SaaS marketers have it pretty tough.
Aside from the fact that your target audience is inherently very narrow, and that you’re trying to market something that’s continuously changing, most of the marketing advice you find on the big old internet is about marketing a product.
But you’re different, you aren’t simply trying to hock off a product. You’re selling a solution, you’re selling an experience, and you’re selling support. You are selling a service, and your marketing strategy needs to hold that point at its core.
SaaS marketing for startups is even harder, as nobody even knows who the heck you are. Sure, you know why your customers need you, but getting them to see that is a whole other ball game.
That’s why you need a plan, a strategy, a guide to help you navigate common SaaS marketing challenges, and skyrocket your company to marketing success.
What Is SaaS Marketing?
It seems there are an infinite number of types of marketing around these days. Some are aptly named (Social Media Marketing), some are a little more difficult to figure out. Undercover Marketing for example is not about sending out secret agents to whisper good things about your company in peoples’ ears.
So, where does SaaS Marketing fit in all of this?
SaaS Marketing Definition
Obviously, it’s about marketing for SaaS companies. But it doesn’t start and stop there.
Good SaaS marketing strategies have at their core the concept that they are seeking to create a customer for life, not just a one off purchase. This means a huge concentration on building trust in the company itself, not just the software.
Some of the best SaaS marketing success stories are a result of holding true to that notion, creating a genuine connection between customer and company.
Slack is an example of a SaaS company who has done just that, and in the process converted thousands of email fanatics to Slack devotees.
How Is Marketing For SaaS Different?
You’ve heard it time and time again: “SaaS marketing is different”. But the thing is, cliches are cliches for a reason.
So, how exactly is marketing for SaaS companies different from other B2B types of marketing?
Traditional B2B Product Marketing
Long sales cycle - buyers spend a long time on internal buying processes
Short sales cycle - monthly cost makes purchases more digestible
Short term or one off buyers
Long term customers - ideally customers for life
Selling a product
Selling a service
It’s not an entirely uphill battle for SaaS marketers though. One of the major trends in digital marketing right now is a move away from interruptive, outbound marketing channels to a more customer-focused inbound method.
This method of marketing relies heavily on building trust with the prospective buyer, which is exactly what you want as a SaaS company. You’re looking to build trust in your brand, your service, and your support, just as much as you are in the product itself.
SaaS Marketing Plan Metrics
Before you go digging into creating a comprehensive marketing plan for your SaaS company, you need to get real clear on what you’ll be measuring.
Having a clear insight into your measurements of success will help you to determine the effectiveness of any campaigns you run, and make adjustments as you go.
As with anything, the metrics you track will be entirely down to your company’s goals, but regardless of what you decide to focus on, you should definitely be tracking the big three:
- Email subscribers
An important metric in many marketing strategies, website traffic is a key indicator of campaign success. Many of your core strategies will contribute to an increase here, such as your content marketing or social media efforts.
Why Is Web Traffic An Important SaaS Marketing Strategy Metric?
Tracking website traffic not only tells you whether the content you’re pumping out is of interest, it's also a good indicator of the number of customers engaging with your brand at the ‘Discovery’ stage of the buying cycle.
New, unique website visitors means more potential discovering your brand each month.
Email marketing, which we’ll discuss soon, is an incredibly effective way to engage with potential customers. It also offers a pretty attractive ROI.
Why Is Email Subs An Important B2B SaaS Marketing Metric?
At the most basic level, prospects who subscribe to your email list are interested in learning more about what you have to offer. This tells you, in essence, that what you’ve offered them already has been valuable, and that they are hungry for more.
Email subscribers are typically prospects in the ‘Consideration’ stage of the buy cycle.
Qualified leads are for many the ‘classic metric’, and one that every company should be tracking. After all, that’s what all of this is about, right? Getting leads into the funnel for the sales team to engage with, booking SaaS demos, starting free trials, etc..
Why Are Qualified Leads An Important Metric In SaaS B2B Marketing?
This one kind of goes without saying, you need a consistent flow of qualified leads to keep the sales funnel full. More than this though, you should be tracking where these leads are coming from, to determine the effectiveness of your website conversion, form fills, and social media campaigns.
Qualified leads are prospects reaching the ‘Purchase’ stage of the buying cycle, and are prime targets for conversion into free trials or demos.
The 5 Best SaaS Marketing Strategies
Now that you’ve got your metrics and measurements clear, it’s time to build out some marketing strategies. These are 5 of our favourite tactics:
- Content Marketing
- Free Trials
- Email Marketing
There are hundreds of other forms of marketing you can put to work, but to see real growth, we’d start with these.
