Xtensio's Journey from Services to SaaS

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

xtensio is a classic story of how a service-based company turned a problem into a product.

The company was working with startups and needed better ways to support buyer personas and other marketing activities

It launched a few templates that resonated and then realized that there was more than enough demand to pivot the business.

In this episode of Marketing Spark, xtensio CEO Alper Cakir talks about the journey and how it has leveraged content marketing to drive brand awareness and inbound traffic.

It is interesting that xtensio doesn't have a marketing department. Instead, it relies on Cakir and in-house employees to create most of the content.

Hi, it's Mark Evans and you'relistening to marketing spark. For the past year I've mostly interviewed marketers about BBBSASS marketing. They've offered amazing insight and I've learned a tongue along the way. But going forward I'm going to shift the focus of the podcast. Well, marketing will still be part of the mix, a big part of mix. I'm looking to interview bb Sask executives and entrepreneurs about their journeys, andtoday I'm talking to Alpare Chucker, the CEO of Extensia. Welcome to thePODCAST. Thank you for having any market let's start with EXTENSIO's origin story.How did the company START? What was the inspiration for it? So actually, like your audience and past experience with this podcast is in line. Wouldare past as well. We we're originally an agency. We were not particularlya marketing as we were more of a UX and UI agency, but wewere working with a lot of companies who are trying to go to market.So like they need to understand really old, the old details of their own businessso that they could get the beltmost impact out of the gate. Soworking with these companies, you know, like you were in service business.But for a couple of years we realize that we're actually starting re did withall the marketing basics. But those the idea for persona. For you guys, who is you know, like how how do you define your value proposition? What is your brand positioning for those we are doing all these exercises andthen at some point we said, you know what, like let's build somethingthat that helps us do these things for our client, and that was basicallyVP for us. And then the initial product was a couple of temple asa user persona and landing page at pitch deck, and I think it wasa lean canvas. So those were the initial templates or documents or projects weput on EXTENSIO. And when there was an interest, so like first wewere basically trying to solve our problem helping these clients, which became the MVPfor the product. Let me so the interest, we started putting more andmore effort into extends you, and eventually extends you took over and that becameour main focus. Before we go, for one thing I was remiss inthe introduction was telling people exactly what extensio does. So maybe you can dothat for me excess use a collaboration platform for business communications and strategy. Sowe help companies make better cases internity or externally. True collateral. So it'sessentially a document builder with a built in templed base that enables marketers, salespeople, entrepreneurs, operations, hr you name it. Like we were very horizontalat this point. We'll basically platform where people create better business content. Youstart up as a service company, you feel this pain or this need orproblem. You dissolve. So you start developing these templates. How did youstart to attract your first customers and users? Was a clients of yours? Didyou was a word of mouth. How did those first customers come onboard? So the first iteration we first realize that that was interest around oneparticular templet first and it was the user personal. This was like now it'sa more like more common, but you know, let me started like five, six years ago. It wasn't so and people were trying to really understandwhat the user person is, how they should use it, how should goabout it. So the initial, initial version that we did was just aPDF. It wasn't even a product. It was some some PD. Ifyou put on behnds in our own website...

