“The biggest fear that keeps up most founders at night is having a mediocre business”, said Dev Basu, CEO of Powered by Search, on the SaaS Revolution Show podcast.

The problem that a lot of SaaS businesses face is they either have:

  • a great product but they don’t have great marketing OR
  • great marketing and a subpar product that they can start working on and make better.

Watch now:

The three levers that create an unstoppable SaaS business are:

  1. A high level of QPC (quality pipeline certainty) – If you are only hitting 75% of your targets every single quarter then your QPC (quality pipeline certainty) needs some work. If you’re hitting only 50% of the targets per quarter, then you need a lot of work
  2. Your LTV (lifetime value) – if your marketing promises outcomes that your product cannot deliver, people buy and then they churn out within their first 90 days.
  3. Your CAC (customer acquisition cost) – if your marketing and your product are synonymous, meaning all your marketing does is amplify the features, benefits and core payoffs that your product actually delivers, then you’re going to have the lowest possible CAC because those customers stick with you longer, they value you more, they tell their friends.

So now to get there, what can you do?

Find out the nine revenue accelerators from Dev. Watch the full video on our YouTube channel. You can also read the full transcript of this video below.👇

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Alex Theuma

Welcome to the SaaS Revolution Show Dev Basu, CEO of Powered by Search. Welcome Dev.

Dev Basu

Hey Alex, thanks for having me.

Alex Theuma

Well Dev I’m excited about today’s conversation. I often am but when we sort of put forward the topic of the nine revenue accelerators to creating an unstoppable SaaS company, I thought that well, that’s a perfect title. And if you’re a SaaS founder who wouldn’t want to listen to this podcast right? So I’m excited to finally find out what are these nine revenue accelerators as I’m sure the listeners and those that are watching on video. But first, before we get into this, tell us a little bit about yourself. Like who you are as a person, what Powered by Search is and how you came to be in a founding company and so on.

Dev Basu

Yeah, 100%. So I’m the founder of Powered by Search. This is a company that I’ve invested about like the last 11 years in. I’ve been marketing since I was about 16 years old, I’m 33 now so half my life basically. And I’ve always being interested in technology. I speak a couple of different languages and I’ve lived half my life in India and half of my life in Canada. I call Toronto Ontario home today. And I live here with my wife and my dog, a beautiful golden retriever called Jack. And so that’s a little bit on the personal side of things. What Powered by Search does is we work with B2B SaaS marketing companies or SaaS companies and we help them specifically with filling their pipeline and helping them scale up using demand generation.

And essentially the marketing goes from becoming unprofitable when they first come to us to being completely makable through the process of working with us. Typically, we work with them between three and five years. So it’s a longer timeframe. And the consulting model that we have in terms of whatever they’ve had in the past, whether it’s an in-house team or no team whatsoever or if it’s a hybrid team for that matter, we help basically take some of these playbooks that we have for building demand generation and then start implementing and deploying it in their business.

Alex Theuma

A couple of questions there actually then before we got into that. So 11 years ago, you’re only 33. So it sounds like perhaps either you straight out of college, you started this business or maybe like you’re at uni as you were 21 started the business. Have you ever had that like when the founders get to the five-year point start to kind of think about, oh, do I want to do this for another kind of five years? Ever had that kind of experience yourself personally?

Dev Basu

Yeah, I call it the seven year itch. And whether it comes at year five or year seven, it absolutely happens. I think it did happen. And what happened or what helped me get through it is this idea of reinvention and kind of evolution. So we started out working with Fortune 1000 and 2000 companies, primarily helping them with SEO and with paid search. And then we kept adding on and kind of the agency evolved. And the other shift that we also made that made it really exciting was moving from a co-located office with folks only in Toronto to well before the pandemic basically struck, we moved to an entirely remote first model. And that kind of really became, it was an exciting time in the business because it allowed us to basically tap into talent from all over.

Our most recent hire is actually from your side of the pond. He’s joining us from Wales as a head of growth for Powered by Search. And so now we have people kind of spread all around the globe. And so as a result of that, I think that it just kept the business fresh and the challenges were brand new as well. And then obviously moving up market in terms of starting off in 2009, when I was 21. Starting off with helping small businesses back then to now really working with some of the largest B2B SaaS businesses and technology businesses in the world. And that part’s always very exciting. And then at the end of the day, marketing is always changing. So there’s always something new to learn and to implement.

Alex Theuma

A lot of agency and services business Dev they have that path where they then take, I guess what they build a SaaS business on the back of it. And there are many examples of they profit well being one as model. Have you ever thought about that? Is there a path for you guys to becoming a SaaS business itself or is it like let’s keep laser focused on what we’re doing because it works well?

Dev Basu

So I think the strap to that I’m a fan of is really building more of a portfolio or a holding company type of strategy. So I look at it as the three types of businesses are services businesses. So agencies are not a sexy business but they are very profitable and a required business as well. At the end of the day growth is hard work and you need many brains and hands to be able to do that. So I think we’ve built a great services businesses now. The other two types are SaaS and information businesses. So training businesses as an example or events. So I think over the course of the next 10 years, we’re going to build in each one of those areas effectively taking what we know how to do well which is in Powered by Search in many ways like a SaaS business because we work with clients on a subscription basis and a recurring revenue basis as well.

And we’re leveraging our IP to be able to help them grow. So a much more of a strategic agency than an executional agency. And so yeah, I think SaaS is definitely something that is on my mind as well. Right now we have this unique ability to work with so many different kinds of businesses and take a peek inside everything that’s going on. Everything from the demand gen funnel into their CRM systems, to the product analytics. And we’re taking ideas and cross-pollinating them all the time. Starting out with just investing in other businesses. And then obviously down the line in the future I think you wouldn’t be surprised to see me getting involved in SaaS myself, either buying or building up.

Alex Theuma

Okay. Well and if you do get involved in SaaS then you’ll know the nine revenue accelerators that will build you an unstoppable SaaS business. And not only that, but will help build towards this hundred million ARR business. So keen to dive into that Dev. And for those that are listening to the podcast and just an FYI, that we are happy publishing the SaaS Revolution Show on YouTube over the last year or so. So there is a video version to watch if you want to see the lovely background that Dev has got or see our two faces. But also to kind of show the worksheet that Dev is going to kind of guide us through and have a look at this kind of visually. So you have your options to listen to, because that’s what we can show on your podcast or watch on YouTube as well. So Dev, let’s go through these nine accelerators. So take us through.

Dev Basu

Yeah, absolutely. So I think that the revenue accelerators actually only matter in the context of the outcomes that they actually drive. So they’re levers essentially that you can pull in the business. So the three levers that create an unstoppable SaaS business from our perspective are you need to have what we call a high level of QPC or quality pipeline certainty. And so you imagine sort of the problem that a lot of SaaS businesses have is they fall in two camps. They either have a great product but they don’t have great marketing. Or they have great marketing and they have a subpar product that they can start working on and making better. We tend to work with the companies who have a great product that’s the best kept secret in town. And so essentially, they’re not the category dominant leader in their space right now. And so if they have a product that’s an 8 and above on a scale of 10, we take their marketing to an eight and above as well.

And those two things create this sort of dominance where they move from obscurity towards are just completely like owning their space. So QPC is one of them. And you know this is true if you are only hitting 75% of your targets every single quarter then your QPC needs some work. If you’re hitting only 50% of the targets per quarter, then you need a lot of work. And so the types of sort of arrears that we have a bell curve that we look at. And on the left side of the bell curve, you’ve got essentially companies we’ve kind of stalled out and they don’t really believe in marketing anymore. There’s companies that are the 50% level, they’re sustaining. And really what they’re doing over there is working on positioning. I’m sure you’ve had people at SaaS talking about that.

And then the ones who are at 75% are scaling up and they’re really putting in some process. And the last one when you’re hitting over a hundred percent of your quota. I know whether that’s in a product led growth model or if it’s through putting in a sales team, you know that’s true when you hire your next account executive that by day 30, their calendar is already full with appointments. That’s basically the dream that most SaaS companies want to go for. So QPC is one of the outcomes and sort of the left-hand side you’re stalling out, on the right hand side you’re soaring and you’re hitting more than a hundred percent of target. The second is your LTV. And so one of the theories that we had is that a lot of the times your LTV tends to be all over the map because of your marketing and not so much because of your product.

How that shows up is if your marketing promises outcomes that your product cannot deliver, people buy and then they churn out within their first 90 days. And that shows up in not only your churn numbers as well as your LTV, it also affects the third sort of outcome or the driver which is your cost of customer acquisition. And so the idea there is if your marketing and your product are synonymous, meaning all your marketing does is amplify the features, benefits and core payoffs that your product actually delivers then you’re going to have the lowest possible cost of customer acquisition because those customers stick with you longer, they love on you more, they tell their friends. So those are the three drivers.

So now to get there, you need to do three things. You need to be able to attract and that is all about the way that you get in front of somebody who doesn’t know who you are, they may be problem aware, but they’re not solution aware. And they’re certainly not aware of your particular platform. You need to be able to engage them because I mean, if you’re selling a product that’s over a hundred dollars a month, if your ACV is the very minimum in 1200 a year and on the maximum, like we work with companies that are doing ACVs of half a million a year, multi-year contracts. They’re selling B2B as well. The important part here is actually to engage because if you’ve looked at your analytics, you probably know that no one comes to your website on their first attempt, first discovery essentially. They don’t click an ad or they don’t go over your blog and immediately set up for a demo or for a trial.

