The AP Collection: 20 Best Startup and SaaS Growth Articles of 2016

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It’s hard work staying on top of all of the content produced about Startups and SaaS growth. Fortunately, we’re very lucky at Anders Pink to have an active community of entrepreneurs and SaaS fanatics who help us to do just that. Our community upvoted and commented on over 2,000 articles in the last six months. Here are 20 of the ones that really stood out.

Growing your Audience

Building your audience, bootstrapping your growth: These are the things that get start-ups out of bed (if they ever slept). Here are some of the articles our community liked this year:

How we grew our blog traffic from 200 to 27000 in 8 months without a budget
Dave Gerhardt at Drift really got us engaged with this great post. He shares six key insights for building an audience:

  1. Blogging is an investment, not a get rich quick scheme
  2. Quality is more important than quantity
  3. Put as much effort into promoting your content as you do creating it
  4. Focus more on topics than keywords
  5. Don’t get obsessed with Google Analytics
  6. Don’t worry about being a perfect writer

How to Build a Blog to over 1 Million Monthly Visitors
Another growth hacking story, this one from Brandon Gaille. In a very personal story, he shares his for steps for growing your audience:

  1. Keyword research
  2. Compelling blog titles
  3. Engaging content
  4. High quality link building

The 10 Commandments of Growth Hacking
A useful list post from Smart Insights here that sets out 10 guiding principles for growth – including Dave McClure’s “Metrics for Startup Pirates: AARRR” (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, Referral). Thanks matey.

How to Market Your Start-Up for Maximum Discoverability
A nice piece on the substantial challenges of getting new users to download your app. Acquisition costs are about $4 per customer – they share some tips for making your app more discoverable and driving downloads for less.

Case Studies

We all want to learn from the successes  – and failures –  of others. Case studies were well ranked by the community, here were the highlights:

How to Nail the Product Hunt Release of Your New SaaS Start-Up
Product Hunt is the proving ground for so many new apps. Of the many articles on how to win on Product Hunt, this one from Marcel Pense at Instant was best rated by our community. It’s a quick and honest read of how they made it work.

Sponsors are Playing Moneyball to Snag Unsung Olympians
We liked this example from the Olympics of longtail influencer marketing, but not going after the top tier but focusing on athletes with smaller but highly engaged audiences.

Does Growth Hacking Work? A Story of $12 Million Profit and 4500% Growth Over 3 Years
The numbers should be enough to hook you into this piece from Saas Genius profiling the business growth story from the founders.

How to Build a Mass Market Product: Trello
Intercom is a great product – we use it at Anders Pink and BuzzSumo. And their blog always has great insights on growing your SaaS business. In this podcast they interview Michael Pryor at Trello (another favourite of ours) on how they’ve grown. One key insight: You have no idea how your customers will use your product. Don’t be rigid about what your product is for and ask customers why they’re asking for a feature – you’ll discover more use cases.

Prayas Analytics has shut down, and its cofounder has 10 lessons for other startups
This one was a sobering and very honest read about where this startup lost its way. On one level the lesson is simple: you must listen to customers, and their willingness to pay for your product is the only true test. But it goes a lot deeper than that. Everyone bringing a new product to market should read it.

Pricing

It’s one of the hardest things to get right for any startup, so no wonder we read a lot of articles about pricing this year. These were the standouts.

Why do SaaS Companies Still Charge By The User?
Per User Pricing is the model for over 35% of SaaS companies. However, does it really make sense? Our community rated this article from Openview for challenging the per-user model and pointing out some alternatives that may fit your product better.

17 Experts Share Their Best Pricing Strategies
Yep, a round-up post in a round-up post. This is a helpful list of good advice on getting your pricing right. Only time for one tip? Man, you’re busy. Ok: Always have an upsell.

How To Persuade SaaS Customers When They All Hate Your Pricing Options
Kissmetrics write good headlines – and back them up with quality content. This one was well rated, with practical advice on tweaking your pricing until your customers stop hating it.

Growing and Scaling Your Business

Our community also rated this more in-depth advice and analysis of the challenges of growing your business.

Do things that don’t scale
This isn’t new but it’s a classic. Paul Graham of Y Combinator set out what sounds like counterintuitive advice: if you want to scale your SaaS product startup, you have to do things that really don’t scale: Do consulting. Provide very personal levels of service to each customer. Do things manually for them. But it makes complete sense when you read it. Which everyone should. TL,DR? Then just take this away: “I have never once seen a startup lured down a blind alley by trying too hard to make their initial users happy.”

Why Some SaaS Companies hit a wall at $20m revenues
That may be a wall you’d be delighted to hit. But the article from Jason Lemkin at SaaStr has a broader key point: Companies stall because their Net Promoter Score is low. When people fall out of love with your brand and product, you’re doomed at any level. The lesson: Measure NPS, starting now. And re-read Paul Graham’s article.

How Fast Does a Start-Up Have to Grow to Survive?
Tomasz Tunguz of Redpoint is one of the most insightful writers on all things Saas and Start-up. This well rated post makes the simple point: grow fast, or die slow. McKinsey found that if a software company grows at 20% per annum (which sounds respectable), it has a 92% chance of failing within a few years. Navigating the transition from a founder-led startup to having “managers of managers” is where most go wrong.

The Next Feature Fallacy: The Fallacy that Your Next Feature Will Suddenly Get People To Use Your Product
We hold our hands up, as designers we’ve been guilty of feature creep. We suspect we’re not alone, and Andrew Chen confirms it in this well shared post. He highlights the risk of feature bloat without customer validation, and how it will likely do nothing to drive your growth.  You’re better off focusing on your acquisition, onboarding and retention with your core features.

Startup Market Trends

The community also rated several articles that looked at emerging trends and dynamics in start-ups. These got the most engagement:

Why Competition is So Bitter in SaaS Companies
Jason at Saastr again provided great insight in this piece. With high app development costs and tight markets in niches, SaaS companies quickly find themselves engaged in an oligopoly or duopoly war – in essence a race to scale and a fight to the death for market share. If that’s you, there’s good advice here on how to handle it.

Why the Next Great SaaS Company Will Look Nothing Like Salesforce
Sequoia Capital know what they’re talking about when it comes to SaaS. In this piece from LinkedIn, they highlight a trend away from building large “Systems of Record” like Salesforce or Peoplesoft. The movement is towards “Systems of Engagement” that integrate via APIs with larger systems and focus on a specific task. The growth of the API economy underscores this trend.

Clearbit’s Playbook for Growth in the API Economy
Staying on the API Economy trend, this Openview interview with Clearbit’s founder shows the value of an API-first approach to growth. As they say: People don’t want another tool in their stack. They want to make their stack better with data. That’s what an API can do.

Predicting Startup Trends for 2016 and Beyond using Product Hunt
Product Hunt can tell you a lot about trends in start-ups. We liked this clever analysis by Venngage. Using Product Hunt’s API, they analysed all products on Product Hunt receiving more than 100 upvotes in a six month period – over 2,600 products. They share the trends that underpin the winning products in this article. The key trends

  1. Build for Web, then maybe iOS, then Android if you have to
  2. Productivity apps outperform health / information ones
  3. Bots and AI are trending upwards
  4. Make it work with Slack
  5. On demand startups are cooling off
  6. VR isn’t mainstream yet, but will be soon

If you want to stay on top of more articles like these, join our Startup Community to see fresh content on startups every day. Upvote the content you like, and help us make this list again next year…