Ajay Agarwal, managing director and leader of Bain Capital Ventures in the Bay Area, wrote a great article you can find at VentureBeat that had me thinking hard about WriterAccess, and our dream to one day to become the King of Content Outsourcing.
He points to a number of SaaS models that have become a “system of record” (SOR) which he defines as software that serves as the backbone for a particular business process, or “required purchase” as he notes.
His SOR examples are all billion dollar giants, including SAP for manufacturing, Salesforce for sales, Intuit for finance and more. He poses seven questions to find out whether you’re on track to building a system of record.
Although we’re currently lacking the billions, I thought it might be interesting and healthy to answer his seven questions, and make the case for WriterAccess to someday be viewed as a System of Record.
1. Does your software run a mission-critical business process?
Companies know how critical content is to marketing and the buy-sell process. They understand that “sales” in today’s market involves developing and publishing information customers want and need, not pushing advertising and promotions out to the masses. They need consistent, high quality content that speaks to their audience and delivers the ROI they demand for their investment.
The WriterAccess cloud-based platform connects 20,000 customers with 14,000 US-based writers, editors and content strategists, all screened, vetted professionals. Customers can also now access more than 1,000 translators living worldwide. Our software offers access to these liberated professionals that all work in the cloud, delivering on content goals required for success.
2. Does your software store proprietary business data?
You don’t typically think of staffing as a data-intense industry. Until now. Our search results are powered by algorithms that help customers pinpoint the perfect match for a
We test and score all new candidates, assigning an initial star rating that dictates the price they can charge and quality of work you can expect. All the work created by writers is rated “Met Expectations, Below Expectations or Exceeded Expectations.” That data is used for star-rating assessment along with other criteria such as the number of revision requests, dropped orders, plagiarism detection, repeat business, customer retention and more. All this data makes its way to a writer’s profile, offering full transparency on performance that helps customers find the perfect writer for a project.
We also store the content performance for customers, including traffic, search engine rankings and clicks on content offering attribution analysis. Oh, and all this is free, powered by Google Analytics, Bit.ly and SpyFu software fully integrated in the WriterAccess platform we power up for our customers.
3. Do large portions of the employee population interact with your software on a daily or weekly basis?
Our software is designed for content strategists, editors and content marketers to log on daily to keep the orders going and content flowing to readers, customers and fans. The software makes it easy to find talent, place orders, approve content and manage the workflow including one-click publishing to WordPress, HubSpot, Facebook, Twitter and more.
Our freelance workforce also logs on daily, creating original content, supporting customer messages and revision requests.
We’re also building an ecosystem of freelance content strategists that use our cloud-based platform to manage their own customers and report on the performance those customers demand for their investment.
4. Is your company the system of truth? Do the outputs from your solution — your reports or insights — form the foundation for important business decisions?
I just love this question. My past study in philosophy at Connecticut College and economics at the London School of Economics collides with my current focus on the customer experience, organic business growth and product development.
The purpose of our software is to access professional writers that deliver quality content. The moment of truth happens when a) the content exceeds customer’s expectations, b) customers come back for more and c) customers refer us to other customers. In this industry, all that MUST happen for one player to surface as the true system of truth that earns the SOR.
Several signals suggest WriterAccess might claim the system of truth and SOR trophy. For starters, we zoomed from zero to 20,000 customers organically, without invested capital or VC funding. That simply can’t happen without a, b and c above.
5. Does your software codify solutions that are “inside the heads of human beings?”
Many of our customers have a hard time transforming their ideas into content assets that turn browsers into believers, and believers into buyers. We help that transformation, in creative ways. For example, customers can fill out a creative brief that helps identify the wants and needs of the target audience and tone and style required for the project. Customers can also record voice messages with an order, or host a conference call for bigger projects that require some back and forth.
Some customers don’t know what they want until they see it. We address this challenge by hosting a Writing Style Contest with three writers, and the customer offers feedback on the first drafts and then picks the winner. This is just one of many examples of how we try and get “inside the head” of our customers.
6. Does your software “learn” and improve over time?
By tracking the performance of every writer and every order that moves through the pipeline, we’re able to pinpoint problems and improve the chances for success with every search result by a customer. Writers who don’t perform consistently are removed from the platform. Customers that reject content repeatedly are called for solutions that vary from order instructions, writer selection or project complexity.
Learning from customers’ experience with our software is also critical for success and something we’ve focused on from day one. Each of our technology upgrades involves careful review of help desk tickets and data analysis of the customer experience using the software.
7. Does your solution have negligible “gross” churn rates?
WriterAccess is really a PaaS and not a SaaS model. Our platform is free to use; customers pay for content orders however, and that payment activity defines our goals. Churn occurs when customers stop making deposits and placing orders.
Based on our growth vs the competition, I’d say our churn rates are much better in comparison, but that’s difficult to measure and analyze. For example, Scripted has raised an estimated $20 million in VC funding, and reported $2.4 million in revenue with 40 employees in 2015, making the INC 5000 list. That same year we reported $4.4 million in revenue with 10 employees, also making the INC 5000 list.
When customers sign up for Self Service in our platform, we experience higher churn rates for a variety of reasons. When customers sign up for Plus Service, the churn is much lower due to the fact we’re helping them with writer recommendations, first order modifications, style and tone testing, and platform setup that’s customized around their needs. Plus Service decreases churn and fosters repeat business.
What do you think: Did we qualify for a System of Record trophy?
Ajay’s article asks some great questions, that’s for sure. But many critical components to business domination might surface in a discussion:
— Does the culture of the company attract the remarkable employees to achieve SOR?
— Do you have individual, department and company goals with accountability, recognition and rewards for all?
— Do you have KPI’s in place for growth measurement and adjustment if needed?
Business leadership starts with an attitude that business betterment needs to happen all the time. [Click to tweet] And that goes way beyond the software solution.
At WriterAccess, we just rolled out a strategic plan, process plan and bonus rewards program for all employees. The customer experience is the center of our business model, and all employees are in the midst of creating a book together on Customer WOW. Sure, our software will be upgraded all the time. But the business needs upgrading too, all the time!
WriterAccess Founder and CEO Byron White is a serial entrepreneur, with a track record of proven success a mile long. He’s also a published author, popular speaker, content marketing revolutionary and great storyteller.