Every day entrepreneurs develop new products and services that enable businesses to work smarter, and they’re constantly circling back to the question of how to stay focused and scale. For Danielle Morrill, CEO of Mattermark, this question ties back to streamlining internal operations so her team only works on activities that have an impact and directly align with customer pain points.
Last week, Morrill chatted with Shira Abel, CEO and lead strategist at Hunter & Bard, a marketing and branding agency that works with SaaS companies, about this topic on the SaaS Insider podcast. Here are four main takeaways about sales teams and product development:
The Buzz About Account-based Marketing and Sales
The tech landscape is full of buzzwords, some that are relevant and used properly and others that are simply the trend du jour. While account-based marketing and sales strategies are the hot item, the reality is that a majority of companies already have account-based initiatives, and some have been at play since 2004. ABM or ABS is simply a new terminology.
So what do these terms actually mean? “It’s people saying we want to come up with a list of targeted accounts based on a set of criteria and systematically go after them; make our content and engagement super targeted and do really deep segmentation,” Morrill says.
The Value of Marketing Automation
When entrepreneurs ask for advice or tools to implement, Morrill’s response is to run the playbook. If you’re doing anywhere close to a million dollars of ARR, which is crucial before raising a series A, marketing automation like Hubspot and Salesforce will streamline your processes and make your life easier.
While your team might be resistant to setting up marketing automation since it involves working with a consultant, once these systems are in place, they’re set up for eternity. “I was just on the phone with the CEO of a 500 person company, who said they’re still not using marketing automation because they can’t believe they may have to spend $60,000 to hire a consultant to set it up,” Morrill says. “Do the basic stuff and don’t wait. If you don’t, you’ll end up with human beings doing the work of the software and it’s not motivating for them.”
And don’t be tempted by adopting a dozen different SaaS tools that handle one part of the sales or marketing stack and cost $99 per month. It may seem more cost effective and strategic, but suddenly you’ll find that you’ve spent $1,500 per month for 15 different tools that don’t have a central point of integration. You can avoid some of this pain by running the playbook and not trying to reinvent marketing.
Focusing Your Product Vision
The key to figuring out where to focus when building a product is to take a top-down and bottom-up approach, Morrill says. Top-down is solving a problem and making sure that you’re not doing anything that doesn’t touch on directly solving the customer’s problem. At Mattermark, we’re trying to help people find their next customer and not waste time having the wrong conversations. Typically a top-down approach doesn’t narrow the field enough, so then from the bottom up, you need to be involved in sales conversations and make sure your product is going to overcome a major problem.
When we shifted our focus from investors and startups to modern sales professionals, we needed to build out our product to address sales-specific pain points such as integrating with CRM systems. Today, we’re on the radar of every sales team.
AI’s Impact and Limitations
There’s a lot of conversation about machines taking over the workplace and making humans irrelevant, but we’re far from that becoming a reality since people are still the creative engines of businesses. As artificial intelligence advances, we’re moving from the idea of one monolithic AI to a whole constellation of AI-powered people. The hardest problem with AI is having a machine be able to answer any possible request. We must constrain their context before we’re able to create one all-knowing AI machine.
“For example, I use a service called Clara Labs for all of my scheduling, and Clara Labs’ context is she only deals with requests to set up meetings. Within this frame of tasks, she knows how to deal with a lot of things that come up,” Morrill says. “If you ask her to make restaurant reservations, she gets confused. But you wouldn’t ask her to do that because you understand the scope of what she’s capable of. It’s like you don’t ask a cat to sit since it doesn’t have the same capabilities as a dog.”
What is the future of sales and marketing teams? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: automation and data-driven tools will manage the mundane tasks and let sales professionals focus on the creative, relationship-based side of business. For more insights from Morrill and Bard, listen to the full SaaS Insider podcast.
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Also published on Medium.