It’s Sunday and I’m finally ready to look back on the great adventure that was SaaStock – three days of learning from the best minds in the SaaS (software-as-a-service) industry. I’m ready to share with you some of the sessions and insights that left the strongest impression on me.
Exhausting, but inspiring
The best decision we made with the Enhancv team was to take the two days after the conference off and explore the Irish countryside. Attending an event with 120+ talks is a grueling experience and you need time to recharge and get your head in order. Already on Friday eve, we started strategizing what to change and what to test. Tomorrow we start executing.
This is not just the obligatory personal element in my blog post – it’s the best testimonial I can give for SaaStock. It’s a huge event and it’s hard to follow everything that’s happening and sometimes you bump into things that aren’t as interesting or actionable as you thought at first. But you will hear a lot of new ideas, insights, and stories that will make you plan what to change in your own company.
So, let’s get down to the lessons I promised you.
1. Stop building the wrong product – talk to your customers
The most interesting talk to me was that of ProfitWell’s Patrick Campbell on the topic of scaling. He went over a bunch of interesting things, but the most curious point was how little companies spend on understanding their customers.
70% of businesses talk to less than 10 customers per month. This means that we don’t understand what customers value and what they need. The trend is clearly visible when we compare what companies think they’re building and how customers value their products.
Patrick uses the following matrix that compares the relative value of a product attribute and the willingness to pay. Businesses feel they are building products almost exclusively in the top right quadrant. But according to consumers a lot of features fall in the bottom right.
However, if companies double down on understanding their customers, statistically speaking, they are setting themselves up for success. The growth rate of these businesses is substantially higher than the rest.
Lesson: build a process to regularly talk with your customers. Make sure you’re not building the wrong product.
2. Branding is not BS – it has a quantifiable impact
Another point from Patrick Campbell’s talk was the value of branding. It’s something that came up in a bunch of presentations during SaaStock, but Patrick had the numbers to back it up. You can use them the next time you need to convince your manager brand investment makes sense.
I don’t have the pretty graph to share here, but the numbers are pretty by themselves. 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.
Lesson: don’t focus solely on acquisition efforts – work on developing your brand.
3. Constantly upgrade and reuse your content
Eric Siu did a cool presentation on content marketing. His main point was that creating content is not a “launch it and forget it kind of a thing”.
First, you need to constantly improve the content you’ve already created. Think Wikipedia – articles become longer and more detailed with time. You need to “
Second, a piece of content is more than a piece of content. You can repurpose your content in different formats – think writing transcripts for podcast episodes, sharing quote visuals on Instagram or quotes on Twitter. There are a bunch of ways you can reuse content – here’s a nice workflow to follow:
Lesson: find your most valuable content and expand on it.
4. Focus. Like, really, focus!
One of the presentations that left a lasting impression on me was
Gideon Pidor shared a bunch of stories that show how his company won by focusing more. First, they know exactly who their customers are. TravelPerk started with a broad target of companies with 5 or more employees. Now they look at much bigger companies, 100-2000 employees and they let smaller clients work things out for themselves with a self-service offering.
This is something Paddle’s Christian Owens also alluded to with the succinct phrase:
The total addressable market is not your target market.Christian Owens, Paddle
Second, TravelPerk know what they want out of those clients. They focus on maximizing value per customers, aiming for total adoption across the company – not just making 1 or 2 teams adopt the product.
Third, they know what marketing activities to focus on. They don’t go for quick wins, they do things that scale well and monitor every new channel they use.
Finally, they are OK with going against popular belief. In a world that goes all for organic traffic and inbound marketing, Gideon talked about the success TravelPerk has had with outbound and why it’s good to use it early on. It works, because of good targeting options and immediate impact. However, it might not work in new product verticals with low search volume.
Lesson: define your key strategy elements and learn to say “No!” to everything else.
5. Build your pricing based on value
Carrie Osman spoke about pricing and gave some great examples of companies that changed their pricing based on customer value.
The key thing she mentioned was building pricing based on the alignment of incentives in mind. Once you find out what your customers value, you can start charging “more fairly” based on that.
