Marketing · B2b marketing

What would you do if you were the CMO of a B2B SaaS start-up?

Lisa Falcone Rock Star Marketer available for company poised for growth

February 8th, 2015

As the CMO of a B2B SaaS early-stage start-up, you have 250 customers, and you're given a 250K budget to be utilized across a few different marketing activities  You have 2 people on your team who produce your content in the form of e-books, landing pages, emails, white-papers, product pages, etc. (content is covered.)

Your challenge is to allocate your 250K marketing budget across marketing channels to maximize qualified traffic to your website (top of funnel growth.)  How would you think about allocating this marketing budget?  what channels/activities would you choose, and how much would you allocate to each -- and why?  Again, the focus is to increase top-of-funnel / qualified traffic to your website.

Paid search
Guerilla Marketing
Events / trade shows
(anything else you would add)

As a marketer or as founder, what has been the most effective marketing mix / allocation for you in the past?
Am I missing out on any other critical channels?  (eg: affiliate marketing, etc.)  I would appreciate general marketing advice for a B2B SaaS start-up as well, and any recommended books or articles are highly appreciated.  Thank you in advance!

Vijay MD Founder Chefalytics, Co-owner Bite Catering Couture, Independent consultant (ex-McKinsey)

February 8th, 2015

This is a question without a good answer.  Completely dependent on company strategy for the next viable customers to acquire (with next level down driven by customer behavior) OR focus on growth within existing accounts.

I think you're asking the wrong question...the marketing budget wouldn't be set at $250K with the goal of driving traffic to the website in an early stage company...the goal would start with customer acquisition based on target profile and work backward from there

Charles Kraus Senior Product Marketing Manager at Limelight Networks

February 9th, 2015

Lisa - I'm going to start with the content discussion. One of the most common missing pieces of collateral I notice is something that clearly differentiates a company's offerings vs. their competition. I'm not talking about feature comparisons. I'm referring to maniacally focused customer business benefit differentiation - the stuff a customer C-level exec needs to hear. Having real customer use cases that support this is critical. Maybe you already have these? Just on the general category of collateral - what I'm finding is customers will only spend time with easily consumable (snack-able) content - nobody will read 20+ page white papers! Lots of 1 and 2 page solution overviews, short videos (3 minutes or less) work well. A particularly effective type of video I have created is animated videos - they educate on a technical topic and entertain at the same time. Here is an example: Plus - posting is free! As for marketing channels,you didn't mention YouTube or social media in your problem description. Corporate Blogging sites, Facebook and Twitter accounts with frequently updated content, as well as constant refreshed content on your Web site is mandatory to keep people coming to the sites. An effective technique I found is to write blogs and Tweets as a multi-part series of episodes. Every week the next episode is posted. I set up 6 week story lines and story board them. Keeps readers coming back. As for a good book recommendation: Kirby Wadsworth's "Recommend This! Delivering Digital Experiences People Will Want to Share" Charlie Kraus

Ram Menon Founder and CEO at Avaamo

February 8th, 2015

I agree with the previous comments- as a former CMO , my advice for early stage startup is achieve PMV and customer acquisition. Your marketing activities need to be targeting at that. Depending on your segment/ prospective buyer/ available channels to prospective buyer- the focus of marketing should be customer acquisition. 

then you need to break this up by channel? are you selling on the phone? or do you have feet on the ground? depending on the mix of sales the customer acquisition channels will change? 

what is you ASP? ( average selling price) who is your buyer? Is this a credit card transaction, all these things play into deciding the channels you use for marketing

Jessica Alter Entrepreneur & Advisor

February 8th, 2015

Agreed x3, you should really have a marketing or growth advisor because this is company dependent, experiment dependent and budget dependent. Especially if you only have a few people spending an hr with an advisor a week will keep you on track and help you gain insights you didn't have. I'd start here  and search based on expert areas - growth, growth/hacking, marketing and the vertical you're in.

Roy Gonzales CEO at Zobily

February 8th, 2015

Lisa, these are all valid answers. You first need to mention whats your product and or service as there are many options. First, if its a continuity product than you can pay more to acquire a consumer same as an online subscription for a monthly billing product. BUT YOU MUST know what your current customer acquisition cost is for your customer if you don't than that $250,000 will go very quickly! Where did you acquire the first 250? Here is the problem with all start ups its a toss up between marketing as you stated you have content people they are the easy ones the ones you really need are the ones who know how to acquire customers we are the ones that are hard to find!!

Rodrigo Vaca Product & Marketing

February 8th, 2015

Lisa -

Let me instead pose some questions that you need to think about. The answers to these questions will inform your initial marketing strategy and the budget allocation. A few of the questions that come to mind include:

- Are you after SMBs, mid-market or Enterprise segment?
- Related: what's your sales model like - inside sales, direct sales, inbound, outbound?
- Related: how important is "credibility"?
- Are you going after any particular vertical?
- Can you relate your product to something else that already exists in the market?
- Are your potential customers familiar with what you sell? (i.e. does it already have a three-letter-acronym?)
- Is your product complementary to something else
- What is the sales cycle like, who are the relevant decision makers in your account - is there more than one? Are customers going to buy in first or second visit to your site?
- Geographical focus?

You say you have 250 customers already. How did you go about acquiring those customers (assuming they're paid). What's the ARPC, and what's the projected LTV - maybe too early to calculate this, but it is still something worth considering. 

Most importantly - I'll question why the goal is to drive traffic. Unless you're selling to a very very broad market (SMBs) with a very very horizontal tool (think domain registration, online backup, etc) - or a wide set of products, traffic is not going to do much for you.

Even if you are, you need to drive the *right* kind of traffic!

I'd argue that at this stage, you want not traffic, but customers to bring cash AND help validate the model for your next funding round (assuming you'll need it). I'm not a VC, but if I were, and I saw your traffic chart spiking up, but your revenue/customer count staying flat - I'd think: "hmmm, people do not seem to want what this company offers!".

Now, that said - from what you mention, I'd just forget about SEO. In my experience, that time is long past gone, and beyond the basics, anything you do there can actually backfire these days. The other tactics might or might not work, depending on your answers to the questions above.

Lastly - sometimes, the best way to do marketing, is to take some of that "marketing budget" and allocate it to something else - build a connector, an integration, freemium model, etc. So when it comes to marketing, you need to keep the goal in mind (customers, revenue) and be willing to forgo some of the more traditional marketing channels (advertising, ppc, etc). 

Best of luck!

Jeremy Snyder

February 9th, 2015

Work backwards.

  1. Identify your target customer (even if just in your own mind, based on your assumptions about whom your company serves)
  2. Figure out what channels (social, google ads, in-person) are most likely to connect with that person
  3. Run 3 test in those channels
  4. Find areas of improvement
  5. Later, rinse, repeat. YMMV.

Richard CSO Sales Process | Operational Optimization

February 9th, 2015

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