SaaS Growth

Hiten Shah, Corey Haines

Growth Summit 2022

Tactics to grow your user-base, convert trials into revenue, and retain customers.



[00:00:00] Aadil Razvi: All right. We have the founder of Swipe Files and SwipeWell. He's previously the Head of Growth at BareMetrics and first marketing Hire at Cordial. He's also consulted with dozens of SaaS startups, including SavvyCal, Evercast and Please give a warm welcome to Corey Haines in the chat. 0 to 10.

How are you feeling everyone give some love to Corey Haines.

[00:00:22] Corey Haines: What's up guys? Glad to be here.

[00:00:24] Aadil Razvi: We have a serial entrepreneur and startup advisor. He's the Co-founder and CEO of Nira, and previously founded several popular SaaS companies including Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics and Quick Sprout. Fun fact, he's also a major NFT and crypto aficionado.

For any of our web3 fans out there, please give a warm welcome to Hiten Shah.

[00:00:43] Hiten Shah: Hey, everyone.

[00:00:46] Aadil Razvi: Awesome. All right. We got some energy going in the chat, like what I'd like to see. So let's start off high level. We're gonna start off high level and then we're gonna get tactical. We'll field some audience questions and then call it a day.

So first things first, let's talk about the big picture here. Economy's down, multiples have come down, fundraising's drying up. What is the state of SaaS growth now end of 2022 and going into 2023? And what are the trends that you're most paying attention to, Hiten?

[00:01:21] Hiten Shah: Budgets and bundling.

That's it. Those are the two trends. What's happening with budgets, and I think everyone needs to bundle their software.

[00:01:31] Aadil Razvi: What's happening with budgets?

[00:01:33] Hiten Shah: Budgets are screwed, and the CFO blocks deals. That's what's going down on the mid-market and enterprise sales side.

[00:01:41] Aadil Razvi: Why are CFOs blocking deals?

[00:01:44] Hiten Shah: Because their budget constraint and they're rejoicing in the power they have and also at the same time really struggling and stressed out with keeping burn down at literally every single company out there. Large or small. That's what it seems like if they have a finance person, the finance person is in control of the budget like never before.

[00:02:08] Aadil Razvi: Got that. So you're saying basically, money's tight. The person in charge of the money is saying, Hey, you can't do these things that you used to be able to do. And we can get into solutions and tactics later on, but is that kind of an accurate assessment of where things are right now?

[00:02:22] Hiten Shah: Yeah I'd say it's even worse than what you described, but yes.

[00:02:26] Aadil Razvi: How's it worse?

[00:02:30] Hiten Shah: I'm seeing lots of things in the market where even if a company signs a contract, they won't necessarily convert on it and some funky stuff like that. Especially when you see like some of the largest companies on the planet say like they're having hiring freezes and things like that.

They're having budget freezes too, right? And I think the uncertainty is that extreme. I know there's folks out there that say there'll be a V-shape recovery or something like that. I think that there might be some recoveries that are fake outs more so than in V-shape, V-shape recovery.

You would call that a bear trap or a bull trap or whatever, whichever one you wanna talk about. Maybe both. So yeah, I think things are bad on that level, but software is meant to help people save time, money and increase efficiency. So I think the onus is on all of us who are building this stuff.

Not to go into solution land yet, but building on the stuff to prove out our value. Our products have to prove out their value a lot more than ever. It's probably like the TL;DR.

[00:03:38] Aadil Razvi: And would you say like is bundling getting too far into solution land or is that's..

[00:03:43] Hiten Shah: Probably, And if you wanna wait on that, we can talk about bundling.

[00:03:46] Aadil Razvi: Yeah, I wanna hear from Corey. I wanna know what Corey thinks about the state of things.

[00:03:53] Corey Haines: Yeah. It's a big reset, right? It's like everyone was raising crazy amounts of money, just like growth at all costs. Let's just throw money at the problem. Let's just go. It's a race.

We'll figure out our money problems later and, or we'll scrutinize the line items at a later date. And then the date just was like, Okay, it's today. Now everyone has to reset and be like, All right, cool. What's actually working for us? Let's call all the things that aren't working.

Let's get efficient. The sales cycles are gonna be longer so growth is slowing down a little bit. Or even maybe going negative if you're really experiencing a lot of churn and retention issues. Everyone's taking a second look at, can we use an alternative that's a little bit cheaper?

Can we cut up a couple corners on these things? Can we cut down our tech stack? Can we reduce costs in some way? I think that today, like now is the time for really VC back startups have to really think about things in terms of ROI in a way that's like quantifiable where it's, Okay, I'm gonna raise this money and we're gonna turn this portion of that money into additional net new ARR.

At a rate, at a trajectory that is sustainable in order for us to hit our goals and for us to be happy with that outcome. Whereas before, it's we're just, we literally don't have time to figure this out. Now, I do think like right now is a great time for a lot of bootstraps and, or minimally funded startups where

if you're profitable, like you rule right now, like you're chilling, like you're in a great place. Because now everything becomes cheaper too. We can get into a little bit, but I think there's a lot of underpriced channels, a lot of good opportunities. A lot of people are resetting back to the fundamentals.

