S1E8 – How To Grow A Network To Kickstart Growth

How can you grow a network to kickstart the growth of your B2B SaaS? In today’s episode, we host Alexander Theuma, the founder of Saastock, whose sole responsibility is to grow a network community in Saas by organizing conferences that bring different people with different roles in the business.

Over the last eight years, Alexander has proved himself to be an effective community organizer devoted to strong networks, community, content, building audiences, and events. He has also engaged with thousands of SaaS founders and gained actionable experience in building a conference business and how to scale it. From this episode, Alexander reveals that he niched into B2B Saas as he fell in love by design through undertaking sales for other people. The gap in the SaaS market inspired him to start a blog for the vendor-neutral community, where he sought experts to give their insight in his podcast. He takes pleasure in helping and serving the SaaS community by sharing the stories of those who have experienced the challenges of growing their recurring revenue business.

What is the difference between a Network and a community? – Alexander explains that networks are born from a community. In his experience, his community came first through meetups with a small group of contributors to his blog. He was able to help the community build and grow. After that, he built a network by connecting with people from the community events and the audience of his podcast. Community building provided him with a product that he could offer to the community. Building a network is more self-rewarding because it enables you to grow a targeted contact list in the industry to grow your network. 

What are the most effective ways of Building a good network, and why is it important? – our guest expert shares that a strong network enables you to reach relevant people for introduction, advice, and feedback. Founders that build or have a network have a competitive advantage over their competition. Those who never act towards building a network always remain a step behind in their growth. Some of the most effective network-building strategies include running a podcast, doing meetups, organizing events, and reaching out.

When building a network, founders find themselves making mistakes. Our guest expert shares some common mistakes made. Alexander cautions against seeking too much too soon before building and maintaining relationships and delivering value. It is crucial to approach building a network as a long-term endeavor instead of a quick fix. 

Alexander’s first-hand experience reveals some of the Challenges and successes in building a community for SaaStock. The community was the secret source of SaaStock, where customer demand emerged from the community and the audience demanded for the product. They started by bringing the local communities together that comprised current and future SaaS entrepreneurs. Limited resources and scalability proved a major challenge as the founder had to do everything himself. As more capital and resources became available around 2018, it became less founder-led and instead team-enabled. The network was then built in about 30 cities around the world. The lack of seamless processes and systems hindered the smooth running of operations for many of them to scale the meetups with the community. The covid-19 period reduced their revenue to nil, which inhibited physical conferences with the community. They pivoted to online meetings with the community’s support through sponsorship and attendance beyond just brand awareness. A strong community often helps to survive during times of need. Another challenge was a result of their positioning. Needed to be more niche initially because it sought to offer its membership offering to everyone in the SaaS community. It is more effective to have a target audience to do customer development. 

What is the best practice process for growing a community? – Empowering the community by building supportive, enabling frameworks and platforms is necessary. A community will not grow as fast as it should if the organization’s founder is the sole player instead of being community-led. Recommended read: Alexander recommends founders to read this playbook to grow their community better. Get Together” the book.

The Role of affiliate marketing in building their networking – Saastock has an affiliate marketing arrangement with Sumo selling through leveraging the large database of SaaS companies on their platform. In return, they sponsor their events and partner with SaaStock. For the forthcoming SaaS Open conference, they are partnering with Nathan luck in sending emails communication to their audiences about SaaStock and SaaSOpen, respectively. Thus, affiliate marketing helps boost your profile in the rented network. Partner markets are increasingly helping with content marketing for many SaaS businesses through partner channels. 

Effective ways our guest expert thinks can help B2B Saas founders grow to 10k MRR. In the early stages of realizing 10k MRR, you should focus on engaging with your customers. Through effective content marketing and community-building, speaking to the customers will help you position yourself, market in the right channels, and increase prices according to customer feedback. Also, it is crucial to focus on the people by building the right team in your business. 

What is Alexanders Advice to SaaS founders with 1 million ARR? Through bootstrapping, you can hire the right team to undertake processes and systems in the business. Also, you should seek advice from your support network with experience in your niche area. 

