Use Social Listening to Simplify Your Marketing with Marie Martens – The Reluctant Marketer Podcast #7
We shouldn't make marketing complex. Marie Martens, co-founder of Tally, says she scans online conversations to give answers to people's questions about form builders. And ... that works as marketing!
Hello, everyone, Matthias here again with another episode of The Reluctant Marketer. It's for people who don't really love marketing, but they have to do it, as we all have to do it to be successful with our products and services. And I'm so happy to have Marie here today from Tally. Hello, Marie. Nice to have you!
Marie Martens 0:57
Hi, Matthias. Thank you so much for having me.
Marie, can you tell our listeners and our viewers a bit about what you do and what Tally is?
Marie Martens 1:09
Yeah, definitely. I co-founded Tally, around two and a half years ago, together with my co-founder and partner in life, Filip. Tally is a form building tool. It's a very easy way to create beautiful forms and surveys without having coding skills. And, yeah, I have a background in mainly B2B marketing, so not really in product and in SaaS. So this was also very new to me. And, yeah, I am the non-technical founder. So Filip is basically designing and building the product. And I'm trying to market, sell it and, you know, run the non-technical sides of the business. So yeah, that's, that's it about me.
That's great. If two founders work together, it's much easier than for solopreneurs, for example, who have everything to do on their own, right?
Marie Martens 2:12
Yeah, I mean, I have a lot of respect for solo founders. I'm not sure how like they manage. Because we're both full time. We have a team of four now. Since recently. Yeah, we were two people for the first two years. But we had to we had to expand because it was just too much work for just the two of us. But yeah, so a lot of respect for people that do it by themselves. I can imagine it's a daily struggle of time management. But some people seem to have superpowers and manage. So yeah.
Yeah, that's good to hear to two more people on the startup. So yeah, it must be going pretty well.
Marie Martens 3:04
Yeah, it's Yeah, it is.
Hopefully. Yeah, I've got some questions to you. Because we have people here who watch us, and they don't really love marketing, they do it. And as I heard that you were pretty successful with your marketing activities. I would like to ask you, first of all, what do you have as a positioning for Tally? How do you position it? What do you tell your audience what it is? And what's the benefit of it? How do you position it generally on the market?
How does Marie position Tally?
Marie Martens 3:43
Yeah. So the main reason why we built Tally is we had experienced the problem firsthand, which was basically we had used several form builders before in our previous jobs and startups, but we never really found a tool that was affordable, and at the same time, also actually fun to use.
Marie Martens 4:05
And I can go a bit deeper into that, like there's Google Forms, they're free, right? But we didn't really like the design of the forms and the user experience, then there's tools like Typeform, you know, that has a nice design, but can get really expensive for early stage or for young startups and bootstrappers.
Marie Martens 4:27
They have like this volume based pricing: You collect more than 10 responses, and then you start paying more. And that's something we also didn't like. So we wanted to switch that up.
Marie Martens 4:39
And at the same time, we were also actually avid users of Notion. We really liked the way how the product is built, how it's a community first product, and how you just you know want to spend time in the product.
Marie Martens 4:54
So we thought: What if we can make forms fun again? What if we can make the Notion forms. And that's kind of how Tally was born.
Marie Martens 5:03
So how do we position it? We have a bit of a different business model. We offer unlimited forms and responses for free, which is the most important part of our marketing message, I would say, or our biggest USP, because most of our competitors don't do that. They have a free trial, and then you just pay based on your usage. So we decided to do that and offer unlimited forms unlimited submissions for free.
Marie Martens 5:35
And besides that, we just have one Tally Pro package. So it's like a very simple pricing with a paying subscription. And then you get access to additional features, like team collaboration, removing our branding, using your own domain, and so on.
Marie Martens 5:35
So I would say the making it free is kind of the most important part of our positioning. And then we also have a bit of a different interface. Tally works like a text editor, you could just start typing, and it looks very different than then a traditional form builder. And that's something that our users really, really like and really appreciate the user experience that we offered there. So I would say those are our two main USPS of Tally.
Ah, these were already three, I thought: The one for me, was this free, unlimited thing. The next one was this fun thing? Forms should be fun. Yeah. And the third one is that typing interface. The "not so much clicking" interface.
