The silent sales force: word of mouth
Trying to pay for what cannot be bought directly
You could be sponsoring this post, media kit, and inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s one of the oldest truths of marketing: a strong brand is the most expensive thing to create and at the same time the cheapest salesperson on your payroll once they work for you.
It drives word of mouth. Recommendations. People who love your product bring others that trust you which are then becoming users who recommend others.
There is not much debate on this part of the story, this flywheel is incredibly strong.
Where we start to disagree is where to find these recommended users.
“Our leads are not happening on Social Media” Are you sure?
Channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are surely not the best place for enterprise deals. Nobody watches a Youtube short video and then spends 20 million $ on anything.
But they don’t have to… these channels serve as initial brand awareness magnets. And it’s very hard to attribute their usefulness to a closed enterprise deal.
Social media is starting to be much more than the billboard on the road to work where you see a specific brand name and then start to retain it.
It’s becoming an interconnected network of friends - and we usually associate with people who are doing what we do. What they watch might land with us through some weird winded paths.
It’s an overhauled view of the market that we think we have to convince the buyer. The buyer is more and more convinced in midmarket and enterprise segments by those they are buying for: their internal users and teams.
I’ve brought multiple tools into enterprise-sized deals by recommending them myself up the chain before I had budget authority. And often it was quite difficult to do so. These tools didn’t exactly make it easy for me to recommend them upwards to leadership.
Think about it: There is a difference between making a factsheet ready as a PDF to download vs. sharing it directly from a website to an internal contact (usually through a simple URL).
Put yourself into the shoes of a typical enterprise buyer, a CFO of a midsized company and someone is bringing it to their attention that a new tool needs to be acquired.
It’s their job to not waste money so they will have some sort of governance process in place to reduce waste and make sure that what is being bought is the correct thing and not just great to use.
Deal with this as a product that is being sold into a company by:
Make yourself easy to compare to other solution competitors, don’t hide your information. What would they pick if you were not around… are you a greenfield solution or something that replaces another inefficient tool at scale for instance?
Can you somehow visualize the delta between the other solution and yours that makes economic sense?
Derisk the argument: Why do we offer subscription-based services in SaaS? It’s convenient but it’s also extremely low risk. After all, you can cancel the service at any time, we as a business are carrying the risk for you. But aside from this obvious value, are you demonstrating clearly that you as a company will be around in 3-4 years’ time? (For an earlier-stage company you might have to be transparent about your funding structure)
When I think from a midmarket/enterprise perspective about getting anything, I think of internal training, software sprawl, and an additional thing with the potential to generate more headaches.
Derisk the integration pain: What a buyer doesn’t want is something that creates hidden costs. That’s not the cost on the invoice but in internal processes. Are you showcasing and outlining clearly what steps you took from the product side to avoid getting a shiny product that no one uses or running into typical issues only an executive cares about? (Legal, compliance, data governance)
The product-led growth/sales push
Product-led growth/sales is an answer to overly commoditized markets, 100s of products are fighting over the same problem. We can't differentiate ourselves anymore through simple messaging. Everyone claims they are the best.
And the customer doesn't care that much anymore either whether they get the best.
They want to find something that is good enough, fast with little risk, and easy to get in and out. That's PLG's turf through self-serve, subscription, and easy-to-experience value flow that respects the prospect's processes.
Especially in the mid-market and enterprise segment. You can’t hurry the generation of processes or my internal processes. That’s why we usually structure trials in B2B around usage limitations instead of time.
The AI push
What's much more interesting though is we might see a vacuum generated by language models when it comes to SEO / Paid Marketing on top. The more we use language models to get access to information the less we use classical search engines.
That means there is less access to these users through paid advertising and SEO channels. This is a slow erosion of the acquisition market but one that is inevitable.
Platitudes like "SEO is dead" or other sensationalistic crap is missing the point. SEO and Paid ads are under pressure for sure and we diversify away from the monopolistic access they used to have to the market.
While AI might be a hard "channel" to utilize it changes the distribution of where to put your $ so you can reach an audience.
So what's the point?
One of the reasons why people like me and others are betting so hard on being a creator in the B2B space are these 2 reasons. First, PLG (for B2B) is my core topic, so I feel right at home there. I know how to build a brand that is built on a fragile trust basis. I'm PLG through and through. Even my rates are public.
I can monetize by doing everything transparent: highly qualified partnerships (which means not working with brands that don't fit my audience), an audience that only pays me if they like my stuff (and I don't spam them) over a long period (subscription-based revenue through substack).
Right now, my business is running mainly on advising and consulting but the scaleable future is the access I give to companies to an audience that is increasingly hard to access and that part is growing fast.
In other words, the growing audience that trusts me when I open my mouth or put the proverbial pen to the paper. Or when I show up in person to a conference and put my name behind a recommendation.
This is the big bet many of us are making. It's a much more honest relationship between brands, audiences, and creators. Only if I create real value for companies for free they will listen to what I have to say when I charge money for it.
It's an honest relationship and I cannot fathom doing business in any other way.
Product-led Sales: Selling Business Jets on Instagram
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Leah’s ProducTea to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.