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Scaling to New Heights: Zero to $100 Million — Efficient GTM Strategy for Your SaaS 🚀
4 Product Strategies, 3 Sustainability Tips, 2 Expansion Factors, and 1 Secret Sauce for SaaS Success
Hi Friends 👋
Welcome to a brand-new edition of Growthstore.xyz! 💥
Not long ago, I found myself in a stimulating conversation with a VC as we walked through the lively streets of Bengaluru. Our chat revolved around sustainable growth in the SaaS industry, and I'm eager to share the insights we gathered with you. Plus, I clocked 7K steps in an hour – a win-win! 😄
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Let me take you back to that captivating walk with my VC friend. Picture us, two SaaS enthusiasts strolling through the vibrant streets of Bengaluru, our minds buzzing with excitement as we delved into the world of sustainable growth in the SaaS space. The SaaS landscape and Generative AI are evolving at breakneck speed, and it's time to seize the moment. That stimulating conversation set the stage for me to share these valuable insights with you.
So let's cut to the chase. Here's what is on the menu today:
⚡ 4 powerful strategies for scaling your SaaS product
🌱 3 essential tips for maintaining sustainable growth
🌎 2 key factors for Indian SaaS companies expanding into the US
💥 1 BONUS insight: The secret sauce for SaaS success
Scaling a SaaS product to $100 million is challenging, and startup founders often encounter numerous challenges. The insights we're about to share are designed to address these hurdles and offer actionable strategies that you, as a founder, can implement in your journey to achieve exceptional growth.
Stay tuned as we unravel these insights to help you scale your SaaS product and achieve sustainable growth.
Let's get started! 🚀
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🔮 What is the future of growth?
Let's delve a little into the future of growth before discussing growth strategies for sustainable growth.
The SaaS industry is experiencing a shift in the way growth is achieved. In the past, many companies could hit the “rule of 40” and be successful with a combination of growth rate and profitability. However, many public SaaS companies spend a large percentage of their revenue on sales and marketing, and it's not always clear if they are getting the desired growth.
To illustrate this, Dave Boyce plotted public SaaS companies on two dimensions - growth rate and percentage of revenue spent on sales and marketing - and found companies in the bottom right quadrant, with low spending on sales and marketing and high growth rates, are the sweet spot.
Finding the right mix of go-to-market (GTM), strategies is not enough to achieve sustainable growth. Companies must also answer several questions to achieve long-term success:
Based on the sales conversation, are you constantly evaluating your S&M spending and unit economics?
What sales motions are appropriate for a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) or product-qualified lead (PQL)?
When is the best time to deploy targeted account-based marketing tactics?
How do you know which sales motions are working?
Should you continue investing in particular GTM motions because a seasoned leader thinks it is necessary?
GTMs must be measured and tuned independently but should not be operated independently.
Finding the right blend of GTM strategies is critical to future SaaS growth.
Companies must have Sales-led, Product-led, Partner-led, and Community-led GTMs, each playing a specific role.
It's like building a toolbox - you must have different tools for different jobs.
The following section will discuss the 4 powerful strategies for scaling your SaaS product.
⚡ 4 powerful strategies for scaling your SaaS product
It's no secret that most startups fail, despite starting with the goal of succeeding in the long run. This happens for many reasons, such as a lack of founder-market fit, product-market fit, a grand vision, or simply being too ahead. Despite these challenges, we all have the same goal: to make it work through multiple iterations. That's why it's crucial to remember the four key strategies that startup founders must remember.
🌱 Product Virality
Product virality is about creating a SaaS product that users love and want to share with others. To make your product go viral, it must be intuitive, user-friendly, and valuable.
For example, Dropbox's referral program offers an instant discount, which incentivizes users to share with others. Calendly solves the problem of scheduling meetings quickly, saving users time.
Focusing on instant gratification and solving real problems can make your product go viral and drive growth through word-of-mouth marketing.
Calendly fixes a problem instantly - no more back and forth before scheduling meetings. Plus, it saves time!
