Do you want to know more about how to form SaaS partnerships?

Before Bonjoro, Matt Barnett was an industrial designer. When he moved to Australia, he ended up falling into SaaS.

Matt Barnett is now the CEO of Bonjoro, the top ten fastest-growing apps in 2019. Bonjoro is a customer delight platform that allows users to do personalized video messages. It helps convert leads, activate more customers, and drive more reviews. All this was made possible through SaaS partnerships with some of the biggest companies in the field.

How did Matt Barnett do it? Find out in this episode.

[00:08] For the folks who maybe don’t know who you are or what your company does, let’s start there really quick. Not five-minute intro—just really quick. What does it do, and what do you do?

  • So, Papa Bear or the CEO of a company called Bonjoro. We do one-to-one personalized video messages that you can use to convert more leads, activate more customers, and drive more reviews and referrals.

[00:34] Folks, I just signed up for it minutes before Matt and I’s interview because I’d learned about it in the pre-interview, and so far it looks pretty nifty. So I would encourage you to check it out. What’s your background? How’d you come up with this idea? And when did you launch the company?

  • I’m an industrial designer and used to work as an artist for many years in London. So very much a creative slash engineer, over with headspace UK. Then we moved to Australia, not for business but for surfing reasons. I came over here, and as you do, fell into a completely different industry, which was tech. Looked in hindsight, building products offline, online—same process—raise funds, get a prototype, reiterate, sell, grow. So it’s the same thing. We had an agency here. We got our first business. We had agency clients [from] London, New York, Paris, large FMCG clients, large agencies.

Australia is a great country; it’s not great for international business, I wouldn’t say, if that’s the way you want to go, you need to work overseas. Leads coming into our funnel, we would always be asleep, and so we couldn’t exactly get them on the phone and call them and convert them that way. We would do the whole Drip email stuff, follow up next day. It started off good, and as everyone started to get on, and that whole Drip thing took off, I think our conversion rate started to slide. So we tried to do something different, very much kind of a test—testing in as to kind of how we do business.

So one of the things we did try was sending a video to every single lead when they signed up the next day, as the first piece comes, and not just a video, but we do a personalized video for them. And specifically, I used to take a… I would take a ferry that would go past the Opera House, sail in Sydney Harbour, which is pretty recognizable. So I’d say that, you know, Joe Bloggs from Ogilvy, he signed up in London, and as I was getting past the Opera House, I pull out my camera on my phone and do a video. Like, “Hey, Joe, this is Matt here from Bay. Obviously I’m not in London, in Sydney, there’s the Opera House. It’s a beautiful day. Saw you came in last night, just wanted to put my head in. I’m going to send through a quote and some more detail, but, you know, we’ve worked with Budweiser, who we see is one of your main account holders. I’ll be in London in four weeks’ time. When I come in person, you know, I’ll show you through what we do.”

We send this off, and literally, this would be the first piece that comes out, so we get business video. And we wait 12 hours until they woke up the next morning, and we tripled our response rate straightaway. And it wasn’t so much the pitch; it was that people were kind of wowed that we’d gone to this extra effort, which in reality was, you know, a minute of time. And, you know, great for us. Awesome. The business started growing a lot faster. And eventually, one of those clients asked if they could use this video email tool that we had, and we decided to sit down for a weekend and make a portal so they could. And they started using it and then one of their clients asked if they could use it. One of their clients asked if they could use it, and it overtook the digital business in like 12 months. We start both businesses, but Bonjoro is by far the large one, and it’s kind of been three, just over three years and a bit of a wild ride.

[03:43] Yeah, sounds like it. I’m guessing you are bootstrapped and not funded.

  • We did raise a million Australian. That’s what, 600? I guess 650K. So kind of seed funding here just to build up a team early on. And that’s what we’ve done, and for now, we are bootstrapped to the immediate and, I guess, near future.

[04:08] Did it take long to raise that bit of seed? Or did you just reach out to your personal network and said, you know, “Hey, here’s my pitch deck, I’m doing this thing,” and people said yes? Because, you know, raising money is not the easiest thing in the world to do.

  • Yeah, look, I mean, I’ve been in that. Fundraising in Australia, like, there’s two sides to it. One is, you’re not gonna get the valuations you get in the US. There’s the lens fund does. It’s a small ecosystem. On the other hand, that means he gets network on pretty quickly. So, luckily, I knew a lot of other guys in the space. You know, we tinkered around with a few things before when we came along and said, “Look, we’ve got this thing we’re just doing now. It looks interesting.” And then we came back six months later and said, “You know, those numbers we said we’d hit, we’ve crushed them.” That leads to fundraising a lot easier.

We did that. We had to close it pretty quickly, I’d say. We’ve got a couple of funds to come in and just moved on with it. So I think, in hindsight, not that hard, but experience and knowledge—I knew the industry, I knew the space pretty well. And we failed a couple of times, which I think helped actually, you know, we failed in our businesses, and they’re like, “Good, you’re back. This is a good sign,” you know?

[05:21] Absolutely. So who is the target customer for your app?

  • So in terms of how we target, the best ways that we, I guess, start like looking at our customers is by size and by jobs to be done, if you like. I will explain the industries, but, essentially, we’re being used as a point for that individual use case for lead conversion. We’re then used for activation in SaaS and online courses. What I mean here is that, when you have a customer who’s coming in there who have paid, making sure they actually get on board the course or the products in the first two months, so that they don’t turn down the line. And the third area we use is kind of, well, either reactivating lapsed users or with happy users, getting in touch and get them to leave referrals or testimonials. So okay, we use that conversion points on the funnel, if you like.

