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're listening to marketing spark. For the past year I've mostly interviewed marketers about BBB SASS 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, and today I'm talking to Alpare Chucker, the CEO of Extensia. Welcome to the PODCAST. 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. Would are past as well. We we're originally an agency. We were not particularly a marketing as we were more of a UX and UI agency, but we were 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 business so that they could get the beltmost impact out of the gate. So working 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 with all 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 and then at some point we said, you know what, like let's build something that that helps us do these things for our client, and that was basically VP for us. And then the initial product was a couple of temple as a user persona and landing page at pitch deck, and I think it was a lean canvas. So those were the initial templates or documents or projects we put on EXTENSIO. And when there was an interest, so like first we were basically trying to solve our problem helping these clients, which became the MVP for the product. Let me so the interest, we started putting more and more effort into extends you, and eventually extends you took over and that became our main focus. Before we go, for one thing I was remiss in the introduction was telling people exactly what extensio does. So maybe you can do that for me excess use a collaboration platform for business communications and strategy. So we help companies make better cases internity or externally. True collateral. So it's essentially a document builder with a built in templed base that enables marketers, salespeople, entrepreneurs, operations, hr you name it. Like we were very horizontal at this point. We'll basically platform where people create better business content. You start up as a service company, you feel this pain or this need or problem. You dissolve. So you start developing these templates. How did you start to attract your first customers and users? Was a clients of yours? Did you was a word of mouth. How did those first customers come on board? So the first iteration we first realize that that was interest around one particular templet first and it was the user personal. This was like now it's a 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 understand what the user person is, how they should use it, how should go about it. So the initial, initial version that we did was just a PDF. It wasn't even a product. It was some some PD. If you put on behnds in our own website...

...and then we put together and how to guide along with it on our website, and then we started seeing that there's interest 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 what it does now, but it was just the page builder and we clearly so from the from the beginning that we need to give it a purpose. So just 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 person I became the first temple. We also built that Extensio and that match started driving people. So the initial one we had our own clients and customers that wanted to use it, so that that was good interest. Then anybody who we put basically a link on the same be hands post on our website saying hey, now there's any tractive virgin of this, go try it, and we started seeing adoption through there. And then in a launch we went to the usual places like product, onto C and like, we were also seeing people just posting in places like Reddit, etc. And then we were getting also 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 in a couple of places and hope for the best and it works. A lot of companies evolved from services to products and they launch something, they put it out there and it it's a hit or it's a miss. And I'm curious about 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 that was interesting to a going concern, to the point where you knew this was a business this knew that, you knew that you're going to shift the focus of extensio from services to product. was there a moment in time was did something happened that made you realize, okay, this is a business now and we're going to this is how we're going to move forward. We were lucky to 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 this day we're still bullshraft. So, like we were able to build that product to a point where it was really valuable for people and when we show that it got seeky for some people and now, looking back, we've seen that those are the people. Well, these people need to create something that looks professional, they need to create something that is impactful, they need to create something on Brent and they're not able to do it. So we realize that our competition was not other tools. So, like, these were not people, like you wouldn't go do it on Photoshop or illustrator. These were the people who would hire designers. So our competition was mostly actually other design outlets. MMM. So we when we realize that, you know, like then building the additional templates to help that group of people helped us bring more people in. And then, like we we started building a lot of analytics around the product where we still see that use it and the moment one, I mean when we blaunched on product and it was the most popular second pounce popular for that day. So that was that was something there. But again, like it's just a lot of times, data shows you something, but it doesn't reveal the whole story. So you like give it's date. Is really good 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 as well. So we started building gold, these additional features and a dish. And also like that, the moment you start putting something out there, you start getting feedback, or like a feedback, which are great's good in terms of steering your your vision, and it's a journey. So, like we started seeing the interest, once we sell...

