On this week’s episode of our Performance Delivered Podcast, our guest is Charity Araoz. Referred to as the Warrior of Marketing, Charity has over 20 years of experience, and serves as the Vice President of Marketing at PCS Software, an AI-driven transportation management platform. 

The energy, fun, and even the uncertainty in the marketing courses she took in school attracted Charity to the field. 

Today on the show she’ll tell us how a transition in 2011 led her to her marketing home. We’ll talk to her about why marketing for SaaS is different from other marketing experiences, as well as: 

  • Blending your SaaS marketing cocktail
  • Using your product as your call to action
  • Customer retention vs customer acquisition—where to focus
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered. Insider secrets for digital marketing success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.

Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered insider secrets for digital marketing success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is marketing challenges of SaaS companies. Here to speak with me as Charity Araoz, who is the VP marketing at PCS software, an AI driven transportation management platform, driving disruptive innovation for shippers, carriers and brokers in the United States and Canada. A 20 year career has spanned communications, brand and product management, demand generation content and leadership positions. Early in her career, she worked as an account rep for a marketing services agency, and then transition into b2b marketing for industrial products and manufactured goods. Charity, Welcome to the show.

Charity Araoz: Well, thank you. It’s so great to be here, Steffen. Really appreciate it.

Steffen: Now Charity, before we explore today’s topic, I would really love to find out more about yourself. Tell our listeners about how you get started in your career, especially as it relates to marketing.

Charity: Absolutely, well, very early on, let’s get in the wayback machine and, and go more than 20 years back when I was in the university, and I studied International Business and Economics, I was a full scholarship recipient, and I was working for a rubber chemical manufacturer, very industrial. And I found my day to day work to be interesting and challenging. But it wasn’t really fun. And I found myself going back to a lot of my classes that I had at the university. And I always found the marketing courses to be full of energy and fun, and a lot of believe it or not uncertainty. 

So lots of asking questions, a lot of theoretical things, very experimental. And I really found myself attracted to that. So under some good advice, I went to the local marketing agencies in my area. And I asked for informational interviews. And I was lucky to to land a spot with one of the local marketing agencies. And it was really, baptism by fire. I got to cover all different sorts of marketing, from research, to web to production, work with a lot of really great experts. And I found myself just loving everything about marketing. It also gave me a little bit of a sales feel, because as an account rep we were always selling, so we had to sell our services. So I really appreciated that about my experience. 

But honestly, I always found myself attracted to the idea of being the marketing manager or my customer, I really wanted to be my customer, which was that marketing manager that had to figure out how to market their products and services. And when the opportunity presented itself, I made the jump into being a marketing representative for a manufactured goods company. And that’s really where I got my I’ll say early career experience around product management and launching new products, although they were manufactured goods, and some were in around 2011. I transitioned into marketing technology. And that’s really where I found my home or my passion rather, because it was much different from the environment in the manufactured goods arena.

Steffen: Interesting. Now, you know, working for SaaS company was that was that an a choice that you made? Or the opportunity just presented itself? And you’re like, hey, you know what, we’ll be great to to go to a SaaS company.

Charity: Yes, absolutely. Today, it’s absolutely a choice. So in terms of how I transitioned, it was an opportunity that presented itself. But ever since then, the opportunity to stay in tech and SAS is definitely where I want to be. So today, it’s a choice. And when I had the opportunity to join PCS who’s under a lot of transformation right now as a business as well as hyper growth initiatives. This is just a perfect place for me.

Steffen: Now, since you’ve done marketing for different type of companies, how is marketing for SaaS different?

Charity: Sure. So one of the obvious answers is obviously we don’t have brick and mortar, you don’t have a hard good that you can touch and feel. So right away, marketing technology comes down to digital and digital experiences. So it’s highly focused around creating a digital engagement or sale. It’s rooted really heavily in information. So there’s a lot of information that folks need when they’re in the market for a technical product. One of the challenges is taking a technical product and breaking down those features and functions and translating that value into outcomes. 

And really one of the main differences, we’re selling a subscription and and that’s key to note though, you know, we do have a product, a technical product and you have have to figure out how to sell that based on outcomes or solving problems for your buyer. But at the end of the day, they’re subscribing to your your product, which is really almost like a service. So it makes it very different from selling a product that may or may not need to be maintained. And it’s like a one time purchase. And then that person is either fulfilled or, you know, getting that resale. And I’ll highlight one additional note, a lot of software companies revenues come from their existing customers. 

