From Zero to Hero: Inspiring Growth Stories of the Most Resilient SaaS Companies
Published on November 6th, 2023
10 min read
Published on November 6th, 2023
10 min read
This blog will discuss the growth strategies of some of the fastest-growing SaaS companies in 2023. Let’s dive into a world of stories to learn invaluable lessons about SaaS marketing and business philosophy.
Zendesk, the renowned platform for customer support and sales, has recently achieved a significant milestone by surpassing $1.4 billion in revenue in 2021, an increase of 30% compared to 2020. The company’s journey, which commenced in a modest loft in Copenhagen, Denmark, has been remarkable, spanning 160 countries and amassing over 170,000 paid accounts.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic fueled an increased demand for Zendesk’s platform as businesses sought effective means to establish, nurture, and manage their customer relationships.
The strategies that underpin Zendesk’s sustained success encompass the following key areas:
Zendesk underscores the importance of meticulous data analysis and understanding prevailing marketing trends for product-led growth teams. This practice is paramount due to the direct correlation between growth and revenue, which unfolds in shorter cycles than in broader product-focused companies.
Mona Nasiri, the Director of Product Growth and Monetization, advocates initiating data instrumentation well in advance to track baseline metrics and post-launch shifts, thereby integrating it as an early step from the discovery phase onward.
The most crucial metrics that Zendesk tracks for measuring their business’ strength are CAC, NRR, and CAC:LTV ratio. To know more about other critical metrics your SaaS company should target, read the blog we published about the same.
Despite their seemingly disparate nature, Zendesk cultivates a collaborative environment between product-led growth and sales teams. This approach, termed “product-led sales,” yields remarkable synergies. By proactively identifying high-value leads, the efficiency of the sales team improves. Additionally, automated triggers facilitate the transition of deals from the sales funnel to the self-service pathway, enabling the sales team to focus on substantial deals.
Zendesk recognized that intricate pricing structures deter potential customers from purchasing. To address this, they streamlined their plans and pricing options, offering three core plans with a starting price of $49 per agent per month and two enterprise-level plans. Each pricing tier presents a detailed checklist of features and benefits, empowering customers to select the plan that aligns with their requirements and budget.
Enterprise customers have a magnetic influence that compels most startups to transition from catering to smaller clients to targeting larger ones. This shift toward pursuing enterprise-level contracts occurs for three primary reasons:
Amanda Kleha, formerly the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales Strategy at Zendesk, reminisces about adopting an inbound strategy similar to Atlassian’s approach: “During my initial year there, we operated without any sales personnel whatsoever.”
Mikkel Svane, the CEO of Zendesk, recollects that sales weren’t implemented “until we reached a $10 million run rate.”
However, this paradigm didn’t persist, as Kleha explains, “When I ended, we were doing big enterprise deals as well, but we still kept the online business model. So definitely trying to straddle both worlds together.”
The proportion of enterprises to SMBs remained relatively stable over time. This equilibrium was justifiable since Zendesk’s SMB market segment continued to grow. By 2020, almost half (43%) of Zendesk’s customer base consisted of organizations with at least 100 seats or agents.
This dual approach necessitates understanding two narratives: one that is familiar and another that remains concealed.
The well-known narrative portrays how Zendesk expanded its suite of offerings through a combination of in-house development and acquisitions. This expansion encompassed features such as live chat, Zendesk Voice for establishing call centers, Zendesk University, SMS functionality, Zendesk Guide as a knowledge-base tool, Zendesk Sunshine as a CRM, and Zendesk Sell for sales automation.
The lesser-known narrative reveals that, alongside augmenting its product line, Zendesk concurrently fortified features that rendered its product suitable for enterprise deployment. While these features might not generate sensational headlines on platforms like TechCrunch, they serve as the linchpin for securing enterprise deals. These very features hold invaluable lessons for founders to glean from.
Established in 2010, Freshworks, a pioneering business automation software company, rapidly garnered 200 customers within 200 days of its inception. Notably, prominent venture capital firms Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global, and Accel recognized the startup’s potential. In 2018, Freshworks secured $100 million in Series G funding, catapulting its valuation to $1.5 billion and earning it the distinction of India’s inaugural enterprise tech unicorn.
The company further marked its achievements by becoming the first SaaS company originating from India to secure a listing on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Presently, Freshworks boasts a clientele of 52,500 spanning 120 countries, culminating in an impressive revenue exceeding $300 million.
