Pointerpro: A 7-Year Journey of Perseverance to PMF
Stefan Debois is the co-founder and CEO of Pointerpro, a software platform for professional services firms to create online assessments and automatically give personalized advice.
In 2012, Stefan was feeling stuck. After working for 15 years in consulting, he wanted to start his own company. But he didn't have a great business idea.
While still in his 9 to 5 job, Stefan made an iPad quiz app for his daughter's birthday party. It was just for fun, but it turned out to be a big hit.
This gave Stefan an idea what if he made this quiz app better and put it online for free? So he spent his weekends improving the app and then released it, not expecting much. But then, something unexpected happened.
The app quickly gained popularity. Teachers were using it in classes, and even AT&T was using it for HR events. Stefan saw a potential business and started interviewing his users to find out what they liked and didn't like.
Once he was confident about the app's business potential, Stefan quit his job. He worked hard for three months to add a way to accept payments and was thrilled when some free users converted to paying customers.
But despite some early success, business growth was slow. Stefan struggled for seven years to find product-market fit.
Eventually, in 2019, Stefan had a significant breakthrough. He realized many customers wanted personalized reports. So, he doubled down on that and changed the app's focus to help professional services firms.
Today, Pointerpro has surpassed $3 million in annual recurring revenue and has grown to a team of 28 people. The company is still entirely bootstrapped.
In this interview, you'll learn:
- Why it took Stefan 7 years to find his killer use case and how you can avoid making some of the same mistakes.
- How Stefan attracted important early customers outside his network to validate his business idea.
- How Stefan established credibility and social proof despite being an unknown startup and founder.
- The importance of customer feedback in Stefan's journey to find the right product-market fit and the lessons from that experience.
- Why Stefan believes perseverance above all else led to his success and helped him push through the difficult years.
I hope you enjoy it.
TranscriptClick to view transcript
This is a machine-generated transcript.[00:00:00] Omer: Welcome to the show. Thank you for having me, Omer. Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you that you can share with us? [00:00:09] Stefan: Yeah. I have something from Yoko Willink it's an ex-Navy SEAL who has written some books and give some also give some business advice and that's you know what you have to do.
You just have to make yourself do it. That's the quote. So that refers to that. I think in business and in SaaS certainly that strategy is often not the most difficult part. The most difficult part is execution, like really oftentimes we know what to do, but the execution is the difficult part.[00:00:44] Omer: Yeah, totally. Okay. So tell us about Pointer Pro. What does the product do? Who's it for? And what's the main problem you're helping to solve? [00:00:54] Stefan: Pointerpro is an assessment platform for professional service providers. And we help those companies with digitizing their advice flow. So We have assessments with personalized advice reports, and you have to think for example about a cybersecurity maturity assessment, or you could ask questions in the assessments like do you have already antivirus on your PC?
Yes or no? Things like that. And if you answer. No, or that question then probably you will be maturity level one the lowest maturity level and, and so on. I mean, you get the point. And then afterwards you can get a report or the respondent can get a report where it says like, for example, congratulations, you have maturity level three.
But here is what you have to do. And to go to the next maturity level here, some personalized advice. And that can be, that report can be text, but also like graphs and can be branded in the logo and colors of the customer. So in that way, we are really automating the advice delivery for the consultant or for the professional service provider.
And it's advice delivery. Especially transactional advice, what we call transactional advice, is something that has to be repeated oftentimes with many customers or prospects. We will not quickly replace the, like the strategic consulting from McKinsey, for example, with our tool.
But transactional advice and cybersecurity is actually a good example of that. Like the basics from cybersecurity can perfectly automate that with our tool. With the advantage, of course, that consultants can work on more strategic tasks, more on implementation, on discussing the results of the assessment with the customer and how to implement it and thereby generating more business.[00:02:45] Omer: So, I think cybersecurity is a great one. Can you give us one or two other examples of how it's being used? [00:02:51] Stefan: When you say assessments, you typically think about HR, of course, and that's also a use case for us. It's not the only one, but it is certainly one, like psychologically or psychological assessments, where people are put in a certain category and then, for example, different teams or different Persons of the management team take the assessment and then if you're in category one and, and the other one, or your colleague is in category two, then it also explains how to, you can deal with that type of of colleague, what you have to do.
