Startup Lessons Learned: Testing Facebook Ads

Dasheroo for Agencies - KPIsRecently we needed to drum up some leads for Mimi, our Director of Sales here at Dasheroo. Where did we turn? Facebook Advertising of course. How easy is it to set up a Facebook Ad in minutes, get it approved in minutes and start to find out what works and what doesn’t.

So we started spending a mere $20/day to drive leads to a sign up form where people can get more information on Dasheroo for Agencies.

Facebook Mobile Might Not Work for Your Offering

If you’ve got an app that appeals to a mobile audience, include placements on Instagram and Facebook Mobile. You should even set up separate ads so you can track each of them.

At Dasheroo we were getting a TON of traffic but no conversions because we selected our ad to be shown on Instagram and Facebook mobile.

Dasheroo Google Dashboard

So make sure you track where your website traffic is coming from. In this Dasheroo Insight we track Google Analytics by Device type. Just before the 16th of May you can see that our mobile traffic eclipsed our desktop traffic…weird.

Facebook Automatically Checks “Audience Network”. 

This means that your ad will be optimized for where it will get the most bang for your buck. However you might not get conversions from it. And that’s what happened to us.

From the graph below you can see that Facebook looked at the Cost per Result and found that the Audience Network was giving us a .08 per click. Nice but not when they don’t convert. And we found people were not converting from a mobile device. Less than 1% of our traffic was going to the desktop. Even though that Cost per Result was .54 cents they may have signed up for more information.

 

Facebook Ads Analytics

So now we went in and unchecked Audience Network!

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 6.53.39 AM

 

Now we bumped our spend to $40/day. We’ll blog again when we see if there were any changes in conversion. Stay tuned!

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: 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: Meetings – Go for The Face-to-Face

Cartoon: Face to faceMeetings. Meetings, meetings and more meetings. It’s easy sometimes to start to think of meetings as time sucks rather thanan investment in your business. Well, actually some meeting ARE time sucks, so just whack those out now, OK? But especially if you’re in business development, partnership or sales mode it’s so valuable to get in the car, train, bus, subway, Über or whatever and try your best to take these meetings in person. At their place of business.

It’s amazing how you can cut through the crap and make 10x the progress via just a phone call. It shows you value the relationship, and it’s amazing how often your prospect or potential partner will include additional decision makers when they know you’re showing up in person. People also tend to be more transparent in face-to-face meetings as well, and it’s typically easier to get a ‘read’ on the situation, opportunity, and how well the respond your solution.

I don’t know about you, but via phone, I get a lot of “yeah, that sounds interesting, let me double back with my team and I’ll get back to you in a couple weeks…”  Yeah, right.

But in person, the discussions are typically are more driven from an honest reaction to how your solution fits or doesn’t fit into their business, and what their internal or external challenges are. And that leads to immediate discussion around those issues, with more people involved. And at that point what I’ve learned in they really want to work towards a solution.

I recently almost slipped into a ‘phoner-mode’ with a potential partner; I had a couple conflicts, it was the day before I was leaving for a trip, excuses, excuses. I thought more about it, called the guy back, and said “You know, I think it’d be way better to meet at your office instead of a phone call.” He really appreciated it, and included 2 additional decision makers that would not have been on a phone meeting. And instead of a 30-minute call it turned into a hugely productive 1 hour and 15-minute meeting with concrete takeaways and a solid action plan. And some great chemistry; we both really want to find a way to work together.

Is it a done deal yet? Not yet. But I guarantee it’s way further down the road toward a ‘yes’ and potentially much bigger, than we all originally thought!

Now, my startup lesson this past week? Time is valuable so Im not recommending in-person meetings for each one; just the ones you think are at the level of importance to get in there, show off your stuff and push the deal ahead faster.

Startup Lessons – Managers and Employees: Be Honest, Be Open

Dilbert Cartoon for Dasheroo's Startup LessonsI just had a tough situation where I had to fire one of the Dasheroo family. And we really are family here, even though
we’re in a distributed work environment
. Plus this person is a long-time friend and also colleague who I had worked with successfully in the past.

