In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob interviews growth marketer Andy Baldacci about how he got his start, his early days at Hubstaff, marketing for Groove, and he gives some practical tips/advice for the listeners.
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Rob: Welcome to this week’s episode of Startups For the Rest of Us. I’m your host, Rob Walling. This week, I talked with Andy Baldacci about how he built and cultivated a mindset for SaaS growth. We’re going to talk through his journey, going from professional gambler for over a decade, including poker and Fantasy Sports and how he transitioned himself into someone who really understands SaaS growth.
As you know, in the show we cater to ambitious startup founders building ambitious startups, who want to build real products, and sell them to real customers for real money. Andy Baldacci got on my radar several years ago, when I believed he was running growth at a Hubstaff. It was super early days, and he was doing a lot of work for them. If you ever heard of Hubstaff, they’re now doing about $550,000 in monthly recurring revenue. I believe that they’re fully bootstrapped (although don’t quote me on that).
Andy went from being a gambler to starting a blog about growth tactics. He read up a bunch and got a framework in his mind. He started blogging about how we would grow X Company, he started going to MicroConfs, and starting interfacing with people.
I’ve liked his approach in his framework about growing SaaS. He went from growth at a Hubstaff, to being as growth marketer at Groove (which many of you have heard of) He eventually left because he bought an app called SaberSim, and we cover all this in the episode.
That gives a context for why I have invited him on the show because it’s not a traditional founder journey. It is interesting to hear someone who has a very structured mindset, but also goes with a lot of his gut feel, as he says. He’s a growth marketer that I respect. He’s also a podcast host I respect.
If you haven’t listened to the Effective Founder Podcast, Andy interviews interesting founders, interesting marketers, people that would really resonate with you if you like this show. He does a good job. You know I’m not a huge fan of most interview podcasts and that’s why I’ve tried to do them so differently here, to cut it in the middle of the story, to only cover the most important bits, and not waste your time with a bunch of side details. Andy does the same thing on his podcast.
Before we dive in, I have some news to share. If you head to microconfconnect.com, we’re in the process of launching our perpetual year-round Slack channel called MicroConf Connect. Right now, we’re doing a slow invitation process. This is going to be a heavily moderated Slack group filled with founders and aspiring founders, like yourself.
Lots of folks that you will meet or have met at MicroConf, folks that are in the community who are building this ambitious yet sane startups. Some are highly focused on profit, others are highly focused on growth, but it’s the voices you’ve heard on this podcast for the past 482 or so episodes, as well as I’ve interacted with on Twitter or met at MicroConf.
We want this to be a community that lasts a year round, because what we traditionally do is we open a Slack channel, then we hold the event, and then we shut down the Slack channel a month later, because managing a Slack channel is a lot of work frankly. We want it to be pretty heavily moderated and just a good space for founders to discuss things.
It is a free service, we’re not charging for it, but we do plan to moderate it and keep it as a healthy community. We expect this to essentially become the online hub for companies like yourself, for founders and aspiring founders who believe in this idea that we can start a company without a bazillion dollars in venture funding, without the need or desire to become a unicorn that goes big or go home, that we can take this alternate path that is becoming not so alternative anymore, to be honest.
Ten years ago, it was unheard of for people to be talking about profitability and having repeatable businesses that sell their product for real money to real customers. That now is wildly viable and it’s only growing in popularity.
We would love to have you to be part of the community. Head to microconfconnect.com if you’re interested in checking it out. Obviously, we’ll be rolling this out over the next several weeks and letting folks in to apply at microconfconnect.com as well as doing the moderation inside. We’re going to be doing some AMAs as well to kick off conversation. I hope to see you on the inside. With that, let’s dive into my conversation with Andy Baldacci.
Andy Baldacci, thanks for coming on the show.
Andy: Thanks so much for having me Rob. It’s exciting to be on this, as someone who got into this whole world through what you’ve done. It’s really cool to be chatting and talking about things with you.
