A Go-to Guide: SaaS Marketing Strategies
It’s the hottest industry at the moment.
And for good reason. As the world hurtles into the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), it’s the primary industry that enables the revolution’s success.
Yes. I’m talking about software-as-a-service (SaaS).
Also known as cloud application services, SaaS is the fastest growing sector in the IT industry. Research shows it’s estimated to reach a whopping $138.3 billion market size by the end of 2022. This growth spurt is partially due to the fast rise of remote work and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.
If you’re in the SaaS space, getting a piece of that pie requires that you develop effective SaaS marketing strategies. The SaaS space is becoming crowded with new players and novel technology. Failure to market your SaaS product well could result in your brand folding.
What is SaaS Marketing (and Why is it Different)?
Software-as-a-service is a business model whereby applications are delivered over the internet as a service. These applications range from internal team collaboration tools to payroll applications to sales and marketing tools and everything in-between.
SaaS marketing, therefore, is the promotion of such services to an audience that would be interested in the application you offer.
So what makes SaaS marketing different?
SaaS Marketers Look for Long-term Customers
Most SaaS businesses run on a subscription model. Because of that, it’s crucial for your SaaS marketing workflow to be targeted at companies that are interested in long-term solutions. This is unlike other industries (mainly in B2C) that focus on making a once-off sale.
The SaaS Customer Journey is Complex
Unlike other industries with short sales cycles, the SaaS customer journey can be as long as 18 months for enterprise deals. And it’s not guaranteed that the customer journey will result in a sale.
The complexity of the SaaS customer journey makes it essential that you design a marketing strategy that shortens the journey. It must do so without being too pushy or overloading the prospect with too much information.
The SaaS Market is Hyper-competitive
SaaS is a very competitive vertical. New brands and solutions are being launched every day. No matter which subset of SaaS you’re in, saying that the competition becomes fiercer with each passing day is an understatement.
It’s because of this growing competition that you must arm yourself with effective SaaS marketing strategies. These are strategies that will make you visible. More importantly, they are strategies that will enable you to attract, hook, and convert prospects into customers.
Understand Your SaaS Marketing Funnel
Before we delve into the SaaS marketing strategies you can use to grow your brand, let’s briefly look at a typical SaaS marketing funnel (also called a sales funnel). It’s essential that you understand the journey your customers take from being aware of your solution to you busting out your sales proposal software to seal the deal.
This will help you design a SaaS marketing strategy tailored to move your prospects effortlessly through each stage of the funnel.
One thing to note is that there’s no one-size-fits-all sales funnel, especially in the SaaS vertical. You must design and optimize your sales funnel according to your product, target audience, and business model. Thankfully, there are many sales funnel software tools you can use to do this.
That being said, the basic framework of a SaaS sales funnel is based on the awareness, interest, desire, and action (AIDA) model.
In short, you must move your prospects from the awareness to the action stage with as little friction as possible. Once they take action and convert into customers, another mini-funnel starts where you take them from customers to brand ambassadors.
That’s exactly where your marketing strategy comes in.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the SaaS marketing strategies that will help you do just that.
10 SaaS Marketing Strategies to Help You Grow Your Business
One of SaaS marketing’s most challenging aspects is the fact that you’re marketing an intangible product. This presents many hurdles and customer concerns that you must address in your marketing messaging. That’s why a well-designed SaaS marketing strategy is essential. Here are a few elements you should consider as you develop one.
1. Optimize Your Website for SEO
Most searches for a SaaS solution start online.
And one of the primary places buyers start their search is on your website.
But for them to find your website (and SaaS product), you must deliberately ensure your website shows up in searches.
You must optimize your website for SEO.