That's again, the personalized advice. These things can also be put in our tool. We have also like financial assessments. We have, for example a a US client of ours has the website freefinancialplan. com. And there you can, it's an ex-private banker, in fact, and he has like democratized financial advice because private banking, to have a lot of money but for his service, which is online you can you can also access it when you have a limited assets, so to say.
And it all asks like, yeah, how much you earn and how much assets you have and a bunch of other questions. And then gives a personal advice reports with, with personal financial advice. That's also a possibility. Okay. It's important that the content of the assessment is not made by us. We make the software to do it, and the content, like which questions to ask in the financial advice, or which advice to give in the cybersecurity report.
This content is coming from our customers 100%.[00:04:31] Omer: Right, so you're basically giving them An easier way to take their expertise and help more clients or customers at scale. While also freeing up their time to be able to do more strategic, higher-value work. [00:04:51] Stefan: Exactly. Yeah. By digitizing their expertise, like in the, in the assessments then they have instead of having the expertise in their heads, they can put it in a digital asset and then sell that asset just instead of selling their expertise in the time and material way, for example, which is more interesting, of course, you can, it gives more possibilities. [00:05:11] Omer: Can you give us a sense of the size of the business? Where are you in terms of revenue, number of customers, size of team? [00:05:17] Stefan: So we are 29 People now you're based in Andorra, Belgium. Most of the people are also there, not all of them. And then in terms of business, we are, we just passed the 3 million Euro annual recurring revenue.
So that's a nice thing, of course.[00:05:37] Omer: That puts you at probably just, in terms of dollars, it's probably just a little bit higher, right? [00:05:42] Stefan: Yeah. It must be three, three, two, three, three, something like that. And we have also some services. So the actual revenue is a bit higher because we have also one-time services that we do for our clients.
Again, not, not for consulting them on which. what to put in the assessment or so, but more technical things like design or connecting the results to their system, making a dashboard or so. And this, I think, important to be able to combine the service and the software to, to, to have a like one stop shop for for our customers.[00:06:16] Omer: And you raised around a million dollars basically debt financing a couple of last year, I think. Yeah, last year. But beyond that, for the first 10 years, this has been a totally bootstrapped business. [00:06:32] Stefan: Yeah, totally bootstrapped. Yeah, in the beginning it was like, I mean, not really our choice, because we were growing too slowly to raise venture capital.
And then as from, because in the beginning we were doing like surveys and then in 2019, we made the switch to assessments. which is not completely different, but it is yeah, more interesting niche, smaller market, but more interesting and also higher ticket value. And as from then the growth begin to, to kick off.
But by then we already were used to the bootstrap life to to be really careful before spending the money. And, and also with higher ticket size, we had annual contracts, which are prepaid. So that's easier. Yeah, that makes financing easier. Also the services. So we never really considered venture capital.
And then at the end of 2022, so last year, we have launched a new product and therefore we needed the the debt financing. And in fact, it's by then our MRR was already high enough to yeah, to convince banks that we could pay off the debt. So we went for like traditional debt financing.
And then we were able to yeah, to develop that product faster, basically.[00:07:51] Omer: I love the story. of how you came up with the idea for this business. It was in a very unexpected way. Can you share that with our audience in terms of where this idea came from? [00:08:06] Stefan: Yeah. Yeah, in the beginning I am, was thinking do something else because I've been in consulting for 15 years.
I was thinking do something with CRM customer relationship management, but then I, I needed some. Yeah, some hobby projects to catch up with technology because I mean, in those, all those years, technology had evolved quite significantly. So I made a tablet quiz, a quiz on the iPad for my daughter's birthday.
And we used like a technology called SensorTouch for that. That's yeah, a framework that makes it easier to, to make those things. And then ran pretty well. Then as a result of that I also created a website called Tablet Quiz, where people could create their own quizzes for iPod.
But without technical knowledge, they just could do it yeah, by just configuring the questions and the answers and so on. And that's I made it available online just for free and that's kicked off. Yeah, we had some interesting use of, of that some, yeah, of course, some personal use from people who want to do a quiz about their dog or cat or so.
That's not that interesting, but we had also like, remember then for example, AT& T. The US. telecom company making use of it at HR events. Then also yeah, some others also some, a lot of teachers, which is maybe less interesting, but yeah, good, good traction basically, well, not enormous, but yeah, enough to get to collect some feedback and to, to see what the potential was, and then we decided to to launch the actual products which was then, yeah, we added in the surveys also.
