34 SaaS Marketers Reveal What Inspires Them About Modern Marketing

Recently, we reached out to over 30 SaaS (Software as a Service) companies and asked their marketers one simple question:

What have you read, heard or seen that has profoundly impacted the way you think about modern marketing?

What we got back was a treasure trove of highly valuable information. Here are their responses! Enjoy :)

“One thing that I would say that has profoundly impacted my perspective on modern marketing is the ability to mine behavioral data and discover consumer intent through search queries to understand where they are in the buying cycle. This allows marketers to tailor messaging & content to the specific need of the consumer to increase conversions and ROI.”

Nate Turner

Online Marketing Director

Sprout Social

“When I started out about two years ago as a marketing intern out of business school, Social Media was picking up in India and marketing through such channels was largely seen to be a branding and engagement exercise, which for the most part was like shooting in the dark. There were no numbers, no real A/B testing. There was just a sense of what was right, what was working and we just went along with it.

Now, down the line, I wish someone had told me about how much analytics could have helped me out then. I could have targeted my content better, figured out what was working and what was not and generally tailored my content delivery for the audience. If I had been using targeted, detailed analytics then, I would have steered clear of the competition and left them all miles behind, so to say.”

Sairam Krishnan

Marketing Communications Manager

Freshdesk

“As an up and coming startup, Teamalaya is going to have to make sure to get the most out of any money we spend on marketing, including advertising. To get the best return on investment in ad money, we’ll have to make sure that we’re targeting precisely the right users. As you know, technology has radically impacted the ways we can target the most likely customers, with platforms such as Google, Facebook, and lately Twitter. Knowing that we can target HR reps efficiently has a profound impact on what Teamalaya’s upcoming strategy will be.

That sounds good, and is probably easy to find a supporting article for, but it’s obviously a pretty generic answer. I’ll supplement that with something slightly out of the box.

An article I’ve recently read affirmed that our strategy as non “pushy” marketers can be successful. At Teamalaya, our long term strategy is not to sell, but to work with and listen to our clients. I’ve used this strategy with success in past positions, against conventional wisdom, and it has been successful. (Not only did it lead to sales success, but customers who didn’t feel pushed into buying were often repeat purchasers and referred friends for quality service.) We have adopted this as our strategy at Teamalaya, so we have long term, satisfied clients instead of one time rush decision purchasers.

Service is as important as marketing, and is nowadays part of the marketing mix. Companies such as Zappos have built their brand on customer service, and Teamalaya wants to follow along those lines. You want to support your buyers with information helping them make the decision to buy instead of pushing them to buy, and the sales cycle should be more about informing your customers than pressuring them.

An article I once read supported my assertion (feel free to swap this one out, but it was the first I found with a quick Google search.) http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/1702901/commandments-modern-marketing. I also have a book I can cite, if you prefer.”

Andrew Luzincourt

Bizdev/Marketing

Teamalaya

“One thing that Taylor and I (along with the rest of the marketing department at Shoeboxed) have heard, and now swear by, is the simple (yet game-changing) idea that you must stay married to the process of testing and iteration and learn to rely less and less on your experiences. The company with the most capacity to iterate quickly wins. Period.

We’ve not only experienced success with quick iteration time and time again here at Shoeboxed, but also continually strive to put ourselves in a position where we are always increasing our capacity to iterate. This increase comes in several different forms, but we’ve found the easiest and quickest way to increase our capacity to iterate is to use tools that allow us to be more efficient with our time. And it’s of course tools like KISSmetrics that allow companies to quickly gather data on their tests and continue to iterate at a rapid rate.

Also, related to the above quote, another thing that we live by is the idea that winning on the web is often about improving outcomes by small amounts (1%- 3%) each and every week. It’s like compounding interest. The faster you can iterate, the more compounding periods you give yourself. Moving the needle in a small way on a weekly basis results in a massive needle shift over the long run, and it’s important to stay this course. Often we don’t look for huge improvements in a certain channel over the short term, but instead look to increase traffic/conversions/CTR etc. a little bit each and every week by, again, testing and iterating as quickly as we can based on each day’s data. This method has delivered tremendously well since our founding in 2007.