Content Marketing is one of our favourite strategies for growing SaaS companies. Why?
- It gets your company noticed without the hard-sell
- It's incredibly cost effective
- It positions your brand as a trusted advisor and leading source of information
What Does Content Marketing For SaaS Look Like?
You should start by setting some SaaS content marketing goals, which will be based off of the larger goals in your marketing strategy. Then it’s a simple three step process to success:
- Define - your messaging and value
- Decide - which content types to use
- Distribute - your content, and align with the customer journey
Define Your Messaging And Value
Once you know what’s in it for you, it’s time to think about what’s in it for them (your audience). Grab a pen and a notepad, a whiteboard, or your iPad Pro if you’re the fancy kind, and brainstorm a few answers to these questions:
- What do our prospects want to know about?
- What do we want our prospects to know about?
- What valuable information do we have to share?
The intersection of these three answers is your ideal starting place for content marketing ideas.
Decide Which Content Types To Use
Content marketers have a pretty wide variety of tools in their belt. Though this is a dream for many, it also comes with a few drawbacks. The main one is that it becomes all too easy to get excited about different content types and channels and want to do it all!
The blog is a classic content marketing tool, but you should also consider some other media forms such as case studies, webinars, or eBooks.
Distribute Your Content - Align With The Customer Journey
We all know prospects move through a buying cycle, typically described as a three stage process: Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase.
When designed your SaaS content marketing strategy, be sure to map your content efforts to different stages of the buy cycle. For example, your blog should be educational and full of actionable insights, and aimed at prospects at the awareness stage. By contrast, a free demo or trial might not be appropriate for customers in this stage.
An easy way to view this is to have your Awareness stage content fairly broad, educational and industry related, Consideration stage content more in-depth and product/service/company related, and Purchase stage content decision related.
Awareness Stage Content
Consideration Stage Content
Purchase Stage Content
Saas Content Marketing Example
HubSpot is one of the key leaders in content marketing right now.
They have a ton of extremely valuable, high ranking blogs, as well as offering ebooks, guides, free courses, and technical information from research and reports.
HubSpot’s content is expertly mapped to the customer buy cycle, but is also easily accessible for anyone wanting to self-educate.
It's probably not something you’ll hear often, but we LOVE SEO.
That’s because it’s a long term growth strategy, and when you get it right, you can win big. Quick wins mean quick losses, and there are no quick wins in SEO.
What Does SEO for SaaS Look Like?
SEO isn’t really something that sits on it’s own as a separate campaign or activity. Where some digital marketing activities (PPC for example) can be activated or deactivated, SEO runs through the blood of pretty much everything you do online.
Every time you write a blog, SEO is involved. Every time you create a new landing page, SEO is involved. Every time you publish a new case study, SEO is involved.
Now, whether you choose to fully embrace SEO and truly optimize all of your efforts is a different story.
SEO for SaaS marketing looks at three elements:
Element of SEO
What it means
How it works
The architecture of your website
Analyzes site metrics such as load speed, bounce rates, 404 errors and navigation.
Facilitates changes in the development of the website.
The content on your website
Google’s bots crawl every word on every page on your website (including the blog).
The better your content is optimized for key search terms, semantically related keywords, and provision of value, the higher it ranks in SERPs.
Content on other websites that link back to yours
Links from other sites back to yours (or to your blog posts), tells search engines your content is valuable.
More backlinks (from quality, authority sites) contribute to a higher ranking.
SaaS SEO Example
Do a quick Google search for ‘SEO’ and chances are (depending on your location of course) Moz will be the first result.
And so they should be, they’re experts in their field. They also have a pretty sweet series called Whiteboard Friday, which teaches you the ins and outs of SEO in an easy to digest video format.
This is a standard strategy for SaaS companies. The logic is this: let your product sell itself.
You know just what your software can do, how great your service is, and all of the amazing ways your company can change the lives of your customers. So let them find out for themselves!
What Do Free Trials Look Like For SaaS?
There are a few different ways to offer a free sneak peak to prospects.
One way is the ‘freemium’ model, which involves putting a completely free product to market with no expiry date, and then leveraging these users into paying for higher service levels.
Monday.com uses this strategy to allow users to see the value in their product, making the assumption that once a prospect has gotten their hands dirty, they’ll see they need a little more functionality and hopefully upgrade to a paid plan.
The other option which is popular among SaaS companies is to offer a limited-time, free trial of the full software package. By giving prospects access to all features, they are more likely to find something they like in the top-tier version of your product and realize they need it.
