Blog

SaaS Marketing Channels: The Only 9 Growth Channels You Need In 2020

With so many SaaS marketing channels available, how do you decide which ones to focus on? It’s an excellent question to consider. Rather than merely drowning you in a list of marketing options, let’s consider strategy first, and then you can choose the right channels.

SaaS Marketing Strategy: 4 Questions To Answer Before You Choose Channels

While software as a service (SaaS) companies have some unique factors like subscription revenue, they still need to answer a few fundamental questions. At a minimum, you need to have the right answers to these four questions.

1) Who is our customer?

B2B companies sometimes struggle to answer this question effectively. An answer that says, “Fortune 500 companies” is incomplete at best. A much better answer: “VP of marketing at Fortune 500 companies in the financial services industry.” If your sales process involves multiple stakeholders, focus on the people likely to be most influential first.

2) What is our market’s level of sophistication?

Inspired by the classic book “Breakthrough Advertising,” by Gene Schwartz, this question is about your market’s sophistication. To illustrate the point, consider the challenge of selling cloud or SaaS software in the 1990s or early 2000s. Most people were unaware of the technology. That created significant challenges for many in the space.

In contrast, most businesses are aware and relatively sophisticated about cloud software options today. In that case, your marketing message and channels will need to change. For instance, you talk about advanced cybersecurity features to niches concerned about those capabilities like financial services, defense, and healthcare.

For more insight on the 5 levels of sophistication, Copyblogger has an excellent guide: The 5 Types of Online Prospects, and How to Sell to Each of Them.

3) What marketing skills and resources does the team have?

Unless you have the resources of a Salesforce, Microsoft, or IBM, most SaaS companies I know have significant skill and resource limitations. That’s why it is worth considering the capabilities of the team first. For example, if you are outstanding at events, focus on that marketing channel. Talk to a digital marketing consultant to help you with other channels. You can improve your team’s capabilities by investing in marketing tools.

4) What’s unique or distinctive about our offer?

Ask yourself why a customer should buy your software versus a competitor or maintaining the status quo. With software products, you are often competing against manual processes or even spreadsheets. For example, many small businesses use spreadsheets to manage customer data. A short, clear message about how your product adds value makes sense.

To give an example of distinct SaaS features, I like Pipedrive CRM for two reasons. I like that it visually presents sales activity by step, and I love the integration with Google email (i.e., GSuite). For more insight on that front, take a look at my post: How Using Pipedrive CRM Improved My Business Habits.

Now that you have answers to these questions let’s dive into the specific SaaS marketing channels.

The Top 9 SaaS Marketing Channels: Choose Your Own Adventure

To build a portfolio of SaaS marketing channels, review this roundup of ten options.

1) SEO and Content Marketing

Image result for seo content marketing

Advantages: Generally produces highly engaged leads because your prospects are connected to searcher intent. There are also some low entry points that make getting started easy.

Disadvantages: Content marketing and SEO are medium to long term strategies to deliver results. It can take 6-18 months to achieve results. Faster results are possible by adding more resources and using specific software tools like UberSuggest.

Cost: Expertise is the main cost of this channel. You can develop it in-house or work with a consultant or agency. If your field is highly competitive (e.g., financial services and most B2B niches), it will be more expensive to get results.

Overview:

SEO and content marketing are my specialty areas, so focus so I may be biased. I recommend this strategy since it produces long-lasting results. This channel also benefits from other marketing efforts such as public relations, thought leadership, and activities. If you want to take a do it yourself approach, I recommend reading “They Ask, You Answer” by Marcus Sheridan. It’s one of the books I recommend in my post: 10 Must-Read Books for SaaS Marketers and Founders (+1 Bonus At The End).

2) Social Media (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)

Image result for social media saas growth

Advantages: Social media sites are designed to be easy to use so that you can start a company page on Facebook, LinkedIn, and elsewhere easily. In addition, these platforms have large numbers of active users, so you can probably reach some or all of your target market.

Disadvantages: Years ago, you could achieve great results on social media without paying a dime. That’s all changed. With a few exceptions – LinkedIn publishing comes to mind – you need to pay for access on social media. Building a social media following, instead of an email list, means you have less access to your audience.

