Growth Marketing Camp
Growth Marketing Camp

Episode 1 · 1 year ago

This Free Microtool Strategy Drove Huge Wins at Every Point in the Funnel

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Sujan Patel, Co-Founder of Mailshake, shares how one of his agency customers took a complex financial product with high churn and created incredible wins in new business, onboarding, and retention, all with a microtool offer strategy.
 

Welcome to growth marketing camp, where we sit down with our favorite marketers to D mystify growth and give you the insights to help turn your next campaign into a major success. Let's get into it, all right. Welcome to growth marketing camp. I'm your host, REX Biverston. With me today Sugean Patel Sujin. I know him as the CEO of mail shake and a few others. Let him do a little bit of introduction for himself, suge, and tell us about your background here. Yeah, rex, thanks for having me excited to chat about growth, all things growth today. My backgrounds a digital marketing been doing that for the lastic sixteen, seventeen years, since the early two thousands. I currently run mail shake and a handful of other SASS companies. Of just been buying and growing them all be to be Sass kind of focus on sales marketing, and then one odd ball hr tech company. But yeah, pretty much between that and like my experience working as a consultant with various startups from think like Air B and be when they were like an underdog, when they were like are they? This is a crazy concept into it's like all sorts of ECOMM to fintech to be to be SASS startups. Yeah, I've just had a lot of different campaigns and failed a lot enough to where I know what does it work to give me a little bit of a direction of word ago. Awesome. No, that's fantastic, and we're going to talk about one of those successful campaigns you had today. But I think the most important takeaway already for me is, yeah, you got to fail a lot, you got to try things. If you're not experimenting and failing, you're probably never going to succeed. So that's awesome. Talk to us a little bit about the background. So we're going to talk about one campaign in particular. I know it had to do with a fremium or a free product that you were leveragine. You want to talk us through the setup of what was that company and who was the customer that you're trying to serve in that audience? Yeah, so I can't share the exact company name, but I'll tell you everything else. Or companies in the finance space could be to be prosumer right, targeting like small businesses as well as as well as folks that and you'll figure this out by the more detail I get into it. Just won't. I won't confirm or deny the name. But the the other part is that there sell them to folks who will want to do their taxes, do their book keeping and such. Maybe they're like a freelancer or whatever, all the way to small businesses taking care of their finances. There and what really at the macro level, what the idea, the concept was that, like this product, was complicated doing your finances and like doing the software, to utilize it, you have to make a decision that I'm going to be. Yes, I want to get ahead of my software. I want to get ahead of my finances. Tired of doing it at the end of every year and scrambling and many read many pain points of not doing it. I'm tired of many pain points at not doing it. The list goes on. But the friction point of this software is that, okay, you to fully activate, you could utilize it and sign up and pay for it even but to fully activate you actually like load your load, your books, you're counting your statements and all that detail into this software and then categorize and do some work. So a lot of that initial work is a lot. It's just a high friction point, but that being said, obviously they need to overcome that. They need to grow, and what happened was a lot of people bought the software, but then they had a lot of high churn rate. So it wasn't actually preventing them from Mike actually converting people, it was just preventing them from keeping customers, because people would buy it like yeah, I need to get around to that, and eventually it gets around. I need to stop paying for that. I'm never going to. I'm not doing that right now. But so they started thinking about ways to resoot reduce their friction points, and obviously with reducing friction points can come in tools, people, you ax, simplicity, changing whatever. And then they're thinking about, in addition to like this, these ideas, let's they just round a lot...

