March 9, 2015
Best Marketing Stack
In the subscription economy, the most beloved companies understand that your 100th interaction with a customer is just as important as your first. SaaS companies like New Relic, Atlassian, Box, and Zendesk have grown quickly through word of mouth referrals because they’re loved and promoted by their customers. How are they doing this? Of course, it helps to have a great product that solves a big problem, backed by responsive customer service, and low try before you buy pricing. But fuel for the high growth also comes from a killer marketing stack - a combination of tools that can work together to help companies to engage customers wherever they may be. Combined with scalable technology and processes, it’s the secret sauce behind the growth and scale that Wall Street is rewarding.
Humanizing the customer experience at scale
Tomasz Tunguz, a SaaS VC at Redpoint Ventures, recently noted that by leveraging new “B2C2B” acquisition techniques by “attracting end users through app stores, self sign up and open source software, combined with high velocity inside sales teams”, the growth engines built by these companies will “catapult SaaS companies to dominate every existing category of software and many new segments yet to be created.” Marketing and sales platforms that automate steps of the customer buying lifecycle, while preserving the human touch, are paramount for acquiring and growing efficiently. We’ve seen in recent months is that companies cannot afford just to throw people at the problem, because unless they have very high customer lifetime values, doing so results in inefficient, unprofitable growth metrics. Table stakes in the subscription economy is that we must balance the cost of customer acquisition with annual and lifetime customer values from very early on.
Automation tools are considered “out of reach”
There’s only one problem: we recently polled hundreds of marketers across the U.S. and found out that that a majority of companies are lacking access to these technologies, particularly when it comes to how they stay in touch with customers. 65% of marketers – the chunk without access to these tools – thought they were doing a bad job at staying in touch with customers; on the flip side, 35% of marketers – the group benefitting from access to these tools – thought they were doing a good job. That’s a really, really, big problem. Fortunately, the public successes of these SaaS 2.0 companies are shining a spotlight on the industry shift towards beautifully simple software that is delivered via cloud and mobile technologies, supported by real people often via social media. They offer SMB-friendly pricing that can be paid for monthly and are supported by self-service or low pressure “1:many” sales models (think Apple Genius bar) that are designed to help subscribers succeed in perpetuity.
The marketing stack for every SaaS business
So how do the rest of us benefit from the same tech stack that the SaaS elite use to grow so fast? Here are a few essentials that are easy to use AND affordable:
- Retargeting (Google or Adroll) - display advertisements targeted only to users who have visited your site or have similar online profiles, which allows you to increase reach but reduce cost per acquisition
- Buffer - connect multiple social media accounts and schedule posts across Twitter, LinkedIn, and others (free & paid plans)
- Canva / Sketch / Invision - quick and easy ways to create and review the beautiful content that drives online engagement (free & paid plans)
- Vimeo / YouTube - simple video content delivery platforms with advanced analytics and insights (free & paid plans)
- Optimizely - is an easy-to-use A/B testing platform to deliver dynamically-generated web and online content, and test messages, designs, and video (free & paid plans)
- Slack - internal group chat that’s addictive and just works - helps teams stay on the same page from anywhere (free & paid plans)
- Salesforce-alternative CRMs - like Insightly, RelateIQ (acquired by Salesforce) and Pipedrive (free and paid plans available)
- Infer - an algorithm-based lead qualification platform that provides a simple grade of 1-100 of every lead that arrives at a company – based on thousands of public and proprietary data points (moderate pricing)
- Asana - free or inexpensive project management that helps agile teams divide and conquer (free & paid plans)
- Mixpanel - an easy way to track the lead funnel, revenue, events and more – without needing a Ph.D. (free & paid plans)
- Segment - a data hub that makes it easy to personalize your marketing based on customer behavior, with pre-built integrations to over 100 tools (free & paid plans)
- Marketing automation - generate leads by delivering consistent touchpoints throughout the buyer’s decision-making journey and nurturing cold prospects until they’re ready to buy. Most tools are expensive and difficult to use, but newer more affordable solutions exist (full disclaimer: I am at Autopilot, which I avidly dogfood to grow).
The hot SaaS 2.0 companies get an unfair advantage from their marketing stacks. This drives high growth rates and customer lifetime value (CLV) by multiplying the value of every lead, maximizing the expansion and retention of their recurring revenue, and delivering a more meaningful experience to every customer. Technologies like those listed above are becoming affordable and usable for any marketer or small business, not just for the tech elite. Yet as we learned in our survey, 44% of marketers not using automation software hadn’t even heard of it. This is changing – and as it does - expect to see industries emerge and expand, while customer and brand relationships get more intimate.