What’s table stakes in SaaS, anno 2015

Yesterday I shot off a Tweetstorm about some important developments that I’m observing in the SaaS world as we’re entering 2015. While a Tweetstorm is a nice way of gently breaking the 140 character limit, I thought it would make sense to follow-up with a blog post.

The point that I made was that most of the tactics which smart SaaS entrepreneurs developed around 2007-2009 – inbound marketing, conversion optimization, lifecycle marketing, etc. – and which gave them a competitive edge at that time can no longer be used to gain a competitive advantage. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore these strategies. It’s exactly the contrary – you have to do all of this, and you have to do it excellently. But it doesn’t mean you’ll win, it’s necessary just for having a seat at the table.

The whole concept of the “consumerization of the enterprise” and everything that comes with it was very new a couple of years ago. As I’ve written before, when Mikkel told me how Zendesk was doing sales and marketing in 2008, I was intrigued but also slightly confused. Most of the terms like content marketing, inbound marketing or growth hacking didn’t even exist yet or weren’t widely used.

Today, an incredible amount of knowledge on how to build a SaaS company is available online. Jason M. Lemkin alone has answered more than 1100 (!) mostly SaaS-related questions on Quora, drawing from his experience in founding EchoSign and scaling it to $100M in ARR. Between his website and the blogs of David Skok, Tomasz TunguzJoel York and others you’ll find great answers to almost every SaaS question that you can think of. In addition, there’s a large number of excellent blogs and resources to learn about more specialized topics such as inbound marketing, landing page optimization, customer success, marketinggrowth hacking, more growth hacking, product strategy and every other imaginable topic. Processing all of that information and prioritizing and applying the learnings is of course difficult, but at least the information is there.

Besides that, companies like Totango, Gainsight and Intercom have taken some of the ideas of the first generation of consumerized SaaS entrepreneurs and turned them into great products which make it easy to analyze, segment and communicate with your users. Customer success is not the only area which saw the emergence of “SaaS for SaaS” solutions – there are now dedicated products for subscription billing and subscription analytics, too. And then there are of course great solutions for everything from multi-touch attribution to A/B testing to lead scoring.

What that means is that in 2015 there’s no for not understanding your metrics, for not doing great content marketing, for not being focused on customer success, for being clueless about sales and marketing or other rookie mistakes. I don’t intend to sound harsh. It’s the market which is harsh. All that knowledge, all those tools, it’s all available to your competitors as well, and that’s what’s raising the table stakes.

So how can SaaS entrepreneurs get ahead of the pack in 2015? I’ll leave that for another post (and I’m happy to hear about your ideas!).