Growth strategy

How to Build a SaaS Growth Strategy for 2021

Written by Matt Cunard / December 29, 2020

Matt is a Growth Marketer at Lean Labs, working with brands to ignite their growth engine through conceptualizing, implementing, and optimizing growth marketing strategies.

You’ve heard of growth hacking, but have you heard of home construction hacking? Or auto maintenance hacking?

You haven’t, because those aren’t real things. You wouldn’t try to hack a home together, or hack a fix to your vehicle’s engine. So why would you ever try to hack growth for something as important as your SaaS startup?

SaaS brands should look to a proven growth strategy

Many B2B SaaS companies may be tempted to "hack" growth. However, they may not have the marketing chops, knowledge, or time to do so. Real, sustainable, up-and-to-the-right growth is less hacking and more scientific method. It is an outcome of consistently executing a fundamentally-sound strategy.

But what does a SaaS growth strategy for 2021 look like? Let’s walk through why B2B SaaS brands should avoid a hack-type approach and look at what makes up a true growth strategy.

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3 Shortcomings of Growth Hacking for B2B SaaS

“You’re not going to find your next major growth breakthrough in a growth hacks listicle. But since a silver bullet that works for everyone all the time is so appealing, it doesn’t stop many people from looking.” -Shanelle Mullin

Do you truly want to grow your SaaS business in 2021? If so, the question you should be asking isn’t “What tactics will it take?” but rather “How can I orient all aspects of my company toward growth?”

B2B SaaS companies should avoid trying to hack their way to growth in favor of a comprehensive growth strategy. Here are three reasons why.

More doesn’t mean better.

It’s a common trap. A SaaS company sees a few digital marketing tactics have brought in just enough leads that they’re convinced an increase in quantity will give them the results they want...except that doing what got you here won’t get you to the next level.

The leads aren’t high enough quality. Instead of optimizing tactics to bring in higher quality leads, they increase the number of sub-par leads their sales team has to spend their time sorting through.

Valuable time and resources are pumped into simply doing more of what works, decreasing marketing performance and draining your limited financial resources with little to show for it.

Too large a focus on tactics.

What’s working for others? What’s the new channel we need to be in? What is the next tactic to try?

Experimentation is key for growth. But without an underlying strategy, these disparate tactics and channels won’t work together. The marketing budget gets spread too thin, reporting is a nightmare, and return on investment for your marketing dollars plummets. Again, you find yourself with a lot of marketing activity with few leads and fewer sales to continue to fund your business.

Forgetting about retention and referrals.

Finally, a lot of growth hacking is focused on awareness, acquisition, activation, and revenue. Get noticed, get as many leads as possible, and get revenue coming in the door. Things like customer retention and setting up a referral program get put on the back burner.

This can be problematic. For many B2B SaaS companies, customers aren’t profitable for three to 6 months (if not longer). What if they churn before they become profitable?

The Mindset for SaaS Growth Strategy in 2021

Real, sustainable, up-and-to-the-right growth for SaaS brands in 2021 requires a mindset shift. Growth is not about doing more things, but doing things better

Remember those science projects you did in school growing up? Sustainable growth is more like a science project than something that can be hacked together. For example, in the scientific method, you start with a question, construct a hypothesis, and run an experiment to see if your hypothesis is true.

That’s how you should view growth. Not as a metric measured from campaign to campaign, but continuous improvement to your buyer journey over time via targeted and incremental enhancements.

The goal isn’t to acquire more customers, but to make profitable customer acquisition your competitive advantage.

How to Do It: Your SaaS Growth Strategy Framework for 2021

Your SaaS growth strategy for 2021 is about more than getting new customers. You need to retain them and leverage them to drive new business as efficiently as possible.

To achieve this, you need to focus on optimizing the 6 levers of growth:

  • Awareness - how much is your target audience seeing you?
  • Acquisition - how many high-quality leads are you getting?
  • Activation - how many of your leads are raising their hands? Are your leads starting a chatbot conversation, asking for a quote, signing up for a demo?
  • Revenue - how many of your leads are you converting to sales?
  • Retention - what are you doing in the first 10, 20, 30 days to ensure you retain customers?
  • Referral - do you have a system in place to drive referrals, capture testimonials, get reviews, etc.?

Growth Fundamentals are the Way Forward

It is well past time for SaaS companies to stop living quarter to quarter, hoping the money and time you’re spending is working. Hope is not a strategy.

Winning in 2021 and beyond means being deliberate about your growth strategy. Individual tactics may work by themselves. But they can be optimized further within a comprehensive growth strategy.

So where should you go from here?

Start with “Bankable Business Growth Strategies: Driving the 6 Levers of Growth” by our Head of Growth Marketing, Ryan Scott. He dives deeper into the 6 levers and how you should approach them.

You should also check out our Growth Grader, a step-by-step guide for analyzing the 6 levers of growth for your SaaS business. Download it free now, and get video tutorials on using the Growth Grader to refine your B2B SaaS strategy for 2021. New call-to-action