And boostrappers have largely been doing the fundamentals for a long time because they're forced to, right? You're forced to scrutinize everything from the beginning. You're forced to look at the ROI in a very quantifiable way from the beginning. In fact, I've been seeing some founders of boostrap companies basically double down and reinvest a lot more into marketing cause they're like, cool, the markets just got better for me.

Prices just got cheaper. Acquisition just got more efficient for me against my competitors, and pros and cons always I think for the state of things, I think everyone's seeing a lot of slowdowns in growth,the sales cycles are getting longer, there's less interest. Conversations are being pushed off.

Opportunities are going cold a little bit. People have to really look and scrutinize every single little thing that they're doing and probably not move as fast or break as many things, but you have to really prove out what's working for you at that moment. But like largely what he said it's a reset, right?

It's everyone has to go back to the basics and the fundamentals again. Yeah.

[00:06:45] Aadil Razvi: Cashflow is king now. What do you think we're gonna see an implosion of SaaS companies on the back end of this? Where at that sort of transition from move fast, break things to, okay, ha how do we actually be profitable? like is that kinda into cards for in the coming year?

[00:07:03] Corey Haines: I think a lot of startups that were either really later stage and growing even faster, implying more money and raising more money maybe are kinda like switching their mindset to like, All right, let's get to some profitability, that way we can set ourselves up for a good IPO or acquisition in the nex tcouple of years as things recover.

But a lot of early stage startups that are stuck in the middle of this are at a really critical point in their journey where it's either they're gonna find that kind of inflection point and they're gonna grow and probably be fine cause they're gonna be through the worst of it. Or they're gonna implode and they're gonna fail their amount of money, they're gonna shut down.

They're gonna have some sort of life threatening issue at hand that they can't resolve and they will probably quietly disappear into the ether of the startup market. But I'm not gonna be like a fortune cookie, crystal ball analyzer, trying to predict like markets in general and the economy as a whole. In startup plan,

I think there's obviously been a lot of layoffs. There are gonna be some strives are gonna go under, but I think that's also just gonna remove a lot of the craft, a lot of stars that maybe were raising on these crazy promises and predictions and valuations. Have to figure their stuff out now and the ones that were already solid are gonna look even more solid and be fine through it.

[00:08:32] Aadil Razvi: Yeah, it's the metrics that matter all of a sudden are things like cash flow related metrics, retention, those sorts of things are now far more important than when you could just throw money at the problem. Because fund fundraising was just a never ending faucet. Yeah, I guess this is sooner than I probably would've liked, but I don't wanna have the first half of the session be a real downer here.

So let's just jump right into into bundling, Hiten, I would love to hear what you said it very simply. You're like, look, budgets and bundling as if that encapsulates everything. Dude, tell me, what do you mean by that? What is bundling and why should people care?

[00:09:15] Hiten Shah: Yeah. Historically in software, we go through phases of unbundling and bundling, right? So the reason we have even Google Docs and Notion and Coda and a bunch of these tools is cause everybody unbundled, Microsoft's office suite, Google started it and showed what could happen when you unbundle it and put it into the web and not desktop software.

And then now we're at a phase where it's completely unbundled. But when you think about what's happening now, even when you look at some of these tools that are newer, like Coda and Notion and all those, they're, and even Airtable to a big extent, they're all saying how much more you can do with those products.

They're saying you can do and replace these five, 10 different things because you use Notion, not just Google Docs and Sheets, or not Sheets, but Docs. You can replace a bunch of other stuff. You can replace Jira, right? I'm not saying any of this is like perfect with Notion or some of these tools, but it's what they are professing and what they are saying.

They've been saying this for a while. They're in the productivity suite game. It's great. I know, I think it's George or Jorge on the chat mentioned, click up when I talked about bundling and he said ClickUp is going eat everyone. I like ClickUp. I think they understood what I call the ultimate value prop in their market, which is we're gonna save you a day, a week guaranteed kind of thing.

And have pushed that concept. And once they did that, I knew that everyone else was screwed cause they don't say that and they're gonna have to say that , because that's a ultimate value prop, right? Yeah. And it's ultimate value prop for that market in category. And so I think they were...

[00:10:56] Aadil Razvi: but we use them

[00:10:58] Hiten Shah: Yeah. They were the canary in the coal mine saying, this is where the world's going, whether you like it or not. When I look at the market and I look at even other categories, I think we're gonna see so much more of that in all the categories. And I don't think we're gonna come back to unbundling for a long time until funding shifts it, or a technological advantage changes things.

But really more importantly, this is why I started with budgets and bundling, because with budgets, you basically are forced to bundle. Because the more you can do for the customer, the more budget you can get. Or even not the more budget you can get, you can actually get the sale. So it's even worse now, right?

