2020 State of SaaS: Notes from the SaaS North Now Conference (Sept 9, 2020)

I was excited to join about two hundred people at the SaaS North virtual conference today. Here are some of the quick notes from the Sept 9, 2020, sessions. The conference series started five years ago, and I was pleased to attend the opening event. To get up to speed quickly, check out the SaaS acronyms article.

Opening Presentation From L-Spark

At the start of the event, L-Spark shared a few comments on the state of investment in the SaaS industry. There are some notable changes, like a growing interest in venture debt. It’s helpful to remind ourselves at the successes from earlier in the year like ApplyBoard that won $55 million in investment. For Canadian SaaS companies looking for investment, make sure you check out the screenshot below about the most active Canadian investors in Saas.

Nathan Latka’s Presentation on The Fastest Growing SaaS Companies of 2020

Nathan Latka’s presentation on the fastest growing SaaS companies of 2020 and how they did it was one of my favorite parts of the event. Out of all of the screenshots, Latka’s presentation on new hybrid SaaS models was especially impressive:

What if you’re not quite ready to change your business model? In that case, get back to the basics of using SaaS marketing channels to acquire more customers.

ZenBusiness – Professional Services + SaaS for higher net dollar retention

they grew from just over $1 million to more than $17 million in 2020. They have more than 70,000 customers in 2020. The company is focused on net dollar retention, a SaaS metric typically only considered in larger companies. According to Latka, selling services is an excellent way to boost net dollar retention. That makes sense to me when you think about the business model used by some of the largest technology companies in the world, like HubSpot. Boost net dollar revenue by selling services!

Rock Content – they grew 85% year over year with a marketplace plus SaaS model

They’ve gone from $3 million in 2018 to more than $24 million this year. The company makes $10 million through its marketplace (i.e., 40% of total revenue). In contrast, the company makes about $14 million in traditional SaaS subscription revenue.

Kovai – 12% year over year growth as a bootstrapped company

This company stood out because they built the company on a bootstrapped company. The company is like Loom in that it offers a freemium company. In the case of Loom, the company got 3% of free users to buy a paid account.

ClickFunnels – 180% year over year growth

I interviewed ClickFunnels before on the blog (From $0 to $70 Million: Inside The ClickFunnels Marketing Machine), and it was fascinating to see the company’s growth strategy. Specifically, the company can achieve an instant payback period. In the case of ClickFunnels, they sell books and other products, which helps them to recover their advertising cost right away.

Session: How COVID-10 is Messing With Metrics

By comparing April 2020 to August 2020, SaaSCan research found some surprising results in the SaaS industry. Companies with a monthly billing model generally did better than SaaS companies that require an annual contract. The panelists also commented that many customers shifted toward to monthly plans. Companies that fail to offer month to month plans generally had worse actual net dollar retention.

The story in actual logo churn is a bit different. Slightly over 50% of respondents had no logo churn. One side of the coin, company factors like industry vertical and billing model, had a significant impact on churn. That’s part of the story. It also matters what your company does! Many companies reported investing more resources into customer success, which led directly to improved churn. In other cases, SaaS companies have improved their results by changing the product (e.g., adding a use case directly related to the pandemic). Fundamentally, the value of your product drives retention even in times of economic turmoil.

Retention and churn measurement – everybody measures these factors, right?

Alas, the researchers found a surprising story here. Nearly half (44%) of companies are not measuring net retention. They also found that 24% of companies are failing to measure logo churn. Both of these measures tell critical facts about the health of the SaaS company.  

Session: Adjusting your marketing toolkit for the new economy, your new budget, and an all-digital world

Marketing in a post-pandemic world, are we there yet? IT was fascinating to hear how Gong has evolved because I’ve written about Gong’s content marketing experience (see the details here: 4 Lessons From Sales TO’s Sept 2019 Event). Here are a few of the quick notes I took from the fireside chat with Udi Ledergor, CMO at Gong.

Act Quickly.

Gong received some guidance from Sequoia, one of their investors. The companies that act quickly in a downturn tend to do the best. Within a week, Gong had a new strategy for sales, marketing, customer success, and product.

Changing the narrative.

Deal intelligence was a focus for the company in early 2020, and that was abandoned. The company also wholly changed their content calendar. They also completely changed their event calendar. The company had completed a multi-city roadshow in early 2020. The sales team was having difficult conversations such as CFOs at customers getting involved in discussions. For example, Gong’s typical use case had focused on onboarding new sales staff. Instead, the company showed how Gong is a productivity tool to increase results from your current staff.

Changing website headlines.

Early in the pandemic, the company changed its website copy from emphasizing “revenue intelligence” to “remote sales.” In this two-week website experiment, they had a 12% lift in conversion rate. That’s one of the best examples I’ve ever seen about the value of changing headlines!

Focus on what you can control

Gong didn’t have complete information about anything as the pandemic took hold. Just one or two factors in marketing. Specifically, the company focused on experimented with changes in the narrative, website messaging, and updating slide decks for the sales team.

New product features

In 10 days, Gong produced a new feature to monitor their sales teams remotely. This feature helps remote sales managers to understand what their remote sales staff are doing. This is an excellent example of adjusting the product to resonate better.

Sharing customer success stories in a different way

In the past, the company would take weeks or months to film video, edit it, and travel to customer offices. That approach to creating video customer success stories wouldn’t work. Instead, the company took a streamlined approach. Specifically, the company recorded some video interviews and took video from other sources to produce a video! It may not be the HD video that you’re used to producing, but it is worth it.

Virtual events are here to stay

Right now, it looks like Gong is committed to virtual events. What stood out to me is that Gong had great success early in the spring. After that event, they attended more than ten events to observe the different types of events, speakers, and platforms. As a result, the company launched a major virtual event in July 2020. Instead of doing one major traditional event per year, Gong is moving toward running four major virtual events per year.  The sales team loves this format of having multiple virtual events per year because they get a more consistent stream of leads. Gong also found that including more 1-on-1 networking space in virtual events.

That’s it for today’s report on the SaaS North conference. If you liked this post, please share it online!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *