The Reality of High-Growth SaaS Companies
For technology and SaaS companies in growth mode, having a high-performing marketing website demands more than a deep pool of capital. Overseeing an effective go-to-market process is a complex orchestration of disparate teams, collaboration, conflict, decisioning, pivots, and handoffs.
The only way to surpass your goals as a high-growth company is to:
Employ a dedicated and integrated marketing website product team
Ensure the 15 elements of your go-to-market process (described below) are optimized.
What is a Website Product Team?
In today’s tumultuous markets, established companies are furiously battling assaults from nimble start-ups. Whichever side you operate on, the prospect of a fast-moving, adaptive organization is highly appealing.
In a nutshell, a website product team is a dedicated and integrated marketing team that only focuses on a company’s marketing website, ensuring it evolves and grows properly alongside the company and its products.
A website product team does what it sounds like: it treats a marketing website as if it were a product, continuously updating and improving user experiences so marketing departments can reach their goals sooner.
When implemented correctly, a website product team almost always results in higher team productivity and morale, faster time to market, better quality, and lower risk than traditional approaches can achieve.
Other Marketing Website Team Setups
Taking this a step further, each element will have a situational analysis highlighting four competing team setups we see often:
Employing contractors: Designers and engineers are hired by the marketing department as external contractors.
An engineering-owned marketing website: The marketing department doesn't have its developers and relies on the product’s engineering team for website updates.
Hiring within: Designers and engineers are hired into the marketing department as full-time employees with benefits.
Hiring a traditional marketing agency: The marketing department hires a traditional marketing agency to handle messaging for all marketing channels.
Let’s get into the 15 important and optimizable elements every SaaS marketing team should keep a pulse on when growing and evolving a marketing website. We’ve grouped these elements into four categories: team expertise, team capacities, team collaboration, and production process.
1) Marketing Team's Overall Expertise
Team expertise focuses on:
Web development expertise
Web UX design expertise
SaaS industry domain knowledge (each team member’s overall knowledge and experience with the nuances of the SaaS industry)
Naturally, these are foundational elements of any SaaS marketing website team, and the quality of talent employed is pivotal to overall success.
A) Web Design & Development Expertise
We’ll get these first two out of the way since they’re pretty obvious.
It goes without saying that the more talented your team of web designers and developers are, the happier and more satisfied your prospects and customers will be thanks to the better—and more enticing—user experiences and journeys they’ll be engaging with.
The same goes for web development expertise. If you’re operating in a fast-paced and technical industry, having access to a team of talented and experienced developers helps protect against bottlenecks and project deployment failures.
Needless to say, these aren’t marketing roles you should be skimping on.
Realities of Other Team Setups
Traditional Marketing Agencies: Knowledge of modern design and engineering techniques can be high, but traditional agencies don't view websites as fast-growing products. Effective cross-departmental alignment, collaboration, and feedback take a back seat to blind "grand reveals" instead of iterative improvement.
Hiring Within: Ultimately, marketers aren't properly equipped to hire engineers and create development tracks for them. Essentially, an engineer’s direct report doesn't have a clue about the work they're doing. Plus, salaries, benefits, and perks are expensive.
Engineering-Owned Website: It’s difficult and time-consuming to align with an engineering department that doesn’t care about marketing because they're focused on improving the SaaS product.
Team of Contractors: It's difficult and time-consuming to find and replace top design and engineering talent, let alone figure out the complex processes needed to scale an integrated multi-stakeholder marketing website with a team of disparate, part-time freelancers.
B) Industry Domain Knowledge
There’s no substitute for industry experience. With it comes knowledge of design elements and user experiences that are more likely to work (and those that are most likely to fail), saving you from potentially expensive lessons down the road.
Each industry comes with its own unique consumer needs and expectations, and being able to meet those needs properly demands a nuanced understanding of industry best practices and trends.
If you’re employing a team of freelance designers and developers or a turnkey marketing agency, getting a pulse on the depth of their experience in your industry is paramount.
Realities of Other Team Setups
Team of Contractors: Contractors can certainly come with high SaaS domain knowledge, but wrangling together a team of disparate contractors is stressful, time-consuming, and full of delays.
Traditional Marketing Agency: It's rare to find agencies that actually specialize in the high-growth technology and SaaS spaces. The technology, integrations, and go-to-market needs can come with steep learning curves.
