Notes On Organic SaaS Growth Vol. 1

By Ankur Tiwari | Last edited on 14-06-2020

Notes On Organic SaaS Growth Vol. 1

Growing a SaaS startup might look like a tricky task at first. There are no physical products, no photoshoots and no obvious benefits that buyers can "eyeball" as in the case of eCommerce and DTC companies. On top of it, the internet is filled with 'growth hacks' which claim to shoot SaaS businesses to the moon without any scientific approach to growth.

I have been researching, implementing and discovering organic growth strategies for SaaS businesses for a while now. Growing a SaaS business is a systematic scientific process. Here are some of my notes to help 'SaaS people' get a clear idea of what growth process for a SaaS company looks like.

  1. Why Organic Growth?
  2. What is growth?
  3. What is Organic SaaS growth?
  4. The SaaS growth process
  5. Three growth pillars
  6. Messaging
  7. Built-in distribution
  8. Growth pride
  9. Users' journey to value discovery
  10. Grand transformation

Why Organic Growth: A SaaS startup should begin the growth process by discovering and building at least one organic growth channel before moving to paid channels. In the initial days, a SaaS business needs to build strong foundations upon deep customer understanding, valuable product, and effective positioning.

Organic methods are usually high-touch methods, which means you can have high interaction with prospects and customers. This high interaction opens up a unique opportunity to understand customers' pains, listen to product feedback, improve the product, refine messaging and doing all this iteratively.

Why should a SaaS startup first build an organic growth channel

But what exactly is growth..? Good question! It's best to define and clearly understand 'Growth' before you embark on its journey. Growth is improvements in key performance indicators. So if you have selected monthly recurring revenue (MRR) as one of your KPIs, then your business is growing if the MRR is increasing month on month.

Organic SaaS growth refers to improvements in KPIs due to any engineering, product, customer relationship or marketing activity without the need for paid advertising as an acquisition channel.

Having said that, I understand the growth possibilities with paid ads. I suggest using paid ads to run growth experiments, and for acquisition after you have achieved the product-market-message fit.

What is organic growth

But I have tried and failed...things don't work.... Yes, growth process usually does not work at the first attempt and it is very common. Growth is an iterative process, a series of tiny experiments designed and carried out over a period of time. The result of each experiment is analyzed and used to design a new experiment. Growth is not a one-time activity.

Growth is an iterative scientific process

I'm reading so many marketing blogs..all of this seems so overwhelming... Yes. I totally understand. I have been there. Over time I've discovered that during initial years, a SaaS team needs to focus only on three growth pillars: Customer, Product, and Message.

Find the right fit of these three growth pillars and you will be amazed by the response!!

Pillars of organic SaaS growth

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Talking about messaging... Try to figure out a Winning theme that is related to your product and is of users' interest. Talk about this winning theme, not your product and in no time you will establish yourself as an expert.

Execution details of this strategy are here.

Correst messaging and positioning for SaaS startups

A secretive growth strategy of most successful SaaS companies is.... 'built-in distribution'. This means that the use of the product itself should set up a chain of growth.

For example when someone delivers an online course over Zoom, all her students signup for the Zoom. Another example is of when you launch your product on Product Hunt, you invite friends and community member to Product Hunt to upvote your product and bring in many new users to Product Hunt.

A popular term used for this strategy is 'growth loops'. This is a powerful growth strategy used by many super successful SaaS businesses. The most comprehensive open source guide to learn about growth loops is here.

SaaS growth loops

Let me coin a new term "Growth Pride".. taking a cue from Lion pride. This strategy suggests building partnerships and integrations with other SaaS companies which serve your target audience in different space. Collectively enable your user to have a seamless experience and delight them!!

Execution details of this strategy are here.

Build partnerships, intergrations and collective discounts

Help prospects to fight confusion. Hand-hold them to discover the core value of your product. These need not be manual processes. Build 'how-tos', 'integrations', 'migration guides' and other useful resources for each.

Execution details of this strategy are here.

Shorten the user's journey to value discovery

Sell possibilities of grand transformation achievable with the use of your product. People love grand transformations. Empires of kings were built on the promises of grand transformations -- eradicate poverty and bring peace.

Execution details of this strategy are here.

Stories of grand transformation build exponential growth

-- To the growth of your SaaS business. All the best!


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