When I joined Lattice as the first marketing hire, I wasn’t really qualified for the job. I had never worked in startups, B2B marketing or SaaS. I didn’t know what an MQL stood for or what a marketing automation system looked like. Along the way, I was able to figure it out through on the job experience and reading/listening to tons of resources on the Internet. This guide is meant to shortcut learning for founders and b2b marketers who are looking to build their b2b marketing program.
I’m planning to continually update this guide with the best resources on the Internet along with my own best practices. It’s a living breathing guide.
B2B SaaS Marketing Strategy
Defining your b2b marketing strategy depends on a range of variables from your product positioning to business model.
Positioning is your place in the market and how your customers think about your product. Your position in the market is the core foundational layer that determines the size of your market and potential growth rate.
Play Bigger: explains how to design a category
Blue Ocean Strategy: how to approach differentiation
Strategic Narrative Building
How you craft your company’s story
The Making of a Great Strategic Narrative (Andy Raskin)
There’s a number of different ways you can approach growing your business and proven strategies for each path.
Five ways to build a $100 million business: It’s important for SaaS companies to pick a business segment based on target company size. This provides necessary focus for the sales, marketing, cx and product teams.
Introduction to the Sales and Marketing Machine: David Skok gives a deep dive on to build a customer acquisition process that aligns sales and marketing.
How to make customers fall in love with your company and make prospects remember you when they are ready to buy.
How to Build a B2B SaaS brand: comprehensive guide on how to approach b2b brand building including the brand touchpoint engine and five ways to supercharge your brand
Marketing requires capital investment in both people and programs.
The Math Behind SaaS Marketing Teams: gives benchmarks for the overall marketing budget and the size of marketing teams.
How much can you really spend on marketing? SaaStr provides a framework to for how to think about marketing program spend.
Marketing teams have a variety of different teams under one department, which makes building a marketing department particularly challenging and requires more upfront organization planning.
The 9 Marketing Disciplines of Great SaaS Companies: Bill Macaitis, the former CMO of Zendesk and Slack, shares the essential components of a SaaS marketing team.
Making Your First Marketing Hire: guide to hiring your first marketing featuring 11 characteristics of awesome first time SaaS marketers.
Product marketing has an important role across the organization to connect products with go-to-market strategy. Product marketers start by understanding the relationship between the customer, product and market. This means product marketers spend a lot of time around research – listening to customers, talking to internal teams, reading market research, looking at competitors websites and more.
From there, product marketers develop the product’s market positioning and messaging strategy and help launch SaaS products in the market. Product marketers also work closely with the internal teams to inform the product strategy, enable the sales process and make sure b2b customers are successful. Product marketing is the key element of your marketing strategy.
Personas are a character created to illustrate a customer type that might use or interact with your product. Personas are an important vehicle for which product marketers share target audience research with the company and articulate the messaging that will resonate with this business professional. These personas include everyone from the main decision-makers to influencers in the buying process.
Personas Overview: Simple framework to build b2b buyer personas from HBR.
User Persona Templates: Detailed template from Invision
Understanding the competitive landscape is a core responsibility of product marketers. They need to understand how to differentiate against these competitors and also provide continual updates on what they release. Then they need to communicate these updates to the rest of the company so that the sales team knows how to update their sales conversations and the product team can inform their roadmap.
Competitive battlecards are a great way to communicate competition to the rest of the company.
Building Sales Battlecards: Sales teams need competitor battlecards to understand how to position your product in a sale.
Product Marketers lead go-to-market product launches both big and small. Product marketers typically develop a tiered framework to organize product launches.
Pricing is a core component of how you position your product in the market and is an important growth lever. Oftentimes, product marketers participate or lead the pricing discussion.
Pricing Methods: ProfitWell explains four different pricing methods and how companies should choose the right method.
Pricing Lessons: Tyler Gaffney shares lessons from working with 30+ seed and series A b2b startups
The Four Factors: Tomas Tunguz explains what to consider when developing your startup’s pricing strategy.