Click up, you get more budget. If you're click up and you provide 20 different things and are replacing these 20 different tools that come already uses and all that stuff, fine. But now we're in a spot where it's like the more you can do for your customer, that's just what they need. And either replacing things that are timely or costly or doing new things that actually save them time and money objectively and measurably, like you mentioned the more likely it is that they're gonna buy your product.

So when you see like a market dynamic like this where the CFOs in control and the budgets are in question constantly, like you're gonna see bundling basically happen across every category that's out there in order for companies to. Now if you're a I think the Corey's point, if you're a self-funded organization right now or a company and you have a reasonable like early to mid to late stage go to market.

If you're zero, I think you're actually in trouble right now for a number of reasons. But if you've already got something working, you can definitely double down on what's working really quickly and get into the game in a different way. You don't have to bundle or anything like that.

You just have to know what your game is and double down on that. And I think that there's gonna be a lot more of that, that's always what happens. We see an explosion of self-funded stuff during this time as well, because you can nichefy whatever you're doing and make your million dollars a year in ARR or whatever.

If you're happy with that and happy with a 10, 20% of your growth rate on that, there's gonna be more of those opportunities. Again, because of the problem I mentioned, which is the budget and the bundling, right? Cause the bundling causes less best in class product in theory, but more products that do more for the customer.

So you see a consolidation happening, right? So that's what I meant by both of these things. That's why I said both those things. I do think those two things, if you think of any reasons around what's preventing SaaS growth or what's the current state, it's gonna come back to one of those two, which is budget issues and the fact that you gotta build more for the customer, which really just means you gotta do more for the customer than ever before. And I'd literally say ever before. And the reason for that is like the impact of what's happened in the market is not just one thing that happened and it's not isolated.

It is happening across the entire market. The housing market, crypto stocks, tech companies, startups, funding limited partners, I mean everything. And then the war. And then the war, right? And that's demolished like sentiment and growth for so many different companies, including some of the kind of golden companies of what now appears to be the last era.

Like Shopify and etc. In some ways you could even say Slack was smart to sell instead of going out alone, and now they're with the bundling king.

[00:14:38] Aadil Razvi: I would actually Microsoft's a bundle.

[00:14:41] Hiten Shah: Yeah, exactly. I would say Microsoft's a bundling king. While, Salesforce is like right behind them on this theory. And even Adobe, they're bundler too. Yeah. It's just fascinating when you think about all of us. Little shit, so to speak. Needing to be like them in order to survive, which is amazing.

[00:15:02] Corey Haines: To echo on the on the bundling a little bit more. I started noticing this a couple of years ago and every startups started calling themselves a platform even though they were like a single product.

Very much not a platform, but everyone wants to become a platform. Everyone wants to become a multi-product kind of sweet, and I think a lot of startups are forced to build in more products to account for more use cases, to keep adding onto the features that eventually can be bundled into another product, as it were.

Basically we say a product like a replacement for another tool, because then you can charge more, you can solve more use cases. You can get the sale, like Hiten said, but also that's another avenue for growth that is more vertically integrated growth. Rather than just going out and getting more customers.

You make more money out of the same existing customers. It's where you have net negative churn, its into that, but also just your revenue grows and you have a lane expand strategy across the business. I've been seeing it. It's hard. It's really hard for all of these companies because the website builders are becoming know marketing tools and the email marketing tools are also becoming, core selling tools.

And the core selling tools are as to becoming community tools. It's like everyone has overlap and everyone's trying to eat each other's lunch. And it's okay because that's the natural progression of things where, once you feel like you've solved something for your customers, you just go out and start solving more things for those same customers.

Why wouldn't you wanna become more of an all in one kind of platform? Ask tool so to speak. Now, platform is more of the end all be all for what we call bundling or just creating like multiple products under one suite platform is like I'm gonna let other companies, other developers build on top of my product to build like this ecosystem of products and product suite, as it were, like a Shopify, that's a very strategic decision, but there are, two sides of the same coin, which is that. Everyone's looking for for something that's easier and better. We've gone through this unbundling of like specialized SaaS for so long and now it's reversing where everyone's I just want one place.

I just wanna ClickUp. I just wanna a Basecamp. I just wanna Shopify. I just wanna Salesforce and I can wrap. I just wanna Adobe Creative Suite, right? Where it's like everything's in one place under one license. I don't have to worry about everything. Even with Amazon AWS, you look at what they're doing.

They're just eating what everyone's lunch and tacking on more and more light items to the bill. That's literally all under one single bill that you get at the end of the month. Stripe as well, right? They started with one sort of tool. Now they have, I don't know what it is, 15, 16, 20. There's probably 10 more on the works right now because they're going out and they're solving even more use cases for their customers.

So they're even more sticky and they have a better chance of actually landing the sale for people. So it's hard to be like a single product. Very focused, specialized niche SaaS right now, because you're gonna have, you're gonna be attacked at different angles, right? Someone else trying to eat your lunch by overlapping some of these features, someone else coming at a different angle.

And we're all competing now, right? It's like we're not just competing in our little subcategory now. Categories are competing with each other.

