Part of being self-employed means you need to be extra stern on yourself when it comes to your time management. You need to be a master of your days, and a servant to your higher-achieving self. It’s a daily struggle.
Calls, pitches, proposals, invoicing, social updates, cleaning, cooking, having a life...
Oh, and that other thing. Actual work.
This is something I struggle with. I leave things to the last minute, or take a week to do what could have been done in a day. It doesn’t take long to fall into the bad habits that keep you “busy”, yet don’t achieve much.
So, while I always feel productive, it’s often my brain deluding me into thinking that this is the case.
The reality is more like this:
Okay, it’s not quite that bad. And I prefer popcorn.
I tried a range of productivity apps (pomodoro timers, mobile apps, and even the timer on my oven), but nothing stuck.
Until I found Toggl.
So -- why did this app work when none of the others did?
It’s because a successful app is an extension of the way you think.
The moment I landed on the Toggl site, I knew it “got” me.
Companies who rely on their digital presence to run their business are often stuck in a loop of feature comparisons with their competitors.
As an example, timer apps basically have the same features, but as an end user, one app is more likely to appeal to an individual over another. Some of this comes down to basic UX and functionality, but the rest of it goes deeper.
That’s why messaging and brand voice are SO important when you’re a service provider.
If you’re not familiar with the sheer joy that is the Toggl app, it might be because you’re already a freakish, super-productive time-lord.
Or, it might be because you’re committed to being a GenX slacker 4 lyfe. Or maybe you believe that time is an imaginary construct.
Whatever the reason, if you haven’t visited the Toggl site, you’re missing out on what fresh, fun SaaS branding can look like.
The moment you land on the page, it’s a riot of color.
Mr Toggl (the cyclopean brand mascot) is animated, adorable, and...a little anxious. He tells a quick, visual story about how varied distractions are taking up his valuable time, and how the app solved it.
What I love here is that the animation perfectly aligns with the messaging in the header and subhead of the website. It’s simple. And powerful.
Being cute, clever AND clear is a hard thing for a SaaS company to pull off successfully, but Toggl nails it, which is why it’s one of the first websites that springs to mind when someone is looking for examples of SaaS branding and copy done RIGHT.
An effective brand increases its brand equity by having a consistent set of traits that a specific audience will enjoy.
Toggl has positioned itself firmly to attract an audience that appreciates a lighthearted take on serious business things. People that still have a sense of childlike joy and aren’t dead inside.
Which, by Toggl’s user count is over one million people. So that’s reassuring.
Visuals are an integral part of your brand personality, and you need to make sure they’re attracting the specific people you want to draw in. Your audience isn’t “everyone”. It’s a small, select group that values both your product and the way you show up online.
Toggl understands that even though business is a serious matter, it doesn’t need to be boring. Every part of their design, from their cartoons to the 3D graphics and juicy color palette, reflects this.
I’m not going to go in depth on visual design here, because I’m not, repeat, NOT...a designer. Stick figures cry when I try to draw them.
What I do know is that stock photos, generic “flat human” cartoons, and imagery that doesn’t align with your copy and messaging is a recipe for boredom and confusion in your potential customers.
Even if it’s not at the top of their minds while they explore your site, the subconscious of your audience will be whirring away muttering “does not compute” to itself if your design and messaging doesn’t match up.
Cohesion and consistency of design and copy goes a long way towards building trust, as well as creating a strong brand.
A company’s blog page is where consistency can fall apart with multiple writers on the team, and freelance content creators thrown into the mix.
Developing a brand voice and style guide ensures that anyone who has a hand in your content creation understands what to say, what not to say, and how to say it.
When you search for the blog, this is what pops up in search:
Toggl’s meta is neutral (it’s best to choose clear copy here), but the rest of their SERP results give a full glimpse into their style.
Even from these snippets, it’s clear that they’re keeping consistent with their warm, fun, and friendly approach to business.
If you love comics, the blog is a treat. Plus, it contains solid information on a wide range of business and entrepreneurial topics. Toggl has some brilliant writing and artistic talent on their team, so it’s not just cool and funny -- it’s also USEFUL.
As an example:
I especially like the way these blogs are laid out so you can see the exact content you can expect to read under the header...before you get sidetracked by the insanely detailed “infocomics” underneath.
Toggl’s social accounts keep pace with the rest of their content. On Twitter and Facebook, it’s a nice blend of updates, crazy gifs, and new articles...with fun copy thrown in.
