Badger Maps: Building A Sales Route Planning App To $3.3M ARR

$270,000
revenue/mo
3
Founders
42
Employees
product
Badger Maps
from San Francisco, California
started January 2012
$270,000
revenue/mo
3
Founders
42
Employees
229K
alexa rank
845
followers
2.56K
followers
731
subs
productivity
sales

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi Everyone, I’m Steve Benson and I’m the founder and CEO of Badger Maps.

Badger Maps is a route planner that empowers field sales teams to crush their quota. We’re focused on helping field sales teams save time with scheduling and route planning to get back hours of selling time each day.

Badger is the complete field sales app: combining Google Maps, CRM data, route optimization, schedule planning, and lead generation. You can check out a quick video on what we do here.

I started the company 7 years ago, and today, we’re making $3.3 million a year and have 60 employees.

badger-maps-building-a-sales-route-planning-app-to-3-3m-arr

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I started the company in 2012 because I saw a problem that I thought could be solved with software.

My background was in field sales, so I understood the problem than this end user had. I started this company to solve the problem I had faced as a rep.

You should work for large companies for only a very short amount of time. You tend to learn all you are going to learn in large organizations very quickly, then once you can do the task that you are going to do, it becomes ‘rinse, wash, repeat’.

The problem was to combine a map, a routing algorithm, a calendar, and a salesperson's customer data. This had been a problem that salespeople have had for hundreds of years, but the reason it had not been solved before was because you needed computer-based mapping, computer-based calendar capabilities, internet connectivity on a mobile device, the ability for a computer to interact with where the salesperson's customer database was, and a mobile device that could serve as the platform to do this in real time.

It was a good time for me to start a business since I was about 33 years old, didn’t have any kids, had a fair amount of flexibility, and some savings from my job at Google, so I was in a good spot financially and personally to really give it my all.

In 2012, all these things were coming together, and I was uniquely positioned to solve the problem given my background in sales. Over the years we built a robust software application and now have thousands of paying customers who are able to be better salespeople because of our service.

Take us through the process of building the product and launching the business.

I left Google in 2012 to focus on developing this idea. Since my expertise is on the business side, I brought an engineer in as a co-founder, Gady Pitaru.

He architected and developed Badger's software product from its MVP days, to market, and beyond. We started out with a web-based version and then a basic version of the app.

The key features for us to actually sell the product started with us giving reps the ability for them to see their territory on a map. Reps wanted to be able to visualize where their customers were, what customers were around them, and how all the roads connected. We improved the app over time by adding more features and changing the UI to make it more intuitive and easier to use. We eventually built out other big features like colorizing the points on the map, putting in filters, building out the routing & scheduling tool, and bringing in other data sources for lead gen. While we went through the different iterations, I was constantly talking to our potential and current customers to make sure we build a product they would find useful and would ultimately pay for.

Focusing on monetization from the beginning on really helped us bring in the money we needed to grow the business further and improve the product while bootstrapping the business.

The original price was surprisingly what we charge now, $35/month, that hasn’t changed even as we’ve added tremendous amounts of things over the years. We create a lot more value than we used to for the price, but the first people that we were bringing onboard as customers felt like that was a fair price, and now people feel like they get a lot for their money. The monetization plan was always monthly charges, classic SaaS business.

In terms of funding, we originally didn’t set out to bootstrap the business. However, when we talked with venture capitalists they really wanted more proof that the business was going to make money as a SaaS company. The general message from venture capitalists was - when this company is making $1 Million a year, come back and talk to us and at that point, it would then be a better time for them to take on the investment.

By the time we hit $1M we were growing quickly and so it was easier to balance our initial spend with the money we were making. A key piece to our success in bootstrapping was that I had a background in field sales and software sales specifically, so we had a professional salesperson early on and therefore we were able to monetize things more quickly and more easily than other startups.

Launching the business

Well, I had never built a website before, and much to the person who was managing building the website’s dismay, I mocked up what I wanted it to look like with paper, scissors, and tape. I couldn’t make this up.

In terms of launching the actual business, there were just about a million small decisions to make. What will the logo be, what will you charge, who within the ultimate user group do you approach first, etc.

To determine the logo we had a designer come up with a bunch of ideas and then we tweaked it and tried to think about who our main user would be and what kind of logo would be most attractive to them and what kind of logo would be memorable to them.

In terms of pricing, we kind of looked at other pieces of software that we thought would create similar value and was being purchased by a similar user. We benchmarked based on that.

In terms of the ultimate user group - sales managers, sales operations people, often make decisions for the field sales team. They are ultimately aware of the problems that we solve around routing and mapping a territory, so we chose to approach them.

I think that the key is to 80/20 everything, and then you go back to improve and optimize everything after you’ve already got something down. Starting a business is like writing, you need to first draft everything.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

I strongly believe that customer retention is the 2nd most important thing we do - It's 2nd only to engineering because all the customer success efforts in the world couldn't make up for a product that doesn't work.

Customer retention is so important because many of our new customers come to us because they were referred by people they know who are already using our solution. Our current customers are our best salespeople and so we need to invest in retaining them. This is especially true for us, and probably more important for us than most businesses, because our customers are field salespeople, and they're very good at communicating value to their communities. For us, this is more important than lead generation or marketing.

