Turning the Worst Part of My Job into a Successful SaaS

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

Hey there! My name is Lior Ohayon and my background is in digital marketing (particularly SEO) for local, e-commerce, and SaaS companies.

These days I work mainly on ScopeLeads, which is a tool that helps other digital marketing consultants and agencies generate leads and reach out automatically. We've been able to grow and succeed among digital marketers because the app caters specifically to them, filtering businesses that actually need their marketing help based on the state of their website.

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What motivated you to get started with ScopeLeads?

I came up with the idea for ScopeLeads when I saw a few of my internet marketing buddies getting into the software space. The only thing I knew at that point was the agency life, having run my own for three years.

So I thought to myself, "What is the most frustrating, annoying, expensive, and time-consuming part about working with clients?" The answer: Prospecting. Very few consultants even do much of it, yet I learned early on how crucial it was to always be prospecting in order to keep the pipeline full.

At the time, I was sending physical packages and cold emails to leads in my city. The only one that could be automated was the cold email part, so I leaned towards that. Every Sunday I would create a Google Sheet with a huge prospecting list of people that had bad SEO and could use my help. Then, throughout the week, I would reach out to them via cold email, video audits, and follow-ups, and try to land the deal.

I realized every single part of that process could be automated, from finding the lead, to making sure they needed help, to the audits, and even follow-ups. There were a few tools out there that did list-building, and a few that did follow-ups, but none did it for the digital marketing space, and none of them were combined into one tool.

Thus, the idea was born.

What went into building the initial product?

I'm not a technical founder, so finding a developer I could trust and that could get the job done was a monumental task. It took one and a half years of having developers start, get stuck, start over, and run away (literally), until I finally found one that started from scratch and stuck around. He is still with the team, and is a mean full-stack developer who managed the entire app by himself. I put pretty much all of my savings from consulting into him from February 2016 until our Beta opening in June 2016.

If you're a solo-founder and not a coder, you're going to need cash and some guidance.

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I opened a group on Facebook, allowed a couple dozen people into the app, and away we went. Features, results, iterations, bugs—it was one hell of a ride, but I owe it all to these initial beta testers <3. At this point I started planning a huge launch, and stopped taking on marketing clients.

How have you attracted users and grown ScopeLeads?

The launch date was August 16, 2016. It was planned for months in advance, in a typical "internet marketing" (IM) fashion. JV (Joint Venture) partners, emails, contests, sales pages, upsells, video sales letter, everything.

We got lucky because the launch was originally supposed to be in June, and we pushed it off to avoid colliding with another launch. In those extra two months, we privately sold a package of the software via affiliates (JVs) who were able to fill up webinars with their audience. We did over $200,000 from those webinars alone.

The webinars also gave us traction, as bigger names started to come on board for the main launch when they heard these numbers. Needless to say, it did very well—beyond my wildest expectations—pulling in another $200,000 in revenue in four days.

Go all out in whatever you do, your users will be able to feel it in your product.

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I had a partner on this launch whose sole responsibility was finding, communicating, and signing JVs in the same niche/industry to promote, and another partner who managed the funnel and everything else. Going through his connections, other leaderboard and contest winners, etc, we signed up thousands of affiliates.

In total, we sold over 4,000 lifetime accounts that summer. To this day, we still rely on the traffic, affiliates and SEO benefits from that initial launch. We do no other marketing except the occasional JV webinar. I recommend any new company to do a public launch in the beginning, and take on partners who've already done it and had successful launches. If you can show them that your beta users got results, you can get them excited about the product.

What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

After the initial launch we switched to a monthly and annual recurring subscription model. It's still important to us to follow proven IM techniques and offer upsells, affiliate products, and more, in order to boost revenue. The app itself is currently making $26k/month with subscriptions, and we also offer other upsells, add-ons, and training that significantly increases our customer lifetime value (CLTV) and just about doubles that figure each month.

I would recommend everyone start off with Stripe and never touch PayPal. We've also switched to Chargebee recently, although some of our subscriptions are still "locked" to previous payment processors, which means we still have to pay ridiculous fees on them and we don't own the customer. Learn from my mistakes!

