Episode No:98

Insider Tips for Building a Successful B2B SaaS Company

Todd Busler

Co-Founder & CEO, Champify.io

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Ep#98: Insider Tips for Building
a Successful B2B SaaS Company from Todd Busler (Co-Founder & CEO, Champify.io)
Ep#98: Insider Tips for Building a Successful B2B SaaS Company from Todd Busler (Co-Founder & CEO, Champify.io)
  • Ep#98: Insider Tips for Building a Successful B2B SaaS Company from Todd Busler (Co-Founder & CEO, Champify.io)

Episode Summary

In this episode of the Hyperengage podcast, Adil Saleh interviews Todd Busler, the CEO and co-founder of Champify.io. Champify.io is a data analytics platform designed to assist B2B growth teams in improving their post-sale operations and go-to-market motions. Busler shares his journey into the B2B SaaS industry and his experiences at companies like Square and Heap. He explains how Champify addresses the challenges of outbound sales by leveraging a company’s existing advocates to generate leads. Busler offers advice to early-stage companies on finding the right sales strategies and emphasizes the importance of customer success and support. He discusses Champify’s focus on customer education, customer relationships, and product usage monitoring. The episode concludes with insights into Champify’s hiring process, company culture, and market positioning.
Key Takeaways Time
Todd fell into tech and worked his way into smaller companies to get wider scope experience. 2:15
Heap grew from a few hundred thousand in revenue to $40 million ARR in 6 years. 2:48
Outbound sales channels are getting harder, so tapping into customer advocates is key. 8:17
Don’t overthink things early on – test and iterate to find product-market fit. 11:28
Focus on delivering an amazing customer experience to stand out. 23:50
Unusual Ventures Field Guide has great resources for early stage founders. 25:21
 

