Listen to… learn from a founder of an online magazine, get a sales strategy consult and grow with direct sales to narrow markets.
Direct sales for fast growth
Awesome interview with Nathan Barry (founder of ConvertKit) on Escape Velocity.
He talks about the early days when ConvertKit was doing $2K MRR and increased to $90K MRR in the space of a year. Direct sales was the key to that growth and what he did is relevant to anyone starting out today.
4 (😄) lessons…
- The first thing to do is figure out the specific group of people that your product is for. It’s the only way to compete in a crowded market where you’re selling people on switching from an existing solution. Unless you have a massive marketing budget. Once you know who they are, you can list them out by name and then go and target them with cold outreach.
- When reaching out, short emails work best. Long looks copy and pasted. Short looks personal. Don’t sell in the email. Ask about problems with what they’re doing today and ask for advice about what you’re building.
- If you’re going to use affiliates keep in mind the 98/2 rule. Only 2% of your signed up affiliates will ever make a single sale. You have to “sell” to your affiliates to sell for you. You need to help them with tools and encourage them to remember to promote you. It’s not a way to sit back and watch the money roll in.
- It’s difficult to add scarcity to SaaS products to encourage immediate action (without discounts). ConvertKit sells via webinars with partners (so tapping into their audiences) and adds exclusive deals to the offer. Things like extended trials, courses, books. The audience gets them only if it buys there and then.
Sales vs Marketing
This ties in nicely with the Nathan Barry episode above. It gets more into the detail of why sales beats marketing at the early stages of your startup. And how to go out and sell.
Bootstrapping SaaS podcast is a new discovery and this interview with Louis Nicholls felt like listening to a real sales strategy meeting. Not an interview.
- Don’t focus on marketing in the early stages. Focus on sales. Why? Because sales gives you important feedback, immediately, on what you’e doing. It’s a conversation. Marketing isn’t. The person on the receiving end of your marketing can hit the back button and you’ll never know why. You need scale to get meaningful data from marketing. And at the early stage of a bootstrapped business, you don’t have the money to buy that data.
- For this reason, don’t do recorded demos of your product. Even for a low price point. The feedback you get from a demo is important. You can use it later to create the perfect recorded demo.
- Having an opinion that differs from everyone else can help you stand out in a crowded market. Putting yourself out there will attract people who want to stand with you.
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Creating with passion
Another new podcast discovery. Focused on interviews with creative people / makers who have started building their own businesses.
This episode of Creative Rebels features Angelica Malin, the founder of About Time magazine which she started straight after college.
There’s a lot packed into this podcast, touching on the many different challenges of running a creative business.
- Work life balance is a myth. Work and life are becoming integrated and we’re continuously flowing from one to the other. Recognize that it’s ok for the boundaries to blur. But, need to learn how to manage it to avoid burnout.
- Passion projects beat doing it for the money every time. When things go wrong (and they will, a lot) it’s the passion and purpose that will keep you moving forward.
- When brands started to move their ad spend to social media, About Time magazine was able to pivot to the events business because they had a small nimble team. They hadn’t gone all in and doubled down on one thing. So were able to see change coming AND do something about it.