091 - Combining software and service to accelerate your SaaS growth With Craig Hewitt

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About Craig

I am the founder of Castos, a podcast hosting, analytics, and production platform. We are a team of ~20 fully remote team members in 4 continents. Our goal is to make the medium of podcasting accessible and easy for everyone, regardless of their experience or background.

Resources

https://castos.com

Show Notes

Josh Tapp 0:00
What is up everybody? Josh Tapp here again, and welcome back to the lucky Titan podcast. And today we've got Craig Hewitt with us here on the mic. We're super stoked to have Craig here because Craig is the founder of Castos, one of the most popular podcasting platforms out there. So this is gonna be really interesting. For those of you who are in the podcast space, we're in the SAS space because they're going to be talking about combining software and service to accelerate your SAS growth. And I would also caveat, just your growth in general because Craig knows all about scaling businesses. So Craig, say what's up to everybody and tell us something interesting about yourself that most people don't know.
Craig Hewitt 0:36
Hey, Josh, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it excited to dig into Yes, SAS and growth. It's like the two my two favorite things for business that I think that a lot of people don't know is my background before Castillo's was very different. I have a degree in Biomedical Engineering and I spent my first 10 years of my professional life in a combination of clinical research and sales in the medical device industry. So really kind of started a whole new second career that is very, very, very different from what I did before. But I think I think it's actually really good like a lot of these kids that come into entrepreneurship and have never run a, you know, a team or never been a part of the Fortune 500 company don't know, the value of a lot of the things that those companies do, you know, a lot of us leave those companies because we're fed up with the crap from them. Right. But I think you if you've been there, you see the value of some of those things, too. So I'm very happy to have had both of those sets of experiences. Because I think it helps kind of shape what we do. No,
Josh Tapp 1:40
I really like that. So I mean, a lot of people laugh at me, because so we're in the entrepreneurial space. I'm actually doing my MBA in the evenings as well. And a lot of people laugh at that. And I'm like, honestly, for me, it's been one of the most enlightening experiences because people are kind of this. It's black or white, right? You're either a corporate business person who works for the man Right, or you're, you know, or you're an entrepreneur and I don't believe it's, there are two separate things. I think if you combine the two, you get, you know, killer companies, which is obviously where you're, you've been going with casto. So let's let's talk a little bit about, you know, you what you're doing over there to kind of meat and potatoes of what you guys are doing over there at CAST dose.
Craig Hewitt 2:21
Yeah, so cast us is a podcast hosting an analytics platform with a done for you production service as well. So you meant you mentioned like software and service, we've recently kind of very formally merged like the two brands that I previously ran one was called podcast motor, which is like this done for you podcast editing and production service. And we've kind of smashed that into the casters platform. We call it casters productions. And so at this point, we're kind of running our legacy service customers on the podcast motor side, but a lot of my focus is growing the cast those platform as a SaaS application. We also own and manage a popular WordPress plugin called Seriously simple podcasting, which is really where the whole cast dos platform kind of started from. It's kind of started from the plug in. Well, it's
Josh Tapp 3:08
a question that I would have, you know, when you started out this platform, because I've built my own platforms before, you know, and we, you know, what, what kind of made you decide to go in that direction because it is what you would call a quote unquote crowded space. Right? There's there's quite a few different options for hosting your podcast. So what kind of made you want to go in that direction?
