The SaaS Podcast

Loomly: How We Grew Our SaaS to Over 7000 Customers – with Thibaud Clement [280]

Loomly: How We Grew Our SaaS to Over 7000 Customers

Thibaud Clement is the co-founder and CEO of Loomly, a SaaS platform that helps marketing teams to streamline their social media communication and improve collaboration.

In 2015, Thibaud and his wife Noemie were running an advertising agency. They were working with clients in France and the US. But collaborating with them was time-consuming and inefficient. Nearly everything was done using spreadsheets.

One day, Thibaud decided to build a software tool to make their lives easier. He was a self-taught Ruby on Rails developer, so he had enough knowledge to build something.

The first version of what later became Loomly took Thibaud a few months to build. It didn't do much and was pretty basic. All people could do was upload an image, add text, and see a mock-up of what the post would look like on social media.

But the tool helped them streamline how they collaborated with clients. And their clients loved the tool even though it didn't do much. So in 2016, they launched it as a product and 2 months later had their first paying customer.

Today, Loomly generates north of $5M in annual recurring revenue (ARR) and is used by over 7000 marketing teams around the world.

In this interview we talk about:

  • How Thibaud and Noemie turned their little tool into a multiple 7-figure SaaS business.
  • Why they charged for the product from day one – even though it had very limited functionality.
  • How they differentiate their product and try to stand out in a very crowded market
  • Why launching a referral program turned out to be a bad idea and what they learned from that
  • How they use quick feedback loops to quickly and continuously improve the product.

I hope you enjoy it!

Transcript

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Omer Khan: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of the SaaS podcast. I'm your host Omer Khan. And this is the show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you build, launch and grow your SaaS business. In this episode, I talk to Thibaud Clement, the co-founder and CEO of Loomly, a SaaS platform that helps marketing teams to streamline their social media communication and improve how they collaborate. In 2015, Thibaud and his wife Noemie were running an advertising agency.

[00:00:45] They were working with clients in France and the US but collaborating with them was time consuming and inefficient. Nearly everything was done using spreadsheets. Eventually one day Thibaud decided to build a software tool to make their lives easier. He was a self-taught Ruby on Rails developer. So he had enough knowledge to build something.

[00:01:08] The first version of what later became Loomly took Thibaud a few months to build, but it didn't do much. And it was pretty basic. All people could do was upload an image, add some texts and see a mock-up of what the post would look like on social media, but the tool helped them streamline how they collaborated with clients and their clients loved the tool, even though it didn't do much.

[00:01:33] So in 2016, they launched it as a product. And two months later had their first paying customer. Today Loomly generates north of $5 million in annual recurring revenue. And it's used by over 7,000 marketing teams around the world. In this interview, we talk about how Thibaud and Noemie turn their little tool into a multiple seven figure SaaS business, why they charged for the product from day one, even though it had very limited functionality, how they differentiate their product and try to stand out in a very crowded market and why launching a referral program?

[00:02:13] Turned out to be a bad idea and what they learned from that. We also talk about how they use quick feedback loops to quickly and continuously improve their product and how that's helped them to grow the business. So I hope you enjoy it. Thibaud, welcome to the show.

Thibaud Clement: [00:02:29] Thanks for having me Omer. It's a pleasure to be with you.

Omer Khan: [00:02:31] Do you have a quote that you can share with us, something that inspires or motivates you or just gets you out of bed everyday?

Thibaud Clement: [00:02:37] Yeah, yeah. You know, as a matter of fact so like the way I usually like, think about it is that, you know, nothing beats perseverance, but like the actual. Like the true quote, the one, the original one is actually “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence”, from Mr. Coolidge. And, and, you know, I think that's you know, having persistence or perseverance or however you want to call it is, is, is very, very important when you decide to start a business. So that's something I try to remember every morning.

Omer Khan: [00:03:09] Awesome. So tell us about Loomly. What does the product do? Who is it for? And what's the main problem that you helping to solve?

Thibaud Clement: [00:03:19] Yeah. So Loomly is what we call it a brand success platform. And what it does is that it helps marketing teams streamline their collaboration to produce content and build their brand online. And the main problem that we see these days, and I'm not even talking about the current context, because it was the pandemic, is that  you know, how, as a team, as a brand, do you go from a blank page to a consistent story that you are going to tell on social media and on all your digital channels, this is the problem that we are trying to solve.

[00:03:51] And of course, you know, with, with the pandemic, this is something that has skyrocketed for two reasons. One, you know, we have seen more and more smaller businesses who were. Not operating online and who had to shift online due to many of the challenges that we are all going through. And so usually the first thing to do is they open up a website or an online store.

[00:04:13] And so the second thing they do is trying to promote it. And so this is where, you know, whom we can help. That's kind of the first thing. And the second thing that we have noticed is that it's more on the larger organizations where, you know, We have all these great marketing teams and even better, all those great cross-functional teams that we're used to collaborating, seeing your chosen in the meeting room.

