Alon Wertheimer, VP of Marketing at the personal finance company Truebill, has made it his “mission” to get every single team at his company to use Amplitude. Why? Amplitude “helps us make smarter decisions fast,” he told Amplitude Product Evangelist Adam Greco in a recent interview. Read more of their conversation to learn how Wertheimer’s efforts to champion Amplitude have helped transform Truebill.
Adam Greco: Thanks for joining me, Alon. Firstly, congrats on being named as one of Amplitude’s 2021 Datamonster of the Year. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your company?
Alon Wertheimer: I’ve been in tech for probably about 11 years now. Most of my background is in performance marketing, and about five years ago, I joined a small startup called Aptive. Three and a half years ago, I joined Truebill.
Truebill is all about helping people gain visibility into their financial lives and live their financial best. Especially with the pandemic, so many people are struggling. We help people understand where their money is going and help people take action to save more, whether it’s by canceling subscriptions or negotiating bills and achieving their goals.
Over time, joining, my role has evolved into a product marketing role where I think a lot about conversion funnels.
AG: It reminds me a lot of the new-wave version of the old Quicken software.
AW: Yeah, Rocket Mortgage just acquired us, and their chairman was the founder of Quicken Loans, so we’re in the family.
AG: So in your day-to-day, do you use Amplitude yourself? Do you have a team of people that uses Amplitude? What are the ways your organization thinks about Amplitude and its role in your stack?
AW: With our organization, I have made it my mission to try and get everyone—every single team— use it because it’s so user-friendly, it’s so easy to gain insights. It’s primarily used within the lifecycle team, experimentation team, and of course, by product managers. Those are the three disciplines that are going deep with it.
AG: Were you at Truebill before they had Amplitude? Do you know what it was like before?
AW: Before I got there, we weren’t using it, we were relying on Mixpanel, and we ended up switching from Mixpanel to Amplitude.
AG: What was the driver there?
AW: To give us a lot more flexibility in our analytics. After playing with both we knew which one we wanted to double down on.
AG: So, in terms of usage, do most of the people in your organization use Amplitude themselves? Do they or do they rely on someone like you to help them set up the dashboards for them? How does it work in your organization? We found that it is different at every company.
AW: We try to teach people how to use the platform, which is kind of tough and it takes time, not because of the platform, but because of our taxonomy. We have thousands of events coming in, so we do our best when it comes to naming and categorizing. But of the 160 people in the organization, I’d say, probably at least a third to maybe a half use it in a given month..
AG: Okay, so you mentioned that one of the key reasons for using Amplitude is to have the vitals. But I was wondering whether you could describe the impact of Amplitude on Truebill? What are the ways that it has positively impacted the company?
AW: I think when it comes down to testing and experimentation, the framework Amplitude provides has been key for us. Every company says that they are data-driven; Truebill, in my opinion, truly is. We have so many experiments running at any given time. Amplitude allows us to go deep and understand how those experiments impact retention, how they impact any metric that we could potentially conceive of. That helps us make smarter decisions fast and makes them pretty easy to socialize. We all create dashboards, and we all have templated dashboards, so everyone speaks the same language.
AG: Is there an example you can give of a test or experiment that you ran that either shocked people or people thought it would go one way, but the data suggests it went another way?
AW: One of the services Truebill provides is help for our users to negotiate bills. To do this users choose from a drop-down of, say, one hundred bills, provide some information related to that bill, and then our team would get to work.
So the way we built our experience wasn’t personalized. After people connect their financial accounts, Truebill knows what bills they pay and which of those bills we could negotiate. So we decided to A/B test an experience where the bill selection screen was reframed to surface the bills we knew we could negotiate front and center. To us, this was a no-brainer. We thought we were going to increase the throughput of bills submitted for negotiation but that didn’t happen. We did see more people select a bill to negotiate, the top of funnel action, but the funnel was leakier after that point. We like Amplitude because it helped us easily understand the full funnel.
The results here were super counter-intuitive. Knowing that we lifted the top of funnel metrics but didn’t increase throughput, we think that maybe we made it too easy to select a bill. Because there are so many steps post bill selection, we think that maybe we actually needed more effort and involvement because they’re are harder steps that come next. By having more friction at bill selection, maybe it was easier for people to overcome friction later in that funnel. Maybe strategically added friction can help prime people for hard tasks.
We’ve also done tests where we extended onboarding. Where rather than letting someone go right into our product, we try to convince them to turn on some key features. And it would have been really hard for us to uncover this without Amplitude but we found that by doing so, we were able to lift our weekly engagement rates by over 20%. Normal testing tools wouldn’t have allowed us to have that insight..
AG: We see a lot of companies that have experimentation tools and they can see the short-term success, but it’s hard to see the long-term ramifications.
AW: Yeah, and you know, you can build a dashboard to monitor the experiment, but you don’t know to look at what you don’t know to look at. With Amplitude it’s so easy to be curious. Amplitude helps us uncover what we need to build, what we need to monitor.
AG: You mentioned that a third of the organization uses Amplitude. Which departments would you say use Amplitude, and which department owns the relationship? We’ve seen that at some companies, Amplitude is championed by the product group, and in others, it’s the marketing group. I’m curious what the lay of the land there.
AW: Product experimentation, lifecycle, and the product team are the three teams that are really using Amplitude the most. The data team is also increasingly using Amplitude. And in fact I would love for the data team to own the relationship and become the experts because so many other teams turn to the data team to answer questions.
AG: I wonder if you could walk us through how you have tried to get more people to get closer to the data and use Amplitude themselves and self-service. What have been some of the challenges? What have been some approaches you’ve taken there?
AW: Yeah, Amplitude is really powerful. So, initially, I was trying to go through the approach of showing people individual features of Amplitude. Let’s go deep into segmentation, let’s go deep into funnels, but it’s also pretty dry and boring to talk about something. I found that the best conversations have always been used curiosity chats where I pull someone or a team a question, something I think that they could care about, and in these work sessions, show them we answer that question through the tool, and we keep asking these curiosity questions and answering these curiosity question so we learn by doing. It’s a good way to keep people engaged.
AG: I’ve always found that if people are passionate about a topic, suddenly they’re intrigued enough that they’ll take the time to learn more. So, in terms of Amplitude at the organization, do the higher-ups understand its use? How do you justify the value that it can provide to your executives?
AW: When we switched from Mixpanel to Amplitude, it was mainly me and one of our co-founders, the CEO, using it. And he fell in love with Amplitude. But if I had to sell it to someone, I would say Amplitude allows us to learn faster and that allows us to have a few more experiment wins. It will more than pay for itself.
AG: And if you had a new colleague, how would you explain to them why they should use Amplitude? How do you get them to understand your taxonomy and what that process is to new people?
AW: Yeah, it’s funny you say that because I had someone new join the team, maybe three weeks ago, so I’ve been thinking about how to convey the benefit. You know, I would tell them that Amplitude allows you to be curious and understand the taxonomy.
AG: So, you mentioned a couple of different features, but what are your favorite features?
AW: I think it’s the funnel analysis coupled with audience segmentation. That lets you create really cool cohorts and look at how they interact differently, and that to me is gold.
AG: So one last question for you, and this is just a hypothetical one: if you could snap your fingers and you could add any feature to Amplitude, what would be your dream feature for a future version of Amplitude?
AW: I would make it an even stronger visualization tool, so there’s a greater ability to customize graphs and dashboards, making it even easier to socialize our learnings. That would be huge.