SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Aazar Ali Shad

demio saas breakthrough featuring aazar ali shadAbout Aazar Ali Shad:

Aazar Ali Shad is the VP of Growth at UserPilot, and has more than 6 years of SaaS experience.

He is currently helping 600+ SaaS companies improve user onboarding and increase product adoption.

 


Show Notes:
03:00
Helping Deliver The Perfect Product Experience
05:10
Joining In To Help With Growth
06:50
A Strategic Approach To Cold Emailing
10:10
Picking What Companies To Cold Email
11:45
The Challenge Of Scaling This Approach
14:20
Winning Strategies And Tactics For Quora Marketing
20:05
Best Ways to Answer Quora Questions
22:20
Using Slack Groups For Marketing
27:10
Doing Strategic Outreach For Backlinks
31:05
Maximizing ROI When Participating In SaaS Events
35:40
Successful Event Follow Up Tactics
37:45
Goals, KPIs and Doubling Down
39:35
Hard Lesson: Don't Go For Startup Packages
42:25
Exciting Opportunities: Video Marketing and Differentiation
45:00
Lightning Questions
Transcript:

DA: 02:40
Hey, welcome to today's episode of the SaaS breakthrough podcast. We have Aazar with UserPilot on today. How are you doing?

AS: 02:49
Hey, I'm great. I'm great. I'm about to go on a vacation soon. So really looking forward to it.

DA: 02:55
Yeah, the vacation starts tomorrow, right?

AS: 02:57
Yes. For sure.

DA: 02:58
Oh man, you're on the, the tail end of, of the work schedule. So we're excited to learn from you, but exciting stuff in the next few days for you. before we get into the conversation about UserPilot and growth and marketing initiatives, why don't we take a step back first, tell us about the company when it was founded, who the customers are and what you're trying to do uniquely in the marketplace.

AS: 03:20
Yeah, that's great questions. so UserPilot, we started like two and a half years ago. the first year it was just just, making the product and then, and I started last year with them and since then the company is growing. our ideal customers are mostly product marketers, product managers, and customer success managers. And we are essentially a product experience software, which is a product experience layer that sits on top of your UI and guides the user with new user onboarding guides, user with feature releases. also helps with the, with subtle feature discovery or feature adoption that users are not doing in real time to give them context and give them, right, right tools in there, right clues in there to, to move toward the next step. That's what UserPilot does.

DA: 04:18
Is there a major differentiation for you guys and your product?

AS: 04:22
Yeah, so we do focus a lot on, so, compared to other tools, we do focus a lot on context. So based on certain events you do X and Y, that's a clear differentiation where we stand out. But like in terms of features, you can see that we are much more, our manual detection algorithm is much better. We are much easier to use. Well, that's what our customers tell us. And the third thing which we believe is that we are much more customizable and flexible since the, the product comes out of a developer. every developer needs much more control on what they are doing. And so we thought, why not make much more customizable tool that can be part of any UI? And that's how we are different.

DA: 05:11
I love it. Yeah, that's fantastic. That's super helpful. And when did you actually join the team?

AS: 05:16
So I joined the team last year around September. And since then it's a hell of a ride.

DA: 05:23
Yeah, I bet it has been over a year. So coming on about what is a year and three months almost, and when you're coming in, what's your initial goal? What are you initially needing to focus on?

AS: 05:33
So when I came in initially I wanted to first fix, eh, I mean this is, this is still part of the growth. I wanted to understand who our persona is, who are we really helping, what are the use cases? And then first of all may make that documentation correct. And after doing that I, I jumped into growth stuff and I wanted to do stuff that we were not doing previously, which were, going into cold emailing, doing some organic (inaudible) marketing, going into niche communities where you can find your ideal persona there and then directly talking to them and doing just nice interviews and learning from them, get some off page optimization as well, of paid backlinks. And, the last thing I did was, I started doing things that don't scale. So the whole thing, the whole project initially was doing things that don't scale. And so I started sending thank you postcards to my customers as they became customers. So, yeah, these were the things I did and lately I started doing SaaStock events and different events where the SaaS marketers and SaaS product managers or customer success managers around and thought about doing those growth initiatives and finding out if we can do more up market initiatives.

DA: 06:47
Yeah. So it sounds like you're coming in kind of building out that marketing department, laying down the foundation for you know, ideal customer profiles who are current customers, just do the learning phase and then it's about doing maybe marketing that doesn't scale like you said, just focusing on growth, trying to be in touch with customers as much as possible. And you mentioned a bunch of different initiatives and strategies, so let's, let's touch on those. I'm sure there's a ton of lessons you learned from each one. you mentioned cold email, that's always an interesting one especially when people are just starting, kinda like getting their, their, you know, experiments together, trying to learn about their customers. They're reaching out setting up demos. But I think you guys had a very unique way of doing it. Do you want to tell us a little bit about, you know, how you approached cold email, the strategy that you were trying to take and the results you got from it?