...and then we put together and howto guide along with it on our website, and then we started seeing that there'sinterest in this. And so then when we first launch the product,which was about five years ago, it didn't do even a fraction of whatit does now, but it was just the page builder and we clearly sofrom the from the beginning that we need to give it a purpose. Sojust having page builder for documents was not good enough at that point for people. So the template that be already built for in pdf for a user personI became the first temple. We also built that Extensio and that match starteddriving people. So the initial one we had our own clients and customers thatwanted to use it, so that that was good interest. Then anybody whowe put basically a link on the same be hands post on our website sayinghey, now there's any tractive virgin of this, go try it, andwe started seeing adoption through there. And then in a launch we went tothe usual places like product, onto C and like, we were also seeingpeople just posting in places like Reddit, etc. And then we were gettingalso traffic from those resources as well. So it's was all inbound pretty much, so that we created something that people needed and and we put it ina couple of places and hope for the best and it works. A lotof companies evolved from services to products and they launch something, they put itout there and it it's a hit or it's a miss. And I'm curiousabout when you knew. What was that moment when you knew that Extensio,this product that you had launched, had evolved from a concept or something thatwas interesting to a going concern, to the point where you knew this wasa business this knew that, you knew that you're going to shift the focusof extensio from services to product. was there a moment in time was didsomething happened that made you realize, okay, this is a business now and we'regoing to this is how we're going to move forward. We were luckyto have the agency running because when you're doing that and have a side project, there's less Frist. So if we didn't have any mistress, to thisday we're still bullshraft. So, like we were able to build that productto a point where it was really valuable for people and when we show thatit got seeky for some people and now, looking back, we've seen that thoseare the people. Well, these people need to create something that looksprofessional, they need to create something that is impactful, they need to createsomething on Brent and they're not able to do it. So we realize thatour competition was not other tools. So, like, these were not people,like you wouldn't go do it on Photoshop or illustrator. These were thepeople who would hire designers. So our competition was mostly actually other design outlets. MMM. So we when we realize that, you know, like thenbuilding the additional templates to help that group of people helped us bring more peoplein. And then, like we we started building a lot of analytics aroundthe product where we still see that use it and the moment one, Imean when we blaunched on product and it was the most popular second pounce popularfor that day. So that was that was something there. But again,like it's just a lot of times, data shows you something, but itdoesn't reveal the whole story. So you like give it's date. Is reallygood for growing something, but it's not great for innovating something. So,like you take the data and you're inspired by it so that we said,you know what, actually what we built can be utilized for these things aswell. So we started building gold, these additional features and a dish.And also like that, the moment you start putting something out there, youstart getting feedback, or like a feedback, which are great's good in terms ofsteering your your vision, and it's a journey. So, like westarted seeing the interest, once we sell...

...traffic coming from Reddy, them startseeing traffic coming from product, and when we start seeing more people, know, instead of using the PDF version, using this, when we started seeingthem coming back for doing other stuff and when we started seeing feedback, theywere gain saying, you know what, it would be great if you coulddo this as well on your product. Like that was the moment, orthat was the phase, where we said, you know what, we should putmore effort into this, and having the agency helped us have a smoother, safer transition. Here's the softball question, or perhaps a loaded question or perhapsa really tough question to answer. When you look back over the lastfive to six years, the journey that extendsio has been on. What doyou think the keys are to success, its success, and I asked thatbecause many, many start ups fail because there's no need for the product.So when you look back and your own journey, is it because it wasthe right product at the right time? Is it because of the insight thatyou gained along the way? Was it because you were creating something new anddifferent? Like, what are some of the key elements that you can attributeto the success that you've had? A lot of the times companies are lookingfor that silver boat and sometimes some of them are really lucky they get thatsilver bullet early on. For us it was really the whole everything you justmentioned and on top of that, you know, in coopsulating concept, Ithink is persistent. So I love we were seeing things that work, seethings that don't work. So we're constantly moving to this day, luck,you know, you're still a Jile. So every two weeks, like there'sa new push and like there's a future that's being improved, position that's beingchanged and you piece of content that's being launched your small team. But likewe are constantly trying to improving. So being persistent about evolving has been helpfulfor us. And and that evolution is driven by a couple of things.One, the users right so like the they they tell us a lot nowagain with their data, with their feedback, or like of their data and feedback. So we use that to determine how we should steer this ship.And also, you know, like we are artist as hard as well.So we also tried to look at the world out there and say, like, you know what, we can do better or we can do this adifferent way. Then so we like I mean it wasn't the shortest path thatwe took. It was really a wind the rose, but the again,the journey. I think one of the things that helped us was not raisingfunds from from, you know, we see because, like then, youknow, the them, we would have less time than we would be makingpromises that would be hard to keep. We were able to control our destinya little bit better and be able to more flexible throughout this time, becausewe are both trapped. So you launch something that people like using, it'sa product that is sticky, you're seeing in bound demand for it. It'sobvious that this is a business that you could move forward with. When didyou realize that marketing needed to be part of the mix, and what werethe first moves that you made from a marketing perspective, like what were thefirst strategic or tactical decisions that you made to actually get marketing to be partof the DNA of the company from the beginning? Butt, from the beginning. Marketing. Yeah, like it' it's it wasn't in a very conventional marketing. It was more about, you know, like this was the time where inbound was becoming more popular and they know, everybody started hating banners and, you know, in bout emails and all that stuff more and more.Obviously, and personally, that wasn't in line with WHO I am, likeI really wanted to provide something that is valuable still market it in the rightplaces or put it in front of the...