Freshworks imparts several valuable lessons:
Freshworks astutely recognized that end-users significance in software acquisition was growing, even if they were distinct from the primary purchasers. Understanding that legacy vendors failed to cater to user needs, Freshworks intervened to bridge the gap. The company acknowledged that actual product adoption by users translates into anticipated returns for executives, thereby leading to valuable product insights.
Apart from that, they have the best customer support process compared to any other B2B SaaS tool. They give almost 10 free onboarding sessions to help users get in sync with all the product features. This strategy makes a lot more sense when you realize that most of the churn happens in the early stages of the product. Helping people with your product in the initial days is the best thing you can do to stop leaking revenue and improve retention.
Freshworks strategically embraces organic discoverability through word-of-mouth referrals and search marketing instead of relying on paid marketing and outbound sales efforts. Its organic content marketing strategy encompasses various elements such as blogs, ebooks, a marketplace featuring 1000+ customizable apps for Freshworks’ suite, an educational platform offering courses and certifications, and a community forum named Refresh for user-generated content. Moreover, Freshworks employs ingenious guerilla marketing strategies to target dissatisfied users of legacy software, thus amplifying the impact of word-of-mouth endorsements.
Freshworks has crafted a user-friendly onboarding experience, allowing prospective customers to swiftly explore its product offerings and navigate the setup process without engaging with sales representatives. Noteworthy aspects of this approach include 21-day free trials for products, freemium versions of flagship offerings like Freshdesk, and various complementary sidecar products. Freshdesk, in particular, features an intuitive onboarding procedure encompassing the following:
Through these principles, Freshworks has achieved remarkable success and offers valuable insights into practical strategies for businesses aiming to foster growth and innovation.
DocuSign Inc., a prominent provider of electronic signature and approval services, experienced rapid expansion driven by the surge in demand during the pandemic, with its stock soaring by a remarkable 200% in 2020.
Since its inception in 2003, DocuSign’s growth has largely been fueled by word-of-mouth marketing. This growth trajectory shows no signs of slowing down, thanks to the introduction of its innovative Agreement Cloud services.
DocuSign adheres to three core strategies to ensure its sustained success:
Renowned for its exceptional customer support, DocuSign cultivates an internal culture that places customers at the forefront. The company attains high customer satisfaction by fostering widespread adoption of its services for initial use cases. This familiarity with the product’s benefits leads to improved business efficiency.
Subsequently, DocuSign assists these customers in extending their usage of eSignature services to various other aspects of their operations. Moreover, the company actively identifies opportunities to implement additional Agreement Cloud products within the customer’s ecosystem.
Dan Springer, CEO of DocuSign, advocates evaluating metrics like net revenue retention rate as indicators of successful customer adoption. With a net retention rate of 123% and a revenue of $1.5 billion in fiscal year 21, along with a customer base of 892,000, DocuSign’s commitment to customer success is evident.
Many customers first encounter DocuSign when signing documents and subsequently develop an interest in exploring the company’s broader range of services. This brand familiarity often prompts customers to engage in free trials, eventually transitioning to becoming paying subscribers.
Loren Alhadeff, Chief Revenue Officer at DocuSign, explains, “As they utilize our products and distribute agreements for signatures, they introduce a broader audience to DocuSign. The circulation of these agreements across the globe directs people to our digital channels, where they can explore the product through trials or make immediate purchases.”
DocuSign successfully transforms these customers into advocates who promote the company organically by providing exceptional customer service.
Initially designed to enhance workflows across various business domains such as legal, operations, sales, and marketing, DocuSign has evolved over the years. The company has introduced complementary products such as Analyzer, Monitor, Notary, Insight, and CLM to augment its core eSignature offering.
With the advent of the Agreement Cloud, DocuSign now enjoys increased scalability opportunities. Despite being a market leader in agreement software, DocuSign continues to expand its suite of tools to penetrate new markets and diversify its offerings.
Pushkar is a Digital Marketing Manager and leads SEO Research at FirstPrinciples Growth Advisory. He has over 12 years of experience in Search Engine Optimization for European, American, and Indian markets, both from the agency and as in-house marketing support.
Over these years, he has helped startups and multinational companies (Finance, NBFC, SaaS, Home Improvement, Health, and Software) grow their organic search visibility & achieve their SEO goals.
He is an innovative, cross-functional marketing leader with a track record of planning and managing exceptional marketing campaigns yielding positive returns.