What does it take to have a SaaS success story? 

It takes more than capital and experience for sure. 

At age 24 and with no experience, Suneera Madhani launched Fattmerchant, a payment technology company aiming to integrate all the solutions her competitors offer into one single platform.

As a visionary leader, Suneera revolutionized the payments landscape. She was recognized as 2018’s Most Influential Woman in Payments, among other accolades.

It started with just an idea; today, Fattmerchant is processing billions of payments, reaching 6,000 customers all over the world, and enjoying 2000% growth every year. 

How did Suneera do it? Find out in this episode.

[00:08] So let’s start off with a really easy one before we get into all the tough questions—and we’re going to grill you. But what does your company do?

  • Yeah. So my company is called Fattmerchant. We are a payment technology company, and what we do is integrated payments for small to medium-sized businesses and take all the which ways that a business accepts payments and brings them into a single unified platform.

[00:33] And so did you have—I’m guessing you had a background. Actually, I know you had a background in that because of the pre interview.

  • Yes, I did. So I actually was working for a processing company prior to launching Fattmerchant and just hated the way customers were treated and just the lack of transparency in the marketplace from a fees standpoint. And I actually was selling merchant services door-to-door. So my background many, many moons ago, I’ve been in payments for over a decade now. And I’ve had pretty much every job under the sun in payments and for many large companies, and just saw a big need for a better user experience. One, from a pricing standpoint, but also from a technology standpoint. 

As businesses were needing to accept payments in a multitude of ways, but they had to go to multiple processors and providers to be able to actually accept those solutions. And I’m like, why isn’t there one solution that does all of the solutions they need and also in a transparent way. So we were actually the first company to launch the first subscription-based processing product. And that’s, were coined as the Netflix of credit card processing. We’ve been featured everywhere, and it’s really around, we’re really disruptive in a flat monthly subscription model for unlimited, all-you-can-eat processing for that flat fee.

[02:00] And when did you launch? 

  • I launched the company in 2014. March 2014 is when I officially got my registrations from Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. So it was a big day that day, but I was working on the company since 2013. [We] officially got launched in 2014. We did 5 million in payments that first year, and last year, we broke 5 billion in payments after being in five years in business. So lots of crazy growth. 

[02:28] That’s a lot of payments.

  • Yes, it’s a lot of payments. We’re actually, you know, one of the largest processors in the nation today.

[02:37] And this is a funded or a bootstrap company?

  • Funded. So it was self funded. It was just me, myself, and I for the first, probably, year of getting this up and running. And then we’ve raised about 20 million venture capital and still on a pretty big growth trajectory ahead. So probably more to come thereafter.

[03:02] And your ideal customer is who?

  • My ideal customer is a small to medium-sized business. So any company—it’s not micro-merchants—so our ideal customer is anyone who’s processing $100,000 annually in processing card billing. That’s kind of our lowest threshold. And up to about 20 million in processing, so that’s kind of our sweet spot. We have customers that are below that, we have customers that are above that, but 80% of our customers fall in that range. And so that is our ideal customer; they span across multiple industries. And so we’re industry agnostic, but there is a processing volume where we really can provide immense value to these companies at that threshold. 

And they must be US-based today. We are launching in different countries this year, but right now it is 100% US-based businesses. 

[03:57] How many customers do you have now, and what’s your year-over-year growth rate?

  • Well, okay, so we have over 6000 customers today and our growth rate, oh my goodness, it has been, you know, we actually were just on Inc 500. Last year, number 217 for Inc 500. And, God, I believe it was like 2,002% growth like year-over-year. But it has been because we’ve gone from…we’ve pretty much doubled revenue year-over-year, but also from a processing volume standpoint, that’s been exponential because our customers are higher volume customers. 

And so the growth has been, it’s just, it’s crazy. Honestly, Trent, I don’t even believe that it’s my company half of the time, that this was just an idea in my head and launched it—a 26-year-old with practically, like, no experience and $20,000 in my bank account. And now to have billions in processing and be recognized, you know, as one of the top players, it’s surreal. Very, very blessed.

[05:02] All right, so now that we spent a couple of minutes just sort of painting a picture for the audience of what you’ve built, let’s—we’re gonna start peeling back layers of the onion and talk about the how, because that’s really always my promise for my audiences. I want them to come and listen to other entrepreneurs. And ideally, you know, come away with actionable golden nuggets, things they can implement in their business, ideally, today.  So let’s talk about how you attract customers. What has been your most successful campaign in the last? And maybe we’ll do a two-part answer to this maybe early on when you didn’t really have a lot of traction and then more recently now?

  • Yeah, absolutely. So for us, I think, obviously, marketing has been a huge component of our growth, as for almost any great company. And something that we did differently early on was our competitors…So this is 2013, it doesn’t feel that long ago, but this has been seven years, and a lot has changed in seven years. Seven years ago, there weren’t a lot of processing companies online. So it just didn’t exist. Square, Stripe, PayPal—they were just emerging in the market. But most of the big competitors were all the banks. It was Bank of America, Chase Paymentech, Wells Fargo. 

And the way that processing, like businesses, once you go about getting processing was face-to-face. It was a face-to-face sale; it was at the bank when they opened up their business banking account. It was very similar to insurance sales, like, I don’t know if you remember getting your, you know, maybe I’m dating myself, but getting an insurance card, you had like the guy come to your house. He like, walked around your vehicle, gave an assessment, and then you received your insurance card in the mail. You took it to Kinkos to go get it laminated, and that’s how you got your car insurance. And then overnight, a company went online, they were like, “Forget that process. You’re going to go online, fill out your information, and you’re going to be able to print and drive today,” right? And that was insurance. And that was the same model that we built Fattmerchant, from a go-to market standpoint on, and it was actually out of necessity. It wasn’t even because I was a genius or anything. I didn’t have the cash to go hire people. 