...of bunch of them. Do they solve other problems, like top of the funnel? Can they help bring in more customers? So they think they thought about the pain points these customers have and they launched micro tools to help you not get ahead of your whole finances for your business, but just solved on spot probable, Hey, important your finances here and will do it for me or important. It was like these importers from your bank and it would do like a thirty percent semi machine learning ask thing to categorize your books into the right categories so that it would do probably by thirty to fifty percent of the work for you. And it turns out certain ways. Again, they can't mention the name of the tool. But what this thing did was it helped, again, solve a problem, but then it also it helped solve that on board problem. But it will also did was it could be a great way to actually get customers to so. Again, like the pitch is way easier when you say, Hey, like, just use this software. It's free. So it's free and will do it like this will organize your books, and so you have to spend minutes or hours doing this versus days and weeks. They'll just get the preliminary stuff for you to review or and then the way they tested it, they tested different things for you to review. It's Oh, this will get the preliminary stuff so that you could save money on your accounting and when you send this to your account and they can take it from there. And so they built an exporter and importer and export importing whatever bank you work with, and then it just categorize your books, is very simple in terms of what it did, and then export to whatever counting software, one of which was their own software. So they didn't actually build this as a main tool, which allowed them to build it way faster. They didn't have to build inside of their ecosystem. They just built the third party tool that then synked up with their to what the other end. And Yeah, so they use this to drive a bunch of traffic, get people to get started and then they use sales to get them down the finish line. And in terms of the cost proquisition or cost per a free trial of their main product was around about a hundred, two hundred and fifty dollars. A sign up like, whether it to demo or signing up for a free product, the cap total was about five fifty. The sign up for this free product, because it was way simpler and and actually people getting people to use it was way was way closer to the like. The sign up process is about twenty five to fifty dollars at scales. What closer to fifty kind of starting off it was twenty five bucks to get a user and the cat to get a customer of their main product from this thing was three hundreds, so like almost half. And so what I like about this idea, and I know I'm not saying the name or whatnot, but you could see the amount of accounting softwares out there and then the couple names I mentioned in my introduction of myself. You'll figure it out. But but yeah, it was really simple because it helped reduce the cat quite a bit. It helped open up marketing and and and and top of the funnel and it helped reduce the friction point and the starting point of of this and frictions last churn of the software. So I think the best marketing strategies are our best marketing ideas involve leveraging the product or even taking bits and pieces of the product and say let's just make this standalone, let's just go do that and without it. And what's really crazy about this is the the story of mail shake is that's actually how we were born. We had this complicated content marketing platform that let you find all the folks, give you the opportunities of folks to reach out to, let you do outreach your email. You do outreach be a message,...

...twitter, linkedin and some social media platforms and and also help you tweet and share stuff on the web, to to tag the people you're going to Ping. What turns out the people loved was this like outreach part right, not a very genius idea on its own, as many people who have done this or do this now, but we only found that out by making all these random micro tools. And so it has worked, and I've seen this work many times before, is using features or using a function of your product independently of your product as a microtool and and and then launching and getting traction because it's so simple, but it's complicating enough to where it requires depth. It requires you to think about a product that not enough people take advantage of. This yeah, on man, that's fantastic and it reminds me so much of hub spot micro tools I've used for years. I've recommended, like their persona builder, to probably two hundred people, many of whom probably went on to become up spot customers because it was so easy to get involved with the brand and Oh wow, I can just take this and put it right int hup spot. All this is great. So I love the example here and I think it highlights that it's not for you guys. It wasn't about, Hey, which channel should we pick and what spen? You had some of that already honed in. You already knew where your costs were going to be, but it was much more about the strategy and can we nail the right idea, the right concept behind this before we worry about everything else? Now I do want to dig into a little bit of the execution of some of that. What channels did you find were most impactful for you guys? Where were you spending highest words? You find that we ended up cutting that channel out, that sort of thing, like where were you focused? So the biggest channel was actually the in the churn customers, as email, let's put that way. Email was a big show. So all the people who didn't purchase the product, that all the free trials that expired or like whatever for the last year, two years, I think it went back like two years. There's thousands, tens of thousands of people in that list. Anyone who's churn all got this. Oh Wow. And so that was the biggest channel because it was just free money. It was like it was free. And by the way, when I cack calculations in the CPA calculations don't factor in the free channels. Like it that was going to ask you that if that impacted, and that's amazing scene. Yeah, and the reason is think about your life. Look how many people have signed up for open sense and just not purchased right or like? How many people have churned? I hate to say like a lot have, but like whatever that's been on the whole history of the company. There's assets there. Don't stop marketing to people after they've stopped purchasing. They may not want to use your product, but it doesn't mean they might not want to hear from you. Might doesn't mean, like they don't appreciate good content. And you're right, it's exactly like the hub spot, I would say, is like the gold standard for a lot of this stuff, or at least they were. I don't think they are anymore. I don't not to say that they're doing a bad job. I think there's kind of in dept in strategies. I think like they've got so much of the product or you built right. They've got they've now done this same play with micro tools to get their marketings back. They've done that for sales customer success and it evolves because they're going out to a whole new customer base. So it doesn't work. If you're like a marketing tool on and go after sales. Now, this strategy is not going to work for you. That's a pivot, right. But what this will do is if you're I think help spot built sidekick, which was now their sidekick was like Acqua, hired from their own main company and became hub spot sales. Yep, obviously that alone wasn't up sales. It was a bunch of other stuff. But yeah, it's a hut strategy. I think intercom is a good job. Intercom and drift, you a pretty decent job with this, although I don't know, I don't think it's as they don't do it as successful is help spot, and I think the reason for that is that in the marketing tech world this strategy has been utilized to death. It's been really utilized, and it's also because marketing tech is competitive sets saturated. It's hard to build a microtool...