Picture this: You're a sports enthusiast who wants to help market a youth football club. But you hit a roadblock when designing an invitation for an upcoming match. You're dependent on a designer, and time is running out.
That's when you discover Canva, an easy-to-use graphic design tool that empowers you to create professional-looking designs in minutes, even without design experience. With Canva's user-friendly interface and pre-designed templates, you can create a stunning invitation in less than 15 minutes. It's a game-changer that democratizes design.
Canva turned me, a design novice, into a designer - just like their pitch deck promised. It's that simple.
Source: Canva Pitch Deck
Imagine bar-coding guests and sending their details over WhatsApp without relying on a developer or pre-sales consultant. That's where the power of automation comes in, streamlining processes and making them more efficient. I experienced this firsthand with the Document Studio chrome plugin, which made the whole process hassle-free. This shows how technology can help businesses optimize processes and save valuable time and resources.
Notion needs no explanation - it's my favorite productivity tool that I can't stop talking about. What a fantastic product!
It's become my go-to tool, just like many other professionals and individuals, and it's not hard to see why. With its sleek black-and-not-quite-white aesthetic and customizable block-based interface, Notion has set itself apart from competitors like Monday.com and Airtable.
But what really sets Notion apart is its viral potential.
Notion's built-for-purpose templates (e.g. to-do lists, product roadmaps, client databases) have created a community of users and enthusiasts who constantly share and collaborate on quirky templates and helpful tutorials. The highly customizable platform allows users to create a workspace that fits their workflow. Its mix-and-match blocks (e.g. charts, databases, notes, videos, photos, lists, and maps) enable users to work more efficiently.
This level of customization and flexibility has made Notion a popular productivity tool among entrepreneurs, teams, and individuals looking to streamline their work processes. Whether you're a creative looking to organize your projects or a team leader looking to keep everyone on the same page, Notion's viral potential and adaptable interface make it a top choice for anyone looking to take their productivity to the next level.
And here's the most incredible part - there are folks on Gumroad creating Notion templates for a living!
🌀 Think in loops, not funnels
Sri has spoken much of this in his previous essay on PLG - Product-Led Growth 🚀: The Key to Dominating in a Crowded SaaS Market.
Regarding product-led growth (PLG), one of the fundamental principles is to think in loops, not funnels. Funnel-based thinking is linear and focuses on moving users from one step to the next, while loop-based thinking focuses on creating a virtuous user engagement cycle that drives growth and long-term success. Here are the key points to keep in mind:
Cut Barriers: Remove friction like credit card requirements and long sign-up forms
Offer Freemiums: Encourage product adoption with freemiums or free trials
Focus on Customer Journey: Design and engineer every aspect to encourage repeatable habits.
In summary, loop-based thinking is a critical aspect of product-led growth. You can create a powerful user engagement cycle that drives sustainable growth and success by cutting barriers, experimenting with offers, and focusing on the customer journey.
🔧 Fitting the product: Vertical vs Segment
My VC friend and I were in deep conversation about the lifeblood of any startup: finding that perfect product-market fit. The stakes were high, and the pressure was on. We both knew that to succeed, we needed to find that fit fast.
As we continued to discuss, I realized there was more to the debate than just vertical versus horizontal SaaS. There was another dimension to consider: Market segment. Imagine having firsthand knowledge of a particular industry's struggles and pain points, like managing a beauty salon, gym, or pharma distributor. With that knowledge, you could build a workflow management startup for a specific market segment and scale it up.
But what if we could apply our knowledge of the problems faced by solo entrepreneurs, creators, pet salons, neighborhood investors, and chefs to a software product that could help them grow their businesses? They all had one thing in common: the need for a software solution to solve their mundane problems and streamline their operations.
