Here at VeUP we recognise from experience with our partners (and our own business) that growth marketing your B2B business is challenging and complex. The Martech SaaS revolution has brought a myriad of potential solutions to our attention and its increasingly difficult to know which to pick for the best fit and outcome for your business.
3 challenges faced in the beginning
Founders and CEOs at early stage start-ups typically face 3 main challenges in deciding on the right mix of marketing technologies, resources, and processes to target and achieve growth.
1. Lack of clarity on what tools to invest in and when
Its very tempting to look at the wide range of marketing technology available and assume they will provide quick, off-the-shelf solutions to your problems.
When organisations deploy new marketing tools they fondly imagine that these will either yield remarkable forensic insight like a microscope, or expose wide vistas of discovery and opportunity like a telescope. The reality is that the glass optical instrument that new marketing tools most resemble is a mirror! They will expose the reality of your business quickly and starkly and therefore understanding your purpose and intent is critical – and this changes according to the stage of business development you are at.
2. Inadequate funds for marketing technology investment
Whether you are bootstrapping or relying on scarce and hard-earned funding, there are many financial commitments and distractions to address before you get to consider how to build a viable marketing technology stack. What seems affordable at first may not scale the way you need, but at the same time its all too easy to over-provide and end up with ‘spareware’. On balance its better to under-spend and operate at the limits of some essential tools than go ‘deluxe’ and see technology investments underperform.
3. Securing the right marketing resources for the task in hand
The range of marketing specialisms seems to grow every day. Content, ABM, Growth, Social, Community, Advocacy…..the list goes on. At the same time, the combined power of automation, AI and analytics continues to have a massive influence on the capabilities and accessibility of marketing technology for the non-expert user. While we are far from being able to automate every aspect of marketing specialisms, it seems to us that there should be a growing focus on analytics and data interpretation skills and people. The right proposition made to a closely targeted and engaged audience will be effective regardless of what is finally spent with the creatives who put the visuals together, and these days anyone can assemble acceptable copy and visuals with affordable AI and ML tools.
The right combination of marketing technologies, processes and people will be based on your specific needs and goals, and in our experience these vary by the development stage of your business, with some not really being relevant at all to certain stages, or requiring significant upgrade or even carefully managed replacement as your business transforms between funding and growth stages.
So what should you be looking to use and when?
How to choose the right tool at the right time
At Early stage there is an acknowledged core set of technologies that you really can’t do without.
These comprise CRM, data sourcing, social ads and analytics. Good choices here are apollo.io for comprehensive data sourcing and HubSpot for simplicity and functional/task coverage end-to-end. For ads and analytics you won’t go wrong with LinkedIn and Google.
At this stage its important not to over-complicate things or over-spend. You don’t yet need Salesforce (and may never) and if you are operating in a digital savvy space (most probable for a SaaS model) then you don’t need the breadth of coverage that a data sourcing platform like a ZoomInfo offers. Having said that, if you are targeting segments that are not overly digitalised at this stage then you may need that breadth and depth to find your targets.
When you get to Seed Funding stage different considerations come into play.
Growing sales teams and increased sophistication in your offers could make this the right time to add Salesforce. HubSpot can still play its part as the Marketing workbench and the addition of sales enablement tools like SalesLoft can make a positive contribution to team capabilities and consistent customer engagement.
Salesforce is a functionally rich and infinitely customisable platform but therein lies a challenge as well. When exactly might you need it and what for? Although it can serve as an integration platform for just about all of the data sources that your marketing initiatives will rely on as well as the performance data they will eventually generate, it can soon get weighed under.
As an alternative it is worth evaluating the wide range of data discovery and analytics tools that have become available to support the concept of a data lake for marketing (and other functions) ETL tools like DreamData, Matillion, Denodo or Airbyte can coalesce data from your Google, Linkedin, Salesforce, Outreach and Hubspot activities as well as other operational systems into one source of truth, which can be complemented by the use of an intelligent visualisation tool like Google Looker.
Decisions taken at this stage should be geared to establishing a foundation that will allow change and customisation as your business evolves into later Series stages.
Post-Series A stage, the temptation to experiment is strong
The incessant need to pick the newest and loudest-shouting SaaS tool for marketing performance improvement, needs to be tempered by a strict assessment of your needs and the foundational thinking you had first used.
Nowhere is this truer than in your approach to customer data. You may have a great intent-based marketing platform but if its not well integrated to your data model you can’t reap the benefits downstream. Without ad analytics being recovered into your centralised customer data then attribution of results against ad spend gets to be a challenge. We urge you to make data and analytics the keystones of your marketing technology, process, and people investments. The other tooling may change around the center of gravity that a strong data-driven marketing model provides, but ultimately its care and feeding as the source of both opportunity and performance data will assure your success.
That foundational discipline that comes from the question ‘What are we really trying to achieve here?’, related to fundamental strategic goals and KPIs, allows marketing technology decisions to be made in context. The starting point should always be to extract more from what is already owned, integrate it around a single source of truth in a customer data model and use the boundaries of available budget and business growth goals to keep focused.
Validate your needs always by looking in the mirror
To finish with a return to the looking glass metaphor in my opening, you may want to look deeper or further into your business and that of your target markets, but the right starting point is to look in the mirror first and understand your goals and boundaries. You may find you already have much of what you need in what you already know and think, with the result that you can move faster and run better without over-stacking your marketing technology.