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September 8

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Building In Public | How Copy AI Grew To $157,000+ MRR In 10 Months

In October 2020, Paul Yacoubian and Chris Lu launched Copy AI on Twitter.

Within 10 months of building in public, the startup has grown and now boasts of:

  • Having over 250,000 registered users
  • Raising $2.9 million
  • Generating $157,000+ per month

In this post, I want to show you exactly what the Copy AI building in public playbook looks like.

You’ll also learn how to apply the same strategy to grow your SaaS business.

That’s not all…

I’ll share with you what the Copy AI team is doing right now to take this strategy to the next level.

Plus marketing strategies they can implement to 10X their growth moving forward.

Let’s get started…

What does it mean to “Build in Public”?

Building in public, as the name implies, means building your product (especially SaaS) in public.

That way, you can show your audience exactly:

  • What you’re working on
  • The mistakes you’ve made and are still making
  • The wins or successes you’ve achieved
  • The challenges you’ve encountered
  • And so on.

Simply put…

By building in public, your audience will be active participants in your entrepreneurial journey.

Most entrepreneurs don’t build in public because they aren’t comfortable sharing their business numbers, and don’t want to be judged by their audience.

That said, here are some benefits you stand to gain by building in public.

One, when you build in public you get feedback from your audience early and on the spot.

That way, you can nail product-market fit (PMF) fast and know exactly how to improve your product to serve them better.

Two, by building in public, you’re giving your audience a sense of belonging.

This makes them invested in your product, tell you how to make it better, and even spread the word about it.

Three, when you build in public, you’re giving your audience a sneak peek into what they should expect from your product. This will make them excited about it.

In most cases, you can get paying customers for your product even before you launch it.

Companies that have used the build in public strategy include Buffer, ProductHunt, Gumroad, SuperHuman, etc.

Is Building a Product in Public Really a Thing?

The short answer is YES.

In fact, this was the go-to-market strategy for Copy AI, according to its co-founder Chris Lu.

Chris Lu Forbes Interview

As you can see, their goal for building in public was to:

  • Generate inbound interest for their SaaS
  • Inspire other entrepreneurs to do the same.

So, are they inspiring other entrepreneurs to do the same?

Obviously, yes.

On Twitter, there’s a hashtag “#buildinpublic”, and a lot of entrepreneurs now follow the same GTM strategy.

To validate that they’re actually generating inbound interest through this strategy, I checked Similar Web.

And guess what?

In the last 3 months, they got around 729,669 monthly visits on average.

And most of the people who visit their website didn’t find them on Google.

Rather, they visited the website directly.

While it’s possible that these are existing users of the software. We can’t rule out the fact that these are people who got to know about them from building in public.

The point is…

Building in public helped Copy AI to get hundreds of thousands of people to show interest in their software every single month.

Copy AI’s Similar Web Traffic Estimates

Before I proceed with the specifics of what they did and are still doing to make this happen, let me share a story with you.

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post for Moz about the emerging technologies in SEO and their applications.

And Copy AI was one of the tools I mentioned and reviewed.

This I’m sure got them a do-follow backlink and some exposure from Moz.

Copy AI mention on Moz

Did I have any prior relationship with them before doing so?

No.

However, I heard about their tool on Twitter, which prompted me to check it out.

And after trying it out, I was quite impressed with it.

This was why I mentioned them in the piece and not their competitors.

Building in Public: The Copy AI Playbook You Can Learn From

In recent times, one of the companies that have excelled at building in public is Copy AI. Here is what their playbook looks like, plus what you can learn from it and how you can implement it to grow your SaaS business.

Showing transparency in public

Paul, who is the face of the company is completely transparent about happenings in the business.

Whenever they reach a new milestone, he announces it on Twitter.

Take for instance, when they hit $30k MRR after 3 months, he tweeted about it.

Copy AI reaching $30k MRR

And recently, he started sharing monthly updates about the company with more information.

Here is an example from July…

Copy AI monthly updates for July 2021

What does this show?

To build in public, you must be comfortable with being transparent with your audience.

That’ll build more trust and lead to more people telling others about you.

Giving back to the community

Another strategy that has worked well for Copy AI, is their focus on giving back to the community.

In the early days, they launched free weekend access to the software for entrepreneurs.

Copy AI free weekend access

So, if you’re a founder launching a new project, you can use the tool over the weekend to make that happen.

