Marketing Done Right: B2B SaaS Marketing
I was recently invited to talk about my experience in B2B SaaS Marketing by Rui Nunes, who started the Marketing Done Right movement to showcase the strategies, methodologies, and best practices that have been proven to work for long-lasting brands.
Rui Nunes - Founder of sendXmail(s) and ZOPPLY, started the Marketing Done Right movement to showcase the strategies, methodologies, and best practices that have been proven to work for long-lasting brands.
I was recently invited to talk about my experience in B2B SaaS Marketing. You can watch the full video bellow, but I also transcribed and edited a condensed version of the conversation for your convenience. Enjoy!
Rui: What made you change from Tonic App, the last company that you worked for, and accept this challenge at Landbot? What are the main drivers for you to feel inspired to get in charge of a brand?
We go through different stages and what attracts us in one stage is different than the next. What I really love to do right now, is to enter a company that already found product-market fit, but needs to scale and scale fast.
So there are still a lot of things to build but you are already sure that it's on a very good path to grow. Now you need to really bring in marketing to communicate and scale, to acquire a lot of new customers and keep them happy, and to build the brand around it.
The things that motivated me about Landbot, would be the most important in any decision: the people, the product, and the opportunity.
Starting from the end, the opportunity for my own personal growth to join another fast-growing VC-backed B2B SaaS business (all the keywords). That made sense for me right now.
Then the product. I signed up while I was interviewing and I started using it myself. I built my own chatbot to connect with the database of books I was reading and do my reading recommendations bot. I used a lot of marketing automation tools before and I really enjoyed Landbot's builder, so I saw why they have loyal customers that love their product.
Finally, and probably the most important is the people. I had very good conversations with the founders, that didn't feel like job interviews at all. We connected really well. I also met other people in the team and some investors, but mostly with the three founders, each in their own way, I felt a really great connection.
Rui: Having a recent background in SaaS companies, what makes the sector so different from others in how you do marketing? What are the main differences?
Inside software as a service, I see two very different types of companies and they require two different types of marketing: the product-led ones and the sales-led ones.
When the growth is product-led you need to bring the customer to try the product, to experience the value, to the activation, to find the aha moment. And then the retention and the engagement are really what's going to define the success of the company. This requires one type of marketing, very focused on growth and the product.
But then I had the other experience which is a very sales-led experience with enterprise sales, and it's completely different. You need to lead the customers to have a sales conversation, that's the biggest objective at the beginning, and then guide them through a sales funnel that can be very long and complex. And there are multiple people involved in making that sale. It can take months or years to close the deal. And they only get the benefits from the product after that is done, and implementation is done. So this is completely different.
SaaS companies are doing one or the other. And now I think that there is a trend for a hybrid approach. Companies want to leverage the best of both worlds and that's probably where I'm heading as well. We want to build both of those sales motions and support both at the same time. That's the challenge now.
Rui: What do you think are the best marketing strategies or tactics that you see working right now? Do you have something that you feel is almost a common thread on this?
It really depends on the objectives that you have, the product, the company, and the customers. There's not one recipe of the best tactics to use. That said, I strongly believe in creating content, whatever the format is, that adds value to the life of your prospects and use that as a way to create communication channels and to build trust between the prospects and your brand. And this can be educational content or it can provide entertainment value. As long as you're adding value to their lives.
The tactics themselves, they changed all the time. New platforms and new types of content are always appearing and the use cases can be very different, but as a strategy, that's what has been working for a long time. For decades before digital as well. And I believe that continues to work. I think that if you are creating content that someone would be willing to pay for, and you're giving it away for free, then you're going to have the return on that investment with the communication channel that you're building, the audience, the community, all of those things.
And being a bit more tactical on the distribution side, there are the usual suspects that drive results. You have LinkedIn organically. You have Facebook, not organically, just through ads. You have Twitter and the whole world of Google Ads. The search, the SEO and SEM, are very powerful channels that digital brought to us and that are very accessible for any team to use.
And then you should also create your own channels. As you know, a permission e-mail list never goes out of style.
I can add something more unexpected that I've seen working recently, which is direct mail. And I mean, snail mail, not email. If you have access to a good database of physical addresses for your prospects, and if you have a clear call to action and know what you want to tell them, consider using direct mail and sending them a letter or a postcard.
