Sales and marketing are the two biggest line items at most SaaS companies. According to a 2022 report by SaaS Capital, SaaS companies spend between 17%-39% of their budget on sales and marketing.
These numbers shouldn’t surprise you.
Unfortunately, despite this high level of investment, a large portion of B2B SaaS marketing campaigns underperform. That’s an issue you’re likely to face when operating in a saturated market.
To get the best return on investment, you need to be using proven strategies. This guide will walk you through proven B2B SaaS marketing strategies you can try. Remember that these strategies are not a one-size-fits-all thing. Pick and mix the options that feel right for you.
1. Invest In SEO
Search is a critical marketing channel for any company that relies on a digital presence to generate business leads. It’s certainly a metric that many VC investors, founders, and marketing executives track.
Effective search engine optimization helps develop leads across all stages of the sales funnel. Here are the basic building blocks of a good SaaS SEO campaign:
- Figure out the keywords you want to rank for based on your target audience. Hone in on one theme.
- Create a topical map that covers relevant keywords. You need to cover your niche in depth to acquire expertise, which is the E in Google’s EAT (Expertise, Authority, and Trust).
- Group the keywords together into content hubs. That will help you figure out the best way to link between resources.
- Start writing your high-quality content. The content needs to be better than any of the other content out there. be sure to add original insights to your content to make it stand out.
- Build authority links to these articles. That will show Google that your content deserves to rank.
SEO is one of the best digital marketing channels for most business models. It’s a long-term investment, but the rewards can be significant.
Our client, Writer, is a great example of a company that’s utilized this inbound marketing channel to scale. We partnered with them shortly after they had completed the seed funding round, where they’d secured $5 million in funding.
They’ve recently gone through a $21 million series A round.
A key part of the initial SaaS marketing strategy for Writer was to secure organic search rankings for high volume top of the funnel search terms. This included terms like grammar checker and punctuation checker, which get 450,000 and 18,100 searches in the US each month, respectively.
We helped Writer rank for these terms straight off the bat through SaaS link building.
As the type of customer Writer is targeting has evolved, so has our approach to SEO.
We’re not focused more on comprehensive guides and other middle-of-the-funnel resources that have better conversion rates for their target audience. Essentially, it’s a pivot to thought leadership. That reflects the new focus on enterprise clients.
Get in touch btw, if you’re looking for support from a SaaS SEO agency. Happy to schedule a chat.
2. Experiment With Content Marketing
Set aside part of your B2B marketing budget for moonshot projects.
These are campaigns that offer high rewards but could result in no gains. Buffer’s annual State of Remote Work Report is a nice case in point. Here’s a link to the paper in case you want to give it a read.
It gets a fair amount of press attention. The 2021 report was referenced on Inc, Techcrunch, Atlassian, and a bunch of other sites. The 2021 report generated links from 1,112 domains.
Hats off to the Buffer team for generating those results.
However, I can almost guarantee this project started as a moonshot. They came up with an idea for the campaign, figured, “heck, let’s give it a shot,” and ran with it.
Because they did something original, it got a lot of attention, and they came away with a big win.
The Zendesk Alternative is another fun campaign.
Essentially, Zendesk bought the URL zendeskalternative.com and halfheartedly tried to make it rank for the branded keyword that competitors are targeting. It’s kind of working.
Here’s a screenshot of the homepage.
It’s a tongue-in-cheek indy band.
This SaaS content marketing campaign would have taken at least a thousand dollars to launch. That’s a relatively cheap campaign.
Growth hacking involves setting aside part of your budget for digital marketing experiments that might well fail but could have big upsides is a great strategy. Swing for the fences. If you have the budget, don’t be afraid to experiment with content strategies. Sure, it won’t always work out. When a market strategy works out, as the State of Remote Work report did for Buffer, it can deliver outsized results.
3. Offer Eye-Catching Deals
Everyone likes a good deal — or at least the idea of one. That’s why many businesses that run deals on popular event days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or festive periods see a boost in sales.
