How Impira transitioned to product-led growth and saw a 4x increase in customer monthly upgrades with Orb
“Getting people to use Impira successfully wasn’t the biggest problem for our business—it was getting them to want to talk to us that slowed things down,” explains Lorilyn McCue, the company’s Head of Product. “When we made the switch to self-serve billing and a customer signed up within the first day without any sales assistance, we knew we’d unlocked a new phase of product-led growth, which was very exciting.”
Impira, an artificial intelligence-powered platform, enables its customers to extract valuable data from their documents, such as tables, graphs, and other files. Customers upload pages and receive usable versions of the data they contain—without the headache of manual data entry. In her role, Lorilyn is in charge of defining the company’s product strategy and establishing a roadmap to achieve its goals. To understand how Impira’s product is doing and whether the company is achieving its goals, Lorilyn tracks the number of pages consumed on the platform. This number is important to Lorilyn and the entire organization because it informs how they bill a segment of customers.
Making the shift to product-led growth
Historically, Impira relied on a sales-led, enterprise go-to-market motion, but over time, they discovered several pain points of relying on humans to enable customers to buy. “Impira is something people can use on their own, so it was a missed opportunity that it wasn’t self-serve—our UI is really intuitive and our customers understood what Impira does,” Lorilyn says.
Impira’s Pro plan offers customers the ability to pay each month based on how many pages were processed on the platform. Without a self-serve payment option, the process of calculating pages was manual and went through many layers to get invoices paid. The team knew this wasn’t scalable because it took too long to track what customers were being charged each month and over time. And that information was valuable—it could inform sales of usage, expansion opportunities, or support needs, and help measure the success of marketing campaigns.
Within the last year, Impira changed how customers could sign up for access and upgrade within the platform, offering a fully self-service purchase experience. Users are able to sign up and start uploading documents immediately. Unlike its competitors, who require customers to pay tens of thousands of dollars upfront and upload thousands of documents just to get started with training, Impira lets customers get started immediately and pay as they use the product. “Our competitors put up a really high barrier when customers don’t even know that a solution will work for them,” says Lorilyn. “We wanted to let them try Impira out and see results as quickly as possible.”
Shifting to this new billing model and self-serve flow also helped Impira cover its own costs—and increase transparency. Like many SaaS companies, Impira is charged to house and process information. So as their customers upload more pages, it only makes sense that they charge them—billing by usage or by page uploaded. “Our self-serve and usage-based billing helps us be transparent with our customers. Rather than explaining a concept like seats, which doesn’t match up to how our business works: we’ll charge you based on the pages you upload—it’s that simple,” explains Lorilyn. Usage-based billing helps customers try Impira and scale their use risk-free—someone could now sign up with a credit card and start using its document extraction platform, with clarity on how they’ll be billed.
This new ability for customers to sign up without a sales interaction doesn’t mean that Impira no longer relies on its sales team, however. “When customers talk to a salesperson, it’s either to scale up their usage, learn how to leverage Impira better, or to troubleshoot,” says Lorilyn. “That’s where our team can have the most impact—not trying to sell a product our customers can use and sign up for on their own. We cut straight to the most impactful interaction our sales team can have, all by letting our product lead the process.”
The need for a usage-based billing engine
With a shift to a usage-based, self-serve model, Impira needed a way to bill its customers for their use of the product. But building such a solution in-house would involve precious time from engineers and other teams—a resource that Lorilyn and the team felt would be better dedicated to expanding and improving upon Impira’s core product. Anything built internally would need to be easily adaptable and customizable as the company grows and changes, which would require even more engineering resources on an ongoing basis.
The team decided to explore billing platforms to make the experience a breeze for customers as well as Impira’s engineering, sales, and marketing teams. “We had limited resources and needed to automate billing as quickly as possible, so we looked for an existing solution,” Lorilyn says.
When considering billing providers, Impira had four main criteria:
- Ease of use
- Short implementation time
- Adaptability and flexibility for edge cases
- Integration with other tools
The team learned about Orb and decided to evaluate it alongside Stripe Billing—after all, Impira already uses Stripe for payment processing, so adding the billing module would’ve been an easy integration. Ultimately, they chose Orb over Stripe Billing for a number of reasons. “Orb is built for usage-based pricing, which supported our flat platform access fee and per-page uploaded consumption pricing model out of the gates, which Stripe didn’t,” says Lorilyn. “Rather than invest our own engineering resources into patching around Stripe Billing to make our model work, we decided to go with Orb.”