Rob: Appreciate that. I mentioned your podcast in the intro, but I’ve been on it several times. It’s cool to reciprocate and have you on the show to talk through some growth stuff.
Andy: I’m looking forward to it.
Rob: Obviously, that there’s a really interesting part of your bio where you’re (you say) a professional gambler. I’ve heard of it as a professional poker player for about a decade.
Andy: Yes. It makes it easier to break the ice at conferences when I have that on my resume, but professional gambler for about a decade, probably 7–8 years of that was online poker, specifically, with the tail end of it a bit of daily fantasy sports. Out of high school was my first time playing poker, quit my job at Best Buy to go full-time on the whole poker thing, and then supported myself through with college with that, probably for six years or so afterwards. It’s been an interesting journey.
Rob: I bet. I know how to play poker, but I’ve never really gambled. My brother has done some of that, and he’s really good at math. He knows the numbers, he knows the percentages of this happening on a flop. Is that the person you describe yourself as? Do you play poker intuitively or do you play it with mathematics in mind?
Andy: I’m not like a “feel” player, at all. I mean at this point, after having been playing so much, you definitely have some intuitions that you can trust, but I want to know the answers. I hate guessing, but I’m not the best at math. I probably stopped at pre-calculus and after that, the cost is just too far for my head. I think what I’m good at is understanding the concepts, getting how things work, and then either finding people, finding resources, wherever else to fill in those gaps.
A lot of what I did in poker was just mess around with making my own excel spreadsheets, to analyze different situations. When I hit a ceiling there, I contracted PhD Game Theorist to help me make different models. I’ve always understood the value of math, but never been able to fully apply it myself, but that’s where I come from at least.
Rob: I find it interesting. After you tailed off from being a poker player, you essentially dove headlong into growth, into startup growth. As folks heard in the intro, you did growth at Hubstaff in the early days and worked as a growth marketer at Groove. And now, you’re working on your own project. How did you get from there to there? You stop playing poker and then one day, you know enough to be writing these how-to guides that you told me about. How I would grow X, that became your marketing and your lead gen for consulting and then to becoming an employee. How did you learn that skill?
Andy: There’s definitely overlap in those careers. One of the big motivations for leaving poker is the regulatory climate in the US just made it harder and harder to play online. The games got worse, but also, it’s just like I had just turned into a human robot where the strategy was very well-defined for me. I’ve been doing it for years and those clicking buttons 50 hours a week.
For the last several years of it, I would just read while I was playing. I would listen to podcasts, I would literally read books on business, on startups, on whatever it would be. I would go to different message boards and read everything there. When you’re truly just exploring the Internet for interesting things for 40 plus hours a week, you learn a lot and can go down some rabbit holes.
Early on, I realized that I have a real passion for startups, specifically, and really in the marketing side, just how things grow, and just read everything else on Hacker News, everything else on GrowthHackers, just everything I could get my hands on. Just doing that for a few years could synthesize this framework in my head, at least. I get how all these things fit together and could start to see where I thought companies could improve, where I felt they were doing wrong, and just was able to self-validate a lot of what I had learned.
It got to the point where, after I started going to people in the space, got more faith in myself that, I do have some mindset for this and I’ve developed some skills here, even though I haven’t actually applied them. A lot of those really is just self-study for years and just putting all that together in my head. Finally, when I was ready to call it quits on poker, just put myself out there, and started writing those guides that you mentioned.
One of the first was actually, I think about how to grow Drip. I broke down the email onboarding sequence you guys had and reached out to you years ago. That was my first contact with you then, but just kept putting out those guides, getting feedback on, and we’re finding how I thought. Over time, it led to a consulting arrangement, it led to a job, and just built from there.
Rob: That’s fascinating. I don’t remember that article actually, which is funny. I remembered you and I connecting when you are with Hubstaff, but it sounds that may have happened, your how to grow Drip would have been before that. But even to write that article about it, then to break down onboarding emails, you must have developed a theoretical framework in your head or a standard because you hadn’t really implement, you hadn’t written your own onboarding sequences, you had just read so many that you had the patterns of what an optimal one probably looks like. Is that accurate?
