Here’s what we know: Effective customer acquisition tactics for B2B SaaS marketing are based in understanding the customer, their jobs-to-be-done, and making your value proposition crystal clear.
That hasn’t changed.
What has changed:
Business audiences are getting harder to impress. There’s a glut in products, content, ads and emails that’s trained them to stop paying attention, unless they’re confronted with something truly unexpected.
Which means, B2B SaaS marketers like me, like you, need to find more creative ways to stand out, even when your product serves an important need.
I consulted some of the best B2B SaaS marketers in the biz, who’ve shared some of their best B2B SaaS acquisition strategies that are both timely and timeless.
These are strategies you can start implementing right now to acquire more customers.
Part 1: Finding the right words
Content and copy work hand-in-hand to lift up early-stage SaaS businesses; the first to bring target audiences in and win their trust, the second to hook them with a strong value proposition and buyer psychology. For some companies, their content strategy is their acquisition strategy.
Finding the right words, for me, is really about finding market-language fit: Identify your ideal customers, talk to them, create a value proposition based on those customer conversations, and use their exact words to inform the rest of your marketing. In fact, I’d say there’s no better ‘growth hack’ than just talking to your customers.
But what does talking to your customer really mean?
It’s not like you’re inviting them out for tea and cookies every week for a casual catch-up (that would be cool though).
Tea and cookies?
When we say “talk to your customers,” we usually mean sending surveys that include long-form free-response fields, building quick in-app surveys to uncover moments of friction, and maybe (hopefully) getting some of your ideal customers on the phone or in person for more in-depth interviews. These are all valid ways of talking to your customers. But I’d like to see companies going several steps further and including genuine conversations with their customers. Getting to know your customers as human beings and building real relationships with them that power positive customer experience.
In this section, we’re talking about how B2B SaaS companies use words – their words, and their customers’ words – to make marketing more effective at kickstarting those relationships.
These experts have not only found the right words, but use the right strategies to bring in people, convert them into customers, and retain them.
“I swear we’ve tried almost everything and, the only thing that always, always, always works – in any situation – is storytelling.
Other things work well (or not) depending on the buyer, situation and cost.
And by storytelling I mean telling our story… like this:
Our mission is…
We started Vervoe because we want to…
We do this by…
Now let’s talk about you…”
“I find that the magic place of storytelling is where your company’s story intersects with your customer’s story. So, if you can define your story identifying your values, your passion, your history, and your greatest skills you can find where that intersects.
That particular pain you are trying to solve with your product is the same pain your customer feels. When they hear your story, they recall their own story. There is an immediate connection. It’s magic.”
There is a place of magic in storytelling.
“Ostensibly, B2B buyers are purchasing software based on hard facts that words and numbers convey. But emotional connection plays an important role in how people make decisions–and B2B buyers are people. I have a background in B2C marketing, so I know first-hand the power of brand to elicit a positive emotional response such as trust.
So, one of the first things I did in the early days at Wootric was to establish a strong brand identity. Remember the old adage about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have? It can be tempting to choose a logo that reflects a fun startup culture. You are better off creating an identity that embodies where the company will be in three to five years. Our roadmap had Wootric quickly expanding from an NPS survey tool to a end-to-end customer experience management solution, and our brand identity needed to take us there.
Approaching brand this way gives you a competitive edge. You will enhance the credibility of the messaging and content you’ve worked so hard to create. When Wootric acquired one of its first marquee customers, the sales team shared this post-sale customer comment with me: ‘Wow, I thought Wootric was much bigger!’
That is the power of brand. “
“For almost five years now, I’ve been focusing on content marketing for cybersecurity and privacy companies. A big challenge is that the usual topics are stark and complex to the point of being overwhelming for the target audience.
It also doesn’t help that most content in the industry relies heavily on FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) to make a point or persuade readers to become customers.
I’ve found storytelling to be the most effective way to build an emotional connection that can nudge readers to reconsider their online security habits.
Sharing experiences that people like themselves lived through changes their opinion from “this can’t happen to me” to “I wouldn’t want to walk a mile in their shoes.”
