A/B Testing and French Pressing: A Day With SoundCloud

Todd Grennan By Todd Grennan Oct 20, 2016

Editor’s Note: This newest installment of the “Marketer Spotlight” series features Ed Burrows, growth marketing manager at SoundCloud. Read on to learn about how he approaches testing and data, SoundCloud’s martech stack, and the best way to make French press and stay focused with cute dogs in the office.

Describe a typical day in as much or as little detail as you like.

It all starts with the French press. The key to a good day’s work at SoundCloud is regulating the right dosage of strong coffee in the system at the appropriate time. Otherwise one may be prone to a nap when it is least convenient. I like to let it stand for a good five minutes before pouring, just to maximize the flavor absorption. I’ve actually devoted a Slack channel to this here in the office, although participation is a bit low. When I’m not prepping a good brew I’m likely combing through dashboards and data from previous week’s tests, hacking away at html for some in-app and email campaigns or linked up to a video conference with some super talented peeps over in our Berlin HQ.

What is your greatest challenge and opportunity as a retention marketer?

At SoundCloud we’re lucky to be working at a scale and with the kind of depth of data that allows us to run a ton of different tests with the opportunity to gain learnings and scale them quickly. In particular we can test various lifecycle sequences that involve multiple different channels and their effectiveness in combination with each other to create the optimum journey for a user. One of the largest challenges here is trying not to pet our coworkers’ dogs constantly throughout the day. Seriously, our dog happy policy here in the office allows for some seriously agreeable dogs and it’s important to stay focused. Other than that, I’d say one of our challenges is having the resources to deploy these campaigns across multiple countries with language localization as fast as we’d like, but we do quite well given we’re a small team.

What skills are most important to succeed in retention marketing?

Beyond the dedication to strong coffee I’d say strong analytical thinking and grasp of data. Moving the needle on a metric is about stacking learnings on top of one another and to do that requires a good sense of relevant test results to make sure you’re moving in the right direction. That and being able to prioritize and rationalize which dog to pet. And why you should be doing the next test. An organization will always have an abundance of ideas but with only so much time, is that next test the right one to implement right now?

What is unique about your approach to retention marketing and how does mobile fit into that?

SoundCoud is interesting in that we don’t replicate the full desktop or mobile app experience on mobile web. This brings unique challenges when it comes to our channel mix for retention activities, as email and performance marketing require special attention to ensure users are given the correct user experience. This can dictate the strategy that we use as we take into account the product experience before driving users into it. In terms of process, our approach is to work to a regular testing cadence, executing and learning from those tests that feed the next round of hypothesis. We then scale what works and learn from what doesn’t, slowly moving retention metrics over time. Given our users’ heavy usage of the mobile apps, mobile channels have become a very important focus for us.

What tools and technologies do you most rely on to do your job?

We dip into the regular growth marketer’s toolbox: Excel, Tableau, Google, Sublime Text, caffeine, Adjust, and of course, Appboy.

Which teams within and outside marketing do you most work with?

Within marketing we have our creative services team, who obviously help get a lot of our materials created. We work heavily with key product teams depending on the objectives of the campaign, our insights teams to interrogate data, and our growth team. There are so many product features for us to push in order to increase engagement, but we are also running traditional marketing promotions and partnerships as well.

What’s your marketing mantra?

Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.

Aside from your own, what brand’s marketing campaigns or messages do you love most, and why?

I love when brands get a lot of leverage from a small amount of resources like the FiberFix video (courtesy of the Harmon Brothers who’ve done some other successful viral spots). I think Uber does an excellent job of nontraditional marketing with their integrations and partnerships that always seem to be in front of you, complementing their more traditional marketing campaigns. Most people point to Dollar Shave Club’s famous video, but their email creative and design is really great as well.

What are some of the most important drivers for the campaigns you make; are they based around customer events, purchase behavior, seasonal promotions, new store openings…or what else?

Many of our campaigns revolve around increasing users’ engagement by focusing on specific macro and micro retention metrics across the entire funnel. As SoundCloud is primarily a free service for listeners (until recently), everything relies on a user grasping the value of SoundCloud as early as possible and then us turning that user into a power user. We’ll look for our campaigns, from onboarding sequences to algorithm-driven notifications, to hit certain leading indicator events that are indicative of driving more macro metrics like medium-term retention. We are starting to experiment with promotions at the moment and this could be an area where we spend more time in the future.

Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan is a New York-based writer and editor. When he's not writing about mobile marketing, customer retention and emerging technologies for Braze, you can find him trying to read his way through every Wikipedia article related to World War II.

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