And since we are distributed, I had to do the deed via phone; not the best format but it had to be done, and I’ve had to do it that way in past jobs. A few days later we were actually able to meet F2F to take care of some paperwork, but mainly to discuss ‘what happened’ and why.

The specifics aren’t relevant here, but it reminded me to remind everyone on our tight team to address issues and communicate with their manager early on. Personal and professional. If there’s an identified issue a “What’s going on, everything OK?” often opens a door to a productive conversation. Issues rarely solve themselves; and one of our responsibilities here is to help make our people successful. If you don’t start a company with a very open and honest culture, you aren’t gonna retrofit it later.

And just telling people to be open and honest is only one part of this. As leaders, we have to ‘show’, not just ‘tell’ this aspect of your company culture in order for it to take hold and build a valuable environment for your business.

What are your thoughts on how ‘open’ communications should be between team members, especially between folks and their managers? Let me know!

Startup Lessons: WFH Ain’t For Everybody

Work From Home Meme for business dashboard Dasheroo blogKids knocking at your door? Dog needs a walk? A shiny object just appeared? Working from home sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?

I’ve talked before about the distributed work environment we have at Dasheroo. Actually it’s semi-distributed as we have an office in Austin that our engineering team is located building crazy business dashboard features, but the balance of our awesome team is spread across the Bay Area, where everyone works from home. Or a coffee shop. Whatever works.

Some of our folks came to Dasheroo with previous experience working remotely; for others it’s a new experience. We’re in the startup stage and we need to work collaboratively on building the best business dashboard product for our thousands of customers worldwide so we HAVE to nail this remote work experience.

Personally I’ve done both, and even when I was running a sales division for a big public company, it was still somewhat distributed as I had people reporting to me from multiple locations around the world, and my boss was located in Boston. So I’m very comfortable with it. But that doesn’t mean everyone is!

I recently had to let someone go here at Dasheroo. And we both came to the conclusion that the work from home (WFH) scenario just wasn’t working out. This person, a good friend of mine, needed both the structure and social aspect that a more traditional office environment offers.

It got me thinking about how our current folks are experiencing WFH; how they manage their time and the challenges around it. So I asked ’em, and here’s some verbatims:

Mimi (Director of Sales):

“For me it’s time management!  For some reason, when working from home it seems that time just flies by!  So I use my calendar to also assign myself time for different tasks.  In that way, I’m alerted that it’s time to start doing something else or shifting gears.”

Nivi (Sr. Product Manager):

“Setting up a schedule to start working, lunch, even breaks for errands helps in being productive as you are creating an environment very similar to work. Also planning your day in advance in terms of tasks is important so that we get to everything in our to do list.”

Josh (Co-founder & VP Product):

I feel SO much more productive when I work from home because I’m able to manage my time and the lack of distractions makes a big difference. I try to structure my days to align meetings in a way that doesn’t have me tied up for more than 2 hours at a time within a given day. This way I can still have productive session with team members but I’m still using 90% of my day to just get stuff done. With Zoom and Slack I can be in direct contact with team members no matter where I am which is great in terms of flexibility. Another quick win? I get about 2 hours a day more productivity by not commuting!”

Jen (Customer Success Manager):

“I cannot believe how fast the work day goes by at home!  This WFH is new for me,  and initially (not so much anymore) missed working with people in the office; just being able to see people and talk face to face, but thank goodness for technology I am able to talk with all my co-workers multiple times a day just like I would if I was in the office!”

It’s important to remember that WFH success is situational too; at some points in people’s lives a WFH situation may be perfect, but in other times it’s just not gonna work. So we strive to bring on people that have past experience and thrive in this environment. I’m also a fan of WeWork, so we’re beginning regular, 2x per month, office hours very soon. What are your thoughts on a WFH structure? Let me know!

Startup Lessons Learned – Our First Quarterly Sales Plan

Acronym cartoonMy background and most of my experience is in online and direct response marketing, and that’s how we drive tons of usage and what we call ‘auto convert’ sales. That’s where we focus on smaller dollar amount sales via in-app conversion without a salesperson’s involvement. So although I’ve managed sales folks and developed sales plans at previous gigs, it’s not in my wheelhouse, as they say. So fortunately, I have sharp sales people I trust, board members with mucho experience in mid-market and larger company sales, and lots of sales friends to tap into to develop Dasheroo’s first quarterly sales plan.

