Episode No:89

Breaking Through The Saturated Market at Cloud Campaign

Ryan Born

CEO, Cloud Campaign

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Ep89#Breaking Through The Saturated Market
at Cloud Campaign Ft. Ryan Born
Ep89#Breaking Through The Saturated Market at Cloud Campaign Ft. Ryan Born
  • Ep89#Breaking Through The Saturated Market at Cloud Campaign Ft. Ryan Born

Episode Summary

In this episode of the Hyperengage podcast, Adil Saleh speaks with Ryan Born, CEO and co-founder of Cloud Campaign, about starting and scaling a social media management SaaS company focused on agencies. They discuss the competitive landscape when Cloud Campaign launched in 2017, how they differentiate by serving agencies, handling API restrictions from social platforms, and using generative AI for content. Ryan also shares insights on their growth, customer success, and key metrics for driving retention and expansion.
Key Takeaways Time
Cloud Campaign serves agencies not well served by existing social media tools. 2:03
Platform allows agencies to white label dashboards but shows Cloud Campaign’s involvement for compliance. 4:46
Caption AI uses generative AI to create customized social media posts. 9:16
Customer success critical, with CSMs responsible for ~$500k annual revenue. 13:58
Key onboarding metric is 10 posts, leading to high retention and expansion. 18:11
Goal is all-in-one agency platform from startup through growth. 23:58
  • Buffer
  • Hootsuite
  • Feedly
  • HubSpot
  • Customify
  • Thinkific

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[00:00:03] Adil Saleh: Hey, greetings everybody. This is from Hyperengage Podcast and we get to meet with a lot of co founders that are from marketing automation platforms, social media platforms. We get to meet with Sales attribution platform, sales enablement, platform, content management platform in the past two years and today we weird. I'm so super excited to have someone like Ryan who's been with Cloud Campaign ever since they started about six, seven years back, ever since 2017. And I heard about them because I was part of a social media marketing SaaS when I first entered the SaaS industry and I had an introduction about the Citrine based businesses back in the years. So that made us this conversation really interesting. Thank you very much Ryan, for taking the time. Ryan is the CEO and co founder at Cloud Campaign. They've been there for about six, seven years and had a good share in the market, which is very saturated. So one more time, I appreciate your time. [00:01:05] Ryan Born: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I'm really excited to be that. [00:01:10] Adil Saleh: Love that. First of all, tell me know we heard like out of Silicon Valley buffer came up and it created great noise of scheduling software. Of course Hootsuite was there, Gorap House was there, more on the investing, more on the social listening side. There were more platforms at that point. So when you started Cloud Campaign, of course it's not some sort of innovation you're trying to approach, but you're trying to solve that problem more with more creativity and with a different segment of customers that you're trying to approach. Maybe more agencies, maybe more freelancers, maybe more personal brands. So what was the thought process when you started back in 2017? [00:01:57] Ryan Born: Yeah, it's a great question and you kind of called it out there, which is focusing on a different part of the market that hasn't been served yet. Right. Like you mentioned, there's a handful of different players that are fairly large and have been in the space for quite a while. When we started the company, we started the company in 2017. Some of the early players started up in 2008, so they've already been around for about a decade at that point, which most people look at that and say, hey, that market is too saturated, I'm not getting near it. I looked at it and said, hey, there's a market there, it's been validated, there's a need for these types of products. Right. And what part of the market wasn't being served very well by these products? And really started by doing some customer interviews and doing some digging, realized that agencies just weren't being very well served from a social media management standpoint. I did a few different customer interviews with agency owners and understood that they were using five different tools to manage 20 different clients because they just used whatever the client brought to them or whatever the client had a preference on. And there was no tool that was really built for an agency to get more efficient and be able to have these very awesome automated workflows and really be able to manage more clients at scale. That was really the goal. And so yeah, you saw this opportunity. I again kind of liked the fact that there was this market already, so I didn't have to try and innovate and really describe people what the value is. Instead, people already understood what the value was. It's more just building a product that worked really well for a specific segment of the market. [00:03:35] Adil Saleh: Very smart. And also one more thing when it comes to ensuring the success of product that delivers value like time to value, I'm sure there are so many, initially there were so many restrictions on the social media platform side. The API restriction, we talked about whiteliving that when it first came. It still is not as white label