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Is Generative AI the Future of Marketing? 

Disruptive technologies are those that overturn the status quo and change the way businesses operate. In today’s business landscape, there is no technology more disruptive than artificial intelligence (AI). AI is already being used to create new products and services, and its impact on marketing is just beginning to be felt. Leveraging generative AI (GAI) tools will be critical for every organization, and founders need to understand how this will change the game in marketing. 

Read more: The Next Stack: Generative AI from an Investor Perspective

Welcome to the age of mass personalization

Every organization is asking marketing to do more with less today. But the true power of GAI for marketing is getting more throughput from their teams and covering the “long tail” of marketing more efficiently and effectively.  To be clear, GAI isn’t simply about creating more content; it is about creating content that talks to your target markets, ICPs, verticals, and geographies with a more personalized approach that will drive deeper engagement.  

[…]the true power of generative AI for marketing is getting more throughput from teams and covering the “long tail” of marketing more efficiently

As GAI becomes a common tool in marketing, integrated campaigns targeting specific verticals, target personas, or use cases will be assembled with incredible speed and quality. In the past, content was the limiting factor, but with GAI covering more targets, more completely will become the norm.  That means you will have a white paper, a landing page, email campaign, digital ads, landing pages, SDR cadences, and more, constructed more completely and in-market with unprecedented speed. 

Personalization happens at every point of the customer journey.  That journey often begins at your website.  Mutiny is an Insight portfolio company that offers a no-code AI platform that leverages OpenAI’s GPT-3 to personalize website content. It drafts high-converting changes fast with AI content suggestions. AI enables your website to deliver the right message to the right audience, seamlessly. 

What happens to SEO?  

In the age of generative AI, SEO is more important than ever. While AI can certainly help generate more content, it’s important to remember that quantity alone isn’t enough to rank high on Google (or Bing, or whatever is next). What truly matters to the search engine, now and in the future, is great content that is focused on context and quality. This means that businesses still need to create content that is relevant, informative, and engaging for their target audience. By doing so, they can improve their search engine rankings, which will get them cited in the GAI response and ultimately attract more traffic to their website.  

[…] the best SEO strategy will involve a combination of AI-generated content and high-quality, human-written content

It’s also important to keep in mind that AI can assist in creating content, but it can’t replace the human touch. The best SEO strategy will involve a combination of AI-generated content and high-quality, human-written content. As always, the key to success is to stay focused on providing value to your audience and creating content that they find useful and engaging. 

Marketing roles will change

As with every disruptive change, roles evolve as well. Every area in marketing will be impacted, from demand generation to digital marketing to product marketing. While it is early days, it is worth considering where GAI will change roles and begin to adjust the organization to accommodate this evolution.

  • Content writers are likely to evolve from pure writers to editors and prompters.
  • Do you have people with both the will to change and the capacity to learn new skills?
  • Will you need as many digital advertising people as AI tools begin to pick up much of the repetitive work associated with the role? 
  • Will AI marketing tools optimize integrated campaigns automatically, and who will drive this new strategy?   

These are just some of the questions yet to be fully answered in this fast-moving and fluid environment. Once you have the GAI strategy in place, you must create a culture within your organization that encourages experimentation and data-driven decisions. This will ensure that generative AI can be used to its fullest potential and allow it to live up to both its hype and potential. 

A new age of MarTech is upon us  

To start leveraging generative AI in your marketing strategy, you must first invest in the right technology. And for the foreseeable future, this will be a moving target as the capabilities advance at lightning speed. Most solutions like marketing automation, chatbots, account-based, sales engagement, and more will infuse a level of GAI into their solutions, but that is only part of a successful approach. Your org will need tools that don’t simply improve the existing approaches but take full advantage of the new paradigm that GAI promises. 

Your org will need tools that don’t simply improve the existing approaches but take full advantage of the new paradigm that GAI promises

The key will be to develop new enterprise workflows that combine the power of GAI with new tools that create more bespoke solutions that match your company’s voice, brand, and guidelines. Insight portfolio companies such as Writer and Jasper are creating enterprise-ready solutions that help organizations manage new teamwork processes and compliance issues, creating a new level of consistency across the organization. They are a major step up from the one-size-fits-all ChatGPT. 

Don’t stop with text

Yes, the first use case for many is around generative text, but no organization will unlock the full potential of GAI if they don’t also explore both image and video capabilities for marketing. Technology is advancing rapidly here to provide customized and humanlike artistic images. Creative teams should begin to utilize these tools to reduce costs and drive output.  

One of the most common uses of generative AI in B2B is personalized product and creative imagery. This allows businesses to create realistic images to fit a particular segment or group. With this technology, businesses can easily adapt visuals for different channels, such as social media platforms or websites. 

Insight portfolio company Hour One is an AI-based synthetic video platform that specializes in leveraging AI technologies to create realistic synthetic video.  Hour One produces digital clones of people that can move and speak realistically for synthesized videos and interactive avatars usable in the real world and the virtual workspaces of the metaverse. With Hour One’s AI avatar technology, you can generate premium video from text, automatically and affordably, allowing you to keep pace with your audience’s need for rapid reporting. There are many use cases for this technology which include product videos, website videos, support videos, etc. Organizations can now quickly and cost-efficiently power a true video-first marketing strategy.   

Leading generative AI adoption

The marketing organization structure of tomorrow will be driven by AI. The CMO’s role in this new structure will be twofold.

  1. Founders and CMOs must ensure the right organizational structure and processes are in place to enable AI-driven marketing. This includes investing in the right technology and creating a culture that values experimentation and data-backed decisions.
  2. Marketing leaders must become AI evangelists within their organization, advocating for the use of AI-enabled solutions and inspiring others to seize the opportunities presented by these technologies.  

Is your marketing team ready to join the generative AI revolution? Now is the time to begin experimenting with new approaches in your organization. It is clear that much will change in marketing, and it will happen quickly.  Every founder needs to ensure that their marketing organization is ready to keep up and begin to get ahead of the curve.  It is time to take advantage of this transformational opportunity. 

Founder 101: Why and When to Invest in Brand

The term “brand” is wildly misunderstood. Many people perceive brand as colors, pictures, logos, and fonts – and that’s it. This is far from the truth.   

While brand absolutely encapsulates the look and feel of your company, visual identity is just one slice of the pie.

Brand is your company strategy; it sets the direction for years to come while providing every stakeholder a North Star of what you stand for, your ultimate goal, and how you get there.  

Brand serves as the foundation for all your communications, shaping how stakeholders perceive your business and the value you create. For this reason, brand must be consistent across every touchpoint from your website to your pitch decks, and BDR calls. Brand impacts the success of every stakeholder’s experience with your company and their likelihood of converting, and every stakeholder’s ensuing opinion of that experience impacts your brand’s reputation.  

brand impacts every interaction

Your brand is what enables you to rise above the noise to drive awareness, build affinity to convert, and influence decision to purchase. Brand is what allows you to meaningfully connect with your buyers again and again.    

Why should I invest in brand?

We know what you’re probably thinking: “Why should I invest in brand if I need to drive pipeline NOW?” Investing in brand is critical for every company looking to build sustainable growth and profitability. Strong brands: 

  • Drive company focus and set vision      
  • Forge organizational alignment
  • Build or increase competitive moat  
  • Lower cost to acquire customers (CAC) 
  • Garner premium pricing
  • Improve customer lifetime value (CLTV) 
  • Drive higher valuations 

Companies go wrong in assuming that if they are focusing on brand, they are diverting resources from generating demand. Brand and demand must co-exist to drive sustainable growth.

Bottom line: there is no demand without brand.   

When should I invest in brand?

Within Insight’s portfolio, companies early in their ScaleUp journey drive new bookings via demand-focused tactics (e.g., paid digital marketing). Founders and CEOs tend to put brand on the back burner in the early stages of growth in order to prioritize focus on new logo demand generation and sales enablement. This lack of focus on brand results in a game of catch-up in the later stages of growth. 


So, when should you start focusing on brand to avoid playing catch up? The simple answer is the earlier, the better. However, three core readiness factors must be in place before you begin. You’re ready if you can confidently answer “yes” to all three questions below. Keep in mind that you will need dedicated resources (either in-house or via an agency) to execute against your strategy.  

