How A SaaS Marketing Team Succeeded By Doing Things That Don’t Scale


Most marketing teams look at dashboards all day long. There’s no such thing as a gut decision anymore. Decisions are made based on data.

And that’s a good thing, right? Absolutely.

Here at Drift, we use data to guide our decision-making and rely on metrics to track our progress towards goals, too.

Being data-centric like this is good for obvious reasons: data isn’t biased. It’s factual.

But here’s the thing: Data can also be bad – especially if you let it guide all of your decision-making in marketing.

Let me explain.

A few years ago I’d just started my career in marketing. Every time my former team tossed around a new idea, our manager asked, “Well, is that scalable?”

At the time, I didn’t entirely understand what this meant. But the term kept popping up.

In our one on ones, I’d tell my manager what I was working on, or share ideas for something we could be doing more of on the marketing team. Again, my manager would ask the same question: Is that scalable?

Pretty soon, I understood that making something “scalable” meant it had to be a marketing activity that would drive impact only at scale, or in large quantities. If I did something that worked to generate just one lead, I’d have to immediately figure out how to make it generate one hundred or one thousand leads – or give up on it entirely.

It wasn’t long before I became entrenched in the mindset that only scalable things were worth doing in marketing.

Why Successful Marketing Teams Do Things That Don’t Scale

In B2B marketing, what really matters is growth.

Investors are not worried about profitable this year or next, they want to see growth.

So it’s easy to understand why so many marketers use potential to scale as a way of deciding where to spend money, time, and other resources. After all, it’s better to pursue the activities that have the potential to drive the biggest numbers, right?

Not necessarily. And I learned this when I joined Drift in September 2017.

From my first day on the job, I didn’t waste any time on unscalable things. I was an experienced B2B marketer after all – I knew what I was doing.

But I was in for a surprise.

I had long envied the Drift marketing team. Dave Gerhardt, now the VP of Marketing, had built this incredible brand with CEO, David Cancel. They had a podcast, playful messaging, and shot authentic videos. And they did it all really fast.

Everyone thought Drift was “killing it” and when I told friends I was joining their team they were thrilled for me.

But when I actually started at Drift I realized two very important things:

First, the marketing team was really small – about five full-time people at the time. This tiny team was one of the best marketing teams in Boston?

The second thing I noticed was that they were spending a ton of time working on things that I would never spend time on.

For instance: Headlines. The team obsessed over them.

There would be a Slack thread with 50 messages bouncing ideas back and forth about a headline for a blog post. Erik, our writer back then, would post a new blog post in Slack for the team to check out and Dave would give him a ton of feedback on the headline – even though, to me, it looked fine. Sometimes even DC (David Cancel) would chime with suggestions. And so would others.

At the time, it seemed insane to me: This team of five was spending all this time on a headline? My B2B marketing training kicked in – is this scalable?

If we were going to build the next pillar company in Boston, how would we do it when we were spending twenty minutes debating a blog post title?

I was confused and, quite frankly, concerned. I simply could not comprehend how a marketing team that was “killing it” was spending their time on these tiny details that I honestly didn’t think really mattered.

But here’s the thing: Over the course of the last 10 months, I’ve come full circle. I’ve changed my mind about doing things that don’t scale.

Why?

Because in a world where marketers are guided only by data, we lose our ingenuity.

As our good friend Carol Myers, CMO of Rapid7, would say, “we [marketers] are such lemmings!

We just follow the data.

But when you step away from the dashboards and spreadsheets for a second and you go and talk to your target market, listen to what they have to say, pay attention to trends, you learn things like this:

In a space as crowded as sales and marketing where there’s already so much noise we need our headlines to stop people in their tracks and make them go: “Damn, I wanna read that.”

So now when blog posts are shared in our marketing slack channel, I jump into the debate.

And I no longer question the ability of activities like this to help our company succeed. Because I already know they do.

So, that’s why we’re writing this book. It’s about our marketing team and why we’ve decided to focus on unscalable and often counterintuitive things.

We’re going to take you behind the scenes into the Drift marketing team. You’ll learn everything from our approach to writing to the role models we study at Drift.

We’ll also include tactical, how-to specific examples so that after reading this book you can implement similar strategies into your marketing.

Best part? It’s 100% free. You just need to pay for the shipping.

The book will be out next month, in July. But you can pre-order your copy today.

 

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