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: