Product marketing for your B2B SaaS requires a strategic approach to effectively reach and engage your target audience. Start by thoroughly understanding your customer personas and their pain points. Craft a compelling value proposition that highlights how your software solves their specific problems. Develop a clear and concise messaging strategy that communicates the benefits and unique features of your SaaS solution. Utilize content marketing to create informative blog posts, whitepapers, and case studies that showcase your expertise and provide value to your audience. Leverage social media, email marketing, and webinars to reach potential customers and nurture existing leads. Establish trust through customer testimonials and case studies, and invest in building a strong online presence through SEO and paid advertising. Lastly, continually gather feedback, analyze data, and iterate on your product marketing strategy to stay ahead in the competitive B2B SaaS landscape.
In this episode, we dive into the world of product marketing, specifically tailored for B2B SaaS companies. Our guest for today is Alex Levin, co-founder and CEO of Regal, an AI-enabled, outbound, and SMS sales SaaS solution. Alex brings a unique perspective to product marketing, having transitioned from a background in B2C marketing to B2B SaaS.
Why Listen to Alex?
- Alex’s journey from B2C to B2B SaaS sheds light on the critical role of product marketing.
- He emphasizes the importance of connecting the dots in bringing a product to market and defines the multifaceted nature of product marketing.
Product Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing
- Alex explains that product marketing involves more than just creating content and web pages.
- It encompasses product positioning, messaging, reflecting it on the website, aligning it with sales strategies, and ensuring customer understanding.
- Product marketing may also involve pricing strategies in certain cases.
The Power of Effective Product Marketing
- Alex shares how his company, Regal, achieved remarkable growth by dedicating substantial time to product marketing.
- They focused on understanding customers, competitors, market positioning, and defining their tone of voice.
- This dedication to product marketing was instrumental in their rapid growth, without relying on paid marketing.
Distinguishing Product Marketing from Traditional Marketing
- Joran explores the differences between product marketing and traditional marketing.
- Alex stresses that product marketing should start with the founders, focusing on understanding the target audience, tone of voice, and unique selling points.
- Different marketing disciplines, such as conferences, paid ads, SEO, and more, complement product marketing by reaching customers in various ways.
Starting with Product Marketing
- Alex advises that product marketing should begin early, even with founders, to ensure it aligns with the company’s vision and voice.
- While there’s no fixed timeline, it’s crucial to establish clarity on who you’re addressing, your tone of voice, and your unique selling points.
- Distribution and reaching customers are vital aspects of success in startups, alongside having a great product.
The Significance of Tone of Voice
- Alex highlights the importance of defining the tone of voice for your brand.
- Companies often overlook this aspect, but it significantly impacts how customers engage with your brand.
- The tone of voice should align with your target audience, whether it’s playful, serious, authoritative, or tailored to specific customer segments.
Key Elements of a Product Marketing Strategy
- Beyond ICP, tone of voice, and pain points, Alex suggests a strong customer-centric approach.
- Product marketers should be deeply interested in customer feedback, iterate based on it, and let customers guide the direction.
- Flexibility is essential, as there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for product marketing.
The Role of Product Marketing: Start and End Point
- The extent of product marketing’s role varies depending on the organization’s structure.
- Some organizations involve product teams more in marketing, while others delegate it primarily to product marketers.
- Clear goals and objectives are crucial, and it’s vital to decide whether the focus is on incremental gains or a major transformation.
Common Mistakes in Product Marketing
- Alex reflects on common mistakes, including the challenge of finding the right person for product marketing.
- Establishing effective processes to disseminate learnings throughout the organization is critical.
- Delaying the hiring of a product marketing professional can hinder product development and marketing progress.
Hiring Product Marketing Sooner
- Alex acknowledges that, in hindsight, hiring a product marketing professional earlier would have been beneficial.
- Reacting quickly to evolving needs and feedback is a key trait of successful entrepreneurs.
- The Importance of Product Marketing: Product marketing is crucial for B2B SaaS companies because it involves connecting the dots between product development and market positioning. It encompasses elements such as product positioning, messaging, pricing, and ensuring alignment across the organization.