Business decisions aside, your B2B clients are just like their B2C counterparts. They want to get value (and perhaps, save money) on deals. These deals don’t necessarily mean a discount but could be an upsell for increased sales.
There are two ways to go about this.
For scale-ups and startups, you might want to experiment with a lifetime deal.
Offering a lifetime deal on a site like AppSumo is a great way to grow your user base, get feedback on your product, and gather customer testimonials. You also get an injection of cash, which is handy if you’re bootstrapped.
The negative side of the equation is the long-term customer cost. After all, you need to keep delivering a service for free to current customers.
That can cause major problems for your SaaS company.
If your company fails to grow fast, this will put a strain on your customer service. It can also impact customer loyalty making it harder to attract potential customers.
You’ll find plenty of positive and negative reviews on the web from SaaS founders about running lifetime deals. Whether a lifetime deal is right for your business is something you’ll need to ultimately decide.
If you do go down the lifetime deal route on AppSumo, check out this guide. Some nice tips here from Arto Minasyan, who went through an AppSumo launch with Krisp. There are plenty of tips for your internal team to go through.
You don’t have to run a lifetime deal.
You can offer timely discounts to boost those conversions. For instance, LambdaTest, a cross-browser compatibility tool, offered a 20 percent discount on live testing annual plans on holidays.
If you run a deal, set an end to the promotion to make your deals more effective. The start and the end of the offer are where you’ll generate the most sales. I wrote this guide ages ago that covers a $500,000+ launch I was involved in. It has some handy insights.
You can also offer discounts and promotions for your first-time buyers through an email marketing campaign. Send an email within 48 hours to people who almost signed up on your payment page. Same abandoned cart system you use in eCommerce.
Keep in mind all these discounts and other offers do lower the perceived value of your service and impact profit margins. So make sure to consider if this type of thing makes sense for your SaaS.
4. Paid Search Ads
Paid advertising is one of the fastest ways to scale your SaaS. That’s assuming you can generate Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). Search is by far the easiest paid channel. There are three main variables you’ll need to master for Google Ads; the creative, landing page experience, and target keywords.
Start by focusing on obvious transactional keywords. That means that leads that come to you are already pre-qualified by searching for relevant queries related to your B2B SaaS offerings.
Check your Google Analytics to see what terms are turning leads into customers.
If you’re unable to generate conversions with paid ads, you either don’t have a good product market fit, or you’re having problems explaining the value of your service. You might need to do a bit of internal brainstorming and hire a good copywriter to get things on track.
Talking about ads, make sure to set up a retargeting campaign.
Two logical SaaS retargeting campaigns you should set up for a Google PPC campaign are:
- Approximately 40-50% of trial users never convert.
- People who visit the pricing page are generally thinking about investing in a tool.
Retargeting campaigns need to be monitored closely to ensure your getting that ROAS.
5. Paid Social Ads
Social media marketing is a critical channel for any B2B SaaS company. To get the best results from social media, you need to invest in PPC campaigns too.
Paid social ads are a bit harder to run than search ads because you’re playing with more variables. You have the visual creative to deal with alongside the written copy.
Nonetheless, social media marketing ads can be highly effective.
For small to medium-sized businesses, channels like Facebook are great. For example, Touch Bistro generated 200% more leads through Facebook by running retargeting ads and ads to custom audiences.
When creating ads, make sure to address your marketing messages to a specific buyer persona. That will help you grab their attention.
You can use top-of-the-funnel content upgrades to help brand awareness and build a loyal audience. The lead magnet must be relevant and persuasive, whether it’s a guide, report, or ebook.
Experiment with video marketing ads as well.
YouTube is one of the cheapest channels for paid ads because the production costs of video are so high. Scribe, for example, uses YouTube retargeting ads on blog posts.
Interestingly, they discovered that self-reported attribution for YouTube was high. That means visitors forgot they visited the Scribe blog to do an informational search. Instead, they remembered the company because of the YouTube ads.