[00:18:36] Aadil Razvi: Yeah I can really hear that. Like the product now has to capture far more value to increase the ROI of the limited dollars that the CFO is guarding. And so yeah, that's that's certainly a shift from what we've seen. Yeah, just even in the past year. Corey, is there like another angle outside of maybe bundling is maybe one lens at looking at this?

Is there another angle that you think will be important for SaaS growth?

[00:19:05] Corey Haines: What do you mean by angle? Another thing going forward in 2023.

[00:19:09] Aadil Razvi: Yeah. Just it on the solution end, we're talking about budgets tightening, resources tightening we even talked about like getting more ROI in our out of your dollars.

Does that mean now we're gonna see a big push in performance marketing versus brand dollars? What are some of the I guess consequences on the backside?

[00:19:34] Corey Haines: Yeah I'm not actually sure where this is gonna land. I've been feeling and experiencing more of a shift towards more brand marketing in the last couple of years.

. I don't know if that's gonna continue with the recent changes in everything and the creative constraints of lower budgets and changing economies and lower clickthrough rates and lower growth. It could swing either way. It could either swing more towards back towards the performance marketing side of things.

Cause everything's very data driven and trackable and attributable and you can really see the ROI of every campaign down to nitty gritty details or if it's gonna go more towards brand because that's where no one is running, right? Zig when everyone's zags or zag when everyone's zigs.

However it goes. That's what, like the thing that's in my mind, I don't actually have an answer to that, but that's like where it goes on like I can't tell which it is and maybe it depends like per market, right? If you're in the CRM space and like everyone's going more brand.

Go the other way, Zig. Go more the performance marketing route. Look at your competitors and your direct market and your kind of direct category. What are they doing? What are the things that they're leaving off the table that kind of gives you a gap to create a wedge and squeeze in there with something that's a little bit different.

Another acquisition channel or another way that you can reach them before or at the right time that a competitor is not. But that's kinda where my mind goes.

[00:21:03] Aadil Razvi: Hiten, I know that you've got strong opinions on this.

[00:21:06] Hiten Shah: Yeah. I wanted to chime in and actually skew what Corey thinks about this.

So I guess my response to your question is, goes back to the budgets and bundling, and the reason it goes back to that is because the biggest growth driver that if you can figure it out, is very classic and works consistently, extremely consistently, is basically being able to identify opportunities where you can provide something for free that other companies are charging for.

and I'm not saying it's as simple as I just stated it. That's why I said, if you can figure it out, and I prefaced it, which I usually wouldn't do cause people are like, Oh yeah, that's simple. No, it's extremely hard because you need to have such closeness with the customer to actually understand where their pains are and how that matches up with budget and things that they're paying for that you could actually do for free well enough that they'll cut the thing that they're paying for.

And if you can find those opportunities, you will make a ton of money in this market. The reason for that is you will basically be the reason people switch off other tools and come to your tool. And this will happen more and more as these budgets stay where they are right now, which is very constrain and it doesn't look like that they're gonna get less constrain.

Yeah, I would love to hear your thoughts on that, Corey, I know you're up on all this kind of stuff too. .

[00:22:42] Corey Haines: Yeah, I see it in two ways. Like one, there's obviously freemium. You can either create freemium or you can really double down on freemium. You can open up freemium to be even more generous in your offering.

But also there's the old your margin is my opportunity, but I think of it as like your product as my marketing opportunity. A little bit of what are the micro tools little products standalone mini products or drops, however you want call it, you frame it whichever way that you want.

But small things, free things, like you said, that can help be like a ramp off of another tool and onto your tool, even if it's in a really limited capacity. We're attempting to do this a little bit with SavvyCal, with we just in the last few months launched meeting polls, which is basically a doodle competitor and alternative.

And like he even said, it's harder to do, it's easier, it's hard. Easily said, hard done. Because it's a completely free dual alternative that doesn't have any ads. It is a vastly superior product. Yet the adoption is slow, to be honest, because we actually have to get it out there and we have to let the kind of viral loops do their thing and let that kind of play out.

It's not just gonna be a viral success overnight, like so many people say that it can be, or that it wants to be, but that's, a strategy. Very transparently that we've been trying to employ. That's hard. But I think that there's definitely something there. It's like, how can you just create that ramp as like a loss leader into your product?

[00:24:21] Hiten Shah: Yeah. And what you'll see, and what I saw not too long ago is HubSpot themselves made a pretty big shift. I'll call it a shift. They probably wouldn't call it that, but I saw it and it felt like a shift where their ads were further free tools.

[00:24:42] Corey Haines: I saw one too.

[00:24:43] Hiten Shah: One by one, thing by thing.

[00:24:45] Corey Haines: Definitely.

[00:24:46] Hiten Shah: They know they can get a lot of traffic from a standpoint.

They probably tested it. They obviously got the organic juice, but then they were running ads for these things because I believe the yield on those ads for their sales team was much higher than the standard ads they were running prior to that. And, this is an organization that's gotten pretty good at most types of marketing.

