S3E9 – How to achieve Product Market Fit for your B2B SaaS With Maja Voje

How to achieve Product Market Fit for your B2B SaaS

How can you achieve Product Market Fit for your B2B SaaS? Why is a Go-To-Market Strategy important for your B2B SaaS? In the first season of this podcast, we interviewed Andrew Davies on the same topic, resulting in one of our most listened-to episodes. To delve deep into how to achieve product-market fit and the entire spectrum of the go-to-market strategy.

In this episode host Joran Hofman speaks with Maja Voje, a best-selling author of ‘GTM Strategist‘ and the Founder & Investor at Growth Lab. Maja, an expert in go-to-market strategies for SaaS companies, is actively involved in running GTM Bootcamps, hosting podcasts, and mentoring within the Swiss entrepreneurship program.

What is a Go-To-Market Strategy?

Maja explains the importance of go-to-market (GTM) strategy as a constant journey in search of market fit, not just limited to product launch. She emphasizes the need for planning and alignment across various functions to ensure success in reaching business objectives.

What is Product-Market Fit?

Maja discusses the concept of product-market fit as a moving target as its ever-changing nature of product-market fit and the need to validate not only the product but also the willingness to pay. She stresses the importance of testing business models and willingness to pay simultaneously, especially in bootstrapped startups. 

The most common mistakes companies make while trying to go to market

Maja highlights common GTM mistakes, such as underpricing products due to cultural or personal biases, and the misconception that lower prices attract more customers. She also addresses the fear of rejection and the importance of mental robustness and stamina in GTM.

The Path to Product-Market Fit: Maja’s Strategic Process

Maja shares practical examples of successful GTM strategies, including a CRM system’s beta program success through direct outreach and partnerships, leading to significant pre-sales revenue and investor interest. Her process helps companies achieve product-market fit, emphasizing the importance of understanding the early customer profile and conducting exit interviews with prospects.

Challenges in Achieving Product-Market Fit

Maja addressed the common challenges faced by SaaS founders in achieving product-market fit. She highlighted the struggle between the founder’s vision and the market’s response, emphasizing that failures are part of the learning process and should be treated as such. Her advice focused on embracing feedback loops and maintaining a sustainable approach to business development.

Maja anticipates a shift towards interdisciplinary collaboration, increased leverage of technology expertise in marketing and sales, and the untapped potential of partnerships and community engagement in GTM. Looking ahead to the future of building go-to-market strategies, Maja discussed the evolving role of engineers, product specialists, and UX professionals in marketing and sales. She emphasized the importance of leveraging domain knowledge and building high-leverage opportunities while transitioning to larger-scale operations.

Advice for SaaS Founders

 Maja advises SaaS founders to seek feedback early, embrace failures as learning opportunities, and maintain a sustainable lifestyle while pursuing long-term business growth. Maja’s parting words offered encouragement to B2B SaaS founders, highlighting the power of action and the potential for growth through collaboration and genuine engagement. 

Maja emphasized the significance of founder-led initiatives, sharing her insight that many early-stage activities in the tech industry are often founder-led. She encourages B2B SaaS founders to be hands-on and proactive in their approach to building and 

Key Timecodes

  • (0:37) Show and guest intro
  • (1:19) Why you should listen to Maja Voje
  • (2:07) What is the go-to market strategy?
  • (4:42) What is product market fit?
  •  (6:15) The most common mistakes companies make while trying to go to market
  • (13:34) The Path to Product-Market Fit: Maja’s Strategic Process
  • (21:00) What successful companies are doing right with GTM
  • (25:06) How to sell your product when its not even ready yet
  • (30:08) The most common challenges when trying to achieve product market fit?
  • (33:35) The future of building a go to market strategy
  • (38:45) How to grow towards 10K MRR
  • (39:59) How to grow towards 10 million ARR
  • (41:31) Maja’s crucial advice to B2B SaaS founders 
  • (43:06) What Maja Wishes she knew 10 years ago

Transcription

[00:00:00.000] – Intro

Welcome to the Grow Your B2B SaaS podcast. In this podcast, we cover all topics on how to grow your B2B SaaS, no matter in which stage you’re in. I’m Joran Hofman, the host of this show and the founder of Ready Test, which is a B2B SaaS that helps other B2B SaaS companies to set up, manage, and grow an affiliate program. Being a founder myself means I’m going to the exact same journey as you are, experiencing the exact same issues, and probably have the exact same questions. And this is why I started the podcast in the first place. Get advice from industry experts on to grow my B2B SaaS. So if you like this content, make sure to subscribe, follow, give it a thumbs up. Let’s just dive in.

