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  • Houman Asefi

SaaS Strategy Manifesto; Essential Building Blocks for Revenue Growth

It is absolutely essential for business leaders to hold themselves accountable for their own principles and values. This is why, I drafted my very own Strategy Manifesto, to outline world-class principles and my vision for the world.




The 2020 coronavirus pandemic showed us how businesses are fragile. Many businesses are not prepared to react fast enough to market fluctuations. UK economy* shrank by 20% as the result of the crisis and many businesses wiped out. As a result, many people lost their jobs and now are dependent on government help and stimulus packages.

The idea of this document is to stop this once and for all. I am not talking about stopping the crisis from happening. Now, we are confident that every 10 years we will have a crisis that can hit the world economy.


My goal is to help businesses become bullet-proof. Making sure that all the businesses around the world are able to deal with the economy crises and even thrive when it comes to external forces like the current pandemic. This manifesto will act as a bible to drive predictable growth for businesses that are applying these principles to make their mark in the industry even during crisis.


Up until 2016, “Change” was the new constant. Now the era of “Uncertainty” has begun and CIOs need to figure a way to deal with this new dilemma. I have lot of conversations with technology leaders and when I start asking questions around where they want to go, or what areas they want to improve, or when they want to achieve their goals and targets, I hear one answer all the time:”I do not know!” It is no wonder that even technology leaders do not know what solutions and what capabilities they need to have now so they can support and enable the business in the coming years. The world of business and technology is so complicated that simply putting a flat and simple strategy together can not guarantee the success of the business.


The issue is when the business cannot identify what value they need, how technology can satisfy those unknown needs?


The world of business is becoming more and more complicated. Businesses are no longer able to mark their territories and competition. They no longer can identify who will be their competition in the coming years and how startups will challenge them in what way. Mergers and Acquisitions still not working and many of them fail to deliver the value that was anticipated. New products and services are coming to the market just as a response to competition and not as the result of a comprehensive market research or target market value proposition. Emerging market response to business investment in addition to political complexity in the middle east will increase the risk of any investment with a high level of uncertainty around what will be the best set of decisions to exploit new markets. Now the business expects from their technology arm (IT) to play a strategic role in accordance with the business outcomes and help the business make better decisions. The issue is when the business cannot identify what value they need, how technology can satisfy those unknown needs? Startups are disrupting the market faster than ever. Digital forces are coming from each side of the market; All of these forces are making dramatic changes in the market positioning and brand of an organization and guess what happens if your company does not respond fast enough? You die. Startups are disrupting the market faster than ever. Digital forces are coming from each side of the market; customer demands for fully integrated digital services and products, partners that are trying to reinvent themselves, direct competitors that are realigning their messaging and strategy, indirect companies that are expanding their footprint into other industries and targeting new segments which traditionally they always avoid. All of these forces are making dramatic changes in the market positioning and brand of an organization and guess what happens if your company does not respond fast enough? You die. You grow or die. Frank Knight, Nike’s founder said it well: “You grow or die.” In his book, Shoe Dog which is his biography, he explains how he could manage to double his sales revenue each year and how he struggled with the growth challenges in the early days of Nike. Guess what happened if he was not making all those changes? There was no Nike. As a matter of fact, there was no brand to change people’s lives and bring running as a healthy activity to the mass market. The world was different. Technology is another force that is evolving very fast and now we can think of all those unthinkable applications and use cases that seemed impossible in the past. Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Big Data and Analytics, Blockchain, and Business Intelligence are enabling us to rethink all the tasks that we have done in a different way. This means now customers have even more demands.



There are 3 pillars of a successful business strategy which all great businesses are relying on and will try hard to excel at: — Branding — Marketing — Sales If you as a business leader, founder or CEO, can aggregate all your resources, and push hard to improve on these 3 pillars correctly, you will build a successful company. Note that my focus is on top-line revenue. My definition of success is how to build up a strong pipeline and build a predictable revenue stream for your business. I do not care about your bottom-line and cost savings that you can make to your business. That is not my job and I have no plan to help you with that. If you are looking for ways to cut costs and improve profitability, you should talk to your CFO or an Enterprise Architect. My mission is to help businesses, either startups or established, to build a strong predictable revenue stream and improve their top-line performance. Let’s dive deep into each pillar.


If You Don’t Give the Market the Story to Talk About, They Will Define Your Brand Story for You. This is actually a quote from David Brier on branding. Branding is such an important concept in business, especially for tech startups and first-time founders which is normally underrated. This is one of the most important aspects of the business and need deeper attention. Let’s dive in. Branding is one of the main pillars of business and normally it has been underrated by tech businesses, including startups. What branding does for you and your business is the very foundation of your relationship with your target market and also existing customers. Branding is the promise that you make to your customers.



