How to Build an MVP for SaaS

Posted on March 31, 2020March 30, 2020Categories ArticleTags , , , , , , , , , ,   Leave a comment on How to Build an MVP for SaaS

If you’re a SaaS company, you know the demo is a critical part of the sales process. But not all demos are effective. In fact, many are downright boring and end up losing the customer’s interest. This article intents to answer the question once and for all, how to run a demo for your SaaS company that actually gets more customers to sign up.

Right now, we’re living in exciting times for both startups and entrepreneurs. Technology has made it easier than ever to start a business and build a product from the ground up. And in that frenzy of discussions, people continue to say: you need to know how to build an MVP for your SaaS product.

However, this lower bar of entry can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can get a team together and start working on a product immediately. On the other, it’s too easy to get bogged down in the details and set yourself up for failure.

So, if you want to avoid the usual problems of creating a successful startup, you can look at the methods used by membership sites. We talk with Ward Sandler, founder and creator of Memberspace, about how he turned an idea into a success. Here is what we discovered.

Let Your Customers Drive Your Ideation Process

All startups dream about becoming the “next big thing.” A lot of talk has been thrown around in recent years surrounding brands like Uber and Airbnb, with “growth hacking” becoming the go-to term for businesses that blow up in popularity.

Knowing how to build an MVP for your SaaS product needs to involve customer feedback as well as great design
Knowing how to build an MVP for your SaaS product needs to involve customer feedback as well as great design.

However, for every Uber, there are a thousand similar apps that failed to get off the ground. But why is that? Well, in most cases, it’s because the ones developing the app or product aren’t necessarily the ones who need it the most. And that tends to be a big “gotcha” when you think about how to build an MVP for your SaaS product.

Yes, you have a bunch of great ideas, but how are you validating them? What features and functionality are your users craving? What elements do they want that they can’t get anywhere else?

For Ward Sandler, it was a consistent request for adding a membership package to a website. As a site designer and consultant, Ward heard from his client about what features they needed. At the time, no one was offering a simple membership package solution, so he created his own.

Don’t know what an MVP is? Find out here.

This feedback loop drives how to build an MVP. You should also continue throughout your development, even after launch. Whenever you want to add a new feature or benefit, be sure to talk to your users about any specific pain points and how you can address them. A bonus feature that doesn’t add value is ultimately worthless.

Emphasize the Minimum When You Build an MVP for SaaS

Part of what makes research and development take so long is that startups believe that they have to have a full suite of features on launch. While that can be nice, it’s not necessary. Instead, focus on the core function of your product and let that be your foundation.

For example, with Memberspace, the site started with a simple solution – creating a program that forced visitors to sign up for a free account. No paywall, no tiered membership options, no analytics, just the one element. That simplicity is how Ward decided to move forward. He knew how to build an MVP for his SaaS product because he focused on the basics.

Once Ward and his team perfected that component, it was easier to add new features. With each addition, they went through a similar process. Now, they have dozens of functions to make the site more attractive to new customers.

You should take a similar approach. Distill your product or idea to its core component – what is the primary selling point? Build that until it works, then run beta testing to perfect it. Not only will this help you launch faster, but it will remove any potential setbacks along the way.

Cater to the Lowest Common Denominator

Another reason why startups can struggle is that they are building an app or product for tech-savvy individuals. While you do need to appeal to the early adopter crowd, you should have another demographic in mind – boomers.

Really, the idea is to make your product as simple and easy to understand as possible. Since the older generation can have trouble with new tech, they are an excellent resource for beta testing. If a boomer can understand what you’re offering and use the app correctly, then it will be foolproof. Even if you don’t think that older people or non-tech users will want your product, implementing this strategy will still help in the long run.

Bottom Line: Knowing Which Questions Need Answers Tells You How to Build an MVP

Overall, to be a successful startup, you need to know how to ask questions from your user base. Your ideas are valuable, but since you’re not the one buying the product, you need to solicit feedback from a broader selection of people. Your users will help you figure out how to build an MVP for your SaaS product. Then let your customers determine which elements should stay and which should be dropped. That process will lead to greater success.

Retain SaaS Customers in a Downturn: 3 Things To Do Today

Posted on March 30, 2020March 30, 2020Categories ArticleTags , , , , , , , , , , , , 3 Comments on Retain SaaS Customers in a Downturn: 3 Things To Do Today

In a downturn, customers may want to leave. You need a strategy to retain SaaS customers in spite of everything going on. Here are 3 things you can start doing today to retain your profitable and valued customers.

With the recent events happening around the world right now (Covid-19 at the time of publication), markets falling, the general economy taking a downturn, many business owners are wondering what is going to happen to them. More importantly, what will happen to their customers. Now it’s critical to understand how to retain SaaS customers when there’s a downturn.

As a B2B SaaS provider, you need to have a finger on the pulse of what other businesses are doing. While some companies are being forced to close temporarily, others are telling their employees to work from home, and yet others are going out of business entirely. Will something drastic happen to them?

Knowing how to retain SaaS customers requires preparation. Start now.
Knowing how to retain SaaS customers requires preparation. Start now.

The answer is that if you are a business owner, your company will most likely feel some kind of effect—especially if you run a SaaS company. So, if you run a B2B SaaS company you can expect to have some kind of disruption to your revenue flow.

So what do you do? Do you start cutting costs and laying people off? Well let me tell you. The smartest thing you can do is to focus on the most efficient use of your dollars to preserve as much of your revenue as possible.

You need to start worrying about revenue preservation, which means retention! Customer retention to be precise! You should have a very robust program focused purely on customer retention either in use, or in the creation process right now.

You should be doing all the “regular” things you would do to retain SaaS customers. For example, you should reach out via e-mail and let them know how you are handling the downturn and what they can expect from your company during that time.

This simple communication however is not enough!

Your customers are also business owners who are trying to intelligently plan what to do with their spending. You need to put yourself in their position and think about why they should keep paying you during this downturn.

Why should they pay for your particular subscription? Take yourself out of their position now. So, how do you get them to realize they need your services?

Let me share with you 3 action items that need to be a part of your planning for SaaS customer retention.

Know Your Customers’ Success Goals

You should already have a basic understanding of the return on investment that your customer gets for using your software. If you want to retain SaaS customers, now is the time to get really clear on it.

Understanding the definition of success will help you retain SaaS customers even when things have changed.
Understanding the definition of success will help you retain SaaS customers even when things have changed.

What is it that your customer is trying to do with the software? Realize that their entire world might be changing with this downturn, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if how they are using your software changes. You need to touch base with them and see what things have changed.

For some companies this may not be feasible, however, if you want to retain your SaaS customers during a downturn, you may want to reach out to key customers and get an update on what their expectations are for using your software going forward. Find out what would constitute a positive return on their software investment over the next 12 to 18 months then make adjustments as necessary.

You need to start talking about these success goals around your employees and in the office. For example, are your customers moving from growth to expense savings. Will that change how they use your software? Maybe they’re reducing staff and need to consolidate roles. How will that affect user management in your software?

Learn more about user management in SaaS

Start Monitoring Your SaaS Customers’ Usage Metrics

Under the same framework of the principle we just covered, your customers’ usage metrics may have changed. The key here is to identify early on if the success metrics have changed, and if so, you need to know what they are tracking now and what you should be tracking as a result. Once you have a system in place to track these metrics, you then need to create control charting mechanisms.

Control charting mechanisms are statistical tests that you can use on a data set to identify changes. This is especially useful if you do not have someone monitoring your customers’ usage metrics. With the appropriate measurement in place you can detect when a customer is doing something really different as opposed to what is part of their normal activity.

An example of a control chart is a 3-sigma alert. Let’s say your customer logs in 2 or 3 times a day. If they suddenly log in 6 times in one day, that may set off an alert about unusual activity. We use control charting for security and fraud alerts, but it can also alert us to unusual activity of your customer that could indicate a problem.

There are many more control charting applications. Having a proactive alert set up when one of these statistical milestones is hit can be a very useful tool when you’re learning how to retain SaaS customers.

Prepare an Offer to Retain SaaS Customers

A sophisticated software company will know some customers will want to cancel their subscriptions and licenses. Will you be ready? Or will your frontline sales staff say they need to “talk to the manager?”

To be prepared to retain your SaaS customers, you need to first define who your most profitable customers are. You don’t want to keep customers who aren’t profitable and in a downturn, it’s even more important.

Should you make a special offer to retain SaaS customers?
Should you make a special offer to retain certain customers?

Once you know who to “save” and who to let attrite, identify what kind of an offer should you extend to them. This is going to be different for every company. Some companies value profit more than volume or vice versa. Once you define this, then you can determine how much you can “pay” to keep a customer.

This payment will come in the form of a special retention offer. This offer can come about one of two ways: reactively or proactively.

The reactive approach to retain SaaS customers occurs when the customer comes to you to terminate their subscription and you provide this special offer to keep them longer.

The proactive approach to retain SaaS customers occurs when you can predict attrition in advance. This prediction comes from knowing what kind of changes in usage metrics are indicative of a customer wanting to leave. Once you’ve determined attrition is likely, you extend a special offer to those individuals before they cancel or terminate their subscription.

The proactive approach can be tricky and can make business owners nervous, however, if done correctly it can be very powerful.

To find out which usage metrics are predictive in order to retain SaaS customers, you would need to perform a quantitative analysis that will give you a high-probability of confidence on which customers are going to leave. This approach often provides the most success during an economic downturn.

Here’s why: during a downfall the customer is looking for ways to save money. Suppose they want to cancel 5 of their subscriptions and yours is on their list. Once someone makes up their mind in a downturn they seldom will change it, even if a reactive offer is made.

On the other hand, if a proactive offer is made giving them an incentive to keep your subscription, then chances are your software is not even going to make it on that list to begin with.

You don’t want to use the proactive approach unless you are confident in your ability to predict attrition. This requires some quantitative work. If you do not know how to do this, hire an expert to do this for you. It will be well worth the investment!

If you are interested this analysis, talk with SaaS CX experts. We’ll guide your approach.

Three Principles You Can Use Now to Retain SaaS Customers

So as a recap:

  1. Get clear on what your customers’ success goals are and realize that those may have changed.
  2. Watch your customers’ usage metrics.
  3. Prepare a special offer for your profitable SaaS customers.

These are all things that you can start doing immediately to retain SaaS customers. If you would like to talk to an expert about different quantitative analyses or if you’d like to do an “emergency” retention analysis, contact us.

Episode 016: Smart Office Transforms Contracting with Tom Coffin

Posted on March 30, 2020April 5, 2020Categories The SaaS CX ShowTags , , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment on Episode 016: Smart Office Transforms Contracting with Tom Coffin

In today’s episode of the SaaS CX show, I’m talking with Tom Coffin, founder, and CEO of Simply Reliable. The company’s flagship program is Smart Office, which enables contractors and other businesses to bring together so many different aspects of their business in one easy-to-use tool. I talked with him about his journey and what he’s learned along the way.

Time Stamp: 12:56 – Focusing on completion. So many SaaS companies tend to focus on a specific part of the business process for contractors, but what makes Simply Reliable – smart office for contractors – so much better is that it’s an end-to-end program. Contractors of all shapes and sizes can reach completion without having to manually bring together disparate programs and systems.

Show Notes

Tom Coffin

Although we are living in the golden age of technology, this easy access to new tools is something of a double-edged sword. As the saying goes, “there’s an app for that,” but with so many different options out there, it can be hard to keep track of and manage them all.

In today’s episode of the SaaS CX show, I’m talking with Tom Coffin, founder, and CEO of Simply Reliable. The company’s flagship program is Smart Office, which enables contractors and other businesses to bring together so many different aspects of their business in one easy-to-use tool. I talked with him about his journey and what he’s learned along the way.

From Smart Homes to Smart Office

What got Tom and his team into the SaaS industry initially was the growing market of smart homes. People who wanted to connect all of these different systems within their house to each other. Everything from the doorbell to the lights to the heating and cooling unit had to be put under one umbrella, which created its own set of challenges. Since each of these components is built and designed individually, they are not necessarily created to be a cohesive unit.

The same is even more true with business. There are so many processes that have to happen on a single project that it can be quite overwhelming, particularly for small business owners. Tom recognized that there was even more of a need for something like Smart Office in the professional world, so he got to work.

See how one company leveraged their understanding of process into successful change management in this episode of The SaaS CX Show.

Full-Circle Cloud Computing

What makes a smart office "smart" is having the business processes mapped from end to end.
What makes a smart office “smart” is having the business processes mapped from end to end.

What makes Smart Office such a compelling piece of software is that it’s an end-to-end system. From the moment the business reaches out to a customer, they can build a proposal, organize the project, assign tasks, have workers check off those tasks, and then send an invoice once it’s all done. Afterward, the contractor can reach out to the customer again and potentially make a new sale.

This kind of approach is transformational because it focuses on the customer experience, not a specific component. So many programs out there are designed to solve one problem, but won’t assist you with the steps that come before or after. Overall, Tom and his team have become so successful because there is no disparity between parts of the project. In essence, a single manager can get a full view of everything without having to track down data from various silos.

Achieving Profitability From the Onset

One issue that can plague contractors specifically is that they can accept a new project, do all the work, and then afterward realize that they didn’t really make any money. All too often, when doing the post-mortem on a job, a contracting business will discover that the project wasn’t as lucrative as it seemed at first.

This is another area where the Smart Office delivers. Because managers and business owners can see the full picture, including costs and expenses, it’s so much easier to determine how much money the business is making. Better yet, by alleviating the struggles of bringing together so many systems, a contracting company can save even more time, which cuts down on labor.