...right people and then, you know, hope that they will use it and then that's going to turn into anavalanche, right. So, like, well, so let me first launchone. Content was, from the get go, a big piece of Extensiusjourney. Like we latched it with pretty much made no no tamplates, andnothing happened the first couple of weeks. Then when we started releasing those templeus, that was the time where we started seeing interests. Because, butnow, all of a sudden, it's it ties into more specific needs,you know, like I'm trying to do better marketing, or I'm trying tolaunch this product, I'm trying to raise funds for my start up. Allthose things they had, all those groups had a better need for product likeextensio. And also, from the beginning we also build some reference referral loopsinto the product as well, so that you would sign up and then youwould invite people and they would like. At that point, about twenty fivepercent of our own users were coming through other users refers. So like that, all that thing and again, like we for the first year it it. We were not making any money fromness, or maybe like more. For thefirst year and a half it was more about here's a product, useit. You must feedback, you'll evolve it, will improve it, andthat use it eventually was like okay, now that we can start monetizing thestickt you. One of the interesting things when it comes to entrepreneurs and marketingis many of them start with product. It's all about the product. They'rebuilding a better mouse trap because they I've identified a problem or they just seean opportunity. Next to sales, the entrepreneur becomes the head of product,but they also become the head of sales and eventually they look towards marketing asbeing a growth catalyst. In some cases it's almost a necessary sort of anecessary evil, as opposed to something they want to do. But it soundslike extensio really embraced saw marketing as a key part of how the company movedforward. Now and now not have been traditional market I mean you're doing somecontent marketing but also some user marketing. Did you think about marketing as something, as a psilod activity, or is it? Was it just something thatcame naturally or something that was just part of growing the community and growing,growing the business over time? So we were again, like the agency,being consultancy for startups. Mostly at that point we had a really clear understandingeverything you just mentioned, but maybe we were also already telling all these clients, look, it's not about the product, it's not about sales. We needto build something that is useful for people. We need to build ita time where they know that they needed or even need to educate them.It's going to be tough, you know, like they you know, how dowe differentiate you? All those things were built into our DNA, evenif you're just doing U X or Ui or maybe like just an onboarding screenor something for or an abby. Was All about, like, are weanswering the right questions for the users? And we always believed in this concept. Every start up or every business stands on three feets. So there's aproblem, there's a group that has that problem and there's a storytelling that makesthese to connect together. If one of these are lacking, so that whichmaybe like, you know, like the problem is not valt or there's nobodywith that problem, or like you're not doing a good job telling that story, so that the the person with the problem is not interested or not awareof your solution. From the beginning, this was built into our da wewe knew that, you know, we had to build something that targets theproblem and then makes a story that will be valuable for the person who hasthat problem. And in our case that was the startup was trying to builda brand, that was the company who was trying to streamline communications internally.That was the VC firm that was trying to source better start ups, whateverit is like they're in. When you're a lot of the products are wayeasier to explain. We do this on your way house and their data becomeslike this. It's great. So,...

