Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Aaron Beashel, and I am the founder of Attributer.io.
Attributer is a simple tool for getting marketing attribution data (like the fact a lead came from Organic Search, Paid Search, Organic Social, etc.) into your CRM so that you can run reports that show you which channels and campaigns are generating your leads, customers, and revenue.
We launched about 5 months ago (end of 2021) and are currently at $60k in annual recurring revenue, aiming to end the year on around $150k ARR.
It’s completely bootstrapped, and I’m the only person in the company.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been in B2B marketing (mainly for software companies) for 15 years.
Nearly every company I worked for experienced the same issue, which is that they had tools like Google Analytics on their website, which showed us which channels and campaigns were working on getting visitors to their site, but they had no way of seeing whether those channels were converting into leads, sales opportunities & customers.
And without that data, we had no way of understanding what was working and what wasn’t.
To illustrate the problem I was experiencing, let’s imagine you run both Facebook Ads and Google Ads to acquire new customers for your business.
If you were just using tools like Google Analytics (which only tracks visitors to your website), you’d probably get something like this:
If this was all the information you had access to, then it would look like Facebook Ads are outperforming Google Ads as you got twice as many visits for the same budget.
However, imagine if you were able to track how many leads, customers & revenue you got from these campaigns.
You’d have something like this:
If you were just tracking visitors, you would probably scale up your spend in Facebook Ads as it looks like it’s performing better, but in reality, you’re losing money here (you spent $10k and got $8k in revenue).
On top of that, you’d miss out on the growth opportunity that exists in Google Ads (which is returning a 2x ROI).
I needed this kind of information for the companies I was working for, so I set out to find a tool that could give it to me. I wanted something that, whenever a lead form was submitted on my site, sent through some basic information on where they came from (Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.). I was really surprised to find nothing existed, so I ended up just building it myself purely because I needed it to do my job.
Take us through the process of designing and prototyping your tool.
The first version of Attributer was just a bit of code that I used myself as part of my marketing consulting work for other companies. It had no UI, no website, nothing.
The way it worked is you’d place the code on your site, and it would look at where a visitor has come from, categorize it into channels (Organic Search, Organic Social, Paid Search, etc.), and store it in a cookie in the visitors' browser.
Then when they completed a lead form on the site, the script would write attribution information into hidden fields that were added to the form.
Then when the form was submitted, the attribution information would be sent to the CRM (and other tools) alongside the information the lead entered into the form (like their name, email, phone, etc).
It wasn’t until several months later that I realized maybe this could be a product that other people would want, so I created a website for it at attributer.io.
If you just show up and stack a new brick each day, eventually you’ll have a wall.
At that stage, there was still no UI for the product. If someone were interested, they’d fill out a form, and I’d jump on a call with them and show them how it worked. If they liked it, I’d send them the code via email and bill them manually through Stripe.
It wasn’t until we started to get a consistent volume of inquiries that we built the initial UI (and it was terrible).
It was only once the business had grown a bit and we had proof that there was product/market fit and a scalable go to market model, that we invested in a proper UI that allowed people to signup, get the script, access documentation to help them set it up, select a plan, enter billing details, etc.
Describe the process of launching the business.
To be honest, there wasn’t one moment where I really ‘launched’ Attributer.
At some point in time, I did put it on Product Hunt but I didn’t get an overwhelming response. It was actually in the top 10 most popular products of the day and drove a little bit of traffic, but we only got 2-3 signups from it and I don’t think any of them converted to paying, long-term customers.
Around the same time, I emailed a few people I know who have a bit of a following in the marketing space, but that didn’t amount to a lot either.
As you can probably tell, I wasn’t overly focused on the launch and making too much of a big deal about it. I knew our biggest opportunity for growth was SEO and that it was going to be a much more long-term play, so I always focused on that rather than any sort of big-bang launch campaign.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
One of the benefits of the way we built Attributer (passing the data through hidden fields on forms) was that it can work with literally hundreds of different tools, including virtually every CMS (Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace), every form tool (Gravity Forms, WPforms, Formstack, etc), every CRM (Salesforce, Hubspot, Zoho, etc), every billing platform (Stripe, Recurly, etc) and every analytics tool (Power BI, Looker, Chartmogul, etc).
As a result, I knew there would be a big SEO opportunity as there would be thousands of people typing queries into Google like ‘How to capture UTM parameters in Gravity Forms’ or ‘How to get lead source data into Salesforce’. I also knew these were high-intent terms, in that these people were experiencing the exact problem our product solves.