That said, we tend to work with several entrepreneurs. We do a lot of, I guess, small, medium business, so kind of between 10 to 200 company size. We’ve been to agencies as well. We don’t really do enterprise at the moment. I think there’s a bit of a gray area around video and legality that we haven’t dived into just yet. That’s where we are, but then you have industries. I mean industries, getting SaaS to healthcare, to gyms, real estates, everything. I think the industry is so wide that it’s not the right way that you know, we as a company, think about marketing and channels.

[06:48] So you didn’t, I’m guessing you didn’t sit down one day on a whiteboard and say, “We’re going to target these industries.” Your app led you in that direction? Or how did that actually play out?

  • We ended up being reactive because of the way the company grew. Again, look, there’s pluses and minuses to us. I feel like we’ve been chasing our tail ever since, trying to work out. You know, like initially, like, what is the actual value? You look at it and go well, we’re a video messaging tool. The value’s not actually video; the value is spending the time. So, it sounds weird. But video’s a great way of getting comms across. It’s very hard to fake. So in a world where you’ve got all this email marketing coming again, you get one of these, you’re like, “This is real. The person said my name. They said my company. This is legit.” The reason it works, it helps conversions, is because people go, “Oh, wow, you actually stopped for a minute,” you know.

So actually, what we do is not, we’re not a video company. We are a personalization scale company, I’d say. Then we try to work out what customers were, yeah, originally it was agencies, and then it was their clients that came in, and then yeah, we got picked up by SaaS on the West Coast, and then we start to have a little SaaS come in, and then we started to go beyond that. We obviously see niches because you see that epicenters both in terms of industry. So we work with a lot, like, a lot of photographers, a lot of like YMCA camps, which would be like really interesting on niches. But then we will see epicenters in countries. So I think our biggest country’s the US, probably followed by Denmark, then maybe the UK, then maybe Poland, and like then Australia.

So, you know, It’s a super interesting way to grow because, like, it’s kind of exciting because we kind of like okay, well, it opens your mind as to how big the world is. Like Denmark, we wouldn’t have thought like Denmark would have been a thing for us. You do need to, at some point, consolidate and look at it and measure that funnel and go, “Okay, look, out of all this stuff coming in, we can cut it 100 different ways, industry-size, jobs to be done. Out of those, which ultimately are our best customers? Which have the highest lifetime value? And therefore, what do we want to feedback to marketing to get us to focus on those customers’ industries, those jobs, to improve the return on value that we get off of our marketing spend?”

[09:07] Okay. How many customers do you have now? And what’s your year-over-year growth rate?

  • So about 45,000 with about 10% a month at the moment.

[09:19] Pretty steep.

  • Pretty steep. It’s got steeper.

[09:26] Yeah. And was there—I think I know the answer—I just want to ask anyway. Early on or even now, I mean, do you have a competitor? You must have competitors. I mean, where I’m going with this is because we’re doing this right now for my own SaaS business, we’re looking at competitors, and we’re looking at who they sell to. And we’re looking at price points and figuring out like, who’s really a competitor versus, you know, someone that’s not for whatever reason? And then how do we position ourselves to differentiate ourselves versus those competitors so that we have a more compelling USP? Did you go through a process like that at all?

  • Yeah, not initially. We just kind of ran with it. You have to look at, like, everyone’s got competitors. Like I don’t care what you do, like, everyone’s got them, and you’ve got [to] just look at the more unusual competitors. So they don’t necessarily have your product, but they’re serving the same need, and this is a whole job to be done. Okay, so, you know, we look at like video email. There’s kind of like BombBomb who were the original guys who, yeah, we discovered probably six months after launching attempts to do video emails in real estates, then their niche. They’re big, they’re good, they’ve been around a while. Since then, I mean, within the video space, you’ve got other Loom players, you’ve got Wistia. Vidyard coming in there as well.

But then if you look at it again more, I say we’re doing around conversion points, you then start to get into the CS platform, I guess, industry as well. And so you look at that, and you go, “Well there’s not so much video again.” It’s interesting. Look at where you are now and where you want to be, and your competitive space might be quite different, and your USP might be quite different. If someone’s just looking for a video tool, there’s a few of us they can choose from. If someone’s looking for a conversion tool, there’s a different set of things they might want to choose from, or we might play well with some of those other options they’re looking at.

So I feel like you know, we started off as video. We’re not staying in that industry, we’re kind of moving out. And the competitive field gets bigger and heavier as you start to go into CS and kind of customer side of things. Look, it evolves every time. Always be aware of them. But pricing. I mean, this is my advice, price off your own products. Competitors—sure, it’s good research. You could absolutely break every single rule with pricing. And you don’t necessarily have to wed yourselves to competitors, I don’t think. I think, wed yourself the value in the product.

[11:48] So I want to talk now about marketing and customer acquisition for you guys. So at a high level, tell me about your customer acquisition strategy. Like, for example, earlier today, I interviewed another company, and they had, you know, a direct acquisition strategy, and they had a channel partner acquisition strategy, and then we dove down into the direct poll and talked about lots of things in there. So do you have different ways, different channels? Or is it all pretty much direct?

  • We do… There’s four channels that we use. I know we’ve tested thirteen to date, and out of those four have worked. We’ve been doing three primarily for last, I guess, eighteen months; there’s a fourth one out. The first one, hard-to-replicate, is we do have a product-driven strategy that is that people who watch videos will come in and sign up. This is basically a referral, like a viable source for us. So again, if you have a product that could do that, and I think every product can do this. You just have to be smarter about how you do it. With us, it is easier because we are sending out messages. So that’s number one.

