As a founder of a SaaS startup, you have a lot riding on the ability of your marketing and sales teams to execute on your growth goals. Without that, runway can dry up and the whole operation can go up in smoke. As a founder, one of the most important things that you can do to help ensure that your goals are met is to keep your marketing and sales teams aligned. Nothing can hamper a revenue team more than misalignment and miscommunication.
Setup closed-loop reporting
First things first, it’s important that every decision that’s being made is based on data and for that to happen your marketing software and CRM need to be aligned. I don’t care what platforms you’re using, HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, Salesforce, Close.io, whatever, just make sure that you can track attribution from your first marketing touch through the funnel to a closed-won opportunity.
Assign a marketing qualified lead (MQL) commit
“What! You want to hold marketing accountable to a quota!?” Yes, yes I do. Great demand generation marketers should be comfortable being assigned a set number of marketing qualified leads and being held accountable to this goal. In fact, Jason Lemkin, who knows a thing or two about SaaS, has called this the most important metric in SaaS (he has also written more about that here and here). So when you’re working through your sales planning for 2016, try to understand how many MQLs you’re going to need to hit your growth goals and give marketing monthly targets.
Bonus tip: If you’re feeling extra ambitious, segment this data by MQL type (demo, contact sales, content download, etc.) or buyer persona, then break down MQL-to-customer rate and average deal size for each. Now your MQL commit isn’t just a number of MQLs but actually reflects pipeline coverage before opportunities, to give you some extra foresight. For example, your MQL value breakdown could look like this:
This is great because it will likely be easier for marketing to generate leads that have downloaded a white paper than it will be to get a prospect to request a demo. Therefore converting this value to a dollar figure helps correlate these goals directly with opportunity value and bookings. Just be VERY careful with this at an early stage as your product, ACV and close rates are evolving.
Implement status or lifecycle stage tracking
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With closed-loop reporting and MQL quotas in place, it’s time to get a little more granular with how these prospects are being tracked through the funnel so you can see exactly where leads might be getting stuck. For example, using HubSpot and Salesforce (since those are the two platforms I’m most familiar with) you can use lifecycle stage, lead status and opportunity stage to track exactly where contacts are in the funnel. In doing this, carefully document the entry and exit criteria for each stage so that it’s crystal clear when someone should be moved to the next stage, recycled or disqualified.
Define your lead handoff process and expectations
An MQL workflow should clearly outline exactly how a lead is passed from marketing to sales and subsequently how sales is expected to follow up with that lead.
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This task may be best delegated to your VP of Sales (if that hire has been made). Also, if you can, this process should be shaped by data to find the optimal number of attempts needed per lead. HubSpot is one of the best examples of this as Mark Roberge was able correlate the number of attempts needed broken down by company size to their LTV/ COCA, which looked like this:
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Finally, this should not only include the number of attempts that need to be made in total, but also how quickly the first attempt should be made. InsideSales has found that the number of contacts made from first sales dials dramatically decreases 10X in just minutes if you don’t reach out nearly instantaneously from a Web conversion of activity.
With all this in place, document these three steps in a service-level agreement (SLA) that addresses both marketing’s responsibility to deliver qualified leads and sale’s ability to close them. This document becomes the cornerstone of the agreement between your teams to deliver on their individual goals and work together so that the company meets its’ goals.
Hold weekly “smarketing” meetings Call it smarketing if you’re drinking the orange Kool-Aid, marketing and sales touch base if you’re not into that kind of thing, or really whatever you want for that matter. Just bring your team together frequently to review goals, discuss challenges and continue to refine the machine that’s being built. At the startup stage, this meeting can be interactive and foster dialogue and discussion from the group. As your marketing and sales teams grow, this meeting it will become a more fast-paced, high-level overview of progress towards goals, and the SLA will ensure ongoing alignment and transparency.
Report on the percent of revenue sourced by marketing
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Finally, on a monthly basis as part of your sales and marketing reports, highlight the percent of revenue that was sourced or influenced by marketing. If there’s one number that will most clearly illustrate to your sales team the value that marketing is bringing to the table, this is it. This is the true essence of pipeline marketing, and is the most exciting output of the entire system that you’ve just implemented.
Bringing sales and marketing alignment to your startup
This may sound like a lot of work, and it is, but it is also the foundation of your future growth. Creating this system and fostering a data-driven marketing and sales culture from an early stage will pay dividends down the road as you’re able to make more educated decisions and grow faster.