Laura Roeder is no stranger to moving fast and breaking things.
In high school, Roeder was teaching herself how to build a website. She finished college at 20 and started a social media consultancy at 22.
7 years later, Roeder launched MeetEdgar, a tool that helps small business owners put their social media on auto-pilot.
And less than a year after launching, MeetEdgar was making over $101,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
Not too shabby. Especially since Roeder took three months off in that time for maternity leave.
Like Steli Efti of Close, Roeder’s consulting and training business helped reduce her need for market research.
“I knew this customer base through my consulting and training business for 5 years. Most of my audience are solopreneurs or have less than 10 employees. If they’re a marketer, they are the only marketing person. If they’re a business owner, they’re doing marketing themselves.”
This deep familiarity with her customers allowed Roeder to find problems no one else knew about.
“Before I launched Edgar, I taught social media marketing to entrepreneurs. At the time, there was no easy way to leverage content already created.
If you look at your stats, less than 10% of your audience will see anything you post. Today, it’s closer to 1-2%. Wouldn’t it make sense to leverage the same content to your audience?”
At first, Roeder created a spreadsheet to help clients repurpose their posts. But in time, this became a burden.
“We had this spreadsheet with all our social updates divided into categories.[Whether you realize it or not] you have certain categories you use [on social] over and over again. So there’s your old blog posts, other people’s blog posts, inspirational quotes, tips and advice from you, and direct promotions to the things you sell. Those were the categories in the spreadsheet,”
Yet even as a manual solution, people were paying Roeder hundreds of dollars for her training. This was the fertile ground of her next breakthrough business.
“People were using the system. But it became stranger and stranger to me, so I asked myself, ‘Why am I the middleman? Why is there not a tool to do this automatically?’”
That’s when Roeder set out to build a minimum viable product (MVP).
Roeder had a dream list for Edgar a mile long. But her husband and technical co-founder, Chris, kept her focused.
“He had extensive experience [as a developer]. I learned from him to keep things as lean and simple as possible. He kept focusing on what’s needed now, versus everything else we could do after the launch.”
There’s a never-ending list of features you can create. I’m a huge believer in talking to your customers to understand their problems to know what to build. But listening to all their feature requests can also steer you wrong.
“At the time, Google Plus was a player, but it was a tiny percent of the market share compared to Facebook and Twitter. Customers asked us to [integrate with Google Plus]. But we didn’t feel this was essential for launch. They ended up shutting down before we launched.”
Her instincts paid off. But Roeder readily admits she doesn’t always guess right.
“We did not integrate with Snapshot, which was the right decision. But we were way too slow integrating our tool for Instagram. It’s always a balancing act.”
To improve your focus, Roeder suggests keeping a list of your customers’ core problems on hand.
“We’ve formalized a list of the core problems we want to solve for business owners. A feature either fits this list or not. For example, one core problem is entrepreneurs want to spend less time on social media. [Without this list], you start rationalizing, ‘Well this might work sometimes…’”
To help entrepreneurs spend less time on social media, Roeder felt it was critical for MeetEdgar to make it easy to share the same content again. And instead of re-inventing the wheel, Roeder looked to the competition.
“Buffer was really innovative with their queue. When they rolled out their software and they had the queue, it was like, ‘Oh wow, I don’t have to choose a time for everything.
And then we built on top of Buffer and basically said, ‘What if you didn’t have one queue? What if you had several queues based on the different categories and what if the queues kept repeating?”
And so MeetEdgar was born.
If your product looks the same, acts the same, and sounds the same, why will a customer buy from you? They won’t.
The social media landscape is thick with high competition. From the beginning, Roeder knew technology could not be her only point of differentiation.
“If all you have are features, you can’t guarantee this alone will make you unique. Anything you build, someone else can too.”
This is why you must obsess over your customers. You need to understand the problems they have so you can build the features they want.
But perhaps more importantly, you need to know who you don’t serve to prevent you from becoming a “me-too” product.
“When you’re starting out, you may wonder why you wouldn’t offer and build something for every customer. But when you go down that road, your product becomes more complicated.”
The brand and personality of your company is another opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition.