Brand Readiness Checklist

  1. Do you have established product-market fit (PMF) and demonstrable market traction?
  2. Do you have a clear definition of your ideal customer profile (ICP) and buyer personas? 
  3. Are you confident your core product and go-to-market (GTM) strategy won’t change course for at least 6 months?

If you already have a brand established, but are experiencing growth or efficiency challenges, brand could still be the culprit. Check out signs and symptoms that you need to revisit your brand below.  

Signs it’s time to dedicate more resources to brand

  • Your messaging is focused on features and functions instead of how you solve buyer pain points.
  • Your messaging speaks to only one buyer persona instead of the entire buying committee.
  • Your competition is heating up, and your win rate is declining.
  • Your performance marketing ROI is quickly approaching diminishing returns.
  • Your category is being disrupted by the “cool kid,” and customers are churning.
  • Your product doesn’t fit into an existing category, so you need to figure out how to position yourself.
  • Your product’s value has expanded or shifted.
  • Your business wants to target a new market segment, industry, or region.
  • Your employee attrition is up, and you are struggling to attract top hires.
  • Your reputation is suffering due to poor software review site ratings, negative media mentions, or less-than-stellar analyst evaluations.

Now that you know it’s time to build or double down on your existing brand, keep in mind that the best-kept secret to success is simple: be intentional! No one accidentally stumbles on a billion-dollar brand. Beloved brands require thoughtful progression with participation from the entire organization.   

What are the elements of a strong brand strategy?

There is no single activity that builds a brand. Fruitful brand building is an umbrella approach made up of a series of tactics, each aligning to and delivering on your brand strategy.  

Insight has developed a four-step process to help you think through the building blocks to drive awareness and affinity for your product. Each of the below terms is linked to our Brand Glossary

Brand ROI & Measurement

  1. Insights — Capture customer, market, and competitor insights.
  2. Buyer Foundations — Leverage insights to define your TAM, ICP, buyer personas, and buyer’s journey so that you know your audience and can drive hyper-targeted tactics.
    • TAM
    • Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
    • Buyer Personas
    • Buyer’s Journey
  3. Strategy — five brand essentials that make up a successful brand strategy:
    1. Mission, Vision, and Values
    2. Point of View (POV)
    3. Messaging & Positioning
    4. Category
    5. Brand Identity
  4. Activation — Arm your GTM team with enablement, content, and campaigns to drive awareness, engagement, and conversion. Ensure your website reflects your differentiated value proposition and visual identity. Test and iterate tactics to learn what works.

Building a brand doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Plenty of activities cost nothing and drive exponential value (e.g., defining your ICP, aligning your messaging to how you uniquely solve your ICP’s pain points, and articulating this value on your website). Brand is anything but a one-size fits all. Every company should be intentional about building brand and aligning the right-sized investments to what is needed to achieve their goals at every stage of growth.

The Insight Brand Glossary

Use this guide alongside our brand content for founders and ScaleUp leaders at every stage. Skip to each step:

Buyer Foundations

Brand Strategy

The umbrella approach that defines how your company shows up in the market and the plan of integrated tactics needed to achieve its objectives.  


Actionable learnings about your buyers, competitors, and target market. The best approach is to leverage both qualitative and quantitative research to inform these insights. Study your existing data, but make sure you go beyond what you already have. Collecting and analyzing this information is critical to building a successful brand. Without knowing your buyers, your competitors, and your target market dynamics, you are flying blind and run the risk of wasting time and money on a brand project that goes nowhere.   

  • Buyer Insights: Learnings established from research (e.g., customer interviews, surveys), sales reps, and social listening channels (e.g., peer reviews, community forums) that define buyer pain points and why they aren’t being solved with existing solutions. Buyer insights provide the ability to educate sales, customer success, marketing, and product teams on prospective buyers and their behaviors. With this knowledge, go-to-market teams can focus on the touchpoints during the buying cycle that are most critical.   
  • Competitor Insights: Understanding your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities will help identify the unique white space that your brand can own, differentiate your value from the competition, and objection handle so that that you can win ultimately win more deals.   
  • Target Market Dynamics: Having a clear understanding of your current market and where it is going will help ensure you align your product and positioning to both todays and tomorrow’s buyer needs. These insights include elements such as analyst predictions and economic shifts that impact the industries you sell into. 

Buyer Foundations

Foundational inputs to your brand and go-to-market strategy that describe your target market, your ideal customer, what they care about, and how they purchase. Aligning your organization on your Total Addressable Market (TAM), your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), Buyer Personas, and your Buyer’s Journey gets everyone on the same page around who your best customers are and how they like to engage with your brand. These foundations impact everything from target account lists to messaging and product roadmaps. 

  • Total Addressable Market (TAM): Total addressable market for your end-state product at 100% market share. Note that it is also important to understand your SAM (Serviceable Available Market), share of the market that you can attain based on your business model – your targets, and your SOM (Serviceable Obtainable Market), or the percentage of your SAM that you can realistically attain. 
  • Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): Documentation of the attributes that make up your “best” or most valuable customer accounts. Having a clear definition on the characteristics that make up these accounts allows you to better attract, engage, close, and retain business within those accounts. These attributes should include firmographic (e.g., employee count), environmental (e.g., technology traits), and behavioral data (e.g., has remote employees). 
  • Buyer Personas: Generalized representation of buyers, influencers, and users at your ICP that informs your GTM strategy, messaging and where to find them.
  • Buyer’s Journey: Map encompasing a customer’s entire buying experience from pre-purchase to post-purchase.


See the 5 core brand essentials that make up a successful brand strategy below: 

1. Mission, Vision, and Values

Documenting these core building blocks provides not only a focal point for internal alignment and roadmap for the path ahead, but they are also an effective guide for making decisions. Everything you do should align with these statements.  

  • Mission: A mission statement focuses on your purpose today and what your organization does to achieve it. What is your reason for being? Keep in mind that it doesn’t just describe the organization’s output or who it wants to help… It captures the soul of the organization. 
  • Vision: A vision statement focuses on tomorrow and what your organization wants to achieve. 
  • Values: Your core values support your vision. These are your beliefs as an organization. When making a big decision, ask yourself if it is consistent with your values. Your values should stand out as uniquely yours. 

2. Point of View (POV)

Your brand story. It tells the market how you’re different, the problems you solve, and why it matters to your target audience. Since we live in an attention-driven world and humans love stories, it’s no surprise the attention winner is the company that tells the best story. Your POV is your key to doing that. The POV is what gets your employees excited about going to work each day and the inspiration behind a first-time buyer deciding to purchase. The POV is made up of 4 parts:

  1. Challenge: The problem you solve (e.g., data is dirty and disconnected).  
  2. Consequences: The pain the buyer feels because of your problem (e.g., lack of visibility leads to inefficiency, slowed revenue growth, and more closed lost deals). 
  3. Future State: How your solution resolves the buyer’s pain and provides a different path forward (e.g., a single view into all data with actionable insights). 
  4. Outcomes: The benefits made possible by your solution (e.g., greater team alignment and ROI, higher growth rates, and innovation that leads to more won deals and lasting competitive advantage). 

3. Messaging & Positioning

Your Messaging & Positioning Framework (M&P Framework) clearly maps the value you deliver through a hierarchically organized set of words, terms, phrases, and statements. It is designed to align your organization and should be made centrally available. It ensures that your story is conveyed in a consistent manner and the differentiated value you deliver is positioned correctly across every interaction with the market. The M&P Framework has 5 parts:

  1. Problem Statement: The unique problem you solve, described in buyer language. 
  2. Positioning Statement: How you are solving the problem in a competitively differentiated way. Clearly articulate your value prop and how it solves meaningful pain points.
  3. Core Message: What you want to be known for. The message that brings your positioning statement alive.   
  4. Benefit Pillars: Succinct descriptions of the key customer benefits and product attributes you deliver.  
  5. Proof Points: Examples that offer irrefutable evidence of the outcomes of your Benefit Pillars. 

