Every year, the SaaStr annual conference teaches us more about the world of software as a service and growth hacking. But each year, that education takes on a greater significance — especially in 2022. SaaStr has become so much more than a one-day conference packed with vendor exhibits; it’s now a platform for sharing best practices and reinforcing fundamental principles. As we all know, the future is unwritten. Every new year brings new challenges and opportunities — but what does that mean for SaaS companies? Let’s take a look at what we learned featuring five talks from different speakers about innovation, business growth, and staying ahead of the curve in 2022.
Business growth is more important than ever
Whether you’re a SaaS company that has been operating for years or you’re a startup on the verge of launching your product, growth is key. SaaS companies can be fairly predictable with their revenue — especially if they offer recurring billing — so they must focus on increasing their customer base and revenue through innovation. People expect more than ever from their software, so successful businesses will have to meet those high expectations.
Don’t skimp on user experience
Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover discussed in his talk regarding Secrets to Combining PLG and Enterprise Sales elaborated how companies should be concerned about functionality and meeting the needs of their customers, they also need to focus on creating an excellent user experience. Customers who use your products daily are likely to be very sensitive to usability issues. They’ll notice even the tiniest design flaw and might be quick to dismiss your product as unsatisfactory. Your product’s user interface (UI) is critical to its success, and you should take every opportunity to improve it. You may not be able to make major design changes to your product, but you can still focus on improving the user experience (UX). Spending extra time on user testing can help you to identify flaws in your design and come up with ways to fix them. You can also pay attention to your competitors and see how they’re handling certain design elements.
Business Value of Great User Experience Design (UXD)
Co-Founder from Userzoom Alfonso de la Nueza and CMO Sophie Chesters gave 10 Lessons Learned Along the Path to $100M ARR and reiterated how when it comes to sales and your product, you should always be asking yourself why:
Why are we selling this product?
Why does the customer need it?
Why are we the ones to sell this product?
The best way to ensure that you’re selling for the right reasons is to use your customer feedback. Instead of focusing on closing more deals, focus on closing the right deals. This will help you to prioritize what is most important for your company. It will also help you to eliminate the noise, which is especially important as you scale. There will be times when you will have to sell something that you don’t necessarily need to sell. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself why you are selling that product. If the answer is simply because you can, it’s probably a good idea to find a different deal.
Ultimately, their biggest takeaway is that sales are a long game. It’s possible to close a deal quickly, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to close a significant deal quickly. Sales take time, and there’s no shortcut to gaining trust and creating relationships with customers. Things happen in the sales process that you can’t control — and that’s OK. The best thing you can do is keep plugging away and making progress, even if it doesn’t feel like progress is coming quickly.
Clear product differentiation.
A talk given by CEO and Co-Founder of Drata Adam Markowitz and Amanda Robinson, a Partner in Cowboy Ventures From Stealth to Unicorn in 11 Months: Top 5 Lessons Learned... emphasized how B2B startups often sell complex products or services. Successful B2B companies are often built upon thousands of hours spent developing products and refining sales channels. Unfortunately, many B2B startups are built upon one-off products that have never been tested in the field. Here are some lessons from them:
If you’re creating a new product or feature, it’s important to get it into the hands of customers as quickly as possible.
You don’t want to spend months or years developing an industry-leading tool only to find out that customers don’t want it.
Partnering with beta customers and obtaining feedback can help you to avoid major pitfalls and create a product that is useful to your industry.
Rapid product iteration isn’t just important during the initial product development phase.
It’s also essential to make constant improvements to your product after it’s been released.
If you notice a major flaw in your product or a feature that customers don’t appreciate, you need to fix it as quickly as possible. Your competitors will learn of your mistake and be more likely to capitalize on it if you don’t react quickly.
Is the product good enough?
Three-time SaaStr speaker Anu Hariharan (from Y Combinator) expounded on a quick 5 Critical and Company-Altering Learnings from B2B Startups. The talk highlighted the most important thing to do when starting a company is to decide what problem you are trying to solve. Is it a sustainability issue? A way to make your customers’ lives easier? Whatever it is, you need to decide on your core value and stick to it. You don’t want to be the solution to everything, or you’ll end up being nothing. Focus on a specific problem and make sure your company stays true to that focus.
Finding the right customers to partner with is paramount
Anu added how partnering with the wrong customers can be disastrous for a B2B startup. Finding the right partners can be an arduous process and require a great deal of trial and error. However, finding the right partners can be essential for the growth and success of your company. Startups that choose to sell directly to other businesses have a huge advantage over those that sell to consumers. Businesses are bigger and more likely to purchase large quantities of your products. They’re also more likely to be repeat customers, which can be a huge advantage for B2B startups that are just getting their legs. Finding the right business partners is a matter of understanding your customers’ pain points and finding out how your products can help solve those issues. Don’t just talk to potential partners who might be interested in your products. Instead, focus on finding partners who have the same needs as your customers. If you sell software that helps companies manage their inventory, for example, you might partner with warehouses or third-party logistics companies. Partners who have the same needs as your customers are more likely to become loyal customers once they start using your products.
Focus on Product-Led Growth (PLG)
The last feature would be Mark Roberge with his talk on Optimizing GTM for PLG with Stage 2 Capital he explained in detail how product-led companies have products that have broad appeal, are easy to understand and use, and have a high rate of customer retention. Product-led companies mainly focus on product development, customer acquisition through their product, and product retention. This can be done by focusing on the customer journey and making sure that it is easy to use, solving a problem that is important to customers. Product-led companies have great products that solve real problems. To achieve product-driven growth, you need to solve a real problem for customers and make it easy for them to use. The main focus of product-led businesses is making sure that customers are happy with the product and come back to purchase again. This can be done by providing excellent customer service and making the product easy to use. While many businesses focus on bringing in new customers, product-led businesses focus on retaining the customers they have and making them happy.
SaaStr Annual 2022 taught us so much about innovation and business growth. It’s clear that companies that focus on the user experience, invest in a robust data foundation, and implement AI and ML will see significant growth in the coming years. At the same time, the SaaStr community also provided some advice: Don’t try to do everything. You don’t have to be an expert in every technology or vertical to succeed. Instead, focus on what you do best, and partner with companies that can help you with the rest. That’s what SaaStr annual 2022 taught us: What it takes to succeed in the SaaS world.