Starting a SaaS Company as an In-House Startup
“The creator of Leadbery is a full-service digital agency, called Brandlift. We started Leadberry as an in-house startup, managing the agency resources to create the tool.”
Written by Sterling Sweeney: Published Sept 12th, 2019 | Updated Sept 12th, 2019.
Sterling Sweeney is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a company that helps grow SaaS websites. In today’s interview he speaks with Odon Sultz, VP of marketing for Leadberry about topics relating to SaaS development and growth.
Building a SaaS Company as an In-House Startup
Today, WhalePages was fortunate enough to chat with the team at Leadberry about their B2B lead generation SaaS. It’s a really interesting product and we’re excited to share their story. So let’s jump in!
First, thank you for joining us today Odon. I appreciate you taking the time to chat with our SaaS marketing blog readers about Leadberry. As you know, our audience is made up primarily of SaaS founders, CEOs and marketers. A lot of these people are working in the B2B space. Kick off the interview by telling us a little bit more about what Leadberry does and how it can help SaaS entrepreneurs?
Hi all, first of all thanks a lot for getting us featured on WhalePages!
Leadberry is B2B lead generation software that converts website visitors to sales leads. For mid and small sized companies to enterprise size firms this service is a real time saver: we identify companies visiting your site and collect tons of useful sales info about them with just the click of a button. This way you or your sales team can get warm leads to follow up on every day in real-time!
Tell us a little bit more about Leadberry’s history. When did Leadberry get its start and what were some of your biggest hurdles early on? How did you overcome those obstacles?
Leadberry started as a free beta in October 2016. Since then a lot have happened to us. The biggest struggle was that out of the blue many B2B lead gen solutions started to pop up in every corner.
Of course, all tools are different more or less, but still, the market started to get a bit crowded. Around that time we managed to come up with new subscription packages offering unlimited leads, websites and users (so one Leadberry account kinda solves it all without any extra fees), hence becoming the most cost-effective solution around. That and the fact the some of the tools disappeared quite quickly put us in a more convenient position.
I’m a big data geek so I love companies who are integrating their software with any type of analytics. Tell us a little bit more about how you came up with the idea to harvest contact information from site visitors (specifically businesses). From a technical standpoint, how difficult was it to get the type of data you wanted to be able to integrate in your product?
When we talk about anonymous visitor identification you basically have 2 ways to go: you set up your own tracking code that the clients will have to use, or you go with one of the bigger already existing web traffic tracking solutions. We quickly figured out that most of our prospects were not willing to put a custom tracking code in their site, so we decided to go with GA.
One more reason for GA is that you can get Leadberry working in about 2 minutes, no IT expertise needed. It is a plug & play tool. Getting the data from GA is not a very big deal (you can do it manually actually, we just automate it), but gathering all the company data based on just one Google Analytics record is where the magic happens.
When you first launched Leadberry, how did you go about onboarding your first paying customers? What was the most valuable on-boarding strategy in your earliest days?
We actually gained many active users in our free beta days, and many of them stayed with us when we switched from beta. Many of them are actually still with us today.
We used a mixture of PPC, email automation and actually used our own Leadberry (identifying website visitors then reach out to them with a personalized message) to attract customers, this mix worked out pretty well.
How has the marketing strategy for Leadberry changed over time? What marketing advice would you give to other early stage SaaS founders who are struggling to gain traction early on?
Email automation works really well. But be careful not to bombard your already existing costumers with too many automated email sequences.
You have a very nice looking home page. How much A/B testing (if any) have you been doing in order to try to optimize your conversion rate? In your experience what have been the most important design elements that have helped increase CR on your site? Specifically have you tested your homepage with and without video? How much does video help with CR? What about with and without live chat? How much does live chat whelp with CR optimization?
We’ve done quite a lot of A/B testing. The website you see now is a pretty polished result of those efforts.
Video: Seems to grab a lot of attention, so stayed on the page after A/B testing.
Chat: Well this is a hard question. Many spam and/or irrelevant queries came in. So, we reduced it a bit with less proactive messages, rare chat pop ups – it used to pop up all the time. Reducing the chat activity seems to be a good idea: the conversion rate didn’t drop, but we freed up a serious amount of support capacity.
I see you have a blog as well. How much has content marketing and SEO played in your company’s success so far? What percentage of your leads can be attributed to your content marketing efforts?
I think we’re pretty good SEO-wise. But we let content marketing go for a little while. And now, we’re just posting on the blog from time-to-time when there is a new announcement or feature to speak about.
You offer three different monthly pricing plans. How much experimentation have you done around pricing and monetization?
Well, a lot.
We started off with a pretty different pricing model back in the day. The same feature set applied to all packages, they differed in the monthly lead quota. But since we have unlimited leads in all he packages, we differentiated the subscriptions in terms of available features. The current pricing options offer a more balanced model for our user’s different needs.
We even had Pay-As-You-Go plans, but got rid of them because we have the unlimited leads offer now. We had a limited time Lifetime Deal too, which was a blast. Maybe we’ll do that again sometime in the future.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Leadberry’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?
Leadberry is 100% self-financed, not a cent from VCs. The creator of Leadberry is a full-service digital agency, called Brandlift. We started Leadberry as an in-house startup, managing the agency resources to create the tool. Since then there is a dedicated team behind Leadberry.
If we’d brought in investors, for sure we could go to market faster and do some improvements and scaling in a more accelerated way. But this way we’re our own bosses and we can drive the tool in whichever direction we prefer. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without the strong agency background.
“The creator of Leadberry is a full-service digital agency, called Brandlift. We started Leadberry as an in-house startup, managing the agency resources to create the tool. Since then there is a dedicated team behind Leadberry.”
Maybe I missed it, but it doesn’t seem like you have an affiliate or partner program yet. Was this something you’ve tried in the past but it didn’t work out, or is it something you haven’t experimented with yet?
We do have an affiliate program!
We actually put quite a lot of effort to launch the program and scale it up, but it seems that being an affiliate partner in the B2B world is much more complicated than in the B2C sector. We do have a dozen active affiliates though, but it wasn’t the blast we expected it to be.
Now if you’re comfortable talking about financial milestones, can you tell us a little bit more about your SaaS size and growth rate?
Leadberry is already profitable, which is quite a surprise. We expected to finish with a deficit for at least the first two years – as usually happens with startups.
As mentioned, we started only using agency resources from Brandlift, now there is a dedicated customer support and development team behind the tool. We can still borrow extra capacity from the agency if needed.
How long did it take Leadberry to hit $1000 MRR?
Pretty soon thanks to the early bird users.
Lastly, if you had to start over again and do three things differently, what would those three things be?
1. Allocating more resources for the initial development so we could go to market before our biggest competitors (we already had the idea when our competitors showed up, but we were just too busy doing other stuff).
2. Use the current subscription packages from the beginning. Now that we have the necessary technology it is of course easy to say.
3. Get rid of the floating bubbles from the website. – Hey, we can still do that!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. To our readers, if you want to learn more about Leadberry please head over to their website to learn more!
Written by Sterling Sweeney: Published Sept 12th, 2019 | Updated Sept 12th, 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 our SaaS growth boxes are probably for you.
Like This Article? Great. We Have Lots More!
Have Something Helpful To Add to the Conversation?
We create content, like the content above, to help SaaS entrepreneurs grow their software companies. The more people who contribute to our SaaS marketing blog, the more valuable our blog will be. So, if you have something interesting to add on to this conversation please use the comment section below to contribute. We’d love to hear about your related experiences, ideas or questions.