Cost: Varies depending on your approach. At the low end, you could use to use these platforms without paying for advertising. In that case, you pay for expertise and talent to create content, connect with other people, and generate leads. At the high end, there is no limit to how much you can spend on these platforms.

Overview:

When it comes to selling SaaS products through social media, there are a few success stories to highlight. ClickFunnels, a marketing automation platform, generally does well and leverages the personal brand of co-founder Russell Brunson. Gong, a sales automation platform, is doing excellent work connecting with prospects on LinkedIn. I suspect that both companies use social media advertising to extend their reach.

3) SaaS Directories: Software and App Listings

Advantages: The potential to acquire highly targeted traffic since these websites are the destination for prospects actively looking for a solution. For example, a business user may browse Capterra to discover new customer relationship management (CRM) software. To give yourself an advantage, you can ask your customers to write ratings and reviews for your product.

Disadvantages: Since SaaS directories usually list many companies in a given category, your positioning may suffer. In some cases, these directories facilitate feature by feature comparison between products. That kind of comparison may not be helpful in the case of less mature products.

Cost: SaaS directories generally have some combination of free and paid listings. It is wise to start with a free directory listing first. If you find good results, you can always pay for more exposure and potentially traffic later on.

Overview:

From an SEO and discovery perspective, SaaS directories are an easy win. I recommend adding at least 3-5 SaaS directories to your list of SaaS marketing channels. Why that few? For the best results, directory listings need updates and maintenance. For example, you might reach out to customers monthly to ask them to write a review and provide updates on new features and integrations. It’s easier to maintain a small number of directory listings effectively versus spreading your efforts too thinly.

SaaS Directories List

1) Capterra

2) Compare The Cloud

3) DiscoverCloud

4) Featured Customers

5) G2

6) pickSaaS

7) SaaS Genius

8) SaaS Max

9) SaaSHub

10) Software Advice

11) Software Suggest 

12) Growth Junkie

4) SaaS Directories: Local Listings

Advantages: Adding your company to a local listing (e.g., Toronto Startups) is a fast and easy way to raise your profile. Adding your profile to such a listing also makes it easier to network with local companies.

Disadvantages: Since there is a low barrier to entry for these websites, do not expect a tremendous amount of traffic or SEO benefits.

Cost: There are free options where your company is on a long list, along with many others. In other cases, local listings take the form of a member directory. For example, consider the Toronto Board of Trade – there is a member directory, but you need to be a paying member to be listed.

Overview:

With local listings, you will probably obtain some useful links and a moderate amount of traffic. The real benefit comes from using your membership in local organizations to network. Not sure where to get started with networking? I recommend the classic networking book “Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz. As with traditional software directory listings, it is best to choose a small number of local listings to focus your efforts on when you are getting started.

Tip: Local listings are an “Easy Win” that should deliver at least 5-10 worthwhile links to your website. These listings are also helpful in terms of increasing your credibility as a business.

Local Directories List:

1) Built in Austin

2) Built in Boston

3) Built in Chicago

4) Built in LA

5) Built in NYC

6) Built in Seattle

7) Built in San Francisco

8) Startups of London

9) Toronto Startups List

10) Vancouver Startups List

5) Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising for SaaS

Advantages: You only pay when a user clicks on your ads. That means it is possible to get started with a small budget. Further, PPC advertising based on search (i.e., “paid search”) tends to put you in front of highly targeted prospects.

Disadvantages: PPC platforms require considerable technical and marketing expertise. For example, Google Ads has many different settings to target locations, ad scheduling, and demographics. Further, there is an art to copywriting for Google Ads. Not everybody can write a good ad in just a hundred characters.

Cost: you decide how much you want to spend. However, some industries have high click prices, so small budgets may not go far. For example, B2B keywords in Google Ads often see a cost per click prices of $10 or more. That means smaller budgets are going to struggle to generate results. There is a silver lining here – you generally have a cost advantage when you advertise on your brand name. For example, Cisco buying ads on keywords “Cisco” will usually have lower PPC advertising costs compared to advertising on other kinds of keywords.

