The Five Habits of Highly Successful SaaS Companies | Tim Barker | BoS EU 2014

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To begin, we’ll start with an by acknowledging the title. It is click bait. But it is also the name of Tim Barker’s BoS Europe talk, and his opening line. Peek inside for tips on building and scaling tech businesses, based on Tim’s experience in ten years of the cloud.

Video, Slides & Transcript below




Slides from Tim’s talk here

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Firstly, I’ll start with an apology. My title is click bait. Alright, this is the kind of title you would expect to see when you login to Buzzfeed. Or back in the day, you know many years ago, before click bait existed on social networks it used to appear in daily newspapers. You used to get things, bonus for anyone who knows who this is, what is this, anyone know?

This is Monty Python. They may have a book called Bok and this is an advert for it. An advert for a sort of mythical creature called LLAP-Goch who would teach you the Welsh arts of self defense. It’s well worth looking at. It walks you through, and this is relevant to our talk; that the best form of defense is attack, the best form of attack is surprise. So the best form of defense is to attack your assailant before they’re even aware of your very presence. [Laughter] So, LLAP-Goch is going to be making a few appearances throughout the session and I thought really that this is the objective here; to allow you to fear no man and to build a SaaS business with these five secrets that I’m exclusively going to reveal to you today [Laughter] with an asterisk above it to say conditions do apply.

So a bit about me and then a one minute advert on DATASIFT. Mark summed it up really; I’ve spent the last decade in Cloud businesses. Prior to that I was a traditional enterprise software guy. I worked at companies like Documentum which built the enterprise content management market before many of you were born. We then went on and I joined a Benchmark Capital which was a VC firm as an entrepreneurial in residence. When I joined they went, “Oh the last guy that was the entrepreneurial in residence at Benchmark was a guy called Mark Anderson who just built the Netscape. So to any Benchmark partners that put money in that fund I apologize I didn’t get the same kind of exit, but it was a fantastic experience where literally we walked into a room they went, “Here we go, there’s your desk, there’s your phone, there’s your computer, there’s the menu to order your sushi at lunch, and there’s the whiteboard. Go and build your $200 million revenue business in the next three years. That is the most frightening experience I’ve ever had, but from that I built a company. That company is still around, it’s called, Alfresco which is opensource content management. Back in the time I’d been pivoted into opensource I decided that the future had to be in the Cloud because it was simpler and opensource has got a lot of open questions about it in terms of commercialization. So I joined a company called Build Online, we were a company that focused on collaboration mainly for engineering construction. Span out from that a company called Koral which SalesForce acquired. Koral was like the Youtube of documents. Back in the day, I’m going back about five or seven years now, it became – if any of you, do we have any SalesForce users in the audience? Okay, so if you use anything like Chatter or estore content in there it’s my platform that did that.

What I’m going to be talking about in my experience is probably the last five or seven years. Working in San Francisco I got to lead product strategy, I worked in engineering on product. We built product, measured the adoption, and made it successful. I then also moved back to Europe, back to the UK, built product marketing and then marketing in Europe. My background is not as a marketeer though so all of what you’re going to see here is not models and algorithms, it’s really just experiences and the things that I saw that have moved the needle for companies that I’ve worked in. Mark mentioned DATASIFT. We are a fast-growing, I suppose medium-sized business, we’ve got about 120 people. I joined it just as we got our first round of funding and what DATASIFT does is work in a domain of big data. We work with social networks, we gulp down firehoses for breakfast of data and we try and transform that into something valuable for business. We do that as a platform. All of these companies that you might be using to really peer into the world of social media to understand what’s going on, the majority of them are powered by DATASIFT. One of the benefits of building a platform is that you can build an ecosystem around that and I’ll come and talk a little more about that later because ecosystems allow you to generate lower costs in sales which allows you to scale your business faster by essentially leaving money on the table so that others can build along and with you. Good example of the latest one is Twilio; they’ll show you how you can build an ecosystem around their tech as well. So that’s what we do, I won’t bore you with the more corporate slides.

When I spoke to Mark about doing a talk here I said, “What am I going to talk about for an hour?”