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Transcript

[00:00:04] Adil Saleh: Hey, greetings everybody. This is Adil from Hyperengage podcast and today we have Todd who's the CEO and co founder at Champify IO. We came across a lot of platforms that are working with the growth teams, GTM teams and data analytics platforms that we had in the past. And one of them, they basically resonated so much with one of the most hypergrowth platforms that came across from the eastern coast. Champify can be one of them. They started back just a few years back and it's just about how you service as a B two B team towards your postales operation and how you can incorporate such kind of platforms that will help them with your GTM motion. Mostly we've had in the past or mostly they claim that it's what they're chasing, it's PLG product like growth and that's why they incorporate tools like incorporate tools like others we had in the past. So Todd, thank you very much for taking the time today and it was pleasure having. [00:01:21] Todd Busler: Yeah, thanks for having me. Excited to chat. [00:01:25] Adil Saleh: Love that. [00:01:25] Adil Saleh: So Todd, I would appreciate if you could tell us a little bit about how you jumped into B two B SaaS. And for the last six, seven years, someone like you that has been in the tech industry, seeing the AI evolution, seeing new categories, creation after a game side, if you just talk about customer success, if you talk about CRM, you have Salesforce coming from early 2000s. So how you, someone as young as you were back then tried to jump into B two B SaaS, what kind of motivations you have? Of course it's backed by some of the experiences you had, roles that you had in other companies during this time. So could you tell us more about your journey? [00:02:12] Todd Busler: Yeah, so my journey is I kind of fell into tech. I think like a lot of people do. I knew I wanted to be in a sales role or go to market facing role in some capacity. I kind of fell into tech after school. I actually started as a sales engineer. I slowly made my way down into smaller companies and kind of wider scope. So I had the chance to be an early AE at square. Really got me into the new Age tech startup scene. And then I realized I actually want to go smaller and smaller. So I had the chance to join a company called Heap in the product analytics world as the 6th employee. I spent six years there and that's really where I got kind of an MBA in B two B SaaS, right. Joined their couple of hundred thousand dollars in founder led sales revenue. They brought me on to say, hey, we have a lot of leads. We're not sure if we're doing this right. We don't really know how to do sales. Help us out. Six years later, the company was $40 million in ARR plus and 300 employees, and made every mistake under the book. But I also learned from times two really good cros, a really good COO that became the CEO of the company. And we hired a great team with a bunch of different backgrounds that kind of everyone learned from each other and kept advancing. I think from the category standpoint, I really got into this in about 2015, and it's just every year, it gets easier and easier to start a company. I think we had a wave up until the last 18 months or so. Capital is free flowing, and with all of the infrastructure and services available to founders, it's way easier to spin up companies. So I think what happened there is you have tons of companies starting, hundreds of companies in different categories, all trying to define exactly where's their niche, where's their spot. And I think it's actually been pretty challenging for buyers because there's so much out there and so much noise, and understanding where people fit is very challenging. I think one of the goals, really, with what we're doing at Champify, is really trying to be clear with our messaging, exactly who we serve, exactly what we do for them, exactly the results they get, even with tons of focus on it. It's not easy in today's market. [00:04:26] Adil Saleh: Yeah, absolutely. [00:04:28] Adil Saleh: What's interesting about someone like you building a platform, like simplify, you already have experience in the sales operation that is more data driven. It's more digital. We spoke to. I remember we spoke to team at heap at that point, it was Veronica, and then we spoke to Kushar, who's global head of customer success currently. When we get to know about heap, and that is the reason that we got you scheduled for this episode, I really appreciate that. You've been pretty open. Anyway, so it was all about data driven approaches, like how they are building pipelines, how they are basically turning those deals into their system and process and consistent follow up. We spoke to outreach as well. Of course, they are doing it in a different segment, but at the end of the day, it's all about how you, as a sales operation, trying to approach in a more digital way. You know all the data, you know all the information ahead of time before you do the conversations and all. So you're talking about cold Outreach. That is even. This problem lies even bigger when you're doing, like, mass level cold outreach. These VPs of sales are working with big email contacts and all. So how do you think champify changes that workflow to be able to get more outcome out of it? Because people are struggling. [00:05:52] Todd Busler: Yeah, for sure. I think there's kind of two questions there. So the first one is, you're in a company. What's the go to market motion? How are you constantly developing pipe? And I think companies need to be really honest about where's their strength and where's their strategy. So give you a concrete example. When I started in heat, we had a lot of inbound. This was like the category was just getting going. Mixpanel amplitude were getting on the scene. Mixpanel raised some huge funding, got a lot of buzz, and our founders did a really good job getting into the kind of tech hacker news community, and we had tons of inbound. So my job at that point, when I just started, wasn't, how do I turn on this outbound machine? It was, where do I spend my time with all of these inbound people? We got really good using our own product and understand that. How are people using the free trial and what are those signals that dictate that they're ready to be Sold to? Right. As a product analytics company, that was something, obviously we did pretty well. I think what we started to see is, okay, as we wanted to grow, as we got into a Series A and a Series