Earlier this week two of us Gatekeepers attended the SaaStock conference in Dublin, Ireland to meet with suppliers and customers and to hear from some industry heavyweights on the latest trends and issues affecting SaaS companies.
It was an intensive two days featuring entertaining talks, opportunities to share war stories with counterparts in comparable businesses and a wide choice of branded socks.
Amongst the many useful nuggets of information shared and discussed, the following three represented the biggest takeaways for me.
1. Competition in SaaS is higher than ever
Sure, this isn’t particularly insightful or surprising on its own but the symptoms of it can be found throughout the conference and even beyond. Some examples include:
- Patrick Campbell of Profitwell quoting that, on average, 6 years ago a software business starting out would have 2.6 competitors in its sector in its first year. Now that number is up to 13.
- Over the same period, Customer Acquisition Cost has risen by an average of 70%
- The tacit understanding that the increasing majority of marketing budgets are spent on Google Ads.
- The increasing use of remote working models so that companies can hire affordable talent wherever they can find them rather than being limited to expensive geographies.
- Escalation of exhibitor booth sizes and features. Will we see a three-storey booth next year?
- Dublin’s traffic problem. With so many tech companies now having huge offices in the city, the gridlock at rush hour is absurd.
All this presents a practical challenge and an opportunity to software businesses looking to grow profitably. Where to find customers affordably, where to hire the best people, which niche to focus on for success are questions that even the best-funded companies are wrestling with.
2. Pricing is hard but a massive opportunity
A natural follow-on from the first point, pricing was very much a topic in focus across the two days, not least from the stream of content from the Profitwell stand.
Pricing is a lever that any business can pull and, if adjusted sensibly, one which has a 99% chance of increasing ARR according to OpenView Partners. This eye-catching statistic implies that very few companies have optimised their pricing.
Nathan Latka backed this up in his keynote talk and outlined the challenge of finding the optimal point to price your service along the three axes of Seats, Features and Usage.
3. The “Promisingly-titled talk that turns out to be a thinly-veiled sales pitch” is still a thing
Not sure how this is still a thing, but it definitely is. The best and most memorable talks from a packed conference are always those that tell an interesting personal story or those that impart insightful, actionable advice.
In both those cases, the speaker is giving generously to the audience in return for their attention.
Conversely, when a talk consists of a couple of superficial, generic points and then dives into a sales pitch you can feel the ripples of discontent going round the audience.
Thankfully, talks like those given by Emily Ellis of Boston Consulting Group fall into the more positive category. Her “Marie Kondo” approach to creating the optimal choice environment for different buyer types was full of thought-provoking ideas and practical examples.
Nathan Latka’s various appearances either on the main stage, interviewing founders or sparring with other speakers all generated plenty of talking points and laughs, while Dan Martell’s session was predictably polished and insightful.
In all, it was an immensely worthwhile two days with plenty of interesting meetings and a wide variety of topics to learn about. I also enjoyed watching the final of the Pitch Competition and congratulations to Crankwheel for their victory.
Final thought, the three questions I ask myself when considering branded merchandise are:
- Will it fit in my suitcase?
- Is it useful?
- Can I pass it off as a “gift” to my kids?
I think that the last question represents an as-yet untapped opportunity for purveyors of branded merch to consider, although Churnzero with their branded monster cards may be ahead of the curve here.