As a SaaS founder, it is crucial to understand how to get customer insight and leverage them for the growth of your Saas business. In today’s episode, our guest is Katya Ryabova. Katya enlightens us on Customer-led Growth strategy and its place in a SaaS company. As a researcher and consultant, Katya advised over a dozen SaaS and tech companies.
Why you need to listen to Katya – As a certified Customer-Led Growth consultant, She has gained immense experience working with many SaaS and tech companies. Over the past 13 years, she has built on her social research background to help SaaS founders to run their customer research and turn it into actionable insight that informs the decision-making on their product and marketing.
What is Customer-Led Growth strategy (CLG)– Katya defines Customer-Led Growth strategy as an array of repeatable strategies that a business owner can implement at every strategy to realize growth. It entails gathering customer information, interpreting it, and mapping it according to the ideal customer profile. It is an effective strategy for understanding the gaps and opportunities in the market to enable customers to find you and convert quicker. Katya clarifies that CLG is not a substitute or competitor to sales-led growth or Product-Led Growth strategies. She sees it as a foundation by which a SaaS founder can implement along with other Go to Market strategies.
Minimum requirements for implementing CLG strategy – Katya observes that, from its very name, ‘customers’ are the bare minimum for adopting the customer-led growth strategy at a company. In the pre-market stage, you can implement strategies for audience research to discover your product-market fit. CLG strategy serves best when you are transitioning from the initial stage to starting scaling and having paying customers.
Importance of understanding your ideal customer profile (ICP) – CLG strategy aims to gain a thorough knowledge of your ICP. It is crucial to focus on your ICP to attain sustainable growth. This calls for repeating the framework annually in order to keep up to date with the changing ICP.
Metrics for measuring the success of CLG strategy – Katya reckons that the key performance indicators (KPIs) for tracking the success of the CLG strategy depend on the product and customer. She believes that there are many standout metrics for measuring that success. During the early stage in the customer journey during acquisition, the traffic to the website is the most common metric for measuring the success of CLG strategy.
Common mistakes in implementing CLG strategy – Our guest expert cites the failure to not implement CLG strategy as the common mistake among most companies. She invites companies to work with mentors and consultants in order to undertake the framework well. As such, they should embrace customer research in order to gain valuable insight into the customer.
Strategies for implementing CLG – Overall, CLG entails identifying the ideal customer profile and then undertaking research on them through interviews or surveys. This research provides insight into struggle, motivation, and outcome as such, it helps to understand customers’ challenges before using your product/service, how they found your product and the product value that informs their loyalty.
Generally, the process entails collecting customer research, analyzing and distilling emerging themes, mapping top-priority jobs on your customer journey map, and making decisions on filling the gaps and capitalizing on existing opportunities.
Challenges when implementing CLG strategy – Our guest expert admits that running customer research with customers through phone calls is often challenging. People need to be more forthcoming with booking and answering calls. To overcome this challenge, she advises you to ask them nicely and offer incentives to participate in the research. Also, it is difficult for teams to choose and prioritize among different customer groups. She proposes that you focus on a particular customer group at a time, say quarterly. Further, You should have alignment within the organization to achieve seamless implementation of the CLG strategy.
Seeking a mentor or consultant for CLG strategy – When you are experiencing stunted growth in your SaaS business, then it is time you consider seeking the help of a mentor or consultant on CLG strategy.
Affiliate marketing and Customer-Led Growth strategy – Katya describes affiliate marketing as a perfect acquisition tool for customers during the early stages when customers are discovering your product. It is also great in the growth phase to take advantage of expansion opportunities by affiliating with other companies that are not competition.
Advice to SaaS companies depending on their revenue – As an early-stage startup growing to 10k MRR, you should focus on customer research through founder interviews to understand why they chose your product. Also, you should find out what informs customer loyalty and churn.