Hiring Within: Domain knowledge can be high since you can thoroughly vet applicants, however, actually finding top talent with domain knowledge quickly is very difficult, not to mention the extra cost of salaries, benefits, and perks.
Engineering-Owned Website: Domain knowledge can be high, however, harnessing it from an engineering team that doesn’t care about marketing can be difficult and time-consuming.
In short, a knowledgeable and industry-familiar website product team hits the sweet spot for high-growth technology and SaaS companies.
2) System & Process Capacities
Once you piece together a knowledgeable, industry-familiar crew of designers and developers, it’s time to take a look at your marketing team’s overall process capacities. That is your go-to-market speed, agility, and scalability.
A) Go-to-Market Speed
Go-to-market speed is the time it takes your marketing website projects to be deployed. Whether it’s a homepage update, global navigation refresh, new educational content database, or a full website redesign, this is an overall assessment of how efficient your design and development processes are.
We’ll dive into different elements you can optimize to speed up your go-to-market speed in a bit.
Realities of Other Team Setups
Team of Contractors: Corralling a disparate network of part-time freelancers is an inefficient chore for fast-growing websites, and without an already-established and efficient alignment and collaboration processes, can complicate important projects.
Traditional Marketing Agency: This setup inevitably comes with a spread-thin Account Manager as your point-of-contact who manages unaligned and unintegrated design and development teams. Ultimately, you can't move as fast as you could.
Engineering-Owned Website: This setup is notoriously full of delays. Plus, getting a product engineering team aligned with marketing's goals is a time-consuming chore in and of itself. Meeting product feature launch deadlines are notoriously difficult.
Hiring Within: This can be fast if the complex collaboration and alignment processes are already established, which is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to define and implement.
Website Product Team Speed Benefits
A integrated and dedicated website product team should already have the necessary and well-oiled alignment, collaboration, and decision processes integrated. This is why it’s the best option for technology and SaaS companies in growth mode and looking to move quickly.
B) Website Design System
Website design systems are essential. They exist to align marketing website teams, speed up design processes, and improve brand governance. However, the fact of the matter is that some design systems perform better than others in specific business situations.
Atomic Design Systems
Atomic design is a new way of creating user interfaces from the bottom up. Inspired by the world of natural science—where atoms combine to form molecules, which combine to form organisms—the system offers numerous benefits for marketing teams and their websites.
In a nutshell, atomic design systems create a shared design language that enhances scalability. However, surprisingly, this methodology is typically only harnessed by the biggest companies in the world. But fear not, it can (and should) be harnessed by any SaaS company in growth mode.
C) Website Content Model
A content model allows teams to document the different content “types” present on your website. It not only breaks them down into their components but also describes them in detail and maps how they are related to each other.
Content modeling is especially beneficial when it comes to working out how to write, manage, present, recycle, and scale content.
Whether you’re designing a new website or just refreshing your current one, content editors benefit massively from effective content modeling because it helps remove internal friction and ensures the marketing and development teams are aligned on how content should be published.
D) Marketing Team Agility
Team agility measures how easily your designers and developers can pivot projects at a moment’s notice. Being agile is the gold standard these days—especially in the fast-paced SaaS industry—and whether from internal or external forces, marketing departments at high-growth companies need to be able to quickly change directions to satisfy stakeholders.
As enticing as such a vision is, turning it into a reality can be challenging. Companies often struggle to know which functions should be reorganized into multidisciplinary agile teams and which should not.
Realities of Other Team Setups
Team of Contractors: There's nothing agile about a team of disparate part-time freelancers. Fast-growing websites with multiple stakeholders need dedicated design and development teams to keep up with stakeholder needs.
Engineering-Owned Website: There's nothing agile about a development team that's unaligned with (or simply doesn't care about) marketing projects and goals, especially when you need to pivot quickly around re-prioritized tasks/projects.
Traditional Marketing Agency: Most traditional marketing agencies don't operate on agile principles (like brief-but-frequent standups) so alignment on priority shifts isn't as efficient, stunting progress when it's most critical.
Hiring Within: There's nothing agile about taking on the arduous burden of vetting and hiring top talent while simultaneously developing the complex processes needed to scale a website with multiple stakeholders.
Website Product Team Agility Benefits
There are three factors that allow website product teams to achieve and maintain agility throughout the deployment of new marketing projects:
Sprints. These are short, repeatable work phases, typically one to four weeks long.