- Early Focus on Product Marketing: Alex highlights the importance of founders dedicating time to product marketing early in their startup journey. He and his co-founder spent a significant amount of time talking to customers, understanding the market, and defining their brand’s tone of voice.
- Distribution and Customer Reach: Alex emphasizes that, in addition to having a great product, successful startups need effective distribution strategies. Product marketing plays a vital role in reaching and engaging with the target audience.
- Differentiating Product Marketing from Other Marketing Disciplines: While product marketing is a critical component, there are various marketing disciplines, including conferences, paid ads, SEO, and more. Alex suggests that founders need to understand their specific use case and choose the most effective channels for reaching their customers.
- The Right Timing for Hiring a Product Marketing Professional: Alex discusses when to consider hiring a dedicated product marketing professional. He advises waiting until later stages, ideally after achieving a substantial annual recurring revenue (ARR), to ensure that the product’s positioning is reflective of the founders’ vision.
- Defining Tone of Voice: Alex stresses the importance of defining the tone of voice for your brand. Whether it’s playful, serious, authoritative, or tailored to a specific audience, consistency in tone helps build a strong brand identity.
- Customer-Centricity: Alex highlights the importance of being customer-centric in product marketing. Listening to customers, understanding their problems, and iterating based on their feedback are key aspects of successful product marketing.
- Setting Clear Goals: In product marketing, it’s essential to set clear goals that align with business objectives. Alex recommends determining whether your goals are focused on incremental gains or larger, transformative changes.
- Avoiding Copying: Alex warns against blindly copying successful competitors’ strategies. While it’s essential to learn from successful companies, it’s equally important to adapt strategies to your unique business and audience.
- Measuring Success: Success in product marketing can be measured through various KPIs, including lead to SQL conversion rates, SQL to close conversion rates, and feedback from customers indicating resonance with your messaging.
- Qualities to Look for in a Product Marketing Hire: When hiring a product marketing professional, Alex recommends seeking individuals who have experience working in companies with strong product marketing practices. Look for candidates with strong execution, determination, and a passion for learning.
- Early-Stage Execution: In the early stages of a startup, founders should take on the role of product marketing themselves, ensuring they deeply understand their target audience and market.
- Transitioning to Scalable Product Marketing: As a company grows, the focus should shift toward building scalable processes for product marketing, including training and documentation to ensure consistency in messaging.
- Avoiding Overly Convincing Candidates: Instead of trying to convince candidates to join your startup, focus on aligning their career goals with the opportunities your company offers. Hiring individuals who are genuinely interested in your vision is crucial.
- Advice for SaaS Founders: Alex suggests that founders spend time thoroughly convincing themselves that their SaaS business is worth pursuing before seeking funding. Only after being convinced of the business’s potential should they seek investment.
- B2B SaaS as a Business Model: Alex reflects on his journey and wishes he had discovered the B2B SaaS business model earlier due to its predictability, close customer relationships, deep technology involvement, high margins, and the ability to use funds to address challenges.
Alex Levin’s insights provide valuable guidance for founders and entrepreneurs looking to navigate the world of product marketing in the context of B2B SaaS businesses.
- (0:29) Show and guest intro
- (1:22) Why you should listen to Alex
- (3:15) The difference between normal marketing and product marketing
- (4:33) The key fundamentals to consider before starting product marketing
- (7:38) The elements of product market strategy
- (10:07) Where does product marketing start and where does it end?
- (12:22) Common mistakes SaaS companies make while trying to implement product marketing
- (17:07) What Alex would do differently if he was just about to start product marketing.
- (19:48) The KPIs for measuring product market success
- (21:00) The Key qualifications to look for when hiring a product marketperson
- (23:58) How Alex is currently doing Product market.
- (24:46) Advice per stage (How to grow to 10k MRR and 1M ARR)
[00:00:00.000] – Intro
Welcome to Growing a B2B SaaS. On this show, you’ll get actionable and usable advice. You’ll hear about all aspects of growing a business to a business software company: customer success, sales, funding, bootstrapping, exits, scaling, everything you need to know about growing a startup, and you’ll get it from someone who’s going through the same journey. Now your host, Joran Hofman.