We still run an affiliate program via First Promoter, and we try to get into as many affiliates' hands as we can. If they teach digital marketing and they have a course or members area of some sort, it usually works well for them to make a video about cold emailing showing our tool, and using their affiliate link.

Our aim currently is to grow our monthly subscriber base and reduce churn as much as possible by really listening to what customers want, and helping them get results with hands-on support and training. We've raised prices and that seems to have held strong as well.

An interesting part of our software is that everything is unlimited, so estimating costs based on resource usage is a juggling act that will never end!

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What are your goals for the future?

Our next goal is to hit $40k/month by end of 2019 in subscriptions alone, and to lower churn significantly. This means simply being the best on the market, with a product that gets results. We plan to scale up our SEO, blog, and start with paid ads to accomplish this.

I also have courses planned which will increase the CLTV and would spark an interesting conversation with a potential buyer. We've already been approached to sell, but probably won't be ready until we have something much larger in mind.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

The biggest challenge we've faced is a mix of technical and strategy.

Since the majority of our users only paid one time, we now have to deliver what we promised them, forever. This is resource and cost-intensive, and it’s hard to figure out how to balance everything (literally).

If I were to start over, I would definitely start with a recurring model. No exceptions. This was the biggest mistake we've made. Even though the launch provided us with a bit of cash after paying partners and affiliates, it was just a lump sum.

I would also start with metrics and proper reporting very early on. I waited until all too recently to get our billing system and metrics in order, and we're paying the price for it.

Last but not least, understand that if you're a solo-founder and if you're not a coder, you're going to need cash and some guidance in order to understand all the tech stacks out there and what plays well with what.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I think not sacrificing time for quality (not rushing the launch, new feature pushes, etc) has paid off time and time again.

Go all out in whatever you do, your users will be able to feel it in your product.

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What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

Get a mentor who's been there before, but isn't too big now. If you're at $5k MRR and want to be at $10k, find someone who is at $10-15k, because they've been there before (very recently), and it's fresh for them.

I actually called my competitors and managed to convince one to mentor me, which paid off very well.

My other advice is to focus. Focus on one marketing channel, one feature at a time, one problem at a time. Only once you master it can you move on to the next.

The more you try to put on your plate, the sloppier and more empty your marketing will look. I see many people doing social and content all day long but not seeing returns, because they're on 10 different platforms screaming from the rooftops.

Focus, especially on the basics. Traffic, conversions, and retention. Might seem obvious, but that's what I still preach to myself everyday!

Where can we go to learn more?

I blog about client-acquisition at ScopeRush, and we recently started a ScopeLeads blog as well.

You can find me on Instagram and Facebook.

Please feel free to ask me anything in the comments below, I'll be active there and on the blog!

Lior Ohayon , Founder of ScopeLeads

Want to build your own business like ScopeLeads?

You should join the Indie Hackers community! 🤗

We're a few thousand founders helping each other build profitable businesses and side projects. Come share what you're working on and get feedback from your peers.

Not ready to get started on your product yet? No problem. The community is a great place to meet people, learn, and get your feet wet. Feel free to just browse!

Courtland Allen , Indie Hackers founder

  1. 4

    Cool, congrats.
    Just one thing. On Scopeleads.io the "Get started" button on bottom of page goes to http://localhost/scopeleads/pricing/ ;-)
    Cheers
    Stefan

    1. 1

      Thanks so much Stefan! Changed it up.

  2. 3

    Really like the animation in the header. Good work.

    1. 1

      Thanks Michael!

      1. 1

        Did you make the anmation yourself or did you use a service for that?

        1. 1

          The designer ended up doing it. Didn't even know he would in the beginning!

  3. 2

    Great job with the revamp, looks really nice!

    1. 1

      Thanks Virgil!

  4. 2

    Thanks for the insider info, it's really valuable.

    As a fellow SaaS founder, I'm really interested to hear on what sites have you managed to sell those 4,000 lifetime subscriptions in the beginning? And what was your price point for the lifetime subscription compared to the monthly fees?

    We haven't done a loud launch yet, so I would love to hear what worked out for you that well! Making 2x $200k in revenue - that's like a funding round :) So awesome.

