I came across a very terrifying statistic the other day.
Apparently, a SaaS company growing at a 20% rate has a 92% chance of failing within a few years. Do you know how crazy that is? To put it into perspective, in most other industries, a 20% growth rate would get founders and investors ecstatic.
There’s more bad news.
The global SaaS market was valued at $165.9 billion in 2021. It is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 11.0% in the next six years. The growth of the SaaS industry has attracted more investors. Cloud computing and no-code SaaS development platforms have also lowered the barrier to entry significantly, allowing more software companies to enter the market. This means competition is at the highest level it has ever been, yet not everyone has a blueprint on how to build a thriving software business.
This article outlines how you can create an effective SaaS marketing plan that will put your software on the map.
What is a SaaS Marketing Plan?
A SaaS marketing plan is an outline showing how you’ll generate leads for your software and convert them into customers. A comprehensive plan should include a timeline, specific tasks to be carried out, and clear goals. That way, you know what you want to achieve, how you’re going to do it, and how to assess the effectiveness of your approach.
Your SaaS marketing plan will guide your sales and marketing teams. A good SaaS marketing plan should include marketing strategies to increase the number of top-of-the-funnel prospects and retain your satisfied customers. The last bit is especially critical because customer retention is the life and blood of software businesses.
Think of your plan as Captain Jack Sparrow’s compass. You use it to find your gold doubloons (in the form of a growing customer base).
Why is SaaS Marketing Important?
SaaS marketing involves capturing and nurturing leads for subscription-based software services or products. Effective marketing helps:
- Attract quality leads: This is the primary goal of SaaS marketing. It uses various marketing channels to connect and convert potential customers into paying customers.
- Build brand awareness: There are multiple SaaS products designed to solve similar solutions. So, to stand out amongst your competitors, you need more potential customers to learn and trust your SaaS product. SaaS marketing allows you to do this.
- Develop customer relationships: SaaS marketing helps share valuable information through adverts and marketing materials. These marketing messages not only build but also retain and rebuild customer trust. The longer your customer trusts your product, the more you nurture long-term relationships.
- Generate valuable customer feedback: SaaS marketing encourages more customers to interact with you. In the process, you can gain customer feedback that would help improve your user experience. This will make your company stand out in the market.
Your SaaS marketing plan should incorporate different marketing channels. This helps you interact with potential customers at multiple touchpoints, building brand recognition. As such, you’ll need a combination of multiple SaaS marketing tactics, like content marketing, PPC ads, SEO, email marketing, and even influencer marketing (this handy guide takes a deep dive into SaaS marketing).
The overall goal is to engage and convert potential users cost-effectively.
SaaS Marketing Positioning
Before you get too far into your SaaS marketing plan, nail down your positioning.
For your SaaS marketing efforts to pay off, potential users need to understand your product’s value and how you’re different from everyone else. That’s where SaaS marketing positioning comes in. SaaS marketing positioning is simply the message you communicate about your product.
The message identifies where you fit into your customers’ lives. It should include the solution it brings to the market, your product value, and why customers should choose your product. So by doing it right, you can guide customers’ perception of your brand.
There are different ways you can position your SaaS product. Here are a few:
- By product value and class: This one focuses on the pricing of your product and your customers’ class. For instance, your product could be targeting small businesses.
- Against competition: It focuses on how your product is better than your competitors’. You can imply this in the marketing messages. For example, you can talk about how your product is easier to use, cheaper, offers more integrations, etc.
- By user: This positioning focuses on your target user and how your product matches their interests and needs. For instance, your product could target customers of a specific job title or industry, like digital marketing.
- By product use: This positioning outlines the tasks your SaaS product helps fulfill. For instance, it could be a social media content scheduling platform that marketers can use to make posting content easier.
Here’s an example of positioning by Gong you could emulate. Through this statement, Gong positions its product in multiple ways: by product value, user, and product use. The product feature is the revenue intelligence category. The revenue teams are the users, and the product use tracks customer interactions.
In the SaaS marketing process, your marketing positioning lays the foundation for your marketing plan. It helps determine factors like the audiences and the best channels and strategies to use. Your marketing and sales teams will know what talking points to prioritize and how to convince leads of your product’s value.
8 Steps to Creating an Effective SaaS Marketing Plan
A lot of work goes into creating a good SaaS marketing plan. This article has summarized eight critical steps.
