Sep 6, 2013

Disciplined Patience

Last week I was lucky to participate on Sean Ellis' Ask Me Anything on Inbound.org.

For the ones who don't know him, he is the CEO and Founder of Qualaroo, the author of Startup Marketing and a tremendous Growth Hacker.

When he was asked about what was the biggest mistake he made or constantly sees others make, he gave the following reply that got me thinking and made me write this article.

The biggest mistake I've made and see others make with SaaS tools is always trying to get the big win customer acquisition channel rather than doing the disciplined work of managing all of the growth levers. SaaS is something that can become a 20%-50% M/M growth rate through hundreds of micro optimizations across every part of the business.
Disciplined patience growing a business at 20%-50% M/M revenue growth gets really big after a couple years. And with SaaS multiples, within a couple years you can become worth 100s of millions of dollars. SaaS is not a get rich quick scheme, but if you are delivering true value in a disciplined way, you can build a very valuable business.

My Case

I've been part of different startups over a couple of years and I can really relate to that mistake.

Just a couple of weeks ago we (my team and I) really started to focus, set goals and stick to a strategy for a relatively large period of time, but in the past we would be constantly trying to get the BIG customer acquisition channel, pivoting from one strategy to another.

One week we would write blog posts, the next one we would try cold calling customers and then we would try acquiring customers via SEM or any other strategy. We didn't see groundbreaking results so we kept bouncing without getting any results.

I think this is a common mistake that many startups do because of various reasons.

First of all, we are constantly consuming information and news about "Killer Startups" and overnight successes, so we can't manage to be patient and thrive to get ANY results. We think that if we don't manage to get 500 paying customers the week we launch we are doing everything wrong.

Secondly, as technology entrepreneurs it's really easy to be constantly changing the product or the marketing strategy. Imagine if you run a restaurant or any other "traditional business". Those business aren't agile, that's not a good thing, but the silver lining is that people tend to stick to their marketing strategies much longer.

Things we did right

As I mentioned earlier, a couple of weeks ago we started to be disciplined and patient. We chose to acquire customers by email marketing and by creating high quality content.

One of the big influencers of this decision was this incredible article by Nathan Barry about email marketing. The biggest takeaway was this email blueprint diagram. This diagram is gold. Nathan Barry Email Blueprint Here you can see that contrary to what you would think, he doesn't have a "ginormous" amount of traffic or subscribers per landing page (Leaving outside a couple). Basically, he has a good number of landing pages and each one contribute their tiny grain of sand to a main list of more than 7.000 subscribers.

After we realised that we didn't need to have a huge amount of traffic we started to create interesting content like white papers or guides and started to build an audience slow but steady. Once we started to grow the email list we made hard or soft sells on the newsletter and customers started to decant.

So what can you do to be more patient and disciplined when it comes to grow your startup?

I'm not an expert on this subject, I don't have the patience of a buddhist monk nor the discipline of a soldier, but I think we are on the right track and we are starting to see the results of managing all of the growth levers in a patient manner.

I would recommend you to choose your battles wisely and work on those strategies for a minimum defined time (e.g. not less than 5 months) having in mind that things usually start with small absolute numbers but if you focus on growing just 15% per month, after a year you will have multiplied your numbers by 5. After two years by 28. Absolute growth numbers

So be patient regarding absolute numbers and try to focus on strategies that can grow your startup in a slow but steady manner.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work and make sure our marketing strategies flourish.

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