A SaaS company growing to 1M ARR you should run customer research to identify customer jobs to do, prioritize and map them. Also, it would be best to involve all departmental teams in the customer research instead of limiting it to a single team
- (0:30) Introduction of today’s topic and guest expert
- (1:28) Why do you need to listen to Katya
- (02:01) What is a Customer-Led Growth strategy (CLG)
- (05:08) Minimum requirements for implementing CLG strategy
- (06:54) Importance of understanding your ideal customer profile (ICP)
- (08:58) Metrics for measuring the success of CLG strategy
- (10:35) Common mistakes in implementing CLG strategy
- (14:54) Strategies for implementing CLG
- (21:32) Challenges when implementing CLG strategy
- (25:57) Seeking a mentor or consultant for CLG strategy
- (28:24) Affiliate marketing and Customer-Led Growth strategy
- (29:42) Advice to SaaS companies depending on their revenue
- (33:48) Katya’s contact information
Introduction to Katya Ryabova
00:30 – Joran Hofman
Welcome back to another episode of the Grow your B2B SaaS Podcast. Our goal is to help you grow your B2B SaaS. We already talked about customer success in another show. Today, we’re going to take it one step further. How can you gather customer insights and leverage them for the growth of your SaaS, also known as the customer-led growth strategy?
We’re going to talk with Katya Ryabova today. As we say in Dutch, she has been able to look in the kitchen of many SaaS companies. What does it mean? She advised over a dozen SaaS companies. As a researcher and a consultant with these insights, she knows the mistakes you want to avoid and how to use the available customer data to accelerate your growth. Katya helps startups create a clear, repeatable framework for identifying optimization opportunities and gaps at every step of your customers buying journey. With the result, a sustainable growth strategy.
Without further ado, welcome to the show, Katya.
01:25 – Katya Ryabova
Hi, great to be here.
01:27 – Joran Hofman
Great. I guess for people who are unconvinced after the introduction, why should people listen to you today?
01:33 – Katya Ryabova
As you said, I worked with over a dozen SaaS companies and tech companies, helping them run their customer research and turn it into actionable insight to make decisions about the product and about their marketing. I’m a researcher with a sociology background. I’ve been in marketing for over 13 years at this point, which is crazy to think about. I’m also a certified customer-led growth consultant, which we’ll probably talk about more in detail in a minute.
What is customer-led Growth?
02:00 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. That’s going to be the first question. Customer-led growth, like probably a lot of people don’t know it yet, it is a growth strategy. What does customer-led growth mean to you?
02:10 – Katya Ryabova
I want to start by saying that when I talk about customer-led growth, it’s the capital C, capital L, and capital G framework that was defined and applied multiple times by my mentors Claire Swelling, Trope, and Georgia, and Alaudi. They are the ones who I would say pioneered customer-led growth. And what it is.
It’s just a set of strategies and tactics that you can collect all into one framework, that is, repeatable, that you can do and implement at every stage of growth of your company, which rests really on three, four important things, collecting customer research, interpreting that customer research to understand the jobs to be done that your ideal customers have, and then mapping those customer jobs on a customer journey map.
This gives you a really clear idea of the gaps and opportunities that you can address and fill along the way to make sure that your customers are finding you quicker, converting quicker, and are getting the value out of your product in the shortest amount of time possible.
03:14 – Katya Ryabova
So, a long answer to the really simple question what is customer Led growth? It’s not a strategy to substitute other growth frameworks. It’s not a competitor, I would say to sales-Led growth. It’s not a competitor to product Led growth. I think about it as a basis that you can arrest any other strategy you want. Because if you’re customer centric, if you’re used to collecting customer insight, if you’re used to operationalizing this customer insight, you can build your company and you can build your product in any way you want.
Whether you lean on your sales team, whether you’re marketing Led, or whether you build a self-service product, it all applies. Customer Led growth is not a competitor. It is something that you can use as a foundation to grow in any way you want.
How does Customer-led growth differ from other growth Strategies?
04:01 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. Yeah, and there was one question I wanted to ask, I guess, like how does it differ from other growth strategies? You’re saying it’s not a substitute, you will have to use it in conjunction with any other strategy.
