What is Hypergrowth? 10 secrets to achieving it in 2022

what is hypergrowth

We’ve heard what it takes to be a “hypergrowth” company.

Things like: 

  • Crushing hours
  • High turnover
  • Scandals
  • Exponential growth at any cost 
  • Fast to grow – fast to fail
  • Rush for funding 
  • Cool office in SF
  • Silicon Valley bro culture

But what if I told you that hasn’t been our experience?

In this guide, we’ll walk through:

  • The true definition of hypergrowth
  • 11 lessons we’ve learned as a hypergrowth company
  • Examples of other hypergrowth companies
  • The secret to achieving hypergrowth in 2022 and beyond

What is hypergrowth? The true definition

Hypergrowth means achieving a 40%+ average annual growth rate for more than one year. 

Defining hypergrowth this way sets it apart from other companies with varying levels of growth, such as: 20-40% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) known as “rapid growth” and 0-20% known as “normal growth.”

11 Hard-Earned Lessons from an ACTUAL Hypergrowth Company

1. Solve for underserved markets

SaaS tech has an obsession with “enterprise.”

Everyone in our space is fighting over every single deal, giving up margin in the enter”erise.  We have grown to 150,000 customers by focusing on the audience most underserved.  And what’s amazing is it’s the largest part of the market.

According to the US Small Business Administration, 31.7 million small businesses exist in the United States alone, which represents 99.9% of businesses in the US. This leaves a huge percentage of the market underserved when it comes to access to technology required to grow.

For example: 

You can buy ActiveCampaign directly on the website and upgrade/downgrade within the app. No need to talk to a salesperson. No complicated buying process.

By choosing the serve the segment of the market that our competitors have left behind chasing the “enterprise,” we’ve a stronger customer base, viral growth and more momentum.

2. Focus on your vision — not the competition

Knowing what you’re going to deliver including what problem you are going to solve for that underserved market is critical.

Our vision has not changed and always grounds everything that we do, joined by clear mission and values.  

Our Vision is to: Help growing businesses make meaningful connections with their customers.

We know we need to remain focused on that vision every day and stay true to it, rather than focus on what our competition is doing. 

For example:

SaaS companies underestimate the technology that small businesses are already using. Gone are the days of businesses not having a website or email.

If we attempted to be a true all-in-one platform and required business owners to migrate their websites and force them to pivot, we wouldn’t truly be serving our customers.

We don’t explore adding any features unless they’ll help customers make more meaningful connections with their customers.

3.  Focus on sustainability before your focus on growth

Let’s get real: being sustainable means saying “no” far more than you say “yes.”

We’ve had to give up some things and say no to great opportunities in order to prevent short-term thinking that’s typical in our space.

Short-term thinking, such as: 

✘  Obsessing about the vanity metrics 

✘  Give up to get now

This guide originated as a Saastr annual presentation. Over the course of that conference, you’d hear a dozen speakers and walk away with a checklist of dozens of strategies and tactics to implement when you get home.

But you shouldn’t.

Instead of reading guides like this and creating a checklist (that you’ll start to implement, but never finish) 

Hypergrowth marketing is not a checkbox of micro-tasks. 

Companies do not achieve hypergrowth by ticking off mediocre implementation based on a monolithic list of tactics.

They do it with long-term thinking, such as:

✔  Controlled growth

✔  Ownership of roadmap and markets

✔  Optionality

✔  Real growth customers, revenue, churn

For example:

Don’t make decisions for the company you’ll be in the future. Make decisions for the company you are today.

Even if you’ll hit a revenue number (or employee number) in the future, spend and act like the company you are today.

A big reason we were able to grow during the pandemic was because we weren’t over-leveraged into opportunities, strategies and tactics that weren’t sustainable.

My job as a CMO is to take more things off the list than we add to it. When I do my planning, the team is proposing that forward and I’m taking half of it out.

Hypergrowth companies will often take as much from you as you’re willing to give. That’s why we see burnout culture so prevalent in the fastest growing companies.