So the way that I was like, “Okay, we have this incredible flat subscription model, it’s going to be disruptive.” I took it online. So we built an incredible website, we created a very simple “1,2,3, go online, get started for your payment processing, and get the technology solutions that you need today,” and that really didn’t exist. It took a week to get your processing up and running. And so we went online and spent money on Google, right. And so, put money on Google Ads, created a really great website, started, you know, talking about, like, creating videos and social media. And so we organically started to grow online where our competitors weren’t online. And so that was how we went about establishing our go-to-market. And still, today, it’s still, six years later today, 70% of our customers come direct to us online.

So that is still our primary model. We have not shifted from it, we’ve just gotten bigger and bigger and bigger and gotten more market share over time. But that is how we go about acquiring customers. and it’s an entire slew of digital marketing. So it’s, you know, it’s not just a campaign, or it’s not just Google AdWords, it’s not just retargeting—it is everything. It is turning every single rock once we get that lead in through the door, and then nurturing them through that entire process, through the funnel to then eventually convert. And our sales cycles are actually really short. So we’re able to actually, within a given month, be able to land the customer online, convert them into a paid customer, and our conversion rates are north of 10% from direct customer landed, filling something out to actually being a paid customer of Fattmerchant. So it’s pretty impressive.

[09:08] So over the six years, obviously the cost of your advertising clicks has gone up exponentially.

  • It has. It has. We made Google very happy.

[09:17] Yeah. So let’s dive deeper into that if you can. So let’s talk…because so you said Google ads are the bulk of your top of funnel attraction or lead attraction activity. Is that correct?

  • Yes, Google is a big component, but there are so many components. It’s paid advertising is a huge component of it. So we do a lot on social, Facebook, Google, and other like Google Display Network. So it’s just, when I say Google, I talk, I use it as like Kleenex, like as a term. So I mean, digital advertising is still a huge component of it. And then there is also a huge organic component that complements the paid side because we have been online for so long creating value contact. So the SEO side of the business then also complements the paid side of it. So it’s a full digital marketing online strategy.

[10:17] So let’s dive into the ads a little bit. So you’ve got some ads that say, more or less, what does your ad say?

  • It’s pretty simple. The ads are “Unify your payment experience.” We have a savings component to our model, so it’s, you know, say 40% on your processing fees. We have, so there’s “Product is a value proposition,” and then “Price as a value proposition.” So there’s different campaigns depending on verticals and what that vertical is most likely to attract.

[10:51] And are you predominantly text ads or you an even kind of smash of text and video ads? 

  • No. Text, video, dynamic videos—we do it all. So it’s actually, nothing is actually plain text ads. I think probably what’s plain text is, like, the Google, the actual pay-per-click ads are text ads because those are just links, but most of the ads are dynamic. 

[11:21] Okay, what would be a phrase that a customer would type into Google? Because I want to see if I can do this now to show one of your ads.

  • Okay, let’s try “merchant services.” Let’s try that.

[11:36] And I realized that a company of your size, you’re not the one…

  • I am not the one.

[11:40] You know, like, I don’t expect you to be able to answer.

  • Yeah. So some, like, top merchant services providers, right, should be one. And then we also have review sites that also, were on, like, every major review site from business reviews that then talk about our services as well. So it’s a pretty full complement, like, it’s not just the Google Ad that we’re ranking for. Then it’s also the review site that’s talking about payment processing and merchant services, and QuickBooks integrations, and e-commerce, payment solutions, and mobile payment solutions, and so there’s the whole product component as well. But it’s not just one single ad because our processing is—it’s complex. We do payment processing for multiple verticals using multiple types of products.

[12:38] Okay, so do you know, because you obviously have a team that’s running these ads for you. Do you know, when someone clicks the ad, what does the offer look like? Is it a lead magnet? Is it “Sign up for our services?” Is it “Get a free trial”? What’s there?

  • Absolutely. It depends on the campaign, right. So, you know, and we’re trying to go into the details of it. So a Google AdWord campaign is probably on the low funnel, right? So they are ready to buy, they’re looking for a solution, it’s not a top of the funnel lead, it is on the ready-to-close. 

[13:11] ‘Cause they’re searching.

  • They’re searching for it, and it’s also probably the most highest cost lead for us as well. Whereas a Facebook Ad or a retargeting ad is top of the funnel, right? So they may not be searching for it yet, we’re showing up because they are a target user. And so we just want to kind of pop in there and be like, “Hey, we’re Fattmerchant. Take a look at us.” You know, “Frustrated with your solutions?” or “Things aren’t connected, integrated?” So those are all top of the funnel. And so the call to action is going to vary in the landing page. We have multiple landing pages based on what is the campaign that they’re clicking on, and then where they are in that funnel. 

So the offer on a top of the funnel may be an Ebook, right. It may be just like “Learn more,” “Let’s do a calculator,” “Let’s do a savings calculator,” “Let’s schedule a demo,” or “Learn more.” Actually, schedule a demo is actually going to be on a…

[14:07] Middle.

  • Yes, exactly. So “Let’s set up an appointment,” “Let’s get on the phone.” And so, or an offer, right. So if it’s even further down the offer, it’s like “Get started today” and “Let’s give you a free terminal.” “Let’s get you free equipment,” “Let’s get you a free month of processing.” And so that will depend on where the funnel is, but it’s very intricate. All of its runthrough, like our, you know, HubSpot is what we use as our primary marketing engine. 

And HubSpot has literally done case studies on the amount of workflows that we have. And we’re probably one of, like, the HubSpot top users over the last five years, and we receive, like, awards from HubSpot for how much we use HubSpot. We’ve actually been in like two HubSpot books. And Google also as well, like, we’re in alpha programs with Google for, we’re the largest spending advertiser with Google Ad payments today, and that’s really shocking.

[15:08] So if you have any of those, if you could give me links after the fact to that any of those HubSpot articles that people have written about you guys, we can include those in the show notes. 

