The B2B Show

On The B2B Show, we showcase sales and marketing success stories from some of Ireland’s leading B2B practitioners (aka our heroes). We hope their examples and best practice advice serve as inspiration for your own challenges.

Why top of funnel content is key to building a brand for the long term

Show transcript

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[00:04] You're listening to the podcast, we're committed to educating B2b cmos, ceos and marketeers, looking for best practices on how to grow their business, learn from your peers on the tactics, tools, and strategies they use to consistently grow their business. I'm your host, Ian Blake Let's dive into the show...

[00:23] so we're delighted to have Connor Kellep with us today. Connor is vp of marketing at forest salon software where he led the marketing function for over five years, one dog at Connors linkedin profile, and you will see that he's a true modern market here with the numbers to back it up. Connor and his team drive 90 percent of the leads at forest all inbound, where the company has grown from 2 million in annual recurring revenue to 13 million in the last five years, or we're going to chat about today is great marketing teams. Capitalize on demand were exceptional ones created, and in our chat we'll discuss how nailing your brand on top of funnel content is, how to win in Sas Marketing. You're very welcome, connor. Good to be on the show. Thank you very much for having me. And, but before we get into the show, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

[01:10] Sure. I grew up in a place called Berlin, which is about 10 miles. I said to Carla. Okay. So I grew up there, went to school locally, came to the end of school and our, I remember distinctly or career guidance counselor came in the to our local area and the sixth year area and said that the local college had launched a course in PR and communications. Okay. And that just said, you know, if you have to ask a prs, this probably isn't the course view then walked out and I can tell honestly I had no idea what pr was being the contrary and I had to go home and search for it. So went home, did some research on it and I told us this kind of like might be something I'd really like to do. So we started that in college and Carla did that for three years.

[01:46] Completely fell in love with it. Like I hadn't planned obviously when I was younger tech to kind of get into marketing. I don't know the ideas and in school the only thing is I was ever actually decent title is engineering and maths, not even English or things, so it was interesting. Okay. So got in. Really enjoyed that course. Absolutely loved his dad came to the end of that 2007 was when I graduated and it was just before the Celtic Tiger died, so came out. I had done some work experience drug college locally in Carlow and typically for a small country town, the only kind of, I guess companies that actually had a pr department were involved in some form of agriculture. So I went into a local PR office. They called Chagas, which is Kinda like a national company, a farming advisory company. Okay. So I to end Dataset into there just in the PR departments or in the summer.

[02:28] And then when it got to the end of college I tried searching for a job and obviously that bit of experience I ended up. My first job was in a company called Agri aware. So I ended up in agriculture at the start on that. Basically I agree with, it was a body that was settled by Bord Bia, the farmer's Journal, the Pharmacists Association, different companies to kind of promote to primary and secondary school, the role of agriculture in Ireland and where the food comes from and so on. So I spent two years narrative in pr and comms and marketing. Great jewel box. She was really creative because it was so small. I was really thrown in the deep end way over my head. So what it does a lot with like, you know, the minister for agriculture and some of the top executives and these big companies to get funding for campaigns and stuff.

[03:06] Yeah. So even though it was, it wasn't kind of the route had planned to go and it just really treat me in the deep end very, very quickly. Okay. So then after that I did that for about two and a half years. I'm the director of that company, moved to another company. The Irish Farmers Association on headhunted me across. So I went across there on the IFA, basically had a commercial division that kind of soulless telecoms. So technology sold brawl at bond, that kind of thing too. It's to it's base of members. So how about 90,000 members, so spent about two years, their marketing docs using quite a lot of traditional methods. It was a bit less creative and the first job, but a lot of traditional methods and all your on the solid was kind of learning a lot about digital marketing at the time. I started my own blog, did that and to reasonable success for, for about a year, two years, but I really wanted to get into digital marketing and I also really wanted to get into tech as my dad was an electronic engineer and I kind of.

