SaaS B2B marketing at its best: The holistic approach
By Brightvision Marketing Team
Your marketing organization may not get the credit it deserves. And senior management—and the rest of the organization—may not see the full value of marketing. Why?
If you are like many companies, you focus on the wrong marketing. You are optimizing for short-term campaigns and easy-to-measure metrics like form fills, rather than thinking about the big picture and ensuring that the company sees Marketing clearly contributing to revenue.
Let’s say you create a campaign around an event or product launch. You pour planning and resources into it, and hey, your doing exactly what non-marketers are convinced marketing does, right? Then you make a great push and show your company the tremendous number of people that filled out your form.
But then what? How does that directly help the company grow?
As a SaaS company, your buyers take a looong time to become a customer. And even as they get ever greater tools to collaborate and work, that time doesn’t get shorter. And if they are not ready to buy, a quick campaign is not going to convince them. Your marketing activities need to reflect this or you will be totally disconnected from the buyers’ journeys (which are kind of your core mission in marketing).
So it is absolutely critical that you take a step back and apply a more holistic approach to your marketing. And in this blog post, we will outline what that approach could look like. The three key aspects you need to think about.
This approach is not taken out of thin air. We work with companies every day that “fix” their marketing this way. So let’s get started!
1. Begin building a holistic marketing strategy
If you are like many companies, Marketing is a bit separate from the rest of the company. You are not that integrated with the Sales or Product teams. And that can cause trouble.
This separation manifests itself in many ways, but here are two extreme examples that can cause confusion or conflict:
A. Marketing only reports on form fields, neglecting aspects like brand awareness and impressions.
B. Marketing only reports on more “abstract” values such as branding, failing to prove to the organization that they can have a direct impact on revenue.
You need all these KPIs. Metrics like form fills, prove to the C-level that Marketing can indeed support a steady revenue stream. But since you may be dealing with long sales cycles, those form fills give nowhere near enough insight into how your products are bought.
How to create your holistic marketing strategy
If you have a few years in the marketing game, a lot of this is…not rocket science. You kind of know it intellectually. But you would be surprised how often we run into marketing teams that have missed some of the most fundamental parts.
So make sure you don’t cut (too many) corners. And just remember that all the cogs in this machine must work as one, or you end up with some pieces moving independently or not at all.
Creating this holistic marketing strategy requires deep analysis. So make sure you have intense internal collaboration with other teams, such as Sales and Product.
Although it is one of the first things they taught you if you went to business school, don’t make the common mistake of being fuzzy about your goals and objectives. What exactly do you need to achieve? Be ultra-specific.
Really map out your buyer’s journey. What happens at each stage, who’s involved and what do they need in order to move as fast as possible to the next stage?
Make sure you have defined—and have really nailed—your buyer personas. And pay attention to how they each communicate and how they contribute to the decision-making process. You may experience disagreement between Sales and Marketing when defining which roles to target. This is normal, but something you have to resolve to avoid wasting resources in your targeting.
This is a highly data-driven approach, so you are going to need to decide from the outset what and how to measure, and also what data can you share with, for example, Sales so their work fits with your Marketing activities. Oh, and don’t forget attribution. Not only do you need to measure what works—there may occasionally be a conflict between Sales and Marketing around who takes credit for a certain outcome.
2. Understand the buyer’s journey and look beyond lead generation
We constantly come across SaaS companies that are all too campaign-focused. They run a campaign for a few weeks, and are disappointed by the results. We have even seen organizations approaching the end of a quarter and in panic decide to blitz cold recipients with calls.
Traditional campaigns only run for a limited period of time and are typically disconnected from other activities. They cost a lot of time and planning effort, and they usually don’t result in much actual value.
In the end, the marketing team fails to prove their value to the company. The SaaS buyer’s journey is simply too long for this traditional marketing approach to work.
So what should you do instead?
Stop staring at limited metrics lead generation and instead focus more on demand generation activities. Start building trust and positioning yourselves as the trustworthy leader in the market, and not another SaaS vendor trying desperately to get you to take a demo. The audience members don’t want a demo if they don’t know and trust you.
