Ultimate Guide to SaaS Marketing 101: An Effective Playbook to Accelerate Business Grow
For an industry established not more than a couple of decades ago, software-as-a-service or SaaS, as we better know it, has surely been a disruptive force that’s steadily transforming businesses of the 21st century. And what has shaped this tremendous growth is cutting-edge SaaS marketing strategies that generate demand. As of 2021, the global SaaS market is already worth approximately USD 145.5 billion, which indicates 5X growth in the past 6 years.
With Gartner predicting that end-user spending on cloud services is only going to skyrocket in the coming years, SaaS is going to be a force to reckon with. As a result, SaaS marketing couldn’t be more in demand and critical to business disruption as it is today!
With the software cloud services industry evolving at a breakneck pace, SaaS marketing too has evolved significantly over these past years. As the use of data-driven campaigns, hyper-personalization, and predictive analytics to deliver stellar customer experiences becomes mainstream, SaaS marketers are faced with the constant challenge of consistently innovating to drive sustainable business growth.
In this guide, we shall decode the world of SaaS marketing, what makes it so unique, and some tried-and-true strategies you can rely on to drive accelerated growth for your SaaS business.
What is SaaS Marketing?
Put simply, SaaS marketing is a marketing strategy that involves utilizing digital channels to generate awareness and acquire leads for a software business that builds subscription-based cloud products. SaaS marketing encompasses creating demand as well as purchase intent for products that provide technical remedies to critical business needs.
As SaaS products are meant to offer scalable, cost-effective, and robust solutions for consumers or businesses, SaaS marketing must be unique because it is centered around the service or experience a customer receives and not just the product.
From Salesforce’s aggressive marketing campaign - “The End of Software”, which was launched in the early 2000s and protested against the (then) existing software delivery by giants in the industry to Mailchimp Presents - a series of entertaining short videos, podcasts, and a web series launched in 2021 as part of a campaign targeted towards small businesses and entrepreneurs, SaaS marketing sure has come a long way.
A glimpse from the protest organized by Salesforce as part of their ‘The End of Software’ campaign
A look at Mailchimp Presents
The SaaS marketing we witness in 2022 is a product of extensive user research, constant innovation, and increasing dependence on data and analytics to attract high-intent prospects who are looking not just to solve a problem at hand, but to drive business success at large.
Before we discuss some dependable strategies that are sure to deliver significant ROI for your SaaS business, let’s first understand what makes SaaS marketing so different and unique.
How is SaaS Marketing Different?
Digital marketing in the SaaS domain is different from marketing in other industries because there are certain nuances to the SaaS customer journey and the sales funnel that are completely distinctive. Let’s take a look at the most prominent ones:
Complex Customer Journeys and Longer Sales Cycles
When it comes to SaaS marketing, customer journeys are not as linear as <Awareness-Consideration-Interest-Purchase-Loyalty>, but are far more complex, as selling to SaaS businesses often involves persuading multiple decision-makers which can get tricky. Moreover, having multiple stakeholders also extends sales cycles, with the average being 6 to 9 months long.
Also, to sell a SaaS product for a specific use case, there is generally a learning curve involved. That’s because the buyer typically needs to fully understand the solution before committing to a long-term investment. As many SaaS solutions can directly impact business efficiency and/or growth, this becomes extremely crucial.
Business use cases that buyers are looking to solve tend to be quite complex and thus marketing to buyers who are looking for specific answers to complicated questions can be a tough nut to crack in this competitive landscape.
Customer Retention Defines Long-Term Success
We’ve all read those statistics on how a small percentage of your customers bring in the majority of your revenue. However, customer retention is all the more crucial for a SaaS business, primarily because it is built on the subscription-based revenue model. Also, the longer the customer sticks around for, the more upsell and cross-sell opportunities they generate for you; thus, increasing the total value they add to your business.
The more a customer utilizes your product to grow their business, the more your business grows. However, if they leave before exploring your product to the fullest or experiencing the fateful "aha moment", your effort in onboarding them and equipping them for success is futile.
Customer Success is More Critical Than Product Features
While your overall product functionality and robustness define the number of product-led buyers it attracts, the amount of time they decide to stay with your product is determined by the success they are able to drive in terms of their business metrics. So, in SaaS marketing, focusing on equipping existing customers to drive success with your product is also a crucial function of marketing, apart from just attracting new potential customers.
