Who are you and what business did you start?
Mike Sedzielewski, CMO and co-founder of Voucherify. We’re building an API-based promotion management platform for digital teams. We help companies like John Lewis, Soul Cycle, or iBood to launch customized coupon, referral, discount, and loyalty campaigns like e-commerce giants do, but for a fraction of the cost.
What are personalized promotions? Let our real-world examples speak for themselves:
- Get 10% off for the next purchase to customers from London
- Send out 100 000 unique, one-off coupons to newsletter subscribers
- Give Free Shipping if the cart value is more than $200
- Reward a customer $50 for referring a friend, make it double for 10 friends
- Give VIP customers 5% off for all Apple devices
- Send out a unique birthday gift card
- Offer $20 off for the first 500 shoppers
Thanks to API and native integrations, all of the promo campaigns supported by Voucherify can be integrated into pretty every modern marketing channel: email, SMS, web and mobile banners, social media ads, push notification, live chat, print, coupon aggregates, affiliates
Last but not least, our platform takes care of promotion validation and secure redemption – online and offline.
The short and sweet description of Voucherify actually comes from one of our customers – Voucherify is Twilio for promotions if you want to learn more than you should this executive summary helpful: https://www.slideshare.net/voucherify
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.
The general approach we’ve taken is too great extent consistent with the Lean Startup methodology.
The most interesting part of our building process stems from our target user.
The core of our product is software, to be more precise the API – a set of programmable building blocks which digital teams use to customize and integrate promo campaigns to their CRM & e-commerce systems.
So, as you can imagine, our product is a tool to be used by software developers. To satisfy this end-user, we need to be counting on developer experience (DX). Which in particular means that we need to provide:
- Clear and transparent documentation
- Software development kits for the programming language of choice
- Integration widgets for web and mobile
- Native plugins for major CRM software
- API testing utilities
- Tools for platform monitoring
Fortunately, this is something we’ve learned the hard way when our team worked on the other side of a barricade in rspective – Voucherify’s parent software house. Also, when designing our software we sometimes tap into our Slack community or other great products from “headless” category like Contentful or Stripe.
In our opinion, the developer experience is today the key. Let’s take a marketing department for example. Any CMO in mid to big company has today dozens of software platforms and data sources under their jurisdiction. Integrating these block so that they bring value to the business relies on developers’ performance. They’re a massive cost to the companies, so the better tools you provide them with the bigger ROI you get.
Describe the process of launching the online store/business.
The launch was quite smooth, or perhaps boring is a better word. No big announcements, no product hunt, no press – who would ever want to cover a small team bootstrapping their just born product?
We just focused on staying small – we wanted to satisfy the customer who had this problem in one of your software projects.
By saying that we stay small at that time isn’t an exaggeration, 1 person was coding the solution and I started spreading the news on niche platforms for developers:
- Programmable web
- Free Code Camp
Our marketing stack back then was just a landing page (Squarespace), a live chat window (Intercom), blog (Squarespace), public developer documentation (readme.io) and SEO monitoring tools (Unamo). And that was really enough to acquire the first 5 customers from the field.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
From day one, and to this very day, the marketing stack stays humble. We believe that in the B2B market, especially when your end-users are developers (B2D), great marketing comes from great product, customer service, and what we call product marketing – which can be translated as content marketing.
Having said that, API content marketing isn’t easy if you want to use the standard tools. Especially if you target three different roles at the same time:
- Developers – good experience of end-users is something that sparks word of mouth
- Marketers – similar story, but they use the platform in a completely different way, so the description and marketing communication has to be adapted
- Product Managers – decision makers, they have to be convinced in the first place
They’re really equally important to the extent we split our primary channel – our website’s home page – for all of them:
What’s your average monthly revenue today and what do you project it to be in the next 6 months?
Without revealing too many details, we manage to grow our MRR by 400% last year. I know this might be just a small numbers game, but today our growth is steady enough so that we don’t have to think about pivots 😉
We have a clear roadmap of becoming a top of the mind promotion engine for companies of every size. We started out with unique coupon campaigns and then listened carefully to our customers’ needs. This is how we brought up referral campaigns, code-less discounts, and most recently loyalty programs.
Besides new campaign types, we’ve been developing new distribution channels, including native integrations like Salesforce, Braze, Active Campaign, Intercom, MailChimp, and many more.
In this year, we’re going to start a partnership program with ad agencies/software houses. As a technology partner, we want to equip them with the promotion personalization tools that will allow their clients to fight back e-commerce giants.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We devoted a whole article to how different is to sell technology to mainstream customers. To put in a nutshell, the sales cycle is way long. Unlike software developers, decision-makers and so-called procurement team need high-touch approach. The best self-help tutorials, videos, API documentation, examples won’t be enough – you have to hop on the call, lots of them.
Also, they require a more formal approach to support and security. It’s not enough that we put a countless number of hours into securing the platform, we have to provide them with documents that say so. Very often they ask us to fulfill several page long surveys on security and support policies to push the sale to the next stage.
We’ve also learned that marketing a B2B high-tech product comes down to a great product. Of course, you can help it by building a great knowledge base, present relevant case studies, teach them how they can gear up their promotional strategy with field-proven tactics, but at the end of the day, if your product doesn’t deliver, you’re lost. What does it mean “to deliver” in our case?
- Stable API – 99.9% uptime
- Fast customer service – we reply the same day at the latest
- Well-documented API – so that the development team doesn’t waste more energy on learning the platforms than it would spend building a solution from scratch
- Great UX with intuitive UI – so that marketers can work without bothering the development team
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Salesforce – we don’t use standard CRM features only, we’ve used their API integration to build a powerful user management/reporting platform on top of Salesforce
- LaunchDarkly – it provides us with a convenient feature flag platforms so that we can release new functionalities in a secure way. We use it also to unlock different features for different price plans.
- Contentful – API-based CMS we integrated into our marketing and operational emails
- ChartMogul – super clear revenue analytics
- Webflow – website, and blog
- Piktochart – infographics
- Grammarly – proofreading
- Ahrefs – keyword generation and tracking, SEO audit, backlinks monitoring
- Wistia – video hosting
- HelpScout – knowledge base editor and customer support tool
- Google Analytics – web traffic analytics
- Woopra – user tracking
- Basecamp – project management
- Trello – project management
- Github – source code repository and collaboration
- io – developer documentation
- Postman – API testing tool
- PagerDuty – incident management platform
- StatusPage – a status communication tool
- AWS – cloud hosting
- Heroku – cloud hosting
- Buffer – social media management
- Google Hangouts – webinars, demo calls
- Voucherify – newsletters
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
For digital products:
- Listen to customers, keep the feedback loop warm all the time. Don’t run away from in-person communication (calls, f2f meetings)
- Focus on good UX or DX if you target developers
- Start figuring out distribution channels the moment you started creating your products.
- If you’re B2B you should take content marketing seriously from the get-go (note: video becomes more and more mainstream).
- Invest in SEO early on
- Produce more and more evergreen content
- Experiment — your product is unique and as such should be your go-to-market strategy
Finally, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Be patient. Like really patient. We’ve learned that the smallest time unit in big corps is a quarter, e.g. if somebody cannot join the 5-person meeting, the next possible date is in 3 months 🙂
Where can we go to learn more about you?
Our website: https://www.voucherify.io
And our blog with tons of educational material on promotion strategy and discount psychology: https://www.voucherify.io/blog