Focusing on storytelling in building content for information security companies is an essential way of turning the reader’s attention from someone else’s problem to their potential problem.”
“At Skuid, we start with a strong foundation and define our message map. This document can be used across all teams at Skuid to ensure that we are fully in sync with our message to the market.
For us marketing must be omni-channel – we call our approach a flywheel. Each facet of marketing—content, product marketing, demand gen, PR and communications—plays an integral role in the overall strategy.
The Flywheel effect is a concept developed in the book Good to Great. No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.
Once the flywheel is built out, each facet propels the other forward, creating momentum in acquiring customers.
We create content to celebrate our customers’ successes and educate prospects and customer about our product through webinars, blogs, case studies, at in person events and virtually. We also use a combination of paid advertising (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn) and organic search to promote our content to our target audience.
At Skuid, we’ve seen success in taking a land and expand approach to sales and marketing. Once a customer uses our product and understands the versatility of the platform, they want find additional uses cases across their organization. This has been the case in some of our largest customers, including BHGE, Intuit, HPE, RedHat, and others.”
The Inbound – Outbound One-Two Punch
“I’m with Text Request, a 4-year-old B2B SaaS startup in Chattanooga, TN. We hit $1M in revenue earlier this year, and have not taken any funding/investment. Here’s how we’ve acquired customers.
If you already know who your target customer is and how to take care of them once they’ve signed up, then all you have to do is find more of your targets. Right? But that’s easier said than done. We’ve split our approach between inbound and outbound (pretty evenly).
For inbound, we use a combination of SEO best practices for keywords related to business texting, a high quality blog, and Google Ads. The concept is to be the resource people are looking for.
They go to Google with a question. Our content, ads, and website answer that question well, so we show up at the top of search results. Once they make it to our website, we have various calls-to-action to get them to take a next step. (E.g. Let us show you how it works. Schedule a demo!) In fact, almost all of our enterprise-level customers found us via Google search.
For outbound, we take an ideal target (let’s say pest control companies). We Google search for those companies in a particular town, and then we send them an email. We’ll say “Here’s the problem other exterminators are having, and here’s how we fix it. Here’s a link to more info. Schedule a demo to see how it works.” It’s a numbers game, but that process works very well for us.
In my experience, it’s not difficult to find more customers if you know who your targets are and where they spend their time. You also don’t need fancy marketing tech. A CRM is good for keeping up with everyone, and a CMS is good for regularly updating your website, but you don’t need to spend thousands a month on software just to build an effective sales funnel.”
“Email segmentation is one the best B2B SaaS marketing strategies. I can’t stress enough the importance of targeting the right people with the right message at the right time.
I helped one of my clients increase their sales from email by 10% with a solid segmentation strategy. So, experiment with segmenting subscribers by purchasing history, opt-in form submissions, contact with support team, and in-app behavior.”
Build Content for People, Not Users
“At a meta level, one thing that worked for us is to keep in mind that even though we’re a B2B startup, at the end of the day we’re in business to help people achieve their goals. That means looking at our customers as people and not as businesses or users. It’s a small shift in the way we think, but goes a long way in terms of how we approach our marketing.
An example of how we approach this – Since we’re (Zepel.io) an early-stage startup, we reach out to our users as soon as they create their first project (we’re project management tool) and walk them through how they can get maximum bang for their buck quickly.
We believe this is important for any B2B SaaS company, but it’s even more important if you’re in your early days.
Earlier this year, we decided to write about a topic that people who might buy our product have problems with. Something they constantly think and worry about. And we knew one thing every product manager worried about is feature prioritization. So, we wrote about it and it was well received – generating plenty of shares (nearly 500!), eyeballs, and more importantly, conversions.
Naturally, we were excited. People were moving from our blog post to our website and converting! What marketer wouldn’t?!
But we didn’t have a good enough process to reach out to our new users and understand more about them. And that left us in the dark when it came to understanding why someone didn’t take a key action on our product. Fortunately, we were quick enough to realize and act fast. Today, we reach out to new users and guide them through our product.
Sure, everyone does that with onboarding emails.
But when we took a step back and looked at users as people, we saw them similar to tourists in a new city who knew what places to go and see (our features), but didn’t know how to get there. The more we treated them as people by having genuine conversations, the more they trusted us.