Rui: When you have a VC- backed company, you are required as a VP of Marketing to show instant results. How do you see a balance between the short-term and medium-term goals for companies like that?
You have to do it. If you don't do that, you'll you will lose your job in the first six months. And if you don't do the second part, you will lose it in two years, once you stop growing. So you really have to nail that.
That's one of the main challenges of working in a startup. You need the short-term wins and you need the medium-term growth and they require different things to work. It's not the same tactic and the same strategy.
So there's a balance between having a very clear strategic vision for the future and having a very strong capacity for execution and for hands-on coaching of the team, which sometimes is very junior, so you need to get hands-on with the team.
I think you really need to love the strategy and the execution equally and have the skills within both to make it work. If you are weaker on one of the sides, you need to find someone very strong in that to help you out, because they both need to happen.
Rui: Do you think that brand is a key element for any company in the world? Or for some companies, it's much more interesting to invest in performance marketing? Do you think that a brand is always important, even for companies that need short-term results?
You can make some marketing activities work without investing a lot on the brand. But I think it's incredibly important because all the tactics that you can imagine work better if there's a strong brand behind it. And from organic inbound to outbound, it's much easier if you're working with a strong brand than with a brand that no one knows or even worse with a brand that people have negative feelings about. It will just make everything so much harder, so much more expensive to get results.
Of course, it's not easy to measure the impact attributed to the brand. But that doesn't mean that we don't all know the difference that it can make in the performance.
Rui: What are the main drivers to create branding in your opinion? What should every company have in their off and online outlets to succeed?
That's the other tricky thing, how do you build a brand? Because branding is a perception. And that perception is the result of every experience, so it's much more than just the visual aspects of your communication.
It's what you say and how you say it. It's how it looks. It's the product and the experiences and emotions that it triggers. And you want all of these things to align and say that your brand is trustworthy or edgy or sophisticated. But it's the result of all those actions.
So I think the first thing you need is to determine how would you like to be perceived, make that very clear, and then everyone in your company has to live and breathe that. From the social media managers to the product designers and the customer success managers, they all bring those concepts to life for it to work in the way that you wanted, that you designed it.
What most people see as a brand are a logo and the fonts and the colors and the illustrations. And those have to be aligned as well because they have an effect.
But that's just one part, and if the others don't fit, then it will completely break the illusion. So it's not something that you can assign to one person and say, now you manage the brand and you create this brand, because everyone in the company will have an effect on the brand. So it's incredibly complex to create it in the way that you want it to be because you don't have complete control over that.
Rui: On digital marketing, everything that you are doing with the marketing attribution is being harder than harder to get right. How do you see the future in this department? Can we really understand the importance of all media channels we use to get that lead or sale?
Attribution is always another huge challenge. I believe that having clean data that you can trust to make decisions is super important. More than having a lot of data, but then you're never really sure if it's accurate and you can not make the right decisions based on it.
Depending on the complexity of your buyer journey, you may never have a complete understanding of all the channels that were involved in a sale, especially in longer journeys that involve multiple people.
There's no model that completely accurately replicates everything that happened. So I would say that you should focus on what you can measure, and do it right.
Especially in digital marketing, we know that there's a lot that you can do with data and automation. So I advise everyone to have a marketing operations specialist in their team. If it's not yourself, have someone good at it, and make sure that everything is properly set up and that you can use this data to inform the strategy.
Rui: It's really hard for any marketing team to measure everything that you are doing to influence sales. For instance, what are the KPIs or the ways that you are going to measure the influence of a podcast?
I think you need to have some trust in your gut feeling. You have experience, you have your own knowledge, and some things you have to assume that they are good.
If you see that people are coming to you and reacting to your podcasts and saying that they loved it, you know that's good. Maybe it's not in your CRM and it's not in any chart, but you know that people are starting to recognize you for the podcast. And that's a good thing. And you know that if you have more listeners, then next week when you publish, more people will listen.
Some things you just know are good business decisions that are good for your brand and they will bring results. And I think you also need to trust your judgment on that. Even if you don't have the perfect tracking model to prove the direct connection to revenue. You know that people talk to each other, that word of mouth is a thing.
So I think you also need to hire people that you trust and trust their judgment and know that some things they just feel right. And they are right. Even if you cannot prove them with data.
Rui: As the CMO what are the main skills that your team must have? I mean, do you go for the t-shaped marketer or do you prefer to have those specialized marketing professionals that also know a thing or two about the other stuff, but are very good on one marketing spec?
