SaaStr on First “Zero to Won” Podcast with RainforestQA and Heavybit

A little while ago we did a podcast at Heavybit with RainforestQA CEO Fred Stevens-Smith as the first speaker in a new series of “Zero to Won” on the tools founders use to build great companies.  It was a great session and was just published today.

For those of you that podcast, it was a fun one where we talked about scaling past the first $1m in ARR, content marketing, and more.  Fred is a strong interviewer so I look forward to the other speakers he’ll bring to the series.

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Soundcloud here:

The 16 Best Pinterest Tools for Social Media Marketers


It’s easy to waste hours every week on social media, doing things that could be automated…

…or at the very least done faster with the right tools.

Add up those few hours a week, and you’ll see that the average social media marketer easily wastes over 100 hours a year.

I’m guessing you have better things to do with your time than mess around on social media.

In this post, I’ll address one network in particular—Pinterest.

The massive, image-based social media site is one of the best for finding new customers:


The average user on Pinterest has money and is willing to spend it.

That being said, Pinterest isn’t for every business. Considering that Pinterest is dominated by American women (68% female), it works better for certain niches than for others.

If you’re not sure if Pinterest is right for your business, check out my complete guide to creating a social media strategy.

Assuming that Pinterest is a good fit for you, you want to make sure that you have the right tools for the job.

Tools can help you:

  • save time
  • get better results (more pins, repins, and traffic)
  • be consistent (less effort on your part)

I’ve compiled a list of the 16 best Pinterest tools for social media marketers. I’ve divided them into four main categories.

You won’t need all of them, but if you pick one from each section, you’ll save a lot of time and get a lot more out of your time on Pinterest. 

For posting content easily and more efficiently

The tools in this section all make your life easier by helping you post images to Pinterest faster.

Not only that, but most of them also provide some sort of a visual schedule, so you know if you’re posting as much as you’d like.

Let’s jump into tool #1…

1. Buffer: Buffer needs to be included in any list of social media tools for the big networks.

While it originally did not have support for Pinterest, it does now.

Buffer does a few things and does them really well. It allows you to:

  • pin images automatically – Buffer will automatically pin content to your account when you tell it to (you have to supply the content).
  • create a posting schedule – you tell Buffer which times of the day (and which days) you want to make posts.
  • easily add images to your queue - Buffer pulls images from your queue in the order you add them. You can add images to your queue using the tool or browser extensions.
  • post to multiple networks - although we’re concerned only with Pinterest here, you can also connect your Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn accounts. Then, you can tell Buffer to post the same image to any of those accounts as well.

After you’ve created a Buffer account, the first thing you want to do is connect your Pinterest account.



All you need to do is authenticate the app with a click of a button.

Next, you’ll want to head over to your schedule tab. Here, pick the days you’d like to post, the number of times you’d like to post each day, and specific times to post.


The final piece of the puzzle is to add content to your queue. From there, Buffer does all the hard work.

Like I mentioned before, you have a few different options to do this.

First, you can add the content through Buffer itself. Go to the content tab to see your existing queue, and then add a post into the text area. Make sure your Pinterest account is highlighted (which will allow you to pick a board to post to).


If you ever return to your queue, Buffer will show you a list of any content you’ve added, organized by the time it’s supposed to be posted.


Additionally, you can install the Buffer browser extension.

Once you do, you will see a “share image” button on any image you come across on the web. Click it, and a message composer will come up, which will allow you to customize the message and add it to your queue:


Finally, on top of allowing you to schedule pins automatically, Buffer will also show you the performance of each pin as well as your account overall. You can see the number of followers you’re gaining as well as the amount of engagement you’re getting on your pins:


2. Tailwind: Like Buffer, Tailwind is a tool that allows you to schedule pins.

However, it’s a tool specifically designed for Pinterest. This is a good thing if you only focus on Pinterest for your business. It’s a bad thing if you also use other networks because then you’ll need extra tools to handle them.

It also has a few extra features that you might find useful.

First, create your Tailwind account, and let it access your Pinterest account. It would also be a good idea to add the browser extension at this point.

Just like in Buffer, you can go to the settings and set your own schedule for posting.

Once you do, you can click on “create new pin” in your main schedule tab, which will bring up a window that is similar to what you’d see on Pinterest:


This same window will also pop up on any webpage if you click the Tailwind button that shows up on an image (if you’ve installed the extension).

Pick your board and description, and indicate whether you’d like to post it to Facebook or Twitter. It does have that feature even though it doesn’t support those networks beyond it.

At any time, you can return to your schedule tab and see the pins you have in your queue and when they’ll be posted.


You can also see a nice visual schedule in the right sidebar.

Once you’ve made some pins, you can go to the “pin inspector” (using the left side menu) and see how each individual pin performed. You can sort it by any engagement metric.


You can also dig in further and let Tailwind analyze all your boards to see which one gets the most engagement for each pin.


If you see that one board has a high engagement and virality score, you should focus more of your effort on it. Conversely, you may want to delete any low performing boards.

Overall, it’s a very complete tool and can replace 2-3 smaller Pinterest tools. There’s a lot more beyond the essentials I went over here.

3. ViralTag: This is another good option when it comes to scheduling pins, but it isn’t quite as in-depth as the first two options. But this could be a good thing if you’re just looking for the bare minimum.

The first thing you’ll want to do is create an account. Then, drag the ViralTag bookmarklet into your browser.


It creates a little bookmark on your bookmarks bar.

Whenever you’re on a page with images, you can click the bookmarklet, and a pop-up window will show you all the images on the page:


Click each image to add a checkmark to the top left corner (or click again to take it away).

If an image is checked, you’re telling ViralTag that you want to share that image.

After you click Next, you’ll have the option to choose which board to post the images to as well as to set a time and provide other image information:


You can always go back to your ViralTag account and change any of that information:


This tool is best for marketers who typically post images others have created (which is fine on Pinterest with attribution).

You can quickly add several images to your queue while you are browsing other boards on Pinterest.

4. IFTTT: IFTTT stands for “If this, then that.” It’s an automation tool that you can use in many areas of marketing.

Not only is it incredibly useful but it’s also free.

Here’s how it works:

  • you define “this” - specify an action. It could be a post being published or something being shared. “This” is some sort of action.
  • you define “that” – another action that you specify. When the “this” event occurs, the tool will automatically do the “that” action that you specified.

The combination of both is called a recipe. Here are a few examples:


You can use IFTTT with just about any website, including most social networks.

The great thing is that you don’t need to come up with recipes yourself. Chances are other marketers have already come up with and published the recipes you could benefit from.

Here are the top IFTTT recipes for Pinterest.

Let me show you how to set up a recipe once you find one that looks useful.

If you’re on Pinterest, you might also be using another image-based social channel—Instagram.

This recipe automatically posts any picture you post on Instagram onto a Pinterest board:


First, you’ll need to connect each channel. You only have to do this once for each account.


Click the “Connect” button, and give IFTTT access to each account.

Then, all you will see is an Add Recipe button:


Click this, and the recipe will be activated. That’s it!

5. Hootsuite: Hootsuite has been one of the top tools for social media marketers for years.

It’s received some criticism for not evolving as quickly as other tools, but it still has all the core features you’ll need.

Something that’s really cool is that Hootsuite can be integrated with other tools we’ve looked at when it comes to Pinterest.

For example, Hootsuite can be integrated with Tailwind.


You get to use all the features of both Tailwind and Hootsuite.

And if there’s one thing Hootsuite excels at, it’s letting you create a great dashboard.

As you can see from the picture above, you can get a lot of useful information on your screen, like a list of your scheduled pins and your calendar.

You can control which panels are shown on your account. Click “+ Add Stream” at the top of the dashboard, and choose from the many options.

The other common option for Hootsuite integration is ViralTag. Again, you can schedule pins, see how your recent pins are performing, and edit any scheduled pins before they go live.


Hootsuite by itself isn’t a great option, but when you combine it with ViralTag or Tailwind, it can be. It’s especially useful if you like what those other tools can do but don’t like their interface.

Make the most of Pinterest

This next batch of tools help you use Pinterest more effectively (and more efficiently).

If you use them as intended, you will be able to get more pins, more traffic, and a higher conversion rate.

6. PinGroupie: One of the most underrated tactics for getting traffic from Pinterest is becoming a part of group boards.

Any member of the group can contribute to such a board.

Some boards have tens of thousands of members, and a large chunk of those are active members.

When you pin something on one of those boards, it’s automatically going to be seen by thousands of users. If you’re posting interesting images, you can regularly get hundreds of pins.

And all of this is without a following of your own.

The tough part is finding these groups. After you do, you usually have to send a request to join. As long as your account looks natural, you typically get accepted.

PinGroupie is a simple tool that makes finding groups much easier.

It’s basically a database of high-activity Pinterest groups. You can search the database for groups that fit your niche.


There are a few different ways you can use the tool:

  1. specify a category - using the category drop-down menu, you can pick a broad category you want to see. This is best if you have an authority site that covers many topics in a niche.
  2. filter by title – you can enter a word in the “title” box and then click the “filter” button to see groups with that word in the title.
  3. filter by description - you can also enter a word in the “description” box and click the “filter” button to see groups with that word in the description. This is better in most cases since descriptions have more words than titles.

All three ways can work, so try them all, and make a list of groups to join.

After you get accepted to them, make sure you’re not spamming them with your own content. Contribute other content on a regular basis.

7. PinAlerts: Pinterest does something neat. When someone repins something you originally pinned, it sends you a notification.

That allows you to do things like follow that person in the hopes that they follow you back. This leads to more pins in the future.

You know what would be even more useful? Getting a notification every time someone pinned something from your website.

If you’re using high quality pictures in your blog content, many of your readers will pin them.

If you knew when they did this, you could not only follow them but also repin their original pin of your image and possibly comment as well.

If you haven’t guessed yet, this is a tool that sends you a notification when someone pins something from your site.

There are three steps to set it up.

First, you enter your domain into the tool. Then, you choose what kind of alerts you’d like to receive. Finally, you press the button to create it (hard, I know).


It’s not pretty, but it works.

8. LoveList: This tool is really useful if you find yourself in stores a lot.

It was originally created when a couple was trying to put together a wedding registry but couldn’t find an easy way to do it.

So, they created this tool.

You scan the barcode of products in stores with your phone, and the tool will automatically pin pictures of those products to a Pinterest board (that you specify).


This tool won’t be for everyone. However, if you run a business about a hobby, let’s say home decorating, you might find yourself in decorating stores often, especially if you’re really passionate about it.

You might as well make the most of your time and load up your Pinterest account while you’re doing it.

9. Loop88: Some marketers are great at building social media accounts and getting highly engaged followers.

However, it’s not always easy to convert that into profit.

This tool was created to connect popular pinners to advertisers.

Fair warning: To get accepted, you will need a fairly popular account.

They work with brands of all sizes, including big ones. For example, the TV show “The Mindy Project” wanted to build brand awareness.

They paid pinners (through this tool) to post quotes from the show:


I don’t know the exact payouts from this tool, but I think a moderately popular account could make an extra few hundred dollars a month.

It’s just another way to generate some revenue with your social media efforts without too much extra work.

Get more shares and traffic with these tools

Let’s shift directions a little bit…

Now I want to share some tools that will help you get more pins and overall traffic from Pinterest.

Considering these are two of the most important metrics when it comes to Pinterest marketing, these tools are pretty useful.

10. SumoMe Image Sharer: This tool is actually a website plugin that will take you just a few minutes to install.

However, it can lead to hundreds or even thousands of extra pins over time. Oh, and it’s free.

When a reader of your blog sees an amazing picture on your website, what do they do?

In most cases, nothing.

Even if they have a Pinterest account, only a small portion of those readers will think to share the image.

Why? Because nothing prompts them to make the connection that this picture might be a good one to pin.

Additionally, some won’t pin it because they’re lazy.

You’re missing out on extra pins and traffic because of this.

The image sharer tool allows you to add floating buttons to all your images.


You’ve likely seen it before on other blogs.

Now, readers of your blog can just click the Pinterest button, allowing them to post an image in under 30 seconds.

You can also add other network buttons to your images, but typically the Pinterest button will work best. 

11. Pinterest widgets: Sometimes, we look to other tools to do some extra things we need. Pinterest actually has a really useful widget creator tool that can create attractive widgets for your website.

There’s no need to find other tools to use if you’re looking to highlight your Pinterest account or recent pins somewhere on your website (usually the sidebar).

You can pick from a variety of different widgets in the tool. Click one of the boxes to select a widget.

In the example below, I picked a board:


You add the URL of the board and pick a size, and then you can see what it will look like in the preview.

After, it will generate a code that you can copy and paste into your website.

You can also feature your Pinterest profile as a whole or as a single pin, or you can create pin and follow buttons.

The default design will follow the standard Pinterest color scheme, but you can always edit the CSS to create a custom display.


12. Rich pins validator: On top of regular pins, it’s also possible to create “rich pins.”

These pins stand out among regular pins and typically get extra shares and engagement (Target got 70% more traffic with rich pins).

These pins consist of an image and also have useful information for users.

Here’s an example of a film rich pin:


You can see why that would stand out from just an image of the movie cover as a regular pin.

On top of movies, you can also create rich pins for:

  • Places
  • Articles
  • Products
  • Recipes

In order to get rich pins to show up when you pin content from your site (or someone else does), you need to have open graph (OG) schema markup on your articles.

Once you do, Pinterest will pull information from those meta tags to use.

The easiest way to do this is by using the SEO plugin by Yoast.

Go to the social settings tab in the plugin, and then go to the “Facebook” tab first. Check the “Add open graph meta data” (both Facebook and Pinterest use the same ones).


Next, go to the Pinterest tab in the settings.

Here, click the link to “verify your site with Pinterest.” This will take you to Pinterest to get a meta tag to add to your site. Add this tag into the space here, and save changes.


Some meta tags will be added to posts automatically.

However, you’ll also want to go into your posts (in the WordPress editor) and scroll down past the content.

You’ll see a box for “Yoast SEO” and a tab for “Social” with a few meta tag fields:


Fill them out for Facebook, and Pinterest will take them when appropriate.

Now back to the tool: I suppose we’re looking at two tools together here. On top of the Yoast plugin, you can now use the rich pin validator.

This will allow you to input a URL from your site into the URL debugger, and it will tell you if everything is set up okay or not.


If all is well, you’ll get a success message:


Create high quality images that get more pins

The final category of tools can help you get even more pins.

To get pins and repins, the main thing you need is great images.

These tools will help you create those images even if you’re not much of a designer.

13. Snappa: You are a marketer, not a designer. While it’s good to have some design skills, chances are you don’t have the time to master Photoshop.

With modern tools, you can still produce awesome pictures perfect for Pinterest.

Snappa is one of them. It’s actually designed specifically for marketers.

When you create an account, you’ll see that you can pick from different image sizes:


In this case, we want the Pinterest pin size, of course.

This will bring up a new screen with different templates on it. You can either choose one of these or create an image from scratch:


This will bring you to the actual image editing window.