[00:04:35] And then all of a sudden, everyone is working from home. And so they have to find a way to collaborate online. So this is what only does, you know, it helps you create your content. It helps you preview it. And so, you know, before any piece of content goes online, you can see what it looks like. You can assign it to one person in your team. And get their feedback and get their approval so that, you know, everything that goes out is typo-free. It's on-brand, it's compliant and so, you know, you had the peace of mind and, and, and that also helps you, like I was saying, build a consistent brand story over time.

Omer Khan: [00:05:12] Awesome. So let's just give folks a sense of the size of the business. Like how much are you doing in revenue at the moment?

Thibaud Clement: [00:05:20] I don't know when the story's going to air, but we are very, very close to 5 million in ARR and we're growing about a hundred percent per year. That's what we've been doing with us two years and that's what we expected this year as well.

Omer Khan: [00:05:32] And how many customers do you have?

Thibaud Clement: [00:05:33] We currently serve over seven size and rocketing teams around the world.

Omer Khan: [00:05:38] And how big is the team?

Thibaud Clement: [00:05:40] We're just seven persons. So we are a very small team of highly efficient people. That's how we like to think about ourselves.

Omer Khan: [00:05:47] I was very surprised about that when I hit that number, because for the size of the business that you are now, I would have expected the team to be at least three, four times as, as big.

[00:05:59] So I want to kind of dig into that because you know, there there's some lessons that we can talk about in terms of hiring, but also I think just in terms of learning about. You know, how, how to, how to operate a lean and mean machine with the team right?

Thibaud Clement: [00:06:13] Yeah. Yeah. You know, that's a good point. I think, you know like just to set the context, something that we, the, you know, we need to know is that we have been a distributed team and we have been working remotely since day one, again, even before the pandemic.

[00:06:29] O, you know, That has kind of forced us to always work asynchronously to limit meetings and this kind of thing. And so this, you know, this is in our DNA and it turns out that this actually is a huge source of productivity. When, you know, everyone can work asynchronously, you don't need to be in the same room or even in the same video call at the same time.

[00:06:51] It's just, you know, much more productive. So I believe this is one of the things that, you know, we've been doing differently for a long time. And the other thing is we also like to spend a lot of time developing repeatable processes. So, you know, when we do something we'd like to think about, you know, how can we do it once?

[00:07:11] And then once we know how to do it once, like how do we scale it up from there? An example of that is that we have no Salesforce. So we do not have any sense of parents to achieve. We never go out and knock on the door and ask someone if they want to buy the product, that's not how we've built our marketing.

[00:07:29] And so, as soon as you kind of remove the Salesforce, you are already, you know, kind of decreasing the correlation between your revenue and decides of your team. That's one of the, just, you know, the scalability aspects of what we do. And I believe that the last thing probably. That is related to operating a business this way is that we have never, and I've hope that we will never evaluated our success or measure our success based on headcounts.

[00:07:57] We have always focused on the growth of the business, the satisfaction of the customers, you know, we've never used you know, the, the side of the team as, as of any team metric. So I believe that this is also going to be informing the decisions that we make.

Omer Khan: [00:08:10] So you said seven people. So there's you and Noemie your co-founder and wife.

Thibaud Clement: [00:08:16] Yeah.

Omer Khan: [00:08:16] And then what do the other five people do? Are they support, developers?

Thibaud Clement: [00:08:21] Yeah, so the company is kind of split into one half, so actually three engineers work on building the product and then two is our people. So those are the wonderful persons are actually working on, on spoilt and customer success and helping, you know, customers with any kind of questions they may have.

Omer Khan: [00:08:38] Awesome. So the company was founded in 2016.  Let's talk about how you came up with the idea for this business. Where did that start?

Thibaud Clement: [00:08:50] So I've been working with Noemie, my spouse for over nine years now. And Loomly is actually the fourth company that we are building together. So prior to building Loomly, we were actually managing an advertising agency and we were operating both in France where our largest client was L'Oreal. We we're managing five brands for them online and here in the US. And we were mainly working with startups, you know, looking for growth and how to scale and how to acquire more users. But there was one process that was common to all those customers, which was. The collaboration that we were having with them, everything was going through Excel spreadsheets.

[00:09:32] What do we call it? Editorial calendars, where, you know, we were basically listing series of posts to go on social media and blogs and in the media and, you know, with the copy and the images, and we were asking for their approval and their feedback before we could actually execute on those pieces of content.

[00:09:51] And that was a nightmare, as you may imagine, you know, Excel spreadsheets are great for numbers for PNL, not so great for content and assets and, and collaboration. So we looked up, you know, what we could do to streamline the process. And we could only find two types of solutions generate project management software on the one hand, which was great for collaboration, not great for publishing.

[00:10:15] And on the other hand, we were finding, you know, social media schedulers that were great for publishing, but not great for collaboration. So, you know we kind of took the matter in our own hands. I'm not an engineer, I just don't ever sing on my own. And that was actually back in 2015 and I built a prototype.

