Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software delivery model where a user subscribes to a centrally hosted version of the software, rather than purchasing it outright and installing it locally. A recent SaaS industry market report showed that 80 percent of United States end users prefer SaaS for communication and organization purposes. We asked experts for their go-to SaaS marketing tips to help small SaaS businesses keep up with their larger competitors.
Here are 26 of the best SaaS marketing tips from the pros:
1. Use a Sales Prospecting Campaign in Conjunction with Marketing Efforts
Marc Wayshak, Sales Strategist & Best-selling Author, Marc Wayshak.com
Many SaaS sales people haphazardly attempt to reach prospects about seven times during the course of a month and, after no success of reaching that prospect, they ultimately quit and stop following up on that individual. However, the most-effective approach to getting through to cold prospects is the prospecting campaign with the following steps below:
- Send an email and then send a voicemail
- Follow up with a letter and then make phone calls
- Send a package
- Continue with follow-up communication
2. Know Who You’re Selling To
Noa Eshed, Co-founder & CEO, Bold Digital Architects
By the inherent online nature of SaaS, marketers are “forced” to hack their way to growth online. A good starting point to learning your target audience is to learn all you can about your current customers. Once you’ve mapped out who your ideal buyers are, put yourself in their shoes and understand the journey they go through leading up to a purchase. Always try to get prospects to get a feel for the software as early in the marketing funnel as possible.
So, for example, if you turn strangers into leads successfully using gated content like offering them an e-book in exchange for their email address then, once they provide you with their email, tell them you’ve taken the liberty to sign them up to your SaaS as a free user. Next, email them with useful tips on how their new subscription can help them be best at what they do.
Don’t stop with an effective marketing strategy. You need to make sure that you have a system in place to assist you with your individualized follow-ups. Use Pipedrive to help you, monitor leads in the different stages of your pipeline, measure your team’s sales performance and evaluate your sales pipeline with an easy-to-use platform. Click here to sign up for a free trial of Pipedrive CRM.
4. Align Your Ads to the Buyer’s Journey
Roy Harmon, Owner, Advertoscope
Use remarketing lists to align your advertising to the buyer’s journey. For example, create a campaign in Facebook using the traffic objective. Target an awareness ad set to serve your blog posts to a broad audience using interest targeting. Then, create a consideration ad set to serve consideration stage content to a remarketing list of website visitors who viewed your pages like your features page. Finally, create a decision ad set that targets people who have been to your demo, pricing or other decision stage pages. Serve them with things like demo sign-up ads and case studies.
5. Use Your Data for Content Marketing, PR & Organic Brand Building
Brad Plothow, Vice President of Brand & Communications, Womply
Most SaaS companies sit on a treasure trove of data, but very few unlock it to tell great stories and generate awareness. A few notable exceptions are Glassdoor, SurveyMonkey and HubSpot.
At Womply, our software is powered by transaction data for millions of American small businesses. In addition to providing a seamless product experience, this data helps us tell great stories about trends in consumer interactions with local businesses. So far in 2018, we’ve published some great content marketing assets, including our Small Business Almanac and State of Local Restaurants report, and we’ve secured 99 press stories in regional and national media, including USA Today, BuzzFeed and Forbes.
Any SaaS company can follow this same pattern by building a strong connection between the data science and marketing and PR teams.
6. Gamify the Experience
Jesus Meca, Head of Marketing, Real Focus Marketing
If you have a great product, people are going to receive a lot of value from it. If you make the experience fun, you are going to create raving fans who share it with the world. There are multiple ways to gamify your user experience. Here are two:
- Give awards and praise your customers: If you have a customer relationship management (CRM) system, high-five your customers when they make a sale and make them feel good when they don’t (hey, it seems these people weren’t a good fit, so you’re closer to the next “yes”). If you have an email marketing company and one of your client’s emails has a higher open rate, you can send them a message like, “Wow, your copywriting headlines are becoming awesomesauce. This email got an X percent open rate, which is X percent higher than your usual!” You can do that with short animations, funny Gifs and other tools — something that fits your company’s personality.
