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Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies

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We analyzed the marketing strategies of the top 100 SaaS companies. In this new report, we share what we learned.

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Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies

  1. 1. How the heck did they do it? As marketers, that’s the question we often ask ourselves after seeing companies like Slack (or Stripe, or Dropbox, or DocuSign) go from zero to millions of users in just a few years…or months. 2 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies (source: Inc. Magazine)
  2. 2. While interviews and company blog posts offer hints as to how these companies were able to achieve such extraordinary growth, we wanted to dig deeper. Instead of simply listening to the marketing tips and tricks that high-growth companies were sharing, we wanted to analyze what tools and tactics their marketing teams were actually using day-to-day. 3 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  3. 3. 4 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies That’s when it hit us: Every year, Forbes puts together their Cloud 100 list -- a list of “the hottest private tech companies in cloud computing.” So we decided to analyze the marketing tools and tactics used by every single company on that list.
  4. 4. Our goal was to see if we could uncover any patterns that help explain why some companies achieve hypergrowth, while others fizzle out. Keep reading to see what we found… 5 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  5. 5. 7 13 25 30 37 48 50 01. Demographics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 02. Tech Stack . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
 03. Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
 04. Buying Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
 05. The Two Megatrends: Messaging & Video . . . . . . . . . . . . 06. Key Takeaways . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
 07. Report Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
 6 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Table of Contents
  6. 6. 7 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies 0101 01 01 01 01 01 01 01 01 01 DEMOGRAPHICS 01
  7. 7. Before we dig into the marketing tools and tactics Cloud 100 companies are using, let’s first explore what those companies — and their marketing teams — actually look like. 8 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  8. 8. 9 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Total # of Employees # of Marketing Employees % Smallest 105 6 5.7% Median 500 21 4.2% Average 643 29 4.5% Largest 5,322 245 4.6% The companies in the Cloud 100 range in size from 105 employees to 5,322 employees. The median company size is 500, while the average company size is 643. When we drill down into marketing specifically, we find that marketing teams for Cloud 100 companies range in size from 6 marketers to 245 marketers. The median marketing team size across the Cloud 100 is 21 marketers, while the average team size is 29 marketers Company Size vs. Marketing Team Size
  9. 9. 10 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Marketing Team Size 6 marketers 21 marketers 29 marketers Company Size smallest 105 employees median 500 employees average 643 employees largest 5,322 employees 245 marketers
  10. 10. 11 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Here’s what the relationship between marketing team size (y-axis) and company size (x-axis) looks like. There’s a tight range (with the exception of a few outliers), with 5% being the typical value. Total Employees Marketers
  11. 11. 12 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies On average, 4.8% of a Cloud 100 company’s workforce are marketers. Overall, there are approximately 3,000 marketers working in the Cloud 100.
  12. 12. 0202 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 TECH STACK 02 13 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  13. 13. Ever wish you could magically peer behind a company’s website and get a snapshot of what tools are running in the background? That’s (basically) what we did with all the companies in the Cloud 100 -- with some help from Clearbit. 14 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  14. 14. What did we find? Well, it might not come as a huge surprise that Google Analytics was by far the most widely used tool among the Cloud 100, with 64% of companies using it. The second most popular tool was also from Google, Tag Manager, which had 54% of companies using it. 15 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies 64% 54%
  15. 15. #1 Google Analytics 64% #2 Google Tag Manager 54% #3 Marketo 48% #4 Google Apps 46% #5 Facebook Ads 36% 16 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Here’s a list of the top 25 tools used by Cloud 100 companies, plus the percentages of companies using those tools: (continued on next page)
  16. 16. #6 WordPress 31% #7 Optimizely 30% #8 AdRoll 27% #9 AWS Route 53 27% #10 Office 365 27% 17 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies (continued on next page) % using the toolThe Top 25 Tools Used by Cloud 100 companies
  17. 17. #11 Amazon EC2 25% #12 Mailgun 24% #13 Zendesk 22% #14 Bing Ads 20% #15 YouTube 19% 18 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies (continued on next page) % using the toolThe Top 25 Tools Used by Cloud 100 companies
  18. 18. #16 Exchange Online 19% #17 DYN DNS 18% #18 Crazy Egg 17% #19 Vimeo 17% #20 Double Click 16% 19 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies (continued on next page) % using the toolThe Top 25 Tools Used by Cloud 100 companies
  19. 19. #21 Facebook Connect 16% #22 Salesforce 14% #23 Twitter Button 14% #24 Wistia 14% #25 SendGrid 13% 20 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies % using the toolThe Top 25 Tools Used by Cloud 100 companies
  20. 20. 21 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies The top 25 tools and technologies used by the Cloud 100 come from a few different categories: Analytics/Optimization Video/ContentAd Tech Customer Relationships Marketing Automation/Email CollaborationInfrastructure Social
  21. 21. 22 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies After compiling this list, we decided to take the analysis one step further by comparing adoption rates of tools among the Cloud 100 to adoption rates of those same tools among non-Cloud 100 companies. On the right, you can see a heat map that highlights the differences in adoption rates between the two groups. Cloud 100 Everyone else