I wouldn't say all, but most, they're not very good at outbound. Ironically, their tool is very good for outbound, but they are not very good at outbound. But like in general like companies just good at what they're good at. They're the inbound company. But this thing that they do with these tools, they make these tools and they target ads towards the tools and the yield on that must be much better than the other ads that they were running prior to that cause people get invested and stuff like that.

They also made their CRM free which gives them a huge it's the same strategy I just said on steroids. Probably, number one strategy to have today that is really starting to become more appreciated than ever before, which is they decided to compete with Salesforce by giving the CRM away completely for free and made it that usable, that people can actually adopt it and use it for free, which is another piece of free man and free tools that people don't really appreciate.

And Corey, just to workshop real quick on your doodle thing. I think this is something I realized with Trello and I wrote about it, but basically without clear cut use cases that are frequent and repetitive, I don't think the doodle thing actually works because the doodle thing worked back in the day.

when Doodle was only game in town, just like Calendly work back in the day. Only game in town. You didn't have a better way. So the word of mouth was incredible. And that's what people don't talk about this freemium stuff. They're like, Oh yeah. It's, it's like the things you could track, it's no, it's actually the things that are harder to track that spread the thing.

And it's usually the word of mouth. So when it's something's new and it's a shiny object in a category, That's how it works. So with the Doodle thing, I would be trying to figure out how do I make it a shiny object? I think there are ways on that one. And then more importantly, how do I define the use cases that are repetitive and how do I get people to sign up for those repetitive use cases, so it's almost and the reason I say that is that's how you get retention on a tool like that. And in your case, you folks are trying to build a freemium tool that actually gets retention, right? Or free tool that gets retention and it's obviously baked into the Calendly like product that Savvy Cal.

So anyway just a thought that I had to share.

[00:27:19] Corey Haines: In this whole like, freemium discussion and with product like growth you definitely see the first mover advantage. Absolutely. Something I realized in the last like year, I think it clicked. I was like, Oh, this is what it looks like and feels like , not that I have it myself, but that others do.

Like a calendly, like a doodle where they're very hard. Like you just you're the first in market. You're the new shiny thing and there is no alternative out there, and you give that thing time to just run and get adoption. That's very hard to displace. So now what we're competing against, is people looking for some that people who are unhappy with Doodle and searching for something else that's like active, demand capture or people who have never heard of Doodle before, which there's only like a sliver in the market every year, right?

It's new graduates or people switching industries, career switches. People who are like the laggers, the late adopters. So we're gonna try our best to compete on that front, but it's not gonna be like the whole market capture, like my Calendly and Doodle had so long ago.

We have to scrape and claw a lot more and grind a away that they than they had to.

[00:28:37] Hiten Shah: Yeah. That's exactly how it works. I'll talk about one very interesting thing people don't probably understand about Trello. And it gets into growth hack territory, which I know people always like talking about, but Trello, I don't know if they still do this, but one secret to their growth that I think is hidden is that when you created a Trello account, you were put in what I would call a universal directory of Trello.

What that means is if you went in Trello. You try to share something in Trello and started like typing at whatever, you would get the full user directory and could add anybody that's ever signed up for Trello. Yes. Again, I'm pretty sure it helped their growth back then because literally all the accounts were publicly available that way.

Publicly available. Yeah, it was insane and I don't think people really understood how much that helped Trello grow. Cause Trello naturally isn't viral SavvyCal or account, right? Yeah. It has a restriction there. The restriction is and the reason I'm saying that is like it's very rare for growth to happen.

Without some real like hacky borderline stuff, and I know we know about this, if anyone really wants evidence, go find the video about Reddit's early days and the hacks they did with fake user names and accounts and content and you'll get what I mean. This is how growth hacking evolved and turned into kind of what it is not today, but what it was and what led to growth in these companies.

So yeah, that Trello thing was fascinating. I think people don't obviously realized those little things that make a big difference. So they were willing to take a big risk basically on how people would feel about that. And no one really said anything and literally find anyone that ever signed up for Trello.

So just made that sharing experience frictionless. As close to frictionless as they could get it. Just something to think about. Yeah. And Eric on the chat said, Telegram has that Yeah. But Telegram is a messaging tool they should have that. Trello was never a messaging tool.

[00:30:53] Aadil Razvi: Oh, wow. Yeah, I guess while we're on this topic, I don't mean to put you on the spot here then feel free, we can move on, but how would you actually make it a shiny object that you were, you're talking about for this doodle example?

[00:31:12] Hiten Shah: I would, one way that I would brainstorm it, there's probably three or four, but let's go through one is.

What are highly lucrative and frequent youth cases and lucrative, meaning lucrative for the customer? So the one that comes to mind is actually scheduling calls related to sales and calls related to customer success. So I would probably pivot the thing around that or target those audiences with specific templates, whatever the crap is, because scheduling, when you have money at stake

which is in both of those scenarios, typically is very important and it's urgent and it happens frequent. and schedules and timing and all that stuff are very much a challenge in those scenarios. , especially during the pre sales process for sales people. And so again, I don't know that market. I haven't studied it, I don't know the templates and stuff that exist in it, but I do know the products we're talking about.

