Most B2B SaaS marketers face the same challenge – ambitious goals, short timelines, limited budget, small teams., and a renewed demand for capital-efficient growth over a growth-at-all-costs mindset. In her SaaSiest 2023 presentation, “Fuel growth without blowing up your burn rate,” B2B SaaS veteran and go-to-market expert Linda Souza of 42muses shared some concrete marketing hacks to get the most effective results possible with the least amount of effort and cost.
- How you execute should be as strategic as your planning.
- Make sure you’ve designed your overall marketing strategy first (you understand your ICP, value drivers, and so forth), then execute according to that strategy.
- Balance minimum input with maximum output at a high level of quality and effectiveness to achieve efficient growth; i.e., look for high-impact, low-resource ideas.
- Experiment, iterate, and learn.
- Repurpose extensively.
- Speed is critical in the startup world. Don’t get hung up on being perfect.
Bring your strategy to life with strategic execution
You’ve designed your GTM strategy. You know who your ICP is. You understand your audience – who they are, what problems they struggle with, what they care about, and what motivates them. Now it’s time to bring your strategy to life with strategic execution. If you under-execute, execute poorly on your strategy, or if it takes you too long to get to market, then it doesn’t matter how good your strategy is, you’re going to struggle.
So how do we strategically execute our GTM plan to be both efficient and effective?
Balance minimum input, maximum output, and high quality
The guiding principle behind strategic execution for efficient growth is this: What are the high-impact, low-resource ideas you implement that will take the least amount of effort and yield the best results? Make sure your idea is relevant, targeted, and achievable at an acceptable quality level, and it’s going to get you the results you need.
Here are four high-impact, low-effort ideas that you can start implementing today. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a few ideas to spark your own creativity and start moving the needle in your marketing efforts.
Tactic 1: How to launch a data-led PR campaign
Data-led PR has been effective in getting press coverage in top-tier publications in the U.S. for B2B and B2C companies in various industries. As a tech vendor, especially one that is relatively small or unknown, getting coverage in outlets like Forbes and Fast Company can be extremely difficult. One tactic that works is newsjacking – essentially, inserting yourself into a conversation that’s already happening and that the people you’re trying to target are part of (participating in the discussion or they’re listening because it’s affecting what they do).
There are several different ways to go about newsjacking, including: providing an expert opinion (often requires a pre-existing relationship with reporters or previous visibility in the media), offering a controversial or unique perspective, or providing impartial data that is citable and expands understanding of or reactions to the issue at hand. We’ll focus on the third option because it’s often the easiest and least tricky to execute the fastest with lasting results.
Here’s a roadmap of how to execute.
The data should be impartial – ideally sourced with the help of reputable third-party data – that is citable that contributes to the conversation.
Either it’s a data point or some sort of statistic that supports it. What’s being said that you can’t find elsewhere, or maybe it’s controversial and it refutes it, or it just provides additional insight into what’s happening.
Find your topic
First and most important, find a trending topic that’s going to resonate with your audience. It can be an ongoing trend or a moment-in-time event, announcement, or news story. Your topic can be industry-specific or a megatrend that cuts across industries. For example, if you’re in HR tech, you may decide to focus on a topic like quiet quitting and quiet hiring, DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging), mental health and burnout, upskilling, and so forth. Megatrends can include topics such as the economy/impact of a recession, how technology like AI and ChatGPT is being applied to or disrupting everyday life and/or business and/or your specific industry, and more.
Where do you find this information? You’ll find megatrends and big news stories in mainstream media publications and on social media. Trade publications and events that are specific to your ICP are very helpful in surfacing industry-specific trends as well as your industry’s response to those trends. First-hand information is always invaluable. Talk to people in your ICP about the problems they’re trying to solve. Ask your sales and client success teams what they’re hearing from prospects and clients about new challenges and concerns, changes to value drivers, new terminology, and pivots to new directions. Listen to recorded or live sales and client calls just to hear what customers are asking about; it will give you some ideas about what they care about and what’s really top of mind. If you have close relationships with a few reporters, ask them if there is information related to this topic that they haven’t been able to find.
