Why it’s Advantageous to be a Small Startupby@rborn92
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Why it’s Advantageous to be a Small Startup

by Ryan BornSeptember 14th, 2018
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For context and to help you decide whether this information is relevant for you, I wanted to paint a picture of the market we entered.
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For context and to help you decide whether this information is relevant for you, I wanted to paint a picture of the market we entered.

Cloud Campaign is a social media marketing platform designed for marketing agencies and SMBs that need a complete solution.

As my co-founder, Ross, likes to say, we possibly entered the most crowded market. Luckily for us, it’s largely fragmented.

But, to give you a sense of scale and how relatively small our startup is, here are some pretty graphs:

Funding in Millions (USD)

We’re fully bootstrapped.

Source: Crunchbase

Employee Count (full-time)

To be fair, this number fluctuates for us as we contract workers for projects and have hired SDRs in the past, but for all intents and purposes, it’s just Ross and me full-time.

Source: LinkedIn

Company Age, in years

Cloud Campaign was started June ‘17.

Source: Crunchbase

Now, to the good stuff — how we’ve began carving out our share of the market.

Do Things that Don’t Scale

Paul Graham said it best — Do things that don’t scale.

In an essay PG published in 2013, he stated,

“The need to do something unscalably laborious to get started is so nearly universal that it might be a good idea to stop thinking of startup ideas as scalars. Instead, we should try thinking of them as pairs of what you’re going to build, plus the unscalable thing(s) you’re going to do initially to get the company going.”

Rarely is a product just released into the wild and largely adopted without significant manual effort from the founding team.

The following are 3 of the many nonscalable tasks we still do today:

  1. Sending t-shirts, stickers and handwritten notes to new customers.

Admittedly, we don’t do this for every customer. But for customers that we’ve had high touch with or customers that sign yearly contracts, we send them a care package within the first month.

It’s a small investment to earn a loyal customer and hopefully a loyal ambassador that will tell their friends about you.

A swag bag (errr.. or box) ready for delivery!

2. Providing 1-on-1 support over Slack, Zoom, email, and even phone.

Every support call is another opportunity for us to learn how we can improve our product. Much of our product’s feature set and workflow has been largely inspired by feedback from our users.

For that reason, both Ross, my co-founder, and I are on every support call. Customers feel more at ease knowing they have an open channel and are also more willing to give feedback.

They also want to use a channel that’s convenient for them, whether it be Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, email, social media, or even text messages and phone calls.

One of our customers added me to their Slack channel for support and feedback

This is true even for billion dollar unicorns. In the early days, Patrick Collison, the co-founder of Stripe, spent many late nights on Google Hangouts debugging issues with their early customers.

The reality is, there will inevitably be issues with any product. How swiftly and transparently you can solve these problems will be far more important than the problem itself.

Most early adopters know this when adopting a new product and will overlook minor issues for the promise of the larger vision. As Geoffrey Moore notes in Crossing the Chasm, it will be critical to flush these issues out before the product can move on from innovators and early adopters to the larger market.

3. Onboarding every customer over video chat

This goes back to providing great support and getting feedback from your customers.

You want to ensure they use the product properly and have a great experience from the moment they sign up. For that reason, we offer free onboarding for every user.

Both Ross and I are on every single onboarding call and will go as far as creating social media content and scheduling posts for the client if they desire.

We’ve even onboarded some of our larger customers in person at their offices.

We had the pleasure of onboarding Eventbrite’s awesome marketing team at their San Francisco office

Listen to Your Customers

There’s a difference between listening to a customer and actually taking action on what they’re saying.

Large companies are confined by rigid product roadmaps, allocated budgets, and inevitable bureaucracy.

Startups have the advantage of being agile.

Take feedback and feature requests to heart. If they align with the core product and overall vision, build them out.

Nothing will create a loyal customer quite like building a feature they ask for and releasing it later that day.

Post Link. The potential customer signed a yearly contract that next week

For larger features, include the customer or prospect in the process. Meet with them regularly for feedback on the workflow and design.

We’re in the process of building out a Social Inbox feature and have bi-weekly meetings with two prospects that are reliant on this feature before switching tools. They are able to tell us what they like and what’s a pain with their current solution, Sprout Social, so we’re able to build that feedback directly into our tool.

Approach Sales from a Different Angle

See every sales call as an opportunity.

It’s either a new customer or another data-point about how you can improve your product.

We often land demos that convert to paying customers by just asking for feedback from a domain expert.

People like to be heard and often choose to adopt a product from a small startup due to the excitement of being able to shape and build their dream product. Deliver on that dream by incorporating good feedback.

Follow up with the prospect once you have incorporated their feedback and show them a screenshot of the outcome. More times than not, this will land you a new customer.

Our inbound demo-to-close rate is 80% which accounted for 50% of our total deals closed over the past 4 months.

Our demo-to-close breakdown for May-Sept

Our founding team, Ross and I, conduct every single demo. As our advisor, Taz, says, the founders should be the best sales team. You understand the product better than anyone else, but more importantly, you believe in the vision and exude passion for the problem you’re solving.

Stay Lean and be Flexible

I strongly believe in the Lean Startup Methodology and we try to practice it in every facet of our startup.

We test theories before “going all in”, we seek feedback at the earliest possible point, and most importantly, we keep our burn low.

Keeping your burn low and minimizing your overhead allows you to be flexible with your pricing.

Our goal is to never lose a deal over price. Of course, there are hard limits where your margin approaches zero, but we make a strong effort to draft up a deal that works for every client.

We have variables that change with every deal and allow us to be flexible with our yearly contracts. A few of the variables are:

  • The available feature set
  • What we ask for in return (case study, article, etc…)
  • Number of seats / brand workspaces

In the early days, you just need to get people in the door. The snowball analogy is true and every new customer is more snow being added to that ball. The greater the mass, the more it will begin to accumulate on its own.

You need people using your product and talking about your brand, and often being flexible with price is an easy way to do this — or at least, an easy way to remove friction.