One of the kings of YouTube SaaS ads is Monday. They’ve saturated YouTube with ads. I’m assuming they did this because they found YouTube to be such an effective marketing channel.
6. Drive Leads By Answering the Right Quora Questions
Quora is overlooked by many marketers. This is partly because professional networking channels like LinkedIn take precedence for many marketing departments. However, there are some smart things you can do to grow a presence on Quora and utilize the platform to get content ranking.
One proven way to get traction on Quora is by establishing a presence as a thought leader in your niche. Follow these steps to generate wins:
- Bookmark the topics relevant to your niche
- Identify questions with a minimum of seven followers for every answer
- You get the best results by improving the quality of the answers
Let me give you an example.
The question, ” what are some growth hacks for B2B SaaS companies” has 530 followers and 71 answers. That has the magic 7:1 ratio (actually, it’s 1:7.46, to be precise).
It’s the right type of question for me to answer. It covers the same stuff I’m writing about in this article.
There are a few other hoops you’ll need to jump through to get the most from Quora. For example, optimizing your bio for your niche and sending leads to a relevant landing page.
7. Account-Based Marketing
One of the most effective forms of marketing for engaging with SaaS enterprise clients that have a long sales cycle is Account Based Marketing (ABM).
Put simply, ABM is the process of developing one-to-one relationships with your target customers and getting them to sign up for your offering. You focus your marketing efforts on specific high-value accounts and decision-makers within those accounts.
ABM is a sales strategy that puts prospects first. You get to know your ideal customers, build up trust and get to know their pain points and needs. That greatly increases the chance of a positive outcome.
Same kind of idea as taking the time to get to know a person before asking them for a date.
Your chances of success improve the more time you put into things.
Start your ABM efforts by creating an ideal customer profile.
Follow this up by building out a list of B2C and B2B companies to target. Then find the best people within the company to connect with. Gather all the information you can about the prospects.
Here’s an example LinkedIn list our marketing agency pulled together for an ABM campaign.
The type of data we collected included:
- LinkedIn URL
- Job Title
- Company Name
We connect with more than one person at a company via LinkedIn using marketing automation tools. That creates a first touchpoint connection with your target market.
Don’t pitch your software products straight away without getting to know your prospects. You’ll just get rejections. Instead, engage with comments, share interesting content, and add value.
While platforms like LinkedIn are great, the most effective way to start a conversation is cold calles. So if you’re targeting enterprise clients, build out a sales team that’s happy to pick up the phone and start calling people.
If you’re serious about growing your sales pipelines, check out our guide to SaaS account-based marketing. The guide has some great sales enablement tips.
8. Invest In Referral Marketing
Referrals are a proven way to market your SaaS products. According to Philipp Schmitt’s report, people are four times more likely to buy when referred by friends. Your loyal customers are ambassadors of your product.
When your business thrives on referrals, you save customer acquisition costs and get a better conversion rate.
Some popular SaaS companies that took advantage of SaaS referral marketing strategies are Trello, Paypal, and Evernote.
Paypal used referrals to grow its user base to 100 million members, and Trello used referrals as its primary marketing strategy. On the other hand, Evernote gathered 13 million users through its referral campaign.
With Evernote’s referral program, users earned points that they could convert to a three-month premium subscription.
A good referral marketing strategy starts with having a superb product. No customer will refer a friend to your product if it is terrible.
Choose the right incentives, too. The incentive may be money, access to an exclusive feature, or extended product usage. Just ensure that it is enticing and aligns with the product.
To grow your referrals, ensure an easy referral process. Also, use a good referral program for implementation.
9. Leverage SaaS Review Sites
SaaS review sites are platforms that allow customers to read and write reviews of each SaaS software. Most potential customers go on these sites to decide what product is best for their business.
When your product gets excellent reviews on SaaS, you may attract major decision-makers willing to spend 31 percent more on your business.
Increase your net promoter score (NPS) to promote your product on these sites. NPS is a survey that measures customer satisfaction and loyalty based on a 0-10 scale. For SaaS, a good NPS score is anything above 40.
