Do you have the necessary demand to create your B2B SaaS? In today’s episode, we discuss creating a demand strategy for your SaaS and accelerating your growth. In today’s episode, we are privileged to host the head of growth at Bonjoro, Casey Hill, who is an authority on this subject matter. He advises various startups and doubles as a growth mentor and professor at the University of California, Santiago.
Why you need to listen to Casey – He has worked with various early-stage startups between zero MMR to 1M ARR. He is also experienced with demand generation strategies for maturing companies. Therefore, Casey is best placed to offer valuable advice on things to do in order for a SaaS to realize desired demand generation.
What do you consider demand generation – He describes demand generation as actions explicitly capturing the core interest at the top of the funnel. Demand generation strategies are not product-centric strategies related to demand capture. To capture interest, a SaaS founder has to create a problem to which they offer a solution.
What needs to be in place before starting to create demand – Our guest expert draws attention to keystone beliefs, which refer to the fundamental understanding of the SaaS founder about the market. That core knowledge then forms the building blocks of a SaaS company’s different demand strategies. To realize an effective demand generation strategy, Casey advises that teams in SaaS should first seek to establish their keystone beliefs.
Common mistakes SaaS companies make while setting up demand generation – Casey shares that most SaaS companies prioritize demand capture more than demand generation. Further, he points out the failure of most companies to keep up with the trends in the industry and technology. By moving away from indoor marketing, a SaaS company today stands to benefit from newer marketing techniques such as influencers, affiliate partners, and community-led growth. Our guest expert stresses that some companies need to harness the power of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. AI trends like ChatGptt, for instance, can help with content creation, which spurs demand generation.
How do you include affiliate partners in the demand generation strategy – In the spirit of reciprocity, Casey portends that it is important to promote your partners on your platforms actively. Your affiliates serve as an outside distribution point by promoting your content to their networks and communities. Interestingly, our guest expert observes that most companies get their relationship wrong with their affiliates. This is because they narrow it to only transaction relationships instead of beneficially reciprocal arrangements, in which affiliate partner success is actively pursued. Generally, therefore, a SaaS company should place affiliate partners top line in their strategy for demand generation.
Best-practice strategies and processes for demand generation – Casey says he often pushes early-stage startups to focus greatly on realizing organic growth. In this regard, he stresses the need for a SaaS business to leverage such new-age marketing mechanisms as podcasts, features, and PR. Also, building a core community can be an effective strategy for demand. Unlike user communities, building a community around the core problem is more effective because the people in the ecosystem serve as a trusted voice for the brand to others. Regarding impact versus completion, our guest experts call on SaaS businesses to get more creative by seeking less-known media such as Reddit. While the competition is low on such media, it often has greater potential for impact. It helps to have multiple core channels and repurpose the content on them to generate demand.
Challenges people face when setting up demand generation strategy – During the early stages, most SaaS businesses fail to read the signals and understand success. They often target high numbers of leads as opposed to few consistent leads over a specific period. Casey advises that you should utilize the right metrics and commit to leveraging as many podcasts as possible to boost demand generation. Setting up the right long-term strategy will help you go effectively go to market.
How do you track your many channels – Using a direct attribution strategy, he always immediately seeks information during the onboarding stage. This gives them an understanding of where they heard about the company. He laments that most 0-1M SaaS place too much weight on data instead of direct attribution, which can get them 90% to make informed decisions.
Advice to SaaS business with 10K MMR – Casey advises that a SaaS company in this early stage should focus on lead generation instead of obsessing over the raw numbers. Also, it would help if you spent time developing your networks by attending workshops and SaaS events and engaging influencers. He also calls on such a startup to leverage reciprocal affiliate partnerships.
Advice to SaaS business with 1M AAR – He encourages us to have organic, long-tail channels that would help to grow from 1M AAR to 10M AAR.
- (0:30) Introduction of the topic and guest
- (1:15) Why you need to listen to Casey
- (2:14) What do you consider demand generation
- (4:02) What needs to be in place before starting to create demand
- (5:38) Common mistakes SaaS companies make while setting up demand generation
- (8:13) How do you include affiliate partners in the demand generation strategy
- (13:20) Best-practice strategies and processes for demand generation
- (21:44) Challenges people face when setting up demand generation strategy
- (25:47) How do you track your many channels
- (29:45) Advice to SaaS business with 10K MMR
- (32:11) Advice to SaaS business with 1M AAR
- (37:00) Casey’s contact information.
Introduction to Casey Hill
00:31 – Joran Hofman
Welcome back to another episode on the Grow your B2B SaaS podcast. On this podcast, we discuss all topics on how to grow your B2B SaaS. To grow your SaaS, you will need to have demand. When you’ve created the demand for your product, you want people to take a certain action, whether it be leaving their information or signing up directly to your SaaS. We’re going to talk to Casey Hill today about creating a demand strategy for your SaaS which will help you to accelerate your growth.
Casey is an advisor to other startups mentor and growth mentor, professor at the University of California in San Diego, and in the majority of his time the head of Growth at Bonjoro. No idea how he has the time to talk to us today, but more than happy to have him on the show. Welcome to the show, Casey.