[00:00:37.260] – Joran

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about go-to-market, also referred to as GTM. The episode we did in season one with Andrew Davis is still one of the most listened episodes so far, so we’re going to dive deeper into this topic today. We’re going to do with Maja Voje. Maja is the author of the bestseller book called Go To Market Strategist, which includes 135 frameworks, 18 templates, and over 100 industry expert interviews. Maja also runs GTM Bootcamps for SaaS companies, has a newsletter called GTM Strategies. Next to this, she’s a mentor at the Swiss entrepreneurship program, a podcast host at Product-led, and the founder and investor at GrowthLab. Welcome to the show, Maja.

[00:01:18.030] – Maja

It’s so good to be here.

[00:01:19.400] – Joran

If people are not convinced after the introduction, in your opinion, why should people listen to you today?

[00:01:25.220] – Maja

Because I only do what’s mission critical. I will cut up all the bullshit and We’ll just discuss examples from the reality that we are living in. The access to founding is getting increasingly harder. Also, willingness to pay is being severely challenged. There is more competition with AI, and I don’t think that it is going to get easier. We will have to get smarter about this. But here’s the good news. If you do the fundamentals and just make sure to have your setting for the product market fit on the right place, you are on a very good track to succeed. This is what I’m hoping to bring to conversation today to whoever is interested and excited about this subject.

[00:02:04.370] – Joran

Nice. We’re going to start always with the basics. How would you explain the go-to-market strategy to somebody who’s unknown with it?

[00:02:11.790] – Maja

I work a lot with tech people, and for them, it’s all about building in isolation before we launch. Then maybe 14 days before, Okay, now the product is ready. Now we have to have users or something like that. They invite us to join forces cross-dependently with marketing, with sales, with business development, and all weird conversations take place from there. Is the pricing really it? Is this what we are putting in the offers here? When it comes to channels, who’s utterly your target persona? Who should we sell here? Nevertheless, it would be so much easier if planning and alignment would be done sooner. In my opinion, GTM does no longer just portray this launch period. It is a constant journey when you are searching for market fee. It can also happen when you are relaunching, when you are opening new market segment, or if you are a part of a bigger organization and maybe have to do specific launch a little bit more scrappy than putting your full-blown Broadway show to the mix. That for me is GTM and specific challenges that we have on this journey. I think that how we resolve them is really to have ultimate clarity about the goal.

[00:03:28.610] – Maja

I was just training a client from Saudi Arabia, and mission critical for her was to do 8 million in just like Q1. She was presenting this GTM plan to her boss, I think four times. The boss said, Okay, now I need to see personas, I need to see customer journey, I need to do this and that. Whenever she returned to him, the boss was like, No, I need a clearer plan, because ultimately, he was just interested in how to make 8 million in the next Q. Her job was literally to refine this information to who are the best performing segments, hypothetically, what are the offers that we will be testing, and what are the channels, how we are going to push them out, plus planning the resources, budget, people, consultants, whatnots that she needs in order to get there because the guy will, of course, calculate ROI. These are then the practical challenges that we have to tackle, but GTM is not a bunch of mental models. It’s getting the job done. It’s just like securing that we can get to the objectives most securely and most effectively that we can possibly.

[00:04:35.240] – Joran

Yeah, one objective you already mentioned a little bit at the beginning of your answer, product market fit. Before, I guess, we really dive into the topic, could you also explain how you see product market fit and how would you explain to somebody else?

[00:04:46.800] – Maja

First of all, it’s a moving target, right? It’s a Holy Grail of GTM. Everybody’s saying, yes, after I achieve this product market fit, life will be so much easier. People will magically come to my product. They will refer others. They will happily pay for whatever I’m making. Product market feed, this is it, baby. But as you are learning and evolving and just attracting new user segments to the product, things always change. I always say that it is a moving target as well. In its fundament, it means that you are doing something that people want, that you are portraying the value through the product. But especially coming from European reality, I think that the same time, simultaneously, as we are testing for product market fit, we should also be testing willingness to pay. Not only do we have a product, but are there people who are going to pay for it? Because majority of us are bootstrapping and we need to pay the bills, we need to secure the existence of our company. Gtm is usually period of 3-18 months. I never met a startup that would have 18 months of lifeline. It just doesn’t happen.

[00:05:55.280] – Maja

We have to make some money on the go. That’s why I think it’s extremely important where we are to also make sure that we are validating business model and willingness to pay at the same time.

[00:06:05.660] – Joran

I think that’s a really nice way to explain it. We’re going to talk first about the mistakes, and then we’re going to walk our way into how to actually get things done properly. What are the most common mistakes companies make while trying to go to market?

[00:06:19.270] – Maja

I would love to reverse this question now. What did you learn? What did you learn as a founder? What were the biggest unknown unknowns? Which were they for you? For me?

[00:06:29.490] – Joran

Yes. We started, for example, with the long term strategy. So we did SEO, we doing the podcasting. We don’t do any cold outreach, anything like that, which in hindsight, I should have done a lot more at the beginning. But I had this long term strategy baked in from the beginning where it’s starting to work now, but it’s not helping us to actually get the cash flow today. So if I would change things, I would probably change that where I would probably go more for outbound or at least like outreach, get more money in today than rather focusing on 12 months, basically.