...that in a space that a solution that doesn't exist. Right. So now you're launching something that's already out there and your coort differentiator might be that it's free. That's it again. Still Possible, but that's a differentiator. It's hard. It's hard to say exactly if will work the same. I do think, though, anyone that's not in marketing tech, which is most of the world of marketers right be to BBTC, all that sit's it works really well. Take your friction points. Think about so the premise here is take all the friction points from your sign up, your onboarding, everything. After somebody comes to it, it becomes a visitor. I'm assuming you can get people to the website. That's what I'm going to assume if we're talking to marketers here. But after the website to like becoming a long term customer, what's all the friction points? List them down, like in a timeline of the sign up to like awesome customer, and then think about those are the problems. List think about what are tools or things you can do to make that better. And people help to quick books is a really good or turbo tax and quick books. I think it's all into it brand. They do a really good job of having accountants be available for chat. So now they're like hey, look, we know if you are doing their taxes, talk to in Acount. Boom. Yeah, it was a friction point that led to an up cell, an expansion revenue. No, I love it. I think that it's not just for new acquisition. I was going to mention that. It seems like there's other places in your funnel. Once you get to the bottom of the initial sale, a funnel expands out right. There's so many places where there might be friction currently. I love that concept. Really smart stuff. If you had to do it all over again, or if you could, what would you change anything? You would change any places. You would spend that you didn't spend any places that you would modify something. Or do you feel like that was like a knockdown home run? No, I think I'm always so. I always trying to do again. I run for five companies at the count. These days I run five companies. So my goal is always to do it again, like to set these things out can be done over and over and like I've got so many playbooks out of testing and failing so often. So I think the big thing is like trying to get the idea to be not an MVP, but what is the minimal version of this idea that would work? I think we spent so I think where I spent a lot of time was trying to get this concept to work. It probably could have been done in half the time had I simplified the idea down to its essence. The other thing is I didn't think about although I'm a marketer, because this was like a activation problem, I didn't think enough about the marketing acquisition channels and then the marketing value. I knew the marketing value was this is going to help people stick around as customers and sign up as become customers. So I thought about this as like a middle of the bottom, more of the bottom of the funnel problem or post fun a problem for churn. But and then I said, Oh, this could also be used for top of the funnel, and I think any idea you come up with always think about top of the funnel and then what you're going to do that. So it wasn't until maybe halfway through, or maybe even more than that. I think maybe two thirds of the way, with the idea is already flushed out, that I'm like, Oh, like, maybe we could drive traffic, paid traffic to this is the answer that we did the math. Oh yeah, we could absolutely do it. But had I known that, we could have done that I could have done this way faster because, yeah, now I've got I had more buy in to go do it, or I have a bigger, big idea. Got had a greater impact and again it turned out it did help the like conversion and keeping customers around, but that was peanuts to like the top of the funnel. Yeah, so, had I done it again, I would just do the math and think about all the different ways again, levers things, because we spent...

