012 | Evolving a Market Segment with Tithe.ly’s Frank Barry | Studio CMO
The Episode in 60 Seconds
Frank Barry, founding team member and COO/CMO of Tithe.ly, joined us live on Studio CMO to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on faith-based institutions and how Tithe.ly’s technology has found a way to help.
Frank began his career as a youth pastor before entering the tech world through a position at Conterra (now known as Blackbaud), where he was hired to start a faith-based consulting service.
This interview delves into:
- Tithe.ly’s new demand cycle
- The power of checking-in
- Tithe.ly’s marketing & communications before and after COVID-19
- The pitfalls of rapid growth
- How Tithe.ly is preventing growing pains
Frank Barry is a founding team member and COO/CMO of Tithe.ly, a Nashville-based platform with tools built to help churches and ministries increase giving and engagement. Frank is a marketing and technology professional with nearly 10 years of service in the software industry and is currently focused on driving business results in the form of lead generation, pipeline growth, and bookings through B2B demand generation marketing.
Frank’s background has helped him develop a unique understanding of bringing products to market, sales enablement, improving product adoption, and building customer success, to name a few.
Frank frequently speaks at events, including SXSW, SiriusDecisions Summit, Content Marketing World, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), and Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN).
In Episode 010 of Studio CMO, we talk about how your company can set realistic goals for the remainder of 2020. Check it out.
THE PANDEMIC’S EFFECT ON TITHE.LY’S DEMAND CYCLE
Tithe.ly experienced a massive increase of churches creating new accounts. They progressed from 20-40 new accounts per day to 900 new accounts per day.
“COVID-19 forced every church on the planet to go digital.” – Frank Barry
As the pandemic progressed, churches had to figure out how to continue services and collecting giving and donations. Many churches were fast-forwarded into the decision to go digital.
THE POWER OF CHECKING-IN
Following the pandemic, Frank started a daily live show to talk to church leaders and pastors through the season. He speaks not from the perspective of a church technology company, but as a fellow church leader.
In those live interviews, Frank was able to hear the perspectives and challenges of churches of all sizes, everywhere.
Personal connection has always been important to Tithe.ly. Since the very beginning, Frank and Tithe.ly’s CEO would onboard each new client by phone.
“To this day, everyone that signs up gets a phone call.” – Frank Barry
TITHE.LY’S MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS BEFORE AND AFTER COVID-19
“We had a great business. And then you put an elephant on top of it, and it exposes the weak points. We were able to see those really clearly and go, okay, let’s shift.” – Frank Barry
Tithe.ly’s focus has remained on two efforts despite the pandemic:
Tithe.ly spent five years producing content and now publishes 2-3times a week on its blog in addition to a weekly podcast. Tithe.ly also provides their customers with resources to help them communicate effectively, such as printed material forbulletins, email copy for newsletters, and social media content to advertise with.
2. Personalized communications: Tithe.ly doesn’t have any outbound sales. Itssales team takes more of an educational approach — they want to answer questions and connect with customers. Before the pandemic and when Tithe.ly was receiving 20-40 new sign-ups per day, they called each new user to personally onboard them. When the pandemic hit and Tithe.ly was receiving 600-900 new sign-ups per day, Tithe.ly expanded its team, streamlined its processes, and kept its promise to call each new user.
IS YOUR COMPANY GROWING TOO FAST?
“If you grow too fast, you build up the infrastructure to support that growth. And if it goes away really fast, all of a sudden you’re left with all this infrastructure, people, tools, debt, and no business.” – Frank Barry
Tithe.ly’s advice? Manage your business with intention.
Tithe.ly’s team is frequently looking at its data and paying attention to emerging trends in the market to help inform marketing and sales efforts post-COVID.
Learn how to fortify your marketing infrastructure on the Golden Spiral blog.
HOW TITHE.LY IS preventing GROWING PAINS
The massive growth Tithe.ly has been experiencing during the pandemic forced them to rethink how they serve customers of different sizes and how those customers move through their systems and internal teams.
Tithe.ly’s customer could now be a church of under 20 people or a church of over a thousand people. Onboarding must be adjusted per customer to remain a streamlined process.
“It all comes down to: how do we deal with customers of all sizes? How do we get each customer live fast, make that experience great for them, and leverage software to simplify the process for our teams?” – Frank Barry
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Mark Whitlock (00:03):Good morning and welcome to LinkedIn Live and YouTube. This is Studio CMO Live. My name is Mark Whitlock. Welcome John Farkas, our host.
John Farkas (00:13): Hello.
Mark Whitlock (00:15): And Angus Nelson, our cohost for the day.
Angus Nelson (00:17): Well howdy!
Mark Whitlock (00:20): And today we’re going to be talking about a SaaS company that has found a way to help an incredible market segment. This market segment has over 300,000 locations and brings in about $120 billion a year in annual revenue. And yet this market segment has been one of the hardest hit by our culture’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A matter of fact, this year, 5% of these locations will close, which is up from 1% as an annual typical attrition rate, uh, in this market segment. So how has this company helped this market segment? We’re going to talk about that today on Studio CMO live. Angus, who is our guest today?
Angus Nelson (01:07): Well today we are talking to someone who started off as a youth pastor in his former life and then he graduated into the tech world. He had the opportunity to develop his chops with his computer science degree. And now he is the COO for a company called Tithe.ly. It is a SaaS product focused on helping churches and how helping them connect to giving. So with that, let’s say hi to our friend, Frank. Oops, Barry.
