December 19th, 2018 -- Eli Robinson, GM
When a company is in relative “start-up mode” it’s certainly true that each passing year is the most important year in company history. And for me and the team here at FranFunnel, 2018 certainly is not an exception to this rule. As we head in to the next most important year in company history, I thought I’d take a few minutes to speak about what we’ve accomplished in the last twelve months and look ahead at what’s to come.
As with all B2B SaaS companies, the real measurement of success is how many people use your software. Not only do more users provide us with the capital that we need to continue to invest in expanding but perhaps more importantly the more people who use our platform, the more feedback we get. Our customers find new ways to use what we’ve built and continue to provide us with new ideas on how to make FranFunnel more useful for you.
In November, we wrote about how we activated our 600th account here. And the updated count is over 630 as we come to the end of December.
Amongst the more exciting implications of the continual increase of adoption is just how diverse our client base really is. We have several quite large franchisors all the way down through one-person offices. We’ve got sales and marketing agencies. Consultants. Brokers. Just about every industry you can imagine. Users in multiple countries. And we even have a few customers who are completely outside the franchise space.
It’s been a long while, but does anyone remember when FranFunnel looked like this?
Believe it or not, that was the FranFunnel that everyone was using as recently as May of this year. Our largest technical push of the year was working on what we came to call FranFunnel 2.0. In one fell swoop, we completely overhauled the front and back-end of our system.
On the design side, it allowed us to ditch those super annoying refreshes instead going to a more intuitive single-page desktop experience. Likewise, the mobile app was able to mirror the desktop, making it much, much easier for someone to be able to learn and use. Intuitiveness has always been a core tenet of our design, and we delivered on that with our new version.
On the performance side, we went from being a pretty cool piece of software to a bada** machine. The speed with which we process requests as well as our ability to handle larger and larger amounts of information is night and day from where we were a year ago.
While we don’t believe that any one thing on FranFunnel is the “secret sauce,” there’s no doubt that automation is the place that we’re head and shoulders above all the other software solutions we’ve seen this year. We have doubled and tripled down on allowing you to automatically communicate with your leads 24/7/365 and you’ve responded by asking us for more and more power.
For example, here’s what a piece of automation code looked like for our “average” customer at the beginning of the year:
And now to give you an idea for what it looks like today:
Y’all continue to push the envelope on segmenting messages based on time of day, day of the week, what leads are interested in, what sources they come from, how qualified they are, etc. If we’ve learned one thing, we’ve learned that leads absolutely love instantaneous messaging. And the more we can enable you to deliver the right message at the right time, the more eventual sales you’re going to be able to make.
Switching between apps sucks. Hard. Anyone who’s tried to triangulate your e-mail, texts, calendar, and CRM all on your phone know exactly what I’m talking about. We’ve evolved to quickly move between applications on desktop but on mobile absolutely not.
The majority of current FranFunnel users are using text messages to set up phone appointments, which means that the obvious step after texting a lead is sending them an invitation to speak at the predetermined time. Well in the second half of the year, we began enabling our users to do just that with the touch of a button:
We’ve always had the idea of improving workflow in the back of our minds. What we mean when we say this is that we want our users to spend more time on the important stuff i.e. conversations with prospects and decision making and less time on the menial things. You can always expect us to try and make sales more seamless.
As outlined here, we spent the last couple months of 2018 transitioning from Mailparser.io, our e-mail parsing service for the first two years of FranFunnel, to a system we built in-house. This allows us to A) Be more vigilant on the lead e-mails that we’re parsing from our customers and B) Be more agile as the complexity of the leads that we’re parsing increases.
For the most part, our customers would have seen limited effects of these changes in the short-run. That’s how the transition was designed. However, moving forward, we’ll be able to feed a robust system in the appropriate way as opposed to taking shortcuts.
One of the features that we had to temporarily disable this year was the ability to see live feedback when a lead opens or clicks an e-mail. Not only did we bring back open and click tracking, but we also extended click tracking to the links our customers send in texts. We also launched deliverability on text messages.
