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As we enter a new economic period marked by pandemic recovery (yes, still) and inflation, businesses must navigate evolving customer needs and expectations to drive growth. This is especially vital for growth-stage SaaS teams looking to solidify their value in an already too-crowded landscape. 

However, with different teams across the organization collecting data, it can be challenging to create a cohesive view of the customer. The modern CMO is charged with unifying the data from activities related to sales, customer service and marketing around a customer-first marketing strategy. This is the concept of full-funnel marketing.

Understanding The Customer

According to data from Shopify, 64% of global businesses are still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic. Hampered by supply chain slowdowns that caused some trade to halt completely and 40-year inflation highs, few industries were operating on stable ground.

Marketing goals may look different by varying levels of recovery and to different audiences, but marketing analytics tools can provide CMOs with a path forward and a 360-degree view of the customer. But what do customers truly want in 2023?

From the same Shopify data, it is clear that customers are prioritizing high-value brand experiences—requiring a true understanding of what customers value. For example, what products or services are they willing to splurge on, and which can be forgotten?

A SaaS marketing strategy poised to deliver a return on investment should reflect this understanding. Insights into what customers or clients value most should dictate messaging and other tactics without that overarching strategy.

In addition to understanding the cost-to-value ratio, a key to connecting with a spend-conscious customer base is attention to microsegments—smaller groups with unique characteristics and preferences. These individuals are often highly engaged and have specific brand loyalties, such as Tesla drivers as a consumer durables example.

Other microsegments are divided into generational lines. For example, Baby Boomers often strictly value a product's ability to work as advertised while younger consumers, like Gen Z, emphasize the importance of a company’s morals, environmental impact, CEO’s political beliefs, etc. For both, their beliefs have a significant impact on their purchasing behavior.

Experience drives decision-making for every business, whether it is B2B, B2C or B2B2C. With personalized campaigns that speak to these groups’ values, organizations can not only connect but increase their customer lifetime value.

Finally, it's important to recognize that customer expectations for personalization and experience are rising. People love brands but love what brands do for them more.

Epsilon research shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences. This is not only true for physical consumer products. Unified data can show SaaS marketers exactly what kind of personalization is resonating with their customers. 

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Analyzing Different Approaches By Industry

To achieve a 360-degree customer view, data must be brought together from different teams across your organization. Silos must be broken by the CMO.

By understanding the cost-to-value ratio, targeting microsegments, and prioritizing personalization, especially for organizations like enterprise SaaS companies where it takes months or even years to nurture a lead to close, brands can create highly effective marketing campaigns that drive conversions.

There are many different types of SaaS companies (B2C, B2B, B2B2C) and CMOs of these companies need different approaches for growth. SaaS CMOs can look to other industries for best practices. Here’s how this looks in practice for three types of companies at different points in their pandemic recovery. 

B2C: In Retail it’s Necessities over Nice-to-Haves

The challenge for marketers in a recessionary environment is conveying the necessity of their product or service.

According to predictions from the National Retail Federation, customers are not only spreading out their holiday shopping this season but are being selective about the purchases they make. This trend is expected to grow from last year when, according to consumer data, only 28% of purchases made over Thanksgiving weekend were out of impulse.  

Retail has also been faced with the challenge of excess inventory as a result of years-long supply chain complications and trying to resell items that are no longer trending in a recessionary environment. As consumers cut back on spending, value comes into focus. 

As a B2C SaaS example, to communicate its value and deliver customers a personalized experience, Adobe announced it would offer Creative Cloud users a limited number of credits as part of their subscription fee to use the software’s new generative AI capabilities. Customers can ‘top-up’ on credits as they need them instead of upgrading to a larger plan—essentially creating a feeling of compromise for the customer.

Rely on sales data to understand what products your customers deem necessary and double down on your marketing efforts there. Not only will this alignment result in better conversions, but it will signal to customers that you have exactly what they want when they want it. 

B2B: Building Trust in Banking in the Age of Rising Premiums

Due to the nature of many B2B relationships, marketers in this space are required to nurture long potential relationships over many months. And often, the decision-makers and the executors are different people with different, and sometimes conflicting, priorities.

To mitigate the challenges of a months-long sales cycle, B2B CMOs and their teams should be focused on building trust. Building trust requires transparency, open communication, and a commitment to delivering on promises.

Clear alignment across sales, marketing and customer service ensures that customers rarely slip through the cracks. Trust can also go both ways, customers want to be rewarded for their loyalty (and data) and want to trust that they will reap the benefits of their commitment long-term. 

Particularly for FinTech startups competing with legacy institutions as interest rates fluctuate, potential customers and clients are extra wary of their finances. Premiums are going up and marketing budgets are being cut. Customers are sensitive to rising costs and have come to expect a certain level of communication that an under-resourced marketing department is no longer able to fulfill. 

Credit Karma maximized customer trust before it was acquired by Intuit by offering individual personal finance guidance. Not only could Credit Karma users check their credit score for free, but the platform provided learning resources to help customers understand their financial situation in context like when they were overpaying on car loans and credit card interest rates.

The same practice of putting financial information in context, individualized for each user, can be replicated for B2B organizations.

B2B SaaS marketers should remind their customers about the quality of their experience often, not just during their renewal cycle, which can come off as inauthentic. Treating consumers as individuals and not a number is critical. Consumers are getting savvier, and CMOs should be focused on staying ahead to avoid churn. 

B2B2C: Hospitality Marketplaces are Flying High Again

Marketing again looks different for B2B2C organizations like marketplaces and manufacturers. Resources must be split between two audiences with very different goals. In hospitality for example, third-party booking services like Travelocity have been at the mercy of rapidly changing dynamics for businesses and consumers. 

Hotels and airlines were among the industries hit hardest by the pandemic, losing billions of dollars in revenue in 2020 and 2021. But lately, all signs point to recovery as global air traffic returned to nearly pre-pandemic levels in June 2023.

CMOs responsible for targeting airlines and hotels on one side and travelers on the other, need to lock into what both parties are asking for. When it comes to travel, customers are looking for a seamless experience from cart to coast, meaning they want a smooth experience from booking their flight to arriving at their destination.

Marketers should aim to create experiences that benefit the customer while allowing them to collect first-party data that shapes a better overall CX, like a robust loyalty program. For middleman marketplaces, this data is a valuable asset to sell back into the enterprise—a win-win. This is the next data frontier for hospitality marketplaces ready to grow in 2024.  

For SaaS companies looking to track B2B2C success should start by measuring organic web traffic over time. An uptick in organic traffic indicates that the personalized experiences you are creating are reaching the right people.

Understanding Your Company Through The Consumer’s Eyes

Understanding how the consumer views your company’s offerings beyond the explicit is crucial for knowing how to position in a changing market. While some expectations transcend groups, like quick responses and quality service, others hinge on the demographic.

Poor customer service will cost you more loyalty from an older age group, whereas poor employee treatment will dissuade a younger audience. Ultimately, the approach will vary by industry, but with marketing analytics at the center, brands will be positioned to drive revenue growth for the next several quarters.

If you enjoyed reading this article, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments or through LinkedIn. While you’re here, be sure to subscribe to The CMO newsletter for all the latest in marketing and leadership.

Tarunya Suresh
By Tarunya Suresh

Tarunya Suresh is a seasoned marketing executive with an accomplished career spanning over two decades in the IT and analytics industry space. Currently serving as the Chief Marketing Officer at LatentView Analytics, she leverages her deep expertise to drive growth and brand vision for the company. Tarunya joined the LatentView marketing team in 2015 and has since honed her skills in strategic marketing, brand management, and customer journey mapping.