On December 6, 2021, Aura, a small SaaS company that provides identity prevention services, was getting an average of 9,000 visitors a month from search traffic. By December 6, 2022, that number had increased to 333,313.
SEO underpinned the company’s rapid growth, helping it establish brand recognition and making search the primary customer acquisition channel. SaaS founders and managers dream of such rapid growth.
This guide covers some of the best SaaS marketing strategies. You’ll learn which channels have worked for other founders and a step-by-step approach you can implement to impress investors and acquire new customers.
1. Prioritize SEO
SEO is an important SaaS marketing strategy because it helps potential customers find your service when they’re searching online. According to a 2016 report by Forrester Consulting, 71% of customers start their journey online using search engines to discover new products and brands. That makes search engines a critical touch point on the SaaS customer journey.
SEO is a vast topic that stretches well beyond the scope of this particular article. However, at a foundational level, SEO mainly involves keyword research, creating and optimizing website content, and building backlinks.
SaaS keyword analysis involves uncovering the phrases and terms your target audience uses to search online. You need relevant keywords that align with the interests of potential customers.
Here’s how keywords align with the typical SaaS customer journey:
- Top of the Funnel: Informational search terms
- Middle of the Funnel: How to articles, checklists, and templates
- Bottom of the Funnel: Comparison articles and product reviews
- Transactional Terms: Sales pages
There are various tools you can use to generate your keyword list. We use Ahrefs.
Here’s our approach.
First, define the topics you want to be known for. We focused on informational search terms related to Gmail and email in general with Right Inbox. That means we created a master list of potential terms.
You can use the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer tool to find suitable topics to cover. Enter your head term, in our case Gmail, and export the file with related questions.
You’ll need to repeat this process across multiple keywords to create a master file.
Once you have your file, group related keywords together. The goal is to cover as much content around a set of keywords as possible. This creates topical authority.
We like to prioritize low-competition keywords. These will be easier to rank initially.
You then need to prioritize which articles to create and align them with your editorial calendar. This post on content production has plenty of tips for scaling your blogging efforts.
I recommend publishing a minimum of 10 to 15 articles a month. Use tools like SurferSEO to ensure these articles are optimized for the keyword. Tools like Surfer show you what terms and phrases to include, the article length, the number of subheadings you need, and so on.
Finally, make sure that content is interlinked with other relevant pieces.
As you start publishing content that ranks and satisfies user intent, you gain authority with Google. The more authority you have, the easier it is to make your content rank.
You’ll slowly get content ranking over time by just publishing content around your niche. You’ll speed up the process, though, by securing links from authority sites. Powerful links help you rank higher and faster. Therefore, you’ll need an effective SaaS link-building strategy to support your SEO efforts.
Search engine optimization can pay huge dividends. Plus, a good SEO strategy has a compounding effect, unlike things like PPC advertising. Let’s go back to Aura.
We partnered with Aura in January 2022. The site has seen tremendous growth by focusing on topical authority, creating great content, and securing powerful backlinks.
We generated similar results for Right Inbox. They’re getting almost 500,000 visitors a month now.
Contact our SaaS Marketing Agency if you want help with your SEO and SaaS marketing efforts. We’ll help you build a focused blogging strategy while working on getting you quality backlinks from sites like HubSpot and BigCommerce.
Let’s move to the next point.
2. Identify & Cold Email Site Visitors
Cold emailing site visitors is an important SaaS marketing strategy for start-ups because it allows you to proactively reach out to potential customers. Here’s how to implement this marketing strategy.
First, sign up for a platform like Albacross. It’s a platform that attempts to identify website visitors by IP address. So you’ll get info about who the person is and the company they work for.
Every week they deliver you a list of site visitors.
Get someone on your team to find the email address linked to each lead (here’s a quick way to find email addresses without using an email finder). Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a list of prospects you can contact via cold email.
Put together a simple template introducing yourself and offering to help out.
Here’s the template that Irina, who now heads up the SEO team at Aura, used when she worked for Platformly. You can see it’s direct and friendly.
Send emails out each week to your prospects.
A small portion of those leads will convert.
This SaaS marketing plan is effective but difficult to scale. It’s best suited for startups and scale-ups looking to grow an audience. Strategies like SEO, and Account Based Marketing, which we’ll cover later, are more effective for bigger companies.
3. Invest in a Moonshot
Moonshots are important in SaaS marketing strategy because they offer the chance to make a big splash and earn huge rewards. These are marketing campaigns with a high risk of failure. But, campaigns that will generate huge returns if you pull them off.
Let me give you a great example of a moonshot from Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.