4. Category

Categories help people navigate a world of too many choices; they compartmentalize similar items to facilitate discovery and decision. A category strategy enables you to take the reins and position yourself versus the market positioning you. (Note: category design can be a distraction if done too early.)

5. Brand Identity

Brand Identity includes all visual elements of your brand, including the colors, fonts, logo, imagery, and design, that distinguish your brand in the consumer’s mind. Your brand identity should also include brand personality elements, such as tone of voice. Keep in mind, everything from the color of your logo to the curvature of your font will appeal to a certain emotion.

Brand Book

Clearly documents the rules, standards, and guidelines for bringing your brand to life. This is an important step to achieve consistency as your organization grows. 

Brand Activation

The integrated campaign plan that you execute in order to get your brand out in the market. It is the compilation of tactics that will drives audience growth, engagement, and conversion. Continuous testing will help narrow in on the tactics that drive the greatest impact with your target audience. If activation isn’t prioritized, your entire brand strategy crumbles. Make sure this is a priority!  

Deeper insight: Founder 101: Why and When to Invest in Brand

Getting Into More Sales Opportunities, Earlier

Are you in all the deals you could be? Probably not, says data recently published by 6sense.

Just 9-11% of buyers are in-market in each quarter, according to the 392 B2B marketers surveyed. 

Of those buyers, the typical medium-sized B2B tech firm has opportunities in their customer relationship management (CRM) system for just 12% early in the buying cycle, and 25% later. 

So, for the typical mid-stage company with a total addressable market (TAM) of 100 accounts: 

  1. About 10 of their target accounts are in-market in each quarter. 
  2. Of those 10, the company would have open opportunities for just one account early in the buying process and two later in the buying process. 

target accounts with opp in crm

Your go-to-market team must get into more opportunities, and earlier, especially now. The average win rate is continuing its precipitous drop from 29% in 2021 to 17% at the start of this year, per Winning by Design’s latest read. 

Get on a buyer’s “day one” list

Brand awareness counts for a lot. But you might be surprised by just how much it impacts the likelihood that a target account will evaluate your solution.

In a September 2022 survey of 1,208 buyers by Bain and Google, ~90% of buyers have a list of preferred vendors from “day one” of their search; 90% of those will go on to buy from their “day one” list. 

target accounts day one vendor

How do you get on buyers’ “day one” list?  

Build brand awareness among target buyers

Get buyers to know your solution before their search by building a presence where they can learn and connect. This could be at events, in trade journals, within communities, etc. Have a clear and differentiated value proposition to stand out at these industry intersections.  

Earn customer advocacy

84% of B2B decision-makers start their solution search by asking for referrals from colleagues, according to Edelman Trust Barometer. How can you ensure customers tell new buyers to “put you on the list?”  

The best advocacy is inspired by excellent user experience and “above-and-beyond” customer support. But you can exponentiate your fans’ reach. Give them prominent roles in your customer community. Feature them in case studies and media pitches. Secure speaking opportunities for them at trade events or invite them to host a discussion at your own webinars. If appropriate, extend discounts or gifts for referrals. 

Understand buying signals

For many companies, their go-to-market (GTM) team should go beyond passively cultivating demand to seeking it out. The goal is to know when buyers will begin their search for a solution. 

Prospect and build relationships

The most direct way you can gather buying signals is by building relationships with buyers ahead of their purchase. Your sellers can do this by offering value, “no strings attached:” delivering helpful content, inviting buyers to events, connecting buyers with influencers and experts, etc. You can also participate in third-party communities or build your own, monitoring the conversation for signs buyers need a solution. This might be as simple as attending industry events and “working the room.” 

Renewals, requests for proposals (RFP), and 10-Qs

In some markets, you can gather explicit information about when a buyer might enter a solution search. For example, some data providers offer IT contract renewal intelligence. You might also watch aggregators of RFPs — wherein companies put out an explicit call for purchase. For public companies, financial filings might offer clues about investments leading to a purchase, such as 10-Qs in the United States. 

Intent modeling

Several data and software providers will provide data analytics that tell you which of your target accounts are surging in interest for your solution (and when). In the best case, you can incorporate this intent data into a model which predicts the location of each account in their buying cycle. This will help your sellers identify accounts where they should aim to open opps early on; they can also catch accounts that are about to buy. 

Get into more deals

Few of your target accounts are in-market in any given quarter. Especially in the face of softening win rates, you must source as many opportunities as you can, as early as you can.  

To do this, know who’s buying and get ahead of their search. Generating brand awareness and customer advocacy are powerful means by which you can secure your spot on buyers’ “day one” lists. But, as you build those long-term investments, also seize demand by gathering buying signals from the market. 

Disclosure: 6sense is an Insight Partners portfolio company.

Top 6 Digital Growth Strategies for Startups in 2023 

Growth in 2023 poses a challenge for many startups, but the pain may feel especially acute for early stage founders. Through research and work with Insight’s early stage portfolio companies, we have developed six practical digital strategies to drive efficient and effective growth this year. 

1. Focus on SEO

Why This Matters

98% of Insight portfolio companies consider building relevant organic traffic a core component of their go-to-market strategy, and rightly so. For B2B, most buyers prefer to research on their own prior to contacting sales. SEO and digital content fuel that upper funnel research. In addition, paid channels are becoming more expensive: the marketing program cost per dollar of sales pipeline nearly doubled (from $0.08 to $0.13) in 2022. 

What This Looks Like

If you find relevant keywords with limited competition and sufficient traffic, invest in data-driven thought leadership and content about those topics. If you have a dedicated fanbase, consider referral marketing or building word-of-mouth. Hosting events — virtual or in-person — and building your YouTube presence via video content can drive increased organic interest from buyers. Ultimately, determine what resources you have to drive organic growth (including a first marketing hire that understands SEO) and focus on what can drive the greatest impact.

2. Find the “break points” in your funnel

Why This Matters

Reducing friction throughout the buying journey can generate big returns for a company at any stage. Some of these improvements might require little effort for outsized results. 

What This Looks Like

Calculate the impact that a 1% increase in conversion rate (CVR) would have on your bottom line. You’ll likely find the impact of a one percent improvement outperforms the investments you’d make in other parts of your company’s marketing. Evaluate your funnel’s “break points” and optimize for conversion at each stage. Create and hold a cross-functional team comprised of digital marketers, product marketers, and developers accountable for improving site conversion.   

3. Experiment with new media channels

Why This Matters

If you are beginning to allocate budget to media, it’s crucial for you or the head of marketing to stay current on privacy policy updates, algorithm changes, and rising ad costs, and diversify media strategies. When your media mix is concentrated, you risk relying on too few platforms. Even if a platform makes a small change, you could experience a major impact in impressions served, conversion rates, and media costs – all of which impact your bottom line. 

What This Looks Like

Your budget allocation to paid media will dictate how much focus this deserves. On average, Insight portfolio companies allocate 10% of their media budget to testing. We recommend conducting small tests in new channels without sacrificing the performance of your core few. On average, Insight portfolio companies allocate 10% of their media budget to testing. 

4. Build your company’s first-party data

Why This Matters

Privacy protections, such as Apple’s removal of IDFA, have already minimized the efficacy of third-party ad targeting. The proposed American Data Privacy Protection Act has the Interactive Advertising Bureau warning its members to accelerate their transition away from third-party cookies. By building a first-party database, companies can continue to target audiences as restrictions tighten, and they can use first-party data to better personalize interactions with customers and buyers.  For example, user preferences and interests collected in an on-site quiz can be used to tailor future content to that specific user, showing them highly relevant products, features, or offers.

What This Looks Like

Ensure your team knows that first-party data collection is a priority and why it’s important.  Encourage tactics such as lead forms with event registration, user preferences, and other voluntary forms of user information. Also, strengthen sales’ role in seeking out key contacts and driving them to act on your first-party properties (e.g., website, landing page, or event platform).  

5. Create foundations to enable attribution

Why This Matters

Data collection has been hamstrung by privacy legislation, resulting in a lack of understanding of what tactics actually move the needle to create a sale. Early stage companies should consider building a marketing and revenue tech stack that enables end-to-end-visibility of budget spend to sales created. By deploying simple tracking tactics such as UTM codes for digital campaigns, you’ll better understand the value of upper-funnel tactics on bottom-line results. With this knowledge, you can redeploy budgets to programs generating the greatest impact. 