Andy: Yeah. I think what it was, this is how I stumbled on Brennan Dunn and Double Your Freelancing, I wanted to start just getting my foot in the door however I could. I figured, consulting for early stage companies was a good way to do that. I signed up for his stuff and read a lot of that side of things, came across Ky Davis and just that whole crowd.
A lot of what they talked about was positioning and I don’t even remember how I found this positioning, but email onboarding and sequences was just weirdly interesting to me. I just would sign up for seriously just any trial I could find and just dissect those email sequences. I would read a bunch of books on copywriting, print them out, and just do email onboarding teardowns just for fun. After I felt like I could figure out some patterns and how to better structure our mind of what they should try to do, that was when I took that angle, at least with Drip, and (I think) a couple of others as well.
Rob: Interesting. It was diving with both feet into a space where you had no network. At a certain point prior to that, you had no experience, but you went online to the Internet and as you said, you just dove in and learned the stuff. Instead of going in and applying for jobs and saying, “I’ve read somethings, here’s my knowledge, I’m a poker player.” You did things in public. I’ve been saying using this phrase, “Doing things in public creates opportunity.” You just put out a blog post and you’re just trying to meet as many people as possible in this space.
Andy: Yes. It truthfully took a couple of years before I had the […] like, “Okay, I know I’m not an expert, but I think I have knowledge that would be valuable to a lot of companies.” It took me a while to just really accept that and put myself out there. I just knew early on I definitely have imposter syndrome and it was just like, nothing on paper would make anyone believe that I know these things, I just have to prove that I know these things by just doing them in a way that just demonstrates it.
For me, it was killing two birds with one stone where what I would do is, I would just have a list of people I wanted to work with, I’d email them and say, “Hey, I’m working this article about growth strategies for Drip, once I put this together, should I send it over your way to check it out before I put it up?”
If they didn’t reply, I wouldn’t write the article. If they did, then I’d be like, “All right, I got to get to work and put this together.” Then I would send it over. I think I did probably like five or six of those.
A couple didn’t necessarily lead to any direct work, but got some good feedback on them, and I put them up on the site. A couple of them turned out like, “Yeah, this is really good. Can you just do this for us?” There was no interview or anything like that, they just judged the ideas, strategy on face value. Now, it’s really that the idea there, the best case just leads to a job or some consulting work. Worst case, I have some content for the blog.
Rob: It’s a really clever way to go about it. It doesn’t waste time because (like you said) you don’t write it if they don’t respond. Anytime someone emails me with a proposal like you’re saying, I always say, “Yes, write it. I’d love to see it anytime.” Even the round-ups. There aren’t so many anymore, but I think you did a few of these. I remember folks who are into the GrowthHacker roundup or the SEO roundup, the email marketing best practices. That’s also a reason/excuse to contact 15 or 20 influencers and have some type of relationship there.
I’ve had a few people who’ve done that, who I later will ask, “Hey, are you a contractor? Because I could really use your help with this marketing stuff.” It takes a little bit of hustle, but it’s definitely a different way. It’s different than you sending a bazillion cold emails, which I get a lot of those and that’s not helpful of, “Hey, I’m a growth marketer.” You have such a better agenda. I think this is something that people should take away here, especially if you’re a consultant or an agency. Provide value first, and even busy people will respond and give you some of their time if you’re working that way.
Andy: Right. There was no loss for you there. You had already read the email, so you could decide later not to read the article I send over, but just saying, “Sure, send it over,” didn’t take any of your time. I guess I wasn’t asking for anything for you really. It’s just permission to write the article.
It was an easy ask and there was clear value there for you. That was just my approach. This actually makes me think. I studied cold email a ton. I know Ky wrote a lot about that and just all the people. It was just at the beginning of what now became more of a popular tactic and I would just really just dig deep into that. That was one of the things I always found worked. Just make the ask as small as possible and just provide as many values you can upfront.
