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10 key lessons SaaStock18 attendees picked up

We have just wrapped up what was an amazing time in Dublin last week for SaaStock18. As organisers, we rarely get to sit in sessions or chat to attendees as much as we would like to. There is simply too much running around to be done.

That’s why the write-ups that come after are especially important to us. We get to have a glimpse of the experience our community had and get a confirmation that the content we have been so carefully curating has had an impact. What’s fascinating about these posts is that they aren’t simply listing what was said. Rather the takeaways are sifted through the experience of attendees and their own background, evolved and then shared with the community.

This year we have a particularly great roster of write-ups, all filled with lessons, experiences and kind words. Thanks for everyone who took the time to write their impressions and share with the community. Here are 10 lessons we extracted from them.

1. Don’t overextend your resources when testing new SaaS growth ideas

Sebastian Lambert, picked this key lesson from Kieran Flanagan. Here is what he writes:

Kieran Flanagan, VP of marketing at HubSpot, shared some interesting insights on approaching new ideas for scaling up your business. He stressed the importance of not jumping at every SaaS growth idea that has potential, as it may easily lead to an overextension of your resources. Instead, he suggested honing the ideas in the same way a tech incubator works. If someone in your company has a potentially good growth idea make him a co-founder for that idea and give them enough initial resources to test it at the incubation stage.

Kieran likes to use a 2×2 matrix to segment potential ideas based on the effort required in their implementation (horizontal axis) and potential ROI (vertical axis). This gives you four basic types of ideas:

  • Scalable Growth: that’s the ideas you’re currently using as a foundation for your business model, they require a lot of company resources, but they’re tested and provide high ROI.
  • The Gold: these are very rare and hard to achieve at the scale-up stage, so you’ll mostly encounter them with startups. These are ideas that offer high ROI at a low implementation cost. Obviously, you should definitely jump at opportunities like this.
  • Incubator: that’s the segment you’ll want to use for most of the potentially good growth ideas. The ROI potential is still low because they’re not tested yet, but allocating little resources to it will allow you to patiently incubate and evaluate each idea in a safe environment.
  • Black Holes: these are ideas that take up a lot of company effort while offering poor ROI. Avoid them at all costs.

Read here Sebastian’s full write up. 

2. Don’t build the architecture of your biggest dreams

That’s the advice, Petri Hollmén picked up on the more technical side of things from the opening session on Day 2 with Cal Henderson, CTO of Slack. Here is what he writes:

You can’t build the architecture for your biggest dreams. But when you grow, you need to work with your scalability, but infinite scalability is not your first target when you launch your product. Resources are scarce and you have to prioritize.

If your tool is considered as a commodity (meaning, that it’s an essential part of daily life – like tap water), you have to target 100% uptime. Anything less is not acceptable.

Read all of Petri’s thoughts and observations on his blog 

3. Work on developing your brand

Branding, branding, branding is one of the key ideas Vassilena Valchanova picked up from multiple speakers. She writes:

It’s something that came up in a bunch of presentations during SaaStock, but Patrick Campbell had the numbers to back it up. You can use them the next time you need to convince your manager brand investment makes sense.

5-10 years ago, branding didn’t matter that much in software – we lived in simpler times with fewer competing product offerings. But today, there are thousands upon thousands of products our users can try. And the key features are pretty damn similar. So consumers turn to brands.

Today, a positive brand perception drives 20-35% higher willingness to pay. If the brand perception is negative, consumers express a 15-20% lower willingness to pay.

Full post.

4. Create lots of Wows, both small and big

Julian Gottke, Marketing Lead at quintly Inc is all about the Wow-ing of customers. He writes

Put yourself in the shoes of a prospect you show your product to. You want to see something that makes you excited. Better sooner than later.

In the SaaS industry, this will be the demo call, whereas the wow-moment can be applied to every different industry.

Ask yourself what’s the small and the big “wow” you show to the individual prospect

This is a great question to put on the table in order to question your product and the product demo.

However, for me, the crucial word here is “individual” as the wow effect certainly depends on the person you talk to. Make sure that your demos are tailored towards the person you talk by asking questions.

That means, the shown features heavily need to depend on the use case and thus sales material should also differ from use case to use case (we start calling that “jobs to be done”, earlier personas).

Full post

5. Get marketing and engineering working together

ricardo® ghekiere, founder of Fast Forward has 4 key in-depth takeaways. This one particularly stood out for us as the concept is super interesting. He calls it engineered marketing. He writes:

“Real growth happens when different departments work together towards the same result”, something I have been saying for years now. Side project marketing is a direct example of exactly that.

It’s when engineering & marketing blend together to create company growth.

Which is why it’s also called engineered marketing.

In this side project marketing guide the concept is explained as followed:

“Side project marketing is about building something of value that solves a small problem of your target audience in order to up-sell them your related product/service later-on.”

Successful SaaS companies such as Hubspot & Canva have used this strategy to scale their user growth exponentially.

These are 3 examples to learn from:

Email Signature Generator by Hubspot

CV templates by Canva

Black Swan test by Kazi

The best part?

When done correctly, it’s a perfect way to enhance your user onboarding.

Think about it.

You are looking for a CV template, google it, find a good-looking one in the Canva templates and boom. Suddenly you find yourself creating your CV in the Canva software without realising it. Here is a complete list of Side Project examples you can draw inspiration from.

