The key to effective inbound content marketing is creating valuable content tailored to your customer’s experience. While it seems like a pretty simple task, many companies fail in producing compelling and strategic content that customers seek. Hence, their conversion metric ends up suffering.
This is an area where ScreenCloud found success in. Inbound content marketing aims to pique customers’ curiosity and lead them to take out your trial. If you fail at the very first step, nothing else will follow. ScreenCloud is raising the inbound content marketing standards to offer valuable content that upsells.
In this episode, David Hart of ScreenCloud discusses what the digital signage solution is. He explains the importance of establishing a product-market fit in identifying a successful venture. David also shares lots of golden nuggets when it comes to effective inbound content marketing and documenting sales processes.
Tune in to the episode to learn how you can raise the standards of your inbound content marketing.
Click here to read transcript
[3:18] Hi, David. Welcome to the show. Thanks for being here.
- Oh, thanks for having me.
[3:21] Yeah, no problem. It’s a pleasure. For the folks in my audience who maybe aren’t familiar with you or your company, let’s start there. What does your company do?
- So our company is ScreenCloud. And we are a SaaS digital signage company, which means that we allow, we help companies, management control content across multiple screens in multiple locations. And we do it completely from a hardware agnostic perspective, just using our software. And although we are digital signage, and that’s, I guess, where we started, we’re actually pushing towards a kind of new category as we see it. We haven’t quite defined it yet. But it’s probably going to be in the area of sort of company TV, it seems we feel like that’s kind of where we’re pushing ourselves and where we see the interest. Because digital signage is kind of advertising at one end and kind of content within companies. Another end, it can be lots of things, lots of things in between.
[4:19] And when did you launch?
- We launched at the end of 2015.
[4:24] And how many customers now?
- We have almost 9,000 customers. So yeah, quite a few. And most of those are in North America. Even though you can probably detect that I’m not from that part of the world. I’m about to move to California, but yeah, right now, still in the UK.
[4:43] Okay. And funded or bootstrapped?
- Well, we’re funded. We started off being bootstrapped. We span out of it. So the three of us that started it, we’ve worked together since 2004. And we had an agency and we did a number of side projects, and this is one of them. And we decided if we really wanted this to be big, we needed it to stop being a side project and be a main course. So we ditched the agency. We sold the agency. So we funded it to start with. And then we’ve done various, sort of friends and family around—a seed round. So we’ve raised about four and a half million dollars. I mean, some of it’s in pounds. Some of it’s in dollars, it’s about four and a half million. And we’ve just raised another two million as a convertible note, just to sort of take us through these bumpy, bumpy times.
[5:31] Okay. So I assume that you’re not yet profitable.
- No, well, no. Although the last two or three months, we have actually been strangely, we have been profitable. We, in response to COVID, we sort of made some cuts. And we were probably a little bit overly conservative or overly cautious. And, actually, revenues didn’t drop off as much as we predicted they might do. But most of the time, we’re not profitable.
[6:04] So very clearly you’ve done a really great job of accelerating growth, attracting customers. So let’s start to unpack the things that went into that so that we can get into all the juicy gold nuggets that the audience loves to get when they listen to these episodes. So the first thing that I want to talk about is product market fit. You know, we as entrepreneurs, we come up with ideas, and then our ideas collide with reality. And oftentimes, there are changes that need to be made. So tell me about that because you and your two co-founders had this original vision for what it was you were going to build. And I’m gonna guess that that’s maybe a little bit different than what you have now, or maybe it wasn’t. But tell me about establishing the product market fit.
- Yeah, pretty, pretty much. I mean, it was, like a lot of people, scratching our own itch. We wanted to show our KPIs on the wall in our studio, in our digital studio. We were a digital web design agency. And we couldn’t really work out a way to do it other than everything that was out there seemed incredibly expensive or handmade. You know, it’s like gaffer tape a Mac Mini to the back of the screen or something. And the alternative was to sort of buy proprietary hardware from proper digital signage companies. And yeah, we just want to get some KPIs up on the dashboard.
So Luke, our CTO, said, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll hack something over the weekend. And I’ll show you on Monday.” And then I think the more he looked at it, the more he realized, “Oh, actually, this isn’t as straightforward than I thought.” And anyway, we started to kind of play around with it. And then we felt like this is probably a product.