So sometimes we forget about that as marketers, because we stay heavily focused on driving new customers to our business. But when you work for a SaaS company, and you’re selling a subscription, you have a high level of importance and focusing on your current customer, because they’ll then make up a significant portion of your revenue. And things like retention become a lot more important than just acquiring new customers.

Steffen: I think that’s a that’s a great point. Because when you calculate what the lifetime value is for customer, I mean, obviously, the longer you can keep them, keep them happy with your product, the longer you can keep them engaged, the higher lifetime value is, which also positively impacts, you know, your investment to gain new customers.

Charity: That’s right, it does, it absolutely impacts your ability to gain new customers. So that’s when in a software as a service business you focus on, is your product sticky. So then there’s a lot of effort and initiative around adoption. So you can sell your product, and you might be able to attract that new customer to your business. But in order to keep them subscribed, are they adopting their product? Is it sticky? And then to the point of keeping them happy with your business and that level of service you have to provide? Are they an advocate for your business, which absolutely is going to impact your ability to attract new customers.

Steffen: Yeah, what activities do you do to keep subscribers engaged? To keep them with you?

Charity: Sure. So one of the things that’s really important for a technology product is updating your platform, and constantly having additional feature functionality that’s in demand. So if your customers are using the product, in our case, our customers use our product to to run their business every day. So they manage the freight within the platform. And so some of the things that we have to do to keep them happy and functional, is to continue the development of the product and giving them value for the feature functions that they need. Whether it’s streamlining, the operation, reporting data, and analytics is something that has become really important to sass companies recently in giving access to information and driving insight to drive decisions for their business, that reporting and analytics has been something that’s become really important that we’re heavily invested in giving our customers more data and analytics capabilities. 

Another big driver right now is artificial intelligence. So everybody’s talking about data. We’ve been talking about data for years. But data really is important, especially when it comes to technology right now. So PCS has been around for over 20 years. And we have a lot of data historically from our customers running their business. And there’s an opportunity today for sass companies to leverage the data that they’ve been collecting for years, or that they’re actively collecting as their customers engage and use their products. And then you can mine that data, apply machine learning. And then you can move into better features and functions that drive improved outcomes. 

And just to bring the use case to life, for example, at PCS, we have trucks that technically are an expense, they’re not making money for their business if they’re empty. So one of our initiatives that PCS is to leverage AI and machine learning to allow our customers to have better routes and optimization of their trucks and their drivers so that they’re dropping off loads and picking up loads that are really close together. So they’re not running empty. And then there’s just a plethora of benefit, greater benefit as well. 

So that’s going to drive, reduce costs, increase profit. But additionally, it lowers carbon emission, and it can reduce carbon footprint. And a lot of businesses today are focused on sustainability, and really operating more responsibly. So in terms of how do we keep those customers? I feel like I’ve talked quite a bit maybe I haven’t answered the question. So well, how do you keep customers happy and in your platform, you have to continuously develop your product and continuously add value back to them in a way that’s meaningful to their business.

Steffen: Yeah, this specific marketing activity, I mean, what you said makes a lot of sense. I mean, if you if you develop a software solution, and you keep it as is, you know, when you don’t develop further, you’re going to lose people because, you know, the market is fluid. They’re constantly new companies coming in, that have better shiny year solutions, right? So if you’re not doing this, you’re losing people. But from a marketing perspective, how do you take that information? How do you communicate that to your existing customers, so that you build a strong connection?

Charity: Alright, so I’m making a couple notes, because technically, there’s a couple different answers there. One is more on the new customer acquisition side. And then the other is obviously within the current base. So one of the ways that we communicate, I’m going to segment and talk about specifically that customer marketing. So customer marketing, absolutely have to have a program and it has to be intentional. So customers aren’t somebody that you want to sign up, and then just give access to the product and let the product create the stickiness. We have to have constant communication into our customer base. So what do we use? We use email, as a program and a tactic, we send our customers a communication, our goal is, once a week, we want to get some type of customer communication into our base. And oftentimes, we’re actually holding back because we have so much to inform our customers, we don’t want to overwhelm their inboxes. And we really want to create value for them. 

So we typically have a once a month newsletter, and then during the other weeks of the month, we have a communication program, that’s an email that goes out. And really, it’s to keep them informed about a number of different things that are of value to them. So sometimes it might be content related in what’s going on in our industry and how it impacts their business, things like driver shortage, infrastructure and administration, things like that. But they’re gonna have an impact on the business. And it’s really about what we’re reading and what we understand is going on. And then the other thing that we have a lot of updates on is the product feature functions. 

