Ross Andrew Paquette, Founder & CEO, Maropost
Building Relationships, Building a Legacy:
How Ross Paquette’s commitment to making strong connections turned a bootstrapped ESP into a nine-figure customer engagement platform.
“Welcome to Maropost! How can I help you?” a small, boxy, blue robot named Ross the Bot greets me from the bottom right corner of the screen.
This is my first visit to Maropost’s website, so when a chat window springs open, I curiously click the “Connect me with a Maropost representative” option. Within seconds, the smiling face of Alana M (yes, a real, live person!) pops up in a thumbnail offering any help I might need.
Online chat support has become increasingly popular, but in keeping with Maropost’s impressive commitment to customer support, you can click this happy little bot any time of day, any day, and summon a human being for help. That’s just one of a few ways you can get in touch with them, in fact.
This commitment to customer support was a cornerstone of Founder and CEO Ross Paquette’s vision for Maropost from day one. Alongside his passion for innovation, this continued commitment to making strong connections with users is what transformed Maropost from a bootstrapped email service provider (ESP) to a nine-figure, unified customer engagement platform in just six years.
Paquette, who got his start in the tech space as a salesperson for an email service, is an entrepreneur excited about improving the spaces he knows well. And if there’s one thing Paquette knows inside and out, it’s email.
A decade ago, he began his journey from junior sales rep to director of sales, and then on to another ESP where he recognized that as ecommerce grew, so did the potential for the world of email marketing. And he wanted to carve out his place in it.
But, as all first-time founders know, that initial leap into the deep end of entrepreneurship brings with it steep learning curves and raging seas that can often sink a founder’s first venture. Having a great idea is vital, but the day-to-day of running a business, leading a rapidly growing team, and committing to a unique vision is what turns an idea into a legacy.
It looked like Paquette’s ESP was DOA.
In 2011, Paquette knew he wanted to create a revolutionary email service provider. He had all the ideas ready to go—but he didn’t have the technical capability to build it himself. He had tried bringing on a tech developer, but things just weren’t working out.
Because Paquette was self-funding the endeavor, nerves and doubt crept in, and he considered shutting down the business before it even launched.
When Paquette mentioned his struggles to his parents, they suggested that he give online freelance search boards a try. So Paquette posted on oDesk (which has since become Upwork) in search of the perfect fit. The very first person he spoke with, Jagdeep Singh, is now his CTO, whom he considers a co-founder.
“We were really the perfect team because he’s just a phenomenal developer but also able to execute quickly on sort of the vision I had for the product,” Paquette says.
Paquette and Singh found they understood each other and embraced a unified idea for what they could build together.
“Our focus was on innovating within the space and developing and moving the ball forward faster than everyone else,” Paquette says.
And move fast they did. With Paquette managing the business and product side and Singh working on the tech side, it only took the pair about three months to build the first iteration of Maropost.
Paquette says they spent the first year perfecting the platform, making it as easy as possible to onboard new clients and ensuring that it would be scalable as they grew. They soon had an integrated suite of tools that enabled marketers to quickly automate personalized sales emails and then analyze the data from a campaign on a single platform.
While Paquette planned for growth, he admits he never expected, or prepared for, Maropost to take off the way it has.
“The plan was to have 10 customers and maybe sit by the pool a little more often than not,” Paquette says, laughing.
His initial goal was to invest in a small group of clients, many of whom followed him over from his previous jobs in the space, build up to a comfortable revenue stream, and deliver impeccable customer service that would guarantee retention. But Paquette quickly discovered that Maropost’s customer service not only retained existing clients, it led them to refer new leads, and before long, business had boomed.
“When I go back to the early stages of the company, it’s not like I was necessarily traveling around or actively doing outbound campaigns to gain new customers,” he says. “We were really just gaining a lot of business through referral and word of mouth.”
From the get-go, Paquette says they were particular about the companies they brought onto Maropost. Rather than casting a wide net to all businesses of any size, or even chasing after the corporate giants, they focused on businesses in the upper mid-market to lower enterprise market.
He says that these kinds of companies are in a sweet spot between large and small that enables them to use the tools on Maropost to their fullest extent. He also explains that brand new companies would have little use for many of the features on the platform, while an established company experiencing rapid growth would.
But perhaps more importantly, he says that the companies of this size are small enough that they can move quickly, without all the corporate red tape to wade through, and they still value relationships.
And that’s really what Paquette is looking to build with his clients—relationships.
Because of this, he places heavy emphasis on Maropost’s 24/7 in-app web chat feature and five-minute e-ticket support response times.
“The goal has always been that strong relationship,” Paquette says. “We’re not just here as a vendor; we are here as a partner. We want to help you grow the business.“
Building a Legacy
As business flourished with the launch of Maropost Sales Cloud and Maropost Marketing Cloud, Paquette found himself stretched thin.