Importantly, once you’ve found one or more trending topics that will resonate with your audience, determine what the tie-in to your product is. It doesn’t need to be “on the nose” but there should be a thread between what’s happening in the world and/or your target industry and the value you can provide. Note that the most cost-effective option with third-party survey providers (we’ll cover that next) is a survey of the general population. Your customers care about their customers and how you can help them better operate and/or better serve their clients and/or attract more clients. So think about your customers’ customers (B2B2C). For example, if you sell into HR, your constituents may care about what job candidates and employees say and do. If you sell into marketing, your prospects may care about consumer buying behaviors. Find that thread and weave it back into your execution strategy.
Run a third-party survey
Once you’ve determined your topic and angle, then it’s time to craft and run a survey. Based on your angle, what would be your dream headline? Come up with several dream headlines and put together a few questions that will help you get the data. You can do a survey with as little as one well-crafted core question (aside from demographics) but having two or three questions is better. If you word your questions well, you can get many data points out of your survey responses. Keep in mind that this isn’t meant to be a lengthy or in-depth market report. Your goal is to get a pulse on how people are responding to something happening now.
In the U.S., Linda recommends running a survey through The Harris Poll as they’re a reputable company very well recognized in the U.S. for their polls. Leveraging a third party like this gives your data credibility and impartiality – you’re not using your client and prospect base, which is a limited and potentially biased pool – and a third party is actually conducting the survey. There are other survey providers as well, such as Cint, which works in 160 countries and is very strong in Europe.
Extract your findings
As soon as you receive your survey data, extract the stats that are most interesting or surprising, or controversial. There will be some big trends across the data but look at the subsections of the data too. For example, you may see pronounced differences between how Gen Z responds versus how millennials respond versus boomers. Sometimes there are differences in the data based on criteria like income, gender, region, and more. Compare your findings to the macro lens of what’s happening in the world or that country or area to make it even more relevant.
Create your visuals
From there, you need to create at least one graphic with your best stat. If you don’t have a graphic designer, Canva has some great templates. Make sure your logo and website appear somewhere on the graphic. The graphic doesn’t need to be fancy, but it’s important to have it as you will include it in your blog post, your press release, and social media. Reporters like having visuals to include if they decide to pick up your story.
You can also auto-create a video with a tool like Lumen5. You will need to do some tweaking of the auto-generated video, but it’s fast and easy to use. Video content is very important nowadays to get you some additional eyeballs.
Write your blog post, but don’t publish it yet
In your blog post, you’re going to include the full results of the survey, not just one or two stats that are most interesting. Make sure you optimize your post for SEO. Your survey is based on a trending topic, so you should be able to get some additional traffic from a well-optimized post.
Insert your graphic(s) and your video (if you have one) into the blog post. Readers will sometimes include those in their own presentations, articles, or social posts.
Add a link in your blog post to a downloadable version of your survey results and/or a webinar to discuss the results if you plan to do one. Include a little bit of information about your offering and the value it delivers in the context of your topic. You need to connect the dots on how this information relates back to what you’re doing because even though it’s a thought leadership piece, you still want to deliver that subtle information. Include one or two sentences towards the end of the post, but don’t publish it before you do the press release.
Circulate a press release under embargo
Write a press release leading with your most interesting stat and dream headline. The press release will be a much slimmer version of your blog post written like a standard press release and including a graphic and/or video (there’s often an extra charge to include multimedia on the newswires) and a link to your blog post for full results of the survey.
You can offer your survey findings as an exclusive to target media outlets or reporters who are writing about this topic by sending it out under embargo a few days or a week before you plan to distribute the press release on the newswires. Once journalists start writing using your data, they are likely to link back to your post to cite their sources, sending you some website traffic and link juice from an SEO standpoint. If your blog post is optimized for SEO and your topic and findings resonate, your post will continue to attract more traffic over the following months (and even years).
Keep it going
This campaign doesn’t have to be a one-off. It’s very easy to extend it beyond this initial phase and repurpose the content in multiple ways. For example, ask five or 10 people what they think about this important or surprising stat. Their responses can be separate articles. Host a panel webinar or podcast to discuss the topic with several experts, clients, or others who are representative of your ICP. Create an email series or work the content into one of your nurture sequences.
Tactic 2: How to create fresh content with expert roundups
Expert roundups are articles made up of quotes on a particular topic by people who have interesting perspectives, experiences, or insights to share. There are a few different ways you can do expert roundups.
