Funnels & Friends: Lessons From Day 2 At SaaStr Annual 2017

Klipfolio - SaaStr 2017

Unconscious bias training. It wasn’t a string of words I expected to hear at a conference focused on SaaS metrics and startup growth, but Asana co-founder Dustin Moskovitz went there in Day 2’s keynote session and I’m glad he did. More on that in a bit.

First up, Quintly. I met their CEO and founder, Alex Peiniger, and was impressed by what’s possible in the product. In the veritable sea of social media analytics solutions represented here, Quintly stood out to me for their competitive benchmarking feature.

Klipfolio - Alex Peiniger Quintly

Alex was also a pleasure to chat with. It was like we’d known each other for years. Regarding the product, I was most intrigued when he said:

“It’s not just about seeing what your competitors are doing; It’s about learning the social media best practices of others.”

So it’s basically like this: If there’s a brand out there who you admire and want to emulate on a particular social media channel, say, Adobe on LinkedIn, Quintly allows you to easily see when they post and what type of posts generate the most traction. It’s definitely a product worth checking out.

By 9am the majority of SaaStr Annual attendees had worked their way toward the Strategy Stage for Jason Lemkin’s opening remarks. And most of us were glad we arrived early as the Americano Social Club woke us up with their eclectic (perhaps Brazil-inspired?) up-tempo mix.

Klipfolio - Americano Social

While listening to the music I ran into the team at Rhythm Systems that I’d met the day before. The genuineness of their connection tempered the sheer magnitude of this event with a sense of friendship. Sure, many people here are fierce competitors. But an obsession with learning (even if from our competitors) is the overwhelming attribute we all share.

After quickly mentioning the after party and what to expect on Thursday, Lemkin leapt right into a 1-1 interview with Jeff Lawson of Twilio.

Klipfolio - Jason Lemkin

The session, titled Twilio: The Inside Story, was a highlight of the day. For starters, I came to see Lemkin as a journalist. As he would also showcase in the interview following this one, he consistently asked the right questions, probed (respectively) when he wanted a bit more in a response, and always made the interviewee feel like this was their time to shine.

Klipfolio - Jeff Lawsom Twilio

And Lawson, in my opinion, did shine. I don’t have the statistics to confirm this, but his quotes, which seemed to come one after another, were lighting up both the DoubleDutch SaaStr app and Twitter.

Here are a few gems that did especially well:

“Customer experience is going to be king.”
“Companies need to blend agility with resiliency.”
“I’m a believer in small teams.”
“There must be mutual respect between the engineering culture and the sales culture.”

Lawson’s high energy level stood in contrast to the more relaxed energy of Veeva CEO and co-founder Peter Gassner, who Lemkin interviewed next in a session titled Veeva: The Biggest Vertical SaaS Success Story of All Time.

Klipfolio - Peter Grassner Veeva

Again, Lemkin showed an impressive array of skills as an interviewer.

Rather than force his own pace, he mirrored Gassner’s style, which allowed Gassner the space to muse on a range of topics that struck a chord with the audience—such as how revenue grows from the quality of people in your company and about how thinking outside of the box is naturally met with resistance by those inside the box.

This quote in particular was shared widely:

Following this I attended a session I was especially excited about: SEM for SaaS - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Loretta Jones of Delighted and David Rodnitzky of 3Q Digital co-led this session.

Klipfolio - SEM SaaS

It was the most packed of any session I attended (in part because of the space size), and people continued to pile in even 10 minutes after the session began.

Unfortunately, although there were some great anecdotes about the importance of creating content for a searcher’s intent and not simply a keyword—the example given was NPS serving as both Net Promoter Score and National Park Service—the session didn’t seem to resonate the way many attendees had hoped.

Talking with several people after the session confirmed this feeling. Like me, they were hoping for a more tactical “here’s how to do this” session rather than a basic level “here’s why to do this.” The audience at SaaStr, for the most part, knows why—they came to learn what’s new on the “how” front.

From here I received a crash course on “Funnel Hacking” from Audrey Melnik of Funnel Ventures.

Klipfolio - Audry Melnik Funnel Hacking

In essence, Funnel Hacking is a strategy to reduce the cost to acquire and retain a customer. Audrey broke it down like this:

“In the same way that growth hacking has helped unlock new ways of getting a ton of eyes on something, Funnel Hacking is about unlocking the repeatable series of processes to convert as many of those people as possible.”

Similar to the point Gassner emphasized in his talk, Melnick is a proponent of thinking differently—and in doing so she’s found many glaring weaknesses in the traditional ways most of us approach marketing funnels.

Like Alex of Quintly—plus growth marketing extraordinaire Sujan Patel and Mattermark Daily mastermind Nick Frost, both of whom I’d run into later in the day—I felt my chat with Audrey could have went far longer than it did. These were top-of-funnel connections on the journey to friendships.

As I was thinking funnel thoughts, I grabbed a seat for a session titled 12 Key Levers of SaaS Success by the brilliant David Skok of Matrix Ventures. Little did I know I was walking into a nuanced glimpse into funnels and micro-funnels.

It was fascinating, and David was kind enough to post all of his slides from the presentation on SlideShare. Dive in:

Funneled out for the day, I caught the best panel I’ve attended so far at SaaStr Annual 2017: Three Non-Obvious Lessons Learned Selling to SMBs.

Klipfolio - SMB Marketing

Left to right: Matt Rissell of Tsheets.com, Amit Mathradas of PayPal, Alex Fala of Vend

Led by moderator Keri Gohman of Americas at Xero (who proved by far to be the best moderator at this event), the panelists touched on everything from how crucial it is to have empathy for the customer’s lives (not just empathy for their use of your product) to the importance of testing everything from button placement to colors.

It was a wide-ranging talk, but was always steered back to center.

Lastly, the final session of the day was Forbes’ Alex Konrad interviewing Dustin Moskovitz of Asana. The session, Fast Growth, Mindful Business, was the most focused 1-1 interview of the event.

Konrad was clearly prepared, and his mix of questions enabled Dustin to speak on everything from his personal mindfulness practices to his philanthropic global health endeavors to his broader thoughts on how a company should respond to contentious events in today’s political climate.

Yes, Asana is implementing unconscious bias training. For a deeper exploration on this, check out the University of California’s resource page.

On a question about how CEOs can fix the culture of overworking that can run rampant in startups, Dustin delivered what I took to be the line of the day. It’s a simple but fitting quote to close this recap:

“The best fix is you making the change.”

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Stay tuned for our recap from Day 3, the final day at SaaStr Annual 2017. In case you missed it, here’s our recap from Day 1.

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