SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Austin Distel Take 2

demio saas breakthrough featuring austin distelAbout Austin Distel:
Austin Distel is the CMO at Proof, a SaaS that made waves in the marketing world with their social proof notifications. Over the past 2 years, Proof has continued to build personalization products where you can even adjust headlines, images, and call to actions on your site based on who the visitor is AND where they are in their customer journey.

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Show Notes:
A Year Later, How Much Did We Grow
Benefits of Hosting a Podcast
The Journey of Tackling Conversion Optimization
From Wildly Different Case Studies To Amazing Data Moat
Different Approaches to Product Marketing and Product Market Fit
The Coming Changes to the SaaS Marketplace With Personalization
Examples of Use Cases of Personalization With New Platform Experiences
Bringing In the First Customers: Manual Reach Out
Reaching The SaaS Audience With New Podcast Scale or Die
Pivoting Into a New Product While You Still Have An Existing One
The Struggle of Keeping All Team Members' Morale With Two Products
Running Experiments: Trying New Product on The Other Product
The Challenges of A/B Testing With Personalization and Keeping Data Clean
Lightning Questions

DA: 02:52
Hey Austin, welcome back to the SaaS breakthrough podcast. We're on our take two episode here which is pretty crazy considering that you were our first episode with a guest live on this show, so I really appreciate you coming back. How are you doing today?

AD: 03:07
Man I'm doing awesome. I can't believe it's been like over a year since then and even hearing back your vision when we were at SaaStr where you're talking like over dinner with Wyatt and those guys and we're like, you know, talking about what could the SaaS Breakthrough show be like and now you've gotten to, what episode is this?

DA: 03:23
This is episode (…) high 60's somewhere in there.

AD: 03:28
Yeah. Which is wild because you know, back when we talked it was like not even a thing yet and they were like, okay, well yeah, sure, I'll be happy to come on for the first episode. And you've grown it like even I think past your initial vision, which is amazing. So congrats to you man.

DA: 03:43
Oh well, I really appreciate that. It's always so fun to talk about, you know, new upcoming initiatives and objectives, things that we've talked about with other guests on the show and then come back and kind of see the results after you go through. I think that the biggest thing from this podcast has been just the persistence and the constant work that goes into it, but it's one of those long term marketing initiatives that like does pay dividends if you continue and you have that patience and, and drive to keep it going. But we really appreciate...

AD: 04:10
Yeah David, I'm curious actually about that as you know, now, Proof has our own podcast too. What are some of like the benefits that you've seen? Like, whether it's interacting with your audience or if it's finding customers or, you know, I don't know. Even investors.

DA: 04:25
No, I think it's a really great question. And we'll get to a segment here and we'll talk about your podcast. I think it's really interesting. But I would say for us it's a great question. You know, for us when we went into this, our objective and our initiative was really two fold. One was branding for Demio our platform in a specific vertical or industry. We really wanted to brand our name in the SaaS marketplace. And we originally started with a founder based podcast, but I had a hard time, really fine tuning it, breaking it into the right areas, getting a lot of good feedback. Founders were kind of all over different things we talked about. So when we went back and looked at it, we're like, let's drive it down deeper to who thedecision makers are and who the people who utilize Demio would actually be our listeners. Right? So we decided to talk to marketers. So our goal was the branding perspective and then also, some level of customer acquisition actually getting those people in. And I think the third one that came from the show that we didn't really expect that has been great is also partnerships and relationship building. Just being able to talk to people, build relationships, you know, continue to talk after the show. I've, I've really made a great network of amazing marketers out there. I'm learning a ton from the show myself and I think it's just become bigger than we ever thought it would be.

AD: 05:42
Very interesting man. Yeah, it's fun because a podcast can have so many different values to it. And it's just interesting to see like each person gets each kind of company, person host, they all get their own unique value out of you know doing their show. So, ours are a little bit different than those in which is, we can talk about that in a little, little while, but it's very interesting to, to see what you've done here.

DA: 06:09
Yeah, definitely. I'm excited to talk about yours. I'm excited to talk about Scale or Die. But let's first take a step back and for our listeners who actually didn't listen to episode one over a year ago, it's, you know, a long time ago, why don't you give us a brief up to date, process journey of what you guys have been doing over at Proof, what the story is and where you guys are now?

AD: 06:30
Yeah, it's pretty interesting because we've been serving the same problem for many years just in different capacities. So the problem is conversion optimization and the way we've tackled this problem, started off with doing a done for you services. Literally had marketing agencies. Like there's like, I don't know, our team is now at 14, so out of that probably had five or six guys in here, all own marketing agencies and we ended up here in Austin, Texas together, building Proof years later. So it started off as marketing agency. Then Dave, Chris and JP started teaching how to scale that once they did pretty well through courses and coaching. And then that turned into a membership site. And kind of where I came into the fold is building, the Entrepreneur Alliance, which was a $30 per month membership teaching how to do better conversion optimization.