What This Looks Like

Seize opportunities to improve your attribution. For some, this could be as simple for B2B marketers as including the question “How did you hear about us?” in your contact us or demo forms or for B2C when they purchase you have a marketing automation platform ensure it is properly connected it to your customer relationship management system to tie buyer actions to outcomes.  

6. Experiment with generative AI

Why This Matters

Generative AI (GenAI) tools are transforming how work is accomplished across all business functions.  You may be considering the best way to leverage GenAI to “do more with less.” We recommend testing a GenAI tool first in your marketing function. Why? GPT-3.5 and other improvements to large AI models have brought unprecedented scale and accessibility for writing content, creating landing pages, and user experiences that are personalized and authentic in a fraction of the time. Empower your marketing leader to test and communicate wins in the form of increased output, time savings, better results, etc.  

What This Looks Like

Ask your marketing leader to determine the specific use case or problem they are trying to solve by using an AI tool.  Empower them with a budget to research and choose the best tool for their use case. Align on KPIs you expect to achieve and hold your marketing leader accountable for tracking and communicating progress. Several Insight portfolio company solutions using AI that can support marketers:   

While 2023 promises to be a challenging year, employing the above digital growth strategies should generate measurable business impact. 

Analyst Relations 101: How to Successfully Engage and Brief Analyst Firms

Many ScaleUps think of analyst relations (AR) as a black box. They might know they need to engage with analysts, but they’re not sure how to effectively do it. Other companies ignore AR completely because they don’t understand it. Do this at your peril. Getting featured in an analyst report can unlock major opportunities for SaaS software companies selling into the enterprise.

What is analyst relations (AR)?

Analyst relations is the proactive engagement of analysts at research firms (e.g., Forrester, Gartner, IDC, and others) to develop a mutually beneficial relationship that results in advocacy and market impact. It’s important to note that you don’t need to be a paying customer to brief these firms. In addition to this blog, my colleague Charlene Chen authored our ScaleUp Guide to Analyst Relations which provides context and tactical tips.

After spending six years as a senior analyst at Forrester, I’m excited to share my AR knowledge with Insight’s portfolio and the broader community. While at Forrester, I authored dozens of research reports and conducted five Wave evaluations in the digital experience space, with my most recent Wave published earlier this year on Digital Asset Management (DAM). I saw firsthand what good and bad AR looked like and its rippling effects.

It’s never too early to consider analyst relations

AR is key to scaling a business. It’s never too early to start thinking about and planning an AR strategy. Even for early-stage companies (sub $5 million in revenue), AR can provide powerful benefits. For example, when you brief an analyst for the first time, you have 30 minutes to make this tough audience understand your point of view and make them care. The practice of AR and analyst interactions forces all companies to clearly articulate the market challenge, detail customer pain points, and succinctly describe how their company or product uniquely solves the challenge. To convince the analysts, you must supply evidence in the form of market data and customer case studies. In other words, analyst relations is a form of company branding and product messaging and positioning.

At Insight, I educate our portfolio on the importance of AR: what ScaleUps need to know about engaging with analyst firms, how you can build a briefing deck that catches the eye of the ever-busy analyst, and key insights and tactics to improve positioning. Here are some important key takeaways from these conversations that will help any company with its analyst relations strategy.

Read more: The ScaleUp Guide to Analyst Relations: A Fast Track to Enterprise Credibility

How to build your AR program

The hardest part of getting started is getting started. Many organizations start their AR practices with a marketing professional spending only some of their time on AR. Teams tend to be small. Most Insight portfolio companies have a product marketer carving out a few hours a week to focus on AR, while others may have one or two people dedicated to the practice. For early-stage companies, the founder or CEO owns the AR strategy. It’s only when you move into very large enterprises that full teams of AR professionals are present. Some best practices for developing an AR program include:

Understand the analyst firms and coverage

Gartner, Forrester, and IDC have the broadest coverage of the firms. Even non-clients can search these sites to see topics analysts are covering and some of their recent publication titles or summaries. Do your research to understand which analysts are covering your topic and create a prioritized list of primary and secondary analysts who are related to your space. There are also more specialized firms like Celent and AITE for financial services; KLAS for healthcare; Lux for oil, gas, chemicals, and utilities; and RedMonk for developer-focused companies. These can play an important role in your AR strategy if they’re the right fit.

Think beyond evaluative research

Getting in a Forrester Wave or Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) is at the top of most companies’ lists when it comes to analyst relations. But analysts write more than evaluative research. They also write reports on best practices, trends, and predictions. One key series is Gartner’s Cool Vendor reports. Gartner looks for companies that are innovative, intriguing, and impactful; they’re solving problems in new ways. If you catch the eye of Gartner analysts on a briefing, they may nominate you for a Cool Vendor report that publishes in the spring or fall. Your future as a Cool Vendor can be very bright.

Be an endless supply of “grit”

When I was an analyst, every paragraph I wrote needed grit — or evidence. I would often pull from our vast repository of data or look for customer case studies to illustrate a point or key trend. When I needed to dig up new case studies, one of my first stops would be our vendor clients. They had customers who were doing exactly what I was researching. I would conduct a 30-minute interview with them and then use quotes or data, often citing the technology company in the research.

How to brief analysts

The most important piece of information about briefing analysts is that you do not need to be a paying client of the firm to brief. All major firms will accept briefings from non-clients if there is alignment with analyst coverage and if you intrigue an analyst in your briefing submission. Each firm has a landing page on how to request a briefing; some may require you to create a free account to collect some basic information. Briefing analysts successfully requires you to:

Develop your outside-in view

The way an analyst sees the world is different from how you see it. That’s because they’re talking to a vast array of end-user customers (the buyers and users of technology) as well as most of your key competitors. There’s also an army of supporting research staff who are collecting survey data and market insights to inform research. To this end, avoid using your own jargon because this signals an inside-out approach. Use your customers to help drive how you talk about yourselves. You could use a formal or informal voice of the customer (VOC) program or a customer advisory board (CAB), which can help up-level your thinking and go-to-market strategy. To create your outside-in view, some questions might help you get started:

  • To customers: Why did you choose us, and why do you continue to do business with us?
  • To partners: What can we do to help you drive differentiation?
  • To employees: What is our biggest market challenge?
  • To sales: What are our competitors saying about us?

Create an interaction cadence

An AR program cannot be run on autopilot. When you engage analyst firms only during a Wave or MQ evaluation, it’s the sales equivalent of showing customer love only during a renewal. Instead, aim to brief your key analysts three to four times a year. When you speak with them, find out what is on their research agenda and offer connections to your experts (both internal employees and customers). Find out which other analyst colleagues might be interested in a briefing and follow-up. Additionally, if you are a client of the analyst firms, you should be engaging in more inquiries to uncover market insights and trends. When I was an analyst, most vendor-clients underutilized the inquiry process and missed opportunities to engage with both their primary and secondary analysts. Inquiries are 30-minute calls with analysts where paying clients can ask questions and gain market insights. Briefings tend to be more one-way interactions. If you have inquiry access, consider booking inquiries on either side of your briefings. If it’s before, it can help you align messaging; after can provide high-level feedback or validation of direction.

Deliver your briefing efficiently

Half-hour briefings are the standard and time goes by quickly. Dynamic senior leaders who are willing to go off-script to answer questions are the best briefing presenters. When setting up your presentation, use the section and timing guidance below.

proposed analyst relations briefing

How to prepare for your first Forrester Wave or Gartner Magic Quadrant

Many ScaleUps dream of being included in a Forrester Wave or Gartner MQ and unseating established players in the coveted leader category. This is no simple task. In fact, it will take hundreds of hours of dedication across product, sales, and marketing with no guarantee of success. Ranking reports like the Wave or MQ are important to establish your enterprise legitimacy. When enterprises buy technology, they often look to these reports, and if you’re not on it you can be seen as a risky bet. After running five successful Wave evaluations at Forrester, here are some insider best practices when engaging in this process:

Understanding the timeline and not ignoring the initial steps

You must be included in the corresponding landscape report to be considered for the Wave. Once the landscape progresses to a Wave (and it doesn’t always), the Wave process takes about three months from start to finish. Between vendor briefings, customer references, analysis, and writing, analysts alone easily spend 100 hours or more on the evaluation. It is critical that you meticulously project-manage your side of the Wave to make sure that key resources across the company are aligned to meet specific deadlines. Additionally, one often overlooked portion of the Wave is your chance to provide feedback on the draft questionnaire. At the beginning of the Wave process, you’ll receive the draft questionnaire on the criteria the analyst is considering evaluating you against. Now is your time to shape this process by suggesting the addition of criteria where you can differentiate, or the omission of capabilities that are commoditized in the market.