This has not only helped us improve key areas within marketing and improve our engagement in the app, but also find areas we can improve within the product itself.”
Resonate with experimentation, practice, and repetition
It’s really easy to get lost in the tactical aspects when you’re doing marketing. Writing copy, creating assets, using your creativity to come up with ideas, even being open to finding inspiration all around you.
While the tactical can be fun and fulfilling, what really matters is that your message resonates with your audience. This type of resonance doesn’t just happen by accident. It takes experimentation, practice and repetition to figure out what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t.
Experimentation is obvious. You have to be deliberate in your efforts and know what your goal is before you start. Even better is if you start with a hypothesis of what you think will happen with your experiment.
Practice is about knowing that you’ll fail and need to learn by doing. Post-mortems where you review what happened (even if things went well) are key to improving every time you practice marketing. Don’t forget the critical step of reviewing what you did, what happened, and any lessons you can take from each attempt.
Repetition is key because that’s how you’ll scale. Once you find something that works with your audience, you want to run more experiments by repeating what you did that worked and improving each time.
Finding what resonates will help you know when you hit the mark with your marketing efforts, and when you didn’t. Experimentation, practice and repetition will help you find what resonates most.
Stealing Words from Your Customers’ Mouths
“Marketing will often struggle going from a blank page —not knowing what to say— to having so much to talk about that it’s impossible to find focus. Both problems can be solved by going to the source: your customers.
It’s your customers you’re trying to connect with. So why not spend quality time talking to them and understanding more about their businesses?
Whenever I work with a new client, I always start by doing research. That includes a handful of one-on-one calls with their best customers. After you’re done talking to them, you’ll notice important trends around how they speak, what words they use, how they refer to themselves, how they describe their pains, challenges and your product.
Once you discover the common threads and what your customers describe as their biggest pains and benefits, you’ll find focus. You’ll know exactly what needs to go on the page, and what to leave out.
Now you are ready to open a new text doc and write a quick outline of what the page should say. Then, start copy-pasting actual quotes from your interviews to fill in the gaps. Part of the creative work is editing the quotes to increase impact and adding your own flavor to it. But you’ll be amazed at how much gold you’ll find in these recordings. Use that to write headlines, tag lines, product descriptions and even testimonials. No more fear of the blank page.
Follow this process to get the most out of your customer interviews:
- Email your top customers and ask them to join you on a quick 20-min call
- Record your conversation with them —ask them questions and let them do the talking
- Transcribe the recordings using Temi.com or Rev.com (for human-made transcripts)
- Organize the feedback into usable buckets: pains, objections, fears, benefits
- Start over for continuous marketing research”
Listen to your ideal customers and “steal” their words.
Part 2: Reaching Out to the Right People
Do Things That Don’t Scale
“When my co-founder, Elias Torres and I started Drift, there were over 5,000 other products in the marketing technology space. So we knew that the only way we stood a chance in such a crowded market was to do things that don’t scale.
People are always looking for the quick shortcut, the growth hack that is going to make you an immediate success. But building a business is all about building relationships. So from day one, we focused on that. We replied to every email, tweet and message. And it made all the difference because people knew that real people were out there listening.”
If content marketing is inbound, and cold-calling and traditional advertising is outbound, what’s in between? Is that an odd question? It’s not one very many people ask. But when I think of my favorite way of reaching out to ideal customers and getting to know them in a meaningful way, neither of those more traditional avenues fill the bill.
My ‘hack’? It’s not a hack. It’s building a community around your product.
(Check out this 30-min. workshop on Forget The Funnel in which Nichole talks about building SaaS communities.)
Your ideal customers have so much in common – their challenges, their pain points, their goals. When you can bring people with so many of the same interests together, everyone benefits. And, when it’s in a more social setting, like Slack or Facebook groups, you learn a lot more about what your customers need, and what delights them.
For B2B especially, I think Slack communities are an incredible, untapped resource. Subscription-based businesses require strong customer relationships to prevent churn and increase customer lifetime value, and Slack is remarkably well-suited to creating exactly the kind of communities that sustain that high level of engagement.
