Increase Sales and Boost Morale by Investing in Meaningful Culture

Phil Alves
Phil Alves
· 5 min read

Matthew Barnett loves humans. He credits this affinity when describing his success as a business leader with a knack for cultivating relationships and understanding the types of communications people respond to the most.

As CEO and Head of Product at Bonjoro, a video messaging platform offering a better way for companies to connect with customers, Matt brings a touch of humanity to every aspect of the business from product development to team building to sales.

And then there are the bear suits: At Bonjoro, every new hire gets to pick an ursine avatar of their own, and Matt accordingly dons his under his other title at the company: “Papa Bear.”

Matt sat down with me on an episode of SaaS Origin Stories to describe how bear-themed position titles — and a bit of fun with furry suits — represent a values-driven approach to branding and culture he passionately espouses as a serious key to success for any company building teams and creating solutions for a competitive market.

Know Your Strengths — And How To Showcase Them

Matt and his colleagues at the FMCG research agency worked mostly with large enterprise clients, an audience with whom making great impressions — in person — was crucial.

This group of affable creatives could tell they were great at sales once they got into a room with potential clients. Naturally enthusiastic and gifted at building rapport through authenticity, the team could forge connections and build trust organically.

However, being based out of Australia and working with clients mostly in the U.S., the U.K. and France, the team couldn’t feasibly travel year-round to meet clients on their home soil. The memorable, charismatic energy of in-person pitches was hard to replicate when filtered through the dull blue computer light of a marketing email, often the only international communications option.

Matt usually took the ferry to work in Australia and passed the Sydney Opera House, an iconic landmark that would help add a dash of pizazz to the solution he and his team devised for sprucing up their communications strategy. In order to put faces to names and give a literal voice to their brand, the team taped short video messages tailored to clients, often featuring Matt with the opera house behind him, and attached the recordings to each email sent.

As Matt says, “A few of those clients asked us at the end of meetings, ‘What’s that video email thing you use, and can we use it?’ So we spent a weekend with a few beers and pizza putting a minimum viable product [MVP] together.” Bonjoro was born, and the team acted quickly to capitalize on their creative solution. “Clients started using it, we put [a] paywall [up], we [made] some money, and the rest is history,” says Matt.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Branding

Beginning conversations with potential customers across other industries, Matt and his team recognized the universal viability of their solution and easily related the value of the product because of their own experience struggling with communications challenges.

“It wasn’t just my problem. It was the team’s problem. When you’ve lived and [felt] the problem close to heart, that’s nice to have,” Matt shares. “You really understand what you’re solving.”

Also close to Matt’s heart is the importance of brand, something he thinks most startups don’t invest in enough. More than just a costume, Matt describes a brand as the “external facing piece of your culture,” and says it is “built through defining your values and living them every day.”

More than a logo, a brand is something that needs to come directly from the founder(s), and has the power to hold messaging and morale together as your company grows. Fortunately for employees at Bonjoro, Matt believes that business should be a pleasure — an enjoyable philosophy on full display as the team “experimented with caricature” to create their bear theme.

Honesty is critical to creating a brand that will work for your group and project continuity over time. Matt recommends writing down your values to help ensure that everyone is both on the same page and that they accurately reflect your mission and beliefs. If Bonjoro skipped this step, and employees didn’t buy in, the Australian heat could have become particularly unbearable when dressing up like a grizzly.

A Great Product Needs Great People

In addition to branding, Matt relates another critical challenge for new companies: Getting the right team in place to build and promote your solutions. “I think pretty much everything else comes down to the team,” he says. “You need to make sure that you have the right hires because they will make or break the company.”

After making hiring decisions, evaluating the performance and fit of team members is a crucial ongoing process to keep things on track. As difficult decisions about staffing need to be made, some are obvious and others may be more nuanced.

For instance, some candidates may clearly not be a fit right off the bat. Other employees may be good, but not great. When expectations are high and maintaining a driven, dynamic culture is at stake, “performance that is simply ‘good enough’ is dangerous to the business long term,” Matt warns.  

Matt strongly believes that all managers within a company should be exposed to all aspects of the team-building process early on, including hiring and terminations. “They need to understand that after they hire someone, if it doesn’t work out, they will be the person letting them go,” Matt explains.

Matt believes that letting people go — a most difficult aspect of leadership — should be handled with integrity, compassion and transparency. “You’ve got to do right by everyone you take on board,” he says. In Matt’s view, this even includes helping employees identify other career opportunities post-termination, especially if they are being let go because their hiring was a strategic mistake.

Taking Video Recordings a Step Further

Matt is crystal clear about the vision he and his team share for the future, involving video recordings of a different nature.

“We think the idea of loyalty is wrong,” he declares.

Many large companies, like airlines with established name recognition, employ rewards and discounts for customers likely bound to use their services anyway. This conceptualization of “loyalty” programs is narrow and doesn’t translate well to smaller brands looking to increase market share and generate more revenue per customer.

Instead, Matt offers a vision of loyalty guided by two main principles that inform the next product his team is offering  — a tool that helps companies acquire more customer testimonial videos for their sales funnel:

  • Generate advocacy: The crux of Bonjoro’s second product, proactively tapping your current customer base for testimonials (with the help of software) is a sales strategy that goes above and beyond loyalty initiatives based on retention alone.
  • Increase the lifetime value of the customer through non-product pieces: Creative communications (like testimonial videos), personalized user recognition perks and continuous relationship building are all examples of keeping customers engaged and involved after their initial purchase.

The “social proof” conveyed through testimonials is demonstrably influential in improving conversion rates across industries and can greatly aid companies in their sales strategy, especially those just starting out that aren’t yet well known.

“If you’re a smaller company, you have to be more active,” Matt advises. The video testimonial product from Bonjoro not only makes sending a request for a video testimonial easier, but also automates the process by prompting the business to send requests once customers reach certain milestones.

As the bear clan at Bonjoro continues to build momentum, their success through thoughtfully-developed culture and customized messaging stands as a lesson to other SaaS companies that brand matters, and a personal touch goes a long way.

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