secrets to scale

Secrets To Scale Podcast
036 - How A SaaS Company Grew By Downsizing With Bianca Collings

036 – How A SaaS Company Grew By Downsizing With Bianca Collings

Secrets To Scale is a marketing and entrepreneurship podcast that revolves around hearing the stories of successful entrepreneurs and uncovering their secrets to scaling their businesses. Music for every episode of this podcast was written and produced by Treycen Clausse.

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Tanner:

This week on the show, I have Bianca Collings, Executive Director of Marketing at Skipio. Bianca and I had talked about SMS marketing as well as her experience downsizing the company by about 80% while achieving a 10 X increase in sales at the same time. Bianca is amazing. You’re going to love this episode. Welcome to the show, Bianca. I’m super excited to have you. Go ahead and introduce yourself to the audience.

Bianca:

Well, my name is Bianca Collings and I’ve got quite a colorful work past. I was a professional harpist, almost my entire life and went to school. I had a scholarship at the University of Washington Seattle to study music and got about three years into that degree and decided I didn’t love being a harpist so much. And so I changed courses, did a bunch of different things. And about 2007, I started a business in Seattle. I come from a strong entrepreneurial family, both my parents had businesses, all my siblings own their own companies. And 2007 was a really unique time because that’s about the time that Facebook hit for businesses. And we ran an event business and relied a lot on email marketing and direct mailers. And so when this new Facebook thing came out, we gave it a try and we’re actually one of the very first to use you know, business marketing and Facebook.

And after that, you know, there’s Instagram and Twitter and it was fun to be able to dive into a new way to hit your audience. And it didn’t even have a name, you know, it wasn’t called social media. It wasn’t called digital marketing. It wasn’t anything. And anyway, we wrapped up that business about four years after we started and because the co-founder and I were both moving and I relocated here to Utah, one of my vendors and had just started a new business and was looking for help in marketing. And again, digital or social media didn’t have a name. It was like, we just need someone to come in here and run all our social platforms and our ads and help us create marketing strategies. So I went with that company and helped them grow for six years and they were amazing. I got a lot of hands-on experience and grew so much. I learned by doing and I wish I learned by studying, but I learned really quick when I was in college that I learned by doing, and I was recruited from that company into Skipio where I currently am now and started in digital and social and just marketing management. And I’m now their head of marketing. So in a nutshell, that took so long, but there’s my whole career.

Every month, every week I evaluate and reevaluate what I’m doing.

Tanner:

That’s a really awesome story. And I appreciate you sharing that. I think it’s really interesting how many people talk about how they had this life planned out for themselves. And then, you know, once he got so far into it, they realize, okay, this is not what I want to do. And now we got to make a change.

Bianca:

Absolutely. And giving yourself the permission to make that change. It was really hard. I was on full scholarship and three years in and miserable. I’m an extrovert. And if you’ve ever seen an orchestra look at where the harp is all by themselves all about, and there’s one. So I wasn’t happy. So it takes courage to just say, all right, this isn’t right. And I think that’s continually what we’re doing in life right. Every month, every week I evaluate and reevaluate what I’m doing.

Tanner:

Yeah. That’s awesome. You know, we’re not happy with what we’re doing and the path that we’re on. Obviously we got to make a change, right? So I’m curious, what did they call social media and digital marketing back then? Just marketing?

Bianca:

It had no name, it was just advertising. Right? If we were going to create ads, we’re going to create. And a lot of it was organic. Oh my goodness. The things that we were doing with this company that I was with in 2012 it, it would blow your mind. You would put out an ad, there were no algorithms. It showed your ad to everybody. And the returns that we got on organic were unreal. And it didn’t, it took Facebook about three months prior to us launching a lot of things to become smart. And they changed the game and, you know, they continually do. But what was cool was integrating over to Instagram right after, and we’re able to do the same thing there until I think it was a year in changed the game. So that, again, you talk about changing, you’ve got to just be on top of those platforms, all of them and be ahead of the game and know that you cannot depend on them for your sole source of advertising.

Tanner:

Yeah, yeah, no question on that. So yeah. Can you get us an idea of what Skipio is and how business owners can benefit from it?

Bianca:

A hundred percent. Skipio is the most dialed in human way to text message customers at scale. So you take the very best of automation and you marry it with the human element. And that is Skipio. I mean, our new slogan lately is a business texting for humans or spammy text marketing was so last year spammy text messaging because spammy text messaging is exactly what we’re not. So maybe looking at what we’re not, will help describe better what we are, but any person, any business that needs to have a scalable one-on-one conversation with another human, that is what Skipio does.

