INDIANAPOLIS — Feb. 12, 2024 — BLASTmedia, the only PR agency dedicated to B2B SaaS, celebrates the launch of the SaaS Half Full podcast’s fifth season, hosted and bartended by BLASTmedia President Lindsey Groepper. SaaS Half Full is inspired by candid bar conversations after conferences and events, providing insights from SaaS marketers and others charged with growing a SaaS business.
“From the very start, our vision for SaaS Half Full was to provide listeners candid access to some of the brightest minds in B2B SaaS marketing and growth. Since then, I’ve shared a drink with a line-up of incredibly inspiring SaaS marketers,” said Groepper. “I’ve had so many amazing conversations that give our listeners a peek into the minds of the industry’s biggest luminaries but stripped of the overly messaged and canned responses.”
Since its launch, SaaS Half Full has seen significant traction on top marketing and SaaS podcast lists and featured experts in SaaS marketing and growth, including former Drift VP of Revenue Marketing Justin Keller, former Atlassian Head of Brand Sarah Emmott, 15Five CMO Julia Stead, G2 Head of Marketing Palmer Houchins and more.
Listen to the SaaS Half Full podcast on all major listening platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. For past episode archives and recaps, visit BLASTmedia.com.
Established in 2005, BLASTmedia is the only PR agency in the US dedicated to B2B SaaS, representing companies from growth-stage to publicly traded. BLASTmedia understands the unique challenges associated with scaling a SaaS business and uses media coverage and thought leadership campaigns to impact four primary pillars: investors, employees, partners, and customers.
You’re a SaaS CMO and have received news that you are getting a new CEO. Super! Super? Super, right?! In this episode, Paige O’Neill, CMO of Seismic, shares her story of transitioning to a new CEO in her previous role.
From what the first meeting should entail to the pressures of balancing old and new, Paige gives an honest account of what she learned in the transition and the two years that followed. Bottom line? A new CEO means starting over, which can simultaneously be extremely positive and challenging for the incumbent CMO.
There’s no such thing as a stupid question.
So you’ve just been hit with the news about your new CEO. More likely than not, your brain is firing on all cylinders. Who is this new CEO? What does this transition mean for the company and my role? Is marketing going to be valued moving forward?
These are fruitful questions. But Paige advises CMOs to reverse the paradigm and ask themselves what their new CEO is thinking, too.
“Spend a fair amount of time thinking… ‘What’s gonna be top of mind for the CEO coming in? What’s the charter that they’re gonna have? What are some of their initial priorities gonna be in the first couple of months that they’re in the business?'” Paige said. “Trying to get in on the ground floor of those priorities as early as possible… is one of the most crucial things you can do.”
Finally, consider what your marketing colleagues and reports are asking each other. They’re probably equally anxious about the new CEO and will look to you for answers. Paige said that providing a professional level of transparency during these uncertain times is the best way to enable a successful transition.
Never stop — evolve.
Most marketing campaigns have significant lead time, with many activations not bearing fruit until nine months to a year down the pipe.
With long-term results at stake, facing a new CEO is nerve-wracking. Paige’s advice? Don’t allow a shakeup in the C-suite to derail your department’s progress. If anything, use the shift to build momentum.
“You’ve gotta really go in and balance and say [to the CEO], ‘Look, I understand that you might have strategic levers that you wanna pull. This is what we’re doing now, and this is what it’s generating from a pipeline perspective,'” said Paige. “‘Let’s make sure that as we make these decisions, we’re making them in a way that’s not going to cut off pipeline in mid-flight.'”
If your new CEO isn’t sold on the utility of current campaigns, Paige suggested using data to your advantage. Every CEO approaches marketing differently, but cold, hard data is difficult to argue with.
Treat every day like your first
You’ve heard of treating every day like it’s your last — but what about the reverse?
“I used to do an exercise with my team. If I’d been there a couple of years, I would pretend like I just started, and I would say, ‘All right, pretend I’m walking in the door as your new CMO. What would you tell me that you probably aren’t saying to my face right now?’… [Getting a new CEO is] kind of a similar exercise,” said Paige.
With a new CEO, CMOs (and their teams) have the opportunity to re-align around revised objectives and brainstorm new ideas. This degree of change can be scary, sure. But it can also be incredibly freeing and productive.
Listen to episode 365 of SaaS Half Full for more of Paige’s insights.
For most SaaS organizations, the customer success function has two players: the CS lead and the salesperson. But in this episode, Lindsey speaks with Totango CMO Karen Budell, who suggests that customer success should use a “three-legged stool approach,” with marketing as an equal leg completing the third role.