Sprint grooming sessions. Project-manager-led sessions that allow designers and developers to discuss and consult on project details, system capacities, and lift.
Brief daily check-ins. 15-minute project manager-led daily check-ins for all stakeholders to align on sprint progress, discuss blockers, and redistribute resources.
E) Marketing Team & Process Scalability
Team scalability concerns the ability to exist marketing processes to operate under load.
It’s an important aspect to optimize for high-growth SaaS companies whose websites need to meet the demands of ever-increasing numbers of stakeholders, internal and external.
Not only does team scalability have to do with the ease of bringing on extra design and/or development muscle at a moment’s notice, but also the flexibility of the processes and systems shared between each team throughout the go-to-market process.
Realities of Other Team Setups
Team of Contractors: Not scalable. Part-time freelancers have other contracts that need their attention. On-demand access and scalability can be impossible.
Engineering-Owned Website: Engineering departments are usually spread thin and unaligned with marketing goals, causing slow speed-to-market.
Traditional Marketing Agency: Although traditional marketing agencies can bring in extra muscle when necessary, most don't operate within the agile methodology, missing out on the synergies brought upon by true interdepartmental collaboration.
Hiring Within: Doable, but building a world-class team with effective collaborative processes is difficult, slow, and can be risky if it doesn't work out.
Website Product Team Scalability Benefits
Ultimately, a truly scalable website product team can bring on new team members—designers, developers, or marketers—at the drop of a hat so the speed isn’t sacrificed.
If one of your developers leaves for another opportunity, are you able to replace them quickly? If not, that educational content database you need to be deployed by the end of the week is getting pushed until you find the right team member to continue the job.
Having immediate access to a deep bench of experienced talent is paramount to maintaining speed and scalability.
3) Marketing Team Collaboration Elements
With a birds-eye understanding of the Team Knowledge and Process Capacity elements and their implications, it’s time to dive into the more granular aspects of an optimized go-to-market process.
A) Creative Abrasion
All too often, marketing teams—and the websites they oversee—underperform because they lack a steady stream of innovative and deployable ideas. Although it sounds negative, it’s far from it. Creative abrasion is the ability to generate a marketplace of ideas through honest discourse and debate.
Marketing processes that integrate opportunities for creative abrasion produce higher-quality work more quickly. When harnessed properly, it necessitates healthy conflict between diverse points of view.
Put another way, creative abrasion allows marketers, designers, developers, and project managers to effectively discuss, ideate, debate, collaborate, and consult on system capacities and project lift until alignment is achieved.
Benefits of creative abrasion abound, from stronger ideation to early project failure detection (which we’ll discuss in a bit), however, implementing it properly is no easy feat.
Realities of Other Team Setups
Team of Contractors: Building a culture that excels at creative abrasion is difficult and time-consuming, which resource companies in growth mode don’t have.
Engineering-Owned Website: Creative abrasion isn’t possible where there is no alignment.
Traditional Marketing Agency: Most traditional agencies don't excel at creative abrasion since teams are typically siloed.
Hiring Within: Building a culture that excels at creative abrasion is difficult and time-consuming, which a resource company in growth mode doesn’t have.
Website Product Team Ideation Benefits
One of the best opportunities for creative abrasion is during sprint grooming sessions (discussed in the marketing team agility section above). Sprinkled within the discussions on project details, system capacities, and lift are moments of debate and conflict, managed by the team’s project manager.
B) Creative Agility
Creative agility is the capacity for constant testing and refining of marketing website ideas.
It encourages “discovery-driven learning” where instead of long-term planning, teams incrementally experiment ideas (or variants of ideas) to determine what should be done next, gradually improving and pushing ideas forward by building upon lessons from previous experiments. It's iterative marketing at its best.
Creative agility involves quick pursuit, reflection, and adjustment, and its biggest benefit is its ability to fuel innovation. Ultimately, constant trial and error allow marketing teams to discover the best way forward.
Realities of Other Team Setups
Team of Contractors: Wrangling together a disparate network of freelancers into a predictable cycle of experimentation is nearly impossible for companies in growth mode.
Engineering-Owned Website: Although an unaligned engineering team can help you deploy experiments, doing so consistently is nearly impossible.