We talk a lot more about Smart Office and the value of a full-circle system in this episode, so be sure to check it out here. Also, you can find out more about Tom and his program at www.simplyreliable.com.

Episode 015: Travel Platforms with Mike Volpe

Posted on March 26, 2020March 27, 2020Categories The SaaS CX Show1 Comment on Episode 015: Travel Platforms with Mike Volpe

Today, I’m speaking with Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola.com, a corporate travel platform that has been making big waves within the industry. We discuss how Lola has become such a beloved program and how their success can help businesses create better travel packages for employees.

Mike Volpe

The world of corporate travel has changed a lot in the past few years. First of all, travel expenses have continued to rise, making it harder for businesses to maintain a steady bottom line. Additionally, more and more employees are expected user-friendly systems and travel platforms, which means that companies can’t always go with the most cost-effective option.

Today, I’m speaking with Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola.com, a corporate travel platform that has been making big waves within the industry. We discuss how Lola has become such a beloved program and how their success can help businesses create better travel packages for employees. Here are some highlights from the show.

An End-User Focused Experience

One of the biggest challenges that apps like Lola face is that the people paying for the product aren’t necessarily the ones using it. The financial department of a company is looking to save as much money as possible, while it’s the employees and sales staff that are actually using the program regularly.

At its worst, this disconnect can cause massive amounts of friction and lead to low adoption rates, unless the company requires it. Fortunately, Lola has been able to alleviate that tension by focusing on the end-user experience. Instead of modeling the software on other B2B travel sites, Mike and his team learned from consumer-focused platforms like Kayak and Booking.

Taking that approach has made the app increasingly popular among companies that deploy it. Workers are happier, adoption rates are phenomenal, and the business still gets to save money. It’s a win-win-win scenario.

On Being Lightweight and Mobile Friendly

A big reason why Lola is so desirable for both users and businesses is that it’s much more cost-effective than alternatives. The onboarding process is smooth and fast, meaning that companies can often do it themselves. Rather than spending hours training employees on how to use the software, most users can start booking a trip within minutes.

There are a few specific elements in the development process that also make the app more appealing and streamlined.

  • Mobile-First Approach – the software was born on smaller screens, so users don’t lose any functionality by booking on their phones.
  • Incremental Improvements – most apps focus on the prominent, shiny features that get the most attention. Lola makes tons of small adjustments based on user feedback that makes the app even easier to use.
  • Consumer-Based Tools – most people have booked a trip using a site like Booking or Kayak, so they’re familiar with how it works. Since Lola uses similar menus and options, users don’t have to learn a whole new system to book a trip.

Overall, one of the things Mike said that stood out was the fact that the finance people at companies get comments from employees about how much they love Lola. Usually, the ones choosing the system are happy with no feedback, but Mike and his team have created something that everyone loves to use.

We talk a lot more about corporate travel and the industry at large, so be sure to check out the rest of the episode here. Also, you can learn more about Lola at www.lola.com.

Episode 014: User Management with Brian Pontarelli

Posted on March 23, 2020April 2, 2020Categories The SaaS CX Show3 Comments on Episode 014: User Management with Brian Pontarelli

In this episode, I’m talking with Brian Pontarelli, founder and CEO of FusionAuth, to see why user management is such a high-market area.

Show NotesTranscript
User management through FusionAuth and Brian Pontarelli
Brian Pontarelli

When it comes to building a website, there are so many moving parts that it can be easy to overlook some of the more straightforward ones. Login and user management is such a critical tool, but it’s rife with problems and shortcomings.

One of the biggest limitations in managing this aspect of the user experience is that companies have to build each piece themselves. Fortunately, there is a solution in the form of FusionAuth. This user management platform alleviates many of the setbacks that sites face, and they are ramping up production because of high demand. In this episode, I’m talking with Brian Pontarelli, founder and CEO of FusionAuth, to see why this is such a high-market area.

Here are a few highlights of what we discussed.

User Management as the Wild West

Although other parts of web building have become streamlined and user-focused over the years, the login experience hasn’t. Before Brian and his team came along, there wasn’t really a uniform method of doing things, which meant that each company had to piecemeal solutions together to try and make something work. Yes, it might get the job done, but without standardization, it’s all but impossible to make it user-friendly.

A Rejection of the Login With Google/Facebook Model

Part of the reason why user management hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves is that, for a while, many people were more than happy to let Google or Facebook take the wheel. However, in recent years, with privacy issues becoming more and more prevalent, these companies are becoming less trusted with user data.

So now, individuals and companies are looking for an alternative solution. That’s where tools like FusionAuth come in because they offer comprehensive standardization without having to give the keys to a massive conglomerate like Google or Apple.

Security vs. Convenience: the Ultimate User Acceptance Problem

On the one end of the user management spectrum, you can have users gain access to their accounts with just a username or PIN. While that method is super easy, it’s wildly insecure. On the other end, you can have a six or seven-stage user authentication that makes it all but impossible for hackers to get in, but it’s so inconvenient.

That balance of simplicity and security is where the future lies. According to Brian, insecure platforms and user acceptance standards are rampant within the industry. We hear about the massive breaches at multinational corporations, but we never understand the extent of the damage. Most small businesses are getting breached, which puts a lot of user data at risk.

Another setback is the current strategy of securing a login attempt. Most sites will make the hash process as slow as possible to prevent a brute force attack. However, that approach eats up so much data that it can slow down the system exponentially when you have tons of users trying to get in at once.

Fortunately, as technology progresses, alleviating these problems will only get easier. Brain and I talk about potential solutions, from geotagging your smartphone to biometrics to physical security keys that can verify your identity.

We discuss a lot more about user management in the episode, so be sure to check it out here. Also, you can find out about Brian and his company at www.fusionauth.io. The future of the login experience is here, and it’s about to change the world.

Frank Bria (00:00):
The SaaS CX Show, Episode 14

Announcer (00:04):
From founders and CEOs, to founders and CEOs. It’s the SaaS CX Show. You’ve found the one stop shop for all things CX. Each interview is an in depth analysis of a successful growing SaaS company, building a world class customer experience for their users. And now for your host, serial SaaS entrepreneur, founder, consultant and advisor, Frank Bria.

Frank Bria (00:32):
Everyone. Welcome to the SaaS CX Show by SaaS founders and CEOs for SaaS, founders and CEOs. I’m your host, Frank Bria. In today’s episode, we are going to talk about user management, but first, the SaaS CX Show is brought to you by the SaaS CX group. The number one reason for ideal customer churn, not getting value from your software. Find out how to fix that by downloading our SaaS churn checklist. We cover the seven things you need to have in place to ensure your ideal customers stay, use and love your software. Decrease churn by 10 to 25% in just three to six months. Find out how at the show’s homepage saascx.show. That’s saascx.show. And now I am pleased to be introducing today’s guest, Brian Pontarelli. He is a technology entrepreneur currently solving login, registration, and user management challenges with FusionAuth. Brian works with companies from startups to fortune 500 organizations. This work helps address the complexity of security, identity and user management as businesses scale from their first user to millions of users. Brian, welcome to the show.

Brian Pontarelli (01:42):
Thanks for having me.

Frank Bria (01:43):
Absolutely a pleasure. So this idea of, I mean everyone who’s got software has logins, right? Users and logins. This is sort of a perennial issue. What’s your guys’s take on this where you felt there was a little bit of a hole in the marketplace for you guys to fill?

Brian Pontarelli (02:01):
Yeah, that’s a great question. So I like to think of login, registration, single sign on sort of all those identity pieces, the same way we think about databases from back in the 70s, 80s, right? You used to build it yourself, you could probably make it where, you know, who knows if the data would still be there the next day. But then eventually, all of these database providers started coming along and they started helping us build transactions and manage all this in a better way. And so now I start to see, authentication and identity the same way. We’re trying to provide tools that’ll help any application, not have to implement all of this themselves cause it’s complicated. And I think one of the issues that we have in the industry is that the legacy model has just got such a hold on everything. And often it just doesn’t scale. It just doesn’t work. And so we realize that there are companies with hundreds of millions of users, and this is a main pain point for them is how do I log all these users in on a regular basis? And they throw a lot of time and effort into solving that problem. And so we decided to tackle it from the vendor perspective. It’s like, sure, you can tackle that yourself, but let’s stop doing that. And let’s see if we can make a product that solves those problems.

Frank Bria (03:17):
Yeah. How problematic is the security element of this? I mean, we’re all hearing stories about softwares compromised and email addresses of everyone get leaked. I mean, fortunately in most of our cases it’s not credit card numbers and things, you know, we can’t all be credit reporting agencies that have our stuff get hacked, but like how big of is that a problem for people? Is that a common occurrence these days to have those kinds of security breaches?

Brian Pontarelli (03:50):
It’s a huge problem. Yeah. So we always see the headlines about the big ones, right? Cause those are the ones that actually make sense to write about. You’re not going to hear that, you know, Joe Bob’s eCommerce site got hacked, but they do. And it happens pretty frequently. So I think the danger there is that, you know, as you see more and more of these breaches, a lot of these databases being sold on the dark web and like other places you can torment them this, you know, they’re pretty easy access. What ends up happening is people will start to just reuse the information in them to go steal high value targets like social media IDs. So there are a lot of use cases for why people are breaching these databases and hacking these systems and then reselling the credentials.

Frank Bria (04:35):
Yeah. It’s a, you know it’s a problem when it starts showing up in my questionnaire with my insurance agent for liability insurance for the company. So it’s totally an issue. I mean we’ve definitely made the shift, I think in the software industry to sort of reusing components, right? So when there are pieces that don’t feel like they’re the super strategic component of the software, it makes complete sense to go out and find a really good provider to do that. Do you think in user management there’s a little bit of resistance there because this feels like, I don’t know, these are our people and you don’t want to push that out. Is that dragging some of adoption in this area?

Brian Pontarelli (05:20):
Yeah, it definitely is. So I think there’s sort of the two views on it. It’s like I know as a developer I can write all this code. I know that I can store and manage my own users. I don’t need your help. Versus the, Hey, I know that over the long term this is going to take me months and months of dev time cause I’m just going to have to keep maintaining it and bolting on features and let’s just buy or use some free tool out there and just like not do any of this. So it’s slow, but we can see it start to cascade. Within the last year, there’s so many more developers thinking this way, who would have before just said like, nah, I got this.

Frank Bria (06:02):
Yeah. I’ve never met a developer who’s not said yeah, I’ve got this. I think it all comes down to the question you ask like, can you code this? Yes. Should you code this? Different story. So one of the things that you talked about early on is the scaling problem. So as companies are getting bigger, where are some of the places that their homegrown tools start to fall apart as the company grows? What fails first as you’re scaling through user management?

Brian Pontarelli (06:33):
So there’s sort of two or three pieces of user management that are actually made slow on purpose. One of them is how we store passwords. So when we take a plain text password and we want to store it securely, we run it through a hashing algorithm and the traditional mode of a developer, which is make it fast, make it work is flipped. We actually design algorithms to make it slow and make it painful. And what that does is it prevents brute force attacking those hashes. So a brute force attack is basically trying every possible combination, creating the hash until you find one that matches. The slower the hash, the harder it is to generate all the permutations, right? So it’s a natural course of things just to say let’s make this algorithm really slow. Well that chews up CPU and GPU and RAM and everything else that a computer has to offer. So when you have 20 or 30 people trying to log in all at the same second, things start to stack up. The classic example of that is Pokemon Go, right? So for the first seven months that it was online, it took forever to log in and half the time you were just constantly reopening the app to see if the login servers had a low enough volume right then for you to log in. Otherwise it would basically tell you to take a hike and come back later. So that’s the biggest pain point that we see in terms of scale. And then the other part of it is just the data. So like, how do I find the user I want to manage? Right? So that’s a very large search engine problem when you have, you know, 200 million records. So there’s a lot of other little pain points, you know, how do I manage tracking every login when we have a billion of them a day. So these things become data size problems as well.

Frank Bria (08:14):
Yeah. It is sort of, an action tracking or following the user through the use of the app. Does that kind of fall in the user management scope or is that typically kind of a native that your clients handle themselves?

Brian Pontarelli (08:31):
Either way. So we track all of the logins, both successful and failed, but then we can actually fire events for all of those and we can actually send those events to event tracking systems. So we have a lot of people pushing all of our events into other stacks just to have their own monitoring as well. So we have a hybrid approach.

Frank Bria (08:51):
That’s great. A lot of apps now, and as we work with companies, it comes down to the data, right? So being able to see the event data. And I think a lot of developers when they start putting their app together, they don’t think about the kinds of events they would want to track. You can sort of sit down and whiteboard it out in advance, but to have some kind of a process where that’s built in so that as you’re adding those events, it’s a lot easier rather than having to go back and recode stuff in order to track data that’s, you know, we see a lot of people when they need to move to that level of data of understanding what users are actually doing on an event level. It’s harder if they haven’t thought that through in advance. So.

Brian Pontarelli (09:37):
Exactly. And that’s usually where the vendors come in cause we get information from thousands of customers and we’ve pushed that back into the product rather then you’d have to dream up all those use cases just sitting in front of a whiteboard.

Frank Bria (09:48):
Right. So I want to pivot a little bit to talk about the customer experience of login. Right? So it’s such a small little piece, but as you mentioned, it’s so critical, right? It’s how long the line is to get into your amusement park essentially. And we think about Disney, you know, that’s the shortest line in the park is to get into the park because once you’re in, you’re in. So it’s kind of the same thing with AF. So let’s talk about where are we seeing things go from a customer experience. One of the big movements with single sign on and that made things a little bit easier. What are some things, are going to see biometrics implemented here? Where do you see this going?

Brian Pontarelli (10:31):
Yeah. I think the industry is obviously moving more and more towards simplicity without lower security. Right? So that’s kind of the trade off. It’s always been this straight up. We make it really hard to log in, 12 steps, mail in your fingerprints, it’s really secure, but it sucks and no one’s gonna use it. They’re going to get super frustrated versus just type in your username and you’re logged in, right? It’s the most insecure thing, but it’s the fastest. And so there’s this balance, but with smartwatches, smart phones, smart devices, lots of investment in security infrastructure, we’re trying to make it easier. And so what we see is it’s like in addition to single sign on, once you have your phone, you can now just use it to log in to all the sites that trust your phone, those kinds of things. And so there’s a lot of specifications built around this that are really coming into the mainstream. And so finally, a lot of the platform providers, you know, Apple, Google, those folks Microsoft, they’re implementing these specifications. So Web Auth and Fido, these specifications are specifically designed to authenticate users quickly through a use of some smart device or a smart card or a key without having to type everything in, it just knows that you’re, you. So that’s the direction we see everything going and it’s just reducing the barriers to entry, making logins simpler.

Frank Bria (12:02):
Well, I mean the mobile has just completely transformed the potential of authentication generally speaking. I mean, you have now two factor authentication that’s possible through a mobile device. But so much of the power of a mobile device and authentication, we haven’t even touched yet. Right? I mean, there’s the potential, I know people are kind of playing around with safe geolocation spots, right? So, you know, if you’re connected to a wifi network that you’re normally connected to or is your home wifi network that process can be expedited? There are things around how close your mobile device is to where your computer is or if you’re at an ATM or there’s a lot of things that are going on that are really fascinating coming down the pike in terms of authentication.

Brian Pontarelli (13:00):
Yeah. Near-field, bluetooth, low voltage stuff is really cool. Yubikey and Yubico with their little cool hot devices where you can basically plug it into whatever you’re on and it just knows you’re you and so you’re automatically authenticated with a secure key. There’s so many cool ways to just beat down the barriers that have been blocking people from logging in, which is really cool. I think in the next two, three years, things are going to change quite dramatically.

Frank Bria (13:29):
Yeah. Well one of the clients that we have is actively looking at key pattern. Actually typing the key pattern typing to recognize, to fingerprint how you type in your username, let alone the username itself. It’s just kind of interesting. One question that keeps coming up is as people are starting to leverage trusted authentication networks from Google and Facebook and so on, is this a good thing or a bad thing? It seems like it’s a good thing that it’s really easy now in an app to click on something and go, I’m just gonna log in through Google or Facebook or whatever. And yet, we have all of these authentication pieces kind of running through one authentication network and the impact of failure becomes much, much, much more intense. You know, data privacy issues, not even withstanding. What’s your opinion on this? This is probably a loaded question because you work with Google and Facebook and stuff and connect all that stuff. But as a user, what are the good things, bad things, what are the things we should be watching out for in the future?

Brian Pontarelli (14:45):
So I would say that, especially from our perspective, it’s sort of like bring your own requirements. If you like Google use Google. A lot of people have moved away from Google. I mean even a lot of people have, you know, just closed up their Facebook accounts and a lot of people even are tending not to trust LinkedIn anymore. And there’s a lot of shift in sentiment between what we used to think was like Google, it’s super secure, do no harm, they can have all my data and now everyone’s like, Oh my God, Google is selling my data and using it for crazy things. So yeah, I think that it’s actually a huge issue that the industry has yet to solve. I mean look at the login to sign in with Apple. Apple is forcing developers that are on iOS and building native apps to use sign in with Apple. And it’s actually not a great protocol. They kind of butchered really well known standards and it’s a mess. I mean, we have lots of apps that are exist across multiple platforms. So you don’t have to sign in with Apple. That’s a ridiculous requirement. So I think that, again, there’s just going to be a lot of change because authentication and identity is such a big topic right now and everybody’s scrambling to try and figure out how to make it work and nobody’s figured it out. So most of our customers and most developers we know of are just like, we’re going to keep our own identities. We want our users to be our users and login through us.

Frank Bria (16:13):
Yeah. I mean, obviously lots to watch in the future, but, someone a long time ago was talking about when people build their platforms to avoid digital sharecropping, you know, so that point avoid sort of building all your stuff on something that someone can take away from you. So it’ll be an interesting thing to watch. What’s next for you guys roadmap wise?

Brian Pontarelli (16:41):
So we recently launched sort of our first paid additions of the product, which is really exciting. Cause before we were really just sort of in adoption mode, let everybody know the product exists, use it for free, and just get everybody going. And so we launched the first one, which was breach password detection. So we’re the ones now scraping all of those databases that are leaked on torrents and dark web building up these huge databases and then basically telling people like, Hey, your password has been breached. You need to change it. So that was one of our really cool features. And then we’re just building out a bunch of other premium features. So we’re looking at things like adaptive threat detection. So it’s like, Hey, I logged in from this IP and then all of a sudden I’m on another one, the keystroke detection thing that you’re talking about. That sounds really cool. That would fit perfectly into this. So we’re looking at a lot of ways to determine whether or not the login looks like a threat, looks suspicious. And then we’re building some cool things just for customer UI stuff, like allowing the people who are using Fusion Off to build out these really complex registration forms because historically they had to build all of that themselves. Once they collected and validated all the data, they would push it over to Fusion Off. We’re just like, well, why don’t we just have a really cool registration builder where you can drag and drop and make up all bunch of rules and just make people’s lives so much simpler so they don’t have to implement that.

Frank Bria (18:06):
Nice. So your business model is built on a smaller set of features that are available for free for developers, right? And then you’ve got bigger packages with more enterprise features that are available in a paid model.

Brian Pontarelli (18:23):
Yeah, exactly, plus support. So if you want support plus the features.

Frank Bria (18:26):
Great. Excellent. You know, as the CEO of a software company, it’s always an exciting roller coaster ride. Any of us who’ve done it before can tell you. If you had to go back to a younger Brian and kind of whisper in your ear some advice that you’d give yourself based on, as you look back now and what you guys have been able to accomplish so far, what advice would you give yourself? And therefore anyone else who’s thinking of starting a software company at this point?

Brian Pontarelli (19:02):
So I think the core thing that changed it for us was really branding and messaging and persona as well. Sothe product used to be called Passport a disaster of a name. Everybody’s got a password product, there’s Password JS, like Passport literally was probably the worst name we could have picked. And it wasn’t even Passport by itself, tt was actually called Inversoft Passport. So we had a parent company and then we had this sub-brand, the website was inversoft.com, it was a mess. And we struggled for so long to get this to go and we’re just like, why isn’t anyone finding us and buying our cool software. So finally we’re just like, we have to rebrand this and we have to basically pull it out to its own website, pull it out to its own brand, get a new logo. And then we actually started to give it away for free and that’s really when the whole thing changed. We were on this path, we shifted, made a hard left and then all of a sudden we’re going up the hill and gaining traction. And that was super exciting but it took me about three to four years to come around to that idea. We battled it out for three to four years before that that happened.

Frank Bria (20:26):
It feels to me like every software company has a story like that at the beginning. There’s a really good book called Getting to Plan B, which I love because it seems to just really articulate the fundamental issue, which is your plan A probably isn’t going to work. You know, as smart as we think we all are. You’re probably going to have to get out into the marketplace. It’s consistent with sort of the lean methodology that’s really popular now. You have to get out in the marketplace, you have to get some feedback and you’re just not going to know till you actually start selling stuff and try to get people to make decisions and get adoption and then you start to figure out what’s working, what’s not working in that whole process. And I think that’s great advice, you’re going to have to look for that, prepare for it. You’re going to make a hard left. That’s just the way it goes.

Brian Pontarelli (21:21):
That’s how it goes, yeah. And you gotta kind of weather those storms. There’s a lot of ups and downs emotionally and there’s a lot of people that aren’t really designed for that, especially employees. So you kind of have to shield them to some degree, but you also have to be honest with them, and that’s a hard balance and then you’re always going to have employees that are like, I can’t do it, I need out. This roller coaster ride is not for me.

Frank Bria (21:43):
Right. Well, in a startup environment, I mean there’s a very special sort of emotional makeup that you have to, I don’t care if you’re a founder or employee in order to stomach some of the ups and downs and the churns of that. It’s not for everybody, that is definitely for sure. Brian, it’s been great chatting with you about this. It has been fascinating, you guys got a great journey behind as well as ahead. I think you’re working on some really, really cool stuff. A lot of changes, a lot of cool things are coming down the pike in the little bit as the listeners want to check out a little bit more about what you’re doing, where’s a good place for them to go?

Brian Pontarelli (22:28):
So you can find everything about FusionAuth just at the website. It’s fusionauth.io. You can watch us on Twitter, the FusionAuth handle’s just FusionAuth. And then I’m regularly in LinkedIn as well as Twitter and both of my handles are Void Main on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Frank Bria (22:46):
Great. Excellent. Okay. Those links are in the show notes page, so if you’re out and about listening to this audio, come on back, click on through, connect with Brian and FusionAuth and all the cool stuff they’re doing. Thanks Brian for being with us. Really appreciate your time.

Brian Pontarelli (23:00):
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me on.

Frank Bria (23:02):
Absolutely. And thank you so much for being with us on the SaaS CX show. I’ve been your host, Frank Bria. Just a reminder, if you want to reduce customer churn by 10 to 25% the next three to six months, check out our SaaS churn checklist, it covers the seven things you need to have in place to ensure your ideal customers stay, use and love your software download it at sasscx.show. That’s saascx.show. We’ll see you next time. Make it happen. Bye bye.

Episode 013: AI-Enabled Personality Testing with Drew D’Agostino

Posted on March 19, 2020April 2, 2020Categories The SaaS CX Show2 Comments on Episode 013: AI-Enabled Personality Testing with Drew D’Agostino

In this episode of the SaaS CX Show, I’m talking with Drew D’Agostino, founder of Crystal. We discuss the role that AI plays in his software and how personality tests are such a valuable tool for businesses.

Show NotesTranscript
AI Personality Testing in Crystal with Drew D'Agostino
Drew D’Agostino

When most people talk about artificial intelligence, it’s usually in reference to managing massive amounts of information and distilling it into a digestible package – not about personality tests. Amazon uses AI to understand its customer’s needs, Microsoft uses AI to develop more responsive software – the list goes on.

However, while AI is usually reserved for making technology better and more user-friendly, it can also be a tool for bringing people together. Such is the goal of Crystal, a machine-learning program that incorporates data and personality tests to help people understand each other better.

In this episode of the SaaS CX Show, I’m talking with Drew D’Agostino, founder of Crystal. We discuss the role that AI plays in his software and how personality tests are such a valuable tool for businesses. Here are a couple of highlights from the show.

Personality Test vs. Data Mining

Typically speaking, personality tests are inherently limited. You can take one, you can have your team members take one, and you might be able to get those within your inner circle to take one. However, if you want to facilitate the widespread adoption of a test, how can you go about it?

Crystal is revolutionary because it merges the standard of test-taking with data mining from a variety of sources. The program looks at social media profiles, resumes, LinkedIn pages – all to create a more comprehensive understanding of a person. What makes this process even more exciting is that it’s still really accurate. According to Drew, AI and data mining yields about 80 to 85-percent accuracy, compared to 97-percent when someone takes a personality test.

So, why does that matter? Well, businesses can get valuable information about clients and potential employees long before they meet in person. Rather than having to discover the personality of these people organically, they can facilitate stronger interactions right off the bat.

Want to use video to communicate? Check out this interview

Artificial Intelligence as a Human Tool

As we mentioned, most people talk about AI as a means of digesting big data or as a way to make technology more personable, not as a personality test. With Crystal, however, Drew and his team are trying to help improve the way we communicate. It’s a tool for human-to-human interaction, not human to machine. As Drew puts it, that is the company’s north star, and it’s the reason he loves coming into work every day. Enabling users to find better communication methods and facilitating stronger relationships is what motivates him.

So far, Crystal’s success shows that there is a lot of potential in this software, and we’re excited to see where it goes. We talk more about his process and the value of Crystal during the show, so be sure to check it out here. You can also find out more about Drew and his program at www.crystalknows.com.

Frank Bria (00:00):
The SaaS CX Show, Episode 13

Announcer (00:04):
From founders and CEOs to founders and CEOs. It’s the SaaS CX Show. You’ve found the one stop shop for all things CX. Each interview is an in depth analysis of a successful growing SaaS company, building a world class customer experience for their customers. And now for your host, serial SaaS entrepreneur, founder, consultant and advisor, Frank Bria.

Frank Bria (00:31):
Hey everyone. Welcome to the SaaS CX show by SaaS founders and CEOs for SaaS, founders and CEOs. I’m your host, Frank Bria. Today’s episode, we are going to talk about personality typing, but first, the SaaS CX Show is brought to you by the SaaS CX group. The number one reason for ideal customer churn, not getting value from your software. Find out how to fix that by downloading our SaaS churn checklist. We covered the seven things you need to have in place to ensure your ideal customers stay, use and love your software. Decrease churn by 10 to 25% just three, six months. Find out more at the show’s homepage. Saascx.Show. That’s saascx.show. And now I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest. Drew D’Agostino is the CEO of Crystal, the app that tells you anyone’s personality using AI. Crystal accurately identifies a person’s motivations, communication style, and other behavioral traits. Thousands of professionals globally use Crystal to communicate more effectively, write more persuasively and build trust faster with new people. Previously, Drew was CTO of attend.com an event management software company. Drew and his company had been featured in Inc, Fortune, CNN, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, Wired and The Guardian. Drew, welcome to the show.

