S4E6 – How Tally bootstrapped to $100k MRR with a team of 2 With Marie Martens

How Tally bootstrapped to $100k MRR with a team of 3

Bootstrapping a B2B SaaS is, tough; try doing it with only 2 people in your full-time team. In this episode of the Grow Your B2B SaaS podcast, host Joran sits down with Marie Martens, the dynamic co-founder of Tally, to delve into her remarkable journey of building a successful SaaS company from scratch. Tally, a streamlined and free form-building tool, skyrocketed from inception in 2020 to achieving a staggering 1.3 million ARR with over 300,000 users while maintaining just with her partner.

Marie shares invaluable insights on navigating the early stages of a startup, leveraging communities like Product Hunt and Indie Hackers, and the importance of doing things that don’t scale to secure those crucial first users. Please tune in to uncover how Tally’s product-led growth strategy and passionate user base have driven their success, and get inspired by Marie’s practical advice on managing work-life balance and scaling sustainably. Don’t miss this episode, which is packed with actionable tips for SaaS founders aiming to replicate Tally’s impressive trajectory.

Bootstrapping a SaaS – Early stages

Marie and Philip (her partner, and business partner) initially aimed to become digital nomads with their first startup, Hotspot, a marketplace connecting hotels and travel influencers. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to pivot as the travel industry collapsed, leading to the creation of Tally in the summer of 2020.

Marie discusses how it took about one and a half years to reach 10K Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and approximately three years to hit 1 million Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR). They achieved this with a three-person team and have been transparent about their journey on their blog.

Marie emphasizes that the main factor behind Tally’s growth has been the product itself. The simplicity and utility of Tally have driven organic growth and user acquisition. The product’s free nature and ease of use have been critical in building a passionate user base.

The pandemic year 2020 provided both challenges and opportunities. While it was the worst time to launch a travel-related startup, it gave Marie and Philip the push they needed to pivot and create Tally. The lockdown period helped them save money as they couldn’t spend on travel or dining out, extending their runway.

Marie talks about the financial stress of bootstrapping Tally, especially after the failure of their first startup. They relied on their savings and aimed to give themselves a year to make Tally work. The COVID-19 lockdown inadvertently helped them save money, extending their financial runway.

Bootstrapping challenges for founder

By the end of the second year, Tally faced challenges with customer support and feature requests due to its growing user base. This realization led them to hire additional help for support and development despite the financial constraints of being a bootstrapped company.

Marie shares the difficulties of balancing startup life with family, particularly after the birth of their two children. The lack of a structured work environment and the stress of managing a growing startup highlighted the need for better delegation and boundaries between work and personal life.

Marie discusses the importance of delegating not just within the company but also in personal life. They outsourced household chores to focus better on work and family. This decision, along with setting up a separate office for Tally, helped improve work-life balance.

B2B Go-to-market strategy

Marie explains how they acquired their first users through cold outreach, primarily using platforms like Product Hunt, Twitter, Reddit, and Indie Hackers. They manually found potential users and reached out to them, which was crucial in the early stages.

The importance of community engagement and building in public has been a significant part of Tally’s strategy. Sharing their journey on platforms like Indie Hackers and Twitter helped them gain visibility and support from like-minded entrepreneurs.

To manage customer support efficiently, Tally moved from direct email support to a structured contact form system. They improved their help center and set boundaries on the scope of support, ensuring they could manage user queries effectively without overwhelming their small team.

Although they had to limit access to their Slack community due to scalability issues, the community of 3,000 early users remains a valuable source of feedback and promotion. The direct interaction with active users has been instrumental in product development and user engagement.

Marie mentions that they are beginning to explore AI for detecting and blocking abusive forms. However, the main use of AI so far has been for marketing and copywriting purposes through tools like ChatGPT. They plan to integrate more AI features for support and product enhancement in the future.

Advice for B2B SaaS Founders

Marie’s advice for SaaS founders includes doing everything possible to get the first users, even if it doesn’t scale initially. She stresses the importance of asking for help from the community, sticking to core principles, and maintaining a work-life balance to prevent burnout. For those scaling past 10K MRR, she emphasizes surrounding oneself with experienced people and continuously iterating based on user feedback.