Collaboration with Product, Sales, and Customer Success Teams is Crucial
To fully understand product technicalities, complex use cases, and customers’ unique business requirements, it is crucial for marketing teams to regularly meet and collaborate with product, sales, support, and customer success teams to get them to weigh-in on long-term strategies. This will help align campaigns in the right direction by leveraging customers’ perspectives in decision-making.
How SaaS marketing is different
SaaS Marketing Strategies to Stay Ahead of the Curve in 2022
Make Content Marketing the Cornerstone of Your Strategy
As educating your audience is the bedrock of SaaS marketing, your strategy is futile without a robust content marketing roadmap. Given the competitive nature of the industry, you need to reach your target audience before your competitors and do so with insightful content that adds value. This can be achieved by building an SEO-driven omnichannel SaaS content marketing strategy that is complemented by research-based and opinion-based content, that you are not afraid to experiment with.
Include a healthy mix of content formats, promotion channels, and content types in your strategy to consistently engage with your audience and slowly pique their interest in your products. In fact, your content strategy can be the building block of the rest of your demand generation marketing. Once you have found the right tone of voice and messaging that resonates with your target audience, you can use the same to drive results from your other demand gen efforts.
If you are confused about how to get started with content marketing for your business, get in touch with us at Hypelocal. We specialize in helping SaaS marketers leverage the power of valuable content to drive limitless growth for their business. Book a free strategy session with one of our experts to learn more.
Reimagine SaaS Email Marketing with Personalization
Whether it is promotional emails, onboarding emails, surveys, or newsletters, try to reinvent how you connect with your customers via this channel. Dig deep into your data to create audience segments and personalize your emails for each of them to ensure that the content relates to them. Your audience segments can be based on the demographic attributes of your prospects or their past interactions with your brand.
Another way to personalize emails is by the customer's stage in the buying journey. For prospects who haven’t expressed interest in your offerings yet, you can send educational emails, while for those who have engaged with your brand previously, you can shoot out more product-specific mailers.
Here’s an example of an event promotion email by HubSpot, the content of which has been personalized as per the target audiences’ interests.
Email personalization from HubSpot
Invest in Co-marketing and Partner Marketing
To broaden your audience pool and leverage the authority of other credible leaders in the industry, you can partner with companies in the space that are not your competitors, but complement your products or services and market to your combined target market. You can co-create a marketing strategy that would benefit both parties and work together to promote it.
For example, if you sell a Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) product suite, you could partner with CRO agencies that have the same target demographic as you and co-author an eBook along the lines of CRO for Beginners. This asset could be hosted on both sites and be distributed across both your databases. You could even conduct a webinar on the same topic with leaders from both companies, and share the eBook with the attendees.
Drive Signups with Pay-per-click Advertising
While you can depend on organic content to build long-term demand for your SaaS business, leveraging paid advertising allows you to boost your sign-up numbers in the short term by driving visitors to your site from search engines and social media, immediately.
To make the most of your pay-per-click advertising efforts,
- Bid on competitor keywords and use persuasive copy to highlight how your product is superior to the solution that is being searched
- Use Facebook and LinkedIn lead gen forms to allow your audience to sign up without leaving the respective platforms so that their browsing experience isn’t interrupted and your conversion rate goes up drastically
- Personalize your ads for your target audience so the copy resonates with them and gets them to click
- Keep optimizing and tweaking your ads each month to avoid fatigue and deliver better results with experimentation
Here’s an example of how Sleeknote uses Facebook lead ads to maximize downloads for their content resources without interrupting users’ experience:
Example of Sleeknote Facebook Ad
Not sure how to tap into paid advertising for your SaaS business? At Hypelocal, we specialize in empowering SaaS businesses to unlock growth opportunities via paid advertising. Reach out to us for a free strategy session to understand how we can help you achieve your marketing goals as well.
Explore Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing is a relatively unconventional SaaS marketing tactic that involves marketing and sales teams working collaboratively to shortlist valuable potential customers (or accounts) and then creating an exclusive and personalized customer journey to convert them. What makes an account-based marketing strategy work is how hyper-targeted and relevant it is for the prospect, which makes it harder for them to ignore.
