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How challenging conventional sales and marketing in a downturn can lead to increased growth

Our Q&A with Sam Levan of MadKudu and how the fundraising marketplace is settling for the summer based on our key Pitch Deck Interest metrics.
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This week we’re featuring a Q&A with Sam Levan, co-founder and CEO of MadKudu, on what B2B marketing and sales trends he saw in Q2, dealing with unforeseen challenges, and his advice for early-stage founders planning their growth strategies in today’s climate. We also dig into our Pitch Deck Interest metrics, which show a settling of the fundraising marketplace for the summer.

Q&A with Sam Levan, co-founder and CEO of MadKudu

Sam is passionate about using data to help companies understand their customers better and create better experiences. MadKudu is an actionable lead scoring platform for the entire B2B funnel that uses predictive analytics to help SaaS marketing teams accelerate revenue.

With your product being so data-driven, what are some marketing and sales trends you saw in Q2 that founders should be aware of as we get into Q3?

Conversion rates in the sales and marketing funnel have become more volatile than ever. Some customer segments are positively impacted by COVID while others negatively. The change in the mix of industries and geographies in the funnel creates very different conversion rates and sales velocity. More than ever, it’s important to closely monitor these changes in the funnel to avoid building a “vanity pipeline” that won’t actually generate revenue and instead over-inflates the sales pipeline you’re reporting on.

We’ve seen an acceleration of the adoption of an all-bound model by our customers. The marketing and sales motion usually relied primarily on one model (eg. inbound model, PLG, outbound). After years of fierce debate about which model is best, we’ve seen more and more teams build the capabilities to run all those models at once. I believe this was driven by the current global situation and the fact that teams can no longer rely on just one model to fuel continued growth.

What are some unforeseen marketing and sales challenges your team has had to overcome this year that other B2B teams can learn from?

Even in a bottom-up model, you need to build support at the exec level. We used to have a bottom-up sales motion: our end-users would request demos and drive the buying process quite independently. In Q2, we’ve seen executives (CMOs, CEOs, CFOs) become a lot more involved in the buying journey. They’re looking at how the team spends its budget with a lot more attention. Because of this learning, we’ve had to help our champions sell the value of MadKudu internally and focus on building relationships with executives so we can have that conversation ourselves. To that end, we quickly adapted to add value to executives in the buyer’s journey.

What channels are working in B2B marketing and sales in this current economic environment?

TL;DR; Value-add content and tools. Online events. The crisis has increased the need for advice, benchmarks, and peer feedback. While it takes a while to generate revenue, we’ve seen a few companies get great results by creating value-add content and organizing local online events where their prospects and customers meet and help each other.

For early-stage startups looking to raise funding, what should they be thinking about when planning their marketing and sales strategy now?

Explicitly pick an attractive beachhead market. Investors want to see a large total available market. But don’t confuse this market with the initial target market for your early-stage startup. Be bold, and explicitly decide to focus on a small beachhead market that is neutrally or positively impacted by the current conditions. When you’re early in your growth, you can’t afford to be everything to everyone, so narrowing your focus is exactly what investors want to see. It is actually very hard to do. Investors will feel confident you’ll be able to build traction for the next 18 months with this initial market. You will then expand out of this initial market when you reach your next milestone.

Is there anything you think marketing and sales teams should be thinking about right now or anything you want to add?

Use leading indicators of marketing pipeline to quickly see what’s working and what is not. In the past few months, there has been a tectonic shift in the marketing spend of many companies. Marketing has always been a constantly changing space. This is even more true right now. Quick experimentation is the best way to make change a positive force. But in B2B, without a tool like MadKudu, it takes months to see if the latest marketing campaign will actually generate revenue. Make sure to use a valid leading indicator of pipeline value to quickly learn if what you are trying now is working or if you need to iterate.

Pitch Deck Interest Metrics Update

Key insights on investor and founder fundraising activity since last week.

Early Stage Positioning for B2B Startups
In the current climate, burning through your runway while pursuing the wrong customers with the wrong approach could prove fatal, and fast. Here’s how to avoid wasting time and money pursuing the wrong approaches to marketing and product development.

Read the full post by Justin Warren on HeavyBit’s blog.

How We Built a Startup Fundraising Network that Aims to Remove Bias
The DFN has been in the making for almost a year now and it consisted of three separate MVPs that we iterated on to get to the offering that we just launched. Here’s the story of how we did it.

Read the full post by Alex Poulos on DocSend’s blog.