How Privy’s Integrated App Store Strategy Skyrocketed Their Growth
August 24, 2021
Before the team behind Privy discovered the power of an integrated app store distribution strategy, they were relying 100% on outbound—cold calling, cold emailing, webinars, lead nurturing, etc. This approach got them to about $100K in revenue, but it clearly wasn’t scalable.
Everything changed—and growth rocketed—when they pivoted to focus almost exclusively on an integrated app store approach. Today, they see more than 10,000 installs a month through their app store and freemium model.
A big part of their success stems from their ability to understand exactly what customers are looking for, and then meeting them where they are with an experience that removes friction and accelerates the journey to conversion.
Privy founder and CEO, Ben Jabbawy, joined Blake Bartlett on the BUILD Podcast to talk about how the company evolved its distribution model (including supporting elements like tailored app store messaging and a very “human” coaching-based approach to sales) to make it easy for prospects to become customers.
Step 1: Understand the Basic Dynamics of Integrations
Even before app stores, in the days of building OAuth integrations that partners promoted via newsletters and dashboards, integration success depended on creating a mutually beneficial partnership.
Creating integrations for the sake of creating integrations is never a good strategy. Each integration has to deliver shared value to both partners, and—ultimately—the end user. If you want a partner to prioritize your integration, you need to clearly demonstrate what’s in it for them.
For example, an integration between Calendly and Zoom makes complete sense because Calendly exists to schedule meetings, and Zoom exists to host meetings. These two products go together as naturally as peanut butter and jelly.
In Privy’s case, partnering with email service providers (ESPs) makes sense because Privy’s primary purpose is growing email lists by getting more contacts, and ESPs generally base their pricing on the number of contacts on a list. Privy and ESPs are aligned on a shared mission, and the services they offer are intrinsically complementary. An integration benefits everyone involved.
“Shared alignment is what we use to drive partner conversations,” says Ben. “We present our integration and explain how it helps grow contacts to help merchants scale up through the ESPs price tiers. We show prospective partners how it works and share success stories. This approach helps open the door for co-marketing.”
In addition to understanding the basic dynamics, it’s important to remember that no single integration should make or break your whole integration program. It’s a common mistake for a company to build one integration, have it flop, and then assume—based on that isolated experience—that integrations aren’t a viable growth channel.
A more effective approach is to have a lot of different irons in the fire, do AB testing, and run other experiments. Some attempts will fail, some will deliver minor success, and others will hit it out of the park. Like anything else, you need to give integrations a fair shake before making up your mind about their worth.
Step 2: Pick the Right Partners
When assessing possible partners, you want to think like an investor. “I want to know how big the opportunity is,” says Ben. “I’ll head over to builtwith.com, pop in the potential integration vendor name, and see how many businesses are already using their product. For Privy, we know we’re looking for partners who serve 100,000+ small businesses, otherwise, it’s probably not a good fit.”
If the size and reach of the prospective partner is a match, the next thing to assess is their app store—first that they have one, and then how it represents the quality of their partner program. “You’re not looking for a list of integration partners in the footer of their site. You want to know that they have a living, breathing app store,” says Ben. “You need to understand how much of their DNA is built around the third-party app experience. If it’s baked into their core customer experience, that’s a great sign of strong potential.”
The best partners will have both the appropriate reach and a level of sophistication and maturity that allows them to essentially productize their partnerships using an app store marketplace strategy.
Step 3: Craft a Listing that Converts
Your work to shorten time-to-value starts with your app store listing. “When someone searches an app store for something that I offer, I want Privy to show up right away, and I want them to understand instantly—without having to decode a marketing message—that Privy satisfies their intent,” explains Ben.
There are two camps of thought when it comes to app store listings: brand or search. Over the years, Privy has earned enough brand recognition to be able to reach users via branded app store ads. Most companies, however, are better off starting with a search-based strategy that uses highly specific messaging to attract the right users.
The challenge with brand messaging is that it’s usually pretty broad. Privy’s brand message, for example, is about growing sales with email and more for eCommerce stores. That could encompass a lot of different things. Someone in an app store is typically looking for a solution to a very precise challenge. It makes sense that meeting prospects where they are with a message that speaks to their exact need is an incredibly efficient way to connect quickly with the right audience.
Step 4: Drive Traffic to Your Listing
“In some cases, we value traffic on the app store more than we value traffic on privy.com,” says Ben. “For us, search in high-volume app stores is our number one source of traffic.”
Privy’s content—a podcast, blog, even a book—often points people back to the app store, whether that’s on Wix, BigCommerce, or another partner. “We do a ton from a marketing perspective to bring top-of-funnel to us,” Ben says. “But in a lot of cases we just want to flow it back by linking to our app store listings. That’s the product experience we’ve optimized around.”
It all comes back to reducing time-to-value by accelerating the customer journey. This requires removing all the hoops and cutting down the number of steps in the process—in Privy’s case, sending prospects directly to the app store. “If you’re generating traction and momentum within app stores, gravity will dictate that you build a self-serve experience that’s designed and optimized for installing from an app store,” Ben says. “That’s a much better experience than driving them to your own website, which will still require some janky installation down the road.”
Step 5: Convert
Conversion is another area where the Privy strategy is all about meeting users where they are. While Ben acknowledges that product and packaging play a big role in conversion, he’s also a big believer in the power of self-service. “The self-service experience has to be really great,” he says. “Can someone get in, play around, and find that aha moment quickly without having to talk to a human?”
But having an outstanding self-service experience doesn’t keep you from providing complementary human-powered experiences. “We are huge believers in the human touch,” Ben says. “We have a coaching umbrella that spans our sales team, quota-driven reps, support, and onboarding. This gives us the ability to deliver an experience that is an interplay of sales and support on top of self-service. It’s a differentiator that has really helped us grow faster.”
In Ben’s experience, for every ten incoming customers and trial users who have no interest in talking with a real human, there are one or two who really do want to talk with someone. And being able to make that connection in a way that delivers immediate value can make all the difference.
Just remember that there’s a big difference between a Privy “coach” reaching out to help a user make sure they get as much revenue as possible during the trial period and a Privy sales person reaching out to try and book a demo.
Interestingly, Privy reviews often reflect just how much users appreciate the help of Privy’s “coaches.” Users will often mention Privy sales reps by name, assuming they are part of the support or success teams.
Privy, like many other companies—especially those serving small businesses—realizes that user education is a big part of sales success. In general, sales is evolving to become more consultative. The caveat is that you have to actually walk the walk. It’s not enough to do the window dressing of renaming sales reps “customer champions.” Those folks have to actually do the work.
Parting Advice: Just Take Action
“We live in an integrated-everywhere world,” says Ben. “Everyone should be integrated with everyone at this point. It’s what customers expect.”
The key to success is to lead with value and action. There’s no need to spend too much time negotiating the nuances of setting up a partner relationship. The much shorter path to success for everyone involved is to make an up-front investment by getting some of your prospective partner’s users yourself. Deliver value to those people, and then share those stories with the partner company. “If the integration is actually working to drive customer value for the shared audience, that’s how you’re going to get a real partnership going with that app store ecosystem,” says Ben.
For more on this topic, tune into the BUILD podcast episode to hear the whole conversation between Ben and Blake.