How B2B Buyers Shop for
The Problem: Client Needed A New Email Marketing SaaS Product
I was asked by a client to help them improve their email marketing efforts. They have several thousand members on their email list but have put very little effort into using email to meet their business goals.
They were interested in the ability to easily segment sends based on existing data in addition to anything else the tool could collect to help them segment with even more specificity.
Since I had done similar work at Inbound.org I was approached for help. Today email marketing tools can segment based on a wide variety of information:
- Pages visited
- Number of visits
- Past event attendance
- Profile information
- Source visited from
- Last visit by date, and more.
The client’s situation was such that they already had Act-on. It could handle some of what they wanted to do, but the cost was around $2,000 a month and other important features were missing.
Having analyzed and used hundreds of tools over the years, I knew the features here were introductory at best.
The user experience was poor, it was difficult to navigate, and the analytics reports didn’t offer adequate email reporting.
Additionally, they had heard about other tools they could use with more advanced features for segmentation, any they wanted to know what would work for their budget, and hopes for a more sophisticated email strategy.
The Contenders: HubSpot, Autopilot, Act-on, and Hatchbuck
From our discussion, I had two tools they wanted me to research, one of which was HubSpot. They wanted to know if they should make the jump to HubSpot for the site, email, reporting, etc. It’s a major product with many features and it integrates with several tools.
I decided to investigate whether HubSpot would be the right fit because the client had mentioned it multiple times and wondered if they should migrate to the all in one solution. I already have an extensive history of using HubSpot with many clients so I decided to check this first.
I also knew the introductory price for the main package started at $800 a month, and the client seemed comfortable with that. I also knew the email feature was packed with advanced options for segmentation. It seemed like an obvious win.
But, when I went to HubSpot’s site I realized the tool would be at least $2,200 a month due to the size of the client’s list. I then checked the client’s website to see what technology it was run on.
They were already using WordPress, and as I actually prefer that over HubSpot’s content management system, so I began to doubt whether it was the best solution unless we could only get those advanced segmentation email features there.
Investigating Autopilot for Email Marketing
I had actually heard of Autopilot before, so when the client mentioned the tool, I put it on the short list to research.
At first, I realized the price was close to $700 a month, or $1200 a month with A/B testing, it sounded close to HubSpot until I realized their price was $2,200 for the current list size. Now, $700-$1200 wasn’t too high.
I had signed up for a free trial to see what the tool does and didn’t ‘get’ it from the onboarding. I’ll be honest, I’m very particular about onboarding and I want it to be extremely easy for me to get started.
Looking back there wasn’t anything awful about their onboarding, I just didn’t enjoy it.
I’ll give you a free analysis of your onboarding, here.
I got a short list of emails from the client and uploaded it to Autopilot to test the platform. I started a journey, which is their name for workflow, and began designing a simple email send for the client.
Within a few minutes, I realized it was very simple to segment the main list, build journeys, schedule emails, etc. Many of the features are very similar to HubSpot’s email features, with several options to segment your list. What I liked, even more, was that Autopilot offered a 30-day trial.
I could only send 100 emails but in this case, I didn’t need to send any I just needed to see if it would work for the client. So after a couple of attempts with the tool, I realized this was a great contender for the client’s needs.
Side Note: While I didn’t love Autopilot’s onboarding I enjoyed their free trial and thought it was a perfect example of when and how companies should use free trials. They allow a user to design an entire journey that includes multiple email sends based on actions, time, visits, etc.
By only allowing 100 emails to be sent they give users a taste of deliverability without giving free access to excessive usage that can cost the company a lot of money.
Could Hatchbuck Be The Right Tool?
They market themselves as a lower cost HubSpot option, and their pricing starts under $100 a month so I was surprised that I would need a demo and walkthrough to even SEE the software.
Very disappointing. From a marketing point of view, I think they should at least let people set up a free account to see what if any features work the way I need them to. From a SaaS business point of view, I found it crazy such a low-cost product makes you work with sales on a demo before you can use it.
I emailed their support to see if they had a demo account because I had very specific needs, and if this could work for my client it would save them a lot of money. I told them I did not want or need a demo with a salesperson because I had specific needs and I spelled them out.
I needed a tool that allowed me to work from one database of leads to segment the leads into smaller lists, to be able to segment based on pages visited, actions taken on the account, scheduled emails, etc. I got a response to watch a recorded demo and that, of course, I could segment my leads into smaller lists, but nothing in regards to the specifics about how leads could be segmented.
I felt I had clearly wasted my time investigating their company if I couldn’t get an answer to my questions. At that point, I went back to work on a trial project in Autopilot for the client. A couple of business days later I was sent an email from Hatchbuck pointing out that I hadn’t yet watched their demo and they were following up to see if I was still interested.
Now, I know sales can be pushy, but to actually point out that they were ‘Big Brothering’ me?! And in all fairness I found their demo on Youtube before I contacted them, it didn’t answer my question, I didn’t need to watch it again.
The Tool That Meets My Client’s Requirements
As you can probably tell, I chose to go with Autopilot. It’s a very powerful tool for email marketing and I was happily surprised that it was incredibly easy to use once I put in some effort. I still think they could use a little help with onboarding. I do want to point out that the search was never about price alone. Had I suggested to the client that HubSpot would be best for their needs, I know they would have taken my recommendation.
How SaaS Companies Can Use This Experience to Grow
What I think SaaS companies need to understand from this is how I researched each product. I went to each site as someone ready to buy, and ready to spend a lot of money in doing so. I wanted to know what worked, how it worked, if it did what my client needed, and what the price would be. Here is a quick track of how everything unfolded:
- Client emailed about email marketing needs
- Discussion with client about needs and current solution
- Investigated current solution to see what was missing
- Investigated 2 tools the client was interested in using
- Looked at price
- Analyzed features and compared to needs
- Investigated 1 additional tool found through search/ads
- Watched demo video
- Proceeded with trial at lowest cost/best features company
- Presented trial project and tool of choice to client
Why is all of this important to your SaaS company? The more you understand your buyer’s motivations and needs, the better you can deliver a solution that works for them.
Today people know that one email tool can work very differently from another, so we try multiple tools to see what we like, what awesome features there are, and what has a price that is comfortable. Especially in the marketing world, SaaS companies need to meet industry expectations.
Additionally, the SaaS world isn’t a place that can easily ignore their competitors. I understand companies that don’t want to give their competitors a lot of thought because they are too busy innovating, but when you don’t know what your competitor is up to you can’t be sure you have the best options for your target market.
So pay attention to what other tools are doing, keep new technologies and features in mind, and give prospects (like me) the information, time, and path to success with your tool.