Episode 7

B2B SaaS Marketing: How to Navigate Unique Challenges

Preetish P

About This Episode

Unpacking the intricacies of B2B SaaS marketing and offering strategies that will help you nurture leads in extensive sales cycles. 

Preetish P  | Marketing Director, Bettermode



Episode Introduction (00:00:00)

What kind of alternatives your customers would have if your product did not exist? And what’s the end benefit you’re delivering to the customer? And who exactly is your customer? The final piece is the category itself are you going after an entire category or are we choosing a smaller pie in an existing category and then trying to expand and at the end of the day, your positioning should be designed to carve space in the mind of customers so that they would consider your product is one of the best solutions when it comes to solving a particular challenge.

How Agencies Thrive Introduction  (00:00:29)

But then you think about the social landscape. The research data is hugely significant when we combine all of these different touch points, so that long-term loyalty and then diving into the clicks to leads to sales, gotten to a point where it can drive better results in audience targeting, and really is what’s going to set you apart. You’re tuning in, you’re tuning in, you’re tuning in to the How Agencies Thrive podcast.

Sneha  (00:00:54)

B2B SaaS marketing. That’s what we’re talking about today. Simply put, this is about marketing your software as a service. This is a little different from any other regular products because SaaS purchases are most likely to be subscription-based. This means you have to keep up with the competition, release new features, improve user experience, make product updates to keep the user engaged, and provide value, and also do this consistently. So in today’s episode, let’s dive a little deeper into this. Welcome to the How Agencies Thrive Podcast. I’m Sneha Suhas from StackAdapt. And today, we’re chatting with Preetish from Bettermode, about B2B SaaS marketing. Preetish, hello, and welcome to the show. I’ll now pass it to you to introduce yourself, you know, your professional experience so far and your areas of expertise.

Preetish  (00:01:49)

Thanks, Sneha. Thanks a lot. Glad to be here. So my name is Preetish and I have been working on product marketing and growth marketing for close to 10 years, mainly focused on SaaS products. I started my career as a software engineer, and then I moved to my marketing and business side for that. And I am currently working as a Director of Marketing at Bettermode. And what we do at Bettermode is we bring together different customer engagement tools into one platform. So for example, discussing forums, Q&A, events, Resource Center, Help Center ideas and roadmaps. Change logs into one centralized all-in-one committed platform so that you can streamline the customer experience, centralize all your tools and build better customer relationship. So that’s what we do at Bettermode.

Sneha  (00:02:47)

Amazing. Thank you so much, and very glad to have you here. So my first question to you is about B2B SaaS marketing itself, which can be quite different from B2C marketing. Right? So what do you see are the key distinctions and unique challenges that marketers face when promoting software products to other businesses?

Preetish  (00:03:10)

Yeah, I really love that question, because that’s a really fundamental question about B2B SaaS, but I believe at the end of the day, to begin with, we have to be human to human, we need to look at what’s the unique pain point that we’re solving what kind of benefits we’re providing, that requires a deep understanding of our customers. And, of course, that applies to both B2B and B2C. But that said, there are of course unique challenges. So one point that you previously mentioned during the intro is that B2B businesses are primarily subscription-based businesses, right, which means you have to keep on improving your product, invest a lot on customer success, to make sure that your customers are constantly getting value, they’re realizing the investment that they’re making, and what kind of output they’re getting from the product. So investing a lot on customer success, that is one of the key aspects there. But in terms of purely from marketing and sales side as well, you are predominantly selling to a team than one single person, right? So there is a person who will be using that product. But there is another person who would approve the budget. There is this legal team, who is trying to make sure that in terms of regulations, they’re safe. There is this technology tech team, or data security team that is making sure that their customers data is secure. So there is a number of push and pull going on in a B2B SAAS purchase. And you have to be context you have to see everything through a different contexts. So what kind of motivation each team member has, and you need to fulfill that. So that’s one of the key challenges. And apart from that, depending on the kind of companies you’re targeting, say, for example, it could be a smaller company, it could be mid-market company, it could be enterprise company, depending on that the sales cycle could range from, you know, a week, two weeks, a month to a year as well. And because of that, you need to be constantly in touch with your customers, of course, throughout the sales cycle, but after that as well. And in terms of the kind of content that B2B SaaS produces is kind of different than B2C. So it involves things like white papers, research papers, case studies, demo sessions, which might not be that common on in B2C side. And then you have to essentially build your listenership, right. So right from the stage of discovering and getting in touch with the first prospect to closing the deal, and then making sure that you are in touch with them throughout their journey and making sure that they are realizing the value. So that’s a constant process. So yeah, so I believe, selling to a team of buyers, looking at their unique challenges, linear sales cycle, these are some of the unique challenges that you will encounter in B2B SaaS.

