Continuous Marketing for B2B SaaS Companies

May 6, 2021 | Trisha Marks

 

 

I’m sure you’ve noticed, as the SaaS world went from Waterfall development to Agile, to Continuous, the old way of running Marketing campaigns has slowly become less and less relevant. It’s no longer enough for B2B companies to do a product release or a software update once or twice a year. Instead, we’ve shifted to more of an ongoing cycle of such releases. 

What Is Continuous Marketing?

As these products and updates are released to the public, marketing campaigns must also adapt to this altered schedule. Experts in the B2B marketing space are switching to Continuous Marketing, meaning the old ways of monolithic campaigns are being replaced by smaller ongoing efforts to keep their customers and prospects updated on and excited about their products.

 
For this episode, we couldn’t think of anyone better to break down Continuous Marketing for us than Omēd Habib, VP of Marketing at Tonic.ai. With a background in software engineering and a decade spent in marketing, Omēd brought many powerful insights to the table that demonstrate just how valuable a Continuous Marketing approach can be for B2B (and B2C) companies.  

In this interview, we cover: 

  • The definition and history of continuous marketing 

  • The importance of continuity in messaging and experience, especially in B2B content marketing 

  • How to evaluate frequency and strategy options that are best suited for your company and product 

Tune in now and decide if a Continuous Marketing approach may be your best strategic move in 2021! 


 

Video Transcript:

CAROLINE: Hi. Today, I’m here with Omēd Habib. He’s the VP of Marketing at Tonic.ai. Before being in marketing, Omēd was a software engineer and led software engineering teams, and that gives him a very unique perspective on the industry. So Omēd, thank you so much for being with me today.

OMĒD: Yeah, thanks for having me.

CAROLINE: So today we’re gonna talk about how marketing delivers campaigns and kind of the cycles we go through. And what’s kind of interesting is that product teams have started to deliver kind of continuous delivery cycles, right? With very short cycle of releases. And so being from the engineering world, I’d love to have your perspective on how you kind of apply this concept to marketing and how different it is from the traditional way marketers go about releasing campaigns.

OMĒD: Yeah, so I had a bit of a career pivot. So, I started off as a software engineer. And so, I learned obviously, you know, best practices with building software. I was in it, I watched trends doing it, I also managed it. And then I pivoted to marketing. So, I’ve been doing marketing for almost a decade now. And I’ve noticed that there were a lot of parallels. So, one area in particular, which we’re gonna discuss today is what I call continuous marketing.

So, the idea here is that software teams that used to deploy software, build software, deploy software, in a what you would call a waterfall fashion. So, the idea is, you know, you build, build, build, and then like you have these giant monolithic releases once a year, once every six months. And that is now considered a very old way of building software. Now marketing teams would follow suit by then having what is also considered a waterfall marketing campaign. So, you have a once-a-year launch, twice a year launch, and the launches were, you know, pretty big. You had to enable, and by the way, my context, just for clarity, comes from enterprise B2B software. This may apply to other industries, segments, maybe B2C. And actually, I think it does. And we’ll talk about why here in a second.

So, marketing then would also build these giant marketing campaigns. Now, the way that software is being built today is what we call continuous. So, we heard of this term dev ops. The last 10 years, dev ops was more of a philosophy, not necessarily tools or software, but the application of dev ops is what we call today CICD. A lot of buzzwords. All you have to know is that software features get deployed almost daily. Matter of fact, at Google I think it was like they have like a hundred releases a second maybe across their entire code base. So, the idea is that as soon as the feature is built you get it out in production into the hands of the customer, you know, right away.

So, when you open up your app, you know, you open up Netflix, you’re like, wow, that’s a cool new feature I never noticed before, or, you know, log onto Facebook, for example. You’re seeing updates, you know, continuously. Now for a marketer, I came from the traditional twice a year once a quarter approach to product releases. And so, as a marketing team we used to build these big campaigns. And then I joined a company where they were releasing every day. They had a major production push at 5 pm. And so, it was a more continuous release which is what most companies today are adopting. And if they haven’t yet, they’re gonna get there. So, the old way of marketing wasn’t working, and I realized, okay, so we can’t just like hold off and, like. talk about our features once a quarter. Even like once a month was like too long. So, by the time you launch it and release it, the customer has already seen it where people, prospects, who are demoing your software trying your software, they’ve already seen it. So, I introduced what I call continuous marketing.

And the idea here is that instead of doing these big monolithic releases, you do small stuff continuously. Now the question is at what frequency ’cause you can’t every day have a launch, you know, 5 pm. So that depends on the company. For you guys, once a month might make sense. Once a quarter might probably be too long. I’ve seen some companies, they have a marketing release every week on a Friday. Also, the deliverables on your releases are gonna change. So, I think a lot of tech companies are guilty of this where there’s kind of a disconnect between what marketing is saying and what the product team you know, is doing inside the actual product UI, what the documentation team is, you know, putting together. And the product docs. What the sales team is saying to, and presenting to, prospects. There’s this disconnect between the message.

