Marketers have a challenging job.
No doubt about it.
But SaaS marketers face an even tougher task.
Think about it:
SaaS marketers have to market things that don’t make sense to the average person. Things that don’t even have a physical presence. Things with goofy names that only niche companies are interested in.
See what we mean?
SaaS marketing is fundamentally different from almost every other type of marketing out there. To address these differences and explain how SaaS strategies work in 2019, we wanted to create this comprehensive guide.
Hopefully, this guide will clear up some of the confusion about SaaS marketing, highlight some of its inherent advantages and drawbacks and, maybe, help you do your job a little better.
So, what are the differences between SaaS marketing and other types of marketing?
The differences between SaaS Marketing and other Marketing
1 – Acquisition: Earning new users
Almost every type of marketer is used to the idea of giving away free samples.
The retail store wants a few testers? No problem.
The direct mail promo company wants a bit of merch? Sure.
A client wants a couple of freebies? They got it.
But where SaaS marketing is completely different from other types of marketing is that it gives away the entire product for free. We’re talking about the full, unadulterated, working product.
That’s unheard of in other lines of marketing.
But SaaS marketers give away free stuff like it’s going out of fashion.
In fact, ‘free’ is the elixir of the SaaS marketing industry and freebies are the gold-standard method of customer acquisition. They are the go-to solution for onboarding.
Don’t believe us?
Go online. Take a look around. You’ll see it just about everywhere you look.
The SaaS ‘free stuff’ model has plenty of iterations, including:
- Free trials
- Trials with credit card info
- Trials without credit card info
- Trial-to-paid offers
- Limited-time free trials
- Freemium model
- Limited free versions
Check out Hubspot’s example below:
2 – Optimise your website for conversions
Conversions – getting website visitors to buy your product or service – is the cornerstone of SaaS marketing. Wherever a visitor lands on your homepage, they should find a call-to-action (CTA) that guides them towards becoming a new customer.
Examples of powerful CTAs include;
- Follow us on social media
- Subscribe to our blog
- Subscribe to our newsletter
- Download our report
- Start a free trial
Directing visitors towards your blog, newsletter or report lets you guide them towards relevant, downloadable content that chimes with what they just read. You should place CTAs throughout your website pages just in case visitors don’t read to the end. This not only enlightens and educates buyers, it helps get them into the buying mindset along the way.
But there’s more the SaaS marketing that simply peppering your homepage with sloppy CTAs, sitting back and watching the sales roll in. To create a website that converts, you need to write action-oriented CTAs. Here’s how.
Effective CTAs should tell your visitors exactly what you want them to do next.
- Start a free trial now!
- Download our software
- Apply for a free demo!
Whatever your goal, the CTA should be clear and unambiguous. So, how do you write an action-oriented CTA?
One approach is to run an A/B or split test to see which CTA gets the most conversions. Try out two different CTA buttons, each with its own size, font, wording and color. See how they perform with real-world internet users. Keep the best one, ditch the other.
3 – Retention: Convincing those paying customers to stick around
According to research by Gartner, just 20 percent of your current customers will generate 80 percent of your future revenue. This shows how critical customer retention is to the SaaS industry – success in this area is essential to your success.
When it comes to SaaS marketing, you want to prioritize retention over customer acquisition. Research from Bain & Co. shows that boosting retention by just five percent can increase overall profits by over 75 percent.
The good news? It’s far less costly to retain an existing customer than to get a new one. And, as freebies are par for the course with SaaS marketing, you have a range of strategies at your disposal that can help you engage with existing customers.
- Sending follow-up emails.
- Encouraging referral with rewards or incentives.
- Engaging with influences or ambassadors.
- Providing free upgrades, add-ons or customer care.
While lead generation is also important, developing strong customer relations is of paramount importance. Keeping your customers happy and engaged should be top of your list of priorities, but how?
Andy Zimmerman, CMO at Evergage, advise firms to:
- Offer new, insightful content.
- Inspire customers with new ideas to drive their success.
- Provide solutions to pain-points that customers are experiencing.
When it comes to strategies that SaaS marketers can use to attract and retain customers, there are five main options at their disposal.
- Content marketing for SaaS
- Free trial offer
- SEO for SaaS products
- SaaS Marketing
- Referral Marketing
Now, let’s look closely at how each of these SaaS Marketing strategies work.
SaaS Marketing strategies
1 – Content marketing for SaaS
Almost every successful SaaS business uses some form of content marketing to help attract website visitors, generate leads and build their brand. Whether it’s social media posts, blogs or articles, content marketing for SaaS is a smart investment as it offers acompounding power of return. Over time, the value of well-written and helpful content will increase as it becomes more widely read and is cited by or linked to from other sources.
Content marketing can:
Drive qualified leads and potential customers
Unlike pay-per-click (PPC) advertising that lasts only as long as you continue to spend, content is an asset that a business owns and continues to drive leads for as long as it is publically visible. What’s more, the leads that content produces are often qualified, meaning that they are more likely to be converted into sales.
