Software Sales Tips by Matt Wolach

transparent-png-file-1-logo-matt-wolach
Scale Your SaaS

How to Avoid Wasteful Marketing Spend – with Eric Dodds

EPISODE SUMMARY

Success hinges on more than just having a great product. It’s about understanding your market, effectively communicating your value proposition, and aligning internal teams toward a common goal. This week’s Scale Your SaaS episode focuses on avoiding wasteful marketing spend.

With host and B2B SaaS Sales Coach Matt Wolach, head of product marketing at Rudderstack Eric Dodds share his insights into the world of product marketing and how it plays a pivotal role in the growth and success of SaaS companies. Check it out:  

PODCAST-AT-A-GLANCE

Podcast: Scale Your SaaS with Matt Wolach

Episode: Episode No. 311, “How to Avoid Wasteful Marketing Spend – with Eric Dodds”

Guest: Eric Dodds, Head of Product Marketing at Rudderstack

Host: Matt Wolach, a B2B SaaS Sales Coach, Entrepreneur, and Investor

Sponsored by: Leadfeeder

TOP TIPS FROM THIS EPISODE

Understanding Product Marketing

As Eric explains, product marketing is a discipline within SaaS that focuses on enabling various functions within a company to market and sell their software products effectively. Unlike traditional marketing, which may be focused on metrics like impression share or cost per acquisition, product marketing is more about understanding deeply how the software solves problems for end-users and enabling other teams to communicate that value proposition effectively.

“At the end of the day, we’re all trying to get someone to either sign a contract or swipe a credit card to buy our software,” Eric emphasizes. Product marketers act as the bridge between product development and sales, ensuring that the value proposition is communicated and understood throughout the organization.

Identity Resolution: Unlocking Customer Insights

One of the key challenges in SaaS marketing is identity resolution—piecing together fragmented data from various sources to gain a complete view of the customer journey. Eric describes how traditional methods of funneling data into CRM systems often lead to incomplete insights and missed opportunities for growth.

Eric tackled this challenge by focusing on building a comprehensive view of the customer within the data warehouse. By combining data from marketing, product usage, and sales interactions, they create a unified profile that enables teams to make data-informed decisions. This approach empowers marketing teams to optimize campaigns and personalize the customer experience effectively.

Collaborating Effectively with Data Teams

To maximize data insights, marketing teams must collaborate closely with data teams. Eric emphasizes the importance of understanding attribution models and collecting comprehensive data to inform marketing strategies. By aligning around clear goals and metrics, teams can work together to optimize performance and drive growth.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

The Role of Product Marketing in Company Growth

When should a company invest in a product marketing team? According to Eric, it’s never too early to start thinking about product marketing. However, the role of product marketing evolves as the company grows. In the early stages, it’s about collecting intelligence from customers and the market to inform messaging and positioning. As the company matures and achieves product-market fit, product marketing shifts toward building a repeatable process for launching products and enabling sales teams.

However, the real challenge lies in aligning internal teams with differing incentives. Software sales teams may prioritize closing new deals, while customer success teams focus on retention and expansion. Product marketers must navigate these tensions to ensure that everyone is working toward the same overarching goal.

Key Takeaways for Software Leaders

As software leaders navigate the complexities of product marketing, Eric offers some key advice:

  • Clarify Goals: Align the organization around one or two overarching goals and ensure that each team understands how they contribute to achieving those goals.
  • Collect Comprehensive Data: Invest in tools and processes to collect comprehensive data across all touchpoints in the customer journey.
  • Focus on Quick Wins: Start small and focus on quick wins to build momentum and drive continuous improvement.

In conclusion, product marketing plays a crucial role in the success of SaaS companies by aligning internal teams, unlocking customer insights, and driving effective marketing strategies. By understanding the challenges and opportunities in product marketing, software leaders can position their companies for growth.

TOP QUOTES

Eric Dodds

[07:11] “Product marketers act as the bridge between product development and sales, ensuring that the value proposition is clearly communicated and understood throughout the organization.”