AD: 07:21
And then, once we started hearing the woes of like all of our members of what was really hard and struggling with them, that's when we sort of try to automate. And one of the ways, one of the products that we came out with was this notification and actually rebuilt it for ourselves first, just trying to figure out how do we scale our advertising spend because basically the cheapest way to scale ads is to increase your conversions on your site. Because if the lower the cost per acquisition, or the higher conversion, the lower cost per acquisition, so the same amount spent is now more effective. So okay, at that point we were thinking, how do we follow the money backward? We looked who are the biggest advertising spenders on Google Adwords and Facebook and come to find out David that and Expedia outspent many of their other competitors and, and have some of the highest cost for acquisition, in comparison in other markets along with real estate and insurance. But, these guys seem to do it very efficiently. And so, how do they do that? Well, when you go in and click on any of the ads of or Expedia, it's abundantly clear they use a ton of social proof. And this is in the form of testimonials, five star reviews. They also have certifications like, yeah, TripAdvisor certified and all of this. And then I thought was really interesting, I was studying this is they had this real time notification in the corner that was like Jamie just booked a hotel room two minutes ago or 60 people have booked at this Ritz Carlton in the last week. And so this creates this real time fear of missing out. And it also is this validation that, you know, it is a product worth buying, you know, that other people have bought it and so you can feel confident in buying it too.

AD: 09:23
So we're like, okay, this is very interesting. What is the software behind that and come to find out that they built it themselves. All of these travel sites built it themselves. There is no external tool that we could use. There was, you know, one that was on Shopify and it was really just stuck in that niche. And so we're like, okay, well, I guess we'll have to build it ourselves and see if it works. So that's what we did. And, our CTO, JP Morgan that's literally is name, JP Morgan, built Proof in a few weeks and we just tried to build it on our membership site. And, we really didn't think much of it. We are doing this. I was doing this whole social proof campaign, really making our hero of our customer journey, our customer. And instead of us, which is for many marketers, mini bad marketers, they're like, always talk about their own company as their hero. And for us, we really wanted to make it about everyone of our customers, being the hero. And so literally the testimonials were just all over the site. Really went in for like case studies, and even made the headline a quote from a, a current customer and then all of our ads instead of talking about our products, we just talked about how our customers used our products. And then, then we added on this social proof widget, from there we left it, did an ab test for two weeks. And then we looked back to the results on Google analytics. We're like, no way is this a fluke? Literally our landing page went from 19% conversion rate to 42% conversion rate. And then our checkout doubled from an 8% conversion rate to a 16% conversion rate. And we're like, this is insane.

AD: 11:12
All from just adding, you know, this little social proof notification. So we had to like validate the idea outside of just Proof and that's when, you know, we let a few of our members in the Entrepreneurial alliance try it out. And maybe you were one of them, were you David?

DA: 11:29
I think we were an early customer. I don't know if we were one of the early trials but definitely wasn't early customer.

AD: 11:34
Yeah. So from that point, basically we had 15 people or so, and out of the 15 literally all 15 had an increase in conversion and those were different percentage rates and all of that. But it was really cool to validate that this thing works. And so we decided to build a user facing cause at that point it was pretty much raw code. And so we made it somewhat user facing where, you know, there's settings and stuff weren't even there. It was just, hey we can show in real time when somebody buys. So we did a Webinar, pitch,that, long story short, 40 people bought in 40 minutes, and paid $1,000. So we had $40,000 cash to build the rest of the product.

DA: 12:18
And it's your seed validation.

AD: 12:19
Yeah, it was the seed funding. It was validation that people willing to, to vote and say, Hey, I want this, with their actual money and not just, you know, their words. So from that point on, now it's been two years since we launched, and we're currently at about 18 to 19,000 sites that use Proof. And these are across the board. You know, in the beginning we really focused on the online or digital info product niche. So these are people that teach courses, had memberships, sold software, anything that was a digital download, and, and really went deep in that world. But since then, because a lot of them coached other kinds of businesses, which is actually part of the strategy is like, how do we tackle the whole online business world, start with the people who teach it. And so, yeah, we, we began with them. And now Proof is used across all these different industries, which has been amazing. And it's been, how would I say it? Struggling isn't the best word, but it's the words coming to my mouth right now, struggling because, you know, we're, we're trying, we're hearing all of these different needs from so many different industries and different perspectives on how the product should be used. And so it's made our product just really wide and kind of washed out. You know, where in the beginning we're like we were the social proof product for digital products. And now today we have insurance, real estate travel. We have, you know, influencers like Oprah Winfrey uses Proof to show, how many people meditate with her and Deepak Chopra every day. And then on the other end, you have, you know, people who show their real estate listing and how many people view it in the last 24 hours. So wildly different use cases. But the beauty of this is that it's allowed us to evolve our data and create just an amazing, data moat that, you know, is going to uniquely position us for the next phase of our company because today 150 million people see a Proof notification every month. And I like, that's a wild number to me even saying it out loud. But you know, this has allowed us to really build a network of conversion across the Internet very. You know, I would say it's synonymous with what Facebook, you know, saw in their earliest stages is, you know, Whoa, they could do an advertising network, because they have data on their social network. So, you know, this is really where the next step of Proof is, is that we're able to see like how can we have one website help another site's conversion onsite?

