How to Grow a Product-Led SaaS Business from $0 to $1M+ ARR With Corey Haines

How to Grow a Product-Led SaaS Business from $0 to $1M+ ARR  With Corey Haines

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Welcome everybody to this live expert Q&A with  Corey Haines. He is the founder of Swipe Files   community for marketers and founders. And prior  to that, he was the head of growth at Baremetrics,   which he helped grow to $1.7 million in  annual recurring revenue. How's it going,  

Corey? How are things would you? I'm doing great. Yeah, I'm super   glad to be here and start to chat. Yeah, and for everybody who is tuning in   on live YouTube, you can jump and drop questions  and comments, and I'll be taking that in the end,   but I have some prepared questions for Corey. And  one of the first ones that I hear over and over   again, Corey is for a lot of companies that have  freemium or SaaS, and they're just trying out,   one of the problems that they have is this  problem called a cold start problem.   And I'm curious what you would do. For example,  there are some product lead companies that have  

come to us like we're just starting out,  where do we start? Where would you suggest   this companies start in terms of starting  to think about growth or marketing?   Yeah, starting out is super, super tough. It's  like anything else in the cold start problem,   you essentially have to bootstrap  your way to some sort of momentum.   And then you have to get those first early users,  early attention, early followers, subscribers, et   cetera. So you're not alone. Everyone  starts here, so there are playbooks,   there are things you can do to kickstart  your way to getting some sort of momentum.  

There's a couple different frameworks and ideas  I like to work through for really early stage   products. And actually, this is like the most  exciting thing for me personally, like all   the companies I consult with, and then I advise,  they're all early stage B2B SaaS. So this is like,   it's like candy to me. But one of the ones is that  actually just picked up fairly recently from April   Dunford of obviously I have some who I'll probably  be mentioning sometime later, because I just   can't stop talking enough about her book is on her  podcast with me, she was talking about this sort   of multi-step, multi-part, IBM launch playbook. So basically, when she was at IBM, she's leading   marketing there. And she talks about how  launching isn't just a one time event, or  

it's one day and one thing that you do.  IBM would split it out to I think she said,   like six or seven parts. And actually, the  more that I thought about it, and the more   companies I studied, I actually sort of built  out there's a lot of opportunities. And in fact,   if you look at Airbnb, one of Brian Chesky's most  famous tweets, if you go back and look, you can   probably google it or search twitter through it,  is he said that Airbnb launched three times.   So basically, you don't have to just do it once.  There's also lots of different types of launches,  

and lots of different ways you can orchestrate  a total launch events that you have all these   different kind of layers to your launch. So  specifically, as we talk through how there's like   this meta announcement launch, where basically  it's like, hey, what are you going to launch? What   are you working on? What is it? Where can people  learn more about it? And basically, it's just like   the launch before the launch, where  you sort of announced everything.   And number two, you have the anticipation launch,  where you're telling maybe the story, you're   giving people sneak peeks, you're talking about  the problems, you're really trying to tell a story   about what is it that people are experiencing that  you are trying to solve for? And then we have the   actual pre-launch strategy, where you want to  offer something ahead of the launch, maybe it's   like an early access list or a beta, alpha, some  sort of trial run or pilot period, like you see,   for example, Maven, west cows start up with  Goggin and I always feel so bad, I can't remember   the other co-founders name, but he's really,  really smart guy, and worthy of being known.   And they basically, they're building their  startup. They just got their name, but they've   also been working with a few creators to create  core base courses within their product before   even launching. So basically, like part of their  launch is going to be launching with customers   to showcase their product. So that's kind of like  a pre-launch strategy, where early access is very  

superhuman was in early access for forever, and  you're seeing a lot of people do that now today as   well. And then you have the actual launch. So you  want to make a splash, you want to do the PR run,   you want to make a big deal and basically  open it up to the world essentially. And   this is the one thing that most people do,  and that they paid a lot of attention to.   So I won't spend a ton of time there, but  depending on your audience, you just want to   place your product and announce that your product  is available in the right places, that could be   Prototron, that could be in subreddits, that  could be in Facebook groups, could be on Twitter,   LinkedIn, I don't know, it doesn't matter. I  don't care. Just depends on your customers.   And then we have the launch follow up. And so  you want to offer something after the launch   or something else that you can follow up  with after that's still pretty exciting.  

