Emir Atli – HockeyStack – Attribution 2.0 is a GTM superpower

Quote of the Show

Brand building is not about the colors that you pick. They have some value too but it's more about creating connection through social, connecting as a person and connecting with the brand too.

Key Takeaways

  • Be present on the feed every day once you pick the channels you want to focus on.
  • It’s great to start from zero because you can build what customers want to have.
  • Consistent social and establishing your voice can be a nice way to build your brand.
  • Outbound has become harder today because more people are going for inboxes and Google makes it easier to land in spam.
  • Fewer and fewer companies are into the 9-12 month sales cycle which naturally makes sense.


Episode 106 – Emir Atli

Jared Robin: Hello, everyone. It’s Jared Robin, your host at Revenue Today. I’m excited to introduce our special guest, Emir Atli, co-founder of Hockey Stack. Thanks for joining us, Emir.

Emir Atli: Great to be here, Jared. Always enjoy our conversations. Hockey Stack’s journey has been remarkable, especially given its rapid growth in just six months. We’ve been working in the analytics sector for a while. We’ve made a few pivots until we found our sweet spot. Over the last six months, things have been going incredibly well. We’re expanding, having added six new team members last week. Our focus is on scaling.

Jared Robin: You’ve definitely achieved quite a bit in a short time. Can you believe it’s only been two and a half years since you were in high school in Turkey?

Emir Atli: Yeah, it’s surreal. Back then, I was just a 17-year-old, along with my co-founders who were 16. We’ve been creating various products since then, but it’s been quite a journey.

Jared Robin: So, from those beginnings, you’re now in the B2B SaaS world, which is a crowded space. What do you see companies often getting wrong with their marketing strategies?

Emir Atli: Marketing is crucial, but I think the key is consistency. We focus on being visible every day across platforms like LinkedIn, Google, and YouTube. We post twice daily, and it’s become a filter for new hires. Our early team members need to have a personal brand and maintain an active online presence.

Jared Robin: That’s an interesting approach. And you’re not just posting content for the sake of it, right?

Emir Atli: Absolutely. We’re deliberate in our content creation. We strike a balance between product-related and personal posts. Feature launches generate excitement, and our personal stories help us connect with our audience. People care about the journey behind the brand.

Jared Robin: I’ve noticed you’re doing an excellent job with thought leadership. Like the recent LinkedIn graphic depicting a marketer embracing Hockey Stack. What inspired that?

Emir Atli: That was about one of our ad creatives. We share demo stories where marketers express their relief at finally finding a tool that validates their work. The graphic symbolized that relief and connection. It’s about showing that we understand their struggles and provide solutions.

Jared Robin: You’ve really tapped into your audience’s pain points. How do they manage without your solution?

Emir Atli: Previously, they relied on fragmented tools like HubSpot, Salesforce, and Google Analytics. Getting data to align was manual work or required a data team’s involvement. We’re streamlining that process, bringing everything together seamlessly.

Jared Robin: It’s clear you’ve identified the challenges and are addressing them effectively. Your journey is inspiring.

Emir Atli: Thank you, Jared. It’s all about understanding your audience and consistently delivering value.

Jared Robin: Absolutely, Emir. Thank you for sharing your insights with us. These are a couple of ways they’re not doing anything; they just don’t know.

What are some advantages of being so young and building this attribution challenge? This is arguably one of the biggest hurdles in marketing, sales, and revenue.

Emir Atli: I think the first advantage is that we don’t give up easily. We have nothing to lose compared to competitors who might have family commitments. Being in the US also gives us an edge with talent access and networking opportunities. I moved from the East Coast to San Francisco in a day and even came here from Turkey when I was just 10. So, I’m fully committed to this every day. I wake up and sleep with it. That’s hard to compete with. We’re not distracted. Second, we’re obsessed with customer feedback, no ego. We have a vision but embrace feedback and learning. Experience might make someone ignore customer input due to ego, but we’re dedicated to improvement.

Jared Robin: You’re taking the attribution challenge head-on, even before finishing a semester in college. What’s advantageous about your youth in building such a crucial tool?

Emir Atli: Well, the advantage lies in our fearlessness. We’re driven, as I said, by our commitment. Older folks might have more personal responsibilities like family, but we’re free from those distractions. Moreover, we’re attuned to the customer needs. With no ego, we’re objective in crafting solutions. This obsession comes naturally to us young folks. For instance, I sometimes ignore feedback due to my ego, which experience sometimes brings.

