204 – How and why to make your brand beautiful, with creator of online accounting software, Saasu.

204 – How and why to make your brand beautiful, with creator of online accounting software, Saasu.

This week’s episode delivers hard proof that absolutely every business niche can deliver their product or service with passion and beauty. Marc Lehmann, a former investment banker, identified that the online accounting software in the marketplace was not designed with small business owners in mind. And so he went back to basics and created a list of the things that small business owners would really want from online accounting software – leaving all the accountancy jargon at the door. Now, that same accountancy software, Saasu, has attracted around 100,000 users monthly.

How does Marc do it? First of all, he completely understands that people are not just investing in a product or service – they are investing in a whole brand ethos and a huge part of that is emotional. “You gotta sell emotion” states Marc. He also makes sure that the people who work for him have an entrepreneurial spirit that gets carried through every aspect of Saasu’s business operations.

For more marketing GOLD from Marc, you know what to do – hit PLAY on Australia’s #1 marketing show!

 

In this session of Small Business Big Marketing, you’ll discover:

  • If Marc Lehman is more of a Bill Gates character or a Steve Jobs character.
  • Why it’s a good thing if your employees have other business projects on the side.
  • The importance of slowing down using Marc’s “slow code” as an example.
  • Why the world used to demand a great price – but now it wants incredible service across every element of a business.
  • Why Marc used a “back to basics” approach to build the Saasu software.
  • The importance of aesthetics for every business – even an accountancy business.
  • When is the best time to stop thinking of your business as a side project and to fully commit?

Episode Timeline

  • 5.00 I answer a listener question about the academics of marketing and how relevant all that stuff is in the “real world” of small business.
  • 11.30 Head over to 99Designs for all of your professional design, Plus, you’ll get a free power pack worth $99.
  • 12.00 Can’t catch a break with online marketing? Get it SORTED with Netregistry.
  • 13.00 We’re having a SBBM Meetup on September 25th in Melbourne. Head over to the Small Business Big Marketing Meetup page for details.
  • 14.00 Introducing this week’s guest, Marc Lehmann, a guy who has created his own online accountancy software.
  • 16.30 The importance of aesthetics in business – even in accountancy.
  • 20.30 Marc’s past as an investment banker.
  • 26.00 Developing software by going back to basics and considering what people really want.
  • 30.00 Starting a business likes Saasu and how it’s possible to do so while maintaining a full time job in order to minimise risk.
  • 32.00 At what point do you jump and make your business a full time venture?
  • 38.00 Why Saasu accountancy software is “bespoke by design”.
  • 43.00 Looking beyond products and thinking about how customers invest in a whole company ethos.
  • 45.00 The importance of employing people with an entrepreneurial spirit.
  • 52.00 Marc’s rejection of traditional, above the line advertising.
  • 59.30 My top four learnings from chatting with Marc.

Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode

Tweetables

Marc Lehmann Interview Transcription

Tim:

Okay, let’s get stuck in to today’s guest who’s Marc Lehmann from Saasu online accounting software. Let me spell Saasu for you, S-A-A-S-U. It is a wonderful story, this one. Marc is an ex-investment banker turned bookkeeper, turned CEO/founder/creator of some very beautiful online accounting software. What is kind of interesting, I met Marc at the recent Westpac road show that I spoke at. Marc had a stand there. I actually met him previously. I still can’t remember where the first time I met him was. That doesn’t matter though. Marc’s a lovely guy, got a lovely nature about him. He is very, very passionate about design. I thought I was going to have a discussion around the marketing, of how he goes around marketing Saasu. I had things like how he uses social engagement, Facebook ads; he’s got this thing called a collateral flywheel. He does video, clients stories on video. One thing that particularly interested me was the fact that he’d got Saasu into a number of tertiary educations around Australia, so students studying accounting and bookkeeping in finance would actually get to use Saasu in uni so they can then take it out into the work force. We didn’t talk about any of that because we got sidetracked. Marc is absolutely passionate, passionate, about making sure that your product is not only brilliant in how it works and the benefits it delivers, but that it looks the part, it looks beautiful. It has a wonderful, in this case, user interface. That is UI, user interface. I love this conversation. He’s just got a beautiful passion for design. He’s not in a hurry to nail it. He wants to build a successful business but he’s not trying to build an empire. And we have a really good old chinwag. I started off by asking Marc whether he was more Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

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Over to you!