So our whole GoTo Market strategy is focused on SEO.
I started by opening a spreadsheet and mapping out every tool that Attributer could send data to, as well as every variation of a query people might search for (like ‘get UTM parameters into XXX’, ‘get Facebook Ads data into XXXX’, etc.
These are all low-volume keywords (if you were to type them into a keyword tool it would tell you there’s no volume), but I knew that the sheer volume of content we would create would amount to a reasonable amount of traffic and signups over time.
So we’re slowly just creating blog posts and other pages for each of those tools with the help of some great freelance writers I’ve gotten to know.
At the same time, we’re also working on building links to the site to build our authority in Google’s eyes, particularly from sites that also write about analytics as they carry more weight in Google’s eyes than a site that writes about generic business topics. So I’ve been pitching and writing guest posts for various marketing & analytics blogs to help gain links.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Things are going well. We’ve been in the market for about 5-6 months now and we’ve just crossed $60k ARR. We seem to be adding about $10k to $15K in ARR each month, so the goal is to get to about $150k ARR by the end of the year.
We’ll continue to focus on the SEO work I mentioned above as our main driver of growth, but I’m excited to layer on some other tactics as well to see if they can boost the growth rate.
One of the new tactics I plan to test in the coming months is Contact Form Marketing. The plan is to buy lists of websites that use various form tools Attributer works with (like Gravity Forms, WPForms, etc) and then go fill out the contact forms on their website, asking them if they’d be interested in knowing where each of their leads is coming from. This would direct them to a blog post on how to get the lead source data (using Attributer of course), with the idea that it would educate them on what Attributer can do for them and a portion of them would sign up for the product.
From the brief research I’ve done there are several million sites using form tools that Attributer works with, so if the tactic works I can see us building a team of people somewhere like the Philippines to scale the outreach up.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I think one thing I’ve noticed is the compounding power of just showing up every day and making things a bit better than yesterday.
Do whatever you can to find ways of acquiring customers for your product and only when you’ve found ways to do that should you start building it.
This is particularly true with our SEO-led go to market strategy. I’ve been trying to publish a new blog post (like this one) every single day, and because I’ve been doing it consistently for the last few months we now have over 100 blog posts out there in the world ranking for hundreds of different search terms. This has driven a steady increase in traffic, signups & customers each month that I know will continue to compound over time.
Someone I follow on Twitter once said something like ‘If you just show up and stack a new brick each day, eventually you’ll have a wall’ and I think this has been a good learning/motivator for me just to keep going.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I learned how to build apps in Bubble when I was building a previously failed startup called Shaperbase, so when it became clear that Attributer need a UI I decided to build it myself rather than get a developer to code it.
This has been a beneficial decision for the company as I’m able to do a lot of the work myself and move much faster than I would have had I hired a developer.
As an example, the other day I wanted to add a step to the cancellation flow where I asked why they are canceling their account. If the UI was hard-coded by a developer I would have had to design something up, brief the developer, build it, test it, etc. and it likely would have taken a week or two. Instead, because I can do it all myself it took me less than 15 minutes to build, test & launch it.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Vivid Vision - a great book on long-term thinking and creating a ‘Vivid Vision’ of what the future of your company looks like, and then aligning all of your decisions towards achieving that vision.
I also use it in my personal life as well and it’s been super interesting to paint a picture of what I want my life to look like in 5 to 10 years and then work towards achieving it.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
For entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out, my recommendation would be to start marketing & selling your product before you start building it.
Earlier on in my career, I co-founded another SaaS company that was a Video CMS (so what Shopify is for eCommerce sites or WordPress is for blogs, we were for video sites). We spent 2 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars building the product (with lots of unnecessary features in hindsight) and then when we finally launched it we struggled to get customers and keep the business afloat.
I learned quickly that the biggest risk to almost any business is ‘Can you find a scalable, repeatable way of getting customers’ and is rarely ‘Can I build the product’ or ‘Can I get cheap enough materials’ or whatever.
So my advice would be to start building your go-to-market before you even start building a product. Create a website and start blogging, start talking about it on social media, and even start doing Google & Facebook Ads. Do whatever you can to find ways of acquiring customers for your product and only when you’ve found ways to do that should you start building it (you can always put these early people you find on a waitlist or whatever).
It’ll save you from spending 2 years and several hundred thousand dollars building a product that nobody wants (like I did).
Where can we go to learn more?
You can go to attributer.io to learn more and sign up for the product if you think it would help you.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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