Karen believes the three functions should work together to develop and execute customer expansion campaigns to drive more revenue from existing accounts. In a down market, this strategy costs less — and takes less time — than securing new logos.
The role of the CMO and marketing teams has evolved to focus more on driving revenue, not just bringing in prospects. These leaders are zeroed in on how marketing impacts the entire revenue pipeline. Because marketers have always prioritized knowing their customers and audiences, they’re well-positioned to bridge the gap between sales and customer success (CS) leaders.
“Traditionally, we’ve seen tension between sales and CS over unclear handoffs and relationships. And, let’s face it — marketers and sales leaders have navigated their own challenges in this area over the decades, although that relationship has improved tremendously in the last 5-10 years,” said Karen.
“Customer marketing offers a great opportunity to bring unity. It looks at how to leverage your best advocates, understand your ideal customer profile, see what products and services generate success, and replicate all this data to find more customers,” she said. “On the marketing side, customer marketing means finding and targeting more ideal prospects. On the CS side, it means driving growth through advocacy and expansion with existing, happy customers.”
In other words, marketing provides the perfect third leg for a sturdy stool.
The three-legged stool: Better support for everyone
Among those leading customer success today — marketing, CS or sales — who’s responsible for renewal or upselling — or is it a combination? In this economic climate, renewal managers focused specifically on renewals are increasingly important. They need visibility into upcoming renewals and an action plan for each account in forthcoming quarters.
“In a typical CSS handoff, the contract ink dries, the deal’s complete and the account moves to someone else responsible for checking in periodically to see how things are going,” said Karen. “But when you just abruptly throw the handoff over the fence, so to speak, that’s when things go wrong.”
Karen suggests bringing the CSS team into the conversation before closing and onboarding a new customer. Making this shift, having these conversations sooner and getting your customers or buying committee used to this process ensures a smoother, more collaborative handoff.
“When companies are in that more mature stage of having a post-sale organization built out, there’s more alignment, collaboration and connection,” said Karen. “While we’re seeing that evolution happen with sales and CSS, there’s another department that should be involved in the process: marketing.”
Traditionally, we think of marketing as bringing in the leads, with sales closing the deal and CX renewing and upselling the products or services. Historically, as marketing leaders, CMOs have focused on how marketing drives the revenue pipeline; they’re looking further down the field to see where the next order of revenue comes from.
Marketers, meanwhile, have always focused on knowing their customers — their audience — first. These folks are perfectly positioned to bridge sales and the CSS leader. Marketing can ask the following key questions:
How do you identify and tap into your most enthusiastic advocates?
Who are your best-fit customers in terms of profile and product usage?
What factors make some customers more successful than others?
How do you find your best customer advocates?
How do you leverage happy customers to drive growth through referrals and advocacy?
Expansion efforts: If you have two systems, you have no systems
Different people are often responsible for internal expansion, but there’s no clear owner.
“You could say that if everyone’s responsible, no one’s responsible,” said Karen.
In an ideal world, who should drive expansion efforts?
“The classic answer is that it depends on the organizational structure and roles. Totango is passionate about empowering the leader of customer success to drive expansion,” said Karen.
Regardless of the title — chief customer officer, chief revenue officer, etc. — whoever owns the post-sale customer relationship should look to drive adoption, connect with product to deliver additional value, tap into sales to champion advocacy and referrals, and leverage marketing to support growth.
Listen to episode 364 of SaaS Half Full for more of Karen’s insights.
Drawing from years of data and experience consulting for SaaS companies, April surfaces the signals indicative of a positioning problem, pinpoints where product demos go wrong and gets candid about VCs’ and startups’ illusions about category creation.
The red and beige flags of positioning
As a seasoned marketing leader and consultant, April has been around the positioning block. She’s developed a keen eye for the signs indicating a company’s positioning may be in crisis (red flags) and signs that their positioning needs tweaking (beige flags).
According to April, a significant shift in market forces constitutes a red flag. For example, did a top partner get acquired? Then, it’s time to revise your positioning.
Geopolitical events can also impact positioning. “A lot of companies came to me when Covid hit,” said April. “That was obviously a big, big change of affairs… Some companies had sections of their market that were closed basically, and so no business was gonna happen over there, but other sections of their market — [for example,] those that served healthcare or emergency response — [were extremely active].” Leaders should take a page out of Chandler Bing’s book in these situations and pivot.