This is strategic I must say.

Of course, some of these founders who use the tool for free won’t convert to paying customers right away.

Some of them will.

And the best part…

They’ll spread the word about the software to other founders and entrepreneurs they know.

Aside from giving back to their audience on Twitter, they also give students and non-profits free access to their tools.

For example, in the monthly update for April, Paul mentioned that they gave about 110 non-profit organizations free access to the tool.

Copy AI free access to non-profits

That’s amazing, isn’t it?

The lesson here is…

Building in public is about building and getting a lot of goodwill from people.

And one of the best ways to make that happen is to also give back to them.

Getting feedback from the community

To build a successful SaaS company that stands the test of time, be open to getting feedback and criticism from users.

This is an area that the Copy AI team has excelled in, in the last few months.

Paul, the company’s co-founder asks for feedback from their users in public.

For example, he runs polls on Twitter to understand what his audience thinks about some of his moves.

Copy AI's Paul running polls on Twitter

As you can see, he’s using the polls to gauge the interest of his Twitter audience.

Here is another example, where he’s asking Copy AI users to reach out via DM with negative feedback about the tool, and stand a chance to win $19.

Paul asking for negative feedback about Copy AI

So, what can you learn from this?

When building in public, you should be ready to accept feedback from your audience and users.

That way, you know exactly what they want from you and areas to improve on.

Hiring in public

Hiring is a big challenge for startup founders.

This is because the process takes time, energy, and resources.

What if hiring could be much easier than you thought?

How?

By working with people who are already doing what you want to hire them for in public.

This is how Paul and his team hired the company’s first 3 employees on Twitter.

Copy AI meeting the first 3 hires on Twitter

And they’ve gone ahead to hire more and more people by building in public.

This is great because it helps them find the right people who’ll fit the company’s culture.

That way, they can achieve their goals faster.

For example, Paul met the first hire of Copy AI, Blake Emal, who is now their CMO on Twitter.

This was after exchanging DMs on the platform a month before then.

Copy AI's Blake and Paul’s Twitter DM exchange

Blake is indeed a great addition to the team and has helped to grow the company marketing-wise.

The point here is…

If you build in public, you stand a better chance of meeting amazing people who might invest in your company or work for you.

Building in Public to The Next Level: How Copy AI Does It

Do you know that Copy AI doesn’t have a blog on its website, as at the time of writing this post?

Yet, they were able to grow their SaaS to $157,000+ MRR in 10 months.

Now you may be wondering…

Is building in public the best way to grow a SaaS business in 2021?

Well, I’ll answer that shortly.

But before then, here are two (2) things the Copy AI team is doing right now to take their GTM strategy to the next level.

1. Collaborating with niche experts

Some months ago, Copy AI organized a webinar with Pat Flynn, the founder of Smart Passive Income (SPI), on growing a personal brand.

Copy AI’s webinar with Pat Flynn

Here’s why this makes sense.

One, Pat is an influencer with a huge following on social media and his blog.

Two, most of the people in his audience are looking to build and grow an online business.

So, collaborating with him for a webinar would definitely help Copy AI reach its target audience.

Aside from the webinar, they created a special offer for fans of SPI.

Copy AI special offer for SPI fans

As you can see…

If you sign up through SPI, you’ll get a 40% discount for the first year. Plus a 30-day free trial instead of the 7-day free trial on their website.

While I don’t have insider information, I believe that this strategy will help them convert more people from SPI’s audience into customers.

Another niche expert that Copy AI has collaborated with to take their business to the next level is Jacob Mcmillen.

In case you don’t know him, Jacob is a full-time copywriter and marketer. He has a blog and newsletter where he shares insights about copywriting and freelancing with his audience.

So, what’s up with their collaboration with Jacob?

Well, they offered to sponsor Jacob’s podcast series Write Bites for one year.

The collaboration which started around March 2021, is currently in its sixth month.

Copy AI sponsors Write Bites

So, Jacob mentions Copy AI as the sponsor of the series in his newsletter, podcast, and YouTube video.

Here’s what that looks like in one of his emails.

Jacob mentioning Copy AI as sponsors

This helps more people in Jacob’s audience – writers, copywriters, content marketers, and freelancers to know about Copy AI every single week and possibly try it out.

What does this mean for you as a SaaS business?