But how do you prove that your demand generation activities actually work?
In lead generation, measuring is easy. You measure simple and “soft” metrics, like form fills. But with demand generation, you need to connect some of those softer KPIs to something more concrete. Your C-suite doesn’t really care how many people have been on your blog. They want to know what happened eventually, when that blog visit turns into value for your company.
And of course, this doesn’t only apply to the C-suite. You want Marketing to earn the trust and respect of the rest of the organization, too. The sales team is not going to be impressed by your number of eBook downloads, or even the number of cold leads.
So respect the buyer’s journey.
How to get your buyer’s journeys right
Don’t see the buyer’s journey as a linear process that has an end. Once a customer buys your SaaS product, their journey doesn’t end—there is plenty of marketing left to do. At Brightvision, we prefer to visualize the buyer’s journey as a bowtie.
Do your research. Know how companies usually buy your product. For example, where in the journey they decide to buy from you.
Identify your weak spots. Where in the journey the prospects tend to “leak”, or drop out of, the process. Then you can try to patch those points, for example with some timely nurturing emails.
Avoid the common mistake to think Marketing’s job is about getting the lead into the CRM, and then letting Sales take it from there. You don’t really respect what marketing can do.
If you market a subscription-based service, consider Marketing a key part of retention, cross-selling and upselling. Your current clients are also your hottest leads, so make sure you use the powerful weapon of marketing to convert them again and again.
3. Develop a more agile, always-on approach
In traditional marketing, your marketing team spends months and vast resources preparing a campaign. You are excited to finally launch the campaign…but you are disappointed in the results.
It is an exciting approach if you like to gamble. But if you want more control over the outcomes, you need a more agile approach.
In this approach, instead of making these big risky bets upfront with your marketing,
you iterate. You test and learn what works, and you constantly improve along the way.
This is the approach your product teams use when they develop software, and it actually works. You are going to run a lot of tests along the way, so it is important that you are clear about what you are testing. So approach testing in a deliberate manner.
Traditional marketing is based on campaigns. They begin, you make a great push, they end, largely disconnected from everything else. But with this “new” approach, you are always on. You become like a machine that never stops learning and improving.
Your customers’ buyer’s journeys are not linear, and you never know at what point somebody is ready to buy. When you are always on, you are able to be there with the right content for them at the right time, and with a wide range of touchpoints.
So you will need a diversified channel strategy (we are not talking about only paid media here), and you need the content to fuel this always-on machine.
For all of this to work, you really need to know your audience (which goes for all marketing), and coincidentally, this is the best approach to get to know it.
How to be “always-on” the right way
Even though you want to be agile and learn by testing and doing, you still need to have a strategy in place—just like we talked about earlier in this blog post. You need to find a healthy balance between thinking ahead and defining a strategy, and being nimble and not paralyzed by a heavy strategy that is “carved in stone”.
Even though you should be “always-on”, ready with some sort of content at any time, we are not saying give them any content for the sake of it—it needs to be content that has a clear value to the recipient. Otherwise, it will have the opposite effect.
Always use what you learn about a prospect. Let what you serve them, be informed by what they have engaged with in the past. That’s part of the beauty of connecting all parts of your marketing into one holistic system: you apply to one activity what you learned in another.
So what are we saying here? Let’s sum up.
We are talking about a new way of thinking about your marketing, and how all the activities should fit into a bigger, meaningful, holistic system.
We covered three areas you should look into, and to succeed you need to do all three. If you don’t clarify a few strategic issues, your new system won’t work. And conversely, if you get stuck on the strategy stage, and fail to develop your “always-on”, agile approach, you will not see any actual results.
We want you to be certain that all those resources you pour into your marketing truly contribute to your company’s success. Getting a sales-qualified lead is not a goal in itself. It is about using all of Marketing’s power to not only turn that lead into a customer, but a happy customer that buys even more from you in the future and tells their friends about you.
We see companies every day that realize this, start making the changes, and are amazed by the results. Not only about Marketing’s reputation growing internally, but also how they contribute to the company’s bottom line.