By Shay Howe, Chief Marketing Officer of ActiveCampaign, shortlisted for the Highest Customer Satisfaction with a SaaS Product category at The SaaS Awards 2022
From Amazon to Zoom, the tech giants that loom large over the industry are all examples of companies that achieved hypergrowth, defined as when an organization’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) exceeds 40%. These are the companies that created the lore of Silicon Valley and have seen their stories memorialized in TV shows and even Oscar winning movies.
So, what does it take to achieve hypergrowth? The stories depicted in these shows and movies all share a similar roadmap:
- Exponential growth at any cost
- Vanity metrics featuring fundraising and hiring
- Crushing hours
- Cool office on the coast
- Fast to grow – fast to fail
While this is the path that has gained notoriety, it is not the only one. Hypergrowth can be achieved without cutting corners and it can be sustainable. For SaaS companies looking to embark on a hypergrowth journey, doubling down on customer experience is key – but what does that really mean?
While most articles will share watered-down, generic advice like “make customers happy” or “support customers” they do not share the secret sauce that truly accelerates growth through the customer experience. Here are the seven secrets every company looking to not just reach hypergrowth, but also sustain it, should know.
- Solve for underserved markets through product-led growth: SaaS companies have a hyperfixation on acquiring enterprise customers, and that fixation is leaving dollars and opportunities on the table. When everyone is competing for the same deals with the same companies, the opportunity for hypergrowth is limited.
Finding the underserved sectors, like small and medium businesses and developing products and offerings that meet their unique needs enable companies to create unique value. Small businesses make up 95 percent of all businesses, yet they are frequently underserved by the technology sector. Providing SaaS for businesses of all sizes helps to streamline your path to hypergrowth by finding those gaps in the market.
- Focus on your vision — not the competition: Chasing growth without chasing your vision is a fool’s errand. Your company’s vision is its guidepost through any stage of growth. That said, ensuring you remain true to that vision is central to lasting success and will help you build a solution and company that truly looks to solve the challenges it set out to.
Vision-driven companies do not get distracted by their competition and change course as a result. For example, ActiveCampaign’s mission has always been to help growing companies through more authentic customer relationships. While our competitors were offering all-in-one solutions, we remained true to our visions of serving businesses of all sizes, which meant moving away from an all-in-one offer. We understood that if we required business owners to migrate their websites and force them to pivot, we would not truly be serving our customers.
- Focus on sustainability before you focus on growth: Growth that is not sustainable is a recipe for disaster. Teams will be stretched too thin, short cuts will be taken, and missteps are bound to happen. Saying “no” to the right opportunity at the wrong time is sometimes the smartest thing a SaaS company can do on its path to hypergrowth.
While it may seem counterintuitive to turn down growth opportunities, if that opportunity does not serve long-term goals or missions, it will not be worth the short-term gain. Don’t get distracted by a single large opportunity. There are always hidden costs.
- Do not overlook global markets: SaaS companies tend to focus their sales efforts within tech hubs – and for the longest time, that just meant Silicon Valley. But by focusing efforts “close to home,” SaaS companies are missing the benefits a global market brings. Focusing on global markets provides SaaS companies with:
- Broader datasets and partnerships
- Greater need and momentum
- A strong localization muscle
- Reduced risk
- Better support for US customers too
- Ability to uncover new opportunities across the board
Global growth breeds a more sustainable business. For example, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ActiveCampaign was able to see how businesses were impacted in Italy and other early hotspots to better inform how we supported customers in other geographies.
- Reduce risk through optionality: If one contract makes up a substantial portion of your operating revenue, you will be so focused on retaining that business that you will miss opportunities for growth and expansion. To achieve hypergrowth, SaaS companies should prioritize a diversity of customers and markets. This diversity will increase exposure to more use cases, enable creative approaches to deliver value to the largest set of customers possible, and grant more control over your road map.
- Invest in your community and they will invest in you: The phrase “it takes a village” does not just apply to raising a family. When it comes to growing a business, the “village” you surround yourself with is critical to achieving hypergrowth. A chronically underused lever for growth in business is partnerships. Integration partners can serve as some of your best go to market (GTM) partners because it allows you to cut investment in advertising, promotion and events in half.
- Make a move, even if it does not “make sense” on paper: If a tactic does not “make sense” on paper, chances are your competition is also going to pass on the idea. Taking the risk can be worth it – for example, all ActiveCampaign competitors require you to pay some sort of “implementation” fee. Despite this being an industry standard, we bucked the trend and decided to offer free implementation and migration to every customer that wants it. By removing that barrier of entry, we were able to offer the highest speed to ROI for our customers and stay ahead of competitors.
These seven secrets will not only help you embark on your path to hypergrowth, but they will also help you maintain it. Processes that were easy when you started your business will become next to impossible as you scale. By keeping this hypergrowth playbook in mind, you can achieve hypergrowth without losing that customer-driven edge.