Darin Dawson discusses BombBomb and the ways in which this innovative technology helped diffuse the digital media explosion.
Carl Lewis: Welcome to the Connected Enterprise podcast. I'm Carl Lewis, your host from Vision33, and my guest is Darin Dawson from BombBomb. Welcome, Darin! Please tell us about yourself and BombBomb.
Darin Dawson: Thanks, Carl. First, I'm a husband and dad. I've been married to my favorite person for 15 years, which I love. I have three children: a boy and nine-year-old twin girls. I'm the co-founder and president of BombBomb. I run everything related to revenue, customer success, marketing, and sales. I also handle a little of the product. My best friends and I started BombBomb in 2006, and I quit my day job to work full time in 2011. At BombBomb, we think people are better face to face. People have intrinsic value, and we share things non-verbally when we're in person – things that don't come across in technology, even with all the advancements in the last few years. BombBomb enables people to be their best selves through video.
Carl Lewis: I went to your site, made a recording, and sent it to my buddy on his birthday.
Darin Dawson: Awesome.
Carl Lewis: He was impressed. A personal video greeting has power. You and I discussed artificial intelligence (AI) recently. What do you think about the AI communication stuff happening?
Darin Dawson: I think it has a place, but we must ask: Is it the right thing to do, even if we can do it? We’re doing this podcast, and when we’re done, we'll both have full inboxes, LinkedIn messages, texts, and voicemails from someone trying to sell extended warranties on our cars. It's nonstop. I never get a call that’s not someone trying to do something. I call it digital pollution. And it’s escalating.
We're using technology to increase the arms race. Because if I send more emails, you have to send more emails, and we have to keep ratcheting that up. Multiply that by 1,200 companies with us on their ideal customer profile list, and it’s terrible. I'm not saying it shouldn't be done – but maybe it shouldn't be done. I encourage people to think about their ideal customer profile. If I reached out and said, "Carl, my name's Darin. I work with a company called BombBomb. I won't take much of your time, but …” Then I add my value proposition. Introduce yourself. It should be like I bumped into you at an event, we shook hands, and we got to know each other a little.
We need to be more human. We need to think about building relationships before we think about transactions. That's old-school selling. I'm a classically trained salesperson, listening to tapes in the car. I want to see more people give their customers better human experiences. People choose companies because of how they make them feel versus features or a brand. It's the people. They work with people they know, like, and trust. We can go off in a lot of ways there.
Carl Lewis: You’re speaking my language about humanity. That's what’s always been exciting about business: the people you meet.
Darin Dawson: The relationships you build.
Carl Lewis: Customers become more than customers. You become like business partners. You help each other. That’s valuable. If they have a problem, they know they can rely on you. When I did the test to tell my buddy – who’s another GM on my team – "happy birthday," I noticed how much it stands out in your inbox. I typically go through my list and preview them, and right away, it has your picture and a play button. It stands out in the list of garbage emails. I get so much garbage I tend to ‘select all’ and delete the whole chunk.
Darin Dawson: I do it every day. Click, click shift, delete. I know the motion.
Carl Lewis: Yes. Because I know that email isn’t anything I need right away.
Darin Dawson: Do you even believe a human sent it anymore?
Carl Lewis: Some. Many are automated.
Darin Dawson: Even if it says their name, I doubt it's a person doing it. That makes it easier for me to delete it and not care.
Carl Lewis: You're right.
Darin Dawson: It removes the human connection. Does this person believe they can help me, or is it a programmatic approach? They're robots made to sound human, and we don't fall for it anymore, which makes it easier to ignore, which escalates it.
Carl Lewis: When I was a kid, there were several ways to fish. One of them was the old-fashioned way: put a worm on the hook, get a bobber, and sit patiently for hours. The other way was casting with a spinner – and the AI stuff we use today feels like the spinner. There's more action involved all the time. And it's like every company I've ever bought anything from sends me at least one email a week. Some every day.
Darin Dawson: Just to break through the noise.
Carl Lewis: We've fallen prey to ‘more is better.’ But as the receiver, you’re saying more is not better. My mind turns away from a company that constantly hounds me. What I wish they would do with AI is understand my profile and tell me when they have something that really fits me. I don’t need to know about every sale.
