If you run a SaaS business, chances are you’re going to need a SaaS marketing consultant at some point in time. Sooner or later, you will run out of time to manage your marketing efforts – if you ever had time for it anyway.
Running a business is never easy, but it becomes especially difficult with a product like SaaS: you need to be pushing new updates frequently, so you need to make sure you’re in control of what you’re selling.
But no matter how good your product is, it’s of no use to create the best software ever if the word does not get out. All businesses need advertising, and software marketing consultants will help you face all the challenges that come with promoting a SaaS business.
1 – What is the difference between a software marketing consultant and similar professionals?
There are a lot of differences between software marketing consultants and marketing consultants that work with other types of products. First of all, when you work with a product that’s not tangible, it’s a lot more difficult to sell. You’ll have to tug at your prospects’ imagination and make them see how your software can improve their lives. You need to show how does your product solve their main worries and issues.
At the same time, software as a service is not cheap and works mostly on a subscription-based system. What does that mean? In practice, it means that you’ll have to worry not only about getting new clients but mostly at retaining old ones. So, the sales cycle for software is longer, and that makes software marketing consultants experts in customer retention and monetization.
A lot of times, you’ll have a free tier for your software. It’s up to your marketing consultant to figure out how to monetize those customers by promoting upgrades and cross-selling.
A marketing consultant with no software sales experience might have trouble adjusting and might not be able to help you with retention, which is a step often ignored for other products – but essential for software.
2 – What you should know when choosing a Software Marketing Consultant
Hiring a software marketing consultant is easy. The difficult bit is hiring the right one. Depending on the needs of your business, you need a marketing consultant that ticks all the boxes. However, how will you know what you need? We’ll answer that question in the next section.
2.1. Know Whether You Want a Strategic Expert or Functional Specialist
Consultants come from many different walks of life. However, software marketing consultants usually fit one of two groups: strategic experts and functional specialists. These two categories imply different skills.
Strategic experts will usually have a background as CEOs, and they are more inclined towards fixing strategic issues in your company structure. Their decisions work across your whole business and affect mostly the way your company positions itself in the market.
Functional specialists, on the other hand, usually have a background as quality system experts, human resources managers, attorneys, or similar areas. Their role tends to be a bit more administrative: they fix operational issues by making your processes flow better and increasing your ROI by cutting unnecessary expenses.
A functional specialist will also advise you on the next hires that you are going to need, and how to improve employee retention. He or she will be able to recommend all sorts of improvements that will affect your product, your talent management, and, overall, your efficiency.
On the other hand, a strategic expert will provide you with market benchmarks and tell you how to improve your brand alignment, your customer relationships, and other activities that affect your brand image in the community.
So, you need to know beforehand: which type of software marketing consultant do you need? Someone to fine-tune your processes, or someone who will help you with your strategy across the board? It is up to you, so choose wisely.
2.2. Choose Top-Line Focus or Bottom-Line Focus
Another decision you need to make when hiring a software marketing consultant is whether you’re going after a top-line focus or a bottom-line focus.
Top-line focus consultants usually offer more customers and growth as their goals. What this means is that these professionals are going to focus on market strategies to increase sales and brand awareness, keeping in mind the steady growth of your company.
Bottom-line consultants have a different focus: they are after reducing operational costs and expenses in order to increase your ROI. Bottom-line software marketing consultants will offer you improvements that, at the same time, offer growth too, but the way they go about it is completely different. Whereas top-line consultancy comes from the top and is sometimes not noticed by all employees, bottom-line consultants will implement changes that will affect every single employee in your business.
What do you need? To improve processes? Or to develop market strategies? According to your answer, you’ll know another thing you need to look for in a software marketing consultant for your company.
2.3. Make Sure that Consulting is Their Primary Service
This is another especially relevant factor when it comes to hiring a software marketing consultant. Let’s say you hire someone that offers consulting, but that especializes in PPC ads. This is not an ideal situation, and we’ll tell you why.
Lots of marketing consultants offer consulting services, but a lot of times their skills when it comes to consulting are far from optimal. Go after a professional that especializes in consultancy and that can prove their expertise. Do not settle for someone that does consultancy as an extra, because most of the times, quality will suffer.
2.4. Ask for their client portfolio
Another essential step when evaluating a software marketing consultant is checking out their client portfolio. These are the main things you should look for in a consultant’s portfolio:
- Experience in different industries. If you’re after a software marketing consultant, you’re looking for someone that has an eclectic array of previous clients, from across a few different industries. This means they are able to research thoroughly for every possible subject and will want to know the ins and outs of your business.