And he said, “Talk about business building, beyond the core engineering what do you have to do to make a successful business?This talk is really in two parts; firstly I’m going to talk to what I think are the known knowns, to use that Donald Rumsfield. There’s things we know we should be doing and there’s probably a few known unknowns as well; things we know we should be doing but we’re not sure how to do them. I want to just quickly do a quick grand tour and a quick trip of some of these things of what is the Menu Du Jour of business building. What are companies supposed to do when they build a business? What is the playbook that we’ve all read, that we all follow? Then I want to talk about the things that I’ve observed and executed in companies I’ve been in that are beyond the normal ones.

I hope some of them might be new to you, if not my five secrets talk isn’t really going to be very successful. [Laughter] In three courses we all know this; whether we do all of this we’ve seen the books, we’ve seen Eric Riese talk about leading a startup among MVPs, we’ve read the blogs on how you want to do A/B testing. I’ll be honest, I don’t do all of these things. The problem is we would have time for nothing else if we spent all our time on optimizing current business. But just to walk through it we know we need to have a strong value proposition, resumes for the buyer. We know that we need to build our product in an agile way. We build the essential features, the minimum viable product, that allows us to test the essence of value. Then we listen through the data and we aggressively iterate on that until we get the magical moment of traction or user-product fit or product-market fit. That’s your starter. You know what the main course is and now you’re scaling up. We know that you have to then get the machinery to build some awareness, you hire a PR firm, you ask them what we should do, they’re not sure and neither are you but everyone has a PR firm. [Laughter] You then do content marketing because everyone has to pump out content, you’ve got to put it out there. In social, you’ve got to have some SEO, you need some SEM, and you need some click bait. All of these things. You then need lead generation and nurturing so this is when you get the professionals in. You start to then look at the metrics, understand how do we nurture people. I really hate the word nurturing actually, by the way. It really sounds like a childcare facility that we’re doing for our customers, but we’ll talk a little bit more about that. Then your product team is sitting there seeing all the data coming in, making the right calls on what product improvement to do. Finally your sales team is sitting there with a red ball and their pipeline and sales force and they’re churning out monthly recurring revenue, which if you’re doing a SaaS business is what you want. You want to lock customers in for a year so that you’ve got their commitment, you’ve got a predictable revenue stream and then you make them successful. The dessert is you iterate on all of that.

How many people are doing all of those things? Put your hands up. Great, if I run out of time you’re going to come up and do a talk instead of me. [Laughter] I do half of those things, I probably do half of them poorly, but we all know, and we read, and we blog, and we follow people that are doing these things and it really makes me feel inadequate. The challenge is even if you do all of those things, where do you end up? Everyone’s doing PR, everyone’s out there trying to get the headline. I just picked something randomly off TechCrunch yesterday. How can you compete with someone who makes gloves that make you play like Beethoven? [Laughter] We’re going to struggle here if you’re doing enterprise software especially. [Laughter] Everyone is doing email marketing, right? Email marketing is a cheap way to grow awareness and it’s a great, cheap way to nurture people because you only need a small number to hit click, hit open. No surprise to any of us or if it is I hope this isn’t too much of a revelation. We have become systematically tuned in to tune out. These are the industry metrics for the UK and it’s pretty good; 22% open email, 3% click, and a half-percent are going to unsubscribe. One of the challenges is everyone is doing email marketing, everyone is doing PR, everyone is doing content marketing. The problem now is actually two years ago if you did content marketing well you could build a pretty good audience. Everyone’s doing it now, everyone’s creating. Marketeers have figured out the ways they can build awareness, influence customers, generate excitement and intrigue, is by creating content for them. All started with blogging, now it’s moved over to people publishing their Slideshares. People are creating eBooks. Downloads where you have a lead captcha form in front of it. If you want to check out a company that does really good work in this it’s a company called Velocity Partners; A few friends of mine that run a company, of ex-journalists, that actually do really good content marketing. One of their most viral successful pieces is this, which is basically the coming of age of content crap.