But less apparent signs may also indicate a positioning pivot is in order. April advises marketing leaders to sit on sales calls to ascertain these potential hiccups. Do customers compare your solution to a market competitor? Do they fail to see the benefits of the solution? Or, equally importantly, do they seem confused by approved sales language? These beige flags suggest it’s time to revise positioning.
Category creation isn’t the end goal.
Many startup leaders have approached April for advice on “creating a category.” But April said category creation is far less glamorous than it may seem.
“I don’t believe that companies create categories. I believe that categories emerge, and some companies are wise to that. They see that problem early. They see this emerging need. Then they build a solution for that — but they didn’t actually create the category,” said April.
But there’s glory in creating a solution for a niche, emerging problem. Finding an emerging category is far more beneficial than attempting to create one from scratch. After all, building a category requires leaders to convince consumers of both (1) the problem and (2) the solution — double the work for the same number of conversions.
Product demos need an overhaul.
Does your company’s sales pitch start with a demo? If so, you’re in good company. But this age-old tactic may be burying the lede for new clients.
According to April, sales pitches walk a dangerous tightrope: They must establish the problem the solution solves, showcase said solution and differentiate from competitors. However, many pitches focus on differentiation too late in the process.
“We need to do a couple of things in the sales pitch first. Instead of jumping directly to features, we should explain the problem. And then, if we think about that, we can then look at all the alternate ways you could solve the problem and say, ‘There’s pluses and minuses to this,’ and then get the customer aligned with our way of looking at the world. And then, when we show the demo… [it showcases] the value we could deliver.”
Listen to episode 363 of SaaS Half Full for more of April’s insights.
SaaS marketers know we’ve entered the era of the self-serve buyer, where prospects expect price transparency and free trials. While this might not work for complex enterprise deals, there are lessons to be taken from a PLG motion that most SaaS organizations should employ.
Krish Ramineni, Co-founder and CEO at Fireflies.ai, dishes on how to execute a free trial successfully, what it takes to offer a freemium product and shares his personal story on ignoring his investors’ advice to stay away from a PLG model.
Go with your gut when starting up.
When Krish and his co-founder were starting out, they knew they wanted to develop their business through product-led growth motion. However, not everyone believed that was the best course of action.
“The advice we got in the beginning was, ‘Hey, this technology is really expensive…so, find a market where you can sell it to the highest bidder, which is salespeople, and charge them up the wazoo,'” said Krish.
Despite his investors’ imploring, Krish stood his ground and moved forward with the PLG model.
“We wanted to build something that was super affordable, super easy to install and get going with. Our value prop was, it should be one-tenth the price of the best product on the market, we need to provide ten times the value and it needs to be used by every person inside an organization, not just salespeople,” said Krish. “It just felt that the best way to go to market was creating something that had a freemium free trial, PLG motion where you can try it before you buy it or you can use the free tier perpetually.”
Be the painkiller, not the vitamin.
One of the most important aspects of attracting customers is having a solid value proposition. If your product provides a solution to customers’ problems, you should be able to get them to pay you…at least in attention.
“The currency in this world — whether it’s SaaS, whether it’s a consumer good, whatever it is — is attention,” said Krish. “Why should a customer give you attention enough that they should pull their wallet out and buy your product?”
Krish likens a valuable product to a painkiller — something fast-acting that addresses specific pain points and has obvious value to customers. Compared to a vitamin you may take daily, it works in the background, not necessarily solving a particular issue.
“If you don’t get that value, if people only see you as a vitamin and not a painkiller, that’s hard,” said Krish.
The key to being a painkiller? Determining how to create that novel, sought-after value that retains customers.
The case for self-service
Most B2B buyers want a self-serve process, but many companies have yet to take steps toward making this model a reality. These businesses are most concerned with what will help their bottom line, and they mistakenly believe salespeople are always the right foot in the door. But in the modern age, many customers want to access product information independently without involving salespeople. Here’s where self-service comes in.
“When you’re self-service, and you have pricing up on the page, you’re being very transparent, and you’re not making special deals or discounting or any of that…..what you see is what you get,” said Krish.
Krish said it’s about putting the customer and their needs first. Sure, you may leave some money on the table, but you’re also creating a frictionless customer buying journey that keeps customers coming back — and makes them more likely to recommend your product.
“The whole point around PLG and self-service is also to help you find more buyers and find different people within the org who can then go up to their, executives and say, ‘Hey, I’ve been using this. I like it. Maybe we should consider it,'” said Krish. “That’s a much more powerful source.”
Listen to episode 362 of SaaS Half Full for more of Krish’s insights.
