Creative ways to scale SMB customer acquisition

Many startups begin life selling to small business (SMB). SMB is a very appealing market. For one, it’s big (30 million businesses in the US alone). Also, they make quick buying decisions. Sounds great!

But…

The challenge with SMB as a customer segment is that each customer is small. It might be easy to get your first few customers. But over time you become a victim of your own success. The bigger you get, the higher your customer acquisition costs go. Hubspot’s CEO Brian Halligan illustrates this challenge beautifully in his recent post ‘why aren’t there more Intuits”.

Building the next Intuit…

If you sell more to the ‘M’ (i.e. mid-sized businesses), then you can build a large inside sales team. This is what Hubspot does. This is also why they raised boat loads of capital. Once they got their fundamental unit of growth working, they never stopped hiring sales reps. Continue reading Creative ways to scale SMB customer acquisition

The only 2 ways to scale SMB SaaS

i-love-smb

Many startups launch focusing on the small business (SMB market). Given how large this market is, it can be a compelling target. There are 30M small businesses in the US alone. In addition, SMBs don’t have big purchasing departments and corresponding long sales cycles. If you reach the owner and solve a need that she has, you’re in!

I love the SMB market. Many of my previous startups have addressed on it. Most notably FreshBooks, which has built a very large customer base here. However, I have seen over the years that most startups that launch with an SMB focus eventually go up market serving larger customers. They do this because while the SMB market is huge and sales cycles are short, each customer is small and not worth much. So, you need a lot of them in order to build a big business. Acquiring lots of small customers in a cost effective way is difficult.

Without further ado, here are the only two ways that I know off to truly scale SMB SaaS companies:

1.) Ridiculously low cost of customer acquisition: Continue reading The only 2 ways to scale SMB SaaS

Building your C Level Team

team-justice-leagueBack when I was a seed stage VC I was always amazed to meet founding teams where every one of them had a C level title. CEO, CTO, etc. Now the beauty of having your own company is that you can call yourself whatever you want. But when dealing with institutional investors its important to be open and self aware enough to judge whether you truly have a C level team in their eyes.

I’ve been part of many startups now as either an investor or management team member. But FreshBooks is the biggest so far (Shopify is bigger but was much smaller when I was involved). We are at the growth stage, well beyond startup. And what we need in terms of leadership and management differs very much from what my past companies have needed.

Continue reading Building your C Level Team