How we Used Webcomics to Market a B2B SaaS Product

It was June 2016. We were a month away from System Administrator Appreciation Day, also known as Sysadmin Day.

At the Freshservice marketing team, we wanted to do something special to celebrate the contributions of our customers (and all other IT folks) who make our lives easier. But what exactly could we do?

The obvious answer was to make a video, but we barely had the time or resources back then to quickly pull off an awesome video. And more importantly, we didn’t want to take a path that had been beaten to death by other ITSM tool vendors.

I was always a huge fan of the Dilbert  webcomics and had toyed with the idea of creating a “Dilbert for IT folks” in the past. I had even jotted down a few jokes, mostly based on experiences I had during my stint as an IT support professional. But they’d been fermenting in my drive folder, ambitiously named ‘Funny’ for eternity. This seemed like the perfect chance to dust them off and put them to use.

So, I made up a comic character, wrote up a description of what his traits should be—vaguely based on someone I used to work with—and Sysadman was born.

Here’s the description for the main character:

“Jack Wylde (aka Sysadman) is a brainy IT guy who lacks empathy (and social etiquette) and is basically a ‘brilliant jerk’. He has a sarcastic sense of humor. He’s lazy and would rather be playing video games on a beanbag than listen to users whine about their lost mouse (but inevitably, these are the kind of issues he always ends up getting).”

We got Shruthi Venkatesh – one of the most talented designers I know – to create the comics, and it all fell into place. Shruthi created these amazing characters based on their traits, quirks, and roles within the organization.

The plan was to publish one comic strip a week. So once we had eight ready, we could publish four and still be covered for a whole month.

We finally published Sysadman on Sysadmin Day. This was the first one:

The first - Webcomics

Source: The Sysadman Diaries

We opened the document up to the rest of the team to crowdsource ideas, and shortly after, Sanjeev NCproduct evangelist at Freshservice, pitched in with his witty contributions. 

We added an option for folks to subscribe and sent them a new comic strip every Monday. Not a great day for sending newsletters,I know, but the idea was to help them kick-start their week with some self-deprecating humor. Here’s one of them:

Webcomics - The Newsletter

These newsletters soon became popular. The open rate, an average of 60%, exceeded that of any other campaign we’d previously run. The precomposed tweet that we included helped them easily share it with their followers.

We wanted to do more. Soon, we printed out Sysadman booklets and t-shirts to give them out at conferences and for online campaigns.

Goodies based on the webcomics

These t-shirts are a rage at IT conferences. Look for the Freshservice booth next time if you’d like one.

In December 2017, my colleague Praveen Ramesh planned a New Year campaign. The idea was to send out fun calendars to IT folks across the globe. We created a page where people could sign up and request for a 2018 Sysadman desk calendar.

A calendar based on the webcomics

Our target was to get at least 2,000 requests for the campaign to make sense economically. We overshot it in under two weeks. It was even featured on Product Hunt and voted the #2 product of the day.

Sysadman started out as a fun project, but became a catalyst for many other successful ones. We never thought a comic character we created would get so much love from the IT community.

P.S. Let me know what you think about the comics in the comments below. If you have content suggestions, drop them here or tweet @freshserviceapp (#sysadman). If it makes the cut, we’ll send over a free t-shirt 🙂