Last month, Marta, our resident growth hacker, and I headed to Singapore to attend the SaaS Business Asia Conference. It was the first conference of this kind, fully dedicated to SaaS Businesses in Asia, organized by Adelina Peltea (VP of Marketing at TradeGecko) and Florian Cornu (founder of We Are CxO) with the goal of providing a friendly space for SaaS entrepreneurs, managers, investors and enthusiasts to exchange learnings and execute new ideas through fireside chats, panels and roundtables.
We felt inspired by the presence of such speakers as Joel Gascoigne (co-founder and CEO of Buffer), Gary Luton (Vice President, Customers For Life Regional Lead at Salesforce.com), Tiang Lim Foo (Market Development Asia Pacific, Evernote) and many more. What made it exceptional, though, is how easy it was to strike a conversation, ask questions and receive immediate valuable responses that we were able to feed right away to our team back home and turn into action points for Piktochart.
Then, we thought, why not to share them with the larger community of business people out there? So, here they are – key takeaways, learnings and some food for thought we brought back with us:
Being transparent doesn’t always mean being vulnerable. Many people think that if their new ideas “leak” and competition finds out, it’s the worst thing that can happen. Buffer shares everything about what they do with anyone who is willing to listen and turn it this information into something valuable. This is something mentioned by one of the speakers which I think is very true:
“Don’t be afraid to say things aloud and reveal your plans. Nothing happens overnight. Even if your competition decides to follow your footsteps, they won’t ship tomorrow anyway. You always have a head start.”
What does it mean to be fully transparent and why should we reveal it all?[Tweet “Being transparent doesn’t always mean being vulnerable.”]
- Being transparent with your employees is earning their trust. In Buffer all emails are shared with everyone. That’s A LOT of emails in every person’s inbox every single day (200+)! Too much noise? Perhaps. But also, lessons about processes, negotiation tactics and a real deep dive into every product/feature creation. Everyone, regardless their position, can read about current acquisition process or follow conversations with potential investors. It’s like a live case study right there!
- Sharing your work in progress can bring you valuable feedback. Again, at Buffer all the new designs are shared with the external designer communities for feedback. What better way than asking experts for advice? Same with new features. Once they are in beta, chosen engaged users get to test those out and provide their feedback in the early stages or creation. Users are also invited to chat on social media about various topics. This really engages the community!
- Showing the behind-the-scenes brings you closer to people. Would you share your revenue data with the entire world? Buffer does it! It may seem extreme but they decided to be open about their lifetime value, churn rates, salaries and downgrades. Those and other metrics are easily accessible here.
When you sign up for the app, they even tell you where your money is going.
Tracking the right metrics can motivate and inspire teams to action. The organizers challenged us to think beyond “traditional” SaaS metrics such as number of signups and use both data and a little bit of intuition to drive decisions. Here were some of the most mentioned metrics among SaaS startups:
- MRR (monthly recurring revenue). Several startups set MRR growth goals and compare their team’s performance against that value. A tip from the folks at Buffer: consider distinguishing revenue from new users and revenue from upgrades.
- Retention rate. It costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer. Not only is retention profitable, but it’s also reflective of how good (or bad) a product’s user experience is.
- Usage and predicting churn. Want to figure out how useful your product is to customers? Measure how much people are actually using it! The benefits of measuring usage are twofold; not only can you track how engaged your customers are with your service, but you’ll also be able to pinpoint and reach out to customers who are at risk for leaving your company.
- Customer success. At the end of the day, your product improves the bottom line for your customer so it’s important to define customer success and help them achieve those goals. At Mobikon Asia, a mobile commerce solution based out of Singapore, success is defined by how much retailers earn from their own customers.
- Alignment with core values. Also important to any startup is whether the team itself is happy and aligned with the company’s values. Michael Stephenson, the CEO of PayrollHero in Singapore, has daily standup meetings where team members talk about how they were “ridiculously customer-centric.”
Connecting with community
As Gary Luton at Salesforce put it, customers have choices and will share their experiences with your service whether you know it or not. Therefore, it’s crucial to stay connected to your user community with:
- User stories. Instead of telling your customers the benefits of your service, why not have your existing customers do so for you? Tiang Lim Foo at Evernote said that the company keeps tabs on unique uses of their product and features them in high quality editorials on their blog.
- Events. Bringing the idea of connecting community one step further, events are a great way to let users share stories and learn from one another. If you don’t have the funds to host a large-scale user conference like Salesforce does, you can also try setting up smaller local gatherings or even online events.
Regardless of how big or small your startup is, business success is made up of the same, customer-focused principles – be transparent, measure customer success, and stay connected with the community. Here at Piktochart, we’ll be taking all these takeaways to heart and hope you will do the same, too! Now it’s your turn: what other principles and metrics have helped drive your business?