Meeting the Wizard of Moz: Culture Breeds Community

5/29/13Follow @bromano

You can pay lip-service to corporate culture, or you can build a culture so deep that employees think about it when disciplining their kids.

SEOmoz, the Seattle Internet marketing software company, is today changing its name to just Moz. While the company is shortening its name, it’s broadening its offerings in a competitive and closely-watched field. The bet is that Moz’s culture, which enabled it to attract a large, loyal group of online marketing professionals and customers, has given it a built-in advantage each time the company introduces a new service or line of business.

More broadly, the Moz culture—which sets the bar for transparency in business and was informed, in part, by the money struggles of co-founders Rand Fishkin and his mom, Gillian Muessig—has become an influential model for other startups in Seattle and beyond. But it is not without its downsides. Moz has doubled in size over the past year, to include about 130 employees, and its leaders acknowledge that it won’t be easy to maintain the culture as it keeps getting bigger.

Moz has been known for its search engine optimization (SEO) software, which helps Internet marketers analyze and increase inbound traffic to Web sites through links, search keywords, site design, and competitive analysis. As the practice of SEO merges with the broader discipline of “inbound marketing,” Moz is introducing Moz Analytics to help companies track social media activity and brand mentions elsewhere on the Web.

Surprisingly, Moz executives don’t see these changes putting them in closer competition with other big names of inbound marketing, such as HubSpot, an IPO candidate; Marketo, which went public earlier this month; and Eloqua, snapped up by Oracle last December for $872 million.

Chief operating officer Sarah Bird says those companies focus further down the “marketing funnel”—helping businesses engage the customers who have already found their Web sites.

“Where we perform best, what we’re doing well—which they don’t focus on—is before [customers] get to your Web site,” Bird says. Moz seeks to help companies find answers to questions like, “What are they doing, where are they coming from, and how are you getting them to your Web site?”

These distinctions are harder to see from outside the industry. Suffice it to say that inbound marketing is an increasingly competitive business with a large potential for growth. Bird says that 90 percent of online marketing spending today is on paid advertising, which only generates 10 percent of Web site traffic.

(Another Northwest company, Act-On Software, in Beaverton, OR, is today announcing new inbound capabilities for its marketing automation software, including SEO and search keyword management.)

You can be sure that close to half a million marketing professionals will hear directly from Moz about their new offering. And it won’t be through a sales call. The Moz community has been built over many years, and it starts with TAGFEE.

TAGFEE Culture

At the heart of Moz culture is an acronym, TAGFEE, that stands for the tenets by which it does business: transparent, authentic, generous, fun, empathetic, and exceptional.

CEO Rand Fishkin, other executives, and employees take it seriously in both their work and personal lives. They use it as an adjective: “We want to make sure that individuals that join the team are TAGFEE,” explains Adam Schmidt, my tour guide on a visit to company headquarters last week. Schmidt, who works on the help team, applied for his job by submitting a video of himself … Next Page »

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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