[00:07:01.480] – Maja

I love this. I’m so happy that we reverse the question now because you genuinely just describe this dilemma between demand generation and demand capture. It is so different in terms of sales cycles, also money is on the bank account as you nicely illustrate it as well. But here is an additional thing. We would love to learn from product data. If we don’t have any users in either beta programs or if users are really scattered and we cannot really clear pattern recognitions, good segmentation of this data, even making decisions based on the wrong data points. Things just don’t add up. This is why I prefer to think about GTM in stages. How to get How to get your 50 users? How to get your 100 users? How to get 1,000 users? Because the tactics will be radically different. At the beginning, you will just have to do it yourself. Because the majority of us, how it is, there is you, there are maybe two other cofounders founders and a couple of juniors that are trying to help us with the heavy lifting. But nevertheless, things change. We need to build processes. Your plan how to get first five customers is going to be radically different than 500 customers after you cross the chasm.

[00:08:18.200] – Maja

Just like dissecting my own launches, I always think the majority of mistakes are in my head. They are very much constrained with my mindset because at the beginning, it’s so founder-related it that we are often our worst problem. Let me talk through a couple of examples that are either cognitive or completely irrational things that we should consider and we should pay a lot of attention on. Oftentimes, at least in Europe, People are very bad at pricing, and they are just pricing themselves too low. If you are selling something to the US, for example, it’s very likely that you are missing a zero and you could double it. I come from the region where the average paycheck is €1,500, and for people, it’s insane to charge €10,000 of MRR for a client or something like that. They just don’t feel it’s just. Pricing in that perspective is more of a mirroring of the imposter syndrome or just some cultural legacy that we have instead of being part of very solid business model. The second one, which is a complete bias, is thinking that it is going to be a little bit cheaper. It will attract more people.

[00:09:29.860] – Maja

This is not microeconomics, mano, baby. This is real life. If it is too cheap, people are maybe not going to trust it. Maybe you will not even get a fair chance to get to the right decision maker who would be making these decisions. It’s really important to test willingness to pay as soon as possible because your target customer is very likely to pay more for it than you think it’s worth based on the previous mind jump that you might have. This one is a very dangerous hypothesis for I have to nail it. I like to do it with pre-selling whatever I have in my pipeline for development and just making sure that I can sell it with either a demo, a doc, or something like that before going full in and spend another free months in crafting this full-fetch marketing and business development machine. Then what else is really interesting is just our ego. What is the biggest barrier, mental barrier that we have is fear of rejections. It it makes sense because we people thrive together as a tribe. And gorillas are objectively stronger than we are, but we are still sitting on the top of evolution because we learn how to work together very nicely.

[00:10:43.550] – Maja

And this is the pillar of our civilization. Whenever you are doing something which is unconventional or it’s your relationships with people that you would like to be accepted by, we are dealing with a huge mental disognance, and we have to really say, This is not personal. If they don’t accept my offer, this is not personal. That doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person, that they hate me, and then I’m going to die alone, that the wolf will eat my body. It just means that they don’t need this now, and I can return to them later in six months, or I can just learn from it and move to another camp. Here is the beautiful thing about evolution. Evolution is not always right. It’s just right more than it’s wrong. It has a lot of iterations. Just feeling unsuccessful if something didn’t work leads me to the biggest superpower that you need to develop in GTM, which is mental robustness and stamina. Literally, you will get knocked down, but you must get up again. Sometimes this happens in iteration, and we really need to work both on our businesses as well as on our mindset, because I cannot tell you how many things are self-sabotaging because they don’t want to launch, they feel rejected by the market or whatever.

[00:12:02.760] – Maja

So they are just like there in their offices, continue to build products that will maybe not even be accepted by the market. But you never know if you don’t put action into this. Action is your best friend.

[00:12:15.520] – Joran

I guess to conclude a bit like bad pricing, don’t put yourself too cheap. You’re going to be not maybe trusted. Put that zero behind it or double it, I guess, if you’re selling to the US, as you mentioned.

[00:12:24.100] – Maja

Test it if you can do it.

[00:12:25.050] – Joran

But- Yeah, we just did a recording with Walter Rehber from Unium, and he talks about packages, package everything correctly, and then the pricing is something, I guess, which comes next to it. But create the packages with great value, and then you can charge accordingly as well. Then as you mentioned, mindset, I think that’s ego, that’s going to be a really big one as well.

[00:12:44.370] – Maja

Just One thing that I would like to add to the conversation because it is the opposite from ego. It’s just this mindset of scarcity, feeling that you are leaving money on the table. For us, for the majority of European companies, especially in B2B, one of the smartest strategies is to specialize, is to go niche-specific and find your first users there. But nobody really went to business with this vision of serving 50 companies from Utrecht, from industry. Everybody would like to conquer the world. It’s very difficult for people to focus. Yet, focusing is probably your best chance to win this GTM game.