Example Of Free Trials In SaaS
Many sales CRMs use this strategy, such as Pipedrive:
It’s a brilliant way to let your prospects get a hands-on feel for the product, and is also a perfect time to offer a free demo with one of your agents.
Email marketing gets a bit of a bad rap for being an outdated marketing method. If anyone tells you that, they’re probably just not doing it right.
The truth is that email marketing is still an incredibly effective avenue for SaaS companies to explore. The cost of creating a weekly or monthly email send is pretty minimal, and once you’ve built up a decent database, your email sends can deliver a significant ROI.
Almost 50% of customers have said they want to receive emails on a weekly basis, with some email types having open rates as high as 82%.
What Does SaaS Email Marketing Look Like?
Not all emails have such high open rates though, in fact on average only 1 in 5 of your subscribers will take a look inside. That means that growing your audience quickly will be key to your success in email marketing.
Growing Your Email Subs
New email subscribers is one of the key metrics you should be tracking. There are a ton of tactics you can employ to achieve this.
Try offering a free content offer on key webpages with high traffic.
Consider running a free webinar on a relevant topic. Customers love free stuff, and they are more than happy to hand over an email address to access free, valuable insights from a leading industry expert.
Image source: salesforce.com
Calls to Action
Focus on quality call to actions. You should be including CTAs at the end of every blog post, whether that’s a simple “sign up here for more”, or a content upgrade or free giveaway like this one.
Image source: convertkit.com
Segment Your Email List
As you continue to grow your email subs, you’ll start to notice something: your subscribers aren’t all in the same box.
Some of them are just entering the awareness stage, having signed up to your email newsletter off the back of an informative blog post. Some might be poised to purchase and have just completed a free trial or demo. Others might even be your current customers who are looking for helping insights into how to better use your software.
It goes without saying that the type of content each of these subscribers is looking for is different. To really get the best out of your email marketing campaigns, you should segment your email lists and deliver more buyer-specific email content to each subgroup.
SaaS Email Marketing Examples
Zoom hardly needs to do email marketing, half the world is using their service right now!
The thing about email marketing though, as with any other tactic, is that consistency is key. Zoom regularly sends emails that are relevant, informative, and not overly salesy.
Remarketing is the practice of using web traffic and search data to market directly to customers who are interested in your (or a similar) product.
Here’s how it works. Pull up a new tab and make a few searches for “whiskey delivery”, “whiskey near me”, “whiskey subscription service”, and click on a few of the top results.
Next time you’re taking a Facebook break, notice the types of sponsored posts that are popping up. Chances are they’ll have something to do with whiskey. This is remarketing.
There are a couple of different ways you can use this to your advantage.
Remarketing To Customers That Have Been On Your Website
Prospects that have visited your site are prime targets for remarketing campaigns. Hopefully your website’s conversion optimization tactics have captured an email sub signup, but even if not you can still get in front of them.
You should aim to provide something extremely valuable to your prospect here. They’ve already expressed an interest in your company, now it’s time to show them your worth. Perhaps a free eBook you’ve just published, or that webinar you’re running next month.
The above is a sponsored post from monday.com, which popped up not long after I visited their site while writing this article.
Remarketing To Prospects That Are Interested In Your Competitors
This is a pretty common tactic across a range of marketing activities, especially in Search Engine Marketing. It’s seriously effective in remarketing too.
Consider a situation where a customer performs a Google search for a software similar to what you offer, but for whatever reason they didn’t make it to your website. Maybe you weren’t ranking for that particular search term, maybe your meta description wasn’t enticing enough, or maybe they actually searched directly for a competitor.
You can use this search data to your advantage, by placing sponsored ads in their social media feed. It’s kind of like a second chance, extra ball, 1UP scenario.
Brilliant SaaS Remarketing Example
Only a few short minutes ago I was on ConvertKit’s website, a SaaS company that provides email marketing software. Marketo jumped on that opportunity pretty damn quickly, and one five minute coffee break later there’s a sponsored ad in my Facebook feed.
Notice how they’ve offered up some free, valuable information right off the bat. No wonder they’re leaders in their field.
SaaS Digital Marketing Summary
Success in Saas Marketing is all about planning and strategy. It can be easy to want to just jump in, start writing some blogs or lining up a webinar with an exciting expert. But if you don’t have a clear strategy and plan, you’ll probably fall flat on your face.
Here’s a summary of our 5 favorite SaaS marketing strategies:
- Content Marketing
- Free Trials
- Email Marketing
Hopefully these 5 strategies have you off to a great start, but it can be tough building out a SaaS marketing plan on your own, and mistakes can be costly. If you need a hand, don’t hesitate to contact us.