When it comes to B2B marketing, you're not going to get very far with a 'one-size-fits-all-approach'. It's important to scale your marketing to your different customers, both in terms of how you address their different needs, but also the resources you allocate.

Shawn McKee, CMO of rehab therapy platform WebPT, knows this all too well, as their customers can range from solo practitioners all the way up to country-spanning corporations. He joined us on a recent episode of CMO Convo to share his insights and advice for CMOs, now available in written form below for you to enjoy.

We cover:

Shawn's professional background and role at WebPT

Many people in the CMO Alliance are in the B2B space,  and they're in the SasS space.

So, marketing to SMBs and enterprises is their bread and butter. This is what they need to know how to do well. But before we get into the nitty-gritty, how about you introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about your background and your role at WebPT.

I'm happy to do it. I've been at WebPT for a little over six years now. I joined in 2015, running all of the marketing department. I ran product marketing brands, ABM, digital communications, the full gamut. We also have an e-commerce part of the business where we conduct sales through a website. There was a very broad range of roles there. I'm also heavily involved in pricing, which I think is unique in a marketing role, although I don't think it should be.

And I've been here for a while, and I’ve really seen it grow. The company's definitely changed a lot and evolved in my time here. I think one of the things that I'm excited to talk about today is that we started as an SMB company, and then moved upmarket.

I talked to a lot of CMOs and marketing leaders, and that is a really common thing for SaaS companies to do. They start in one area, and then they try to move upmarket. I'm happy to share some of the trials and tribulations and lessons learned as we did that over the past four to five years. I've been in healthcare for about 10 years now.

I started in sales, which I think is a great background for a marketing leader to understand what it's like to have to go and hunt and find your own leads. I also have a background in digital and content marketing, which I think really builds the foundation of a lot of what I do and the way I think about the funnel.

I think with WebPT, we've done a load of great stuff here. We launched an ABM program,  we evolved customer marketing from a single product, SMB marketing engine to a Multi-Product across the full market. We won a lot of awards across that timeframe. I'm happy to share some of the things we've done there and how we've become the market leader in our space.

Awesome. Yeah, just thinking about your background, when people talk about CMOS needing to be generalists, how you definitely have to run the full gamut, you've covered pretty much everything that fits under the CMO role it seems.

Before WebPT, I was at a startup. And at one point, we were a four-person marketing team. I kind of jumped in and did everything. If we needed to set up an AdWords campaign, if we needed to build out our Marketo lead scoring, I’d be involved. The point is, I had a chance to really do a lot of different things. I ultimately ended up running the SDR team there.

That kind of background gives me an ability to understand and know and ask questions of my team now that I maybe wouldn't necessarily be able to if I hadn’t had that experience. They're all better at their individual roles than I am. That's why I bring them in. But I know enough to be dangerous. And I think to ask the right questions. I think it's important to have a little bit of variety in your background if you’re trying to lead a whole team.

Why make the distinction between SMBs and enterprises?

So, let’s go right back to basics. Why is it important to make a distinction between marketing towards SMBs and enterprises? What are the differences that we need to keep in mind when marketing towards them?

I think there are a lot of differences. But I think at the highest level, this strategy can be the same or similar. I'm very much preoccupied with building thought leadership and partnership and credibility and community at the top and being that trusted partner in the industry.

I think that really resonates, whether you're SMB or enterprise. But I think all the things underneath are different. You've got to know that each of these businesses has different people in it. In our world, we market for the SMB space. We market to physical therapists, it's an electronic medical record and practice management solution.

In the SMB space, you've got someone who's an owner, operator, someone who got into this business because they care very much about the work they do. And then you've got their patients. They want to heal and help people.

But they're trying to understand how to run a business as well. They have a doctorate in physical therapy, but they don't have an MBA, so they're not necessarily sure how to run their business. So, a lot of what we do there, from a thought leadership perspective, is think about what we need to understand better about their business. What can we help them with inside the four walls of their clinic? We have to be able to provide value to them.

When you flip that to the enterprise side, you’ve got people coming from these large organizations, and they're leading, but they're not physical therapists most of the time. And so at that point, you want to help them understand and be a trusted partner in the industry. We may focus a little bit more on larger macro trends affecting the business. Leaders need to understand the key metrics, and they need to understand how to manage people.

They may want to understand better how, for example, orthopedic surgeries are going to impact the future of outpatient physical therapy. I think the themes become different, and the stories become a little bit different, but the key elements in the key strategies stay the same.

I think we also think a lot about the channels with which we go to these people and to market. Obviously, everything over the past couple of years has been more virtual and digital, but traditionally the channels you take to these different audiences are different. You want more exclusive in-person events for the enterprise, whereas webinars work really well and more in the SMB space.