[00:13:27.520] – Joran

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. You keep hearing it all It’s hard to do, but if you do it, then it’s going to help you a lot. I guess when we talk about processes, strategies, what would be your process if you were going to help a company trying to achieve product market fit? Are there any steps to follow? How would you handle How do you feel that?

[00:13:45.580] – Maja

In my world, it all comes down to understanding early and ideal customer profile. Early is the stage that we are dealing with when we are just looking for the first 50 or 100 clients because it is unlikely that anybody in their right mind, for example, Rabobank or something like that, is going to let you in if you don’t have proof of concept and just a couple of testimonials. You can have this vision of an ideal customer, but probably first few implementations, you will have to do with early adopters and people who are just a little bit similar to you, who love risks and love to discover new technologies. This is where I like to start, and I see that it is increasingly important to also also interview, not just the customers and reverse engineered who went successfully through our funnel, but also do exit interviews with current prospects. In my opinion, you can learn probably even more from that one because you know how it is, average conversion rate is maybe 10%, and if you are just like they are shooting your surveys, maybe 5% of people who are merciful enough in order to answer them and have a little bit too much time will pitch in, but you will never learn about the real That’s why it’s essential to just get to know 90% of people who didn’t accept your deal.

[00:15:07.720] – Maja

Just learn what was a deal breaker and try to elaborate on this. I find this increasingly important, and I think that I will be making more of this content because everybody’s saying customer interviews, customer survey, and I’m just like, 90% of people you missed in the first place, so maybe we could do some corrections there as well. But nevertheless, when it comes to target audience, you know how it It determinates all the other choices of your go-to-market strategy that you will be making. It determinates willingness to pay, the pricing, the packages that you will be doing. It definitely impacts the channels that you will be using, the messaging, positioning of this. If you can nail this first puzzle and be laser focus on whoever is your early target segment, I think that all the answers could be derived through that. There There is another reality in GTM, which is competition, because we are always being compared against somebody. If you think that there is no competition, it might be a little bit too narrow thinking because it might dangerously mean that there is no problem, the willingness to solve this problem, or that you are just being a little bit too narrow.

[00:16:20.450] – Maja

Because if people have problem, they would tweak something together in Airtable, they would use a spreadsheet, or they would just choose to ignore it and not deal with it right now. These are not the best bets as we are doing go-to-market. This is the second reality because in the competition arena, you usually have a wiggle room from 20% to 30% when it comes to pricing and packaging in comparison with your competitors. It’s very unlikely that you would be Apple with their new VR set that is not being, aka, compared with Oculus, but literally invented their own price point. These are a a couple of realities that we have to take into consideration, especially when it comes to procurement in B2B. You know exactly how this looks like, how to see your company in a spreadsheet with others. You would like to start shouting, No, we’re better at this. Why did you rate this at this line? But in the reality, look, their judgment really matters. The best we can do is to learn from that. This is a little bit of a process estimator, but when it comes to specific things, how we are planning these campaigns, we always have a target.

[00:17:32.940] – Maja

Sometimes a target can be like attract 500 people to beta. Then you ask yourself, who are these people? Who is my ICP? Should I hire somebody on Fiverr, pay 200 euros to achieve that? Or must I acquire engineers and really smart folks on Reddit and spend a lot of time arguing with them if this solution is good enough to take for a spin? This is how I like to think about this. Then when it comes to just companies, you have your goal. You are trying to reverse engineer the goal. You have to be strategic in your decisions, what to prioritize, which actions. Then you have to narrow it down because you don’t have a lot of resources. You have to create a program which is realistic for you and will help you focus and just choose the best range of channels and the best actions that will most securely get you to the moving target that you are trying to address. This decision is very difficult to make in isolation, especially for people who are doing this for the first time and are maybe not okay with marketing and sales because for a majority of founders, it’s very scary.

[00:18:41.750] – Maja

Now you will have to be selling and they would prefer to build a product. But if they’re not going to sell, if they’re not going to convince their target markets, it would be very difficult to just monitor whoever will be doing business development and sales later. I genuinely believe that you have to be hands-on about these things. That in a nutshell would be a process. Then we have sprints, which is literally me yelling at people why this hasn’t been done and by when it will be done. These are the accountability check. This is where the fitness trainers comes in. Not Everybody wants that. Some teams have beautiful processes, but sometimes it is needed to just have this internal locus of controls and making sure that our commitments are really met to develop a discipline, a muscle, and a critical mass to see the changes that we are actually hoping to achieve.

