Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

505: Commsor with Mac Reddin

December 21st, 2023

Mac Reddin is the CEO of Commsor. He discusses Commsor's evolution from community-led growth software to a go-to-network model, emphasizing the importance of various overlapping networks in a company's ecosystem. He shares his journey from running a Minecraft-based company as a teenager to founding Commsor, which initially began as a newsletter and evolved into a community and then a product.

Mac stresses the effectiveness of authentic community building and relationship-based growth over traditional sales and marketing strategies. He criticizes cold calling and email tactics, advocating for genuine interactions and relationship-building. Commsor’s approach, including personal onboarding of every user and fostering a company culture where employees are encouraged to express their individuality and interests, has shown success and satisfaction internally and in the market.

Chad reflects on his experiences at thoughtbot, aligning with Reddin's perspective on community and user-centric approaches. He emphasizes trust and freedom within his team, allowing for authentic individual contributions to the company's growth and reputation. Together, they discuss the importance of personal connections in business and how modern sales tactics might need reevaluation in favor of more genuine, relationship-based approaches.

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CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me as co-host today is Sally Ladrach, Revenue Enablement Manager at thoughtbot, great company I've heard of. Sally, thank you for joining.

SALLY: Yeah, thanks for having me on.

CHAD: And also joining us today is Mac Reddin, Founder and CEO of Commsor, which builds tools to help individuals and companies of all sizes grow faster, more authentically, and more sustainably through the power of go-to-network. Mac, thanks for joining us.

MAC: Thanks for having me.

CHAD: Mac, can you tell us a little bit more about what Commsor is and how you sort of arrived at creating it?

MAC: I struggle to do that every time someone asks me. It's always, like, a slightly different answer. So, we're about four years old now. But we kind of pivoted, soft pivoted, depending on how you want to look at it, into what we're doing now at the beginning of this year. So, we're kind of not that new and very new, depending on what perspective you look at.

We were originally building what we called community-led growth software. So, we were helping companies measure their community as an intentional part of their go-to-market initiative. And there's a whole rabbit hole on why we changed, and how we changed, and how we ended up where we are now.

But I think go-to-network is sort of an evolution of community-led from this realization that companies don't have a singular community. They might have a, you know, a forum, or a Slack, or a community manager, and there's, like, it's very easy to be like, that is their community. But in reality, there's influencers, investors, creators, advisors, personal brands, executives, champions, customers, community members, like, all these different overlapping networks, hence go-to-network, that actually make up this sort of ecosystem that enables a company to thrive.

CHAD: Now, did you have a community, or, like, did it grow from something, or did you just have the idea?

MAC: I started my first company when I was 17; built on top of Minecraft, and it was very community-centric, and I didn't really realize at the time. But I got lucky enough to sell that business. And, you know, after looking back at all the hats I've worn running a, you know, a tiny, bootstrapped company, I realized the community management part had been what I enjoyed the most and that the community part had been the kind of competitive advantage of that business. And that sent me down a path of thinking about community and business more intentionally after having kind of stumbled into it as a, I guess, late teenager.

So, Commsor started...originally, I knew I wanted to build something in the community space. So, we actually started as a newsletter, actually. It was a substack called Community Chat Weekly, which was just, like, an aggregation newsletter as I was, like, doing research into the more professional community world. And then it became a small Slack community, which then became the community club. And Commsor, as a product, was born out of building a community for community people and just diving headfirst into that world.

SALLY: So much community, I love it [laughs].

MAC: Yeah. I try to say, like, a couple of different words, like world or something instead of community.

SALLY: [laughs]

MAC: And just, like, we used to joke that we were a community company for community people, by community people, with a community of community people.

CHAD: [laughs]

MAC: I was, like, just too much of the same word [laughs].

SALLY: I love that. So, it's interesting. One of the reasons why I really wanted to get you and Chad together, in particular, is because the whole go-to-network motion that you're so passionate about and that you've built this product around very closely aligns with how Chad has really led and grown thoughtbot over the last 20 years. And I thought it would be so cool to bring those perspectives together.

And one of the things that you mentioned around community was that it gave you a competitive advantage. I'm curious to know, Chad, does that resonate with you? Have you seen that in thoughtbot over the last, you know, couple of decades as you've been doing this?

CHAD: Yeah, definitely. I mean, one of the things that is my sort of go-to talking points, both at conferences and that kind of thing, is that one thing that has been really a big part of thoughtbot's success is being willing to be clear about who we were and what we believe. And when we do that, then the people who want what we have and believe what we believe and are excited by that can find us and, you know, follow us. And, eventually, when they're in a position to need help, we're top of mind.