...like it's easier to market as well. One of the ambitions of extensia is it's very horizontal, like so thatyou can use it for a lot of things. So, like, forthat reason, our marketing is very bucketed. So, like when we talk toagency, we say certain things because the value bring for them is verydifferent than the value bring for less Saya first startup. What is maybe,for about working better with clients and building their brand? Maybe that one islike about going to market or raising funds. So I guess. But the thecore is, you know, like all these groups, you look atthe personas again and say you like, okay, this, this group,is getting this value. And a lot of the times we this was alsoa lesson that we learn their along the way. It's not about fixing yourproblems. It's really about finding your strengths and doubling down on them more thananything else. So in our case, like we are not trying to bean alternative to powerpoint. Like they have a lot of powerful or prasy or, you know, anything out that. They have a lot of powerful features. We're not going to building a building all those because if we do,then we would be hurting ourselves. Instead, what are the areas that we're moresuccessful? Like making a simple, you know, keep providing a startingpoint for these people, making it so simple that, you know, there'spretty much no learning Kurt. You can just go in there get what youneed in a couple of minute. Quick Question. Does extends? You HaveMarketing People on board? No, nobody did. Kid. So, likewe have customer success and product and myself, and then we work with well,let me realize that. You know, this inbound is going to be themain course of action for all marketing. Obviously, we started putting more effortinto, you know, making sure that Google likes us through CEO.So, like we are we Y, we hire let's say that person.We make sure that they are now only good with code, but they understandall the basics of SEO. And throughout time, like I got better at, you know, content and a SEO and like making the research fewers andall that stuff. But now there's no at this point, there's nobody who'ssolely responsible about market so what kind of marketing does extend? CEO Do andwho does it? Is it all internal? Do you use freelancers and contractors?So the content gets created by us, and you know, like we usein turns, we use seasonal contractors where we say okay now, likethey're building additional content to right now. EXTENSI is about a bit over fiftyinstructional templates and about a hundred it stable examples. So does and for allof these we have landing pages and how two guides as well. So allthat content brings up a couple of hundred foot pages on our website. Thatdrives most of the traffic and true good content we get a lot of.So we also don't see you just to trick google. It doesn't work.It's about really adding value. So we try to create multiple times better contentthan anybothing about there. For example, you know, if you're building,let's say, a sales strategy documents, then we go do the research,look at everything up there and try to create something that really helps people performbetter. And when that happens, well, automatically start seeing this content going toplaces that we didn't wind dream of, like, you know, sometimes thegovernment sites you mention a sometimes a lot of the universities ment fields andthat that has a lot of clouds, that that brings us even better positioningas well. So content creation is like just distributing inside the company. Whatabout other types of marketing? Are you any advertising? Do you go toconferences? Did you webinars due to Ebooks, or is it all simply about blogposts? I'm just curious about the portfolio or the arsenal that you're easy. We have any Filipe program which you know. We set it up Ithink it was two years ago. We're...

...not really doing anything about it.People sign up and they refer extends here and they get twenty five percent ofthe revenue for life. So if anybody's interested you can just go extensive accountsaffiliates check out and that that's that has been one of the venues. Butwe don't buy any ADS. We're not in conference. This year actually goingto be a couple of conferences, but I mean I go to conferences tolearn and network myself. But like Extensi has not done any sponsorships. Wedidn't get into boots one of those sticks. We haven't tried ads. That that'ssomething we may try next year. It's been mostly the content. Again, the advantage of being a content creation platform is if you create the contentin the platform, right, that's that's been one one advantage that we haveover just creating regular block posts, which is like super saturated. We weredoing that at the agency. Know, worked great, but this was liketwo thousand and ten right like now, like it's really hard to get attentionbecause there's so much content out there. Looking back, what are the biggestmarketing lessons that you've learned along the way, both good things that you've learned andsome of the things that you've learned to avoid that simply doesn't work orit's just not doesn't work for for your company. So, like when youcouple of years, like when you first start, there's no baggage, soyou can just do something and then move on to the next thing. Butover time actually we realize that every decision we make comes with a lot ofthe things that we support that we did in the past as well. Youknow, like we we can just, for example, just move on toanother affiliates marketing platform because we have a couple of thousand people who are usingthat already. So, like I change becomes a little bit harder as youmake sure, and one of the things that we made is, I think, was not realizing the longer termo cost cost of things. For example,and I'm going to name this because you know, like it's been a badexperience for us, intocome. I see your intcom using intcome as well,which is great if you got, you know, let's say, a thousandpeople visiting and like doing something and you're sending messages. But at some point, like our free plan, where was bringing about like Seventeen Tho people amonth and all of us sudden, intercoms expense started exploding. So, likethat was in the decision that we taught a lot about when we first adaptedthe tool and all of a sudden, like now all our campaigns are inthere. Are you know, like our support is in there, like there'sknowledge based that all the things they paid, they build, you were just,you know, taking them and like running with it because, like it'sthe easier thing to do. But you need to be careful about your modelversus the platform uses model, like intocomes fame case, for example. They'reall about you know, those user base puss all like they're not really builtfor companies like us. Where there's a premium model where you would have likethousands of people use the platform and so like not and that change. Changingthings and finding the better options that fits our business model was one of thechallenges we went through. As far as marketing landscape right now, and youlook at the fact that primarily your market is being driven by content, whichdrives in bound. You mentioned that content is becoming more crowded. It's harderto break through. How do you see the marketing landscapes? It's a bbasentrepreneur. What is the marketing landscape look like to you? Like what doyou see as some of the most interesting trends or or things that you're goingto explore in two thousand and twenty two as you try to drive growth,bring news new users onto the platform or, conversely, try to keep your userson the platform? I think that you know, moving forward, acouple of things that is becoming more obvious. One, outbound is getting harder andharder and harder, and so I've...