Rob: That brings us to, you run growth now at several companies, most of which I’ve already mentioned in the intro. Now, you’re running growth at your own work, SaberSim that you acquired about a year-and-a-half ago?
Andy: Yeah, last December the deal close. December 2018, it closed and then I transitioned out of my role at Groove into running SaberSim full time in February of 2019. It’s been a little over a year.
Rob: I wanted to dig into how you think about growth and how you think about marketing in perhaps a more tactical way than the last several months of Startups For the Rest of Us have been. A lot of them have been stories and there are some frameworks and such that I bring up, but I have observed you going from essentially, what I would consider a pretty junior marketer (at least in terms of name recognition) to someone who I just kept hearing about and kept hearing about working at these companies (Hubstaff, Groove) very quickly.
I know that all of that was not necessarily due to you, but you were on the team and you were there very early, getting stuff done, and Groove similarly. We’ve seen these fast trajectories. You’ve been a part, contributing, and adding a lot to that. What I want to dig into is, I’ve often seen the Sean Ellis Model over the Noah Kagan Model, it’s very regimented, it’s very left-brained. We’re going to do growth sprints. We have a big spreadsheet of all these ideas and what they could potentially do, then we compare them, then we do a six-week this, it is left-brain.
That’s not the kind of marketer I am, to be honest. That part resonates with my engineering side, but something about marketing has always been a bit more fluid for me. I think it’s probably okay, but it’s also maybe to my detriment that I haven’t embraced more of that stuff. I’m curious how you think about it. What’s the framework in your mind and how do you approach it?
Andy: It’s funny because you had mentioned that this was the topic that you want to dig into. It was the first time I’ve gotten meta and just thought about how I think about growth. I realized that in my head, there’s definitely a framework there, but I’ve never actually written it out, I’ve never actually said like, “Okay, these are stuff I go through, this is how I do it.”
I’m naturally a very process-oriented person and you mentioned this before, where in areas where you’re less comfortable, you feel like you have less competency. Process and frameworks are a good way to fall back, because you can know that you’re not going to screw things too much and if you keep the system running, it’ll be okay. But as you get more competent in something and confident, that matters less.
For the most part, I’ve never had a real growth team around me. There’s always been contractors or maybe a couple of other employees that I’ve worked with. It’s never been like a real team. For the most part, I’ve just been driving things forward myself. As I was thinking about it, I definitely have strong opinions on things and just learning through the Internet. A lot of what you’ll see will be the big tech strategies, and this is what works if you’ve raised tons of money, you’re trying to grow hyper quickly, or what works for already various established companies, and you’ll read that books.
When I first got involved in MicroConf and started seeing how things were on the more bootstrap level, I saw what worked and what didn’t. I think the biggest thing that stood out to me is that everyone talks about funnels. Everyone talks about building a funnel, especially in relation to running ads in a snap. But I think, what people don’t realize is that every company, every business, if you’re selling something, there is a funnel even if you haven’t defined it, built it, whatever. There are stages that a customer goes through to become a customer. Even after that point, there are more things that they do.
I think it’s just getting that mindset and saying like, “Okay, what are the steps that someone goes through, and what I am doing additional steps if anything?” The first thing I always try to do is just figure out what pieces are missing. At Groove, one of the big things that we realized is like, “Okay, we’ve got the top of funnel traffic. We have a very high traffic blog. There’s more we could do at SEO to be a little bit more deliberate there.” But that’s not a “hair on fire” problem, but it’s that piece of, “What happens once the traffic is there? How do we actually get them into the product?”
There wasn’t a deliberate process there. It almost happened through osmosis. People show up in a blog. Some of them are going to get curious and research the product. That was the first thing I thought about or just think about is what pieces are we not being deliberate about and just getting things in place? Then it’s just really trying not to over complicate it. There are so many businesses that do tens of millions, hundreds of millions, if not billions on just a couple of channels that they have just figured out very, very well.
