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What are your SaaS company's current growth marketing challenges and wins?

March 12, 2024

The Marketing, Product, And Remote Journey From $1M To $5M ARR and $5M To $10M ARR With Bridget Harris Of YouCanBookMe

Bridget Harris, CEO and Co-Founder of YouCanBookMe, joins Jeanna on this episode of Remotely Cultured.

Bridget and Jeanna discuss all things product-led growth, how to market to the right customer (not every customer), why being in love with the problem your solving (not the solution) is essential for founders, how YouCanBookMe created an intentional remote culture, and the successes and failures of a bootstrapped company growing from $1M to $5M in ARR and $5M to $10M in ARR.



Resources Mentioned In This Episode:


Jeanna: Hey everyone, welcome to Remotely Cultured. I'm your host, Jeanna, calling in from Roatan, Honduras, where I run FPS and host this podcast. This episode is brought to you by First Page Strategy. At FPS, we use data and big ideas to produce exponential growth for PLG SaaS brands who want to work with a non-traditional agency to quickly scale their marketing team and revenue. For example, in one year, we've grown a client's total revenue 197%, their organic revenue by 300% and their paid revenue by over 1000%. We'll also do it by working remote first and async with your brand unlike any other agency. If you're a PLG SaaS company and need to hit your 2024 high growth goals or launch a new SEO strategy, check us out at firstpagestrategy.com. Okay, today on Remotely Cultured, we have with us Bridget Harris. Bridget is an entrepreneur and co-founder of YouCanBookMe. She now leads a team of over 30 people in a multi-million pound profitable business with 20,000 customers and over a million people making bookings every month. Bridget used her background as a former special advisor in government, politics and leadership to champion values of transparency, internationalism and a strong company culture at YouCanBookMe. She leads on all strategic finance and business operations for the company. Welcome, Bridget. We're so excited to have you today.

Bridget: Hi. Thank you very much for inviting me on. I've been looking forward to it.

Jeanna: Yes. Can you tell our listeners today where you're calling in from?

Bridget: I am in the Highlands of Scotland, Northeast, basically top right -hand corner of Britain.

Jeanna: Amazing. And tell us a little bit about what it's like to work remote in Scotland, what's the culture like there? How do you spend your days? How do you spend your off time?

Bridget: Well, I don't always, I only really spend a part of my time here. So I am from the Highlands of Scotland. I'm from the West coast. So it's lovely to be up here. And generally it's incredibly quiet. There's very few people in the Highlands. It's one of the least populated areas of the United Kingdom. So that's very nice because you can do lots of deep, deep work. You only get ever sort of interrupted by the sheep and the coups, the Highland coups. But today, as it happens, I went to one of our local towns, which is called Tain and I went to a coffee shop and I did the same thing that everybody does, which is you go to coffee shops and you do calls and you do your work and you know, working remotely is just about doing your job wherever you happen to be.

Jeanna: Yeah, love it. Yes, the phrase I see flying around a lot right now on LinkedIn and in the remote community is that it's not work from home necessarily, it's work from anywhere. So I love that. We definitely follow the work from anywhere lifestyle at FPS. So I love that you, your only distraction sometimes is the sheet, that's amazing. Cool.

Bridget: It's really nice. I mean, go on, sorry, there's a delay, but you, well, I was gonna say though, I do think there's a distinction. I think that there's, there's, there's definitely a distinction I've always thought in running a remote company between the digital nomad, which is, as you were saying, work from anywhere, and that's an amazing lifestyle. And if I could go back in time and spend a couple of years working from anywhere and traveling, I absolutely would have done. But this was obviously that was before the internet allowed you to do that. But I also think that, you know, YouCanBookMe as a pretty traditional company. It's just that we pretty much everybody works, you know, nine till five, nine till six, whatever. But they just do it from anywhere in the world, but they're, they're still, you know, in their own hometown.

Jeanna: Yes. Gotcha. Um, yeah, we do, we do the same thing at FPS. I myself am stationary, like 85, 80% of the year. I like to, you know, go work a couple different, three to four times a year, basically just take advantage of that ability to move. So that's nice. Um, all right, can you tell us a little bit about YouCanBookMe? I'd love for you to tell our listeners, like, what is the company like? What is the brand like? How are you different than your competition?

Bridget: So we're scheduling tool. We do on online appointment again, you know the kind of tool that is set up to help people work remotely because we schedule a huge number of remote appointments. People are booking in Zoom calls and Google Meet calls and so on. So we do over like a million meetings a month for our customers and users were freemium tools so anybody can use YouCanBookMe for free. We've been going for over a decade and we've learned a huge amount about building a business, building a product, changing our product, building another product, doing loads of different things like that along the way. And then going back to the technicalities, I'm a co-founder, we're based in the UK, whereas we have customers mostly in North America, but we have people who work for us around the world, but mainly in Europe and in the USA.