[03:57] When I was very young during the summers I would spend time making circuit boards with that kind of stuff. So I always wants to get into tech and my brother was a programmer but I just had to jump in agriculture because that's just the face or that's the way things worked out. So I got into tech and how it happened again was basically my wife's father worked as a recruiter and agriculture and I said I want to get out of agriculture, so do you know any other recruiters will say that in other industries like tech. And he said, I think I might have the guy for yet. So I met this guy called mark and mark basically introduced me to roll in about five years ago and we got token on. Oddly, there was one really kind of strange connection between, I guess agriculture and silent owners was always used to marketing technology to people who weren't necessarily naturally the kind of people you would assume that like technology.

[04:41] So there's not much in common between a borrower and a solid loner, but that is one thing. It's not, you know, they're not, I guess tech natives are not lovers of tech now that's beginning to really change. But this was five years ago. So it came across to, to, to forests dead on. Yeah. So that's, that's where I've been for the last five years. Fairly good. So yeah, you, you alluded a little bit to what part salon solid software. Where do do you want to elaborate so far? It's the space key employee management and Crm Company for her beauty silos of what we really specialize in is we help sell loans, get their clients back more often, spending more on generating referrals and so that's the bread and butter. If I guess I need a local business and we do it specifically for her beauty solids.

[05:16] So we're probably 15 years old and as I said, we'll probably do just over about 13 million in revenue this year and we're in a number of markets. So we started in Ireland for the first seven, eight years. That was before my time, but rolled in at the time who was the founder of Aunties who was then head of sales lady called sue. They basically already built up the company in Ireland and did it by direct mail call the people knocking on doors, built that up that way. Took on about a million and funding in 2011. But we were already generating like, you know, low in, in, in terms of we already had quite a bit of revenue so we were able to maintain majority share, so we're going to raise money and go into the UK which is the UK or no, I'm number one in the UK time.

[05:54] So we did that in 2011 and since then we've expanded into, did Finland we did is harmony, Austria and Switzerland are also in Australia and the US. So the big focus right now and for the next few years is kind of pushing, let's say Germany, Australia more in the UK as well, but the US has really kind of like I guess one of the priority focus for the next year. So that's where we are. Um, and we, I think I joined February 2013, his employee number 29 and we're now at a hundred and 60 and growing fast. So yeah, that's been, that's been good expansion. I, one thing we spoke before we got into the public house proper there about the total addressable market, the size of the total addressable market. And the number of competitors you have. Interesting. Yeah. So there, there is a lot of competitors. I guess you could break them into two or three different sections or two, two or three different types of competitor and you have solid softwares like us that are only solid softwares.

[06:45] Then you have kind of small business crm snyder in multiple different verticals. And then you have kind of freemium softwares like, like very light appointment type softwares on what they do is they basically. An example is, you know, one of our competitors has a value proposition freestyle and software for life, which is a very compelling proposition. And Sal owners or like how, how could they possibly do that? And you know, I say to them basically if you're not paying for the product, you are the product. So what they do is they, the onboard has the cylons, they put them on a listing site and then they open up that then as a marketplace to consumers and make money on the transactions in terms of bookings. So if you're to take all of those three kind of categories, we have well over 100 competitors in those six or seven markets.

[07:27] So it's, it's huge in terms of the, it's quite stiff competition and everybody I talked to naturally ene says to me, you guys must be the only guys do this and we're really not the many guys do this, but hair and beauty as a vertical is quite overlooked and there's about 4 million cylons worldwide. It is a huge industry, but it's not really talked about that much. It's talked about in the B, two c context setting. You've heard of it like your l'oreal, you know, all the fashion companies but not in the BTB context. There's not really much talk about hair and beauty, but it is a very competitive space. I think you're going to hear in a lot more about us I think over the coming years. And can you tell us a little bit about your team, how your marketing team is setup? For sure. Yeah.

[08:06] So we've hired reasonably slowly onto this year. So I started on my own fab 2013 about a year and a half later, early 2014 her two people and now as of last week we harvest the twelfth person onto the marketing team. So it's really expanded but six of them have come this year. So it's been quite an expansion. So you know, we hired two or three people that start to really build the foundations of the team and they work for, I guess what you would describe as generalists. They went on to specialize, but you know yourself in a startup, you have to wear money hats. That's what the date. Now we have the team split into kind of three or four. It's not like separate teams but the kind of core areas on the team I guess. So we would have Mara columns, which is our marketing events, advertising pr.