Marie Martens 6:50
Right. In the end, we kind of connect the fun and the interface to each other because you know, it just the whole form building experience that should be seamless and easy and fun in the end. So that's kind of how we see it.
Okay, we can learn very much from this. Because for solopreneur, or small business, it's always difficult to say: "Why are we better? What is the point about us? What, for example, it's comparing to the big competitors like Google?" etc. So it's really important for a small business to see why they're good.
Marie Martens 7:31
Yeah, I think especially if you're like a bootstrapped business or small business, and you decide to go into a competitive market, you kind of need to do something different. You know, because you don't have the marketing budgets that the big players have. And, for us, you know, our business model, our positioning is different. But I guess the main part, but we might still come to that the main part of our growth is that we have a product led growth model.
Where acquisition and conversions come from
Marie Martens 8:05
So basically, all our acquisition and conversion comes and is primarily driven by the product itself. So not from ads, you know, paid ads or any other marketing strategies. But because our forms are viral by its nature, you know, you create a forum to share it with respondents. And our free forms have are made with a Tally badge. So our branding is on there, which means that everyone that submits the form also gets to see our brand, and that's actually our biggest acquisition channel.
Marie Martens 8:45
Our free users are the ones that spread Tally forms, their respondents submit a form, they also see it. And that's kind of how they discover us. So that's a bit of a flywheel. It helps us because we're a small team, you know, we don't have the big marketing budgets.
Marie Martens 9:09
So we just try to create a product that that is has a very generous free tier, you know, that would be the biggest recipe to the success here. And because it's free, it creates positive word of mouth. Other people try it out. Right, there's no barrier because it's free. They try it out they share it with other people. And that's how we find new users again.
This is really cool because on the other on one hand, it's this joyful experience: "Oh, I get something for free." And the other thing is that people do marketing for you, right? No they don't do the marketing, the product does the marketing! That's strange. I have read a bit about product-led growth, but not too much. So the main concept seems to be: New users who come into contact with the forms, it's just normal that they see your branding. It's just a normal effect. Right?
Marie Martens 10:13
Yeah. Right. I mean, there's several ingredients, I would say are several things that are important if you want to try something similar:
Marie Martens 10:26
I think the first one is as well, like the market, like, preferably you are active in a large market where the demand is already validated. For us as the case there's a lot of form builders, they've been out there for decades. So we know that people need forms, you know, every business.
Yes, it's already proven.
Marie Martens 10:47
It's already proven indeed, and it's a very big market.
Marie Martens 10:50
And it's, it's, you know, easier to grab 1% of a huge market, then, to grap 100% of a small niche. So I think that's one thing that you kind of need, because you're gonna put a lot of effort and lowering the barriers into your product making it free. Right, so the market needs to be big enough, in order for that to scale. So that's one part.
Marie Martens 11:18
Yeah, then you have the business model, which preferably, you know, the pricing is low. And, and simple and transparent. And, you know, in order to grow with a low pricing with low budgets, you also need low cost acquisition channels, which for us, is the word of mouth. And that kind of comes again, through offering the product for free, and keeping our users happy.
Marie Martens 11:46
And I think another crucial part there is that we have like a laser focus on offering good customer support, which, you know, maybe is not seen as marketing by a lot of people. But it is actually our number one priority. It is right, like you're talking to users all the time you also learn what their concerns are, you learn a lot about what are ... you learn a lot from frequently asked questions about your product, especially if you're busy with marketing, but just by answering within the day or within the hour, to support queries, people are also really happy with our support. And then also more tend to share more about our product, just because we offer good support. So that kind of also helps to, yeah, to fuel the growth, I would say.
The marketing channels that Tally uses
This is also interesting. So you're not using, let's say, paid channels, like paid ads, or you're not using a lot of blogging and SEO, what other channels do you use besides your words of mouth growth?
Marie Martens 13:05
Yeah, so not many. We haven't really experimented with paid ads. We've done a few newsletter inserts, but those were never really successful. For us. I think it's also hard to like, measure the short term success of those, maybe some people might see your brand and try it out later.
Marie Martens 13:27
So actually, the product itself is the most important part. And of course, SEO is also really, really important for us to create, content that people can find on the web and lead them back to Tally. A couple of things, we don't have like a heavy focus on it, I think we should, we should probably spend more time on our organic search. A couple of things that work for us are for example, we have some competitor pages, where we compare Tally to other popular form building tools, and it's a very, I would say transparent comparison of features or usability.