...traffic coming from Reddy, them start seeing traffic coming from product, and when we start seeing more people, know, instead of using the PDF version, using this, when we started seeing them coming back for doing other stuff and when we started seeing feedback, they were gain saying, you know what, it would be great if you could do this as well on your product. Like that was the moment, or that was the phase, where we said, you know what, we should put more 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 perhaps a really tough question to answer. When you look back over the last five to six years, the journey that extendsio has been on. What do you think the keys are to success, its success, and I asked that because 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 was the right product at the right time? Is it because of the insight that you gained along the way? Was it because you were creating something new and different? Like, what are some of the key elements that you can attribute to the success that you've had? A lot of the times companies are looking for that silver boat and sometimes some of them are really lucky they get that silver bullet early on. For us it was really the whole everything you just mentioned and on top of that, you know, in coopsulating concept, I think is persistent. So I love we were seeing things that work, see things 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's a new push and like there's a future that's being improved, position that's being changed and you piece of content that's being launched your small team. But like we are constantly trying to improving. So being persistent about evolving has been helpful for 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 now again 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 a different way. Then so we like I mean it wasn't the shortest path that we took. It was really a wind the rose, but the again, the journey. I think one of the things that helped us was not raising funds from from, you know, we see because, like then, you know, the them, we would have less time than we would be making promises that would be hard to keep. We were able to control our destiny a little bit better and be able to more flexible throughout this time, because we are both trapped. So you launch something that people like using, it's a product that is sticky, you're seeing in bound demand for it. It's obvious that this is a business that you could move forward with. When did you realize that marketing needed to be part of the mix, and what were the first moves that you made from a marketing perspective, like what were the first strategic or tactical decisions that you made to actually get marketing to be part of 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 in bound 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, like I really wanted to provide something that is valuable still market it in the right places 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 an avalanche, right. So, like, well, so let me first launch one. Content was, from the get go, a big piece of Extensius journey. Like we latched it with pretty much made no no tamplates, and nothing happened the first couple of weeks. Then when we started releasing those temple us, that was the time where we started seeing interests. Because, but now, 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 to launch this product, I'm trying to raise funds for my start up. All those things they had, all those groups had a better need for product like extensio. And also, from the beginning we also build some reference referral loops into the product as well, so that you would sign up and then you would invite people and they would like. At that point, about twenty five percent 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 the first year and a half it was more about here's a product, use it. You must feedback, you'll evolve it, will improve it, and that use it eventually was like okay, now that we can start monetizing the stickt you. One of the interesting things when it comes to entrepreneurs and marketing is many of them start with product. It's all about the product. They're building a better mouse trap because they I've identified a problem or they just see an 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 as being a growth catalyst. In some cases it's almost a necessary sort of a necessary evil, as opposed to something they want to do. But it sounds like extensio really embraced saw marketing as a key part of how the company moved forward. Now and now not have been traditional market I mean you're doing some content marketing but also some user marketing. Did you think about marketing as something, as a psilod activity, or is it? Was it just something that came 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 understanding everything 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 need to build something that is useful for people. We need to build it a 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 do we differentiate you? All those things were built into our DNA, even if you're just doing U X or Ui or maybe like just an onboarding screen or something for or an abby. Was All about, like, are we answering 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 a problem, there's a group that has that problem and there's a storytelling that makes these to connect together. If one of these are lacking, so that which maybe like, you know, like the problem is not valt or there's nobody with 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 aware of your solution. From the beginning, this was built into our da we we knew that, you know, we had to build something that targets the problem and then makes a story that will be valuable for the person who has that problem. And in our case that was the startup was trying to build a 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, whatever it is like they're in. When you're a lot of the products are way easier to explain. We do this on your way house and their data becomes like 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 that you can use it for a lot of things. So, like, for that reason, our marketing is very bucketed. So, like when we talk to agency, we say certain things because the value bring for them is very different 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 is like about going to market or raising funds. So I guess. But the the core is, you know, like all these groups, you look at the personas again and say you like, okay, this, this group, is getting this value. And a lot of the times we this was also a lesson that we learn their along the way. It's not about fixing your problems. It's really about finding your strengths and doubling down on them more than anything else. So in our case, like we are not trying to be an 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 more successful? Like making a simple, you know, keep providing a starting point for these people, making it so simple that, you know, there's pretty much no learning Kurt. You can just go in there get what you need in a couple of minute. Quick Question. Does extends? You Have Marketing People on board? No, nobody did. Kid. So, like we 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 the main course of action for all marketing. Obviously, we started putting more effort into, 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 understand all the basics of SEO. And throughout time, like I got better at, you know, content and a SEO and like making the research fewers and all that stuff. But now there's no at this point, there's nobody who's solely responsible about market so what kind of marketing does extend? CEO Do and who does it? Is it all internal? Do you use freelancers and contractors? So the content gets created by us, and you know, like we use in turns, we use seasonal contractors where we say okay now, like they're building additional content to right now. EXTENSI is about a bit over fifty instructional templates and about a hundred it stable examples. So does and for all of these we have landing pages and how two guides as well. So all that content brings up a couple of hundred foot pages on our website. That drives 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 content than 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 perform better. And when that happens, well, automatically start seeing this content going to places that we didn't wind dream of, like, you know, sometimes the government sites you mention a sometimes a lot of the universities ment fields and that that has a lot of clouds, that that brings us even better positioning as well. So content creation is like just distributing inside the company. What about other types of marketing? Are you any advertising? Do you go to conferences? Did you webinars due to Ebooks, or is it all simply about blog posts? 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 I think 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 of the revenue for life. So if anybody's interested you can just go extensive accounts affiliates check out and that that's that has been one of the venues. But we don't buy any ADS. We're not in conference. This year actually going to be a couple of conferences, but I mean I go to conferences to learn and network myself. But like Extensi has not done any sponsorships. We didn't get into boots one of those sticks. We haven't tried ads. That that's something 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 content in the platform, right, that's that's been one one advantage that we have over just creating regular block posts, which is like super saturated. We were doing that at the agency. Know, worked great, but this was like two thousand and ten right like now, like it's really hard to get attention because there's so much content out there. Looking back, what are the biggest marketing lessons that you've learned along the way, both good things that you've learned and some of the things that you've learned to avoid that simply doesn't work or it's just not doesn't work for for your company. So, like when you couple of years, like when you first start, there's no baggage, so you can just do something and then move on to the next thing. But over time actually we realize that every decision we make comes with a lot of the things that we support that we did in the past as well. You know, like we we can just, for example, just move on to another affiliates marketing platform because we have a couple of thousand people who are using that already. So, like I change becomes a little bit harder as you make 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 bad experience for us, intocome. I see your intcom using intcome as well, which is great if you got, you know, let's say, a thousand people 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 a month and all of us sudden, intercoms expense started exploding. So, like that was in the decision that we taught a lot about when we first adapted the tool and all of a sudden, like now all our campaigns are in there. Are you know, like our support is in there, like there's knowledge based that all the things they paid, they build, you were just, you know, taking them and like running with it because, like it's the easier thing to do. But you need to be careful about your model versus the platform uses model, like intocomes fame case, for example. They're all about you know, those user base puss all like they're not really built for companies like us. Where there's a premium model where you would have like thousands of people use the platform and so like not and that change. Changing things and finding the better options that fits our business model was one of the challenges we went through. As far as marketing landscape right now, and you look at the fact that primarily your market is being driven by content, which drives in bound. You mentioned that content is becoming more crowded. It's harder to break through. How do you see the marketing landscapes? It's a bbas entrepreneur. What is the marketing landscape look like to you? Like what do you see as some of the most interesting trends or or things that you're going to 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 users on the platform? I think that you know, moving forward, a couple of things that is becoming more obvious. One, outbound is getting harder and harder and harder, and so I've...