[00:00:27.840] – Joran
Welcome back to already episode nine from season two of the Grow Your B2B SaaS Podcast. In this podcast, we discuss all topics on how to grow your B2B SaaS no matter in which stage you’re in. One way of getting your product seen by your target audience is leveraging product marketing. How is this different than normal marketing and how to do it right for your B2B SaaS is something we’ll discuss today. We will be doing this with Alex Levin, co-founder and CEO of Regal, an AI-enabled, outbound, and SMS sales SaaS solution. Before Alex started his own SaaS, he worked in product management, partnerships, and in growth marketing. You can say he’s seen the entire business side before doing his own trick in his own startup. As now being a CEO, product marketing is one of the most important jobs right now. He’s definitely the right guy to talk to. Without further ado, welcome to the show, Alex.
[00:01:19.580] – Alex
Thank you for having me.
[00:01:20.620] – Joran
No problem. If people are not convinced after this introduction, can I ask this really bluntly? Why should people listen to.
[00:01:27.080] – Alex
You today? Yeah, of course. To start with, I don’t come from B2B SaaS. My background was in B2C marketing, actually. And so when I first heard about product marketing, I said, What is that? Is that just the content that they put out or the web pages that they make? I had a hard time understanding it, actually. And over time, I came to realize that actually product marketing is one of the most critical functions in B2B because it’s the function really of connecting the dots to how you actually bring a product to market. And so people have different definitions, let’s say it includes product positioning and messaging, actually making sure that you’re reflecting that on the website and that your salespeople are using it and your customers understand it. Sometimes it even includes things like, how are you going to price the product if that’s part of that positioning as well in certain situations. And so it is the core piece of how people are seeing you. What we did very well early days to your question is, we spent a lot of time on this task. We didn’t even know it’s called product marketing, but my co-founder and I spent a ton of time talking to customers, talking to competitors, understanding how we were going to fit in the market, figuring out our tone of voice, figuring out what we’re going to do.
[00:02:41.630] – Alex
And if you look at the results, I think it ended up being very good. We spent a lot more time on how do we talk to our customer than most companies do, because I think we understood from a very early days that distribution is a big part of success in startups. You can have the greatest products in the world, which I would like to think we do. But you need to also have the way of reaching the customer. So at this point, we went from zero to 10 million in AR in under three years and now have continued to grow since then. And so I think it’s a testament how good the product marketing was because we had no paid marketing. There was no other marketing.
[00:03:14.810] – Joran
Yeah, maybe that’s a good direction to my next question, because you have indeed normal marketing and then product marketing. How would you, I guess, differentiate the two terms?
[00:03:24.190] – Alex
Yeah. So again, I think product marketing is one of the most important pieces and early days definitely should be the founders doing it. And even now we’re making our first product marketing hire. It starts in a month and we’re now above 10 million in AR. So you should wait a while and make sure that it is really reflective of the voice you as founders want to have. Outside of that, there’s all kinds of disciplines in marketing. There’s lots of different ways to reach their customers where they are. Again, I think it’s the founder’s responsibility to figure out who the ICP is and understand that piece. But then there’s conferences, there’s paid ads, there’s Google SEM, there’s There’s SEO, there’s direct mail, there’s all sorts of outbound PDRs, all sorts of different ways of reaching customers. So what we need to make sure that you’re doing is understanding for your specific use case, what is the channel that you need to use to reach your customer at the right moment?
[00:04:19.040] – Joran
You said founders should do product marketing early themselves, right? And you’re now hiring your first product marketing person when you hit 10 million AR. I wanted to ask, when do you need to start thinking about product marketing? But you already answered that. Are there any other things you would recommend, I guess, you do before you really go out? Are there any fundamentals you need to figure out first yourself before you really start doing product marketing?
