Jumping into SaaS Marketing? Focus on Tactics, not Strategy

It’s not easy to prove your worth as a marketer at a startup, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. From my own personal experience, I’ve seen low hanging fruit that must be talked about. It’s the tactical stuff. You know, the nitty gritty…

First, let me tell a quick story…

In college, I had a professor who was amazing. He ran marketing at Verizon (before it  became Verizon), and for fun, organized a massive sponsorship for the 2002 World Cup. He was one of the best professors I ever had, but I never managed to ace his exams. I would visit him during his office hours, and try to fully understand what I was doing wrong. Time after time, it boiled down to the fact that **he was looking at the big picture (strategy), while I was diving deep into tactics. **

I finally learned how to look at the big picture, but I was also working with my own clients at the time, and everything I did was tactical. The strategy of the company on how to market already existed, but due to the rapid rate of change, I would gain clients based on my knowledge of new tools in the tech world.

In short, I was picking up clients because I stayed up-to-date. It was great meeting clients and suggesting tactics they didn’t know existed. **This is your advantage as a new entrant into the world of startup marketing, and it should be leveraged. **

Unless you are a founder, you probably won’t have a lot of say in the overall strategy of the company. You can certainly influence it, but overall, the grass is greener for you if you understand the tactics. I’m not advocating that you should avoid strategy, but for those looking to jump into marketing, I highly recommend focusing on the tactics.

Tactics? What do you mean?

When I refer to tactics, I’m speaking largely about basic implementation and how to measure results. If you understand the tactics, you can do most of the following:

  • Setup PPC Ads from scratch (FB, Google, etc)
  • Implement analytics (Mixpanel, Google Analytics, Kissmetrics)
  • Writing copy with little oversight
  • Create a campaign from scratch (The goal is to generate leads typically)
  • Basic understanding of SEO (sitemaps, keywords, meta description/titles, link building)
  • Knowledge of how to gain customer insight (qual & quant)
  • Ability to write a company blog post (or whitepaper)

These are typically the tasks that require a solid understanding of platforms (setting up a Facebook ad is a classic example). It’s not tough stuff, but is extremely important.

These tactics can also backfire, and in the rest of the post, I’m going to discuss what precautions should be taken.

Tactics must show ROI

There was a time when social media was pure gold – there was very little noise from other brands, and it was a great place to build a business. Nowadays, I’m much more skeptical – I’ve seen social media companies screw local businesses out of their hard earned money, and I want nothing to do with it.

Now, social media is just an example, but as a marketer, you must be focused on a return on investment (whether that’s time or money), or you will flop. This requires a solid understanding of how to measure the stuff you build. If it’s not measurable, you shouldn’t build it. Oftentimes, I would build something that wasn’t measurable and as a result I couldn’t prove my worth. That’s a bad spot to be in.

Tactics can’t be rooted in hype

This follows my earlier point – there is a lot of noise around online marketing, and oftentimes it’s not a profitable endeavor. Your plumbing company should not be on Pinterest. This is why it’s so important to measure – if you’re spending hours a day on social media with no return, it’s not worth pursuing. Clearly this isn’t the case for all businesses, but it’s your job to figure out what’s worth pursuing and what isn’t…..and that leads me to my next point.

Tactics = Focus on Speed

Imagine making the suggestion to a company that they should build a content marketing plan around a specific keyword. This may be the best idea in the world, but should you invest hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars crafting this plan without anything to back it up? I say NO.

You could easily test this with a small advertising spend on Google Adwords. The key is to focus on learning as fast as possible before investing immense amounts of time into something that may/may not work well.

Early Mover Advantage

If you are focused on tactics, it usually means you are constantly testing new products/platforms. Oftentimes, there’s low hanging fruit, and it’s yours before the slow moving giants can fill the space with noise. The cost is much lower (CPM, CPC, etc), and the return is higher. It’s not always going to be the case, but if a new product proves to be a profitable tool for you, I encourage you to use it until it no longer makes sense (aka – run the #’s.)

Tiny Details = Big Results

As I learn more and more about the various tools available to market a product/service online, I’m realizing more and more that the small optimizations that may seem insignificant, are actually extremely important.

We live in a world full of mediocre business owners, and many people don’t sweat the details. This is your competitive advantage. If you understand the little details when implementing Google adwords, you will drive success for whatever business you work for (or run).

One closing thought – I’ve seen this work for myself. I probably wouldn’t be working where I am, if I hadn’t found a problem in a robots.txt file. That’s a TINY detail.