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Lifecycle Marketing: The Definitive Guide For SaaS (2019)

$10 million ARR is a lofty goal. But what separates the teams that struggle to grow much beyond the $10 million milestone, and those that punch through it and grow even faster?

Your role as marketing expands into four key areas. You’re probably executing the first three already:

  1. Demand generation
  2. Product marketing
  3. Branding

As your startup grows, demand gen begins firing, product marketing is running, and a mini-brand is emerging. The hurdles are falling, hoorah! And of course, each of these three areas craves attention, sprouts headaches, and soaks up resources to keep driving growth across the business.

But this level of revenue growth, marketing has to ask…

Does marketing really need to stop once sales takes over?

Teams approaching Series B and beyond need to pay attention to is the fourth role: lifecycle marketing.

Lifecycle marketing is NOT optional after Series B

Scaling SaaS startups need investment to fund growth, where the acquisition costs are front-loaded. This need for investment drives demand for the SaaS investor industry. But the supply side - the investors - look for specific milestones and indicators of growth.

Christoph Janz at Point9 (disclosure: Point9 Capital are investors in Hull) developed a back-of-the-napkin model to illustrate what SaaS funding looks like across the different areas of the business - you can see the full size version here.

saas-napkin-2017-small

For the marketing team, there’s clear hurdles and expansion of roles.

To raise a seed round there’s got to be strong indications of demand. Clear market space, evidence of signups being retained, and existing revenue.

💡 Demand gen

To raise a Series A there’s got to be strong evidence of organic demand and at least one acquisition channel working. Demand gen and sales should have some understanding of the numbers behind their marketing funnel and pipeline conversion.

As product development matures, product marketing takes shape.

There’s evidence of a mini-brand emerging - woohoo!

Marketing’s role:

📈 Demand gen
💡 Product marketing
💡 Branding

To raise a Series B demand gen has to be completely firing, lead by strong organic demand, to feed teams of ramped account executives. At this stage, there should be total understanding of acquisition costs by channel.

Clear product-market fit with stable technology should be paired with a solid product marketing strategy. New users are quick to adopt your core features and don’t churn, and your roll out of new features has wide adoption.

It should be obvious you have a defensible brand play. You’re known in your space and have clear recognition across the web, at industry events, and your industries ecosystem.

But revenue growth through demand gen, branding, and product marketing isn’t enough to fully realize your growth potential. Account expansion is next level for marketing to fire up.

Marketing’s role:

📈 Demand gen
📈 Branding
📈 Product marketing
💡 Lifecycle marketing

Account expansion means sale beyond the first sale. Some way to increase the account spend after they’ve first been acquired. There are ways to do this incrementally (more usage, more seats), but also to sell whole new products and features.

Either way, the support of marketing becomes crucial. Marketing across the entire customer lifecycle.

Hull - Lifecycle Marketing - Four marketing roles

What is lifecycle marketing?

Lifecycle marketing means marketing never stops.

At Hull, we use the expression “air cover”. To take the military analogy, you have your “front line” troops with direct contact with leads and customers. These are your sales, support, and customer success team.

But operating alone, these individual operatives can only do so much in the days they have.

On the front line, they can only manage so many channels of communication. Email, calls, perhaps sending something nice in the mail…

On the front line, they can only remember so much. They can’t keep up with everything that’s going on in the same way a database can.

On the front line, their teams can only scale linearly. If you doubled the number of deals and accounts, you’d need to double your headcount too.

Of course, you need “front line” sales and success managers to build relationships, win deals, and build success - but operating alone, there’s only so much engagement they can manage.

This is where marketing can help.

Marketing adds a ton of firepower and “air cover” to engage many leads and customers with key assets normally used for demand generation:

  • Website pages
  • Web personalization
  • Email newsletters
  • Email notifications
  • Website personalization
  • Live chat notifications
  • Display ads
  • Physical mail!

If you’re selling B2B, marketing can also extend this engagement with ease to all stakeholders in a target account with ease. Marketing isn’t constrained by headcount in quite the same way - it’s far easier to scale the level of marketing engagement than with sales, success, or support engagement.

But marketing alone often isn’t enough to drive key conversions like big ticket sales, customer training and onboarding, and resolving support tickets. A human has to step in at some point.