[00:04:44.220] – Alex
Again, I’d say that product marketing is a lot of that investigation and iteration that you’re doing. People don’t often call it that. I don’t even know to call it that. But that is what you’re doing early stage as a founder, where you’re talking to customers, understanding the market, understanding positioning. So it’s the first thing that you do. I think to your point, there becomes a question at some point of, should you as a founder keep doing it, or should you hand it off to somebody? And that’s always a difficult choice. I guess my point of view to what I said is it should be later than you think, because it’s so important that this is reflective of the way you want to talk to your customer, meaning who are you talking to? What is the tone of voice? What are the specific pain points that they really care about? How are you going to differentiate your product? How do you make sure that you talk about it when you’re talking with people? And I think there are lots of examples in SaaS where the company that did product marketing well, one over the company that did technology well.
[00:05:40.710] – Alex
Just for one, in the conversation intelligence space in B2B, you have examples of Gong and Chaurus. Chaurus had much better technology than Gong did, maybe still does even to this day. Chaurus had subpar product marketing. Gong on the other side really understood the end user and spoke very well to them. You have a place where everybody thought it was sexy to use DONG, even though it was the worst product. But guess who won? Dong is now a business doing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and Chores was sold for a much smaller outcome. Still a good outcome, but a much smaller one. So again, it’s not the technology that wins. You have to have great technology, but you need to find the way to reach the customer and speak to them. I think another thing early days that people should think about is, what is the tone of voice? I mentioned earlier, a lot of companies don’t think about this, and they just go ahead and just do whatever. But it’s an important aspect of your brand. Are you going to be playful? Are you going to be serious? Are you going to speak truth to power?
[00:06:40.590] – Alex
Are you the expert? Or are you going after SMBs or larger companies? And so the tone of voice can be a big part of how a customer engages with your brand. So if you look at Gong as an example, they did a great job of being very in your face and over the top about their opinions. Other players have been scared of doing that thing in B2B because traditionally, you were selling to the state big company who didn’t want to rock the boat, and you go to their sites and you don’t understand what they do. They use words that are meaningless that you come away with the impression of blah. So I think those could be good businesses, but they have done themselves a disservice in product marketing. So decide what tone of voice you’re going to use and stick to it so that people get to know the way in which you speak about your business.
[00:07:27.660] – Joran
Yeah, makes a lot of sense. And I think there’s some really good examples as well, which companies or a lot of people listening would know these two companies and they can relate to what they’ve been doing. You mentioned a couple of things already. Get your ICP in order, so make sure who you’re actually talking to, tone of voice, then which pain points are you addressing, and then differentiate yourself from your competitor. Are there any other elements you should include in their product marketing strategy?
[00:07:53.720] – Alex
Yeah. So early on, I went and spoke to a lot of these well-known product marketers, companies that really succeeded. And I’d say one of the interesting things, just first of all, is that all of them are bashful. And maybe it’s part of the personality succeeds in the role that they didn’t overly take credit for. But they’re quite bashful. And they admitted that they were definitely in the right place at the right time. And the founders did a great job getting it started and so on and so forth. But I think what they all did very well is they were deeply interested in talking to customers, learning from customers, iterating, trying new things, and letting the customer lead them to where they need it to go. And so that desired of just like ultimate customer centricity is very important in these roles and something that I think sometimes is missing. Honestly, people start telling people what they want people to hear instead of listening to customers and seeing what words that customers use, how the customers describe their problems. The other piece I think I learned from them is there’s not necessarily one right way to do it.
[00:08:57.520] – Alex
You go talk to some of these brands that have been very successful, and they’ve found very different methods of go to market and positioning. And do you do trials or not? If there’s a competitor, do you bash them or not? Each of them found their own way of doing this. So I’m not sure that you need to say it’s going to be this way or nothing. What I think you need is to really look inside yourself and decide what is the right method for you as a company. There’s a real risk to just finding that Gong does it well and copy. I think too many times I see founders see something and that they assume is successful and copy it. And only years later do they find out that company they thought was successful actually had zero revenue, zero customers, and was just making a lot of noise. And so it wasn’t a good signal to follow. So Gong obviously, maybe is a better signal. But I’d say there’s a risk to just copying if you don’t think it really is the right fit for you.