Marie Martens 14:17
So if someone would, for example, search for a "free Typeform alternative", then you will see us pop up somewhere. Sure, somewhere on the first page. So that's one of the one of the things that we do. We have a lot of templates as well that are actually pages that you can find on the web, a pretty well-documented Help Center.
Marie Martens 14:48
So all these things can be potential search results. But we're not actively blogging. If we blog, it's more about building in public and to share our startup journey, not really about the product itself. But we don't do that for SEO reasons. Because the traffic to those is rather low. We're more active on Twitter. And if we get a big milestone, we do tend to write a blog post with our learnings. But that's more like an informative, something we do to share it with the community. There's not really a commercial or a marketing strategy behind that.
That is interesting. So the content you write has this aspect of helpfulness, right? Helpfulness and competition at the same time, because if you offer templates, for example, it's very helpful for people who are searching like, "I want a survey form for getting customer feedback", or "I want a survey for this or for that purpose". People will find you and also this Typeform alternative thing, it's a more competitive thing I think, where people find you by searching for your competitors. That's a good thing to do.
Marie Martens 16:13
Yeah, indeed. And, you know, most big companies also do that by just paying for ads. Right. But that area is so competitive for us. So we don't even try.
Yeah. It brings kind of a joyful feeling over the line here. What you're telling me it's kind of ... yeah, the brand is friendly! It's easily accessible. It seems, it gets a vibe across. I like that!
Marie Martens 16:50
Yeah. Thank you. And that's, that's our goal.
Marie gives insight into Tally's audience
Can you tell me a little more about your audience?
What are these people like who are using or searching for form builders? What kind of people are they?
Marie Martens 17:11
So most of our users are would be startups. There's a lot of SaaS startups, but you know, startups and all types of industries. We're not really targeting upmarket or corporates yet, because the product and the team is not ready to do that. But so mostly SMEs, I would say it started with freelancers, creators, no-code enthusiasts, those are also the people that are most vocal about Tally and would share and spread the word on social media.
Marie Martens 17:54
And through them, we kind of reached a larger audience of startups, a lot of different profiles within the startups: You have salespeople that need lead generation forms or marketing people, you have HR teams that want to do employee engagement surveys. There's product teams that want to gather feedback from users, etc. So almost every role or department, I would say, founders as well, of course, in smaller companies use forms at one part of their journey. So that those profiles would be pretty different, but in business types would be smaller companies for now.
Learning from a customer onboarding survey
Interesting. How do you know all this? When you're starting out, I think there was zero knowledge. How did you develop, how did you get that?
Marie Martens 19:01
Yeah, so of course, so we have a Slack channel, there now around 3000 or 4000 people in that. So we talk to those people, one on one. So we can just ask, or we learn from them.
Marie Martens 19:14
And I guess last year, yeah, it was only last year, we added like an onboarding survey where we also asked a couple of questions when you register. And so we ask, you know, what type of business you are in and what type of team, what your role is.
Marie Martens 19:33
And that's how we are starting to learn a bit more about the profile of our user. So we basically just ask, but we don't ask a lot because we want to keep it like we don't want to waste people's time, nor add more barriers.
Marie Martens 19:55
We're also not like actively adjusting our marketing messaging yet to those results, but, you know, we did think that it will be interesting to get more specific about who is actually using the product.
Marie Martens 20:11
To then in the future be able to tailor our messaging a bit more. Maybe if you say you're part of a marketing team, maybe you want us to share more form templates that are marketing related with you. So we can make it more personalized. We don't do that yet. But that's something that we would like to do in the future.
Wow. So yeah, different learning paths. Slack is one learning channel. The surveys are the other one. When do they appear, these surveys, let's say I go to the homepage, I click on sign up. I enter my credentials, my email and password or what, when do I get that survey?
Marie Martens 21:01
So that would be ... you get it completely at the beginning. So you would enter your name, and then you would get like two questions, two extra questions. So immediately, when you sign up, yeah.
Does it have the look and feel of Tally already? Because this looks like Tally?
Marie Martens 21:23
It does. Yeah, it is. It is a Tally form as well that we are using. So yeah, I mean, it's embedded in the product, but yet it has the same look and feel as everything we do at Tally forms. Yeah.