Mark Whitlock (01:44): Middle name — Oops!
Frank Barry (01:45): Middle name is not oops. It’s not oops, but you know, but it might work.
Mark Whitlock (01:51): Ladies and gentlemen. Live. Yes, we are live today.
Frank Barry (01:58): Love it. Hey guys, good to be here.
John Farkas (02:00): Great to have you. So I, I would just, Frank, give us a little bit of backdrop. How did you get, uh, get to the seat you’re in right now?
Frank Barry (02:13): Yeah, sure. Um, so, uh, yeah, Angus was kinda mentioning it. So I, I moved to St Louis. I’m born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is just a fun fact. Um, people do get born there and lived there. They don’t just gamble there.
John Farkas (02:27): You and Andre Agassi.
Frank Barry (02:29): That’s right. That’s right. We’re homies. Um, and uh, I moved out to, I did a kind of a short time in Palm desert. That’s actually where I met my wife, moved to San Diego, uh, got my computer science degree at San Diego state.
Frank Barry (02:43): And then my first job, uh, San Diego state is where I became a Christian. Uh, started following Jesus. And my first job was actually a youth pastor. So, um, I spent about five years doing youth ministry, uh, kind of junior high or middle school and high school and, um, you know, did about five years there. And my wife and I made a decision as a family that, Hey, we’re either going to do kind of ministry together or we’re going to go off and, and get different jobs. And doing it together just wasn’t, it wasn’t in the cards. Uh, God was kind of calling us a different way. So I got a job, my first tech job for a company called Conterra, um, out here in San Diego. And, uh, it was this interesting connection point between technology. Um, it was in San Diego and it was actually a technology serving charities.
Frank Barry (03:32): And specifically I was being hired in to help start our faith based, uh, consulting practice. So I was working with, uh, you know, in touch ministries and family life ministries and the Methodist church and peacemaker ministries and all these faith based groups. Um, so that’s kinda how I got into tech, the tech church kind of world. And I, Blackbaud acquired Conterra a number of years back. I spent about 12 or so years there at the combined, uh, forces. I love, I love that. Um, and uh, and I’d bounced around at Blackbaud, did a bunch of different things, um, from kind of professional services consulting into product, into marketing and spent my last three years in payments. Um, so, you know, learned a lot about tech and the industry and serving, uh, you know, charitable organizations. And, uh, and then four of us buddies kind of came together and, um, got Tithe.ly started and now we’re here five years later.
John Farkas (04:32): And as Mark alluded to in the intro, here is not an easy place right now. I mean, there’s a lot going on in this market. So talk about how you have, uh, what you’ve seen happen in the last three months in the, in the context of, uh, of your demand cycle as, as, uh, faith based institutions have just been rocked by what’s going on. Yeah, and uh, in our world
Frank Barry (05:05): It’s been crazy. I remember it was somewhere around, you know, March 12th to 15th, somewhere in that kind of few days. Uh, you know, we, we add quite a few churches. So the way we built our platform from the beginning is you can just go to our website, you can sign up and you can be live for your church in five minutes. So you can be taking donations on your church website or via our free giving app. And it’s just super fast, super easy. There’s no contracts or any of that kind of stuff. So we, that’s how we’ve been for five years, right? It’s always been how we’ve done business and we’ve tried to make it really simple for churches of like startup churches, like church plants all the way up to the big mega churches of 15, 20,000 people on a Sunday. Um, so when this thing hit, you know, we pay attention to our daily new accounts, right?
Frank Barry (05:55): How many new customers are signing up every. So we look at that, you know, we’re always paying attention. Um, and you know, we would do 20, 30 maybe on a really good day, 40 new accounts, which is actually really good. Like we, we sign up a number of new churches every month, but all of a sudden we started watching the trend line like, Oh, weird, there was 48 accounts and then the next day it was 72 accounts and then it was a hundred and something. And then all of we, we, it just kept going up over this week period to the point where we signed up over 900 accounts in one day. Right. And it was hundreds and hundreds. And so it just did this big old spike and then it kinda stayed up top for a while. And then it slowly over the course of about 45 to 60 days, you know, just slowly came down to what we’re now, you know, probably doing double what we did pre-COVID, but it’s not 900 a day.
Frank Barry (06:51): So we just saw this crazy ramp up. It stayed way up there and you know, over 30 to 45 days, we added over 10,000 new customers. So it was, uh, insane to say the least. So churches, like what happened is you have, you know, the church world is, I think Mark was saying there’s over 300,000 churches in the U.S. Alone, right? So let’s just double it for the rest of the world, right? So there’s a lot of churches out there, um, the U.S. Being the biggest, uh, you know, market, if you will. Um, but there’s churches from, you know, super tech savvy church plant, young folks to churches that have been around for hundreds of years in middle America, that all they do is, it’s cash and check, right? They take donations in the offering plate on a Sunday morning and they pass the plate around and people put cash in the plate or they put a check in the plate and they were never going to change.
Frank Barry (07:48): Like it’s just, it’s habit. It’s for some people it’s part of their spiritual worship. That’s what they’ve always done. Like it’s just how it goes. But this forced every church on the planet to go digital, they had to go digital with how they do services, right. They had to do online services and then they had to start collecting, um, you know, the giving and generosity of people in some sort of digital format. So everybody had to do it. And a lot of churches were fast-forwarded into making that decision.
