How to Run a Smart SaaS Business: BaconBiz 2016 in a Nutshell
Published June 06, 2016 by Jane Portman
I’m writing this on a plane as I’m flying from New York City to Moscow. BaconBizConf 2016 in Philadelphia turned out to be amazing, and I want to share my personal takeaways with you — so that you can apply them in your business.
My own talk was about optimizing navigation in web apps (recap in the end of this post), and I’m glad that I had a chance to draw founders’ attention to design problems.
Now, onwards to the awesome speakers!
Website personalization (Brennan Dunn)
Brennan runs an infoproduct business for consultants and freelancers at Double Your Freelancing.
- Personalize your website for different stages of your sales funnel.
- Use just one uniform CTA per page (bottom ad is the same as the exit popup).
- Diversify pop-up behavior: 10 seconds for people from Google, and “on exit” for people who are already on the list.
- Run a personalized product launch every week (for people who opted in 3 weeks ago).
Podcast outreach (Kai Davis)
Kai is an outreach consultant at Double Your Audience.
- Write podcast pitches the right way: praise, what you do, problem, unconventional opinion, “assuming yes” close (we talked about that a ton in our podcast season with Kai)
- Set up a dedicated page with a lead magnet for podcast listeners — preferably with a separate simple domain name.
- Stalk your friends/heroes to see what podcasts they appeared on.
Direct sales (Nathan Barry)
Nathan shares his amazing success story with ConvertKit, email marketing software for professional bloggers.
- Without direct sales, you will never know why people are not buying your product.
- While sending cold email, name-drop relevant people who you’ve done business with/for.
- Concierge migration is key to overcoming the last sales objection (I don’t have time to set it all up again).
- With affiliates, the Pareto rule looks like 98/2 (only 2% of affiliates bring in any sales at all).
- It’s not uncommon to have 100% commission on affiliate sales! It’s viable when the product is merely a hook for bigger products down the road.
- Incentivised reviews work well with bloggers as they allow to spread the word and build links.
- It might pay off to actually fly in to meet most influential clients.
- Webinars work.
Facebook ads (Mojca Mars)
Mojca runs Super Spicy Media, a social media marketing consultancy.
- Pitching your product in Facebook ads doesn’t work! You need to advertise relevant blog posts first.
- Mojca has a big system how Facebook ads really should work and how much they should cost (ask her to share it).
Video training (Joel Hooks)
Joel runs egghead.io, bite-sized video training platform for developers.
- Instructors are the core customers in video training business (not the final consumers).
- Instructor “courtship” process takes time and a lot of effort. Joel goes as far as sending a set of recording gear to potential instructors.
Be special & be yourself (Nick Disabato)
Nick runs Draft, an interaction design consultancy. Amy asked Nick to give a talk about Dirk’s Friday Fresh Fish Flash which is a unique local newsletter in Comic Sans.
- It pays off well to be yourself. People are tired of corporate newsletters and official language.
- Show pictures of real things and real people.
- Don’t afraid to be bold (ask Nick how).
Optimize your funnel for conversation (Jason Forrest)
Jason runs Rigbooks, software for trucking companies.
- Introduce engagement questions.
- Talk to customers on the phone.
- Structure surveys right: first ask an easy question, and then “Tell me more about…”
- Ask questions like “Where did you here about me?” and “Why did you decide to buy from me?”
Team communication (Natalie Nagele)
Natalie runs Wildbit as a product-agnostic business, putting her team’s well-being as a top priority.
- Take radical focus on uninterrupted work.
- Reserve Slack only for personal updates and conversations that need not to be recovered/revisited.
- Take meetings for fast decisions.
- As a founder, take regular one-on-one’s to monitor ongoing problems.
Business operations manual (Josh Kaufman)
Josh is the super-famous author of Personal MBA and two more books.
- We need to account to situations when we unexpectedly cease operations (get sick or die), delegate, sell, etc.
- Write down all information about your business, rules, procedures, and everything else in a single document. What is your contact info and tax ID? What software do you use? How do you onboard new clients? How do you run payroll? How do you hire new people?
- Make sure it’s safe, and share it with your emergency contact.
- As you write everything down, you’ll line everything up as a system, and also notice obvious flaws or inconsistencies.
Bringing up your own sales rep (Ian Landsman)
Ian runs HelpSpot, well-establshed help-desk software.
- Bringing up your own sales rep (from support) is much better than hiring someone from the street.
- It helps people leverage their skills and advance in their career.
- Support-driven sales reps have excellent tech prep and understanding of the business.
Managing a portfolio of web apps (JD Graffam)
JD runs two agencies (a design agency and a development agency) who work on a large number of acquired web applications. Very inspiring model!
- Acquisition can be a growth strategy as you sum up recurring revenue of several SaaS businesses.
- Don’t focus on growth.
- Treat each SaaS as a separate business entity.
- SaaS acquisition can be a routine, predictable activity.
Retaining customers (Richard Felix)
Richard runs Stunning and Retained, both focused on preventing user churn in SaaS companies.
- Track three important factors of customer success: valuable actions, valuable features, value received.
- If customer doesn’t perform enough valuable actions, use enough valuable features, or receive more value than they pay, they’re very likely to churn.
- You can try and retain them by sending personalized email campaigns.
Successful business practices (Patrick McKenzie)
If you don’t know Patrick, go and read all his stuff immediately. Now he works on Starfigher, a recruiting/game platform for developers. Patrick gave an amazing talk, but it was so inspiring that I nodded in admiration and forgot to take notes.
- Split the form from the content (use Markdown and streamline your content production).
- Make an archive page for your email campaigns — now!
- Leverage your strong skills.
- Do things that you enjoy. Do things that are valuable to you. Life’s too short.
Optimizing navigation in web apps (Jane Portman)
So yes, I was the last speaker on the lineup. Here are the points I hammered — inspired by my book, The UI Audit.
- Navigation can cause massive increase in support volume (if done wrong). Do it right, and you get all the benefits.
- Approach navigation with product strategy in mind (audience, goals, tasks, objects).
- Focus navigation around objects, not actions. Your key task is to train the user where their key things live, and then they’ll be able to do everything from there.
- Promote what you want by placing it into the first level of navigation.
- Don’t rely on icons.
- Don’t rely on your dashboard.
One could think that after attending conferences for a while (and actively consulting for SaaS companies) you kind of already know “everything” — if one ever dares to say so. But every time you go to another conference, your own circumstances and opinions change so much! A fresh spin on a good old topic might become a true revelation.
And of course, BaconBiz organizers did their best to curate most actionable, concise talks for us. Thanks Amy, Alex, Thomas, and the team.
Plus, face-to-face communication with your friends is invaluable. No explanation needed. If you ever think that it’s too expensive… Then think of someone like myself why flies in all the way from Russia, and book your next conference now!
The 1-Hour UI Audit: Get the Free Course
With this free email course you’ll conduct a simple do-it-yourself audit of your web app: eliminate the obvious design flaws, gain control of your features, and start building the UI that customers really want.