AS: 07:37
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So I started doing cold emailing before even joining UserPilot and I had always cleared ways. I started to do cold emailing on 2015, and when there was no GDPR, when there was no spam laws. And so I knew how cold email work there and I said, Hey, maybe it could be a great channel for us and it's still a great channel if you do it right. So the way we did was, I signed up for around 50 SaaS companies, their products and when, so instead of me just writing a cold email and reaching out to them, Hey, this is what we do, this is the product, this is a use case, do you want to buy it? So I didn't do that. what I did was I signed up for those free trial and freemium products and, and after signing up, when they send the first welcome email, I already told them, Hey, I signed up for your product and I found out there's some onboarding, onboarding problems there, but I can help you out, figure it out and I can just send you a nice video, which you will see and find out if these problems are relevant to fix.

AS: 08:41
And that's all I did and I did not like, and this was all like one by one. It was not sending mass emails. and then after, sending 50 emails, I found out, 50 different companies, 50 different emails around, I think 40 of them said yes to me. And then I send them the email and then I did not even ask for any CT. I did not say, Hey, do you want to buy my product? I just followed up the second time and said, Hey, how was the feedback? Do you like it? Did you enjoy it? And they said, Hey, this was helpful. And when I got to know that it was helpful, I said, Hey, I can fix this for you with my tool if you want. because this is what exactly we do. and these are the problems that I just highlighted.

AS: 09:24
I just focused on a lot more on problem. So first of all, highlighting the problem for them and then eventually going further down and saying, Hey, the problem that I just highlighted in emails before you can fix this with UserPilot. And out of those 50 accounts that I reached out to, I made five customers out of it. And the best part is that those customers who, who eventually became my customers are now friends. Like they are really good friends because I actually added value to their business. And yeah, that was one thing that I did and really proud of it. And, and the, the, the response rate, the conversion rates and the engagement rate was really high. And yeah, and that's, that's something that I really enjoyed doing initially.

DA: 10:10
Yeah, no, the engagement rate and the conversion rate are both extremely high. A couple of questions come to mind though. How did you initially pick those first 50 companies? Like were you putting them in a criteria, a bucket criteria? Why those 50 companies?

AS: 10:24
Yeah, so what I did was, I wanted to, I wanted, there's a list out there called SaaS thousand list. And I started doing the companies where I think I wanted to find out. So I started doing companies have around 10 to 15 employees and that's where you know, your product starts killing a bit and you have more employees and then as you grow you forget about fixing your onboarding. So that specific stage at that time, initially time for us was really interesting. I just wrote, found out those lists there and I also, while adding them did this thing I forgot to tell you, I also try to add them on LinkedIn as well at the same time as well, just to be a bit warm in there. and that's how I found those prospects. And then I started reaching out to those companies by just looking at their, their first website, going to the, getting their first team and then responding to somebody. And somebody on the other side is either a customer success manager, or marketer or a founder himself and usually at this stage founders are still the part of the process where they want to show that the founders are responding. But in response, somebody from support is going to respond. And then this used to escalate upstairs if it was very useful. but that's how I found them.

DA: 11:45
That makes a lot of sense. I think the key thing here is the value exchange that you're putting value first. You're bringing your expertise, your expertise in this being, the onboarding kind of early stage growth process and being able to create a video that people go, Oh wow, that's amazing. Someone just did that recently to us for a marketing job, sending us just like a value first video about marketing and stuff that we could do right now to improve. You sent us one of these videos for onboarding and it was fantastic. My question would be, what stops you from scaling this? So why not take this to the full list of a thousand people?

AS: 12:18
Yeah, that's a very, very interesting question. so that the initial part was to understand if this works. and it was working for me, but it took like, for me to close a client from first touch to actually getting a paid customer took around two and a half, three months and for, for a average contract value around 2,500 to 4,000, this was a lot of efforts for me to go in and keep doing this. And so I realized that since it's taking a lot of time, even though it works, it takes a lot of time. unless I become a full sales person, it would be hard to do it. And so while doing it I also started doing other strategies that also work, but the key thing is that you, I would still scale it if I have a sales person in the team, but right now it is just on the hold and just because I think, it was a lot of effort and return of investment was not that high.

AS: 13:19
And, that's how it works. That's why people do cold emailing in masses and I'm happy to do in the masses. But, the only thing I would say that it takes a lot of time to actually close a customer from cold email because that customer is not ready for you. You just told them the problem and they say, Hey, we will fix this after a certain time. And unless those five customers who really had the pain and were thinking about it were also researching about it, I just had the pain for those customers and that's why I thought it did not go longer.