There is a constant desire of salespeople and marketers to track more of their customers’ behavior. For example, we’re asked all the time about tracking text opens is possible. (It’s not…) But if there are pieces of information that we can pass along to our customers about behavior, we will.
Over the summer, we developed the back-end infrastructure necessary for us to integrate with external systems via API. Now when certain events occur in our system e.g. new leads, inbound/outbound messages, lead status changes, we can notify other systems about these changes.
Unfortunately, the majority of other systems our customers use are not currently configured to receive the majority of this information. That's ok though! We’re ready for integration as the technology world becomes more and more driven toward collaboration instead of competition.
As much as everyone enjoyed emailing me every time they had a question or there was an issue with FranFunnel (And some of you still do!), we’ve taken a big step in modernizing our support system by introducing both support.franfunnel.com as a reference for the most common questions we get as well as email@example.com as the primary way that we service ongoing accounts.
The number of users keeps going up, which means that the total amount of assistance that we need to provide is going up as well. However, we want to make sure that we’re continually improving on two metrics -- A) The amount of assistance each unique customer needs should continue to decrease and B) The speed with which we address and rectify questions and issues should continue to increase.
Adopting FranFunnel to work outside of North America is something that we’ve long had on our to-do list but ultimately there were three things standing in our way:
We’re still collecting data on how effective SMS is as a protocol outside the U.S., but we’ve cleared hurdles two and three. And in December 2018, our first customer launched FranFunnel somewhere other than the U.S. and Canada.
This is exciting for us on many fronts but ultimately, we’d love to be able to serve both North American and Global companies across the entire world. Frankly, we were getting a little tired of telling people that we were a U.S. and Canada only platform. In 2019, you can expect us to continue to expand our geographic horizons.
The demand for data in our professional ecosystem in insatiable and frankly, we’ve only scratched the surface of the data that we collect and provide for our customers on both the lead level and the account summary level.
While we don’t know exactly what we’re going to add, we want to tell you more about your leads and in a simpler way. This means finding a way to give you access to databases we both have today and will be adding throughout the year as well as making sure that you don’t need a PhD in Statistical Analysis in order to understand it.
Currently, FranFunnel operates in two primary mediums – e-mail and text messaging. While our investment in e-mail is likely at its saturation point, our messaging innovation is just getting started. For example, we currently only offer SMS. (Longer explanation here…) As we go forward, we’ll expand beyond simply SMS to other platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn Messenger, iMessage, and WhatsApp. Our hope is that you’ll be able to manage all your different messages through a single platform, ours, in lieu of needing to manage different systems.
We’ve also long held that texting will have a relatively short shelf-life in terms of sales effectiveness in relation to phone and e-mail. 2019 almost certainly isn’t the year where texting’s relevance decreases but you never know. The benefit of partnering with FranFunnel is that we are now the ones responsible for keeping your business up to speed on the proper way to communicate with your leads and customers and as soon as we see the “next great thing,” you’ll be the first to know.
Finally, the first two years of FranFunnel have been focused nearly exclusively on helping franchise development departments with new franchise sales. In the full spectrum of applications for our software, this is a small area to address. While we absolutely no plans to abandon franchise sales as our most important market any time soon, the time has come for us to explore various other opportunities.
First of all, we are really excited about FranFunnel for franchisees. Many franchises, especially those in service industries, have woefully under-performing messaging if they even invest in messaging at all. And all those expensive call centers that franchise systems invested in are only becoming more expensive while being less effective. We’re going to work with our current customers as well as new ones to launch FranFunnel for other franchise businesses who could use the help.
Also, as I alluded to earlier, FranFunnel isn’t only for the franchise world! (Who thought we’d need to re-brand so soon?) We have a few customers today who have absolutely nothing to do with franchises and this number is likely to go way up in 2019. We’re actively pursuing FranFunnel applications in real estate, financial services, e-commerce, and other verticals as well. Know someone outside of the franchise world who struggles with business messaging, send them our way!
So off we head into 2019 where I’m sure that we’ll do a whole lot right, a whole lot wrong, and a whole lotta Funnelin’. We’ll see you on the flip side.
The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year. -John Foster Dulles
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