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Will Cannon has had what he describes as the “entrepreneurial bug from a young age.” His first endeavor was a lemonade stand, then selling CDs in school. After high school, Cannon realized college wasn’t for him; he just wanted to get out there and start interacting and selling. So, he started his own real estate company at age 19. Eventually, Cannon moved into marketing and launched his first solo marketing agency.
The agency was helping businesses with B2B customer acquisition, most of them based on outbound cold emails. The majority of the companies the agency worked with were small- to medium-sized. That’s when he discovered the pain points that would ultimately lead him to start two additional SaaS businesses, UpLead and Signaturely. UpLead helps B2B prospecting with 95% data accuracy. Giants such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Dropbox have all put their trust in UpLead to improve lead generation with accurate and clean data. UpLead provides instant access to millions of verified B2B contacts with direct email addresses and allows you to search by specific filters to find your prospects. Meanwhile, Signaturely is a free and lightning-fast way to get documents signed online.
Discovering The Pain Points
The solution to Cannon’s pain points came out of his experience with how smaller companies often wanted high-quality leads and accurate information for their prospecting. However, they also wanted it to be affordable. After seeing the demand for this, Cannon decided to create his own tools to help make marketing more affordable for the average company.
“We would build email lists, and then we’d have to clean the list and verify the emails. It was a lot of work before it was ready to get to the outbound stage. That led me to the problem I kept having, and it made me think, ‘maybe I could build something.'”
Although Cannon himself is not a developer and has a limited technical background, he believed in his idea and knew he would do whatever it took to make it a reality. “We just decided, ‘hey, let’s go for it. Let’s try this.”
Cannon and his wife started working in their garage/office and hired a development team based out of Russia via Upwork. In January 2018, UpLead was born.
For Signaturely, Cannon saw a pain point in the lack of an easy-to-use and simple e-signature platform. He encountered this pain point in his own business: “We saw the platforms that we were using, and they had a lot going on. It was a bit complex,” he says.
So, they decided to create something much more straightforward, where you could upload your document and get it signed by the necessary parties. “We didn’t have a bunch of other bells and whistles, and there wasn’t all this extra stuff going on.”
Signaturely is worthwhile for any business owner to use, but Cannon explains that their focus in creating it was on small- and medium-sized businesses and the value they could get from this simple, new e-signature platform.
The Importance of Product-Market Fit
Cannon points out that huge, billion-dollar companies were already established in the space when building UpLead. Predicting and matching product-market fit is critical to a business’s success, both short- and long-term.
In Cannon’s case, the product-market fit was already there, facilitating getting customers for UpLead. As Cannon says, “It’s a lot easier when you’re getting into a space that has product-market fit.”
A SaaS startup founder does not necessarily have to be the pioneer of something in a market to succeed. “If you look at Google, that wasn’t the first search engine, so you don’t necessarily need to be the first to market or the only one in the market when you’re doing something or building a SaaS company,” Cannon says.
To his point, an established market with a stable product-market fit can simplify the process of growing a SaaS business.
For example, there is already a large number of players on G2.
“This means that there is a pre-existing product-market fit, and you might not have to spend resources on demand generation and product awareness.”
Cannon also found a remarkable product-market fit in Signaturely, as the world is becoming increasingly digital, and he saw the need for an efficient e-signature platform.
“We already saw product-market fit,” he says about Signaturely. “I knew my background of acquiring customers, and I knew that I could drive traffic to a website and get people to sign up for something, especially something free.”
Growing From a Simple MVP
A misconception floats through many founders’ minds when it comes to working on their product: “It has to be perfect.”
Founders need to challenge this false narrative and see that a product’s perfection doesn’t guarantee its success and that what you really need to do is “just get it out there” and “sell and talk to people.”
Cannon recommends putting that minimum viable product (MVP) out there once you have it. Founders often want to fix and improve whatever they can, but that might prove detrimental to the company’s overall success when just starting.
With this perspective shift, a founder can gain considerably more visible success as well as potentially game-changing feedback. “Customer feedback is invaluable in that you can take it and adapt it continuously as you scale your business,” Cannon says.
Just as it can be a good idea to push out your product once it’s considered an MVP, Cannon advises startup founders to know that they don’t necessarily have to do everything by themselves.
Cannon himself is not a developer with a technical background. That’s why he hired an expert dev team for UpLead in order to build from his own ideas and turn them into reality.
Market and competition research are great ways to help advance your own business. Cannon reveals that he and his team looked at the competition and learned from their main kinds of use cases. “Sales, marketing, recruiting, tools and other parts of a company can all learn from market and competitor research,” he says.
Once Cannon and his team looked at the competition and implemented related changes, UpLead began getting plenty more leads, and more small- and medium-sized companies signed up.
Look at Reviews
Looking at reviews left for your competitors can provide your company with key insights into who’s satisfied and who isn’t. This can also help you figure out your own target market and ideal customer profile (ICP), as Cannon and his team did. They even looked at the reviews of their competitors to find those who didn’t like them, and they reached out to those unsatisfied individuals via LinkedIn.
“Hey, I built a competitive product,” Cannon would say to these individuals who were displeased with competitors’ offerings. “It’s simple and easy to use. Try it out.”
In many industries, positive and plentiful reviews can make or break a product, and UpLead has been seeing tremendously successful customer feedback.
The Value of Diversified Customer Acquisition Channels
Cannon explains that diversifying your customer acquisition channels is crucial to long-term success. “Back in the day, I was doing some SEO with another business. We got hit with a penalty, and then boom, we went from making a lot of money to essentially nothing really quickly,” he explains.
Having diversified customer acquisition channels is critical—not only in maintaining a stream of income but also in building your brand.
“At the end of the day, you want most of your customers to come to you from word of mouth, like a referral from a friend or colleague,” Cannon states.
“And we’re seeing that now with UpLead: More than 50% of our customers come from just a referral. So we don’t necessarily have to hope Google gives us the #1 ranking because people are going directly to our website, and we’re going to own that.”
How to Scale Your SaaS Business
The first thing Cannon recommends founders consider when trying to scale their businesses is testing, as he says that conversion optimization has been great for UpLead and Signaturely.
“Medium-sized businesses don’t do sufficient testing,” Cannon says. Testing in any form can be very useful. It could be product-related, pricing-related, or landing page-related. Basically, anything you can think of in relation to your business and its operation would be good to test, such as your pricing.
In fact, Cannon says that pricing is the number one leverage that a SaaS business can use to grow faster. “I don’t care what your price is. It’s probably not high enough,” he states.
Cannon recommends making a few small improvements at a time, such as performing one-week tests for different adjustments. It’s important to note that you do need to have some traffic already in order to perform testing, especially when it comes to customer testing.
Cannon also stresses the importance of conversion rate optimization in scaling your SaaS business. It can be daunting since this kind of optimization involves pricing changes and other intimidating adjustments. However, conversion optimization can mean a great deal when it comes to scaling.
Moreover, Cannon explains how recruitment can be valuable in scaling your SaaS: “I think [taking time to hire the right employees] is something that’s really important to think about when you’re scaling,” he says. “Especially if you’re going to build a big business.”
Cannon recently brought on a CTO to fill in a lack of formal development experience on the team. Other additions to the company include a VP of sales, a customer success manager-in-training and other incredibly talented people.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re an intern just starting or if you’re right there next to me. Wherever [the help] comes from, we take it in, and we let people help us grow as a business,” Cannon says.