📕 Gamification gone wrong; 2021’s Unicorn stampede; The 10 - 20 - 30 presentation format...

June 4, 2021
The SaaS Playbook
Listens

🏎️ We are all for short podcasts that can be knocked out on the drive to work, so Stephen Cummins’s 14 Minutes of SaaS has been one of our recent favorites. In his latest episode, he talks with Trustpilot CEO Peter Mühlmann, who discusses how your market is most important to success, followed by your team and your actual product. He also argues that most startups take 10 years to succeed, rather than the overnight success story we often hear of the hyper-growers. It can take 2-3 years to even figure out if you are right about your product and that it truly works as intended, so he urges founders to be more patient with their idea. In a world where we are encouraged to pivot quickly and “move fast and break things”, that can be a difficult balance to strike.

Marketing

🎤 Whether you are a CEO pitching to potential investors or an employee presenting a project to your team, your ability to persuade is almost as important as the content you are sharing. We liked Jessica Stillman’s frameworks for giving 10 - 20 - 30 presentations, which provides a quick guide for powerful, persuasive presentations. The high level format is to use no more than 10 slides, take no more than 20 minutes to present (TED talks are all 20 minutes for a reason!), and use a 30 point font to ensure you are just highlighting the ideas on your slides rather than spelling them all out word for word. While your actual idea will ultimately be what makes or breaks the presentation, this format should put you in a good position to succeed.

Strategy

⚔️ While the big player’s in your space can seem insurmountable, remember that there are advantages to being smaller, leaner, and scrappier. The Goliaths are generally comfortable in their position, and don’t want to take unnecessary risks that could alter their cushy state. This gives way for smaller up and comers to be more disruptive, and try things that more established groups wouldn’t even consider doing while also having the ability to iterate quickly (big ships move slow). That said, you may not want to come at the competition with a full on assault, as that can spur them to be more proactive in blocking your path. So angling for a slightly different market may be a safer place to start.

Strategy

🕹️ If you use the CRM, Pipedrive, you are familiar with the fun animations that pop up whenever a deal is moved to “Closed/Won”. For the last decade, that sort of gamification has been one of the most popular strategies to drive user adoption. But we now have better ways to measure the success of gamification than we did 10 years ago, and the data shows how it can actually cause more damage than good. The linked article shares a story of a sales team which used a basketball themed game that awarded closed deals with “layups”. Those who bought into the game performed well, but those who didn’t actually declined in output. The key was that these employees felt the game was being forced upon them, so when considering gamification in your product, make sure you aren’t enforcing actions to the extent that it brings users out of the game.

Strategy

🤑 We have a SaaS unicorn stampede on our hands this year, with 22 new ones popping up in February 2021 alone (Tiger Global is almost comically a lead investor in 20% of the 22...). So how is that even possible? Well, the SaaS market’s explosion has led to more $100m ARR+ companies growing at or above 30%, which seems to just about get you to a $1b valuation. And the math continues to work out for VCs – the average public SaaS company is worth $27b, and even companies with sub 30b market caps are worth ~10b on average. That means investors can get in at $1b valuations and still see 10x returns from later stage investments. Expect to see more investors “playing the long game” by investing in these larger, more mature businesses.

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Previous Weekly Playbooks

April 9, 2021
📕 The Guide to Building a Sellable Product; First-Time CMO Mistakes; Call or Email?...

There have never been more software companies than there are today, yet there’s an asymmetry between the rising interest in SaaS and the availability of private SaaS company data. This study from Andre Retterath took a look at the top startup databases to see which provided the most extensive and accurate data. Tl;dr: if you are an operator looking for general info like company location, leadership and light funding history, Crunchbase is the best bang for your buck. If more detailed funding history and competitive analysis is a must (and you can afford the starting rate of 18k/year), then Pitchbook is probably your best bet.

April 2, 2021
📕 What B2B SaaS can learn from NFTs; No-code no-joke; Why Google is seeing more “0 click searches”...

There’s still time for others to catch up, but our early leader for the 2021 SaaS buzzword of the year is no/low code. Jokes aside we are totally on board with the hype, tools that enable non-engineers to build play a huge role in the democratization of software development, opening up the door for almost anyone with a computer to become a creator. The linked post from Pietro Invernizzi (Stride VC) categorizes no/low code tools into the primary categories we see today, and rightfully shares the love with some of the smaller players out there not named Zapier.

March 26, 2021
📕 Gong’s most effective marketing channel; Why referral = better retention; A holistic B2B SaaS marketing guide

We’re still not over Stripe’s 95b valuation, partially because they haven’t shared much on the metrics which got them there. TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm looked at previous Stripe data to suss out why they could be worth the 95b label, coming to the conclusion that if Stripe processed $400b in 2020 (they were quoted as processing “hundreds of billions last year”), you can apply their ~3% fee to come to get to a $12b run rate, or 7.9x multiple on revenue. Even if we assume half that amount of payments, it would equate to a $6b run rate and 15.8x multiple, far lower than the public market multiples they will likely receive at IPO. This is all to say, 95b might not be too crazy after all.

March 19, 2021
📕 Dissecting investment memos; Moving on from the Metric Monolith; How to make ideas sticky...

Happy Friday mis amigos. We’d be remiss not to mention Stripe’s historic week, in which they raised 600m at a gasping $95b valuation. While the number is staggering, what’s most impressive is how they got there – the business has only 3,000 staff today, ⅓ as many as Facebook did when they IPO’d at a similar valuation, allowing them to be highly capital efficient relative to their unicorn peers. Funds will supposedly be spent on EU expansion, which could mean more acquisitions… It's a good day to be a European payment platform!

March 5, 2021
📕 Why it’s time to retire the MQL; Board meetings for beginners; Expert outbound sales sequences...