As 2023 draws to a close, it’s time to reflect. As such, we’re using this blog post to look at our top five most popular blogs in 2023. From navigating the onboarding process with a new SaaS PR agency to embracing belonging as a critical pillar of DEIB, these blogs tackled a diverse range of challenges and opportunities faced by SaaS businesses today.
So, buckle up and get ready to revisit some of BLASTmedia’s most valuable content from the past year. You might discover a gem that can help you take your SaaS brand to the next level in 2024.
#5. SaaS PR Agency: Onboarding & Expectations
Whether switching SaaS PR agencies or hiring your first one, each has a different onboarding process. What can you expect when you begin a new SaaS PR agency? Our Senior Vice President, Grace Williams, shares the answers in this blog and questions to ask your SaaS PR agency during onboarding.
#4. Why SaaS Brands Should Seek Less Category Competition, More Category Collaboration
This year, SaaS Half Full host Lindsey Groepper sat down for a drink with more than 20 marketers, discussing topics like pricing and packaging to inclusive marketing.
Whether you listened to every episode of 2023 or grabbed a couple here and there, we’re breaking down our top five most downloaded episodes of the year below. Feel free to grab a drink as we dive in.
#5. Investment Vibe Check: Two VCs Discuss
In this special edition of SaaS Half Full, Lindsey held a fireside chat with Sara Omohundro, Principal at Elevate Ventures, and David Kerr, Managing Director of Allos Ventures, to discuss the technologies they’re bullish about and the importance of burn efficiency in defining financial health.
#4. The Art & Science Behind Pricing & Packaging with Dan Balcauski
Who is in charge of pricing decisions at your SaaS org? For nearly 60% of companies, it’s the CEO or an opinionated decision-maker in the C-suite. But who should own it? Hear from Product Tranquility Founder Dan Balcauski, who breaks down the art and science of SaaS product pricing and packaging.
#3. What You Can Learn From a B2B Mystery Shopper with Gracey Cantalupo
A B2B mystery shopper? In this episode, Gracey Cantalupo, CMO at MentorcliQ, talks to Lindsey about how hiring someone to walk your virtual storefront and actually being on a software buying committee can be worth its weight in gold.
#2. What Marketers Can Learn from Netflix with Jennifer Griffin Smith
Coming in the second spot is Jennifer Griffin Smith, CMO of Brightcove. She sat down with Lindsey at the start of the year to talk about how marketers can think and act more like a media company. Ready to think more like Netflix? Press play on this episode.
#1. The Subjectivity of SaaS M&A with Thomas Smale
In our top spot, we have Thomas Smale, CEO and Founder of FE International, talking about the benefits and drawbacks of a strong founder brand and the common mistakes he sees companies make when positioning for an exit.
Well, there you have it! Thank you to all our guests and listeners. If you’re interested in any of our guests’ drinks throughout the year, visit Cocktail Couriers.
Interested in being on the show? Drop us a line here. If you want to keep up with the latest and greatest for SaaS Half Full, subscribe to our newsletter. Otherwise, watch for the new season of SaaS Half Full, which will drop next month.
With Biden’s recent executive order addressing the safe and secure development and use of AI, data privacy is even more mind top of mind for SaaS marketers. In this episode, Conor Bronsdon, Director of Marketing & Communications at LinearB, breaks down the order and discusses the new privacy demands on marketers, plus how to build buyer trust in today’s AI economy.
Remember, policies protecting digital consumer privacy aren’t new. The EU has led the charge on robust privacy protections via GDPR, and even individual companies like Apple have limited consumer trackability. And, in just one year, the death of third-party cookies will further
transform how digital marketers obtain leads.
According to Conor, yet another significant pivot is on the way. Say goodbye to demand capture and hello to demand generation.
“If you’re a marketer today, you need to be prepared to win eyeballs on a platform and not just redirect them,” said Conor. As part of that process, you must identify your brand’s ‘marketing flywheel,’ or content of interest: “[LinearB’s DevInterrupted] podcast is one of our key flywheel places. It doesn’t have to be the right choice for you. Maybe it’s short-form video you really need to lean into… Then you turn that all into, you know, six, seven snippets every week.”
Trust is tantamount to success.
Omnichannel experiences have improved customer satisfaction, it’s true. But they’ve also flooded the airwaves — and in a deluge of content, sometimes releasing marketing materials feels like yelling into the void.
Conor’s take? Don’t let the noise stop you from producing organic content. If influencers have taught us anything, customers love to consume well-intentioned content and advice. All it takes to get there is a little trust.