On February 22, 2000, he organized a march against software. Protesters, who were actually paid actors, held placards and chanted slogans calling for the “end of software”. The first reporter to interview Marc was from KNMS 22.
KNMS 22 doesn’t exist.
Nonetheless, the march got loads of press attention. In fact, it got lots of attention from people attending the Siebel User Conference, which was the target audience of Salesforce.
It’s great marketing stunts like these that got Salesforce loads of attention.
Buffer’s Annual State of Remote Work is a more low-key example. The report on remote work, which undoubtedly started as a moonshot, has generated loads of attention in the press.
Here’s a year-over-year overview of the links they secured from the report:
- 2018 Report: Links from 669 referring domains.
- 2019 Report: Links from 2,651 referring domains.
- 2020 Report: Links from 288 referring domains.
- 2021 Report: Links from 1,088 referring domains.
- 2022 Report: Links from 985 referring domains.
Again, they decided to do something different, and it paid off.
Try to run a moonshot of your own at least once this year. It might well fail, but if you succeed, it will likely generate higher returns than your other marketing efforts.
4. Run a Special Offer or Lifetime Deal
Special offers and lifetime deals are both effective SaaS marketing strategies because they can quickly attract a large number of customers. These deals create a sense of urgency and value, encouraging people to take action.
While they might reduce your short-term revenue, they can lead to long-term customer loyalty and more referrals. This is a super effective SaaS marketing technique for a startup.
During the early stages of your product entering the market, it’s hard to get potential users to try your platform. A great deal reduces the risks for prospects and helps you build out an audience. Besides giving you lots of early product users, lifetime deals provide tons of insights through user feedback.
There are two main platforms for running a launch. They are AppSumo and Product Hunt.
Product Hunt is generally used for proof of concept. You launch your product here to generate awareness about your service offering. Most companies don’t put together a deal for early adopters on Product Hunt, you can, though.
Foundr has a nice article discussing how to run a successful promotion on Product Hunt.
AppSumo is a great platform for running a lifetime deal for your software. It’s the biggest software deal site, and a successful launch can get you tens of thousands of dollars in revenue and many early adopters. This guide on Project.co gives you some founder insights on running an AppSumo deal.
The other platform you might want to check out is Betalist. It’s a nice platform for picking up beta users. You can get listed on Betalist and get a shout on their email list for a few hundred dollars.
5. Build Your Email List
Email marketing is an important SaaS marketing strategy because it’s a direct and cost-effective way to communicate with potential and existing customers. It is one of the most effective digital marketing channels generating $36 for every $1 spent according to Constant Contact.
Many SaaS companies don’t invest in list building or really understand how to manage an email list. This is a mistake that will cost you revenue. After all, most people coming to your site never return.
First, you need to create various email sequences to engage your audience.
One of the most important is an onboarding sequence that you send to people signing up for your tool. There are additional SaaS marketing sequences you should set up too. Here are a few examples:
- Welcome email sequence
- Onboarding email sequence
- Sales email sequence
- Trigger emails (send to people who hit milestones with your tool).
Creating content upgrades that convert visitors to subscribers remains one of the best ways to grow your email list. You can use the content upgrade to grow your email list.
You should send regular emails to your subscribers too. Your regular newsletters help you build long-term relationships with leads and customers. You want to stay in touch with your clients regularly to remain at the top of their minds.
Don’t make the mistake of just sending recent blog posts to prospects. People don’t want to read an article about “how to set up your Gmail account” or something else. These articles are great for search but terrible for customer engagement.
Instead, figure out what people would like to receive in their inboxes. For example, we send out a fortnightly email with SaaS marketing hacks. Two minutes of actionable tips with no BS. You need to figure out a unique selling point that works for your audience.
Here are some SaaS email marketing best practices to follow.
Use email marketing tools like Drip, GetResponse, or Convertkit to automate your campaigns. These will help you set up drip campaigns that will nurture and convert prospects on autopilot. They also provide tons of analytics to help you see what’s working and how you can improve your email campaigns.
6. Segment Your Audience
Segmenting your audience is an effective SaaS marketing strategy because it helps you send the right message to the right people. Instead of one-size-fits-all emails or ads, you can target specific groups with offers or information they’ll actually care about based on where they are in the buyer journey.
That way, you can share relevant content specific to where they are in the sales funnel.
There are four types of customer segmentation:
- Demographic Segmentation: This is where you segment your audience according to demographic data points. In the SaaS space, you’re likely to segment your audience according to factors like companies vs. individuals. Company size is another factor you can use to segment customers. If you’re segmenting your audience for prospecting purposes, you might also want to check their job roles.
