The "One Big Thing" Formula for B2B SaaS Marketing Success

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The biggest marketing challenge for many companies simply getting started.

There are so many options that it’s almost paralysis by analysis.

In many cases, companies do too much.

They believe that more channels or campaigns equal more success.

It’s better to focus on doing a small number of things really well.

Pick a channel and run hard with it.

A key part of Jordan Behan ’s approach to getting started with marketing is: One Big Thing.

Pick a marketing tactic like an eBook, Webinar, video, or course to stand out.

I like the idea of One Big Thing because it establishes realistic expectations, structure, and focus.

It's Mark Evans and you're listening to marketing spark, the podcast of delivers insight for marketers and entrepreneurs in the trenches in twenty five minutes or less. In the past year the BBB SASS marketing world has been turned upside down. In Person Conferences are out, virtual conferences are in, brands that created little or no content have become publishing machine and Linkedin has become d place to consume content and connect to provide contact and insight into the fast changing BEDB SASS marketing world. I'm happy to have Jordan, being CEO, would narrate creative in Vancouver. Welcome to marketing spark. Thank you, mark. It's it's nice to meet you. I guess this is this is what a meeting looks like in two thousand and twenty one, I suppose. So it's lovely to finally put face and voice to the linkedin profiles, I suppose. Yeah, it certainly is a different way to connect with people. So, just as background, Jordan and I connected through a mutual friend via linkedin. Jordan as marketer in Vancouver. I'm a marketer in Toronto, and by exchanging comments on Linkedin post by watching Jordan's videos on youtube, it's hard not to feel that you get to know somebody even before you even talked to them, and I think that's one of the silver linings of covid is that we've embraced new ways of connecting and having conversations, and this podcast is a classic example of that. We're using all these substitutes and analogs for what would otherwise be. I guess you know, you being in Toronto, this is as good as it's going to get for US anyhow, but it's yeah, it's always interesting when you're first meeting with somebody is, you know, something is disconnected and digital, I guess, as a zoom call or a phone conversation or something like that. We take what we can get these days. We certainly do, and I think it has changed how we interact with each other and some of them will change in some of but will say we'll stay the same. Let's get to the exciting world of BEDB SASS marketing. One of the things that you're folksed on a lot is content marketing, and the state of content marketing for BEDB SASS companies has changed dramatically over the past year, given the fact that conferences aren't happening and a lot of brands seem to be pumping out a lot of content. I'm curious about your take on who's doing it well and what are some of the mistakes that companies are making as they become content marketing machines? Sure, well, I think you know. In terms of WHO's doing it well, there's a couple of ways we can look at that. There's there are the the players who have always done a good job with content marketing. you think of brands like hub, spot or, I could named up,...

...whoot sweet. I've learned a lot. I know we're going to talk later about ABM and I've learned a lot from demand base in that regard. But I get more excited about the early stage companies who, you know, they're probably flying under the radar as far as getting props from the likes of US are concerned, because they're doing a good job of staying niche and focusing on their ideal customers. And so there their stories, there their their value and their narrative is specific just to that tiny sliver or that tiny niche of people and they're they're solving that specific problem. And so selfishly. I mean, I'd love to name drop all the companies that work with me, because that's what we focus on, is, you know, there's a there's a disconnect between your grand ambitions and your current realities, as far as you know, investing your resources and and creating content that will actually resonate with all and to get results right, right to put sales on the board ultimately. So I think the people who are, you know, narrow throwing their focus to a specific tribe. That's when I get excited. Okay, I'll I'll give you the ability to name drop and I'll give you the ability to cite one of your customers, because sure, sure, as marketers, it's easy to talk about things that are close to home and things that we have a direct impact on. Maybe you can talk about one of your customers. And what about? What have they created and why is it work so well? I work with a bunch of different companies and but to speak to one in particular, I work with a brand called sensor up and they do Internet of things. They're like a Internet of things data platform, all of your sensor data in one you know, like let's break down the silos and give you a dashboard of all of your assets and and things like trajectory. What what do you have and how fast is it moving in real time in the world, whether it's people or trucks or what have you? You know, the to go back to what you're saying about the absence of in person events. The the Webinar is is really sort of experiencing a moment and when you can create a Webinar that is focused on a specific niche and a specific hey, I don't like the word user, but that persona or that that you know, one individual person out there for whom this will resonate with and you choose to create you know, it takes a lot of work to prepare and host a Webinar and it's counterintuitive to think, well, let's just limit the focus to engineers...

...within industrial companies. You know, like it's kind of obscure and it's it's it seems almost, you know, like a massive challenge to reach people like that. But when you can create something that, and this is a trick that I use often, is like put it right into the name of your content who it's for, so that there is no ambiguity and the the person you're trying to target immediately perks up and feels that Fomo and has no choice but to subscribe to your Webinar and either attend live or listen to the recording. So I at that's that's one area where the idea of taking a topic and a subject matter expert and maybe subject matter expert guests as well, and just holding court on that topic and shedding light and focusing on the education piece. This is what is possible. There is a better future for you if you follow certain you know, if you have a plan, and you you know, set a course for where it is that you want to go, and I guess you know. To answer your previous question too, is like you're doing it well when your focus is on instruction and teaching and helping people to learn what's possible and you actually show them the the you know, the steps necessary to get there. A lot of the time, I don't know if you're going to ask me about this, but I'll go ahead and answer it. The biggest mistake I think a lot of especially be to be companies, make in the ince ass is to focus so heavily on the product and its features when and and that's it's easy to fall into that trap because you work so hard on something that is so beautiful and elegant and solves all of these problems, but you lost sight about talking about the fact that it solves those problems, and that's really the only thing that your potential buyer cares about. What matter like, what's it going to do for me? You know, what have you done for me lately? And if you don't lead with that, if you can't, you know, make the focus of sharing that information and teaching people, if that's not your priority, then it's a miss. This is a strange question to ask, given that many BB SASS companies have been producing a lot of content over the past year. But how do they get started with content marketing? The reason I ask this is because a lot of companies have rumbled down the path. They've created a lot of content and it's misaligned, it's not very good, inconsistent quality. They're doing a lot of things wrong. So if those companies had to take a step back and reload on their content marketing strategies, how would you suggest that they get actually get started? I love this question because that is that is my sweet spot. The very first thing that you need to do is to have an internal conversation around branding. Who Are we? What is our message? What...

...is our focus, what are our desired outcomes, and get everybody, all the stakeholders at least, to agree on those things so that all of the subsequent decisions become a little bit easier. You have something of a true north where you know, if something is up for debate, you can go back to, you know, your brand principles and vision and say, okay, this is this is the course we want to take because it's aligned with what we agreed is the essence of our our company's brand. And then you have to focus on that and user and I've hinted at this already, but it's you know, there's a difference between you know, with be Tob Sass, you probably have an investor deck somewhere that talks about how you're you know you've charted a path to becoming a Unicorn, but you also have, you know the realities of that bit, little bit of runway you have in the bank and you have to make that count. And so you have really no choice but to say, okay, well, here's what we think we can afford to focus on in terms of a tiny niche market. And again there's that's completely at odds with, you know, the company's ambition. You have to scale it back to the realities of this current quarter. What can we achieve with our current budget and people this quarter? And only then, once you've decided, you know, the established that Persona, that that company type or wherever the sweet spot is. And it's like I always picture a venn diagram of but who can we help now with our current product and who's able to buy from us? And it's in that sort of sweet spot between the two and you know, you decide on that and only then do you start preparing content. And for me, the the single most powerful piece of content that you can create as a case study, some sort of social proof. Let's get it in in you know, the customers words, singing the praises of the wonderful transformation they experienced by using your product. If you're going to make one piece of content this week or this month or this quarter, make it a killer case study that shows the next hundred be tobe customers that you want to sign shows them a version of success that looks a lot like them, and so you're demistifying the you know the potential outcomes and, to some extent, the pathway to get there. Aside from that, assuming, let's say you do have a case study, you've got that all lined up, but you're still, you know, sort of scratching your head around how to start with content marketing. My advice is may be different from most. I think create one great thing. It could be a Webinar, for example. We talked about webinars. I like ebooks as well because they're easy to produce, easy diversion. You know, there's no fancy resources. Are Hardware necessary? Right words on a page, some element of design. But you know,...