The fact that once every marketeer realizes they need to create content then it becomes a volume game. You see it when you login to your favourite social network. Everyone’s trying to promote to you that intrigue, that headline, that buzzfeed that’s going to help you click-through. But everyone is doing it. So what do you do when everyone’s doing PR, everyone’s doing email marketing, everyone’s doing content, oh and everyone is doing social marketing as well? I just logged into Facebook yesterday and there was a nice, big banner ad for Tableau. I love Tableau, I’m already a customer. I wish there was some way they could remove me because I’ve already bought it, I’m already sold on it. Of course because I represent DATASIFT and we are a social data platform there are immense, hugely variable things that you can do with social data that I’m actually not going to cover today but there is a playbook. There’s three things you do once you get on social media; I get my handle so I start to solve customer problems through social, I appear to be a great company that you want to work with. I then do content marketing so I push out content that hopefully goes viral, and then I do social advertising.

Everyone’s doing all of those so what do you do beyond that to make yourself distinctive, heard, and unique?

What I’m getting at is if you just follow the same playbook as everyone else you end up in the same place as everyone else. This might surprise you but I spent five years at SalesForce, I wasn’t there in the early days. I joined when they were 2,000 people, five years later when I left they were 10,000 people. They’d grown from perhaps a $400-$500 million revenue to $1.5 billion revenue in that time. I got a chance to see how they could scale and also diversify. They were known as being sales force automation. Contact management in the Cloud. What was really interesting to see and be part of was diversification, building new products, taking them to market, building an audience around those. Building, as I’ll come in to talk to, not just the basics but the emotional aspect, the connection that you need. There’s quite a few parallels between this talk and our last one; you need to create a reward beyond optimization for people. SalesForce managed to grow to $1.5 billion by doing some of those things that were on the Menu Du Jour. They pretty much had little or no marketing automation. There was no automated brain there doing the nurturing, figuring out “I’ve scored you – you’ve jumped on my website, I looked at your job title, I’ve figured out that you’re going to take a lot of time to nurture so I’ll put you in this slow lane of content.”

The technologies like Hubspot, Marqueto, and Eloquat that do market automation they weren’t present inside of SalesForce. So how the hell did they manage to get to be a billion dollars, which I think we’d all be satisfied with, without that? They had no single view of analytics. They weren’t there. I’m from a big data company so maybe I shouldn’t say this, they weren’t there pouring all their data in and getting an eye of Sauron across it and looking at it and going here are the hot spots of where I need to invest. They didn’t have a fantastic view across all their data, they didn’t integrate across all of it, and they didn’t have what is another sort of Topic Du Jour the ‘growth hacker;’ someone that basically sits there wired into the data optimizing everything day-in, day-out. Yet we did have people doing A/B testing, we did focus on pipeline optimization, but we didn’t do it across everything systematically. We were one of those companies that said we are going to personify you until you’re a customer and you’re getting the product that we’ve built. I confess. But it was moderately successful. One of the themes I want to talk to as part of this is as you build your business, what kind of business do you build? Do you build a bottom up or a top down business? Do you build a market top down standing on stage evangelizing and saying, “Ladies and gentlemen the world is changing and you need to change with it otherwise you’re going to be obsolete.” [Laughter] Or do you build a bottom up one where you literally throw your shit out there and optimize it? Depending on the type of business you have you’re going to decide how you want, but I can tell you this from my experience and it’s that you cannot become super successful without a blend of both.

For example, companies like SalesForce are very much top down. They create the message for the market around the future. Another company in their stable was Haroku which was a developer platform, allowed you to create highly scaleable applications and simplify doing it. That was very much bottom up, they wanted to create communities, evangelize, work their way up and optimize, they in fact didn’t want to get up on a big stage and say how awesome they were. But you need both whether you are making a market or are you already going to do a data driven marketing approach on it. Now I know there’s people over here across disciplines and you may have different views of what marketing does but essentially marketing is there to help you find the buyers. We all want to find buyers for our products it’s just how you’re going to go about doing it. My focus for today, and you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Great, which of the two is he really going to focus on?” Well, a lot of my focus for today is going to be on the top down side of things because bottom up there’s plenty of content out there on optimization, there’s plenty of companies that will help you on that and it’s pretty well documented. I’m going to spend more of my time focused on the top down piece, that’s the plan. I hope that’s okay for you because those are the slides I have written. [Laughter]

