Scaling Your Startup Business To Success With Jonathan Zacks
When you want to scale your startup, you need to market it correctly. You want to make sure you’re solving a problem, especially if your product is some kind of software. This is what Jonathan Zacks did with GoReminders. He saw that people were missing their appointments, and so much money was being wasted on this. So, he started work on a solution. Join Mitch Russo as he talks with Jonathan about how he scaled up GoReminders. Discover how he marketed it on social media. Find out how he is building up his business by just focusing on it, no matter his end goal. Listen to his startup story and get inspired to grow one yourself!
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Scaling Your Startup Business To Success With Jonathan Zacks
Welcome to this moment in time when you get to chill out, tune in, and extract wisdom you could use to grow your business with Your First Thousand Clients. I have something special for all my coaches in the audience. I want to tell you a story. In 2018, my coaching business was exploding. My clients were winning, and my time was all fully booked, but I had a problem. I was wasting more time on pre and post-session admin than I realized.
At the end of the week, it amounted to over four hours on preparing, reviewing, sending, finding, and updating client homework. I knew there had to be a better way. I searched for a coaching session management software and found lots of it. Nothing was easy to use, inexpensive, or easy to learn in under 30 minutes.
I decided to build my own, and I did. I released Clientfol.io in 2021, and it solved all my problems. Now my clients get their own dashboard to see their homework, fill in their accountability questions, and enter their weekly goal-tracking stats at their leisure. You can use it, too. Go to Clientfol.io, and give it a try for just $1.
Now, onto our guest and his incredible story. He started out posting flyers around town to help neighbors with their computers. He started getting more and more clients until he built a fully sustainable company, which evolved into a full-fledged consulting firm. While running that company, he had a consistent problem and decided it was so big a problem, he needed to start a new company called GoReminders, and he’s here to tell us how and why he did it. Welcome, Jonathan Zachs, to the show.
Thanks, Mitch. I appreciate you having me.
My pleasure, Jonathan. Tell us how this all gets started for you.
Do you want me to get started at the very beginning of my career?
In the intro, it said that you ran this company for fifteen years.
Someone has a successful company. Generally, they don’t abandon it. They typically sell it or scale it. Tell us that story.
As you mentioned, I started putting up signs around town. The reason I had started putting up signs around town rather than getting a job at another company was because I graduated college right after the dotcom bubble head burst. All through my college career, it was like, “I’m going to get a fancy job. I’m a Computer Science major. I don’t need to be a rockstar programmer. I just need to have these basic skills.” Now, if you want to get a job at a fancy tech company, you actually have to be a hardcore engineer, and I was not that.
What I was really good at, as a hobby, was helping people fix their computers, showing them how to use their computers, translating from tech to human, and helping non-tech-savvy people figure out how to use technology. That has been a consistent theme in all my business career since then. It’s focusing on convenience, ease of use, and technology. How can I make some technology easy for the average person to be able to use?
The job prospects were minimal, so I started putting up signs around town, grew that business, knew a consulting firm. Somewhere along that path, I got an itch to build a product to build a software company. Not only one. I tried several. GoReminders is the one that has been successful. It started as a tiny side project. I knew very well the pain of no-show appointments. My friend, who’s now a cofounder, had an appointment that he got to call for a week after saying, “Your checkup at this eye hospital was supposed to happen last week.” It was one year after your procedure.
It was mind-boggling how much time and money must have been wasted because they just didn’t have any automated system that could remind people beforehand. They had someone manually calling people who didn’t show up. It seemed like such a huge problem in terms of revenue and time savings that we could solve. I had a ton of experience personally with no-shows. I’m going to clients, and it would always be mixed feelings. “I get a free hour now. I get to eat lunch now because there was a no-show.”
Once I added up the revenue and whatnot, it was a lot, 10%, 20%. Even that, can you imagine your business being that much more efficient and making that much more revenue and having that much extra time? Even a lot of businesses have way higher no-show rates. That’s how we got to this. It started out as a tiny side project, and now it is a full-fledged company and going well. I still do have my other company. I run both of those companies.
