A 2020 report by Salesforce Datorama (Marketing Intelligence Report: Asia-Pacific) found that approximately 94% of respondents have shifted priorities to focus on marketing-led growth within the last year.

“While traditional marketing continues to play an important role within Asia-Pacific, there is an overwhelming sense that marketers are embracing a growth marketing mindset.” – WARC

But most of the established playbooks are US- or Europe-focused, not tailored to the specific needs of the APAC market.

This blog post looks at the most important aspects of growth marketing, pulling in expert advice from SaaS leaders in the APAC region and beyond.

Growth marketing vs traditional marketing

Successful marketing is no longer only about acquiring new customers – it’s about acquiring and retaining customers. Traditional marketing focuses on the top of the funnel, often with activities that drive short-term wins.

In comparison, growth marketing is about looking at your entire customer lifecycle and using those insights to drive user acquisition, keep customers engaged, and retain them year-on-year.

At a higher level, growth marketing is focused on identifying the levers that drive growth for the business, and using marketing to pull those levers. Experimentation and learning is at the heart of growth marketing; during the pandemic we’ve seen even the most traditional companies turn to growth marketing as they tried to better understand their customer and audience needs on a budget, to better adapt and meet the needs of a rapidly changing market. 

The challenges of marketing a SaaS company in the APAC region

According to Salesforce Datorama’s report, the top challenges for the marketers they surveyed will be familiar to marketers around the world: 

  • Misalignment across teams on measurement and reporting
  • Inefficient use of budget
  • Lack of a unified view of performance
  • Lack of understanding of customer
  • Data mismanagement.

As well as this, from speaking with marketing leaders from across the region we’ve identified four challenges unique to SaaS marketing in APAC:

  • Disparate markets – the APAC region is incredibly diverse, in terms of culture, language and the maturity of the SaaS ecosystem between countries. What resonates in one country won’t have the same appeal in another.
  • Localization challenges – as well as translating your marketing materials and product into different languages to meet the needs of the region, there’s a lot of work required to localize your marketing activities to appeal to different markets. We covered the challenges of localization in this blog post on expanding internationally – and many of the same challenges apply when expanding in-region, too.
  • No established playbook – to quote HubSpot, “marketers are aware that marketing in APAC requires a different approach than marketing in Western countries. With time, the APAC market will only continue to grow in importance, yet for decades we’ve had to adapt global playbooks.”
  • Choosing the right channels – On average, APAC marketers use 7.4 marketing channels (Salesforce Datorama, 2020). But with so many marketing channels available, how do you decide which ones are right for your business?

Ask an expert: What is the biggest consideration for marketing a growing SaaS company in the APAC region?

“You need to move fast. In the past, we used a 5 hours flight economy, you can visit almost every corner of Asia within 5 hours. And because most Asian countries have a time difference of fewer than 3 hours. Therefore, events and meetings are still very welcome. You really need to make use of virtual communication to connect with as many people as possible.” – Felix Wong, Growth Marketing, AngelHub

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The secret to successful growth marketing: test, measure, learn

1) Test

Experimentation is at the heart of growth marketing: 

“You don’t learn until you experiment, and the more experiments that you run, the more learning that you get, and generally the more growth that you get.” – Sean Ellis

But if you’re experimenting without clear goals, you won’t get any meaningful results and are unlikely to drive any long-term business growth.

2) Measure

To drive growth in your business, you need to follow 7 key steps:

  1. Understand where customers get value from your business / product / service
  2. Find a metric by which you can measure that value
  3. Make this a company-wide metric – one that everyone is responsible for
  4. Run marketing experiments to test different ways to boost that metric
  5. Measure the results from those experiments
  6. Implement the learnings from those experiments
  7. Start new experiments.

In the growth world, the single metric to measure success by is known as your North Star metric:

“The North Star is a leading indicator of sustainable growth and acts as a connective tissue between the product and the broader business.” – Amplitude

Every marketing experiment you run should aim to move the needle on your North Star metric. By linking all your growth experiments back to this one core metric means you’re directly linking your experiments to driving actual growth, not just vanity metrics.

Data-driven decision-making is key to successful growth marketing: accurate, validated data (66%) and connecting marketing and sales data (62%) are the two factors that marketers consider most important for their success (Salesforce Datorama).  

The famous Peter Druker quote is: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” In a recent episode of The SaaS Revolution Show podcast, growth guru Sean Ellis paraphrases that famous quote for growth marketers: 

“You cannot improve what you don’t understand, so it’s essential to have good tracking in place. Flying blindly isn’t going to get you anywhere.”

3) Learn

Running marketing experiments and measuring the impact of those experiments will only get you so far. To really drive growth within your SaaS business, you need to learn from those experiments.

Take what worked, and apply it across the business. Try it out in new channels or with new products.

Take what didn’t work, and get really granular with the details there. Why didn’t it work? Was it the wrong channel, the wrong audience, the wrong time? Were there any elements that did work or that showed promise?

The most successful growth marketers have a process for documenting and sharing these learnings with their marketing team, aligning the whole team around driving growth and creating a whole company that’s focused on growth as a function, not just a marketing-owned activity.

Top marketing channels to master

According to Salesforce Datorama, the top 5 channels for APAC marketers (excluding websites) are:

  • Email
  • Digital display advertising
  • Mobile apps
  • Programmatic advertising
  • Paid social

Felix Wong, Growth Marketer at AngelHub told us that his top-performing marketing channel right now is LinkedIn:

“LinkedIn is always my first choice. The more content you post, the more likely you will appear on the search and news feed. My team and I successfully used LinkedIn, from brand awareness to corporate sales transactions.”

If you asked marketers around the world, you’re likely to get very similar answers to these from the APAC region. So if you’re using the same channels as everyone else, how do you stand out from the crowd and get your voice heard above the noise?

By embracing the spirit of growth marketing, and experimenting with new approaches for traditional channels.

For example, in this article for SaaS Mag, Single Grain CEO Eric Siu recommends 8 growth marketing tactics, including embracing the power of AI for digital advertising:

“AI has already been disrupting advertising— think programmatic advertising, smart bidding, and IoT ads. Brands are also taking advantage of AI for super-targeted messaging. One such tool, Pattern89, can be used to optimize ads on Google, Instagram, and Facebook.”

Closing thoughts

Traditional marketing is still incredibly popular in the APAC region, but growth marketing is being adopted more and more by ambitious SaaS companies.

To be successful at growth marketing in the region, there are two main opportunities:

  1. Study the established playbooks from fast-growing SaaS companies in other regions like the US or Europe
  2. Take those lessons, and combine with your understanding of your company, your local SaaS ecosystem, and the market maturity to build your own unique growth playbook, using elements of what’s worked before, but tailored to fit your company and regional needs.

Your SaaS company will have its own unique path to growth, but your marketing will have a significant part to play. In a region where traditional marketing is commonplace, SaaS companies have the opportunity to really stand out from the crowd by adopting growth marketing. But as with everything related to building and growing your company, it won’t succeed in isolation: 

“A successful growth marketing strategy will not be determined by people, processes, or technologies alone, but rather the alignment of all three.” – Salesforce Datorama

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