There are many SEO tools you can use to help boost your website’s ranking. These tools will help you optimize the three critical elements of SEO that include:
On-page SEO refers to all search engine optimization practices that you perform on your website. These can include, among others:
- Keyword research and implementation
- Content creation
- Internal linking
Off-page SEO refers to SEO practices that you don’t have total control over but affect your website. However, you can influence them. Examples include:
- Social shares
- Brand mentions
The third aspect of technical SEO you must work on is the technical aspect, which involves all technical issues related to the way your website is designed. Common technical SEO factors to consider include:
- Site speed
- Site security
- Implementing structured data markup
- Creating a sitemap
- User experience (UX)
If your website is optimized for SEO, it becomes easier for users to find it when searching for queries related to your SaaS product. Once they land on your website, you can use a chatbot to engage them and nurture them down your funnel.
2. Conduct Competitor Research
One of the most important SaaS marketing strategies you must implement is competitor research. Your competitors are the best place to go for intel on how to run successful SaaS marketing strategies. They may not give you that information directly, but you can get it using competitor research tools.
As you research your competitors’ SaaS marketing strategies, some of the questions you must ask are:
What Kind of Audience Do They Target?
One of the first things you must observe as you study your competitors is the kind of audience they target and attract. Doing so will help you know who will likely need your SaaS product.
What SaaS Marketing Strategies Do They Employ?
You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. If your competitors are rocking their marketing and getting great results from it, leverage the same strategies they’re using.
What SaaS Marketing Opportunities Are They Missing?
As you research your competitors, take note of the gaps they have in their marketing strategy. Leverage these to get an advantage over your competition.
Competitor research makes your job easier as it gives you insight into which SaaSmarketing strategies are effective and which are not.
3. Content Marketing
When researching a solution, most SaaS buyers rely on one thing to help them make informed decisions — information.
That’s exactly where content marketing comes in.
Publishing high-quality content on your website and other platforms is one of the best SaaS lead generation strategies you can employ. For example, you can
For your content marketing to be effective:
Understand Search Intent
Search intent refers to the reason someone is searching for a particular piece of information. There are four main types of search intent, namely:
- Navigational intent. This is where a user is searching for a specific website or page.
- Informational intent. Here, the user is looking to learn more about a particular topic.
- Commercial intent. This is when a user is researching a particular product and intends to buy soon.
- Transactional intent. Users with transactional intent are ready to transact. A transaction can mean buying a product or signing up for a free trial, demo, or booking a sales call.
Creating keyword and search intent optimized content is one of the essential steps to successful content marketing.
Promote Your Content
Contrary to popular belief, content marketing isn’t just a matter of publishing content and hoping it will do well. After you create your content, you must proactively promote it. Tips for effective content promotion include:
- Find platforms your target audience frequents.
- Share on forums specific to your industry.
- Feature influencers in your content — they’ll share it with their network.
- Syndicate your content on third-party websites.
Create content for every stage of your SaaS marketing funnel and promote it extensively. Content marketing is an excellent marketing strategy that is effective at lead generation and nurturing. Well-executed, content marketing can be one of the best SaaS marketing strategies you can use to grow your business.
4. Design an Attractive Affiliate Marketing Program
One of the most cost-effective ways to market your SaaS product is through affiliate marketing.
You must design an affiliate program that attracts affiliates who have an audience similar to your target audience. To do that:
- Use a tool designed for SaaS, particularly one that can handle recurring payments.
- Craft the terms and conditions governing your affiliate program.
- Recruit affiliates or join an affiliate network.
- Determine your affiliate commission rates and bonuses.
One of the most significant advantages of running an affiliate program is that it helps boost your ROI while reducing your customer acquisition costs (CAC). Affiliate marketing also helps improve the quality of leads generated. That’s because your affiliates run niche websites that attract your ideal audience.
If you want to make a massive splash in the world of SaaS, one of the best ways is to get your product out there is to create an affiliate program. It enables you to have an army of sales reps you don’t have to put on your payroll.
5. Paid Advertising
A major drawback of organic marketing strategies like content marketing and SEO is that they take time to bear fruit. While you wait for them to kick in, you can use a faster way to generate leads — paid advertising.