Jeanna: Great. And let's talk a little bit about that evolution, like you said, from the product side of just starting with one thing, pivoting, trying again. What's that kind of product-focused evolution been for you guys?

Bridget: Well, I really didn't answer your question about what makes us different. And I think actually that's a very good starting point for how we started. So we built products. So my co-founder and CTO, Keith Harris, is developer, software developer. And probably more than 20 years ago, he started to build web applications that would be served over the cloud. And the products that we built were aiming at trying to solve productivity problems, things like survey building or all sorts of different things, not necessarily about scheduling. And what we were trying to find was the secret source of what would give us viral growth. So we were bootstrapped, I didn't say that either. So we're bootstrapped companies. We haven't taken on any outside investment. We don't have any VCs. We don't have a board. We don't have anybody telling us what to do. And it just meant that we built the company very slowly over a long period of time. And the first 10 years, you know, was actually about pivoting from different products that we built that didn't work, that, you know, we didn't have users, we didn't launch them, or we couldn't figure out how to monetize them. But then the first scheduling tool we built was in 2007, it's a tool called When Is Good, and it does a consensus scheduling, so it finds out time when a group of people are available to meet. And from then we launched YouCanBookMe, and YouCanBookMe is mainly used by businesses who want their customers to book into their calendars. And what made us very distinctive, was we made it incredibly easy. The booking experience has always been the best with YouCanBookMe. And we've just continued to build on that brand, really. So booking through YouCanBookMe, you get lots of customizations, you get automatic translations, you get all sorts of rules and bells and whistles that you can make sure that your flow for your customers is as best as you want it to be. And that's what, that now is obviously, we're in a competitive space now, so we have to work very hard to be the best that we can be. But 10 years ago, that felt like magic to businesses, just absolute magic. So for a small business, instead of having to answer the phone to take a booking for an appointment, they could just send a link to somebody. And we basically, the tool grew like wildfire at the time because it was so imaginative. And since then, we've just consolidated a really strong reputation in the market for quality. It's a really good tool, you know, high quality, reliable tool. We've got great customer support and we've continually reinvested in the tool. So we started to see the kind of life cycle of a software product over and above, you know, that first couple of years where people launch a product and they go through MVPs and then they go through PMFs, product market fit. And then they, you know, then they try to figure it all out. Maybe they get some funding and everybody feels to be on this kind of accelerated path to an exit, if you like, some kind of VC-driven thing. Whereas we've just steady as she goes, we've just built a profitable software company and that's what we do. That's our day job. And our focus is always about creating a better experience for our customers.

Jeanna: Amazing. I love that. I took a peek, went through the website, obviously, when doing some research for this interview. And I noticed that you guys offer like fully branded pages when you're sending your booking equipment. As a marketer, branding is always really important to me, and so I'd love that, because I haven't seen that with some of your competitors. So that was a really nice feature.

Bridget: Yeah, we have actually, I'm not trying to pitch to you at all, but it's like, it's a very interesting use case. Agencies tend to use us because they like having different booking links for different clients. So you can set up different availability, different roles, same calendars, but different roles, different branding, different messaging, depending on your clients. And sometimes agencies that are representing other recruiters who might be recruiting from multiple clients. They can't just have one booking link. So they have separate pages depending on the clients that they're recruiting for. So YouCanBookMe as a really, it's very, very modular. It basically it does, it's, I don't know, one size fits all or like everything fits into multiple sizes, whatever the version of that phrase would work, but it's modular. 

Jeanna: And then that's all like managed within one easy dashboard, all your different links that you're using, all the pages. Cool. That's amazing. Yeah. I love it. And on your website, you've already talked a little bit about this, but you said that, or you guys say on your website, on your About Me page, we pride ourselves on being product led and customer focused. Let's dig into that a little bit. What does being product led and customer focused mean to you as a co-founder?

