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Customer retention starts with copywriting: how to attract the right customers with your copy

Josh Garofalo | Founder of Sway Copy

  • | Activation | Engagement | Onboarding | Psychology | Retention
  • November 2019
  • EP37

Retention starts from copywriting

How to write a churn-busting copy

Today on the Churn.fm, we have Josh Garofalo, expert SaaS copywriter and Founder of Sway Copy.

We talked about how Josh became a SaaS focused copywriter, his step-by-step process to create engaging copy, and his insights on why companies should focus on the one buyer segment that matters, and ignore the rest.

We also discussed how to identify your most valuable buyer persona, understanding your customer’s awareness stages in their buying journey, and the interview techniques Josh utilizes to help companies improve their product positioning.

Finally, Josh shared his insights on why he wishes companies spend more time thinking about churn, and why talking to customers is the key to better product positioning.

As usual, I’m excited to hear what you think of this episode, and if you have any feedback, I would love to hear from you. You can email me directly on Andrew@churn.fm. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

Mentioned Resources

Highlights

Time

Josh’s process to start writing engaging copy 00:04:49
Why targeting a specific buyer segment is crucial for customer acquisition 00:05:39
How to identify a buyer segment worth targeting 00:09:50
How to understand your customer’s awareness stages in the buyer’s journey 00:21:05
Interview questions Josh utilized to build better product positioning and messaging 00:26:30
Why Josh wished startups would think more about customer churn 00:31:34
How companies can write copies that actually add value to customers 00:36:34

 

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Josh Garofalo

Founder of Sway Copy

Josh’s recommended resources on churn
What Josh is reading right now

About the podcast

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In the real world tackling churn and increasing retention is one of the hardest problems a subscription business faces.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.

Transcription

Andrew Michael
Hey, Josh, welcome to the show.

Josh Garofalo
Thanks for having me, Andrew. I’m excited about this one.

Andrew Michael
It’s great to have you so for the listeners. Josh is the founder of Sway Copy and is a SaaS copywriting consultant that has helped companies like HubSpot, Cisco and Hotjar with copy that converts. Prior to founding Sway Copy, he was a marketing manager working at an intersection of marketing customer success and product management.

So my first question for you Josh is why copy like what drove you to found a copy?

Josh Garofalo
Yeah, it was as as as the case for most copywriters it was a bit of an accident. So, like you had said, I was at a startup before, and we were a team of it ranged from four to six people. And so as I’m sure you know, you’ve got to wear a bunch of different hats. So officially, I was a marketer, but really, I got involved in product and customer success. I even hopped on sales calls. And when it came to marketing, I didn’t necessarily love all of my job. For example, I did not enjoy writing blog posts, I did not enjoy social media marketing, but when it came to trying to figure out like the positioning of the company, and coming up with like a messaging strategy and copy to attract the right customers. I really enjoyed that part. And I think it was through running into Joanna Wiebe of copy hackers, that I realized, like copywriting isn’t just a little piece of what marketers do.

There’s actually people who just focused on the positioning and the messaging of products. And once I found that out, I was hooked. I, I started a little blog on the side at sway copy.com. So still employed, it was just going to be about me and my learnings about copywriting as it relates to SAS, because at that point, there weren’t a lot of people talking about it in a way that was specific to SAS. And so I did that. Some people inquired about whether or not I could write copy for them, even though I didn’t have a company at this point. Named price. They said yes, and I quit my job. And I’ve been doing this since 2015.

Andrew Michael
Very interesting. It’s interesting that you said you didn’t enjoy writing blog posts, but then you switch to a career of just writing copy all the time is a completely different things as well.

Josh Garofalo
They are in a lot of people don’t see that. But what I actually enjoy is I enjoy like sales and strategy behind it. I don’t enjoy the act of writing. Like I’m never going to write a novel in my lifetime. I have no interest in Just I’m better at writing than I am at talking. And it’s an important piece of the sales puzzle. And I enjoy it.

Andrew Michael
And definitely like when you think about sort of positioning and messaging, like they are very, very strategic, and a lot of research and development needs to go into really nail it. So I see that. Cool. So let’s dive into things a little bit. Now in terms of like the context of channel retention, because I think this is one of those areas, it’s often like overlooked, and it’s the power of copy. And really, when you think about it’s one of like, the first touch points you get with your customers, whether it’s an ad they see on Facebook, or if it’s a landing page that they arrive on, really getting that positioning, right and making sure that you are able to articulate the value prop in a clear, succinct way, is probably one of the first steps to really nailing a retention strategy. So maybe you want to talk us through sort of like your process when it comes to copy and how do you typically engage with customers?