    1. 2

      Hey Roland, the launch wasn't done on a site, it was simply my landing/sales page hosted on my server. Then the affiliate drove their affiliate links (via email, blogging, social, etc) to the sales page directly.

      1. 1

        Yeah, that seems to be a great reasoning against appsumo. It not only undervalues a service, but gives you a bunch of people who you'll need to support for a lifetime.

    2. 1

      Sounds like appsumo for $49 a lifetime package. You should check the forum on the experience from other founders as you only keep a smaller % of that 200k and indeed you suddenly need to support 4k users for a lifetime, which does not sound like a good deal to me but you obviously need to decide for yourself.

      1. 1

        It wasn't done on appsumo, we did it all on our own with affiliates, no platform.

        I definitely agree with that point though, and it is something that I said I regret in the post.

        1. 2

          That is quite an achievement to get organized though, and thanks for being open in the article as I think it gives a good perspective of this kind of deals.

  5. 2

    Where can I find the courses that you talked about the CLTV?

    1. 1

      I don't promote them publicly but if you signup for the blog I tend to email about it 2-3 times a year!

      1. 1

        Oh yes, I subscribed immediately, I love your content. Very useful for my just starting business.
        Can't wait to see the rest of your content and course!

  6. 2

    Thanks.. would love to hear more about how you found your developer, selected them etc, as I'm a non-tech going through that process myself currently.

    1. 1

      Hey Tony, I used a lot of freelance websites in the beginning and I still do. If you vet them very well, have them do tests, explain things to you in layman's terms, you'll end up gaining some experience and be able to tell who's actually good.

      I found my first developers on Facebook, in a group about the technology I was looking to develop in. If you have cash, you can also go to pre-vetted marketplaces like TopTal.

  7. 2

    Thanks for sharing. Great story.

    If you had to start over would you still use the product launch method? If so, do you have any specifics that worked or didn’t work well for you or something you would change?

    1. 1

      Hey Nate, I pretty much cover all of this in the interview. I recommend everyone do a product launch at least once. But don't make it lifetime unless you have a plan to make money off the backend or convert many of them into recurring.

  8. 2

    Right on, congrats Lior 🎉

    1. 1

      Haha thanks man! Content strategy coming soon!

  9. 1

    Interestingly, a good product.
    And how does your service find and analyze potential customers.

  10. 1

    hi Lior , what an inspirational story thank you for it, would you mind going into more detail on how you found affiliates for your webinar launch, did you cold email them massively, cold call them, or contact them via some other methods? thanx again :)

    1. 1

      Hired an affiliate manager! He had a network and we also ran ads to a landing page for the affiliate contest

  11. 1

    I'm curious, do you source the leads from somewhere? Are they domain-based leads from whois records for example, or salesforce leads?

  12. 1

    Will you have your developer/CTO recommend another web developer who is as good as him?

  13. 1

    I knew a Maimon Ohayon who looks like you and is also Canadian...got me wondering. Guess not! Yeah, Maimonides was pretty awesome. Fantastic work on your SaaS!

  14. 1

    Amazing! Great breakdown! You look like Maimon...related?

    1. 1

      Thanks Steve! Mmm not sure who that is but I'm a big fan of Maimonides!

  15. 1

    Why did you make the move from Stripe to Chargebee? Also, were you able to migrate customers from Stripe to chargebee?

    1. 1

      Hi David,

      Chargebee is actually a layer on top of Stripe - just gives you more interactive management of your billings.

      We were using another gateway that also used Stripe. They were the ones that locked their subs into their platform by doing one-off calls via the API every month to bill the customer. Instead of a proper Stripe subscription which would have been easy to port over.

  16. 1

    I'm curious it seems like at some point it seems like you're selling the same leads and process(free audit) to competitors. How do competitors using your platform differentiate themselves from each other?

    1. 1

      Tens of millions of businesses in North America alone.

      Thousands of possible variations of things you can sell to those businesses. digital marketing, B2B, consulting, etc.

      Fresh leads returned every time a Search is ran in SL.

  17. 1

    Hi Lior, I'm curious how the video animations were made. They are very clean. I love them!

    1. 1

      The designer made them so I'm not sure what program he used! Go to dribbble to find tons of animations like this.

  18. 1

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