One of the things we're looking at right now is doing more podcasting because it does seem like something that does tend to bridge those two different audiences. It's always nice when you can find something that hits both. But you always have to look at where they are, and where they're consuming content.

So, to put it in a marketing context, it sounds like the big difference is the gap between buyer persona and customer persona. You have these gaps between people paying for the product, and the people who are actually using the product, depending on the scale of business. And that's something you've got to address through marketing.

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's really the classic buying team vs buying person, right? I don't care as much about the workflow, I care more about the data that I get out the back end. It’s very different from the account-based approach where you're getting champions and influencers and pulling that team together on the enterprise side.

This is as opposed to the SMB side, where there are maybe two people that you've got to connect with. I think it's the execution that matters. I think it's a pretty simple concept to understand, but it is hard to execute.

It's gonna be hard to execute because it's a lot of different people. You've got to know how to target them. How can you reach so many different people with messaging that's going to appeal to them?

I think it matters a lot. We have a dozen or so personas that we use and they're very detailed in their roles and demographic data. What do they think about change? What do they think about technology? What keeps them up at night? And that helps us to tailor those interactions.

It's one thing to get in front of them, but the more important thing is to have a message that resonates. How do all those pieces tie together, and how do you weave that all back into a single story to solve their problem?

And each piece matters differently for each individual. I think when you go into this enterprise space, the therapist cares very much about the EMR efficiency, whereas the buyer, the CFO, or the CEO, wants to know about efficiency.

But they also get the benefit of higher employee NPS, less turnover, better retention. They also want to see the efficiency as well. By the way, it all ties the data back together for them. So, they can manage who's performing better and see those different things there. I think a lot of the messages are the same, but the priorities of those messages shift based on whether we’re talking about enterprise versus SMB, and who the target is.

Understanding your audiences

In an ideal world, you would have a specific campaign that presents those priorities to the person you're targeting in the right way. Is it possible if, for example, you’re low on resources? Is it possible to do a campaign that manages everyone at once? Are you just wasting your time trying to hit everyone at once with something that is maybe spread too thin?

I am a big, big fan of reusing, recycling, and repurposing. I think you want to build out a high-level messaging framework that can cover almost everybody. When you think about those specific benefits and points, I think that's the part where you start to play with the message. If we're launching a campaign, the three key things are efficiency, patient experience, and an ROI. You may see on the low end, or on the SMB side, ROI is less of a concern.

They want to know how their patients are going to respond to it, and that they're going to be efficient. You may change the priority and focus a little bit more on the top end, focusing more on ROI. In which case you'd float that ROI to the front of the line.

The other things still matter, but that's what they care about. And you may go into a little bit more detail in that and talk about how much they're going to increase your efficiency per day. So. I think you can use the same messages, but you just maybe have to reprioritize them a little bit. And that keeps you from having to do a load of rework, but it also makes it more relevant to each of those segments and personas.

It's gonna be quite tricky to initially come up with those messages that can hit all those bases. What kind of process do you use to try and identify those key messages that could apply across different stages of business?

Yeah, so we do a pretty detailed industry survey every year. That gives us a lot of quantitative data around what people are looking for. What are the industry challenges? it breaks apart by segment and by role, etc. We started that in 2017.

And we're getting around 7000 responses every year. That's really become the backbone of our market research. We do focus groups, individual wind loss, and data surveys. We work closely with the product team as they're building out features and products to understand where they’re headed.

Then we do a market landscape overview and see how we're comparing next to competitors and see how that works. In our world, you have so much variation. On the low end, you've got a single therapist and a front desk person. On the high end, you’ve got 1000 clinics and thousands of employees.

There's just so much variation there, and we see a lot of competitive variety as well. There are segments, different competitors, there's low and there’s mid-market. You can tell that story to each of those segments. It’s really just about getting to know customers and prospects in the market.

For example, we did an executive steering committee about a month ago, where we pulled together about 10 of our largest customers and just asked them about what they were thinking. What were their concerns? What were their major challenges? What can we do better? You really just have to spend a lot of time with your customers trying to understand where they're trying to go.

ABM & aligning your team and other departments

That kind of research has got to be valuable to other parts of the business. You mentioned the product department, but it’s really valuable to sales as well. How important is it to share these ways of addressing different stage companies with other parts of the business? Are you communicating that to other teams?

Yeah, it’s very much a collaborative effort. The success team, for example, is in the revenue organization. It’s very much about not just trying to deliver that message of value early on, but also about how you carry that message all the way through. How do you tailor it to each of these segments, knowing that in the enterprise space, you have a lot of one-to-one contact? They've got a success manager that's maybe calling them every other week or once a month. Whereas on the SMB side, it's a little bit more reactive, right? It's a little bit more like ‘one-to-many.’ We have a very tight loop with product, success, and sales.