Furthermore, to your point, this “small needle” approach also allows us to no longer waste half of our marketing budget on anything. If we’re testing everything in a small controlled setting and gathering data quickly we can cut the projects that aren’t working almost immediately and begin channeling remaining 90% of our budget on the ones that are working. It’s great.

One of Shoeboxed’s best advisors and great friends is a fellow named Jed Carlson. Jed is the co-founder and COO of ReverbNation, another Durham startup. Jed has worked with us on countless occasions to help improve our marketing strategies and try new things and I would attribute both of these key insights to him. He’s the most experienced online marketer around!

You can read more about Jed here: http://www.reverbnation.com/main/about

Jake Brereton

Senior Marketing Manager

Shoeboxed Inc.

“My mind was sufficiently warped when an executive friend of my recommended that I take a look at PreCommerce, by Bob Pearson. To summarize the book, the customers for our companies and startups have all the information they’ll ever need at their fingerprints through Google. They don’t need us to “push” sales or marketing messages at them. In fact, “push” strategies will now backfire and when a business attempts to sell to their customers, they’ll do more harm than good.

Modern and tech-savvy customers won’t be sold to, but they will let marketers help them buy things. This means in order to be successful, modern marketing campaigns will have to face the following realities:

  • Since customers won’t let you sell to them, companies must build trust in order to help customers make buying decisions
  • Transparency and accessibility via social media channels are key to building that trust
  • Product quality is more important than ever because word of your bad product will poison your reputation with future customers quickly

I see evidence of each of these when I visit with actual WP Engine customers at user conferences. Every time I hear someone say, ‘I’ve heard great things about you guys, but this is the first time I’ve gotten a chance to use you, I know we’re on the right track.’”

Austin W. Gunter

Brand Ambassador

WP Engine

“I firmly believe in the new modern approach to marketing. First, get them to the website through great content (à lá KISSmetrics), then, assuming that only 20% of your customers are ready to buy, put them in a Lead Nurturing and Lead Scoring program, where you ‘nurture’ them, and build your name as an expert in the field so when they are ready to buy, they think about you first.

Also, companies need to start thinking about create a CRO (Chief Revenue Officer), that will make sure that Marketing and Sales work together. I believe that’s modern marketing, and that’s the way to go.

Some resources I found super helpful: Content Rules (book) and ‘Revenue Disruption’ (book)”.

Tiago Paiva

Co-founder

Talkdesk

“One of the most recent things to shift my mindset in terms of effective marketing is realizing that customer service is the new marketing. Your customers are your biggest advocates. Getting them to promote you and tell your story is more valuable than any marketing content you can create and distribute yourself. http://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2011/12/28/why-customer-service-is-the-new-marketing/

Jason Lander

Founder & CEO

Hively

“Modern marketing is all about data and context. How do we gather data and what is the context to that data. In order to best understand this you need to get into it. Start gathering lots and lots of data. Understand the connection between your advertising data and your on-site data. It’s all interrelated. Digital marketing today can be thought of as one big funnel. As a result, you have to track, understand, and think about the entire funnel not just one piece.”

Allen Gannett

Chief Marketing Officer

EmployInsight

Social Media for Croudfunding, by Social Fulcrum, provided by Andrew Kreps-Smith

He was speaking more specifically about crowdfunding, but I feel like it applies to marketing on the whole.”

  • Give people a reason to listen. WIFM (What’s in it for me)?
  • Find your audience. Use every opportunity to tailor messaging.
  • Find influencers. Build a relationship before you need anything from them.
  • Each medium requires a specific strategy. Don’t spray and pray.

Phoebe Farber

Founder & CEO

Prospective Plus

“I’m highly analytical, so my thoughts about marketing tend to be most influenced by ideas that give me better ways to apply analytics. An uncommon example is The Black Swan, by Nassim Taleb. It’s ostensibly a finance book, but really it’s a book about how to think about the world, what randomness really means, and how much is actually unknown, despite experience to the contrary. Marketing is mostly about communicating your ideas to people who don’t know them, don’t care about them, or don’t understand them. Maintaining a healthy skepticism about what you should assume could never be more important.”