Sneha  (00:06:35)

Right, so you know, you spoke about sales cycles and B2B sales cycles can be lengthy and also involve multiple decision makers, like you said, so how can marketing automation and lead nurturing, helping maintain engagement and guiding prospects through the sales funnel? And what are some of the key metrics to look at here?

Preetish  (00:06:59)

So, yeah, just in terms of marketing automation tools, I believe, one of the most common use cases would be around lead scoring and pricing. So, based on the ICP, or ideal customer profile, that you have defined, using that as a base, you can score different kinds of leads that are getting channelled into your funnel. And based on that score, you can prioritize the deals and then let your sales team know that this lady is matching with our defined ICP, and we should be able to close them. So that is a production process that is getting impacted with marketing automation tools. And another key area is segmentation, right? So based on all the data that we’re collecting, you need to be able to segment your customers or all the leads that you are having in your funnel. So based on their demographics, their peruses firmographic data, all that can be used to segment your customers. And that’s also a key driver for personalized messaging. So these are some of the two key areas in which marketing automation helps. Apart from that, like I mentioned, inherently, the sales cycle could be longer, could be manual, it could range from one month to a year. And toward that period, you need to make sure that you’re constantly engaging with the prospects. So like sharing testimonials, company news, or even if you’re releasing any kind of case study. So all that could be channelled through the marketing automation tool, and you can use that to communicate with your customers and on and off course, like I mentioned, you need to use that segment to personalize your messaging. Apart from that, these days, all of most of their marketing automation tools have sophistication built into that so that you can capture different kinds of intent. For example, are they using certain features in our product, you can channel that here, automation and capture that if they are not taking those actions or those behaviours that you want them to pursue. You can use your communication to guide them in certain way. So those are some of the areas and also in these days, the marketing automation tools, they’re adding a lot of different channels to help you communicate just not emails or messaging it could be you could reach them or to other channels such as SMS or WhatsApp and all that. So multi-channel messaging can also be utilized here, and apart from that, it’s just not about you know, communicating with your customer through a one-way channel, it’s about, it’s also about opening up that channel and receiving feedback from the customer. So, using your marketing automation tool to reach out to the channels in which your customers are active and, and getting feedback from them is also crucial. So, these are some of the areas and apart from that, you can look at what kind of pain points that they have described during the interaction with your team, with your teammates or sales team can utilize that to communicate with them. And apart from that, then you have a say for example, they are utilizing some kind of integration, or maybe they have activated some tool that your platform offers. And in that moment, you can send certain helpful resources, what are the best practices, how other companies are using those integrations? So those kinds of behavioural activities can be tracked. And you can, of course, communicate with the customers and see and make sure that they’re getting the best value out of the product. So yeah, that’s how I would mainly summarize it.

Sneha  (00:11:32)

Okay. You know, you spoke about messaging a lot and have a question about messaging, right? B2B SaaS products have complex features and benefits, most likely, but how do you create compelling and informative content that communicates the value proposition clearly to potential customers? And can you also throw light on product positioning here, when it comes to messaging? And how are you showcasing that value?