We look for feedback, too. If we hear someone churned or we've had a couple of people churn to a competitor, we may look into how their message differs from ours. Or we may hear from sales that they’re hearing more people who are looking for a solution that can cover some other part of the industry. That may strike or trigger a kind of research project where we’re looking for potential new opportunities. Is it a canary in the coal mine? Or is it just a one-off story we're hearing?

With your ABM team, how do they fit into how you market towards different stage companies? Do you keep ABM strictly for very high-level accounts? Or do you have it a bit more spread out between different business stages?

That's a great question. For us, we have six core segments in our core market. There's an overlap between ABM and the digital demand gen team. Those things start to mesh together because you've got targeted campaigns. What I have found though is, they are so different. The SMB side is a high-velocity model where you're just driving through leads and getting through as many as you can, focusing of course on quality and conversion rates.

With the ABM side at the top end, you're talking about an 18 to 24 months sales cycle. The metrics are very different. Our ABM team focuses on the largest kind of two segments and then does some work in that middle segment as well.

They also manage customer marketing as well. We know those segments, and we know so much about those prospects. It's not the same as this high velocity, SMB model. We understand who you are, we understand your pain points, and so we're going to customize that message to you. They really focus on that mid-market and above and on that customer marketing function.

With the ABM process and the SMB process being so different, it's tough to have people switching between the two like that. Is there a way that someone could do that in a very early stage startup?

Say they want to get ABM going in the future, but it's not in the pipeline. They haven't got the resources to get it set up right now. Is there a way that they could meet things in the middle to try and engage both a semi-ABM approach and that high-velocity model as well?

Yeah, I think it would be challenging. I think if you can get your campaigns hyper-targeted, you can be in that space where they are still very relevant. But you're not doing one-to-one campaigns. That becomes very time-consuming because each of those campaigns needs a load of research. You don't just want to send them a pair of socks, you want to send them something relevant.

But ultimately, it always starts with who you're trying to connect with and what message you're trying to deliver? What story are you trying to tell them? I think the more narrowly you can focus on that, the more effective it's going to be.

Definitely. Yeah, you’re always going to be trying to drill down from the big high concept story into the actual purpose of the story as well. It goes both ways, both in terms of targeting and how you develop the narratives and the stories you're trying to tell through your marketing.

Is that something that you've had to think about in setting up these processes? Is that something you've had to train your teams to do in order to be able to hit the right people with the right story beats so to speak?

Yeah, I think it's going back to that question of, who is this for? What's the problem we're trying to solve? What's the problem they're trying to solve? How do we help them with it? If someone knows they're looking for a specific product, then they know that's what they need.

It becomes easy and straightforward to present that. It's a little harder when we have newer and more innovative products and you have to give a more detailed explanation maybe. Then it goes back to, why does it matter? If you're an SMB, you're more engaged with your patients, you're saving time, you're saving them time and you have more touchpoints.

You're not just coming in and saying, “I'm going to do one visit, I'll see you in six months.” It's gonna be twice a week for four weeks, and you’re gonna make sure they finish their care plan,  even though they might be feeling better at week three.

Whereas, if you look at the other side of the coin, with enterprise, If only 30% of patients make it to the end of that course of care, how much money are you losing? So, there's a very clear ROI story. So, that's the story that you present on that end.

You could say, “What if you made $1,500 more per patient? What would that look like?” And so, I think it goes back to educating the market on what their problem is. In that case, if a patient drops out, how does that affect patient outcomes?

And how does that affect your revenue? That goes back to that question: What's the priority for each of those segments and what matters most to them? You find that out by talking to them and asking them questions and spending time in the market.

When it comes to this and emerging technologies, how do you get to understand what the needs are? If you think about customer relationship management, how do you know what the pain points are that need to be addressed with that new product, if it's something that's brand new that people aren't familiar with? How do you go about finding out what the pain points are?

There are a couple of things we do. Firstly, we’ll be looking at the data and what's happening in the industry. With these publicly traded physical therapy companies, you can look at their data as well.

That can give you a sense of whether there's an opportunity here and you can talk to them. In our industry survey, one of the things we do is start to say, what are your major challenges this year? We can collect that information as well. I don't want to give anything away, but that actually influences our roadmap as well. If we start to see a challenge, in a certain area, that may trigger something within the product team. It might trigger them to build something.

That's where we are continuing to go is to figure out where the gaps are. From a  reimbursement perspective, most of these clinics look at pay-per-visit, right? How much are they getting per visit now? They want to get to a value-based care model, but everything moves slowly toward that.

And so they see reimbursement rates going down and their costs going up. How do you help them bridge that? Are there different things you can attach to that? Is it patient volume? Is it better coding per visit? Is it cache-based services?

