Improving Close CRM’s Growth Strategy by Stimulating Annual Revenue by $345,240/year 🚀
Auditing Close CRM's Growth Strategy
Close CRM is a startup a savvy entrepreneur like you should pay attention to about growth strategy.
Before, Steli Efti shared his growth ramp to get Close’s first 1,000 true fans. And since then, their small band of hustlers continue to relentlessly improve their growth.
Of course, no one does everything perfectly. So here is my audit of Close’s growth strategy to improve on their success.
I’ll show you what they are doing is good, bad, and ugly to help you improve your startup’s growth strategy too.
The Good: Close’s Content Marketing
Close CRM’s content marketing will make the most advanced practitioner drool.
Here’s a checklist what they’ve done:
- Over 700 in-depth articles about SaaS sales on their blog.
- Over 1,000 videos on YouTube, from bite-sized tips and tricks to full-length talks.
- A free email course on startup sales.
- A dozen webinars.
- 10 e-books, two of which are on Amazon.
- A bundle of resources, including 9 proven email templates, 3 checklists, and 2 sales scripts.
As an early-stage startup, you cannot do everything Close is doing.
But it’s worth considering what you can build today to do what Close has accomplished since 2013. It’s a lot easier to repurpose what you’ve already created than to build something new from scratch.
For example, I often advise my clients to build out a hub of content on one topic. So if you’re an SEO tool, you might write about different link building strategies.
From this list of articles, you can turn the content into a free email course. Once set up, you can turn the articles into a book which you self-publish on Amazon. Finally, you can do short YouTube videos, which you place on your articles.
While this is the same information, only a small percent of your total market will find one resource you create.
Consider how many places a grocery store like Safeway sells soda pop. Safeway has vending machines at the front entrance. You browse the aisles and find more soda in different shapes and sizes. Over in the deli section, there’s a self-serve soda machine. Finally, at the checkout stand, there’s a mini-fridge with 1-liter bottles.
By using different channels, Safeway will reach more customers. The same is true of Close when they promote their content on each platform.
What I’d Do Next
With all Close’s content, there’s a lot of outdated content to remove. For example, here’s an old price update announcement which isn’t useful anymore.
Old content often decreases organic traffic because Google’s bot does not crawl an entire website.
Further, and more importantly, old content has poor or outdated information. A new reader who comes across this content will have a bad experience before giving Close a fair shot.
Before removing outdated articles, you should create a simple decision tree like this:
- Does the page get any traffic? Then you should keep the page or improve it.
- Does the page have any links, but no traffic? Links are valuable to increase organic traffic. But if the page isn’t bringing in traffic, you should merge it with a page with traffic.
- Is the content no longer relevant and has no links or traffic? Then you should remove the page.
Once you have chosen what pages to improve, merge, or remove, then you can work faster because you batch each task.
Also instead of deleting a page, I would mark the page as noindex. This stops Google from checking the page before committing to the permanent choice of deletion.
The Good: Close’s Improved Pricing
For many startups, a price change is scary. The most common fear is all old customers will leave with the new price. And a second fear is no new customers will buy at the new price.
There are easy ways to increase prices, such as keeping loyal customers at the old price. You can also test a customer’s willingness to pay before increasing prices.
But failing to test a higher price often means leaving a lot of money on the table. This unclaimed money means you can’t invest in improving your product or promotion.
Two years after Close launched, they bumped up their prices. Flash forward four years, and Close increased prices again.
Given a recent pricing announcement, there was likely another price update during those four years. In this stage, they dropped the Professional and Business plan prices by 10% per user per month.
Then around July of 2019, Close added a starter plan:
Adding a new price tier can capture more customers Close was not able to serve before.
As I discussed in CartHook's growth audit, price testing is one of the biggest growth levers. And it’s often overlooked.
Props to Close to testing prices.
What I’d Do Next
Startups rarely test their pricing. Even fewer have a continuous price testing strategy in place. So it's a breath of fresh air seeing Close willing to test their pricing.
From the outside, there's not much more I can advice Close to do aside from keep on testing!
The Bad: Lacking Focus on Positioning
If you want to avoid crowded markets, don’t go near CRM tools. With over 650 competitors, becoming the #1 or #2 in this field is easier said than done.
Close began as a sales CRM for startups. With their connections as a Y Combinator alum, this was a smart position to take.
Recently, Close began to expand into the wider small business market. This is evident as they built out pages targeting industry-specific keywords. Here’s a page they built for real estate CRM:
This weakens their positioning but it also opens up a larger market. To improve Close’s positioning, the team changed its messaging to a CRM with sales automation.
A quick aside: The statement, “The only CRM to offer lead management, email sequences, predictive dialers, and more” is not believable. Using superlatives like “best,” “only,” or “most” often decreases customer trust. This is because businesses overuse superlatives and do not back up their claims. Instead, Close should remove the word “only” and state how the features improve sales automation.
How do I know this is a solid position? In larger markets, a quick way to determine market demand is to do keyword research. Keywords Everywhere will give a rough estimate of the search traffic volume.