Using the menu at the top, you can control what shows up in the left panel. When you click something in the left panel (like a background or graphic), it will be added to your image on the right:


The beauty of this tool is how easy it is to edit the image.

You can click any element and then drag it to move it, drag a corner to resize it, or press Delete to delete it.

If you use the templates, you can easily make your own custom images in less than 5 minutes each. And they look great.

14. Canva: Canva is a lot like Snappa, but it came first. It’s not specifically designed for marketers, but it still has a fair number of templates that will be useful to you.

For pins, click the “More” button under the “Create a design” section on the home page (once you’re signed in):


Then, click “Pinterest Graphic”:


Again, when you’re editing your image, you’ll see two main parts: your image on the right and options on the left.

Start by going to the “layouts” tab on the left, which has a bunch of great templates to choose from:


In addition, you can add text and graphics or change the background using the other tabs.

Of course, you can edit the image itself on the right. Refer to this guide for more detailed instructions on creating your own images using Canva.

15. Pablo: Canva and Snappa are both amazing and simple to use tools. Pablo is even simpler.

If you doubt your design skills and want the easiest option possible, this is it.

This tool was created by the Buffer team, who obviously understand the needs of social media marketers.

On the side menu, choose the “Tall” picture size, which is the perfect size for Pinterest.


Then, pick a background from the left side menu:


Click on the text, and add a custom quote or message your audience will like.

Obviously, this tool is a bit more limited than the others, but it’s a great way to make beautiful pictures with quotes on them, which often get a ton of pins and comments.

16. Picmonkey: Sometimes, you will find a picture you’d like to share, but it doesn’t look good enough to pin.

That’s where a tool such as Picmonkey can be useful. You can change all aspects of the picture such as:

  • contrast
  • direction (rotation)
  • sharpness
  • brightness
  • color


On top of those useful editing features, you can also add filters to enhance the look of pictures (just don’t go overboard with them).

Click the little flask icon on the left menu, and you’ll get a list of different filters. Click on a filter to apply it to the image on the right:



Pinterest is one of the best platforms for social media marketers.

However, you want to make sure that you’re getting the best return on your time and effort.

I’ve shown you 16 awesome tools you can use to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your Pinterest marketing.

I don’t expect you to use them all, but it’d be a good idea to try a few at a time until you determine which ones fit well into your marketing.

I’d also like to hear about any great tools I missed in this post, so leave me a comment below and let me know about them.

The Complete Guide to Website Push Notifications for Ecommerce

Website push notifications are clickable messages that are sent by a website to their subscribers’ browsers. They work very similarly to mobile app push notifications (notifications sent by a mobile app that land in your notification tray) except that they work on websites instead of apps and can be accessed on all devices (desktop, mobile, tablet, etc).

In this article, we’re going to take a look at website push notifications in the Ecommerce space. We’re going to discuss why Ecommerce players cannot afford to ignore website push notifications, how they work and how to optimize your push notification campaigns to deliver great results for your online store. Let’s start!

Why use Website Push Notifications

A brief look at the communication channels for Ecommerce

Ecommerce businesses use a variety of ways to grow their traffic i.e. new visitors, as well as engage with their existing traffic i.e. the folks who have already visited your website. These include exploring various communication channels – email, social media, SMS, push notifications (both websites and apps); it also involves employing these channels in different kinds of campaigns to reach and engage users. Let us take a brief look at each of these channels and try to understand where they prove useful.


Email is most commonly used to deliver curated product suggestions, advertise upcoming sales and discount offers, ask for product reviews, recover abandoned carts, deliver transactional information such as order confirmation, tracking details etc.

The main advantage of email marketing is that it has a wide reach – a study by The Radicati Group reveals that there are currently 2.6 billion email users, which means that more than 1 out of 3 people have an email account. Another very important advantage is that an email stays in the inbox, accessible anytime, unlike social media messages and notifications, which are harder to access later (or even impossible). This is particularly useful for delivering important information like order and tracking details.

Where email marketing misses out, however, is the ability to deliver time-sensitive information. According to Zipstripe, the average time for email recipients to view an email message is 6.4 hours. This means that email is not effective for sending time-bound emails, such as coupons with a tight redemption period, or important actionable information such as “Your package is out for delivery”.

Social Media

Social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram) work better than email marketing when it comes to delivering short-time offers and discounts since people spend more time on social media websites than on any other online activity. So, what’s the problem? It’s the problem of engagement – only 0.07% of your Facebook audience interacts with your posts and the figure is 0.03% for Twitter. What this means is that social media is not very effective for messages designed to achieve a specific purpose in a specific time, since so few of your audience will actually react to that message. Instead, social media is better employed as a means to establish your brand and build a relationship with your audience.


SMS is effective if you want your user to read your message very quickly – 90% of SMS messages are read within the first 3 minutes. This makes it useful for communicating important business-information like “Your cab is arriving” or “Your item will be delivered today”.

SMS should not be used for information that the user will need to access later, such as receipts. SMS messages are difficult to search later on. Another disadvantage of SMS messages is that they can only contain a maximum of 160 characters, which drastically limits the kind of communications you can have through SMS.

Push Notifications (Mobile apps)

Push notifications is the default way by which mobile apps communicate. It scores over email for promotional content in that it delivers messages in real-time and it has also reported higher response rates compared to email (Open rates for push notifications are 50 percent higher than for email, and click rates are up to twice as high, according to this survey).

It is tempting to think of app push notifications and SMS as the same but they have crucial differences – the opt-in/opt-out options in app push notifications give the user greater control over what kind of messages he/she wants to receive. SMS on the other hand, often comes unsolicited and it is harder for the user to disable. Because of this, SMS is often perceived to be a lower messaging medium.

Where does Website Push Notifications fit into the picture

Website push notifications fit into a very unique spot in this entire spectrum. It differs from mobile app push notifications in that while app push notifications are limited to mobile devices and tablets, website push notifications also covers desktops. Desktop usage still accounts for 42% of total internet time. Web push notifications deliver the power of real-time push notifications to this 42% of internet users.

Another point which makes website push notifications very important for Ecommerce is the cost factor. Building a quality app is an expensive affair and sometimes the ROI can be difficult to justify. In fact, for small and medium sized companies, mobile websites may reach more people than mobile apps do. This makes website push notifications more critical since it gives businesses the ability to send push notifications without investing in an app.

All in all, it can be seen that website push notifications is an important channel for Ecommerce since it gives websites the power of instant communication via websites and that too on all devices, be it desktop mobile or tablet.

How do Website Push Notifications work

By default, whenever you install a mobile app, you give the app the permission to send you push notifications on your device. Websites, however, have to explicitly take permission from their users to send them push messages. This is how website push notifications work:

  1. The first step is getting opt-in from visitors. As soon as someone arrives on a website, an opt-in box is triggered. If the visitor clicks on “Allow”, he/she is added to your subscriber list.
  2. push-notifications-desktop-mobile

    Opt-in modal box

  3. As soon as a ‘visitor’ becomes a ‘subscriber’, you can send them push notifications from your website. The title message and the text message are customizable within certain character limits and a URL has to be specified. These notifications will arrive in real-time even if the browser is not open at that point of time. Clicking on the notification will take the subscriber to the URL specified.
  4. push-notification-animation

    How the notifications look

Optimizing Push Notifications

Now that we’ve established the importance of push notifications and how they work, it’s time to take a look into how to optimize your push notifications to drive more sales from your existing subscribers. This section is divided into the following subsections – writing great push notification copy, when to send a push notification, how frequently should you send push notifications, using segmentation to send personalized notifications and, lastly, what metrics to track.

Copywriting for Push Notifications

Since push notifications impose character limits on the title as well as the message, the copywriting becomes that much more important since you have to squeeze your message into a small package while still retaining its effectiveness.

Whenever you are writing the title and message text for a push notification, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the purpose of the copy is to get subscribers to click. For that, your copy needs to, above all, provide some value to the subscriber. People will only click on the notification if they find it valuable.

Here are a few tips you can follow:

  • Be clear in what you are saying – Your subscribers have busy schedules and do not have time for vague messages. Do not test their patience by making them think. A clear message will have a greater click rate by the very virtue of the fact that it is action-oriented. In a fight between “Have you read Jeffrey Archer’s latest?” and “Jeffrey Archer’s latest novel available for purchase”, I’ll always go for the latter because it is clearer in its message as opposed to the former.
  • Be crisp in your copy – Different platforms have different character limits for push notifications but all of them fall in the range of 40-120 characters. Thus, it is very important for you to be very concise in what you are saying. This often means that you need to identify the one most important value proposition of your message and let that shine through in the notification copy.
  • Use scarcity to create urgency – According to Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, we are more motivated by the idea of potential loss than of potential gain. That is, if we find that an opportunity is closing, we want it that much more. This is also known as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
    You can use this psychological principle when you write your push notification copy. For example, if you have a sale coming up for your online store, try sending a push notification that says something like, “Flash Sale! 12 hours only”.
  • Use Social Proof – IBM’s marketing slogan in the 80s, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM”, is one of the most powerful marketing phrase ever created. This is one of the most powerful examples of social proof, where the company used the tendency of people to go along the established route.
    In push notifications, social proof can be used to increase click rate. For example, you can write something like, “4000 marketers have already registered for this event” if you want people to register for an event or “This post has more than 1000 Twitter shares” if you want subscribers to click through to a blog post.
    Keep in mind, though, that this is not the 80s and internet users have access to all the information they need on their fingertips. Thus, it is important to not go overboard with claims and only write stuff that is credible.

When to send Push Notifications

Website Push Notifications, by their very nature, require an instant response on the part of the receiver. This makes timing all the more important. A classic mistake when sending push notifications is not take into account the time zone your subscribers are located in. To fix this, you need to have a clear understanding of how your subscribers are spread around the globe and be very particular that each time zone receives the message at an appropriate time. It’s definitely more complicated than sending out a notification in a single batch, but that’s the kind of effort that is required in this highly-personalized environment. For example, you don’t want to end up this notification when the stars are twinkling, do you?


A wrong time to send this notification

Another thing that you need to consider is that different kinds of notifications work at different times of the day. If you are sending a promotional message, you want your users to be in a restful state of mind so that they have the mental bandwidth to check out your offer. Choosing to send something funny and light-hearted? Go for the afternoon, when people are feeling bored in the office and want something to crack them up.

How Frequently to Send

Probably the most important thing to consider as you scale up your push notification campaigns is the frequency of your messages. Since push notifications is a high-engagement communication channel, you need to be really careful not to inundate your subscribers with more notifications that they can handle.

Since website push notifications is a fairly new technology, there is no data out there on optimal frequency. At this stage, you need to carefully monitor your click rates, time on page, bounce rate and opt-outs after every push notification to find out which frequency works best for your audience.

Using Segmentation to Send Personalized Notifications

As Ecommerce marketers, personalized messages are nothing new for us. We all know that they work. However, it is doubly critical to not follow the spray-and-pray approach when it comes to website push notifications, simply because opting-out is so easy and there is no way for you to get those unsubscribers back, unless they change their settings. For example, this guy is totally opting-out after receiving this notification.


A poorly personalized push notification

Ecommerce players, therefore, need to categorize their subscribers into different buckets that are as narrowly defined as possible. One way of doing this is to ask subscribers for preferences at the time of opting-in. Another very effective way is to go for behavioral segmentation i.e. putting subscribers into different segments based on their on-page activities like type of pages viewed, number of views of a particular page etc. For example, if I’ve been checking out books in the spy thriller genre lately, the store should mark me as someone who’s interested in the genre and send me a notification whenever something new is published in that category.

What Metrics to Track

The most immediate metric that comes to mind when thinking website push notifications is click rate. This is how many people clicked on the notification as a percentage of the number of people to whom that notification was delivered.

However, just focusing on this one metric can lead your analysis astray. Instead, you should strongly focus on the business goals you deem most important, which in this case would be sales (primary goal) and visits to checkout page, add to cart (secondary goals). Tag your notification links with the proper UTM parameters and then sift through the data in Google Analytics and other analytics tools you are using to find out how many people arriving on your website via push notifications are actually performing the above actions. This is the only way that you will be able to determine whether website push notifications are working for you or not.

That’s it! This covers almost everything you need to know as you start with website push notifications for your online store. Just remember – keep listening to what your audience is trying to say and keep iterating on the basis of that!

About the Author: Anand Kansal works at PushCrew, a tool that enables websites to send push notifications on desktops, mobiles and tablets. He tweets about push notifications and online marketing in general at @PushCrewHQ.

Constructing Pricing Strategy For Subscription Products

When it comes to subscription product pricing, you’re not just guessing…are you?

A while ago, an HBR study famously claimed that a 1% improvement in price would increase operating profit by 11%, making it the most effective thing you can tweak for increased business performance.

Pricing is important. It’s also one of the most difficult Ps of marketing for folks to wrap their heads around. It can be one of the more technical aspects of marketing.

Then, when you bring subscription pricing models into the mix, things get even more complex.

First Thing’s First: How Do You Determine Value and Price?

There’s no way around it. You have to talk to customers and do some heavy lifting research to get accurate pricing. Patrick Campbell, CEO of Price Intelligently, put it well in a GrowthHackers AMA:

Patrick Campbell:

“You should not be afraid to talk to your customer about pricing. It’s not a secret you’re going to charge them at some point, and acting like it is a secret is doing you and the customer a disservice, because they need you to stay in business if they’re going to get long term value out of the business.

The other reason it’s so important is that the ONLY data source that’s going to tell you what your value is, is your customer. No one else, no formula, no workaround, is going to get you to this answer, so just go head first and ask them.”

However, you can’t just ask your customer, “what would you like to pay for this?” (well, you could, but the Pay What You Want strategy is a whole-nother article). Instead, a variety of research techniques have been developed and used through the years. Here are four popular ones:

  1. Gabor-Granger technique
  2. van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Monitor
  3. Brand Price Trade-off
  4. Conjoint Analysis and Discrete Choice Analysis.

Note: if you’re a startup, these techniques might be overkill. Ryan Farley from LawnStarter mentioned that getting on the phone with customers and gauging reactions to priced proved to work well in the beginning…

Ryan Farley:
“Pricing is tricky, especially with low volume.

I’ve found it best to do pricing experiments over the phone – the qualitative feedback you get can be just as valuable (if not more) than an A/B test. Trying to sell someone on a premium package at a higher rate, then hearing “that sounds pretty reasonable” or “you’re out of your mind for trying to charge that much” is super valuable. Especially when combined with all the other qualifying questions you ask.

Sure, these phone sells cost time and money. But it’s an example of doing things that don’t scale to figure out what does.”

That said, if you’re in an established market, these four techniques are popular and effective:

1. Gabor-Granger Technique

The Gabor-Granger Technique is a simple technique based on asking people the likelihood of their purchasing a product at different prices.

To simplify it, the technique involves asking a series of questions like, “would you buy (product) at (price)?” The price will then go up or down depending on the response to the first question. The series will continue 2-3 more times, until the consumer won’t go higher or lower on their interest price.

