Becoming a Successful SaaS CEO, Jason Crawford (Fieldbook)

25th June 2017

Turning an idea into a SaaS Product

The seeds of Fieldbook were planted some years back when Jason was working at Amazon. He observed one of the occasions where companies build internal tools to manage inhouse tasks. Amazon had their recruitment own tool, a candidate tracking system. Though it wasn’t much more than some form fields with a database and a state machine, Jason observed how useful and custom fit the tool was for it’s purpose.

At a later date Jason developed his own idea for a workflow engine, in response to a problem he observed working in another startup. However, Jason’s aha moment only came when he realised that his idea would be able to outperform spreadsheets, in the many instances where they’re used despite not being the perfect tool for the task. It’s here that Fieldbook had it’s beginning.

A Broad Product With Focussed Marketing

Since Fieldbook can solve many problems for different sectors, there’s an inherent challenge targeting new customers. Jason’s recommendation here is to ‘have targeted marketing whilst keeping the product general. You can market to specific industries or use cases, for example to companies that need to manage client lists or inventory databases. You can run campaigns for those use cases with landing pages too’. Jason goes on to explain that some prospects don’t necessarily ‘get it’ when the product is first explained to them, but after a demo and maybe being shown a Fieldbook template for a specific use case ‘it clicks’, and prospects can usually identify the need it can solve for them.

Having a general product is not uncommon in SaaS, and whilst it may present a challenge in how to address marketing, the benefit lies in having a wider audience to appeal to when scaling the business.

If You’re a SaaS CEO, Nobody is Carving up the World for You

“One of the most difficult things in being a CEO is that nobody is carving up the world for you. It’s on you to pick the goals, and it’s on you to hit them. But your success is not measured on how well you completed those goals, it’s measured on whether your business succeeds”.

“Focus and discipline are the biggest practices a CEO needs to excel on. There’s going to be a million things coming at you and dozen fires to put out every day.  Learn to get comfortable with strictly prioritising and focusing on one or two things that need to happen. Success isn’t built on one launch day with one big bang event. It’s built up slowly over a long period of executing each day. You need to hold on to your vision even when things aren’t going well and taking much longer than you thought.”

See The Stuggle by Ben Horowitz, to understand that everyone is experiencing the same and that

Tips on Funding

Fieldbook raised two rounds so far, a pre-seed round and a Seed round of $2.2m funding. Jason has been through the funding process 3 times, here are his key tips:

  • Understand what stage you’re at in your business and position yourself appropriately
  • Ask for an appropriate amount for what you need
  • Consider raising the least you need (and raising more in your next round)

Speak with Customers to Understand What They’re Trying to Get Done and Why

The number one habit that helped Jason grow Fieldbook in the early days was to have a strong customer connection. Using in app chat, customer support and messaging tools. Get beyond the customers surface problems and understand their underlying needs, what they’re trying to get done and why they’re doing it. Jason is a big advocate for understanding customers by having conversations, providing custom manual onboarding, and having video chats and screenshare conversations.

Another great method for Fieldbook has been to hold usability sessions where they set customers up for early access, gather their feedback and watch them try and be successful with the product.

Remember the Product Promise. Marketing makes a promise and the product has to fulfil that promise. By speaking with customers in the early days you can find out what it was that they responded to in the marketing promise, and work on ensuring your product delivers.

Don’t Over-Engineer Your Metrics for Measuring Growth

For measuring growth at Fieldbook, Jason likes to look at metrics such as, Active Users, Retention rate, Upgrade and Conversion rate, and paying customers (MRR). Combine qualitative and quantitative data too, so remember to talk with your customers and get their feedback too. One side of the data doesn’t tell the whole story.

Fulfil the Marketing Promise with a Magic Moment

Andy John’s coined something called the ‘Magic Moment, it’s a basic growth equation: Top of the funnel (A) x Magic Moment (B) = Sustainable Growth (C).

People sign up to your product for something they can get out of it. You only have a small period of time to fulfil the marketing promise and deliver the ‘magic moment’ to your customer in order to achieve growth.

“Onboarding is all about delivering that magic moment and that’s how we address this at Fieldbook. Once people see the promise they will invest a lot more in both time and energy”.

Reference Material

Jeff Bezos Letter to Amazon Shareholders (1997)

The Struggle, by Ben Horowitz 

Book: Computer, A History of the Information Machine – App to manage to-do lists

Andy Johns: Magic Moment

Jason Lemkin: 10 Unaffiliated Customers

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