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3 Pivotal Moments Bootstrapping To $2M ARR

Peter spoke with Justin Gerena, Co-Founder of SiteSwan. SiteSwan enables agencies, publishers, designers, and entrepreneurs to effortlessly create professional websites for small businesses within minutes, without the need for coding or technical skills.

During their conversation, Justin discussed:

  • Defining the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). 
  • Harnessing the power of sales tracking to leverage data for business growth.
  • Understanding churn and its impact on SaaS growth, including strategies for retention and expansion.

Introduction

Peter Loving: Okay, so here we are. I’m live with Justin Gerena. Justin, I’d like to welcome you to our SaaS founder interview live. Could you introduce yourself? Tell us just a bit about who you are and what you do.

Justing Gerena: Sure. Thanks for having me, Peter. My name is Justin, co-founder of SiteSwan WebsiteBuilder, and we help agencies and entrepreneurs start, run, grow, and scale their own web design business.

SiteSwan’s ICP

Peter Loving: Okay, cool. So SiteSwan is a website builder. You have people signing up to use the website builder platform. Who would you describe as your ideal customer or your ICP?

Justing Gerena: Our ideal customer comes in a couple of different forms, but generally speaking, there’s someone who is looking to build a side income, either replace their existing income, build up some retirement income, someone who wants to build a side hustle for themselves, and may or may not come with some sales experience or marketing experience. No web design experience is actually required for anyone coming onto our platform, but any experience of selling something to a business prior to that is super helpful because they can parlay those experiences and strategies and build it all into, or bake it into a plan forward for website sales.

Running SiteSwan and some pivotal moments

Peter Loving: Great stuff. Okay. So in these interviews, we usually look to share 2-3 pivotal moments in your journey. How long has it been that you’ve been running SiteSwan as a business?

Justing Gerena: So we got established in 2011. We did it out of a need, quite frankly. We were building websites for small businesses as a marketing agency, found ourselves doing the same thing over and over again. I’m like, it’s got to be a better way. So that is when we SiteSwan, and then over the years, we have been able to refine the product and our audience. And when you talk about pivotal moments, it makes me think of when we discovered that the folks that we were most appealing I’m feeling most to, I’m feeling best to, were the folks I just described. We started off being very fragmented with our messaging because we were trying to appeal to all these different groups. And we realised you can’t be all things to all people. You have to know who you’re talking to in order to effectively speak to them and be heard. So that was a very pivotal moment for us.

Company size and revenue

Peter Loving: Okay, great. So that was really about defining who your targeting, who is your ideal customer, right? And who will get the software. Where are you now in terms of company size, like team size of the business and revenue?

Justing Gerena: Yeah, so we run very efficiently, I’d like to think. We are a small team of seven people, and we’re all based in the US, as is our software and our infrastructure and our client base. Our revenue is somewhere just shy of 2 million annual. And that’s something that we have worked really hard to be able to not only build, but of course, sustain.

Tracking sales

Peter Loving: Fantastic. Okay. One of the key things for you during this period was defining your ICP. You also mentioned about tracking sales. Can you tell us a bit about how tracking sales has really helped you to consistently grow the business and focus on increasing revenue?

Justing Gerena: Yeah. So I remember being in a conference about four years ago, and up on stage was Dan Martell and he was going through this presentation about being able to track sales. And he said something that resonated with, I think, almost everybody in the audience, and especially myself and my partner, which was we go from month to month saying, we did good without actually having anything to measure that against. And I think we all know that we should be measuring, but lots of times we don’t measure the right things at the right times. So what we came back from that conference with was a plan forward to not only measure monthly numbers, but also measure daily activity that our salesperson has, weekly activity as well, and set really clear quotas. And also, don’t set them arbitrarily. Set them based on the things that you are doing to reach that quota. And of course, look at last year’s numbers. And if you’re not growing by at least 15 to 20% from the year before due to inflation and other things, you’re really not growing. So we set all of our metrics accordingly, where year over year numbers are being looked at very closely.

