Developing A $190K/Month FB Ads SaaS Product [Bootstrapped]

Published: September 2nd, 2023
Sam Carlson
Founder, UpHex
from Meridian, ID, USA
started March 2020
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Sam Carlson, and I am the co-founder of UpHex.

UpHex is a software solution to the complexity and extensive knowledge required to use Facebook Ads Manager. So instead of a well-trained and highly paid Media buyer setting up and launching Facebook Ads, an inexperienced novice can set them up with ease in about 30 seconds.

Now, while the ultimate end user of this tool is the local business selling a product or service, we sell Uphex to marketing agencies as a white-label product. This means they resell UpHex to their customers and do it under their branding, not under the brand UpHex.

What’s special about UpHex is how we integrate seamlessly into the popular all-in-one CRM Go HighLevel, a white-label software that enables Agencies to resell a suite of lead nurturing tools. So naturally UpHex pairs up perfectly by offering lead generation capabilities as well.

Today, UpHex has brought the power of lead generation using Facebook Ads to over 15,000 local businesses and growing.

Our revenue in the last year has hit 2.2ARR and is growing month over month. (I’d have to get the exact numbers)

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I started my social media marketing Agency back in 2015 that offered Facebook ads to deliver leads with paid advertising. My agency offered new patient marketing to holistic Doctors such as Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, and Chronic Pain specialists.

The business grew fast, but I quickly realized how hard it was to launch, optimize, and maintain the performance of this type of marketing.

For about 3 years we worked hard, tried our best to get better at running our business and deliver awesome results to our clients, and in 2018 that hard work paid off by getting a case study published by Facebook’s business department.

Link to an article written by Ad Espresso about the case study.
Link to Drive with images of the Case study.

They published the results of our marketing campaigns and showed the strategy used to get those results.

This was a pivotal moment. Here’s why…

Instead of getting the attention of new customers, most didn’t understand why a case study verified and published by Facebook was a big deal. We instead got the attention of a software development company called UpHex.

Uphex started to aggregate performance data across multiple ad platforms, but they were running into roadblocks as they didn’t understand the ad platforms like a media buyer would so they requested consulting.

After a series of discoveries, collaboration, and funding drying up for UpHex’s original product idea… In 2020, with the pandemic in full swing, I and partner Jacob were able to acquire UpHex and start building on top of all the groundwork laid to build our unique product idea.

An automated media buyer.

This was a “scratch your own itch” solution at the beginning. We knew the complexity, experience, and pain involved with setting up… optimizing… and managing ads, and wanted to transform our agency from a service-based agency into a Software driven solution.

A unique offer made to a unique prospect leads to easy growth and easy selling.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

In 2020 we began to build toward our vision of the automated media buyer. Funding a development team was no small cost. When we acquired UpHex the cost of running a development team was something I had never done and was not entirely prepared for.

We funded the development of UpHex from the profits derived from our marketing agency and hoped it would only take a few months before we could start using the product to make money.

The team at the beginning was UpHex founder (now partner) Bradley and two additional developers. We kept things simple and started building the functions to work within our own Agency as the proving ground for the idea.

I still remember being the first person to launch an Ad using UpHex. It was a woman named Michelle and when she did it… I explained, “You Did It!!!” Here’s that video.

With proof of concept, we decided to take this idea to other Agency owners just like ours but in different niches. In total, It took over a year. A year where we took no pay from our Agency, and a year of back and forth as to whether we should move forward or not.

Our idea was to integrate our software into a very popular Agency all-in-on CRM called HighLevel. This software champions the idea of “white labeling” and allows for custom menu links to customize “your” white-labeled version of their software.

So we designed and built UpHex to fit seamlessly within the platform and positioned the feature/benefit as being able to launch Ads from HighLevel in just 3 clicks.

Describe the process of launching the business.

After testing UpHex in our own Agency for several months, and successfully adding 100+ customers in just 2 months we felt like the time to release our tool to other agencies had arrived.

I reached out to Chase Bucker, VP of Marketing and Sales for HighLevel, and pitched that he bring UpHex on their Agency promo series “The HighLevel Spotlight”.

We did a demo, and he did not believe us at first that we could do as we claimed… then during the session we did a demo of the product and he was blown away.

It was that spotlight video and a current user Case Study who got 35 paid customers during their trial which both hit around the same time that got the attention of Agency owners. After that, we started doing webinars that led to a 14 day trial, and that led to big growth.

After the video went live to their community we went from 0 - over 100 trials.

Build a community. This is critical today.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

The initial launch went well from a standpoint of awareness and product validation. But the conversion from trial to new users was terrible. After the dust settled we only retained 10 customers.

After diving deeper into why our conversion rate was so terrible we went back to the board and fixed all of the problems users had with the platform. Most of our problems were around concluding that people would a) be able to set their account up intuitively b) have their ads to bring into the platform c) be experienced enough in Facebook Ads to see the real value outside of just launching Ads fast.

So we added a template library, better UX, and a simpler onboard setup optimizing for a user to be able to launch a campaign during their first visit.

Over the next 8 months, we slowly crept up to 25 active users. And it was then, after fixing the UI and a couple of features needed that we went back for a relaunch.

That launch took us from 25 to over 100 in two weeks. Those users stuck and we’ve been growing ever since.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today we are growing month over month and continue to improve our product, focus on users, and prep for our next BIG promotional push.

Our current revenue at the time of this writing is pushing over $190K/mo.

For us to double our numbers, we’ve felt the need to go back and create our free course, Lead Gen U to help newer Agency owners acquire the skills they need to start their businesses and existing SMMA owners the plan of transitioning to a SaaS Agency model.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

  1. Ask the consumer what they want… build that. Don’t build things that people don’t want.
  2. Niche within the Niche. Our product has a clear value proposition to Agency owners… but when you create even more specificity by pairing our product with another winning product, it makes that much more sense.
  3. Build a community. This is critical today.
  4. Know where you make your money, and give away the farm on everything else.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

For Agency owners, we love HighLevel. It’s the Agency model of the future and has a ton of headwinds in our space.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Books: 100M Offers, Good to Great, Built to Sell, The Ultimate Sales Machine
Podcast: The Game

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I hold weekly classes I call “Ask Me Anything” where I answer questions based on how to build a successful agency. After months of doing that, I have focused the talking points down to three core principles.

1) Find Your Sub-niche - This is understanding that an industry category or vertical is not a proper niche. You have to focus your solution on a very specific subset avatar with the niche to win at selling your future customers.

2) Offers - A unique offer made to a unique prospect leads to easy growth and easy selling.

3) Persuasion Tactics - Persuading prospects is only required if you have an incomplete or risky offer. Persuasion is based on 4 tenants:

  • Unique Problem
  • Unique Promise
  • Unique Proof
  • Unique Proposition

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!