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Chad Reid – The Path Of Success For The 1st Marketing Hire Of A Startup – Episode #112

“Take your top priorities and cut them in half, and then focus on doing fewer things exceedingly well.”


Chad is the VP of Marketing & Communications at Jotform, a leading online form and productivity software company. He holds a master’s degree in communication and resides with his wife and cats in Oakland, California.

  • Hiring for skills that matter and why writing is one to master!
  • How to build a marketing team from the ground up.
  • When to hire an employee vs freelancer vs a vendor.
  • Defining the inflection points for a marketing team as a startup scales.
  • When should companies consider a rebrand?
  • What does it take to rebrand a company successfully?
  • Why all SaaS companies need the marketing team to use the product.

And more!


You can connect with Chad here:

You can get more details on Jotform’s story here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto 0:02  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people of digital marketing with your host, Kenny Soto, and today’s special guest, Chad Reed. Hi, Chad, how are you?


Chad Reid 0:14  

Okay, how’s it going?


Kenny Soto 0:15  

I’m doing fantastic. It’s a lovely Tuesday evening for me, and I’m excited to learn more about you, your career, and JotForm. But before we dive into JotForm, and what you’re currently doing right now, I always like to ask a very straightforward question at the beginning of these interviews, just to get more context about us professionals. So Chad, my first question for you is, how did you even get into digital marketing in the first place?


Chad Reid 0:40  

I feel like my answer is similar to a couple of your other guests where I really just fell into it. I always thought marketing was fascinating. And it’s something I thought about studying in college but didn’t. But ultimately, I, you know, have a writing skill set. 


And I kind of follow that. You know, originally with a journalism background, a freelance writer found an entry-level marketing position that was looking for journalism grads, and then, of course, I picked up a number of skills. And of course, now, I’m in marketing. So it’s been a long, it’s been a long journey. But yeah, that’s kind of how I got started.


Kenny Soto 1:23  

Would you say that writing is a skill, every marketer, regardless of industry, business model, or even subject matter, expertise should learn?


Chad Reid 1:34  

Yeah, in fact, I’d be surprised if they don’t have that acumen before they, before they go into this, you know, these days, and it’s not just, I actually find, and maybe this is special to my organization. Now headshot form, but internal writing is really important, too, you know, we, we work asynchronously, especially as companies, dispersed globally. You know, just good old-fashioned email writing is really, really important. 


So, and, you know, obviously, that goes beyond a marketing skill set. But yeah, very important. We hire for that. Even in non-marketing roles, we always, we always pay attention to marketing skills, and or I’m sorry, writing skills and kind of people’s ability to do that. Aside from


Kenny Soto 2:22  

Writing, and I’m asking this, because I recently found myself in a hiring manager’s position recently, aside from writing, what other skills should hiring managers who are hiring marketers consider when looking at candidates?


Chad Reid 2:38  

That’s tough? I don’t know if there’s a tried and true answer to this other than more than a skill, universally. attitude. It’s, it’s just such a and maybe that shows up as a soft skill, right? But when I hire someone, I want them not to show enthusiasm, by learning about the products or learning about the company beforehand. 


You know, just being a good follow up good, good follow-up communication after an interview and, again, it’s not really a skill, but that translates really well when they’re an employee, regardless of the marketing position, you know, so I think that’s just universally finding people with that are that are energetic and hungry? 


And yeah, it always, it always seems to go well, I’ve talked myself into candidates before that weren’t, you know, maybe they’re really good on paper, right? Yeah. And you kind of talk them into the position or something like that. But it’s, it’s always been a disappointment. So yeah, always hiring for attitude. You know, even more than what’s, what’s on a resume was kind of my personal feeling.


Kenny Soto 3:50  

I like sharing mistakes that I’ve made in the past, because I find that it’s easier to learn from others’ mistakes, rather than just make them on your own. So, one quick tip I’ll have for any of the listeners right now who are doing an interview, even if they don’t ask you this, it’s always great to know how the company you’re applying for makes revenue in the event that it’s asked or not, you can bring it up yourself saying, Hey, I’ve done this research as I’ve gone through this candidate process. 