[00:19:33.650] – Joran

Nice. Love it. I will try to summarize it a little bit. I think at the beginning, always have a target, have a goal. As you mentioned, it can be a moving target because once you grow, you will change it. But reverse engineer it, so how to actually get there. If your early stage, define an early customer profile. I think I saw it in one of your other chats as well. So it’s not your ICP, but your ECP. So your early customer profile will look differently than later on. So find the people who love risk like yourself as well. Get the churned prospect on the phone is 90% of the people don’t convert. So make sure you interview them, get more information about them so you can actually convert more clients later on. Get laser-focused with your target audience, track sync channels, pricing. And if you say you do not have any competition, is there an actual problem? I think that was a really good one as well. I hear it quite a bit as well with prospects coming to us. And I asked them because we find affiliates for them. And I asked them, who is your competition?

[00:20:28.810] – Joran

Are they running an affiliate program already? Can we find them? And then if they say we have no competition, then indeed, is there a real problem? This podcast episode is sponsored by Reditus. Reditus helps B2B SaaS companies to set up, manage, and grow an affiliate program. In short, it means you’re asking other people, affiliates, to promote your SaaS. You would only pay the affiliates a kickback fee when they deliver you paid clients, making it a very cost-effective and scalable way to grow your MRR. See more at getReditus. Com. We talked about mistakes, we talked about process. Maybe do you have some examples, best practices you can share of companies who had a great go-to-market strategy, and what are they doing where we can learn from?

[00:21:12.330] – Maja

I will go super scrappy here, if you don’t mind, because I think that your listeners are smart enough to find all the epic examples on the internet. Let’s just revise a couple of launches that I was helping in the last month or so. There is a CRM program system which has these AI components. We first worked together on getting 500 users for their beta program. They were applying to Y Combinator and just getting ready for the first round of investment, and they needed traction. They ran LinkedIn ads before we joined forces and the conversion rates were shit. They practically sprayed, I think, 1,000 or 2,000 euros, which is not a lot of money, but for them it is because it could be invested elsewhere. It just didn’t deliver. Then they were posting in social media groups and the pitch was nice, but it was written to salesy. Whenever you are in this very niche professional groups, the people are allergic to that. We just had this awkward conversation. Just talk to them human to human. I did this. These are the existing challenges. Transparently, what you are trying to do here, and please don’t sign up just because you support this type of technology.

[00:22:29.870] – Maja

You should definitely subscribe if you’re an actual user. We narrow it down a little bit and just make it sound more genuine. That was literally probably the job to be done here. Then when it comes to urgent day number seven, when we were working together and we were still short on 200 leads or something like that, we start with direct outreach and we joined with one of the B2B influencer that gave us some leverage. From the audiences, because the company didn’t have any previous audience. It was a new company, so you had to either piggyback on somebody else’s audience or you could be directly inviting people toward the product. Luckily, that was a success. They didn’t get admitted to Y Combinator, unfortunately, or luckily for them, who knows? Time will tell. But they are preparing for the next investment round right now, and they are already pre-selling before the product is even live, which I’m so proud They literally secured 20K monthly reoccurring revenue by just having these commitments by Demos. The product is not even ready to be used right now, but it looks so much better for investors that they have already pledged this money.

[00:23:49.870] – Maja

Here is what literally my eyes shine because I was like, Yes, guys, you can do it. You can do it. I will tell your example to 500 more people in order to make that it’s not always just like burning your money and building it to perfection. You can actually sell a lot sooner that you might actually think. I love stories such as these because for us who are bootstrapping, you are probably doing it with your own money. Whatever you can get on a go definitely helps and speeds up the adoption and also gives these positive signals, these islands of joy on this difficult journey of product building. This is why I love these stories. They are right now, I think that the investment route that they are trying to get is 600 million. They are talking with all the investors. To the feedback that I have, a lot of money is already pledged, but gosh, are they cowboys? They are very competent business people. Both developers, both are coming from a technical background, but it’s their third startup. I see a lot of increased sensibility how GTM is important with multiple-time founders, because for the first time, you would probably be like, deal with it and they will come.

[00:25:03.260] – Joran

That is not going to work out. I’m curious because we’re actually doing something similar. We already have a product and we’re building a new feature and we’re now trying to sell it before we even have it. It’s almost like a completely separate thing you can buy. What we did, for example, is we created the mockups just in Figma. You can’t click any button we showed, basically. Walk me through what have they done to be so successful in to sell something which isn’t there yet? Because this is super relevant for me personally right now. I’m curious to hear what they’re doing.

[00:25:36.750] – Maja

As I was not a hands-on part of this process, I will explain how I do it because God knows that I eat my own dog I put. Whenever I have a training program for a company or just an idea of a new cohort or something like that, I don’t develop the material before there is at least €10,000 committed to the program. Because if I cannot make 10K, it’s better for me to freelance. The opportunity cost is just too large. In order to secure my well-being of just building something, I love to have this data prior to me actually going and locking myself in a room for a month in order to do something. I usually do it via Google document, either with mockups. There are some of the customers, some of the trainees that I have that could give testimonials. It’s not done without social proof. You can easily translate this to product by just inviting some people to beta first or something like that. Because their willingness to buy is higher either. You did them a favor, so you provided the value. There is certain pride to be the first to have something, especially if they end up liking it.