Product marketers are responsible for understanding the relationship between the customer and product. To make this happen, product marketers need to run various research projects that provide important insights.
Frameworks and Methodologies:
Market Research Methods: 10 b2b research methodologies
Lean approach: 4 steps to market research from Hotjar
Gong: tool to record and analyze sales calls
How to drive brand awareness and generate leads
B2B Growth Frameworks
How the Marketing Funnel Works: The sales funnel is the foundational framework for the entire go-to-market engine. It’s the way you measure success and structure marketing programs. This post from TrackMaven gives a solid overview of how to think about The Funnel.
Demand Gen Overview: Marketo provides a five minute guide to understanding demand generation’s core roles and responsibilities.
Julian Shapiro’s Growth Handbook gives a masterclass in how to acquire customers for your product, and how to entice them to purchase. He talks about topics like paid ads, conversion rates, sales teams and content marketing.
Channel Plateaus: Jason Lemkin (SaaStr) talks about how every marketing initiative and channel will eventually plateau.
The 3-Step Marketing Framework: Hiten Shah talks about his approach to growing KissMetrics
How to Calculate CAC: Brian Balfour gives an overview of how to think about acquisition costs
Hubspot is the master at Inbound Marketing…they basically invented the discipline. Check out this slide deck for a great introduction on the topic.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the process of getting your website to show up in search results. It’s an important B2B strategy as it helps to generate “free” traffic to your site. The process can take awhile to show success, but compounds over time, and is ultimately worth the investment.
Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Moz’s overview which provides a basic overview of how to approach SEO.
Data-Driven SEO: Content That Ranks: Bernard Huang shares his step-by-step playbook for writing content that ranks on organic search.
Hub and Spoke Model: how to think about structuring your website
Google Search Console: Google’s tool to optimize and measure search traffic
Google Analytics: Monitor your site’s web traffic and where it’s coming from
Clearscope: Guides content producers to add the right (non-obvious) keywords
The website is the most important marketing asset (ask Jason Lemkin). It’s the storefront of your brand and the hub of all your demand gen activities.
Website Best Practices
Building Websites: Highly recommend using Webflow. You can develop your website with just marketers and designers. (But there are plenty of other options – WordPress is the market leader for CMS). Importantly, you need to make sure your website works for mobile devices.
Landing Pages: Landing pages are great for running paid ad campaigns. Recommend using a service like Instapage (or you can also use Webflow!). Both of these services help you optimize for mobile devices.
There’s a number of different website tools that can be used across your website. Here’s some that i’ve used:
Drift for chatbot
Google Tag Manager for Pixels
HotJar for HeatMaps
VWO for Testing
Google PageInsights for Performance (free)
Hubspot Website Grader (free)
B2B Lead Generation
Leads are the fuel of any B2B SaaS business — these are potential customers who you are able to contact to see if they are interested in your product.There’s a number of ways you can grow and get leads for your SaaS business. A few top examples in SaaS.
- Sponsor conferences and get lead lists
- Create content and drive ads/emails to it
- Content Syndication
- Run digital ad campaigns
- Buy cold email lists
B2B SaaS companies often spend money to acquire users and build their brand.
Google Adwords is a great way to reach buyers who are looking for your product or products like yours. These buyers are very high-intent, farther down in the sales cycle and more likely to buy.
Google Ads can be a costly endeavor depending on the keywords your bidding on, but many SaaS companies spend millions of dollars targeting folks with Google ads .
B2B Google Ads Strategy: in-depth guide on how to get started with Google ads.
Social Media Marketing
The most popular social media platform for B2B advertising is LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides audience targeting that helps b2b marketers target their buyers. On LinkedIn, you can target buyers by company size, industry, title and more.
Facebook and Instagram can be used by B2B marketers to generate brand awareness and distribute content. The native targeting on FB/Instagram is not optimized for B2B, but with custom audience targeting you will be able to reach the right audience in your database. There’s also tools like ClearbitX that make targeting buyers on FB and Instagram easier.
