Continued learning is vital for me — the more I know about my discipline (marketing) … the more I can be of service for my team and our clients. As the Client Solutions Strategist for 829’s Inbound Marketing Team I am tasked with constantly thinking of new ways clients can use their SaaS platform (usually HubSpot) to encourage ease of use by having all assets in one place, and getting the most bang for their buck out of the platform. ENTER: ASCENT CONFERENCE.

Ascent’s tagline is “New York’s Preeminent Tech Conference,” and for two days Ascent focuses on all things tech, start-ups, and the SaaS space. Alongside opportunities to learn from marketing industry leaders there was: 

  1. An exhibit hall where entrepreneurs showed off their products
  2. A separate stage for VCs 
  3. A stage dedicated to all things start-ups. Sign me up for that! 

I was especially excited about the quality of speakers at Ascent — the opportunity to get even a nugget of wisdom from any of the following big hitters (COO of Vox Media, Trei Brundrett, CMO of Bloomberg, Deirdre Bigley, CMO of Optimizely Carl Tsukahara, and Jeffrey Titterton, CMO of Zendesk — a software we use at 829!) and many, many more was well worth my time. This post is an opportunity to share some of my favorite concepts and thoughts from the conference with you!

The End User Era… It’s Here!

Not super related, but important: I would like to publicly state that Elizabeth Cain from Openview Venture Partners, can really put together a succinct and (somehow) fun slide deck. 

In a nutshell, what does “End User Era” mean?

End User Era means that end users (entry level, mid level employees) are making the decisions about the software used at their companies. For SaaS companies, this means that the way they sell and build customers requires a rethinking of eras past.

In the past, we saw the CEO Era: this was a time when companies used a physical software that required manual installation and the CEO chose software from a handful that were compatible with your operating system. That’s it.
After the CEO Era came the Exec Era: this was categorized by a time when software was cheap and software companies had huge sales teams that would blast your senior level employees for a chance to get their software in your company. That is longgggg past. Companies now have to think bottom up and ensure that they’re putting their software in the end users hands… which requires accessibility for all.

What makes a product successful in the “End User Era”?

  1. Appeal to the end user!
    • Elizabeth mentioned a list of tools/verbiage to include to get buy-in from end users: Sign Up, Automated Onboarding, Knowledge Base (a beautiful thing the 829 team loves from HubSpot), Bots. Elizabeth also mentioned a list of tools/verbiage to avoid to get buy-in from end users: Request a Demo, Talk to Sales, Configurations, and Trainings.
  2. Price comes after use!
    • Free, Freemium, Free Trial… Free! Free! Free! It’s the name of the game. Not only is it best practice, but it’s becoming a prerequisite for a successful Saas business. If you’d like a contact to adopt your software they need to be able to use it prior to paying. Elizabeth also focused on the importance of letting users have an “Aha!” moment prior to being hit with a paywall. I loved this concept. It speaks to the strategy we infuse in our email marketing campaigns: ensuring customers are able to fully explore and understand our clients’ offerings prior to hitting them with an “action-required” CTA.
  3. Invest in customer success!
    • Customer success doesn’t mean a team of folks on the other end of a 1-800 Help line. It means that a SaaS company should have the resources needed for employees to feel empowered to find the solutions to their own problems. Meaning, let’s have a chat option with comprehensive hours, let’s ensure that our knowledge base is built out for after-hours, and let’s be sure that we’re not just building a great product but building an ecosystem that supports self-sufficient users.

All of these learnings can be adapted and used as a resource for clients in this space and for our own content/form building. The recommendations Elizabeth at Openview Ventures has for building your SaaS business is very in line with the Inbound Team’s commitment to reducing friction with every landing page we set up, pop-up that pops up, and nurturing campaign that goes live for our clients.

Alright, so Elizabeth got us warmed up and into the growth mindset. The “growth mindset” baton (unfortunately, only metaphorically) was passed from her to SurveyMonkey’s Senior Manager of Product Marketing, Morgan Molnar. Where Elizabeth gave us the tools to build a brand and customer count (all beautiful very inbound-y tools), Morgan focused on ways to use market research to not only grow your business but inform all business decisions you make.

Market Research as a Tool to Growth

Yes, it is (very) possible that Morgan from SurveyMonkey is slightly biased about the importance of research in a company’s growth… but I do have to admit her session was informative and turned me into a believer. When I think about my takeaways from this conversation, I feel they’ll be more beneficial in assisting our clients with dipping their toes into market research.

Why should brands care about market research?

SurveyMonkey found that content which contains data is 74% more trustworthy, 73% more persuasive, and 44% more fun to read than content without data. Well, those are convincing stats.

Morgan also mentioned that conducting market research on product optimization, shopper insights, message testing and product testing can all help your bottom line $$ and improve your overall customer experience. Applying this to my role at 829: When it comes to selling the idea of “surveying” to our clients, the above are all types of market research I can suggest, and provide them with real-life benefits to their company. Perfect!

Morgan outlined two case study examples of market research saving brands money:

    1. Helix Sleep (then, only a mattress company) wanted to release a pillow that would blow all other pillows on the market out of the water! Rather than dumping tons of money into Research and Development (R&D) they found out how their customers used their pillows and if there were any untapped opportunities. Spoiler: there was. Helix claims that the act of completing market research in their process cut their R&D timeline in half. Whoa. At 829, our team can absolutely work with clients to craft a market research plan prior to them including new services, locations served, etc.
    2. Allbirds (everyone’s fave direct to consumer shoe) does not see market research as a box to check off, but rather it is baked into their business. Allbirds is always tracking key brand metrics to track brand strength both overall and geographically. They use the research they gather to determine whether expansion is logical/feasible in new markets (ya know, before they spend big bucks on expansion). What a cool way to think about market research — just a huge never-ending feedback loop.

The above case studies are evidence that market research can be used as a way to check in with your customers and get a consistent pulse on your company’s presence. It should also be regarded as an effective tool at your disposal for gaining insights and guidance before making big decisions for your business. If there’s a takeaway from Morgan’s session it is ensuring we make space for Market research as a goal for our team’s clients.

Final Thoughts

And that’s all from me folks! Ascent was a blast. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to hear from such forward thinkers in the marketing/technology space. Learning how they deal with growth, friction that comes with young companies, and changing customer expectations is invaluable for me and the clients I work with. Feeling inspired? Reach out to the Inbound Team to talk about growing your business.

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