There's also the momentum launch. This is one of  the ones the April also really talks about was   you talk about how well the launch went and what  the launch was and you do a recap essentially.   But you see this a lot with building in public  these days where people will say, "Here's what   I learned from my Product Hunt launch," or, "Hey,  we open things up, and here's how many customers   we have or look at this pretty MRR chart that's  going up into the right." But basically do some   sort of like another announcement of how well  things are going. You can even do a relaunch. So  

this is something that I've been thinking more  about, but you can strategically place like...   I like to kind of isolate launches on certain  platforms. So if you launch on Prototron one day,   launch on BetaLists the next, and then  the next launch on Hacker News.   And that way you can really see the effect  of each one individually, but you also extend   the lifetime, you relaunch over again, and you  get to have all the same benefits of reaching   a new audience for the first time again. You  can also do a big update, at least something   exciting after the launch or release a new big  feature, talk about something exciting happening.  

A lot of startups do this with the fundraising  announcements where they'll talk about,   "Hey, we're publicly available," and then  the next week it's like, "Hey, and we've   also decided to raise $50 million from a16z." And then finally, there's a lot of celebration.   And this is where you might make a launch party or  some sort of, we see this a lot with book authors,   where you create a Facebook group or some sort  of community. And then when the book goes live,   you launch it and everything, but then later,  you go back to the same people and say, "Hey,   thank you so much, let's hop on a call, let's get  to know each other," or you even just celebrate   or go through the list of people who helped  you with the launch that you earlier did.   So that's the IBM launch strategy. But  in specific, I really like the pre-launch  

guerilla marketing tactics of the early  access list and the waitlist personally,   because it builds anticipation  and loops people in before   they're actually in the product. I also  really like customer development calls. So   as you should be when you're building a new  startup, or you're launching a new feature,   or building new product within the suite, you need  to be talking to people, you need to be talking to   customers, you need to be asking, validating what  are all the data points we have that would support   the need for a product or feature like this? And so within all the customer development calls,   you can start telling people, "Hey, so we're going  to launch here and if you want to join the list   X, Y and Z, or just get to know them, just  build personal relationships, and then that will   help you later on when you need a retweet, or when  you need someone to leave a comment on Prototron   or things like that. I also love engineering as  marketing. So one of the really smart things,   I think, STIR, I think it's USTIR, it's S-T-I-R.  I don't even know what they're doing to be honest,   I don't even know what they're building  exactly, sort of like a collaboration   platform for creators to co-market together.  But they've been doing these drops, which are   like these mini kind of free products. And so I think they had like four or five,  

you got to I believe. I hope I'm getting  their URL right, but they have a whole bunch of   free products. And they're going through this  whole launch playbook for each one of those,   which is then leveling up to their main actual  product eventually that they will launch. I can  

also talk through a couple specifics. So like with  SavvyCal, we thought through a few... SavvyCal is   a start up that I consult with, and we launched  on Prototron. Prototron was a huge one. I mean,   really kick started things. We just knew we wanted  to get in front of people and get it into a lot of  

people's hands. If you do it right, you can  go high in the listing on their front page,   and that is seen by the most people, gets the  most interest and has the most social proof.   So we had thousands of people come by, thousands  of new signups. And that was a really, really   successful launch event. But right before that, we  did the, sorry, we did the user name reservation  

campaign where basically we said, "Hey, there's  only so many usernames available for SavvyCal, whatever you want your URL to be.  We're going to launch on Product Hunt next week,   there's going to be a huge flood of people.  If you want to reserve your username now,   go ahead and sign up. And we'll hold it for you  for I think 60 days, we said. And that drove  

a huge amount of people even before we launched  officially to sign up and build some interests.   And then right after, again, going back to that  post launch, second launch, momentum launch,   however you want to call it. We did a Calendly  buy up. So a lot of people signing up were saying,   "Yeah, I love this, but I'm already locked in for  a year with Calendly." So, "Okay, why don't we   basically buy them out of their  subscription, use a kind of play out of the   telephone services playbook, the T-Mobiles and  Verizon and AT&Ts of the world and we'll credit   your account for the amount that you have left  on your Calendly subscription." That also worked  

really, really well to, again, create more buzz  after the launch with Baremetrics, [inaudible].   We launched a new product called messaging. I  don't think it ended up really working out but   initially what works really well to drive interest  was we knew that email marketing is a huge   thing to switch to and explore and  a big kind of decision to make.   And so, for those first like 25 to 50 users, we  offer concierge onboarding where we basically say,   "Hey, we'll do all the work for you if you just  express some interest, we'll set up the campaigns,   we'll replicate everything. That way you can try  it out, and you don't have to do any of the work   to really see if it's a good fit for you." That  also worked really well, after already launching   Prototron to engage other people, express some  interest but hadn't really taken some action yet.  

