When I was working on the CRAZY, huge list of
71 powerful growth hacking examples,
it occurred to me,
why not talk about the growth hacks for B2B SaaS companies
in a different post.
And that is what led me to compile this post.
If they can do it, you can do it too!
Did you know FOUR leading global tech businesses
changed their acquisition strategies and considered
SaaS products development in 2017?
Microsoft, SAP, IBM and CA Technologies.
What makes this domain challenging is that
even with a 20% saas business growth,
a business stands a 92% chance of failure.
So, what are some growth hacks for B2B saas companies?
Slack was born by accident
when Stewart Butterfield and his group were working on a gaming app called Glitch.
They realized that it was complicated to communicate within the organization.
The solution- simplify the communication process, aka, Slack.
The SAAS company has crossed over 1.25 million paid users.
Moreover, they are the fastest growing SAAS company of all time.
In just four years, Slack has reached a $4 billion valuation.
What’s amazing about Slack’s growth hack is that they achieved
this exponential success without spending millions of dollars on marketing.
Slack founder Stewart Butterfield already
had a huge network (he had founded Flickr as well).
In one of his interviews, he says
Why did he take this route?
To ensure that the product is free
from issues before it hits the market.
In addition, this word-of-mouth approach had Slack gather
valuable testimonials from websites such as Medium and Cozy.
Slack offered users to request invites to check out their preview launch in 2013.
This brought about 8k people on Day1,
and after two weeks this number had doubled.
Slack spent six more months perfecting
their product before launching it in February 2014.
In terms of SEO, Slack has been “slacking”, but not in terms of results.
In fact, the company has focused
on their own branded keywords, and not on industry keywords.
I am sure you must be wondering
how Slack converts free sign-ups into paid users?
After all, that is the bread and butter of a SAAS product.
Slack offers an excellent onboarding process.
Once you sign up for the free version and log in,
you would see a tutorial prompt.
The Help Center is easy-to-navigate and finds info.
Moreover, they offer a ton of useful resources
via their YouTube and Medium accounts.
Slack’s homepage again does not push the user to buy.
In fact, it does not have any CTA about the paid plan.
They don’t even send emails to push the user to convert.
What’s the catch then?
For example, as a free user,
you are limited to 10,000 of your team’s most recent messages,
and only 10 third-party or custom integrations.
Check out their pricing page to see the difference.
Slack has a powerful social media strategy for each platform-
Facebook for updating fans, Youtube for acquiring customers,
and Twitter for driving awareness & customer support.
All these subtle hacks have turned Slack into a SaaS behemoth.
The task-automation web-based service Zapier
democratized software integration in a way that even those
without development-skills could benefit.
For example, if you are a marketer,
you can use Zapier to connect your web analytics app with your email automation tool.
And all this without the tech route of coding.
What’s impressive is that founders of Zapier were non-techies.
And when they applied for funding at Y Combinator,
their application was refused. Ouch!
This growth hack is about CEO Wade Foster and the Zapier Team
who took the company from zero to 600k users in three years.
Wade Foster, Bryan Helmig, and Mike Knoop built Zapier’s first prototype
in two days at a Startup Weekend event in Columbia, Missouri.
Unfinished Product: Hustling His way
Even though the product was not perfected yet,
the Z team did not stop emailing people.
Wade would get on Skype calls,
ask people what products they wanted to integrate, and fulfill their requirements.
They looked for prospects on forums.
How did Wade’s team convince people to pay for an unfinished product?
Unlike other companies that offer a “free signup” for their tech beta,
Zapier charged $100 for access to the beta for as long as the beta lasts.
This earned the company high-quality early users (early adopters)
who turned into brand ambassadors.
The team created landing pages
for every combination of app-to-app integration.
For example, if a user searches for Groove and JIRA,
Zapier would show up.
Partnering with Growth
Growth in a network of partners gave a big boost in traffic for Zapier.
They encouraged their partners to promote Zapier
on social media- twitter, facebook and more.
The team mimicked the style of other successful players
in their domain and added their own voice to topics that Zapier’s users would find useful.
Today, Zapier’s blog generates over 6 million monthly visits.
Customer Support in the DNA
Every employee at Zapier is required to provide customer support.
This helps employees understand the product well;
and therefore, promote it better.
Evernote is a place to store everything.
Last month, they generated more than 81 million visits.
After the 2008 crisis, the company was left with only three-week cash flow.
They had no money, no investors. They decided to shut down.
Do you believe in miracles?
Phil Libin received a call from an Evernote user from Sweden.
He expressed how much he enjoys the product, and how it had made his life more organized.
The Swedish God-sent user offered some investment within a week- 0.5 million USD.
The company hit the 1 million user mark in 446 days.
Today, it is present in 193 countries.
What was Evernote’s growth hack?
Most of the early employees of Evernote
were those who had worked with Libin.
Evernote arrived at just the right time
when mobile apps were still in its beginning phase.
So when users started installing new apps on their mobile,
Evernote was ready.
They were present on Day 1 of the launch of all the app stores.
They have two options on their site- free signup and Evernote Business.
Their Freemium model helped them grow further.
Once a free user starts loving the product,
they would convert most likely sooner or later.
