New Podcast: “Appify Your Business,” featuring Bill Furlong, Squarestack

New Podcast: “Appify Your Business,” featuring Bill Furlong, Squarestack

We’ve wanted to get Bill Furlong on our Above the Cloud podcast for a while. His new book, “Appify Your Business,” is well-aligned with the data-driven viewpoint we’ve developed at the Local Search Association with the Modern Commerce Monitor™️ (formerly Tech Adoption Index).

In fact, the tagline of his book, “Harness the power of Apps to save 10 hours a week and reinvent your business” is about as good a statement of our thesis as I could ever come up with.

So it’s no surprise that the book cites LSA’s data liberally (with our permission of course) to help make the case that, in Bill’s words, “If small businesses don’t adopt the cloud, they’re toast.”

When Bill isn’t writing primers on cloud adoption for small businesses, he is CEO of SquareStack, a Chicago-based SaaS startup that offers a “command center” that helps SMBs aggregate all of their business apps into a single login, and a single view of the critical data flowing out of the apps — like account balances, status of invoices, open rates for email campaigns, and so on.

The Five Best Quotes from Our Conversation with Bill Furlong
  • “I feel that If a small business doesn’t adopt the cloud, they’re toast.”
  • “There is a cataclysmic generational transition going on now, with sons and daughters taking over businesses and moving them off of pen and paper.”
  • “The core issues for small businesses is finding the time to take advantage of [the software] they have already paid for.”
  • “Once CRM is introduced into the small business, a tipping point occurs where they realize they need to spend more time with their technology.”
  • “It is hard to convince a small business owner to go to one supplier for everything. It is just as difficult for them to disengage from one software provider as it is onboard onto a new provider.”

Check out the full episode here for the full context for these comments and more:

This episode of Above the Cloud is sponsored by Mono Solutions.

Mono Solutions delivers the ultimate SaaS-based digital marketing platform for small businesses across the digital landscape to drive business online. As a fully-white label solution, Mono empowers digital service providers with a true do-it-with-me (DIWM) approach to offer digital marketing solutions and deliver real ROI to their SMB clients.

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New Podcast: “Scheduling is like hosting,” featuring Aksh Gupta, Occasion

New Podcast: “Scheduling is like hosting,” featuring Aksh Gupta, Occasion

Occasion co-founder and CEO Aksh Gupta had the crowd leaning in this week at the LSA’s LOCALOGY ENGAGE: SaaS/SMB event in Washington, DC,  when he talked about how something called the “30-second rule” saved his company. The 30-second rule is a process for observing the time before and after a customer encounters a problem to better understand how to solve it.

Last week in advance of the conference Aksh joined us on Above the Cloud to discuss his company’s history, the quirks of the scheduling space, what it takes to get small businesses to engage with your software and, of course, the 30-second rule.

Occasion is a Chicago-based online scheduling and marketing platform that began as a horizontal play but eventually found a niche serving “experience-based businesses.” If you’ve ever gone zip lining, taken an architectural boat tour of Chicago, or signed up for a mixology class, you get the idea. It’s a niche that Gupta estimates has an available market of about 121 categories, each with about 5,000 – 10,000 businesses.

Moving from a generalist to a specialist turned things around for Occasion which was burning through its seed money before the pivot. Since then it has turned around its KPIs (signups, revenue per customer, upgrades) and driven down churn.

Occasion has about 5,000 customers currently. Gupta doesn’t believe in rapid growth for growth’s sake.

“We don’t want to be in the game of raising money and burning through money just to grow,” Gupta said on the podcast.

In this video excerpt from the podcast, Aksh explains how the 30-second rule works and offers an example of how he used it to develop a new software feature.

This video excerpt features Aksh sharing an insight that challenges some of our thinking about what motivates SMBs to purchase cloud software.

“Scheduling is like hosting. There is very little differentiation. It’s the things that wrap around the scheduling application that matter.”
Five Things We Learned from This Podcast
  • Some degree of specialization plus an expanded set of services is essential in order to survive in the scheduling space. The core booking functionality is largely commoditized. “Scheduling is like hosting,” Gupta says on the podcast. “There is very little differentiation. It’s the things that wrap around the scheduling application that matter.”
  • The most immediate signal of engagement for Occasion at least is how quickly the customer connects to its payment gateway. If the customer doesn’t do this immediately, they are much less likely to engage with the platform long term.
  • Gupta said Square and Clover are the clear winners in payments in Occasion’s area of specialty — experience-based businesses.
  • While small-businesses regularly articulate a need for software to help them save time and work more efficiently, Gupta contends they are not willing to pay very much if anything for this benefit. He sells based on delivering more revenue.
  • Try adopting the “30-second rule” (sometimes called the “three-minute rule”) as a tool for observing customer workflow and folding these observations into your product development and improvement process.

You can listen to the full podcast here:

New Podcast: “What makes AR fly or die?” featuring Mike Boland, ARtillery Intelligence

New Podcast: “What makes AR fly or die?” featuring Mike Boland, ARtillery Intelligence

Our latest Above the Cloud podcast features a conversation with Mike Boland, a longtime local digital commerce industry analyst who currently wears (at least) two hats. He is the lead analyst at Street Fight. And he runs his own advisory firm focused on the spatial computing industry, which is what most of us call augmented reality/virtual reality, or XR.