Key Timecodes

  • (00:46): Introduction of Guest – Marie Martens
  • (01:22): Starting Tally During the Pandemic
  • (02:35): The Birth of Tally and Its Challenges
  • (03:24): Current Success Metrics of Tally
  • (04:07): Journey to Entrepreneurship
  • (06:45): Motivation and Community Support
  • (08:09): Achieving Product-Market Fit
  • (12:47): Overcoming Early Challenges
  • (20:00): Current Growth Strategies and Future Plans


[00:00:00.000] – Marie

I think for us, what worked was just doing everything we could to get those first users and don’t think about whatever scales or not, like do things that don’t scale. It’s such a cliché, but it’s really what has helped us. I think the main part is definitely the product, like growth, like the product selling itself. That’s where we get most of our users from. For us, we always try to, even though it’s difficult sometimes, to have fun things to do outside of work. So to speak, that can really give you some new energy and can sometimes really help to just go on a night out with friends and not talk about your styles and then getting some new ideas the next day.

[00:00:46.910] – Joran

Today, my guest is Marie Martens. Mario is the co founder of Tally. She started the company with her partner, FreeLip in 2020, as they wanted to build a simple and free way to build forms. Before Tally, she co-found her startup called Hotspot, and worked as marketing and project manager in different companies. After launching Tally, it took them one and a half year-ish to get to 10K MR and about three years to get to 1 million ARR. They all did this with a three-person team while having over 300,000 users. They’re really transparent in the way they’re building and growing as they’ve been sharing it publicly on their blog. So I’m really excited about this one. Welcome to the show.

[00:01:22.250] – Marie

Hi, Joran. Thank you so much for having me.

[00:01:25.000] – Joran

Good. Let’s get to know you, Marie, and let’s get to know TALLI a little bit deeper. So I’m I’m going to fire off some questions at you. When did you start at Tali? I think I already mentioned it, 2020, right?

[00:01:36.530] – Marie

I can give you the short or the long version, but it was indeed summer of 2020. It’s not the first starter, then we found it. And when I say we, I mean myself and my co founder, Philan, who’s also my partner in life. Basically, our first startup was called Hotspot, and we were supposed to become digital nomads and travel around the world while building Hotspot and It was something completely different. It’s a marketplace that connects hotels and travel influencers. Until then, we know that the 2020 would be the worst year ever to launch something in travel tech because of COVID. We basically went into lockdown, lost most of our clients. We were just getting started. We had to pivot and we had to come up with a new idea. That’s how Hauetali was born. In, I think, summer of 2020, I think by September, we had our first First MVP that we started sharing with friends and family. That’s how it all started.

[00:02:35.210] – Joran

Nice. I think something successful came out, something negative, like the Corona.

[00:02:40.380] – Marie

I think that happened for a lot of people during that year.

[00:02:43.600] – Joran

What is your current ARR right now?

[00:02:46.160] – Marie

I think it’s 1.3 million ARR, and I think we’re almost busy. We’ll almost be four years after something.

[00:02:55.070] – Joran

Nice. How many employees do you currently have?

[00:02:57.270] – Marie

Currently none. We have grown the team a bit It’s last year, but then cut back again. We can probably come back on that later in the episode. But so it’s us two, and we are working with a couple of freelancers, mostly on project basis. We have a Jonathon, who is part-time helping us out for customer support. So no full-time employees for now.

[00:03:24.410] – Joran

We’re never going to dive deeper into that. And regarding that 1.3 million ARR, is there a separation between Services and product, or is it purely product revenue?

[00:03:32.870] – Marie

It’s purely product revenue, just our subscription called Tally Pro. That’s our main income stream. So we also have payment forms basically connected to Stripe, where we take a commission on payments, but that’s a very small member of the revenue.

[00:03:48.220] – Joran

So it’s mainly just- And in one sentence or two sentences, what does Tally do?

[00:03:52.380] – Marie

Tally is the simplest way to create beautiful forms or surveys without needing to know how to code, basically.

[00:03:59.340] – Joran

Nice. And we go to this personal side. You mentioned you had a startup before this, right? Now, Tally, have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?

