Skip to main content
The Frightening Reality of B2B SaaS Marketing and Recruitment

Whether you’re a start-up or a scale up, the reality of B2B SaaS marketing and the whole recruitment process is beyond surprising.  This article will prove shocking reading for every CEO or investor and is 100% verifiable.

Over the past five years I have researched and analysed the marketing industry and by default it happened to draw in the recruitment industry too.   My objective was to understand and establish the reasons why B2B organisations found it so difficult to achieve consistent new business and secure the same profitable achievements as consumer related businesses.

To understand the basis for this, since the 1950s B2B salespeople plied their trade by cold calling, making appointments, doing the presentations, demonstrations and closing the deals (and ringing the bell).

Along came digital marketing in the 1990s and over the past twenty years or so, have eroded the personal sales processes and person-to-person understanding of the sale to a supposed digital KPI.  On the face of it, it all seems logical.  Marketers began taking the lead and salespeople were being usurped and put in their place, being make the scapegoats for B2B poor performance.

The B2B Landscape

To date, www.explodingtopics.com say there are over 30,000 SaaS platforms, showing a 7,200% increase in MarTech SaaS since 2011.  Almost half of them is marketing related which means the developers know that we’re all suckers for some nice new MarTech SaaS to add to the existing suite. 

According BetterCloud in 2021 businesses use an average of 80 IT-sanctioned SaaS apps, a 5x increase in five years and a 10x increase since 2015.  This is why you need such a large marketing team – so they can all drive the MarTech stack software!

Also, according to Gartner and Deloites marketing departments command or demand 10% of the sales revenue for their budget and keep pleading for more budget.  Can you see why it mirrors an addiction, an insatiable one at that!

But what if they’ve all got it wrong, the marketers that is, and how does that affect the recruitment process.

If you look at the typical hiring process for a CMO, Marketing VP or Head of Marketing, the first thing that happens is a vacancy occurs!  But why?  This is really important to understand.

Every business owner wants to generate new business as quickly and as cheaply as possible.  Back in the day, we used telesales people who then became Business Development Representatives (BDRs).  These telesales people first used the Yellow Pages Directories, then the email, then LinkedIn and so on.  The success rates of telesales kept diminishing over the years as mobiles became ubiquitous and the decision-makers stopped using business telephone systems making them harder to contact.

Over time, the direct cold calling approach became less effective and gradually the marketers wielded more influence.

As email, spam and the Internet evolved, by 2008 marketing automation platforms began to emerge, however, they were designed for the consumer markets, from insurance to car dealers to travel agents. 

Around 2012 B2Bs began using marketing automation and the term demand generation was formed.  For business owners, this seemed like a godsend.  The marketers promised a slew of automated leads from willing prospects, just waiting to be called up for an appointment to be closed for the deal on the spot.

The Emergence of ABM

However, by 2014 studies and surveys showed that 97% of B2B buyers hated filling out forms, rendering demand generation useless.    Not wanting to admit defeat, players like Marketo and Engagio termed a new acronym, ABM or Account Based Marketing. 

This proved very successful as it was sold based upon the premise that when an B2B automation platform customer started making noises that demand gen wasn’t working, the vendors in turn stated the reason for it not working was because multiple people were involved in the decision making process and to succeed, you now needed to adopt ABM and communicate with all the players all at once.

It became accepted that there were upwards of ten to fifteen decision makers in the loop.  This meant an average marketers’ workload would increase by fifteen times to write, communicate, and engage with all the stakeholders in one company.

However, the CMO of Marketo, who became the CEO of Engagio and is now the CMO of Demandbase stated in 2023 that 100% of B2B Buyers hate filling out forms.  Last year I met a CEO who told me Hubspot had one of the largest telesales operations he’d heard about and was told about it by a senior member of Hubspot.  It is clear, they all know automation doesn’t work to the point of being fully sustainable and hands off.

A little-known fact: There are organisations that blend data-lake information from both consumer brands and B2Bs.  Merging this data enables these organisations to identify the mobile numbers of individuals from B2Bs initially using the IP addresses and then matching consumer spending data against business data, ultimately providing cold callers with CEOs mobile numbers.  Now you know why you get cold called on a Saturday!

Nevertheless, this made marketing teams even more important.  The MarTech stacks got bigger, the complexity increased, and the teams got bigger too, requiring even more management, hence the increase of CMOs, Marketing VPs and Heads of Marketing, along with all the respective Demand Gen, Copywriting, Web Dev and Web Admin people and the list goes on.

But here’s the kicker!  Over time, it became very clear that B2B buyers wanted to self-serve, self-educate, remain anonymous (not getting cold called!) and work out the possible ROI before engaging with a salesperson.  It is common knowledge that 80% of the sale is processed before even speaking to a salesperson.

Looking at business failure rates over the past twenty years, nothing has changed.  The tech hasn’t even made a dent in companies going bust and research carried out by CB Insights stated 50% of all business failures are attributed to marketing.

Time for New Hires

When a new hire is on the cards, you must think carefully about what has been going on.  None of the marketers are making a dent in the new business revenue figures.  The average turnover per person per annum or annual recurring revenue – full time equivalent (ARR-FTE) is approx. £90k which is woefully low.  As a result, most SaaS companies are continuously looking for investment, yet they all have busy, busy marketing departments all tweaking and adjusting the MarTech stack and whilst the minions keep their jobs, and the lack of new business is attributed to a poor performing CMO or Marketing VP.