04:12 – Katya Ryabova
Yeah, I find it important to point out because it could be treated as another buzzword or another something Led growth. So it is catchy. I think this is why we like using it. We don’t insist on customer Led growth. We can just as easily talk about building in collecting customer insight into your process, becoming customer-centric, and listening to your customers in a smart way, it doesn’t mean that you have to do everything your customers tell you to.
You need to look a little deeper to find out what makes them switch to your product, what makes them buy, and what makes them stick around. This is customer-like growth at its core, but we don’t have to call it that. As long as we follow its principles, you can call it anything we want. Again, you can lean on sales, you can lean on marketing, you can lean on self-service products, inbound, outbound, whatever you want.
What should be in place to start with Customer-led Growth?
05:03 – Joran Hofman
For today, we are going to call it customer Led growth, but indeed you can call it anything you want. When a company wants to start with customer growth, like what should be a minimum in place to get started?
05:15 – Katya Ryabova
At a minimum, you have to have customers.
05:18 – Joran Hofman
05:19 – Katya Ryabova
If you’re pre-market, you can still apply some of the principles to audience research, to trying to find that initial product market fit. Ideally, the best fit for customer-like growth is when you’re just exiting that early stage, when you’re starting to scale. When you have paying customers, they’re happy to pay you that you can talk to and figure out what actually made them into those loyal customers if you don’t have that, gets a little trickier. I would say having some our base, even if it’s small, is the minimum requirement.
05:50 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, and I think this is one of the reasons why it works really well with different growth strategies. Right? Because you have to start somewhere and you can’t start with customer-led growth. You have to pick a different growth strategy before and then you can go dive deeper into customer-led.
06:03 – Katya Ryabova
Again, when you’re just starting out and we’ll talk about it a little more, for sure you’re still trying to figure out which direction you’re going. You have your product, but you have different customers who might be signing up for different reasons. You don’t necessarily know which one of these you would want to prioritize just because you’re still starting out. If your sample is ten customers, that won’t give you a really solid idea or a very solid reason to stick to one versus another.
You can still listen to the customers, obviously, but it gets a little easier to prioritize when you have a larger pool to choose from. Principles can be applied at any point, but you will see the benefits and be able to actually operationalize, which is the word I’m going to use a lot, the insight you collect when you start scaling already.
The importance of having an Ideal Customer Profile defined?
06:53 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, that makes sense. I guess maybe then one question here, like how important do you think to always keep track of your ideal customer profile? Because you can have a lot of clients, right? In the end you want to focus on ideal clients or the ideal customer clients. How important do you think it is to focus on your ICP as well?
07:11 – Katya Ryabova
The goal of the framework at any point is to actually understand your ICP better. If you don’t have that understanding, move towards actually finding out where your ICP is. Because at an early stage, what you commonly see is that we don’t really know. We’re guessing here, we’re guessing there. Again, this is very common, this is normal at an early stage.
When you’re hitting that point where you need to start growing, not haphazardly, but in a more sustainable, I could use the word predictable way, you need to constantly refresh and refine your ICP because your ICP at every stage might look very different. This is why repeating the framework is actually really valuable.
My clients that I work with, I recommend they do it at least every year. This is really arbitrary advice. Obviously, some companies decide to do it every six months. Some companies do it every year, maybe every year and a half every two years, even though I think two years is a bit of a stretch when there is a big change in the economy or in the specific situation of the company.
08:11 – Katya Ryabova
Now, in 2023, this is a great example of the economy changing quite rapidly and in some ways unpredictably. Now is a really good time to do this, to see how your ICP is reacting to the changes. Have your ICP changed? Do you want to change direction?
Maybe you want to, maybe not pivot, but serve a different type of customer that in the past perhaps was someone you didn’t prioritize for whatever reason. It is important to do this work continuously. This is unfortunately not a one and done deal. Your ICP changes, your personas, quote, unquote, the jobs to be done of your customers change and you need to keep up with those changes.
What are the Metrics to measure for the Customer-led growth model?
08:56 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, I think this is really good advice. If we go back to customer led growth. Let’s say you have happy clients, let’s say you have a customer base. What would be the key metrics you track to measure the success of the customer-led growth strategy?