Josh Garofalo
Yes, so like you said, the that is sort of the first gate that people have to go through. And what I’ll often run into with clients, especially earlier, startups, which is the exact opposite, what they want to do is they want to have this giant net that is somewhat appealing to a whole bunch of different people. And when you do that, you basically invite everybody into your, into your product into your sales funnel. And what happens is churn is the result. And the reason for that is your product as much as you want it to be the best thing for everybody is probably the best thing. I mean, if you’re doing a good job of building a product in the first place, it’s probably the best thing for somebody very specific. And so you’re doing yourself a disservice by not having a very clear value prop that rules out, you know, like 90% of the people are going to hit your website and really appeals to that specific type of customer that’s going to log into the product. See, it’s exactly what they need to solve their most important problems that they’re experiencing right now. And they’re likely to stick with the product. Sign up. Bye, etc. So, yeah, when it comes to my process, it’s speaking to a lot of customers, it’s. And when I say speaking, it’s not just casual conversations, it’s more, if you’ve heard of jobs to be done, it’s along those lines. So really understanding the before, during and after pictures. So you know, what was going on in your business when you decided to look for a solution like my clients solution? What about that solution caused you to sign up? What caused you to almost hesitate? Why did you end up paying for it? What do you find most valuable? What are you able to do now? Etc, etc. So really understanding in their own words, that whole journey from realizing they have a problem articulating that problem, looking for a solution, evaluating solutions, choosing a solution, paying for a solution and maybe even referring the solution other people just understanding what’s going on all along the way. Exactly. And what you find when you do that is exactly what we started talking about, which was sure you’re going if you positioned yourself as this generic product and you’ve been lucky enough to have some customers, you’re going to have most, you’re going to be able to find a segment usually anyways, that is absolutely in love with the product. And you’re going to notice that you have other segments that just turned because you sort of oversold them. And it was Vegas, we signed up out of curiosity in the beginning, once they actually logged into the product and started using it, if they even got that far. They realize it’s, it’s not really made for them specifically. And so one of my first steps would be to find out who that segment is that loves the product, and then message directly to them, unapologetically, like, it’s hard. A lot of clients will push back but as close as I can get to saying like, Okay, forget that. Forget all these other people that’s really just hone in on these on this one group. And so, like an example of that recently was a small company called Tom’s planner that I did some work for. And, you know, what we found when I spoke to customers, is the driving force that caused them to reach out for To a tool like Tom’s planner, which is like, like project planning for, like small companies, Gantt charts and things like that. They outgrew spreadsheets, it was becoming impossible to keep up with their project planning and spreadsheets, too many people too many moving pieces. But when they looked up market to things like MS Project, it was too expensive. They came with like a 500 Plus page, user manual, they don’t have time for something like that, and no one in their company is going to adopt it. So we’re looking for something in the middle. And so that’s what we said. We said, forget these people who are comparing Tom’s planner to similar other products. Let’s focus on these people who are outgrowing spreadsheets but don’t want to use something like MS Project yet. And when we did that, what we found is people were just converting sort of right off the hop and they would land on the homepage because it was just so clear that we were targeting exactly them these people in the middle everybody else. So that would just be like one recent example of of, of how you can really hone in on a group and actually get more signups just by turning people away.

Andrew Michael
Absolutely. I think it’s one of those things that a lot of first time for Does it it’s almost feels that counterintuitive to them or alien like trying to narrow it down and limit the market size. Because you’re trying to think like, How big can this get like, Who are we going after? But really, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice by speaking to everyone and building for everyone, you end up building nothing for everyone.

Josh Garofalo
Exactly. And you’re not stuck like you can, you can start off with something very specific and then branch out as it makes sense. But yeah, when you’re small, and you just really need to nail a specific segment, like just just focus and then branch out if, if, if you even need to, might be surprised how big of a business you can build by focusing.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, so So let’s talk about that first step in and in terms of like going a little step deeper in terms of trying to figure out what that segment looks like and who this segment is. So you mentioned jobs to be done and your framework to sort of run through and understand like the user journey in detail, but how does someone go about really identifying that first segment that they should be going after And obviously, I think it will differ depending on how far along the company is. But you typically working with earlier stage startup. So what is the typical process and really like figuring out who that first segments looks like?

Josh Garofalo
Yeah, so first I’ll say one of the things that I don’t do basically, because for one, it’s not within my skill set right now into, like you said, I’m usually working with companies who aren’t like Salesforce, for example. And so they don’t even have the level of sophistication required to make it happen. And that is, there are people out there who can do some really amazing things with big data and cohort analysis and coming up with with segments that way, but the people who are converting and really enjoying a product. So assuming that is out of the way, it really does come down to a lot of qualitative research. So those interviews and the surveys that I was talking about and really understand that journey, and what you’ll find is, this is actually kind of funny, but when you when you send a lengthy survey your customers, just seeing who even takes the time to respond is going to tell you a lot about who your ideal customer is, because what we’ll find is, if I’m working with a client who has a product that is just not even adding value, I’m not even going to get responses because nobody is loving the product enough, or even hating the product enough to respond. They’re just indifferent. If I’m dealing with a client who has a product, where certain somebody really loves it, and certain somebody is really just feeling ripped off, I’m going to get responses from those two groups. And so what I will often find is, you know, I’ll send a survey out, I go, we’ll go to however many people 1500 2000 customers, and then I’ll get some responses. And the team will be able to tell me the, the spread of their, their customer base, you know, like, we have, you know, 25% of SMB 50% are medium sized, we have a fraction that are enterprise, but then I’m going to get like all of my responses from SAS companies who are like SMB, and they’re just raving fans of it, and then we’re going to I’m going to get a few responses from some really pissed off people up the chain, for example. And so just who responses when you tell me a lot, and then it comes down to the answers sort of like what I’m saying with Tom’s planner. It wasn’t, you know, an epiphany moment to position Tom’s planner, as this thing between spreadsheets and MS Project. It was literally what the customer was telling me far too often to be a coincidence. Just like a huge percentage of the customers were saying this is this was the problem, what they were experiencing. This is what they were looking for. And they found in Tom’s planner. Does that answer your question? Do you want to go even though?