Please note that I am not talking about your slogan. That is not branding. Of course, slogan is only one small element of your brand identity. However, everything you do and do not do, identify your brand and brand positioning among your competitors. This is including your logo, slogan, colors that you are using, website design, marketing messaging and materials, sales team and your sales language, how to treat your employees and customers, your office arrangements, and so on. You always need to be aware of what brand message your competitors are using and how their branding is evolving. Let’s remember that it is absolutely Ok for brands to evolve and even reinvent themselves. However, the frequency of changes is very important. You simply cannot change your brand every month!! I have seen companies that evolve their brand every 6 months or every year, as long as the changes are incremental. As a tech startup, you should work on your brand voice and message. Use as few words as possible. Express your big vision. Do not be scared of sharing your ambitions with your target market. Tell your customers who you are, what you do and how you do it. Of course in a few words. Show your true passion through your content, marketing campaigns, and sales language. Establish your relationship with your customers very clearly. Are you going to be a trusted advisor, high-end luxury service provider, cost-effective alternative in the market, 24 x 7 consultant, disruptor, innovator, etc. Brands should show emotions and at the same time, show why you are doing what you are doing backed up by data. craft your story in a way that both right and left-brainers can communicate with your message.



Left brainers understand the world through details, logic, and numbers. On the other hand, right-brainers perceive the world through emotions. Your story should consist of both sides of the coin. Craft your vision and what is the end game for your target market, and then back it up with numbers and data. Do not pitch! Not now!! Do not use your branding story to pitch your products and services. People hate pitching. Simply tell them the truth about your back story, why you exist, and what is the end game. This is not a copy write. This is not an advertising platform. There will be times that you will do that . . . a lot! But not when you are trying to catch the eyes of the customers. Build a relationship with them first and then and only then you can sell. Articulate why and how you are different. Explain your point of differentiation. Why your way of doing things are superior to the competition. Do not use or overuse buzz words (better, faster, cheaper etc). These words mean nothing and everyone is using them in their marketing materials. Talk about use cases and case studies. You can use different social media platforms to tell your brand story. Focus on one or two that your target persona and target market are heavily using. Show them the backstage and how you actually run your business. Share day to day challenges of operating the business (boring stuff) and share your wins and losses. This should not take you more than 15 min per day. Plus, it is fun to talk about yourself!! Ask people outside of your business (customers, prospects, clients, strangers, competitors) how they perceive you. That is your brand. Period. It does not matter what you say about yourself. How you have been perceived is your brand. If you want to change your brand, change people’s perception. Focus on those activities that you want to be known for. This is both for personal and company brand. There are some cases that the founder of the business decides to build the company brand around himself. This is a risky strategy.


You can easily test that idea. Go to the market place or series of companies and ask them how much money they are willing to pay you, so they can have you in their firm. Or, simply how much they pay you if they hire you. If the number is anything less than $200k (in the Australian market) then it is highly likely that you are relatively unknown. If it is between $200k to $600k (AUD), then it means that you have a minimum level of value. If it is between $600k to $1 Million (again in AUD), it means that you have a good reputation in the market, but of course, you are not a celebrity yet. If your salary is more than $1 Million per year, this means that your name alone + your skills can generate at least $25 Million in revenue for the next year. Guaranteed! As the COVID-19 pandemic has developed from a health concern to an economic crisis to a recession that’s going to be hard to recover from, the focus of reporting on the economic impact has been on B2B tech startups. Already, we’re hearing concerns of startups pulling the plug on investment rounds, and also Venture Capitals suddenly a lot less confident that they will be able to make the returns they had hoped for their startup portfolio. There is no doubt that it is a hard time for everybody as people are thinking all about their survival and get through this crisis. On the other hand, if you are thinking like an investor, the rule of thumb will be to start think differently. In general, you need to make it clear for yourself and your team that what is the target. Normally for a tech startup in B2B space, these targets can be qualified as tangible targets for startup marketing: — Generate qualified leads — Drive website traffic —



Building brand awareness


As the COVID-19 pandemic has developed from a health concern to an economic crisis to a recession that’s going to be hard to recover from, the focus of reporting on the economic impact has been on B2B tech startups. Already, we’re hearing concerns of startups pulling the plug on investment rounds, and also Venture Capitals suddenly a lot less confident that they will be able to make the returns they had hoped for their startup portfolio. There is no doubt that it is a hard time for everybody as people are thinking all about their survival and get through this crisis. On the other hand, if you are thinking like an investor, the rule of thumb will be to start think differently. In general, you need to make it clear for yourself and your team that what is the target. Normally for a tech startup in B2B space, these targets can be qualified as tangible targets for startup marketing: — Generate qualified leads — Drive website traffic — Building brand awareness.



