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Rajan’s expertise is in building revenue-driven go-to-market organizations for SaaS companies. Currently, he leads GTM, Growth and Retention organization across product, marketing and sales for Heroku (Salesforce’s developer platform) driving revenue, activation, engagement, monetization and retention.

Previously Rajan was a founding member of a new business unit and e-commerce platform where he oversaw go-to-market teams including marketing, growth and analytics functions to enable HP Enterprise’s digital transformation. Rajan was a Developer in his past life before moving to Product then to Sales and then decided to club everything he learned to run GTM and Growth.

In this AMA you can ask Rajan about

  • Scaling Freemium -> Enterprise model for SaaS

  • Developer Marketing

  • The Growth framework that works

  • KPI hierarchy for Growth teams so everyone is influencing the north-star metric

  • What skills to look for while hiring for Growth?

  • The classic: Who owns Growth? :) or Where does Growth teams sit in the org chart.

  • What’s the right tech stack for the Growth team?

There’s no one size fits all so please provide as many details as you can about your goals, product, company, etc :)

  • RS

    Rajan Sheth

    5 months ago #

    That’s all for today folks! Thanks for all the interesting questions. It was great being here and giving back to the Growth community that I have learned a lot from.

    Ways to connect with me
    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajansheth/
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/rajan_sheth

    Cheers!
    Rajan

  • EC

    Emília Chagas

    6 months ago #

    Hi Rajan,
    Thank you for taking the time for this AMA. My questions are:
    - Can growth teams improve typical sales metrics (like SQL to opportunity conversion rate, increase ACV)?
    - What was the most successful single referral tactic/experiment that you've ever used?

    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      Great questions, Emilia and thanks for going first & kicking things off!

      1) Can growth teams improve typical sales metrics (like SQL to opportunity conversion rate, increase ACV)?

      Absolutely, yes! The way I look at the role of the growth team is to identify opportunities across the entire funnel and find ways to either scale it or optimize it vs being limited to just focusing on acquisition or MQL.

      I treat it as a math equation. You can improve the SQL to opp conversion rate by
      1) Either improving your MQL qualification criteria based on your most successful customers: Which you already know so I won’t go into much details here.

      2) Optimizing ACV by improving opp conversion rate: We do that by helping our Sales team focus on the right accounts even after customers MQL journey. As you can imagine, the Sales teams have 100s of accounts they manage at any given point and it’s not always feasible to be on top of all of them which sometimes results in missed opportunity or even worse focusing on the wrong accounts.

      We in the Growth team identify and alert our sales reps on hot accounts they should prioritize from their portfolio every day through automated reports and dashboards. We do that by 1) using product usage data (how engaged they are with the product) 2) 3rd party data (did they recently get funding, added a complementary technology to their stack), 3) Sales engagement data. How engaged customers are in their communication with the Sales team or with the marketing campaigns.

      By implementing this, we found good success with net new ACV that the sales team wouldn’t have found on their own, upsell revenue from their existing accounts and increase retention by providing churn alerts to the sales rep so they can proactively reach out to retain the customers.

      Hope this helps!

      1 Share
    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      2) What was the most successful single referral tactic/experiment that you've ever used?

      Gosh! There are so many successes we had in the last few years (of course with a good share of failures too :)). I would say one of the recent successful experiments we ran was to identify when to route a lead/customer to the Sales rep. Until then we had the same criteria for all customers and they used to go through the same journey before being qualified for the Sales team. We now created a "fast-track route" for certain high-value customers immediately upon signup/form capture and assign it to the Sales Rep. This has helped us increase pipe and ACV before the customer self-qualifies themselves out of the cycle.

      1 Share
  • PC

    Pedro Clivati

    5 months ago #

    Hey, Rajan - thank you for doing this and excited to hear your take on the following questions:

    1) What's the KPI structure you use to plan and measure growth teams' success?

    2) How does the growth team effectively communicates with other areas when needed? (i.e: you need to change something in the product, for example);

    3) How mature is growth at SalesForce?
    3.1 - is there a growth team per product?
    3.2 - how do you organize the growth team (around squads, around features, around growth lever)?
    3.3 - how big is the team and how much has it grown?

    Congrats on what you've achieved so far, Rajan!

