How to put together a top-tier SaaS marketing strategy

The SaaS (software-as-a-service) space is anything but static.

Sounds like an understatement, right?

In fact, recent data from Blissfully notes that the average business should expect almost half of their software stacks to change within the next two years.

Translation? Customers are cycling through SaaS products like crazy.

Even so, the cloud market is scheduled to grow a staggering 17% in 2020. This signals a massive window of opportunity for SaaS companies looking to stake their claim.

Doing so means nailing down your SaaS marketing strategy, though.

In this guide, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about SaaS marketing. This includes actionable tips and tactics your company can roll out to drive demos and subscriptions ASAP.

What makes SaaS marketing “different?”

To kick things off, let’s talk about what sets SaaS marketing apart from other industries.

Because comparing SaaS marketing to ecommerce (or pretty much any other market) is apples and oranges.

Below’s a quick rundown of what defines SaaS versus other industries.

SaaS marketing is all about long-term customers

In short, SaaS companies are looking to acquire and retain customers for the long haul – years at a time.

Once someone becomes a customer, SaaS companies are responsible for consistently communicating and marketing to them to prevent churn.  When someone churns, they’ve basically dropped out of your funnel. According to data from Recurly, the average voluntary SaaS churn rate sits around 5% annually.

Much of SaaS marketing is about reducing churn

Whereas a traditional company may treat a transaction as a “one and done,” SaaS companies are laser-focused on long-term retention after a demo or download.

That’s exactly why so many SaaS companies operate on a “freemium” model or give away a free version of their product to reel in users.

The SaaS customer journey is complex

Food for thought: it can take anywhere between six to eighteen months to close an enterprise deal in SaaS.

That’s because the customer journey through a SaaS marketing funnel is anything but straightforward.

For starters, SaaS marketing requires a company to create and promote content at varying levels of awareness.

Let’s say you’re marketing an SEO tool. Some of your target audience may not even know what SEO is yet. Meanwhile, you might have customers at later stages of the funnel comparing your product to competing SEO tools and others who are ready for a trial.

In other words, what a customer “looks like” is anything but one-size-fits-all. This translates into creating a wide range of content and marketing materials based on what your prospects know (or need to know).

Notable for companies in the SaaS B2B marketing space, Gartner recently observed that the average buyer is more overwhelmed with information than ever before. SaaS marketers today must find a balance between educating their audience and drowning them with information.

The SaaS space is crowded with competition

Another major understatement.

Take a peek at the SaaS 1000 or the MarTech 5000 and you’ll see just how crowded the SaaS space is.

Heck, simply looking up “CRM” on the software review platform Capterra returns 770 results as of writing this.

CRM search

It doesn’t matter what subset of SaaS you’re working in: competition is fierce.

SaaS marketing is a competitive space, especially CRM software

But again, this level of competition speaks to the need for new solutions and software. Keep in mind that the average business relies on dozens to hundreds of SaaS apps. There’s always room to provide new solutions to the challenges companies are facing.

What are the staples of a SaaS marketing strategy?

Hey, good question!

Putting together an effective SaaS marketing plan means understanding the best ways to attract and reach customers.

And again, there is no single way to make it happen. Instead, there’s a combination of channels and tactics that successful SaaS brands have proven work time and time again. Let’s break ’em down.

Email marketing

Email marketing might seem old-school but it’s integral to SaaS.

Remember what we said earlier about the customer lifecycle lasting a long time? Email remains one of the best channels for making frequent, one-on-one touchpoints with customers.

Here are some typical SaaS marketing emails that most companies send on the regular:

  • Onboarding emails (for a product demo)
  • Feature announcements
  • New content (webinars, blog posts)
  • Company newsletters
  • Surveys
  • Check-ins

Note that approximately half of SaaS customers log in or use a product less often than once a month. Yikes.

Email is the perfect way to give customers a nudge and likewise make sure that someone is satisfied with your product.

For example, this email from Sprout that announced Instagram scheduling gave recipients a new reason to check out their content calendar and spend some time in Sprout’s platform.

sprout social email

Meanwhile, this message from Squarespace serves as a general check-in and webinar invitation to make sure customers aren’t sleeping on their platform’s best features.

email and SaaS marketing are key for customer retention

See how that works?

SEO

The importance of SEO and organic reach really can’t be stressed enough.

As illustrated in his research regarding the best traffic sources for SaaS, consultant Mike Sonders notes that organic traffic accounts for the bulk of leads and traffic for top-tier SaaS companies (up to 68% total).

The previous Gartner study highlights the fact that folks are doing more and more independent research when looking up SaaS products. In many cases, this means turning to a quick Google search. This is why so many companies are looking to get featured on “best of” lists in addition to creating their own blog content for SEO.

Organic search is huge for SaaS marketing, especially top of funnel leads

Beyond educating customers, blogging is a prime way for SaaS companies to target keywords and attract leads via search engines. That’s exactly what we do here at Sprout.
Sprout Social Insights

Webinars

Webinars are all the rage right now for a reason.

Data gathered by GoToWebinar notes that a quarter of all webinars are created by SaaS companies. Meanwhile, the same data notes that nearly three-fourths of B2B and sales leaders cite webinars as the best method for generating high-quality leads.