Even one of the more interesting ones recently is  Arrows, arrows.2, they're like an onboarding kind   of tool to help you with more manual sales  heavy onboarding processes. And they had a   lot of early adopters. And they made like  these publicly available pages, where they   talked up and hyped up and express some things.  It was like a thank you letter to those people  

on a public page, which then incentivizes those  people, share them on to Twitter, or on Facebook,   or whatever it is that they're sharing it,  which exposes it to new people. And that   was after their launch, I believe, after  they went through their beta launch.   But all that to say, I mean, there's lots  of ways you can really kickstart things,   I would definitely recommend the multi-step  launch approach, do a lot of pre-launch guerrilla   marketing, with early access, with customer  development calls, engineerings marketing, I   think is really smart. And then you need some kind  of Kickstarters, some things that are like these   stunts, or like one time things that just gets  in front, a lot of people builds awareness,   but also capitalizes on the interest  you already have based on the launch.   I really, really love how you went into detail  with that. I mean, one of the comments that  

we have in the section in YouTube Live is from  Anthony says of that it's 10 launches, which is   the first time I heard that from April. She's  talking about her book, it's like, "What the   heck?" That makes total sense. It's about building  that momentum, like you're talking about. And I   just recall a tweet that you had, I remember you  were talking about if you had to redo your courses   or swap files or something, you would do something  like offer something for free for a while, like   six months or something like that before... Can you talk a little bit about there's the piece   about building across an audience so that when  you launch, you're not screaming to crickets.   What are your thoughts about when should people  start thinking about building that audience?   Should they do it from the get go? And  you're talking about offering free courses,   but what are some ways to think about more like  the pre-launch even before the product is out?   Yeah, it goes back to one of Gary V's Jab,  Jab, Jab hook principles were really I think   that within marketing, especially today when it's  so competitive, and there's so many people doing   interesting things, it's hard to grab  attention. A lot of people are skeptical,  

you have to do a lot of giving, you have to have  a really give first mentality and myself included,   I think it's really tempting, and it's really  easy to want to just go straight for the juggler   and straight for the sale, straight for the  launch, and just get it out there and start   seeing the revenue pour in and turn on the  faucet and you think it's just going to be...   You have these these grand visions of how you grow  to X amount of revenue within X amount of time.   But the more and more that I go through this  experience, and the more that I've seen other   people do it, the more I feel like the longer you  can wait to launch and the turn on the revenue   and to monetize, the more successful you're going  to be longer term because, like I said before,   I think marketing really comes down to earning  trust. Trust is really the crux of marketing,   because if someone trusts you, then they believe  that you can help them in some way. How do you  

earn that trust? We have to give a lot away  for free, you have to show your credibility,   you have to establish yourself as a domain  expert or someone with experience in this.   People have to, again, believe that you  can help them, so how can you help them?   A lot of it's going to be content, a lot of  it is just going to be like the marketing   rule of seven where you have to get in front of  people over and over and over again, in order   for people to actually take action and  really get to know you and trust you and   and know that you're a credible person.  And so yeah, where that tweet came from was   Swipe Files, I was pretty antsy to just get going  and just turn things on and just get members.   But I think that especially for creators these  days, I think the same applies for content   marketing for SaaS businesses, but for creators  in particular, the longer you can stave off that   revenue, the more successful you're going to be  when they actually turn on the revenue, and turn   on the monetization. So if I could go back, I  think that's why... You even see this with again   with superhuman. I'm not sure if it's still,  I should have checked right before this, but  

they were in that pre-launch early access  phase for three years. It was basically   that people would come in and then  they'd be like, "Oh, if you want to join,   you have to be an invite from a current user."  And that created all this FOMO and exclusivity   and build a lot of curiosity interest. And they melt that and use that for a long   time. And then they onboarded every single  user. And that works when you can really   stave off the public launch, the big hoo ha,  all the revenue, and get people in the door.  

And then once you've already establish yourself,  as you've given a lot of value, that people are   going to be happy to hand over their money,  especially if it's something interesting,   if it's valuable, if it's helping them streamline  a part of the business, it was helping them grow.   And if they just like you, if they trust  you. So yeah, I think that the longer you   can stave off the revenue, the better off you're  going to be when you actually do turn it on.   I really love that. I think you're right, that  it's all about building trust, because once you...  