Bridget: So well, nowadays, those two, well, product led particularly is a massive catchphrase, isn't it? It's like, you know, it's the great, absolutely, everybody loves it. Whereas for us, it was very natural. It was naturally how we grew. So not only as YouCanBookMe naturally viral, viral organic growth, because you know, a million people are booking using our tool every month. So as a result, that helps fuel more people creating accounts. So we just, we do get basically a free on tap viral growth loop inside YouCanBookMe. So that's kind of the purest version of product-led growth. But I think also what I mean by that is that because we've been bootstrapped, we've been driven by a revenue model, which is about building a really good product for customers. And, and reinvesting in our products to make sure our engineering is first class. Now, I don't know whether, you know, I'm not trying to comment about other people's companies because all I know really is how we've done ours, but YouCanBook Me has got this sort of incredible responsibility to keep its uptime to 99.999%. Its infrastructure needs to be absolutely bang on. Its security and compliance needs to be really good. And the reason for that is, is because we're interacting with people's calendars. People are sharing their data with us in order for us to provide them with the service. And again, 10 years ago, people hadn't thought so much about data privacy and security and GDPR. But for us, it's always just been a very natural part and parcel of our tool because we need to create a bond of trust between our product and the customer. So when I say product led, in that sense, what I mean is we are really obsessed with building a very high quality product because it's not some sort of thing which if it goes wrong, it doesn't really matter and it'll be up in a few days time or something. Actually, YouCanBookMe has to be up all the time for people because it helps drive people's business. It helps drive bookings to people. They really rely on it. If Google Calendar goes down, we hear it probably earlier than anybody else because people wanna know where their bookings have got to, where their calendar is. So, for us being product led is more, it's not just about a business model. It's also about believing in the, you know, the authenticity of our product itself. Like we have a proper product. Do you know what I mean? Like we have like, we're building a proper piece of engineering here. We connect to millions of calendars every month. The infrastructure team that we have at YouCanBookMe... And then customer focus is, is to do entirely to do with the fact that if you're bootstrapped, you're, you're entirely funded by your customers. You know, there is no other distraction. There's no other people you can't, you, you're not going to get a million-dollar runway from an investor to keep going. I think that there are pros and cons to both ways of doing it. We just happen to prefer the bootstrap route, but it means that we're profitable and it means that we have a very strong relationship with our customers that we nurtured over a long period of time. So we've invested in customer support, we've invested in customer success. We have some very, very long standing customers who've used YouCanBookMe for years, largely because we have invested in taking care of them.

Jeanna: Great. Let's get into some of those specific details of how you listen to your customers and then take that feedback into your product. Are you offering customer groups? Do you have advocacy programs, internal advocacy programs? What have you guys done that has worked to really connect with your customers and make sure that you're using their feedback to drive the best?

Bridget: Well, that's, I mean, that is a really good question and it's really key and anybody should be doing it. And obviously there's departments that are set up to doing things like that, like UX departments and, you know, customer calls. For us personally, we went through an absolutely classic agile product development cycle in the first few years where basically the developer, Keith, was on calls to customers all the time, asking them what they wanted, how do they want to build it and so on. Now we're a 12 year old, much more mature product, we do more shaping around our ICP and who we're targeting and who we think is going to best benefit. So sometimes you're not going to listen to every customer, you're just obviously going to focus on the customers that you think are going to benefit the most. We do have, again, being freemium and being self -service, so we have a very low contract value, very low ARPU, you know, like people are coming in, they're only paying us 20, $30 a month. So we can't have a full human onboarding process for every customer. People come and they need to use the tool by themselves effectively. So we have a very, very wide range of ways for customers to get help. So there's a massive knowledge base. We have webinars pre-recorded. We have a community forum. So the free users who won't be able to access customer support, they can get it through the community forum that we do support. We do have 24 hour support and we have multi-language support. We're just investing right now in AI. So at the moment, what you have is a very large footprint of people using your tool. And what you're trying to do is get 90% of their questions answered and to help to them in a self-service way as possible, but also to be able to surface what they're searching for, you know, what, where, what they're not understanding or what their feature requests are. So we do all of that. And I think it's got to be about a time benefit analysis every time. So, you know, every time we speak to customers deeply, it's obviously expensive to do half an hour, an hour conversation with hundreds of customers. On the other hand, you sometimes get such amazing insights, such amazing benefit from the time that you invest in those customers, as long as you're not just spread too thin that you can do it. And we have done that periodically over many years. But, you know, as I said, we try to, whatever your, however you're gathering feedback from customers, what you have to make sure is how you're going to model the data to make it, you know, easy to build some kind of strategy around.

Jeanna: Yeah. Great. And you mentioned that you now have ICPs that have bubbled up as things of focus of your customers that you're going after and you're building a product for them. Was it always the case or when you got started, where you guys just kind of taking anybody and everybody, the marketing was just targeting whomever and then as you grew the ICPs came out?

