Staff & Training

UpKeep’s Marketing Journey with Marcel Santilli

Ryan Chan

We talked with Marcel Santilli, UpKeep’s SVP of Marketing, to hear how he built upon the foundation of UpKeep’s Marketing efforts, scaled the team, and focused on sustainable growth! We are excited for you to hear his story.

Starting a New Chapter

When I was looking for a new role in 2019, I had a clear list of four priorities and non-negotiables. 

1. I wanted to help take a Marketing department to the next level, without starting from scratch or being bogged down by bureaucracy.


2. Not just that, I wanted to build something meaningful for an industry I was passionate about.


3. I wanted to be inspired by the company’s leadership.


4. And most importantly, the company absolutely, positively, had to be in the Bay Area.

I had previously spent my time traveling five days a week to Los Angeles from my home in the Bay Area. My airline miles were high, but my energy was zapped. I was ready to leave that lifestyle behind. But then, a recruiter reached out to me about an opportunity at UpKeep Maintenance Management,  and I was intrigued to say the least. 

UpKeep didn’t have a complicated Marketing foundation that I’d need to maneuver and detangle. Their content strategy was there already, with measured success, so I didn’t need to build that aspect from the ground up. On the other hand, the organization was young enough that I could come in and build other functions from scratch. This level of Marketing maturity was a sweet spot for what I was looking for. The picture of what I needed to do was becoming clear and I was excited at the prospect of jumping in. #1 check! 

Looking at UpKeep’s industry, I knew there was also so much potential. The blue-collar workspace was one I was familiar with and passionate about. To be involved in bringing innovation to these industries was perfect for #2 on my list. 

Ryan, UpKeep’s CEO, didn’t come off as trying to be anything during our initial conversations. He was who he was – a super genuine and authentic leader who cared about bringing up customers and serving them. From the get-go, I could tell UpKeep’s CEO had great intentions. #3 crossed off! 

But then, there was #4. The company was headquartered in sunny Los Angeles, California. Was I really ready to jump back into the jet-set lifestyle, commuting between the Bay and LA, hoping to make it home in time for dinner with my wife and a walk with our pup, Zoe?

”Luckily, I never had to weigh this conundrum in earnest. Ryan let me know he was open to establishing a SF office and wanted to know if I’d help set it up.”

UpKeep’s Marketing Strategy in the Past

When I joined UpKeep, I was impressed by how much had been accomplished from a Marketing perspective in such a short time!

So much quality content had been produced, so many important activities were started, and it all had helped propel us above our competitors. On top of that, it had all been done by a collection of teammates from other departments who tag-teamed to lend a hand where needed. The spirit of resourcefulness was inspiring. But, on the flip-side, it didn’t allow for a ton of documentation or infrastructure to enable us to scale. The team had done a lot, and did it fast to get from 0 to 10, but the architecture and dedicated staff wasn’t there yet to take us from 10 to 100.

”Therefore, one of my first priorities was to take the foundation of UpKeep’s Marketing efforts, scale the team, then document everything, and focus on sustainable growth.”

Something we changed early on was aligning clearly on who we are targeting in our Marketing activities. Keeping our messaging focused could only help us, and I knew that in order to do our job in innovating maintenance right, we needed to understand who benefited most from our solutions.

Plus, we had previously been slowed down a bit by trying to keep everything – from messaging, offers, and terminology – relevant to everyone and everything. For us to go faster in the long term, we had to go slower and more deliberately from here on out.

Where UpKeep is Now

The size of our customer base, largely due to our freemium model, has allowed Marketing to leverage the voice of thousands of customers. 

This amazing base of customers isn’t afraid to engage in conversation with us, which is a huge gift.

”Their willingness to share has made it really easy for us to pause a beat and listen to them.”

We’ve completed hundreds of interviews and learned from our customers first-hand. Now, we have a lot more clarity on who we’re for, who we’re not, and how to say so with confidence. Plus, this customer base isn’t shy about sharing their opinions online – the volume of quality reviews we have is rare and another gift from them to us.

Our team still has functions we’re building out, but we’ve successfully hired a team of Marketing experts to optimize all our efforts. Having someone dedicated to product marketing was a critical decision, along with bringing on a teammate to own Revenue and Growth Operations. As our department grows in size, each teammate is hyper-focused on building their specific Marketing function with more and more infrastructure so we can grow and scale it in the long run.

Where We’re Going

Marketing spreads the word as much as possible, but once those customers log in, it’s Product who impresses them with how easy to use our solution really is. When the solution is sticky, people invite more teammates. This leads to more feedback, which leads to better messaging for Marketing to utilize. When done right, this amazing relationship benefits our customers and brings more and more into the fold – creating a growth loop.

Additionally, both Marketing and Product are focused on keeping speed to innovation at UpKeep’s core. There are two widely different worlds within maintenance:

Group 1: The ’pen and paper’ maintenance teams – people who are new to digitally sharing information. 

Group 2:  The ‘complex’ maintenance teams – people working with predictive maintenance, highly instrumented and customized machinery, etc. These teams are practicing the gold standard, but it costs a ton. 

The future of our work is getting all businesses to become Group 2 without the cost and resources traditionally required. The future is democratizing technology and innovation for all maintenance teams. Our mission is to enable all businesses to experience the gold standard.

There’s a misconception about the behavior and knowledge of our customers and an argument that many maintenance teams aren’t ready for digital innovations. I’ve heard a lot of false ideas out there that maintenance professionals aren’t tech savvy and this is going to be an obstacle we will need to overcome. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These are people who can read a manual once and know it front to back without ever looking at it again.

Maintenance professionals are extremely technical – it’s UpKeep’s job to get them the tools they need to transform their business, and my job to make sure we’re listening to what else they may need in the future. 

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