[00:09:54.030] – Joran
Exactly. And it should also resonate with the value you have. If you’re just going to copy somebody else and you’re not really behind it or it’s not really how you normally want to do business, then at one point it’s also going to go against you probably. When we talk about product marketing, where does it start and where does it end in your opinion?
[00:10:13.210] – Alex
Yeah, I’m sure you’re getting a lot of different answers depending on how the org is set up. I think you have some orgs where the product team is much more involved in marketing, and so the product marketing org is much more focused on how the sales team uses it and how the content is created and what the websites are because the product team is more involved than actually the positioning. And you have other organizations where product and engineering was really very little involvement in it. And so it’s all covered by this person. So I think it depends. There’s not a right or wrong answer. Some of it also is based on the strengths of the people you have in the team. So you have to decide based on the team who should be playing what role exactly. I personally believe that in any of these sorts of roles that are going to be relating to how customers engage with your product, you have to have very clear goals. So I think one mistake is just saying, Oh, your job is to figure things out in general. No, have a specific goal that matters. It could be top of funnel, number of sales qualified leads.
[00:11:10.150] – Alex
It could be from existing customers, a certain number of opportunities. It could be improving conversion. It could be more leads on the website. I don’t know for each business what the right goal is, but pick a goal, give it to that person and make sure that they come back and set an expectation that they think over three months, six months they can get from X to Y, and each week report against whether they’re on that trajectory. Are you going to be right on what your goal is? Not necessarily, but it gives you something that you try to achieve. And when you’re setting goals in these sorts of organizations, make a decision. Are we going after incremental gains? In which case the goal maybe is 10 % more than when we are now. And that you can do incrementally. Or do we want to try to do complete wholesale change that might lead to much bigger, better outcomes? In that case, have double the goal or something, right? Where if you double the goal, you’re not going to get there with incremental change. You’re going to have to blow things up a little bit and change bigger pieces.
[00:12:05.600] – Alex
Are you going to succeed? I don’t know. But it’s going to mean that it forces you to go about the problem in a different way. So as a leadership team, decide what kinds of goals you’re giving people so they focus on the right areas, and whether this is an incremental project or something where it’s more a sea change.
[00:12:20.990] – Joran
Yeah, makes sense. I think maybe fast-forward a little bit like this is one of the most common mistakes you mentioned, not having a specific goal. Are there any other common mistakes SaaS companies making while doing product marketing?
[00:12:34.170] – Alex
My co-founder knows I look at a lot of other websites and I’m definitely a student of this, and I try to learn what they’re doing and find the good and the bad in each company’s emotion. What’s hard is from the outside, without actually knowing their metrics, it’s hard for me to really know. I have my opinion, but it may, in fact, be that I’m completely wrong and something that they’re doing is either from the outside looks silly is what’s driving a better outcome for them. So I really don’t want to speak too much to other people. I can speak to what I’ve done wrong very easily. For instance, I think one of the challenges in product marketing is finding the right person, right? Finding somebody who’s a founder whisper if they’re there for that first hire, right? Can they go sit with the founders, understand what the founders are trying to achieve with the product, understand how the founders generally want a position and take it from there? Because if you’re not very connected to the founders, that’s going to be a big problem. And we’ve looked at hires in the past where they’re not the founder whisper and they’re further from us and that causes issues.
[00:13:35.440] – Alex
Another mistake that I’ve made, let’s just say, is I think not having a good process for taking the learnings and making sure they get all the way to the front line people. When it’s just two founders in a room, the founder is the only one that needs to know it, no problem. But when it’s not, you need to have very good processes around how are you going to create documentation of what it is that you’re using as positioning? How are you going to then go teach it to people? How are you then going to go test them on it? Are you going to retrain them on it? And then for every new employee, how are you going to make sure that they know about what is the latest, greatest version? And then how do you make sure that gets updated in every facet of your website and your content and whatever? To some extent, the easy part is learning what the customers think and iterating on it. The hard part is making sure your entire org is on the same page. So I’ve definitely fallen prey of that as our organization has grown because it’s hard to go and make sure that each person has the information and the materials they need to go be successful with this new positioning.