Collaborating with experts in your niche can help you reach your target audience faster.

You can do this through an affiliate partnership, or by sponsoring their podcasts newsletters, etc.

2. Building a Facebook community

Another strategy that has helped Copy AI to take their business to the next level is building a community for their SaaS product.

In their case, they chose to do so on Facebook, and it seems to be paying off for them.

Since launching in March 2021, there are over 4,000 members in the community as we speak.

Copy AI Facebook group

While it’s possible that not everyone in the group is a customer of Copy AI.

It’s a great way for people to:

  • Talk about their experiences with the software
  • Interact with fellow users, and
  • Get support from the Copy AI team.

If you’re a SaaS founder reading this, you should start thinking of ways to build a community for your customers and prospects.

This could be on Facebook, Slack, Discord, Circle, and so on.

Doing this alone will have a huge impact on your business growth and brand’s positioning.

4 Ways To 10X The Growth From Building In Public

Building in public is a great way to get people talking about your SaaS product and even acquire early users as well.

That said, there’s a limit to the results you can get for your SaaS company by focusing only on building in public.

Here is why…

When building in public, you’re most likely going to choose a single platform where your target audience hangs out.

This could be via a newsletter, Facebook group, Slack community, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so on.

In the case of Copy AI, they chose Twitter (which seems to work perfectly well for them).

But here’s the problem.

There are tons of people outside Twitter that would find Copy AI amazing and sign up for it as well.

But if they aren’t aware of the product, there’s no way they would do that.

Say, for instance, someone who spends time on Reddit to interact and network with people.

Chances are that they might not know about your SaaS product if you focus on one channel alone by building in public.

To 10X your growth as a SaaS business, you need to attract more prospects and convert them into user signups and paying customers.

If you’re currently building your SaaS in public or planning to do so, here are some things you should do to 10X your growth.

While it was written with Copy AI in mind, you can as well learn from it and implement it for your SaaS product.

1. Build topical authority to become the industry leader

The GPT-3 industry is still in its early days, even though there are hundreds of AI copywriting software out there.

Right now, there isn’t an identifiable industry leader in the space. Which presents a huge opportunity for Copy AI.

The reason is simple…

The AI writing industry is growing tremendously, and will most likely continue to be so.

While it might take time for most people to adapt to it, it’ll happen sooner than later.

Any software in this niche that builds topical authority with superior content marketing, will benefit from it in the long run.

And guess what?

Once you become the industry leader through the first-mover advantage it’ll be difficult to outrank or compete with you.

Take for example, in the SEO industry, Moz is considered as the industry leader.

And they seem to be ranking high on the SERPs for any term related to SEO.

Do you know why?

They established topical authority for SEO. And Google believes that they deserve that spot.

Of course, they didn’t get there by chance. They invested heavily in creating content assets about SEO.

Here are some examples:

This huge investment to establish topical authority has paid off for them. This is exactly what you should do for your SaaS brand to get amazing results as well.

Another example of establishing topical authority is Backlinko’s content marketing hub and SEO marketing hub.

2. Create educational and product-led content to show readers how the software works

As I mentioned earlier, Copy AI does not have a blog on its website.

While building in public has gotten them to a 6-figure MRR, they need to do more if they want to 10X their growth.

One of the things they can do to make this happen is to launch a blog.

Here is why…

With a blog, they have the potential of reaching millions of people who have never heard of their tool before.

How?

By leveraging product-led content to publish well-researched and SEO-optimized content. That way, they can educate and shows their audience the power of the software.

Of course, they might not get results from it immediately. It’s a worthy investment that’ll pay off in the long run.

By focusing mostly on product-led content, Ahrefs was able to build a blog that attracts over 500,000 visitors every single month.

That’s not all…

They were able to rank for high-intent keywords, which has helped them to grow their ARR to over $50MM.

The best part…

Because Ahrefs focuses on product-led content, they find it easier to convert readers to user signups and paying customers.

This is because they show readers exactly how their product works in the blog posts and guides.

So, if they want to try it out and achieve similar results, they’d sign up for a paid trial for 7 days.

That way, they’re able to educate new prospects about their product and retain existing customers as well.

3. Acquire more users with pain-point content

Pain point content is another strategy that can help Copy AI 10X their growth faster.

