SaaS Breakthrough – Featuring Len Markidan Take 2

demio saas breakthrough featuring len markidan About Len Markidan:

Len Markidan is the CMO of Podia, a platform for creators to sell online courses, membership sites and digital downloads.

Previously, he was Head of Marketing for 5 years at Groove.

Len’s work has been featured in Forbes and Entrepreneur, and he’s consulted for clients like Prudential, Chegg, Jet.com, Groupon, Healthline and more.


Show Notes:
03:00
What's Been Happening At Podia Since The Last Interview
03:55
Challenges And Opportunities From Being In A Vertical That Is Exploding Right Now
05:33
Keeping The Lines Of Communication With Customers As Open As Possible
07:00
Goals And Benefits Of Running Product Launch Challenges
09:15
Education As A Team Core Competency And Superpower
"For us education is really a core competency of our team. It's something that so many people on our team have had experience with. It's something that I think is something that we do better than anybody else in the market. And for us that's kind of our superpowers, our strike zone. It's our zone of genius whatever you want to call it. And that's why we're so committed to it. And that's why, you know, I think you can't do education as kind of a, a side channel or as a side hustle as a business. It really has to be something that you go all in on."
11:30
Surfacing The Exact Right Piece Of Content At The Exact Right Time
14:05
KPIs And Green Light Metrics
16:50
Switching The Webinar Approach To Be More Q&A Format
"Because we're not so confident anymore that we know exactly what all of these new creators need from an educational perspective. And so the way that we've switched our, our approach to address that as our webinars are much more Q&A format now (...) that usually has a theme (...) we found that to be going pretty well so far. I think people are, people are getting a lot out of it and we're learning a lot too about what challenges our audience is actually facing."
18:00
How To Think About Marketing Pivots
"I think the challenge with pivoting our brand and our messaging to focus on these new customers, I think this is this challenge is true for all marketers is if you're seeing a new kind of customer right now that's great. And I, and I really do think you should, you know, you should do your best to serve them. I think the biggest risk and the biggest challenge is going to be in longevity. And what happens when things do return to normal."
19:55
If You're Finding Your Product Is Not Seen As Essential By Your Customers
"A lot of marketers right now are learning whether or not their product or their business is really seen as essential by their customers. Because if it's not, those are the first expenses getting cut (..) I think it's a big learning opportunity, but I think that if you are in that position you don't really have months to wait. I think this is the time to figure out how you can become essential and whether that's by changing product. Changing the customers that you target. Changing your marketing and support efforts to help people better understand how to get more value. I think that is you where you have to move right now."
20:45
The Opportunity If You're Getting A Signal From Your Customers That You're Essential
"If you are getting a signal back from your customers in your market that you are essential and people people are staying on, I think you probably have a lot of opportunities for, you know, optimization and making things better. Ultimately I think if you need to make changes and you're getting signal that you need to make changes I would say that, these market conditions will reward speed a lot more than they'll reward wait and see."
21:15
A Great Opportunity To Double Down On the Right Customers For You
"This is a great time to figure out who your essential customers are because ultimately the sustainable way to build a business is to be essential to somebody. And if you were not essential to your past customers and you're essential to somebody that's coming on the market now, or if you were essential to a subset of your customers and you're finding that those customers are the ones that are sticking with you, I think it's a great opportunity to double down on those customers."
22:15
Marketing In 2020: Reshaping and Diversification Of Channels
"As far as changing our strategy for 2020 and how marketers can change their strategy in 2020, I think diversifying as quickly as possible and spinning up additional channels that you can count on if things don't go as planned, it's going to be a big trend this year."
25:50
Leveraging Influencer Partnerships
27:25
Referral Programs: Creating Experiences That Are Worth Telling Others About
31:25
KPIs And The New Influx In Acquisition
33:05
Adjusting To This New World As A SaaS Marketer
"In general it's really just going to be about de-risking your, your marketing strategy by diversifying and adding new channels. I think that there are know companies in two positions (...) Companies who figured out that they're essential and companies who figure it out that they aren't. The companies that figured out that they are essential are really gonna need to focus on building out those marketing channels and scaling up, scaling up those channels to make sure that they have, they have a, you know, scalable income flow for the foreseeable future and the companies that are realizing they're not essential. Those marketers really need to get out into the field, talk to many customers as possible and figure out how they can become an essential product and who they can become an essential product for as quickly as possible."
34:25
Lightning Questions
Transcript:

DA
Hey Len, welcome back to the SaaS breakthrough podcast. Excited to have you here again. How are you doing?