[08:49] We have content then chase for a, let's say blog, podcast, ebooks, and then we can have like very kind of heavy cut piece of content which I can talk about later, like 30 days to grow. So that's what those guys do. We also then have demand generation. So we very much built where we are today on great events, great brand, great content, but this year we've hired two people into demand generation, so they are people who will specialize in PPC, Seo people who would like, you know, ab testing, landing pages, owning the Ux journey and with that kind of thing. And now we've done some of that ourselves and it's gotten us to a certain salaries. But now we're, we're big enough where we need specialists in that area to kind of really, I guess plug the gaps in the funnel and make sure that we're as optimized as possible on a new area we've brought in this year as well as growth.

[09:35] So we hired a guy called and he's kind of a Dev with marketing chops and the marketing team in forest has traditionally always been focused on btby. So generating leads for forest. But we also have things like products for phones, like the online booking widget where we would get millions of bookings for saddle hands every single year. So if you were solid owner, you get this widget to put in your website, your facebook page, and it obviously integrates with your appointment book, so electric clients can book online. So we're focusing on the marketing team as well and trying to drive like improve conversions. There used some of our optimization and marketing techniques to improve, whereas previously that would've just sat with a product and the have ruled out updates, but we want to take 20, 30, 40, cylons run Beta tests on how can we improve conversions and then we can pass it to product and they can scale it out to everybody. So that's kind of a new area on the, on the marketing team this year as well.

[10:21] So it sounds like even as you're talking there, you been running this team for five years, you have built this, you know, you started with generalists, you've now become specialists, you've obviously learned an awful lot in that five year period. What not to do this. Well, yeah. So do you wanna just talk like what, what have been the biggest learnings? Today's. Yeah, I guess there are a number of every marketing team will be different and every vertical is different and every business Bush, there's definitely things that I have learned some by accident,

[10:48] some of purpose. I think one thing is is around creativity, particularly in sauce, so a lot of SAS teams, from my experience, they start on a. I know this is kind of the team, the podcast say, but the kind of very much focused on things like ppc and Seo when trying to get that optimized to kind of get that five, 10, 20 percent margin above the competition and that's great and then it's good place to start. Maybe an order in terms of generating leads. One thing that we did by pure accident because I came from a PR and communications background is we very much started with things like content. We started with social media, we did a lot of stuff like that. We had an ad words account which I managed myself badly and it did generate leads. So when we. We had some kind of of the, I guess the bread and butter coming in, but I would say to people like to focus a lot of creative and top of funnel as equity as you possibly can because it takes time to get that up and running, but once you do get it up and running, it's extremely hard to replicate if you're doing it the right way and it really gives you an advantage from that perspective and other things.

[11:41] Then I would have said as well as focusing on the long term. Okay. So that can be easier said than done. Like in forest, all the employees are the employees as the majority shareholder and forest. So Roland and CEO has this kind of philosophy where he wants to build an evergreen company and what he wants to be like a car, hey trickery group or really an error and we kind of have this internal mantra where we say, you know, we want to ignore the noise and build a company that can last for generations. Right. So in terms of marketing, I would think of always trying to think of building the longterm on things up may not make sense to you as a startup or maybe as a smaller business right now. Like I, I would try and roll those things out as quickly as possible.

[12:19] So you know, if you're like, we don't have time to do a podcast, we don't have time to do a blog, you know, we're too small to do a user conference. Just start them as early as humanly possible on. Yeah, dot. That's definitely been a big learning for us. We've probably done it in reverse. We're hiring people that we were specializing in demand generation for example, but even they would say like, we've hard to value coming who's coming in, who's amazing and managed a PBC budget of over 20 million in previous jobs on teachers. Like the best thing about this job is I'm actually working with people who are creatively really good and I'm, I'm layering that stuff on a foundation of creativity and top of funnel. There's great things to optimize and he's never had that experience. So it's always started in very technical marketing teams where there were optimizing the foundations of creativity and brand who aren't there, so when you marry them, get something very powerful, but it takes time to build a content engine.