[10:52] “One of the key challenges in SaaS marketing is identity resolution — piecing together the fragmented data from various sources to gain a complete view of the customer journey.”

[21:52] “Start small and focus on quick wins to build momentum and drive continuous improvement.”

Matt Wolach

[09:56] “By aligning around clear goals and metrics, teams can work together to optimize performance and drive growth.”

LEARN MORE

To learn more about Rudder Stack, visit: https://www.rudderstack.com/ 

You can also find Eric Dodds on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericdodds/ 

For more about how Matt Wolach helps software companies achieve maximum growth, visit https://mattwolach.com.

Head over to leadfeeder.com and sign up for a 14-day (no strings attached) free trial: https://www.leadfeeder.com/ 

________________________________________________________

Check out the whole transcript of the episode here:

Matt Wolach  00:04

Yes, welcome to Scale Your SaaS really glad to be here. Thank you for joining us. By the way, if you are looking to grow your company, if you want to make sure you have all the right processes in place, you want to make sure that the structure is there, and that you have everything you need for your foundation to grow. Definitely subscribe to this show, hit that subscribe button. That way you’ll be notified of all the new episodes where we bring you amazing, impactful people from around the world of SaaS. And one of those amazing people is here with us today. I’ve got Eric Dodds with me, Eric, how you doing?

Eric Dodds  00:32

I am doing great, Matt. Thanks for having me. I love talking about growing SaaS businesses. So really excited to be here.

Matt Wolach  00:40

Me too. I’m excited as well. Let me make sure everybody knows who you are Eric. So Eric, he is the Head of Product Marketing at Rudderstack. He leads Product Marketing there, which is rudder stack. That’s the warehouse native CDP. He also leaves management of their internal data stack, including the data pipelines and infrastructure that drives marketing, reporting and activation. He has over a decade of experience working with and implementing customer data infrastructure, and has advised companies like BMW we work and a host of startups on marketing strategy, and data related projects. He’s also the co host of the data stack show, definitely go check out his show. Basically, he’s interviewed nearly 200 data professionals in the last three years, including guests from Netflix, Stripe, Facebook, and many of Silicon Valley’s hottest data startups. He absolutely knows his stuff. And I’m really, really glad he’s here. Eric, thanks for coming on the show.

Eric Dodds  01:29

Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Matt Wolach  01:32

Yeah, so tell me what’s been going on with you lately? And what do you have coming up?

 

Eric Dodds  01:36

Yeah, so let’s see, we’re, so I’m in product marketing, I actually have run multiple marketing functions. So initially built out the demand generation function and performance marketing here at runner stack, and recently had been working on building out the product marketing function, which is really fun discipline in SAS. You know, a lot of there are a lot of different definitions of Product Marketing, but building out that team and a couple big things. So working on tightening up positioning and messaging to sort of clarify our position in the market, and our differentiators. And then also taking to market our latest product, which is an identity resolution and customer 360 product that runs inside of the data warehouse and natively so very, very busy here on our end at Rudderstack.

Matt Wolach  02:29

I can imagine a couple of things to unpack there. You mentioned product marketing. I mean, I think a lot of people have heard that. But quite a lot of people don’t quite understand what is that? How does it is that different than regular marketing? Is that different than product people? So can you explain for us exactly what that entails? 