And this idea, I think, holds back a lot of companies because you think your market is the total addressable market. And the reality is you're never going to work with the total addressable market. So, you're better off finding the people who believe what you believe in your niche and your community. And being that big fish in that small pond has been really beneficial for us.

SALLY: That's awesome. Yeah, I think it was kind of a culture shock, honestly, coming to thoughtbot because I had been so immersed in sort of the SaaS world and the mass outreach, cold outreach, sort of, I want to say, traditional go-to-market motion that's been used over the last ten years. And I came here, and there were so many things that thoughtbot did or didn't do that I just was honestly kind of shocked, you know, as an example, not using third-party cookies on our website [laughs].

And, Mac, when we were talking, it sounded like you're also doing some of those things that we joked might make a CRO cry [laughs]. So, I was curious to ask what some of those things were and see how that kind of matches up to what thoughtbot is doing in our approach, too. I'd be curious to know.

MAC: There are so many things. I mean, I get CROs all the time, not, like, yelling at me, but I get the whole like, "Young man, you don't understand how sales works," type comments all the time. I got one recently that was, "Don't talk about sales until you've sold in a recession." It was like, what do you think we've [laughter] been doing the last 18 months? But okay. But yeah, so we don't do cold calls. We don't do cold emails. We don't do any of that traditional stuff that software companies do.

And I guess you all as a, you know, more of a, like, service-based product, as a founder building a software-based product, more than half of the cold outbound I get is, like, developer agencies and stuff like that. It's, like, the classic scourge of outbound in a lot of ways, right? So, there's an element of, like, zigging when everyone else zags. And one of my favorite stats...I can't remember the exact number, so don't fully quote me on it. But --

CHAD: It's not like we're recording or anything. It's totally fine.


MAC: Yeah, well, I mean, I think the gist of the message is more important than the exact number. And it was a stat that there's been a 100x increase in prospecting activities over the last decade. So, for every cold email, cold call, in-mail ad impression that you would have seen ten years ago, you now get 100 as a buyer.

And I always say this thing to people; I'm like, it doesn't matter how good your outreach is. You can have the best well-crafted cold email, cold call; your timing can be perfect; everything could be right: relevance, timing, everything. The problem is, increasingly, buyers have been so pissed off at the deluge of shit they've gotten for ten years that it doesn't matter. Like, my phone does not ring if I don't have your number. I am physically uncoldcallable.

And I've talked to a lot of CROs, and they're like, "Well, we'll just, you know, marketing will get your lead some other way. And then they'll pass it over to us, and we'll still get to you." And it's like, okay, like, that doesn't really solve the problem. So, like, there's a lot of these weird things where sales and marketing aren't aligned. They expect each other to solve the problem for each other. They're pure volume-based, and we don't do any of that. And a lot of CROs and a lot of VPs of sales love to point out how wrong we are for that, but it's working so far.

And also, it's so much more enjoyable to build a company that way. Like, our salespeople, our SDRs, and all that stuff, they don't hate their jobs. They're not, like, sticking their face to the grindstone every morning and being like, "Oh yeah, I got to play pump-up music before I go to work. Otherwise, I'm not going to get through the day." It just creates a better work environment. It's better for us. It's better for the buyers. It's better all the way around.

CHAD: So, for thoughtbot, I know that a lot of this has come naturally for us because, as developers and designers, we've produced a lot of open source that flows from our work that then builds community around it. We write on a blog, which we're very fortunate to have a lot of people read over the years, which fosters reputation for us and community around it. But what does that look like for other companies who maybe aren't, like, an agency like us doing that kind of thing? What are the kinds of things that it looks like?

MAC: I think you hit the nail on the head earlier when you said it's about, like, showing off who you are and what you believe in and creating space so people can come to you. But in the, you know, the high growth SaaS world, the last ten years, people have not been a fan of waiting for people to come to you. It's, like, grow at all costs, blitzscale, all that sort of mentality.

For us, the way it looks is...I guess an example–so, we did this sort of semi-accidental campaign on LinkedIn over the last, I guess, two and a half months with these purple hoodies. And there's a whole backstory. They were an accident, and we were like, "Shit, we have too many hoodies. What do we do with them?" So, we made a thing out of them. And we thought we were going to get 25. We ended up getting 250 [laughter]. It's a whole thing.