“I was doing more or less everything outside the actual code development of our product,” he says. “I didn’t raise $10 million and hire a VP of sales, a VP of marketing, a VP of client success, and so on and so forth. I had to do all of those jobs.”
He says that it has only been within the last year that he has finally begun to build out a leadership team, a vital step that Paquette admits he should have taken sooner. This delay led triggered some growing pains within the organization, but his dedication to bringing on a top-notch leadership team has given him the confidence to pass the reins of those critical areas on to others.
With additional support on the leadership end, he is now able to step back and ask important long-term questions about what he has built.
“When I look back in the next five or even 10 years from now, I want to be able to look back and say that we did something different,” he says.
And according to Paquette, a road less traveled in the tech space is the choice to bootstrap, retain autonomy, and grow organically, with more emphasis on customer experience than on metrics. Because he built Maropost from the ground up without investors, Paquette says he has far more freedom to innovate and has avoided the growth-obsessed mentality of many tech organizations.
“The goal should be to focus on building a great organization rather than, ‘We have to hit these numbers because if we don’t hit these numbers, we don’t get our next round of funding,’” he says. “I never really wanted to build a company—or I wouldn’t even know how to build a company—with that as the focus.”
Paquette explains that the final destination for many tech startups is to be gloriously acquired by another company. But that isn’t what inspires him, and it isn’t what he hopes to achieve.
“I like to use the term ‘organization,’ because I really want us to be positioned alongside the Salesforces, the Oracles, the IBMs of the world, and create more of a legacy of what we are doing here, than just building something up to a certain dollar amount and just selling it to one of our competitors,” he says.
That means building something that will last.
“Working back from that aspect really changes the way you look at growing and scaling and building a business, because it’s not always the same,” he says. “It’s a slower more calculated approach than would be the norm.”
Because Paquette dreams of this kind of a legacy, he is always looking to lay the groundwork for future innovation. As such, strong work ethic is a quality he values highly at Maropost.
“We’ve never had a lack of creativity at the organization from a product standpoint,” he says. “So it breaks it down again to the work ethic side, because if we have all these ideas, that’s great, but if we can’t build them or can’t execute on them, they’re just what they are. They’re ideas on a piece of paper.”
At Maropost, many of those ideas will soon be leaping off the page and into reality.
Soon, Maropost will offer three new standalone tools on the platform: Relay, Web Push, and Projects. These features will mark a shift for the company, in that clients will have a chance to dip their toes into what Maropost offers, without being asked to fully commit upfront to one of their two suites.
This will open up a new world of opportunity for the business, and he says they already have a roadmap that will take them through the next few years.
“We have the roadmap. We have the blueprint. We have the strategy,” Paquette says. “We just need to execute on it from there.”
- How Maropost got started
- The crazy story behind how Paquette met his co-founder
- How Maropost has expanded from email marketing to customer lead acquisition, mobile push notifications, CRM, and more
- How long it took to build the first version of Maropost
- What makes Maropost different from other ESPs
- The strong customer support focus of the business
- Why they focus on building a great organization, not just hitting numbers and growth
- Where he sees the SaaS market moving in the future
- Why he’s focused on building a legacy with his business
- What exciting projects are in store for Maropost
Full Transcript of Podcast with Dottie Herman
Nathan: The first question I ask everyone that comes on is, how did you get your job?Ross: So I’m actually the founder of Maropost so I started the company myself.
Nathan: Awesome, how did you find yourself starting this massive email … You guys do cloud now, everything. How did you get into that?
Ross: For sure. So I’ve been in the tech space for about 10 years. I started my career selling a more self service product, so like a MailChimp style product, if you’re familiar with them, and very quickly I went from being a junior inside sales rep right at the beginning to a director of sales within about 12 months. And then shortly after that I moved to a bit of a smaller organisation and while I was there realised that this was such a strong, effectively limitless market in terms of the potential customer base that it has, and that maybe creating a lifestyle business out of it would be a good idea. So the plan was to have 10 customers and maybe sit by the pool a little more often than not.
Granted, I haven’t had much time for that lately, but the goal, I think, at the starting point was just again, to focus on a small pool of customers, do maybe half a million dollars of revenue, and then after that … I wouldn’t say that the focus was to scale the business to where it is today and certainly not to where it’s going, but the thought process around it remained the same which was that we wanted to always focus on the product side of things and the support of things. So that’s really the background of what got us to that starting point.
Nathan: Yeah, got you. So talk to around, I guess, if you’re a sales guy, how did you build it? Are you guys bootstraps? You’re a solo founder too, is that correct?
Ross: That’s correct. I don’t have … I mean I would classify him as a co-founder, my CTO even though when I started the company he was not with us, or not with me. But yeah, effectively I handled all of the business aspects, the product side of things, finance, HR, and so on and so forth, and he was responsible for the technical side or the architecture of the application, so we were really the perfect team because he’s just a phenomenal, again, developer at the same time but also is able to execute quickly on the vision I had for the product.