If you read any growth marketing, any just marketing, any whatever on the Internet, there are thousands of tactics people talk about. Especially in our world where $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, maybe $5 million ARR companies are life-changing and truly what we’re working towards, you don’t need to do all these different things. It’s like finding one thing, getting really good at that, and just keep doing that.
That kind of ties them the last piece, it’s just don’t get distracted by all those other things. Just keep executing on a small number of things and that is the brunt of it. Keep it simple, figure out what customers are actually doing, and be more deliberate about how you help them along the way.
Rob: It sounds like if you were hired to consult for a SaaS app today, the first thing you would do is take an inventory of where it is our bottleneck? Is our unique visitor count per month a thousand? That’s a problem, versus we have a hundred thousand uniques and our unique-to-trial rate is a tenth of a percent, where we think it should be 1% or 2%, that would be credit card upfront. Is that how you think about it? You just know you have seen enough funnels that you know at what point you should focus on first? Is that what’s missing means?
Andy: Yeah. I almost think of it more literally. People in marketing need to be more deliberate about what they’re doing at each stage of the funnel. You can’t rely on osmosis to feel growth forever. If you figure out one piece of the funnel really well and the others aren’t there, you can get to a pretty good number in terms of revenue, whatever you try to quantify, but you go into plateau until you get deliberate about each piece.
The first thing I do is just like, “Okay, once people are on the blog, do we do something to try to get them to become a customer, to join our email list? Do we just do something?” Once we get that, maybe it’s just get them on our email list. Once they’re there, are we doing something to try to move them into being a paid customer? Once they’re there, is there something we’re doing to try to get them to upgrade their plan, to subscribe to the annual plan, to whatever? Even just sticking around longer and reducing churn is like the first thing is just truly like are we actually deliberately trying to do something to move people to the next step?
In the vast majority of companies, especially at the bootstraps scale, there are pieces that they’re not doing anything. That’s the first piece that I look at is that. It just makes sure we’re doing something to move people to the next stage. I guess, to be a little clear on that, that at SaberSim, when people signed up for the trial, there was no email sequence, there wasn’t any onboarding in the app. There was nothing we were actively doing to try to encourage them to buy.
First thing I did is just put in what I would consider like a basic email sequence, but it’s like a pretty good one, just because that was my background, but it’s just getting in best practices into each of those pieces. Then I feel like you can start looking at the numbers and start quantifying things a little bit clearly and using that to drive priorities, but usually there’s just (I guess to me) more obvious things to address before even get that deep.
Rob: In your mind, when you say, “What’s missing?” That implies that you have a mental model of what a very, very basic funnel should look like. Can you walk us through that? From all the way on the left-hand side, what does it start with? Is it just traffic generation?
Andy: Yeah. That’s probably a good thing for me to cover. This is the downside of not having really articulated a lot of this before, but I keep it pretty simple. It’s like the top of funnel, you have awareness, I just think of it as on the web business, just traffic. People landing on your site or just coming across you in some way. From there, it’s like, “Okay, how do we deepen the relationship?” I guess ultimately, I think of a funnel as, “How do we move people to the next step of the relationship into becoming and staying a customer?”
Once they’re aware of us, what happens next? We want to have some kind of ongoing relationship with them and usually that’s through building an email address so you can continue marketing to them. Then once you have them in your real audience, rather than just some more transient kind of web traffic, how do we get them to, in SaaS, try the product typically? Once they tried the product, how do we get them to buy the product? Once they buy the product, how do we get them to stay and how do we get them to expand and increase what they’re paying us over time? Those are the stages I see. It’s just, what is the next step that they have to take to move along the buyer’s journey?
Rob: For someone who’s listening then, I know you’ve had a lot of experience with emails, specifically email capture and just engaging folks for your email. Folks have at least a decent amount of traffic, but they’re not getting to that next step, which is you’re saying, is getting them on the list. What are the ways that you start with? What are the things you recommend for getting people on the list and engaging them with email?
