We've come along away since Scripted launched about a year ago. We have funding, interns, and more than one full-time engineer. All three of these are major milestones in the growth of a startup.
We're now entering a new pubescent stage in our growth. There are growth spurts in our revenue and physical changes like new office space. The focus of this post will be on changes to our marketing strategy and the tools we've found incredibly helpful as we enter the next stage of our growth.
In the beginning...
In the beginning, there was Excel. We had our friends, our friends of friends, and businesses that we heard of and would like to reach out to, all saved in a nice Excel spreadsheet. We'd share it on Dropbox or Google Docs. It worked fine, and when you're first starting out, before you have real customers, it's all you need.
Around your fifth customer check, you're probably in need of a dedicated customer relationship management (CRM) tool. You need to choose wisely; CRM inertia is a bitch. There's no standard output format, although tools have been built to transfer data between the big CRMs. But if you use it right, there will be many intertwined relationships, and each CRM has its own schema. I'll just reiterate this: do your research and make your choice once.
Show me some Sugar
We settled on SugarCRM Community Edition . Why? Because it's free. And not the free trial kind of free. Free for as many users and records you can pack on a server. We use Rackspace and pay $80/month for an instance that supports both our blog and our Sugar installation. It'll probably scale out to several hundred thousand targets, leads, and contacts, with little to no maintenance required. It's a huge savings over Salesforce, although going with the market leader has its benefits, including many apps and integrations with other sales tools.
I'm really excited right now about the many CRM extensions for Google Apps and Chrome. I've seen a lot pop up recently, like Streak and YesWare. I think this is a brilliant move, and I can't wait to see more CRM tools pop up with deeper Google Apps integrations. It makes perfect sense, so long as Google continues to provide the best IT infrastructure for SMBs and startups.
Fun with MAS
After about seven months of deep diving into Sugar (that could be a whole series of blog posts), we found ourselves in need of marketing automation software (MAS). This move coincided with hiring two summer interns to focus on sales and marketing and planning a marketing experiment in paid search. We decided that in order to scale our email marketing efforts, and get better conversion from traffic driven to our various sales pages, our paid search investment should coincide with a MAS experiment.
After looking around for two weeks and sitting on many a screenshare demo, we settled on Pardot. Our criteria was pretty straightforward:
- Cost less than $1,500/mo for four users
- Tight integration with SugarCRM
- Include drip automation
- Use the latest web technology
Pardot nailed all of these points. Plus, they were very accommodating and have offered exceptional support. They are one of only a few MAS's that integrate with Sugar, and I met them at the SugarCon conference earlier this Spring. Further, I actually like that they're based in Atlanta. They bring that southern flavor to their interactions with us.
We use Pardot to automate our email drip marketing, sales form responses and assignments, and general lead scoring based on activities like Olark chats, page views, email opens and clicks, and more. Pardot manages our cold visitor funnel.
Managing your customers
So if Pardot helps us qualify prospective customers, and SugarCRM helps us nurture them, Customer.io is our conversion tool.
Once you have your MAS and your CRM working well together, you'll eventually run into the problem of managing customers that actually sign up. When we first started getting random business registrations on Scripted, we celebrated. Hooray, it works!
But then after a couple of months we'd look at the data and see that a large percent of registered customers weren't active. They wouldn't post jobs, or they'd post jobs but not add a credit card (so their jobs were in purgatory), or they'd give us a credit card, post a job and accept it and get charged, but only do this once. To be a big business, we need repeat customers.
Customer.io is an awesome new tool that captures data from your website via very simple "hooks" in your code. We use our Customer.io account to send email drips upon signup, and to those registrants who we haven't seen in a while. We also have separate campaigns for people without credit cards versus those who haven't entered jobs.
We've seen in our data that there's tremendous value in getting that second job in the system. Our two-time users are many times more valuable than our one-time users. Re-engaging one-time users is critical, and without Customer.io, it would require a lot of development time. These guys made it easy, and we love them for it.
At Scripted, we have three marketing systems working together: Pardot, Sugar, and Customer.io.
Pardot helps us qualify prospects that are in the discovery stage with unknown potential. Pardot is used for qualification.
SugarCRM helps us manage prospects that are qualified but need more info, demos, samples or a trial. Sugar is used for nurturing.
Customer.io helps us keep registered users engaged. Customer.io is used for conversion.
In other words, most of our long-tail sales start with Pardot. As soon as qualification is made by phone or email, it hands off to SugarCRM, where we set reminders to follow up on samples, interest in trials, and sales calls. Once they register an account on Scripted, Customer.io kicks in to make sure they stay active.
Is there anything I missed? I'd love to hear about your experiences with these products or others here in the comments.
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