[00:10:33] And we started using it was our product. Who's our clients. Sorry, we did not tell them it wasn't our own product because we wanted some honest feedback and it turns out that they liked it very much. I will always remember that one of our clients from the agency actually told us after trying the product, he said, if we have to go back to Excel, you are fired.

[00:10:53] So we were like, okay, you know, maybe, maybe there is something here. And then, like you said, early 2016, we opened up the platform in beta. And from there it just got out of control, but in the right direction.

Omer Khan: [00:11:09] So tell me about like, just at a high level, like the tech stack, what, what did you use to build this sort of first version of the product and how long did it take you to put it together? Initially?

Thibaud Clement: [00:11:19] So I use Ruby on Rails or, you know, my first  commit was in on August 15, 2015, and I had a prototype up and running by December that we started using was our clients early January.

Omer Khan: [00:11:32] So roughly, it was like, how many,

Thibaud Clement: [00:11:35] Oh a month, you know, I would say, I would say something like four, four or five months, and I was doing that, you know, on the side. So by day I was working in the agency by night. That was, I was programming. So basically weeks.

Omer Khan: [00:11:47] Were you already like coding and just as, as a hobby or something? Or, or did you actually. Was that something new that you learned in terms of how to, how to code with Ruby and read a little  about  for Rails when you decided to build this tool?

Thibaud Clement: [00:12:04] I had been playing around with HTML and CSS and JavaScript for years, maybe five, five years, something like that. And I had picked up Ruby on Rails in a different context, and I was kind of pretty amazed by this framework and how it helps you put together some MVPs in such an efficient way. Always the elegance of the Ruby language.

[00:12:26] So it was, it was pretty impressive. But to answer your question it was kind of, you know I owned on my own, you know, different context. And so then I kind of used that knowledge to build the tool that they needed.

Omer Khan: [00:12:37] And, and that first version of the product. What did it do because, yeah, I'm sure there was like, you know, a thousand things you wanted it to do, but probably it just started with a very few, few small number of things, but what was that?

Thibaud Clement: [00:12:55] Very few things nothing compared today. When I started, when I build this first version, it was probably one of the book, the most basic cloud applications you can think about what it was doing is it was allowing some users. To upload, you know, text and images to the platform and, you know, the platform would turn those into mock-ups of what the posts would look like on social media.

[00:13:23] So you would, you know, upload the copy of your posts and the image, and then you would kind of generate a Facebook post for you and it would just, you would show it to you. And then, you know, you would take the link of that post on the platform, not on Facebook, on the platform, and you would be able to send it to someone.

[00:13:39] So that's, you know, they could review it and they could leave comments on it to tell you what to change or what they liked and approve it. And that was it. That was the only thing the platform was doing. Because remember, like I mentioned, while we were trying to do was replaced the spreadsheets and so.

[00:13:57] We didn't have any, you know asset management features like we have now, we didn't have any publishing features like we have now we didn't have any interactions management system where you can respond to comments and things like that. And we of course didn't have any kind of analytics features like again we have now, but you know, once we opened up this platform in beta to some social media marketing professionals, the feedback was essentially, I'd been looking for that for 10 years. I've tried 10 products and none are doing that. And so that's when we kind of realized that, you know, even though it was basic, even though it was much more simple than everything else on the market, which was connections with APIs and tons of things, we didn't even know how to do. Like, you know, it was kind of addressing the pain point.

Omer Khan: [00:14:50] Yeah. I think that's, that's really interesting many founders go into a market. They see existing products and sort of mentally set a very high bar on what they have to launch with. And that kind of creates a lot of unnecessary pressure and stress.

[00:15:13] And also you sort of force yourself when you think like that to have, you know, like one, two years sort of development roadmap before you can get something done. There's almost this reluctance in terms of, if my product doesn't do enough people, aren't going to take it seriously. But I think this is a really good example that if you figure out that one thing.

[00:15:36] And it doesn't have to be, you know, some life-changing thing that people haven't seen before, but it just takes a pain away and makes people's lives just that little bit easier. That's such a beautiful place to start.

Thibaud Clement: [00:15:52] It's it's, it's so funny that you say that because a couple of hours ago, I just saw a tweet from one of our investors.

[00:16:01] So like I mentioned to you, I'm I'm French. And so. This investor is French as well. And he was, he invests in a lot of startups and he was basically kind of saying that, you know, kind of the main, I would say downside of French engineered products is that they have so many features because French engineers are so brilliant and they can basically build anything.

[00:16:24] So the French engineered products. Have so many features that at the end of the day, you don't even know what they're doing. And so it's exactly what you say, you know? And so in that case, you know the constraint having, I would say, you know, some, I would say basic engineering skills kind of, you know, drove us to focus on what we could achieve and actually solving the problem that we had.

Omer Khan: [00:16:48] When you put this beta out there and studied, letting other people use it. Did you charge for the product? Did you let them use it for free? What was the approach that you took to get this out there in front of people and sort of validate it?

