Lessons from the SaaS Trenches 001 – Advice from Lee Gladish, Co-Founder of Reply.io

Like all SAAS enthusiasts I was looking around for inspiration and stumbled across this new Podcast SaaS Breakthrough by David Abrams, co-founder of Demio. On his 28th February episode David featured Aaron Krall the founder of the SaaS Growth Hacks Facebook Group. David asked Aaron ….” What’s a brand a business or a team that you admire?”

Aaron didn’t blink. He responded – “Lee Gladish from Reply.io. I think he is such a phenomenal person like everybody that I’ve talked to who’s talked to Lee. He’s so helpful. He has given so much free advice out. He is really involved in the community. One on one mentorship just giving away a lot of like free advice with one on one calls. I’m a huge fan of his. He’s someone that I really look up to”.

That resonated with me right away. Giving back, sharing and learning from each other seems to be the mantra that drives the SaaS community. Lee, when I spoke with him later, seemed to embody the spirit. And I wanted to start with him when I decided to start sharing our journey.

The key is to reach out to people in the early stages for feedback and the worst that can happen is that they will refuse. But even if a few revert, which they will, you will have invaluable insights that would be impossible to organically arrive at. That’s the power of the community.

I found Lee on LinkedIn and sent a request to connect. We live time zones apart (he is in Toronto, I am in Bangalore) but surprisingly for me, he responded practically immediately. I was on a call with him within 24 hours of sending out the request! At this point he was not even aware that Aaron has mentioned him in this podcast.

I had a long chat (55 mins) with Lee and he was, as Aaron predicted, super empathetic and extremely helpful. After hearing me out patiently of what Pitch.Link does, he shared with me pointed advice. And here is what he told me I should be doing at a stage we were still pre-100 customers.

  1. Send out cold emails to Sales pro’s for feedback.
  2. Email / sign up in Business and industry directories like launchingnext.com. There are literally thousands of these. And most of them are free. Lee believes cold email still provides a great ROI. “When you have some money, the next step will be to use FB and Google Ads”.
  3. Identify a niche. Email Start-ups / Companies with under 200 employees, for example, (at this point he practically dictates to me the copy of the mail. He says – “Write this is who we are, and this is what we built. We do not want to sell anything but want feedback from you as you are a sales pro. Tell us what works in this app for you and what type of customization you would need. How does this fit into your sales day?” …etc.). Bottom line – get advice from people you don’t know.
  4. SaaS is all over California. Everyone reads Saastr, for example. But the rest of the world is still catching up. They do not follow SaaS growth hack groups or attend SaaS conferences. So, build for them. There are so many segments that haven’t even been touched. Manufacturing, retail, pharma, wholesale distribution and many more. SaaS is not the only niche out there.
  5. Use lead sources like Leadiro and Anymailfinder. (We are signed up for Leadiro after this call. Shout out to Anna Mahon for being super helpful!).
  6. Sign up for Directories like Betalist and people will start finding you. There are literally thousands of these and they are free.
  7. Write to Accelerators. Offer product for listing in their Discounted software offerings to their member companies. Lee mentioned how TechStars and 500 Start-ups took in io despite having competing products in their own portfolio. (I am adding Co-working spaces to this list and will report on my success as things progress. 7200 + listed on www.cowork.com. FLAG! Do not use the Cowork contact form for promotion. It will be considered spam. Create a list based on the listing and contact individually. Thankyou @LeanneBeesley for pointing this out).
  8. Lee was totally sold on the power of Quora. He says as a start-up it is absolutely critical to be on Quora and showed how Oleg Campbell, his co-founder leveraged Quora and amassed over 67K views of his activities. Prospects repeatedly came to him saying they heard about Reply.io in Quora. (We are setting up our A game on Quora as we speak).
  9. Join SaaS groups and ask for feedback. (Done. In FB and LinkedIn. Aaron’s Group is a must here.)
  10. Write content. Be very clear what key words you want to rank for and build the content plan around this. Lee also shared details of ace content writers who charge anything between $225-300 for a 1000-1500-word article. (This I am yet to activate).
  11. Stay focused on customer and support. Have 24×7 availability on the site. Use help from locations like Philippines. Typical cost would be $500/ month / shift. (We are in the process of identifying help and activating it on Pitch.Link. Till then some of us are losing sleep!)
  12. Have a Customer Success plan for those who come for trials.

Lee offered to get one of his Tech Savvy sales leads to take a look at Pitch.Link and offered to give feedback in a couple of weeks.

At the end of it all as we are bidding goodbye, Lee says – “Thank you for your time Subhanjan”. Seriously Lee?

But then that’s who he is.

Did you find this piece useful? Do write in to me (ss@pitch.link) or connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think and who you think I can speak with next.

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