Let me ask you a question because I think this will help differentiate who you are and what you do. We all know that there are companies like Calendly that you sign up and people can book appointments with you on your calendar through that software. It’s probably $10 or $12 a month. I don’t use it, so I’m not entirely sure. Why isn’t that sufficient? Why do we need a product like you’ve created? Obviously, people are buying it and subscribing to it every month. We know it’s needed, but why?
One thing is that a lot of those software starts at $10 to $15 a month, but it scales in ways that don’t necessarily scale with someone’s business. With Calendly, if you need multiple event types, or if you need multiple team members or things that may or may not equate to value. Our pricing basically goes on appointments per month. We’re basically losing out on somebody.
There are some businesses that are very low volume, but they have a lot of money per appointment. Could we be making more money on those customers? Probably. Essentially, if you have 300 appointments a month, usually you’re able to pay more than someone who has 50 appointments a month. It’s not perfect, but that’s sort of how we go. It’s based on the volume of appointments which we think makes the most sense.
Our praising is super simple. It just scales that there is a starter plan, which has very low volume and very limited features to sort of get your feet wet. Other than that, our main plan is just the pricing goes up as you grow your business. The main difference between something like Calendly is that it is really built for people who are tech-savvy, often in the tech world.
The goal of Calendly is if you are having trouble wasting time or finding time to book an appointment, Calendly works really well. Calendly, Chili Piper, there are a bunch of applications that are specifically meant for one on one, “I want to get an appointment with this person.” Rather than emailing back and forth, let’s just share this booking form and try to find a common time.
Our software has online booking functionality but comes at it from a different angle. We are originally and still focused on businesses that have appointments, and their customers are able to book appointments. Often, the businesses that use us want to control their own calendar and not let their customers book their appointments, but they have problems getting their customers to show up. People are forgetful. There are a million reasons for no-shows.
How can we make sure that these valuable appointments actually happen after they’re booked? We have the booking functionality, but it’s not our main focus. We have a lot of functionality to get people to show up that Calendly, Acuity and these others don’t have. For example, if someone can’t show up, you want to know as soon as possible and you want to be able to fill that slot.
With our software, when our text reminder gets sent out, anyone can reply, the customer or the client can reply back saying, “I need to cancel that.” With some of those other competitors like Calendly and Acuity, you can’t actually get those responses. Some of them send an error to the client saying, “Your response didn’t go through.” Others, it just vanishes. It seems like it went through, which is the worst because then the client thinks they notified but never heard.
If that happens three days before an appointment, they have three days to fill it. They find out the person didn’t show up, and the person’s like, “Well, I told you.” We have a lot of functionality that those scheduling platforms don’t have that are really for making sure that avenue between the client and the business for communicating is fully open all the time.
You can send different messages at different time. You can say, “I only want to ask for confirmation three days before, but I don’t want to ask for confirmation in my hour before reminder because I don’t want to give them an out.” You can do a lot of things like that. We have two-way texting in our interface. That’s another feature that a lot of those don’t have.
Let’s go deeper here. It sounds like it’s a great product. I hope anyone reading might want to give it a shot and try it out. Here’s the part that I really want to understand better. We all run businesses. Everyone reading this show has a business of one sort or another. The real question is, how much business are they losing by not having a reminder system?
What I am really interested in is, have you ever done a white paper or a study on exactly the effect of a lost appointment is on a company? You might say if you miss your dentist’s appointment, you’re going to reschedule. You may not like that you have to wait seven more weeks to get there, but you don’t really lose the business. Has that been something you’ve ever talked about? Have you done any research in this area?
There’s a lot of anecdotal research that we’ve done, and there are studies out there that talk about how much. It’s six times ROI. There’s a lot of data out there that makes it a no-brainer. I can tell you some numbers that we have. I can also tell you anecdotally. You bring up dentists. I had to miss my dentist because I was sick months ago, and I still haven’t rescheduled. I’m busy. I really want to get there.
That happens all the time for businesses, and the magnitude that happens is huge. I missed it. I told them I couldn’t get there ahead of time. It wasn’t like I just missed it, but at that point, they were scheduling so far out. For all these reasons, it’s so important to get people to reschedule right then and be in communication with them. That was an example.
