EP. 17: The 3 stages of Marketing

by | Mar 10, 2021 | Marketing, Podcast, SaaS

Is your marketing great, good, or non-existent? No matter where it is today, it’s important to recognize where you are and what your next steps should be.

In this episode of InDemand, Asia Orangio, founder of DemandMaven, breaks down the three stages of marketing, how to know which stage you’re in, and what to do to level up from one stage to the next!

The three stages of marketing are:
1. From No Marketing to Some Marketing
2. From Some (or bad) Marketing to Good Marketing
3. From Good Marketing to Great Marketing

Extra Resources

  • None


  • 2:05 – What are the three stages of marketing?
    ○ From No Marketing to Some Marketing
    ○ From Some (or bad) Marketing to Good Marketing
    ○ From Good Marketing to Great Marketing
  • 5:50 – Stage 1: Going from no marketing to some marketing
    ○ The key part of this stage is establishing your baseline with analytics and basic strategy. In this stage, you probably have a website, but might not be producing any content and probably don’t have much acquisition activity happening.
    ○ The first thing to focus on in this stage is having the right tools and structure in place. Do you have the ability to measure your key analytics? Are you doing some type of regular marketing meeting?
    ○ When it comes to marketing strategy, the most important thing in this first stage is just to have one. Have a strategy in place so you can learn and improve it over time. It doesn’t make sense to jump into marketing activities until we know that we can execute it and can measure it!
  • 12:00 – Stage 2: Going from some marketing to good marketing
    ○ The key to this second stage is really about optimization both in your internal processes and for the channels you’re working on. In this stage, you might have had a few false starts when it comes to creating content or marketing activities, your website is likely more robust, but from a funnel perspective isn’t dialed in.
    ○ In this stage you should be analyzing the business from top to bottom, everything from how marketing is being executed all the way down to product and internal business and optimizing as much as possible.
    ○ If you’ve had false starts with marketing efforts, the goal in this stage is to look into those activities to see what worked, what didn’t, and what could be improved.
  • 19:20 – Stage 3: Going from good marketing to great marketing
    ○ Growing in this stage is truly about connecting deeply with the customer experience of your brand and innovating from there. In this stage, everything is firing on all cylinders. You have a robust website that is converting well, you have many different funnels that are converting well all the way down into paying customers. You feel like you are doing well, but know there is a next level and what to take your marketing to great. The key to taking that next step is innovation and then experimentation
    ○ Some of the activities that often happen in this stage are reinventing your brand or telling a different story or vision about your product and mission, making larger strategic moves like partnering with other brands, or more creative and innovative marketing activities.
    ○ The best way to know when you’ve truly achieved great marketing is when other people start raving about how great your marketing is
  • 25:00 – Recapping the three stages


What’s up founders! And welcome back to the In-Demand podcast where we talk all about how to reach your first $1m ARR. I’m your host Asia Orangio and I’m the founder of DemandMaven where we work with early-stage SaaS companies on reaching their very first growth milestones.

Whenever we work with founders and usually early-stage marketing is the missing link in some way to their growth. It could be that they’re not doing anything from an acquisition perspective. It could be that there’s nothing set up or configured from an activation perspective. And yes, even from a retention perspective, it’s possible that we’re attracting the wrong kinds of customers in the first place, which of course trickles all the way back up to marketing. They might not be executing marketing at all, or maybe they are, but nothing seems to be working. Perhaps they’re paralyzed by marketing as a function, have no idea where to start. It really runs the gamut in terms of what’s happening from a marketing perspective and what’s not happening and what the actual cause and effect really truly are. But whenever we work with an early stage business marketing is something that inevitably comes up. Usually they are tapping us to work with us because something is completely amiss marketing wise and yes, overall growth wise.

And yes, overall go to market wise, go to market. Remember is that overarching strategy across the entire business, upon which marketing as a function needs to align to, but no matter what’s going on, there’s usually three marketing phases for pretty much any business that we try to identify whenever working with a company in previous episodes of the podcast, I’ve talked about the different stages of growth, but this time we’re actually going to dig deeper into the different stages of growth and really focus on marketing. So without further ado, these are, I should say the three stages of marketing the first age, going from zero marketing to some marketing. So we’re doing absolutely nothing to we’re doing something after that. We could be going from maybe some marketing to good marketing or in the words of my business coach, bad marketing to good marketing, and then finally going from good marketing to great marketing, most of our early stage clients.

