The First Six Months Of Leading Growth At A $1M SaaS Start-up

An Interview With Corey Haines, Head of Growth, Baremetrics

3 min read

Corey Haines is a San Diego based marketer that’s currently leading Growth at Baremetrics, a SaaS metrics and reporting start-up. He also recently launched a side project, HeyMarketers, a job board specifically for SaaS and e-commerce marketing jobs.

I caught up with Corey to discuss his first six months of leading growth at Baremetrics—and what’s to come next.

Geoff Roberts: Hey, Corey! Why don’t we kick things off by talking through what you were doing prior to Baremetrics?

Corey Haines: Sure, so when I graduated from college and it was time to line up a job, I finally landed an interview with an Amazon sellers agency. Long story short, I tried to make it clear beforehand but apparently they didn’t realize that I hadn’t actually graduated yet so two minutes into the phone interview they told me to apply again in three months and hung up on me. Frustrated, I went back to my next class and Googled “best places to work in San Diego,” and found an internship with a SaaS start-up called Cordial that hired me later that week.

The company had just raised their Series A and I was their very first marketing hire. I was super fortunate because as marketer #1 I had my hands on everything. Events, demand gen, copywriting, CRO, product marketing, email marketing, content marketing, branding… it was a crash course in literally all aspects of marketing. We continued to do really well as a company and eventually I handed off more of my responsibilities and began to specialize in the inbound marketing functions—content, webinars, email, and partnerships.

Geoff Roberts: Got it—I had a similar experience at Buildium. I think starting as a solo marketer is helpful not just in terms of exposure to all aspects of marketing, but it also forces you to learn to prioritize well. So after your time at Cordial you landed at Baremetrics in December 2018. Who is involved with growth at the company and what does the team look like (internally and agencies/partners)?

Corey Haines: As an 8-person, fully remote team we don’t really have “teams” per se as we’re one team. Everyone is involved with growth. Josh (Baremetrics’ Founder) does some marketing with his Founder Chats podcast and our blog, but also acts as a product manager in addition to his CEO duties. We have three engineers and a designer who all work on product updates, new features, integrations, and updates to our website. Erin leads customer success and has implemented a great system for us all to help handle support tickets and requests from customers. I guess it’s unconventional in some ways, but we’re a fully integrated team with a lot of overlap in responsibilities which allows us to be speedy and flexible.

Geoff Roberts: Baremetrics, ProfitWell, and ChartMogul are commonly considered the leaders in the SaaS metrics and reporting space. What do you view as Baremetrics’ strength or most important point of differentiation?

Corey Haines: As each company has matured with the market, there are some pretty clear differentiators that have developed. The first is what I’d categorize as “brand,” or essentially the culmination of the market’s perception of design, positioning, and values. Baremetrics closely aligns with the bootstrappers community with our transparency in the Open Startups movement. We share our experiences and lessons learned on our blog and are involved with other early stage SaaS founders.

The second relates to the product itself. We really excel in our ability to deliver visually inspiring metrics and deliver sophisticated data comparisons and analytics. Our software can instantly compare dates, plans, and customizable customer segments. You can also uncover trends, create goals, and add comments. We also offer two add-on features, Recover and Cancellation Insights, that give founders tools to better understand why customers cancel so that they can reduce churn and win customers back. And you can get everything at an affordable, fixed price.

Geoff Roberts: When you joined Baremetrics and assessed the situation you walked into, what’s something new that you started doing?

Corey Haines: We implemented a lot of ways to start a conversation with someone and get to know their business. I really encourage trialing users to reply to emails, allow me to send them personalized demos using their own account, and I hop on calls to consult with them about their business whenever possible. In short I encourage them to ask questions and use me as a resource.

I’ve also been much more intentional about building relationships with customers to show them how and why they should take advantage of our add-on features, Recover and Cancellation Insights. Taking a consultative and helpful approach has allowed me to get a crystal clear perspective of their business and what they’re struggling with. This allows me to give relevant advice and honestly recommend features that will help them.

