We’d all love to run 100% PLG SaaS companies that magically self-replicate customers. And it does happen, sometimes. At least for a while. You can hear more of a deep dive on how Calendly does it for example here. But even there, to truly scale, they went more enterprise and built out a full enterprise sales and marketing function.
So where do you start? What works to get you leads? Here’s my list of 10+ things that pretty much always work, especially with slightly large deal sizes. The first 5 you can do yourself. The next 5 also always work, but you need someone in marketing that’s done them well before to own them:
#1. A customer conference. It’s OK to start small. It took me a while as a SaaS CEO to see that a customer conference was worth it. But I was wrong. It’s always worth it. Even if you start small, with just a half-day event and 20-30 customers. The magic is in getting them together, and inviting a bunch of prospects. They’ll all sell each other on your app. My rough rule is do this by the time you have 100 customers. And again, it’s just fine to start small. More here.
#2. A weekly webinar. You just have to do it every week. It’s OK if just a few come at first. Most folks don’t believe me that this is magic, but if you really commit to it, it always works. And you can start next week. Do a Weekly Webinar. Every week, at the same time. And invite all your prospects and your customers. You can mix each week’s agenda up. Just do something that adds value to the attendees. It can just be a product demo most weeks, too. You gotta commit to 52 of these a year, at the same time. But if you do, watch more and more folks slowly come. And prospects will not only come, they’ll invite other stakeholders to come to the next one. Watch that compound. More here.
#3. Amazing blog content — that truly adds value in the industry. Add 2 amazing pieces of value a month. “Content marketing” is overrated for the most part. Hiring some agency to write a bunch of low-value blog posts, or making a really junior hire than doesn’t know the product do some … rarely works. It rarely gets you anywhere. But what does always work is 2+ pieces of content a month that are extremely valuable to your prospects, customers, and industry. Just write them, and make sure they are great. Not check-the-box. Promote them wherever you can. And over time, SEO will work its magic. It takes time, but it always works. A great example here.
#4. Steak dinners. Do a city tour and try to meet at least 10 customers in each major city, and invite your prospects there. They will do the selling for you. I didn’t get these at first as a SaaS CEO. But they work. Get even 10 of your top customers and prospects in a city together, and talk to them and get them to talk to each other. They are just mini-events. The stakes are low, (no pun intended), and the ROI is real. You just gotta keep doing them. Ideally, at least 1 per month. Try to hit all your top customers and prospects at least. Plan the roadtrip out now. More here.
#5. Visit all your largest customers. Do at least a roadmap presentation, and ask for their feedback. We’ve talked about this so much on SaaStr, and yet I see so few founders doing this. Go visit every customer in your Top 10%-15% of revenue, at least. More if you can. No idea what to talk about? No problem. Just review the roadmap for the rest of the year. Customers will appreciate being included and having their feedback heard. Magic moment. And personally, I’ve never yet lost a customer I visited in person. More on that here.
— SaaStr (@saastr) July 15, 2015
The first 5, the ones above, always work if you commit to them. Even if you don’t really know how to do them, even if you don’t even have a single marketer. You can do them yourself.
#6-#10 also always work. But — only if you have someone on the team that knows how to do them. Otherwise, skip them for the most part and focus on hiring someone that knows how to do ’em.
#6. Outbound. Highly personalized outbound to the right buyers can always generate conversations. But mediocre outbound and trite cadences often get you nowhere. This is so key. Many founders don’t think outbound works, or think it’s dated, or spam. They are both right and wrong. Done poorly, outbound never works, and basically becomes vendor spam. But the perfect, hand-crafted email that hits a prospect exactly when they truly need your product? Well, that can work like magic. More here.
#7. Top Industry Events. Do your own customer conference; that always works. They’ll come. But third-party events like AWS, Dreamforce, SaaStr, Shoptalk? Field marketers that are >good< at it get 40% of their pipe from it. But you can get $0 ROI if you aren’t good at it. This is key. Of course, Big Industry Events work, or folks wouldn’t sponsor them. But staring at people from an expensive booth alone doesn’t get you qualified opportunities. You have to work it. You really need someone that knows field marketing and events to run this playbook for you. Still, at least try. At least be at the #1 and #2 events in your industry. A bit more here and in this recent podcast:
#8. Partner Marketing. Going to market together with someone with an overlapping base can be an amazing force multiplier. But if you aren’t good at it, each party just spams the other’s base. That doesn’t pay off. So if you are frustrated that partner marketing isn’t working, or is too hard, don’t blame the channel or the strategy. Go find someone that’s good at this. And ideally, make it their only job. More on how Gorgias used Partner Marketing to get 50% of their 10,000 customers here:
#9. Website redesigns. A lot of marketers love to do this, especially right after they join. You do need to do this. Your marketing site should be >better< than your product. It’s much easier to build. But done wrong, it can be a huge time sink with low ROI. This is common. Mediocre marketers often burn way too many cycles they start on website designs that don’t move the needle. My suggestion is at least wait 90 days after they start before they kick off a web design :). But after that, if nothing else, again, make your marketing site even better than your product. That always increases the percentage of folks that come to your website … actually reach out. More here.
#10. Podcasts and videos. The best ones are magical. Even if just 20 prospects / customers listen to your A+ podcast, it can move the needle. But 90% of folks phone in it. The problem is these media consume so many resources. Huge amounts. Skip them if you aren’t great at them. Focus on #1-#5 above instead. Way too many SaaS marketers burn a ton of cycles just getting a few mediocre podcasts or videos off the ground. Never worth it. The best podcast in your niche? That you do 52 weeks a year, no matter what? Almost always worth it.
A related post here:
Magic image from here.