B, we weren't going to get there on inbound. Right. We really started to develop an outbound culture. But if you go back to 2016, 2017, you could buy a list on Zoom info and Clearbit and buy outreach. And that Playbook worked really well. We would hire kids out of school and say, hey, here's the calls you need to make, here's the sequences you need to send. And people would get 1820 meetings a month consistently. I think around 2018, 1920, that really started to change. I think there's two things that were happening. A, just like we talked at the beginning of this company, there's just tons of new companies, there's so many more people doing that level of volume. And then secondly, we saw this emergence of this sales engagement platform category where it used to be an advantage. You were on outreach first, and you knew what data providers to buy, and that just quickly became no arbitrage. Right. Everyone was doing the same thing, and your best messaging still isn't going to be that much different trying to differentiate from the masses. So, Champ, five really spurred from that problem, which is essentially, once companies get to a certain stage, whether that's 10 million in ARR whether that's 150 employees, it depends on the company. But you've built up a fan base, you've built up loyal advocates that have had really good experiences with your product, whether these are your most active users, whether these are repeat buyers, whether the people working with your success team, giving you references, talking at events, doing podcasts. Right? You have a bunch of these advocates. And before champify, there's never been a really good way to tap into those advocates. So everything we're focused on is, hey, that outbound issue is getting harder and harder. And I think AI is actually accelerating the problem, making it even more of a problem. But what that means is companies have their advocates, which is proprietary data that they own and they've earned. And what champify helps you do is tap into that. So you create this customer lifetime value across different employer journeys. Right. And before champify, it's been really hard to do this, and people think they're doing a pretty good job on this. But when we get in with all of our customers and we're working with 60 plus of them now, they don't have this covered as much as they should, and it's one of the most sure fire ways to generate pipeline in an efficient manner. [00:09:07] Adil Saleh: Yeah, that definitely makes sense, because it's all about when you do outbound and you're doing it at scale. It's all about how you can craft intelligent messaging. And in outreach, there are two things matters. Right message to the right person, right individual and right message. So any tool that enables you to do it efficiently at scale, that's something that can create a win situation. [00:09:32] Adil Saleh: So now thinking of just one question on this, because a lot of our audiences, they are early stage sales teams, they are maybe thinking of hiring their first VP of sales, maybe a co founder, doing all this outreach. And they're using sales navigator, $100 a month. So what do you suggest to them? Of course, they cannot afford $1,000 or $1,200 a month starter plan that you have. So what is the best recommendation for you to these startup teams that are looking for more users, paying users, and that they have one operation that is there, that they're investing too much, which is sales operation. [00:10:11] Todd Busler: Yeah. So I think champify is not an amazing fit for those early stage companies. Like you really have to have thousands of users, hundreds of customers, before it really makes sense. There's no silver bullet in the early days. So between heap and champify, I spent a year as an operator in residence at unusual ventures, where we just help mostly technical founders figure out. How do I go from idea to a couple hundred thousand, ideally a million in revenue. So I spent a lot of time in this stage. I think it really depends on what's the founder's background and what's the edge that you have, right. If you're a developer product and you have someone with a really good background, you can tackle community meetups and events. That's a really good way to get this going. If you have some really sexy launch, you can utilize product hunt to get a bunch of inbound. If you have a nifty PLG product and have something really valuable you can give away for free or very cheap in the beginning to get tons of users, that's another good way. It really depends on what is the motion to get into the product. I think being really honest about what that entry point is. And then the second thing you have to do is a lot of founders think they have a really good understanding of their ICP, but they don't. And in the beginning, what you're really trying to do is just test and disprove hypotheses, right? So hey, is this the right buyer? Is this the right persona, is this the right company, is this the right messaging? And I like to think about this in waves. Right. So take two, three weeks at a time. And hey, I'm going to go after 400 contacts with this type of messaging and I'm going to measure the response rates, the ability to get meetings, the ability to get second meetings, and then just constantly iterating on that. I see a lot of people spend so much time on a first deck, it's like you don't even know what that should be. You're really in test, iterate, go again. And when you get a couple of months of that, you should very quickly get to a different version of the deck, a different version of the pitch, a different version of the offer. That's leading to more success in terms of getting first meetings, converting meetings, but there's no silver bullet. I think you have to really lean into what is the differentiator a founding team has. Do they have a big brand? Do they have a unique point of view? Do they have a growth background? Lean into whatever that thing is, because once you get your first ten customers or your first hundred users, it gets easier. Right, but getting those first bit, you got to do anything possible to make it happen. [00:12:32] Adil Saleh: Yeah. And one thing that you mentioned is also super important. You got to make sure that you are consistently testing the waters, you are consistently experimenting your hypothesis at all times until you get the right customer profile, that's where it all begins and you start selling more. So looking at your customers, a lot of them, they came onto our podcast as well. I'll