The Shrinking Role of Marketing in SaaS (& What’s Replacing It)

There’s no longer a lot of mystery when it comes to the traditional marketing funnel. Specifics may vary, but by this point we’re all familiar with the general structure:

  • Marketing attracts potential customers
  • Those prospects are offered an opportunity to sign up/convert
  • Once they’re in the funnel, they’re given nurturing collateral
  • Along the way, they’re scored
  • Once they reach a particular score/are qualified, they’re handed off to sales
  • Rinse and repeat

In the packaged software world, this is still how many companies operate. In the software-as-a-service (SaaS) world, however, that model is being actively disrupted. And in some cases, the very necessity of marketing (at least as it exists now) is being reconsidered altogether.

To learn more, we sat down with CloudBees VP of Product Management Harpreet Singh, to ask him to explain how some SaaS models are greatly reducing the marketing lifecycle, and what new roles are stepping in to take marketing’s place.

Freemium and the Impact of Shorter Marketing Lifecycles

“In the cloud era or in SaaS applications, the [primary focus of the marketing] function changes,” Singh explains. “Because marketing calls people over, and when people come in, they sign up, and they are actually logged into the product.”

In other words, the funnel is shortened considerably. Marketing can still serve to generate awareness and initial conversion, but once someone is in the product, their role is dramatically reduced.

“They can actually try the product for free,” Singh says,”and if they like something, they can just turn it on for $10 a month or $20 a month and try the higher paying tier.”

“So in this world, no matter what [marketing] collateral you get, the collateral is not going to do the convincing. It is the actual product that does the convincing.”

That represents a big shift, taking the pressure and onus off marketing, and placing it on people on the product side, specifically in UI and UX, instead. In addition, Singh points to the emergence of new roles like growth hackers and customer success managers, who know the product intimately and who are tasked with actually helping the customer in the context of the application.

Does this mean the end of digital marketing as we know it? Of course not, but it does point to a near future where it plays a different, and potentially less integral, role.

Photo by JD Hancock

Harpreet Singh
Harpreet Singh
VP of Product Management

Harpreet Singh is VP of Product Management at CloudBees. Previously, he served in various product management positions at Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Hudson.
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