...bet a product led growth company and we like that. So, like me, you're going to pure doubling down on that. So, like making the product better, targeting the right audience and 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 of places 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 I like my warning styles like that. And obviously, like marketers are going to find other places now. Actually, like I get SMSs, I get cold calls, you know, like it's annoying. It's going to get it more annoying and I don't want to be a part of that annoying part. I want 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 as we can. Some of the trends that I'm seeing moving forward is content is getting harder to get traffic with because everybody's trying it, but it doesn't mean that there's a good content that, you know, like there's going to be always good content and that's going to be always performing. One of the main takeaways I've seen the last couple of years is we are all media companies and I don't mean just the products or the companies, I mean also people as well, as people as well, like everybody's now a media company or a media personality and media entity. What that means is, you know, like people are going to need a reason to believe what you say or to somebody else'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 value my mind, through being a media company again, and that that and you know, 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 on camera than you know, like just writing something that you can fix twenty times do revisions. But, having said that, the thing that performs in my mind most 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 people but also for companies. If there was one marketing channel or activity that extensio would embrace in two thousand and twenty two, what would that be? We're we're definitely doubling down on content, mostly the kind of content that is unique to 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 quarters of two thousand and twenty two. And then, you know, like, we are seeing a lot of potential again from video. We may go into that, and also stepping little bit away from in bound through search, which has been the main bread and butter for extens here we want to put more focus on the brand itself as well. So I love you're actually doing a lot 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 is doing anything in those fields and Prto the be a part of their journey and support them with our plast warm as much as possible because we want to make sure 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 people learn more about you and Extensio? EXTENSIONCOM, and then I'm sure you building include all my links linkedin twitter. Thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation,...

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

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