Focus & Narrow Your SaaS Marketing Efforts
“Our marketing strategy has focused and narrowed over time. Compared to earlier days, we’ve better identified groups of customers who find Toshl even more useful than most.”
Written By Sterling Sweeney: Published Sept 25th, 2019 | Updated Sept 26th, 2019.
Sterling Sweeney is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a company that offers SaaS growth boxes to help software companies grow. Today, he sits down with Matic from Toshl to talk about the growth of their social media analytics SaaS product.
8 Minute Read
Focus and Get Your Potential SaaS Users to do Just One Thing At a Time.
Today, WhalePages was fortunate enough to chat with the team at Matic Bitenc, the CEO of Toshl, which is a SaaS company and financial app that allows users to set financial goals, set budgets and track their progress along the way. So let’s jump into the interview.
First, thank you for joining us today Matic. Can you kick off the interview by telling us a little bit more about Toshl and what it does? (company history, start date, pain points the company solves etc).
At Toshl Finance we help people make sense and control their personal finances. We focus on doing that as easily as possible and sometimes make it even fun. We first started Toshl as a side-project at 3fs, a Slovenian software development company. We first made an Android app as prototype, offered it for free, got some users and then followed up with iOS, web apps and actually a whole bunch of other platforms which were relevant at the time (Symbian, BlackBerry etc.). In 2012 we founded Toshl Inc. as an independent company and focused on developing Toshl full time.
When you first launched Toshl, how did you go about on-boarding your first paying customers? What was the most valuable on-boarding strategy in your earliest days?
First, we had a bit of an existing user base. During the time of our prototyping and first experimental apps we already had people using the apps for free. So when we finally added a user account system and paid features, we already had some people to address. We use a freemium model and I guess the lesson is to always try and keep it well balanced as your product develops, without making too many changes which would irk users. We also made the choice to have freemium subscriptions instead of just one-time in-app purchases which enabled our company to survive and develop throughout this time. This might seem obvious today, but it wasn’t in 2010. At that time, you couldn’t even make subscription in-app purchases so we had to take care of this on the backend.
Another thing worth mentioning are our Toshl monsters which give the apps a bit of a personality. From the start we also offered nice and not too obviously promotional T-shirts (now socks too) featuring those monsters. They come free with the 3-year plan. We think it’s helped build us a bit more loyalty with our customers. We always try to make them in a way that we’d like to casually wear ourselves and include a joke or two to make them more of conversation starters. 🙂
How has the marketing strategy for Toshl changed over time? What marketing advice would you give to early stage SaaS founders who are struggling to gain traction early on?
Our marketing strategy has focused and narrowed over time. Compared to earlier days, we’ve better identified groups of customers who find Toshl even more useful than most – expats dealing with lots of different currencies and accounts being just one such example. Same thing has happened with the advertising channels that we use and the type of targeting used. Where possible we try to promote to people fitting our demographic criteria as well as being more likely to purchase services and such.
Compared to earlier days, we’re also more focused on paid advertising rather than PR and contacting bloggers / journalists. While still a very valuable part of the marketing strategy, the return on time invested has decreased over they years. Partly because of changing circumstances – smartphones and app stores are not as exciting as they were at first, partly because the whole industry got a bit saturated. Depends on the product though. A very newsworthy origin story or problem can take you a long way. At some point you have to figure out a sustainable way to promote and PR methods are a bit too unpredictable in the long run.
So you’ve engaged in any paid advertising. What has worked and what hasn’t?
In general, the closer the ad is to your product onboarding the better. By closer, I mean how much effort does the potential customer have to make to check out and try your product. E.g. advertising on the app stores where user is 1 tap away from downloading and has the intent to do so vs. advertising on physical billboards where user has to pick up the phone, go to an app store, remember the name of your app, type it in… The provided case is rather obvious, but the principle holds true with closer pairs, like online video promotions vs app store etc. In general Google Play (via Google Ads) and search advertising on the App Store are most effective for us, followed by more general Google Ads, Facebook campaigns etc. For us, advertising on Twitter, Reddit and even more so offline channels provided a lot less bang for our buck.
