Software as a service (SaaS) is a business model which is becoming ever more popular. Recent statistics forecast that the SaaS sector could be worth as much as $623 billion by 2023. If you’re a SaaS company, then, you’re certainly in a booming industry. That means you have plenty of competition, and that competition is only going to increase.
What you need is a way to stand out from the crowd. You need a SaaS marketing strategy that works. One which can help you with what is often the tough job of selling your service to prospective customers. You don’t have a physical, tangible product, after all, to show off and promote.
What follows are 12 elements of a successful SaaS marketing strategy. None of them are too complicated, and all are proven to deliver results. You can pick and choose from them or implement them all. Either way, these SaaS marketing strategy gems can help you win over new customers.
Here’s a quick look at what we’ll be covering:
At face value, a SaaS (software as a service) marketing strategy doesn’t seem like it should be any different to a regular marketing strategy. You have a product, you promote it and market it, and then you hopefully sell it to lots of customers.
But SaaS products aren’t like other products. For one, you can’t hold a SaaS product in your hands; they have no physical presence. So you need a different strategy to sell SaaS products. That’s where SaaS marketing enters the picture.
A SaaS marketing strategy focuses on selling SaaS products in a (mostly) digital space with a focus on digital channels and content marketing. Marketing efforts need to stand out in the fast-growing market of SaaS products to attract new customers that will sign-up for the long haul.
Here’s a look at how digital marketing’s contribution to company performance has changed in the past year:
Marketers have to get creative when promoting a SaaS product. By nature, most, if not all, SaaS products are intangible. On top of that reality, SaaS products can be complex, with lots of different features.
Your SaaS marketing strategy needs to be catchy and simple, yet still informative enough for the target audience to grasp the SaaS product’s ability to solve their problems.
The typical SaaS customer will be a B2B or B2C company. Your SaaS marketing strategy should target the decision-makers in these companies. For example, if your SaaS product provides a solution for monitoring warehouse inventory levels, your marketing should target the heads of logistics at B2C or B2B companies.
And then there’s the dreaded churn. SaaS churn is the rate at which current customers cancel their subscriptions. More churn = less revenue.
To combat churn, your SaaS marketing strategy will have to be ongoing to encourage long-term customer retention. Other industries minimize marketing once they’ve hooked a customer, but in the SaaS business, you need to maximize your efforts.
SaaS companies more often than not face longer sales cycles compared to other products, with multiple stages. That means a longer customer journey that traditional marketing can’t always address.
Customers may have questions about unfamiliar terms or request customized demos to see how the SaaS product will integrate with their existing frameworks.
The SaaS product market looks like Target on Black Friday—it’s jammed.
An initial search on Capterra for project management software reveals 1,227 products. So how can you market your SaaS product to stand out?
First, fine-tune your business model and nail your brand. Second, make the most of interactive and engaging content. Digital marketing can help your business build strong content and tackle SEO optimization. The way to beat the crowd is to stand out from that crowd.
While pricing may not seem directly related to marketing, pricing strategy is an essential part of SaaS marketing.
Pricing allows companies to be competitive in the SaaS market. SaaS companies can utilize tiered pricing structures and subscriber buyer personas to target B2C and B2B companies of different sizes.
At the same time, SaaS pricing needs to be clear and detailed so potential customers know what they’re getting when they subscribe. Providing easy-to-understand pricing information to potential customers can increase the conversion rate of leads to sales.
There are two main parts to marketing a SaaS product. First, you have to get as much organic traffic to your site as possible. Then you need to promote and show off your service effectively. We’ve arranged our 12 tried and tested SaaS marketing strategy points by breaking them down into these two parts of the process. We will start by looking at how to get more traffic to your SaaS site.
There are five tried and tested ways to get more traffic to your SaaS site. We will cover some of these in greater depth about some of them in future posts in this series. For now, here is a whistle-stop intro to our first five SaaS marketing strategy tips:
Content marketing is a proven model of lead generation for any SaaS website. At the most basic level, getting more traffic to your website involves publishing high-quality content to your site. The topics you choose to write about should align with the interests of your target audience. For example, if you had a Facebook marketing SaaS, suitable topics for your content could include:
The list of suitable topics you can choose is extensive. You can use a tool like Keywords Everywhere to identify suitable topics to write about based on search volume.