Nathan: Yeah. Wow. And how did you find your CTO and how did that all come about?
Ross: Yeah, so funny enough, a really unique story. I again, was working with another gentleman prior to our current, and things really just weren’t working out from a relationship perspective, from a production perspective, so I had actually planned to shut the company down. And I was still working at the time so I was just going to focus on that. And what ended up happening is, funny enough, my parents, who are not tech savvy in any way, shape, or form, said, “Why don’t you look online? Maybe you can find somebody.” Our product was built in Ruby On Rails at the time, so not hugely popular in North America. So I went onto oDesk, which is now Upwork, and we actually, he was the first person I spoke with. So very, very lucky to have found him on that channel.
Nathan: Yeah. Wow. And so another thing that I’m curious around is building a SaaS product is not cheap. So your first point of call I guess, was to go on … You conceptualized that you want to build a lifestyle based business, an email marketing service, like you said, half a million annual recurring revenue. You obviously like to travel. You’re here in Sydney right now. So how did you go … What I’m trying to understand is how did you go from … Funding wise and product wise, because I’ve always known until recently Maropost as more of a tool to help with deliverability.
Ross: Yeah, so realistically we’ve … Well not realistically. We’ve never received any funding from an operations perspective. We did do a secondary round two years ago that was more just bringing in partners and again, taking chips off the table, so to speak. So we are completely bootstrap from that perspective, and as I mentioned earlier, the focus has always been again, on that product and support side of things. So when I say that is in, our focus was on innovating within the space and developing and moving the ball forward faster than everyone else. Deliverability is really just a, again, a service function that we’ve excelled at. And we excelled it because, at a time when we were only two employees I had to manage deliverability, so I developed a really unique view as to how we needed to support our customers and what we really needed to do from that perspective.
So back to your question, the goal became more of growth by product, growth by support strategy than a sales and marketing effort. So when I go back to the early stages of company it’s not like I was necessarily travelling around or actively doing outbound campaigns to gain new customers. We were really just gaining a lot of business through referral and word of mouth. And we gained because of our reputation, sometimes in the deliverability space, sometimes just in the product aspects of it all. And really what we were able to do just so quickly, so very again, unique from that standpoint.
Nathan: Yeah. So you guys have expanded and you have Marketing Cloud and also Sales Cloud and we’re looking to sign up as a customer to help us with deliverability on our side. But I’m curious how did you … Because there are a lot of ESPs out there, I’m curious, so how long did it takes to build the product? Obviously your co-founder you would have paid via Upwork. So does that mean your team’s fully remote? So talk to me through that side of things.
Ross: No, no, no. Yeah. So at the time. So stepping back, so our focus at the time was to obviously develop something quickly that customers could utilize. So think of the basic email marketing functionality. From there we’ve gotten into marketing automation. We’ve gotten into the mobile in-app push notification aspect. We’ve gotten into social. We’ve gotten into customer and lead acquisition. So our Marketing Cloud which is one of our current suites now, that was the basis of where the company came from, being the email marketing side of things. So where we’ve gone even further from there is we have a second product now that gets into e-commerce, CRM, service and support.
So our overall focus is to create an ecosystem where customers can have a lot less partners. And so when you think about the email space or there being a lot of email service providers out there, there really aren’t that many in that a lot of companies offer email marketing or mass messaging and such. But from a mid market to enterprise perspective there’s really 10 vendors out there. And the bulk of those vendors are the Salesforces, the IBMs, the Oracles of the world, and that’s a very unique offering. When I say unique it’s like there’s very little relationship taking place. It’s more of a, “Here’s the platform. Figure out to use it and we’ll charge you an arm and a leg for them.” So we’re really approaching in from a different perspective of, we want to build own products.
We want to build our own features. We want to build our own ecosystems. All of those companies just the same, they’re buying their way there. And that brings a very unique set of challenges, both for the customer and the vendor. Granted when you have billions of dollars that’s maybe not such a problem, I don’t see that as the future of the space that we’re focusing on. I see the space evolving from a either multi product structure, when I say multi product being that all the products are very different, they were developed very different, they don’t speak to each other very well, to organizations that really want to innovate and actually develop the solutions themselves to be very easy to use, but at the same time very advanced from a feature functionality perspective.
Nathan: Yeah, I see. So how did you get your first few customers. And how long did it take to build the first version of Maropost?
Ross: So it was really quite quickly. It was probably only a few months in terms of the first version.
Nathan: Oh wow.
Ross: Yeah. And because I was already coming from the space, I had customers, or companies that I had worked with or that I knew of that really wanted to continue to work with me. And they came on board essentially right away. So there was probably between that day one customer to day 365, there wasn’t a ton in that first year. It was mainly focused on how do we get this product to become a scalable, easy to use platform that I can bring on customers at any given time. And so it really didn’t take us that long, I think in terms of again, not having funding and having limited resources, but that was the overall focus.