Here’s a sample chart based on Gabor-Granger data:

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In this way, you can clearly visualize what percentage of people would buy at a given price (in the chart above, 3% of people would buy at $41), and you can determine which price would maximize revenue.

Use this technique to figure out the maximum price people would pay and to see the optimal based on amount of people willing to purchase, as well as the maximum revenue produced.

2. van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Analysis

In the van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Analysis, respondents are asked 4 questions:

  1. At what price would you consider the product/service to be priced so low that you feel that the quality can’t be very good?
  2. At what price would you consider this product/service to be a bargain—a great buy for the money?
  3. At what price would you say this product/service is starting to get expensive—it’s not out of the question, but you’d have to give some thought to buying it?
  4. At what price would you consider the product/service to be so expensive that you would not consider buying it?

In this way, it’s more indirect and can determine price elasticity as well as an accurate range of effective pricing for a product.

According to, this strategy is often used during new product development, and can help determine which pricing strategy is best:

“Whether a client is contemplating an aggressive entry price strategy or a premium skimming approach to price, the van Westendorp PSA can help determine which strategy is best. Established brands will use the PSA model to guide pricing for re-positioning or other pricing decisions, often as input to a test market.”

Here, the data shows an optimal pricing point:

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And it can also show a pricing range:

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This technique is perfect for subscription products with multiple tiers.

3. Brand Price Trade-off

Brand Price Trade-off (BTPO) is a statistical technique used to measure your relative ‘brand value’ or ‘brand equity’. Basically, it does this by modeling the relationships between your brands and the prices they command in relation to other brands and the prices they command.

More than other techniques here, it answers how much your market is willing to pay for your brand in relation to similar products from other competitors – which makes this technique a competition-based pricing technique.

According to B2B International, “It is suited to categories where products and services are relatively similar to each other, and where brand is a strong determining factor behind decision-making.”

Here’s an example of a BPTO exercise:

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To reiterate, use this is product categories with little differentiation and where brands make a huge impact on pricing.

4. Conjoint Analysis and Discrete Choice Analysis

Conjoint analysis is a statistical technique used in market research to determine how people value different attributes (feature, function, benefits) that make up an individual product or service.

Discrete Choice analysis is similar. The difference is, in conjoint analysis, respondents evaluate the product configurations independently of each other, whereas with discrete choice analysis, they simultaneously consider the options.

The purpose of both of these is to “yield a measure of the relative importance of each attribute, and a measure of the strength of influence of each level of each attribute. This is how explains it:

“Perhaps the most commonly-performed simulation today is to calculate an attractiveness rating for each of all possible product configurations, and then sort the configurations by their attractiveness ratings. This allows us to identify the most preferred configuration (of all possible). In addition, if price is one of the attributes, and cost information is available, the most profitable combination of features can be identified.”

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These techniques have wider applications than just pricing, but can nonetheless determine the values of certain product attributes and inform pricing.

Subscription Pricing Plan Tiers

Nathan Barry described a huge problem he almost made in pricing: the mistake of having “only one price for your product.”

As he explained, you should price based on value, but the value derived by two different sets of customers can be totally different. On that same note, he relates the study Wlliam Poundstone told on beer prices with different tiers

In the study, researchers first offered participants two different beers: premium beer for $2.50 and bargain beer for $1.80. Roughly 80% chose the more expensive beer.

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Next, a third beer was introduced, a super bargain beer for $1.60, in addition to the previous two. Now 80% bought the $1.80 beer and the rest $2.50 beer. Nobody bought the cheapest option.

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In that case, the seller actually lost revenue through bracketing because he bracketed his price down.

However, the third time around they removed the $1.60 beer and replaced it with a super premium $3.40 beer. Most people chose the $2.50 beer, a small number $1.80 beer and around 10% opted for the most expensive $3.40 beer. Some people will always buy the most expensive option, no matter the price.

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Determining How Many Pricing Tiers You Should Offer

But is three pricing tiers the ideal offering? It would seem that way looking at most SaaS pricing pages. However, how many tiers you offer actually depends on a few different factors. Here’s Patrick Campbell on the topic:

Patrick Campbell:

“This depends on the number of customer personas/customer variations you’re targeting. Each persona should align to a respective tier, because then you ultimately have funnel-product-pricing alignment and your little SaaS machine should purr like a kitten.

There isn’t a magic number, but in this ebook we walk through what we see on average in the market – typically you’re looking at 3-5, but we’ve seen people with 1, 2, or 6+ plans be super successful, too.”

Once you’ve aligned your customer personas to different tiers, you can use one of the pricing research strategies listed above and optimize from there.

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For more information on customer personas, check out this post on how to create them with actual data.

Which order is best?

Should you list your pricing from low to high or high to low? There are examples of successful companies that do both, of course. Here’s Freshbooks, low-to-high:

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And Crazy Egg, high-to-low:

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So, which works better? It turns out that, generally, high-to-low works better. According to Lincoln Murphy, “all things being equal (and equally good), the left to right, high to low approach seems to provide a statistically significant lift every time.”

A Quick Note On Freemium

Freemium isn’t really a revenue strategy, but rather a customer acquisition strategy.

As Patrick Campbell put in on his GH AMA, “You need to think of a freemium tier as a really expensive e-book. I know that’s a trite comparison, but when you think about it as lead-gen, then you’re starting to think about it correctly.”

In many cases, freemium pricing has been shown to kill growth, especially early on in your company’s growth (not always of course). However, don’t be afraid to offer a short free trial.

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Here’s a good guide on free trial and freemium offering for SaaS companies, if you’re interested in further reading.

Changing Your Subscription Pricing

Once you set your prices, that’s it. They are set in stone until your seed funding runs out and your company collapses…

…kidding, of course. In fact, Patrick Campbell recommends that should re-evaluate your pricing’s performance every three months, even if you’re a huge company. As far as changing pricing goes, he says you should make changes about every 6-9 months, more if you’re a smaller and more nimble company.

As for how to change prices, it’s a similar qualitative/quantitative research process that we outlined above for establishing prices. Here’s how Patrick explained it:

Patrick Campbell:

“I’d then collect this type of data from current customers, prospects, and target customers who have never heard of you (we call them market panelists) to figure out what the value truly is in this feature or set of features.

You may find current customers are super biased because they love or loathe you so much that it taints the data pool. You may also find prospects don’t care, but ultimately this data allows you to then figure out if you should:

1. raise the price, because the feature(s) boost value so much,

2. simply include the feature as a retention mechanism (it’s ok for customers to be willing to pay more than prospects, because that means they’re loving the product, or

3. not build the feature out at all because it’s not going to provide proper value.”

How much of a price hike is too much? While there is no magic number, Weber’s law shows that it is approximately 10% where customers begin to become aggravated. But you’re going to do the research anyway, of course.

Annual Pricing Plans

Every subscription product should offer an annual plan.

Why? Look up the Time Value of Money. If you’re too lazy, think about it logically from a cash flow perspective – more cashflow upfront allows you to invest that in whatever ways you choose, while not worrying about losing that customer for at least a year.

According to a Price Intelligently study, only about 1 out of 5 SaaS companies are offering both monthly and annual plans. The article then says that “monthly payments may be the lifeblood of your business, but annual subscriptions secure you more business upfront, increase cash flow, and reduce churn.”

Andrew Tate expanded upon this on ProfitWell’s blog:

Andrew Tate:
“But having that money up front means that you can make more investment in your business, growing your user base and boosting your revenue.

A lump sum payment into your bank account can be a lifesaver for a new SaaS business. It can help cover customer acquisition costs and allow you to invest in your company, paying for office space, key new hires, and great SaaS services yourself.

In turn, this increase in investment means that you can spend more on customer retention, more on customer acquisition, and more on great people and your product, which will itself boost your bottom line.”

Annual plans will also usually better active usage and retention than monthly plans. The individual made a bigger investment in the product upfront, so they are more invested in the product overall.

How To Implement an Annual Pricing Plan

Price Intelligently recommends discounting your annual subscriptions 15-20%, but it all depends on your audience’s price sensitivity. Use one of the pricing research strategies above to accomplish that.

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Another point: Patrick Campbell noted in his GH AMA that, usually, saying something like “1 month free” or “2 months free” works much, much better than saying a certain % off.

One mistake to avoid is measuring your yearly members as MRR for the month they purchased. Instead, make sure you divide your yearly plan by 12 for your MRR.

Some companies even push it so far as to only offer annual plans (good for them, annoying for us).

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Pricing Tricks and Tactics

To be clear, psychological pricing tricks should be a secondary thought to your fundamental pricing strategy. Patrick Campbell calls it the last 5%, all of which you could still test for greater revenue:

Patrick Campbell:
“You need to make sure your core pricing process is pointing to success or failure in your pricing strategy, because if you really should be priced at $100 and you’re priced at $20, it doesn’t matter if you put “$19” – you’re still going to lose in conversion and monetization…

…If the foundation of your strategy sucks, no amount of “end your prices in 9s” or “just add an annual plan” will solve your problems. Too many people rely on “best practices” that haven’t been rooted in anything, but a lot of people saying they work. You need to test and collect data. If you’re not doing this in pricing, you’re leaving an extraordinary amount of cash on the table.”

Still, to round up, here are a few popular and effective pricing plan tactics:

  • Decoy pricing is now one of the most popular pricing studies. Dan Ariely showed that adding a ‘decoy’ can help prod people into making the choice that you really want them to make (So if you add a slightly worse option that is similar to A (call it A-), then it’s easy to see that A is better than A-, hence many people choose that.)
  • What’s the best way to sell a $2,000 watch? Put it next to a $10,000 watch. Anchoring is a strong mechanism (it’s the reason restaurants will put a drastically pricier food or wine option on the menu).
  • Eliminating dollar signs (24 vs $24) has been shown to increase spending at restaurants. Does it work with SaaS? Not sure.
  • In eight studies published from 1987 to 2004 charm prices ($49, $79, $1.49, etc) were reported to boost sales by an average of 24% relative to nearby prices. End your prices in 9s.
  • Some studies suggest consumers perceive a sales price to be better valued when it’s written in a smaller font. Physical magnitude correlates to numerical magnitude in our minds. Try using smaller font sizes for discounts.
  • Researchers found that more syllables make prices seem much higher (e.g. $1,499.00 sounds much higher than $1499). Use less syllables.

If you want to go down the rabbit hole in psychological pricing plan strategies, there is no shortage of good resources:

Well, Can You A/B Test Pricing?

You can, but most people don’t recommend to A/B test pricing. To set up a controlled experiment where you offer the same product for different prices to different people opens you up to potential PR blowback.

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Even functionally, though, A/B testing isn’t always the best way to determine pricing. Patrick Campbell said that “A/B testing for optimizing your pricing structure and determining your true price point is a terrible idea; it’s a downright awful one.” And as Eric Yu from Price Intelligently put it:

“ericyuEric Yu:

“A/B testing is never the best option for determining an optimal pricing strategy for your company. The practice works great for a lot of things, but its relative nature does more damage than good when coming to the most important aspect of your business. You’re much better off just speaking and sourcing information from your prospects, leads, and current customers.”

A/B testing can cause some adverse anchoring effects. In addition, it is iterative and contextual, not absolute. Even if B beat A, that doesn’t mean B is the optimal price point for your product.

However, there is one potentially effective way to A/B test subscription pricing.

That is, you can split test two different prices (say $29 and $39 a month), but when the customer reaches the checkout page, you charge the same price ($29) for both variations. This way, you can test price elasticity without any PR blowback or adverse anchoring effects (by giving them the lower price as the final price, they won’t be aggravated that you ‘tricked’ them to the checkout).


Pricing strategy is hard. It’s also of utmost importance, so putting effort into optimizing it is well worth it. A few quick tips:

  • Don’t guess.
  • You actually have to talk to customers to get good data. There are tried and true market research methods to determine accurate pricing.
  • Offer multiple tiers for your different customer personas. Price them based on the research you’ve done within each persona.
  • Don’t do long term or drastic discounting. That anchoring thing works both ways.
  • In most cases, don’t hide pricing or keep it secret.
  • Evaluate pricing every 3 months. Think about changing it every 6-9.

What do you think? Have you any experience, victories, or defeats with subscription product pricing? Let me know in the comments.

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The post Constructing Pricing Strategy For Subscription Products appeared first on ConversionXL.

Can you be sad with infinite amounts of money?

Well here in the SF Bay Area we live in a strange place.

Folks I know with “infinite” money sort of fall into 3 buckets:

Category 1:  Still Building Stuff.  For Whatever Reason.  In their DNA.  This is who they are.  Oftentimes, they aren’t really happy.  But they thrive here.  Elon Musk could hand off the reins now, couldn’t he?  Zuck could give the keys to Sheryl Sandberg and things would be A-OK at Facebook, I’m pretty sure of that.

Category 2:  Retired and Content. I don’t understand these folks, but they seem happy racing their Porsches, going to Necker Island for the umpteenth time, upgrading the house at the Yellowstone Club, etc.  Sort of doing a non-profit, but not full-time.  Living the dream.  More power to them!!

In all seriousness, they often find more enjoyment in their family and other pursuits than work in this case.  That makes more sense to me.  Start-ups are 24x7x365, at least in terms of mind share.  You do miss out on a huge number of life experiences when you do them.  Steve Jobs lamented how much it took out of him.  If you can just step out at the right time and enjoy the rest of your life, I’m in awe.

Category 3:  Retired and Sad. The thing is, I know this sounds awful and crazy … but there are only so many things to buy.  Once you’ve bought them all … what’s the point?  How many cars do you need?  Is a 25,000 sq ft home really so great once it’s built?  Flying private is special if you have to fly … but once you’ve flown everywhere, where do you go?  A bigger yacht?  Seriously?  I think these folks face their mortality.  If money is it for you, and you have an “infinite amount” … what’s the point?

For me, the learning is the most impactful money is Enough to Not Have to Work for the Man again.

That’s worth striving for.

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SaaStr AMA: Building Your First SDR Team with Brendon Cassidy (EchoSign/LinkedIn) and Kyle Porter (Salesloft)

Missed the SaaStr “Ask Me Anything” with Brendon Cassidy, VP of Sales at HackerRank (previously at EchoSign, Talkdesk, LinkedIn) and Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft? No worries. We’ve got you covered! We’ll be publishing the full videos and transcripts from each AMA session.

Today we’ve got an in-depth, 45ish minute discussion on building your first sales development team. Whether you’re hiring your first SDR (make sure you hire two!), looking at building a remote SDR team in a cheaper market, or debating whether to outsource your list building… you’ve stumbled into the right conversation!

We’re making these AMAs available any way you like ’em – ….

Check out the full transcript below. Then share it with your co-founder the next time she suggests outsourcing your lead qual to Guam ????