[13:08] It takes time to build that stuff. So try to focus on the longterm as best as you can and can't be totally idealistic about it. Do you have salaries to pay, you need to generate all that kind of thing, but at least half of your time towards building the long term. I think that's really important. All the things I've learned as well, you know, in forest we wouldn't have had the same budget, has like hopes boss and linkedin and other companies. So hiring in these like a five years ago that had been proven track records like just wasn't possible for us. So we've been a very values driven company. We have three values in the company and we really hire. Rubbed them on. One of those values is a growth mindset. On the second one of the values is what's known as a conduit attitude and a can do.

[13:47] Attitude is not saying yes to everything, it's a bias for action. So what we've done is have obsessed about heart and people who really tried to take different day even if they don't have the experience and who think differently about marketing and also people who have a bias for action that they don't sit around going, Ooh, can we take this risk? You know, we need to write reports on it. We need to, when you're small and you're hungry, you need people who are just take differently and with deploying things with their hands up and say, look, that failed. What do we do next? Or that succeeded, let's scale it up. And I guess the funding, the lesson, I would say as well as people are way too focused on scale way to sit on that is detrimental in marketing I think. Um, so we would always try to focus on value before scale.

[14:28] So an example of that would have been, you know, Chris, one of the first guys we hired had this idea, you know, we're obsessed about her tides and that's reflected in our churn rate, but we really go the extra mile on ti was like why don't we do something simple like record a video for each individual client and we can tweet it to them to kind of celebrate the first anniversary. So we would get a cupcake, have a candle on it and say, look, you're with forest for years today and record a video and send it to them. Right. And that was one idea that, you know, we did it on twitter and now what we realized after it didn't work because most all owners are not active on twitter. Even if I have a twitter account. Okay. Well that was an example of an idea of where I was like, I rewarded the process.

[15:02] So I was like, that was a great idea to do something special and it didn't work. But you need to think in that context all the time. Whereas most people be like, that's silly. We could never scale a lot, but when you start from a position of how do you add value, if it works really well, you would probably find a way to scale it. But any marketer, like if you pull any marketer in off the streets, they will find 100 ways not to do something that will tell you 100 reasons. That's something will fail, but you kind of have to break through that. I'm just thinking about how can we do things that are totally different than anyone else in our market right now. We cannot figure out how to scale them, just do them and you would probably figure a way after. So I think that's, that's where you really important.

[15:39] And that comes back to, like I said, our and people who have a growth mindset. So one great story from an interview was, so one of the guys in the team, uh, and again, like we just wouldn't have the budget to hire somebody who's had 10 years more experienced. So he worked in bars. Okay. Predominantly and had worked sick only six months really in marketing and content before he joined forest. Right, but he's, he's stories and ideas on the interview and I just knew he taught differently, so he told the story, if you worked in a bar, I've had this new cocktail and I forget the cocktail was call it something like the Godzilla. We don't make our whole gun sales and that loads of ingredients and they're advertising it in the bar. He's working there and they couldn't. They couldn't shift this thing at all, so the bar owner, it's like, well we need to discount it her.

[16:18] We'll just change it. And he was like, no, absolutely not. What we'll do is we'll introduce a second cocktail called the King Kong and then what we'll do is we'll advertise nights on like a King Kong versus Godzilla type cocktail night and they sold that to complete bar. So there was somebody who taught differently. It wasn't about discounting or wasn't about doing anesthesi way. It was actually about like a completely different way of framing the whole thing that's sold out at the bar there to meet with somebody who just heard about marketing in a slightly different way. That was like, that person was frame things, different case, so. Okay. Yeah. So it's, it's, I guess the lessons are focused on the long term. Think about value before scale on just hire people who have a bias for action and a growth mindset. Okay.

[16:56] Yeah. Very interesting. And I just, as you're talking there, that guy, that guy in the bar who your hard like obviously, you know, not afraid to fail either.

