SaaS companies have access to data that’s effectively marketing baked into their product – and done well – that’s marketing that scales
One of the things that made Wordle successful is that marketing was “baked” into the product. That’s how John Wall put it on a recent episode of Marketing Over Coffee.
One of the reasons the game took off is that it encouraged people to share their scores each day. And share they do. You can’t get away from it.
There’s a distinction to be made here too: the product didn’t sell itself, it tapped into social proof. More importantly, it tapped into social proof at scale.
Data as social proof
A few years back I worked for a company that, in part, had a SaaS product that processed large volumes of law firm invoices. When the data was aggregated and anonymized, they could see behavioral trends in the legal sector that you couldn’t find in a survey.
At the time, the data showed large corporate clients were shifting money away from the biggest law firms – their traditional source of legal advice – to smaller (but not small) law firms. The economic implications were staggering, and the data put us on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. The story went viral in our market niche.
Social proof was at work here too. Months later an old high school friend, who went on to make partner at one of those smaller-but-not-small-law-firms, would tell me he read that story. He shared it with his peers because the data reflected his firm’s exact experience.
One executive at that company had coined a term for this: data-as-an-asset (DaaA). It’s effective marketing that’s baked into the product. Every SaaS company, which is pretty much every modern software company today, has it but not every SaaS company uses it effectively. There are four primary reasons why.
First, most SaaS products are designed for individual users. There is no interface to analyze aggregate data, so typically obtaining it requires help from the dev team. That conjures up a business decision to fix a bug, work on a feature – or pull data periodically for marketing.
Second, many startups haven’t figured out how to get customers to go along. In the example above, customers who opted-in had access to custom benchmarking data in granular detail. Those that opted-out did not. Most customers wanted the data and opted-in with the comfort of knowing any public use would be aggregated and anonymized.
Third, some SaaS companies are blind to the value of the data they have. This seems like such a big lift – and they aren’t willing to put the effort in.
Fourth, and finally, the companies that do haven’t figured out how to make use of the data. The secret is to identify the story the data is telling you. In the example above, the data was describing a sea change in the legal market.
Marketing baked into the product scales
If you look at conventional PR and content marketing advice, it all recommends useful, relevant and unique content. We all sort of nod our heads in agreement and then slog on with our marketing day churning our brains to find something new from the same old mess. That’s exactly what DaaA provides.
Earlier this year, I wrote a piece titled, The Average Cost of a B2B Content Asset is $2,791. It was based on data running through the systems of a SaaS company with software for managing content. While this blog is no WSJ, the company earned a backlink from a site that ranks in search, chatter on the socials, and the story was picked up by other content creators.
All that took zero effort, beyond producing the report. I simply recognized the value of the data. What marketer doesn’t want to know what B2B content costs? For that company, it was marketing baked into the product – and that’s marketing that scales.
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