Drew D’Agostino (01:50):
Hey! It’s good to be here, Frank.

Frank Bria (01:52):
Absolutely thrilled to have you! So first of all, personality typing as an app. That’s just kind of a new take on this. Can you walk us through a little bit what Crystal does?

Drew D’Agostino (02:04):
Yeah, sure. So most people are familiar with some kind of personality type. A lot of people have just encountered either like Myers-Briggs or Disc or Enneagram, it’s a really popular one now, or the Big Five. So this is become a, you know, kind of a pop psychology thing, but really under it, there’s a lot of really interesting and relatively new science as well. So basically what Crystal does is we try to discover or analyze whichever personality framework you want and determine what someone’s type is so you can communicate more effectively. And we try to do that in as real, convenient, and quick way as possible. So that means that we have these personality assessments in Crystal, so like Disc tests and Enneagram and Myers-Briggs types tests. And those can help companies basically get personality types for all their employees for free. And we also offer personality predictions, which is using machine learning to analyze social media, text samples, resumes, any other meta-data about somebody that can be correlated with personality types. So the goal is to get an accurate idea of somebody’s behavioral tendencies and you know, whatever situation you have, whether you’re meeting with them in a sales meeting or you’re talking to them in a one-on-one for management purposes, you know, so that’s our goal.

Frank Bria (03:33):
Yeah. What’s fascinating to me is I was kind of looking over what you guys are doing is that you’re running the person, in some cases it looks like you’re running the personality assessment without the personality test. You’re looking at social media. I think you have a resume, a connector. Is that predictive?

Drew D’Agostino (03:55):
Yeah. So we do have personality tests in Crystal and we have thousands of people that sign up and take regular personality tests each week. So that is kind of like building a big training set of data. And that’s also always the most accurate way to get a personality type. Something like 97% validity. However, there are a lot of situations where personality tests are not feasible or they’re not economical or viable mainly when you don’t know a person. So think about like personality data has been always kind of limited to who you can get to take a test. So that usually means like just myself or somebody I know immediately or my team that I am managing them. I can kind of force them in for a big session and we can hire a consultant. They can take a personality test. So it’s this like very limited data set but it’s really valuable because when you notice how somebody tends to think and behave, whether that’s from knowing them for a long time or whether that’s from a personality assessment, it really helps you a lot. It’s like this whole lens of looking at that relationship, cause it’s a very great way to get to know somebody on a deeper level and really understand what motivates them and how you can speak more effectively. So by not requiring a test and by just doing the best we can to analyze what data we have, we can achieve somewhere around an 80%. They kind of always fluctuate between 80 and 85% accuracy and that is based on a lot of, five years of data that we have. Or if we have enough, say like call it a large LinkedIn profile, we can properly guess where somebody falls on one of these four major personality quadrants. If you’re talking about like Disc and tell you, okay, here, this person’s really likely to be very direct and to the point. So if you’re on the phone call with them, you want to get, you know, kind of skip the small stuff, small talk, don’t go into your story about your dog, give them the facts right away. And again, that’s only gonna be right four out of five times, but four out of five’s a lot better than, you know, one in five. So those are the kinds of situations where this kind of predictive or we call it personality AI really comes into play. But when you have a team of people that you’re managing, assessments are still the way to go because those are more accurate, more valid.

Frank Bria (06:15):
Yeah. So, I mean obviously if you can do the test it works better. But it sounds like what you’ve done is your algorithms are kind of taking the the information where it is a lot more accurate, where you’ve got the tests and I guess what, you’re back testing it with the social profiles of the folks who’ve actually taken the test and kind of matching, you know, getting the algorithm to learn from that essentially?

Drew D’Agostino (06:36):
Yeah, and other information, we collect other data from Crystal. So for example, you take, there’s not just one personality test, you can take a Disc test, a Myers-Briggs test, Enneagram, values, motivations, strengths. There’s a lot of these different assessments. So we can map, say your Disc test, to your job title and your resume or whatever else we have access to. But we can also map personality tests across each other. So find out which Enneagram types or which Disc types, we can do predictions in that way as well. So it’s this interesting dataset that we are still building.

Frank Bria (07:17):
Awesome. That is fascinating. Now, the interesting thing is I think a lot of people have the impression though that social media is sort of a facade. You know, what people put out there is kind of what they want people to think they’re like, but deep down, that’s not really the case. Is your data indicating any of that or is your data indicating that we might think it’s a facade, but if you dig deep enough, actually the real personality is sort of sitting in there someplace.

Drew D’Agostino (07:44):
That is where the 20% comes from, the 20% inaccuracy. So that’s, that’s, yeah, so it’s definitely a thing and there are times when you’re looking at someone’s social media presence and you can kinda just tell that they are aiming for a certain tone or style and Crystal picks that up. I mean, Crystal is not magic. It’s looking, it’s basically saying somebody who writes like this, typically gets this score on a personality test. So yeah, that definitely happens. It does happen, but not a majority of the time, so.

Frank Bria (08:17):
Yeah, so 20% of us are sociopath’s basically

Drew D’Agostino (08:24):
Special personality type for those I think in a big, red page. Please feed possum(?)

Frank Bria (08:31):
That’s awesome. Again, as you are taking the technology forward everyone has sort of looked at personality profiling as a stepping stone to something, right? So selling better or communicating better or coaching your employees better, having team members get along better and when you just do the personality profiling, it’s almost like you learn all this stuff and it’s all theory in your head, but you’re sort of left on your own to execute this. You guys have put some tools in place to actually make some of this stuff super practical. Can you walk us through some of the use cases where you’re actually leveraging this to help professionals?

Drew D’Agostino (09:13):
Yeah, that’s a really good point. That’s always a big question. It’s like, all right, now that I know this about someone and know that they’re a, you know, ENFP or a DI or whatever. What does it actually mean? What do I do with it? So we’ve put together a pretty full suite of, I call them coaching tools that are designed to take that personality bit and then translate it into ROI. And there’s a little bit of a challenge for us because there’s so many different types of people who use Crystal. So you’ll find on there tools for salespeople. So there’s like a coach where it says, all right, what do I need to do? I’m getting on the phone with this person and I need to talk to them about pricing. Cause that’s gonna be very different based on the personality. You know, if someone wants to get into details of the pricing, someone’s probably just gonna want to understand the story and get social proof. So there’s, it’s a very big deal. So that’s really useful for salespeople. But then there’s other parts of Crystal where if I’m managing a team or building a team, I can create a group report and take these six personalities and see where we’re lacking or where we might have weak spots or potential conflict. So there’s all these in- between the coaching reports, different types of insights that you can do on profiles. There’s lots of things that you can do and it really varies based on the job you’re trying to accomplish. It’s an ongoing challenge for us to try to, you know, everyone says you shouldn’t make a product that’s everything to everyone. But every time we really tried to focus on one audience, we end up getting dragged back into this more general area. You know there’s a lot you can do. You’ve just got to explore the product for yourself and you can do most of it for free.

Frank Bria (11:02):
Well, you’ll just leave that to your product manager to manage your roadmap for you. That’ll be the toughest job ever. You guys are looking at there are a lot of overlaps between these use cases though. So I totally understand what you’re saying. You know, one person is probably going to be looking at a number of different communication cases. This leveraging of AI in in communication is really fascinating because most of the communication use cases in AI started off with one person sort of interacting with the computer, whether it’s a bot communication or whatever, but you guys are leveraging AI to improve the communication between two human beings, which is really fascinating. What do you see as the next step for you guys in leveraging more powerful algorithms, better data as you’re growing this dataset? What problems are you going to be able to address that we can’t now because we just don’t have either the computing power or the algorithms or the data?

Drew D’Agostino (12:06):
This is a really fundamental question that kind of lies at the heart of what we do. And it’s my existential crisis like every week. Cause at the end of the day there’s a lot of buzz and hype around AI and also a lot of money following it. So it’s very hard to stay on track. So you really need to have a clear idea of what you’re aiming the business at. So our North star with Crystal and what we’re trying to do every day, is we are trying to make our users more confident, more effective, better communicators. We are not trying to replace the need for our users to communicate or to do the emotional legwork to do whatever kinds of you want to call it. We’re not trying to just accomplish the task for them, we’re trying to level up their skills. So that really affects what we do with our product, right? Because there was a time when we had this email tool, which was one of our more popular features where you could use it to correct your emails, kind of like Grammarly thing. And you can still use this in parts of Crystal, and the pull of that product, if we were not really focused on making our users better, more proficient communicators, the pull of that product would actually be how much of this email can we write for our users? And there are companies that are trying to do that. Because of just the core focus of our company and honestly just what I want to be working on every day, I don’t want to be building robots that take the empathy or the humanity out of online communication. I think there’s plenty of that. What I would rather be working on every day is, all right, how do you use technology to accelerate relationships between people? The fact that I can look you up before meeting you for the first time and understand not completely about you, but have this extra insight that’s going to help me connect with you quicker, that to me is, it’s a very human use of technology that I hope that, actually, I view Crystal as at least like a 10 year project for me. I’m five years in. I wanna be working on something that actually I feel good about, so.

Frank Bria (14:28):
Well, it’s interesting because what you’re describing is AI not as an efficiency play, but as an effectiveness play in the communication where I think a lot of people do, as to your point, are focusing on the efficiency elements, right? Is technology accelerating the process or taking out tasks, making things faster, making more money, whatever. But the effectiveness of communication, that’s almost a different dimension of the problem. I think it’s an interesting dichotomy you’ve drawn there in what you’re doing. So that’s great. Drew, this has been a great conversation, unfortunately, we’re out of time. You’ve been super gracious with your schedule. I know you’re really busy, so thanks so much for spending time with us. One last question before we go. People want to learn more about Crystal, what you guys are up to, what’s a great place for them to start?

Drew D’Agostino (15:18):
Just go to crystalknows.com if you want to try the personality prediction tools that we’ve been talking about, you can just add the Chrome extension. It’s really easy from the website and you’ll get 10 credits for free. If you want to have some extra free credits, just shoot me an email and mention the show and we will add some more credits to your account so you can extend your trial. But yeah, it’s a lot fun to experiment with.

Frank Bria (15:45):
Thanks. That’s a generous offer. Thanks a lot. So the link’s in the show notes, if you’re out and about listening to the audio, come on back to the show notes page and connect with Crystal and Drew. Thanks so much Drew for being with us, really appreciate you taking the time.

Drew D’Agostino (15:59):
Great, yeah, it’s been great Frank, appreciate it.

Frank Bria (16:01):
And thanks so much for being with us on the SaaS CX Show. I’ve been your host, Frank Bria. Just a reminder, if you want to reduce customer churn by 10 to 25% in the next three to six months, check out our SaaS churn checklist, which covers the seven things you need to have in place to ensure your ideal customers stay, use and love your software. Download it at saascx.show. That’s saascx.show. We will see you next time. Make it happen. Bye bye.

Episode 012: Automated LinkedIn Marketing with Adrian Boysel

Posted on March 16, 2020April 2, 2020Categories The SaaS CX Show2 Comments on Episode 012: Automated LinkedIn Marketing with Adrian Boysel

In this episode of the SaaS CX Show, I’m talking with Adrian Boysel, founder, and CEO of Lead Butler. His software focuses exclusively on making LinkedIn better for lead generation, and the approach he and his team have taken is already making waves. We discuss the pitfalls he’s experienced and how his team has overcome them.

Show NotesTranscript
Adrian Boysel discusses LinkedIn marketing and his company Lead Butler
Adrian Boysel

For a company to grow, it needs customers. In the old days, the best way to promote your brand and product was to announce it to the world as broadly as possible. These days, technology has enabled businesses to find their niche and approach a unique customer base. To do that, though, you need LinkedIn marketing.

In this episode of the SaaS CX Show, I’m talking with Adrian Boysel, founder, and CEO of Lead Butler. His software focuses exclusively on making LinkedIn marketing better for lead generation, and the approach he and his team have taken is already making waves. We discuss the pitfalls he’s experienced and how his team has overcome them.

Here are a few highlights from the podcast.

Time is a Resource Like Anything Else

One of the most significant problems with traditional lead generation is that it can take up so much time and energy. Automation can help, but you need to find a balance of automating certain processes and nurturing those leads the old-fashioned way.

For Adrian, one of the most noticeable elements of Lead Butler was that it saved his clients so much time. Rather than spending hours and days searching through LinkedIn for connections and circles, the software does it all and cultivates a list of leads in a fraction of the time.

Ultimately, it’s that time saved that makes Lead Butler so valuable (among other benefits), and that’s why his company is growing so fast. Also, it’s fortunate that he and his team are operating in a space with high demand and low competition.

Being Direct and Authentic

Another substantial hurdle that can come with LinkedIn marketing is the low capture rate. We all have busy lives, and you can’t expect your lead to dedicate a chunk of time reading your initial email or follow up message.

I remember believing that the best way to approach a lead was by doing a soft lead-in with conversational language before getting to the point. These days, if I receive a message like that, I delete it immediately without reading past the first sentence.

For Adrian, he learned that the best approach was a short, simple message – I’m looking for real connections, if you are to, connect with me. Otherwise, you can delete my contact info because I’m not interested. From there, you can start to build that relationship. Overall, the point is to establish contact and then take baby steps to turn a lead into a customer. You don’t need to make the sale in the first message.

Want to leverage AI personality test to connect more effectively with your prospects? Check out this interview with Drew D’Agostino of Crystal.

