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Driven newsletter archive

Issue 18. February 16, 2020

Beacon of light for product managers | Profit from headwinds | Smart use for interactive content | New support group for revenue leaders

Yikes. Mid-February already. We’re about halfway through Q1, and 13% of the year is gone.

That leaves 87% of the year to get things right.

New Saturday morning delivery for Driven

Speaking of getting things right, a reader suggested last week that I switch the timing of this weekly email to Saturday morning.

You’ve no doubt noticed that it’s been coming out late on Sundays. That’s happened because my work expands to fill the time I give it.

If I set an earlier deadline, I think I can get it out earlier and with better quality control.

If you get your email Saturday by 10:00 a.m. EST, you’ll have more time to work it into your weekend schedule.

What do you think?

Unless I hear more than a few objections, I’m moving publication to Saturday morning.

You can expect the change with the next issue.

Your issue of Driven this week includes 4 topics, and all provide brief introductions to resources I think you’ll value.

  • Beacon of light shines for beleaguered SaaS product managers
  • Smart marketer solves a common problem with interactive content; earns bump in web traffic and acclaim for his company
  • 2 ways to profit from economic headwinds
  • New international organization provides support for revenue leaders

Reading time

Your reading time this week is about 10 minutes.


PRODUCT | MANAGEMENT | TOOLS | RESOURCES

Beacon of light shines for beleaguered SaaS product managers

The job of product management is becoming more important in SaaS companies.

A prior issue of Driven explains why. (“And you thought product managers were just frosting on the cake.” Driven issue 10, December 18, 2019.)

As the SaaS industry becomes more competitive, it’s harder to differentiate value by product alone.

Competition is especially tough for look-alike products sold through transactional sales. (Transactional sales close with little involvement of a sales rep. They typically involve small to modest contract values.)

But differentiation is also getting tougher for bigger SaaS applications for enterprise accounts.

Product managers have become essential members of the revenue team. Yet their job is often vaguely defined and poorly understood.

The folks at OpenView are trying to help fix that.

OpenView offers 35 resources on the role of product management

They just published a list of articles to help product managers and the people they report to.

The list includes prior OpenView blog posts and also articles from other sources. The articles cover these topics, among many more:

For the full list of 35 resources, go here.


MARKETING | TECH | TOOLS | ADMINISTRATION | EXECUTION | RESOURCES | RESEARCH

Smart marketer solves a common problem through interactive content; earns bump in web traffic and acclaim for his company

You’ve probably seen Scott Brinker’s mind-boggling graphic of the more than 7,000 marketing tech applications available today.

Brinker’s website, Chiefmartec.com, has updated the list nearly every year since 2011. The total count then was just 150 logos.

Annual updates to the graphic are wildly popular and grab a lot of attention.

Popular graphic becomes less useful as it grows in complexity

But the graphic hasn’t been so helpful to people shopping for martech applications.

As a tech shopper using the graphic, your first challenge is to figure out which category of application you want. Then you have to enlarge the graphic enough to read the tiny company logos.

Next you have to find the URL for each company and search for their website. And once on their website, you have to dig through its jargon to figure out what they heck they do.

Now an enterprising marketer has eliminated most of that bother. Agu Rejon of Velocity Partners in London partnered with Brinker to create an online app from Brinker’s data. The app makes the search for martech apps much easier.

Interactive database solves a common problem for tech buyers, at low cost to its creator

The result, Martechbase, is a fine example of interactive content that’s both useful and engaging. It also enables its operators to gather a ton of data, if they choose to do so.

Rejon created the searchable database without writing a line of code. He did so by using off-the-shelf, low-code development technology.

He says the project took him three months to complete. He worked alone during late evenings and weekends.

Martechbase describes itself as “a free platform to discover and share the best marketing solutions.” It enables you to “search more than 7000 marketing tools by name, features, or description.”

You register to use the database by sharing your name, email address, and the martech stack you use. You pay no fees.

In addition to searching individual applications, you can also browse what they call “the world’s best Martech stacks.” These are similar to a playlist on Spotify or Pandora.

Free tool improves on an already popular piece of content

Participating marketers post their preferred tools from their company’s tech stack.

Registered visitors can upvote the listed stacks they like.

You can also create a private watchlist that keeps you posted with news about the solutions on your list.