Evan Solomon

Growth Engineer

Automattic

“For me it’s definitely: Purple Cow by Seth Godin

The book is full of indispensable information. The title of the book is pretty straightforward.

You need to be a purple cow to get attention fo your customer. You and your business need to be unique. You need to have some special attributes.

Because marketing is everything—it’s your product itself, it’s your customer service, your employees are your marketing. Every step your company makes is marketing.”

Michal Truban

CEO

Nicereply

“Well, we realized that inbound marketing works best for us. Our Blog and Webinars as primary examples.

One thing that isn’t really popular as a way of acquiring customers is Quora. We’ve gotten 5-10% of our customers just from Quora. Here’s a blog post that we wrote regarding how we’ve been getting customers from Quora

How do we know inbound marketing has been the best source of customers?

KISSMETRICS. It tells me, the founder and janitor, that people from Quora behave in a certain way, and people from our blog behave in a certain way.

Sure, this behavioral stuff is good and all…but, where’s the money?!

Well, KISSmetrics has shown us that we should really simplify our onboarding process. We’re expecting to double down in terms of signups -> customers now, and are rolling out features BASED off KISSmetrics data.

To recap INBOUND marketing rocks for us. And we know it does because data doesn’t really lie, and KISSmetrics produces actionable data for us!

Emil Hajric

Founder

Helpjuice.com

“I think the one thing that had the biggest impact on the way I think about modern marketing was Marc Benioff’s book, Behind the Cloud. Although it’s written from a B2B perspective, many of the lessons he shares about how small startups can displace larger competitors by thinking differently helped me look at our competition differently. Even for the B2B and enterprise software markets, you can really use the internet to your advantage to stay lean and do things your competitors can’t if you take the time to learn how.”

Ray Grieselhuber

CEO

Ginzametrics

“The most profound impact on how I think about marketing didn’t come with something I read or heard, it was what I experienced as a user and consumer. When you look around, the companies that are winning from a marketing perspective are the ones that are providing value in the content they produce, the interactions they have and the products that they create.

It’s a user-centric approach to marketing, and it’s a drastic shift. We’re focusing less and less on clicks and more and more on happiness, which is how it should be.”

Andrew Dumont

Co-founder

Stride

“Social media perhaps builds your brand and engages your customers and other audiences but ROI measurement can’t always be done properly which a lot of inexperienced/skeptical companies who are looking to improve their online business growth are considering. I think integration of marketing efforts, defining goals and tracking the analytics throughout is the key.

More thoughts…

When it comes to analytics, studying and measuring how your audience engages, interacts and navigates your online presence in a holistic way can be powerful so you can consider optimizing your ‘conversion’ funnel by testing hypothesis and running experiments on what works and what doesn’t. It’s interesting to note that not everyone coming from social media will buy or hit your call to action but with the right marketing integration/intelligence/automation it could be possible to get them to return once they view your website once through other tools like retargeting advertising or other offers once you build trust with them through social channels.”

Omar Uddin

Software Entrepreneur

omaruddin.com

“Use email to communicate, not spam”

“It’s a very fine line to walk – you obviously don’t want to spam your users. Blasting all of your users with a generic marketing blast is not going to be effective. The key is to give users valuable information that’s personalized to them based on data in the application. You also need to give them the very apparent ability to opt-out.

Leveraging email is important for free services that are selling eyeballs because they need those eyeballs to keep coming back. Email is a way to reach out to the user beyond the application.

Twitter and Quora do a good job of telling me when things I’m interested in are happening in the application. This (a) reminds me they exists and (b) entices me to come back.”

http://blog.mailgun.net/post/28067460458/growth-hacking-email-and-mullets

Another couple of great reads with lots of good resources linked throughout:

http://talsraviv.com/2012/07/26/being-a-developer-makes-you-valuable.-learning-how-to-market-makes-you-dangerous/

Great quote from this – http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4298417

Reading research about twelve-year-old girls’ purchase decisions and focus group transcripts is not the same thing as thinking like one. I have a client in that market, and I read everything when I’m working on something — research, web sites, fan magazines, television — but none of it is a substitute for sitting in a dark room and genuinely trying to imagine the trials of what it must be like to actually be a twelve-year-old girl from a first person perspective.”

