Want to give a B2B SaaS marketing campaign additional impact? Want to extend the life of a B2B SaaS marketing campaign? Want to create a B2B SaaS marketing asset that can also be used to generate media coverage?
“Our PR teams can use those findings for months,” explained BLASTmedia SVP Kim Jefferson in a recent blog post about the benefits of data as a PR tool. “We can pitch the report first as news, then use individual data points in contributed content.”
Data is a great PR tool because — simply put — all kinds of publications love data. A quick look at our clients’ earned media coverage shows examples of data used in everything from local and niche trade press — like FSR Magazine and Modern Restaurant Management — to national business — and even consumer general interest. If your SaaS company wants coverage in outlets like The Silicon Valley Business Journal, Forbes, Business Insider — data can help get you there.
Data as a PR tool might sound good in theory, but generating data can require a significant investment of time and money. It can also present challenges in terms of approval and knowledge of data analysis. While these factors are worth considering, the good news is that various data collection and data analysis options are available depending on a company’s goals and resources.
Take a look at these seven approaches to generating data for use in PR campaigns and other B2B SaaS marketing initiatives:
1. Survey customers or partners using existing email lists
Surveys are one of the most common ways our clients collect data — and it makes sense due to the flexibility of this option. One option is for SaaS marketers to generate data by conducting surveys using their own email lists and software like Momentive’s SurveyMonkey.
As Morgan Molnar, Director of Product Marketing at Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey), points out, with a DIY solution, there is “no need for outside agencies or outsized internal resources, individual team members can provide fresh market insights in a matter of hours or days.” According to her team, this DIY approach fits within a new trend of “agile market research.”
Using a tool like SurveyMonkey and your own email list is not the ideal approach for those looking to generate large data reports, teams who want to gather data from niche audiences beyond their current customer base or marketers dealing with complex/technical data sets. However, a DIY survey can be a good option for small teams with small budgets that might not have a data analyst on staff or be able to invest in employing a research partner (more on that in a moment).
“One compelling data point we found in our usage data is that fewer than 10 percent of customers using SurveyMonkey Audience, our market research panel solution, actually work in insights or research roles,” said Morgan. “While insights teams are keeping their place within the big organizations that can afford them, more and more companies large and small see other teams (Product, Strategy, Marketing) going out in search of live trends and actionable data.”
2. Enlist the help of a research partner or analyst firm
For those with larger budgets or specific target audiences in mind, another way to generate data is by working with a research partner or an analyst firm to conduct a survey. Doing so provides resources marketers often can’t access with a DIY survey.
“There’s much more to market research than just asking questions,” said Valory Myers, Principal at market research firm InAct LLC. “DIY can be great for low-risk business questions, where you are looking for some quick, directional feedback. However, DIY research is often more time-consuming and labor-intensive than you might expect, and lacks the statistical rigor needed for more complex, high-risk business questions.”
Kim agrees with Valory, pointing out that starting with solid data leads to better data reports. “A partner can help craft questions that yield statistically sound results, have access to respondent panels for filling in the contact gaps in owned email lists and create reports with key learnings, making the findings digestible.”
In the end, it’s not just about data, it’s also about what you can do with the data. As Valory explains, “A research partner has the expertise and tools to help you know what to ask to reach your target audience and analyze the results — so that the answers and insights are more reliable, actionable and, ultimately, profitable.”
3. Crowdsource by polling your social media audience or webinar participants
Another option for low-risk business questions is to crowdsource responses either on social media or during an event, like a company webinar. This informal approach might include asking a question on LinkedIn and tracking the responses or issuing a poll during an event hosted via Zoom. Unlike surveying customers using an existing email list, crowdsourcing has the potential to yield responses beyond your existing user base.
A drawback to polling existing email lists, social media audiences or webinar participants is that the size of those audiences can sometimes be limited, making it tough to reach the critical mass of responses that makes a dataset significant. (Our team recommends at least 500 responses when using a survey to generate data.) For that reason, some marketers opt to use all three of these channels when looking to generate responses to a survey.