4.  Don’t overlook global markets

Serving 150,000+ customers means we’ve seen our fair share of great products in the wrong market.

So we’ve taken that to heart.

Instead of focusing on one region, we’ve focused on 2 things:

  1. A product that grows well through word of mouth
  2. Supporting regions where the product was naturally growing (instead of forcing ourselves into the traditional “tech hubs”) 

Sure, traditional tech hubs give you: 

  • Homogenous attitudes 
  • Early adopters
  • Disposable income 
  • Closer to “home” 
  • But you give up a lot… 

With global growth comes (again), a more sustainable business.

Fox example:

We have customers in 170 countries and our employees speak 26 languages (including Bosnian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Mongolian)

What does this mean, practically?

ActiveCampaign has customers in more countries than McDonald’s.

Focusing on global markets has provided:

  • Broader datasets and partnerships
  • Greater need and momentum 
  • Strong localization muscle 
  • Reduced risk
  • Better support for US customers too
  • Allowing us to uncover new opportunities across the board 

During the onset of the pandemic, we were able to see how businesses were impacted in Italy and other early hotspots to better inform how we supported customers in other geographies.

5. Reduce risk through optionality

Enterprise business comes at a cost: putting your resources and innovation into a black hole. 

At ActiveCampaign, no single customer represents more than 0.5% of our revenue.

When the pandemic hit, we had such a rich balance of customers that even though many customers paused their ActiveCampaign account, others were growing and upgrading their accounts (in addition to new customers joining the platform).

Diversity of customers and markets we serve enables innovation, plus:

  • Exposure to more use cases 
  • Creative approaches to deliver value to the largest set of customers possible 
  • Control of our roadmap 

For example:

When the pandemic hit, we had such a rich balance of customers that even though many customers paused their ActiveCampaign account, others were growing and upgrading their accounts (in addition to new customers joining the platform).

6. Invest in your community and they will invest in you

It’s really easy to say we’re going to sit down at our desk to build campaigns and grow our business.

But we don’t have to do it alone.

One of the most underused levers in business is partnerships.

Some of the partners that we work with regularly in the form of integrations are also go to market (GTM) partners.

For example:

Partnering allows you (and us) to cut investment in advertising, promotion and events in half.

Big consumer brands like Nike and Red Bull do this all the time.

We’ll spend a week optimizing a landing page to double conversions, but we could also get double the results by partnering with somebody else.

7. Even if it doesn’t “make sense” on paper

This is my favorite.

I once had a CEO that said every time he heard, “No, that’s a bad idea” 3+ times – he knew he had to look at pursuing it.

Why?

Because nobody else wanted to (including his competitors).

For example:

First, in our space, all of our competitors require you to pay some sort of “implementation” fee.

We thought that was really weird.

Why would somebody pay to implement it before they realize the value of a product?

We kept hearing this was a bad idea and to copy our competitors, which made us dig in deeper.

Today, we offer free implementation and migration to every customer that wants it. We’ve removed the barrier to entry, offer the highest speed to ROI for our customers and are able to stay ahead of competitors.

Second, with ActiveCampaign’s diverse array of customers, it could become impossible to go to enough in-person events to meet them all.

Right?


Wrong.

In 2019, we attended 200+ small business events and offered a reimagined virtual experience in 2020.

Not only did we see a 90 day payback on those events, but allowed us to create outspoken advocates by building communities in underserved, rapid growth areas.

Clearly, rethinking what other people have told us we couldn’t do has really worked.

8.  We understand that customer experience investments lead to advocacy

You’ve heard over and over that “surprise and delight” is important.

And it is.

But it goes beyond sending swag in the hopes your customers will post it on social media.

For example:

Here’s what real hypergrowth surprise and delight looks like:

  • A frictionless purchase model
  • 42% of revenue go back into product development and innovation
  • Over 600 automation recipes 
  • Prioritize free 1:1 support options based on customer feedback
  • Customer success commitment: promising 2-year price lock, billing pauses, no charges for unmarketable contacts. 