  • Sure. Yeah. Send me a note, and then we can include those in. But point being is that it’s not simple. Like, what I’m trying to get across is that there’s not one campaign, and there’s not one way. And there’s many companies out there that that works incredible for, and you can double down on that approach. For us, our customer is—it’s broad, right? 

So because we have four key verticals, so professional services, service base, which is still services…Professional services are like your lawyers, your marketing companies, business-to-business services. And our second vertical is service base, which is, they use the same tools but they’re actually physically providing services like lawn care, pool care, your dry cleaners, like actual services rendered. And then you have health care. So healthcare is one of our biggest buckets, which is retail health care that needs to take payments like optometrist, therapist, dentist. So not necessarily major hospitals but everybody else that has, like, patients, day-to-day, sell patients. So we’ve got pro serve, field serve, healthcare, and then retail. So those are our four key main verticals. 

And when you chop up, there’s a million ways to get to a small business and that, each of those verticals, has their own tried and true methodologies to get to that customer. The call to actions are unique to them, their landing pages are unique to them. You know, talking to a healthcare office, we need to use the word “patients” versus maybe a retail, we need to use the word “customers.” So it’s pretty intricate in terms, because we have four key verticals. It’s still the same strategy so we’re not sitting here. 

We don’t have, our marketing team is, you know, incredible like army of 10. They are 10, but, you know, they deliver work as if they are a monster agency. Our total headcount in the company is about 110 so just kind of, like, give you the size of the marketing team, but everything is in-house. We have a full in-house team. We do have supporting agencies that do support us. However, everything is done by this team. So it’s still the same overall hierarchy, like, the same strategy just verticalized against those key ideal customers.

[17:39] So let’s talk a little bit then about…I want to wind back the clock into the Wayback Machine a little. So at some point in time, you didn’t have anyone on your marketing team. I’m guessing it was just you. 

  • Yeah. Uh-huh. 

[17:52] And then you got to the point where you decided “Okay, now I need to hire some help.” Let’s talk a little bit about that phase. What did that look like? Did you decide “Okay, I’m gonna hire a VP marketing and hand it all over to them and they can build a team?” Or did you start working with some subcontractors? Or, like, what did that transition look like?

  • Yeah, so I think with any founder, this is like part of the growth phase. And it’s still happening for our company. But it’s tough to, you know, you need experts, but you can’t afford the experts. 

[18:27] Correct.

  • So the way that you go about doing it is you learn shit on your own and you implement it, and you find contractors that can help you find agencies that can help you. So for probably the first year, we had an agency that supported me in the marketing function, where I was strategically still executing from campaigns. And I actually graduated from University of Florida with a degree in finance and marketing so I did have background in marketing, but digital advertising was changing so quickly that we needed to have an agency to help us determine the right approaches. And so we hired an agency at first, and then eventually started bringing on those key roles. 

So the first marketer was [an] overall just-everything-marketer. So this person who wore every hat, it was one additional hand that I had that would, you know, we would do copy together, we would do campaigns together, we would create graphics—horrible graphics together—and just throw shit together together, right.  And that’s kind of one person that wore every hat, and then you specialize even further. Then we’re like, “Great, we’re actually spending dollars online. We need somebody that is an expert in ads.” And so then we brought in an ads manager right into the team. And I didn’t bring on an incredible expert right away; I couldn’t afford to do so. But I kind of leveraged my experience as that strategic head with adding the next bet, the next necessity that we needed—the next necessity that we needed. 

And that’s how we grew that side of our marketing team, that applies to every part of the organization. I mean, I’ve played, as I’m still running the company, I’m so, so proud and privileged to continue to be in the seat that I am. And it’s incredible to just like, I’m looking outside at our, you know, at the office, and I used to play every single one of those roles. I used to play the customer support, I used to play the account manager, I used to play…

[20:31] Oh, I know because I do it all too in my software company.

  • Yeah. And then you will and, you know, and it’s investing in the right people. And we’re so fortunate to still have like our original founding team. We have incredible culture here at Fattmerchant, and everyone’s still very much excited about being on this rocket ship. And we’re just adding in more and more talented specialized people.

[20: 55] So, earlier on, you mentioned focusing on industry niches. And I’m wondering, has partnerships played a role for you in getting traction in those niches? And if so, can you give me kind of an overview of how you identify partners, how you reach out to them what the partnerships look like, and so forth?

  • Yeah, this is a great question and probably a great topic for any company out there. So you’ve heard me say 70% of our customers still come to us direct online—that used to be 100%. That ratio is changing solely due to partners. So I didn’t realize…I was so against partnership for some reason. You know, in the beginning, I felt like every partnership that we tried to implement didn’t go through. It was somebody else selling our product or having a different…I didn’t control that experience. So it was very, it was hard for me to let go of somebody else owning that experience with our customer. And it was actually one of the dumbest like—it was like one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, is not to have that approach. 

I think that if you have a product that is getting fit so perfectly and integrate with other softwares and can integrate with other partners, it is actually exponential in the growth compared to the direct side of our business. Because every partner that we bring on integrate our API into for payments, then all of their thousands of customers can end up becoming customers of that merchant. And that has definitely been a journey for us to…it’s been a journey over the last five years, but it is now the fastest growing definition of our company is our integrated partnerships. 

And so, you know, for us, we have an API that helps companies process payments, right. So we use the same API, we have our product suite that our direct customers can choose, but there’s also some incredible software companies out there. So there is an incredible software for a dentist that does everything for that dentist 100% for them, right? Our API can then, this is only the payments component. So we can offer our payments component to that customer, to that software, and we’re not even there. We’re not, like, what’s interesting is they don’t even know that Fattmerchant is processing those payments. 

