When you don’t know that you don’t know, it’s a lot different than when you do know that you don’t know.  Knowledge is confidence.  And confidence lets you play fast.                                                             

                                                                                                                                 – Bill Parcells


Reflecting on a work life lived in the world of SaaS, it’s compelling how the practices of Product Management, Performance Marketing and Sales have each evolved at a breakneck pace. And how they have become more and more alike in their foundation.

Like Triplets Separated at Birth.

We all know that tectonic trends in data science, predictive analytics and consumerization of IT all present huge opportunities for building the next generation of great software companies.

But each also brings a mandate for entrepreneurial teams to adopt and install data-driven, disciplined — almost scientific — operating cultures in product management, marketing, and sales — to a degree few imagined five short years ago.

This change of state has totally transformed how to look at strategy formation, executive management and daily activities alike in each of these functional areas of an emerging startup.

One of the earliest SaaS companies to “get it” was LogMeIn (Nasdaq: LOGM), where we were and early investor and where I served on the BoD.

In my mind, they were the pioneers and a reigning benchmark for Product, Marketing and Sales launching themselves together into the current generation.

@seanellis (LOGM VPM and now CEO of GrowthHackers/Qualaroo, after having built the growth engines of Dropbox, Lookout, Eventbrite and others),  @andrewfburton (SVP Product and now CEO of Logentries) and ex-SVP Sales Kevin Harrison were all on the same page in driving this manner of thought and practice. Each led by the unified vision of CEO Michael Simon.

Each functional team installed and drove a culture of using data to sample, test, measure and iterate.

And then to re-sample, re-measure, re-test and reiterate — to build user-elegant products, transform performance marketing to aggregate users, optimize funnel and accelerate conversion.  And to refine the link between data, experimentation and execution to drive a world-class, high velocity selling machine.

All incorporated a culture which embraced not just metrics, quant analysis and testing — but also the practice of treating customers —  users — as partners in learning how to rinse and repeat.

Growth Hacking before Growth Hacking.

I spend every day with SaaS companies.  Each is different, yet themes are consistent.

Each strives to strike the right harmony with its users in optimizing the Product/Market fit journey.

Each strives to drive the never-ending journey of experimenting, testing, projecting and tweaking the activity/metrics mix which creates the ultimate growth hacking recipe.

Each strives to experiment, test and adjust their self-service, inside sales and business development models in order to tailor interpretation of high velocity.

Some use predictive and guiding data science technology – like – to push the envelope towards acceleration.

I often hear some execs and investors claim that they have “the playbook” for Product/Performance Marketing/High Velocity Sales that applies universally to SaaS startups.

They are either misinformed, inexperienced, or misleading.  Hey, I’m being kind.

There is no “playbook”.  No one size that fits all.

But there are cultural and operational principles which form the foundation by which repeatability can be iterated and tested.

Product Management, Performance Marketing and New Age High Velocity selling models — and leadership — now have more in common that many would believe.

Building a culture and selecting teams which are driven to experiments, measurements, tests, analysis — a constant life cycle of iteration.  Using customers as their partners. A culture which recognizes the interdependencies of each of the three functions.

Building great growth and sales engines in line with the products being sold.  And the products coming down the runway.

The great companies – and their CEOs – “get it’ and recruit and select leaders and teams which share a common passion to use data, technology, customers and testing disciplines to hack their way to velocity, scale and greatness.

Selecting a new age Sales VP is to look for qualities not unlike a growth hacking Marketer or best-in-class Product Manager.

Product Management, Performance Marketing, High Velocity Sales.

Like Triplets Separated at Birth.

Categories: Polaris

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