That process is actually a fairly haphazard zig-zaggy type of process. And you know you can look at this using heat maps, click tracking or visitor tracking and in your analytics as well. So you need a way to be able to engage them. So the way for them to actually stick around and actually consume your content and the way to bring them back when they leave. And then finally, a way to convert. And that is basically getting people who are on your list, people who are visitors NQLs, but then they’re not quite sales qualified leads yet and they’re not product qualified either. How do you get them to raise their hand and actually start the journey? Because until that point, you can’t help them right? So nothing happens until the sale is actually made. And so that’s what we want to focus on over here.

And when we put together our nine revenue accelerators, within attract, engage and convert that can help you figure out how to do this. So in terms of the first one, nothing happens until you create demand. So effectively, it will be put together over here is a way of looking at nine different questions on the pathway to go to a hundred million dollar ARR business. And I don’t know about you Alex, but I think the biggest fear that keeps up most founders at night is having a mediocre business. Like to get to the 10 year mark after spending a lot of time in their business and just going, it’s kind of a meh kind of business. Not a great exit, maybe they can’t even exit for that matter. And so if you want to be unstoppable, I think that’s kind of rare air territory.

So the way that we put together a scale for this is if you think about a ten point scale, nines and tens are the best in market, that’s a green. Six, sevens and eights are amber. And then one through five, if you’re a five or below is really a red and no matter which way you look at it. Now you may be one of those people who are highly self-critical and grade yourself a one when you’re really better than that. I think we’re not as good as we think and we’re not as bad as we think at anything. But what we’ve done is created this sort of self-assessment mechanism. And so as I go through these questions, I think it’ll be beneficial to go look at wherever you are today. Each point of improvement is work at scale $10 million in ARR.

So the first question is creating demand. The question we ask over here is how confident are you that you’re intentionally attracting only qualified right-fit traffic? So as we break that down, what we notice is that most of the folks that we speak to, they say that they’re unsure about the fact that only right fit traffic comes to their site. And why this happens is because a lot of the time demand gen teams they get a target from their CRO and they say, you know what? We need to be able to hit XYZ target over the next two quarters or we need to be able to grow MRR by 20 or 25%. So what do we do? And immediately they move towards two areas. One, let’s ramp up our paid media acquisition. And number two, let’s start doing some content marketing to be able to get people into our blog or create some resources.

And they often the word used is “top of funnel.” We need people at the top of the funnel. And the problem with top of the funnel is that these people will find you, but they may not actually be qualified or the right fit. And that’s why when you, and I won’t name names but if you think about even the largest marketing technology companies, I think they ended up being guilty of this a lot. You might find that they start blogging about content that has nothing to do with what their platform actually provides. So I’m thinking about a well-known social media scheduling company that you and I would both know right now, who has content on their site about how to be more productive at work. And that’s not what their software primarily I would say. So if you’re problem aware and you’re trying to figure out, hey, you know what? I’ve got this big library of content as a social media marketer, how do I start resurfacing the content that performed the best on Twitter over the last three months? And I want to automate that.

That’s a very specific use case. So rather than creating that piece of content, what we find is that these companies tend to go and say, well what productivity has a lot of monthly search volume, let’s go create content around that. And so you’d be best in market if you’re really building your content marketing machine or your traffic generation principles in a way where you’re attracting from people who are already problem and solution aware. And then building your way up once you’ve extinguished all of those opportunities. Versus the traditional approaches, let’s go broad, let’s get lots of traffic and then have the… Telltale litmus test on this is if your conversion rates from the visitor to sign up or visitor to demo is less than 1%, then you know you have this problem. You’re probably on the red side of the equation. Does that make sense on some level?

Alex Theuma

Yeah, absolutely.

Dev Basu

Okay. So the second one is build authority. So if you’re going to go get some traffic, and this is about the war on eyeballs refer attention, the next step is how do you show up differently? And so build authority is a revenue accelerator, is the answer to the question, to what degree is everyone in your team on the same page about the transformational promise you make to your customers? And so if you’re on the green side, you probably have like a notion document that you basically bring up and you share in every single team meeting about why you’re different. Not just what you do, but why you do it and how you’re different versus competitive alternatives. Red would be, I’m not even sure about our transformational promises myself and so therefore no one else on the team does as well.

We find that most people over here are usually in the amber. They may put in a score of six on the create demand. Usually they’re in about a seven or six as well. And then the last one is in attractive fill funnel. Which is, it answers the question, how robust is your system for turning visitors to your website into prospects that then give you permission to go to a deeper level of conversation with them? And so if you have content on your site where typically you might have a form or an opt-in of some kind and you take visitors and you invite them to join a newsletter or to sign up for a resource and they become a marketing qualified lead, what often ends up happening is they are a name on a list, but you have they’re a contact, they’re not a customer.

