From startup to scale-up: tips from 2 top marketers
Want your startup to scale up?
Then you need to invest in a B2B marketing strategy that's proven to get results.
A marketing strategy that Cognism CMO, Alice de Courcy, knows quite a bit about and is always happy to share!
She recently sat down with Francesca Rock, Content Marketing Manager at Kleene.ai, on our Revenue Champions podcast.
In this article, we take a look at their discussion. It includes everything from partner marketing, which channels to prioritise when scaling B2B SaaS, measuring content success, and more.
To start, scroll 👇 or click one of the topics below to head directly to it.
Kleene.ai is currently in its growth phase, looking to raise series A.
“At this stage, I’d suggest identifying those companies that have a similar ICP to you and perhaps one stage of growth ahead, but aren't a direct competitor and connecting with them. They are more likely to be reciprocal on the help front. Then you find you'll start building relationships which will be helpful when you start looking for partners to do webinars and other content activities with.”
Partnership marketing does have benefits. It can help your organisation engage with new audiences, expand your revenue channels and increase your reach.
But it needs to be done right, and that means starting with a plan of action.
Seek out the companies you want to partner with. Make a connection so you can start building a relationship with them.
Good companies to look for are those who share the same goals as you but aren’t direct competitors. Look at those that are perhaps a stage of growth ahead of you, as they will have a greater audience size to tap into.
It also makes sense to reach out to businesses that complement your own.
For instance, Cognism is a B2B sales and marketing intelligence platform, so we want to partner with companies that also sell into sales and marketing leaders, but that are not directly competitive.
Or even products and services that we use in our day-to-day, like Bombora or Salesforce.
Will it be webinars, videos, podcasts, or a series of guest blogs?
These will be things you need to consider.
In the early days you don't need to have a nailed down plan. You'll naturally get organisations to partner with on initiatives more easily than others.
Double down on these, create a cadence for regular communication and sharing of your marketing plans to find synergy and further opportunities to collaborate.
Paid and organic
For Francesca, her main focus is organic marketing - writing blogs, doing case studies, and getting the website optimised.
Any paid goes toward LinkedIn campaigns.
This is a great start, but Alice advises:
“An easy win for any startup marketing strategy is getting your low hanging fruit Google Ads bases covered. These are your largest competitors and your highest intent keywords. These can then form the basis for your SEO prioritisation in the early days.”
“By creating these key SEO pages, people will be able to find you when they’re searching for your competitor or that specific keyword term.”
Your focus should be on creating a well-rounded content plan that supports your paid campaigns and covers the low hanging fruit opportunities.
Your priority for paid:
Set a daily spend for a specific time period and track your progress daily.
Then see where you can improve based on your findings.
Do you need to pause it, change it, or end it?
Give the campaign enough time to optimise and for the platforms' algorithms to kick in before you make any of these decisions.
“When testing, we've always seen one far outperform the other, so we'll either cancel or pause the one that isn't doing well and move our budget into the one that's doing better.”
Just don't forget to look outside your paid ad platform metrics. Alice adds:
“One thing we've found is that we've had campaigns that were delivering record breaking CPL's, but then we received more revenue from other campaigns, and at the end of the day, revenue is what we care about. So when this happens, try to alternate your spend according to end game (revenue) and make sure you are looking outside of just the ad platform metrics to do so.”
But, whatever you do, don’t delay your testing! Alice shared this useful hack:
“If you've got a HubSpot site, you can get a Google Ads landing page spun up and running to start testing in very little time. It doesn't cost a lot and can be done with services like HubSnacks if you lack the internal development resource to build a template for this yourself.”
For more information, check out this article by DesignerHire on creating effective landing pages.
After this, your priority should be on the content you're putting out.
When you are in startup mode this is your biggest opportunity for success on a limited budget.
“Don't worry so much about case studies right now. Being a startup means case studies are out of your control in the early days. It's important to have a process in place for when you are able to start collecting these, but they are likely to be slow going early on. Build a process, agree on the customer journey touch point triggers with sales and CS and then look to other content opportunities to focus on.”
Instead of putting too much time and effort into case studies, Alice believes you should build up your reputation and customer relationships.
By being the very best content provider in your industry.
“You can't suddenly outrank or outspend your competitor. They've probably been doing this for years and have a larger budget and optimised website already. So you can't be what they are, but what you can be is the best content provider for your buyer’s needs in your market. That's what will make you stand out. Focus on making content your unfair competitive advantage.”
“You want to provide content that educates, informs and takes your buyers on that journey from research to reviewing.”