Traditional Marketing Agency: Most traditional agencies don't excel at creative agility because they lack agile methodologies, which provide the small, iterative bursts of work experimentation needed.
Hiring Within: Implementing the cultural and agile processes necessary for creative agility is time-consuming, which resource companies in growth mode don’t have.
Website Product Team Iterative Marketing Benefits
The beauty of agile methodology and the short, repeatable sprints it harnesses is that it provides the perfect infrastructure for constant experimentation.
C) Collaboration & Handoffs
What’s the relationship like between your marketing, design, and engineering teams? Are they aligned? Do they communicate often and collaborate effectively?
The performance of your marketing website is a direct reflection of the outcomes of these relationships, which could be your website’s weakest link or strongest asset.
If you’re in growth mode and marketing’s objectives are speed and scalability, getting a pulse on how these departments communicate and collaborate is crucial.
It could mean the difference between a two-hour go-to-market process or two weeks. Ultimately, they have one of four relationships: undefined, defined, aligned, or integrated.
Realities of Other Team Setups: Communication & Collaboration
Team of Contractors: On-demand access can be nearly impossible. Part-time freelancers have other projects to handle, all top priorities with constant fires that need to be put out.
Engineering-Owned Website: Mostly slow. The engineering department has its priorities and will eventually come around to marketing.
Traditional Marketing Agency: A traditional agency won't intimately integrate a website product team into established client processes, meaning less effective communication and feedback loops.
Hiring Within: A marriage between two people who don't speak the same language. This increases confusion, and frustration, and stunts career growth for the developer.
Website Product Team Collaboration Benefits
Effective website product teams have an integrated relationship where the boundaries of the marketing, design, and development teams become blurred and all teams design the relationship to share structures, systems, and rewards.
D) Website Project Failure Detection
Website project failure detection is a benefit that arises from the degree of alignment between your design and development teams.
The more aligned and communicative these teams are, the earlier any possible project weak points or failures will be detected and planned for.
The key is bringing in the development team as early as possible—ideally, even before a brief is sent to the design team to mock up—so they can consult on platform or architecture capacities and needs.
Realities of Other Team Setups:
Team of Contractors: Freelance contractor schedules can be unpredictable, making it nearly impossible for dependable early project failure detection.
Engineering-owned website: Looping in an unaligned development team consistently enough for dependable project failure detection is nearly impossible.
Traditional Marketing Agency: Most traditional marketing agencies don't loop in their development team early enough on a project.
Hiring Within: Developing the predictable agile processes that encourage early project failure detection is difficult and time-consuming, a resource most high-growth companies don’t have.
Website Product Team Benefits
The only way to achieve early project failure detection is with a dedicated and integrated website product team where all team members are in consistent alignment and constant collaboration.
4) Production & Deployment Processes
Everything that we’ve discussed up to this point mostly has to do with company culture and processes surrounding the production and deployment of marketing website projects. Now let's dive into the nuances of these two elements.
Making quick and informed marketing decisions is one of the biggest challenges and sources of bottlenecks for a diverse team of marketers, designers, and developers.
Having systems (for example, an efficient content model and atomic design system) and processes in place that remove internal friction and streamline collaboration is paramount to achieving faster go-to-market speeds.
Realities of Other Team Setups
Team of Contractors: All benefits from better decisions are lost from the inefficiencies that arise from an undependable network of disparate contractors.
Engineering-Owned Website: All benefits from better decisions are lost from the inefficiencies that arise from an engineering department that doesn’t care about marketing tasks.
Traditional Marketing Agency: Most agencies haven't developed processes that achieve true alignment and allow for decentralized, informed, and accurate decision-making.
Hiring Within: It’s difficult and time-consuming to develop processes that achieve true alignment and allow for decentralized, informed, and accurate decision-making.
Website Product Team Decisioning Benefits
Design Production: When companies are in growth mode, removing internal friction within the design team is crucial. Atomic design systems (discussed above) achieve this by providing an aligned framework UX/UI designs can operate within and make quick and informed decisions, speeding up go-to-market velocity.
Development: Just like how atomic design systems improve decisions and speed for design teams, content models improve decisions and speed for development teams.
Website product teams that use both systems operate within a sweet spot that removes friction, achieves alignment, and increases go-to-market speed.
Website product teams are quickly replacing traditional marketing agencies. If you still need convincing, read on 9 reasons why traditional web agencies can't compete with website product teams.