What We Learned at SaaStr Annual 2019

SaaStr Annual is a must-attend event for any SaaS business. It’s not just the place to learn cutting-edge business techniques in cloud technology — it’s also the perfect event to connect with like-minded professionals using networking tools such as Braindates and Brella.

In this post, we’ll reveal the most useful tips we learned while we were there, some of which I summarized after a long day 1 in this Quora post. We scoured the presentation decks and linked to them in our summaries so you can easily find more details.

Expanding Your Customer Base

One of the most critical tasks for SaaS companies is increasing the customer base. As most speakers emphasized, subscriptions are one of the best sources of revenue available. Here are some of the speakers’ best tips for successful scaling.

Tailor Your Closing Process

For B2B SaaS companies, the sales funnel is long, and adoption remains a challenge. Romain Lapeyre, CEO of Gorgias, closes more deals by fine-tuning the entire process. By refining his sales team’s closing strategy and personalizing onboarding, Gorgias achieved a three times higher close rate and a customer activation rate of 95 percent.

Build End-User Trust

Users like honest companies — and as Shannon Spanhake, the CEO and co-founder of Cleo, says — trust can lead to big gains. Her company, which facilitates child care for working parents, crafted a down-to-earth, honest marketing campaign about the stark reality of parenthood. It increased deals from $100,000 to $1 million in a single year.

Go Upmarket Strategically

When you decide to move upmarket, there are many factors to consider. May Habib, the CEO of Qordoba, has six tips for success. She emphasized telling a better brand story, increasing bottom-of-the-funnel content, and investing resources into pipeline development.

Mapistry CEO Allie Janoch and VP of marketing Lauren Alexander noted that handling buyer expectations and learning how to navigate the complex sale cycle are other ways to ensure success upmarket. 

Provide Useful Content

Inbound marketing is having its moment, which many SaaStr conference speakers confirmed. In Quora Writer’s Workshop, Quora evangelist JD Prater emphasized the importance of providing thought leadership to establish your business as an industry leader. This approach builds your reputation as a trustworthy source — plus it helps attract new clients. Prater’s biggest tip: “Don’t sell. Provide value.”

Maintaining a Strong Customer Base

Speakers at SaaStr Annual highlighted the importance of maintaining a robust customer base, a priority for any successful SaaS business.

Make Your Business Customer-Centric

If your business isn’t already customer-centric, make it a priority. Nicolas Dessaigne, CEO of Algolia, and Hollie Wegman, VP of marketing at Segment, propose a five-step path:

  1. Gain insights into your customers with analytics
  2. Be helpful
  3. Provide a consistent experience
  4. Honor advocates
  5. Be intentional with your culture

Sandy Carter, VP of Windows and enterprise workloads at Amazon Web Services, notes that working backward from the customer, or considering the customer’s needs, wants, and experiences first, is an excellent way to provide the experience that today’s customers are searching for.

Prioritize Customer Success and Support

Customer success teams should be available to help customers every step of the way —especially during onboarding. Yamini Rangan, chief customer officer of Dropbox, notes that you should have hired sales support teams yesterday; they are one of the most important hires a SaaS business can make. At Lunar, our customer success manager Van Kwan takes customer success seriously, proactively working with our clients to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to ensure their success.

Crafting a Strong Support System

Hiring (and keeping) qualified employees is a focus for SaaS companies, as SaaStr conference speakers consistently confirmed.

Create a Positive Work Environment

As Adaptive Insights CEO Tom Bogan noted in his presentation, putting the team first is a sure way to success. Elisa Steele, CEO of the HR company Namely, purports that businesses should treat employees like consumers to cultivate a desirable workplace culture. In other words, ensure your workplace has a clear purpose and definable employee experience — and don’t forget to regularly gather insights about your team to inform both factors. Lunar VP Kyle McMahon is looking into employee NPS as a possible way to gauge employee satisfaction.

Hire the Right People

Easier said than done, right? The consensus from Plato co-founder and CEO Quang Hoang, Segment CPO Tido Carriero, and Mode CTO Heather Rivers is that successful hiring is a three-step process. First, know which roles you’re hiring for and when you need them filled. Then, standardize your hiring process and make an informed decision. Egnyte CMO Jennifer Pockell Dimas adds that functional organization is especially important when you consider expanding your marketing team, as is thinking about hiring in stages of funding.

Get Out of the Way

When it comes to successful global and nationwide teams, Eventbrite SVP Pat Poels asserts that once you hire leaders and team members you can trust, you need to get out of the way and let them do their jobs. Trust and autonomy are the keys to a happy and productive team.

Our team learned a lot throughout SaaStr 2019, and we hope we helped you learn something of value, too. We not only want to provide great SaaS products like Uplink, but we also aim to continue to find ways to support our culture and core values: “Better, Together”;“Expect The Moon”; and “Professionally Casual”.See you at SaaStr 2020.

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