Bridget: Yeah, that was exactly it. It was very horizontal. The fact YouCanBookMe is still very horizontal. And that is a function of the fact that anybody can sign up and create an account and YouCanBookMe. You have all of these wonderful customers that want to use it for all sorts of you know, esoteric use cases that you'd never have thought of and, and everybody's really enthusiastic about your tool and you love it. But at the end of the day, what we found, we've got to a point where we're at $5 million ARR and we've just got to a point where we need to pick a lane. You know, we haven't, we've never really, we've, we've never had to pick and choose. We've been very lucky and fortunate that we've grown organically, but we've grown over time over a very horizontal. So we have some incredibly large tech companies using YouCanBookMe like Uber or Yale. We also have some incredibly large recruitment companies users, but we have a vast army of small businesses who use us. We also have a lot of education in schools who use us. So we want, and as a company, culturally, we love customers. So we hate saying no. So it's really hard. It's just really, really hard. It's like one of the hardest things ever to work out how you're going to pick a lane in a business because you can't please, you can't be all things to all people all the time.

Jeanna: Yeah. And as a marketer, I meant, like thinking a lot about how you would even tackle that as a CMO. So let's talk a little bit about your marketing growth here. You've mentioned that you have a Gale D success story and a marketing success story, bootstrapping from one to 5 million. How did that, you know, other than the buy, obviously the link being very vital, which, you know, everybody, every product and every company wishes that a million people were emailing a link around to their brands. But so that obviously was helpful. But how else have you grown and what channels were specific for you guys reaching customers? If you have a wide amount of people, how do you exactly like you said, how do you pick a lane in the market?

Bridget: So, I mean, I don't know if what I can say is gonna be very helpful for people, because I can say what we have done and I can say what we haven't done in the sense that what we have done is a viral loop. The viral loop is the thing that has been the number one reason why you completely has grown. But that what we haven't done is that we haven't failed. So for example, we haven't failed by building a crap product. We haven't failed by having a bad looking brand or a brand that people couldn't trust. We haven't failed by customer success or customer support letting people down. We haven't failed by having a major security breach or some other kind of thing. So really built around, you know, the tap being turned on and left on, which is your viral growth loop built around that was an effort to build a business in a company that was successful. But I can't say that anything else that we did was actually the cause of more growth. I mean, we have done some, we do do some marketing. For example, that some of the other things that we've done which have been successful and fairly low cost have been, we've always made ourselves fairly visible in the review sites like Captera and G2 Crowd. So YouCanBookMe as like one of the top five scheduling tools. We have lots of reviews. We've got over 1900 reviews, like, I don't know, something like 1600 five-star reviews on G2 Crowd. So we've done kind of little mini marketing things like that. I speak at conferences, I go to a lot of software conferences and I speak, but to be honest though, I don't know, I'm not a marketer. So I don't know, if I had properly been attributing all of this, I'd be able to tell you, but all I can tell you is that whatever we've done, we've survived and we've been successful and we haven't been incompetent. But you know, most of the time, businesses fail because you do things like run out of money. You run out of money and you spend your money on the wrong things. So all I can say is, well, we didn't spend our money on the wrong things, but you know, I'm not holding my breath. Like it's still hard work. It's still, it is every running a business is stressful. It never gets easier. It's not like, oh, it was really hard and stressful to get to the first million. And now we're at 5 million. I'm, you know, I'm sitting pretty like, no, I'm still hard at work and you know, making sure that down the road, I'm not going to, you know, make a mistake that is going to take the wrong turn. Cause that's how it feels a lot of the time.

Jeanna: Yeah. Here, here. It's definitely, I felt that journey a little bit, not to the scale of yours, but I know what you're talking about. You talk, when you were rattling off the things about failing, you know, having a security breach, all the things I think, I think about a lot of the products that I have liked in the last couple of years. And it feels like, some of them are scaling too fast and not investing in a stable product. I can think of one very specific right now that, but I don't want to say names because I don't know.

Bridget: What space is it in? What area is it in?

Jeanna: It's the remote tech tool that a lot of people use and we use it. And, um, and it's really unstable. There's constant bugs that the features don't actually work. They say they have to go into. And so I think that that a lot of product-led companies or product companies, I should say, maybe not product-led companies fall victim to that because they're growing so fast and they want to like release features, release features, release feature. So as a leader, how have you, maybe it sounds like you guys have focused on stable growth while also rapidly growing, so how have you internally kind of like set the stage for the kind of things that need to happen to focus on creating a really reliable and stable product?

