How to Handle an Unexpected Growth Explosion in SaaS

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Covered today:

  • How multiple companies adapted to unexpected surges in growth.
  • More on GTM for your eardrums.
  • More on GTM for your eyeballs.
  • Startups to watch.
  • Hottest GTM jobs of the week.
  • GTM industry events.

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Some companies plan for or anticipate rapid expansion. They disrupt the market at just the right moment or have a stellar product that effectively solves problems for a wide customer base. 

There’s another side to hypergrowth though: forced scaling, when businesses need to adapt quickly to meet demand, including due to forcing functions like new legislation. 

How do you prepare for the unknown? Better yet, how do you capitalize on an opportunity when your product and customer needs align? 

We asked two SaaS leaders who have been through it – let’s get into it.

What Happens When You’re Forced to Scale?

Here’s how SaaS leaders successfully handled hypergrowth overnight 👇

How Motive sailed through hypergrowth with a winning GTM strategy and maintained success at scale 

John Gleeson, Founder of Success Venture Partners (SVP), was previously the VP of Customer Success at Motive where he experienced first-hand the effects of legislation on hypergrowth. 

Motive helped transform the commercial trucking industry, being the first company to give enterprise commercial vehicles a digital platform to track hours of service and manage logistics — effectively bringing much of the industry online for the very first time. 

Now a multibillion-dollar company, Motive went from less than $1M to $60M in ARR within 6 months. A legislative change in the industry, mandating that commercial trucks be outfitted with regulation-compliant electronic logging devices (ELDs), was a catalyst for Motive’s hypergrowth that the company leveraged to build one of the most valuable multi-product vertical software companies of this vintage.

When the mandate hit, they weren’t the only players in the market trying to capture the opportunity – in fact one estimate put as many as 100 new players in market trying to capture the shift.  Motive beat out competitors with a winning GTM strategy. 

The keys to their success: 

  1. They built great distribution by creating a free app for millions of users, which gave them a wide database of potential customers for their paid product. 
  2. They scaled up the sales and support teams for greater outbound. They lead with service and became a go-to industry resource for the pending shift. Both sales and support folks alike had a big role to play.
  3. They won the hearts and minds of the market by focusing on a great experience for the end user. They knew that if end users (i.e. truckers) liked the product, they would bring the technology into the companies they drove for. Quickly Motive found itself working with larger and larger fleets. Happy end-users started a growth flywheel.
  4. While the mandate was a catalyst, they had a much longer term vision at heart. In effect, the legislative shift was a ramp onto a much bigger wave to come and they began to immediately plan for their second act.

Finding product-market fit at scale 

Even though Motive found an instant market fit for the product they went to market with, they had to shift their approach for phase two. 

Within 6 months, the entire market became saturated. Every potential customer had a solution, because they were required to by law! Sales went from the market led to almost every deal being a “rip and replace” from a competitor. Phase 2 meant shifting beyond its initial core offering. So, the company launched dash camera, a related product before eventually expanding into a comprehensive IoT/SaaS company for commercial fleets of any industry.

What worked: 

  • Focusing on expansion. The best way to secure the customer base was by multi-treading each customer with new products, increasing the value that each customer received from Motive, further propelling growth.
  • Training the (now 1,000+ person) sales team to adapt to non-mandate-driven sales. 
  • Reverting to early methods like discovery and defining the ICP.
  • The founders remaining active and client-facing even after their growth.
  • Investing in customer success, still focusing on the end user. 
  • Launching vertical solutions like fintech products to make the product stickier.

The main takeaways:

  1. Be willing to change up your GTM strategy when the market shifts. 
  2. Don’t underestimate the impact of founder-led growth at scale. 
  3. Stay informed on legislative changes that could influence the market.
  4. Build for the end user, and provide them with great customer support.
  5. Plan in advance for future phases of your product.

How Arc and Fundbox navigated forced scaling by bringing all hands on deck

Basile Senesi, CRO at Arc, a leading digital bank, has navigated forced hyperscaling twice. In both cases, it happened overnight. 

When Basile was a strategic advisor at Fundbox, the fintech company instantly became the largest SBA (Small Business Association) Paycheck Protection Program participant. When business shut down at the start of the pandemic, the SBA rolled out a grant program in which small businesses could apply for emergency funding from lenders to prevent layoffs. 

SBA lacked a built-in mechanism to deploy funds from lenders to the small businesses, so they called on fintech lenders to handle the manual loan process. Fundbox answered that call, processing 500 million loans in under a week. 

But their existing team wasn’t built to support the rapid need for demand, which meant they needed to redistribute resources, fast.  

Every department, from finance to marketing, was in the trenches to solve for overnight scaling to support end users and capture demand.  