DA: 15:11
Interesting. It's an interesting perspective and I think for those listeners who again, didn't listen to that first episode, some things that you skipped over, you guys had incredibly fast growth when you first started, you guys were using influencers and advertising to push growth. You grew really fast. You went into a YC class, you exited YC with funding, you moved to Austin with your team, you've built the team over the past year, but now you're in this interesting position. Do you feel like the next evolution is happening because of those struggles or you just feel like you guys really want to niche down on one specific area and serve that market better?

AD: 15:49
Well, you know, there's a few ways to approach product marketing and product market fit. You know, some people would say, you know, you want to get a little, let's say you look at this like a matrix of affinity for your product being on the y axis and then number of customers on the x axis. You could, a lot of people, the, the general, you know, early entrepreneur mindset is, okay, well in the beginning I'm going to build a minimal viable product that some people like and start to gain, you know, start to build the product more at the same time as building the customer base more. And so, yeah, both the x and the y axis grow at the same rate. I think that's really flawed thinking, because as you get more customers, they're going to tell you, you know, these different features and ideas. The other way to do it, which is kind of what we did with Proof, the first version of Proof that notifications is get an MVP out that, you know, some people love, but then really rapidly grow the customer base. So pretty much go halfway up the y axis and then go really as far in as fast as we can down the x axis, get as many customers as we can with an okay product. And that worked, you know, we got to, like 180,000 a month in recurring revenue within 12 months. So we did it, but we had a major churn problem. and like still today, you know, that churn problem has been dramatically decrease of course, you know, we weren't able to be grown as much as we have today without doing that. But it is, still not like our best metric. And, you know, that's the thing is because we built a product that works for, you know, a good portion of people, but the product market fit isn't for all of our people. And so the affinity, if you look at the y axis is not as high as it could be. And I to be honest, because of just so many use cases, I don't know if ever could get to that point just from w how the product is used. Like, you know, turn rates always going to be a problem with so many different kinds of people using it. And so this is where niching down is super important, especially in the early stages. So the way that we're approaching, our new product called Experiences, this personalization platform, which we can talk about in a second, is we're going to focus on getting a product absolutely amazing for a few people and then slowly move that customer base outward. And so the rate that we're trying to expand with, the personalization platform, is going to be small and intentional and you know, we're only going to allow access. So right now we're in Beta and we plan to be in Beta for several more months at least, where we're serving only B2B SaaS companies that do account based marketing and, it sounds super niche and they probably have to have at least 50 employees. And most likely they've raised funding. So that narrows down our market, pretty significantly. But with pure intention and we're building a product that is going to knock the socks off of them and they're going to, if we do like an NPS score, you know, how upset would you be if you couldn't use our product anymore? We hope that every single time we ask that question is, I would be severely disappointed. And so that's, that's, we're totally changing our approach of building a product and then finding our market. But this way we're doing it with much more intention because at least now we have funding to, funding and revenue to backup this slow growth.

DA: 19:36
And you know, my argument was going to be kind of some push back to what you just said is that you guys really felt like, you know, the way you approach the market with the original Proof was the right way. But I think looking back maybe it was because it puts you in a position now where you guys are cash positive, you have funding, you have all these experiences, you have, you know, this, these lessons that you've learned along the way that have taught you now to think things totally differently. And so maybe in that way it really was extremely beneficial. I would say like my argument back to you is the way you guys are going about now with Experiences is the proper way. Even though you're sacrificing the speed of growth, you are 100% dialing in and understanding product market fit, understanding your customer base, understanding what features and functions matter most. So you don't get to that point where you have all of these different features for different markets and you're all over the place, you're super focused and then you expand out. I think that's the right way. But again, your journey is very unique to you and it's kind of got you to this point. So one of the things that, you know, I constantly heard all throughout 2018 on this show and when I did my 2019 recap, was the importance and the change of the SaaS marketplace with personalization. You started talking about Experiences a little bit. You started talking about the data that you guys are starting to look at and, and how that really helps transform. That's what Experiences is really about, right? Website personalization. What do you see and why do you see this being such an important piece of what's coming in the marketplace?

