There have been countless business books written to guide businesses through the ever-changing sales and marketing landscape. They use many of the same tools and techniques no matter what the business. There is a problem with this approach to sales and marketing insight, not all business models and markets are the same. The way people and businesses buy is different depending on the industry, product, vertical, geography, cash flow model, business model etc. When building a go to market strategy there is an opportunity to combine sales and marketing that is not feasible in most legacy sales and marketing organizations at established companies.
I am going to focus on building a clear go to market strategy for subscription-based digital technology services, also known as Software As A Service (SAAS). So why is SAAS different than many other business models? If done right, SAAS products are optimized for adoption and customer success, with an enormous amount of user behavioral data baked right in. This allows you to quickly understand which strategies are working and which strategies are not working. Sales and marketing always need to work closely, but with SAAS products you could argue that they might be even closer because of the need to constantly track and understand customer needs and proactively adapt accordingly.
Traditionally customers relied on their relationship with salespeople to understand potential solutions and make buying decisions. Today the information is all there and most products are available to test drive. Making a decision is based on effectively testing the solution with the help of the sales, marketing and customer success team. That means everyone needs to be ready to engage with the customer and communicate quickly and effectively.
SAAS revenue teams need to focus less on closing deals because the cost of switching between SAAS product is much lower than legacy software products. Companies need to invest heavily in making customers successful. This means investing in education and training so that onboarding new customers is as painless for the customer as possible.
When building your go to market strategy you need to consider the roles of sales, marketing and customer success because they are all equally involved in closing the account and more importantly developing the account. Here is an outline of key considerations for your SAAS go to market strategy. The diagram below combines the marketing funnel, sales pipeline, account management pipeline and customer engagement cycle. The point is that all of these processes and strategies are equally important in a SAAS model.
The entire sales and marketing strategy is built around the product and its ability to provide the necessary functionality to solve customer problems and make customers happy. The product needs to not only work, it needs to deliver an amazing experience that drives word of mouth. If your product is painful to use and creates new problems it is only a matter of time before your competitors take advantage of the customer’s pain. That is why your team needs to own the product. Outsourcing it always sounds like a good idea until you lose your ability to adapt quickly and create a true customer feedback loop.
1. Implementation: How easy is it to get started? You should be able to create value with the first click of a button. The days of long and arduous implementation processes are long gone for SaaS. 2. Onboarding: All of the information, FAQ, education and training should be either easily accessible and searchable or built into on-boarding. 3. Adoption: How do you get the entire customer team on board and using the product. It has to be dead easy for team members to get started. 4. Engagement: How will you get your customer to use your product every day? Training is the first step, but getting them to return on a daily basis is key. 5. Stability: All it takes is one bug too early in the onboarding process and you have lost your customer’s attention. It has to work from day one. 6. Communication: It has to be dead easy for your customer to contact you or for you to contact your customer. Better yet, anticipate your customer’s needs by tracking their engagement and identify potential communication opportunities early. 7. Data: Track everything so that you can not only build a better product but also know more about your customer’s needs and how to fulfil them.
The product team identifies your target customers and builds a relevant buyers journey that leads to a buying decision by not only the target decision maker but also all the stakeholders and mobilizers involved in the decision. Target companies have a variety of roles and personalities that your product marketing team needs to consider in order to know what message to deliver to the right person at the right time. Bringing the target team together and building consensus for a decision is not easy.
8. Brand: Create your identity. It should be relevant and professional but is not likely to make a big impact on your B2B strategy’s success.9. Market: Where do you have an advantage? Is there a type of company or industry that really needs what you have? 10. Competitors: Who else is doing what you do? Or who is using similar technology? Competitors are anybody that are pulling resources away from customers that could be spending more time or money working with you. 11. Positioning: What unique value do you bring to the table. How does that value impact the market that you are targeting? 12. Differentiators: How are you different? How can you make your customers happier than your competitors? 13. Pricing: Your business model itself can be your value proposition, differentiator and positioning in the market. Don’t underestimate business model innovation. 14. Challenges: What are the challenges that your customers are facing. How do they currently solve them? How can they think differently about their challenge? How can you help them solve their challenge with a fresh perspective? 15. Commercial Insights: What have your customers missed by listening to all of your competitor’s insights. How can you retrain them to see challenges they didn’t know they had. 16. Message: You need to have a clear and consistent message through all of your channels and customer interactions. This is much harder than you think. Messages should always be tested and adapted to be successful, make sure that you keep the message consistent. 17. Customer feedback loop: You need to have more than an idea of how to communicate customer needs to the rest of your team. Bake the customer feedback loop into the process for every team and structure that feedback so that the other teams can adapt accordingly.
Digital Marketing & Content Marketing
Once you have your story in place start getting strategic about how you are going to use your story to position your service online. Your content team needs to evaluate what kind of traffic you want coming to the online properties and what you want that traffic to do. Your content strategy is meant to create awareness and start prospects along the customer journey. The best part about your digital strategy is that it is all trackable and testable. Remember it is a marathon, not a sprint.18. Keywords: Once you have developed your messaging, think about how that messaging fits into your digital strategy. Build a list of keywords that you want to represent your service on the search engines and build your digital strategy around them. 19. Inbound Lead generation: Use organic and paid search to drive leads to your website and create awareness of your service. Test constantly. 20. Tracking: Implement tracking and testing at every step including website content, blogs, videos, ebooks, emails, etc. 21. Automation: Create templates, workflows and sequences so that when you can efficiently move website visitors through the marketing funnel. 22. Funnel: Build a clear journey and process for customers so that you can evaluate their readiness for new information, direct conversations or handoff to sales. 23. Marketing qualification: Every step of the marketing funnel should require a little more information so that by the end of your marketing funnel you have a clear idea whether or not the lead can be passed on to sales. If it is not the right type of customer or bad timing then you will save a lot of time for your sales team by disqualifying the lead.
