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5 lessons from the SaaStr 2020 virtual event

SaaStr held a virtual event this year, and we jumped at the chance to attend. Here are our main takeaways for SaaS business in a post COVID-19 world.
By Martin Kåver on April 30, 2020

Last week should have been SaaStr's main event. Held in California every year and drawing in thousands of attendees, it's something many working in SaaS look forward to... but 2020 had different plans. (We attended SaaStr Europa last year).

Rather than scrap the whole thing, SaaStr held a virtual event instead, making registration open and undoubtedly attracting an even larger crowd of those who wouldn't have been able to make the trip. More than just pivot the location and medium of the conference, they changed most of the subject matter in their presentations to address our current struggles.

Speakers discussed how SaaS companies can survive these trying times, and how to manage business, customers, and investing when the future is uncertain. Here are our main takeaways from the talks we watched:

1. If you can pivot, focus on how your solutions help cost control

The fear many SaaS businesses have right now is churn. How many customers will we lose due to the financial uncertainty of the future? But when we start to cancel software plans, it becomes a domino effect, and nobody wins. Some services are essential for keeping the business going, and that is often your selling point - run things more efficiently, and be more productive.

But in Covid times, pivoting the sales and customer support messaging to cost control can ensure that you ease the worries of skittish companies, and underscore the value you bring. Show customers and potential customers the cost value of buying your solutions - how big of savings they can achieve by just spending (relatively) little.

2. Invest heavily on customer success and support

Speaking of churn, now it is more important than ever to offer your customers first-rate support. With new sales in some industries all but grinding to a halt, you better make well sure you can keep the customers that you already have. This means doubling down on how you offer services to your customers and investing more into the activities that spur loyalty.

Not to mention, if and when things get back to relative normality, your customers will not soon forget how well you treated them when times were tough.

According to Matt Garratt, Managing Partner of Salesforce Ventures in his talk "Shifting Your Sales & GTM Strategy in Uncertain Times with Salesforce" in a recent survey, they found that "70% of companies have been able to identify new revenue opportunities during this time." He also suggested that as best practices to survive these times, companies should focus on upsell opportunities rather than new sales, and to prepare now for post-covid business as "90% of those surveyed believe this will create a tailwind for their companies."

Want to learn more about how SaaS businesses can be successful in these times? Sign up now for SaaS Success, a five part series for how to continue to grow and service customers.

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3. Digitalization and connectivity are more important than ever

The age of full digitization is upon us - and much sooner than many businesses were prepared for. This is why we're actually seeing an incredible uptick in sales for businesses that help companies with digital transformation, remote work, collaboration, and automation.

With some companies still making the shift to fully automated processes slowly, we are suddenly seeing just how crucial integrations and cloud services are for those who are unable to execute important tasks without being physically present.

And, with many traditional industries, like in manufacturing who may be unable to operate production at all, those who have begun to leverage industry 4.0 and digital services are breathing a sigh of relief.

4. There is a trust crisis in SaaS

Due to several factors including political events, large data breaches, and data privacy concerns, there has been increasing scrutiny when it comes to trust in SaaS. The advent of COVID-19 has added to the unease. Companies should continue to be more diligent when it comes to security and transparency, and trustworthy marketing and sales tactics.

According to Godard Abel, CEO and Co-Founder of G2, 94% of software buyers don't trust sales teams, but consumers, even in B2B industries, do trust their peers. In his talk, "The SaaS Trust Crisis: How We All Got Here (An How We Get Out)" he quotes Salesforce Founder and CEO Marc Benioff, saying "trust has to be the highest value in your company, and if it's not, something bad is going to happen to you. We are in a new world... and trust better be number one."

Along similar lines to emphasizing customer support, now is the time for SaaS businesses to focus on relationship building to encourage trust and motivate peer to peer recommendations.

5. Be prepared for things to change permanently

While we don't exactly know what the future holds, we do know that we cannot expect for things to "go back to the way they were."

The common theme amongst all the talks was to look to how your business can adapt to fulfill short term needs, but also make sustainable changes that can serve the foundation for an entirely new way of doing business.

All areas of SaaS will be affected permanently, and likely most other industries will be too. That means we need to consider not only how we can approach our own operations, but how we can acknowledge these changes for our customers and networks as well, so that we don't just survive these next months, but will be prepared for years to come.

Published by Martin Kåver April 30, 2020

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