Unbounce’s 2016 Year in Review
As we countdown toward the end of the year, we’ve been looking back at the past 12 months and I have to say, we accomplished a lot at Unbounce this year. We had the privilege of learning a slew of new lessons while seeing our work pay off for us and for our customers.
We launched a new product, applied our focus on machine learning in new ways, laid groundwork for international growth, improved our ability to support our mid-size customers, doubled down on our investment in Product and Engineering and continued to invest in our people.
This post summarizes much of the work, many of the wins, many of our lessons learned and many of the opportunities we see across our entire organization.
We were honoured to receive some accolades this year, most notably ranked #14 on Deloitte’s Fast50 list of fastest growing tech companies in Canada (and ranked #120 in North America). Our marketing team was nominated for an award in excellence in content marketing by the Marketing Association of BC, and we returned from the Customer Success Summit with Totango’s Customer Success Hero Award.
Some more key highlights:
- Ended 2016 with over 14,000 paying customers,
- Grew Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) to over $1,300,000 USD, over 15.6 million USD in annual recurring revenue (ARR),
- Average Monthly Revenue Per User (ARPU) reached nearly $93,
- Average Cost of Acquiring a Customer (CAC) in 2016 was about $321,
- Total revenue of $19,000,000 CDN, up from $12,400,000 in 2015,
- Average Gross Margin 88%, down from last year, but mainly due to us getting better at attributing what constituted cost of sales,
- 174 employees from 118 — a 47% boost in Unbouncers,
- Unbounce has facilitated a total of 242,892,340 conversions to date and by the end of 2016, we’ll surpass 250,000,000 conversions! Of those, we facilitated over 100,000,000 conversions in 2016 alone.
Creating the Best Conversion Tools on Earth
All those conversions are driven by our mission to educate, connect and empower marketing teams and agencies to grow their businesses with the best conversion tools on earth
Until recently, we’d focused most of our efforts on a single conversion tool: the Unbounce landing page builder. In 2016 we continued to make significant improvements to the builder and to the rest of the Unbounce platform, and we launched the next conversion tool in our suite: Unbounce Convertables.
“Unbounce Convertables represents our commitment to building the best conversion tools on earth.”
Convertables is a new tool for building targeted overlays for your website. The launch was kicked off with a successful teaser campaign (check out the video below), then accompanied by several blog posts and a feature guide. Over 1200 marketers attended our webinar to learn more about Convertables, we released a best practices guide for creating high-converting overlays, and published this ebook on 12 ways to convert with overlays — all leading to strong adoption numbers out of the gate. Our earliest adopters included customers like Campaign Monitor, Foxtail Marketing, HotJar, ShopifyPlus and Buffer.
- Redesigned the Unbounce builder interface,
- Introduced lightboxes to support needs like 2 step opt-in forms,
- Launched video backgrounds,
- Rolled out Version Control so you can restore a page to any previous save point,
- Released in-line text editing into labs,
- Gave you new ways to sort and filter your pages,
- Added support for multiple webhooks to enable more combinations of custom integrations for lead gen pages,
- Rebuilt our integrations platform behind the scenes to enable future integrations,
- Improved the experience when you view your leads,
- And just released some improvements to our Aweber integration to support tags (phew!).
Engineering the Future of Marketing
To support all these product changes, we made many organizational changes within our Product and Engineering teams. A lot of what worked for us through 2014 and 2015 had to change as the things that happened organically with 10 people — like communication — have needed to become much more intentional as we grow."Having dedicated, engaged teams isn't a nice-to-have, it's a must." Click To Tweet
We grew our number of engineering teams from four to five, we further refined our autonomous, cross-functional squads by shifting our UI developers from Product onto our Engineering teams, we added a Head of Security, an Agile Coach and four Engineering Managers, we prioritized research and development, made a significant effort to fully fund our data initiatives, and welcomed a new Director of Data.
We continued to find that hiring great people is challenging — and hiring our Head of Recruiting made a massive difference. We continued to see that having dedicated, engaged teams isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must. And we learned that working agreements among teams helps to avoid silo-ing and ensures that teams work better together.
