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Interview with a SaaS Marketer, Corey Haines

I had the privilege of having a short chat with Corey Haines, a highly accomplished SaaS (Software as a Service) marketer currently working on Swipe Files. These are the salient and key points of our discussion.

There are no direct quotes here, all errors or ambiguities are mine alone.

What’s so special about SaaS people?

SaaS essentially comes down to two things. You build a product and you sell it. It’s very rare that a single person has the lifetime career expertise to do both. Solo Entrepreneurs that can effectively do both exist, but it’s rare.

(author’s note): Above and beyond ability and skill, most people naturally tend towards energizing vs energy draining work. Even if you have the skill or potential to do both activities, if one or the other is energy draining, it makes sense to me to find a partner or outsource the work that may not suit you.

What makes SaaS marketing different?

Direct to Consumer (DTC) marketing is totally different. Consumer marketing is less about utility and more about desire, conceptualization, emotional needs.

SaaS Marketing is about one of three outcomes:

  • Make money
  • Save money
  • Save time

The target market ends up feeling like they will have super powers to accomplish stuff rather than and end of having or consuming something.

SaaS marketing is also intent driven in that it needs to target an audience and draw back to an ROI. Contrasted with traditional advertising (commercials, print ads, web banners) which is more like saying random things to random people.

The economics are different as well. Revenue is spread out over the lifetime of a subscription, LTV (Life Value). DTC efforts have to be largely profitable with initial purchase, with some exceptions for customers who stick around beyond the initial purchase. SaaS marketing is always running cash negative with Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). This means you have to take a long term strategy with SaaS marketing.

How do you know what the high leverage marketing activities are?

Mostly experience.

Having gone thru them over my career, there are playbooks for startups marketing to other startups I’ve come to know pretty well. You start to recognize them fairly well.

Most industries and verticals have their own playbooks. Even if you don’t know them, you can tease out patterns when you see multiple companies in a given space go about growing their business.

For SaaS, there are a lot of different situations and criteria that determine the optimal activities. With experience, you end up thinking: “when x, and if y, z criteria, this channel works.”

That being said there are three channels where you can always expect some baseline efficacy:

  • SEO
  • Outbound sales
  • Partnerships

The above are ubiquitous because they almost always work with SaaS and even across a broad variety of verticals.

Other channels, such as social media ad spend, the results tend to vary wildly.

How do you go about finding a business (sales, marketing, etc.) partner or co-founder?

Primarily you are looking for someone with industry know how, connections, expertise. Having a good network, lot of connections is a sales superpower.

Given the nature of early stage startups, you also want generalists. A single person will be doing the bulk of the work. If you have a paid ads specialist, or an enterprise sales expert, you might have too large of a skills gap and the SEO or partnerships work may suffer.

Lastly, look to the work to be done and try to find someone who’s done it before. If you have no ranking find someone who took a new web property to the the top ten results for relevant keywords and can drive organic traffic. If you want to go from 5k MRR (monthly recurring revenue) to 20k, look for someone who’s done similar growth work.

Thanks again to Corey for taking the time to chat with me.

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