Mark Whitlock (08:18): And I didn’t know what, we began prepping for this interview that the church where I attend uses your app for connecting members.
Frank Barry (08:26): Let’s go!
Mark Whitlock (08:29): And so it was fun to go, Oh, wait a minute. So that’s that little logo in the bottom right hand corner of my screen on Sunday mornings. Yeah. And see what you guys do. So, um, kudos. Uh, I’m a user and didn’t know it.
Frank Barry (08:44): Love it. Love it. Love it. Love the shout out.
John Farkas (08:47): So tell me, I am interested as you guys, you know, we’ve talked a lot about how there are kind of three types of companies in the season right now. There’s a, there’s a company that is really needing to push pause because their market is not responding amidst what’s going on right now to their solution. They have a solution that is a nice add on, but not essential. We have companies that are kind of, no matter what happens in the world, um, their solution is pragmatic and in the, in the flow of things. And then we have solutions that I, and I would say like yours that are markedly more appropriate, not more appropriate, but markedly in the flow of what’s going on right now in the essential nature of and need to happen in this transition. I’m curious what kind of conversations you’re having with, uh, with some of those folks that were kind of sidelined in the digital space or coming in and saying, Oh, okay, we gotta we gotta do this now. What’s that sensibility and been like, how, how have those interactions gone?
Frank Barry (10:02): Yeah, there’s, um, you know, it’s, it’s interesting, I started a daily live show, much like this, um, six weeks ago to just to talk to church leaders and pastors through this season, right? Like doing something daily is probably not gonna last forever, but I just wanted to talk to church leaders and go, Hey, how’s it going for you? What are you guys doing? Not even necessarily about giving or the core products we offer, but just like as a church leader, what can you share with other church leaders about how you’re, how you’re doing. But you know, in the course of all of that, obviously I spend a good amount of time talking about how giving is going. Um, and it’s, I guess there’s, there’s like two groups or I don’t know, maybe there’s three, but you know, there’s the churches that had digital giving in place already, right?
Frank Barry (10:50): So they’ve had it for a number of years. Uh, you know, they have a decent adoption. Most churches that have digital giving, you know, adoption is not like a hundred percent of their churches using, using online, giving. There’s some people using cash and check and maybe they’ve got 20, 30% of their church using digital. Those guys went from 20, 30, 40% up to, you know, 70, 80% of giving. Right? So it was already in their infrastructure. It was already communicated to the congregation. They might’ve had a church app and so just a bunch of people went online and they were good about communicating in their virtual settings and doing online church. So you see that group, right? That kind of, they were ready for it. Um, so they’ll see a little bit of a dip in get overall giving, cause cash and check suffers a little bit, but let their digital starts to take off and oftentimes it gets made up for, right. So I’ve talked to plenty of churches where they’re, they’re giving dipped a little bit, but then it came back to normal even though they’ve eight weeks meeting, meeting virtually. So digital giving played a huge role there. Um, I’ve talked to other churches that have had us right. As an example, I actually interviewed one the other day, outskirts of Wisconsin, like three hours out of green Bay.
Angus Nelson (12:07): Oh, you don’t say? My God, you betcha.
Frank Barry (12:12): It reminds me of that movie. What’s the movie, Fargo? So, um, I don’t even remember the name of the town, but you know, a local, a small local church, a hundred people, they’ve been using Tithe.ly For two years. They had two people giving digitally pre-COVID. It was, it was the guy that, you know, like set it up and turned it on and the accountant or the treasurer. Right. So it was like the two people that pay attention to the money, right. We’re using Tithe.ly. The rest of the church wasn’t right. Yeah. Interviewed him and all of a sudden they’ve got about 25 people using Tithe.ly right now. Um, again, they were ready. They had it there and they’ve communicated it and people are going for it. Um, I interviewed another small church, right? 50 people, the middle of Texas, little white church on the corner. They had nothing. And all of a sudden it, they signed up for Tithe.ly on March 15th and like within a week, you know, half of their budget was coming in digitally and they were streaming live on an iPhone set up in the sanctuary.
Frank Barry (13:24): Right. So you just, churches are forced into this. They’re figuring it out. Um, it’s really cool to watch them figuring all these tech things out really fast and not that it’s not, you know, it’s challenging and it’s hard and I’m sure there are churches having a tough time with it, but I’ve been encouraged by seeing people just figure stuff out. Um, and it’s cool to have a business that serves them in a way that makes it easy. It’s, there’s no risk, right? It doesn’t cost them any money to get started. They can just go. Um, so anyways, I don’t know if that answers your question, but, um, it’s been cool to see things going down, so, yeah.
John Farkas (13:58): So tell us, so when you, when you look at how your marketing efforts were set up pre-COVID you know, before you were, how were you getting connected? What was your primary mode of, uh, getting, getting the word out about what you all do?
Frank Barry (14:17): Yeah. Um, like from the beginning, it’s probably really two big thing. Well three. So number one, we built a great product that, you know, once people started using it, like that product market fit, and then people wanting to tell their friends because they got great service from us. So from the very beginning, me and our CEO, Dean, um, you know, churches would sign up or they’d call in and we’d get on the phone and we’d onboard all of them so they’d get like the super personal touch. And to this day, everybody that signs up gets a phone call and we want to talk to you. We oftentimes want to get you on video if we can so you can see us and we can connect with you even though we’re all, um, all over the country.