I do know SavvyCal as well. So my take would be like, are there a couple customer profiles that you can go after that really learn like how they're doing it today and can that feature be tweaked to work really well for them. I think it can, I don't know how much of a change it is from the core SavvyCal stuff outside of that feature too, which really intrigues me because it should be used for setting up sales meetings.

But when you have a meeting that requires multiple people to align on a time, that's when shit gets out of control and very challenging. And when money's on the line and every day counts. , there's a lot of pain and urgency around it, so that's what I'd be exploring and researching to figure out if there is a shiny object to build there for those people.

[00:32:58] Corey Haines: Yeah, that's the area we're most actively exploring. And it's funny because I think a lot of as a part of tying it back to the larger shift that we're seeing a little bit is people are really looking at their positioning right now and figuring out like, who is our best customer?

Who are the people that we should really like? We can't just spray and pray and throw a spa at the wall and see who reacts, but who should we be very specifically going after and why? And it's funny because I think it's very easy for a lot of kind of generic, horizontal tools like a SavvyCal, for example.

If they really wanted to, like every one of those could just pivot themselves and position themselves as a sales tool because it's closest to the money. There's the most urgency, there's the most, if it gives any sort of like advantage, it can be easily quantifiable, right? In this actual sales numbers.

But there's also a very real opportunity to be had there, where it's of course that's one of the main use cases and that's one of the most important, if not the most important function of the business. So why wouldn't we wanna be there and target those people unless there's some sort.

That's where the strategy gets in competition and doing feature gap analysis and all that kind of jazz, really figure out if you should be there and why you should be there. But, As as a larger trend too, just really looking at who are the best customers? Who should we be targeting?

And what are the marketing strategies that can get us there, right? Like rather than just, here's our marketing and here's all this noise we're gonna make, and here we're just gonna go run all these ads on these platforms. Targeting who and why? What's the value proposition? Actually, I love Hiten's mentioned this the ClickUp value proposition over and over again of save one day every week.

I think distilling your value proposition down into something like that, where it doesn't have to be so literally true. Where it's okay, does every customer literally save one day a week? It doesn't really matter. It's beyond the point. The point is it's so memorable that people can't get outta their head of this is what's possible

with a tool like this, I think everyone really needs to take some time to figure out what is our save one day a week type of value proposition. Really distilling it down as something that is so short and memorable and easily understandable as to why someone should use that tool rather than the usual here's all of our features.

And or having something that's totally mean meaningless. That's like a fancy tagline, but no one actually knows what it does or why they should use it.

[00:35:41] Aadil Razvi: It's really good. I like that. What's your save one day a week value prop? Something we can all look into. Switching gears a little bit, let's get tactical.

Everybody loves getting tactical. I think Corey, you had alluded to some things earlier, but I'd love to, to give you the opportunity to speak on what are the underpriced opportunities for SaaS growth heading into 2023?

[00:36:02] Corey Haines: One of the ones that's top of mind because it's so obvious, is a lot of paid advertising channels because we've all been complaining about really high CAC and cost per click prices forever now for a couple of years, right?

And it just comes back to really basic supply and demand factors, right? Like there's a lot of people wanting to advertise on this finite number of platforms to a finite number of people with a finite number of ads, per feed or like per foot of real estate on the platform they wanna advertise on.

And so more demand for those ad spots is going to drive the price up. And now everyone, not everyone now, a lot of people are cutting back costs and they're looking at their budget or they're scrutinizing, they're chopping it in half or just getting away with it together. And there might be bad decisions to be honest.

Some of them that they might not need to, or they might be cutting the wrong channels. They might not need to really cut back on some channels because that maybe is what was driving their growth and now they just cut their growth in half because they're not in those places. And so now that can be an opportunity for a lot of people, again, as another big reset of customer acquisition costs and cost per clicks on advertising platforms to really go in on those platforms again and treat it like an arbitrage opportunity of, Hey, we've got a window here of a year or two.

Hopefully not longer than that, but a year or two probably for sure of cheaper customer acquisition costs and CPCs on app platforms. Then we've seen in the last 10 years probably there was that golden era of Facebook ads from like 2008 to 2014, where like every business under the sun grew exponentially, who just poured money into Facebook ads.

And then it got so expensive that the unit economics didn't work anymore, and they all wrote it off as it's just gonna be break even. Or, some companies make it work, but it's not gonna work phenomenally well or nearly not as well as it did before. And now there might be those opportunities again, especially with a lot of these emerging platforms like tTikTok,

I think Reddit is finally getting their stuff together with their ad platform. There's a lot of new opportunities which is just the tech available now in sponsoring podcasts, sponsoring newsletters doing a lot more like influencer white labeling and white listing of their content across those platforms as well.