Overview:

In 2020, I’ve made developing my Google Ads skills a key learning priority. It’s a powerful platform because you escape the challenge of spam and interruption marketing. Instead, you only show up when a customer enters a search related to your topic. While you can start spending money on Google Ads in less than 24 hours, results may take longer. As a rule of thumb, I recommend giving a Google Ads campaign at least three months to show results. If your team lacks the expertise to run these ads, consider working with a specialized agency or consultant.

Recommended Resources: I recommend the Paid Search Podcast for fun and timely perspective on all things Google Ads. Note that the podcast does not explicitly focus on SaaS marketing, so you will need to pick and choose which observations apply to your situation.

6) Event Marketing For Software Companies

Advantages: In event marketing, you have the chance to meet highly qualified prospects. In general, the more attendees pay to be at the event, the better. With events, you can connect with a large number of people in short order.

Disadvantages: I’m writing this post during March 2020 (i.e., COVID pandemic!). There are cases when it is going to be difficult and perhaps even irresponsible to hold traditional in-person events. In normal conditions, the other drawback to event marketing is the long lead time necessary to plan. The other disadvantage is that you need to have a solid follow up plan in place to translate conversations into business opportunities.

Cost:  Depends on ticket prices. If you are budget constrained, look for local events first.

Overview:

Depending on your resources, there are several ways to approach event marketing. First, you can pull out all the steps and organize a giant conference like Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event, which draws tens of thousands of attendees. Second, you can organize smaller scale events based on a theme or region (e.g., TechToronto is a fantastic event for Toronto based technology companies). Third, you can leverage events as an attendee or exhibitor.

If you are an attendee or exhibitor at an event, it pays to set yourself specific goals. Without that direction, I find that I tend to take notes from the presenters, enjoy the food and drink, and then head home. My event marketing key performance indicator is to talk to five people in an evening.

7) Podcast Tours

Advantages: You can share your professional story and information about your product for 15 minutes or even over an hour in some cases. Audio also creates a certain kind of conversational connection that is hard to replicate in other channels.

Disadvantages: You need some hustle and patience to make this marketing channel work. In addition, you also need to be comfortable speaking about your company at length and answering questions. Most of the time, podcasts tours for SaaS are best when the founder or CEO appears as a guest. In some cases, a VP of marketing or similar person can take on the role, but this is relatively rare.

Cost: The only cost is labor if somebody else does it for you. Or you can do it all yourself! 

Overview:

Podcasts, sometimes called Internet radio, are one of my favorite content mediums. In the SaaS industry, there are a few outstanding shows, including Mixergy, the SaaS Revolution Show, The Official SaaStr Podcast, and The Top podcast by Nathan Latka. Of course, you’re not limited to appearing as a guest on business podcasts. If you have a financial software product, look for finance and accounting podcasts. For the best results, I recommend listening to one or two episodes of a podcast before you reach out to ask to appear on it. That pre-work will give you much higher credibility and a better chance to convince the podcast host to agree.

Resource: Look into Kai Davis’s excellent resource Podcast Outreach for additional guidance.

8) Public Speaking For SaaS Growth

Advantages: Unlike simply attending an event, public speaking puts you on a stage. As a result, you instantly become more credible to the audience. That means you have inbound leads at the conference if you speak well.

Disadvantages: You need to craft a compelling message and deliver it well. Usually, you will not be able to provide a product demo. Instead, you will need to talk about the problems and issues in your industry.

Cost: Depending on your success as a speaker, you may earn income from public speaking! However, you should not expect that happen in the case of SaaS promotion. Instead, you might receive free event tickets, and you might receive partial or full travel expenses.

Overview:

Public speaking for SaaS growth is a tried and true formula. If you are getting started, start with local events first. If you have a sizable budget, you might organize your event like Unbounce’s annual event: the Call To Action Conference. For most of you, you will get the best results from pitching yourself to industry conferences covering a wide variety of topics.

For those interested in this strategy, you need to identify a list of conferences. Instead of simply adding a list of conferences, I have a different approach for you. Use the “portfolio reconnaissance” strategy – find out where SaaS public speakers are speaking. Start with the SaaS speakers page on SpeakersHub.com.

Tip: End your public speaking presentation with a clear call to action like signing up for an email list. You can offer a free download of your speaking slides. Check with the conference organizers before you finalize your call to action because they may have restrictions you need to follow.

