11 Tips for SaaStr Annual 2018

SaaStr Annual is the most significant gathering of SaaS companies on the planet. Held February 6-8 in San Francisco, it’s three days of networking, learning, pitching and partying with thousands of smart, ambitious SaaS-focused people.

How do you make sure you get real ROI from a big conference such as SaaStr Annual? Our panel of experts answered that question and more during our “11 Tips for SaaStr Annual 2018” webinar.

BJ Lackland, CEO of Lighter Capital, was joined by Collin Stewart, CEO of Predictable Revenue, Germain Brion, VP of sales and partnership at Chargebee, and Rob Nelson, CEO of Grow.

Here are 11 of their insider tips for making SaaStr Annual 2018 your own. You can also watch the full webinar recording on YouTube.

1) Set goals

Before the conference, get your sales and marketing teams on the same page about goals for the event, what’s needed to meet those goals, and how to track success. Figure out how many people you’ll need at the booth, decide what activities you want to attend or sponsor, contact potential partners to plan events, and coordinate efforts between marketing and sales to get meetings set up.

As an individual, set your sights on meeting certain people, attending specific events, or engaging in a specified number of quality conversations.

2) Scope prospects

Create a list of top prospects and figure out ways to meet them during SaaStr. A great way is through the excellent SaaStr app—the “zoominfo” feature allows you to get contact info and send emails to schedule meetings before the conference.

Your prospects may be investors, customers, or potential customers, but don’t forget to look beyond those groups. Reach out to other companies you admire or people you would simply love to meet.

3) Prep your team

Before the conference, have your sales and marketing teams discuss how to follow up—it has to happen as quickly as possible once SaaStr is over. And make sure all of those who will be working the booth know their roles, the process, and the goals, as well as how to use the app.

This conference is expensive to attend, so you need to be strategic in how you manage your team’s time and energy to get good ROI.

4) Look for partnerships

Keep an eye out for co-marketing opportunities. Find companies that are trying to connect with the same types of customers you’re targeting and see how you can bring your audiences together, both physically and digitally.

It’s a good idea to judge the quality of a potential partner’s attitude toward their customers. Does it match your own? Lighter Capital, for example, looks for an attitude that’s educational, not overly salesy.

5) Focus on branding

To stand out from the crowd, pay attention to the details and consistency of your branding. Think about booth signage, attire, and swag. You can bring swag even if you’re not a sponsor, and getting creative with it can make a big splash.

Make sure everything is just how you want it, even if it means investing a little more in the details. Think about it this way: You’re spending thousands to attend this conference, so it’s worth spending a few hundred more to make sure your image is on-point.

6) Go guerilla with marketing

No budget to sponsor? Get creative! Ask for forgiveness rather than permission; people will forgive you as long as your marketing ideas are in decent taste.

Something as simple as walking around in matching shirts handing out candy can get you on people’s radar screens. And super-creative stunts that grab attention and maybe even go viral can do wonders for your name recognition.

7) Consider meeting logistics

Your booth is a logical place to meet with people, but if you’ve got no booth, start the conference by scoping out some low-traffic but easily locatable spots. To meet someone who isn’t attending the conference, pick out a coffee shop two or three blocks away to avoid the conference crowds.

If you can, get the mobile number of the person you’re meeting so you can connect if you can’t find each other.

8) Qualify prospects

Solidify your process for qualifying leads and determining who’s a fit. Train your sales reps and execs about how to have strategic conversations, similar to how they handle inbound calls.

A strategy used by Predictable Revenue is to print out postcard-sized cards listing conversation-starter-type questions in four different categories. It’s a guide to shape the conversation and allows them to figure out if someone’s a good fit very efficiently.

9) Manage booth traffic

Treat your booth like an inbound marketing funnel. Everyone who visits should move through the same sales process as if visiting your company via your website.

Bring account execs, support people, and salespeople. The salespeople should be on the front lines, having structured conversations to vet those who come to the booth, then passing promising prospects back to the account execs in the rear for further discussion. If someone isn’t a great fit the next step is to find a way to stay in touch. It’s a good idea to pre-program ways for the sales and marketing teams to follow up.

10) Plan attire

Your attire says a lot—think about what image you want to project. Some companies might want to transmit “interesting and different” while others want to come across more restrained and dependable.

Your clothes can help you stand out as a team—such as with matching shirts with an identifiable logo—or provide a conservation starter; unusual shoes can be a great icebreaker.

11) Take in sessions

The sessions are the core of the conference and can provide inspiring insights that can fire up your team. There’s no way everyone can go to every session at the conference; split up your team members and have them attend a wide variety of tracks.

Each attendee can share their sessions’ key takeaways through a Slack channel or other app-based communication. Then go out to dinner or breakfast as a team and discuss everything you’ve heard.

Q & A

Q: I’m transitioning into SaaS and looking for the right opportunity. Any advice for networking to break into the industry?

A: Use the app to figure out ahead of time who your targets are. Check out the speaker list and track those people down. Shoot them an email ahead of time saying “I’ll be at your speech and I want to ask you one quick question.” When the speaker gets swarmed afterward, mentioning your previous communication gives you a way to break through and get a few minutes of the person’s time.

Q: How many people should you staff at your booth?

A: Staff the booth with three to four people. More than four feels too intimidating to visitors. Bring more than four to the conference, however, so that people can rotate off the booth to take breaks.

Q: How do you best leverage the SaaStr app?

A: As soon as they open up the app during the conference, have a team of assistants manually click on every profile and add them to a list. (This can even be done by remote workers overseas.) Taking this step allows you to see who is coming since it can be challenging to sort and filter within the app.