[17:05] No, absolutely not. Which is what you need, isn't it? Is it, is that good Chris as well? Actually, uh, you know, one thing he's really good at is when we do fail, it's like it's on a case of, okay, what's the next thing necessarily? It's like why did it fail? And we're very and if I do things differently and it's a failure is totally acceptable, but it shouldn't be a case of just failed, we'll move onto the next thing. So will you really persevered and tried to push things through. So

[17:27] yeah, and I think that's a very good example with the, with the, the one year anniversary and the cupcake. Yeah. It wasn't the fact that the one year anniversary of the cockpit cupcake was the Bot was about ideas. It was just the wrong wrong platform. I think that's A. Yeah, it's a really good way to think of it. Also as you're talking there too, is that I hear a lot from prospects and on people we work with is, is that there's a tendency to try to be too perfect that, that there's a right way to do it. Yeah. I don't know if that was the case. We'd all be, you know, leads to be coming through the door. We wouldn't have to hire a marketing team. A lot of what you're saying is that you've kind of ring so true.

[18:08] Yeah. I think for me, totally. I totally agree. It depends on the stage or us. I think we're focusing on perfecting things now, but at the star to warrant too. I'm not a perfectionist. I my attention to detail was never grace, but I think a good idea sometimes executed mediocrely will be a mediocre idea, executed really well and other people would argue vice versa. It depends on the level of competition out there and et Cetera, et Cetera, but definitely the early days I was doing adwords, tradeshows, Pr, like obviously the full remit. I so I didn't have time to perfect things. Yes. Yeah. But I think in the early days what I would say is find three or four things that work really well and then try and double down on them rather than try to do everything and as you hire another person and maybe past those things over.

[18:54] So we'll try to hire people who are better at those three or four channels and you are tossed them over. You can then move onto new channels and try and find out what else, what else works and then hire again. So we always had it. Like I know these people, I'm on the marketing team, the hard themselves. So the principle for me is just prove it strikes her as far as you can before hiring, but we can always hire. We will always find a way to hire if that's the reason that we're not able to scale it right now we're at rates. Drive it. Yes. But I do agree with you to a certain extent on the perfection thing, particularly in the early days, there's people who spent too much time perfecting something that's very fluid as a concept or they're not taking the step back to understand, does this resonate with an audience? Is this the right channel? What are the objectives of this? Like what are we trying to achieve here? What they kind of fall into the me too syndrome. Well our competitors are zoom this in front competitor, a competitor is doing it, it must be working, so we have to do. And that is not always the case. You can often see tree for providers in the market doing something that are not working simply because the other provider was doing it. So you're very careful about it yet.

[19:51] Yeah. And as just say, just because they're doing it doesn't mean it's working for them or it doesn't mean that they know what they're doing, you know?

[19:56] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But it's very easy to fall into that trap, isn't it? It's very easy. Yeah.

[19:59] Yeah. Um, so this is all a great. If I go back, I suppose to the topic of the conversation that you and we spoke about this earlier as well, a great marketing teams capitalized demand, unexceptional one's creators. Yeah, we were just talking yesterday about that and it was the tactics versus the Brown that you touched on it a bit, but do you want to just elaborate more on your, your thinking on that? Sure,

[20:22] so I think marketing teams, and again I'm, I'm brush stroking here for the sake of the conversation. There's some amazing ones, but typically I see a lot of them. They focus on where the demand already is, whether it be through organic search or whether it be through paper, click on what happens is you kind of get that short carb, dopamine hit health going, I did this and we generated leads. Therefore we need to just double down on this now and not explore other channels. There's a couple of problems with that and particularly in 2018 there's big problems with that. So I guess those problems are you're fighting for the same pool of people that the competition are. Okay. So everybody's default as a team, as a start, where the demand, it's like somebody says there's 10,000 searches in our vertical every month on ad words and the competition has adwords.