DA: 13:51
That makes a ton of sense. And we've, we've talked about internally here, like if we hired someone with their only job being like cold email certain prospects that have maybe a certain stack and a certain problem with one of videos like this, like this is their only job. That's really the only way you can scale it. But, that makes a lot of sense. And, and you're absolutely right about, you know, you kind of getting in front of people, they don't know who you are. They don't know your product. They don't even know if they have the problem yet. You're building these relationships. So let's move on to a strategy that you've found that also worked with a different level of awareness. That's, that's Quora. I think when we started Quora, when we started Demio I did about an hour to maybe an hour and a half a day of just answering questions and they're around webinars trying to generate that free organic traffic. It's a great strategy. We didn't get amazing results from it. Honestly. We didn't. but I know you create an awesome post on Albacross kind of walking through all the details. We'll have to go through all of them today, but I know you've had some winning, winning strategies and tactics doing Quora. I do want to talk about that.

AS: 14:51
Yeah, sure, sure. At Quora was the best thing that happened at that stage, to, to actually scale up things further. Because it always stays there. So what happens is the Quora itself, those questions, were ranking on couple of questions that we want to do ranking on SEO. And that's why I started I started picking it up. So what happens is when you go to Quora and when you first of all go to the Quora and write the topic that your product is on. So you could say webinar tools and you will find a couple of questions in there. In our case it was user onboarding tools, user onboarding software, I don't know, WalkMe alternatives. And so we found a lot of questions that were already, people were asking and these questions are also ranking on SEO search as well.

AS: 15:37
So that was the easiest lowest hanging fruit where I can start getting conversions because whoever will see this on search will see this on Quora. And if I do a really good job in writing that article, people will eventually sign up. And just going down a little bit deeper in how to do Quora marketing, is that first of all, whoever is going to answer those question has to be a topic level expert. and so first of all, you have to fix your profile. It should look like that you are an expert. And then you answer those questions. So I'd started doing the topic level, topic level question user onboarding, product adoption, feature adoption, and in-app experiences. And so these were the questions. I just put them in Quora search and I found a lot of questions, but then I found this amazing tool, FindBetterQuestions.

AS: 16:27
And I was their early customer and what they, what they do is they just find that specific topic. You just put the URL of the topic and when you find those URLs of the topic, you will find out a lot of questions that have not been answered by a lot of people, but has a lot of views in that similar topic. And so I started answering those questions as well and

DA: 16:50
That's awesome.

AS: 16:50
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was amazing. Like I people who are looking for question and then there's no answer to that. It's amazing. And then what I did was just to continue that while you're answering, your answer doesn't have to be very promotional. It shouldn't be, it shouldn't be spammy. It should, it should take as a user experience. So every since we are a user experience company, we really care about how people experienced those, those things in front of their screen.

AS: 17:14
And I thought about all the competitors, who've answered those question and how I can be different and not just completely copy paste the website but website content, but also answering the question then telling them about our dollar on it is out there. And, so really thinking about the reader when they are looking at like five answers and thinking about which question is actually helping me and is not promotional at all. And so I went there and I started answering those questions. But then, so this was another strategy. This was just answering the question correctly. Then what I did was I started, I said this was a little hack, that I saw that a lot of the same questions that I'm, that I'm answering on my blog, where not asked on Quora. So, obviously somebody from the team wrote the question, the day they're looking for this.

AS: 18:08
And then I started answering through my blog as well. And that generated a lot more traction because it came to Quora digests, it came into Quora answers. And and I started getting upwards, from a couple of friends as well and people who were on my looking at my profile or were my follower, they're looking on their timeline. So I started getting support and that went to Quora digest, which goes once in a week tweet and that started getting a lot of traffic as well. and I started seeing that like since we started doing it till the time I, I just spent like 30 minutes or 30 minutes per week on this. But what I started looking at was that out of 550 visitors we got around 27 people (inaudible) Nine people became customers.

AS: 18:54
And one of the customer on the demo call told me, oh you actually answered WalkMe pricing question because there is no pricing of WalkMe on Quora and you answered that question and that's how we found out about UserPilot and that person became a customer. And that was something really amazing. That Quora actually worked. And not only just conversion happened but also customer coming and telling me they found my question's very useful on Quora and yeah, that was just an amazing experience. Like I think Quora is the most underrated back farm. and people should start exploiting that. And also when one of the thing that I've started doing is I have now topics as a space. So I am, I'm, I want to start targeting product managers and I have a space called Product management. I love SaaS. I have a space for for all things SaaS, and these are the, these are subgroups of Quora and I'm starting to promote my content on those groups, which I am the admin off. And that also generates a lot of views as well. So these are the small little acts that I did that eventually paid off and is still paying off without me answering any question for last two months.