You have this thing on your  Twitter right now where it's like   check bar or like a progress bar  to like a thousand true fans said,   "I really love that because at the end of  the day," once you have this raving fans,   they're probably going to eat up whatever, they're  going to evangelize, but also that anytime you   launch something new, they're going to be the  first one in line to buy that from you.   I want to move on from that now, so that  you've launched the SaaS's launch and you're   a big proponent of mental models or any kind of  models out there. And you have one particularly   for a framework to grow a SaaS. Can you share  your framework for let's say, the SaaS is out,   the ProductLed SaaS, whatever kind of SaaS it  is. It's already out there, its launch now,   what are things that they should be thinking in  terms of the framework that you put together?   Yeah, so when I first started Baremetrics,  and especially when I started talking to a   lot of our customers, one of the first  questions people always ask me is,   how do you grow? And how do you think about  growing? What's working for other people?   You've seen a lot of metrics and businesses and  talked to a lot of other founders, what is it   that works? How do you think about things? So kind of slowly over time, I just managed to   collect and recognize some of the patterns  of what I personally felt like were some of   the keys and major kind of macro overarching  factors to people's success to actually having   consistent growth within your SaaS company.  And I think a lot of it also comes with the  

today, again, things are so competitive, like  the days of build it, and they will come are   long gone, they're long over. It's kind of like  this, I call it the Field of Dreams Fallacy, where   you put something out there, you make some  noise, and people are going to recommend it.   That's just not how it works. So  I really wanted to get down to,   okay, for the companies that are doing  well, for the ones that are growing,   what are the commonalities, what are the things  that are actually moving the needle? What are the   first principles, if you will, of SaaS growth? And  I personally distilled it down to five different   factors. One is the market. Two is your product,  obviously, three is your model. And that's your  

activation and your pricing model. And I can get  into both of those. Four is your messaging and   positioning. So the offer, how you describe  yourself, and then five is the channels.   And I have it in that order on purpose, because  channels is last. Everyone always wants to jump  

straight to the channels just like what are the  latest growth hacks and channels and strategies   and things that are working for you? But if you  don't have all the other four working before that,   then none of the channels are going to be  successful. So you have to be in a good market,   you have to have a good product, you have to have  a good model, you have to have your messaging   and positioning really fine tune and tailored for  the channels to work. And also all five of these,   they're all interdependent, you can't have one  without the other. They all have to be working   together in conjunction, and the strength  of each one of those five really determines   your potential for growth. So if you get like a rating for each one,  

let's just say like one out of five, for each  one of those five, if your market's a three,   your product's a three, your model is a five,  your messaging position is a five, your channels   are one, you add that up and you're leaving  a lot on the table, the growth is not really   going to be there. But if you can do all five of  those really, really well, you're going to have   a lot of growth. There's a lot of potential for  growth. So that's the way I think about it.   I love it. We can break down each one if we  have time. But let's start with the market,   how do you determine if a market is good?  I'm sure people can do research or do they   just google stuff like how big is this market? Or  what would be suggested in terms of like, okay,   this is actually a good market for us to be in. Yeah, I think that it's hard because really you   don't determine the market like your product  does. Ideally you should be building a product  

for a specific type of market instead of building  a product, then finding a for that product, it's a   lot easier doing it the first way than the latter  way. But your market like you just have to look at   it and say what are the dynamics of my market? It's funny because when I first put this out there   and started talking about this, people  were kind of like, "Wait, what?"   And one of the best examples I can give is  Gumroad. So when Gumroad first launched,   I think it was back in 2011, I want to say, it  was very successful, built it over a weekend,   raised a bunch of money, got almost through users  and customers. But then two or three, I think it   was three years later, he had to do a big round  of layoffs, the company kind of fell apart a bit,   and they just weren't growing fast enough for what  they needed in a venture backed scale business.   And is because the market wasn't big enough back  then. And it was just starting to take off. It was   growing, but it wasn't growing quite fast enough.  But then the magic is that after he started  

the layoffs, there was so much of drama, it took  some time away and took a step back. But the   company and the product still kept growing month  over month. In fact, if you look at their revenue   chart, you can't tell at all when that whole thing  happened. TechCrunch wrote a slam article. And   it's all this bad PR, no difference at all. That's  because they were growing with the market.   So if you really take that and look at it now,  it's a lot easier for me to talk through this   because of COVID, to be honest, because now  you look at the whole remote work category of   software tools, and they're exploding. And  you know because that's because overnight   after the lockdown, what was it? Like a year  ago, the TAM, the total addressable market   for remote tools just exploded overnight, like  100X, it was all of a sudden remote became the   default instead of one of the options, that  weird thing that a lot of startups do.  

