We are now almost a month into lock-down here in India and with the current situation, it looks like it will take another month, till things will come down to normal specifically for businesses. Everyone is aware of how Corona impacted our daily life, economy, and unemployment due to closing major sectors. at the same time, it has affected productivity also due to multiple reasons.
A lot of the startups which are in early-stage are thinking about survival and preparing at least 3 months of runway. We also started with cutting down the costs and as we all were working from home we were able to reduce some operational costs. After that next step we planned about what we are going to do as anyone we were trying to reach as part of our marketing or sales efforts it was not making sense as once we have everything back to normal, only then companies will be able to use our visitor management system for managing visitors at their workplaces.
We came up with 5 things that startups can work on currently:
Focus on Organic Channels
Currently, the best way to reduce cost is to focus more on the organic channels like:
- Content Marketing
- SEO & SEM
This can be divided into two parts, first technical content where you can prepare content specific to the product like articles & videos demonstrating the different features of the product and second marketing content where you can integrate some latest trends with your product strategically inside your content.
Razorpay is once such startup that has curated small videos about different features and even explaining the use cases about the product. These are categorized as educational or on-boarding content for the users.
SEO & SEM
Optimizing your website ranking on search engines and organically rank higher for the keywords which will help increase traffic to your website drastically. I have seen a lot many startups don't focus much on SEO & SEM although it's as critical as any other channel for the long term success of your product. This is the right time to invest and focus your team efforts on it. You can quickly start with on-site SEO of your website which will help rank your pages and then move towards off-site SEO.
This is one of the areas which I am still figuring out how we can efficiently get ourselves in the news, without spending a lot of money . There are a lot of indirect ideas that as a founder I have in my mind, like writing quality content as a guest writer, which will slowly get you eyeballs and people get to know about your product from your profile. One such example is what I am doing is working on a personal side project where I am curating interviews with emerging startups in form of magazine articles.
Growth Hacking & Campaigns
Free Service and Discounts
We started with launching our services free for the next 3 months amid Corona breakdown as this was the need of the hour when Corona outbreak starting going to peak. Also, we started a 25% discount on our yearly plans for organization who are planning to implement a VMS once they resume the office after lockdown.
Reviews and Referral
At this time almost most of the businesses are closed and the best we could have done is to ask from our existing customers about any feedback about the platform or any features they would like on the platform and if they would refer us to some clients.
Social Media Hacks
We created a bot that sends daily email alerts of all the mentioned hashtags that we prepared strategically according to our business so we can organically increase our reach. Example: Tracking any tweet or post which have keywords or hashtags #security #postcovid so this way we can like or comment on these posts to increase awareness of how a visitor management system can help companies reopen after lockdown.
- Ability to track strategic keywords
- Ability to monitor the competitor's posts
- Automatically like and comment tweets/posts (involves machine learning and NLP)
Also, we will run an email campaign to our current customers once the lockdown will over. In this campaign we will give free months of subscription of Vizitor when they share about us on the social media platforms.
Platform stability, Code Review & Optimization
As our application usage has dried up and not many active users at present using the platform, this is the best time to do any major upgrades or security patches you were planning in past but due to workload and downtime issues, you have put them on hold.
I had a discussion with my technical team to look for the area of improvement where we know clients were facing issues so we prepared a list of tasks and security fixes and started working on that. One of these tasks was to update the email templates and it's content as it was long pending. Working on the UI/UX of the application wherever there is an area of improvement like in our case Vizitor Pass application which is used to manage the visitors, was built initially in quick time so it has a lot of scope for improvement.
Critical Mandatory Security Upgrade
One of the security task that requires a mandatory upgrade of the application on play-store and iTunes, we are currently focused on it and planning to release in the coming week. So, once the offices will resume we can send a proper email about how to restart Vizitor services and that way it's easy to upgrade the application rather doing abruptly in regular days.
Code Review, Optimization and Testing
As, we all know in our early days of building the product we tend to move fast and due to which we have a lot of room for code improvement. So, I have planned is to put daily some hours to optimize the code where ever possible. One such important task in this exercise is code commenting and indentation so it becomes easier for other team members to understand the flow and logic of the application. We are working best to put comments on each function and login statement about what it does so if in future there are some changes need to be done.
We all know how important it is to have test cases in place for our code, as this will help us from unwanted issues on production deployment. Automated test cases usually team don't write from Day 1 and only concentrate once they have at-least a workable product.
Networking and Channel Partnerships
LinkedIn and Twitter are the two mediums I found it to be really effective in networking in an organic way. I personally started posting regularly on linkedin and started sharing my ideas by commenting on posts that are related to my interest. Sending a random connection request is not at all recommended and discussions really help in extending your network. One such example where I mentioned about screening visitors can help prepare companies post-lockdown. It is highly recommended not to do any direct mention about your product but strategically place by finding the right posts.
During the lockdown period, we were still receiving requests from channel partner so I prepared a list of all the channel partners sorted by area and have our drip campaign prepared to be sent out in coming week. So, this way a sequence of emails we will be sending out to them who had shown interest in past and want to re-sell. We are offering them specific deals and also increasing the revenue share so once they start their business, they have a visitor management system as one of the product in their portfolio.
Improve Sales Funnel
Working on the Sales Funnel for a SaaS company is really important as this will give them a clear picture of how the product is moving in the market and where exactly it is lacking so it can be improved. There are already tons of articles available on how you can improve the sales funnel so we will only mention some things that we thought is critical for us at this time.
Segementation of Leads
We segmented our old leads according to the usage and plan they selected while signup.
- Expired free trials account with no visitor's check-in
- Expired free trials account with some activity
- Free Plan users
After this we created the campaign targetting them with different content. All the campaigns will be started as soon as the lockdown is over.
We are currently planning an awareness campaign that will help us acquire customers in our sales funnel and later convert them in paying customers. So, this campaign is about "how companies can prepare post covid". We will be releasing some articles, visualizations, social media posts and videos to reach out to the companies so they can safely move back to their offices. Dedicated landing page and an e-book are currently being designed so users can be redirected to a specific page with the information.
As we have a Freemium model so we get a good number of free users in a month but the current problem was a lot of these customers are not using the platform and one of the reasons we found out is engagement. We have now prepared a drip sequence mentioning about the product and it's features. Also, sending out referral emails and feedback emails, requesting them to give us a review on play store and iTunes.
Other than all this, we also revisited the SaaS Metrics which all the startups should keep a check regularly like CAC, CLTV, Conversion Ratio, MMR, Churn rate etc. Also, our content writer edited some of the most visited pages according to Google Analytics so to improve and enrich the content further. Another important thing we asked our team to do a course in whichever area they are working and try to put 2 hours of your work time into this so to improve your skills.
I strongly feel all these simple steps if executed properly will put any startup ahead of their competitors. Everyone is facing the heat and seen revenues declining sharply, now it's not only about surviving COVID-19 but at the same time invest time intelligently on the areas which can be really productive.