Key Timecodes

  • (0:30) Introduction to today’s topic and guest expert
  • (1:48) Why you need to listen to Alexander
  • (03:56) What interests him most about B2B SaaS
  • (07:48) Network versus community
  • (10:40) Building a good network and its importance.
  • (12:50) Common mistakes for founders building a network
  • (15:20) Challenges and successes in building a community for SaaStock
  • (22:26) Best practice process for growing a community
  • (24:25) Role of affiliate marketing in building their networking
  • (27:51) Advice to SaaS founders with growing networks
  • (29:57) Advice to SaaS founders with 1 million ARR
  • (32:40) Alexander’s contact information


00:30 – Joran Hofman
Welcome back to another episode on the Grow your B2B SaaS podcast. In this podcast, we will discuss all topics related to growing your SaaS. No matter in which stage you’re in, having a network of people around you is crucial for your success. Today, we’re going to talk about Alexander Toma, better known as Alex, about how to grow a network and community. 

He recorded over 340 podcast shows himself, and he found one similar thing successful CEOs have in common, which is having a network so you can avoid common potholes and help you through your founder journey. He’s the founder of SaaS Doc, an event that is focused on helping B2B SaaS founders on their journey to 10 million ARR. After running the event multiple times in Dublin online during COVID he will be also organizing the event for the first time in US. It will take place in Austin in May this year. 

Next to these two big events which attract thousands of founders, he’s also organizing Saastruck local event, making it for everyone accessible to get information and mingle with like-minded people. If we want to know how to build your network and create a community within SaaS, Alex is definitely the right person. Without further ado, welcome to the show, Alex. 

01:42 – Alexander Theuma
Yeah, thanks for having me. Joran, great to be here. 

Intro to Alexander Theuma

01:46 – Joran Hofman
Cheers. Thanks. I mean, it’s almost impossible, right, that people don’t know you yet. Maybe some people don’t know you yet if they weren’t convinced after this intro. In your own words, why should people listen to you today? 

01:58 – Alexander Theuma
Why should people listen to me? Look, I guess and you touched on this in the intro, right? For eight years, I’ve been building SaaS stock and bringing current and future SaaS entrepreneurs and investors together at events large and small. Our large main conference in Dublin, and over 4000 last year at that event. The small SaaS Local events, the community meetups that we run predominantly across Europe. Pre Pandemic, we had them global as well. I’m a community builder. I’m somebody that has diverted a really strong network because of what I’ve done with SaaStock through the audience, building the content, the podcasts, the conferences. I know stuff about networks, I know stuff about community, I know stuff about content and building audience. I know stuff, but don’t often speak about it about events. It’s probably the overarching thing. People kind of expect me to be this number one SaaS expert in the world, right? 

02:56 – Alexander Theuma
Actually, I’ve never built a SaaS business. I have spoken to thousands of SaaS founders ever built a SaaS business. I’m probably never going to know as well how to build a SaaS business to 100 million as those that have done it. What I know is that I know how to build a conference business and scale that up and grow that up and build community an audience. I’m actually probably more of an expert on that side. I guess also I’m a founder, I’m a bootstrap founder. I’ve gone through the highs and lows of getting a business off the ground, being a solo founder, running out of cash, these problems growing too fast and expanding too fast. I’ve had all these sorts of problems that many founders face. I can speak founder to founder because I’ve been a first time founder for eight years. I’ve made all the mistakes, but I’ve seen a lot of successes as well. 

03:43 – Alexander Theuma
All those reasons I would say people should listen to me or could listen to me. And that’s where I can be helpful. 

03:49 – Joran Hofman
I would say, yeah, I mean, there’s definitely enough reasons to listen to you. I know for sure. And everything you do is around SaaS. 

03:58 – Alexander Theuma

What interests you about SaaS?

03:58 – Joran Hofman
Maybe this is a really basic question, but why SaaS? Like, why B? Two b SaaS. Like what interests you? Or not purely Bdb for you, but what interests you mostly about SaaS? 

04:08 – Alexander Theuma
Good question. Look, I fell into it in a way, but maybe fell into it by design. Had eleven years in sales selling other people’s products, hardware, software, the last three years of my sales career, even though I’m still selling on a daily basis as a founder. Right. In terms of selling for other people, my last three years were kind of in the cloud computing space. We are going back to 2012, to 2015. At that time there were some interesting SaaS companies that were arising, the likes of, I would say Slack, Dropbox, Twilio, evernote. It was this next wave of SaaS companies that were cooler than the first wave of SaaS companies, right? It’s just started to pique my interest. SaaS, what is this? Learning about it, reading about it, reading content from like Christoph Yanz and Thomas Tungus and David Scott and all this stuff. 