A current way to view this battle, how many of you have heard of Box is very much top down. The founder of Box is an enigmatic CEO, this is straight screengrab from their website. Their story is top down, “‘The Way Tomorrow Works,’ the way tomorrow works.” [Laughter] You know us Brits, we’re modest we don’t like to say stuff like this, right? But you’re selling the future so think about it when you’re selling technology you’re either selling legacy or you’re selling what’s next. The way that top down works for Box is the future of productivity. If you want to be productive the future of productivity is around Box. Contrast that with how many of you have ever heard of DropBox? All of you have heard of DropBox. DropBox very much was bottom up. You heard about it because someone shared something with you, they recommended it to you. You look at their website and it’s modestly understated, isn’t it? It’s, “Keep your work safe, share securely, and manage your team.” Not overselling what they’re doing, not promising you the future and I think there is a place for both to be successful but I think Box and DropBox are a really good example. Are you building evangelistic users that are going to spread the word for you or are you going to build a market with a message that’s going to be influential in spreading the word for you? Of course the answer is you want a bit of both but my experiences have been more in top down so we’ll spend a bit more time touring in each of those. I do believe though that you can’t actually optimize yourself to greatness. If you look at Google and their Moon Shop projects, some fantastic interviews about them if you look at it but all they’re focused on is 10x, 10x improvement. The fact that they’re buying all crazy droids through to spaceships, they’re looking for 10x on this. You can’t optimize yourself to a driverless car. Optimization will allow you to take a percentage, a 10x, 20x. That’s fantastic, if you apply that at the right level you might see a huge uplift in revenue but you can’t actually optimize your way to make a market, to build the market because you need to have a bigger story than just one of metrics. So with that back to LLAP-Goch.

I am now going to reveal to you my five secrets for guaranteed success.

I really regret doing this one now as I say results may vary. The first one will probably be obvious to you if you want to build a big company you have to transform an industry, you have to name the future, and then you have to claim it. I’m going to share with you a slide, the money slide from SalesForce, it’s been used for fifteen years. Oh that’s the other thing, repetition is good. Fifteen years they’ve used this same slide. How many of you have been to a SalesForce event? A few of you? I bet you all have seen this slide. Oh, it’s the next slide after this one. [Laughter] And that is “Some…changes everything.” Mobile changes everything or internet changes everything or social changes everything or infinite number of things changes everything. If you want to position yourself to win the hearts and minds of your customers you are selling the future and your position in that to them. So the slide that SalesForce has used for the last fifteen years and as a certified spokesperson I could probably quote it word for word as could any employee there is industries are transforming, what’s technology is transforming. What started back in the day with mainframe technology, centralized, moved to client-server and that democratized technology so we could all use it, we could all have the power on our desktop. Now the third generation is the Cloud, enterprise clouds. The fact is that what you’re selling is progress, a vision of the future. Just as a quick aside if you’ve been to Disneyland there is a fantastic and surreal thing you’d have to go to which is called the Carousel of Progress. Has anyone been on the Carousel of Progress at Disney? It’s a surreal thing to do where they have a revolving, well, carousel and little vignettes of different households where they go back from 1930s to we have our own washing machines and then the set revolves around and they’re in the 1950s and we’ve got our own TV. Eventually it ends with 2050 and they’re like, “We just have to eat pills now and plug ourselves into the machine.” It’s progress good or bad but essentially what you’re selling is a vision of the future and your potential success in the future. This is the way that Apple sells to you. Apple sells to you because Apple has two things; market relevance and an emotional hook.