Brendon and Kyle will both be joining us on stage at the 2016 SaaStr Annual in February, where they’ll be sharing even more great insights into building and scaling sales teams, along with a ton of other sales tips. So as you’re reading, take a second to sign up for the SaaStr Annual. We’ll be bringing you 3 full days of incredible content and unparalleled networking with 5,000 of your SaaS BFFs. You definitely want to be there  



Gretchen: Hey, SaaStr fans. I’m Gretchen, COO here at SaaStr. I’m excited to welcome you to the second in the series of our new AMA webcast, called “Lunch With.” Every other week, we will invite the very best in the business to join us to answer all of your burning questions.

It’s super easy. You send your questions off into to the Twittersphere, join us live here on Google, we’ll answer everything that we can. If you happen to miss it, it will be always be available on YouTube right afterward. Make sure that you subscribe to the calendar.

We’ve got great guests today, and we’re going to kick things off talking about building an outbound sales team. It is an Ask Me Anything, so feel free to tweet your questions in, and we’ll do our best to get those answered today.

I’m very excited to introduce our guests today. Of course, we have SaaStr himself, Jason Lemkin. So happy you could make it today, Jason.

Jason Lemkin: Thanks, it was a tough stroll from the hallway into my office, but thanks for having me, Gretchen.

Gretchen: We appreciate the sacrifice. We’ve got two very special guests today.

The first is Brendon Cassidy. If you don’t already know Brendon by name, you definitely know him by reputation, because if you’ve read one-and-a-half articles on SaaStr, you’ve read about the amazing VP of Sales at EchoSign, who walked on water and doubled sales in 90 days while saving the world and all the puppies. I think that’s about how it went.

Before Brendon joined EchoSign, he was at LinkedIn, VP of their first sales team. He was employee 25, I think, something crazy like that. More recently, he was at Talkdesk. Right now, he’s kind of available, but not really, because he’s nearly impossible to get.

We also have Kyle Porter, CEO and co-founder of SalesLoft. SalesLoft’s also our sponsor today so a double thank you, Kyle, for joining us and for sponsoring.

Kyle Porter: You’re welcome.

Gretchen: Kyle started SalesLoft about four years ago. In the past year, they’ve grown from 50 to 80 employees, from $200K to about $8 million, and close to $10 million Series A earlier this year. Thanks for joining us, Kyle. I’m sure you have no more important things to work on right now.

Kyle: Honored to be here.

Gretchen: Let’s just kick things off. Kyle, can you tell us a little bit more about SalesLoft and how that loops in today? Then, we’ll just dive right in.

Kyle: One of the things we’ve noticed over the last few years is the rise of this top-of-the-funnel, sales-specialized role. You hear a number of different names, but the ones we hear most common are sales development.

What SalesLoft does is it’s the application of record for the sales development function. Everything the sales development team needs to do, everything an organization needs to do, top of the funnel, to convert prospects into qualified appointments. We help you connect, qualify and convert, and do that through a range of software that allows you to send emails, make phone calls, touch points, accountability, and a bunch of analytics to improve.

Jason: We might have lost you. Kyle and Brendon, can you hear me?

Kyle: I can hear you loud and clear.

Brendon Cassidy: I can hear you.

Jason: Gretchen’s done her role, so I’ll take over for a moment.

Gretchen: [laughs] Go ahead Jason, I’m good.

Jason: Before we get to the questions, Brendon, let me ask you something. One part of the bio that Gretchen left at the end is you’re now acting Head of Sales at HackerRank, great SaaS company with a great CEO. A lot’s changed in the last four or five years in SaaS, or for you eight years. From Spoke, to LinkedIn, to EchoSign, to Talkdesk, to HackerRank.

In the last 14 months, you’ve built two SDR teams from scratch. Talk about what your learnings are, because at EchoSign we barely got this off the ground, at least while I was there. You did a lot more after our acquisition. What’s new? What’s changed? Has the pendulum swung back? What should founders be thinking about? How have you approached these two teams you’ve built?

Brendon: I think it’s certainly changed a lot in the last three or four years… the concept of a sales development team, and outbound prospecting, and all that stuff.  Certainly, it’s been a big learning curve for me, because I think the sales stack is constantly changing. Whatever you thought the sales stack was four years ago, it’s probably completely different today.

SalesLoft and other companies have come on the scene and empowered outbound prospecting in sales development. One of my big learnings, it’s been a learning experience, the vision of sales development six or seven years ago was mostly a digital game. Email campaigns, etc., etc.

The re-emergence of the cold call as an integral part of the workflow is undeniable. That was a learning for me, which is to say it can’t just be an email or a digital loop of communication. You have to pick up the phone, and that has to be at least half of how you’re measuring activity for a sales development team.

There are a lot of benefits to it. It makes your sales development people have to be ready to discuss the product and the value of the product, and think like a salesperson, not just somebody sending emails on the sales development side. saastr-ama-building-an-outbound-sales-team-w-brendon-cassidy-and-kyle-porter-2-1024[1]

I think it helps them develop quicker and faster, and I think it has to be part of your core DNA. That’s a learning for me over the last couple of years. If you don’t believe in that, you have to learn it, I think, if you’re going to be in SDR or run an SDR team. That’s one of the bigger learnings for me.

Jason: Kyle, I want to let you read off the rest of the questions, but I want to ask each of you a question. Do you mind if I ask a question first? I’d love to hear the data you have second, Kyle, and first, Brendon, at EchoSign, really, apart from little experiments with Sam Blond and others, and Steven, we didn’t really have an outbound team until $10 million in revenue, for an SDR team.

Loretta, our VP of Marketing, had her own little team to qualify leads, but we did it way too late. We did great, but with hindsight — or challenge me on that. At Talkdesk, you come in and you’re doing it at one million something ARR, you’re putting in the team.

They’ve had a lot of success, and then you joined HackerRank, which is somewhere between 1 and 10 at the time you joined, and put in a team almost immediately. Assume you have any leads at all, because if you have no leads, you’d better pick up the phone. Brendon, if you have leads, when is too early?

Then second, Kyle, do you have any data from your customers to support this question?

Brendon: I think the question is, “When is it too early to hire an SDR or an SDR team?

Jason: Yeah, especially if you’ve never done sales before, or you don’t have a VP of Sales, and you have some leads coming in.

Brendon: It really can’t be too early. I think it should be, certainly if you have no leads, your first hire should really be an SDR and not an account executive, right?

Jason: Yep, that’s a classic learning right there.

Brendon: a learning from Shep at GuideSpark, which I would certainly put up there as one of the better outbound SDR teams in the last three or four years, but…

Jason: Let’s just reiterate that. If you have no leads, do not hire an AE. Hire an SDR.

Brendon: Yep. If you have no leads, don’t hire account executives. Hire SDRs. If you have no leads, don’t expect yourself to be growing 60 percent month over month out of the gate.

I think beyond that, at a macro level, as much as the outbound model is contributing to faster growth and all that stuff, I do think the marketing side has to be there too. I do think at some point, you’re going to hit some sort of fatigue if you’re 100 percent outbound, unless you have such high price points that support maybe a little bit slower sales cycle, and some other factors there.

I do believe as great as the outbound evolution has been, marketing plays a role, and there has to be a component on both sides.

Jason: Yep, and Kyle, then I’ll stop being rude and being the moderator, but SalesLoft has hundreds of customers, maybe a thousand. I don’t know. Hundreds. Maybe you don’t have the data handy, but do you have any learnings from the customer base? How early is too early? When should you get started? Any data you can layer on top of Brendon’s experiences?

Kyle: Yeah, we’ve got to look at what an SDR does, and I think we’ve talked a lot about SDRs from an outbound perspective, but SDRs play a role in inbound as well, because what you’re doing in the sales development function is three parts. You’re connecting, you’re qualifying, and you’re converting.

The input is data from somewhere, whether it’s from your marketing automation system, they came inbound, or it’s from some list you’ve built to go outbound. You’ve got to connect with those people, and then the output is a qualified opportunity. Even if you’ve got inbound leads – they may have downloaded a whitepaper – you’ve still got to call and email until you get them, and then you’ve still got to qualify them.

I think you have someone that can handle the full cycle when it’s really early, if you’ve got some leads coming in, and then like Brendon said, if you’ve got no leads coming in, you’ve got to get that marketing content going at the same time as you’ve got an outbound team really hammering email and phone to put opportunities in the pipeline.

I think companies have to do it. If you don’t have money, then you can’t do it, and the founders have to do it, but if you’ve got money, you hire people to do it, and that’s how you get your business launched.

I think it also helps even for companies who are pre-product market fit. You want to be calling those prospects and connecting with them, because you’ve got to get out of the office and figure out is this thing right for our market or our community? 

I think you always need people calling and emailing. What you call them might be different, and the CEO should be doing sales development functions at the very earliest stages if they don’t have any cash to hire somebody.

Brendon: Yeah, I think I’m going to weigh in here, Jason. On a blog I wrote but never posted, because I didn’t know how it would be received. I’ll launch the concept here, but it was basically saying if you don’t have any marketing-driven demand early, then you should hire a VP or head of sales development early. There’s five to ten people that I would consider absolutely elite sales development team builders and drivers.

I would, considering if you did have the money to spend, hiring those people much earlier rather than later, like a Jon Parisi to GuideSpark or other companies or Chris Pollot at Showpad, I consider to be elite. If marketing can’t drive any demand, then you hire that role almost in place of it on some level.

Jason: Let me ask you. Thinking through it, we’ve talked a lot about the VP of sales role as a Goldilocks one. If you wait too late, you leave huge amount of money on the table. If you make the hire too early, we know it’s a disaster.

Maybe if you’re lucky enough to hire this unicorn, the director of sales development or someone that can be a manager, maybe you can’t make that hire too early, assuming you have a few nickels in the bank.

Brendon:   If you can get somebody like that, but It’s not an easy hire to make.

Jason: No, it’s hard. Imagine you’re able to raise a couple million dollars seed round, and you have 18 customers. You’re not ready to hire a great VP of Sales. Maybe if you could find the unicorn, you might be able to hire a Director of Sales Development.

Brendon: I’ve advised companies that were trying to hire a VP of Sales, me, or whatever, and I said, “Hey, I would go talk to Jon Parisi or Chris Pollot. Go talk to them, you have no leads. Nobody’s interested in your product currently.”

Kyle: You have a lot people now that are really driving process and sales development. You mentioned Chris, Jon, Steven Brody at Mulesoft is a fantastic sales development director-level guy. I think you’ve got a lot of people that are really starting to get this thing and really starting to put in process.

It’s a little bit less of an art than sales is, because it is technology driven. There’s a little bit more volume, a little bit more steps to it. I think sales development is probably a little bit easier to find than that unicorn VP of sales. They also have a lot of room to grow and add a significant amount of value throughout the organization. I do like that idea as an early hire.

Jason: The three of us can chat about his forever, but let’s take a few of the questions that we’ve gotten. Kyle, can you see…

Brendon: I’m going to say one more point. I apologize, guys. I started my career as an SDR. As much as I’ve learned about it, and can do a lot of it, manage a lot of it, I really don’t want to.

When you talk about making that leader early, you do want sales focused on sales as much as possible. I really don’t want to manage that function in the company. Some VPs really do want to do that, but I don’t. We can move to the next one.

Jason: Let’s chitchat about that just for a second. Another thing that has risen in parallel to the rise of the SDR as a reinvigorated function is the rise of specialization. I think that the full stack AE is a dead concept unless you have no other choice.

Let’s just talk about an obvious point related to it. What are both of your learnings on that? Here’s where first time founders get stressed, “How do I budget for it?” Specialization, at first, seems more expensive.

“Why can’t I hire just two AE’s and give them an OTE? Why do I have to hire SDR’s, all this other help, someone to schedule meetings, and do all this stuff?” It seems more expensive, if you don’t raise quotas or something. What’s the learning of the rise of specialization here?

Kyle: Two AEs that are responsible for hunting everything, meaning setting up all their appointments, who’s to say that they’re going to be more productive than one who gets them all handed to them? I don’t even know if that math stacks up in the first place.

I think the big thing is that early stage. I think you’ve talked about this a lot. Watching your pack pre one in five million, that’s not the most important metric. Getting out and acquiring customers and getting repeatable customer acquisition strategy’s a lot more important than what you’re paying for those customers at that point in time.

You’ve got to have cash to pay for it, but I think from our perspective, we look at how many new appointments can an AE take on a given day? How many SDR’s do we need to produce those? We don’t want our AEs booking more than 15 percent of the appointments they take.

Those are the ones that come through referrals and relationships. They’re usually more upstream, more targeted. We want the rest of that time to be spent conducting those first-time interactions, those consultations, with the big opportunities that they can push through the finish line.

Jason: I want to hear from Brendon too. I know this is an impossible question. From our customer base, do you have a median or average ratio of SDRs to AEs? Can you track that through the Salesloft customers? What’s the magic answer to this endless riddle, Brendon, of SDR to AE ratio?

Brendon: If you have no leads, like one to one, no inbound leads.

Jason: That’s a good answer. If you have no leads, one to one.

Brendon: I would look at it like if it’s a 50/50 type scenario. Inbound to outbound, maybe two to one, two AEs for every SDR, that kind of scenario. That’s how I would weigh it out. I think getting back to why don’t you want account executives being responsible to drive their own pipeline?

It’s like death of the Rolodex and the traditional enterprise selling mentality. Reps would come in and say, “Oh, I have a Rolodex, this black book of all these people that are just waiting for me to call to set up meetings, to buy whatever I’m selling next.”

What I’ve learned is that’s totally un-scalable. It’s somebody coming in saying, “I have a Rolodex and that’s my end to end. I drive my own deal flow and close my own deals.” Unless you have a Viva type deal ASP, then you’ll burn through that Rolodex really quick, and it probably won’t result in that much revenue.

Your AE’s are going to have to put in the hard yards around prospecting and all the same thing the SDR’s are doing, and they don’t want to do it, period. Quite frankly, most of them aren’t great at doing it, and that’s OK. You’d rather that they were great at closing than great at creating their own deal flow. saastr-ama-building-an-outbound-sales-team-w-brendon-cassidy-and-kyle-porter-4-1024[1]

Jason: My rule, I curiously thought. I think if someone has a Rolodex, if you’re lucky you get three. You get three customers from the Rolodex. If you get three and they’re six figure deals, you’re happy to have them. I think the Rolodex gets you between one and three customers per sales person.

Kyle: It’s what brought the Rolodex about. If you can continue the enlargement of the Rolodex, I think that’s a difference builder. I want to say something about the metrics. I think that you got to start with the leads and say, “OK, you’ve got inbound leads, how many inbound SDR’s do you need per lead?”

It might be something like you need one per 400 leads. Let’s say that produces one qualified appointment per rep, per day. Your reps can handle three new qualified appointments per day in addition to their follow-up appointments. They’re going to have three or four other follow ups in order to touch two’s and three’s.

You got to fill in that gap with your outbound team. I think that’s the only real way to do it, is do is from a capacity perspective. You want your AEs running at full speed all the time. When we first got in the business, we saw two AEs to one, then three AEs to two, and now we’re seeing a one to one.

