Growth leaders at SaaS companies are often responsible for increasing revenue across departments. They are always looking for new strategies that offer a compelling ROI.
Casey Hill is the Head of Growth at Bonjoro, an app for sending personalized videos. He shared with us why integrations are a key part of his growth strategy, how integrations have helped Bonjoro grow to over 44k customers, and his advice for getting the most out of partnerships with larger companies.
I oversee marketing and sales, and am responsible for revenue. Our growth strategy has a specific focus on earned media. We have successfully leveraged podcasts, webinars, and integrations to grow to over 44k customers.
We focus on finding partnerships that are mutually beneficial, whether they are technology partnerships or co-marketing partnerships. I see customer delight as part of every department, and partnering helps us to get to know our audience better and provide them with real value for their entire experience with us.
I have managed millions of dollars of ad spend on Facebook, and done a lot with PPC so I am not suggesting not to pursue paid channels. But my philosophy is that the way people are buying has changed, and it is now heavily driven by referrals and word of mouth.
Ad channels are heavily inundated and highly competitive. A lot of companies are so focused on scaling as quickly as possible and so they pour hundreds of thousands into ads without really understanding their buyer. They don’t understand the why behind the product - and ads don’t really help them to develop personal relationships with their audience.
In my view, an earned media strategy can create meaningful relationships and partnerships. It drives better and stickier customers who are going to stick around longer and recommend you to their networks.
At Bonjoro, integrations have been our largest growth lever.
Launching integrations with the key tools that your customers use just makes your customers' lives easier. It saves them both time and money.
One of the biggest benefits of integrations is retention. The more connection points a customer has with your product, the longer they will stick around.
In our space, there are a number of incumbents and we realized this could be a point of differentiation. With personalized video, there is a problem with scalability. We realized integrations could help solve that. By connecting to a CRM or email automation platform, we could ensure that a sales or customer success rep always gets alerted when it makes sense to send a video.
From there, it was a continuing evolution and we keep adding more integrations. We are continually talking to our customers to see what they need.
We have rapidly grown over the last 3 years, and 90 percent of that was on a self-serve path without an extensive amount of hand-holding. But as we have gotten larger, we are getting bigger customers, and we are listening to make sure we build integrations that they need.
In addition, we are thinking about partnering with companies that can introduce us to larger, enterprise customers in order to expand our market reach in the enterprise.
We are also working on our Open API. We are really focused on the ethos of what is best for our customer, and we want to make things are as streamlined as possible for them, and let customers work wherever and however they want - whether that is from inside our app or from inside our partners' apps.
For example, we have a really strong mobile app, and we could build something into a CRM that customers could do at their desk, but so many want to work from mobile. So we will continue to assess that and make sure we are facilitating how our customers want to work.
There are a few components. Customer interest and partner interest are both important.
We get a lot of feedback from sales and I have them mark it down every time someone makes an integration request. People keep requesting certain integrations. We also do surveys and prompts to our customers about what they need in general, and sometimes we might get integration requests or suggestions through there.
We track this data and not only does it help us understand what our customers need, but it helps us to pitch partners. If you go to a potential partner with strong data that your customers are currently looking to integrate the systems together, that’s going to be compelling.
How much value an integration is adding to the customer is one component, but another huge component is how much the partner is willing to invest in the relationship. We would much rather work with a smaller company who is willing to really invest and build up a whole partnership than a larger company who won’t contribute to the go-to-market or tech support.
The overall impact to the business of the integration will be larger when both partners are committed to sharing and explaining the integration to their audiences, as well ensuring the integration works and is supported.
Another element we consider is whether a particular partnership would bring another type of value, like serving to introduce us to a whole new market or enhance our brand.
We track all active integrations so we see how many people are using integrations. We look at customers who are using integrations versus those who aren’t.
We see a fairly substantial boost in retention for people who use integrations - 15 percent annual retention lift for at least 1 integration. That’s pretty clear.
Another important metric for us is customer acquisition. Our large partners are working with us because we enhance their retention. But for us, we acquire a number of customers when they discover us through our larger partners’ integration marketplaces.
For some of our partners, we can get more information and details on this acquisition than others. With ActiveCampaign, for example, where we built integrated workflows inside their app, we can get a nuanced understanding of where exactly the new customer came from inside their product.
We do send leads to our partners, and enhance their brands, though we do not track those currently. Because of our marketing reach, we can expose our partners to fairly large audiences. We are not a sales driven company, but we still do 40-50 demos a week, and in those conversations, we mention our partners.
Part of the reason we do not track or monetize the leads sent to our partners is we always want to be driving what is best for our customer. I do not want to recommend to customers tools that aren’t a good fit, including our own. Sales should come across as consultants.
My first piece of advice is to move slow. Don't jump in with Salesforce and think they are going to start publishing your materials on day one. With ActiveCampaign and Shopify, for example, we found that it is gradual. The more we promoted them and hyped them up, the more they were interested in collaborating. After we promoted the Shopify partnership for a while, a content person asked if we could write a content piece. And we kept working together from there.
When we first started in the ActiveCampaign ecosystem, we were very active, and over time, they asked us to jump on webinars. They call their integration workflows recipes, and they did a Holiday Recipes roundup and we were involved in that. We are super active in their community, and became a cheerleader for them.
Many of these larger companies do not actually get that many comments on their social posts. Take a huge brand like Hubspot and look at how many comments they get. It’s not many. If you’re commenting and sharing, the individual reps will start recognizing you. And if you reach out later, they will recognize your name. This is something we have embraced.
If you’re just starting with this strategy, try with one integration that you think would be high impact and then track the results. Look at retention as your step one, and run a comparative test - how does integration usage impact customer retention and overall contract value?
Customer lifetime value is everything and retention plays a big part in getting that number up. If you can push the needle 10-15 percent on retention, as you should be able to with integrations, that is massive.
Some people who run growth are very much focused on the top of the funnel, and integrations can help with that too. But for us growth is all across revenue and integrations provide a boost all across revenue.
I am a big advocate of integrations because they are not only a channel of acquisition, they are a huge and lasting benefit to the customer. If you spend 10k on ads, there is no legacy benefit from that. You acquired a customer and that’s it. With integrations, you can acquire a customer and continue to increase their satisfaction with using your product.