In this episode, SaaS-Story in the Making host Matt Wolach sits down with Mark Thompson, co-founder of the subscription billing and affiliate management platform, PayKickstart. Mark shares insights and tips for successful affiliate marketing and startup billing.
He also talks about how his company started from scratch and grew to empower vendors and digital publishers to sell their products online. He addresses SaaS leaders’ common mistakes when selling and marketing their products or services and shares the right ways to do it.
Podcast: SaaS-Story in the Making
Episode: Episode No. 172, Startup Billing and Marketing Mistakes to Avoid – with Mark Thompson
Host: Matt Wolach, a B2B SaaS sales coach, Entrepreneur, and Investor
Guest: Mark Thompson, Co-Founder at PayKickstart
TOP TIPS FROM THIS EPISODE
Have Short and Long Term Strategies
Mark shares the short and long-term strategies he and his team had that contributed to their company’s decade-long success. The short-term strategy was to generate revenue by conducting promotions that led customers to sign up for PayKickstart. They also strengthened their affiliate relationships, which helped them promote their platform. However, Mark points out that most SaaS founders do not have assets like affiliate partners and email lists. One thing you can do is use an affiliate broker, a person who will connect you with affiliate partners.
Meanwhile, one of their long-term strategies is to play with content, which ultimately becomes a powerful part of your channels. Matt agrees that it’s crucial to build affiliate relationships and authority in your space. Matt adds that you can start to create that list of relationships, that foundation of people within your target market who will become future customers, affiliates, or referral partners.
Avoid Billing Mistakes
Some of the billing mistakes SaaS leaders sometimes commit are building and maintaining billing systems themselves. Mark says it takes a lot of effort and can be a big undertaking. Mark also points out that SaaS people do not have an automation system that is always available to communicate with their customers. To avoid this, Mark gives a piece of advice: integrate your email autoresponder to give your customers product updates.
The Power of Simplifying
Mark says it’s essential to wait to get your services out to the marketplace for early-stage companies trying to market and sell. It’s a common mistake SaaS startups make, and he encounters many leaders who are just so eager to launch their product or services in the market without thoroughly thinking things through.
Mark suggests cutting down your product into something straightforward first and then getting it out to the marketplace. Even if you give it away for free or for a small price, your new product will still get in customers’ hands. After launching a simplified version of your product, add your features one by one before you know it, your product has been thriving in the market for years.
Setting up a partner relationship is a surefire way to get your software business running and make it stay afloat for years. Mark shares a piece of valuable advice to startup software leaders: unload as much as you possibly can, as early as you can. Focus on the things that will drive the most revenue and have the most significant impact on your business. Hire people to do tasks that are taking up most of your time. Identify the things that are time-consuming and are not bringing impact and revenue to your business, then get them in the hands of other people who will work on it. Matt agrees, adding that outsourcing tasks makes things better and helps him focus on what is on top of his priorities.
Building a Solution from Scratch
Mark Thompson, the co-founder of PayKickstart, shares how the platform started out of frustration due to the lack of available payment methods and flexibility in the checkout experience. “We built it just out of pure necessity,” he says, and this covers managing subscription payments, managing customer retention, lowering churn, and managing affiliate partners.
When asked why a SaaS company would decide to build their billing platform in-house instead of partner with one already available, Mark said it’s all about integrating all the necessary features into one platform. “When you’re running a business, especially a SaaS business, there are so many things that come up,” he notes. Since some hurdles occur along the way, Mark says PayKickstart takes off these burdens by “relieving all the headaches, all those roadblocks when it comes to billing” so business owners can focus on their core product and serving their core audience.
Affiliate Marketing vs. Referral Program
Affiliate marketing is just giving a commission to someone that refers a sale to you, says Mark. This type of marketing entails referring a customer and receiving a cut or commission for your referral. “You’re only paying them when they refer someone to you,” he adds. When asked how it differs from a referral program, Mark says the latter is about rewarding your customers for their referrals with your product or service. Moreover, he highlights the importance of supporting your affiliates with materials like swipe files, banner copies, or even timely contests.
There are two types of churn: voluntary and involuntary. For companies to mitigate churn, leaders must identify first which type they are dealing with. According to Mark, voluntary churn is when your customer voluntarily cancels a subscription with you. Many businesses do not reach out to customers after they withdraw, which is why leaders cannot learn what the problem was and what caused them to unsubscribe.
Mark says his company helps by offering tools like surveys to capture feedback from leaving customers and cancellation save or sequence, so if a customer is ready to go, you can find out why and perhaps change their mind. This solution includes offering more training, features, and discussion to address the customer’s concern. On the other hand, involuntary churn is when a customer’s subscription expires. To address this, Mark says an in-app notification is helpful, like messages reminding your customer to renew their subscription, so they don’t lose access to their account.
[11:25] “It’s important to support your affiliates with materials for them to use.”
[16:00] “A long-term play [is] to content play. [It] builds up, and over time, it becomes a compelling part of your channels.”
[16:28] “Start to build those relationships. Start to give value. Start to share what’s working, what’s not working. Start to help people in that industry.”
[19:18] “Get [your product] out there, get it in their hands, and get the feedback. It’s critical to get feedback on your product.”
To learn more about Mark Thompson and PayKickstart, visit https://paykickstart.com/.
You can also find Mark Thompson on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mrthompson/.To learn more about how host Matt Wolach helps software companies achieve maximum growth, visit https://mattwolach.com/.