Mat Mullen

Business Development

DISQUS

“It used to be that before the Internet, you went with your gut, a hunch or a general vibe about how you should run a marketing campaign.

Big stodgy companies (many still around today do the same things…) would gather in a boardroom, put their heads together, and come up with a go to market “strategy” based on best practices and yesterday’s information.

Things have changed.

With the Internet you can test things on the fly, get instant feedback, and utilize capabilities that allow you to test virtually every single aspect of your marketing campaign in real time.

The prevailing notion that profoundly altered the way I thought about this marketing approach was the term “agile” — but for marketing, instead of its traditional use for engineering.

To get the best results — in the least amount of time — you need to institute an approach that allows you to test, gather feedback, and iterate on the fly using REAL data, not what worked last time or a hunch.

It’s one thing to begin a campaign based on best practices, it’s quite another to cost your company millions of dollars because you failed to institute a rigorous and comprehensive data-gathering process based on the real live feedback.

The Internet changed the speed at which information could be gathered, and decisions made.”

Chris Fernandez

Director of Marketing

UpMo.com

“I remember reading an article about optimizing conversions and retention through Customer Success approach. Make your customers successful and they will convert better and stay with you longer.

For us at GetResponse that means helping our customers grow their mailing lists, sending newsletters and boost their email marketing results. Through advanced analytical platforms (such as KISSmetrics) we are able to identify segments of customers and users.

This lets us engage these segments with specialized education campaigns that focus on making our customers achieve successful email marketing results. As a result, we are boosting GetResponse’s conversion and retention. Their success is truly our success.”

Simon Grabowski

CEO

GetResponse.com

“Two things have impacted me:

  1. Anything from @RandFish
  2. This SalesLion e-book was very solid because it’s so practical.

The Sales Lion e-book took a pragmatic approach to what worked in his marketing efforts. Every marketing department is strapped for resources and a one-man marketing department, Marcus, was able to generate leads that filled his pipeline generate throughout next year. He doesn’t talk about how to do it, he talks about how he did it. This book showed me content marketing is the future in marketing for our generation and writers will rule the marketing world. All the English majors who don’t have a job now, will be fought over in the next decade. Great content leads to great education. Great education leads to trust. Trust leads to bottom line sales.

Rand Fishkin is someone who has built a phenomenal community around inbound and content marketing. His company, SEOMoz is the thought leader when it comes SEO, inbound, and content marketing. They’ve built a pipeline of leads by a) leading the conversation b) educating the world on the current state of SEO/inbound while being the visionaries in ‘what’s ahead.’ “

Jon Birdsong

Sales & Marketing Executive

SalesLoft

“Honestly, most of what gets written and said about modern marketing is a recycling of one of a handful of ideas. Here are a few common themes (certainly not all) that jump to mind:

  • Create a conversation with your prospect
  • Ask WIIFM?
  • Test everything
  • Write better copy, especially headlines & subject lines

It all starts to blend together after a while.

What I find interesting these days are pieces that challenge companies to think about how to create products and services that “market themselves.” In other words, how do you make something that creates excitement without the need for some creative “campaign” or “push” — without trying to get the target audience artificially pumped up about something they don’t really care that much about?

It’s not an easy thing, but if you can do it, your marketing gets a lot easier (and more fun!).

Seth Godin has written a lot of excellent pieces about this idea, but I’m partial to this recent piece from Julien Smith (NSFW language).

No business or marketer deserves to spend their days trying to get people incrementally more interested in something dull.”

Justin Premick

Director of Education Marketing

Aweber

“Too often marketers are focused on impressions or reach when their main evaluative metric should be ROI. A marketing activity is only worth doing if it helps achieve your goal and any dollars and effort spent that fail to meet that goal are a waste. The challenge is to maximize your ROI by using as much information as you possibly can to guide your future decision. When comparing email marketing to direct mail marketing, as an example, email affords you an incredibly robust set of real-time metrics that allow you to measure your success including tracking from click in the email through to purchase on your website. Whereas direct mail gives you little insight into whether your flyer was read or just tossed into the recycle bin. For the serious marketer looking to maximize ROI, the metrics from email marketing and their web analytics give them exactly what they need.”

