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Dev Basu is an author, speaker, and founder who helps B2B SaaS and technology companies with their growth marketing strategy. He’s globally recognized as an expert in SaaS Demand Generation, SEO, and Paid Acquisition. 
 
Since 2009, he’s led the growth of Powered by Search  a B2B SaaS marketing agency that helps SaaS companies like Clickfunnels, Reltio, and HelpSystems scale demos and trials with some of the world’s most in-depth expertise in SaaS Paid Acquisition and SEO.
 
In addition to speaking and leading workshops, Dev is also the author of his upcoming book (to be published 2022).
 
Dev has spoken at Google, Traffic & Conversion, SaaS North, Microsoft, SaaS Academy, Inboundcon, Search Engine Strategies, Search Marketing Expo, Interactive Advertising Bureau, MasterMindTalks, and The Globe & Mail.
 
On April 29th, Dev is going to be live, answering your questions on growth and strategy. You can ask Dev about a wide range of topics, starting with the ones below (these would be especially relevant to trial and demo based startups):
  • Generating quality pipeline for the coming quarters 
  • Building scalable growth systems
  • How to engineer predictable MRR growth in your business
  • The pros and cons of hiring fractional CMOs
  • AH

    Anna Holopainen

    about 2 months ago #

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on SEO for early-stage startups. Can you make SEO work for early-stage companies who are tight on cash (so need results preferably yesterday) but also tight on resources (so scalable channels would be great), or are you better off with a sales-led approach, SMM, etc? What factors you should take into account when considering SEO as an early-stage startup?

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      I think it really comes down to whether the startup has product-market fit.

      A sales-led approach is essentially a customer development exercise + an offer thrown in to convert interest prospects into buyers. Depending on the ACV, there's a Goldilocks zone between 100-1000 customers where you know that for the next 10 people you conduct outreach with, a good % will be interested in a demo.

      As soon as that happens, there's a good case for investing in SEO starting from the BoFU -> MoFU-> ToFU. I only use these stages because they're widely known, but at Powered by Search we like to categorize it based on buyer stages of awareness.

      For example, if you find that in the sales-led model, prospects are constantly comparing the startup to a well-entrenched competitor, it would make sense to build a competitor comparison page that would rank easily compared to "category + software" style keywords.

      The 3 key mistakes we see startups making with early-days SEO are...

      1. Not having dedicated product detail pages (as opposed to smacking all features on one product index page)

      2. Not promoting or conducting outreach on any of the editorial content they publish.

      3. Not giving enough autonomy to the marketing team to manage the marketing website (vs relying on developers to push git releases).

      1 Share
  • AN

    Amanda Natividad

    about 2 months ago #

    At what type of organization/team does it make sense to consider hiring a fractional CMO?

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      Great question. Across our base of 50+ B2B SaaS clients, we see most investing in hiring a full-time CEO around the $10-15M ARR mark (especially true when they are growing 50%-100% YoY).

      Fractional CMO's are a useful addition at even $5M-8M in ARR.

      From a functional standpoint, if the team already has tactical demand generation functions in place that are working well on some level, a fractional CMO can really be useful to holistically tie together all the disparate marketing initiatives that are taking place (usually a combination of in-house, solo consultant, and agency initiatives).

      More thoughts on this here: https://www.poweredbysearch.com/blog/fractional-cmo-for-b2b-saas/

      2 Share
  • AS

    Alexandru Stoica

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi, Dev

    What are the main take aways regarding growth (excluding paid channels like Fb/G/Ig) from the tech startups you helped them grow?
    Also, what opportunities do you see now in martech for building a startup SMB/Enterprise oriented?

    Thanks

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      A few things have resonated in terms of patterns I've observed from the most successful SaaS businesses we've worked with.

      1. Marketing is just taking the voice of the customer and amplifying it back in your positioning, messaging, and offer. If you listen to customers and the way they describe their pain points, frustrations wants, and aspirations, you'll have everything you need to create great content, messaging, and offers.

      2. Growth is not solely the job of the demand/marketing function. CROs and CMOs who break down silos and get product people and customer success people (who are closest to the customer) to work with marketers tend to see the best results.

      3. Work with the end in mind. Most startups tend to go from top of the funnel (the most traffic we can get!) to the bottom of the funnel (the least but most qualified traffic). We always work from the bottom up.