01:12 – Casey Hill
Yeah, thanks so much for having me. Excited to be here.
01:15 – Joran Hofman
Cheers. In your own words, I’d like to ask these questions. Why should people listen to you today if they weren’t convinced after this introduction?
01:22 – Casey Hill
Yeah. For the last ten years, I’ve been working with early-stage startups. I would say that my sweet spot is companies between that zero to 10 million AR range companies preparing for their Series A. I’ve worked with companies at Series A, Series B, and Series C, that collectively have raised over a billion dollars in venture funding. Companies like Toast, companies like ActiveCampaign, and a ton of others.
Worked with a lot of early-stage startups as well as maturing organizations. I think this is a really interesting time to be having a conversation about demand gen because it’s changing a lot. Even over just the last twelve months. We’re going to see some pretty profound shifts. Look forward to hopefully giving people some kind of insights from the trenches. For my day job, I work as a head of growth at a SaaS in that zero to 10 million AR range company called Bonjoro.
What is Demand Generation?
02:08 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. What the deal is about and what targets people need to meet and what needs to be done. That’s really nice, I guess, to start with the real basics. What do you consider demand gen? Demand generation.
02:21 – Casey Hill
Yeah. We look at demand gen, we tend to be looking at the top of the funnel and capturing that core interest. Right. Probably the easiest way is to put demand gen in contrast to say, demand capture. Demand capture is I have intent to go get something and some piece of content or some lead magnet or some white paper solves that thing. Whereas demand gen is a lot about producing that interest at the top of the funnel. I like to maybe use a simple example of something that we might use as something that leads into demand gen. I might say something like, look, most website reviews today suck. You go to a website, you see a little one-line review, you don’t even know if it’s a real person. There’s a little image there. Really what you need is you need something that’s a long form, you need something that has some context where they can show you the before and after.
03:08 – Casey Hill
Maybe something that has some video that’s just a really micro example, but someone who reads that, they might be sitting there thinking, what, that’s a good point. The website reviews on my website do suck. I can sweep in as Bonjoro that allows us to gather video testimonials. I can plug that from a demand gen standpoint. The important piece is that initial sentiment actually had nothing to do with my product directly, right? Like I’d never mentioned my product. As we get into demand gen strategies, I think we’re going to look at a lot of things that create a core interest, but are not just these product centric types of things that tend to fall more into this lead gen demand capture side of the equation. The short answer is you’re looking at stuff top of funnel that’s driving core interest.
03:52 – Joran Hofman
To drive interest you have to create some kind of problem. In your case you’re saying reviews suck, they’re not good, like textual reviews. You don’t know if they’re true. From there you will add a solution at the bottom, basically. Exactly.
04:05 – Casey Hill
How to start with Demand Generation for your B2B SaaS?
04:05 – Joran Hofman
How do you start with demand gen? What needs to be in place before you can even start creating demand?
04:11 – Casey Hill
Yeah, great question. One of the things I like to start people with is something I call keystone beliefs. Keystone beliefs is what do you fundamentally understand about the market? What unique insights do you have about where your industry is going? That type of insight can be basically fed into a lot of different demand strategies. It can be used on social, it can be used for if you’re doing PR initiatives, it can be used if you’re guesting on podcasts. Because the thing is, it’s all about that narrative and it’s all about the story. It’s all the example I just used before.
There’s this problem in our space, right? A lot of times when I work with early stage SaaS startups, they struggle with this because everything keeps coming back directly to product. They keep trying to take it down, funnel more. Right? Assuming people understand this problem, assuming people are like already in that bottom of the funnel or maybe middle funnel, and then trying to speak to that.
05:02 – Casey Hill
When you’re talking about demand gen, we need to go up . We need to take it to a slightly higher level, address that top level problem. My first piece of advice for teams that are preparing to have an effective demand gen strategy is to spend some time as a company creating a keystone belief. When you write that keystone belief, I don’t want to have your company name listed anywhere there. I don’t want you to mention your features. That’s not what this is about. This is about you understand something about the industry that you can then translate into that demand gen strategy down the line. I think that’s the core of it. Yeah.
Common mistakes with setting up a Demand Generation Strategy
05:38 – Joran Hofman
This goes really well, I guess, in the next question, because this might have already been the common mistake companies make, right, not having that keystone belief and maybe going too soon to the product. Are there any other mistakes companies make while setting up demand gen strategy?
05:53 – Casey Hill
Yeah, so the first thing I think, and this is almost a simple definitional thing, but a lot of times people spend a lot of their content strategy focused on more demand capture than demand gen itself. That’s kind of the first hurdle, is maybe you aren’t even really doing true demand gen, right? You’re just creating use cases and you’re creating comparison articles and all of this kind of down funnel bits. So that’s the first piece. The second piece, I think, in terms of some of these core mistakes is understanding how things are changing. In the olden days, there were a lot of these old school ways that people approach demand gen. Right? The most simple example is you just create a bunch of blogs, right? You create a bunch of blogs. You talk about this old idea of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing you can think of as a really close parallel to what demand gen is, right?