I couldn’t actually text. I had to call them to let them know. I wasn’t able to look at my calendar right then. If they had a texting avenue, I probably would’ve gotten it rescheduled. In terms of the dollar amount, I have one example that comes to mind of a case study that I’ve done with a customer. I’m on the call with them. I did a calculation.
They’re an autobody shop. They were like, “Before we used GoReminders, we’d have this many people line up, and they wouldn’t have time slots, and then they’d peel off after an hour of waiting because we couldn’t get to them, and then they never come back. It probably happened this many car appointments a week.” We ended up calculating that conservatively we’re getting them an additional $1,800 a week of revenue from our service that costs a lot less than that.
They were so happy to pay for it, and they also talked about the ease of use. They’re in Puerto Rico. He’s like, “My receptionist doesn’t speak a word of English. I set her up. I showed her for ten minutes. She’s been using it on her own for a year. Loves it. So easy.” Our interface is all in English. It was so easy that she doesn’t even need to know the language to fully use our software. They saved $10,000 or $8,000 a month in revenue recovered that they were just living without. They were like, “We didn’t know. We’re doing business, but it’s so much more efficient.”
Let’s switch gears here. Before we do, I just want to remind the readers that we are talking to Jonathan Zachs. He is the Founder and CEO of GoReminders. You, in fact, started this business with zero subscribers. You spent some money to build some code, and you had an MVP, minimum viable product, as we all do when we start out. How did you start getting customers? What worked and what didn’t?
The first customers we got were from Facebook ads. They were pretty straightforward ads that were targeted at people in industries that we thought might be relevant. It was just tugging on the emotion and the pain of someone not showing up. It was directly related to the problem that we’re solving. Are you waiting around for a no-show? Did another point person cancel last minute and you can’t fill it?
It was ads, I would say, that have been a lot of our success, especially in the beginning. How direct can we be? Could we reach a broader audience by being more roundabout and talking about growing your business? Maybe. Certainly, things we’ve tried since then. In the beginning, what really worked was finding people who had this problem, who were like, “Yes, this is the pain. You’ll solve it? Great.”
We were not talking about our software and the features. Our website was like 1, 2, 3, here are the steps. You enter the appointment, client gets reminded, client shows up. Keeping it super simple in terms of how we solve it, that worked to get people to use our software. At first, we actually tried like, “We’re so smart. We will require a credit card for anyone to try our software.”Don't market the features or software of your product. Market to people who have a problem that you can solve. Click To Tweet
That didn’t work at all. You had no name recognition. You could search Google for us, nothing came up. No one gave us their credit card, and we weren’t spending a ton of money to get trials, but people would get to the second spot of the signup form, and nothing would happen. We’re like, “We need to get people using it. Let’s have a free plan.” That worked to get people to use it. It did not work to get people to pay us.
We relatively quickly switched to a free trial model, and that really is how we grew through the years. “You can try it for free. You don’t have to enter your credit card.” Now, we’re experimenting with some other avenues because we have a 30-day money-back guarantee, so we do mostly require credit card now, but we basically only want customers for who we can solve their problems. We’re not trying to focus on locking people in. If it’s not a good value for them, so be it. No problem. With that mindset, it really helps us focus on our core customers whose problems we can solve. Get them to try the software, see the value, and pay us.
This sounds obvious in a way, but the very first thing anyone needs to do when they start selling something is, as my friend Marcus A. Smith likes to say, “Find the blood-spurting problem.” Not an annoyance, not a casual issue, not a maybe that could have worked better, but a blood-spurting problem. One that absolutely stops you cold.
When I first started building the Clientfol.io software, which you read about at the beginning of the show, Clientfol.io solved an enormous problem for me. My blood-spurting problem was wasting time. I was wasting way too much time on session management, but there were things about that message by itself did not appeal to others. Others preferred the message of “Make more money.” If you’re reading this, it’s important to know not what’s important to you but what’s important to the client. It sounds like, over the years, you did that. You tried Facebook marketing. Where else have you spent money marketing your products?