04:56 – Alexander Theuma
My curiosity was piqued at the time. I was looking for this entrepreneurial thing to do. I was selling somebody else’s software and I was in cloud computing and I was interested in SaaS. I thought, oh, SaaS is this interesting burgeoning market, I’m selling cloud computing software. What if I start writing a blog and positioning myself as a trusted voice within this space? Would this actually help me within my sales career? I looked to kind of explore that. When I was exploring that, I think I saw a gap in the market in SaaS for this kind of vendor neutral, VC neutral community blog about how do you grow and build a SaaS business. My limitations were that I’d never done it, like I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast. I can’t be the experts telling a SaaS founder, this is how you grow your SaaS business, because I’ve never done it, right? 

05:44 – Alexander Theuma
What I did was I got the experts in and they created content for SaaScribe. I added a podcast to that and then I added some meetups and before I knew it, I had a bit of community. What I also saw, and again, this is a big part of why SaaS is that back then, in 2015, 2016, SaaS founders and the SaaS community was very much like it is today, right? People sharing their highs and their lows and how they grew their businesses, even amongst competition, they’re like, this is how I did it, and so on, right? I came from whilst I was in cloud computing, I was selling in the telco kind of industry. It was very, from what I saw, closed off. There wasn’t that community that I experienced. There wasn’t people sharing publicly how they had successes and failures. That just kind of really resonated with me. 

06:31 – Alexander Theuma
Everybody I met was always really nice as well. That continues to be the case on the most part. I think those are the things like, why SaaS? It was just like, wow, there’s a community here. Lots of nice people paying it forward, sharing their mistakes and their successes. This is a great place to be and this is where I want to be. Right? It’s just made me really enjoy helping and serving that community from them. Yeah. 

06:53 – Joran Hofman
I can definitely relate to what you’re saying, as in, I don’t know what it is, but within the SaaS community, everybody is really helping to try to make each other better or to try to help other people to make certain mistakes by sharing their stories, which is really nice. 

07:06 – Alexander Theuma
Yeah, I think just on that quickly, and I’ve heard this a few times over the years, but you probably know this, with the SaaStock Founder Membership, we’re building a recurring revenue business. What I’ve heard a lot is that building a business is hard. Right? Building SaaS stock is hard. Building a recurring revenue business can be like even harder. Right? It’s a craft business. Because I think the founders experienced the difficulty, that what it takes to get a recurring revenue business off the ground and they’ve experienced those pains that they want to give back and share to help others. I think there is that extr of difficulty. Because of that, people want to share perhaps more so than in other industries. 

07:42 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, that makes sense. Because if it’s too easy, then people don’t want to share about it. Now we want to talk about the difficulty. 

07:47 – Alexander Theuma

What is the difference between building a network and a community?

07:48 – Joran Hofman
We’re going to talk about two things today, growing a network and growing a community. Maybe to go really back to the basics, what do you think are the main differences, I guess, between a network versus a community? 

07:59 – Alexander Theuma
Yeah, good question. There are definitely some big key differences, right. I think both are super important, although there are I think there’s many successful businesses out there that don’t have communities, but then they start to look at it at some point. I thought I look at it from my experience, right? I built a community first. And what do I mean by that? We started with a blog and it was contributors from the wider community that I kind of sourced that had a kind of community feel that enabled me to do these kind of small meetups and bring people together. It’s all about getting people together, helping the community build and grow themselves, right? From that I was able to build a network because at the community events and with the content that I was doing with the podcast, I’m connecting with people because I’m bringing people together, either on a one to one basis, but largely in a one to many. 

08:47 – Alexander Theuma
From building the community, I then had a product that I could sell into this community. Building a network can be a very individual thing and it’s often helping you more than helping others. Me building a network is a conscious decision to connect with the relevant people in the industry. From my ability to build a network, let’s say, from things like what we’re doing today. You’re doing a podcast and getting Mark Rabergeon and Christophe Yanz and Owen McCabe, the CEO of Intercom, as I did kind of in the early days. That enabled me to kind of connect with them on a one to one basis and add them into my network. Over the years, let’s say, like with Mark Roberge, he’s spoken on SaaS virtual events, to SaaS founder membership events, been on the podcast, these things. That’s me leveraging my network as well. I would say these are kind of the differences, I think whatever role you’re in, like whether you’re a CEO, founder, whether you’re an SDR, you should be looking at building out a network. 