just talk about the SMB segment, what kind of processes, as you said, post sales, talk about a little bit about support, a little bit about customer success and post sales operations. Also expansion. If you have a segregated commercial team that does all the expansion and upselling onto your account, would love to know. [00:13:21] Todd Busler: More about that for sure. So first off, I think customer success and the support experience and customer marketing in general is going to be more and more important for companies. And the reason is as that cold, outbound traditional channels are getting harder and harder, things like word of mouth and referrals and expansion matter more than ever. So we made a bet on that earlier. First employee after the founders was a CS person. And the logic here was let's make our customers love us and let's make sure that it leads to inbound word of mouth referrals, which it is about 40% of our pipeline today, 18 months after publicly launching, is coming through warm interest referrals, word of mouth, et cetera. So that is paying off in terms of what we do to onboard them. We really look at there's two things that matter for us. The first thing is getting technically implemented, which is like can we tap into their calendar? Can we get access to their product features? Can we get installed in their CRM? That part hasn't been a huge challenge. Like, sure, every company looks a little bit different. What's been more effort for us is rallying the troops. And what I Mean by that is if we're selling to a thousand person organization, they have segments, SMB, mid market, commercial, enterprise, strategic. They have east and West. They have a European team. How do we get all the people on the right page to understand this is what champify is, this is why we're doing it, this is how the workflow will work. This is what you're expected to do. This is what messaging should be. And we spent a lot of time on that. What we've realized is there's not a one size fits all play right like PLG company to offer. And the message looks a lot different than a top down sales.org. So we spend a lot of time with our customers very intentionally because we think it's helping us also develop the product faster to help them deliver on those achieved outcomes, which is usually an increase in attainment for BDRs or more pipeline for AEs or overall more pipeline and post revenue. And then in terms of your second point, which is like any detailed expansion, we're probably erring on the side of leaving some money on the table right now in terms of not optimizing for getting the most price or optimizing for upsells right away. I think at this stage I'm comfortable with that, making sure people are having a really good experience and we'll figure out how to monetize more as we go. But yeah, today we do not have a dedicated expansion motion. [00:16:07] Adil Saleh: Okay, that makes sense. Looking at when we spoke to you, they had this big community, they're investing too much in the customer education. They had sort of academy too. [00:16:18] Adil Saleh: So what kind of initiatives are you taking in terms of customer education? As you mentioned, that 40% of your customer base, they're coming from the referrals and communities, sort of a community led. So what kind of initiatives are you guys taking towards customer education? [00:16:35] Todd Busler: First thing we did is just really Invest in our documentation. So making sure people can actually know what you're doing. And that's both on the technical implementation side, all the details of CRM integration, et cetera, and then also releasing publicly available playbooks. Right. So a lot of our customers, we've been able to learn from them. They have about 8000 opportunities that they've worked sourced through Champify. And what we're able to do is show that, hey, here's what works, here's the right playbooks, here's the right messaging, here's the right cadences, here's how you get exec involved. Here's different plays. And what we've been doing is just open sourcing that to everyone. So even if you're not using champify, you can go to our site and use some of those playbooks in a more manual manner. I think we'll continue to do that. I think the second thing we'll do is, well, one other thing we're doing before the final thing is also just more customer marketing, like trying to make our customers heroes. A lot of them are doing some really interesting things and forward looking things on the pipe gen side. And we were trying to celebrate them in the form of case studies, in the form of videos, in the form of awards. And then later I think we can continue to invest here, like further education and certifications. We're not there yet, but I could see that coming down the pipe as well as well as customer events. We want to make our customers champions. We want to have exclusive things that they get access to because they're using champify. Whether that's speakers, whether that's our version of a president's club, there's a lot of things that I think will start to do as we mature the business. [00:18:06] Adil Saleh: Okay, cool. [00:18:07] Adil Saleh: So a lot of this will go into how you basically set up operations across the product usage patterns, like how you're understanding the behaviors of your customers. So you mentioned that you have CRM, which is Salesforce. Most companies they have are using anything on top that is like dedicated post sales operation technology to make sure you measure the success of onboarding adoption time to value, to increase the lifetime value. [00:18:39] Todd Busler: Of the customers for sure. So I mean, you got to remember we're still a seed stage company, so it's not super build out. Like when we had deep, we had products like Catalyst and we were very in the weeds on things like that and constantly measuring health scores and propensity. Renew. I think there's two things that we do today that are working well. First thing is, and a lot of us have a background of product analytics, so we do a really good job of measuring how our customers are using our product. This could mean how many leads is champify surfacing up? What's the adoption, what's the adoption by rep? What's the response rates? How much pipeline are they driving? So we have a good pulse every single day. I think the second thing that we've built in is some interesting alerts into our company, Slack channels. So we're seeing when our customers are winning. Obviously we can't see all the details for privacy reasons, but