And I think actually in terms of product market fit, like before we got to the point where people were actually buying it, I remember a time, so we launched a series of side projects, as I said in the past, but when we talked about ScreenCloud, we got a different kind of reaction. So when we were talking about the other ideas that we had—we had loads, and we built quite a lot, and we sold some of them—and you’d kind of go, “Oh, yes, that’s quite interesting.” But when we spoke about ScreenCloud, a lot of people were like, “I need that. Like, when you’ve got that, let me know. Because we need that today.” So you’ve kind of felt like we were pushing on a bit of an open door.
And we were riding on the coattails of a big change that was happening, which was people using Chromecast at home to stream Netflix. So that was a kind of evolving thing. These kind of media players which would allow people to, instead of watching Netflix on their laptop or anything, now they could look at it through their TVs. And they could plug this media player into the back of the Chromecast, or Amazon Fire TV stick, or Apple TV stick. And people were used to that, and they were doing that at home. And they were like, “Well, why can’t I just do that in the office?”
So we were kind of, as I said, like I mentioned earlier, like, at the time, the incumbent, if you like, were hardware vendors. They were selling proprietary boxes, and screens, and, you know, cabling and all that kind of stuff. And software is a bit of an afterthought. And we came at it completely the other way saying, “Actually, we don’t really care about the hardware. Because the screens you can buy on Amazon are good enough. And now you can buy these media tv sticks for like 50 bucks, and you’re up and going. Like why don’t we just make a really lovely, beautiful bit of software that works, that has a great user interface, and go from there?” So that’s kind of how we started.
I mean, of course, when we launched the product, we realized. Actually, the other thing to say is because we had experience of doing some crazy things prior to this, like there was one product we did called Dash. I remember then we took about a year building it, and then we launched it and no one was interested. So we’d learn from our mistakes about like over-finessing the product out there. So when we first put it out there, it was rubbish. It was kind of, like—we went into—we put it into a bar. So when we knew, like, we didn’t charge him and said, “I’m gonna put this digital signage thing into your bar.” Put it in there, it didn’t work. Because we’d been playing with it in the studio, where we had perfect WiFi. You put it into public WiFi, with people and concrete posts and everything, and then suddenly we were getting packet loss. And it just wasn’t working properly. Like, “oh man, this is a real problem here.” So we pulled it for about two months and spent a lot of time thinking about caching. And how we could make the most from these kind of weedy little devices like the Chrome sticks and Chrome boxes and stuff. And then once we solved that, and we realized that we could do some clever stuff with caching, then we were able to properly go out again. And, start actually selling it.
But even so, the very first version of the product was very basic. And I’m glad it was because actually some of the things that people came back at and said, “I really like it. We’re not prepared to pay for it until it does the things that we—just didn’t—hadn’t recognized as being important.” I mean, an early example is we just had the screens working on landscape. And people said, “Yeah, it’s good. But I need a portrait.” We’re like, “Yeah, alright, okay. At some point we’ll do portraits.” But we never realized that for a lot of people that was a red flag. Until we had that, they couldn’t actually use it. So it was good getting a very, very basic version out there. And just wait getting feedback in that sense.
[11:59] Okay. And how long of a process was that? Or is that still happening to this day? I’m guessing maybe it’s still happening to this day?
- Yeah, I mean, we still at the moment our big challenge is moving upstream. So increasing our annual contract value is our—so our investors, and in fact, other investors we’ve talked to said, “Your metrics are stellar, like you’re in the top percentile of metrics apart from one thing, your ACV or annual contract value is too low.” And that’s really because we’ve largely grown out of self-serve. And so a lot of our current customers have traditionally been SMBs. And, in fact, we thought that it would be a bit of an SMB play. I mean, as I said earlier, like, the alternatives at the time only seem to be the sort of things that an enterprise would be able to afford. So we thought, we’re filling that gap.
But then we realized that bigger companies will come to us and say, “We love this. We want to use this as well. But you haven’t got SSO, and you haven’t got this bit of security and you need to be able to manage teams in a bit different way.” And all those kinds of things. So, we realized that if there was: A.) an opportunity there and B.) our investors said to us, “Look, you will plateau around 14, 15 million dollars ARR if you just focus on SMB, you have to move upstream.” So we kind of recognize that if we’re going to do this, we have to think again. And so we were, I mean, this was about two years ago.
[13:37] Can I interrupt for a minute? They said the plateau is $15 million if you don’t focus on something other than SMB. Why? Were you going to run out of SMBs to sell? Why were you going to plateau at $15 million?
