Before scaling to the behemoth it is today, ConvertKit was a side project for Nathan. How did he take a side project and make it as big as it is today? What did ConvertKit do differently than the average SaaS company? And how did they do it BOOTSTRAPPED?

I love the approach ConvertKit took to scaling their product. I want to walk you through some of the key tactics they used to steal and apply to your own business.

Here's What You Will Learn:

  • The Capital Efficient Way To Position Your SaaS Company
  • The Hard Part About Customer-Centrism
  • ConvertKit's Website Conversion Secrets

The Capital Efficient Way To Position Your SaaS Company

Most founders are unfocused and building products that aren't useful. They sometimes spend years and waste thousands or millions of dollars of their own money. 

You can get to $50k per month, $100k per month, $1m per month or $10m per month if you just have the right foundation.  

The truth is: 

Providing a useful and valuable solution, whether it's a product or a service, is relatively straight forward if you know exactly who the customer is and what their problems are.

Marketing and filling up your pipeline with appointments, demos, or trials is straightforward if you nail down a message that gets your prospect's juices flowing and use the right channel for your audience. So how do you do it?

As Peter Thiel would say, start small and monopolize. Solving one problem for one specific group of people is crucial in creating profitable unit case economics and rapid business growth. 

Although ConvertKit is in the hyper-competitive market of email marketing, they managed to find their sweet spot and solve product-market fit. 

If ConvertKit tried to be the email marketing software for everyone, they would be extremely vulnerable to their much larger competitors like MailChimp, AWeber, ActiveCampaign, just to name a few.

Their more established competition could theoretically spend more money and take their business. Because ConvertKit focused on one niche and created a network effect within that niche, ConvertKit became the leading email marketing software creators.

Customers want to feel like their needs are being directly spoken to. So give them what they want!

The Hard Part About Customer-Centrism

There is a reason why many founders never experience massive success. Making decisions strictly around your customers requires sacrifice and discipline. Amazon always faced scrutiny for sacrificing profits in its production line to improve the customer experience and deliver on everyday low prices. They sacrificed and continue to sacrifice profits for the end goal of providing the best customer service.

Although ConvertKit isn't battling huge corporations over distribution channels, they still actively sacrifice short term profits for their customers.

During the infancy of ConvertKit, most of their prospects would object to their services simply because it was too much effort to switch from the current provider.

No matter how compelling and convincing Nathan's offer, most prospects wouldn't switch unless it was effortless and free.

What did Nathan do? He made the unprofitable decision to transfer all prospects from their previous service provider for free.

This means getting their account access, moving every form, email sequence, exporting and importing their subscribers, and much more. It was extremely unprofitable to do for a $79/month customer. But early on, that was how they created momentum. Every customer matters. 

Being a customer-centric startup means accounting for all of your customers' desires, fears, current problems, and everything in between.

Effectively being customer-centric requires long term thinking, as it requires time, energy, and often the allocation of capital or short term sacrifice of it.

To this day, ConvertKit still offers a concierge service for creators with a list of 5000 or more subscribers.

So what are practical ways you can start being a more customer-centric company? The easiest way to start making more informed decisions is to interview or survey your current and past customers.

Here are some simple questions you can ask:

  • How did you find out about us?
  • What made you want to try us?
  • What were the biggest concerns you had before working with us? How was that overcome? And how much of that ended up being right?
  • What would you say to someone who asked about what we do?
  • Determine the state of business before & after working with you in as much detail as possible. (You can write down what you think you helped the company with and see how it compares with their view on your service/product)
  • What are the contribution values of the services you provided?(Please aim for four metrics that you improved through your service/product.)
  • What was the timeframe it took for them to see these results?

These questions will allow you to create a hyper-focused unit case around your ideal client and replicate that success in the future. There are many other questions you can ask and metrics to track to understand your customers better, but the list above will help you get started on your journey to customer-centrism.

The short term sacrifices and pure customer-centrism within ConvertKit have paid off well. Here are some of their website conversion secrets.

ConvertKit's Website Conversion Secrets

1. They Speak their customer's language.

I briefly went over this earlier, but it is important enough to bring up again.