      In terms of Martech, fragmentation is the real problem. There are over 7000 martech companies the last I checked all with the raison d'etre to solve marketing and sales challenges.

      Our theory is that every SaaS company basically sells only 3 things:

      A) Speed
      B) Certainty
      C) Insight

      We think martech that it easy to understand what works in marketing and what doesn't will ultimately build a large business.

      1 Share
  • AS

    Aazar Shad

    about 2 months ago #

    When starting a blog from start. What should be the ratio of ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu content? Assuming that performance matters.

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      Here's the 80/20 we follow for our clients.

      1. Do not touch anything middle or top of funnel until all bottom of the funnel (problem aware, solution aware, but not product aware audiences) have been published, promoted, and interlinked to each other.

      2. Then you have a choice — go to the top of the funnel if you're a category-creating SaaS to educate and motivate prospects, or go to the middle if you operate in a well-established category that is noisy. This is where buyer enablement content can really shine.

      We turned the whole funnel idea on its head a bit and created a tool called the buyer awareness matrix. We recommend you work from a product aware stage of awareness backwards to the folks who are only symptom-aware.

      More on that here: https://www.poweredbysearch.com/blog/buyer-awareness-matrix/

      2 Share
    • MT

      Marc Thomas

      about 2 months ago #

      Love it.

  • MH

    Michele Hsu

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Dev. Many SaaS companies in growth mode have a Marketing Team of One. What's your advice to survive & thrive as a marketer in this role? What can founders/CEOs do to set up their marketer for success?

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      First off, work for a CEO who believes in marketing. Marketer-Founder fit is a real thing. If your CEO doesn't believe in marketing, you'll have an uphill battle.

      Now if they do believe in marketing, figure out the metrics that actually make the business tick.

      In SaaS, it comes down to three things

      ARPU — Does the company want to focus on rabits, deer, or elephants (as a size of customer analogy). What di they want marketing to contribute to pipeline?

      LTV or Churn — What can you do in terms of your content and messaging to only acquire right-fit customers? A lot of times we see startups optimizing for traffic growth based on monthly search volume, getting a whack load of traffic, some signups, and then a lot of churn. It's no surprise if these users just wanted to 'check out' the platform without any real pain point driving them to buy.

      CAC — If sales is a 1:1 sport, marketing is all about 1:many. In order of lowest to highest CAC, focus on these channels.

      1. Build an email list
      2. SEO
      3. Organic Social Posts
      4. High Intent Paid Search
      5. Well Targeted Paid Social

      2 Share
  • AB

    Andrea Bosoni

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Dev, I’d be curious to know your opinion on paid social for B2B!

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      It's not sexy and yet it works like a charm. So many of our incoming clients don't believe that they can get to channel: customer fit from anything other than Google Ads.

      Then we deploy our playbook on Linkedin (high cost, but great targeting), Facebook (lower cost, lead quality all over the map), and Twitter (low volume, high intent, great ACV or ARPU).

      Let the naysayers sleep on Paid Social all they want.

      As Paid Social channels become more saturated, creative strategy becomes more important than anything else (targeting or budgeting).

      In B2B the thing that works best is customer stories. These include creative around case studies, customer testimonials, or advertorials.

      The biggest mistake we see on these channels is companies running a direct to trial/demo ad and then wondering why the CPA on these is 2-3x higher than what they get on Google Ads.

      No matter what the channel might be, prospects still need to go through a Know You -> Like You -> Trust You process.

      1 Share
  • JD

    John Doherty

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Dev, thanks for doing this! I'm curious how you and Powered By Search go about modeling growth for SaaS companies and the investment required to get there.

    • MT

      Marc Thomas

      about 2 months ago #

      Oh. That’s a good one John ✌️

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      Great question. We start by benchmarking what their current funnel looks like, specifically observing the drop-off point between stages. As a simple illustrative example, lets say we see this historical data:

      1000 visits -> 100 MQLs -> 10 SQLs -> 5 Demos -> 2 Opps -> 1 Closed Won

      We know we have it within our control to influence metrics up to the demo stage, but usually not afterwards, so we hold those pipeline metrics constant.