Thibaud Clement: [00:17:07] Which charge for the product. Not much. It was starting at $12 per month. That was like four or five years ago. And there was like two months pre-trial our goal was to see, one, if people were interested in using the product and two, if they are interested in paying for the product we figured that if we made it free, maybe, you know, we would be having an answer to the first question, but for sure not to the second question. So from the start, we decided to make it to plain platform, because it was kind of parts of the customer development effort.

Omer Khan: [00:17:43] How did you find those initial beta users, these people that you knew, or, or did you. How did you get the word out?

Thibaud Clement: [00:17:51] Well, you know, we kind of come from that industry, right? We come from the industry digital marketing professionals, social media, marketing professionals. And so we were in all of those groups and we had all those friends who all kind of knew, you know, mainly know Noemie, because she's the one doing this this networking part.

[00:18:10] So she started sharing it towards the communities that she was a part of. And that's how we started getting a lot of, feedback because again, we know, and we knew these persons were exactly in the time.

Omer Khan: [00:18:22] Okay. So you've got the, these beta users. You, you start to collect some feedback. How long did it take you to get to the point where you felt like this is a business? This is not just a side project.

Thibaud Clement: [00:18:40] So we've got the, you know, we opened up in February, 2016, we got the first paying customers two months later because there was a two months free trial. So it was actually the, like the smallest amount of time. We could hope to get a paying customer. And then, you know, the feedback or log in the product was very simple and not the sexiest platform you may have seen the feedback was very, you know, kept coming, interest kept coming.

[00:19:05] And then about that time, what is it? Kind of interesting is that, you know, we had some entrepreneurs like much more seasoned than we are. Some entrepreneurs who, you know, you know, that we knew and they were kind of asking what we're working on. And so we mentioned it to them and so we showed it to them and then, you know, they were like, yeah, you should raise money.

[00:19:26] And like, we can have, and then we were like, okay. So it seems like there was a lot of demand for the product. It looks like, you know, we have people who are interested in, in, in helping us to put some resources behind the product so we can, you know, put two and two together. And then that's when we decided, yes, let's do it because if we have identified a pain point and audience, and now we have the resources to serve that audience and solve the pain point. And you know, if you're an entrepreneur, like you cannot say no to that,

Omer Khan: [00:19:57] Did you keep the agency running was you, were you splitting your time between the two businesses?

Thibaud Clement: [00:20:04] I stopped working on need and see around September 2016. So that was about a year after I wrote the first line of code that gives you an idea. Noemie kind of kept managing many aspects of it, how I was kind of supporting her, but, you know, we kind of had split the responsibilities and then, you know, she kind of joined me full-time the following year. So that's kind of how it happened.

Omer Khan: [00:20:28] So using your network and the people, you know, and getting people to try the product. It's not a lot of money, $12 a month, a very generous trial of two months. But we also know that when you're targeting marketers, that market is, is filled. Like it's, it's almost overwhelming.

[00:20:54] When you look at like tools that marketers can use. So how did you figure out what, what your niche was, how to stand out in that market and to sort of get attention people's attention. Was that a difficult thing to do, or just by leading with this one problem you were finding that that was an easy way for people to get it and start, you know, have some interest to start using the product?

Thibaud Clement: [00:21:22] Well, I think there are a couple of you know of sings, you know, the kind of helped us and played in our favor. The first thing is that, like you say, there are many, many, many tools targeting marketers, but the way we think about it and the way it turned out to be is that usually if there is competition you know, if there is supply it's because there is a market because there is demand.

[00:21:53] And so in our specific case, on the social media marketing segment, it turns out that there had been, and there are still have many, you know, other players. Most of them that have been here for a longer period of time than we have. And they actually, they are much bigger than we are between a hundred and a thousand times we get than  we are and you know, so they are doing many things and they may not be able to kind of, you know, respond with the same speed as we do to the customer requests.

[00:22:31] And so the reason why in the way it has played in our favor is because those other players have kind of evangelized. They have helped the market get used to using tools. So when we arrived on the market, we didn't have to convince people that they needed a tool. They already knew they needed a tool and because satisfaction was not as high as he could be on the market.

[00:22:59] Many people were looking for other solutions. And on top of that, because the pain point that we had identified was not yet kind of satisfied and, and, and covert, it kind of, you know, helped us a lot because all of the sudden, we're not like just, you know, like, you know, like a small startup going after like a market that is undefined and where you have to convince everyone to change the way they work.

[00:23:25] No, we were on this huge market that is, you know, still to this day, between different, depending on the studies that you look at between, you know, $35 and $50 billion a year growing 16 to 18% compounded annual growth rates. So it's huge. It's growing fast and it's made sure. And so. All of the sudden we are here and we have a solution that no one is kind of offering.

[00:23:49] We are pouring our souls into making sure that people who try to product are happy and if they're not happy, how we can make them happier. And so, you know, the last thing is we also try to design the product in a very user-friendly way and not because we are great designers. I'm not a designer. I build the first UX.

[00:24:11] And if you still look at how it looks, it's still the same layout. It's just, it's nicer, but it's the same layout. And the reason why it was user-friendly is because we were the first users of the product. And so that triggered a lot of comments from users saying yes, that simple. That makes sense. That's how it should work.