- So our VC is Point Nine, and Christoph Janz is the head of Point Nine. He’s got this quite famous graph that he produced, which shows how to get to 100 million dollars. It’s quite simple in its, you either have several whales or loads and loads of, I can’t remember if fleas or something in the bottom bit of a thing. So what he was saying is that at the moment, let’s say our annual contract value is, on average, about $1,000, so to get to a million dollars, we’d need 100,000 customers. So obviously, that’s not impossible, but that’s quite hard work to get to 100,000 customers. So I think, I don’t know if it’s 100,000, yeah it’s 100,000. So it’s a challenge in that sense. But also, when you look at our cohorts, when we look at the behavior of our cohorts, our bigger customers are much more likely to expand, much less likely to churn. There’s a lot to be said for those bigger customers. I mean, we’re very, very happy. And we love the fact that we’ve got 9,000 customers and we’re grateful to every one of them. But really when we look back on all our sort of metrics and things, that group of customers, that cohort, are the ones that are, I think, are going to help us get to that hundred million revenue.
[15:30] Do you have the niche? So, for these new larger customers . . . Oh let me before I ask that. The customers that you have, are they predominantly in one industry or you ensure they spread all over the place?
- Pretty much spread. We’ve got, so you think, I mean, I think again, when you talk to investors, they often say, “Oh, it’s retail, isn’t it? You’ve got your retail, that’s digital signage retail, hospitality.” And actually, we do have some of those, but that’s a fairly small sector. And I think it’s partly, because as I said, the incumbents will kind of hoovered up that group of customers. And so what we’re finding is that we’re making inroads into companies who are using screens for internal comms. And internal comms, we don’t like using that phrase because it’s a little bit jaded. But it’s effectively that it’s sharing dashboards, it’s sharing information. It’s pulling in content from third party apps and that kind of stuff, but it’s really what’s being shown in lobbies, what’s being shown in the sales rooms. A lot of customers with a deskless workforce. That’s a really big challenge. How do you communicate?
Do you remember a few years back, Starbucks got into trouble because they called the police on some black customers? And I remember at the time, the CEO said, “We’re going to redouble our efforts to train people to understand diversity and things like that.” I remember thinking, “How do you do that? I mean, none of these people . . .” You know, if I worked at Starbucks, I wouldn’t have an email which said, firstname.lastname@example.org. I would just go in, put my apron on, serve the customers and go home again. So any of that kind of communication, that kind of cultural communication that might come from the CEO, that will probably come via a store manager, who would probably print something out on a piece of A4 and stick it to a pin board in the back office. So that kind of thing, it works very well for us. And that’s where we see our biggest opportunity.
[17:36] So do you have a sense of, for these upmarket customers, are they still going to be across many different industry niches or do you think it’s going to be one?
- We think it’s going to be mainly that kind of use case of wanting to update their users, or their employees. But in terms of the first cause there, a lot of customers we’ve got at the moment are in kind of services, or software, IT. That seems to be, we’re not quite sure why, it might just be that they’re a little bit further ahead. But, you know, we’ve got manufacturers in there, we’ve got chemical manufacturing companies, we’ve got a company that manufactures houses on a conveyor belt and things like that.
[18:23] So how do you the, how do you find and sell into these larger accounts?
- Well, this is our big challenge because we have traditionally been inbound. Everything’s come from inbound, you know.
[18:40] Well, you’ve done content marketing, you’ve done SEO, you’ve done advertising, leads into the top of the funnel, consuming content, going down the funnel through MQLs, SQLs. Do they self sign-up or do they talk to a salesperson?
- So it depends, we try on the website to sort of filter them through to either self-serve and they can do these webinars that we do. Or will push, if they’re bigger, will push them towards a sales team. But what we haven’t done very effectively yet is much in the way of outbound marketing. And we recently hired a VP of marketing in LA, who joined just before COVID. So, yeah, it’s been a bit frustrating for him because he hasn’t really been able to get going yet. But that is our big challenge really is, you know, how do we find a product market fit for this bigger group of customers that we really are looking to go to?
So the enterprise customers that we do have, have really come in accidentally. They’ve come in through the inbound marketing route, and we’ve kind of managed to go, “Hey, brilliant. You’re a big customer. Let us talk to you.” But what we haven’t done is that classic account based marketing, identify the people that we want to go for, let’s find who they are. Let’s make sure that we were producing content this specific to them. So that’s something that we’re working on at the moment.
