Software as a Service (SaaS) revenue is expected to reach $151.1 billion by 2022, making it the largest segment of public cloud services, according to Gartner. But SaaS marketing has unique challenges. The competition is stiff, and will only get tougher as demand for SaaS products rises dramatically.
From startups to enterprises, businesses of all sizes are using 30% more SaaS products year over year, according to Blissfully’s annual SaaS report for 2020.
To cope with heightened demand, SaaS platforms have made their products more scalable and subscription-based.
But if your SaaS marketing is below par, your product can get lost in the crowd. You need proven SaaS marketing tactics to beat the competition and remain relevant.
In this post, I’ll walk you through a three-stage SaaS marketing plan that focuses on:
- Driving web traffic
- Growing your email list
- Converting leads
By leveraging these tactics, your SaaS startup can build sales funnels that convert faster. With all three stages of your funnel in-sync, conversions are bound to multiply.
We’ll start with the basics.
Table of Contents
What Exactly Is SaaS Marketing?
SaaS marketing is tricky because you are not selling tangible goods. Instead, you’re selling the ability to use software on the internet.
SaaS means software as a service. And SaaS providers create, host, update, support, and maintain the software. Subscribers just need to pay (sometimes) to use the software. Users can cancel the subscription if they no longer need it or find something better.
Here are some examples of SaaS companies:
- Google: They own more than 137 software products, both free and paid.
- Slack: One of the best project management tools that helps teams collaborate and communicate.
- CoSchedule: Their free headline analyzer and subject line analyzer help content writers and marketers.
SaaS marketing refers to the methods used to market and sell these services.
It can involve:
- Creating awareness about your tool
- Attracting the right audience
- Earning subscriptions
- Nurturing client relationships
While some generic marketing rules apply to SaaS, it’s a different ballgame in many respects. SaaS companies, especially startups, tend to be no-brick operations. They have almost no facetime with customers.
Conventional retailers can benefit even from one-time sales. If a customer buys a dress, that counts as a conversion.
SaaS platforms, on the other hand, score a deal when a customer signs up for an ongoing subscription. The sales cycle typically moves from acquisition to monetization to retention.
What does that mean for SaaS marketers?
Their job doesn’t end when a customer asks for a trial or even signs up. Marketers have to cultivate relationships to persuade subscribers to stick around.
Your optimization efforts need to focus on what happens once you acquire a customer.
Get the point?
Good. Let’s discuss an SaaS marketing plan that can help you overcome these challenges and increase your sales.
One more thing…
SaaS marketing can be tough for beginners. If you need some simple tips to nail SaaS marketing in the first go, don’t forget to check out this post on my Instagram page:
Image via Instagram
Now, let’s dive into the topic at hand.
How Can You Do SaaS Marketing like a Pro?
Just as a great SaaS product needs to be backed by strong marketing, a great marketing plan can work only if your product is of high quality. Your product should offer real value to consumers and have a competitive advantage.
This ensures that you’re promoting a product that delivers what it promises. You’re attracting referral traffic and repeat sales. A quality product also extends customer lifetime value, which is critical for SaaS businesses.
So what’s our SaaS marketing strategy?
First, you need to define your goals. Here are the key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics:
- Web traffic
- Email contacts
- Qualified leads
Once you master these KPIs, earning and retaining customers is easy.
Need a pro tip?
Focus on one metric at a time. Otherwise, you’ll lose productivity. If you move sequentially (web traffic > email > leads), the downstream metrics align themselves.
Here’s what we mean:
If your website is attracting tons of qualified traffic, your email subscriber volume and conversions will increase. When you nurture email contacts through personalized content, your subscribers can evolve into paying customers at a faster rate.
Now let’s dive into the first KPI, web traffic.
SaaS Marketing Step #1: Attract Qualified Web Traffic
These days, most buyers’ journeys start from the web. Web-savvy SaaS marketers can capture more market share than traditional marketers.
These tactics and tools can enhance your online visibility.
1. Content Marketing
This is a high return-low risk SaaS marketing tactic.
Posting great content multiplies your revenue in many ways, directly and indirectly. A robust content marketing strategy helps:
- Create brand awareness
- Connect with target audiences
- Improve brand positioning
- Establish domain knowledge
- Boost engagement rates
Authoritative content can also help you gain audience trust, a potential gamechanger in the competitive SaaS space. Plus, it can be reused to target different audiences. All of this eventually increases your conversion rate.
Check out what Demand Gen Report (DGR) found in their survey of B2B marketers (a prime target for SaaS companies):
Image via DGR
Since customers have become more discerning, they prefer to research brands and products themselves and arrive at purchase decisions on their own. That’s why quality content delivers more ROI than conventional “salesy” techniques.