We just started, like, we sent them to a few folks, and someone posted a photo without us asking being like, "Look at this awesome hoodie Commsor sent me." And their post went, like, insane. Like, by LinkedIn standards, it went insane. It was, like, 100 comments. Like, "How do I get one? Oh my God, I love it. It's so cool. Can I get one?"

So, we just started sending them to people, like, no goals, no intention, just brand building, just building connections, building relationships. I personally, from hoodies that I can attribute, have booked over 200 calls about our product with our ICP doing that without trying to. There's almost this element of, like, by not trying to sell, it's become easier to sell. There's, like, an element of like, I'm just sending you a hoodie because I think you're cool, and I want to get to know you.

And it's a fine line because I think a lot of companies try to do that. But you can always tell there's an undertone of, yeah, I'm sending you these cookies because, like, I'm really hoping you get on a sales call with me. But we genuinely were, like, we have too many hoodies. We're just trying to get rid of them. I don't want to pay to store them. Like, please, I'm begging you, please take our hoodie.

SALLY: [laughs]

MAC: And then, it just turned into this, like, whole FOMO game. It's like the authenticity was purely there. All in all, we spent about, including shipping, everything, like, $8,000 on hoodies, so not a tiny amount of money but also not huge by marketing budget standards. And I had a conversation with a CMO recently. He was like, "You should have just spent LinkedIn ads. That's such a waste of money. You can't track it. It's not attributable," et cetera. I was like, "We've gotten, I think, close to a million impressions on LinkedIn of people posting our hoodies talking about us. We couldn't have paid for that."

So, there's, like, this whole area where it's like, if you actually just go out there and build relationships, build community, get to know people, tell them what you believe in, yeah, people will not agree with you. Like, when I say I think modern go-to-market is broken and the way people sell is broken, I get a lot of sales leaders who are like, "You're an idiot. Like, that's wrong. You objectively don't know what you're doing. You've never been a salesperson by title. Don't spread this shit."

But then you get a lot of people who are like, "Yeah, you're right. It's not working. I want to hear what you have to say. I want to talk to you. I want to brainstorm with you." The amount of times that I get DMs from salespeople who are like, "Hey, I totally agree with that post you just wrote, but I can't publicly because my VP of sales is going to read me out if they see me agreeing with you. But like, yeah, this shit doesn't work anymore," like, 10 to 20 times a day, I get messages like that.

SALLY: And as a consumer of LinkedIn feed, you know, I've been following Mac for a while, but also follow a couple of other folks at Commsor and people who are in their networks. I can 100% validate that the Dino Hoodie is, in fact, now a status symbol on LinkedIn. So [laughs], I thought that was, you know, brilliant. And I'm not going to lie; I had some FOMO, too. I was like, where's my Dino Hoodie? And, in fact, when I talked to Mac, I was like --

CHAD: [laughs]

SALLY: I know that we just met, but can I get one of those? [laughs]

CHAD: I see now. This was just a ploy to get a hoodie.

MAC: I've gotten, like, reverse sales now. It's like, you know, you get pitch slapped on LinkedIn, or someone adds you, and right away, they're trying to sell to you. I've gotten that. [laughter] But they're trying to convince me to give them a hoodie. Like, somehow, we've created the reverse thing where, like, salespeople are reaching out to me to reverse pitch–so I can give them something.

SALLY: That is hilarious. And I promise that was not my intention; was just to get a hoodie from you. But there's so much there that I think would be interesting to unpack. Chad, I'm just kind of curious to know your impression of what Mac has shared around the sort of flak that he's gotten around, you know, what you're doing isn't going to work, or whatever. Have you gotten any of that over the years? Are you surprised to hear that? Just interested to hear your thoughts.

CHAD: No, I think it happens when you are willing to put yourself out there with an opinion, with a belief. And it's going to resonate with the people that it resonates with. And the flip side of that is there are going to be people who believe that you're wrong. You know, when we were doing very early on with test-driven development, for example, it was not an established industry practice. You could find blog posts from people out there saying. "It's bad. We tried it at my startup and our product failed, and it was too slow. It held us back from being successful."

But the people who believe in it...if we were the only company in Boston who was doing it and a company that believes in test-driven development was never going to work with a company that didn't do test-driven development, so we were the one company that they could work with because we believed in the same practices.

And that's the hard thing in that is, usually, if you're on the right track to finding the right niche or to the right belief that's going to really resonate with a group of people, the people that you're turning off is probably going to be a louder, more vocal group. And so, being strong in the face of that is really important.