DA: 20:05
Wow. Well let me just ask you when you were going through and just answering questions, which is the first strategy, what happens when you're answering similar questions? One of the things I ran into was like a similar question phrased differently on like five posts and I'm like, I don't know how to answer this. Like I was doing value driven posts, but I didn't know how to answer each one in a unique way. I probably should've used that tool that you mentioned. So I was on better optimized posts, but I always just then linking back to other blog posts or other, answers that I've already done. How did you handle repetitive questions?

AS: 20:38
So Quora now actually merge those questions anyway, if they are repetitive. So that's, that's there. But let's say if there are five people onto the similar, similar way, what you should do is you should go against the stride and really believe what you're, you really believe in. So for example, there's this competitor of ours have a product worth as the name of the company, the name of the product. And we personally do not believe in product tours because product tours, we believe that they don't help. And so if somebody writes about user onboarding tool, it's a how to onboard new users. And somebody says, Hey, you should use, you should try product tours. My job is to say, to completely negate that and say, this is the reason why you should use something else than product tours to actually help you.

AS: 21:25
And also one more thing if the, this is a (inaudible) I started using when five people have answered around let's say 300, 500 word characters, then you should like answer at least a thousand words. And that way it will help and add images, add videos, and it just becomes totally different when you answer that because somebody thinks that you have really answered that and don't put your webs blog post link in there. They had to do further. Go in there, check out this blog. You should add this as a footnote. Now Quora gives you an opportunity to have it as a footnote, which people will (inaudible) truly look at because they know that you actually took it from your blog and compiled it. And that's how I did it. Like again, it was a bit unique and you just have to think differently in there to answer it and people will recognize this.

DA: 22:17
I love that. That's really, really helpful. So, so far two value driven approaches to just getting in front of your customers and providing value first and then becoming like a industry expert, bringing in those customers. What about other ideas like Slack groups? You mentioned that earlier, just going into specific niche industry groups. How did you try that and what did that look like?

AS: 22:40
Yeah, so, I learned very early somehow that, the, the, that my market doesn't, is not, so they are not fully open to adds, especially product managers and, developers and, and so especially like usually product managers. And so like, how, how, I had an interview with somebody who was also targeting product management. She told me that, that these people, they love content. And so I started looking like how well do they have these content to them? And then I started looking at different communities and what I did was in there that I found a lot of product manager communities. And I just started like looking at them how they do it. So how people are doing it. There's a shameless plug channel, that is, and there is a way to introduce yourself. So what I did was in there, in Slack communities was first of all, whenever somebody introduced themselves, I personally said hi to them, say welcome to the group.

AS: 23:44
And they always looking forward to learn something in the intro, intro channel. And I said, Hey, you're looking for this. I'm happy to help you. These are the three blogs, my blog, somebody else's blog. I found it very relevant. Just go and look at it. It might be helpful. That was one way. There was a need help channel in one of the Slack groups and people started asking for helping onboarding. And so I started helping those people without even thinking about ROI because they were using my competitor's product. And then I jumped on the call and I started helping them on onboarding myself. And so that created a lot of goodwill because that person started chatting the reviews about my experience to the people and that helped a lot. So I started becoming an influencer. I started developing a relationship with with the admin.

AS: 24:32
One of the admin is now the guy who does onboarding tea downs with me, is (inaudible). So his community actually knows a lot about me because of this. so these were the big things, which I did, but the best thing I did was reactive way of answering those questions and the reactive ways just when you go to Slack there is a way to have your preference. And under the preference there is some keywords that you can add. And those keywords I use are, so for me it was user onboarding, user adoption, my competitor's name, my something very similar to my product. And whenever somebody talked about this in the channels in Slack groups, I used to get notified and then I used to answer their queries and if it's quite related to my competitor or a tool that is related to my product, I used to answer that and say, Hey, you can use this product as well.

AS: 25:26
And that really helped because I was immediately answering the questions and within five minutes and the response rate was amazing and people loved it. People said, Hey, I have another option, not just, X competitor. And then they tried the tool and I got like five customers through that. just be building relationships, just being nice to people, giving the value first as, as we talked about earlier and being genuinely nice to people and people do recognize that if you are helping them out, they somehow want to give it, give it in return. And that's how I got like five customers to just initially hustling and I still do that. It's a great opportunity. It's like a closed customer already if you just put the link in there. and it helped us a lot and I, I think it's one of the great opportunities again Slack is just used as a community tool, but rather than not as a social media tool for me, Slack especially with those needs(inaudible) communities really helped me to promote my product indirectly to them.

DA: 26:30
I think again, the repetitive topic that keeps coming up is value first. Building relationships, taking the time, giving the value. And I really think that the other thing that's shines is that you are a topical expert. You have value that you can give and you are also learning in these conversations. So you're not just promoting, I think, I feel like I made this mistake a lot. People probably make this mistake, especially when you're building that marketing department, it's just going out there and blasting, you know, your product out there. I want them to come, I want them to come. But you're talking about building a foundation of value and brand awareness and expertise that makes you a thought leader. I think it's a fantastic approach for those listening. Lots of good ideas here. And at the same time you're also doing a longer term content play, right? You're doing content and SEO. I know for you guys, a big thing was, was getting off-page backlinks. Do you want to talk about, maybe the strategic outreach you did to, to get links going at the same time?