And I feel like I’ve had enough time to understand the business model and how the business makes revenue. That’s a great talking point to add. If you’re not asked during an interview process, because it shows you’ve done the due diligence and you’re not just applying and looking through a marketer’s lens when you’re trying to get the job that due diligence in and of itself, shows that you’re actually interested in working with the team that you have applied for. 


Chad Reid 4:49  

For sure. That’s a great question too for dodging, you know, dodging potential poor situations as an interviewee so it’s Yeah, Good advice?


Kenny Soto 5:01  

Absolutely. Now when it comes to letting’s take a bigger, broader scope here for a marketing team overall. How do you go about building a marketing team from scratch? And I asked this question, I’m giving them a primer here, I asked this question because I find that even if some of the listeners here aren’t in the position of making those big decisions that impact an organization with that magnitude, one day, they might be in that position. So it’s a great question to ask what it’s like, I’m a new head of marketing, marketing director, etc. And I am given this task by the CEO, build a marketing team, how do you approach that chat.


Chad Reid 5:40  

Actually I think I’m in a good position to answer that because when I started at JotForm, where I am currently, eight years ago, which is, you know, in tech, quite a long time to be at an organization. But when I joined, I was one of two original marketing hires, we had two lateral marketing hires, at the same time, and we were joining a company that didn’t have any marketing whatsoever, it had a good product, and it had customers and it had grown, but it didn’t have any formalized marketing. 


So we were too original hires to do that. And then, you know, after a while, it was the only one of the original marketing hires. And I did start to slowly add employees, and it was a real, it took a long time to make that first hire, you know, we were I was we were both rural, individual contributors back then, you know, we had to get our hands dirty and learn every little, little bit. 


You know, I was taking on partnerships and managing our AdWords myself, I was writing every blog that went up social media posts, you know, advertising the whole bit. And then it became too much. And then it was a very organic process as well, I need someone to just take on whatever, whenever I can’t. So the first hire was a very general hire. Right. And I think when a team is small, you look for generalists who are people who can manage a lot of different projects. And, you know, we made that first hire, and she’s actually still with the company today, it was five years ago. 


And she kind of grew. Her role has grown considerably since the time that she started as well. But when she started, it was doing everything, you know, it was pitching reporters, it was being on video, it was doing all these things. So my advice, I guess, to anyone is, you’re going to start with generalists, who can do as much, you know, as they can on a small team, and then the scope is always going to get more and more specialized. And when we make hires today, they’re, they’re considerably more specialized. 


And they do the specializations better than I could ever do them back when even I tried, you know, so we have a whole AdWords team, or we have, you know, PR specialists, we have full-time writers, full-time editors, we have all these things that used to be joint responsibilities among a few people are now like, you know, very, very specialized skill sets. And that’s, that’s what we’re hiring for today. 


And it’s gonna depend on the company what those exactly look like, you know, we’ve made some strides in content marketing, or investments in content marketing, or, you know, different channels like that. So we’ll make very strategic hires accordingly. But it’s interesting how that worked out, you know, sometimes I am in awe of the specialization of the people that we are getting, it’s like, how are we getting someone to do this particular thing? So well, like, you know, it’s just amazing that that’s, that’s kind of where we are as a company, too. 


But it’s been? Yeah, it’s been interesting, you know, I didn’t come in as a VP-level hire, you know, I kind of grew up with the company. And it’s been, it’s been a lot of learning in that process. But it’s been a lot of fun, too. And just kind of where I am. And where the company is today versus when I started in 2014 is just wildly different. So it’s been, it’s been a good situation.


Kenny Soto 9:16  

Painting a broader picture, just to get more context. Can you tell us what JotForm is? What is it that you’re actually marketing?


