The 6 Tactics This SaaS Entrepreneur Used to Triple His Growth Rate


Brennan Dunn is a hacker and entrepreneur running He recently gave a presentation at the 2014 Microconf discussing the 6 tactics he used to triple Planscope’s growth rate. This blog post provides a summary of each tactic.

A real highlight of this presentation is that he doesn’t just discuss marketing. He discusses growth as a whole; looking at the entire funnel, from acquisition to conversion to retention.

1. Reaquire Drive-By Visitors

For most people that visit your site, they’re there for one visit and they leave, never to be seen again.

Dunn has found success in capturing many of these people, retargeting them, and converting them to customers. Let’s break it down.

Retargeting is when you see ads on sites you previously visited. For example, if you visited, you may see an ad for them on YouTube.

A drive-by visitor is a person who visits your site, leaves nothing behind (comment, email, etc) and just bounces.

Dunn is a big believer in retargeting. He recommends segmenting your visitors by the ones who have seen content vs the ones who have seen your product.

He gives the example of his blog, where he writes content for freelancers. Visit that blog and you’ll be tagged with a retargeting cookie. While you’re visiting Facebook, you may see an ad for his blog offering a free email course about how to make more money as a consultant. He explains:

“What I started to realize is, if I can push people who have been tagged by me and are on Facebook, to something like an email course, which has very little friction…that is something that has a very high conversion rate because that’s not distracting them from [browsing Facebook].”

Dunn is generally against retargeting people with product offers on Facebook, because many on Facebook may not be in the purchasing mood. They’re looking at wedding pictures, laughing at cat videos, commenting on status updates, etc. They aren’t interested in your project management software right now. If you just give a simple ask (something that doesn’t take them away from Facebook), you’ll likely have much better success. Dunn has said he’s achieved conversion rates around 30-40% to his email course from Facebook.

You can also put the blog visitors into a drip campaign since many of them aren’t ready to buy yet. Dunn notes that he retargets them if they’ve only visited the blog and not his marketing site.

So if you go to his blog and not his marketing site, you’ll be retargeted on Facebook with an email course. If you sign up, you may also enter his drip campaign.

Conversely, if you visit his marketing site and are in his display network (not Facebook), he’ll retarget you back to his marketing site. He’s not interested in getting you to sign up for an email course because you’ve already shown interest in the product.

He gives a few recommendations for retargeting:

For the last two bullet points, Dunn notes that retargeting doesn’t have to occur pre-purchase. If you just released a new feature, retarget them with the announcement of the new feature and what it does. Calling it “forced RSS”, Dunn thinks you can show them these product updates in customer’s Facebook feed.

He also recommends retargeting people who have signed up for a trial. He explains:

“If somebody said ‘I want to try your product, now try and convince me that it’s worth paying for’. These are people you should really make an effort to retarget…[we always] think of advertising as getting that first bit of info from somebody. Getting what we need, getting their email address, getting them to sign up for a trial. We don’t really think about it as a way of conditioning and I would encourage you to give that a shot.”

2. Segmentation

Niching works. Why? Because people want a product that works just for them. Here’s how Dunn applies niching to Planscope:

Early on in the sign up flow, Dunn wants to know a few things about the new customer.

Are you a team or are you solo?

Do you do design work or development?

How do you bill? Hourly? Daily? Weekly? Fixed?

How they answer these questions influences everything that follows afterwards.

“The goal is to make that product for one.” This is something similar to Netflix. Open your Netflix account and you’ll see that it’s targeted for you based on what you’ve watched and what you’re interested in.

Dunn lists some more ways to individualize your product:

Let’s say you’re in a 3rd party integration marketplace, such as the one Basecamp has set up. If you see people who are referred from that URL, cookie them and when they go to sign up, get them started on connecting their Basecamp account.

He also recommends setting up various landing pages for each customer persona. You may even want to put something on your website that points them to the landing page. So if you target agencies, place a button on your site that says “Agency? Click Here” and it links to the landing page for agencies.