And secondly, we do content. And by content, we run both a blog, but we do long-form content. So what we’ll do is we’ll go and write 30-page white papers or playbooks. And we’ll get all that information from our customer base. So what, for instance, last we did was what’s called a Video Funnel Playbook where we, you know, went to probably our 30 most successful customers, like, strategically in very different industries. So e-commerce, consultancy, finance, whatever. And we pulled together a big long playbook about exactly where they were using video in the funnels to do X, Y, Z down to what they said and what the pitch was, when they used it. And we just covered all that and released it. It’s extremely successful. We’ve done a few before that, and we’d interview people like Pat Flynn and stuff, Zapier—like, again, big-name clients we had.

Thirdly, we do… Third channel’s quite broad. It’s what I would call influencer. And so what I mean here is that, so we don’t do paid influencers and such. But we do a lot of work on our existing customer base where those that have influence, a lot of these micro-influencers. So, people who run a photography blog, we end up, you know, doing work with them, helping out their clients, doing deals, getting on podcasts with them, getting on webinars with them. We’ve run an affiliate program for them as well. The affiliate program was a suggestion from the guys at ConvertKit. We do a 30% affiliate revenue for those influencers. So pretty generous there. It’s adding (unintelligible), and there’s no end dates, and it’s worked really well for us.

The fourth thing we do, which we mentioned earlier, is the partner side. So the product as it is, we tend to plug into, mostly, in this case, we plug into other CRM mailing tools—things like Shopify, e-commerces. So plugins to our other customer data sources. Now, that obviously opens up opportunities for comarketing with those platforms—ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, Ontraport. We’ve gone quite broad because our user base integrate with them, but now it’s time to dive deeper on a few. And partners is starting to become more of a focused channel for us.

I do believe, I think if you have three channels, that’s a great number to focus on because I think you’ll always have one that’s doing fantastically and that you know, you’ve kind of got your head around and, you know, you’ve got a process for. The second one, you’re still growing, and the third one is the one that you’re investigating. And I feel like we’ve gone, you know, of those ones, our influence channel works really well, you know. We’ve kind of like got that on a process now, so we started looking at a new channel here. We’ve got time to invest in partners. When you try to look at too many channels, I just think you’ll do a weak job of most of them.

[15:48] So I want to talk about the influencer channel. Again, a little bit for selfish reasons, because that is one of our go-to market strategies. I know Nathan from ConvertKit as well. He actually lives in the same town as I do, and I remember having lunch with him a couple months ago, and he’s had an immense amount of success with it. How do you get the attention of the influencers who ultimately become your partners?

  • So the first place to start is your, I suggest is your custom base, I think. And again, the bias is this works for us. You know, there are certain mechanisms because of what our product is and how the companies use it that makes us great for us. So ConvertKit were an early customer of ours, Pat Flynn was an early customer of ours. So there’s a couple of things here if you’re going to work… So this comes down into more of how do you create, you know, advocacy and a community and the right points to ask customers if you get involved.

So one of the biases is I think taking the time sending video to every single sign up that we do means that we kind of get a lot of great responses right at the top of the funnel. People come back and they’re like, “This is awesome.” They convert, they come back, and they’re like, “Who are you guys? This is awesome,” you know. A face coming back, and they’re like, “This is insane.” When those come in, you’re like, “Okay, great.” I find out who this is and then jump on it. And then whoever is handling it starts trying to build a relationship.

You know, the processes we have in place now, we do things like, and it sounds silly, but we send baskets to customers when they hit some milestones. We send baskets to their kids. So well. We’ve like sponsored—we’re Australians—we sponsored koalas, you know, on behalf of, like, people’s family. The families, that’s really interesting because it takes this point of business beyond just being, you know, professional. Like, I love breaking down these barriers and getting to know people one-on-one.

Again, obviously what we do with this is ethos does this, but if you can start to get yourself into like the life a bit outside business, it’s a wonderful thing. And if you can really help, yeah, with charities, you can get involved with charities and give to charities, you start to build this brand that people love to get involved in. So when you then have these points and these trigger points around a set of metrics, around annual goals, “Oh, you’ve been with us three months.” So when a team starts to come in, get them on a call, pop in for beers. Again, you automate when you do these things, you work out what works. When you start to do these, if you have the brand and impression and you’ve already made, you know, the effort in the past, and when you then say, “Hey, we started to do a bit of work with groups. Do you have a community or group, you know, who maybe like to hop on a webinar and go through our Video Finance Playbook?” I think it’s really valuable.

And then people come back and they go, “Oh, look, I’m a member of a 200-person photography group and two of them already use Bonjoro.” So yeah, we love to have you in, and then you go in, next thing, you know, you have 100 of those as customers. Nathan did this really well. They did the whole micro niche thing. They did some more, I think for more sales, direct approach. So he would go in, he would get you know—how did he explain that?—you know, you have like two yoga vegan instructors in Michigan. You know, you get to invite…

[18:55] They went super micro and then they went a little bigger and a little bigger and a little bit bigger, a little bigger.

  • I’d say if you get a micro thing, it’s about echo chambers. So, you know, if two people out of a group of 50 know you, you have an extremely high chance of getting the other 48 on board.

[19:10] So my question though is, let’s say, you want to get the attention. Like, it’s one thing to have, you know, if I understood what you’ve explained correctly, Nathan or Pat has come in and signed—or rather ConvertKit—somebody in ConvertKit came in and signed up. Well, lucky for you, and now they saw your reply, and they’re impressed and so forth.