The combination of a “front line” human with marketing “air cover” enables you to drive more engagement and more results throughout your customer lifecycle.

Not “marketing operations”.

Not “sales operations”.

Not even “revenue operations”

This is complete customer operations across all your customer-facing teams.

But most companies don’t use them together - they set them up sequentially in a waterfall

Your go-to-market team started as “marketing funnel” to “sales pipeline”.

When you first build out your go-to-market team, marketing’s focus is on demand generation - feeding the sales machine.

Until these channels start firing, marketing has to get heads down, test, iterate, and ship until it “acquisition” is figured out. Marketing structures this into a “marketing funnel”.

What is a marketing funnel?

The marketing funnel describes the progression of leads through different stages until they’re passed to sales.

In B2B SaaS, the marketing funnel stages between a visitor to a website and becoming a sales accepted lead. Often, this involves some level of email signup, newsletter subscription, trail account creation, and so on.

Importantly, marketing needs to pass only qualified leads that are likely to buy - worth spending expensive, frontline, one-on-one time with.

Sales has a similar set of flows…

What is a sales funnel vs sales pipeline?

Sales funnel? Sales pipeline? Sales people are different animals with different language.

Sales funnels and sales pipelines are similar to the marketing funnel for marketers - they explain the stages that sales works with a lead until they become a customer.

At a high level, there are three key stages to the sales pipeline.

  1. Qualifying a lead to accept or reject it.
  2. Accepted leads turn into active sales opportunities, which are worked by sales
  3. Closing an opportunity as a new customer, or not

Similarly, closed won opportunities get passed to customer success teams - the “third funnel”. It’s their responsibility to onboard, reach first success, maintain successful usage of your product or service so that the customer is retained, and primed for an upsell opportunity.

Hull - Lifecycle Marketing - Go-To-Market Waterfall

But, marketing, marketing assets, and marketing-scale engagement can be deployed far beyond acquisition.

Marketing has to expand beyond demand generation beyond Series A.

Yes, demand generation is their first job. Every early marketing team must save sales from starvation, and feed the sales engine. Your ramped account execs are waiting…

But as the demand generation engine spools up, those same tactics and channels that have attracted and engaged leads to nurture and pass to sales can be used to support the sales

Sales and success does NOT have act alone on the front line.

Lifecycle Marketing covers your demand generation → sales → success waterfall

Instead of the waterfall where an account is passed from one team to the next, marketing should advance to provide cover across the entire lead and customer lifecycle.

Hull - Lifecycle Marketing - Lifecycle Marketing over GTM teams

Marketing assets that have built the demand generation machine can be used for other roles too.

Customer lifecycle stages: How to orchestrate your lifecycle marketing

To orchestrate your tools, teams, and data effectively, your customer lifecycle stages have to match up to your real life customer journey map.

To recap on our data-driven customer journey mapping guide, the customer journey expresses how a person and account moves through the buying and usage cycle.

The goal of your marketing funnel, sales pipeline, and customer success strategy - and the lifecycle marketing strategy giving air cover to every stage - is to line up with your customer journey map.

Hull - Lifecycle Marketing - Customer Lifecycle vs Lifecycle Marketing

If we think of this whole system together, we can join together the marketing funnel, the sales pipeline and customer success lifecycle all together.

Each business and go-to-market team will have three unique differences, but if you have a marketing, sales, and success team, then at a high level this is consistent:

  1. Visitor prospect to lead
  2. Lead to marketing qualified lead (MQL)
  3. MQL to Sales Accepted Lead (SAL. This is a new opportunity)
  4. Opportunity to closed won
  5. Closed won to onboarded
  6. Onboarded to retained

In particular, lifecycle marketing can support the ongoing work by sales and success on the front lines. In particular, working on sales acceleration from opportunity-to-closed and customer success acceleration from onboarded-to-retained.

Let’s start with opportunity-to-closed.

Lifecycle marketing for sales acceleration

How can marketing help sales close more opportunities?

Marketing is on the hook for lead qualification but can also support sales to address three core challenges:

  1. Maintain motivation to buy: A qualified lead will have shown some level of interest, pain, and motivation to buy. Sales needs to close whilst this motivation is still present.
  2. Identify and counter objections: Through demos and calls, sales can hone in on what matters most to the opportunity, then speak directly to their needs and fears
  3. Reinforce the value proposition: Sales needs to build the trust and rapport needed to close the deal.