[00:04:07.600] – Marie

Actually not. I think that might be a bit the influence of my partner, Philip. He has been building and launching stuff for the decade or something like that, and now we’re going to sound old. I think he always really had the entrepreneurial vibe in him. For me, I’ve always liked building and creating things. Then on the non-technical side, I had a career in marketing, but I never really considered making the jump to fully building my own business until we met. I guess the good thing there was that we’re pretty compatible in skills. That’s probably something that happens a lot with non-technical founders. It’s a bit more difficult to just start building because you don’t have the skills. So it’s these full stack developers who builds and designs the entire product. Together, we felt, Okay, we could give this a try. It was also combined at the time with a dream of traveling and working remotely. That was all the idea. Of course, that’s easier when you work for yourself than for an employer. That’s how it started. I do think now, four years later, it would be difficult to go back to a normal job.

[00:05:21.650] – Marie

I do think you become employable after a while.

[00:05:25.270] – Joran

I think that’s what they call us, I guess, founders. At one point, we’re become unemployed. You mentioned Philip is building a decade already. Can I ask what is your age?

[00:05:34.720] – Marie

Thirty-five years old and Philip is 36 years old.

[00:05:39.210] – Joran

Okay, so he was early as well. Do you both have an end goal defined with Tali?

[00:05:44.170] – Marie

Not really. Things have been changing pretty fast for us and have been changing over the years. I think in the beginning, our goal was just we just wanted to build a lifestyle business. We also didn’t have any kids that life was pretty different when we just started out with that. But we were like, Okay, eventually, we can build something and we can have a sustainable income for our family. How great would that be? Then, of course, we passed those milestones and with Tali growing faster and faster, we have the ambition to become a household name in the form building business. I think that’s pretty ambitious because it’s a very competitive market and we are bootstrap. We tend to grow a bit slower than VC-backed companies. We definitely want to make Tali into the best but still simplest form builder out there. That’s, I guess, our goal. I don’t think you can define it as an end goal. That’s the ambition we have. We’re pretty energized still about growing the product.

[00:06:45.630] – Joran

Nice. I think it’s a good call to have because then building a good product in the end will help you to grow it as well. But I guess if you take that aside, what keeps you motivated to really keep going?

[00:06:57.740] – Marie

The crazy thing for me about Tali is that we’ve We always had very passionate users, especially the first people that started using the product have been super helpful, really became a small community of people supporting us. I think that’s the thing that motivates us the most. It’s the positive feedback that we get. We get all types of feedback, but there’s tons of positive feedback. There’s not really a word to describe how that feels of people just… For example, We send out a newsletter, and I would get 50 replies from people just saying, Good job, guys. Really love what you’ve built. Keep on going. I think that’s something pretty unique, who replies to a newsletter to have users that are so engaged. So that always surprises us somehow, but also it’s definitely what keeps us growing.

[00:07:50.540] – Joran

And if we then quit the fire round questions and go a bit deeper, you pivot it, it’s like a full pivot. I don’t even know if you can call it a pivot. It’s just a baby new startup. No, it’s just something completely new, yeah. Because it was then the second startup, right? Did you know from the beginning it was going to be such a success?

[00:08:09.250] – Marie

No, not at all, especially since we just had a big fail without COVID. But I don’t think we were super confident. We just had the idea. We just had to keep on trying and we gave ourselves a year because I had quit my job, and we both were not making any money. So We felt, Okay, we can do this for a year, and let’s see what happens. By the time it was summer, half of the year was already gone. We had to come up with a new idea. The form building idea was basically just what’s formed. We’ve We had a lot used forms in our previous jobs, also for HubSpot. Then we had encountered this problem of using Google forms but not really liking the design of it. Then using Typeform, which was a great product, but then became really expensive if you have a lot of submissions. Then we thought, what if we can build something with this notion of forms, basically, something with a really good user experience, a product that people love to use? How can we make forms a bit less boring. That was the initial idea, but we thought we were never going to make it just with forms.

[00:09:21.020] – Marie

We thought it will need to be, we’ll need to add some data piece or something with the CRM or with the database or something like that. And then we were trying to figure it out. But then at one point we said, Okay, let’s just start at the beginning and see how far we will get. And I think now if you look at our roadmap and feature request, we can improve this form builder for a lot of years at the moment. So we definitely didn’t know. We did a lot of cold outreach in the beginning, and we did get positive feedback from founders, from people that we reached out to, be on Twitter, and hacker. So we felt like, Okay, there might be something here. But we definitely didn’t know that it would work from the start. No.

[00:10:08.500] – Joran

Let’s keep at the start. You did some cold outreach. You mentioned how were you able to achieve product market fit? I guess everybody has their own determination, right? But I guess, how did you get your first users, your first paid clients, to really know that, Hey, we’re actually on to something?

