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

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

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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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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support