And so we have 6000 direct customers, but indirect—I can’t share that number yet. But indirect, it is massive, because we are completely white labeled behind the curtain of that software company. And it’s actually even more exciting because we’re still, you know, we launched this product to have a better user experience in payments, and we’re still able to deliver that, but we can grow exponentially on the partnership channel. 

So I think it’s a great topic for you to bring up because I was definitely very much against it at first. And it’s there’s different types of partnerships, right. There’s referral partnerships, there’s marketplace partnerships so a lot of software’s have marketplace opportunities for you to be integrated into, and there’s integrated partnerships. And for us, what’s been highly successful is the complete integrated side of it because it makes our products super sticky to that software.

[24:12] So that’s the rabbit hole I want to go down. So let’s unpack that a bit. 

  • Let’s do that. 

[24:18] You decide. Alright, “We want to focus on integrated partnerships.” First thing is, you got to figure out well, “who should we partner with?” 

  • Yeah. 

[24:24] And then how do we get ahold of them? How do we even get on their radar screen? So let’s talk about that.

  • So, one, you have to have a great API, right. So if you want to have integrated partnerships, your software better be able to integrate. Like, that’s like the basic piece that, you know, you must have from an integrated standpoint. And the documentation from an API standpoint so that a partner can understand it and say, “Oh, this makes sense. We need this piece and it’s very simple to add this component to our software.” Payments are a necessity so we’re kind of on the lucky side of, like, we have a product that’s not a nice-to-have—it is a must-have. And so for us, we kind of have that advantage. 

How do we go about signing partnerships? So it’s a completely different sales cycle than our direct-to-customer. This is where we actually have a business development team. This is where we actually go to trade shows and come to vertical conferences. And through our networks is this, it’s like a true business development cycle. It’s a long cycle so we don’t just sign a partner and get them up and running in less than, you know, like our sales cycle on the direct side is 17 days. Our sales cycle on the partner side is nine months. So it takes a while, but, and you have to run through. It’s just like, you know, so, one, you sign the partnership—and signing partners are easy. I don’t think that that’s the hard part. Actually the hard part, Trent, is getting dollars out of those partners, actually getting your products usage out of those products, like, out of that software company. 

So partner success is actually the next component that is really, really important where we put in a lot of work. You can go out and sign great partnerships, but extracting value, they have their day-to-day. They’re focused on their software, they’re not focused on selling your software or your integration. And so, that takes double the art skill and a team there to ensure that you’re actually getting fruit from those partnerships. So that was something that we learned as well through the years. 

We launched our partnership division in 2018 and probably signed about two partners a quarter was our cadence up until like last year. It was continuing to grow, but we have plenty of partners but not all of them are performing at that, you know, at the same level. And so why? Well, it’s because they have their own agendas and you’re not always going to be top of mind for the partner. So partner success is “invest now in that’”, right, like, invest now. If you’re thinking about partnerships, it’s not just the sales side, I actually think the sales side is the easy side. It’s really implementation, partner success, gaining that value that you’re looking for from a revenue standpoint from them, getting those customers on board. But then, once you crack that nut, it’s exponential. So that’s my two cents there.

[27:24] In the outreach to prospective partners, was it just a lot of blocking and tackling? No great fancy automated email outreach programs?

  • No.

[27:35] Or it was just you, feet on the street, you were going to shows, knocking on doors, sending cold emails, just basic stuff?

  • Basic stuff. I would say that we did have, we do have a great ABM strategy on the partner side. So there are ways to digitize your partner outbound. So we have an inbound model for our direct side of the business. Leads come to us, then we have an inside sales team that runs them through a process, closes that customer, that’s all inbound—it is a fucking machine. It’s a flywheel. It’s running, and we’ve been doing this for five years. It is awesome. 

Now, from the partner success side it was different because this is outbound for the first time for us, right? But there isn’t… There is still a component of where digital advertising and having a brand and doing ABM marketing, and they’re still approaches that go beyond just the cold call. We’re still not cold calling our customers. We have SDRs, but it’s still email campaigns, it’s still setting those appointments. It’s still more of a traditional process, but I think that you can leverage, because we are leveraging a lot of our digital learnings towards the right side of the house as well. 

And so when you have success, even when a partner does learn about you, and then they Google you, and they’re like, “Holy shit, this company is amazing. They have all this stuff going for them and then now they won’t leave me alone because I’m big retargeted like crazy,” right? Like you’re, “I’m seeing them everywhere.” You can become bigger. You can have a lot of clout online that you may not with just that one business development person calling, right. 

So I think that in 2020, we are in such a great position to—it’s ours, it’s ours to take. All this whitespace is ours to take because there’s so many tools, so many ways to advertise, so many ways to show up—you just have to be the one showing up first.

[29:22] Yep, absolutely. So in that answer, you did mention your SDR, your inside sales team for your inbound does exceptionally well. You’re not the only interviewee that I’ve had in the software space that is having a great deal of success with the good old fashioned people-to-people sales touch. I interviewed a fellow who’s the founder of a company called JivoChat. He literally sent me a graph of their growth, and it was growth pre-sales team. So they’ve got a self sign-up process probably like you do, and at some point in time, he realized, “Okay, we’re not converting enough of our free trial into paid customers.” So [they] built an internal sales team, and it was crazy, the graphic went from like this to like this.

  • I believe it

[30:15] Literally around that three-month period of time where he built the sales team and obviously, the graph just continued for several years after that. So let’s talk a little bit about your inside sales team. How did you get it started? Let’s just start talking about that first.

  • Yeah. So we’ve always had… So I was the inside sales team. So even when we had a self sign-up, I still always call the customer. Like, that was always part of the process; I’ve been in sales in many different hats. I’ve been in field sales. You can still automate so many things, there is still one layer of a human touch that does just close the deal. That is what we do as salespeople, and it really can’t be replicated. And for some companies that may be just 100% commerce or a product company, like an actual physical good—you don’t need a salesperson to sell you a physical good anymore. 