As founders, we know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a SaaS product. However, here are some key points I have learned by looking at various companies and talking to founders:
Finding a founder market fit is essential for success
Deep domain expertise in a vertical or understanding the pain points of a segment can be advantages
Creating a product that users can't live without is critical to success
Identifying and solving a problem that customers genuinely care about is crucial
Gradually expanding features to mid-market and enterprise customers as the product matures
Remember, the path to success as a founder is never a straight line, but with the right mindset and strategies, it's possible to find that perfect product-market fit and achieve success.
💪 Enduring Churn
Churn is an inevitable part of running a SaaS business. However, that doesn't mean it's invincible. You can successfully conquer it by making churn a regular part of your startup, understanding what it means, and explaining it to your employees and investors.
Imagine a SaaS business that has worked hard to acquire 100 customers, generating a solid $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR). If they lose 10 customers, each paying $100 per month, that results in a total revenue loss of $1,000. While this may seem like a minor loss, when we calculate the MRR churn rate, we see that it amounts to a whopping 10%. This is the fundamental churn calculation, but it doesn't tell the whole story.
🌀Don't Fear Churn: How to Identify and Overcome Customer Attrition in Your SaaS Business
To successfully tackle churn in a SaaS business, constant analysis is crucial. At Freshworks, we have a dedicated team focused on churn analysis and reduction as part of our go-to-market plan. By analyzing MRR churn, we can identify patterns and create strategies to mitigate them.
When it comes to analyzing churn data for your SaaS business, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
Don't worry about non-paying customers; they're part of your freemium model.
Focus on paying customers who have stopped using all licenses they've purchased.
Identify patterns in customers who are still paying but have stopped using the product completely.
Don't count customers who are only testing your product during a paid trial program until they commit to purchasing a license.
Keep an eye out for customers who have only used your product briefly due to poor onboarding or temporary problems.
Prioritize saving long-term potential customers.
While you will inevitably experience logo and revenue churn, focusing on the latter is essential. Don't waste time going down the rabbit hole of determining the reasons behind logo churn – concentrate on MRR churn instead.
For example, Freshworks CRM successfully counteracted churn by simplifying its product offering and providing all features for free to SMB and mid-market segments for a lifetime but restricted it to three agents. This approach reduced churn and made MRR more stable. Remember, analyzing churn data and focusing on MRR churn can make a significant difference in keeping your SaaS business thriving.
Churn is a challenge that all startups face, but it's not insurmountable. By understanding the data, creating strategies to mitigate churn, and prioritizing long-term customers, you can successfully tackle churn and achieve sustainable growth.
Remember, you're not alone in dealing with churn. Read how PayPal tackled churn and successfully mitigated it.
🌱 3 essential tips for maintaining sustainable growth
💰 Sustaining unit economics of customer acquisition
At Freshworks, I have been fortunate to gain a wealth of knowledge and expertise that has deepened my understanding of inbound SaaS marketing and the inner workings of a SaaS business—including revenue generation and growth strategies. I’ve seen the business grow when I couldn’t get my team to stop generating demand, and the sales teams are kicking it out of the park recently– when there is an economic slowdown. One thing that remains very strong is going back to the whiteboard and checking the spend vs revenue is really supporting the unit economics.
The street rewards companies with better multiples with a growth rate positively correlated to profitability, achieving the Rule of 40.
What is the “Rule of 40”?
The Rule of 40 is a guideline for SaaS companies to balance growth and profitability.
The Rule of 40 states that a SaaS company's growth rate and profit margin should add up to at least 40%.
For example, if a SaaS company has a growth rate of 30%, its profit margin should be at least 10% (30% + 10% = 40%).
If a SaaS company is growing rapidly but not yet profitable, it may still meet the Rule of 40 if its growth rate is high enough.
Conversely, a SaaS company that is profitable but not multiplying may still meet the Rule of 40 if its profit margin is high enough.
In the current macro environment, growing at 30%, YoY can be challenging for SMBs, significantly when ARPA is declining. However, you can take specific steps to ensure growth while maintaining customer satisfaction:
Prioritize customer retention and focus on providing exceptional service to keep your existing customers happy.
Add value to your customer base by offering free tools or seasonal discounts.