And I'll also just call out that, like, this is one area where it's easy to say, "Well, this works because you've been successful." There are other founders probably who, like, they have a legitimately bad idea. And they ignore all the sort of haters, and they say, "Oh, those are just the haters." And yet they don't get the success because there wasn't the people out there who actually did believe what they believe or had a need for the product that they were creating, or something like that.

And I think it's important to ignore the noise or to push past the noise, but you do need to let it in a little bit so that you understand whether you're on the right track at all, I've found. What about you, Mac?

MAC: Yeah, it's a never-ending battle to know what to listen to, and what to ignore, and how to apply it or if to apply it, and things like that. I agree. I think there is an element of, like, it's like, what's that [inaudible 14:47] saying? Like, if no one thinks you're crazy or wrong, you're probably too late as well with your idea, right? Like, if you're like, "Here's my idea," and everyone's like, "That's a great idea," It's been done. You're very late to the party at that point.

There's no, like, right or wrong answer because there's always context. You always know your idea and your business, hopefully, better than anybody else does. So, you can't just, like, take other people's advice. I actually went through a whole period (It's like sort of a sidebar.), but where I was, like, impostor syndrome as a, you know, venture-backed CEO. I was like, oh, I got to, like, be the founder and run the company the way other people run companies at this stage. And it, like, objectively, almost killed us as a company.

I have lived both sides of that extreme of like, being like, "No, I'm not going to listen to anybody's advice," and the negatives and positives of that, and the "I'm just going to follow everyone's advice and do what they say," and the negatives and positives of that. And now somewhere, maybe not quite in the middle, maybe a little bit leaning towards the ignore the advice because I believe in what we're doing.

CHAD: And you need to actually believe what you're saying. I think this is the wrong tactic to take if you don't actually believe it.

SALLY: [laughs]

CHAD: Because if it's not authentic to you, it's going to be really hard to build an authentic community and message and those kinds of things, yeah.

MAC: People can tell.


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SALLY: One of the things that you had mentioned before was sort of the technology that you've built Commsor on. And it was an interesting choice to me because it's not one of the more, you know, flashy or hot, new sort of programming languages that's out there. So, I was just kind of wondering, what is it? And why did you make the decision to build out the actual tool the way that you did?

MAC: So, I definitely have to, like, put a giant asterisk over everything I'm about to say. I am not a technical founder [laughs]. So, like, anything I say here is just potentially wrong [laughter]. [inaudible 17:20] The decision was made because I had, you know, a great team that we put together and trusted them to make the decision, and that's the decision we've made. So, I mean, the bulk of the app is built on just, like, Ruby and React. It's pretty straightforward.

We have had people be like, "Well, you should be using this," you know, whatever "Next.js, plus this, plus this, you know, it's better." But, like, the team we have, they've worked together in the past. So, they actually came into an acquihire. So, we're like, basically, like, you know, they'd worked together for three years in a company. They have systems in place.

And at this stage, it's, like, debating what tool you're going to use when you start, like, just 99.9% of the time does not matter. There's no don't even know if it's going to work, the product, right? It's, like, and your customers don't care. Your customers don't care. Unless you're building a dev tool and it's, like, hyper-specific, but even then, they probably don't really care that much. So yeah, we have a good team. I trust them to make the decision. And it's what they know and what they're familiar with. So, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, we just went with the thing that would let us get things done the fastest.

SALLY: Chad, I'm interested to know...the trust factor that you mentioned, Mac, is really key to a lot of thoughtbot's success. I think that one of the things that Chad has done well as he's grown the company is hired great people and then trusted them to get the job done however [laughs] they thought that it might best be done. So, Chad, I'm curious to know: whether you're deciding on a tech stack or how you're going to go to market or anything like that, what has the impact of trust been at thoughtbot as you've grown and scaled the company?

CHAD: I think trust is one of [laughs]...I think it's very important. It's one of our core values. And, for us, that comes from not just trust being a nice thing to have. It's the one value that I can also point to and say I intentionally created an environment of trust.

I've been doing freelancing and consulting for a long time, even before thoughtbot. And I knew that at thoughtbot, we were going to continually form and reform teams of people that hadn't necessarily worked together closely before. And that if every time we did that, we were going to have to be building trust with each other, that it would detract from the success of the product that we were trying to create and from the relationship that we were needing to build trust on urgently which was with our new client.

And so I tried really hard to create an environment where when people show up on day one, everyone inherently trusts that they belong there and trusts them. It's not easy, and it's not perfect. But I think we've made a lot of progress on that. And then, when you have that kind of environment, recognizing that it changes the way that you work with each other. And so, when it comes to, like, technology decisions and everything, I mean, that is essentially how we work is understanding that everyone has trust of each other and that when you are put in a position to make a decision, it is your decision to make.