These 3 pillars of marketing strategy can be quantified as well so everybody in your startup have a clear understanding of what to achieve. For each of the above targets, you should have an activity plan in terms of the tasks with the deadline and owner. This way, in your weekly meetings everybody can track each other’s work and get more understanding of the big picture: 1. Define your target segment and vertical 2. Draft a clear and concise message 3. Create free content to consume by target market 4. Send emails 5. Set up a landing page to generate leads 6. Setup sales incentives and SPIFF 7. Monitor your progress with each project 8. Learn, change your approach and go to 1.



Meanwhile, you must understand what your competition is doing and how they deliver their message to their or your target market. Always improve on that. Always be better at your competition. Not only from a price perspective, but also from a brand perspective. Generate qualified leads I cannot stress out on how important and simple this is. I have worked with many established organizations and startups and saw how many organizations are struggling with this. Companies make it very hard for themselves to generate high quality leads for different reasons. It is either lack of experience, fear of failure, lack of authority when it comes to making decisions, or trying to do everything themselves. This is a trap that many first time founders fall into. You do not need to do everything by yourself. However, you must come up with marketing ideas yourself. From an execution perspective, things can be outsourced. As a founder and entrepreneur, you must start thinking about how you can get the attention of your target market and how to segment your market properly. What plans and activities should be done and how to measure the success rate. Then, when it comes to execution, you can outsource it to a marketing agency or a subcontractor to actually do the job for you. The key here is to become a world-class marketer. Drive website traffic There are many different things you can do to increase your website traffic. Google Ad is one of the most basic and indeed effective way of moving traffic to your landing page or website. The key here is to make sure your website is optimized for those relevant keywords and also your website has a funnel behind it. Note that it will not be enough to just have a website that explains how your product works. You need more than that. You have to have a clear understanding of the buyer’s journey and how your buyers make a decision. Then, based on this info, you can start thinking about the content that guides the buyer towards making decision to buy and down the bottom of the funnel.


Building brand awareness Social media and personal branding will be the key here. Make sure that you are heavily active in social media that your target market is using. This way you can achieve maximum attention from your target market and also building a strong brand as well. To be able to achieve that, think about what you want your brand present.



Great Marketing Strategy Makes the Customers Feel Smart I have been working with lot of marketing teams across APAC region and involved in many marketing initiatives. Obviously, many of the initiatives we ran was unsuccessful. This does not mean that I was working with incompetent marketing teams. During all these years, I kind of come to the conclusion that 80/20 rule is actually exist in many aspects of life and business. Marketing is no different. 80% of marketing tactics and initiatives will fail and all the revenue and leads are coming from 20% of the projects. It does not matter if you like it or not. From a statistics perspective, the majority of your success comes from a few projects that you run and implement very well. The rest is a waste of time and money. But are they??!


I personally believe not! In order to get to those great 20% level and discovering what actually is working for you, you need to test lots of things in the market. You need to at least run 8 programs and learn as much as you can, to be able to come up with 2 successful projects. This is no brainer. Common sense! There is no doubt that marketing is a “try and learn” job and you need to be very open to test new ideas and be ready to learn from failures. The issue is “ego”. Meaning that a lot of people are having a self-perception about themselves that they are mostly right. In marketing, it is exactly the opposite. You are wrong most of the time. This means that as a marketer you need to be brave enough to accept that you are a learner for life and there is always something to learn.



Good marketers always talk about their products and features, in detail. They believe that having “cool” features will convince customers to buy or at least think about buying their products and services. I am not arguing that we do not need technical and detailed presentations and documents about your products. You definitely need to have those…But for your existing customers…To be able to get net new customers and attract net new markets (blue oceans), marketers should revert back to be a salesperson. Meaning, they need to think of what their potential customers want to achieve and how to achieve. It is simply not enough to talk about yourself, you need to make sure you talk about how you can help your customers to go from point A to point B with minimum risk and high gain.



Great marketers are aware that not all marketing activities are successful. To ask for ROI (Return on Investment) for each and every marketing activity is not practical. Some of the tasks are only there for branding. It means there is no actual gain or direct revenue recognition for these activities. But they are long term and long last. Marketers should learn what questions to ask instead of asking constantly for ROI. The questions should be what we will gain in the long term out of this tactic. Not all marketing initiatives can be measured by $$ returned, but what impact they will have on the market and potential buyers. The fact is you cannot only rely on one strategy to drive marketing. You need to have parallel strategies for different channels, either digital or non-digital to be able to communicate your message with your potential market or markets. Find out who will benefit the most from your products or services. Then figure out which channels will give you the opportunity to reach out to them as cheap as possible.


Get their attention. Offer them a solution and bundle with extra value and complimentary services so they cannot refuse. Use every tool in your arsenal and make a lot of noise in the market. Give away free content, social media updates on an hourly basis, YouTube videos, podcasts, blogs on a daily basis, advertising on every spot that you may think your prospects may look. Go crazy! But do not spend money crazy!! Go out and talk to the thought leaders in your space. They will love to promote your business and services for a bit of cash! That is their business model. Leverage them in every channel possible. Interview them! Let them interview your team . . . and not only your CEO if you are a startup, everybody in your leadership team should have a voice in the business.