And when I say early stage, I really mean less than 1 million in ARR. Most of them are in the very first phase. They might be doing absolutely nothing and they need to start doing something. They could have absolutely nothing going on, but they don’t have anything or very little, at least from a foundational perspective. And when, I mean foundational, I mean, all of the things that need to be put in place for you actually execute marketing and know what you’re getting out of it. So today I’m going to break down each of these stages, and we’re also going to talk about what to do in each of these stages. So if you are kind of in one of these or you’re in between one or two of these, or you’re kind of in maybe both, depending on the aspect of marketing that we’re looking at, there’s going to be a list of things to contemplate.

And then also to do this is based on my own personal experience with founders of early-stage companies from the past three years now. So DemandMaven will have been around February of 2021 will be our third year anniversary, which is incredibly exciting. And also remind me to never start a company in the middle of tax season, because it’s almost like you can’t enjoy it because you’re too busy, focused on like making sure that everything else is taken care of. But I believe if I’m not mistaken, I think February 4th, 2021 will be our third year. And in those three years, we have worked with countless founders, whether actually talking to them just about their business all the way down into actually working hands-on in their businesses. And whenever we work with founders, especially first time founders of a SAAS company, usually our job is to figure out where are they at in this spectrum of what they’re doing from marketing perspective.
And this is where it can get really interesting these stages. Aren’t always mutually exclusive. Sometimes you can actually be in one or two of these at the same exact time. And also you can be in between them. You’re not quite dedicated to the one after and not necessarily the one before. Although I will say every time you enter a new market, you start the wheel all over again. So you start right back at one and sometimes you start at two it’s very rarely, however that a business just automatically launches directly into number three, which is you’ve, you’re already knocking out of the park from a marketing perspective and using to be perfect at it. You just you’d be great. Usually, if someone’s not starting at one, they’re starting at two. And then from there they really work to get to number three. And by that point, you probably don’t have to necessarily be perfect at it.

It just needs to be good enough to help you get to the goal that you’re trying to reach or to reach the milestone or whatever it is that you want to achieve. This could be revenue based. This could also be more lifestyle-based or something really personal to you completely depends. There are all kinds of different motivations that founders have. So whatever that is for you, you can leverage that whenever you’re thinking about what these stages are and what they mean to you and how they help you get closer. So we’re going to start with going from zero marketing to some marketing. And this is like the bare minimum. Maybe you’ve got a website. If that I have worked with businesses where the website was a single page website, and that was it. And then some, they had maybe like launching or like a coming soon kind of page.

And we have worked to expand the website over time. You might not be producing any kind of content, whether that’s blog, writing, maybe even like social media, like there’s, there’s really nothing that you’re producing. You’re probably really focused on the product, or you’re really focused on either generating business partnerships or potentially even doing some kind of customer development. There’s no acquisition activity really happening. There’s probably not even any onboarding or activation activities happening either because especially with a really lean website, we’re kind of assuming that something was set up pretty fast and it might’ve been there for a really long time. And also it’s very possible that especially if you’re early stage, the product is still in that MVP phase, you might still be like in a limited beta release or something to that effect. And there’s not really any way that people can just directly sign up today.

There’s no retargeting or pay channels, no lead capture really of any kind. That’s not the main funnels. So for example, you’re only offering a free trial or demo. You’re not offering any other kind of lead magnet. Like people can’t download like a guide or anything like that. The website’s extremely lean. And I mentioned that already, but maybe there’s a couple of pages on the website today, but not a whole lot. You might not have done any customer research in a really long time, or it could also be that the customer research that you have is actually kind of outdated. It could be either or so what do we do in this stage? Because there’s a whole lot that we’re not doing. So what do we do and how do we focus our efforts if you’re in this stage, here’s what to focus on the first, we need to establish the baseline and the foundation.

So for example, do we have the right tools in place, the right marketing tools to acquire, to convert, to nurture, and then also to optimize, to measure, do we have the right analytics in place? Do we have the right attribution in place? Do we have just the right software tools, et cetera, that we need in order to know if we’re improving or not. And sometimes that alone is enough to make the difference. Do we also have the right structure in place from an internal perspective? Now this one’s an interesting one because a lot of founders and just people in general very feel very much feel strongly about providing structure to the marketing function. But part of that sometimes is just having the weekly marketing meeting, having the monthly growth dashboard that is the defined and actually, you know, inputted and used, leveraged there’s data. That’s getting put into the growth dashboard every single month that you can actually take a look at and measure and start making decisions from.