Andrew Michael
That’s great. I think I like I like the proxy as well like, and it makes total sense is that if people care enough about the product, they’re actually going to give responses and they’re going to respond to the survey. If you’re not getting responses to your surveys, you know, you know, a lot more trouble than you think. Because nobody really cares enough to give you the time to give feedback. So

Josh Garofalo
Exactly. I used to be discouraged by that. But now I use it as a as a sign.

Andrew Michael
as to where to look. And just what does that conversation go like in with a customer afterwards.

Josh Garofalo
I’m fortunate in that I’ve gotten better at sort of sussing out when somebody is trying to get my services because their product isn’t any good. And they think that by hiring a copywriter, we can trick people into buying it. But sometimes, especially like, in the first year or two, when I started this business, I wasn’t able to see that so obviously, and then I would figure it out when I was in middle of a project. And typically I’d be quite blunt about it, I would say you know, we can proceed and and do our best with the information that we have. But my my my feeling is that this is probably a product problem that is not going to be solved by better words. But yeah, these days these days, you know if like you said when you mentioned some of those, the logos like hot jars and Cisco and HubSpot, I’m usually dealing dealing with companies who have a solid product that’s not really the problem. It’s it’s about positioning and and messaging that we need to solve.

Andrew Michael
Yeah. And it’s definitely like a key point is that you can really trick people into using your product. Because if the copy on the page, they only going to figure it out within a matter of minutes, maybe hours or days. But eventually they’ll realize that they were tricked. And you’re going to get a lot of angry customers and a lot of churners results.

Josh Garofalo
It’ll be angry and spunky, to your survey.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, the next thing is, so you figured out sort of this segment now and you’ve managed to have a chat with the customers and convince them okay, let’s double down focus on the segment. What is your next step in the process? Like then, like, what is the messaging strategy? Like what are you going about first?

Josh Garofalo
So one of the things that I really want to understand is the typical stage of awareness. So when this ideal segment is looking for my clients product or solution like it, like what is it exactly that they’re experiencing? Are they fully aware of the problem and the costs associated with it, and all The alternatives and my clients solution and they just want to sort of check a few boxes before they sign up. Or are they and this is this is the case, when you’re dealing with something a little bit more cutting edge, like something new and artificial intelligence, for example, are aware that they have this problem, and they’re not even aware of the fact that artificial intelligence has proposed has a proposed solution for it. And so you really need to get back to articulating the problem for them, showing that, you know, artificial intelligence is a possible solution for it. And then there’s going to be a whole bunch of objections, obviously, that you need to and hesitations that you need to cover off because they’re just so unfamiliar with the space and they don’t necessarily trust it yet. So I really understand that that stage of awareness what they’re coming to the website with, and at that point, I want to meet them where they are. So if they are problem aware, they don’t really know about the alternatives yet. I’m not going to talk about the alternatives. I’m going to make sure that I meet them where they are, which is the problem. So I’ll echo the problem back and I’ll quickly show them that My clients product is the solution that they’re looking for, if they are indeed the right person, for my client. And to do that, it’s a lot of like I said, For voice of customer research. So understanding people who have already made this journey, how they talk about the product, what they love about it, and making sure that I emphasize those things, while de emphasizing some of the things that my client might think are amazing about the product, but their ideal customer doesn’t even really think about, especially when they’re going through this process of, of signing up. So it’s really just taking them from their current stage of awareness, moving them through making sure that I address any of their objections and their hesitations, any questions they might have about the product and the solution and backing everything up that I can anyways with social proof. And when I say social proof, I don’t mean in the way that most people are doing it, which is they’ll have like a little carousel at the bottom with the whole bunch of testimonials that are high level and random, I mean contextual testimonials. So if I make claim like hot jar does x, if I can have a testimonial from somebody saying that it does exactly what I just said it does. That’s good in a couple of ways. For one, it’s going to show that, that it’s actually possible you can achieve these things into overtime. When I keep doing that it’s going to create some trust between me and the prospect because we’re going to see that whenever I make a claim, I have a tendency to back it up with with some impartial evidence. So yeah, it’s really just taking through that journey on the page from stage awareness to everything they need to know in order to take the next step.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, there’s a lot there as well to unpack. Yes. I do a podcast and each piece. Yes. What a like when an interesting things you said now as well. And I think it’s something that’s very often overlooked is founders typically have their own cognitive biases, and they have their own ways of thinking about using their product and what the special features are. And I love that you mentioned that like what you and what the customers are actually saying or the special features that you want to focus on because more They’re not as well like as your product evolves and you start getting closer to product market fit. It’s really the market that’s really dictating like what’s needed and what are the key areas and key problems that they’re having? How does that typically go? The next one, like, I’m pretty sure like you’ve had kicked back many times as well speaking to customers, and really lecturer trying to convince them that this is actually the direction to go. Because it’s not always easy when like a founder has a vision in his mind, and then you actually come back with something totally different thing. But wait a minute, you may think it’s these two three things, but actually, it’s next. Why is it?