Chad Reid 9:25  

Yeah, so it’s leading online forum software that started in 2006, as the first What You See Is What You Get form building software, where basically, you can create a form for any type of reason that you need to collect information, if it’s a contact form, Registration Form, Application, form, order form, you know, forms, right, every, every business on Earth needs them. And we’ve really scaled quite a bit. 


So today, we’re not just a platform to build forms, but we’re an automation service that helps you collect the information you need and Direct it in any way that you need it. So we have wonderful integrations, we have custom-made products that you can house and manage and do different conditional logics, you know, like, basically, we have powerful forms. 


And this point, we have 16 million users around the world. You know, we’re about 500 people strong as a company, in terms of headcount. And, yeah, we’re continuing to innovate in our space, and we realize there’s a lot more opportunity to grow still, even after all these years. 


So yeah, and that the company, when I started looking a little bit different, you know, I think we, we really positioned ourselves as just a tool for creating forms, you know, under this assumption that people didn’t, didn’t really realize that there was an easy way to do that without needing a developer or, you know, any dev resources or coding or anything like that. And today, I think people assume that there should be a product out there, that that doesn’t require code. But we have to, we have to add in a lot of functionality and power and features. And unfortunately, we have all that,


Kenny Soto 11:10  

Yeah, and just adding Google Forms is useful, but it’s limited in scope, especially if you want to get granular with your campaigns and mature customer discovery. So like Job form, they help tremendously. Now there are a lot of places that we can go with your career, but I do want to follow up when it comes to hiring one last time. When do you know if it’s appropriate to hire internally, a freelancer, or a vendor like an agency? How do you go about that decision-making process?


Chad Reid 11:45  

And that’s a tough one we do we do all of the above. And I think what I’ve come to realize is that we put work into agencies when they don’t need product expertise. Or as much product expertise we always hire in-house we make an in-house hire when there becomes a need. And Yeah, the need to really understand what we do. Becoming out, you know, becomes more than just making blanket content for whatever reason. 


So we do have agencies for video production, we have agencies for public relations, we have agencies for content, you know, creating white papers, and ebooks and blog posts and things like that. But whenever we do hand it off, it tends to be broader in scope, you know, something that we think is going to be good for SEO, we don’t have the bandwidth to write internally, etc. But we do hire in-house when we want the white paper or ebook or blog posts to be just completely packed with detailed specific technical product information. 


And we’ve carried the same methodology over for video production to you, we have we actually have a video full in-house video team, which is unusual, I think for a lot of marketing departments, but we find a lot of value in it because we can be nimble, we can be fast we can. We can also just do the entire thing ourselves with product understanding, you know, if we’re giving a product tutorial, if we’re writing the scripts ourselves, we just won’t be one on one interest ourselves probably more than an agency for, you know, that’s just one of their clients or something like that. 


Freelancers, yeah, it’s kind of tough to, I think, oftentimes is the case is when we work with a really great freelancer, that they want to be a freelancer, you know, I think in many cases, we’ve hired freelancers simultaneously when we’ve made in house hires, but you know, maybe they have other clients or they appreciate the autonomy of being a freelancer, but if you find a good one, they’re worth their weight in gold, you know. 


So we’ve, we’ve, of course, going through a number that that wasn’t, you know, maybe as high quality but the ones have been great we’ve stuck with for years, especially on the writing side. So that’s been a, it’s a little bit of trial and error. But, getting a good one is amazing. And we’re really fortunate and we actually made hires before where, you know, they started out as a freelancer and we just liked the work so much that we know through their benefits and hold them that they can only produce for JotForm. And you know, fortunately, it worked out for all parties.


Kenny Soto 14:41  

You’ve been With JotForm for a long time and I feel like my next question is going to be something that we can go a lot of value on. Inflection points and growing pains, however, you want to define them are something that’s important to know as you’re with a company verbally A long time when you define an inflection point or key moment of change in an organization, is that defined by headcount, a change in product, a change in business strategy? What do you think about inflection points and key change moments for an organization overall? fundraise round?