[00:24:32] And so. When you combine that like major and major market that is growing fast, where there is some lack of satisfaction, you combine it with a lot of, you know, attention to support and customer service. And you go after that market, who's a user-friendly product, then all of the sudden, you know, what you have to do is just make sure that people start to hear about yourself and, you know, that's where content and word of mouth is kind of coming into play.

Omer Khan: [00:25:03] Yeah. I wanna talk about content. I know that's been one of the key ways that you've grown this business, but before that, I want to talk a little bit about just how you sort of think about prioritizing features, especially in those early days as well, because this is quite a common, I think, scenario where you solve a small problem, you get this product out in front of the market.

[00:25:27] People start using it, they love it. They, they get excited. And then the feedback comes in with. It would be great if you could add these thousand features to make this, do this and that, and basically turn it into some, you know, huge monster of a product. So, which is great to get that feedback, but then how do you decide what to work on?

[00:25:47] So what was your experience? Did you also find that you were getting a lot of this kind of feedback and then how did you sort of decide what was the next thing you were going to build on this?

Thibaud Clement: [00:25:57] I think there are two parts to my answer. I'm trying to keep it short, but there are two parts. The first part is when we started, I was, you know, on my desk, on the other side of the desk was Noemi, my nice booze and microphone there.

[00:26:12] I was building the product, pushing the comments. She was trying it, giving me some feedback. I would make modifications and we would do that over and over again. So the feedback loop. It was, you know, small and fast and it allows us, you know, he did a lot of this, at least not me to make sure I was building something that she could use.

[00:26:33] And so very quickly we realized there was a lot of power, you know, in, in, in this kind of feedback loop in collaboration. And so very, very early on one of the main things that we try to do is start thinking about how can we keep that feedback loop? How can we keep, you know, these flow of ideas between the users and the developers?

[00:27:00] How can we keep that? And how can we scale that? And. I'm actually very, very proud of the fact that we have been able to do that because today, you know, I'm no longer the one who is actually building the features. Noemie is far from being, being the only person to use the product. But, you know, we have built processes.

[00:27:20] We speak with over 200 customers every single day. And so they give us feedback. They tell us, you know, they say, Hey, there was a bug here, or, Hey, it would be really nice if we could, you know, build this feature or, Hey, I don't understand how to do that. Can you maybe, you know, make the UX better or the UI be better.

[00:27:40] And so we take all of that, every single interaction with every single customer, we have some takeaways from those conversation and we have a roadmap and we just very, very simply. We basically, you know, increment counters with the number of requests for a given feature. And then based on that, you know, we are able to see what is the most frequently requested features or improvements.

[00:28:07] And that's how we work on those. That's the first part of my answer. The second part of my answer actually compliments it is that when you have. So many data points when you, when you are lucky to have so many people using your product, and so many people actually being willing to tell you what they think, well, then what happens is kind of, you know, like when you look at an impressionist painting, you know, it's all those little touches of paint.

[00:28:39] So when you look at them individually and you're like, I don't understand what it is, but if you take a step back, you see the full picture. It's exactly the same thing with that. Once you get 200 pieces of feedback per day, then you know, you take a step back, you look at the roadmap and you're like, okay, this is where we're going.

[00:28:57] And like the big picture, like the big vision where, you know, you, you see your product going, becomes crystal clear. And from there, once you have that big picture, Then, you know, you can decide which items of the roadmap, you know, make more sense and contribute more to the actual big picture. So these two things really work hand in hand, you know, at the macro and micro level,

Omer Khan: [00:29:22] Yeah I think it's a great way to think about it. And, and in many ways it's like, you're not just taking feature requests, you're enabling your customers to basically co-develop the vision of the product with you?

Thibaud Clement: [00:29:35] Absolutely. Yeah, the vision, the features, everything. And actually, you know, if you go to our blog and you get to the Loomly news section where we introduce new features, You will see that in every single feature announcement at the bottom of the post, there is like a big, thank you note to all the users who actually contributed to this feature and send it, you know, kind of told us that that was needed.

[00:30:01] And so, yes, it's just, you know, it's just extremely necessary. It's extremely helpful. And you know, like I actually like to say to them, I'm far from being a visionary, I'm just someone who listens and just, I just try to deliver on what I'm being asked. So it's, it's purely execution.

Omer Khan: [00:30:17] So let's talk about content and how you've used that to grow the business. Maybe just start by telling us, like how, how has your content marketing strategy. Contributed to the growth of the business. How significant has that been?

Thibaud Clement: [00:30:34] Again, we come from, you know, a digital marketing and advertising background. So producing content, you know, driving growth online is something we've had been doing for a couple of years, even before studying Loomly.