Based on my analysis, none of their top competitors are doing it right now. And a lot of SaaS companies underrate it as well.

What do I mean by pain-point content?

It means creating content pieces and pages that solve a specific pain point that keeps your audience awake at night.

Take, for instance, someone who has heard about AI copywriting tools, and doesn’t have an idea of which one to choose. What do you think they’ll do next?

They’ll most likely Google “best AI copywriting tools” or “best AI copywriting software”.

Also…

If someone has read glowing reviews about conversion.ai (one of Copy AI’s competitors) and wants to see if there are other options out there, what do you think they’ll do?

They’ll most likely search Google for “conversion.ai alternatives.” or “conversion.ai competitors”

That’s not all…

If someone wants to do a comparison between Copy AI and Copysmith (one of their competitors), before making a buying decision, what do you think they’ll do?

They’ll most likely perform a Google search for “Copy AI vs Copysmith.”

And on and on

You see…

All these keywords mentioned above address specific pain points that their target audience has.

And if they can target those keywords and create pages for them, it’ll help them acquire more user signups.

In most cases, pain-point keywords have zero to less search volume in SEO tools. So, most companies neglect them and go for high-volume keywords with less search intent.

Creating relevant pain point content for your SaaS business will help you rank higher on Google, generate qualified traffic, and acquire more user signups.

4. Leverage free tools to earn backlinks and organic traffic

The Shopify business name generator free tool:

  • Has acquired over 21,000 backlinks from 1,900 referring domains
  • Ranks for over 12,000 keywords
  • Brings in over 224,000 organic traffic every single month.

These are figures from SEMrush.

Truth is…

Everybody likes free things.

As a SaaS founder or marketer, you can leverage the power of free to earn backlinks, generate qualified traffic, drive user signups, and acquire paying customers.

Here are some examples:

Hubspot Website Grader

HubSpot was founded in 2006, and they created the free website grader in 2008. 2 years later, the tool graded over 2 million websites.

That was in 2010.

Imagine what the figures would look like in 2021, with the recent upgrades they’ve made to the tool.

According to Ahrefs, the tool has acquired about 2 million backlinks from over 13,000 referring domains.

Coschedule Headline Analyzer

Coschedule was founded in 2013 and has grown tremendously since then.

One of their biggest drivers of growth according to the company’s CEO is the headline analyzer tool.

Aside from helping them acquire backlinks and generate high-quality traffic, it’s also been instrumental in getting new user signups and paying customers.

Other SaaS companies such as Ahrefs and Surfer SEO are also leveraging free tools to get massive results.

This is another content moat that can drive massive growth for Copy AI if used the right way.

To get results from free tools, make sure you build something that people actually need and will find valuable.

Also, it should be related to the core offering of your product, so you can convert the free traffic into user signups and paying customers.

Should you build your SaaS in public?

Now you may be wondering if it makes sense to build your SaaS in public.

Well, it depends on what your business goals are at the moment.

But the fact remains that the advantages of building in public far outweigh the disadvantages.

When you build in public, you’d most likely find people who will become passionate about your product and most likely sign up to become users.

Also, building in public empowers you to spread the word about your SaaS and what it does to your target audience.

Finally, it’s possible to hire like-minded individuals, get investors and free press mentions for your SaaS because you’re building in public.

Truth is…

Building in public seems scary. That said, it can unlock amazing opportunities for your SaaS that you’ve never imagined.

Final Thoughts: After Building In Public, What Next?

Say you’re an early-stage SaaS startup that has established the product-market fit for your product by building in public.

In fact, building in public might have helped you to acquire your first 10 or 100 or even 1000 customers.

Yet, you want to take things a step further and 10X your growth.

That way, you can go from 10 to 100 customers, from 100 to 1000 customers, and even from 1000 to 10,000 customers.

So, what should you do?

Simple. Scale things up beyond building in public.

As a SaaS content marketing agency, this is exactly what we do for our clients.

If you’re currently building your SaaS in public, and want to 10x your growth, we can help you with creating and implementing a SaaS content marketing strategy for your business.

Simply click on this link to schedule a 30 minutes discovery session with our lead content strategist.

You can as well join our newsletter, SaaS Growth Bites, below to receive exclusive insights and tips every Thursday, on the best way to grow a SaaS business using content marketing.


Tags

Building in Public, Copy AI, SaaS content marketing, Startup


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