Of course, nobody will join your community unless it’s A) useful, B) fun, and C) has a beneficial and enjoyable group of people. It’s your job to set the tone. Here are three steps you can take the lay the foundation of a community that gets you and your ideal clients together.
- Define a ‘value proposition’ for your community. Why should people join? Don’t make it about you or your product – nobody wants to sign up for a sales channel. Maybe you’ll offer customer success how-to videos, guest experts, access to thought leaders, access to your own CEO, etc.
- Ask what ‘experience’ you would like to build for your community. How do you want them to feel. What makes it enjoyable and rewarding for them?
- Reach out to thought leaders in your industry and ask them to join your group and be active participants (either because they can benefit from sharing the same audience, or because you’re incentivizing them for their time – or both).
- Make it clear to community members that, in addition to all the other benefits of joining the community, they can also get immediate, relevant help from the company as well as other users, and – this is where they can influence how the product evolves (making them feel heard and valued).
From a platform this strong, you can promote your content (within reason), get early feedback from highly-engaged customers to tailor product-market fit, collect qualitative data galore, and announce new features and opportunities to an enthusiastic audience.
That’s my preferred way to reach out to the right people. But there are so many other ways to build genuine, human-to-human relationships as a growth strategy.
Here are how these companies are doing it.
“One of the biggest hurdles to overcome as a start-up is that you don’t yet have a reputable name, or portfolio of impressive clients to show prospective customers. Word of mouth is incredible powerful in the B2B world and we knew we had to align ourselves with credible names quickly to get us off the ground. To do so, we asked ourselves a question: who is already selling to our perspective customers? Can we work with them to sell our solution? We formed partnerships with resellers and distributors who have many existing customer relationships in place already, so by working with them we were able to quickly access customers who were difficult to reach directly.
Alongside partners, we also focused on marketing and outbound sales strategies too. Digital marketing is vital for B2B success, and a tip for start-ups is to focus your SEO on your niche, rather than broad terms which will always be won over by big names. Even a couple of simple, focused pages will help you to be found by people looking for your solution.
And finally, sometimes you can’t beat some old fashioned prospecting. Whether it’s through calls, emails, letters, LinkedIn messages, make sure you use any and all means to proactively reach out to your customers! It may not be glamorous, but it works!”
Form partnerships to help sell your solution.
As a marketer, you need to see through your customer’s eyes. To live and breathe their stories as if they were your own. To know what they care about, what their problems are, what brings them joy and what frustrates them to no end.
This should be the fuel for your creativity. The soul behind each task you do.
Every word of copy you write, every asset you create and every marketing activity you do should be centered around an empathetic understanding of the customer.
How do you develop this deep understanding and resonance with your customers? You get your hands on as much research about them as you can – either from other parts of the company (Product, Customer Success) or by doing it yourself. User testing marketing pages and launch announcements. Doing competitive analysis to understand your customer better. Interviewing your customers. Whatever you can do to get closer to the customer will pay off tenfold.
The more you hone this skill, the better you’ll see your marketing initiatives perform. You’ll see better analytics on your marketing site. More views and shares of your blog posts. Better rankings in search results. Higher engagement.
The more you hold your customer in mind through empathetic marketing, the more you’ll accomplish. And the more fun you’ll have along the way.
Marketing is about people, first.
Everything you do in marketing starts with people. The people who see your ads, ones who visit your website, those on your email list, people who sign up for your product and of course the people who buy from you.
B2B marketing is about doing everything you can across your customer journey to attract, delight and retain people. The best way to accomplish that is to think deeply about these people’s experience and the part of the journey they are in.
You’ll discover the best message for them when you take every piece of marketing you are doing, step in people’s shoes and think about the copy, layout and imagery through their eyes.
Read the words out loud and think about how your audience will react to the message. This is one of the best ways to figure out the most compelling message you can use across the entire customer journey.
“One of the first things I look at when I’m auditing a business is if they have an opportunity for an expert program. Experts are those ‘power-users’ who can help setup new customers on your platform. It’s a no-brainer in B2C SaaS and yet so few companies are doing it.
