How we’re building a marketing engine to move upmarket

Most SaaS companies start with a single solution designed for a single audience. But as they pick up steam, offering more products to multiple target markets, it’s easy for the message to get a little fuzzy.

When Shane Murphy-Reuter joined us here at Intercom as SVP of Marketing earlier this year, he had to manage four different teams on two continents working on multiple products. Imagine trying to maintain a unified message and overall brand vision across those time zones and organizations – it’s a big challenge for any marketer.

But thanks to his experience as a marketing leader in both B2C (in online gaming) and later in B2B (at AdRoll, where he managed 45 people and a budget of €30 million), Shane had a keen sense of how to continue fueling growth by moving upmarket and differentiating from a crowded marketplace.

In a recent conversation with John Bonini of Databox on the Ground Up podcast, Shane discussed his career path to date, the importance of consistency in messaging, how to navigate that journey upmarket, and how to instil change in a fast-moving, high-performing team.

Listen here, or, if you’re short on time, check out a few of Shane’s key takeaways below.

As a company grows, the message gets fractured

When teams grow up, and a company’s founders need to step away and run different orgs, marketing by osmosis no longer works. In Intercom’s case, there’s space for about 75 marketers split between different offices. Inside that reality, how do you make sure everyone understands the scope of their team and their true reason for being there?

As Intercom’s new head of Marketing, Shane’s first task was to align everyone around a common mission. To do that, he presented three pillars:

  1. Define the narratives you want to put into the market: What are the stories you want to tell? What do you want to be known for?
  2. Turn them into marketing campaigns. That means writing up briefs and making sure the strategy is clear for all teams working on the campaign.
  3. Manage the campaign in an integrated way. Make sure all your different channels are stitched together to tell one story.

Clarify your message

One of Shane’s biggest ongoing challenges is distilling those narratives into a crystal-clear message. At its beginning, a company is generally focused on delivering one product to a single target market. That means there’s one story, and everything lines up.

“When you try to connect to multiple target markets, there’s a risk that your story becomes watered down”

But as the company begins offering multiple products to new target markets, different stories begin to clutter the airspace. It becomes harder to know exactly who your customer is (especially if those target markets are segmented by geography, industry, or even Jobs-to-be-Done).

Your job as a marketer is to do a couple of things. First, ensure that when you think about your personas, you have a good understanding of how different they are – and what knock-on implications might be present. Second, be aware of the trade-offs when you go after more segments instead of fewer. When you try to connect to multiple target markets, there’s a risk that your story becomes watered down.

Testing is only as good as your hypothesis

In testing two bad headlines, one of them will win – but you’re still left with a bad headline. Smart testing is a skill, and it’s important to pit the best against the best. It’s all too easy to validate your own assumptions by testing your preferred outcome against an obviously inferior alternative.

“In testing two bad headlines, one of them will win – but you’re still left with a bad headline”

A key skill as a marketer is the ability to make sure that the things you’re testing are the right things – and that requires an awareness of statistical significance. As Shane points out, you need to be able to test hypotheses all the way through to revenue. One of the differences between B2B and B2C is that it takes longer to get to statistically significant estimates of lifetime value (LTV) due to lower volumes – so it’s crucial you don’t take the easy route and lean on volume metrics such as clickthrough rates.

Know when to switch it up

The thing that most impressed Shane when he first arrived at Intercom was the Marketing team’s openness to change. Often when you arrive at a successful company, there’s a resistance to trying new things, precisely because of that success. But at Intercom, there’s an understanding that to continue our growth, we must embrace new approaches, new tactics, new motions.

When Shane first joined, the first thing he heard from the team was: “We all work in silos. We need to fix this.” Once each team’s role was clearly defined – and they were aligned around a clarified message – change could be driven much more quickly. Then, the next step became all about executing the mission.

Looking to the challenges ahead

Over the next 12 months, Shane has set three goals for growth. First: nail the story. Second: iron out pricing and packaging – an ongoing challenge for every SaaS company. Finally: once you’ve got your story, and your pricing is dialed in, you have to drive leads from a balance of different media investments whether it’s out-of-home, podcast, direct mail, all the way down to direct responses like paid search.

If Shane’s vision for our Marketing team excites you, check out our open roles

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