Hey Aaron how are you doing today. Thanks for joining me today.
David I'm good man. Thanks for having me.
Yeah really excited to have you on. Luckily enough I got to have a conversation with you about two weeks ago on onboarding and it was just blown away by your knowledge especially in the SaaS industry so I desperately wanted to get you on this podcast and try out some more knowledge.
Sure. My pleasure.
Yeah I'm excited. But let's jump right in and talk about SaaS. I would love to know like how'd you get started. When did you get started. What did that look like. How did you get out of this education.
Yes so. So I've been in marketing for a while. I graduated in advertising in college and kind of bounced around in different marketing things, ended up starting a few different types of agencies kind of like again focusing on marketing but never really like had a niche that I was going after. Never had like a specific market. And so I kind of got burned out by trying to solve everyone's problems and doing everything for everyone and so I decided to get more specific. And I kind of so I just sold off my business and then kind of looked around for like a niche that I thought like was being underserved that I could really help. And I kind of stumbled across software as a service and then I started this group and just try to get to know people in the industry and kind of find what the pain points were and then eventually came up with like kind of a solution that I figured kind of would help people in this industry. So that's how I got started. Just kind of worked from from focusing on everything to focusing on this one specific net. Yeah.
It's so crazy powerful how much focus can play into that kind of role. Right. Like just by focusing down of doing everything for everyone to be okay everything just being super focused on one really good thing. Like when you had your previous business did you ever work with onboarding were you ever struggling with that, I mean you faced, or just something you learn from the market and you said hey there's a pain I want to solve this.
Yes so in my previous agency I didn't have any software clients at all they were all local businesses, so it was really kind of like a shift to focus from these local businesses that really really hands-on that like every sale happened in person really, to a like a SaaS world where the sales are really hands off. So so it was kind of an interesting transition but a lot of the same principles apply in internet marketing as they do in software marketing. It was just a matter of how to position them and how to change them so they fit within the software world.
Absolutely. And I think a lot of the people in the SaaS world I would say a large majority of them are engineering or product people. Certainly a lot of people are coming out of marketing, obviously there are some, but what specific lessons did you bring into it. What key marketing things did you bring into SaaS?
Oh man. So what's what I love about the SaaS market especially is there's so there's such a large amount of like super talented people in software and the majority of them are focused like their focus is like the development side and product development and solving a pain and they lack sometimes in the marketing side. So so it's really refreshing to able to go into somebody who has a really good POCs and say hey I know you've built developed a really great product, here's like how you market it. And so there's like there's a lot of similarities with with kind of running an agency with that tie into kind of like selling a SaaS product. And it all it all starts with like understanding your audience like the same. You know if you're going to try to market a chiropractor on online the same principles apply as you try and if you're going to sell like a booking software to online right. First you understand your audience, you have to figure out what success looks like for the audience, how to get them to success, how to hit them in the right time, how to show value in the product. So like it's just a matter like the principles are essentially the same for everything for a for all marketing, it's just kind of how you apply them which is a little bit different.
Completely agree. That's amazing. So you start working with some of these SaaS companies and you see the pain of onboarding being a big thing, like activation right, getting people actually into software utilizing it the right way. What were some of your initial experiments coming in obviously you said you didn't have much background in that at all. What were you doing or some of the initial experiments where were some maybe initial wins from those experiments you found a sort of work?
Yes so it was it was really fascinating. So. In. When I started doing onboarding I had one client that I started with and it completely failed. It was like just a terrible experiment. Well let me rephrase that. He was a great experiment, because we learned a lot about what didn't work and that was probably like the first six months it was just like hey can we do your onboarding. Yeah sure. Like we just barely covered our costs right. And we just like just experimented with stuff. And so one of the big things that we learned really early on was that a, coming into doing onboarding from a marketing perspective, we focused right away we focused on just how to how to fine tone e-mail. So was mostly focused on copywriting stuff. So we would take the existing onboarding sequence that a company had and then we would be like, because I'm because my experience kind of comes from really copywriting perspective. So it's a oh you're not saying this right like, you need to phrase this phraseology this way and you say this this way and then when put the new onboarding sequence in like it didn't really change anything. And so we felt, I sort of felt so like well like we're we're following all the rules for copyright and what's happening. And so the more that we dug into it, the more we realized that the actual writing of the e-mails, like the content is like a very very small part of having an effective onboarding sequence. So we had we reached we looked at our entire process and realized that in order to get a good onboarding like we have to start from the beginning. So first you have to pick a target and we have to figure out what does that target want. Out of the product how do we get them there. How do we show that the product is worth more than what they're paying. And then after all that after we figure that foundation out then we like we figure out what to say in the e-mail.