...like a few weeks going back and forth on honing down the ideas, when, if I did the math and all the ideas, this would have been the best one in terms of impact and it would have just been it would be one meeting away from being started, versus like a feedback loop and whatnot. Yeah, that's great. This is an awesome zoomed in look at a campaign for one of the companies you've worked with. I'm sure we could probably do this for the next year and still have content to talk through of all the different times you've tried these things. That's a clear win and a really fun campaign to learn from. I would love to zoom out a little bit and just talk about your take on growth marketing and marketing in general, but particularly because you're like that, one of the people I think of for growth right like you've had to take things from A to Z. You want to get them to some point. I've read a lot of your content sharing how you've done that with your companies and there's a goal in mind. So I think growth is you could maybe make it your middle name. But I would love to hear your take on a couple of these thoughts, these questions. So the first one is what's one thing that growth marketers should stop doing that they're doing now, or maybe start doing that they're not doing yet? I think the stop doing part would be to stop focusing in on what they read about or, like the Air B andb examples, like all the growth tactics that you know about. Think about them as everything, as an expiration date. Use them as inspiration. Don't try to copy them. I find, like a lot of people like, I gotta add some virality to my product. Twenty years ago, when hot mail pulled that awesome stunt off, there was no there was not eighty eight hundred other SASS companies that would trying to get their attention. Email was a lot earlier in its age. DROPBOX, same thing air B ANDB when they like. Leverage credits is for a lot of this stuff, those things. Use them as like a gold standard of an example, but as inspiration. Right, not in not. Don't try to mirror with the gains. It won't work. What you're saying they should start doing. Yeah, what people should also start doing. And like, this is not a this is not a new concept. Markers should be doing math, but they should be doing the math on their ideas before executing and I find a lot of times. I find a lot of times people don't think through the full benefit or whatever of the idea or the value it's going to provide. So one, when you do the math, if forces you to choose, what metric is this going to impact? Like it's gonna have me get more traffic? Is it gonna help me get more email? optives are going to be get more leads, sales, demos, purchases, keep customers, whatever it is, I don't care. And then then work backwards from that. Okay, if I need to get it. I think it's going to help get me more customers. Okay, it's going to have to go from traffic to customers. Let's just do the math. X Idea will generate why traffic and why traffic con convert at Z and the Z will turn into a for number of customers. It will provide. Right. There's a mathematical standard. Right. Let's say ten percent convert is right. From visitor, try out me now, from visitor trial or demo and demo to sales. Fifty percent. So now you've got a number. Too often do people like get infactuated? This all. I've got this really awesome idea. I got to go do it right. And this is this is a very I have this like jarring memory from a friend of mine who runs an ECOMMERCE company and he's Oh, we're going to get we're going to do a CO promotion with t mobile, and I'm like, Oh, and they have a list of like, I don't know, seventy million emails. That sounds awesome, but at seventy million emails, what is it? Open rate? First of all, number one problem. What's your click through rate? So like seventy million times point one, five and a fifteen percent maybe. And then what's the quick the rate on that? Maybe one percent. How much traffic is that actually? And then we already know we I won't call him out specifically,...

...but his ECOMMS product and t mobile very different, very different, like customer race right, like just very different. Now t mobile is a lot of these promotions and things as value adds to their like for there's their subscriber network and they use it as a good marketing truck strategy. So it's an amazing marketing stargy for t mobile, not so much for my friend who runs an ECOMMERCE business. They wants to try to get people to buy whatever, and so it turned out like this awesome thing with seventy million tea mobile subscribe by like email subscribers, would generate, I don't like a hundred fifty sales. The guy gets like thousands of sales every month. So this would be less than like ten percent of his business. But the amount of time to his brain power was spent on it was like one week. Like it's like why? Yeah, so, anyways, do the math on your ideas. You'll thank me later, because really it's the age old principle of measure twice, execute once. Yeah, that's funny. I grew up here in that in the garage my dad building something. Measure twice, cut once. Yeah, talk to me about. I think particularly with mail shake, because they're a brand I think of we see all the time in the market place. You guys have done an incredible job with the marketing in terms of like brand awareness. Talk to me about the structure of the marketing department there. How many folks are there? What are the team's we are the roles like they're yeah, marking department is for people, and then we other a half person, which is like a sale or sales managic kind of sits in on marketing meetings. And I say half because he comes with a really good ideas like we leverage or we try to like solve his problems. Or Hey, I he's not a marketer, but he comes up to most as well. We get this problem. We are no sure. Rate for demos is too high. You got to go fast this and it was like, Oh, we can just add a couple form and fields. We could like obviously wasn't like as simple as just added to form girls, but it was like yeah, this solution to his problem was like adding in a phone number, feel, which is optional. But people, we don't present it as optional, we just present it as and to your phone number. So yeah, I don't know half the people who sign up do and so that we can action call them and confirm that they're going to show up for the demo or text them. So there's a small because you brought a sales person to a marketing me I love that idea. I've how many of us have ever even thought to do that? It's great. Yeah, and make sure you tell them before you join, before they join, just sit and, you know, listen, don't come in and contribute. Go try to contribute and then then on the other end person, that's only the meaning. Maybe the VP or whoever. They should make sure that they that salesperson's time to talk. Yeah, or get their ideas in advance and so that they're heard and they can add. They have their kind of five ten minutes of the meeting, but that's the point where they're like doing it. Or maybe some of other companies we do. The sales team or sales person joins the beginning for the first fifteen minutes and is a sales and marketing conversation and then like it's done and we have a marketing only conversation. Yeah, so back to the the backum team of four people, male shakes core channels for growth, word of mouth and brand. So that's our product doing the work. Have you lifting? It's the user interfaces to use, simplicity, the UX of the product that generates this. And that came from like us doing our work on our competitors when we built the product, of like, how can we win in this space? How do we build something that's unique? Everyone complained about the clunkiness of our competitors, so we just focus on the exact opposite that. So again, that was the marketing strategy. Number two channel and the only other channel we have is content and SEO. So our team is predominantly comprised of Seo or kind of organic folks. We recently hired a VP of marketing to take over the day to day ops of marketing from me, and then I go focus on product and I focus on market product because that's our biggest channel for growth. So it isn't I'm not doing a marketing function any longer, but I am still the product team now has a marketing leader who's like thinking about...