06:39 – Casey Hill
HubSpot kind of one of the heralds of this. They started with that, they pioneered that as we’re going to create demand gen through having all these good blog articles. Now what you’re starting to see with so much information and so much content flooding into the industry that there’s these different avenues. Community-led growth is becoming big influencers and partners are becoming big. People are looking for points of trust. They read something from you and they immediately assume it’s biased because it’s coming from you, the company. There’s this new equation that says, how do you get your customers talking?
How do you have partners talking, how do you have influencers talking? All of that becomes wrapped up in where demand gen is moving. If you look at companies, like, again, I used HubSpot. Hubs. HubSpot is a really good example. They created a media engine. When they realized inbound marketing was changing, they acquired the Hustle, right, which was this really successful newsletter and was a new way for them to drive demand gen right through that micro newsletter or whatever you want to kind of coin it as.
07:44 – Casey Hill
Right. You see more and more companies expanding out their overall approach. That was a bit long winded, but I think that the overall takeaway is, number one, make sure that you’re actually talking about demand gen. If you are doing demand gen, make sure that you’re doing it in a context in 2023 where you’re going to be effective and not just get lost in the noise. Right. As content production through Chat, GPT and all these other avenues increases 100 X, how do you keep demand gen in a way that’s relevant?
08:14 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, and this is really relevant now.
08:16 – Casey Hill
How to include affiliates in your Demand Generation Strategy?
08:16 – Joran Hofman
With AI and all the content coming out and not everybody’s following the rules, don’t publish AI generated content. It is going to be a lot more difficult to stand out. And one thing you mentioned, partners, affiliates. Like, we’re actually an affiliate management platform, if you did not know that yet, how do you include your affiliates, your partners in your demand gen strategy? I’m really curious about that.
08:38 – Casey Hill
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of ways. Number one is, I think when you think about partnership success at companies, partner-led growth, and I’ve worked with partners here at Bonjoro as well as with many companies, it’s all about reciprocity. If you want to be successful with partners, the first thing I think you need to think about is how are you actively supporting your partners back. Are you promoting their content? Are you highlighting them? Are you making it easier for them to promote you by maybe making co-branded pages?
You as the company taking on of that time and responsibility to help that partner be more successful? There’s a ton of kind of things we can go into from there. I think if you’re going to use partners, the benefit of it is you have an outside point of distribution. Right. When you produce content or you collab with someone or you run a webinar, it’s not just coming from you, the brand.
09:27 – Casey Hill
Again, going back to partners and influencers are tightly tied together. We need to think about those points of trust in people’s, ecosystems, who they look to and who they respect. I’ll give you guys it might sound like a silly example, but I picked up a game that’s becoming popular here in the States called Pickleball, which is like table tennis meets tennis, right? One of the top athletes, a guy named Tyson McGuffin, he basically used this new paddle at this last tournament where he won gold. Everyone knows about him. He’s very popular on social. Immediately I’m looking to get that paddle because I know I’m like, he’s the best. He’s winning gold. He’s the best person. For me, his support of that thing look, in the back of my head, I know he’s sponsored, I know that there’s the money side, but the reality is that I look at him and he has trust because of the results that he brings and therefore his recommendations have trust.
10:25 – Casey Hill
I think when you think about partners, that’s really a big part of it is these people inherently are going to trust these partners in their ecosystem more than they’re going to trust the brand. That’s how that can become a really powerful way for you to gain distribution. I guess I’ll just one more time. To reiterate I think what’s really important, though, is a lot of companies, I feel like mishandling affiliates, like the way they think about affiliates. The reason is it’s just purely transactional, right. Let me cram as many people into the program as I can, and then basically they’re going to promote me and there’s not that reciprocity. If you want to be successful with partner-led motions, and I’ve seen it for almost all of the top companies that are really good on partners, there’s reciprocity. They give back to their partners, they support their partners.
11:11 – Casey Hill
The partners have a budget within as an organization to be doing things to highlight them. Those pieces are super important if you want to find success with that partner-led motion.
11:20 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, exactly. One thing we always say is that you actually have to help your affiliates to make money, or your partners to make money, even though they’re generating you money. Right. You need to help them to actually generate money, generate commission, generate the kickback fee, whatever you agreed with them because then you’re going to be successful as well.
11:38 – Casey Hill
Yeah, 100%. A really good example of this is HubSpot, which had a lot of success through their partner motion. I was talking with their head of partners and one of the things that was really smart they do is they actually have sales based collateral to teach their partners to sell the product. People tend to never do that. Right. You spend all this time training your internal sales team and you give none of those same assets into your partner team. Right. It’s a huge missed opportunity. You can look at the most successful unicorn decacorn brands out there and that they’re flipping that script and really taking time, investing in their partners, investing in the influencer, investing in the communities, and even just to speak one more second longer on the influencer piece again, people have the same problem with influencers they have with partners. Oh, it’s just pay to play.