[00:26:52.390] – Maja

That’s a very good mechanism as well. I worked, I think it was last year, with an HR company which did a little bit of a slack for increased happiness in companies. They converted 30% of their interview list. Just like doing legit customer research before, they pledged towards the development of this specific specific features by people who were actually included in their research. That’s a very good mechanism as well. How I usually shape these documents. We already said that we don’t build the vinyl version until we have at least interest committed. I also use usability testing on those materials. You probably have the vision who would benefit the most out of this. Then I sample and I literally give those people either a document that we do or we take them to a demo and you get their feedback. No sales doc, like MVP sales doc, is actually sent to real people before it is tested. Those people are a game changer here because sometimes as you are so much into the product, you forget to set something or a benefit that they are seeing is a little bit different to your vision. I think it’s definitely important to have this double feedback loop of not only doing the pre-sales itself, but also usability test of your sales materials.

[00:28:24.050] – Maja

Just percentage-wise, as I’m going through these cycles, I would say that I have 10 launches per year and three of them are a fail, seven of them are a success. But I will continue doing it like this because it freaking works and it saves me tons of time.

[00:28:40.720] – Joran

I think that’s really important. You have a clear goal. I like that you set a goal and you’re not going to build it until you reach the goal. You have the mock-up, then you do the customer research.

[00:28:50.670] – Maja

But this is how I gamify my process. Sorry to interrupt, but this is very pleasant for me because I’m a very competitive person. If I just see on my agenda work on this for a month and maybe see what happens, I get much more motivated, much more committed if I’m gamifying my work a little bit.

[00:29:08.630] – Joran

Yeah, you said the end goal, probably chop it up into little pieces. Exactly how to get there. I love what you said about the customer research. We just did 35 calls with clients last week with the devs also in there. That’s basically our early pipeline. Those are our early prospects where we’re going to offer it towards. I like that you said, Create a sales doc with social proof. That’s something I haven’t done yet, but I’m yet to send out everything, so I will definitely make sure that we’ll add something regarding that as well.

[00:29:36.460] – Maja

Then usability testing-whatever is possible. It can be like a testimonial from a client that participated in customer research. It can be proof of concept that you have tested it with somebody, that it surely works. One thing is to say it, but you know how people in technology are. We are extremely skeptical. We want to buy unicorns and rainbows. We want evidence. We want to make these decisions with confidence.

[00:30:02.370] – Joran

Yeah, makes a lot of sense. Nice. Let’s move on to maybe the fun question for you. What are some of the most common challenges when trying to achieve product-market fit? How would you what comes those challenges?

[00:30:17.200] – Maja

For me personally, it’s really sad when I’m wrong. To be wrong is a very painful experience, especially if you are very passionate about the product or the problem that you are solving. Every launch, it’s founder vision led at first, and packed into the initial hypothesis of a product which would also be called MVP. But nevertheless, what is important in GTM as well is to choose the right target audience. To have this minimal segment, which I like to call Beach Head segment, to have a right target market segment selected. This is really difficult for people because sometimes it just changes too much or you have this vision to serve, for example, fitness industry, and then you realize that, for example, injection molding people like your learning software better, and then you are no longer that passionate about serving those people. That gets a little bit off-putting because you went to business with a vision to help fitness people. The way how I tackle it, just like methodology is, Okay, this is the segment with most burning pay that will help me get to the fitness segment that I ultimately want to convince later on. It’s my job to secure traction with these people in order to have more punching power for later.

[00:31:42.500] – Maja

This is how I come to peace with those decisions But it’s very frustrating because you have one idea, one vision, and then you test it out. Luckily, you do test it out on the market and get different information. There is always this radical balance between the product vision and your vision as a founder and what the market actually tells you. The other trap is, are you doing the right tests in the first place? Because sometimes in GTM, the sample sizes are just too small to do anything serious, anything data-driven. If you have the privilege to do, that’s the best decision that you could be making. But a lot of times we are collecting anecdotical proof. For example, customer interviews or focus groups or just small data sizes of whatever is going on in our product. I’m just like, Shit, are we making these decisions with confidence? Maybe the sample that we were testing on was not optimal. There are a lot of unknown unknowns. That’s why it’s so important to be very honest to yourself and very methodologic about how you are interpreting this data and have a little bit of accountability group. I usually have it with product managers.

[00:32:57.200] – Maja

They are fierce, they are very fierce people. We just go for the findings together. I’m not standing there in front of presentation, these are top 10 lessons that we learn from customers. To just be challenged a little bit. Did we ask the right questions? Did we have the right samples? I know it sounds complicated, but it’s really so important to be truthful in this process and to be challenged because if you’re not going to challenge yourself, the market will.

[00:33:26.030] – Joran

Yeah, I love it, I guess. If you don’t ask these questions yourself, indeed, you will be knocked down pretty quickly. Let’s go one more before we dive into the final four questions because things are changing. I think the market is changing. How do you see the future of building a go-to-market strategy, maybe going into 2024 or even beyond that?

[00:33:44.860] – Maja

I’m a very good supporter that a lot of early stage stuff is founder-led. I see more and more engineers, product people, UXers being increasingly interesting for marketing and sales and growth, which is Fantastic. I think that it really creates strong leverage because you know how it is. I studied in B-School, so economics and business. For me, it is very difficult to learn about 80% of things that I should be knowing about technology before we start. For example, when I was working on smart grids, these are electricity. Really, smart grids were so difficult for me to understand the whole technology, how it works, how this is being traded. I was just like, It would be much easier for an engineer who’s literally familiar with this stuff to just learn maybe 10% or 20% about marketing and just apply it on this vertical that they know so well. Then for me, poor girl coming from business school, trying to figuring out smart grids. I can do it, but it will take me way more time. It’s either working interdisciplinary or just go through the silos and empower your carriers of domain knowledge in order to co-create these decisions with you.

[00:35:02.750] – Maja

The fast is the most secure way and amazing proximity to the target segment because this is the life that they are living. The second one is in terms of channels. I think that there are some channels that are grossly underrated. For example, partnerships. Partnerships can be huge, and it can be a technology partnership for the platforms or just co-creation or some proof of concept together. It’s a great way for small companies to get their foot on the door of a bigger company as well if you are participating in this type of partnerships. It just creates you so much leverage because as a founder, you would have to go and work through 10 calls or something like that. But if a partner just said, Okay, here are 12 people that are interested to talk to you, definitely explore this line of possibilities if you can have it. But however, partnerships require a lot of effort and a lot of work nurturing. If somebody is interested, I will have some episodes about partnerships as well. Maybe you can link some of your episodes as well because it’s best to learn this from people who are full-time partnership management.

[00:36:14.460] – Maja

Last but not least, In terms of what is going on in just like ad buying and complexity of data tracking or something like that, I do think that we would have to compensate just like increasing acquisition cost, customer customer acquisition cost, with being very focused that we are optimizing for LTV as well. Pricing experiments, super important. If you can upsell an existing customer, this is super cheaper and super easier and more likely to happen than always filling in the funnel with new stuff. When it comes to just acquisition channel, there is another big untapped, completely untapped. I mean, everybody in tech works this, but not very structurally, communities. If you have a clever plan how to embed in communities, how to do partnerships, and just engineer your customer journey very well so that you are literally working with people, how to optimize their success and making sure that you cover critical touch points. I think that you can easily get through the chasm and just make sure that you don’t run out of money or energy or enthusiasm before you’re there. This is, I think, something that I see in the early stage. When it comes to later stages, processes.

[00:37:36.110] – Maja

Processes are so important to maintain, to document, and just getting right. Because as you are scaling, there are these huge layoffs right now. I genuinely am concerned that the companies are not even maintaining their knowledge, and this is super, super catastrophic for their IP. But nevertheless, as a leader of a larger team, I always like to think about first maybe outsourcing a channel and just hiring somebody, like a freelancer to do something to validate, and later on go into the hiring spree because hire slow, fire, fast. But nevertheless, It’s much easier to validate that point. But for me, I’m more or less creature of chaos. These processes and systems and standard operating procedure, that’s a pain in the butt. That’s the next consultant that I will hire my company.

[00:38:31.030] – Joran

Nice. You dived a little bit already into the next question, so I’m just going to start firing those off. The final four questions, they are becoming a bit more famous with every episode. When we talk about go-to-market, what advice would you give somebody who’s really just starting out and growing to 10K MR? Feel free to summarize a bit what you already been mentioning during this call.

[00:38:55.450] – Maja

So 10K is probably already in your phone book or your email list. I would just go through it and select a couple of prospects, present a demo, and just try to make deals with them, get their testimonials, ask for future recommendation, and this is easy-easy because Tempe is not a lot of money. If you are any good in working in tech, you would be generating more as a freelancer. Building this product, of course, it’s much more scalable, but I don’t think that you should overthink it. You can just either do it from your phone book, you can decide to spend some money on ads and to see how you can naturally capture the demand that is already existing. I don’t think that it should be complicated and you definitely don’t need an agency to do a strategy how to get to the first 10K.

[00:39:46.560] – Joran

You should do it. Yeah, and as you mentioned, really leverage your network because the 10K is already in there somewhere.

[00:39:52.180] – Maja

Yeah, and buy some Google Ads. You know how to click on much complexer software than Google Ads Manager.

[00:39:58.500] – Joran

Nice. We We get past the 10K monthly recurring revenue, we’re going to make a big step towards 10 million ARR. What advice would you give somebody here?

