GE 162: Tim Matthews on How Incapsula Protects over 5,000,000 Websites and Still Manages to Double Business Year Over Year (podcast) With Tim Matthews

Tim Matthews Incapsula

Hey everyone, today our guest is Tim Matthews, the Head of Marketing at Incapsula, which is a cloud-based application delivery platform that accelerates and secures websites of any kind. He is also the author of The Professional Marketer and The SaaS Marketing Handbook.

Today we’ll be talking about how Incapsula doubles their business every year, why their number one customer acquisition method is SEO and quality content, how changing two words resulted in a 280% increase in conversions, and how to get good conversion rates from influencer reviews about your product.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: Tim Matthews on How Incapsula Protects over 5,000,000 Websites and Still Manages to Double Business Year Over Year TRANSCRIPT

Episode highlights:

  • [4:21] – They also charge per site and have bandwidth tiers
  • [4:42] – They sell to everybody, but serving different buyers poses problems. They have freemium and self service plans, then they have a sales team for the enterprise plans.
  • [5:42] – Number one customer acquisition is SEO and quality content, people want to know how to prevent attacks and make their sites faster. They also spend money on CRO – conversion rate optimization – they use optimizely
  • [7:02] – Start Free Trial call to action was changed to Get Quote and it was more effective for enterprise customers. Changing these two words resulted in a 280% increase. You are never done with testing results.
  • [7:58] – 50,000 uniques will help with good quality test results, or just test longer, constantly track longer
  • [8:34] – Weekly meetings on tests and make calls and refine what does and doesn’t work, and actually code it into the site
  • [9:05] – They also have metrics and goals, a cadence and a team to manage CRO and you have to watch the results
  • [9:32] – Quality content – something that the buyer would actually want to read, talk to buyers and ask them what type of content they would like to read
  • [11:07] – They need content constantly so they need a content manager – plus the best writers possible
  • [13:29] – You get what you pay for in content marketing and you need an editor to make the story better – you need to have a sense of the reader and customer – what do these people read and want to read – content marketing manager can’t write all of the content
  • [15:27] – Managing Editor – $75,000 and $150,000 a year. Give them a raise and they will come inhouse
  • [16:08] – Affiliate program – Influencers to write about and recommend your product, good conversion rates from reviews and writing about the product – pay site to publish in a way that converts
  • [19:55] – Get out of your comfort zone more often, challenge yourself on a more regular basis, try a new tactic even if is risky, try something new

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Disclaimer: As with any digital marketing campaign, your individual results may vary.

Full Transcript of The Episode

Show transcript
Tim: Try something new, try something uncomfortable and learn something from it.

Speaker 2: Do you want to impact the world and still turn a profit? Then you're in the right place. Welcome to Growth Everywhere. This is the show where you'll find real conversations with real entrepreneurs. They'll share everything from their biggest struggle to the exact strategies they use on a daily basis. If you're ready for a value-packed interview, listen on. Here's your host, Eric Siu.

Eric: Before we jump into today's interview, if you guys could leave a review and a rating and also subscribe as well, that would be a huge help to the podcast. If you actually enjoy the content and you'd like to hear more of it, please support us by leaving us a review and subscribe to the podcast as well. Thanks so much.

All right, everybody, today we have Tim Matthews, who runs marketing at Incapsula, which has $1.5 billion market capitalization. I'm not even going to explain what the company is about. I'm going to let Tim explain it. He's also the author of two books, one called The Professional Marketer, and the Software Service, or the SaaS Marketing Handbook. Tim, how's it going?

Tim: It's going great Eric.

Eric: Thanks for being here. Why don't you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Tim: Certainly. I run marketing at Incapsula. We are a cloud service that accelerates and secures websites of any kind. We look at all the traffic in our cloud and we, simply put, accelerate all the good content and we block all the attack traffic, so we keep websites safe, so they can do what they're meant to do.

Eric: Okay. What would be an example of this to ... Let's just say you're explaining this to your mom right now.