There’s a number of other social networks like Reddit, Quora and PInterest that can be used to target B2B buyers but can vary in success depending on your niche.
Display advertising is great for driving awareness, but typically has worse direct response acquisition than other digital ad formats. Generally, B2B marketers run display ads for retargeting campaigns to remind people who have already visited the site that you exist. For these campaigns, Google and Adroll are popular options.
Content syndication is the idea of republishing the content on someone else’s website to reach a broader audience. For example, you give a popular website an e-book and they will feature that content across their digital properties. Netline is an example of a huge content syndication player, but there are tons of other content syndication vendors that you can work with across a variety of industries.
The trick to making content syndication work is your follow up. These leads are usually not ready to buy your product, so they need to be nurtured down the sales funnel. Email nurture campaigns are a common marketing tactic to employ for content syndication leads.
Websites that feature customer reviews of products are another great avenue to generate leads and brand awareness. Properties like G2 and Capterra help connect buyers and sellers. These sites are a great way to attract high-intent buyers how are close to making a purchase decision.
Sponsoring an event, newsletter, content, etc is another great way to get in front of another company’s audience. It’s important to negotiate the terms in such a way that you’re able to get enough benefit from this exposure and be explicit about the goals from the engagement whether that’s brand awareness or leads.
Email is the most important demand generation channel. Email provides insane value for a number of reasons. Emails are the atomic unit of SaaS. It’s how you talk to prospects and customers, and it’s the unique identifier for your audience in your database. Emails provide are still the #1 way to get someone to take action online and it adds a layer of predictability to everything that you do.
Most importantly, email marketing relies on your own data and an email list that you own. You’re not relying on a third party platform to promote your product or content. This gives you important control over the demand gen levers of your business. As the size of your email list grows, so does your demand generation engine. You’re able to increase the number of leads that you drive every month.
Account Based Marketing (ABM)
Account-Based-Marketing (ABM) helps companies move up-market. To put it simply, here’s how you run an ABM strategy:
1) Identify target buyer persona
2) Build email database
3)Targeted emails, ads & direct mail
4) Build programs tailored for the buyer persona
5) Share stories of successful customers
Here’s some more resources on ABM:
What is Account Based Marketing? Drift gives a great overview of everything you need to know about Account Based Marketing
Marketo’s Guide to Account Based Marketing: Seminal publication on account based marketing and how it works
Direct Mail and ABM: Sendoso, a direct mail vendor, gives an overview of how to use direct mail as part of your account based marketing strategy.
The outbound b2b sales motion is an essential component of selling B2B products. Outbound sales is the process of a sales team reaching out to prospective customers to see if they would be interested in purchasing their product. This process is typically “cold” meaning the prospects haven’t explicitly expressed interest in the product.
The cold outreach process starts with an account list that’s supplied by the operations team or the sales reps are required to do prospecting and look for their own accounts to go after.
From there, the outbound sales process generally consists of a combination of cold emails, cold calls and LinkedIn messages. With tools like Outreach, sales reps put their target prospects into sequences which are a series of emails/calls that the target buyer will receive over a couple weeks.
Outbound sales are traditionally handled by business/sales development representatives (BDRs or SDRs) who are more junior sales representatives. That being said, many companies also have Account Executives (more senior sales representatives) who do outbound prospecting.
Guide to Personalized Messaging: Kyle Coleman who led the SDR team at Looker talks about the importance of personalized messages.
The Complete Guide to Cold Emails in 2020: Alfie Marsh shares a 360 overview of how to approach cold emails
Guide to Outbound Prospecting: Predictable revenue shares a number of resources to better understand the outbound sales motion.
Event & Field Marketing
Events play an important role in building your brand, attracting prospects and moving deals down the funnel. There’s a number of different events that you can add to part of your marketing plan:
- Industry Conferences and Trade Shows: Sponsor a booth and meet prospects/customers as they walk through the floor.
- Customer Conferences: Host your own conference or sponsor a conference of a partner in the same industry
- Field Events: Smaller events that take place around the country. These events can take on many forms from dinners to panels to fireside chats.