AS: 27:28
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was, that was also, so again, things didn't like that weren't like scaling. If you go in there, but I looked at these, different marketing gurus videos on link building and nothing actually tickled me that much because you said, Hey, this is a template. You use it, put it in your outreach email, you will get these many backlinks. And I'm like, I will never do this. If somebody just reaches out to me, I will never give them back in just because they're asking you to. And also the, the, the conversion rate is around 1%. So what I did was, first of all, I just wrote down the those keywords that I wanted to rank, but I'm not ranking right now because my domain authority is not high. I don't have backlinks on there. What I did was whatever the, the first five position links were there and apparently they were Capterra G2Crowd or like a listing tools.

AS: 28:23
And so yeah, basically listing tools were actually really, really up there. And I started building my, my links there. That was one way. The other way was very interesting that a lot of, a lot of people have already talked about user onboarding tools, so it was not easy to rank anyway. So I started building relationships with, with those companies and I didn't get a response from couple of them. And then I met them at SaaStr this year and, this was (inaudible) and I wrote to the guy, Hey, I am Aazar, I saw that you're coming to SaaStr or you're at SaaStr. Let's chat. I love your content. And that's it. And when I met the guy, Adam himself, so I sent him around five emails. He didn't respond to it, but then I met him and I said, Hey, I, I'm going to help you first.

AS: 29:10
And and then somehow the other thing they have an onboarding tool for employees, we have an onboarding, some match. We get some customers. And I started giving him customers to that. he was appreciative, about the fact that I did it. And I also like when he, when I told him, Hey, this is the reason why you should backlink to me because we are this different and the tool that you, you're currently mentioning, three of them are not live in the market anymore. So what's the point of that? So he removed those and he added me and this is what I did. I looked at the tool that people were mentioning and a lot of those tools were not, there like a lot of tools we're just not alive in the market. So I just, it was very easy reason.

AS: 29:53
The other thing I did was in the off-page backlinking there's this Facebook group called B2B bloggers boost. And there you just like have a lot of people writing about these topics related to your market and related to things you do and they, they're happy to give you backlinks there. And so I do get at least two to three backlinks at least like once in two weeks. and it just nice to have. So that's what I did, these two backlinking strategies, that was really helpful to me because people are looking for content. If you give them content, and really good content in return, they will happy to give you a backlink in return. And that's how I became an expert in front of their eyes as well. yeah. And now I'm building more relationship, more backlinks to that.

DA: 30:38
I think it's a genius idea to meet people at events instead of just emails cause they probably get hundreds of emails or hundreds of reach-outs and being able to meet them in person. And then as you said, you met them in person and you still lead with value first. You sent them customers, you did these things. So it's so important for people to remember that a reciprocal relationships happen by giving value first, even with your customers, you know, even with your prospects. That's, that's incredibly important. and you just mentioned SaaStr an amazing event in San Francisco. I know you also did SaaStock this year. that's one that we did last year. We have a whole podcast episode on it. A fantastic event. Fantastic crew. Probably go to it next year. One of the US ones. how did that go this year? What did you guys do as some strategies? How have you tried to maximize that? I know we mentioned a couple of strategies, with our podcast being so successful, reaching out to people and just getting contacts with that. Again, value first. But what was your experience like?

AS: 31:36
Yeah, so I did hear your podcast on SaaStock specifically like six months ago. So I had this thing that you got a lot of people on podcast because of that. But I want like, I was like from the top, I was pressured to actually find leads, right? So like we are spending so much money and we need to get leads out of it. so I, I did something very creative and, I mean on the first day at work, the second day we didn't do was that I wore a pink jacket because that's very close to UserPilot's logo. We had a pink, pink, like art as well. And we had, I think that the logo, the business cards or pamphlets were pink. So we did get the attention, although our booth was a bit smaller than usual.

AS: 32:20
So that was one attention that we get directly from the people that at least people remember. And even after the SaaStock I wrote to people, Hey, this is Aazar the guy who was wearing the pink jacket. So it was just good remembrance of people in the follow up strategy. so I wanted to remain memorable. and then what we did was, like we added a couple of cameras that I took. I just pulled the idea from the conference that was not SaaS and these guys were giving cameras for free for a lucky draw competition. And so I just exactly copied that. And so that I can get a lot of MQL in my pocket. And that's what I did. And moreover I did pre and post reach out. I also started reaching out to influencers who are in the SaaS market, are really amazing and I do it my content.