But what do you do to get the attention of influencers? They don’t even know you exist yet, they haven’t signed up, they haven’t got one of your little videos in their inbox. Have you had luck forming, getting traction with influencers where they didn’t know you existed? Or has it just been because you’ve been around for this amount of time, and these folks are finding their way into your funnel one way or another, and then they’re seeing the product and then they’re like, “Oh, this is really cool”?

  • Yeah, so we’ve gone through, if you like, I guess, say quite a warm strategy. So we start with those. And by the way, Pat Flynn, when he came in, I never had a platform before, like SMEs wasn’t really my industry. So I guess the point there is that by taking time with every customer, we pick up patterns, we also pick up these micro-influencers along the way. Now, we started to get more and more micro-influencers, all the influencers at the beginning were very small. When you’ve got four micro-influencers, suddenly you have next level up influencers. Like, “I’ve heard about you guys four times from, you know, these guys.” Okay, good, and then you get on board. You normally get on the… So podcasts work really well, doing live webinars, groups work well. We get on board. We offer the affiliate thing as well.

When we’ve got a few of those second-tier ones, then we might approach the next tier up. So we tend to work it whereby we don’t go in cold and just say, “Hey, here we are.” We tend to where we can understand the industry. And this is where industries are useful to understand, that you know gyms on the West Coast of the US. Get some, go in and be like, “Hey, we were already, you know, helping out X, Y, Z,” and they go, “I know those people. Yeah, sure we’ll get you on.” So I’m not a fan of, call this some of the weak gym that we haven’t been that good at. We’ve tested stuff, and we’ve tried it. It’s, I mean, cold is hard.

[21:25] Yeah, it is. That’s why I’m asking the question.

  • This momentum style, I think, really works well. You need to be quite smart about it, you need to log, so like at any day we print to see where I’m liking it—all that stuff and things we’ve ever done. Everyone is a potential influencer, and when we get in there, we’d love to them to go and get the next level, if that makes sense.

[21:44] So just in case the audience has any questions, I want to feed this back to make sure that we’ve got it. So you’re focused, first of all, on a very, very, very small target audience so that you’re creating an echo chamber. You know, if there’s only ten people in the world that are in this audience and you can get the attention of two of them, you basically have a really good shot at getting the other eight. Then, once you’ve got that, you expand the size of the target audience to include a larger number of people and use the same process over and over. That’s essentially what you’re explaining. Right?

  • Yep, exactly.

[22:21] Okay. In terms of all of the things that you . . . so did you say that the influencers have been the most successful customer acquisition method for you?

  • It says in the numbers that number one is the viable side. Again . . .

[22:43] Oh, yeah. Because people are getting your message and they see the little logo, like “Powered By” or whatever.

  • Yeah, so that’s obviously hard to replicate. Obviously, the things you do and sharing and driving things in. I’d say that influencer’s number two. Content is . . . content’s big for us in terms of traffic numbers. They’re, like, absolutely a low-converting traffic source, so you need to punch in some big numbers, I think, with SEO and content. So yeah, like, at the end, they are a direct viable ones. The numbers are lower, but the conversions are huge. At influencers, it’s like bigger number conversions are slightly lower. You know, content, numbers are pretty big now. The conversions are definitely the lowest out of those. Otherwise, partners convert really well. So traffic, you drive to the partner side, it’s, I mean again, this has always been secondary to us providing value for users.

Now we’re starting to focus, and we look at those sources so the people who come through, it’s really done co-marketing, you know, with ActiveCampaign and with Infusionsoft and with Shopify and stuff, and the conversions that come through those co-marketing efforts are really good. Obviously, it’s leveraging a larger partner, and for us, those partners are generally multiple times bigger than us. I think one of the challenges that, if you go the partner route, is I wouldn’t say you’ve got one shot because then that’s true, but I think you need to have some weight whereby you’re valuable to that larger partner. But obviously, your value is probably no 2% whereas their value to you is 200%.

So what do you get to for that? I think a good example here for us was actually Patreon. So for those who know Patreon, it’s kind of a giving system for sponsoring creators. We had a pretty big Patreon guy sign up in the early days. We did the whole funnel thing. He got recognized [and] he came back in. Turns out he was big deal. We have triggers, so you pick up people’s social media following, etc. This guy had 2 million followers, musician called Nate Maingard. He then, because he was one of Patreon’s biggest patrons, he introduced us to Jack Conte, who runs Patreon.

And Jack was like, “Why don’t you guys build this integration?” And we’re like, “You know what? Sure, we’ll do it,” and this is before they raise like 60 million bucks funding for that point.

So we were, I think, their second ever integration and it was off the cuff. We’ve seen this one guy and gone, “You know what…” Like, we just pumped everything, as you do, we test stuff. We built a quick one, it worked really well, yeah, that the founder of Patreon started using Bonjoro. We started getting out there, we’re like, “Okay, good. We’ll drive more with this.” We started using co-marketing stuff. He ends up getting on stage talking about us, Patreon’s like coming on. And then years later, it’s become a really big channel for us.

But again, the point was we picked up this musician who signed up. None of us ever heard the guy; we flagged him because he had a large following. We flagged him because he got back, and he got really engaged with not even me—one of the team. And then he was, “Oh, have you heard of Patreon?” We’re like, “Yeah, I think so.” He’s like, “You should talk to these guys.” He got us in, and then, you know, we are in a mindset where we’ll test things really quickly. We would just think about integrations, we have an intercom. And we’re like, “Yeah, why not?” We’ll just stay in for a weekend with beers and do it. And we tried other ones that didn’t work. You know, we tried some other integrations that haven’t worked. But anyway, never successfully, but we’ve tried lots of them, and so eventually hit a point where you get success.