When you’re talking sales planning, you have to get familiar with terms like ACV, MRR, ARR and CAC:

  • ACV = Annual Contract Value
  • MRR = Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • ARR = Annual Recurring Revenue
  • CAC = Cost of Customer Acquisition

I’m not gonna get in deep on the actual calculations in this post; there are plenty of excellent articles that do that just fine, I personally like a couple from the ‘For Entrepreneurs’ site: SaaS Metrics 2.0 – Detailed Definitions and SaaS Metrics 2.0 – A Guide to Measuring and Improving what Matters.

The gist of this post is the process of establishing what those values should be for our early stage startup. It’s all about setting aggressive, yet achievable goals that are aligned with building Dasheroo to become a very successful company.

So where to start?! We need to drive revenue, but we also need to realize at this early stage that we also have a lot to learn, including:

  • What are the key blockers to closing deals?  
  • How long is the sales cycle?  
  • What type of financial commitment will customers make?  
  • Can we grow revenue per customer over time?  
  • Can we get customers to commit to an annual agreement, even if they want to pay monthly?
  • Will they stick around? Churn kills!

All of this helps us establish the metrics that build a robust and accurate sales model, focusing on the Big 4 I mentioned above (ACV, MRR, ARR and CAC). Don’t get me wrong, it takes several quarters, I’d say at easily four quarters to get some valid numbers and account for seasonality to get to a point where there’s a good level of confidence in the model. But you have to start measuring Day 1.

I was, and still am, a proponent at this stage in driving a number of qualified deals rather than focus purely on revenue. That might sound crazy, but once again at this very early stage (we only launched billing in May)  I think it’s important to get salespeople focused first on closing good deals, learning what keeps those customers around, or the features we need to close them, and using that information to ratchet up subsequent quarters, and factoring in MRR increases and ACV targets.

The second quarter I start to factor in some increase in MRR so they are also focused on developing a strong customer base as opposed to 1-offs that churn quickly or that we cannot grow into larger accounts. So here it is:

We're new and our salespeople are new, too! Here's our initial sales plan for our newbies

We’re new and our salespeople are new, too! Here’s our initial sales plan for our newbies

Yes, we have revenue numbers ascribed to this model as well, but I haven’t even shared those with my board yet, so it’s too early to publish it here!

I’m sure our plan will evolve and strengthen as we go, but it’s a start. How do you approach sales plans early on? It;s always a bit of gut instinct but I’d love to hear your experiences, either bad or great!

Startup Lessons Learned: Your Weekly Ops Meeting

Doug Savage business cartoonI’m fortunate, Dasheroo has an awesome team. From the 5 co-founders to the balance of our 12-person squad. For one, we have great chemistry and for the most part have all worked with each other at some point in our careers, so there is a ton of familiarity and respect among us all. Great communication is also key. As a distributed team, we take are heavy users of tools like Slack, Basecamp & Zoom. We have daily stand-ups where we hold a scrum-style ‘activities & blockers’ meeting, 1:1s and each Monday the 5 of us co-founders hold a weekly operations meeting. For this week’s startup lessons I’m focusing on the weekly Ops meeting.

Before we launched, a lot of our Ops meeting focus was around product and development deliverables.

But during a recent 1:1 with Josh, he brought up just this fact: “We all know each other, trust each other, and like each other, but are we really digging into the KPIs and discussing what we need to do to move the business forward?” The answer was…No.

I think we let that ‘familiarity’ aspect of the chemistry between the 5 of us get the best of us. Our ops meetings slowly turned into a ‘how’d the weekend go?’ and took on more of something I hate: an unproductive ‘status meeting’ where we updated a few top line goals and then passed the baton to the next co-founder. Ugh!

Let me remind you – one of the main reasons Dasheroo exists is because, during a stint at another company, I turned one of those ‘status meetings’ into what I renamed the Triple S (Sell Some S*^t!). And what that meant was that everyone in the meeting reported on their main KPIs, how each person’s activities affected the others and overall, how we could work together to make sure what we were focused on really helped drive business success.