Josh Garofalo
Yeah, so that’s funny, cuz that’s sort of another litmus test for me. So I mentioned before the survey, if no one’s responding, then I kind of have an idea that I’m dealing with a dud of a product. I’ve also got a lot better at figuring out which leaders are actually open to change in which leaders are looking to bring somebody in just to confirm their their beliefs that they hold already and what I find is most of the leaders that we would respect so if you follow Anything marketing online you probably have heard of Joe turnoff who was like a HubSpot marketing executive. And I think now he’s at pendo He even said in a testimonial on my website you mentioned this specifically the curse of knowledge and I find the best leaders are fully aware they are so immersed in their space and in their product and it is this immersion that allows them to do their job extremely well. But it’s also this immersion that makes it very difficult for them to become impartial and and create messaging and positioning that really resonates with with with the customer. So yeah, the best leaders, I don’t really get much pushback because they came to me with this problem that I have this curse of knowledge I can’t get outside of my own head. I need somebody on the outside who understands SAS understands the space but isn’t 100% all in on the space and can sort of act as like a conduit between the market the customers and and my product and my vision and it’s not to say that you know, the Leaders vision means nothing, it comes a good leader anyways, it comes from a lot of experience in the field. And so there’s something to it almost always. But then you’ve got to, you’ve got to add that customer piece. And they’re usually self aware enough to realize that they’re not going to allow that customers voice to be to be loud enough in the process.

Andrew Michael
Absolutely. And I think this is one of those cases, it makes a lot of sense bringing somebody from outside because like you said, on a day to day you so in the problem, you’re so focused, you don’t really take your head, take a step back and have a fresh look at things and it’s very, very difficult to do like, even like the best marketers in the world would struggle to do it.

Josh Garofalo
Yeah, actually experienced it myself that and that’s one of the reasons that I did decide to go out on my own is I enjoyed copywriting and messaging and all of that, but I always felt like I was doing a terrible job when I was at the startup because I was just so into the space. I was really hard to get away from it. So I knew that if I’m if I’m struggling then there’s got to be a lot of other people out there struggling to to come up with their own messaging.

Andrew Michael
Cool. So we’ve got to this point there. Now we’ve got a segment we’ve understand sort of like key messaging that we want to come up with and points. And you chatted about as well different, like the stages of awareness. And I think that’s another area as well, that’s often like, severely overlooked, is really having a clear understanding of sort of what stage of awareness Are you within the market? And where are your typical customers coming from? So what are some of the interesting things you see, working with customers and trying to understand the different stages? So like you mentioned AI being one, and I can see this being a different problem for different stages of competing in different sort of maturity of technologies as well. So like, what are some of the common best practices you see, and maybe some of the mistakes you see startups doing when it comes to sort of understanding who their customers are on which stage? They’re at?

Josh Garofalo
Yeah, I mean, it’s really not that difficult to find out. The stage of awareness is just most companies don’t think they even have And this, this goes back to a much bigger problem that I find in SAS, especially in that is that there’s a lot of copycatting. And so the reason people get stage awareness wrong is they don’t think about it. Instead, they just look at their competitors. Or worse, they look at people who have already been in the space for a really long time. And they just copy them and their stage of awareness and they end up with vague messaging because those companies able to get away get away with it because the stage of awareness for their prospect is they know they have the problem and they know that this is probably the solution for them, and they just need to check a few boxes. Whereas a startup, especially if you’re like really new, and especially if you’re in a fairly new space, you know, you can’t just you can’t just jump in with some apple like vague, an aspirational messaging need to get very specific about the problem. You need to articulate the problem show that you really understand it in detail. And then you need to show that you have the solution. Again, not innovative Bye bye, sort of matching it back tracing it back to the the different problem points that you’ve identified and articulated. And again, with the social proof, just showing that you actually have that solution. And then of course, you know, when you get further up market, you know, if you’re MailChimp, you could probably just say, like, we do, we do marketing k only thing or even email software anymore, they’ve branched out from that. So if I just say, you know, we’re marketing software, and that’s fine. Everybody knows who MailChimp is, you know, you don’t have to articulate the problem that you’re solving if you’re MailChimp, but that’s just not the case. When you’re a nobody and no one’s heard of you. You’ve got to stand out, you got to be specific. And you’ve got to be focused on somebody specific as well. I’m not sure does that. Does that answer your question?

Andrew Michael
Absolutely. And I think it’s more like being specific in early stages critical. Like, like you mentioned, the points of MailChimp and just saying the marketing software is enough, because this stage, everybody knows who they are, and at different stages of the company, you can start to show towards different types of messaging. So, early stage, you really want to be specific, like a good description of what the product is, what the problem is and how your problem solves it. And as it evolves over time, you can slowly start to shift to sort of more value driven messaging and really focusing on sort of the outcome as opposed to being as descriptive as possible. So I like that you mentioned as well, like it seemed, yeah. Stand the level of maturity of the company as well.