...if brand is solved and customer persona or ideal client profile is is locked in, then create one great thing, and it could even be a top of funnel general awareness of your problem document, and then focus on distributing that. And if you can, I mean I go a little deeper than that. I also say find a way to convert people to your list to receive that thing. And and webinars kind of solved that piece for you, right. But because as much as we're here to talk about marketing and marketing is kind of, you know, our respective discipline, the reality, especially with early stage SASS is that marketing and sales are really mashed together. They're often the same person or or that you know technical founder whose core competency is neither, but they're forced to do both. And so that especially for me, like the the lines between marketing and sales get very fuzzy. You use marketing to get somebody onto your list or to start a conversation and you very quickly transition to sales because that's what it's about, right, that's what marketing is and and and maybe that makes me a little different, that I firmly believe that marketing works in the service of sales, which maybe I don't know if that maybe sort of transition just to other parts of the conversation where, you know, I guess eliminating that silo, both in terms of people, collaboration, content creation, like thinking of those things as two parts of the same whole, especially in the early stages of a company, is kind of I think it's necessary. Let me take a step back. SURELOTT's pause before we move forward, and I want to be clear about the focus on a case Daddy, and a big piece of content, whether it's an ebook or really great video or Webinar so what you're suggesting is that quick wins is to get the content marketing machine rolling, because I think a lot of BDB SASS companies get mired in planning. How many blog posts are we going to do? How many who's going to do them? How do we what's The workflow? How many videos do we create? And then I think they get intimidated or they get overwhelmed by the amount of content that they possibly could create. And it sounds like what you're suggesting is that just focus on a couple pieces of low hanging for room, get it done, get some momentum, get some energy, get a feel for what content is like and that'll set the stage for whatever you're going to do next. Is An an accurate depiction. That is exactly right. That's why I answered the question the way I did, because you know as a you know somebody who is a consultant who was previously primarily a content creator on behalf of SASS brands. It's that that's the most common...

...issue is they'll come to you and say we need x number of blog posts this month, or we need a blog post about why or x, and and all of the necessary follow up questions at a content creator like myself has to ask to gain clarity as to exactly what it is that you're asking for. You often get, you know, blank stairs and you know, no detail in the responses. Okay, so you say you want to blog post about this thing. which funnel stage should that be for? Or who is the audience for this thing? Or what's the desired outcome of this blog post, and all of that stuff that hasn't been considered. There's this like it's a fallacy that you need to be churning out content like crazy, although obviously there are many brands who do that successfully, but it's because they've already nailed the fundamentals and they probably have given thought to what is the objective of this piece? What's the action that we want somebody to take if they read to the end? And those, you know, basic fundamental things. And so to get trapped in thinking that you have to create four or five blog posts this month is, you know, you're chasing the wrong metrics and goals. I would advise that, rather than focus on, you know, volume, figure out quality first and then invest your time in distribution of that great thing. If if all of your marketing this month was just, you know, sort of social media and email marketing that is in the service of promoting a single webinar this quarter. You're going to achieve better results than if you are, you know, turning over blog post after blog post constantly in that creative problem of what do we talk about next? And I'm saying worry less about that and talk about one thing and and where can you have that conversation before we talk about ABM, because I do want to talk about Avm in the different moving parts, because it's getting a lot of attention these days. To Circle back with your and Youfil comment about branding, we're does positioning fit into the scheme of things? Because when I start with a lot of clients, I start with positioning, getting that story down, providing context about what they do and where I have matters because, like you, I believe that you've got to put the foundation down before you can do any kind of marketing on top of it. You don't know who your ideal customer is, if you don't know how you're unique, if you don't know the competitive alternatives, you're operating blind. Are they kind of the same? Is the way what you do and what I do kind of the same to really set the stage, or is it different? I don't think it's different at all, not where we have maybe different hammers for the same nail. I suppose at night the I kind of already alluded to this when I talked about my process, where it's, you know, determine what your brand is, what you're about the...

