Marketing Automation Model for B2B SaaS Companies

Marketing Automation Lasers

Key takeaways at the bottom if you don’t like to read full blog posts!

Marketing Automation has been a big part of the marketing mix of successful companies for a few years now. They are hungry for automation skills and talent, and managers of those companies recognise the enormous wealth of possibilities that come with this technology. Whether in B2B, B2C or NGO’s, the impact is huge… for the ones using it the right way. Today I will write a bit about what I believe is the right approach to automation in B2B businesses operating in the SaaS model.

Now, the SaaS model requires a bit of a different approach to your leads and customers, which translates to a different approach to your marketing automation efforts. The debate is between focusing on churning out a lot smaller and less advanced campaigns, or conversely, getting stuck producing that one mega-program that takes months to deliver but “once this baby hits the ground it will change the game for us! (fingers crossed)”.

Let’s be more specific and use a hypothetical free one month trial as an example. It’s really pretty simple here – you can either build a quick program to support the trial onboarding, have it done within a matter of days or weeks, or you can spend months building something complex. The former program could consist of basic targeting and messaging, would be more or less similar across all leads, the latter could have personas and behavioral targeting.

Now, having those two basic options to choose from, think about this – if you offer a free trial and three months in your campaign is still not ready the opportunity that you had with all of those leads has already landed and been lost with the unassisted trial. You had one chance to get their attention and, once their trial is gone, that opportunity is gone with it. It’s really the classic strike the iron while it’s hot, not rocket science. Also, really easy to see on how many opportunities you’re missing out on – just see how many trialists have not converted to paying customers because there was no supporting messaging alongside the free trial.


Time is key so you got to get to market fast!

You can see where this is all going. In most scenarios, for a SaaS company that has little or no automation, it is a better strategy to deliver quickly with less complexity than to spend forever building that one “grand campaign”. Once you have your basic program up and running there’s nothing stopping you from iterating later on – A/B testing and changing comms to ones that perform better, incorporating behavioral and demographic targeting and predictive analytics plus all the other goodies. What makes the difference is that you already have something in market that touches your leads and helps them with your product’s features, convinces them to convert and keeps you top of their mind.

So now that you know where my head’s at, take a look at your sales funnel – at the different stages and the amount of contacts that are yearning to hear from you. Whether those are known pre-trial leads, trialists, your customers, people that have churned, not converted, etc. you should build campaigns to be able to contact all of them. Yes, all. Unless you have bought cold data, those people were interested enough in what you’re selling, to leave you their details fully knowing that emails will follow. So even if it’s something simple – you’d be surprised how much you can get out of even simple automated email campaigns – covering your sales funnel should be #1 priority right after sorting out all the basics in your data and once they hit the ground you can start adding more intelligence to your programs.

In most cases in SaaS world, contacts will get 1 free trial so you have one shot at being their chosen solution for whatever problem they have. After all, if you don’t, all that hard work that Lead/Demand Gen is doing is going to go to waste.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Speed trumps complexity.
    It is more important to put campaigns in market fast, capitalising on the attention Lead Gen was able to secure, rather than spending months building the one complex campaign to “rule them all”.
  2. Cover your Sales Funnel Stages.
    Build and deploy campaigns that will cover as much of your sales funnel as possible. From freshly known leads to at-risk customers, you have a limited window of opportunity where you can deliver a campaign that will be relevant and in context. Make sure that unless there’s a reason for it (unsubscribes, suspended, etc.), you don’t have entries in your database just gathering dust.
  3. Start A/B testing.
    As soon as you have your campaigns in market you can start testing to see what works and what doesn’t so that when #4 happens you’re ready.
  4. Iterate to add more intelligence to your programmes.
    Once tests results are in, start changing those comms to better performing versions.

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Drip Marketing 101

Drip Marketing

The Basics

So you’re doing Marketing at a B2B company. You have your website working as a lead generator, you do field marketing, spend a lot of money on events, gathering the data and from time to time get some more leads bought from a data-siphoning company. You also have a list of your clients with all the upsell opportunities and a lot of email addresses that are not being contacted. It is a huge database of potential prospects, with a lot of them not ready to be sold to at the moment. So what do you do after your sales guys called them and got the cold shoulder? Mark them down as “lost opportunities”? “Not interested”? “Call again in 6 months”? In reality a lot of companies actually use this “burned ground” tactics without realising that there might be a different way of handling those contacts.

Drip marketing, also called nurture programs, engagement programs, and many other depending on the Marketing Automation Software (MAS) provider, is especially applicable in long sales cycle. It allows you to stay in touch with your leads, feeding them pre-written messages, maintaining your relationship over long periods of time. After all, you spend so much time, energy and money to get someone’s email address, so now is the time to get as much out of it as possible.

A very basic drip marketing program can be as simple as having a set of emails that are being sent to a lead in a given period of time. Let’s assume you have one product, one region and a set of resources that you can send – whitepapers, videos, analyst papers and factsheets. Organise them in a way that would resemble your early, mid and late stage content and put them into your nurture stream. There is a number of MAS solutions out there that can provide this functionality in an automated way. If you are still to chose one for yourself, see some of the comparisons here and here.

Now, the simple example of your drip marketing program:

Basic Nurture

You got the data into your system via subscription forms, resource forms, list uploads of people you met at conferences, etc. Then you chose the order of the content you want to serve and how often/ on what day of the week you want to send your email and set your program. Assuming you would have 5 pieces of collateral, one email send weekly and 7 day iteration, you would have enough content to last you for 5 weeks before your sales person could try to establish a connection. Example order of those could be:

  1. Provider comparison white paper.
  2. Solution brief.
  3. Case Study.
  4. Solution video.
  5. Factsheet.


Of course the more content the better. Well at least in most cases – you want to be nurturing someone for quite a while, making sure they get to realise their problem, get to know your product, etc. That being said, if someone doesn’t interact with you for a few months time it means that either they are not interested or you need to look into your marketing efforts and no amount of same-ol’ content will change that. So while 5 pieces work in the example, explaining the concept, it is nowhere near what a drip marketing program is intended to do. The more the better, as you don’t want your programs to exhaust the content they have leaving your leads in limbo.

The next post about drip marketing will go over more advanced examples- companies utilizing demographic criteria while having multiple different products and selling on different continents. Finally, the last post will go over possibilities of dynamically basing you drip nurture based on both – the behavioral and demographical criteria.