Chad Reid 15:28  

Yeah, I mean, you know, Jonathan was in a unique position where we’re completely bootstrapped, profitable, bootstrapped, growing, gonna continue to be bootstrapped for the foreseeable future. I think for a lot of companies it is fun, you know, fundraising. I, you know, it’s, it’s, I can think of some for us that are kind of specific to us that probably isn’t necessarily the case with a lot of other companies, because their headcount, you know, grew really, really slowly, or, you know, organically, I would say, probably as a result, because we didn’t have some surge of $300 million in funding. 


So we never went on a hiring spree, we just always kind of continued to add headcount when we needed it. For us. I think one of the earliest inflection points was a major competitor of ours, deciding to retire their product, and they had a great product, and they were popular in the market, they were a completely paid service. But for reasons that I don’t entirely understand, they decided to, sunset, the product that was Adobe, Adobe was that they had a great online forum service, back in 2015. 


But they needed to as a part of their goodwill toward their customers, provide alternatives that work well, or similarly. So they recommend a job form as one of three services for their entire customer base to, to, to try and, you know, our, our developers are amazing. And they created an import tool that basically took all of the data and forms from these Adobe users, and just migrated into brand new JotForm accounts seamlessly. 


That was an inflection point, that was a point where, you know, we were plodding along, we were growing, and then all of a sudden, we have 10s, of 1000s, of new paid users, you know, seemingly overnight. And that was, that’s pretty special to us, I think, you know, it’s not, that’s not something that’s going to be replicated, you have to, you have to be lucky, you have to be well positioned. And you have to be a little bit fortunate to have that happen. 


But I would say in general, for us. We’re such a product-led team, or it’s such a product-led company that the inflection points since then the major turning points since then have been when we release major features when we release major products. You know, I think we kind of continually innovate what we have to offer. And that’s been a, you know, looking back, those have been, you know, the growth spurt was usually had something to do with the fact that we’ve, we’ve continued to upgrade and maintain our momentum. 


Another one, I guess, kind of along the same lines, but and, you know, not to be insensitive, but we did quite well during COVID. Where I think a lot of you know, obviously a lot of businesses struggled but because we layered on so many products and features that enabled us to serve businesses that all of a sudden needed to operate solely online. We had a, you know, huge growth spurt that we could have foreseen, you know, and they came in industries with different industries, but healthcare was one of them. 


We had a, we’re not long before that offered HIPAA, HIPAA compliance as a feature. And at the time we released it, then, you know, there were a few people that picked up on it, it was, you know, being able to safely collect patient information to your forms was, you know, it was a nice to have, and all of a sudden, it was very, you know, healthcare or doctor’s offices across the country more, not using paper forms to give their patients who were in person, all of a sudden, they were doing digitally, and they needed to, you know, a way somewhere, somewhere to be able to do that without developer resources. 


And, you know, we just made it very, very easy for them. And that was a huge growth, growth opportunity for us. And the same thing happened with some of our payment form features and order form features, you know, restaurants for collecting orders using order forms, powered by job form. And we had already done all the work to create those features and payment integrations. So, you know, we were, we were well positioned in that. 


And then there was one because one other one is a complete throwaway feature that we had launched A couple of years earlier, and it was not that widely used where it was a QR code, where, you know, you can publish a form as a QR code, you know, so if someone scans a QR code somewhere on pops there, this form on a customer device or you know, whatever device, and again, not that popular pre-COVID. 


And then all of a sudden, in 2020, QR codes were having their time and in the sun, right, like they were being used everywhere. And for, you know, because everyone, everyone was contactless everyone didn’t want to be, you know, exchanging things, hand to hand, or whatever, whatever the case was. So this feature that we had had just kind of put in our library for, you know, a rainy day all of a sudden, was, was a big selling point for us. So, that was a very long answer to your original question. 