What happens when Marie "sits down for marketing"?
That's, that's great. Can you walk me through an example, for of when you do the marketing, right? When you sit down and say: "Okay, I want to do some kind of marketing effort now", let's say writing or videography, or whatever you do. How do you do this from concept to publishing? What steps do you do? Did you recently... to let's say last week or week before? What happened?
Marie Martens 22:13
So yeah, for me, it's kind of my role is a bit blurry as in, I don't really see it as "I'm going to do marketing now". Or like, yeah, depends on what your definition of marketing is. I'm also, working on the product and running the business, but everything is kind of marketing related.
Marie Martens 22:39
The process? Good question. So what did I do? Last week, while I was, for example, gonna write a blog post about an revenue milestone that we recently reached. And my process there would be, that's
Marie Martens 23:01
first I kinda look at the last one that I wrote. Yeah, so I reread that. And then I think about, you know, what has happened between the time that I wrote this one and this new milestone, like, Are there any learnings? Is there anything, you know, did the team grow? What features did we ship? I would also look at some data like is there anything we can learn, you know, marketing wise, did we get more users from a certain channel so I would feed myself some info about the past months and try to look back.
Marie Martens 23:44
And then I would generally try to write an outline. So basically, like, a title and some subtitles of which content would be in the blog post. I usually run this by Filip, because that's always good to have like a second opinion: Is it worthwhile to write this? Is it just something I value?
Marie Martens 24:15
And then I use Notion for basically everything. So I also write in Notion, they have Notion AI now, which is a feature that can help you, right? And as I'm not like best copywriter would say.
Marie Martens 24:32
So I would just basically add bullet points or describe kind of what I want to write, and then I would use the AI to help me improve my writing. It's mostly grammar and to give some suggestions as well.
Marie Martens 24:48
And that's kind of how I would start like writing every part of the blog post, and usually it's way too long. And then I tried to ... in the second phase ... usually I also leave it for a day, just like "let it rest". That kinda helps me. When I'm too much in it, I kind of, I don't know, I lose, because there's something or I, I start missing some things. And then the next day, I tried to shorten it and just really like keep the essence and reread it.
Marie Martens 25:22
And then I would share it. I would I mean, if he would have time, I would share it with Filip for like last check, and to see if anything is missing. And then I would publish it.
Marie Martens 25:22
These things I usually share on Twitter, they're also not scheduled, I would just share it right away. Also make sometimes some illustrations or graphics or something that, is more visually pleasing than just text. I would add that to the blog post.
Marie Martens 25:22
Yeah, and that's kind of it, and then I would share it. And I will try to follow up on comments. You know, it's mostly on Twitter for these things. And try to answer if people have questions, try to answer them. And, yeah, keep the conversation going. And yeah, that would be the process for this type of content for me.
Interesting. And what did you do when you last wrote something that should be kind of convincing to new users? Did you have such a material where you can assume: No, people don't know us already, but we have still to convince them? Do you write such stuff at all?
Marie Martens 26:58
Not a lot, actually. Because we don't really ... I mean ... we have a very simple website, it's only one landing page at this stage, sometimes I would create a new landing page, for example, for SEO reasons. So for example, we have could be a landing page called a "Free no-code Form Builder" or something like that, just to get, more organic traffic on that keyword.
Marie Martens 27:38
What I would do for that is, I would definitely do some research first, also check what competitors have written. Check which ones rank high on Google, you could just do that by googling. And then checking the results. And just reading, like the first five hits are something that they usually also learn to a lot.
Marie Martens 28:07
So I would, I would use that input. I would also use, my Notion AI again, to help me write a bit better or more convincing, as you would say. So that definitely helps me in getting the right tone of voice. But the process would be, would be similar than as writing the blog post, like, getting the outline, making sure it's visually appealing. I never tend to publish the same day, but just have a look at it again the next day and see if it still looks good. And then ...publish it. Yeah.
Interesting. Are you using any well known frameworks like AIDA, or like, "problem, agitate, solve", or like "The hero's journey" or whatever frameworks are out there?
Marie Martens 29:06
Actually not. (laughs) ... No I don't. I mean, maybe I would if I would spend more time or have more time to do that, but not at this stage. No.