Josh Garofalo
Yeah, a recent example of that, as well was, I was speaking to Jane Portman who’s one of the founders of UI breakfast, or not, so Well, yeah, UI breakfast, but they also use user list.io, which is their their SAS product, which is, I guess you could call it like an intercom competitor. But it’s, it’s sort of stripped down. It’s meant for the startup, it’s a lot simpler and a lot more affordable. And so for them, I think that when they actually started, their messaging was a little bit more broad. So they just looked like they were going to be another intercom. And after speaking to them a little bit, they realize that it’s actually a lot smarter for them to just call out exactly. What they are in the headline and sub headline and if you take a look at it now, they specifically call out intercom and they say like we are, you know, the the simpler, easier to use less expensive alternative to intercom because that’s what they found their customers, their ideal customer anyways really was looking for they knew about intercom, they may have tried it, it’s just too much product too much cost for them at this time. They need something simpler. And that’s, that’s where user list.io comes in. So that’s like another example of a startup doing a really good job of focusing in three years from now if they’re still around doing really well, they’re probably going to drop that intercom piece, because they will have grown from that. But for right now, to capture the customers, they need to do really well for the next year or two. That’s the right position for them.

Andrew Michael
For sure. It’s interesting. You said that because I actually noticed that on a Facebook group on sauce growth hacks, I think it’s called and somebody actually asked for alternatives to mixpanel actually, the question was like, does anyone have a cheap alternative to mixpanel literally user list I think, was voted a couple of times and had many lights on it. So There’s a nice as well within the pockets of us how its positioned. And I think maybe that’s another thing to understand this or like with positioning maybe we can talk through this a little bit as well is that a lot of times like founders and early stage will come up with a positioning for their product and say, This is what we are, this is what you do. But really, it’s not you who sits in position, it’s the market particular position.

So when you thinking about going through like a positioning exercise, specifically for where like, what are some of the stages in the steps that you would want to take and make sure that you have maybe some of the key questions you’re going to want to be pulling out when you’re doing your user research?

Josh Garofalo
Yes. So when we’re doing something like say, we’ve identified the segment that really, really loves the product. At that point, I really want to understand and exactly what it is that they’re loving about the product, because that’s going to very much determine the positioning. I’m not sure if you had April Dunford on the show before.

Andrew Michael
Yes, we have had April

Josh Garofalo
you have so definitely go back and listen to that because I without listening to it. I can tell you with Probably an amazing deep dive on positioning SAS product. But absolutely grab a book, grab her book as well. It’s It’s amazing, and very practical. But yeah, it’s really just going through the stages of understanding, you know, we’ve got the set of features, we’ve got this set of capabilities, how do our ideal customers think of us? Who are they, you know, actually comparing us to? That’s the other thing. Like, if I were to speak to the founder of Tom’s planner, that example I used before, he would probably be focused on the competitors who are building products very similar to his, but the thing is, you know, his prospects haven’t even heard of those companies, because they’re also small company. They’re thinking about the things everybody knows spreadsheets, and like the MS projects of the world. So who who are we actually being compared about and when we’re talking about each of these features, and each of these capabilities, which ones do they value the most, which ones make us different and special, compared to again, the people they’re actually comparing you to a not your most similar competitors out there. And I mean, it can get It gets lengthy and it’s it’s messy spreadsheets, it’s got multiple columns showing you know what it is that everybody likes about the product what they don’t like about it for each feature each capability but yeah, it’s really it’s it’s just a systematic breakdown of the of the product in a spreadsheet or a series of spreadsheets that goes into the details about what a specific segment is saying about it, liking about it. What causes a little detail about using it, etc. Yeah, so again, it’s, it’s it’s pulling, pulling from the customer, it’s not self driven. It’s not an exercise where I would sit down with a group of marketers and ask them all these questions. I might to get a starting point. But really, you got to get on the horn with with customers and see how they’re actually talking about it.

Andrew Michael
And when you said with customers, like how many would you be looking to speak to in an exercise like this? What would be a good number to get like a feel for the positioning?

Josh Garofalo
I tend to find that you start to hear a lot of the same thing. After you’ve spoken to, like 10 to 15 people, if I can get on call with more than that, I will happily do it. But 10 to 15 people backed by a survey with say, you know, 50 250 responses, you’re going to see a lot of patterns emerging at that point, as the as the copywriter, as the consultant, you have to be careful not to introduce your own biases, and that if you come into the project with certain ideas of what’s going to resonate, you’re going to start to see it in the data itself. And so it’s really important to start tabulating know how many times people are saying things otherwise, you’re just going to remember what you want to remember as you go through the data.

Andrew Michael
Absolutely. I think one thing as well like we’ve been chatting now for maybe half an hour, and I’ve the process we’ve been really discussing is all about like really trying to understand your customers deeply trying to understand the problem they’re trying to achieve. And then how do you position and how do you like, write copy for your site or whether it’s messaging, so your customers have a clear picture of what your product is? And I know like we talking about about this now in the context of working with customers and your customers, for example, and trying to help them with this, but ideally like for maybe even early stage founders before you even built a product, this would probably be one of the best processes that you could ever take, before even writing a line of code before even starting to work on a product is really getting this locked down and have a clear understanding of like, who you’re going after being very, very specific, and actually being able to come out of the end of it with something that’s almost like a blueprint of what you need to be building and how you can go about shaping your company.