Also, and this is huge: We don’t send out any emails that you can’t reply to. Every single email that goes out at ActiveCampaign comes from an email address owned or monitored by a real person.

It starts with not raising prices, goes further with real emails, and 

9.  We became our own best customer

Adding to the list of “things that sound obvious, but nobody does them,…”

ActiveCampaign is ActiveCampaign’s best customer.

Over the years we have learned that our customers’ experience overlaps with our own experience. 

Because of this, we feel like we owe it to our customers to share what we have learned along our journey.

From the beginning, we have used our own software to drive and scale our growth. Today, we have hundreds of users across dozens of teams at ActiveCampaign. 

  • We live CXA every day, from automated nurture sequences & omnichannel experiences to onboarding our own employees. 
  • Because we have such an overlap with our customer’s own experience, we felt compelled to share our experience with our customers. 
  • It helps to take the guesswork out of how they apply our solutions and help them get to a winning approach faster
  • Because we also started as a small business with only a few employees and are now almost 1000 employees strong, we can have informed conversations with customers of all sizes. 
  • As a result, we know our customers won’t outgrow our ActiveCampaign because we are making sure we don’t outgrow ActiveCampaign. 

For example:

Using your own product is great, but what’s the next step?

At ActiveCampaign, based on our own experience with our product, we have a quarterly hackathon for our product team, marketing team and engineering team.

Teams are given the opportunity to work on ideas they have to improve our product. Here’s how:

  • Each team comes up with an idea, pitches the idea, and works on the idea together. 
  • If the idea is good and it can be implemented, we award those teams be actually having them build that functionality into our product. 
  • Last year, we had the entire business participate in a company-wide hackathon where all teams could come up with creative ideas for improving our product. 
  • Those teams worked on their ideas over a couple of days and presented them back to different leadership teams. 
  • The winners were selected and implemented into the product. The example you see is from one our our winning hackathon teams. 
    • This team dedicated the couple days to refreshing and creating brand new email templates for our customers to take advantage of. 
    • They ended up with over 150 new and refreshed email templates in our product that can be leveraged by every customer in our platform.
  • Additionally, we always push new product updates to our internal instances of our platform so our teams that use the product for their job can experience the new features. 
  • This allows us to test drive production-ready features in a real environment before we turn it on in our customers’ accounts.

10. We learned to balance personal touch with 1:1 automation

There’s a huge risk in hypergrowth that nobody talks about.

We all love our local neighborhood taco spot.

We all want to drive the local craft beer.


But when those become extremely successful and get acquired by a bigger company, we lose faith in them.

The same thing happens with hypergrowth companies.

The customers they served earnestly in their early days become replaceable and become ignored as the company scales.

For example:

So how do we continue our hypergrowth trajectory without abandoning large segments of our customers?

We balance personal touches with 1:1 marketing automation because we know we need to be reliable with the little things that matter every day. 

Doing those little things through automation allows us to invest in the “wow experiences” that stay in our customers’ memory. 

You have to find that perfect balance to sustain your hypergrowth. 

The Secret to Achieving Hypergrowth

Every single article on the topic of hypergrowth gives generic advice.

Every single one.


Here they are so you don’t have to read them:

  • “Make customers happy”
  • “Support your customers”
  • “Solve for the customer”

At face-value, we agree: If you over-invest in your community and customers, it pays off, and it has for us. You can see that we have grown rapidly since 2016, when we relaunched as a SaaS platform, and continue to grow and scale rapidly today, culminating in our Series C announcement in 2021. 

We are excited to say that we expect to cross 1000 employees this year, with no signs of slowing down.

But the entire point of this guide was to show you how to achieve hypergrowth without losing that customer-driven edge.

The thing they leave out is how to do that when you’re a hypergrowth company.

The things that were easy to start become nearly impossible as you scale.

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