- Give them some extra features if they follow specific steps: This could be sharing on social, setting up a complete profile, making their first sale (CRM), sending their first email (email SaaS), inviting two new users, and so on. You don’t need to create “new” features — just make some you were already adding as a “standard” and making it fun to unlock them.
7. Don’t Make Customers Dig for Critical Information
Isha Edwards, Brand Marketing Strategist Demand Generation, EPiC Measures, LLC
Standard yet essential features like Contact Us should always be at the top-right of any layout. Don’t make customers click on two or three links to get help. Each additional step required to get to a solution exasperates busy people. If it’s a complex problem, allow customers to call to talk through it. There is nothing like having two hours or several days worth of email responses for a problem that can be solved with a 10- to 15-minute call. It’s OK to compile solutions to problems but don’t list them under FAQs, which should be more about your process and corresponding rules. List solutions to problems under “Troubleshooting” or “Resolutions.”
8. Make Use of Account-based Marketing Funnels
Tim Jernigan, Head of Product Marketing, Badger Maps
Account-based marketing (ABM) funnels are a hyper-effective way to market your SaaS business. Define your most important customer groups by title, industry or any other narrow segment. Then, make content for their specific decision-making process. Where are they searching for answers to their problems? What would interest this particular group about your solution?
Go deep — think of their specific challenges and how you play a part in solving them. At the end of your funnel, you should incorporate some personal outreach. An email or phone call does wonders for conversions. ABM funnels target very specific market segments, helping you cut past the noise of traditional marketing messaging and focus on your very best customers.
9. Get Your Startup Listed on All the Tools Lists and Review Sites
Marko Saric, Freelance Marketing Consultant, HowToMakeMyBlog.com
These can be considered as low-hanging fruit and are a great place to start in your outreach efforts. Reach out to all the sites that have published different tools or apps or resources pages relevant to your product. Introduce them to your product, get them to try it (maybe with a free trial or even a free subscription) and eventually add it to their list too. Use Google to find these different lists by searching for your broad topic and adding keywords like “tools,” “apps,” “reviews,” “resources” and “links,” You can find hundreds of these sites, so take some time and reach out to all that you find relevant. This not only helps increase your brand awareness and send you some traffic but also helps boost your search engine rankings.
10. Market Your Products Even After Deals are Closed
Ellen Perelman, Interim Vice President of Marketing, GoodHire
Marketing doesn’t stop after the deal is closed. A SaaS business model is dependent on recurring revenue and customer retention. That’s where marketing comes in, Marketing needs to continue to reinforce product value over time. One tip is for marketing to reinforce value by communicating new and different ways other customers are realizing value. This can include short use cases, longer case studies and testimonials shared through email campaigns and other channels. Another way to do this is to organize forums for users to connect and gain a greater education that includes opportunities associated with the product as well as by their profession or industry.
11. Partner with Existing Clients to Sell Your Story
Brett Tabano, Senior Vice President of Marketing, MediaAlpha
Partner up with an existing client for a mutually beneficial thought leadership piece. Walk the reader through why the client chose your platform, what their expectations were and, most importantly, what the results were. Having a one-sided piece that only speaks to what you do and not discussing the client can be viewed as too self-serving. A reputable client validating your claims is a great resource to leverage, especially when being compared to a competitor.
12. Use Online Paid Ads, Such as Google AdWords
Stacy Caprio, Founder, Accelerated Growth Marketing
Start with a break-even target cost per acquisition (CPA). Then, if you’re able to hit that in a month or two, start optimizing your campaigns with ad copy and image testing, different campaign types, bid optimization, keyword optimization and more. Then, you’ll start lowering your cost so you make a profit on each lead, and you’ll be generating leads in a profitable way.