A good example is the social monitoring tool Mention. The company used to charge per user, but that didn’t really make sense. What customers value is the number of mentions they get. So they switched to a pricing model based on the monthly number of mentions and that made more sense.
Think about where does the value sit and for whom?Carrie Osman
Lesson: find the true value customers derive from your product and build your pricing based on that.
6. Try harder with content
I saw a few talks about content marketing, but the best examples came from a company building a product for hair salons.
Whenever we talk about content, we almost unconsciously focus on text, photos, video, and audio. But for
It’s refreshing to see that there’s more being done with content. And this is what we all need to do if we want to stand out in the sea of noise that modern marketing is. Check out the slide deck of Connor Keppel for more.
Lesson: think about content beyond text, audio, and video and create something that stands out.
7. Make meetings actually work – or decline going to any
We’re moving into a couple of lessons related to the general mindset. We spend a lot of time in meetings so it’s a good idea to think about how to improve them.
Jessica Weisz from SoapBox gave a cool talk on making meetings less sucky. It’s one of those talks that focuses on truths we already know but don’t think about on a daily basis.
Do you get something from every meeting you attend? According to Jessica, you should. Did the quarterly KPI review actually help you improve results for the next quarter? Did this process retrospection help you improve on how you do things going forward? Make sure you focus on that and meetings will be much more useful.
And if they aren’t, just decline them. Declining meetings isn’t a sin – it’s a sign you’re critical about how you spend your time.
Here are Jessica’s key takeaways and you can see the rest in her slide deck.
Lesson: meetings should bring value. Evaluate if they truly serve their purpose.
8. Take the Most Charitable Interpretation
Patrick Campbell from ProfitWell had another talk focused on his founder story. It was a great recap of best practices in team dynamics, not just founder relations.
Patrick follows what he calls “the most charitable interpretation”. It’s essentially a way to think about others’ actions by always giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Assume that any argument is caused by misaligned expectations, not ill intent. Assume a certain level of naivete, not that the other person is being manipulative. And when it comes to dealing with arguments, don’t break things off – talk everything out and fully understand the other person’s perspective. Don’t beat about the bush – handle stuff directly.
Lesson: give people the benefit of the doubt and always be direct.
9. Focus on the value your product brings
The interview with Slack’s CTO was interesting on a number of levels, but one line stuck with me:
“You can build a business out of a product that people love. You can’t build a product people love out of a business.”Cal Henderson, CTO of Slack
It’s one of those things you know in principle, but you don’t think about. When creating a new feature, updating pricing or planning your next content strategy, think about the value this will bring to customers.
Lesson: always start with the value you bring customers.
10. Don’t just listen or read about it – execute.
We go to events, we read blogs, we listen to podcasts, we read business books. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned. But we often just end it all at the learning stage.
Patrick Campbell, Jessica Weisz, as well as a lot of other speakers ended their presentations the same way – by urging the audience to go out of the room and start getting sh*t done.
After a conference like SaaStock, you feel intellectually tired. But once the fog clears and you go back to your notes, you need to think in terms of next steps.
As I go into the office on Monday, I have a list prepared with things I’ll start implementing in my daily work. And this is the most important lesson of all.
Lesson: always think in terms of specific next steps based on new insights gained.
Don’t take my word for it
I’ve seen a few presentations at SaaStock, but I haven’t seen all. There are a few other recaps out there that will give you new points of view. Go through them:
- The official SaaStock live blog: SaaS.City recap, Day 1 recap, Day 2 recap
- My own recap of the Growth Marketing Bootcamp
- Ten key lessons from SaaStock 2018
- Impressions From Dublin 2018 SaaStock: 10 B2B Strategies To Grow Your SaaS
- SaaStock 2018 – personal notes and take home messages
- 6 customer success takeaways from SaaStock 2018
- SaaStock 2018 day 1
Have some takeaways from SaaStock yourself? Share them in the comments below!
And start executing today!
cover photo: the SaaStock blog