The third technique is more high level. Basically, you tailor an experience to someone based on how they first found you. So if you wrote a blog post on pricing, and a person visits this page, and they sign up for an account, you can tailor parts of your lifecycle emails around that.

3. Lead/Trial Scoring

Lead & trial scoring grades leads based on how likely they are to convert to being customers. When using lead scoring, you have the goal of learning + optimizing outreach. Learning why they do or don’t activate, why they may or may not pay, etc. This requires talking to these customers.

Dunn built his own lead scoring tool by tracking the commonalities between both the non-converting people and your customers. It’s based off a score from 0-100. He segments his trial emails based on lead scores. So during trial emails, if a lead has a score below 50, they’ll receive different email copy than those above 50. You can also nudge them with in app messaging, to get them to a higher score and thus more likely to convert to paying.

When studying his leads and their associated scores, Dunn likes to do some research to learn why they have that particular score. He then further researches each lead and discovers where people get stuck, what’s confusing, what loses people, what gets them engaged, etc. He then takes all these learnings into improving his onboarding.

Our number one job as software sellers is to nudge people to converting. And when you have that milestone, that 100 score, it becomes a whole lot easier to figure out how to do that.

For automated and lifecycle emails, Dunn recommends first doing them manually in Gmail and running a rudimentary split test to see what works and what doesn’t. When you figure out what works, store it cron job,, or something similar.

4. Educate Everywhere

Educating your customers on how they can do their job better is the fourth tactic. Instead of educating people on how to use the product, Dunn educates his customers on how to win projects.

He’ll even send customers an email when they create their first estimate:

Dunn has his own internal dashboard that notifies him when a customer closes an estimate. He then reaches out to that customer and congratulates them on closing that estimate and asks them for advice on how it could be more painless. It’s a manual email he sends, and once he gets a reply, it’s “testimonial fodder”.

Dunn suggests thinking about what goals people have when they sign up for your product. What do they want to get out of it? Once you figure it out, build the “celebration metrics” around that. If you run email marketing software and your customers set goals for click through rates, send them a note and celebrate when they’ve achieved that goal.

5. Do an Exit Interview

Before someone cancels or trials don’t convert, ask them why they’re leaving.

When someone does cancel, Dunn automatically gets an email with the reason why they’re canceling. He’ll read them and categorize them in a spreadsheet:

He likes to file the cancellations into two categories: product and environmental. Product can mean it’s missing a feature, too complicated, too expensive, too buggy, etc. Environmental can be things that are out of your control, but there are some where you can still gather good qualitative data. If they didn’t use it, you can ask why. Or you can find some problem they had with their job (ie “I couldn’t get customers as a freelancer”) and create some content around that.

Be proactive in getting cancellation reasons before they cancel. If you email after they’ve cancelled, they’re already done with you. They’ve moved on and you’ll likely get no response or a low quality response.

6. Ways to Increase Customer Lifetime Value

The sixth and final tactic is to increase customer lifetime value. Dunn lays out a few ways:

  1. Once trial users establish product fit, charge them. Dunn even manages to convert them before their trial subscription ends. He’ll do this by offering a free gift, such as a book. Just doing this has added about $3200 to his lifetime value simply by subtracting 10 or 11 days from trials.
  2. Find out when customers typically churn, and one or two months before they do, send them an email with a lifetime coupon for 20% off that automatically applies to their account. The email and coupon part is easy, the difficult part comes with the data science of predicting churn. Dunn suggests you also find ways to make your product more valuable so customers don’t just ditch it when they don’t need it and bounce back and forth between customer and canceling.

To Summarize…

The six tactics and the associated goals:

Flip to the next slide to see the results Dunn has achieved, and the next to see the increase in paid accounts he’s earned through these six tactics.

Video & Deck

Watch the full presentation and view the associated slides below. The Q&A begins at 33 minutes, 11 seconds.

Brennan Dunn — 6 Tricks That Helped Me Triple My SaaS' Growth Rate from MicroConf on Vimeo.

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