There is no way for no reliable, predictable and repeatable way for being able to take that person and turn them into somebody who raises their hand and say, you know what? Actually yes, I do want to try the product or I do want to talk to somebody in sales to be able to get a demo. So what we find over on the fill funnel side is this is where we find that most companies typically have a score of five or less where they may be decently good at being able to get names onto a list, but they’re usually poor at being able to actually nurture them, to get them to raise their hand. And so if that’s you, you might add up all your scores, divide them by three and get your average attract score. And again, the way to think about this is as you go through those three questions, every point of improvement on each question can be worth up to $10 million in ARR. So it’s quite significant, it’s non-trivial to be able to get this right. Does that make sense?

Alex Theuma

Yeah. What if you’re going through this exercise and I guess if I rewind that, the person that perhaps would be going through this exercise, is this the founder of the business or who would you say is the person that kind of fills out this sheet?

Dev Basu

I think this particular sheet should be filled out by the founder and the C-level team. And so a good person to look at this and bring it to the founder if you’re a slightly larger business would be somebody who’d be a chief revenue officer because they’re responsible both for sales and for marketing as well. And so the telltale signs that we see a lot are the marketing team blames the sales team for inability to close leads. The sales team blames a marketing team for the inability to generate quality leads in the first place. And so if you’re managing both of these teams and trying to get them to work better together, just taking a zoomed out, this is a 30,000 foot sort of overview into why is this happening. Let’s actually answer these questions and see, have we set our teams up for success to be able to hit the goals that we’re setting because everybody’s good at being able to set really large goals.

Not everyone is best and marketed being able to have a work back plan to being able to get there. And so this just avoids a lot of frustration in the business by being able to take a step back and go, okay, so how are we doing on these? And a lot of them, if you’re, the quantitative dashboards are about relational progress meaning like you look at it week to week to week. But if you really take a step back and go, hmm, are we actually attracting right fit traffic? Do we know what we want to say on our pages? Are our feature and product detail pages too thin?

And then also once we actually get a name, how are we treating that person? The number one mistake that we see in attract actually is that most SaaS companies, they think about the experience that they want their customers to go through, but they do not go through that same experience as a customer. And so therefore it’s a very seller centric model rather than a buyer centric model of marketing. And that’s why they leave so much money on the table at the end of the day.

Alex Theuma

I think you find yourself once you’ve gone through this exercise with your exec team, that you’re down in the worst of market. You’re a two or three on average. I mean this is quite low being quite sort of a negative here potentially. But in that scenario, then what would you advise the person when they’re looking at that and sort of reflecting to the team that they are a two or three? What steps do they need to kind of take to kind of get them up to amber and green?

Dev Basu

Well one of the things, if you’re in the red in any one of these areas on average, the first thing I would do is breathe and just go, it’s not as good as it seems and it’s not as bad as it seems. The second thing to think about is that the only room you have to go is up at that point in time. And the third is that you need to assess where the gaps really are. So if you subjectively know that you are in the red right now and you want to get to amber or green, it helps to understand what the pieces are that actually built us up. And so for example, break that down by a channel and go, which channel do you think is underperforming? Is it a strategic gap? Meaning, did somebody in the organization either over the course of history say that, you know what, this is how we’re going to create content?

One of the things that we advise a lot is starting with the end in mind where our content marketing practices very contrary in compared to what we see in the industry. We actually interview our eighth gear in a demo led model. We’ll actually interview account executives and we’ll talk to real customers over our clients and ask them why they bought their particular platform and what they were using before. And so generally speaking again, litmus test and the way that shows up is your conversion rates on a sales conversation. So a demo close, the benchmark we look for is somewhere between 25 and 30%. So one in three conversations closed into a closed one opportunity. So that’s a 30% close rate. Your visitor to demo is 1%. So why is it that a human conversation can get someone to raise their hand and become a customer 30 times as well as a website?

And just generally because the website is quite static and it treats everybody as a one size fits all type of solution. And so to know the use cases, you actually just need to go talk to the people who are helping customers enroll into or prospects role into becoming customers. And then reflect all of the objections, the questions, the concerns, the frequently asked on the website. Including things that most companies don’t want to talk about such as one of the things in our playbook is the fact that we often find that a lot of SaaS companies don’t have good competitor comparison pages. And the reality is they’re not being compared to in a vacuum. It’s not just your solution. So if you don’t create your own competitor comparison pages, what ends up happening at the end of the day is you end up seeding that to the review sites.

So to G2 or to Capterra and you don’t control the conversation in any way, you’re actually one of the… The most frequent frustrations we find in talking to founders is they say those comparison tables that I’m sure all of us have seen, are actually out of date or are completely inaccurate. And so we have a blog post if you searched SaaS website competitor comparison pages, you’ll see our post on it where we talk about there’s a tasteful way, a higher road to being able to give a nod to your competition because they’re good at what they do and you’re building the market in your category together. But there are certain types of customers that are a good fit for you more so than they are for them. And then your job is really to shine a light on that using your marketing and your content. So yeah, so three things sort of breathe, know that it can only get better and number three, figure out sort of where the gaps are strategically or tactically from an execution standpoint and then get better from over there.