    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      Hi Pedro - Great questions! I'll break them into multiple parts so I can do justice to eac one!

      1) What's the KPI structure you use to plan and measure growth teams' success?

      This is literally one of my favorite topics to discuss with a fellow Growth Hacker. I like to call it the “KPI Hierarchy” because, wait for it……, it’s a hierarchy of KPIs :D

      If you don’t have a metric hierarchy defined for your business, you should do it immediately. If a company’s metrics are set up well, there is a natural hierarchy and upward flow of impact.

      Here’s a sample of what a hierarchy could look like

      North Star Metric: Matters most to your business. It is typically tied to active usage, such as Daily (DAU) Weekly (WAU) or Monthly (MAU) Active Users. Usually a combination of a $ metric with active usage is ideal. Eg: Paid MAU for B2B SaaS, Paid Weekly Active Subscribers for a streaming company.

      Level 1 Metric: These are the 1st level metrics that complement the north-star metric. We define the customer journey in the L1 metric. Eg: 30 day activation / New User, Re-engagement in last 30 days, Retention, etc

      Level 2 Metric: More specific and drive the L1 and north star metrics. Look at these as the ones that are more actionable for the Growth teams. Eg: 7-day activation / New User, Frequency of feature usage / MAU, etc

      3 Share
    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      3) How mature is growth at SalesForce?

      3.1 - is there a growth team per product?
      Salesforce is a huge company with 40k+ employees and several products spread across the globe. So I won’t claim I know every team to answer this question. I can definitely answer it from Heroku side. I would say we are a mature growth organization at Heroku with the problems we have solved from Acquisition to retention, infrastructure have built to support experimentation and the team we have built to support different business problems we are solving

      3.2 - how do you organize the growth team (around squads, around features, around growth lever)?
      The right question to ask is what business problem is the growth team solving for. Begin with KPIs they are solving for. You staff the problem area and the type of execution you want. The organizational structure follows from there.

      At Heroku, we only have one growth team responsible for Product engagement (MAU), Acquisition and Demand Gen, and Monetization. (and over the last 5 years, we reported under Marketing, Sales and Product). Our function didn’t change. We were still responsible for these KPIs and expected to partner with other teams to influence these KPIs.
      The ideal option is to have growth counterparts in Marketing, Product and Sales, so you are able to influence customers through these channels.

      Another common structure I hear when I talk to my peers is to treat the Growth Team as a set of pods, each one matrixed to their respective functions. So you might have a Growth PM and Design that reports into Product, Growth Engineer reporting up the Engineering ladder, Growth Marketers reporting up the Marketing chain. Growth Analyst can report either in Product or Marketing.

      Keep in mind - Don’t try to look for a perfect structure, because there is none :) Each has its pros and cons and it’s important to start somewhere and change later

      3.3 - how big is the team and how much has it grown?
      My growth team is 6 people supported by counterparts in Product, Sales and other functions in the organization. I was the first Growth hire for Heroku and we have come a long way in the last 4 years by building a successful cross-functional organization that I’m super proud of

      3 Share
    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      2) How does the growth team effectively communicate with other areas when needed? (i.e: you need to change something in the product, for example);

      Again a great question that we are actively trying to solve/optimize it. Broad anaswer: This depends on how the growth team is organized. At Heroku, we have one growth team responsible for Product engagement (MAU), Acquisition and Demand Gen, and Monetization. (and over the last 5 years, we reported under Marketing, Sales and Product).

      Our Growth team owns the overarching KPI and the business problem, we identify the biggest opportunities that we need to focus on to solve the business problem. The Growth team is responsible to come up with the big bets, impact sizing (how does it influence revenue) and effort required to achieve it. Once we do that and the the initiative is to do something in the product, we work with individual Product Managers who own that feature/product to add to their backlog and prioritize it.

      It has its own disadvantages because of product and engineering backlog, but we found that the more we are able to justify and relate the impact to a $ value to present a case, it helps.

      1 Share
  • EB

    Edvin Boberg

    5 months ago #

    Hey Rajan,

    I was wondering if you have any recommendations on how to work with rapid experimentation when the lead time from ad spend to conversions are long(avg. 8-12 weeks).