And then also there’s the, well, can you confidently do that in the first place? Can we confidently measure anything apart from establishing the baseline and the foundation, we also get into strategy. So do we know what our strategy is going to be? Do we know where we are headed and what we need to do to get there? Part of the confusion and the overwhelming feeling of not knowing what to do with marketing usually drives down into, well, we don’t necessarily know what the strategy is in the first place. And that is really the core of where your activities and execution and tactics come from. And the interesting part about strategy is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or brilliant or genius, even. It just needs to be enough that it gets you moving and hopefully moving in somewhere of the right direction.

And then as you learn, and as you interview customers and use customer research and run experiments and test things, use AR to inform and refine the strategy over time. So if you’re doing absolutely nothing from a marketing perspective, and you want to start doing something really focusing on establishing the baseline, the foundation is going to be critical. It doesn’t make sense to jump into a bunch of marketing activity and execution and tactics until we know that we can accurately measure it until we know that we can actually execute those ideas. So for example, if you want to start running activation or onboarding emails, you’re going to need a tool to do that. And if you don’t have a tool to do that, we’re going to need to go find one, or someone’s going to do this manually and therefore not scalably. And it could possibly cause you far more pain down the line.

You might have to end up getting a tool anyway. So there’s all kinds of those considerations to make. Can we actually do what we want? And if we can’t, what are the tools and resources and things that we need to put in place, can we measure and report on the success of anything that we’re doing? Do we know where our conversions come from? Do we know how many we even get every single month? Do we know how well that funnel converts in the first place? There’s so much that goes into all the nitty gritty details of marketing, that if we don’t have the foundation and the baseline to really measure against or to operate on top of it just gets even harder because we end up having to guess and guessing. And then also on top of that, we get wrong information. And then we start making decisions based off of that incorrect information, which is a pretty crappy place to be in.

So again, if you’re doing absolutely nothing and you want to start doing something, that’s awesome. Let’s just make sure that we’ve got the baseline. And that also, that we’re going to take our time to really think about what our strategy is going to be moving forward. This will help us focus. Our efforts, focus our tactics and increases the chances that we don’t just totally swing and miss in the dark and end up spending burning cash in the front yard, or what have you. There’s a lot of pain to be avoided here. If we just take the time to do it next, we’ve got going from some marketing to good marketing and there’s an activity happening in this stage. So there’s probably a few things that you might be doing, but it might not be consistent. For example, you might have had quite a few false starts when it comes to producing content.

It could also be that you’ve run maybe one campaign on a particular channel. So you tried Google ads once, or you tried LinkedIn InMail messages once or outbound cold calling or prospecting. One time the website might be a little bit more robust, but only slightly. So there’s quite a few more pages, but from a funnel perspective, it’s probably not as tightly measured as it could be, but there’s a Relic there. So there’s a sense of maturity there. So there’s pricing plan pages. Maybe you’ve got some case studies, maybe you’ve got a product page or a feature page of some kind you of course have your homepage, but these, this probably isn’t a single page website. This is probably much more than that, but it’s also likely not as expansive or expanded as it could potentially be. And I say potentially in finger quotes, because it really does just depend on your market and what your market needs to see on your website in order for them to convert as effectively and efficiently as possible.

There might be some email onboarding, very little activation efforts in general, but there might be a few things that you’re doing. And then finally there might be some paid channels that you’re leveraging, but again, it’s not consistent. You might’ve tried it a few times, but didn’t necessarily have the tools or the knowledge or the skills or resources internally to be able to make that as effective as possible. So if you’re in the stage, here’s what to focus on. The keyword or mantra here is going to be to optimize. Optimizing is going to be how you think about everything that you’re currently doing. The challenge with any new channel is that if you think it’s a good opportunity, that’s probably not based on anything, but it is. However, it does imply that you’ve got the tools and the resources. And again, the skills, the knowledge to be able to build on top of it.

On average, it takes anywhere from three to six months to really fully optimize a new channel, especially a paid one. So for example, if you started running Google ads, you ran it for a week or two or two weeks. Maybe we’re really disappointed in what you saw and didn’t optimize it. Didn’t change the copy or the targeting strategy or the landing page after it. Then it’s very possible that the channel was cut off too short. It was, it was cut off too soon. It was too early to know if that was going to be something that was going to pay out for you or generate trials or the demos or whatever it is that you’re looking for. The downloads, even it could be really anything that matters to you conversion-wise. And it’s very possible that it just didn’t have enough time inside of it because, uh, for better, for worse, these channels do require attention and they demand our attention and they need to be optimized in order to convert as well as possible.