Bundle products to provide more value to your customers.
Optimize your tech stack and streamline operations to reduce expenses without sacrificing quality.
Look for redundancies to streamline your operations and switch to more cost-effective tools or renegotiate contracts with vendors.
By implementing these strategies, you can maintain customer satisfaction, increase efficiency, and reduce expenses while growing your business, even in harsh macro conditions.
In my previous essay on “Why Building Your Startup's Brand From Day 1 Matters” I, as a marketer, talk about why “growth at any cost” is something I would stay away from despite having seen vast amounts of success through growth. If your marketing distribution channels will hinge on paid strategies, that ship has sailed. Advertising for SaaS has become expensive.
As a startup founder, if you have done anything differently, Leave us a comment, and we’ll be more than happy to showcase your startup at Growthstore.xyz
🚀 Leverage lower-cost channels of customer acquisition
Let's talk about leveraging low-cost customer acquisition channels for your growing startup. I know what you're thinking - "Why to bother spending on branding when nobody even knows my brand?" You've got the point there, which I've touched upon in my previous essay about “sustainable brand growth”. But let's dive into non-paid customer acquisition channels, shall we?
Thomas Tunguz put it perfectly when he said that more predictable growth leads to better results in fundraising, and these channels can help companies reach new places without having to set up shop there.
Sounds good, right?
First up, channel partners and resellers. Think of them as your own sales team that you don't have to hire! There are three main reasons why building a solid network of channel partners pays off in the long run:
They're cost-effective to increase revenue and diversify customer acquisition without adding more salespeople to your payroll.
Channel partners can support your product and help you expand into new areas, boosting your company's gross margin and growth potential.
Diversifying your customer acquisition will make you less vulnerable to underperformance in a single go-to-market channel.
Now, let's talk about referral programs and affiliates.
Dropbox is a perfect example here. They had a growth rate of less than 10% and a pretty impressive 7.7% growth rate on a $2.35 billion base. Plus, their sales and marketing costs were under 20% - a goal any CFO would love. So, how did they do it? Through a referral program that rewards users with discounts for referring new customers. Setting up a scalable referral program like this can help you grow your user base and reach new levels of success.
So, there you have it! By tapping into these lower-cost channels for customer acquisition, you can expand your brand without breaking the bank.
🎯 Setting up for Customer Success
Picture your customers as a pyramid - the top 25% bring in about 65% of your revenue, the middle 35% account for 25%, and the bottom 40% make up just 10%. In some cases, the top 10% of customers can even rake in over 80% of the revenue. Crazy, right?
Now, imagine if you're putting a ton of resources into supporting the bottom of the pyramid. That's not great for scaling. That's where product-led growth (PLG) comes in. It helps you support customers digitally and scale through the product flywheel.
Critical takeaways for setting up for customer success:
Product-Led Growth (PLG): Supports customers digitally and helps scale through the product flywheel.
Net Dollar Retention (NDR): Revenue from existing customers, usually at a low cost. SaaS businesses focusing on customer retention and upsell/cross-sell opportunities tend to grow faster.
Investing in post-sales resources: Customer success teams, talent, tools, and analytics can increase customer loyalty and discover new revenue opportunities.
Net Retention Rate (NRR): Measuring customer retention and upsell/cross-sell opportunities.
NRR of 100%: Retaining all customers.
NRR above 100%: Retaining customers and generating additional revenue through upselling and cross-selling.
Aiming for a median NRR of 120% or more is a solid goal, as you're growing without needing to add new customers. Plus, if your NRR is above 100%, you'll have less to worry about when it comes to churn since you're already retaining customers and generating additional revenue. Companies like Twilio and Crowdstrike have nailed it - they've achieved high NRRs and sustained growth by focusing on customer success and investing in the right resources.
So, to sum it up: work on keeping your customers happy, explore upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and invest in the right resources to set your business up for some serious customer success!
