Episode 39


The Demand Generation Club podcast is back, and we're turning up the heat with season three. Get ready for insightful conversation with experts from Splash, TrustCloud, WorkRamp, UserGems and more, as we dive deep into B2B marketing approaches that are making an impact in 2024.

This podcast is brought to you by SaaSMQL, the SaaS growth agency that helps B2B software companies land seven-figure deals with highly-targeted, multi-channel campaigns. Since 2018, SaaSMQL has helped over 100 SaaS companies generate millions of dollars in sales pipeline and recurring revenue. To learn more, go to saasmql.com.

Franco Caporale:

Welcome, everyone. I'm here today with David Sarmins, who is the head of acquisition marketing at Printify. Welcome to the Demand Generation Club podcast Davis.

Davis Sarmins:

Thank you, Franco. Definitely my pleasure to be here today.

Franco Caporale:

Let's start right away and I always like to ask how did you become the head of acquisition marketing? What was your career trajectory?

Davis Sarmins:

For sure, yeah, I think that's a good question. I can definitely share.

So I have an education in marketing, so a bachelor's in that and already in university, while doing my last courses, I actually started working at a performance marketing agency. I was doing mostly Google Ads for clients, a bit of SEO, a bit of CRO.

But why it was a good start, I believe it was because they were doing it to a really high standard. So they were constantly upskilling with courses, starting the Google reps and their events, doing the Google certifications and like also just super exciting part for every certain percentage for their clients, which gave me a really solid foundation and understanding of the platform as well, as you always had to push for that little bit of extra edge over the competition. And working with different clients and with different industries really gives you sort of a broader spectrum of how these things work, what challenges other businesses face and so on.

Then after spending a couple of years there, I thought it's okay, it's a time to change some things up and I went to do performance marketing for another EU startup called Fino, which is a leading peer-to-peer lending platform. Again here it was a very valuable shift from going to an agency to an in-house business because definitely have more different dynamic. It's more focused on growing this one business. You feel much more involved, you feel much more connected to that one specific niche. And as well as in the in-house marketing team, I was able to expand from Google to other performance marketing channels like Facebook affiliate, Xero. Again, they were operating as well in different markets so you start to see some of the local nuances, like how the communication needs to be adjusted or which channels are more dominant in which part of the world and so on. So again, very useful experience and, at the end, I was leading a small performance team there.

Then the opportunity to go to Printify arrived and which is a print-on-demand solution in the market and they wanted me to lead their performance, build out their performance marketing stack initially. And now five years later, I have been able to grow the team from what was just me at the beginning to around 50 people doing all sorts of growth marketing from content, socials, affiliate, commercial rate optimization, and actually just also diving into deeper product line and onboarding, making sure that you activate more of these users and essentially all things acquisition. And yeah, the three years out of the five I have been there, I have been able to triple the user base year-over-year so I would say it's going quite well there.

Franco Caporale:

Obviously you have a great experience with performance marketing, acquisition marketing, and you said you build tech stack at Printify. Tell us more about this tech stack. What is that you always want to have with you?

Davis Sarmins:

Yeah, I think the basis of everything is analytics. You definitely want to have a strong base there. So there's something like Amplifyd or a HiiT for your general product analytics that has a bit of that channel data as well. For smaller companies, of course, you can try to make Google Analytics work for you to a certain size, but quickly realize that actually once you reach like a million sessions per month, Google does sampling and the data is not that accurate.

So you want to have that basis there, probably something in the BI tools as well, Looker or Tableau, to make sure the finance is all in check. And then a bit more marketing performance tools. I still like to run ads on a dedicated landing page. So a tool, for example, like Unbounce or QuickPages is probably better and can be better optimized for paid ads than what you'll be able to build in your product and just have generally higher commercial rates, Zapier and Supermetrics, of connecting all those data sources, probably have heard guests mention it or from other episodes as well, filling the gaps from paid to product to CRMs and so on and some sort of a CDP on top of it so you can bucket those users and change that experience, I would say, is a must if you want to scale and reach reasonable amounts.

Franco Caporale:

Do you use anything particular for CO analysis, keyword research, et cetera?