9) Podcast Sponsorships: Scaling SaaS Growth By Audio

Advantages: Highly targeted advertising that goes straight in the ears of your target market. You also get added credibility because podcast hosts tend to read the ad copy personally.

Disadvantages: Compared to other marketing channels, it is tough to find the right podcast. There are some listings to help. However, you need to ask detailed questions about audience size and engagement.

Cost: Pay more for exposure on larger podcasts. According to Advertise Cost, it costs $18 for a 30-second ad CPM or $25 for a 60-second ad CPM. CPM means cost per 1,000 listeners. Based on these averages, it would cost you $25,000 to reach a podcast with 100,000 listeners with a 60-second ad.

Overview:

As podcast listening has grown in popularity, podcast advertising has taken off in popularity. In contrast to podcast tours, podcast ads are easy to scale up if you have more money than time. Not sure if it works? I discovered Opteo – an advertising SaaS platform – via their sponsorship on the Paid Search Podcast.

SaaS Marketing Channels: Grow Your Business In 5 Hours Per Week

You might be feeling overwhelmed about the sheer variety of options on the table. That’s ok. Take a deep breath. You can produce results form these marketing channels in just five hours per week. Here is a simple marketing schedule that almost anyone can manage. If you have more capacity, add more channels to your efforts. To start with, I recommend choosing two marketing channels: focus 80% of your efforts on one channel and the remaining 20% of your efforts on the other channel. Commit to this focus for at least 90 days before revisiting your choice of channels.

1) Choose Your 80/20 Marketing Focus

You only have a few hours per week to achieve SaaS marketing success, so let’s focus. First, choose your top focus where you will spend 80% of your time (i.e., 4 hours per week). Second, reserve some capacity (i.e., 1 hour) per week for experimentation. Reserving some time for experimental ideas helps you to resist “bright shiny object” syndrome.

2) Create Marketing Copy and Content

Now that you have selected a channel, it is time to create your copy, social media updates, and messaging. If you have the time, ask a colleague to review what you’ve created.

3) Hit Publish

Put your marketing into the world! Sure, take some time to use tools like Grammarly to check your work. Until you publish your content and copy, you will not get ahead.

4) Engage With Your Community

If your SaaS marketing channel has social elements such as likes and comments, check back and engage with the comments. As you grow your presence, you may have to pick and choose where to spend your engagement time.

5) Measure Marketing Results

Choose a monitoring frequency such as monthly or quarterly, and review your results. At a minimum, you should measure changes in website traffic. Ideally, you want to set up conversion tracking to measure how many leads and customers you get from each channel.

Need SaaS Marketing Help Right Now?

Executing all of these SaaS marketing channels is difficult without outside support. Send me a message through the contact form if you’d like to discuss ways to grow your SaaS business.

TechTO March 2020: Celebrating Toronto’s Women Technology Leaders & More

TechTO’s March event, held shortly after International Women’s Day, celebrated a fantastic group of women in technology companies. I’m not sure when the next TechTO event will take place given the COVID19 developments, alas. However, there was plenty to learn from this event. Here are a few brief observations on the event.

Diana Goodwin (MarketBox): Reflections on Funding vs. Bootstrapping Business Models

With a background in B2C technology, Goodwin has expertise with B2C and B2B technology companies. Her presentation on MarketBox – the Shopify of services – was fascinating to hear about. Her first company, AquaMobile, grew based on profits while her current venture has sought out investor support. The most important lesson from her presentation: relationships. She had known the vital early investors in MarketBox for five years or more. That’s an important point to keep in mind – you don’t always have to rely on “The Big Pitch” to win funding for your technology company.

Donna de Winter On The Business Triangle

Bringing a wealth of experience in C suite roles, de Winter shared her perspective with TechTO. Using a triangle metaphor, she made excellent points about the interconnected nature of business problems. For example, if the sales team solves the problem of not selling enough contracts, that increase in sales creates pressure on customer success. Fundamentally, you should expect constraints in business rather than being surprised by them.