Read on to discover how to create a great SaaS marketing plan.
1. Define Your Digital Marketing KPIs
The best way to achieve success is by defining success.
Setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your SaaS marketing plan is critical. The KPIs are your coordinates in the treasure map. You need them to know how close you are to the treasure.
First, set clear marketing goals.
Your goals should be SMART. That means they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
An excellent example of a SMART goal you can make for your SaaS business is having X revenue at the end of the year. You can then divide your marketing goals into different time frames, like daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly.
- Generate $1,00,000 Monthly Recurring Revenue in December
You then need to break down how to achieve that marketing goal. For instance:
- Y number of paying customers in December
- X number of subscribers on your email list in December.
- Z visitors to your landing pages in December
Once you have set your goals, you move on to set your key indicators. Here are some of the SaaS marketing KPIs you could use to measure your SaaS product growth:
- Number of leads generated: This tracks how effective your efforts are at generating marketing-qualified leads and sales-qualified leads
- Conversion rate: Tracks the number of web visitors you convert into high-quality leads and customers
- Registration for free trials and paid sign-ups: Tracks how many leads are signing up for free trials. Also, how many upgrades to paid plans, which is how you make money.
- Churn rates: SaaS churn rate measures how many customers drop your product. It helps you determine if you are providing the value your customers want.
- Customer retention: This metric helps you measure how many customers you retain from those who sign up.
With these KPIs, you can measure your SaaS marketing plan’s performance and your marketing strategy’s success. That then informs your decisions on the best channels or marketing strategy your SaaS marketing should use.
2. Conduct Competitor Research
Marketing is a battle. You want to be the winner. And like Sun Tzu and Machiavelli said, knowing your opponents is the best way to beat your enemy.
Ok, I’m paraphrasing. But you need to know who you’re up against.
Equally important, you want to know what marketing channels and strategies generate results. You can then create an awesome SaaS marketing plan that builds on these insights.
That’s why competitor research is a crucial part of your SaaS marketing plan.
Understanding the territory is even more critical if you are new to the market.
I mean, you’d want to head to the right shipping lanes if you were a pirate? Better yet, you would want to know who you’ll be up against.
Competitor research should look at factors like your competitors’ ad campaigns, their most effective channels, what they are up to, search ranking, the keywords they are ranking for, etc.
You’ll use different tools to conduct this research.
For instance, you could use Ahrefs to conduct SEO research. A tool like Ahrefs provides insights into search ranking, backlink profiles, paid search results, and content gaps.
One way to start is by looking at the “competing domains” sections. You’ll get a list of competing domains, as shown below:
We consider ourselves experts in this kind of research. Here’s how we used competitor research to create a marketing plan for Right Inbox.
- Listed each SEO competitor
- Looked at the best-performing pages for each site
- Identified themes and logical content gaps
- Designed a campaign based on what the competition wasn’t doing
The campaign we ran targeted top-of-the-funnel keywords. We were looking at terms like “how to create a new Gmail account” and “email signature examples.” These terms have huge search volumes.
The keywords also align with the interests of the target audience. And, we felt like we had a way to get Right Inbox ranking for these terms.
Right Inbox now gets 328k visitors a month.
That’s a huge volume of visitors. A portion of these visitors turns into leads and some into customers. Equally importantly, ranking for this content creates a strong brand presence.
That means some of the people who come across Right Inbox content remember the company when they’re in buying mode. The team at our SaaS marketing agency did a kickass job with this campaign.
The end goal of all this competitor research is to prepare an analysis report. The report helps you notice the gaps in your SaaS marketing plan, which, when addressed, places you one step ahead. You can use a template like this one for your analysis report:
The competitors’ analysis report also gives valuable details you can use to make crucial decisions, like the best channels for your SaaS marketing. You can also build on your competitors’ weaknesses to position yourself as the best option in the market.
3. Create Buyer Personas
Who’s your ideal customer?
If you don’t know, you have a problem. Like a giant problem.
Your SaaS marketing plan foundation is built on a clear understanding of buyer personas. A buyer persona is a hypothetical representation of your ideal customer. Creating one helps you understand your target market better.
Here is an example of a buyer persona:
With a persona like this, settling on the best channels or marketing copy to get your audience’s attention is easier. As a result, you get higher conversion rates and ROI. That’s because your message gets to the right people and communicates the right message.
It might sound impossible to create a single ideal customer profile when serving customers with different personas. Check out the brand below, which caters to multiple personas:
Try to create ideal buyer personas for your top-value customers in each category. These are customers who use your products the most and generate the most revenue.
The better you know these prospective customers, the easier it will be to run SaaS marketing campaigns that target them effectively
4. Set Your Marketing Budget
Budgets are a crucial part of any marketing plan. They dictate how far you can take your SaaS marketing. When creating your SaaS marketing budget, you need to evaluate how beneficial each element is in terms of ROI.
You can do general market research to guide you or refer to your reports on previous marketing campaigns. Research shows that successful SaaS companies spend an average of 7%-15% of their annual revenue on marketing.
You could use simple online calculators, like the one below, to help you settle on an estimate. Most are based on market research, so you can just customize the data you get to fit your SaaS marketing needs:
Your budget size will depend on your campaign strategies’ nature and expense. For instance, you can scale your budget fast for paid channels like Google Ads as long as you’re seeing an immediate Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).
If your campaign is more dependent on attracting organic traffic, you’ll be making longer-term investments. That will likely impact spending.
5. Build an Effective SEO Strategy
You cannot run a successful marketing campaign without considering an SEO strategy. Search engine optimization helps your SaaS content rank high on search engine result pages, increasing your company’s traffic. Research shows that the first three Google search results get 75.1% of all clicks.
Common sense tells you that figures are about right.
Search is an excellent channel to explore if you’re already generating returns from paid ads. It’s also a good way to cost-effectively grow your email and retargeting lists.
You need an effective SEO and content marketing strategy for your SaaS product. Your plan can touch on various elements of SEO like:
- Creating relevant content: Quality content fulfills search intent and captures your audience’s attention. We’ll talk more about this later.
- Building backlinks: The more quality backlinks you earn, the higher your content ranks. Here’s a comprehensive guide on building backlinks for SaaS.
- Building quality landing pages: Optimized landing pages bring more traffic and qualified leads to your site. That results in more quality customers.
- Targeting the right keywords: You can reach your ideal audience and raise your content value with the right keywords. That leads to a higher search engine ranking.
Writer.com is an excellent example of a SaaS company that has grown fast thanks to a coherent SEO strategy. We’ve been working with them for a bit over a year, and they are now getting close to 2,000,000 visitors a month.
Here’s what Writer did brilliantly:
- Decided SEO was the best channel for rapid growth. They went all in with laser focus, which helped them make the most of their marketing budget.
- Identified the highest volume bottom-of-the-funnel opportunities. There were a lot of them – Grammar checker, for example, gets 1.5 million searches per month.
- Devised an on and off-site strategy to rank for high-volume tool-related search queries. That involved a lot of on-site optimization and authority link building.
- Devised a second-tier high-volume keyword campaign. For example, guides about editorial guides. Plus, articles targeting differences in spelling like “gray or grey.”
Their SaaS SEO strategy has delivered huge returns. Writer has used those rankings to impress investors, increase revenue, and grow their team.
If you think SEO is a key marketing channel, we’d be happy to discuss the project with you. Get in touch with our agency, which specializes in SaaS SEO, and schedule a call. We’ll share our two cents on your goals.
6. Create Relatable Content
Creating relevant content is one of the elements you must get right in your SEO strategy. By creating relatable and high-quality content, you’ll rank higher in the search results and attract qualified leads.
That’s because you’re answering your target clients’ search queries, which is proof of knowledge in the field. As a result, they’re more likely to trust your brand.
You can also create content for customers in different stages of your conversion funnel. That encourages them to move to the next stage until they are loyal customers. Your conversion funnel works a bit like this:
So, ensure your homepage includes enough details for people in the TOFU stage. It’s the website page most are likely to look at first. You can also provide informative content through your blog posts.
For the leads in the MOFU stage, provide more profound information on your “About” page and resources pages. Most people are likely to check these pages to get more information. You can also provide information through documents like e-books, guides, or white papers.
Leads in the BOFU are mainly looking for content to learn how your SaaS product works. So at this stage, demo videos and guides work best. You should also allow users to request demos, like in the example below:
Comparative articles and listicles are also vital. In fact, most leads in the middle and bottom of the funnel usually want to know which product is likely to deliver the best results. In other words, they may be aware of your product, but they’ll still want to know what sets you apart from the competition.