So new features and functions, as well as partner integrations, one of the ways that we add value to our customers, allowing them to work in a platform, that’s an end to end solution, which means they need to be able to bring the tools of their choice and integrate with our platform to give them that capability. So we’re making announcements about that. And then of course, we have all kinds of other things going on. from a marketing standpoint, we have our user conference scheduled in August, that we’re sending out invitations to include them and that we offer free monthly training, the recorded training webinars that they can go and brush up their skills, or if they have new people joining their team, then it’s about how they can get those folks trained up. Then we also use the product itself. 

So in this is one of the tactics that you’ll see is used in that. And it kind of transitions me into what you can do to attract new customers. For for marketing SaaS versus a hard good, we use the product. So if they’re in the product, you can do those pop ups or those notifications in the in the product while they’re in that moment or in that experience. And you can get either messages or call to actions in front of them from within the product. So that’s kind of like on the customer side. But on the on the tactics and strategies that software and service companies use that I found are a little bit different than in the manufacturing side, there are a couple other things that are unique to that. That’s the great experience that I’ve leveraged in my past as well. And before I bore you with that, do you want me to go into that? Or did you have another question there on the customer side?

Steffen: No, I actually think you shared some great content there as it relates to you know how to engage with with existing customer and keep them informed on what you’re doing from implement platform perspective, while you’re developing it further. How they’re keeping them close to you, etc. Now, with any marketing activity, obviously, to be successful, you have to identify your target audience, the people that use the product, the people that make a decision about buying the product, and how do you go about that? How do you identify the people that use the product? And the people that buy the product? Are they different? Or are they the same?

Charity: Sure, so we have two segments of our business where that answer differs. So in one group, they’re the same. So we have a transportation management platform that’s designed specifically for carriers. And in many cases, the buyer is the user. So as high as 94% of the carrier market is what is considered small in terms of its trucking load volume. So we have a lot of what’s called owner operators. And so to your to answer your question very pointedly. The industry is regulated. So there is a federal carriers motor association. And they have a list of all the carriers who register with the government to maintain safety and, and healthy regulation. And so from that standpoint, yes, our market is described, we understand who our buyer is, and for most companies, the buyer in the user plans, or you’ll have the president of the company or very high level VP of operations, and they’re really not too many degrees separated from the actual users. 

So for that side of our business, it’s easy to identify who our target audiences and then engage with them with the right content about what it is that they’re trying to do and leverage in their business which is typically managing more freight. Without having to add additional human capital to support that first level of growth, over time, they’ll grow in a team of team members. But as soon as they onboard and invest in a software, they’re going to be able to manage more freight and more volume with fewer people. So the business owner, and the users are often very worked very closely together, or sometimes they’re the same people on our shipper side of the business, that’s more challenging for our organization to target our audience. 

Because these are the folks who manufacture the product, or distribute the product. And they have larger teams, they have broader areas of responsibility, they have to manage inventory and supply. It’s just a broader supply chain role. So finding who our target audiences there is definitely more challenging, and we’re talking to different people. So that’s where you’ll see the breakdown between your initiator influencer, buyer, decision maker user. And that’s what we as marketers are more accustomed to, to understanding in a buying process. And for that side of our business, it is definitely more challenging. And we find those folks by targeting named accounts or an account based marketing strategy.

Steffen: Yeah, that makes that makes total sense. Now, as it relates to strategies and tactics, I would assume they differ for the two. I mean, just because do you have different target audience? But what are the strategies and tactics that SaaS companies use to to generate new customers?

Charity: Absolutely. So going back to that original comment about being digital, so you have to have that digital presence and be always on. So making sure that you’re searchable and indexable and finable. And one of the other highlights in terms of software as a service versus other products that I’ll highlight those that are somewhat different in the market. One is these online analysts, or gardeners and foresters, that’s something that I didn’t I didn’t have to experience early in my career. You know, with my marketing outreach that I found, as soon as I stepped into technology, they have a place and that buyers journey. 

And depending on the size of your company, it could be pretty important. So for example, you know, mentioning earlier, there’s no brick and mortar, you can’t pull up to software depot and go inside and touch and feel things. But in the fast world, gardeners and foresters, software, advice, jeetu crowd, that’s where these folks come into play. And so a lot of marketing strategies will involve having your products present in those online comparison and analyst tools. And some of the really larger or meet large companies, you know, there are folks, when they decide that they’re going to make a technology investment, they’ll go there first. And they want to know who’s in the leaders quadrant, who are the front runners, you know, who are the respectable brands that I’m not going to take a risk if I invest. 