Yeah, so on the engage I think that the key thing that we want to do here is now you’ve got somebody to come to your website and your marketing site. They have not signed up for your platform and you know it’s going to be a multi-step process. They need to know you, like you and trust you before they give you any personal information and sign up for either a trial or request a demo. The problem is that 98% of your traffic probably bounces away from your website and never comes back. And so really the purpose of engage is how do you get them to stick around and actually give you not only their attention, but to actually engage with you at a deeper level? And there are three accelerators over here. The first one is called pinpoint pain. And the idea here is you’d have to ask yourself, are you selling a pain killer or a vitamin in terms of what your platform actually delivers?

If it’s mission critical, we say that there are only three things that any B2B SaaS platform actually sells. You either are selling speed, so you’re speeding up something from manual to automated. You are reducing risk and increasing certainty. And the third one is selling insights. So you’re taking disparate data and you’re putting it together in a way that makes it easier to understand, creating a narrative basically with that. But if none of these things are pain points for your customers or if they need to haphazardly arrive at what those pain points really are and how your product can solve them, it’s too hard. And so they end up leaving the site. So the first accelerator is called pinpoint pain. It sounds a little weird, but the question is, how well engineered is the content on your website to cause the prospect to know that you truly get them better than anyone else that they’re paying? If you think about it, your prospects, they’re doing three things.

They’re either doing nothing about their pain points or just kind of living with it. It’s like a bad toothache that you don’t go to the dentist to go see. They are using what we call web 1.0 technology. So they may be using spreadsheets, they may be using a word processor, Google Docs or whatever to be able to do it, but they’re not using a modern cloud enabled platform right now. And so that would be an, we would call that audience an upgrader audience, they are literally moving from using a couple of jerry rig tools that don’t communicate well with each other to a modern SaaS platform. You might be their first. The second is, what we call a switcher audience. And that would be somebody who’s using a competitor direct or indirect for years and now they’re moving over.

If you cannot pinpoint their pain, like with the current solution that they’re actually using, you can’t stretch the gap as to why they would want to use you. And this is where we frequently see this idea of pinpointing pain being loosely engineered on the product pages we can see for so many of the SaaS companies that we end up working with when they first come to us. So if you engineer your content to is specifically to pinpoint the use cases that are pain points that are either it’s slow, it’s manual, it’s difficult, it breaks, it’s too hard to understand. These are all good pain points where you can actually start pinpointing their pain. So best in case market would be like we have actually specifically assembled every single word on our site to identify and get in a show prospects that we get them.

Literally imagine if you were in the room where at the point of which they go, we need a solution to solve X problem, that you can actually reflect X problem on your webpages, on your landing pages and your call to actions and your offers. And so the key thing here is not just that you get them, but get them better than anyone else that they’re paying. And so you want a grade yourself a red would be, well, we just kind of quickly put together the pages on our site and the content. Green would be, we’ve done copy testing, we’ve done customer interviews, we’ve specifically done AB tests around what type of offer or messaging converts the best.

The second is educate and motivate prospects. So this is the idea that if you teach your prospects how to buy, then they will reward you for knowing your space. And instead of them haphazardly going and I mean, no prospect at the end of the day. I’m sure the number of times that I’ve signed up for a SaaS solution and then worked with them for exactly three to six months and then found something a little bit better, but not quite solving the problem. It’s a very frustrating journey even for a buyer to be able to buy stuff, cancel it, sign up for something else and then go on. So from a seller’s perspective, what really helps us to educate and motivate. So the question is how often do you publish content about the mistakes your prospects are making in their industry instead of only talking about your solutions, the solutions that your product provides? Red would be, well, we only really talk about the solutions that our product provides. Green would be we specifically create content on our site that is pinpointing the mistakes that they’re actually making.

One of the things we’ve seen a lot this year is a number of incoming prospects to Powered by Search where all having some level of a video collaboration or video conferencing solution. They want to take down Zoom for a specific industry that they’re in. And they’re talking about how amazing their software really is. They’re talking about how low latency for example it might be. That would be an example of talking about their solution. The problem on this other hand, the mistake that they’re making is most companies are just going to use Zoom for most things right? Whether it’s for our podcast, whether it’s for screen editing together, for any kind of remote collaboration work. But the frustration over here is things like dropped frames echo and lag the frustration of people being on mute when they’re talking. The frustration of the mistake being that the audio becomes too compressed.

These are actual mistakes that they’re making before they realize they’re making the mistakes. So if you can educate and motivate them about that, they’re going to go, you know what? I don’t want to invest in this solution if it’s only going to be something we change down the line anyways, we want to get it right. And most SaaS companies don’t spend enough time in their content marketing strategy around here. So that’s educate and motivated prospects. Does that make sense?