We did both surveys and quizzes at that time.[00:09:46] Omer: So I love that. So the idea started basically with your daughter's birthday. And when you created this tool, you published this and made this available for free, were you thinking of this as a potential business opportunity at that time, or was this more like.
You know, a hobby, just something fun, put it out there and just see what happens.[00:10:11] Stefan: Yeah. First it, it was like just the hobby thing. But then, yeah, it was not like from one day to the other, but like slowly devolved when I saw like the reactions coming in or coming in. Then I realized that yeah, there was more potential than just yeah, quizzes for fun.
And, and I realized also that fun is, is of course, you would think that it's not sellable because it's just for personal use and for like birthday parties and things like that. But fun means also engagement. So when you apply it to a company context and engagement, like employee engagements.
And you, when you do quizzes at HR events that's important. So people are ready to pay for that if they have a, like a nice activity on their HR event same in market research, the market research was really like boring quizzes or boring surveys at that moment. When you can gamify that and add more engagement, you also collect more and better data.
So there is certainly or there was certainly a use case and some, some potential there.[00:11:18] Omer: So when you realized that there was this opportunity you and your co founder, it's Mark, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. So did you guys go out and say, Okay, we should go and validate this more. We should interview people.
We should figure this out. Or did you look at the kind of organic usage that was happening? And like, wait a minute, we've got people at AT& T coming along and using this product. Maybe that's enough validation for us to. Start building something. How did you get to a point where you felt confident enough to invest some serious time and money into this?[00:11:51] Stefan: Yeah, it's more the second, like we we interviewed the the people that used our tool ask them why they used it how they found us what they thought was, was good about our tool or not so good. So that's the way that we that we approached it. We are also cool. Like a lot of traction because it was also for free, we had more yeah, more users than initially expected.
So yes, that's, that's the way we we, we, we moved forward. But then when we of course when we made like a paying product, then I used also my personal network to to get the first customers not only the, the people that came in via the online channels.[00:12:33] Omer: So how much development did you have to do on the product once you You two decided that this was going to be a product that you were going to sell.
Was it as simple as, Hey, we can take what we already have and, and let's put, you know, kind of Stripe integration there and see what happens. Or did you have to say, no, no, this was kind of a fun thing, but we need to go back and. and, and, you know, redevelop the product before we go out there.[00:12:58] Stefan: Yeah, we, we added some, some like features that we like from the feedback interviews that we thought that were needed.
Also the payments of course, because it had to be like paid and the payment in equation. But was not really that much time because we, I quit my job in July. Beginning of July 2012, and then I think end of September 2012, we launched a paid version. It was pretty quick so we didn't have to do like so, so much development we only do then.
But then afterwards, of course, when it was launched, then we still, I mean, we, we still developed it. We it never stopped, of course, yeah. So[00:13:41] Omer: I'm, I'm curious, you, you said you got a lot of traction. with the free product, which kind of makes sense. If you're, if you're offering something, it solves a problem or meets a need and it's free, there's going to be lots of people lined up to, to use it.
Once you added some of the additional features and you started charging for the product, I'm curious in terms of, let's say your first 10 customers, how many of them were. People you converted from the free plans versus people you got through your, your personal network?[00:14:10] Stefan: Yeah, that's a good question. In number of customers it could be about 50, 50, I think, but in value, the ones that come from the network were more valuable.
So in revenue so we had only in the beginning in the very beginning, we had only five to 10 customers. From, from the online channels and maybe about the same or a bit less from, from the personal network. But I mean, at that time there, these were also small amounts. We're talking about 29 per month and we had a plan of 49 99 per month.
So even for the. personal network. It was not really scalable because I mean, the the cost of acquisition to go there and to convince them was too high for the for that kind of of of price. But in the beginning you, you have to do it because otherwise you, I mean, you, you need your first customers.
And, and in the beginning, you don't have to worry too much about scalability. You just need customers. And then you can develop them. You can ask them feedback and some will churn, but then it's important that you yeah, learn why they churn and then adapt your product or your approach based on that.
And then, and then you, you, you, you, you move on and that's, that's the way to do it.[00:15:28] Omer: So the businesses founded in 2012. I believe you hit the first million in ARR. in 2019. So we're talking about seven years to get there. Since then, growth has accelerated, you know, more and you're, you're hitting each incremental million in ARR much faster.