It's about understanding who the innovators are in the space and it’s about getting along with them and understanding what they're trying to do and what they're thinking about. It’s about identifying the challenges. What are the ways we can solve that with technology?

When it comes to those innovators that you're identifying, do you tend to value the opinions of big enterprises more than SMBs when it comes to this kind of approach?

Yeah, I think so. It’s not always just big enterprises. But there are definitely different mindsets for each of these segments. I think you have a lot of these mid-markets that are looking at the big enterprises, and they're thinking, “How do I become them?” Or they want to get acquired by them.

You see a lot of actual innovation there as well. It does tend to be in the mid-market or above. And then it's just sort of different business types. Some businesses are more risk-averse, whereas some are more experimental. You try to connect with those practices that are looking to shake things up and be a little bit more innovative.

On the SMB side, it's just harder for them to do that because they're so immersed in the day-to-day rhythm that they don't necessarily have a chance to step back and wonder what it’d be like if they tried something new. I think it’s just important to understand who the thought leaders are in the industry.

Tracking your customers' growth

How do you keep track of your customers' growth? When is the time to switch the type of marketing you have? When do you know they've gone from an SMB to large-scale enterprise and know that you need to switch over to marketing them in different ways?

That's a great question. I think it's not easy unless you are really on the larger end. When you hit certain tiers, we start to recognize that we're shifting to more of a one-to-one than one-to-a dozen model. When we look at the SMB side, it's much harder to track because of the volume. About half of our market are single clinics.

They may be adding therapists, but you wouldn't necessarily change the message until they became a much larger organization. It's hard to track that on the way up. For us, I think once you get to a certain size, it's easier to know.

But when you're in SMB, it's pretty difficult to be able to see when someone crosses that threshold for us into mid-market or above. But there's also a lot of acquisition, I think, like most healthcare right now. So that’s also about changing how we approach things, right?

Do you have to prepare the ground for when you're making the switch? Do you send an email? Or is it just a gradual thing where you start exposing the different types of messaging?

Ah, no, I think that's an interesting idea. I mean, when there are acquisitions we’ll send congratulatory emails, and we've sent champagne for the big acquisitions. But now there's a more subtle shift. If it's a major acquisition, we definitely call that out for them and congratulate them and probably send them something too.

It’s about recognizing how their needs are shifting? Do we need to start telling them something different or bringing different products and solutions to them at that point?

And those customer surveys must be helpful for keeping track of the needs and requirements of different customers. If they've said one thing one year, but in the next year, it's clear that the company has gone through growth, you need to address it when it comes to your marketing as well.

Yeah, absolutely I think that's the key. Once you get into that really large space, they become these bespoke campaigns. And so as long as you're keeping close with your customers and having conversations and you're doing quarterly business reviews, you can evolve that. I think, on the flip side, for new prospects, it can be more challenging to do that.

But we're in a very tight-knit vertical. You hear a lot of what's going on around the campfire, and you can kind of get a sense of where things are going and be able to start to tailor your message to that. Trying to time those things appropriately can definitely change the message in the way you approach it.

So, you almost have to be a bit of a fortune teller with it.  You can predict how your customers are going to grow. That must be a very interesting exercise, trying to work out not just how your own business is growing,  but how other people's businesses are as well.

Yeah, especially going through COVID. There are just different ways to grow, right? They all have these aggressive growth goals with strategies attached to them. They're just opening new clinics, and they've got a pattern and a template that they do. And then, instead of opening one at a time, you can buy up 30, right?

And you’re always trying to understand who's on the market. Who's doing what? How do you position yourself to be on the platform of choice? It gets interesting when you talk about consolidation because you start to have different platforms in each of these groups. And so making sure that you're the platform of choice is important.

If you get acquired, or one of your groups gets acquired by a different platform, you have the potential to lose that and get flipped to this other platform. So, yeah, it's definitely about marketing to both sides and thinking creatively about what the story that people need to hear is, as the industry itself is evolving very quickly.

Golden rule of marketing to both SMBs and enterprises

Awesome. Let's tie everything together. What is the golden rule of marketing to both SMBs and enterprises?

I think at the end of the day, everybody wakes up, and they have the challenges they're trying to solve and the day's problems. It could be metrics to your board, or it could be that you're worried about your front desk person quitting, because they seem unhappy. There's just so much variety there.

I think it goes back to who you're serving, what they care about, and what problem you're trying to solve. If you get that right all these other things will start to cascade down. Things like, how do you connect with them? Where are they looking for information? Do they like video? Or do they like blogs? But I think if you can get that right, you can start to be someone that they trust, and that they go to for answers.

And when you get yourself in that position, whether they're using your product today or not, when it's time for them to switch, then you'll be part of that consideration set. And so that's been the focus for me. It's about providing value. When the time comes, you're part of the discussion, you're at the table every time. I guess that's probably the way I would think about it.