There’s something not quite right about saying there is a marketing playbook for a SaaS company. While there are components of what you might call a Playbook, marketing is a moving target of strategies and tactics so the Playbook from last year, can’t look very different this year.
One of the best and most challenging parts of marketing is that it’s always changing. That what worked before doesn’t work now or maybe still it works, but in a different way.
Thinking that you can take old tactics and approaches and apply them the same way for every organization is just flat out wrong for a number of reasons.
- Buyers are different. A developer buys in a different way than a marketer, or a physician. And companies have different objectives and processes depending on their size, goals, objectives, product lines and geographies.
- Marketers are good at what they do. When a new tactic starts to work, savvy marketers jump on it. And exhaust it. Community is absolutely huge right now but eventually it won’t be, and buyers will look for different ways to get the information they need to solve their problems.
- If you keep doing the same thing, results will only decline. That’s just logic. Unless you constantly change, test and adjust what you’re doing continuously, results decline over time.
If you really want to get marketing working in a repeatable, scalable way, focus on the big 3 – People, Planning and Processes. If you can get those 3 things working in tandem, you’re well on your way.
Having the right people in the right roles is critical. In case you’re wondering who you should hire first, I’ve provided a sample team structure that is color coded by how you MIGHT want to prioritize the roles.
Remember, in the early days, you’ll have employees wearing multiple hats so it’s not that you’re not doing all the ‘things’, but as you can afford it, you’ll hire specialists in each of these functions. For example, your content person might be doing lifecycle and SEO or it could be your demand gen person until you can hire a dedicated role. You’ll also know which roles to prioritize once you get a handle on what is working.
And while having the right people doing the right things is critical to a well oiled marketing machine, the team has to be empowered and inspired to do the work. Not only that, they have to be collaborating and communicating constantly to make sure that everything is going to plan.
As you build out your plan for how you are going to tackle marketing. You’ll want to make sure you’ve taken a good hard look at what the long term goals are for the company and back into what you’ll do this year, quarter, month to get closer to those goals.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What are the end goals for the next 5 years, 3 years, year, quarter month?
- What top line metrics will you track so you’ll know if you’re on target?
- What components can you break your plan down into?
- How often will you evaluate those individual components of the plan?
- Who needs to know about the plan to ensure you’ve got organization-wide alignment?
This may sound daunting but it doesn’t need to be. The point is that if you don’t have in mind where you need to go in several years, you’ll have a tough time getting there. You can even just take the simple company targets as a starting point.
Say for example you want to get to $10M within 5 years and you are currently at $2M ARR. Make sure you know those interim goals so you can plan accordingly. What does that $10M ARR look like, what % of spend is allocated to marketing and what is the breakdown of the channels that will drive that growth.
- How much is direct revenue?
- How much is partnership revenue?
- How much is made up of expansion or account growth?
In terms of measurement, you’ll need those top line metrics but then for any given period (week, month, quarter etc), you’ll need more detailed reporting. Just don’t get sucked into looking at vanity metrics too closely. While traffic to the website as whole is interesting, it’s organic traffic or search traffic that might lead to some actual actionable insights.
You may not have all the answers heading into year one of your 5 year plan but writing down the bigger vision will help you make decisions throughout year one as you grow.
There is too much ground to cover to talk about all of the processes in marketing so I put together an operating cadence that might give you an idea of how the marketing team works together and aligns with other teams
I’m not one for a ton of meetings for marketing because many roles require long swathes of time for concentrated work – for example, writing. Here are the critical meetings to make sure that your marketing engine runs smoothly.
- Weekly Revenue Meeting – I typically do this on a Monday morning as a kick off together with sales and customer success so everyone knows how you are trending towards target. You can also openly raise any blockers or issues and discuss solutions. Ad hoc training and introduction of new tools can be added, as can product updates if you invite in other team members.
- Weekly 1:1s – This is a best practice to make sure your team members have dedicated time with you to raise issues, keep you up to date on progress and talk about their career growth.
- Weekly Promotion Planning – I like to hold a short promo planning session at the end of each week that looks forward to the upcoming two weeks. Each person responsible for outward facing programs should attend and promos should be shown on a shared calendar so everyone knows what is going on. The shared calendar should be part of what is covered in the weekly review meeting.
- Monthly Summary – A week or so into the next month, each functional area should present the performance of the programs that they ran the previous month. During the 3rd month of the quarter this should also include a planning session into what you’ll be working on next quarter (aligned to the annual plan that you’ve already created).
- Quarterly Performance – Because you are reporting monthly your quarterly performance might be tucked into one of those meetings or it might be its own meeting. In any case, these reports are likely ones that are going to the board, so they need to show trends and assumptions vs reality and how you are trending to your annual plan.
- Annual Planning – This could be an offsite that is spread over a couple of days or a series of individual meetings. Team members should identify successes and failures of the previous year, understand what the revenue targets are for the coming year so as a team you can start to flesh out the strategies and tactics that will get you there.
The other thing that you’ll want to do is make sure there is enough time dedicated to casual interaction, particularly if you are working remotely. Making authentic connections has definitely gotten more difficult for remote teams so sharing some personal updates or adding fun aspects to your meetings can go a long way to improving the feeling of camaraderie that happens more naturally in-person.
An Engine Needs all it’s Parts
Having the people, plan and process in place will get you ready to scale. And you’ll feel it. I’ve worked on a number of teams where you can just tell from the energy that it’s all working. Does everything unfold exactly to plan, of course not. That would be way too boring. But when you’ve got a team, plan and process that jells, solving those problems is what makes marketing worth all the hard work.