12:24 – Casey Hill
Make X posts for me and I’ll pay you X dollars. That almost never works. Right? I’ve been in this game for a long time, especially in SaaS, maybe for certain niche e-commerce type of stuff, it works. Especially for SaaS, it’s all about the relationship. It’s changing from this pay to play to how can I highlight this influencer? How can I give back? How can I support their community? How can I feature them in front of my audience where some of my audience might be interested in getting some of that influencer’s product? It’s all about a real relationship and those relationships that we’ve built, like as Bonjoro as an example, have been paid off. Incredibly. Pat Flynn, who works runs a company called SPI, being on his podcast, being included in his book, building that relationship over the course of five years has driven us easily over half a million in directly attributable revenue just from one person.
13:14 – Casey Hill
And we’ve never paid to play. We’ve never paid for that specific plug or paid for anything. We just have been involved in this ecosystem, have collaborated with him, have worked with him, and it’s blossomed into a relationship that’s been incredibly valuable. I think that is an important thing. If people want to use partners or influencers as part of demand gen, keep that top of mind.
Strategies and processes used to set up a demand generation strategy
13:34 – Joran Hofman
Nice. I think this is already a really good strategy that you shared here. Build a relationship with your partners. If we zoom out a bit and not just talk about partners, can you share some other strategies or processes you’ve used to set up a demand gen strategy?
13:48 – Casey Hill
Yeah. I guess with that I want to know, are you looking more for how do we organize our team, what should we be doing? Or are you looking more for what type of channels should we be looking at and how do we find success on those channels?
14:00 – Joran Hofman
I would go for the second. We want to help people to get success on that podcast.
14:04 – Casey Hill
Yeah. If you’re talking about the second one, what kind of channels should we maybe be looking at? What’s relevant right now, there’s a handful. One of the things I’m really big on is what I call earned Media. Earned Media is basically a bucket that describes PR, it describes podcast guesting, it describes features, collab features. You’re an early-stage startup, I really push people to think about organic growth mechanisms that they can leverage, right? Like, yes, you can pour your money in, but especially if you’re not VC back, you’re going to have a high burn rate. Even if you are VC back, the challenge with paid is when you turn it off, it’s done. On the flip side, we get customers every single month at Bonjora who sign up and say they heard about us from podcasts were on Back in 2020. That was three years ago.
14:53 – Casey Hill
And we get customers every single month. I think that one of the beauties of earned media is what I call long tail impact. You want things that are going to be able to feed you as an organization in the months to come. Right? Stuff in that bucket, podcast, guesting, PR, that type of stuff I think is big. We talked about influencers and some of the benefit and some of the value that you can have around the influencer or partner motion. Another thing that is becoming huge, I think, is community as a source of demand gen. Think about your customers, think about the people who are in your ecosystem. How can you build a compelling community where those other people are talking and producing attention around the problem that dovetails back? So, again, I would say there’s two types of core communities. You can build a user community that’s going to be less, that’s going to be more retention, reduced churn, that type of thing.
15:46 – Casey Hill
There’s another type where you’re building a community around the core problem or idea that’s getting more into what becomes demand gen, right? You think about your industry and where you’re going, if you build a really compelling community of folks, and those folks start to become the people who are trumpeting the messages that you bring, that’s always going to be more trusted on a core level than you just doing those things individually.
I’m also a fan of people looking at when you look at channels and there’s this matrix between impact versus competition, right? You can go to some super tiny niche community and there’s going to be almost no competition, right? But the impact might also be low. You go to something like LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook, right? Huge possibilities for impact, but also huge competition. I tell people, I try to encourage people to get creative, look at less known channels, look at Reddit, look at Quora, look at places that don’t have that same level of competition, but potentially still have a decent amount of impact.
16:49 – Casey Hill
So you find that sweet spot. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, so I’m not against the major channels as well. Those can definitely be powerful, but when you’re an early stage startup, if you can carve out, I’m the known person on this, say, subreddit of 50,000 people, that can be a really powerful growth lever.
That can be what takes you from zero to ten K, right? Give some thought into those kind of niche strategies and I think those pieces will be valuable. The final thing I’ll say is personal brand is also becoming something that is becoming more and more important. The core reason, again, is trust. You’ll notice that a common ethos that I look at when I’m talking about demand gen in 2023 is how do you have trust, right? You go on a top 0.1% podcast that gives you trust, right?
17:38 – Casey Hill
You go on and you get a PR feature from Fast Company or Forbes, whatever, that gives you some trust. Influencers trust, personal brand trust. Everything in this kind of envelope that I’m looking at feeds back to that core concept of trust. Yeah.
17:52 – Joran Hofman
I think also the thing which they all have in common, trust. Trust doesn’t come easy and that doesn’t come quick. It is long term channels, as in, I think all of them, right, influencers community, the platforms, personal brand, you can’t have it overnight. You will need to invest time in all of them to get the outcome there 100%.
