EP 142: Growing Organically Through Unconventional Channels with CozyCal Co-Founders Chris Tan & Kat Lu

Jul 24, 2018 | Customers & Clients, Growth, Podcast

Tara McMullin is a writer, podcaster, and producer who explores what it takes to navigate the 21st-century economy with your humanity intact. Click here to support this work.

The Nitty Gritty

  • What inspired Chris to start building CozyCal, a simple and easy-to-use online scheduling tool for small business owners and solopreneurs
  • Why Kat Lu decided to leave her healthcare consulting career to work on product development and customer support at CozyCal full-time
  • How Kat and Chris manage their roles in the company as a couple (and how their backgrounds influence how they operate)
  • What channels they use to grow CozyCal including the WordPress Plugin Directory, webinars, podcasts, and affiliate programs
  • Why they use Intercom over email for real-time feedback and communication with their users — and how that informs their development process

Kat Lu and Chris Tan never set out to build a SaaS company… but when a friend needed an easy way to schedule appointments online for her naturopathic practice, Chris decided to develop a minimalist calendar to automate the process for her.

That service is now CozyCal, a simple-to-use online scheduler, that helps users generate leads and grow faster. After seven months of working on the product part-time, they decided to go all in. Kat left her job in healthcare consulting to become CozyCal’s product and customer support manager while Chris continued to build out requested features as the head (and only!) developer.

In this episode, Kat and Chris shed light on what their product development process looks like, what it’s like to work together as a couple, and all the interesting ways they market and promote CozyCal.

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How they use Intercom for onboarding and real-time customer support

“Intercom made a huge difference for us. Prior to that, we used Zendesk and it’s a more passive channel of communication between us and the customers. We have to wait for them to send an email to us and then we send an email back. There is no real time communication. With Intercom, we’re able to talk to users in real time and gather feedback.” — Kat Lu

Collecting user feedback is essential for SaaS companies like CozyCal. Customers who use the product every day know the product well, then share their ideas to optimize and improve it.

That’s why Kat and Chris recently switched from the email helpdesk tool, Zendesk, over to Intercom. Intercom makes it dead simple to communicate with customers in real time and collect feedback. In fact, the pair joke that they answer customer requests faster than they respond to each other’s text messages.

Another feature they love, Kat says, is Intercom’s onboarding campaign feature. So far, they’ve used it to auto-send messages throughout a new user trial period. “It really makes a huge difference to us,” she adds.

Here’s an example of how a 10-day onboarding campaign works:

  • Day 1: Welcome message in app and email
  • Day 2: Examples of how other people use CozyCal
  • Day 5: Reminder of additional features, like payment and Zapier integrations
  • Day 9: Prompt user to upgrade to the Pro Plan

As you can see, they strategically educate users over a period of time in accordance with the trial — and they do it all from Intercom.

Using the WordPress plugin directory to market and grow CozyCal’s user base

“One of the terms of being in the WordPress plugin directory is that, if you’re selling a SaaS, you need a freemium plan. That’s one thing that’s tricky. The people who come in through WordPress may not be the easiest to convert — but just having that steady trickle of users is so important to get your metrics right.” — Chris Tan

The WordPress plugin directory is one way that they keep new users flowing to the platform. Those users install the CozyCal plugin to their website and start off on the “freemium” plan. While not all of those users upgrade to the Pro or Team plan, they offer helpful insights and feature requests that impact the product development pipeline.

During the interview, Chris mentioned that, in the beginning, they didn’t use metrics to make decisions. Instead, they based decisions on gut instincts. It wasn’t the worst way to operate but they realized it wasn’t the most efficient way to approach feature development. That’s why users who come from the WordPress directory, whether they’re on the free or paid plans, matter to their product development timeline.

Unique ways to promote products through partnerships

“Through doing different partnerships, I learn how things work and how other businesses run their co-promotion programs — and we gain exposure in a bigger pool of potential leads.” — Kat Lu

Partnering with the right people and products is essential to CozyCal’s growth. Right now, they’re focusing on webinars, podcasts, and affiliate marketing. Recently, they co-hosted a webinar with James Longley of Systems Matter. “He used our product and felt that it fit in well with small business operations,” says Kat, “because scheduling is part of service-based provider’s daily operations.” Hosting the webinar with James resulted in warm leads for both of them.

Beyond webinars and podcasts, Kat manages an affiliate program. “I’m manually tracking referrals on an Excel spreadsheet right now,” Kat says. “Once things pick up more and we’re getting more referrals through these partnership opportunities, we’re going to try to automate it.”

Hear Kat Lu and Chris Tan talk about launching a SaaS company, what the unique channels for marketing their company looks like, and how they manage the development timeline and expectations.

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