LM (02:55):
Doing well, thanks David. Excited to be back.

DA (02:58):
I know we talked since I think the end of 2018 on the podcast. We did do that 2019 content creator day together, which was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about Podia and yeah lots going on, but what's been going on since then? Obviously we're going through something kind of crazy right now. But from the business perspective, what has happened in the past kind of year, year and a half?

LM (03:19):
Yeah. So 2019 was a, it was a really great year for us. We saw, thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs created on the platform. And you know, like a lot of businesses, I think we had very big plans going into 2020 but those are, those are all kind of thrown out the window right now. We're figuring everything out a week at a time. We're, we're in a very fortunate position in that what we're dealing with is a huge surge of people that have free time and need, need to launch a business online as quickly as possible. We're doing our best to support them, accommodate them, meet that demand as much as possible.

DA (03:55):
No, it's always an interesting place to be. We're kind of in the same area as you in that we have seen an incredible surge in user signups and activity. Obviously we're kind of in a category, you know, a vertical that is exploding right now. Not everyone does, was so lucky in the SaaS world. But have you guys had to deal with you know, any major like marketing issues or are you guys just trying to focus on stability and just like keeping, keeping up to date with like all the new surge coming in?

LM (04:28):
Yeah, that's a good question. So we, we definitely, I mean we've definitely had to spin up new servers and then deal with some stability, you know, not so much issues, but just kind of reinforcing the foundations just so that we can meet the demand that we project. But in terms of marketing challenges, I think it's a, it's a different market than what we've historically been used to. You know, before people had a pretty decent idea that they wanted to create an online course or that they wanted to launch a membership or an ebook and they were looking for a platform that would help them do that. But you know, today we're seeing a lot of people who might be yoga teachers, restaurant owners or bartenders coming to us and they say, Hey, my business just closed and I don't know what to do. Can you help? I don't even know where to start. And so if for us the opportunity is, is in educating this new generation of online creators and supporting them through some very, very fragile early stages and helping them get online with a lot more urgency than online creators have had in the past. That's been the big marketing challenge is just figuring out how do we, how do we serve people that might look very different than the traditional online creators we've had in the past.

DA (05:33):
So as a, you know, education software, I guess for content creators, what are you guys going to do as far as content creation here for people? Are you thinking about doing like getting started courses on how to just build online courses? Think about that. Is it a change in you know, your brand voice? Is it a change in your onboarding structure? Like how does this then, or how are you planning on effecting this, this kind of new approach?

DA (06:01):
I think the biggest thing for us has just been to, you know, be as supportive as possible and to listen as much as possible because the reality is we don't really know all the challenges that people are going to be facing yet. These are a lot of people that are, that are going at this from the first for the first time, from very, very different backgrounds than what we've had in the past. And so we're just trying to keep our lines of communication with our customers as open as possible. We've expanded our your live chat hours to seven days a week. We started doing a ton more live events, live content where you're running product launch challenges where people all work on their products and launch them together, creates community, creates accountability, but really just doing our best to to reinforce this idea that you're not the first person to go through this. You're not the only person going through this right now. We're here for you and you have this whole community of creators is here for you and you can get it done and they're going to be a lot of points in the process that are going to be discouraging and challenging but many people have gotten through them before and you will too.

DA (07:00):
I love that and I love that empathetic brand voice that you guys have. Talk to me about the challenges that you guys are running. How did you come up with that idea? How are you running it and what kind of results have you seen?

LM (07:11):
Sure. Yeah, so we have last year since we, since we last spoke, we had really a really sharp customer success professional join our team, Matt Ragland, he was a, formery at Convertkit.

DA (07:24):
He's, he's actually someone that we've talked to before. I think he may have even been a guest on here. Maybe, maybe not, but I know Matt. Matt's awesome. Cool. He's awesome.

LM (07:32):
Yeah, so Matt, Matt's super smart and he has designed these product launch challenges to basically create a live, you know, semi-live 14 day, 21 day event where you can join in to a, join in into a challenge where you and hundreds or thousands of other creators are going to build your product at the same time. And what it really stems from is this idea that we've done, you know a lot events like you mentioned content creator day and we've done, you know, webinars and things in the past and those have been really, really great for us. But the reality is you can't build a product during a one hour session. And very often you can come away from an event like that really inspired but then you'll almost invariably hit a roadblock. And then the path of least resistance is abandon the project and go do something else. And so we wanted to create that, you know, take that one time experience event format and see if we can draw it out across the time that it actually takes to build something and to ship something and to actually make money from a digital product.