Highlighting the interconnected nature of business problems is a necessary counterweight to keep in mind. Generally, I tend to focus on maximizing marketing and sales results like driving more SEO traffic, getting more email leads, and booking SaaS demos. However, if a company cannot execute on an increased level of leads and prospects, the marketing team needs to know that. Otherwise, you could end up creating a bad impression when overworked sales staff struggle to give every prospect the attention they deserve.

Announcements and Events Coming Up: Lighthouse Labs, Toronto Real Estate Tech And A Technology Meetup

Lulwa Saffarini from Lighthouse Labs shared some interesting comments about their company’s approach to teaching technology skills. They are launching a new data science program. From an employer’s point of view, Lighthouse Labs is also interesting because they do make the tough decision to fail students who do not meet their expectations.

While women leaders were a focus at the event, I also met a few other people of note. During the Community Open Mic session, I learned about NxtHm from founder George O’Neill. It’s an exciting way to bring more transparency to the real estate market. I’m glad to see further innovation in Canada’s real estate sector, which has been relatively slow to adapt to the digital revolution. I hope resources like this can reduce the kind of buying frenzies that make Toronto real estate transactions so stressful.

Finally, an event announcement to share.

Adam Delgado from North Technology People is hosting the Toronto Data Science & Engineer, Big Data, AI & ML Meetup in the spring. The Meetup already has 160 members, so it should be a good event. If you’re interested in the event, get in touch with Adam for more details.

Lessons From Toronto’s Product Management Leaders: A TechTO Event

When TechTO announced the launch of a new event series, “TechTO Product,” I was excited. Product management is a growing field in Toronto. I was curious to hear more, and the event delivered the goods. Launching something brand new is always a bit scary. Congratulations to Belinda Alzner and Matt McCausland for hosting the sold-out event. I’m already looking forward to the next product event in the summer.

Product Management: Three Evergreen Lessons To Win In Product Management

In the panel discussion on product management, several lessons came through loud and clear. Start by setting your expectations – you are going to see conflict on the team. Even if everybody is highly motivated and excited, every professional will bring a different emphasis. Designers, developers, and marketers will see various opportunities. The product manager needs to balance this feedback and

Lesson 1: Engage The Organization, Not Just The Product Team

Craig Saila, Director of Digital Products at CBC, made some excellent points about reaching out beyond the product team. He suggests organizing drop-in sessions and other avenues for people in the organization to provide feedback. Anger, opposition, and other problems are more likely to happen when people feel like they have no chance to speak up.

Lesson 2: Do The Pre-Work To Earn Product Support

As a product manager, persuasion, and maintaining support for the product is critical. Amanda Tersigni, Senior Technical Product Manager at Achievers, had an excellent tip for product managers to keep support. Before a significant product meeting, reach out to stakeholders for 1 on 1 meeting. Do this pre-work effectively, and you will walk into the big meeting with 50% or more of the stakeholders on your side.

Lesson 3: Always Make Time For Relationship Building

As a task-oriented person, I sometimes neglect the value of relationship building. It turns out that this “check off all the tasks” mentality is sometimes a struggle in product management as well.

As a product manager, you are often leading without formal authority. Therefore, it is foolish to think that you can order people around. Take Nataliya Becker’s suggestion to heart – get to know the people on your team and their motivations. For example, a junior developer might be hungry for the spotlight so they can advance professionally. By connecting with that motivation, you can earn their support on your product work.

Critical Do’s and Don’ts From A Product Management Veteran

In the second half of the event, Kim Phelan, Sr. Director of Product Management at Loblaw Digital, shared a few insights from deep experience in product management.

From my notes, there are a few excellent tips I’d like to share.

  • Avoid The “Code Monkey” Trap. Handing out orders to your developers is unwise because they will lack context on the product goal. The developers will probably become demotivated over time. To avoid treating developers as code monkeys, always take the time to explain the context of what you are trying to achieve.
  • Burn The Midnight Oil With Your Team. Phelan shared an example of working late with her team while they were working on hitting a critical deadline. Technically speaking, she did not have any product deliverables due. However, merely being present with the team made a big difference in how she was perceived. The developers now saw her as “one of us” rather than a disconnected leader.

Product Management vs. Project Management?