We’re definitely seeing the transition more toward the SDR. In fact, here we have three SDRs per every two AEs. That includes the inbound SDRs as well. You got to look at the math from a lead perspective. I think you got to do it from a capacity of the AE mentality.

I got one that I saw on here. It’s one of the questions that came in through Twitter. It says, “How much longer are sale cycles from outbound versus inbound?” It’s the first question on the list. “How do we think about those?”

I saw this question and immediately popped into my head this pie chart that a friend named Steve Richard, many of you guys may know Steve, he’s a great inside sales consultant. He shows a pie chart, and he says, “10 percent of the cold calls that you connect, you’re going to get someone that just happens to say, ‘Hey, you know, I’ve been in this market. I’m interested in this space.'”

Great call, and you’re going to start. That’s kind of like an inbound lead.” 40 percent, you’ll get will say, ‘Absolutely, not,’ or 45 percent. The other 45 percent are convincible to take an appointment.”

I look at that person who said, “I’m interested in this thing,” as similar to an inbound lead. The challenge with the inbound leads is they’ve already started the sale cycle. You may be a shorter sales cycle, but that’s if you win the deal.

You may have three or four other competitors in there, because they’ve already gone down that path. The thing I like about outbound is that you have the opportunity to catch someone pre-sales cycle, before they’ve started to use the competitor’s terminology. Before they’ve started to write an RFP, you have the opportunity to shape that.

Outbound is a little bit of a larger sale cycle, historically and traditionally. You have an opportunity to win a lot of those and get influential on a lot of those. You have an ability to pick the right logo, when you go outbound, maybe driving higher ACV’s. That’s some thoughts on that question, that I saw at the top of the list.

Jason: Brendon, let me ask a follow on that. We can talk more about the second point that Kyle brought up, which is at least outbound lets you target the buyer that you want in the organization.

Let’s step back to the question, because a lot of first time founders, very driven ones, and Brendon, you’ve worked with a bunch in your career. We all want monthly quotas. We want to grow month over month in numbers.

I think outbound almost inherently has to take at least a day longer than inbound, even the best case. How do you coach founders or manage their expectations on this? How much longer are the sales cycles, and what’s your advice in terms of making that investment to CEOs?

Brendon: There’s a lot of factors that influence that. One is how big is your brand or mini brand? All those things that help you get more credibility earlier on in the sales cycle. How established is the space in the category?

The reality is it’s going to take longer. The sales cycles will be longer. I’ve never seen a scenario where it took shorter or even equivalent. I think a lot of people would like to make that claim. They’re full of it most of the time. That’s my two cents.

Kyle: That’s not always so bad. A longer sales cycle is not always so bad, as long as it moves the pipeline up.

Brendon: No, I think it’s OK. There’s two things, it’s going to take longer, and it’s going to take some time to get your SDR work, like fully built, baked, flushed out, messaging nailed, and all that type of stuff. All those things are going to take time.

Those are the things that first time founders, it’s on the executives, around them, not just sales, but marketing and all, but really on sales. These are going to be longer sales cycles. It’s going to take longer. This isn’t going to bear the fruit to be a hyper growth startup in 90 days. I think those are all…

Jason: How long does it take to see the first fruits of it from the budget, three to four months?

Brendon: The first fruits are quick. The first fruits you should see in 60 days, 90 days. Seeing the first fruits versus seeing the bounty, are two completely different things. If you talk to Jon Parisi or all these great sales development leaders, they’ll tell you it takes 9-12 months to get their SDR organization running the way they want to run it.

Jason: If you’re looking for seeds, for green chutes and sprouts…

Brendon: You should see fruits early. You should see some quick wins and say, “Hey, we think we can scale this thing and build it.” I know it’s not what most founders want to hear about. How long is this really going to be something that we can really put our hat on? Something’s that going to consistently deliver repeatable revenue, growth, and all that stuff. It’s going to take some time.

Kyle: There’s an intangible benefit of the outbound that they need to be educated on as well. The outbound is going to help build your brand. It’s going to be helping build your mini brand. You can distribute your content through outbound.

You can get people to sign up and join your community through outbound. Outbound grows your inbound channels as well. Now more people know about you, are sharing your stuff, coming to your blog, signing up for your webinars and white papers.

It really drives the whole thing. There’s a guy named Alan Nance in Atlanta. He joked around, he said, “Outbound, inbound, I’m doing all the things. I’m all bounding and each one grows each other.” I thought that was a great analogy.

Brendon: Did you patent that term, all bounding?

Kyle: No, it actually came out in a conference that we ran down here in Atlanta. Someone in the audience bought the domain name on the spot and turned his consulting company into That was kind of funny.

There’s another analogy. There’s a guy named Dan McDade. He’s a sales author, and he’s got this wild philosophy. He says that, “Long term leads are better than short term leads.” You look at it and you’re like, “Hold on, that doesn’t make any sense.”

Then you think about this strategy, back when interest rates were good. There was a strategy, you take your money and you stack CDs. You get a one-year CD, three-year CD, two-year CD, six-month CD and what happens is over time you got money coming in all the time, but it’s only once they start to mature.

I think that’s what happens with these long-term leads is you get that engine up and going, make it predictable, repeatable, in nine months from today, like you said, “You got a lot of fruit coming in.” It’s not just a couple tangerines on the tree.

Brendon: When you talked about an inbound lead may come in, but they may be already into an evaluation. I think those opportunities you reach out to, that maybe don’t go into a sales cycle right now, when they are ready or the market’s mature enough, they’re going to come back and start with you. I think that’s another… saastr-ama-building-an-outbound-sales-team-w-brendon-cassidy-and-kyle-porter-5-1024[1]

Kyle: They start going to your competitors and using your lingo, your language. 

Brendon: Again, there’s no immediate fruit there, but that’s the long term impact of it and all those other things.

Kyle: What next, SaaStr?

Jason: This one’s an interesting one. It’s just a broad question, but it’s good to chat. From the Twitter, how do you ramp new college grads as quickly as possible for an ADR, SDR role? One of things you’re often hoping to get out of this role, if you have an engine, is to hire a relatively green folks. How do you do this?

Kyle: For us, it starts in the hiring process. You want to really be diligent about the person you select on the front end in the first place. We’ve gone through some SDR training, coaching on how to educate our team and get them up to speed.

One of the biggest things is getting them on the phone in the interview process. Do mock calls, really dive in to, “Are they going to be able to accomplish this?” Mark Roberge, the head of sales at Hubspot had a great piece of advice that we started using.

He said, “In the interview, we ask our sales team members to give a pitch, and then after the pitch I give them feedback on one or two areas that they could improve on. Then I ask them to do it again, and I see did they take the coaching? Did they implement it? Did they change?”

We’ve used that and had a lot of success with it. Outside of that, we’ve got a playbook. I’m sure Brendon’s done some amazing things to ramp the team up. It’s a routine of things that we’ve learned have been successful. We repeat it, and we improve. It’s certainly something you need to be intentional, and it’s critical.

Jason: Any insights, Brendon? You probably don’t want to hire a senior AE fresh out of school, but we got to make this work for SDRs. You disagree with the premise or any thoughts on how you can build that newbie engine?

Brendon: You’re hiring talent, not resume. You’re looking for personality and raw skills, not 10 years selling for Salesforce, Oracle or whoever else. That’s a given. You need to identify what is the culture of your company, what type of skill sets or personalities have succeeded.

It doesn’t mean that you’re going to hire a clone of everybody’s that been successful before. I think there’s some common things you need to look for like are they curious about technology? That’s actually a learning from Jason Lemkin from long ago.

He really likes salespeople that were curious like, “Here’s this cool new app,” and they wanted to learn more. They could figure out how to integrate EchoSign and Salesforce, and all that. People that were curious about technology rather than salespeople that were uninterested in technology, which is a lot of salespeople.

I think those kind of things like, are they competitive? For me, I like that, because you don’t want unhealthy competition. When you bring somebody in, and they don’t know anything yet, you have a team and a group around them that do know something, that can be a pretty terrifying thing.

Your ability to adapt to that environment and more how to compete. In the beginning, you’re just competing against yourself, learn, and pull yourself up. You’re going to lose them in the first 90 days, I think, if you don’t get them up and running, understanding, and knowledgeable of the company, product, mission, and the pitch.

If you don’t have them moving in the right direction in the first 90 days, it’s not going to happen, in my opinion. Those type of characteristics, the understanding, teamwork… I look for those kind of things.

Jason: Let’s follow up on that.  After you make the hire, I think we chat a lot about this, how long do you give someone? I wrote this thing on VP of Sales a long time ago, you’ll remember, that was controversial, which is, “You’ll know in half the sales cycle.”

Every VP of Sales hated it, but then they thought about it and they agreed. With an AE, you know in a sales cycle. Even if they don’t hit quota, you kind of know in a sales cycle. We can talk about what the KPR goal should be. If, for an SDR, it’s appointment setting, how quickly will you know? How should you think about churn in SDRs versus AEs?

Brendon: Kyle?

Kyle: When I first started thinking about sales development early on, we thought the biggest metric was number of qualified appointments completed by the AEs. What we realized, though, is that there was a numerator we weren’t thinking about which is the number of prospects that were prospected or the number of contacts that were prospected.

If I go in an SDR room and I prospect 20,000 people but only turn over 20 appointments, then someone else turns over 20 appointments on 500 people, then that second person is way more effective. They’ve taken a smaller subset of prospects and turned them into the same amount of appointments. We look at the efficiency score of our sales development reps, how efficient are they with their time, with their resources.

Because if every SDR needed 20,000 prospects in order to set 20 appointments, then we’re going to be spending a lot of time gathering data, and really going through this scorched earth of our prospect universe. That’s a big one that we pay a lot of attention to.

Another one is looking at the connect to conversion ratio. They’re getting on the phone with these prospects. How many of those are they actually turning into qualified appointments? I think that’s a critical one to pay attention to as well, and then coaching around those things.

Someone who makes a ton of dials and connects a lot, but doesn’t convert into a lot of opportunities needs different coaching than someone who doesn’t make a lot of dials but gets good conversion post dial. I think you got to look at those different metrics for each individual sales development rep, and have them in quick to analyze charts and have coaching ready to come in on them afterwards.

Jason: That’s interesting. I’d love to get your thoughts on the point Kyle made, Brendon, because that’s a new thing I’m thinking about now. When I think about SDRs and I’m not as deeply as experienced as you. The first metric I look at is connect rate. Because I figure if no one’s ever heard of your product in the entire world, and you get someone on the phone, that’s something.

But maybe that top of the funnel metric is not as valuable.  If someone’s an amazing phone virtuoso as whether that leads to an appointment.  Do you have a sense of which of those two… is there an ideal metric, and can there really be two flavors of SDRs like there can be multiple flavors of AEs here?

Brendon: Are you talking about measuring people on appointments set versus…

Jason: I realize I’ve been discriminating. Clearly with AEs there’s many different approaches. There’s, “Dial everybody and abandon any deal that doesn’t come through in a second.” There’s, “Take all my leads and pick the five best.” There’s conversational, there’s transactional. There’s different ways to scale the mountain as AEs.

Maybe I haven’t been fair enough to SDRs because I’m hyper-focused on just penetrating. Kyle’s point is, in some cases you might be worse at connecting but better at setting up an appointment.

That ratio can change versus if you can get a hundred people on a phone a month, but none of them convert to an appointment, that’s a slightly new one to me to think through, and maybe it’s not the way you think about it either, but it’s an interesting discussion…

Brendon: We have a fantastic sales development manager. Her name’s Jess Oni and we’re probably going to move more towards a point system next quarter, but today it’s based off the number of meetings they set.

Jason: Let’s chat through that. Today the KPI is meetings, so what do you try and get out of the SDR?

Brendon: There’s KPIs, there’s sort of call metric KPIs, but ultimately their variable comp is mostly sat on the number of meetings. I know a lot of people that are moving to a points system.

A lot of people that have a variable broken up based on a number of meetings and some sort of threshold of pipeline created and all sorts of things. For us, because we’re building a new SDR team, for us it’s even better to keep it simple, initially and learning to creating sub-criteria and categories.

Kyle: I think the ultimate metric for compensation is contribution to pipeline, but there’s a challenge there, and it goes back to that idea that I mentioned with regards to efficiency. If I’ve got somebody who’s taking 20,000 prospects and turning them into only 20 leads, that’s not sustainable.

Now for them in week one, week two, and their manager, that’s a great metric but as the CEO of the company, I’m looking at that and saying like, “We can’t repeat that, we can’t scale that, we can’t do that for a long period of time.”

I think the ultimate compensation metric for an SDR is that contribution to quota. I passed over this opportunity, it’s this potential deal size, we know what percentage closes over time. I think that’s the greatest, if you can hammer it all out.

I think early on, just like Brendon’s doing, we still are paying on completed appointments, but the more sophisticated SDR teams are paying on that contribution to pipeline.

Brendon: That’s the critical part, is you have to be open-minded and willing to learn and adjust as you move forward as you get more data.

That’s a critical component I think to be successful in the outbound prospecting era we’re in, which is the Sales Stack is constantly changing processes and techniques are changing so much faster than they ever did before, and you have to look at the data and decide what’s the right way to do it.

Kyle: We’ve seen a very unique transformation in sales development since we started. When we started, we were selling to companies that were just like us. Really small and trying to grow very fast. What we found was that the most effective strategy was just find as many VPXs as you possibly can, and get in as many appointments as you possibly can with those people.

It was kind of like we had a green field, our customers had a green field, and it was just grab as much as you possibly can. Over time what we’ve noticed is that the most effective scaling sales development organizations aren’t going after the people first, they’re going after the companies first. They’re identifying not just the ideal profile for the person, but the ideal profile for the organization.

It’s kind of this account-based strategy and the term we’ve heard emerge is this account-based sales development. Whether it sticks or not is up in the air, but it means now, OK, we’ve gone through green field, we’ve penetrated a bigger market, we’ve understood our customer better, we want to tilt a smidge upstream, a la SaaStr.

Let’s now identify the right accounts for us and figure out the couple people in those organizations, let’s prospect the account versus the person. I think this is the big trend that we’re seeing now, is this account-based strategy for sales development. Have you guys heard of that or seen that happening?

Jason: Yeah. It’s account-based marketing, account-based sales. It’s all the same thing, which is the next level of sophistication – processes and people around what winners have been trying to do that that sell these huge deals for a long time.

Kyle: But now we have so much good data on companies. You’ve got companies like Mattermark and CrunchBase, so you can really identify who’s the sweet spot for you and let’s go get that company, because the head of VP of X at that company might not be there next week, but the company still will be so let’s get them.

Jason: This is true.  Because we have about six minutes, I do want to get one thing that may seem simplistic, but just because there’s so many first time founders, I meet do this, so let’s go back in time. Can you outsource SDRs in the beginning, and if so, how do you think about how long you do it?

I know you might laugh, but now that folks are thinking about outbound more, new founders, they’re actually trying to outsource more earlier and do this experiment more. Obviously in-house is better, but what are the Zen learnings here?