🌎 2 compelling drivers for Indian SaaS companies expanding globally
You know what's really cool? The recent SaaS Bhoomi Annual event gathered over 800 founders, with sadly more than 300 on the waitlist due to space limitations. India is making waves in the global SaaS economy, with 95% of these founders selling their products internationally from India.
So, what makes Indian SaaS companies stand out compared to those outside of India?
Let me tell you about two key reasons:
Cost-effectiveness: Here's the thing – Indian SaaS companies have a cost advantage over their global competitors. Thanks to the lower cost of talent and operating expenses in India, they can offer their products and services at lower prices without skimping on quality. This makes them attractive to customers in developed and emerging markets looking for wallet-friendly solutions. While a US-based SaaS company might spend 60-70% on Sales & Marketing, Indian companies can reduce that to 40-50%. Not too shabby, right?
Skilled talent pool: India has many skilled engineers, developers, and tech professionals. Indian SaaS companies can tap into this unique talent pool to create high-quality, globally competitive products and services. Plus, many of these companies have invested heavily in building top-notch engineering and product teams to develop innovative solutions that cater to customers' needs worldwide.
So, to sum it up: Indian SaaS companies have a winning combo of cost-effectiveness and a skilled talent pool, which has helped them rise to the top in the global SaaS industry. And with more businesses jumping on the cloud-based solutions bandwagon, the demand for Indian SaaS products and services will only grow.
Take Ben Merton as an example: His company, Unifize, started in the US but decided to move to India because selling from India to the US was way easier. And that's just the tip of the iceberg!
💥 1 BONUS insight: The secret sauce for SaaS success
As a SaaS company, one of the best ways to acquire new users at a low cost and facilitate efficient ongoing growth is by offering "free products" built with a marketing intent. These products attract a high-intent audience, add value to their experience, and then nudge visitors to create an account. The power of these products lies in their ability to provide a form of product-led marketing that is effective and efficient.
According to data from OpenView's 2022 Product Benchmarks survey,
On average, freemium PLG products attract 1,000 unique website visitors daily, with a 6% conversion rate to free signups and a 5% conversion rate from new signups to paying customers. This means the product can make $1 to $2 in first-year spending for every unique visitor. SaaS companies must keep their customer acquisition cost (CAC) below $1 per unique visitor to achieve efficient growth, but churn and service costs are not factored into these figures.
But what if you could take this strategy to the next level? That's where generative AI comes in. By using fine-tuned generative AI models, companies like Jasper and Copy.ai are building unified AI experiences and growth automation platforms that provide users with more efficient and effective solutions.
Here is a list of native-AI startups taking on non-native AI SaaS incumbents:
These are just a few examples of how Native-AI startups leverage AI to take on Non-native AI SaaS incumbents and disrupt traditional SaaS markets. As AI technology advances, we can expect to see more and more startups leveraging AI to create innovative solutions and drive competition in the SaaS space.
By leveraging the power of free products built with marketing intent and powered by generative AI, you can attract and retain users, drive growth, and achieve success.
So why not try it and see where it takes your SaaS product?
On Twitter 🐦
🤖 Latest in AI
As we wrap up, I hope you're walking away with a sense of purpose and direction for your SaaS company.
Remember to focus on customer success, low customer acquisition costs, and sustainable unit economics while reducing churn. And let's not forget to think in loops instead of funnels to create a virtuous user engagement cycle.
While the future of growth may be centered around AI and product virality, there's no denying the value of human connection and shared experiences. This conversation with Priya, a VC partner at Venture Highway, reminded me of this. Whether over a virtual call or a home-cooked meal, the power of exchanging ideas and experiences with others is invaluable for growth and success.
So, let's keep the conversation going and continue to share knowledge and experiences as we strive towards building better products and a better future. And to top it off, here's a heartwarming photo of Priya, her mother, and me enjoying that delicious home-cooked meal. Cheers to exciting conversations and shared experiences!
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Until next time 👋
P.S.: Zain Khan inspired me to adopt the 4-3-2-1 format. 🙌