Ethan Garr & Sean Ellis
Miro’s ‘Play as a team to win the world’ Approach to Explosive Growth
The right product at the right time
In the face of the Coronavirus outbreak, millions of individuals and teams are being forced into remote work situations overnight. This growth study is particularly timely as Miro, a collaborative whiteboarding platform for distributed teams has positioned itself as a crucial service for companies looking to overcome the challenges of remote work environments.
Delivering value for end-users in B2B
In the rapidly changing world of B2B, delivering value for end-users is coming into focus as a key driver of growth. Just a few years ago, most B2B companies built and marketed their products and services around the buyer’s persona, even though the buyer often was not the end-user of the service. Miro is part of the new world of BCB where blurred lines exist between the end-user and the buyer, and delivering value for that stakeholder powers the engine of growth.
Miro identifies itself, not as traditional B2B, but actually as B2C2B. A quick glance at their pricing page underscores this distinction. A freemium option, along with transparent pricing across the subscription tiers, provides an experience visitors will quickly relate to from their consumer purchasing experiences across the web. Miro deeply understands their target users and who employs them and has optimized the user journey to deliver value for both.’
In this growth study, we will dive into Miro’s Breakout Growth success story and find out how a consumer-oriented approach fuels their engine of growth, how data informs and drives their growth process, how a Northstar metric helps to align cross-functional teams against a shared mission, and more.
The power of a growth engine built on viral loops
Automatic.com, the company behind brands including WordPress, Tumblr, and many others, is a fully distributed company with over 1100 employees working in 76 different countries, speaking 93 different languages. Twenty years ago, this probably would not have been possible, but as communication technologies have expanded in the age of the Internet, so too has the proliferation of tools and technologies that make remote work possible and often profitable. Miro is at the forefront of this trend, helping distributed teams get work done. As the Coronavirus has spread, its product is quickly switching from a nice-to-have to a necessity for many companies.
The hallmark of just about any office is a whiteboard filled with scribbled diagrams, equations, and charts (often flowing up and to the right). These are the scrawlings of visual thinkers, and these whiteboards are important tools in the innovator’s toolbox. Miro saw the genesis of the distributed workplace and came up with the digital equivalent of this commonplace tool; online collaborative boards that allow visual thinkers to share ideas not just across offices, but across continents. Then they figured out how to leverage that collaboration for virality.
Yuliya Malysh, Miro’s Head of Self-Service and Growth, describes their target customers as “visual thinkers working on a distributed team,” and understanding this persona has helped the company to build a growth engine to serve that persona. Rather than using a top-down sales approach, Miro understood that their user journey usually began with a single user in an organization trying to solve a specific use case.
Designers and product people searching for solutions like “how to run a distributed retrospective” or “how to create a user story map” became power users, and offering a full-featured freemium experience allowed these users to quickly and intuitively create their first board and reach the aha moment when they shared their board with a colleague.
With this rapid speed-to-value experience, the impact of an efficient viral loop takes hold. One colleague invites another, then entire teams begin collaborating on a board, and so forth and so on. These internal loops drive adoption and eventually the 3-board limitation of the freemium offer intersects with the clear value the service offers, prompting a company to purchase a premium per user/month subscription. Similarly, when a brand agency associate shares a board with his or her client, and that client experiences the value Miro provides, an external viral growth loop begins.
As users continue to engage they find new ways to use the product to facilitate their work. Miro is used for ideation and brainstorming, collaborative workshops, design and research, mapping and workflows, and strategy and planning. Yuliya explains, “it is a horizontal product, but the core users are cross-functional teams consisting of product managers, designers, engineers, marketing managers, and others.”
The test/learn growth process powering Miro’s breakout growth
Miro has identified a Northstar metric that has helped guide its high-velocity testing program. Yuliya explains, “we have a mission to empower teams to create the next big things by providing the best solution for collaboration. ‘Active Collaborating Boards’ is the metric that shows us that teams are getting value from the product in a way that aligns with our mission.”