Darin Dawson: Using AI to bring more value. We must think about that. There’s a place for AI, like in chat. That functionality is wonderful. But I'm trying to bring human-centered communication. That’s when I care more about you and your experience as the recipient than I do about my objective. Do I actually care more about your outcomes than mine? Because when I think about this escalation, it's not that. It’s ‘we care more about our outcomes than yours.’ That’s flipping it. The original idea of entrepreneurs was solving people's problems. And I think we can do that better when we see a person with sincerity, authenticity, transparency.
I can turn my background off so you can see my basement. There's nothing wrong with that. There's a Peloton back there. I think that's a better way to approach it. It's more like shooting with a rifle – an old sales analogy – versus the shotgun approach. And less is more to the right people. Identify your addressable market and go after it. But it should be 100-200, not 1,000.
Carl Lewis: Can you give me examples of how you’ve used video and email, combinations, and what customers have done that’s unique?
Darin Dawson: The happy birthday video you did is one of the most popular. But those aren’t simply happy birthday messages. They’re messages of gratitude. Your "Happy birthday, John" message makes John feel like you care about him. Then, you get a reciprocal feeling of that. Gratitude is a big deal. We see it implemented in many places.
One, customers. New customers come from Salesforce, and I send a video saying, “Hey, Carl, I see you signed a contract with us. I want to be the first to say thank you for being a BombBomb customer. It means a lot to me. If there's anything I can do for you, please ask. I’m hands-on, and it's not above me to do whatever I need to do to make you successful with our product."
I send something like that to every new customer. It’s not scripted; I just want to convey a feeling of gratitude for their business. Do you think that customer feels like my business takes care of its customers differently than others they’ve worked with? I want that and the experience from the beginning of their interactions with us to the end.
I also send a video to the entire company every Friday because of COVID. It’s quite effective. I send it to keep everybody up to speed. I want them to see me, hear me, and remember what I look like even though we haven't seen each other regularly in the last year. I want them to see I care and what I'm passionate about.
If you're new, I might send a video saying, “I’m glad you’re here.” Or I'd ask your manager how you're doing and send a video saying, "Carl, your manager told me you’re crushing it. Good job! Keep it up." That’s how we retain people in this environment these days. Everybody works from home and gets alone in their own space. I like to make them feel like they’re part of the culture and team again. And I like welcoming people to the business. I used to walk up and shake their hand and say, "Thanks for coming. I’m glad you're here. We need you." And since I can't do it in person, I do it on video.
Two, customers. Throughout the sales process, you have handoffs. A great way to sell the product is to make a proposal overview video and send it. But then I close that deal and hand it to Elia in customer success. So, I send a ‘transfer video’ saying, "Carl, I’ve enjoyed working with you. I'm not leaving, but Elia’s going to help onboard you and your team. She'll set up everything.’ And Elia can join you on the video: “Hi Carl, I'm Elia. I work with a lot of companies like yours, and I’m excited to meet you and get started." That handoff experience is a big deal.
Carl Lewis: Those are great ideas. It helps you personalize things better. I don’t find it easy to write what I think or know about a person into a happy birthday message.
Darin Dawson: It's hard.
Carl Lewis: When I'm speaking it, it feels more connected to me. In my greeting, I could say, "I know you're going to have a great time with Peggy and the kids and the grandkids and the dogs." Because I know all about this guy.
Darin Dawson: Definitely.
Carl Lewis: That would never come out in a text or something like that.
Darin Dawson: Sometimes it looks weird when it's written.
Carl Lewis: Exactly.
Darin Dawson: But when you say it, it's natural.
Carl Lewis: Because it has human intonation, and you feel the compassion. That tone can't come out on paper. That's part of the humanity we're talking about.
Darin Dawson: I'm excited. I've been passionate about it since 2006; that’s why we started the company. People ask, “What's the ROI?" And there is ROI. We've done case studies. People who only do outbound with phone, text, email versus those who use video. It takes less video output than the rest, so you can reduce your digital pollution footprint. That's what we're trying to do. But the point is that your people are worth being seen. I would love to get to where we stop asking about the ROI. Do we know the business ROI of phones or email?
We all need to feel like our business is different. My competitors and I could get into a features race. It's just money. It's what I need to build features. If we add the same features, then why do you choose me? I think it’s because you like Justin, the account executive who went above and beyond. But how do you get to feel like you know Justin when everything's remote? He used to take you out to dinner. He’d come to your boardroom, and you'd meet the team. You’d think, “I like that guy. He's going to take care of us. We choose them.” But how do you do that now? How do we make those feelings from home? It's a big problem to figure out.