13. Brand Your SaaS Online
Leslie Linevsky, Co-founder, Dynalog
Purchase a domain name that matches your SaaS. Then, create a dedicated website to promote your SaaS and optimize it for search. Don’t dilute your message with additional information about your company or your company’s other products. Make certain that this site is focused solely on the features and benefits of your SaaS. Use simple graphics to explain how your SaaS can help clients. Include testimonials from current users, news updates and press coverage and lots of images (screenshots) of your product.
14. Don’t Try to Market on Every Channel
Sid Bharath, SaaS Growth Marketing Consultant, SidBharath.com
You don’t have the time and resources to market on every channel, especially if you’re a startup, and you often don’t need more than two or three channels that work really well. Test out different channels early on and if you find one working, double down on it by automating or outsourcing it or hiring for it.
15. Have a Clearly Defined Marketing Budget
Preksha Madan, CMO, AdNabu Inc
One problem I’ve noticed while working with SaaS companies is that they are not sure about “How much should you invest in marketing?” I think it’s really important to crunch these numbers before starting any kind of marketing investment. A calculation I recommend and I’ve seen working perfectly for a lot of my clients is below:
- [Cost of acquisition* < (1/3) x (Total lifetime value of the customer**)]
*Cost of acquisition: Maximum cost of acquiring a customer from various channels, including AdWords, Facebook and so on
**Total lifetime value of a customer: (Monthly subscription value) x (average number of months a customer sticks with your product)
If you are a new business and not sure about how long a customer might stick with your product, a safe bet is to assume 12 to 15 months.
16. Embrace Content Mapping
Callie Walker, Senior Inbound Marketing Specialist, MemberClicks
With SaaS marketing, prospects go through a series of phrases, which are where they discover your product, research more about your product, compare your product with other similar products and, ultimately, make a decision about your product (to buy or not to buy). That said, by having a well-thought-out content map, you can create content for each stage of that buying process.
To create an effective content map, spend some time talking to your customers, prospects and sales team (if you have one). Send out some surveys and hold a few focus groups (you may need to offer some kind of incentive). Figure out what type of information people are looking for and when, and then create a content strategy for that buying process.
17. Write Content That Your Target Market is Looking For
Amanda Layman, Founder, Tigris Content Marketing
Keep your blog content focused on the interests of your top-funnel prospects. Don’t get into product details in blog posts; instead, find out what your customers are interested in learning more about, and answer those questions. The more granular each blog post, the better. Your can register your site on Google Search Console, and look at the search terms that are leading people to your site. Focus on improving your top pages, and look at the search terms that are getting a high number of impressions and a low CTR (click-through rate). This indicates topics that your prospects want to learn more about. You can also play around with BuzzSumo to get ideas for what people are sharing about SaaS, and commission your own original content on these topics to get your content shared in wider circles.
18. Post Valuable Content for Your Target Market
Kean Graham, CEO, MonetizeMore
Two of the best SaaS marketing strategies have to do with posting valuable content. First, answer questions. We answer ad optimization-related questions on Google Product Forums, Quora, Twitter and Reddit. We have found that this enables positive interactivity with sub-communities, establishes us as authorities and drives many leads to PubGuru. The second one is by writing round-up posts. A well-executed round-up post based on trending topics in our industry has gotten a lot of views, shares and attention from the most influential players. The extra time it takes to create a round-up post has provided a much greater return vs. normal blog posts.
19. Partner Your Lead Flow with an Equally Strong Customer Retention Strategy
Ben Adkins, Founder, Closer’s Cafe
The two most important elements in marketing a SaaS are lead flow and customer retention. First, for the lead flow, we create a lead magnet that typically includes a report or video training about the problem our software solves. This report is used to bring in new leads every day and is a high-value piece of content the reader finds extremely valuable but also positions our software as the go-to source. Second is retention. Once we make the sale, our work is just beginning. We drip out an educational series of emails with more in-depth, high-quality training using the product in different scenarios. Our goal is to help them get the most from our software and keep them using it.