But we kind of just got lucky for a lot of this, for some of these, these periods in our history, but at all, it also came back to the fact that we were, we put so much emphasis on product development, and we just, we weren’t always right on when, or how they would be can be used, and for what reasons. But, you know, fortunately, we made those strides.


Kenny Soto 21:18  

I asked this question because it’s a great segue to talk about another type of inflection point which is rebranding. And my next question would be, when should consider when should companies even consider a rebrand? And is there a key moment when this happens? Or is it just the executive team comes together? And they say, it’s time for a rebrand? What are your thoughts on that?


Chad Reid 21:49  

You know, I think so many companies get that wrong. Where they rebrand prematurely, or they, you know, there are so many famous clunkers, rebrands, where they just, it just didn’t take off. For us. We were way past due for rebranding, and we were just rebranded for anyone listening less than a year ago, in October of 2021. And we’ve kept our previous brand for, I think, something like nine years before that, and it looked like the, you know, the 2009 version of Java form. 


And it didn’t really have a modern, much of a modern look to it. And it didn’t really represent I think, who we were as a company, and that kind of started a deeper discussion of what we were as a company and what, how that needed to be projected out onto the world. But it was a process, oh, my God. It wasn’t universal by and by the way like it was something that I think did start within our marketing department, and we, you know, approached our CEO about it. And then he kind of let us commission work with an agency. 


So we worked with a really great agency, for many months, they did extensive user interviews, and they gave us these wonderful concepts. Well, guess what our CEO didn’t like it. So that put us back on the drawing board, he wanted to do it in-house, we have great designers within JotForm. So that’s not a bad thing at all. But I kind of like putting us back at square one. And then they came up with many concepts, dozens and dozens. 


And it took almost a full year of it before finally, there was one that stuck, you know, and then once there was one that everyone seemed to agree upon, you know, maybe making some final tweaks and adjustments on how that was going to look over the entire site. And then, yeah, it was it. I don’t think for most companies, it’s such a process, you know, certainly the bigger you are, the harder it gets, you know, we had to change over brand on hundreds and hundreds of pages. But as far as when to know, you know, for us, we waited probably too long. 


But I think I think just kind of keeping your brand, top of mind and just, you know, every so often just sort of asking is the brand that you’re putting out into the world serving or representing what you are as a company. And I think that’s sort of a critical answer. And if that means a rebranding every two years, so be it. Or, you know, every how long it took JotForm to rebrand, so be it as well. But what a learning process, you know, I think it’s I really underestimated I think everything that was going to go into that. 


And unfortunately, I’m really happy. I think everyone’s really happy with the end result. I think we have a little bit that’s very clean. We’re a lot more excited to just get our name out there now, you know, we have out-of-home and billboard campaigns, which we had never done until we rebranded, and just our presence at conferences and just seeing it locked up there with the new logos that are kind of a, something that I know gives us all a lot, a lot of pride. So it was definitely worth it. But yeah, I don’t know. 


Kenny Soto 25:23  

During that, I’ve asked this next question to execs at b2b companies, and Mar tech companies. And I’m going to ask you because I know everyone’s answer to this is unique. It’s two parts one, should employees of a SaaS company use this as a tool? And two? If the answer is yes. Why?


Chad Reid 25:51  

Why should our own employees use their product? Oh, man, yeah, you go back to your original question on hiring. I would say that this, you know, you can’t, you can’t always tell if they’re gonna be a user of the product. But I would say this is what makes a good employee, in, in my view, you know, I think you have to use your own product. And if you’re in marketing, and you’re not, you know, it’s a problem, because this is ultimately every bit of communication that you’re doing, or launch planning, or whatever has to be around knowing your product really well, and you just can’t know your product without using it really well. 


And you have, using your product also bridges the gap between your product team and your marketing team. So you can be able to make useful recommendations for product improvement. And if the product isn’t doing what you think it should be doing. And you’re not using it as a result. And that’s a problem because you should be able to use a product, and then be able to provide recommendations for him for improvement. 


