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 Box, Zendesk, New Relic and Atlassian have grown quickly through word of mouth referrals because they’re loved and promoted by their customers. How are these SaaS elites doing this?
Of course, it helps to have a great product that solves a big problem, backed by excellent customer service and low try-before-you-buy pricing. But fuel for high growth also comes from a killer marketing stack — a combination of tools that can work together to help companies engage customers wherever they may be. When combined with scalable technology and processes, it’s the secret sauce behind the growth and scale that Wall Street is rewarding.
I’m currently CEO of Autopilot, a lead nurturing platform for marketers. But Autopilot is actually the third company I’ve started. It was through the experiences at my earlier companies that I realized you need a combination of SaaS tools to be successful. At these first companies, our teams were using various types of marketing, sales and CRM software. We eventually realized that marketers in particular were not using the right combination of tools.
Humanizing the Customer Experience
Tomasz Tunguz, a SaaS VC at Redpoint Ventures, recently noted that 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,” 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 that companies cannot afford to just throw people at the problem, because unless they have very high customer lifetime values, doing so results in inefficient, unprofitable growth metrics. Instead, we must balance the cost of customer acquisition with annual and lifetime customer values.
Why Automation Tools Are Considered “Out of Reach”
There’s only one problem: At the start of the year we polled hundreds of marketers across the U.S. and found that a majority of companies are lacking access to automation technologies, particularly when it comes to how they stay in touch with customers.
Sixty-five percent 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 percent of marketers (the group benefitting from access to these tools) thought they were doing a good job. That’s a big problem.
Fortunately, the public successes of these select SaaS companies are shining a spotlight on the industry shift towards software delivered via cloud and mobile technologies, supported by real people, often via social media. They offer small- to medium-sized businesses friendly pricing that they can pay for monthly and are supported by self-service or low pressure sales models (think Apple Genius bar). These efforts help to capture subscribers long term.
The Marketing Stack Your SaaS Should Have
As previously mentioned, SaaS companies like Box and Zendesk figured out this killer combo. So how do the rest of us benefit from the same technology stack that the SaaS leaders 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. This 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 and paid plans).
- Canva/Sketch/Invision: These are quick and easy ways to create and review the content that drives online engagement (free and paid plans).
- Vimeo/YouTube: Use simple video content delivery platforms with advanced analytics and insights (free and paid plans).
- Optimizely: This is an easy-to-use A/B testing platform to deliver dynamically-generated web and online content, and test messages, designs and video (free and paid plans).
- Slack: An internal group chat that’s addictive and just works. It helps teams stay on the same page from anywhere (free and paid plans)
- Salesforce-alternative CRMs: These include Insightly, RelateIQ (acquired by Salesforce) and Pipedrive (free and paid plans available).
- Infer: This is an algorithm-based lead qualification platform that provides a simple grade of 1-100 of every lead that arrives at a company. It’s based on thousands of public and proprietary data points (moderate pricing).
- Asana: A free or inexpensive project management platform that helps agile teams divide and conquer (free and paid plans).
- Mixpanel: An easy way to track the lead funnel, revenue, events and more (free and 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 and paid plans).
- Marketing automation: Generate leads by delivering consistent touch-points 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 and more affordable solutions exist.
The hot SaaS companies get an unfair advantage from their marketing stack. It drives high growth rates and customer lifetime value (CLV) by multiplying the value of every lead, maximizing the expansion and retention of their subscriptions and delivering a more meaningful experience to every customer.
Technologies like those listed above are becoming more affordable and usable for any marketer or small business, not just for the tech elite. Yet as we learned in our survey, 44 percent of marketers not using automation software hadn’t even heard of it! However, this is changing. Expect to see industries emerge and expand, while customer and brand relationships become more intimate. In the end, the best stack in the business wins.
Mike Sharkey is the CEO and co-founder of Autopilot, where he leads a team driven to help marketers harness the power of automation and build better relationships. Prior to founding Autopilot, Mike helped build two other successful companies in Australia, Stayz, wwhich was acquired by FairFax Digital in 2006 and again by HomeAway for $225M in 2013, and Sharkey Media, a digital marketing agency.
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