Today’s growth case study comes from Lucas Emma at Social Tools, a company in the 500 Miami Distro program, our growth accelerator targeting post-seed, pre-A companies in the LatAm and Miami ecosystems.
We started Social Tools from an abandoned garage in Córdoba, Argentina, humble beginnings for a marketing tool that’s now making life easier (we hope) for 2 million marketers in 170 countries around the world.
3 years in, SocialTools is now the leading social media marketing suite in all of Latin America, with customers in 30 different countries.
But this wasn’t enough for us. Although everything was great in the cozy world of LatAm, no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t seem to break into any other markets in the world outside.
Getting out from the LATAM market seemed impossible for us. The cost to acquire a customer in USA was almost 3X our lifetime value.
There was nothing we could do to acquire a customer without spending more than we earned.
One fine day, we met a team from the Netherlands with a product called Postcron.
It was a tool that saves marketers time by allowing them to schedule their posts on every social network from a single place.
It was easy to use, and although they were based in Europe, they had users all over the world.
At that time they weren’t making much money in revenue — their average ticket per user was $7/month, almost 10 times lower than our ARPU at SocialTools.
Plus, the look and feel of their platform seems like a site developed in the old 90’s.
But, they had something special… more than 20k active users every month who really, really loved their product.
When we Googled Postcron, we found thousands of user reviews talking about how Postcron makes their lives easier…
We weren’t a huge company with billions of dollars, but we thought we saw a great opportunity.
So instead of spending all our budget left on marketing… we decided to spend it acquiring Postcron.
It was a crazy idea, and it was really difficult to explain it to our current investors and advisory board.
Companies in our same state of growth are always looking to raise an new investment round, or even better, trying to get acquired.
NOBODY in LatAm was thinking about acquiring a new company.
But, after showing our projections to our investors, they started to come around… and the deal went through.
When we acquiring Postcron, we spent days reading and answering tickets from our new customers, learning from them, getting to know their culture, and trying to understand why they liked Postcron so much.
(EDITOR’S PROTIP: everyone — developers, growth, sales etc — on your team should spend at least a few days reading and answering tickets, if not looking at customer support inbound REGULARLY.)
Before we found the magic bullet that grew our user base by 500% in a handful of months, we made a few key mistakes.
1. The Cross Selling Experiment
The first thing that came up on our mind was to cross selling from Postcron to SocialTools and vice versa.
We polled Postcron users to understand their willingness to buy a SocialTools subscription, and learned that 83% had the exact need that SocialTools solved.
At that moment we thought we won the lottery. If we could only get 10% of the Postcron users subscribe to a $140 SocialTools subscription, we could get 2.000 new customers, and make easily $500k in a couple of months….
But it wasn’t that easy. While Postcron users were more than happy to USE a platform, they weren’t nearly as likely to PAY 20 times what they were paying to use Postcron.
1. The Review Experiment
After the first failure, we realized we needed to understand our new community a lot better.
We noticed that many users were creating content — blog posts, YouTube videos, tweets — all about how great their product experience was, and most of these users were community managers with large social accounts and influence…
… all without being asked.
Now we just needed to find a way to multiply this effect.
Next, we observed that if someone had been a free user for 90 days after signup, they were probably never going to convert to a paid user.
BUT… they obviously still loved using Postcron.
So we decided to contact these users and ask them if they could make a short YouTube product review in exchange for a free 6 month premium subscription. The answer in most cases was a big YES. (Many people even wrote lengthy blog posts about our product.)
Even though our platform was only available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, we started seeing user reviews in many other languages — German, Arabic, Italian, even from countries that we didn’t even know existed.
This one experiment turned into the most effective marketing strategy we could ever have run.
Word of mouth around Postcron spread like crazy, and after 5 month, we went from 150k social accounts in 30 countries, to more than 2 millions social accounts in 170 countries.
This allowed us to double our run rate and finally break into markets we wouldn’t have been able to afford 6 months prior.
Daily Active Users Before Postcron acquisition
Daily Active Users After Postcron acquisition
Why It Worked
We have many Fortune 500 clients, like Samsung, Toyota, Telefonica, and Nike.
But, we also have thousands of clients who are SMBs, freelance community managers who worked for mom and dad’s business, and even direct sales consultants, (mostly moms over their 40’s who are selling their products to their friends through social media).
All of them regularly run promotions, and need to schedule content on their social networks every day, but the reasons why they use our tools, and how much budget they have to do it, are totally different in each case.
Big brands care about engagement, SMBs want to grow their email lists, online sellers want to increase their web traffic… and then there are marketers who want all of that! The list goes on.
“Marketing gurus” often recommend to focus on one or maximum two types of customers persona.
That was a big problem for us because we were trying to reach more than 6 different targets, and talking to each of them as a single brand was impossible.
Instead, we decided to allow — and incentivize — our customers to talk about our brand, through an amplification of what they were already doing organically.
If you have a great product, nobody will ever sell it better than a happy customer.
About the author
CEO & Founder at SocialTools.me, Entrepreneur since birth, passionate about Internet and anything with an ON/OFF button. From Córdoba, Argentina.
Angellist: Lucas Emma
LinkedIn: Lucas Emma