18:13 – Casey Hill
One thing I’ll just note for people, because I think this is a big misconception, is don’t be scared to repurpose when you’re starting a demand gen channel. I do this constantly and a lot of the most successful people I know across a lot of the major channels do this exact same thing. So, for example, that thing I started at the top of the show, most websites suck. We use that exact messaging and talk about that on probably 45 podcasts. We also use that same thing for PR features that we got with a lot of prominent places. I also talked about it on LinkedIn, I also talked about it in specific Facebook groups. I also talked about it on Reddit. I took that same ethos and I used it in a lot of different places. A lot of times companies come to me and they’re like, casey, I can’t focus on all these channels.
18:55 – Casey Hill
Like, how am I going to do ten channels at once? I say, look, you can have core places where you spend the most of your time. LinkedIn, maybe for me is the one where I’m like engaging in the most comments and I’m on that platform. You can still take content and you can just post it into these different communities and we still drive Reddit’s. A good example, I don’t spend a ton of time commenting and engaging in those subreddits, but I still generate 75 to month in views from Reddit as a channel just by taking valuable content and leveraging it there. You don’t need to necessarily buy into this idea that, oh, I only can have one channel at a time. You can have a couple of core channels, but don’t be afraid to repurpose into a handful of others. Especially when you’re early stage, you don’t want to be slow moving.
19:41 – Casey Hill
Slow moving is I’m going to choose one channel this quarter and then one channel this quarter. Choose ten channels. You can have your one core, but choose ten. As you get momentum signals from those channels, then double down where you’re getting momentum.
19:54 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, and I think as well as you repurposing content you mentioned, like, you do a lot of podcasts, I think I forgot about the number. How many podcasts did you do already?
20:02 – Casey Hill
I think since 2020 we’ve done about 300.
20:05 – Joran Hofman
Exactly. So, I mean, you got a signup, right, from a podcast you did in 2020 or 2021. It is consistency and like all the things you do in those podcasts, you can actually repurpose the content and put it out everywhere else. I guess we need to take the plate off in front of our face away thinking that people have read our content already or they don’t like us to repurpose it. You can, because in the end, not everybody reads everything the first time you post it.
20:32 – Casey Hill
Yeah, 100%. The other piece of this is, remember that part of this is changing your let’s say you have a given block of time, right? Like I operate from Marketing sprints, right? So these are like two week blocks. During those two week blocks, you have a choice. You can say, I’m going to produce eight articles about these topics, or you could produce one really good article, right, where you spend the time, you research, you go in depth, you get outside your product, you talk about the industry as a whole, and then you take that one article and you repurpose it. A lot of times, what people see as not having time is actually just not having focus. Right. They’re trying to go for a spray and pray, okay, now with Chat GPT, I can even do more. I’m going to spin out 30 articles. Sure, you can try that, but all the other players are doing that too.
21:15 – Casey Hill
All of the other comparison articles, all the core topics that you’re thinking of, all these other companies are churning that out. Right. This goes all the way back to our top of the conversation about having good keystone beliefs and really spending some time saying, what unique things do I understand about our market? It’s such an important question for people to ask. I’ll just add one more caveat to make this help people really get down to the granular. Also ask yourself, why is my competition not doing this? Why are other people not doing this? Really be hard on yourself to not so many times people just discount all the other players, right? Oh, this is where we’re going as an industry. The other people don’t understand it because they’re too big and they’re too slow. And that’s a weak answer. Right. The companies that have a lot of money and a lot of funds often have the capacity to do things that you might see as the answer, but they don’t.
22:05 – Casey Hill
Why? When you really are hard and you dig in, that wisdom that you pull from that can be something that you can rally a lot of people around.
Common challenges and obstacles when setting up a Demand Gen Strategy
22:13 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, really nice. I guess this does come down to also the next question, as in, I mean, you already mentioned quite a bit of common challenges and obstacles. I think you mentioned not having focus, not looking at the competitors, not going fast enough. Are there any other challenges or obstacles people face when setting up a demand gen strategy?
22:33 – Casey Hill
Yeah, for sure. I think especially when you’re early stage, it can be really hard to read the signals, to know what a success, how much time do I put into this before I switch gears, I like to look at a metric called LDR lead velocity rate. The reason I like to look at lead velocity rate is because it can give you an insight that sometimes when you’re looking at raw numbers, you don’t really see. Let me give you an example. Lead velocity rate kind of shows you the change in leads from month to month as an example. Let’s say that one month you generate 50 leads, right? The next month you put in all this effort, and next month you have 55. That kind of looks like a failure because you’re like, I put in all this extra time, and I only added five leads, but that’s a 10% increase, right?
23:17 – Casey Hill
If you’re doing 10% month-over-month LVR rates, you suddenly are actually going to be really successful over time. You start to look and you say, okay, I’m going to look at a 10% plus 10% LVR rate for six months, right, or whatever your time duration are, you start to get a better idea of how things are moving. That often. I find that people are looking for these huge leaps. I want to go plus 1000, and you’re at 50, right? You don’t hit it, and you’re like, the channel doesn’t work, maybe, but more likely, you’re not really looking at momentum in the right way. That’s one of the ways that I would try to change some of the KPIs and some of the metrics that you look at as an organization to judge whether that’s successful. The other piece I’ll say about this, a really good insight I got from one of my mentors, Patrick Campbell, who sold his company for $200 million to Paddle Is.
