Last year, I reviewed the email marketing communication at SpatialChat and listed all actions related to delivering or receiving emails from us.
Transactional engineering emails.
Automated emails are sent to individuals when specific events or actions in the app are necessary to continue using it. These emails include verifying email addresses, resetting passwords, notifying users of changes to terms of service, confirming payments, informing users when their subscription is about to renew, and sending invoices. Typically, developers are responsible for setting up the triggers and content of these emails, plug in your SMTP server and go. Emails are usually straightforward and focus on one specific action.
Email is the most cost-effective method for B2B PLG SaaS growth. The product team handles outcome-based tasks like sending welcome emails, introductions “from” founders, and all sorts of personalized emails based on user behavior, website activity, ICP, and demographics. That’s the experimentation venue – it requires multiple iterations and is likely to change every quarter.
Lifecycle marketing campaigns.
In the end, we’re in the B2B space. B2B marketers host monthly webinars and quarterly events with celebrities and put gated e-books on our blog. We tailor our message to the customer's current stage and nurturing goals. In the PLG SpatialChat case, we mostly used it to establish the relationship with the buyer.
Newsletter or blog.
Content is the king in B2B SaaS. Likely, I'm not the only one who has landed in your inbox today. Companies will increasingly utilize this channel as a powerful tool to build trust, educate the market, and develop their brand. In SpatialChat, we send occasional newsletters through self-hosted Ghost.
1-1 sales communication.
In the end, that is the reason why we bought our fancy CRM. The main challenge is aligning the marketing and sales teams to support each other without crossing boundaries. Almost all CRMs on the market require a custom setup and close cooperation.
Imagine the lead has filled out the inbound form. How should we handle the form completion event? Well, likely, the SDR should take the lead, but what if the lead is not sales-qualified or doesn't fit the Ideal Customer Profile? In that case, the marketing team should likely take the lead. Orchestration is essential in this context, and working within a single system is more convenient. Some friends tell me horror stories (definitely not SpatialChat case) when the customers are nurturing sequences from both the marketing team and SDR.
Or think differently – would an Account Executive (AE) be comfortable not having control over the marketing emails their clients receive throughout the contract? Maybe they want to send a personal email to invite them to the upcoming event.
1-1 service communications.
If your product requires solution engineering or if your customer success team wants to assist with the implementations, they can typically use the same setup in the CRM. However, there may be situations where it is more practical to use a separate system, such as Zendesk.
Ideally, there should be no overlap between the CRM and prospect systems to avoid duplication. But let's consider this scenario - you reach out to Bob on LinkedIn, and after three positive interactions, Bob visits our website and signs up for a free account or downloads an ebook. In this situation, we must transfer this information to Apollo or any other engagement system to manage prospect relationships.
Calendly, Gong, and other tools that help to notify prospects about upcoming meetings. We have control over the content but rarely over the markup. These tools form another communication channel that we likely don't even consider as a separate one.
After completing the exercise, I questioned how we arrived at this setup. Ultimately, it’s around email in some way or another. But to effectively carry out the GTM tasks, multiple email servers and domains are necessary, particularly for outbound emails.
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We often discuss the importance of breaking down the barriers between sales, marketing, and customer success and integrating them into a cohesive GTM team. However, it seems that the tools dictate the workflows, making it difficult to achieve this synergy.
Need for orchestration.
We need to marry all tools. If a customer opens a marketing campaign, I want this data in CRM. If the customer applies for the demo, I want to remove them from the Apollo sequence. When a user fitting the ICP profile fills in the form, I must notify my sales team. This is all the setup required for the unique business case.
Tedious content management and unsubscribe requests.
It can be viewed as the subproblem of the need for orchestration, but I believe it deserves the distinct space here. Is your subscription process in alignment with recent legislation, like GDPR or CPRA? Does it need to be? Can we automatically put product users into the marketing nurture? What happens if the customer unsubscribed from product notifications at 12:44 and at 12:45, sales reached them about having the demo through automatic sequence? How real-time are our systems?
We need to export data from storage in order to transfer it to the Marketing system, CRM, and support system. Each tool requires its own data export, which may consist of the same or similar data, to set triggers, segments, audiences, etc.
Engagement services vary in their pricing, making it difficult to categorize them under one service umbrella. In the past, tools like Marketo, HubSpot, and Pardot charged customers based on the number of contacts, which does not make sense for product-led growth (PLG) clients in consumer-facing businesses, as their data size is different from B2B companies.
Over time, tools become more expensive in the email marketing space.
This is because as data processing needs increase, each tool has to store more data locally, resulting in higher costs.
Visibility and transparency.
Customers receive messages from various groups and tools, resulting in multiple communications per day. This can lead to burnout and customer loss. Additionally, it is crucial to manage the frequency of emails sent to individual recipients. Sending someone 10 emails in a short time is more likely to result in opting out, whereas limiting the number of emails increases the likelihood of retaining customers.
That’s the stat I’d love to see in my EMS or Marketing platform.
Some companies, such as Inflection (ex-Marketo folks) or Humanic (read an interview with the founder here), offer fresh perspectives on this issue.
One may say that storing all data in Hubspot or SDFC could solve this problem. However, the real issue lies in pricing. The PLG SaaS industry has borrowed from both the B2C and B2B worlds. In the B2C world, EMS providers are used to charging customers based on the email volume, while in the B2B world, charges presumably on contact lists.
And here’s the trick for PLG B2B SaaS – the volume-based pricing will probably be more beneficial to nurture the free and self-service user, while contact-based pricing makes sense when you move toward qualified leads. So, the ideal platform needs to combine both pricing models.