So SaaStr Annual is now over for 2016. With a buffet of speakers and a tonne of SaaS happy attendees the question now is what did we learn? What are our key takeaways and future action plans?
1. Know your business model.
A key phrase you heard through the conference was 'depending on your business' or 'this worked for us but that's because we do...'. This is a really important message, you cannot copy any other business model and hop for success, you need to know exactly what you offer and to know so you can build the right sales process to drive your engine.
2. Don't bloat yourself with money early.
Take the time (and the smaller round of money required) to focus on running lean, although this helps to keep costs down - the more important factor is that is will make you fix problems with smart thinking rather than by hiring more people. It's that smart thinking that will take you further than the money.
3. Always be raising.
Mark Suster said it, and you should follow it. With the current market downturns starting capital raising early, or at least networking and building relationships with potential future investors is critical. Investors are no longer feeling the pressure to make fast decisions, and you need to account for a longer turnaround time for investment.
4. Build a real business.
SaaS businesses have a reputation for being different, but you still need to be a real business. Don't let yourself overcapitalise. Focus strongly on Growth, Profitability and Cash. All three areas are pivotal for a successful business and investors want to see these balanced. "Growth at any cost' often comes with too high a cost.
5. Culture can actually make or break you.
Yes 'Culture' is a buzz word. But when you hear from the guys that have achieved great success, their biggest mistakes are around hiring the wrong people or neglecting their culture. It actually is critical, and it is better to forsake a little growth that damage your culture by bringing on the wrong person to meet a time commitment.
6. On-boarding is king.
We already knew that right? User experience has to be a top focus. NO. The user experience has be be fantastic! It needs to be the best that it can possibly be. Really successful SaaS business focus on the first 60 seconds of a users experience with the product.
7. Sales takes time. Let it have that time.
A great sales team that produces takes real time to build. A new sales rep can take up to 23 months to start giving you a solid ROI. Defining your sales process early, and taking the time to really onboard new sales staff can help boost their growth rates early, but also allow them the time they need to really get rolling.
8. Outbound Sales? Start it early.
Many of the SaaS Founders I met had fantastic inbound sales methods and were just starting to look at outbound sales strategies. Some of theses guys already had 20-50M ARR, but they wished they had started outbound sales earlier.
9. Marketing - GO BIG!
There are so many competing SaaS businesses out there that you need to think big when it comes to your brand. Whether it's a billboard, or a viral campaign make sure you are pushing the envelope. Don't be afraid to do it when you're still small, brand awareness is what can help drive growth.
10. Be a Movement
In some cases having a great product is enough. But those are the exceptions to the rule. You need to be really leveraging your early adopters, building a vibrant online community, driving thought leadership and owning the space. Be transformational.
A very brief summary from 3 solid days of content, I will be following up with a break out series on specific topics over the next few weeks so keep tuned in. In summary I think SaaStr Annual was well worth it and I will be back next year.
Amy Walker - Specialist in SaaS Strategy & Business Execution
I work with SaaS companies to develop their key strategies, and assist them to get the right tools in place to be able to execute seamlessly in market. I believe that the only thing preventing a great idea from scaling globally is a clear strategy supported by strong execution.