So if that sounds like something that you might’ve done before, there’s a lot of false starts. This could also include content creation. Maybe you tried blogging for a couple of months but then didn’t see any results from it. And it wasn’t for lack of trying, but for potentially at least lack of optimization, maybe it wasn’t the right content. Was there a distribution plan possibly? Where are they the right channels? I mean, there are so many questions that we can ask and dig into to really understand what else wasn’t done for those channels that the channel probably needed in order for it to be successful. It’s also very possible, however, that it’s not just the top of the funnel that’s leaking or broken or whatever word you want to use there, it’s also possible that we’re not activating enough new free trials or demos or users or whatever that conversion point is for you.

It could be that we’re not converting enough of those people. And our activation funnel is not really strong. So we need really strong onboarding and some kind of way, and a really strong activation strategy. It could also be that we still are seeing relatively higher churn, but the marketing that we’re doing that’s correlated to that it could be that we’re focused on the wrong kinds of customer segments. So from an optimization perspective, it can be applied to any aspect of marketing. It just depends on what is not performing as well as it could be. And the only way that you can do that is if you have a strong again, baseline and foundation, and you don’t have a whole lot of analytics that you’re able to pull reports with relative ease, you can get the information and the data that you actually need to make really good, strong decisions.

And on top of that, you trust what’s coming in. So you trust the data that you’re actually seeing. If we did not accomplish that in phase one or stage one, then by the time that we get to stage two, that could be really challenging and really hard. And then we ended up having to go back to number one anyway. So if you’re in that stage two, if you’re in that, well, we’re doing some things, but it’s not, it’s not good or it’s not great. Part of that could actually just be, there are some things that aren’t optimized as well as they could be. We could have had a lot of false starts and now we need to really figure out how do we optimize maybe our process around executing this work, or it could also be, do we have the right data to make good decisions?
And then also it could just be a customer experience, a challenge as well. And we need to optimize that also, or instead part of being in stage two really means that you’re able to sit down and analyze the business from top to bottom and to find all of the gaps, all of the things that could be blocking are preventing that growth. And then also that good marketing that we’re seeking. So just again, it really depends on your situation. However, if you, if you’re in that stage, I definitely recommend that you sit down, analyze the business from top to bottom, identify all of the holes and gaps and places that might not be as performing as well as they could be. Everything from how the marketing itself is being executed all the way down to internal business, where maybe you don’t have the right meetings on the calendar to actually go through and analyze the stuff in the first place.

I mean, it could, it could vary from operations to process, to product, to all the way up, back to marketing. And so that’s what I definitely encourage in this stage. These things are all interconnected. It’s very rarely that it’s just marketing in isolation. It’s much more likely that it is marketing and something else. So that is what I would encourage you to seek. What is the something else? What, where else in the funnel and the business with the product that could be better or could be better optimized or more efficient, and that can help use art to achieve and see the needle move when it comes to what marketing is able to accomplish and achieve generate. Okay, finally, we’ve got the lab stage. Now this stage is a rare stage where you might have good marketing already, but you need to get to great marketing. Excellent. Just award-winning marketing. We’re going to assume that everything for the most part is firing on all cylinders. You have a very mature, robust website that converts really well. You could be executing on a number of acquisition channels, whether that’s organic or paid. You might also have some really high levels, strategic business partnerships. It’s possible. At least you’ve got many different funnels. Many of them already convert incredibly well into the overall lead funnel and then all the way down into generating pain. So if you’re in this stage, you’re kind of feeling like we’re actually doing a lot already. And a lot of it is pretty good, but we want to become great. And I’ll let you define what great means. This could vary from a strategic perspective. Yes, all the way down to a tactical perspective. But if you’re here, what you want to focus on is innovation.
So the keyword, the mantra, whatever it is that you would like to use to me, it’s all about innovation. And then therefore experimentation. What are the experiments that are really exciting to you, to the team, the business that could put you in a very different spot and an elevated spot. Ideally, innovation is one of those things that doesn’t get talked about enough. I feel like in early stage SAAS companies, and part of that is just because early stage is so focused on surviving and moving to a place where they can thrive. But eventually when you do get to that place where you start to thrive, the ability to be creative, to innovate and to surprise delight, spark joy, even that becomes incredibly important for the customer base. And then also the overall market. Typically what I recommend here is if, again, you’re looking to go from that good to great marketing.
It usually has everything to do with the overall customer experience and being able to get into the shoes of the customer. And this is where I find we can start to innovate. And then also, again, experiment, it’s possible that there are some small tweaks to make, and it’s also possible that there’s actually some very big dramatic changes to make. And when I think of what businesses do here, at least in this stage, it can be everything from reinventing their brand, all the way to telling a very different story, to painting a really strong product vision. I mean, it could really, it really, um, I hate to say it runs the gamut, but it gets into this new visionary, innovative space that feels very creative and very alive. And then also hopefully very dialed in with the customer. So this isn’t random. It’s again, very directly connected to the customer into the market.