Tim: Sure. The thing that we protect against that's the biggest threat to online services and websites is something called the denial of service attack. That's when some bad guy somewhere floods your site with bogus traffic so that only the bogus traffic gets to your site and no one else can reach it. It could be a game server, eCommerce site, what-have-you, and that's a real bummer for people who depend on being online for their business. That's the biggest thing that we block against. We see all that attack traffic in our cloud and we prevent it from ever getting to your server, simply put.

Eric: Interesting. Okay. You guys are mainly stopping the denial of service attacks, and I'm assuming there's some other stuff in there too? What type of companies do you typically work with?

Tim: Yeah. We work with all kinds of companies, but if you think about it, to put it simply, the companies who have the most pain when they're offline for seconds or minutes or small numbers of hours are our biggest customers. Who are those people? Banks, eCommerce, any kind of gaming sites, news sites of course, who would lose advertising

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revenue, anybody like that. The problem is that the bad guys know that and they know how much it hurts those companies to be offline, which is why they're the prime targets.

Eric: Got it. Makes sense. What are some numbers you can share around the business today?

Tim: We today protect over 5,000,000 websites. This is an individual blogger all the way up to Fortune 50 companies, companies you may have heard of like GE and Nestle, and all kinds of companies in between. We are doubling year over year and the business is super healthy.

Eric: You guys have been around since-

Tim: 2009. We, like a lot of SaaS companies, spent the first 2 years building out the infrastructure and the application, and we've been selling since 2011, so just about I guess that's 5 years.

Eric: How does pricing work for Incapsula?

Tim: We have 4 pricing plans. We have a free or freemium plan. Then we have a plan designed for what we call the pro blogger, somebody who may not have a lot of traffic, but needs their site to perform well and be safe. Then we have a small business plan that's $299 a month. Then we have an enterprise plan, which is $500 a month and up. You have to realize that one of our customers, for example, is Nestle. I was fascinated to find out that Nestle has over 4,000 websites around the world for all their different consumer products, in every language, in every country. As you can imagine, we charge more if you have more sites or if you have more bandwidth that we need to accommodate on our network.

Eric: Okay. Is it charged per site or is it charged per number of visitors?

Tim: It's charged per site, and then we have bandwidth tiers, because you could have a chicken farming website that maybe doesn't get a lot of traffic, no offense to chicken farmers, or you could have a gaming site that has just millions of visitors for a single site, so it's not fair to charge both of those sites equally.

Eric: Okay. Makes sense. How are you selling this exactly? I imagine this isn't the easiest thing to sell to people.

Tim: Part of our problem is that we sell to everybody, which maybe sounds good to people when they're given their investment pitches, but it poses a real go-to-market problem. How do you service such different buyers as a free blogger versus a big Fortune 50 company, multi-national? The way we do it is we have a premium-free plan, like I mentioned. Then we have the pro and business plans, which are self-service trials where you pay with a credit card, so there's very little to no sales interaction with those customers unless they have issues getting set up. Then we have a sales team that services the enterprise plans, which could be mid-size companies with a lot of online

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traffic, or those very large companies that I mentioned before. We've got those 4 distinct pricing plans with very different feature capabilities, and also a different way we acquire the customers.

Eric: Great. Talk about customer acquisition right here, it's a great segue. What's working for you? What's super effective in terms of customer acquisition for you guys?

Tim: Number 1 for us is the combination of SEO and quality content. If you think about what we do, there's a lot of information that people want to know about how sites get attacked, how they can prevent attacks or how they can make their sites faster, and people are searching for this every day. We spend probably the most money and manpower combined on really quality content and making sure that we're constantly showing up on that number 1, the first Google results page. That's probably a really big area for us.

We also spend a lot of money on CRO, so conversion rate optimization. It dawned on us that we've got a very large number of people coming to our site every day and we were leaky. People were not converting or they were bouncing very quickly, and so I am a real big fan of optimizing, and we do probably 5 experiments a week to try and really keep people on the site and convert. I can give you a couple of examples of successful tests that were really simple, but very effective.

Eric: Yeah.

Tim: My favorite is ... Like a lot of SaaS companies, our call to action on the buttons was start free trial. We thought everyone else does that, it seems like a reasonable call to action. We actually changed that for our enterprise plan only to get quotes, because it turns out a lot of enterprise customers don't want a trial. In some cases they can't run a trial. On for example, you can't just run a trial for a big site like that. They actually want to talk to a sales person and get a quote. Changing those start trial to get quote, changing those 2 words resulted in a 280% increase in conversions, a huge, huge impact. I think a lot of people make the mistake of not focusing on optimization to website. You're never done, but it can yield great results.