Influencer marketing too. There's a nice reset that should open up the opportunity for people to relook at some of these paid app platforms and actually get good prices, actually have cost per click that makes sense for your unit economics. So I'll start there. That would be like one of the first places I'm looking at and I would look at for anyone else

[00:38:54] Aadil Razvi: So much choose in what you shared. I'm gonna have to review the notes for that one man that was knowledge bonds one after another. Here is, we're seeing in the chat. Hiten, what would you have to add to that?

[00:39:06] Hiten Shah: I don't have anything to add to that.

[00:39:12] Aadil Razvi: You think paid ads are yeah, like it's as simple as there's a risk pricing happening on ad platforms. Go ahead.

[00:39:18] Hiten Shah: I think that all I would add would be just doubling down on what Corey said and probably giving a little bit of historical context. So historically, like you find a new channel and you go after it as a marketer and you win like you literally win. If you go after a new channel and the audience is there that you're looking for and you keep like at it and you tweak and you figure it out, and then

usually your own dumbass or someone on your team decides to share it with somebody else. say hey, this one thing's working. And this isn't just ads, this is like outbound. Every single marketing thing works like this. And so what we're seeing right now, and I've said this even with the APP or whatever, the Apple crap and all that.

It's cool. We just got to work harder. We used to have to work harder. Now we gotta work harder. And that just means work harder on creative, work harder on optimization, work harder on measurement, work harder on what we used to call growth hacking, right? Work harder on all the things that are gonna help us learn and iterate and get the cap we want.

And when these kinds of opportunities arise, it's game on for good marketers or marketers who are willing to do the work. And it's like a total shit show for everybody else cause like someone will eat your lunch even in a market like this if they're just working harder. I hate to say it, cause that's the old adage, but

the marketer that works the hardest towards the channels they're focused on is gonna win. And it doesn't matter what type of market it is, what type of tracking is gone, what type of all that? It's the hustle. Like we, at one point, like for Crazy Egg, we added a scroll bar to our ad on Facebook so that people would freaking click it and it worked.

And like in our context, it was the heat mapping tool and all that. It made sense to add, to scroll bar to the damn ad, right? Like it was good. So there's just tricks and creative and getting very creative about it and not being able to get away with precise targeting like we used to or whatever it was we were doing.

So that's it. I'm just double clicking what he's saying yeah, there's massive opportunity when shifts like this happen and I don't think we've ever seen a shift like this where across the board. Everyone's dealing with the pain on mature ad platforms, so we're almost back to square one. I guess that's the TL;DR.

[00:41:35] Aadil Razvi: We've been hearing a lot of that. Oh, go ahead.

[00:41:36] Corey Haines: I was just gonna add on that one of the other things, I don't know if it's an underpriced opportunity because this is probably one of the things that everyone's gonna flock to, but I think it's just gotta be one of the things on your radar is SEO.

There's the old like trope of this marketing channel's dead and the next year another marketing channel's dead and we're oh, everyone writes it off and then it has a resurgence a couple years later. Not in that it actually works better, but just became like cool again where people like found it again, or, all these case studies start being published and then everyone's woo, it's back.

Okay. None of these channels actually go away, but SEO's been one of those things where I feel like people can been like poo pooing it Oh, SEO's dead, or, Oh, it's so hard to rank, and, oh, Google screwed me, whatever. I always have a hard time with those types of comments because they're victim mentalities.

But I think that given the state of the market, a lot of people are gonna be re-looking at SEO and rightly they really should, because that's the only source of free recurring traffic. And I think that actually, I really like the state of SEO right now because it's the least kind of hacky and gameable hackable.

It's ever been and it's history probably, right? It's like they keep with all these updates, hit like them or hate them. They're getting better as a search engine and they're removing all these loopholes that you can use your advantage or that other people can use to their advantage.

But again, it goes back to the fundamentals. And I think you really wanna be doubling down an SEO because it's a compounding channel. You make the investment once and then you reap the benefits for as long as you rank right, And I just can't understand enough, like a lot of people have put it off because it takes too long or because it's too much of a kind of voodoo black magic that they don't know how to figure out or because it's too expensive to hire an agency to do it.

You got to do it. You have to start, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. Second best time is right now. Start right now with your STO if you haven't, because it's gonna be really important going forward, given that the market's a little bit slower and you have to be more in a

demand capture mode, I think. We are really making the most of every app bat that you have to earn someone's attention and earn them as a lead, and then earn them as a customer. Inbound marketing is way easier. Fundamentally because you're just, catching people who are already coming your way.

They're already interested, they're already expressing something. It's always harder to do outbound marketing, outbound sales, try to create the demand and really, Hey, what do you think about this? Or, get someone to question their own assumptions if they already know. You gotta make the most of that.

And that's kinda the state of I wanna be positioned for that. I wanna be casting the net, like right at the head of the river so that everyone who's qualified just capture, goes right into my SEO net and I get them to end my funnel and I'm making the most of all those.

[00:44:44] Aadil Razvi: Yeah, there's a lot of questions in the chat or in the Q&A kind of around one thing, I'll consolidate it.