A few years ago, I earned my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. As I listened to the discussion, I saw a lot of common ground between product and project work. While products are ongoing vs. the temporary nature of projects, product managers could gain much from established project management techniques whether you use agile, scrum, or traditional waterfall methods. 

SaaS Churn Metrics: Insights From 16 Companies with ACV Over $100,000

When you look at your SaaS churn numbers and SaaS metrics, should you be worried?

Is the business healthy? Trend analysis over time will give you some insight. However, that level of analysis may not be enough if you want to earn attention and funding from investors. Courtesy of Nathan Latka’s GetLatka database’s great B2B SaaS data, we have the answers.

Are you looking for a hot niche to join in B2B SaaS? Three segments stand out to me. First, the marketing and advertising automation category is booming! Second, cybersecurity software broadly defined is growing at a steady clip. Finally, there are opportunities for big wins in niche verticals (e.g., “CRM for public speakers”).

SaaS Churn Metrics: About The B2B SaaS Data

In the world of business software, there are many ways to segment the data. Typically, it is difficult to pin down reliable financial data. However, this time is different. Here are insights from companies that have achieved traction. All 16 of these companies have an annual contract value of $100,000 or higher and at least 100 customers. The average annual recurring revenue is $64 million. Keep in mind that these are not “founded last weekend” start-ups, either. Nine of the companies were founded before 2010, and the newest company on the list was established in 2015. In the charts, I am also included a broader SaaS churn rate benchmarks based upon more than from 200 companies.

SaaS Annual Gross Churn: Are Losing More Than 10% Of Your Customer Base Annually?

Most B2B SaaS categories face intense competition. Take one of my favorite segments, marketing automation software, for example. As of April 2019, there are more than 7,000 Mar Tech (Marketing Technology) companies in the category, according to ChiefMarTec, while there were only 2,000 companies in the space in 2015. The sheer growth in the competition is one reason why you face a scary B2B churn rate. Another reason: a new executive joins a company and wants to clean house. Finally, if you disappoint customers with a miserable experience, don’t expect them to renew their contracts even if you have heroic customer success staff.

In this data set, the average gross annual churn rate is 10%. That means it would take a decade to lose all of your customers based on that metric. However, there are a few star companies that have achieved gross annual churn rates under 10%.

SaaS Gross Annual Churn Chart

These four companies are doing a great job of leading the competition behind in terms of SaaS metrics.

  • Benevity (Benefits management): reports 2% gross annual churn with 450 customers
  • Braze (Marketing Automation): reports 5% gross annual churn with 600 customers (they are second only to Ping Identity in terms of total customers for the 16 customers I’m analyzing in this article)
  • Service Channel (Source, manage and pay for maintenance and contractors): reports 4% gross annual churn with
  • Lotame (a digital advertising platform): reports 5% gross annual churn

Gross churn tells you one piece of the SaaS metrics story. Let’s also look at annual expansion revenue. That tells you more about your success with your current customer base. They see enough value in your platform to purchase more licenses, volume, and access.

SaaS Expansion Revenue Annually: 27%-29% Is The Benchmark To Beat

For SaaS companies in the $50 million to $100 million revenue category, expansion revenue is essential. Based on these 16 companies, the average expansion revenue was 27%. If we remove one company that reported 0% expansion (ouch!), the average changes to 29%. From a SaaS founder or management perspective, expansion revenue is a good indicator of healthy growth. If you overemphasize short term metrics like “new customers signed this month,” you may suffer in the long term as wrong fit customers leave in large numbers.

As with the gross churn numbers above, let’s recognize a few outstanding companies that are beating the average.

  • mParticle (customer experience software): 55% gross revenue expansion
  • Ping Identity (identity management software): 40% revenue expansion
  • Lob (marketing automation software): 40% revenue expansion
  • Neoreach (influencer marketing software): 40% revenue expansion

These companies are definitively doing something right when it comes to customer service, customer success, and product.

Who Are The 16 SaaS Companies?

To give you further context on the data set, here is the list of companies I analyzed courtesy of Nathan Latka’s podcast inteviews.