Nailing your briefing and demonstration

Every vendor in a Wave evaluation gets two to three hours to present their strategy and current capabilities. Dozens of hours of collective preparation time should go into this briefing because it is the most important chance to influence the analyst. The firm will provide you with guidance on the information and the scenarios you need to prepare. When you present, it’s best that you follow this guidance in the order listed because the analyst is often entering preliminary scores during your demo. Following the guidance helps them score as they go. If you don’t have a specific capability they’re asking for, show how you might solve the problem with a third-party integrated solution or where the capability sits on your future roadmap.

Being strategic and respectful during the fact-checking process

Once your analyst has scored all the vendors, you’ll receive your initial scorecard and your writeup. You’re receiving this to fact-check your scores. You (or others at your company) may bristle at the “1” scores that highlight you’re below par compared to other vendors in the evaluation, but unless you truly meet all of the capabilities of a “3” score, you should resist the futile act of arguing your position. Instead, target a few key scores where you may have truly not communicated your capabilities and create a fact-based case to have those scores adjusted; one or two may come through. Also, avoid red-line edits to your writeup to align it with your marketing materials. If there is something factually inaccurate or incomplete, suggest a correction, but otherwise hold back.

wave report analyst timeline

Summary and recommendations

Analyst relations is not about quick wins. ScaleUps that understand the long game of consistent AR effort will be rewarded with market visibility, revenue growth, and competitive differentiation. When ScaleUps approach analyst relations, remember to:

  • Educate your company on the value of AR. Many companies don’t have AR practices because they just don’t know that they should. This post can be a great starting point to educate founders and other team members on the value that strategic AR can drive for businesses, especially if your category is covered by the firms. It is critical to get buy-in from the highest levels of your organization to have a successful AR program. AR practices benefit companies by inclusion in more RFPs, sales teams that score more meetings with prospects, and higher website lead gen.
  • Approach the practice with adequate resources. In general, smaller companies will need fewer resources than larger companies that might be involved in multiple evaluative reports a year. At early-stage companies, the founder and/or CEO must drive and be involved in the AR effort. As the program progresses and the company grows, AR tends to be a function of product marketing. And as you gain traction with the firms, AR may get its own headcount or expand to include external partner resources to drive consistent wins.
  • Use experts and partners to guide your path. Insight Partners portfolio companies have access to analyst relations experts (me and my colleague Charlene Chen) through Onsite, just one of the superpowers for our ScaleUps. Once you outline your goals for an AR program and get buy-in from the top levels of your organization, it’s time to forge ahead. Your investor should be ready to help advise along this process.

5 Strategies Marketing Leaders Need to Succeed in 2023

The famous Roman Stoic Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Ultimately, you need both to succeed. The same might be said to marketing leaders in 2023: prepare, prepare, prepare!

There is no way to predict how the macroeconomic climate is going to shift or how it will impact B2B SaaS marketing teams. But one thing is clear — marketing leaders have their work cut out for them to thrive in what is likely a challenging environment. Many best practices that previously worked will be challenged, and agility remains critical.

Based on Insight’s close partnership and expertise in helping companies scale, we’re tracking the emerging questions we believe will shape marketing strategies in the coming year:

  1. How should you change your digital marketing strategy?
  2. What role will customer marketing play?
  3. Events: In-person? Virtual? Hybrid?
  4. How can personalization and generative AI help?
  5. What can be done to keep the marketing function whole in the face of organizational restructuring?

Read on for the marketing strategies we think will make a meaningful impact this year.

Organic efforts can yield higher ROI

One of the most significant challenges B2B SaaS organizations will face is the increasing cost of demand generation. With buyers pushing decisions out, there is a need for more touches to drive leads through the buyer’s journey, and marketers will have to be creative in order to keep their costs low.

Additionally, social media is becoming increasingly difficult to use for targeting given the recent changes across the major platforms and increased scrutiny around privacy. Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok have all seen CPM (cost per thousand) increase significantly in 2022. Facebook, and parent company Meta, is particularly difficult since they’ve been at the center of numerous data-related scandals, while Twitter’s shifting focus and paid options have been difficult for marketers to navigate. Twitter’s Ad Manager volume and roster of advertisers both fell sharply in October and November 2022. LinkedIn remains a great platform for targeting, though limited inventory and expensive ad spaces are becoming more common.

Key Insight: Your ROI on investing in stronger organic will likely be higher than paid digital. Reallocate budget to content and SEO.

Invest in customer marketing

As businesses started to experience a slowdown in new business ARR in 2022, customer retention and expansion became critical. Across the Insight portfolio, we saw our companies experience a 4% increase in expansion ARR between Q3 FY21 and Q2 FY 22, while new ARR was flat over the same period. Furthermore, our high-performing companies tend to see greater marketing spend efficiency due to a focus on retention and expansion.

marketing spend vs new and expansion ARR

It’s clear that customer retention will continue to be a major focus for B2B SaaS marketers. As the world continues to grapple with an unfolding economic crisis, businesses across all industries need to fight harder than ever to keep their customers from jumping ship and going to competitors that offer a cheaper price. Investing time into creating an effective customer marketing function is essential.

Key Insight: Expansion revenue will be cheaper and easier to drive than new logo this year. Consider reallocating both budget and people resources to these initiatives.

For more on the importance of customer retention and the role of marketing, read How to Grow by Marketing to Customers.

Shift the events mix

Overall, 41% of Insight portfolio companies indicated event budgets in 2023 will remain the same compared to 2022, while 25% are increasing budgets, and 34% are experiencing a decrease in budget.

events budgets in 2023

With inflation hitting everything from travel expenses to on-site cappuccino machines, events may become a more difficult and expensive prospect in 2023. Data from Insight portfolio company, Bizzabo, suggests that in-person events remain important and are here to stay: 72% of event organizers indicated that in-person events remain a crucial part of their overall event strategy, 98% plan to host at least one in-person event next year, and 85% plan to host at least three.

However, for companies experiencing significant budget constraints, virtual event platforms could provide the solution. Think webinars, tailored content facilitated by virtual assistants and AI bots, as well as interactive 3D experiences. These solutions can help marketers reach new customers and keep current ones engaged in a more cost-effective manner, allowing them to maximize their budget. According to Bizzabo, 68% of event organizers plan to have a virtual component at their next in-person event, and 53% are “focused” or “very focused” on a virtual events strategy for 2023.

Key Insight: Maximize your event budget by getting the right mix of virtual, live, and hybrid events. Make sure to include multiple tactics to drive multiple objectives for events such as brand building, pipeline acceleration, and partner marketing.

For a full playbook on how to think about Hybrid Events, read Virtual, In-Person & Hybrid Events? Oh, My!

Enlist help from AI

Personalization will be key in 2023. As the target market continues to become more demanding, B2B SaaS markets must lead the way in providing a bespoke journey for each customer. From tailored content and products to automated emails and personalized ads, marketers need to find ways to make their customers feel like they are the only ones that matter — and it needs to be done at scale.

Many companies are also starting to experiment with generative AI in creative ways. From creating short-form bespoke content and LinkedIn posts, to brainstorming webinar ideas and product names, the use cases for generative AI are expansive. Be careful to validate content produced by generative AI to ensure the facts are correct.

Key Insight: Personalization demands more content than most marketing teams are capable of creating. Begin experimenting with tools like Jasper and Writer to leverage the power of generative AI and bridge the gap.

For more on generative AI, read What Marketers Need to Know About AI-Generated Content.