But I'm curious when you look back at those first seven years, what would you If anything, have done differently to try and hit that first million faster. Yeah.[00:16:00] Stefan: In the beginning we were like doing, yeah, the surveys or software for surveys. And like I said, the our value proposition was to to focus on the respondent experience so to make it more fun and use gamification, interactivity, conversational elements to make it more interesting for the respondent and thereby also collecting better and more data.
Yeah, so in the beginning that worked pretty well, but then where there were others like Typeform and other tools that did the same basically, and it was a pretty crowded, crowded market. So we, we knew, and we also knew the theory that you have to start with the niche and then expanding from that. So we knew that we had to find something else on something, yeah, more like smaller, but, but easy with less competition and easier to yeah, to position ourselves as, as a unique offering.
And we tried some things like we tried things like with around training and gamification. We try things about like being on trade shows and scanning QR codes with a small survey behind it that is then sent to the CRM system and so on, like different use cases, but none of these really, yeah, worked very well.
Some of them worked not at all, some a little bit, but we spent each time quite a lot of time in, in, in developing that, and sometimes you had to develop separate features for that and you have to test it, you have to find Yeah, use cases and to collect feedback. So. That's certainly a struggle and that's why it took so long to find, yeah, the killer use case then.
But if we do it again, I would probably try to do that faster. Try to decide faster whether some use case or some path that you have chosen is the right one or not. And then also not be afraid to, to, to stop it and to to pursue another part if it's not the right one. So not trying to do everything for everyone.
It's easier said than done, but, okay. But then if we in 2019, if we developed the assessments there also, it was not like a genius master plan or, so it was just listening to customers. We, the PDF reports that are now like part of the functionality. We first developed it for customers a couple of times, and then if.
Like new customers ask, like, can you develop a PDF report for me? And then again, another customer is asking the same. Then you should come to the conclusion that you have to buy to, to build a product for that, which we did in 2019.[00:18:36] Omer: When you focused on assessments. Was that also the point where you stopped the other or took away the other features, like the surveys? [00:18:47] Stefan: Yeah, we didn't really stop it because we still had a lot of customers. Yeah, the first million, of course, but still a million in ARR, which we needed to pay the salaries and some other details. We didn't stop those features because they were like working and, and okay, it requires some maintenance. We did stop some of the features that were like, maybe, maybe less frequently used but most of them we kept and then we had to maintain those two type of customers in parallel.
As I said, it's not completely different because in, in the assessment, you have also the questionnaire editor. In the survey, you have also the questionnaire editor, like the fact that you have, can have a multiple choice question with different choices also possibilities. It's the same in an assessment as in a, in a survey.
So It's only the reporting the customized report that was added with the assessment and some other functionalities like scoring and so some, some more complex things. Yeah. Some of the survey functionalities were also needed for, for the assessment. So we, we didn't really stop them.[00:19:51] Omer: And so does that functionality still exist today?
Like are there people who are still just using surveys and not using? Assessments in the product.[00:19:59] Stefan: Yeah. It's the minority because yeah, for new customers most of the new customers, it's about assessments because also in our marketing and, and yeah, paid acquisition, and so we don't focus anymore on the surveys.
But still, yeah, some, sometimes they, they use it for both or sometimes there's also like yeah, what's in a name. Sometimes you have like a survey, which is a little bit mixed with an assessment, like a survey with some feedback report, but limited or so, I mean there's some some mixed use cases, but most of them use it for assessments now.[00:20:33] Omer: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I, I, I think that's. That's interesting that you, I mean, initially it sounds like you had a product that did a lot of things. You were a potential solution for a wide variety of potential markets and customers. And it's not like you weren't generating revenue in those first seven years.
You were, you were getting customers, you were, you were getting recurring revenue. It just wasn't happening as, as perhaps fast. as, as you would have liked. And even this, this thing about finding the use case. that you are going to focus on and the type of customer, which today I think is professional services, both of those came from just listening to customers?[00:21:24] Stefan: Yeah, exactly. anD that's what I would advise to other SaaS founders also. It's, it's nothing magical or so, but Yeah, you have to listen systematically to customers. Also ways to to ask the questions in the, in the right way, like asking like what their situation is, what their problem is, instead of really explaining your solution right off the bat.
So, so yes. And, and also the professional services for us because we have also some other use, some other types of customers like AstraZeneca, Pharmaceutical. company who is doing automation of medical advice. We are tool. So those are like different use case, but you have to choose one. And we, we discussed like quite a little also after doing a lot of customer interviews, so how to position ourselves.