So in the initial first like campaign we were told we were just like try to get the perfect copy, like we hired like really good copywriters spent a lot of time on the copy. Like fine tuning it. And it didn't like it didn't help anything, because we were focusing but the client didn't have like their audience segmented, so we weren't talking to the right audience in the first place. So it didn't really help at all. So that was like a huge that was a huge aha for us was that the actual onboarding comes after you figured out the foundation. After that it started like things started to change completely. Like we we developed this process of interviewing customers and how to organize the data. What's really cool is that once you start doing that all this is really valuable insights started coming out and all of that translated into like a really effective on morning because we weren't guessing any longer. One of the biggest things that SaaS companies struggle with is, like what what are we trying to get our customers to do. Who are they, what are the real pain points they have. What should we say in our e-mails and all those questions are answered when we started asking the customers initially hey what's going on. Like what. What is your pain around this product or the ram this this like job you're trying to get done. Why did you choose this software, why didn't you choose the software at all and all sort of to come out and we would categorize over words and organize them and then all of a sudden we have this like really clear plan because our customers were telling us what they want to do that was like a huge win for us.
It's so powerful when you actually get that customer data when you really hear from the customers and what they're looking for and stuff is kind of a tactical question What were you guys doing to get that feedback? You might ask you know, how do I get on those calls or how do I get that feedback. What were you guys doing strategically?
Yes so. So the first thing is, you know we have to figure out who we want to talk to most. Most likely if you have a SaaS you have multiple targets people that just find your product you just happened to be like a good fit. People that sign up that aren't a good fit. So first of all we kind of figure out who is the ideal customer and then what we do is we find those customers that are already paying. If you are paying customers and we send out an e-mail and it just essentially the e-mail says hey this is Aaron with whatever company we're trying to make this product better for you and what we think is good for you. Sometimes is offered what you want. So we just want to know what your experience has been with this product. You know what's been in your mind that you have been able to tell us we want to know what you love what you don't love. Would you hop on a quick 15 minute call with me, I just really appreciate it. So that's that's the e-mail that we sent out and just like we get a huge amount of response with that e-mail from people because a lot of times they have like problems with the software, but no one's ever reached out and said hey what's what's happening, like why what do you love about it, what you don't love about it. If they really love the product they're super stoked to get on the phone and just tell you how much they love the product. And that's the e-mail we sent out to current customers. Another one that we sent out to like potential customers. But the really good feedback comes from your actual paying customers who are super excited to talk to you about the products. That's the e-mail we send out and then we have like a couple of questions that we asked them to.
Is there a specific time frame you wait to get them on that call?
The quicker you can get them on the better, the quicker they go they go from trial to paid. So most people that we work with, most founders don't have like they need to get a bunch of interviews right away. So we just e-mail the entire main list. But as a founder like you should be having those conversations multiple times quarter because you because as your customers as as as life their pains change so to their needs and the industry changes. So if you're on the pulse of what your customer is really needs then you'll make changes in the product based on what your customer needs and in order to do that you need to talk to them at all the time. So as soon as you kind of have this process, the e-mail should go out right away it's a hey you know she signed up, you're an user excited to talk with your experience signing up. So that's really effective.
Yeah I love that. And you mentioned before so you're kind of getting your target. You're coming up with your target and you're going to your actual customers. You're learning from them. Who are they. What are they doing. And then you're building your customer persona based on that like where to go after and how to get them engaged and then you said something else before you said that, there's different segments of that customer persona. Maybe you can explain more on that. What do you mean by the different segments of customer persona?