Okay. Yeah, I was thinking about the Hero's Journey a lot during the last few weeks. Like when a person has a problem and wants to do something against it or to solve it. And they go through all kinds of things and for example, they meet someone who can help them, that they call it a "guide", I think, and then they finally go through all these adventures until they solve their problem and be happy, right? Such a story. Today I created a YouTube video about it.
Thinking about "Can this possibly help me with my product, i.e. this marketing software for reluctant marketers, people who don't want to do marketing?" Can I use such a journey? For example, for a solopreneur who is actively working on their product, and they sometimes rise from the deep rabbit hole and do their marketing again, maybe I can write such a story as a Hero's Journey or something.
Marie Martens 30:29
Right? Yeah, I mean, that would be super useful. But that, again, comes down to the "what is marketing and what isn't marketing", like if you're solo founder, of course, you also want to sell your product, right? You don't just want to build it. So you are always doing some type of marketing. That's right.
Social listening is the easiest way for Marie to do marketing for Tally
Marie Martens 30:54
Probably the easiest way for me ... we would always like ... if you don't want to create content, or if you don't want to do all of those things, we would just scan online conversations about Tally, right? You have a lot of tools to just monitor whatever is being said on the web. And not about Tally, but about form builders. So just questions, you know, people that are looking for a form builder.
Marie Martens 31:25
And once you could basically do this all day for form builders and probably for most products, because there's so many questions being asked on Twitter or on Reddit, or Quora, you know, on any platform. And it helps a lot by just answering those, right?
Marie Martens 31:44
And, you know, someone looks for a form building tool that has this feature, and then you can just say like, "Hey, I'm building this, you know, feel free to try it out." Because it's relevant. It's not pushy, it doesn't feel like you're doing marketing! You're just basically, as a founder, sharing your product.
Marie Martens 32:04
And you learn a lot from the questions you read. Because in there, you see the pain points, you see what people are looking for. You also see maybe which features are the things that you don't offer yet. You see which competitors are being mentioned. So I find that very useful.
Marie Martens 32:24
We just have a Slack channel where like non-stop, there's social mentions coming in. And I should do it more often, actually. But when I have the time, in the beginning, I was doing this all the time, I would just go over them and read them, answer to them, see if I can learn something. And if you would then need ideas for a blog post or anything you can usually get them out of those questions. You know, it's the most useful content. Yeah, content would be an answer to the questions.
Yeah. How do you get that into the Slack channel? Which tools do you use to get that?
Marie Martens 33:07
I now use ... it's called Syften? I can send them to you. Yeah, yes, S-Y-F-T-E-N. But there's a lot of tools that offer this. If you just google like "social media monitoring" or something like that. This is a paid tool. I think there's also free alternatives. You could probably also make something with Zapier or with Make to automate this. And yeah, they have a Slack integration.
Marie Martens 33:44
So I just connected to ... we just made a new Slack channel and connected it. Which for me is the easiest way. You can also get emails, but then it's less real time. All right. They can get as well, and you don't want to spend time with all these emails. So in a Slack channel, it's easy to just go over them whenever you have time.
Totally cool! Because sometimes I have a problem: I don't know what to write about this week. For example, I have a content calendar that tells me, but sometimes even the content calendar might run out of ideas. So such a list of questions would be very simple to answer.
Marie Martens 34:30
Yeah, yeah. And if you follow the right keywords, you might need to like fine tune your queries a bit. Yeah. And make sure you know, you follow the right things and also excludes because otherwise you get a lot of spam. But once you ... I mean it doesn't take that long to get the right hits. And that really helps me to just stay up to date, know what to write about, or just answer people because then you're also doing something useful. You're advertising your product in some way, but in a relevant way, because people have asked for it.
Responding to people's questions on Reddit
How is it on Reddit, for example? Do you work on Reddit also? How is it on Reddit? Because they are very sensitive to self promo, as I've experienced, how do you do it?
Marie Martens 35:25
So I only answer relevant questions. So if someone says like today, someone was looking for a "form builder with a file upload option". And the ones they've used were really expensive. So, you know, we have a very generous free tier where you can also use file uploads. So then I would just say like, "Hey have you tried Tally?"
Marie Martens 35:51
And I would link, of course, to the right feature page. And just say, like, "Look, it's a free feature. And if you would have any other questions about the product, I'm happy to help." And that's, it! And I guess, because it is relevant, it's not considered as self-promotion.