Bridget: Well, funny you should ask because I've been thinking a lot about this this year. I really have. In fact, I know that you like my checklists on LinkedIn. And so look out for Friday's checklist because I think I believe this is the one which is in the series, which is about product and what I say about how to build a product. Because as I said, we've been going for about 12 years. And so our understanding of the evolution and the life cycle of a product is actually long enough for us to get some perspective that what you build, what you're gonna build in the next 12 to 18 months isn't necessarily still gonna be around in five years time or in 10 years time. And I think it's very hard when you're a startup founder or your product leader to really think in those terms because often there's so much uncertainty as I mean, as is appropriate, there's so much uncertainty. You can't sit there and say, we're building for 2035, and then work backwards and then change everything. Because if I knew we'd been building for 2024 in 2012, we'd have made so many different decisions. But the fact is that you don't get to build a product in hindsight, you always have to build it into the future. You don't know what the future is going to hold. So you have to balance what you were saying, which is products that need to serve customers today what features they need, what's gonna drive forward adoption, what's gonna drive forward a great product experience for the customers. And if you lose sight of that over too long, you will just end up suffering chronic attrition, you know, that your churn will just, your customers will abandon you. So you have to see an investment in the tool. And as I said, we have some customers who've used YouCanBookMe over 12 years. And so if you interviewed any single one of them, they would be able to remember what the original tool looked like and now what it looks like. And they know that their money is being spent on continually reinvesting in the solution. So we're trying to give your customers a reason never to leave us because, you know, why would you switch to somewhere else if what you've got is always being improved? And I think that's critical. But on the other hand, as I said, when you're trying to build into the unknown, you end up hitting roadblocks, especially with growth. So we have changed our infrastructure three times since we started, quite significant changes of architecture. And then a couple of years ago, we decided to re -architect our entire front -end products. So the booking experience, the thing that I'm saying is quite distinctive about YouCanBookMe. So we built it originally in server -side technology Java. And we realized in order to add all the features that we wanted to build, we needed to re -architect it into React, into JavaScript. And because of that, that suddenly meant, because we didn't have tons of money to throw at hiring loads of developers, it had to happen quite slowly. So in the end, you realize that you're flying two planes. You're flying the, keep the whole show on the road by serving customers and making sure everybody's happy. But you also, it's kind of like the service plane that runs alongside it is constantly refueling because it needs to keep making sure that your machine works. And I don't think...and YouCanBookMe, we've always got that balance right. Sometimes we've overdeveloped product and we've ended up being unstable or we've let people down. Sometimes we have put everything on hold for a couple of years just to rebuild, to get it right. And then we've allowed customers to churn because they say, well, nothing's happening. Cause it doesn't look like anything's happening to the tool because we're spending our whole time trying to re-architect. And it never changes that tension between re-architecture and engineering and security and scalability is, you know, is it ultimately if you can't keep the thing online, obviously you can't serve customers, but at the same time, you can't keep everything in aspect and so perfect that it's so wonderful, but no every, all the customers have wandered off because you haven't offered them any value. So it is, it's, if you know any kind of expert that's really good at this or a book, you could recommend it from your community. I would really like to know more about it because we live it all the time and I'm trying to process that whole question at the same time as making decisions. And the thing, one of the things that I ended up talking about over the summer about this point is product vision, because I realized that almost to kind of give you a sense of what that future could look like, you do need to have a vision for your product. You can't, because otherwise, you just end up with this kind of constant refactor, constant, I'm just changing things. I'm just making things better. I'm just edging forward. I'm going to make it a bit more stable. I'm going to do whatever. And after a while, people forget what you're for. So one of the things that we did inside, YouCanBookMe over the last six months is that we just had a really big rethink about our strategy and who were we for? What were we about? Why were we good? Why would anybody want to use us? Why would anybody want to give us money? And I came up with a kind of a three-part definition of what I think a product vision should match. And the first is it should match solving a real problem. So you should be able to say, I want to build a product because this solution, this, this problem over here deserves to be solved. In our case, it's finding a time for people to meet. I mean, it's obvious for our problem is an obvious one. The second thing should be, it should be compelling. Therefore it should solve that problem in a 10 times better way than it's currently being solved to make people feel like I have to use that tool because that's the way. I'm going to do X, Y, Z. And again, in our case, it's building somebody's business. And then the third is it has to stay relevant over time. So you have to build a vision, which is, let's say if you're building, if you were the hot, the classic case of product analogy is, is Henry Ford saying if people wanted faster, if they wanted to go faster, they would just build faster horses. And instead he said, I'm going to build them a car. So people couldn't imagine a car, but they could imagine the horse going faster. So the thing is that the problem he's solving is transport. He's not solving a horse problem or a car problem. He's solving transport to make people go faster. And so the thing I've been saying to people over the last few months is you need to fall in love with the problem, not the solution, because your solution as a product is going to change and that's fine. But as long as you're in love with the problem, because you're motivated to try to solve it, you can stay relevant over time.

Jeanna: That's amazing. Yeah, that's some of the best advice I've heard. I fall in love with the problem. You mentioned briefly your reality check checklist, just for our listeners know what those are. Can you tell us quickly what those are and how to find them?

