SaaStock Recap & Sit Down with Godard Abel at G2 on the Roadmap to Successful Product-led Growth

Last month, our SVP of Product, Kelly O’Connell, spoke at the inaugural US SaaStock event. She joined hundreds of SaaS professionals focused on growth by providing the best software on the market in their respective categories, which she shared with us was extremely inspiring.

At the conference, Kelly offered her advice on how to successfully achieve product-led growth, which is ActiveCampaign’s north star. Everything we do, we do because it will make our product better, and in turn, will make our customers’ businesses better—helping them scale successfully. During part of her discussion, she walked the audience through what a customer-driven roadmap looks like and how to transform to a product-led company.

Part of how ActiveCampaign achieves this is through getting feedback directly from our customers, implementing their ideas into our platform immediately, and understanding what they want in future updates and iterations. B2B software marketplace G2 helps us capture this customer feedback via their review site. Our leadership team reads every single customer review that comes in so we can all understand how to make changes and improve in the future.

At SaaStock, G2’s CEO and co-founder Godard Abel and our SVP of Product Kelly O’Connell sat down to talk about our partnership, how ActiveCampaign achieved more than 10,000 four and five star reviews on G2, and how we use this customer feedback to propel our platform forward every single day.

Check out the full interview below!

Godard: Hi! I’m really excited to be here live at SaaStock with my special guest Kelly O’Connell. And Kelly is the SVP of Product at ActiveCampaign, an incredible marketing software company. And I’m glad she’s here to share a few of her secrets to success for product teams and for customers. But first, how’s SaaStock been for you thus far? 

Kelly: It’s been great. It’s my first SaaStock. It’s been really great to meet with founders and leaders in growth. It’s great to represent Chicago with G2. I think we’re the only Chicago companies here. 

Godard: Yes. Now exciting to have two – you’re also a unicorn. Two Chicago unicorns. Yeah. Representing right here at SaaStock in Austin. 

Kelly: Yes, it’s been really fun! Energy is great. It was good to listen to some of your talks earlier today, and I’ll be speaking tomorrow. 

Godard: Excellent. I can’t wait for your presentation tomorrow. 

Kelly: Thank you. 

Godard: And ActiveCampaign. You are a leader in marketing software, marketing automation software. And I think one of the things we do love and I’ve met your founder Jason, but we love all your happy reviews on G2. I think you have well over 10,000 four and five star reviews. 

Kelly: We do. G2 is a wonderful wealth of information to us on how our customers are feeling, whether they find value, where they feel pain and so just really a huge help to our innovation, our services, and our company.

Godard: And I know you are doing great on G2, but I also know your market of marketing software is very competitive. I think there’s literally hundreds, maybe, if not thousands of martech vendors listed on G2. And so how does G2 help you differentiate? 

Kelly: I think the sheer number of great reviews we’ve seen. I mean, over 10,000 four and five stars reviews is amazing. But I think also having that insight of where customers are finding value and, more importantly, where they’re finding pain, just simply helping our processes, our teams, our product roadmap, where we should focus. And that slew of insights is just critical to success. 

Godard: And how do you make sense of all the product feedback you get? And I’m sure you get it across channels, not just from G2.

Kelly: Oh, yeah.

Godard: But how do you, as a Chief Product Officer, how do you make sense of all the feedback?

Kelly: It is something that has been important to Jason and therefore the culture of the company since the beginning of 2003 when we started the company. And so every review, NPS response, CSAT, flows into the entire team. Jason reads every one. I read every one.

Godard: Wow.

Kelly: And I think it’s so important to hear customers in their own words. Way more insightful than reading a report or something like that. That may be a summarization. And so I think just that ongoing, constant pulse of customer voices and feedback is so critical. Now, obviously we use it to understand what should we build, where should we spend more effort, more energy, where people might need value. How do we lean into that more? But it is a constant pulse with the customer every day at ActiveCampaign.

Godard: And that’s amazing. I mean, Kelly, you said you read every review yourself. 

Kelly: Yeah.

Godard: That’s a lot of information. 

Kelly: It is. And I ping product teams if I see something, they should have their eyes on it. So it builds conversation. So we flow everything into Slack. There is a constant feed and then there is conversation in there of: Should we reach out? Should we talk to them? Should we learn more? 

Godard: And do you respond to a lot of the reviews? 

