How Formstack Adapted Their Marketing To Become One Of The Fastest Growing Companies In America

Chris Lucas, VP of Marketing  Formstack  @chris_c_lucas


With Eva McKnight, Content Specialist at Formstack, speaking next week about “How do I increase my conversion rate?” at Smartups, we wanted to learn a little bit more about Formstack and how they have achieved marketing success as one of the fastest growing tech startups in Indy. So, we interviewed Chris Lucas, their Vice President of Marketing, and asked him about how Formstack has grown their business and the changes they have seen along the way. Formstack is an easy-to-use form building tool and was recently named to the Inc. 5,000 as one of the fastest growing private companies in America.


Can you tell us how Formstack came to be? What was the initial concept? And how has that concept changed?

Chris: Formstack has always been an easy-to-use form builder that allows people to collect and manage data. Our app was built to give non-technical users the ability to build forms and store that data in a secure, streamlined database.

While online forms are still at our core, our focus is really branching out beyond just form building. We want to build a powerful application that marries form data with web data. We want to create a more informed customer with stronger information on the leads who are visiting their website. We want to show what markets are converting (via a form) and how those segments perform against other channels in their marketing mix. Our vision is for the Formstack app to be a solution for the next wave of smart digital marketers.


What was Formstack’s initial target market? Who is the target market now?

Chris: Our target market for many years has been small business owners. While we enjoy working with small businesses, it is hard to target them from a marketing perspective. When anyone from a bakery to a barber shop can use your service, it is hard to focus on one single message. As we continue to evolve our product and our marketing, we’ve seen a huge increase in the digital marketing space. Digital marketers need an easy way to gather information online and have a better understanding of who is converting via their online forms.


When did you know you needed to change your target from small business owners to digital marketers?

Chris: In 2013, we hired a Product Manager. One of the first things he did was conduct both qualitative and quantitative research on our most profitable customer segment. We found that our existing digital marketing users purchase or upgrade to higher form plans, as well as cancel at a lower rate. With the data he presented, we knew we needed to cater our product to this segment. While we hope small businesses will always see value in Formstack and online form products, we are slowly transforming our product into more of a conversion tool for those digital marketers.


How has your marketing strategy and focus changed as your business has grown over time?

Chris: Our strategy has shifted over time. When Formstack marketed to the SMB, we tried to tell a broad story. However, we have gotten more focused on projecting a singular story across digital marketing. One constant in our marketing strategy has been our effort to give our customers the megaphone. We’ve always been a proponent of sharing the ways our customers “win” with Formstack. Leads relate to real-life case studies more than just a list of features and functions.


How did you change the messaging for the product?

Chris: At Formstack, we have found a lot of success by making big changes through a series of smaller tweaks. Very rarely will we decide to overhaul something all at once. Instead, we’ve changed our messaging through multiple A/B tests on our site and ad campaigns. Once we find a message that tests well, we’ll stick with it, but we’ll always be testing other alternatives.


What did you do to make that transition for your team & customers?

Chris: Like with the shift in our messaging, we’ll never decide to just completely change or add a Formstack feature without first conducting several usability tests. Before we launch a feature to all customers, it’s already been beta tested by portions of customers and iterated on based on their experiences. Because we’re being intentional about creating products for a certain target market, we want to make sure those users will actually find a feature necessary and worth their investment.


What marketing efforts worked (i.e. promotional strategies, target markets, media, etc.? What didn’t work in your marketing efforts?

Chris: PR has always been a strong strategy for us. Because we tried to be “lean” in the way we spent money, it meant we had to utilize PR and other word-of-mouth efforts to get our story told. We’ve always had success with inbound methods. I think we are getting much better at content marketing and A/B testing our sales funnel process. We’ve tried to spend money on some non-digital efforts, like NPR and a few other campaigns. Those strategies weren’t as successful for us, but they are great learning experiences. We’ve both succeeded and failed at paid search. We’ve tried to figure out the proper mesh point of ROI in our paid channels, and that hasn’t always been easy.


What keeps you up at night when trying to solve the marketing challenges for Formstack?

Chris: The things that keep me up at night aren’t really around our marketing. We have a great team that knocks it out of the park. What keeps me up at night is trying to figure out how to scale our team. I look at myself like a head coach in football. You have a great team and your job is to put them in positions where they can succeed. That means that making sure your vision and your strategy are right, or at least right enough to test and set up success for your team. I want to make sure that I don’t let my team down by leading them into a vision that we can’t wholly succeed in. That is a constant challenge as we continue to grow and evolve into new markets.


Learn More About Formstack & Their Latest Conversion Rate Study At This Month’s Smartups Event. RSVP Today!


About Chris Lucas: Chris is the Vice President of Marketing at Formstack. He is passionate about setting the vision for Formstack’s marketing department, as well as discovering new ways to drive web traffic and leads. Since starting at Formstack nearly seven years ago, Chris has worked to grow Formstack’s pay-per-click, SEO, public relations and social media efforts. Chris now focuses his time interweaving smart web marketing with overall product growth to build a thriving user base. Follow Chris @chris_c_lucas.