[21:03] You're probably not going to start by running events. You're going to start with, you're going to socrates and that's fine. To a certain extent, yeah, but what happens is from what I can see, as you start there, you get those leads coming in, you then improve and you improve and you improve at three, four years later, you're still using those channels and you haven't used that three or four years to build a longterm or build brand and you can get very good. I'd be better at the competition on capitalizing on existing demand. It's expensive. Okay. So the, the, the problem, if your school would like kind of zoom out totally is all I would argue in. A lot of people would argue that there isn't really any massive marketing new marketing innovations in the last five years. Like I'm still using predominantly the same tunnels.

[21:45] I bought them a funnel I was using five years ago, but there is more capital, more access to capital and it's easier to build a product than ever before. Not Saying it's easy but easier on an ease, theoretically easier to create a startup now than it was five, 10 years ago. So you have more startups with more products, with more capital, all using the same channels. That bottom of funnel and then what happens is not true. You drive up the cost of acquisition so there is just more. There is more competition in that kind of existing demand piece than there has ever been before. There's some great people that I've wrote about it like Thomas to gurus and stuff I wrote about us. So I guess the thing is that's great place to start to get the leads coming in, but as I said, when they do, you've got to work on the creating demand piece.

[22:25] So in forest for example, of the creating demand piece is, you know, the existing demand is I'm looking for solid software. I'll just say the creating demand pieces. Like I'm looking for ways to grow my silo and to retain my clients better, Ta, several retail to attract new clients, but they may not necessarily be looking for software at all on in our article. Nine Times out of 10, they're not looking for software because software is I guess what you would call a grudge buy. So what we try to do is be used content, ebooks, podcasts, blogs, events, the whole remit of content channels. We've tried to put out really high quality content with downloads, with all sorts of things that solvent or can use there, and then that will help them grow their solid before they even start thinking about forest. And then over time we basically say, look, you've done x, y, and zed. You've downloaded these. You've been on this Webinar, you've done this. Like you should really look into getting forest because we can help you complete the automate that or we can help you take it to the next level. And that's kind of creating the demand. For us. It's. It's taking people who previously weren't thinking about software in the context of growing their salon to just needed to manage my sell on, to like this will actually help me take my business to the next level. And that's the creating demand piece for us.

[23:37] Okay. Okay. And you mentioned brand there, uncontent relating to brands. Can you just, I suppose elaborate on how you feel

[23:46] content helps your brand presence? Sure. Um, so it depends what we would say. Um, there's different, there's kind of different pieces I guess in terms of content, there's that kind of brand building content and this kind of like, Eh, I guess very kind of demand generation content. Okay. So we, we spend a lot of time, by the way in broad building does not just in content. Okay. So we've kind of split brand building into two different areas. One area will be a, would you all are like a pr and we do our advertising and we work with a lot of influencers in the US for example. Okay. So the US will be quite a different market. US solid owners would 500,000 to a million followers on instagram for example. Okay. Because they were doing like Selena Gomez is hair, it's just a different market. They're kind of rock stars themselves, so we would spend a lot of time with that.

[24:28] That will be. We would help them. We would run like are like and sponsor artist events in the US where they would bring in like the top sell owners in any in the US and they would demonstrate what you can do from a hair point of view and here's what's coming up in the next few years. We will be kind of stitched into a lot of that stuff. Okay. But then there's also the content piece in terms of the more traditional blogging and giving them the tools I guess to say, look, here's some marketing ideas for you. So every month, for example, if you're subscribed to our blog, we send you a free marketing case with social media, graphics, downloads, all sorts of things that you can use for your solid. So doc downloads piece is more of a capturing leads, a top of the funnel. And then once we get those leads, we start to introduce denser pieces of content.

[25:09] Them like webinars, we have things like 30 days to grow, so 30 days to grow as an initiative we run in where if you sign up for it, we send you 30 emails in a row, one day after the other party sms with 30 videos on. It's basically like, here's Today's challenge, uh, in the salon, we want you to do this, sell more retail, or to do whatever. So we actually set a challenge for them where they tried to do one small thing everyday that will help them improve their silos and that kind of thing. So I guess we split the content piece into generating needs, a top of funnel, which is the more traditional thing. But then we have the legs to the podcast. We do a lot of content on artist events and that's the real broaden builder. First positioning is what the top solids in the US where they're like, look for us as new in the US, but we have like nine zero, one, all these top, top solids telco at far as.