I mean, in the very early days, we were lucky. I think part of the way that we were very lucky is that we were, because we were producing, to use our products, you had to use an app for each of the media players. So if you wanted to use the Amazon Fire TV stick, you had to download the app from the Amazon Fire TV Stick App Store. And so we were just being discovered, because people were like, digital signage, you know, or just looking on the app store for things that might be related to digital signage. And lo and behold, we came up because all of the others had their own bespoke media player. So you would order the media player, and it would have their software loaded on it and it would arrive in the post. Whereas with us, you would just go to Amazon download, buy a stick, and then download the app. So that was, I wouldn’t want to say that it was a genius thing, but we didn’t actually realize quite how genius it was. We hadn’t planned it that way, it was just like a lucky accident. So there were a lot of people finding us in those early stages. So we did.
And in many ways, we, because we had all these leads coming in and people taking trials. It was kind of almost like a machine that we could kind of, as long as we were making sure that we spoke to the right people, and we gave people an easy way to sign up, that seemed to be working for us. But yeah, the big challenge for us now is how we move upstream and how we actually identify these bigger ACV customers.
[21:47] Yeah, outbound marketing is no joke.
- Million dollar question.
[21:53] So do you—have you had some—have you been outbound marketing to this point?
- Not really. We’ve kind of dipped our toe in a little bit. We were, as I said, we hired this VP of Marketing. He’s a great guy, really, really great guy. But really, you know, COVID happened. It’s like, we just kind of have to pause all of those plans. So he’s got a lot kind of worked out and figured out. We also had to hire . . .
[22:23] Well, hang on, let me interrupt here. Why would you have to pause your outbound marketing plans because of COVID? I mean, we have outbound marketing, we didn’t pause ours.
- Yeah. Well, just the conversations we were having with people. I mean, if you think about the products that we have, it kind of largely requires people to be in the office. Everybody was just staying—So, yeah, let’s talk in a couple of months now. Having said that, we also quickly spun up a version that could work on people’s home computers as well. And so that’s another little string to the bow.
[23:02] What are you gonna do if people aren’t back to their offices for the next two years?
- Well, we, as I say, we’ve got a version now that we’re calling Embeddable Channels. So it’s a version of ScreenCloud that works on, you can either embed it into an internet, or you can actually open it as just a tab on your browser. So it’s a version of that. And then we’re also working on another project, which we’re calling Signal. We realized that there are different types of use cases of getting this information. So digital signage is typically a passive experience. You know, the screens on the wall, you look at it, and you kind of, “Oh, yeah, that’s cool.” So in a call center, it might be saying things like, how many calls are coming in or whatever. In a sales team, it might be, you know, whether you . . . [unintelligible] that kind of thing.
Other kinds of content, you might want to do more as a catch up. So the use case that we would do is the people accessing it from home might be wanting to look at that content in more of a catch up way. So it might be, I just want to catch up on the latest dashboard from marketing, or I want to catch up on what the CEO said, or that kind of thing. And this is why we’re kind of thinking that this is sort of company TV. I mean, internally, we’ve been doing this like talking about it as Netflix for work. So you might consume Netflix in your living room, or you might look at it on the way to work, you might be commuting and just kind of flicking through shows that you’ve missed, and that kind of thing. We kind of see ScreenCloud as being a bit like that. You might have a Smart TV, and you might click on your ScreenCloud App and then go, “Yep, swipe, swipe, swipe. Yeah, I want to watch that bit of content.”
So we’re taking digital signage a little bit away from the traditional passive experience screen on the wall to how people might consume that content at home.
[25:11] So let’s go and talk about your inbound marketing because even though you’ve had a lot of success with it, and even though you are not sure if it’s the future for you, I think the audience can get value from hearing what was really working for you. So tell me though, so your inbound marketing, what was the most successful thing? Was it SEO? Was it paid traffic? Like walk me through it.
- Yeah, the most successful thing for us has been content. So right from the very start when we had no money, well, not very much money. We invest in content. And we work with someone, we’d work with an agency to start with. She was a consultant and she just worked with us two days a week. And we were just like, right. We want four articles a week, I think that’s what we’re asking her to do. And we were looking very much at the kind of long tail type content. And we realized that people weren’t really, people who were coming to ScreenCloud weren’t looking for digital signage per se.