Jared Robin: You’re in the process of growing the team and maintaining your culture. How do you do that, especially as experienced team members join?

Emir Atli: It’s quite a journey. We’re strong at starting from scratch, but now we’re moving from one to six hundred. We need experience in scaling. We’ve hired ten people, mostly from inbound leads. To maintain our culture, we ensure new members share our vision and can learn. We ask specific questions to see how they tackle scenarios they might not know. References help, too. We want them aligned with our vision, open to learning, and experienced.

Jared Robin: Your brand seems to be thriving. You’ve connected well through social media, building a connection. How has this impacted your business?

Emir Atli: Indeed, brand-building is about connecting personally. It’s more than just colors; it’s about building connections with people and your brand. This personal touch has helped us forge connections with potential customers and team members. People gravitate towards a buzz-worthy brand with a solid reputation.

Jared Robin: Has building a strong brand enhanced your return on ad spend and inbound traffic?

Emir Atli: Absolutely. Building a strong brand has been instrumental. Even when deals don’t close, a significant portion of prospects express interest in working with us or seeking my advice due to our strong brand. It opens doors, creates connections, and generates opportunities.

Jared Robin: Your product development seems to be moving at a rapid pace. How do you maintain that?

Emir Atli: We have a nimble engineering team, with two developers and technical co-founders. We release product additions weekly and fix bugs regularly. We’ve built much of the product ourselves, like the live demo, which aids in customization and conveying our capabilities.

Jared Robin: You initially adopted a product-led growth (PLG) approach, but now you’re more sales-led. Why the shift?

Emir Atli: Our product involves integrating complex systems, and we provide a lot of assistance in the first two weeks to ensure customers derive maximum value. Going PLG initially proved challenging as users skipped this assistance. Our onboarding ensures immediate value, making sales-led a better fit for now. But we’re launching a free product to explore PLG again soon.

Jared Robin: Well, yeah, and I guess you have Google Analytics that you can use for free. So why can’t you do the same with Hockey Stack?

Emir Atli: Absolutely, the thing is Google Analytics doesn’t gather data from CRMs and ad platforms. With us, one customer uses lead opportunity and another uses Cosco. I heard that last week one customer was even using set opportunity. It’s not feasible to automate this part. This requires a human to go into the dashboards and adjust the life cycle stages.

Jared Robin: Could you provide them with a tutorial to help them map the necessary fields correctly?

Emir Atli: We do offer documentation for that, but currently, we’re in a “grow or die” mode until September. So, for now, we’re onboarding them by customizing the dashboards ourselves to ensure a seamless experience. This speeds up the process and guarantees that they see value quickly.

Jared Robin: Are you planning to hire more customer success personnel?

Emir Atli: Yes, we have a customer success manager joining us soon. This person was actually my implementation manager for a tool we used. Based on my positive experience, I believe they can offer our customers a similar experience. This is crucial for the success of our customers.

Jared Robin: Your progress is impressive. What’s your strategy for the next phase of growth?

Emir Atli: Our immediate focus is on tracking more data than anyone else. We plan to introduce additional tracking functionality, including touchpoints from company pages and profiles. We aim to enable users to automatically optimize their processes using this data. We also plan to build applications that automate revenue processes, moving towards a more automated approach.

Jared Robin: Moving from 0 to 1 is massive. What’s the plan for the next steps?

Emir Atli: Our goal is to reach $12 million ARR by the end of August or early September. We’ll focus on tracking even more data and using that data to optimize revenue processes. We’ll also leverage intent signals to refine our outbound strategy. Additionally, we’re investing in content creation by hiring a content writer and potentially a video motion graphics expert. Our aim is to further strengthen our brand and thought leadership.

Jared Robin: It’s great to see you embracing multiple channels for brand building.

Emir Atli: Absolutely, brand building is more about creating connections and fostering a personal connection with the brand. We’re also planning to launch a media company called “Flow” which will cover various categories related to B2B growth, sales, and marketing. This will further establish us as experts in our domain.

Jared Robin: Outbound can be challenging, what have you observed in the market?