Andy: I think the biggest thing is deciding upfront who is your actual customer. What do they care about, because you can put up content upgrades that relate directly to the article that people are reading, and they convert. I mean, a content upgrade is just basically, like a PDF that has maybe a summary of the article, or it expands on it, or whatever it is. That’s like an easy tactic to get people on your list. If you have nothing, that’s probably the best place to start. It’s just find something that you can add to the article that makes the article easy to digest, whatever it may be, what is something relevant I can offer people and give them an exchange for their email address.
The first thing though that I like to do, is just make sure that whatever we’re thinking about, it actually gets the right people on to the list because this is where focusing on the number can mislead you. Whereas, you’re not just trying to get the highest percent of people onto your list. You’re trying to make sure that those people are the right people. What I’ll often do is just say, “Okay, what problem my customer is trying to solve?” Especially if it’s on a blog article or whatever it is that’s actually generating your traffic, I say, “Why are people going to this and what do they want out of it?” and find a way to solve that.
I know it sounds very basic, but it’s just trying not to complicate things. You can solve that in a webinar, where you say, I guess for Groove it could just be, “Okay, someone came to our site for an article on interview questions who ask a customer service representative.” Then you can say, “Okay, they’re clearly trying to grow the customer service team.” You could then pitch maybe a webinar, an ebook, something on how to scale your customer service team, how to avoid these three biggest hiring mistakes?
Just finding something that is related to what they’re doing, but ultimately goes a little bit deeper than that and gets to what they’re trying to solve. It can be presented in many different ways and it’s trying to simplify and not over think it, but just getting something up there that helps them get to that root of the problem. Does that make sense?
Rob: Yeah, it does. I’m curious if you have, you mentioned how you would think about it with Groove, do you have an example of something you did? Whether with any of your clients or when you were an employee of a specific thing that really worked well for doing this?
Andy: Yes. This is actually why I’ve been very excited about what Brennan and Shai are working on at RightMessage, because the article, the thing that people are landing on when they come to your site matters, but that person that has issues, they have problems, they have all these other things outside of just one article. If all you have to go on is they found this article, they found this page, they found whatever, you want to stay relevant to that. We can learn more about these people by asking them questions.
On SaberSim, this is very basic right now, but people come to our site to learn how to get better at daily fantasy sports. We simply ask them like, “What sports do you play? How often do you play? What types of contests do you play?” This is like inside baseball, it was like how many lineups do you enter when you do play? Based on all of that, we have a pretty deep content library of videos that we’ve made on strategy, on answering different questions. We can then just show, when you play, and if it has a sport, you build one line up for baseball, we can then show a guide that either says, “Here is the best way to build your single line-up for daily fantasy sports,” or we could show, “Here is the ultimate guide to beating daily fantasy baseball in 2020.”
We can just make an offer that’s very personalized to what that person is actually trying to do. That’s like a hands on thing that we’re actually doing now. In most businesses, it’s like getting to know your customers and figuring out, these are the pain points that they face, then asking them, “What pain points are you facing?” Then when they tell you, it’s like, okay, then help them solve that. I just try to keep it really simple by thinking about it in that way.
Rob: It seems like that simple three step thing will work at every stage.
Andy: Yeah, exactly.
Rob:It works to get someone onto your email list, and then while they’re on your email list, it works, then once they’re in a trial, you need to know the three pain points within your app and then how does your onboarding address that. Once they are customers… It’s the same questions. That’s your framework, right?
Andy: Yeah. To make it as effective as it can be, the big thing is planting the seed early for the next stage. I’ll go back to the example of Groove because I feel it’s more relatable to people. People come to a help desk typically when they’re doing support out of their inbox, they have a few support agents in there, and it’s just a mess because you don’t know who’s replying to what. The emails can fall through the cracks. You can’t keep track of this. It’s like you’re just running around with your hair on fire.
People come in. They don’t know that they necessarily need a help desk. You’re reaching them with where they’re at. Their problem right now is, “My inbox is nuts, and we can’t keep running this way.” You come in with something that’s more like, “Okay, how do you get your support inbox under control?”