Yes. So when we have a SaaS like you're going after a specific niche for instance like we're going after like small business entrepreneurs. Right. And then so within that niche is like a segment of that niche. So the segment might be small business entrepreneurs, one segment is like e-commerce shops and then the other one is like physical products. So they're both small business entrepreneurs but they're both selling different. They have different business models. So the way that I look at it is you pick a niche and then within that niche you can get really specific and pick a segment. And then beyond segment is like a persona which is like the actual person that you're writing to. So that's where you if you've done marketing classes you have like a picture of the person you're going after, how old they are how many kids they have with their pains are and that's helpful for like actual writing but one step above that is the segment which is like really a specific part of your niche.
Got it. Got it. And when you're going through these and you and you start figuring this stuff out and then you go back and you're writing the e-mails and stuff. How are you lining up those segments to where you want to take them. You're seeing a lot of times don't even know what the goals are they try to come out with these campaigns. But know they're kind of lining stuff up in the foundation. How are you then organizing what the goals are?
Yes. So like. So once you identify a segment your goal is to find out. So this this comes from Lincoln Murphy who is just like a brilliant SaaS sixteenventures.com is his website. A lot of really good stuff and so I learned this from him what you want to do is you want to figure out what is their like desired outcome and so the desired outcome is like what is it that they're hoping to achieve by using your product. And so and usually most of the time what they're hoping to achieve is like this big end result, which is either growing their business or saving them more time cutting costs. And so if you let's say for instance you're using you have like a booking software like you use your desired outcome really isn't to schedule more calls, it's to close more deals and increase revenue and make their life easier. So once you understand what that desired outcome looks like and you know what they want to achieve then your goal is to get them to that point. And so in the onboarding what we look at onboarding is we look at getting them. One is that result which is the desired outcome which they're not going to achieve usually within that free trial period. But what they are going to achieve is that aha moment and that's like you know and you've heard about like this aha moment right. Like the moment where people like it they realize they have this light switch that goes off in their head. And so the aha moment is really like what the onboarding is is designed to do is to get them to the moment where they have success with the product and where they see the value potential in the product. So for instance for all use Demio as an example like for Demio their desired outcome is probably most likely to sell more subscriptions right to sell more of their SaaS. The moment of first value of that aha moment in Demio might be when they when they see that first like attendee show up on their webinar. Right. That's that's when they get that home and they're like wow. So is actually watching my webinar, this is so cool and they actually showed up. So that's this aha moment where they realize the value potential and they see if I can do this, if I get one person I can get more people. So if you get them to that moment then the chances that they're going to convert are a lot higher. And that's all we focus on within that initial onboarding is getting them to that aha moment to everything else that's kind of like oh uploading your profile picture. Connecting your domain. Like a lot of stuff might be cool and they might be like really cool features that your devs spent months working on but it might not get them closer to that aha moment. So we eliminate that from the onboarding and only focus on getting them to that like moment of first value where they see that high potential. And then we like hit them with the sales sequence and say hey you got this result, you can get more of this result by upgrading.
That's genius and I have a couple more questions for you through this because you just brought up a ton of great stuff. First question is you know when you're going through this email campaign are those emails specifically education like, here's how to do X feature here's how to do this or are they benefit driven, if you know, did you know that this will get you there. What is the actual languaging and kind of angle in those e-mails. We'll start there.
That's a great question. So all the emails that you should have in your onboarding should be benefit driven e-mails. Very rarely do we create an e-mail that said subject line something like you haven't connected your calendar yet or hey time to connect your domain because nobody wants to add another thing on their to do list. Right. Your goal is not to get them to take an action just for action's sake. It's to connect a benefit, if you can connect the benefit to the action then they have a reason for completing that action. So so typically an ongoing process like the subject lines in the first line are always pain or benefit driven. For instance, Wake up to new, like the subject line for one of our e-mails would be something like, wake up to new bookings every day, if you want to wake up to new bookings every day a calendar filled here's how you do it. You have to connect your calendar. So connect your calendar and start filling your schedule. So the action is probably like the the element we focus at least on the e-mail and the benefit is what we really really heavily focus on. So you're exactly right like the benefit driven e-mails will always get more results than action driven e-mails just for the actions sake.