Tanner:

So, that’s awesome. So how long was Skipio around for?

Bianca:

Two years. I came in at the beginning of year three.

Take everything you love about email and being able to put that into a text message and reach customers where they are.

Tanner:

And so what were some of the obstacles that you guys faced during that time and in regards to, you know, growing and scaling?

Bianca:

Well, I’ll tell you this, Skipio was one of the very first companies to automate text messaging. So you take everything you love about email and being able to put that into a text message and reach customers where they are. It was this novel idea. And at the time it was really easy to get. And again, this is prior to my arrival at Skipio, to just say yes to every opportunity because it was new for everyone, right? So we’re going to make custom plans for everyone. Everyone’s a yes. And over the years you realize that your product isn’t necessarily the right fit for every customer. And that was a lesson that we just had to learn over and over and over again is what opportunities to truly say no to and what wasn’t a right fit. We have a lot of people that come to us wanting to just blast messages, and maybe there’s a place for that, right?

You need to get a promotion out to a thousand people. You need a short code or a toll free number to get that done. It took us years to hone in on where we are different in the market is how dialed in and personal our campaigns are. So it’s not just that first message. We can make a drip of seven messages over 45, 60 a year’s worth of time that every single message you’re delivering to your customer looks like it was written just for them or your prospect. It was written just for them.

Tanner:

I like that. All too often entrepreneurs just say yes to anyone that’s willing to pay them money. Right? And it’s not always going to be the best for the business and the vision.

Bianca:

It’s a very mature decision-making process that someone’s willing to give you money. It’s very hard to say no. And like you realize you get enough of the wrong customer and you just don’t have the bandwidth to take care of them.

Tanner:

Yeah. So it gives you a lot of opportunity and a lot of power, right? When you say no. And you know, when you’re saying yes to the wrong types of customers, that aren’t always going to fit your processes there aren’t always, they could also have a really bad influence on your team members.

Bianca:

Exactly, exactly. That’s what I mean, you know, we didn’t have the bandwidth to take care of all the wrong customers.

Tanner:

So I really liked that. And I think that’s super important when it comes to scaling. So Bianca, what would you attribute your success to in your career?

Bianca:

Oh, gee, I’m not sure. I’m continually modifying that. Right? So we are huge advocates for the Clifton strengths at Skipio. It’s something that we make every person taking assessment before they even make it to their final interview. Because we believe I don’t know if you’re familiar with it. There’s a set of 34 strengths and you’re kind of ranked on what lens you view the world through. And that’s how you work. It’s how you process information. It’s how you communicate to people. That was really eye opening for me because there were certain skills that I knew I had inside, but I couldn’t put words to those skills. And so two or three we focus on, we say, you’re in your zone when you’re like in your top five or 10 strengths. So two of my top five, that’s where I get my success.

And when I’m living in that zone and working in that zone, and one is a ranger, it’s like, I’m the conductor of the orchestra. And so I’m, I am able to take a lot of moving pieces, put the right, plug the right people into those pieces and execute you, give me any task, any puzzle, anything. If I have the right people and can plug them into my equation, I can get that job done. And then another one it’s called activator. I talked about learning from doing an activator. They will start a process. Sometimes they’re very impulsive, but they learn as they go through the motions of doing whatever it is. Instead of like sitting down, putting together a full strategy and making the map and, you know, detailing out every little road you need to get to go. You have to go down to get to the finish line. They just start going, we’ll start going down the road and up this, the wrong road let’s turn. So that’s, those two things have really helped me, not just having those skills, learning how to dial those into my job.

We become the customer.

Tanner:

Yeah. That’s a really good point. So how does Skipio currently handle marketing and sales for themselves?

Bianca:

Not as great question. I’ll tell you this, how we currently handle it is a little different than we used to handle it. And I know we’re going to get to this in a minute about the secrets of scale. We use our own product in our marketing and sales funnel. We’ll use our product to bring people into that funnel to nurture them qualify them and then close them. That is that’s our secret sauce. It’s just using our own product.

Tanner:

I love that because all too often, you’ve got businesses that have their own products that they’re selling that they’re not using themselves. For example, a ton of marketing agencies out there that specialize in digital marketing, don’t actually use digital marketing to get their own clients, which is just blasphemy. Right?