Welcome to the end of the week. We’ve got some big news, as we’ve just launched a brand new website featuring a SaaS Playbook library! Now if you’re looking for great B2B SaaS content in a specific area, you can filter through our historical playbook features by topic to quickly find the best of the best. Historical features are being added as we speak so you should have access to the full library soon... excited to see what you think!

February 26, 2021
📕 The weighted Rule of 40; Navigating SaaS loan interest rates; F#ck Content Marketing

Happy Friday everyone. The job market has been slower than usual for obvious reasons, but we do have some open roles here at Scaleworks which we’re looking to fill. Namely, we’re searching for a Corporate Development Associate to help us find great products to invest in and awesome B2B SaaS content to share with you all. Give us a shout if you think you or anyone in your network might be a fit… Referral fees included!

February 19, 2021
📕 Get smart with sales intelligence; Hubspot hits $1B; Simple email marketing optimizations...

Morning folks, hope all our readers facing these winter storms are staying warm and safe right now. We’ll get to the newsletter shortly, but first we’d like to highlight a few organizations which are working to support Texans in need right now. There are links with information on how you can donate or help if you’re interested. 

  1. Feeding Texas 
  2. Crowdsource Rescue
  3. The Salvation Army
January 15, 2021
📕 Pricing as a growth lever; 10x approach to content marketing; How to scale customer segments...

Two weeks into the year is a bit early to identify any real 2021 SaaS trends, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take out our crystal ball and at least try. Onetool CEO Gordian Braun thinks the increasing number of SaaS tools will create chaos for end-users – more options and new, super niche verticals could result in overlapping features for products in different categories, making buying decisions more difficult. No-code tools (like Notion and Airtable) and workflow automation tools should also be on the rise as both are “simplifiers” that address the issue of having too many tools to handle. Let’s see how his predictions shake out...

January 22, 2021
📕 Customer-Led growth FTW; Breaking a billion; Solving product problems…

It seems like every year, there’s a debate on if Silicon Valley is the best place to launch your startup. In 2020, this conversation picked up even more steam because, well, we don’t need to get back into those details. We recently stumbled across this LinkedIn thread that gives some great arguments for both sides of the table. We’ve always been partial to building new tech ecosystems outside the Valley, but would love to hear what you think.

Alright, now for this week’s Playbook!

January 29, 2021
📕 How to measure your Power User Curve; Solving product backlogs; The Chief Customer Officer 2.0...

Howdy folks, and welcome to the end of the week! Today’s playbook takes a focus on customer-centric strategies, from unique methods to measure user engagement, to the best ways to gather and prioritize customer feedback. We also managed to wrap in not one, but two corny car analogies. Please forgive us, it’s the end of the month and we’re behind quota.

Have a great weekend.

January 8, 2021
📕 Amplifying content via thought leaders; The Adjacent Customer; “Obviously awesome” product positioning…

Happy Friday folks. We can’t be the only ones a bit behind on our 2021 business planning, so we thought you all might get some use out of this template from our very own Ed Byrne, which will help you review last year’s progress and set thoughtful 2021 goals. It’s a roughly two-day process that requires some buy-in from your team and serious self-awareness... let us know what you think!

November 20, 2020
📕 The rise of the pod people; Self-caring your way to effective leadership; Simplifying revenue attribution...

Tech startup culture is known for two things: brooding dev teams and amazing office snacks. Kidding (sort of). What’s actually at the heart of startup culture is breaking down norms and creating new solutions to perennial problems.

Speaking of problem-solving – we’ve got some great content this week on solving the internal struggles most startups face, from team structure to leadership burnout and revenue attribution.

November 27, 2020
📕 SaaS Black Friday deals; How Typeform built an A+ brand, Why you shouldn’t “just ship it”…

Good morning to those just waking up from a turkey coma, it’s time for your weekly serving of SaaS news. And, because we love a good deal, we suggest you check out the B2B SaaS blog’s 2020 Black Friday deal list. We know everyone is in 2021 planning mode, so hopefully, the ~200 discounted SaaS deals save you some dollars.

Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend.

December 4, 2020
📕 Avoiding the SaaS Valley of Death; Hiring “scrappers”; How to become a trusted advisor...

With the new year on the horizon it’s time to start thinking about that 2021 hiring plan. It’s hard not to focus on a candidate’s resume when making hiring decisions, but remember, an impressive resume doesn’t tell the whole story. More companies are foregoing those with “expert credentials” in favor of teachable hires who are willing to take risks. An openness to risk is especially important to surviving in B2B SaaS, so our advice is to always look for scrappers.

December 11, 2020
📕 Flywheels over funnels; How to measure SaaS operating leverage; Nailing your value prop...

In just 5 years, The Morning Brew has emerged as one of the GOAT newsletters. Their growth to stardom is in large part thanks to their referral marketing mastery – 30% of their 2.5m million subscribers came through the channel. We aren’t saying that a referral program will work quite as well for your B2B SaaS product (newsletters charge time, SaaS products charge money) but if it can work even just 1/10th as well, it could be worth testing...

December 18, 2020
📕 Avoiding measurability bias; The Shape-Up method; The power of Pre-Suasion...

Happy Friday folks. This is our last Playbook before Christmas, so we’ll wish you an early happy holidays now! It’s been an eventful year to say the least, here’s to hoping 2021 brings brighter days (we’re optimistic). Cheers!

January 1, 2021
📕 Your intro to cognitive marketing; A SaaS growth simulator; Boosting retention with intent data...

Happy New Year folks! Can’t believe we actually made it to 2021, we hope you have a great start to the year. We’ve been working on some of our new year’s resolutions and have a couple nailed down: to better understand our customers and thoroughly testing our acquisition channels. We’re touching on both (plus more) today, hope you enjoy!