09:47 – Alexander Theuma
That’s going to help you progress, develop, learn, help you with your wealth, maybe your health, et cetera, all of these things. Building a community probably harder than building out a network. Yeah, with these things, you just got to think about who is your audience, how can you help them, how do you get them together? What is the reason that they come together? Our reason, it was to help SaaS founders and their teams grow their businesses. They had that common purpose, to come together. All I did and Simplifying, it was, okay, let’s do a SaaS dot, meet up in London and put on a bit of content. I find the time, the date, the place, a speaker, and then invite everybody to come, people come. You do it more than once and you start to build that community. 

The importance of building a network (in the current downturn)

10:31 – Joran Hofman
I think we just did one in Amsterdam, right? I’m co organizing this as a global Amsterdam. Good example. The topic there was we’re currently in a downturn building a network. I mean, what do you think? What kind of effect does the current market have and the importance of actually building a good network as a founder? 

10:49 – Alexander Theuma
Yeah, I mean, super probably as important, if not more in the current market. If you’ve got a strong network, you can reach out to people and ask advice and get introductions and these types of things. I’m currently working on a project, top secret project that we spoke about before were recording. I’m reaching out to my network around this to help me on it. I had breakfast with somebody in my network yesterday to help me about help me with it. They’ll bring specific context as to the current macroeconomic environment. I’m in a stronger position given my network then if I didn’t have a network, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m planning to do. Having a network in the current times is going to be an advantage. You can also build a network in the current times. Right. And how do you do that? I think again, it’s things like what you’re doing your own, right. 

11:37 – Alexander Theuma
It’s starting a podcast, inviting people that you want to be connected to that can add value to you. Right. I think you’re speaking to Patrick Campbell later today and you got to connect with him at SaaS, at Local Amsterdam and then get him on the podcast. Hopefully over time there’s going to be a connection there and he’ll be willing to take a WhatsApp message from you and so on. If you’ve got a specific question about your business or your professional development. Given he’s in SaaS and it’s a pay it forward community, likely that somebody like Patrick would be supportive then by doing either hosting events like SaaSot Local or attending them again, this is the opportunity for you to kind of build a network. I think those that are doing what you’re doing are creating an advantage versus and this happens a lot, founders or individuals that stay at home, stay in the office and don’t do these things. 

12:25 – Alexander Theuma
It was like kind of the playbook, as we said, is what I’ve taken. Right? It’s doing the podcast, it’s putting myself out there, doing the meetups, organizing them. All of that led to what SaaStock is today. 

12:3 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. This is indeed the reason why I’m doing these things as and I do think it’s best practice as in to host a podcast like this to organize the events. When we turn it around, I don’t want to say I’m doing everything great, but let’s turn it around. Like, what is the most common mistake you see founders when they are trying to build a network? 

12:56 – Alexander Theuma
Good question. It’s probably not leading with help kind of first, or like asking for too much, kind of too soon. If you’re building out a network, you want to be providing an opportunity and helping somebody else. Kind of, I would say. Like first, for instance, I guess in this instance or in the Patrick Campbell instance, he’s coming on. The podcast, there’s going to be a benefit for him because helping him, his profile, further raise it, put it in touch with an audience that may or may not kind of know him already. And there’s value in that for Patrick. There’s value in it for you from speaking with him and making that connection and learning from him on the podcast. If you go in too soon, you ask for something before you’ve delivered any value. That’s a big common mistake and it’s a bit off putting with other people. 

13:38 – Alexander Theuma
Right. Just to clarify where people come in and they have there’s this clear hidden agenda. But it’s not hidden. It just kind of makes you uneasy about doing something and giving up your time and kind of helping. Really kind of my Mo would be really to really deliver value first before going in with the ask. And the ask also. It can be a long game, right? It could be a long game. Making that connection, building the network, delivering value two ways, keeping and maintaining the relationship over time, and then maybe you might come back with an ask in five years time. They’re like, all of that work is done. Again, with what I’m doing, with the top secret project, there are people that I’ve been connected with because of what I started in 2015, 2016, that now, finally, I’ve delivered value over the years, and over the years, they delivered value back by helping the community. 

14:30 – Alexander Theuma
Right. Now I come into them with a specific ask. That’s eight years down the line, right. I’m not saying everybody needs to wait eight years, but it should be viewed as a long term thing and relationship thing and not just going in straight away. 