09:10 – Katya Ryabova
I’m going to give the answer that we’ll love to give and we’ll hate to hear. Ready for it? It depends, first of all, on defining the KPIs. Key performance indicators that you are going to use to measure success is a big part of the framework. First of all, and it depends really on your product and on your customer, how the customer is using the product and what exactly are they finding in the product that give them that first value quickly. It is a really general answer, but I cannot say without any specific example, there is no way to decide which metric would be the most important.
Now, at an early stage, if we think about the customer journey, when we’re focused on acquisition, very common metric that you would measure is the traffic to your website, let’s say new unique visits. That’s very common. The trial sign ups would be another common one.
10:03 – Katya Ryabova
I’m not saying that this is true for everyone, but it’s common. Once we get into the evaluation, when the customer is already trialing, when they’re trying to get to their job to be done, that’s when it gets murky. This is when you really need to look into the product and what the customers are actually doing to know what metrics would be the most important to measure and which ones you can safely ignore.
What are common mistakes made with implementing a Customer-led growth Strategy?
10:25 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, it makes sense because in every SaaS company, you focus on different things and in the end, it all comes down to where do your clients get value. And then you turn those into metrics. Let’s dive into always a fun topic for me. What are the most common mistakes companies make while trying to implement that growth?
10:44 – Katya Ryabova
The most common mistake is not doing it, I think. I do want to say that because the framework, customer-led growth framework is not really well known yet, everyone who I worked with who wanted to implement it, they were already sold on it. They were on board with customer research. They understood that they needed to listen to their customers, to center their customers and they wanted to make that change.
Not superficially as in every couple of months we run a survey and call it a day, but make it into a process of collecting that insight and implementing that insight into the decision making, basically. If we talk about companies who want the CLG framework, they either work with my mentors or with a bunch of other consultants that they’re certified. They’re good, we’ll help them, they’re good. There’s also a book coming out about customer-like growth, I think in May.
11:37 – Katya Ryabova
Hopefully it will become more well-known. I think what’s important for most other companies is just the idea, of getting comfortable with the idea of actually doing customer research. I recognize that this is a scary phrase. A lot of people have very different associations. When someone says customer research, they imagine a long, lengthy, involved, time-consuming, expensive project which doesn’t have to be that at all. Starting with collecting customer research, I think is the most important first step and a lot of companies still don’t do it.
There’s a statistic that I probably won’t be able to trace the source for, but I’m going to say it anyway so that only one in ten companies collect any customer insight, any sort. We don’t know about what kind of research they’re doing, if it’s just to question survey or if is it interviews. That means that nine out of ten companies don’t talk to their customers at all.
12:36 – Katya Ryabova
They’re essentially guessing what is needed, what is important, what they can let go, whether it’s in development, whether it’s features marketing, what have you. I think being comfortable understanding that maybe guessing is not the most sustainable way to grow is the first step.
The second step is letting go of the fear that customer research is difficult and time consuming because it doesn’t have to be, it can be. You can definitely make it as complicated as you want, but it isn’t necessary to get the insight that will really help you make decisions.
13:10 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. With anything, you can make it as time consuming as you can. You can jump on our calls with clients, but that is going to take you weeks or months to do something, or you can make something a bit more scalable.
13:20 – Katya Ryabova
Of course, it is much easier when exactly what you want to ask and if your idea if you have that idea that you want to understand how they came to you, what happened in their life that they came to you and why they stuck around, what motivated them to keep going in your product and what made them certain that the product is helpful and that gave them that better life.
I’m using the jobs to be done theory phrasing right now, if this is what you want to know, there are five questions that you can ask. You need maybe 1520 minutes of your customer’s time to get answers. When you get those answers, you talk to 510, 15 customers, however many you have, and you already have a better idea. If we’re talking about implementing a customer legal framework formally, we recommend a few more interviews. We normally go for 1015 at a minimum.
