Startup Lessons Learned: Closing Your Feedback Loop

There’s about 10,000 cloud based business apps out there. So it’s near impossible to connect to each and every one of them to create business dashboards. So where to start? Well, here at Dasheroo bet on social media and that’s where we got a lot of traction and new users.

Then we moved onto email marketing, e-commerce, billing, marketing automation and more. Some of this strategy was based on our own experience, and some from our users who want to track KPIs from these applications.

We have a very active dialog with our users and ask at key points in their journey with us what ‘next’ app they’d like us to add to our Insight library:


Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 8.25.18 AM

This is great input and we use it to help prioritize our integrations. But I think where we pay it off best is the simple text email communications Josh & Alf send when a requested application is added to our business dashboards:

Each person that requested the specific application receives an email letting them know we listened to them and delivered on it.

The lesson here is not asking for feedback we’ve covered that; it’s more in the targeted communication that closes the feedback loop on that item. Sure we could just include the news in our weekly email that goes to everyone, but this format really works and our folks seem to love it and it shows increased usage, conversion to paid plans and retention!

What are you doing to close your feedback loop?

Startup Lessons Learned: Look To Your Own Data for Leads

There are so many articles you can read about how to get more leads and there are so many companies touting they’ll dasheroo KPIs - Lead flowdouble your lead flow out there. But I’m gonna let you in on what we did here at Dasheroo to exceed our KPIs.

Our goal is to give business dashboard software away free to businesses; as a result we get a lot of people signing up. But our real mission is to convert those people into paying customers by offering premium features. That’s one of our KPIs. And we do that two ways, automation and humans! And for the human side (Mimi!) to up-sell our premium services we need to know who might fit the profile and in this case it’s agencies, consultants and marketing professionals.

At Dasheroo we already identified a few hundred of these leads which we were excited about, but it took a long time and human resource to do. So here’s what we did to boost our leads:

Step 1 – Use What You’ve Got

Our sign up form doesn’t ask a user for a ton of information, because we don’t want to deter them from coming aboard so we only ask for company name and email address but that’s a great start.

Step 2 – InsideView to the Rescue!

We use a company called InsideView to append data to what we already have. Are they 100% on the match? We find a few false matches here and there but that’s ok. We get so much valuable data including business type, employee size, geo and revenue that helps us target appropriate businesses to focus on.

Step 3 – Focus on Targeting

As we were sifting through the data we found that one piece of data InsideView appends is Industry. When looking through all of the industries that sign up for Dasheroo we found one called “Business Services.” So we looked at these companies one by one and by the look of them, 8 out of every 10 actually fit the profile. So we increased our target audience for Mimi from a few hundred to over 1000!

Step 4 – Get Them Excited

So we took that list and sent a very targeted email about Dasheroo for Agencies to this list. Mimi now has a nice flow of interest about our offering. She then qualifies, sets expectations and closes the deal. And last month she closed 12 deals, her biggest month ever! We love it when we exceed our KPIs.

Now we send follow up campaigns to the non-responders and emails to all of those new ones that come in the door! What are you doing to use your data to drive leads? Share!

Startup Lessons Learned: Want feedback? Just ask!

We’re big fans of survey tools like SurveyMonkey as well as in-app NPS tools like Wootric. They are great ways to get intel to help improve the user experience. But our co-founder and VP Customer Success wanted more! Similar to the email that is sent upon initial signup, asking users where they heard of us, So he created a short & sweet text only email asking 2 simple questions:

Here's Alf's simple & straightforward email

Here’s Alf’s simple & straightforward email

About 1/2 the folks reply directly to the email and the rest click on the link, which pops this pre-formed email:

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 10.34.17 AM

We get about a 4% response to this campaign, which is sent to users about 3 weeks after they sign up. They’ve had enough time to poke around, set up a dashboard or two and see what’s good and not so good. And this feedback is free and awesome! Sure it’s helpful to know what people appreciate but it’s way more valuable for us to know what’s missing for them. And in our case, we had a ton of common criticism about our original Google Sheets integration, specifically about the data set limitations. Here’s an actual email response:

Dasheroo Google Sheets feedback

Who knows, maybe we wouldn’t have thought to pose that question in a survey. We may not have ever found out that someone had an issue with Dasheroo and Google Sheets. But open-ended feedback rules! We’ll continue to build out these campaigns for additional steps in the customer journey to make sure we’re providing the best value and experience possible. What are your procedures and practices for doing the same, let’s learn from each other!

