It’s every SaaS business’ dream—scaling up and entering new markets with your shiny product. But, in a remote world, how can you go about exceeding expectations?

Innovation, strategizing, growth planning, and dealing with a global pandemic. It’s been a tricky year, but leading SaaS practitioners have led the way through 2020—when remote or otherwise.

And Neil Barman, Chief Growth Officer at Yellow Messenger, was on hand to answer your questions in his AMA.

You can read his full responses below. 👇

Q: Aside from the obvious (Slack, Zoom, etc.) which SaaS businesses have you seen really excel since turning remote, and why?  

A: 2020 saw growth in the Saas domain for both B2B and B2C domain. While companies like Slack and Zoom had exponential growth, multiple other B2B SaaS companies also recorded high growth rates, like Shopify and Ring Central.

More and more private labels opened digital shops on shopify. Companies like RingCentral enabled millions of remote workers to stay connected to their customers.

Q: From a product point of view, has COVID impacted the way you build and scale products? What are some learnings that are here to stay?

A: COVID taught us multiple survival strategies which are here to stay. One of the critical ones I learned is listening carefully.

The more carefully I listened to my customers, I learned more about their pain-chains and then we built the capabilities in our product to cater to the needs.

For example, a major CPG customer of ours told us that he is finding it difficult to move his inventory as the footfall in the stores has dropped and he doesn't have a high traffic private label online commerce channel.

We understood his need and suggested to build a DTC platform for him on Whatsapp. Guess what? We signed the deal within 12 hours.

Q: What sort of blockers are there for fast growth? I’m planning, strategizing, mapping, and anticipating possibilities but want to avoid hitting any snags along the way.

A: Great to know that you are already half-way there. I think the only step left for you to include is execution.

I practice ABP—assumption-based planning.

Here's why: All plans make assumptions about the future and identifying these assumptions are crucial to any plan.

In the scenario of any assumption not occurring for your organization you must have plans for how to react to this.

Once these assumptions have been identified it is then important to identify which will have the biggest impact on the business if they were to fail. Flags can then be set up to monitor any potential issues and actions can easily be taken to manage the assumptions made.

Finally, alternate actions can be taken to prepare for the instance where assumptions fail.

In the current situation as the business environment becomes more unpredictable and volatile, I find ABP very crucial to build growth strategies.

Q: With everything going on in 2020 with the pandemic and global economic issues set to continue in 2021, what sort of strategies would you recommend to help my business cope with scaling? It's totally unknown territory for all, but what sort of proactive measures are you thinking about?

A: I agree with you that many things have changed since the beginning of the pandemic. I am not aware of your business however I will share that it's critical to find your niche in this volatile situation.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we at Yellow Messenger were preparing to communicate to all our customers that even while we are working remotely, we have automated our business continuity plan and we will be operating BAU.

It struck us that even our customers must be preparing to go remote and they will need to automate for their business continuity too.

We reached out to all our customers and shared possible options with them to automate their internal enterprise-wide conversations and automating simple to complex tasks.

With every deployment we learned more and more. We ended up with automating some of the large global enterprises where we automated their internal processes across 80 countries for more than 100k employees.  

We figured out what our customers needed and built strategies to execute that seamlessly.

Q: I have a three-pronged question:

- What would you define as a 'boundary' for Yellow Messenger?

- What kind of challenges/obstacles stand in the way of you going beyond those boundaries?

- How do you overcome those kinds of challenges?

A: I will answer your questions one by one:

1. Defining boundaries. For any business "boundary" is defined as the geography where it primarily operates and the industry or domain where it operates.

2. Challenges to go beyond the boundaries. Well, limited resource is the initial hurdle for any scaling company. One often don't have the knowledge and resource to overcome a new turf.

3. Overcoming these challenges. Start with building strategies to cross these boundaries. If you want to start selling beyond your boundaries, you need to have a plan in place for how you will succeed.

For us, in order to expand in the newer markets we started with building serious regional reseller network and a robust tele-calling team to approach brands directly.

Simultaneously, we started engaging with local talent who gave us enhanced intelligence on how they envision a GTM plan for us in the regions.

We took all our learnings and hired the most promising talent from each of these regions who crossed our path.

We applied this strategy for South East Asia and Middle Eastern market and today after 12 months we have 40% of our revenue share coming from these two regions.

Q: When you're strategizing now versus when you were strategizing this time last year, how has the fact that we're now living in a remote-first world impacted how you go about building out those strategies?

A: Not much. I always practiced a remote-first strategy for every new market we were trying to enter and establish.

With the pandemic in place only my belief is emboldened. Face to face meetings are overrated and not necessary.

We have literally closed millions of dollars of contract remotely and have continued our growth streak of 3X+ YOY even while we are remote.

Q: What’s the best way to promote efficiency when scaling up—especially if I’m managing a tight budget?

A: Planning both long-term and short-term. As we went remote, in the first month itself we changed our org-wide plans and goals from a quarterly one to a monthly one and this was practiced at a more micro-level throughout the ranks.

We monitored every strategy on a weekly basis and made necessary changes more frequently than ever to reach our goals.

Q: When scaling how do I drive and ensure product adoption? I’m also concerned about churn rates, how can I set realistic boundaries for that and keep on top of it?

A: If you position your product to work in silos, it will have low stickiness and lower efficiency.

If you position your product as an enterprise product where integration with multiple enterprise applications is made possible, your product becomes part of a larger and more crucial task.

The dependency on your product will increase and you can show a greater ROI for the product.

Q: I'm wondering is there a right approach to hiring to scale up? As in specifically hiring remote staff? What sort of expectations can I have when they’re not going to be nearby?

A: For hiring the right talent these are a few steps we follow:

1. Every candidate should speak to 3 different individuals in the organization and feedbacks is collated and the hiring decisions are made.

2. Reference checks. We do these for every candidate we onboard with one reference offered by them and one from our network.

This practice has given us very good insights and we have been able to maintain a low attrition and high growth-mindset team in place.

Q: My questions are specific to a B2B SaaS cybersecurity company. What’s something that worked great for Yellow Messenger when expanding in APAC? Any special outreach strategy? Meetings strategy? Any marketing outreach specific to a region? What would be your top 3 countries to focus on in APAC, on priority, to grow business? How did you strategize to find and tie up with your Channel partners in order to scale rapidly? Any advice/suggestions that you can share from your experience of growing in APAC, will greatly help us to grow and scale to our ambitions!

A: APAC is a very localized market. You can be a global company but need to grow a local skin.

We ingrained that learning in our strategies early on. While we had Fortune 500 brand logos in our customer portfolio, we tried to shed those learnings and aggressively started learning the requirements of the local market.

We were backed by a strong solution and product team who never hesitated to make the necessary changes.  

Building a strong partner network and creating a robust remote sales team will be my primary advice.

On the countries, I will suggest Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia to start with and expand to the Philippines and Vietnam.

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