Craig Hewitt 3:28
Yeah, so we got really lucky in hindsight. So So was running podcast motor again, which like a productized service business, for we're like five and a half years into it at this point. And a customer of ours actually came to me and said, Hey, a friend of mine is selling his WordPress plugin, seriously simple podcasting. You're obviously in the podcasting space. I know you've wanted to get into product. This could be an interesting, you know, prospect for you because it's just a free plugin in the WordPress repo. It's not monetized in any way. But it has a strong user basem is, you know, really high quality code. The person that developed it went on to work it automatically. The parent company of WordPress is really kind of high level developer with a really well respected in the space. And so I took a look at it and said, like, wow, you know, a way to manage your podcast from WordPress is really interesting. There's only one other person doing this in the space. And I thought I could do some things at least better than them. And and that's kind of where the whole thing got started is we purchased the plugin to be kind of the owners and managers of it and then built the SAS application that connects with it. And since then, it's kind of grown into being a lot more than that, but that's really where it got started. And in hindsight, that is like, maybe one of the best business decisions I've made, because what it did is it solved like an acquisition problem, like because a lot of people, especially developers, say oh, I can build this thing and it's gonna be better than everybody else, but they don't give the first thought to marketing or like what is the customer acquisition channel. And so in buying a very popular plugin for WordPress, we got a lot of visibility, a lot of people coming in installing the plugin on their site. And some of those people were able to to upsell into the hosting platform. So I didn't know it would work out like this when I started, but but in retrospect, it was it was a really good move.
Josh Tapp 5:20
So it wasn't even strategic. You're like, hey, this could be good. And then it pans
Craig Hewitt 5:24
out. Yeah, yeah.
Josh Tapp 5:26
I think you're probably playing it short a little bit, because I'm sure you spent nights not being able to sleep trying to decide if you're going to do it.
Craig Hewitt 5:33
Yeah, that's the case. Yeah, yeah.
Josh Tapp 5:36
No, I totally cool. I do know that like, you know, when a lot of people are acquiring other companies, you know, we've even done this too. Sometimes you don't even really care about their software. It's more about like you said, the exposure that you gained from acquiring their company. Have you found that within your company that's been you know, one of the biggest, I guess growth moves for you has been to acquire other people.
Craig Hewitt 5:59
That That didn't really happen with with purchasing the plugin, we just bought the plugin because the owner was going to work for automatic and automatic has this thing where you can't monetize WordPress related products, right? And so he was like, Hey, I don't want to kind of be saddled with maintaining this and doing support and things like that. So he just offloaded it to us. I did get introduced to our lead developer who's been with us all three and a half years through the previous owner, the plugin. So that was really nice. But I do agree that like acquiring teams, like an aqua hire thing is a really smart move a lot of times Yeah.
Josh Tapp 6:34
That's really interesting. Well, and so you guys, as far as growing your user base, what are some of the other methods you've been using to to scale and grow? Because I do think it has a lot to do with what you said about having your your software and your services combined, right? Because putting those together, you're giving them the whole package instead of like, Hey, here's here's one, one solution, and then you give them five more problems, right?
Craig Hewitt 6:58
Yeah, yeah, for sure. I mean, I think there's kind of two questions there. One are how are we going to kind of how does the service fit in with the product? And I think that for the latter is like, we want to offer a solution, you know, like, and, and when you think about podcasting, like, just you know, like, you when you go to podcasts, the most value added thing for you to do in the podcasting kind of ecosystem is this right? Talk to people in the space and market your show, not to be like an amateur audio engineer or to sit down and listen back to the interview and write the show notes and all this stuff. And that's really what customers productions and podcasts were to do is to say, like to take all of the weight of this off your hands, and almost all of our customers are folks like you entrepreneurs, startups, small business owners, who know that their time is really valuable. And paying, you know, a pretty fair rate to to create, to provide that solution to them is really important. And I think that is just a really natural fit in with the hosting. platform because all podcasters need a podcast hosting platform. And some of them need the solution to say, Hey, I just want to hop on zoom once a week for 30 minutes and interview somebody, and I don't want to ever think about the rest of it. And so we're, we're more and more kind of melding those messages together. And ultimately, I think that when people think about this in general, because like, our example won't apply to everybody, but but it is like, Is there a productize Consulting offering you can give to your customers to say exactly what you said like this technology, this piece of software is a is a tool to use but you might have to go spend hours doing this or you could pay us and we can go use our tool to provide the value in your business. And it's not it's not something to be afraid of like appeal a lot of people look at, you know, SaaS with service and say, like, I don't want to run a service business and all this stuff, like if you put some guardrails around it, it's not it's not the Like, um, you know, the typical, like hassle of customers and a service business that so many people think it is. And the cash flow is really great, especially for people that are just starting out.