So we are now, we position ourselves as not anymore a service software, but assessment software for professional services, but also assessment software where that. like enable those professional services, people to create their own assessments, yeah, create their own assessments to automate their advice process.
And that's a unique positioning that no one else has really like the other tools are more assessments for HR often they're also mixed with with content. So that means that you buy the software, but that you buy also the content of the assessments, like psychological assessments or something else.
But our customers don't want that because they have their own content and they want to put their own content in our tool.[00:22:53] Omer: Yeah. The fact that when I look at your, your website today, it's clear that you're focused on professional services, people who have a certain type of expertise. And if you had still had surveys as part of your marketing message, I think there was always a danger that people would start comparing you with very, you'd be back in the, compared with type form and jot form and, and all of these.
Whereas now I think you are clearly differentiated and there's a clear reason why, you know, yeah, you can do surveys, but that's not the main reason why somebody would pick, pick you, but there is a specific use case and a specific customer that you're targeting, so. I think that makes, that makes a lot of sense.
Tell me about, in terms of getting to that first million in ARR, so we talk about like 2019. Aside from your personal network, listening to customers, I think SEO and content marketing were also a big driver of your growth then. And, you know, when you and I were chatting earlier, you said, Hey, you know, HowlPound didn't really work for us.
Maybe, maybe we weren't doing it the right way. You know, who knows? I think that's always interesting because the conventional advice for anybody who's In the early stages of building a SaaS business would probably be the other way around, which would be sure, do SEO and content marketing, but don't expect that to do much for you in the short term.
Instead, do outbound. That's going to get you customers faster. But it sounds like your experience was very different. So tell us about what, what, what happened with you guys.[00:24:46] Stefan: Yeah, we started, as you said, like with a personal network, but then quickly afterwards we we started to do content marketing and, and SEO.
We used also the, the references from the customers that you acquired, yeah, through the personal network to put like the logos on our sites. And so like, for example, we had like a big. KBC, a big Belgian bank here as as customers, which of course helps. And where the SEO was successful, I think, because back in the day, it was easier than now I think like with a lot of things, maybe that's one reason, but the other reason is also that like tabletquiz.
com, like the previous website, like the hobby project was already around for more than one year. Like the free site and had a lot of traffic, not only for SEO, from SEO, but also from Articles on other websites that I reach out to, and then I said, okay, I have a free tool to to create quizzes and they linked to to my to my site that gave like SEO value and also referral trafficking in certain cases.
That helped, of course, to, to jumpstart like, like the SEO and the content marketing. And then beside that, we we had a pretty good SEO consultant back then who advised us to create landing pages for different use cases based on keywords and do also link building. And the link building is something that we also did like a bit more, yeah, profoundly, I think then but it's typically done. So we even created a special Facebook group which is called B2B bloggers boost group to collaborate between content marketers or bloggers and to exchange links, but in a meaningful way, not just like spamming or like things that Do not make sense but always in the benefit of the, of the audience.
For example, if I have an article about 10 marketing tactics or 10 unconventional marketing tactics to, to bring new traffic to your site, for example, um, one of these could be related to your tool. And then next time that you write an article, yeah, I could add a meaningful paragraph to your article and which links into one of my content resources.
But of course, only if you think as the author that it makes sense for your, for your audience. And in that way we were the. The founder of that group, in that way, yeah, we got also, of course, a lot of link opportunities inbounds. And then we also yeah, on our site gave some some links to other companies in return.
But again, like only if it, if it makes sense in the context of the, of the article and then the same with guest blogs, of course. Because at that time our domain authority was not yet that high. So so giving a link on a guest blog was worth more than giving a link on on our site.[00:27:34] Omer: Tell me a little bit about Outbound.
What, what did you try and what kind of, you know, what was, what, what do you feel the biggest The challenge there was in terms of not being able to get that to work.[00:27:47] Stefan: We tried different things that a couple of years ago, we did like a campaign that's really had yeah, some short-form content, a little bit personalized and just trying to explain the benefit of our tool, like one of two sentences, and then like the question of whether they want to to, to book a meeting.
And we actually had quite some meetings from that, but not a lot of customers. And there I think the, the targeting was not 100 percent okay. And then we redid it last year or yeah or beginning of this year. And then now we we didn't have a lot of response, even even, even though meetings or like a few meetings not really enough to to make it yeah, profitable or like a positive return.