But part of making decisions and part of having a trusting environment is communicating with each other. So, even if you're responsible for making the decision, part of your responsibility, then, is for bringing everyone else along with you. And sometimes that means setting up an environment where, okay, the results speak for themselves. But other times, it means educating people about, "Here's what we're going to do, and here's why," even if it is as simple as "This is what we know. We've been doing it for three years, and let's just get right to it."

I don't know if that directly answers your question. But it's a big part of how we've done things and tried to create the culture that we've created. And I happen to be biased, but Ruby is a great choice.

SALLY: [laughs]

CHAD: I think it's taken for granted because it has been around for so long. But I talk about strong beliefs. I am up to speed on lots of web development frameworks and the ways that you build applications across a variety of different platforms, and tech stacks, and that kind of thing.

We didn't choose Ruby on Rails because we thought it was going to be popular back in 2005. We chose it because it fundamentally was the best way that we could see, out of all the platforms at the time, to build web applications. It allowed us to do things in one line that normally would have, at the time, taken 20. And that allowed us to be faster and work the ways that we wanted to work. And embedded in that culture is things like testing and test-driven development, which we also believe in.

The simple fact of the matter is there hasn't been a paradigm shift in web frameworks that is actually fundamentally better in the way that Ruby on Rails was better in the early 2000s. So, you can choose something else, but it's not going to be significantly better than Rails in terms of productivity, in terms of what it can do for your early-stage product.

It basically just then comes down to there's choices you can make that will slow you down, definitely, in terms of architecture and everything in other platforms. But yeah, you can't go wrong with Rails, and you can't really go wrong with Ruby. And you can't go wrong with choosing what you know and what you're comfortable with, especially in the early days.

SALLY: Yeah, I love that. One of the themes that I'm sort of hearing from both of you in how you've approached building tools; building your business is putting users at the center. And, Mac, I know you were saying, you know, I have all these CROs coming at me, right? Like VPs of sales being like, "The way you're approaching things isn't going to work. It's dumb; it's stupid."

But then you also have these salespeople DMing you like, "Hey, I agree with you. I just can't say it out loud because I might get in trouble." And, ultimately, that salesperson really is your user, right? Because they're the ones that are building their network, that are leveraging it to then go get the sales for the company.

So, I thought it was interesting that sort of that user-centered approach was something that was coming out with both because I know for Ruby, in particular, it's very well-loved by developers that use it. It's, like, a very developer-friendly sort of language. And so, I'm just wondering, you know, how do you, Mac, continue to keep users at the center when you have voices coming at you, when you have [laughs], you know, people telling you you're doing it wrong? What are some things that you do tactically to make sure that you stay aligned?

MAC: I mean, the simple answer is talk to them all the time. We actually...every single user who gets onboarded to our product right now gets an introduction to me directly. That's part of, like, seeing how the product works as well. But every single user ends up speaking to me. Who knows if that'll scale? But right now, it's like, I have spoken for at least 30 minutes with every single person we've onboarded to our product. We onboard every user by hand right now, which is totally counterintuitive for the price point our product's at.

But it's been really helpful to build that relationship, build that trust, get the research and the understanding of what we need to do next really quickly, have tight feedback loops. We have, like, I Dm users all the time. Like, I [inaudible 24:28] I probably have 50 to 60 unique DMs on LinkedIn per day. And someone was telling me like, "That's a waste of time as CEO and founder." I'm like, it's literally the only thing that matters. I'm talking to users, hearing what the market is saying, like, hearing all that live, not hearing it from people.

We're also working on, right now, enabling anyone on our team to do an onboarding so that when we do scale, my goal would be that every person on our team, from an engineer to a success person to the CEO, would be onboarding a customer at least once every few weeks just to maintain that closeness and that connectedness. We're also working on things... I'm a huge fan you know Arc browser?

SALLY: I'm not familiar, no.

CHAD: I haven't used it, but I am familiar with it, yeah.

MAC: I'm using it right now.

CHAD: [laughs]

MAC: Highly recommend. Not an ad, I promise; just a fan. But they do, like, little things that they do, for example, like, when they would change log, instead of being written or instead of being just a CEO, it'll be like, "Here are the four new things released." And the first thing is, "Oh, here's Mac, the developer who worked on this feature sharing it. And here's, you know, this person who worked on this feature."

