Brennan Dunn – 6 Tricks That Helped Me Triple My SaaS’ Growth Rate – MicroConf Europe 2014

The MicroConf Europe 2014 Hub Page has notes on all the talks and additional information.

Twitter: @brennandunn
Slides: here

  • I am a hacker & I like growth, but I don’t like the term “growth hacking”
  • I am a solopreneur – with a bunch of different products
    • I don’t work that much, because of my wife & kids (a.k.a. my board of directors)
    • Frequent Question: “How big is your team?”; Answer: “About a quarter of a person”

Why We Are Here

  • We are all here to grow
  • We are all here to make more money

The All Important Sales Funnel

  • e.g: Visitors –> Trials –> Activations –> Paid
  • Activation: “Somebody who is actually utilizing your product in their day-to-day workflow”
  • If you improve one step of the funnel, it improves all the other parts of the funnel TOO!


Lesson 1: Reaquiring Drive-Bys

  • People need to come back to your website for them to buy your product
  • random visitor: “Google, how do I raise my rates?”
  • Avoid “One size fits all” retargeting
    • Are they looking to double their rates or searching for software? –> Address those people differently
  • Visitors to marketing site –> Retarget on display network (Interested in product)
  • Visitors to blog –> Retarget on Facebook, drive to email course signup landing page
  • Retargeting is more than just converting visitors
    • Trial users: Invitation to join the founder for 1-on-1 onboarding
    • RSVP for an upcoming webinar or mastermind
    • Videos or blog posts of success stories or usage guides
    • Product updates
    • Compliment and reinforce your trial lifecycle communication

Lesson 2: Segmentation

  • Goal: Make this a product-for-one
  • Customer: “I own a development consultancy, and we bill $10,000 a week”
    • Adjust the product to what you just learned about THAT customer:
      • Lifecycle emails: “When I ran my consultancy, I…”
      • Onboarding: Sample project with development-y tasks, rate of $10k/week
      • In-App messaging: reporting verbiage, button labels, etc.
  • Further ways to individualize
    • Listed in 3rd party integration marketplace? You have referrer data – auto-default to linking with the referring tool
    • Create specialized landing pages for each persona “I run a 20 person agency… there’s no WAY a tool that works for freelancers could help me.”
    • Level over 9000: Figure out how, why, and where they first showed up on your site, and profile/cookie them for later
  • Takeaway: a perfectly placed IF-condition can go a long way toward improving conversions

Lesson 3: Trial Scores

  • Goal: Learn & Optimize Outreach during onboarding phase
  • “What is common about people who convert to paid?” (for planscope)
    • have created a project
    • invited a client to join project
    • invited their team members
    • added 3rd party invoicing integration
    • used internal communication
  • Turn that into a score for each customer in trial (Client Happiness Index)
    • Tailor your lifecycle emails according to their Client Happiness Index
    • Your #1 is to nudge people toward converting
  • Takeaway: Write & Test your automated emails inside GMail before putting them inside a cron job

Lesson 4: Educate Everywhere

  • Goal: Focus on the customer, not the product
  • Your product is only a small part of your customer’s business
    • Educate them on topics related to their business
  • “Click this button. Now enter a rpice in here. Then, click…” VS. “Here are some tricks you can use to win this new project…”
  • Send helpful content right after events in your app.
    • e.g. send a “My help is to improve your chances of winning your proposals by 2-3x. Here are a few tips:” email right after they created their first¬†estimate
  • Celebrate your customer’s successes – and gather some great testimonials along the way
  • Takeaway: What actions ALIGN with why someone actually wants your product?

Lesson 5: Do an Exit Interview

  • Goal: Go beyond what funnels can tell us
  • Not-so-obvious reason to collect credit card upfront: Requires people to cancel
  • Ask people why they are cancelling & how you can improve
  • Collect the responses, categorize them
    • Product reasons
    • environmental reasons
      • some won’t help you
      • but “I ran out of client work” –> you can teach them to get more business
  • Takeaway: People are at the high water mark of their emotional entanglement with your product when they cancel

Lesson 6: Ways to Increase CLTV

  • The goal of the trial is to establish product fit. When done, CHARGE.
  • Decrease churn, e.g. by offering them a discount when they are likely to churn


  • Look for repeatable quests that get you to that next level faster

Questions & Answers

  • What do your customers mean to you?
    • My customers were struggling with cashflow, it’s great to help them
    • “Raising my rates is what allowed me to finance my wedding” –> Best. Feedback. Ever.
  • Can you expand on your use of CRMs to provide 1-on-1 onboarding?
    • Push customer happiness index into, multiply by CLTV,
  • You have switched positioning from freelancers to agency. How did you adjust your content marketing?
    • There are different terms for “people who work for other businesses on a project basis”: freelancer, consultancy, consulting agency
    • Agencies don’t think advice for freelancers works for them
    • “Duplicating”/Cloning content for freelancers and agencies
  • How did you do 1-on-1 onboarding?
    • I remotely joined them on their computer, trying to work their way through the app and get confused


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About Christoph

Christoph lives in Munich, Germany and is bootstrapping his own SaaS application as a part-time entrepreneur.

He likes to write on this blog about anything of relevance to single-founder bootstrapped software startups.


  1. […] Brennan Dunn: “6 Tricks That Helped Me Triple My SaaS’ Growth Rate“ […]

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