- Virtual Events: A key part of your digital marketing efforts is your virtual events strategy. These events are typically webinars, but we’re also seeing more virtual conferences take place, especially during the age of COVID.
Guide on Event Marketing: Bizzabo, an events software vendor, put together a great guide on all things events marketing.
Marketing operations primarily focuses on making sure the marketing’s team is a smooth machine. Marketing Ops frequently helps with software implementation, marketing analytics, data flow between systems and marketing attribution.
Marketing Funnel Metrics
Leads: Anybody who gives you their email
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL): demo requests or lead score threshold
Sales Accepted Lead (SAL): Quality meetings
Opportunities (Sales Qualified Lead): Sales rep determines the prospect is in an active buying cycle
Pipeline: Dollar amount tied to the opportunity
Revenue: Signed contract value
Rates: The percentage of people who move through each stage of the funnel.
Lead scoring is an important mechanism to track the value of each action that your customers take. It’s an essential tool in passing leads over to the sales team. Lead scoring is based on a few factors.
- Behaviors: ebook downloads, events attended, etc.
- Firmographics: company size, industry, etc.
- Demographics: contact’s title, contact information.
Marketing attribution is the process of understanding what b2b marketing campaigns and channels are high-performing. There’s a number of different ways you can track the performance of campaigns. Bizible details the 11 possible marketing attribution models in this great post.
Marketing technology has exploded over the past 10 years and has become an essential part of how B2B SaaS companies operate. The most important part of your marketing tech stack is your Marketing Automation software (Marketo, Pardot, Autopilot, Klayvio, etc.). This software enables you to send emails, track prospects and generally run your marketing campaigns.
Ultimate Marketing Tech Stack: Intercom details the essential marketing technology components that you should be using.
It’s marketing’s job to support the sales process and help the sales team impact purchasing decisions. Marketing helps the sales process in a number of key ways:
Guide to Sales Enablement: solid general overview of how to approach sales enablement.
Pitch Deck: helping to craft the narrative and develop slides ((Greatest Sales Deck (Andy Raskin))
Datasheets: PDF one-pagers that explain different parts of your product and service offerings
Competitive Intelligence: Sharing and curating how the competition is evolving so the sales team can craft their pitch.
B2B Content Marketing
B2B content marketing is an important part of your marketing plans.
How to Refine or Create your Content Marketing Strategy: Animalz – leading B2B SaaS content marketing agency – gives an overview of how to think about building your content marketing strategy.
SEO: Content marketing and SEO are interconnected. Make sure you check out the SEO section above, under Demand Gen for specific tactics.
Content Production: 7 step recipe from Hiten Shah on how to approach content production
Common Content Types
Articles: posts are great for thought leadership and SEO
Webinars: webinars drive leads, build your brand and make you look smart. Highly recommend partnering with another company in your space (split the content and split the lead
Infographics: visual explainers can go a long way on social media and sales enablement
Email Newsletters: newsletters help you to build a relationship with your audience and another program to drive leads to
eBooks and White Papers: classic demand gen bait to get leads and provide value. Make sure you follow up with great sales emails and/or marketing email nurture campaigns
Video: great way to build your brand, drive leads and tell your story
- Spectacle: Video inspiration
- Beginners Guide to Video Production: Wistia shares tons of great resources on how to make professional videos on your own
Podcast: build audience relationships and grow your brand
How to Start Your Own Podcast: Lifehacker’s guide to help you get started
Case Study: Getting customer case studies is an essential part of B2B marketing. It’s part of social proof, etc. etc. If there’s one thing you can do to help the sales process, getting one awesome case study will go a long way.
- Schedule 30min Zoom call with customer
- Create question list and send to customer ahead of time
- Record zoom conversation with customer
- Get recording transcribed (rev.com)
- Write article yourself or get outside help
Customer Advisory Board: Francois Dufour’s guide to running Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) that inform the product roadmap and create evangelists. This post recaps best practices developed during his time at Yahoo!, LinkedIn, and Twilio.