6Sense

Leadspace      

Lucidworks   

mParticle        

Revtrax          

Singular          

Braze  

Neoreach        

Sailthru           

Lotame           

247     

Lob     

Ping Identity  

Service Channel

Benevity         

RedSeal          

B2B SaaS Churn And Expansion: What Marketers Need To Know

From a marketing perspective, this set of companies is impressive because high contract value means customers are going to be demanding. The sales process is not going to be fast. That’s why content marketing has a critical value to play. With high quality content, you will be able to open doors as a thought leader, create trust, position your product against competitors, and build relationships with your accounts. Let’s end on a upbeat note – yes, competition is tough but you can beat the SaaS churn rate benchmarks by modeling what these companies have achieved.

Notes From TechTo Best of 2019: Inspiration and Two Real Ways Tech Is Changing The World

Since I started attending TechTO events regularly, every event has been educational, positive, and filled with interesting people. The 2019 Year in Review event was no different. However, it was special for a different reason. It was held at Toronto City Hall, where Mayor John Tory welcomed us and gave some interesting thoughts on the state of technology in the city.

As always, Alex Norman and Jason Goldlist were incredibly engaging hosts. I appreciate that Jason engaged with the attendees and continued the community open mic tradition.

Opportunities and Problems In The Toronto Tech Industry: A Balanced View From The Mayor

I have heard elected officials speak about the technology industry, so I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from the Mayor. He struck an interesting balance between celebrating the industry’s success and pointing out its problems. It’s worth highlighting that diversity and inclusion remain a problem in the technology industry, even in Toronto.  He makes an excellent point that Canada’s strong public education, a track record of welcoming immigrants, and quality of life have been positives.

Alyssa Atkins (Lilia) On Determination And Egg Freezing Technology

Most of the time, I focus on B2B SaaS companies and their marketing needs. Lilia’s founder, Alyssa Atkins, presented on something completely different: creating a startup to promote egg freezing as an option for women. Naturally, Canadian and US differences came up. Canada is a leader compared to the US in terms of paid maternity leave. However, the US is far ahead of Canada when it comes to companies providing support for egg freezing.

In addition to the Lilia story, I found Atkins’s career story fascinating. She spoke about her determination to build a successful window cleaning business back in 2009. She delivered the service by day and sold the next day’s service by night. I felt inspired by her emphasis on “unreasonable confidence and ambition.”

Ending The Tyranny of Red Tape: Changing Government with Proof

Given our location in Toronto City Hall, it was no surprise to see a presentation from Proof from Jared Kolb and Sarah Singh. With successful implementations with the government of the Yukon, Proof is looking to digitize and speed up government decision making. During their demo, they presented a way to accelerate approvals for Toronto parking passes. They only had a short amount of time for the demo, but I liked what I’ve seen there. They deserve to be heard more widely so we can all benefit from faster, more efficient public services.

Life and Business Lessons From Drop’s Derrick: Choose Your One Way Doors Carefully

As Derrick Fung began his frustration, I quickly became excited. His career journey, starting in the banking industry and then exploring an interest in technology, has some parallels to my journey. He took a more philosophical approach to present ten lessons he’s learned over the years. His suggestion that some meaningful life and business decisions are “one-way doors” was fascinating. While I do believe in the value of reinvention, there is much merit to his view.

For example, consider the strategic decision to build a “lifestyle” business versus building a startup designed to go public. Yes, if one accepts venture capital funding, it is going to be very difficult to change course to a small company vision.

I’m enjoying the process of becoming a TechTO regular. Toronto’s technology industry is booming!

10 Must-Read Books for SaaS Marketers and Founders (+1 Bonus At The End)

Building a successful software as a service (SaaS) business requires hard work and insight. To help founders and marketers reach their goals, I developed this infographic on ten must-read books for SaaS marketers and founders. I’ve read all of these books (some more than once!), and each one can help you grow your SaaS business.

1) Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A Moore

Published more than 20 years ago, this is a classic book. If you’ve ever struggled with selling innovation, this is the book for you. This book is recommended to guide you through strategic challenges such as launching your market or moving into a new market. Selling new software for the first time without running out of money is hard, so take advantage of Moore’s advice. Some of the technology examples in the book are older, but don’t let that hold you back from getting tremendous value from the book.