“Brand is huge to avoid being a me-too product. For example, Edgar is a ‘he’ and we speak about him as a person. Also sharing my story as a female bootstrapper helps.”
MeetEdgar was almost ready to launch. With a logo and brand personality in place, he felt like a real person to Roeder.
But since Roeder wasn’t running a charity, he needed a price tag to go with his value.
Let’s face it. Pricing your product isn’t easy. Roeder was no different.
“Pricing is really hard. We never felt like ‘we got this right.’
From my previous businesses, I learned about the joy of high pricing. A lot of people underestimate the difficulty of getting five-times more customers when comparing $10/month to $50/month.”
Although MeetEdgar now offers one plan at $49/month, once upon a time there were more higher-priced plans. Specifically, there was a business plan at $550/month and an agency plan at $1,000/month.
“We put them on thinking maybe if a big customer wants to come to pay us a lot of money, we’ll let them. But surprise, surprise. That’s not how it works."
“[At that higher price], you need a sales process. We are only focused on small business. We don’t have a sales team. We do weekly demos that you can sign on, but there’s no one to give you a one on one sales process with the company,”
Almost all MeetEdgar’s customers were on the $49/month plan. Eventually, the team ditched the higher-priced plans altogether.
With Edgar’s pricing in place, he was ready for prime time.
Different entrepreneurs have different philosophies about product launches.
Spencer Fry of Podia did not do a launch until Podia hit product-market fit. And Podia’s launch was more of an SEO and branding play than getting immediate customers. You can read about his journey here: Spencer Fry's Path to Podia's 1,000 True Fans.
Roeder already had a large audience of her customers, so she knew it was worth launching MeetEdgar. But before she did so, she wanted to make sure he was bug-free.
“I had about ten friends use it for free, fully use it in their business. We didn’t make any significant changes, but we made sure there were no major bugs we hadn’t uncovered or doing a check to make sure.”
Through her previous business Roeder, had a massive email list. She spent hours segmenting her list, figuring out how to send every the best deal. In the end, segmenting wasn’t valuable for her.
“In hindsight, we could have a bigger launch. I had an email list of 75,000 people. I did not get any value in segmentation. If I did it again, I’d just send everyone the most effective offer.”
Even if you don’t have over 75,000 people on an email list, Roeder suggests you should change the way you think about your list.
“All of us start at 0.
The way that you need to reframe your thinking is to picture real humans. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh I only have 50 people on my list, I’ll never get to 100,000.’
But those 50 people are real human beings that signed up. Imagine if you had a local meetup and you got 50 people in a room. Most of us would be really happy with that. Like, ‘Wow, 50 people showed up to hear me talk and hear about my product.’
Then you get to 1,000, and 1,000 people in a room sounds massive to most people, but that’s the reality: these are real humans on your email list,”
Editor's Note: Even with a small email list, you can get a high reply rate by using an email outreach tool instead of an email service provider.
Why? Because you’ll get a higher response rate. If you look at email marketing benchmarks, the average open rate is 20.8%. With email outreach, you can get reply rates of 20% or higher if you follow our email outreach guide. Email outreach is how we help our clients at Growth Ramp get results faster, even with a small email list.
What did Roeder send to her list to get them interested in a free trial? She sent exclusive invites to a launch party, co-hosted with friends like Derek Halpern.
“I did a launch party [on a] live webinar. I sent out coupons to everyone who came. I got people on the webinar to try [Edgar] out for free, for two months,”
These webinar parties were high converting. One webinar had 144 people who joined and all except five people gave MeetEdgar a test drive. That’s the power of a highly engaged audience.
“It was just a party, it’s not like I was promising content. You would only come if you were super interested in Edgar. That’s why the conversion rate was so high. It’s not like I was promising to teach a social media system. I probably said, ‘This is your first chance to check out Edgar.’”
Her approach might sound too blunt. But Roeder met her prospects exactly where they were.
If you’re familiar with Eugene Schwartz five stages of awareness, this is the perfect pitch. Because this audience has the highest level of trust, all you need to do is give them an offer. Learn more about the five stages in “Consumer Psychology: Undeniably Understand Your Customer's Needs.”
Not every part of Roeder’s launch was a success. Her team had very little traction when doing press outreach.