24:06 – Casey Hill
They launched were having a conversation a couple of years back. They were doing this thing called Drops. Drops would be where they would give out all these crazy branded stuff they did, like branded playing cards with SaaS leaders and branded hot sauces and all this stuff. One of the things he told me is, he said, when we committed to this project to generate attention, top of funnel for kind of what were about, we committed to seven drops in the beginning. Doesn’t matter if the first one completely flopped, second one completely flopped. We committed to seven. We budgeted for seven to start. Because his whole concept was, when you’re trying to build awareness, when you’re trying to work at that top of funnel, it doesn’t always happen right away. That was so powerful because our company at Bonjoro, we’ve added over a million dollars in directly attributable revenue from podcast guesting and it’s something I’ve talked about now with so many organizations.
24:56 – Casey Hill
I started to really drill in of like, why has this worked well for us and not other teams? One of the insights that I fell upon, which. Very similar of the insight that comes from Pat is we got a lot of saturation in a set space. For instance, SaaS, we would go on 30 podcasts of SaaS in a month. When you do that now that awareness point happens here and that person who is I wasn’t sure, suddenly they’re like, okay, I have to check these people out because all of these different spots, I’ve now heard them in these multiple places. I think that when you think about demand gen, try to have the right KPIs, but also make a commitment when you start. Like if you’re going to try, I’m going to try podcast guesting as a growth lever. I tell people right there, if you’re not going to commit as an organization to try to guest on 20 shows, don’t do it.
25:47 – Casey Hill
Just don’t do it. Don’t spend the effort to hop on two podcasts and then at the end say it generated as this many leads. Because I can tell you, as someone who’s worked with hundreds of companies that have done this, I built a course, I have a personal course that I built teaching people the process. I’ve seen this in so many times, the people that succeed and the people that don’t. It can very much come down to a numbers game in a set space. Commit to a certain amount and also be focused. If you do one podcast about culture and one about the founder’s journey and one about growth and that’s probably not going to be as effective as if you really get your keystone beliefs and you hone in a bit long-winded there. I think that is hopefully a lens that people can think about how to address some of those challenges.
26:32 – Joran Hofman
I’m definitely going to ask for a link to your course. We actually have Patrick on the show as well already. I’m going to add a link to the show where he explains exactly how he went. Bootstrapped Profitwell to an acquisition by paddle.
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How deep do you track demand generation efforts?
27:25 – Joran Hofman
One question I had at the beginning when you started talking, you do all these channels, right? You do a lot like how do you keep track of where elite is coming from? How deep do you go with the tracking?
27:36 – Casey Hill
Yeah, we tend to rely on direct attribution. It’s really interesting because I teach at university and at university I teach people all the different. You want to do linear, you want to do last, you want to do first, you want to do time decay. I’m very aware and across the different ways that people do what I would call more complex attribution, but I tend to fall more in the Chris Walker Rand Fishkin camp of people that have been spending the last twelve months trumpeting Direct Attribution, understanding dark social understanding these channels that are hard to attribute. What I mean, to be very specific when I say Direct Attribution is just when someone signs up, you ask them, how did you hear about us? When I say $1 million directly attributable to podcast, that means we ask people, how did you hear about us? And on intake they put podcasts.
28:19 – Casey Hill
Now, look, that is not an exact measure, right? A lot of teams I have conversations with, this could be off by as much as 30, 40%. Right. The whole thing is for you to directionally understand where people are coming from. I think that when you purely rely on utms or you purely rely on your time decay model, whatever else, I think it can run you into problems. Also, not to belabor this, but my experience is that most early stage companies, I want to specifically really drill in on that zero to 1 million, they spend way too much time overcomplicating. Right. I sit in on these meetings with these teams and I listen to all these data people going on and on about this attribution stuff. It’s not that I don’t believe data is important, because data is absolutely important, but it can often take away from if you just ask Direct Attribution, you’d get 90% of the way there to make informed decisions and you would save all that time that you could be spending on creative.
29:16 – Casey Hill
That’s of where I come from when it comes to Attribution and why I like Direct Attribution.
29:22 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. People sign up to Bonjoro, you’re definitely going to ask them in the onboarding, how did you hear about us? And then they will market there.
29:29 – Casey Hill
Yes, that’s right.
Where does video fit into a Demand Generation Strategy?
29:30 – Joran Hofman
Talking about Bonjor, you guys do video, right? Where does video fit into the month-gen strategy?
29:36 – Casey Hill
Yeah, it’s an interesting question. I think that there are two sides. We have two kind of core products. One of them is gathering video testimonials. I would actually say that’s more of demand capture. Someone comes to our page and then they see a video and that convinces them, establishes that trust and pulls them through. The other thing is we send video emails to people. Someone signs up for your product and instead of the generic onboarding, you send them like a video. Hi, I’m Casey. I’m Head of Growth. Excited to have you here. That piece, I think, does have of demand gen in the sense of the PLG side of the equation, right? The major way that Bonjour has grown the top lever over anything else is just someone signs up for a service, they get a personal video and they say, oh, that’s cool. As a business owner, I’d like to have a more personal touch point for my business.
