Scaling Like a Rocket: 5 Secrets to Growing Your SaaS Empire Without Crashing
Although there are many steps to growing your company, here are 5 “secret” ones, in no particular order, that often get overlooked or skipped while you’re focused on building out your product:
Product Market Fit (PMF)
In my work with SaaS companies over the past several years, PMF is one of the most misunderstood concepts that I have encountered. Product market fit refers to the point in a startup’s journey where it has built a product or service that solves a real problem for a specific market segment. Inherent in solving this problem is the creation, delivery and capture of value.
Achieving product-market fit requires you to know a specific target market at a deep level. You must know their challenges, pain points, needs and wants. You achieve this by making educated assumptions and conducting market research with potential buyers and current customers to validate what you think you know. You iterate on your product based on this feedback. This iterative process allows you to fine-tune your product until it provides compelling value for buyers.
The math formula for value = benefits minus price. Benefits are outcomes that buyers get with your product. Things like: speed, accuracy, scalability. efficiency, etc. note that I am not using the word “features” here. Features are your technology. Features and benefits are the same thing.
All too often, I see SaaS companies deploying a wide-net marketing approach to see who lands in their net. Typically, this tactic does not provide PMF. You end up with a diverse range of buyers that are too dissimilar to confidently declare that you have achieved product market fit.
Once your SaaS company achieves product-market fit in a specific market, the benefits can be transformative. Here’s how product-market fit helps a SaaS company grow:
Traction: The first growth trigger. Once you have PMF in a specific segment you can go all-in on it and build systems to repeat your pitch and success with that buying group. You put testimonials on your website, ask for referrals in the segment and acquisition becomes easier.
Look-alikes: With success in your first specific target market, your team can now identify additional segments that are similar to your PMF segment. You use the systems you already created to reach the new segments. Now you can grow faster!
Customer Happiness: When your product provides compelling value to buyers/users it yields higher customer retention rates. Additionally, satisfied customers are more likely to upgrade to higher-tier plans, purchase second products and refer other people to you.
Competitive Advantage: Achieving product-market fit creates a strong competitive advantage. A well-aligned product stands out in a crowded market and attracts customers away from competitors because of your validated value propositions.
Clarity of Desired Outcomes
I have another secret, but it shouldn’t be one. To put a roadmap together on how to get somewhere you need to first identify where you want to go. Many founders and leadership teams don’t have clarity on where they want to take their SaaS company. You need to define this with specificity.
If you’re at Point A and you can define Point B, now we can put together a specific roadmap, playbook or GTM Plan to get there.
Growth demands a strategic and well-executed Go-To-Market (GTM) plan or Grow-To-Market (GrTM) plan. Here’s why a well-written plan is critical to propelling your SaaS startup to meet or beat your desired outcomes.
Alignment: A well-written GTM plan provides clarity and alignment across the organization. It outlines the target market, buyer bullseye diagrams, messaging strategies, and sales systems, ensuring that everyone is on the same page when it comes to sourcing, pitching and converting customers.
Efficiency: With a clear GTM plan in place, you can allocate your resources more efficiently and effectively. Resource gaps are identified, so you can loop in freelancing SMEs to do specific pieces of the plan. Whether it’s marketing budgets, sales efforts, or product development, a well-defined plan helps prioritize activities that drive the most impact.
Speed: Time is a critical factor in the SaaS segment, and a well-written GTM plan can expedite your time to market. By streamlining processes and eliminating unnecessary steps, startups can launch their products faster and capitalize on market opportunities before the competition does.
Scalability: As your SaaS startup grows, scalability becomes a key factor in continuing momentum. A GTM plan that is scalable allows you to replicate successful strategies and systems across new markets or customer segments, igniting continued growth.
Success: A well-crafted GTM plan puts customer success at the center of your strategy. By understanding their needs, pain points, and motives to buy, you can personalize your approach to resonate with your target segments, driving higher conversion rates and customer satisfaction. Once onboard, your focus is to make them wildly successful; with your software.
A well-written GTM plan is not just a roadmap—it’s the fuel that propels your SaaS company toward rocket growth. By providing clarity, efficiency, speed, scalability, and success, a strategic GTM plan can be the difference between crashing and soaring to your desired outcomes.
Another area that most founders and leadership teams seem to be underweight on is messaging. The goal is not to just send any messages to the market. It’s not just a volume play. Messaging refers to all communication to your potential buyers. This includes your website, social posts, blogs, automated emails and what your SDRs and AEs say to buyers. It is all of it!
It’s critical that messaging is omnichannel – consistent across all channels and mediums. You cannot have different roles on your Team positioning your company in different ways, using different key messages, and different value propositions.