In fact, when we did a survey, I think two years in, 70% of our customers have never had digital signage before. And so instead what they were looking for were things like, “How do I get tweets onto a screen using an Amazon Fire TV Stick?” That’s what they were looking for, right. And they hadn’t necessarily sort of said, “Oh, and that equals digital signage.” They’re just like, “No. I’ve got a Fire TV Stick, I use it at home. I just want to put tweets up in the lobby. I just want to show our TripAdvisor five star reviews on whatever it was.” It was that kind of use cases.
So we produced a kind of a matrix of use cases, and industry sectors, and we just wrote loads and loads and loads of bits of content. And then more recently, we’ve become a bit more sophisticated. So now we have this concept of pillar pages where we’ve got very long form content with smaller bits of detail content kind of coming off it. So if you look on our website, some of our pages are very, very long with a table of content, and it’s everything you need to know about digital signage for retail. And then from that will link off to much more detailed specifics.
But yeah, content has been really key to us. Video, we’ve got two full-time video people. Because we recognize that, in fact, I think early on Mark, my co-founder did a recording on his iPhone, an unboxing of an Amazon Fire TV Stick. And then, getting tweets or something, and it’s got thousands and thousands of views. It’s so lo-fi. But actually it’s clearly people are looking for these kinds of particular use cases.
Because a lot of our competitors at the time, not so much now, but at the time was selling through the channel, they didn’t really care about brands so much. They certainly weren’t thinking about these use cases. So it was wide open for us to go out there, and just find these things that people were looking for and then produce content for it.
[28:20] How did you find all these random, to build this matrix of use cases, and some of the use cases I’m sure or many of them were rather obscure and not necessarily obvious to you or your content team, how did you find them all?
- I think we were just doing some research on Google. I can’t remember the name of the tool that we use to see what people are actually searching for.
[28:43] Keyword research?
- Yeah, basically. And also, I think some of it was our own insights, our own guesswork. Talking to customers, I mean, that was a big thing. Obviously. You realize when you speak to customers, you’re thinking, “Hey, look, we’ve got 80 plus apps that you can integrate with.” And they were like, “Oh right, yeah. Well, I just wanted to put our social media up on the wall.” And that kind of thing and really understanding what was driving people to us in the first place. So talking to customers was absolutely key.
And actually, it can be quite depressing as well. Because you spent all this time finessing this, you’re building this product, and it does all these different things. And you realize that, “I just wanna put JPEGs up on the wall.” And we’re like, “Ughh.”
In fact, we have an internal call to arms, which is to defeat the JPEG. That’s what we want to do. We want people to stop using, we believe in automation. That’s the purpose of what we were doing. So if you’re just using ScreenCloud to put JPEGs up, when you could use the internet to make whatever thing you’re showing visually to be updated in real time. Then that’s where we add value.
But we still have people that, you know, even people that are spending quite a lot of money every day coming in and creating new JPEGs, and putting them.
[30:06] So I’d like to ask you about the funnel. So you’re doing this longtail content to get people to your site. But then to go to the site, they’ve got to get into the funnel, I’m assuming, first before they’re going to get nurtured to the point where they’re going to purchase. Tell me what the lead magnets that you’re using to get people into the funnel, and then what type of content were they seeing once they’re in the fall?
- Yeah, so very much at the top of the awareness was really about the use case, as I said. So it was like these, as I mentioned, people didn’t necessarily assume that what they were looking for was digital signage. So it’s really to start with just like driving them. And then once they were there, kind of obviously introducing them to the idea that this could be a digital signage type of solution. And then we’ll obviously do lots of retargeting, and then it would be more around making them understand what ScreenCloud was, or digital signage specifically, and how that could help them. So then it would be more like, how to do digital signage for education or something like that. And then sort of at the end of the bottom of the funnel conversion was much more about how companies have used ScreenCloud to engage their students in that kind of thing.
[31:30] So when you use the word funnel, are you talking about a funnel that was accomplished by retargeting ads? Or are you talking about a funnel where they’ve opted in giving you their email, you’ve now put them into an autoresponder sequence, and then you’re getting them to segment themselves, and the follow-up and the nurturing is predominantly done via email? Or is it a hybrid approach of both?
- It’s a bit of a hybrid. I mean, obviously, we’re asking people to sign-up, we had a kind of sort of newsletter which we called From Corporate, which was supposed to be a bit tongue in cheek. And so we had a few people that signed up to that. But really, yeah, it was around retargeting and trying to get people to, I mean, really the whole thing for us is to get people to take out a free trial. And then once we’re in that trial, then obviously there’s a kind of email sequence.
