How an Internal Tool Turned into a Subscription Billing & Affiliate Management SaaS Juggernaut, Powering Over 2,500+ Online Businesses
Best-in-class subscription billing and affiliate management, without the technical hurdles.
Who Are You & What Business Did You Start?
Matt Callen and I (Mark Thompson), started PayKickstart back in 2015. PayKickstart is a subscription billing and affiliate management platform that provides the tools needed to maximize lifetime customer value and minimize churn.
How Did You Come up with the Idea?
Our sister company, Digital Kickstart was actually the guinea pig for what PayKickstart has become. It started as an internal tool, to sell our various software and information programs that we’ve been creating since 2009.
The existing billing and affiliate management solutions in the marketplace seems to be outdated and archaic, not adequately keeping up with the standards customers online require when purchasing online.
We realized that as we started to grow from a 6 to 7, then from a 7 to 8 figure per year business, we had a number of profit leaks and inefficiencies in our business - mainly from billing. This is why we decided to build a platform that could help reduce or eliminate those profits leaks. A high converting checkout experience, ability to test and deploy multiple pricing strategies, lower process fees, were just a handful of reasons that building the platform from scratch was the only choice we had.
Describe the Process of Launching the Business
Something that helped us bring this new SaaS to market, was the fact that we used the platform for over a year before rolling it out to a beta group. This allowed us ample time to ensure the core code-base and critical bugs had been worked out.
Once we felt confident that the foundation was sound, we allowed 50 businesses to start using PayKickstart. For 6 months, we gathered feedback, resolved additional bugs and continued to add additional feedback based on demand.
After that 6 month beta period, we opened up to the general public.
We did a formal product launch with over 100+ affiliate partners who promoted our launch. The launch consisted of two information training videos to explain who we serve, our USPs -- followed by our final “sales” video. The sales video was our pitch to online businesses as to why they should migrate to PayKickstart. We had an irresistible offer where they received our best plan for 12 months for $997 - along with other bonuses. The launch was a great springboard for branding, building trust and credibility in the marketplace. This is how we acquired our first 150 customers.
Over the next 3-4 years, we have continued to provide world-class customer support, improve on onboarding process to get new customers up and running quickly, and improve our feature-set.
Since Launch What Has Worked to Attract Customers?
Outside of the traditional paid advertisement traffic sources, like Google and Facebook ads, one thing we have put a strong focus on is turning our current customers into “brand ambassadors”, promoting PayKickstart to their customers. In turn, we offer a nice recurring commission to these affiliate partners when they refer a sale.
We do our best to provide excellent 24/7 customer service. In doing so, it’s proven that by providing first-class support, our highest converting “marketing channel” has been our existing customer base – as they are spreading the word and telling their friends and colleagues about us.
Another thing to add in regards to growth is that many businesses focus only on bringing in more customers, and that’s definitely an important thing to put your time and energy towards. However, we’ve seen a lot of growth by first trying to increase the lifetime value of every customer that comes through our doors.
So, once we honed in on that by implementing things like upsells, downsells, cross-sells, order bumps, and an automated dunning sequence to save failed rebills (all of which can be done by the PayKickstart software), we realized that we could still grow our revenue without having to get additional traffic than we were currently receiving.
Describe a Moment Where You Had to Overcome a Challenge – Before or After Launch
Before and after launch, I have always had to consistently remind myself that trying to do too many things at one time, jumping from one thing to the next reduces my (and my team’s) ability to be productive on the most important tasks.
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to constantly be thinking, “What’s the next problem I can solve?” And then we want to go out and solve it, even if the “importance” to our customers and our business isn’t of top priority.
Early on, I would jump from one project (or task) to the next, never giving the main project all of my focus so that it could grow to its potential.
What Platforms Do You Use for Your Business?
Obviously PayKickstart is the backbone for fueling our billing and affiliate management.
We also utilize Slack as our primary communication channel with our team.
Jira has been a great project management tool to manage our sprints and development workflow.
Our customer support tech stack includes Customerly for live chat and FreshDesk for our help desk. We created our own self-hosted Knowledgebase for self-serve tutorials and training. We also use ProductBoard for managing customer feature requests and to power our changelog.
Given that we are a 100% virtual company, we rely on Hubstaff to handle time tracking.
Pipedrive is our Sales CRM to properly track communication with leads and new customers that are in the onboarding phase.
Advice for Other Entrepreneurs Who Are Just Starting out
Do something you’re passionate about.
When I started my first online business, instead of following a passion, I followed the “trends in the market”. My goal then was to find something that would just make me money. However, I quickly realized that there will be tons of challenges and bumps along the way. And since I wasn’t truly passionate about my initial projects or industries, it was hard to have the perseverance and desire to overcome those obstacles.
Also, I would advise someone else to, “Take imperfect action.”
Most entrepreneurs have the tendency to want everything to be perfect. And that’s how I was too.
Before I would ever get something out the door and try to sell it, I would constantly be tweaking it, scared that it wasn’t perfect. This led to a tremendous amount of wasted energy and time.
Once you are willing to accept imperfection, it will help you get to market faster, be able to adapt quicker, and ultimately build a thriving business.