...customer value to all the features and functionality that they that that we build. That's awesome. That's awesome. I love that structure makes total sense for you guys, think the strategy makes total sense. Now, if this is more my own curiosity building up as we're talking about this kind of nimble team, that's really thoughtful. Hey, we have two primary channels. If you wanted to pull a lever to double your growth, right, obviously everybody always wants to grow more, especially listen to this show. If you could pull one lever right now, if you're talking about Seo, that's that's usually long term. You're talking about the longer play. Their product is definitely something that's going to take a while to develop. Maybe some features and facets of it. Is there something you found? Is it's I know you guys do a lot of events. I've actually participated in a few of them. I love those who bring some thought leaders together and share their insides. What's that lever that you pull if you just wanted to try and the hammer home a big quarter? Unfortunately, this is our Aqil, is heal of our marketing strategies. We don't have a lever that we can pull. Maybe we can send a couple emails, because a couple of emails to are like audience or list. That is an asset that we don't like we try to just keep giving value and then so we when we have something to say, we can pull that lever. So I maybe it's that that would say that's our best one, and it's a week one. I'd say that's an area where week because we don't have very many channels, and that means like constant scio is no, you don't wake up one day like I'm going to double down, I'm going to go spend ten times the amount and then a month later, but yeah, I got all that value or got most of that value. It's one that is the slow investment and you hope for the best and you get the value at the end. So, unfortunately it's an area where probably a weekend that would it. Isn't there something to be said for that? I love that. Hey, it's own the slow growth in terms of not being able to just pull a lever, because then you're not always tempted to pull it to because then your email list doesn't suddenly become so saturated that they don't want to hear from you anymore. Even within the weakness lies of strength there that's really interesting. Absolutely I think we kind of focus in the long term again, like it is. I would love the grass is always greener, right. So, as a marketer, as a kind of growth person, I'm like, man, I really wish I had no lover. which, don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean we're not trying to come up with new levers. Sure. Our actual issue with this, is a really funny issue to have, is that that like, when we do the math on our all over ideas that we try to spend twenty three percent of our time on as a marketing org, they don't their peanuts to our main channels. It's like, why don't we just do more? We always go back to why don't we just do more of what works? And Yea said of these are crazy. Not that the crazy. It's just okay, like we can go spend a bunch of money in advertising or we can find opportunities to get more optins or more content out the door that can get opt ins get people down the funnel. That can get people and or get are remarketing down again. So it's almost like making this wheel move fast, it's fly will move faster or making the fly will bigger instead of doing a whole new channel. That being said, there's weaknesses into that, which is what one of the things is. You don't have as easy of a lever to pull, and the other thing is that funding doesn't help us like to like this very so you have a lot less flexibility if you only have this big ship, right, yeah, versus a more diverse channel. So again, we plan on changing that and leveraging some more strategies. But Hey, look, I'm not going to complain that cut people. We invest money in content and Seo and bringing thought leaders and people buy from us, right and more, yeah, here over a year than them all ust yeah, Hey, and that's growth. That's awesome. Sugeon, I'm sure everyone who listens going to get something unique to their perspective. are going to learn something new from this. Who in your network of folks that you think of as like great growth marketers, who's somebody who you look up to or who's doing some interesting do you think we should talk to here on the show? I think maybe heath and Shaw would...

...be a good guy to talk to you. I think he's more product kind of focusing on that, but he's been there, done that for so long that he's got a very good growth kind of mindset. He's probably the one I think of the most. These days I'm heads down and I take a lot of inspiration and I take less value on the person who set it and more on the idea, to the point to where I don't remember jot down like what how I got there. And Yeah, I think part of that as also that I'm like a little less day to day growth. And two thousand and fifteen and sixteen I was in the weeds at every little tactic. I would tell you they're like the numbers. Now I'm more focused on like how do we move what are like three or four big investments we can do. I'm looking at creating levers and I work with my team to help execute that lever. Yeah, awesome, he can chose one of my favorites. I've I listened to his show with Stelly fdy from close. I oh, for a long time and Oh, yeah, for a long time. Five hundred episodes, you think is now. I know it's unbelievable. Would would love to get our show there one day, but the Susan. Thank you so much for being here, for sharing your thoughts or experience, your wisdom from the mini campaigns you've grown through, and the thanks for joining us man. Yeah, thanks for having me. It's fun to show the show, the story, the lessons and whatnot.

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