If you haven’t read part 1 of this series, you’re missing out! Go back and check out How Our SaaS Startup Got Our First 1500 B2B Signups (Part 1) to get the first part of our startup’s growth playbook.
More than 700 businesses had signed up for early access on our platform and we were realizing that FinTech growth wasn’t a special and unique unicorn after all. Trying a whole bunch of stuff, measuring, and testing was actually paying off. The machine was churning away and we were hitting our targets week after week 🎯 and sometimes even blowing past them. High-fives were getting passed around regularly and we felt like we had cracked the code that stumped so many other startups. Our biggest issue (and the elephant in an otherwise happy room) was that we needed a continuous feed of content and tools to keep things moving. That was the critical flaw in our growth strategy so far – it was spiky.
If the conversion rate of any of our channels dropped off in a meaningful way or if our next marketing project flopped we would start to plateau. We needed to expand our channel mix and add weapons to our arsenal that would always be on.
Adding Gasoline To The Fire
Even though growth was going way better than planned we weren’t looking at the situation through rose-colored glasses. We knew that we’d hit a ceiling and start to plateau at one point or worse, lose momentum. But more importantly, we knew that even if things kept rolling we’d need to turn things up to 11 and paid advertising was the way to do it. By adding in paid channels we’d be able to both grow faster and without the spiky-ness that came with totally counting on organic. We’d also be able to get some good data on CAC and channel effectiveness that would not only be helpful once we launched, but also look all kinds of impressive to prospective investors.
The biggest challenge when rolling out a paid growth strategy is choosing which channels to invest in. We had a few criteria that were important for us:
1. Any paid campaign had to be as close to the bottom of the funnel as possible.
2. We had to be able to measure the results in terms of signups. Ad views, clicks, and any vanity metrics were pretty much irrelevant to us. Basically: performance > branding.
3. Ad creative needed to be quick to produce and test.
We looked pretty deeply into all our options before diving in. We had some misses but got a lot of things right. Here’s what worked best:
After what we had proven out already we decided to roll out ads on Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Even after our early successes we were still pretty much unknown so we wanted to introduce ourselves to new people with content rather than just asking them to sign up right away. Our thinking was that since this had worked organically, we could make it 10x more effective by targeting people and paying to show our awesome content and tools to them.
This might be controversial but we stayed away from a few platforms and formats that some marketers swear by. We didn’t want to touch Google Search. Not only were important keywords expensive, but even if we managed to find some pockets of value the platform was so saturated by big banks that we’d be quickly priced out. We also stayed away from YouTube (and video in general). I know, I know – video is great for engagement. It’s also super expensive to produce and the pricing for good pre-roll is out of control.
The most important lesson was that channels aren’t inherently good or bad. What makes them useful is how well you can target, how granular you can manage your campaigns, and most importantly how their traffic is priced. We got the most value out of figuring out how we could show our ads to the most relevant people at the lowest price.
Once we had paid and organic traffic flowing to our website, we realized that the way we were set up was a bit risky. We had one chance to get them to sign up. If they left our site without converting they’d be lost to us forever and we’d have no way of reaching or identifying them 😭. Especially uncool if they had already clicked on an ad and we had paid to get them to visit our site.
We started to solve this by setting up basic retargeting ads using Google and Facebook. These ads would follow people as they went to different websites after they visited NorthOne. We saw results immediately. Then we started seeing patterns in how people behaved. There were spikes and valleys in the conversion numbers based on a slew of factors like the time of day, the device type, how many of our ads the person had already seen, and how long it had been since they had visited our site. We started to change our ad operations to bid more to show someone an ad when our data told us they’d be more likely to convert.
The Holy &$#* Moment
We signed up our 1500th business! Between the high-fives and emoji-fueled slack celebrations, we realized that we had done something really special. We had navigated through some choppy waters and charted a path that actually worked 🍾.
The biggest win was knowing that because we weren’t counting on one big idea to push us forward and we had created a bit of a safety net for ourselves. If a channel or strategy started to die out it wouldn’t be a catastrophe because we had so many in the mix. More importantly, we had created a framework to test new ideas – and we’d need to find as many awesome new channels as we could because we have our sights on 10,000 before we 🚀 launch 🚀 in 2018.