And the last one is calibration call to actions. And so the question here is how consistently, effectively and successfully do your content marketing efforts contribute to demo and trial pipeline targets? And so a lot of SaaS companies will create content and get traffic but that do not generate conversions. And so this is a two partner problem. One is a design problem and the second is a motivation oriented problem as well. And so if you think about the average SaaS companies blog where they get most of their traffic frankly, the blog posts is meant to create some narrative, some editorial content. But if you walk through the blog posts, by the time you skim or read to the end of that, usually there is no next step. It’s just your options as a reader are do I click to a similar post for a related post or do I exit? Sometimes we see SaaS companies having like a sidebar with a book a demo or download our Gartner or Forrester report.

But what we found to be most useful are in content calibrated call to actions. The idea being that the only reason someone’s reading your blog post is because they have a use case or problem that you’re trying to solve. They’re trying to get educated on how to solve it. And perhaps you have a cheat sheet, a guide, a calculator that you can actually embed right in the post itself. And you’d be happy to exchange in exchange for an email address and a first name. That’s how you can invite them to go deeper with you. Or if you’re talking about a specific section or module of your platform that solves a hairy problem that your prospect actually has, why not instead of calling it, see a demo. One of the things that we’ve tested that actually worked quite well is see this in action for your business. Which is much more buyer-centric lane because if I’m reading about something, I’m going, oh, really?

I can actually just jump on for a shorter mini demo to be able to go and look at just this thing that I’ve actually am interested in and I can see how that can apply to my business. And that applies across the gamut of everything from getting paid faster if you’re an invoicing software down to if your video collaboration and how you can have lower latency because the blog post might focus on why Zoom are using this particular platform may not actually be in your best interest if you are a visual effects team. That would be an example of calibrated call to action.

Red on this side would be, you know what? We have the same call to actions throughout our entire site. They’re kind of static and they never change. Amber would be, we take some of our content and calibrate our call to actions where we include customized call to actions. Green would be, we have personalized call to actions. And so an example of that might be if you are already on my newsletter, all right, why would I want to show you another newsletter sign up on my blog. If I know that about you because I’ve got marketing automation or marketing ops platform, it would make more sense as a SaaS platform to show you the next step after somebody signs up for a newsletter. And this is the type of stuff that where we’ve seen studies. For every dollar, like 98 cents are spent on acquisition and 2 cents are spent on a user experience and on conversion. And so we think that there’s a better way over there to really improve the experience and therefore improve the conversion rates that your prospects go through.

Alex Theuma

Yeah, I see. I mean these all make sense. And on the call to action side of things, I’ve seen a lot of joint newsletter as they’re the main and only call to action. And like you said, if you’re already on that newsletter then core values, that call to action for you as you’re reading through that content because you’re likely to read through that content because you’re on the new site. So yeah, there needs to be something else I’ll say. In terms of like personalizing it, how would you do it in that instance then like technically I’m not a super sort of a technical person. So I’ve subscribed to this SaaS company’s blog and then I’m reading through the content and then the SaaS company, how would they then personalize that for me?

Dev Basu

Oh yeah, it’s a great question. So I’ll go through sort of simple through advanced. The simplest execution, a friend of mine, Brennan runs a company called Right Message. We use their platform, makes it super easy to be able to showcase different call to actions based off what light cycle stage your prospect is in. If they’re anonymous, if they’re a subscriber, if they’re a lead, an opportunity or if they’re a customer even. Just imagine one of the things that’s really cool that you could do with that is you can actually say, hey Alex, welcome back to the SaaS stock blog. Would you like to share the latest article with a colleague or a friend? It’s super customized to you so you actually feel welcome that way if you’re a customer. You could also do this using Google Optimize or Optimizely as well.

And then if you’re using some sort of marketing automation platform for example, where HubSpot partners, you can use smart call to actions that are part of the HubSpot platform. And so many of our clients will actually build their websites right on top of HubSpot CMS. And that’s just another way of doing it. Either way, the idea here is to be technology agnostic. The idea is simply to get it done and being able to move you in just from all static call to actions, to just the next thing that you want somebody to do in your funnel or in your process to get them from going to being an anonymous person to being a customer. That might be really interesting.

The other area that we see a lot of this actually becoming quite useful is a calibrated call to action with a win-back offer for somebody who’s a churned customer. And so imagine a churned customer comes back to your blog post because it was useful for some reason. Having a little wind back offer for them saying, try the software again for two months for example or try it and we’ll upgrade you to the next level for expansion revenue and great way of being able to bring them back.