    Thanks,
    Edvin

    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      Hey Edvin - Thanks for asking this question. All of us in the B2B world with a long sales cycle are looking to identify how the experiments performed without having to wait 3-6 months for the deals to close. So I’m happy you are asking this on everyone’s behalf :)

      We implemented a metric hierarchy (see the 1st question to get more details). But essentially what it is is a vanity metric at different stages of the funnel. We now have an L2 and L3 metric (see the 1st question with metric hierarchy) that focuses on the business metric.
      Eg: We don’t look at signups/leads from ad spend. We now look at “quality signups/leads”. We defined quality based on who is more likely to pay us. Of course, it takes time to come to a good metric with iterations but it is very critical to not look for just MQL numbers or SQL numbers.

      Once you have a “quality” metric defined at each stage of the customer funnel, you should run experiments optimizing for those metrics and be able to confidently say that improving this quality funnel metric by X% will eventually increase the pipeline conversion rate by Y%.

      Hope this helps you come up with a "quality" funnel stage metric for your customers

      2 Share
  • JJ

    jayakrishanj j

    5 months ago #

    Is there something that you can do to generate interest and traction in a market that's not so hot right now? For example, let's take the CRM market. Most companies have already implemented a CRM and isn't necessarily looking for a new CRM or change. Is there anything that you can do to drive countinous growth even in the face of diminished market demand. If you don't agree with CRM analogy, please feel free to consider any other industry.

    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      Hey Jayakrishnaj - I completely understand what you are referring to.
      I believe every market is competitive and saturated (some more than the others) :). Companies defining a new category are always few because it’s very difficult and expensive.

      I would go back to the roots of your company - the value proposition of the product and what problem it is solving and for whom. How does the product differentiate itself? Without answering these questions, it’s very difficult to generate demand for any product.

      Agree it is difficult to migrate from a sticky product such as CRM but companies do that. There are always new companies coming up and they are looking for new solutions catering to their niche use-case and industry. Hence you’ll see several CRM products solving slightly different problems for different types of customers and all of them increasing the pie together.

      You should first define your ideal customer and then focus on creating the demand and not worry about other competitors or companies using their product.

      2 Share
  • JR

    JORDANA RAUBER

    5 months ago #

    Hi Rajan, thanks for taking the time to share some wisdom with us =)
Here are my questions:
    1. Could you tell me about how growth is organized in Heroku and how does it relate to other areas?
    2. Any tactics your teams have successfully used in the past that got positive results in driving freemium users to become paying customers?
    Thanks again!

    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      Hey Jordana - Thanks for asking these questions. Monetization one is my favorite as a lot of SaaS companies are looking to convert their free trials and freemium customers to paid customers.

      2. Any tactics your teams have successfully used in the past that got positive results in driving freemium users to become paying customers?

      Yes! It is always difficult to get the customers to break the penny barrier before you start upselling them. The framework we use is based on the different pricing axes your product has (usage, plan, feature, license/seats, etc).

      Every time you want your freemium customer to start paying you, you have to identify which axis is the least resistance path for that customer and how it will benefit the customer vs trying to sell something and put “Buy Now” on their face.

      At Heroku, we have different pricing axis and we identified our path to least resistance is usage-based. How much of the free product our customers are using and how can we help them find additional value by increasing their usage. It's more about customer benefit vs leading with your internal goal.

      One successful initiative we implemented is to identify customers who are approaching limits on their free plan and help them realize how they and their customers can get better experience and performance on our platform if they increase those limits by upgrading. This has worked really well for us because it solves customers problem.

      2 Share
  • GN

    Gustavo Nunes

    5 months ago #

    Hi, Rajan.

    Excited to have such a big name with us today.

    1. Is there anything new and different you've learned about growth since you've started on this career?
    2. What are your current challenges at Heroku and how does your role impact on it?
    3. Could you share an experiment that didn't have the outcome that you've expected and what did you learn from it?

    Thanks in advance.

    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      1. Is there anything new and different you've learned about growth since you've started on this career?

      I’m humbled by your compliment, Gustavo. I too am excited to be having this discussion with you all.

      Where do I start :) I learn new things everyday! The good and bad part about being in growth is there’s no playbook so you are forced to think out of the box and learn from your own mistakes. Also, the field is so new and growing with so many talented Growth individuals that you learn from everyone.