[00:10:23.490] – Marie

We didn’t have any network. We were focused on no code space and communities. But we really start from zero. For us, it was really cold outreach. We would go to mainly product hunt on Twitter, but on product hunt, we would just check, try to find people that have uploaded our product. It can be farm builders, but it could be any type of no-cone tool. We would literally make lists of hundreds and thousands of those people and then try to find their contact details and then send them at the end. It was pure cold outreach reach. We did that over and over again for almost, I would say, four or five months. That gave us our first users just by doing that, also by really participating in online conversations, going to Reddit, is anyone talking about forms? What are they looking for? And then just sharing our form builder. Besides that, IndieHackers was also pretty important for us in the start. Because we’re bootstrap, we were part of this community. We’ve been sharing everything since since the start. I guess the combination of those elements like cold outreach and being active in the communities gave us, I think, our first around 1,000 users.

[00:11:41.330] – Marie

The product is also free, of course, and still is. So that also It also makes it easier for people to try it out. Then March, I think, 2021, we felt ready to publicly launch it. For us, that was on product front. That was the first big test to see, not really do we have product market fit, but how will it do? How will our launch do? It went great. We doubled our user base. One day, we had new paying customers. But I think the most important part was that we got a lot of positive feedback. Since then, I think we needed that first batch of users to kick in our growth flywheel, and that’s how I like to call it. Since then, I feel like that was the moment where we noticed that organic growth kicked in. Now, we weren’t really doing anything specific but still growing, and I think that was for us finding product market fit. Because forms are viral by nature, all the three forms carry tally branding, the product started selling itself. I think that was the getting land for us for finding product markets fit.

[00:12:47.960] – Joran

Yeah, it’s really nice. You used several communities, then used the community to launch again yourself, and then you had the viral loop baked in into the product, which carried on to grow further. I think I You read in one of your blogs that it took you around a year to get the 5K MRR. You’re building it with your partner, so you both are in it full-time, right? You just had another startup which didn’t work out due to COVID, so you might have burned through your savings. How did you survive the early days of bootstrapping?

[00:13:18.350] – Marie

I think for us, being in a lockdown helps because we couldn’t really spend on restaurants going out or travel. So life was pretty cheap. Also, we had worked, I think, each of us for for around 10 years before we started this. He had also sold his previous startup. So that combined with our savings, gave us enough runway, I would say, to at least last for a year and then to see how much money we were making. We had that and were sure that we could continue for a year without making money for the both of us. I guess that was important, especially because we launched that for free, so we weren’t really making money from the start. Knowing that we had may of one year helped us to get through that first year, not without stress, but maybe with a bit less financial stress. We were lucky then in year two, we could start paying a minimum salary and stop living from your savings because it is definitely a stressful situation, I would say. If the number only goes down and nothing comes in and you have no clue what the next year will bring.

[00:14:25.690] – Marie

It definitely costs for stressful situations. I guess knowing that we We had saved up a bit and we were willing to just start in this period of trial for us to help.

[00:14:36.130] – Joran

You turned your savings into a one runway where you said we have X amount of time to actually figure it out for ourselves. You mentioned that there’s definitely challenging times in it? Every startup founder hits rock bottom at one point, either financially, personally. What has been your moment and how did you get yourself out of it?

[00:14:55.360] – Marie

I think it was by the end of year two. We had been growing really I guess the product grew faster than the team. We got to this point where we were just having a lot of customer support to do, but we didn’t really have someone to help us with that yet. We got in a lot of feature request, but we didn’t have a developer yet to help us out. I think the input or the request, it was so overwhelming for us that we got to a standstill where we couldn’t really work on building or growing the product. We were just re interacting to whatever was happening that day. It took us a while to get out of that and to hire someone, find someone to help us with support. Of course, going from just the two of us to an extra person was a big step because everything was just in our head. Nothing is documented. It’s all probably for an outsider at the time could be pretty chaotic. I think that was the first step for us to understand that this was going to bigger than just the two of us that we need help.