Eric: Just to give a little context to that INC, you guys are running 5 tests per week. How much traffic do you need to be running at that level?

Tim: You typically need ... I'm not a CR expert, but you need probably 50,000 uniques a week to be really able to see some good quality results, or you run a small number of tests and you just wait longer to get the significance you need to prove out the results.

Eric: Right. I think one thing a lot of companies forget about is not only just testing, but having that testing framework where you're constantly tracking these over time, or else these tests just kind of get lost in translation. Is that something you guys do?

Tim: We do. We actually work with an agency because it's a lot of work and we don't have somebody in house who's dedicated. We have a methodology where we meet every

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week, we have a series of tests, and we have in some cases brain dead obvious results, not a case of any judgment calls, and we are constantly yanking out one that didn't work or accepting one that did. Then of course you have to remember to actually hard code it on your site. Some people forget to actually take the test and actually code it into their website.

I think it's a regular cadence. We have some metrics that we want to see more conversions to free trials or form fills to talk to sales people. Right now we're working on keeping people on our micro-sites longer, so reducing the bounce rate to keep them around. You have to have the goals in mind. You have to have the cadence. You have to have the team, because if you don't have the team to really manage CRO, it can get very complicated very quickly, and if you're not watching your results you can spend a lot of money and get nothing for it.

Eric: Okay. Backing up a second, you just talked about quality content. What exactly does quality content look like to you?

Tim: Quality content is something that our buyer would actually want to read. It sounds really obvious to say, but many people make the mistake of not talking to their perspective buyers and asking them questions like what do you read? What do you search for? What kind of content would you like to see from us? I like to think of quality content as something you can write that somebody can learn something from and apply to their job that day. Data sheets wouldn't cut it, or high-level overviews that are available elsewhere wouldn't cut it. Something unique to you that somebody can read and learn something from ... I read a lot of great marketing blogs and I've never bought some of those products, but I'm thinking about them and I think I probably learned a lot about AB testing from optimizing the quality content.

I think people make the mistake of just dashing stuff out and they get caught up in that fallacy or maybe misnomer about you've got to post every day, every day, every day. I'd rather think about creating a quality piece that can be longstanding. We have blog posts from 5 years ago that are still in our top 10 because they're so useful and they're of course highly linked to. That's what I mean by quality content.

Eric: What does the team look like right now?

Tim: I hired a former magazine editor and she is our content marketing manager. Then we've got a combination of internal writers and probably about 10 to 12 external writers. I think about content marketing a lot like running a magazine obviously. That's why I hired an editor. You're in constant need of content. One day we might need content about site optimization. Another day we might need content about security. Both of those things we've got in house knowledge about. Maybe one day we need something about online gaming and the challenges faced by people who are writing gaming sites. Maybe we can find a journalist who has written for a gaming magazine go write that content for us.

The good news about this, if you have somebody who knows how to be an editor, it's

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actually a very efficient process, because you can get the best writer possible to work on that particular piece, and freelance writers are actually very inexpensive compared to full time employees, so it works out really well.

Eric: Interesting. Yeah, I think the big takeaway for this is a lot of people, or I should say startups ... People talk about content marketing all the time, but they don't think of it as an editorial process. If you think about it, even think about journalists who are just graduating or people looking for work, it's hard for them right now because traditional publications, they're all struggling right now. Then businesses fundamentally ... I think Bill Gates talked about it a while ago, saying that everybody needs to become a publisher. You see people like Gary [inaudible 00:12:07] pushing it all the time. I think that's a really interesting approach.

Tim: Absolutely. Sadly, because I'm a big reader of magazines and newspapers, it's sad to see the demise of some of those publications, or at least the slimming down of the staffs, but it's a boon to technology marketers like us, and in some cases those journalists can actually find a new home working for a tech company and increase their salaries, so that's the silver lining for some of those people.