Webinars and digital events are great for driving demos, showing off your product and likewise promoting thought leadership.

Webinars can either be presented live or downloadable “on-demand,” perfect for prospects and current customers alike. Plus, replays and broadcasts can be uploaded to the likes of YouTube to help build out your channel and score search traffic at the same time.

PPC and social ads

Pay-per-click advertising is alive and well for SaaS.

Many companies use Google ads to increase visibility for specific keywords and likewise outrank competitors. PPC campaigns can be run immediately and don’t require the waiting game involved with SEO.

PPC can be used for SaaS companies to target specific keywords

Social ads are similarly becoming more prevalent for SaaS, enabling companies to bypass social algorithms and advertise directly to relevant customers.

Checklists, webinars and case studies are prime content for social ads, for example. Facebook actually has its own slew of SaaS marketing success stories such as BigCommerce who saw a 3x lift in trial conversions from their ad campaign.

Facebook ads are effective for SaaS marketing, specifically remarketing to customers

The beauty of a platform like Facebook is the ability to zero in on specific customers based on demographic and interest data. Additionally, Facebook’s remarketing ads allow SaaS companies a “second chance” at winning over people who might have bounced from a landing page or previously downloaded a demo.

Organic social media

Social media has become integral to SaaS marketing at large.

Although software companies may not seem like the ideal candidates to thrive on social media, many SaaS brands are taking full advantage of platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

For example, social media represents a place to do all of the following:

  • Go back-and-forth directly with customers
  • Curate product feedback and ideas
  • Announce new features and products
  • Promote top-of-funnel content (blog posts, videos)
  • Highlight industry accolades and earned media
  • Show off your employees and company culture

What should be the top priorities of my SaaS marketing plan?

Let’s talk tactics.

Now that we’ve broken down the channels, let’s showcase specific SaaS marketing strategies and must-dos to score those ever-so-valuable customers.

Streamline communication with your customers and leads

The sooner you can respond to a SaaS customer, the better.

This rings true whether we’re talking about product issues, pricing questions or even praise.

When you’re juggling multiple marketing channels, it’s crucial to allocate your resources and keep a close eye on messages and notifications. Doing so could be the difference between a long-term customer and a lost lead.

Recent data from Salesforce notes that the experience a company provides is just as important as their product or service. The takeaway here is that you can’t afford to let questions or feedback linger.

Case in point, social customer care is becoming more of a priority for SaaS companies. Channels like Twitter allow a quick and simple place for customers to ask questions.

Companies can likewise listen in on conversations where their product is being mentioned or recommended.

Oh, and don’t forget quick troubleshooting for current customers.

If you’re part of a SaaS marketing team, you can’t have your wires crossed when it comes to communication.

That’s where something like Sprout’s collaboration tools can be a game-changer, allowing multiple team members to work within the same social inboxes without stepping on anyone’s toes. The end-result is swifter communication and more questions answered on behalf of your customers.

Sprout Social collaboration

Additionally, features such as social listening allow you to make sure that mentions about your brand are positive and that you’re consistently engaging with customers via social.

Sprout social listening report

Curate reviews and customer success stories

Social proof and positive reviews are key to SaaS marketing, generating a sort of digital word-of-mouth.

According to data from Groove, testimonials and social proof go hand in hand with higher conversions.

This speaks to the importance of being featured and regularly reviewed on sites which aggregate customer feedback for SaaS products.

Piggybacking on the above, keeping open channels of communicating makes it much easier curate reviews on such sites. It makes it easier to ask for testimonials and case studies which are among the best ways to prove that your product is up to snuff.

For example, Optinmonster promotes a variety of testimonials on-site. These testimonials address a variety of industries, allowing them to show off their social proof and win over different segments of their audience.

Curating testimonials is a brilliant way for SaaS marketers to prove that their product is up to snuff

Meanwhile, their testimonials and case studies break down specific metrics and performance data. The ability to show off actual numbers is much more compelling than just praise for a job well done.

Case studies and customer success stories are a staple of SaaS marketing

That said, even the seemingly simplest forms of positive feedback can serve as good news for your business. Notice that many SaaS brands take the time to respond and re-publish shout-outs from customers.

This again points to the importance of social media monitoring and listening to ensure that you’re already gathering and responding to social proof.

Create and promote content for the top of your funnel

Research shows that people typically engage with at least eleven pieces of content before they’re ready to make a purchase.

This, coupled with a lengthy SaaS customer journey, speaks to the need to have a diverse content calendar. Specifically, plenty of top-the-funnel content such as blog posts, case studies and videos that raise awareness for your product and the problems it solves.

This sort of content is perfect for social media and serves as a way to both educate and entertain your audience.

For example, here’s a pretty straightforward blog post promo from HubSpot.

Platforms like LinkedIn are also ideal for sharing content such as checklists and other downloadables.

Publishing top of funnel content makes sense in SaaS marketing for the sake of raising awarenessWe’re also seeing SaaS brands step up their investment in video content, going hand in hand with 2020’s top social media trends.