But for a software company, like, we’re going to integrate your company into our company. There is a demo, there are components required that need to be tailored to that business or understanding that customer better. Doing a discovery call goes a long way so we’ve always had, quote—I’m doing air quotes as y’all are seeing—“I was a sales team.” So when our call would come in, we would, or like a lead would come in, we would just call the customer, understand the customer, tell them why our solution was a great fit for them, and then close that customer. And that is the true definition of, like, inside sales. 

How that team continued to grow was, we knew… It literally is a ratio. And when I talk about, for any SaaS company and like most, all SaaS companies have an inside sales team. Very KPI-driven, very like, “These are the leads that come in. This is what is like”’—it’s all automated. Like, this goes to this team, this goes to this SDR, this is this vertical, and they have like a full playbook. It’s an entire inside sales playbook that is pretty similar to most SaaS inside sales playbooks—that you can all Google—that have, you know, this approach. 

The lead comes in, it either gets assigned to a SDR, or if it’s a top of the funnel, then it gets assigned to an SDR. If it is lower in the funnel, it gets assigned directly to our sales executive—we call them payment consultants. And so it gets assigned to a PC and then they carry it through, and they have a sales playbook. They do a demo and then the further that we get along in that process, and we move it through the CRM, the more likely that deal is to close, right? So if we can move it from stage one to stage two to stage three, the ratio of that closing, it’s higher. And we actually have, like, so our deal stages… 

[33:01] I was just gonna ask you that. What do you do with deal stages? 

  • I know you’re gonna ask me that. This is such a fun interview because, like, nobody ever cares about the details. I love it.

So our deal stages is, so we got a contact and it turns out like we’re either going to trash it and just throw it away, or we’re going to turn it into an MQL, which is a marketing qualified lead. So we probably disqualify 30% of our leads today, just because we don’t support certain industry types, and/or we don’t support lower volume businesses, and/or we don’t support businesses outside of the US. So we still have a shit ton of lead volume, and I don’t want to say we throw them away. They’re sitting somewhere for when the time is right but…

[33:39] They’re not getting a call.

  • They’re not getting our call, so they get put into another nurture. So 70% of our contacts that come in are MQL—so that’s a marketing qualified lead. And that is what then gets distributed and assigned depending on where they are in the MQL funnel. So either they’re gonna get assigned to an SDR and they’re dialing for dollars, but they’re not dialing outbound. We have, like, I don’t know, like 40,000 leads in our database right now that have raised their hand at some point so they have plenty of not super hot but lukewarm leads. And so SDRs call against our database and/or they’re assigned top of the funnel MQLs, and either they qualify it, and then hand it over to a PC, and/or if it’s a little bit down the funnel and this is all through algorithms and everything like lead scoring—all of that—it gets assigned to the right PC, and then they… 

[34:33] ‘PC’ standing for what?

  • Our payment consultant. So our sales executive or AE for other companies. And so the lead is from an MQL, gets assigned, and they actually have to physically pick up the phone and call them. So they cannot move it over to the deal stage if they have not actually talked to the customer and verify that they are a right fit opportunity. And if they are a right fit opportunity then they are turned into an SQL which is a sales qualified lead for us, which is many Salesforce users. It’s an opportunity so it is an actual festival.

[35:05] So your PCs are your closers? They’re the ones that…

  • Our PCs are our closers. And they move it over to SQL, and then they take them through that nurture process turning into a customer. And our SQL to close is over 40%. 

[35:19] Damn. 

  • Yes. It is literally a machine. Our growth engine is awesome. And our marketing team is fucking fantastic to filling this funnel constantly as we’ve been able to scale our, we have 47 people in our total sales, from directors to supporting sales, sales ops, directors, PCs, SDR. So about 47 people, it’s almost half the company. They’re…

[35: 47] Between sales and marketing, it is half the company.

  • It is half the company between sales and marketing. And then we have, like the next big team is our technology teams, our developers, and then we have account management and support, and then we also have our business development team, which is the partnership side of the house. But BD also falls under, actually that falls under sales so—big component.

[36:13] Hence was born the expression, “Nothing happens ‘til you make a sale.”

  • Nothing does. It is the most important part of your business. And I see founders, I mentor all the time, I mentor women. So a little bit about my background and a kind of plugin, so I am a Pakistani, you know, 33-year old-mom of two, and there is no way I would be here in the position that I am today if I didn’t have incredible mentors. I probably had everything stacked against me. You know, I’m out of like Orlando, Florida, we raise 20 million out of Orlando, Florida. It’s crazy, but I would like to see more women founders actually succeed. The stat, unfortunately, is that less than 2% of female founders ever break a million in revenue.

And so I hate that I’m a unicorn here in that, and I’m out to change that. And so I have a podcast as well, it’s called “The 2% Club.” It’s actually launching in a few weeks so check that out. But we’re, you know, I have all different kinds of, like, accelerators to help women kind of get to that level. It’s something I’m super passionate about.

[37:23] Tell us about one of them, because I have women listeners, so tell us about one of those accelerators.

  • Yeah. You should go to Icon Mastermind to go check it out. And it is for, just different, there’s different stages of entrepreneurs; it depends on where you are from your revenue standpoint. We put you in a group with six other women. It’s a true mastermind to kind of help you through different stages and get you to the next level.

One of the biggest challenges that I see why women don’t make it to the next level, a lot of it is just—we don’t even think big enough. We think that, you know, when you ask many women where their goals are, it’s at six figures. We’re not even thinking about getting to the seven figure mark. But, also, it’s just the playbooks. I mean, everything that I just shared, these are all just—they’re all the same playbook. Like, I didn’t invent this inside sales playbook, this just does exist. And so it’s really learnings from other entrepreneurs and just kind of creating that community to help each other get to the top, and it’s also nice to be around other women. 

