Mick Liubinskas is co-founder of WooBoard.com, a Sydney-based global company aiming to help people love their jobs by giving them daily recognition.
WooBoard was first raised as an idea back in May 2011. Wonderfully, and amazingly, it’s still alive and kicking two years on. We’ve learned some interesting things about building a B2B SaaS business focused on employee recognition and here are just some of the highlights.
Strong demand is just the start
Almost everyone loved the idea of WooBoard but that didn’t easily translate into real customers. Who wouldn’t want more recognition personally and for their company? But first we had to pick which customers we could serve to begin with given a limited budget. Everyone had a different view of what they wanted and almost every situation asked for different features. So we had lots of trials (700 in fact) with 600 of them saying they’ll come back later. It was important to say no to them otherwise we’d build a product for everyone and lose everyone. It feels harsh early to miss out on eager customers but it’s better to focus and make a smaller group ecstatic. One of our first customers has now generated over 12,000 Woo’s (or moments of recognition) in under two years which is amazing.
Cultural Differences are Important Early On
We had interest from lots of different countries, particularly USA, Japan and Poland. The personal element of WooBoard added in a cultural difference between countries. Not only did this impact user experience, it also dealt with language. Japan and Poland got that a Woo was that sound you made when you achieve something, but some customers from the US thought the Woo made it sound like a dating site. As we progressed this became less and less important because people focus on the value created and the strength of the product.
Seasonality makes a difference
We’ve learned that business to business products ebb and flow with the seasons. Tax time, school holidays, planning periods, launch periods, and busy periods all impact how much attention you get. Sometimes it’s a good thing – like when someone critically needed WooBoard to motivate their staff before a big launch. Other times it’s a bad thing – like holiday seasons when many people switch off. The sales cycle needs to be considered against an annual calendar to avoid delays in closing.
“Blue Ocean” isn’t easy
Wooboard is in a new category of products servicing an old need in a new way. There are a few competitors but we still mainly deal with companies with manual or no existing system. So you’re not attacking for a share of a pre-allocated budget. Again, this is great since you have lots of green-field opportunities, but it’s also harder because you may need to convince multiple stakeholders that it’s worth it.
Be a pain killer and a vitamin
It helps to add quick value and slow value over time. Most people want to use WooBoard to solve an immediately problem, “I want engaged staff now”, which is great. But we also want to keep customers for the long term. We needed to work, and keep working, to make sure that fast value translates into a deeper value over time. We often thought about Farmville and even World of Warcraft which does a great job to get brand new, zero experience customers engaged and then different techniques to keep them coming back.
Exponential correlation of size and complexity
A larger company means a larger potential opportunity but it also means a much, much larger challenge and longer time. We had interest from companies ranging from five to 50,000 people. We had our fingers crossed that we would be able to sell into larger companies department by department with managers putting us on their credit cards. This did happen, but still we faced many of the questions of a larger enterprise sell. They were more likely to want integration into their existing system (Sharepoint, SAP or Lotus Notes), more challenges with browser compatibility and were more likely to have IT or HR want to get involved and make life harder or slower.
$10 or $100,000?
With pricing we had this strange tipping point as we were building out the product. People would expect it to be like most SaaS products and cost US$10 to US$200 per month. Then after really seeing the impact we could have on motivation and productivity, they’d often change their mind and say it should be a US$100,000 sell to the whole company. They are probably right, but step by step, we’re adding more value to the product, building the sales tools and increasing the revenue per customer.