Specifically, bite-sized video that showcases specific product features is great for YouTube, Linked and Twitter alike.

Such content is easy mobile-friendly and easy for followers to digest at a glance. Short-form video serves as a way to quickly educate customers without requiring them to sit through a full-blown webinar or read a blog post.

Make it painless for people to sign up for a demo

Simply put, don’t require people to jump through a bunch of hoops to get your product in their hands.

For example, the specifics of your demo should be straightforward. You should also make it clear where to access your demo via landing pages with clear calls-to-action.

Here’s an example. Zoom’s homepage contains multiple spots to sign up for their product. Meanwhile, instant log-in via Google means that the product only takes a few seconds to access.

zoom demo

Sendlane’s trial is also a great example of clear messaging. Their sign-up page spells out the trial’s limitations (14 days, 100 subscribers, 500 emails) and the fact that no credit card is required.

Free trials are integral for SaaS marketing when it comes to driving sign-ups

When in doubt, keep your demos and trials as simple as possible.

Figure out a crystal clear pricing structure

It’s no secret that SaaS pricing can be a controversial subject.

For example, a 2019 case study by Reply.io notes that a “freemium” model can be hit-or-miss in terms of driving long-term subscriptions. There’s also plenty of debate over whether to adopt higher or lower price points to differentiate between “discount” and “premium” services.

Regardless of what your pricing structure is, there shouldn’t be any secrets about it. In short, don’t skimp on details on your pricing pages. Clarifying what your customers “get” with each pricing plan will ultimately result in fewer questions and set the right expectations upon onboarding.

For example, Slack’s pricing page breaks down each of their plans clearly.

Slack pricing

Here’s another example from Wave.video, using a checklist to showcase and outline specific plan features. Note that they also include the annual billing price in addition to the monthly cost.

Wave.video pricing page

Dig into your customer data and analytics

SaaS marketing is rooted in data, perhaps more so than any other type of business.

For example, there are seemingly endless data points that can influence your product and marketing decisions. This includes product usage data gathered from your customers. Some key data points to consider include:

  • Average churn rate
  • Customer lifetime value (CTLV)
  • Landing page conversion rate(s)
  • Organic traffic and conversions
  • Top-performing ads and marketing messages

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what SaaS brands can track. Either way, regularly looking at your numbers allows you to make more informed decisions that are backed up by data. This includes social media analytics to highlight your top-performing content and ROI.

In short, analytics guide your SaaS marketing decisions

Empower people to use your products

In addition to creating and promoting content, a solid knowledge base and repository of resources is a smart move for SaaS companies.

Doing so empowers customers to take full advantage of what your products have to offer. It also reduces the time spent on customer service and questions.

For example, check out the depth of Zendesk’s resources for customers including webinars, an asset library and in-depth guides for each piece of their product suite.

Zendesk resoures and knowledge base

How else can SaaS companies stand out from the crowd?

To wrap things up, let’s dive into some final SaaS marketing tips for companies in crowded spaces that are struggling to stand out from the competition.

Define your value proposition

Sometimes the best way to make an impact on SaaS customers is by being straightforward with ’em.

Instead of overwhelming customers with data or what’s under the hood of your product, think about your value proposition.

In other words, your company needs to answer the following for customers at a glance:

“Okay, what can you do for me?”

What pain point are you taking care of? Are you saving people time? Energy? Money?

Your value proposition might seem obvious to you, but it’s crucial to spell it out for customers (hint: put it front-and-center on your homepage).

Value proposition example

Make your brand unmistakable

SaaS companies need a defined branding strategy for the sake of grabbing customers’ attention and making a lasting impression.

It’s easy to overlook elements such as logo design and brand voice when you’re trying to push a powerhouse product with tons of features. That said, these simple pieces of branding are what’s going to help you define you versus your competitors.

Think of companies like Slack with their recognizable color scheme and messaging emphasizing on improving one’s life at work.

 

Slack branding

Mailchimp is another great example of masterful SaaS branding, with a distinct logo and creatives that are distinctly theirs.

MailChimp branding

Take time to showcase your company culture and values

Finally, remember that we live in an era of brands getting real.

SaaS brands are no exception.

Culture, values and philanthropy are all factors that set companies apart and likewise matter so much to your customer base.

Especially through social media, you can highlight your values and likewise humanize your brand. Doing so is also a brilliant way to bring your team together.

Asana culture

Ready to fine-tune your SaaS marketing strategy?

Listen: there are a lot of moving pieces involved in SaaS marketing.

Heck, it might feel like there are too many.

That said, it’s more than possible to come up with a succinct strategy that results in demos and downloads.

The channels and tactics highlighted above can serve as the foundation for your SaaS marketing plan no matter what industry you’re in. Through analytics and experimentation, you can figure out what works best for your customer base and make tweaks over time.

What do you consider to be the most important pieces of SaaS software marketing? Anything that we missed or you’d like to know more about? Let us know in the comments below! Or, if you’re looking to learn more about how to build your B2B marketing strategy, check out fresh stats on social media use in the software industry.

This post How to put together a top-tier SaaS marketing strategy originally appeared on Sprout Social.