Actually, we’ve just promoted someone internally. And we’ve given her the job title of Lifecycle Marketing Manager, because we realized that, I mean, she was kind of doing that anyway. But we realized that it was such, so we’re in a nice position where we haven’t had a net negative revenue churn. So which, if that’s not obvious, it means that people are more likely to expand than they are to churn. And it’s typically, overall it’s about 20% a year. So if we have a hundred—if we have a cohort of customers spending $100 at the beginning of the year, that cohort, okay, some of them will have dropped off, but overall that whole cohort is paying $120.
That’s great, yeah. And for those bigger companies, it is even bigger. I mean, sometimes we have 300% growth in some of the bigger ones. I think that’s partly because it takes a little while to get the hardware up on the wall. But we realized that, yeah, that process of, you know, the thing that we realized is once people start paying, starting the trial, that’s really where the hard work begins. Our whole job then is to help them prove the success of that trial. And so the sales team is very much focused on understanding what success means. Making sure there are no blockers, and really just getting through that trial and making it a success.
[33:46] So when someone signs up for the trial, the whole self-service thing kind of comes to an end, and now your sales team or your SDRs are actively reaching out, and doing stuff? Or what does that . . .?
- Yeah, kind of. So it’s split into three then. So we’ve got very small customers, so we try and automate as much of that as possible. So obviously, they can pick up the phone and speak to a human being, we don’t prevent them from doing that. But we encourage them to get their information from the content that we’ve produced. And it is very simple, we spent a lot of time making the site. I mean, our background was web design and UX, and stuff like that. So, that’s something we spent a lot of time on. And we have a kind of, I guess, a group in the middle. We have an account manager there who will reach out, but it’s semi-automated. So they go into a kind of hopper. And then if they respond, there’s an account manager there to kind of jump on any questions and help them through.
And then for the larger customers, that just goes, yeah, that goes to a sales team and they will be reaching out. And basically, making sure that they understand that we have a sales process and they have to take people through. And one of the steps is understanding what success looks like. You know, understanding what the process of procurement is within that organization, whether what—do we need to start working on the legal stuff now, all those kind of questions.
[35:15] What does your tech stack for your sales team look like? Are you using Salesforce, or HubSpot, or Outreach, or . . .?
- So at the moment we use Close, close.com. And it’s been quite good. But my sense is it’s probably for smaller companies than where we’re at now. So we recognize that probably at some point, we would probably need to use something like Salesforce. And I think Salesforce is probably top of the list right now. But it’s not something we’re rushing into. But there’s just been a few times when we thought, “We can’t quite do this, and we can’t quite do that.” And Salesforce would give us a little bit of more visibility. Again, Close is great for when you’ve got lots of small customers. But I think it’s not so great for the larger customers.
[36:09] Yeah. And there’s the Salesforce AppExchange, which is obviously second to none. And allows you to bolt in all sorts of functionality into the app in any way that you’d like to do.
Okay. So before we, let’s talk about processes before we wrap up, let’s talk about processes. What things that are part of growth are your highest repetitive processes? And are you documenting these processes in any way so that you’ve got recipes, workflows, whatever word you would like to use, sales, marketing? So that you know that new hires and your existing people are following the procedures and making sure things happen in the way they’re supposed to happen on the schedule that they’re supposed to happen?
- Yeah, I think that was probably a bit of a work in progress for us. We’ve, I mean, we have, so on the marketing side is always very well documented. There’s a very detailed process of how different customers have kind of funneled through, taking through the funnel, and depending on the choices that they make, and how big they are, and how big the trial is and that kind of stuff. So that is all documented, and we use autopilot and things like that for a lot of that kind of automation stuff.
And in terms of the sales team, again, we, as I mentioned earlier, we have a documented sales process. And people take the customers through these different steps in the sales process. And every week, we have, in fact, just before I got in here we had our weekly, I do a daily stand-up with the sales team. But on a Thursday, we look at where people are in that process of that, who, and they have to commit to how many customers are going to move to the next stage by next week. And we kind of just review that, and see if there are any blockers and that kind of thing.
But it is a little bit, I’d say there’s probably better ways of doing it. We’ve just hired a VP of Sales actually, he hasn’t started yet. And he is a Salesforce guy as well, his background is using Salesforce. So I’m hoping that he’s going to be able to bring a lot of that experience. Because bear in mind, the three of us as founders, we are now at the edge of our areas of expertise. We’ve run businesses before, and [unintelligible] we really don’t know now, like we’re just guessing, watching podcasts. We’re listening to, you know, reading blogs.