The main driving force behind the success of their website, and any company's website for that matter, is that it speaks directly to the heart of the customer. 

All of your copywriting, visuals, lead-captures, etc. should trigger emotions within your prospect to make them feel understood if you want them to take any action. This is because for anyone to buy your products, watch your webinar, or sign up for your free trial, they need to trust you understand their problems and can solve them.

When you go to ConvertKit's website, right away, they are using terms that resonate with bloggers and creators alike. 

"Connect with your audience. Make a living doing work you love".

ConvertKit has a strong understanding of their ideal prospect. Creators are often working on their own, trying to make money doing things they care about or enjoy whether that be a blogger writing recipes, a vlogger filming funny videos, or an artist sharing their work with the world. 

It is commonly known that these creatives tend to struggle with generating an income following their passion. ConvertKit hopes to solve this, and makes it evident right when you land on the website.

I also used this screenshot earlier, but talk about being understood! ConvertKit nails this. ConvertKit calls out precisely who they are targeting and pats their prospect on the back, reminding the customer they have been there themselves.

If you want to build enough trust to get your ideal prospect to take action, speak their language and make their thoughts and emotions feel heard.

2. Leverage Social Proof

If you were dropped in unknown territory and your livelihood depends on you generating sales, the one asset you would bring is a case study.

Social proof is crucial for generating consistent profits.

Imagine ten people experiencing the same problem as you, in the same vertical, telling you that they all were able to solve this problem with one solution.

Wouldn't you think if it worked for them, why wouldn't it work for me?

The statistics say yes. 

97% of consumers look at reviews before purchasing.

Having at least five reviews causes purchase likelihood to increase by a factor of nearly 4X.

As a founder, I'm sure you've received countless emails and messages on LinkedIn from people making audacious claims about how they can 10x your business or help you generate more customers. 

Anyone can make claims, but only the people who can back up their claims with real evidence are the ones that generate actual results. Prospects are naturally skeptical of anything you claim, as many people have been burned and lied to by companies.

ConvertKit does a remarkable job of backing up their claims with good evidence and social proof. Check out Pat Flynn endorsing their visual automation below.

Although all social proof can be helpful, not all social proof is created equal.

When you start trying to solve multiple problems for multiple people, you dilute the effectiveness of each one of your testimonials. This dilution occurs because people want the assurance that someone like them has experienced the solution to their problem.

Most people think, "if this guy in the same position can experience these desirable results, why wouldn't I be able to as well?"

Your testimonials and social proof will be more compelling; the more your prospects can relate to them.

I could write a whole article specifically on the importance of using social proof, but the bottom line is you should leverage it in your business like ConvertKit.

3. Use Benefit Driven Headings

 One of the most common mistakes I see founders making in their website and marketing materials is; they make it all about them.

Sorry to break it to you, but the customer doesn't care about you. They care about what's in it for them. 

The easiest way to make the customer better understand what's in it for them is through benefits-driven headlines. 

It is easy to get caught up in how fast, innovative, or new your product features are. While you may think your features are revolutionary, your customer may overlook them as they don't understand how these features are beneficial to them.

ConvertKit does a great job of explaining how their product features will improve the lives of their customers.

There is a formula you can follow to showcase your features in a way that will strike your customers' hearts.

{Verb} Your {Noun} Using {Feature}

(Understand your audience through tags and segments)

After all, you are not selling a product, but a better version of your prospect. So show them how their life will be better with your product!

Wrapping up

ConverKit's various strategies have worked for them, and hopefully, after this article, you will be able to apply and test these concepts in your own business.

These strategies have helped ConvertKit grow into the giant it is now, and will support your growth!

I thought I'd quickly recap the takeaways and lessons learned from ConvertKit's massive growth.

  • Solve a specific problem for one particular use case to scale your startup with capital efficiency
  • Being a genuinely customer-centric company is difficult, and requires long-term thinking. Understand your customer better so you can serve them better.
  • Social proof and providing overwhelming evidence for your product is persuasive to potential customers.
  • Your customers care about themselves, not your company or its products. Use benefit-driven headlines and sales copy to make it about them.

Want help identifying your ideal customers and building a website that tackles their problems?

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