I wasn’t expecting much from LinkedIn (the wet sock of social media), but two posts down I hit this:
Feeling personally attacked due to my terrible sense of time awareness, I debated pushing the button (it’s also Friday and I badly need wine and snacks, and it looks like it’s about to rain, and it’s a 30 minute walk to the store), but what the heck. It’s only a minute?
Eight minutes later (now torrentially raining outside) I managed to pin my time down to 1:04. Sweet relief.
Toggl just keeps on giving with its generous helpings of interactive bits and pieces. Which, for a productivity app seems a little at cross-purposes. All I know is that I’m powerless to stop pressing those “play” buttons.
404’s are the easter eggs of every website, and you’d be surprised how many people actively go looking for them (hint: at least one person).
Toggl’s 404 doesn’t disappoint with its attention to detail for lost visitors. Check out the cute bear animation.
I ran some random pieces of content from Toggl’s website through an AI voice analyzer. I’m not going to get too granular with this, so here’s a brief overview.
The top 3 elements that are evident in the tone across their wider content resources are:
No surprises here. That sense of joy and happiness is evident about .05 seconds after you land on the home page.
As an app covering a range of business and productivity topics, Toggl’s voice has a strong sense of reasoning and an analytical attitude towards their subject matter. And, as you’d hope, they’re showing up as an expert on these topics.
The fact that I ran about 20 pieces of content from a variety of pages through the analyzer shows that there’s a good level of consistency in tone across Toggl’s website.
Toggl positions themselves as accessible experts. Their sentences average 15 words per sentence, using short words so that their content can easily be skimmed and digested while providing in-depth value to the reader.
The readability scores show that the content is aimed at an adult audience, with a leaning towards those with a college level education.
What interests me the most about Toggl’s voice is that although they’re lighthearted in tone, they don’t fall back on exclamation marks to do the heavy lifting for them. Many brands put too much reliance on this form of punctuation and it ends up looking lazy and feeling a bit stretched on the comedy front. Bonus points to Toggl for this! (see what I did there?).
With such a strong level of consistency throughout their branding, I would expect Toggl to have a style guide of some sort so that any new writers and designers can hit the ground running.
I couldn’t find anything online, but one of their blog posts gives a generous amount of information on how to create your own brand guide. It also includes a creative brief template to help you get started, and a fightingly good poem.
To protect your business from devastation–
And unite design elements for your organization
To denounce the evils of mismatched fonts
And perfect your image ‘til it’s where you want
THE BRAND! BOOK!
Brand guidelines blast off at the speed of light
Make some now, or prepare to fight!
How did they create such a strong brand?
Toggl has been bootstrapped since they started in 2006. With no funding, it’s essential that SaaS companies run lean and smart in order to grow sustainably. This is something Toggl has excelled at. They now have 75 employees and run a fully remote team, with around 1.6 million people using their product.
From a quick glimpse at their Twitter, it seems that Toggl puts a lot of effort into their customer research.
** Note to self: track down Toggl t-shirt by any means necessary
Paying attention to your customers, inviting them to give feedback, learning about their behaviors, and most of all LISTENING to what they have to say is the core of creating a strong brand and a successful SaaS company.
Customer analysis isn’t a once-and-done solution either. If you’re not doing this regularly, you’re missing the opportunity to grow and evolve alongside your subscribers. Connecting with customers regularly will also give you an insight into any shifts in the market so you can plan accordingly.
If you’ve got a few spare minutes, you’ll want to check out Toggl’s retro Unicorn Startup Simulator game.
I got to $934M before my startup went bust and I went back to being an Uber driver. And that’s why I’m a copywriter, not a founder.
Overall, Toggl has created a fantastic brand and a website user experience that demands site visitors keep exploring to find all the nifty things that are tucked away in there.
Branding isn’t just about creating a voice, style, and cool images for your business-- it needs to have an end goal. You can have the fanciest website in the world, but if it doesn’t sell your product, it’s a wasted effort.
Toggl has a huge number of users, a large percentage of which are generated by word of mouth referrals, which shows that their brand recall is powerful.
Talking to customers, listening to the way they speak, and gathering information and feedback that you can translate into your own brand personality and voice is essential. It’s one of the best ways to create copywriting that speaks to your ideal audience.
Toggl has put maximum effort into listening to their market and defining their brand personality. The results speak for themselves.
Want to create an impact like this for your own business?
I work with innovative SaaS and B2B companies who are tired of blending in, and want to create a stronger voice and a more memorable brand experience.
If you’re serious about your growth and customers, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org