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10 Marketing, Sales and Company Growth Lessons From Jason Lemkin

10 Marketing, Sales and Company Growth Lessons From Jason Lemkin

If you’re building a B2B SaaS business today — it’s impossible to ignore Jason Lemkin.

Jason has been through a lot as a founder (notably SaaStr, EchoSign/Adobe), and has seen a lot as a VC. His advice is priceless for people who are running teams. He’s not your guy for tactical advice (“how to close a sale”) but he’s definitely your guy for strategy and management advice (“how to hire a sales leader who will help you increase sales by 20% every month”).

Here’s 10 things I’ve learned from Jason over the years.

1. Hold Your Marketing Team Accountable

Your VP Sales has a Sales quota, so your VP Marketing needs a Lead quota. Period.
via SaaStr

If your marketing team is spending time and resources on things like corporate videos or redesigning your website … they better have a good reason.

The function of marketing exists to drive more revenue. For B2B, marketers are typically accountable for qualified leads. B2C might be app installs or ecommerce conversions.

So if your marketing team is making ebooks, starting a YouTube channel, buying conference booths, sending email newsletters — why? What results do those drive?

Your marketing team has to be directly responsible for a number, and their activities must be aligned around that.

2. Know Your Leading and Lagging Indicators

But there’s a better metric, your Key Metric, you should track and score yourself to, and hold your VP Marketing and marketing team to — Qualified Lead Velocity Rate (LVR), your growth in qualified leads, measure month-over-month, every month.
It’s real time, not lagging, and it clearly predicts your future revenues and growth.
Jason Lemkin via SaaStr

Marketing KPIs can be used as business forecasting tool. When you understand your metrics at the top of the funnel, you can intuit the rest of the funnel conversions all the way down to sales and revenue figures.

As a team lead, having mastery over your leading indicators (web traffic, downloads, emails collected) affect your lagging indicators (sales, upsells, churn) helps you understand where the problems are and what you’ll need to do next.

Read next: The Best Marketing Books To Become a Better Marketer

3. Always Be “Hiring”

If you’re leading a team, it’s your responsibility to make sure you have a healthy pipeline of warm candidates who you can bring aboard. This gives you the ability to swap out people without being afraid that your team and your metrics will fall apart.

And knowing what the talent is like in the market also helps you benchmark your team. This helps you calibrate your expectations (are you being unrealistic? are your targets not aggressive enough?) or have a better sense of when it’s time to bring in new blood.

4. Hire People Based On Stage fit, Not Company Pedigree.

Another mistake: You hire because she worked at Salesforce, Box, Dropbox, wherever.
Jason Lemkin via SaaStr

Don’t hire someone just because they worked at Google. Hire someone because they have the skills you need right now, for your team stage.

In fact, it’s possible that hiring someone from Google or Activision or Nike or whatever huge successful name-brand company can screw with your team; these people usually bring with them a set of expectations and big-company norms. These can be dangerous for a startup that doesn’t have the same resources.

Think about what your team needs and make sure it matches what the hire can do. And the current mindset of the hire.

Jason gives an elegant example of the importance of stage fit in this Quora answer.

5. Senior Hires and Team Leads Take Time To Hire; Start Early

Forecast your hiring needs 6 months in advance, especially for senior hires. At some point, no matter how good you are individually, that only gets you so far. You’ll need to build a team of great people to help you increase your impact. And it takes time to woo, pitch, coax these great people to join your team.

Dig your well before you get thirsty.

6. You Want Your Salespeople To Drive Maseratis — Even When You Drive a Camry

Lavishly reward people who get you results.

When confronted with the price of something — like an expensive potential hire —  our brains obsess about the pain of cost, and our instinct is to flinch away from pain .

Aside from the salary and burn rate cost. And some founders will further flinch at the ego cost of employees potentially making more money than them.

But instead we should focus on the value gained. If your sales team making tons of money, that likely means your company is growing fast, which is the best outcome for everyone in the end.

7. SaaS Takes Time (At Least 24 Months)

You have to give it 24 months. To get to a truly sellable product. Simply to get it off the ground …Maybe sometimes it’s faster in B2C … I know it’s hard. I know you don’t have enough capital, or any capital. But the best founders still find a way.
Jason Lemkin via SaaStr

If you have any hint of product-market fit (for SaaS, Jason defines product-market fit as having 10 paying customers) — you can get to a sustainable business. But it takes time, and expect a brutal slog.

But regardless of your industry, don’t expect to be the overnight success. It happens, but they’re the outliers. It’s a grind, and expect it to take longer than you think.

8. When Starting — Pick a Channel And Dominate It

Jason started the entire SaaStr community almost exclusively with Quora answers:

You won’t always know what that channel is, and it may not be immediately intuitive. Jason hit the Quora goldmine basically by accident. But once you see an acquisition channel that works disproportionately well, keep pushing on it.

9. Obsess About NPS and Drive it up

Jason comes from a B2B SaaS background, where companies live and die by churn and expansion metrics. NPS is one of the best leading indicators for whether your current customers will leave you or increase their usage of your service.

But the point applies to any company — measure how much your customers love your product.

Aside from better MRR metrics, a high NPS leads to benefits on hard-to-measure things like branding and word of mouth, which act as multipliers at any stage.

10. The Easiest Way To Grow? Increase ARPU

Algolia started off with price points as low as $19 a month. While Algolia is still very cheap for basic usage, they quickly learned how to accommodate larger and larger customers and deal sizes as well … and that’s the fastest way to $10m in ARR.
Jason Lemkin via SaaStr

To lots of people, “growth” means increasing the flow at the top of the funnel. More traffic, pageviews, installs. Some might even say conversions.

But to Jason, the most important growth lever is ARPU. If Jason ever advises your company, expect him to immediately find ways to increase your LTV / average order value metrics.