Targeted content can attract potential customers by offering solutions for the pain-points or problems they are trying to solve.Webinars are especially helpful for communicating with prospective clients who want to solve a particular issue, for example.
Content marketing can be used to build your brand’s reputation as an authority in your particular area. By creating valuable content that addresses the problems your target market is looking for help with, you can establish your brand as a quality source of information.
It’s important to note that content creation is only one part of your overall content strategy. According to Kieran Falangan, VP of HubSpot, you should spend at least 50 percent of your time actively distributing your content.
Another caveat is that the content must be useful, helpful and well-crafted in order to be beneficial; posting low-quality content can actually hurt your brand’s image.
2 – Free trial offer
As we discussed earlier, freebies are the bread and butter of the SaaS marketing industry.
Free trials can help you;
- Test-drive a product with real consumers.
- Generate leads.
- Engage with tech-savvy customers.
- Reduce reliance on sales reps.
- Limit marketing investment.
Although giving away an entire product for free is anathema for most of the marketing industry, it offers many benefits for SaaS marketers.
For example, tech-savvy users often prefer real, hands-on experience with a product, instead of speaking with sales reps. Free product trials are essentially a type of self-service distribution method; they limit your need to employ sales staff and engage in SaaS marketing campaigns.
However, there are a few provisos before rolling out a free product.
Firstly, you still need to provide some support and onboarding so that your potential clients get a good experience when using your product. This could be through automated called, one-to-one calls or even group webinars. The higher the satisfaction rate, the more likely you are to turn the recipients of your free products into paying customers.
Secondly, while people who join a trial will typically have a higher likelihood of being qualified leads, you still need to track them carefully. If you cut costs and adopt a light-touch approach, you may let qualified leads run through your fingers. You need to strike a balance between demonstrating value in a costly, overbearing fashion and being too hands-off. This will take trial and error to get right, if you’ll pardon the pun!
3 – SEO for SaaS products
SEO can be a powerful strategy to generate qualified leads but it requires the right approach.
If you’ve set upgoals in Google Analytics on your blog and you aretracking product conversions that come from content correctly, you’ll probably notice a paradox:
A couple of your posts generate the majority of your blog traffic…yet…your most viewed posts don’t have the highest volume of conversions.
So what’s going on?
The most common reason is that your SEO strategy is volume-driven. You are targeting keywords that have the most potential customers searching for them.
What you aren’t looking at purchasing intent.
To remedy this, you should use a keyword strategy that is pain-point-driven instead of volume-driven.
So what’s a pain-point?
A pain-points is any problem or issue that your potential customers experience either before they find your website or while they are on it, at any point during your sale funnel.
A pain-point could be:
- A problem they want to solve.
- An issue they are struggling with.
- A solution they are searching for.
- A part of a larger process that they don’t understand.
To do SEO right for SaaS marketing, you need to identify the pain-points of your target audience and create content that helps address these issues.
You then need to present your content using the siloing method.
What is Siloing?
The siloing method is a SEO strategy for linking related content together with internal hyperlinks. This helps your content rank much higher in search engine results compared with if you just published articles randomly.
Search engines find it much easier to identify the relevancy of content that has been siloed. The internal linking between the content helps ‘show’ search engines how the content is related to other content.
Siloing helps drive qualified leads by capturing potential customers who are looking to remedy pain-points and pushing them through your sales funnel.
Let’s look briefly at how siloing works:
Suppose you run an online shop that sells bird accessories and you want to create content that focuses on the keyword ‘bird cages’ and the long-tail keyword ‘How to choose a bird cage’.
Your main piece of content – known as the ‘Parent’ article – will focus directly on this topic. For example: “How to choose a bird cage”. This article will address the main topics, queries or pain-points that your target audience is actively searching for. However, it will also contain hyperlinks to your main website’s homepage, and other related posts called ‘Child articles’.
You will then create a series of between two and five articles that discuss topics related to your keyword and long-tail keyword. These are known as ‘Child posts’.
“10 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Bird Cage”
“Bird Cages: The Complete Guide”
“A Brief Guide to Buying a Bird Cage”
The first paragraph of each of these ‘Child’ articles will contain a hyperlink to the Parent article and they also contain hyperlinks to each other; this is known as siloing.
The siloing method helps signal to search engines that the content is related and is, therefore, more valuable. When a potential customer is searching for a term related to their pain-point, they are more likely to be directed towards your content, whether it is the Parent article or one of the Child articles.
This approach helps drive qualified leads through your sales funnel and increases the likelihood of customers engaging with one of your calls-to-action (CTAs).
4 – SaaS Advertising
SaaS advertising is a key part of successful SaaS marketing. An effective and concerted advertising campaign will complement the other strategies we’ve discussed such as content creation and distribution, free product trials and SEO for your blog and website.
Here, we’ll look at your three main options for SaaS advertising.
- Google Ads
- Facebook Ads
- LinkedIn Ads
Google ads are ground zero for many SaaS marketers.
Pay-per-click (PPC) ads can help you:
- Build your brand.
- Identify which keywords drive conversions and which do not.