AS: 33:11
So I started reaching out with them before even SaaStock and like started like gearing up to it. And while doing that, like I just started again, building relationships with people who were there. Started networking. Came early event when even the startup day where you don't have to be there and just building relationships. So eventually, we've got around 30 SQLs people who wanted to demo and people who wanted to try the product, 30 MQL, who want to stay in touch and take our onboarding teardowns content and learn from there. And we, our target was to get on five enterprise customers. We didn't get that, but you've got at least one and it's a huge company, in SEO space. and yeah, and then, so a lot of people were, so I don't know if you noticed, but when you started doing SaaS, I means a lot of people reach out to you saying that, Hey, you want to meet up and though you get a lot of cold emails.

AS: 34:07
And those were shitty cold emails that I saw. And I said, like, if I do one more tool email, that will just pick up a bad experience. So what I did was I went through official channels to the, to the, to the app and I just reaching, I started reaching out to my persona product managers, customer success managers to customer success manager. I said, Hey, I'm running a customer success interview. We'd love to have you there. And to product managers, I say to him starting a podcast, which I am, and would love to have you there. Then when they came to the boot to talk to me, they naturally ask, Hey, what do you guys do? And I'm really interested. They look at the email I sent previously and they wanted to know more information and that's how I got that interest as well.

AS: 34:46
And gave them a demo after, after SaaStock as well. And that's, now I have around 10 podcasts lineup already in there. I have a lot of customer success people connected. I have 60 leads, SQL and MQL. And these were the things that I did just to make sure that the return of investment is high enough. Like, you know, we did a lot of investment, had a booth and go there, went from Germany coming from US. So it takes a lot of costs. So how to justify that by having those leads, and just being there because the competition is there, just being there because your market hangs out. There was a great reason. And so this was monetary and non-monetary at the same time and we would do it again. It's not that measurable for the branding purpose, but I think if you keep doing these events for let's say next three, four, five years, you will still, you, you will live until you get those because you see that you're there in every event and this is how you close bigger deals.

DA: 35:41
Well, congratulations. It sounds like, it was a, a steal success for the first one. I think you guys definitely had a better strategy than we did when we went out there, even with some of the good results we had. It sounds amazing. My follow up question here is just around the strategy that you're going to use with the people that gave you the cards for those camera giveaways. I wanted to do something like that, but what were you doing as far as follow up marketing to either turn them into MQs or SQLs? Is it just dropping more value? Is it doing more of that personal reach out that we talked about earlier? What did that look like?

AS: 36:15
So right after the conference I manually made the list because it was not huge and I just had the template on HubSpot that I created and I gave them, like I said, Hey, but those nice like nice getting in touch with you on SaaStock, just because I have your card doesn't mean that I have a right to spam you. And I gave them four choices to respond to me with. So I said, Hey, you want to use a pilot demo? You want to just connect on LinkedIn, you want to be on a podcast or you want to learn on the onboarding teardown so I can connect you and you just want to stay in touch with the newsletter. So like these are the options I gave them and I got a good response because these people were really, really interested. So like I gave them an option, I think only hardly five to 10 people did not respond to me.

AS: 36:59
The rest of them responded to me and they wanted to be bought. At least look at those onboarding teardown. And they said, Hey, since you're doing onboarding tear downs, why not do mine as well? And so that just gives me another opportunity to connect with them and then tell them what's, what's the problem in their app and might be that UserPilot is a good fit for them. So as I said, like in the followup strategy, I also did not like try to get from the,. I tried to give them first because I wanted to stay in touch with them. And apparently, SaaStock is one of the conferences. among others SaaS conferences where you found a lot of people who are really nice to you and I made friends at SaaStock and so I, I understand that the market they're trying to address is a much friendlier market and everybody responded was great.

DA: 37:47
That's amazing. I love that strategy and I'm definitely going to, to learn from that. I love your value forward across the board in everything you do. It's so great. And I know you have a, that exciting podcast and the teardown stuff coming, so that's going to be great asking you to be a huge resource for everyone in SaaS. I think, there's so many lessons still to be learned there. When you're doing all these different initiatives, are you focusing on certain goals or KPIs? I think across the board a lot of these could be longer tail strategies, longer tail, you know, initiatives that take a while to push out a customer. Is that kind of the focus or what do you guys try to track to see if these are worth scaling out deeper?

AS: 38:26
Yeah, so we did (inaudible) your only goal already somehow we grew very fast in that sense. So the, this, to do these strategies was to find out once I have to start my marketing team, I scaled my marketing team, what strategies to keep and what strategies to let it go. And these strategies that I just told you except, I don't know. I think all of them are going to be done by somebody else in the team eventually. And yeah. So they eventually think was to find out which channel works for us and double down on that channel. And so Quora, we are doubling down getting backlinks. We are doubling down on that. We write like four guest posts per month and for people. And although it's, it is scalable, but it's very tenuous, but it's better than asking for backlinking from people. so Slack, we keep doing it, Quora we keep doing it. yeah. And once we have a better bigger sales team, perhaps we will do that as well. it was just to find out which channel works for us. and yeah, and double down on that. So this is the key advice wisdom you get from people.