Bianca:

I would say the cobbler’s kid that has a worn out pair. Yeah. It’s that, it’s exactly that. And, you know, we used our product in sales, not necessarily to move the prospect all the way through the sales funnel. But it was used in sales. We never used it in marketing ever. And we really had to downsize as we figured out what our customer base was, where we wanted to be. We moved to a skeleton crew to tighten up the nuts and the bolts and in doing so moving, we had a dramatic downsize over like a year and a half period of time. And we realized the only way we were going to be able to do what we needed to do is we had to multiply ourselves. And what better way to multiply yourself then combining automation with humans. So we used our own product. We use it in customer support. We use it in marketing. We use it in sales and every touch point you have with our company.

Tanner:

That really good. And another thing, too, is that by using your own product, you can actually identify issues or enhancement opportunities with user experience and any issues that might arise. Whereas you might have to, you know, talk to current users to get that type of information. You can get a head start.

Bianca:

Exactly. We become the customer. And that’s what we did and talk about. I talked about that activator strength for me. I had to get into the product to really understand how the market could use it better. And what pains the product was solving for people, not just, oh, our products grade, it has this feature and this feature and this feature, we moved our marketing strategy from feature-based to truly solving the pain of the customer.

Tanner:

Which is what it’s all about. Right? You can have all these bells and whistles, whatever that’s kind of just left. But, you know, when it really comes down to is solving someone’s problem and that’s what business is all about. So marketing is all about you can’t sell something unless it’s solving problems, right? At least not sustainably.

Bianca:

Well, that’s what makes them stick to you, solve their problem. You really solve it. They’re not going to let you go.

We’re not going to sell the house, but we’ve got to break down the walls and we had to rebuild.

Tanner:

Oh yeah, no question. So, you were talking about downsizing down to a skeleton crew. Can, we talk about that? Can you tell us that story of, you know, what happened and what the results were and how you did it?

Bianca:

Yeah. I mean, it’s not something that any company ever wants to do. We were really identifying our product and where we fit in the market and you know, kind of moving away from a B2C model and into a B2B model and it took about a year and a half’s worth of time, but we did downsize significantly. And truly, it was a matter of, we’ve got to figure this out. And then I’m going to think about like, doing a massive remodel on a house. We’re not going to burn the house. We’re not going to sell the house, but we’ve got to break down the walls and we had to rebuild. And when we did rebuild that house, instead of having a crew of, you know, 60 or 70 people, we had a crew of up 15 to 18 people rebuilding that home.

And in doing that, we were very, very careful about what walls we put up, where, what rooms we created. And today it’s a beautiful standing house. Like we’re back on the way up. But we had to go through that to figure out again exactly who we were, what we were selling and who we were selling it to. It’s always been amazing. It is just a phenomenal product, but I think it was maybe more or less marketing and sales catching up with that as well. And again, in marketing and I blame myself on this targeting the right people with the right message at the right time, if you want to be clear.

Tanner:

Yeah, no question. And you know, that’s a great analogy, building up remodeling a house is really similar to what you would’ve had it done. So can you speak to a little bit about the automation side of it? Like, how did you handle all of the workload with only 15 to 20 people?

Bianca:

Well, there you go again. So back to the let’s just take marketing for one, and I could go into support and sales if you want as well. What we do is you cast a wide net with your automation. And with that, you’re sending a very personalized text message, very short but you’re ensuring that, I mean, it’s 98% of people will actually see your text message. So with that you weed out the people who want to engage and respond to you. So I’d cast a wide net and get the responses. And that is the point where I, the human or somebody else on the team, would jump into the loop. So you get an engaged prospect and you can start talking to them. What you’ve eliminated is hours and hours of phone calls.

As you bring in leads, you’ve eliminated, well, I don’t even want to talk about emails, because seriously, we got a 10% open rate on emails, at least in business to business that I’ve seen. However, I don’t want to discharge email or phone because I really believe really dialed in personal automated text messaging, email, and phone together, or like the trifecta. But what’s cool about this is you send out that message. So someone has your number, they know who you are and they know what you want. So if you do call them, it’s not spam, they know who you are when you’re calling them. And at least they see the message. Whereas with email, they’re not even a 90% chance, we’re not even going to see it or see who you are, what you want with a phone call, and they’re not even going to pick up.

