This week Will Allred, Co-Founder and COO of Lavender, joins Ned Arick and Hilmon Sorey to talk about how he went from almost losing everything with his startup, to making a monumental pivot into the incredibly successful software company that Lavender has become.
The Start of Lavender
Will shares that almost two years ago William, Casey, and himself had figured out a way that they could take all of the aspects of someone’s writing and tie it back to ad performance to generate revenue. They felt like they were on the brink of something huge! They were in the process of making deals with companies such as Yamaha, Mercedes, and BMW, and then COVID hit and they lost their entire pipeline. Every chance that they had to create revenue just vanished. Will explains that they had about two months to figure out how to generate revenue before they would have to call it quits, and then suddenly an article in TechCrunch fell into their laps. They saw that LinkedIn was purchased by Microsoft and were shutting down their Sales Navigator support for Gmail. This is where a light bulb went off and a new idea was born. Continue listening at 00:19 to find out how they turned the ship around to create the incredibly successful business Lavender is today.
While trying to navigate their pivot to an email writing assistant, Will explains that they were very candid with people and just explained the situation and asked them to use the software and give their feedback. They had to decide who their product was for, and in doing this, they made it free for job seekers, so they were able to get it out to a lot of people to test very quickly. However, the problem with job seekers is that they don’t have a lot of money, so they also did a lot of cold emailing asking people to try their product to see how it stacked up. They didn’t just give these people a link to use it, but they actually sat down with them and went through it. They wanted to actually see how people were responding to the product, while at the same time making sure it was working the way it was supposed to. Continue listening at 06:27 to learn more about this process that Will and his team went through to make this pivot successful.
Tailoring the Product
Once the pivot was made, Lavender started as a general-purpose email product. However, it has really become a much more specific and tailored sales use case tool and has become a game-changer for sales reps. This has caused Will and the team to be much more intentional with continued development of the product and their market. Will explains that they had a research intern completely focused on TAM and he figured out that once a software company reaches a certain size, the general makeup of the company becomes very predictable. With this analysis, the team realized that there were a lot more sales reps they could sell to versus customer support reps, so that is the market they decided to go after. Continue listening at 14:03 to learn more.
At 16:16 Will talks about the importance of really keeping up with those channels that have a more outsized impact on the business. For Lavender, that channel was LinkedIn. He explains that he, reluctantly, spends a very large amount of time keeping up the business on LinkedIn because it is incredibly important to feed that. Will saw that there was a direct correlation between visibility to post and downloads, so just posting in general about the topic was causing their download rate to increase significantly. Continue listening to learn more.
The Path of Least Resistance
One of the assumptions that Will always has is that people will take the path of least resistance, so asking people to opt in to something when they aren’t even sure they are interested in it is asking a lot. Whereas, if you add a little extra context to show them why they should be interested, people are much less likely to resist. So with Lavender, because they are asking people to opt in and figure things out, they show it to them proactively and bring awareness so that people can see why they should be interested and know right away how Lavender can help them. Learn more at 19:20.
When Does Email Die?
Will firmly believes that email is not going anywhere. There will be more automation, but smart sales teams will figure out that you can’t truly automate everything and make for an authentic note. Right now there is a pattern that simpler is better, but Will wonders, maybe this “...leads to a resurgence of more creative copy, longer form copy…” In short, email does not die; it evolves. Hear more of Will’s thoughts on this at 27:10.
What’s Next for Lavender
Will explains that Lavender is a very single-player centered tool. They are currently trying to figure out how to evolve Lavender into a product that can be useful for the entire team, not just for each singular user. Their product roadmap starts at the SDR and builds up from there as they hear new needs and use cases. They are currently focused on dashboard-based analytics visibility. They are working on ways to add value and increase price point. In Will’s words, “If you’re not growing, you’re not doing your job right.” Learn more about what is in store for Lavender’s future as a software tool, as well as growing their organization to get more leadership involved as 32:52
Will says the best piece of advice that he can give startup founders is to identify the problem that people are trying to solve, and then go out there and help them solve it. The other part is to “do the 1:1 dirty work.” Don’t think that you can just skate by on an ‘if we build it, they will come’ strategy. Do the work, run it like a sales process. Learn more at 38:31.
Will can be reached on LinkedIn or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He offers one-on-one coaching calls and is happy to answer any questions a founder might have.
00:19 The Start of Lavender
06:27 The Pivot
14:03 Tailoring the Product
16:16 Channel Strategy
19:20 The Path of Least Resistance
27:10 When Does Email Die?
32:52 What’s Next for Lavender
38:31 Go-to-Market Advice