Frank Barry (14:58): Um, so just great products, great fit in the market. We met a really core need for a church, right? Driving revenue is, is what we do. Um, and then so on top of that, we were heavy on content. So early, early days, you know, we’re just like, let’s, we need to write on the blog twice a week. We need to send the newsletter, we need to just crush content about digital giving, online giving, text, giving all, all the things. So we’ve spent five years producing a lot of content and we publish two or three days a week on the blog. We have a podcast that, you know, runs a few times a week. Um, we’ve been doing these live shows for six, so we’re always doing content. So just content, SEO, SEM, or SEO. Organic side has always been a big deal. Uh, and then, you know, we, we run ads as well. So Google being, um, kind of the, you know, Facebook, right? We, we get into that game as well. Um, and then the tail end of all that is serving them well with a great product is they tell their friends. So we get lots of referrals, um, lots of pastors telling their friends because, uh, it’s just easy to do business with us. They like us. Um, you know, we built a great product and it works. So, um, yeah, so contents always been a big thing for us.
Angus Nelson (16:18): Did you guys have an event strategy before this? Like where you at trade shows and things of that nature?
Frank Barry (16:22): Not, I mean, a little bit. Yeah, but, but I wouldn’t call it a strategy per se. I would call it more like, um, you know, we’ve show up at certain places. Uh, you know, mostly when there’s some kind of relationship with like just being a vendor at a show because there’s the big event. We, we shied away from that oftentimes cause it’s just expensive and you’re standing at a booth and it, it’s just not the way we do business, I guess. Right. We’re much more relational. So when, when we had good connections and good relationships with the entity, whatever it might be that’s putting on the show, you know, those are the situations where we’d get in and, you know, usually we’re speaking or we’re getting on stage somehow as part of what we’re doing at that show. Um, but it’s, it definitely be a, you know, a third or fourth tier part of how we do marketing at Tylee.
Mark Whitlock (17:20): So you guys offered a digital solution to an area that wasn’t often connecting digitally with its users, so to speak. Right. How did you encourage, uh, churches to talk to their members and their guests and others about digital connection and what’s some of the crossover? How can, how can companies, you have digital communication and digital connection features as a part of what they offer. How can they talk to their audience and their customers about digital to get that buy in that you’ve seen ties with?
Frank Barry (17:55):Yeah, yeah. We, um, I mean, you know, like, I guess to, to describe that. So churches have members or you know, the people that are coming to church on the weekends. So we’re kind of like a, like a B to B to C company, right? Like, versus, you know, or business to churches, to members. Um, but you know, B to B to C. So for us, you know, some churches that are, you know, bigger and have media teams and they have communications professionals on staff and marketing teams and all that. Like churches are professional communicators. Like that’s what they do. They get up on Sunday and they communicate right? And they’re communicating the gospel and their programs and, you know, it’s, it’s different what they’re communicating, but like, that’s what churches are very good at.
Frank Barry (18:49): Right. Um, and, and then they’re good at connection and those relationships with their church, right? Like, they, everybody knows each other, especially in the smaller churches, right? Like, so when the senior person gets up or someone on the senior leadership gets up and says something like, the church usually pays attention and you know, kind of does, uh, or you know, or a large portion of them will do what they’re being asked to do. Right? Cause it’s in, it’s their community, it’s their family. So really what we try to do is just equip our customers, the churches, with resources to help them communicate well. Cause you have big churches with big staff. You have little churches that they don’t have communications people. It’s one, you know, one guy or one girl or one family that’s like leading the church and it’s all volunteers and it’s 50 people in the middle of Texas with the little white church.
Frank Barry (19:41): Right? So, so we give them, you know, digital, like we give them slides, they can put up on screen as they’re taking up the offering. Most churches take up an offering on, on Sunday or during service. So we give them a slide they can put up, we give them videos that they can play in service to kind of walk you through how you’re giving or the benefits of giving digitally. Um, we give them printed material they can put in their bulletin, cause a lot of churches have bulletins, we give them email copy they can send out on in their email newsletter, social media content that they can post on Facebook and Instagram. So we just try to equip them with all of this content and these resources. Uh, and then we have a team, right, our customer success team. So post-sale, they go into our customer success team and that team does a great job, you know, basically walking these churches through a launch plan.
Frank Barry (20:30): So kind of getting ready, thinking about launch, preparing for launch, and then launching it on the weekend and then kind of the post-launch followup. Um, so we just try to take them through a guided program, uh, especially for the churches that don’t necessarily think that way. So that really they launch really well and they keep communicating to the church over the course of, you know, four, six, eight weeks. So it kind of gets ingrained cause not everyone’s at church every Sunday, so you gotta keep doing it, you know, numerous times in order to get to everybody. So yeah, content and just having people that walk them through how to launch.
Mark Whitlock (21:03): Well you mentioned that you had a plan in place to Tithe.ly where every new customer gets a phone call. That had to have been really challenging when you had 900 sign-ups in a day.
Frank Barry (21:16): Oh my Gosh.
Angus Nelson (21:19): Phone attached to your ear.
Frank Barry (21:22): The whole company’s ears.
Mark Whitlock (21:23): Like before this happened, was there a script in place for what that phone call was supposed to do or was there not? And then how have you changed how you communicate during that start up, quick startup phone call?