And yeah, I don't know really the reason. What I can see only is in the last, compared to five years ago, like in my inbox, it's really getting crazy, all these emails. So I guess it's becoming more difficult also to stand out. You have to be very personalized and relevant. I would first now go, now that we have a decent client base already I would first now go to to the land and expand to to go for, I mean, we have beautiful clients like Deloitte, Manpower, AstraZeneca to where we have relatively small ticket size to try to expand in these clients before doing outbounds really to unknown clients.[00:29:18] Omer: I know you had a number of other challenges in addition to Outbound, you tried partnerships and trade shows and, and, you know, those didn't work that great either, or as well as SEO and content marketing was. One of the other struggles that you had told me about was building Credibility with potential customers.
Now you're going up market. You're not talking to somebody who's creating something for their birthday party, you're talking to somebody at Deloitte. How easy or hard was it to get them on board and willing to trust using your product? I mean, you're an unknown, you don't have a brand. So how, how easy or hard was it?
You know, what were some of the things you were doing to build more credibility?[00:30:12] Stefan: In the beginning, it was hard because I come from companies like, for example, PwC, IBM, which are obviously big brands, very known, very well known. But yeah, then all of a sudden you're just you. I mean, without the brands or with your personal brands, but that was nothing compared to.
to those big brands. So yeah, pretty difficult. Certainly, if you have to acquire really new customers that don't know you and solution for that is I think to go first with your own network and then try to from your own network, it's. not magical solution in the sense that everybody from your own network will automatically turn into a customer.
But at least you will have normally a first meeting and they will do a first meeting. Maybe not with them or with a colleague at their company that could be interested in your product. If you have the first meeting, It's always a good thing because either they will become a customer or they will yeah, just say no, but then they will also explain why they said no, and that can also be valuable.
But eventually, you will have some customers and, and those could be like bigger brands, brands like the, the, the Belgian bank that I talked about. And you can use that, Yeah, that's credible references to acquire new customers outside your network then. I think you have to go as quickly as possible outside your network.
The first really moment of celebration, of course, when you have a new company is when you have the first customer. But the second moment is even more important, I think, is when you have the first customer that came outside your network, from outside your network. So then, for example, a customer from Australia who came on the website, just did the trial, was happy with the product, and then signed up for the paying plan without any interaction, without any yeah.
intervention without him knowing us or knowing us personally. So that's another that's really the even nicer moment of celebration because if you, if, if, if it's one customers that can be acquired like that, I mean, why couldn't it be 10, 100, 000? Yeah. So that's a very nice to see. Yeah.[00:32:37] Omer: So you. You use your personal network as the way to kind of get initial momentum, some traction, and obviously going through your network, people, they may not be your ideal customers, they may not be interested in buying your product, but they're more likely, it's going to be easier to get in the door, and they're more likely to, to listen and, and hear, you know, what you have to offer.
When you started to get Your first one or two bigger customers, how are you using that, that customer as a way to build credibility with. other customers. I mean, you know, were you putting the logo on the website? Were you trying to figure out, you know, creating a case study or getting a testimonial or putting something into sales collateral if you were going out and presenting to bigger customers?
What, what were some of the ways that, that you try to leverage what, you know, that one or two customer that you had to, to build some credibility and, and, you know, how well did they work?[00:33:50] Stefan: Yeah, we first made sure that they were happy with the tool. So that's of course they, they could be candidate for.
And then we yeah, we typically ask for the, for the maximum or for the, the and the maximum I think is a, is a case study on your websites where they get interviewed even on video sometimes. And and you can use that in different ways, like via quotes or, or you can send a case study to prospects you can talk about it in sales calls and so on and so on.
But if they don't want to spend the time or they are not allowed to do that from, from their company, sometimes in larger companies, it's difficult. Then we ask something, yeah, smaller, like quotes or just like logos on the website in the beginning. Now we are more. Careful, but in the beginning we just did it and it was also in our terms and conditions.
I think that we could do it unless we had negative advice from, from them. So we didn't ask it. We just do it. Also surveys that are public on the public website. If the survey is on the public domain, yeah, then everybody can see the survey. So why not, why could, should we not say that it's made with our tool and that customer, um, is, is a customer of ours.
