SaaS Learnings

I have started a couple of SaaS startups, consulted and worked with a few more over the better part of the decade and most of my learnings come from running SaaS products. Here are a few I have picked up over the years:

The 80:20 Anything: Top 20% of your customers will be radically different from the others and in some sense as they are likely to be your power users. Sit with them often if you want to spot opportunities to grow your top lines without much effort (raising prices, chasing new accounts, improving ARPU from the bottom 80%). Also one of the things to keep in mind is to also understand that most of the features and requests that come from these folks are likely not going to be used by the rest of your users. Oh also the the bottom 20% of your users probably will churn on its own but you can graduate them to the middle if you are focused enough.

Judge intent early on: One of the learnings that I cherish the most is being picky about the customers you onboard. If you onboard folks who are going to likely be well on the way to price-feature fit (Price they pay for : The outcomes they get) from anywhere between Day 1-Day 7 (post onboarding) you will be able to run further. SaaS’s fable land (Compounding ARR, High margins and WOM) only exists when your customers are likely to get the most out of using you as quickly as possible. If that is not the case, refer them to your competitors or improve your offerings before focusing on those use cases.

Optimize your Forms to improve funnels: Its sort of counter intuitive at first but if your sales folks know the intent & get it enriched by as many of the data points as possible, the sales cycles get radically manageable. Often the first and last automated touch points of most SaaS product are forms, make sure you are doing it right and measuring the churn from there. It’s not surprising to hear examples of (lead gen, signup etc) forms being optimised leading to better leads or better yet generating more leads.

Be razor focussed on Why of the requests that flow in: To understand the length and breadth of the offerings go to your feature request tracker and bucket them. Most of the frequently requested features point to an underlying cause that gets your customers to request a feature that is thought from their point of view. Always treat the cause of the problems not the symptoms. A lot of these problems can probably be low hanging fruits and (or) easily solvable. Make the most of it.

Superheroes? That’s good sales guys: That 80-20 rule above? Your good sales guys should fall under the power users bucket. They demo your offerings and offer solutions to the problems that your (prospective) customers are facing. They probably have found out ways to hide glaring bugs and unintuitive flows across your entire offerings. Sit with them to see what can be improved and understand more about your customers. Any sales guy (or gal) worth their salt should know more about their accounts and users than you probably do.

If you are going down, focus on your existing customers: If your business (and product) metrics are tanking intuition points to getting new accounts ASAP. But you are more likely to turn things around if you focus on your existing customers and focus on retention. That doesn’t mean giving away your product for free (not that it can’t work) but rather a tighter customer discovery to understand if the problems your product is solving are the same problems that your customers are facing and want to solve for. Also accounts that are sticking with you even when everyone else is migrating elsewhere? They are probably the areas where you have a true feature-price-market fit.

Hustle improves when you listen to Jay-Z and SaaStr
Saastr is a great place to learn and develop your own play-books for running your SaaS ships. Getting to 1 Million in ARR is easier than ever thanks to likes of SaaaStr, but then that’s not the only thing you should learn from there. Oh also Jay-Z? Some random experiment I ran (sample size:1 viz me) pointed out that listening to Jay-Z helped improve the hustle by 200%. So go knock the hustle?

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