Justing Gerena: And ever since we started tracking that information in one central location that our salesperson and management was able to easily look at at any moment in time, we have seen a very significant increase in our business.

Sales activity

Peter Loving: Okay, so you started off with the practise of measuring sales, just tracking sales month by month. Is that right? And then what sales team did you have? Was it outbound sales activity or tracking the activity that generates leads? What did that look like for you at that time?

Justing Gerena: Yeah, so for at least the past 10 years, we have been paying per lead. We have been paying to be featured in certain locations on certain sites where our audience is spending time. So they fill out a lead collection form that gets sent to us, and then we’re making almost zero outbound calls in terms of cold calling. Everything is all inbound, all of our leads. And that’s something that we’re very, very proud of, and that is also make for a very efficient sales process. While you could spend less money advertising and do cold calling, the frequency and the speed at which leads can come in allows you to be able to be a lot more effective with your sales strategy.

Better understanding churn

Peter Loving: That’s really great. I love to hear the different strategies that you’ve been able to implement and consistently use to grow. So it sounds like tracking sales was a really key moment for you in terms of growth. And that leads us to the next point that you had, which was really around better understanding churn. So can you tell us your journey on understanding churn and what that looks like for SiteSwan and managing churn in the business? And how that’s helped you with your consistent growth.

Justing Gerena: I remember the first time that we logged into our bareMetrix account, which is a software that we use to measure our current position in terms of monthly recurring revenue and other key metrics. And I remember seeing the word churn, and I said, what the heck is that? I had to click on a little question mark to get the definition of it, and that’s the percentage of people who will leave your service on a monthly basis. And the number was just a number. It didn’t really mean anything to us until we started using some forecasting tools and we discovered this thing called the SaaS Growth Ceiling, which combined with the number of clients you take on each month and how much they’re paying you along with your churn rate, you realise that every single software as a service, any subscription business has a ceiling where they cannot grow past if those numbers do not change. So we were exposed to that and we realised the impact that even lowering churn by a few percentage points would have because it’s exponential. The impact it has is exponential. So once we really understood exactly what churn means and how it could affect the long game.

Justing Gerena: We have put a huge emphasis on reducing that and have been quite successful. We’re not done, but we’ve been quite successful, and it’s actually, quite frankly, been a lot of fun.

How to find SiteSwan

Peter Loving: That’s really great to hear. I love hearing the pivotal things that you’ve experienced during managing sites on the business because there are three that really stand out for SaaS. They sound like really great transferable things that other SaaS founders can implement in their business. And each of them also three things that made a significant impact. So it’s really good to hear you talk through those Justin, thank you. How can people check out SiteSwan? So for anybody who wants to build a site or have a side business or one of those things that you describe that makes them a good fit, how can they to check out SiteSwan and get a site up and running?

Justing Gerena: Yeah, so they can head over to SiteSwan.com. We also have a pretty strong presence on YouTube as well as TikTok for as long as that’s legal in the States. And we have made it a point to educate our prospects as well as our active clients as much as we possibly can. We put a lot of our educational material on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok all at SiteSwan.

Peter Loving: Great. Okay. And how does YouTube go for you guys? Does that tend to be a good channel? Do you use it mostly for tutorials and how-tos?

Justing Gerena: Yeah, good question. So we started off just posting up some how-to stuff on there, and then we eventually got into posting our webinars on there, and then started producing some short form content that we found really resonates with a huge audience on YouTube of people looking to start a side business, start a business, get into digital marketing. So it fits in really well with the types of people who are spending a lot of time on YouTube.

Peter Loving: Great, okay, fantastic. Great, well Justin, thanks so much for joining me. It’s been really good to have a chat with you today. And great. We’ll keep in touch and share this live on social media with you.

Justing Gerena: Perfect, Peter. Thank you.

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