As of this writing, looking up “CRM automation” in Google shows this phrase has an estimated 590 searches per month. “CRM sales automation” also gets searched roughly 170 times per month.
If there isn’t any search traffic for a position, that does not mean there isn’t market demand. But all else being equal, it’s better if a phrase as search demand.
To improve on this new position, Close needs to focus their messaging on sales automation. For example, here’s their meta title:
“Inside Sales Software CRM with Calling & Emailing” does not relate to sales automation. The good news is, once a customer lands on their homepage, the page communicates their new position.
The bigger issue is their content strategy hasn’t aligned with their new position yet. Right now, nothing on their blog or YouTube channel relates to CRM sales automation:
If you want to dominate a position in your market, creating content around a topic is a massive amplifier.
What I’d Do Next
After fixing their homepage meta title, Close should map out a list of topics related to sales automation. This may also include marketing automation topics like email automation.
The Bad: Missing High Conversion Pages
There are two types of landing pages I highly recommend my clients build right away:
This is because comparison pages and product keyword pages target customers with a higher likelihood to buy.
Here’s a summary of the five stages of awareness:
- Most Aware: Your customer knows your product and he’s ready to buy. Give him a buy button and he’ll push that sucker faster than a teen at an arcade.
- Product-Aware: Your customer knows what you sell and often what the competition sells. But she isn’t sure it’s right for her. At this stage, you need to position your product against the competition. This is where comparison pages come in handy.
- Solution-Aware: Your customer knows the result he wants. But he may not know of your product, or that it provides the results he’s looking for. This is where product keyword pages come in handy.
- Problem-Aware: Your customer senses she has a problem. But she doesn’t know what’s the right solution. The majority of blog and video content helps customers in stage four and five.
- Unaware: Your customer does not know of their pain, even though he has this problem.
I talked about these five stages in more detail in “Consumer Psychology: Undeniably Understand Your Customer's Needs.”
First, let’s look at the value of building out the comparison pages.
As of this writing, Close has built comparison pages for Salesforce, HubSpot, and Pipedrive.
But Close can also build comparison pages for some of the other big sales CRMs, such as Zoho CRM, Insightly, and SugarCRM.
I estimate Close is missing out on $1,068,600 in annual revenue by not building the rest of these comparison pages.
I made 3 assumptions to get to this number:
- They get 12,290 searches/month and 1,143 clicks/month. 12,290 is the total searches, not including their long tail keywords. These pages will get about 9.3% of the clicks averaging a search position of 3, or 1,143 clicks/month. (12,290 searches X 9% = 1,147 clicks/month).
- These pages convert at 2%. A near-perfect comparison landing page will convert as high as 10% or higher. But 2% is a solid starting benchmark. That’s 274 new customers a year! (1,143 clicks/mo X 12 months X 2% = 274).
- Their customers will stay on for 12 months. The typical SaaS churn rate is 3-5%. This means the average customer lifetime is 20 to 33 months. So it’s not unreasonable to expect that their customers will stay on for 12 months. Since Close prices per user, I’ll also assume there are 3 users on the sales team using the Starter plan. Therefore, the total estimated annual revenue would be $345,240 (274 customers X $35/user/month X 3 users X 12 months).
Next, let’s look at the value of building out more product pages.
As of this writing, Close has built out six product keyword pages. Although I do not know the ins-and-outs of Close, here are some product keywords I came up with:
- Sales pipeline management
- sales tracking software
- Sales email tracking
- CRM phone integration
- Deal tracking software
- Contact management software
- Team inbox
- Sales goal tracker
- Sales reporting
- Sales intelligence software
- Sales forecasting software
- Customizable CRM software
I estimate these keywords alone will bring in 2,076 clicks per month. Given the above assumptions, that’s 498 customers a year, or $627,480 in new revenue.
Once they’ve built these product keyword pages, they should build industry-specific pages. This could include:
- CRM for construction
- CRM for lawyers
- CRM for SaaS startups
- CRM for agencies
- CRM for higher education
- CRM for small businesses
- CRM for indian startups
What I’d Do Next
Close should build these pages. The industry pages are easiest to create because Close can build a template which is 80% similar to the other pages.
The Ugly: Missing Partner Integrations
As part of Close’s commitment to improving sales automation, the app has over 20 different product integrations.
Unfortunately, you can’t find many of Close’s integrations on their partner’s app store. For example, you cannot find their integration in the Intercom App Store:
Nor can you find Close in the Zendesk App Directory:
These integrations were a core part of the early growth for CartHook and for BoldCommerce. As their partners get new customers, some of these customers will learn about the app partnership. These customers will, in turn, become Close customers.
What I’d Do Next
Getting up on the app stores could be a task for a junior marketer. That marketer should also find out which Close customers use those apps and ask for a review.
Then when the app integration is live, Close can start with a strong presence on each market.
Finally, Close can repurpose those reviews on their website. It’s also likely they can get some traffic by creating pages about these partnerships.
This growth audit is a sample of our full Growth Ramp Gap Analysis™. Click here to learn about our Gap Analysis Procedure™.