Software sold as a “service” might work as a business model, but for the customer — at least for this customer — buying marketing SaaS sucks.

I didn’t arrive at that sophisticated conclusion lightly. I’ve been on a journey that many of my fellow marketers have also embarked on: evaluating, demo-ing and implementing marketing software solutions.

Marketing has become a technical discipline. At Foundation Capital, we’ve thought a lot about the way that SaaS generally, and MarTech specifically, disrupts industries. We’ve even invested in a few of these solutions.

A SaaS Remake of Groundhog Day

Five years ago, few teams felt the need for these kinds of solutions. Today, it’s the norm — for companies big and small. Which is why I realized about six months ago that we, too, needed our own updated suite of marketing technologies — our own “marketing stack.”     

I would love to say building that stack has been a great experience. I would love to say it’s been wonderful and exciting. I would love to say that sales teams totally understand the customer journey. 

Unfortunately, that would be a lie.

My experience was more like a SaaS remake of Groundhog Day: doomed to repeat every bad interaction, every under-researched intake call, and every already sent email again and again — often with the same company.

In short, marketers marketing marketing software to marketers can do a better job of sales and … marketing. 

I know I’m a sample of one, but if sharing my experience can help just one person, one company do better, well, then, (cue sappy music) I will have done my part as a human (marketer) being.

Want to Sell Me Marketing Software? Read This First

Like any marketer worth her salt, I’ve boiled my findings down to a list.

1. Do pre-qualify me. Don’t re-pre-qualify me.

This is typical of my experience: I’d request a demo and receive a canned email. Seconds later, I’d answer the phone. “Can I have just ten minutes of your time to help us customize your demo?” An hour later, I’d hang up the phone having responded to questions like “What is Foundation Capital?” and “What does a VC firm do?”

Then, after I’d been told I’d receive a customized demo, I’d get a generic demo. It was classic pre-qualifying, but it felt more like I’d been punk’d.

Here’s the deal: I’m a marketer. I get it. You need to figure out if I actually need the product, if I’m a serious customer, if I’m worth the man-hours required to do the demo. 

Just say so.

And while you’re at it, actually pre-qualify me — do some digging before you call. Neither the pre-qualifier nor the demo-er paused to look up basic information about me or about Foundation. And they didn’t talk about me to each other, either. I had to start fresh each time.

2. I’m a marketer. Help me market you.

Remember, I need to sell your product, too — to my colleagues and my partners. Yet, throughout my misadventure in MarTech and the broader SaaS space, not once did I receive useful marketing materials without requesting them. I had to beg for product feature lists, and sneak my own screen shots from repeat demos. If I needed something to help me explain my recommendations, I had to get it myself.

Out of the many companies I demoed with, only one gave me marketing materials after I asked for them. 

Learning Opportunities

Understand that I need to sell your product internally — and 30-minute videos aren’t closers. Help me help you.

3. Don’t forget about me.

Even after I settled on a service, the fun wasn’t over.

First there was the task of implementing our new “solution.” I was left in the dark, unsure of who my main point of contact was, and who I should turn to for help. Someone from the company contacted me to check in, but not to lend a hand and get us on our feet. As a marketer, I’d hope companies make the sale and move immediately to earning that renewal.

Then there were the several other services we had demoed but didn’t adopt (yet). Only one thought to ask me in-depth questions about why and how they could have done better. While many of the rest passed my email over to their third-party ecosystem without my permission. (Even if you’re not going to have great customer service, the least you can do is avoid customer dis-service.)

4. Mystery shop yourself.

As I went through my search, I would talk with colleagues and friends about the travails of this process. On many occasions, they offered to connect me with CEOs, VPs, even board members of the companies I was trying to engage. But I didn’t want special treatment. I didn’t want the CEO to play sales rep, customer service rep and all-around hand-holder. I wanted a legitimate customer experience.


MarTech companies ought to do the same — by mystery shopping themselves. 

I’m not saying that you need to hire a professional, though that could help. Simply call in a favor from a trusty friend. Watch where they struggle, feel their pain and adapt accordingly.

I have a lot of sympathy for emerging MarTech companies — and new SaaS players of all kinds. With few resources and many competitors, you’re trying to disrupt entire industries. I’m already in love with the power of software to transform marketing and so many other industries. 

I just hope one day I fall in love with the experience of buying it, too.

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