The fact is your new customers LOVE your product and want to get setup as quickly as possible. They want to make the most of their monthly investment. And they’re telling your customer support team about it.
The problem is that your team can’t do that kind of deep support and keep up with the growing number of customers. You want to do real customer SUCCESS… but how do you and your teams stay focused on your core competencies while scaling customer success without bursting at the seams?
When you have an expert program in place that scales easily, supports your CS team, and benefits your customers long term, that’s where the growth happens. Customer satisfaction goes up and tickets in your queue go down.
Leads are generated on a rolling basis and they easily become paying accounts. Monthly accounts turn into totally satisfied annual accounts and retention is increased.”
“One of my favorite B2B SaaS marketing strategies is one of the most straightforward, easily implemented and overlooked.
It’s super simple: Reach out to your happiest customers (promotors) and ask them to review your product on Capterra, G2crowd or the review sites where your best-fit customers are.
The most recent “real-world” example I’ve seen of this is Appcues (full disclosure, Appcues is a client of mine). Senior Product Marketing Manager, Ali Haris, set out to get 10 reviews last quarter. Just by asking their happiest customers, found that more than expected were happy to share their experience. With little effort they received 30 reviews with just a couple of hours spent per week.
It’s easy to overlook the amount of value these reviews will yield over time. Not only with they help potential customers discover Appcues, but they’ll help those who are already well into their evaluation of the tool, tip over the fence to buy. It’s one of those marketing strategies that has the potential to positively impact customers at every phase of your customer journey; Mobilizing your engaged and loyal customers to become one of the most effective drivers of growth.”
“As marketers, we can tell people about the potential benefits of a product or service all day long—or, we can actually show them the good we helped others build by leveraging our customers and their success stories.
Customers know what the value of our product/service is better than we do, because they are the ones putting it to work. At Hotjar, we like to run informal interviews with our customers to find out as many details as we can about how our tool fits in their everyday work schedule. And each time we invariably discover at least one interesting story that would make for enjoyable and useful reading—for example, we wrote an entire guide to market research after an in-depth conversation with one of our customers who shared their step-by-step process so other people can simply follow it.
Warning: you need to practice your empathy muscles and facilitate the conversation so it’s not self-serving, and then translate it into broader terms that can inspire and help others. Our mission should be to educate, be helpful, and make sure that people leave each piece of content with the inspiration and/or ability to do something they couldn’t before.”
Success! Going up!
Building Genuine Relationships
“I’ve been lucky enough to interview some of the world’s top B2B marketers for Quuu’s podcast and they all say that the best marketing strategy is to build genuine relationships.
I’ve seen this work firsthand at Quuu. When Daniel Kempe and Matthew Spurr started Quuu, they knew that one of the most effective ways to get people using it was through word of mouth. So they gave influential figures in the marketing / tech industries free access to both Quuu and Quuu Promote, in exchange for supporting and mentioning Quuu when appropriate.
Not only did this ensure us a bank of high quality content, since these influencers submitted their blog posts to Quuu Promote for our Quuu users to share, but it also meant we were able to reach the right audience for our product. We’ve kept on nurturing these relationships and I would say it’s been essential to Quuu’s growth.
What’s really important is that this publicity doesn’t feel forced – our ‘Quuurators’ actually use our product and see the value of it, so it’s natural for them to mention us if, for example, they’re writing a roundup of content marketing tools for a big publication.
In B2B, you can’t lose sight of the fact that you’re still selling to humans – people with emotions, fears, doubts, etc. You need to build trust, and having people your customers admire recommending your product is a really effective way to do this.”
“When doing your customer research, ask your customers what kinds of tools they use. What’s in their stack? What do they open everyday? What other tools do they live in?
The reason I always add this question during my customer research and development process is because integrations (along with partnerships and business development) are an incredible growth channel, and it’s one not many marketers think about.
It’s definitely a conversation for both marketing and product, but if there’s clear demand and fit for an integration between your product and another, you might find that growth improves across the entire funnel — from acquisition to activation to retention.
Plus, when building integrations or even exploring the possibility of an integration with another company, you can build and form relationships with their teams. This opens the door for co-marketing opportunities like guest blogging, featuring each other on your integrations and strategic partnership pages, hosting virtual events together, attending conferences together, and so much more.