LM (08:34):
And so we've created these, these 14 day challenges, these 21 day challenges where people can sign up on Podia. They get an extended trial to Podia through the, to the length of the challenge so that they can spin everything up and every day Matt's sending out new content. He's doing live Q & A's. He's being there, you know, support our creators and also creators are supporting each other. They're showing their products to each other at every stage. And through the end of this through the end of this project, almost everybody is shipping something and, and selling something. And so it creates, it takes that, a community aspect that's really, really hard to, to steward after an event is over and delivering it to people for three weeks at a time.

DA (09:16):
I love that. We have a similar problem, you know, with our early stage kind of customers coming in who are just getting started with webinars and we've tried to do a similar approach as you mentioned. We even did I think a joint webinar with Pat Flynn where we did like a webinar on a weekend challenge and tried to help them build their content. But it does take time. It takes time to build a course. It takes time to build a webinar from a marketing platform. You know, for us when we really looked at it from a marketing perspective, we decided to shift our product and move up market rather than try to fight against that kind of learning curve and try to, you know, build just total education cause there's only so much you can do. From you guys' perspective, how come you stay in that early stage kind of create a niche rather than going up market? From a marketing perspective, maybe the product is already built that way.

LM (10:06):
Yeah, that's a really good question and I think there's no, there's no question at all that it would be easier from, I mean purely from a math perspective to go up market because you know, rather than selling $39 and $79 a month plans, you can probably earn a lot more money, a lot faster selling, you know, $1,000 plans. For us education is really a core competency of our team. It's something that so many people on our team have had experience with. It's something that I think is something that we do better than anybody else in the market. And for us that's kind of our superpowers, our strike zone. It's our zone of genius whatever you want to call it. And that's why we're so committed to it. And that's why, you know, I think you can't do education as kind of a, a side channel or as a side hustle as a business. It really has to be something that you go all in on. It has to be something that you're willing to say, you know people coming to my website, I'm okay with them not signing up for my product right away, if they're going to sign up and read my content, if they're going to get into these educational challenges that we're running, if they're going to watch our YouTube videos to learn from the ground up, how to do these things.

LM (11:10):
So there, there are definitely trade offs and sacrifices that you have to make, but we found that by going all in on education, you know, putting our hat out there and saying, this is who we are, this is what we do and we're, we're totally focused on it. We separate ourselves from the market and people see that and they say, okay, I know this is going to take me a little while, but I'm going to go with the platform that is going to support me through these, these kind of early fragile stages.

DA (11:34):
From an education perspective, how are you getting your users continually to jump into these videos? Keep watching, be a part of these challenges? I think for us, you know, we want to do a big push into education, but one of the challenges has been like how do we get more signups on our educational events, live Q&As, personal Q&As, how do we get them into our university areas where it's felt like that has been, you know, an educational add on something extra they have to do in this already big workload. Have you guys found you know, a voice or a time to push them into education as the right time?

LM (12:10):
Yeah, I think that there's a really real, I think one of the most challenging things with education is surfacing the exact right piece of content at the exact right time. Right? And that's, that's kind of always been the challenge for us at Podia. And then, you know, previously this was when I ran marketing at Groove, this was a huge challenge for us there too. And it's something that I think all of us are gonna have to constantly be solving over time because it's fluid and it changes. But I think the keys to us have been number one, respecting the fact that you know, like you said, people have so much going on in, in their lives and just on their minds, especially now more than ever, understanding that, sending them into a course as we've done in the past and saying, all right, here's this 12 module course.

LM (12:56):
Go take it at your own pace. It's, it's overwhelming for people and they just don't have the, the mental and emotional bandwidth right now to, to commit to that. And so for us, it's been ticking, really partying out our education and saying, all right, what's the one micro lesson that this person can get immense value from right now? And delivering that to them at the exact right time. And I know that sounds like a really, really hard task and a lot of it has to do with, you know, how do we take user behavior on our website and say, all right, well this email subscriber is reading this content about, you know, how to run a great webinar. How do we pitch, you know, how do we send them the right piece of follow on content to to that piece? Or this user is in a trial of Podia and they're having you know, they're having some trouble connecting their Stripe account to their Podia account. How do we, you know, make sure that they get the right piece of content around how to set up payments at the right time. I think that's, that's really the, the answer and it's an unsatisfying challenging answer, but that's the only way we've been able to actually make a dent in this.