AD: 21:08
Well, David, it's inevitable that it will happen. You know, we were placing our big bets, like as a team, we were like talking about if we want to place a big bet on the table here for where the company should go, what is a pretty much guaranteed bet and what, with what the big wave that we can ride and where are we uniquely positioned to, to ride this wave. And so it can became very obvious that website personalization is going to gain the momentum at the same rate, if not faster than, advertising personalization and how that has grown in the last 10 years. So, you know, 10 years ago, let's say in 2005, you know, maybe a little, let's say 15 years ago, you know, advertising hadn't yet become all that personalized. And the reason why personalization is being stunted right now and always, every, every, medium through which you do personalization will always be stunted. Whether that's ads, TV, you know, even your Netflix account, it doesn't, it can only be stunted until data is unlocked. And so you have to get data unlocked for you to be able to personalize for the audience. And that was not yet readily available instantly, for people until Facebook and Google started to, get their users to unlock their data, right? So, you know, it started off Facebook did all of those, you know, personality test, you know, hey, which Disney princess are you? And all of that, which began to unlock a lot of psychological data. you know, they had you enrich, you know, like all the books that you like, you go like these pages and et cetera. So everything that Facebook did was so intentional about unlocking your data and, you know, of course, Google gets to see what you look at and, a track, a lot of that stuff, and they're in your life and all of these different ways during your email there now, even in your home. And so, all of this is to unlock the data moat so that one day they can give a more relevant, tailored experience, for their, for their audience. So Facebook has been able to do this for, you know, the advertising world, back in the day. YouTube and Facebook and Google and all of these, did not have a very relevant ad, you know, ad platform. But it learned and grew over time and that grew with data. So we look at today, the reason why website personalization is stunted is because data is stunted and it's not unlocked. We have our data and it's siloed across all of these different platforms that aren't communicating together. And only until recently, have there been data, data centralization, data hubs such as Segment that have been able to bring all of your data sources into one place or central source of truth, similar like (inaudible). And, and you combine, let's say, Hubspot, your Facebook ad audiences, your Intercom chat, all of these different places, Google analytics, et Cetera, in a one spot. And then you have a central user persona. And now you can use that to personalize for. And so figuring out data first is really tough, but it's easy for your warm audience. Where it gets exponentially harder is how do we do this with cold audiences. And and so this is where Proof can be uniquely positioned where, you know, somebody might be able to copy our tech but they certainly can't copy our data. And this is what got YCombinator very excited. This is what, we get very excited about, you know, in the same way that Facebook has created a data moat like Twitter ads suck, because they can't figure out how to unlock their data. Same thing with snapchat ads. They suck. But Facebook, you know, we scaled Proof, you know, as you all know dramatically with ads. And so is just such like a, a game changer is if you can use your personalization, if you can use your data to personalize for that.

DA: 25:40
Makes Sense. Explains kind of how you differentiate a little bit from, from the other platforms is that data moat and how the early days of Proof is kind of building up for that. That's really a fantastic from a marketing and like sales perspective, you talked about, you know, coming through very slowly with the products working with select customers and you want it to do ABM to start that. What results are you guys seeing with ABM? How have you set this up? What wins are you seeing along the way?

AD: 26:07
Yeah, so ABM is a more recent avatar that we've added to our ideal customer persona. So for right now ProfitWell is going to be probably our, our first ABM customer that, they have, you know, maybe 200 ideal customers that like if they got these 200 customers or even, you know, a few of them, there'll be a game changer for them because their, of their ticket price. So the reason why I want to start at least in account based marketing B2B SaaS customers is because of data specifically. If you can, let's just say have 20 fields that you want to personalize your site for. And this could be a range of, I want to use their first name in the merge tags of the, of the copy. I want to have their logo, you know, embedded in my mockups of our site. Kind of like, so they feel like, oh yeah, they already have an account waiting for them, their logos in there with their company name. Let's say as you scroll down the page on your home site, you also want to personalize for the tech stack that they have. What are all the integrations that might be a good fit for you? So like with Demio, let's say that we're personalizing your site. You know, as you scroll down your page, you can see, that the visitor uses Intercom. And I know that you guys at Demio are looking to have some how an integration with intercom and it'd be HubSpot and, and you know, have this full CRM. So you can know who's chatting with you live on a Webinar. That's a really interesting use case where on the homepage, because we recognize that they use Intercom and HubSpot, we can show a section on that home page that says, Hey, integrate HubSpot and intercom with Demio for x, Y, and z you know, benefits. There's many different use cases of personalization. You know, you have company identifying, which is, you know, firmographics this is, you know, you had maybe a personalized for traits such as company size employees. If they're whether or not they're funded, you can look at like funding raised, you know, so maybe you want to show a funded company something different than a non funded company. Maybe you want to show employees size, you know, over 100, a different price than employee size under 100 people. You know, maybe you want to have Drift only show to people, that matched the title COO. And then if they're CEO, you want to have like a testimonial of somebody that's also CEO. So you can change out testimonials for people depending on what their job title on LinkedIn is. You can say something like, so something recently I'm building out right now, is using, we're building out a, a screenshot API where you're taking screenshots of B2B SaaS companies across the Internet, or actually not even just B2B SaaS, but you know, just a lot of B2B businesses. And, and so now you can upload images into the mockups of their home site. So literally like on Demio homepage, you could have a screenshot of the visitor's site there within the mockup. And you know, show them like, Hey, let's, you know, increase your demos for this homepage. Right? So there's so many different use cases of personalization, and there's literally once you unlock this strategy in your head once you start to get your creative mind around it, I'm sure you all can think of much more creative solutions that I even can, which is I'm so excited about.

