This is the first chapter of the B2B SaaS Marketing Playbook
- Action Items
“Do things that don’t scale.”
1. Participate in Forums
Question by Question
Zapier reached out to potential customers in forums for 8 months before they got their first inbound customer.
Before this, they acquired customers by searching forums for users who wanted to integrate products such as Basecamp, Dropbox and Salesforce.
The team focused on helping one customer at a time before moving on to scalable marketing efforts. (Post)
Glide posted their product to platforms such as Product Hunt and Hacker News.
The team responded to nearly all comments. Glide created memorable interactions by directly responding to tons of comments and questions.
Twilio follows relevant conversations on forums and Twitter.
Platforms such as Quora help long-tail marketing efforts.
Hearing directly from Twilio team members in forums signals excellent customer care. (Post)
2. Provide Concierge Support
Several founders from Stripe’s YC batch share stories of the Collison brothers immediately converting their apps to use Stripe once they committed to trying the service.
Patrick and John removed the burden of integrating from busy founders in order to land potentially large accounts. (List)
WordPress preserves the spirit of a smaller company by using direct emails to acquire customers.
This Twitter thread reveals that WordPress has a ‘special projects’ team in charge of customer acquisition and onboarding. (Thread)
Integrating Apps by Hand
Zapier provided manual product tours and integration for customers in the early days.
This helped the Zapier team understand exactly what needed to be built and understand customer expectations. (Post)
Unlike most SaaS tools, Superhuman has onboarding specialists. Onboarding specialists gather real-time user research while onboarding customers. (Tweet)
3. Use a Sales Team
Zoom offers self-serve registration in addition to a high-touch sales experience.
Sales teams are especially helpful for Zoom customers who need help navigating legal and security concerns specific to their industry. Zoom provides specialized landing pages for customers in government, education, health and financial services. (Zoom — Sales)
Prosepctive Twilio users can signup through self-serve registration or request to be contacted.
Sales teams help Twilio acquire larger customers while smaller customers rely on self-serve registration. (Sales)
Stripe also offers self-serve and sales models. This strategy helped Stripe acquire over a million small business accounts while also landing whales such as Amazon, Lyft and Target. (Page)
Solutions architects are similar to technical sales representatives. They work with AWS customers to solve technical problems while harvesting ideas for future services. (Video)
4. Offer Live Chat
The Glide team creates a tight feedback loop by providing near real-time support.
Smart chat bots might direct users to documentation. Live chat can help convert a lead or help the Glide team uncover product gaps. (Page)
Zoom’s live chat is great for objection handling and answering questions. They mix scalable support with a personal touch. (Page)
Intercom eats their own dog food by offering live chat. This is meta but effective. (Live Chat)
5. Provide Live Training
The high lifetime value of Zoom customers support live training sessions. Zoom removes the burden of training from employers by providing live group training complete with Q&A sessions. (Zoom Live Training)
6. Contact Cancelled Customers
Contact Cancelled Customers
Early on, Zoom’s CEO, Eric Yuan personally contacted users that canceled their Zoom subscription.
One customer accused Mr. Yuan of impersonating the CEO until he offered to get on a Zoom call with the customer.
Such dedication to customer success has helped Zoom detect issues early and improve faster. (Post)
7. Create Evangelists
AWS Technical Evangelists
AWS technical evangelists speak at conferences, lead user groups and engage in grass roots efforts to help AWS grow. (Page)
Twilio developer evangelists collect product feedback and help grass roots efforts. They often participate in conferences and meetups. (Post)
Twilio Champions are unpaid professionals who serve a similar role as evangelists. They help the Twilio developer community while receiving free conference tickets and access to a private Slack channel. (Twilio Champions)
8. Organize Events, Conferences and Hackathons
WordPress meetups bring the community together for knowledge exchange. (WordPress Meetups)
WordCamp conferences are similar to meetups. (WordCamp)
Notion meetups and workshops bring the user community together to chat and share what they’re working on. Notion’s ambassador program targets individuals who want to help with grass roots efforts.
Webflow provides in-person lessons at events. Some events are led by designer evangelists. (Webflow Events)
Mailchimp meetups bring the Mailchimp community together for “educational networking.” These are often hosted in partnership with marketing agencies. (Mailchimp Events)
Local summits help AWS create rich experiences through in-person events held around the world. (List)
Twilio brings stakeholders together at the Signal Conference. They collect rich feedback and create memorable experiences for customers. (Signal Conference)
Stripe Sessions are a way for the company to hear directly from users. (Post)
Annual User Conference
Zoom hosts an annual user conference among other events. (Zoom Events)
re: Invent Conference
The re: Invent conference generates lots of press for AWS. The conference consists of keynotes, hackathons, workshops and product announcements. (Page)
Twilio hackathons bring developers together to build products using Twilio services. Hackathons help Twilio collect feedback and discover new use cases.
These meetups may help Twilio’s recruiting efforts. Companies must market to prospective employees along with customers. (Twilio Hackathons)
The Basecamp founders amassed a captive audience by sharing their journey and opinions through books, blog posts and conferences. (Talk)
9. Provide a Feedback Form
Mailchimp offers every visitor the opportunity to provide feedback via a button on the right side of every page. (Page)
Start with Micro Marketing
Most founders rely on micro marketing to acquire their first customers.
Ask “Who are 10 of my dream customers?” This provides insight on which type of people you should be targeting.
Zapier relied on micro marketing for 8 months before they acquired their first organic inbound customer.
Micro Market Your Way to Product Market Fit
Many B2B SaaS companies micro market their way to product market fit. They accomplish this by soliciting feedback from individuals and small groups.
Driving lots of traffic to products before nailing product market fit is inefficient at best, brand damaging at worse. We often stick with our original assessments well after products have evolved.
Targeting individuals and small groups also provides richer user research. Teams can facilitate back-and-forth conversations rather than broadcasting copy in a one-way manner.
This allows founders to hear and respond to objections rather than being confused by high bounce rates.
Even social networks target smaller groups before expanding concentrically. Facebook was only available to Harvard students before expanding to other Ivy League schools, all colleges and eventually everyone. They crafted a working model before throwing gas on the fire.
Early on, most B2B SaaS companies don’t need lots of traffic. Just enough to iterate and work out inevitable product kinks.
Less Scalable, More Impact
Less scalable marketing efforts tend to create more memorable experiences for customers and provide more feedback to teams.
Doing things that don’t scale often means that companies can customize offerings. B2B SaaS companies fund this model based on high customer lifetime values.
Powerful advantages come from combining scalable strategies with less scalable strategies.
Look at the companies using self-serve models to acquire SMBs while using high-touch sales to acquire enterprise customers.
This is the first chapter of the B2B SaaS Marketing Playbook