To get started with account-based marketing, you will need to:
- Create your ideal customer profile based on primary and secondary research of your industry
- Gather lists of businesses that fall into your target market using a B2B intelligence software
- Analyze these accounts granularly and identify their critical business problems that your product can solve for
- Zero in on the right messaging to target them with
- Create an omnichannel marketing plan to reach your target accounts, including email drips, niche blogs and research-based content resources, industry-relevant testimonials and success stories, direct mail packages, personalized product pages, and more
Offer an Irresistible Free Trial or Demo
This is probably the oldest and most obvious trick in the SaaS marketing playbook, but deserves a special mention nevertheless. Offering valuable free trials allows your prospects to experience the product for themselves and assess it for their specific use case. It is also an opportunity for you to go above and beyond to showcase your customer support and success skills to reassure prospects that the product is worth their investment.
When it comes to product demos, try to make them less generic and more personalized to the customer’s problem at-hand. Your best shot at getting them to convert is making them see value in your product with respect to solving a key business use they’ve been struggling with.
Unbounce takes the free demo to another level by making it interactive to allow prospects to experience the product for themselves without wasting any time:
Unbounce trial product example
Build and Promote Comparison Landing Pages or Blogs
When it comes to purchasing software tools, buyers are always looking to compare products before they finalize their decision. One way to drive that high-intent search traffic to your site and aid prospects’ decision-making is by building conversion-focused landing pages/blogs wherein you offer a fair comparison of your product against your competitor’s. The idea here is to highlight your value proposition and drive home the point that your product is superior, but by complementing it with technical facts and features.
Create an Engaging Email Nurture Plan
SaaS marketing is incomplete without building strong, meaningful, and long-lasting relationships with prospects that go beyond a contract. An email nurture campaign is designed to engage your prospects (who’ve previously interacted with your brand) throughout their customer journey. The end goal is not to just make a sale, but steadily offer and showcase value in your company, your expertise, and your solution over a period.
A few pointers to keep in mind when preparing your nurture strategy:
- Start slow; don’t send too many emails in a short duration, which could end up frustrating readers instead of piquing their interest
- Map your emails to the customer journey. For example, if you’re creating a nurture plan for people who have just downloaded a gated content resource, you can share similar content assets with them to help with their research
- Always include a Call to Action (CTA) in your emails - it could be to your resources page, FAQs page, or contact us page
- Spark curiosity by making the content educational, insightful, and enlightening
Invite Experts’ Opinions on Your Blog and Webinars
Assets such as your blog and webinars are extremely effective platforms to build thought-leadership and educate your target audience. So, why limit it to just your own perspective? By inviting industry experts as guests on your webinars and podcasts, and posting opinion-based content on your blog, you not only improve your reach, but also build awareness in the most organic way possible.
This way you get to share your ideas and thoughts while incorporating those of other valued voices in the industry, which significantly improves your credibility and helps you penetrate a broader audience pool.
Here’s an example of a webinar hosted by Vidyard featuring industry experts to shed light on the topic:
Vidyard digital ad
9 SaaS Marketing Strategies for 2022 Infographic
9 SaaS Marketing Strategies for 2022
SaaS Marketing Metrics that You Need to Track
There are a plethora of metrics to track for each marketing campaign and funnel stage to measure the results and ROI of your efforts. However, these few are the most critical to a SaaS business, and tracking these will ensure that your marketing activities are aligned with the overall business goals.
Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC)
Customer Acquisition Cost = Total marketing and sales expenditure / Total number of new customers gained
Your customer acquisition cost is the total marketing and sales expenditure (including human capital costs, paid marketing expenses, costs related to tools, etc.) divided by the number of new customers gained. This figure gives you the amount spent on acquiring one new customer and indicates the efficacy of your SaaS marketing campaigns.
If your CAC is too high, you’re probably not going to be able to drive the desired return on investment. Thus, CAC is one metric that you constantly need to track and benchmark so you can work towards improving it to get more bang for your buck.
However, when it comes to customer acquisition costs, don’t rely on absolute numbers, but segment them based on source channels to analyze which channel is delivering better marketing ROI and where your customers are discovering your brand. The more you rely on organic channels to acquire leads, the lower your CAC will be.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)
Customer Lifetime Value = Customer Value * Average Customer Lifespan
Customer Value = Average Purchase Value * Average Number of Purchases
Customer lifetime value is nothing but the total revenue a customer is likely to bring throughout their relationship with your business. To determine your customer lifetime value, you need to multiply your customer value with your average customer lifespan. Here, customer value can be calculated by multiplying your average purchase frequency with your average purchase value.