Eric Dodds  02:45

Sure, I’ll explain. You’ll get you know, a bunch of different definitions if you ask different product marketers. So I’ll explain what you know how we view that world at Rutter sack. So, you know, when you’re building a software product, you’re taking that product to market, right, you have software that performs a function for some sort of end user, or set of end users in a business. And you are marketing that you’re trying to get leads who are interested in that. And then you’re trying to, you know, enable your salespeople to close a deal where someone buys your software, right. And there’s a huge spectrum, there’s a self serve type motion with product, lead growth, and a bunch of different business models. But at the end of the day, we’re all trying to get someone to either sign a contract or swipe a credit card to buy our software. And, you know, when you think about marketing, traditionally, a lot of people think about demand generation or even brand marketing, and which are really, really critical. Product Marketing is a different function, that’s much more of an enablement function. So as you think about, you know, sort of brand marketing or performance marketing, have metrics that they want to hit right impression share, or, you know, its leads or cost per acquisition, or, you know, pipeline generation. You know, those are all really sort of metrics oriented and product marketing is a really interesting function. Because a lot of times there’s not a number to hit, you’re an enablement function. And so the question that we ask is, how do we understand on a really, really deep level? How our software solves a problem for the end user? And then how do we help our performance marketing team get better leads? How do we help our sales team, you know, create higher velocity in the sales process? How do we help our content team create content that’s really educational and really compelling. So that leads and prospects and website visitor visitors are very educated, moving towards a purchase decision? So we really sort of span the spectrum. You know, and so we think about profit like marketing, router sack is having internal customers. So we are connected at the hip with a product management team, understanding the roadmap, what we’re building, we’re responsible for taking what we’re building, and fashioning that into product launches, and then enabling each function. 

Matt Wolach  05:21

I love that. So you’re kind of like the hub, if it was a hub and spoke model and make sure everything happens. 

Eric Dodds  05:26

yeah, exactly. Great. 

Matt Wolach  05:28

When does a team or a company need to have a product market or a product marketing team? At what point in their growth cycle? Should that happen? 

Eric Dodds  05:36

Wow, that’s a really good question. You know, I would say that, in many ways, you, I don’t think you can start too early with having a product marketer in place. The caveat there is that product marketing in the very early stages of a company changes a lot, right. And I would say this is in sort of the product market fit phase. And so if you want to, you know, use the conventional zero to a million, a million to 10 million, you know, well, things are all over the all over the board zero to a million, right, you’re just trying to fight to stay alive, you’re trying a bunch of stuff, the way you describe your company, the way you sell, everything is changing, you know, month over month, or even week to week, sometimes as you learn, things sort of stabilize, and you get a somewhat repeatable process. And then, you know, if you, if you believe the conventional wisdom that, you know, you hit the 10 million threshold, and you have some level of product market fit. At that point, you’re talking much more about scaling. And so I would think about, in my opinion, and this isn’t, you know, I actually didn’t come from a product marketing background. And so in many ways, I wish that in many prior companies and everything that I had started this way earlier, but I would think about it as sort of accomplishing two different things, I would hire it very early. But in the zero to one and one to 10 phase, you’re collecting as much intelligence as you can, from the customer in the market, and especially your own marketing and sales process. And trying to build a bunch of intelligence that will inform how you communicate and differentiate yourself, and sort of build those foundations. And then once you sort of get product market fit, and you can filter all of that Intel down to the stuff that’s going to create velocity in a sales cycle, then it’s about building a repeatable process of taking what the product team is building, launching it, and then enabling teams to, you know, drive interest and ultimately, close deals. 

Matt Wolach  07:54

Yeah, I love that. Thank you for that breakdown. That’s super, super helpful. But it feels like, you’ve really got to be in touch with the product team, with the sales team with everybody and making sure that everybody knows fully what’s coming and what’s going on. I think that that’s something within a lot of companies where that breaks down. And I’ve seen a lot of times where the sales seems like we have this now, I didn’t even know that and a lot of customers don’t even know it. It’s, it’s scary. When that happens. It sounds like you’re keeping everybody in touch together. 

Eric Dodds  08:24

Yeah, I think that’s the hardest part of the job. You know, if you talk with any product marketer, you know, if you’re, if you’re savvy, you can figure out what people are building, you can figure out how to translate that into a message that people understand. But the incentives of different internal customers that product marketing has around the organization are drastically different. So for example, you know, a sales team is, you know, generally concerned with closing net new logos, right? There’s a commission component to that. And so the way that they interpret the way that it’s designed for them to interpret the product roadmap, is for them to say, okay, how can I construct a deal, that includes the things that are most relevant for these people that will, you know, that they’re willing to pay for, right? Whereas the customer success team, might be incentivized more on like a net dollar retention number or an expansion number, right. And so, as opposed to the way that they might think about, you know, architecting, a package of product features that might drive expansion, maybe much more around adoption, right, or deeper usage of existing features or other things like that. And so, I think that’s what makes it tricky is that, you know, things get out of alignment in many ways, because there’s intentional tension in the way that different parts of the company are incentivized. And so, I think as a product marketer, really understanding business fundament fundamentals and and incentives is really key to understanding how to be that translation function. 