Don’t Over-automate Your LinkedIn Marketing

On the flip side of that, you also don’t want to automate too much. Just like a four-paragraph message is a turn-off, so is one that was clearly copied and pasted from a template. Part of what makes Lead Butler so attractive is that the team replies to messages manually as much as possible. While automation does a lot of the heavy lifting of LinkedIn marketing, there are people on the back end, crafting unique and engaging messages that help create those bonds.

We talk a lot more about Lead Butler and Adrian’s experience going from a service-based company to a software-based one, so check out the rest of the episode here. Also, you can contact Adrian directly at leadbutler.io and adrianboysel.com, or you can find Lead Butler on Facebook. 

Frank Bria (00:00):
The SaaS CX Show, Episode 12

Announcer (00:04):
From founders and CEOs to founders and CEOs. It’s the SaaS CX Show. You’ve found the one stop shop for all things SaaS. Each interview is an in depth analysis of a successful growing SaaS company, building a world class customer experience for their users. And now for your host, serial SaaS entrepreneur, founder, consultant and advisor, Frank Bria.

Frank Bria (00:31):
Hey everyone. Welcome to the SaaS CX Show by SaaS founders and CEOs for SaaS, founders and CEOs. I’m your host, Frank Bria. And today’s episode we are going to talk about lead generation websites. But first the SaaS CX Show is brought to you by the SaaS CX group. The number one reason for ideal customer churn, not getting value from your software. Find out how to fix that by downloading our SaaS churn checklist, we go over the seven things you need to have in place to ensure your ideal customers stay, use and love your software. Decrease churn by 10 to 25% in three, six months. Find out more to show some page saascx.show. That’s saascx.show. And now I am pleased to introduce today’s guest, Adrian Boysel. Adrian is a digital marketing trainer and keynote speaker and is also the founder of Lead Butler, a service to create lead generation websites. Adrian, welcome to the show.

Adrian Boysel (01:24):
Oh yeah. What’s up Frank? How you doin’?

Frank Bria (01:27):
Not much. Really happy to have you. Absolutely happy to have you. So, before we dig into to you and your story a little bit, let’s give a little background on Lead Butler. What is it for? What do you guys do?

Adrian Boysel (01:39):
So Lead Butler Connect is a LinkedIn relationship building tool that we built started about a year ago and actually kicked it off about six months ago. And what it’s designed to do is just to help you cut and save time. That was the big thought and the big aha moment that we had is, man, we’re spending so much time prospecting, meeting people, going through and trying to really build relationships with people on LinkedIn. There’s gotta be an easier way. There’s gotta be a faster way. And it’s not that we want to do the automated systems that drive people crazy, but we want to be able to add people faster. We wanna be able to get to the right connections and it will send the series of messages to make sure that we’re actually pulling the rope, not pushing it.

Frank Bria (02:19):
Yeah, that’s really, you know, there’s a lot of movement around LinkedIn trying to figure out how to use it best. And it’s interesting because a lot of people want to use it for lead gen, but man it is not built for that very well. You know what I mean? It is. It’s really a pain in the neck. As you guys were looking at the space, what were some of the big problems you wanted to knock down with software out there?

Adrian Boysel (02:43):
I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of data out there of what connection rates should be and message responses should be and how many connections, you know, you really need to have to be able to get bandwidth. And so that was a big area that I wanted to focus in on is making sure that we had the data to back up. We were saying we could do and so part of the initial idea was to create metrics and analytics that went along with, okay, how many connection requests did we send? What was the response of people that actually connected and then being able to learn what people like when we’re sending a connection message and what they didn’t like and we’ve been able to analyze all that data and figure out what it is. That’s the sweet spot for really getting people to be like, all right, this is somebody that I want to connect with that’s not just going to pitch me as soon as I hit accept.

Frank Bria (03:25):
Yeah. Any insights on that you can share? What have you learned?

Adrian Boysel (03:30):
The the biggest thing I’d say I’ve learned is to keep it very simple. The longer your connection messages, the lower your rate’s going to be. And the more genuine, if you understand and get to know them as a person and look at their profile, you have a much better chance. And really, if you want to build a relationship with somebody coming at them with a really long connection message, you’re going to bore them to death and then they’re just going to disengage. So for me, what I do is I keep it very, very short. Hey, I’m looking for real connections on here. If you’re not a real connection, if you’re not looking at building a real relationship, please just pass me by. And that level of scarcity and interest in having a real relationship makes them accept.

Frank Bria (04:09):
Yeah, that’s interesting. It’s true. Even before LinkedIn came around and I was involved in a lot of lead gen for enterprise companies were trying to get into organizations. It’s really funny, there was people who just feel, you know, you have to do this flowery lead in and all of this stuff and you end up writing this huge long message. And I just know that when I get them if it’s more than a paragraph or two, I just hit delete. I’m not even going to bother to read if I don’t know who it is actually. It’s an interesting insight. So how’d you guys get into this? I know you, you’ve got a lot of businesses going on, a lot of different things. So why this? How did you get into this?

Adrian Boysel (04:52):
You know, I got pitched on LinkedIn lead generation and probably about a million and a half times over the last decade and as LinkedIn started to really evolve and grow into something that had legs to be a lead generation tool for businesses, I thought, how can I leverage just like I have with SEO and all the other things that I’ve done. And I got with a partner of mine and Wes and he just, we broke it down and kind of went through LinkedIn and what the potential was. And I showed him some of the pitches that I had been given and just everything. And he has a team of developers as well as I do. And he just came together and he started putting the pieces together. And next thing you know he had a very simple, very clean dashboard that was broken down into connections messaging, which is nurturing and the data itself. And it was just really powerful how simple he made it. And I was like, wow, this is freaking easy, dude. This is going to save me so much time when I’m consulting, I’m charging $600 an hour. So if I spend an hour doing this, is very expensive, you know, so I got to figure out a way to automate that process. And he really did. It was phenomenal.

Frank Bria (05:50):
Nice. And is this the first software project you’ve been involved in or have you done a few others as well?

Adrian Boysel (05:57):
Done a few others. We’ve done apps and other programs, but this was the first one that I’ve really seen that has true potential.

Frank Bria (06:04):
Okay. What did anything about this particular development exercises that surprised you or you weren’t ready for?

Adrian Boysel (06:12):
You know, I knew that there was going to be people out there that were competitors, but I didn’t realize that there’d be as many competitors and I didn’t think that we would have such a huge lead and advantage on them. I thought that they would, you know, between plugins and all the features and bells and whistles, we kept it so minimal. This was just a minimum viable product. You know, I’ve read dozens of books, you know, Tim Ferriss’s book and Noah Kagan’s book and Gary V’s book and they all talk about MVPs, you know, and over the years that I’ve been reading and I just, we wanted something that was just basic, that was simple, that wasn’t complicated to use and there wasn’t a big learning curve. I don’t know about you, but the last 15 years I’ve had plenty of learning curves come across my path and that was something I wanted to try to eliminate in this project.

Frank Bria (06:53):
Yeah. No, I mean the concept of MVP is critical and probably one of the best introductions into software development in the last couple of decades for sure. What did you use for your validation sample? I mean, did you have sort of a group of clients you’re working with you could test this out on or?

Adrian Boysel (07:13):
So between my partner and I, we had I had about a dozen and he had about probably close to the same amount and he ran it by them. And we immediately onboarded like 24 people into the system and those people just had almost, it was almost overnight success. It was pretty unbelievable between graphic designers and project managers for painting companies and all the different uses we have from prospecting PR side of reaching out to people who write content for news articles and creating a targeted list to go after that. And then recruiting, just recruiting alone. So between those clients we saw results in all of those areas and we’re like, wow, I mean between getting meetings with GE and some of these huge companies through this tool, it’s been kind of phenomenal. It’s just been like, wow.

Frank Bria (07:55):
Nice. Did you find that those varied groups had different requirements, different needs? I mean one of the things that people have a hard time with when they’re putting MVP together sometimes is that, you know, person a wants this list of features and person B wants that list and you know, they overlap a little bit, but not always. And so people have a difficult time figuring out this balance between minimum and viable. Did you have that issue or did you feel like everyone really kind of centered around the same needs?

Adrian Boysel (08:21):
I feel like they all had in terms of what the real need was, to build a real relationship with somebody. They all had that same need, but the method and how we got there and how we built value with the people was completely different. And for somebody like me that’s scientifically minded in terms of marketing and how I look at marketing and psychology and all those things, I wanted to make sure that there was people behind it that it just wasn’t another automated tool link. What was that? The one, Leonard LinkedIn or whatever it is. I wanted to make sure that it was actually truly had people behind it that were creating the messages that were being authentic, that it just wasn’t a bunch of spammy programs running on the back end, so that’s the big differentiator I feel between what we have and a lot of people is it isn’t fully automated. There are people on the back end actually looking at the messages, crafting messages for you, doing a lot of that stuff to make sure that things are moving in the right direction that messages are being responded to, which is honestly one of the biggest challenges that we had even even till this day is people actually getting back to the volume of messages we get in response.

Frank Bria (09:20):
Yeah, I mean essentially it’s a solution because it’s a mix of services and software.

Adrian Boysel (09:25):
Correct. Yep.

Frank Bria (09:26):
Yeah, that’s great. We want to pivot a little bit to the customer experience a little bit. So as you get people to go through the process and use the software what were some of the things you guys were thinking about as you were designing the user interface? So one of the, as you mentioned earlier, is that your partner kind of boiled it down to some simplistic pieces. Talk a little bit about your thought process and how you decided, you know, what the flow would be and how people would be best onboarded onto the system.

Adrian Boysel (09:59):
Yeah. So we knew that the starting place point was going to be building connections. So that was the first piece and we had to figure out, okay, well who are those connections? You know, you’re going to start with the who. So finding out who they were and what their problem were. So I had Wes go in and he actually built out, when he went in and built out this dashboard, he built it with that in mind as the targeting has to be very specific. So instead of actually creating some sort of fancy targeting software within the system, that is part of the software that we don’t have incorporated is you actually go to your LinkedIn profile itself. You go up to this top search bar, you hit people, and then you bring it down and you find out who exactly who you want and then you paste that URL into the system and that gives you your targeted list. Now that’s your people that you’re going to build those relationships and you want to get as targeted as possible. What’s their job description? Are they second level connection? Where are they located, what company do they work for? All the different data points that you can put in there. So that was point A that we started with and when you have all the information and it’s so similar for every single person, it makes it easy to craft that actual messaging. And so within the connection campaign, we have a series of messages that happens, you can do three steps, four steps, however many steps of building value once they’ve actually connected with you. If they don’t respond to that initial connection message, we can just send a sequence of messages to them. That’s really neat.

Frank Bria (11:16):
Nice. So what it sounds like one of the principles is, you know, don’t duplicate what already exists.

Adrian Boysel (11:23):
Correct.

Frank Bria (11:23):
As far as functionality is concerned and that’s really critical. I think a lot of people, especially when they’re trying to do the MVP, they’ll start out thinking that that, okay, well we can do this better. Sure this is out there, but we all want it in one place? And a lot of times that can really bog you down, you know, in a development effort to try to duplicate something that’s already there and it’s not very MVP ish.

Adrian Boysel (11:45):
Yeah. They’ve already perfected that process. Why would we have to recreate that wheel? It just didn’t make sense. So from there it was just, okay, now that we’ve built a connection and we’ve got kind of a message and a dialogue going, then it’s just nurturing those relationships and having campaigns that can go in and just add value to them. You know, the 90/10 rule or the 80/20, whatever you go off of just continuing to add value. So that was the, you know, letter B in this scenario for us was just making sure that we were going after and building the relationships on a consistent basis with these people over, whether it’s a 90 day period, a six month period or a 12 month period. And that made it very, very effective.

Frank Bria (12:20):
Nice. Nice. It sounds great. And so now you guys are in growth mode. You’ve launched and you’ve gone past beta and now you’re…

Adrian Boysel (12:28):
Correct, 97 or 98 users at this point.

Frank Bria (12:31):
Great. That’s awesome. How are you finding the lead generation process for yourselves? How’s that going as the software company?

Adrian Boysel (12:41):
Well, it’s funny, I woke up this morning and we sent out, I don’t know, probably 100 messages over the weekend that were automated, you know, and after those messages went out to people and they were crafted by me and Wes together and after they went out to people, we probably had 16 to 17 people that replied over the weekend. And I got a text message from Wes this morning like, Hey man, you know, my pet peeve is when people don’t respond and get back to those as soon as possible this morning. So, or like we’re in the system, you know, other than when I’m busy with family on the weekends, we’re in the system almost 24 seven around the clock. It’s crazy. So the amount of messages that go out and the times even that they go out is, it’s hard to even keep up with even for ourselves.

Frank Bria (13:19):
Nice. Well that’s a good problem to have. You know those folks who could remember times in their business when it’s been crickets, it’s better to be rushing around trying to answer questions for folks. That’s great. How have you felt, has it been a different experience for you as founder as a software company versus a service company? Does that feel different? Are there different things you’re worrying about or having to do?

Adrian Boysel (13:48):
Yeah, I mean there’s always the worry when you have a software and something that is automated, you always got to worry about LinkedIn catching on and saying, Hey, we don’t want that. But because we’re cloud-based and because of some of the, all of the precautions that we took, we did so much research upfront of what is it that LinkedIn likes? What is it that they don’t like, what are the requirements? How many people can we send? If you have a hundred connections versus 500 connections, what’s the difference to LinkedIn and are they going to flag you? So all those things went into consideration. So there were so many of those moving parts versus something that’s very manual with a customer base or with, you know, a solutions based system where it’s just like we’re going in there manually doing it and you can’t send out a hundred connections requests yourself for 96 different people. You know, there’s just no scalability in that. So it has been an interesting thing to watch and I love just watching the amount of time that it’s saved for so many people. That’s been the biggest takeaway is as watching, you know, when I do graphics or doing websites for people, I mean a month to two month process depending on the site that we build versus something like this where it’s just almost instantaneously overnight they’re seeing messages in their inbox.