So we started again, that’s what we did with our lead generation. And also we started reaching out to thousands of cold leads with our product, which we had not done prior. So we’re doing that and we’re just qualifying people and you’re able to qualify at scale. And not just that, if somebody wants to talk to you, you send them a text reminder to make sure they, get on that appointment and you send somebody an email again, they may not open it. They may not see your zoom link. But you send them a text message with a little reminder, right before you’re supposed to meet. And if they can’t meet, instead of chasing that person down for a day or two, to get them back on your calendar, they can just text you schedule another time. So it just was a time saver and a multiplier. And so, in a nutshell, that’s what we did. It’s just using this through, through the funnel to qualify, to get people to appointments and actually to close.

We’re solving a problem and it’s not just SMS.

anner:

That’s a really awesome story. What do you think about the future of SMS or texts? At one point I’m sure way back in the day email was the hot thing where everyone always saw your message, right? Do you think that SMS is going to overload our inboxes?

Bianca:

Oh, yes. Where SMS is turning in to what email was. And so what we are selling to our customers has to be so much more than that. Again, we’re solving a problem and it’s not just SMS. It’s how you talk to those prospects. We really want to be the thought leaders in best messaging. And from day one, when you get in our product, we’re teaching you, don’t just send a text, send the right message. So in the future for us, I don’t care what the next thing is. Someone’s joked. It could be like a hologram, right? I don’t know, max. I don’t know what’s coming next, but as long as we stick to our practices, honestly, we know how to write a message that elicits a response. We’ve got 50 to 60% response rates on our messages, our clients, because we’ve found is truly one of the most effective tools you can have in your toolbox for sales and with the people that have been in the products, especially for sales, they are seeing 30 to 40% increase in their responses.

 We have one client, it was like 30% in the first week that they used it. But again, it’s not just sending a text message. Sometimes we’ve had clients say, well, the system’s broken. I’m not getting any replies. Why aren’t you telling me? You promise responses. I’m not getting responses. We get into their account. And we read the messages they’re sending. Well, of course, you’re not getting a reply because you’re sending a text message. Like it was an email. You send a paragraph this long, pushing out all the information first, we’re not going to reply. So our secret sauce isn’t necessarily in the SMS and the automation, it’s in the messages we’re sending.

Tanner:

Right. And that’s what it comes down to. It’s kind of do you have give them a reason to respond, and you don’t want to be too invasive either when it comes to SMS marketing.

Bianca:

It’s so personal, right? Like, let’s keep this thing on you all. And if you can’t, you want to be able to see my phone and I’m holding my phone and you can sniff out spam in five seconds. One second. You know it. So we are teaching our customers how to speak, like a human would speak, and we’ve got messaging. We don’t have time for bots. Ain’t nobody got time for bots. Like, do not speak like a robot, speak like a human, even though you are, it’s like this weird switch goes on in their brain. Like, okay, I’m messaging 200 people at one time and you change your messages. You don’t need to do that. You need to pretend like this message is written for each individual.

Tanner:

Yeah, no question. I mean, you should be sending these messages as if you typed it out on your phone, right? Yeah. So Bianca, what would you say your secrets to scale are?

Bianca:

Well, I know we’re not here to push product, but someday I may not say let’s give you all forever. Right? We’d make career changes at some point in our life, but I promise you, I will take this product wherever I go. I’ve done consulting work in the past. Actually last year, I did quite a bit. Every company I ever went in and consulted with, again, I’ve told them, I’m like, I’m not trying to push this product, but I can tell you, your life will be so much easier if you will just implement this into your support process or your marketing funnel. Like anybody that has actually used this, they can’t live without it. So that’s it. That’s my secret to scale. It is Skipio and I will take it with me wherever I go forever. And when it’s not SMS anymore, Skipio becomes a holograph. We’ll take that with us.

Tanner:

Well, I think that says a lot about, you know, the quality of the product and how much you believe in it and how much you believe in the company and the vision. So I think that’s really awesome. So Bianca, I really want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Is there anything that I have not asked you that you think might benefit the audience?

Bianca:

I think you’ve got it. This is exciting what you’re doing, because there are secrets to scale. Let’s dial them in and figure it out and be the very best we can be.

Tanner:

Awesome. So beyond me, what’s a great way for anyone listening to get in contact with you?

Bianca:

You can text me. I’ll give you my Skipio number. You can text. This is cool. Watch how it works. I mean, you don’t have to do this now, but you’re going to text my name, Bianca, to phone number (385) 207-8348. That’s my digital business card. And you can see the magic of automation and humanization.

Tanner:

Oh, that’s awesome. So everyone go text Bianca, and we’ll make sure we put that in the show notes as well. Thank you again. Take care.

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