      Then we work backwards through the funnel to ask ourselves:

      1. How can we bump up the MQL to SQL CR%?

      2. How can we add a subscriber stage pre-MQL that is even lighter friction than a resource opt-in?

      3. How can either grow the traffic volume or quality? ...and finally what will that cost per click (usually we start with PPC to validate whether the traffic is high-intent enough to convert).

      Usually, this math works out to us sharing 3 scenarios with a client, that then determines a budget forecast.

      More on forecasting here https://www.poweredbysearch.com/blog/marketing-roi-for-b2b-saas/

      and for overall budgeting here : https://www.poweredbysearch.com/blog/saas-marketing-budget/

      1 Share
  • AN

    Amanda Natividad

    about 2 months ago #

    What are some ways content teams should think about attributing customer acquisition to content? What works well and what doesn't?

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      Hey Amanda! Love the work you guys are doing at GrowthMachine.

      I've seen three camps where marketers fall into regarding content marketing attribution:

      1. "Just get me more traffic"

      2. "I only care if it's the first and last thing they saw before converting"

      3. "I care that prospects consume specific content as part of their customer journey".

      #1 is a never-ending quest, often to the detriment of the reason driving a company's desire to pursue content marketing — to drive brand preference and conversion.

      #2 is myopic. It's the exception to the rule when a visitor clicks a piece of content, consumes it, engages with the marketing website, and signs up or books a demo all in the same session. Although attribution reports like this are popular, they are almost always underreported.

      #3 is a balanced approach to giving content credit where it is due. We do this with clients using Google Analytics model comparison tool, but also using marketing automation platforms that track lifecycle history using a perpetual cookie (eg: Hubspot does this well).

      Beyond quantitative metrics, we also tie back specific pieces of content to overall customer quality. Customers who tend to actually consume less content that meaningfully differentiates a SaaS Co from its competitors tend to churn faster.

  • RS

    Rehan Sajid

    about 2 months ago #

    Hey Dev, thanks for doing this.

    When setting up a SEO strategy for a B2B SaaS company how would you consider (if even) handling ABM. Would SEO be part of your strategy, as it seems to be a passive channel by some.

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      SEO is 100% a reliable channel for ABM especially if you have competitors who are hyper-aware of each other's marketing initiatives.

      Let's say you have 5 target accounts on your ABM list. You're doing all the ABM basics like social selling, sending direct mail, getting ads in front of these audiences with case studies, etc.

      Where can SEO fit in?

      1. Do a 'best ______ in ' type post and go into a level of compare and contrast that truly demonstrates you understand their space.

      2. Break down all the amazing things each target account is doing in areas that are complementary to your product and service. Then add content about how they can improve in the domain expertise that your solution or product provides.

      3. Publish content specifically about the category you're targeting is going next and drop in examples from each of your ABM targets.

      Each of these examples will start to rank for 'best _____', ' competitor X vs Y', and "competitor X alternatives' style queries.

      1 Share
  • TD

    Tyson Downs

    about 2 months ago #

    If you had to start your current business from scratch, what would be your first client acquisition strategy?

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      1. Create a great case study with a well-known brand. Do work we're both proud of.
      2. Setup a simple webinar that breaks down the case study.
      3. Pitch other people's audiences to do a partner webinar where the information may be complimentary or valuable to their audience.

  • SM

    Shawn McGaff

    about 2 months ago #

    What composition of founding team skills would benefit most from hiring a fractional CMO? Technical team with no marketing experience? First time founders vs multiple? Should they wait until they hit growth-stage or get started earlier?

    Thanks!

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      A fractional CMO really fills in a strategy gap in the business. I'm a big fan of hiring external consultants who can ramp up faster and leverage pre-existing domain expertise to fill such a gap. This can be relevant even prior to the growth-stage, and definitely becomes important once you reach product-market fit.

  • SS

    Sam Sung

    about 2 months ago #

    What would you effectively do to increase google ranking for a landing-page/keyword if you have only 3 days time? What steps/measures would you pack in that 3 days time?

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      Curious to learn more about what might be driving the 3-day limit. It's a good thought exercise for sure.

      This is where getting really tactical can help. Here's what I would do:

      1. Find a way to point a lot of internal links to the landing page.

      2. Find a way to get a lot of real people to share the landing page via social channels.

      3. Find a way to update the content on the page to tap into Google's quality deserves freshness preferences (newer content temporarily performs better than older content). Please take this last one with a grain of salt. We don't think it's a good idea to update content for the sake of updating content.