If it fits your product’s model and makes sense for your market, I’d definitely consider it — especially if your prospects are a little harder to reach.”
Part 3: Growth Culture & Mindset
So much of successful B2B SaaS Marketing is the result of cultivating a culture of growth and a mindset that makes testing and optimizing integral to every process.
One roadblock to achieving a Growth Culture that I see far too often is when teams dig out their trenches and never cross over to see what the other side is doing. I’m not just talking about data silos, where information that should be shared is kept by a chosen few. I’m also talking about a sort of territorial unwillingness to collaborate freely. This is my turf, that’s your turf, stay on your side and don’t bother me!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Growth depends on a free flow of information, especially between Customer Success, Customer Service and Product Development. This is a lot harder to achieve than it sounds, because each of these departments usually has its own set of KPIs to meet. And, sometimes they conflict.
Consider the onboarding user flow.
From a Product perspective, there are milestone actions customers need to complete to finish the onboarding process.
From a Customer Success perspective, there are success milestones, like “time to first value” (when the customer sees real-world value from using the product) that are vital to retention.
From a Customer Service perspective, they’re on the line to bridge the (often unnecessary) success gaps, when the customer can’t figure out how to achieve success with the product.
When you bring these three groups of people together – the ones who build the product, the ones who ensure customers succeed with the product, and the ones who troubleshoot when the process breaks down – in one room, magic happens.
They can solve problems. They can build an onboarding flow that bridges success gaps, and gets the customer from point A to point Z.
Of course, I don’t mean that collaboration should only happen for user onboarding! Collaboration between teams should be a daily, ongoing part of the process. Everyone should have access to user stats (and know what they mean). Insights, not just ‘fix-it’ tickets, should flow from Customer Service to Product and Customer Success. And, all parties need to be aware of putting undue burden on the other teams (yes, product tends to get buried in requests – let’s lighten their load, okay?).
Team work shouldn’t just happen within teams, but between teams.
And with that, let’s look at how other companies are cultivating growth cultures.
Product-Led Growth Hacks
At MobileMonkey (an official Facebook Messenger Marketing platform) our most successful “marketing strategies” have all been “product-led”.
This means that marketing and product teams collaborated on building features that were not only cool for our users, but that also through some genius hack, would also result in opening a floodgate of new users.
For example early on we changed our pricing to include a “forever free” version of our chatbot, rather than only offering a free trial.
This dramatically increased our user adoption because it let everyone have enough time to learn about the features and functions of the product and not be subjected to some arbitrary 7 or 30-day free trial period.
Another thing we did was simply to re-package some of our software as a WordPress chatbot plug-in – the modest 2-month effort generated thousands of more sign ups!
At a high level, Product-Led Growth means your marketers need to think like product people and vice versa.
Smarter Tracking + Clearer Focus = Better Growth
“Most businesses start marketing right away, only later to begin to setup their sales and marketing dashboards, sign up for tools like Mixpanel or Amplitude and start to narrow in on what to they could be tracking better.
The idea of wanting to make smarter business decisions based on data insights is the right approach. However, without first defining the metrics that matter most, how are you going to know if your marketing activities are actually contributing to growth vs have you constantly juggle marketing activities and spinning in place?
One of the best ways to implement a more focused, and strategic, marketing approach is to know what you want to track before kicking things off.
When working with clients we [Inturact] start with a simple framework called SaaS actionable metrics, or AARRRR metrics. They consist of:
These actionable metrics help you to clearly define the most important metrics and better understand your customers, so you can market (and build) your product more effectively.
With this approach you will properly define the most important growth metrics BEFORE kicking off your next marketing campaign. Hone in on what matters most and start focusing your efforts on strategies that actually contribute to growth.”
Build a Company Growth Culture
“SaaS business is all about the customer experience and directly depends on information. The faster you’re able to discover what does and doesn’t work, the faster you’ll grow your business.
At SEMrush, we test everything. Headline ideas, images, advertising targeting models, pricing algorithms and more. We want to figure out which of these ideas work for us and which don’t.