But we, yeah, so we kind of, you know, as I say, I’ve hired this great VP of Marketing. VP of Sales is just about to join. And I think the processes that we’ve used today are probably not exactly fit for purpose for where we want to take things moving forward. And the whole onboarding is, I mean, we’re up to sort of about 85, 90 people now. And we’ve tried to do quite a lot in terms of onboarding people in that kind of process, so that there are processes. So when someone joins, they get a video from me, Mark, and Luke. They get a gift in the post, they get various things that automatically happen. They get their laptop ordered, and so that there is some degree of automated onboarding for staff. But again, I think there’s a lot we want [unintelligible] . . . Yeah, I mean, this whole thing and everything’s happened with Black Lives Matters. And it’s really sort of . . . The things that we’re missing here that we need to improve.
[40:17] Yeah, I mean, welcome to the plight of being the leader of a smallish company. There’s really never end to the things that need to be paid attention to.
All right. Well, I think, let’s wrap there. I want to thank you very much for making time. In the event that anyone who is listening to this who wants to get a hold of you to either become a customer, or talk about a joint venture, or something like that. What was the single easiest way to get a hold of you?
- It’s probably just to email me email@example.com. That’s probably the easiest. Or twitter, @DavidHart.
[41:01] Alright. David, thank you so much.
- Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
[41:05] Thank you so much for listening. If you haven’t already done so please subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast listening application. To get to the show notes for today’s episode, go to brightideas.co/327. And if you have any questions for me, you can leave me a voicemail at brightideas.co/asktrent.
David Hart’s Bright Ideas
- Go Big or Go Home
- Establish Your Product–Market Fit
- Increase Your Annual Contract Value
- Build a Matrix of Use Cases for Inbound Content Marketing
- Use a Hybrid Approach in Your Funnel Conversion
- Segment Your Sales Process
Go Big or Go Home
If you want your company to go big, you have to take the courage and step up how you run it. ScreenCloud started as a side project in David’s previous agency. David and his team have since raised $4 million in funds, with an additional $2 million to take them through bumpy times.
David says, “We decided if we really wanted this to be big, we needed it to stop being a side project and be in course.”
The amount of money required for start-up funding would usually be beyond the financial capability of founders. Doing various seed rounds for the initial funding can help you take the company off the ground. This initial capital can come from family and friends, similar to what David and his team did.
Establish Your Product–Market Fit
Identify what your product’s KPI is. David advises playing around with your offers until you feel that a product will open doors. Come up with lots of ideas. Like what they did with ScreenCloud, you can launch a series of side projects to gauge customers’ reactions.
For instance, what’s “in” when it comes to digital signage companies before was hardware media players. It includes proprietary boxes, screens, cable, and media TV sticks. ScreenCloud approached this trend the other way. Instead, they focused on building software with an excellent user interface.
Here are some tips on how you can establish your product-market fit:
- Learn from your mistakes.
- Envision how the product will work in the public space outside your studio.
- Launch a basic version of your product first. It will allow you to gain initial feedback from customers and make crucial adjustments.
Increase Your Annual Contract Value
Even if you’re in the top percentile of metrics, it’s useless if your annual contract value (ACV) is too low. Increasing your ACV would allow you to move upstream and clinch bigger clients.
“Let’s say our annual contract value is, on average, about $1,000. So to get to a million dollars, we’d need 100,000 customers.” While this may be a challenge, David says it is not impossible. In this scenario, he explains that looking at cohorts, particularly the bigger customers, is the primary element that can help you get to $100 million in revenue.
ScreenCloud’s customers are spread in different industries, but a lot of them have a deskless workforce, including the following:
Keep this question in mind: “How do we find a product-market fit for this bigger group of customers that we really are looking to go to?”
Build a Matrix of Use Cases for Inbound Content Marketing
David says, “Digital signage is typically a passive experience.” Hence, the use case that they build for ScreenCloud is “more as a catch-up.”
For ScreenCloud, what they have succeeded in is inbound content marketing. How can you do this? This is where building a matrix of use cases comes into play.
- Write loads of content for each use case.
- For long-form content, add smaller bits of detail that will link off to detailed specifics. It will serve as your “pillar pages.”
- Take advantage of video marketing for people looking for particular use cases.