It’s a no-brainer that the longer a customer stays with your brand, the higher their lifetime value will be. Therefore, keeping a constant track of your CLTV is crucial to align your marketing efforts, improve your average customer lifespan, increase purchase frequency, and set budgets for acquiring new customers/retaining existing ones.
Customer Retention and Churn Rate
To calculate the customer retention rate for a particular time period, you need:
- Total number of existing customers at the start of the time period (S)
- Total number of customers at the end of the time period (E)
- Total number of new customers added within the time period (N)
Customer Retention Rate = (E-N)/S * 100
Customer Churn Rate = Lost Customers * 100 / Total customers at the start of a given period
While retention represents the percentage of customers you manage to retain over a period, churn rate represents the percentage of customers you lose over a particular period. Customer retention and churn rate go hand in hand and they are critical to the success of any SaaS business as they directly impact the customer lifetime value and, in turn, the top line.
When it comes to SaaS marketing, these two metrics are critical to not just guide your customer marketing efforts, but also your middle and bottom-of-the-funnel messaging. They allow you to set the right expectations with customers so they don’t end up disappointed or surprised after they become a paying customer.
Learn how you can adopt successful SaaS marketing tactics to Improve your customer retention rate by getting in touch with us at Hypelocal.
Conversion Rate = (Total Number of Conversions / Total Number of Visitors/Leads/Interactions) * 100
Conversion rate is one of the north star metrics that you need to track for each of your marketing campaigns. The conversion rate for your ad would be determined by dividing the total number of conversions by the total number of interactions the ad receives. The conversion rate for your landing page would be the total number of signups/CTA clicks divided by the total number of visitors it receives over a period.
Conversion rate indicates how successful your SaaS marketing campaign is in motivating the user to take the desired action. A low conversion rate implies a poor user experience that doesn’t help achieve the overall marketing goal.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Net Promoter Score = Percentage of Detractors - Percentage of Promoters
Net Promoter Score indicates customer loyalty and satisfaction towards your brand and is a measure of how likely your paid customers are to recommend you to others. It is calculated simply by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. Hence, a negative NPS indicates that your company has more detractors than promoters, which implies that your customers are not happy with your services and are not likely to recommend you.
NPS is a crucial metric as it highlights the quality of experiences your customers are having with your products and overall brand. This pulse check gives you a glimpse into how your customers perceive your products, which can help guide your future marketing efforts.
Lead-to-Customer Rate = Number of Paid Customers / Total number of leads
As a SaaS marketer, you might be doing everything right to meet your monthly MQL target, but somehow those numbers don’t help in moving key business growth metrics. This is simply because your qualified leads don’t end up converting, indicating a poor lead-to-customer conversion rate. While this is largely reflective of the sales nurture process, a low lead to customer rate also indicates poor quality or low-intent leads.
Keeping a track of your lead to customer rate will ensure you can track how your leads are performing once they enter the sales pipeline, so you can target your marketing campaigns towards driving high-intent, more qualified prospects.
One of the biggest challenges faced by SaaS marketing and sales teams is a poor lead-to-customer ratio. Lead scoring helps solve for that. Lead scoring is a mechanism wherein each of your leads is assigned a numerical value for each interaction they have with your brand as well as their demographic attributes (anything relevant to qualify them as your primary TG). Adding up all those values helps determine their likelihood of conversion, which then helps marketing and sales teams prioritize leads based solely on their level of anticipated purchase intent.
Lead scoring is a method of qualifying leads for your sales teams, so they can be nurtured in decreasing order of intent as opposed to giving equal precedence to each MQL. A high lead score would indicate a high-intent lead and hence, as marketers, your focus can move towards driving a few high-intent leads instead of plenty of low-intent ones, which are less likely to convert.
To Sum Up SaaS Marketing
As the cloud software industry breaks stereotypes and redefines business disruption, SaaS marketing is going to be all about innovation, eliminating friction in the customer journey, solving real pain points, and enhancing the overall user experience. At the end of the day, software is going to continue automating the world and the only way to grab a piece of the success pie is by championing promising and proven marketing strategies, such as the ones provided in this article.
At Hypelocal, our aim is to empower path-breaking SaaS businesses to gain more control over their marketing and achieve growth efficiently. If you’d like to learn more about how we can equip you with the expertise needed to create your own winning SaaS marketing strategy, book your free strategy session with one of our SaaS marketing experts.