A lot of folks I talk to think I am “good at marketing”. I’m not so sure about that. Like many founders, there is a slice of marketing I am good at — the part I’m passionate about. The rest? I’m pretty bad at it. I can’t send a decent campaign. I’m no good at steak dinners.

But one thing I’ve learned over the years, and many others have said it:

In the end, your biggest asset is your list.

10 Things That Always Work in SaaS Marketing

Now these days, that needs to be qualified. Everyone is now building newsletters using platforms and tools I love, but they make it too easy. Adding 5,000 unqualified, random names that on a platform that encourages you to subscribe to a pack of “newsletters” at the same time can be fun. But it is NOT a list of 5,000 qualified buyers. Same with buying or building a database from a third party data source.

We’ve run experiments across these too easily acquired names, measuring how many tickets they buy to SaaStr Annual and Europa.  The answer?  None.

No what matters over time is building an amazing, engaged database and list of potential buyers that truly opted in.

That said, Yes, I want to continue to learn more from you.

Our list after 13 years of SaaStr isn’t that big. It’s just over 250,000. It should be larger.

But it’s our gem. All of our engagement, 90%+ of our event attendance, and at least $5m of direct revenue comes from that list.

Can you buy your way there? I’m not convinced.

You can go buy names. Those aren’t folks that want you to communicate with them, however.

I think 90% of your list, you have to earn. And it takes years.

So start early. Prune the weak names. Be wary of adding low quality names. And guard your list jealously. Be careful of pooling lists and sharing names with other vendors. Be careful of spamming your list.

Treat every single email you send to your list as precious. Every single email should add value, at least some true value.

And watch it compound. LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok may come and go and change.

But your list is yours forever.

I’m not the first to have said it, but we have 10+ years of hard data to back it up.  And that there are no shortcuts.

A few related points:

  • Random list-swaps from happy hours and other events is fine — if it’s opt-in.  But don’t expect many of these names to convert.  Maybe earn them at your booth or own event.  Watch those convert at a much higher rate.
  • If someone offers to sell you a “list” for cheap — you know why.  It’s not worth much.  You didn’t build it.
  • Gmail addresses are great to capture, too.  Maybe better than work addresses.  Why?  Folks leave their jobs every 14-18 months now.  Yes, you can enrich these emails to get new emails.  But their gmail stays with them forever.
  • Prune your list.  The names that never open your email for a year are likely a net negative.  You’ll think you have something that you don’t.
  • Always Be Building Your List.  Don’t be too aggressive.  Random lead scans of someone that barely walked by don’t work.  Forcing people to give you an email for an asset that shouldn’t require it just adds friction.  But find 1-2 ways on your marketing site at least to Always Be Building Your List.  And track it as a core KPI.  Are you adding more qualified names to your list each month than the month before?

100 great names on your list to start?  That might buy your product someday, because they said they might?  I’ll take that over 10,000 random email addresses any day of the week.

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