DA: 29:54
I'm really, you know, thrilled with the idea of what is possible with personalization. There's so much you can do. I think, just FYI, that question was specifically where are you guys using ABM to bring in new Beta customers? But it sounds like that is part of your target market, like demographics you're going after and when you explained it, the personalization, the power of that makes complete sense as, as deep as you can go, as powerful as you can get with it. But I guess then my question back to you would be, what channels and initiatives are you guys doing now or are you planning to do to start bringing in these customers? Like a ProfitWell, these new Beta customers that you want to come into Experiences.

AD: 30:35
So it happens on a series of fronts, but at the end of the day we are just reaching out manually saying, hey, we've got something pretty cool and you're a perfect fit. And you know, the beginning, it's, it's not going to be the most amazing project, product, but it is certainly functional. It's just not the easiest to use yet. And so right now, literally are, are a blitz goal. So we do like, instead of, quarterly goals, we do like six weeks blitzes. And this week's blitz is, we call it the easy button blitz because we want to make it incredibly easy, to use Experiences. And so everything, every user test that we do is, is to simplify. And so we walk with them. We, every Friday we do like a user testing with our users to figure out, hey, how could this be easier? We're working one on one with them. So we ask them, hey, as a Beta customer, we'd also like to you to be on our customer advisory board where, you know, every Friday you take a look at the new updates and give us your true and honest feedback and we record them so that we can reflect on them later on. So right now it is really like just, Hey, what's up Patrick? And we're DM them over Twitter. We know that you want to get a couple of these key accounts. What would it look like if you could have this kind of personalization level, on this? And he's like, yeah, cool, love it. Sweet. Let's talk about that. And and then it comes down to a trial program. So let's just say 30 days program, where they don't have to pay yet. We just get them up and going, make sure their data is in place, make sure the strategy is set. And then we do a 90 day strategy onboarding where myself and my marketing team will think about you as like kind of like an agency days, be like, what would it be the most effective, personalization that we could implement for this new client. And we set it all up. We can try to get them results and we actually have them log into the APP and understand why and how we're implementing it. So that one day we can ween them off. But it's right now a 90 day personalization onboarding strategy. So in the beginning it is manual. We have a request access on our landing page, which right now we're not sending any paid traffic to. Essentially the way that people are finding out about it is through our podcast. And then we also have a couple of content pieces, on personalization that, you know, rank number one on, on Google. So you get traffic from our blog on that. We have a keystone content, which is, I just call it a keystone content piece, but basically it's this really meaty piece all about a to z on how to do personalization. There's like we wrote the book on personalization, everything from setting up data to strategies that we see are working and so that primes them for wanting to do it and figuring out what do they need to do first before they would ever even hop on a call with us with their data. They need to structure that you know, stuff first. And then we get a little bit of traffic from, we have a, it teased in the header in the navigation of and just says Experiences with a little Beta tag on the side of it. So we get some traffic through there as well.

DA: 34:04
So your manual reach out processes is almost like your own basic manual ABM that you guys are doing, taking the hit list, manually reaching out, doing the unscalable things early. So I really love that. Then you're trying to get some of that organic traffic, doing a long term marketing strategies early, preparing yourselves in the marketplace that you're going into to get that traffic, build that email list and then bring in manual customers. You mentioned the podcast, we talked about it at the beginning of the call. You guys launched kind of at the same time, parallel Scale or Die your podcast, right around the same time that you guys were kind of launching Experiences. Was this a promotion to really break into the industry that you wanted to get into or what were the goals with launching the podcast itself?