DA (14:05):
I love that. I'm asking so many questions because again, this is a big initiative for us and I think we're trying to figure out this. So this is, you know, really helpful advice and great lessons for any SaaS company kind of serving the marketplace right now to learn about education, serve our customers better. From your perspective, how have you seen KPIs or results or have you had to lean on any statistics to figure out what is working and what's not? That's been another thing that we've found challenging is like, does education have, you know, an impact on churn? Does it have an impact on new sales? And then trying to go back through and try to figure out like, okay, they went to, you know, the university one time, does that actively mean that they were educated? Is there a result that we're trying to get them to? Like what are you guys using as kind of those benchmarks to understand education is doing for the business?

LM (14:53):
That is a, it's a fantastic question and I think that a really thorny challenge that we're all trying to solve. And we look at KPIs like we, we do, we spend a lot of time with time on page for content pieces specifically as a metric for whether or not people are getting value for a piece. And then we, you know, a big part of it is time together, content consumption and product behavior. So if somebody reads a piece of content on how to launch an online course, you know, within the next few days, are they, do they actually start working on their course within the product or somebody reads a piece of content on how to send marketing emails and how to send better marketing emails, are they actually going into the product and creating marketing emails after that. That's for us has been the closest green light metric we've had to figuring out whether content contents actually driving user behavior and which content, you know, which content is actually driving user behavior. Is it the behavior that we actually want and how do we use that to inform what types of content we should create next?

DA (15:56):
That makes a lot of sense. What tool are you guys using to track all this stuff? We're still trying to figure that out too.

LM (16:00):
Sure. Yeah. We use Heap analytics and I think last time, last time on the podcast you asked me what my favorite tool was and I think, I think I mentioned Heap and we absolutely love it. We use it for product analytics, marketing analytics they're, they're just fantastic.

DA (16:15):
Yeah, we used to be in Heap's startup program, but our events skyrocketed. And I think if we did it now, our cost would be ridiculously high with them. And that was the only thing that was that they were expensive. And so we switched to Mixedpanel. And for those of you listeners who have listened to any of our episodes, I say that almost every episode and we still don't have it integrated. So (inaudible) data stow, which is, which is so hard for us. But that's fantastic. I think, you know, education is such a critical piece right now. Something that we're definitely trying to double down on even going up market, we still want to really dial in on education. Have you guys seen, and are you still doing webinars with all these different challenges and stuff like that?

LM (16:55):
We are, yeah. We still do. We still do webinars, but typically the way that we've, the way that we've switched our webinars to be, I think to address what's going on now a little bit more. Because we're not so confident anymore that we know exactly what all of these new creators need from an educational perspective. And so the way that we've switched our, our approach to address that as our webinars are much more Q&A format now. So Matt actually runs a webinar every Thursday and it's a Q&A format that usually has a theme. So the theme this week is email marketing. The theme last week was course creation. The next week might be, you know, memberships or you know, building sales pages. And typically what he'll do is he'll give a 10, 15 minute presentation on some, some very beginner stage tips and then it's 45 minutes, you know, up to two hours of just Q&A and people come and bring their questions and it's, you know, everything from people who are just starting out to people who are looking to optimize. And we found that to be going pretty well so far. I think people are, people are getting a lot out of it and we're learning a lot too about what challenges our audience is actually facing.

DA (17:59):
I love the idea of focus Q and a sessions we do Q&A but it does kind of take you all over. I love the idea of just having those specific topics. We've also thought about doing like Q&A bring on guests from other companies. But right now I've found it incredibly hard to try to get, you know, marketers involved cause there's so much craziness and unknowns in the world right now. Which leads me into my next question for you guys. This is a tough question and something that I've been deeply thinking about over the past few weeks, but with so much unknown and uncertainty, when do you start thinking about, you know, marketing pivots or you know, changing brand or messaging, like overall competencies of your business to fit what could possibly be a new world. Is it giving it another few months? Is that seeing like when and where does the landscape change or do you still continue as normal with your business? And then also try to make exceptions for the customers that are coming in that are unexpected. Like the bartenders that you mentioned or you know, the servers, the yoga instructors, like do you now market to them specifically and make the pivot now and try to take as much market share as possible or are you patient and you see is the world going to shift back? Is there going to be a rollback? Like how are you guys thinking about that?

