From Zero to Loopio: Part III
We’ve arrived at the third part of Loopio’s origin story. If you haven’t read Part I and Part II, we encourage you to give those a read as well. We will be publishing more “Loopio Journey” posts in the future that will explore some of the adventures that await us. Without further ado, let’s get going.
Customer Attention = Customer Retention
Virginia: It sounds like there was success from the get go. You started with a free beta and strategically converted users into paid customers. Talk to me about the balance between customer acquisition and customer retention.
Jafar: To your point, the work we put in during our free beta period was pivotal in shaping our customer acquisition strategy. But it’s only half the battle–you need to keep your clients. A lot of SaaS startups have monthly recurring revenue, especially those with a B2C model. For us, a B2B SaaS company, the majority of our clients are looking to sign annual subscriptions. About 20% of our customers pay monthly with virtually no churn and we are approaching our first round of annual renewals. So while some of this remains to be seen, we keep open communication lines with our clients and are anticipating tons of renewals. I believe that customer engagement is the key to customer retention. We might be a small company, but we invest a lot of time in driving customer success.
Virginia: Tell me more about what you mean by customer success.
Jafar: Well Zak is really driving this side of things. It comes down to maintaining an open dialog with our customers, such as having regular check-ins. B2B is truly a relationship heavy business model. Generally speaking, B2C products typically come with a lower price tag that doesn’t justify or require a high level of customer support. When selling to businesses, however, providing a higher level of customer engagement is required, which translates to a more personalized customer support model. The return you get from investing this effort in building up relationships with clients is extremely valuable. We are all highly attentive from a support perspective. We make sure to listen and respond to customer’s very quickly. Being super responsive is something we do really well. Matt will plug his laptop in no matter where he is when a support issue comes in and get right to it.
Finding Value on the Daily
Virginia: I imagine that this leads to customers playing an active role in the development of Loopio.
Matt: That was another area of learning for us–how much people want to give their feedback and be listened to. They deserve to be treated like the experts they are. They’re the ones we created the software for. Once feedback is received, responding intelligently, being honest about timelines, AND actually delivering on your commitments are key. This creates an amazing feedback cycle, happy customers, and ultimately builds trust. But you’ve got to act fast and you’ve got to deliver.
Zak: To build on what Matt is saying, the key is listening. This does not mean that you should always do what the client says, but making it clear to them that they have a platform to be heard on, makes all the difference in the world. Our ability to react quickly when responding to our clients is one of our biggest weapons against the larger competitors out there. The level of engagement and volume of human interaction is simply not scalable for some of them. We take full advantage of this and give our clients a voice.
Virginia: How do you balance giving them a voice yet not guaranteeing that their requests will be put into effect?
Zak: The trick is to engage them intelligently and ask them to justify their assumptions. From there, you offer them other paths for getting to the same end point that they may not have been aware of. Then, it’s often a matter of them putting some skin in the game and saying “you know what? I thought about those and it doesn’t seem to work the way I was hoping”. This is true engagement. This type of conversation often plays a large role in what makes the shortlist for our short term product updates. I can’t say enough about showing appreciation for receiving feedback like this from your customers. They are the ones using the platform and we want to ensure that they find value in doing so every single day. It doesn’t matter how much marketing material you throw at them, they have to see legitimate value and we are committed to ensuring that this continues to be the case with Loopio.
What Does It Take to Become a Looper?
Virginia: Let’s talk about other Loopers on the team and also the future Loopers to come. What characteristics are most important for new team members to possess? What do you look for when hiring?
Zak: Number one is that they need to fit into the environment from a cultural sense. Someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but can give the necessary amount of dedication to the work we are doing.
Virginia: I feel like I need you to use an adjective.
Zak: (laughing) Can they get Loopi? Do they have that loopiness about them that allows them to thrive in an environment that’s a little more fun than normal, a little more laid back than normal, but also a little more serious at the same time. This really comes down to a gut feeling. Number two would be the ability to take ownership and be able to run with something. This is one of the most important things to be able to do in a high growth organization; to be able to take a concept and own it from end to end.
Virginia: Kind of like this wonderful blog I am chairing?
Matt: Exactly. Although it would have been nice if you could have made our answers up for us too.
Virginia: And for that, I’m going to go ahead and put you on the spot and ask you, Matt York, what do you look for in new team members?
Matt: Fire in the eyes. This is something that you can just tell. Learning about their experience. What different things have they done in the past? What do they do in their spare time? Do they have hobbies that they take very seriously? Do they get &%$# done? Are we allowed to swear?
Virginia: Don’t worry, I’m going to replace it with different fun squiggly characters. Jafar, do you have anything to contribute on this matter?
Jafar: For me it’s all about having a proven track record. Whether you’re someone who killed it at a past job you loved or you were someone who perhaps wasn’t at an ideal job, but found a way to stay passionate and make it your own – that’s what speaks to me. The ability to take ownership of things and drive your own initiative while taking pride in what you do is really important and directly correlates to the quality of work you put out.
In an Alternate Universe
Virginia: What did you decide not to do in order to focus on Loopio. Where and what might you have been doing?
Jafar: I decided not to pursue the partner route in a management consulting firm. I worked at a great firm that definitely had a future for me, but what I’ve come to realize, most importantly, is that there is nothing more rewarding than growing something from its infancy. I’d always worked at big companies and it was great to see the impacts that were made at those larger organizations, but they pale in comparison to the feeling I got when we got our first payment from a customer. I’ve never been so excited. It wasn’t a lot of money and I think we actually spent it all the same day on lunch to celebrate.
Zak: It was pretty awesome.
Jafar: I think what it comes down to is that I don’t feel like I gave up anything. I’ve never been happier both personally and career-wise.
Matt: Agreed. We gave up working on great products with great people, but we replaced it by building a great product with great people on a smaller scale. Growing it from scratch and working closely with a small team and being in control of our destiny through and through is incredible.
Zak: I think my answer is a combination of what these two are saying. Even with all the struggles to get here, I wouldn’t trade this in a million years.
To Infinity and Beyond
Virginia: One final question. It’s time to project, gentlemen. One year from now, what will Loopio look like?
Zak: From a product standpoint, the goal is for Loopio to be the go-to solution on the market for RFP and Proposal Management software in North America. So when a company has a need in this area, they will be pointed to Loopio. I truly believe we can get there and that would be the goal from an external facing perspective. Internally, it will be that we have defined an environment where people in Toronto will want to be a part of. The goal is that people would be knocking on our door with the feeling of “I want to be a part of the growth and success of this software company.” I could talk about financial numbers all day, but it comes down to all of us being extremely proud of the work we’ve done over the year.
Matt: Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Summary of Part III
- Solicit customer feedback–these are the people you’re solving a problem for. Listen with both ears and never underestimate the power of their comments.
- Growing your team–be picky and don’t settle for someone who can just do the job. You will be spending a lot of time with whoever you hire. A LOT of time. Make sure they are on board with your vision and will only strengthen your chances of getting there.
- Dream big or go home–have defined goals that aim high. Put them out there loud and proud. The only limits are the ones you set for yourself.
We’ll continue to share more Looper adventures so if you haven’t done so already, make sure to subscribe below and be notified when our next post comes out.
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