[25:56] That's really, that's kind of the broadened the broad, that's how we used the content piece for brand building. So yeah, we kind of split content into two parts on the top of funnel parties is really important for us as well. I mean anecdotally we know the more downloads of an Ebook, the more people that register for a Webinar, the more people that subscribed to the blog in a month, within a few 30 days we will have more demo requests. We will have more quote requests because of that, you know, so if you sign up for a Webinar or sign up for whatever, you will always be pushed to a thank you page at that time. Page will contain like, oh by the way, if you do want a demo or a quote, he can take care of kind of thing. We were not pushy about it, what the option is there.

[26:29] So I think yeah, that's kind of how we do it in, in terms of I guess spoken content and brand and we do a lot of traditional bronze stuff as well. Like we have a Tang. I think if we were asking, I think it was the best marketing thing for us has ever done. One of them we did was the was called the client experience award. So if you're a silent owner using forest, basically you will get reviews. Okay. So if you know, if I go to your salon, I'll be asked to rate the experience at a fall. So one of the best things you've ever done from a brand point of view was we created this kind of likes window seal that basically didn't know what had like how customer service standards are in your silo. And so we looked at all of the reviews across the thousands of silence.

[27:05] We set a benchmark basically saying if you have this money reviews over, they score, you get to the client experience award. Okay. So we did that and we sent that out in the mail to all the solids in Ireland and the UK at the start and obviously broader now. And that just created is like the most insane goodwill and and and bullets that we've ever seen. I think we had 12 or 1300 saddles. One of the first year and literally we had three or four of them, like three or 400 of them email us with pictures going, we can't believe this has happened, but of course they all put that in their window as well and then other salon owners are like, how do I be part of this? And you need to be part of forest. So that was just a. yeah, that's kind of something else we did from a brand point of view. So we use content for two things, so he's content for brands, but we also very much use it for top of the funnel and for demand as well.

[27:46] Very good. It's interesting you say that because I. something you referred to earlier in our conversation, which was, I don't know how you phrased it. Oh yeah. The channels that were available, you know, over the last few years are, are still the same. So on. We're seeing this ourselves at the moment, just like every new competitor, every Saas company can, can do paper, take Seo, social media, build landing pages, writing ebooks and blogs. But what's going to separate the what? The only thing that people are that companies really have now

[28:20] activity as it is how they build that brand, how they make themselves different to their competition and delight their audience, which is essentially what you guys have done in that example. You've just given, which I think is fantastic. Yeah. I think the, one of the best way to build a brand is just to be all about your clients and your industry. So we kind of positioned ourselves as champion of the independent salon too. There's a lot of things there and I won't get deep dive too deep into the hair, obd industry, but we say, um, we're champions in independence hall on some of the more successful branding things we have done is all about the solid owner. So an example is the client experience award that was rewarding them for their hard work and positioning us to behind that. So like this is kind of like didn't know what the industry de facto in terms of like the tripadvisor window seal in terms of tripadvisor rated.

[29:05] So it was kind of positioning for us that way, but it was totally legit. It wasn't an award ceremony or a judging panel, it was based upon actual customer reviews. It was all about them and it just was, it was just great, like we did it because we thought we should do it anyway, but the reaction was way bigger than we ever expected. So what she'll, an example would be we had a solid or recently a few weeks back, call us and say I was very angry. I call this basically saying that the solid down the road who's not a forrest client, uh, to take a photograph over window seal photoshop that printed it and then put it up in her window even though she's not using forest too. She was like, you to ring them and, and I get that down, but that's a sign of like how, how, how much that's all a foul odor thinks about client experience award. So that's an example of, of I guess very hard to replicate that now. So if I notice hyland software company did that in Ireland now, it'd be very hard to shift and go, well that's. Yeah, that's kind of, I guess broad building as a moat. I guess is the, is the best way to describe it? Yeah,