And so just to anyone who's in that category  automatically has a lot more potential, the   growth rate is going to be increasing. So you can  grow with the market, even if you don't really do   that much overall. There's also a  lot of excitement in that market.   I can't say their name, but working with a startup  was basically like Zoom for Hollywood production.  

And they were doing just over a million dollars  in AAR pre-COVID. Within a few months after COVID,   they literally 10Xed overnight, they were doing  eight figures in ARR. And that's because again,   everyone went to lockdown, all their Hollywood  producers said, "Hey, we can't meet in person   anymore, we need a tool that will help us  collaborate, high def high, low latency,   and Zoom just wasn't going to work." And this company happened to be there as a   solution for that. And now they're absolutely  killing, they're slaying it. Same thing with   crater economy. All of a sudden, people are  looking to make an extra buck. People are looking   for side gigs, they're looking to do more writing,  newsletters and communities are hot, so creative   economy is just exploding. Any tool in that  space is going to go up. It's like a rising tide  

lifts all boats. I think it's just a combination  of the size of the market, the total addressable   market, the TAM, if you will, the growth rate of  that market, because even if it's a big market,   if it's declining, that actually  squeezes all the players in that market,   so it becomes more competitive. And you actually, you might see a lot   more churn because people are switching and it's a  race to the bottom. But if the market is growing,  

then you can just grow with the market, there are  more people entering the market every year. And so   you'll take a percentage of those people. And then  of course, there's excitement. It's just like the   general sentiment. Is just an exciting categories,  is just something that people are talking about,   is just something that's top of mind  or like an urgent need right now.  

And that's why the market is the number  one long-term determiner of your growth.   I really love that. That comes to mind like  something Justin Jackson, he's like the founder of   Transistor FM said, "When you're riding a wave,  it's a lot easier than in a dead sea." It's like   when you had that wave, it really does make a lot  of sense. I love that. Thank you for sharing that   market. Another one that I want to talk about in  your framework is product. If you're a founder of  

a product, it's like your baby, you're not going  to say your baby's ugly. But you have some kind of   determinants to say whether a product is great or  not. What are some things that you look at to say,   "Hey, this product is great," like outside  of the market, what makes a great product?   Yeah, yeah, the product is hard, because it's  really hard to be objective about looking at your   product. Again, it's like looking at your baby,  and everyone thinks that their baby is really,   really cute, but everyone else might not think so.  Like there are a lot of babies out there, sorry.   But you have to be objective and try to look  at, okay, what are the things that make my   product good or bad or the shortcomings? And  so you can look at it a few different ways.  

I think one of the big ones just overall again,  the baseline kind of benchmark, just the immediate   first thing you look at with a product is how big  are and how important is the problem that this   product is solving? Is it a ginormous problem? Is  it a really small problem? Is it annoying or is it   bleeding neck? And then also, how frequently does  that problem occur? Basically, the frequency. And   so is it all the time? Is that like an everyday  thing? Is it a once a year thing? And so if you   plot that on a matrix, the bigger the problem,  the more frequently it occurs, like just baseline,   like if you have a product in that category,  that's going to be a good product, because you're   solving a really critical, frequent need. Now, the quality of your product to solve that   problem is another factor, we can get into that.  But basically, level set. If you're solving big   problems frequently, you're in a good space.  And then you can slice and dice that any way you   want. If it's a big problem that happens once a  year, like accounting or tax season, that's good,  

but it only happens once a year. And so like,  the buying cycle is going to be a lot longer and   takes a lot more attention and people put it off  and procrastinate, and it's just a slower cycle,   but the opposite as well. Maybe it's like  a really small problem that happens really,   really frequently. Maybe it's like I can't find  my Twitter bookmarks. There's no search.   It's really small problem. Maybe it's hard to  charge 100 bucks a month for. You can charge   five bucks a month for it, maybe 10 bucks a month  for it, but there's an upper ceiling there. So   how great your product is... Basically trying to  answer the question, how marketable is my product?  