[00:14:33.500] – Alex
Otherwise, you’re going to all of a sudden put out new positioning, have everyone telling you it’s not working, only to find out that you didn’t give them the tools they needed to be successful. It wasn’t the fault of the positioning, but of the trainer, in this case, me, that you weren’t helping them succeed. So I think that’s a classic mistake that I’ve made. I’d say the other one is just we’ve been slow to hire a person. It’s nice to have the founders doing this, but we are definitely now the getting factor to some of these things going out where the product will make new features and it’ll take a long time to get the product marketing worked out because the founders are the only ones working on it. And we have day jobs. I think you have to balance that between when is it good to have the founders really involved in it versus when do they become the thing that’s actually blocking it from moving forward? Those are some of the mistakes I’ve made, at least.
[00:15:19.750] – Joran
Yeah. The latest mistake you just mentioned is that now, because you mentioned at the beginning, you’re at 10 million AR, you’re now hiring the first product marketing person. Would you have hired them sooner knowing what you know right now?
[00:15:33.230] – Alex
Yeah, I should have hired some of this sooner. I think, again, we’re very lucky in that we got now or beyond 10 million, but we got to 10 million in under three years. And so the revenue and the business to some of that was ahead of product marketing and other aspects of marketing. And so it’s a good champagne problem, as they say. We should have reacted faster to solving that problem. And at the end of the day, I do believe as an entrepreneur, the thing that different differentiates entrepreneurs is the people who are able to react faster, execute faster, win more often. So you’re not going to always be right. Sure, if you’re right, more often, that helps. But if you can react faster, see the feedback and then iterate on that very quickly, you’re going to fail fast and keep moving in the right direction. So definitely it was a little bit slower to hire. I was slower to hire this role, and that was a mistake.
[00:16:24.100] – Joran
Yeah, it makes sense.
[00:16:25.630] – Commercial Break
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[00:17:06.030] – Joran
When we zoom out again, I think the biggest topic for SaaS founders is often, How do I promote my SaaS? Which is, of course, product marketing. So if you would have to start over or if you can do things from the beginning and again and you have to start product marketing for your SaaS, where would you start? What are the processes you take and what would you actually do to get things set up and going?
[00:17:27.880] – Alex
I’ll give a bit of a silly answer first, which is the best if you are your target buyer, meaning you came from a position where you would have been the buyer for this. So you emote really well, you understand exactly the pain points and you know exactly what you should be expecting. So that’s the best. Obviously, if you don’t have that, you can’t go back and change it, but that’s ideal. I think from there, I think the piece of advice that I give everybody at the beginning as a founder is there’s a process at the beginning where you should be convincing yourself that this is a business. Everyone I think at the beginning is so excited, especially for their interest in raising for venture capitalists and going telling venture capitalists and trying to convince them that it’s a business. Don’t. It’s a mistake. You can convince VCs at the beginning that it’s a business. Trust me. You will be able to and they will give you money. That can be a mistake for people. Spend three months to talk to 100, 200, 300 customers. Make sure that you believe that it’s going to be a big business and worth seven to 10 years of your life only working on this one problem.
[00:18:24.250] – Alex
And once you’ve convinced yourself of that, then go and raise funding. Because once you have the funding, you’re stuck in that business for at least a few years. I think early days, yeah, talking to customers and starting to work that stuff out is great. I recommend to people starting with a deck with images. So don’t wait until you have a product built because you’re going to waste time building the wrong thing. Make an image that shows what you want to build, bring it to customers and say, hey, this is what we’re building. That doesn’t solve your problem, basically. Do discovery around and pitch that product. You’ll know when you hit product market fit because there’ll be somebody reaching across the table going, I don’t know about these eight other slides, but there’s one slide. If you have this thing tomorrow, I’ll buy it now. Unless you’re getting that reaction, it’s not product market fit. Somebody saying, Oh, yeah, come back to me in a year. Oh, yeah, maybe I’ll buy… That’s not. That’s just them being nice and trying to make sure you’re not annoyed with them. But if they’re reaching across the table saying that, that’s the thing you should focus on.