Let us know YOUR key takeaways from this episode by leaving a comment below. I personally read and respond to every comment!

33 thoughts on “204 – How and why to make your brand beautiful, with creator of online accounting software, Saasu.”

  1. I think too often people forget to ask the customer what they want. I loved that Mark did that in the beginning. Loved that he decided to not use industry term, and opted for easily understood. “money people owe me” was awesome. I also loved that he doesn’t get it perfect, but is constantly improving. We need to take more action. Plan a little, then go!

    I checked out the website, and I just want to know if he is serving the US? Looks amazing. Not much on the payroll functionality on the site. Videos and screen shots would be helpful. The price point seems too good to be true. $9 and $35/ month for most small businesses seems crazy cheap. It sounded super expensive in the interview.

    I’m on Quickbooks (desktop vs), and their monthly option is about $95 with payroll functionality I think.

    One thing I didn’t quite get Timbo was your title. How does a beautiful brand fit in with the interview. Did I miss something? Must have. Another great episode.

  2. Great comments, Nick.

    I’ll ask Marc to respond on the US access.

    Re the title – my take out at the time was the importance of design. It reminded me how many business owners don’t place enough focus on this ‘soft’ marketing discipline.

    Naming each episode is always a battle. What would your title have been, Nick?

  3. If I could give this podcast 20 out of 10 I would -thanks Timbo for an absolute awesome interview with Marc from SAASU – what great content and insight.
    Have you asked Jamie Oliver to appear on your podcast-judging by the standard of this podcast, he should maybe be asking you to appear on your program.

  4. Timbo – nice one… And for me, very apt! I’m actually in the design phase right now with an online web app that will be deployed into small businesses under a monthly subscription model – so this episode sounded like it was aimed directly at me!

    I like and admire Marc’s approach to his model; I.e. Not necessarily being the biggest, but sounds like being the best, and in it for the long haul – good on you mate!

  5. Oops… Hit the ‘post’ button in error…. sorry!

    Yes, so great content and very interesting… But a couple of questions – where did the name Saasu come from (did I miss that bit?) – is it Software As A Service U…?

    And why is the subscription cost so low? I’d expect to pay more than that each month (in fact I do!).

    I also respect and applaude the generous approach to dealing with the entrepreneurial aspirations of Marc’s employees – especially the trader guy who you basically encouraged to leave your business, despite him being an asset to Saasu – that’s magnanimous to say the least – well done, your employees are lucky people.

    I actually listened to this episode twice… Once in the car, and then again at home, where I could take notes… You’ve given me more food for thought!

    Great show Timbo & Marc – thanks again!

  6. Sean, they’re big words, mate. Thanks a million. I have asked Jamie, but was told he’s flat out until the end of 2014 – he’s on my hit list though ;0)

  7. Thanks for the kind words and feedback, John. I’m wrapt you got so much out of it. I’m going to ask Marc to respond to your questions, so stay toooned on that one.

  8. Hmm…thought I replied to this already.

    I would have gone with something like: Passion for the Details. I believe he has had great passion for all the details. Offering, customer focus, and coding to name a few.

    But I struggle with the whole naming thing. Bottom line is that it was a great chat. Listen to it a few times already.

  9. Sarah Spencer-Matthews

    I loved how Marc has tried to differentiate his product by considering
    the needs and skills of the end user. As a reluctant user of MYOB I have often
    been befuddled over some of their terminology and instructions.

    However, I am confused about his brand name too – I had
    heard of SAASU but never bothered to look at it deeply as it doesn’t sound relevant
    to me (a small business owner – who needs book keeping solutions!). If I had a
    guess I would have said they were a Superannuation Fund or a Statistical
    Package! Oops. I guess I am curious about the name now given that Marc is keen
    on labelling his functional products with titles that resonate with the user.

