If your SaaS addresses a big- or specific-enough problem that people are willing to pay to solve, you can probably achieve enough growth to result in a decent-enough sized business… in spite of your efforts.
But you didn’t set out to build a “decent-enough” sized business, right?
Don’t you owe it to your shareholders and stakeholders to do more than simply exist?
Your investors and employees – not to mention their families, the charitable organizations they support, and the merchants in their communities – would like to see some type of return on the investment they put into building your company, right?
Well, to get there, you need to be deliberate in your growth… you need to grow because of your efforts, not in spite of them.
Unfortunately, that’s not how many of the SaaS companies I talk to operate…
Look, regardless of the inefficiencies in your – or basic lack-of – marketing, distribution, sales, operations, etc. – the reality is, if you have a great product that solves a real problem for people, you will probably get some customers.
Now, “some customers” could mean you’re doing $10k/year… or $10M/year… it depends.
Unfortunately, I see a lot of companies that get to that point – whatever that point is – and stay there.
They get to this point of having “some customers” and then things slow down or stop.
They stagnate. They stop growing.
Oh, and if there is churn – and there’s always churn – they start going backwards!
Most companies – especially those with a technology-centric leadership team – at this point will buckle down on the wrong things… usually focusing on the product.
They’ll add more features.
They’ll make it faster.
They’ll improve the UI.
They’ll focus inward and on the technology because that’s “easy” and what they ultimately have the most control over.
Reminder… in a #SaaS company, the technology is the easy part
— Lincoln Murphy (@lincolnmurphy) January 17, 2014
And while that might get things going for a bit, adding incrementally more customers, maybe getting those customers that wouldn’t convert because your SaaS lacked this feature or that function, this “strategy” rarely brings about the exponential growth everyone was hoping for.
And so it continues… a vicious circle (or cycle, whichever you prefer)… often including a great deal of disappointment and confusion… “why didn’t that work?”
Ultimately, the stagnation that comes from growing in spite of your efforts makes sense if you understand that you’ll eventually reach a point where you’ve basically tapped the market for early adopters or people desperate enough for a solution to their problem that they are willing to figure out – again, in spite of your efforts – that your product will solve their problems.
At some point you need to realize that in order for your company to become what it truly can be, you need to start growing BECAUSE of your efforts… not in spite of them.
You need to have – and execute – on a well-thought out marketing plan, you need to have operations in place that allow you to take full advantage of the SaaS business model, and you need to ensure all aspects of your organization are aligned with and moving toward goals of the company.
The last two there – ensuring operations and your entire organization are aligned with and moving toward the goals of the company – are absolutely critical for growth beyond Product / Market Fit.
Remember, just because you’ve got a product the market wants, doesn’t mean you’ve got a business that can deliver that product efficiently and in a scalable and sustainable way!
Just because you’ve got a product the market wants, doesn’t mean your company can deliver that product in a scalable and sustainable way
— Lincoln Murphy (@lincolnmurphy) January 23, 2014
You need to ensure that marketing is delivering high-value leads to sales and sales is closing deals while properly managing expectations that make on-boarding and engagement an efficient experience for all so that Customer Success can take the ball and run with it in a way that moves the company forward… toward your well-established and communicated goals.
Regardless of the stage of your company – from pre-launch startup to high-growth SaaS company – growing because of your efforts is always the better way to go.
It just is.
Think about it… simply relying on serendipity and hope are universally understood to simply not be sound growth strategies, right?
So whether it’s getting to your first 1000 users or your first $10M quarter, you must be explicit in your effort and work diligently with an aligned organization toward the goal.
Unfortunately, throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks or simply doing nothing and hoping that if you build it, they will come, might actually get you somewhere.
The problem is, that somewhere is probably not where you really want to be, and that movement – or worse, momentum – you feel, is just a mirage… a distraction. It’s not real. It’s not sustainable. It’s not scalable.
Ultimately, the big problem when you operate in this way is that you leave it all up to the universe to just send you customers, leave it up to the product to keep the customers interested, to keep them invested in the solution, and to not just stick around but to grow with your product over time.
Man… that’s asking the universe to do an awful lot, don’t you think?
And though they might come a-knockin’, the velocity with which customers find you and decide to give you their hard-earned money, and over time to give you more of their money and to tell others to give you theirs, too, will be much slower than if you go out and make it happen in deliberately.
I encourage you to take a good, deep look at your company and your current situation and ask yourself “are we growing because of our effort… or in spite of it?”
Either way, I can help you accelerate your growth, but the latter requires you to decide that just getting by isn’t going to cut it and that you’re ready to make the changes necessary to reach your goals.