There are also many new features, product enhancements, and marketing campaigns that are being born out of conversations with customers. Listening and understanding customers’ needs is a top priority and has led to a lot of new developments I’m ecstatic about.

Geoff Roberts: What’s something that you paused or stopped doing when you joined?

Corey Haines: Josh and the team were doing a great job before me and there really wasn’t anything that needed to be stopped. One thing I stopped doing early on was focusing too much on large, long-term projects. You have to have a healthy balance between what’s going to move the needle this month and provide a short feedback cycle with longer term, bigger impact initiatives.

Geoff Roberts: Finally, what was already in place that you’ve simply continued doing?

Corey Haines: Content marketing has always been Baremetrics’ bread and butter. The Founder’s Journey blog and podcast, our Academy, and Founder Chats are fantastic resources and we’d be crazy to stop investing in these areas. We’re going to continue to share our lessons and experiences, invest in organic search-focused content, and surface the stories of other founders.

Geoff Roberts: Good stuff. When you came onboard in December growth at Baremetrics had stalled a bit—the company was stuck at around $1M in ARR. What do you think caused that?

Corey Haines: Growth requires momentum and when you slow down or let off the gas a bit, it’s natural for things to stall. Putting in the work every day to spend time with trialing users and customers, invest in the community, and spin up new ways to be helpful is just as unsexy as it is effective. Growth requires intention, and we just needed someone who wakes up and goes to sleep thinking about how to grow.

Geoff Roberts: What’s been your biggest win through six months as Head of Growth?

Corey Haines: My biggest win has been the relationships built with founders and teams of amazing companies. I’m super fortunate to not only know these people, but also to be in a position to be able to help and strategize with them. I’m confident that the results we’ve seen so far will continue as long as we stay focused on serving our customers and helping the community from a place of empathy and duty.

Geoff Roberts: What’s your biggest challenge at the moment?

Corey Haines: As a team of one, there are about 1,000,001 things I could do. So the challenge is really about how to spend my time and what to spend my time on. I’ve found that scheduling my week in large blocks of time has really helped me prioritize and split my time between short-term needs and long-term vision. It will always be a challenge to feel like there’s more I could be doing if only there was more time in the day.

Geoff Roberts: Baremetrics is sitting on a lot of SaaS data—what’s one insight you can share that would be helpful to other early-stage SaaS founders with under maybe 10k or 50k in MRR?

“No one, not even us, spends enough time learning from and following up with customers who cancel.” — Corey Haines, Head of Growth, Baremetrics

Corey Haines: No one, not even us, spends enough time learning from and following up with customers who cancel. Instead of figuring out how to find more customers to replace the ones that are leaving, companies should really dial in on how to minimize churn and understand why customers are canceling in the first place.

A churn rate in the double digits (e.g. 10% or above) makes growth really difficult. Instead of taking stabs in the dark about what will reduce churn and then hoping that it’ll do the trick, companies should allow customers to do the talking for them and then systematically work to improve retention based on data they can be confident in. I hate to toot our own horn here but this is the primary reason why we built Cancellation Insights.

Geoff Roberts: Call bullshit on something you see going on in the SaaS world…

Corey Haines: There are a lot of lies and deception going on with the way SaaS companies are marketing. Lying about which plan is the most popular, misrepresenting competing solutions, being intentionally unclear about the way you’re charged… it leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. SaaS could use a bit more honesty and transparency.

Geoff Roberts: Cheers to that! What’s something that you’re looking forward to either personally or professionally?

Corey Haines: I can’t wait for all the product updates this year. New integrations, enhancements to existing features, and new features and products are constantly on my mind. I love our team and what we’re building.

Geoff Roberts: That’s awesome and thanks for the time, Corey. And congrats on a great first six months—Baremetrics is lucky to have you!

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