Please join me in welcoming Matt Solar to the nDash team!
Matt Solar joined this fall as the VP of Marketing and will help us execute across marketing, sales, community, and more. Matt comes to us with over fifteen years of experience in marketing and operations with digital brands, including Applause, TripAdvisor, and Monster. He specializes in early-stage startups and building marketing and community programs that scale.
Feel free to ask Matt any questions below (in the comments). To get the Q&A started, we threw a few questions at him…
What excited you about nDash?
Matt Solar: There are a lot of reasons to love what the team has built. The two big “a-ha” moments for me during the early conversations with Mike were a) the product’s ability to enable digital marketers (like myself) to exponentially increase the pace of marketing campaigns without sacrificing quality and b) the ability for community members to contribute value between assignments, in the form of company pitches.
What learnings did you take away from Applause?
Matt: A user’s experience doesn’t start or end with your digital properties. As the Applause value prop matured from QA into a broader user experience, with help from the mobile revolution, we were forced to find ways to not only help companies with their respective users’ experiences but internally as well. I was responsible for the uTest – the tester community-facing site – brand and experience. One of my team’s metrics was Net Promoter Score (NPS) which I reported to the company on a quarterly basis. We saw massive improvements when we focused on the user experience across their entire experience, meaning not just their UI in the platform, but how we engaged with them on the site, how we provided customer support, how often we listened to their feedback, and, potentially most important, how we implemented their feedback.
You worked with TripAdvisor, an amazing startup story in the Boston area. What lesson have you held onto most?
Matt: Speed wins. Steve Kaufer, the CEO, had a scrap piece of computer paper taped to his office door with the words “speed wins” penciled in. I loved the simplicity, but more importantly, it was a motto that was embedded throughout the culture and maintains a company motto. I’ve heard it referred to as the “80/20 Rule”, “perfection is the enemy of progress,” or, most eloquently, “better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” (Late-16th century Confucian scholar saying). All of them have the same point – always be willing to shift your focus on the most impactful items. It’s important for any team to maintain this approach but absolutely critical for startups.
You’ve been a proponent of customer support living under the marketing department. Why?
Matt: Customer service is too often viewed as a cost center – a necessary evil. That’s completely the wrong mentality. When I’ve encouraged teams in the past to view a customer support request as an opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a stark-raving fan of the brand and experience, we’ve seen amazing results. It’s easy to write off customer service since it’s labor-intensive and difficult to scale, but we saw massive gains when we forced ourselves to be patient and empathetic. If users didn’t care about us, they wouldn’t have used their time to file the request in the first place. When we recognized that these people want to help us, and we listened, the feedback we got led to programs that had a widespread, positive impact on all users and, ultimately, helped us set record NPS quarters.
What are the biggest challenges nDash faces?
Matt: First, focus. It will be tempting for us, as it is with any team, to get pulled in a lot of directions. “What if we just added X?” or “can we expand to Y”? Our ability to maintain a ruthless prioritization on content creation – and be the best – will always be a challenge. To offset that risk, we constantly hold each other accountable.
Second, I want to see nDash continue to add features that support brands and writers. But, with one key caveat – we never forget about the user experience (UX). UX, to me, isn’t about jamming as many features into the platform as a challenge to our engineering team; it’s about creating an intuitive and simple UI.
Maintaining those commitments – focus and UX – will always be a challenge for the leadership team, regardless of how big we grow.
What are you passionate about outside of the digital space?
Matt: I love the outdoors – biking (road and mountain), trail running, hiking, skiing. We have two young kids and two dogs, and you can usually find them in tow. Or, increasingly, leading the charge. I really enjoy exploring new areas and am very slowly redlining all the trails in eastern Massachusetts. I think public land is such an amazing asset, and am always encouraging people to donate to local efforts to protect and maintain them (I work with ConcordLand.org).
Aside from nDash, what blogs do you regularly read?
Matt: It’s a mix of work and play, but here’s what I read on the most frequent basis, in no particular order:
- AVC – http://avc.com/
- HBR – https://hbr.org/
- Entrepreneur – https://www.entrepreneur.com
- Dirt Rag – http://dirtragmag.com/
- Outside – https://www.outsideonline.com/rss/all/rss.xml
- DD Mountain Runner – http://ddmountainrunr.blogspot.com/
Finally, Patriots or Red Sox?