Marketing Mojo: Insights from Buildium VP of Marketing, Michelle Burtchell

By Jesse Ciccone

Jesse Ciccone, VP at Matter recently spoke with Buildium VP of Marketing, Michelle Burtchell to discuss B2B marketing, measurement and more. Check out the video from the interview and read below for the full conversation.


Jesse Ciccone (JC): Michelle, tell us a little about yourself and Buildium.

Michelle Burtchell (MB): I am the Vice President of Marketing at Buildium, a property management software company. I was lucky enough to fall into this field coming out of college, in a small arena in upstate New York, and fell in love with the idea that depending on what a different audience needs at a certain point in time, you can find a way to reach them and help make their life a little better.

At Buildium, we focus on making sure small business property managers in the United States are more efficient, can get their day-to-day done and can grow their business, all supported by one single platform. Buildium is a 14-year-old startup, founded in 2004 by Michael Monteiro and Dimitris Georgakopoulos, both of who are still at the company.

A few years ago, Buildium decided to live into the vision of being the next 100-year company in Boston. We want to be that stable company that helps Boston continue to be the startup culture that it is today. To do that, we wanted to make sure we had enough funds and were investing in sales and marketing in a way that we hadn’t before.


JC: What marketing initiatives are you planning to invest in more heavily over the next year?

MB: We have a stable foundation in demand capture, also known as our ability to find people who need software and fulfill those needs. We haven’t invested in much marketing outside of that so the world is our oyster. I couldn’t tell you one thing that we’re going to invest in, except for experimentation.

We think that there is a big opportunity in the market, and with the customers we serve, to help educate them on market trends. There is also an opportunity to show our customers how much we appreciate them. It’s not something that a lot of companies invest in, and for us, our customers are our number one priority.

We are also building a podcast to help educate the more than 14,000 of our customers all working through the same challenges. These small businesses all have stories from the trenches that can help somebody else get better and we are excited to uncover those.


JC: What marketing initiatives do you think will become less of a priority?

MB: I don’t know the answer to that yet. I think the reason for that is what we are doing right now is working, and as we continue to experiment, we’re building out a culture of test and learn. I’m sure there are going to be many things that we will invest less in. I just don’t know what they are yet.


JC: In an increasingly customer-obsessed world, how do you ensure the customer is the top priority?

MB: I think companies talk about ensuring the customer is top priority, but the second a customer comes in, they forget about them. They kind of set them and forget them, right?

For us, understanding why our customers leave us is sometimes even more important than understanding how we get new customers in through the front door. We have an entire swim lane in our product team, in our development side, where we listen to what our customers ask for and then go build those out.

Customer obsession only works if it’s in your DNA and if everybody is trying to understand who the person that you are marketing to. What are their needs? If you’re not staying in touch and going out on those customer visits every quarter with the person who is using your product, you’re going to miss. We not only do that to understand and learn, but we dedicate resources to making sure that we are making the changes that’ll benefit our customers most.

We also recently had our first customer event, which sold out in less than 24 hours of announcing it. We ended up opening the rooms and having double the population come in that we thought we would have. Our goal for the event was retention over time, as well as building a community within our customer base.


JC: What differentiates Boston as a tech hub and how do you see that evolving over the next 5 years?

MB: I think a couple of years ago, I wasn’t sure where Boston would be as a tech hub. I didn’t think it was on the map nearly as much as it should be. I had a pretty unique opportunity to go out and meet with several CEOs and venture capitalists to understand what was happening in the market. Five or six years ago there was this buzz to want to make Boston something bigger than it was.

I think we are starting to see that now, where you see more and more companies coming into the Boston market. The level of opportunity and competition in the Boston market is amazing to see.

What makes us unique, and what will continue to make us unique, we are a culture that needs to really focus on inclusion and diversity. Boston has an opportunity to become the leader in that space, and there is not a leader in that space today. We need to keep pushing, we need to keep working, and that needs to become part of our DNA. When you have inclusion, you build the best products. You build something better than anyone else can have.


JC: What marketing technology investments is Buildium making in 2018?

MB: From a marketing technology investment perspective, we have a pretty decent tech stack right now. It is one of the things that we focus on.

One of the things we just implemented that we are geekishly excited about is HEAP Analytics. It’s a tracking tool that allows us to understand how people engage with our website, all the way down through the product. We can make sure that, based off what somebody’s needs are, we can deliver the right experience to meet those needs and help them accomplish their objectives.


JC: What KPIs are most critical to your executive team and board? How are you being asked to measure the effectiveness of your marketing and PR programs?

MB: I would say there are three that we look at, that are pretty much tattooed on my arm. The first one is churn. We have great churn numbers, something that we’re proud of. If your churn numbers go up, it means that you weren’t serving the customer. And so again, that’s part of our DNA, but it is something that we watch all the time to make sure that we are in a good spot and we are serving our customers the best that we can.

The other metric is the number of new customers that we’re bringing in. We make sure we have the right balance of serving the market that we have and continuing to bring new customers in, and making sure that we’re meeting the demands of both along the way.

Our third is a core strategic objective for employee pride. We believe that it’s important for us as a company to build an experience for everyone that works here that makes them proud. We want them to look back and say this is the best place that they have ever worked. As an executive team and as a board, we focus a lot on making sure that we are doing the things and making the right decisions that would make people say, “I was proud to be at Buildium,” when they look back on their career here.


JC: You mention customer churn, how can marketing help with customer churn?

MB: It depends on what the reasons are, and sometimes it’s something that we need to work on and decide to work on in product. The places where marketing can help is we can help listen. We need to listen to what’s happening from a product perspective, but also to what’s happening in the market, and to see if there’s another, better solution out there, and help the product team get a better understanding of what that looks like.

A lot of times, our customers aren’t aware of some of the investments we’ve made in the product. We’ve built out something called Buildium Academy to educate about things such as benefits of the products and how to use them.


JC: How are you being asked to measure the success of your marketing and PR initiatives?

MB: From a marketing perspective, when we look at new customer adoption, we have a very traditional funnel. We have leads to MQLs, MQLs to SQLs, SQLs to customers. We funnel our campaigns and initiatives down to that customer level. That being said, it’s something that we’re willing to blow up at any point in time and make sure that we’re looking at things the fresh, new way.

From a customer perspective, we make sure that the programs in place have a positive impact on customer retention. We want to make sure our customers are engaged with both the brand, the company and the product, within certain amounts of time.

From a PR perspective, we look a lot at perception in market. We look to understand overall brand awareness and brand perception. How can we help make sure that it is the perception that we want people to have because we’ve earned it?