• Manjula Sridhar

    Nuts and Bolts of Marketing & selling SaaS products to US customers from India for First Timers

    In innumerable brainstorming and “gyan” sessions with friends, mentors and experts, one of the most stressed focus area is getting product market fit as soon as possible and then follow it up with scaling sales.  I think most early to mid stage entrepreneurs are instinctively aware of this but struggling with “Hows”.  So when I saw this playbook promising precisely to explain how, I grabbed a spot. I wasn’t disappointed. Suresh Sambandam is very down to earth and spoke earnestly and in detail about different steps he took while selling the OrangeScape’s product KiSSFLOW. Attendees who themselves run early to mid-stage companies and Kishore Mandyam of Impel CRM chipped in with their stories and inputs. Here is the detailed enough capture of the same.

    The relevancy of this session is greatest to Early and Mid-stage entrepreneurs going from $0-5K MRR to $50K MRR selling to US MSB. This session is NOT meant for discovery or product market fit but I have inserted the discussion at the end.

    The blog is organised as below Product Market Fit / Pricing as step 0; Followed by Inbound Sales and Marketing and then finally Outbound Sales and discussion on tools.

    2014-11-15 16.37.05Product Market Fit

    The absolute first step (may be zeroth step) in Sales process is getting the product market fit. You know you have a Product Market Fit with a B2B Mid-Market SaaS product when unknown folks start buying (Inbound sales is picking up traction). Unfortunately in cases that were presented at the session, the discovery process of the product happened organically based on another product that they were building.

    However the generic solution for early stage product discovery goes like this.

    • Create a landing page with a “notify when ready”.

    • Create a SEO/Adword campaign for getting early adopters. You need to be very clear about the product category and fine tune your Adwords to exactly match what product aspires to solve. There are usually two approaches to any product i.e Disruptive Innovator or Faster Better Cheaper. So Adwords need to be in line with these

    • Once people signup engage with them and partner with them to fine tune the product.

    To put succinctly Bring-> Engage->Convert->Succeed; As you can clearly see from this model, “Marketing Comes Before Product” or as Suresh puts it bring the horse to the water.

    Pricing and “Freemium v/s Free Trial”

    So which model suits best for a SaaS product? Is there one preferable over another? Very subjective topic but the thumb rule seems to be for SMB / Mid-market SaaS Free Trial is a best method to go.

    Models aside, what matters most to the conversion is the post-signup engagement and the price factor. Faster conversions are dependent on many factors but one of the key factors is pricing. If pricing is within the decision-making authority of the midlevel managers, it is easier to convert. The discretionary spending seems to be around about USD 5K. Keeping the price low per user and making minimum unit purchase of say 10 users per bundle works quite great.

    Inbound Sales

    WebSite – Suresh firmly believes that Website is a core asset for a B2B SaaS company and hence should not be outsourced. He advises to have a minimum team of Web Developer, Creative Designer and Automation Engineer.  This would help perpetual A/B testing in short cycles..

    Couple of nifty tricks to make the whole experience frictionless is to have a one click signup. Visitor should be able to experience the main software within few seconds. The other participating companies in the round table have used various  techniques to authenticate emails like SMTP Ping, email pattern matching, etc.

    It is also important to closely monitor the users interaction with the website, capture it and feed it back to the Engineers to close the gap and arguments between Sales/Marketing and Engineering. One of the recommended tools in this category is FullStory.