[00:30:47] And so, you know, content, what, what amazes me is, you know, how content is is growing with the business. Even when the business is growing extremely fast, we are growing about a hundred percent per year. That's a lot. And so we see that, you know, content is, is, is growing along. That pace, even when we keep adding new channels to the mix you know, we keep, you know, if we do PR if we do adwords, if we do other things, like what is amazing is how content keeps, you know, maintaining its share if not increasing in the mix while we are growing. And so I think this is, you know, very impressive because when you are growing at that rate, it's very probable that your, you know, your mix is going to evolve because maybe some channels are going to kind of, you know, plateau and you're going to have to compliment them with other channels. That has not been the case with content. And I think it's very interesting.

Omer Khan: [00:31:49] So when you say that content has been growing, are you talking about the amount of organic search traffic you're getting through content, the volume of content that you're creating, or both?

Thibaud Clement: [00:32:01] The volume of business that is driven by content?

Omer Khan: [00:32:05] Correct. And is that mostly coming through organic search?

Thibaud Clement: [00:32:09] On the content side? Yes. You know, yeah. Yeah.

Omer Khan: [00:32:12] So if you're sort of building a content strategy and you want to reach marketers, you kind of have a few problems in the way, right? Like, you know, Like these companies like HubSpot who actually do a really good job and spend a lot of, you know, money and kind of resources and creating this content.

[00:32:32] And no matter what you're looking for marketing related HubSpot will show up, you know, somewhere high up on the results page. So that obviously is going to be a challenge in terms of how do you create content, which is competitive, which ranks well, which stands out and so on. What did you do to, to sort of make that happen, to get attention and to make this content be as effective as possible for you?

Thibaud Clement: [00:33:05] Okay. Yeah, the answer is probably going to be very boring, so I I'm sorry, but, but so. The first thing is, you know, w which is discussed, like the vision and understanding, you know, where you're going. And so once you know that you understand what are the main high-level pain points of your audience for us, it's one how to build a brand to how to collaborate as a marketing team.

[00:33:31] That's basically what we do, because that's what our customers need. Once you know, that it's, you know, it's pretty easy to have a different take on, you know, all the marketing topics because you know, we're not necessarily saying, Hey, how to like, you know, hack algorithms to like earn followers. That's that's not something we do.

[00:33:53] We just never do that because we are all about helping our customers create quality content, building their brand, telling their story. And so it allows us to have a very unique angle. On the topic that people are searching. And so this is very important because it kind of sends you to one of like, you know, it kind of relieves you, sorry to kind of the main things that SEO is about now, especially more in 2021.

[00:34:22] And then before, which is intent. You know, people are like, it's very rare these days that people are looking for actual keywords, you know, sometimes they do, but what they are looking for is answers to their questions. And so when, once you have your vision, you know, what people are struggling with and you know how to explain scenes through that perspective, then, you know, you have chances of sort of facing in so changing in a very different way.

[00:34:48] So that's number one. And it kind of helps us to not go head to head with HubSpot for instance. And the other thing is, again, because we have this vision, we understand the pain points, then we cannot think out of the box. And we always try to think about not only just blog posts for those sort of resources that you know, can help our users and our customers.

[00:35:08] And so this, you know, is something that we refresh all the time. Sometimes, you know, it's, it's a, it's a quiz to evaluate their own practices in their company so that, you know, they have some some cues about how to, you know, improve productivity as a team or build a brand. Sometimes it's about, you know, creating resources like a dictionary or things like that.

[00:35:30] And so again, once you have this big vision and everything kind of makes sense because you know what you're trying to achieve and, you know, Which pain points you're trying to relieve.

Omer Khan: [00:35:40] How frequent were you creating content? Was it like, you know, something once a week, every day? Like, what was that sort of frequency and then were you doing anything in terms of like, You know, trying to do link building or, or, you know, or was it just a matter of publishing it and, and just, you know, promoting it through social media channels and whatever. So what was the general kind of approach you took there?

Thibaud Clement: [00:36:10] We, we publish consistently so that, you know, our users and the audience kind of know. What to expect. We distributed through our channels, social media, of course our newsletter as well. And then, you know, because, you know, Loomly is growing and the brand is starting to, you know, stand out and we have those people, you know, who are, seem to be pretty happy about, you know, What we do then, you know, the brand kind of drives word of mouth.

[00:36:41] And so that kind of makes other people talk about you or the articles about you and, you know, Then this is how you get the links. We, we, we don't do like we've, at some point we have tried to do some outreach to build backlinks and it didn't work well for us. I know some, some companies are extremely successful at that one since Canada.

[00:37:02] Is like, they are a machine, they are impressive. They're extremely successful. And they do it very, very well. It just doesn't work with us.

Omer Khan: [00:37:09] I get about 10 emails of like that every day.

Thibaud Clement: [00:37:14] That's why we don't do it

Omer Khan: [00:37:16] After a while you just kind of just. You just don't pay attention to it.

Thibaud Clement: [00:37:20] I don't want you to hear about a Loomly that way. You know, I don't, I don't, you know, I don't want you to, you know, because then down the road, if he, if you come to our website and you're like, Oh yeah, that was a guy who kind of reached out to me, like in my inbox, he did some call outreach. Oh yeah. Maybe I'll just go to them as a website. That's not what I want.

