AMA with Adrienne Weismann7 min read

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Adrienne Weissman, the latest guest we had on the SaaS Revolution Club Slack communityAMA, hails from Chicago and has over 15 years of experience at various tech innovators. Currently, she’s Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at G2 Crowd, the platform for sharing business software reviews, which just closed a cool $30M Series B round this past May. Before that, she was Director of Brand and Marketing Solutions at LinkedIn, and before that held senior-level leadership, sales, and marketing roles at game-changers such as Google, Digg, and AOL.

Adrienne answers questions about the challenges G2 Crowd has faced, the channels they have used to grow, the art of being a great CMO and more.

Come see Adrianne at SaaStock 2017 in Dublin, September 18-20. Get your ticket now.

Tell us a bit about G2 crowd.

G2 Crowd is the world’s destination for B2B software and services companies to find the right software for their business. We ask professionals to write reviews for their software products and services they use. All reviews are authenticated via the professional’s LinkedIn profile and we validate every single review to ensure they are real.

What do you feel are some of the biggest (or most common) mistakes B2B SaaS marketers make?

Using language that is unique to their product/team. Most people have zero clue what all the various acronyms mean. Speak simple and regular language. The more simple without jargon, the better your audience gets what you offer.

What are the toughest problems you’ve faced when growing G2 Crowd and how did you solve them?

Some of our biggest challenges have been that we serve two very distinct audiences. We do everything with the buyer first. ALWAYS. What the buyers need versus what the vendors want are often times in conflict. Buyers want a 100% agnostic place to find the answers to the questions, without the vendor influencing the information. Hence, the importance of the authentic and validated reviews.

We have been very thoughtful in making decisions centered around the buyer. If it feels in conflict with what is best for the buyer, we will not do it. Even if it means we will not be able to generate revenue.

We have solved this by having a bit of a church and state approach to our organization and teams. There is no one team making the decisions.  It’s an excellent way to help us stay true to our values and mission.

What are recommended outreach strategies for pre-market fit /customer dev/feedback?

I believe the best outreach strategies for pre-market fit are to understand and know what people are searching for via Google or elsewhere.

In addition, the best customer dev strategies are to surround yourself with individuals and teams that have the actual problems you are trying to solve. Have a customer advisory board, make sure they are people who will give meaningful and critical input and feedback.

Feedback is key: leverage both your advisory board and ask for feedback every chance you get.

Do not insulate yourself with believers only. You want the skeptics in there too. That way you are getting a complete picture of what will and can work. Where your gaps are and where your sweet spots are.

What’s your opinion on an Enterprise SaaS offering providing a reduced feature offering at a lower price point for the SME market?

I think it’s dependent on the product/offering. If you are first an enterprise product, you can’t just strip down the product to offer an SME solution. You really need to understand and offer what is most important and relevant to the SME audience. It’s not as simple as making the product smaller and the price point smaller. Make sure you are actually building a product that is designed specifically for the SME.

What are the top paid marketing channels G2 Crowd relies on to drive customer acquisitions?

Our top paid marketing channels to drive customer acquisitions are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (when we are super targeted) and various tech digests.

Not to mention, we see really great engagement and success leveraging email and an ABM strategy. Our ABM approach works best when we are talking to software vendors and services. However, our best tool is our SEO.  We have prioritized that above everything else.

One of our best tech digests to date has been our Women In Tech digest which has driven a fantastic response rate, generating a low cost to subscribers. Our newsletters and digests are very targeted and designed to be niche and very much aligned to the audiences we are targeting.

I also believe it’s super important to always be in testing mode.

I know that there has been a significant change in the way B2B professionals engage and consume. No longer are the days that we separate work from our personal life.

My consumption behaviors and the way I go about my day at work is exactly the same as it is at home. I believe that is very true for most B2B marketers/buyers: Give them the information the way you’d want to be talked to/targeted.

Do you consider LinkedIn to be a SaaS business? why/why not (depending on your answer)

LinkedIn is both a SaaS business and not. Their LinkedIn Talent Solutions and Sales Solutions team are SaaS in my opinion. The LinkedIn Marketing Solutions team is not a SaaS product.

I’d love to know how best to get a new category created on G2Crowd for emergent SaaS solutions where the category has yet to be fully formed yet you have product-market fit and traction thus demonstrating the opportunity exists.

The best approach is first to submit your company/product to G2 Crowd. We will approve your submission, assuming it’s a real business (which I assume it is). When you are submitting you can self select what categories you should be considered to be in. You can also recommend what category/definition it is.

The key to determining categorization is ultimately up to what your customers say they use you for.  Our surveys have up to 5 free form questions about why that person bought the product, how they use it, what problems they are solving for and what do they like best and least. From there our category surveys do the heavy lifting with up to 60 key feature questions. That helps determine how a customer uses your product. In many cases, your product can be in multiple categories based on how your customer uses it.

What makes a good CMO?

Ha! I think a sense of humor, first and foremost. It’s a blend of being manically focused on metrics and knowing what works, what doesn’t and being OK to pull the plug on something that isn’t working or to push harder into something that is working.

I also think it’s really important to be a really good listener to both your internal teams as well as your prospects and customers. They are all giving you the answers.

I think it’s often times checking your ego a bit and being totally open to hearing people out.

Once you’ve really listened, then being both mindful of a plan but also flexible to make adjustments, makes for the best CMOs that I have met.

That’s the challenge, figuring what to measure, and then knowing what the metrics are telling you. Is there a simple way to approach that?

We are starting to use a CMO scorecard, that was shared with me by a friend and board member, Tim Kopp. It helps me work with our teams to determine what are the best metrics to measure.

While I may think it’s most important to measure MQLs, our product leader may think it’s most important to measure engagement and time on site.

Our CEO may want to just know the ultimate ROI of the spend.

Again, use your teams, your network, and your resources. Digital karma is alive and well. It’s awesome. Most people are generally willing to help and share. Use that to your advantage. I certainly don’t have all the answers, neither does any single one person on my team. But together we can figure out what are the right measurements for our business.

Lastly, don’t complicate it. Less is usually more. In my opinion, have no more than 5 key metrics that you walk around talking about. Focus on those.

If you could come back to earth as an animal, what would it be and why?

Oh, I love these questions. I’d come back as an elephant.  They are so beautiful, peaceful, family oriented and have a tendency to have a very long life.

We hold regular AMA sessions and you can be part of the conversation next time. Join the SaaS Revolution Club Slack Community.

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