Google. We paid lots of Google ads. We’ve invested in SEO. Creating pages that talk about our product. Those are the big ones. Facebook ads, which we do not use anymore. They’ve gotten too expensive for us and hasn’t been useful. Google ads and Facebook ads are so good for proving out a model. It’s like, can I get people to use our product? Can I get people to pay for it?Google and Facebook ads are a good way to check if you can get people to use your product. Click To Tweet
If the question is, “Can I do it profitably?” totally separate question because, at the beginning, you’re not going to be great at running your ads. If you can at least get people to pay for it and use it, even if it’s not profitable, it’s like, “I have a nugget of something.” On the other hand, it’s really good for proving that you can’t. If we advertise something and we can’t get anyone, something needs to change. You shouldn’t keep running more ads because it’s not working.
This is what we all go through when we start a company. We start by trying to sell, which is great. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You refine your message to make sure you’re really hitting the right customer with the right problem. Secondarily, where do these people live? Do they live on Facebook? Do they live on LinkedIn? Do they live on Google? I got to tell you, our results are not that much different. We do advertise on Facebook as well. Not a lot, but we advertise enough. It’s mediocre at best. We’re about to do something quite radical for me. We’re about to go into business with the Chinese government and advertise on TikTok.
We’re exploring TikTok as well a little bit. We’re thinking about that.
Everybody’s a genius in some small area of the world. We found this guy who claims to be a TikTok genius and he’s had other clients like we are. Business applications. I’ll let you know if it works.
Let me know if it works because I’d love to talk to them.
I certainly will. It’s always searching for that next thing. The real question here is now, you’re creating a company and your company, I assume, has a small staff. Maybe a few full-time people, maybe a few contractors and part-timers, etc. What is the bigger picture here? Do you want to build this thing to grow it to a certain size and then find someone to hand you a big bucket of money? Did you buy it to enter an industry that you later can further immerse yourself in with other products, or maybe purchase your competitors or scale in different ways? What was the reason that you went into this?
All of those are thoughts that have crossed our minds and we considered. I would say we picked things that we felt like we could build a solution for, market a solution, and figure out the customers, and then we took it from there, and it snowballed. When you’re at this point, would I pick this industry right now? No, I wouldn’t build this software now. That’s good for me because we’re established.
On the other hand, it’s competitive. Competitive means there’s a market for it. We don’t have to educate people that this is necessarily a problem for a good segment of the population. They’re already having the problem. They think there’s a solution. They’re looking for solutions. There are plenty of people who are also not aware of that as huge a problem as it is for their business. At least there’s a market of people really looking for it.When it's competitive, that means there's a market for it. Click To Tweet
That is the main aspect of it. In terms of the end goal, we don’t have a definitive end goal, my cofounder and I. What I’ve learned over the years in terms of the way I see it is essentially, regardless of the end goal, pretty much the steps are the same. Build the company unless it’s a dramatically different end goal. For example, if my end goal was fundraising. We’re self-funded. If it was a venture capital fundraising, it would be like, when are we going to do that?
If we’re going to do that next year, then yes, now our actions need to change. If it’s like, “Maybe we’ll raise money in a few years,” this year isn’t really going to change. What has to happen this year is I need to keep building a solid business, getting customers, improve our product, keep up customer support, and all these things that are about running a good business.
Similarly, if I were trying to sell a business, am I trying to sell the business in the next six months? Now, my action plan has to be related to selling the business. If not, if my goal is in 3 to 5 years, I want it to either be so profitable or I want to be able to sell it, the steps right now are pretty much the same. Keep building a solid business and keep growing it as much as I can because that’s the way to get to being a profitable business. That’s the way to get to being a business that I could sell.
We’re all in that same spot. One of the things that I do when I advise my coaching clients is that I always ask them to constantly think about who the absolute best buyer would be. When I mean best buyer, I mean the person who would pay the most and needs what you have. That is the way I think about it.
I think about that all the time. I already know who should buy my company 3 or 5 years from now. For that reason, I am now focused on making sure that as my product evolves, there is a natural flow to that company’s products as well. That would be a way to start scaling the company from a different perspective. It’s the same advice that I give our readers and my own clients too.