I think, you know, we’re just, it’s easier to kind of share some of our challenges. I’m a mom. That shit is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. And while having two kids, like, running this company has been extremely difficult and that’s kind of how I got, I started sharing my crazy executive life at mom life, and you can follow me on Instagram @mombossco. It’s a really fun Instagram. There’s probably about 30,000 people now in that community and growing like crazy, and it’s just an incredible group of inspiring ambitious entrepreneurs that are female that are looking to break every ceiling. So, yeah. 

[39:07] Nice. So before we wrap up, if you were interviewing-yourself-scenario and you had a chance to ask one more question, something we have not talked about, any idea what that question would be?

  • Yeah. I think one of the biggest things is culture. I think that, like, one of the greatest things that I didn’t know about that we unintentionally created was incredible culture at Fattmerchant around three core values that we’ve had from day one. And I wasn’t ever, like I didn’t ever—it wasn’t something that I ever thought about, it was just something that was. And I see a lot of companies now take a different approach of, like, having to force like, “Here are our core values and then here’s this culture that we’re trying to do,” and it really has to be organic. And so I’m looking back, and I wanted to ask myself that question of like, how did you create this? Like, how did you, I’m looking out right now from our podcast room, and there’s just, we’re actually back phase two from pandemic, by the way, it’s been crazy not seeing people. 

And it’s just, it’s a beautiful thing, and I’m just so blessed. And it’s really because we had fun doing what we did. We were transparent, we stuck to our core values of “Get Shit Done, One Team, and Creating Joy.” And that wasn’t just for our customers, that was to each other, that was to our community, that was showing up here today and just continuing to demonstrate those values not only on a day-to-day work basis but even outside of the lives that we live outside of work. And those are the people that we have around. So looking back and looking forward even, I want to ensure that, you know, I bring in those people with those with those core values. And that’s something that, every founder that’s listening, it is important. 

I almost messed this up so bad. In 2018… Oh, 2019, we went from 50 people to 100 people. So growth was crazy, we received our Series B funding; we needed to get a lot of products out. And we went from 50 to almost 100 people in one year, and we hired too fast, and I didn’t do every interview. And I’m not saying that every founder needs to do every interview, but I didn’t have this huge focus on ensuring that they weren’t just a fit from a job description standpoint, they were a fit from a culture standpoint as well. And we had to let go of some pretty bad apples very quickly. 

So that was, we were able to adjust but it was a really big lesson that we learned of hire slow. Ensure that you have your core values in place and that when you are bringing on these candidates that they reflect not only the job, they reflect who you are as a company. And I’m so glad that we were able to, of course, correct quickly and get, you know, those people not that are not here today, but bring on the right talent. And our culture is thriving.

[42:09] So let me interrupt you right there. You just said “what to do.” I wanna know how to do that? You’re gonna dig in a little deeper on that.

  • So how to do it is just… I mean, one, you need to be that. So actually demonstrate. So whatever your core values are, why are they important to you? You have to first understand the “why.” Like, why do you exist and show up every fucking day to work? Like, you better know your why and why you’re running this company. Okay? And that mission better be greater than you; that mission better be greater than dollars. Because if it’s just that—it’s not going to go very far. So know your “why,” write it down, and get your team on that same page, and show up every single day for that “why.” Then from there, there’s components that are going to…

[42:51] Hang on. I’m sorry to interrupt you again, but in your organization, what’s the “why?”

  • “To create the best damn experience.” We show up to create the best damn experience. So in payments today, that just doesn’t exist. And it used to be “Create the best damn experience in payments.” We just want to create the best damn experience for our customers because we are a business platform, and we are growing even one step before and behind the transaction. So for us it is to create the best damn experience for businesses so that we can level the playing field for them. And so that’s why we show up; it’s for the SMB. It’s to give them, create, and how we do that—so that’s the “why”—but how we do that is through the three core values of We create joy, right? We get shit done, we operate as one team, as a unit with our customer and with our team. 

So know your, like, do this exercise. So the “how to do this” is write it down. You get into a room, you get with your core team members, and you get the company behind this rally cry, and this is how you’re going to operate. And these core values that you create, and I actually hate it when core values are this huge list of core values—those are just permission to play—like, that’s what you should be doing when you, like, enter the door. So really try to narrow down. Every decision should be based on these three principles, or whatever the number is for your company. It could just be one, but we have three, and we really stick to that. 

And from there, that is how we bring on customers, that is how we bring on team members, that has how we implement our, like, day-to-day—and that just becomes part of culture. But you also have to be intentional about it because as you continue to grow and hire, it was like, you know, I would say from employees, like from 0 to 50, it was very easy to maintain. Then from that 50 mark, like I said, adding on the velocity of the net new team members, it got lost because people didn’t have that same “why” of why they came in through the door that what we built the company for.

And so it’s important that your next set of hires, like your first core team members that are leading your divisions really, really have that—those core values—that then they translate to the next team members and the next team members. Because that can get lost, just like a game of telephone, that can get lost. So that’s how you go about implementing it, but it also is intentional. You can’t just walk away from it, you have to ensure that you have those things. 

Like, I don’t know, we have a ton, like for us, you know, we’re a huge food culture here at Fattmerchant, and, you know, I used to bring in bagels every Monday, you know, for the team, because they were cheap. Like it was $6 bagel buckets at Einstein’s that I would bring in, and it was a great way for me to make my team happy. I bring in some breakfast and we’d all eat and get to work on a Monday, then that continues to evolve. Like, we still have bagel Mondays at the office, and now they sit on the new hire’s desk, and, like, we have to go talk to the new hire to go get our bagel on Monday. And we still incorporate the same elements; we didn’t lose our culture as we continue to grow—and, luckily, Einstein only raised their price to 8 bucks. So that’s, it’s so affordable.

