SaaStr Annual 2018 Recap

The cleverbridge team just returned from the SaaStr Annual and I’d like to pen a few of my thoughts while they’re still fresh in my mind. If you’re not familiar with the SaaStr Annual, it brings together a global community of SaaS founders, VCs and executives for three days of mindshare, networking and more. It’s a conference not-to-miss if you’re a SaaS solutions provider or use a subscription business model to sell a cloud-based service.

Our team enjoyed interacting with other companies to hear about their current challenges managing churn, payments and selling internationally, and the opportunity to share insights from our rich experience in international ecommerce and subscription management.

Below I’ll give my take on the most important themes of the conference.

Minimize Churn, Maximize Revenue

From the numerous discussions I had in the halls of SaaStr and at our booth, the question of churn reduction was an underlying force. In order to reach your full revenue potential as a company, you must focus on reducing churn — something you can prevent by providing the best experience possible to your customers throughout their interaction with your products and services. There are many tools available that allow you to monitor, analyze, predict, and manage customer experience, like FullStory, Gainsight or ChurnZero.

Focusing on customer experience is a terrific idea—it correctly highlights that the SaaS space is not just about customer acquisition, but also about customer retention.

With the Customer Success function rapidly evolving since its inception not long ago, this role is vital. We’re living in an age of the educated buyer and user who have higher expectations than ever before. VP of Customer Success from Teamable touched on this in his session on Customer Success. We must align our Sales, Marketing, Product and Customer Success teams into a well-oiled machine that will help our organization keep customers happy and grow accounts.

Scale Your Sales Team, Fast

If you want to achieve growth, you must provide a great customer experience. The next step for many vendors is about scaling their sales organizations and sales capacity fast. It’s logical: the more Sales Reps you have on the frontlines sharing the value that your product provides, the more customers you’ll have. This translates into more money for your company that you can put toward your overall growth as a SaaS business. And the beauty of scaling your Sales team is that you can do this as your product continues through different growth phases: MVP, product/market fit and beyond.

Many sessions at SaaStr touched on metrics to measure the maturity of a company, from annual revenue and product development lifecycle time to employee size and time-to-market. These sessions also advocated best practices for building a high-performing Sales team and how this directly contributes to future success.

Go Global, Act Local

Expanding sales internationally was an important theme for many at SaaStr and there was also high participation from companies based outside of the USA. As one notable example, the government of New Zealand helped sponsor more than 100 SaaS company representatives to attend SaaStr and hosted local meet-ups for months in advance as well as during their visit to San Francisco to enhance their overall experience. Many SaaStr sessions were also focused on how to achieve scale beyond borders as well as achieve entrance into the Global 2000. It certainly is no small feat to build an organization that supports selling abroad, as well as one that can deal with the pressures of hyper growth (and how to manage through it).

Money Talks

The last day of the event was referred to as “Money Day,” when VCs came to the forefront as thought leaders to share their tips with hungry startups. From navigating the uncharted territory of artificial intelligence to shifting mindsets, from surviving to thriving, these talks were focused on helping SaaS leaders succeed now and anticipate what’s next as they strive to build a billion-dollar business. They must navigate an increasingly competitive landscape, determine which market segments to focus on, figure out the right time to hire the executive team and build the right culture (from the start). As ServiceMax mentioned in its session, all of these factors contributed to a recent $1 billion acquisition from GE.

As you can see, there was no shortage of learning at this year’s SaaStr Annual for SaaS companies. I’d like to leave you with a recent tweet from David Cancel of Drift, “The number one limiting belief I see at almost every company: ‘That won’t scale.’ Kill this limiting belief fast.” In order to win in the market as SaaS companies, it’s about economies of scale and relevance. Examine every aspect of your business to ensure it’s designed to scale.

Doug Caviness is VP Sales Americas for cleverbridge