In that content, whatever it is that you’re giving them at that stage, you plant the seed for the next step and that’s you’d probably need a tool, like, “Here are some tips that will work in your inbox,” like, “If these X criteria are true, if you have multiple support agents, if you have whatever it may be, then it’s time to look into some of the solutions and here are some ideas what that can be.”
From there, it’s checking back in with them via email and nudging them into that next step, saying like, “Hey, I know you said your inbox was crazy, but have you looked in any of these options. Here’s how they can help.” That’s obviously not a good copy, but that’s the general idea. It’s just like, meeting them with where they’re at, getting them ready to take that next step, and then giving them the push to actually take that next step.
Rob: I’m curious to dig even deeper into examples like SaberSim. Again, I mentioned it in the intro, but it is a fantasy sports betting site. Is that a good summary of it?
Andy: Yes. There’s no actual gambling done on our site, but what we do is we have built our own models to come up with accurate projections for the games, for the players in those games, and then on top of that, we’ve built a SaaS app that our users can play around with. They can manipulate our data easily and use that to just do better at daily fantasy sports. I’m built in their line-ups, I’m doing their research, and all those kinds of things.
Often when people find us, this is I think what frankly any business is going to find. There’s pretty much two types of customers: you have one who already knows they have the problem, they have some solution in place, but they’re not happy with it, and they’re looking at alternatives. Then you have the customers who are trying to get better at something, but they don’t know all the options. Right now they’re basically doing it by hand (whatever that may mean), maybe they’re using spreadsheets, maybe they’re using just Gmail, whatever it is, they don’t really have a solution for it yet. The way you reach those two is very different.
For SaberSim, there are competitors to us, and we market to those very differently than more casual players coming in, who aren’t using any tool to play daily fantasy. They’re just going into their app on their phone and just building a line-up on intuition and gut. What we do is just through the surveys especially, is just try to suss out which camp they fall in.
If they’re in the first one, and they’re just building a line-up on gut and by hand, the very first thing we’re going to do is just show them, “Here are the biggest mistakes, to make sure you’re avoiding when building a line-ups by hand.” If they’re coming from (let’s call) a lineup optimizer, which our competitors traditionally are, it’s saying, “Here are the mistakes to avoid when using a line-up optimizer.” Both of those pieces of content on their own have a lot of value because they frankly are serious mistakes that you’re going to lightly make with either those options and SaberSim solves a lot of those.
The next piece would say more directly like, “Here are the problems. Here is why you should not be using a line-up optimizer. Here is why you should not be building line-ups by hand.” It just gets more direct to like, “These are fundamental flaws that the tools, or the process, or whatever it is has, but there is a better way to do this.”
The first is just more informational. You’re not really trying to get them to change their behavior, because that’s really hard to do, but you’re trying to plant the seed that’s like, “Hey, there are some big flaws with this, there are some workarounds, and here they are.” Start thinking about that next step. Then once they’re there, then we can hit them more directly and say like, “Hey, you probably just shouldn’t be doing that anymore.”
Rob: That makes a lot of sense. This reminds me, it comes back to these five stages of marketing awareness, where there’s people who are completely unaware that they have pain, pain-unaware. Then there’s pain-aware, like, “Man, I really have a problem, but no idea, haven’t even thought that there’s a better solution.” Then there is a solution-aware, where it’s like, “There are solution services, platforms, or whatever that can solve,” but they don’t know what’s right, they don’t know what’s wrong, maybe they start researching it. Then there’s product-aware, where they like, “Oh, I know there’s like three or four products that do this, SaberSim and the other competitors, there is Groove, there’s Help Scout, and there’s whatever other, Intercom, and this and that.” Then there’s most-aware, which is like, “Frankly, once you’ve been running a company in the space you’re most aware. You know exactly all the ins and outs and the intricacies, the features on this and that.”
You’re just basically saying, “Meet folk where they are,” and it ties back into the comment you made earlier of that’s where you’re so excited about, what they’re doing at RightMessage, because I just went to sabersim.com, folks can check it out and you have the RightMessage widget right there that basically says, “What’s your current sport? What type of contest do you usually play? How many line-ups?” You’re just trying to find out what stage they’re in, and then tailor your content to that.
