The VC-Approach to Marketing with Kipp Bodnar (CMO @HubSpot)

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This week, we bring you golden nuggets from Kipp Bodnar, CMO at HubSpot. Since joining the company in 2010, Kipp has led HubSpot’s inbound and B2B marketing efforts. He’s helped to grow the company to more than $2bn in revenue.

In The SaaS Operator newsletter from 7 December 2023, you’ll learn:

  • Choosing the right marketing channels for your startup.
  • How to get asymmetric upside with the VC approach to marketing.
  • Tips for getting the maximum value out of your marketing channel.

Choosing your marketing channel

Picking the wrong marketing channels will, at best, hinder your growth and, at worst, kill your startup.

So what do you pick? SEO, Paid ads? TikTok? LinkedIn? Or all of them?!

Kipp says most successful startups start with one paid and one organic channel.

Choose your organic channel based on these two things:

  • The volume of customers you need depending on your ARPU.
  • The level of competition on that channel.
Choosing your marketing channelsChoosing your marketing channels

One channel at a time

Jumping on many channels is tempting but counterproductive. A lot of founders try to be everywhere at the same time. Believe it or not, focusing on a single channel you’re very good at is enough to hit your revenue goals. 

👶 Startups gaining traction usually have only one scaled channel.

🧑 Startups that hit $50-100m ARR ➡️ two channels.

👨‍🦳 Really big startups that go public ➡️  three main growth channels.  

If you’re doing around $2-10m ARR, you don’t need three scaled channels. Stick to your current one and keep it working for you. When you cross the $50m mark, add another one, not five.

How to know if you picked the right channel

How do you know when to give up on a new channel vs sticking with it and grinding it out?

First, let’s get this out of the way. Some businesses live or die with a specific channel working. Mostly low ARPU SaaS where you have to nail SEO…or die.

If that’s not your situation, there is one simple metric to look at:
📈 Month-over-month growth.

E.g., if your LinkedIn followers are slowly going up each month, say by 5-10%, and you know which posts are hitting the mark, then keep at it.

If you can’t tell what’s working or not, growth is flat, and you don’t know what to improve: Then it’s time to throw in the towel. 🏳️

Squeeze that channel-lemon 🍋

Now you know which channels to double down on. It’s time to turn it up a notch and squeeze that channel-lemon as hard as humanly possible. 

Here is Kipp’s advice. 👇🏻

Prioritize your ideas

One secret to prioritizing your content ideas is to find the content’s “Total Addressable Audience (TAA).” 

Here’s a short quote by Kipp explaining the TAA concept:

“Marketers don’t talk enough about the Total Addressable Audience of their content. For example, I could talk about marketing automation, and 10% of the market cares about it. I could talk about SEO, and about 80% of the market cares.”

👉 Kipp’s golden rule is, “Don’t create anything until you know how many people it can get to and how it’s going to get to them.”

The VC approach to marketing

Marketing strategies range from safe and predictable on one side to risky, with the chance for asymmetric upside on the other side.

The VC approach to marketing. The VC approach to marketing.

The mistake a lot of marketers make: They only invest in what is safe; thus, they miss out on a huge amount of potential upside.

Here is where the VC approach to marketing comes into play:
​Venture Capitalists invest in a portfolio of startups knowing that 8/10 will go bust, 1 will return their investment, and 1 will have the potential to 1000x their initial investment.

This 1000x is what Kipp is pushing his 350-person team at HubSpot to go after.

A weekly dose of insights to grow your SaaS.