Josh Garofalo
And yeah, I’m so glad that you actually said that because one of the most painful parts of this business that I’ve noticed is I will get messages sometimes and it usually comes at odd hours in the night via drift from, from New founders who have put like 10s, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars into a product that is in stealth mode. Now you know, stealth mode. They don’t want to tell anybody about it including prospective customers until it’s made So they’ve created a product, they introduce it to people, and nobody loves it. And then they think they need better messaging in order to sell it. And I have to break it to them that they should have been speaking to people all along. Because what they’ve done is they’ve built something that nobody wants. So yeah, if you’re, if you’re a new startup and you’re in stealth mode, strongly consider getting out of stealth mode,

Andrew Michael
talking to people and talking about it. Absolutely. Cool. So let’s take a now and not chapters also, you moving forward now we figured out positioning, we figured out our segments, we started writing copy for them. What are some of the things that you see early stage startups or at least the startups coming to looking for an interest in? What are some of the things that you wish they would be looking into and wish they would be thinking more about when it comes to copy and

Josh Garofalo
the work you do? Sure, yeah. So my typical customer isn’t necessarily like a new founder that has just started a company. They’ve usually been in business for a little bit. They’ve probably raised around or two funding. And they’re really just starting to grow up. Now, they’ve, they’re no longer this scrappy little startup, they need to start to think strategically about things. And what will almost always be the case is despite having some really good customers, by the time they reach out to me, they are almost 100% focused on acquisition. So they just want more leads, they just want more customers, they’re not really thinking about how to hang on to the customers that they have or to or how to upsell their current customers in a way that isn’t self serving necessarily. It’s obviously good for the business but it’s really good for the customer to they’re going to get a whole lot more product. So that is my my biggest hang up right now is I’m trying more and more to to turn people towards reducing churn because I just think it’s like the most powerful lever that you can pull. Yeah, and I mean, once we once we get turn taken care of, or I mean it’s never taken care of, but once we improve it, once we start getting those leads in the sales And they actually stick around, they’re all worth so much more. So it just makes sense right to, to plug all those holes in the buckets. So, yeah, it’s almost all acquisition work that people are coming to me for I get the odd person who is thinking about churn. That would be one thing that I’d love to see shift

Andrew Michael
shift in the market. Yeah. You mentioned upsell. And like, often people think of it as self serving, but it’s not actually like maybe you want to walk us through that and how you think about it.

Josh Garofalo
Yeah, I can use a specific example. And it may also because as far as I know, it hasn’t been implemented. So it also kind of speaks to the fact that it’s really easy right now for companies to just dismiss the this idea of reducing churn and they’ll, they’ll hear a good idea and then they’ll let it go. So a previous client of mine, they do like proposal software and payments for professional service based businesses. And they’re doing they do really well. And one of the things that changes as you move up in the tears is the personal vantage of the bill, that that that you that you send somebody if paid by credit card, it goes down as you go higher up in tears. So I think it’s like 2.9% of the fee will go to my client on the lowest to the next can’t remember exactly. But what ends up happening is if a client on if a customer on the lowest tier routinely charges $5,000 or more to their clients via credit card, which is very common in professional services, they would actually make up the difference in pricing tiers between their their current basic tier and the next tier up just by just by the savings that they would get on the credit card percentage. And so really, what you should be doing is every customer that you see who is routinely charging $5,000 you should be hitting them with an email or in that message, or even a phone call that says hey, you’re already doing $5,000 more if you move up to this next year, where you’re going to get all these other helpful features, more support lots of different capabilities. I know you’d benefit from it, you’re going to, you’re going to make that money back anyways, just in the savings, it’s literally going to cost you nothing extra at the end of the day, if you keep doing $5,000 or more in sales. And in fact, if you do significantly more than $5,000 in sales, you’re actually going to save money by moving up to this next year, just based on savings. So that would be like some low hanging fruit in my opinion, and as far as I know, it has not been implemented. But if something that were that low hanging, were on the acquisition side, all everybody would be all over it, it would be very exciting for everybody. So yeah, it’s, it’s not it’s not trying to force people in tears they don’t belong in but if there’s a case, if you see them using the product in such a way, that is a disservice to them, and they’re doing it because they want to stay on their current plan. See if you can find a way to show them that the next the next tier up actually makes perfectly good sense. Don’t leave it to the customer to decide that that it’s time to upgrade. Just make sure that they’re getting the best from form of the product for their needs?

Andrew Michael
Yeah, I think I mean, this is it sounds easy at the surface. But I think also, on the flip side, it’s like, other times is really finding what that additional value is that’s going to drive them to upgrade and really trying to understand what are some of those drivers that you should be introducing, because I know we’re jumping into a bit of pricing and packaging, but I think positioning does have a role to play in pricing and packaging as well. And when it comes to thinking about sort of how do you package your product, so you can have these drivers that lead to upsell parts and be able to get convert customers into new and different packages? Like what is some of the things that you’re doing with companies there to try and understand Okay, like what are some of these key drivers and like how can we make sure that we writing copy that we taking them on a journey that it’s not really there’s only self serving component, but it really does add additional value to our customers and to ensure that they stick around maybe longer?