[46:02] I like that. I like the “bagels on the new hire desk.” I think that’s very smart. It’s just a tiny, simple little way to create interaction with new folks. Before we finish up, I did think of another thing that I wanted to ask you as we got into the talk of culture and team building and your shit show of going from 50 to 100. Now that you went through that experience, making some mistakes, what does your interview and hiring process look like?

  • It is a playbook there as well. So it used to be where I was able to do all the interviews with maybe the hiring manager that was for that department. Now, we have a full HR team, we have a head of talent. The interviewee comes in, so there’s a whole process before we even bring him in to a first round interview. But there is obviously an online application, but we actually ask for video interviews. So step two is actually a video screening, and we get so many applicants. We are in Orlando in Florida, we are one of the largest growing tech companies. And we have, you know, we went a lot of great culture. We actually just want Inc.’s Best Places to Work as well. So we get a lot of resumes; it’s tough to parse through. 

So people actually take the time to do a little video that tells you a little bit more that they are interested, like a little bit further. And so we’ll have it, she screens those, there’s a team that does that. And then once they feel, and then they’ll do a phone interview. So that’s the first interaction that we have with an interviewee, like, and we’ll do a phone screening. And then if it is a good fit for the position, they come into the office, and it’s a two-part interview. Sometimes we do them on the same day, sometimes we break them apart, just depending on timelines. But we have two people sit in on the first interview, and then two people sit in on the second interview. 

So the first interview is conducted, and it’s always the hiring manager and then a peer. So we always bring in somebody that’s not the manager to ensure that it is a good culture fit, that they like this team member, and it’s not just one dimensional from just the manager standpoint. And then the next interview is one step above. So we have to ensure that one of the executives is on that interview, that we do get the green light. I still sit in on many, many interviews. And we kind of divide and conquer from an executive team standpoint. So we bring in the hiring manager from the department, we bring in one level above, and then we also bring in somebody completely random. Like, one is a peer in the department and sometimes we bring in somebody even from a non-department. So it’s a completely unbiased view. 

So that’s the process. They do the interviews, and then we make a decision. And we’re pretty quick about it.

[48:48] Do you do any personality testing?

  • It depends on the role. So we do have, like, so that’s the interview process. Now, it depends on the specialization. Sales. Our sales team does. Like, they have a profile  that they have that just does well for certain teams. And even if there are, we actually like to keep it balanced so it’s not necessarily about having one profile for a sales individual. We actually like to diversify them so that in teams that they don’t have, like, competing style personalities. So we’ll do a personality test on the sales side, and then on some technical side, there will be coding tasks and some technical specialization stuff. So that goes on to like the next phase of it, but that’s pretty much the hiring process.

[49:36] Okay. It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable discussion. We’ve been a good amount of time. Thank you so much for making some time to come and share your insights with the Bright Ideas audience. So I want to thank you very much for being on the show. I do get other SaaS founders listening to my show. In the event that anyone wants to reach out to you to talk about a partnership, what is the single best way for them to do that?

How to Become a SaaS Success Story

Fattmerchant is the “Netflix of credit card processing.” In this episode, she outlined their best practices in achieving exponential growth and bringing a new experience to their customers. 

“Creating the best experience and so that we can level the playing field for them,” Suneera says, is the primary mission of Fattmerchant. 

Suneera has seen how customers were not treated well and how the marketplace lacked transparency, particularly in charging fees on payments. 

They aimed to be a few steps ahead of their competitors and launched a pioneering online payment technology to deliver the best solutions for their customers. 

Focus on Attracting Customers

Marketing is a huge component of growth. You must make your company known and accessible to potential customers.

Here’s a powerful quote from Suneera:

“It’s an entire slew of digital marketing . . . It is turning every single rock once we get that lead in through the door and then nurturing them through that entire process through the funnel to then eventually convert.”

Nevertheless, marketing is just one part of the game. You must also offer a valuable service, get ahead of your competitors, and take the lead.

Do Not Rely on a Single Ad Campaign 

Since Fattmerchant’s customers are wide-ranging, it would be more beneficial for them to diversify. 

Currently, Fattmarchant uses a unique outreach strategy for each of its four key verticals: professional services, field services, health care, and retail.

So why is it better to have multiple channels and varied calls to action instead of having a uniform one? 

Suneera explains: “There are a million ways to get to small business and that each of those verticals has their own tried and true methodologies to get to that customer. The call to actions are unique to them; their landing pages are unique to them.”

Foster Good Partnerships 

Direct contact with potential customers can only take you so far. You need to find ways to integrate your software with others and expand your network. 

“It is actually exponential growth compared to the direct side of our business because every partner that we bring on integrate our API into for payments, then all of their thousands of customers can end up becoming customers of Fattmerchant,” says Suneera. 

There are different types of partnerships, such as referral partnerships, marketplace partnerships, and integrated partnerships. 

You just have to look for the right one, identify its strengths, and use it to your advantage.

If you want to dive in and explore this business strategy, here are some things to consider: 

  • You must have a great API, especially if you want to engage in integrated partnerships. 
  • Signing partners is not the hard part; getting dollars out of them is. So make sure you offer something valuable to them. 
  • You must also extract value from your partnerships. 
  • Partner success lies in implementation.

Keep People-to-People Sales Touch

“Most SaaS companies have an inside sales team,” says Suneera. This is one layer of human touch that has the potential to close a deal. 

Your goal is to reach your CRM. You need to have an excellent strategy to pass all the stages in your field sales and eventually close the deal. 

Here’s a glimpse of Fattmerchant’s process. 

  • When they have a contact, they will identify it as either a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) or disqualify it. 
  • MQLs will then be distributed and assigned to a sales development representative (SDR), depending on where they are in the funnel.
  • The SDRs will evaluate the MQLs and assign them to the right payment consultant (PC).
  • The PCs will make contact with the MQLs via phone call to verify that they are the right fit. If they are, they turn into a sales-qualified lead (SQL).
  • The PCs will nurture the SQLs, turning them into a customer.