Davis Sarmins:

Yeah, we use mostly the available tools, hrefs,  there, but nothing too crazy. I would say the tools now actually have quite a large overlap, so you don't really need too many of them. Like they expand constantly their features and you end up having your favorite go-to features in one tool most of the time.

Franco Caporale:

Yeah, I agree. Perfect. So let's talk about the main part of the interview because I was very interested on the fact that guys have a little bit of a different approach from an acquisition perspective because you are actually in a B2B2C business model. So I would like to understand from you, how do you think this differs from the typical B2B, maybe enterprise mid-market go-to-market motion and how do you approach?

Davis Sarmins:

Yeah, that's a very good question because it's not quite clearly defined. It's B2B2C. It's because obviously mainly we work with businesses, individual entrepreneurs. So on the one hand, it's a business, but on the other hand, the sales cycle doesn't exist. So there's no sales teams, there's no different stakeholders. It's usually one person doing all the decisions. So technically, it's a business, but you talk to them more like they were a customer onboarding your service and product, which is why probably the channel mix also changes. You use maybe channels that are more B2C, but you try to find those segments that have this business potential.

And it's not like at Printify we don't have B2B whatsoever. We definitely do. There's like sales teams focusing on that and there's a specific streamlined approach for that. But the main thing that I do are more of this hybrid model platform is mostly self-serve means that we use a bit slightly different mix of channels. But yeah, if you want the second part of the question, I can expand more on the strategy and how it impacts throughout this.

Franco Caporale:

Yeah, I would like to understand more because obviously you need to have this really strong growth mindset to really continue to scale the results. You have to constantly be growing and throughout your whole career you have that as a challenge. So how do you approach that? What is like key for scaling that kind of business model?

Davis Sarmins:

Yeah, I think you put it actually very well. And what I usually like to do is to preface that all of this, what I'm going to share, it should ideally come after you have at least a rough idea of your product market fit. If you have some initial customers, you know at least one or two personas that you're solving these problems to. If you don't have that, then I would go back and try to validate some of these assumptions first before jumping into the real work.

For example, at Printify we launched as a Shopify app. So we knew that the e-commerce store owners had this need of sourcing products that we could provide and getting merchandise before POD was mainstream was a pretty manual process. You would go to a manufacturer selling blanks, agree on designs going on back and forth about the whole process, then actually ordering both. So without knowing which sizes sell and then if they would sell at all. So it's a huge commitment and we aim to solve those blockers in this print-on-demand platform. So we had the access to these Shopify users through the app marketplace, so we had the initial product market fit. So then it makes sense to start scale, I'm getting more users, seeing what your cost dynamic, CPA, defined a pirate funnel for example, and start experimenting with different marketing strategies.

I guess the point was that the initial people that worked at Printify when I came in were believers of this growth mindset, including me. So obviously it's more than just experimentation, about not being afraid to fail, about not just sticking to what you know best, but actually going and facing tough challenges, trying out new things, even if there are risk and as well as constantly actually growing your own skills and, super importantly, including leadership.

So by all means, I want to say that we didn't execute maybe religiously by the book, but the direction was there and it is still what we use today. So we approach marketing in that manner, as well as rolling out product features. So building your big roadmap and game-changing features is important, but that's one thing that you do all the time and it will require a significant amount of resources.

On the side, you can test actually smaller experiments and tackle some of that low-hanging fruit before committing large amount of resources to it. So what we would do is gather biweekly to go through this gross experimentation process. And I did not it. I think it was Growth Tribe or somebody even before them, but the idea is that the following.

So first step is you gather ideas and you use user session recording data, inputs from your customer support team ticket, even if you dug down into analytics, saw that some funnel step is not working in issues. Essentially you generate ideas on what you would want to improve for your user.

Then you go to the ranking of the ideas. It's great to have different stakeholders here from development, marketing design, leadership. Otherwise, if you just get a bunch of marketers in the room, the ideas sometimes tend to be kind of similar. So you rank those ideas. You also want experiments, okay, how can we test this simply without investing too much money? How can we get some initial traffic, experience this feature and see what changes? And that's exactly.

Next step, work. So usually run the experiment for two weeks if you have enough traffic page to validate your assumption.

And lastly, you obviously study data, what worked, what didn't, maybe achieve a completely different outcome that you initially planned for. And most importantly, if you fail, that is okay, you still learn something, you still just gained valuable work .