So convert is all about you’ve got this person, who’s now a marketing qualified lead or they’re a subscriber lead. So clearly you know who they are, they’re not just anonymous traffic. They’re a John Doe or a Jane Doe in your database. And now you’re trying to get them to raise their hand and become a customer. How do you do that? So primarily, the most frequent way that we see is two-fold. One is through in-app messaging. So maybe you’re using something like Intercom and somebody is under a 7 or 14 day trial and you’re trying to get them to get to becoming a product qualified lead, to get them to the ah-ha moment, essentially. But they can ignore that, they can just click the close button. You can email them, that’s another way of doing it as well. One of the things we see over here is using all the different channels, including using the same channels you for acquisition to be able to increase activation is something that’s usually missed.

So there are three accelerators here. The first one’s called driving deal flow. So this is about getting somebody to raise their hand and become a sales qualified lead or to become a product qualified lead. And the question is how consistently, effectively and successfully do you delegate success outcomes to your team, elevating their performance and making the performance of your campaigns better? So in this case, actually I need to change the question over here, just from somewhere else. So for the YouTube guys, I’ll also share an updated version. But the idea is it’s about increasing your conversion rates overall. And on the left hand side on red, it would essentially be that you don’t have a consistent process for being able to do that, it’s kind of haphazard. If you are red, you’re probably using landing pages to be able to drive traffic to and the landing pages have some forms on them to book demos or for starting trials for example.

Amber would be that you actually have call to actions littered throughout your feature pages to be able to capture information progressively. So what I mean by that is if you take a look at a site like notion okay. One of the things that they’ve done really well is every feature that they actually have, they have a little email sign up box which doesn’t ask for any more information than just your email address. Because what they know is that’s an anchor, that’s an anchor that they can then ask for more information later. But without having email, they have no way of communicating with you to get you into the product experience. And then green would essentially be where you have progressive profiling set up such that by the time somebody comes to a trial page or a demo, their information is essentially prefilled.

So all they need to do is click book a demo or sign up. They don’t re-enter their information all over again. And now you’re also doing the same things with email. One of the things that we do is take people, one of the kind of insidious problems with what SaaS is for demo led companies, a lot of companies deal with no shows. And so what ends up happening with the no-show is they sign up for a demo, they don’t show up obviously. There may be some sort of reactivation or rescheduling. But let’s say that they really weren’t motivated to move forward at that point in time. Having marketing automation follow up with them a month or two from the point that they’d signed up and said, hey, you exhibited interest back then, how do you solve the challenge or the problem that you came to us with?

Not, would you like to reschedule? Is a customer centric way of being able to showcase to them, here’s why you actually should come back. And they may go, you know what? The timing is right now. And so usually what ends up happening is it’s an account executive who has it on their calendar or a task to follow up. And that’s a sales led activity but as we know, humans are fallible, we forget to do things all the time. Sometimes it just kind of slips through the cracks. So you want to use AutoNation over here where marketing can actually help reactivate a lead and then contribute it back to the sales team. The second accelerator is called compressed time. And so the compressing time is all about if you have a higher annual contract value, let’s call it like $10,000 ACV and up, you’re selling to kind of like larger size SMB or mid-market and above. One of the things, as you probably know Alex is that there’s many stakeholders to that point in time. We actually see it that there’s three avatars.

There’s a check signer who pays for the software, but doesn’t actually use it every day. There’s a manager whose job is really to make sure that the team that’s using the software is actually in fact, fully immersed in using it and getting productive with it. They want reports essentially to make sure that things are on track. And then there’s a daily user. And the daily user really just cares about the fact that the software saves some time. So think about CRM, very good category to think about in this context. If Salesforce did not save in individual reps time and entering deals, reps would hate using it. And so they’re really optimized specifically for that. So compressing time is about the deal life cycle. So the days to close from the point somebody gets a demo to the point where they’re actually closed in product led growth companies.

This is about not letting the prospect go the full 14 or 30 days before they convert. If you can get them to convert faster than the entire trial period, it’s even better. It’s great from a revenue impact perspective. And so the question here is how often are you using the same digital marketing channels that you used to acquire the leads in the first place to continue marketing to them once they become a trial user or a sales qualified lead in your pipeline? And so don’t just leave to salespeople, don’t just leave it to your nurture email sequencers. But like literally one of the things we built something called a SaaS boomerang strategy which is a remarketing strategy to showcase how people who are slightly ahead of wherever the prospect is, are succeeding with the platform. So for example, you mentioned sort of agencies that turned into SaaS businesses.

One of my friends, Kyle runs a company called Proposify. They used to be a web design agency many years ago and then he created a proposal software. Now they’re moving even up market to help sales teams kind of standardized coding, pricing and costing. And one of the things we could do over here is look at them and go, if someone’s in the demo sequence but they need to get a bunch more people involved, why not showcase using retargeting case studies of companies who are three months, six months, nine months and a year into using the platform? It’d be a great way of showcasing somebody who’s yet to make a decision and maybe they’re a bit up in the air, how they’re doing.

