Last week I wrote about the science of SaaS marketing, with particular emphasis on funnel efficacy. Today, I’ll take you through my perspective on the art of SaaS marketing, with emphasis on the intersections with the science, as well as the management of creators. This is especially relevant to content marketing — which, in SaaS, is the majority of what drives results.
A scientific marketing practice seeks to know rather than guess. What we seek to know is which assets and messages most efficiently drive new revenue through which channels. While that entire process is quite creative in its own right, assets and messages are especially rife for artistic interpretation and experimentation. And when I say artistic, I’m not only talking about look, feel and design. I’m also talking about function. And I’m certainly talking about messaging. A culture of continuous improvement is based on experimentation with the art of SaaS marketing.
SaaS Marketing Assets
Creating Purpose-Driven Value with the Art of SaaS Marketing
Creative assets are the things we make in content marketing. They are often traded with potential prospects for something they have of equal value. Assets are everything from blog posts, videos, and webinars, to white papers, tools, case studies, eBooks, and so on. Asset value is relative, with some being only valuable enough to trade for engagement, and others being valuable enough to trade for leads or even deep profiles. Intentional effort should be consistently invested in creating purpose-driven assets of value.
We make assets to be as relevant as possible for our ideal customer.
But the number of variables within an asset is legion. Those variables impact the asset’s relevance and perceived value. Experimenting with the creative variables of point-of-view, message, and design directly impacts value, which translates to increased yield from that asset. And that’s what it’s all about in SaaS.
When you improve the yield from anything in marketing, you improve the capital efficiency of customer acquisition.
Coaching Creatives within a Scientific Process
Coaching creative people to channel their passion within a quantitative process can be challenging. In my experience, lack of sensitivity to this dynamic results in weak work. If the assets produced are creatively weak, everything suffers. So we can’t have that. We need creatives passionately committed within a culture that focuses on results. This gets back to the intentional creation of purpose-built assets. When creatives know what the desired outcome is, they can create for that outcome. When that mission is unclear, so is the work, and the results.
So, for me, rule number one of the art of SaaS marketing is to clearly define the desired outcome from every piece of creative.
Desired outcomes don’t only apply to assets. And it’s not the only important standard to be set up front. The other goes back to relative value. Assets need to be developed to fulfill a value proposition. A self-serving sell sheet can’t be traded for a lead, but an educational eBook can. Likewise, a demo video can’t be traded for a lead, but an educational webinar can. Outcomes and relative value go hand in hand, and creators need to know both before they begin work. Those are the standards of success to which their work will be held. And that’s how they themselves must align their personal success with that of the marketing team and the organization as a whole.
Diverging Art & Science, Suffering Results
When I’ve seen the art and science diverge there’s opacity between the quantitative and qualitative sides of the house. Alignment and transparency are key to fostering a sense of shared purpose and accountability. Testing isn’t an enemy of creativity, it’s a tool used to make creativity better. This is no different than design and usability arguments that go back to the mid 90’s. I’ve been a staunch advocate for user experience since building my first enterprise website back in ’94. The principle is the same today: Design is far more valuable when it actually works.
Scientific marketing measures how well all this creative actually works. We just need to be clear about what that means and how we’re measuring success.
The Messages That Frame Our Assets
If the art of SaaS marketing is rooted in assets, it plays out on a much wider scale across the messages that drive traffic to those assets. There are often hundreds or even thousands of messages that drive engagement to a single asset. This is how we talk about what we’ve made. There are many variables to test and messages don’t perform consistently across channels. That means you can’t test once and apply your results everywhere. You will find different winners in different channels. There’s no right answer. That, in and of itself, can be challenging for creators to wrap their heads around.
Before there was data-driven scientific marketing, there was brainstorming and educated guessing on which creative path would be most effective. Today, the art of SaaS marketing still starts with brainstorming, but deciding which ideas are most effective is left to the audience. Their behaviors make the decisions for us. As long as desired outcomes are clearly defined, it’s pretty hard to argue what works and what doesn’t.
Managing Creatives for Success
The psychology of creatives can be fragile. That’s in no way a criticism or indictment. They are artists who must be managed to remain artful, even in a scientific culture of measurement and continuous improvement. Creators must passionately believe that the science is making their art better. And ultimately, making them better creators.
From a management perspective, iterative cycles of improvement lead to relatively rapid learning. Creatives who thrive in that environment will be easy to spot. They will be the ones who learn and apply what works. This means you see an acceleration to plateaus of higher efficacy. Those who don’t thrive will make the same missteps over and over again. With the fast learners, the baseline of your content efficiency rises over time, leading to reduced resource and calendar waste. Raising that baseline lowers costs and accelerates lead-to-revenue velocity.
In SaaS content marketing, you will ultimately find ceilings to content effectiveness. But shortening the distance between your baseline and ceiling is the key to faster results from a finely tuned SaaS content marketing machine. That’s the sweet spot where the science and art are much more than the sum of their parts.