- Look for testimonials from previous clients and, if possible, contact those clients in order to make sure their reviews are truthful. It’s of the utmost importance to know how your candidate interacts with clients, how do they evaluate a company’s needs in order to act accordingly and all other information you can gather.
- Look for previous SaaS or software experience. In our opinion, whether that professional has experience in software or not doesn’t make or break their portfolio, but it counts. If they do not have software experience, ask them for projects they consider to be similar and try to gather as much information about their behaviour as possible. As we mentioned above, it’s important to know if that consultant is able to work with you no matter the product.
2.5. Check them out on LinkedIn
LinkedIn offers you plenty of insights into the person you are looking to hire.
First of all, you can check out their recommendations. Recommendations will let you know whether the person really especializes in consulting – is that candidate recommended for that? Or just for other activities? If the candidate does not have recommendations for consulting skills, that might be a red flag and you should ask for clarification.
There’s nothing wrong with checking a candidate’s profile on LinkedIn. Unlike other social networks, LinkedIn is especially geared towards work and professional activities. It’s an ideal way to get a few more insights into how that person thinks, what others have to say about them, and their previous roles.
If that consultant does not have an optimized profile, i.e. no previous experience, no profile picture, beware. You’re looking after someone that will have a huge influence on your company, so you have to make sure they are the right fit.
Checking out previous workplaces will help you understand if that candidate fits your company culture too.
We always recommend checking out every single candidate’s profile on LinkedIn, for this role and any other.
2.6. Are they experts in Digital Marketing?
There is no other way to put it. If your candidate for software marketing consultant is not experienced in Digital Marketing, it would be a mistake to hire them.
But how do you measure that? Well, by checking their social media and their website. But we’ll go through what to look for in their website further along this article.
If a professional says they’ll grow your Twitter handle to tens of thousands of followers, they should be able to do the same with their own accounts. How can you say you’re a social media expert if you only have 10 followers in your account?
When contacting previous clients, make sure they worked for digital media with your candidate and their opinion on their skills. A software marketing consultant needs to be a multifaceted professional, and digital marketing experience is a must have.
2.7. If they offer a free trial of their services, accept it!
The best professionals in this business know they have a lot to prove. Software marketing consultants have a very important role in the companies they work with, so sometimes it is difficult for you as a business owner to make a decision.
So, if one of your candidates offers you a free trial in order for you to get a feel of the services they provide, accept it. Of course, you shouldn’t suggest it yourself – that can come across as crass. What we mean is that if the option poses itself, go for it and try to get the best out of it.
We don’t recommend using any of the work produced if that person ends up not to be the best fit for you, because a free trial is not an agreement for free work. Make sure you draw the line carefully on this subject.
2.8. Check out their website
This should go without saying, but a website mirrors your candidate digital marketing proficiency and the effort they’ll put into your company’s success. Beware if your candidate has a under-optimized website. Do they rank highly in search results for their business? Do they explain their services thoroughly on their website?
If they have a “Services” page, make sure the services they describe match what you’re looking for. If they talk about dozens of services and none of them is consultancy, how can you trust that professional?
It’s relevant to check their professional profile on their website too, according to your needs. Is that consultant a strategic expert or a functional specialist? Do they do bottom-line or top-line? Usually, their website and their social media should answer these questions.
3 – Should you hire an agency or a single consultant?
There are a few reasons why we recommend hiring a software marketing consultant over a full-service agency. The main one is that if you hire services from an agency, you’ll always be confronted with a constant up-selling that might not go according to your needs.
Let’s say your website needs a bit of an update. An agency will try to “milk it” as much as possible, by saying you need a whole new website. Their fee depends on as many services they can push onto you.
However, if you talk to your consultant about the issue, they’ll recommend a freelancer developer that will be able to fix the issue at a much lower cost. The developer makes the necessary updates, and you each go your separate ways.
A software marketing consultant will give you exactly what you need, when you need it, with no extras, no commissions, and a fixed fee.
Hiring a software marketing consultant is not an easy task. There are many pitfalls that you might encounter in this endeavor, which can seriously harm your company if you do not hire the right professional.
You need to make sure you find a consultant that fits your business, but most of all, fits you. Every person you work with should mesh in with your company perfectly. So, a lot of the factors that go into hiring a software marketing consultant are personal too.
In this article, we list the factors that aren’t personal. Once you have a grasp of what you need when it comes to skill, it becomes easier to find the ideal profile for you. Don’t shy away from asking questions: this is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever have to make as a business owner.