Brendon: You mean outsourced to like Spokane, or outsourced to Guam?

Jason: Let’s talk about geo second, the first is third parties. Bucket shops. They’ll give you either dedicated or pooled people that will call your list, you give them the list, and they will call them until you can find those people, and they will set up appointments.

I used to laugh at this stuff back in the day, but I have met with many founders now that at least have a tiny bit of effectiveness doing this if they provide the list. Any thoughts? Kyle, you may have more experience with this than Brendon, but since more people are trying to outsource this in the beginning, any insights to founders?

Kyle: Yeah, I think it’s kind of the reverse. I’ve seen outsourced shops do a really good job of building the lists.

Jason: For sure. saastr-ama-building-an-outbound-sales-team-w-brendon-cassidy-and-kyle-porter-9-1024[1]

Kyle: Yeah, like going through LinkedIn or however you’re going to build up first name, last name, company, and title. We’ve had companies that were using Salesloft prospector and that decided to go hook up with an offshore team and do a bunch of stuff with them, and even it’s been competitive to our product from time to time.

I’ve seen that a lot and I’ve actually seen more success with the outsourced SDR as a service with the later stage companies like private equity back companies where they’ve carved off a division and they’ve got a repeatable sales cycle. They know their product, they know their customer, and they’ve gone to one of these professional firms like a PointClear, or a Vorsight or a Televerde.

I think that those companies have been more successful with the mid to later stage than they have been with the early stage startups. You want to be on those calls, because the things you’re hearing back from those prospects, that’s like product feedback, sentiment, it’s all these things that matter to the heart and soul of an organization.

It’s just so hard to outsource that stuff, because you talk about the passion behind the early hires, like the evangelical hires. That’s the kind of person you want on the phone in your organization and you’re not going to get that in Guam or wherever.

Jason: Yeah, of course, and so…

Brendon: Can I give my insight here, Jason?

Jason: Yeah, please.

Brendon: My insight would be it’s their list building services if you’re expecting them to scalable-y create meetings and appointments… no.  No offense to anyone that’s running any of these companies, but it’s just not going to fill the gap.

You see a lot of first time founders see it and get enthralled with it temporarily and then they’ll learn pretty quickly that it’s just not going to… It’s a phenomenal list building service, and I know a ton of not just SDRs but salespeople that use it too. But it’s not your best foot forward when you’re Talkdesk at 20 employees or HackerRank at 50 employees or SalesLoft at 30. It’s not just not marketing.

Kyle: It’s like starting a business and saying, “We’re not going to do content marketing ever. We’re not going to do events and lead. We’re not going to generate our own leads. We’re just going to pay Google all day long for them.”

Brendon: It completely, if you take prospecting seriously, that completely marginalizes them if you say, “Hey, we can outsource it to the cheapest market we can get it in,” then you don’t believe in it anyways, right?

Jason: I hear you. What I’ve seen recently with founders I meet with, it’s not so much to save money. It’s, “I’m 23, I just started this SaaS company. I have a little bit of something. I have no resources. I actually have a few nickels, because I just came out of YC or whatever, and I want to get it going tomorrow, and I’ve never done this before.

I don’t even know what I’m doing, so I’m going to outsource it, and then I will take it in-house as soon as I can find some people and I actually know what I’m doing.” I see that as a new trend in my little micro ecosystem. Brendon, I know I’m going to lose you in a minute, but let me just ask one related question on that to you, because you have experience, and Kyle, chime in.

We all hate the idea of not having our sales team together geographically, but you’ve worked in multiple situations where you’ve had remote SDR teams. What are your learnings there and how does that contrast to remote AEs? Any insights there?

Brendon: I think if you have somebody that you trust in a remote market, that’s critical. Don’t reach for, like try to build a team in a cheaper labor market where you don’t have somebody to build that team that you know and trust.

At Talkdesk, we had Louis Petrossi and he did a fantastic job of that and was somebody that we knew and I knew and trusted, and built a phenomenal team in that scenario, but don’t reach for it if you don’t have the person there. Certainly, Atlanta’s different. Atlanta’s obviously not as expensive a labor market as here. It’s expensive to scale an SDR team in the Bay Area.

Kyle: I pay $22 a square foot for real estate on the corner of Piedmont and Lenox in the heart of Buckhead, Atlanta, so I don’t have to worry about the space much. There’s a lot of great sales talent in this city, so I can’t comment too well on the topic, unfortunately.

Jason: Kyle, I need to wrap up, but let me just ask you if you have any data from the SalesLoft community. Do you have a rough sense of what percent of the customers might have SDR teams that aren’t remote, that aren’t connected down the hall from there, or six feet away from the AEs? saastr-ama-building-an-outbound-sales-team-w-brendon-cassidy-and-kyle-porter-10-1024[1]

Kyle: I don’t have any data right off the top of my head. I’ve heard a good bit of it. I think kind of series B, SaaS, Zenefits has a great off-site in Arizona. I know that Gainsight has one, I think it’s in Ohio or St. Louis. It’s in St. Louis.

I’ve seen some great ones, between that series A and series B when you really get that, what’s it called when you’re past 10 million?  The escape velocity?  Kind of that escape velocity stage.

Jason: Yep. You’re at initial scale.

Kyle: Yeah, I think that’s a good time to do it.

Jason: All right guys. I think we got through about 11 percent of all the fun things we could’ve touched on, but this was amazing. I know we’re out of time. Thanks, Brendon, for joining. Thanks, Kyle for hosting and doing this. A couple things coming up, just real quick.

Together with Max and Sales Hacker, Kyle and I will both be speaking at Sales Stack here in San Francisco on November 10th, so come see us. It’ll be all day, it’ll be super fun. On November 19th, we have the SaaStr Founder Soiree. We’ve got room for 600.saastr-ama-building-an-outbound-sales-team-w-brendon-cassidy-and-kyle-porter-11-1024[1]

There’s a small amount of tickets, but either you can buy one on or if you buy a ticket to the SaaStr Annual in ’16 in February, you’ll get a free ticket and you’ll get into the event. It’ll be all SaaS founders and CEOs on November 19th here in San Francisco. Thank you guys, again. This was great. This will be up on YouTube, and I think people will use this as a reference material for a long time. Thanks, guys. Thank you, Gretchen.

Kyle: See you. Bye Brendon, bye Jason. Thanks Gretchen. Bye.


Do Fewer Things, Better

I'm going to tell you a secret.  I have a very simple, 4-word strategic plan (devised it a few years ago).

Here it is...


Do fewer things, better.

This has made my life -- and my work, dramatically better.

Here's how I execute on my strategic plan:

1. Decide on what matters the most.

2. Say no to everything else.

3. When something falls in the gray area, re-read #2.

Of course, that's easier to say than do. I fail at it all the time -- but I'm getting better.  Here are some tips learned from years of practice:

1. When making your list, start with a low-level of abstraction.  Resist the temptation to make your list really "high-level".  As an extreme example, one of the things on your priority list shouldn't be "Be successful".  That's so broad, that you'd be able to rationalize almost every activity under the sun.  Try to be specific enough that the number of things that "fit" is a manageable number.  If you find yourself taking on too much (which you probably do), refine your filters and move to a lower-level of abstraction.  I've written an article on this that you might find useful:  "The Power of Focus and The Peril of Myopia".   

2. Forgive yourself for having to say "no" to things not on your "fewer things" list.  Years ago, I wrote a blog post asking public forgiveness , you can see it here at  Of all the articles I've ever written, that one has had the most positive impact on my life. 

3. Remember that every time you say "no" to something you might have said "yes" to, it frees up time to focus on the things that matter.  And the more time you spend on the things that matter, the better you get at them.  Let me give you an example:  Let's say you say "no" to some project/request/idea that would have "only" taken a few hours a month, because it didn't make the "few things that matter" list.  And, let's say that one of the things that matter to you is being able to better communicate your message to the world -- via public speaking.  Those few hours you "saved" can be spent on getting your message out. More speaking gigs, more people influenced.  But wait!  That's not all!  Not only are you able to do some more public speaking, because you're going to spend more time on it, you're going to get better at it.  And, because you get better at it, you're going to get more frequent speaking invites.  With larger audiences.  And have more influence once you're on stage.  You're building leverage by getting better and better at the thing that matters.  And, it's amazing how much better you will get, once you decide on only a few things to get better at.

By the way, the reverse of this is true to:  Everytime you say "yes" to something, you're saying "no" to something else.  Often, you're saying "no" to something more important.

4. Fight the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) emotion.  It's a killer. We all have it to varying degrees.  This fear that if we don't say "yes" to something, we're going to miss out on some big opportunity, small joy or new connection.  Yes, sometimes you will miss out, but that's OK.  Life goes on.  On average, you will be better off skipping some things, instead of trying to do too much.  

More people fail from a gluttony of good activities than from being starved of them. 

5. Be super-careful with recurring commitments.   If you are going to occasionally say "yes" to things that are not on your "things that matter most" list, be super-careful that they're not a recurring commitment.  A one-time commitment of 4 hours is much less dangerous than a monthly hourly committment.  The way I think about this:  When I say "yes" to a recurring committment, I'm effectively saying "yes' multiple times (for as long as I think I'm going to be in that committment).  Which brings me to the next point...

6. As painful as it is, prune your prior committments. If you are like me (and apologies if you are), you've said yes to a few things that you now sort of regret.  Get yourself out of those.  Be respectful, be, be understanding and be fair -- but be disciplined and true to yourself.  And just because you committed to something last year with no real "expiration date" doesn't mean you have to do it forever.  Things change.  On a related note:  For things that don't have an expiration date, remember that it's going to be just as painful to prune later as it is now -- why not give yourself the gift of some time back sooner?

7. Try to solve for outcome, not activity.  Figure out what you want to happen (whether it be a commercial interest or a philanthropic one), and figure out how to best create impact.  Usually, optimal outcomes are not achieved by saying "yes" to a bunch of "good" activities (however well-intentioned).

On the point of philanthropy, you might be wondering: "What about doing good, and giving back?"  

Warning: My opinion here may be controversial for some.  

First off, if you have the ability to give back, you should do so.  No doubt.  But the question is, how do you optimimize for outcome?  

Let me explain with a personal example.  I'm an entrepreneur.  Have been for most of my professional career.  I LOVE STARTUPS. THEY BRING ME GREAT JOY. I'm one of the co-founders of HubSpot (NYSE:HUBS).  I'm also a big fan of Boston and want to see the Boston startup ecosystem grow and thrive.

But a few years ago, I decided to dramatically limit the time I spend directly helping the Boston ecosystem.

Why would I do this?  Isn't that selfish?  Yes, it is.

The reason I made this decision was that I felt the best way for me to help the startup ecosystem -- was to do my best to help make HubSpot a super-successful company.  The by-product of that success will be much greater than what I'd get if I were just directly trying to help a handful of startups.  

So far, HubSpot has had some modest success.  We are a publicly traded now and have 1,000+ people working at the company.  We have many that have "graduated" HubSpot and gone off to start their own companies.  Even more are taking the things they learned and applying them to other companies.  We've also made a bunch of people money (several of whom are channeling some of that back into to the ecosystem by way of angel investing). We've helped pull talent in from around the world -- and keep some of our star talent in the Boston area.  We've improved Boston's "brand" as being a place where big tech companies can be built (which helps pull in more capital, talent and interest).  All in, I'd say we're a net positive.

But, fact remains that instead of being a mentor/advisor/mensch -- I've sort of been a schmuck.  I've said "no" to just about everything unless it helped HubSpot.  And remember, I LOVE STARTUPS.  I love helping them.  I love the thrill, joy and fulfillment.  But, I said "no" anyways.  And, I may be rationalizing here -- but I think I've likely done more for the ecosystem than if I had simply gone to more events, tried to pick a handful of startups to be an advisor/mentor for, etc.  

This section got much longer than I planned for it to be.  I have a whole other article in draft-mode titled "The Surgeon In The Soup Kitchen".  I'll give you the abridged message of that post:

Don't favor what feels the most good.  Favor what does the most good.  

Thankfully, blogging is a high-leverage activity.  And, since I'm using HubSpot to write/promote/track this article, it helps HubSpot too.  So, I can rationalize this into my "fewer things" list (but only every now and then).

Cheers, and best wishes with your "fewer things". 



4 Things I’ve Learned from 2,000+ AdWords Audits

In the last 2 years, I’ve audited a lot of AdWords accounts. And, after reviewing thousands of accounts, you start to notice a few trends.

Unfortunately, one of my most consistent observations has been that AdWords is a great way to lose a lot of money.

Now, I’ve used AdWords to grow a client’s company from 25 employees to 250 employees, so I’ll be the first to tell you that AdWords can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool. However, a few common mistakes prevent most companies from realizing their AdWords potential.

So, why do most companies fail at AdWords? The answers are both simple and surprising.

1. Inadequate Tracking

The foundation of any good AdWords campaign is analytics. In fact, according to Hubspot’s State of Inbound report, companies that track their inbound marketing are 17x more likely to see a positive ROI than companies without good analytics in place.

Now, if you’re already effectively using an analytics platform like Google Tag Manager or Kissmetrics, this figure should come as little surprise. After all, you can’t improve if you don’t know whether or not something is working!

The problem is, only about half of AdWords accounts actually have tracking set up for their site and campaigns.

What is this craziness?

Unfortunately, this finding seems to be one that most companies experience with inbound marketing. Referring back to Hubspot’s report, only 53% of companies track their marketing ROI.

I won’t bore you with the math; but, if you run Hubspot’s numbers, the statistics are daunting:

Without good analytics, 97% of AdWords campaigns fail.

Not surprisingly, almost every single account I’ve audited that didn’t have a great analytics solution in place was struggling to turn a profit on Google.

Fixing the Problem

Fortunately, even if your IT expertise is limited, AdWords doesn’t have to be the marketing version of Russian Roulette. With a little bit of time and patience, you can easily set up conversion tracking in AdWords.

Tracking conversions in AdWords is really as simple as placing the right bit of code on the right page on your site. AdWords even generates the code for you, so you really don’t have a good excuse for not setting this level of tracking up for your campaigns.


Why stop there, though? If you’ve got a decent developer, you can implement Google Tag Manager in 15 minutes. Here are some of the basics you should be tracking. Of course, Kissmetrics is also a great way to get at the data you need.

Yes, setting up analytics is extra work, but it enables you to learn from your successes and your mistakes.

2. Keyword Drain

Here’s where things start to get really interesting. Looking at the 1,000 or so companies that had conversion tracking in place, I discovered that—on average—all of the conversions in an AdWords account come from just 12% of the account’s keywords.

Yes, you read that right—all of the conversions.

To put it simply, for every 10 keywords you bid on, 9 of them produce nothing! Absolutely nothing! And here’s the kicker – that useless 88% of your keywords eats up 61% of your ad spend.

Why does this happen?

Most companies take a shotgun approach to their keyword strategy. Yes, this sort of approach increases your likelihood of some keyword being on target, but it also means that your ads show up for less relevant searches and produce less relevant clicks that aren’t likely to convert.