Carl Lewis: It is. And I don't think we'll ever bridge that gap 100% with virtual meetings.
Darin Dawson: We still need to get face to face. I'm not proposing we replace what I'm talking about for that. You're absolutely right. I'm a big fan of relationships. The number one core value of BombBomb is that relationships matter in business.
Carl Lewis: And we get so much closer when it doesn't feel digital – when it's visual and personal.
Darin Dawson: Yes. When I say your name, your brain thinks, “He's talking to me.” It's a physiological response that happens to other humans in the nonverbal communication your brain is picking up on. We've been doing it since the beginning of time. We've only had some of this technology since the 1970s. It's new, unlike nonverbal stuff. You can see I talk with my hands. How we annotate tone is as ancient as we are.
Carl Lewis: Exactly. Darin, you've invested in this, and you use your own technology throughout your company. Is it a big investment for a company to equip their staff to do this regularly?
Darin Dawson: I make my BombBomb videos on a Mac laptop with a camera in it. The equipment exists. We had a few situations where it didn't exist in a large enterprise, so we recommended external cameras. But machines typically come with what they need. In 2006, the internet connection couldn't handle it. The technology wasn't there. iPhones didn't have cameras. Now, we offer a mobile app and other ways to implement it. But the technology has helped a ton. The biggest obstacle now is people being worried about how they look on camera.
Carl Lewis: Interesting.
Darin Dawson: That's the biggest thing to overcome. It's psychological. At BombBomb, we're proud that, as a team, we’ve sent over 700,000 personal videos. One sales rep sent 20,000+. It takes 10 to 15 videos to get over the hump of worrying about how you look on camera. It's like, you know eating better will give you better long-term health. That’s how it is with video. Once you see yourself, you overthink how you looked, and you want to change it. And many people don't send it. I say, “Send it!” And like you did, send it to somebody you know so you get that reciprocal feeling. I love that. That encourages you to keep eating your carrots.
Then send the next video and the next. Then maybe bring that into your business and send videos to people you interact with. I use them on LinkedIn and other social media, through text, in emails, in messaging apps, everywhere. I don't send text emails anymore unless it's, "Yes, Carl, I'll be there." If it's two seconds, I’d rather send a video. I want them to see me and feel that experience of being face to face.
Carl Lewis: I can see that. I was thinking about how many people sit at their desks all day, trying to connect with people on the phone and then following up with email. I bet the follow up would be more effective via video.
Darin Dawson: Yes. The ghosted sales rep is one problem we try to solve. We do it through the recipient experience more than the user experience. Here’s what that means. When you get a BombBomb video, you might have noticed that your friend could have liked it, commented on it, or several other things. You would know how much of it he played. That gives you more data regarding their interest level. Using similar technology, I know if you opened an email and how far you scrolled down, but I don't know if you listened to the entire voicemail. And I don't know if you read the email. BombBomb is trying to show you how much engagement there was. Did they not play it at all?
That data helps you say, “I'm going to rate their engagement at a seven out of ten.” You can scale that and decide if that person deserves more interactions because maybe they didn't have time to watch, and I can quickly say, "Yes. I like this," or "Love it," or "Not for me," etc. We offer many ways for them to engage and so you know the message was received, heard, understood.
Carl Lewis: I did see where they can comment, and the tracking device tells you how much they watched. That's cool. We'll see if my listeners pick up on this idea. It’s intriguing and fun and adds a new dimension to communications. Most people are bored over this last year; things feel repetitious. But today was a big day for me because I got my second shot.
Darin Dawson: Congratulations.
Carl Lewis: I got to leave the house.
Darin Dawson: Yes. I had to go to the office yesterday, which is downtown. I was like, “I’m driving. I’m out and about.”
Carl Lewis: It’s fun. BombBomb breaks the monotony of how we work; it makes somebody's day to receive a personal message.
Darin Dawson: I'm biased, but I haven't looked back for a while. I think I’ve made 7,000+ personal videos. It's fun to see people's reactions. Whoa, what's this? It's still novel, but I'm working hard to make it not be.
Carl Lewis: I hear that. Well, Darin, thanks for being here. BombBomb is great technology. I talk about people staying in touch with customers, employees, and vendors, but you can take this to your friends and family too.
Darin Dawson: Thank you. I appreciate you having me.
Carl Lewis: You’re welcome. And for everybody else out there, stay connected.