How Dan Martell’s SaaS Academy Became a Top Founder Learning Community

Team Disco
5 min read

If you want to get schooled on SaaS, Dan Martell is the master.

Ask any SaaS founder — regardless of industry — and they’ll share the same sentiment: scaling and growing a SaaS business is no joke.

After founding dozens of startups himself, Dan Martell shifted focus to helping businesses create growth roadmaps that will:

  • Reduce client churn
  • Automate processes
  • Exponentially increase conversions
  • Improve ROI
  • Increase customer acquisition

SaaS Academy, aptly named, helps founders and their teams uncover new growth opportunities plus the roadblocks that often block the path to success. No stone is left unturned in Dan’s live learning sessions, and his clients walk away with a newfound wisdom and leadership capability. He’s turned this learning community into an eight-figure empire (and has the testimonials to boot).

He credits the success of his academy to the three C’s: Content, Community, and Coaching. This formula is not only applicable to any live lecture or online course, it’s scalable to different segments of any audience.We sat down with Dan and, through colorful recountings of his storied childhood and experiences being a founder a number of times over, we found nuggets of inspiration for not only founders of SaaS companies but for founders of bootcamps, academies, and microschools.

What Academies and Bootcamps can learn from SaaS Academy's design, marketing, and community building strategies

Here are three insights that all business founders can examine within their own organizations to achieve scalable, attainable growth.

“I stand on the shoulders of giants, so a lot of the stuff I’m going to be sharing, I learned from the greats. I’m a student first and foremost.”

Be a lifelong learner to be a transformative teacher

I probably spent 400 grand on courses. I’m weird like that,” says Martell. “I’m a bit of a research freak.” But this insatiable hunger to learn more and more to turn around and be a better teacher is a common trait shared among many successful founders, particularly those building live learning communities to educate a particular audience.

Overtime, what started as a single course teaching all entrepreneurs in all verticals became the more defined suite of programs that SaaS Academy offers today — and Dan achieved that all through learning about what clients needed and how those needs often changed from cohort to cohort:

“​Over the years, we've continued to iterate. We now know our avatar. They're called software scaling Sam or Samantha. We know the revenue size, we know their personal life. We know their funding, we know literally their sales motion. And because of that, it allowed us to just create a live learning experience that is just so potent.

“Education-based marketing is the most powerful marketing for thought leaders who are building these live learning experiences, because you have to prove that you have the experience upfront.”

Riches are in the niches

Dan’s been giving his clients the same advice for years: Riches are in the niches.

If you’re teaching the same thing that dozens of other programs are teaching, fine. But what are you doing better? Differently? More efficiently? Even better, what if your program is a juggernaut — how are you messaging to an audience you know could really use the information you’re teaching?

Disco CEO Candice Faktor puts it perfectly in her conversation with Martell: “Don’t try and do everything all at once. Get something right. Make it work and then start adding. If you serve your first [audience] really well, they’re going to want new programming from you. They’re going to grow as you grow.

Dan’s business model with SaaS Academy has proved the efficacy of Candice’s words: he now offers multiple programs with tiered offerings, inviting former customers back for more as they continue to scale their businesses.

“We focus on content, community, and coaching, and those are the three Cs of our programming. A lot of people try to sell to beginners ‘cause that feels easy. I'd rather build something for the tip of the spear or something for the not super advanced, but advanced.”

CONTENT, COMMUNITY, COACHING

The three C’s are the recipe to Dan Martell and SaaS Academy’s success: Content, Community, and Coaching. Like other founders, Dan optimizes his clients’ live learning for experience rather than information in that people don’t need a thorough course on how exactly to do one thing. Rather, they need to be, according to Martell, “convinced to do the thing they know they should be doing. It’s a subtlety.”

With content, SaaS Academy’s teaching focuses on the emotional, mental, or physical blockades that prevent a founder — and, by proxy, their team — from reaching certain goals. You can “learn” almost anything these days from a Google search or a YouTube video, but what’s really gumming up the process?

It’s not an information problem. It’s a motivation problem. It’s a mindset. My client knows they should be doing [this]. How do you create transformational content? You’ve got to focus on the mindset and the beliefs and the objections, not just on the content itself.

That content is only made better by the power of community, the second C to SaaS Academy’s plan. Beyond learning alongside one another in a cohort-based course, Martell curates an entire experience for the students he teaches. By creating in-depth intake forms that get to the core of what each founder’s goal is and what they’re looking to achieve, Martell ensures these folks don’t just learn from one another — he ensures a bonded community is formed right off the bat.

Coaching, the third C, comes quite naturally to Dan (as made evident by his 8-figure coaching business! But coaching goes beyond delivering content and fostering a community of kindred students. Where Martell’s philosophy differs from most folks is in “rewarding the progress.”

We don’t penalize for lack of actions,” says Dan. “A lot of coaches say people want accountability. What they really want is support when they’re stuck.” This positive psychology loop, Martell recounts, has saved him from significant client turnover.At the end of the day, every member of your team from founders to executive leadership down to the most junior roles is a human being. Rather than fixating on what wasn’t accomplished, revel in what was — and create opportunities from those achievements.

Published
April 28, 2022
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