So that's pretty much our approach. Also in testing other channels that we see users might engage with. It's not just on product, could be marketing channels as well. You add something new, get some initial metrics. If they're close to what you believe are good for your business, then you can continue scaling there and rate your confidence and match on the level that other channels in your mix are and so on.

Franco Caporale:

And you mentioned at some point that you have tested also with the TikTok ads, which obviously in B2B are not very much used. Can you tell us more about this test? Are you guys are now using regularly?

Davis Sarmins:

Yeah, yeah, that's the usual process I do. What I like to do is add channels by channel and you could start the ones that you believe in the most and you eventually go broader. Whereas the point that obviously we saw that TikTok is a solid platform, there's insane amount of users, some are there for entertainment, some are educational purposes and some just follow people that way. And we know that our target users, even though we have this sort of B2B are there, there are people that are looking to start a business or that small business owners are actually there.

So it's the same setup as with any page channel. You would pull in the metrics that you want to drive. So you need to optimize for what makes sense to your business. You don't want just initial signs.

Then you define the audiences, in our case, like small businesses and users like that and you need to adjust your creative and do testing with these different permutations of those ingredients.

I would also suggest either tagging your links or having attribution in your product as well. Since these ad platform metrics can offer vary quite a bit, they get really used with what's considered a conversion sometimes. So a view-through can be counted in or assisted ones. What you as a marketer want to achieve, you want to compare it to your other efforts because you can invest in TikTok or you can scale your existing channel. So you need some sort of a way how to have comparable results.

Yeah, and for us, in the case of TikTok, actually one learning was that even though the grade deal was adjusted, it was not adjusted enough. So TikTok is different, the minimal attention span, of course, and things like that. So initially our ad went a bit between too in-depth on what is POD, how it works, but not enough on why you should care in a simple manner. So we fixed that and then the results followed as well.

Franco Caporale:

Having all of this channel that you are running tests, experimentation and different ads, how do you track attribution and success and ROI? Because it becomes super important, especially once you start scaling budget.

Davis Sarmins:

Exactly, and that's a really good question. Because I come from this performance, I was used to actually being able to meticulous so we try to report anything you do there. And it's super important for the clients because they don't want to lose any money and you have to account for everything. It will really depend on your business. If it's heavily pay-driven, you'll be able to attribute everything closer to reality using, for example,  first click, last touch or data-driven.

But in real world, going to be a bit harder to always have like tag links and pixels installed. Or even if you use your own software for registering those referrals and quick IDs and so on. Because when you go broader with more awareness and brand promotion, oftentimes you'll not have an immediate response to promotion. So I actually read a research recently that in B2B, the customer is exposed to a company 36 times before converting. So that's a crazy amount of interactions and it will be super hard for you to correctly attribute it to every action that you take. But they'll need to do those things. You need to be where your customers are. I think sometimes marketers rely a bit too much on their models and lose a bit of common sense, thus they also lose a bit of opportunities. The question is if you cannot attribute it directly, so how can you still know that the things that you're doing are working?

What I have seen is that you need to test and validate the actions you take. For example, you run an awareness campaign, you can look at your brand search increase, how much of more organic customers are you having? It didn't really happen just overnight that somebody woke up in their bed thinking to Google your company out of the blue. There was some sort of previous interaction there. So if you don't have enough budget or maybe to do it on a global scale, you can localize it to a single state and see if you can drive some change in behavior in that state.

Or you can do a coupon or a specific landing page deal. For example, if you have a podcast ad, that's like a question I often get, how do you measure podcast efficiency if you do ads there. You can give them a link or a coupon specific to that podcast, brand/podcast, and see the payback from that direct link. And actually if you'll see that the payback somewhat like, let's say, a hundred percent from that link alone that you know that you know actually earned much more because there will be a significant portion of people not clicking it directly or forgetting to enter a coupon and so on.

Then actually there's also a service you can run on existing users to ask from all the things that you did they interacted with or if you have a bigger campaign. Actually what I have seen people do is to use things like Google Brand Lift to measure brand recall on YouTube. Obviously, there's other solutions for that as well to do this serving top-of-mind analysis for you that you can use and validate. So I think there's plenty you to choose from so your stack is definitely not limited, but essentially doing tests like this will give you the higher confidence that this is the right thing to do to sell it to your superiors if you need to.