Matt Wolach  10:04

I agree and I hate it when different departments different teams are incentivized differently, and they’re kind of pulling in each other. And you’re right, it creates that natural tension. I think a big lesson for me as a leader and for other leaders out there is, let’s get our teams aligned with the with the goal that they’re aiming for, on the whole, for those of you who have read the book, traction, that’s one of the big things from that book, as well as, let’s pick one or two overarching goals, let’s get every team focus on how they can reach that goal. And I think that really helps what you’re talking about another thing that you mentioned earlier, identity resolution? Can you explain exactly what that is? And what that means? 

Eric Dodds  10:40

Yeah, absolutely. So this is a problem that we noticed really early on with a lot of our customers. So we came to market with a product that provided data pipelines for you to collect data from various sources. And so if you think about, you know, the modern SaaS business, you have a marketing website, there are people interacting with that some proportion of those people probably convert on a form or request a demo or sign up for a trial or whatever. They then go in, you know, they, they then a lot of times, they’ll cross platforms, especially if there’s any sort of PLG motion where they’re getting into an app. And so you actually have multiple different data sources, and trying to connect to the user journey across all those data sources tends to be extremely difficult. The way that this causes problems in the business really, practically, is, I think a lot of people can relate to this, you know, the marketing team is spending time in Google Analytics, and sort of looking at all the top of funnel stuff, making sure their UTM parameters are all tagged correctly, so they can tie you know, the Google ads spend to, you know, some sort of lead number, the product team is probably using a different tool to look at product usage, right. So they may be more interested in looking at, you know, screen recording, you know, or sort of user tracking screen recording to see how people are using it, maybe they have a product analytics tool, like, you know, amplitude or mix panel. But those two datasets are really siloed. And then of course, you have the, you know, the 800 pound gorilla, which is you know, Salesforce or some sort of CRM tool, where the actual process of selling is being driven. And that tends to be sort of the, you know, the, the end all be all for the business, because it’s the closest to the bottom line in terms of revenue. But what’s challenging is that, practically, you have three even in that scenario, and that’s actually pretty simple. As you grow, the problem gets even worse, then you throw in customer success, and you know, other teams, but just the scenario, you have marketing and Google Analytics product using some set of their tools, and then you know, the sales team or revenue team, using Salesforce, you have three different repositories of data that aren’t necessarily wrong, but that only tell a small part of the story. And so this is pervasive, everyone listening probably knows, you know, knows about these challenges have dealt with them. Typically, what companies try to do, and especially in the world of b2b is you just try to get this data into a single place. And because Salesforce tends to be the center of gravity in terms of revenue reporting, you’re trying to get data into Salesforce, a lot of times, right, and so okay, you set up the campaign objects, and you try to get the UTM ‘s and and you’re doing all this weird, you know, automation, and, you know, probably ought to Zapier plugged in from the marketing ops team and all that crazy stuff, right? And so what is the net result of this? I used to joke all the time that I’ve never seen a Salesforce instance, that wasn’t a Frankenstein, you know, I mean, has anyone is? Why is that? Well, it’s because you’re trying to force a bunch of marketing and product data into a CRM that’s really, really built to drive a sales process, right. And so you go down this path of custom fields, and it gets really, really messy, and then the quarter and comes around. And you have someone spending four days in spreadsheets, doing a bunch of V lookups, from exports, trying to, you know, give the board an accurate number. That’s really challenging from an operational standpoint, but there’s actually a much larger opportunity cost, and that’s that you hit local maximums, and each of these business functions, and that’s the real pernicious thing that if everyone’s working really hard, you know, it’s like, man, we’re working really hard. We are getting this data together. You can almost miss the fact that marketing has an incomplete view and so they actually can’t tell what’s happening downstream on a granular level. either in the product, which campaigns are actually driving sign up trials where they activate? That’s a hard question to answer, right? You’re just not going to look into it that deeply if someone has to spend days in spreadsheets, right? Or even more important, which campaigns lead to active trials that lead to, like sales accepted opportunity, you know, leads and then opportunities, right? Which ones of those closed? How many are closed? Last? Why are they closed? Last? Those are the the answers that really, that can really ignite growth in a business. Because if you can piece together that happy path and make it repeatable in the business, it’s, it’s game changing, right? And so that was a very long way of describing this problem of identity resolution. When we say identity resolution, what we’re doing, what we really mean is, what are all of the different pieces of information you have about your customer? And how do you combine those into a single view, and this is the marketing terminology around this is nauseating, golden customer record, you know, single pane of glass, single source of truth, customer 360, blah, blah, blah, whatever you want to call it, right? At the end of the day, it’s very simple. It is collecting all the touch points you have about your customer and combining that into a profile, that gives you a complete story about that customer with data that enables your teams to make fully data informed decisions, whether that’s about a marketing campaign, you know, a product feature, you know, or the sales process. And so the punchline here is that, you know, at router sack, we believe that, you know, building this in Salesforce or Google Analytics or other product tools, like everyone knows that when they’ve tried that it’s failed. The place to do that is in the in the Cloud Data Warehouse. And so router sack provides a solution that allows you to collect all of that data, build that complete profile in the data warehouse, where you have a flexible enough set of data focused features and flexible enough data model to do that, and then push that back out into each tool so that every tool has a complete view of the customer. And they can all operate from that single source of truth. So there you go, I will. I’ll take a moment to breed. 

