Solving the Last-mile Data Problem for SaaS Companies

on Activate, CRM, Data Warehouse, Product • May 27th, 2021 • Write for Hevo

In this blog, we cover how we faced and navigated a unique data challenge as our product and customers grew. While trying to solve this problem, we built an in-house solution for last-mile data delivery that gave us amazing results. We are now introducing that solution as another gem “Activate” in our product portfolio. Read on to know what went behind the scenes in this inspiring anecdote.

What is Hevo?

Hevo Data is a No-code Data Pipeline-as-a-Service. It is a B2B SaaS platform that makes it incredibly easy for organizations to integrate their data from different types of sources to a destination of their choice, typically a data warehouse, empowering everything from everyday reporting to advanced analytics applications. It makes the availability of the right data at the right time in the hands of the user, a reality (and without having to write any code and making any manual efforts), and that’s why our customers love us!

Data engineers, analysts, and tech-savvy marketers, in particular, find immense value in our product as it makes their day-to-day work a cakewalk. The reason is simple: Hevo provides a plug-and-play platform wherein the user needs to connect the data source, choose the destination warehouse, and configure the pipeline settings without writing a single line of code. The data replication starts happening within minutes!

The Initial Customer Acquisition Model

Like any early-stage startup, our initial customer acquisition model comprised a lot of experimentation. The entire cycle from lead generation to trial signups to customer conversion was based on trial and error until we identified models that worked well for us.

Business and product teams would strive in tandem to build the most seamless experience for the users signing up. We experimented with cold outreaches, content marketing, paid ads, etc., for lead generation. On the conversion side, we experimented with Self-serve, Sales-led, Support-led, and Product-led models to find what works best for which persona.

We found that Self-serve worked best for small-ticket size customers while Product-led and Sales+Product-led hybrid models worked better for medium to large deals.

Challenges with Scale

As our lead generation matured and we started getting 5X leads within a span of 7 months, it became difficult to keep track of all trial accounts. Our Solutions and Sales teams relied on Fullstory recordings to learn about the leads’ usage and activity within the product during the trial. Now, with an increasing number of leads, it became difficult to manually keep track of each lead’s activity and status. Naturally, the teams started struggling to get the right information about their leads’ product activity.

In parallel, we also formalized the process of HubSpot CRM for our rapidly growing Sales team. We needed a solution that could serve up the information about the in-product milestones right inside HubSpot, where the sales executives can access it in real-time. This can be considered similar to last-mile data delivery, where the last-mile refers to the operational tools and applications (like HubSpot, in our case).

To understand this better, let’s consider the example of a lead (user) who has connected a source. As soon as this is done by the user, a custom field should be updated automatically in the relevant “Contact” on HubSpot. The corresponding salesperson can then view it without asking and waiting for such details from the Product or Analyst teams. This seemed too good to be true. Nevertheless, we started looking for such a solution.

Scouting for a Solution

After searching for a relevant solution everywhere, from the HubSpot App Marketplace to multiple communities and platforms on data automation and CRMs, we hit a blind spot. We did find a few new players (Census, Hightouch, etc.) trying to venture out into this, but neither they nor we were confident about their product, given that they were still looking to validate their use cases and did not offer a lot of customization.

The Eureka Moment

Then it struck us – we are a technology product company. Not just that, we are the company that helps solve data challenges for all our clients. Surely we could work this out on our own. While discussing the problem with some of our Tech Team members, they offered to build an in-house solution to create a custom data loader from our Redshift warehouse to HubSpot.

The next steps were simple. We laid down a framework wherein we defined our in-product milestones for a trial user that would be sent to HubSpot in real-time. Based on this, we could not only define segments of leads and trial users but also provide personalized touch-points from sales and support teams. We decided to call this project “Activate” internally.

Powering in-house Product-led Growth with Activate

For Hevo, the major milestone that we wanted to track for every trial user was whether he/she was successful in creating a pipeline by connecting some data source and destination or not. Based on this, we defined 3 major segments of trial users:

  1. PCS (Pipeline Creation Successful): Users who were able to create a pipeline during their product trial.
  2. PCF (Pipeline Creation Failed): Users who tried to connect some sources/destinations but faced an error and couldn’t create a pipeline.
  3. PCNA (Pipeline Creation Not Attempted): Users who did not try to connect any source/destination.

Once we had these segments and relevant details readily available in HubSpot, our sales team could provide valuable interventions to the trial users right when they needed it. For example, the concerned salesperson would request PCS users to explore more features and steer them towards a paid plan. For PCNA users, the conversation would be on understanding their use case and helping them create a pipeline. For PCF users, the interventions would be Solutions or support-led depending on the errors they encountered.

Our team is currently working to make more product usage data available inside HubSpot (and even more tools that we use). The idea is to make this system more robust and sophisticated to deliver a seamless and personalized experience for our users.

The Impact of Last-mile Data Availability in HubSpot

The result was simple and stupendous. We grew almost twice as fast in terms of the number of paying customers over the next 4 months. The impact on incremental MRR was also proportional.

Impact of last-mile data delivery

During this period, our PCF to PCS and PCNA to PCS conversion percentages grew by 22% and 35%, respectively. We started seeing a lot of new paying customers coming from these conversions, while earlier, it was believed that PCF and PCNA buckets were a tough nut to crack and convert.

This solution single-handedly alleviated the struggles of the entire Sales and Sales Ops teams. The Product and Analyst teams also saved tens of hours of effort per week that was spent just to make the required data available to the Sales teams. Overall, we now save about 80 manhours per month with this solution enabling our product-led growth.

Releasing “Activate” from Hevo

While we were reaping such benefits, an idea to make this product available to other companies came in. We shared a Beta version with some of our existing customers and after seeing their great experience with it, we were convinced of the value it can bring to various organizations.

We already know this would be a great fit for similar B2B SaaS businesses to improve their sales performance. On top of that, we will be experimenting with a diverse set of use cases within organizations that could streamline a plethora of business processes ranging from marketing automation and customer success to support and project management.

With this, we’re happy to release our in-house solution, “Activate”, for SaaS and other companies to take benefit from. Since we started using the in-house solution, our Product team has added Snowflake (apart from Redshift) as a data warehouse and Salesforce (apart from HubSpot) as a target CRM to load relevant data. In the future roadmap, we’ll be integrating more targets across marketing automation tools, customer support, and project management applications as well.

Have you figured out a solution for the last-mile data problem in your company? If not, do try out Activate (it’s free for the first 100 users!) and share your feedback and experience with us.

Empower real-time sales operations with Activate