Aside from being a valuable feedback tool, the NPS metric gives you an insight into the amount of “promoters” that may be willing to leave an online review for your business. It also helps you identify dissatisfied users and the specific problems that could make them churn.
Quality reviews from existing customers create a positive impression on potential clients, thereby growing your business. Here’s a Trello user review on G2:
Keep in mind that reviews on sites like these are unpaid. Hence users can give honest ratings about the product.
You can promote your SaaS products on G2, Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice, SaaSGenius, etc., to get more exposure, social proof, and authority.
10. Invest in Event Marketing
You’ll find a lot of data about the most effective B2B marketing channels. In-person events will normally turn up close to the top of the list of effective sales and marketing channels.
The graphic from Marketing Charts, which is based on a survey of 1,000 mid to senior-level B2B marketers, illustrates this point. In-person events came out as the most effective marketing channel ahead of content marketing.
There are some different tactics you can try to get the most from in-person events.
For example, Writer, which is investing heavily in events at the moment, gets clients to do product demos. This is a nice spin on how to promote your product at an event.
The best position to be in at an event is to either be a speaker or host the conference.
Hosting a SaaS conference is a great piece of positioning. Inbound, which is hosted by Hubspot, is a great case in point. Hubspot gets over 60,000 people attending its conference each year.
That’s a huge win for branding and positioning.
You can also invest in influencer marketing at events. This is an effective approach to marketing to engage a larger audience.
11. Offer Free SaaS Trials
A free trial is one of the best ways to let potential customers learn about the benefits of your products. The tactic works best towards the end of the customer journey when prospects are just about to make a purchase. You can increase your prospects’ sign-up rates with free trials and convert them into paid users with a free trial.
For instance, Moz’s free trial gives the user 30-day free access:
If your main aim is to collect names and emails, consider a free trial strategy without collecting credit card information. Conversely, if your company prioritizes conversions, requesting credit card information upon sign-ups is okay.
Monitor key marketing metrics like bounce rates, customer acquisition costs, and demo requests for your B2B products. Your primary goal should be optimizing the conversion rate from prospect to free trial user, and onboarding. Get these two things right and your SaaS B2B company will grow fast.
Podcasts are a great way to promote your SaaS business to build a relationship with your customer base. It’s probably more important than blogging for generating a memorable touch point.
There are plenty of examples of SaaS companies that run great podcasts. For example, Buffer host The Science of Social Media podcast, and CoSchedule has the Actionable Marketing podcast.
Before starting your SaaS podcast, define your podcast strategy, purpose, and value to share.
Also, identify your target audience and their motivations for keying in. That’ll give you ideas on relevant topics, increasing your chances of attracting an ideal audience. Your B2B SaaS podcast must be relatable to a group of people; else, it defeats the purpose. Show your podcast identity with cover images that communicate your business offerings
As more B2B SaaS businesses leverage podcasts as a marketing strategy, you must stand out. Brainstorm engaging ideas that attract listeners and supplement your podcasting goals.
Your content has to take on a unique perspective from the norm. If you don’t have everything figured out, invite subject experts to the podcast and have your listeners ask them questions on a particular topic you’re discussing. That will improve engagement and provide value.
How to Execute An Effective B2B SaaS Marketing Strategy
This covers some of the effective B2B SaaS marketing strategies you should be trying. Here’s a loose framework you can use for figuring out which strategies make the most sense for your SaaS business.
1. Get to Know Your B2B Customers
Your target audience refers to people willing to pay for your SaaS products. I won’t talk about buyer personas. You know what buyer personas are.
Instead of focusing on buyer personas, think about what B2B buyers or clients you’re targeting.
You’ll need to decide if you want to go for enterprise clients or that SME long tail.
There are markedly different approaches to engaging these clients.
Marketing strategies like SEO, content marketing, and social ads are particularly effective in the long-tail market. After all, they have shorter buying cycles, and the buying process is shorter.
