14 Feb 2019  |  Guide

How Framer designed a plan for success

6 minute read

We're always interested in how companies grow from humble beginnings to major players in their field. Framer is the perfect example of a company, with a vision and the ability to see the right opportunities, we shine a light on the moments that shaped them as a company.

After receiving $24 million in funding last year Framer are definitely a company to watch. It has emerged as a major interactive design tool for product teams; this has come from a mix of solving its audience’s problems, managing to build an active community of design enthusiasts and mastering upselling to major companies. So let’s look into the story of Framer co-founders Koen Bok and Jorn van Dijk, to see what’s helped them grow to the level of success.

Framer’s beginnings

In 2011, Koen Bok’s award-winning design startup, Sofa, was sold to Facebook (Jorn van Dijk was its art director). Bok and van Dijk then joined Facebook as Product Designers where they worked on a number of wide-impacting projects at the social media giant.

Very quickly, the two designers noticed an issue with the typical product design workflow, whereby designers were being forced to show static files to stakeholders, rather than demonstrating how the design of an app or feature actually looked and felt. It was a problem that impacted them directly, so they figured they were best placed to tackle the solution together. Ultimately, they decided to leave Facebook’s Palo Alto HQ and decamped to Amsterdam to begin pursuing an early version of Framer.

Framer Founders

Early years

A product can go through many iterations. Take the first version of Framer: it required coding knowledge to use it to see its true potential. This worked for Framer initially but to expand their reach to designers of all technical backgrounds the team needed to break down this barrier to entry in future versions. If your product’s target audience widens, you should consider the obstacles this new audience may encounter when using your product and question whether you’d want to maintain these hurdles. But how did Framer discover what people really wanted from their product?

Audience and testing

The founders’ time in Silicon Valley allowed them to build up connections within the local design community, which gave them access to people from a variety of different technical design backgrounds, this network of designers became the product’s early adopters and testers. Framer also had some luck in that there weren’t many competitors in the space. Once their audience of designers and engineers saw the benefits of allowing them to send off visually alive ideas to key stakeholders and managers, the idea took off.

Framer’s library was also open-source which put the company in a strong position to build an engaged community. These early adopters in the design community also helped them to land some of the biggest enterprise deals they have today.

Selling upstream

A big part of Framer’s recent success has been due to its ability to sell into businesses via B2B, which is a crucial goal for most emerging startups. This enterprise strategy grew from its idea two years ago of having team plans for multiple users. They noticed how 50 people from the same company would be using the product with separate licenses; from this Framer decided to add license management and centralized billing, features that bigger teams would be more inclined to use with the goal of upselling to these businesses.

A defining story for Framer’s strategy was when it noticed that a Fortune 100 company had purchased three seats to test the solution. Wanting to fully capitalize on the potential of working with such a large company, Framer approached them. This deal led Framer to upsell hundreds of seats for a more substantial deal, which they’d have overlooked if not for Framer’s growth mindset.

For Framer it was a gradual process to build their sales team, it was done first by themselves, then as the nature of the deals grew they hired sales reps and eventually a VP of Sales to oversee the whole operation.

It’s also able to develop features for enterprise and teams further. This next iteration came from the introduction of per-seat billing to scale pricing by company size. Framer also wanted to increase their ability to capture larger enterprise deals which could only come from having direct sales discussions and education with these larger leads. One step to achieve this was by introducing an enterprise plan on their pricing page with a “contact us” button.

Framer initially appealed to a niche market for a small group of designers; they’re now targeting every designer, engineer and product manager for a subscription, to get them all on the same platform. But how would they ensure that their audience pays a price equivalent to the value they were getting from Framer?

Experimenting with pricing

Framer’s journey exemplifies pricing iteration; they’ve optimized their pricing by having an experimentation mindset. Beginning as a desktop app sold for a one-time price of $150, customers would happily pay the same amount for each major version. One-time pricing has been the standard model for most apps, but the more your product delivers value to people, the higher you can price it according to how much people would pay for that value. This change is something we’ve discussed in our pricing guide.

What propelled Framer forth was its pricing strategies, this was done through moving to a monthly subscription model, which signaled its change into a SaaS business. Going from a one-time $15-a-month product. Framer is clearly ahead of the curve as by 2020 80% of software vendors will offer subscription-based business models, Gartner has found.

Over the course of a year, it went through four or five different pricing iterations. This change also widened the potential customers for its product: could they sell to teams? What about enterprise customers? What extra features could bring in an additional income for the company? How could product features be increased to sell to with these new audiences? After pulling off a major pricing model change, Framer now needed to mobilize their audience to maintain momentum.

Launch hype by leveraging your community

Framer Waitlist

A recent marketing innovation from Framer’s growth team was the launch of its waitlist to download Framer X, their latest update. You could jump the queue by recommending Framer to more people. This waitlist led to Framer’s biggest advocates sharing their passion for the product to their like-minded friends and social followers. Framer learned that if there’s already enough hype, then using a waitlist can build it further. A waitlist is more of a hype-accelerator than a hype-creator - you need to have that excitement already there.

Framer’s ability to cultivate a sustainable community, that encourages and educates its other members using the product is one of its many strengths. At this stage in its growth, it learned that different social channels could represent different things to its audience. In its Facebook group, people ask questions or advice on how to use the product or help on its designs. The community itself takes time to answer questions and help other people. Whereas on Twitter it’s focused on the product; people aren’t asking specific questions on there about their personal designs.

Rather than have a designated community manager, everybody at Framer checks their social channels every day, to reach out and answer as many questions as possible. The benefit of such an approach that the company is directly connected to the daily questions their audience is asking.

Recent funding and Framer’s next steps

Framer has reached another milestone in raising $24 million in Series B funding, bringing their funding total to $33 million. It has grown fast over these five years from just two people to a team of 48. Framer has done this through a mix of opening up its product to a wide variety of customers, relishing the opportunity to sell to enterprise businesses by offering features that suit their needs and offers tried and tested prices to justify the implementation of these new features. By learning to build on its current audience’s needs as well as plan for future expansions, Framer’s designs for success are just getting started.

Framer uses Paddle to power its checkout. We’ve helped them to optimize with pricing experiments, as well as consulting with them on selling to larger businesses.

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