So that’s definitely one of the tactics that you’ll see used frequently in SaaS companies that are a little bit different from others. The other thing that’s really, really effective, this is one of my favorite tools to use historically. And then now today, is your freemium model. And this is the whole concept of letting your product sell itself. If your product isn’t so technical, that it doesn’t require months of installation and implementation, you can offer your potential prospects of free trial, or the freemium where you give them a portion of your software for free. And then you know, unlock the rest through a paid subscription. 

So that’s also one of the marketing tactics and strategies that really sets us apart. That is really advantageous for us as marketers, if we can get folks to kick the tires of our product before and many times before they engage with a salesperson, and you can get them to adopt or feel the value that it is that your product provides. That’s a really great opportunity. So free trial is another strategy and tactic you’re going to see a lot in SaaS companies.

Steffen: Interesting, interesting. Now, those information obviously has to be communicated. There are certain channels, like probably paid search that work across a number of industries, I would assume the same applies to, to SaaS, obviously, but others other channels that you have experienced that were better or not so good for SaaS campaigns to promote, you know, promote SaaS products.

Charity: Yes, absolutely. So, yeah, let’s break that down. Paid search, great for an inbound lead flow in highly transactional. So this is part of the reason why I fell in love with marketing, you know, early on versus something like engineering, because these are the types of answers where it’s not usually hearted fix. It depends. Right? So if you’re selling a product, if you’re selling a technology that has a faster sales velocity, you’re good to go. towards some of those digital channels first and foremost, so for example, the owner operators that I mentioned here at PCS, a lot of those folks come to us through channels like paid search. And it’s, it’s a great avenue for leads for our business. 

However, we don’t get a lot of our larger companies, like shippers coming to our website and filling out a form. That’s not their journey. So paid search is an example where for us, that doesn’t work so well. And that’s where we have to pivot, and we have to deploy account based marketing strategies. So this is about really understanding what businesses could be potential customers for us what types of goods that they’re moving? Do we have current customers in our portfolio that mirror the type of product or goods that they’re moving? Can we make a connection, and then channels like LinkedIn messaging, Salesforce navigator, doing paid social ads to get in front of those people? outbound prospecting? 

So phone calls are a huge driver and an account based marketing approach? But definitely not something like paid search. So when you’re really looking to answer those questions, you have to ask yourself, like, what is that buyers journey? What type of sales cycle is this? Is this something that’s transactional, when somebody can pay or subscribe with a credit card off of one or two conversations? Or is this something where there’s going to be a lot of decision makers and influencers as part of the process that takes months? And it’s really going to shape what type of marketing tactics you choose to use.

Steffen: Yeah, you mentioned paid social, Charity. Which paid social channels have used found to be good for, for the activities that you are doing, whether that is you know, for the smaller companies or for the enterprise companies,

Charity: Honestly, for the enterprise companies, and it’s not something that drives the high level of conversion as much as a touch point or awareness. So this is really about the marketers putting together the cocktail. So you know, if we’re, if we have an account, or a business that we think we could be a potential good customer, it’s, are we in front of the right people. So it’s, it’s getting in front of them through a lot of different avenues and social is just one. But one of the ways that we use that, of course, we have call to actions, and we want them to either request information or ask for a demo. But really, those types of tactics are giving us lift and in are contributing to awareness. And as a marketer, it’s challenging for us internally to be able to monitor whether or not that paid impression had an impact on a later conversion, you know, really weaving that all together from an operational standpoint to get clear visibility into that attribution is a challenge. Yeah, definitely a challenge.

Steffen: Have you found any attribution solutions to help you answer that question? If upper funnel activities, whether that’s for example, programmatic might or could be paid social, LinkedIn, for example, to or services, like demand based on Terminus, kind of almost serve the entire funnel? But have you have you found an attribution solution that you use to to help you put value towards the upper funnel activities?

Charity: I love that question. We have not made the investment yet into something like demand based or Terminus. But as we go through these links, their marketing and sales cycles, we recognize the importance and the place for for having something that’s more comprehensive. So today, we have what I’ll say is a more expected or typical marketing tech stack. So we’re leveraging our marketing automation, which is par dot and Salesforce. But when it comes to understanding the full funnel impact, no, we don’t have a tool today, we can tell you know who’s on the list for the paid social or whether or not we had an impression? And really, we’re monitoring where was their place of convergence? 