[26:13] So with respect to ActiveCampaign, I think you said Keap, and you said one other . . . Did you get into these companies through referrals and introductions as well? Or was there any cold outreach involved?

  • So we have an onboarding. We ask users what they are connecting to, and ActiveCampaign, it was a big ask. So we then took that to ActiveCampaign and said, “Look, you know, we’ve had X hundred users ask. We’re going to build an integration.” Like, obviously, at this size, those companies tend to have open APIs, in-game builds—it’s no problem. They want it. It’s good for them. Once we have that, and then we go, “Right, the user base is building your back,” and we say, “Hey, look, the companies we have with that campaign. Turns out, you guys are big thing for us. We should do more together.” ActiveCampaign looked at us.

And I think the one thing with large companies, yeah, there’s two things here. Honestly, some have, I think, awesome partner programs already running, some have great attitudes where they’re willing to take the young companies, [or] ad campaign has been awesome. Zapier, a great entrepreneur, have been really good. And the other thing is that, with them, where they’ve maybe maxed out and got low returns, have a lot of channels, if you come in, you’re like, “Well, here’s, you know, X thousand potential users. Even if it’s only a couple thousand, they’re gonna go, ‘You know what, that’s still great for us,” you know, and they have someone dedicated who can help you build that.

Then when that starts to go, so I mentioned before, we’re starting to now build on to InteractiveCampaign, which is the next step. And this is as a result of the success that their users are having with us and vice versa. That we’re now going, “Okay, you know what, we should do more together,” and they’re like, “Yeah, we should do more together. What’s the next point?”

[27:56] Let’s go back to Zapier for a minute because you know, we have a Zapier integration like many many, many, many other companies do. And while I wasn’t personally involved in that, I mean, they make you go through this vetting process and so forth. But it’s not like, you know, aside from putting up a landing page on their site for every integration they have, it’s not like they’re doing anything for us. Was it any different for you? Did you actually have more interaction with their team, and is there any co-marketing or anything happening? Or did you just have a Zapier integration?

  • So we got into them quite a lot. I think, look, and this is the thing is why I, like, always ask. So maybe this is one of the themes is that, once you have someone who you think is valuable, like, spend time in them, get involved, and get to know them. So we did the same with Zapier. Yeah, my marketing guy talked to their marketing guys, you know, and everything. We go into a product team. We did, like, they then personally helped out a bunch. Look, as a result, we were way successful with Zapier. We did some, with Zapier, we did some co-marketing together. We, for two years, went on the top 10 fastest-growing apps as a result of that.

So, again, there’s a bias there that because the first year we go on that list, and it worked quite well, they then just invested more in us and vice versa. We actually talk to them less now than we did in those early days because now it just kind of runs as a thing. We kind of done that. This was, I mean, this is three years ago. It’s not a long time. Potentially, they were more hands-on at that point, as well. Patreon, you know, was very hands-on because they didn’t have any integration partners. So you get in early, and you get a lot more, like, inputs. But we, well, we’re cheeky, you know. We’d meet someone over, we’re like, “Hey, this is great. Can I also pick your brains about X, Y, Z?” It doesn’t happen often. They’re like, “Yeah,” and they had a marketing stuff. Zapier is like, “Yeah, why not? You know, this is great. Let’s do it.” Yeah, because you can always learn from each other, and if you know you have the attitude, and you’re fun about it, if you ask, most people say yes. This is my experience.

[30:05] Oh, I agree. I’m constantly preaching to anyone around me that ask for what you want because it’s not just we’re all gonna follow this guy.

  • So, you know, you can decide it—integration and silent partner and stuff. What’s the point, you might as well see if you get more out of it. And again, like, if the values do weigh, what, say, we’ve got Zapier lots of business. Like, it’s absolutely two-way for them, you know.

[30:31] When you first started your conversation with Zapier, how many customers did you have back then?

  • I think that’s maybe the third integration we did. We’ve done Intercom, Patreon, then Zapier, so probably hundreds. It was pretty small. It was within, I think, about three months of launching.

[30:53] So at that point in time, aside from being good guys, you’re not really at any value to Zapier?

  • No, we were good guys. That was it.

[31:02] Yeah.

  • And then we put out some stuff together. Look, like we did a good job of getting, like there was value to us for having a Zapier integration, absolutely, so we obviously used it too. But they saw that we were willing to help them, and they just reciprocated. But, like, I mean, here’s the thing about any small company: you can always take time, you can always go overboard, you can always put time in, you can always do things that large companies with big processes won’t do. You are exciting because you’re the new kid on the block; you could take advantage of that. You can also build a brand. And, I again . . . I’m going off on a tangent here, but I don’t think enough small businesses think about brand and probably like tone of voice and the way they deal with people.

So people come back, and then people go, “Oh, you know, we should build a brand now.” Like, start on day one. And with us, we very much went kind of characterization—fun, open, like, creative kind of brand—which, you know, we find a lot of people like, “This is fresh. This is different. This is actually fun to work with. You guys are fun to work with. You’re ambassadors, like, a bunch of idiots,” you know? ‘This is gonna be fun whatever happens. Let’s do this chat.’ And we leverage that, you know. Like, we absolutely play it up, you know. We play up the Australia thing, you know. Like, when we have signups from the US, we generally welcome them with videos in Australia, whereas when we have signups from the US as well from London, we’ll welcome them from the US and vice versa. We try and find these differences that are unique because people like to enjoy work, and so when you find stuff they enjoy, you find things people are like, “This is great,” like, just do more of that. And it opens these doors a lot easier because, you know, there’s a lot of bad actors out there. There’s a lot of businesses that aren’t fun to work with. And so if you can be a breath of fresh air, people want that. I mean . . .