Josh Tapp 9:12
Yeah, that's awesome. You've essentially created a new model. It's called swag last
Unknown Speaker 9:17
saw as a service. Yeah. I love that. Um,
Josh Tapp 9:22
no, that's really cool. And so what are you guys using as far as like your marketing techniques? You know, because you're, you're coming into this. And you've already established a good user base, like, what are you using today to actually grow the user base?
Craig Hewitt 9:35
Yeah, so we are finding that content marketing. I feel so old school here in 2020. St. Content Marketing is like the thing, but it is the thing like,
Josh Tapp 9:45
I'll never go away.
Craig Hewitt 9:46
Yeah, I mean, we're doing a lot of work on creating and updating and refining our content and trying to increase organic rankings and are seeing really good results. You know, the downside with content In organic in SEO is that it takes a long time. But once you start getting it to work, it really starts compounding I think we're just starting to see that now. We played around with paid acquisition for a long time, and found a couple of little places where it works. But um, you know, at our price point on the hosting platform, at least, you know, we start at $19 a month, it's tough to make paid acquisition work at that price point.
Josh Tapp 10:24
Yeah. Yes, I know, it was content marketing, there's a lot of like you said, I think it's one of those, quote unquote, like old school methods. But what's really interesting is that people who are consistently keeping up with their email lists and their content marketing and the old school tactics are the ones who are surviving this, you know, this Facebook slap that we're experiencing right now where the prices are skyrocketing. You know, it's really interesting to see even larger companies like yours who are starting to even stay away from those paid acquisition models or paid advertising models, and just to the, to the to the content. And so you know, you do have a lower price point, you know, like you said it's like $19 a month for the base package. And, you know, when somebody comes into your world and they're experiencing these these low ticket offers, do you guys have some sort of like upsell process that you work through to increase your profitability? Or is your goal strictly to just get a bunch of small ticket sales?
Craig Hewitt 11:27
Yeah, it's a bit of both. Like, I think that we, we kind of realize that admit that, you know, for a lot of people, podcasting is a hobby for some people, you know, like yourself and for me for our show. It's a business expense, and it's a business asset. But for a lot of people, you know, they're, they're podcasting about the Atlanta Braves or they're podcasting about their garden and, and so we we kind of say like, that is a bucket of our customers and they $19 is a lot for them. For others, you know, 49 or $99 a month for the things that they get out of those tears is a really good thing. For the ability to repurpose and extend their content, like we do in some of our higher tiers. And so that's kind of how we look at it is not everybody's in the same under the same umbrella. And really kind of how they're using podcasting dictates that a lot.
Josh Tapp 12:15
Yeah, and that can be difficult. I know that SAS space because there are so many different end users. Who is your your initial primary target market that you are shooting for? To get started?
Craig Hewitt 12:27
Yeah, I mean, so. So with the plugin, a lot of our users were coming from WordPress, which is not a not a homogenous user base in and of itself. But, but a lot of them are, you know, are hobbyists that are coming in. But, but I think one of the places that we're seeing it is people that want to integrate their podcasts into their kind of broader website. So as opposed to like, I have a standalone website for my podcast, it's not part of the bigger brand. For people that want to integrate their podcasts back into their site. The answer for a lot of that is like I have a WordPress site, which is the marketing site, you know, the.com Or whatever for my, for my business, it makes sense to manage my podcasts through there. And so we're starting to see more of that, that, you know, large organizations and churches and companies are saying, like, I manage all the rest of my content through my WordPress site, why shouldn't I manage my podcast there too? And so we're a good fit for that. So I would say that's probably our our single biggest user group is people that want to do that. Interesting.
