Switching From a Service Model to a SaaS Model
“Starting out as platform-agnostic threw up a myriad of challenges and added friction in the onboarding of our early clients.”
Written by Sterling Sweeney: Published Jan 19th, 2020 | Updated Jan 19th, 2020.
Sterling Sweeney is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a SaaS marketing agency. Today, he sits down with Lakshdeep Rajput, co-founder of SearchTap, a search technology SaaS product, to chat about SearchTap’s growth so far.
13 Minute Read
As far as our biggest hurdles, one was definitely making the jump from being a services company to a product-based business. We had to figure out our entire marketing identity all over again.
Let’s jump into the interview below.
Hi and thanks for joining us today Lakshdeep. I really appreciate you spending time here to talk about SearchTap and sharing your experience with our audience. To get started, can you please tell us what SearchTap is all about?
Hi everyone! Thanks for having me for the interview. SearchTap is a search technology product. We provide fast and relevant search solutions for websites, mobile applications and enterprise software. We love working with eCommerce stores, in particular, because our product delivers tangible ROI by way of improved engagement and conversion.
Our specialization is providing a customizable search user experience with only minimal involvement of our client’s tech team.
Now we often hear why improving search matters so much to an eCommerce site. Well, even though only roughly 10% of visitors to an eCommerce store use the search, they can contribute a significant portion of the revenue. Various studies show that search users are twice as likely to convert than non-search users. So the crux of SearchTap is making the search experience seamless for the end-user by using our search-as-you-type technology and dynamically changing filters.
And seeing as how mobile is fast becoming the point of purchase for most eCommerce stores, we need to extend this experience across devices. So we deliver app-like filters and a customized search UX/UI for mobile devices. This way, regardless of what device a visitor uses the search, they are getting a highly optimized experience that helps them find and narrow down what they are looking for within seconds.
I imagine it wasn’t easy to get things off the ground. Let’s dive a bit deeper into SearchTap’s history. How did your search solution get started and what were some of the biggest hurdles you had to face early on? How were you able to overcome those obstacles?
I ran an IT consulting company with my co-founder. The idea came to us after working for an eCommerce client where we had done some complex search integrations. When we couldn’t find a solution that would be a good fit for them, we decided to build one ourselves. Later on, when we were talking to other people in the industry, we realised that this tool had a real demand.
As far as our biggest hurdles, one was definitely making the jump from being a services company to a product-based business. We had to figure out our entire marketing identity all over again – where do we fit in compared to the competition, how our product offerings differ, and what value SearchTap would add to its clients.
Then another problem we ran into was getting traction within each industry. One of the first questions we get asked is if we’ve worked with some other brands in the same space. It makes sense since each industry has its unique challenges and our prospects want to know if we will be able to handle them.
What makes SearchTap unique, and how do you convince companies to choose your solution over others?
SearchTap’s core capability lies in searching in structured datasets and returning those results without reloading the page. That means whether someone searches for a keyword or applies any filter, they can see the results instantly. As soon as someone starts to type a query, SearchTap will have fetched relevant results for it and the results update as the search query evolves. On top of that, we’ve added a lot of customizations like automatically removing irrelevant filters to show only the ones that pertain to the search term. This helps keep shoppers engaged with the page and steers them away from dead ends.
What sets us apart is that we have a dedicated customer success team that looks after the onboarding and guides customers to maximize the ROI from our product. Now we process over 100 million searches every month for clients across industries and platforms and this expertise has given us quite a lot of traction within the Indian eCommerce space.
SearchTap is completely bootstrapped by my co-founder & I. We chose to go down the bootstrapping path because we wanted to have the final say over how we wanted the product to evolve. A drawback is that we obviously don’t have the capacity to expand as rapidly as other funded startups, but, we have a solid base.
I noticed that you have a blog and it’s quite active by the looks of it. How much does search engine optimization and content play in your marketing approach? How effective have they been for you thus far?