Also, because Impira encounters a lot of edge cases and is growing quickly, they wanted a billing engine that would provide rapid, high-quality customer support. With Orb’s dedicated Slack channel and developer-first approach, Impira knew they’d get the help they needed.
“Billing is so complex and feels like something that should be solved for easily, but building our own solution would have taken months—time that I believe was better spent building things on our roadmap,” Lorilyn explains. ”That’s why we went with Orb: We were up and running quickly and could focus on our area of expertise—our own product.”
A fast rollout, thanks to integrations
With the decision to move ahead with Orb, Daniel Chen, a Senior Engineer at Impira, sat down with a team to put together a technical document outlining the implementation. It included how they’d integrate with other systems that would power their billing, such as Census. They created a flow for when a user uploads a file: Impira writes that they’ve uploaded a file to the database, an ETL job periodically syncs the database to Snowflake, and Census syncs Snowflake to Orb. Because Census handles syncing data from the data warehouse into Orb, the data integration required little engineering.
One thing that emerged quickly to Daniel was that when it comes to billing, correctness is key—and now that they were automating billing, the process needed to be airtight. “There’s really no room for mistakes,” he says. “We have to make sure that at each step of the system, even if a step is retried, the customer will only be billed once—and for the correct amount.” The team relied heavily on Orb’s Slack channel and team to work out edge cases and best integrate with Orb’s API so that Impira customers—and the engineering team—wouldn’t have to worry about billing at all.
Powering flexible billing and empowering customers
Today, Impira powers all of its billing, including edge cases, like when a customer has to re-upload a page with Orb. Mo Bingham, who leads Revenue Ops, relies heavily on Orb for payment collection from customers, informing Sales and Marketing of revenue, opportunities for expansion or customer support, and campaign performance, reports for leadership, provisioning new enterprise customers on Orb to track their consumption, and interactive charts that can easily be shared with Sales or Marketing. “Orb’s charts and dashboards can quickly answer a team member’s questions about what we’re collecting from customers,” says Mo.
Another way Impira uses Orb is actually Lorilyn’s non-use of billing. “At this point, billing is hands-off, so I don’t think about it at all,” she says. “I consider that a use case—that I’m not using it much, and it happens automatically.”
Since their integration with Orb, Impira has seen many benefits, including:
- More customers upgrading: Since empowering customers to upgrade on their own with Orb, Impira has seen a 4x increase in the number of upgrades per month.
- Space on the roadmap to focus on Impira’s product and offering instead of billing: “Using Orb is hands-off and things happen automatically, which has freed up my product roadmap to do more things that we need specialization to do,” explains Lorilyn.
- Provides marketing and sales with valuable insights without the legwork: Orb generates useful charts and dashboards that sales and marketing can use to inform their decisions to drive customer satisfaction and revenue growth faster.
- Visibility into billing: By seamlessly integrating with Stripe and Slack, Orb sends out billing on time and lets the team know in a dedicated Slack channel every time a bill goes out.
- Drives upsells: The way Impira’s consumption model works is that customer consumption can change over time, so having real-time information about usage helps with upsell or renewal conversations. What’s more, because customers can sign up on their own, their initial sales conversations happen after they’ve already used the product, making sales interactions even more leveraged than ever before.
- Keeps the business alive: “The reality is, as a startup, collecting payments accurately is critical to our company’s existence. I have confidence that payments are collected accurately with Orb,” says Mo.
Landing and expanding
Looking to the future, Impira hopes to continue enabling customers to use the product more effectively at the times they need it. They’re also thinking about how to best leverage sales and marketing during the customer onboarding process that’s most helpful to the end-user to make sure they’re getting the most out of Impira.
“Ultimately, we want to leverage the information we have to help customers expand their usage as quickly and efficiently as possible,” says Lorilyn. “Orb helps us better understand our customers’ usage over time, which drives expansion with existing customers and product decisions to make Impira the best tool for our users. The power of Impira is that it does complex work quickly and easily for our customers—Orb does the same for our business.”
Curious about how Orb can accelerate your journey into product-led growth? Schedule a demo today.