One of the other matrices firmware like to use  evaluate is differentiation versus demand. If you   have features, you can plot on basically, within  this matrix of how in demand are these features?   And also, how are our features different than  other competitors or other alternatives, even?   If you have a lot of features that are highly  differentiated, and also highly in demand,   those are killer features. People are going to  be going over there, and it's going to be like   evangelism, people are just going to be going  in mobs over to those types of products.   But if you don't have any differentiator,  but you have really high in demand features,   you still have a good case, basically  you're just an incumbent, as   now you're competing on things like brand,  or maybe customer service or price. So again,  

if you want things that are really... You  want really highly differentiated features,   that are also really highly in demand because we  don't want to build little features that have no   demand, or have very little demand to a specific  set of people that are really differentiated,   because that also, again, it really reduces the  TAM for that feature, and the level of interest   across it. So that's one of the other ones. And  then there's things like competitive advantages,   intellectual property, trademarks, patents. I think design is a really, really big one.   Design and UX is huge, because it really  communicates quality and the level of thought and   experience that people are going to have within  the product. There's partnerships and integrations   as well. And again, those ace in the hole features  that are just really, really hard to replicate.   For example, hrefs is one that comes to mind. They  have, I think some of the competitors have closed  

the gap fairly recently. But a couple of years  ago, href is just like dominated with like total   backlink data available. It's just like, you  couldn't match the level of data available.   I was talking to Blake Emal, CMO of  yesterday, and he was telling me about how he just  

started using or he started using this product  vid,, is like a video editor again, just   for the really crisp subtitles that they generate.  He's like, "For some reason, the subtitles are   amazing for my videos that generate," and that's  why he uses it over other products like Descript   or iMovie or any other alternative. So when I  record my podcasts, I use Riverside. And for a   long time, the day differentiator for them was the  local recordings that they'll generate. Now some   other competitors are starting to catch up, but  for a while that was like the killer feature. The  

one differentiator was like yep, this one thing  is going to be enough for me to get on board.   So yeah, there's a lot of things that go into  that, but it really comes down to how marketable   is my product? And you can look at the problem  frequency matrix, differentiation versus demand,   and of course, competitive advantages  wherever you can find them.   Yeah, it sounds like you've really thought  about this. So I'll link all of that there, but  

I think you were touching a little bit upon  it around positioning where it's almost like   a cat and mouse game were you're talking about,  let's say Riverside where they have this local   recording, and now the other features are showing  up. And one of the ways to stand out is to brand,   but also to positioning. What are some models that  seems like or frameworks that you have around?   How do you not just like determine your  positioning now, but also as you're moving forward   and your competitors are closing in, how do you  reinvent yourself, like what we're seeing with   DREF where they've kind of reinvented who they  are, because everybody is now in conversational   marketing. And now they're doing like, I think  revenue acceleration or something like that.   So what's your thoughts around positioning? Yeah, I'm pretty much just going to steal from   April Dunford and give her talk and talk from  her book, obviously awesome, which is great. But   she has like this, I don't know, was it like five  or six kind of step process and framework where,   first you start with the competitive alternatives.  So you have to know basically at first, what are   customers or potential customers comparing  you against? It could be direct competitors.  

I really like the jobs to be done framework  because it actually levels it down to you have   direct competitors, where they do the same job in  the same way, then you have indirect competitors   that do the same job in a different way. And then you have your secondary competitors,   I believe it is, and they do a different job  in a different way. So basically, it's like a   24 hour fitness versus a Shake Shack. It's like  one is good for you, one's bad for you. They're   competing, but they're not gyms, they're not  restaurants, they're just competing outcomes,   essentially. So you want to get all of your  competitive alternatives. Could even be things   like spreadsheets are a big one for SaaS, interns  and teams, specialists, like data scientists, or   people who can do some sort of manual work  or have really specialized knowledge. Those  

can all be competitive alternatives as well. Once you narrow those down, then given the context   of those alternatives, what are your unique  attributes? And that can be in the product   features, could be with the brands, could be with  a customer service, could be the way that you do   things, could be an opinion, or maybe some sort of  way or a method that you hold on to, for example,   YNAB is like a budgeting software for people.  And they have like a, I think it's called a $0   budgeting system basically, I'm probably  butchering that. But basically, like they  

have a specific method for budgeting.  And their whole software is around that.   So that's like a unique attribute of theirs,  not just in the actual technical software,   but in the way that they design the  software and the outcome that it gives.   Given the unique attributes, what is the value  that it unlocks for customers? So now you   really get into how does this help people? Why  should people care? And then the stuff for us,   who cares about that stuff? And now we really  get into the market and the target audience and   the total adjustable market, and getting back to  that first principle, which is the market of who   is really best fit for? Again, April Dunford,  I'm just going to basically speak for her,   but I love one of her examples where she basically  found that she had this database product, and they   were trying to go after a certain market. And then  they found actually that they were really, really,   really well positioned. The people who cared the  most about this or I think financial institutions,  