LM (19:17):
I think the challenge with pivoting our brand and our messaging to focus on these new customers, I think this is this challenge is true for all marketers is if you're seeing a new kind of customer right now that's great. And I, and I really do think you should, you know, you should do your best to serve them. I think the biggest risk and the biggest challenge is going to be in longevity. And what happens when things do return to normal and how, you know, the way we're thinking about it is how do we shift our approach when things do return to normal to ensure that these creators can keep earning money online while their regular businesses presumably pick back up and will they even be interested in it. So that's, I think one of the risks of going really drastic on a, on a, on a, on a full brand pivot. But I do think that, you know, this is, we kind of have a unique case here, but I think in general, a lot of marketers right now are learning whether or not their product or their business is really seen as essential by their customers.

LM (20:11):
Because if it's not, those are the first expenses getting cut and yeah, that's not a, a failure of any kind of, you're finding out that people are, are not finding your business essential and they're cutting expenses. I think it's a big learning opportunity, but I think that if you are in that position you don't really have months to wait. I think this is the time to figure out how you can become essential and whether that's by changing product. Changing the customers that you target. Changing your marketing and support efforts to help people better understand how to get more value. I think that is you where you have to move right now. I think that if you are getting a signal back from your customers in your market that you are essential and people people are staying on, I think you probably have a lot of opportunities for, you know, optimization and making things better. Ultimately I think if you need to make changes and you're getting signal that you need to make changes I would say that, these market conditions will reward speed a lot more than they'll reward wait and see.

DA (21:13):
Do you also think that this is a good moment to see the customers that do stay with you are now possibly your better fit customers if they are essential? Like this is also a good moment to take, you know, full account of the right customers versus those that are using you from like a non-essential perspective or do you think that that may also be more related to just use case and the size of the company maybe and the budget and reactions to what's going on?

LM (21:42):
Yeah, I think, well, thank you for, for taking, I think you took my point and you clarified it in a way that positions it much better. But yeah, I think the, this is a great time to figure out who your essential customers are because ultimately the sustainable way to build a business is to be essential to somebody. And if you were not essential to your past customers and you're essential to somebody that's coming on the market now, or if you were essential to a subset of your customers and you're finding that those customers are the ones that are sticking with you, I think it's a great opportunity to double down on those customers.

DA (22:11):
That's awesome. Yeah, that's super, super valuable. And what a great insight. I'm just thinking through that myself. I think there's so much to be learned especially when you're like actually talking to maybe some of these people who are churning out and you know why they're no longer using the product and then you really start to see how they were using it and the value additions and stuff like that. So, you know, that's really amazing. Are you guys looking forward this year and looking at changing any marketing initiatives or are you kind of still going full swing with what you were planning in 2020, you said you had like a big 2020 kind of laid out. Obviously we're just trying to stabilize and help the customers that are coming in now, but are you just kind of like pushing back initiatives? Are you still planning on doing things that you wanted to do or have you kind of reshaped everything for 2020?

LM (22:58):
I think there's quite a bit that's had to be reshaped. So, you know, one one way is that events have been a reasonably sizable part of our marketing mix in the past, which I think we talked about it a little bit last time I was on the podcast and that's obviously just completely wiped out for the next few months at least, if not for much, much longer. And so we're shifting away from that. Many of the, many of the events that we partner with are moving towards virtual events, which present entirely new challenges and opportunities as a sponsor. Our strategy for events has always been to deliver really rich, actionable education on stage and then use our booth to talk to people about the product and how we can help them take what they learned from us on stage and turn it into something real. That opportunity is gone, there are no more booths. So how do we marry our content to our product and in virtual events in a way that doesn't look like every product led webinar that these attendees seen a thousand times and I know there's a lot I can learn from you about that.

DA (23:51):
Yeah, maybe. I think this is still a new world for a lot of us. Try to think about like how online events are run. I think from a webinar perspective, yes, sure we're, we're great, but I think there's going to be an insane influx of new innovative platforms that are going to come up in the next six months that are going to try to reimagine the virtual event and try to rethink about things like networking parts of those events and the booths like you said, which right now Demio does a great job of being, you know, a virtual communication platform, but we're not built for like a live event like that, like a live interactive summit. Like we can do all of the broadcasting, but I think there's so much more that can be done. And like as you said, this is a new world, new landscape. It's going to be interesting to see how this all comes out.