Preetish  (00:12:01)

Yeah, absolutely. So again, I believe, when it comes to communication, and explaining complex topics, it’s primarily about having a deep understanding for customers, their pain points side. So it begins from there. So again, you need to have a clear view of your customers develop your buyer persona, look at the industry challenges, goals, what is their preferred content format? How are they consuming content, have a clear view of that, understand your customers, first of all, and then whenever you’re building out any kind of content, it should have a lot of visuals. So for example, if you’re, if you have a blog, post, infographics, diagrams, flowcharts, that these things could be used to explain complex topics. And then you need to be able to demonstrate using examples of case studies of how, how other companies are ordered best practices of using our product. So that also gives a lot of clarity. So that is also tied to storytelling. How can you let your most satisfied customers talk about product, their experiences, and utilize that to communicate your purchase vision, and what kind of features you’re building, and also talking about the vision and journey, whenever you are releasing any kind of new feature or talking about any kind of value that you’re offering, try to see if you can tie in your larger mission and vision as well, that also creates a lot of trust. And then there are some other common tactics that I can talk about, like for example, not using complex jargons, using simple words, emphasizing on what kind of return you’re providing to your customers based on their investment. And these days, a lot of interactive demos are also trending. So your website itself could host a lot of interactive demos of your product that also explains how they can click through different areas of the product and see how it works. Without even talking to a sales team or even watching a video they can actually play around with your product and and talking about videos of course that’s one of the key channels a key content format as well to expand any kind of topic because inherently it’s visual and your grasp those topics in a really easy way. And then you need to also do just get feedback from the customers as well like what kind of content you are, what could be improved. What are you missing? If there is certain topics that your customers will learn who would like to learn? Can you cover that? Can you have live walk-ups or webinars to help the customers directly through one-on-one interactions? So these, one-to-many or one-to-one sessions can be utilized to, you know, decipher your products, complex stories, and then use them to simplify the message and talk about it. But then coming to positioning, I believe it’s a really, I believe this is one of the most fundamental aspects of motion that can make or break your product. So, it’s a really complex topic as well, I believe we can have an entire podcast dedicated to just positioning. But yeah, positioning mainly stems from you’re missing. So missing, that translates to your positioning? And then you use the positioning, procured your messaging. But for positioning itself, they’re the primary five components, I would say. One is that, what kind of alternatives your customers will have if your product did not exist? So what kind of alternatives that they can choose? And what’s the end benefit you’re delivering to the customer? And what’s your unique solution? That’s one thing, and who exactly is your customer? And apart from that, the final piece is the category itself. What kind of category you’re building? Are you creating a new category? Are you going after an entire category or are choosing a smaller pie in an existing category and then trying to expand? So all these five components, all builder positioning, and at the end of the day, you’re positioning or should be designed to carve special space in the mind of customers. So that they would consider your product is one of the best solutions when it comes to solving a particular challenge. I will also suggest April Dunford, she has written a lot about positioning, I think she is one of the best. When it comes to designing positioning. I think everyone should sort of look at the resources that she has put out. I believe there is this podcast as well as newsletter. It’s called Lenny’s Podcast and Lenny’s newsletter as well. So there she has written a lot about positioning in one of the issues. So check it out. Yeah, I would just like to say that once you have narrowed down your positioning, and it may not be absolutely crystal clear in the beginning, I know that, at least in early stages, it can change as you move towards product market fit and look at different components of the market. But at least start with a minimum viable positioning and utilize that to create different messaging, your battle cards, reasons to believe valuable isn’t all this.

Sneha  (00:18:39)

Amazing, very insightful. Thank you for that. And so Preetish, my next question for you is about Account Based Marketing (ABM). Right. It’s gained popularity in B2B marketing. So how can SASS companies implement ABM strategies in the digital world to personalize their approach for high-value clients?