That’s where comparative articles come in. By writing an extensive article comparing your solution against other existing products, you can show the prospect why your product is the no-brainer option.
Take HubSpot, for example.
Hubspot is one of the most popular CRMs on the market.
They have a strong brand presence. Yet, they still create bottom-of-the-funnel comparative articles.
For instance, they have a page where they do a HubSpot Vs. Salesforce comparison. That’s a huge opportunity. The traffic potential for just this keyword is 1.8k visitors a month. And it has medium keyword difficulty.
They’ve created lots of these articles. I guarantee they’re generating loads of leads with this approach.
You can create these kinds of articles even if you don’t have a strong brand presence. Just create an A vs. B comparison article, and add your tool into the mix. This is the SEO equivalent of bidding on a competitor’s brand terms.
Content marketing is a huge element in SaaS marketing, and most businesses already know it is. So ensure your content is unique or provides different angles your competitors have missed.
7. Run Email Marketing Campaigns
Your SaaS marketing plan is not complete without email marketing campaign strategies. SaaS email marketing is one of the most rewarding digital marketing channels.
You get to grow and own a database. Which is insanely valuable, as you’re not reliant on the whims of an algorithm.
You can use email campaigns to encourage customer engagement and nurture quality leads. That means sending great email newsletters and setting up automated messages for key touchpoints. You can learn more about these strategies in this SaaS email marketing guide.
Here’s an excellent example of one by Miro. It encourages customers to keep using the product by sharing tips and shortcuts. Every software user appreciates such information, so most will stick with the product.
Always track your email marketing campaigns. You can determine how customers receive your message with metrics like click-through.
You must invest in a robust SaaS email marketing strategy. This is arguably the best way to nurture leads, build long-term customer relationships, and cultivate customer loyalty.
8. Track and Improve Performance
In each stage of your marketing process, you need to track your performance. Then find the strategies that are not working and improve your performance for better results.
This should also be your marketing plan’s final step because it shows your entire marketing campaign performance. You can create a reporting system that helps you keep track of all your KPIs. Most will also analyze the data and create reports that are easy to understand.
For instance, in the example, it is easy to compare the revenue and customer acquisition over two years. Just a glance at the graph is enough to tell that March had the highest number of new customers and revenue.
How to Stand Out As a SaaS Company?
The SaaS market has grown rapidly, and there are very few new strategies you can implement to stand out. However, there are a few existing strategies you can add to your SaaS marketing process.
One is adopting automation in various stages of your SaaS marketing funnel. You can use marketing automation tools in your email marketing campaigns. Also, integrate other SaaS tools like social media scheduling apps. HootSuite is a good example:
You can also integrate interactive chatbots on your site. They provide seamless and fast communication, which builds trust and strengthens customer-company relationships.
The other strategy is ensuring you retain as many customers as you attract. You can do this by constantly updating your product, improving your customer journey, and providing good customer service.
You can also adopt a referral program, which rewards customers through discounts or gift cards. Aircall’s referral program is an excellent example:
The other strategy is working on your pricing strategy. You can create fair pricing plans to attract more customers, which do not have to be at your loss. For instance, you can provide more offers or discounts to users who subscribe to more extended plans like the annual plan.
SaaS Marketing Plan FAQ
A SaaS marketing plan is a document that outlines a company’s overall marketing strategy. It covers things like the target audience, value proposition, messaging, and goals. The marketing plan needs to define what marketing channels to use and a roadmap for how to execute that strategy.
To create an effective SaaS marketing plan, you need to first define your goals. You can then work backward by setting your budget, considering what marketing channels to invest in, and what your team will actually do to achieve those targets on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis.
SaaS marketing is more complex than other businesses because you are not selling a physical product and need to get loyal customers. A good software product will attract customers, but you need an excellent SaaS marketing plan to build brand awareness, capture those leads, and convert them into loyal customers.
You can create a good SaaS marketing plan through the steps discussed above. Start by creating an ideal buyer persona, then develop goals and effective KPIs to measure your performance.
Next, conduct competitive research to guide you and define a marketing budget. From there, build an effective SEO strategy, create relatable content, and plan your email marketing campaigns. Finally, track and improve performance.
Follow these steps today and create a scalable SaaS marketing plan to help you stand out in your market.
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.