Marketing can accelerate sales by providing content such as case studies, testimonials, educational guides, FAQs, documentation and so on.

Marketing can also work on making that content easily accessible for sales. Whether that’s packaging as a PDF, blog post, video or anything else that’s easily accessible and shareable by sales, or making something.

But you’re already doing that.

We want to reach Series B and beyond. Where marketing can really step in and supercharge sales acceleration is by engaging other stakeholders in a target account across multiple channels.

The same demand generation tactics can be deployed with precision to the target opportunities account, giving sales far more firepower than they could ever achieve operating alone “on the front line”.

We call this 10X account-based marketing.

For instance with ads, you can afford to bid far above and beyond your standard top-of-funnel campaigns that your demand generation programs are used to. With an active sales opportunity, you can afford to spend far more engaging people from that account since they’re so much closer and so much more likely to buy. You can realize more ROI, and faster.

Beyond ads, you can engage other targeted marketing messages. Account-based live chat, landing pages, email newsletter personalization and so forth. Marketing has these channels to funnel messaging down. But marketing shouldn’t operate alone.

Sales usually wants to control the message. From the frontline, they’ve direct eyes into what’s going on (particularly if their CRM has a complete view of the account too). It should be up to sales to decide what messages are sent, who they should be targeting, and when they get sent.

To see how this works in practice, let’s take the example of product qualified leads for sales acceleration.

With trial-based sales models, product usage data during the trial period can be used to inform sales which users and accounts are clearly getting value first - the “aha!” moments.

Sales can then prioritize these users - “product qualified leads” - and use the analytics data to hone in one what exactly they care about most.

On top of this, marketing can continue to work to nurture trial users to their “aha!” moment and beyond to deeper engagement with other use cases. With the ability to automate and personalize messages at scale, marketing can drive significantly more engaged leads to sales.

As with the onboarding by job title, as sales turns a product qualified lead (PQL) into a sales accepted opportunity (SAL), they should be able to orchestrate and direct the marketing messaging.

Without this sales-marketing alignment, marketing’s automated workflows may end up nurturing the lead to a different direction and value proposition to what sales has identified and is working. This splinters the messaging, instead of putting more wood behind the same arrow.

Lifecycle marketing for customer success acceleration

Customer success similarly needs the “air cover” to support their key initiatives:

  1. Onboard new customers: With handover from sales, then work with each account until they’re “successful” and able to grow within your product.
  2. Educate each user: Each account may have multiple users with multiple jobs-to-be-done. Customer success needs to ensure success across the organization.
  3. Reduce churn: Any leading causes of account cancellation and downgrades directly impact revenue. Customer success takes responsibility

With those three core goals, customer success can retain accounts and set them up to grow. Again, like with sales acceleration, marketing can provide the content and assets to customer success managers to support and nurture.

Marketing can also own product marketing messaging - communicating the value of new and improved features within the product to targeted users within an account.

But you’re already doing that.

Beyond Series B, marketing can go beyond simple content creation and help orchestrate that messaging and engage multiple stakeholders across multiple channels.

Ads, blog posts, email newsletters - all the common demand generation tactics - can be personalized and targeted to active, fading away, and potential new users and stakeholders in your target organization.

Again, like with sales, the “front line” customer success manager ought to be able to orchestrate the marketing “air cover” from their tool of choice. Usually this tool is a CRM with the complete record on each customer, user, and account.

Let’s take the example of onboarding emails by job title.

In B2B sales, different customers will have different roles and job titles. With different roles come different responsibilities and jobs-to-be-done.

Marketing can support customer success with:

  • Drip onboarding emails (sent to all new signups)
  • Segmented by job title (using data from their CRM)
  • Triggered after a time delay (in the marketing automation flow)
  • Using product data (from your analytics tools - have they setup X key feature yet?).

Instead of customer success manually reaching out and working with each account, marketing can engage multiple types of users at scale.

Importantly, customer success can control the messages from their admin, until the required actions are needed or unless other actions are directed from their CRM.

Lifecycle marketing should power marketing funnel automation too!