Josh Garofalo
Yeah, so it’s a as many dancers have been this is a it’s a boring answer in that You’re talking to the customer. So if I say I have three tiers, and I have people in the middle tier, I would just reach out, I’ll be speaking to those people specifically whether on the phone or via surveys to see what it is that they’re loving about the product. And what’s going to happen is there’s going to say be five or 10 features and capabilities that they have access to, that people in the basic plan don’t have access to. And of those, there’s going to be two or three probably that really, really stand out. And so that’s going to be at the heart of the messing with the messaging that I use, when when I’m reaching out to people on the on the basic plan, for example. And I mean, you can get even more specific depending on volume. And you can try to speak to people who have just made the switch. So if they were on the basic plan, and now they’re on the middle tier, you know, why why why did they Why did they make that switch, assuming it’s not something that’s forced based on usage, but based on, you know, features and capabilities that they get access to? So like, there’s a pretty there’s all types of complicated ways to figure this out. But for most companies, especially if you’re not like Salesforce with a giant, like data analytics team, then yeah, it’s it’s just speaking, speaking to people and figuring out what they love about you, and why they’re wanting to pay more. It’s a, it sounds difficult. Yeah. And it is difficult, I guess, if you are in the company, because you’re just going to bring your own ideas of why people would want to move up. But yeah, you’ll often find it’s something that’s

Andrew Michael
a very unfortunate thing. But it’s also one of the things it’s often de prioritized speaking to customers, but it’s actually the most valuable thing you can do as a company.

Josh Garofalo
Yes. And it’s just, we were talking about this a little bit, but before we got started, but it’s a big problem that you guys experienced at hotrod. And that I experienced as well. And that is this whole idea of doing things on a on a per project basis. So yeah, like Louis released that article that you could probably link below that talks about some of the reasons people turn from hot jar. And one of those reasons is that people, you know, they they’re going to do a website overhaul, they want to throw hot jar up on it for a month or two and then and the project is done as far as they’re concerned. And I run into that problem, too. It’s people have had the same website since 2015. It no longer resonates. They want to scrap it and start all over which is risky and expensive, and would have been smarter as if they were using something to not only track the way people are interacting on their website, so something like hot jar, but constantly talking to their customers and surveying customers all through the years and making smaller data driven decisions, where in 2019, they would end up with a website that’s unrecognizable to 2015 to their 2015 self, but it would not be due to like one drastic change. It’s by moving with the customers and Mark divisions along the way. Yeah, so yeah, you guys run into it, I run into it. And it’s not a problem with your product. And it’s not a problem with my service. It’s a problem with the way people are thinking about these things still in SAS, they’re just thinking about it as set it in for It and and then deal with it when you know the numbers plummet to the point that your investors are screaming at you because you’re not making your numbers anymore. That’s just not the right way to do it.

Andrew Michael
And it’s just not the way the market is evolving as well. Like it’s not the right way to do it. And so we were living in a constantly evolving market. And like, I like this concept, and I think it might have been hitting Charlotte talked about it. But product market fit is a moving target. And it’s not the static thing where you either have it or you don’t, it’s something that you’re constantly working towards, and you’re constantly always trying to reach it, you might have degrees of product market fit, and the scale can slide over time, but it’s this constantly moving scale that you need to be sort of adapting to and by just having this project based mindset when it comes to customer research when it comes to working on your websites and overhauls like things like overhauls or revamp sector should be like expelled from any dictionary letting the site’s business array should be understanding the customer constantly and evolving with head market as you go along and have yet

Josh Garofalo
in a place that I see that Especially because of the stuff that was in before. So I kind of know the space a bit more as like the online forum space. So if you look at online forums, most of their their messaging their websites, they have not even reacted to the fact that there’s something like drift in town now. So they’re there. And they will they will, they’re gonna call me probably in a year or two, when everybody thinks online forums are dead. And they’re going to ask me to fix that problem. But really, they should have been testing like new angles as soon as drift really hit the market and and disrupted it. But unfortunately, it’s just not the way most companies think they just react when it’s little too late.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, it’s difficult as well. I think once you get to sort of a stage of growth in your company, and you’re in this track, you tend to become very reactive. And and that’s also why like, there’s so much opportunity for growth for new startups is because really, you don’t have that technical debt. You don’t have that legacy code that you’re dealing with. You don’t have the mindset and sort of focus of a company new can really come in with fresh eyes. And this is what makes a marketer competitive and why you always need to be on your toes.

Josh Garofalo
The innovators dilemma is a great book to read on that for anyone hasn’t read it.

Andrew Michael
Excellent. Cool. So we’re running a little bit up on time. I have one more question for you for today. And this is a question I asked everybody. And it’s whenever your hypothetical scenario, so let’s pretend now you’ve been offered a new job. And you’ve decided to join. And the CEO has come to you and said, Look, Josh, we having a bit of problem turning retention. Numbers are not great. And we really need to turn things around. He’s giving you three months, or she’s giving you three months to try and figure things out. Like, what are some of the first things you would do in those first three months to try to end things around? And I guess you’re going to say starting with speak to customers.