And we’re also probably making some larger strategic moves. We’re partnering with maybe different kinds of brands. We could also be looking at making different kinds of partnerships, whether through integrations or what have you. And that all that also elevates the experience overall of the product. And of course, four, it provides value for the customer. And then of course, it comes down to the team’s ability to come up with really interesting, fun and innovative ideas. And I will let you guys define what that means ultimately for you and for the team, but the ability to start to innovate it comes from a place of no longer being afraid of surviving and allowing everyone’s minds to really think beyond what the current status quo is. So it’s, it is really important, especially if you have a team that you’re able to think beyond, but also that the team feels safe enough to also do that.

It’s really hard to be innovative and creative in a space of stress. So if you’re again in this stage where you want to go from good to great, your ability to be creative and innovate, it’s going to be critical and crucial to moving to that space of greatness. However it is that you define it. Unfortunately there is no real number I can give you. That’s like, yep. Okay. You’ve, you’ve done it. You’ve achieved. Excellent marketing. Honestly, the best way to know is if other people rave about how wonderful and amazing your marketing is, it’s usually an indicator that you’re in this stage and to continue to do great marketing. So much of it does assume yes, that you are converting things extremely well. But the other part of it likely means that you are also digging deep into that creativity and to that innovation and into that vision, you run experiments, not necessarily, uh, being super overwhelmed by what happens when it doesn’t work, if it doesn’t work.
And you, you take that in stride, you can afford to experiment is really what it comes down to. And then on top of that, you can also afford to be visionary and to be creative, which probably sounds insane, crazy, especially from, you know, if you’re early stage, it probably sounds crazy to think that you’ll get to that place, but you absolutely will. So I just want to, you know, I just want to throw that out there, but once you get to that place where you are thriving, the world opens up in a really different way. And I think that that’s a really, it’s another really beautiful space to be in. Okay. So really quick recap, we talked about three different stages. We talked about going from zero marketing to some marketing. So again, you might have very little, but you ultimately need to start doing something.

So what I would say here is establish the baseline, established a foundation. That’s going to be the most important part of this stage. This is directly applicable to the overall strategy and go to market strategy. And it’s also directly applicable to analytics and also the ability to measure the success overall of anything that it is that you do, you need that foundation and that baseline in order to, again, build on top of, and then to start to move in that space where you’re executing ideas and you’re also making strategic bets and you can see how that works and how it performs. Next. We talked about going from some marketing to good marketing, and this is again where we are. We have some activity happening, but it’s not necessarily consistent. We might’ve had a few false starts. What I typically recommend here is really focusing on the optimization of those practices of the channels of your own internal meeting structure, even your own internal processes.
So how do you communicate and get work done? How do you ensure that the ideas that you have are actually executed on, and then also whether the channels or the practices that you’re thinking of, of leveraging and deploying, what do you need to know about them in order for you to continue to optimize them? I threw out that, um, it takes about three to six months to optimize a new channel and specifically a paid channel. So how do you ensure that, you know what you need to know about a particular channel in order for you to really truly invest in it and then therefore optimize on top of it. But also if you’re going from some marketing to good marketing, we can also make the assumption that we need to optimize something internally as well. This can, of course, be process-related. This could also be related to a number of things that are happening from a product or business perspective.

So optimization can mean things in a different way, in a different context. So I’d be looking for that as well. And then finally going from good marketing to great marketing, which is such an interesting stage to be in, I myself, have had the opportunity to be in this stage. I think maybe only twice ever in my whole life. It’s, it’s truly a beautiful stage when you get here, it is very much dependent on your ability to innovate and to be creative and to experiment. And also the thing I’ll add to this is how close to the customer experience can you really get, especially in new markets and existing ones. So the more that you’re able to put your, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and go through the entire experience of the brand from very top of the funnel, all the way down to very bottom of the funnel, you’ll get some ideas on what to improve. And sometimes even some really innovative things as well. Come, come through this process.

All right, everyone, that is everything that I have for you today. I hope that this was helpful. I hope that you learned something. Please let me know what you thought of these three stages of marketing. If there’s anything that you’d add, or if there’s anything that you’d recommend, that’s a little bit different than what I’ve presented today.

As always thank you so much for spending this time with me to learn more about how to reach your growth goals for your SAAS business, head on over to demand maven.io. You’ll find all kinds of free resources, articles, and content. Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already and I’ll see you at the next one. Let me know what you think. I am always available on Twitter, @AsiaMatos. Thank you so much again and have an awesome day.