So it still takes a little bit of a manual process on our end to say, okay, was that named account? Who we know, as a named account? Did they convert and where did they convert? And then, of course, we know a lot of the different promotions that we’ve done into them through these different channels. But I absolutely love Terminus and demand base and some of these tools that are allowing this account based marketing process to really bring full visibility into that. But we’re at a crawl, walk, run. So lots of lots of changes here, lots of investments over the last 12 months. And as we continue to attract a larger customer, things like that type of technology are going to be increasingly important for our business.

Steffen: Yeah. How are you working with your with your with the sales side of the business because obviously, what marketing creates is leads right and from from a marketing perspective, quite often, a lead is a lead. There’s not much of a difference. You go to mqr, I would assume and then define whether you know, it’s a private email address that might be exclusion factor, for example, or if the information that were provided in the form fill legit, for example, but but how do you work with your sales team or with the sales team in getting feedback on, on which leads actually are more valuable so that you can actually do kind of an marketing optimization based on the quality of the leads?

Charity: Yes, yep. Okay, so it’s a little bit different, again, going back to which of those target customers it is, whether they’re on the longer sales cycle, or, or the shorter carrier side of our business. Our inside sales team, that’s it, and they’re not business development reps, they’re a but they’re called inside sales, because they’re not out in the field. But this is the team that really drives more of the transactional sales. And we’re, we have a good line of open communication. So we’re constantly running different programs and, and different, I’ll say visibility. So for example, like on paid search, we can tell what keyword was used when they converted, and we bring that in and share that with a sales team. And as they begin to work with these different prospects, they’ll find things that are not a good fit. 

And then they come back to the marketing team. And it’s usually just through email, telling us just speaking to us, or in our monthly meetings, so we’ll meet with them, we try not to meet with a sales team and the last week of the month. So usually, it’s like the first week of the month in the mid month. And we’ll talk to them about the different things that marketing has going on that we’re testing, and we’re rolling out. And then we just have more of an experimental approach. And then we tell them the things that we’re working on and how we’re trying to experiment. And then we ask them for the feedback. 

So like, what’s working? What’s not? What ideas do they have? And a couple of the, again, just some use cases, you know, we found when we optimized our paid search channel that we attracted the wrong set of people. So folks, were converting on some of our pages for things like courses, how to start a business, training type stuff, finding loads, or finding capacity in the market, people were searching for loads that and services that provide that, which our business does not do, you know, so, so they come back and they say, hey, I’ve got this, and then marketing can quickly go into those digital channels and tweak those campaigns and say, you know, let’s make this a negative keyword. 

So what other two negative keywords with or will say, hey, people are really searching for this, and then we’ll create a really unique campaign on just that exact, that exact term to try and drive higher conversion. So with the inside sales team, it’s a really easy relationship, it’s just a lot of back and forth. A lot of those types of things that we’re talking about in this marketing channel are quick optimizations, right? Not a lot of heavy lifting, like school program. On the field side of the business is much different. So we’re working with a field rep. And honestly, that’s where you’re going to see greater collaboration, and more communication. So it’s kind of like a cohort will have a business development rep, who’s on the marketing team. 

And the business development rep is partnered and paired with our account based marketing specialists, who was working campaigns and events and opportunities. And they work directly with the Field Sales Director. And so you get this cohort that comes together to understand who we’re targeting, why we’re targeting them, the messaging that we’re using to target, and then what are the tactics? And then how do each of those folks play a part? And it becomes like this, this team approach to driving penetration into larger businesses. So that relationship is that it? Like I said, it’s more like a cohort. These folks meet regularly during the week. They’re targeting accounts together. They’re collaborating on their outreach. And it’s just, it’s just much more focused.

Steffen: Yeah, that makes that makes a lot of sense. Well, Charity, we, we unfortunately, come to the end of today’s podcast episode. Thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast, and sharing your knowledge on challenges SaaS companies face. If people want to find out more about you, about PCS software, how can they get in touch?

Charity: Oh, thank you so much. So I’m on LinkedIn, that is my primary and preferred channel for connecting so Charity Araoz on LinkedIn. And when it comes to PCS, if you’re in the business for driving disruptive change in the logistics transportation industry, please visit PCSsoft.com. We have an opportunity for those who want to integrate with our platform platform to request to become a partner. And of course, if you are operating in a shipping company and have a role in influencing logistics, and you’d like to check out how a transportation platform can make your job a lot simpler, or if you are a carrier moving freight, per said shippers. We are definitely someone you want to talk to as we’re bringing these platforms together and allowing shippers and carriers to work together in one transportation management platform. 

Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you’d like to perform sentiment podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. IF you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at Symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.

Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience focused and data driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com