    RajanSEO

    Lot of interesting debates on this; discussion ranged from how get the right keywords for searches and what optimization works and how to track the metrics. Suresh again firmly believes in having a dedicated SEO guy and focus on defined key words. They manage about 28 keywords and track them very meticulously. Some thumb rules and objectives again are

    • Do it Slowly but Steady
    • Don’t alert Google
    • Build Backlinks (Naked and Anchor)
    • Improve Google Crawl Frequency

    Adwords:

    It is preferable to have one dedicated person with number crunching and finance background. This will help track the cost per signup for search ads

    Content Generation:

    While it is important to have this come from founders, it is very hard to find time for the founders. One technique employed by KiSSFLOW is to hire fresher from visual communication background who has a grammar nazi attitude and give a very specific target like 2 +2+2+1 per week (2 blogs published 2 interviews done, 2 assured interviews for next week and 1 research post). He also uses 10-80-10 formula for the content itself where beginning 10 and ending 10 percent are reviewed in detail by founders.  One of the other key points stressed was to have self ads in each of the content which leads to signup.

    Outbound Sales

    Contact DB

    Obviously the most critical first step here is having a database of all the companies and the decision makers that you want to reach out. Linkedin Premium works best. This is how Suresh does it. He uses Linkedin DB to create a list of all target companies and then assigns the task of creating the contact details to an online consultant who was discovered on Elance. It usually works out to INR6-INR10 per contact. There are other dbs one can purchase directly from companies such as Data.com, Discover, rainking and slew of others.

    Once contacts are obtained it is very important to use direct emails as opposed to using mailchimp, constantcontact, etc as most of them will not land in inbox. It also helps to be as personalized as possible.

    Sales DNA

    It is absolutely essential for the founder to set the tone of sales.  For US be ready to pull night shifts continuously.  Although it is the founders calling, it is good idea to assume the persona that appeals to US clients say Bob and position one as a sales manager. It is also important to make the sales hire to listen to the call handling to build on this.

    Channels

    Not all channels are suitable for SaaS and one needs to do some trial and error to figure out the best channels. The channels include Events, Road Shows, Reselling Partners and Referral/Affiliate partners, may work well but Orangescape has ignored them.

    Metrics, Tracking, Tools

    Meticulous tracking is critical and many tools are available to manage and measure the process. Some that are being used by the roundtable companies are listed below.

    Metrics to track

    Metrics to Track

    Suresh SambandamTools

    These are the various tools used by the KiSSFLOW team and other participant companies who attended the roundtable

    tools

    Conclusion

    Very hard to summarize such a detailed session, but one parting thought stands out. Attention to details followed by automation and customization seems to be the way to go.

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    • Ravi Teja

      Thanks for summarizing the discussion. The Product-Market Fit discovery approach mentioned above might not work for all kinds of products. You might not be reaching out to right buyers, which doesn’t validate in the right way then.

      • sureshsambandam

        Ravi,

        100% with you.

        That was discussed as one of the examples during the session. Not as the only approach!

        Suresh

    • manjula

      True. Hence the disclaimer in the first para. This session was not meant for that. Thanks for highlighting. – Manjula.

    • Manjunath M Gowda

      Nice blog and am sure was a nice session; We do most of the things in almost similar fashion (but we are not B2B Saas but B2B on-premise tool) and We have different set of tools but all are same in the end – all depends on how you use it.

      Manju, i7 Networks

      • manjula

        Manju, you should lead one playbook on classic b2b. This will help many I am sure !

        • Manjunath M Gowda

          I think so. I know a lot of tools, methods and ways to do b2b for US and especially more so what FAILS and what ONE SHOULD NOT do too :-)

          • Manjunath M Gowda

            But Suresh, take one more session please, I would like to attend :-)

            • sureshsambandam

              Manju – You are already an expert man!

    • ahimanikya

      Can you expand the abbreviation used in pipe drive slide?

      • sureshsambandam

        CA1 = Call Attempt 1
        CA2 = Call Attempt 2
        CA3 = Call Attempt 3
        UTC = Unable to Contact

    • sureshsambandam

      Hi Anand,

      Thank You!

      Looking at your comments I have feeling (I might be wrong, pardon me for that), you might want to attend iSPIRT’s product-market fit Round Table. The questions above are more pertinent and addressed in those RTs. We did this one for companies that have already found the product-market fit and looking to grow from there!

      Suresh

    Nov, 19
    2014
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