14:43 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. You might not always have the ask you want, I guess, when you start building a relationship, right. Because eight years ago, you probably didn’t know you were going to do this. 

14:51 – Alexander Theuma

14:51 – Joran Hofman
Same for me. I’m building a network, indeed, with you, with Patrick, with other people, where I don’t actually have a ask. I just want to build up my network. I think that is indeed the perfect way to go to help each other out and then figure out if there’s going to be a ask in. 

15:06 – Alexander Theuma
The end, and if you’re helpful, if you’re a nice guy or girl, people are going to kind of remember you and they’ll be more willing to help. Right? If you’re going for the ask, if you’re not nice, then don’t expect anything exactly nice. 

Challenges in building a community

15:20 – Joran Hofman
Let’s talk about building a community. You’re doing a lot of things under the SaaS stock brand, right? I can imagine not everything is as easy as it sometimes. Look, can you tell a bit about the challenges and successes you had in building a community around SaaStock? 

15:34 – Alexander Theuma
Yeah, definitely. It’s definitely not easy. It’s definitely been pivotal to what SaaS Doc is today, I would say, what is a secret source for SaaS Doc? I think community is a secret source and not naming names. Again, not every business needs a community, right? Just to say that. Some businesses and some events say that they have a community. Beyond the actual event, where is that community and where does it exist? And what is the proof of that? Going back to how we started and say, we built community first and we built audience first. From that, the community in the audience said, we want SaaS Doc, something like SaaS Doc. I built SaaS Doc based on the customer kind of demand having built that audience. Right? That was kind of how that happened and that enabled SaaS Doc and the success of SaaS Doc. We started with the SaaSk local events to basically bring in local communities together. 

16:30 – Alexander Theuma
The vision is like, across the world, we bring SaaS communities together, the current and future SaaS entrepreneurs, and we want to do that in hundreds of cities across the world. SaaS Doc started or like pre-SaaS Doc in these meetups with SaaS meetup in London, one in Berlin, one in Dublin. We could see that there were these communities there that people really wanted to kind of get together at a small scale, but also at a larger scale. We kind of went back to this kind of grassroots thing and building community. The challenges back then was just resource and scalability. Like, how do I must have done eight meetups before the first SaaS Doc in 2016. That involved me, obviously doing all the work, doing the three or four London ones that we did, flying to Berlin and doing like one or two in Berlin, flying to Dublin and doing it there. 

17:17 – Alexander Theuma
It’s not super scalable doing it that way, right? If it’s just you doing everything right, that’s hand to hand combat. In 2018, we had a bit more capital and resource behind us and wherewithal to figure out how to scale up these meetups. It was less kind of founder led and less hand to hand combat. And we did that. Before COVID we had 30 cities across the world. Not all of them were running smoothly with the processes and systems that we had in place. Again, the challenges, if you’re looking at scaling kind of community, having the right systems and processes is super key then to, let’s say during COVID So, 2021 March 2020, our revenue went to zero. We couldn’t do physical conferences. We had planned to do five physical conferences in 2020, but we couldn’t. So we lost that sort of revenue. What we did, we pivoted to online smoothly, I would say, after a few weeks. 

18:11 – Alexander Theuma
Our community, because they valued SaaStock and everything that we’ve done today, backed us. They supported us through COVID, by attending our events and by sponsoring our events. Honestly, I think some of our sponsors only sponsored SaaStock and gave us large sums of money because they wanted us to succeed and not go under. Rather than the typical we want leads, we want brand awareness, it was like, we support you guys, here’s some money thing, right? They didn’t say it like that, but I’m pretty sure that was the case. Given that we had the community, that helped us survive, so there’s a power of having community, right? Helping you survive in times of need as well. During COVID we came up with the idea of the SaaS founder membership. The initial idea wasn’t quite the SaaS founder membership. The challenges were we had to kind of iterate to kind of find our way. 

19:03 – Alexander Theuma
I think initially, maybe because of what was happening with COVID and who was kind of leading the project at the time, we probably didn’t speak to enough customers to get the product right initially. I think our positioning wasn’t niche enough. Initially when we launched this membership fering to our community, we looked to launch it to everybody within the satellite community. Founders, investors, vps of sales, marketers, CFOs, et cetera, it’s just everybody. The thing is, you can’t be all things to everybody and it’s really difficult. Again, it’s almost impossible to launch a community to every single persona. You got to pick one, right? Why is Ben, the SaaS CFO, doing really well enabled to what it was like two years ago, leave his full time job to just focus on being the SaaS CFO? Because he focused one persona, right? SaaS CFOs, not everybody under the sun. 