Startup Lessons Learned: Always Be Testing

Glengarry Glen Ross is one of my fave movies, almost up there with Godfather 1 & 2. And Blake’s (Alec Baldwin) speech “Always be Closing” is a classic. A corollary to that awesome line is “Always Be Testing”. We test almost everything here at Dasheroo, looking to optimize all of our performance through the funnel.

We’re fortunate that we consistently get 9-10%+ sign up rates from our website. That’s pretty huge! A lot of folks would be super satisfied with that conversion rate and move on. But not Alf, our VP Customer Success & Janine, our CMO, they’re laser-focused on our KPIs.

They’d already done lots of signup form testing, but this time they wanted to test a completely new website, so I was all for it.

We decided on this one to go whole hog. Not testing little tiny bits like a button color or headline (we’d already done lots of that), but like I said a new site altogether. Then if we saw a decent testing variance in signup conversion rates, we could start to test out single factors.

Here’s the control above the fold homepage on the left, and the new much lighter weight site on the right:

Control on the left and the new site on the right

Control on the left and the new site on the right

So, any guesses?

The new site won. Not by a ton, but with a site already converting at 10%, we didn’t expect huge increases. Here’s our Optimizely results:

And the winner is...

And the winner is…

The new site improved our Users to New Signups conversion rate by 7.5% at a 81% confidence level. Sure we could have waited until it hit 100%, but we’ve been around the block enough times to feel confident in the outcome and we want to move the needle on our KPIs fast.

It’s important to note that although you always want a new winner, it won’t happen. And a losing test can mean you’re actually doing most things right. But…Always Be Testing!

Startup Lessons Learned: SaaS Conversion Metrics

Ben Chestnut Sales funnel

We love Ben Chesnut’s (Mailchimp) reversed sales funnel!

We’re big into measurement here at Dasheroo. We use tools like Mixpanel, Optimizely, Google Analytics and our own businessdashboards to measure results and instrument improvements. This is particularly true in what we call the ‘auto-convert’ side of the house. These are the type of low ARPU users that we need to move through the conversion funnel without the need of sales assistance.

So I thought I’d share our current sales funnel metrics. First, as a business freemium model we do not pay for advertising! Our traffic is driven by inbound marketing – search engine optimization, lots of content marketing, an active social media presence and co-marketing with our partners like Salesforce, Infusionsoft and Shopify. Plus that great viral growth from positive word of mouth and just a great product.

Once these people visit our site, here’s how our conversion funnel stacks up:

  • 10.4% of users sign up for a free account. Yes, over 10%! That is amazing, as at other freemium businesses we’ve run we would have been thrilled to get 2-3%! And this isn’t just a blip, we have maintained this signup conversion rate for months.
  • 65% connect an application and create a dashboard (this is trending up, April was 70%). That means that healthy signup rate is also driving qualified users!
  • And that 65% connect & create their dashboard 2 minutes or less. Wow, that’s pretty fast.
  • 2.1% convert to a paid account. Our goal is 3%, so we have some work to do!
  • with a ‘DTP’ (Days to Pay) of 29 days (this is trending shorter; April was 26.5 days)
  • And an ARPU of $24.26

What’s important is to establish both what your SaaS conversion metrics are, and then set and measure against goals. At the very start of your SaaS business you may not know exactly what the goals should be, but you should definitely know what the conversion metrics are. Then measure and instrument your business to show month over month, or at least quarter over quarter gains. What are your metrics for your SaaS business, share them!

Startup Lessons Learned: The Importance of Lead Qualification

lead qualification cartoon

Image: Dilbert

We’re a small scrappy bunch here at Dasheroo, and because of that each person is stretched super thin. Some of the times it’s obvious, other times it remains more hidden. But one spot we started to see a bit of a hit recently was in our larger sales deals.