  22. 22. 23 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies We discovered that Cloud 100 companies are much more likely to use automation tools (like Marketo, Mailgun, and SendGrid), ad tech (like Bing Ads and Facebook Ads), and tracking/optimization tools (like Tag Manager and Optimizely) compared to companies outside of the Cloud 100. Cloud 100 vs. Non-Cloud 100 Tool Adoption Biggest Relative Differences
  23. 23. Based on our analysis of Cloud 100 tech stacks, it’s clear that marketing teams at these companies care about (and are investing in) the following: 1. Driving traffic 2. Re-engaging visitors via email 3. Conversion rate optimization However, as you’ll learn more about in the upcoming sections, there’s one area that Cloud 100 companies are not investing in as heavily: Talking to their best leads while they’re live on their websites. 24 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  24. 24. 0303 03 03 03 03 03 03 03 03 03 CONTENT 03 25 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  25. 25. Creating branded content for attracting website visitors has become ubiquitous among the Cloud 100. Case in point: 99% of Cloud 100 marketing teams maintain a blog where they share ideas and best practices. (Note: the one company that didn’t have a blog did have a “newsroom” that they updated regularly, but they used it for sharing press coverage, not educational content.) 26 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  26. 26. 27 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies However, less than half (45%) of Cloud 100 marketing teams offer downloadable content, like ebooks or whitepapers. Of those 45 companies that do offer downloadable content, 14 let you download it form-free, while 31 make you fill out a lead capture form first.
 45% Offer Downloadable Content (e.g. Ebooks) Gated vs. Ungated Content 14 31 form fill required (gated)no forms (ungated)
  27. 27. 28 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Of the 31 companies using gated content to generate leads, the number of form fields those companies require you to fill out range from one (just an email address) all the way up to 10. Across all 31 of those Cloud 100 marketing teams that gate content, 6 is the average (and median) number of required form fields. # of Form Fields fewest average/ median most
  28. 28. While 6 required fields might sound like a lot, it’s actually lower than the 11 form fields that non-Cloud 100 marketing teams make leads fill out (on average). Overall, with less than a third of Cloud 100 marketing teams using gated content to generate leads, it’s clear that today’s marketers are looking beyond the content marketing and inbound marketing strategies of old, which were powered by lead capture forms. 29 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  29. 29. 040404 04 04 04 04 04 04 04 04 BUYING EXPERIENCE 04 30 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  30. 30. 31 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Stewart Butterfield Co-Founder & CEO, Slack Even the best slogans, ads, landing pages, PR campaigns, etc., will fall down if they are not supported by the experience people have when they hit our site, when they sign up for an account, when they first begin using the product and when they start using it day in, day out. “ One of the key reasons why Slack was able to achieve such extraordinary growth: They didn’t just focus on making their marketing as engaging and as memorable as possible -- they focused on making the entire buying experience that way. And one the ways they did that was through offering a free version of their product. It allowed potential customers to see first-hand what the product was like, without the restrictions that come with a guided demo or limited trial.
  31. 31. From a marketing perspective, we call those people who start using a free version of a product a product-qualified lead, or PQL. It’s an alternative to the marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) that teams typically generate using lead capture forms and “nurturing” sequences. In the Cloud 100, 36% of companies (which includes Slack, of course) offer a free or freemium* version of their product and generate PQLs. *Freemium = there are additional features/functionality you have to pay for (e.g. extra storage space or extra seats to accommodate more users) 36% 32 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies freemium business model
  32. 32. In addition to MQLs and PQLs, companies in the Cloud 100 are also going after SQLs, or sales- qualified leads. SQLs are essentially MQLs that have been given the thumbs up by Sales -- it’s an added layer of qualification that ensures sales reps are only talking to people who are interested in and serious about buying. One of the most popular tactics companies in the Cloud 100 are using to generate SQLs is…wait for it... asking website visitors if they want to talk to sales. Sounds simple, but considering that 69% of Cloud 100 companies have a call-to-action on their website that prompts people to get in touch with sales, it’s definitely worth investigating. 69% 33 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies prompt people to talk to Sales
  33. 33. #1 “Contact Us” 14 #2 “Request Demo” / “Request a Demo” 13 #3 “Contact Sales” 11 #4 “Schedule a Demo” 4 #5 “Get a Demo” 3 34 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Of those 69 companies that prompt website visitors to get in touch with sales (e.g. to schedule a demo, or to learn more about the product and/or pricing), the 5 most popular CTAs are: # of companies using it
  34. 34. Nearly all of those companies with sales- focused CTAs — 67 out of 69, actually — have those CTAs link either to a lead capture form or to a landing page that instructs you to call in or email. Only two companies in the Cloud 100 give you the opportunity to chat with someone live after clicking their “Contact Us” or “Contact Sales” CTA. 35 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  35. 35. 36 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies At Drift, we see this as a huge missed opportunity for generating a new type of lead: The conversation-qualified lead, or CQL. A CQL is someone who has expressed intent to buy during a one-to- one conversation with either A) an employee at your company, or B) an intelligent sales assistant (bot). Unlike MQLs, SQLs, and PQLs, CQLs match how people actually prefer to buy today (in real-time), and they make it it easier for you, as a marketing and sales organization, to sell faster.