19:58 – Alexander Theuma
We actually made that big mistake, like trying to launch be everything to everybody and it didn’t work. We realized, well, who’s our core ICP? It’s the founders, okay? Looking at what are their problems and where they are, and then speaking to them. From doing better customer development and focusing on our ICP, that enabled us to launch the SaaS founder membership. We’re trying to build the world’s leading support organization for b, two b SaaS founders by giving them better support network and knowledge and on their journey to 10 million in revenue. Our ICP is specifically B, two B SaaS founders that are on their journey to 10 million in revenue. Right. Nobody else. If you fall outside of that, it’s not for you. Nailing that niche and that positioning was very important to kind of help us. Still we kind of have to put together a framework of how to grow this and getting these things kind off the ground. 

20:45 – Alexander Theuma
It takes time, takes resource. We launched it during COVID in 2021. We didn’t really have any resource to put on it full time. Launching something like this requires full time resource and support internally from the organization, and in 2021, we couldn’t do that. In 2022, we started to put full time bodies on it, and from that we started to see the progress to kind of get it where it is today. We’ve still got a long way to go. I think the potential is that we’ll grow this into the thousands of founders from a membership perspective. Getting there and getting this thing started and getting the wheel turning, it takes time. 

21:23 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, I mean, I can say myself, I really like the SaaStock Founder membership group, so I’m a fan. I think I’m now in a couple of months, maybe already six months, I can’t even remember seeing some changes happening as well. For example, we just had a session with Stefan from Expandi who honestly shared his story. He’s a fellow founder, which is really interesting for me to hear. I can definitely say that having that community also helps to build up your network because you’re going to meet other people who are doing exactly the same as you’re trying to do exactly that’s. 

21:56 – Alexander Theuma
One of the key pillars of that is to help people like yourself and SaaS founders to build out a global network of other SaaS founders who are all going through similar things. As you say, like with Stefan, he’s at seven and a half million or whatever in Arr and your journey, a lot of the things that you’ll be doing as you go towards 10 million ARR, stefan will probably have done it and will have made some of those mistakes. He can, as an example, help you avoid some of these mistakes. Right? To help you get there quicker. So that’s exactly what it’s about. 

What are some processes & strategies to grow a Community?

22:26 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. You mentioned at the beginning, like, having processes is key. Having processes is key. You also mentioned, like, you started local, went global, definitely picking like your right ICP, and you made a lot of iterations after launching. I mean, these are some strategies, processes. Would you have any other processes, strategies you would share? I guess if somebody now wants to grow a community. 

22:51 – Alexander Theuma
Yeah, I think the key thing with community is that it’s got to be community driven. What I mean by that is you need to build a framework and a platform to empower the community members to be the ones that are engaging and driving it forward and growing it. If it’s just you or just SaaS doing everything and not empowering the community, it will never grow. Again, you’ve got to put a few things together to enable you to do that. Now, one thing that’s really kind of helped us so, understand this and learn this better, there’s a book called Get Together. If you’re looking at building a community, I would say effectively it’s the playbook that you kind of need to follow. And we discovered it last summer. I think it’s a game changer. And there’s nine parts of the framework. I won’t go through them all because I’m sure I’ll forget a couple. 

23:46 – Alexander Theuma
Theory is if you implement these nine parts of the framework, you’re going to get the machine kind of going right, and it will become this flywheel where it’s just going to grow by itself because you have these things in place. That’s kind of what we’re working on, right? Getting all these nine parts of the framework in place. They’re not all in place, but once they are, we’re just going to keep seeing these improvements within the community, and I would recommend it to anybody nice. 

The importance of affiliate marketing when building a network

24:16 – Joran Hofman
We’re going to link it in the description Get Together book to read. We’re not going to add an affiliate link behind it, so just click it and buy the book. Having said that, affiliate marketing like what we do, right, with Reddit, it’s a channel where you leverage somebody else’s network and then trying to have them get you paid clients. How do you look at affiliate marketing and building your network? 