As the name implies, paid advertising involves paying for your content or product to be promoted to a relevant audience. This can be on search engines like Google, on social media platforms, or even on particular websites your target audience is likely to visit. For Example, you can promote your SaaS product on Amazon Web Services and run paid ads to promote it. Of course, like most PPC ads, make sure to use a good Amazon product photography service to make your ads more appealing.
To get maximum return on ad spend (ROAs) on your paid ads, make sure to:
- Target particular keywords
- Leverage smart bidding
- Be creative with your copy and visuals
- Run retargeting campaigns
One of the main advantages of running paid ad campaigns is that it’s easy to scale. Another advantage is that it’s easy to track your campaigns’ performance and attribute it to revenue.
6. Referral Marketing
Research shows that people trust recommendations from friends and colleagues more than they do brands. That’s why referral marketing should be one of your top SaaS marketing strategies.
Referral marketing is a tactic that involves activating your existing customers to spread the word about your product and brand. While it can take many forms, referral marketing simply means turning your current customers into brand ambassadors. The most significant difference with affiliate marketing is that referral marketing doesn’t involve a monetary reward. It may involve a few incentives but not a commission.
To execute an effective referral campaign:
- Create a superb SaaS product
- Decide on your incentive
- Outline your terms and conditions
- Automate with a referral marketing tool
- Track and analyze performance
A well-executed SaaS referral marketing program is an excellent way of driving quality leads to your SaaS product. It’s a superb low-cost way of marketing your SaaS product.
7. Account-based Marketing
A common thread between many SaaS startups is that they’re usually bootstrapped. Because of that, marketing receives the least amount of funding. And that’s why every penny spent on marketing must count.
One way to do that is to employ account-based marketing (ABM).
ABM is an outbound marketing strategy that involves selecting businesses that fit your business. You then reach out to them via cold emailing or cold calling to initiate a relationship. Those that jump for your offer immediately can be nurtured until they not only become paying customers but brand advocates as well.
A huge advantage of ABM is that it yields more positive results as the target accounts are carefully handpicked. Of course, the caveat is that it involves a lot of preparation to pull off.
8. Social Media
With close to 4 billion active users, social media is one place you can’t ignore when designing your SaaS marketing strategy.
Social media has a unique versatility that allows you to achieve many SaaS marketing goals easily. For example, you can use social media to:
- Announce new products or features
- Boost brand awareness
- Promote top-of-funnel (TOFU) content
- Show off industry accolades and earned media
- Handle customer support
Another advantage of social media is that it has opportunities for running viral marketing campaigns.
9. Lead Generation Using Freemium Model
SaaS tools that solve the same problem are a dime a dozen. That’s why customer acquisition is one of the biggest challenges for SaaS brands. One way to get around that is to generate leads using the freemium model. This is where you offer your product:
- Free forever (an example being Evernote)
- Free features
- Free trial
People love freemium as they can test your product without making a risky commitment. Some SaaS brands fear using this marketing strategy as there’s a likelihood of users stagnating. However, there will always be users willing to pay to get the most out of your product.
To create an effective freemium marketing strategy, you must offer obvious value to your prospects. Once they sign-up, nurture them along with content, and encourage them to upgrade.
10. Leverage Third-party Review Sites
Whether in B2B or B2C, many buyers check review sites before deciding on which product to buy.
That’s why getting featured on SaaS review sites should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. Review sites are significant for SaaS products as they are intangible. As a result, buyers will want to hear other users’ experiences before settling on their product of choice.
How do you get featured on SaaS review sites?
One of the best ways is to reach out to sites like Capterra, G2 CrowdFinances Online, TrustRadius, and many more. Send them your product and value proposition. They’ll test out your product and write out a review. Alternatively, you can ask your customers to leave their reviews on these sites.
Drive More Downloads and Acquire More Customers with these SaaS Marketing Strategies
Developing an effective SaaS marketing strategy is crucial if you’re to succeed in driving downloads of your tool and, ultimately, acquire new customers.
The ten strategies highlighted above can serve as a foundation for building yours. Use analytics and data to see which ones work best for your product and audience.
Here’s to successful SaaS marketing!