Source Resource: Elite Email (http://www.eliteemail.com)

Robert Burko

President

Elite Email

‘Don’t Bury the Ask.’ Whether you are writing a media pitch, developing a website, or approaching a potential business partner, make it clear exactly what you what your audience to do. Provide them with more than one option if you must (and sometimes this is best), but make your primary ask crystal clear. It seems intuitive but often as entrepreneurs we get into the “entire kitchen sink” mode. We fear we’ll leave out something important—I know I do! But if you focus on what you want to happen and lead with that, you’re more likely to get whatever it is you actually want. And that’s the point, right?”

Amy Ziari

Director of Marketing

ZenCash

“I have been very influenced by the ‘Quant based marketing’ ideas lately. Basically the fact that everything should be measured. Even if you think that blog posts help you get customers, you should try to find out the average number of signups per blog post and then factor that into your goals. And with tools like KISSmetrics you can actually do that.

Even though Noah did it for pre-launch marketing, we are applying some of those ideas to post launch marketing as well – http://okdork.com/2010/07/15/quant-based-marketing-for-pre-launch-start-ups/

Prateek Dayal

Founder & CEO

SupportBee

“The Fallacy of Funnels by Des Traynor (@destraynor)

http://blog.intercom.io/the-fallacy-of-funnels/

Des consistently writes the most useful and interesting pieces on marketing and building successful products.”

Brian Doll

Marketing

GitHub

“SEOMoz has really helped me stay informed about best SEO practices. I watch their Whiteboard Friday series every week and follow their blog.”

Melissa

Marketing Director

JangoMail

“Claude Hopkins – Scientific Advertising and My Life in Advertising. He lived and worked a 100 years ago, but the rigor and common sense of testing and analytics he used in his work still far exceeds what we see in tech today. If you haven’t read Hopkins chances are you don’t know what marketing is.”

Gleb Arshinov

Founder & CEO

Acunote

Gandi.net

“I’ve read, heard, and seen presented at hostingcon and SMX West conferences that outbound marketing is dead: that social media and reputation-based market presence is now the most powerful driver of new inbound leads. The ability to create a positive reputation among dedicated, vocal customers is the best marketing tool you could ask for. It’s true that the number of inbound leads is less, but the quality of the leads makes up for the lower quantity, and the cost of sale is dramatically lower than with outbound marketing buys.

I’ve seen this borne out at Gandi.net, a domain name registrar that relies solely on word-of mouth, and never pays anyone to say nice things about it. The praise you hear for Gandi is honest praise, and the criticism is almost always constructive. This model of engagement, partnering with the customer and providing excellent service, is one that has staying power and serves to motivate the staff to always do their best.”

Thomas Stocking

VP of US Operations

Gandi.net

“Modern marketing is about make people aware and not about pushing your product to people. Modern marketing is pull vs. push. Modern marketing has a lot to do with Inbound marketing.”

Sahil Parikh

Founder

DeskAway.com

“I think that it is ironic that your service has “KISS” in its name because I feel that we are entering a time period where marketing has become so convoluted and complex that it is making purchasing decisions more difficult for consumers. So many layers have been introduced recently, including social, mobile and geo engagement opportunities, that many campaigns try to pull on so many levers at once, that they are not successful with any one in particular.

To me marketers need to get back to simplicity and really focus on what produces the greatest emotional reactions and connections with their customers. We need to focus more on the type of content that helps consumers feel connected to brands and frictionless engagement which ultimately leads to significant brand lift and purchases.

Looking at things from an ad technology point of view at PostRelease, where we specialize in using content to reach online consumers, simplifying user engagement is paramount. Which is why I am so excited about the simplicity and power of using content in the “native” feed.