Eric: Right. You mentioned hiring outside writers sometimes can be cheaper. I guess the key takeaway here, sharing my experience, is that it depends on the niche that you're in. For us, being an internet marketing niche, sometimes we paying 4, 5 or $600 per post, so I guess it really depends on what you're aiming for, right?

Tim: That's true. I mean you think about yes, it can be expensive, but if you are posting once a week, so that's 2,000 a month, that's $24,000 a year, compare that to trying to find somebody out of college here in Silicon Valley who might not even be a good writer. When you do the math, it actually can be less expensive, but you're right. You get what you pay for. There are a number of content marketing services and marketplaces, and you need to try them out and you may need to pay more for higher quality content. If you want somebody who was an editor at The Wall Street Journal, you're going to pay them a lot of money to write something or edit something.

Eric: Right. One thing I sort of like is what exactly does an editor do?

Tim: Yeah. It's an interesting combination of skills. Obviously they edit, and this isn't just copy editing. This is what's called developmental editing, making the stories better, sending it back to the writer with questions and suggestions; I don't understand this point, or why don't you make this transition sooner?

Another piece is having a sense for where to source writers. How am I going to find a guy who knows about Bitcoin and where am I going to look for that person? Then hunting them down and calling them and hiring them, and kind of knowing what you should be paying somebody based on their experience level. Then you want someone to help you figure out what's the right content mix, so a sense of the reader so to speak, so a sense of your customer. In our case our customers are network operations or dev ops people. What do these people read? What do they want to read? What is it that they're

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not getting somewhere else?

Then the cherry on top, if you can find it, is someone to write snappy headlines, and snappy headlines in the context of online marketing is really snappy subject lines for your emails or your blog posts to attract people to read them. That's really an art, and a lot of publications actually have a separate editor just to write headlines, because it is somebody who's really clever, good with words, maybe a bit punny. If you can find all of those things, you're going to be producing I think some great content.

Eric: It sounds like this person is kind of managing the entire process, right?

Tim: Yeah, they're a manager. I think another mistake people make is they assume that their content marketing manager is going to write all the content, and that is most likely not going to be the case. Just the sheer volume of content, to think of someone that can write Bitcoin one day, gaming the next day, networking fundamentals another day, maybe that's the real unicorn in Silicon Valley, to find someone like that. Finding someone who can essentially be a managing editor I think is what you want to find.

Eric: Right. How much should a full time managing editor that can do all these things ... How much should they be getting paid?

Tim: It's going vary, but you can find people for between $75,000 on the low end to $150,000 on the high end, depending on where you're getting them from. Compared to an engineer or even a product manager, these people are affordable. Like I said, in many cases you're going to be giving these folks a raise so they're going to appreciate coming in house.

Eric: Got it. Yeah, that sounds like it's the X factor for you guys on the content marketing front. What else is working for you in terms of acquisition?

Tim: Something else that we just started recently is an affiliate program. For those who don't know affiliate marketing, which has a little bit of a tarnished reputation, the idea is that you get influencers to write about your product and in some cases recommend your product. What we saw was some really good conversion rates coming from review sites and blogs that reviewed our product, or even ones that mentioned our product.

We thought how could we get more of these people to review our product and write about it? The way the affiliate program works is you're essentially paying a site to send someone your way that converts. If you think about it another way, right now if you've got a technical publication there's you and the publication, and typically there's Google in the middle. Google takes their cut and gives the rest to the publisher.

An affiliate deal is a direct deal. We're going direct to the publisher, so you typically pay less as the "advertiser" and the site itself gets a bigger cut because they don't have Google in the middle, so this is a way to do direct deals with these sites. We're just in the beginning of this process, but it's yielded great results so far. It's a win/win, like I said, because everyone either spends less or makes more money, and you also are able

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to target better. You can reach out to people that are really good at writing technical how-tos or product reviews and work with them to review your product, and they've earned the reputation of being quality, so people tend to trust their opinions. This is something that we're in the beginning stages, but so far it's been very promising.

Eric: Interesting. Okay. Are you guys using any specific affiliate management tool?