4. Pull data from your platform
As a PR agency that works with B2B SaaS brands, most of our clients are sitting on data — some without even considering it!
It might be obvious that pulling data from your platform provides proprietary data, making it a great asset for thought leadership campaigns, but it’s also a way to bolster product marketing efforts. As Kim explains, “Trends across the customer base can be a great way to create compelling, data-backed storylines and simultaneously show off what the platform can do.”
If you’ve never approached your team about leveraging platform data for marketing efforts, you’ll likely get some pushback. Customer privacy is among the chief concerns raised when discussing using platform data in PR efforts.
However, in the case of platform data, volume, not specifics, is what makes it interesting. Our team recommends leveraging resultant data — aggregated and anonymized customer use data. “One of the most common objections from our clients on proprietary data is ‘But Kim, we can’t share our customer data — they’ll flip!’” says Kim, “But, by anonymizing the data and only sharing trends, that shouldn’t be an issue.”
Kim also points out that in the case of platform data, someone to help to analyze the data might already be available. “There is likely someone on your team who knows the product well and is a data nerd who would be willing to help if you only ask.”
5. Incorporate numerical results into customer case studies
Customer stories are an essential tool for SaaS marketers, and data makes customer stories richer. For example, our team recently leveraged the impressive stats in a customer case study from client Phenom People Inc. to land Wall Street Journal coverage, including the following:
“Since implementing a recruiting chatbot to enhance their candidate experience, Southwest Airlines reports over 1M interactions with it. This also translates to as many as 92,000 hours saved for Southwest recruiters, their team members say.”
However, to generate media interest by leveraging impressive data from case studies, you must first create case studies with impressive data.
I asked BLASTmedia Director of Success Meghan Matheny what kind of data you need in a case study to make it play more like a data asset. She suggests asking customers several questions intended to generate numerical responses as part of the case study development process:
- Are there any measurable benefits for using the solution?
- Are there money savings?
- What is the ROI? Or perceived ROI?
- What are the time-saving?
- Was there an increase in revenue?
Meghan also suggests gathering anecdotal evidence from customers that are rooted in data: “To get their brains going, some examples of prompts I verbally give client customers when interviewing for case studies might include: Tell me about the amount of time it takes to experience ROI of purchasing the solution. Or, how many hours do you estimate were made available to put towards a separate, mission-critical task by implementing this solution?”
6. Analyze data from public sources
For SaaS companies who don’t have the budget for a professional survey or the “data chops” to mine their platform, Kim suggests exploring public data, but with a word of warning: “This option doesn’t require much budget — it’s all elbow grease.”
This approach differs from others listed because you are not generating raw data (also sometimes called source data, atomic data or primary data). Instead, you’re finding that data where it already exists. (Kim offers up SEC filings or backend code of websites as examples of places to start your search.)
When creating a report, avoid mixing and matching your own raw data with publicly available raw data. Doing so can create confusion about what data belongs to your company and what data belongs to someone else.
7. Look at your own company metrics
Don’t forget about your own company metrics! While it’s unlikely you’d choose to create a data report with this information, it’s a valuable PR tool, especially when used alongside industry data. For example, 6sense company metrics comparing the ABM solution’s valuation to others in the industry (the highest valued company in the space at $2.2B) paired with data on its growth strategy (on track for four years at 100% growth) helped garner coverage for a funding announcement.
According to Meghan, company metrics — like valuation, YRR/MRR, current revenue vs. projected growth in revenue, number of customers, customer growth, projected employee growth, monthly new users and a company’s piece of the addressable market — are worth consideration for use in marketing your SaaS brand.
“We look to see if the client will provide this information which can be used outside of funding announcements,” said Meghan. “It can be used to earn a company feature, a piece about the market and potential for the space or as validation for commentary on an industry. I encourage clients, and our teams, to approach this data with a specific goal in mind.”
Whether you employ a data partner, work with a team in-house to mine your own data or put in some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease, generating data is a great way to give a B2B SaaS marketing campaign additional impact.
Looking for a team experienced in leveraging data as a PR tool? Contact us to learn more about our SaaS PR agency.