How Edusign got over $1 million in ARR with SEO and product its' customers love

Edusign's brand recall has grown tremendously over the last two years. Read Elliot's biggest takeaways on how he grew Edusign to $1 million ARR by truly understanding the needs of his target audience.

How Edusign got over $1 million in ARR with SEO and product its' customers love

In this post of "My First 1000 Users", we will cover the story of Edusign and how it got over 1 million in ARR by understanding the needs of its target audience.

The content of this case study is taken from the podcast episode I recorded with Elliot Boucher, the Co-founder of Edusign.

Prefer audio over text? Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcasting platform:
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- Spotify
- Other podcasting platforms

Let's dive in.

How did Elliot get the idea of starting Edusign?

Elliot was a university student when he got the idea of starting Edusign.

He realized that in France, students who went to a university or enrolled in any course had to mention it on a sheet maintained by the institution's administration.

Upon digging deeper, Elliot found out the admin department of his university spent a lot of time preparing and managing these documents.

So Elliot thought of creating something for his university that could ease this process.

But after research, he found that the problem was more significant than he thought, and universities all over France were facing this issue.

He discussed the problem with people from his school, other schools, and training organizations to validate the problem and then started working on a website and a SaaS to solve it.

And that is how Edusign was started.

Learning #1 - Be observant and try to find creative solutions to the problems of your immediate circle.

This will not only train your entrepreneurial mind but may also end in being your next multi-million dollar startup.

How did Elliot collect insights for his product?

Elliot contacted the admin department of his school to understand the issue deeply.

He even sat beside the admins from his university to understand their day-to-day work and struggles.

After that, he used LinkedIn to connect with admins from other schools and universities.

Elliot's research was qualitative rather than quantitative. He wanted to deep dive into the research of the issue instead of using surveys and quizzes to get superficial answers.

He also figured out that the attendance sheet was crucial for universities and enabled them to get funding during his research. If they were to lose the sheet, they could lose thousands of dollars.

Such insights were only possible to discover upon deep-diving into the lives of his target audience.

From there, Elliot started to work on building step-by-step solutions to solve issues related to the university's documentation process.

Elliot and his team still do a lot of research before building features onto their product.

Learning #2 - Make sure you are obsessed over the problem you are trying to solve.

Try be around your target audience and understand their issues completely before building a solution.

0 to 100 paying customers

Elliot got his first hundred customers through inbound marketing and SEO.

During market research, Elliot discovered his competitors were good at building features onto their products, but they lacked the skill of marketing and SEO.

This led to him focussing on marketing and SEO to get an edge over his competition.

He chose the color yellow for Edusign to set it apart from the competition.

Elliot already received some inquiries from universities while building the product, and thus these universities became the first paid customers of Edusign.

He ran the first test in March 2020, but they had a rocky start because Covid hit France simultaneously, and the country went under lockdown.

Elliot's solution was made for in-class demonstration and use. So they had to go back to the drawing board and reinvent themselves to make their product suitable for remote courses.

After the second test, Elliot got 100 calls from schools and universities inquiring about his product.

But he had to turn many customers away because they were not ready. Edusign only had 10% of the features of their competitors.

The only thing that played in Elliot's favor was the quality of service to their customers. Edusign's team made sure everything was top-notch when it came to customer experience.

Learning #3 - If your competitors are good at something, you need to find areas they lack and then try to work on those to get an edge over them.

You can't compete with huge companies when you are starting out. So find your edge, and double down on it.

Edusign gets most of the traffic on their French version of the website. What's the reason behind that?

Edusign makes around one million euros in annual recurring revenue.

Most of the SEO traffic on Edusign's site comes from the French version, and most of their customers are from France.

But they also have some customers from countries like Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.

When Elliot started Edusign, he needed to nail down the product and perfect operations in one country before scaling further; hence most of their operations are in France right now, but they plan to expand globally in the coming years.

The journey from 100 to 1000 customers

Elliot focused on the customer experience both inside and outside the product. The Edusign team wanted to first nail down the product experience before concentrating on marketing and sales.

Due to their excellent product experience, most of their customers came from referrals. Edusign has low acquisition costs compared to their competition as their happy customers tend to recommend them to others.

Edusign has also started testing outbound marketing channels using lemlist.

Elliot's focus has always been to provide value through content. The Edusign team conducts a lot of webinars with partners like Canva.

Although these webinars may not directly lead to conversions, it helps the brand stay on top of the mind of people.

Edusign produces a lot of content in the form of podcasts, newsletters, articles, and webinars.

Learning #4 - Think long-term. This single trait can help you beat 99% of your competition. Try to build a raging fanbase of loyal customers rather than one-time buyers.

And this is only done by providing value to your target audience.

How is Elliot using top of mind marketing strategy to grow his company?

Elliot believes there is only 3 percent of the people at any given time in the market who are ready to buy from you.

So 97% of people aren't looking for a product but for value.

Elliot has seen this happen for his own company. He often gets signups from people who saw one of Edusign's contents 12 to 24 months ago.

Also, since Elliot operates in the B2B space selling a product upwards of 50k per year, he can't convince anyone to buy into Edusign on the first touchpoint. Nobody will buy a considerable product from a company they don't know.

While making a marketing strategy, Elliot doesn't measure his strategy per lead. Instead, he measures it per revenue.

Learning #5 - The modern buyer's journey is a complex structure of many touchpoints, not a straight line.

So don't attribute a sale to a single acquisition channel, instead, look at your complete marketing strategy as a well-oiled machine that is working hand in hand to increase the overall revenue of your company.

Direct attribution can be confusing and misleading.

How is Elliot using SEO to grow Edusign's organic reach?

Elliot focuses on high intent keywords, targeting people who are more likely to buy Edusign's services.