...bet a product led growth company andwe like that. So, like me, you're going to pure doubling down onthat. So, like making the product better, targeting the right audienceand being at the places that that that all do exist is our main focus. I get dozens of messages on Linkedin. My email is at this point,you know, like I get a lot of inquirers from all sorts ofplaces and like I'm just going like marking them a spam, like deleting them, like first sentence, I get it like less move on. So Ilike my warning styles like that. And obviously, like marketers are going tofind other places now. Actually, like I get SMSs, I get coldcalls, you know, like it's annoying. It's going to get it more annoyingand I don't want to be a part of that annoying part. Iwant to be on the good side of the story as much as I can. So, like we going to keep being on that side as much aswe can. Some of the trends that I'm seeing moving forward is content isgetting harder to get traffic with because everybody's trying it, but it doesn't meanthat there's a good content that, you know, like there's going to bealways good content and that's going to be always performing. One of the maintakeaways I've seen the last couple of years is we are all media companies andI don't mean just the products or the companies, I mean also people aswell, as people as well, like everybody's now a media company or amedia personality and media entity. What that means is, you know, likepeople are going to need a reason to believe what you say or to somebodyelse's and that doesn't happen again with just a couple of sentences you say.It happens over time. So the brand marketing is becoming more of a valuemy mind, through being a media company again, and that that and youknow, like some of the things we see explored is obis Theo podcasts right, and video is become it became so accessible. It's, I think,just a psychological barrier for us. It's just so the harder to be oncamera than you know, like just writing something that you can fix twenty timesdo revisions. But, having said that, the thing that performs in my mindmost nowadays is is vulnerability, not being the perfect person out there,but being who you are with all the little errors and faults that you have, like that's that's the brand, just empty embracing that and my being genuine. I think it's going to be key moving forward for not only for peoplebut also for companies. If there was one marketing channel or activity that extensiowould embrace in two thousand and twenty two, what would that be? We're we'redefinitely doubling down on content, mostly the kind of content that is uniqueto us, which is dumplets in our case. So, like again,like me, we want to make that library not bloated but definitely more inclusive. So, like, that's why were our focuses for the first two quartersof two thousand and twenty two. And then, you know, like,we are seeing a lot of potential again from video. We may go intothat, and also stepping little bit away from in bound through search, whichhas been the main bread and butter for extens here we want to put morefocus on the brand itself as well. So I love you're actually doing alot of partnerships, a lot of supporting the start up ecosystem, marketing ecosystem, sales ecosystem as much as we can through professional organizations, through meetups,through themynars, etc. So we want to be partnering with anybody who isdoing anything in those fields and Prto the be a part of their journey andsupport them with our plast warm as much as possible because we want to makesure that extends. You is the communications and strategy platform for those groups.I'll pare. This has been an excellent and inspiring conversation. Where can peoplelearn more about you and Extensio? EXTENSIONCOM, and then I'm sure you building includeall my links linkedin twitter. Thanks for listening to another episode of marketingspark. If you enjoyed the conversation,...

...leave a review, subscribe by Itunes, spotify or your favorite podcast APP and share via social media. To learnmore about how I help bdbs as companies as a fraction cmost reachaching advisor andcoach, send an email to mark and marketing sparkcom or connect with me onLinkedin. I'll talk to you soon.

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