So, the new format? KPI driven (what tool do you think we’ll use to report on those?!) with an accountability and group brainstorming perspective.

So here are the key business analytics we now focus on, and they should be obvious:

  • Website sessions and key sources
  • # signups (SU)
  • SU conversion rate
  • % SU who connected an Insight (this is an indicator of activity and engagement)
  • Conversion rate to a paid plan – We’ll expand this into a cohort analysis
  • Churn (we need to define this)
  • Revenue

The result after the first few ‘revamped’ ops meetings? Tremendous. For instance, as Janine was talking about the growth of our SEO and how our keyword targeted landing pages are helping capture mid to long tail traffic, James our VP Engineering noted that we should build a developer-focused landing page. Great! And that’s just one small win.

If this format sounds obvious, maybe you’re ahead of the game. But I challenge everyone reading to take a fresh look at your periodic (our is weekly) ops-style meeting and see if you are digging into and discussing your key performance indicators, and how you as a team can maximize your success.

Startup Lessons Learned: SEO, It’s a Journey Not a Destination

We’ve been plugging away at making our product the best it can be. We want people to love it and tell all of their friends about it so we don’t need to spend a ton of money on Google AdWords – been there, done that. Not at Dasheroo.

This week’s startup lessons learned is all about SEO. We’ve been focusing on our search engine optimization strategy. Janine and Alf have been putting a ton of time into getting above all of the search engine noise. Going up even a point for your Moz page authority and domain authority is NOT easy and takes time. Our focus isn’t just to only win at one big keyword, but to win at dozens of other keywords as well. Only a diversified SEO strategy (ranking high for lots of relevant keyword searches) wins in the long run.

We decided to start with Moz’s pie chart of what goes into Google’s search algorithm. This chart was created by insights from a ton of SEO experts, and focuses on key efforts that are going to really move the needle.

Weighting of Google's ranking factors

 

1. Inbound Linking – We put a concerted effort into inbound linking since that makes up almost 21% of the ranking factor. And it ain’t like the olden days where you could stick a link on a million sites and get ranked #1. Here it needs to be from quality sites that have a good domain authority. We use the Moz bar when we’re looking at sites and if they’ve got a killer domain authority, they make the list.

2. Page Level Linking – Since this makes up for almost 20% of the ranking factor, we took a look at our website and our blog and found we were not really doing enough linking from page to page and we were just doing one word linking instead of entire phrases. So we changed that. Instead of just linking “Dasheroo” to our blog, we link phrases like best free dashboards a business can find to our site. And we don’t mind linking people off of our site, say to the Moz Bar tool page since it makes total sense for this content you’re reading.

Google description used for Dasheroo's Google Sheets dashboard3. Page Level Keywords & Content – This makes up almost 15% of the Google ranking factor. So we took a look at our site and decided that for every app integration we do, we’re going to make the focus be long-tail keywords. Instead of “business dashboards” all over the site, on these specific pages we may focus on the specific integration. For instance we have an integration with Google Sheets where you can take your Sheets data and create great-looking dashboards. So we have a specific Google Sheets dashboard landing page where the URL reads: https://www.dasheroo.com/google-sheets-dashboard. We put the keyword right in the URL and use the keywords in the description and the content so we hopefully will someday be found pretty easily, we’ve already risen out of nowhere to page 2; page 1 here we come!

SO WHAT HAPPENED AFTER A MONTH OF FOCUS?

Our page authority went up 2 whole points and our domain authority went up 3 (the more important one IMHO). Like the headline says, it’s a journey not a destination. We’ll keep you up to date on how we’re improving and what we’re doing to get there.

Startup Lessons Learned: Have Your Investors & Advisors Work For You

SHave your investors and your advisors working for you!o you raised your financing and brought a couple impressive folks on as advisors or board members. That is awesome! But, it’s more than just money and names  – your investors and your advisors are there for you beyond that initial commitment, and they need to be. But not necessarily if you don’t ask, as these are very busy people juggling tons of different priorities. If they’re good, they should be juggling, right?!