Josh Garofalo
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So what I would love to say is that I would be getting into like the nitty gritty and being like, well, let’s evaluate which tools were using and things like that, but the reality is At least in the market that I operate in, which is SAS, most most people are so far behind that they’re not even getting the basics done yet. So if I have three months to make a difference, there’s, first of all, as we discussed before, churn is a huge problem, we’re not going to solve the whole thing. In three months. It’s ongoing, and it’s it touches all pieces of the business. But what I will look for is that one really sore spot. So it might be that people are coming to the website, but they’re not signing up for a free trial. Okay? If that’s the biggest, that’s the biggest drop off, like why, like, why is that happening? And that’s where I would use something like, like a hot jar Google Analytics and speaking to customers, like we had said and surveys to figure out, you know, where is this disconnect between the website and our positioning our messaging, and the people are coming to the website, they should be signing up because the product is good. I’m going to assume in this whole thing that the product is is good because if it’s not, I can’t help you. So if the product is good, and people Aren’t signing up for the free trial, you know, where’s that drop off. And then I’ll try to close that gap and really nail the positioning and the messaging using the method methods that we’ve spoken about throughout. Otherwise, they might be that they sign up, but they are not actually using the product in a meaningful way. And so, because we’re both familiar with hotbar, I’ll use an example. And this is not this is not specific to hot jar, but any company who needs people to install a snippet, in order to in order to get real use of the product, there’s going to be a sticking point there. And so I’m going to dedicate three months to figuring out how I can get more and more people to install the snippet because the reality you know, before the snippet is bleak, it’s it’s for for using hotbars example. It’s it’s guessing what’s going to work on the website. It’s guessing how people are using your website and your product. And that’s if you’re a marketer, you’re actually not even doing your job if you’re just guessing all the time. And then After you get the snippet, you just insert the snippet. And then it’s kind of like magic. It’s like, wow, I’m running focus groups with hundreds of people. And it’s not costing me 10s or hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so. So I would want to really focus on on helping people understand their bleak current reality, the almost magical future and really minimize the obstacle. It’s in the way, which is inserting the snippet. First of all, showing that it’s not hard, it’s not invasive, it’s not dangerous to the website, and also giving them all the resources they need to make sure that they’re saying the right things to the right people to make it happen. That’s probably where I’m going to see the biggest drop off otherwise, if it’s, they do all that stuff and they still don’t pay it’s it’s probably that they’re stuck on a free plan. And we’re not doing a good enough job of showing them why it’s actually worth it to upgrade and so people will just make the the free plan work for as long as possible. So yeah, I would look for that. Three months, I’m looking for that, that key point of drop off that really expensive point of drop off. And I would just be throwing all my resources at it to make sure that I can understand why people are dropping off and just what what can I do to to remove the obstacle because I know, at the end of the day, like at the end of this process, there’s this amazing product that they’re going to love. There’s just some certain obstacles that they either don’t think are worth overcoming, because we haven’t done a good enough job of, of communicating their their future self and helping them imagine it, or we’re not giving them the resources they need to actually, you know, overcome it. Because if they don’t know how they’re not the person to do it, they need to get somebody else involved.

Andrew Michael
So I think as well what you’ve said as well, like from a if you’re thinking about user churn, or like specific logo churn, like number of actual users using the product makes a lot of sense to really sort of focus on those bigger drop off points because they’re coming in you’re using them then, if that’s what you considering, it is an issue. The other side of it, flipping the coin is when you think about customer churn Sometimes it makes a lot more sense to actually work your way back. So what does success look like for these most successful users? And there is okay, what is the step prior to success? What is that drop off point look like? Like how can we work to optimize that? And then work your way up the funnel, as opposed to sort of, as you started with, like, from a user perspective, looking at the website, looking at like the script installation, looking at the next stage, I think definitely like it’s it all depends on sort of which area in which type of trend you’re really trying to tackle.

Josh Garofalo
For sure, yes, definitely. And just by the nature of my business, it tends to be like the free trial free trial to paid and sometimes paid to the upsell, but it’s really those earlier pieces. And I think that’s just that’s just the nature of SAS right now, SAS businesses are struggling to get people to take that those early steps. Once you once you once they see the product that the product is good. It’s not as hard to keep them on. At that point. There’s certainly certainly things you can do. You can continue You to communicate the value, like the new things that you’re releasing and how it’s going to make their business better, etc, etc. But yeah, it’s those early pieces that companies are really struggling with right now.

Andrew Michael
And it’s like you said earlier, though, as well, it’s like companies still maybe don’t have the maturity of understanding it of like how powerful retention can really be. And having sort of like a growth lever, like really focusing on that, as opposed to more conversions and driving people from free to paid can be for the business. But

Josh Garofalo
yeah, it’s coming and I’m glad you’re doing this podcast because I think it’s it’s going to help a few people getting to be people’s need to think about it more and it’s I think it’s slowly bubbling to the top. Absolutely.

Andrew Michael
Well, just it’s been a pleasure having you today. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation before we goes anything you want to leave the listeners with, like how can they keep up with your work online? If they want to reach out to you what should they do?

Josh Garofalo
Yeah, so you can definitely reach out to me at Josh at sway copy dot com. If you want to find me on social media, I’m not that active but if I am active, it’s usually on Twitter. At Sweet copy. Yeah. Otherwise, if you want to reach out, I mean, always happy to talk about acquisition. But tackling before becomes a giant problem. Yeah, definitely reach out to me and my website, either email or drift, and we can sort the conversation there.

Andrew Michael
Fantastic. Well, thanks very much. It’s been great having you today just noticed a lot going forward.

Josh Garofalo
Thank you Andrew