The public SaaS market more than doubled in five years, from 2015 to 2020. Revenue from new business boomed, companies had money to burn, and the name of the game was growth at all costs—full speed ahead.
But less than three years later, everything has changed.
Amid a market downturn, many organizations shifted their go-to-market strategies. Now, efficiency is more important than ever.
Increasing efficiency boils down to maximizing ROI. We wanted insight into how SaaS companies navigate this challenge so we got the best and brightest growth leaders from Pitch, Swan, and Framer together to get to the bottom of go-to-market efficiency.
Here are a few topics from their conversation:
- Is efficiency still a priority in 2024
- Their most impactful growth initiative this year
- Making smart growth investments
- Key metrics to measure efficiency
Will efficiency still be the top priority for 2024?
SaaS growth finally saw an uptick in Q1 2023 followed by stabilization in the following quarters. The bump was small, but positive. A light at the end of the tunnel?
It should be noted that this growth wasn’t distributed evenly and while the top-performing SaaS companies saw upwards of 20% increases in growth, it still looked very much like a downturn for smaller and new players (more details here).
This brings us to the point: if the market is stabilizing (growing for some) should efficiency still be a priority going into 2024?
The panel consensus is yes, going into 2024 efficiency and more cautious spending is still the focus.
From what we can see in the VC landscape it doesn’t seem like investment and funding are going up. I think 2024 is going to be a graveyard for a lot of companies. Marketing teams will be desperate to get as much as possible from their budgets.Oscar
Companies with growth engines that have already proven effective will be able to simply add more fuel (capital) but in cases where efficiency hasn’t been accomplished yet experimentation needs to be done cautiously.
It’s important to approach new investments with a healthy amount of scrutiny and stay vigilant when it comes to ROI. Regularly taking stock of your existing efforts and their ROI is a great way to flush out potential efficiency boosts.
At the same time, the cost of expensive channels like paid ads can be offset by leaning into more cost-effective channels like organic.
It’s not just about how we can grow faster. But also how can we replace more costly initiatives to drive down costs?Pico
Effective growth strategies
We asked the panel directly: what have you done recently that effectively drove growth?
For Sara, it was SEO investments in Pitch’s template gallery layered on with paid ads. It made it easier for anyone searching to find templates that Pitch already offers.
Additionally, when users on a free plan share a presentation a link to try Pitch is included. Experimenting with the copy and analyzing the results led to higher sign ups.
We hadn’t optimized how to drive people to the website from that product viewing experience. It’s a great moment to bring people to Pitch, when they’re looking at a beautiful deck created in Pitch. This year we prioritized that and tested extensively. We’ve been able to drive significant high quality traffic from that channel.Sarah
It’s true, Swan sent out champagne bottles to prospective clients (it worked). But bottle service wasn’t the only initiative that moved the needle.
They put a lot of work into defining their ICP. Which let them focus less on optimizing inbound funnel and more on outbound efforts. With refined ICPs in hand they used account based marketing tools to display different versions of their website depending on the visitor.
There’s super cool account based marketing tools nowadays. Now our website looks different for visitors who we know we want to sign. We can serve the customers we know we want to serve even better as soon as they enter our website.Pico
Framer leaned into AI early. Exploring how useful it could be as an extension to their product they built Framer AI. This ended up with a clever homepage facelift that drew visitors into Framer’s product.
We made an AI website generator but we didn’t stop at making it a product feature. We did a complete front page take over. If you go to the site now, you will see the prompt to input your site idea. When you enter the site you want build you immediately enter our login flow and create an account. Once you enter the tool your site is building. It’s really fun.Oscar
Making wise growth investment decisions
Go-to-market strategies may have shifted from thrive to something resembling survive but it doesn’t mean new marketing and sales activities are frozen. There’s always a need to move forward and keep growing. What are some ways to push the envelope cautiously?
If you are a growth leader your first hurdle may be acquiring budget. Focusing on efficiency means tighter purse strings, and that means it might be harder to get budget for your ideas. Sarah brings up a good point about proving effectiveness and gaining trust.
Consider how you win budget for things. If you’re a marketing or growth lead and you think will get investment for ten different growth initiatives at once without having proven that you can have short-term impact without spending huge amounts of money you’re kidding yourself. Prove you can make an impact. Then you’ll have the right to try riskier things.Sarah
It’s easy to get caught up in marketing and sales trends hype cycles. It’s tempting to experiment with new trends, tools, and channels you come across. But in the name of efficiency it’s usually a better idea to stay focused on your own business and what works well.
People make the mistake of listening too much to what blog posts or LinkedIn posts say. There’re so many trends. People say ‘this is what you should do right now’ and I think some marketing managers feel they need to bring something new to the table. They you should be looking at your business and what is already working then doubling down on that.Oscar
It takes much longer for your team to gain skills and deliver on something new than to double down and improve something existing and familiar.
Key metrics to measure SaaS growth efficiency
Almost every aspect of go-to-market strategies can be measured with some set of metrics. What are the panels favorite metrics tied to efficiency?
Everything is based on revenue. Ideally, everything we do ideally has a positive ROI. It takes a while for early initiatives to get there, you need to be forgiving. We’re not doing anything only for brand awareness or getting impressions. There needs to be a clear connection to the bottom line ideally deals closed and revenue brought in.Oscar
Both Oscar and Pico have shifted away from branding initiatives and are focusing on ROI.
We’re focusing less on brand and more on improving ROI. We look to see if content has been read by companies we’re in a deal stage with. We really try to prove everything against ROI.
Sarah points out how industry benchmarks are a great way to quickly asses what’s working and where you’re lagging.
Comparing yourself to benchmarks is really important especially if your VC backed to understand how your company will be valued. It’s important to see where you’re over preforming and where there’s room to improve. It’s hard to analyze and improve very long customer conversion journeys. That’s where benchmarks can help.
We’re really only scratching the surface of this very deep and detailed conversation. Hopefully you check out the full video to get all the insights shared by the panelists.
Once again thank you to our panelists for bringing their knowledge and experience to the table.
Sarah Kiefer, CMO
Sarah Kiefer is the Chief Marketing Officer at Pitch, the presentation software for modern teams.
She is responsible for marketing and customer experience, growing Pitch’s business and ensuring anyone can make beautiful slides that shape ideas into success stories.
Previously, she held leadership roles at Spotify, Ooyala, Discovery, and Viacom.
Jan Philip (Pico) Petershagen, VP of Growth
Pico Petershagen is VP Marketing & Growth at Swan — the easiest way for any company to embed banking services into their product.
Pico focuses on growing Swan’s revenue by educating businesses about the revenue opportunities and UX potential behind embedded finance. Prior to Swan, he spent time at BCG, Celonis and HV Capital.
Oscar Carlsson, VP of Growth
Oscar Carlsson is VP Growth at Framer, where he helped the company pivot to their current focus on websites, now supporting thousands of customers design and build stunning sites.
Since the pivot, the company has grown dramatically and recently closed $27M in series C funding.