The most important technique to retain current customers is ‘Customer Success’ - working with your customers to make them really successful and happy with your product or solution. Be available at any time across various channels such as phone, email and chat, so they can interact with you in the way they want and when they want. A lot of companies see this as an expense they can toss over the fence or outsource, but I believe it's a critical competitive advantage for our business.

The way to make customers successful is to be available at any time across the various channels like phone, email, chat, etc. so they can interact with you when and where you want it. A lot of companies view this as an expense, but I view this as critical. It’s a critical competitive advantage for our business. We have a team of people who have a deep expertise in our product and our customers and they are always available to our customers. We try to create value for our customers by making sure they’re getting everything they want from the product.

Our customer success team is also in charge of training customers. We’ve found the best way to train customers is to have a group training and then have a series of individual training with the people that are actually going to using the product to make sure they really understand how to use it. A lot of the time the initial training is really easy for about 1/3rd of the people but it can always be harder with some, especially those who are less tech savvy.

For 1/3rd it’s easy from the start, and for another 3rd they might need a little help, and the last 3rd might need a lot of help. This last 3rd often knows who they are and if you offer help, they’ll often take advantage of it. Having a nice scalable training process is really useful because it makes your customers successful.

We acquire other new customers by directly approaching people in industries and companies that we think are a good fit. We also make sure to maintain our presence on the internet, social media, and also by advertising.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

There are a lot of field salespeople in the world, and we plan on continuing to solve more and more of their problems and challenges, to make their job easier and make them more successful.

Badger is growing fast, so I spend more than half of my time hiring and training people. We’re looking to continue to serve our customers, and treat our employees well, to solve real problems that field salespeople have everyday.

In general, from a customer acquisition perspective, our different channels have very different costs and I like to look at them individually. Most ad spend is pretty expensive on a per click basis because only a small percentage of clickers sign up for our product.

As a result, we don’t do a ton of paid advertising. We get most of our deals from happy customers telling other field salespeople about the product. Almost everyone who buys seems to be able to say who told them about it. And that really speaks to it being a really useful product.

The Company has been growing at about 40% a year, so everything is moving along at a healthy rate. I’m building everything sustainably and with a great foundation to last into the future.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The key lesson I learned throughout my career is that as a leader, you need to be a great coach, teacher, and mentor. I’ve always focused on making the people around me successful, and doing my best to help them along their path in their career and in life.

They, in turn, have made me successful. Even when it doesn’t appear that it would help at all, I always help them out and give feedback and advice. More often than not this helps me and my organization perform at our best.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

In terms of the tools that we use, Google Apps are probably the most important since that is how we primarily communicate and collaborate.

We build out a lot of our sales and marketing materials with Google Doc and Slides and it makes it great to work efficiently across different teams. We also use slack for fast communication within and across different offices to keep everyone up-to-date.

The Google Maps API and AWS are the most important platforms that we leverage with our own app. Of course, we use Badger Maps for our field sales efforts.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

My favorite things to read in my industry and to learn how to do my job better are blogs, articles, and summaries of business books. Blogs and articles that are relevant to your industry and business model are often the quickest way to attain a ton of background and expertise in an area. My favorite ways to stay informed about the world is Google News and the New York Times.

I’ve been a sales podcast junkie for years and have been a guest on dozens of them. I host the Outside Sales Talk podcast where my listeners get actionable tactics and tricks from well-known sales experts to become more successful in field sales. Check it out and let me know how you like it! You can find it on iTunes, Stitcher or anywhere podcasts can be found.

Some other sales podcasts that I highly recommend are:

All of these podcasts cover important and relevant sales topics and interview top sales thought leaders. You'll definitely get some useful tips and valuable advice from their episodes. Just take a look and see which topics they cover and what you're interested in learning more about.

Sales isn’t something taught in school very well if at all, but in these podcasts you’ll find a lot of what you need. I’d jump around a bit across these, because you get more perspectives - it’s not like you have to listen to them in order or anything.

Jump into the ones that cover areas that are most interesting to you and cover the skills and techniques that you are looking to polish up.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

You should work for large companies for only a very short amount of time. You tend to learn all you are going to learn in large organizations very quickly, then once you can do the task that you are going to do, it becomes ‘rinse, wash, repeat’.

That is why you should focus on smaller companies and startups where you can learn more and get better, more in-depth work experience. This is especially true if you want to start your own business later on.

Another advice is that, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to have ‘grit’ and not give up on the first try. There are a million challenges, and you just have to pound your way through them. When you run into a problem, wrap your head around it and develop a strategy for attacking it.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We’re always looking to add more great people to Badger’s team. We’re hiring for engineering, sales, CSA, and marketing positions.

Where can we go to learn more?

  • Website - https://www.badgermapping.com/
  • Podcast - Here is the link to my podcast - 'Outside Sales Talk’ that I think you might really like. Its 20 minute or so episodes focused on outside sales skills and strategies. It has the top people in Sales on the show and gets their tips and tricks specifically for outside Salespeople. https://www.outsidesalestalk.com/
  • Youtube - Here is the link to some more videos on YouTube that I made for outside salespeople.

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Steve Benson,   Founder of Badger Maps

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