So, it's like, each individual person becomes the face of the thing they worked on, rather than just like, oh, it's the faceless company, or it's, like, it's always the same, like, spokesperson who's always talking about it. So, enabling it to not just be me who talks to users all the time but the whole company enables the whole company to be more user-centric.

SALLY: That's so interesting. Again, there's, like, so many parallels between how I've seen thoughtbot approach things and how you're approaching things with Commsor. When you mentioned that your goal is to sort of make it so that several different people are the face, and it's not just like, oh, Commsor is Mac only [laughs], that's something that I think I've seen Chad do throughout the years.

So, Chad, do you have any examples of sort of how you've tried to scale the company, putting different faces and putting our experts out there, trying to make it so that thoughtbot is not, like, the Chad show? Because I feel like that's one of the things that, you know, you're great [laughs]. But I think that the fact that we have so many contributors to communities and people speaking at events has been really, you know, just good for business and good for the company. So, what are some ways that you've done that? And what benefits have you seen of doing sort of what Mac is trying to do right now within Commsor?

CHAD: I don't know that I've been super intentional about this. It just came naturally, as we're all people who would do this, right? Like, you can't stop us from doing it. And so, I mostly just try to create an environment where you're not stopping people from doing things that they would normally want to do anyway. And to then recognize when, you know, someone else goes and creates open source, or a blog post, or speaks at a conference, or whatever. That comes back to benefit us through the reputation that it builds and the community that it builds.

And I think a lot of organizations and teams and everything do a really good job of getting in people's way from doing things [laughs] that they would want to do. And so, that's really all I've tried to do is not get in people's way.

MAC: I've spoken to a lot of people who are, like, under the impression that their company owns their LinkedIn account, which I always think is super interesting, or companies who, like, go out of their way to be like, "No, you can't speak about, I don't know, that you like barbecuing," or, like, well, you can't, like, be a person. You have to, like, you are just a representative of the company. And it's so stupid.

It's, like, 90% of the growth we have is either word of mouth or people referencing that they've, like, built a relation or a connection with someone on our team, not just me, but, like, Ben or Katrine on our team, like, people like them. And then they want to learn about Commsor because they get to know them.

And I think there's this old model where, like, if you just draw, like, circles, right? Like, here's the company, and here's people. It used to be here's the company, and then all the people are inside of it. But more and more, like, the way we're trying to build it is, like, you have, like, the people are a ring around the bubble that is the company. It's like, the people actually are the kind of that first interface, which is always what it is anyways, whether companies act that way or not.

At the end of the day, people are the interface. But so many companies try to control that and, like, you know, put everyone through this, like, brand voice funnel that just doesn't work. Yeah.

SALLY: Yeah. Well, and it's ironic because I've heard so many sales leaders harping on people buy from people. People buy from people. And then they don't allow their salespeople to actually go be a human being and a person in any sort of a public [laughs] forum like LinkedIn. I've had that same conversation with so many sales folks that I've worked with, you know, over the years, especially the last few years, where like, oh, I feel like I could really put some great stuff out on LinkedIn, build some relationships, but I just I feel sort of stifled from doing that for fear of reprimand, or losing my job, or whatever it is.

So, I definitely appreciate that, at thoughtbot, I don't feel that. I have felt that in the past in some roles, but I don't feel that here. And I'm just so grateful that I feel empowered to go share my thought leadership and things like that on LinkedIn. And it's interesting because that has yielded opportunities that I wasn't even looking for. So, yeah, I'm curious, Chad, if you've also seen things that we weren't necessarily looking for happening that way.

CHAD: I do. As you were talking, though, I was just thinking, this is harder than it was before. Like, you may be excited to talk on LinkedIn [laughs], but I would say the number of people at thoughtbot who are actually excited to do authentic stuff on social media these days is way, way down. And it's been trending down for years, and it's particularly bad these last couple. And, you know, we have the kind of culture where we don't force people to do it.

Is that something that you've seen, Mac? It's, like, individuals' sort of engagement, willingness? I think a lot of social media is just a mess right now, that kind of thing. And how is that affecting what you see in your strategy?

MAC: Yeah, I don't doesn't have to necessarily be social media, like, once again, the browser company example of, like, the update videos including people in it, right? It's like it's...there's ways that the company can intentionally elevate their people first, rather than being like, "Oh, yeah, here's social media, like, have fun. Go build a brand. Please do free marketing for us." Because that's kind of, like, what you're subtly hoping happens if one of your team members builds an audience on Twitter or LinkedIn. You're like, cool, we'll get, like, the splashover effect.