Account-based marketing and in-person events are more effective for enterprises. You’ll get the most success here by building out a sales and marketing team that connects with prospects and delivers more personalized content. Building topical authority and creating thought-leadership content can also be effective enterprise SaaS SEO strategies.
2. Discover What Features Your Customer Needs
Figuring out your product market fit is critical for the overall success of your SaaS business. However, there are specific feature sets that different customer segments will expect.
For example, enterprise clients will probably have a set of criteria they need to consider your product. If you don’t have these features, they can’t even consider your product offering. This is a problem Sujan Patel experienced as he tried to move Mailshake upstream to target enterprise clients.
Check out this episode of the Cash & Burn podcast for some interesting insights: Moving Upmarket From SMBs to Enterprise with Sujan Patel
Well worth a listen.
The information you gather about your customer’s wants and needs will inform your marketing strategy and the channels you decide to use.
3. Formulate an Action Plan
A marketing plan makes execution easier and takes prospects on a journey to becoming paying customers.
The SaaS marketing funnel is complex and designed to accommodate long-term wins rather than quick wins. With this in mind, your action plan must be adaptable and built for long-term market fit, goals, and demand.
Consider these factors as you formulate an action plan for B2B SaaS marketing;
- Your long and short-term marketing goals. Do you want to increase annual revenue growth? Increase market share?
- Marketing budget. Using the assigned figures, do ballpark math for your campaign. A successful SaaS marketing initiative should have a higher ROI about its input. You’ll want to set up automation systems.
- Buyer personas and their most preferred channels. Consider social channels. If your industry has an out-of-the-norm community, you’ll want to check that out too.
Using a survey, ask existing customers where they heard about your business. With the correct information, you can maximize your SaaS marketing efforts fully.
After considering the above factors, set a goal timeline, and define your resources. Then create and communicate a framework for your SaaS marketing team. The action plan must account for budget, human resources, and tools.
Ensure that this framework is accessible to everyone, including external stakeholders, so no department slacks. When your plan kicks off, test, tweak, and re-prioritize as necessary.
Now the stage is set with other groundwork SaaS marketing strategies, let’s take a deep dive into strategizing with inbound marketing for lead generation.
4. Execute and Monitor Your KPIs
Simply watching your revenue increase or decrease won’t help you improve and adapt your landing pages, content, or paid marketing campaigns. Without a marketing analytics tool like Google Analytics, it’s impossible to monitor campaign performance.
Marketing analytics tracks KPIs and provides feedback on your SaaS marketing efforts. By doing this, you find the leading cause of changes in performance and make improvements.
Your company reaches the right customers faster and spends less time and money tracking results. That makes marketing analytics an essential channel for B2B SaaS marketing.
B2B SaaS Marketing Strategies FAQ
The most effective B2B SaaS marketing strategies for your business depend on your customer demographic. Companies targeting enterprise customers will generate most success from channels like Account Based Marketing and events. Companies targeting SME’s will generate success from channels like SEO, content marketing, and PPC.
Smaller B2B SaaS companies need to be conservative when running marketing campaigns. You need to choose the channels that provide the highest ROI. As the company grows, the number of channels you use should increase. Read on to discover some little-used strategies that help you scale your efforts over time.
Effective SaaS marketing strategies depend on your target market, product/service offerings, and overall business goals. Establish a solid online presence, and develop a clear, compelling content marketing strategy to attract your ideal audience. Also, optimize your site for SEO to complement other B2B marketing strategies you’ve set in place and maximize returns.
Along with organic SaaS marketing, adopt paid marketing techniques too to boost lead and customer acquisition. Incorporate these tips into your B2B SaaS marketing strategy to be on your way to success. If you need support, our inbound marketing agency can help you execute an effective content marketing and SEO strategy.
Nico is the founder of Crunch Marketing, a SaaS marketing agency. He works with enterprise SaaS clients like Writer, Right Inbox, and Surfer SEO, helping them scale lead generation globally across EMEA, APAC, and other regions.