[00:16:03.620] – Marie

Then also finding the right person, hiring. All these things take time. It feels like we didn’t really have time, but we had to make time to get out of this loop. But I think that was one of the more stressful periods. We also had two kids since we launched Tali, and that hasn’t really helped in managing stress. I guess definitely when our daughter was born, that was still during COVID, and it was still maybe a bit different because the product was a lot smaller. We didn’t have that many use. We were still just at home, locked up. I guess life hadn’t changed that much. But now our son was born last a year and just making the switch to having a family for and also trying to work. And me being out for a couple of months has been quite challenging because we are talented, and if one of us is not there, we have a problem. I think all of those things made us realize that we just need to find good people and grow the team as fast as possible. The only downside there is that because we didn’t have funding, we didn’t really necessarily have the budgets yet to hire senior people because senior engineers cost a lot of money.

[00:17:18.900] – Marie

I guess that took us a while to figure out that process.

[00:17:22.600] – Joran

Because I can imagine it because I think it was October 2023 when you got your son, right? You’re just with the two of you. I guess not just has an impact on you, right? It also has an impact on your partner where you’re both being, I don’t know if the word affected is, I guess, the good thing in this, but you get what I mean. You both get a kid, so you both have time where you want to spend time with the family, which means the entire company is affected. That sounds hard.

[00:17:48.340] – Marie

It was. Actually, it also made us make some changes because that year we had tired two engineers, and we realized at that point for Philipp that we weren’t really getting the return that we were expecting from them, especially the ownership and working independently. It was also causing him a lot of stress. Then with the baby being born, it made us realize, Okay, maybe we should make the difficult decision to say goodbye to those people and find new people that are a better fit for the team. It’s actually something that we did after the baby was born. You would think it’s worst timing ever, but it was actually good because it was a reset. We slowed to put things down a little bit and then afterwards started looking again for new people. In a month, actually, we have a new engineer that will join us that is a senior profile that will really be able to help the company a lot. I guess it It’s also those types of times that make you take hard decisions because you have to or you’re first and second.

[00:18:52.210] – Joran

I think in one of the previous podcast, Jamie mentioned that you want to find somebody who’s better than you, where you don’t have to worry about what they’re going to do how they do it. And in your case, where they weren’t experienced enough, in your opinion, where they caused more stress, that’s not how you want to go about it, especially at the beginning.

[00:19:09.190] – Marie

And that’s something you learn. And of course, also budget, again, is important there. But if you really want to keep it small and lean, you don’t really have the time or the resources to train people, as you would maybe in a bigger company. So you indeed need to really find someone that’s better than us and where we can learn from. We’ve managed to do that now as well on the marketing side of things. Because we work with a couple of freelancers and we can really choose just experts in their domain and then learn from them as well. That’s definitely helping us tremendously.

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[00:20:00.220] – Joran

When we go zoom out again, and I guess where Tally is today, like 1.3 million they are. At the moment, two people in a month or two months, three. You’ve been growing to 300,000 views, right? You mentioned product hunt at the beginning, find out voters, find out contact details. That’s how you got your first users, then other platforms like Reddit. And then the viral loop kicked in. Was there anything else regarding your go-to-market strategy? What else have you been doing to get to the point where you are today?

[00:20:27.600] – Marie

I think the main part is definitely the product like growth, like the product selling itself. That’s where we get most of our users from. Besides that, just having a free product that people love to use and having a passionate user base also creates a lot of positive word of mouth. For us, that has really or that still really happens on Twitter, for example, where people actually go and share the tools that they use a bit more on LinkedIn now as well, YouTube. For us, the product being free, you don’t even need to create an account to try out. There’s very little barriers to actually start using it. If you like it, to also share it. That has helped us definitely a lot. The fact that it’s free is a very big component in that. We’ve also been building in public since the start and sharing highs and lows, bigger and smaller milestones. That has also been a part of our story. We have been the bootstrapped underdog. By building in public, we give a bit to the community. We share our learnings, but it’s also a way of content marketing, right? Because other startups are also our target audience, so that definitely helps us as well.

[00:21:40.550] – Marie

Besides that, we have been working, but we’ll actually now really start focusing on SEO and then growing our organic traffic to our website. Actually now as well, starting to look into influencer marketing to really spread and give Stali a bit more visibility. But until now, it really has been the product-led growth combined with a lot of word of mouth and building in public. And that has been it for us.

[00:22:09.620] – Joran

Nice. And when we turn things around, because this has been clearly working, right? What has been your biggest failure?

