V-cast with Nylas:Targeted smart content funnel growth

Host: Richard Fallah, CEO at VBOUT.

Guest Speaker: Matthew Harper, VP Marketing at Nylas


In this episode, we interview Matt Harper from Nylas, a great email API platform solution geared for developers looking to build their own ESP integration.

Matt shares how Nylas pivoted the product then grew using laser-focused persona content marketing that speaks directly to developers and their pain points as they are in the problem-awareness stage.

Matt and the Nylas team crafted a winning content funnel that serves the right content based on the stage of the buyer. Once someone moves from the top of the funnel content and starts a trial, they start getting drip campaigns around implementation and value of the product.

Matt also shares how their clients serve as their partner channels and helped drive growth at the company.

Nylas will be raising Series B round soon.

Targeted smart content funnel growth

What’s Nylas?

Nylas is an amazing solution to integrate your email into your application. It’s part of the web developer API revolution. Nylas helps you avoid some complexities inherent in dealing with email service providers like Gmail, Microsoft, Outlook Exchange and Yahoo. With a single API solution that you integrate once, you’re able to talk to all of these different service providers and get access to rich data that lives in those users email calendars and context inboxes, all in a very secure and scalable way.

How big is the company?

The company is just 50 people. We have locations in San Francisco which is where we were founded as well as New York City.

How long have you been in business?

The company has been around for 5 years or so. But we’ve been only working in the commercial API space for about 2 of those years. We started building a really awesome email client that was called N1 and it was for an audience that demands a lot of customizability, mainly developers… think of something like Thunderbird or something equivalent to that. You could use this email client on top of your Gmail or Outlook Exchange so on and so forth,  bringing them all together in one place which results in a great user experience. We had a massive amount of downloads. The Macaron Magazine called us the best email client on the market. But the thing is that email clients tend to be free and from a commercial standpoint, it tends to make a lot of sense for us to continue in that focus.

In which series of funding are you in?

We’re in series B. We closed our series B commenting round in late summer of last year.

What was the raise?

16 million. And that was oversubscribed and led out by Spark Capital.

As you’re mainly targeting developers and SaaS applications, do you integrate with Pipedrive and some of the big brand names?

Yes. Pipedrive is one of the largest customers. And CRM makes a lot of sense for us in terms of a vertical where we establish product-market fit very early and the reason is because all CRMs rely upon data from sales reps and communications for these systems record to operate, or the reps themselves don’t want to spend their time in any CRM as they are interfacing with clients over  traditional channels like email and they are booking mediums in their calendar. And If you want visibility on that, say the leader contractor account record in a CRM, what a better way than just synching all that over  via an API and making sure that’s there’s no disconnect between the information that’s living in the reps inbox and what’s living in the system of record of the business?

How have you been able to test and identify your winning marketing channels?

There’s so such thing as a bad marketing channel. There are a lot of bad marketing offers. So we focused first and foremost on developing the offer that we knew is going to resonate most with our audience which are developers that have infra content which is instructional and help them get better in their job. We invest in that via blog and any content marketing.
But what they really want is to get hands on with their technology, set it up for themselves, build many POC and MVP, access the documentation, get it running and then talk to you. So we focused on a free trial that’s fully featured which allows the developer to setup a basic integration. Deeper integration can take up to couple of days but if you’re doing the stuff directly, you’re properly measuring in months if not years.

Therefore we focus very heavily on just getting that free product into the hands of developers to build great features on top of it and then when we’re successful, they come back to us and are like “we’re ready to buy”.
It’s a completely different kind of sales and marketing motion from what you see in a lot of enterprises and SaaS, where it’s holy focused on things like thought leadership collaterals and then the sales team follow up and try to nurture the lead. Our motion is way more efficient and faster than that and it was all centered around a great developer experience within trials and docs. We actually view the documentation as a marketing offer by itself. And the way we were able to get that offer out in the market is the channel question that you close.

We have good word of mouth, so we did a lot of organic search just out of the brand name. The rest of SEO traffic that comes in is primarily around the instructional content that we’ve invested in that’s language based. That’s our top of the funnel and then, we orchestrate things like remarketing campaigns to support those tip of the spear communications that we have around things that are topical to developers; I call them “Persona centric content” upon the “solutions oriented content”. And then once they are in the product and have success, we rely on nurture mechanisms like email marketing. We live strongly in the value of email to continue to maintain a  conversation and relationship with that audience.

I always tell my team “Build a bigger universe” and then we segment based upon what we know about those audiences and the things they are engaging with. We build those cohorts out and then we develop
your follow-on marketing campaigns to speak to those cohorts.

Would you say you’ve grown the company up to date based on that organic kind of concept marketing strategy?

Yes. I would say that it’s pretty early days on the marketing side. And as is the case with a lot of technology companies prior to your B round, you’re probably not focusing that much on marketing and sales, like your early marketing is validating some product-market fit. You might have a really strong marketing leader coming in and doing customer research, but you’re not focused on growth and acquisition marketing.

So we’ve been focusing on scaling up and quadrupling leads quarter over quarter and looking at things like that since last year.

What’s interesting about your business model?

The growth is based on the growth of partners. So in the case of Pipedrive, the metrics rely on what’s their acquisition model and how much to accrue from MRR of that particular partner.

So, it’s like nurturing partner channels and giving them value to keep them growing which you internally grow.

We price per account model. It’s usage base. You pay for what you need and you don’t have to pay for anything you don’t need. And basically, we have people coming in on small developer plans like 100 accounts or less.

So it’s affordable, isn’t it?

Yes, it’s 99 cents for an account. The good thing about this sort per pricing model and ease of integration is that companies at their early stages who don’t have a lot of budget can deploy it. So for an entry to barrier, if somebody is charging a dollar license, it’s not going to make sense. But whoever needs your solution and you’re probably charging 100 dollars, the cost is minimal  but the value you provide whether it’s sales, marketing, tracking or others is a lot more than just 99 cents. And then we grow with you as you’re successful. If the integration for some reason doesn’t deliver you the value, you won’t have users using it.

That’s not something we’re changing for but that’s not something we see. What we see is people that integrate with data sets that we allow them to access: email, context, calendar… Anybody that accesses the internet has an email account. It’s largely speaking your primary form of identity. Email is a quick communication channel as quick sidebar; people are saying that’s going to die for too many years. It’s not going anywhere.

What we have with the advent of Slack and other tools is that they are taking the communication that was never well suited for that channel out of that channel which is absolutely fine.

But when’re thinking about things like if you’re a help tech company and you’re thinking about patient records, you’re not sending that over Slack or SMS but over email.

Thank you Matthew Harper and Nylas for the great interview.