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From old school software marketing to saas marketing

My company Easygenerator made a switch from old school software selling via partners with a licensing model to a full SaaS approach. It meant we had to change everything, including our marketing. In this article I describe what that meant for us.

A bit of context

Easygenerator is a software company that was making e-learning authoring software for instructional designers and sold that software via a network of partners in The Netherlands and via one partner in Germany. I joined the company as CEO in 2011 with the goal to expand it further. We made some progress, but we were not making the impact and the growth we were looking for.

We did find in that period a new opportunity. We came up with the idea not to create a complex product for e-Learning specialists, but we wanted to create a simple product for subject matter experts from the business, people with no experience at all with creating learning.

We also decided that we should not only change the nature of our solution, but we needed to change everything. From locally installed software towards a Software as a Service (SaaS), from a licensing model with maintenance fee to a subscription model, from selling via partners to direct selling.

We changed everything except the name. It was just me and 5 developers that were in this new adventure. We made this shift in 2013 and the change was so big that we consider ourselves a new company and we consider the launch date of this new software as our company birthday.

Our road into SaaS marketing

The first lesson that we learned from a marketing and sales perspective was that our home country The Netherlands is a too small market for a successful software product. So we focused on the US market from day 1. The website and all marketing materials were in English, we kept it that way until last year when we launched the website also in other languages.

We decided to launch the software at DevLearn which is a big e-Learning conference held yearly in Las Vegas. We had to start from scratch because we decided that we wanted to sell these subscriptions ourselves and no longer via the old partner network.

Online sales

We had to set up online sales. A web shop with an international payment provider (Stripe) , something we never had. But that was the easy part. We found that our old way of getting customers in (mostly going to tradeshows with our partners) was not the way forward. We moved the whole marketing and sales process online, we stopped visiting conferences and customers and bought zoom licenses instead. This meant we were relying 100% on our marketing team to bring in the leads.

 

Inbound process

We started building up our SEO, focusing on specific search terms first to build up the organic traffic to the website. We choose for high quality content and I also started writing for external websites and magazines to get backlinks. We also started paid campaigns, first on google later also on specific websites.

In the beginning we just had an individual plan that cost $ 19 per month. So the whole goal of marketing was to get traffic into the website, have them sign off for a free or a trial license and then try to get them into the web shop to actually buy a monthly or yearly subscription.

Outbound process

This worked well for us and we grew rapidly. Also the international strategy was paying off. Just 25 percent of the customers came from our home country and the USA was our biggest market from day 1. In a few months’ time we had customers in over 20 countries.

The biggest challenge was churn, we had about 40% churn on a yearly basis and that is of course way too high. So, we started to work with team plans and later also with enterprise plans where the churn indeed turned out to be significantly lower. But the inbound process was not sufficient for that, so we hired our first Business development representative and started to set up an outbound process as well. We also hired our first inbound BDR to follow up on the bigger inbound leads.

Customer success process

Selling a SaaS subscription is only the beginning. Not only keeping that customer at renewal but also upselling to them is the way. We did set up a customer support and a customer success team, but it also meant we had to expand our marketing efforts to existing customers in order to support customer retention and upsell.

The result

Today we are a company with customers in 50 countries. Our growth the last few years is about 90% year on year. We only have recurring revenue; we are purely SaaS and subscription based. All our customers are working in the same environment that we update every week.

The marketing team is now 8 people and growing. It covers the whole spectrum of all marketing skills that a SaaS company needs. Inbound, outbound, SEO, paid channels, webinars, editing, translating and more. Everything focused on generating leads. And with great effect.

We started with subscriptions that we sold at $ 19 per month. Our biggest customers now pay well over $ 100.000 per year. 99% of our revenue is a direct sale. The revenue for team and enterprise plans is 95% of the total and the churn with these customers is 6% on a yearly basis. Our marketing has been a major driver in building up our company that now has well over 100 employees with offices in Rotterdam, Zhytomyr, Dubai and Medellin. And there is way more to come.

Ashok Patel

I'm a software engineer, having good experience in software programming web designing with great command on ASP.NET, React JS, Angular JS,.NET Core HTML5, JavaScript, T-SQL, JQuery.
Also have great experience in Electronics and electrical engineers design.
I like to do RND and Research.

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