I’ve underlined the emotional hook bit because just putting a slide out that talks about your company to say we can increase metric x by y% is interesting but is it really going to be an emotional hook? Okay unless it’s revenue and if you can increase revenue by 50% you’ve got my interest but just actually having a market message which is around the numbers unless your numbers relate to the future that you’re selling or that your customers see as the future isn’t particularly emotional. Back to Apple they sell you a better you. They’re selling you a more productive you, a more engaged you, a more awesome you because they’re selling you what the future looks like. Apple’s future looks like your future. Stock photography I guess from the last session. I want to throw out a couple of examples; companies like Zuora. Zuora is a billing platform; I mean that’s pretty mundane stuff. They are a Cloud billing platform so they manage all the subscription packages that you’ve got, all the different types. That’s a hard thing to sell. That’s quite boring, but not for them because their emotional hook selling you the subscription economy. World’s changed, we used to buy you’re now renting so imagine that if you’re selling a billing platform you can dogpile Uber in there, you can put a whole lot of things that are going to point to the fact that the future is a subscription economy as opposed to the past which was an ownership one. Unless you can create an emotional hook around the future, if you want to become strategic that’s ultimately what you’ve got to sell what your customers are buying. They’re buying not what you’ve got today but where you’re going tomorrow. I would add in for a little bonus thing that nothing sells the future or creates anxiety like a slide with a crack in the ground so for a bit of fun when you’re done at the conference and you go home create a slide for your company, a proposition with a crack in the ground in it. This is a real slide from a real presentation to represent a real problem which is that there is a social divide between you and your customers. I’m already feeling anxious just talking about it. [Laughter] A social divide! Your customers are social! They’re on social networks! They’re collaborating with each other! They don’t want to hear about you, they’re talking to each other. Their sharing their experiences, their opinions. What they love, what they hate. About you. And where are you? You’re on the other side. What about your company? What are you doing? Crack in the ground works really well there, it creates that anxiety like I’m on the wrong side of this. What’s the future look like? I didn’t paste that one into the deck so you’d have to go find out for yourself.

The art of positioning yourself and your future in relevancy to that is what I’m talking about. A couple of other things is we can’t all get up on giant stages and tell a vision of our future so I’ve seen a couple friends of mine is write the book about it then. If you’ve ever been interested in the term inbound marketing, how many of you have heard of inbound marketing? That’s 70% of the audience. The phrase inbound marketing was coined by Hubspot. Dharmesh is the CTO of Hubspot, he wrote the book called Inbound Marketing. You’re hearing about inbound marketing today, when you go home and look it up on Amazon the #1 best seller on inbound marketing is a book by Hubspot on inbound marketing. There’s a beautiful symmetry to that and the other bonus that you get is that authors already have an elevated status of influence. If you’re an author, or if I’d wrote a book you’d probably be listening to me [Laughter], the fact that you’ve got an author talking to you about it is amazing. You can self-publish these days on Kindle so write a book about what you’re doing. Sell in the future, become an author. Good friend of mine Eli Cohen ran sales productivity at SalesForce has taken everything he’s learned and built it into a startup. The startup if you go to the website is SalesHood, its technology to help sales teams be more productive. So what did Eli do before launching? He wrote the book. He’d written the book on sales productivity, sales managers. He can mail that out to his network of friends, he can go on book tours to talk about sales productivity. It’s quite a simple thing to do, really. If you’re selling the future what better way to sell it than by writing the book about it and the key thing also is naming it. I think Hubspot did a fantastic job of naming the future around inbound marketing just as SalesForce named enterprise Cloud computing and many others. That’s my first secret to you, probably not a secret but some interesting tactics that you’re seeing.

The second one which is hopefully intuitively obvious is customers sell for you. There was a mantra of always lead with customer success. Customer success is the most important thing because it’s not your awesome product, it’s your awesome customers that you’re highlighting. What’s wrong with this ad? It’s a photo of an ad that I took at Heathrow airport when I landed and I saw an Oracle ad. You could spend an hour on this there is such irony for Eloqua which is about how modern marketing works yet there’s nothing about who’s been successful. In fact, is this really modern marketing? This doesn’t feel like modern marketing. It feels like 1950s broadcast marketing and so there is so much wrong with this because it’s not framed in the voice of the customer. It’s framed in the voice of Oracle. We’re number one, that’s all you need to know. Here’s another Oracle ad – I hope this won’t be broadcast to Oracle by the way they are great partners of DATASIFT so I just want to apologize if I am offending anyone. So here’s another one and these are just off Google images. Man, machine, hero; Software and hardware complete. This is a very inside-out looking view of the world, it’s about me. That’s not really the way you’re going to build a business – it’s about me. It’s really not just about tech muscle, it’s more than just our servers are 85% faster than yours. That’s great bravado but it’s not the way you are going to aspire, inspire and create an emotional hook with your customers. This is the kind of ad that’s going to create an emotional hook. This is a homepage ad, this is the former CEO of Burberry and a simple thing that they are trying to talk about is SalesForce and Burberry like. They’re trying to drive you to learn more. Why is a CEO of a fashion company say you have to be totally connected with everyone who touches your brand? What the hell does that mean? I don’t know but I want to learn more. The fact is that you need to make your customers the hero in the story and you are just the enabler. Think back to the session earlier it’s not your awesome it’s their awesome. Angela Errants is badass because SalesForce helped her get there. You don’t have to do the high production content like that, just look at Hubspot they’ll do the same thing – the voice of customer. Especially the face of the customer. Not the logo, the face. That’s the important thing because we connect with faces, we’re drawn to them. They’re on your webpage, even if they’re below the fold, there’s a high chance you’re actually going to get some attention on that. So this is how Hubspot puts it on their website; 10,000 companies. Focus on customer success. It’s pretty straightforward isn’t it? But you go to any company’s website and their homepage is greatly promoting their technology. Wouldn’t it be great to promote your customer success though? The other thing is get it on video. It doesn’t need to cost a lot, you can do it low production. There’s nothing like getting the story across, the emotional angle of that, the success that they’ve had, like a video. You can repurpose that video on your website, you can put it into your email, on your social. Effectively you’re a journalist capturing not a documentary about them but a kind of two or three minute piece. It’s amazing how powerful these things can be because it’s your customer success is going to drive your company not your own success.

