If you’re working in SaaS, you’re under a ton of pressure. Innovation cycles happen quickly, rapid growth is the name of the game, and SaaS marketers are expected to deliver, deliver, deliver every quarter. With such high stakes, I see many of our clients scrambling to keep up—and, in the process, falling victim to the most common mistakes SaaS marketers make.
Sometimes these issues arise from a lack of knowledge. Sometimes they’re the byproduct of company politics. But no matter the source, collectively, these mistakes will sabotage your marketing and hurt your brand in the long run. So, to help you avoid that outcome, I’m breaking down these common problems and offering a few tips to make your marketing as successful as possible.
5 Ways SaaS Marketers Sabotage Themselves
From bad strategy to faulty processes, here are the biggest issues to watch out for.
Mistake 1: You down-prioritize strategy.
SaaS marketers are obsessed with moving quickly. (Again, they’re under an enormous amount of pressure.)
Only 40% of B2B marketers have a documented strategy.
—Content Marketing Institute
I often find clients come to us without a proper documented strategy. Or they claim to have a strategy, but it lives in their heads. This approach is often predicated on this false belief that formalizing and documenting a strategy slows you down.
But a strategy that lives in someone’s head only works for a team of one…sort of. If you ever plan to scale your team (and with a focus on growth, of course you do), you need a strategy to guide your growth. When it comes to a marketing strategy, the reality is that you pay now or you pay later—in time and money. Spoiler: When you wait, you pay a lot more.
- You waste money on things that don’t work instead of approaching content with a developed strategy that lets you measure success—and adjust accordingly.
- You waste time coordinating and producing all that ineffective content. And don’t kid yourself. You will never have more time to tackle your strategy later. As you grow, more people on your team means more complexity and less alignment (specifically because you don’t have a strategy to keep everyone on the same page). Stakes will be higher. Pressure will be higher. Tensions will be higher.
This can all be solved by putting your time and energy into strategy upfront—and tweaking as you go.
Tip: To keep your team on the same page with clear goals, responsibilities, and accountability, use our free B2B toolkit to build an airtight strategy that gets the results you want.
Mistake 2: You’re spending money on PR before there’s a marketing strategy.
This is one of the most common mistakes I observe with potential clients. They’ll often say, “We’ve been working with a PR agency for a while, and now we’ve decided to now start marketing.”
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not anti-PR. It has its place, and a good PR agency is worth every penny. But taking a PR-first approach is often fueled by a desire for quick wins in the short term. This leads to fleeting gains when pursued too early.
If you don’t have a marketing strategy that informs your overall approach, including things like goals, PR strategy, and PR budget, you’re making things harder for yourself.
My advice is to get your marketing strategy dialed in and develop a track record of creating and distributing content on owned channels before you engage a PR agency for the long haul.
You’ll be more likely to have solid benchmarks and a measuring framework in place, which will help you understand the value of your PR investment. You’ll also have more content on deck to feed people once your PR agency gets you placements and traffic.
With a solid strategy, you’ll have a perfectly optimized pipeline to keep people interested and engaged with your brand.
Tip: Use our handy guide to develop a distribution strategy and get your content in front of the right people.
Mistake 3: You’re ignoring brand issues.
Marketing = taking your brand to market. But what if your brand is in bad shape? What if you don’t have a clear sense of self to present to the world or guide your decision-making behind closed doors?
When SaaS marketers focus on content first and fail to nurture their brand, they may have some short-term wins. But long term, the brand will struggle to stand out in the marketplace. Simply put, no matter how amazing your marketing ideas are, if people are sorely disappointed with your brand once they interact with it, you’ll be fighting a never-ending uphill battle.
Luckily, when you have a clear and cohesive brand, your marketing doesn’t have to work that hard. (It’s also a lot easier to create, as strong messaging and an easy-to-use brand style guide make it 100 times easier to create on-brand content as you scale.)
When your brand and marketing are both dialed in, they reinforce each other in a virtuous circle.
Tip: Identify who you are, what you care about, and what your purpose is, then use your messaging and identity to communicate that. To build out a strong brand that includes all these elements, download our free brand strategy toolkit.
Mistake 4: Your team can’t get its act together.
As I said, SaaS marketers are often stressed out, and team dynamics usually play a huge role in this.
I usually see this take form in three toxic ways:
- The free-for-all: Everyone wants to have a say in what marketing does, and decision-making becomes near impossible. Good ideas get caught up in the internal back-and-forth and often die on the vine. (This often results in a merry-go-round of starting projects, killing projects, then blaming an agency for poor results.)
- The dictatorship: At most large companies, the person with the biggest title usually has the final say. But the most senior person is also usually the furthest removed from any one project or campaign and is not best suited to make that call.
- The breakdown: While executive involvement in marketing can lead to problems, their exclusion can as well. Without clear lines of communication and senior buy-in, you can seriously hamper progress (e.g., when a senior decision-maker’s late-stage review sends us back to square one) or even grind things to a halt (e.g., the dreaded “change in direction”).
In all of these cases, folks let internal politics become a blocker, egos get in the way, and growth is stunted. (Note: This is why we keep our eyes peeled for these types of red flags before we take on clients.)
Tip: You need a clear decision-making process, clear shot-callers, and an understanding of everyone’s responsibilities from the jump. Determine these roles at your strategy stage (and please have them defined before you bring in outside help). A healthy decision-making dynamic allows for executive buy-in with regular updates and approval stages.
Mistake 5: You’re afraid of failure.
I know there are many reasons SaaS marketers are afraid to experiment.
- They have a fixed mindset and don’t want to try something that won’t work.
- They don’t want to ruffle feathers or get in trouble with their internal “brand police.”
- They don’t have the resources, budget, or knowledge to pull it off.
Stakes are high, but when you’re too afraid to try something new, you miss out on potentially huge rewards. In application, that timid approach often leads to milk toast creative.
Sometimes, making the wrong decision is better than making no decision.
The key to success is to take logical, calculated, and knowledgeable risks with your creative—something having a strategy can not only justify but encourage.
Tip: Make sure you have your measurement infrastructure set up, then allocate a portion of your budget to testing and experimentation. With your baseline measurement, you can see how your efforts were received—and identify ways to improve next time.
How SaaS Marketers Can Succeed Going Forward
If you’re guilty of one or even all five mistakes here, don’t worry. I’m not here to call you out, only to point you in the right direction. As you assess the state of your marketing operation, there are a few things to focus on for success.
- Remember your goals. Clear, measurable goals can help clear up a lot of internal strife. If you frame every decision in support of your goals, you will have a much better time keeping people aligned and getting the support you need. (This can even help you get more budget.)
- Put your audience first. As you get your own ducks in a row, remember that good marketing is really about making a connection with your audience. Create marketing personas to understand who they are, and look for ways to create content that provides true value to them.
- Get the right help. Finding the right experts is one of the biggest challenges SaaS marketers face, so it’s important to choose an agency that intimately understands your brand and audience. If you’re on the hunt, see our tips to find the right agency for you.
Above all, continue to educate yourself, challenge yourself, and identify new ways to support your team. Feel free to deep dive into our resources center for more content marketing guides, templates, and tools, and let us know if there’s something you’d like to learn more about. We’re always happy to help you do your job better.