We've got a lot of early stage folks in this audience with limited resources, limited time. SEOs a long game, maybe limited budget. How should they be thinking about resource allocation here? Should they be actually focusing on, one channel and just doubling down on that, trying out all these different things to see what sticks what's the process that they should be following as an early stage startup with limited resources?

I think Hiten probably got an answer loaded for this one.

[00:45:23] Hiten Shah: It's a loaded question. And I think Corey mentioned something about some things being very contextual earlier and yeah, this is one of those contextual things, like who's your customer? Where do they hang out?

Like how are you gonna go engage them there? It's loaded. And, but telling you something generic I think is valuable. So I'll say the one thing that comes to mind, which is

if you've built something that when somebody either signs up or you show them a demo and they truly want it, and in the case of a signup, if it's self-service, they like are successful with it, they get activated, they retain. That's all you need to do, early stage. You need to build something that when it's demoed, people wanna move to the next step.

You build something when they sign up. If you're on that side of the house, not the sales side, then they become retained and they stay with you. There's really nothing more to it. Early stage, and you notice I didn't talk about channels or anything cause the channel is your customer. Just go find them. It's not hard to go find 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, right?

Again, depending on price point and things like that. It could be 10 if it's like enterprise or something or five. But if it's like a standard kind of self-funded early stage or low funding early stage, it's your product and your customer and just getting to the point where those things are true.

And I see so many folks not even realizing that for whatever reason and thinking they can go get customer. When those two things are, that criteria has not been met. So today I would force everybody to really think about that criteria and whether you're there. Cause if you're not there, all everything you're doing for marketing needs to be to get there.

Which means you don't care about channels, you care about the hustle. You probably, the channel at that point, LinkedIn, InMail, ,LinkedIn messages, right? Like email, like bugging the shit out of your friends to get you to their friends who might wanna see your product and use it. But if you're not wasting anyone's time, if that demo always leads to the next step or in 80, 90% of the case, same with sign up, if like a high percentage of people are just getting through and doing the thing, you're good, then you should worry about the marketing

but then you're not even technically early stage, cause you have early enough traction and you could go ask those 20, 30, 40, 5000 customers. Where do you hang at? How do you find tools like ours? You could even ask them on the first call. How did you find us? You could ask them on the first welcome email.

Hey, we're early. I'm the founder. I only have one question for you. How did you find out about this? Yeah. Also, PS if you need help with our tool, here's my freaking phone number. Text me, call me, whatever. That's the best marketing you could do. Screw everything else at that stage, that's my thing for you, dude. the non protect generic advice.

[00:48:20] Aadil Razvi: Yeah. No honestly, I gave you a loaded question and you gave me the the right loaded answer cause it really does depend. It's contextual and at the end of the day it is about getting to the basics. Do you have an A+ product that people love?

The people sign up when they see it, find those people, then go, like it's, there's a It becomes a lot simpler when you figure out, okay, like we have something that a particular audience wants. Now it's just a matter of getting in front of them. Corey will leave it with you.

[00:48:53] Corey Haines: Yeah. I'm not gonna spend a lot of time on it, but I have a mantra. All you have to do is whatever it takes. In your early stage, like there is no silver bullet, there is no easy, Oh, I'm just gonna go tap into this little market over here, this little pool over here, but find where they are.

Again, I'm not gonna repeat what Hiten said exactly, but just do whatever it takes. I don't know what it is for your customers. Like when you're early stage, you can't afford to Oh, I'm gonna double down on this one channel and scale that all the up. It's like just go hustle for people to sign up for your product and then get their feedback, talk to them, be their friend. It's N1 rocket science.

[00:49:32] Aadil Razvi: Underpriced opportunity is just you actually going out and doing the work.

[00:49:37] Corey Haines: That's right. work ethic.

[00:49:39] Aadil Razvi: That's right. Awesome. Thank you so much both of you for spending your time with us today. This was insanely valuable. Let the people know what you've got going on in your life and how they can get in touch Hiten, tell us.

[00:49:52] Hiten Shah: Yeah, follow me on Twitter. I'll send a few links. Get my Product Habits newsletter. That's all I got for you. If you're fundraising, DM me. I got a really great fundraising guide. That's what I got, two seconds and I'll send the links right now.

[00:50:07] Aadil Razvi: Love it.

[00:50:07] Corey Haines: Yeah, same. You can find me on On Twitter, I'll drop my handle here. I'm early stage for SwipeWell, my SaaS app, and so I'm hustling, grinding out there. If you wanna help me out, go check out If you're interested in marketing examples, building a Swipe File. Using inspiration for your own marketing.

[00:50:27] Aadil Razvi: Both these gentlemen have a mountain of content out there on all things product, all things marketing, growth.

These are two of kind of the biggest content creators in this space. And so do take full advantage, get in touch on Twitter, check out their websites. Thank you both so much. This was awesome. I hope this was fun for you. You can click on the leave stage button and I'll catch you backstage in in about 30 seconds.

[00:50:50] Hiten Shah: Thanks everybody for listening to us.

[00:50:53] Corey Haines: Thank you.

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