Third one is really around momentum, you probably do have the best technology. You’re probably frustrated no one knows about it. Relevancy with the first point; naming and claiming the industry is about relevancy. You’ve got to be relevant to an industry. You can’t get a journalist to write about you unless it’s relevant to the industry. To what’s happening right now. How do you continue to build momentum around that? You can have a great customer win, a great piece of coverage on that but what are you going to do day-in, day-out, week to week, month to month to build momentum? You want to elevate from being a scrappy startup to an industry leader. PR plays a role here. Tell me how many of you have PR firms that you work with, how many of you are actually PR firms? Okay, okay, I can talk openly then, they’re not in here. PR has a stack-rank in here, think of it as the APIs that you can invoke. You invoke a controversy API you invoke a story there. If you have a battle on your hands. If you’re calling BS on someone in the industry, fantastic. We all like to read about that stuff, that’s like the DailyMail of tech. Everyone wants controversy. Acquisition, the hardest to engineer but acquisitions get a huge amount of coverage. Funding or financing. For those of you who’ve been through rounds of funding you know you get a ridiculous spike from what you think is somewhat pedestrian news. We’ve got more money than we used to have but people love to hear about success or funding or growth. If you’ve got original research and gone out and surveyed 30,000 user types and you’ve come up with some ridiculous insight that says the internet of things is going to be dead or something like that, that’s great there’s a little bit of controversy in there as well. The last one is customer wins and partners, okay but people don’t write massively around that unless it’s an in-depth piece. Product launches, okay people will cover that. It’s not too hard to get proper launch coverage. Then hiring and metrics, no one is really interested in metrics from a PR perspective unless you can increase your conversion rate by 35%. When you think about momentum and PR you’ve got to frame it across one of these areas. What would you do for the year across all of these areas? What would you engineer to create controversy? What original research can you do that will have unique insight? There’s so much distraction that we have online it’s ironic that in person it’s still such a powerful way to build and maintain momentum. What we did at SalesForce and what we do at DATASIFT is a large number of proprietary events. We’re not going to your event; we’re doing our own event. Let’s be honest, put your hands up, how many of you have been rocked up about a trade show only to be disappointed by the pipelines generated and leads you met? Everyone has. They have huge promises and they rarely deliver on those, so do your own. Do your own events. We used to put 80% of our budget for events into doing our own ones. You invite a mix of 40% customers and 60% prospects because what you’ll find is your customers influence your prospects. They tell them how they’re using the technology, they are a much more powerful way to influence and build trust by building a community where you’re not trying to hide customers behind a screen, saying this room for customers this room for prospects. There is a challenge with this though, they can get expensive. If you put an event on we all want to do these things economically. SalesForce has probably the highest production standards of any company I’ve ever seen if you’ve been to an event. They have a mascot running around on the stage wearing a big software thing. That guy is the mascot for the San Francisco Giants, he’s a pro mascot. [Laughs] You’d have your white gloves on as you walked around to make sure everything was as it should be because the overall experience matters.