And then you know, you can’t do it unless you’re an active user. So it’s just one of my core beliefs. As a head of marketing, and it’s something I, you know, within my team, it’s something I value very, very much, it’s something I preach, it’s something our CEO preaches, like, we have to use it, you know, we have to be creative about the ways we use it, we have to look for problems and how we use it, you know, we have to, we have to do it in ways that we wouldn’t even think about using it. 


And, you know, maybe it’s, it’s a little different for us than it is for some companies, you know, because you can have forms for everything, and we do. But nonetheless, I think regardless of what your company does, I think it’s it’s just a key principle, in my eyes,


Kenny Soto 27:42  

To my questions for each ad. Sure. What is the biggest marketing challenge your team faces this year?


Chad Reid 27:53  

I’d say the biggest challenge that we face this year is refining our goals a little bit. And I think this is something that you know, we’ve run into a few years, and we continue to kind of do this a little bit, but you know, biting off more than we can chew as a team. It is problematic. You know, I think this is coming to mind, at the present moment, because we were in between two really big events, basically, where we had a major conference sponsorship, but we also have a major product launch coming out in the first week of October. 


And it’s like, wow, why did we do that? And but it’s, we were very ambitious. We tried to do a lot, but I think forever. My advice to any marketing team anywhere is, like, you know, take your top priorities and cut them in half. And then and then focus on doing fewer things exceedingly well. Which I think is you know, wasn’t that like Steve Jobs tended at some point where he had everyone put their best ideas there and then said to like, Well, okay, like, no, pick two or something like that, you know, it’s sort of the same idea. 


That’s as a challenge for us is, you know, whittling down our list of priorities to focus on what really, really matters and not, you know, the things that we think are cool or whatever, whatever that case is, that’s necessarily an internal challenge. externally. The biggest challenge that we face as a company and continue to face I guess, is people using legacy systems just do not understand that, that what we offer is out there even as a category. 


You know, our biggest competitors are not the Google forums that will necessarily its paper, you know, people People, people using things that were in style, you know, 2025 years ago. But that’s, that’s also our biggest opportunity too. So we’re not. We’re not too shaken by that.


Kenny Soto 30:15  

My last question for you is hypothetical because time machines do not exist, but if they did, and you can go back in time, about 10 years, knowing everything, you know, right now, how would you specifically accelerate the speed of your career?


Chad Reid 30:29  

Oh, my gosh, wow, where was I 10 years ago? I think I would have paid, and I think I would have sharpened my technical skills, and my hard skills are more. I think, um, you know, even to this day, I dabble with a lot of things. But, you know, at my core, I’m a, I’m a soft skill, soft skill guy. Had I known I was going to be really diving into marketing, and I’d be working at a great tech company and a marketing position and invested the resources that I had, or that I was putting into being a better writer, and at least broadened a little bit right? 


Benmore conversant with SEO been more conversant with, you know, just ROI or optimization, or just 10 years ago, I wish I was like a little sharper, luckily, and one of the greats, you know, fortunes in my career have, I was forced to do many of that too much of that at JotForm was only because I was an early marketing hire, and I had to write but I think I would have looked at it a little bit differently 10 years ago, and trying to try to be a little more technical in my skills.


Kenny Soto 31:47  

Thank you for your time today chatting. And if anyone wants to find you online, where can they go to say hi?


Chad Reid 31:53  

Yeah, I would say just type in Chad Reid, and I’ll come up on LinkedIn. But there’s, like 40 of us. But uh, yeah, Chad Reid JotForm. You know, you search for me, and add me on LinkedIn and be great. Also just [email protected] for my email. I’m always happy to say hi.


Kenny Soto 32:10  

Perfect, and thanks to you, the listener for listening to another episode of the people’s visual marketing, if you can, believe it or not, this is episode 112. So we are definitely on a journey that’s probably never-ending. I know that I’m going to enjoy conversations like this every single time I get the chance to have them. And if you haven’t done so please rate us on both Spotify and Apple podcasts. And as always, I hope everyone has a great week.



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