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CMO Robert Chatwani: Atlassian focused on growth and customers, not just products

Atlassian's marketing emphasis has shifted subtly to customer engagement and growth, and enterprise clients are in its sights.

It’s an issue weighing heavily on the management team of every fast-growing B2B technology company: how do we satisfy a range of customer needs while prioritising product development?

Many tech businesses are obsessed with growth - getting their products into many hands as quickly as possible. Rather than building targeted customer relationships, they offer ungated content. Instead of trying to stand out from their competitors and attract more attention from the C-suite of enterprise-level clients, they sell product features - not their value proposition.

Atlassian, one of the most successful software companies in the world, knows this issue well. A long-time tech darling of developers and project managers, Atlassian says nine in 10 new customers still come directly through its self-service channels - something unlikely to change soon.

This makes it an ideal "low-touch" technology partner for small- or medium-sized operations and teams within larger organisations. But where does this leave Atlassian's complex enterprise customers who demand higher levels of expertise and more personalised service?

“I believe Atlassian is amongst the world's most sophisticated and advanced B2B software companies when it comes to being able to associate our investments to growth.”

Because it provides high-volume, cloud-based software solutions, Atlassian behaves more like an e-commerce business than a global B2B tech giant, says CMO Robert Chatwani. He admits appealing to traditional customers while seeking and servicing a burgeoning enterprise market is one of the company’s most pressing challenges.

“We’ll continue to invest heavily in the technology, the data science and the marketing capabilities to ensure we make it as easy as possible for customers to get directly into our products,” he says. “On the other hand, a growing number of large enterprise companies are running their mission-critical workflows on Atlassian products. As they expand their relationship with us, those companies – their CIOs, CEOs and senior leaders –  will want to engage with us in person.”

So Atlassian is developing programs and software to help bring enterprise clients into the fold. One is what Atlassian calls an enterprise advocate program. “It's quite a small but very high-value program where we assign enterprise advocates to work with some of the largest companies to make sure we can meet their needs,” he says. “We also have a technical account management program, where we assign individuals to companies to ensure we're setting them up for success.”

Atlassian has expanded its product portfolio, on the back of its successful Jira tracking tool, to serve the needs of senior executives in large enterprises. “Within the past year we acquired a product we call Jira Align,” he says. “It’s a system that serves as a dashboard into all of the different teams and operations a company may be running, tying execution and working to a strategy.”

Chatwani says Jira Align was created with the C-suite, especially the CTO, in mind. “Imagine it like a flight deck of information – a view into all of the work that's happening deeper within their companies or organisation. All of the work of the Jira and agile teams across the company can tie directly to financial outcomes and company strategy.”

Atlassian’s changing focus

More than at any time in its history, Atlassian’s marketing activities are aimed at driving new customer growth and making an impact on the bottom line, Chatwani says.

“We’ve invested very heavily in core platforms for marketing technology and analytics,” he says. “What we’re seeing now, more than ever before, is that we can invest in marketing channels, brand channels, our online paid marketing channels and even things like events and tightly correlate those investments to ROI.

“I believe Atlassian is amongst the world's most sophisticated and advanced B2B software companies when it comes to being able to associate our investments to growth.”

Atlassian, which now has more than 150,000 customers, has famously become a A$50 billion company without needing a formal sales structure. This strategy has put pressure on Chatwani’s marketing team to drive new customer growth. “A lion's share of our energy has shifted towards growth acceleration, and identifying and landing new customers around the world,” he says.

But Chatwani says ensuring the success of existing customers remains a corporate priority. “We've invested heavily in events and meeting customers face to face,” he says. “We do dozens and dozens of events every year around the world, where we physically go to where our customers are. That’s an example of human connections we've invested in that’s more pronounced now than ever before.”

Chatwani says Atlassian also has an active feedback loop from customers into its product pipeline through its community websites. "We launched our Atlassian Community site less than two years ago. Today, the traffic on the online community is higher than the traffic at - more than 2 million visitors a month. That’s a treasure trove of feedback.”

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Further reading: Beyond technology: Atlassian makes its move