I'm dedicated to fast-growing startups, so the team evolves from one stage of growth to the next. And I think the biggest factors for success in this environment are creativity, adaptability, and resilience. So these are all the skills that entrepreneurs are made of, and the team needs to have these things to succeed. Because sometimes, every six months, it's like you're working in a different company.
We always need those people in the team, but as the company matures and our path becomes more clear, we have to recruit some more specialized roles that can do one function extremely well, and that will up the game of the team.
So it's a mix and that's what makes building the teams so interesting. And one of the challenges that I loved the most in these recent years is that you have to work with everyone's strengths and weaknesses and build one high-performing unit that embraces and strives for change
You also need to understand how adding a new member will improve the team as a whole, more than what their individual skills are. Will this individual make the team perform better? You want the two things to be aligned.
Rui: Imagine that you don't have anyone right now on your marketing team and you could only hire five professionals. Who would they be?
People don't always fit into the boxes that we imagined when we write the job descriptions, but for the exercise, in B2B SAS, I would go for these five:
Marketing/Revenue operations, Performance Marketing Manager, Content Writer, Graphic Designer, and Product Marketing Manager. Those would be the five.
Rui: If you were a startup founder working to make the most of your brand from day one, what would be the five key things you would do to succeed in marketing? It's almost like a mashup of what you've already mentioned before, like the content marketing, email marketing, and so on, but in this case, what would be the five key things that you would do as a startup founder, that you know that it's going to leverage your marketing strategy to get the most results in a short term?
The other thing about branding is people, and putting faces to the brands, right? So I would try to leverage that as a founder.
We have some examples from the biggest brands in the world. You think about Apple or Tesla, and you think about Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. Those are not examples for a small startup founder, but if you think about Chris Walker, if you're in marketing, you know Chris Walker. But maybe you have to think a little to remember what is the name of his agency? I think it's Refined Labs, right? But Chris Walker is the brand.
I would create some cost-effective ways to share my message and to put it in front of my target audience. And I would put my personal brand also at the center of that.
So five things, three on content creation and two on the distribution:
Creating a podcast. Creating a blog. Creating a newsletter. If I have a podcast and I have a blog, I should have a newsletter of course.
And then just focus on the distribution to reach the right people. My personal LinkedIn, organically. No need to pay, it works extremely well. And I would put the little advertising money on Facebook ads. I think it would be the most cost-effective.
Rui: The data tells me that there's a huge return of investment on a blog because you have a lot of things that you are going to get from investing in keeping content always updated on your website using the blog. Is that the main reason for you to start a blog for you personally?
Some blogs I've abandoned after a moment, but you are keeping this almost religious, like a blog post per week, I guess. So what's that about?
If you're going to bet on that, consistency is super important. The blog post that I published today is about the fallacy of quality versus quantity. It looks very good to say that quality is what matters, but no, the quantity and the frequency, and the consistency are super important.
If you want to grow a channel and an audience, consistency in terms of both quantity and quality is what matters. You want to deliver consistent quality on a given day. It can be monthly, weekly, daily. The more times the faster you will grow. In my case, it's weekly.
It's not part of my job, I do it in my spare time, but I know that there's a minimum to see results. I could do one per month and it would be a hobby, but it would never be more than a hobby. It would not grow into anything.
Publishing one article per month could be a nice way to give back and to share my thoughts, nothing wrong with that. But it would not grow into anything that resembles a business. If you want to do it professionally, you need to do it when you are inspired, when you are not inspired, when you have time, and when you don't have the time. You promise every Wednesday and you deliver every Wednesday.
So that's what I'm doing so far. Let's see if I can keep doing it.
Rui: The last question I want to ask you is what do you see as a trend in Marketing for the next few months or years? What we should be aware of?
I also published an article about that: I see that Netflix is the most powerful marketing channel that exists today. And I predict that more brands will follow the paths of Formula 1 and Headspace and invest in high quality content for TV streaming platforms that can entertain, educate and really influence people on a global scale.
I thought about this a couple of years ago, but I think it's already very clear. Headspace is on the second season now, and it's pure content marketing made for Netflix. The value of the content is amazing, but you're paying to see marketing for Headspace.
So I think that will continue to happen more and more. And in the end, everyone wins, because it's content that you want to consume and it brings value to the brand and it brings value to Netflix.