Though infrastructure monitoring may not be the world’s sexiest industry, Datadog has found a way to rewrite the narrative. Literally. As a leader in the business, Datadog has gained the attention of major media publications such as Forbes and Fortune and continues to have a thriving consumer base.
Datadog’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, K Young is the man responsible for much of the company’s success. Sitting down with TechDay, Young explained the tactics Datadog has taken to foster growth and what early stage founders can do to continue to move forward in becoming a household name.
As Datadog’s offering is something inherently technical, what are your primary strategies in boosting visibility in ways that aren’t stuffy or dull?
As you said, Datadog is an inherently technical product. The people that use Datadog are technical– so we don’t shy away from that fact. We do deep research on the topics that are new and evolving and ensure what we’re talking about is always direct and authoritative and, we hope, interesting to all of our users. We produce content you can’t get anywhere else because we put a lot of effort and energy into researching and writing it.
We also utilize a distinct voice when we’re writing that we describe as being “enthusiastic, humble, open, and precise.” We always try for a tone that’s friendly and we don’t use jargon because we’re inclusive of people at all levels of experience with the topics were writing about. We always speak honestly and we also try to allow the fact that we are humans writing these articles to shine through.
Another thing we do—as our field is still relatively young—is write pieces about the theory of monitoring which comes from our own experiences and observations, and the experience of others in the field. Essentially we’re advancing the state of the art for our whole field and that’s pretty easy to make not come across as “dry” either. The way you may have thought about monitoring and observability can be framed in new ways with more abstract concepts which, we think, is inherently interesting.
Datadog has garnered the attention of a number of prominent media outlets including Forbes and Fortune. Beyond just being a great product, how can you attribute specific marketing tactics to getting featured in these publications?
Being a well respected and well funded New York tech company is a really great start. But those things depend on putting in time and being inclusive and authentic. We’ve spent time forming the unique culture of our company and solving real business problems which are things you can’t shortcut when trying to get attention from big media outlets. Outside of that, however, there are challenges for us because we lack a mainstream consumer appeal. Most people don’t really understand or even care about hardware infrastructure, much less the monitoring of that.
So most importantly is that we have actual relationships with journalists and we know what angles they’re interested in. For example if you’re talking to Forbes, you’re going to tell one story, and if you're talking to Fortune you’re going to tell a different story—something that speaks to the interests to their audience.
We’re aware of what stories people want to hear and find interesting, and we tell the stories we know they’ll actually like and don’t waste their time with those they wouldn’t be interested in.
Datadog boasts an impressive rolodex of customers, what were the initial tactics used to peak the interest of these big names that include Salesforce, Zendesk & Amtrak?
The thing that we did that was most effective for jumpstarting our customer base and getting us real, good, paying customers was our presence at conferences, actually. We were very serious about the booths we’d get and we’d put a lot of attention into the professional finishes of them. We would rehearse our product demo so that we’d show everything that we wanted to convey in a minimum amount of time with a maximum amount of clarity. We would staff the booths with outgoing, friendly people and if there wasn't enough traffic at the booth, we’d be proactive in saying, “Hi, are you interested in monitoring or site reliability? Would you like a demo of Datadog?.” We’d also always got the largest booth that we were fairly confident we could keep crowded.
Any general advice you could offer early stage startup founders looking to boost their visibility?
So everyone wants to grow fast, right? But growing fast is a little bit like getting rich fast. Occasionally, that works, but most of the time real growth takes real work and commitment. So at Datadog we’ve put significant investment into our content marketing department which pays itself back, but not immediately. There’s a lot of work that goes into every single article. It can also be tempting to only publish content that pushes your product, but we’re really conscientious of not doing that Datadog. Whether you’re ever a customer or not, you’re going to find our content interesting and valuable; for us, that’s really important. We treat our potential customers as peers so we’re not going surprise them with an insincere sales tactic. That’s also just how you get people to share articles. People definitely won’t share something that’s essentially an ad. And this sharing often leads to sign ups.
What new innovations can we expect to see from Datadog in the near future?
The topmost viewed post on our blog right now is about this major new thing that’s coming out from Datadog. However, it’s not available to the public yet, it’s only available by request. Up until recently we focused exclusively on infrastructure monitoring and also business analytics, and now what we’re doing is filling in this middle bit which is application performance monitoring. So it’s a major expansion of our business and gives our customers not only 100 percent of their observability for their entire stack, but also excellent combined visibility of their application and how it’s affected by their infrastructure. We’re providing observability at a level most companies have only fantasized about.