[32:55] Oh, there’s, of course, a lot of people who want that. Yeah, in this day and age of automated outreach and cold email and LinkedIn spam and everything, you’ve definitely got to figure out how to stand out. I’m kind of circling around this topic just because it’s a lot easier said than done; being fun is a lot easier said than being done. Because when you don’t have a contact at Zapier yet, and you’ve just gone through their, you know, their API application process or whatever the heck it is that your CTO did, I don’t think you ever find out who their marketing team is, you don’t ever get a name, you don’t ever get an email address.

So how do you find out who’s to who? And then how do you go and be fun? Like, I get it if you’re introduced to somebody or you meet him at a conference, or you’re at a surfing competition or something, it’s an entirely different way to kick off a relationship than just trying to go in cold. Cold is really tough. Even just getting through all the noise so that you can “go and be fun.” I’m digging around for ways that myself and the audience,  who’s listening to this, can take that very good piece of advice, but make it actionable for them.

  • I think the two things I would say here, the first one is warm. I don’t think it’s that hard. I think seven degrees of separation but ultimately. It takes time to do, but, you know, every single meeting you ever have, I would say, interaction. The end of that meeting, ask for the next person and get into a habit of doing this, and very, very quickly, you will find the way to the head of marketing as Zapier. And you’ll find a warm way and a warm introduction. Again, if you can get a warm introduction, it converts people, like, 100 times better. If you said to me, “Go and find, you know, the head of Salesforce in Australia,” give me a week, I can probably get an introduction to them, yeah. But I would go through my network and ask who you know who you know who you know. It’s not that this happened overnight.

I obviously have been doing this for a long time, but it’s very natural to go that way. And so I always go that way first, and it will probably work. I think you can get to anyone. I think people just don’t realize, again, maybe I’m biased by who I am, but I don’t even realize that. But we have other people on the team who do the same thing, so it’s obviously repeatable. You know, my head of marketing has really built himself as a name within the marketing community in SaaS companies. Yeah, he’s based in the UK. And he’s done that over the last two years, of really engaging people on Twitter, getting in with other marketing guys. He likes to follow, and they get him following back, and then like, hopping on calls just randomly and be like, “Hey, look, I run marketing on Bonjoro.” Initially, everyone is like, “What the hell is that?” Now that he’s done it so much, everyone’s like, “Oh, Oli.” Yeah, you know, so again, I don’t think originally we realized we were building these things, but it’s just happened because we’ve been trying to find out so much.

And, so that leads the second point, which is about hiring. So I think as you build your team, with us, because we, I think, subconsciously realize this is a very important part to our culture and, ultimately, our business success. We hire people who are willing to do that. You know, we have hired, we made mistakes, absolutely, yeah, but we’ve hired on culture first every single time. And like our newest member, Casey in the States, is exactly the same again, and, you know, we’ve worked with him for a bit before we brought him on board. And he’s just same as us like a gun but really at the warm stuff, like, really genuine person.

We’ve always hired: culture first, skill set second. And so, you know, we weren’t, we will hardly talk about the role on the first call, and this is all way down to developers as well because people have to have this hunger, this drive and this ability to, you know, follow rabbit holes.

[36:53] You kind of gave a segue there into hiring the right people. So, do you guys have any systems that you can talk about that you use for finding the right people? Is there a process that you follow? Or does it tend to be happenstance or luck?

  • I will be honest, I think it’s, we’ve been mostly happenstance and networks, including customer networks. We probably hired every role three months before we thought we would hire it. So I think I mean, again, I feel bad for not being able to give, you know, the X, Y, and Z. Those conversations I mentioned having, if I find someone interesting, I think like, I meet people, and I’m like, “You will be a perfect cultural fit for us. I have no idea what you do, but if you do see us valuable, you’d be awesome to our team.” I have a lot of these conversations.

I’m having one tomorrow with someone in, I think, Denmark. I’m just, like, I know this person will be good, “Let me find out more about you.” I find more about them, and then lo and behold, six months later, I’m like, “Hey, turns out we have a role in CS now, and I think you’d be amazing at it, you know. Come on, come on board.” We want to hire, you know, someone who was one of the best dressers in a coffee shop. I was trying to remember, everyone’s, like, once you remember my name, I was like . . . I remember everyone, and I’m like, “You would be effing amazing at service on, like, online support.” She came on board, and she was amazing. So everyone’s a potential hire, you know.

[38:44] So I’m gonna bounce back to the recruiting thing or the partnership thing for just a moment. Because I want to try and give myself and the audience an actionable takeaway, and it just popped into my mind as you’re giving that answer. So you mentioned to me that you had a VP that was using Twitter quite effectively.

So here’s one actionable takeaway for people who want to build relationships with other companies: figure out who the CMO of each one of the companies is and start interacting with those people with no agenda other than being nice, being friendly and getting to know them. And when you’ve accomplished that, then you can say, “Hey, can we hop on a call?” If you literally made a habit of 15 or 20 minutes a day just doing that, that would probably result in some pretty good things. Would you say?