Now don’t get me wrong – Mimi is a one-person sales team animal. She started here at Dasheroo way back when, selling when we barely had anything a larger business would want! But they bought from her.

But this month we ran into an unusual ‘problem’: we had too many leads, and too many demo requests for her to handle! Ok, Ok, I hear you “Umm, Hingley sounds like it’s time to hire another sales person”. Well, first I am that ‘other’ sales person, as any start-up CEO should be comfortable doing! But secondly, the real challenge was that Mimi’s close rates started to come down in April. And she doesn’t take kindly to that.

Seemed like this month in particular, Mimi was really having challenges with people not having the budget to pay for Dasheroo. We couldn’t think of anything specific that should impede closing deals in April. I mean, tax season affects consumer purchases, but not really B2B sales.

So Mimi, Janine and I started to dig in to find out why. We scoured the leads, the geos, the biz types that were coming in in late March and April to see if we could find any root causes. It didn’t take long to drill in and identify two fairly obvious source of new leads that were requesting live demos – GREAT new leads, but more SMB oriented types, folks that should probably start out with our free plan, and then build up through our auto convert editions over time.

It’s a lead qualification issue. And we don’t have an SDR (Sales Development Rep) right now to filter through and qualify the leads to help Mimi focus on the more high value ones.

So we took another look at Mimi’s email that goes out to everyone requesting a demo. The same email that had been going out for months and months, before we had the great challenge of ‘too many leads’.  It didn’t set any expectations for pricing, annual commitments, anything that would help filter out folks that can’t afford, or don’t need, or pricer editions. We made revisions on the spot, stating our minimum $ commitment, and if they were’ ready for that, to watch our demos, sign up for a free account and kick the tires.

The result? Literally within 2 days, we effectively moved the appropriate folks to our ‘auto convert’ business and helped Mimi spend her time on demos and negotiations with businesses that have the need and budget for our Agency & Enterprise offerings! Just this week Mimi’s close rate is back on track and growing!

It’s amazing how a fresh look at ‘old’ communications and practices can really help boost your productivity when you’re growing!

Startup Lessons Learned: Take a Weekend Off!

As startup types, we all tend to work pretty damn hard. And we need to, no matter how productive we are, there’s always more important stuff to get done. And I’m my own worst enemy, I support my folks in work/life balance but don’t ascribe to that too much myself. I’m lucky I guess that my wife (Janine our CMO) is the same way AND we don’t have kids. But that can lead to serious burn out and really a lack of focus that can sneak up on you. So last Friday afternoon, I just said “F it, I’m gonna shut down, have a glass of wine and chill.”Dasheroo tomatoes!

That extended into a full weekend of nothing but a quick check of Dasheroo email a couple times a day. So what’d I do with all this free time? Breathed! And gardened. Janine and I visited the best gardening store in San Francisco, Flora Grubb  and picked up some lavender, succulents, a ton of herbs and even some tomatoes (we were told they may not be able to grow on an SF patio, BOB:-). We spent the afternoon potting and planting. It was relaxing, therapeutic AND productive. But personally productive! By the end of the weekend our little deck was tricked out complete with a drip system.

The cool thing was the project actually had a clear beginning and completion with the installation of the drip system. Oftentimes in tech the ‘end’ never seems to come.

When Monday rolled around, I was more refreshed than usual, and very energized to dive back into all the cool stuff we need to do for Dasheroo.

This weekend? Well, we’re busy cranking out cool stuff for our users so I’ll be back on the Dasheroo weekend shift, but for sure taking some quality time to go out on the deck and tinker in our garden. On this Friday, consider winding down a bit early and putting some time into doing nothing, or doing something non-work related. And let me know how you feel Monday!

Startup Lessons Learned: Your Network is More Than Your Social Network

This is mScreen Shot 2016-04-14 at 5.40.24 AMore like a ‘startup lessons remembered’ but worthy nonetheless. It’s about your social network, and how that can be limiting if you only rely on it to establish partnerships.

I’m working on a large partner strategy here at Dasheroo, and have 10-12 potential companies I’m targeting. Do I have C-level contacts at all of these companies? Nope. My awesome advisors have contacts at some of them; some very recent and relevant and others more of just a LinkedIn connection. And as we all know, all connections are not created equal. For instance, I’m connected to a few thousand folks; I may only really know a few hundred of those, and of those I’m not really that up to date on where they are or what they are doing.