For example,

Elliot doesn't try to rank for broader keywords like "Attendance sheet" because he knows it's a broad keyword that is difficult to rank for, and people who search for such a keyword may not be in the buying mindset.

One could search for "Attendance sheet" even if they want to look for its definition.

So instead, Elliot initially focuses on long-tail keywords like "Attendance sheet software for universities" even though the volume of such a keyword is very low, he knows such a keyword would convert better.

Over time, as Edusign ranks for more long-tail keywords, it also starts ranking for broader keywords.

Always try to answer the user's query. Think about what the users are looking for.

Using this same principle, Edusign tried ranking for the keyword "Attendance sheet" by providing attendance sheet templates on the webpage. The page started ranking for the keyword within three months,

Although it is not a high intent keyword, the templates have Edusign's branding and information.

Also, you don't need a lot of backlinks to rank on Google, and once your article starts ranking, you need to optimize the article for conversions.

Learning #6 - Traffic is just a vanity number, which means nothing if it doesn't lead to conversions.

So instead of ranking for high-volume keywords, try to rank for keywords that lead to conversions.

The same goes for content. SEO-rich content will only lead you so far; focus on ROI-led content.

Does Elliot follow any system to prompt users to give out referrals?

Elliot is still testing different strategies to increase Edusign’s referral conversions.

Right now, referrals rely entirely on word of mouth.

But the team has been trying to get meetings with big accounts using their current big clients to make a warm introduction.

It becomes easier to get your foot in the door with warm introductions.

Elliot has also tried giving out affiliate links to their users, but the rate of use of those links has been low.

When someone becomes a client of Edusign, they get sent a badge stating they are "certified by Edusign." Clients tend to share this badge on their sites, providing Edusign with backlinks and referrals.

There is no direct referral system for Edusign yet, but they believe in branding everything. Although some users don't appreciate this strategy, Edusign has never lost any revenue due to its loud branding practice. On the other hand, the results of this practice have been exponential.

Elliot follows the MVB model, which stands for a minimal viable brand. On starting any brand, the founder should focus on the basic requirements of the brand like color, logo, value, and message.

Edusign has always tried to be unique and simple. But at the same time, provide their audience with a wow factor.

Elliot started by identifying the unaddressed part of the market. He found out that most of the competitors focussed on bigger accounts.

So he started providing value to the smaller accounts and prospects. This reflects in Edusign's pricing structure, too. The pricing is such that even smaller accounts and individual teachers can use Edusign.

According to Elliot, minor things like smiling during a webinar also go a long way in building tighter-knit relationships with prospects. Also, he emphasizes always asking for feedback from the audience, as people always want to be heard.

Your tone and movement while presenting are also essential.

It is also important for a company to evolve as they grow. Bigger clients have different expectations with client servicing and branding compared to startups.

Edusign has different nurturing sequences for different levels of companies.

Learning #7 - Think in terms of a minimal viable brand. Decide on your brand's colour, logo, message, and value, as these are the things that will make your brand stand out from the competition.

Do not hesitate to brand your content, as it has a massive upside in terms of referrals and brand recall. 

What is Elliot's content distribution strategy?

Elliot uses the Edusign platform to bring in most users to his webinars.

The company also uses LinkedIn and Facebook groups.

The biggest takeaway while sharing on Facebook groups is making sure your content is valuable to the community; otherwise, moderators will take it down.

You could also try using your accounts instead of company accounts to share content. Most good Facebook groups are hesitant to share content coming from company accounts due to promotional practices.

Edusign also has a weekly email with value-laden news about the education market. This email helps Edusign's prospects stay on track with the changes in the education industry and help them stay compliant with the legislation for their activity.

Learning #8 - Building distribution is as important as creating content around your brand.

Try to create a community around your product by periodically delivering value-rich content to all your users. 

What would Elliot do differently if he were to start Edusign today?

Since Edusign took a unique approach to solve the issues faced by its target niche, they have had a lot of demand since the company's inception. However, they tried to do everything manually and hence had to let go of many clients as their product wasn't ready.

If Elliot were to start today, he would avoid this mistake and hire faster in order to meet the demand from clients.

Also, try to think of your product at scale once you get a product-market fit.

Elliot made a mistake while starting Edusign. He didn't focus on a product that could last a long time. Due to this, they had to redesign their product to solve some tech issues a year after the launch.

Such issues can be fixed at the start if the founder focuses on building a product that can last a long time.

Learning #9 - Try to find a product-market fit before you plan to scale.

Always have a long-term vision for your product, and don't hesitate to do things right from the very beginning, even though it may take some extra time.

What are Elliot's most significant struggles in growing Edusign going forward?

Elliot needs to scale his team and test new acquisition channels fast.

Elliot has always found hiring hard as Edusign is a fully remote company, and it becomes challenging to get employees onboarded and aligned with the company's culture.

At the same time, Elliot also struggles with choices in terms of what things to focus on to ensure the company's long-term growth.

What is one book that has had the most significant impact on Elliot's entrepreneur journey recently?

Elliot recently read Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, which taught him valuable lessons about the importance of storytelling for a brand, and he plans to implement learning from the book in his own company.

The Bottom Line

Learn to identify problems, we all have countless problems around us that could lead to a multimillion-dollar startup idea.

Get in the habit of observing your surroundings, just like Elliot did, and find out his university's admin department spent a lot of time preparing and managing documents.

Don't try to be perfect. Just be slightly better.
If your competitors are good at something, you need to find areas they lack and then try to work on those to get an edge over them. Elliot did this by focussing on SEO and marketing because he knew he could be slighter better at these compared to his competition.

Value trumps all. At the end of the day, people buy from people they know, like, and trust. So focus on distributing high-value content and focus on building long-term solutions.

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