These are mini stages within the whole funnel. You could say the funnel has stages of, “Hey, there are unique visitors, then they’re on the email list, then they’re in the trial, and now they are customers.” But within each of those, you have to figure out where they are and how they’re thinking about it.
Andy: Yes. Exactly. Just because they are in the trial doesn’t mean they really know that they have a problem, it doesn’t mean that they’re aware of all the options or even that aware of what you do. It’s trying to figure out where they’re at, but then also get some information that lets you go beyond that and be as specific to their case as possible, but that’s just me taking it further than it’s truly necessary.
You don’t need to have all of these layers that you go into, you don’t need to know their exact business type, and how big their company is this and that. Just probably a couple of questions you can ask that will give you the vast majority, the value to get by personalizing your message, because in most businesses, there’s only so many key problems and it’s just figuring out the fewest questions you can ask get to that. Then if you want to take it to the next level, you can try to personalize beyond that, but it’s just back to the simplicity method, just do something, and the more personalize you can get, the better.
Rob: It’s probably an 80/20 law of, you just do something. Zero is doing nothing, something is 70%–80% and then optimize, optimize, optimize, which is what you’re saying.
Before the RightMessage, how are you getting this information about people, where they were mentally? Was it more like Drip, you could click a link in an email and tag someone with something, where you’re doing it that way? Where the email says, “Hey, what are you thinking about?”
Andy: Yeah. At Hubstaff, that’s exactly what I did. At Hubstaff, what they do is they create time tracking tools. Our biggest customers were not evenly divided. The biggest customer type was people that ran remote agencies. They worked with a lot of freelancers who they paid by the hour. You would also see larger companies would use it with their own full-time team, but we’re really going after the agencies. Both of those segments have sub-segments. Then there’s a lot of people that find this site that aren’t really good fit.
The first email would just be like, “What best describes your business?” It would be like, “I’m an agency owner. I’m a freelancer. I run whatever else it is.” Then you just tag them in Drip with that and customize from there. Ultimately, what I realized is that you pretty much like doing what a good salesperson does, like a discovery call. You’re just trying to get as much identifying context from them as you can, so you can then personalize what you’re offering them.
At Groove, it was a similar thing, but we migrated to HubSpot. I have nightmares, still, about setting out that work flow there. It was such a mess, but the same principle applied. Frankly, at SaberSim, I haven’t done much with that. I think this is what listeners can do. If you’re at a point where for whatever reason, it’s a pain to set-up all this infrastructure. One, check out RightMessage, they do make it simple, and they tie into Drip very easily or other email tools as well. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but if you’re not doing that, it’s fine. Just figure out in your emails what are the most common pain points and just talk to one or two of those. You just make assumptions.
I would assume that most people finding us were familiar with the tools and the space once they get into the trial. I would just write the emails from that perspective, and then you can include like a PS that says, “I used to […] right now, if so, check out this video.” I think it’s going to be right up your ally, rather than the one in the email itself. I just take a stand, just go with that, and then you can just go from there.
Rob: Very cool. Thanks for dropping the knowledge. I know you have an endless well of growth marketing experience and knowledge you could drop, but in the interest if time, I think we’re going to wrap it there. Folks want to hear more from you, they should check out the Effective Founder Podcast where you do some really good interviews with all types of folks, founders, consultants, marketers, and such. If they want to see what we’re talking about, they can go to sabersim.com, especially if they’re interested in fantasy sports, and you’re also Andy Baldacci on Twitter.
Andy: Yeah, my Twitter is not super active, but reach out to me there. You can find my email address pretty easily, at just andybaldacci.com. It was a great chatting Rob. I really appreciate it.
Rob: Absolutely, it was great having you on the show. Thanks again for coming.
Rob: Thanks again to Andy for coming on the show. If you have a question for the show, leave us a voicemail at (888) 801-9690 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt; it’s used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us by searching for startups. Visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode.
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