Keep marketing’s seat at the table

Marketers will need to fight hard to keep the marketing function whole in the face of organizational restructuring. Marketers need to be aware of the dangers of “siloing” their team. It’s becoming increasingly common to split off demand generation and put it under the CRO’s domain, product marketing connected to the product organization, and marketing operations placed under revenue operations. As B2B SaaS organizations continue to become more complex, it’s important for marketers to have a seat at the table and ensure that their efforts are aligned with business goals. Tools like BlueOcean can help marketers quantify their collective business impact by providing insight into how ads, content, brand messaging, and more compare to competitors. By directly tying brand value and other marketing activities back to business impact, marketing leaders can maintain a seat at the table.

Key Insight: While some marketing activities may seem to fit better under another functional area, the loss of integrated messaging and tactics will cost the organization far more.

2023 is likely to be an interesting year, but with the right strategies in place, B2B SaaS marketers can emerge as winners. So, start preparing now and maybe your organization might get lucky with a strong year of performance.

Editor’s note: Jasper, Writer, BlueOcean, and Bizzabo are Insight portfolio companies.

How to Grow by Marketing to Customers

With many ScaleUps prioritizing customer retention and growth in 2023, marketers must deepen the impact of their customer marketing program.

Engaging customers is good for business, as they can be a company’s most efficient source of growth. GTM teams can generate additional revenue from customers for as little as 1/10th the cost of new business. It takes less time, effort, budget, and companies typically win customer opportunities at a higher rate.

When new business demand wanes or customer churn increases, ScaleUps must respond by changing how they market throughout the revenue cycle. But, in our mid-2022 survey, only 11.1% of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) reported feeling “very well prepared” amidst increasing macroeconomic uncertainty. Meanwhile, 87.3% were experiencing softening demand.

CMOs’ uneasiness might, in part, stem from their comparative lack of engagement with customers after the deal is won. Throughout recent boom years, most CMOs have focused on generating new business. As a result, they’re ill-positioned to retain and expand business from existing customers.

From Insight’s Budgeting & Planning survey of ScaleUp companies, we know that customer marketing has received the least investment out of the seven key marketing functions. By comparison, the typical ScaleUp adds a CSM for every 19 enterprise and 34 mid-market customers. Additionally, just 1 in 5 account-based marketers say customer expansion is in their remit.

Read more: CMO Playbook for Economic Headwinds: Make Your Move Before It’s Too Late

To mitigate softening demand and diversify a business’s revenue mix, marketers must help expand customers. Doing so will supplement near-term deficits in growth and improve marketing’s efficiency over the long term.

“It’s a team effort. Marketing must play a role in driving growth throughout the revenue cycle. They connect sales with new buyers and help close deals. After the sale, marketing partners with customer success to deepen our relationships with our existing customers, driving product adoption and expanding across divisions or territories within a single account.”

-Tal Kain, CEO of Velocity

How? By collaborating with their peers in sales and customer success to do the following:

  1. Forecast addressable customer revenue
  2. Set objectives, goals, and KPIs
  3. Develop a post-sale strategy
  4. Resource and integrate post-sale teams
  5. Execute a joint tactical playbook
  6. Operationalize a unified “go-to-customer” process

Forecast addressable customer revenue

Why it matters: Know the size and types of opportunities within your customer base to decide where to focus and how much to invest. Consider how investments in customer retention and expansion impact your firm’s “Rule of 40” performance (e.g., X% growth rate + Y% profit margin = 40%).

Analyze your current opportunity mix:

  1. How quickly and efficiently do you generate profit?
  2. What changes could you impart on your opportunity mix by investing in post-sale marketing
  3. How might your changes to your opportunity mix impact how efficiently you generate profit?

Based on your forecast, scope your post-sale marketing initiative:

  • Pilot. If the size of the opportunity seems modest or uncertain, plan a narrowly scoped, but representative, pilot. You might focus on improving one or two post-sale outcomes by deploying a small tactical play in a limited customer segment.
  • Sprints. If the opportunity is significant and certain, introduce customer marketing elements in waves, evaluating their impact along the way.

You’ll likely need to make tradeoffs, prioritizing which investments you make within your opportunity mix.

“As a startup company, your rapid-growth strategy for Year 3 should have a lot more customer opportunities than Years 1 and 2.”

-Kerry Cunningham, Senior Principal of Product Marketing, 6sense, and co-author of The Demand Unit Waterfall™

Set objectives, goals, and KPIs

Why it matters: GTM teams must align on goals and how they measure their progress toward said goals.

Once you’ve forecasted the ideal opportunity mix, define your objectives to focus your post-sale program plan. You could:

  • Accelerate time-to-value.
  • Improve product adoption and/or drive more utilization.
  • Upsell to more and/or higher price tiers.
  • Cross-sell the same buyers to additional products.
  • Cross-sell new buyers within a customer account.
  • Secure renewals, reduce churn, and/or prevent downgrades.

Once you’ve homed in the changes you seek to impart on the customer lifecycle, determine which KPIs best measure those changes and set goals for each KPI.

You can use benchmarks to help you set goals. But the benchmarks aren’t your goal, they’re a conversation starter. Consider variables, such as growth stage, expansion motion, and customer characteristics.

Develop a strategy

Why it matters: Businesses must focus on just a few key ways they can provide value to customers–beyond the product itself–and a few key ways in which they can enable staff to deliver on said customer value.

Here’s how:

  1. Brainstorm all the levers you could employ to create value.
  2. Prioritize those levers which create the most value. Pick no more than a few.

Once your go-to-customer strategy is set, refine your customer marketing strategy. Develop customer ICPs, personas, and buyer journey models. Then use those models as a basis for your post-sale messaging strategy.

Customers can be different than buyers in several ways:

  1. Marketers should clarify the differences between pre- and post-sale customer profiles.
  2. They must get to know which personas emerge once the buyer has purchased a product.
  3. They must understand their customer’s journey.

With these insights in hand, marketers can develop messages that motivate a customer to move through the post-sale cycle.

Resource and integrate post-sale teams

Why it matters: Resource your post-sale team well enough to deliver value to the customer, without burdening post-sale efficiency. Hire the right people and place them into the right structure.

Start first by identifying who in your company already owns each part of the customer journey (e.g., Customer Success Manager, Account Manager). Then, consider which marketers might be best suited to partner with them:

  • What capabilities do I need?
  • Given my targets, how will I resource the team? Which hires must I prioritize?
  • How will I balance in-house and outsourced talent?
  • How will I structure my staff?

Your opportunity mix offers clues, as does the functional scope of other GTM teams. Though the marketing team could outsource some of the work, it’s best done by in-house staff who have the skills and business acumen to engage precious customer points of contact.

Execute a joint tactical playbook

Why it matters: GTM teams can employ a nearly endless array of tactics. So, they must draw on their go-to-customer strategy to determine which tactics to execute. The delivery must be well-orchestrated if the message is to have its intended effect. The right tactics, at the right time, with the right people.

Like a sports team might coordinate its offensive players against the defense, a GTM team executes a post-sale play oriented to a target customer’s traits and the business’s objectives.

  1. Based on your objectives and strategy, which plays will you run?
  2. How do those plays suit your customer ICP, personas, and journey?

Based on your answers, create a playbook in partnership with cross-functional GTM teams.

Operationalize a unified “go-to-customer” process

Why it matters: Ensure customer-facing stakeholders know what, when, where, and how to support the customer.

“Our marketing team is partnering with customer success to offer additional value to our customers. We host product release webinars for customers, where they learn how early adopters are putting to work new software capabilities. We’ve found our customers respond better to learning from their peers — and are more likely to ask for a demo — versus a marketing email alone.”

– Jamie Walker, EVP Marketing at Keyfactor

Build boosters and remove blockers to ultimately create value for employees, suppliers, and customers.