Matt Wolach  17:21

Yeah, that’s awesome. So much valuable information. Because you’re right, this is so many hiccups and challenges along the path and trying to make that happen can be really tough, especially if you’re, you’re trying to set up new campaigns, and you need the data to tell you what’s going to be the right way to do it. What’s the right way to personalize? So let me ask you this, how can marketing teams collaborate really effectively with data teams to make sure that they understand the data and they can use that data and the insights so that they can have better targeting and personalization?

 

Eric Dodds  17:53

Great question. So there are two acts as two aspects to this. One, I would say is the is the first part of what you said, which is understanding. And then the second part is what do you do without understanding, which is things like personalization? The understanding piece with marketing, in my opinion, should always start with the question of how do we get clear attribution. A classic challenge that many many SAS businesses run into is that they only look at one or maybe two views of attribution. And in fact, if you’re doing a lot of reporting out of Salesforce, it’s almost always a last touch attribution model. And so just to clarify what I mean by that, if we think about the customer journey, and actually I’ll use router sack as an example, we’re a b2b SaaS company, we ran an analysis about the customer journey. So someone visits the website, they, you know, look around, they maybe join a webinar, or maybe they sign up for the app, you know, for a free trial, then they request the demo, then they go look at the documentation, whatever all those touch points are. There were, you know, 17, on average touch points that someone went through before actually, like getting on to a call. Okay. What’s recorded in Salesforce is the very last action they did, which is usually filling out some form on the website that’s related to sales, which is contact us or request a demo right? Now. Okay, so that’s not bad. But when the revenue if the revenue obscene, which we have a wonderful revenue ops team, so this, thankfully isn’t the case here. But if they’re trying to look at the attribution, you know, attribution in Salesforce, they would say, the answer to our growth problems is getting more demo requests. How do we do that? Right, but that’s step 15. You know, in a 17 step process, right for sure. So that I would say is a huge like understanding, even if you can just get first touch and last touch, the marketing team can start to optimize the channels that eventually lead the first touch channels that eventually lead to the last touch that you want to get to right. And then you know, of course, you can sort of get as complicated as you want from there, how does a free trial plan to it, etc. So that’s one part of it. That requires having a complete view of your customer and everything that they’ve done across every touchpoint, right. So you get the attribution piece, you understand what’s working, and then you want to start to personalize the experience so that you can get people on that happy path faster, right? Well, the good news is, if you’ve built this complete view of your customer, you have all this information about them, you know, and for for b2b companies, you know, the way that we look at it is, you know, and this is data, that’s actually pretty hard to combine manually, right? You know, how large is their company? What industry mean? You can get some of that through enrichment or whatever, how many people have signed up for the, you know, for free trials in the app? What are their different job titles? What different actions have those people performed? Right? Because a lot of times what you think about, oh, we, this account came in through a request demo? Well, a an example of, you know, router sack of how that can be very misleading is that, well, there may have been two or three people who signed up for the app before that, activated in the product, joined a webinar. And then they go back and tell the decision maker internally, we found this thing, we think it can solve our problem, you should check it out. They go in there, like this is cool. I’m gonna request a demo, right? And so of course, all the executives are like, let’s get to the decision maker and get a demo requests. And that’s how we’re gonna grow the business. And it’s like, no, no, no, that’s the result of like a much larger process. So that sort of the attribution and personalization side of it. 