30:20 – Casey Hill
And so that’s how that ties in. The major, I guess only takeaway, I would say for people on that point would be that if you have a product that has a PLG motion where the product itself can create interest, then do what you can to see how you can maximize that out there. So, to give you guys a very specific example, because we’re talking about influencers, before we did something called an ambassador program, we found people that were really prominent in the industry and we said, look, we know these people serve our core markets really tightly. We’ll give that person our tech for free, and in exchange, we just want them to use it. That’s it. Right? Because we know that if someone signs up for a B2B SaaS Business Incubator. Service and they get a personal video, that’s like the best plug that we could possibly get is just seeing the product in action.
31:08 – Casey Hill
Think about does your product have the capacity for something like an ambassador program? I was talking to a top partner manager who also gave another recommendation. We haven’t implemented this yet, but I think it’s very clever. He talked about an advisor program. What they do is they actually give small fractional amount of shares to influencers in the industry. In exchange, those people are really motivated and tied in to want to be advocates. You can often do this in a way where these aren’t massive equity stakes. You’re not really causing any issues of dilution or anything like that. Companies can just be really excited, or people rather influencers can be really excited to have that kind of skin in the game. Just two ways that you can think about potentially being more successful with that influencer style program.
Advice for startups growing to 10k MRR
31:53 – Joran Hofman
Nice. We are going fast and we are almost coming to the end. I always like to ask these two questions at the end. What kind of advice would you give somebody who’s just starting and growing to 10k MRR? Mr, you already gave a couple, but I guess to summarize, what would be the advice?
32:08 – Casey Hill
Yeah, for sure. I think that when you’re going from zero to ten k, there’s two kind of things happening. Number one, you’re starting to find one of your first channels. I wouldn’t force your don’t think about like you need to find your first channel by ten k. I don’t think it’s realistic. I think that zero to ten k is a lot about experimentation and just starting to look at some basic momentum stuff. The other reason why it’s really hard if someone says what major things do you look at from zero to ten k? If your product costs $20 or your product costs ten k could be one customer, right, for an enterprise brand or it could be a ton for so there is some nuance there. In general, I would say the following. Start testing these channels and start looking for momentum. What stuff is showing progress going back to LVR?
32:49 – Casey Hill
Look at lead velocity rate zero to ten k. I want a major focus for you to be look at the lead velocity so you get a sense of how you’re improving. Don’t obsess about the raw numbers at that stage. This first, it’s like you’re testing out channels. The other thing I would say is spend some time thinking about your network. Network is so key, right, on that early motion. If you haven’t spent the time to develop it, that’s something I would recommend you start doing. Start going to the relevant in person events, start meeting people, get active on LinkedIn, start producing content and start creating that thought leadership thing. Look zero to ten k. During those early phases, you’re very likely not going to become a thought leader. That’s fine. That’s not your focus. Your focus is to start to build relationships in the space both from your own content, but also spending time engaging with a lot of the other key influencers and players.
33:42 – Casey Hill
We won’t go all the way down this rabbit hole, but if you’re really trying to succeed influencers, in partnerships, remember reciprocity relationships. What’s the simplest possible thing that you can do to support those people is you can comment on their content. That is something that brings visibility to what they’re doing. It also puts name recognition of you on their content, right? Likes a dime a dozen. Everyone likes stuff that’s going to give you very little recognition. If you comment, especially if you have an insightful comment that has some piece of interesting analysis that can be.
Advice for startups growing to 1m ARR
34:13 – Joran Hofman
Really powerful and sometimes just small things which will matter like this. I do the network building you mentioned. We do also have a podcast with Alex Tomas, founder of SaaS Talk. He talks about building a network and building communities. Definitely listen to that one as well. We’re going to go one step further. What kind of advice would you give somebody who’s growing to 1 million arr? Past that ten k Monday recurring revenue?
34:36 – Casey Hill
Yeah, for sure. From zero to one now, I actually would go back to one lever. Really well done. Right? One thing I’ve seen from the vast majority of fast-growing startups is they nail one channel really well. For us, a Bonjoro is podcast guesting. For other teams, it might be partners, it might be SEO, it might be affiliate. There’s a ton of different ways. Really once you get to that 1 million range, you want to have one channel that is recurring and that has momentum with it. I strongly encourage people to have organic long tail channels here. Although I will say, to be fair, I’ve worked a lot of startups that have succeeded in Paid. I don’t want to tell people that you can’t do it with Paid. Sometimes VCs actually been like Paid because they think of it as like it’s more scalable. Whatever direction you go, zero to one to me is all about that one channel that you haven’t nailed.
35:29 – Casey Hill
I think that will really help you as you make that next leap from one to ten.
35:33 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. It was going to be a question which I wanted to ask you. You focus purely on organic or could you also go to the Paid media? I think you already answered that really well.
