Why People Ruled Everything At SaaStock 2018

BY Louis Hywel EvansOctober 23, 2018

Man standing in silhouette of blue light

We came, we saw, we got SaaSy.

Last week, Team Huckletree headed off to SaaStock with our very own pop up space. If you chilled out in our Zen Garden or took part in our Chair Yoga in between the speakers and pitch sessions – good to see you again!

If you didn’t attend and are, quite frankly, wondering what the hell I’m talking about, settle in. SaaStock is Europe’s largest congregation of the biggest and brightest names in SaaS (Software as a service). Think limitless relationship building and learning opportunities, all under one very large roof in the heart of Dublin.

As an outsider to the SaaS world on my first SaaStock pilgrimage, I expected it to be a convention that praises software and automation services above all else. You can’t be SaaS, if you’re not bowing down to the holy B2B software trinity of: Churn Rate, Expansion MRR and Customer Acquisition Cost.

It turns out, I didn’t get SaaS quite as well as I thought…

From my very first hour exploring the conference, it quickly became clear that this wasn’t a cult advocating the rise of the singularity – it was all about the people. People who are building those machines and want nothing more than other peoples’ opinions on them. People who live to connect with other people and expand their world. People who are leading thought-waves. The more debates, pitches and demos I attended, the more it stood out. SaaStock is people first, SaaS second.

These are some of the most valuable lessons I took away:

 

CREATE HEROES

Organising, connecting, prioritising and utilising the feedback of a human customer is something that’s difficult to balance correctly. However, when done right, it can take make the users of your product more relatable, providing newfound levels of advocacy.

Workfront’s Jada Balster took the human-focused approach up a notch, encouraging product builders to make their customers front-and-centre of their products. From plastering photos of their users on the homepage of their webpage to featuring them in marketing campaigns, they’re strong believers in harnessing people power. Her reason?

“It’s far easier to make an advocate an influencer, than an influencer an advocate.”

Struggling to engender customer loyalty? Take a tip from Workfront and take a perspective which orientates your customer to be “the hero” – not yourself or your product.

Receptive.io’s CEO and Co-Founder Hannah Chaplin led the charge for a better understanding of human-centric customer feedback. Most memorable were her calls to consider its complexities. Sometimes it can be hard not to make knee-jerk reactions, especially when dealing with negative feedback about the product you’ve poured our heart and soul into.

Hannah highlighted that it’s important to realise that feedback given by customers isn’t always a case of black or white. It’s something that lives through its intricacies and nuances – and that’s something to embrace! Founders need to ensure that understanding and implementing feedback isn’t a battle as to whether things can be done either ‘their way’ or ‘your way’, with no middle ground.

 

CHAMPION CUSTOMER CULTURE

You can’t talk people without talking culture. Another common theme that was prevailed throughout SaaStock was the difficulties of culture building. In essence, emphasising the importance it plays in fortifying a company when things are bad, and helping acceleration when things are good.

Much debate was had around how culture circulates through companies to create a flourishing sales persona. This goes some-way to explaining the emotional intelligence required by a sales ’person’ that might be lacking in, for example, a chatbot.

Sean Murray, CRO of Salesloft, defined this succinctly by presenting the stat that “64% of buyers won’t engage with a robot”. It’s not just about emotional intelligence – it’s about making customers feel valued. How many times have you felt almost palmed off by a dodgy chatbot, when all you really want is to speak to a human (basically, to feel valued enough to be worth an actual person’s time)?

David Skok from Matrix Partners refined this human-orientated line of thought surrounding sales’ intersection with company culture extremely well:

“If you’re in a Sales role, you’re not there to sell. You’re there to solve customer problems.”

 

AUTHENTICITY ABOVE ALL

For me, the most prevailing theme that emerged at SaaStock, was the need for human authenticity across all areas of a business. As someone who can often dismiss skeptics of new technologies through theories of attainment (please read this, I promise it’s fantastic) and not as disrupting some prior holistic human existence and being, I required some strong convincing.

Welcome to the stage, Drift VP of Marketing Dave Gerhardt.

Dave’s talk took us on a journey explaining why you and I, as people, want to deal with real people. It’s all because when building a brand, you have to focus on being you. Ultimately, he echoed Jada Balster’s calls that when it comes to customer feedback and human experience, “nonfiction easier than writing fiction”.

Want an example? How’s this: tweaking email footer copy to read, “Hey this an automated email. Yes, I know, but I really did write this” helped increase engagement in mailing lists. Push yourself to find the human element – and get all your team involved, too. Drift forced their VP of Ops to explain their pricing in a one minute video despite his discomfort, simply because he was the person that understood it best.

Dave might also be the first and only person to ever compare Twitch, Casey Neistat and Glossier (due to their ability to transform the mundane into coveted entertainment, and their differing ways of conveying ‘transparency’). Take a look at each for some human-led content inspiration.

 

PEOPLE POWER

So what did I learn at SaaStock 2018 and why did it resonate with me so much?

At Huckletree, people are the very heart of our business. We strive to make sure everything we do reflects that, from curating our members to build a collaborative community to the crowdsourcing suggestions for the next addition to our library at Huckletree D2. When you’re building a business, sometimes the focus on people can get lost in the numbers or pressures to hit KPIs. Witnessing the SaaStock crowd’s collective passion for putting people in the centre of the picture felt like further proof that we’re on the right path – and we’re not alone.

The prevailing debate around how we might take steps to understand people better (e.g. our customers, team members, culture builders, etc) – was something I hadn’t expected to encounter. But my favourite take-home learning was: yes, your product is your salesperson. But even more so, in the most obvious way possible, your people are your salespeople.

Looking for a community to connect and collaborate with as you grow your business (SaaS or otherwise)? Get in touch and arrange your team’s Huckletree workspace tour now.

AUTHOR

Louis Hywel Evans

Insight and Strategy