Preetish  (00:18:59)

Right. Yeah, I mean, it’s one of the most trending topics in the B2B space. So we’re happy to talk about it. I believe the whole buzz around ABM started picking up around, I would say, seven, eight years back, maybe around 2016. Around that time. So even before looking at ABM, I would say that, first you need to see if your company would benefit from that. There are a couple of markers that you can choose to first see if your organization is first of all suitable for ACV or not. So look at your annual contract value. So if it is generally around 25k 30k, then that’s a really good signal as well, that it could be a good fit for you. But if you have a smaller ACV might not be the right fit and also When it comes to larger content values, inherently the sales cycle is also higher. Not always. But inherantly it is. So if that is also the case for you, if it takes maybe months, six months, five months, a year, something like that to close deals, then ABM will be perfect for you. Because you will be dealing with multiple stakeholders on a larger timeframe. So Account-Based Marketing will be perfect for you. So these are the markers that you need to look at. And then you need to start your ABM program, I would generally suggest that companies that are starting with ABM, they can come across a number of different tools that it’s, you know, quite complex to look at all these different tools and put them together. But I would suggest that just start with a pilot program, you know, just select 10 accounts, and assemble a small team, try to see who will be working on what kind of activities, what will be the different project ideas, and then establish your KPI so it could be meetings, works, booked, number of opportunities created things like that, and then look at your timeframe, and also agree that you meet certain number of metrics based on the KPI that you have selected. And then you start running your ABM program. But when it comes to just starting with the pilot, I would say that work really, really closely with your sales team to first prepare that list of account. If you’re going after 10 people an account, or maybe just 10 accounts work with the sales team to find out who would be your ideal customer, even you can also look at your CRM to find out some of the cold leads and just try to reason with them, you can utilize that to build your list. Or you can look at if you have a subscription to Apolo Zoominfo, maybe CrunchBase, or even LinkedIn itself, you can utilize that to build your account list. When you’re starting with a pilot program, you don’t need that big, large lists, you can just use LinkedIn or CrunchBase as well. And if you’re targeting SASS companies, you can utilize a site called Get flatcar.com. The site itself has a lot of SaaS company list for targeting B2C, direct-to-consumer companies, or E-commerce companies, then you can look at Charm, it’s a database of E-commerce companies. So you can look at all these different tools to identify your target list. And then try to research look at their LinkedIn profile and try to map out different decision makers, their roles, their plans, what could be, who could be potential influencers, can you also get warm intros based on your existing network, because that will help a lot if you can secure a warm intro, apart from building the right list and mapping out the decision makers, you can also need to look at what kind of content assets you have already created. And of course, you can reutilize them but you need to try to make sure that those content assets, those ebooks, white papers or case studies, there is a lot of personalized because you’re starting with really small number of accounts, you need to be able to personalize those accounts even you can personalize the landing pages as well. So invest in that really personalize the content, personalize the experience, then try to reach out and make sure that the marketing message is in tune with what the sales team would say, want those opportunities, opportunities are created. And they’re actually demoing the product and trying to pursue the prospect to you know, become a customer. And as you expand your target list, maybe you start going to 50, 100, 500, you need to utilize multiple different channels as well as it can utilize LinkedIn for targeted ads. Even I believe StackAdapt also has some kind of integration with Bambora. We can use those intent signals to run different kinds of targeted ads for target accounts. Of course there is email campaign. You can also use offline channels to send some kind of personalized gift or any personalized message to them. There is this tool called Instantly, which has email warmups, and email sequences contact database built into one single platform kind of similar to Apollo as well. And very cost effective can utilize that to run your campaigns, if you’re just starting out. And then yeah, and finally, you need to look at what kind of metrics you were able to achieve, based on that defined pilot period. How many opportunities we created, how many demos you booked with the sales team? And then try to see based on that success, that learning ,that feedback, try to see how can we expand your ABM program to more number accounts. As you scale, as you try to get larger number of accounts, I would highly suggest that you utilize intent signals. There are a lot of intent, vendors, you can even utilize due to crowd. They also provide intent signals based on what kind of category or competitors are your own product that buyers are searching for, you can utilize that to be more targeted and be more precise in terms of the kind of people you’re reaching out to the kinds of messages you’re putting out. So that’s how I would I would approach ABM, I would first start with a pilot program, then try to expand it. And when we’re doing a pilot program, just start with low number of accounts, start with 10 accounts, personalize your content, reach out to them. And from there you iterate and scale.