35:43 – Casey Hill
Yeah, I always try to be full disclosure. I have my own biases. Like, I’m an organic marketer, right. The majority of ways I grow companies are all organic and when companies are small, not war chest is tight. I tend to like to reduce burn rate as much as possible. So I favor towards those organic plays. But paid definitely can work. Especially if you have of a war chest or funding and you have the right folks, how to execute on it.
36:07 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, I’m with you on that. I’ve been focusing on organic growth, but I am actually going to test the waters just now. This week we started our first Paid campaigns just to see what it can do for us.
36:18 – Casey Hill
Absolutely. One thing I’ll just say 15 2nd bit on that is remember too that Paid is not just SEM and Facebook ads. Right. Sometimes people think of Paid only as the major channel. Remember, we’ve had a ton of success with partner sponsorships. Custom features get creative, especially when you’re starting out. Don’t think of everything as like static. Like I have to go to this big brand and spend the ten K sticker shock. You might find a podcast that doesn’t even do sponsorships. Approach them and tell them why you think they’re such an amazing fit and work something out custom with them that makes sense for both sides. Be willing to be dynamic in those early stages and think about Paid in a wider lens than just the ads. Because I think that some of our best ROI has come from custom initiatives that we’ve done like that on the Paid side.
37:03 – Joran Hofman
Yeah. Nice. It probably helps you also to start building relationship with those people. If they haven’t done it before, you’re the first one, you’re going to work something out and then you might be able to extend it for a much longer period.
37:14 – Casey Hill
37:15 – Joran Hofman
Nice. Any final thoughts you want to share with other B2B SaaS founders?
37:20 – Casey Hill
The last thing I’ll just tell people that I think is super important. A huge emphasis of my class, actually, at UCSD, but I think it’s one of the biggest missed balls when it comes to marketing strategy is think about distribution. You really need to think about distribution when you’re building a content plan. Often I sit down with a team and they say, we’re publishing this article here and this article here, and we’re doing this webinar here, and after they finish their whole presentation, I say, what’s the distribution? They stare at me with blank eyes like they don’t even know what I mean. The whole thing is those are all just to your channels, right? You’re sending to your newsletter, you’re sending yours. When I think about distribution, when I think about content, I think, what partners are going to promote this? Where can I go onto a podcast and talk about this topic?
37:59 – Casey Hill
Where can I have a PR agency feature, something about this? What are all the ways that I’m going to amplify this in the ecosystem? Right? Because so many teams, especially when you’re small, if you operate only in your little bubble, your tiny newsletter, your tiny list that you put together, it’s going to be a big slog, right? All your content is going to get one 10th of the impact that you put out there because it just doesn’t have the same eyes. This oftentimes one of the responses I get is they say, casey, why would a partner want to share my content? I smile because it goes all the way back to what we’re talking about, keystone beliefs. If you just have promotional content that’s our product is great and does X, then, yeah, you’re right, they aren’t going to want to share it. Right? If you actually have interesting insights, novel takes on the industry, really good, interesting analysis, that’s unique.
38:47 – Casey Hill
Again, if you guys want an example, prop, we’re talking about Patrick Campbell earlier, they’re an incredible example of doing really good here. They have such dense, good analysis, bringing in the pricing trends, all that. That kind of stuff is shareable. People want to share that. I share their stuff all the time for no incentive, no benefit, but because they’ve done the due diligence to give me the piece of information that’s Prudent for me to share with my audience. Think about distribution as a company, and if no one wants to pick up what you’re doing, that’s the signal for you to take a step back and fix your content, fix your demand trend strategy. It is the type of stuff that people want to distribute and share.
39:27 – Joran Hofman
Yeah, because in the end, it all comes down to one word you already mentioned value. You have to bring value to your ICP, to your ideal customer profile. If you do, then people are willing to share, comment, whatever they need to do.
39:39 – Casey Hill
39:40 – Joran Hofman
Nice. I guess the final question. If people want to get in contact with you, what will be the best way to do?
39:45 – Casey Hill
Yeah, two things. Casey at Bonjoro. That’s Casey at Bonjoro. Bonjoro.com always welcome to shoot me an email and then the social channel that I’m most active on is LinkedIn. Right. If you just go to Casey Hill, you can find me on LinkedIn and essentially happy to answer questions or connect that way. Those are the two best ways to get hold of me.
40:09 – Joran Hofman
Nice. We’re definitely going to add the link. Almost impossible to make a spelling mistake on that now, but we’re definitely going to add the link so people can find you really quickly. Thanks again for coming on the show today, Casey.
40:19 – Casey Hill
Yeah, it was great being here. Thanks for having me.
40:22 – Outro
You’ve been listening to Growing a B2B aSaaS. Joran has been ahead of customer success before founding his own startup. He’s experiencing the same journey you are. We hope you’ve gotten some actionable advice from the show, and we hope you had fun along the way. We know we did. Make sure to, like, rate, and review the podcast in the meantime. To find out more and to hook up with us on our social media sites, go to www.getreditus.com.