Nathan: Yeah. Got it. Because I’m sorry if I keep prodding you Ross, because I’m just trying to work this out because it’s very impressive what you’ve done. You’ve built a nine figure company in the space of, what is it, seven, eight years?
Ross: Ah, six years actually.
Nathan: Six years. And this is an extremely competitive space. You’ve bootstrapped it. You’re a solo founder as well. At Foundr we’re just starting on this path of building a SaaS product as another service offering, and I just know how long things take. I know how expensive they are when you’re bootstrapping. I know as a solo founder how hard it can be. And I also know the speed of development. Things take time. So I just quite find it quite fascinating that you’re looking to compete with a Salesforce and you’ve got two platforms now and you’ve got a lot going on, and yeah, it’s just really impressive, that’s all. So I’m just trying to work out or get a grasp on perhaps where are some forks in the road where you’ve made really key decisions that have helped accelerate the growth of Maropost, or just was it the strong differentiation of … That what I’m trying to work out.
Ross: Yeah, so the two again, the core areas of differentiation are certainly the product and the service and support side of things. So you mentioned deliverability, but just think of your day-to-day relationship that you want to have with your vendor. A lot of organizations you have an account manager sometimes, how dedicated is that account manager? How focused are they on actually helping you to grow the business? How quickly are they responding to you from a support perspective? I think all of those are just very critical areas. So to start with the support side of things which was really actually at the start of the business that was the focus. So we have things like 24 hour in-application live chat because I’ve always believed that being able to speak to somebody while you’re looking to launch a campaign or create a new strategy is critical.
You can’t be submitting a ticket and waiting 24, 48 hours to get a response. That’s not really reasonable in today’s marketing age. We have things like five minute response times on our email tickets so that way we’re certain to get back to you when you are in a critical situation if you are looking to open a ticket. And obviously phone support and all of that. But the goal has always been that that strong relationship and that, “Hey, we’re not here just as a vendor. We’re here as a partner. We want to help you grow the business because if you grow your business you make more money, and of course, we make more money and we’re more successful.”
So I would rather, when you think about that side, I would always rather have less customers and a better service and support aspect than more. Most of the enterprise companies out there, it’s submit a ticket and hopefully you hear back sometimes in the same week without having to pay through the nose for a support layer like a platinum or gold or what have you. And to the second point, from a product differentiating perspective, that’s always been focused on the innovation. So when I say innovation I’m thinking of twofold. It’s one, creating feature function aspects that are very easy to use, but at the same time very advanced, but also developing them not as what you would typically , which is multiple products, but all in one suite of tools.
So if I’m looking to launch marketing email campaigns and I want to tie that to my SMS or my push or my in-app messaging because my main product is an app, maybe I want to automate the process of how customers come into our organization, what they’re communicated with using marketing automation. Again, the leading customer acquisition side of things, being pop up modals and forms and all that kind of stuff, most companies are typically that you would need another product to do that. So we really want to consolidate a lot of those solutions tools and such into one platform so that the marketer can easily go in and create their strategy or execute on their strategically very quickly, not have it take weeks to accomplish. So that’s the core of it all.
Nathan: Yeah, I see and building out these extensive platforms, how are you doing it while bootstrapped and just time and speed of development.
Ross: I mean realistically that’s a combination of how we’ve “architected” our platform. Obviously the proficiency of our development team. So there’s a combination of things just taking place there. But there’s no one avenue the driving things quicker, I guess you could say, as in we’re not using anything that isn’t available off-the-shelf I guess you could say.
Nathan: Yeah, of course. It just seems like yeah, you guys can move very, very fast. Would you agree, compared to others in the space. And I’m just-
Ross: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.
Nathan: So I’m just trying to-
Ross: That’s the startup mentality though. I mean when you’re in an established company, again the Salesforces, IBMs, the Oracles of the world come to mind is there’s so much bureaucracy, red tape to accomplish anything, so many legal avenues that have to be consulted. We still benefit from being again, significantly smaller than them.
Nathan: Yeah. And how big is Maro now in terms of team and are you guys fully remote or hybrid or all in one office or multiple offices or…
Ross: Yeah, so we have offices in Chicago, Toronto, and India as well. So for the most part 99% of people are in one of those offices. We have four employees in the US that are remote, mainly because their positions are unique in terms of their skillset, but yeah, everybody is in the office from that standpoint.
Nathan: Got you. And how come you have multiple offices? Like India obviously I understand, but yeah, how come one in Toronto, one in … Is that because of the client so you can provide faster support or…
Ross: No, no, so Chicago … So being in the US was more of our focus around sales and actually more sales talent and just having access to a much larger market. So Canada or Toronto in that example, Canada has under 40 million people. America has 400 million people. So we’re opening ourselves up to a significantly larger pool of talent and being able to again, also benefit from I think the style or the mindset or the methodology that exists in America today versus Toronto, or versus Canada, sorry, that is. So there no real specific reason. It’s just more how we want to be able to be flexible to the people we’re adding to the organization.