Frank Bria (14:53):
Yeah. That’s nice. Yeah. The leverage that I think a software solution brings, not just to you as a company, but to your clients. It is a big difference. It’s funny, one of the things that you kind of hinted at a little bit earlier on that I always hear people say when they’re running a service business and things are kind of, you know, going wrong as they always do in everyone’s business. It’s like it’s a person you can kind of follow up on process. You know how to fix it in a software company, if there’s a glitch or you’ve got an outside connection or you know, LinkedIn as you say you’re trying to integrate with and a lot of times you can’t really control it very much. It’s like this technical glitch and at least as a CEO, if you’re not a technical person, you’re kind of waiting around for somebody to figure out, you know, debug it, figure out what the issue is. That can be pretty frustrating for me. That’s always, you know, when it’s software, I’m always waiting around for somebody to tell me what’s wrong and I feel a little bit out of control.

Adrian Boysel (15:48):
It does. Right. I know that feeling. It’s like having other people in play in terms of it’s all riding on them and their skill sets and their abilities when, as a service. I mean if I come down to it and somebody’s sick for a week, you know, or it goes down cause they have a baby or something and they’re gone for a few weeks, I can jump in there and whip out an amazing logo or build an amazing website, but when it comes to software, it’s like, are you talking about, you know, Layer Vel and things like that. It’s completely different language. You know, I understand the end goal and what the objective is of what I want, but the road on how to get there and the process and everything, man, that’s a whole other beast.

Frank Bria (16:21):
It is. That’s, that’s funny. So what’s next for you guys as you look forward, you know, this year next 12 months? Is it product roadmap, is it growth, is it adding features?

Adrian Boysel (16:32):
Yeah we’re probably gonna add some features. We’ve talked about the targeting side of things quite a bit of trying to get even more specific with when you build the list and you pull that list in from LinkedIn right from your search tool and you bring that in. How do you scrub out the people that you know for a fact are not going to be. So if I’m going after San Francisco attorneys that are in personal injury, or let’s just say, I mean any San Francisco attorney, if I have that strategic list of 600/700 how do I get rid of the people that are government workers or that I’ve changed or maybe haven’t even updated their profile and scrubbing through that list. So we’re working on a system and a tool within that to help scrub those people out of the list that you can look real quick what their job description or the company they actually work for and then just quickly remove them from the list one at a time.

Frank Bria (17:16):
Yeah. Nice. That’s nice. I mean, you know, the old style, list by process, you knew you could do some of that cleansing and those are things you can’t really do in LinkedIn very well. Especially, you know, people who have not updated their profile forever and things like that.

Adrian Boysel (17:32):
Haven’t been on LinkedIn in six months and they work for the state of California now and you’re like, I had one guy that was like, I’m a district attorney for San Francisco. I’m like, Oh yeah, so you’re probably not going to need my services then. So things like that, it’s just part of the learning process as we’ve been testing it out, we realize we’ve picked up some fishes in the net that we’re like, Oh, this is not it. You got to go put it back in, you know?

Frank Bria (17:52):
Right. That happens. That’s great that you guys are looking at that. That’s exciting, it’s a hot area. A lot of people working in this area and…

Adrian Boysel (18:00):
So much potential…

Frank Bria (18:01):
And there’s a lot of potential and there’s a lot of unmet demand. I mean, one of the things that has absolutely frustrated me about LinkedIn is that they don’t seem to understand what they are. And they, in some sense, seem to be putting up roadblocks to prevent them from being the powerful thing that they could be. It’s just bizarre. I just, every time they come out with a new policy or a new announcement. I’m like, who is running this?

Adrian Boysel (18:27):
Right? Yeah, no, I’ve thought the same thing, and some of the implementations of allowing automations and just, you know, they don’t want people to take advantage of the system. I understand that. But man, the amount of time and length of the process that they’ve made with some of the systems, it’s like, dude, are you kidding me? And then they want you to pay, you know, the premium for being able to have access to other features of it. And I think it needs to be more of an open platform. I’m a big proponent for open source, more open platforms and I understand they got to generate revenue, but they’ve already got the ads platform.

Frank Bria (18:59):
That’s the thing is I think they generate more revenue when they become more usable as a platform. I think the thing that’s holding them back right now is that a lot of the stuff they’re doing to try to prevent it from becoming a bad experience, which I get, I totally understand, is actually preventing them from being a viable, longterm revenue generating platform. And if they don’t fix it soon, someone else is just going to come in and eat their lunch and come up with something better, you know, so.

Adrian Boysel (19:27):
Well, we’re taking a piece of that pie from them that they could be making themselves. Hopefully nobody from LinkedIn gets to hear this, but this is a big opportunity for somebody like LinkedIn to go in and build a lead generation side to their system that can help people really save time. You know, time is such a valuable resource. People don’t understand.

Frank Bria (19:45):
Yeah. Well maybe they are listening and eventually they’ll buy you guys out.

Adrian Boysel (19:48):
Yeah, there we go.

Frank Bria (19:51):
Adrian it’s been great talking to you. Unfortunately. We’re out of time and you’ve been really gracious with your time this morning. One more question before we go. If people want to connect with you, find out a little bit more about Lead Butler, what you guys are up to, what’s a great place for them to start? So they can look us up, leadbutler.io. That’s our website. They can check us out there. We’re also on Facebook. We can message back and forth if they have any questions there or they can look me up personally. They can look up adrianboysel.com. I’ve got a contact form there or they can email me. My best email is [email protected] so I’m pretty easy to reach.

Adrian Boysel (20:23):
Great. Excellent. And we’ll put those links here in the show notes. If you’re out and about listening, come on back to the show notes page and we’ve got links you can click directly through.

Adrian Boysel (20:31):
And an offer, right?

Frank Bria (20:34):
Yeah, absolutely. So we got that here on the show notes page as well, so…

Adrian Boysel (20:38):
Awesome. So if anybody’s interested in that, we can throw that out there. I’ll give them a super cool deal on the setup side because there’s an onboarding part of it. I’ll give them a huge discount on that.

Frank Bria (20:47):
Great. So yeah, you definitely need to come to the show notes page then to grab that. I appreciate that, very generous. Thanks so much, Adrian.

Adrian Boysel (20:54):
Of course.

Frank Bria (20:54):
And thanks for taking time and being on the show today.

Adrian Boysel (20:57):
Absolutely. Thank you, Frank. It’s been a pleasure.

Frank Bria (20:59):
Absolutely. And thank you so much for being with us on the SaaS CX Show. I’ve been your host, Frank Bria. Just a reminder, if you want to reduce customer churn 10 to 25% in the next three to six months, check out our SaaS churn checklist, which covers the seven things you need to have in place to ensure your ideal customers stay, use and love your software. Download it at sasscx.show. That’s saascx.show. We’ll see you next time. Make it happen. Bye bye.

Episode 011: Workforce Optimization with Paul Moynagh

Posted on March 13, 2020March 27, 2020Categories The SaaS CX Show1 Comment on Episode 011: Workforce Optimization with Paul Moynagh

In this episode of the SaaS CX Show, I talk with Paul to find out how enterprise planning can have such a powerful impact on the job sites he visits, and how that can translate to other industries as well. Here are a few highlights of what we discuss.

Paul Moynagh

One issue that plagues businesses, particularly at the enterprise level, is disorganization. With so many people and departments trying to work together, there are so many opportunities for communication to fall through the cracks.

In the corporate world, disorganization can lead to downtime and higher costs, but for Paul Moynagh, he knows that there can be a potentially destructive element to it as well. Paul is the CEO of Commit Works, an Australian-based company that sells software solutions to industrial sites like mining operations. When things aren’t planned out correctly, or workers go off plan, people can get hurt.

In this episode of the SaaS CX Show, I talk with Paul to find out how enterprise planning can have such a powerful impact on the job sites he visits, and how that can translate to other industries as well. Here are a few highlights of what we discuss.

Breaking Down Silos – the Excel Spreadsheet Problem

Don’t get me wrong – Excel is an excellent tool for many purposes. However, it’s meant as a calculating tool, not as something you use to store and spread information. All too often, people will make changes to a spreadsheet without understanding the formulas and coding involved, which can render the whole thing useless.

For Paul, he was discovering that so many of these mining operations were using spreadsheets to develop plans. Unfortunately, each department was creating its own spreadsheet. For that information to get to the men in the field, they had to copy the details onto paper or a whiteboard. To make a long story short, the information would get missed, plans would go awry, and the business’ bottom line would suffer.

That’s where SaaS comes into play. By developing software that can break down these silos and eliminate the need for spreadsheets, everyone can have access to the same plan at all times – from the manager to the work supervisors to the miners. From there, it’s so much easier to implement a strategy and follow through, which creates a more productive (and safe) environment.

Looking at Problems Fourth-Dimensionally

Another issue that Paul found at mining operations was that supervisors weren’t looking at how one process fed into another. For example, they knew that they had to run a specific machine for a specific time every day to achieve the results they want. However, they weren’t considering all of the extra elements required to make that happen. Infrastructure has to be put in place, crews have to maintain the machine, paths have to be created to help people get from one point to another, and so on.

Because these supervisors weren’t looking at the problem from that perspective, it led to a lot of downtime and setbacks. Rather than being proactive and building a plan that accounted for all of those pieces, they had to fix them on the fly.

The same can be said for enterprise-level companies that don’t blast and drill into the earth. It’s so easy for managers and supervisors to focus on one problem that they don’t realize the cause is actually three steps back (or part of a different department altogether).

Influencing Change for Long-Term Success

Finally, coming up with a plan is the easy part – implementing it and following through for the long run is incredibly hard, particularly when everyone is used to doing things a certain way.

One example that Paul illustrated was that mining supervisors had to report tons of data after a shift by writing details down on a whiteboard. These guys would be down in the mine for 12 hours at a time, so trying to figure things out afterward was almost impossible – something would get missed. Also, the environment isn’t conducive for success – if the whiteboard pen goes missing, how can they record the data?

So, for enterprises to ensure that changes happen and continue to move forward, they have to influence their workers and supervisors accordingly. They need to make sure that everyone has the skills necessary to complete the task, the desire to do it, and the tools to get it done. Without those elements, it’s too easy to fall back into old habits.

We talk about a lot of other stuff in this episode, so be sure to check it out here. Also, you can find out more about Paul at commit.works.

Episode 010: Membership Sites with Ward Sandler

Posted on March 9, 2020April 2, 2020Categories The SaaS CX Show1 Comment on Episode 010: Membership Sites with Ward Sandler

In this episode of The SaaS CX Show, I talk with Ward Sandler about membership sites. He shares best practices in creating membership sites as well as how things have changed over the years.

Show NotesTranscript
Ward Sandler of MemberSpace on membership sites
Ward Sandler

Over the last few years, one of the growing methods for businesses and startups to make money is to create membership sites. As an entrepreneur, your company has a lot of value, so why not charge customers a monthly fee to access your knowledge or features?

While this process sounds appealing to startups and other businesses, it’s not always easy to implement. Fortunately, you don’t need to know any programming language or spend countless hours updating your website page by page. In this episode of the SaaS CX Podcast, I’m talking with Ward Sandler, founder of Memberspace, a program that handles everything related to building membership sites.

Membership Sites Born From Website Consulting

Interestingly enough, Ward’s path to Memberspace was born out of consulting and building Squarespace websites. His original company worked with a lot of clients to create the site that they wanted, and one of his most-requested features was adding a membership package. At the time, nothing really existed that made it easy to incorporate this function, so Ward and his team decided to develop it themselves.

The story behind Memberspace is also great because it offers insight into how to run membership sites in general. Since the company uses its own product to sell to customers, it’s in a unique position to discover what works best and what doesn’t. Here are a few highlights of what Ward and I discuss.

Managing a Remote Team

Living in modern times means that more and more people can work remotely. While this tactic is both cost-effective and easy to implement, it’s not without problems. Mostly, issues stem from a lack of built-in communication methods. It’s easy to talk to a coworker about something when they’re next to you in the office – it’s more of a challenge when that person is in another city, state, or country.

Ward and his team had to figure out a lot of different details together, and the one thing that helped keep them on track was communication. Overall, if you assume nothing and take nothing for granted (i.e., that everyone is on the same page), you can provide a better system for communicating. Be proactive and repetitive if necessary – everyone has a lot on their plate, so you need to balance it with more communication, not less.

Don’t Forget the “Minimum” Part of MVP

One problem that so many startups face is that they want to add a million features for the launch. Each one is “crucial,” and will add to the overall value of the product, but they also take time, energy, and money to implement.

For Memberspace, they began with one feature, which was based on user comments. The beta version of the site enabled customers to lock specific site pages behind a membership wall. At first, it wasn’t a paywall, but just a system that forced visitors to set up an account.

From there, more features were added to Memberspace. Once the company mastered that feature, they could build on it to make the product better. At each step, they solicited feedback from their users to see which elements they wanted most so that they didn’t waste time and effort on something that wouldn’t add value.

According to Ward, if he and his team had built Memberspace based on what they thought people wanted in membership sites, it wouldn’t have been as successful. He was sure that analytics was a crucial piece of the puzzle, but they didn’t add that function for years after launching because no one cared about it.