The same tactics of orchestrating engagement (sales finding X as an objection, or success requesting a nurture across Y use case) can be rolled back to your demand generation programs too.

Responsive engagement based on triggers like pricing page views, opt-ins for specific offers, opening emails, and so on can be used to engage other.

For instance, using page views from one website visitor to trigger account-based engagement across their company.

Again, just like sales and customer success, this needs to be controlled and not random or “send-to-all”. It needs to be carefully orchestrated.

Add segmentation beyond the lifecycle stage

Not all sales opportunities are created equal.

Neither are all customer accounts that your success team is trying to work with.

Segmentation by lifecycle stage is important for identifying which team needs to take action, but there’s far more personal, relevant messaging that can be considering other segmentation dimensions.

We’ve talked about segmentation strategy at length, and how it enables you to send the right message to the right people. The customer journey isn’t the same step-by-step flow for everyone.

What this means is there’s a common challenge across all three core go-to-market teams.

Customer lifecycle management across your core go-to-market teams

There are challenges across all of this:

  • How does sales trigger all your marketing support?
  • How does customer success pause and play lifecycle marketing messages?
  • How does marketing funnel automation trigger precisely timed and targeted messages?

The common thread between all of this?

It’s data!

Your customer data management strategy is the secret sauce behind your lifecycle marketing.

What messages get sent should depend on the data in your customer profile. This should trigger workflows and messages to be sent to each lead or customer. Then, their reactions to those messages should be tracked and recorded to your customer profiles. This should make a closed loop, so everyone is all on the same page.

Better still, we want to capture this closed loop within one unified, progressive customer profile - we can capture everything about every person in one place.

The challenge is that uhhhh… it doesn’t exist.

Different teams use different tools. The customer profile is scattered everywhere. CRMs, analytics tools, product databases, email tools, marketing automation platforms, and so on.

It's not so much a marketing stack as a fRanKeNsTacK.

In mature growth teams, there are always key tools which act as a “source of truth” for individual teams. Often, your “front line” sales and customer success teams will work out of a CRM, like Salesforce. Whatever their “source of truth” is, this is the engine to that should trigger, pause, and play the messages they need to call in “air cover”.

This trigger should then be able to pass to your messaging tools - ads, emails, live chat, website - to send automated, personalized messages. The reactions and interactions though should be captured and be sent back to your “front line” teams.

  • What emails did they engage with?
  • What pages of the website have they seen?
  • Have they used the product? Which features?

Though every team’s data is different, there are seven common methods of customer data integration to help draw all this siloed data together and build a unified customer profile.

Customer profiling is at the heart of customer lifecycle management

To bring all your go-to-market teams together and work effectively, you need to be able to profile each person.

  • Who are they?
  • Who do they work for?
  • What have they done?
  • What messages have they seen?

This data needs to be captured, reliable and up-to-date across all your tools. Data that isn’t dependable isn’t trusted (and so it isn’t used).

Crucially, we need to answer these questions across the entire customer journey. We need deep progressive customer profiling.

By continuing to build on each customer profile, you always have the complete picture of each user and account.

Which means you always have the full context to send precisely the right message at the right time. Every time.

Customer data and customer profiling are the secret sauce behind effective lifecycle marketing.

How to build a lifecycle marketing strategy at your business

Your marketing team’s role expands as your team hits more targets. Marketing isn’t just on the hook for demand gen, product marketing, and branding. Marketing becomes core to account expansion and feeding later stage growth.

This means marketing NEVER stops. Yes, your early go-to-market teams will start with a waterfall structure as marketing focuses on spooling up demand generation to feed sales. But the power of scalable, automated, marketing messages can provide the “air cover” and engagement for your “front line” sales and customer success teams.

To do this, you need to map your customer lifecycle stages - your marketing funnel, sales pipeline, and customer success plans - to your customer journey.

The common thread between all these stages, messaging, and logic is data. Build one unified, customer profile with all your data from all your different teams, and use that to align your teams and orchestrate your lifecycle marketing.

Ed fry
Ed Fry

Prev 'Ed of Growth at Hull, working on all things content, acquisition & conversion. Conference speaker, flight hacker, prev. employee #1 at inbound.org (acq. HubSpot). Now at Behind The Growth

If you've questions or ideas, I'd love to geek out together on Twitter or LinkedIn. 👇