Top 3 Takeaways from SaaStr Annual 2019

What an exhilarating week last week was! Yes, the 53rd Super Bowl took place last week. And surprise surprise, Pats won again, Brady is still the GOAT, and fans complained online as per usual. Unfortunately, the “Big Game” was nowhere near exhilarating. Absolutely exhilarating last week, however, was SaaStr Annual 2019!

We’ve discussed before the importance of attending industry conferences here on the Augmania blog. We also listed the must-attend US SaaS conferences this year (stay tuned for the international SaaS conferences blogpost). SaaStr Annual was on our list and for good reason(s).

This year, thousands from all around the globe attended the fifth iteration of the mega-conference in San Jose. Flocks from as far as Dublin, Johannesburg, and even Tasmania devoured insights from a who’s who of SaaS experts. This diversity was also palpable with the choice of speakers. Obviously, we at Augmania couldn’t have missed SaaStr Annual for the world. We got to witness all the action first hand and we enjoyed every bit of it.

Our CEO having fun with the lovely undercover SaaStr Team

Here are our top take-home messages from SaaStr Annual 2019:

1- RIP Marketing Funnel; All Aboard the Marketing Flywheel

From Brian ‘s session , ‘ Funnel is dead, long live the Flywheel’

For years, the marketing funnel has been a reliable marketing model for marketers. It perfectly describes each stage of a customer’s journey with a brand. This allows marketers to choose wisely which assets to use during first interactions versus before purchase, for example. However, one flaw keeps funnels from being fully efficient marketing models. Somehow, this flaw has gone unnoticed for years.

At SaaStr Annual, HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan shed light on this flaw. It’s that funnels don’t take into account how customers can help brands grow. Funnels look at customers just as targets not living breathing souls. In a time where consumer trust is getting harder and harder to acquire, word of mouth is especially invaluable. Yet, funnels have largely ignored the impact of customer trust on brands.

Picture from the session of Brian Halligan, HubSpot CEO

As CEO of one of the world’s most reputable marketing platforms, Halligan is inviting marketers to retire funnels. Instead, he introduced us to marketing flywheels at SaaStr Annual. In general, flywheels are known as energy-efficient tools. It’s no different from the marketing flywheels.

Marketing flywheels help you preserve the energy put into converting customers rather than start anew. That is, they encourage customers to become part of brands’ growth by putting them at the centerpiece of everything. And by everything, we mean literally everything. Flywheels blur the lines between the responsibilities of teams marketing, sales, and CRM. They all work together on creating outstanding customer experiences; the kind that pushes customers to promote brands by choice.

Surely, Halligan’s coining of the term marketing flywheels will push many marketing teams to restrategize.

Yet some organizations have already been focusing on customer experiences, an approach also called conversational marketing, for some time. Look no further than the design of attendees’ experience at SaaStr Annual itself.

The SaaStr Annual people thoughtfully organized the conference to help attendees make the most out of their experience. From Mother Rooms to an area for rescue dogs adoption, every attendee got whatever he/she needed. Also, the SaaStr Annual app was super helpful, allowing attendees to customize their experiences. All these aspects created an immensely inviting environment. Advertently, this environment gave way to a plethora of networking. Our very own CEO ended up having over 30 meetings during the conference!

Another important element of marketing flywheels is customer feedback. In a pretty insightful keynote, SurveyMonkeys CMO Leela Srinivasan gave 7 tips on how to leverage customer feedback. See for yourself!

2- SaaS Growth Insights

In case you couldn’t tell from the rocket ship logo, SaaStr Annual is all about growth. The conference prides itself on helping SaaS entities grow from $0 to $100M ARR. In its 2019 State of the Cloud session, Bessemer Venture Partners shared tremendous statistics. Today, 55 private cloud companies are valued at over $1B. 10 years, ago there weren’t any. The session also reported that public cloud companies are close to hitting a trillion dollars.

These stats were encouraging for SaaStr Annual attendees in the sense that they showed the increasing demand for SaaS. On the other hand, they show how competitive the industry has become. To guide attendees through this challenge, BVP presented a few predictions on how the SaaS world will grow.

Among these predictions is a rise in AI in SaaS. These robots will free up time for people to focus on more value-based tasks. Also, BVP predicts there will be more investments in efficient software within SaaS companies themselves. This software will aid company personnel in examining and tracking their products from all aspects. You can read a full report of BVP’s amazing session here!

Meanwhile, Harvard’s Mark Roberge gave some remarkable tips on revenue growth at SaaStr Annual. Roberge said the 1st step to revenue growth was to optimize retention. He says it’s better having “world class retention” to accelerate growth than to grow rapidly while “fixing retention”. Further, he emphasized that SaaS companies should always focus on what value they provide customers. He says revenue growth is a direct result of customer value creation. A lot more is included in Roberge’s presentation which you can check out here! h

3- Culture Insights

Organizational culture has fortunately earned lots of ground with many brands throughout the past few years. Gone are the days of being perplexed by the renowned Netflix Freedom & Responsibility culture presentation . In lieu, brands are now working on creating solid distinct cultures. That’s because they are aware of how that helps them achieve proper growth.

As essential for SaaS entities, the culture was one of the main topics on the SaaStr Annual stage this year. “Crossing 100 Employees while Keeping Your Culture Intact” was a great panel featuring different culture leaders in SaaS. LiveRamp’s Anneka Gupta believes culture isn’t just an aspect that founders agree on as they start their entrepreneurial paths. No matter how well they design a culture, entrepreneurs must refine it as they scale, says Anneka.

Melanie Tantingco, from Periscope Data, says companies should put culture values in front of their personnel everywhere they can. Appropriately, Melanie says she has employees with brand values on their screensavers. Moreover, every week during Periscope Data meetings, an employee shares how he/she implemented one value while operating.

Bonus: Our Favorite Quotes from SaaStr Annual 2019

“Be patient and keep working as hard as you can.” Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan

“How your marketing team grows is a response to the growth of your company.” Segment VP of Marketing Hollie Wegman

“Every time you get a NO, you’re one more checkbox closer to your YES.” Tara Bryant, Global Sales SVP at Pipedrive

“Create a winning story because most software is kinda boring.” G2 Crowd CEO Godard Abel

“The reason to do remote working is not the ROI on not having real estate, but to work with the best talent, wherever they are.” Juraj Pal, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Slido

“Create products that don’t suck. Create great experiences. Focus on the user!” Craig Villamor, Design Director at Google Maps

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