Frank Barry (21:38): Yeah. Um, script would probably be a little too aggressive, uh, or to, to, uh, plan for us. It’s, you know, it’s our sales team. So we have a sales team, really our sales team, um, their sales professionals, but they’re much more, we take a much more like educational approach to it and kind of we’re here to help you. We want to answer your questions, we want to connect with you. So it’s not, you know, it’s not a hard sell or anything like that. And it’s all inbound. We have no outbound sales. So this is all inbound people coming to us and signing up.
Frank Barry (22:13): Um, so you know, that team has a flow, has a way of doing it. It’s not really scripted, but you know, they share notes, they talk about what works and you know, they kinda know what they’re doing. There definitely wasn’t enough of them to handle 900 in a day. It’s just not happening. And, and that was happening for, you know, weeks of this, this was like 900 was our peak day, but it was weeks of four or five, 600 a day. It was crazy. So, um, so we actually, in the midst of all that, we’re doing a bunch of things. It’s like we had a great business. And then you just like put an elephant on top of it and it exposes like the weak points. And so we were able to see those really clearly and go, okay, let’s shift. So we had daily meetings with our management team for probably, I don’t know, maybe a month right where every day at like three o’clock, we just got on and talked about what’s going on. We talked about what’s working, we talked about making this shift or that shift. And so, um, pretty quick, we brought on uh, eight, uh, ten employees and we had them get into that flow of onboarding new customers. We shrunk down what that looked like. We said, look, you just need to do these three quick things. And so it was much more scripted. It was like, you need to validate a couple of things. You need to do these two things and then go, right. So we brought on eight people, trained them up real quick. We moved people from support into kind of our onboarding account validation. So we took some support folks, put them in there, we got our customer success team. So we just were pulling people from all different places and putting them into our like, onboarding kind of flow and, and doing our best to get ahold of every single one of them.
Frank Barry (24:02): But it was hard. Like it was very hard. Customers were as patient as you could ever ask for. Uh, and, and we were doing our best through it. So by no means perfect, but you know, the team like super proud of like the team, the tidally team like went all in. People were pulling crazy long days. We were hiring new, we probably hired, you know, six or eight new people in that, that full time people and we’re keeping some of the 10 people. So yeah, we just reacted as best we could and tried to take care of these people. Um, and yeah, we, we couldn’t get to them all every day, but, but we tried.
John Farkas (24:41): How has the increase in your, um, in the people, uh, taking advantage of your platform, how’s that fueled your product development efforts?
Frank Barry (24:54): You know, funny enough or interestingly enough, like product was the team that was, um, like least affected by the whole thing. Because, you know, we have our roadmap, we have these big bucket items that we’re working on and they’re just cranking through it. The one spot that we did that did pull some product resources was in our kind of onboarding. So how you sign up on our website, what kind of data we’re capturing, how we’re pushing that into our systems, how we’re validating some of that. So we pulled some resource into like it was good, but we realized we can make it better through this. When you, when you go from, you know, uh, you know, six, seven, 800 a month, all the way up to 10,000 and you’re like, Oh, there’s some spots to make better. So, so we pulled some resource from product into improving some like some pieces of our signup and onboarding flow.
Frank Barry (25:45): Um, but, but other than that, you know, it was kind of business as usual, stay focused on the big things and let’s keep executing on those priorities from a product perspective. So we’d have these daily meetings and it’s really the frontline folks, right? It’s sales, customer success, customer support that are all like going nuts. And then the product, you know, like our CTO, some of our product owners, they’re kind of just hanging out on these meetings, not, not saying a whole lot. Um, and almost feeling bad. Like I wish I could do something, but they weren’t the ones touching the customer. Um, but they were just kind of part of like visibly supporting everybody, I guess, uh, at the point, but just staying focused on their big projects.
Mark Whitlock (26:31): Gotcha. I’m going to call him half time right now and remind those of you who are either seeing this or who will watch a replay of this, that we have great conversations with, uh, the marketing leaders and executives at great companies like Tithe.ly on a regular basis at Studio CMO, uh, the podcast from Golden Spiral. So you can go to studiocmo.com and click on subscribe. There you’ll find, uh, your favorite podcast apps, uh, so you can subscribe and get Studio CMO delivered directly to, uh, whatever device you want it. Or you can sign up to become an insider with Studio CMO, where you’ll get an email every week, uh, with a sneak peek ahead of time of what’s going to happen. So join us, uh, at Studio CMO. We love to see you subscribing and hear more great conversations like this. And if you’re tuning in or if you’re watching this as a replay, uh, tell someone about this. Let, let somebody who needs to hear this message, uh, find out more about Frank and Ben about Tithe.ly And find out about Studio CMO.
John Farkas (27:37): And just to reiterate, we’re talking with, with Frank. Um, Tithe.ly is a company who has a tiger by the tail right now as they are, uh, have a, a very, a very pertinent solution that is helping churches, uh, really trying to sustain revenue in a season where that is near impossible to do. And, uh, and so their, uh, their solution is right in the crosshairs of what needs to happen for churches right now as they are making a transition into digital. And the ability to, uh, to, to encourage participation, uh, in alternative ways and, uh, and their ability to allow, uh, churches to, to collect their contributions in a friction free way is, uh, is just a tremendous benefit and a, a great tool for, um, for faith communities. So, Frank, I, I’m curious as you guys have walked this last couple of weeks, what would you say is the biggest challenge?