they were like banks, basically. So they position themselves as   the database for banks, and then exploded,  had really, really great growth, because   those are the people that really, really  cared. Of course, not every customer is   going to be a perfect fit, but for something  like messaging and positioning, you have to   appeal to the ideal user, to the ideal customer.  And then I think that final layer is like a market   that you win. And so it's basically like,  what category do you put yourself in to where  

you look like the best option compared to the  other people in that market? And so this is   where things start to get a little bit fuzzy. Personally, I don't really think that you...   I think it's really, really  hard to create new categories.   People get confused about what it actually means  to create a new category. I think what Drift did   with conversational marketing was actually pretty  astounding and pretty amazing. The shift to  

revenue acceleration, though, I don't know if  revenue acceleration is a category, right?   Interesting. Conversational marketing,   like live chat, even live chat is really,  there's kind of rebranding the category here.   But everyone went into that category. Really, it  became a category because Gartner and Forrester,   they all adopted it as a category quite literally.  But really, you wanted to describe yourself in a   way that it makes sense to people because when  you have some sort of category or some sort of   phrase or word that you use to describe who you  are and what you do, that brings a lot of context,   a lot more information to the table  so you don't have to do all that,   but you don't want to bring the wrong information  and the wrong context to the conversation.   So if you're describing yourself  as a revenue acceleration platform,   but really your live chat tool, then  it's going to be confusing for customers,   that could even be a potential issue for churn.  Now I'm kind of pooh poohing on Drift. I don't  

mean to. They do a lot more than just live chat  now, they're really probably more like marketing   automation. I've always thought that that's where  they should really go into. But all that to say,   for example, what's [Avico] one of the ones that  I consult with? We were trying to figure out how   do people describe this? And I was like, look,  it's a scheduling tool. It's a scheduling link.   These are the words that people are using  it, like we're not going to come up with   it's a magic AI, something rather, that helps  you. It's a scheduling link. Let's be honest,  

that's what people understand. That's what helps  them give context to who you are. But otherwise,   I think there are other things that really help  you with the messaging. So once you have your   positioning down, you understand, you've  gone through that process, then how do you   actually communicate that with customers?  And that's actually the really hard part.  

There are a few things I think that help. One is  just like copywriting one-on-one kind of stuff.   I really like to framework Pain-Dream-Fix.  Basically you start with what's the big   problem or pain that people are experiencing?  What's the dream scenario, like the outcome that   people are after? And then fix is the solution,  so how do you help them fix their problems and   give them a solution to get them to where they  want to be? You want to use customer's words.   You want to be super as specific as you can be,  don't use vague, ambiguous, enterprisey, salesy   language, use social proof, let your customers  tell other people and use the words that they use,   and put it right there on the page. Use  testimonials and videos and quotes, address   objections upfront about competitors, about  features, about how things work about the friction   and the time and money that it'll invest. Again, with SavvyCal. Of course, I have a lot   of examples from them, because I worked directly  with Derek the founder. But when we were going  

through this whole positioning exercise of how do  we describe this, and how do we really put this in   a way that people get it? Because he had launched  it in September of 2020. I joined him in November,   and there was a little bit of revenue, and he  was just like ground level. But it still felt   like there was a lot of questions, people really  still weren't understanding what it was and how   it worked. So we went through the exercise. And as I was doing my customer research, I noticed   this one tweet from this guy, Brett Goldstein.  And he had this tweet, he says, "Calendly is   100 times faster to set up than a meeting, and  going back and forth with times an email. That   said sending a Calendly link still feels weird.  Anyone know why?" And it just blew up. There was  

like thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.  And I was just like, "Oh, this is incredible."   And then there's even a few more tweets where  people said, "Why does sending my schedule and   feel weird?" So guess what we plastered on  the homepage as the headline for SavvyCal,   sending your scheduling link shouldn't feel  weird. That's our big flag in the ground.   That's the steak. That's the pain that people  are experiencing. Now let us tell you about the   dream of what things are like when actually your  recipients thank you for sending a SavvyCal link   actually enjoy it. And it's easy. And here's how  it works, right, here's how we're different.  