The sales development team is key in qualifying inbound leads, identifying and pursuing key accounts, and qualifying all opportunities. Sales Development is playing a more important role, especially for SAAS solutions. Refining the sales development process creates the most scalable lead qualification and opportunity creation machine.24.Marketing Qualification: Someone needs to be in charge of evaluating inbound leads. Usually, CRM or Marketing software can do a lot of the qualification and nurture automatically. 25.Inbound Sales Development: Reaching out to marketing qualified leads to set discovery calls to evaluate if the lead presents an opportunity. 26.Outbound Sales Development: Cold outreach to target accounts in order to create an opportunity. 27. Conferences & Events: In-person events are another way to connect with potential leads in target segments.
If possible focus on inside sales and only have outside sales if necessary to meet with key accounts. Most SAAS sales should be done remotely, but there will be some accounts that require in-person engagement in order to corral all of the stakeholders.
28. Identify stakeholders: Once an opportunity is created the salesperson need to use there contact to better understand the organizational structure as well as all of the other individuals that might influence the buying decision. 29. Work with a mobilizer: The individual who is there to help you navigate the organization and bring all of the stakeholders in the room is the mobilizer. 30. Define opportunity: At this point, you will have an undefined opportunity. Bring all of the stakeholders together to define each of their needs and refine the opportunity to provide a solution that benefits all of the stakeholders and meets their timelines. 31. Build consensus: Understand how each person will benefit from your service and utilize that information to build consensus amongst the group of stakeholders. Once they have all come to the table focus on the group and how the team will benefit. 32. Close: Every step of the sales process requires closing. There should not be one event that defines the entire customer relationship. The way people buy today is through freemium models or pilots where they get to take your service for a test drive. Signing a contract does not mean that the customer will be happy or successful. Turn prospective customers into customers, low revenue customers into high revenue customers, single product customers into multi-product customers, unhappy customers into happy customers, unsuccessful customers into successful customers, and customer into evangelists. It is a never-ending process.
From on-boarding to technical support. The key to customer success is having open communication and identifying the needs of your customer through their preferred channel.33. Education: FAQ and video tutorials are the best way to provide education for current and future customers. Many of the lessons learned by working closely with customers can also be utilized as marketing material for prospective customers. 34. Onboarding: Creating a course with videos and exercises within the product is the optimal way to bring on new customers as quickly as possible. All customers learn and engage differently, so the Client Management & Account Management team should be trained on how to help with the onboarding process. 35. Access: Security and password retrieval should be built into the product. If your customer needs to email or calls you to create an account or get access to their account, then there is a problem. 36. Training: Education and onboarding are ongoing and are a great opportunity to continue communication with your customers both on and offline. New products and services will bring new use cases and ideas for customers to generate more value from your service. Setting up ongoing workshops where current and new customers can integrate is a great way to leverage training as both a sales and customer success tool.
This is your responsive team to understand customer problems as quickly as possible. The support team is there to understand what is happening and provide potential solutions. It is likely that the questions are technical and your technical support team will need to get involved.37. Respond to inquiries: The first line of phone support should be able to troubleshoot and ask the right questions. Their role is to be available and show a genuine interest in solving the customer’s problem. Using their support software they should be able to quickly create tickets and reminders in order to make sure that the right people are involved and the problem is resolved. 38. Solve technical problems: Technical support can communicate with the general support team through their support system and respond to tickets that require their knowledge. 39. Feature updates: The technical team and marketing team can work together in order to leverage product updates as communication opportunities. Keeping the entire support, marketing and sales team informed will allow the revenue team to leverage updates in order to make sure that customers are happy.
This role is key to building a high growth business. It is cheaper to keep and sell more to a current customer than it is to acquire a new customer. Having an empowered Account Management team will keep your retention rate high which builds monthly recurring revenue. Once a customer is successful you can leverage your relationship in order to increase the revenue from the account.40. Evaluate adoption: The product should have tools in place that can help Account Managers know if and how the product is being used. 41. Evaluate risk: Use the product engagement data and levels of communication to determine if the customer is at risk of leaving. If the customer has not been educated or a new individual who is not informed takes over the management of your service then there is a high likelihood of having the customer fall off. 42. Communication strategy: Know when and how to communicate with customers. Use automation, product updates and preset tasks to maintain natural communication with customers. 43. Business reviews: Set regular meetings to provide data-driven insights and product updates to your customer. Utilize the product usage data, and campaign tracking information to determine what your customer would benefit from learning. This is an opportunity to get all of the right stakeholders in the room to demonstrate your knowledge, data and insight. 44. Close new products and services: The Account Management team need to work with the customer success and support team to know who is ready to upgrade or add additional products to their portfolio.
The key point that I am trying to get across is that when you are finding your product market fit and scaling your niche market all of the teams need to be connected. There is no silver bullet and you should be cautious when any consultants tell you that their way is the only way. There needs to be open communication and shared data in order to provide your customer with a friction-free experience throughout their purchase journey and beyond. Stopping the process at the “sales close” creates a culture of friction where one person has an elevated role in the revenue department and undervalues the customer.
Building the entire customer purchase and success journey into the same pipeline allows your teams accountable at every stage and every customer handoff is treated with the utmost importance. Whether it is new business or a customer who has been with you for years, the more you can tailor the experience and the more investment that you make in their success, the more revenue you will generate from them over the long term.
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