First Few Customers

Bootstrapped Companies Digital Marketing Emerging Stage SaaS Products

Automate your entire customer engagement process to convert your free users in the SaaS business

Sahil Parikh is the Founder of Synage that makes clean, easy to use and feature rich products to save time and make employees work smart thereby allowing them to enjoy the finer aspects of life. Sahils book on “The SaaS Edge – How companies can leverage Software As A Service was published by Tata McGraw-Hill in early 2011. He has been named a Paragon 100 Fellow (Asia’s most inspiring your entrepreneurs and social change makers) and have been featured on the cover and leading story of India Today Aspire and has been showcased on CNBCs prestigious TV show “Young Turk Innovators”

Sahil began his product development with DeskAway which is a general purpose project management tool used by multiple companies across a lot of verticals and the product was used by several hundreds of companies. Sahil and team realized that there was a good number of sign-ups from the marketing teams of their customers than the other teams. There were also lots of requests for Marketing / Campaign related projects and workflows as additional requirements from them. This got him to think about building a tool that could serve the target audience (Marketing teams). He realized that the marketing teams were tech savvy and they will understand technology and will see value in the software and this would help them cut through their clutter. The product they had was only a general purpose collaboration tool like several other SaaS players but this specific requirement opened up a huge market. He realized that the marketing teams were spending a lot of money on Digital Marketing and  they were doing more work than they were doing in the past. He felt that there was so much of chaos in managing marketing projects from a globally dispersed team (content planning, delegation, project deadlines etc.) and developed Brighpod to solve these problems and help them focus on what matters to them. He also decided that his app should fundamentally be easy to use and kept the UI, Layout, Messages very simple and he decided to differentiate his product this way of being simple and being gracious because his customers will be using a dozen of apps and Brightpod will not be the only one.

The team began building the app by March 2011 and made a lot of changes including scrapping the entire UI by around Aug 2012. They chose what went into the app and took it to private beta by December 2012 and began learning how people used the app. They fixed bugs based on the feedback that came in from the early users and began gaining attention by around March 2013 and got lots of top bloggers passing on their love about the app and this got the app a lot of visibility.

Since this as a SaaS product, the focus on outreach was entirely on Marketing. The existing team had a good experience of Marketing a SaaS product with their Deskaway product. Most of the SaaS products were general purpose tools which used Small and Medium Enterprise focus as a way to differentiate themselves. Brightpod was something out of the box and meant for a specific team (Marketing) and this helped in rapid market penetration. Since they knew the target audience, they created good landing pages and focussed on SEO to target the people who would search for project management marketing as keywords. They worked towards coming up high on the ranks using SEO as an important channel. They focussed on the long tail keywords and not general purpose keywords because they knew that the traffic from those keyword searches will be highly qualified. They also started a blog for In-bound marketing in brightpod.com which focussed on productivity and marketing as concepts and a good 30% to 40% of the traffic comes from there.  Sahil quotes an example. For people who search for an editorial calendar, the blog helps them to set up a calendar and gives a XL sheet of what needs to be done and then drives the traffic to the plugin into the website. They also have an interview series, where they interview one startup marketer of SaaS startup web application companies. They also used Twitter with a couple of keywords which drove traffic and they use www.perfectaudience.com for re-targeting.

On engaging with the free users and converting them into paid users, the users normally begins as a free user and tries out the application. They have a Drip Marketing campaign which they use a tool called  Intercom and sends part emails and part notifications to the free users.  An automated email is sent if the users have not invited any of their team members to try the product and prompts them that Brightpod is much better when it is used as a team than by working on it alone.  Automated emails are sent if there is a dip in the usage or if the users have not tried all the features. Based on the behaviour, sometimes emails checking if the users would like to have a demo in order to use the product better will be sent. Sahil says that 3 out of the10 free users on an average will want a demo and he or his technical team will show a demo. Sahil says that he has no sales people in his team and has been selling by automating the sales process by drip email marketing, online demos, video tutorials and a solid FAQ section.

Sahil’s advice to early stage startups – Life is short. Work smart. Have fun. Running a startup can be stressful and a lot of work. That does not mean you don’t spend time with family, take time off and take care of your health. A balanced week is much more fulfilling than a week doing only work. You have to be smart about leading a smarter lifestyle.

Brightpod today has 6 employees and most of them work remote as a few of them are freelancers. Thy have a few hundreds of customers from all around the world and are growing at round 15% every month. They are still Boot Strapped and Sahil says that his customers are his investors now and wants to build his customer base before he goes for external funding. Brightpod has been featured in ZDNet, Inc, InformationWeek, RackSpace, Techcircle, YourStory to name a few. Sahil also contributes quite a bit to the startup world and he along with Suresh Sambandam of KissFlow, Krish of ChargeBee and Niraj Ranjan of GrexIt had authored a guide which was featured at iSpirit – Download the guide here Jump Start Desk Marketing and Selling SaaS

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