The link below has definitely shaped my thinking here in the second half of 2012:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickspenner/2012/07/02/marketers-have-it-wrong-forget-engagement-consumers-want-simplicity/

Tyler Tanaka

Vice President, Business Development

PostRelease

“Two things have impacted me:

  1. Anything from @RandFish
  2. This SalesLion e-book was very solid because it’s so practical.”

Jon Birdsong

Sales & Marketing Executive

SalesLoft

“The Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing post by Andrew Chen really added context and gave a name to a trend we were seeing and experimenting with. Most of our user acquisition projects are now based on creative ideas that only someone with a sufficient understanding of our technical ability and APIs could think of and execute.”

Philippe Gauvin

Co-founder & CEO

Matchfwd

“I guess it’s fair to say I’m an Internet “Old Timer,” having worked at Lycos in 1998 in my first dot com marketing role. Over the past 15 years, I think there have been a few marketing mantras guiding my thinking…they’ve evolved with the times, but still hold true.

Embrace the 3 C’s – During the late ’90s this was a hot topic for internet companies, and I think it’s still valid. whether you are a B2C or B2B marketer, there is still the need to find the right mix of “commerce, community, and content” to be relevant to your audience and want them to buy from you.
Attract, convert, retain and engage — I spent six years at an established retailer and achieved exponential growth for the e-commerce business. A lot of our marketing efforts integrated across online and offline – a special recipe for a brand with 1000 stores. I found that the key in online marketing was to seek out sources of new web traffic while also growing the number of multi-channel customers. We did this through special products, unique content, brand experiences, and of course proven tactics like email, affiliate advertising, search, and social communities.

Is the juice worth the squeeze? — A classic question for marketers. Don’t waste time on marketing efforts that won’t yield enough impact. Be inquisitive upfront, evaluate potential ROI, and pass on lower impact opportunities. Or, if you’ve already launched a campaign, be sure to monitor your metrics– know when to kill it and move on.

Fish where the [online] fish are — It’s all about knowing your target market, segmenting them in a meaningful way, and being visible where they are. For digital marketers, “finding” has infinite possibilities. This mantra has taken on new meaning with social media outlets in B2B like LinkedIn and Quora. For B2C audiences, it means understanding where your audiences are online and meeting them there.

out-think vs. outspend your competition – I’ve worked with marketing budgets from under $1 million to $100 million, so this quote is particularly meaningful to me. You don’t need the biggest marketing budget to capture the attention of your target audience. With the right planning, creativity, and of course, awesome execution, it can be done. The book, BuzzMarketing, by Mark Hughes provides examples of little-known companies that achieved amazing buzz and scaled revenue. I also I think this as an important corollary to my “fishing” mantra. Being present and visible on digital properties or in niche social communities is step one. Engaging in relevant dialogue, providing compelling content, or creating a campaign that generates buzz value is a level up. Generating buzz-worthy interest isn’t easy, but could be worth the effort, and pass the ‘juice’ test.”

Laurie Barkman

Marketing Director

The Resumator

“The most influential book I have read on Marketing is actually a book I read on economics, by Richard Thaler, Professor at University of Chicago, called “Nudge”. If I remember correctly, Professor Thaler mentions a shocking statistic comparing organ donation in Canada and USA. In Canada, 90% of the people donate their organs. In the USA, 90% of the people don’t donate their organs.

At first glance, it’s difficult to imagine how countries with similar cultural characteristics can be so different in an ethical principle like this. However the difference actually lies in the “default action”. In the US, people need to cross an X to become donors. In Canada, people need to cross an X to “not be a donor”. So what’s similar about the countries is that only 10% of the people check the X, regardless of the default option.

This lesson was shocking to me, and at Traity we believe it is critical to understand what the user should have as a default option, effectively nudging them into expected behaviors and hence into better marketing, conversion rates and funnel success.”

Juan Cartagena

Founder & CEO

Traity

  1. Unattended Secure delivery Heavyonion.com could solve these problems + a few more !

  2. Some really great nuggets in here. It looks like SalesLoft (which looks neat, checking out now) is listed twice.

  3. Love the thought leadership! I think Sahil of Deskaway summed it up best: “Modern marketing is about make people aware and not about pushing your product to people. Modern marketing is pull vs. push. Modern marketing has a lot to do with Inbound marketing.”

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