And so, what I call a continuity of message or continuity of experience is that at every point of your, as a consumer, your experience with a brand, the message is consistent, the brand is consistent, and the experience is consistent. I think the gold standard today of that is probably Apple. What you see on TV, super exciting, product looks amazing. You go into a store, the experience matches that expectation the store experience is, you know, A plus. You purchase the product, you come home, you unwrap the product, you actually use the product. You know, you’re still up here in terms of the experience. At no point is there a break in disappointment throughout that whole experience. And so, there’s an alignment, you know, A through Z, end to end. Tech companies are notorious for breaking that alignment.

Anyway, I mention this because as a marketer, when you do launch, you want to make sure if you’re launching continuously that you have a continuous message. And the way that you do that is you have to have alignment with your docs team, with the product team product management, specifically, software development. So, when you’re sending out emails to notify your customers and prospects of the latest updates your call to action goes to product docs which is consistent with what you just communicated. You’ve enabled your sales team continuously once a week once every two weeks, whatever the case is, everyone’s speaking the same language. Your collateral is being updated. Website messaging is being updated. So, I’ll pause there.

CAROLINE: Yeah, so, first of all, I love this concept. I think that it makes much more sense to do it this way so that you are totally in line with the product, to your point, right? Like there are really less and less cases that this launch can be like every few months, right? I think something else that I like about the concept is that instead of waiting to have everything ready to communicate about something maybe you can start with step one. Maybe you can start with piece of communication, number one. And then as this is launched, go and like build the rest of what you want to build, right? You don’t need the entire package at the very beginning of each campaign.

OMĒD:  Yes, so are you asking if when you do launch, do you launch sequentially versus doing everything at once?

CAROLINE: Yeah, I think, you know, a lot of the time you’re launching a campaign and you’re planning your campaign and you’re planning absolutely every piece of the campaign, right? But the truth is your target audience is probably not gonna consume everything at the same time anyway. So, like, how do you use continuous marketing to make sure that you make progress on your campaign every day instead of like waiting for, you know, the whatever day of the month or the quarter or when you launch?

OMĒD: Yeah, it makes sense. Okay, so I probably answer this question by segmenting based on who’s gonna consume information, you know, first and foremost, your customers, they’re gonna probably want to know what’s happening, right? So, a quick email update I look forward to email updates for my favorite tools. Like, you know, whenever I see an email from coda.io or like web flow I get excited because I’m like, oh, this is awesome. One thing that I also like that they don’t do, I’m gonna kind of digress from the question here, is that they don’t abstract the, I guess you could call it abstract, the theme of the release. In other words, they don’t give you like this fluffy theme. They just give you, here are the features. So as soon as you look at the email, you just jump straight to the features and you know exactly what, you know, they built.

So going back to your question, I would segment. Now there’s all kinds of ways that you can reach your customers. Probably the most powerful way is within the app itself. You log in, you get an immediate pop-up, some tool tips to show you exactly what’s new. With call to actions in case you need to go learn more about it. I always click on the learn more and I love videos. I think coda’s a fantastic example. Web flow, their videos’ actually entertaining to watch, but they enable you immediately.

So, I’m getting I guess you could call it continuously enabled, and I like that. I like learning something new once a week on my favorite tool. So, there’s no surprise there. Prospects, people that are, you know, throughout the funnel. Mid-stage, you know, in consideration stage, they’re gonna want to see, you know, that you’re constantly updating. It increases my confidence if I’m trying a new software and I constantly see new updates from them, it makes me feel good knowing that, okay, they’re continuously improving, building new features, fixing bugs, at the end of the day software’s software. So, you definitely don’t want to be using and paying a lot of money, especially if you’re in the enterprise where the average deals could be tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars, for software. So increases confidence, maybe not as important or some would argue equally as important is gonna probably be, you know, like your investor, shareholders, stakeholders it increases their confidence when they see you’re continuously improving and constantly, you know, building new things.

And also, I suppose on that note, the press, they kind of want to see the buzz. You’re gonna get more attention. Now I did get a question. You might be thinking this, like, well, you know, we like to make a lot of noise and we used to do that. And it would, you know, our launches can’t go from like this big thing, you know, to all of these, like, you know, small little weekly launches. What about the press? You can’t do a press release once a week. And you can’t. Analysts, they don’t want to be on a call watching their product every single Friday, latest features. So, a traditional marketing campaign, we still do this, is we’ll package, once a quarter we’ll pull from all of the previous releases and kind of package it together into a theme. I recommend it away from, you know, abstract themes to package your releases. But if you wanted to follow that approach, you still can.

Traditional releases, big launch campaigns once a quarter, you know, your analyst briefings, press, PR, you know everything under the sun, you still can do that. And is there is nothing wrong with doing that. As a matter of fact, I actually recommend doing that just so that, you know, it’s kinda like a drumbeat, right? So, it’s like, dun dun dun, dun dun dun, right? So, your drumbeat is like, you’re hitting your audience once a week or once a month but then boom hit the market once a quarter. Once a week, once a month, boom, hit the market once a quarter.

CAROLINE: Right.

OMĒD: So, you can still, you know, utilize that approach.

CAROLINE: I love it. I think it’s really powerful and yeah, just very applicable to, you know, running with the product, right? Instead of living in two very different worlds. So, thank you, Omēd, I think it was really, really wonderful.

OMĒD: Yeah, it’s my pleasure, thanks for having me.

 

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