[00:22:17.390] – Marie

I get that question a lot. I feel like we learn a lot of things. Of course, we make tons of mistakes, but there’s not one really big thing that went wrong. I think what I You mentioned earlier, us just not being able to move forward anymore and having to grow the team. That first step, I think that was the hardest moment in the young history of Thalie. I think hiring sooner and faster would have been a smarter move for us and delegating in that way. I think that was something that we struggled with in the beginning. I think I would change that, but I don’t really have a big moment in mind where we really failed at something. Things go wrong, there’s always fires, but I don’t think nothing really worth mentioning.

[00:23:07.390] – Joran

No, makes sense. If you can go back in time, is there something besides team, higher, sooner, faster? Is there anything else you would do differently or maybe you regret you didn’t do earlier?

[00:23:20.500] – Marie

I think it might be a weird answer, but because the team is so small and it’s so linked to our family and us being available or not, The change we made, and actually that’s only since very recent, is you have Sally and you have your family. There’s only 24 hours in a day. What can we outsource to make sure that we are better founders or better parents And so there’s some more easy things there to do, and that’s outsourcing everything that is household, cleaning, stuff like that, because we still want to spend time with the kids, but we also want to make sure that we have enough time to work. So we made That decision of, Okay, how can we have almost like a housekeeper and outsource everything in that regard so we can have a bit more focused time? That is still something we’re struggling with, but if I would do it again, I would do this also earlier Of course, you also need to have the budget for it. To have a bit more structure in your working days and to be able to find the energy as well to make sure that you feel like you’re making progress, that you’re not struggling in the day-to-day.

[00:24:28.490] – Marie

Also linked to that, we will now, in the first time, go to an office and have a tally office in September. We’ve been working from home for four years. I guess just having a bit more boundaries between home and work is also always a good thing. I guess that’s something I might do earlier if we would need to do things differently next time.

[00:24:51.430] – Joran

I think this is a good point. Delegate things not just in the company, but also personal-wise. If you do have family time, you don’t have to clean, you don’t have to do all those things you don’t want to do. You can actually spend time with the family.

[00:25:03.580] – Marie

And make it qualitative. Yeah.

[00:25:05.560] – Joran

Yeah. I mean, you have 300,000 users, still a team of two. I’m going to ask, and I probably know the answer, but how are you leveraging technologies like AI machine learning right now?

[00:25:17.210] – Marie

Not really yet, actually. We’ve been working a bit on mainly… Because Stallia is free, we also have a lot of users. We attract people that want to make fishing forms or whatever, and we’ve built quite a lot of systems to detect them and block those users. Basically, in detecting them and having as little as possible false positives, detecting those abusive forms, that’s something where we’re starting to build in some AI features. But for the product itself, not yet. It’s something we’d like to do, thinking about summarizing responses, for example. That seems like an interesting use case. Nothing that we’re already actively working on Of course, I use ChatGPT all the time, but that’s basically a bit more for copywriting marketing purposes, so I wouldn’t be able to live without that anymore. But that’s still pretty simple set up, I would say. Yeah, for now.

[00:26:16.080] – Joran

Interesting because I would… What I see a lot if companies are smaller, especially in bootstrap, and have such a huge user base, do you leverage in the support you’re doing, or is that a part-time employee you mentioned?

[00:26:29.480] – Marie

Yes, Yes. So that Jules and Dan is our part-time employee who is just doing customer support. Actually, we will hire two more people, but they are all in different time zones, so none of them is full-time. Just to be able to reduce the response time and to be able to help other users faster. With that, we can definitely also see the value in providing better answers automatically, especially support-wise to our users. That’s something we do want to look into. But besides With that, I think we will definitely still need the human touch there more to tackle the more technical challenge, I would say, because forms are always just the beginning of your workflow. There’s a people build crazy automations and products, I would say, with Tally. So the support can get quite advanced. I think we’ll always need people for that, but we can definitely use artificial intelligence to to help us with that.

[00:27:32.370] – Joran

Then I guess there may be a follow-up question because how have you been able to stay with two and a half people until now? If support does get advanced and you do get a lot of support, you do have a big user base.

[00:27:44.170] – Marie

We had to change quite some things support-wise. Before it would be or before then, more than a year ago, it would be just you could just send us an email, so anyone could send us directly an email and we would reply as soon as possible, definitely within a few hours, which, of course, is not available at all. The first thing to do was hire someone to help us do that. Then we also had to stop the email process, and we actually use Tali to build a contact form where you go through several funnels, and we try to link to relevant help articles to make sure that maybe people already find the answer before they reach out to us. We’ve also invested a lot of time in improving our help center, on making I’m sure that it’s as much self-service as possible. Besides that, we had a Slack group, a community that was open for every Tali user, and we had to stop that because we envisioned it to be a community where people help out each other, but it just became like a live help chat, and that was also something that we couldn’t sustain.