Nathan: Got you. And one thing I’m curious, and this is something that I’ve found just from personal experience is with these email marketing companies who provide email marketing ESP, as time goes on you get these kind of people who give your company a bad spam score because they dump on the platform and they’re selling just absolute rubbish and a lot of people flag them as spam and then if affects the whole pool of people that are using that email service provider. How have you prevented that, especially from, like you said, I know you guys for your deliverability product and we’re looking to be a customer, but I’m just really curious.
Ross: Yeah, so from that perspective again, that’s how you analyze any given customer in the metrics. We of course are focused on larger clients, so we can have less as opposed to say again, a MailChimp or an Infusionsoft when they have tens of thousands of clients paying them a lot less. So it’s really, again it comes down to the support you’re able to provide at an individual level. Of course at the same time we focus on quality customers so not customers who are going to again, who are going to poison the well from that standpoint. We also again have more flexibility on putting customers on dedicated infrastructure and again how we monitor them from a day-to-day perspective and of course helping them to avoid making any mistakes even if they are a great brand or a great customer.
Nathan: Yeah. That makes sense. So talk to me around innovation. You said that you believe quite strong on innovation. How have you fostered that innovation based culture within Maro?
Ross: Yeah, so our culture’s actually really more work ethic based. But those go hand in hand. So when I say work ethic based as in we’re all here to power forward as quickly as possible and from an innovation perspective I mean we’ve never had a lack of creativity at organization again, from a product standpoint. So it breaks it down to again the work ethic side because if we have all these great ideas, that’s great, but if we can’t build them or we can’t execute on them, they’re just what they are, they’re ideas of a piece of paper. So having that strong work ethic and workforce that are looking to again move the ball forward quickly is a key piece I guess you could say.
Nathan: Yeah, I see. So you guys are going, would you guys say you guys are going for the enterprise market or …
Ross: It’s not really the enterprise market. I like to call it the upper mid-market to low enterprise. And what that means is really companies that are still in that, obviously still growing very quickly, still exciting from their own perspective, so it’s not that we’re looking for any specific type, it’s almost like we’re looking for good businesses to work for. Not businesses that are starting day one necessarily, though we have many of those because they know where they’re going from a success perspective already, maybe their CEO or their founders have already built previously successful companies and they know the platforms that they want to use, but in that more mid to market to, as I said, low enterprise aspect. It’s companies who still have a strong value on that relationship. We’re not necessarily going after the Procter & Gambles of the world or the Johnson & Johnson or, given that I’m Australia, the Woolworth’s. Those ones aren’t really looking to move as quickly. So we want to work with companies that are actually looking at the same view that we are.
Nathan: Yeah. Got you. I understand. The reason I ask that question is it is quite often that SaaS companies or even other product based companies, they try and go upstream to enterprise or a higher tier market, that’s how they scale. But from the start you guys were always, you would say I guess not anyway enterprise but a mid to high or under –
Ross: Correct. Yeah.
Nathan: Nine was strategic from day one.
Ross: Yeah. More or less. Yeah. I mean our product and our platform too is centered on that kind of client based, as in a company starting day one is not going to need or want the feature functionality pieces that we have. An established company who is growing very quickly is because they’re going to be looking at the ROI side of things and the revenue side of things and again, not just saying, oh are we executing a great program like some of the enterprise companies out there might look at. They’re saying, do we increase our revenue by 20, or 30, or 40% last month because of Maropost or because of the support we’ve been providing.
Nathan: Yeah, no. I think that’s really smart. And it does certainly make I guess the sales process easier in some aspects because it’s not a hard sell. You guys have got a great product. It’s not likes these companies are, if you can show clear ROI and they’ve already got a clear customer set and product market fit and traction, then it becomes much easier.
Ross: Yeah. Exactly. I couldn’t agree more.
Nathan: Yeah. So talk to me around I guess you guys are really, really focused on the account management and the support side, which I think’s amazing. And I think that that’s definitely needed. But a lot of founders I guess are very, very focused on more customers, more revenue, and from a I guess, an account management side or a customer success side or a support side a lot of people would, I guess listen to this right now would not understand. Like I know it’s easy to said and you’ve said it multiple times and I get it, but some people would just not understand investment because it would be hard to see or measure or track, except for the churn.
Ross: Yeah. I totally know what you mean. So that’s one of the … When I look back in the next five or even ten years from now I want to be able to look back and say that we did something different. And when I say different I mean really what we’re talking about is that most organizations within the tech space now, step is one is raising funding or going out for funding because either they lack the confidence or the ability to start and bootstrap the business in a way that I think companies or certain individuals were able to do maybe 10 years ago or maybe focused on more. And there’s so much money around right now that it’s very easy to gain funding for ideas that really aren’t even companies, they’re more features that a company would have as part of an overall toolkit.