So for the companies I was really lacking connections for, I started with what I call ‘LinkedIn stalking’. Go to my favorite social network LinkedIn and start searching for CEO, CPO and CMO folks to connect to. Then when they connect, BAM! I start a dialog that develops into my pitch.

This can be a laborious effort. And since it’s semi-cold, not always going to have a great success rate.  Same can be said of the intros you can get from one of your 1st degree connections to someone you want to connect with.

So the other day, I was having drinks with an old friend of mine. Nothing business related, just a catch-up after not seeing him for a year or so. Eventually we touched on business & I mentioned my big project. After a few minutes, Nick’s eyes lit up and he said “Have you ever thought of <company name>? They’ve switched their strategy the past year and this could be a perfect fit! I just spoke to their CEO last week.”

So Nick introduced me to their CEO, with great context and a very personal ‘in’. We instantly scheduled what was a very productive meeting that hopefully leads to a great deal for both of us.

What this reminded me was: all too often we hope or expect a connection on social media will turn into something, but working your personal connections can be far more productive. So get out there, hop on a Zoom or meet up in person and work it!

Startup Lessons Learned: A Nurture Marketing Campaign

Do you have the need for a marketing campaign that nurtures people to a final sale over time? If you’re like Slack and you’re driving usage and getting them to pay you might not have to! But for all the non-Slackers out there, you should; whether to convert self-serve sales or to drive leads and demos for your sales team.

Here at Dasheroo we think we do a pretty decent job, and our growing auto-convert conversion rates and Monthly New Recurring Revenue from our sales team attests to that.

And I’ve learned over the years, that even though the times may change that 9 times outta 10 the timing of and a clear value proposition in marketing pipeline emails move the needle. But lately I’ve been seeing lots of ‘cutesy’ pipeline emails like this one:

Example of nurture marketing campaign

What do you think of these ‘cute’ marketing pipeline emails?

Cute? Sure. Loaded with personality? I guess. Clear WTF they do? Hell no!

That email really annoyed me. It’s an opportunity lost. I’m actually OK with the casual, semi-conversational tone, but please…I’m busy so cut to the chase.

Maybe these get an initial bump in open rates, but after the first one most people catch on and just trash these.

What’s your opinion on the format of this particular marketing campaign? And if any of you have done some A/B testing I’d love to know the results!

Startup Lessons Learned: Business Freemium Model

Here at Dasheroo, we embraced a business freemium model to help drive the growth of our business. That means instead of relying on advertising on Google Adwords or other venues, we offer a tier of service for free. The premise is that freemium will drive risk-free adoption that will in turn generate awareness and positive word of mouth, or viral growth, without advertising.

It’s a big bet. There’s lots of success stories (Slack, Mailchimp, Box, Evernote) but also some folks in our space who have switched from freemium to a standard free trial model (Sumall). Many of the switchers to free trial are mainly focused on the Enterprise,  and as opposed to consumer freemium, business freemium typically takes longer to catch on. So how’s it working for Dasheroo in the early stages? Well, let’s look at this nifty Google Sheets dashboard:

business freemium growth

Early on, we were a very ‘hit driven’ business. We were very dependent on getting influencers to talk about us, and link to us, and we did a ton of 1:1 outreach. We were fortunate to get superstars like like Eve Mayer the LinkedIn Queen to talk about us on social media,  and MatthewToren to write a great article about us on Entrepreneur. You can see the spike we got in October from that.

But these days we find ourselves simply growing more organically. We send an email to every new user asking them how they heard about us and why they like us and and we get about aa 20% response rate. From their answers we get an increasing number of people telling us they heard about us from a colleague or at a conference. All of this thanks to what we hope is a great product and user experience.

So, the big question: does business freemium replace salespeople? Nope. But about 10% (and growing) of our new users are large companies that feed our higher-value deals via our sales team. Just a few months ago, that percentage was less than 3%!

So, is business freemium is working for us? We think so at least at this early stage!