I would say, right now, about 25% of our team is doing it really well without us prompting. Like, they just want to do it, and they're leaning into it and enjoying it. 25% want to do it but maybe aren't sure how or where. And we've actually, like, built systems internally to help, like, build, like, you know, give them the space to do it and whatnot. And then, half are just like, yeah, I'm not doing that. I don't have any interest at all.

CHAD: For me, it's more that you don't need to do that just because someone else is doing it. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to find the thing that you're passionate about and the way that you can find your voice or a thing to contribute to, even if it's an external sort of open-source project or something like that.

MAC: Yeah, I mean, we have things like it doesn't have to be tied to the company. Like, a great, Katrine, who's our head of sales, and my sister [laughter]...I guess I should --

CHAD: Full disclosure.

MAC: Like, put a little asterisk, you know, on there as well, yeah. Not why she has the job, but just happens to be that way. So, she actually started running this, like, Women in Revenue meetup with Gong, another company, with this other woman Ashley, like, almost two years ago, like, after she started Commsor. It wasn't tied to Commsor or, like, it wasn't tied to our business or anything like that. And then she came to me, like, a year ago and was like, "Oh, me and Ashley want to start our own podcast. What do you think?"

And we ended up actually, like, funding the podcast. Like, we pay for the editing, the hosting, like, all of a sudden, they need to, like, do it. And yeah, so we get to [inaudible 32:30], like, yeah, this podcast is, like, presented by Commsor, even though it's like Katrine and Ashley's podcast. We're, like, the permanent sponsor of it, basically. But it's been interesting.

And now it's like, and now she's involved in this group called Wednesday Women where it's like, she wants to elevate other women in revenue roles. That's not what Commsor's mission is. I'm not saying we don't believe in it but, like, that's not the reason Commsor exists, right? But we were like, yeah, we gave her the space to do it. There has been so much good that has come to Commsor from that, from her running her own meetups, hosting her podcast, building a brand around that, elevating other women.

Like, the amount of people who come to us and want to learn more about Commsor or [inaudible 33:05] want to work with us, whatever, because of the stuff she has done on a thing she cares about outside of work, I mean, it's obviously very tied to her work still, but it's not. It's not Commsor marketing. It's not for Commsor. It's not backed by Commsor, like, in an official capacity.

So, there are ways that, like, if people have those passions, like you said, it'll bring people who are like-minded, who will get to know them, who then inherently want to be like, "Oh, well, I love what Katrine is doing. What does Katrine do at Commsor? Oh, cool. What does Commsor do?" Like, you know, it's like, there's a funnel. Like, not everybody will follow that path. But a not insignificant portion of the people that are aware of our brand have come in through that path.

CHAD: And this is a good example of something that I talk a lot about is, is that the most effective thing that could probably happen? Probably not. But I would rather someone do the thing that is 60% effective and 100% fulfilling to them than doing something that is soul draining that they don't want to do that's 99%.

MAC: Well, I'll also counter that they will show up and be a better employee and team member because they''s like, so even if they're, like, doing less by the numbers, long term, they'll do more, like, especially in sales, right? Like, SDR culture has been this, like, you basically grind it out for 12 months, maybe 18 months as an SDR, and you hope that you make it to the AE role, and if you don't, not very many don't become an SDR for ten years. It is not a career. It is a stepping stone of, like, I'm going to stick my face in the boiling water. I'm going to deal with it. I'm going to suck it up, and hopefully it pays off in the long term.

And, like, a huge percent of those folks end up churning out into customer success roles or completely different industries or whatever because it's, like, no one wants to keep their face on the grindstone for that long. But by, like, building a sales and a marketing system that's actually enjoyable for the people that are doing it, one, they bring their authentic selves to work, which means they're more likely to do it. They're more likely to stick around. They're more likely to have fun with it. And when they're having more fun with it, that also reflects on the people in the market because people can tell. People can tell that Commsor is having fun.

Like, it sounds kind of dumb, but I think especially in B2B, like, having fun is actually kind of a competitive advantage. And I don't mean fun in the sense of, like, oh, we post memes on our LinkedIn account. Like, that's not, like, corporate fun, but, like, actually, like, real people personalities showing through the work fun, like the dinosaur thing, right?

Like, I think my entire LinkedIn personality now is, like, anti-bad sales tactics, and dinosaurs are cool, which is also sad and kind of counterintuitive because, like, bad sales tactics are also things that dinosaurs [inaudible 35:40] [laughter], sort of a, like, sort of a funny play on things. But, like, I think my LinkedIn bio is: DM me for a fun fact about dinosaurs. It's not what we do at Commsor. It's not trying to pitch you on anything.