I entered Bombora, and Martechbase produced this information:

“Bombora is the largest aggregator of B2B intent data, providing B2B marketing and sales teams insights about when their customers are actively in-market. The service was founded in 2014 and has 51-250 employees. Bombora is a B2B company with headquarters in New York, US, and an estimated annual revenue of $1M-$10M.”

The listing also explains the category of martech into which Bambora fits: Audience/marketing data & data enhancement.

Finally, the Martechbase listing provides links to Bombora’s website and social media accounts.

From this listing, you can add Bombara to your tech stack or save it to your watchlist.

You can also see other marketers who have saved Bombara to their stacks. And you can find other solutions that are “related to” Bombora.

Easily choose tech options from 50 categories

If you’re looking for a list of applications within a category, you can choose any of about 50 categories from a dropdown list. The database then provides details for all the applications in the category.

Last week’s issue of Driven noted that the salestech market includes 3,000 technologies or applications.

It seems like a no-brainer for someone makes a similar database for applications in salestech.

3 Takeaways

1. If you’re shopping for martech applications, use Martechbase.

You’ll spare yourself many hours of effort.

2. Steal this idea.

If you want to produce compelling content that draws attention and traffic, create an interactive application. You can probably build it fast and at low cost, using no-code software tools. You can acquire data in partnership with one or more sources outside your company. Or you can use anonymized data from your own SaaS applications. By compiling data from multiple sources, you can make your application more valuable than any single source.

3. Think what data you can collect from users and how you might use it.

You could use the data you collect in such an application to qualify prospects or to target accounts.

Or you could use the data to produce original research reports that you could release as another form of content.

The possibilities are endless.

One thing you can do right now

Brainstorm 8 ideas for how you could create a useful application that targets prospects in the markets you serve.

In a future issue of Driven, look for more ideas about how to use interactive content to up your sales and marketing game.


TRENDS | ECONOMY | OPPORTUNITIES | RISKS | REVENUE | GROWTH | PROFITABILITY

2 ways to profit from economic headwinds

If you’ve read recent issues of Driven, you may have seen two articles about how to prepare for an economic slowdown.

I don’t want to harp on a downer topic. But the number of risks seems to be growing. And I want you to be prepared when the downturn comes.

Most economists are terrible forecasters. Even so, many note that we’re facing strong headwinds:

  • The unknown scope and consequences of the coronavirus, both for China and its trading partners
  • The consequences of trade wars
  • The unprecedented length of the current economic expansion.

The U.S. economy stayed strong in 2019, and corporate earnings reports were solid in January.

Warning signs are accumulating

Yet despite these recent positive signs, many economists and business leaders are predicting a recession the in next 12 to 24 months. The Business Roundtable has seen CEO optimism fall for 7 quarters straight.

The U.S. economy has grown for 36 quarters in a row. This the longest expansion on record.

Economists say that what goes up must come down. And many think it’s about time for this economy to start coming down.

The big questions are when it will happen and how much the economy will contract.

When the economy slows, private equity money may be harder to get. That could give your company less room to maneuver if you start running short of cash.

Most senior business leaders today have never managed through a downturn

Here’s another sobering thought: Most strategic planners and CEOs in U.S. companies have zilch experience in leading a company through a recession.

The temptation will be strong to start recession planning only when it arrives at our doorstep. And then it will be too late.

Sales Benchmark Index (SBI) published another interesting report last week on how to cope with a recession.

Their report lists several strategies for thriving through a downturn. I’ll focus on just two here:

1. Increase customer lifetime value.

Reduce churn rates. You can’t fill a revenue bucket that leaks like a woven basket. It’s much more effective to retain and renew current customers than to acquire new ones. This is especially true in an economic contraction.

So beef up your Customer Success team.

2. Increase profitability.

Bolster your profit by managing your pricing carefully.

It’s often more efficient to increase your price per unit than to sell more units.

So carefully control the way your salespeople discount your software.

Focus on helping them negotiate more effectively. If your company isn’t strong in negotiation skills, get traiining.

Focus on building the customer’s perception of the value you offer. Do this through old-fashioned value selling.

Deploy a revenue desk to drive governance of pricing throughout your organization.

Learn how to talk to customers about renewals, upsells, and price increases

Coincidentally, a highly relevant new book just came out last week. It’s The Expansion Sale: Four Must-Win Conversations to Keep and Grow Your Customers, by Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer of Corporate Visions.

The premise of the book is simple.

Are you trying to sell a contract renewal or to upsell a current customer? If so, the conversation you should have with the customer is different than the one you’d have when you’re trying to close business with a new customer.