    Anyway – great information and good to hear how he is approaching his marketing – particularly in such a competitive marketplace. Thanks.

  10. Yes, I did have that name question down to ask Marc, but I got distracted by all the other marketing gems he was sharing Sarah. Let’s see what Marc’s got to say.

  11. I had a laugh at the listener question at the beginning. Boston Consulting Matrix, Porters Five Forces.

    Just what I aced in my last subject at uni. And probably to never remember again.

  12. Don’t you hate acing things you’ll never need, VP? I aced 18th Century French History. WTF? At no point has Voltaire come up in a conversation since leaving school in 1984. Oh, until, now.

  13. Hi Amanda, The name came from acronym of Software-as-a-Service Utility. Utility in the sense of shared infrastructure. I have looked at the name a few times but some very successful branding people have said it’s fine once we get it know, like any name. Actually the advice was to avoid words in common regular use as our industry is littered with them. They said they aren’t as memorable post brand development but they are admittedly are harder to remember pre-brand development. Hope that explains it 🙂 Good question btw!

  14. U for Utility. Turn it on like electricity or water 🙂
    It’s low because we are already self funded so as I mentioned I’m equally shareholder, client and employee driven. This means we want great value to be a piece of a great experience.Also it can be tough out there for small business owners. They are the tax cash cows of the economy. I really respect that every $5 or $10 can add up for small businesses.

    p.s. let us know john when your app is ready so our team can check it out. we love to promote new apps. Note also our Saasu Futures program gifts one year licences for startups so get in touch if you need one for your new venture. 🙂

  15. Awesome Sean, I’m not special really, just a humble monk as the Dalai Lama says, just straight with people and not afraid to share. People avoid sharing because they don’t like to sharing their toys even as grownups. I want to share every insight i learn because what I give makes me as a person, not what I take in this small business journey. Appreciate the kind words.

  16. Hi Nick. We do serve the US but not for payroll. We’re small over there as we have done no marketing whatsoever. Going the US market to battle big competitors with a pop-gun is dangerous as our competitor Xero is finding out and ironically just as MYOB did before them in that market. We are partnering with Zenpayroll over there and looking at that market as an organic growth cycle instead. My answer to John above explains why Saasu is so low in price. Great Value is the return on investment we give our customers. It’s not just about us as shareholders. We balance employees, client and shareholders. We’ll win if you guys do!

  17. Hi Nick, See my comment to Sarah above about the name. It does matter now while we are small, you are right it’s inhibiting but as we grow and the brand develops it becomes less of an issue. Saatchi, Adidas and Porsche haven’t been troubled by being difficult words. They are familiar now and the big win in this equation is that they are extremely unique. This is why the brand experts have said to us don’t sweat it. I personally don’t see names as brand, just a component of it. Brand is the customers experience of us in entirety. The customer creates the brand in the new “attention economy” 🙂

  18. Great, awesome, tremendous. Very inspiring to hear a bloke who was sat in a position where life was relatively comfortable, earning a decent living and worked in a fast paced environment that would have provided daily challenges (good and bad). Then one day he has the balls to go out and say this is not quite on par with my values or what I want to do forever however I’ve found a niche where I can help small businesses and really go after it aggressively. Also love the advice on keeping it “on the side” until you are ready to hit it 100% and also not to gamble the house before then.

    Marc then takes it one step further and encourages his own employees to go after their “why”. Totally agree that this in turn encourages loyalty, a sense of company belonging and fully motivated employees giving it their all. After all they have a boss who really cares for them as an individual and puts them ahead of the company. Its a WIN WIN Timbo

    Marc you started in 1998, I’ve started the same journey in 2014. I’ll certainly be looking for your interviews in the future. Congrats on the journey to date and Timbo great interview.

  19. It is a pleasure Marc -love your business philosophy – it should be a template on how to build a successful venture in any industry- in fact I have contacted your company as we are looking for construction software that would also integrate with accounting software- not sure if you can help here as current solution we have I surmise, has been built via the “ivory tower” method.