DA: 39:34
I love that. I love that. And what about lessons learned? Anything you look back on over the past year and three months since you've been there since you joined, things that you wish you had done differently or you will do differently in the future.

AS: 39:45
So I wrote this huge blog post on product led growth sales. You should definitely check out with ChartMogul as a guest blogger. and I wrote down how to run sales team with the sales, with product led growth approach and I'm opening a trial and then following up with based on key wins inside the app, was a great way to actually infuse the sales. We've got like 50% up, so we start, we were requested demo and now we had a few trial and we saw huge upward growth because of that. So that's one opportunity that we should more exploit more. But one of the lessons that we learned lately, which was working for us initially and then started haunting us later on after three months was startup packages. So we had this pricing strategy that started at $9 per month, for startups and they can get at least 2,500 a month active users in there. what we learned from startup package was that it's great to give, give your account to startups who love your product. But if for startup it's a, it's an experiment and if it's a startup and if it's an experiment, it might not go as directed or they're not putting that much effort in there. And what we learned that, it was a bad way to, to give it to them because after three months, couple of them churned. And so we just discarded the startup package because I think the startup package only makes sense when you are, you have a scalable product market fit where you don't care about that kind of churn. So, for example, Intercom Drift Segment for them, these make sense because startup is not their market. Their main market is different and they just want to help them, help their market. So that was the biggest lesson learned and also these startup customers are asking a lot of support questions so the cost is higher than actually the revenues are actually. And that's why we had to discard that. And I would definitely recommend at the, I would say I just until you haven't scaled your product, don't go for startup packages because it will just go hunting you. Find the ideal customers that you have already thought about and go with them first.

DA: 41:52
Yeah I think it's a good point. We, you know, we almost did the same thing cause we wanted to like branch into that market and we still got a lot of requests for like nonprofits and I think as much as we want to be involved in, in giving away value to the communities that we love, it's hard when you're still early on building a business like actually a scalable huge company where it's like, okay these are smaller accounts that we can give away and costs aren't consequential to us and we don't, you know, it's not time that we have to worry about. So there is a time and a place I think for those things. but, but that's a really good lesson. And I guess kind of wrapping up, we only have about, you know, 60 days left in the year, kind of crazy to say. Are there any new challenges, opportunities you're excited for to wrap up the year?

AS: 42:37
Yeah, so the opportunities that I think which we should all explore and the new guys are also going to explore is video marketing. So I have to delve more into video marketing. I think this is a great opportunity. We do marketing is mostly authentic marketing or (inaudible) marketing. I'm going to write a blog post about it eventually after learning from so many people that if you have, if you're on video, people are going to trust you more. So we do marketing. I think we should all exploit more so that people can learn more from it, from you, not just by your blog post because this is one channel that you haven't explored that much yet. I think brands like (inaudible) are doing great job on there to have that, their team on there. And Tim talks about it as well.

AS: 43:21
So, I think we do, marketing's a great opportunity and one of the challenge is talking about challenges what I think is that I think there'll be a lot, the cost of acquisition is go high and there will be a lot of copycats, because, SaaS is now getting much more cheaper to have. And so eventually we have to think about that to have some, some way or the other to have a brand that people trust the quality because I think the quality will always be the superior way to, to differentiate yourself. So since cost is going high and copycats are there. Who are the, the SaaS market is going to grow. We need to find a way to actually be different and be higher quality product. And that's where I think the biggest challenge lies for many of these SaaS companies.

DA: 44:09
Yeah. I would certainly say that's a theme that we've heard a ton in the past few episodes. Shout out to Wistia and a great podcast we did with them a few weeks ago about brand affinity. And I couldn't agree with you more. I think it's something that the companies that are going to last, they're going to have to double down on their long term, their brand
focus. They may not have direct ROI, but they're going to give you that brand moat that makes you survive the competitive and the, and the busy marketplace. And I think, you know, for us that's the same route we're going to go, we're discussing, you know, what our video show ideas are almost every day. to really focus on that as well as just doubling down on product. Like you said, I think that is such a key thing. It's not so much your quote unquote differentiator, but a quality product will always win and I think that's a fantastic response. but awesome. Awesome. All great stuff. And I know you're a listener of the show, so you know what's next? The lightning round questions. Five quick questions you can answer with the first best thought that comes to mind. You're ready to get started?

AS: 45:11
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

DA: 45:12
All right. You got this. You will do great. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?

AS: 45:21
After fighting the validation? I would definitely suggest you to start focusing on the SEO because if you have found the product, a little bit of product validation, the thing that you want to scale into is actually SEO because that's gonna help you longer than your activity.