...you know, that's kind of the the the branding play. And then, once you've solved the customer, who is it specifically that we're trying to reach? Who is the internal champion at that company, whose life will be made better by our product? And that's what determines your positioning. And this is where I start talking like a marketer. But in order to reach them and to resonate with them on any meaningful level, you have to key into what hurts. You have to find their their pain and promise a solution to that pain. And in order to do that you kind of have to exploit that pain a little bit. You know, I did it today in a Linkedin Post. You know, are do you feel like it is that? Are you looking at that runway drop dead date and freaking out about the fact that you don't have enough leads coming in? This quarter. You know, it's that something that can cause a visceral reaction in them. First, and it's again I joke about the fact that it's like a marketer being a marketer to exploit. I use these words like exploit to be cute, but in reality that is the most altruistic thing you can do, is to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the the the people who's problems you can solve, and the way that you show them that you understand is to highlight those problems and to talk at length about what hurts. And only then, and you agitate a little bit too, like this is what happens when it hurts like that, right. I mean you you fear exactly this thing. You know this this horrible worst case scenario outcome on the horizon that you desperately want to avoid. Your positioning becomes. We understand your pain, but we also have a solution that can get you to this transformation from where you are now, where it hurts, to where you want to go. And maybe we're going to show you examples of people who have done that, or maybe we're going to give you a road map to success, to go from here to there, but it's first understanding what hurts and then proposing a solution, of course, but always with the eye on the eyes of what is the what is the transformation that is going to accur occur if you consider a solution like ours and at the top of the final that's it. It's just a solution like ours. It's this type of technology or this new this new way of cobbling together a set of solutions, or it's our product, which is similar to others, plus our solution of our willingness to help you, or whatever it is that you used to differentiate. But you got to start with the pain and promise a transformation. There are many ways that BBB SASS companies can get to prospects and customers. Some things are more of a shotgun approach, where...

...you spread the word as widely as possible and you get the brand out there and you identify who matters to you and you connect with them in different places. There's a lot of attention these days on ABM, Account Base Marketing. I am curious about your take on how does it BBSASS company that may not have expertise in ABM? Why should they consider ABM to start? And then what are the key pillars to actually start to implement an ABM strategy. It's an excellent question and I love that we are talking about this because I'm I'm ABM certified. I went out and I learned everything I could about ABM and it it feels as though ab m is like, I don't know, it's like the tool of the the massive corporate, almost like fortune onezero companies where there it is occurred to them that maybe they would achieve better success if they had meetings between their sales and marketing departments and maybe what if marketing was creating assets that were specifically designed to help the sales department? To answer your question, with early stage ass companies, the reason why they should embrace abm is because they have no other choice. But I said before, sometimes your your founder, marketer, salesperson are all the same person or you know, there is a very small body count in the early days where that level of collaboration and and making resources go further absolutely require that you're not going to waste resources building marketing materials or branding campaigns that are somewhere off in the ether and not directly connected to getting more inbound leads or however it is that you do that. I mean maybe you're using outbound sales, but the the the assets created by marketing have to be very specific to the job of converting and nurturing leads. And you know to do anything else is to to waste resources and time. And so you know it. ABM is not this. It is all the materials that you'll read will make it seem like some difficult to achieve concept, when it is exactly the opposite. Of My opinion, it's a sales and a marketing person in the room saying, how do we work together to achieve a common objective? You know as much as you know. You Got Demand Base in these companies who are selling ABM only to the upper echelons of B tob sales out there. And I'm saying like really, all these guys are saying is a sales marketing need to work together and that marketing needs to build assets that help sales. I mean that's that's I don't know why there's...