You need to optimize the content you create on your blog for both user intent and keywords. By this, I mean the content needs to answer the query a website visitor was looking to receive. If they’ve come through a Google search looking to purchase a service, they’ll want to see a sales page. On the other hand, if searchers are doing an informational search, they might want to arrive on a blog post.
It’s important to understand where in the sales funnel these potential customers are coming in, and having the right content available. That could be a landing page, detailed case studies, general blog posts, or something else.
In addition to creating great content, you need to generate backlinks to the content for it to rank. To understand how many backlinks you need, you will have to do a backlink analysis of ranking content. Once your content starts getting noticed your business will develop a reputation as an authority in the SaaS industry.
Nothing works as well for boosting site traffic as a comprehensive SEO strategy. Search engine optimization (SEO) is complex and goes hand-in-hand with content marketing. The basic idea is a simple one. You need to tailor and tweak a site so that it appears as high as possible on search engine results pages.
The higher your site ranks, the more traffic you’ll get. There are a vast number of strands which combine to make for good SEO. Some SEO tasks and efforts work better for SaaS sites than others. Some of these – like guest posting and using social media for SEO – will be covered later, in subsequent posts. For now, suffice it to say that investing in top-quality SaaS SEO will do wonders for your site traffic.
Paid search or pay per click (PPC) advertising is another avenue worth exploring. As a SaaS marketing strategy, you shouldn’t see it as an alternative to content marketing and SEO. What it can be, though, is an excellent compliment to those two processes. Particularly if you’re looking to achieve some quick traffic wins.
You should always set aside a marketing budget for branded search terms. These are terms that include your company name. Branded search terms are results that competing software companies are likely to pay for, and if they do, you need to have a budget to get those clicks.
If you do invest in PPC ads, you want to get as much bang for your buck as possible, keeping the customer acquisition costs low. Your marketing team needs to create engaging and attractive adverts that convey your service’s benefits. The best way to improve the conversion rate of your ads is by repeated testing. Create lots of variations of ad copy, research plenty of keywords to target, and monitor metrics. That way, you can mix things up and experiment until you find your perfect combinations.
Referral marketing is like the digital equivalent of word of mouth advertising. It involves getting current customers to recommend your service to people they know, both privately through emails, or publicly on platforms like LinkedIn. It’s an effective SaaS marketing strategy, as it increases the chances of bringing in qualified leads. Referral marketing gets your name out there to new prospective customers and ensures that you come with a stamp of approval from someone they trust. This is particularly helpful for B2B SaaS brands.
Even your most satisfied customers may need a little push to refer you to friends. That’s where a referral program with smart incentives or rewards enters the picture. Offering access to an extra feature or a higher level of your software in return for a referral is a good example. Dropbox, for instance, gives users extra storage space if they invite friends.
People put a lot of stock in reviews and testimonials. A BrightLocal study found that 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. It’s critical to get your SaaS business industry exposure on one of the many SaaS review sites which are around. G2 Crowd is perhaps the best example:
Getting a positive review on a review site will help with site traffic. It’s worth trying to get a listing on as many review sites as possible. You may not get featured by all of them, but it’s worth a try. Having a presence across sites helps provide social proof and convince potential customers of the viability of your business.
The next stage of marketing SaaS is to turn site visitors into customers. Without a physical product to sell, this can seem easier said than done. The following, though, are seven hints and tips for improving this part of your digital marketing strategy:
At first glance, this piece of advice may seem counterintuitive. Surely you want to offer SaaS customers as many different options as possible? Actually, no. It is better to limit the range of options as this simplifies choice.
The email marketing software platform, Mailchimp is a good example. Their software provides users with loads of different features. However, there are only four separate plans to choose from, each with clear value propositions. Prospective customers can see what each one offers and choose between them — as with many things in business, keeping things simple pays dividends.
Some SaaS businesses make it difficult for site visitors to see how much their service costs. The idea is presumably to get visitors more interested in the service before revealing the price. However, it can hinder customer acquisition, as a lack of transparent pricing can be frustrating. Think about when you head to a site thinking of buying something. What would your response be if you can’t see how much it costs?
