The inside story of self-funded SaaS growth – Rob Walling – MicroConf Europe 2015

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Twitter: @robwalling


Talk Recap

  • last 15 months of my story as a founder – mainly Drip

3-Step Marketing Playbook

  • Build something people want
  • Find your position
  • Scale

Build Something People Want

  • Drip: Revenue at Launch: 100% (All numbers relative to that)
  • Stayed the same for ~6 months
    • new trials slowed down after launch
    • 40% trial-to-paid rate
  • Rules of thumb
    • visit to trial 0.7%-2%
    • trial to paid: 40-60%
    • First 60/90 day churn: 20-40%
    • Post 60/90 day churn: 4-7%
  • “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster” – David Ogilvy
  • Ask for cancellation reason in a short email
    • How to filter out the useful feedback?
    • Lots of “too pricey” feedback –> Do NOT lower prices; change your product to justify price!
    • Ask customers “What do you need Drip to do to make $50/mo worth it?”
      • “I like automation rules like Infusionsoft”
      • “Tags and a rules engine”
    • Gut feeling: “Marketing automation will justify the price”
      • checked out Infusionsoft via Google image search
      • talked to mastermind group
  • Build feature or not?
    • Does it fit my vision of the product?
    • Will this feature matter in 2 years?
    • Will it grow the business?
  • Rules Engine
    • Didn’t want to build it: too much work; enterprise-y; not fun
    • building in small steps
    • Revenue went up to 150% – People started talking on Twitter, etc
      • No marketing during that time ==> trial numbers went down
      • Churn rate went down
      • Trial-to-paid went up
      • ==> Product/Market fit

Find Your Position

  • If you are in a market with ANY competition, you need to pick a position
  • Invent a category (e.g. educate people on “Marketing automation” in 2003)
    • Usually something for funded companies
  • Compare features
    • bad path
  • Take a position in a category
    • comparing features makes you a commodity
    • better: “One click SaaS metrics for Stripe” – Baremetrics
    • “Drip is the best way to send emails to your prospects, trial users and customers based on who they are and what they’ve done.” –> Worst. Headline. Ever.
  • The Choices:
    • Compare Features
    • “Email Marketing”
    • “Marketing Automation”
    • Mastermind group: “Fuck it! Call yourself ‘Lightweight Marketing Automation That Doesn’t Suck'”
    • That headline totally crushed it


  • MRR today: 580%
  • First steps:
    • set up email course
    • Retargeting

Concentric Circle Marketing

  • Circles
    • Your Audience
    • Colleagues’ Audiences
    • Cold Audiences
  • Circle 1: Your Audience
  • Circle 2: Colleagues’ Audiences
  • Circle 3: Cold Audiences
    • “Powered by Drip” widget link
    • adding integrations to other software, get featured on “Integrations” page
    • SEO

Tactics we haven’t used

  • no split testing (for a lack of time)
  • paid acquisition – just recently started
  • AppSumo deal
  • Webinars – just recently started
  • Outbound email – just recently started

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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.


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