AD: 34:47
Yeah, so we knew that we needed to niche down when we were going to launch Experiences, and we started thinking about this around last summer. So it's almost been a year now that we started really thinking about how do we build this personalization platform. We knew we need to niche down. So we chose SaaS because they have, you know, the, they respect technology. They get, you know, that this is powerful and what we're building is not easy. They have their data, they probably have somebody on their team that has thought about data management. And then, we also like account based marketing because you know, you only need a few customers and enrich their profiles really deeply. So all of that said, we're like, okay, well what's the best way to reach this audience and not even to sell them yet because we literally have nothing to sell them yet. But we knew we needed a prime ourselves and position Proof to be, in the SaaS atmosphere and so we're like, okay, well in the beginning we're going to do a hackathon. We always do a hackathon every, every quarter or so. But, in this hackathon were like, how do we build up a mastermind? It was actually the first idea. We're just going to host a two day intensive, how to do personalization because we were doing it ourselves for us. And we're like, okay, well we want to teach other people how to do that. And maybe at that event we could bring a couple of the attendees into the fold with Proof, to potentially use Experiences when we're ready to go. Well, like, you know, that sounds like a lot of work and well, I'm sure that we'll learn a lot throughout this year while building Experiences that we could even teach at this mastermind later on. So maybe, maybe we don't want to jump the gun yet. Maybe this is like a, a further away down the funnel in the future. We came up with this idea for a show and we want it to be a video first show. We have a studio here in the office with, we probably spent about 10 grand on this studio that I'm in right now, with lights, cameras, high quality, and we want to make it fun. We also want to make it very actionable. So it is an interview for a show. So we bring in founders and CEOs of companies that do at least a 1 million ARR, and they're all SaaS companies. So many of them have been from YCombinator. So we, we talk about that experience and YCombinator has been our source for many of these as well. And then, like, yeah, how do we, how do we build a really strong foothold into that? But we also don't want to have to come up with content every single week ourselves. That's why an interview show is, is easier. But we also do a, Dave has founder Fridays, which Dave surprisingly have more downloads and, are listened to more frequently than our actual main Scale or die episodes. So, I find that just super interesting and they want to hear what Dave's thoughts are.

DA: 37:46
Yeah, I think that kind of personal voice and thoughts and kind of his opinions where they're formed from. I've listened to a couple of those episodes, they're really great. So if you guys haven't listened to Scale or Die, definitely check them out. Check out that Founder Friday. Lots, lots to learn from what you guys have gone through. I have another question. Like you guys, you're at this, at this point where you're positioned Experiences. That's kind of what you've done over the past year with the podcast. With your reach out with, with the different long form content pieces you've created. You're just positioning yourself. You strategically putting yourself in a position that when the product comes out, you guys already the thought leaders, you're already there, you're driving traffic, you're the go to guys. But at the same time, like you said before, you're still pretty much balancing the Proof social app. How are you guys splitting marketing, leveraging time? Is that a difficult thing to do, a kind of pivot into a new product as you still have an existing one?

AD: 38:42
Yeah, it's, it's actually really difficult, man. I wouldn't say it's as much difficult from a time allocation standpoint. From, the good thing that, how I built our marketing is that it's very evergreen. It's not launch dependent. And so our growth, you know, it continues without me touching it right now. I haven't really done much on our social proof marketing for the last five or six months to be honest. We do content on our blog, but that's also all the content that we're writing right now is strategically to rank number one for personalization, which we now have several articles that rank number one for any keywords around that and have created partnerships with backlinks to, to make sure that holds and you know, with all the right partners and all of that. So most of our marketing right now is working on both fronts. It's to grow Proof and Experiences at the same time. Where it gets difficult is the passing on the vision and the commitment to both teams at the same time. Because you have some engineers that are working on what they would say is the old product. And then, you know, they have some engineers working on the new product. And so it's almost like this, they feel like they're working on old news and it's not, it's not correct thinking, but I see why they feel this way. And so it's constantly working with that so that they don't feel like, oh yeah, they're just like kind of coasting along. And, you know, once we, because we're not pivoting, it's not like this is like a new thing. The notifications is still going to be around for a long time and it's, it's strategically part of our business. But you know, they, they want to be working on the fancy new stuff. But we certainly need a engineer's still building features, knocking out bugs and stuff on the old product, on social proof notifications. So that is, I think the hardest part about having two products at a time. Once you get to three or four or five products all at one time, it doesn't feel like there's this old versus new, it just feels like one, two, three, four, five, you know, but for the point that we're at right now, I feel like morale, is, is the more most important part of building this culture, of multiple products.

DA: 41:10
It's a good, that's a good point. Definitely. Pushed from like a leadership or founder perspective. I guess just to confirm. So basically for you guys on the marketing team, most of the notification, social notification stuff, you basically turned off like new marketing objectives and initiatives, advertise probably turned off, less focus on new things. It's focused on, okay now let's set the ground work, the positioning, the, you know, the SEO that we want to do, the different reach out mechanisms, that the podcast, all those different things are now our core focus. But we can always, you know, revert back if we need to do some small stuff over there. But you kind of shifted all that mental energy to quote unquote the new Experiences.

