Episode 62

Running a PLG & Enterprise Demand Gen Marketing Team Under One Roof with Hernando Buitrago VP of Marketing at instabug.com

Hernando Buitrago

Hernando Buitrago

Too many PLG SaaS companies leave money on the table by relying solely on the product to scale and failing to strengthen the relationship between the customer account and the product. 

Truth is, even the most successful product-led company is likely to reach a point when additional growth will require an enterprise sales motion.

To learn more about fusing PLG and enterprise sales, our CEO, Paris Childress, sat down with Hernando Buitrago from Instabug to talk about implementing a land-and-expand motion and crafting an efficient PPC strategy. 

Let’s take a look.

What Is a Land-And-Expand Strategy and Do You Need One?

Many startups want to grow and be as self-serve as possible with as few sales touch points as possible. 

If you have an exceptional product and implement a strong PLG motion, this will happen organically – but only to some degree. 

The reality is, the vast majority of companies won’t know who you are and what your product is capable of. 

Regardless of how great your products or sales skills are – if you’re targeting enterprises – going straight to the business leader asking them to implement your solution right away is often too big an ask, too early in the customer relationship. 

To scale, even the most firmly entrenched PLG companies (e.g. Zoom, Dropbox, Clendly, to name a few) often need the addition of a land-and-expand/enterprise sales strategy. 

In a SaaS PLG motion, land-and-expand typically starts by landing a small deal – an individual user that signs up for a free trial or freemium and then turns into a paying customer. 

After that, the sales team steps up to form a relationship with the company and lands other users across different departments and projects. 

In his role as VP of Marketing at Instabug, Hernando Buitrago has effectively tackled the question of how PLG can work hand in hand with enterprise.

The first step? 

Hernando shares: “focus on clarity, on the personas that you’re going after, and making sure the organization, internally, is educated on who the user is, what their needs and problems are, and who are the decision-makers that work with those users.” 

This part may take some legwork, but it is sure to pay off tenfold in the end. 

5 Tactics to Find Balance Between PLG and Enterprise Sales

At its core, a land-and-expand strategy works on the account level rather than the user level. 

Done well, it enables you to build and solidify connections with high-level decision-makers within a user’s company, making your product a solution that the organization has prioritized. 

Integrating an enterprise sales motion into a PLG company may seem like an overwhelming, almost impossible pivot, but it’s actually more common than you might think.

Hernando from Instabug shares 5 tactics that, when combined together, can help you effectively build a strong foundation and balance product-led growth and enterprise sales. 

Tactic #1: Build the Right Team

Through his extensive experience in marketing, growth, and demand generation, Hernando has built plenty of insider knowledge of how to create an effective marketing team that fits the organization’s needs.

At Instabug, each team member needs to be very hands-on. The marketers should know how to leverage marketing and mobile analytics tools, and “know what needs to happen at the deep level. They can go up and they can go down, but there are no managers of managers. It’s all people who are very good at one particular channel or are detailed generalists.” 

Three core elements you’ll also need to cover when looking to build an A+ marketing team include:

  • Gradually growing into your problems and building an extensive problem-solving skills set
  • Fostering brand differentiation
  • Enabling brand marketing

Tactic #2: Break PLG and Enterprise Marketing Into Two Separate Roles

Instabug splits its PLG motion with enterprise sales. The VP of Marketing shares that – although at an earlier stage one marketer can have their eye on all of the pieces – as the company grows, you’ll need a PLG-focused marketer and an enterprise-focused marketer. 

Why? One integral reason Hernando points out is that the persona is very different. 

For a PLG-focused marketer, the audience is the user. 

For an enterprise-focused marketer, on the other hand, the audience is going to be the manager of those users. Hernando notes that “the user will still be involved but it’s unlikely that that’s who you’re going to be sitting at the table with when it comes to sales.” 

As you transition from a PLG motion to land-and-expand, the marketing team becomes less product-focused and more focused on a persona-based content generation that could be used across the entire funnel.

Tactic #3: Encourage Collaboration Between Sales and Marketing

In a PLG strategy, teams combine their efforts, align the goals, and execute a plan in alignment.

“For marketing on the enterprise demand side, customer #1 is the sales team,” Instabug’s VP of Marketing shares. 

Marketers need to actively listen to what sales needs, work with them, and cover the gaps that they identify. After all, “they [sales] are the ones on the ground. They are the ones sitting at the table having conversations.”