DATASIFT doesn’t run to those kinds of budgets but there are other tactics you can use. If you can’t make it big you can make it exclusive. You’ve got a VIP exclusive event to a CIO, CMO, CXO round table with some of your customers on the future of some topic. I want to sign up and I haven’t even created this event yet, it sounds fantastic. Where I go for exclusivity is the thing. Get a couple of really interesting speakers in there. Talk about how people are leveraging your technology. What they see as the future of what they’re doing. That’s a really powerful thing. You’ll never see it advertised. SalesForce built a phenomenal CXO council they had what they called the CXO whisperers like you would just wander into the area and say “Talk about collaboration.” Essentially that was a really powerful community they built because CMOs want to talk to other CMOs and if you can be a gateway to enable that that’s powerful. The other thing we’ll use is meet-ups. We’ll enable our sales teams or sales engineers to just run meet-ups. Run a monthly meet-up on how agencies are using social media. Come and listen to a brand that’s using it to create some ridiculous insight. All those things cost nothing more than a few beers, a private area, and a projector. I know these all add effort but essentially they’re a way to build community which allows you to then scale. I want to give you my best idea, well actually I stole it off the internet from someone else and someone else stole it off us now that we’ve done it, but I want to talk about one thing that we’ve done as well is a good friend of mine, Stewart Townsend, runs something called Big Data Week. Has anyone ever heard of Big Data Week? Okay, well about 20% of you. Big Data Week is organized by one company but they’ve effectively open sourced this as a world festival of big data. On that week they start by promoting their own events then you can run an event on BDW. If you want to run one on use of Hadoop or you want to run one for data scientists. Pile in, join in, and add it to this roster. By running the events you hold under the banner of a bigger industry it gives you the headline role. We used this and created You’re all going to rush out and by domains ending in ‘week.’ [Laughs] This was phenomenally accessible for us. It was the first time we had done this. We recruited like-minded partners, we ran two events. One in New York and one in San Francisco. Then in total through our community we ran seventeen global events from Sydney to Harari in Zimbabwe. About 1,500 people across those. We created this point where we’re together as an industry, of advancing this industry. We’re doing this as an annual event, a commitment; we are building an industry around this. Social Data Week is where that industry is going to come together. A friend of mine works at Hubspot, he said that’s awesome. Yeah it’s awesome. Guess what they do three or four months later? Inbound Marketing Week, a series of community events. The good thing about these is they are incredibly economical because you are creating an umbrella for the industry to come together and you are the headline prime sponsor. These are about industry and advancing that. This is one of the best things we’ve done to position ourselves for the future and create a way to bring customers together.

I bet you’re looking at this slide cringing already. I tried to find the most nauseating slide on earth. [Laughter] Focus. The word focus has become completely devalued. How many of you have sat in a VC or how many of you are VCs and you’ve said, “Guys you’re not focused enough.” [Laughter] I’m tired of hearing that because we all know that we need to focus. I learned at SalesForce and we have applied it at DATASIFT is “Not Focus. Alignment.” Alignment means everyone in your company focused. You can say you’re focused as a company but if you walk around and people are doing random stuff that’s not focus. Alignment is the most important thing. I’m going to walk you through how SalesForce and DATASIFT build alignment across the entire organization. If there’s only one thing you take away it’s this because this is how you can scale your company, maintain your culture and change direction fast when you need to. The fact that SalesForce can grow to 10,000 people is because of this. When you Google it you Google something called V2MOM. Every six months the company gets together and figure out what the hell we’re going to do. Where are we going to focus our efforts? What is this the year of? This is the year that we do… What are the needles we’re going to move? To really focus the company you’re going to need two or three initiatives to really push on. SalesForce had a methodology called the V2MOM, a cascading list of priorities. The variant we use at DATASIFT called the VTOM; it is about your vision, the themes for the year, the objectives and the metrics. These are internal documents so I’ve taken the liberty of recreating the file without all the gory details. [Laughter] You’ll see essentially the vision for your company, your employees, and the vision for your customers defined down as small as possible for the year. This isn’t around the life-changing vision we have for five years because that’s hard to be actionable today. This is around what are you doing this year. For DATASIFT it’s the year of expansion beyond what we’ve mastered which is social to what’s next, essentially streaming real time data. Fast data at massive volumes. For us, when we present to our company and take on board hires we do performance reviews at the end of the year. They’re all done in this context and that is the vision. By the way, this whole thing should live on one piece of paper. The themes, what are the things that you’re moving the needle on? What are you focused on across the company? These are three things, maybe five, but they just allow you to frame what are we going to do. Then you’ll have objectives, the seven to ten things we are doing and they are the narrative of the message we are sending. What do we need to do to make x? For example, make every customer successful then we’ll have a statement of intent. This defines your intent at a company level across the company. Distill down to five to fifteen things. The last piece is the metrics, the scorecard by which you are going to measure yourself not just at the end of the year but during it. How are you going to measure success? Beyond sales, which is a pretty easy way to measure your pipeline success, if you are product management you have to think what you’re going to do to move the needle of success? This is something that the whole company participates in, not just in some executive ivory tower. CEO down to each functional area, one for marketing, customer service, sales. That’s how far we’ve gone at DATASIFT this year. The next level is to do that individual. If you asked any former employee of SalesForce if they left and reflected the biggest takeaway is not lack of focus its lack of alignment is what will keep you from being successful. These things cascade through the company and are visible to all. Do them at the start of the year because the New Year punctuates fresh start and then we might refine them mid-year. We’re not trying to create plans that change at a high frequency. At the end of the year it becomes your school card. How have you done as a team, a department, and as an individual?

