I’m starting a new (not at all regular) series on the blog, where I interview SaaS founders who’ve grown their business with email marketing.
Today, Robin Warren of GetCorrello.com takes the lead.
Robin and I had a talk over breakfast at MicroConf Europe 2016 where we talked about ways to grow Robin’s business through email marketing. I also sold Robin the first ever copy of the book over breakfast - that was pretty cool.
Anyways, so when Robin went back to MicroConf Europe a year later, he had tripled Corrello’s monthly recurring revenue in just under 12 months. Here’s the story of how he did that.
1. Hello! What’s your background, and what are you working on?
Hi! My background is technical, being a developer at first, then moving up to management and becoming CTO at my previous employer. I’ve always worked at small companies which let me get close to the customers and take a role in the product management side of things, which I enjoyed. It also meant there was always a lot freedom to define the role and set your own priorities. 3 years ago I took that to another level when I left my full time role and started my own business. After about a month of looking for a problem to solve I almost accidentally stumbled on the idea of reporting for Scrum and Kanban teams using Trello. 3 years later I’m still building Corrello. 😀
2. What motivated you to get started with Corrello?
I started with the aim of building a business which could provide income and some additional freedom for me and my family. I also wanted a fresh challenge, to take on more responsibility, and get more of the gains (if there were any) from my work. Also, as much as I have always enjoyed working with teams I also enjoy working on my own. After 11 years at my previous company I think I was keen to spend some time on my own building something 😀
3. How have you attracted customers and grown Corrello?
I have been lucky to get a reasonable stream of traffic from being featured on Trello a few times, along with a little SEO, this provides the majority of my inbound leads. From there it has been a matter of converting leads into customers. Some things which have worked well for me:
About 18 months ago I improved the emails I sent people at the end of each Sprint/Week. Previously they had just a few small details in from their dashboards. I changed this to include pretty much everything from their dashboards each week. This was important as I had people cancelling through lack of use of the product, by sending them everything each week they had another chance to get the value without leaving their inbox. This helped nearly half my churn over the coming months.
I have implemented an onboarding flow which includes a few educational emails. I based the content of these on conversations I had with some of my best customers, who explained how they were getting value from Corrello. These also became blog posts. Topics such as Communicating team performance to your Boss and Getting more done with cycle time and CFD charts were great for helping people up skill themselves and really get value from the product. If you can have conversations with some of your best customers and understand what it is which excites them about the product, packaging those lessons up for others can be a great resource 😀
More recently I’ve been improving some of my other trial emails. Ie, my trial end emails were (almost literally) “YOUR TRIAL IS OVER - GIVE ME MONEY OR LOSE YOUR DATA!”, I’ve since de-developerised them and re-salesified them, based on this excellent article on trial-end-emails. So they talk a lot more about the benefits and include testimonials etc. It is hard to quantify the impact with the small number of trials I get but I am glad I made the change for the very small amount of effort it cost.
4. What are your goals for the future?
I have found the business has gone through these phases for me so far: 1. Find something which an identifiable group of people will pay $30 or more for every month. This was a great moment. 2. Get to the point where I can (just) support myself and my family. This was an equally great moment. 3. Plug the product gaps while growing revenue. This is where I have been for the last year, adding some missing features, setting up automated invoicing and improving some UI issues etc.
I think now it is time to focus on growth and will be investing more time and money into that this year.
5. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
The biggest challenge was probably dealing with the psychological pressure of burning our savings down every month for over a year while the business made next to nothing. Add in that I knew I could walk into a relatively well paid job at very little notice and you get continuous pressure and doubt that I was doing the right thing with my families savings. But, then when it’s sunny outside, you get a new customer and you take the day off with no notice, or just get to spend lunchtime with your family (I have two young daughters) it’s all good 😀
6. Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Too much to remember! A couple things which come to mind though: 1. Having my wife on board with the idea of doing this was critical as our savings dwindled. 2. Trying to talk to everyone who signed up for my initial prototype. This was to understand what the problem was they had which they thought I may be able to solve for them. This took an initial idea people were interested in and turned it into something people would actually pay for.
7. What’s your advice for bootstrappers who are just starting out?
- Do it! it’s awesome :)
- Don’t obsess over a specific product idea. Instead obsess over the idea of creating your own business, you haven’t got time to try and build something no one wants so try to get feedback as as soon as possible and drop anything which isn’t working.
- Aim for something you can charge $30+ a month for. I think if you let yourself build something which costs something like $5 a month you are probably solving a problem which isn’t really a big deal for anyone, and instead of paying $5 for it they will just live with the pain.
- Build B2B, businesses pay $$$ to have problems solved. Consumers less so.
- As mentioned above, talk to everyone in the early days. Anyone testing out your first prototype may well not be interested in what you currently have, but they gave you an email address and some of their time because they had a problem they are keen to get fixed. Finding out what those problems are will give you the key to success.
There are exceptions to the above, Bootstrappers who worked for years on one problem only to make it big, or who are selling B2C software. However, I honestly believe following those rules will improve your chances of success.
8. Where can we go to learn more about you?
Learn better email marketing
- more ideas like this one
- the lead generation chapter
- a special discount