So you have to take a little bit calculated risk there. We had once that customers said like the logo is on your website. I've seen it but you have no authorization to do that. And then you just remove it. And it's. That's okay. But I would always ask for the maximum and then, and then use it in, in different in different ways.[00:35:27] Omer: I think that's an interesting, strategy as well, that. If you ask somebody for a testimonial, they may not give it, but I don't know, if you, if you go for the bigger ask first, and then they say no, and then you come back and ask for a testimonial, seems like a relatively small ask then, right? Compared to what you were just asking for, and I don't know if it becomes easier for, for people to say yes.
Like, was that the reason why you went for like the bigger ask first?[00:35:55] Stefan: Yeah,
because then you can always ask for a little bit less and, and they will they will be more willing to approve that and that you have at least that. If you ask the smaller thing first and then they say no, then you can end up with nothing basically.
alSo, yeah, you have also to see what is in it for them and oftentimes yeah, they can use the case study to shine in their own company also, maybe with some modifications because then maybe there can be, can leave out some, some things that are specifically for, for our, for our company, about our company.
But oftentimes, I mean, there are also internal. Publications where they can publish interesting cases and so on. So that could, could also be different. So the right to reuse all these things internally should certainly be included.[00:36:44] Omer: So just to recap, we talked about the, the sort of the idea and the journey to get to the first million.
That took about seven years. Then the next million getting to the 2 million ARR was probably a couple of years after that. Three million came a couple of years after that. So things like, you know, it's, you know, you and I were talking, we say, you know, Hey, it's not quite a hockey stick, but it's getting shorter and shorter in terms of how, how quickly you're hitting each of these milestones.
Do you feel like the growth channels that you have today are sufficient to get you to say 5 million ARR? What are some of the challenges that you're now starting to? to face as you, you look at some of these bigger milestones?[00:37:26] Stefan: Yeah, the challenge now, the main challenge now is that the existing acquisition channels are kind of I would not say exhausted, but the growth potential is, is more limited.
I mean, we're talking about organic search and also like paid search like Google ads. But there are only so many monthly search queries for keywords that are interesting for us. That's just an external factor which you cannot influence. We still can optimize, it's not that there's no potential at all.
But to, to have real growth in the coming years, we have to look for new channels. And then… Yeah, I look at two things. The first thing I already mentioned that's more in sales. It's land and expand. So existing customers, we have a lot of interesting customers like Deloitte, like Manpower. We have to expand our our footprints there.
Other divisions, other geographical areas. I mean, that's easier than just going for new customers, of course. And then also the second thing is you have more from a marketing point of view that we go for top of funnel marketing, which means that you also have to reach the people who are not really having a, like a need for your tool yet.
So making sure that people who don't need you, know you. And that's, or they know you before you need, they need you, the ones that are in our target audience, of course. And yeah, you can do that by like thought leadership, maybe an overused word, but I mean, I think it's still important and something that we have to do.
Thought leadership, not about our products because of course we know everything about our product. But more about the overarching content. area, I would say, which is like linked to a product. So in our case, it's the digitization of professional services which can be, yeah, I mean, one more product shown, but just one piece of the puzzle in, in, in, in that area.
But we can talk about other things, of course, also. And when, yeah, I mean, the system is always the same when people, yeah, see that you have interesting contents they get to know you. You build trust and then at the moment that they will need a product like yours, I mean, they will come to you and you will be first on the list.
Like I said, it's something that is not new. Other companies have done it successfully, but it still takes a lot of effort and energy to do it. Yeah.[00:39:54] Omer: Okay. So it sounds like you're, you know, you're continuing to work. You're the channels that are working for you today and, you know, keep acquiring. New customers.
In addition to that, you, this land and expand strategy is really about, I mean, you, you've got some, you know, big customers that are potentially, you know, huge opportunities, right. In terms of contract value, lifetime value, that kind of thing. If you can figure out what it is exactly that they need and are willing to pay for it at scale.
So I think that's also an interesting thing. And then the top of the funnel approach is more like. Well, that's not going to pay off, you know, tomorrow or next week, but when we think of the business strategically and we, we are in this business for the long term, then at some point in the future, that is going to pay off as well because you're going to be reaching a lot of potential customers earlier on in the, in the buyer's buying journey.
Right, when they don't even know that they potentially want to buy a product like yours. Okay we should we should wrap up get into the lightning round. So I've got seven quickfire questions for you. Just try to answer them as quickly as you can. What's one of the best pieces of business advice you've received?[00:41:12] Stefan: It's to start your personal brand as early as possible. alSo when you maybe still are in job at like as an employee. But when you have an aspiration or a dream to be a entrepreneur one day, so start building your personal brands and do it by using your skills to help people outside your regular network.