More often than not, you’d leave the site and find somewhere else to make your purchase. This can be a massive source of churn. SaaS marketers need to take this into account. Hiding or obfuscating prices makes prospective customers suspicious, no matter how good the rest of your marketing efforts are. Instead, be open about the cost of your service. Make sure that your pricing strategy makes it easy to show how each plan or package delivers value.
Free trials are a mainstay of SaaS marketing. You’ll struggle to find a SaaS business that doesn’t offer a free trial. That’s because free trials are massively effective in selling SaaS. From CRMs to VoIP, a free trial help users understand how your software works. Alongside how efficiently it can solve their problems. That’s why leading SaaS companies like Xero feature free trials so prominently on their sites:
A freemium model provides the customer with a free version forever – but they have to be paying subscribers to access many of the features. That way you’re giving customers a taste of the benefits they’ll get by signing up proper.
Speaking of signing up, doing so should be as quick and easy as you can make it. You’ve run great marketing campaigns, and drawn people to your site. You’ve made sure your website sells your service and makes it sound irresistible. That’s convinced a prospective customer to sign up. From there, you want there to be as few obstacles as possible.
A long and complicated signup form is a no-no. People often abandon these when they’re faced with them, even if they had every intention of signing up. Make sure your onboarding process is clean and efficient. Don’t ask for information that isn’t critical to getting a new customer registered. Give those prospective customers as few excuses to change their minds as you can.
So far, we’ve talked at length about marketing and selling your software. About how to make potential customers aware of it and to best persuade them of its benefits. It’s important to remember that there is another ‘s’ in SaaS. The second ‘s’ is for service, and delivering excellent service to customers is critical for customer retention.
Unless you’re fortunate, your software will often be pretty similar to that of other firms in your niche. In order to maximise customer lifetime value, you need to find a way to differentiate yourself.
First, you can show customers how your software will improve their life or their business as in the above example from Litmus. Second, you must ensure it does so, by making your customer service top-notch. Ensure you enhance user experience every time a customer interacts with your firm. Go beyond simply offering your product – host webinars, share templates, and provide informative guides. The user experience isn’t just about their interactions with your product. It’s about interactions with your brand.
Deals and discounts are also crucial to your SaaS marketing strategy. Offers can help show prospective customers that they can get higher value with you. What deals and discounts are also great for is upselling and cross-selling.
While you can profit from running deals and discounts, make sure you only run them on occasion. If people are offered discounts all of the time, they stop perceiving them as a special offer. Instead, people will view these deals and discounts as the regular price they expect to access.
You should organise your site in a way that makes moving around it as frictionless as possible. You want the process of becoming a customer to be as easy as it can be. Incorporating clear calls to action (CTAs) into your content marketing strategy can help with this. Take the below example of the Mailchimp website:
The email marketing company make a visitor’s next steps clear. They can choose to ‘Sign Up Free’ or ‘Pick a Plan.’ The explicit anchor text and prominent positioning of the CTAs are key. They make it more likely users will progress through the site. Almost before they realise, they’ll find themselves at the point of signing up.
RingCentral is a heavy-hitter in the global cloud communications solution game, not to mention a six-years-in-a-row Gartner UCaaS (unified communications as a service) Magic Quadrant leader.
Despite these successes, RingCentral still felt the strain of a crowded UCaaS market. They wanted to expand their core service offerings in new markets, enhance their share of voice, increase organic traffic, and increase non-branded traffic to their website.
They used digital marketing to focus on building their on-site content to reach new markets with outstanding results.
RingCentral’s existing content failed to address an audience considering their products or potential customers ready to buy. To remedy this, they employed a new SEO strategy using customer-centric, targeted content.
More than 200 pages on their website were optimized with new and emerging keywords. Content hubs were created to segment visitors by audience, funnel phase, and search criteria, so relevant content was promoted during initial searches and throughout the customer journey.
A link-building strategy was used to link RingCentral to 2,000 high-authority domains and publications, with daily visitors adding up to more than 100 million. Not a bad start.