as people would want to for whiteliving as a product, as a service. A lot of these agencies, they do it. So how you have solved that problem from an agency standpoint, if I want to purchase cloud campaign for whitelisting for 15 of my customers in one segment, how am I going to be able to ensure that it's my own branding, my own product? It's a two factor authorization that Facebook and Instagram they gave that shows that you're using a third party platform. So how do you basically cover that use case? [00:04:36] Ryan Born: It's a bit tricky, right? As you mentioned, there's kind of this OAuth two component where a user has to go out and link up their social media account to our platform. And that's a portion of that that we do not white label. We've seen other companies in the space try to white label that and actually get removed or banned from Facebook and they are no longer in the market. So you can kind of guess what happened to them. It's very dangerous. And so the way that we've approached it is we allow the agency to white label the entire dashboard within our product. It can be on their domain, it can be all of their branding colors, it can have their logo. But when the user goes to actually link up their social media account, we're very transparent and say, hey, cloud campaigns behind the scenes providing the technology for this. The agencies customize it in a way that works best for you. And it's really up to the agency to determine how they want to use it and how much access they want to give to the client. And we built a product to be very extensible in that way. So if you are an agency and you want your client to be very involved or you just want to resell the product with your branding on it, by all means go for it. The client is going to see, yeah, the cloud campaign is like the connecting technology, but it's still the agency product if the agency is really worried about it and they don't want their client to see that cloud campaign is behind the scene. We built out an approvals workflow where the agency can actually just send content to the client from our system that's already created, already scheduled, and the client can just approve it from this super easy kind of Google doc. Type feel like the goal really is trying to build the product in a way that just works for everyone's, use case, and kind of works with their current workflow so they don't have to reimagine everything right from the start. We're obviously going to recommend kind of best practices of, hey, if this is an area where you're struggling, if this is a bottleneck for your team from a time perspective, try out this feature. It's actually going to make things a little bit easier. If you want to do everything the same, by all means do it. And if you don't want your client to know anything about the platform, great. Use our white labeled approvals, use our white labeled reporting, and they'll never know a difference. Like cloud campaigns behind. [00:06:49] Adil Saleh: Cool. Thank you very much for explaining that in very much detail. So I'm sure you have content calendars, like content planners built within your platform, right? And that also gets sent via documents to get it approved from the customers without them knowing about the platform they're using. [00:07:08] Ryan Born: Okay, cool. [00:07:09] Adil Saleh: So one more thing. I've got so many flashbacks from the experiences I had with the customers back in the years. So now there was one use case that came in new at that point was carousels. LinkedIn carousels. So are you guys also doing the carousels in the way that it's natively being posted on LinkedIn? [00:07:29] Ryan Born: We are, yeah. I think it's really important to try and mimic the native experience on the various social media platforms as much as possible. And so we've tried to really stay up to date with the latest APIs and what the platforms make available to us. That's always the crux, right, is some of the platforms will release something natively first, and then they won't roll it out to the API for another six to twelve months. And so we're always a little bit behind from that perspective, but we try to be as quick as possible. As soon as the API comes out, we're building out that new technology. We actually just launched Stories, right? So, like, Instagram enabled API publishing for Instagram stories. And so we launched that within the first two weeks of the API being available. So we're always trying to innovate and give marketers functionality right within our cool. [00:08:20] Adil Saleh: Cool. So one more thing I wanted to discuss for blog content writers, I know with this evolution in AI, everybody wants to write long tail content. So do you have any kind of composer for the blog content that is integrated directly to Tumblr, Medium, WordPress, all these blog platforms. [00:08:40] Ryan Born: So we don't publish to blogs, but we do consume from blogs. So what I mean by that is if you are an agency owner and you have a client that has a blog, whether you manage it or the client manages it, you can integrate into Cloud campaign and that becomes a new content source. So we'll automatically import any new blog articles. You can then share it to social. [00:09:01] Adil Saleh: Media via RSS feed. [00:09:04] Ryan Born: Exactly. [00:09:05] Adil Saleh: Fetch in the real time. Okay, cool. Love that. What kind of automation like content automation you guys have in terms of for social