Our conversation focused almost exclusively on the AR piece of the puzzle, since that is where the immediate business model is forming, particularly as it relates to our primary concern, which is local businesses. AR is one of those technologies that fall in and out of favor, as other technologies emerge to capture our attention. Yet quietly the infrastructure is being put into place to allow for more everyday applications for AR, some of which could apply to small businesses, in particular, service businesses and some retailers.

This conversation is a great opportunity for those who want to catch up on where AR is on its path to becoming a true business application. Mike is a thorough analyst who has immersed himself in the details of AR and has developed a practical and well thought out point of view on where it’s heading.

According to Mike, the coolest thing happening to AR is how uncool it is becoming.

“We are moving past the gaming and social settings and into things that are less sexy, higher frequency uses cases that solve everyday problems,” Mike tells us.

The movement into the mundane will likely make AR more relevant to small business.

“AR will fly or die based on how everyday consumers use it,” Mike said. And the uses cases can’t just be kinda cool. “It has to be a couple of orders of magnitude better than what came before it.”

Five Things We Learned from this Podcast
  • There are about a billion AR-ready smartphones out there in consumers’ hands today.
  • ARtillery Intelligence forecasts AR revenues will reach $14 billion by 2022, from just north of a billion today. Much of the revenue today comes from micro-transactions like in-app purchases. Increasingly, SnapChat AR lenses are driving revenue growth. Mike tells us that Snap generated $236 million of the $400 million in AR lens revenue in 2018.
  • Google and Apple are helping to democratize the AR world with the recent launch of their respective AR developer kits. This is making it much easier for smaller shops to build and ship AR applications.
  • 5G will have a profound impact on the continued development of AR by enabling far more precise location targeting. AR can’t emerge as a breakthrough application without the precision that 5G enables.
  • For small businesses, visual search will be the transformative application for local retail businesses, assuming they are stocking national consumer brands. Bespoke products (crafts, locally sourced food items, etc.) will have the same challenges they have today in enabling real-time inventory management. For service businesses, AR could enable remote service calls, allowing service businesses to guide consumers through simple repairs while saving outcalls for the most complex jobs. This has the potential to drive their efficiency and yield way up. A version of this is already happening at the enterprise level.

You can listen to the full podcast here:

This episode of Above the Cloud was sponsored by LOCALOGY ENGAGE: SaaS/SMB. It’s not too late to attend the event that is all about building software that small businesses will actually use. AWeber, Fundbox, EverCommerce, Google, LegalZoom, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Paychex, Upserve and Zapier are among the leading SMB software brands represented at this event. Join us June 3-4 in Washington DC. 

New Podcast: “Turning Customers into Advocates” featuring Andrea Kayal, Upserve

New Podcast: “Turning Customers into Advocates” featuring Andrea Kayal, Upserve

Our latest Above the Cloud podcast features Andrea Kayal, chief marketing officer of Upserve, a business management platform for full-service restaurants that emerged out of Swipely back in 2016 following two key acquisitions. In May 2016, Swipely became Upserve, switched from a horizontal to a vertical focus and acquired Breadcrumb POS from Groupon to serve as the foundation for what would gradually become an operating system for restaurants.

Upserve more recently acquired Simple Order for inventory management, with an eye to helping restaurants manage costs and improve profitability. Other elements of the platform, notably its Workforce tools for employee management, were built internally. Upserve recently launched Tableside, a mobile POS designed to make payment acceptance at the table more efficient. Back in October, the company replaced its founder Angus Davis with a new CEO, Sheryl Hoskins, most recently CRO of ACTIVE Network.

We covered a lot of ground with Andrea in our roughly 30-minute conversation, including the restaurant landscape, how Upserve acquires customers, how it views its competitive environment, and what challenges it addresses for restaurant owners.

In the following video excerpt from the podcast, Andrea talks about how Upserve leverages its customer base to drive growth. This will be the topic of a talk Andrea will give at the LSA’s upcoming LOCALOGY: ENGAGE conference in Washington, DC.

You can listen to the full podcast here. The conversation with Andrea begins at the 1:19 mark.

Andrea will be speaking on the topic, “Turning Customers into Advocates” at the LSA’s upcoming LOCALOGY ENGAGE: SMB/SaaS conference, June 3-4, in Washington, D.C. For information on the event or to register, please visit Here she explains why the event is a good fit for her. 

As always, Above the Cloud thanks its sponsors:

Add Your Voice to Our SaaS Engagement Survey

Add Your Voice to Our SaaS Engagement Survey

Anyone who builds or sells SaaS products for small businesses knows that it’s all for naught if your customers are not engaged with your products on a daily basis. Businesses that do not rely on your products will eventually stop using them.

And the engagement cycle — the time you have to establish regular usage of your product — keeps getting shorter, as customer acquisition costs keep rising.

The LSA has built an entire event around this issue, Localogy Engage, which kicks off June 3 in Washington DC.

In order to ground the conversation on SMB software in a shared understanding of the issues, we’re conducting a survey of SMB SaaS professionals on how they deal with the engagement challenge.

Here are some of the issue the survey dives into:

  • How much time do you have to establish usage before a customer becomes a churn risk?
  • What tactics are deployed to drive engagement and reduce churn?
  • Which of these tactics are most effective?
  • What are the principal causes of churn?
  • What monthly churn rates are typical for SMB SaaS products

The survey will be open for a while longer. Please add your voice by completing the survey below. It only takes a few minutes and responses are anonymous. Results will be shared in a white paper and presented at the Localogy conference.

Create your own user feedback survey