Josh Tapp 13:27
Yeah. So I was curious about that. Because I do know that there's, you know, there's there's a lot of platforms out there that host but I feel like almost all of them have different on target markets. Yeah, they're kind of directing their efforts in different areas. That's what's really interesting, too, is that I don't really believe in what do people say, like the overcrowded markets or saturation? I'm a huge believer in saturation, because all you have to do is come in and think a little bit differently and you can make a lot of money, doing something different. You're basically copying somebody else's model right? Really I just,
Craig Hewitt 14:02
I'm, yeah, he's that's as opposed as opposed to the inverse of that, which is like I'm creating a new market, which is terrifying. Like, I would never do that. Yeah, I agree, especially if you're able to identify kind of like we did some of the leaders in this space are maybe not adapting to the newest trends. The UX and UI design and user experience of the app is not great, then that's an opportunity. And that's what we saw.
Josh Tapp 14:27
Yeah. That's awesome. Well, hey, you know, we're coming to an end of the interview here. But I want to ask you this, you know, if you had to leave one strategy for for our listeners, you know, if they were trying to monetize and scale their platform, where should they start? What are the first things that they should be doing?
Craig Hewitt 14:47
Yeah, so I think you should start writing content. On day one, like before you start writing code, you should start writing content. And if you look at some of like the biggest examples of this like intercom buffer, Some of like the leaders in the SAS space have an enormous amount of content. If you talk to the founders there, they started writing before they even had a product idea. They just said, like, hey, I want to talk about this space. And so they started talking about this space. You know, HubSpot is another huge example of that. And so like, it's not gonna pay off today, or this year, but it will pay off eventually. And so I think, like, it's just a huge asset, that that you build up, that it's free at some point, you know, like, you don't have to pay to acquire customers if you have good content. So that would be the one thing and just like be really patient there. And I think the other thing is to like for folks never to get too far away from their customers. We have an open call to book time on my calendar, in our onboarding sequence. And I have a dozen calls with customers every week. And it's great, it's great. And they they I hear I hear the craziest things, you know, like I hear the most Strange and, and unique problems that people are having that I never would have thought of because I think of podcasting through like a single lens, which is my experience. And we have other people on our team that that podcast in a different way or for that reason. But you know, we're only six people. And so we're only six sets of experiences. And so these conversations I have with customers, like almost every day is really great for keeping me grounded to what people need right now. And I think it's informing a lot of our product decisions and direction. And so I would encourage people, especially developers, not to not to get too far away from that.
Josh Tapp 16:36
I love that. The customer feedback is what helps you to grow and make your platform succeeds. That's really cool. I didn't know you did that. And that's a really awesome strategy and you don't ever find yourself being overwhelmed with calls or anything.
Craig Hewitt 16:51
No, I mean, I, I don't know what's more important than talking to customers. You know, like they customers are a business and as Well as I'm connected as good as I can be connected to them, the better off we'll be.
Josh Tapp 17:05
That's awesome. Well, I could ask you questions all day about your content strategy and things that you're doing. But yeah, we've we've, but I do really appreciate that you're able to come on today and talk about that because I know a lot of our listeners look in the SAS space at companies like yours that have seen some success and really started to gain some traction and they say, you know, what did you do differently? And so I do appreciate that you came into that so Craig, is there anywhere that people can connect with you and get involved Castillo's?
Craig Hewitt 17:33
Yeah, absolutely. So just cast those comm to check out you know, our platform there. And then if folks want to connect with me on twitter on the Craig Hewitt or you can search for me on LinkedIn. Either way, it's fun. Yep. The Craig Hewitt,
Unknown Speaker 17:46
I love it. The one and only
Craig Hewitt 17:48
game I came to the game a little later. Yes.
Unknown Speaker 17:53
I love that, Greg. Well, Thanks a ton for coming on the show today, man.
Craig Hewitt 17:56
My pleasure. Thanks, Josh.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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