October 18, 2019

Video: What changes in SaaS product-led experts are excited about

The SaaS market has undergone significant changes over the past five to ten years—and continued change is about the only thing we can count on. Now, there's less of a dichotomy between SMB and enterprise players, as more companies target both customer types. So heavyweights like InVision, Segment, Amplitude, Drift, Slack and Zoom now serve both SMB customers for free, as well as multi-million dollar figure accounts. And the role of marketing has made a drastic shift from less of a services function—where it is simply taking requests from people—to more of a strategic driver for the business.

It's a brave new (SaaS) world! And we rounded up an expert panel of product-led growth experts from Airtable, Litmus, Figma, and more to share their thoughts and feels about it. Give this video interview a watch to learn what the experts are most excited about in SaaS.

We've included the full transcript from our video for your viewing pleasure below:

Darius Contractor:
The one thing that excites me a lot is just SaaS, I think, is really growing as one of the most exciting places in tech right now. When you look at the companies that have IPOed recently, look at the companies being funded, there's just all these different verticals in SaaS that are incredibly valuable and distinct. It's not like there's going to be one social company or one company for a given marketplace because of marketplace dynamics. There are definitely specialization areas in SaaS where one company is dominant and other companies aren't. But there's just so many different verticals and there's so many different ways to help businesses thrive that it's really exciting to see all these grow up.

It's also exciting that the tools for building SaaS companies are getting easier and more powerful, with cloud deployment, known PLG techniques, and all that means that it's easier than ever to build a SaaS company. And what I really like about that is that I think SaaS companies, more than maybe other aspects of technology, really deliver value to people. Effectively, what they're doing is they're taking something that you probably could do on your own using different tools, and they're making it much easier and faster and more robust, and probably more integrated. And so that's effectively saving you time.

And so SaaS tools are bringing people value and then capturing some of that value directly from customers in the form of subscription revenue. And that's also a very clean, incentive-aligned way of charging your customers, rather than advertisements or data sharing or other ways for tech companies to make money. So I really like the clean business model, and I really like the positive contribution to the world.

It's also really interesting that SaaS companies have this continuous evolution. Any given vertical, take web conferencing, we all thought web conferencing was done. There's already WebEx, there's already Google Hangouts. We can already see people on a computer screen when we click a link. But then Zoom came along. It's like, "No, no, we're going to do this way better." And we were all like, "Wow, we didn't realize how bad it was." Now you can click a button and instantly join a meeting, and now you can do all these things and it's way better. And thank you, Zoom. And I think we're going to see that as well of this continued evolution of tools bring people more value, more clarity, and always a more consumer-like experience.

Jonathan Kim:
When I was at HubSpot, and even before at Performable, Performable was really targeting enterprise customers. And it felt like there was a contrast to the different customers who were going after SMB. At HubSpot, bread and butter, SMB player, and Marketo was the enterprise player. And it was always this dichotomy of there's an SMB and there's an enterprise.

Nowadays, we see companies like InVision, Segment, Amplitude, Drift, getting Slack and Zoom, in fact, too. Getting both SMB customers for free even as well as multi-million dollar figure accounts. And that just wasn't something that existed five or 10 years ago. But it proves that you don't have to bifurcate the market in those two ways, that customers nowadays really want a product that meets their need and that's what they care about.

Kelly Watkins:
When I think about the SaaS or tech world and changes that I'm excited about, I think there's such interesting conversations that are taking place around marketing in particular. I mean, that pendulum is always swinging between demand generation and brand, product marketing efforts and growth efforts. And I see that we're starting to come to a place where it's less binary and we're thinking much more about how do those pieces fit together. And I think I see that leading to marketing having a slightly different role inside of the company. It's becoming less of a services function where it's just simply taking requests from people. And marketing is really emerging as the strategic driver for the business, not only in terms of customer acquisition and growth, but also helping think about business strategy and how that can be accomplished.

Tanya Littlefield:
The change I see in the SaaS world that I'm particularly excited about is more focus within marketing teams on retention and engagement. I think for a very long time, that was more of a product focus or a product marketing focus, and it wasn't seen from the lens of a marketer. And I'm here. I'm a marketer who does retention, and I love seeing more folks in the industry with titles similar to my own.

Joel Stevenson:
And not to toot our own horn, but I think diversity is getting a lot better in the tech world. We're actually 50% female at this point as a company. We've still got some work to do in other areas in terms of the executive makeup, et cetera. But as I look across the tech industry, I see a lot more diversity across all forms starting to show up, which is great.

Amanda Kleha:
One of the things that I get excited about at Figma is that, as a tech company in Silicon Valley, it's really amazing to get Silicon Valley brands to use your product, but when you can get tech companies or even non-tech companies outside Silicon Valley to use your product, that's really exciting. Companies like Gucci or Delta Airlines or Capital One, these are all tech companies in a way, but we don't think of them as tech companies. So some of the challenges that they have are resonating with our product. So that's exciting for me.

Wes Bush:
One of the changes I see in the SaaS space right now is that a lot of people are starting to think about how they can use the product to further grow their business. And so that to me is just so exciting, because people are finally catching on that our product can be our acquisition lever, it can help us activate the people who are trying out our product and eventually upgrading, and it can also help us upsell. And so that is one of the trends that I see again and again that's growing. And now, people are starting to catch on that this whole product-led growth thing isn't just a new kind of term, it's just a new way of growing your business that can help you succeed.

David Apple:
The change in the SaaS world that I'm very interested in at the moment is figuring out how to bridge that gap between product-led growth companies and how do you bring in sales in the most effective way. I admire the way some companies have done it, like Slack, for example. And I'm trying to figure out how to do that in our own way at Notion.

The pitfalls for me are going to be all around focus. So what's our company focused on achieving? What I've found in the past is if we're trying to do too many different things, then we don't end up doing one thing really well. I think Notion is a space that is already somewhat competitive and is going to become more and more competitive as we are more and more successful, and we need to know exactly what we want to execute on and do a great job with that. And is that going to be more the product-driven side or the sales-driven side?

Margaret is a marketing advisor for B2B SaaS companies. Prior to founding her consulting practice, Margaret led marketing at OpenView and content at Appcues. Before that, she spent almost 4 years building and scaling content programs for InVision’s design community. She appreciates out-of-the-box creative ideas, practical executions, and Oxford commas.

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