Sneha  (00:26:40)

Awesome. Those are very specific suggestions and great insights. And you talked about scaling. Right? So how can digital marketing strategies be adapted to say, scale and target international markets and overcome cultural and language barriers?

Preetish  (00:26:57)

Yeah, there are I mean, it’s definitely complex, it might seem that it’s quite kind of straightforward to just localize your content and try to go up to different markets. But there are a lot of nuances to it. You need to first understand, if you’re really deep into winning localized market, you need to understand again, how what kind of specific cultural nuances or specific geo-specific problems that your customers have, understand their market landscape or their local competitors, what kind of value they provide, and what kind of unique solution that you can provide that local market. That’s one of the key areas. Again, so understand your customer. Do thorough research based on that geo. And then you plan your content. Like I mentioned, you need to, of course, localize your content, you need to invest in high-quality, translation services to make sure there is accuracy. And also, there are certain things that could be sensitive in some areas, like for example, maybe some words, some jargons, some way of saying things could mean entirely different in different countries. So you need to be sensitive to that and make sure that you’re working with experts to make sure that your content doesn’t have any kind of sensitive material based on the market that you’re targeting. So that’s one of the key areas, you’ll need to of course, localize your success story, so can you have some kind of local success stories from that specific geo or based on that demographic, that quote resonates really well with that market. And, again, you’re supportive sources could be I mean, your support resources need to also match that market and the knowledge base, the help centers, even customer success, support reps, if they’re not able to speak that language, then there could be a lot of bottlenecks there. So investing in that area. The timeframe as well. If you are in the States or in North America and trying to target maybe Southeast Asia or something like that some other geo that is far from your local time zone. Can you have some kind of team that can cater to the customer from that area and make sure that they’re getting the right kind of experience and support based on their timezone? So, all these things need to be considered. And again, the distribution channel also plays a lot. I mean, it plays a crucial role. So utilizing channels such as you might be utilizing TikTok, or maybe Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, depending on what kind of content you’re putting out and what kind of market you’re serving but for example, in China WeChat is really popular. So depending on the local market are we able to utilize different kinds of distribution channels, apart from the regular ones. So that is another key area, then localizing our pricing, payment options as well. And another key area is your data regulators and privacy regulations, making sure that you are compliant with those local areas. Even California has CCPA. And we all know about GDPR in the European region. So making sure that legally, customer experience-wise, marketing-wise, you are in tune with the local market is just really crucial for expanding into interesting market.

Sneha  (00:30:50)

And as we look ahead, what trends do you foresee shaping B2B SaaS marketing in the future? And how should companies prepare to adapt their digital marketing strategies to stay ahead in this evolving landscape

Preetish  (00:31:07)