media only? [00:09:16] Ryan Born: Yeah, we launched a really exciting new feature earlier this year called Caption AI. And Caption AI will take a prompt and actually write out social media posts for you using generative AI. And what's really cool about it is you can specify different tone. You can ask if you want to use hashtags, include emojis. You can actually personalize the message for the different social media platforms. So you could have a very professional message for LinkedIn and then maybe a more playful, shorter message for Twitter. And AI handles all that for cool. [00:09:54] Adil Saleh: Great. Love that. Thank you very much for recalling, helping me recall technology stance in the social media management space. Thank you very much for that. I might be asking a lot of rookie questions. I know I can see that on your face, but that's okay. So I saw your idiot hacker post while back. That's when I first got to know about Cloud campaign. You're sitting at around million to quarter revenue and you're always scaling. So just give us a little insight on how you're basically applying your go to market strategies. What's coming inbound? Like is that organic strategies, paid strategies, what are your top customers in what segment? I'm sure that's going to be agencies, big agencies. How does that play around between the top line revenue, top paying customers, and the bottom line? [00:10:45] Ryan Born: Yeah, just to give you an update, because the indie hacker revenue number that was posted there might be a little bit outdated, we're now at over 5 million in arr and growing fairly quickly, which is super exciting. But yeah, we have primarily focused on agencies. Like you mentioned, it's a very long tail market. So you have kind of the big five holding companies at the top and then you have tens, if not hundreds of thousands of small agencies and freelancers that kind of trickle down from there. And it's anything from individual working from home that has a couple of clients to teams that are managing up to 40,000 accounts. That's our largest customer right now. And so the platform is designed in a way that scales really well for kind of the initial use case all the way up to the large customers. And for us, we're really focused on NRR net revenue retention. Right. How do we land a customer when they're kind of in infancy, and they're just starting out their business, just building their agency from kind of day one and continue to scale with them over the next call. It two, three, five years. So once they do reach that scale that they're trying to accomplish, maybe it's 50, maybe it's 100 clients, they can continue their platform. And so that's a really big focus for us. [00:12:02] Adil Saleh: Okay. And one thing that came just in the real time on top of my mind. So now customer success. You talked about customer success, net dollar retention, revenue retention, making sure you increase the lifetime value of the customer over time. Do you think this industry, with the platform such as this and switching the marketing space, market automation, do you need a customer success team, core customer success team that's only driving post sales experiences, making sure that's only focused on post sales? [00:12:35] Ryan Born: It really depends on the price point, and I think it depends on if the price point justifies it, right? You, of course, don't want to be losing money on every customer. You want to make sure the margin is there. You want to make sure that the payback period is quick enough that you can then reinvest those profits to continue to grow the business. For us, customer success is critical. I think it's very important. There's a lot of things that we've kind of redesigned from a product standpoint and really rethought in terms of how you can create social media content and accomplish some of these workflows at scale. And because of that, there's a learning curve to it, right? Like, most people could jump into the product and figure it out, but there's still a handful of folks that jump in and say, hey, this looks a lot different than Facebook, or, this looks a lot different than Buffer Sprout Social. Why is that? And it's like, yeah, it's because we designed it as an automation tool so you can manage 100 clients at once instead of doing it one by one. But because of that, there's a learning curve. And so our CS team works really hard to be good partners with our customers, to help them, one, understand the product, but to also help them grow their business. That's our number one goal, is how do we help agencies scale and land more clients? And so sometimes our CS team is doing weekly meetings, just focused on how does the agency land more clients, how do they grow their business? And not even like, how do they use our product? [00:14:05] Adil Saleh: It does definitely make sense because looking at your price points, the biggest plan, you can only serve up to five customers, brand main customers as an agency. So once you grow, you'll have to upgrade your plan, and your lifetime spent on the product will increase over time. And that is when you need at least dedicated customer success managers that cannot work as account managers, they can have like six or ten or 15 or 20. So what is the breakdown of Book of Business across your Customer Success team? [00:14:40] Ryan Born: Yeah, I mean we really focus on kind of a dollar amount versus a quantity of logos that each CSM manages. And so CSM