Marketing of any kind is a puzzle. You have to figure out how to get the right message in front of the right audience at the right time. This can involve a lot of trial and error, some educated guessing, and hopefully, a bit of luck.
But what about marketing a product that has no physical presence? Or what if your marketing strategy needs to draw in new customers while simultaneously keeping current customers engaged? What if you had to maintain the majority of your current customer base for financial stability?
These are the unique challenges of SaaS Marketing. Because SaaS is relatively new to the marketing world, some of the old traditional methods simply don’t work.
However, because the industry is growing so quickly, (between 2019 and 2021, the global SaaS market is expected to be worth $60.36 billion!) SaaS marketers have learned to be creative, thoughtful and innovative.
The fact that the book is still being written on this type of marketing may make marketers feel a little hesitant— but it also opens up the door for a ton of opportunity.
In this blog, we’ll discuss why standard marketing practices don’t always work in SaaS, what kind of campaigns have been proven to work, and the 5 critical stages of developing a SaaS marketing strategy.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump in!
The Difference between SaaS Marketing Challenges from Traditional
Like we mentioned above, SaaS marketing is simply different. Here are a few specific reasons why:
You Have Three Distinct Audiences
In traditional marketing, you’re normally focused on one audience — new customers. Sure, getting repeat customers is great, but it’s not always the main focus.
In SaaS marketing however, your current ‘customers’ are treated almost like a warm lead— especially if you have a free version of your service. Nurturing and finding ways to upsell to current users is not a secondary focus, it’s equal in importance to reaching new audiences.
Your three distinct goals are:
- And retention
Your Product is Constantly Changing
When marketing a traditional product, you can rely on your product’s consistency. The fact that your product remains the same allows you to really dig into your data and targeting to optimize your campaigns over time.
However, with SaaS marketing, you’re trying to sell a product that is constantly evolving. You’re releasing new features, new uses, and new functionality. This means you have to move more quickly in adapting your platforms, messages, and techniques to reach customers.
While you’ll definitely never run out of material to market, it can be a challenge to keep up!
Your Product is Extremely Niche
Traditional marketing often focuses on reaching as many people in an audience as possible.
Conversely, most SaaS products are extremely niche. Some products only appeal to a B2B audience of 20 Fortune 500’s, and some are even created for just a handful of brands.
This means that SaaS marketing often has to help disqualify some leads before they make it into the pipeline.
You Start by Giving Your Product Away for Free
When it comes to traditional marketing, giving away free samples of products is nothing new. However, giving away an entire product for free to every customer is unheard of!
But this is exactly what a large majority of SaaS companies do. The free version of their product is fully functional, and they rely on it heavily to draw in new paying customers.
So yeah, SaaS is a different beast. But it’s also a really fun and interesting challenge for marketers who are up for it.
Let’s look at what kind of campaigns marketers can implement to overcome some of the hurdles above and get a killer marketing strategy in place.
What Kinds of Campaigns can SaaS marketers create?
Email marketing is still huge with today’s marketers across every industry. In fact, 49% of businesses use some form of email marketing.
And email marketing is a huge opportunity for SaaS marketers as well, especially when it comes to nurturing current users.
Take Basecamp for example. They are a huge SaaS project management software that relies on email to move customers from free trials to paid plans. Here’s one of their actual emails, which we’ve broken down by its most important marketing components.
Of course, this is just one example of how to use email for SaaS. There are plenty more.
PPC (pay-per-click) ads are another popular campaign type for SaaS marketers. Usually, these campaigns are run on a search or social media platform like Google or Facebook.
Here’s a Google PPC ad example from CRM management software Zendesk:
These types of campaigns can be a little pricey. The average cost your business will pay per click for SaaS keywords is $13-$15. But if you’re looking to rank quickly and attract new users, it’s a good option. Just be sure to stay on top of your ROI.
Did you know that 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine? This knowledge has led to an explosion in SEO marketing over the past 10 years. SEO (search engine optimization) is a content marketing strategy that relies on the use of keywords and keyword phrases to reach the top of organic rankings in search engines.
This method is extremely popular with SaaS marketing due to the fact that it’s low-cost and educational for customers.
Referral marketing is another go-to strategy for SaaS marketers. A whopping 83% of customers are more likely to refer new customers after positive user experience, and referred customers’ lifetime value (LTV) is 16% higher than that of non-referred customers. So, it’s clear to see why this type of marketing would be attractive to SaaS companies.
You may notice, all of these marketing campaigns rely on one overarching strategy: Content marketing.
And developing your content marketing strategy is the first critical step in SaaS Marketing:
Content Marketing for SaaS
When done right, content marketing can be the pillar of your entire SaaS marketing strategy.
Content marketing is the king of generating inbound leads because it provides customers and potential customers with information and education about your product.
In order to get started with content marketing for SaaS, you need to outline each major milestone in your customer’s journey, and then formulate content around that stage.
For example, in SaaS, this normally looks something like this:
- Awareness – PPC, SEO, also cold calling services
- Lead Generation – Email marketing, referral marketing
- Trial Sign-Ups – Email marketing, social ads, etc.
- Conversion to Paid Customers – Email marketing, blogging
- Customer Retention – Email marketing, blogging, referral marketing
Once you’ve outlined your customer’s buying journey and the type of content marketing you’ll use for each, it’s time to develop a buyer persona so you can write extremely targeted content:
Developing A Buyer Persona
Buyer personas are an incredibly effective way to understand how to communicate with potential customers. One recent study showed that 90% of companies using personas have been able to create a clearer understanding of their buyers.
For example, are you trying to reach millennials in NYC who feel unorganized at work? Knowing this information will help you craft much more targeted and direct content than using something broad like ‘we want to attract millennials’.
Now that you have a buyer persona and a content marketing strategy, the next step is to automate.
It’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the different aspects of your SaaS marketing strategy if you’re not using automation. Not only does marketing automation ensure that nothing slips through the cracks, but it also helps you target your audience in a more direct way.
For example, let’s say you have data that shows your users are more likely to convert to a paid plan on day 10 of their trial. It would be impossible to keep up with sending every single user an email on day 10. However, with email automation, it’s easy.
There are hundreds of tools on the market dedicated solely to helping your SaaS marketing team become more efficient through automation. Check them out and choose the one that’s the best fit for you.
Your content can really shine when it comes to lead nurturing. Continuing to educate your customers about the value, ROI and features of your product can turn them from free-trial users into paying customers.
At this phase, you want to use your content marketing efforts to drive home how much time, money or resources your product is saving the user, and convince them that they can’t live without it!
Reporting and Optimizing
The last phase of your strategy is simply to analyze your results and optimize your campaigns.
What’s working and what’s not? Where could you tweak your content to test for higher conversions? Where could you do some A/B testing?
Eventually, you’ll have a well-oiled content marketing machine that will help drive leads and subscription renewals while you sleep!
SaaS marketing is different, challenging, unique— but it can also be incredibly rewarding.
It can help you generate hundreds of qualified leads through a variety of B2B lead generation and cold-calling strategies. Also, help you nurture and grow them into long-standing clients.