“In general, the closer the ad is to your product onboarding the better. By closer, I mean how much effort does the potential customer have to make to check out and try your product.”
How much A/B testing (if any) have you been doing in order to try to optimize the effectiveness of your homepage? In your experience what have been the most important design elements that have helped increase CR on your site?
Not enough to be honest. 🙂 We’ve done quite a few test over the years so have some experience with what worked and what doesn’t, but we’ve fallen a bit behind with these tests in recent times. We’re just in the process of making a new homepage, so there’s lots more testing to come. I guess the most important lesson from past testing is to focus on getting the potential customer to do just one thing at a time. Competing areas of focus and multiple calls to action were often a problem. As were too cartoony styles of the designs, too complex upgrade flows etc.
“I guess the most important lesson from past testing is to focus on getting the potential customer to do just one thing at a time. Competing areas of focus and multiple calls to action were often a problem.”
I see you offer a 30 day free trial of Toshl. How much experimentation have you done with this onboarding process? Have you tried shorter trial time frames? Have you experimented with credit card vs. no credit card required for the free trial? What big takeaways have you found A/B testing your signup process?
Before the free 30-day trial we offered just a paid upgrade, with the promise of automatic refunds during the first 30-days if not satisfied. When we added the 30-day trial option the upgrade take up doubled. Unfortunately the cancellations within those first 30 days, almost doubled as well, but luckily we were still a few % in revenue up compared to before. We haven’t yet tried the 7-day option, but we plan to make a limited test of it in the future. 30-days fits rather nicely with finance apps though, as most people are paid monthly and it’s just the right timeframe to try out your financial tracking for the month.
I see you have a blog. How much does content marketing and SEO play into your overall marketing strategy? What percentage of your leads come through your content marketing efforts?
We primarly use the blog to inform our customers of the developements and such, but SEO of course does play into it and we do also make a few more general articles for SEO purposes. It’s a bit difficult to track and evaluate how many leads come in that way exactly, but I’d estimate a bit less than 10 % of our new signups come in that way. We have some plans to step up our game there.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Toshl’s funding path? Are you self-financed or do you have investors on board? Can you tell us a little bit more about the pros and cons of your decision?
We were initially funded by 3fs, the company that we spun out off and followed up with a few minor investments by 500 Startups as well as some angel investor. We’ve been self-funding since. Comes with more freedom and being able to focus on building the company for the long term. On the other hand, a large investment might have spurred our growth a lot quicker. Then again, it might also have killed the company if we tried to scale too quickly or without the right base. I don’t think there’s a universal answer to this, besides, you’re always a bit constrained by other circumstances when making those kind of calls.
Tell us a little bit more about some of the early failures you experienced and how you overcame those failures.
Well, speaking of funding… We failed at raising a larger round when we most wanted. While it was a setback we went back to work on raising our revenues. While that growth was not as quick as we’d like either, it grew enough us to keep on going and developing.
How long did it take Toshl to hit $2000 MRR?
First paid version was pretty gradual, we weren’t yet sure how well the freemium model would take. If the old statistics serve me well it took about 4 months or so.
Lastly, if you had to start over again and do three things differently, what would those three things be?
1. More focus and less wagers on different tech platforms which took up a lot of our time.
2. Start paid advertising earlier.
3. Put most company funds in Bitcoin in 2010. Wait. 😉
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. To our readers, if you want to learn more about Toshl please head over to their website to learn more!
Written By Sterling Sweeney: Published Sept 25th, 2019 | Updated Sept 26th, 2019.
Sterling Sweeney is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a company that grows SaaS websites. So, if you have a SaaS company and you’re kinda into things like website traffic and increasing your MRR, then check out our SaaS marketing services.
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