The best growth advice of 2023
🔥 learnings from June, Figma, Miro, Pinecone, Pleo and more
The last week has been a whirlwind. I appreciate all the texts, emails and DM’s – the support of this community means so much to me.
But I’m still here. And Growth Unhinged is not only my creative outlet, it’s a flywheel that helps me get better at what I do.
Today marks the 99th edition of the newsletter. This year has seen 🔥 advice from founders and leaders at a who’s who of fast-growing startups like June, Figma, Miro, Pinecone, Pleo, Ramp, Tango and many more. Growth Unhinged reaches 38,000 subscribers and was viewed more than 1.4 million times (!) in the last twelve months.
Now feels like as good a time as any to reflect on the best growth learnings from 2023 (you can catch up on the 2022 edition here). Let’s dive in 👇
🌱 Finding product-market fit (PMF)
Ditch traditional product management. Enzo Avigo threw away 10 meticulously crafted roadmaps on June’s path to PMF. His advice: unlearn traditional practices, move insanely fast, and prioritize insanely well.
Pre-test before you build. JumpCloud1 has scaled to 200,000+ organizations. Before they wrote a single line of code, JumpCloud’s founding team wrote six different white papers around different problem statements they could tackle.
Measure product stickiness. Attio focused on the ratio between DAU to MAU to gauge how many people actually wanted to use their next-gen CRM.
Create a media <> community flywheel. Keyplay founder Adam Schoenfeld attracted a high-intent audience for his product with data-heavy decks and zero-click content – all before he built a SaaS offering to sell.
📣 Marketing and acquisition
Activations >>> sign-ups. Markup tailored their paid campaigns to optimize for activations rather than signups, increasing activations by 20% with the same budget.
Automate outbound emails. Thena now generates the output of five to 10 sales reps without hiring BDRs – they instead leverage outbound automation.
Automate LinkedIn connections. Warmly puts their LinkedIn outreach on autopilot, generating 10-15 qualified meetings per week.
Explore influencer marketing. At one point, 40% of Tango’s traffic came from TikTok. Today, the company purposefully cultivates its influencer network.
Test a referral program. The potential of referrals in B2B hasn’t been realized, but that might be changing. In the current economic climate, folks like tl;dv are turning to user referrals for a low-CAC, high-LTV boost.
Add an interactive demo. Pleo found that interactive demos on their website were a big win, and these saw 10x better conversion compared to any other entry point on the website.
Build an ungated sidecar product. Eraser’s ungated AI sidecar, DiagramGPT, now drives 30% of new sign-ups. And QuotaPath found success with their ungated Compensation Hub offering as an on-ramp to the core product.
Fix broken attribution models. Refine Labs CEO Chris Walker notes that there are big shifts in B2B buying, but most marketers don’t capitalize on these shifts because new channels don’t get tracked by attribution software.
📈 Activation, conversion, and monetization
Smartly iterate on your onboarding. Miro struggled to improve week 1 retention through big bang overhauls. Shifting to smart, ongoing iteration is what paid off according to their former Head of Growth Design.
Ask questions in your sign-up survey. There’s little evidence for a big drop-off at this phase in the user journey, says Jonathan Anderson from Candu. Get inspired by Airtable’s onboarding wizard, which captures user intent.
Consider a smart trial. Coefficient pairs smart automation with a human sales touch to drive free-to-paid conversion at scale.
Lift the credit card requirement. Uscreen got rid of the credit card requirement for their free trial. While it cut new MRR from self-service by 40%, they’re bullish on the benefits for retention and LTV.
🤝 Sales and expansion
Validate where sales is incremental. Deputy A/B tested raising the self-serve threshold and have now grown self-serve from 0 to 70%+ of new customers. It’s also helping their sales team move upmarket.
Focus sales on product-qualified accounts (PQAs). Figma scores accounts based on both ICP fit as well as product readiness. They adapt the sales process accordingly.
Tap into cloud marketplaces. Cockroach Labs partners with cloud marketplaces (ex: AWS, Azure) to tap into trained sellers with pre-existing customer relationships and to accelerate sales cycles with enterprise customers.
Sell to Customer Success Qualified Leads. Aha! trains the support team on how to qualify free trial users and effectively pass them off to sales.
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The top 5 Growth Unhinged newsletters of 2023
One final countdown to end the year: your top five favorite editions of Growth Unhinged as measured by page views and new subscribers generated.
Drum roll please…
We’re all looking for ways to automate manual processes in order to accelerate growth. One area that I’ve been thinking about lately is outbound prospecting and, specifically, outbound emailing.
Look, outbound hasn’t yet “died” despite the chatter or the SDR shaming. But manual outbound is certainly expensive and hard to make productive, particularly for a Seed or Series A-funded company with an unknown brand. A fully manual outbound approach simply won’t cut it anymore.
That’s why I was so fascinated by the story of Thena, AI-powered customer success and support for companies using Slack, which has managed to achieve the productivity of five to 10 sales reps without hiring BDRs or SDRs. I interviewed founders Govind Kavaturi and Mike Molinet (a Branch co-founder) along with strategy and ops lead Brendan Kazanjian about how they automated outbound – and how you can do it, too.
In this newsletter, I love to explore the playbooks of the best-known SaaS startups. Readers from earlier stage startups often wonder: how does this relate to my journey?
I collaborated with Ken Babcock, co-founder of Series A-funded Tango, to tell their story of growing from 0 to 200,000 users in only 14 months post-launch. We unpacked how to win Product Hunt, why PLG startups might be sleeping on TikTok for acquisition, and how to approach monetization for an early-stage product.
Y’all know that I geek out about SaaS metrics (and benchmarks 👀). But there are flaws in the traditional SaaS metrics playbook that are harder and harder to ignore, particularly for folks building a PLG, vertical SaaS, AI, or usage-based software company.
I unpacked how we got here and what modern KPIs I recommend from both an executive and operating perspective. A recent favorite is product-influenced revenue.
I’ve long looked up to Miro – the visual collaboration company valued at $17.5B – as one of the absolute best PLG businesses. Their user onboarding is particularly exceptional and is emulated by companies large and small.
But I never knew the story behind how and why Miro’s user onboarding has changed. Kate Syuma, Head of Growth Design, joined the newsletter and reflected on their evolution from 2017 (50 people) to present day (1,800 people). Her top piece of advice: “always run a second iteration.”
SaaS companies have at least one thing in common: they need a great website. While a great website is life-or-death in a product-led business, it’s also crucial for attracting enterprise prospects. There’s perhaps nobody who’s been as prolific or insightful about this topic as Anthony Pierri, a founder of Fletch PMM (although co-founder Robert Kaminski might give him a run for his money).
Anthony argues that most SaaS messaging is garbage. It doesn’t have to be. He shared his comprehensive framework for writing a SaaS homepage exclusively for Growth Unhinged readers. Y’all loved it (50,000+ views, 250+ new subscribers).
THANK YOU again for reading and being part of this community. As always, if you have a 🔥 growth story to tell, simply hit reply.