So you mean I say that, I think that our focus in not being just grow, grow, grow, grow by all means necessary is because we didn’t come from that background. It’s focusing really just on, how do we create a good organization or a great organization, or how do we set specific goals that are, of course, certainly revenue based as well, but also focused on what do we want this organization to look like in the next five to ten years. And maybe that’s a $200 or a $300 million, $500 million revenue company. Maybe it’s a billion dollar revenue company. But the goal should be to focus on building a great organization as opposed to, we have to hit these numbers because if we don’t hit these numbers we don’t get our next round of funding and if we don’t hit these numbers we may run out of cash and then where does that position us.
I never really wanted to build a company, or I couldn’t even know how to build a company with that as the focus. So it’s really just giving us that ability again, to do things a little bit differently. And I wish, or I hope to see our space do more of that in the future because I think that’s really where innovation comes from. It doesn’t come from just saying we have to sell to everybody and we have to market to everybody. Certainly that’s part of the overall process, but it can’t be to overall goal, or shouldn’t be the overall goal.
Nathan: Yeah. I love it man. Thank you for sharing. And one thing that was shouting out to me with what you were saying was I’m starting to wrap my head around now how you’ve built, you bootstrapped this company. It’s one of the fastest growing tech companies in North America. You’ve bootstrapped it. I think I’m starting to understand it’s more around than anything the product and the support but then also just this … I think you guys are building out a bit of a blue ocean with what you’re building. And that’s really servicing you well. Because also, I guess a lot of companies that do bootstrap and they’re building a SaaS based product is more to the lower tier market. So yeah, I get it man. I got you.
Ross: Exactly. Yeah. There’s something interesting. That’s a great point that you just made there. That’s actually another thing. So today we focus mainly on the direct sales aspect, so we have a sales team and they are of course going out and finding customers and customers are inbound are speaking to them, but we are also moving into that self-service arena. And the reason we’re doing that is for a couple reasons. One, we have a lot of features within our product that are actually perfectly suited for their own kind of self-service product line. So an example would be, we have transactional email messaging which is very similar to what a SendGrid or a SparkPost or a Mailjet does, so we have that functionality already why don’t we just productize it allow people to come in and create another, again, sales strategy which is focused more on an acquisition.
And so by doing that actually we’re moving the business, not away from, but to a direction that has two different strategies. And those two strategies provide you with very unique benefits. A self-service product these days typically has to have thousand or hundreds of thousands or in many cases even millions of customers to be successful, but the benefit that that’s providing them with is the exposure to that market. So if Ross and Nathan are using this platform and maybe they’re paying 9.99 a month or maybe it’s free because there’s many free platforms out there these days, why don’t we bring him in at such a low cost and then utilize him to understand more of what the Maropost offering is and all the features and the products that we have and then start to entrench ourselves in those organizations that are maybe using us in just very small formats. So I’m really excited about that. That’s probably one of the most exciting strategies that we’re looking to move forward with in the next 12 months.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s really interesting and really smart. So you’ve built these platforms and then you can productize one particular really strong feature to welcome potential prospects into your world, and if they sign up, if you guys do an amazing job, which it sounds like you are, especially on the customer support, customer success and it’s a servicing site, then there’s no reason why they wouldn’t ascend if they need other things, right.
Ross: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s really smart. So you’re basically leveraging an asset that you already have.
Ross: Yeah. Exactly.
Nathan: And making it as an entry point into a broader market to scale.
Ross: Yeah. Exactly. And you might see … You’re familiar with Atlassian, which is an Australian company.
Nathan: Yeah. Of course. Yeah.
Ross: So they did something are similar when they bought Trello and I can’t remember the where metrics. Are you familiar with Trello though?
Nathan: We run our whole business off Trello.
Ross: There you go. So it’s the perfect example. So Trello very, very … Not low I could say, but very low revenue versus the price that they paid for them. But really what they were buying were they were buying that user base. And that user base was I believe somewhere around 17 to 20 million users, even though most of them are free, right, they’re not paying. But you’re gaining that access in a way where the exposure to 20 million people is not something you’re going to get with a product that you’re selling to a small amount of customers at a much higher price point. So that was actually one of the examples that really led me to believe that as part of our overall strategy moving forward we needed to have something more than just a directs sales market, or direct sales strategy.
Nathan: Yeah. That’s really smart. And it makes sense. So I’m curious, you talk about that there’s a lot of free tools in the market, and do you believe that that is where SaaS is moving, that we will see a strong increase because development is getting easier and easier and cheaper, and there’s guys like yourself bootstrapping these hundred million dollar plus companies. Do you believe that that’s where SaaS is moving and we’ll see more and more free tools to disrupt the market, just like a Trello to acquire a user at scale.
Ross: Yeah. I don’t know that we’re going to see any more than we’re seeing now, as in I don’t know that companies are any more focused on that strategy. I do build that the low cost space, when I say low cost being the self-service market actually, is coming more to the forefront to what you said before. I think that’s because it’s easier, as in … I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say it’s easier. It’s easier to launch though from that perspective because you don’t have to build out a 10, 20, 30 person sales team and the costs and such that come along with that. You’re really avoiding that strategy and putting those dollars towards the marketing aspect.