Emir Atli: Outbound is getting harder due to various factors like increased competition for attention, lower email open rates, and decreased phone call response rates. To succeed, companies need to align marketing efforts with outbound strategies and ensure personalization. It’s also important to focus on the perfect ICP and prioritize companies showing high intent.

Jared Robin: You’re making some strategic hires, what’s your approach?

Emir Atli: We’re hiring more customer success managers and also exploring hiring a full-time designer and a video motion graphics specialist. In addition to internal content creation, we’re considering contracting external content creators. We’ll also involve our team members in thought leadership efforts, positioning them as experts in their respective domains.

Jared Robin: Lastly, how are you addressing the challenges in the dark funnel?

Emir Atli: We’re continuously enhancing our tracking capabilities to capture more data and provide actionable insights. We’re looking into LinkedIn and other APIs to gather data that can enlighten the dark funnel. We’re also in discussions with LinkedIn to explore partnership opportunities. Our goal is to shed more light on the entire customer journey.

Jared Robin: It’s clear you’re working towards a comprehensive and data-driven solution. Thank you for sharing your insights!

Emir Atli: Thank you, I appreciate the conversation and insights. It’s an exciting journey ahead.

Jared Robin: Exactly, and as we discussed on my podcast episode, innovation often requires breaking the mold. It’s like how Slack and Square faced initial challenges but ended up becoming essential tools. You mentioned those examples, and they’re quite relatable. You sometimes need to challenge the status quo and ask why things can’t be done differently. By the way, have you read the book “The Innovation Stack”? I got it last week based on your recommendation.

Emir Atli: That’s great! Reading it will provide insights and anecdotes that could keep us motivated in our journey.

Jared Robin: Speaking of journeys, let’s talk about KPIs. What are the key performance indicators that you’re currently focusing on?

Emir Atli: Right now, the most critical KPIs are pipeline value and the level of interest companies show after our demo. These metrics are crucial for gauging our brand’s success. On the branding side, we’re tracking metrics such as company page followers and subscribers to “Flow.” In general, our focus is on the speed of progress across marketing, sales, and product development.

Jared Robin: And speaking of a guiding star, what’s your North Star metric?

Emir Atli: Our ultimate North Star is customer satisfaction. Ensuring our customers are happy and finding value in our product is the core of our mission.

Jared Robin: I couldn’t agree more. Focusing on a metric that directly benefits your customers often leads to overall success. What aspect of the future excites you the most?

Emir Atli: Growth is the most exciting part of the journey. We’re still at the beginning stages, around 1% of where we want to be. The prospect of exponential growth is both thrilling and humbling. The unknown changes that lie ahead are exhilarating, and I can’t even imagine where we’ll be in a year from now.

Jared Robin: That’s the beauty of the journey. Now, what’s keeping you up at night? What’s the most challenging aspect you’re dealing with?

Emir Atli: Scaling too rapidly is a concern for me. While having a team of over 100 members might seem like a dream, we need to be cautious. Hiring the right people who fit our vision is crucial. The initial team members play a pivotal role in shaping the company’s direction. Another challenge is dealing with imitators and copycats, which is more disheartening than scary.

Jared Robin: It’s a natural part of success, unfortunately. Emir, it’s been fantastic talking to you today. Your insights and experiences are invaluable. I’m sure we’ll catch up again soon, considering how rapidly both you and Hockey Stack

Emir Atli: …are evolving.

Jared Robin: Absolutely, I’d love to continue these conversations. It’s not only about Hockey Stack’s growth but also about personal growth. We’re documenting our journey, creating a video diary to capture our milestones, learning curves, failures, and successes. It’s not only beneficial for us but also for aspiring founders who can learn from our experiences.

Jared Robin: That’s a fantastic initiative. Sharing your journey transparently is a valuable resource for others. Before we wrap up, how can people get in touch with you and learn more about Hockey Stack?

Emir Atli: The best way to reach out to me is through LinkedIn. Look up Hockey Stack or my name, Emir.

Jared Robin: Thank you, Emir, for being a guest on Revenue Today. It’s been an enlightening conversation.

Emir Atli: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.

Jared Robin: And to the audience, if you found this valuable, don’t hesitate to share it. We’ll be back with more insightful episodes of Revenue Today.

Jared Robin: Thank you again, Emir, for your time and insights.

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