Right, really, really good question as well as I believe there are a lot of thoughts going on around artificial intelligence. So I must use that word from the beginning of my answer. So there are I believe, I mean, there is now a large, large scale, utilizing of different kinds of AI tools. And it is going to definitely change the way we work, the way we market even the way we build products. So I believe that with AI, the level of personalizing will also increase a lot. And right now we are using, for example, lead scoring based on the former graphic and demographic, and some kind of product user’s data. I believe with time there are also current solutions as well right now, which can predict at a much better level, what’s the probability of closing certain kinds of deals based on external factors as well, not just the data that we’re collecting? So that would again, be democratized, I believe more companies would have access to that kind of tools. So I believe personalizing and utilizing these kinds of tools to see and prioritize the deals that are getting that could be more efficient. And then content production, the kinds of content that you are creating. It can be scaled a lot using artificial intelligence, large language models, even mostly, all the tech marketers are, when you’re working with athletes in the tech space knows about ChatGPT and have, everyone has played around with it. So utilizing these kinds of tools to scale your current production be more efficient, in terms of the kind of content, you can create, that would rapidly increase. I believe, smaller teams will be more efficient as well, they can produce more compelling content, without requiring large team members. That’s something that’s going to happen. And I would say that, I believe there will be at least in the B2B SaaS phase, there will be more PLG product lead growth companies with time than sales lead growth companies, they are there, I saw this report that was put together by an investment firm VC company that said that post-pandemic and before 2023, some of the sales lead companies did actually well in terms of retaining customers and selling higher contract value deals. But I believe with time it will die, that tool that would save more towards PLG, because more and more number of people have access to different kind of information they can see and understand what’s happening with the market, what kind of market dynamics what kind of alternatives everyone has. And 90% pretty soon is already getting made before even reaching to the customers. So to that will accelerate a lot. And we will see that mainly companies will lean towards PLG. And in terms of preparing for upcoming challenges or sips in technology, I believe one key area is to look at your communities right. So as a marketer, stay in touch with your community. So that is, for example, if you’re a growth marketer or content marketer, there’s this really good community called Demand Curve. It’s a Slack channel, and join in there. There is really good communities for product marketers. PMA has a product marketers, Slack community, join in their stay in touch with the community and try to understand what kind of new tools technologies, best practices, other teams are using, that would help you a lot. And just invest some time in learning more about the newer tech. The newer technologies, new apps, new tools, new strategies. So for example, dedicate maybe 20 to 30 minutes each week, and just go through producthunt.com, where different new tools are getting launched. Right. So that will also give you a sense of what kind of new technologies, new companies, new thoughts that are coming out. That would help you a lot, maybe improve some of your investing process, bring in more efficiency. Apart from Product Hunt, you can also look at maybe Hacker News. You can check out the new tools as well there. And finally, I would say that, try to plan different scenarios. Because that’s also really crucial. Say, for example, in the SEO space itself, search is a negative experience is going to come out. So what how would that impact your business? If you have a lot of lead acquisitions? I mean, if you’re acquiring a lot of leads, from search engines, either through organic search, or maybe through PPC campaigns, how would that impact your funnel? Because I read this really good report that was put together by this VC firm called Insight Partners, you can also search, they have laid out this idea that there will be more number of zero-click searches once the generative search experience is rolled out. So generative search is essentially you are searching for something or prospects are searching for something but then not clicking on anything and just getting the result directly from the search engine. So as we roll out more number of our as we experience more number of generated search results, that could accelerate a lot. And how would that impact the real estate that your company already has, on the search side? Both in terms of the organic results that you have, as well as the ads that are available on the search result page? So looking at that, do you need maybe another distribution channel? Maybe you need to start building your community? Or maybe look at social media? Can you utilize that to compensate some of the decline in traffic that you’re going to experience? So planning out different scenarios, how that would impact? Getting together with a team brainstorm, how that would impact what are some of the weak points what what are some of the quick wins we can have? Those things can help you a lot. So yeah, I believe in terms of the new technologies, AI, I’m just summarizing, AI in terms of personalizing and being really good at predicting opportunities, looking at new trends, staying in touch with the community planning different scenarios. These are some of the key areas, marketing teams and in general companies can focus on.

Sneha  (00:38:52)

Amazing. That brings us to the end of this episode. Preetish thank you so much for joining us. I loved how you pointed to specific resources and really got into the details. Extremely insightful. So thank you once again for joining us. And thanks to you the one listening to this. Whoever you are, marketer, brand, agency, I’m sure you’ve had a lot to take away. I definitely learned a lot of new things here. And that’s one of the best parts of hosting the show. Again, great to have you here, Preetish. And to you the one who stuck around till the very end, make sure you subscribe to the podcast to listen to new episodes right when they drop. If you like the podcast, share it with your teammates. It could be a cool resource to post on your office work chat as a recommendation. So go ahead and do that. And if you want to get in touch, write to us at academy@stackadapt.com. That is academy@stackadapt.com. We have episodes releasing every alternate Wednesday, so stay tuned. Until then, this has been the How Agencies Thrive podcast. See you in the next episode.

Episode Outro (00:39:52)

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