And the benefit of the marketing avenue is you can really track … Or not really, you can track everything from each dollar spent. So if we spend $100,000, this is how many leads we’re going to get, this is the conversion we’re expecting, or this is the conversion we’re hitting. And then you can start to really tweak that more from a dollars perspective as it, do we throw more dollars onto the fire here, or more gasoline onto the fire. And you have a lot more control versus saying, “Okay, I think if I hire 10 more sales reps, these are the metrics we’re going to see gave on historical numbers or based on the market.” But that’s not really a certainty or it’s not really as quantifiable.
Nathan: Yeah, no. That makes sense. Okay, so another question that I wanted to ask was around acquisition. So a lot of SaaS companies, they acquire a customer at a loss and they have a reasonable time period of earn back, sometimes 12, I think 24 months. How does that work with you because you guys have not raised capital. How have you worked your way around that besides having a great and product and obviously having great referral marketing in place and great support.
Ross: So the benefit that we have is that the company was very established with a relatively small team, established from a revenue perspective. So we don’t really worry about our … There’s no cost to repay the customer, as an example. So that strategy applies more to the self-service market. So how much did it cost … Ross is going to pay us 9.99 a month, how much did it cost him to acquire him, whether that’s through Google Ad costs, marketing costs, whatever the strategy is. And that’s why I was talking about it being more quantifiable from that perspective because you can go down and say, it costs me $67 to acquire this customer, or to acquire these customers.
Again, that’s going to take us six months or seven months almost to pay it back, and then we’re finally into it. And you’re working with more of a, again, a mathematical situation than you are when you have a direct sales team because some months you could have, you could obviously blow your numbers out of the water because the sales team just had a great month and the other months maybe not so much. So for us we don’t really look at that because when our customers coming on board, we haven’t had a meaningful cost to be associated with that specific deal, as in our cost of sale is so low, is probably a better way of putting it.
Nathan: Yeah, that makes sense, because you’re going after a much higher tier market.
Ross: Exactly. Yeah. And that’s again, that’s where the positives of each side really come to light is it’s great to have more stronger metrics to support business decisions on the self-service side of things, but on the other side of … Being the direct sales side you benefit from potentially having significantly larger growth much more quickly to help grow the business.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. That makes sense. And I guess because of your sales background you knew how to build sales teams.
Ross: I would say I would defer to people on the team side of things, but I would say from a sales background that’s really what gave us the benefit early on with me being the sales rep itself.
Nathan Chan: Yeah. Got you. You said about before around creating a great organization. If you could, kind of talk us through, because … This is your first company too, right?
Ross: Yeah, this will be the first and only one. That’s for …
Nathan So talk to me around how’ve you learned and what you’ve been doing to create a great organization.
Ross: Yeah. So when I think of again, creating … When I say the word organization there’s obviously I could say business, company, what have you, people go out there and the bulk of individuals these days are starting, or within the tech space especially are starting companies with the basis of either selling them or they have to grow so fast to get to an IPO and that’s again, a much smaller subset. The large majority are looking to become acquired. So I like to use the term organization because I really want us to be positioned alongside of the Salesforces, the Oracles, the IBMs of the world and create more of a legacy of what we’re doing here than just building something up to a certain dollar amount and then selling it one of our competitors.
So when we think about what is required to do that you’re focusing, again, not just on the growth aspect, you’re focusing on, okay, well as we’re growing what do we want to do with that. Do we want to be … And we do have a nonprofit, so do we want to be more involved with philanthropic ideas? What do we want those to be? How do we want our employees to engage with that area? How do we want our customers to engage with that area? What is or what are the different ecosystems that we’re going to require to be successful in this regard? And when I say this regard being again that end goal of being this global organization. And so working back from that aspect really changes the way you look at growing and scaling and building a business because again, it’s not always the same. It’s not just grow, grow, grow, and then hopefully somebody buys us. It’s, I wouldn’t say slow and steady wins the race, but it’s a slower, more calculated approach than what would be the norm.
Nathan: Yeah. I understand. The way you’re describing things and reminded me of the guys at Basecamp, how they think around building companies. Those guys are really cool.
Ross: Yep. They had a very similar philosophy to ours. I don’t know what their long-term plan is necessarily, given they’ve been around for almost 20 years. But they built again, a larger in terms of revenue aspect organization, but very similar to us in terms of what they’re looking for their end goals.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. They want to build something of true worth and significance. They stay bootstrapped, obviously they sold a piece to Jeff Bezos, because who wouldn’t want him as the guy … Right?
Ross: Who wouldn’t? Yeah.