  • BD

    Bill Donohue

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Dev,
    I'm CEO/founder of a company launching a first of its kind Saas risk assessment app into the diagnostic testing market... as we speak. This is a subscription based QA app that reduces diagnostic error and assures regulatory compliance in clinical labs. We are rushing our MVP to market in time to help on the front lines of the Covid pandemic... Covid being a 'perfect storm' for diagnostic error. We will offer our Covid module for free and use this freemium/trial to gain access to hundreds of thousands of clinical labs worldwide and then up-sell our other modules. Typical customer would need 8 - 10 modules.

    The product has every attribute you'd want in a viral product. Since our customers essentially drove our development/feature set, and after extensive pilot testing, we believe we are close to product/market fit. We have a very strong value prop, and pre-launch we have already demonstrated organic 'no-touch' sales from our website. So we anticipate very low customer acquisition costs. We project average revenues per customer of $7500 and will charge for an annual subscription up front, so in addition to high margins, we should have lots of unearned revenue to reinvest and fuel the machine.

    Strategically, I have a conservative plan that gets us to $100M ARR in five years, in a $500M total addressable market.

    My question: I'm a boot-strapper at heart. I see a clear path to $100M in 5 years, self-funded from revenues. My plan is to avoid VC money entirely, but don't want to be short-sighted about what a faster/greater capitalization could bring. Would you talk me out of my current boot strap strategy?

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      Sounds like you're building a great business. Right now a lot of what you've shared feels like you have good projections but they are ones that need to be validated.

      If I were in your shoes, I'd look at your traction in tranches as follows

      $0 - $500K ARR
      $500K - $1M ARR
      $1-5M ARR
      $5-10M ARR

      ... and onwards

      The market in each tranche of growth will come with many lessons. Along the path to $1M ARR you'll find out if you have sales velocity that exceeds your capital expenses. If that's the case, then keep growing as long as you can (if you aren't in a super competitive category) without taking VC.

      As an alternative to VC, think through other financing methods such as Pipe.com, Revenue Based Financing (Lighter Capital), or Debt Financing (FounderPath).

  • OS

    omamuzo samson

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Dev, for a tech startup (SAAS) in the Insurance space, servicing other Insurance companies, how do you drive growth especially with demand generation and build a scalable growth system?

  • JD

    Jan Dejosse

    about 2 months ago #

    How do you balance your paid efforts between creating awareness and direct lead gen? In other words, what's the main marketing metric you are looking at: leads, CAC,....
    And finally (still more or less related): should everything be fully measurable or can you live with doing certain things, just because they make sense but won't create an immediate return (eg thought leadership content, awareness)

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      Once you get to a certain level of pipeline quantity and quality (we call this Quality Pipeline Certainty) you can start injecting in brand awareness metrics that give you a bit of halo effect and are hard to measure.

      In the beginning, your direct response marketing is a good signal specifically to determine if there is demand and product:market fit.

  • RG

    Ryan Gilbert

    about 2 months ago #

    At what point in a new project/companies life should there be a focus on SEO and/or paid marketing?

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      Personally, I prefer selling and then building product (pre launches, early adopter circles), but if you already have a product, get it to PMF and then focus on these channel:customer fit approaches

      1. Cold outreach
      2. Paid Media
      3. SEO rooted in content that answers the 10 biggest objections buyers bring up.

  • DR

    divya rajendran

    about 2 months ago #

    Hi Dev,

    What are the other marketing startegies to attain customers for tech SaaS other than content marketing?

    And what is the crucial thing that you consider as a most important for demand generation.

    What are the approaches have to be done to increase saas subscription rate

    Looking forward your answers!

    Thanks in advance:)

    • DB

      Dev Basu

      about 2 months ago #

      The most crucial element in demand generation is creating a narrative, positioning, and messaging that is congruent with your prospect's biggest pain points.

      If you get this right, the rest becomes a lot easier.

      Conversion rate is about two things — decreasing friction & increasing incentives to act.

  • DB

    Dev Basu

    about 2 months ago #

    Thanks so much for having me Gus, and the GH team. Folks, thank you for your questions. If you have follow-ups follow me on Twitter and I'll look forward to connecting with you there - Dev.

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