Bridget: Sure. So I, over the summer, because I was doing so much thinking, I, and people were asking for it, I wrote a quite substantial book. I didn't, I'm still at that in a slightly manic way. I just wrote what I call the bootstrapping manual. And I was trying to set out some of the kinds of things that I talk about here. I was trying to put them into different chapters, like customers or product or whatever. So people could understand why, how we've done what we've done. Because to me, it boils down to how you make decisions. And decisions aren't easy, especially in entrepreneurship, you're always taking risks. So really the question is, well, how do you assess risk? How do you assess timing? How do you assess resources? What kind of product are you building? Who are you building it for? And how are you going to do it? How are you going to get something off the ground? It just so happens I've done, me and Keith have done an awful lot of that. So I wrote it down and to help people, help people navigate their way around those questions. I wrote some checklists. It was very easy. It's just basically just to help you. It's like, like work, it's like workbooks, you know, like a work page where somebody's saying, well, this is all very well for Bridget, but what about my problem? And I thought, well, I'll set out these questions so you can ask yourself those questions which will help you make good decisions. That's really my intention. So recently I extracted all of the checklists and I put them into a six part series on LinkedIn. So every Friday I publish a one page checklist, but if you want all six, I think the URL is youcanbook.me forward slash checklists probably. I think you can fill out a form and you can get all six.

Jeanna: Cool. Yeah. They're really neat for, I was reading through them yesterday and obviously there are a whole lot of people that have been in this as long as you have with the hindsight, like you said, 2020 hindsight on how to solve some of these things. And so absolutely a wealth of information, especially for free. I also noticed from LinkedIn that she is focused on scaling her bootstrap staff from five to 10 million now. Let's talk a little bit about that. How is this different? What are you guys focused on to get to 10?

Bridget: Well, very significantly, we are upping our game in terms of digital advertising hasn't been something we've done before. And I've just realized that we've hit a kind of a wall in terms of our viral growth, where it's not enough. So we've been investing in a kind of a wide, wide funnel approach of advertising to the people that use YouCanBookMe, sort of the kind of retargeting kind of campaign that you have. But more than anything, just to increase brand awareness of YouCanBookMe, because we have so many people use the tool, but when you're booking, you don't really think about the tool that you're using. And then if you're an account holder, you take it for granted. So in some ways, one of the first things that I'm trying to do this year is just raise brand awareness, make sure that everybody's heard of YouCanBookMe, make sure that it's not a surprise to people that we exist in the marketplace. We're not a new startup by any stretch. We are also doubled down on our SEO and our content. It's something again, it's a massive learning curve for us. I mean, again, I write about, well, I don't, this is the point. You should do an extra chapter yourself about marketing, because if you look at my bootstrapping manual, nobody's realized this yet, but there's no chapter of marketing. It's something that I feel like we...I'm enjoying myself because I'm learning. Just trying to learn how to do it. Tracking is a nightmare. Attribution is a nightmare. Making sure that your voice is authentic. How do we feel about AI generated content? You suddenly get very existential and philosophical super quickly with AI. But anyway, we've got a really strong team that we've put into place who are working on content for us, working on email marketing, newsletters, and then still doubling down on product-led growth. So expect quite a lot of more, a lot more product development in 2024 as well. And it's one of those things where getting from five to 10 is going to be hard. It's probably going to be harder than getting from one to five, I think.

Jeanna: You know, what I find really interesting about this is that I see, I've seen this with some other PLG brands. One of our clients is one of the more well-known PLG brands that have been around for a while. Same thing, super viral at the beginning, they grew without marketing and now coming, we are now working with them way late in the game on SEO. So, and it seems like this is similar to what happened with you guys. Like at the beginning, you didn't necessarily need this marketing plan to get users because you had the viral loop. But now to get to the next phase, you're having to go...

Bridget: We need to do it.

Jeanna: ...move from viral to a really progressive marketing plan. So I wonder if that's always kind of going to be like a five to 10 ARR problem. Like if you have the viral loop supporting you in the one to five.