AD: 41:53
Right, exactly. And we're, we're constantly, I, I'm personally constantly looking at running experiments. So I use our social proof notification as my testing center, you can say for personalization. So I'm constantly trying our product on our other product. We're trying Experiences on social proof, to get case studies. So one example is recently I was able to increase our demo registrations. For us, it's just a, an automated video. But I, I now personalize the funnel based on what the industry is and was able to increase our demo registrations. Just a very, basically, MQL, marketing qualified lead, increase that by 54% at significance using our product experiences by personalizing for the industry. So there's basically four main industries that we serve with social proof and I surveyed them as soon as they were like interested in getting a demo of social proof and then they're asked like, what is the industry that you're in? Is it SaaS, ecommerce, coaching or agency or other? And then once they let me know that, then I personalize the demo registration page for that industry. Everything from customer logos to benefit statements, to testimonials to, there's a lot on that page. So all of it is personalized now for the industry. And so that increased demo registrations by 54%. And then I also did a, another personalization campaign that was based on lifecycle journey. So when they go to the homepage, first time as a first time visitor, they're prompted to watch a demo, then they got to do that demo registration funnel. And then when they come back to the homepage, after they've watched a demo, then it says view our pricing. Once they now know the pricing, when they come back it says start a trial. And then once they started trial, we asked them to, use a certain feature. And so it's like constantly getting them, you know, through the pirate metrics. ARRR and so this has increased new trials by 32%. And so now I'm able to like write case studies on that that also sell Experiences. So I'm making sure that all of my efforts are, have double, double effectiveness.

DA: 44:24
Fantastic. Awesome job on those, you know, different cases and different experiments. And looking back, I guess since last summer you said you kind of get prepared for launching Experiences. Are there new experiments that you ran, new initiatives that you guys thought would absolutely crush it, that didn't work out as expected? Anything that became like a good lesson for you guys that you use as you move forward?

AD: 44:45
We come to find out a/b testing with personalization is a challenge in itself. And keeping data clean. So like how do you make sure you remove all of the extremity audiences? We haven't had like a horribly losing test yet. However, personalization doesn't just mean, you know, that we're like altering the headlines, images and call to actions. What we're doing right now with our current clients is also, for example, form filling with their contact info. How do we also hide certain fields if we already know the, the value? So if for example, we ask a company name in a field, well, if we already know that, let's hide it, you know, or let's auto fill it and then just have them submit that just to be certain. So this is some of the personalization and that's working. Recently we had a win with Buildfire. One of our clients, they're basically a, WordPress for mobile apps and, so you can build a mobile app, you know, just as easily as WordPress. And one thing that we did with them that worked really well was persistent signup. So let's say that, you know, they have five steps or something like that, and they're, and they're getting started. Everything from like creating an account with just an email, all the way through payment, but also you have to get, some other fields that we need from them. So let's say that they abandoned the signup form midway through, but later they come back. How do we make sure that it persists? It saves the information and then jumps them back to where they left off. And so this is something that we've done recently as well, that performed very well. You can see case studies on this at And that breaks down literally step by step of what we did, how we did it, and what were the results that we got. These are the things that have been working. When we apply, we look at all of this as one experience. So we apply multiple things at one time because we'd be here all year long with just doing one experience at a time. iI, if we try to test, hey, how does form filling alone work? And then we add persistency to it and then we add inline social proof and then we add headline called headline adaptation with their merged name. All of these things alone could be, you know, run separately to see what the lift is. But we want to get our clients a very big win, not just a bunch of small, intricate, you know, iterations. So this is where I would say your initial question is where we struggle. It's knowing like the exact conversion boost of each one of these small improvements, but ultimately, like, we're here to make big wins for our customers. You know, we want, we want to boost conversions by 200%. And so that's not going to happen if we, you know, run scientific method correctly for each one of these adaptations. It, you know, that would just take all year long.

DA: 47:50
It makes sense. And it sounds like a lot of big wins. It sounds like you guys are still learning and hopefully you'll be able to take all of these learnings to your users, be able to put them in positions of success quickly and easily. But really exciting. I think 2019 is going to be an exciting year for you guys as you grow in a new way with your product, growing slowly growing smartly. And I'm really excited to see where you guys end up at the end of the year and hopefully next year we'll have you back on and kind of learn more of the objectives and the experiments that you've done. But for right now what I want to do is I want to jump into our lightning round questions. You answered this on last year on the show and we'll see if any of your answers have changed....

AD: 48:28
I'm sure they have, but let's do it.

DA: 48:31
New experiences. Right. Awesome. What advice for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?