To create content that can increase your conversion rate, use these content marketing techniques:
- Write with customers in mind: Research your target audience thoroughly to learn about their challenges and motivators. Understand their search intent. Why do they look for SaaS tools or related content?If you understand their expectations, you can create more on-target content.For instance, you can use the approach that DGR adopted for customer research. They conducted a user survey and learned granular details about content preferences (see image below).
- Avoid promotional language: While it’s important to highlight your core competencies, don’t be overly promotional. Find the sweet spot. Demonstrate how your tools can solve your customers’ problems. Share positive user-generated content since it’s authentic and relevant. This can ease your customer acquisition pains in a big way.
- Personalize your content: Ditch the cookie-cutter approach. Serve personalized content that is relatable and memorable.Experts swear by the segmentation approach in marketing. In simple words, it means dividing your target audience into narrow segments, and then, creating precise buyer personas for each segment. Then adjust your content’s tone, layout, and targeting accordingly.
- Be on-trend: SaaS is a fast-evolving industry. SaaS businesses are constantly updating products to cater to changing market demands. Use content marketing platforms to drill down into trending topics in your niche. Then develop cutting-edge content that impresses and educates consumers.
Take a cue from Vidyard, a top SaaS company in the online video-hosting industry. The company uses the most innovative marketing tactics to remain in the spotlight. One among them is their expansive blog. It houses long-form blog posts into which they subtly weave their products.
For instance, take this post on personalized videos. Note how they educate readers about how and when to use personalized videos.
Image via Vidyard
Instead of using third-party content, they go original. With their own experts as presenters, they create original content using their own tools. It’s a clever content marketing strategy to show the usefulness of their tool and the skills of their team.
After cementing readers’ trust, mid-way through the post, they show a product video featuring their Vice President of Marketing.
Since the video fits naturally into the content flow, it doesn’t turn off readers. In fact, there’s a good chance many readers would hit the free trial button.
Invest in PPC Campaigns
Advertising is one of the best digital marketing tactics for SaaS businesses. If you have a decent marketing budget but don’t have enough organic reach, it’s a good idea to invest in ads, both on Google and social media platforms. Through advertising, you can micro-target audiences with the right deal and get an assured return on your investment.
Here are some things you need to know about PPC to make the most of this SaaS marketing tactic in the long term:
- Always A/B test your ads for best placement, keywords, copy, and targeting.
- Keyword-enrich your ads to boost visibility on search pages.
- Track ad performance and realign your strategy if needed.
- Use PPC tools to improve ad visibility.
- Convey your value proposition
- Include compelling calls-to-action (CTAs) to drive user action.
Pro Tip: Use a PPC management software like Adplorer to set up and run your PPC campaigns more easily.
Use SEO to Drive Organic Traffic
Image via BrightEdge
However, marketers have a common misconception that SEO revolves around keywords. It’s true to some extent, but SEO is more than that.
You need to master three types of SEO for Google to perceive your site as trustworthy and index-worthy:
1. Technical SEO: This refers to the optimization of on-site HTML elements including the code and tags so Google crawlers can find and index your pages easily.
To optimize your technical SEO, do the following:
- Conduct a technical SEO audit of your website to detect gaps in the HTML structure and code.
- Front-load the target keywords into title tags.
- Use SEO-friendly URLs for files and images.
- Use alt-texts for visuals.
- Include target keywords naturally in meta descriptions and page banners.
- Ensure that your pages have a well-defined schema mark-up.
2. On-Page SEO: Creating authoritative and valuable content that is also keyword-rich falls under on-page SEO. It helps Google crawlers understand the context of your page so that they can be indexed accurately for relevant search queries.
How is it done?
- Write long-form content, which provides more keyword opportunities.
- Create engaging content that delivers value to readers.
- Cross-link relevant internal pages.
- Tag your pages precisely.
- Target keywords that match the search intent of your target audiences.
Recognizing user intent will help you create and serve on-target content that converts faster.
To identify user search intent, find out if searchers’ queries are:
- Informational: The user is trying to gather information from your site
- Navigational: The searcher purposely seeks out your website
- Transactional: The searcher is actively looking for a purchase or conversion.
- Research competitors to find the keywords that are performing best for them.
- Increase site load speed to increase visitors’ dwell time.
- Use keyword variations (LSI keywords) throughout your content.
3. Off-Page SEO: This is all about improving your site’s backlink profile so that Google perceives it as high-authority and trustworthy.
Why is off-page SEO critical to your SaaS website’s rankings? There is a linear correlation between backlinks and search traffic.