LM (24:37):
Yeah. And I think, you know, we're, we're not the only ones obviously that had events as a, as a channel, but I think in general we're just gonna we're going to see a lot of diversification in marketing strategies and marketing budgets this year. You know, now that people know that a marketing channel like events or field sales can just dry up overnight, they were going to see a lot of companies de-risking their strategies by adding different channels to us. And it's probably gonna benefit all marketers, right? This, this risk has always existed and you've always seen it in channels like SEO, right? When companies put all of their eggs in the search basket and then Google algorithm changes turns their growth chart upside down in an instant and it's, it's, it's kind of easy to sit back and say, Oh, that just impacted financial companies or online betting companies or whoever Google was targeting at the time. The risk wasn't tangible for everyone. But now almost everyone is feeling the heat and realizing the value in diversification. So we'll probably always have one or two core channels, especially in the early stages. But as far as changing our strategy for 2020 and how marketers can change their strategy in 2020, I think diversifying as quickly as possible and spinning up additional channels that you can count on if things don't go as planned, it's going to be a big trend this year.

DA (25:50):
I want to get a little more specific on that and tactical with you. What are you guys thinking of doing as far as diversification? Does that mean going into more paid, you're going more brand, you're going more content or just kind of spreading budget on a variety of different experiments and just trying to see what kind of sticks over the next six months.

LM (26:06):
Yeah, it's a bit of both. So we're definitely going, we're definitely going into more paid, especially as we're, we're seeing, you know, this surge in demand that we're seeing on our platform, you know, to us signals that there's a massive surge of demand elsewhere that, you know, people [inaudible] who don't even know a platform exist yet. And so we're, we're definitely going harder into paid there. We're also going into channels like influencer partnerships. We've been working with content creators on YouTube for quite awhile and we've seen some, some signal there that that's, that's been a helpful way for people to learn about Podia. So we're certainly looking to explore that especially as a lot of these concentrators are seeing, income from other, other, other sponsors and other partners dry up right now with so many companies cutting variable marketing spend.

LM (26:54):
So we see that as a huge, huge opportunity to not just, you know, help out the creator community but also just reach more people right now as people are watching more YouTube and people are consuming more of this content. And then also we're, we're going well, a little more aggressive on our, on our referral program because we're seeing more and more people recommend Podia to their friends as, as their friends tell them that they're looking for new ways to earn a living. And that's been something that we've, we haven't really spent a lot of time optimizing in the past, but it's certainly something that we're seeing a lot of opportunity in now.

DA (27:24):
Well, on the referral program, what kind of new things have you added to, to get people excited or is that just more emails and reminders and resources for them?

LM (27:33):
Well, people have been, people have been telling their friends about products they love forever, right? I mean that part of it comes so naturally. So I think there are two things that we focus on here. The first one is on creating experiences that are worth telling others about, and that sounds like a cliché, but I'll give you an example, right? Nobody gets excited to tell their friends about a tool that just gets the job done. They want to tell their friends about a tool that gets the job done, but then blew their minds. It doesn't have to be something huge that that blows people's minds right on. The example that I always like to think about is Dropbox Paper. So we use Dropbox paper for our documents at Podia and it's a fine tool. It works well. The design is clean, generally a pleasure to use, but it has this one feature that just blew my mind the first time that I saw it in action.

LM (28:21):
When you want to create a hyperlink in most tools, it's like Google docs. You have to copy the URL, highlight the text in Google docs, you have to hit command V or right click and insert hyperlink and then paste your link and then you hit enter. Well, with Dropbox paper you copy a URL, highlight the text, and then you hit command D and that's it. Dropbox creates the hyperlink for you. This teeny tiny thing that maybe saves me two seconds every time I create a hyperlink. But after using it, I can't imagine why anybody would build hyperlinks any other way. And that is why I now tell all of my friends about how much I love Dropbox Paper. And I go on podcasts to tell stories about how they're a great example of a product worth sharing. And so creating experiences like that, small things that blow people's minds I think is a big part of how we're looking at building a successful referral program.