Bridget: Yeah, I don't know if the number is necessarily, is more probably I would imagine to do with the stage. So, you know, the stage, what I mean by that is like, yeah, exactly. So you could get viral loop from nought to one, but then you've got an established, it's about what point do you naturally plateau because your churn catches up with your growth. And that can happen at any point of the cycle. But I think that, just as a comment, as a sort of observation, it is very hard. It's very easy. You can see really good marketing, people who do brilliant, well, podcasts, for example, or, you people are doing really good content or something. You think that is brilliant. I, you know, that that's really, really good. But there's a huge amount of bad marketing out there. And it's just really hard to distinguish between the two because everybody's marketing. Everybody's to everybody's trying to sell something. And so at the end of the day, you know, for me, our comfort zone is about saying, well, are we actually providing a product which is credible and people want to use it? Is it, you know, I don't want to oversell what we have, I want to be, but I do want to be able to sell what we, you know, what I know is going to help people. And so these kinds of markets, you can get yourself sucked up into marketing playbooks and 10 point plans. And it's all about this. And if I just rerun that playbook and I think that, you know, half the time, it's not really going to help lots of other people. You have to find your own way of what's really, really going to help. But for us, we just had to lift, you can put me above off the floor. So we had almost no SEO. We had almost no email marketing. We had almost no, and we just, and it's taken us a few years. We've had some great people work for us, helping us set things up, working on the foundations. It's taken us quite a long time to basically even get to the point where we can do some decent marketing.

Jeanna: Yeah. One thing I am glad to hear you talk about that you guys are doing right. And we don't see a lot of brands doing this is a lot of brands are over-investing in PPC and paid because it's kind of like a drug, right? Like you pay, you use it and right away you're going to get customers. And a lot of times the budgets are upside down, but not a lot of brands are taking the time and the long game and the budget on the SEO side. But to be truly successful, you need to do both of those things. Like you have to have an SEO strategy and you have to have a paid strategy.

Bridget: Yeah. And the SEO, I mean, anybody can look at work out what we're doing, because they can just go to our blog and look at what we're doing. You know, we're doing lots of long tail URL pieces. So they're all human, human written. They're all obviously, hopefully valuable content designed to increase awareness of, of us in the scheduling space. So we're talking about other competitors, which might sound counterintuitive, but actually how would people know about you if you don't talk about your competitors? Like if people are talking, if people are searched, for your competitors and you pop up, well then you've hit your nail on the head. So we're doing quite a lot of long form, highly structured, well written blogs. And that's expensive, that takes time, it's serious, you know, there's some good people doing it. But it's an 18, as you said, it's an 18-month strategy, it's not trying to go for a quick win.

Jeanna: Yeah. And what you just mentioned is something we see a lot also, actually, is like some brands we've worked with clients before that are that they feel like it's rude to write the brand versus brand pieces. But those are some of the highest search keywords. YouCanBookMe versus your competitor. That's what people are searching out there. And so if you're willing to do a comparison page or a blog post, those things really work. So that's really smart. Cool.

Bridget: And that's the essence. Sorry, just to say, because let's just talk about product-led growth. That is the essence also of product-led growth, which is if you talk about your product in your content, you're not just trying to talk about random things that you're hoping are going to kind of, people are just going to come in via osmosis. They've come into your website because they are interested in online scheduling, because you've been talking about online scheduling, because that's your product. And that again is a very credible path back to product-led growth.

Jeanna: Yeah, great. Thank you for that point. Making sure that you have more bottom of the funnel content, middle of the funnel. Cool. Let's shift the last 10 minutes or so or five minutes we have of the podcast and talk about YouCanBookMe is fully remote, which I love, of course, and we like to every company we have and every guest we have on here are remote teams and remote companies. And you're an ops leader. So let's talk about your inception of YouCanBookMe. Has it always been remote? Did it evolve? Tell us a little bit about your journey to being a remote first company.

Bridget: Um, we do have an office. Um, I don't know if there's any company alive that doesn't have an HQ somewhere because you need to have a corporate address. You know, um, you know, we're not, we're not sort of, um, renegades. We're not like global, you know, uh, um, stateless, uh, stateless companies. So we're constituted in the UK and we have an office. The office is in Bedford in the hometown where I live. And we've always had one or two people work out of that office. But in the main, the people that we've hired and employed over many years have been remote. And it started for two reasons. Firstly, because our growth was in North America. So in Britain, we needed to have time zone friendly customer success. So our first US employees were customer support. And then we hired started to hire developers in Spain. And we've had we've ended up with a very, very long standing and very warm relationship with countries like Spain and Portugal. We have people employed in France and Germany, in Romania, in Morocco. So we end up with lots of people from different places and they themselves can also come from different countries, even if they're living in those European countries. And the principles of the way we have run our operation is we employ people. We generally speaking have always employed people. So, and I know you mentioned the running remote community. It's something that I spoke at in Lisbon last year, which is how do we, how have we built a model around employing people? And what we do is as a company, as a UK company, we register in the...in the country that we're talking about like Spain or Portugal or France. And we registered with tax authorities and we set ourselves up as a employer, but we don't trade through those countries. So we don't have an entity there. We're not trading any income tax through there. So in terms of financially, we trade through the UK, but from a social employment perspective, we are taxed and employ people and they're protected by those laws of wherever they live. So it means that YouCanBookMe is a Spanish employer, as a German employer, as a French employer, as a Portuguese employer. We do have a entity in America and we use a PEO in America, JustWorks, and we employ people through JustWorks in America. So, you know, I'm not, as I said, I'm not against people who want to work on freelance contracts and work through Upwork and all the kind of digital nomads space, and that's fantastic. But for me personally, the way that I've run YouCanBookMe, I've wanted to incentivize people who want to do a good part of their career inside YouCanBookMe, work for us for maybe three or four or five years. Indeed, some people have worked for us for eight years, nine years. People who want to get mortgages, who want to build houses and have babies, and people who just want to live with the kind of job security you get from an employer in your hometown, but at the same time you get to work in an international company like you can put me.