24:38 – Alexander Theuma
Personally, we haven’t got huge amounts of experience in affiliate marketing. The only thing actually that we have done is with and I think it was it last year, and I don’t know if we’ve done it before, but like AppSumo kind of reached out to us and we’re like we can sell tickets to SaaS Doc through our marketplace because we have whatever, however many hundreds of thousands of SaaS companies in the database. We’re like kind of got nothing to lose. They’re a partner of ours. They sponsor our events. We did that and it worked to an extent. I can imagine if you have a number of platforms like that have the same audience that you don’t have, because generally you’re only going to have an audience of a certain size that you’re looking to grow yourself. The global tam that you serve is going to be within, I guess across some other companies and communities and so on. 

25:27 – Alexander Theuma
You need to kind of figure out where those are and go to this not owned audience. I guess I don’t know if you call it like a rented audience. Right. So I think that’s super key AppSumo. One is an example. Other examples are and we talked about it before. So, like, next week, I’m going SaaS open, which is Nathan Lacquer’s conference. Nathan Lacquer has an audience. We have an audience. We don’t compete. It’s the same audience. Right. Occasionally you’ll see Nathan Lacquer sent out an email about SaaS Doc and we sent out an email about SaaS Open. We’re kind of helping each other out and going to external audiences where we believe our audiences are there. Nathan is not looking for a kickback from us, and we’re not looking for a kickback either. We’re just kind of helping each other out. I think there are some similarities in terms of like, again, when you’re building out audience, when you’re building out content marketing, even with we’re talking about the podcast. 

26:19 – Alexander Theuma
You’re starting out on the podcast, you’re building out this audience. And it takes time. A lot of what successful podcasters do and done, if you go into somebody else’s audience, like Joe Rogan, for instance, and if it was relevant, it’s going to boost your profile and people are going to find out about your podcast. Right. I think they say, like, when you do content marketing, I think in the early days you want to do, I think, like 20 or 30% content marketing on your own media and then 70% to 80% on somebody else’s in the kind of the rented space. Right. Over time, you want to kind of switch those percentages but never forget about other audiences kind of being out there. Affiliate marketing is that you’re not going to have the total tam. Affiliate marketing will just kind of help promote across various different audiences and help to grow the system. 

27:05 – Alexander Theuma
Not huge amounts of personal experience directly from using SaaS affiliate marketing. Apart from that, absolutely no example. I can definitely see the benefits if you get it right. I think there’s a lot of chatter the moment around partner marketing, partner channels in SaaS to grow a SaaS company. I’ve seen a few things this week around a big opportunity to grow SaaS businesses this year and beyond is through partner channels. 

27:29 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, and I really like the terminology used with owned and rented network. I think that is definitely the case where you rent somebody’s network where they’re going to leverage things, where you don’t do it without any kickbacks can make sense when you’re a bit smaller to actually do it like that because you don’t have those benefits, I guess, of having these big networks yourself already. 

27:50 – Alexander Theuma
100% final questions. 

Advice to founders growing to 10k MRR

27:52 – Joran Hofman
You’ve spoken to a lot of SaaS founders in the last years. What kind of advice would you give SaaS founders in different stages when growing their network and then to begin with somebody who’s just starting out and trying to grow to 10K monthly recurring revenue? 

28:06 – Alexander Theuma
Good question. I think I gave it . It wasn’t, I would say, like direct advice or maybe it was I think you mentioned about I’m doing this podcast, but I wonder if it’s too soon, your journey. What I said was that it’s never too soon. This is what I did, building an audience first and this is what I mentioned Anthony Kennedy is doing with Audience plus what Drift did. It’s never too early to do content marketing and building an audience, building a community, having then customers or potential customers that you can speak to that’s going to help shape your products. Right? I think on the early stage, again, where you are or founders, getting to Ten K Mrr speak to your customers. Speak to your customers. So many companies don’t do it. So many SaaS companies don’t do it. One of the main reasons that SaaS companies die, yeah, they run out of cash. 

28:54 – Alexander Theuma
Main reason, but is because they’re not speaking to their customers. They end up building something that customers don’t want or doing the wrong positioning because they’re not hearing or listening to the customers, marketing in the wrong channels, selling at the wrong price points. I took like with this app, founder membership, speaking to the customers has been transformational. Speaking to the customers has led me to increase the pricing three times in a year. Keep saying it’s too cheap. I can’t believe you sold it at this price. We’re trying to just get it going. You need to raise the prices. Okay, I raise the prices and then I raise the prices and say, you told me to raise the prices, I’ve raised the prices. Thank you very much. That gives us more Mrr, right. I think that’s probably like the key thing within that stage, speaking to customers. 

