We’ve just returned from three days in Malmö for SaaSiest 2023, where we ate well, enjoyed the sunshine, and experienced firsthand what all the tech stars in Scandinavia are up to these days!
SaaSiest, organized by Daniel Nackovski and Thomas Sjöberg, has grown from a slightly tentative and smallish event to a full-fledged force, bringing together the best of the best in B2B tech. This year saw more than 1,100 people from over 20 countries get together to discuss and share the latest thoughts, ideas, and trends in the SaaS world. And as I’ve come to realize, SaaS in Scandinavia is tantamount to B2B tech. The conference covered a range of topics, from democratizing knowledge to building better sales pitches. Here’s some of my key takeaways from SaaSiest 2023.
April Dunford // Author, Obviously Awesome
April Dunford, the author of Obviously Awesome (in my opinion, the new bible of Product Positioning), kicked off the conference. According to April, correct positioning is about shifting or transforming how the world thinks about a product. Among the interesting insights: that a good positioning process should go beyond the obvious (!) features, and to always begin by looking at the competitive market.
Once you figure out the competition, you move on to the Key Unique Attributes (features), Differentiated Value, Customers that Care (target audience), and lastly, the Market You Win in. April’s amazing – not only her extensive background, but because she wants to teach her clients so they don’t need her anymore. She might be the only business I know that’s not built on repeat customers! She’s currently working on a new book about how to translate a solid position to a sales presentation, and I can’t wait to read it. Oh yeah, one very practical tip I took away… after each positioning component, ask yourself, “So what?!” Try to get out of the naval-gazing to ensure that what seems important to you is also relevant for people outside your bubble.
Mikael Johnson // General Partner, OXX
Mikael Johnson was generous with his insights on current trends and the broader tech landscape. Where 2020-2021 was the party of all parties, the new business focus is on capital-efficient growth. From a customer perspective, that means vendor reduction and breaking up bundles, with businesses venturing into variable pricing to retain clients.
Mikael identified several strong verticals with growth potential, including anything data, security, cloud infrastructure, and AI. Mikael also noted that the M&A market will heat up in the future, as many companies funded in the past few years may struggle to raise follow-up rounds.
While we may miss the easy growth days of 2021, Mikael left us all with a sense of optimism and a belief that there are still plenty of directions to go in, technology to develop, and companies to build.
Rav Dhaliwal // Customer Success Specialist and Investor
The biggest trend we spotted was the resurgence of Customer Success! Yes, it’s a reflection of the times, with most companies realizing the monetary value of retaining and growing existing customers vs. dealing with churn and constant turnover. But with my roots in traditional Client and Account Management, I’m watching this resurgence with pride and excitement!
Rav Dhaliwa highlighted the importance of customer success in contemporary SaaS companies and suggested building a continuous sales motion. He also emphasized the need to set financial deliverables for CS teams, rather than just actions (number of calls, outreach etc). At the core, CS is about minimizing churn and retaining revenue. Rav taught us that Salesforce – the granddaddy of SaaS CS – actually invented CS as a defensive play to minimize churn. Something that obviously worked well for them!
Susanne Rönnqvist Ahmadi // Hubspot
Susanne, who looks after everything outside the US market at Hubspot, shared the importance of blending inbound and outbound. She suggested using AI to integrate both approaches with technology.
She also emphasized the need to know your customers and their waterholes, as well as the importance of brand marketing. She shared a story about how, two years ago, Google abruptly changed its algorithm, cutting Hubspot’s web traffic in half – over a weekend. Although traffic has more or less returned to its previous levels, it made the point that marketing activities are constantly changing in response to outside forces. Inbound is not what it used to be – nor is outbound, to be frank!
As marketeers, we can choose to get stressed by this ever-changing world… or we can adopt a growth mindset like Susanne. We can continue to think obsessively about our customers and how to make their lives easier, and we can make it easier for them to buy what we’re selling. If we do that, technology changes (read: AI) make more sense and feel less intimidating.
It also seems we have to encourage the CEOs we work with to be brave. Brave about what, you ask? Well, it’s becoming apparent that inbound and outbound are not enough on their own – we also need to blend in brand activities that generally have a longer term to get to ROI. This aligns closely with the concept of BrandGen that we’ve been preaching at Sköna for a while – so it’s great to see it starting to pick up some traction.
Fredrik Skantze // CEO and Cofounder, Funnel
Fredrik Skantze talked about the different types of sales motions and how to best pair your go-to-market motion with the correct marketing tactic. This might be a subject that the rest of the world knows and understands but I’ve never really had any formal sales training, so it was eye-opening for me!
As this image shows, there are three different types of sales motions, including Product Led, Marketing Led and Sales Led. Product Led is defined by freemiums and self-service signups; Marketing Led is identified mostly by inbound marketing generating leads that are then closed by inside sales; lastly, Sales Led companies have larger sales teams (and larger deals) and tend to focus on Enterprise sales. You have to experiment to find out which motion works best for your product. Fredrik mentioned that he assumed Funnel would be Product Led in the beginning – but after some trial and error, they have now settled on having a Marketing Led sales motion.
Each sales motion has a specific set of tactics that work best for that particular approach. Product Led companies do best with things like content, paid advertising, community, and PLG advertising. Meanwhile, a Sales Led go-to-market motion needs marketing tactics focused on outbound, ABM, Field Marketing, and Partners. And be wary of crossing these tactics – in other words, a company with a Product Led motion will not do great from ABM or Field events that have higher CPAs and conversion costs that will take several years to recoup on a lower overall deal size.
Fredrik left us with a four practical tips including:
- Start by ensuring a great market fit.
- Settle on the growth model that works best for your company.
- Scale up (do more of what you already do well), which can take you to $10-20M in ARR. There is a substantial risk here to stall at $10-20M.
- To go really big ($100-200M ARR), you need to first build the engine that will take you all the way.
Emil Dyrvig // CRO, Templafy
When they entered the US market, Templafy pursued a cautious strategy that aimed to maximize what worked and cut their losses before they got out of hand.
Emil Dyrvig, CROl, gave us real-life, applicable tips for what to do when entering a new market. Before going all-in and opening up a physical presence, Templafy fired a lot of test shots from Copenhagen.
They started by establishing a SDR team that only worked US hours. Obviously they made clear that this was temporary, but it was an affordable, manageable way to test the water. Once they started to see success with the SDRs, they increased and shifted their ad spend to focus on the US. For the last step, they really ramped up travel, adhering to the philosophy that you can take a whole lot of flights (even in business class!) before you outspend the commitment of actually establishing a location.
After each activity, they carefully reviewed the results and thus validated their hypothesis before fully committing. As such, Emil’s principles for entering the US market included:
- Staying scrappy
- Attracting A-players
- Focusing on building a brand
- Ensuring leadership buy-in for fast decisions.
He credited Scandinavian authenticity and being genuine as part of the recipe for success – something that seems to have global appeal. While a local presence ended up being crucial for winning in the US market, Emil’s suggestions mitigated some of that risk by doing a lot of remote work beforehand.
Overall, SaaSiest 2023 offered plenty of valuable insights, tips, and tricks to put into action here at Sköna. It was great to feel the energy of the attendees and speakers and run into so many old friends – while making new ones! There’s something incredibly powerful about spending time receiving knowledge and thinking bigger thoughts, rather than maintaining the daily “pool cleaning” we all get pushed into. SaaSiest has become a true can’t-miss event on the calendar and it was a pleasure to learn from the best.