A pro-tip when building out your next Side Project?

Brian Balfour mentioned that products should mould into channels. Not the other way around. This means that if you want to create a successful side project you need to figure out on which channel you want it to accelerate growth and mould it into the channel.

For example, when performing SEO research, the Hubspot team found that a large number of people were searching for email signature examples. This was a great sign their Email Signature Generator side project would pay off in the long run. People were already looking for it.

That’s what you are aiming for.

Full post

6. Hire Game Changers to Propel Growth

Alan Gleeson has been coming to each SaaStock and always produces a great and very quick write up from the lessons he picked. We loved this one in particular, the importance of hiring, which he picked up at a side event Notion Capital ran. In his own words:

Notion Capital organised an excellent panel event focusing on hiring. They recommended that founders look for a “game changer”; someone who has gone on a similar journey before can lift some of the burden for founders and who is capable of driving 10x the revenue in their first year.

Recommended Resource: Game Changers: The Impact of Hiring Amazing People and How to Hire Them

Full post.

7. Create Heroes

Huckletree’s Louis Hywel Evans who found SaaStock particularly human writes this as one of the most important lessons picked up:

Organising, connecting, prioritising and utilising the feedback of a human customer is something that’s difficult to balance correctly. However, when done right, it can take make the users of your product more relatable, providing newfound levels of advocacy.

Workfront’s Jada Balster took the human-focused approach up a notch, encouraging product builders to make their customers front-and-centre of their products. From plastering photos of their users on the homepage of their webpage to featuring them in marketing campaigns, they’re strong believers in harnessing people power. Her reason?

“IT’S FAR EASIER TO MAKE AN ADVOCATE AN INFLUENCER, THAN AN INFLUENCER AN ADVOCATE.”

Struggling to engender customer loyalty? Take a tip from Workfront and take a perspective which orientates your customer to be “the hero” – not yourself or your product.

Receptive.io’s CEO and Co-Founder Hannah Chaplin led the charge for a better understanding of human-centric customer feedback. Most memorable were her calls to consider its complexities. Sometimes it can be hard not to make knee-jerk reactions, especially when dealing with negative feedback about the product you’ve poured our heart and soul into.

Hannah highlighted that it’s important to realise that feedback given by customers isn’t always a case of black or white. It’s something that lives through its intricacies and nuances – and that’s something to embrace! Founders need to ensure that understanding and implementing feedback isn’t a battle as to whether things can be done either ‘their way’ or ‘your way’, with no middle ground.

Full post

8. Attribute success gaps and use them for creating content

Another one from Vasilena, this one picked up at the growth bootcamp from Eric Siu. She writes:

Ask yourself “what does success look like for our customers?” Based on that, decide what types of broader content you can create in order to widen the funnel and bring in more people from your target audience – even if this means creating content that’s not directly related to your product. This works for expanding beyond 100,000+ visits/month. For example, if you’re creating an email opt-in product, you may need to tell your users how to build their website. Hubspot does that with great success.

Here is everything else Vassilena picked up at the growth bootcamp. 

9. Make something really painful, easy

GoSquared’s Russell Vaughan got to hear that piece of wisdom at the sales bootcamp on Monday. Solving a pain point isn’t enough. It needs to be solved easily. Here is what he writes:

I also had the opportunity on Monday to view John Thompson’s ‘SaaSy Selling’ workshop

John has 22 years of experience in the world of startups. He’d been in SaaS since 2001 and had worked in every role from salesperson, leader, founder, and CEO.

One thing that really stuck with me from this talk was to think about what your software was ‘in the mind of the customer’. We often talk about the problem our software is trying to solve but I think sometimes we forget to think about it in the mind of our customer.

John pointed out that people’s tolerance for anything hard is way lower these days. Our product can be solving a problem but is it doing that in a simple way? Are we making it easy to try out and are we able to deliver benefit in an evolutionary way? From a sales perspective, these are areas we can, and should, be focusing on communicating when we are positioning our product.

A great way to think about this was “the sales radio station” WII-FM. The acronym WII-FM stands for ‘Whats in it for me?’ and whenever pitching think about your prospect having the sales radio station on in the background to always make sure you address that question for them.

Read all takeouts

10. Only you can define your category

So writes Hannah Churchman who picked this up from April Dunford. Here is her own words:

What is your category? Have you decided yet or have you let your customers do it for you? This is the worst thing you can do according to April Dunford of Rocket Launch Marketing. Why? Because they’re not very good at it.

By defining your category, you can ensure that your product is positioned just where you want it to be and are competing in the right space. Do you want to go head to head with other players in an established category or are you looking to create a completely new category (think: HubSpot and Drift).

Another key point April made was not getting categories mixed up with trends. Categories include CRM, group chat and security systems whereas trends include AI, cloud and Blockchain. See the difference?

See what else Hannah picked up by reading her full post

Bonus: A lesson in Social media worthy of a Most Engaged Company on Social Media prize

Veamly won our Most Engaged Company on Social Media prize. How did they manage? The short answer is loads of people and loads of content on the key platforms. The longer is in this piece. Congratulations.

Early release tickets for SaaStock19 are available until November 1st. Make sure you grab one before they are gone for a good while.