Keep It Extra Simple

We all know that the older generation can sometimes be allergic to technology. However, you can use that to your advantage. Ward consistently relies on his parents (who are in their 70s) to make pages and features easier to understand. If boomers can navigate through your membership sites effortlessly, then anyone can.

We talk a lot more about membership sites, and there are plenty of other highlights in this episode, so check it out here. Also, if you’re interested in building a membership program yourself, you can let Ward and his team do the heavy lifting for you. Visit www.memberspace.com and use the promo code SaaS CX Group to get 50-percent off their services.

Frank Bria (00:00):
The SaaS CX Show, episode 10

Announcer (00:04):
From founders and CEOs to founders and CEOs. It’s the SaaS CX Show. You’ve found the one stop shop for all things CX. Each interview is an in-depth analysis of a successful growing SAAS company, building a world class customer experience for their users. And now for your host, serial SaaS entrepreneur, founder, consultant and advisor, Frank Bria.

Frank Bria (00:31):
Welcome to the SaaS CX Show by SaaS founders and CEOs for SaaS, founders and CEOs. I’m your host, Frank Bria. Today’s episode, we are going to be talking about membership sites, but first, the SaaS CX Show is brought to you by the SaaS CX group. Number one reason for ideal customer churn, not getting value from your software. Find out how to fix that by downloading our SaaS churn checklist. We cover the seven things you need to have in place to ensure your ideal customers stay, use and love your software. Decrease churn by 10 to 25% in just three to six months. Find out more at the show’s homepage. Saascx.show, that’s saascx.show. And now I am absolutely pleased to introduce today’s guest Ward Sandler. Ward is the co founder and CEO of Member Space. He has a background in sales, client management, web design and user experience. He’s passionate about helping people build membership businesses even if they aren’t tech savvy. Ward, welcome to the show.

Ward Sandler (01:33):
Hey Frank, thanks for having me.

Frank Bria (01:34):
Our pleasure. Absolutely. So this area, this space of membership sites is starting, I mean it’s been around for a bit, but I think it’s really starting to come into a kind of 2.0 version of things. I remember, you know, playing around with this stuff probably six years ago and feeling like you needed to hire a Salesforce consultant to get things up and running. So, first of all, how long has the company been around?

Ward Sandler (02:03):
Yeah, so we’ve been around since 2015.

Frank Bria (02:05):
Cool. Awesome. So you got some, some depth in the space here. And what did you guys see in this area that kind of motivated you guys to launch the company?

Ward Sandler (02:17):
Yeah, so we first started out as actually Squarespace consultants. Just like building websites and supporting those websites. And before that we were just building custom software. So we had kind of done at all. We had realized when we were building Squarespace sites, a major feature request was memberships and we looked around for third party tools that would plug into Squarespace specifically. And there were a couple, but they were really low quality and insecure and didn’t look good. And so we weren’t comfortable recommending them to clients. So we said, you know what, let’s try to make it ourselves. And so we built a real, real basic MVP version, got it out there, got free beta testers to try it out and just kinda kept building from there, adding features and making people happy. It just kinda kept growing and growing. And now we no longer do the consulting.

Frank Bria (03:03):
Yeah, I love that story of any software company gig is. You know, there’s no one right way to do it, but if there were a right way to do it, that’s the right way to do it. It’s sort of a Guy Kawasaki approach. His book Art of the Start is one of my favorites and that’s what he says. It’s consult, build tools to make your life easier, and then go sell those tools to your clients.

Ward Sandler (03:24):
So yeah, we actually got that general principle. It’s called a Sale Safari, give a hat tip to Amy Hoy, and her 30 by 500 which we did not take, but I’ve read a lot of her blog posts and kinda reverse engineered it a bit, but essentially, just to give you some context, we literally went to the Squarespace forum and sorted by most viewed topic and it was number three was like, how do I add memberships to Squarespace? And so it was like, we didn’t have to guess, is this something people want? There were 100,000 people that had viewed that topic. Thousands had commented. It was just like, Oh, obviously this is a thing so we don’t have to guess.

Frank Bria (04:02):
Yeah. That’s great. That’s awesome. So many sort of the old styles, you know, get a software company up and running where you had to basically go ask for $6 million and bury yourself in development for a couple of years before you get the first users on board. I’m glad to see those days over. You know, I have my own skinned knees from that stuff early on in my career, but it’s great to see other things moving along. So as you started transitioning from a consultancy to a software company, walk us through that dynamic. Was that a tough transition? You as CEO, did you have to change your role and how you were managing the organization during that transition?

Ward Sandler (04:46):
I mean, we’re lucky we had another person on our team called Roger who was handling most of the Squarespace actual consulting, like the actual implementation, the dealing with the clients. So it freed me up for a lot. I mean, I still did a lot of the sales calls, but it allowed me to spend most of my focus on Member Space. And then our CTO, Ryan, my co founder, he was full time just doing dev work, building and fixing stuff on Members Space. So he didn’t, he wasn’t involved in the Squarespace consulting at all. So really we were lucky because we had three people and two of us were focused on Member Space, and the consulting, which was paying the bills, we had Roger who we trusted to handle most of that. So it was nice.

Frank Bria (05:24):
So you were lucky that you had the, you know, also the foresight to have the people to essentially, you know, division of labor. Were there times where, because a lot of companies who do that, who make these transitions, whether it’s to break into a new vertical or to open up, you know, another software offering or to make this sort of switch over from services over to a straight solution focus. They find that during some of the transition there’s a little give and take, a little pulling of resources and a lot of negotiating. And oftentimes the part of the company that’s bringing the money in, will win the argument even though everyone knows longterm the other side of the company should be winning the argument. Do you guys have moments like that that you were dealing with?

Ward Sandler (06:12):
I can’t think of anything specifically that was along those lines. We always kind of understood that Member Space was the future and consulting was just something we had to do for now and we were pretty good at it. We, for example, we’ve built over 400 Squarespace sites, so we did a lot of volume. So you know, it was a core competency. We had good SEO, a lot of leads. So it was, but we know, we knew it didn’t scale indefinitely and it wasn’t the kind of work we wanted to do long term. So there was never really any tension because you know, we knew that it was just for now and Member Space was what we should be focusing on.

Frank Bria (06:46):
Yeah, it’s probably helpful you guys had the strategic vision at the time. This wasn’t, you were dipping the toe in the water and sort of investigating, it looks like you were kind of heading in that direction. Yeah, that’s great. As the leader of the company and as you’re growing now and adding more folks, is it a different management dynamic running a team of developers versus, you know, trying to be, be always in client service delivery mode?

Ward Sandler (07:18):
Yeah, no, for sure. I mean we’re 10 full time people now, including myself and we have, you know, a few contractors on top of that. So yeah, we have a decent sized team and yeah, I mean a lot of this stuff you kinda gotta learn on the fly. You know, how to deal with people. I mean, I’m sure everyone’s always heard. Like the number one issue is communication, especially if you’re a remote team, which we are. So, you know, you’re not doing face to face, you’re not meeting each other. I mean, we’ll do video calls and obviously text discussions in base camp is what we use. But yeah, it’s tricky. It’s figuring out how to communicate things properly. Making sure even being proactive about communication is the biggest thing. Like not assuming everybody remembers something or that they looked at something. So proactively letting everybody know, here’s where things are at and also here’s what we’re working on. So not surprising people. That’s something that I’ve had to kind of learn the hard way is that people don’t like to be surprised about new initiatives or new endeavors or changes. You should always try to give people as much time ahead of time to let them know that it’s coming.

Frank Bria (08:18):
Yeah, it’s interesting with a size team that you’ve got, which is, you know, moderate sized development team for growing software company. It doesn’t take very many people for you to have to start thinking about things like change management, communication dynamics. It comes in pretty fast. I always like to say the moment you get the third person in the room, you’ve got politics. So, yeah. That’s great. So were there any resources or things that you use to help you pick up these skills along the way? You know, I mean a lot of us also, the school of hard knocks, but were there any things that kind of helped you in that transition process as CEO?

Ward Sandler (09:04):
Yeah, I mean, I’d say there were a few. I’ve definitely been a pretty avid reader of various books, business books and blog posts and following people on Twitter. So anyone who knows about SaaS, they’d probably know there’s like the cool kid group of SaaS companies that are out there that everyone kind of follows, like the Justin Jackson’s, the Nathan Barry’s, that whole group of people on Twitter at least. So I’ve read a lot of their stuff and I think that a lot of good advice there. But I think, you know, and also Jason Freed from Base Camp a lot of his advice and how to run a business and keep the company calm. That’s all things that you kind of have to figure out, but there’s no, there’s just, there’s no magic one resource I’d point to. It was really trial and error to be honest. Just focusing on communicating and how to communicate better, and then asking the team what can we do to change, to improve communication? Because, you know, I might guess about what we should do and maybe that’s the right thing, but maybe it’s not and it’s easier just to ask your people, you know, what do you want this, what do you, what would you want this to be like? It’s kind of like user experience when you’re designing software. It’s like, just ask people what do you want? Like what are you trying to accomplish? And then, okay, I’ll try to make that as easy as possible.

Frank Bria (10:17):
It is interesting that a lot of times the soliciting feedback piece, which is easy I guess logistically to do, but gets overlooked a lot of times, especially when you’re moving fast as a company, you think we don’t have time to get everyone’s opinion in, you know, too many cooks in the kitchen. But it turns out that longterm, it seems like in most cases, you know, you just actually, you’re adding more time to the overall process to not get that feedback in the early stages.

Ward Sandler (10:48):
Yeah. You need systems. I mean at the end of the day, that’s what it is. It’s, you need systems on systems. Systems for pretty much everything because anything that is ad hoc will work to an extent and then it will break eventually. And so the more proactive you can be about systems, I think the better. But there’s also the fine line having over systematizing everything, having too many processes before they’re needed. So you kind of have to wait till it’s till the ad hoc system gets a little uncomfortable and then create a system that’s at least what we, what we try to do.

Frank Bria (11:19):
Yeah. That’s nice. That’s great. I mean it’s that just-in-time kind of a framework. So let’s focus a little bit on the software, the solution you guys are providing. What surprised, so you obviously recognized the need, you went out there and started building these things and as you started to put together a system that allowed people to put their own membership sites together, what was something that surprised you most that may maybe have been more difficult than you thought it was going to be or you weren’t expecting in this process in order to deliver a solution that people would actually use?

Ward Sandler (11:57):
Yeah, I mean I’d say it’s the nuance of features. Like we are, just to be clear, so what we are, we’re, CMS agnostics. You can use Squarespace, Webflow, WordPress, Wix, we believe in custom HTML. And that’s what makes us different is that you can plug our software into any website and just create memberships by protecting pages, charging for access. And then you can actually even move your website, say from like Webflow to WordPress and your membership moves with you, all the billing details, all the login details. You don’t need to recreate any of that. So that’s kind of what makes us special because there’s a lot of systems out there for creating content and hosting content and charging money for it. That’s not really what we’re competing. We’re competing where it’s like you want everything to live on your website. And so because of that, we get a lot of different types of membership businesses. People use this tool in lots of ways, not just the obvious ones. And so there’s a lot of nuance of different kinds of features and user experiences that they want. And so it’s always been a tricky game to figure out, you know, what can we make that is going to be useful for most people as opposed to someone’s pet feature or something that a few people are loudly asking for, but that actually won’t help the majority of our customers. That’s always a tricky balance that we’re still working with today.

Frank Bria (13:09):
Yeah, I mean, I think every software company is always struggling with you know, which features they’re going to be putting on the roadmap and not. How did you do that with the MVP? How did that work in the MVP? Did you get a group of folks together that were kind of, you know, an initial beta users that gave you that feedback or how did you make that initial assessment of here’s where we’re going to cut it off for the MVP?

Ward Sandler (13:33):
Yeah, I mean, so this is going back to when I was talking about the Amy Hoy Sales Safari stuff. I read through that, the Squarespace forum post about adding memberships. So I read every single comment. So that took hours and then as I’m reading and I’m also taking notes and so you start to very quickly get up to see a pattern of what is it that people are asking for. Like where’s the overlap? It’s like a Venn diagram. What is it that almost that everybody needs? Cause that’s just, and then what are the current solutions doing that people don’t like? And so the Venn diagram, we picked out the smallest, clearest sliver of overlap. And what that was was simply I want the ability to lock down specific page URLs on my website so that random people can’t get to them. And in order for people to get to them, they need to register as a member. And when we just started, what registering as a member meant was literally them creating an account, which is name, email and password. No payments. That’s it. So someone has to register as a member name, email, password and now they can get access to these member only pages on your site. That’s all we did. Literally there were no other features. And so we got, I think it was like a hundred people we posted in Facebook groups and we reply to the forum thread and got like a hundred people just to try this out for free, just to give us feedback. And we heard really good things or like, yeah, this does exactly what I need. Oh, could you also add this feature though? Oh, it’d be great if I could charge a recurring subscription, et cetera, et cetera. So that’s what we started with that core of what is it that people actually need that they can’t do right now? And that was what I just said.

Frank Bria (15:05):
Yeah. Smart. Yeah. This, I think is one of the big mistakes a lot of software companies make when they go out with an MVP is they miss minimum. They, you know, sometimes we miss viable but most often I think we miss minimum and I’ve seen several software companies just never get off the blocks cause they keep trying to throw stuff in and someone’s like, but this is important, this is important. And it turns out that, you know, it might’ve been important but it doesn’t matter cause their software’s not hitting the streets.