[00:40:07.900] – Maja

It’s all about creating leverage, being focused on high leverage opportunities and building processes so that you can outsource the groundwork to other team members or partners or whoever you are working with, but that you still protect some time to do the strategy work. Because the least that you want to be in this stage is an for paid product managers. I see a lot of brand managers, for example, just like having 14 meetings a day, just like being wrap up on all the corners doing these final signups. I literally think that people should protect their time and build processes in order to make this work meaningful and sustainable. If the problem, the main problem in the first page is mindset, the main problem, underlying problem in the second one are processes.

[00:40:58.710] – Joran

I really make sure that You set them up properly and you work yourself free a bit so you can focus more on strategy and outsource things where you can.

[00:41:07.750] – Maja

If you will be evolving through these phases, it’s about time to get real with your control freakism and your perfectionism because, against your better judgment, there are people who can do the job better, especially if there is a really specialistic job and you should just learn how to trust people at this stage.

[00:41:28.660] – Joran

When we even zoom more out, what general advice would you give SaaS founders who are now on their journey?

[00:41:36.440] – Maja

Get feedback loops as soon as possible. There will be failures, but just think about it as a scientific method. Failing is learning. Evolution had a lot of failures as well, for example, dinosaurs. But nevertheless, it’s all about being there, showing up, doing the action, trying to learn from that, leaving your ego aside, and just treat it as a science. Because ultimately, you would like to build a money-making machine. That’s your business, if you will be monetizing, as we talked about. It can be done very methodologically and probably just in terms of your life and being, make sure that you are living sustainably because it’s not enough that you will fight today. You can be up till 4 AM. The problem is that you will have to show up tomorrow again and do it all over again. Make sure that you live this sustainable lifestyle, that you are not there as a zombie on your months. Just try to think about this long term because it will take a lot of your time and you will have to sustain through the process. But hey, it’s very fun, it’s very rewarding. It’s very interesting. If you listen to one hour of this podcast, I believe you can do it.

[00:42:51.660] – Joran

Exactly. I think it’s a good one. As you mentioned, you’re going to have a lot of failures, which is not always fun. You’re going to have a lot of feedback, which is it sometimes come from. But if you don’t have fun in the meantime, then it’s going to be really challenging. You turning into that zombie you mentioned. The final question, what is one thing you wish you knew 10 years ago?

[00:43:10.800] – Maja

That after I’m 30, I will have to sleep more. Just in terms of the industry, look, at the beginning when I was starting to work in tech, I had this huge imposter syndrome because I didn’t know tech very well. I was very good with people, though. As you are there baking pancakes for developers, trying to do office management and marketing, you develop a little trauma or two. It literally took me 10 years to just came in peace with the fact that my knowledge has a lot of value as well and that marketers are not necessarily stupider than developers. It was this huge imposter syndrome backlash that I was fighting with. It was really surprising to hear from them back that they feel the same about marketing and sales. Some of the smartest project managers and developers, founders I know are petrified of sales, and sales is so natural to me. Give me something and I can do it. I learned to appreciate this teamwork and this radical transparency and just notion to self-improve and grow in certain areas because nobody is perfect. But if we work together, if we learn from each other, if we talk candidly, we can be much better people and business professionals.

[00:44:28.710] – Joran

Yeah, love it. Cool. This is going to conclude the final question. If we want to get in contact with you, Maja, where can they do and how should they reach out?

[00:44:37.550] – Maja

Linkedin is the most reliable source to do that. I try to create very valuable content there. This is what’s mission critical for me this early year. But nevertheless, just like in terms of some people, some experts are not really approachable. I am approachable, and some people even have my WhatsApp number. So never be afraid of just reaching out because after this podcast that we are recording, there are maybe 5 or 10 people who are reaching out. And as we said in this podcast, action triumphs anything. So don’t think that it’s a good idea to reach out. You should actually do it. I will, of course, nicely reply to everybody who reaches out because I appreciate your interest and attention a lot as well.

[00:45:23.020] – Joran

I can already say you’re going to have a fun conversation on LinkedIn already. Definitely reach out. What we’re going to do is we’re going to add a link to your LinkedIn profile. We’re going to add a link to your book, the go-to-market strategist best seller. Then we’re going to also add links towards the partnership videos you mentioned. Thanks again for coming on to the show, Maja.

[00:45:43.250] – Maja

Thanks for inviting me. It’s It’s also evident that you have gone through this process. You have a lot of empathy, a lot of good advice yourself, a lot of critical judgment of what worked for you. It was absolutely wonderful to talk.

[00:45:57.120] – Joran

Nice. Thank you for these compliments. Thank you Thank you for watching this show of the Grow Your B2B SaaS podcast. You made it till the end, so I think we can assume you like this content. If you did, give us a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel. If you like this content, feel free to reach out if you want to sponsor the show, if you have a specific guest in mind, if you have a specific topic you want us to cover, reach out to me on LinkedIn. More than happy to take a look at it. If you want to know more about where it is, feel free to reach out as well. But for now, have a great day and good luck growing your B2B SaaS.

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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