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A SaaS Founder's Guide to Starting Marketing on a Budget – Slush

Jun 15, 2022

The success of SEO is easier to measure than content due to SEO being tracked by position and some content might not be purely built for SEO. 

So here are a few ways: 

  • Sales Usage 
      • Just ask sales if they use the content for outreach or sales cycle acceleration. 
  • Form conversion on content landing pages
      • If visitors are hitting your landing page but have a low conversion, then something is wrong. Find out your baseline conversion and see if you can improve with better messaging. 
    • Use last touch attribution. 
      • HubSpot and other CRMs do this out of the box so you can see if a content download eventually leads to a request demo/contact us MQL. 
      • Attribution only goes so far, so I would also add a “How did you hear about us” free text field. It’s eye-opening when customers say they heard about you from unknown channels (e.g., panel discussions, live events, LinkedIn Posts)
  • Email open rates and click-through rates 
    • This highlights if your content is compelling on a first email headline all the way through to content consumption. 

Budget Resources to help 

  • Backlinko Content Hub 
    • One place for all content creation needs.
  • Neil Patel 
    • Expert SEO and content advice from one of the best. 
  • Wistia Channels 
    • I use Wistia channels to easily curate an awesome-looking landing page for all my videos. 
  • How to find writers 
    • UpWork 
      • Try a few freelancers out on the cheap before you move to get a more professional writer. 
    • LinkedIn Search 
      • Simply put in your [category + Freelance Writer] in search to get a bunch of high-quality freelancers to interview.

Skip #1: Analyst Seat Licenses and Reprints

Analyst relations (AR) get a bad rap, and I get why. 

“It’s pay to play!” 

“[X Company] is in the tank for our competitor!”

“Why didn’t we get mentioned in this report? We pay them $$$!” 

However, I believe many of these complaints are due to resource allocation, not marketing spending. For AR to run correctly, you need someone dedicated to owning the relationships and setting KPIs for the year. 

This doesn’t need to be a full-time role, but it does need ownership from either marketing or product. When I was leading product marketing at Tricentis and Keyfactor, I owned the relationships with the major analyst firms. 

It wasn’t my full-time job, but it took more time than I wanted. So what can you do on a budget? 

First, you can always request a briefing without a paid seat. This doesn’t mean that analysts will always take your request, but it doesn’t hurt to request one. Since they get hundreds of requests a month, you’ll need to stand out.

To maximize your acceptance of a briefing request, you want to make sure your request gives them value vs you getting value from them. I’ll usually read up on a few of their blogs, research notes, or LinkedIn posts to feel their areas of interest. 

Then I’ll title the request and abstract that provided value to their fields of interest, like “A DataOps view of the Data Observability Landscape and 2022 Trends.” 

Second, you can send analysts monthly or quarterly reports on the state of your business and your POV of the market. At the close of a briefing, I’ll usually ask if it’s OK to send them updates. Most analysts welcome this information because it helps them be better informed when writing their research notes.

And lastly, you can interact with them on social media. Analysts like to post thought leadership and encourage feedback from the community. This gives you a presence to any potential buyers that follow analysts to get their advice on vendor recommendations and industry trends. 

In the rare circumstance that your category has some type of market guide, quadrant, wave, etc. you should weigh the pros and cons for shelling out rights to a reprint. These can be extremely helpful for procurement but less helpful if your company is not in these reports. 

Skip #2: Peer Review Websites 

Peer review sites like G2 , TrustRadius , and PeerSpot help customers compare vendors based on peer/user reviews. You can claim your company profile and get reviews from your customers from these sites for free. 

Obviously, these companies want you to purchase their paid versions for things like upgrading your profile content, buyer intent data, and outreach review programs to your customer base. 

I say skip the paid version for now, and take the budget to offer gift cards for reviews. 

Here’s how you do it: 

  1. Create a list of customers you know are raving fans 
  2. Connect with your customer over the phone or by email 
  3. Ask them to do a quick 15-min review 
  4. Tell them to notify you once their review is complete 
  5. Send them a $50+ gift card 

Here are some P\pretty simple steps to get many peer reviews within a short amount of time. 

Below is the email template I use; feel free to steal it: 

Subject

Giftcard for 15-Min Review 

Body 

Hi [Customer name], 

We’re reaching out to our most active customers to ask them for a quick 15 min review of how they use [product/company name] for a $50 gift card. 

The review process is very simple and can be anonymous. 

Just go here [Link to review site], leave us a review, and let me know so I can send you your gift card. We value any feedback and hope you leave us a good review :-).

Thanks!

Skip #3: Public Relations 

Public relations (PR) used to be table stakes for all companies. Invest tons of money into firms that can get you placed in industry pubs where your buyer hangs out for those passive leads.

The problem now is that companies can produce just as good of content as PR firms. 

Plus, they get the benefit of SEO if it’s done right. So why would you invest money in something you can already benefit from? 

Now I don’t say this to bash PR. I like PR when it works to get my company’s brand name into areas where I can’t do it myself. 

However, you walk into meetings with the firm without a proper content strategy to feed the PR, saying, “So…what are we going to pitch this week?” 

This is the beginning of a vicious cycle that forced companies to over-focus on developing content specifically for PR instead of building their organic brand. 

Wrapping it up 

The reality is this: there is no silver bullet in B2B marketing. I tried to choose the top marketing needs that will have bottom-of-funnel impacts immediately on a limited budget. 

This isn’t a “marketing code” that I wouldn’t change in the future.

However, as Captain Barbossa once said, “The code is more of what you call guidelines than actual rules.”

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