Growth is easy, right?

By Ian Blake on 26 July 2019 15:58:14 BST


What do you get if you combine a room full of dynamic SaaS professionals, pizza, drinks and some excellent presentations on growth? The launch of SaaStock Local of course!

We were delighted to partner with SaaStock this year and organise an event for the SaaS community in Dublin. 

Kieran Flanagan, VP Marketing at HubSpot and Ray Coppinger, Head of Marketing at Teamwork, shared their insights into what really helps SaaS companies grow. And we concluded the evening with a panel, consisting of our two speakers, Julie Currid, co-founder and CEO of Initiafy and Ian Blake, MD of Squaredot.

 

Telling the truth about growth

Kieran and Ray tackled the biggest concern for SaaS marketers and professionals - how to grow your customer base. 

Too often, the complexities of growth get lost when you see blog posts speaking about a SaaS company X grew from zero to a million users in three short months. Or you see a listicle article telling you how to grow your business in 5 simple steps.

The truth is that growth is tough. Any company on a growth trajectory knows that growth never looks like this:

Grow in red

But looks like this instead:

real grow in red

To put it simply, the struggle is real. Your potential customers are most likely pressed for time and only have a few minutes (or seconds to evaluate) your product, people sign up for an account and then never use it, a new, or different, product from one of your competitors attracts your audience’s attention etc.

Any number of factors, that seldom make the growth hacking blog posts, affect your growth.

However, Kieran shared how to make the growth challenge… well, less challenging. The answer is to combine models with planning and people to create a predictable growth model.

A growth model places equal importance on customer acquisition, activation and product value. For inspiration, Tope Awotona, founder of Calendly, goes into some detail about growth for his $30 million SaaS company here.

Kieran was categorical about activation being the north star metric that SaaS marketers have to prioritise.

sea star

 

Retention, or lack of it is the #1 killer of SaaS businesses. Get people who sign up to your product to actually use your product and you could immediately increase your retention rate. 

 

The most important “S” is SaaS

We’re all guilty of believing the hype around our products. And that’s no bad thing. 

But customers who actually buy SaaS products are fully focused on the service aspect of the SaaS product they’ve either bought or are considering buying. They’re looking to solve a real business problem and it’s your service that they’re relying on to help them.

Ray stated how keeping the “S” for service front and centre with whatever other sales and marketing activity you implement is the pathway to growth.

This includes examining your freemium model (if you use one) and really looking at it through the users’ eyes. Does it offer helpful functionality? Is it easy to share? Does it provide a great UX?

Developing a robust service ethos in your company is also extremely helpful to leverage the power of your community. Word of mouth marketing is still the strongest form of marketing.

 

Focus on brand

We hear so much about building a community. But how exactly should we do that? 

Ray, Kieran and Julie had one unequivocal response: Positioning is key!

In a commercial environment where everyone is doing SEO, social media, content marketing etc. competently, the way to differentiate yourself is through boldness and creativity.

Marketers who tell their SaaS company’s story well, and make it easy for people to feel an emotional connection, by investing in their brand will do well.

This statement is backed up by research. 

Peter Field and Les Binet are two British researchers who wrote a book called The Long and The Short of It in 2013. Their research examined how more than 500 brands spent their marketing budget and how they performed.

Their results were surprising.

  • Brands who split their budget between brand building and lead acquisition performed the best.
  • Brands who invested their budget only on brand building performed second best.
  • Brands who invested their budget only on lead generation performed the worst.

Lead acquisition is critical to any business, and a SaaS business is no different. But building your brand plays a key role in ensuring your company grows too.

We recently wrote about the importance of brand building for B2B tech companies. Hearing Ray, Kieran and Julie discuss how important positioning and storytelling is for growth confirmed our belief that brand is where the smart money is for the future!