  • You know. Like, enjoy people. Get to know people to learn. It’s like venture capital; if you want money, ask for help. “Do you want to help ask for money?” Never go ahead and say, “Oh, I want your money.” Like, “I love to get your input on, you know, how we’re growing in this channel.” And then eventually, you know, one day they’re like, “You should really be taking our money,” and you’re like, “Sure thing.” Yeah.

[39:55] I like it. Alright, so what about, have you developed much in the way of documented business processes or workflows or standard operating procedures, whatever name you would like to do—use, rather—for all the repeatable stuff in your company. Repeatable stuff, like, you know, you publish blog posts, you’re doing long-form white papers, you’ve got sales processes. Do you do that?

  • Yeah, like everything. Everything we do, we tend to go very much manual first. I don’t care how hard something looks like it is to do. Let’s figure out what works. If it works, then we have to processize it. As we grow as a team—so we’re distributed, yeah. So we’re like, we’re in Australia, UK, South Africa, Poland, States, and Manila. So we’re all in different time zones, which makes things pretty hard. So if I just go hire someone in Denmark, they’ve got to have a process they can follow because obviously, most of the time they have questions or vice versa. And, so we tend to, as quickly as possible, get into the process. So our blog writing is a process. Our inference stuff is a process that runs when we do X, Y, Z, actions. Our products are, like, we’re a product-first company.

Products are the thing that we’ve struggled with the most to get a good process around because it is hard that here’s so many moving leavers. There’s a million things we could build tomorrow. So we’re super prices-driven now from, like, ideation to design, and I won’t go into . . . but specifically, ideation, design, build, release, testing, reiteration. Like, there’s a thing this follows and we try to hit it to the tee. We’ve taken that same, like, attitude and going on marketing, ideation design, release, tests, repeats, ditch, carry on, you know, put it in, hire someone to run this thing, and it has to be processed.

You know, we use disposable Slack channels as a tactic we use really effectively and across all the business. So if we’re experimenting with a new channel or experimenting with a new CS mechanism or customer success mechanism or a new product piece, we’ll create a channel for that. We’ll invite relevant members in. We’ll run it through, and then we’ll shut and delete that channel, and then the next one, given the fact that in different times, it works really well.

And we’ve minimized the tools we use; it’s the other part. So we use Slack, and we use Jira, which is a product thing, but we use it for other parts of the business, and the marketing team use Notion. So we tend to use those three things. And if people are like, “Oh, how about we go and use this?” I’m like, “Honestly, can we do one of these three ‘cause if we can, we’ll do that.” And even if it’s not perfect, I don’t care. I don’t know a hundred systems. It gets too hot.

[43:54] If you have any parting words, the stage is yours.

  • We have an ethos in the company, I think it’s pretty great, which is “Automate processes but have relationships.” A lot of what I’ve talked about circles around that. Processes are amazing; get them done. It should free you up so that you spend more time doing things like this and building relationships with customers and partners.

Matt Barnett’s Bright Ideas

  • Target Customers Reactively
  • Look at the More Unusual Competitors
  • Launch Product-Driven Strategies
  • Publish Long-Form Content
  • Establish an Influencer Channel
  • Invest in SaaS Partnerships
  • Partner with Large Companies
  • Build a Fun Brand
  • Hire the Right People

Matt on Tripling Your Response Rate Through SaaS

Matt shares how he entered the SaaS industry. He used to work in an agency.

One beautiful day, Matt and his team decided to take a ferry that would pass the Opera House. Matt took out his camera, recorded a personal video for his clients, and sent it to them. Overnight, their response rate tripled straight away.

“It wasn’t so much the pitch. It was the people. They were kind of, ‘Wow,’ that we’d gone to this extra effort, which in reality was, you know, a minute of time,” he says.

Afterward, clients began asking if they could use the video email. That’s when Matt and his team decided to make a portal where people can use the same video emailing tool. Their ethos: “Automate processes, but have relationships.”

Target Customers Reactively

Matt targets customers by size and by jobs to be done. Early on, they make sure to get the clients on board so that they won’t turn down the line. They also reactivate lapsed users and get them to leave referrals or testimonials.

Matt and his team are reactive in targeting customers.

“The value is not actually the video. The value is spending the time,” he says. “The reason it works, it helps conversions, is because people go, ‘Oh, wow, you actually stopped for a minute.’”

They then consolidate their leads and focus on marketing to their best customers who have the highest lifetime value.

Look at the More Unusual Competitors    

Everyone has a competitor. But you need to pay attention to the more unusual competitors. They may not necessarily have a similar product, but they may be serving the same need.

For example, there are different sets of things that people want to choose from when looking for a video tool or a conversion tool.

“Look at where you are now and where you want to be. Your competitive space might be quite different,” he says.

Price your products without comparing yourself to your competitors.

Launch Product-Driven Strategies

For marketing and customer acquisition, Matt and his team use product-driven strategies. This is a strategy that is difficult to replicate.

People who receive personalized videos from a Bonjoro client will come in and sign up for Bonjoro. It acts as a viable referral source.

“I think every product can do this. You just have to be smart about how you do it.”

Publish Long-Form Content

They do both blogs and long-form content.

They write 30-page white papers or playbooks and get information back from their customer base.

Content marketing is a low-converting traffic source. So you need to hit some big numbers with SEO and content.

Establish an Influencer Channel

Matt and his team do not pay influencers. They do a lot of work in their existing customer base, engaging micro-influencers by helping them in doing business deals. They invite them to go on podcasts, webinars, and the like.

“It worked really well for us,” he says.

