Strategy| Growth

Why your tech stack is the main success factor in B2B SaaS growth

Aug 30, 2021 11 minute read Mikko LaaksonenMikko Laaksonen

Last updated 30 October, 2021.

Let’s start simple and talk through what I actually even talk about when I talk about sales and marketing technology. I think the term itself (and professions such as marketing and sales ops) are still relatively new.

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Maybe the first signs of sales technology were the first CRM systems that came around in the early 2000s. This was a gradual move from Rolodex to systems, later adding on automation capabilities. Along with CRM systems came the marketing technologies we all know and love. 

Marketing has been consistently working with websites for quite a while now, but traditionally, marketing was more of an offline function, driving the change for companies to become more digital.

Marketing technology can refer to a platform — such as HubSpot — that runs several different marketing activities from hosting websites, email marketing to drip nurtures and other automation. But marketing technology doesn’t have to be one platform. Some companies use several different tools that are interconnected to varying degrees.

In the same way, sales technology does not stop at CRM systems. Sales technology also includes tools to sign contracts, send offers, and maybe even automate sales outreach all together. 

But why is sales and marketing technology often overlooked? I think, in a way, we have started to take it for granted. Technology facilitates data, and only when we know there is a challenge with the data will we look at technology.

Let’s go through why sales and marketing technology is crucial for your B2B business growth, and let’s look at some trends and concrete tips you can use to make the most of your tech stack. 

And psst: If you're interested in this topic, stay tuned for more (and subscribe to our Advance Insider newsletter to make sure you won't miss any future posts! 👇)

Why sales and marketing technology is a crucial ingredient for B2B SaaS growth

Right now, B2B SaaS growth is one of the most discussed topics, and everyone is trying to ensure their company is growing. 

Often when you hear about ‘growth’ or growth marketing, for that matter, there’s a lot of talk about experimentation, which, actually IS an essential part of growth marketing. That's why we just hosted a webinar on that topic, too. 👇🍿

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However, I feel an essential ingredient in growth is often forgotten: the tech stack. And by that, I don’t mean the actual product — that is often very much in the spotlight. I mean the tech on which business processes are built.

saas_marketing_tech_stack-1

Technology might not be as exciting as thinking about creative ways to generate more revenue, but what technology enables is very exciting if you think of it. 

For example, with a solid sales and marketing tech stack, you can automate manual tasks and improve your sales and marketing. Then, you have data to analyze (and to design experiments based on your observations), and you have the means to run those experiments. 

Think of quickly trying to add a call to action on a website, nowadays it’s usually relatively easy, but there are still companies that have websites that are not controlled or updatable by the marketing teams. 

Technology also frees up time for value-adding work. 🖖 Through technology, a lot of data entry and maintenance can be automated, and people using this technology can focus on analyzing it. Naturally, there is also less room for human error. 

And that is what technology is all about. Technology used just for the sake of it does not generate business value. Still, a carefully set-up business process oriented towards growth (and the technology in use) does. It’s how B2B SaaS companies can set themselves apart and gain a competitive edge. 

Five top trends shaping MarTech today 

The way technology has taken such an important place in a company’s growth journey is driven by different trends. Here are five top trends I find important currently:

🚀 Technology accessibility

🚀 Sales and marketing moving closer together (in reality and technology)

🚀 Customer data orchestration

🚀 From platform to best-of-breed 

🚀 Easy transactions (buy online, meet online, get support online)

Technology accessibility

When we look at major trends that shape today’s technology landscape, we need to look at how it has become more accessible. Back in the day, technology was solely a matter of the IT department. Solutions were so expensive that only big corporations could invest in them. 

Of course, it’s not free today either, but the magnitude has changed. Companies still need to invest in some sort of subscription fee and people who can use the tech stack, but it’s more accessible to more teams. 

The people working with sales and marketing technology are also different. Using these tools no longer requires advanced coding skills but instead people who can think holistically about processes and how they can best work with the help of different technologies. 

Also, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen how marketing and sales teams have been increasingly interested in new technologies to make sure they can connect with their audience remotely. 

In the end, companies invest in sales and marketing (and other) technologies to gain the best possible understanding of their customers. 

I mentioned earlier that a solid tech and marketing stack provides a competitive advantage. It’s precisely this customer understanding which is enabled through the technology which provides the competitive advantage.

Sales and marketing are moving closer together

This trend has been going on for several years already. 

It probably started when businesses saw that there was a stark disconnect between the two functions. And both functions in themselves have undergone tremendous changes. 

If you think of marketing, 15 years ago, marketing professionals would primarily be tasked with coordinating different partners, whereas today, there is a whole new field of work with marketing operations. 

And the same goes for sales. The way B2B solutions were sold 15 years ago has changed because of the customer understanding that we now have readily available, which 15 years ago may have been stored in a sales rep’s notebook.

Customer data orchestration

Data in itself is actually another critical trend we need to look at. We may call it many things: master data, data unification, and so on. Whatever you may call it, it’s all about ensuring that there is a unified way that companies can look at their customer data, all the way from marketing to billing. 

Companies need systems that help integrate the vast data points and create one master data that can be used for data-driven decision-making across organizations. From a system perspective, this is, by the way, also one reason. 

Sales and marketing have been moving closer together. When there are separate systems in use, it creates silos and makes it difficult to get a unified view of the data. 

A unified view of the data is one thing, and a closely related trend is data usability and improving data literacy in companies.

Many companies have a decent amount of customer understanding, but it’s in separate systems or even in somebody’s head. The usability of the data is super important — not just having the data but also using it in an actionable way.  

The first step was integrating sales and marketing technologies. In addition to this, the most prominent players are also offering one platform for both functions. For example, HubSpot has dramatically expanded with its sales and marketing hubs. 

