This post isn’t inspired by my observation of a single company, it’s based on the way customers choose to buy enterprise B2B SaaS products and what prevents them from doing so. More than ever before, customers can get an inside look into a B2B software company before they choose to purchase a product.
The software buying process, particularly for products with 50K+ ACV, is dramatically changing. Sophisticated buyers don’t pay as much attention to paid advertising, Gartner, and other analyst firms, because they know companies pay for this sort of coverage.
It’s not that paid advertising doesn’t have a place - the problem occurs when software companies think it’s the only method to acquire new customers. And they aren’t spending enough time on marketing to organically build trust during the buying cycle.
Here’s how buyers make big B2B software purchasing decisions right now (in no particular order and some do not do all of these things):
They do research on the software company and their products looking for 3rd party, non-biased sources.
They ask their peers what platform they’ve used to solve the “xyz” problem in the past.
They heard somebody talking about the product on a podcast.
They saw a testimonial about it on LinkedIn.
They know someone who works at the company and stands by the product, so they trust the company.
They get a stream of valuable content from the software company without getting asked for anything in return.
They see their peers share educational content in Slack, email, and through DMs (again being produced by a SaaS company but without asking for anything in return).
So how does company culture tie into all of this? You can’t master all of the above customer acquisition channels without fixing chaotic company culture. Culture has a direct effect on marketing, and marketing is the lever that gets people to buy.
What does a chaotic company culture look like?
Lack of direction or indecision by leadership
Siloed departments competing against each other
Employees are overworked
Employees have too much on their plate without access to help
Leadership promises overly aggressive short term goals to investors
No clear ideal customer profile so the company becomes everything to everybody
Your Glassdoor reviews prove it
How does a chaotic company culture lead to ineffective marketing?
When there is no real direction for marketing, your team will focus solely on achieving bottom of the funnel metrics to meet the goals leadership has established with investors. Rather than measuring how many MQLs were created, leadership must focus on demand gen practices, such as building community with buyers.
Chaotic culture signals confusing messaging to buyers. Leaders who do not back up ambitious vision with thoughtful long term strategy may have short term success but lack a mechanism to generate positive long term results.
Karen Martin sums this up well in her Fast Company article titled “The Company Chaos You Don’t Know You’re Creating”
“Chaos is the enemy of any organization that strives to be outstanding. Here’s how it works: Chaos inserts hairline cracks into what could be an otherwise robust structure. Under pressure, these hairline cracks begin to grow, weakening the foundation and organizational supports that you need for execution.”
The pressure cooker type of environment Karen describes here prioritizes speed to get marketing campaigns going without thought around strategy, creative, and messaging.
How can buyers tell?
In this era, buyers avoid talking to sales until they are ready to purchase. Buyers can tell when your company has a chaotic culture if the marketing hides information from them. Making information hard to find or not providing enough information to substantiate advantages about the product are big problems. Companies who hide information from buyers signal issues at the very foundation of the company.
Buyers of enterprise SaaS products are usually either solving significant problems for their company or using the purchase for a revenue growth plan. It’s important for buyers to make the right decision because their decision affects their entire team. This is part of the reason buyers trust their peers and communities more than paid marketing (including Gartner).
The output of chaotic culture bleeds into the customer’s buying process. SaaS companies who understand this, operate their companies fundamentally differently and their marketing proves it. They invest time and thought into how they can build awareness and create new demand for the product. They do this by agreeing on a very clear ideal customer profile, having great product marketing, and building content (podcast, Youtube channel, ungated resources, speaking engagements, user groups, etc.) that helps their ICP do better work. Becoming a trusted source of information as an enterprise software company is table stakes.