Build a relationship with your customer base. For example, Matt sends out baskets to his customers when they hit some milestones.

When you now have these trigger points, automate. Ask them if they have a community or group which can be valuable to you. Engage these groups.

Start with a Warm Strategy

Spend time with your customers and pick up patterns.

Create an echo chamber by engaging a small number of micro-influencers and then level one tier up. Expand the size of your target audience and include a more significant number of people. Use this process repeatedly.

“We tend to work it whereby we don’t go in cold and just say ‘Hey, here we are,’” he says.

Invest in SaaS Partnerships

Matt and his team plug into other CRM mailing tools, such as Shopify and other e-commerce software. It opens up opportunities for co-marketing with those platforms.

The challenge in the partner route, however, is you need to figure out a way to be valuable to your large partner. You must stand out.

“You need to have some weight whereby you’re valuable to that larger partner,” he says.

In building SaaS partnerships, figure out the CEO in each of the companies with whom you interact. Be friendly; start engaging them with no agenda. When you accomplish that, ask them if they can hop on a call.

Partner with Large Companies

The good thing about large companies is that they already have partner programs running. They are also willing to take in young companies.

Once you have engaged your partner, do more things together.

“Once you have someone who you think is valuable, spend time with them. Get involved and get to know them,” he says.

Bonjoro’s partnership with Zapier resulted in it being the top ten fastest-growing apps in 2019.

Build a Fun Brand

“You can always go overboard and do things that large companies with big processes cannot do,” Matt says.

Try and find these unique differences. Be the kind of business that is fun to work with.

In every meeting you ever have, there is interaction. At the end of that meeting, ask for the next person and get into a habit of doing this.

Eventually, you will find your way to the head of marketing. Get a warm introduction that converts leads a hundred times better.

Hire the Right People

Hiring and building your team play an essential part in business success. At Bonjoro, cultural fit is their first consideration; skill set, only second.

“We will hardly talk about the role on the first call, and this is all way down to developers as well, because people have to have this hunger, this drive, and this ability to follow rabbit holes,” Matt says.

Find the right people through your customer networks. If you find someone interesting, get to know them.

“I know this person to be good. Let me find out more about you,” he says.

What Did We Learn from This Episode?

  1. We learned about Matt’s techniques in securing SaaS partnership with big companies.
  2. Use different kinds of marketing and customer acquisition strategies.
  3. Build an influencer channel through your customer base.
  4. Partner with large companies and do more things together.
  5. Build a fun brand and hire the right people.

Episode Highlights

[00:34] — Matt shares how he and his team came up with Bonjoro

  • Matt used to be an industrial designer.
  • One day, he and his team decided to try a new marketing strategy. They sent out personal videos to customers.
  • In twelve hours, their response rate tripled.

[03:43] — On funding and bootstrapping

  • At first, the company raised some money for their funding.
  • Presently, they bootstrap their own funds.
  • They plan to bootstrap in the near future.

[05:21] — Customer base

  • Bonjoro is used in three ways: lead conversion, activation in SaaS and online courses, and reactivating lapsed users or getting in touch with satisfied customers. They identify their clients on the funnel based on this.
  • The company works with entrepreneurs and small and medium businesses.
  • Consolidate your leads.
  • Identify your best customers with the highest lifetime value. Focus your marketing on them.
  • Bonjoro has 45,000 customers with about 10% monthly growth rate.

[09:26] — How to deal with competitors

  • Look at the more unusual competitors.
  • Be aware of those who serve the same needs despite having a different product.
  • Look at where you are now and where you want to be.

[11:48] — Using different channels for marketing & customer acquisition

  • Make a product-driven strategy.
  • Do long-form content marketing.
  • Work with micro-influencers from your customer base.
  • Integrate CRM and other web services to your product. Partner and co-market with them.

[16:16] — Working with micro-influencers

  • Build a relationship with your customer base. Create trigger points and set goals.
  • Know if they have a community or group that you can engage with.
  • Spend time with your customers. Identify the micro-influencers and create an echo chamber.
  • From a smaller niche, expand the size of your target audience.
  • Use the same process repeatedly.

[22:21] — What works best for Bonjoro

  • With the product-driven strategy, the numbers are lower but the conversions are huge.
  • Working with influencers is its second most successful customer acquisition method.
  • Content marketing drives traffic but has the lowest conversion rate.
  • Partners convert really well, especially with bigger companies.

[26:13] — On SaaS partnerships with big companies

  • The good thing about large companies is that they already have partner programs running.
  • They also have a lot of channels.
  • Matt’s SaaS partnerships with big companies such as Patreon and Zapier made their company one of the top ten fastest-growing apps.
  • Invest in your partner and vice versa.

[34:04] — How to build a fun brand

  • Find unique differences in your customers.
  • The good thing about small companies is you can always go overboard.
  • Get a warm introduction.
  • Find and hire the right people.
  • Get to know people to learn more.

[39:55] — Developing processes

  • They started with a manual approach to figure out what works.
  • The team works from different places, which made things challenging.
  • Blog writing follows a process.
  • For their products: ideation, design, build, release, testing, reiteration.
  • Tools like Slack are effective to consolidate their work.

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Today’s Guest

Originally a Designer & Artist, Matt started Bonjoro from a sales hack for his first agency where Matt would send every new lead a personal video to delight and surprise them. When customers kept asking to use the video tool, they built a login and this “Hack” overtook the agency in size in 12 months.

Matt’s love of building great products is only surpassed by his total commitment to building great business culture, and his goal is to be the next Zappos.

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