The Miro team often runs dozens of weekly tests to move the needle on important business metrics, but Yuliya explains that while sometimes it is important to run lots of tests to move these metrics, other times it is more important to run high-quality tests with bigger potential impact to effect change.
Whether it is getting users to create more boards and sessions to drive stickiness or focusing tests around activation and conversion, the Miro team has built a testing culture that is informed and driven by data, and the company has wisely invested in powerful data systems to support sustainable growth. Yuliya emphasizes that these tools help her and her team to understand the company’s data flows, which has proven to be an important factor in estimating the impact of tests, and in helping her team to move faster.
This data-driven growth process is helping to drive rapid and sustainable growth at Miro, and it’s reflective of a larger growth mindset that is powering a culture of cross-functional collaboration.
Growth leadership that builds cross-functional alignment
Describing the Miro mindset, Yuliya explains, “Under our collaborative culture, we are not working in silos and we don’t optimize for local maximums. We always try to find global maximums to find our path to growth. We share global learnings across the organization, and we make sure we have shared understanding and context — this means people can experiment from the same contextual standpoint and we can avoid making the same mistakes twice.”
As Miro helps distributed teams collaborate more effectively, they also help to expand the addressable market of distributed teams. Their product is making it possible for more companies to effectively work across continents, and this opportunity has only grown in the era of digital transformations.
Unsurprisingly, the company that is blazing the trail for cross-functional collaboration is also building its own success on a foundation of a cross-functional, collaborative culture.
Miro’s leadership team is actually distributed, so they meet once a quarter to align on the company vision, strategy, and growth and strategic initiatives. They ensure these ideas flow through the organization using tools and processes such as OKRs, all-hands meetings, and 1-on-1s, and this promotes shared context and understanding. Yuliya says, “we are super-deliberate in fighting the silos.”
One of Miro’s corporate values is, “Play as a team to win the world,” and it would seem this attitude is working.
Learning from mistakes
As companies began to embrace the idea of distributed teams, visual thinkers began looking for creative ways to overcome the challenges that emerged. It was not uncommon to walk into a conference room to find a smartphone camera pointed at a whiteboard as remote employees worked over video chat to think through ideas. Miro saw the limits of these one-way broadcasts and built an elegant digital toolset that could solve this problem for a large and growing market.
As they found a strong product/market fit with their online collaborative boards, Miro learned how to optimize their value delivery systems to help teams get work done. Their B2C2B mindset put the needs of the end-user first, and viral loops, powered by the freemium model proved to be the accelerant for explosive growth.
However, Miro’s success is as much about having the right product for the right market as it is about the process. Before finding their freemium growth lever, the company used a 30-day trial model that only allowed users to share boards with 3 users. By analyzing usage data, they learned that trial users were not ready to make a decision within this time constraint and were deleting boards so that they could downgrade to a free plan. Miro realized this approach was limiting their growth, and that led them to experiment with freemium.
Learning from mistakes is a key factor in growth, and the test/learn process that embraces this idea seems to be ingrained in Miro’s DNA.
Tangible Breakout Growth Results
Today, over 3.5 million users use Miro’s online collaborative whiteboard platform, and well over 10,000 teams have upgraded to paid premium plans. Leveraging this success, the company raised $35 million in venture funding with Accel Partners in 2018. The Corona Virus outbreak is creating a new paradigm for millions of companies, and along with the Zooms and Slacks of the world, Miro is in the perfect position to help companies navigate these challenges.
As we have studied the world of B2B we have learned how many of these companies are using B2C tactics to inform and drive their growth mindset and process. Miro has overtly embraced this kind of thinking in their B2B2C approach. While it will not make sense for every B2B company to use specific approaches like freemium, any company serious about driving breakout growth should look to Miro’s example when it comes to building a data-driven growth process and fostering cross-functional collaboration.
Learn more about Miro’s explosive growth story in Sean Ellis’s Breakout Growth Podcast interview with Yuliya Malysh, Miro’s Head of Self-Service and Growth.