[00:19:19.040] – Alex
And you may have had eight other slides that you thought you’re going to launch with that set of products, and really you’re going to launch with that one thing that they really wanted and you’re going to spend the next 10 years of your life trying to get to the eight things, and eventually you might. But I think that’s where it starts, is really finding those people that are reaching across the table and saying, I need that now.
[00:19:39.250] – Joran
Yeah, makes sense. And that is, I guess, for early stage, right? So if you go a bit move on, you actually have a product to start the wheels of product marketing? I think one way of measuring success is, of course, based on revenue. But what other KPIs would you track to measure the success of product marketing?
[00:19:57.820] – Alex
I think I look at a couple of things. One of them is when I talk to our customers, what we’re saying resonate with them. It’s a very subjective piece to start with. Are they nodding? Are they agreeing? Do they come back and engage in the conversation? If they are, I think that then you’re on the right track. If they’re not, that’s a bad sign. The way you ultimately measure that is typically in things like lead to SQL conversion or SQL to close conversion rate. If you’re getting a lot of the people that are in your right general market qualified, or if you’re getting the people who are qualified to close, I think you’re doing a good job of explaining the thing. Because remember, to get them closed, they’re not actually using your product. They don’t even know if your product exists. You’re just explaining to them the thing that you’re doing. So typically you’re looking for at least 20-25 % of sales qualified leads to close. If you’re not seeing that, that’s a bad sign.
[00:20:55.030] – Joran
Yeah. And I just wanted to say, the SKLs are sales qualified leads. That’s good for people who don’t know the term yet. You’re now looking to hire your first product marketing person. What do you look for in that hire? What are the key qualifications you’re looking for?
[00:21:08.980] – Alex
I spoke a bit before about the founder, Whisper, and I think that’s what I use in my head. But to make that a little bit more concrete, I think you’re looking for somebody who’s seen best in class before in an ideal situation. So they’ve been at a company where they have great product marketing. They’ve learned from somebody that’s given them the general idea of it so that they’re coming in with some amount of skill already. I think go and find the five or ten companies in your broader space that have great product marketing, or you think they have good product marketing, and then go after the people at those companies. That’s a good start. Within that early stage, I always believe you’re looking for people that are very high on execution, determination, learning. So as you’re interviewing them, you should be looking for those kinds of skill sets or evidence of those kinds of skill sets. You’re looking for people that love to be builders, not maintainers. So make sure that they’ve had an experience where they’re building, not maintaining. Make sure that’s what they want. The worst you can do is to find a great product marketer who really wants to just maintain and you’re trying to convince them to come early stage and you do, but then it’s not the right fit.
[00:22:14.630] – Alex
So I used to really try to convince people that this was an opportunity they’d want. Now I don’t as much in any role. I focus on what do they want in their career? What are they looking to do next? And if this is a good fit to getting them where they want to go, then great, let’s have conversation. I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m convincing somebody who wants to work at a Fortune 500 brand that they should come to a startup because it’ll be a bad fit. I think from there, in terms of what we usually do in an interview process, we’ll actually give people a real projects. So I think it’s a critical part of any interview process and the way we introduce it to people is we say, look, we’re going to give you a project, it’s under five hours of work. We do it so we can see how you think through a problem, and then we’ll meet and discuss it so you can see how we give feedback and what it would be like to work with us. We don’t want to start on this job with an ever having engaged in that way.
[00:23:01.520] – Alex
What we’ll do in a product marketing role is we’ll say, okay, here’s a new feature. Call me and I’m going to explain the future to you so I can see how you understand what I’m doing. Go do some research and come back with a web page explaining the future, an email explaining it, the materials you’re going to use for the sales team to get them excited about it, so on and so forth. And go through with them because that allows you to really go and see whether this is somebody you think is the right person, right fit. Without that project, that’s quite hard. In terms of seniority, I think it’s a mistake to go VP and above early. A max, go to director and probably a manager or director is the right level, depending on exactly what you’re asking for them to do. And then once you get a better feel for exactly how much work there is, you can choose to add people to the team as necessary.
