: Six SaaS Marketing Questions with Shopify Plus' Head of Marketing, Hana Abaza

Hana Abaza is the Head of Marketing for Shopify Plus, the ecommerce platform’s upmarket offering for high-volume, fast growing businesses, which include household names like Red Bull, Nestle and Unilever, as well as companies who simply started small and grew alongside Shopify over the years. Prior to that, she spent several years in leadership roles at Uberflip, a platform that helps manage and personalize content experiences at every stage of the buyer journey.

We sat down with Hana right before our SaaS Showcase Ottawa event to ask her a few rapid-fire questions on sales and marketing for SaaS companies.

What makes the ideal Demand Generation candidate for a growth-stage SaaS company?

This may depend on the company, business model and go-to-market. I generally default to the “T-shaped marketer” framework and look for someone who is strong in both positioning / messaging as well as funnel marketing.

Do referral programs work for SaaS that targets B2B?

It really depends on the product and which segment of B2B you’re targeting.

In my experience, it’s tougher to make it work when you’re selling to (really) big enterprise, but not impossible. It also depends what we mean when we say “referral” program. There are a lot of ways to approach this – one to many, one to one etc.

There are also great examples of companies that have a B2C2B model which are able to leverage a referral mechanism on the B2C side but then sell into the bigger organization (Dropbox, Expensify are a few that come to mind.)

How do you change the price of your SaaS product without upsetting existing customers?

It’s tough! And, there are a lot of ways to approach it. For example, you could decide to grandfather people in at the old price for a period of time. Or, simply increase the price across the board as of a specific date.

In either case, you need to be clear and transparent as to why the price is changing and what the value will be. How will this make their life better? At the end of the day, this comes down to better alignment between perceived value and pricing. Alexa Hubley from Unbounce has presented a case study on a pricing change they went through which is worth watching.

A few things to remember:

  • Someone will always be unhappy, no matter what
  • If the pricing change signifies a fundamental shift in your target audience or go-to-market you’ll likely lose people (and sometimes that kind of churn is okay… if those people aren’t really your customers)

What is your best B2B retention strategy and why?

There are a ton of strategies to combat churn and depending on the scenario. What it comes down to is understanding who is churning (i.e. is it a specific segment?) and why people are churning in the first place (product? don’t see value at the current price? poor onboarding or customer experience?)

What you do really depends on what’s happening at the root of your churn problem.

Here’s an article I wrote awhile back about churn.

How do I convince a B2B tech company CEO that marketing is important?

I’d want to start by understanding why they don’t see it as important.

The term “marketing” is incredibly broad and different people define it in different ways. When you say “marketing” your CEO might immediately think one thing, while you’re talking about another thing. I’d suggest leaving the marketing lingo behind and explain – in plain language – what the outcomes of good marketing and the impact it can have when it comes to accelerating growth.

If you were hiring a head of sales for a high-priced, niche B2B SaaS product, would you focus on general B2B SaaS sales experience or on market/customer knowledge, assuming it will be very difficult to find a candidate with both?

It depends on the complexity of your market/customer.

If you’re selling into an industry that’s very complex, there’s a big advantage in having someone with a deep market/customer understanding. If not, and the market/customer/product is teachable, then someone with B2B SaaS sales experience might work really well.

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