Got it. So you're painting the picture of what that big goal is not as different than the wow moment which is like the first step in the software but the big goal. So when you understand that that's kind of where you're trying to get them in and just kind of paint that picture as you grow it and the rest of it just kind of like setting things up to get there. So my next question is when you know what that big goal is and that's what you really want to get to. And you know OK let's go back to the Demio example. OK so maybe their goal is to make 100 new sales in this webinar platform, could be that goal and they have their first webinar big aha moment, when you're laying this up like from a strategic point of view, are you mapping it out backwards from this big goal. So we want to get to 100 sales. Here's all the steps that they need to do to do that. And then are you then going through and just like highlighting what the major ones are to kind of push them there and then cutting all the simple ones, like how do you build that campaign once you know what the goal is?
Yeah that's exactly right. So that's so in that when the workshop that we got we do for onboarding the actual writing the e-mails comes last. Because you're right in order to understand what e-mails and what actions you need to take, you need to understand what that aha moment looks like. So before we do anything we look at if you're if the aha moment for them is is getting one sale online, then what is what are the absolute minimum amount of steps they need to take in order to get to that aha moment and that becomes our onboarding process to get them to that aha moment. Now you mentioned something else which is interesting so the desired outcome for for like Demio users is to get those 100 sales right but as Demio you can only get them so far, like you can you can get them to have an amazing webinar, you can make it completely flawless but if they don't have people visiting, they don't have people show up and if they don't have a good webinar presentation like the chances of them selling are going to be really low. Right. So you have like in the process, you have on the left hand side you have somebody who has a really big problem who needs to solve it on the way right side is that 100 sales. Right. But there's a gap in between the functional completion of your product and the desired outcome. And that gap is what what we need to fill in order for them to have to get, to that outcome. So for instance like I know and I know you guys do this too like Demio could provide a how to fill your webinars, like 20 ways to fill your webinars with visitors. Here's here's a webinar template that you can use in order to close the deal. Right so you're closing that success gap. So you're actually giving them everything they need in order to get to their desired outcome there are some other companies that really really well like Russell Brunson and a few others that that really good at closing that success gap. But but as like there's a there's that gap between the functional completion and there's an outcome that that after that education kind of e-mails come in that where you can that's after they've achieved their aha moment and they signed up. Then it's like okay you got this outcome this aha moment. Now we need to get you more and more of that and the way to do that is by filling that success gap and getting them to take more action stuff like that.
Speaker 5 (22:32):
That makes a lot of sense. Yeah I can totally see that gap in a lot of times people try to fill that with education but also engineering. Have you seen or maybe works with teams that have had to put in engineering time and effort to do things like shift around how to get that aha moment earlier or the goal is like to hit in or they have to add in some type of engineering component to it. Okay we need to make you know better registration pages because that will get you more registrants. Is that a big part of the whole onboarding experience?
I would say definitely. And one of the big things that we focus on is most of the time like the folks that we work with have great products, it's just the way that they're positioned and the way that their trial models are set up. So I'd be, you'd be amazed at, once you understood what you kind of like grasped this idea of getting your customer success, you'd be amazed at how many free trials are set up where it's impossible for the customer to achieve success to get that out. Like for instance we work with companies who have their best features are in their paid plans. And so in order to experience like that aha moment they need to take the leap to the highest plan and the features aren't included in the free plan and like they're not even included. You can't even get to the aha moment. So the pricing and the way that you structure your free trial model is really important there's no reason to not include the best stuff into your free trial model or your 14 day free trial. Because if you don't they will never achieve that success. The other part like you said is like the registration and the actual onboarding process. And some of that just comes with like, just you know using HotJar and looking how users interact with the product and finding out where they're dropping off and optimizing that but once you know what it is that they want that they need to accomplish that it's like how do we make it easier for them. And then you can look at it through the lens of is just making it easier or harder for my customers to get to their's aha moment.
Yeah. Wow that's really awesome. What about marketing. Like I guess not marketing KPIs but onboarding KPIs. What are the numbers that you're looking out to tell you. Okay this is something that needs to be changed. Okay we can keep this this is good. What actually are the pieces of information that you guys use to make smart decisions on onboarding?
Yes so we love looking at stuff like Kissmetrics and Mixpanel. And being able to log in and say of all the paying users what are the most common actions that they take and using that information to be like OK so this is probably the aha moment is when they connect to social media profiles and schedule to meetings, or it's when they have with the schedule the first time on they get more than 10 visitors. That's like a ha moment for them. And you notice as you're going through the data that like 90 percent of your your you know your paid users. That's the three things that in common. So then that becomes the aha moment so the KPIs are really different for every single SaaS product right. I mean the only thing that that really is the similar they're similar between all SaaS companies is like the conversion. So like if the conversions are increasing, if we have high conversions then that's the KPI we look at. But if for every SaaS is different and so as soon as you understand what those KPIs are for your specific product it doesn't matter what everyone's else KPIS are, what matters is what your specific KPIs are for your customer and getting to those.