[00:28:52.480] – Marie

We had to stop access for new users, but we kept the group with 3,000 first users in there. We had to do We were also keeping track manually of feature requests, basically in an internal motion database, and we would keep add comments and add votes. Of course, that also doesn’t scale. Then we started using Cany just so people can make or register their own feature requests. I think all of that combined. We also set some limits to the scope of our support. But if the question gets too specific or too technical, we basically say that it’s outside of the scope of our support. We have this feature where you can inject custom CSS, but of course, the idea is not that we write the CSS for the users, which is something we did do in the beginning, but again, not very sustainable. Putting some boundaries, we had to do that as well. Then we also introduced an expert program. If people have really advanced forms, we can also forward them to our experts, and they can basically hire an expert. I think those are all the steps took to keep it manageable until now.

[00:30:03.150] – Joran

Of it, like really putting boundaries and making sure you can automate it as much as possible. Guide them towards the articles or at least where they can find the answer themselves.

[00:30:13.870] – Marie

Still, people don’t like to read, right?

[00:30:15.910] – Joran

Exactly. We’re probably the same as well. Sometimes you just want to get an answer from a human.

[00:30:21.310] – Marie

I guess keeping the product as simple as possible is still the best way to prevent support. That’s also something that we always try to keep in mind. I was like, How can we not make it too complicated when we add more features so that people find out themselves?

[00:30:36.960] – Joran

That sounds easy, but if you do that, you have less requests, which means less support, so in the end, more happy users. One thing you mentioned your Slack community, you stopped adding new users, but I’m really curious, what did it do for you? Did it give you, I guess, what you intended? Could you still kept it? Does it actually help you to get feedback from users?

[00:30:57.760] – Marie

Especially because the people in there are pretty active users. Every time we have a new feature or we’re planning to build something, we would share it in there and we would definitely get feedback. It’s still a super valuable channel. I would like to open it up again if we can manage, but there’s nothing that beats a direct conversation. I guess if you have a lot of users, having a Slack conversation is the closest that you can get to that. It’s not something that I would change if I were to do it over, even though I know it doesn’t scale. It’s I would still do it. There’s no way you can just talk to someone through email or DM. Just having that direct conversation for us has been super valuable, mainly in terms of feedback, bug reports, all of that, but also promotion. If we did a second launch on product, if we shared in there, that’s probably 3,000 people that will back us up. It’s super valuable. Even though we had to close it, we’re happy that we still kept to the channel.

[00:31:57.850] – Joran

You can almost make it like a premium thing Because you might add one or there, a certain person if they really wanted to get in.

[00:32:04.450] – Marie

And we do if it’s not like it’s completely blocked, but it’s just not really on our website anymore. So everyone joins.

[00:32:11.230] – Joran

If we go really towards advice for other SaaS founders, and we’re going to make it real practical. What advice would you give a SaaS founder who is just starting out between zero and 10K MRR? What would you advise them?

[00:32:25.080] – Marie

I think for us, what it worked was just doing everything we could to get those first users and don’t think about whatever scales or not. Do things that don’t scale. It’s such a cliché, but it’s really what has helped us. For us, it was just manually finding people that could be interested in our product and DMing them. I think that’s the best advice you can get is just to find whatever works or wherever you can find your target audience and do that over and over again until you hit some scale. I think something else I’ve learned along the way is don’t be afraid to ask. There’s so many people that have done this before. I think mainly Twitter and Indie Hackers is where I get most of my information because it’s because people building in public and usually having the same struggles. I think the most interesting part there is that it doesn’t really make sense to follow someone that is years ahead. Someone who’s just a few steps ahead, usually can share the most relevant info. They’re also just one email or DM away. If you’re lucky, you might be able to ask a couple of questions and save yourself a lot of time.

[00:33:37.950] – Marie

That would be my advice. I think for us as well, being a bit stubborn and sticking to our principles. We’ve always kept Tali simple and free. It’s the framework in which we operate. A lot of people have told us, Oh, you’re leaving money on the table. You should raise your prices, all of that. But sticking to what works and repeating that.