The consensus is that the incumbent CMO doesn’t know how to ‘drive’ the costly ‘formula one’ MarTech stack and the board and investors agree a new driver is required!  Here’s where is gets messy!

Your Talent Acquisition person is given a brief.  They review and edit the previous job description or are sent a new one or find one online.  The full description and detail are simply a copy of the former; looking for a superstar driver with proof of previous wins and exploits, management is a consideration, but what really matters is proof they have achieved massive ARR growth from possibly £1m to £10m or £10m to £30m.  I’ve seen them, they’re all over LinkedIn jobs!!!!

Think about this.  You want to pay someone £120k+ to start working for you having increased someone else’s ARR income from £10m to £30m.  You’re going to buy your property abroad or get a new yacht and they’ll get a £10k a month salary.  Seriously! If you had a superstar that achieved that much growth, you’d be chaining them to their desk with golden handcuffs.

This is where it becomes madness.  Anyone can say what they want, and no one can legally challenge what they’ve said on their CV.  Yet most SaaS and Tech businesses are in the same boat and are all averaging £90k ARR, so it’s unlikely the superstars achieved what they said they did.  But neither they nor you can or will be able to prove it.  Its confidential and two CEOs will rarely speak to each other!

According to Forbes Magazine in 2023, the average tenure of a CMO is now between nine to eighteen months – It’s been eighteen months for years!  My take on this, is three months to get their feet under the desk and come up with a strategy, twelve months to execute the strategy and three months to find a new job as the business realises the new strategy also failed to work.

We’ve both heard the saying ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is a definition of insanity (I also read Einstein never said it).  Equally, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.

I read an article by B2B Marketing who are based in Farringdon, London who said in 2021, CMOs will have earned their seat at the boardroom table by 2030.  Wow! On two levels, firstly they clearly don’t think they’ve already earned it, and if not now, why 2030?  Personally, I am appalled that senior marketers have failed so spectacularly.  It used to be the mouthy jack-the-lad salesman who would stand out like a sore thumb being a bit too flash.  That’s now all gone.  It’s the marketers who have hoodwinked CEOs with promises of success that aligns with the business plans presented to the investors.

The only litmus test required is to ask the salespeople.  Do they have enough leads, yes or no?  Are they on target, are they ever?  This is where you have to take a reality check. Your business is dependent on telling your story to as many people as possible, on a regular basis.  That’s it.  The more the merrier.  But with current day digital marketing automation, demand-gen, lead-gen, ABM and pay-per-click, it’s never going to happen.

Too Many Players Banging The Same Drum

They all sound very convincing, the popular figures on the Internet that is.  They all talk the same language, advocating the hustle and side hustle culture, encouraging entrepreneurs to work-work-work.  Presenting themselves as super successful advisors with an investment background, there to help the budding new businesses achieve their goals and finishing off their pitch with “get your demand gen, lead gen, ABM and cookie-cut sales infrastructure in place” all the while hoping to snag some of the entrepreneurs’ investment dollars in the process.  And then move on to the next one. 

Painful as it is.

Big Tech, over the past twenty years, have driven MarTech.  MarTech have driven and told marketers what to do and they in turn have been the advocates for SaaS and automation and have told CEOs what they should do. 

So invasive is this process, it can only be likened to the Emperor’s New Clothes.  Businesses keep failing at the same rate, revenues are not increasing, and everyone wants to be the next unicorn.  And yet the marketing mechanisms keeps working by use of repetition and we all fall for it.

Having joined the dots should I say anything and call it out or is the truth too hard to bear?  Or is it better to keep quiet and just go along with the status quo and keep watching the misery unfold year after year? Absolutely not…

…And the solution is

You need the least cost, highest exposure strategy you can get your hands on.  Something that delivers exactly what your prospects want.  It’s really quite easy!  You need to follow what you would want and how you would respond?  You won’t talk to a salesperson, you won’t give your details on a form, you won’t take a phone call, so why should anyone else!  Therefore, the solution is based on your logic, not a marketer.

The solution could reduce your entire marketing team by 75%, slash your costs and increase your exposure to your total addressable market unlike anything you have ever done before.  All you need to do is to be open to the possibility of change, and not like the typical digital transformation practices that never seem to work. 

You need to sit down along with your entire board of directors and review exactly how this new strategy would work.  Everyone needs to understand, everyone needs to raise their objections before you make sure they’re all onboard.

It's your call.  It costs nothing to talk.  It’s your business!  What we offer is the speed to make it happen for you as quickly as possible.

This is the most exciting thing you could ever do, placing you and your salespeople back in control, communicating your messages direct to your prospects.  Simple!  

Go to our Digital Selling pages to see how you can change the way you work and scale up your business.

Author

The author and founder of salesXchange, Nigel Maine is a B2B marketing and sales expert with a proven track record in scaling up growth for Technology, SaaS, and Professional Services organisations. With 30 years hands-on experience and unique approach, Nigel has developed an effective strategy that dramatically increases exposure and profitability for B2B organizations.

Nigel has founded multiple start-ups, is a published author, public speaker and hosts both a podcast and business live streaming show, broadcast on LinkedIn Live, YouTube & Facebook. He also has extensive knowledge of MarTech software, creative hardware and software, and A.I. prompting tools.  Contact: 0800 970 9751 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.