- Generate qualified leads quickly.
However, there are limitations to using Google ads and some SaaS marketers have found success with other platforms, as we’ll explain below.
Facebook ads can be a great way to grow users for your SaaS marketing company. Here are some strategies that can help you boost your new user signup rates while reducing costs.
1) Content Promotion
Remember earlier we mentioned you should be spending at least 50 percent of the time you spend on content actively distributing it?
Well, if you’re in SaaS marketing, Facebook ads are one of the best ways to do this. Facebook is a great way to promote your blog content and build your brand.
Blog posts can help generate qualified sales leads and boost free trial signups.
To do this, you can promote your content to your:
- Facebook fans
- Fans of your competitors
- Your Lookalike audiences
Wondering what a Lookalike audience is? See below!
2) Create a Lookalike Audience
To create a Lookalike Audience you should first ensure that your signup process has Facebook’s conversion tracking in place. This tracks people who visit your website and enables Facebook to tell you who has expressed an interest in your free trial or product, or another page on your site.
Using this data, Facebook then helps you create a ‘Lookalike audience’ by targeting people on Facebook that are similar to internet users who have already completed a certain action, such as signing up for a free trial on your site.
For a low CPA, Lookalike audiences can be an effective source of new signups and they are a great audience to distribute your content to.
Provided you install the Conversion pixel on your pages, Facebook can track everyone who visits your website and/or signs up across your marketing channels. This tracking helps it decide which users to target and which to ignore. Make sure this pixel is set up to give Facebook enough data to target effectively.
3) Run retargeting campaigns
Retargeting campaigns are for visitors to your website that were not converted into paying customers. As a SaaS marketer, giving away free products and free trials comes as second nature to you, so running a retargeting campaign on Facebook gives you a great ROI.
The best way to run retargeting campaigns on Facebook is to use their native ad platform, Power Editor.
Don’t forget you can exclude audiences, too. For example, if you’re running a retargeting campaign of people who’ve visited your ‘Thank You’ page, you wouldn’t want to include your custom lists of existing clients as they would have already been converted.
4) Optimize ads for Website Conversion
When optimizing your ad sets, don’t overlook how much optimization Facebook can do for you. By selecting ‘Website Conversion’, Facebook deliver your ads to the right people to help you get the most website conversions at the lowest cost.
5) Promote free trial and upgrade
The fifth strategy for using Facebook as a SaaS marketer is to run ads that promote free trials and upgrades. Free trial ads are excellent for lead generation, while free upgrade offers are perfect for retargeting campaigns.
As a SaaS marketer, you can’t afford to ignore LinkedIn for lead generation.
LinkedIn, while smaller than Google and Facebook, is incredibly effective for generating SaaS leads and sales with a high return-on-investment (ROI). .
This is because LinkedIn offers several features that other platforms don’t.
- If you have quite broad target keywords, Google Ads campaigns tend to produce a lot of wastage. You’ll get clicks from people who aren’t your target customers.
- It is also difficult to target long-tail keywords that enable you to reach a particular target profile.
LinkedIn offers lead generation ads that let you:
- Capture leads and measure results without using their website.
- Direct prospects to downloadable content via a URL.
- Boost form completion rates. As LinkedIn pre-fills most of the information in the form, you get more leads.
- Target highly authoritative decision-makers. If you’re looking to engage people with specific job titles or job functions that are applicable to your target industry, LinkedIn is perfect.
It is currently impossible to do all of the above through Google AdWords, yet LinkedIn offers these options.
Here are other strategies for using LinkedIn for SaaS marketing.
1) Use LinkedIn paid adverts
As SaaS marketing cycles are typically quite long, LinkedIn targeted display ads are perfect for finding and nurturing potential customers. You can reach a precise audience with specific messages depending on what stage of the sales funnel they are at.
LinkedIn paid ads have the advantage of being able to understand your potential clients and adjust or improve your product to suit their preferences.
You can use A/B testing of multiple ads across a number of audiences to build brand awareness, promote your blog and market your content, helping to drive leads and sales. You can also use free trials and giveaways as well as limited time offers to help generate leads.
2) Promote your content
LinkedIn is a great place to repost content from your website or blog or create new content to generate leads. Attracting eyeballs is a great strategy for getting more conversions for your SaaS business. You can publish the same content on a range of other outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Medium as well.
3) Join LinkedIn groups
Another strategy for marketing your SaaS business is to create some buzz around your product or service but joining LinkedIn groups. Find groups related to your service or industry and you may find them an effective way of connecting with prospective clients. While groups aren’t the appropriate forums for making hard sells, they can help build significant brand awareness.
5 – Referral Marketing
The final strategy for marketing your SaaS business is referral marketing. This strategy involves offering incentives for customers who refer others.
Some common types of incentives include:
- A financial commission based on sales
- Discounts on future purchases
- Cashback offers
- Credits towards future purchases
- Priority services
- Free upgrades
Some customers won’t require an incentive to recommend your product to a friend, while some will. The right approach will depend on your particular product and the relationship you are able to build with your customers.