You need to employ a good strategy because nothing happens until you make a sale. 

Create an Excellent Culture 

Your company culture drives everything you do.

From your work to your personal life, let Fattmerchant’s culture be your guide in making your SaaS success story come true.

Fattmerchant holds these values dearly: 

  • Transparency in all their transactions
  • Having fun in what they do
  • Creating joy 
  • Operating as one team 

Even in the hiring process, make it a priority to not only attract the best talents but also make sure your culture thrives.

Always hold onto the reason you are running your company and make sure you get your team on the same page.

In the case of Fattmerchant, it’s to create the best experience for their customers. 

What Did We Learn from This Episode?

  1. We learned Fattmerchant’s best practices, which led them to their success. 
  2. A great marketing strategy is key to attracting more customers. 
  3. A diversified ad campaign can generate more leads. 
  4. Partnerships are essential in exponential growth. 
  5. The human touch is vital in making sales.
  6. Your marketing team should be as strong as your inside sales team. 
  7. Your company culture and mission keep you grounded. They are what takes you to greater heights.

Episode Highlights

[00:12] – Suneera introduces her company, Fattmerchant 

  • Fattmerchant deals with integrated payments for small to medium-sized businesses. It takes the various ways businesses can accept payments and brings them into a single and unified platform. 
  • She was a part of a processing company before launching her own. She was disappointed in the lack of transparency in the marketplace, particularly on fees.  
  • Suneera had been selling merchant services before and handling payments for a variety of large companies for a long time. 

[02:00] – Fattmerchant launch & customer profile

  • Suneera launched Fattmerchant in 2014. In the same year, it made $5 million in payments. 
  • In five years, they were able to reach as high as $5 billion in payments. 
  • The company was self-funded, with Suneera getting the company up and running for a year. They’ve raised about $20 million in venture capital with a big growth trajectory in sight.
  • Their ideal customers are small- to medium-sized businesses processing $100,000 to $20 million annually.
  • Currently, they have over 6,000 US-based customers.

[05:42] – How did they attract more customers?  

  • Fattmerchant used what its competitors lack and innovated ways on how they can make online payments possible and more efficient.
  • They focused on their marketing strategies, starting with building an incredible website and spent a considerable amount on paid advertising. 
  • They went online and established a pioneering payment system.

[10:24] – A precise and powerful ad campaign

  • Fattmerchant’s ads say “Unify your payment experience.”
  • They included a savings component to their model. 
  • The value proposition is in Fattmerchant’s products and price.
  • The company uses different campaigns. Aside from text ads, they employ dynamic videos and also use review sites. 

[12:43] – What does their offer look like?  

  • The offers are dependent on the campaign and the platform used. For example, their Google AdWords campaign is on the low funnel.
  • The goal is just to be visible regardless of the platform. 
  • The call to action varies depending on where the funnel is.

[17:58] – Building the team

  • When you need experts but can’t afford them, you have to learn and implement on your own.
  • Fattmerchant initially enlisted the help of an agency to assist them with their marketing approach. The company eventually started to bring in experts.
  • They invested in more experts as they continue to grow.

[21:02] – Engaging in partnerships 

  • At first, she was not a fan of this idea. She wants to be in control of who sells their services. 
  • Now, integrated partnerships became one of their fastest-growing divisions.

[24:12] – Integrated partnerships & reaching out to potential partners

  • You need a great API that a potential partner can understand easily.
  • Fattmerchant’s sales cycle with partners takes nine months.
  • According to Suneera, the sales part is easy. On the other hand, the implementation takes skill to ensure the partnerships are fruitful.
  • Have a great ABM strategy on the partnership side. 
  • They have SDRs, but you can leverage email campaigns and setting appointments.

 [30:30] – How can you do inside sales better?

  • You can automate many things but you can’t replicate the human touch when closing the deal.
  • Understand your customer.
  • Tell them why the solution is an excellent fit for the needs of their company. 
  • Close the deal with that customer.
  • Fattmerchant’s payment consultants are their closers. Their close rate is 40% of SQLs.

[39:21] – Why company culture is crucial to your SaaS success story

  • The core values behind Fattmerchant’s SaaS success story: One Team, Create Joy, and Get Shit Done.
  • In their case, their core values came out organically. This culture and core values became their anchor in every challenge that they face.
  • This also led them to not be hasty in hiring their employees. They made sure their new hires fit both the job description and the company culture. 
  • Your company must be intentional and deliberate in implementing your core values.
  • Don’t lose your culture as you continue to grow.

[46:28] – Fattmerchant’s hiring process

  • Applicants submit a video application.
  • The HR team screens them and interacts with them via phone interview.
  • If the applicant is a good fit, the HR team invites them for a two-part face-to-face interview.
  • A random peer is always included among the panelists. This is to ensure the process is not limited to a managerial or executive standpoint.
  • They conduct personality testing on some roles to keep teams diverse and balanced.

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Today’s Guest

Suneera Madhani, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Fattmerchant, is a payments and technology innovator who has catapulted her business idea from startup to $5B — disrupting the payments ecosystem as we know it. Before founding the company in 2014, Madhani held a variety of successful positions, one being with a larger merchant services provider. After seeing the need for transparency and a better payment experience for merchants, her entrepreneurial spirit took hold and she decided to solve the problem herself.

Under her leadership, Fattmerchant has experienced explosive growth, raising almost $20 million in venture capital funding and employing above 100 people. The company’s integrated technology has disrupted what was once a stagnant and inert industry, offering an all-in-one payment experience for merchants.

She has been named the Most Influential Woman in Payments, CEO of the Year, and one of Florida’s Most Influential Business Leaders. She has spoken at national fintech and payments conferences such as Money 20/20 and ETA Transact, and is an active member of Forbes’ Young Entrepreneurs Council.

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