Matt Wolach  21:55

Yeah, I think it’s so critical. You’re right, especially something like this, what we’re doing right now a podcast, I have people who come in and want to work with me, and it’s hard to figure out, did you come from the podcast? Did you come from YouTube? Did you come from LinkedIn? Like, really understanding that is, is difficult. So as we wrap up here, Eric, what advice would you give to software leaders who are trying to sort all this out trying to understand the data trying to understand attribution and figure out how they can best grow their their efforts? You know, in the best possible way? What would you say? 

Eric Dodds  22:27

I think I’ll go back to something that you something that you said earlier, which is, you know, what are the one or two numbers that you’re aligning the organization around? And I would really work with each function to answer how they are accountable to that. And as a product marketer, you know, one of the one of the first places to start is with the product team and the product roadmap, right. And that’s something that, you know, a lot of times, unfortunately, if you’re trying to grow a SaaS business, you can get into a situation where the tail is wagging the dog, right? Sales is like, I need this feature in order to sell more, right. And that can be a very difficult situation, because you’re just sort of building stuff ad hoc, you know, without understanding, you know, of course, you could draw a direct line of like, Would it help this sales? Rep close a couple more deals like Sure. But does that actually help us accomplish the goal for the entire company? Right? And so that gives you the discipline to say No, on the product side, or yes, on the product side, that makes the job for people like me much, much easier, right? Because then I have a very clear idea of what our goal is, and how we need to take stuff to market. And then it focuses the work of every other team, right? So if marketing knows, this is our goal, they can start to go answer some of the questions of like, when this happens, and we do well, why is that happening? How is that happening? Right from the first touch all the way to the last touch? Right? And I think starting simple is really helpful there. You don’t have to boil the ocean. But I would just rack up quick wins, right? Like, can I uncover an insight that gives us a little bit more detail about the customer journey and how we can optimize it, you know, and build towards that, you know, sort of that full picture of you?

Matt Wolach  24:26

Yeah, that’s awesome. Super great advice. By the way, Eric, this has been fantastic. I can see you’re just an amazing expert at all of this stuff. How can our audience learn more about you and Rudderstack? 

Eric Dodds  24:38

Sure. Rudderstack is way more interesting than me. So we’ll start there. So rudderstack.com. And you can go check us out. You can request more information. There’s a bunch of videos. And then I’m on LinkedIn, so you can just search Eric Dodds or Eric Dodds Rudderstack and connect with me on LinkedIn would love to chat. 

Matt Wolach  25:04

Okay, perfect. We’ll put all that in the show notes. If you’re listening or watching go check that out there you’ll be able to grab that and go follow Eric go check out Rudderstack as well. Eric, this has been great. Thanks so much for coming on the show. Thanks for having me, Matt. Absolutely, and everybody out there. Thanks for being here as well. Again, make sure you’re subscribe so you don’t miss out on any other innovators and leaders like Eric some great stuff coming up. So hit that. And by the way, we are looking for reviews. We want to make sure that the world knows that this is something that can help them. So if you think this is valuable, if you think you’re getting great information, like what Eric just shared was awesome. Please share a review that way other people can learn about it as well. Thank you very much for being here. Take care, and we’ll see you next time.