Omer Khan: [00:37:38] Yeah. So content work really well and it's continuing to work well. And we talked about how building the product in the right way and, and, and, and being really deliberate and thoughtful about how you collect feedback from your customers. And then use that to guide the development short-term and long-term development.

[00:38:02] One of the things that you and I were talking about before we started recording was like referral programs. And I hear this a lot with a lot of early stage founders who are like very keen to start a referral program as soon as possible, because they feel it's a great way to, to sort of, you know, get, get early traction, but that didn't work for you.

[00:38:24] Right. So what, what happened? What was your experience?

Thibaud Clement: [00:38:27] Yeah. So, you know, when, when you are in the SaaS, SaaS environment. There is always something that comes in and I would have say that haunts you, but something that, you know, you have to play by with it's the same rules LTV over CAC ratio. Although, you know, I don't really agree with that.

[00:38:47] And I explained in a Verlin C article on medium, Y you know, you have to look at this in a very particular light for it to make sense, but anyway, so you know that you know, you, you basically have to keep your you know, customer acquisition to one third of, of how much a customer is going to generate for you in terms of revenue, you know that, so.

[00:39:08] Then you start looking at, you know, your different channels and you're like, Oh yeah, I'm spending it off money on them. I don't really know no. How, how much, you know, revenue degenerating. And then, you know, someone, you know, is going to talk to you about a referral program. Maybe it's a cool growth hiking blog article.

[00:39:24] Maybe it's one of your investors. Maybe it's a fellow CEO who is telling you, yeah, this is great. And so you're like, Oh yeah, that makes sense. I'm going to pay my users who already know the product and I'm going to give them a cut of the revenue that generates so that, you know, I pay per action for conversions so that, you know, I don't waste my money.

[00:39:44] And that's, that's great. And, you know, like we, like we say, usually in advertising half of the money is wasted, but we don't, we don't know which half, so that's fine. So, you know, so you're like, yeah. They're like the referral program is a great idea. So we started, we implemented, we designed it the best we can.

[00:40:02] We have landing pages for each referral person and then it turned out, you know, after like couple of years doing it, looking into it, it turned out that it was not incentivizing the right audience. So basically we were having more and more people who were just doing it for the money. And so when you do it for the money, then it actually doesn't work really well because it's just, you know, we are one of those products that they promote you know, maybe next to some other products that, you know, they're just doing that for the fun of money and that's fine.

[00:40:38] I respect that. Absolutely. But for us, it was kind of driving some unqualified leads and it wasn't working, but that's not even the most interesting part. The most interesting part is that the truly ambassador to truly qualified users who were Loomly users who  are loving Loomly, they were  doing it for free.

[00:41:01] They, so the, the ambassador program, the referral program, it was front and center on the dashboard. It didn't care about it. And so. So we kind of realize, okay, so we are paying people who drive by traffic, not really pain, but they're still driving by traffic so you can approach the metrics and people who could drive the traffic they don't want to do it. So, you know, it just doesn't work for us. And so we can have discontinued it last year. It was interesting. It was just not a great fit for us.

Omer Khan: [00:41:30] So is, is word of mouth is still something. That that's that's working. So you, you have people, they become fans, they love the product, and then they're just telling other people about it. And that's another source of, of free referrals.

Thibaud Clement: [00:41:45] Yeah, that's, that's a good thing. And it's still happening a lot. And, and you know, another thing is we are a collaborative platform. So by nature, when you sign up and you want to work with your team, you're going to invite your team. And so what we see a lot is, you know, sometimes someone is going to start using lonely for their job.

[00:42:06] And then, you know, they have a side project. And so, you know, they will be able to use the same Loomly accounts for both, because in Loomly you can segment content by project or brand or whatever. We have a system of calendars, each calendar being the equivalent of a spreadsheet, which I was mentioning earlier.

[00:42:24] So you can, you know, you can be invited to, to use Loomly at work. And then. You have a podcast that you are developing or you have like an e-commerce brand that you're building. Well, you can still use it normally. And that's also this kind of cross-contamination, I would say probably not a poor choice of word these days, but I would say this virality is kind of, you know, how we, we also growing a lot.

Omer Khan: [00:42:50] Okay so, you have an interesting story. I think the last five years when we sort of look at that and say, You sort of experienced this problem yourself with you and Noemie and, and sort of you knew enough to be able to build a product. And once you got it out in front of people, they were excited about it, even though it didn't do much at the time.

[00:43:13] And the feedback that you got from the customers has helped you to shape this and the making the bet in terms of the content marketing has really helped to, to sort of drive that growth. Is there any, you look over the last five years, is there anything you, you wish maybe you had done differently, maybe that could have avoided you some, some pain along the way.

Thibaud Clement: [00:43:40] Yeah, of course. Yeah. I think, I believe I still make so many mistakes every day. So, you know, it's just a, it's kind of bigger poison, but yeah, I, I think, you know, to this day, one thing that, you know, I, when I, in hindsight, when I, when I look back one thing that we necessarily didn't do really well, I said, we try, we didn't try.