is responsible for about a half a million dollars in the annual revenue. [00:14:52] Adil Saleh: Okay, cool. So you have a team of around five to ten? [00:14:55] Ryan Born: Yes, exactly. [00:14:57] Adil Saleh: Okay, cool. Love that. And what kind of technology and tech savvy have incorporated in order to make sure you stay on top of data? Like back then. We started customer success. We want to monitor people creating automation, creating workspaces, creating different posts. We had blogs there as well. We had Discovery Engine where people can search content feeds. There was not generative way at that point, so we wanted people to search for the content feeds. There was a platform named Feedly. We had an equation with Feedly at that point. So there were so many product usage metrics we were tracking at that point to ensure the success during the onboarding to retention stage. So what kind of technology are you guys using at this stage? [00:15:42] Ryan Born: We really try and automate as much of kind of the basic knowledge base and basic product learning as possible. That way we can really focus on more strategic conversations with our customers. For that reason we're very integrated into HubSpot. So we're using HubSpot's Service Desk for hosting all the articles. We're using their Chat Widget, which then does a really nice job of kind of surfacing articles based off questions that folks might be asking through chat. We're using a product called Custom. [00:16:13] Adil Saleh: With it. [00:16:15] Ryan Born: Yes, you're in the space. You know it. Yeah. Custify is great for tracking kind of all the product usage and all that granular data. We can see exactly what someone's post failure rate is for example. Right. We can say, hey, if their post failure rate to the social media platforms drops below 98%, reach out because they're probably frustrated, maybe they're doing something wrong. Let's understand why it's not 99. 100%. [00:16:39] Adil Saleh: Got you. [00:16:40] Ryan Born: We use app queues for in app guiding and onboarding and flows. And then we use Thinkific as like a Thinkific. [00:16:50] Adil Saleh: I'm familiar with thinkific. [00:16:51] Ryan Born: Yes, we have more for yep. So it's like Cloud campaign Academy where it will take you through all the details. We have very in depth videos that will teach you how to use the product. [00:17:03] Adil Saleh: You're using some smart tooling. I like that. And you're trying to live where your customers live, trying to have sort of a tech stack where your customers are well familiar with and it can fall right into their ecosystem, which is really good. So now talking about you mentioned that you're trying to standardize, trying to make it as self serve as possible when it comes to customer education. So during the onboarding stage, have you standardized some of the metrics? Let's say this agency like from an agency segment. These are the five steps that they must need to make to ensure onboarding. And since you're using customizer, that's why I'm asking that, have you done all the journey mapping? Because that becomes very critical in a market like this. Because people come try, they feel confused. They don't get a knowledge base article or any touch base on a live chat. They just leave. They try buffer, they try Hootsuite, they try other platforms. So the time to value, it's very challenging thing here in the market. What do you think about it? [00:18:05] Ryan Born: It is, yeah. It's interesting because the metric that matters for us is relatively simple. We sat down, we wrote down the whiteboard. What are all the things that we think matter? What are all the things that we think customers care about to get value out of our product? And it was creating approvals, adding their clients as users, generating reports, creating automated schedules, setting up an auto importer feed. It was all these very advanced features. And then we finally got the data and we looked at it and it's posting ten times. That's all they have to do, post to social media ten times through a platform. They stick around for multiple years on average. On average, they're enter 120% year over year. And that's all it takes. [00:18:47] Adil Saleh: Wow. [00:18:48] Ryan Born: And so we've shifted all of our focus this year to when we onboard a customer in the app, how do we get them to ten posts as quick as possible? Because that's all we care about. [00:18:58] Adil Saleh: Wow. [00:18:58] Ryan Born: Once they've gotten that back, then they'll start to tap into some of the more advanced features. They're like, okay, cool. This product does the basics. It does what I need. Now let me take the time to learn how to do approvals and reports and those are the nice features that keep them around for much longer and get them to grow. But if they don't see the basics and they can't figure out the basics, they're not going to learn the more advanced features. [00:19:20] Adil Saleh: I cannot say enough. That how I'm trying to connect with this, because we came across platforms that they're thinking that we're not the best fit for a platform such as Customer Success Platform, any platform. The reason is they don't know the customers enough, their journey is enough. Just like you talked about the pattern that you have consistently monitored, and that validated. And now you know that okay, you got to make sure, you got to take these actions and that will validate that this customer's life and