And I'd just add another thing on that is sometimes you won't know what those KPIs are, you won't know what that what that aha moment looks like it. And sometimes it's like a complete guess like we have no clue but what are you, what the problem is so we're just going to come up with a hypothesis and what we're going to do is we're going to test it. So we're going to we're going to get all of our users to get at least 10 visitors to their web and get one sale. And and as you run that and you find out you know like 10 is too high, five is this is the magic number there. So if you don't know what your aha moment looks like, it's on hypothesis and then you use things like Kissmetrics and qualitative research to figure out and either verify or disprove that hypothesis.
Yeah data driven decisions are absolutely key. And I think it's crucial to understand what numbers to look at. Sometimes it's just easy to see so many numbers and get overwhelmed by all the data that you can get back and I think it's interesting you are saying create a hypothesis because a lot of times you're coming in like I have no idea like I have no idea what exactly what this moment is and so that's really cool that you do that. And I guess just being patient little bit to give some time to collect the data and to look through it a little bit as as these campaigns go through any other specific big wins you want to talk about onboarding?
You know this, this is like onboarding is like one of the most important parts of a successful and scalable SaaS. We typically work most of the companies we work with are SaaS companies that that don't necessarily want to have a lot of funding who just want a seven figure business that runs kind of automatically and has a really scalable effective onboarding and so a lot of the stuff like that we do is doesn't require like a lot of investment, it's just it's just what it's not what to do, but how to do it. And so a lot of the aha moments for that we have with people that we go through our workshop is I always I was always told that I needed to do this but I never knew how to do, I never knew what questions to ask a customer, I never knew how to like analyze the data. We have tons and tons of quantitative data. But now that we have qualitative data we can kind of put them both together and we can really develop some really good assumptions. So without, a lot of that comes down to is and this is probably like the one thing that I tell most of my students is, if you're gonna be an expert in anything be an expert in your customer like know your customer better than than anyone. If you can get to know your customer better than they can know themselves, there's no question what your next features are going to be developed. How are you going to market your product. What messages to put out. Because you know more about your customer than anyone else. So that's like for most people like that's the big aha is focus less on like how to make this website or this banner look amazing. It's like what is what does the customer want and then give them what they want. You know.
Absolutely. And I think it's just coming from SasStr last week so much of what companies talk about there is an exact mirror of what you just said. Know Your Customer, it's know them so well the deeper you know him the better. Have those segments like you said and of course the goals are coming out of it as well so that's fantastic fantastic advice and am going to quickly switch us over because we're running out of time. Quickly switching over to ask you this question: What do you think is changing here in 2018 or what do you think SaaS marketing teams need to look at more maybe in 2018 or what's gonna change?
You know that's a great question. I think one of the big things that I think people are going to start adapting is is is better in their walkthroughs. So there's a lot of new walkthrough apps coming out like we have app queues, uselLane and walkme and these and I think a lot of companies aren't using them correctly. The way that we like to use them is with the idea that they'll completely replace the support team. You'll have an app walkthrough for almost complete everything within the product so you can just type in how to why do X Y Z and then a walkthrough will come up and walk them through the entire process. So they'll have one company instead of having videos or text it'll actually walk them through. I think that's probably the next big thing that I think some companies are doing that well right now. But most of the people we talked to are just doing really basic like onboarding tours which aren't really effective. And so I think walkthroughs is probably the the first thing and then the second thing I think would be I you know we've I've made a really big effort to show people how to get to know their customer not just tell them like you've got to know your customer more. I think what we'll see a lot more is people shifting from all of these like like really fancy hacks and new tools and software to just getting to know their customers and communities and community having a really strong community and getting to know your customer and being more personable is really going to guide and direct a lot of the decisions that SaaS founders and CEOs are making. And I think that it's going to be a lot easier once they make that transition. I think that transition is happening more and more.