Jeanna: Amazing. And how have you, what are some of the things you do to keep a distributed company to that extent connected culturally and operationally?

Bridget: Well, the big one is the summit where we go on, I mean, people call them retreats. I don't call them retreats because we don't do an awful lot of meditating or anything like that. We do tend to party hard and work hard. But it's really lovely. It's really popular thing we do when we all get together. And we generally do that as well. Well, last year it was in June. We went to the south of France in June, but we've also been to Costa Rica near you. We've been to Dominican Republic. We've been to Malaga in Spain and we've been to Lisbon in Portugal. So we try to go to sometimes places in Europe, sometimes places across the Atlantic. We tend to do little small trips, you know, those things where we are just meeting up small teams. And then we do the usual things that people are now understanding that they have to do when the pandemic hit, everybody understood that, you know, an online quiz or some kind of social is fun and people need it. So we do that too.

Jeanna: Yeah. Cool. And do you do this meetup work, meetup one time a year?

Bridget: Generally, yeah, I mean, it tends to not, I mean, obviously, with the pandemic, we didn't get a chance. But yeah, I think every year, I mean, it's something, when we were growing, when we were growing the team fast, we even did it like every eight, nine months, because you'd have employed more people and you want them to come and join you. But now we've got a fairly stable team. I think we won't do it again until the summer.

Jeanna: Great. I love that. I've heard some advice before that every remote company should have an in person strategy as well. So that's beautiful. And how about operationally, like, what are some of the theme processes, tools that you guys are using to communicate effectively across all the time zones?

Bridget: Well, my favorite tool at the moment is a tool called Bluedot, which is a bit like...It's like a video, you can record all of your videos. You can record Zoom or, um, or Google Meet, um, to Bluedot. And then you automatically create recorded, you know, recordings, transcripts and AI summaries. And I absolutely love it because you can create all your agenda, whatever agenda meeting items that you need. And then the AI will, will do the summary of your meeting based on your pre-determined template. And I found it incredibly helpful because as we were getting bigger as a company, we were realizing that, you know, we were unfortunately moving into a kind of siloed, synchronous type of work where people are in the meeting, they have the call, but there's only three or four of them. And then people who wake up later on in the day don't know what's going on. So I started to insist that we all record everything on Bluedot and we have, you know, a kind of a fully transparent and updated process of meetings. That's made a big difference. Everybody really loves it. It's really good. Then what else do we do? I mean, again, we try to follow the basic principles of asynchronous work, transparent work, communication. We use Slack. We use YouCanBookMe, you know, we're like, we're booking each other and we're doing various things like that. So, and I think, you know, what it is, it's like, you have to, the good, the goodwill and the communication, the intention is there in, in, in remote teamwork. But what you need to do is reinforce it. Every three to six months, people just forget, people forget and people become isolated. So the in -person strategy is important too, because you realize that, you know, after a while it's hard work for people to be by themselves, working remotely without having any social contact. I mean, it sounds awful when you say it like that. So you just have to be continually proactive about learning ways to support people. And it just comes down to communication.

Jeanna: Incredible. Great. That's it. Thank you so much for coming today. Just a wealth of information, completely brilliant. Everybody needs to go find Bridget on LinkedIn and follow her story. I'm just really enamored by all the things that you've gone through as a founder. It's amazing.

Bridget: Thank you.

Jeanna: If someone wanted to go online and learn more about you, where should they go besides LinkedIn?

Bridget: You know what? LinkedIn is my only place, actually. I like LinkedIn, so I tend to post stuff there. You can find me. You can message me. My DMs are open.

Jeanna: Awesome. I love that. Great. All right. Well, thank you for coming on Remotely Culture today. It's been a pleasure having you, Bridget, and we'll see you online.

Bridget: Thanks very much. Thank you for inviting me.

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