[00:44:00] We actually did. We grew the team too fast in the early days. Not necessarily like the early, early days, but as soon as we got some traction and, you know, we, we went from four persons to 10 in just a couple of months. And the, you know, for many companies, if you're a big company, like, you know, maybe adding 6%, so your team is not much, but, but when you were four and you had six-person is a big change.

[00:44:27] And so. You know, we, we really try to think about it and understand what happened because you know, now we are seven. We are probably four times bigger than we were at that time in terms of revenue, but we are seven persons. And so in hindsight, when we, when we keep thinking about it, what we realized is that we had this very implicit culture, like, like you mentioned a couple of times, this is a company that I co-founded with my spouse Noemie.

[00:44:53] So we knew each other before starting a company and the first two engineers who joined us for time who were kind of, you know, the first team members, they were friends of mine before we started working together. And so the four of us, you know, we were working very well together, but we had this kind of implicit culture where we, we were just operating in sync and we didn't even know why.

[00:45:20] And we, we were not even realizing that it was working that well. So then, you know, we started hiring more people and we had like, our very first hire was extremely successful because this person is still with us. So we cannot, you know, I don't want to say that we let our guard down, but we kind of said that it was a standoff.

[00:45:40] And so then we, you know, we kept hiring more, more team members. And then that's when we realized that, you know, we had to make our expectations very clear. We had to have. Some processes in place to explain what we were expecting and how things were working, because maybe people who are just joining us and people that we didn't know before and who needed to know us before could not guess what we wanted and where this becomes interesting is that.

[00:46:12] You know, it's good to have a control deck. And it's good too, to say here is, you know, here all values and here's, you know, how it works, but you know, if you don't understand, if you're not even aware of what the fundamentals of your culture are, Then you're not going to be able to scale because, or you're going to change your culture and maybe that's how you're going to hit a wall. I don't know. That's how we see it now inside.

Omer Khan: [00:46:42] Is that one of the reasons that you're, you're still a fairly small team, has it been some reluctance to start to grow again?

Thibaud Clement: [00:46:48] It's a reluctance because we actually have four positions open. So we are, you know, are we are hiring? We have a lot of work to do. We have great projects. It's just, you know, for awhile it would just didn't see the need. And so like you know, we don't see ourselves as we don't measure our success by our headcounts. So we don't want to just hire to look bigger. We want to hire when we need talent. And these days that's, that's where we are.

[00:47:17] So I would say it's just more pragmatic. We, we don't, we don't feel like we've been burned. We just feel like, you know, we just need to think a bit more about it.

Omer Khan: [00:47:26] All right. Time to wrap up. So let's get on to the lightning round. I'm going to ask you seven quick-fire questions. Just try to answer them as quickly as you can.

Thibaud Clement: [00:47:36] Sure.

Omer Khan: [00:47:37] All right. Are you ready?

Thibaud Clement: [00:47:38] Yes, sir.

Omer Khan: [00:47:39] Okay. What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

Thibaud Clement: [00:47:43] Listen to your customers?

Omer Khan: [00:47:45] What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

Thibaud Clement: [00:47:48] How to win friends and influence people? Because it's just, it's just teaching you empathy.

Omer Khan: [00:47:54] What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

Thibaud Clement: [00:47:58] Persistence.

Omer Khan: [00:47:59] Persistence. What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

Thibaud Clement: [00:48:04] Gmail, snooze button.

Omer Khan: [00:48:05] I love that.

[00:48:06] What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time?

Thibaud Clement: [00:48:11] I would love to build something that helps people in general and youngsters in particular to leave, study and work abroad. I was born and raised in France interned in Dubai.

[00:48:26] I studied in Canada and now we live in the U S. Those international experience has just shaped my life in who I am now. And I think it's just, it's literally mind-blowing and it helps we started rinse, which is probably much needed these days.

Omer Khan: [00:48:41] Yeah. I love that. My family used to move around a lot. My father was an international banker and I think I'd been to like 14 schools by the time I was 16. So you get very used to change and meeting new people and adapting. But I also sometimes feel jealous of the people who can still in touch with their childhood and everything. Cause it's like, well, I don't have that. Anyway, what's an interesting fun fact about you that most people don't know?

Thibaud Clement: [00:49:06] Noemie and I travel around the world for one year.

Omer Khan: [00:49:10] Nice. And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?

Thibaud Clement: [00:49:14] Cooking. French.

Omer Khan: [00:49:16] French, of course. What else? Awesome. All right. Great. So if people want to find out more about Loomly, they can go to loomly.com. And if people want to get touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that.

Thibaud Clement: [00:49:31] They can shoot me an email. It's thibaud[at]loomly.com. They can find me on Twitter, on LinkedIn. I'm always happy to help in any way that I can.

Omer Khan: [00:49:40] Awesome. Thank you so much for joining me Thibaud. It's been a great conversation and I wish you and the team the best of success.

Thibaud Clement: [00:49:46] Thank you for having me on our best best of luck with your show.

Omer Khan: [00:49:50] Thank you. Cheers.

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