Blogs have been a great help to us attracting the right kind of customer. Our content strategy was to write for founders and marketing managers of growing eCommerce brands.
Putting out highly relevant content put us out as thought leaders in the market and helped us add something meaningful to the conversation beyond just SEO. We wanted to show that our team has the knowledge and capability to generate positive ROI for our prospect’s business, it made the task of selling the product that much easier.
These blogs were a great first step to test the waters in terms of creating and distributing content that would increase traffic coming on to our website.
Speaking of which, how has your SaaS marketing strategy for SearchTap changed since you first started?
I think we’ve come a long way from when we first started. Truth be told, we were focusing on our outbound sales process when we were starting out. It’s only recently that we’ve realized that leveraging our expertise in eCommerce and our network is the next way to grow our business.
The truth is that building a good product doesn’t guarantee that you will get good sales. Now that we’ve identified our core value add, we can create more targeted messaging and improve chances of conversions.
Using this, we’ve also experimented with various email automation and segmentation and feel comfortable enough to say that we’ve found a good mix for ourselves. We’ve also started to attend events and meetups targeted towards startups to build our partnership and referral network.
Not only are we looking to expand our customer base, but we are also going to focus on joint-marketing activities to grow our reach as well. We’re excited to see how these efforts result in the future.
Your website is very easy to use and responsive. Did you carry out A/B testing on it to get the right design for your needs? Which design elements do you believe are the most crucial in improving conversion rates?
Thanks, we really appreciate that! Actually, since our background involved designing landing pages and websites for many enterprise businesses, we had already done a lot of experiments and that knowledge led to the concept of the website.
We also looked at some best practices by SaaS companies to incorporate the elements we liked. We occasionally A/B test some design elements to see how they impact the visitor behavior on our site. The end result for us should be an easily navigable site where users can access more information about our offering.
The design element that has the most impact on conversions has to be the Pricing Page. Prospects should be able to tell at just a glance what your product delivers and at which price points.
I see that you offer potential customers a personalized demo of your product by learning about their unique goals. How effective has this onboarding approach been so far for SearchTap? Have you looked into others? What major takeaways have you found trialling this signup process?
Personalized demos are a great way to introduce our product to our prospects. We get to find out first hand and get to know what reservations they may have. Setting their minds at ease goes a long way and it leaves a lasting impact on people seeing our product in action.
You also have a very informative section on the success stories of your clients. How much time do you allocate gathering all of these details and presenting them to your potential customers?
Search optimization is a continuous process so our customer success team is regularly in touch with our clients advising them on how to enhance the search experience.
We also make it a point to give a session about search analytics to our signups once after a couple of weeks after going live. Overall, I would say that we spend anywhere from 2-3 days in a month on these activities. The data we gather from here goes into making our Success Stories.
The Success Stories we have published on our website have been incredibly useful in showing real examples of the value our product delivers. They go hand-in-hand with our live demos. From the customer’s point of view, it shows them that we have relevant experience working with some leading or upcoming brands in their industry and can help them with our product.
I’d like to ask you one more question before I let you go. If you were to go back in time and change one thing during the initial stages of SearchTap, what would that be?
Starting over, I think we would focus on building a more inbound sales process from day one rather than just relying on an outbound sales strategy. While our outbound strategy has worked well, having proactive marketing in place would have helped us scale faster.
The other thing I think we would benefit from is having a self-serve model in place on one platform like Shopify, to begin with.
Starting out as platform-agnostic threw up a myriad of challenges and added friction in the onboarding of our early clients.
Then, we would expand to include others like Magento and OpenCart once we would have been completely confident of the product performance.
Thank you greatly for taking the time to chat with our SaaS blog readers today. We really appreciate you taking time. To our readers, if you’d like to learn more about SearchTap you can follow them on Twitter or head over to their website here.
Written by Sterling Sweeney: Published Jan 19th, 2020 | Updated Jan 19th, 2020.
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.
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