Marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all discipline. Every business brings unique goals, needs, and offerings to the table. Yet, certain kinds of businesses share distinct characteristics and needs when it comes to marketing. SaaS is definitely one of those business types.
To delve into what SaaS leaders need from their marketers, Marketri spoke with Suzi Sosa, CEO and co-founder of Verb. Her company offers a unique platform that helps organizations develop leaders, upskill managers, and create a human-centered workforce, using a SaaS model.
What Drives a SaaS Company’s Marketing Needs
As Suzi explains, the nature of a SaaS business creates pressures that impact how marketers approach positioning the company to drive leads that convert to sales.
“In a SaaS business there is a lot of pressure and focus on optimization and efficiency—both time and cost efficiency,” she says. “It’s a very metrics-driven model.” That’s partly because SaaS businesses are often backed by private equity groups or other investors that want a solid return on their investment within a reasonable timeframe.
“Investor-backed SaaS companies are expected to be successful in 5-7 years,” Suzi says, and that impacts how the business views the role of marketing and the results it should generate.
“In a SaaS business, you can’t afford to spend two years ramping up your marketing,” she adds. That means marketers who serve this segment need to get it right, fast.
Delivering the Metrics That Matter
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical to any business, but SaaS companies live and die by them.
“We’re under constant pressure to report KPIs like customer acquisition cost (CAC), cost per lead, and the ratio of CAC to lifetime customer value,” Suzi says.” SaaS investors also want to see the magic number—the ratio of net new revenue to marketing and sales expense—coming in under 1. That requires balancing high expectations for marketing results with the realities of budget constraints, especially in a company’s early days.
This focus on measurable, short-term KPIs alters how SaaS marketers approach the all-important objective of lead generation. “In the past, a marketer might tell a client it will take 6-to-12 months to start generating leads and seeing results. Now, SaaS companies want to know what kind of results you can deliver in 90 days.”
The evolution of the B2B buying journey has significant implications for how marketers go about supporting a SaaS company’s KPIs and delivering results.
“Research shows that buyers want to do at least 70 percent of their research before talking with a sales rep,” Suzi points out. That puts the onus on marketers to move buyers much further down the revenue funnel than they’ve been accountable for traditionally, with tactics and content tailored to each phase of the buying journey. She believes SaaS marketers need to be especially adept at developing engaging websites that demonstrate how the product addresses the buyer’s pain points, preemptively answers objections, details the product offering, shares client testimonials, and enables on-demand demos.
The changing nature of the B2B buying journey also means SaaS companies may staff their sales and marketing functions differently. Most notably, Suzi finds that many SaaS companies are embracing the Chief Growth Officer (CGO) role—a highly experienced growth catalyst who bridges (but doesn’t replace) the marketing, sales, service, and product functions, keeping everyone aligned and supporting the company’s growth plans.
Strategy + Data + Technology: The Must-Haves
When a SaaS company like Verb seeks a marketing partner to drive the aggressive results its investors expect, several capabilities top the list.
Setting a strong foundation for effective marketing requires developing a sound strategy and strategic plan—something that SaaS businesses typically don’t have the in-house capabilities to tackle. That’s why many take a fractional approach to filling the strategy development role.
“When you’re small you don’t need a full-time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), but you do need to do the big work of creating an ideal customer profile, identifying your target market, and developing a marketing strategy,” Suzi says. Partnering with an experienced strategist that can present and defend your marketing strategy with the board is equally important, she notes.
SaaS companies find the fractional model highly effective for other essential marketing disciplines, including web design and content development. “There is a stage in the life of a SaaS company when you need the benefit of many different marketing skillsets, but you don’t need all of them full-time, so getting them fractionally is more efficient,” Suzi says.
Along with being strategy-driven, SaaS companies need their marketers to be data-driven. “We need quick feedback loops that allow us to evaluate the effectiveness of different channels and types of spend, so we can tweak what we’re doing for better results,” Suzi says.
For example, if a SaaS company hosts a webinar, they need to know how much the effort cost, how many qualified leads it generated, how many demos resulted, and how many leads turned into deals. That data helps marketers refine their strategy and approach quarterly, in line with a SaaS company’s typical quarterly review of objectives and key results (OKRs).
An equally important capability for SaaS marketers is proficiency in the marketing tech stack.
“A marketing partner needs to recommend what our tech stack should include, and why, and bring in specialists to configure it for our needs,” Suzi says. HubSpot and Salesforce are the core marketing technologies Verb relies on, augmented by specialty solutions like Outreach for outbound campaigning, Navattic for on-demand demos, Slintel to identify prospect emails for outbound targeting, and 6sense for intent-based marketing. “Our marketing team has to be comfortable using all these tools and help us get the most out of them,” she adds.
RELATED: The Essential Guide to SaaS Marketing Roles: Structuring Early-Stage Teams
No Time for a Learning Curve
Beyond the right capabilities, marketers that expect to serve SaaS clients successfully need to bring a solid understanding of how these companies operate and what’s important to them.
“If marketers come from other service industries, I find there is too much of a learning curve,” Suzi says. “I can’t take the time to teach my marketers about the KPIs I need to report on; I need them to know that out of the gate.”
She also expects a marketer to map the phases of the buying journey, the marketing strategy and tactics that support each phase, and how to measure success at every point. “Marketers need to bring a point of view and recommendation for how to make all of that happen,” she says.
And with quarterly planning vital to a SaaS company—and quarterly course corrections not uncommon—finding a partner that’s comfortable getting embedded into the planning process, writing OKRs alongside leadership, responding to shifting priorities, and continually fine-tuning is critical to ensuring a good match.
Marketri is the trusted marketing partner for SaaS companies like Verb that are looking to scale quickly in a highly competitive field. Our SaaS marketing specialists help leading companies differentiate their software and generate a predictable pipeline of sales-ready leads.
If you’re ready to team up with a SaaS marketing partner that understands the complexities of your business and can deliver exceptional results, schedule a call with our CEO Deb Andrews.