we're seeing when our customers are having results in our product and that's a really good feedback loop. Say, hey, someone launched something on the end side. Someone's using it. Look what this is driving. I think the other thing you use is a product called Fina, which has been great. I think early days you want to have dedicated Slack channels with each customers. I think a lot of customers expect that and it's our way of staying very close to the customer and that's been a great way to be able to make sure everyone's seeing the right support request, make sure we can triage accordingly, make sure we're measuring response times and things like that over time. As we grow our CS team, which we're doing right now, we'll get on dedicated platforms and making sure they have whatever they need to do the job well, yeah, absolutely. [00:20:14] Adil Saleh: The folks listening, they also should know they are hiring a technical customer support. The technical customer support, one of the roles that's pretty much open. Could you tell us a little bit about what kind of traits you would be looking out for people that apply, what kind of skill set you would require on your team? Customer success. So people can look at your career and listen to this episode if they see themselves the best fit they can apply. [00:20:46] Todd Busler: Yes, it's a technical CSM role, and really this is coming from. We've brought on a lot of customers, so we want to continue to offer that experience and kind of a natural trajectory for that team to grow. I think what we're looking for, what I care a lot about is extremely high ownership, high motor, great follow up, really deep curiosity to what makes these businesses and how can we help them. Really changes across the works, as I said, in terms of what they view success with Champify, someone who's a go to market nerd, like they want to get really deep into CRM. They really want to understand sales engagement platform. They can be a consultant when it comes to lead routing and intent data and using power dialers, like someone that really just wants to understand the broader ecosystem and then someone that also is able to synthesize information. We're a smaller company right now. Being really close to the customer and getting that quick feedback loop to the product side to me is extremely important. So I tend to at this stage, hire more of a generalist that likes being at an early stage company. Maybe they want to get into product one day, or maybe they want to own a sales engineering team. I think all of that's fine. I think this is a great entry point to really help customers win and help us mature as an organization. [00:22:04] Adil Saleh: Yeah, I mean, a team of around 2030 people right now, what kind of culture could you tell us a little bit about the DNA and operating principles that you have set since day one? Of course, employee retention is one of the biggest challenges we are having in B two B Saas. So what kind of initiatives are you taking to enable and empower your team towards one operating principle? Maybe you have some vision or maybe some sort of activities to make sure everybody is well equipped with the operating principles. [00:22:39] Todd Busler: Yeah, I think the first part is like on the day to day we have a pretty async culture. So I mean, we're slack heavy. We have an important Monday meeting that everyone knows exactly what we're driving to for the monthly and quarterly goals. Everyone's responsible for very measurable, tangible results that they have to deliver. I think we also have a very heavy pipe gen and sales culture. Like everyone here is always thinking about pipe Gen. Everyone is always thinking about how to get in new opportunities. It's something we measure every single day, every single week. I think in terms of our culture, what we've really created is try to hire smart people, give them clear mandates and let them go. Also a culture we're trying to foster, giving really tough feedback, having hard conversations early on, which is not easy to build into an organization. It's something that I'm actively trying to improve and make a part of our DNA. And then secondly, just like a really heavy emphasis on the customer. I know everyone says this, but we're putting our money where our mouth is in terms of investing in CS early, in terms of customer marketing. And I think it's amazing to see our Slack channel at 11:00 p.m. And someone has an issue and a random engineer, a founder or even an AE will hop in and try to fix this. I think it matters more than ever today because a lot of the technical moats in SaaS, because we've seen this proliferation of SaaS companies are getting narrower, right? So I think a lot of the reason why people win is because of the experience that they deliver to their customers. And that's an explicit decision we're making to make sure everyone in the company is thinking that way. [00:24:12] Adil Saleh: Yeah, I mean, it's all about how you look at your customers and how you closely evolve with their goals to make a better product, better service. And it all takes the right team with the right mindset. And sometimes it comes from the leadership. A lot of times it comes from the leadership, which I pretty much see. [00:24:33] Adil Saleh: So it was real nice meeting you, Todd, and I really appreciate all the granular details that you shared about your experience and product and how you're positioning your product in the market, which is quite exceptional. So I'm also glad that we have so many guests in the past that I see the logos onto your website using your product. So I love that. I wish you real good luck for the success going forward, and I see that you have raised the funding recently, so that is good too. Wishing a great round next time. [00:25:12] Todd Busler: I appreciate that and wishing you the best of luck. And I'd encourage any early stage founders check out the unusual Ventures Field Guide. I think it has some of the best resources for getting going in terms of testing some of those hypothesis this early launch plans things like that could be a great resource. And thank you for having me on. I appreciate it. [00:25:33] Adil Saleh: Love that. We'll definitely add this once. This will go live onto our articles that we publish and along with the LinkedIn Post that we have. [00:25:41] Adil Saleh: So one more time, Todd, thank you very much. Have a good rest of your day. [00:25:45] Todd Busler: All right, take care. Thanks. Bye.

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