That makes sense to people. The landing page  works really, really well. It'll change and   evolve over time, but for right now, this  seems to work really well, and it's helped   to position ourselves in a way that looks like we  can take a stab at a big company like Calendly.   I really love that. That's such a good thing.  I think when you use your customers words in   your page, it just resonates a lot  better, because you're using them. But  

I mean, that's why I really appreciate you.  I'm part of the Swipe Files community. And   Corey didn't ask me to plug the community in,  but I've been a part of it. And he's doing like   a whole series on customer research. And I  can do a whole hour on just this topic, but  

I do have a question from somebody from the  audience. It's from John. He's asking you,   Corey, what your approach is in prioritizing  and running Product-Led Growth experiments.   What are your thoughts around that? How do  you prioritize and run growth experiments?   Yeah, so I have a framework  for it. [inaudible].   Of course. But it's called GROWS, very aptly  

and very conveniently as well. So the first step  is you want to gather all of the experiments, all   the data, all the research, just get everything  in a single place where you can look through.   On the research side of things, I like to  say people should build a customer insights   bank. So you want to collect all the things that  people are telling you, feedback from customers,   intercom conversations, tweets. Then you  also want to get all of your ideas on paper  

just so that you're out of your brand, you  can look at them. And then the second part,   so G-R, grows, you want to rank them. And there's all sorts of different frameworks   and sort of ways you can score them. I still  like the tried and true ICE frameworks or impact,   confidence and ease, basically, how well do we  think this thing is going to work? How confident   am I that this thing is going to work? And then  what are the resources available that we have in   order to make this thing work. And so you might  find that for your stage, something might be out  

of budget, or it's going to take too long, or  maybe just doesn't work with the timing of other   features and things planned on the roadmap. And then you go to O, so you want to outline. So   basically, you just try to answer the who, what,  why, and how questions of what this thing will   actually look like. And you can even go as far as  wireframing, or if it's on the product, or maybe   if it's marketing, you can make a mock up, or  just describe what it is that you're trying to do.  

And then W, work, get to it, just start executing.  And I try to usually work on like one to three max   concurrently to really do them well. Of course,  if you have like a growth team of 50 people,   and you can have like 10 all going at once and  work really, really rapidly, but if you're like   me and your marketing team of one, you can really  only handle like one or two things at a time.   And so I work at one or two things, and then S is  to study. So you go back and look at the data, how   well did this thing work? Can we make any tweaks  or iterations that will change things? And I try   to keep things as simple as possible. One of the  other things that I've realized is that a lot of  

people feel really guilty and even ashamed of how  little marketing they do or how slow they move.   But I'm really at the mindset that you  should be precise with your marketing,   with your growth experiments. It's better  to really work on a couple big things   or a couple of small things at a time than  to just be all over the place juggling.   I'm a yes, man. I have tons of things I'm talking  about all the time, so maybe I'm just kind of  

projecting my own struggles, but I feel like it's  really important to just focus and be precise and   only work on a couple things at a time, because  also, I think fundamentally if you look from like   a experimentation kind of mindset, the more  things you do concurrently, the harder it's   going to be to isolate the results of each one of  those things. So actually the last things you work   on at once, the better, because you can isolate  and be confident in the results of them.   I love it. I mean, you're like the framework  master, I was trying to think of something   interesting to say. But I think we're hitting our  time up. If people want to learn more about you,  

where can people find you online, as  well as if people want to know about   some of your courses or community, like where  can people find out about that, Corey?   Yeah, absolutely. So I'm mainly on Twitter and on  LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram, anything like   that, but @coreyhainesco. Also my personal site  with everything I work on and just links about   me and stuff is  if you want to join the newsletter. And I write  

occasionally about cutting edge and sometimes  crazy marketing ideas and just what I'm learning.   But also we have a membership as Ramli mentioned  earlier. So And also   just for the product like community, if  you type in the coupon code ProductLed,   you can get half off any one of the memberships.  So the all access membership also includes my two   courses, so mental models for marketing. If you're  into all this framework stuff and mental models,  

there are 40, I believe in the course. And there's also refactoring growth, which is   really centered around this whole  five factors of growth market,   product, model, messaging positioning, and  channels, both are very comprehensive alone,   so you can get the membership, you can get access  to both of those for half off with ProductLed.   Well, Corey, thank you so much for your time.   I really do appreciate [crosstalk]. Yeah, thanks for having me. Ton of fun.

2021-04-13 21:52

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