What I’ve spoken about mostly is top down stuff. I do just want to highlight one thing that we do at DATASIFT, that SalesForce does ridiculously well which is the web pipeline machine. At the end of the day we know it’s only leads you’re looking for. There are lots of tactics; building awareness, also tactics for nurturing, but you look at any successful company in the B2B space you’ll find three calls to action. This is Marketo’s website. It’s a marketing automation platform. They’ve got everywhere you go the offer of a free trial, a four minute demo, and a Contact Us. These are the three offers that generate a vast majority of your pipeline. When you click on the demo, and there’s debate over whether this is good or bad, there’s a lead capture form. You can access the demo by giving some details. That’s a controversial one but it’s there for a reason because if you were to distill down what I’ve seen good companies do well they generate an endless amount of buzz. Especially in B2B they generate massive amounts of buzz. They drive people to the website. The convert them into an offer. These three offers are always good solid offers. You should understand what the conversion rates are across all of these platforms. What SalesForce does extremely well is follows up with humans. I get a little frustrated when you look at marketing automation as a theme it’s like a quiz you have to complete before someone will talk to you, I kind of think that’s a little bit of bullshit. When you can hire one person and they can, at minimum, reach 200 people a month. They can talk to 200 people a month to help them, to qualify them, and to convert them say into a prospect that sales can talk to. The inside sales teams (SRs), the people that follow up on the contact me’s, demo requests and free trials. They call everyone. They might do duplicate the data. They’ll have a six step, politely persistent, strategy for their follow up. Their job is to qualify have you got a project, have you got budget, have you got decision makers, have you got a time frame? If you’ve got all of those I’m in. If you have other questions I can direct you. This becomes the first point of which funnel is built. I would encourage you as you look to scaling, content marketing and automation is fantastic, but the humanity you can put in for someone calling for help is an astonishing thing. I’ve had people call me and say they’re probably too small for me to care about as a company but that’s just not true. How many of us have filled out a lead form on a website and received no phone call, no nothing? Or they just started sending us more emails around the next thing. Life’s too short for the 3% click through rates of email. If you want my attention reach out to me.

So those, that’s my five. Hopefully the secrets of LLAP-Goch have been revealed to you. There are others we could have gone onto, like the ecosystem is a really critical thing I didn’t have time to talk about. Build a model and a market where you can leave money on the table for others to build an economy is a hugely powerful thing. With that I’d like to pause there. Thank you for your attention and also just ask if you have any questions. I’ve bored you senseless for fifty minutes I should stop and listen for a moment. [Applause]

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One response to “The Five Habits of Highly Successful SaaS Companies | Tim Barker | BoS EU 2014”

  1. […] Tim Barker: Five Habits of Highly Successful SaaS Companies […]

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