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5 Strategies to find your next wave of Growth

Rees Vinsen SaaStr 2019.JPG

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the SAASTR conference in San Jose, California - a high-impact, action-oriented gathering of 12,000 people from 96 countries hungry to learn from 200+ seminars.

I have challenged myself to consolidate four days-worth of notes and four weeks of application into 6 posts over March; so if you missed the conference, if your calendar was locked or you simply want to know what the SAAS ecosystem’s top players are building for in 2019 and beyond, you can consume a slice of the value that I found. 

As a founder with lots to learn and an insatiable flow of questions, I assumed I'd find best return on time at the growth, user acquisition and revenue generation talks - a wedge of seminars fortunately delivered by the cream of the crop C-suite figureheads and sales leaders in the valley. 

Here’s the first thing I learnt:

“The next wave of growth is under your nose” says the wonderful Karen Peacock, COO of Intercom. Undisputedly one of the top speakers at the event, Karen outlined five strategies that took Intercom from $1m to $100m ARR.

1 - Expand your market

Rather than solely focus on one product or segment, focus on solving the same problem for customers one deviation away in neighbouring verticals. Horizontal expansion is a no-brainer for products like Intercom and I was surprised she suggested something that the audience already knew. By repackaging the same offering - and adding tools or stripping features - this strategy is really just as much about what you do as what you don’t do.

2 - Build your next big product

Your next big product is right in front of you. At Intercom, users started using it to close deals, rather than simply support customers. This wasn’t their original intention - but the next big product was right in front of them. Always search and ask what other important problems do your customers have.

3 - Find product market fit again and again

Think back to your favourite products 2 years ago…the only ones that are the same favourites today are the ones that are continuously driving to innovate, change and find market fit again. Only way to do this is to fall in love with the problem, not the solution.

4 - Decide your platform play

Customers want to work with all the things we use and love, and as we grow we all integrate together - integrating and synergising with partner apps and tools is a key to success in your ecosystem. Even though it was a singular product, customers were already using Intercom as a platform. They were inserting links to do XYZ, building products to sit on top of Intercom. So Intercom invested big in becoming a marketplace, a platform. In 3 months they had 100 apps live and within 6 months 65% of intercom customers used the entire platform and the 3rd party apps. The single biggest principle of successful platforms is deliver value to; firstly customers (killer apps, make a specific use case work for them), secondly partners (dev tools, access to our customers), and thirdly you. Go big on partners, build out a partner program, think about co-marketing and more.

5 - Build your team

Karen implored to not be shy about learning from people one step ahead of you to. If you are at $1m ARR talk/learn/pattern-match from a CEO with $10m ARR and draw out all the caveats and friction points they found in hiring.

Karen is also an advocate for applying lean startup principles to hiring. It's not a luxury that a lot of us can afford, but she likes to place people in the job before she hires with the objective of learning more about the person than what simple interview questions may provide. 

Here's what I asked my team - and what you can ask yours:

  1. What does Up-market and Down-market look like from our current position?

  2. What are our users hacking/gaming on our platform?

  3. What is the next deviation in PM-fit look like?

  4. What are the next types of partners for our platform?

  5. Who is one step ahead in growth? (Can we seek and talk to them?)

AdducoRees Vinsen