14:12 – Katya Ryabova
If we’re talking about service, we would want 25, 30, 50 quality responses. Generally speaking, that’s not that many. If you have 1000 customers, getting to 50 survey responses isn’t very difficult as long as you’re focused and as long as you’re asking. And a lot of companies don’t. They ask about features.
They ask leading questions. They’re biased in how they approach the interview, which is, again, very understandable and very normal. The research is only as good as you make it. If you don’t use it after you collect it, then you might as well not do it. And most companies don’t. And that’s a bit of a circle.
What are some Strategies and processes for the Customer led Growth model?
14:46 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. In the end, you all have to start. You might make some mistakes at the beginning, but in the end, you will learn from those for sure. You mentioned the framework a lot. Can you share maybe some strategies, or processes you’ve used to implement a customer led growth strategy at one of your clients or all your clients?
15:03 – Katya Ryabova
Yes. So, again, I think the value of customer-led growth as a framework, again, as a process, is that it’s very defined, and standardized, and it doesn’t change in general, it doesn’t change. Of course, each company has a specific set of customers. They have a specific set of challenges. They have different teams that sometimes need to be on board. But overall, the process is the same.
The process starts with identifying a group of customers you want to learn from, which are paying customers. We always, want the customers that are actually paying for the privilege of using our product because we want that kind of leap of faith of handing the credit card for something. We then run research on these customers. So, as I mentioned, it could be interviews, it could be surveys. Either with interviews or surveys, we’re asking very specific questions that follow the jobs to be done framework.
15:59 – Katya Ryabova
Sorry? Not framework theory. It’s a theory, it’s not a framework. Again, those are understanding the struggle that our customers had before they signed up for a product, how they found our product, what made them stick around and give the product a try, and then what made them into loyal customers, what better life our product delivered that they cannot live without it now.
That struggle, motivation, and desired outcome are the three key components that we’re trying to uncover in the research. After we do that, we analyze the data that we collected to see if there are any themes among customers to then identify the main most common jobs to be done that our customers are solving with our product. And usually there’s way more than one. Sometimes in rare cases there is one job. I had one client where they had a pretty large customer base.
16:51 – Katya Ryabova
We ran a survey, it was only a survey, we didn’t do any interviews. When I got to analyzing the data and I got all themes and I saw all the struggles and I was trying to figure out I saw one job and then I was trying to get at a different one because I could see that there’s something there. After struggling for I thought to myself maybe there’s just one job. It turns out that yes, in very rare cases the customers just shared overall the same struggle and the motivations that they had that helped them stick around the product. They were also very similar. We defined that one job and it was very easy after because we didn’t have to prioritize and choose between jobs. Once you have those jobs, then the team needs to make a decision on which of the jobs we’re going to prioritize for the time being.
17:41 – Katya Ryabova
Because it’s very important that you focus one set of customers at a time. It’s not to say that you’re going to ignore them for the rest of your company’s life. As we talked about, your ICP changes, you change direction. You can choose to focus on different ICPS at different times, but when you run through the framework you need to choose one. After we choose, what we do is we map their customer journey quite literally on a map. It ends up being quite a large whiteboard or can be done in a spreadsheet. That doesn’t really matter where we visually map their journey from before they knew that our product existed, to finding out, to understanding that they have a problem, to finding different solutions, to evaluating our product as a potential solution and then choosing it as the solution that helps them to solve their job.
18:31 – Katya Ryabova
The latest stage is when they’re the very happily paying, loyal, you can pride out of my cold hands kind of customers, where there are opportunities for growth, for upselling, for serving them in different ways. At this point they’re ready sold their job to be done. That map is then used as well as a guide. Basically. That usually makes it very clear where the gaps are, how we can serve our customers better at any stage of the journey, where we can bring them to value quicker, where we can do a better job of acquiring them, where we can do a better job of showing them why they should give our product a try.
There are also opportunities that become really apparent, some low hanging fruit that you can solve for without massive investment, whether from your team’s time or money or what have you. After that, the final step is just basically making decisions on which of these gaps and opportunities to prioritize and the tactics to make it happen.