DA: 45:36
Very interesting. And good answer. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?

AS: 45:44
Yeah, so, I really think about this a lot because, I follow people and copywriting people keep saying, I think on your podcast people keeping copywriting. But other than copywriting, I think the one thing that we should start learning more is about analytics tools such as Heap Mixpanel Amplitude because they're so hard to set up as a marketeer. If you know how to set that up, that's something very different about you because then you can not just help them set up and also analyze and this would be one of the differentiator. This would be one of the things that is just going to grow more.

DA: 46:20
Absolutely. We're still struggling to get Mixpanel set up, but we have confidence. We're going to do it. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

AS: 46:30
So now I, I have a, I think I'm a huge fan of Ahrefs and Tim Solo. I keep following them and their SaaS blog you should definitely check that out. it's amazing things they're doing there. And I respect the company. I love Dave Gerhardt from Drift content on LinkedIn and Twitter. and one thing that I recently found that helped me as a marketeer was April Dunford book on positioning. yesterday Rand Fishkin also just like shared it on Twitter as well. I think this book every marketer should read. I'm a huge fan of April for I met her at SaaStock and I know that the content is written there is great. And so definitely go and check that out.

DA: 47:12
What was the name of the book again?

AS: 47:15
Obviously Awesome.

DA: 47:17
Okay, awesome. We'll put that in the show notes. That sounds amazing. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

AS: 47:23
Yeah. So about that. I have a lot of tools. I use stack so I, it's very hard to pick. but since I'm running content here really well, I think I would choose Storychief. You might not have heard about it, but what it does is, and you don't have to write your content on Google docs and you don't have to import from Google doc to WordPress, it directly import it for you. And then after importing, you are able to like should you (inaudible) it and you can also do it on social media as well automatically so you can like save you with all those posts and it saves a lot of time for me and collaboration time as well. So Storychief would be the one.

DA: 48:01
Love it. I'll have to check that out after the show. What about a brand business or a team that you admire today?

AS: 48:07
Yeah, so I think a lot of people love Drift and I do as well. But I think one thing that is now coming across really well for me and these guys have become friends and I think all of these people are now friends because I met them at SaaStock as well. So I would say ProfitWell because they have an amazing Bloomberg network, kind of SaaS newsletters SaaS marketing. And, they're doing an amazing job. And when I saw them at SaaStock this year, I was blown away the way they did the marketing, how much value first. You're talking about how much, not just booth by getting coffees but also having stages in there to people to learn from them at content they have. So ProfitWell would be my, my favorite right now.

DA: 48:48
Hey shout out to Patrick and that amazing company, they're doing so many cool things with value driven content. And I think last year, yeah they had like a booth and they were doing like page teardowns and content shows at the event itself. I was going on. So it was really cool to see. But that's a great, great, you know, brand business to admire. But I just want to say thank you again for coming on this show. It was fantastic to have you, you know, great to have someone that listens every week, to come on and share somewhat knowledge. So I really appreciate your time.

AS: 49:17
Yeah, you guys are doing amazing job. Demio is my favorite, favorite product. I already did try it and gave all the feedback to you. I think you should keep running this podcast because it helps a lot of marketers like us to come up with the ideas and the different things that we haven't done before. So yeah, keep doing a great job. I love Demio and I love the podcast.

DA: 49:39
Awesome. Thank you so much. That validation really does help us, you know, keep our focus and foot on the pedal for a podcast like this. So thank you and think to all the SaaS marketers who listen and that shared their, their great gifts and wisdom. So have a great day and thank you so much.

AS: 49:55
Cheers man. Have a nice day.

DA: 49:56
Thank you for joining me on another amazing episode of the SaaS of breakthrough podcast. It was amazing to have on UserPilot, was a fantastic guest. Obviously you can hear his six years of SaaS experience come through on his different initiatives and marketing experiments. Fantastic work there. And I really think the major lesson here is leading with value. (...)

Resources:
Article "The Ultimate Guide to Organic Quora Marketing":
https://albacross.com/newsroom/organic-quora-marketing/
Article "How To Use Slack for Social Media Marketing and User Acquisition" :
https://awario.com/blog/slack-for-social-media-marketing-user-acquisition/
Article "How to Run Sales in the Era of Product-Led Growth":
https://blog.chartmogul.com/product-led-growth-sales/
Book "Obviously Awesome" by April Dunford:
https://www.amazon.com/Obviously-Awesome-Product-Positioning-Customers/dp/1999023005
Learn More Abou UserPilot:
http://userpilot.com/
Connect With Aazar:
http://aazarshad.com/
Follow along on Our Journey to $100k MRR
A shaky start? No doubt. Yet, three years later, we've got our eyes set on $100k MRR. We'll be sharing everything along the way.