For example, say we want to determine which marketing efforts are really paying off for our SaaS company. So, we experiment to determine the variables that drive more customers, to understand what content is the most relevant or how to convert visitors into buyers. We know that the real magic happens while we’re learning from each test. Such data allows us to determine the baseline, our winning ideas, and losers.
Experimentation is our engine to move forward and accelerate growth.”
Make Experimentation Your Operating System
“I never want to lead with any specific tactics, because I think context is almost everything, and what works really well for one company is often not optimal for another (even in the same industry). In addition, we’re all at different stages of growth, so some tactics in the beginning stages may be impactful but costly in time, whereas with scale we can focus on shifting resource costs to money rather than time.
In any case, I don’t think you can go wrong if you make experimentation your operating system. If you start by asking questions rather than applying “best practices” or even well-thought-out theories, I think you’ll find the answers are more effective than the stock answers given by most blog posts and conference talks. Instead of closing ourselves off from potential ideas and trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, we can design experiments to unlock innovative solutions, and we can use data to inform our tactical endeavors.
I think this is becoming a more approach with B2B marketers today, and it’s definitely popular in the B2C startup space. But we can move beyond A/B tests and treat almost everything we do as some sort of experiment, and then the learnings and results compound over time (plus, we don’t have to constantly rely on copying competitors, chasing stale tactics, or implementing best practices as a default). “
Make experimentation your operating system.
Part 4: In the end, it’s all about knowing your customer
Several responses for this round-up were along the lines of “understand your customer really really well.” I did not include them here, because that’s not a strategy. Rather, it’s the foundation of every strategy. Everything I do begins with substantial customer research.
So I want to end with my own favorite strategy of creating accurate personas that can effectively form the backbone of every marketing strategy and tactic you employ, from your value prop to your content calendar, and everything in between.
An accurate buyer persona helps in a few ways:
- It provides an easily identifiable reference that helps teams align and stay focused on what really matters to the target customer.
- For individual content creators, having a ‘one reader’ (who represents all the readers) makes it simpler to choose which content to produce, how to write it, and how/where to distribute it.
How to make a persona for better content (and better decisions in general) using predictive personas
Here’s the thing: you can do your research, talk to your customers, find out their goals, dreams, ideal outcomes, current challenges, and which parts of their ‘jobs to be done’ make them want to pull out their hair.
And you can compile all of that research, slap a stock photo on top, and give it a name.
What you’ll have, really, is just a description of your current customers, which is still very useful for giving your entire company a solid understanding of your customer. But it’s not an actionable persona for marketing unless you can do this:
Can you use your customer description to find 10 people, 9 of whom will absolutely buy your product?
If you can, then you have a predictive persona you can use to align your teams AND use for product dev and marketing decisions. Including content marketing and distribution.
In her article on persona creation, Laura Klein, Principal at Users Know describes it perfectly:
If you can create a predictive persona, it means you truly know not just what your users are like, but the exact factors that make it likely that a person will become and remain a happy customer.
Use predictive personas.
How can you elevate your persona from a descriptor to a predictor?
Research, describe – then verify.
It’s the step most marketers miss: to go out and find people who you think fit your customer description and check your work.
Take the information you’ve already gathered about your customer and create a hypothetical persona. Then test it in real life. Here’s how:
- Consolidate your user research into a customer description that matches the majority of your *best* users/customers. (Who are your best customers? Look at your NPS scores, qualitative data, etc. They’re not necessarily the ones that have been around the longest but the ones who *love* your product and advocate it to their friends.)
- Make a shorter list of key characteristics to go for that include what problems your users most frequently (and urgently) need to solve. Think behaviors, needs and goals, not just demographics.
- Recruit 10 people who fit that description, who are not your users, to help you with your research.
- Try to get them to buy your product. For real. If it works, then you’ve proven that you have a clear understanding of your users’ needs, goals, wants and problems – and that is information you can act on. If it doesn’t, revise your hypothesis and try again.
Have we missed an acquisition strategy that’s succeeded for you?
I’d love to hear your best tips and real-world experiences! Tell me your story in the comments, especially if you’ve got a case study.
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