19:32 – Katya Ryabova
I gave a much more to your answer than I thought I would, but the process again is the same. One, collect customer research to analyze and distill themes from it. Three, map the top priority customer job on a customer journey map. Four, make decisions about filling the gaps and capitalizing on opportunities. In a nutshell, it is it. You can repeat that at any point for any business challenge or any problem that you have.
20:04 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, and I really like a couple of things you said, as you mentioned, with the journey, you’re also starting before they become a client or before they sign up. So you’re also looking at the acquisition.
20:14 – Katya Ryabova
Super important to know that there’s life before your product and it often gives you clues on how to acquire better-fit customers earlier on and quicker.
20:24 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. Customer led is not just trying to sell them more and you even took that word off, you said serve them more, which I thought it was interesting. It’s not just expanding them, it’s not just keeping them, but it’s also helping you to grow from the beginning of the funnel.
20:39 – Katya Ryabova
Again, I think what can get lost sometimes is what I really am trying to remind myself sometimes about as well is that being customer led means truly prioritizing the interests of your customer and being in service to your customer and making decisions that make their lives easier. Obviously making sure that you grow along the way, that you’re able to serve them sustainably and be comfortable as a business and make a profit. For sure. At its core, it’s still about knowing that you have a product that is supposed to help people in whichever way and making sure that you’re doing that in the best way for you and for them.
What are the challenges faced when implementing a customer-led Growth Strategy?
21:21 – Joran Hofman
And this is the most ideal scenario. Right. You set up the framework, you walk through the processes. It’s not always happening like this, I can imagine. When you start working with clients, can you give us some examples of challenges, and obstacles you face while implementing the customer-led growth strategy?
21:38 – Katya Ryabova
Sure. The first one that occurs to me is that it’s not always as easy to get customers on the phone.
Obviously, the first step is collecting research and sometimes people are just not as forthcoming with booking a call or showing up to a call and it can be overcome. You just need to build more time into your project time frame to make sure that you can follow up with people, that you can give them a bit more time to schedule a time with you.
You can offer incentives to participate in research, although I always recommend first just asking, ask them nicely first and then if you want, you can offer an incentive. What’s funny to me is that in that way, running research is really seasonally dependent. I recommend to never start trying customer research in December. Because unless you get people the first week of December, the Christmas holidays just overwrite everything and you might become a bit disillusioned with the process if you try to get people on the phone a week before Christmas.
22:43 – Katya Ryabova
That’s one thing that’s a challenge but it can be overcome. It’s just something to be prepared for and obviously, as a researcher saw it all and we usually get to the number of respondents we need. It just sometimes takes a bit more time. That’s one, there usually aren’t any problems with the research itself because we know exactly what questions we’re asking, we know exactly what we’re trying to do.
That just comes down to the skill of the consultant and or to the team capacity because sometimes my clients want to do it themselves and they just need a hand to facilitate. I don’t always do it for the clients, I can do it with the clients as well. Although a lot of times they like no you do it for me, no problem. What I see a lot and I actually don’t have a solution for it is prioritizing.
23:3 – Katya Ryabova
Choosing between different customers is difficult. It’s difficult for teams, it’s difficult for founders because I think it’s human nature and psychology that you don’t want to miss out. When you have say two groups of customers that love your product for very different reasons and they use it in very different ways and when you’re asked okay, you have to choose one, it’s challenging and sometimes it helps to remind them that again, you don’t have to prioritize one over this other forever.
You can just focus on one set of clients for say this quarter and then next quarter you can focus on your other group of customers. But making that decision is difficult. What it comes down to again, just giving it a shot, giving it a try and prioritizing one, and seeing what happens because you can always go back to serving everyone and you can always say yes, our product is for everyone, please don’t do that.
24:24 – Katya Ryabova
Your product is never for everyone.
24:26 – Joran Hofman
24:26 – Katya Ryabova
That’s another I think most of the challenges are really the challenges that have to do with people, with how people communicate, with whether there is alignment among teams. This is not specific to the framework. I think this is just inherent to running a business and building a company and this is something that you can overcome only by working on the team communication and how you get buy-in for specific things and how well you align behind wanting to become customer led and wanting to be customer centric. It is not an easy switch. Again, if you’re approaching maturity, and you’ve never run customer research. It’s tough, but it can be done.