2) From Impossible to Inevitable: How SaaS and Other Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue: 2nd Edition Audible by Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin

Filled with advice on hiring sales staff, SaaS metrics and more, there is a lot to like in this book. The title is a bit of an exaggeration – nothing is inevitable about success. The discussion on customer success, churn rates and making sales scalable stand out. You can’t rely on the founder for sales or a star sales professional if you are going to achieve your growth ambitions.

3) Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

Aimed at startups, this book gives you an overview of many different marketing channels. In a small SaaS company, getting traction in the marketplace (what some call “product market fit”) is a major problem. Traction is valuable because it walks you through many different marketing options like SEO, sales and more. If you are frustrated by the results that one channel brings you, Traction will give you new ideas on what else you can try.

4) Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine With The $100 Million Best Practices Of Salesforce.com by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler

Are you in the B2B SaaS market? This is the book for you! It is the best sales bible I’ve ever seen in selling enterprise software. The book is based on Ross’s success growing Salesforce.com and Tyler’s long track record of success. The book is famous for popularizing cold email for sales and advocating multiple roles within sales (e.g. business development representative, account executive etc).

5) The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator by Randall Stross

Ever heard of Y Combinator? It is credited with contributing to the success of many companies like Airbnb, Stripe and Dropbox. Paul Graham, a key founder for the organization, is widely known for his excellent essays (Do Things That Don’t Scale is my favorite Graham essay). But, what exactly makes Y Combinator special for ambitious startup? That’s what you will learn from this book. Don’t expect to learn marketing tactics, per se. Instead, this book helps you understand the challenge of creating a technology company from scratch.

6) They Ask, You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer, Revised & Updated 2nd Edition by Marcus Sheridan

Now, let’s go far from the SaaS industry for the next few book recommendations. Sheridan’s book provides an excellent introduction to content marketing. The book is based on Sheridan’s massive success using content marketing to save his pool company from collapse. Instead of “creating content,” Sheridan recommends answering customer questions in your content.

7) The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, And Stand Out From The Crowd by Allan Dib

Whether you use Google Ads, Facebook Ads, SEO, or other marketing channels, you’ve used direct response marketing ideas. The problem? You might be using a series of tactics without a guiding principle. The 1 Page Marketing Plan integrates your SaaS marketing tactics and decisions into a single page.

8) No B.S. Direct Marketing: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Direct Marketing for Non-Direct Marketing Businesses by Dan S. Kennedy (Read Multiple Times)

While he is famously technology averse, Dan Kennedy’s classic introduction to direct response marketing is a must-read. You will learn the fundamentals of understanding your market and crafting a sales letter. Kennedy doesn’t pull his punches and doesn’t see value in brand advertising. Nearly every successful marketer I know has learned from Dan Kennedy. If you like what you read here, read his “Ultimate Sales Letter” book next.

9) The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work by Francesco Cirillo

As a SaaS marketer or product marketer, you have a huge amount of work to do. Working with a marketing consultant like me is one way to lighten the load. However, you still need a way to increase your personal productivity. That’s where the Pomodoro Technique comes in. Discover how to use timers and tracking sheets to boost your productivity. I’ve used the Pomodoro Technique to improve my content creation productivity with excellent results.

Resource: I recommend e.ggtimer.com to help you implement the Pomodoro technique. You can choose any duration of timer you want or accept the default Pomodoro technique timer (i.e., 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break)

10) The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington (Read Multiple Times)

If the Pomodoro Technique helps you become productive today, the 12 Week Year gives you a broader view. Instead of struggling to hit your annual goals like $1 million in monthly recurring revenue, focus your efforts on the quarter (i.e. 12 weeks). Along with Marshall’s book below, I’ve read the 12 Week Year multiple times and find it to be incredibly helpful.

Bonus Recommendation

11) 80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More by Perry Marshall (Read Multiple Times)

For those who read to the end of this post, I have a bonus recommendation. This book equips you with a mindset and strategic way to think about all marketing decisions. Marshall is best known as one of the world’s foremost experts on Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords). He adapted “The 80/20 Principle” and applied it to marketing. If it you’re tired of working all the time on marketing, you need this book.

Where To Go From Here…

Pick a book from this list, order it, and look forward to learning more about business, productivity, and marketing.