Follow these best practices to improve your SaaS site’s off-page SEO:
- Audit your backlink profile by using backlink analysis tools.
- Eliminate low-quality inbound links.
- Find high-authority websites in your niche where you can guest post to earn quality backlinks.
While looking for backlinking opportunities, evaluate websites on the basis of these factors:
- Domain authority
- Relevance to your niche and target audience
- Backlink profile
- Anchor text relevance
- Try to get backlinks from multiple websites by publishing good content on them.
- Earn backlinks from infographics, reviews, citations, testimonials, and social media outreach.
- Write insightful, unique blog posts that garner a lot of shares, providing you with natural backlinks.
With these three SaaS marketing tactics, you can multiply the number of visitors to your website.
Next, you need to work on the second KPI, email subscribers.
SaaS Marketing Step #2: Build Your Email Subscriber List
Once your SaaS business website is on the radar of prospective customers, it’s time to deepen the relationship.
If they trust you enough to share their email addresses, take it as a good sign. It means you can send targeted and personalized content that triggers them to sign up for a demo, trial, or even purchase.
Since personalized emails have great open rates and email marketing provides staggering returns (nearly $42 for every $1 spent), this is a reliable SaaS marketing strategy.
So, what should your email marketing strategy look like?
Start by building an email contact list, either using content upgrades or free tools.
Gate your premium content using email sign-up forms. Visitors who want the resource must provide their contact information.
Some of the content upgrades you can gate include:
- PDF guides
- Expert interviews
- Case studies
Create compelling posts promoting the content upgrades indirectly. Explain subtly how opting for the upgrade can benefit users. To gain the trust of discerning consumers, you can get independent reviewers to write sponsored posts about your tools. Customer acquisition is easier if existing customers vouch for your products, prices, and services.
At multiple points in the posts, add strong CTAs that redirect to a landing page. Ask users to provide email addresses in exchange for the content. Don’t forget to flash a thank-you page after capturing the email addresses.
Free trials are an excellent way to boost leads. You can discuss your product in a blog post, but nothing beats the experience of a “test drive.” Consumers can experience the tool first-hand and judge its usefulness.
Look at how Pipedrive offers a long trial period. They don’t ask users to submit credit card details for trial registrations, since that can be a turn-off. They just request an email address where they can send the trial-activation link.
Image via Pipedrive
You can also get existing subscribers to unlock exclusive features on a trial basis. This kind of lever is often used in SaaS marketing for upselling.
It’s essential that consumers have a wonderful experience during the trial period. The goal is to give them a taste of your tool so they can’t resist subscribing after the trial ends.
How can you do this?
Provide onboarding support through calls, chatbots, or emails. Keep information on the tool readily accessible in your blog or video tutorials.
During the trial period, send transactional emails to encourage users to activate the tool or features.
You can use email marketing tools to segment registered subscribers into narrow groups, based on their experience and actions. Then craft personalized emails (with relevant content and deals) for each segment.
These SaaS marketing strategies guide visitors from discovery to the consideration phase. Users get to know your tools and services closely. By opting for updates and trials, they can evaluate your tools’ features for comparison with competitors.
If you can provide a satisfactory experience here, it’s relatively easy to convert casual users into paying customers. Let’s take a closer look at how to do it.
SaaS Marketing Step #3: Generate Conversions from Leads
After laying the groundwork for earning conversions, you come to the customer acquisition step of your SaaS marketing strategy. The people who opted for your content updates and product trials are your business leads.
Now you have to convince them to buy your tools. The tactics below can help:
When it comes to purchase decisions, 88% of consumers trust recommendations from colleagues, family, and friends. Word-of-mouth publicity can earn you many referral sales and multiply your sign-ups. This way, you can increase the lifetime value of your existing customers.
Image Source: Oracle
Catching the consumer while they are excited about the tool. Ask for a referral right after they complete the trial. You can also ask them to provide references for friends who might be interested in your services.
To make this a no-brainer, offer incentives in return for referrals.
For example, Evernote awards loyalty points that subscribers can redeem during check-out time if they refer a friend.
Image Source: Evernote
You can also establish a formal affiliate program and turn your customers into brand advocates.
FreshBooks has a great affiliate marketing strategy. They provide commissions to loyal customers who promote their brand and attract sign-ups. In this way, customers become an extension of their sales team, with regular income streams.
Image Source: FreshBooks
Since the customers’ income streams are tied to the brand’s growth, they work hard to generate leads for the brand. For FreshBooks, this arrangement is a win-win. They get great sales, new customers, and brand advocacy with one masterstroke.
