase of the evolution of the mobile software market that I would characterize as being the “custom development” stage. There will come a time when businesses will license all sorts of mobile apps much in the same way they license desktop apps such as Salesforce and Microsoft products. But for now, if you have a great idea for a mobile app, then realize your primary source of competition will likely be small custom development shops. Herein lies a tremendous opportunity for startups to build an app and a business model that can be repeatedly sold to thousands of potential customers without the need to build custom apps for each customer.
So, focus on finding a market where the use cases are similar enough where you can deploy a minimally configurable product to a large number of potential customers without the need for custom development.
The other thing to be aware of now that we’re in the custom development stage, is that having the best app doesn’t guarantee success. It certainly helps your cause, but you must have superior access to distribution in order to emerge as a market leader in a space where there may be 100 competitor apps that spring up over a relatively short period of time. Startups offering a product in a highly competitive market with low barriers to entry would be well served to build a distribution engine that leverages technologies such as Salesforce, InsideSales.com, and Datanyze to efficiently capture and take action on leads faster than their competitors. In the end, your primary differentiator may not be your software, it might be how quickly you move to seize the opportunity in the marketplace (i.e. how fast you hire and scale sales and marketing).
When did you start using Salesforce and how do you rely on it to drive your company and its innovation?
We started using Salesforce from day one (January, 2013). We were able to configure Salesforce without the need for external consultants. I think it’s much easier to configure Salesforce than many people realize. By the time I had hired my first class of nine salespeople in late January, 2013, I had already configured the entire sales process including reporting and commissioning within Salesforce.
Everything we do in sales at DoubleDutch happens within Salesforce. Salesforce is at the core when we talk about being a “data-driven” company. We quickly identify any bottlenecks in our sales process and subordinate resources to alleviate those bottlenecks. This would not be possible if we used any other CRM because it’s so easy to drive adoption of Salesforce. I know it’s cliché, but to us: “If it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen.”
What do you believe will be the next big revolution for mobile apps?
I’m certainly no futurist, but it seems to me that mobile apps are evolving to a point of just-in-time fulfillment. The sensors in our phones are being increasingly used by apps to enable the software to address, or maybe even predict our needs. Since we carry our phones with us everywhere, apps can leverage the context of our daily lives to make us significantly more productive. At DoubleDutch, we often talk about how mobile is becoming the “remote control” for our lives. I think we will continue to see this play out with more on-demand services available via apps and more cross-app integrations that will provide a more seamless experience across different complementary apps.
Russ Hearl is the vice president of sales, mid-market for DoubleDutch where he’s been responsible for growing the company from 20 team members in January 2013 to more than 260 employees today. Prior to DoubleDutch, Russ held various senior sales and leadership roles at CareerBuilder, Salesforce.com, and FedEx. Russ has an MBA from Santa Clara University and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northern Arizona University.