Salesforce shows the same developments. Whereas they started as a CRM, they formed their Salesforce Marketing Cloud to provide marketing automation capabilities within the Salesforce ecosystem.

It’s the integrations that matter

This directly points to another trend that I see happening in technology. While a few years ago, there was still a powerful platform way of thinking, this is now shifting to have different interconnected solutions while at the same time consolidating the landscape.

This means that players such as HubSpot and Salesforce (and others) are growing their offering to bring core capabilities through their platforms. But those companies also understand that they will never be able to offer everything. 

That’s why you find the app marketplace and the Salesforce app exchange within the platforms. The way a solution connects with others is a key differentiator when it comes to technology. 

But as mentioned, there is also a place to consolidate some of the landscape. In the past, companies used in marketing several different tools for:

🛠 Web development and building

🛠 Scheduling social media posts

🛠 Email marketing

🛠 Analytics

These tasks are now becoming more and more available on one single platform. However, which route is the best choice depends on the company’s direction and the best choice for their needs. 

And this all goes back to data, which data should be gathered, and where it should be used. 

It’s also important to note how much easier integrations have become. Fifteen years ago, integrating two systems was a whole affair. Just the word integration alone might evoke nightmares of 100k EUR investments and year-long projects. 

Today, many platforms offer integration to hundreds of app with just a couple of clicks. And if you don't find the integration you need, there are tools like Zapier that you can use to pass data between systems without even knowing any coding. 

Easy transactions

Technology plays a significant role in making it easy for your customers to be in touch with your company.

Whether making a purchase from your site, signing up for a free demo, requesting contact from sales, or submitting a support request, you’ll need many different tools, systems, and processes to handle that. 

Here is an example of how this could go instead

🤩 A user converts on your website

🤩 They automatically get access to your product

🤩 Automated nurturing starts

🤩 The user ends up purchasing at some point during the trial period

🤩 Automatic onboarding starts, and the user is welcomed by support ❤️

If your tech stack can feed information from one touchpoint to another, you will be able to provide your users an advanced customer experience every step of the way. 

Six tips for evaluating your current sales and marketing tech stack 🌲

1️⃣ Map out your processes and see where sales and marketing people are spending their time

I would strongly recommend starting any evaluation process by sitting down with your sales and marketing reps and evaluating which tasks are taking their time. 

Because in the end, you want to make sure you have technology that removes unnecessary work.

Often this turns out to be about data entry. This then points you in the direction of what technology you may need to scale this. 

One concrete example is from the marketing world: Think of a use case to send an email to all your customers. All too often, companies will find themselves juggling multiple spreadsheets before this is even possible. It is a reality and a clear sign that things should improve.

2️⃣ Customer journey mapping

I’d strongly suggest covering this while you map out how your sales and marketing teams are working. 

This means that you will list all the tools that play a role along the customer journey — from the customer first discovering you and visiting your website (hello Google Analytics) to receiving your invoices (did somebody say ERP system).

While you are doing this, you might, by the way, also find the answer to the question: “Why is our customer base scattered across multiple spreadsheets?”

This customer journey-based tool map will also allow you to see system redundancies and how data should flow between the different systems. 

3️⃣ Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken

This is the mindset I’d recommend having while mapping out your internal processes and the customer journey. 

Ask yourself, is the technology broken, or is our internal process broken? 

Sometimes it’s both, but all too often, it’s the processes and not the technology. You know the computer does — or should do — what you say. Or, as the proverb goes: The best CRM is only as good as the sales reps using it.

4️⃣ Make full use of the systems you have

Or at least have a plan on how to make the most of your different tech stacks capabilities. 

I often see companies invest in the latest tech only not to change their ways of working. A classic example is investing in marketing automation technology. 

Whether Pardot, Hubspot, or Marketo, marketing automation usually comes with an email sending tool. And if that’s all you need, a tool to send out newsletters, then you might not need to invest in marketing automation at all.

It could help if you had a plan for embracing automation in your internal processes.

This also includes a lot of transparency and internal education. Automation can be quite a scary thing because this automation is touching a part of the business that has been traditionally very protected and ‘taken care of personally’: the customers.

5️⃣ Agree on responsibilities

This is another essential thing to take into account when you evaluate your sales and marketing tech stack. 

Who is responsible for which part of the process and which system? 

If you have no clear understanding of this, you will not be able to get the benefits out of your systems. You might have set them up correctly, but nobody is there to maintain them. 

6️⃣ Data strategy

While mapping out your internal processes, customer journey, tools, and ownership, also map out which data you collect. And create a data strategy

This will also give you insights into the correlations between different tools and systems and the integrations needed to ensure that data flows across your internal business process systems in the way you need it to support your business growth. 

You should also decide which system will hold the master source of which data set. There doesn’t need to be one master data system. But it needs to be clear which system holds the master data for which part of your data collection. 

For example, a natural place to look at the opportunity pipeline and closed-won opportunities is a CRM. 

But if you want to look at revenue, you might want to opt for your billing or ERP system. Those two systems are ideally connected, but they are the source of truth for different data points.

Why a solid sales and marketing tech stack is the foundation of your B2B SaaS growth 🤩

A solid sales and marketing tech stack allows you to run your B2B company (or any kind of company, for that matter) better. You can automate formerly manual processes. You reduce human error. And you can visualize core metrics that indicate how your business is doing, trust the data, and take action. 

When you have systems and data in place, you can make informed business decisions and correct your course if necessary.

I am discussing this topic in more detail in our webinar about sales and marketing technology as a B2B SaaS growth foundation. Check it out 👇

saas marketing tech stack