We’re very fortunate to have an A-Team supporting us here at our business dashboard startup, Dasheroo. Sharp investors, and seasoned and insightful board members and board advisors. Plus they are all fun as hell to work with! In this Startup Lessons article I want to show you the diversity of our advisors and investors and what they provide depending on what we need at specific times.

Just a sampling of their many contributions over and above their money:

Matt Holleran – General Partner, Cloud Apps Capital Partners (Board Member): Cloud Apps is our lead investor, and Matt is our board member, along with me.  Matt is the ‘King of Connections’. The ‘Open Sesame’ of strategic business contacts. He seems to knows everyone, and everyone has huge respect for him. When I needed an intro to one of the largest social media publishing platforms, well, he was visiting with the CEO that weekend! Plus he is excellent at helping position our value within the perfect context of each potential partner we discuss. Thay type of value you just can’t buy.

Judy Loehr – Venture Partner, Cloud Apps Capital Partners (Board Advisor): Well, where do I start? Judy could be the CMO at damn near any company in the galaxy. So it’s more of a ‘where’ do I ask for input issue.  Early on, it was helping establish and vet out our Go-To-Market strategy and pricing approach. Now it’s helping navigate the waters of a very large CRM company we’re beginning a strategic relationship with.

John Jantsch, Founder & CEO Duct Tape Marketing (Advisor): John regularly speaks at social media and marketing conferences around the world. And writes lots of great books. OK, so what does John do for us? He continually provides us with proven, down to earth, practical ideas and feedback. Recently, he advised us on our soon-to-be-released agency pricing (we listened to every word), and we are busy working on ways to have a tight Duct Tape – Dasheroo relationship. We love John because of his never vague, always immediately valuable and pretty easy to implement ideas.

Walter Kortschak, Managing Partner Kortschak Investments (Investor & Advisor): Walter is a large investor and advisor. We’re starting to scale, plus I need advice on the metrics and growth we need to show for a potential B-Round of financing in 2016. Who better to get insight from than a guy like Walter? He was an original investor in MacAfee and helped them achieve super stardom, and has also invested in big-scale companies like Twitter, Evernote and Lyft. So he knows the ins and outs of scaling a successful global business. And again, no ‘pie in the sky’ where it’s not warranted. He has decades of experience and no ego. As we grow, Water will be an even more valuable go-to on building enterprise sales and overall growth of our business.

Maurice Werdegar and Rob Glasser, Western Technology Investments We are honored to count these guys in as an investor in Dasheroo. I liked these guys from the get go; they have a no B.S. attitude and pragmatic approach to helping create successful businesses. We caught up a couple days ago, and they are now going to introduce us to a bunch of their portfolio companies. And if we decide to consider venture debt, they are the highly respected firm in the industry.

Janine Popick, board advisor and Dasheroo CMO. Well, first she grew leading email service provider and SMB darling VerticalResponse into a 1,000,000+ SMB success before she sold it. So she knows a thing or three about the SMB market – how to acquire and retain them. And, I mean this in a good way, lots of ‘in the trenches, here’s what NOT to do’ lessons that only a long-time successful entrepreneur can teach you.

Bottom line: each of these folks has played a huge part in Dasheroo’s growth and we’ve benefitted from quantifiable, measurable value out of them so you need to incorporate them into your business:

  • Have a monthly or quarterly meeting with them with a shortened version of your board deck talking about all of the things you accomplished  with one slide: Where You Can Help.
  • Include them on a weekly or monthly progress email so you’re “in their face”. We add all of our investors and advisors on a weekly email called Track Our Startup. Maybe they read it and think “hey, I can help this week.”
  • If you’re coming up on a big decision (like pricing or a legal issue) where one of them has expertise or experience with it, reach out on that specific item.
  • If you need to meet someone very strategic to your business look them up on LinkedIn and see if they’re connected. Then ask for an intro! They can’t read your mind, you have to do the research.

So remember – it’s easy to do all the work to get an investment and advisor team together then go about your business and forget to reach out for help to grow and make their time and money pay back to the largest extent possible. And these people are B-U-S-Y, you cannot expect them to have you top of mind, you have to be the one reaching out.

Now all of that said, we are truly fortunate at Dasheroo in that all the folks I mentioned above DO proactively reach out to help!