  • Incentives. Evaluate your performance-based pay to ensure incentives align to customer outcomes and KPIs.
  • Recognition. Revise your internal communication and meeting cadences to celebrate customer wins.
  • Technology. Evaluate your tech stack to determine if you have the right tools, configured to meet the requirements of customer engagement. If you don’t, procure new tools and/or change the configuration of your existing ones.
  • Vendors. Evaluate the capabilities you have on-staff, the capabilities you need, and the gap between. Outsourcing might be the most efficient way to fill these gaps.
  • Enablement. Seek out ineffective elements of your cross-functional customer operations. Then, develop a “learning agenda” that addresses those elements via an enablement program.
  • Documentation and monitoring. Evaluate your operational performance. Then, define essential processes and monitor their performance.
  • Report. Brainstorm the key questions post-sale staff must answer for themselves. Then, consider which metrics they’ll need to answer those questions and how best to present the metrics in a self-service dashboard or report. Finally, decide which systems to use for reporting.
  • Automate and outsource. Audit your processes and procedures for opportunities to outsource and automate.
  • Fun and relationships. Foster an engaging culture for your post-sale staff and create avenues by which they can build relationships with your customers.

For many businesses, customers represent a compelling source of efficient growth. This growth results from strategically creating value for customers, as well as for employees, suppliers, and partners.
GTM teams can carefully craft tactical plays, executed by way of tightly coordinated go-to-market operations, to deliver an excellent customer experience. In doing so, they’ll earn their customer’s loyalty and advocacy, generating better margins for the business.


Examples in practice

To illustrate the strategies outlined above, let’s use an imaginary drone data analytics company to show how these principles work in practice.

Forecasting addressable customer revenue

A drone data analytics company offers software modules that each process three different types of aerial images: photographs, infrared, and thermal.

  • Most customers start by purchasing the photography module.
  • The software provider licenses the modules on an annual subscription and charges a small fee for each image processed.
  • Infrared costs more than photographs; thermal is the most expensive.

Here’s how they might evaluate their opportunity mix:

  1. Increase Utilization: Photography. The marketing team forecasts that it would cost $0.05 per image to drive more photograph processing (i.e., increase utilization). But they earn just $0.01 in revenue for each image processed.
  2. Cross-sell Infrared to the same buyers. They expect that marketing the cross-sale of the infrared module would cost $2,500 per sale, but earn the business $10,000 ARR.
  3. Cross-sell Thermal to different buyers within existing customer accounts. Supporting cross-sales of the thermal module would likely cost $5,000 per sale, but earn the business $20,000 ARR.

So, the marketing team will prioritize support for the thermal module, since it has the best dollar-cost return ratio, followed by infrared (if they have budget leftover). They won’t help drive more photographic image processing, since they forecast a net negative outcome.

Set objectives, goals, and KPIs

KPIs (Output Metrics)

1. Cross-sell thermal modules to 50 new buyers within customer accounts.
2. Cross-sell infrared module to 100 existing buyers within customer accounts.

Key Results (Input Metrics)

1a. Generate 100 cross-sale opportunities
1b. Improve win rates for thermal cross-sales from 35% to 50%

2a. Generate 135 cross-sale opportunities

Develop a strategy

Customer Value
• Community. Create an “advanced imagery” community, where pro users of infrared and thermal imagery can share best practices with novices.
• Training. Develop an “advanced imagery training program” to help photo users learn how to use infrared and thermal imagery.
• Discounts. Offer “existing customer” discounts for infrared and thermal modules.

Staff, Vendors, and Suppliers Value
• Incentives. Offer a spiff/bonus to relevant GTM staff for attaining net new cross-sale goals.
• Training. Direct all GTM staff to take the same “advanced imagery training program” we offer to customers.
• Data-based targeting. Develop a predictive data model to identify prime cross-sale targets.

Resource and integrate post-sale teams

The drone company will hire:
• Community Marketing Manager
• Learning & Development Content Marketing Manager
• Product Marketing Manager, Infrared and Thermal Sensors

They’ll outsource:
• Customer community event production
• Technical copywriting
• Training content design

Execute a joint tactical playbook

Here is an example of how a customer marketing playbook could look for our drone company.

customer marketing playbook example

SaaS Pricing Tactics for a High-Inflation Environment

Key Takeaways

●    Inflation is at its highest level in 40 years, creating a different environment for technology businesses.
●    Inflation impacts ScaleUp valuations, margins, and cost of capital.
●    Better price management is the best way to take action in an inflationary environment.

Inflation is at its highest point in 40 years, and software ScaleUps should act to ensure their prices don’t get left behind. A recent reading of the U.S. all items Consumer Price Index (CPI) suggests that, at its recent peak, inflation rose at an annualized rate of 9.1% in the U.S. For comparison, at the start of 2021, that number was 1.4%.

Generally, a CPI of between 2% and 3% per year is considered healthy — it suggests that the economy is expanding and wages are increasing in a controlled, predictable manner. You would have to go back to January 2012 to find an instance when U.S. inflation exceeded 3%, and all the way back to 1981 to find inflation as high as the current levels.

Historically, software and SaaS prices have lagged behind the CPI and continue to do so. With the notable exception of 2015, software inflation has been far below that of consumer goods for at least a decade, usually oscillating around the 0% mark. Even since the pandemic, as hardware prices surged up to 20% over the past two years, software prices rose only around 5% to 7%. This means that your software contract values fall because price increases haven’t kept pace with overall inflation.

SaaS pricing v consumer price index

Tech stocks have historically fared poorly during bouts of elevated inflation. As stock values fall it becomes harder for tech companies of all sizes to raise capital. In addition, while the price of software typically lags behind CPI inflation, costs don’t. During times of inflation, software companies see a significant increase in the costs of hardware, infrastructure, and labor. This squeezes margins and increases cash burn unless ScaleUps act to keep pricing current with the times.

SaaS Pricing Provides Untapped Potential

Properly setting prices is an untapped opportunity for SaaS providers to squeeze more value out of what they offer. We often see companies who haven’t touched their pricing for three years or more — which might explain the lack of inflationary growth in the sector. Usually this means companies have built up a significant amount of pricing power through market growth and product improvement which they haven’t yet monetized. While this was also the case well before the current inflationary environment, now the opportunities are even greater — while the risks of not adapting your pricing are more severe.

The opportunities for ScaleUps to review their pricing lie in multiple paths. You can change your price metric, your packaging, or simply how much you charge. While, historically, companies have been able to generate significant revenue from either price-metric or packaging changes, in the current environment, a well-thought-out price-level change or contract-based escalators (see below) can also add significantly to your revenue growth.

The work of determining pricing is also never done, is all the more critical in today’s high-inflation environment. Thus, ScaleUps can continue to dynamically assess their pricing as inflation ebbs (hopefully soon) and flows. It allows you to see whether pricing changes reflect the value of what is on offer, and when and if adjustments need to be made.

4 Tactics ScaleUps Can Use To Combat Inflationary Pressures

The challenge of inflation is not insurmountable. There are a number of ways to respond, and it is not a matter of either/or. Any B2B SaaS business facing margin erosion has a number of options open to them:

  • Add price escalation terms to contracts. If you have pricing power, we would strongly recommend you consider including price escalation terms into your software contracts so that your prices can keep pace with both your costs and the significant investment in product that is typical of most ScaleUps. In general, we recommend that pricing escalators consist of an inflation component (typically CPI) as the baseline, plus between 3-5% to cover any significant product improvements that customers get “for free” with their current subscription. You should also consider allowing your sales teams to negotiate these numbers down as needed to maintain strong win rates – but for less price-sensitive customers it can provide a helpful boost in future contract years.
  • Review your pricing. Compare your prices with the value you generate. If you are underselling, maybe this is the time to review your pricing strategy (by changing metric or packaging) or increase your prices to match what the customer is willing to pay. While this can be a very effective measure, it’s important to think carefully about your price changes and how they will be received by the market. For more information on the “right” way to increase price, see our checklist for success.
  • Focus on premium products. If you’re selling a portfolio of products rather than just one, it’s important to keep in mind that premium options in your portfolio are likely to have higher margins and provide higher average contract values. In times where inflation drives up costs, guiding customers who are willing to pay for more expensive products and services can be a good way to improve margins and cash flow.
  • Optimize the costs you can control. As my colleague Eli Potter wrote, “a useful framework for strategic cost optimization… helps companies evaluate the trade-offs between benefits, costs, risks and viability of different cost-optimization initiatives.” She recommends a four-step process:
    1. Asset management
    2. Align infrastructure to reduce demand
    3. Rationalize portfolio and infrastructure
    4. Offer tiered, need-based service levels


Regardless of how high price levels go, or how “transitory” the current inflationary cycle proves to be, CxOs who are able to apply the right strategies will be well-positioned both in today’s inflationary environment and the future.