And, of course, at end of the day, you should always look at your overall performance like total investment return, lifetime value, payback periods to see if your business is on track and how aggressive you want to be. If you want to push more growth in a shorter period, then you might be okay with a larger payback period. Or if you want to be cost-efficient, you might [inaudible 00:16:48] so that's how I approach it.

Franco Caporale:

That's fantastic. So I have three more question, Davis, for you there before I let you go. Number one is what are some of the new initiatives that you are working on for the next few months?

Davis Sarmins:

Yeah. Well, it's quite obvious that Q4 is around the corner for us. In the e-commerce industry, it's a big deal since a lot of things are happening, there are a lot of opportunities to sell, Halloween, Black Friday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then much more.

So we want our users to be, first of all, ready for that and, second of all, engaged, which means that you need to give them reason to work on their business, to work on their brand. You will give that little bit of extra nudge to skip Netflix in the evening and work, for example, on their product operation or things like that. So different campaigns stimulate that behavior are usually what comes out in Q4, and that's going to be my focus for the foreseeable weeks.

Franco Caporale:

I also want to ask you, what is one thing that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?

Davis Sarmins:

Yeah, lots of things probably, but I guess I'll answer it in a way that what helped me once I think at the beginning of my career is to do things that I didn't know and figure out a lot of the things that I wanted to learn on my own quite quickly. I was able to learn quite rapidly and thus be more versatile way down the road.

Maybe for some of you guys it might not be possible if you're a part of a big organization, you're hired for a very specific thing and there is no going outside of the line. So potentially spending time in a smaller company at the beginning of your career is a good idea because they'll let you do a broader spectrum of things and you'll learn quicker, which will pay then for you down the road. And it's sort of like keeping this balance of being an expert in a given field because you want to build that knowledge skills, but also being versatile and useful for your company if the market demands it, if you need to switch priorities. I would say, yeah, maybe try to have a mix of those experiences early on, if possible.

Franco Caporale:

How much do you think your experience at the agency helped you later on? Because I heard agency can be pretty intense when you are juggling multiple clients at once.

Davis Sarmins:

Yeah, I think it actually helped loads, since you are on this very strict high KPIs, they're very demanding. It's maybe not the most pleasant experience, but if it's the right agency, it's a good quality and it's the right values, then you can actually learn a lot in a short period of time and get that skills that you wouldn't have anywhere else.

Because some of those agencies are really doing it to the best level and you can learn a lot. So later on, you can teach that stuff to others as well and then grow your team with the knowledge that you acquired. So I wouldn't say it's necessarily a bad thing, but maybe staying too long in an agency would not be recommended.

Franco Caporale:

Awesome. One last question is, what is one mistake that every B2B marketer should avoid?

Davis Sarmins:

Probably quite a few and probably quite a few I have made myself. But I guess one thing that I see B2B marketers make and also actually what we see Printify users make is not doing enough research on their audience. So it's like just launching things without really engaging and figuring out what actually is in demand and what your target customer needs and wants.

You need to spend some time in that community, learn about them, who they are and what they need, what they want, what emotions does your product fire in them, what they value. Because that will shape a lot of things, how you speak to them, very target to them, what value prop of your product you decide to highlight. Because as marketers, we tend to think that our product is the best ever and it's the only one on the market, but your intended audience might think otherwise and it would be really good to get those learnings in. That way, you'll spend less budget in experiments and you'll have a better first guess, which will kind of, again, increase your success rate in your experiments and thus in your company as well.

Franco Caporale:

Absolutely agree. Davis, it was really great speaking with you today. Thank you again for joining us at the Demand Generation Club.

Davis Sarmins:

Pleasure to be here and thank you for inviting me, Franco.


That's a wrap for today's episode of the Demand Generation Club podcast. If you're curious about how we're landing enterprise deals and unlocking millions in recurring revenue using account-based marketing and integrated direct mail campaigns, check out our website, saasmql.com. That's saasmql.com. We share tons of content every week on tried-and true-strategic ABM initiatives that actually generate pipeline from enterprise accounts. Thanks for tuning in.

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