  36. 36. 050505 05 05 05 05 05 05 05 05 THE 2 MEGATRENDS 05 37 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  37. 37. The world’s top four messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Viber) now have a combined total of nearly 4 billion monthly active users -- more than the combined total for the top four social networks. It’s predicted that by the end of this year, more than three-quarters (76.3%) of the world’s smartphone users will be regularly using messaging apps. 38 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Consider These Statistics:
  38. 38. 82% Meanwhile, 10 billion videos are now being watched on Snapchat every single day. And 100 million hours of video are being watched on Facebook per day. It’s predicted that by 2021, video traffic will account for 82% of all internet traffic. 39 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Consider These Statistics: non-video internet traffic video internet traffic
  39. 39. These are just some of the reasons why, at Drift, we consider messaging and video to be megatrends. They’re not just popular marketing channels, they’re gateways for reaching billions of people around the world. When we looked at the Cloud 100, however, we found that messaging and video haven’t really reached critical mass among marketing teams. Given the numbers involved, there’s still a lot of untapped potential. 40 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  40. 40. 41 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Megatrend #1: Messaging 15% of Cloud 100 companies are using messaging on their websites. Of the 15 companies with messaging on their sites, nine display it on every page of their site, while the other six target specific pages/types of pages. 15% 1 1 2 2 9 every page pricing page % Using Messaging/Live Chat Where They Display It product pages homepage support page
  41. 41. 42 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Megatrend #1: Messaging Of those 15 companies using messaging, 10 use welcome messages to greet visitors.
 Of those 10 companies using welcome messages, two are using a virtual assistant (chatbot) to engage with leads.
  42. 42. Ultimately, the approach these companies take with messaging depends on how much traffic they’re getting, and how they want to balance the quantity and quality of the conversations they’re having with visitors. For example, it makes sense that Dropbox, which has the 86th most-visited website in the world, would only display messaging on their business site. That way they can filter out some of the “noise” of website visitors who have no intention of paying for a business plan. 43 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Megatrend #1: Messaging
  43. 43. 44 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Megatrend #1: Messaging Two companies in the Cloud 100 have taken the next step of using a virtual assistant (chatbot) to engage with leads in real-time. A virtual assistant can ask all of the same qualifying questions a sales rep or business development rep (BDR) would ask. But unlike an actual BDR, it can qualify leads and book sales meetings 24/7, 365, since it never has to take a day off or go to sleep.
  44. 44. Megatrend #2: Video 45 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies 34% of Cloud 100 companies are producing video content on a regular basis. Of those 34 companies producing videos regularly, all of them upload their videos to YouTube, 20 upload their videos to Facebook, and five upload their videos to Vimeo.
 34% % Producing Video Content Where They Upload Video YouTube Facebook Vimeo 10 20 30 4 5 20 34
  45. 45. Sheryl Sandberg COO, Facebook Megatrend #2: Video 46 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Overall, adoption of video is more widespread among the Cloud 100 compared to messaging adoption, with just over one-third of companies producing video content on a regular basis. While Youtube is clearly the most popular channel for uploading video content, it’s noteworthy that one-fifth of Cloud 100 companies are regularly uploading video directly to Facebook (and not just sharing links to video content uploaded to YouTube). This aligns with something Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said earlier this year: “Consumer video is exploding on our platform.” Consumer video is exploding on our platform.“
  46. 46. Megatrend #2: Video 47 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies One quick note about Vimeo: While just five Cloud 100 companies have uploaded video content there in the past month, 17 companies use the service overall. The difference is that instead of using Vimeo as a social network for sharing new videos regularly, most use it as a way to host their “evergreen” videos (like product walkthrough videos) on their websites.
  47. 47. 060606 06 06 06 06 06 06 06 06 KEY TAKEWAYS 06 48 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  48. 48. 1) Cloud 100 companies tend to be more sophisticated in the technologies they use, relying more heavily on optimization tools and ad tech/automation platforms. 2) Less than a third of Cloud 100 companies are using gated content to generate leads. The lead form and follow-up approach to marketing is giving way to new models. 3) Messaging and virtual assistants are finally giving marketers a real-time line to their best leads. Now they can engage at the right time — while leads are live on their websites. 49 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies
  49. 49. Companies were chosen for analysis based on the 2017 Forbes Cloud 100 list. Company/marketing team demographic data was sourced from LinkedIn. Tech stack data was gathered using Clearbit. Content, Buying Experience, Messaging, and Video data was collected via website analysis and analysis of companies’ public social and video networks. 50 • Marketing Lessons From the Top 100 SaaS Companies Methodology
  50. 50. Click here to learn how Drift can help you turn your website traffic into qualified sales meetings. Drift is a conversation-driven marketing and sales platform.

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