Jonathan, this has been fascinating. I’d love to speak to another SaaS company owner all the time. In this case, readers, I hope you got a lot out of this, too. You know the questions, Jonathan. You saw them in advance. That’s a hint, by the way. I don’t always show the questions in advance, but I did this time. Here’s the question. It’s one of my favorites. Who, in all of space and time, would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch, or an intense conversation with?
I think that would be Harry Houdini, the magician.
Very original. No one said Harry Houdini. I love that. Remember, after 300-plus interviews, you get better. How many times do people talk about all the famous people? That’s a good one. Tell me why.
He was such a unique character. I did some reports on him. I was really into magic, doing magic tricks and whatnot as I was a kid. My dad was into it and still into it. It was a hobby. I was always just so intrigued by he was a super hard worker. His death, if I recall correctly from my sixth-grade report, was he used to do this trick where he had worked out his stomach muscles and his ab muscles so much that anyone could punch him and he would be fine.
He had to be prepared and someone, basically a fan or whatever, sucker punched him randomly, and he was a hard worker. He’s like, “I’m fine,” and went on working, went on with his tour, and died because of that. In some ways, I’m like, “Dude, take a break. You’re so successful. Go to a doctor.” I’ve also read some stuff about how he had told his spouse and family.
I’d heard similar things about Timothy Leary when he was dying that he had said, “Listen, if there’s an afterlife, I’m going to find a way to communicate with you.” I’m doing it if it’s happening. Just that concept of being so scientific about it. I am going to experiment on myself in a way. He’s just a unique personality.
What you brought up was what I was about to tell you. I was going to say, if you ever get to have this conversation with him, please ask him why he never came back. He was so good at what he did. I’m going to say what I think happened. When he dies, all of a sudden, he realizes, “You know what, that was all a game. That’s not real, anyway.”
He’s like, “It was all a game. Let me just let those people play it.”
Exactly, but we don’t know for sure. Someday we will find out one way or the other. Here’s the grand finale, and this is the change the world question. What is it that you’re doing, would like to do that truly has the potential to literally change the world?
I’ve thought about this question so much in my life, and I have no idea. That’s the real answer. I thought I knew it. Every day that I get older, I realize I just get more and more unsure of what to do. I would just say to encourage people to vote. How can we get more people to participate in democracy and whatnot? I get so pessimistic these days about things. In terms of changing the world, I don’t know. On a micro level, just be kind.
You did talk about something that you were going to give away for free as a gift. Do you want to tell us about what you have?
That’s our Appointment Show Up Maximizer Guide. That is our main guide. Basically, with no-shows, there are tons of reasons why people might no-show. It might be an emergency. It might be that they just forgot and they double-booked. It might be that they were ambivalent about the appointment. They might not like you. There might be a bunch of reasons. You can’t solve those reasons.
What you can do is have this crystal ball to look into to be like, ”Who is going to no-show in a few days?” If I need three days to fill an empty slot on my calendar, how can I find out three days ahead of time who is not going to be there? What this guide does is it talks about what to write in your reminder messages, how many reminder messages to send, and how to figure this out for your business.
As I said, it might be three days. You might only need a few hours. Some auto mechanics that we deal with only need a couple of hours. Some salespeople might only need a few hours, but others need a week. How to figure out for your business what schedule to do? How many reminders, how to remind people, what mediums to use? It goes through all that stuff.
You don’t have to use GoReminders for this. You could use another platform, you could do it all manually, but just getting past the hump of, “I’m not reminding people,” or “I might be reminding people and annoying them,” or “I’m worried about annoying them.” This guide basically just goes into all of those aspects. It’s pretty succinct. It has lots of words but not too long. It’s all about how to get people to show up to your appointments.
Jonathan, it’s a pleasure chatting with you. This was a great time. I really enjoyed our time together. If you enjoyed this conversation between Jonathan and I, would you drop me a quick note? Maybe subscribe to the show. Maybe even give us a nice five-star review. That would be so thrilling to me. I can’t tell you. Silly little things like that make me very happy. If you could do that, it would be fantastic and I’d appreciate it. Jonathan, you take care and we will talk again soon.
Great seeing you, Mitch. Thanks for having me.
My pleasure. Talk to you soon.
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