John Farkas (28:46): I mean, we talked about, honestly, when you’re having hundreds of onboards every day, that’s no small, uh, no small trek. But as you look at your machine and, and, uh, and how you are responding, what would you say is, uh, you know, aside from that sheer volume and wanting to communicate out to those people, what, what are some of the other strains that this has put on your organization?
Frank Barry (29:14): Wow, that’s, uh, that’s a good question. I mean, that’s, that’s by far the biggest one for sure. It’s the biggest, easiest to spot. Like, Hey, there’s all these new customers, we want to take great care of them. We want to make sure they’re getting great service, the service that we would expect from ourselves pre-COVID, right? Like that’s what we want to give people and that’s what people enjoy and kind of expect from us. Um, another, you know, I don’t know, maybe more the businessy side of all of this that is interesting and we’re thinking about as an executive team is, you know, we’re going to come out of this into this whatever new normal looks like for our business. And so, uh, we’re, I guess I don’t really have a good answer per se, but what we’re thinking about is what does it look like in the new normal and, uh, how is that going to impact our business? Did, did we all of a sudden sign up all the churches in the world all at one moment and then things slow down for us or to things reach a new normal where you know, it’s busier than pre-COVID or do we have to do more on the marketing and sales side in order to get the new customers because more of the market has adopted a digital solution and has it in place, like we don’t know yet cause we’re still at the kind of tail end.
Frank Barry (30:31): Churches for the most part are still uh, you know, meeting online and some are starting to go back to church. I actually interviewed a church yesterday in Florida, um, and they’re going back Sunday is their first service and they had other churches in Florida that went back. So, but largely we’re still in this kind of not new, normal place. Um, so I think we’re watching closely. Like we’re looking at our data often and paying attention to what’s going on in the market and trying to see what’s it going to look like. And is that going to impact how we do sales and marketing post-COVID to, to keep up what we want to keep up from a growth perspective. Um, but we don’t know what that looks like yet. Right now. It’s still looks great. Um, in another month, you know, or two months, it might be harder or it might not, we just don’t know yet. So, um, watchful eyes I think is the biggest thing for us.
Speaker 2 (31:29): What scares you about, um, all that you just said? You just said, so, you know what, what if we’ve hit our peak, right? Um, you know, how, how do you plan for it? Is this as good as it’s gonna get or, or do we have more to do or, you know, what is it going to look like in the future? How does your executive team, you spoke very highly of your fellow cofounder and CEO. How do you guys talk about that?
Frank Barry (31:53): Yeah, I mean, Dean’s amazing, Barn, Barns actually Dean’s son, uh, he’s amazing. Steve, our CFO, uh, and chairman is amazing–we have a great executive team and the guys are just super smart and know their stuff. Um, so, uh, you know what, what scares us is everything like coming way back down, right? Like there was this big spike and, and everything goes totally back to normal. Pre-COVID normal. And there’s just this big, um, churn, right? If you’re thinking about it from the SaaS business perspective, there’s massive churn, uh, both from customer perspective and revenue perspective. Um, so, you know, worst case, everything back to what it was [inaudible] for us as a business, we don’t think that’s going to happen, but that’s the like worst case. Oh my gosh, that would be scary. Um, because uh, man, what was I, we were watching something, I think I was watching shark tank with my wife and there was a company talking about growing too fast and one of the investors is talking about growing too fast and that how that can be a death for your business because you grow.
Frank Barry (33:04): And my wife’s like, why? What do you mean you’re going to just grow? That’s amazing. And I’m like, well, if you grow too fast, you build up the infrastructure to support that growth. And if it goes away really fast, like all of a sudden you’re left with all this infrastructure, people, tools, and then you’re left with the bill and the business isn’t there. Right? So, um, we’re not built that way. We’re a SaaS product. We’re software, we run very lean, so we don’t have risk in that sense. Um, but you know, hey, if it all went back down to pre-COVID, we’d still have an amazing business, just not the one that we saw happen over the last 60 days. Right. Um, so, so we just, you know, we’re, we’re literally paying attention to our forecast on a weekly basis, right? We’re looking at our forecast, we’re looking at what happened the previous week.
Frank Barry (33:51): We’re, we’re pretty monthly driven and then we do quarterly like cohort analysis. And so we’re looking at our cohorts from a customer perspective, from a revenue perspective, right? Like churn, retention, all the things like we were really into it. So we just try to pay closer attention to that right now and grab our crystal ball and predict what next month is gonna look like and, and hopefully be close. And then we’ll do the next month. And you know what I’m saying? And two, three, six months from now, it’ll be back to whatever normal is and we’ll be back in the normal flow. But right now it’s so dynamic. Like it’s just so dynamic that we’re just trying to not, uh, not coast, right. Just be really intentional about how we’re managing the business.
Angus Nelson (34:37): Has anything changed in terms of, what your messaging is right now? Because obviously in light of everything that’s going on, you’re not just a solution, but you’re kind of a critical component. Have you guys kind of pivoted on some of the messaging and how you’re serving?
Frank Barry (34:51): I mean, we, we’ve done some messaging around, you know, being ready, uh, or, or, um, thriving during COVID as a church, right? So you didn’t, you had pulled up the website earlier. Um, it didn’t show up, but we’ve got some sort of AB testing going on and we’ve got some messaging if you’re an existing customer or a new customer, that kind of changes on the website and, you know, we’re just doing some things around that. We, we launched a new product in the midst of all this, our Tithe.ly website platform. So we’ve mostly talked about giving, which is the core product. It is the core business, but we do church apps, we do church websites, we do full church management or like the CRM that churches use to run their operation, which does like volunteer management and kids check in and a bunch of other stuff.