Ward Sandler (15:35):
I mean if we had guessed what features to build when we did the MVP, we would have been wrong on a lot of them to be honest. Like just as an example, you would assume if you have a membership business, you need really in depth analytics about what people are getting charged and how many members you have over time. And that was, we didn’t build that for years and we have it now. But when we first started it was like nobody even asked for it. And I was like, wow, I would have assumed analytics would have been something you need to have and just wasn’t true. So that’s really the trying to figure out the literal minimum, right? That’ll solve the core problem. It’s tricky. It’s easier said than done, but it’s really, really trying to focus on that is what we do.

Frank Bria (16:16):
You know, it’s funny because in the software world, we all look at like Steve Jobs, you know, and then Steve Jobs comes out and says your users don’t know what they want. You’re going to create a vision and I think people do get hooked on that a little bit. And I always shake my head cause Steve Jobs is amazing, but he was also a one in a million, you know, kind of a person. And for us mere mortals, it’s way easier to just go ask people. So now when people throw that quote in my face, I go, you know what? You go exit three companies first and then you can go become Steve Jobs. Until then, start asking people what they want. Right now you guys have a really fascinating feature that I think is, I don’t know if it’s unique completely cause we didn’t look at every single one of your guys’ competitors in research for this, but I’ve never seen it before. You do some some fee recovery work or there’s some fee recovery features. Talk a little bit about that. That seems like a really unique angle.

Ward Sandler (17:13):
Yeah, so we use Member Space to run Member Space, so it helps us kind of dog food it to see if there’s issues or UX things or things that we want to do for our company. Cause you know, we have a subscription business and so one of those things was recovering fees. So what that means is there’s three things. One, when someone goes to sign up to become a member, it’s a two part signup, so create your account, then you see the credit card form to pay. So just like on eCommerce sites, if you start to check out, but then you get to the credit card part and you don’t fill it in. Some eCommerce sites and extensions will allow you to do abandoned cart recovery to follow up with those people. We do the same thing for memberships. So if somebody creates their account but then doesn’t fill in the credit card details or doesn’t do it successfully for whatever reason, we automatically have popups on your site that we generate and we send emails on your behalf that you can edit. So that’s part one. Second part is if you have people paying you on a recurring basis, it’s inevitable that their credit cards are going to fail at some point. It happens with everyone. So we have again popups on the site and emails that go out that encourage people to update their credit card details so that their account can stay active and the charge can go through. And then the third thing we do is cancellation alternatives. So if somebody goes to cancel their subscription, you can give your member options alternatives instead of canceling things like, would you like to extend your trial? Would you like a coupon discount. Do you just want to talk to support? Like, maybe you just couldn’t figure out how to talk to support. So we give them those four options and then the other one is just, you know, cancel. But, those are all things that help us as a software business that’s doing subscriptions at scale, that helps us a lot. You’re talking about thousands of dollars a month in difference by having those features. So we knew if we do this, other people are going to do it. So we created it for ourselves, then it automatically is enabled for everybody else cause we use Member Space to run Member Space. So that’s kind of how that came about.

Frank Bria (19:01):
That’s very cool. And it’s, I think a lot of people, when I looked at that, it was like those are the kinds of things you see with very sophisticated eCommerce sites that I think a lot of people would assume that kind of functionality was a little bit out of their reach. And you guys have kind of put it in reach of again, us mere mortals who are doing this. Brilliant move. I love that. We’re running out of time. One last question I want to ask you and that’s specifically around the customer experience piece. So as you started to think through what the customer experience should be for, you know, setting this up cause fundamentally setting up any kind of a technical platform involves a lot of steps. It involves a lot of tech, a lot of integration. You guys are sitting on a lot of other people’s platforms. There’s a lot of pieces you don’t control, right? And so there’s a lot of places it could go wrong and have nothing to do with you guys. So as you’re thinking through that customer experience to get someone to this successful point of implementation, what were some of the overall principles, design principles you guys were falling back on to help guide that effort?

Ward Sandler (20:10):
Yeah, I mean, again, trying to keep things as simple as possible. Like one of our core focuses is that we want to help nontechnical people. So you need to keep things really simple. If it’s non technical, things need to be as clear as possible. And even then, no matter what you do, you’re going to get certain amount of people confused. You know, how matter any, even the best software in the world, there’s still some confusion and just it’s inevitable, but it’s trying to get it so the majority of people can get through smoothly. So that involves a lot of talking to people. Like for example, I talk with probably about 20 customers every week. I do, I do demos of Member Space. So I get to see firsthand people’s using the software, trying to implement it, asking questions about it based on our marketing site. So I get to learn and get feedback every day almost about what’s working and what’s not and what could be better, what could be more clear. So that’s a big part of it. Another part, which is kind of random and funny, I actually have my parents who are both approaching 70 check out different screens that I designed sometimes and just kind of get their thoughts. And you’d be amazed how much I’ve been able to simplify and clarify things just by having them look at something and I tell them what are you supposed to do on this page? And then just let them talk. And it’s fascinating and it’s almost always right. Like once I may take their feedback and then make a change, they’re like, yeah, this is good now. And it’s like, Oh, okay. So if you, so I guess the way to codify it is if you can make something that’s simple for people that are much older, it’ll be stupid simple for people that are tech savvy. So by trying to appeal, make it simple for the lowest common denominator, everybody benefits. And again, that’s easier said than done, but I think it’s a good principle to strive for.

Frank Bria (21:47):
No, that’s great. So Ward, you’ve just created the grandma principle for UX design. That’s awesome. Good stuff. I love it. I love the focus on simplicity and you know, just getting that feedback. That’s again, one of those things that I think people leave out of the process a lot. So good stuff. Ward, thanks so much. Really appreciate it. It’s been great. I really appreciate you taking the time with us today. One last question before we go. People want to connect with you guys. Want to find out more about Member Space. What’s a great way for them to get started?

Ward Sandler (22:20):
Yeah, so just head on over to member space.com all the stuff is there that you need. And if you do want to sign up for a free trial, it’s 14 days and we’re happy to extend it if you need more time. And then we also have a special coupon code for your listeners. It’s SaaS CX group, so you just enter SaaS CX group into the coupon field when you’re signing up for the trial and it’ll give you 50%, five zero, off your first month. Also, we will do a free migration for you. So if you want to migrate from another platform and other membership system over to Member Space, we’ll help you do that for free.

Frank Bria (22:52):
Thank you. Very generous offer to the the audience. Really appreciate that. And those links with coupon code are on the show notes page. If you’re out and about listening to the show, come on back and connect through and check out Member Space and Ward. Thanks so much for taking time with us. Really appreciate it.

Ward Sandler (23:06):
Yeah, thanks Frank!

Frank Bria (23:07):
And thank you so much for being with us on the SaaS CX Show. I’ve been your host, Frank Bria. Just a reminder, you want to reduce customer churn by 10 to 25% in the next three to six months. Check out our SaaS churn checklist, which covers the seven things you need to have in place to ensure your ideal customers stay, use and love your software. Download it now at saascx.show that’s saascx.show. We’ll see you next time. Make it happen. Bye bye.

How to Run a Demo for SaaS that Gets More Customers

Posted on March 4, 2020March 27, 2020Categories ArticleTags , , , , , , , , , ,   Leave a comment on How to Run a Demo for SaaS that Gets More Customers

If you’re a SaaS company, you know the demo is a critical part of the sales process. But not all demos are effective. In fact, many are downright boring and end up losing the customer’s interest. This article intents to answer the question once and for all, how to run a demo for your SaaS company that actually gets more customers to sign up.

If you’re a SaaS company, you know the demo is a critical part of the sales process. But not all demos are effective. In fact, many are downright boring and end up losing the customer’s interest. This article intends to answer the question once and for all, how to run a demo for your SaaS company that actually gets more customers to sign up.

Learn how to run a demo that generates customers
Using a right demo script is critical to gain new customers

In order to describe the “perfect demo”, we need to talk about the types of demos. There are three different demo styles or scripts.

  1. The “Menu” Demo
  2. The “Feature Review” Demo
  3. The “Day in the Life” Demo

Each of these three scripts has a different feel to them. And they can all be useful in different parts of the sales process.

Whatever script you use, the structure is critical. You need to capture the attention of your audience in the first 2 minutes of the discussion. Otherwise, you might lose their interest – and the sale.

Once you get the sale, don’t lose the customer. Check out our SaaS Churn Checklist for ideas on how to retain your ideal customer.

How to Run a Demo and How Not to Run a Demo

The three demo types we’ll be focusing on highlight different perspectives on the purpose of a demo. Some are useful in some scenarios. Some are not.

The important thing is knowing what part of the sales process you’re in. If you’re trying to sell to potential users, you need to speak their language. Sometimes, however, we’re just trying to check boxes off an RFP questionnaire. That’s a completely different scenario requiring a different script.

But we’ll run through each one and highlight the pros and cons.

The “Menu” Demo

The “Menu” demo is the most frequently used demo script. In the “Menu” Demo, the demonstrator goes through each of the major functions of the software – as if going through the top level menu – and explains why they’re there and what they do. The demonstrator doesn’t go into each detail, but the overall context of each section is provided.

For example, imagine the main menu of your software were: Import, Review, Approve, and Reporting. Those menu items forms the script of how to run a demo of this software.

The demonstrator would spend some time on the Import function. Describe some of the major features, talk about why it’s there and when you would use it.

Then the demonstrator would move onto the Review menu item. Again, they would discuss what Review is for, who would use it and what major features are there.

And so on until each of the menu items have been covered.

The “Menu” demo is a popular way to run a demo because it’s easy to remember – you simply follow the menu. Hence the name. The demonstrator is sure to cover all the major points because they’re included in the menu.

The problem with the “Menu” demo is that it’s “software-centric.” The menu items were created to resemble some broad workflow, but not necessarily from the user’s perspective.

And if the menu was created without the user’s workflow in mind, then this script is even more disconnected from what a real user would do with the software.

If your software is even moderately complex, a user will rarely use all the menu items in a single session. In fact, many of the menu items might not be used on a regular basis. If your software is designed for the enterprise, then a user might not even need many of the menu items; they have been designed for other user types.

Despite how you might view the workflow, the menu items will likely not represent how your customer actually uses the software. And because of this disconnect, although the “Menu” demo is informative, it’s rarely persuasive.

The “Feature Review” Demo

The “Feature Review” demo is like the “Menu” demo on steroids. The demonstrator goes through each and every feature, every box, every option to demonstrate the power of the software.

The idea is to overpower the the prospect with all the possibilities and they will want to license your software.

That result rarely occurs. In fact, unless such a demo is required by a Request for Proposal (RFP), you should never run a “Feature Review” demo. They are overwhelming and usually end up making your software look complex and unwieldy.

Enterprise SaaS sales can be tricky. Listen to our interview with Gregory Giagnocavo about the unique challenges of the enterprise SaaS sales.

Just like the “Menu” demo, the “Feature Review” demo is “software-centric.” It’s all about your code and nothing about the customer. What the “Menu” demo tries to do is stick with the workflow embedded in the menu. The “Feature Review” leaves this intention behind, getting lost in functionality at the expense of actual function.

Most customer who watch a “Feature Review” demo end up impressed by the thought that has gone into each component, but often do not understand how the software actually works.

This “shock and awe” approach is not how to run a demo. You’ll find your prospects with more questions afterwards than they had before. And worse yet, they may be too confused to know what to ask.

The “Day in the Life” Demo

It turns out what your prospects want to know most is how they’ll use your software in their day-to-day work. You will want to think through how to run a demo that highlights the typical use cases your customer will go through.

The focus on use cases can be complex when you have enterprise software and multiple user types. That only emphasizes how important it is to structure demos around the audience.

Regardless of the different types of users, your demo needs to be “customer-centric.” It needs to focus on things your customer actually does. Build a script around what life actually looks like for your user – pre and post-implementation of your software.

The “Day in the Life” demo is a scenario-based demo. Start with a typical situation – ideally one your software makes easier. Set up the scenario verbally and then walk through the exact steps the user would take to handle that scenario.

Choose scenarios that are common rather than one-off “corner cases.” If you can include commentary about workflow that is happening outside the software, you’ll find your prospective user understanding better how your software will affect their work.

In the end, you’re shooting for dramatic changes in outcomes. You need to justify the return on investment in your software. And your demo should make it clear that the day-to-day work of the user will result in that ROI.

You will be tempted to “throw a few things” into the “Day in the Life” demo because your scenario doesn’t hit on some key features or functionality. Resist this urge. Your prospect will be won over by seeing how your software interfaces with their already existing workflow. Detours and breaks in the flow only serve to confuse the prospect. That disruption makes it less likely for them to see your software fitting “into their life.”

If you find your “Day in the Life” demos are missing key features and function, that should tell you something. Either you’re telling the wrong stories or your key features aren’t all that key.

If you adopt an agile development framework, some of these stories should already be a part of your internal language. You’re just showcasing them to your prospects now.

How to Run a Demo that Gets People to Buy

All the theory in the world isn’t helpful if you can’t visualize it in action. That’s true for your customers. And it’s true for you. To that end, here are some examples of outstanding demos you might use for some inspiration.

In the end, your goal is simple. More customers.

But to do that, your prospect needs to go on a journey with you. They need to see a relevant, valuable outcome. They need to recognize a problem with what they’re doing today. And they need to see you solving that problem.

These problems are a part of your customers’ daily life. The scenarios you describe in your software demo need to reflect those daily challenges.

Your potential customer will not be swayed by the latest feature or shiny object. Especially not when that new gadget doesn’t immediately address their pain points.