Engineering is much more than a collection of metrics and numbers, but they’re a fun way to look back at growth and accomplishments through the year.
|This Year||Last Year||% Increase||All time||% of Total|
|Landing pages created||2.1 million||1.7 million||23.5%||5.446 million||38.8%|
|Conversions||102 Million||78.4 million||26.6%||243 million||40%|
|Visits||1.5 Billion||1 Billion||50%||3.5 billion||43%|
|Form submissions through UB||63.5 million||61.3 million||3.5%||168 million||37.7%|
|Published pages uptime||99.987%||99.995%||-0.008%||N/A||N/A|
All those landing pages, Convertables and conversions amount to a lot of data and when we first started Unbounce back in 2009, we were excited about the prospect of being able to harness that data in new and interesting ways.
“2016 marked the launch of our effort to apply machine learning to improving conversion results.”
We’ve now built machine learning models that can predict conversion rates with an encouraging degree of accuracy, and our efforts to create models that provide actionable advice are making great headway. There’s still a lot of work to do in terms of commercialization, but we’re starting to see many exciting potential opportunities to turn our data into usable products.
When funding our data efforts this year, we didn’t stop at machine learning. Our Data Team had previously been underfunded (and often overworked), so we grew our Data Team from 6 to 14 members, brought in a new Director of Data, and made Data its own department. This allowed us to have a dedicated Data Analyst embedded in every business unit and enough Data Engineers to form a Data Ops squad who help iterate on core aspects of our data platform and tooling. Our Data Ops squad formed as Unbounce’s first fully remote and distributed team.
The Data Team added 88 data sets to our data warehouse that we used to create over 100 data products, ranging from metrics to data stories. Sharing data stories company wide has helped us improve data literacy and empower everyone at Unbounce to make data-informed business decisions.
Expanding our Footprint Internationally
To support our customers abroad and to reach even more new customers in even more new languages, we grew our International Team and launched Unbounce.com in German, Portuguese and Spanish. Heading up our international marketing and support efforts we have Ben in German (hallo!), Andrea and Milly in Portuguese (como tá indo?) and Pablo and Victor in Spanish (¿que pasa?).
“We grew our International Team and launched Unbounce.com in German, Portuguese and Spanish.”
Our Support Team rolled out evening support so they now have the ability to help customers across the world — in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese — 19 hours a day, with 24/5 support planned for 2017.
Our co-founder Oli Gardner spoke at 21 events and conferences across the world and out of 16 conferences who reported speaker scores, he was rated the highest speaker at 12 conferences (way to go Oli!). At RD Summit in Brazil, Oli keynoted in front of 5,000+ Brazilian marketers making it a career highlight in 2016.
Oli also keynoted Unbounce’s 3rd annual Call To Action Conference at our home in Vancouver, BC, where we welcomed over 1000 marketers for three days of talks, workshops, roundtables, social events and heck, even some zip lining in Whistler. Next year’s Call to Action Conference will take place June 25 – 27th 2017 in Vancouver, B.C. and our super early bird rates are available until January 13th, 2017.
Helping our Customers Be Successful
Along with our International growth, we continued to support all of our customers and enhanced our ability to market to, support and build for our mid-size customers. This effort included the inception of our Sales Team (otherwise known as the Whale Sharks*). Who took on the goal of providing a delightful sales experience for businesses in the mid-market who have a more involved buying process which in turn, helps drive revenue growth for Unbounce.
*NB: Whale sharks are considered the gentlest species of shark and, unlike other sharks, do not tear apart their prey.
Starting a Sales Team in an established company posed some unique and fun challenges to work through which included:
- Realizing that 30% of support touches were sales driven — so we added a Sales Specialist to help prospective new customers,
- Working with Customer Success and Marketing to implement sales engagement processes that fit well with our full customer journey,
- Reporting a 94% New Customer Retention Rate between Q1 & Q2 on sales assisted plans,
- The Sales Team starting from 0% then growing to 10% of new company Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR).
All this growth means many new customers to engage and support and yet, our customers were still so thrilled with the customer support they received that our support Net Promoter Score climbed to a whopping 86.