Frank Barry (35:38): So, um, we launched Tithe.ly sites, the website platform. Uh, and in the midst of all that, um, John actually goes, it kind of reminded me, he goes back to your question about products. Our product team on the website platform, uh, launched an online church experience like natively in the website platform during COVID. They were like, Oh, we need to make online church really easy. So you can embed your YouTube, feed, your Facebook feed, your Vimeo feed, uh, and then that feed goes directly into your church app, which we also build for you. So you have this kind of online presence where you have, uh, your live feeds for church. You have giving, you have your events, you can do push notifications, you can have your sermon notes and your prayer wall and all these like online church elements that uh, will be happening normally during, uh, during kind of regular church on your phone.
Frank Barry (36:30): But now we’ve brought it all to their website as well. Um, so, you know, there’s been some stuff like that I guess, right, where we’ve, uh, you know, tried to help churches, mostly existing customers do online church really well. Um, both from their website perspective, their church app perspective. So their digital presence is, is just well done. Um, cause everyone’s online, they’re all streaming their services and if we can get them to stream well from their website that we’re also building for them and it streams into their apps. So if I’m, I mean, people are doing church in all kinds of weird ways, right? They’re walking around the house, they’re doing laundry, they’re washing the dishes, they’re making breakfast, they’re doing all the things. If I can stream it on my phone via my website, um, and my members can have all that content. So, uh, yeah, I think messaging around that and then we just, we created a bunch of content, just [inaudible] kind of content, like how to do church online, like stuff that isn’t necessarily core to our business, but it’s helpful to churches, like how to do it online, how to prepare for going back, how to do a great online lesson, how to use zoom for church, like all these resources that help churches do things in the online environment.
Angus Nelson (37:42): Okay. And then what about, um, the way that you’ve served your customers with the massive volume? You know, that it’s grown, um, customer service. Um, Holy crap, that’s like a huge thing, right? And now here, not only are you just doing regular status quo customer service, but I’m sure there’s, you know, the onboarding, right? As we were stating before that first call and all those systems in place. And then more importantly is like, I got to imagine like there’s some coaching and maybe even counseling going on where people are calling in a panic.
Frank Barry (38:17): Yeah. A hundred percent.
John Farkas (38:18): And, and Angus just worth pointing out, we don’t call it “Holy crap”, we call it “Holy opportunities to serve”.
Angus Nelson (38:27): Perfect!
John Farkas (38:31): It’s gotta be gotta be gotta be a sensitive, context- sensitive.
Frank Barry (38:35): Yeah, the copy matters. It matters. Yeah. Uh, man, customer support, I mean for a while, literally the whole company was on customer support, customer success sales, anybody that anybody that like had a heartbeat was like let’s get purchases up and running and launched. Right? So that was really what support was. Uh, and it, it was people in panics, it was people having issues. It was things we had to work on or fix or you know, rectify to get them live or maybe more documents we needed to validate them. It was a, a bunch of stuff in that vein of just getting you live so that you could take donations.
Frank Barry (39:21): Um, and, and so we did a bunch of stuff. I mean we had to turn off phone support for awhile cause they couldn’t get anything done. We always have phone support, live phone, you call, you’re going to get a human being, you’re going to get a call back. If you don’t get a human, you’re going to get somebody back within 10 to 15 minutes. Um, we’ve tried to keep that maintained. We couldn’t maintain that through COVID, uh, especially at, so we had to turn phones off, which was unfortunate, but it’s like we just had to make decisions that would help us get through this as best we could. And so getting email and chat-based support and questions was a more efficient way of handling things. Um, it’s not as pleasant for the customers and like if there’s any customers watching, like we get it, but it, but we had to be efficient, as efficient as we could through this time.
Frank Barry (40:06):So, um, you know, like now the phone lines are back on. It’s fully staffed. We’ve actually, you know, the support team is now bigger. I think we’ve hired two or three people on that team. Um, and you know, we’re in the post-COVID crazy in a lot of ways in terms of all the new customers. So getting a lot of customers, but the really crazy, so it’s, it’s a little bit more normal now and we’re staffed to handle what’s going on right now really well. Um, and you know, it’s, it’s back to kind of normal support-style questions and you know, not the non onboarding stuff, right? We have a whole customer success team that onboards you and works with you for weeks to get you live. But from a support perspective, like whether it’s chat or email or phone, um, things are pretty much, you know, back to normal and, uh, just more church. Like there’s more of it cause there’s more churches, but it’s, it’s not crazy at this point.
Angus Nelson (41:02): And then as you look at some things you alluded to before about when the elephant is sitting on top of everything and squashing out and all of the weaknesses and challenges are being exposed, those opportunities to improvise, and I love the fact that your boys are riding around in the back and you’re just keeping your cool, is the new normal. Um, how are, if you could share, like what are some of the things that you saw, balls getting dropped, things breaking, you know, things not working that were exposed in the midst of high growth, uh, um, things that were exposed.