RingCentral decided to overhaul its blog content by revamping existing onsite articles. On top of that, they produced over 100 new articles for their blog, all geared towards attracting new visitors. Finally, they produced more than 700 pieces of offsite content. All in all, their efforts resulted in approximately 600K words.
And the result of these efforts? An 1185% increase in non-branded traffic and a 291% increase in overall website traffic value. RingCentral succeeded in developing (with some digital marketing assistance) an effective SaaS marketing strategy that delivers results.
Kissmetrics, an analytics product that helps to improve business metrics, needed to distinguish itself from one of its competitors, Google Analytics. Competing against a free service and one with a well-known brand attached was no easy feat, but Kissmetrics achieved impressive results with the following email marketing tactics.
Kissmetrics used its own tools to analyze and segment its existing customers and potential customers. With new, different target audiences in mind, they focused on promoting product growth and getting their name out there.
To get people interested in their brand, they developed a unique content strategy. By signing up with an email, anyone could receive an exclusive content gift and a free trial of their product.
These efforts paid off, and Kissmetrics saw an increase in their email subscriptions, becoming one of the top paid analytics products on the market.
Wistia, a SaaS company that helps businesses achieve marketing goals through video content, used content marketing to develop a marketing campaign that highlighted their product while generating word-of-mouth buzz about their business.
Wistia won two Webby awards for their innovative series, “One, Ten, One Hundred,” in which they challenged an LA-based video production company to develop three different videos at three different price points ($1,000, $10,000, and $100,000) to see how budget affects creativity.
In total, they spent $111,000 on ad production for this video series and reaped the benefits of their ingenious content marketing idea.
When Wistia tried to get into the podcasting game by launching their own shows, they kept running into issues with podcasting software and distribution. So, they decided to create their own.
By solving a problem for their own content, they created a solution for their customers, who can now seamlessly create video and podcast content with Wistia’s podcast creation software.
To make sure their content marketing is top-notch, Wistia implements a scoring system for content, so only the best ideas get produced. That’s how they come up with award-winning content, keeping things innovative and fresh.
How many advertisements have you seen for Slack? You might be tricked into thinking you haven’t been paying attention, but actually, they rarely advertise. They’ve gained ground as one of the most popular SaaS products through word-of-mouth. Let’s take a look at how they did it.
Slack started by offering a Freemium version of their full product that wasn’t watered down. Their product functioned so well in people’s work processes that once they started using it, they couldn’t imagine working without it. They then doubled down and provided excellent customer service that couldn’t be beaten.
Once word spread in offices and on social media about Slack’s great product and great customer service, they were on their way to becoming a leading SaaS company.
Slack’s other brilliant move was to offer their Freemium version on a message-based trial period, not a time-based trial period.
Traditionally, trial periods will last anywhere from 15 to 30 days, at which point a customer will need to upgrade. Slack based its trial period around messages, so when a company used up its allotted message capacity, they were notified that it was time for an upgrade.
At this point, a company would already be invested in the product and would upgrade—and that worked for Slack. Their conversion rate skyrocketed, and their customer lifetime value increased.
Everyone is familiar with referral marketing. Refer a friend, and you get such-and-such off a future purchase is an extremely popular way to bring in new customers. Dropbox took this to a new level with their wildly successful referral marketing tactic.
Key to Dropbox’s success was embedding the referral process into the onboarding process in a fun, easy-to-use graphic. Users can clearly see the progress they’re making towards free storage, and the well-designed page features a call-to-action to upgrade if they need even more storage.
Dropbox lays it out clearly, and that’s important to their marketing success. By referring a friend, the user gets a certain amount of free storage. The more referrals you bring in, the more free storage you get.
The final piece in the puzzle is the one-click referral process. Users can easily send a referral request to their contacts by adding emails or copying a shareable link.
So now you have 12 actionable steps and loads of additional information to help you achieve your SaaS marketing goals. Utilize all these tips or pick the ones that jump out at you the most—it’s your SaaS marketing strategy, and it should reflect your brand and your business.
Not sure where to begin? We can help you get started if you’re feeling stuck and make a tough job feel a lot easier.