So totally agree. Have you ever found a good way to translate the customer Avatar into like some type of visual way, like some way to give it to your team so everyone can really understand that customer. I find that kind of hard to like even when you're doing data say OK we know it we can talk about a little bit but we don't have a good system to showcase the customer Avatar because you're like new people on your team or come in and stuff like that.
Yeah that's it. That's a really great question. We have a document I've created that's called the CSI document it's called customer sentiments and insights and essentially what it is is. So we interview like 10 customers we get the interviews transcribed using something like rev and then we put all these interviews into this document and we split up all of the interviews into specific sections like here all the pains they've mentioned here are all the aspirations that they want. Here are the objections. And so when you when you organize it like that there's nothing better to help explain who your customer is than just to hear the words from their own mouth. So as you go through this document like what's really cool is you just sort by all the pains that this customer has in this specific segment and you can see from their mouth like all the pains they have and then with you know with Google Sheets you can just like organize it with a graph and then you can see oh most of the customers that we've talked to have this specific pain that is that they have in common. And it's just really easy to visualize it. So so that's like that's that's the way that we do it. And that really helps people to kind of get an overview of who their customer is and actually like from their own mouth like what what it is they're struggling with and who they are.
Speaker 5 (33:19):
I love that we've got to do something like that here at Demio as well. That's a fantastic system to do that. Really great nugget there. But let's go ahead and transition over to the lightning round questions in this section. I'm going to give you a couple of questions. First answer that comes to mind. Let me know it's a lot of fun. Advice for early stage sass companies starting marketing?
New Speaker (33:43):
Become a customer expert. Number one.
New Speaker (33:48):
Love it. What marketing skills do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on it today?
Number one is how to dig into your your customers pains and their aspirations so. So learning how to ask the right questions and and getting the gold the gold nuggets out of them I think that's critical because it's easy to get an interview but you have to ask the right questions.
Exactly. Critical skill best resource you'd recommend for marketing.
Oh man. They would have to be some it would have to be a tool to help you understand your audience better. I think one of my favorite right now is lookback.io and what is essentially is you give your user an incentive and the software will record their video and their audio and watch them as they sign up for your service and your team can watch and observe them and ask questions as they're signing up. I think that's probably like the coolest tool right now for figuring out what's happening with your users as they sign up with your products.
And what was the name again?
That's incredible, will have to check that out after this. What's a brand a business or a team that you admire?
I mean that's a good one. So I'm, I kind of root for the little guys because I'm a little guy. So there's a lot of really amazing people out there doing some amazing things that you'll never hear of, like living in just like they're living in Arkansas or like in wherever wherever they're living and they're just making a really great living because they figured out this this process. And so there are guys that you probably never heard of or never will hear of. They're not going to go the presentations are not at SasStr, they're just they just figured out they're doing really well they're happy they're helping others. And so those are the guys that I really look up to.
Anyone in particular?
Lee Gladish from Reply.io. I think he has such such a phenomenal person like everybody that I've talked to who's talked to this to Lee. He's so helpful. He's he's given so much free advice out he's he's really involved in the community. One on one mentorship just giving away a lot of like free advice with one on one calls. I'm a huge fan of his he's someone that I really look up to.
That's amazing, we'll have to look him up and connect with him. He sounds like a really great guy. Maybe have him on the podcast as well.
Awesome. Aaron I just want to thank you so much for your time and I know it's very precious. You're a busy guy and really appreciate you coming on and sharing so much great wisdom for us.
Wow that was such a great episode. Now like I said in the beginning I highly recommend you listen to this one a couple of times. There are so many great nuggets of wisdom kind of hidden throughout this conversation. Aaron really brought it. Now I highly recommend you check out Aaron's Facebook group if you haven't joined yet. It's the SaaS Growth Hacks Facebook community it's really powerful. Open ended group lots of great content going on in there. He also has a onboarding workshop where you can check out. We'll put the link in the show notes on our Web site on the Demio blog so you guys can check it out if you want to join his workshop and be one of the clients that gets huge results with his onboarding specialty. So again thank you guys so much for listening. Make sure listen this one more time. Get all the golden nuggets and start influencing these in your business. We are absolutely listening to everything Aaron has to say about our morning. We're also putting that into our own business and our own campaigns. Have a wonderful day. And thanks again for listening.