Quantity vs. Quality: Should We Lower Our Lead Score Threshold in Order to Send More MQLs to AEs?

Lead scoring is a critical tool for scaling companies of all sizes to ensure efficient funnel performance. However, lead scoring should never be set it and forget it since it is a key component of funnel health. We encourage Insight Partners portfolio companies to establish a lead scoring council, co-owned by sales and marketing, with customer success and, for those with product-led growth (PLG) motions, Product. This lead scoring council should meet at a minimum quarterly to assess business performance and stress test the model to ensure that lead scoring is calibrated based on maximizing lifetime value. This is critical to ensure that sales and marketing are efficiently converting prospects that create sustainable lifetime value for the business.

The leadership at one of our portfolio companies recently asked, “Should we relax our inbound lead score threshold in order to send more MQLs to our AEs?” There are several situations in which this is most relevant:

  • The company wants more at-bats as it recently went on a hiring spree for both SDR/BDR and AEs
  • The company is actively launching new products, testing new markets and/or segments where they don’t have historical data and need to gain traction
  • The company is investing in more top of funnel, with lower MQL rates, but steady opportunity generation and win rates, so the company can test the waters to drive additional pipeline generation

To decide whether this is the right path for your company, there are relationships between variables to consider: lead quality to win rate, and capacity to sales effort. While we are proposing a quantitative approach to answering this question, you will want to make sure you collect qualitative feedback from the go-to-market (GTM) team to validate that this is the best path forward.

Lead quality to win rate

To begin, consider that the win rate improves with lead quality as illustrated in Figure 1.  For very poor lead quality, the win rate is nearly zero.  At some point, the win rate improves rapidly.  Ultimately, the win rate slows and saturates due to diminishing marginal returns on lead quality; even CxOs who submit demo requests will not close at 100%.

Standard S curve, lead quality on x axis, win rate on y axis
Figure 1: Actual Win Rate vs. Lead Quality

If the company doesn’t have strong analytical talent, it can identify the optimal trade-off of lead quality to win rate by testing a “null hypothesis”.  The “null hypothesis” method would be to leverage A/B testing and a best guess for volume increase: Increase the leads for a particular territory while keeping the other territory constant.  Measure the win rate impact and compare.  Other measurements to validate lead quality are: the conversion rate of leads to pipeline, average sales cycle, and ACV. For more precision on what point on the “S” curve is most optimal, we use math!

Since the math can get a bit tricky with the curve in Figure 1, we can use a piecewise linear estimate to approximate the relationship between win rate and lead quality.  In Figure 2, the win rate increases in steps from w3 to w2 to w1. A good way to think of this is that each step represents a different combination of lead source (demo request vs. content download), persona (VP vs. Director), and overall engagement (repeat- vs. first-time visitor).

S curve superimposed on ladder. x axis: lead quality Y axis: win rate. Ladders occur at w3 w2 and w1 (y axis)
Figure 2: Piecewise Approximation of Win Rate vs. Lead Quality

Imagine a company only serves AEs a quantity of leads (L1) of the highest quality (w1) with a fixed average annual recurring revenue (ARR) for closed won deals (A).  Then, the total ARR booked is:


Now, assume the company relaxes the inbound lead score threshold and allows some quantity (L2) of leads to flow to reps with the next tier of quality (w2).  Though the win rate is lower, let’s assume the average ARR is still A.

We need to add two practical complications since salespeople have limits on sales effort and capacity.

Sales effort to capacity

Turning up the volume on lead gen is great as long as the company has the capacity to execute.  If the pipeline exceeds its ability to execute, the company is then faced with aging leads and deals, over-whelmed sellers, wasted marketing funds, and potentially dissatisfied buyers.

When testing the influx of leads in the test territory (as mentioned in the “null hypothesis” above), capturing the # of leads and opportunities worked by a rep will help with calculating a rep’s workload.  Does the lead and opportunity influx result in greater booking and personal attainment? Simple pattern analysis may work if the company is testing for smaller teams.

It is important to understand how sales effort or “energy” is factored in calculating capacity to execute. The first complication is that handling L2 additional opportunities may lower the win rate on the L1 leads from w1 to (w1 – e).  We will refer to ‘e’ as the energy factor since doing more in the same amount of time typically results in lower performance.

The second complication is that reps may have an upper bound to the number of opportunities they can handle.  By adding L2 leads, the number of leads the rep can handle may drop from L1 to (L1 – c * L2). Here, c is a capacity factor.

Putting everything together, the company should let through some amount of lower quality leads if doing so will result in increased overall bookings.  This can be expressed as:

𝐴 (𝑤1∗𝐿1)≤𝐴[(𝑤1−𝑒)(𝐿1−𝑐∗𝐿2)+(𝑤2∗𝐿2)]

In our experience, AEs are more energy limited than capacity limited.  Setting ‘c’ to zero and solving for the energy factor, we find:

 𝑒 ≤ 𝑤2(𝐿2/𝐿1)

In words, we can feed reps lower scoring leads if the reduction in the win rate (e) of the original higher quality is less than the win rate of the lower quality leads (w2) times the ratio of the lower quality leads (L2) to the original higher quality leads (L1).

Example scenarios

By way of example, assume AEs normally get 50 leads per quarter (L1) with a win rate of 30% (w1). Now, we’d like to send reps 10 additional leads per quarter (L2) but these leads have an expected win rate of 20% (w2).  We should do so if we can expect the win rate on the original leads to drop by no more than 4% (from 30% to 26%):

 𝑒 ≤ 0.2(10/50)
𝑒 ≤4%

It is hard to know in advance exactly how large the adverse impact will be on the original win rate.  However, we encourage companies to pilot (A/B test) this to determine the actual impact on rep productivity.

Notably, our example assumed that the quality was relatively high for the additional (L2) leads. If the L1 leads are VPs with inbound demo requests and the L2 leads are Directors from the same source, then this is a safe assumption.  However, if the L2 leads are demo requests from Managers or even prospects who attended thought-leadership webinars or downloaded content, then w2 would be much lower.  As w2 goes down, e goes down which means that we would not tolerate even a small negative impact on the win rate (w1) of the high-quality leads.

Beyond rep energy and capacity, we also need to consider the overall economics of the business under the assumption that reps should at least be able to achieve quota. To explore this, let’s assume we are thinking about hiring an incremental AE to exclusively handle the Tier 2 (w2) leads instead of sending these leads to the existing reps.

Continuing our prior example, AEs win 60 deals per year given 200 leads and a win rate of 30%.  These are typical numbers for SMB so let’s further assume a deal size of $12.5K which yields bookings of $750K per year.  Assuming a 5x quota:on-target-earnings (OTE) ratio, their compensation is $150K. Notably, the 5x quota:OTE ratio is the key link to the economics of the business since the percentage of bookings paid to AEs is usually the largest component of customer acquisition cost (CAC) which in turn directly impacts cash flow and profit.

Applying the same math with a 20% win rate, bookings would be $500K and OTE would be $100K.  With current B2B OTEs for entry-level AEs starting at $120K, hiring reps to pursue the lower-quality leads in this example does not seem feasible.

Always test before “going live”

As we explored, the decision on whether to lower the lead score threshold in order to provide additional opportunities to reps depends on energy for a closed won, and capacity, as well as the practical economics of the business. Regardless of whether a company leverages math or simply tests in real-time, it boils down to relationships between win rate, lead quantity, and average ARR. Companies should always pilot (A/B test) rather than go full scale should they wish to explore the economic impact of (slightly) lower quality lead sources with the caveat that the lowest quality leads, content downloads, for example, are almost never worth pursuing and should instead be nurtured via marketing automation to ensure it passes the quality threshold. As long as leaders across the organizations accept that funnel performance may decline, and there is a clear process in place to measure the fluctuations, then companies should regularly look to always test the limits of their lead scoring model.