      One thing that I learned early on in my Growth career which has helped me till date is to
      “Focus on the big picture”
      I see a lot of us tend to gravitate towards running experiments, building new features, trying new channels, etc. All of these things only matter if you are aligned with the big picture and can see how it will influence your north-star metric.

      And from my experience, there are only 3-5 things that will move the needle. The key for a growth professional is to identify what are those 3-5 initiatives and then going crazy with experimentation.

      Now I follow and evangelize that framework within my team and for any conference or talks I’m part of. So glad you asked that question here :)

      2 Share
    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      2. What are your current challenges at Heroku and how does your role impact on it?

      The business problem we are solving at Heroku is to increase revenue. To achieve that we focus on the entire funnel to provide our customers the right next step based on who they are and where they are in their journey.

      Right from getting the right customers, onboarding them, increasing their product usage, converting them to paying customers, expanding their revenue and retaining them on the platform. Along with the entire growth infrastructure, analytics and data instrumentation.

      2 Share
    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      3. Could you share an experiment that didn't have the outcome that you've expected and what did you learn from it?

      There are a lot of experiments that didn’t give us the desired outcome but we always learned something from it.
      One example that comes to mind: An experiment we ran to update a feature in our product to increase the activation metric by having our customers do a specific action within 30 days of signup.

      We quickly realized that it only had a small uplift and customers were still getting stuck and not able to complete that action. Doing some more investigation we realized that the audience we selected for that experiment was a different segment that is not qualified to perform that complicated action. So while we didn’t succeed in improving our activation rates, we were able to identify a new customer segment and offer them a different path to make them successful.

      2 Share
  • AF

    Alexandre Ferrari

    5 months ago #

    Hi Rajan, thank you for being here to AMA!

    Looking from the perspective of a SaaS company who want to start a Freemium model:
    - What metrics do you think that the first experiments need to aim?

    Also, what tools do you currently use to manage the cycle of experiments?
    Ideas/Selection > Implementation > Learnings.

    Thank you a lot! =)

    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      Looking from the perspective of a SaaS company who want to start a Freemium model: What metrics do you think that the first experiments need to aim?

      Hi Alexandre - Likewise! Great to be here with you today.

      It’s a tricky one to answer without knowing more about your business and the product, but I’ll try generalizing it and hopefully, it is still relevant

      Freemium GTM model is a great way to get the right customers using your product without any friction but with an intent to start paying if they find it useful.

      For any SaaS business, the main goal should be to increase revenue. So as you are starting a new freemium model/product, you should test
      A) if what you are offering in the freemium version is not cannibalizing your paid product plans.

      B) KPIs I would think about tracking along the customer journey and focusing intitial experiments are
      1) Time to activation: It will give you an idea if you are capturing the right customers and how soon they are getting value from the freemium product
      2) Time to the first payment: So you are able to see how soon customers are ready to start paying you from the time they signup and activate.

      Of course: you should be able to establish a correlation between the activation metric to payment

      Hope this helps!

      2 Share
      • AF

        Alexandre Ferrari

        5 months ago #

        Hi! Awesome to hear from you on the matter! Be sure that helped! =)
        It's critical to evaluate if Freemium is actually an enhancement for the SaaS model, not otherwise. Thank you!

    • RS

      Rajan Sheth

      5 months ago #

      What tools do you currently use to manage the cycle of experiments?
      Ideas/Selection > Implementation > Learnings.

      Believe it or not - we use good old google sheets that we built to follow the Growth Framework for ideation and prioritization and tracking and visualization tools to share insights and dashboards.

      I would suggest using the collaboration tools that your broader organization is already using or is willing to use vs selecting a tool in a silo that only fits your team’s use case. The end goal is to evangelize, collaborate and share learnings with the broader organization.

      From what I have seen, Growth Hackers has built a great tool for exactly this purpose. Suggest checking it out if you are interested.

      2 Share
      • AF

        Alexandre Ferrari

        5 months ago #

        Hi! I believe. Sheets it's actually useful, mainly because it is typically used for many in companies. So there's almost no learning curve to start. It's great to know more about your way of work, thank you!

        Also, thank you for a point out the tool from Growth Hackers I already use and recommend. Bytheway, I totally agree about the end goal you mentioned!

  • TF

    tip fa

    5 months ago #

    that was perfect

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