...so much mystery around it right but in simple terms, for a for a small, NIMBLE BB SASS company, is it a matter of identifying the customers or the prospects that matter? To us off are these group of companies, they're fifty, a hundred, two hundred, five hundred, and then focusing our efforts directly or indirectly on those companies, whether it's direct outreach by a salesperson or advertising campaigns that are targeting these people. In when you break it down in simple terms, is that it? Yes, and again it's to do anything, but is a fool's errand right you have. Maybe it's maybe it's just a few people, may at the Marketing Department of one person or, you know, a team of two or and and finite resources. You don't have a ton of budget. And so absolutely make a list of a hundred and, as I said, if you if you've got brand locked in, if you know who the ideal client profile is, then go out and make a list of a hundred companies that match those characteristics and mindset that you talked about in your ideal client profile exercises. It's almost it makes marketing and sales that much easier because now there are only a hundred for whom we are focused. Go Out and follow them all on social media, pay attention to every single thing they say, sign up for every single newsletter that they they have understand them on a level that will shock them that you put that kind of time in when you reach them. And so wet, whether it's list building or outbound or virtually any sales and marketing tactic that you can think of. If you limit your focus to that small list, the likelihood that you resonate with any of them is way higher. And I know what everybody's thinking is like, well, what about the rest of the world? What about the people not on that list of a hundred? Well, people who are adjacent to that list or one degree different, or maybe the hundred and fifth company that didn't make your cut, are still going to resonate with your message because you took the time to focus, you understand exactly who it is that you're trying to reach, and so people who look like the hundred will still get value from what it is that you're doing. You can still land those accounts, you can still sell to the people who are in existing sales cycles with you. It's just that you're not going to waste any time, resources or content creation on people who don't fit the very specific criteria that you set for your your list of a hundred. And when you know when you're a early stage marketer, whether you're a junior or, you know, the first higher vp, you've got to act, you've got to do something. Creating that list and focusing on them and their needs and listening to them is like a terrific step. One and again, I like it has this name of ABM, but to me it's like you have no choice right like to do...

...to think of a list of greater than that, or to to have content or messaging that is homogenized such that it it's it's more mass appeal. It's never going to stick. It's only when you choose that focus and you make your list of a hundred and then, like I said, things like getting out on social media and creating a list, for example, of all of those companies in the things that that's how you determine what hurts, that's how you determine what it is they're looking for, what's next, or the kinds of things that motivate them, and and you understand it and you use that for your next content piece. I wanted to ask you about the lean marketing playbook. I went through it, I down loaded it, I watched the video. Love it. I think it's a great approach to BBS ASS marketing. Curious about the fact that you made this methodology front and center and that you're essentially giving away the trade secrets of neighbor creative. Why did you do it? What kind of response do you get to it? And does it make your brand, your message, that much easier because targe, our audiences know exactly how you operate? I think so. Yes, that that's a lot of questions. I'll try to remember them all and at them all in read. That's okay. The reason why I created it, and first of all I should start by saying how much it means to me to hear you say that, because it that is not getting old yet. When people say that they love it and they they get it, it just it warms my heart. It. It helps me to appreciate all the work I put into creating it. It's a lottery work. It looks like a lot of what is and and so. And just for a bit of background, the lean marketing playbook for software services as many forms, but the end product is a combination of Video Training and Group coaching and agency services. So a company they sign and we take them through that. The video training modules and documents take them through that process of asking themselves those branding questions, and module to it's asking yourself those ideal client profile questions. And then you know, from module three onwards, is okay, complete a creative brief based on everything that we've talked about, and our agency services will create that content for you while coaching you along with the methodology, both through Video Training and Group coaching. So it's an opportunity for me to scale the services that I offer to early stage software companies, but because of the need that I see right there. They they often do have this mistaken notion of what they're supposed to be doing. You know, it's almost like running on the hamster wheel, trying to create volume or or keep a certain pace of something up, and they haven't stopped to think abouut the focus, and so I created a system where they're forced...

...to, you know, establish that focus for themselves before we move on to essentially it's creating an entire inbound funnel landing page, an Ebook giveaway offer, an email nurture sequence that triggers when somebody signs up, we produce a product document and a case study as well, because those assets help facilitate a sale, convert somebody at the top of the funnel by talking and understanding their problem, Ie book nurture them, along with an email sequence that includes information about your product and proof of success with other companies. It's what I consider to be the absolute foundational table stakes. As far as content is concerned, all BBS ass companies want to scale. They all want some idea of what to do first in terms of content marketing, and so I'm solving for that and presenting it in a way that is that recognizes that you don't have probably a budget to hire a VP marketing. You probably don't have a budget to go out and just hire any given be to be content creation agency. And you know, you're in essentially the same business. Right. Our resources allow for a fractional CMO, not for you know, a complete agency. So our fractional CMO has to be able to coach our team of junior's or you know, it's the resourcing issue that I'm that I'm solving for, but also that coaching and instruction that sort of walks people through. And the reason why my ebook more or less gives away the entire secret sauce is because this is designed for people who are willing to put in a little bit of work, of course, like you have to watch videos, you have to complete creative briefs, you have to it. Ideally, you attend to coach and call so you can learn this stuff. There's still a lot of work involved in that piece, even if we're creating the content, and I'm okay with giving away the road map and the steps necessary to get there are in order to build that trust. There's that there's a Meta component here. I am eating my own dog food. I'm teaching these companies to share information and to teach and to focus on solutions and transformations as a way of building trust and converting more leads and and getting sales and so effectively, that's what my marketing is doing. I have a twenty three page e book that says is exactly what we're going to do, or twelve minute video that's like, let's demistify it for you, this is what we do. Then we build a landing page, then we I guess it's just my belief that by sharing that information and being the source of that information, improving my level of expertise will build trust and and convert more leads. And to answer the third or fourth part of your question, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I still have, you know, my ownly generation challenges. I don't have as many sales calls in my calendar every week that I would love to have. Paid acquisition and things like...

