Automio: A Platform For Lawyers to Automate and Market Their Services – with Claudia King [Ep#12]
Claudia King worked for many years as a lawyer, but she became really stressed out about the so called billable-hour model. As in any service that depends on the time of the people working in the company, the scalability of the business is restrained by the number of hour people are able to perform. With a strong interest for automation, Claudia became determined to disrupt that kind of business model by not only automating the processes, but allowing lawyers to sell their automated services online. In the 12th episode, Claudia tells us about the early days of her startup Automio and what were the challenges she faced to find the product-market fit and finally generate traction. SHOW NOTES FORMING THE IDEA Tell us a little bit about the fundamental problem that Automio is solving and what is the solution that it offers its customers to solve that problem? So, back in 2011, I launched New Zealand’s first online legal service called Legal Beagle. And through that, we sold online legal services and automated legal documents to people here in New Zealand. And it was around that time that I became very interested in automation. Initially, my enthusiasm for law firm automation was from the client’s point of view and wanting to serve the clients, to make legal services more affordable, accessible and understandable. But then, during my time as a law firm partner, I became so burnt out and stressed because of the billable-hour model that most law firms use to run their business. And the problem with the billable-hour model is you can’t scale your law firm because your income is always limited to the number of hours in the day. I wanted to find a way that I could use my valuable intellectual property—that I created as a lawyer—and sell it online to generate revenue for my law firm, while I was sleeping, basically. So, initially, I developed Automio to myself, to my lay firm to use it. And I really wanted to build a global company and not just be restricted to legal. So, I saw that the product that I developed for my law firm, and for legal Beagle—which is now called Automio—was the big opportunity for me. I could sell it to other lawyers initially, and then to other professionals and business owners eventually. TOUGH TIMES AND FAMILY FRIENDS The idea generation came from your family too, right? Yeah, that’s right. When I was a lawyer, I owned a law firm with my dad Dennis—sort of a more traditional law firm called Dennis King Law. And then while we were running Dennis King Law together, we launched Legal Beagle. After that, we used Dennis King Law and Legal Beagle to incubate Automio. So, dad and I founded Automio together. Unfortunately, he passed away about two and a half years ago. That was quite difficult and, at that time, I had so much going on because I had my law firm, I had legal Beagle, I had Automio plus I was about seven months pregnant with my second child. And I thought: “I might have to sell Automio, for now.” And almost didn’t go ahead because, of course, we use legal Beagle and Dennis King Law to incubate it. So, we needed good profits in those businesses to get Automio off the ground and then when dad died, you know, that revenue was gone. I just didn’t have the same sort of financial means to incubate Automio anymore. But, not long after dad funeral, a couple—who are friends of our family—came to me and said: “Look, we don’t really understand what it is that you’re doing with Automio, but we really believe in you. And we’d like to invest in it to help you get it off the ground.” So, I saw this as the first step in raising capital to get Automio off the ground. REALLY AN MVP How long did it take, and how was it like when you offered it to the first potential customers? We launched the product into the market in June 2017 and, at that point, it was really an MVP. Before that, we had a limited beta group. And when we launched it, it was rough. It was still an MVP. In terms of how long it took us to develop it, both stages all up would have taken about 18 months to two years. And it was a bit of a strange process because here in New Zealand, you can get funding for research and development—some software development does fall within that. We applied to the government for some funding to help us pay for the development of Automio. And eventually we got it but it took a long time. The problem with that is that you’re not actually allowed to start developing it until your grant was approved. There was quite a lot of waiting around for grants to be approved before we actually started developing the product. So, there was sort of some big kind of periods, we were just waiting to hear we had the money or not to do it. SELLING THE IDEA FOR THE FIRST USERS Who were the first customers or earlyvangelists of your product, and how did you approach them? We launched it in June 2017, but we were actually due to launch it three months earlier. Because of the delay, what I decided to do—I’m a really impatient person—[was] a pre-launch. Basically, what I did was I ran a series of webinars and then pitched the product at the end. And I said: “This is what the product does, these are the benefits of it. It’s not available yet, but if you sign up for a pre-launch subscription, you’re going to get ‘x’, you’re going to be the first to get access to it when it launches in a couple of months.” And we were able to sell about 20 to 30 sets at that point to these early adopters who really just wanted to be in on the action. And it was really those people that helped us get our first bit of traction in the market and who we used to help us get feedback. They were people who weren’t my friends or context. They were really third party people who were interested in using automation within their law firms. That’s how we did it and I think it was a really great way to get some money coming in the door to start with, and just to get some people engaged with the product straight off the bat. LEARNING TO GENERATE LEADS What were the most successful marketing strategies to get the traction coming for your platform, of course, besides the webinars in this pre-launch phase? Our product’s been in the market for about 18 months now. And, over that time, we’ve changed the way that we sell the product a lot, because what we started doing initially, didn’t work. We’ve really had to learn to sell B2B. We still do a number of marketing activities, but in addition, we also have a sales team. As part of our sales team, we’ve got a couple of people out doing demos, closing deals, and then we’ve got somebody in sales development rep who does cold outreach, as well as take our marketing leads, nurture them and then get them into demos. The sales guys sort of take it from there. The whole sales team pace was very new to me, and I knew that I needed some help with that. I actually joined Dan Martel’s SaaS Academy, probably about 18 months ago. And he’s very good at marketing funnels, sales pipelines. And through being part of that coaching program, I’ve learned a lot. And I’ve been able to put together the framework for the sales team and change our marketing so that, instead of just kind of putting out content that doesn’t really convert, we’ve now got really good lead magnets that convert to get qualified leads that we push them to our platform. DEFINING THE TARGET CUSTOMER Our description of “target customer” has changed a lot in the 18 months that we’ve been selling the product. We’ve really had to niche down and then niche down again to get the traction. Our description of “target customer” has changed a lot in the 18 months that we’ve been selling the product. We’ve really had to niche down and then niche down again to get the traction. When we first launched the product, [it] was all about helping lawyers to sell online. We were out in the market demoing and talking to any lawyer that would listen to us. We had a lot of feedback. From these people, they didn’t want to sell online—they never would. All they wanted to do was use Automio as an internal efficiency gain tool, so that they could bill the clients the same amount, but they could do the work faster. So, we took that feedback on board and thought that the whole online selling pace was no good, was not something that our product would be able to do, because there just wasn’t a market for it. And we changed our messaging and our target customer around internal efficiency gain. Then, towards the end of last year—so this was reasonably recently like probably four or five months ago—I was feeling pretty negative about the direction that Automio was suddenly going. Because my passion is around the marketplace. Having a global workplace, where lawyers and other professionals can catch their intellectual property in bots and trade those bots online, so that end consumers clients can get affordable, accessible, understandable, legal help whenever they need it. We started looking at our customers list and analysing how each one was engaging with Automio—were they successful with the product or not? —And it was really fascinating. It was a real eye-opener because we could say that our customers who were using Automio to sell online—because we still had a whole lot that were—were far more successful with the product. And they were engaging with it and using it so much more than the customers who were using it for internal efficiency gains—they weren’t using it much. All of a sudden, I was just like: “We need to niche down on law firms that want to be selling online.” And I said: “Look, they’re out there. We just need to find them.” And they are out there and we’re finding them. And I said: “Look, they’re out there. We just need to find them.” And they are out there and we’re finding them. We changed all our messaging towards them and since we’ve done that it has just been such a game changer for us. ADVICE What kind of things would you say to early stage entrepreneurs in order to get the idea and to do a successful way to the traction stage? TRUE TO THE VISION The first is that it’s really important that you stay true to your vision for the product and the company. And that story that I just told you about how we moved away from my vision, how we went from having a marketplace focus to the internal efficiency gain focus—-and as it just wasn’t aligned with my vision. It was because we were talking to the wrong people who gave us the wrong feedback. So, my advice would be to stay true to your vision, if you’re not getting the feedback that aligns with your vision, then you’re possibly speaking to the wrong people. NICHE AND… NICHE AGAIN My second bit of advice is around your target customer, it’s really easy to fall into a scarcity mindset and think that if you niche down on your target customer there won’t be enough of them out there to sell to, to allow you to get the traction that you desperately need. But I think that it’s worth reading the book From Impossible to Inevitable. That was the book that I read, that made me realize that I had to niche down, then niche down again and get success with a small pool of people. Then, you can gradually sort of open the need after that. THE TALK, BEFORE THE LAUNCH The third bit of advice—something that I wish I had done more of—was build a brand around myself and what I was doing before I launched the product. And I think that there was a missed opportunity for me because I already had a bit of a following in New Zealand anyway, with what I was doing in the online legal space. And I should have been blogging and writing valuable content for people who were interested in that, far before I actually launched the product. And the benefit of that would have been that when I did launch the product, I would have already had an audience of people who I could sell it to on launch, who I’d already built some trust with, had already given value too. And I think that would have allowed me to get traction faster. Hey, what do you think of this episode? Leave your comment!Or check other startup stories here. MORE ABOUT THE FOUNDER Claudia King (LinkedIn; Twitter; Instagram) is the CEO + Founder of Automio. She helps lawyers scale their law firms by selling online legal solutions. Before creating Automio, Claudia King practised law for 11 years. During that time she saw the need to better help her clients with accessible online legal services. She was also disillusioned with the constant pressure of the billable hour, as well as all the tedious and repetitive legal tasks that took her focus away from getting results for clients. MORE ABOUT AUTOMIO Automio (Website; LinkedIn; Twitter; Facebook; Instagram) is your automated, around the clock legal assistant. Our intelligent legal assistant bot platform gives lawyers more time and freedom from boring, repetitive tasks. So lawyers can do the work they enjoy. Automio can do the work of a legal assistant for a fraction of the cost: Automio interviews your clients for you Create customised legal documents in seconds Build the law firm of your dreams Give your clients better access to convenient and helpful legal services Automio is fiercely committed to making quality legal help available to everyone, everywhere. We inspire lawyers to use technology that better serves their clients, while supporting their ideal lifestyle and life’s purpose. The post Automio: A Platform For Lawyers to Automate and Market Their Services – with Claudia King [Ep#12] appeared first on The Traction Stage.