Most sellers don’t understand this, the authors say, and it costs them dearly.

The authors provide empirically proven ways to increase the likelihood of success in upselling, renewing contracts, or raising prices.

I’m about 5 chapters in and like it so far. I’ll publish a book review soon.

Dig deeper

Recession-Proofing the Go-to-Market Engine: How Market-Leading CEOs Prepare for Economic Headwinds. Sales Benchmark Index. 2020. [Downloadable PDF. __ pages. Registration required.]

SaaS Pricing Guide: When and How to Raise Prices Without Losing Customers.” Kyle Poyar. OpenView blog. February 4, 2020.

The Expansion Sale: Four Must-Win Conversations to Keep and Grow Your Customers. Erik Peterson. Tim Reisterer. February 2020. 257 pages in hardcover. Hardcover, Kindle. No Amazon reviews. No Amazon ratings.


REVENUE | LEADERSHIP | RESOURCES

New international organization provides support for revenue leaders

SaaS companies lean heavily on their revenue leaders. And they generally pay them well.

In return, some companies expect their revenue leaders to work miracles.

Unreasonable expectations seem most likely to arise when founders and board members have little direct experience in sales or marketing.

In such situations, revenue leaders may easily become scapegoats if the company doesn’t grow fast enough to suit the board.

But now revenue leaders can get help from an international group of peers.

Revenue Collective offers support, advocacy, training, and research

The Revenue Collective has a singular vision: A world where every revenue leader has the resources and support they need to achieve their professional potential.

The group, founded in 2019, provides “backup” for revenue leaders. They do so in the form of support, advocacy, training, research, and more.

Membership is for hands-on revenue leaders only. It’s private and by invitation only.

But revenue leaders who weren’t invited can apply for membership.

Members must meet 2 criteria. They must…

  • Hold the rank of VP or higher
  • Actively participate. (They can’t be lurkers.)

Members can’t be founders, CEOs, investors, or consultants.

The Revenue Collective also offers an associates program for people who are not yet VPs. :

The group has active chapters in more than 100 cities around the world.

North American cities with active chapters include Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Toronto. A chapter is coming soon to Seattle.

European cities include Amsterdam, London, Barcelona.

Get career resources, information about compensation, shared knowledge

The collective offers these benefits (in their words):

  • Compensation resources
  • Help finding new jobs
  • Career enablement. Sharing of best practices.
  • A global community working together to provide insights and perspectives on critical business challenges, to peers all over the world.
  • A shared-knowledge hub that provides templates and work product on common business questions and projects. The topics range from customer journey lifecycle mapping to SDR comp plans and sample 30-60-90 day coaching plans.
  • A bill of rights

‘Bill of rights’ seeks to protect revenue leaders against mistreatment

The bill of rights is especially interesting for both board members and revenue leaders.

Its goal is to help Revenue Collective members “execute fair and equitable compensation packages that appropriately calibrate the value an effective revenue leader delivers.”

Several provisions of the bill of rights may be uncommon today. But if the group has its way, they will become standard elements of employment contracts for revenue leaders:

  1. The right to due diligence. This ensures that companies hiring revenue leaders provide them with adequate due diligence before they join the company.
  2. The right to executive alignment. This ensures that members receive market-driven salary and commission aligned with the rest of the executive team.
  3. The right to severance. This provides pre-negotiated protection to help align executives and investors. It also offers security to revenue leaders in the event of a transition.
  4. The right to liquidity. This offers options for revenue leaders to realize fair compensation for any value the revenue leader has helped generate.
  5. The right to consult. This ensures that commercial leaders retain the right to appropriately monetize their expertise.

Dig deeper

Revenue Collective website

Application page for full members

Application page for associate members


WRAP UP

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Have a great week!

See you Saturday morning. 

Best,

Dave Vranicar


Driven is a weekly digest for time-strapped revenue leaders in business-to-business SaaS companies. Its goal is to keep you informed about a wide range of topics related to revenue growth.

It does so by scanning the horizon for insights and ideas from sources you may otherwise miss.

You can get your own emails at no charge by sharing your email address here.

A word about links, commissions, and endorsements

When I provide links to articles from vendors, does it imply an endorsement?

Only of their content. Not of their products or services.

If I recommend a service or a book, it’s because I think it’s likely to help you. Period.

I get nothing from providing links to any commercial service, including the books for which I provide a link to Amazon.

At some point, that may change. I’ll tell you when it does.


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