And I have had so many conversations where someone's just like, "I want a fun fact about dinosaurs." I'm like, "Sure. All right, cool. Like, here you go." And sometimes, it ends up going further. And, you know, maybe Commsor comes up naturally. Other times, they're like, "Cool. That's an awesome fact that made my day, thanks," and then that's it. That's the end of it. But when you can enable those personalities, and that authenticity, and that fun to show through the work, both sides benefit.

And when you're talking about things that don't scale, whatever, that's one of the classic pushbacks I get. - It's like, "Well, how does this, like, go-to-network relationship selling, how does it scale?" They're like, "I need to close 100 deals this year. I got to scale." It's like, I did a graphic...I can't remember the exact numbers, but looked at, like, you know, the stats on cold calling, for example. And it was like, to get one deal, you need five meetings because, on average, industry-wide in SaaS, 20% of those meetings become deals.

To get five meetings, you have to cold call 250 or more individual accounts because that's how many, on average, it takes with cold call rates. But on average, it takes seven to eight cold calls to actually get someone to answer. So, I have to call Sally eight times to get an answer. So, I have to make over 2,000 cold calls to end up with one meeting. It's just insane. Whereas if you look at like relationship selling, warm intros, and warm paths like that, they close at a 78% rate across the board.

So, it's actually like, okay, I can go out and get a pool of 250, 500, 1,000 contacts and try to get four leads, or I can go build relationships with ten people and get four deals that way. It's like, you don't need it to scale in the same way if you're building with that. The problem is that sales and marketing over the last decade have been built on the predictable revenue model. If I make X cold calls, I'll get X meetings, and I'll book Y deals. So, everyone is like, okay, it's scalable. If I want to close twice as much revenue, I need twice as many SDRs making twice as many cold calls to close twice as much. That just doesn't work anymore.

The whole model that startup growth has been built on for ten years it doesn't work. I mean, even if you look at, like, the IPOs of tech companies over the last decade, it's like less than 5% of them have been consistently profitable for the last three years. So, if we're all trying to build our companies and everyone's like, ooh, look at the way that XYZ, Uber, or WeWork, whatever, did over the last ten years, they actually haven't worked.

We've been trained and tricked on this system for 10, 15 years of, like, growth is everything. But, like, I don't know, just look at WeWork over the last month, right? Like, that's the shining star of, like, does it matter? Like, you can grow to a billion dollars in revenue. But if you're losing a billion to make a billion, the company making 20 million and spending 5 million to make that is actually a better company.

CHAD: Yeah. It's totally...some people that is what they want. But it does change your motivation when what you're trying to do is create a company that you enjoy working at that maybe isn't taking over the world but making a positive contribution to it. That changes your approach.

MAC: Yeah, you're not trying to consume everything in sight. There's a lot of different ways to do it. And yeah, I think the last ten years, especially in startup and SaaS land, have tricked a lot of people into thinking there's only one way to do things, and it's throw money in a grinder and hope to God that you get more money at the bottom of it than you put in the top of it, even though 99% of the time that's never the case.

CHAD: Well, Mac, thank you so much for joining and sharing with us. If folks want to find out more about Commsor or get in touch with you, what are all the different ways that they can do that?

MAC: Well, they can DM me on LinkedIn for a fun fact about dinosaurs before they ask what their real question is. It's just Mac Reddin. I think I'm the only one on LinkedIn with that name, so it shouldn't be too hard to find me. I'm the guy with the dinosaur emoji next to my name, just to really lean into it.

Yeah, and then Commsor, it's We're, like, just now starting to reveal what we've been building over the last six or nine months with our pivot into this go-to-network world. So, we're early on that front. But you can keep your eyes peeled, and there'll be more to see over the next few months.

CHAD: And Sally, thanks so much for joining today and help facilitating the conversation. I really appreciate it.

SALLY: Absolutely. It's been really fun.

CHAD: If folks want to get in touch with you or follow along, where are the places they can do that?

SALLY: I am all up in LinkedIn, so feel free to hit me up there. That's probably the best place. Also, if anybody out there ends up using Commsor, you can also find me in the Herd, which is the community that Mac has built, so feel free to find me there as well.

CHAD: And you, listener, can subscribe to the show and find notes along with a complete transcript for this episode at If you have questions or comments, email us at You can find me on Mastodon at

This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore.

Thanks so much for listening, and see you next time.

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