value will grow up to one to three years. So that's when as a platform, when you have processes, when you have data points that you have validated for a good amount of time, that's the time when you can incorporate tools like these, tools that will ensure the postage journey. So now, talking about just last few things, we have pretty much on time. I know you have other meetings too. So talking about inflow of customers, how you're generating, acquiring customers, apart from PR, organic, what else? [00:20:25] Ryan Born: Yeah, I mean performance marketing has been a key driver for us over the past handful of years. It's been fairly consistent where we're bringing in anywhere from about $20 to $30,000 in gross new MRR every month. We sign up anywhere from about 120 to 250 customers a month. And that's advertising on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn a little bit on Twitter, but yeah, just performance marketing, we tried that back. [00:20:55] Adil Saleh: Then as well because why I still connect with this, because I've been also working closely with the marketing team as well. I was always kind of a guy who checked in where the customers are coming and who's working on it, what team is it, so I always used to sit down with them. So back then it was a challenge. The conversion was a big challenge. At that point. You're talking about customer intent marketing, search engine marketing on Google, that was a real challenge. And now it should be even more. But maybe you have a better footprint or better customer voice or maybe testimonials that you feature. What is the strategy? Just like Custify I get to see a lot of their ads. You guys are also doing sort of video ads. What's the strategy on the search engine marketing? [00:21:38] Ryan Born: Yeah, I mean on the creative side, it's all sorts of different things. Like we have video ads, we have just standard still images, we have links and they all perform fairly well. I think maybe certain individuals respond better to a specific type of ad. And so we kind of put it all out there and then make sure that the rows are there and just keep running the ads that are performing well. In terms of the conversion, we give everyone a two week free trial. So I think that does help quite a bit. We get folks in the product, help them understand what makes Cloud campaign different. We also allow customers to white label the product during the registration process. So you type in your name, you type in your agency name, your contact info, create the account. The next step is let's brand your dashboard for you. Let's put your logo, your branding on it, let's get a look and feel of what you're looking for. And that way you can also start adding your users, you can add your clients, you can add your team. And I think that helps a lot with retention. [00:22:39] Adil Saleh: Yeah, onboarding has so much to do with this. When you're driving online, triple people for the first time looking at you, helping them set up their branded white label workspace in the first place. They just need to enter their business dimensions. So it was real nice talking to you. Just one thing you wanted to share, that is something that has inspired you sticking with them for about seven years with this platform. And one thing that's been challenging, that's going to be challenging, that you're looking up to as a chain of time, like you're trying to face the challenge, looking at eyes in the eyes. [00:23:14] Ryan Born: Yeah. So I think what's been really motivating for me and it's been keeping me going for the past seven years is all the success stories. We've had customers now that have been with us for six, seven years. We have customers that joined in March of 2018 and they're still customers today. And seeing that back then, it was just them with a couple of clients as a freelancer, and now they have an office with employees and 20 to 30 clients. It's incredible. It's so cool. And it feels like we were a very small piece in that success story. But it's awesome to see them leveraging our platform to grow and actually build that agency. And so that's what drives me every day looking kind of forward at future challenges and where we're taking the business. We really want to be the all in one platform where you can start, grow and run your agency. And what that translates to is having a place where you can put in a credit card, start get spun up in 20 minutes, and you can start selling new clients. You can host your portfolio through us, you can invoice your clients through us and get paid at the end of the month. And then you have all the marketing automation tools that you need that tie directly to the services that you offer as an agency. [00:24:27] Adil Saleh: Wow. Love that. So you know the exact journey of your customers and you're trying to tailor your product at scale for that segment of customer. This is about agencies. The more you help your customers be widely successful, that's a real game. Thank you very much, Ryan, for taking the time. And your keen side is very powerful knowledgeable and I learned a lot from you today. Thank you. [00:24:53] Ryan Born: Thanks so much for having me. This is awesome. It's great connecting. [00:24:56] Adil Saleh: Lovely. Yeah. Have a good wonderful day. [00:24:59] Ryan Born: You too. All right, have a good one. Thanks for having me. See you. [00:25:02] Adil Saleh: Sure. Bye.

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