Use a Hybrid Approach in Your Funnel Conversion
In the case of ScreenCloud, David says people didn’t necessarily assume they were looking for digital signage. With that in mind, here’s what their funnel conversion process looks like:
- Introduce customers to the idea of a digital signage solution.
- Do lots of retargeting.
- Make customers understand what digital signage is and how it can help them.
- Explain how companies have used your software to engage employees.
Segment Your Sales Process
The key is to get people to take out a free trial. David says, “The thing that we realized is once people [are] starting the trial, that’s really where the hard work begins. Our whole job then is to help them prove the success of that trial.”
After the trial, you have to split the sales process depending on customer size.
- For small customers, encourage them to get information from the content you’ve produced on your site.
- For the middle group, have a semi-automated approach with an account manager who will reach out.
- Lastly, for large customers, make sure they go to the sales teams.
What Did We Learn from This Episode?
- You have to take the risk for your company to go big.
- We learned the importance of establishing your product-market fit.
- Increasing your ACV would allow you to move upstream.
- Building a matrix of use cases is vital for successful inbound content marketing.
- Having people take your free trials is the key to a successful funnel conversion.
- Filter your sales process and automate where you can.
[03:30] — David introduces ScreenCloud
- ScreenCloud is a SaaS digital signage company launched in 2015. They help companies control their content across multiple screens.
- Digital signage is both advertising and content.
- From being a side project of their previous agency, they funded it to become a start-up.
[06:52] — How they established the product-market fit
- Before they got to a point where people were buying the software, they launched a series of side projects. By doing so, they were able to gauge customers’ feedback better.
- Instead of being hardware vendors, they completely went the other way by focusing on the software aspect.
- Their initial product didn’t work because they didn’t consider how it would work outside their studio.
- They created a basic first version of their product to know where they needed to make adjustments.
[12:08] — ScreenCloud’s biggest challenge
- ScreenCloud’s biggest challenge is moving upstream. It is because a lot of their current customers are small and medium businesses.
- However, for them to clinch more prominent companies, they have to increase their ACV.
- To get to a million dollars, they have to reach 100,000 customers. Looking at their cohorts’ behavior, they found that what would help them achieve this feat is their bigger customers who are more likely to expand and less likely to churn.
[15:41] — ScreenCloud’s niche
- Their niche is spread over different industries.
- They’re making inroads into companies who use screens for “internal comms.” What ScreenCloud does is provide them with an effective means of sharing dashboards.
[18:54] — Filtering out customers
- Self-serve — They are pushed down the funnel through webinars.
- Big customers — They are pushed to a sales team.
[19:07] — ScreenCloud’s marketing route
- They haven’t found success yet in outbound marketing.
- Their enterprise customers had come in through inbound content marketing. ScreenCloud makes sure they’re producing content specific to them.
- What works for them is speaking to the right people and giving them an easy way to sign up.
- Their products primarily require people to be in the office.
- They have come up with different use cases of getting information. For example, they created a version called Embeddable Channels that you can embed on the intranet or open as a tab on your browser.
[25:31] — Finding success in inbound content marketing
- Right from the very start, they have invested in content.
- They use long-tail content that incorporates smaller details.
- They also use video marketing to showcase various use cases.
[28:34] — Building a matrix of use cases
- Keyword research
- Talking to customers
[31:51] — Driving leads down the funnel
- They first introduce the idea of a digital signage solution.
- Then, they do lots of retargeting and make them understand what ScreenCloud is.
- At the bottom of the funnel conversion, they explain how companies have used ScreenCloud to engage their people.
- They have a hybrid approach in their funnel conversion through a newsletter, free trial, and email sequence.
- The biggest focus is on making free trials a success.
[33:59] — ScreenCloud’s sales process
- They split the sales process into three depending on the customer size.
- Small customers — website content
- Middle group — semi-automated
- Large customers — sales teams
- They document and automate these different sales processes.
David Hart is a co-founder of the SaaS Digital Signage business, ScreenCloud. Prior to ScreenCloud he started his first business in 2004 with his current co-founders, a web design and build agency. Here they span out several online businesses and they managed to sell 4 of them. ScreenCloud was one of their side projects, but along with his founders, David realised that for the business to really succeed, they had to make ScreenCloud their priority. So they sold the agency in 2017 and now are fully committed to ScreenCloud. David is a Brit, currently living in the UK but about to relocate to California. He has previously been the Vice President of the British Interactive Media Association and sat on the BBC’s Digital Advisory Board.