So like in communities or maybe also, I mean, online communities, but also physical communities, depending on your specialization area, try to help strangers. I mean, people you don't know, and then you will build a personal brand.[00:41:49] Omer: And I think that's, that's awesome advice. It's like, you already have a skill set.
There's this, you know, you, you have skills that can help people. And often that's how many founders stumble up, you know, across a product idea, right. By just going out there and, and, and helping people. All right. What book would you recommend to our audience and why?[00:42:08] Stefan: I think it's Epic Content Marketing from Joe Pelluzzi.
So the quite well-known author and also the is also the founder of content marketing world, I think. So yeah, because I think content marketing will be the only marketing, I don't know from who that quote is but I'm kind of supporting it. So that's also linked to the aspiration of, of being like the total leader in digitization of professional services.
That is our content marketing like focus area. And I've learned from him and from that book that your content marketing should be like something more like wider than just your product basically. And, and I think that technique, like I said, like it's done by a lot of other companies like HubSpot, for example.
It, it, it still works and it can also be done by smaller companies like us. Certainly.[00:43:03] Omer: Well, what's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder? [00:43:08] Stefan: I think it's perseverance. Never give up. Because yeah, like in the seven years that we Experimented and, and tried different things before finding product market fit.
If I would not have had that perseverance then probably the company would not exist anymore today.[00:43:26] Omer: What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit? [00:43:30] Stefan: It's maybe not that spectacular, but it's like listening to podcasts, which I do also like, since a long time, since before podcasts became very popular.
But the advantage of course, that you can, I mean, you can listen it while commuting while doing workouts. I think you always learn in, in yeah, in a fun way. I think because like, I like the interview style. I like also your I, I listen to to, to, to many episodes. So I mean, the most interesting for me is simply listen to stories of, of people who are where I want to be in two years.
I mean, that's of course interesting because they they have done what I should do now. So that's the most interesting for me.[00:44:16] Omer: Well, what's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the time? [00:44:20] Stefan: Maybe not a concrete idea, but it would have to do with scaling human relationships with technology or with AI, like matching people and trying to find opportunities between strangers, people who don't know each other using data and AI and, and try to bring those people together and, and then.
If that can be done, yeah, in a sophisticated way, then when bringing these people together, there will always be a positive outcome, I think. And maybe it's maybe not that concrete, but I think you got the point, like technology will never replace the human relationship, but technology can be used to, yeah, to, to, to have better relationships with, with more people, I think.[00:45:09] Omer: Yeah, that's a great idea. What's an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know? [00:45:13] Stefan: I. I used to like, and I still like, to to study geographical maps, like like, I mean, back in the day, because I'm already pretty old. I mean these are paper maps. And yeah, instead of. Like someone else would read a book before going to going to sleep.
I looked at maps from everywhere like even maps, roadmaps. And so I, now I, I also still do that. I have a book with old maps from like the middle ages. And so I like looking at it. And, and yeah, that's[00:45:47] Omer: That's cool. It's a very unique, unique thing. And finally, what's one of your most important passions outside of your work? [00:45:53] Stefan: Yeah, I think it's. Sports, also my family, of course, but then also sports and then especially cycling and kite surfing. So, especially cycling now more recently, mountain, both mountain biking and road bike. So I'm really passionate about that. [00:46:09] Omer: Great. Well, Stefan, thank you so much for joining me.
It's been a pleasure chatting. If people want to find out more about Pointer Pro, they can go to Pointerpro. com and if folks want to get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?[00:46:23] Stefan: Yeah, you can just go to LinkedIn. I think LinkedIn is the social network I'm most active on. You can connect to with me on LinkedIn and you can also write me a message we'd be happy to exchange experiences with with listeners here. [00:46:39] Omer: Great. We'll include a link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes. Thank you again for, for making the time. I know you've got a busy job. You're a dad. I think you have three kids. Yeah, exactly. And so I appreciate you staying up late to, to talk with me and, and Record this for our audience. And you know, I wish you and the team the best of success. [00:47:01] Stefan: Thank you. And also congrats with your podcasts really like it. And also, yeah, wish you a lot of success with it. [00:47:09] Omer: Thank you very much. Appreciate that. Cheers.
- “Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less” by Joe Pulizzi