[00:34:00.660] – Joran

Nice. If we go then past the 10K monthly vacuum revenue, and we’re going to make a huge step, we’re going to grow towards 10 million ARR, what advice would you give SaaS founders on that journey?

[00:34:12.820] – Marie

We’re not there, so I’m not sure. I guess that’s also the part where we have the least experience. This is actually an interesting journey for us where we will probably most likely be looking for advice and giving advice. I think starting and scaling is a totally different beast. I think for us, it will be to surround with good people, and as you mentioned before, people that we can learn from, but especially also figuring out how you get to that first step that will, I think, teach you already a lot to tackle the next one. But a good question, actually, because we’ll have to discover ourselves along the way.

[00:34:51.720] – Joran

Good thing we have this podcast. We are going to summarize these answers so you can listen already to 60 people giving advice on this specific question. Is there anything, advice or things you can give to other SaaS founders on their journey, no matter in which stage they’re in, revenue-wise, which could help them to grow faster, maybe stay more, help, don’t burn out?

[00:35:13.750] – Marie

I think for us, We always try to, even though it’s difficult sometimes, to have fun things to do outside of work, so to speak, that can really give you some new energy and can sometimes really help to just go on a night out with friends and not talk about yourself and then getting some new ideas the next day. I guess that balance, even though it is hard, is still important, I think, if you would ask me. But especially, and I think the hardest part is if things don’t work out is to just show up every day and to keep on trying. I don’t necessarily think that the most talented people always succeed, but I think the people that can actually push through, even though it is hard, I think that’s definitely where success lies for most of people. If you’re curious enough and you want to learn and you want to do it over and over again, I do believe that at one point you’ll find something that will make you successful. Nice.

[00:36:14.950] – Joran

I will try to summarize. I guess if we look at Tally Wright, 1.3 million AR, two people, 300,000 users right now. At the beginning, keep your MVP simple. Leverage communities like Producthunt, Reddit, IndieHackers. Do things that don’t scale, but then give yourself a time frame to build a product. So have a runway where you can actually build it in, go to market. Freemium has worked really well. Product-led growth approach with the viral loop of the form builder. And then have a passionate user base which creates free marketing for you, which is going to help you to grow. And you can also leverage it in the Slack community, higher sooner and faster, delegate things in the company, but also outside the company, and put boundaries on support. So automate things with your help center, and any way how users can get in contact with you. And that last thing, which I think I have to take personally, don’t always talk about SaaS, but keep doing fun things and just keep showing up.

[00:37:11.070] – Marie

That’s a great summary.

[00:37:12.240] – Joran

If people want to get in contact with you, Marie. I think LinkedIn is going to be a good approach.

[00:37:19.760] – Marie

I wouldn’t say Twitter. My LinkedIn box is not the best managed one. Twitter, it’s just @muydemartens. That’s my handle or @tallyforums. You can find us there. I would say, feel free to reach out. I’m happy to answer any questions that would come from the podcast.

[00:37:36.160] – Joran

Cool. We’re going to add then your Twitter handle. We’re going to add your LinkedIn and the Twitter handle of Tali. We’re going to make sure people can find you and Tali. For people listening, we’re going to add a poll to this podcast episode. Feel free to respond to it. Always curious to hear what you think and make sure to leave us a review. We just passed 100 reviews on Spotify. Keep adding them so we can keep helping other SaaS founders. Thanks for coming on, Mary. Thank you for watching this show of the Grow Your BDB SaaS podcast. You made it till the end, so I think we can assume you like this content. If you did, give us a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel. If you like this content, feel free to reach out if you want to sponsor the show. If you have a specific guest in mind, if you have a specific topic you want us to cover, reach out to me on LinkedIn. More than happy to take a look at it. If you want to know more about Reditus, feel free to reach out as well. But for now, have a great day and good luck growing your B2B SaaS.

Joran Hofman
Meet the author
Joran Hofman
Back in 2020 I was an affiliate for 80+ SaaS tools and I was generating an average of 30k in organic visits each month with my site. Due to the issues I experienced with the current affiliate management software tools, it never resulted in the passive income I was hoping for. Many clunky affiliate management tools lost me probably more than $20,000+ in affiliate revenue. So I decided to build my own software with a high focus on the affiliates, as in the end, they generate more money for SaaS companies.
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