Come up with your prompt
Decide on one to three topics and one to five questions for each topic. To keep it easy for participants, you can use a single question. Or, if you want to gather information for several posts or campaigns, you could ask multiple questions. For example, create one topic with three questions or three topics with one question each. The more you ask, the less likely people are to respond because it corresponds to their time commitment, so limit yourself to three to five questions max.
Invite people to comment
Invite experts, clients, and ICP prospects to comment on your topic via self-recorded video, video interview, or email. If you choose a video, you can also transcribe those video responses and use them on social media as well as embedded on your blog. Tip: if your sales team is having trouble making headway into a certain account, perhaps the contact they’re chasing would be a good guest expert to comment on one of your topics. Most people love to be asked their opinion, so it’s a good way to get in front of a prospect. Instead of trying to make a sale, you’re highlighting their expertise and potentially elevating their visibility in the space.
In addition to reaching out to people via LinkedIn and email, you can also use a platform such as Featured.com to source expert quotes. Post the question(s) you want expert commentary on, then pick the quotes you like best.
Publish your articles
Assemble your quotes for each topic or question, add an intro and a conclusion, and you’ve just created an expert roundup. People tend to share this type of content on social media if they’re quoted in an article so be sure to tag them in your posts. If you asked more than one question, each can be a separate article. You can even highlight each quote/expert in separate social media posts or in carousels.
You can also be an expert. For example, you can sign up to be an expert on Featured.com and submit responses to other publications. Or offer to exchange quotes with peers in your network.
Tactic 3: Video the easy way
A fast and easy way to create original and authentic video content is via an inbound video tool that enables video prompts – essentially, a custom question you create. Send a video prompt in an email. Your expert/prospect/client clicks through the link and is prompted to create a recording from their phone or computer. The video is directly recorded in the browser and uploaded into a tool where you can review, edit, and approve the content. People record on their own time, and you publish what you like.
Create inbound testimonials, reviews, expert answers, and employee spotlights using tools like Vocal Video, Boast.io, and Testimonial.to. You can even have your CSMs share some of their favorite client stories without naming names, their favorite features or hacks or best practices, stories about where they’ve seen your product add value, or even what it’s like to work for your company.
You can also auto-create videos from blog posts and short scripts. Using tools like Lumen5, for example, you can insert your blog post or other link into the tool and it will automatically generate a video. Consider these videos as first drafts as they will require some editing to get them to the level of quality and personalization needed, but it’s a good shortcut.
Tactic 4: Use generative AI to save time on drafts
AI won’t replace marketers anytime soon. But marketers who know how to leverage AI will replace those who don’t. As such, it’s important that as marketers we are experimenting and learning and employing AI in a way that’s beneficial for ourselves and for our customers to make sure we’re getting value out of it.
How to use ChatGPT for first drafts
There are vast use cases for AI in marketing; we’ll focus on generative AI using ChatGPT. If you’re not comfortable with ChatGPT yet, AIPRM offers an extremely helpful extension for Chrome with one-click prompts. It’s free and it has lots of different prompts that are pre-written for marketing (and other business functions) – for example, content calendars and writing, SEO campaigns, outrank articles, budgeting, and more.
Realize that ChatGPT is not going to give you perfect output (thankfully, or we’d be out of a job!). Think of it as a first draft to get ideas and a framework for you to improve and iterate on, but not a final product.
Caption: AIPRM prompts
ChatGPT prompt tips
Prompt creation is an important skill: the better your prompts, the better your results. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Use simple language and sentences.
- Clearly define your topic or question.
- Set context; provide relevant background information.
- Keep it concise.
- Avoid biased language or leading questions.
- Say whether you want an informative answer, an opinion, or ideas.
- Use examples or comparisons.
- Specify the number of items you want.
- Check for grammar and spelling errors.
- Rephrase or provide more info and try again if you’re not getting the output you want.
- Remember: it’s only a draft that you will need to evolve.
Be strategic in how you execute
All of these tips and ideas are meant to be examples of how you can balance minimum input with maximum output at a high level of quality and effectiveness to achieve efficient growth.
Experiment, iterate, and learn. Repurpose creatively. Try new things, and quickly move on from those that are not effective for your ICP. And, most importantly, just start and don’t get hung up on being perfect. Speed is critical in the startup world.
What other efficient growth hacks have you tried?