Plugging the Drain

To figure out which keywords are draining your budget, open AdWords and—while viewing “All campaigns”—go to the Keywords tab. Open the “Details” drop down menu and click “Search Terms All.”


From there, export the report into an Excel file. Using Excel, you can filter your data to show only search terms with zero conversions. Sum the cost data to see how much you’re spending on search terms that haven’t produced any conversions.

As a rule of thumb, I recommend pulling at least 3-6 months of data to make sure you really have a good picture of which search terms are truly worthless.

Once you’ve identified your budget-sucking keywords, go back into AdWords and eliminate them!

3. Poor Landing Page Strategy

Another problem with the shotgun approach to AdWords is that it makes implementing an effective landing page strategy a daunting task.

Truth be told, nearly 90% of the AdWords accounts I’ve audited had a poor landing page strategy. In fact, 52% of the accounts were pointing their pay-per-click traffic to their homepage. And, of the 48% with a dedicated landing page, less than 15% were conducting landing page tests!

For example, if someone is looking for a new cat and types in “adopt a cat,” they might see the following ad:

Getting clicks—even the right sort of clicks—to your site, isn’t enough to make your campaigns effective. That’s just the beginning. Research conducted at Stanford has shown that a poor initial website experience can eliminate up to 75% of your potential sales; so, if your site doesn’t convert clicks into leads or sales, you’re just giving money to Google.

Making it Better

If you want to make money on AdWords, your customers need to have a consistent and compelling experience from keyword to ad copy to landing page.

To create this experience, you need to get granular. You need to dial in to the search intent of your target audience and then match your keywords, ad copy and landing pages to that intent.

With the shotgun approach to keywords, it’s very hard to create this level of granularity. Sure, dynamic keyword insertion can help; but, for most industries, DKI doesn’t give you the messaging control you need to match your searchers’ intent.


This ad does a good job of matching the searcher’s intent…until it sends them to this landing page.


Sure, the DKI algorithm put “Cat” in the headline, but the pug hero shot creates an immediate cognitive dissonance that leaves the user thinking, “Wait, what?”

On the other hand, setting up your ad groups with 5 (or less) very similar keywords allows you control what searches trigger your ads. Then, write ads that are highly relevant to those specific searches. Carry that relevance through to the landing page and you’ve just created a very powerful customer experience!


See? Much better.

With this technique, we often see a 50% lift to conversion rates on our first tests with new clients. And that’s before we start optimization testing…

4. Lack of Attention

Ultimately, the biggest reason that most AdWords campaigns fail is a lack of attention.

No tracking? Spend enough time in AdWords and a lack of conversion data will make you crazy enough that you’ll do whatever it takes to get analytics in place.

Bidding on the wrong search terms? Add enough negative search terms over time and you’ll eventually narrow your campaigns down to what really works.

Inconsistent customer experience? Test your ad copy and landing pages for long enough and you’ll end up with a really compelling click-to-close advertising cycle.

However, according to Larry Kim, only about 10% of AdWords accounts are optimized even once a week. Based on the accounts I’ve reviewed, 72% of accounts haven’t been touched in over a month!

If you don’t give your account enough attention, you are setting yourself up to fail.

The Fix

So, how often should you be optimizing your account? The best answer is that it depends on your traffic and budget.

For budgets over $10,000/month, you should be at least giving your campaigns a thorough review at least once a week. However, to really get the most out of your account, I recommend reviewing your campaigns at least 3 times per week.

For a new campaign, you need to be even more involved. I typically check up on the account at least 3 times per day.

As a general rule of them, the more time you spend in your AdWords account, the better it will perform. Of course, you don’t have to make major changes 3 times a day or week, but keeping close tabs on your account will give you the insight you need to really get great performance.


While most companies struggle to make AdWords work, most businesses can succeed by fixing a few common mistakes. Whether it’s setting up a great tracking program, eliminating useless keywords, creating a holistic landing page strategy or simply giving the account the attention it deserves, these problems can be overcome with a little extra effort.

If you feel like you’re struggling with one of these common problems, let me know in the comments below. I’d be happy to help.

About the Author: Jacob Baadsgaard is the CEO and fearless leader of Disruptive Advertising, an online marketing agency dedicated to using PPC advertising and website optimization to drive sales. His face is as big as his heart and he loves to help businesses achieve their online potential. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

How to Market to the Reptilian Brain

Do you make rational decisions or are you a slave to primitive thinking?

Does free will exist? Do you buy a product because you analyzed the options and decide it’s the logical choice? Or are you impulsively (and subconsciously) making decisions based on the part of your brain that’s well over 70,000 years old?

As it turns out, we use our old, reptilian brains to make most of our decisions. Yet, we continue to optimize for rational, logical buyers. [Tweet It!]

What Is the Reptilian Brain?

Bart Schutz, consumer psychologist, had this to say about the reptilian brain…

Bart SchutzBart Schutz, Online Persuasion:

“There are two systems in the brain. The first one is system two. It’s you, which makes it very interesting because system two is aware of itself. It is consciousness, self-awareness. If I think about myself (“I’m Bart”) and you think about yourself, that’s system two at work. We’re consciously reflecting.

The other system is not conscious. The totally optimized one is not aware of itself, we’re not aware of [it]. We think that we, system two, are the ones who are controlling our behavior, our emotions, our decisions and we forget the other part. I want you to start optimizing for both of these parts. And if I have to choose, choose the other one.” (via CTA Conference)

According to Bart, system one…

  • Is intuitive and associative
  • Is quite fast
  • Is always on
  • Has a large capacity
  • Requires no effort

And system two…

  • Is rational and logical
  • Is extremely slow
  • Is very lazy
  • Is easily depleted
  • Requires full focus

System 1 vs. System 2

As a result, it’s difficult to make a truly rational decision.

System one is also known as our reptilian brain.

The Anatomy of the Brain
Image Source

Why Is It Important?

So, your reptilian brain makes the irrational decisions. Since rational decisions are so difficult to make, your reptilian brain is very important.

If your product is not the rationally best choice, you must appeal to the reptilian brain (system one). If you appeal to system two, it will analyze the facts and determine that you’re not the best choice. (There can only be one most rational choice. So, while we don’t like to admit it, our products often aren’t the most rational choice.)

If your product is the rationally best choice, you should still appeal to the reptilian brain. System two may determine that it’s the most rational choice, but what if your visitor has done a lot of critical thinking and depleted their system two? System one will be the decision-maker, so you should still optimize for it.

What Are the Pillars of the Reptilian Brain?

There are five core factors that drive the reptilian brain: pain, fear, emotion, ego, and contrast. If you can find ways to use these factors, you’ll be able to appeal to system one.

1. Pain

Remember that the reptilian brain is primitive. It’s not concerned with gaining pleasure (e.g. getting to wear a new dress for less money), it’s concerned with avoiding pain (e.g. not having to spend hundreds on a dress you’ll wear once for work).

Take Rent frock Repeat, a designer dress rental service, for example.

Rent frock Repeat

If I were going to rent a dress for a formal event, my two pain points might be: I don’t like / have time for dress shopping and finding a dress that fits / flatters is difficult for just about everyone.

Note that Rent frock Repeat addresses the fit pain directly on their site, providing four different remedies for the pain.

2. Fear

The reptilian brain is concerned with its own survival. As a result, it can be skeptical and fearful of change and the unexpected.

Consider Amazon’s scarcity / urgency play here…


“Waitlist full”, “Ends in: 41:16”, “Ends in 1:06:16”. Note that “Missed” availability is pre-selected to create fear. Now, our reptilian brains might not be fearing something as serious as being eaten by a lion, but they are fearing missing out.

These tactics signal the reptilian brain, which asks “I need a pressure cooker, right?” and decides “We need to act now or we’ll miss it forever.”

3. Emotion

Bart SchutzBart Schutz, Online Persuasion:

“You are never, ever only dependent on rationality. Pure rationality does not exist. We call it Descartes error and what that means is that if we only have a rational argument without any emotion attached to it, we would not be able to give weight to the arguments. We would just keep on making pros and cons, but they would have no value. So, you need the emotional charge to the rational argument.” (via CTA Conference)

The reptilian brain operates on emotion instead of logical and rationality. Therefore, when you’re appealing to emotion, you’re appealing to the reptilian brain.

One of the easiest ways to appeal to emotion is to trigger the pain. Why? Because we often forget about our pain points unless we’re in a specific context. For example, you might hate the invoicing system at work, but when you’re at home surfing the web, you’re not thinking about that.

Here’s another example from Talia Wolf of Conversioner, who focuses on emotional persuasion…

Dating Site Control

This landing page is void of emotion. “Get Matched and Date” is very functional, the testimonial praises the site itself. Talia launched this variant as a test…

Dating Site Variant 1

“Find Your Perfect Match” plus a happy couple on a beach. If you’re single (and why else would you be on a dating site?), this subtly reminds you that you don’t have your perfect match yet.

That’s fear. “Why haven’t I found my perfect match? Everyone else has a perfect match. Am I falling behind? I should find my match right away.”

So, the fear is created by reminding you of the pain point, whether you realize it existed or not, and then the fear is eased by the solution. “These two look so happy, this must work.”

The result of the test? A 24% increase in signups and a 48% increase in paying customers.

Earlier this year, I wrote an in-depth article on emotional persuasion. If you’re interested in this topic or just want to learn more about appealing to the reptilian brain, take 8-10 minutes to read it. (Note: This guide also includes positive emotions, which the reptilian brain is less driven by.)

4. Ego

Due to its survivalist mentality, the reptilian brain is incredibly self-centred. How will this affect me? What’s in it for me?

As a result, it’s best to use word like “you” and “your”. The reptilian brain doesn’t need to think about those two questions, they’re already being answered. Whenever you can, write copy directly to your visitors and put anything you claim into perspective (visually, if possible).

Take Uber, for example…


Notice the use of “your”. Notice the smile / smirk signalling contentment and power. If this headline read “Taxis, On demand” or “Private Cars, On Demand”, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective. If the woman’s facial features were different, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

Copy Hackers does something similar…

Copy Hackers

“Find Your Copywriter”, “Who’s the perfect copywriter for your next project?”, “List your services”, “Boost your business”.

Whenever you make an effort to insert your visitor into the hypothetical situation, you’re appealing to ego. Environmental ads that show animals behind bars, drunk driving ads that show you driving with impaired vision, etc.

5. Contrast

Have you ever wondered why before and after photos work so well? Or why the Pepsi vs. Coke, Mac vs. PC, McDonalds vs. Burger Kind, Playstation vs. Xbox rivalries are so compelling? It’s because the reptilian brain loves to contrast.

Take KISSmetrics, for example…


“Google Analytics tells you what happens, KISSmetrics tells you who did it.” used to be one of their more common headlines. Why did it work? Because it contrasts.

First of all, Google Analytics is well known, so it sets expectations. If I work in marketing, I now already know KISSmetrics is an analytics suite. Second, it shows the difference between the two.

Take a look at how Jenny Craig does it visually (and more directly)…

Jenny Craig

Note the before (the pain) and after (the remedy) photos.

How Can You Optimize for the Reptilian Brain?

Do some pillars have more of an impact than others? When asked what the top three things to consider when marketing to the reptilian brain were, Roger Dooley had this to say…

Roger DooleyRoger Dooley, Neuroscience Marketing:

“1. Find your customer’s pain points. In today’s society, pain probably doesn’t involve carnivorous predators, but those pain points still exist. A buyer may emphasize price, for example, but it could be that the true pain point is running out of product and shutting down production.

2. Use contrast. Don’t just describe the benefits of your product, describe the contrast between using it and using an inferior product or note at all. If possible, do this visually to increase the impact.

3. Use emotion. The more raw emotion you can pack into your marketing, the better. Logical arguments don’t persuade the reptilian brain, but simple emotional appeals will work. If possible, as suggested in the previous item, use visuals that the brain can process easily.”

Based on the pillars, here are some other ideas for optimizing for the reptilian brain.

1. Deplete System Two

System two and system one are a team. They work together. You should optimize for both, but, as Bart said, if you have to choose, choose system one. And if you don’t have the rationally superior product or service, choose system one.

In order to do that, you’ll need to ensure (a) that system two is depleted and resting and (b) that system two doesn’t reappear after it’s rested.

The easiest way to deplete system two is to provide options and force decisions. Take a look at this example…

System Two Depletion

According to Bart, adding the option to add an item to a wishlist increased conversions, despite the fact that almost no one actually added items to their wishlist.

Here’s another example…

System Two Depletion (Print)

A print button.  A print button increased conversions. Why? Because system two thrives on rational decisions. Those decisions, of course, deplete system two’s energy, causing it to default to system one, the reptilian brain. That’s exactly what you want.

2. Show Proof

You know that the reptilian brain is skeptical. It only makes sense, then, that you need to provide proof that your product or service will remedy the pain. However, since the reptilian brain isn’t logical, how you prove that will be a little different than you’re used to…

  • Use the science of familiarity to your advantage. If you can relate your product or service to something the reptilian brain is already familiar with, you’re one step closer.
  • Increase cognitive fluency. The easier something is to think about, the more likely we are to think about it. In other words, position and present your product or service as simply and directly as possible.
  • Use social proof. Remember that only system two has the capacity to look to the future. The reptilian brain is stuck in the present. Social proof that focuses on how your product or service improved someone’s present / future will go a long way.
  • Use visuals. Show the before and after pictures, give a demo, provide a product video, show screenshots, etc.

Heidi Haskell has written extensively on the topic. Here are her suggestions…

Heidi HaskellHeidi Haskell, SurveyGizmo & MarketerGizmo:

“What you can do: Use simple and short sentences if you need to use words. Focus on imagery that demonstrates the value you are proposing in a way that feels real, concrete, and/or familiar.

Assume that your consumer will be skeptical in your claims, and that you need to prove it to them by providing evidence. Help the consumer to visualize what you are trying to say and prove it to them.

Show the customer that there will be more value than cost. If you are communicating about your product in person or on camera to the consumer, use props wherever you can to help them visualize what you are saying.

Customer testimonials are a great source of proof. It shows the reptilian brain, which can only perceive the present, what has happened in the past. It is more likely to trust your claim of the future if you have proof of what has already happened.

Show a quick demonstration of your product. Help them to see how they could use your product to alleviate pain in some way or multiple ways.

Data can sometimes be helpful, though it’s important to make your data visual to immediately grab attention. The reptilian brain is not responsible for calculations and so you’ve got to show it what you are trying to say.” (via NeuroMarketing)

3. Focus on Points of Change

Being so skeptical, the reptilian brain does not enjoy or adjust to change well. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If something is different, you don’t know what to expect, which makes it more dangerous. For that reason, the reptilian brain tends to focus on the beginning and the end.

Here’s what you can do…

  • Make your argument quickly and restate it at the end.
  • Write scannable copy, especially if you have a long landing page. Otherwise, the reptilian brain will tune out the middle copy.
  • Maintain consistency when it comes to your overall argument, but pepper your landing page or copy with indications that something new is coming (e.g. directional cues), otherwise the reptilian brain will tune out.