25:03 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, because it is going to involve a lot of departments within a company, of course. Somebody makes a decision, you want to go towards this growth strategy, but it doesn’t mean it’s just that person or that department. It will involve everybody within the company.
25:16 – Katya Ryabova
That’s why it’s always a great idea to align before you even start the work. If we’re starting formally on CLG customer led growth, it’s important to make sure that we’re all aligned, at least on the surface, so that we can bring everyone back together when we’re making decisions about priorities and how to fill those gaps and use those opportunities. Because if there’s no consensus on why are we even doing this, it probably will not go very far. It will still be useful. Again, customer research is useful no matter what. If you even start listening to your customers, that’s better than nothing. But alignment within the organization for sure.
When to ask Katya for help?
25:55 – Joran Hofman
Important for people who are listening now and think, okay, we definitely need to start with customer led growth. Why and when should SaaS companies consider reaching out to you for help?
26:06 – Katya Ryabova
If you’re completely sold in customer led growth, then what it is, and hopefully I gave some an idea of what it is. You can definitely get in touch with me so that we can solve a specific problem or challenge you’re facing. Stagnant growth is one of the most common reasons why clients come to us. So that’s one. We can either do it together I can facilitate and lead you through the process, or I can also be the one running all the research and analyzing all the data. However, I’m a big advocate for baby steps. As I said, a lot of companies don’t do any customer listening or communicating that is. If you think that you want to start with customer research, and I think you should, you can bring me on board to help you develop the processes for collecting that customer research and turning it into insight that you can actually use to make decisions.
27:01 – Katya Ryabova
It doesn’t have to be a full on, let’s run a big research project, let’s map everything, and let’s revamp our strategy from start to finish. It can be that if you want it. If you want to dip your toes into customer research, i, as a researcher, would be delighted. Because it’s one of my favorite parts about the framework and because it’s one of the pillars that it rests on. You can’t do it without research that it’s very important to start with.
27:26 – Joran Hofman
That nice. Baby steps. If you need somebody holding your hand, then definitely talk to Katya.
27:32 – Katya Ryabova
Oh, yes, you always need someone holding your hand. Jordan I think in any aspects of life, you’ll do much better when someone’s holding your hand.
27:41 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. Or at least showing you the way. Nice.
27:44 – A
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How does Affiliate Marketing fit into Customer-led Growth Strategy?
28:24 – Joran Hofman
We’re an affiliate marketing company, so we basically help SaaS companies to grow via the network. How do you see affiliate marketing fit into the customer led growth strategy?
28:34 – Katya Ryabova
Great question. If we think about that customer journey map that I mentioned so we have those phases. We have the very early problem state phase where the customer doesn’t necessarily know that you exist, that your product exists, but they have a problem.
I think affiliate marketing could be a great acquisition tool here. If you’re the one running an affiliate marketing program, you can acquire customers that way who will better fit because they’re coming through someone that they trust. I also think if you are the one participating in an affiliate marketing program, you can implement it at the growth phase.
That late phase where you have happy customers that you’re serving in the best way you can, but perhaps there are expansion opportunities there that you can offer them something that your product doesn’t necessarily do. If you’re an affiliate for a product that can help your customers, I think that could fit in that late part of the journey as well.
29:33 – Katya Ryabova
Either very early or either very late on evaluation needs to be focused all on you and on your product with no distractions.
Advice for SaaS founders growing to 10k MRR
29:41 – Joran Hofman
Definitely makes sense. We’re coming to the end of the show. I always like to ask these two questions at the end. We talk about customer led growth, what kind of advice would you give companies or other SaaS founders in these two different stages? Starting with somebody just growing to ten k MRR, what kind of advice would you give to them?