29:37 – Alexander Theuma
I mean, also in the journey of building a SaaS company, never stop speaking to customers, right? I think sometimes people don’t do it enough. As you start to build the company in your Ten K Mrr and beyond, I think they’re largely like the people, right? Getting building the right team. You build the right team, you’re kind of halfway there. 

Advice to founders growing to 10M ARR

29:56 – Joran Hofman
Nice. The other question I wanted to ask, because now we have it till Ten K Mrr, how would the advice differentiate, I guess when you’re growing above that point, going to 10 million arr, I. 

30:06 – Alexander Theuma
Think part of the advice, I mean, both things translate and carry over. Again, I think people, especially as you’re growing and scaling is going to be your key thing, right? If you keep hiring the wrong people, or if your team is not good enough, or if you hire a team of C and B players, it’s going to be a struggle to get to 10 million arr. Hire a team of A players and it is possible on a budget and bootstrapping, you find these people, they’re going to help you kind of get there. So I think that’s one thing. Another thing, nobody did it on their own. Nobody ever figured out how to get to 10 million or 100 million on their own. Build a support network to help you get there. Connect with the Stefan Smallders of this world, right, because they’re doing it or have done it. 

30:51 – Alexander Theuma
There is this like while there is not one size fits all playbook building a repeatable profitable business, there is a kind of formula to do it. You’ve got to find out those that have done it and that will kind of save you time and money. Just building out this support network, I think is key. Otherwise you could do it, but you’re just going to make it harder for yourself. You’re going to make lots of mistakes, you’re going to grow slowly and that will be, I think, super key. If you’re learning from people that have done it and this is where a lot of venture, if you look at venture capital, why do people raise venture capital? They get a lot of money that helps extend the runway, that helps them build the team that they need. Also within that network, they get to speak to VCs, for instance, that either have seen, I don’t know, hundreds or thousands of companies that have been successful and then they just share that information. 

31:40 – Alexander Theuma
This is how you need to do it. That kind of gives them this advantage. It’s up to they can say how do you do it? You need to execute against that. They can also connect you again into people that have done it and speak to people and helps you build out that network. Sometimes with being a bootstrapper, sometimes the harder thing is that you don’t have this support network that VC companies get. What you do get, obviously, as a bootstrapper is retain the equity and control and the clock isn’t ticking as much like you got to hit these milestones. You got to hit these milestones, right? You don’t have the risks of being fired from your own company as such. A lot of pros and cons, right? But it’s a different conversation. 

32:17 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, nice. Now as a bootstrapper, you can join the Sfm community. You will find people who are doing the same and you will find a network. So thanks again for organizing that. I think the key takeaway is also you can’t start too early with building a network and a community. I mean, we now hold the benefits and definitely start as soon as you can, like, I guess myself in this case. 

32:39 – Alexander Theuma

How to contact Alexander Theuma

32:40 – Joran Hofman
Final question. If people want to get in contact with you, what would be the best way? 

32:44 – Alexander Theuma
I mean, they can email me. [email protected] that would be fine. Or just on LinkedIn. Alex thuma on LinkedIn. That’s T-H-E-U-M-A. Probably the best ways. You can also follow me on TikTok, but probably not going to respond to the messages as much, but please do follow me. Yeah, I would say those are the ways you’re on Nice. 

33:01 – Joran Hofman
I will make sure to add the link so everybody can just quickly find them as well. Thanks again for coming on the show, Alex. It was really nice to have you. 

33:08 – Alexander Theuma
No, I really appreciate your and great to be here and to speak to your audience. 

If you did enjoy this episode, please listen to our previous episode on product-led growth.

Joran Hofman
Meet the author
Joran Hofman
Back in 2020 I was an affiliate for 80+ SaaS tools and I was generating an average of 30k in organic visits each month with my site. Due to the issues I experienced with the current affiliate management software tools, it never resulted in the passive income I was hoping for. Many clunky affiliate management tools lost me probably more than $20,000+ in affiliate revenue. So I decided to build my own software with a high focus on the affiliates, as in the end, they generate more money for SaaS companies.
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