Which often means gated content - but is it the best way to go?
There’s a lot of debate around whether content should still be gated or not.
Cognism has been trialling a new strategy.
We used to be 100% gated, but now we’re about 60% gated.
Our inbounds have gone up by 40%!
“First, we map out where we feel we've been providing enough value that a gated piece makes sense, and also what stage the buyer is at so our content offers value before they convert. We haven't stopped gating content altogether - it's not going to be probable for us in our business model right now, but the results we’ve received have really been paying off for us. Now we want to focus on building more high-quality content.”
One example of a great gated piece is to offer a template.
It’s cheap, it’s tactical, and prospects find them incredibly valuable.
But don’t gate a template that you can find just anywhere.
Something that has worked from a gated perspective is offering a valuable free tool. Alice recited a recent example from Cognism:
“We’ve found our TAM calculator to be really popular. When people use it, they can find out their ideal profiles, and then we send them a sample of our contact data. It's been great for us because it gives us a different kind of CTA to use other than our normal demo CTA, and the quality of the leads has been much better. There is a real value exchange here and you are giving people a feel for your product without asking them to give up an hour of their time for a demo.”
If you’re thinking of creating something like this, look to help make your customers' lives easier.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or fluffy. Just take what you already have and repack or build on it; all it has to be is something your customers will keep coming back to use.
Re-engaging with your buyers is an integral part of your lead generation strategy.
LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube are the channels that work really well for this. But the most important thing here is not to have one giant, all-encompassing retargeting campaign.
Instead, break each one down.
And if it's an email retargeting campaign, segment your lists for better personalisation. Alice explains how this works:
“Cognism has several retargeting campaigns that focus on people that have downloaded content or people who have been engaging with our awareness phase content on paid channels. This is very much video content and things like that. We try to treat each campaign differently by pushing each customer through a different funnel according to the content they've interacted with.”
It's important to personalise each retargeting campaign to focus on different phases of each customer journey.
The idea is to use as many platforms as possible so that your customers see your brand frequently, leading to more opportunities in the future as you become top of mind and renowned for quality content.
Remember, only 5% of your target market will be in buying mode at any one time. So you need to look out for that 95%!
Set up a schedule for refreshing this content, whether it be the asset itself, the creative or the whole campaign.
If you're wondering what to say when re-engaging, Alice recommends always leading with value. Even if they don't convert, they’ll still want communication from you:
“You can consistently deliver content of value, and then when things on the product side change, you're top of mind. But, for now, you're just building a relationship by being the brand that gives them value each and every time.”
Don’t try to overcomplicate things by sending five people one specific re-engagement advert.
Say, for example, you did a super-targeted campaign. The likelihood of them seeing your ad or reading the email is slim even by the best statistics.
You want to ensure you get in front of them in a way and place you know they’ll appreciate, and remove the friction to enable that engagement.
And that's content.
Remember, you wrote that content to be consumed, so don't get in the way of your own success.
To help you make the most out of your marketing you’ll need to invest in a great tech stack.
- HubSpot - a world-leading CSM. You can link up your website, create blogs/landing pages and schedule your social media there.
Alice describes it best:
“I love HubSpot's CSM, and HubSnacks is so great! It's like devs on demand, so no matter what we need, from template creation to landing pages, we can get it, and it's very cost-efficient. $900 a month for as many requests as possible. I found that it works well at scale and in the early stages.”
- Pardot - Pardot is great for automating your demand generation marketing, like sending out personalised email campaigns.
Salesforce - the number one CRM platform. It easily integrates with other SaaS solutions like Cognism. You can use it to automate your marketing and pull analytics.
BEE Free is great for creating professional email templates quickly. You don't need to know any code, and it's scalable!
SendGrid - if you do outbound marketing, use SendGrid to protect your IP. It also ensures you get good deliverability.
Ahrefs - an SEO tool that helps you keep track of your keywords and analyse what your competitors are doing. It will come in handy when building your content plan.
Google Analytics - a marketing must-have! Google Analytics helps you measure your advertising ROI and track some core content indicators.
Cognism - believe it or not, we do use our own product! It’s just that good. Cognism is a great B2B data source, especially if you're going down the route of demand marketing and moving away from contact acquisitions with gated content.
No matter what you do with your marketing, make sure content is your priority.
You don’t need a massive budget for it - it’s about being creative!
As a startup, you can afford to take risks, test, learn, and grow.
It’s better to build a community that can grow with you as you scale than to put money into someone else's.
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