...that, or levers I'm still pulling, but I have tremendous success in sales calls. I'm delighted to report. And so when when I actually do present it to people and lay it out for them and just reassure them that we have a system that you can follow. I think the accountability piece is big for a lot of people to write like, I want you to show up every week on a on a coaching call and we're going to talk about the progress we made this week and we're going to talk about the maybe the content we're creating for you and we're going to move from step three to step for this week. The absence of that for especially for junior marketers or for technical founders who, you know, marketing as a mystery to them. This you know. I guess it just sheds a little bit of light and helps them move along their continuum towards having established system and to gaining momentum and traction. I'll include links to the video and the Ebook in the show notes. One Thi thank you for that mark. Thank you very much. I appreciate that we've been at home, we've had a lot of time to watch Netflix, but I always ask my guests is there one book that you've read over the past year that has resonated? Fiction, non fiction, business, Non Business? ANYTHING COME TO MIND? Can we choose just one? Im a couple. I'll give you two. I'll give you two. I fiction book. I read seven eaves by Neil Stevenson. I just loved it. Great story about but's kind of several stories and one and to be honest, I like the first half better, but I just love that book. I went and read a whole bunch of his other books and it didn't they didn't resonate as well with me as the first. And we joke about it with my partner. It's like you're on page eight hundred and fifty of Anil Stephenson novel and it really starts getting good. Yeah, yeah, but right now I'm reading a book called copywriting secrets by Jim Edwards and I almost feel I don't want to say ashamed to admit that, but it's kind of that's me humbly admitting that I am constantly sharpening the saw, to use a Stephen Covey reference. I want to get better at my craft, and creating be to be marketing content comes fairly naturally to me, whereas creating, you know, direct response advertising, copy and things like that, sales letters, the sort of thing that still performs very well, is something of a mystery to me. It's not a core competency, and so I look for weaknesses of my own skill set and go looking for the training material. So at right now it's copywriting secrets by Jim Edwards and I read three or four pages to put myself to sleep every night. Miraculously I retain the information, but it's a perfect way to like something other than a screen to look at to lull you to sleep. I think what you just said is probably an important lesson for many marketers, sales people, customer success folks, because you can never stop learning.

The ability to improve your skills, to get new perspective, to do things better comes from curiosity and the willingness to realize that there's other people out there who are not only smarter than you, but have different opinions, and think that's a good place to be. If people want to learn more about you and narrate, how can they find you online? Easiest place to start, I suppose, would be my website, narrate creativecom. Virtually every link you find on the site, though, is going to send you to either the free Ebook or an opportunity to book a call with me. And you know, if you find me on Linkedin, connect with me there. I'm very responsive to questions. I love answering questions. That's how I learn what hurts. Yes, start at narrate creativecom or ad me on Linkedin and and don't be shy. I like I like conversations. I crave interaction right now, a lot of people could probably identify with thanks, Jordan, for being such a great guest and your insight about a variety of topic. Glad that we finally connected and great to have you on the podcast mark. Thank you very much for having me. Thanks for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes, spotify or your favorite podcast APP if you'd like to learn more about how I helped Babu Sass companies as a fractional CMO through ggic advisor and cope. Send an email to mark at marketing sparkcom. I'll talk to nextime.

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