AD: 48:38
I'd say build an ideal customer persona. And go really deep on who you're serving, who would get the most value and who has the pocket to make sure that they can actually pay for the value you're bringing. Like, you know, sometimes they might recognize, you know, that you serve a lot of value, but they don't have the money to pay for it. Other times they have a lot of money to pay for it, but they don't see the value in it. So make sure that you've served the right market that actually will feel the pain and they feel that pain pretty frequently. So help them out. Make sure that a lot of the limitations that there, also look at who probably, if there are limitations to your product, which market has already overcome those limitations. And I'll give you an, an example, just so you can put it in context for Proof Experiences, we knew that one limitation is that you have to have data set up correctly. And the Info market space that we began in, probably doesn't even think about data management. And so they're probably, while they might want to use Proof Experiences and they might have the money to do it, they actually don't. The limitation for them is, is data. So they don't have that checked off. Other limitations, you know, could be that they don't have employees, the right talent on the team to do it. You know, so for us like, you know, we need to make sure that the market has at least probably five marketers, our ideal customer persona has at least five marketers on their team because they need to have at least one dedicated technical marketer to be able to implement experiences, from a strategic level. So you know that that might be one limitation that you need to make sure your ideal customer persona has that readily available to, to be a user of your product. And there's many other ones that you can probably think of that will be specific for your use case, but make sure that you go in knowing exactly who you're going to help and, be aware of what limitations that they might have of using your product.

DA: 50:59
I love that. Absolutely. Sounds like it comes from your own real experience. What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?

AD: 51:09
It's a skill that is so, especially for marketing teams, it's a skill that is so underused, is their ability to talk with customers. Actually like hand to hand combat, you know, one to one. They're like, oh yeah, that's for the sales guys. No, it is for the marketing team. Go and figure out who your people are and hang out with them as much as possible. Become friends with them, understand how they think, what are the daily challenges that they have. Because so often let's say that, let's see. Let's, let's look at this as like a, an analogy to war. All right. So very often you think of sales as infantry. The guys that are on the ground, the troops that are, you know, reaching out directly, one on one, you know, in their, phone calls, email outbound, all of that. And then you have the drone operators. And this is the marketing team, the ones that want to set it and forget it. And they're, you know, they have Facebook ads that do the work for them. They'd set up email automations that do the work for them. They do funnels that convert without ever having to talk to somebody. They make videos that, you know, are user assets and they create blog posts that are used as assets that never have to actually speak to their customer. And that is just, yes, that's such a, it works and it's such a disservice if that's all you do. The tool, the strategy, the skillset you need to have as a marketer is talk with your customers as often as possible and make that as part of your goals is like you want to throw events that bring your ideal customer persona into your office or you go to events as often as possible of where they might be, create friendships with them. Even host a show, so you can literally hang out with them for an hour one on one and get to know how they think and we might or might not have done that intentionally with with Proof.

DA: 53:08
I love that. What best educational resource would you recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

AD: 53:15
Go back to the old school books. I think the best marketing is, has been done in the past before all of the technology kind of clouded the effectiveness. So look back at Al Ries, Positioning is an amazing book. And then look at old school ads from Rolls Royce and many other like brands that were killing it back in the day before technology existed and study how they did it. For example, read the book, Scientific Advertising.

DA: 53:40
Love it. Great Book. Highly recommended old school copywriting. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

AD: 53:48
Segment and Clearbit and Hubspot.

DA: 53:52
It's three, but definitely looking into Segment. I think it's an awesome tool. What about a brand, business or team that you admire today?

AD: 54:00
I really admire Drift. I think that they've done an amazing job at (inaudible) product and marketing.

DA: 54:05
Yeah, no, they're awesome. They're really fantastic. We have a great episode with them on this podcast, but I just want to thank you so much for your time. We did do a longer episode today, but we talked about a ton of different marketing topics, so really appreciate you being so thorough. So so giving with your time and really appreciate everything Austin, thank you again for coming back onto the show.

AD: 54:26
Yeah, absolutely. This is fun, man, and looking forward to seeing you in Tampa sometime soon.

DA: 54:31
Yeah, absolutely. Glad to have you out here and...

AD: 54:32
If you ever in Austin come out and say hi because we're right down on sixth street. We'd love to have you over for the office Happy hour.

DA: 54:38
Yeah, they have a great office. If you guys are in the area, definitely take them up on it. Absolutely. Perfect. Austin, talk to you soon, buddy.

AD: 54:45
Absolutely. Talk to you soon, man.

DA: 54:46
Thank you so much for listening and tuning in to today's episode with Austin Distel from Proof. It's absolutely incredible to hear their journey, where they started, how this whole thing got going and got the traction in the first place. All of a sudden now they're here looking at personalization and looking at experiences through a whole new lens. You can really hear the lessons that they learned along the way. (…)

Book "Positioning - The Battle For Your Mind" by Al Reis:
Learn More About Personalizing Your Digital World With Experiences:
Connect with Austin:
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.