Frank Barry (41:46): Man. Again, it, it really, it really comes back to our onboarding, right? Like we were equipped to handle a certain volume per day, per week, per month. Um, in terms of sales team getting the initial contact, um, it’s getting into their pipeline, them making a phone call, sending an email, uh, the church signing up online, being live and being in their account. They can put the giving button up on their website, they can download the free app, right? They can do all those things. Um, and then it would flow, right? We kind of segment based on size, like what kind of customer success you get. So you get, you know, you’d go one path if you’re over a certain number, another path if you’re under that number.
Frank Barry (42:33): So we were just equipped to handle what we were already handling. Uh, and then when it happened, we were not equipped to handle that much, right? We, if it was 200 a day, we probably could have done it. 900 was just too much. So, um, but what it did is like we, we actually introduced a whole new team or a whole new kind of component of the sales team at this point in our company because of COVID, so we’ve got like five people who do almost what we call like account activation now. So they’re not sales oriented, they’re just vet the right things. Cause you know, we, we do payments, right? So we think about, we handle people’s money, we need to make sure these accounts are legit, that they’ve given us the right details. We’re, we’re essentially opening up bank accounts for churches and then handling money flow, right?
Frank Barry (43:25): Which if you, if you think for a little bit, it’s like fraud and money laundering and credit card testing and all these things can happen in our kind of software. We have to make sure things are legit. So part of what we do is make sure that you’re legit. Most of the time that happens behind the scenes, but sometimes we need to ask for more information from you, just as if you were to go into a bank, right? The person can see you, you have your driver’s license, you have your, uh, like, I don’t know, your checkbook, your social security number, all this stuff to open a bank account. Um, we do all that online, uh, in a really easy five minute process. So, uh, so anyways, we have this now what we call like the activation team. Uh, the, we’ve rethought about kind of how we treat different sizes of customers, not how we serve them, but just how it goes through our systems and our internal teams.
Frank Barry (44:15): Um, so how do we handle churches under a hundred? How do we handle churches under 500? How do we handle churches under a thousand like, or, you know, or the other way, like over a hundred, over 500, over a thousand. So these buckets that we’ve tried to think about more, um, and just how we onboard these buckets in a more streamlined fashion. Uh, and then some of it is, is product, right? How does, how does the software that we build for the signup process, uh, interact with our account activation team and our fraud analysts and our customer success onboarding teams? And just how do we make that easier and easier for the whole team with software. Like we’re a software company, so we try to solve stuff with software. It’s really hard to do that in 45 days when it’s all happening that were posted all happening in a lot of ways in terms of the peaks.
Frank Barry (45:01): And so now we’re like, okay, where do we need the software to be better from an internal system, not our customers, but our internal software to run the business. So, um, yeah, it all comes down to like, how do you deal with every size customer? How do you get them live fast and make that experience great for them and have software make it simple for our teams. That’s kind of where our heads are at. It’s a legit FinTech company. A hundred percent. That’s exactly what we are. We’re FinTech for the church, um, with, with other things like database and websites and all these things. But the FinTech part of it is the big, you know, when you’re opening bank accounts and onboarding customers and moving money, you know, it’s really serious stuff, right? Like we’re literally touching the thing that keeps the, keeps our customers in business, if you will, to, you know, it’s not a business, but anyways, it’s, it is, it’s the money and we got to handle it well and treat them well and move the money well and all those things.
Angus Nelson (46:02): Love it. Love it.
Mark Whitlock (46:05): Excellent. Well, go ahead John.
John Farkas (46:09): No, I was just going to say, you know, clearly, uh, uh, an interesting face to be in an interesting opportunity. And Frank, thanks for kind of taking us through and, and giving us a little bit of field of, of what it’s like to have a tiger by the tail and, uh, and, and be chasing for all your worth after it’s a, it sounds like you guys have done a great job of handling that eloquently while providing, obviously it’s just such an essential, you know, talk about, uh, talk about essential services that you really are, um, keeping the lifeblood going for, uh, for these institutions and in the season that is where they’re already, um, super challenged. And so having a, having an advocate, having a, uh, a team that they can work with that is helping them through and providing solutions that are really opening doors. That’s, that’s been, it’s been great to hear.
Frank Barry (47:09): Yeah, no, we feel honored and blessed and grateful and excited to, you know, kind of help churches through this time. So it’s been, it’s been challenging a lot of ways, but it’s been super cool. Um, to serve our customers this way and to experience it just as a sort of a person running a company and watching this happen. It’s been a probably once in a lifetime, so it’s pretty cool.
John Farkas (47:35): In some ways let’s hope, right?
Frank Barry (47:38): Yeah, yeah exactly.
Angus Nelson (47:41): Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Mr. Frank “Oops” Barry for being with us. Super grateful for your time and thanks for your kids coming to join us — all three of them.
Mark Whitlock (47:54): Absolutely. So again, thanks for joining us on Studio CMO live if you want to hear more conversations with great leaders of companies that are making a difference right now, you can come to Studiocmo.com and click on subscribe and join us for a great upcoming guests and join us back here for more live conversations in the coming weeks. We’ll let you know when those are. Frank, thanks so much for joining us and check out Tithe.ly and their site to see what they’re doing and how they’re growing. Thanks for joining us today.
Frank Barry (48:39): Thanks guys.
Angus Nelson (48:40): And always remember, understand your buyer’s problems,
Mark Whitlock (48:45): Lead with an empathetic understanding,
John Farkas (48:48): And make your buyer the hero.
Mark Whitlock (48:51): Thanks everybody. See you next time on Studio CMO.