LM (29:08):
It's not so much the reminders or the nudges, but it's much more about, you know, how do we do something that when people see it, they can't help but share. And for us historically, that's been customer support. So every customer on every platform is going to have problems. That's kind of the nature of the game when you're dealing with people who might not be super technical using a technical product for the first time. But we now staff live chat support seven days a week and when somebody asks a question, they get a response from a friendly human usually within two minutes if it's in business hours, that is a mind blowing experience for people who aren't used to that and they tell their friends about it. And if you search for Podia reviews on Capterra or just across the web, I think you'll be hard pressed to find a single review that doesn't mention our fast customer support.

LM (29:54):
So that I think is a really, really big part of building a successful referral program is giving people just some anchor that they can latch onto when they tell people like for Dropbox pape, for me, the hyperlink feature is the first thing I always tell people about when I recommend Dropbox paper. For Podia it's that support. And I think just finding that, finding that anchor that makes it easy for people to say, you know, you're going to love this product and here's why. And then the other, the other piece of it is just making sure that people who want to refer Podia have all of the assets, all the copy, all the answers they need to do so. And it's not kind of as simple as referring a sneaker company or a brand of pasta sauce. You know, people, people are going to have a lot more questions.

LM (30:36):
And so the more copy we can provide them, more resources we can provide to equip people with, with everything that our own team has when we're selling Podia, I think the more comfortable our affiliates are going to be going out into the field with our product. And that's big initiative for us right now.

DA (30:51):
I love that and something that we should definitely be looking at right now. And I agree. I think for us we've also and similarly we have, you know, very unique brands I think. But our brands are very similar. Ours is really about support as well. We just hired four more support people, 24/7 support, under five minute response times. But like the number one thing we hear when we get referred is the customer support. And I think that's just for anyone listening. That's something you can hang your hat on so easily and do amazing and be better than your competitors. And I just think it's such an important part of SaaS. But definitely I think we can improve our referral program and I think that's a really great initiative to do right now. Last question kind of around KPIs and these new marketing initiatives is really around like the new influx in acquisition. If you're putting money into paid advertising right now and you're working hard on new initiatives, are you looking at specific KPIs with the new customers coming in? Are you worried about you know, spending a lot of money on acquisition and marketing to, you know, bring in new customers now, but in four months those customers were all be churned out and back at work. And does that matter or are you just kind of looking at the KPIs of new customers not looking at LTV? Right now we're just looking at like new revenue. And you know, our average cost of returns on advertising and stuff like that?

LM (32:12):
No. Yeah, we're definitely looking at more kind of long term leading indicators. And for us, as you know, as a digital product platform, that indicator is always going to be sales or customer sales because if people are making money on Podia, especially if you're making enough money to pay for their Podia subscription, our data suggests that they're just never going to leave. People generally don't leave for other products. People generally don't leave because they want to close their business if their business is making money. And so that's what we look at. We're, we're looking at KPIs that tell us whether our new creators are making sales. And those metrics look like time to first sale, gross sales by creator, number of creators earning over a thousand dollars a month is a huge one for us. We track that every single day. So basically, yeah, anything that we can, that we can look at as leading indicators, that somebody is gonna be successful and stay on our platform, that's what we're optimizing for.

DA (33:05):
I love that. That's super helpful. Really good point. And looking forward in 2020, this is going to be like a near impossible answer for you to figure it out, but where do you see SaaS marketing going? Where do you see, you know, the changes in the landscape pushing us towards, and do you have any advice for SaaS marketers who are kind of adjusting to this new world?

LM (33:26):
For sure. Yeah, I think, I think you, you and I work in a, we're, we're in a pretty unique field and this is kind of create our economy. So I think the advice there is a little bit different, but I think in general it's really just going to be about de-risking your, your marketing strategy by diversifying and adding new channels. I think that there are know companies in two positions. Like I mentioned, right? Companies who figured out that they're essential and companies who figure it out that they aren't. The companies that figured out that they are essential are really gonna need to focus on building out those marketing channels and scaling up, scaling up those channels to make sure that they have, they have a, you know, scalable income flow for the foreseeable future and the companies that are realizing they're not essential. Those marketers really need to get out into the field, talk to many customers as possible and figure out how they can become an essential product and who they can become an essential product for as quickly as possible.

DA (34:24):
I love that. That's great advice. Very good advice. What I want to do now is flip over to our lightning round questions. You've done this before. Five quick questions you can answer with the first best thought that comes to mind. You ready to do this again? Round two.