Messaging should be personalized to your specific buying groups using their words, not yours. Often I see homepage messaging riddled with internal abbreviations and acronyms. The top half of your homepage should be about your buyer, not the sweet sauce technology that you provide.
Your homepage messaging is critical, focus in these areas:
Hero Box: The initial content a visitor sees when your site loads should be a compelling image that either shows your buyer or your product. The copy that stands next to it should anchor the visitor to your homepage, so that they don’t quickly bounce and look at a competing option to solve their problem.
Anchor: About that anchor message, it should “speak” to the buyer’s challenges and motives to buy. It should not be about you or your solution. Again, the goal on this point of your website is for the visitor to stay because it feels like “you know me”.
Flow: Consumer behavior science tells us that buyers prefer to consume content in a particular order. Your website flow starts with content pointed at them and then we strategically introduce our solution as the visitor scrolls down the homepage for more information. The exact order of content segments depends a bit on the product and market maturity but it typically follows this sequence: hero box, benefits, packages, how it works and testimonials.
Optimization: In segments where there are a lot of options to solve the buyer’s problem, it is critical that your homepage is optimized for buyers. In this context, optimization means getting all the buyers you should get. When you have PMF with a specific buying group and you know their motives to buy, you can position your content to win them. You are the option that provides the most value to them.
The key to scaling is putting repeatable processes in place. These are systems that your team repeats each half day, full day, week, or month. The secret here is to take your GTM plan and break the tactical areas of it into systems that each role on the team can repeat in order for them to do their part in reaching the desired outcomes that you identified in the plan.
Systems are more than desired activity levels. They are functional work blocks that create good habits. These blocks build on each other similar to habit stacking. They are created by the team, not assigned to them.
The systems, when aggregated, are what leads us to the outcomes we desire. In this way, we are more focused on executing the systems than the actual outcomes. I experienced this in my own businesses. We would be keenly focused on our annual revenue goals and start slow at the beginning of the year, expedite things in Q2 and Q3, and then panic in Q4. Once we put systems in place our new revenue was more consistent and predictable.
Here are some key characteristics of the systems you build:
Create: It’s a creator’s world. Set some parameters and then let your team create their own systems so that they are fun, personal, instilling pride of ownership.
Blocks: incorporate the concept of time blocking / time boxing into your systems. You could repeat a system each AM half of day or alternating it day-to-day between AM and PM. Make it interesting, you’re not creating robots to execute the systems. Not yet in SaaS, anyways.
Habit stacking: Your systems will become habits over time. Stack the systems so that one system becomes the environmental cue for the next one. In this way, A is the cue to do B, and B to C and so on. We are purposefully stacking these systems next to each other.
KPIs: Of course if we are going to focus on systems, not outcomes; we need a way to measure whether the systems are indeed leading us to the desired outcomes. As you build each system make sure you include how it should be tracked and measured. KPIs will lead you to revise systems as needed.
Identifying your WHY
As presented above, SaaS companies must connect with their buyers and customers on a deep level. Recent data shows that when someone sees a logo of a brand they know is purpose-driven, they automatically associate it with words like “responsible,” “compassionate,” and “ethical.” And when someone considers a brand purpose-driven, they’re also more likely to remember it, buy it, and want to work for the company that makes it.
Identifying your “WHY” or purpose is an often overlooked exercise. Many of the founder teams I’ve worked with consider it to be “woo-woo” stuff, that only matters to specific buyers in specific segments. Times have changed. World events and new generations of buyers have fueled the importance of doing good things with purpose.
Take the time to really nail your purpose. What do you stand for? Why do you exist? This is more a mural on your office walls – this is the heart and soul of your company. And when you use it in your decision making and strategies, your entire team will feel it.
It’s impact is far-reaching:
Focus: Your clear purpose statement serves as a north star, aligning every aspect of the company toward a common goal. It ensures that everyone, from leadership to the frontline team is working towards the same vision. This alignment provides focus, guides decision-making, and maximizes efficiency. Fast and focused!
Differentiator: A strong purpose differentiates you from other options the buyer has to solve the problem. It helps define how you’re different and why buyers should choose you. It sets an expectation for them and helps define their experience. When customers resonate with a company’s purpose, they form a deeper emotional connection, leading to stronger brand loyalty and advocacy on your behalf.
Teams: Your stated purpose is a powerful tool for employee engagement. It gives employees a sense of meaning and direction in their work beyond just completing your systems. This deeper purpose can increase motivation, job satisfaction, employee referrals and employee retention.
Decision-Making: A clear purpose guides strategy and decision-making. It helps companies prioritize projects, allocate resources effectively, and make choices that align with the purpose statement. This level of clarity is a critical success factor of scaling like a rocket.
A good source book for this secret is Simon Sinek’s famous book “Start with WHY”. Simon’s work has been remixed by several other coaches, including myself.