Second, Arc was forced to scale in 2023 when Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) collapsed. They reoriented the entire team to support SVB bank account holders:

  • They launched content and ad campaigns that answered SVB account holder FAQs, like how to contact SVB, how to set up another bank account, and how to reduce further risk. 
  • For sales, they focused exclusively on inbound so the team could be on-call for customers. 
  • They brought every team member in to focus on supporting customers and capturing the market share, rotating employees to give teams needed rest, and pulling people from every department into client-facing roles. 
  • They built new products to respond to the needs of SVB account holders. 

Arc multiplied their bank opening volume by 15X overnight.

The takeaways:

  1. Great leadership is key. An executive that can act as an “emergency COO” will be instrumental to leading teams through forced scaling.
  2. Hiring individual contributors who are mission-driven and flexible in their roles will help ensure success at scale. 
  3. When you have time-sensitive opportunity to capture a market, redirect all efforts, including product, engineering, and marketing toward to that goal. 
  4. Plan for legislative shifts and be ready to capture market share. 

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👂 More for your eardrums:

Subscribe to The GTM Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

GTM 94: Mastering Branding, Pricing, and Customer Success for AI Startups:

Holly Chen is the Managing Partner of ExponentialX, a Marketing and Growth Advisory Collective for high-growth SaaS startups, advising companies like Miro, Loom, ServiceNow, Appsflyer in their growth journeys. She also guest lectures at Berkeley and NYU, teaches at Section and Maven, mentors at First Round Capital, and is an active angel investor. Previously, Holly was the Global Head of Digital Marketing at Slack, helping it grow $100M to $700M ARR and going public. She was the Head of Growth at Google Store and Global Head of Google B2B Websites. Holly also worked at Gucci, Deloitte Consulting. Kearny and the UN. In her spare time, Holly runs Ceiling Breakers, a group coaching program for underrepresented leaders. Holly lives in San Francisco and speaks Italian and Chinese fluently.

Listen wherever you get your podcasts by searching “The GTM Podcast.”

👀 More for your eyeballs:

Sahil Sethi, a product marketing executive, just published the book Product Marketing Level Up: Elevate your product marketing craft and career. The book is about the attributes and qualities that define great product marketers, consists of a collection of stories, and will teach you how to level up your craft and career.

Demandbase is currently hosting Intent Week – today’s mission is all about moving beyond spray-and-pray campaigns and effectively leveraging intent data. Each day promises a new revelation, a fresh clue, and an opportunity to unlock the mysteries surrounding Intent.

🚀 Startups to watch: 

KeyplayKeyplay announced Keyplay List Builder. Of course in B2B, an account list is super important. Keyplay serves as an alternative to traditional data providers and is designed to help startups move fast – no subscription, free to start, just buy credits.

NobleNoble is redefining social proof, as highlighted in this post. The post says it all, calling it “the most epic social proof.”

🔥 Hottest GTM jobs of the week:

  1. Head of Product at Tavus (Hybrid – San Francisco)
  2. Search Performance Manager at Vanta (Remote – US)
  3. SDR – US/Canada at Owner (Remote – US)
  4. Account Executive at Cube (NYC or San Francisco)
  5. Data Research & Content Manager at Stotles (London, UK)

See more top GTM jobs on the GTMfund Job Board.

🗓️ GTM industry events

Upcoming go-to-market events you won’t want to miss:

  • [June 4] Happy Customers Festival (Virtual): a free virtual event that demonstrates how to maximize HubSpot by integrating best-in-class apps. Dive deep into practical strategies that improve GTM activities across the entire customer lifecycle—marketing, sales, and customer success. Don’t miss this event if you’re looking to elevate your team’s performance with HubSpot.
  • [June 6] CRO Summit by Pavilion (Boston, MA): unlock new perspectives and tactics that can help you take a new approach to growth, understand your unit economics, and align with key stakeholders to elevate your business – and your career.

That’s it, that’s all. 

While increased demand is generally positive, the sudden need for hyperscaling can be daunting. It’s a situation that requires immense adaptability and can often be a make-or-break moment for companies.

Always grateful for GTM leaders who share their insight and expertise from having navigated such challenges already. They’ve been there, done that – and their stories help others with their respective journeys.

Have a great weekend ahead!

Barker ✌️

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Before helping found GTMfund, Scott spent 4 years at Outreach as Director of Strategic Engagement. He was in charge of aligning key relationships with VCs, BoDs, ecosystem partners and community members to drive revenue and strategic initiatives across Outreach. Scott initially ran revenue/partnerships for Sales Hacker (which was acquired by Outreach in 2018). Prior to Sales Hacker, he led and built outbound Business Development teams at Payfirma and MediaValet. Scott also advises for a number of high growth start-ups and is the host/author of The GTM Podcast and The GTM Newsletter. At GTMfund, Scott leads all fundraising efforts and runs the media arm of the firm. He’s also responsible for assessing investments, team management, LP/community relationships and GTM support for founders.

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