LM (34:38):
Let's do it.

DA (34:39):
All right, let's do this thing. What advice would you give for early stage SaaS companies starting marketing today?

LM (34:49):
You've got great timing. Well you know, because everybody's basically starting from scratch right now. Even even companies that thought they had to figure it out. And so yeah, it actually is great time to start marketing and I would just talk to as many people in your market as quickly as possible and move to serve them. I would, if you're in that position, I would forget about sustainable tactics or scalable tactics right now, the world we live in is a different world than the one we're going to live in three months from now. So don't worry about long term strategy right now. Just figure out how you can provide value, drive traffic, get customers today.

DA (35:20):
Become that essential company, solve that big pain point like you mentioned earlier. I think that's fantastic.

LM (35:25):
Exactly.

DA (35:26):
What skill do you think is vital for marketing teams to improve and build on today?

LM (35:31):
Speed. Agility. It has never been more important then in a crisis like this. The teams that can move with speed right now are the ones that are gonna come out of this mess stronger.

DA (35:42):
I love that. What about a best educational resource you'd recommend for learning about marketing or growth?

LM (35:49):
Your customers. Go, go talk to them, see what they need. Chances are it's a very different answer than what they would have given you three months ago. So it's figuring out what it is and pivot to focus on that. At least for now.

DA (36:01):
I'm trying to make this a new hashtag, hashtag new world new world lots and lots of do and lots of change, but I think that was a good answer. What about a favorite tool you can't live without?

LM (36:14):
I'm going to keep my title as Heap's number one superfan. It's Heap analytics, an analytics dashboard that's extremely powerful and flexible. We use it for both our marketing analytics and our product analytics. I'm in there every single day. It helps us make better decisions, keeps everyone on the team accountable for focusing on what actually works.

DA (36:33):
The great thing about Heap that we loved when we were in it is that you don't have to set it up like we're doing with Mixed panel, you can just install the code and then you can create the actions within Heap without a technical like person set it up. So we can get like all of these great data points without the technical like hassle, which is just fantastic. I love them.

LM (36:54):
Absolutely. And I would just add too, for everybody that is, is looking at software tools right now. This is a fantastic time to get fantastic deals on software. If you are, if you have the cash and are able to pay annually or even if you can't and you go, you're going to pay monthly. This I,s I think as companies figure out how to deal with, with things and you know, companies are realizing that the people who don't see them as essential are going to churn out, this is a really, really good time to get good prices on software.

DA (37:26):
I am taking that to Heap right after this call, thank you so much. What about a brand business or team that you admire today?

LM (37:35):
I have a lot of respect for MailChimp right now. They are, I think they recently announced they're making $10 million in free accounts and discounts available for customers that are affected by Covid-19. And it's a smart business move, right? Because customers who churned aren't likely to come back. But they were also one of the first to do anything like this. They were, they were probably the first SaaS company I saw getting out in front of this crisis. And I think they really led the way for businesses that were wondering how to not just protect themselves but to help their customers as much as possible right now. So you know, we compete on some of our features, but big ups to MailChimp.

DA (38:11):
That's amazing. I did not know they did that. That's fantastic. But Len, I want to say thank you so much for joining us on this Take2. Thanks for coming back. Sharing so much knowledge. I know over the past you're a year and a half, a lot has changed, but right now this is a new world. This is a new climate. So that was kind of most of our focus today. And I think what you guys are doing is fantastic. You know, thank you for being a great SaaS company, empathetic, company, caring about your users in the marketplace so much, so from all of us thank you so much and thanks for jumping on today.

LM (38:41):
Of course. David, thanks for having me on. It's always a pleasure. Hashtag new world.

DA (38:45):
Hashtag new world.

DA (38:51):
Thank you so much for listening to today's episode, episode number 101 with Len from Podia. It's always incredible doing these Take 2 bringing guests back on the podcast, kind of learning what's changed and obviously this is a crazy time, so lots to learn, lots to talk about things changing. Speed is the name of the game right now for marketers and there's a lot to learn from that. A big shout out to Podia for what they're doing in the marketplace right now and means the world to all of us, SaaS marketers to learn from great companies, to watch these transparent companies grow and evolve. (...)

Resources:
Learn More About Podia:
https://www.podia.com/
Connect With Len:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/lmarkidan/
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