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Hennika Kestilä

Hennika Kestilä
Head of Growth at BugHerd: on the integral relationship between product and marketing in SaaS.

At Marketing Trends, we are discovering what drives Australia’s top marketers. Hennika Kestilä leads Growth at BugHerd, a visual feedback tool that’s seen demand skyrocket on the back of the remote work revolution. In this interview, Hennika outlines emerging trends in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) marketing, key industry challenges and software that best aids full-funnel marketers.

Career & professional background

Hennika, how did you start working in marketing?

I found my first marketing role/internship at Yves Roche when I had just moved from Finland to Germany at the age of 19. It was a rather accidental find (very lucky) and allowed me to use my language skills and to build my understanding of franchising and mail service marketing. I ended up staying with the company for a few years, building my understanding of various business functions before entering a university in Germany to study international business.

If you weren’t working in marketing, in which other industry do you think you might be?

I would work in Human Resources and business transformation. I love working with people, improving processes and keeping people motivated. I strongly believe that any organisation is only as good as it’s people, and in order to achieve success, you need to provide your people room and space to grow for them to be the best version of themselves. It’s a huge responsibility and accountability for any organisation.

What role does marketing play in your organisation?

I currently lead the growth activities at BugHerd, which is a visual feedback tool for websites. It’s a fully self-serve SaaS business that entirely relies on website traffic that the marketing team is driving to a funnel; website traffic  → leads → subscriptions. Without a marketing function, we would not have a growing business.

The marketing team works very closely with our head of product and the development team to make sure there’s full alignment of company vision and strategy.

In a nutshell, the team works across a full marketing mix; paid search, SEO, display, affiliate marketing/referrals, and EDM & life-cycle marketing. BugHerd is a great product, and we definitely have found our product-market fit.

What type of impact has COVID- 19 had on your industry?

BugHerd has seen strong growth during the COVID-19 outbreak. The early days of the pandemic (March/April 2020) showed some uncertainty on the markets. Many of our customers are digital agencies who lost a lot of business at the beginning, which lead to higher churn and lower subscriptions in Q2 in 2020.

But due to the fact that BugHerd product serves well for teams who work remotely, and +80% of our customers are located overseas, we haven’t been reliant on a single geographical market. After the initial market shakiness, we got back on the growth path at the end of Q2 2020.

The pandemic has actually revealed new customer verticals for BugHerd including online learning and website builders, which have become growth markets for us.

Due to the above, we’ve actually hired quite a few people in the past 12 months to the team, and we keep on seeing strong MRR growth month-on-month.

What is the most exciting trend or innovation happening in your field in terms of marketing?

The SaaS marketing is a very interesting place to be and it keeps on evolving constantly. At the moment, I’m very fascinated by data driven product marketing and product led business strategy that has a direct impact on lead to subscription conversion rate.

We’re very lucky to have a product marketer in the team, who constantly talks to the customers to understand how we can improve the product communication and thus discovering new ways & tools.

Another interesting space on the upper funnel marketing is definitely within the partnership/affiliate marketing space, where the SaaS space is running a little behind compared to B2C. Platforms such as PartnerStack & Impact are leading the way there, opening up doors to this new way of SaaS marketing.

As a marketer, what do you believe is the biggest challenge facing your industry in the future?

This is a hard one, there are a few (3) challenges I’d like to mention here.

If you start from the beginning and from the foundations; (1) finding the product-market fit for your product is a current and a future challenge, it is what will make or break your business. Build a product that solves a real customer problem, and your business will thrive.

(2) From a marketing perspective, it’s definitely data relevancy and marketing attribution. The SaaS product purchaser is very rarely the initial client/decision maker who has the purchasing power. Tracing them back to their origins with current data sets is still something that is being widely worked upon across the SaaS industry.

(3) Skill shortage in digital marketing. This has been widely discussed on several platforms amongst growth marketer, it’s becoming harder and harder to find people who have needed marketing skills and business understanding to grow a business. Many of the skills are not taught in universities & marketing courses, which leaves companies with a skill shortage. Luckily, there are new innovations popping up with learning opportunities, such as Startmate fellowship and Marketing mini MBA.

Tools, recommendations & sources of inspiration

What does a typical day look like for you? How do you structure your week?

My week starts with meetings; leadership meetings are the first thing on Monday morning, followed by the Marketing team WIP where we check on current performance and set our weeks / month goals and focus tasks. Once this is set, the week is planned with relevant projects.

My every day starts with checking campaign & business performance, followed by project work, whether it’s booking campaigns, creating content, working with our SEO or ad specialists, or talking to our partners. We also do a quick 10-15min daily standup with the team to see how we can support each other in our daily work, not to mention that seeing a friendly face while working from home goes a long way ;)

What brands do you take inspiration from?

I generally follow what is doing in the performance marketing space. I also closely follow InVision and  

Software and tools recommendations: which softwares you can’t work without and why?

I could definitely not work without GoogleAnalytics. As a full-funnel marketer it’s extremely important to be able to analyse the user's path to the product, CPA and ROI of any campaign.

What are three resources you would recommend for anyone working in your field?

I'd like to recommend a few:

  1. I recently discovered the Finite community, which brings together SaaS growth marketers around the world. It’s been a great peer resource channel and a place to have an open conversation about the challenges we face in the SaaS marketing space.
  2. Ahrefs or SEM rush is a must for any marketer, you want to base your campaign decision on real data that these platforms can provide you. Not to mention the competitive analysis you can build with the data these platforms provide for you.
  3. To keep your finger on the marketing pulse and marketing innovation, head over to Marketing Week.