Not all business development strategies are of equivalent effect. Truth be told a ton of the exercises of numerous experts are exceptionally sharp and strategic in nature. This is particularly evident with numerous sales practitioners. Gotten between the weights of customer work and a critical requirement for new business, business leaders cast about for something fast and simple that will create momentary outcomes. Strategic business development is the arrangement of business development procedures and methodology with your association’s key business objectives. The job of key business development is to procure perfect customers for your most noteworthy need utilizing brand guarantees that you can convey upon. Choosing which focuses to seek after and methodologies to utilize to grow new business is really a high stakes choice. A decent methodology, all around executed, can drive elevated levels of development and benefit. A defective technique can obstruct development and baffle significant ability. However numerous organizations flounder at this basic advance. They depend on propensity, accounts, and trends — or more terrible still, “this is the means by which we have consistently done it.” In a later segment, we’ll cover how to build up your vital business development plan. In any case, first, we’ll cover a portion of the systems that may go into that arrangement. Relationships are likely the most generally utilized business development methodology. It’s based on the hypothesis that expert relationship builders purchasing choices are established seeing someone, and the most ideal approach to grow new connections is through up close and personal networks. It absolutely is genuine that numerous connections do create in that manner. What’s more, on the off chance that you are organizing with your intended interest group, you can grow new business. However, there are confinements. The present purchasers are very time compelled, and organizing is tedious. It very well may be over the top expensive, on the off chance that you consider travel and time away from the workplace. More up to date computerized organizing methods can help on the expense and time front. Be that as it may, even online networking requires a speculation of time and consideration. The nearby relative of relationships, referrals are frequently observed as the component that transforms relationship and customer fulfillment into new business. You build up a relationship, and that individual alludes to new business to you. Fulfilled customers do likewise. Unmistakably, referrals do occur, and numerous organizations get most or the entirety of their business from them. In any case, referrals are uninvolved. They depend on your customers and contacts to recognize great possibilities for your administrations and make a referral at the ideal time. The issue is referral sources frequently don’t have the foggiest idea about the full scope of how you can support a customer. Such a significant number of referrals are inadequately coordinated to your abilities. Other all around coordinated referrals go unmade in light of the fact that your referral source neglects to perceive an extraordinary possibility when they see one.



Would you be able to grow new business straightforwardly by supporting occasions and publicizing? It would take care of a great deal of issues in the event that it works. Not any more attempting to get time from completely used billable experts. Sadly, the outcomes on this front are not extremely reassuring. Studies have demonstrated that customary publicizing is really connected with more slow development. Just when promoting is joined with different procedures, for example, talking at an occasion, do these strategies prove to be fruitful. The most encouraging publicizing procedure is by all accounts all around focused computerized promoting. This permits firms to get their messages and offers before the ideal individuals at a lower cost. Proficient administration firms have been utilizing calls and mail to legitimately target potential customers for quite a long time. Focus on the correct firms and jobs with an important message and you would hope to discover new open doors that can be formed into customers. There are two or three key difficulties with these techniques. First, they are generally costly, so they should be perfect to be successful. Second, on the off chance that you don’t get the possibility at the correct time, your offer may have no intrigue significance — and therefore, no effect on business improvement. The key is to have an engaging offer conveyed to a certified and responsive rundown. It is difficult to get this mix right.



Here, the procedure is to make your aptitude obvious to potential purchasers and referral sources. This is practiced through composition, talking, or distributing content that shows your skill and how it very well may be applied to tackle customer issues. Books, articles, and talking commitment have for some time been staples of expert relationship business development. Numerous high permeability specialists have fabricated their practices and firms upon this procedure. It frequently takes a decent piece of a profession to execute this methodology. Be that as it may, changing occasions and innovation have reshaped this procedure. With the beginning of advanced correspondence it is currently simpler and a lot quicker to set up your ability with an objective market. Web crawlers have made everything fair with the goal that generally obscure people and firms can get known even outside their physical locale. Online classes have democratized open talking, and sites and sites give each firm a day in and day out nearness. Include video and internet-based life and the sprouting master can get to an unfathomably extended commercial center. However, these improvements additionally open firms to a lot more noteworthy rivalry also. You may end up rivaling experts whom you were never mindful of. The effect is to up the ante on your business advancement methodology.


Let me know if you have any feedback or ideas that can improve this manifesto. I will be more than happy to include your proven methods on scaling top-line revenue.



WRITTEN BY

Houman Asefi Futurist | Grow Business Faster


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©2020 by Houman Asefi. 

Sydney, Australia