Evernote’s cost per user is around 9 cents per active user per month.
And the company makes 25 cents per user per month.
This might come as a shocker,
but Evernote doesn’t pay to acquire customers.
Here is the growth chart of Evernote from 2009- 2016:
This means no SEO! Darn, now that is something unique.
Their strategy is to focus on the product, turning users into advocates.
What started as an online store
for snowboarding equipment in 200, has now grown
into a cloud-based, multichannel commerce platform.
Yes, I am talking about Shopify.
Do you know top brands such as Tesla Motors,
Red Blil, Lady Gaga Official Shop, and Budweiser use Shopify?
In 2016, Shopify’s customer base grew by 55% to 377.5K.
What’s the secret sauce to this enormous growth?
Tobias Lütke was initially unable to
find an ecommerce platform that colid meet his requirements.
The solution- he created one himself.
In his words,
You have to understand that Shopify
was not the first e-commerce platform available out there.
However, that did not stop Lütke from developing Shopify.
Lütke’s target audience was online retailers.
The USP is that now they colid build their own shopping platform using Shopify.
Shopify was not perfect when it started;
that’s why the owner spent 1.5 years improving the platform before its launch.
Shopify also uses clever tactics such as free trial, contests, webinars,
easy-to-follow onboarding email, a powerful partner program,
AWESOME landing pages, excellent customer service,
and effective social media marketing.
Shopify’s facebook page has over 3 million likes and
its Twitter page commands over 236k followers.
Email marketing is the backbone of digital marketing.
According to Statista,
global e-mail users amounted to 3.7 billion users in 2017.
What about ROI?
Email commands a median ROI of 122%,
which is 4X higher than other marketing channels such as
social media, direct mail, and paid search.
And in the email marketing domain, the Monkey Business,
oh sorry, MailChimp leads with a 49% market share.
MailChimp’s growth hack story is not about overnight success;
albeit, it reflects years of experimentation and testing to evolve a product that enjoys the love of millions.
And this success was sans huge venture capital.
Let’s go back in 2001, and this is how MailChimp’s website looked like:
Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius started a web design agency
called “The Rocket Science Group” in 2000.
A year later, they realized that
some of their clients were having issues sending email newsletters.
The duo colid have easily ignored that problem.
It was not their business after all.
Nevertheless, they took this as an opportunity and borrowed the code
from a failed digital greeting card product they had created earlier.
With a little tweak, they launched MailChimp in 2001.
Organic word-of-mouth referral helped the email marketing platform
develop their initial customer base.
The company tested different pricing strategies before
launching their forever free plan in 2008.
MailChimp has experimented with their pricing and product naming to become more profitable.
Businesses do everything they can
to keep their users going to their competition. Right?
MailChimp did the exact opposite.
Mitchell Harper mentions in his post that
in 2012 MailChimp’s had this message on their website:
They even linked you to Constant Contact’s website.
This approach demonstrates confidence in one’s product.
In short, MailChimp stood out as a fun brand (as against the pale email marketing platforms).
It used the Freemium model to turn free users into loyal paying customers.
And finally, it keeps innovating to keep customers interested.
Check out the image above from their monkey hat campaign.
Aweber is one of the most popular email marketing platforms.
Testimonials can have a powerful impact on business growth.
Aweber understood this well and used a “subscriber count”
on their site showing a new user’s name and the time they joined Aweber.
What’s the benefit to the user?
It helped them trust the product when they saw
other onboard users’ names on the count.
Microsoft and Windows are often used interchangeably.
Here is Bill Gates launching the Windows in 1990:
Bill Gates became the youngest billionaire ever,
at a young age of 31.
In 1995, his net worth was $12.9 Billion,
making him the richest man in the world.
According to CNN, MS colid be worth $1 trillion by 2020.
What’s the secret to this success?
Once again, their ubiquitous character!
Its footprint is way beyond the logo you see on your
Windows screen; Microsoft is a part of our lives.
While it has kept building multiple platforms,
their secret sauce is perhaps its core business-
allowing users to create and edit documents, and building the operating system.
Microsoft is excellent at managing intellectual property.
Innovation. Create something that can become a part of our Lifestyle.
If you have heard of inbound marketing,
you sure know about HubSpot.
Founded in 2006 by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah,
HubSpot has grown into a global business with a valuation of $759 million.
Towards the end of 2009, the founders released a book titled
Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs.
The company also launched their free Website Grader in 2006.
This helped the company generate more customers.
Who doesn’t like free-valuable-tools?
HubSpot continued with its offering with
the free Twitter Grader,
which went viral as more and more Twitter users
would use the tool and share their Twitter scores with their followers.
The HubSpot blog has been another reason why
the company is immensely popular.
The articles on the blog are ‘usefli’,
and carry the CTAs in the right places.
HubSpot uses a variety of content channels
such as blog posts, webinars, and emails to educate users
and generate buzz.
This brings huge traffic to their website, thus facilitating more conversions.
Key Takeaway: try to create a product that can be useful
to the end user. Do not always focus on selling first.
What are your thoughts about
the growth hacks of these B2B saas companies?
The comments section awaits you
to share your own saas growth ideas as well.
For exclusive strategies not found on the blog