20. Help Influencers Market Your Product
Kurt Uhlir, Founder, Uhlir Ventures
Many marketers think influencer marketing applies primarily to business-to-consumer (B2C) markets, and it does work great. However, many of the companies I’ve worked with have seen great success in connecting with and working with the influencers in their business-to-business (B2B) spheres. Each B2B influencer is unique, so make sure you’ve done your homework to know what he or she is interested in before reaching out.
21. Become a Thought Leader
Ken Wincko, CMO, WorkWave
For small businesses, the first step to becoming a thought leader is to identify industry topics that your executives have unique perspectives on and are critical to the market and, from there, create content that inspires and provides practical advice. Use your thought leadership to demonstrate expertise, which creates earned media opportunities — using blogs, social, video and other forms of content to help your company stand out from the crowd. Make media pitches to journalists and connect with key industry influencers to drive advocacy. These techniques help you to maximize market exposure and gain traction for your business.
22. Make Use of Offline Marketing Channels
Karen Gordon, Vice President of Growth, Goodshuffle
Don’t underestimate the power of offline marketing channels. As tech companies, we often get stuck in the world of digital marketing. Depending on your audience, you may find that those seemingly old-school tactics like trade shows are really beneficial for reaching desired clients. You also may find that there are ancillary benefits to networking events and other more direct sales and marketing avenues, such as partnership opportunities.
Marketing in social media can improve your product’s visibility, but knowing how to handle multiple platforms equally can be a daunting task. Use Hibu as your personal digital marketing expert that helps you create, manage and monitor your social media campaigns. This digital marketing solution makes the tasks of targeting people consistently in your local area on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram more manageable. Click here to get in touch with a representative today.
Great feedback from existing clients can improve your brand’s reputation easily, so it’s important that you keep in contact with your software users. This is where email marketing comes in. Choose a platform that you can use to provide excellent customer experience continuously by offering deals and promotions like discounted pricing on new features or even a free upgrade. With Constant Contact, these tasks can be completed in a timely manner with its custom templates and other intuitive marketing features. Click here to sign up for free and see the difference
25. Free Your Team To Do Good Work
Jason Etter, VP of Marketing, Ripple IT
All too often creativity is suffocated by poor technology, clunky user experiences or poorly mapped processes. It does not need to be that way. There are so many tweaks agencies can make to improve the overall harmony of their technology and operations. We are launching a series of in-depth content on how to modernize IT for your office and team. We have learned that business owners prefer to have their office be a space for innovation versus a place to store machines and boring desks. The more technology that lives in the cloud, the more freedom a team has to do good work.
26. Don’t Forget the Value of Empathy
John Farkas, CEO, Golden Spiral Marketing
Empathy for your buyers isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s a strategic business decision. We talk to and work with many SaaS clients who are trying to swim in this ocean, introduce their latest and greatest product, tell their story, and generate demand. It’s crowded, noisy, and undifferentiated. Remember to be pragmatic, not esoteric. Empower the user, not the software. Recognize the reality that however awesome your service may be, it’s only one part of a much larger day-to-day digital ecosystem users have to contend with.
Bonus tip: Automate, Automate, & Automate!
Carl Niedbala, Co-founder & COO, Founder Shield
Email automation is a mainstay for any SaaS companies’ marketing strategy. Mapping emails and messaging to the buyer journey is critical to nurture leads down the funnel and improve retention. But it doesn’t end there, what you can automate is only limited by your imagination with integration platforms like Zapier and IFTTT.
Some of our favorite marketing automation include:
- Use drip campaigns for link building (personalization is key here).
- Automatically post new blog posts to social accounts with RSS feeds.
- Connect lead capture forms to CRM system.
These may seem like small tasks off your plate but they really do add up and allow your marketing team to focus on new projects, strategy, and growth.
Over to You
A great product still needs a well-planned marketing strategy in order to succeed. We hope these tips help make it so your SaaS business hits the ground running.
Do you have more SaaS marketing tips worth sharing? Let us know in the comments!