Note: This AMA is closed for new questions, but you can check out the existing conversations below.
This April 15th, we had the pleasure of hosting Flodesk’s co-founder and CEO, Martha Bitar. Martha and team have forged great progress in a short span while operating in one of the most unthinkably competitive SaaS categories. And they ascribe their monumental journey to an almost clinical sense of customer obsession, which, for instance, includes a daily, team-wide workout routine, a series of customer-focussed reps they all tend to. Inspiring, right?
AMA Index (Martha’s brain-pickings)
(founding insights, opinions, and observations; deftly examined and articulated)
— Hiring, OKRs, and roadmaps, all drawn up for customer-centricity; “what’s worked best for us is not to create new processes…but to map each of our existing processes to customer benefits so we’re exercising daily without needing to go to the gym.”
— The two ways affiliate & referral programs limit themselves
— Why large markets can house different solutions, deciding against a customary free plan, and avoiding distractions on the path to growth
— How Martha learned to work with her co-founders
— How Facebook became Flodesk’s organic (churn-reducing) community; “as a founder, you’ll see many negative comments in your community. That’s okay.”
— Seeking customer permission to “avoid answering some questions or bounce a question back with another question," and to ask why
— How Martha’s enterprise background informs Flodesk’s product-led approach
— One fundamental thing Martha would change: “I would freak out less”
Further reading/listening/pondering from the interwebz /
(Other insightful excerpts drawn from blog posts, interviews, and conversations)
On the often overlooked responsibility of taking care of oneself as a leader
I started FloDesk when I had a full-time job and that job was very intense. I remember working all night, all weekend and there were times when I’d come and just start crying because I couldn’t help it. And I wasn’t eating right or working out and it was really out of balance and I do not recommend that to anyone.
But I remember having a conversation with my mom and she said, “You really have to stop doing this because you’re not signing up for a startup of one year, you’re trying to build something generational and it’s going to take probably 5-10 years, maybe more.
If you burn out today then how is that really responsible towards the people that you’re promising to serve for the long term? People are trusting you and giving you their money, buying your tool and you’re not taking care of yourself in a way that you’re going to show up the next day the next month.” That was a really hard thing to hear. You never want to hear those truths.
She wasn’t telling me I had to take care of myself but it was more like this is not right and you’re not being responsible for others as well. That led to me creating a plan and I said when I hit this milestone at FloDesk, I’ll leave my full-time job and go full-time into FloDesk.
Then I made a plan to start eating healthier and working from home some days and having those hard conversations and coming to the realization that in my full-time job, I was doing a lot not because I needed to just because I always have had that mindset that you have to go above and beyond.
I think a lot of people that started a business have to have that kind of personality and it took to having a conversation with my former boss and saying that I couldn’t do this any long so I have to quit or do my job and that’s it. It was so funny because I went into that meeting with some much fear and he told me I needed to do my job and that I needed to stop stressing myself so much and I was still going to have a lot of impact.
So I recommend that you don’t get yourself to that level and if you already did then stop and take action right away so that you can be there for the people that you’re promising to be there for.
On witnessing the unmistakable promise of being customer-led
One story that I want to share here…It started when the pandemic started and we were freaking out a bit because we saw a dip in usage and the first thing that we did is what we know how to do is that we got on the phones with customers and we started asking them why they weren’t using Flodesk.
And this was a couple of days of lower usage. And what we heard from them was that everything had changed so quickly. Some of them were photographed and they were booking things and they knew that they needed to share some safety protocols. Some were physical stores and all of a sudden they had to go online.
So they weren’t using it because they were paralysed but because there were all of these communication situations that were completely unprecedented. And they had no idea how to handle that and if you think about it, the customer that we serve is an entrepreneur that most of the time they’re doing this alone.
So they don’t have a PR team, they don’t have anyone telling them, ‘hey, here’s how to communicate with them.’ So having that information gave us so much color into what was really needed and then what we did was we partnered with a couple of customers who were already creating their own templates…
And we collected a collection of COVID templates in the platform. And that turned what could have been the really truly the lowest month for us, into our biggest spike to that date and up until today those templates are the most used in the platform.
Source: SaaStr | 2020
On how community influences low churn
So we haven’t actually had much churn. We saw a slight dip when the pandemic started as many SaaS companies and that recovered pretty quickly. We have lower churn than industry churn. We haven’t done a lot of testing with churn because it hasn’t been a huge problem to fix but I think the community does play a part in that.
We do have a help center full of articles and content that we created. It’s not quite dynamic so we’re continuing to work on that and we’re also featuring member content in the help center. We also have a Facebook group where members often post questions.
But most of the time, it’s not even a product-related question, it’s more of a business or marketing strategy question. So we realized that people are probably churning not just because they can’t learn the tool because they can’t figure out the strategy so having that access to a pool of people who already did it or are also trying to figure it out is so important. I’m always surprised at how willing people are to share their secrets. They’ll answer each other’s questions and share what worked for them.
That’s key to me and it’s one of those things that makes it worth it for us to spend time in that group. There are days that someone will post something that’s negative and it’s frustrating because we can’t build things overnight. But that’s the feedback that’s taking us where we need to go. So again it’s not what we did, it’s what our members took charge of and we followed.
Source: MeetEdgar | 2020
On challenging status-quo pricing and deciding against a free plan
Very early on we realised that we wanted to make sure that we are not having a free plan. Because with email marketing that becomes really detrimental for a lot of your legit users. You get a lot of spammers…We also knew that it just wasn’t our business model. So we’ve never had a free plan. And not having a free plan, actually allows us to have a more accessible pricing for the long term.
And then another thing that we think about with email marketing is that the pricing in the industry is a little outdated. Based on what people are actually using. Imagine if you’re starting a website and the website provider tells you, ‘hey I’m going to charge you more if you start hitting more visitors.’ Like yes, there are costs that do grow in the backend, but they don’t grow at the rate where you can’t keep an accessible price.
And if you think about the target market that we’re serving, we can’t just make it accessible in terms of ease of use and the design piece, but it has to be accessible when it comes to pricing too. So we did a lot of experimentation and analysis and then we came back to what we knew was something that we could sustain long term. That was also going to work for our customers. And by choosing to not do a free plan, we were able to afford it.
Source: SaaStr | 2020