Tim: We are. There's a product called Impact Radius, and it's working really well for us. There used to be a product out there on the marketplace called Commission Junction. A bunch of the guys from Commission Junction built essentially a privately hosted platform, because one thing that B2B marketers like me don't want, is we don't want to advertise necessarily in those public exchanges and get a lot of junky sites recommending our software. We want quality sites that are targeted that we can speak to privately, so this kind of private platform, private exchange, works a lot better.

Eric: Interesting. Okay. What goes on in the life of a guy that runs marketing at a $1.5 billion market cap?

Tim: I'll say we're the cloud slice of that company. I feel these days running marketing at a high growth, over 100% a year growth SaaS company, I'm a whirling dervish. I'm constantly switching gears to think about content marketing, affiliate marketing, how is our pay-per-click doing, what are we doing for webcasts, how are we doing on sales enablement, what are we doing on the partner front, which is something we're getting into in a bigger way?

It's all about numbers, so I'm in this constant state of paranoia that my numbers are going to drop. The thing I like about marketing in SaaS is it's really measurable, but that cuts both ways. Your boss can look at the daily or weekly numbers and say what's going on, and you better be prepared to answer those questions. That's kind of my life. I like it. It's stimulating, if I could put a euphemism on it.

Eric: Great. Okay. The summary would be you're basically flying all over the place all of the time?

Tim: Yeah, I am. I like to think of it as kind of like bees flying a known pattern. I may be going all over the place, but it's somewhat of a known pattern. It's constantly looking to optimize, re-invest, dis-invest in different things, depending on how things are going.

Eric: Great. Switching gears here, what's one piece of advice you'd give to your 25-year-old self?

Tim: I would get out of my comfort zone more often. I think I'm better at that now, but in my early career I took a number of changes and did pretty well, but I think if I had challenged myself on a more regular basis, which in the context of marketing could have been trying to get in touch with somebody who could teach me something or jump to a new company or try a new tactic, even though it might be risky; I think that might have propelled me even farther faster, and that's applicable across whatever you're doing,

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sales, marketing, engineering. Try something new, try something uncomfortable, and learn something from it.

Eric: What's one must-read book you recommend to everyone?

Tim: I've got a good one. I'm going to go back a ways and recommend something that is not typically I think on the bookshelf of a tech entrepreneur. There is a wonderful book called The King of Vodka. The King of Vodka is about Peter Smirnoff and he went from a Russian peasant to earning a multi-billion dollar brand that we all now today as Smirnoff Vodka. The great thing about it is that he really took a commodity product in late 1800s Russia, and through his willpower and salesmanship and marketing savvy propelled it to be one of the top brands, if not the top brand of vodka in today's world. He's of course no longer with us, but his name lives on.

There's a great story about how he did that. We talk a lot today about word-of-mouth marketing, and he did this back in the late 1800s. What he did was he recruited a bunch of guys who needed work and he said to them, "Look, I'm going to pay you to eat and drink everyday." They thought that just sounds like a pretty good offer, what do we have to do? He said, "You walk into a bar and you ask for Smirnoff vodka. If they don't have Smirnoff vodka, you cause a scene. You demand to see the manager and demand to know why they're not pouring Smirnoff vodka, and say it at the top of your lungs so that everyone, all the customers hear it."

He did this, and as the story goes he got conversion, so to speak, calls the first day. He sent these guys all throughout Moscow, to every tavern he could think of, and when they had saturated Moscow he sent them each on a different train line out of Moscow and they would stop at every station along the tracks and do the same thing. I think that's just a great old-timey example about world-of-mouth marketing that was very effective. You could think about ways you might do something like that today, either online or even in the real world.

Eric: That is genius. That's the first time hearing about that book, and I actually just ordered it on Audible right now. Tim, this has been awesome. What's the best way for people to find you online?

Tim: The best way to find me is to go to my blog, which is

Eric: Perfect. Great. Everyone, this is Tim Matthews. Make sure to check out his stuff, really good actionable advice here. Thanks again Tim.

Tim: Thanks Eric.

Speaker 2: Thanks for listening to this episode of Growth Everywhere. If you loved what you heard, be sure to head back to for today's show notes and a ton of additional resources, but before you go hit the subscribe button to avoid missing out on next week's value-packed interview. Enjoy the rest of your week and remember to take action and continue growing.

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