“I tried to get press by emailing different journalists about our launch. But we were bootstrapped. We haven’t done an accelerator. So [journalists] really are not interested in covering companies like ours,”
Roeder also launched on Product Hunt, a community of early-tech adopters. But this did not prove fruitful either.
“The dirty secret of Product Hunt is that it drove zero traffic when we were on there.”
Although Product Hunt did not result in any new customers, it inspired a go-to-market tactic that did turn into sales.
“I would go through Product Hunt and request an invitation for everything. I’m like, ‘They’re going to give me a deal when they launch.’ I don’t mind giving my email. So I noticed with my own behavior, it’s a way for me to bookmark stuff that I’m sort of interested in,” (source).
Using this principle, Roeder made the homepage call-to-action button to get an invitation rather than a free trial.
This approach allowed Roeder to build an email list of eager Edgar buyers. And because asking for an invitation is a lower commitment, conversions were higher.
“[For] most software, the call to action is to start a free trial. But starting a free trial is a huge commitment. Just because it doesn’t cost money, you have to take the time to play around with software.
With a trial, a lot of people come to your site and they’re not ready to buy or start a trial. Or worse, I think a lot of times [customers] click the trial button but don’t bother to go through the software. Then you’ve marked [the product] in your head as “I tried that.” I didn’t buy it. It’s done.
Requesting an invitation is this very easy way as a potential customer to say, ‘I might be interested in that. That looks compelling. I’ll give them my email address,’”
This tactic isn’t without its drawbacks though.
“The biggest downside is that people often think we’re a beta because of that language. I don’t know if that actually makes a difference for them buying, but people will say, ‘Have you guys launched yet?’”
Roeder wasn’t keen on a business which required a launch to get new customers. There are five major marketing channels that you can scale:
I talk more about these five channels in, “What A Go-To-Market Strategy for Startups Should Look Like.”
Although MeetEdgar now focuses a lot on SEO, ads were a major play in the beginning.
Cashflow is an important part of a successful business. A dollar today is worth more than $5 in a year. And ads can be an excellent opportunity to get results faster.
“In SaaS, the sooner you can get a customer, the better. So we spent way more into paid ads in the first year than we have ever since.
We had a large [ad] spend. Organic takes time, where paid is instant, unless you have insane luck. You can pay Google and Facebook the audience you can afford.”
Are you curious about what ads performed the best? For Roeder, it was telling small business owners they were a new tool.
“I love saying you are a new tool, even when you’re not new to the market. The reality is, you are still new to people far after you launch. We would advertise on competitive businesses that liked Hootsuite or Buffer. Our ad said we were a new social media tool. People are curious and are like, “I wonder what that is? Let’s check it out and see if we’re interested.”
Ads can be an excellent way to generate new sales. But once you’ve invested $1, the money is spent. After the first year, Roeder moved most of the paid ads budget to content marketing, organic search, and word-of-mouth referrals.
“We did a lot of little content things. Podcasts are a big part of our strategy. I love podcasts because they’re less time than guest posts and similar results. After the back-and-forth of booking, you show up and talk for an hour.”
Since launching, The MeetEdgar blog now has over 300 articles. These pages brings in hundreds of potential customers as the pages rank in Google for keywords like “social media topics,” “Linkedin articles,” and “Instagram TV.”
A lot of early-stage entrepreneurs lack focus. To keep it simple, Roeder suggests focusing on two areas.
“When you’re building your startup, you have to focus on two things:
In software, engineers forget about getting things in front of people. Then there are marketers who will throw out anything, then get an outsourced team to build a crap product.
There are a lot of ways to get in front of customers. There’s social media, content, paid ads, partnerships, among other channels.
The best place to start is to figure out your community. You should find the forums, slacks, conferences, and meetups they are apart of. Where are they? What are places they hang out, online and in-person?
In-person is great to make a customer know, like, and trust you faster. But with a local meetup, you’ll talk to 10-20 people max at a time. Online, you’ll get more reach, but less of a connection."
But in the end, research will only help you go so far. At some point, you need to make a choice.
“You need to figure out your target market. Sometimes you just need to pick. For example, you might say ‘I find bookkeepers are fun to hang out with. But accountants are more valuable.’ You just need to make a guess and go with it.”