Need one more killer strategy?
Try to get your tool listed on industry-relevant review sites. Smart consumers seek out neutral third-party opinions before making purchases. Many users visit sites like Capterra to look up top-rated tools.
Image via Capterra
You can even participate in award programs and tout any achievements on your website. This can inspire consumer trust and boost conversions.
Optimize Your Pricing Page
An important but underrated element in SaaS marketing is the pricing page. A well-structured page clearly shows the information needed by potential buyers to complete the conversion process.
If you have a discount/deal/money-back guarantee, make sure it is displayed in bold terms on the top of the page. Add time-limited clauses to create urgency and increase conversions.
LearnWorlds’ pricing page is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s clean and distraction-free, designed for the sole purpose of converting visitors.
Image via LearnWorlds
The pricing page highlights cost savings in concise bulleted lists and uses contrasting colors to draw attention to the CTAs they want website visitors to click on.
If you have different pricing plans for your tools, list them clearly and provide an option to compare plans without leaving the page.
But limit your pricing to three or four options. Too many choices can confuse potential buyers.
LearnWorlds also has impressive exit pop-ups. As I was about to leave their site without converting, they flashed an attractive FREE deal (not one, but six free ebooks) in an effort to reel me back in.
It’s a good idea to A/B test your pricing page with real users. You can experiment with different buttons, copy, colors, and tones to see which ones get the maximum conversions.
Q1. What is SaaS product marketing?
A. SaaS product marketing refers to all the tactics used in selling software as a service. Unlike traditional marketing, SaaS products are not tangible. Also, marketing them doesn’t stop after conversion. Promoting SaaS products requires special tools, tactics, and best practices – all focusing on customer retention, not acquisition.
Q2. What is a SaaS marketing strategy?
A. A SaaS marketing strategy means the process of attracting, acquiring, and retaining customers of your SaaS business. It focuses on:
- Boosting brand awareness
- Driving website traffic
- Educating visitors and nurturing them into leads
- Converting leads into customers
- Earning referrals and repeat sales from customers
Q3. Why is SaaS marketing different?
A. SaaS marketing differs from product marketing because of three main reasons:
- SaaS products are not tangible products. They are subscription-based services, sold as products. Since SaaS tools are promising an aspirational experience, marketing them can be challenging.
- With SaaS marketing, the focus is on customer retention rather than customer acquisition. The customer churn rate is higher in the SaaS industry. So, it’s a priority to provide a great after-sales or in-trial experience to customers.
- When selling a service, accounting for revenue can be hard. Typically, SaaS revenue is not made of one-time payments, but yearly or monthly subscription fees. Subscribers can cancel at any time, which makes revenue accounting a dicey subject.
Q4. Is SaaS a B2B?
A. SaaS can be B2B or B2C, depending on who the customer is. Software services can be used by individuals as well as companies. Sometimes, companies subscribe to SaaS products on behalf of their customers or employees.
Q5. How to market a SaaS product?
A. To market a SaaS product effectively, focus on:
- Attracting people to your SaaS website by SEO, content marketing, and PPC campaigns.
- Building your subscriber lists by offering free trials and content updates.
- Converting your visitors into customers by optimizing your pricing page.
- Increasing your customer lifetime value by asking for referrals and upselling to existing customers.
Q6. How big is the SaaS market?
A. The SaaS market is expected to reach $151 billion by 2022, according to Statista’s estimates. This means a 30% year-on-year increase in the SaaS consumer base.
Q7. How much do SaaS companies spend on marketing?
A. The biggest SaaS companies spend nearly 50% of the annual recurring revenue on marketing. On average, companies are allocating 30%-35% of their revenue to marketing initiatives during the first three years of formation.
Q8. Is Netflix a SaaS?
A. Yes, Netflix is a SaaS company that provides subscribers with licenses to watch content hosted on the platform. Netflix’s business model demands viewers pay a fixed monthly or annual subscription fee.
Are You Ready to Nail Your SaaS Marketing?
A result-oriented SaaS marketing strategy helps you fulfill business targets. The strategy I’ve outlined here provides start-to-finish funnel coverage, converting unaware audiences into loyal customers. By implementing it, you can move customers through the sales cycle organically.
While the tactics are proven, they are not set in stone. Feel free to modify them to suit your platform, audience, and goals.
Also understand that the SaaS marketer’s job doesn’t end with customer acquisition. You must focus on customer retention, so you can grow your business through referrals and target new user groups.
Which of these SaaS marketing strategies are you planning to leverage for your business? Can I help you with anything of your other digital marketing needs? Leave your requests in the comments below. I’m always happy to help.