30:00 – Katya Ryabova
Because it’s still early for you’re still small. You can use it to your advantage to instill that customer centricity early on. You can model it. You can start collecting some easy customer research at any point without necessarily, again, relying on the whole framework to try and operationalize the insight that you gather for three customers might be a bit too early for that. Again, taking advantage of the fact that your team is small, that your communication is probably much easier.
You can implement founder interviews, for example. At this point, the founder can easily talk to customers who sign up to find out what made them sign up. You can add a one-question survey at the end of the sign up process to ask them, hey, what brought you to our product today? Which gives you a great idea of how they found you and why they’re here in the first place.
30:52 – Katya Ryabova
Then, because at an early stage, obviously, the focus is acquisition, we just need more customers. You can use the research and the principles of customer growth to improve retention and to understand what makes those early customers stick with you and also what makes some of the customers leave and maybe not focus on that. Doubling down on what works, but knowing what works, you will need to ask your customers, even if they’re still few and far in between.
Advice for B2B SaaS founders growing to 1m ARR.
For the 1 million arr. At this stage, you should have a really great pool of customers to run full on research projects on. This is where you’re probably running into issues of how do I grow in a predictable way? How can I influence my growth in predictable ways? This is where a full framework will come in very handy. This is where you would run your customer research.
31:43 – Katya Ryabova
You would identify the customer jobs to be done. You would need to prioritize one to solve at a time, map them on the map to find those opportunities and to solve specific problems that you have. This is where the cross team communication and alignment is something that’s going to become a challenge. If we talked about that very early stage company who started implementing bits and pieces of customer research, if you grew to trying to get to 1 million AR, you already have the seeds of customer centricity that you just need to double down on. I think at this point, if we talk about research specifically, one piece of advice I would give is that don’t let it be owned by one specific team. The research is something that will be used by everyone. It’s marketing, product sales, customer success. They will all benefit from having that research.
32:35 – Katya Ryabova
Don’t put it all in one team to run it, because when it’s shared, it’s more likely to be helpful across teams. When it’s not owned by just one team.
32:46 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, and that makes sense because then they have ownership of the end results or they help to get the end results, or they also feel a lot more how do you say it connected with the research instead of just another department saying something to you?
32:59 – Katya Ryabova
Exactly. When you’re the one owning part of the research, if you are the ones running research collectively, yeah, you’re bought in because you’re part of it and exactly what you’re trying to get out of it, which is serving your customer better. That’s something that every team should be able to get behind.
Final thoughts & contact details Katya
33:14 – Joran Hofman
Any final thoughts? Things you want to share with our listeners today before we finish the show?
33:20 – Katya Ryabova
I think we covered a lot. I think I try to give a lot of advice and I think most listeners like, how does this apply to me? No, I hope it’s been helpful and interesting. I could talk about it for hours and hours. I promise to talk your ear off. I hope I did that in a symbolic way.
33:37 – Joran Hofman
No, I really enjoyed this. I mentioned it a couple of times in the show already. I’m running this podcast also for myself to learn a lot of things and I definitely learned a lot today again. So thank you for that.
33:47 – Katya Ryabova
I’m happy to hear.
33:48 – Joran Hofman
I guess if people do want to talk with you for hours, how do they get in contact with you? What would be the best way to contact you?
33:55 – Katya Ryabova
The best way is LinkedIn because I do share a lot of my thoughts on customer-like growth and research there. You can follow me on LinkedIn or DM or Book A Call, because all the links to Book a Call are on my LinkedIn profile, which is LinkedIn.com in Katya K-A-T-Y-A-R. LinkedIn is the best because I check it all the time. Also, you can be a lurker there. You don’t have to get in touch right away if you want to learn more first.
34:24 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. I would definitely recommend lurking on the content from Katyaka. We’ve been connected for a while and you do indeed put out good content, so I will share the link because your name is probably tricky for a lot of people, but it’s Katya Riabova, if I pronounce it correctly. But the link.
34:38 – Katya Ryabova
Yeah. You’re doing a great job of it.
34:40 – Joran Hofman
Cheers. Thanks again for coming on the show, Katya.
34:42 – Katya Ryabova
Thanks so much. Jordan it’s been a pleasure.