“In 2016, our support Net Promoter Score climbed to a whopping 86”
Our Customer Success team pushed hard this year to build a more customer-focused culture across our entire organization which included:
- Building out a voice of customer program,
- Upgrading our customer community to drive more discussion,
- Adding six new brilliant customers to our Unbounce Experts program,
- Sharing customer stories at Town Hall to connect more Unbouncers with our customers,
- Working with our Data Team to implement a new customer insights platform,
- Championing a suite of business level customer-focused KPIs,
- And reorganizing our teams to focus on delivering measurable value to customers through a new measure of customer health, Net Monthly Recurring Revenue Retention Rate (Net MRR Retention Rate, or you know, MRRRR).
For Customer Success, implementing our customer insights platform was a big challenge and through it, our whole company learned many lessons. Perhaps most importantly, we experienced that saying a new project is a priority isn’t the same as fully funding that priority. But by the end of the year after adding more support to our teams, we gained a ton of momentum and are in great shape for 2017.
Building a People First Culture
In a growing business, every year is the biggest yet and so unsurprisingly, 2016 was our biggest year for hiring.
70 new Unbouncers joined us while we had 14 people move on to new adventures. With a net new employee count of 56 that amounts to 174 employees, we ended 2016 with 47% more Unbouncers than 2015.
…Oh and, by the way, we’re still hiring!
Just like 2014 and 2015, we ended 2016 with a continued breakdown of 41% female and 59% male employees. Last year, we said that’d we’d “pick up our socks” with respect to gender diversity so while this year is no worse than before, it’s still not good enough for us.
Nonetheless, we’ve made strides and investments which we hope will positively impact our gender balance.
We expanded our Senior Leadership Team and grew from 0% female senior leaders to 25%. We also supported growth of female leadership across the company with the hiring of a Director of Marketing, Director of Data, and Head of Recruitment who happen to be female. We began sponsoring the Vancouver chapter of Ladies Learning Code whose mission is to be the leading resource for women and youth to become passionate builders of technology. We launched the Unbounce Marketplace where all profits are donated to Girls Learning Code. And we’ve partnered with the Minerva Foundation and have signed their CEO Pledge to Support Progress Toward Diversity. The pledges ensures that resources will be dedicated to seven principles of gender diversity within Unbounce and as members of the local community."We're driven to create a work environment where we feel passionate, committed and engaged." Click To Tweet
We’re driven to create a work environment where we feel passionate, committed and engaged. To help us to continually improve on this, we implemented a semi-annual engagement survey which validated some of what we suspected, and highlighted some new blindspots. In our highest scoring result, we learned that that 96% of Unbouncers have great relationships with their coworkers while only 37% of Unbouncers know what the next step is in their careers.
We suspect that this low score was the result of rapid headcount growth, internal communication challenges as we scale, and historically informal processes. We’ve now prioritized more robust performance reviews, annual goal setting, and job family progression, where before we could get away with being more ad-hoc.
Underpinning everything we do at Unbounce are our six core values: courage, empowerment, delight, generosity, transparency and humility. This year we implemented a core values recognition program and even made our own core value Slack emoji to further engrain our values in our everyday culture.
As we’ve grown the number of Unbouncers in Vancouver and Montreal, as we have more individuals working remotely and as we look at growing internationally, we’ve learned some hard lessons around collaboration and communication. Cross-office communication continues to be a struggle as video conferencing is often glitchy and there’s no replacement for the value in overhearing what your coworkers are saying next to you.
Propelling into 2017
We often like to say that the reward for finishing Super Mario level 3 is Super Mario level 4. Each year, as we overcome many of our challenges, we earn the privilege to try our best against a whole new set of even more difficult challenges all over again."The reward for finishing Super Mario level 3 is Super Mario level 4." Click To Tweet
In 2017, we’ll continue to stretch ourselves and grow a healthy business as we’ve always done. We’ll grow our markets across the world and will continue to build incredible relationships with our customers everywhere while making good on our mission to help them grow their businesses with the best conversion tools on earth. To do that, we’ll continue to prioritize our people and while we won’t always get it right on the first try, we’ll continue to make our culture more open, diverse and inclusive.
In our engagement survey, 95% of Unbouncers recommend Unbounce as a great place to work and we’re going to keep pushing to make Unbounce the best place we’ve ever worked.
“We’re going to keep pushing to make Unbounce the best place we’ve ever worked.”