Kelly: We do. So, we also have our product team responding to all NPS responses and G2 reviews. Maybe a discovery or a quick 1:1 is what we need to understand more about the problem. Our product teams are directly engaging.

Godard: That’s cool. So you assign it out and you make sure the right product person gets the feedback and then also can respond. 

Kelly: Of course, yeah. We don’t want it to just stop at that one response. We want to have a conversation with these customers who are essentially raising their hands to get feedback.

Godard: And another trend I think we’re all talking about here at SaaStock is AI. I love that you’re having real human conversations. I think that’s still more valued. 

Kelly: Yes. 

Godard: And I think it’s so important for your culture of customer success at ActiveCampaign. So I imagine you’re going to keep doing it. But do you think AI is a way to make sense of all that feedback?

Kelly: Absolutely. I think AI can help find messaging or help you get a jump start, you know, edit instead of create. But I think that authentic human connection is still absolutely critical. But AI obviously can detect themes and help with maybe how to make sense of it all.

Godard: We’ve introduced a Market Intelligence product, led by our Chief Product Officer Sara Rossio. 

She’s trying to help business leaders – including her peer product leaders like yourself — draw even more insight from all the customer feedback.

Kelly: I think that would be invaluable. You know, again, I think that ongoing pulse is important, but it can also be what’s last on your mind or something. So, seeing those trends and values is critical. 

Godard: Switching gears to talk about building company culture. It’s something we’ve fostered at G2 with our PEAK culture, which stands for Performance, Entrepreneurship, Authenticity, and Kindness. At ActiveCampaign, since its founding way back in 2003, you talk about building a customer centric culture. When did you join Jason at the company, Kelly? 

Kelly: Eight years ago. 

Godard: Wow, eight years. And obviously you have spent many years building this very culture, customer centric culture. But what advice do you have? I mean, there’s so many entrepreneurs here at SaaStock, so many young companies. How do they build a customer culture like you have? 

Kelly: I think what we learned is as you scale, it’s so easy to get bold into building barriers and silos between functions and maybe even read a report to see what’s going on with your customers. And I think it’s been pushing through that and breaking those walls down and getting everyone closer to the customer. How do you get everyone engaging with the product, with the customer, even if you’re scaling teams and scaling functions? And I think that’s been so easy to fall into. Oh, I work in finance, I don’t need to talk directly to customers. But when you start building that empathy more directly and you hear the customers and the words that they use, I think it just builds such a different culture of what’s important. What are we building? And so I think that has been difficult but something we’ve been really intentional about how we get more people directly, seeing what customers are saying. 

Godard: I think that’s fascinating, Kelly. It sounds like at ActiveCampaign the key is to get everyone, every employee, so even people in finance, but everyone having conversations with customers. But do you have some mechanisms, tools to encourage everyone, help everyone do it? 

Kelly: I think we continue to iterate there. So, one thing we just started earlier this year is my org, the product org is all engaging regularly in level one support. So, they are seeing pain points and questions, and that ongoing interaction is even informing our roadmap in really interesting ways. Another thing is we built sort of a central product enablement team that’s going to lead the entire company through certification on the product, on the market, on customers. So that was created this year.

Godard: Oh wow. That’s really exciting. So I think that’s great advice, Kelly, is to really also have mechanisms, right, to make sure that every employee gets that exposure. And I love your idea of level one support, your product people. They do support. I remember reading about Jeff Bezos’ Amazon biography. Apparently even Jeff Bezos does that at Amazon. He goes in a call center for a day and really learns on the front lines. And frankly, it’s also a good reminder for me at G2. That’s a great idea, Kelly — even getting our product people into the support. 

Kelly: It is really eye opening. I go in every other week for a few hours and answer tickets. And it feels great. It feels great to see their successes and get their wins with them. But also, as you realize, wow, this question keeps coming up over and over. We should do something about that. It’s really eye opening. 

Godard: So wonderful. Thank you, Kelly, for sharing all this advice on this incredible customer centric culture you build at ActiveCampaign. And we’re really excited to see the next 10,000 happy ActiveCampaign reviews. And we’re so excited you are a leader on our platform. And I think it is all 100% a result of this customer culture you have, because marketers love ActiveCampaign, and I can see that’s not by chance. It’s because of this very concerted effort, you know, you put in to build the product exactly how the customer wants it. So, thank you, Kelly. Wonderful to meet you here. 

Kelly: Thank you so much. We really appreciate your partnership. 

Godard: Thank you. And enjoy the rest of SaaStock. 

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