Developing a B2B SaaS marketing playbook can be daunting. I know, I’ve been there. There are so many facets to use and deciding which to use can be difficult.
Most digital marketing campaigns are doomed to fail as they’re complex and demanding. But it doesn’t have to be that way with the right methodology and marketing playbook.
That being said, marketing campaigns are critical for your organization and even more critical to get right. In this post, originally covered in the SaaS District podcast episode with Eric Siu, we review how to build a sustainable SaaS marketing playbook and strategy.
I’ll probably keep it more on top of the funnel. I think a lot of people, especially in SaaS, screw up here. People in tech think, at least from what I’ve seen, the majority think it’s just running ads. It’s a lot more than that. You have to understand how to do customer development, you have to understand the right questions to ask, the problems people are facing, and what actually guides your messaging to actually guide your creative.
I think the number one most important thing when it comes to marketing is the creative. If you go to Facebook, go to the Facebook Ads Library, which is free and go type in Click Funnels. And so Click Funnels is a SaaS company, that does about $150 million plus a year in revenue and I believe they’re fully bootstrapped.
The main thing about Russell Brunson, who is kind of the face of the company, the CEO, and is a great marketer. If you look at their Facebook ads library, they have over 600 creatives running at any given time, whereas if you look at most SaaS companies, they might have like, 2, 3, 4 or so.
With Russell, I would say he’s a showman. He’s done really well, in terms of marketing the company, he’s constantly thinking about what new angles can he come up with and what new pattern interrupts can he come up with.
If you have good creative, your click through rates are going to go up, and all your down the funnel metrics are going to be better, your cost per click is going to be better, your cost per acquisition is going to be better.
So the creative actually drives a lot of your marketing. You have to understand customer development to get into the mind of your customer, that’s going to guide your copy. Then if you’re going to make videos and things like that, your copy is going to guide the videos, it’s going to guide the images and stuff you make.
So I just think people need to think more “What does copywriting look like? What does customer development look like? How do I get into the psychology of my customers? And think longer term, because it’s not just we’re going throw up a couple of images from our designers; if you do that you’re gonna get subpar results.”
When we were running ads for the Agency Accelerator Program that we have, we don’t have like 600 ads, but I believe each week, we would try to come up with at least four to five new creatives. My team would meet on Mondays for a 30 minute creative meeting, and they’ll just talk about “Hey, here’s what actually looks cool in the market, here’s what actually pattern interrupted me. What influence can we draw from that? What images can we pull from, or videos can we pull from Eric’s other content?”
We had a workflow going every single day, Tuesdays or Fridays, where we’d have 15 minutes, then I’m talking about: “Hey, what’s working, what’s not working?” Monday’s would be 90 minutes and we talked about the best creatives and what’s not performing. It’s very methodical of having that type of process where you’re actually meeting, because the meetings naturally force you to keep it top of mind, which I think is important as well.
When it comes to mid market enterprise, obviously the ACV’s are higher so you have a lot more resources and you actually have a lot more room for error. That itself actually opens up the SaaS marketing playbook. We talked about the Account Based marketing stuff, the customer data platform stuff but you can also have a sales team, you can have a Field Sales Team. I think most people in SaaS understand that with the SMB, I think the trend is, generally everyone’s talking about Product Led growth.
How do you do freemium? I think you have a lot of lot more self serve motions, like the freemium and free trials. That’s just generally how we think about it. One of my buddies, he gets a ton of traffic, and he sells plugins for $30 a year. and it’s just all volume. So it’s just different marketing playbook, I would say, in general but they’re widely understood already.
One of the reasons I took over Single Grain was that it was great cash flow. Once you get it stabilized, that was kind of the goal. I’ll share some numbers with you, I have a buddy that has an agency and they do about $26 million a year, and they have 25 employees. So revenue per employee is very high, we’re talking a million bucks plus.
I have another friend, his company makes about $24 million a year and he has 10 employees, so $2.4 revenue per employee, and then another buddy, his company does $500 million a year with 336 or so employees, so you do the math there.
We talked about exponential growth versus linear. I think the best way, if you’re going to run an agency, if you’re so good at marketing or you say you do, you operate on performance. What I mean by that is, if you say, “Hey Eric I’ll pay you $500 per lead that you drive” and I’m able to get the cost down to $200, well, then I will collect the difference.
So that’s $300 difference right there where I’m going make $300 per lead. It’s good for you because all you care about at that point is I’m just driving leads. All I care about is I’m driving leads at a good cost where I’m making a profit and so that becomes very exponential.
The incentives become much more aligned because I’m not trying to hold out on ideas to just keep the retainer going. I’m going to front load all the good ideas and I’m going to work with you as a partner, but at the same time, you don’t get to boss me around telling me you want all these calls and all that so that’s how that works.
I think it’s genius, you just need to kind of change things up a little bit, if you’re running like a paid media agency, or even an SEO agency.
I think it sounds risky, but then, I think a lot of people listening to this understand that it’s all about the terms that you set up. You can set up terms that are favorable to you and at the end of the day if you’re still scared that it’s too risky, maybe you set it up as a stock portfolio type of structure. Where maybe 5% to 20% of your client portfolio might be paid for performance, the other 80% might just the standard agency retainers.
That’s the only reason or that’s one of the only reasons that I kept Single Grain up to now. I think it’s still a very viable business especially if you can make a performance where the CEO right now is tasked with doing that.
It’s a terrible business. I mean, it’s like you’re building someone else’s business for them without building any equity in it. You might as well change the incentives and then collect some more upside, and then people will like you more for that too and then you don’t need a ton of clients and you don’t need a ton of headaches there.
By the way agencies are great. The whole reason I did the Agency Accelerator program is because I talked with Andrew Wilkinson on my Leveling Up podcast. The agency is a great launchpad business. It’s a great starter business. You can get great cash flows from it, you are probably not going to sell it for a lot, unless you get to like 5 million in EBITDA or so then you might get like a 10x valuation on that.
I’ve seen a couple friends do that. For the most part you can hold on to it, and, you again, use the cash flows, and that is your funding mechanism to do all the other cool stuff that you might want to do.
Eric Siu is the CEO of digital marketing agency Single Grain, a digital marketing agency focused on growing SaaS businesses as well as helping Fortune 500 companies like Uber, Amazon, and Salesforce acquire more customers through SEO and paid advertising. Eric Siu usually helps entrepreneurs with the tools and processes to help them grow both personally and professionally revealing secrets that have grown multi-million to billion-dollar companies.
Eric Siu is a marketing expert that contributes regularly to Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes & more, He’s also the founder of ClickFlow, the entrepreneurial podcast, Growth Everywhere podcast, and the Marketing School podcast with Neil Patel.