Nathan: But yeah, those guys, I’ve done a lot of reading and I’m going to interview them in the next couple weeks which I’m really excited about and they stay bootstrapped because they can control their own destiny and they are actually not … I get what you mean around this hunger for growth and more and more and more and these hitting the targets. You know, I’ve spoken to a lot of founders. We are at Foundr, we are bootstrapped too, so we don’t have investors and we’re in a similar position like yourself where I don’t necessarily need them. But one thing I’m curious around is just as a founder, you’re hungry, how do you … I don’t know, like do you know what I mean? You do want more. You do want to grow this thing. You don’t want … It’s so exciting. You’re still like that right Ross, do you know what I mean? But can you see the difference?
Ross: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that’s again, that’s what makes our situation or the Basecamp situation just different than the norms.
Nathan Chan: Yeah, no. It’s awesome. Well look, we have to work towards wrapping up mate, so couple last questions. One just around leadership, what kind of leader would you describe yourself as?
Ross: So I come from a background, or as the company grew where I was doing more or less everything outside of the actual code development of our product. So I have a unique understanding of the various different aspects, and going back to some of our previous question, again, I didn’t raise $10 million and hire a VP of sales, a VP of marketing, a VP of client success and so on and so forth. I had to all of those jobs. So that gives you a very unique understanding of what is going on in those areas, how you want the business to touch, how you want it to be efficient and so on and so forth. So that, I guess you could say, went on for a little bit longer in terms of the timeframe than it probably should have, as in I didn’t invest in a leadership team at an early date.
It’s literally been, I guess you could say 12 months that that has become our core focus. And so in the last 12 months I’ve brought on the right individuals that gave me the confidence that I could step away from those departments or those areas. I’m still very much connected in terms of the product side of things, thankfully our roadmap or our direction from there is really going to take us through the next few years at a minimum as to where it stands now. So there’s not a lot that’s required there more so than just the execution side of things. And that’s really the mode we’re in right now. We have the roadmap. We have the blueprint. We have the strategy.
We just need to execute on it from there. So that’s really from a leadership perspective where I’m focusing on and that’s why, you know you mentioned that I’m Sydney right now. I have been travelling more to give my team the freedom and the ability to just do their jobs and get things done as opposed to say, breathing down their necks. And the past version of myself would certainly be more aligned with that view, but we’re not going to get to the 100, 200, 300 million dollar mark with me being involved with every sale, with me being involved with every client, with me being involved with every issue that comes up.
Nathan: Yeah, no. Makes sense. And do you have any mentors?
Ross: I do, actually. A gentleman who resides on one of our boards certainly falls within that category, and while relatively new from a timing perspective in the last … Actually it’s been about 18 months now, extremely helpful-
Nathan: You set up a board.
Ross: Yeah exactly. Yeah, but also gave … He’s very much an expert in terms of people and people management and understanding how best to manage the individuals who are again, becoming the backbone of the organization. So whether that’s your leadership team, whether that’s the front line individuals, it’s really been beneficial in that area because my view, as I said before, was very different in that I had to get things done.
Nathan: Yeah, no. That’s awesome. So how come you decided to create a board?
Ross: So when I sold a portion of the company, which was about two years ago, that’s when the board was formed so two of the partners that we brought in took on board seats and then the gentleman who is my mentor is our independent as well.
Nathan: Got you. Okay. That makes sense. So couple last questions because I said we have to wrap and mindful of your time. So what’s next for you guys? What really excites you? You said you’ve got … You’re stepping a little bit back and letting the team, your leadership team really drive things. But yeah, what next for you that really excites you and where’s the best place people can find out more about yourself and also Maropost.
Ross: Absolutely. So I mean in terms of the most exciting aspect it really goes back to these product elements that I mentioned as in we again, we did have a new suit of tools called Maropost Sales Cloud that launched recently, so that’s very exciting that we’re no longer a one product or one platform organization. The self-service products are very exciting to me because we’re, again, we’re gaining a new sales strategy, a new sales model as well as to how we acquire customers and how we market ourselves and such. It’s very exciting, many of the leaders that we brought into the organization, certainly from a sales and marketing and client success and operations perspective, watching them grow and be able to execute on the vision that’s been provided is of course going to be a core to our next stage here. So I’d say those are the areas that I’m most excited about, which are pretty standard I think with a business of our size.
Yeah, so of course our website, wwww.maropost.com is really the core. And the great actually piece about it is we’ve adapted it to share more about us, again, as an organization versus just the customer acquisition side of things. Certainly you can go into the different products that we have and learn more about those, but again when you go to the actual site itself it’s really just who we are, what we’re doing what we’re going and what we’re focused on I guess you could say, both from a culture perspective, from a philanthropic or more global perspective. So that’s certainly the best place.
Nathan: Awesome. Well look. Thank you so much for your time Ross. It was an absolute pleasure and yeah, next time you’re in Melbourne, yeah, great to catch up mate, let me know.
Ross: Absolutely. Yeah. And thanks for having me.
Nathan: You’re welcome.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Ross Paquette
- Visit Maropost.com to learn more about the company and its products