[30:03] just a couple of. Or you've given us loads of information connor, so thank you. One more question before we. Before we wrap up until you, you know, you've built this team, you have a fantastic story to tell. Apart from what you've already told is you know, is, is there one piece of advice you'd give a sas marketer today in August 2018? Yeah, there probably is. Not sure there's one or two or three little things, but on top of what I said earlier about that

[30:28] put value first and take about the longterm as early as possible. I mean all those things are don't just get caught in SAS marketing, right? Thursday incredible companies out there that do incredible marketing that I think is really inspiring. So I kind of said let the early days I came from a non tech background and I told him like, would it be incredible if we could make like forest, like the red bull of hair and beauty in terms of like incredible abroad. Don't just get caught in looking at what other sas companies are doing. Sauces, fantastic to understand about the funnel, to understand metrics. It's a very metrics driven type of business that is a great skillset to have as a marketer, but don't get lost in just looking at SAS companies looking for the most exceptional companies in any industry. B to B, b to c, one vertical do. And you might find some nuggets in there in terms of there are commonalities between all of those. Bronze.

[31:14] Yeah. It just Kinda hold it. Are there any other companies that are in red bull let's you admire whether it's a few

[31:20] in SOS and nonsense. I mean if you look at like all the, you have the apples of this world. Like in my personal life I'm a petrolhead so there's still incredible bronze in in automotive, so I would have always like the bronze would have been march. Going up would have been the likes of Porsche and those kinds of brands that have survived for 70, 80 years and still remain at the top of their industry and that is, it's probably slightly different than us in the fact that most people will actually buy their product to our aspire to buy that product as opposed to we were a bit more of a grudge buy. Um, but there will be other companies definitely. But again, for, so even someone like Porsche I think just does what they do really well in the middle of quality products and they don't want to try anything gimmicky.

[32:00] They are just, they, they, I guess a large part of being good at marketing is saying no to things as well. Yeah. So what you don't do if you're an established brand or an upcoming brand, what you don't do is also a statement and builds braun. The classic example is the funny example is Abercrombie and Fitch. I think the company they paid a celebrity or you got to get a few years back actually stopped wearing their clothes. Yeah. So that's an example of. No, no, no, like there's like we don't, that's an anti sponsorship deal with one. That's an extreme example, but sometimes what you don't do to get growth in the short term, it helps establish you as a brand and the longterm people know that that is not a company that will do x, y, or zed type of tactic and so I would at other companies outside of Sas, I'd be very careful like, eh, you can kind of get away with doing things in the early days when you don't have a brand, but as your brian bills don't panic.

[32:48] Don't make short term decisions that drive revenue that are going to damage you in the long run because the doc damage that. It's like Warren Buffet said it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 10 seconds to lose it, so just be very, very careful on. The third thing I'll just say is read just if you're a marketer or just read and read and read as much as you can. Books that I recommend outside of marketing are good strategy. Bad Strategy is a book on strategy which is just absolutely incredible. Another book will be Jim Collins, good to great. That's been a real Bible forest and forest, and another book actually, which is an older one that's lesser known, is what I love is called hidden champions. Hidden champions are companies that you may or may not have heard of a completely dominate their vertical and industry, so they will be like multibillion dollar companies for example.

[33:31] That might be things like, which is a negative example, but one example that the Jews is the company that manufacturers cigarette machines or the company that puts you in the corks in wine bottles, just one company in Portugal that owns 90 percent of that market globally. So there's all these amazing companies that have huge market share in very alternative ways and you've never heard of them and it's called hidden champions. Yeah. Very pretty good. Yeah. So read a lot. Look at other companies outside of SAS as well. And, and I guess like I said earlier, thinking about value of the longterm, as hard as you possibly can, but connor, thank you very much for your time, for your wisdom. Thank you very much. Pleasure.



In this episode we talk to Connor Keppel, VP of Marketing at Phorest Salon Software.

Connor discusses how building a brand and top of funnel content is key to growing a SaaS company. He also talks about campaigns that have worked for them in addition to how his team is set up. It is a great listen for anyone looking for SaaS Marketing advice and how to win in SaaS Marketing.