Alli McKee
Feb 15, 2018 · 4 min read

The original version of this piece appeared on the official SaaStr Blog here.

This year’s SaaStr Annual made it clear: there is more growth — and competition — than ever. This doesn’t come as a surprise, of course. But it is one thing to see the latest Martech 5000 slide:

And it is another to experience it — live — in the overcrowded halls of the Hilton:

Walking through the Expo Hall offered an opportunity to learn from the best companies out there, but it also gave a visceral sense of the information overload your buyers face every day in their inboxes.

In 2018, how do you stand out from the noise and actually earn a customer’s attention?

  1. Build with focus.
  2. Differentiate with bold decisions.
  3. Develop your mindset.

Build with Focus.

Strategy enables you to scale decision making. In a noisy world of more competitors, more features, and more speed — this matters.

This doesn’t just apply to Product, but everything. Without strategy, marketing is running campaigns for things that don’t exist, sales is selling products that aren’t feasible, and engineerings are writing code to solve problems that are cool. Instead, “Build what you sell, and sell what you build.”

“Product Strategy at Scale” with Des Traynor, Co-Founder of Intercom

When it comes to the products you are building and selling, manage scope creep — especially when it comes to one-off requests from big clients. Don’t let clients drive the roadmap if it derails your strategy. Des is an advocate of the “Scopilocks” Principle: “Build a product small enough to adopt, but big enough to matter.” 16 core features? That’s probably four different products, not one. Focus.

Differentiate with Bold Decisions

“If you’re doing the same thing everyone else is doing, you aren’t doing anything at all.”

It sounds counterintuitive coming out of an event all about sharing “best practices,” but it’s true. Learn what others do so that you can do it differently. Take a stand to stand out.

As Michelle Zatlyn put it in “Founder-to-Founder: 10 Toughest Lessons,” you have to have a point of view. Don’t overanalyze, but instead make a decision and commit.

Then, adjust. Founders are judged by the speed of learning, not the quality of their decisions. The worst thing you can do is avoid making one and lose momentum. Be bold.

Develop your mindset

Despite the speed of SaaS, one theme has emerged this week from listening to founders: This is a long road.

Whether you are starting a SaaS company or selling in this new SaaS environment, you have to take the long game mentality. A “quick win” doesn’t count as a win if it churns.

Perhaps the most important advice all SaaStr Annual week was from Therese Tucker of Blackline:

“There is no playbook.”

It’s tempting — particularly after a week like this one — to try to bring “best practices” back to your company and copy what has worked for the successful founders speaking to us this week. But here’s the thing. The playbook they used isn’t the playbook — because there is no such thing. That’s true in sales, as well.

The beauty and challenge of building a SaaS business is that you have to do it in your own way, and build your playbook as you go along. No one else’s will work like yours will, because companies — like people — are unique.

Therese’s closing words capture the journey of starting and building a SaaS company as well as any.

“You will laugh and you will cry. It may not be the best, and it may not be the worst. But one thing I can tell you is that it won’t be boring.”

About the Author: Alli McKee is the CEO and Founder of Stick.ai, a visual communication platform automating design, starting with presentations for B2B sales and marketing teams.

Show and Sell

Storytelling is the new Selling. Show and Sell brings together the best of strategy, storytelling, and design to show companies how to sell more, faster with stories that stick. Brought to you by stick.ai.

Alli McKee

Written by

CEO and Founder, Stick.ai - Illustrating Ideas in real time with NLP + ML. Painting and Improv on the side. TEDx Stanford.

Show and Sell

Storytelling is the new Selling. Show and Sell brings together the best of strategy, storytelling, and design to show companies how to sell more, faster with stories that stick. Brought to you by stick.ai.

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