4. Use Images

Your reptilian brain is very visual because the optic nerve connects directly to that part of the brain. If you’re walking in the woods one day, your reptilian brain might see a wolf long before other areas of the brain have processed the idea of a wolf being in the woods.

It’s what protects us from predators and danger. It’s what you can use to market to the reptilian brain.

Here’s how…

  • Ask yourself (and your visitors / customers via qualitative research) how your visualize life after your product or service. What imagery comes to mind? A marketing agency might say a fox with glasses. A content marketing tool might say a modern library.
  • Simplify your visualization as much as possible. Never sacrifice clarity for the sake of being clever. Remember, the reptilian brain is automatic. So, if your visualization isn’t obviously connected to your product or service, it might get lost in translation.
    • When you think you have the perfect visualization, ask a panel of people to tell you what they think of when you show them the visual.
  • Place visuals near points of friction… tastefully. It’s a balance of helping your visitors visualize before they convert and protecting your call to action from distractions.

5. Identify Automated Responses & Use Them

Since the reptilian brain works automatically, you have automated responses. Take a look at this example from Bart…

Habit 1

Did you respond with Duey? I know that I did. Of course, the answer, logically, is George.

You’ve probably seen this one before…

Habit 2

Can you read the color that’s spelt instead of saying the color of the word? Perhaps, but it’s likely very difficult.

If everything seems normal and familiar and routine, the reptilian brain will make automatic choices (like “Duey” or saying red instead of reading blue).

Here’s how you can use this to your advantage…

  • Follow copy and design prototypes. What are visitors expecting when they land on an eCommerce site or a SaaS site or an agency site? Meet those expectations to keep the reptilian brain in control.
  • Eliminate distractions and unexpected alerts, especially ones that require logical thought. Am I saying all opt-out popups and on-site surveys are evil? No, but I am saying that they wake up system two, which isn’t what you want if your product or service isn’t the most rational choice.

6. Simplify

Do you remember the board game Don’t Wake Daddy? You would move around the board, trying to complete the tasks without waking the sleeping dad. In this case, system two is the sleeping dad. The more you simplify your copy and design, the more likely you are to not wake system two.

Bart provided this surprising example…


Here’s how you can do it…

  • Remove calls to action. In some cases, like the one above, it makes sense to remove calls to action. A call to action means a decision and a decision may wake system two, leading to rational thought. Removing the call to action means the reptilian brain can just move to the next step automatically without much thought.
  • Make images bigger. If it’s not already apparent, images and visualization are incredibly important. They’re easier for the reptilian brain to process, so if you’re looking to simplify and reduce friction, reduce copy and increase image size.


Bart SchutzBart Schutz, Online Persuasion:

“There is a very stiff, stubborn thought in even my brain. This cannot be the case. I have a free will. I choose products. I buy products because I thought about it. The thing is that one of the big reasons for that is that I know I have reasons for why I bought the product. Everyone asks why I bought it and I go, […], ‘well, because’ and I go, ‘1-2-3’.

But nowadays, we’re testing 1-2-3 and they do bullshit. Zero. Those are not the reason why people buy it. We’re testing other things and those are uplifting, but we will not realize that.” (via CTA Conference)

The reptilian brain is behind many of your decisions (and your visitors’ decisions, too). Still, many of us neglect to optimize for it because, like Bart, we believe that we choose products rationally, that we buy because we’ve thought about them. [Tweet It!]

Here’s how you can optimize for it…

  1. Deplete system two with choices.

  2. Show proof that your product or service will remedy the pain via familiarity, increased cognitive fluency, testimonials and visuals.

  3. Focus your efforts on points of change (i.e. the beginning and the end).

  4. Use simple images that help visualize your remedy because the optic nerve connects directly to the reptilian brain.

  5. Use copy and design prototypes and eliminate unexpected alerts that require a non-automatic decision.

  6. Keep system two asleep by simplifying design and copy.

The post How to Market to the Reptilian Brain appeared first on ConversionXL.

How Fizzle Uses Customer Research to Improve our Product and Grow Our Business

A well-executed series of customer interviews can help you decide exactly what projects you should take on to grow your business. In other words, customer interviews are a secret weapon for smart entrepreneurs.

We’ve already shared why customer interviews are so important and how to build a customer interview strategy. The number one question we got from entrepreneurs in response was, “Great, but what does this actually look like in practice?”

Rather than pontificate about theoretical examples of customers interviews, we want to share exactly how we’ve been using them to improve the Fizzle experience and grow our business.

To do this, we’ll take the five-step formula for customer interviews and show you exactly how we’ve used it to conduct more than 25 interviews with our core customers. As an added bonus, we’ll share how we organize our key findings and how we’ll be using them to inform our business strategy (that’s the point, right?).

Customer interviews are a secret weapon for smart entrepreneurs.

Step 1: Define the Problem and Hypotheses

At the time of this writing, Fizzle has grown 50% in the last year. We’re thrilled with that result, but we also know that we could find more sustainable ways to grow on an ongoing basis.

Because of our business model, we often get people who sign up for Fizzle just to kick the tires. Maybe they’re not sure what we actually teach and they just want to check it out. Maybe they’re jaded by the world of online business and are skeptical that we’ll be different. There are a whole host of reasons why people join Fizzle and then quickly leave.

We could torture ourselves trying to figure out how to avoid losing any single customer, or we could focus on finding more customers who make up the core of our customer base. It’s more fun and positive to focus on finding more customers we love, so that was the overarching goal of this series of customer interviews.

Having a problem to solve isn’t enough to get to work on interviews. Instead, we needed a number of hypotheses to help drive our interview strategy.

We gathered as a team and threw around some ideas about what our best customers have in common. We came up with a short list of hypotheses:

  1. Our best customers have some form of pre-existing expertise that they can turn into a business (Ie. wine in the Pacific Northwest, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or therapy methods for stress and anxiety)
  2. Our best customers already have a product or service for sale when they find Fizzle for the first time and then they use Fizzle to accelrate their business growth
  3. Our best customers originally find Fizzle through our blog and podcast content
  4. Our best customers have a bias towards action, which should be reflected in how they use Fizzle to make progress in their business

With our hypotheses in hand, we were ready to think about who we should interview to test our ideas against reality.

Step 2: Find the Right People to Interview

Our advice for finding the right people to interview is to “focus on individuals who might actually be in your target audience.” This is especially true when you’re first starting your business, but it doesn’t change much when your business is well-established.

It wouldn’t be helpful to interview just any of our customers. If we interviewed anyone in our customer base, then we would likely end up interviewing a bunch of those tire kickers we talked about earlier. That would unnecesarrily waste a bunch of time.

Instead, we needed to define our “best customers” so we could test our hypotheses.

We know that the tire kickers all seem to weed themselves out (aka cancel their Fizzle membership) within 90 days of joining. We also know our average lifetime value (LTV) of a trial signup and we anyone who has paid for more than three months of membership is above average.

In other words, once a customer has completed her free trial period and been a paying member for 90 days, we know two things:

  1. She is probably not a tire kicker
  2. She is definitely more valuable to our company than the average customer who signs up for a trial membership

We could have stopped there, but we wanted to add another qualifier to the group we were interviewing.

We have a group of customers who have been members for more than three years. You might think these people are our best customers, and you would be right – they’ve paid us way more money than most people ever will (and we adore them!).

However, there’s one hang up with this group. They’re our “1,000 true fans” – the early adopters who love us enough to stick with us through all of the changes in our product over the years.

The people who join Fizzle today are no longer early adopters, so we have to market to them differently. Because what got us here won’t get us where we’re going, we chose to ignore our early adopters for these interviews.

That left us with a group of customers who have been members for at least 120 days but not longer than 300 days. Or, in other words, people who are really valuable to our company and who have joined recently enough to experience a more grown up version of the Fizzle product.

Hypotheses: check. People to interview: check.

Step #3: Building an Interview Guide

The hardest part of interviewing customers is turning hypotheses into questions and turning questions into an interview that leads to actionable insights from customers.

Luckily, I knew we needed to stick to the principles we recommend:

  • Start broad and then narrow the focus as the interview goes on
  • Find the current state of the customer’s experience
  • Understand their imagined or desired future
  • “What do you think of XYZ Product Idea?” and “How much would you pay for it?” are the wrong questions

Using these principles, I built the first iteration of the interview guide. It included a description of why we were doing the interviews and the following ten questions:

  1. Is it ok if we record this interview for internal use only?
  2. Tell us about your business.
  3. How did you find Fizzle originall and why did you decide to join?
  4. Did you have a product or service for sale when you joined?
  5. Did you have pre-existing expertise (not related to building a business) when you joined Fizzle? Are you using that expertise in your business?
  6. What was your initial goal when you joined?
  7. How much progress have you made in your business since joining Fizzle? Did you accomplish your goal?
  8. How have you used Fizzle to help you make that progress?
  9. What’s the biggest goal you have for your business over the next 3 months? How about the next year?
  10. What do you wish Fizzle would build to help you make more progress?

The first question served to protect us from getting in trouble for recording the calls, which is always a good idea. Then, the rest of the questions started broad, and progressively narrowed to test our hypotheses.

After reviewing the questions a few times, I was ready to move on the the first few interviews. Little did I know that many of the questions were broken, but it would take about five interviews before I could realize it.

Step #4: Scheduling and Conducting Interviews

There were a few tools that made it exceedingly easy to send invitations and schedule interviews with customers.

First, I used Calendly, an automatic scheduling tool, to setup interview slots. I set interview slots for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. This gave me Monday to get the week started and Friday to wrap up the week. It also gave me time to knock out my most important tasks for the day before getting into interview mode each afternoon.

I allowed for 15 minute time slots, with 15 minutes of buffer time after each call. 15 minutes is a relatively small amount of time to ask from our customers, while the buffer time meant we would have the opportunity to keep going if they had more to share. I also limited myself to four interviews per day to prevent fatigue from setting in.

Then, I used Intercom to send an email invitation to all customers who had been a customer for more than 120 days but less than 300 days.

Here’s how the email read:

Subject: Can you spare 15 minutes to help Fizzle?
Sender: Barrett from Fizzle

Hey ​{First name​}!

Hope you’re doing well.

We’re doing a bunch of research on our customers right now to help us improve the Fizzle experience.

Specifically, we want to know what keeps people like you coming back to Fizzle month after month.

Could you spare 15 minutes to tell me about why you signed up, what kind of business you’re running, and how you use Fizzle to help grow your business?

If so, here’s a link to my schedule. I’m excited to chat with you.



Within hours, my schedule for the next four weeks was full and I was excited to get started.

Step #4.5: Adjustments

After the first couple interviews, I knew we weren’t getting answers to help us prove or disprove our hypotheses. Some of the questions I was asking were more effective than others and the interviews were suffering.

If this were a survey, we wouldn’t have found out about our errors until it was too late. But since these were interviews, I could adjust on the fly and get back to work.

The first adjustment I made came from questions #6–9:

6. What was your initial goal when you joined?
7. How much progress have you made in your business since joining Fizzle? Did you accomplish your goal?
8. How have you used Fizzle to help you make that progress?
9. What’s the biggest goal you have for your business over the next 3 months? How about the next year?

It turned out that these questions were too granular. As I asked each question of a single customer, I realized that I was hearing the same information, just communicated slightly differently.

I cut back to just two questions:

  1. What did you hope to achieve when you joined Fizzle and has that changed since you joined?
  2. How do you use Fizzle when you log in?

That’s when I started getting much clearer answers. Customers started sharing exactly what they hoped to achieve when they joined Fizzle, as well as how we helped them change their perspective on their business over time. They also stopped sharing generic thoughts on how Fizzle is helpful and started sharing the specific features of Fizzle they use to make progress.

The second adjustment I made was related to question #10:

10. What do you wish Fizzle would build to help you make more progress?

It turns out that customers usually don’t know what they want. They do know all about their most frustrating problems (and by default they want those frustrations to go away).

Just like we recommend in our five-step interview formula, our job as a company is to infer the necessary changes to make the frustrations go away. With that in mind, I changed #10 to two new questions:

  1. What has been your biggest frustration with Fizzle?
  2. What is your biggest frustration with your business right now?

The first one would tell me how Fizzle the product is broken. The second one would tell me the core business problems we can continue to help our customers solve.

There is a huge difference between: “What do you wish we would build?” vs “What are you most frustrated with right now?”

Asking a customer to brainstorm solutions is asking her to make a huge mental leap from identifying her problems all the way to how to solve them. By contrast, asking her about her frustrations is concrete. There is no right answer, only her experience.

These changes did the trick and I was immediately uncovering important information to help us improve our product and grow our business.

Step #5: Debrief, Iterate, and Implement

Once I completed this round of interviews, it was my job to synthesize all of the information I had gathered and then communicate it back to the team.

To do this, I created a Keynote presentation and divided it into the following sections:

  1. The Hypotheses
  2. How Fizzlers Find Us
  3. Fizzler Expertise
  4. Fizzler Products & Services
  5. How Fizzlers Use Fizzle
  6. The Job to Be Done by Fizzle
  7. Frustrations with Fizzle
  8. Key Findings
  9. Potential Action Items
  10. Further Questions

The hypotheses section reminds the team why we did these interviews to begin with. Sections #2–5 correspond to each of our four hypotheses.

Sections #6–7 are always good reminders of what we exist to do and how we’re falling short. These sections consisted of individual slides highlighting the most important direct quotes from customers.

Section #9 highlighted key action items based on what we learned. Specifically, I divided these action items into each of the areas of our business:

  • Curriculum – our educational materials
  • Platform – the technology that powers our community and makes the education work
  • Marketing – the content and projects we use to reach new customers
  • Customer Success – the ways we engage our customers to help them get the most our of our product

Section #10 was a simple slide of further questions that will require more customer research. Many of the action items in section #9 are ideas, not solidified project plans. Before we move forward with many of them, we need to answer some of these open questions.

For example, one of our potential project ideas is to solidify the core 5–8 courses of our curriculum and then integrate them with our small business roadmap to create one cohesive education experience.

This raises the question: what are the core 5–8 courses that most help our best customers take action and make progress in their businesses? We would need to answer that question through mining our existing data, sending a survey or conducting follow up interviews.

The action items and further questions will inform our strategic planning for next quarter and help direct our future customer research projects.

Customer Research is Never Done

It’s easy to think of customer research as a one-time project. “If I just conduct 25 interviews, I’ll learn so much and the business will get better,” I tell myself.

Of course that’s true. But what’s also true is that businesses exist to serve customers. To continue adapting and growing and creating a better product, we have to constantly be in customer research mode.

Each customer research project is simply fuel for the next customer research project. The more you embrace customer research as a core activity in your business, the more of an advantage you’ll have over your competitors.

This is how we’re using customer research to grow Fizzle into the best place to learn to build an independent business on the web. I hope you’ll embrace the same principles to build a business that matters to you.