We Owe 25% Of Our Growth To One Line Of Code
At Y Combinator, back in the heady days of summer 2013, we had this conversation with our designated partner, Kevin Hale:
Kevin Hale: Guys, why the hell are you offering the people the chance to take your “powered by” branding off their status page?
StatusPage.io: Well, once people are paying for the service, we don’t think our branding should be on the page.
KH: Don’t do it.
SP: But we think it will piss people off.
KH: Don’t do it.
SP: Even for our top tier?
KH: DON’T DO IT.
KH: Look, if Desk.com can get away with it, so can you guys.
Kevin was 100% right.
This conversation totally changed the trajectory of our business. It keyed our growth from $5k MRR to $25k MRR and provided a scalable acquisition to grow far, far beyond that. And it all came out of a 5 minute conversation and 1 single line of code.
One Line Of Code
We owe 25% of our growth to that one conversation, and just a single line of code:
That’s not one of the features that we spent months on. It’s not all the work we put into great status page design. All this code does is put a single line of text at the bottom of every status page we serve:
Powered by StatusPage.io
It’s hard to believe, but 25% of our customers have come to us through a “Powered by” link.
This year, 15% of all of the traffic that we receive has come through one of these “Powered by” links. They generate a tremendous amount of traffic, and a long tail that continues to pay off far beyond the tiny amount of time it took to implement.
Some of the customers that have come to us this way are huge accounts like Cisco, Adobe, Contactually, BlazeMeter, Barracuda Networks, Take-Two Interactive, and Chartio.
Big names, major clients.
Even more awesome is that those huge names now serve the same link to all of their customers.
It's not just a powerful acquisition channel, it’s a powerful acquisition channel that scales.
Shouldn’t This Have Resulted in a Customer Revolt?
When we considered taking away the option to remove the “Powered by” link from a status page, we worried that customers would take offense and demand that we add it back. That never happened.
It turns out that customers didn't mind because the “Powered by StatusPage.io” link shows visitors that this page is being hosted externally, outside of their own infrastructure.
For a status page, that’s a positive signal to your customers, because it shows that your status page will be reliable and trustworthy even when your servers are down or you’re experiencing performance issues.
The Key Reason Why It Drove 25% of New Customer Acquisition
Our customers’ customers are our customers.
SaaS is a big ecosystem where we’re all using each others’ tools to build faster and make our customers happier.
Our customers are mostly other web infrastructure companies—like Codeship, Segment.io, Iron.io, and Mailgun—for whom uptime and reliability are of the utmost importance. Their customers are other startups and infrastructure companies using their services to get their own SaaS businesses off the ground. What other service might they need, too?
A status page.
This little ‘powered by’ link lives exactly where our customers are looking—on the sites of fellow SaaS companies. They may use Codeship for code deployment, want to check an issue with Codeship’s servers and see 'Powered by StatusPage.io’ at the bottom. They like the look of codeshipstatus.com and click through, finding that they can get their own status page solution.
Our status pages act as a growing network of positive word-of-mouth. With each customer bringing in additional customers via this link, what we’ve ended up with is a viral product, at least by B2B SaaS standards.
How You Can Use This One Line of Code To Grow Your Service
1. Make it unobtrusive
It’s important that your ‘Powered by’ link makes the branding totally unobtrusive and non-distracting from your product and the value you’re delivering to your customer.
When companies such as Desk.com include their own branding, they usually do it right at the bottom of the page, where only the people who are looking for it will go. If you do this, in small type and subdued colors, we have found that our customers really don’t mind the branding.
In the words of Alyce Currier over at Wistia, these “Powered by” links should never take away from the content themselves, they should provide “a way for people who are paying attention to web video to trace the technology back to its home, rather than [serving as] a distraction for those not actually interested in that information.”
Wistia’s “Powered by” banner only shows up when you interact with the video player after having pressed play on the video. Plus, they’ve made it the minimum size and opacity to convey the necessary information.
2. Boost Your SEO
There is a really interesting thing about what Desk.com does with their “Powered by” links. Look at the link below:
When Desk.com links in their “Powered by” text, they don’t link their brand name. Instead, they link the anchor text “Customer service software”. This is a cute little SEO hack, meaning that on thousands and thousands of sites all over the web, the phrase “customer service software” links back to Desk.com. If you search for that, lo and behold:
This clever trick could boost not only your acquisition via these direct links, but also boost your search engine rankings for your important keywords.
3. Lend Brand Affinity
It might seem that this one line of code can only benefit you, and that your customers are doing you a favor by allowing you to include the code on their pages.
But your branding can also help them. Take the “Powered By Help Scout” link as an example:
Help Scout is known for their own amazing customer support and for being the foremost experts on customer service.
If your service is using Help Scout for customer support, your customers know that you are trying to give them the very best. You’re not using some stodgy old ticketing system, made for companies who hate their customers -- you’re using the cutting edge products that help you deliver top-notch service to the customers you love.
The brand affinity for these great services can flow onto those who use their services via “Powered by” links.
To follow Help Scout’s example, all you need to do is build a great product, use content marketing to share your passion for your product space, and live your values. Then, your customers will display your “Powered by” links with pride.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
When your business means hosting a page that your customer will link to directly from their home page and brand as their own, you have a huge responsibility to deliver a top-notch product.
The design, performance, functionality, and reliability all need to be 100% on point, otherwise your customer will be too embarrassed to display your page publicly at all.
It’s an incredibly high bar that’s even higher because we put “Powered by StatusPage.io” on every status page that we support. It gives us that little extra bit of motivation to make sure that we build the best product we possibly can, and it’s a privilege that we’re continually working to earn.
Done right, it can be a massive boon to the growth and sustainability of your business.