  20. Good on you Marc, you’re doing great things… Keep punching!

    And really appreciate your generous offer, however that project is under the umbrella of an existing company, so wouldn’t qualify – but thanks very much for offering.

    I use Sage Payroll and Sage Accounts just now – not sure if that’s even recognised in Australia (I’m in the UK), but the neat thing about Sage is that it has a direct link into the Goverment tax office, so I just click a button to complete my tax & VAT returns etc.

    And yes, defo – I’ll let you know when the software is launched, I’d appreciate your feedback.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions.

    Best of luck on your journey!

  21. Sarah Spencer-Matthews

    Thanks Marc – thanks for satisfying my curiosity. I think its fantastic that you are doing such a great job and coming up with alternatives for smaller business.

  22. Sarah Spencer-Matthews

    Thanks Marc – thanks for satisfying my curiosity. I think its fantastic that you are doing such a great job and coming up with alternatives for smaller business.

  23. Sarah Spencer-Matthews

    I would like to comment on Steve’s question re the relevance
    of the BCG matrix; 5 Porters Model and other ‘theoretical models’. As an ex
    academic and long term small business owner I DO think that these models are
    relevant to small business.
    Lindsay and I often use these as frameworks for our
    ‘chats’ over our next moves, predicting what the competition might do, the
    feasibility of products/services etc.

    They can be very useful to help you think of strategy and give you a
    framework. I love Porters 5 forces, but also SWOT, TOWS, Ansoff matrix, PEST
    etc are really good thought starters.
    Granted you may not wanted to do the 50
    page marketing plans we expected at Uni but I really don’t think you should
    throw out these tools.

  24. Sarah Spencer-Matthews

    I would like to comment on Steve’s question re the relevance
    of the BCG matrix; 5 Porters Model and other ‘theoretical models’. As an ex
    academic and long term small business owner I DO think that these models are
    relevant to small business.
    Lindsay and I often use these as frameworks for our
    ‘chats’ over our next moves, predicting what the competition might do, the
    feasibility of products/services etc.

    They can be very useful to help you think of strategy and give you a
    framework. I love Porters 5 forces, but also SWOT, TOWS, Ansoff matrix, PEST
    etc are really good thought starters.
    Granted you may not wanted to do the 50
    page marketing plans we expected at Uni but I really don’t think you should
    throw out these tools.

  25. Thanks Amar. Another tip my Mum gave me which definitely influenced me was something she said after the death of her greedy landlord. “There’s no pockets in shrouds”. It’s great to have goals to make money but there are many ways to take that journey. We can get wealthy ethically. Fill your pockets with happy memories, friends and gratitude I say.

  26. I felt like this episode had my name all over it. The first one ever that I’ve gone back over and made notes from. I come from a similar background to Marc, and the values he’s embedded into his business are exactly what I’ve been struggling to articulate. We’re in the startup phase of our business and I am excited to see the sorts of results that an ethos like this can achieve. You’ve kicked a goal with this one Timbo !

  27. Thanks Amar. You provide a great summary. I may have to get you to write my show notes from now on! Best of luck with the journey you’ve started this year.

  28. Thanks Nick. People and conversations make the whole Small Business challenge worth it. The Journey is much of the reward IMO.

  29. Hi Tim – sorry to bomb this older post but I just listened to this episode. One of the the big questions I would have liked answered is how did Marc get 30 new clients so fast when he started his bookkeeping business? Thats amazing.

  30. Hi Timbo. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question. After listening to every episode up to this point I completely understand your answer and your ‘getting things done’ approach. Love it!!!!!!
    What I have learnt from you and your guests has not only complimented my studies but has inspired and motivated me in all things marketing. Sounds a bit geeky I know.
    Although my studies are interesting, it is your show that is giving me the drive to create and execute good and engaging marketing.
    I look forward to every episode so much so that I wish my drive to work was twice as long (I listen in the car).
    I’m a SBBM fan.
    Thanks for all you have done and continue to do.
    Regards
    Stephen

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