Ultimately, marketing should be collaborating with sales to ensure that everyone is on the same page and have a consistent strategy across the organization. 

Tactic #4: Find and Target the Team Lead in the Middle

Hernando notes that when it comes to enterprise sales deals, there are three main personas that stand out the most – a user, a middle person, and a business leader. 

While the user can influence the decision-making process, the people in the middle are the ones who have to make projects succeed. For the most part, these are people who often come from a technical background and have to communicate with the business leaders. 

Essentially, you’ll need to create a process where you structure your efforts to accommodate an extra step between you and your target prospect (i.e. the executive decision-maker).

Marketing to those technical personas, as Hernando says, “is about speaking to their pain points.” 

As a rule of thumb, the problems and issues they are facing are going to be different than those of PLG users, which means you need to lean into strategic message execution and testing.

The key here is to “empower those team leads in the middle with ROI metrics or business benefits that they can communicate to the business leaders.”

Tactic #5: Decide on the Right Mix of Paid and Organic

A good place to begin is to start creating content and testing messaging right off the bat. While it might feel scattered, this will help you “find what sticks to the decision-makers within the users’ accounts that you’ve been leveraging so far.”

“You get in and you find out what are your strategic categories, what are the topics that you need to rank for or create awareness for,” Hernando adds. 

If you don’t have any content – or you’re not ranking well for these categories – you need to fill the gaps with paid search, write great ad copy, and consistently test your messaging.

In the fast-moving world of SaaS, “you probably need to start a little higher on the paid than on the organic side in terms of effort and expenses. But you have to be very picky with the categories that you build because it takes time to generate good content or rank well for a category.” 

Remember that to get the content and SEO machine up to speed, you will need to create relevant, high-quality content that brings value to your prospects. 

After all, “you still have to deliver value if you’re talking to those team leads. I don’t think you can ever invest too much on that.”

How PPC Fits in the Equation: Instabug’s Paid Search Efforts 

Creating branded search campaigns entails bidding for and owning your branded terms (i.e. your personal brand keywords that are claimed and optimized from the get-go). This way, you protect your brand, claim more SERP real estate, and ensure that when your target audiences search for those keywords they get relevant results. 

Hernando shares that, on the branded side of their strategy, “it’s more about exposure than it is about ‘we’re willing to pay this much for you’. Then there’s high intent and low intent keywords outside of that that relate to use cases or orbital topics that might get you to end up on our website.”

As part of their paid search strategy, Instabug also goes after keywords that reflect on the main tasks that can be accomplished with their software – mobile app performance monitoring

Crafting paid campaigns based around a central intent is an excellent strategy for PLG companies that makes it easier to speak directly to the searcher’s query and entice a click. 

Although the keyword volumes in their category are still fairly low, this gives Instabug an excellent opportunity to rank higher without breaking the bank.

That said, “we have to be conscious in terms of how far we’re willing to go,” Hernando adds.  In addition, it’s crucial to keep the search intent in mind as well – is it a searcher trying to solve a problem or is it someone who’s browsing to learn more information about the topic? 

Bidding on Competitors

Along with a branded search strategy, Instabug focuses on competitor bidding, too. 

By bidding on their competitors’ brand keywords, Instabug is aiming at bottom-of-the-funnel prospects who are looking up and researching similar solutions. To make this strategy work to your advantage, you’ll need an effective product comparison landing page.

While you can’t legally use competitors’ names in the ad itself, you can use them on your landing page to make it more relevant (e.g. by listing and comparing features and benefits) and even help increase your quality score in Google Ads.

Hernando admits that they put a lot of attention to bidding on competition, but he notes that “it’s also good to play nice. I like to think that there are lines in terms of what you say about the competitors and in your comparison pages.”

On any head-to-head comparison page that you create, be sure to show a fair and clear distinction on what separates you apart from your competitor(s).

Ready to Boost Your Performance?

Product-led growth is steadily becoming the bread and butter of successful SaaS businesses, and you should let your product acquire customers and let the users spread your solution across the organization. 

But, in the meantime, be sure to put in the work to develop deep, strategic relationships with the customer organization.  

Have you been running paid campaigns for a while without any noticeable wins? It might be time to re-evaluate your strategy. Here are 6 actionable tips to improve PPC performance.

Want to chat about SaaS growth with Paris?