So that would be an example of where a red would be, you’re not using any of the same channels, you’re literally just using in-app messaging, email and sales reps to be able to follow up on the deal and try to close it faster. Amber would be, you’re using some channels like perhaps a latent channel like SEO, where you expect the prospect to just Google stuff and come back to the site. And then green would be where you’re having all the same demand gen channels firing but with different contents. So now less about awareness and more about conversion and social proof content to bring them back and convert. That makes sense on some level?.

The last one is called stack strategies. Which is a lot of the time what we noticed is demand gen leaders tend to think in this vacuum when it comes to SaaS. And so the way this shows up in conversations is, I only want to see what PPC drove in terms of NQOs, SQLs and opportunities where I only want to see separated out what SEO drove. And the reality is we’re not in a one-click conversion world. So all of these channels and the content that’s something that the user interacts with is part of an ecosystem overall at the end of the day. And so the question here is, how robust is your system for connecting demand generation strategies that work together? All of your earned, owned and your paid to exponentially increase your deal flow.

Red would be, they’re all disconnected, they’re silo. The teams don’t talk to each other, even if we have different agencies, they don’t talk to each other. And so there’s no information sharing. Amber would be, we have some teams that talk to each other some of the time, but they don’t actually have good information sharing. And then green would be, we have one interconnected system, a source of truth for information. We have teams that regularly collaborate and share data with each other to improve performance. And we have a playbook for which channels we do first, how we grow in them and which channels to go into next.

And so that would be an example of like I think the stacking strategies thing is something that we find that a lot of companies they get good at one channel and it’s kind of a one trick pony, and they don’t know how to nail our crack a completely different acquisition channel. And they don’t know how to take the learnings from channel A where they’re succeeding to channel B, which is kind of new territory essentially for them. So having a playbook for being able to stack strategies can really help over here.

Alex Theuma

That’s awesome. I mean Dev, thank you so much for kind of taking us through this. And I love the way that it’s in this specific kind of checklist. And I think each specific point within the kind of the three kind of main areas that you could dive, well certainly like deep into, make podcasts out themselves on. And here we’ve just kind of run through this together. But it’s good for us to actually kind of see how putting all these together can help potential founders and companies become a hundred million dollar SaaS businesses or unstoppable SaaS companies. I mean how many companies do you come across I guess that are in the green, that have these boxes checked? I guess companies that come to you normally are probably the ones that maybe they’re more in the red or the amber, but I don’t know if that’s a kind of fair assumption.

Dev Basu

The companies that come to us are usually in the amber or the light green. And there are some that are really kind of leading their space and they’re already dominating their market. They just want to be able to double down and accelerate their growth so they’re soaring. But the ones that come to us are a lot of the times sustaining or scaling because I mean, we’re problem solvers at the end of the day. They need the help to be able to kind of make that transition. The ones who are solidly in the green, that’s very small, that’s a rare area, it’s about 10% of companies. But then you have about another 15% that are in the light green area where they’re hitting kind of three quarters of their targets, but they’re still excited at the end of the day.

It’s good, it’s not something that they’d have a ride home about and go, you know what? We’re not scaling. But they are investing in process that they know that the next step for them, they’ve already positioned up, they’ve nailed sort of what they do and who they do it for and what problem they solve. But it’s still in a state where the product is better than the marketing. And they need to get to a point where the product and the marketing meet together and they become synonymous and they support each other in a holistic sort of flywheel. But I would say that that 30% is what you end up having the green and then there’s a 70% that are in the red and yellow or the red and amber.

The big thing that I want for people to be able to take away who are in the red right now is don’t give up because successful marketing is really like a weapon at the end of the day. In the same way that you believe already and you don’t need to be convinced that a good product is critical to the success of a SaaS company. There are just too many companies in the SaaS graveyards who had a great product, but did not have a good go-to market strategy. And so marketing is critically important. And in some ways we actually say that your marketing will impact more people than your product ever will.

Alex Theuma

I think those are good words of advice as we come to the end here. For those that are well listening or watching, we will drop a link to the sheet in the blog post. But I mean, if they want to kind of go direct to this assessment and fill it out, where can they do that?

Dev Basu

Yeah so you could totally go to poweredbysearch.com/audit and we’ll host it there for you guys. Go ahead and fill it out at that point in time and then I’m just excited to see people start to work on this. It’s the idea of zooming out before you zoom back in at the tactical level. Because one of the things we really believe is that there are really no growth hacks. There’s a point where they work for a little bit of time but a lot of what we worked on here today are first principles rooted in the fundamentals. If you nail the fundamentals and then you can do that consistently over and over again, you’ll build an unstoppable SaaS company. There’s no doubt about it.

Alex Theuma

Yeah, we’re coming up to the top of the hour here. So thanks Dev Basu, CEO of Powered by Search so much for sharing this with us and looking forward to the workshop on Tuesday at SaaS Promote.

Dev Basu

It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me, Alex.

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