“Sales teams may want us to take away pricing on a website so they can, you know, maneuver the pricing more in the background, but that’s not how buyers want to buy today. Buyers want to be able to sign up…. They want to be able to try out the product for free. They want to be able to upgrade easily. And they’re going to do that if they trust you,” said Conor. “And the better way to [gain trust] — instead of trying to over-engineer around some of these privacy issues — is to actually approach this as okay, ‘How can I get people to come to me?‘”
To solicit consumer trust, Conor suggests stepping up your transparency game. For example, when a cybersecurity event inevitably occurs, communicate that information to your constituents. You may be surprised by the positive long-term dividends it’ll pay.
The ultimate data privacy checklist
In closing, Conor provided a checklist for marketers hoping to get ahead of Biden’s executive order. Worried about data privacy regulations? Make sure you’ve completed the following by H1 2024:
Obtain SOC 2 compliance, a voluntary standard guiding consumer data use.
Create role-based access control (RBAC) protocols within your own operating procedures and in any consumer-facing interface(s).
Develop and maintain a strong relationship with your enterprise’s security compliance leaders.
Don’t conduct outbound marketing from the same domain as your internal email. Doing so could land your entire sales and marketing team in an import prospect’s spam folder.
Understand global privacy regulations like GDPR and enforce privacy standards that allow you to continue operating in critical markets.
Listen to episode 361 of SaaS Half Full for more of Conor’s insights.
If you’re a SaaS marketer who tends to be risk-averse, the last 12 months haven’t been kind. Market volatility and “doing more with less” does not pair well with risk-taking. However, Emily Montgomery, VP of Professional Services at Xplor, believes there are still opportunities to take calculated risks… and doing so starts with a mindset shift.
Listen in as we explore how to “experiment and learn” to create a culture of risk among your marketing org and discuss the channels that are best for experimentation.
Experiment with opportunity
During their conversation, Emily and Lindsey discussed the transformational power of shifting from an “experimenting with risk” perspective to an “experimenting with opportunity” mindset. As marketers, we often doomsday about worst-case scenarios before creating a new campaign. But what new heights could we reach if we considered the potential benefits of a big risk instead?
“Risk has a negative connotation to it… I believe that even just reframing it and not looking at it as a risk but rather a willingness to experiment takes away that negativity. And with that negativity often comes fear,” said Emily.
Emily also suggested that risk-averse marketers objectively weigh a risk’s pros and cons before spiraling about a decision’s potential fallout. At Xplor, Emily accomplishes this by thinking through worst-case scenarios and determining if the possible consequences of a campaign or idea outweigh its potential benefits. If the answer is “no,” it might be time to walk on the wild side and try something new.
Lead with wow, not how
It’s one thing to convince yourself of a good idea, but convincing an executive or manager? That’s an entirely different ballpark, especially when risks are involved.
If you’re in this situation, Emily suggests taking a data-driven approach. For starters, answer the following questions:
What is the organization attempting to accomplish with this idea?
How will we know if that goal is accomplished?
What KPIs can we track for this campaign or idea?
Alternatively, if you’re a marketing manager presented with a novel idea, consider the impact you might have on an employee if you shut them down immediately. Instant rejection is demoralizing and might discourage employees from sharing further ideas. So, instead of leading with a derogatory line of questioning, welcome new ideas with healthy skepticism. In other words, “lead with wow, not how.”
Work backward from your goal.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a comprehensive guide on which risks are “worth it” for every organization? Unfortunately, no such tome exists — so instead, marketers have to rely on their instincts to determine which channels are best to experiment with. Emily advises marketers to outline their goals early in a new campaign and be intentional about their investments.
For instance, if your organization is considering a paid media opportunity with a KPI of X% sales growth, outline these expectations on the front end of your campaign. And if the metrics don’t suggest success when it’s all said and done, take that under advisement as you consider future campaigns.
Remember that failure to meet a specific metric doesn’t equate to wasted time or resources. If nothing else, you learned a valuable lesson:
“[Nobody] can make sound business decisions when motivated by fear and negativity of what will go wrong. Whereas if it’s reframed as an opportunity to learn or experiment — to try to see if it’s going to work — it feels less… scary to create a culture that allows and encourages experimentation,” said Emily. “Not everything will work, but there’s always something to learn from what you were willing to try. [For example], if you were to try again, what would you do differently? Or, if you were never going to do it again, why wouldn’t you do it?”
Listen to episode 356 of SaaS Half Full for more of Emily’s insights.