[00:23:47.370] – Joran
Yeah, and that makes sense. That also comes back to the point you mentioned before, look for real builders because you want to have somebody who’s actually going to do the execution as well. You don’t have that person right now at Ridgewell. How do you currently do product marketing? You mentioned it a little bit already. You’re now doing things yourself. Can you explain a little bit more?
[00:24:05.620] – Alex
Yeah. So largely it’s me and my co-founder that are responsible for this. And we’re always in front of customers. We’re always getting feedback from sales and CS, and we’re constantly seeing what’s going on in the market and how the market is evolving. So that as we’re bringing out features, we can think through how should we position it? What is the pricing? What is the go-to-market? I think, like I said before, we were slow on hiring somebody, so we should have been faster. We’re not as good as we need to be on training people internally on this, and so we’re getting better at that. There’s a lot of pieces that you need to get right in order for this to really work seamlessly.
[00:24:41.760] – Joran
Yeah, makes sense. I always like to ask these two questions at the end. So when we talk about product marketing, what advice would you have for a SaaS founder in different stages? We’re going to start off with.
[00:24:53.990] – Alex
10k MR. If you’re early stage as a founder, you should be doing product marketing yourself. And you’re not even going to call product marketing. You’re just going to call it customer discovery, and you’re going to have customer interviews. You’re going to engage with them. You’re going to get feedback. You’re going to talk with competitors. You’re going to find the place where you want to be and figure out how you need to do the sales motion. Is it a demo? Is it a video you’re sending them? Is it a trial? Is it an annual contract? How do you match the pricing to the value that you’re making sure that people see it from your product so that it all lines? And you’re going to be doing all that stuff on your own at the beginning. Don’t give it to somebody else, especially if it’s not working. Don’t give it to somebody else. I’d say that’s a mistake I see often. Oh, this is hard and it’s not working. I need to hire the expert to go fix it. Never works. It should be the opposite. I’m now seeing as a founder, the signs of success in this area.
[00:25:45.620] – Alex
Now I’m going to go hire somebody to help me amplify it. That’s how you’re going to set somebody up for success. So if I’m talking to a later stage CEO, I think it’s a very different world. It’s you’ve already proven that you can have some sales people repeatedly go and sell the thing that you’re about to have, what you need to start thinking about is the process to make sure that you’re at scale doing what we just talked about. How are you getting customer feedback? How are you discovering what customer competitors are doing? How are you then thinking about the positioning? How are you training other people on it? How are you getting feedback from them? So you can do it at scale and not just as a single founder. So that’s a big transition and starts with obviously hiring your first product marketer and finding somebody who’s aligned with you on your vision for that role.
[00:26:29.440] – Joran
Makes sense. That’s also indeed the answering the second question would have been how to grow to 10 million ARR. The final, final question, what is one thing you wish you knew 10 years ago?
[00:26:41.130] – Alex
I wish I knew about B2B SaaS. For years I went and worked for B2B businesses, which was fun and they were good businesses. But SaaS is an even better business model. It’s highly predictable revenue. You get to work very closely with your customers, which is fun. Very deep technology, which not all B2C businesses are. It’s high margin. So if you make mistakes, you can use money to go fix the problem, whether it’s giving it back to your customers, paying engineers, hiring new people. It’s a fantastic type of business to be in, and especially in New York, there’s been less SaaS. Now there’s a few stories of success, but there’s been less. And so we’re very proud New Yorkers and want to make sure that more people in New York see the value of this business model, understanding why they should start SaaS businesses instead of B2C businesses.
[00:27:26.890] – Joran
Nice. If we were want to get in contact with you, Alex, how should.
[00:27:30.140] – Alex
They do? Especially if sales is a big part of your B2C go-to-market, please reach out. Go to regal. Io. You can email me at hello@regal. Io. I’m always excited to chat about how you use sales and how you use human outreach to drive the right outcomes for your customers.
[00:27:49.320] – Joran
Sounds good. We’re definitely going to make sure we put those links in so people get in contact with you. Thanks again for coming on the show. And thanks again for sharing your knowledge today. Thank you.
[00:27:59.560] – Commercial Break
You’ve been listening to Growing a B2B SaaS. Yoron 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. Getreadiness. Com. See you next time on Growing a B2B Sass.