Marie Martens 36:13
If you would just answer to any question and not really, actually read the comments and read the question, then I think you might get a lot of negative response as well, especially on Reddit. So I also don't do it all the time. But when it's relevant, I do it. And then usually you get a positive response, because it's also just helpful, right?
Absolutely. It's a big difference, whether you write "Hey, look at my cool tool", or if you write simply an answer to somebody's asking and give a useful answer, right?
Marie Martens 36:55
Indeed, because when if people are not looking for your solution, they will most likely also not, you know, be interested in you shouting about it. Unless it looks really good, or they have heard someone else talk about it. But yeah, I mean, this is for me the easiest way to do marketing, if you can call it that way. And like the most relevant way as well, I would say,
What can stop us from procrastinating on our marketing?
For me as a solopreneur, it's really difficult to switch my mind from building to marketing and back again. Yes, building is the preferred thing I do because I'm a software engineer, it comes natural to me. I'm an expert in that. But I'm not an expert in marketing. Maybe in the meantime, I've also become an expert in marketing (laughs), but it's secondary, it's not my strong suit.
So my mind really has to switch. Some strange things are happening. For example, I'm always a little hesitant to brag about my stuff, right? And sometimes marketing feels like bragging. I'm always trying to avoid this bragging aspect. Because answering questions, for example, as you said before, would be a very good way because I don't need to brag. I need to answer the question. This will be very simple. Thank you for that! But it's always a feeling ... Yeah, impostor syndrome comes in: "Am I the right one? Who am I to say that?" and so on. So yeah. Can you help me with this?
Marie Martens 38:38
I think there's two things like what I also experienced and what probably everyone has, is like the thing that is not your strong suit, you will always postpone it right? Because it just requires more effort and energy.
Marie Martens 38:52
For me, it definitely helps to have like, certain, blocks in your calendar that are fixed, another really reserved time to only focus on this, this one task.
Marie Martens 39:09
And usually to split it up at smaller tasks. Like writing a blog post, it can be a big task. Maybe you need to have smaller tasks, and you can do two of them. I'll do already the research, I'll write the outline and then tomorrow I'll do the other parts. It makes it a bit more approachable and less of a big annoying task that you don't want to get started on.
Marie Martens 39:35
So that helps for me also like social accountability, but that's of course more difficult if you are working alone. I see people on Twitter saying like "okay, this week I'm going to write this blog post, and I'm just sharing it here. So if I didn't do it, you can remind me of it".
Marie Martens 39:58
And or if you have, a partner or a colleague that always helps to just say the goals out loud, and then you kind of have to meet them.
Marie Martens 40:13
I think the other part about bragging is: I don't think you have to brag to do marketing. It's something that we actually try not to do. We just try to be honest and have a very clear communication style. And I think that's something our users also appreciate.
Marie Martens 40:33
And I think the simpler you make it, the better as well. I think the problem that we have as marketeers is that complexity seems to sell better. So the more buzzwords you use, the more complex, or the more features you have the more expensive, it seems.
Marie Martens 40:53
But I also don't think that should be true. So the simpler, the message, the better. And I also don't believe that we need to treat our target audience as ... Well, they're just people, they're not businesses. You just talk to them as people. And they're also definitely not stupid.
Marie Martens 41:19
So a lot of communication is like misleading, right? And it's very "too convincing" like "oh, do this because you will save time"...
Yeah, "3 steps to 1 million..." (laughs)
Marie Martens 41:29
People know that! Yeah, people can make up their own minds. And they just want you to present the truth. And without usually having to read too much.
Marie Martens 41:19
Because if I get a landing page, with a lot of I'd like to call it "buzzword bingo", like a lot of ... I just need to read like 4 paragraphs, and I'm like "Well, what does it actually do?" You know, and it could sound fancy, but I don't really know what problem it solves for me. So I kind of just try to avoid all of that and just be clear and simple. And that kind of works for us, I would say!
That's fantastic. I think that it's also good to close the podcast for today. I enjoyed the chatting with you very much, Marie, and thanks for being here today! And yeah, I can only wish you much luck for your business.
Marie Martens 42:43
Thank you so much. And I wish you the best of luck as well and a lot of respect for you as a solopreneur. So yeah, if I can help in any way, I'm happy to do that!