- Geographic Segmentation: If your SaaS company operates globally, you might segment your audience by region and language.
- Behavioral Segmentation: With behavioral segmentation, you generally segment your audience according to your sales funnel using touchpoints to generate actions.
- Psychographic Segmentation: This is where you segment your audience according to interests.
The most common type of SaaS customer segmentation utilizes either demographic segmentation or behavioral segmentation. Some SaaS companies try to combine the two.
Take the time to understand your customers and their needs. Then figure out what segments you’ll put your audience into. For example, you can segment your target market based on usage behavior, company size, or how much they spend with your brand. Use these attributes to create unique content high-quality for each customer segment.
Once you’ve created your segments, you can put systems in place so you can send targeted marketing messages. Much of this will be done through email marketing or your CRM.
7. Use Quizzes to Engage & Segment Your Audience
Quizzes are important in SaaS marketing because they engage potential customers in an interactive way. Lead generation quizzes can be especially effective.
You can leverage a quiz to segment your audience. A great lead generation quiz will provide details that’ll help you segment your target audience into different buckets so you can send them more relevant offers.
Check out this lead generation quiz from Atlassian:
There are two types of quizzes you can create for your target audience to capture qualified leads.
First is personality quizzes that categorize people into personalities based on answers. Knowledge quizzes that gauge a person’s knowledge of a topic.
SaaS marketers can use either to generate and qualify leads.
Once you’ve figured out the topic, you need to create questions to segment your target audience. For example, you can use a question like, “How many people work for your company” to split solopreneurs, small business owners, and enterprise clients.
Use a casual tone that’s consistent with your brand identity. Break the monotony of text with brand-consistent images and GIFs. But keep the quiz short. It shouldn’t take longer than three minutes to complete.
Send a series of emails to people who participated in your quiz. The introduction email should reference the quiz results. You can then send custom drip email campaigns to each group separately.
Few SaaS product marketing strategies will get prospects to talk about themselves like quizzes. There are many free and paid quiz-building platforms. Interact and Typeform are just a few examples. These can help you create engaging quiz content.
You can read my article on GetResponse for more insights on how to create a quiz funnel.
8. Streamline Your Onboarding
Streamlined onboarding is a critical SaaS marketing strategy because it helps new users get started with your product quickly and easily. A smooth onboarding process can make a big difference in how customers feel about your service, increasing the likelihood that they’ll stay and become long-term users.
Form abandonment statistics show that 81% of leads do not complete online forms. Your onboarding process could be the culprit if you’re also experiencing a high form abandonment rate.
Don’t waste your SaaS marketing efforts with long and complicated sign-up forms. Make no mistake. Customer data collection is essential for SaaS businesses. However, customers find lengthy signups with needless questions off-putting.
You can do several things to make it easier for prospective customers to sign up:
- Only ask for essential information. Names and emails should be enough to get started.
- Provide additional sign-up options. For example, some SaaS brands let users sign up with their Gmail and even Facebook accounts.
- Spare the more nuanced questions for when the user has already signed up. So you can take the user through a brief survey when they first log into your platform.
Brands like Atlassian allow users to register or log in with their Google or Facebook accounts. It speeds up the onboarding process.
Meanwhile, Surfer SEO is keen to ensure the signup form is as brief as possible. They then use an in-app survey to collect the additional data they need.
An easy signup flow will increase conversion rates and improve customer experience. But that’s not the only place you should streamline for a better user experience. Automated billing eases the process of collecting payments. It’s a better customer experience and minimizes involuntary churn.
Oftentimes, promoting your SaaS product is as easy as ensuring your business operations run smoothly. This gives existing customers a delightful experience. Happy customers will turn into loyal customers. They’ll also tell their friends about your brand. That helps you get more leads at a lower cost.
9. Leverage Free Trials
Free trials are a widely used SaaS marketing strategy because they let potential customers try out your service without any financial risk, making them more likely to give it a shot. Once people see the value your product provides, they’re often more willing to become paying customers.
Speak to “growth hackers” at your favorite SaaS conferences, and they’ll all tell you the same thing – free trials are invaluable in the SaaS industry. Free trials give users a first-hand experience of your SaaS. They help them understand exactly how your product works.
Admittedly, free trials are standard practice for the majority of SaaS companies. They are a low-investment strategy with an average conversion rate of 62.4%.
You can showcase the value of your SaaS service with limited-time free trials or freemium plans. Streaming platforms like Hulu and Spotify offer a 30-day full-access free trial. Website builders like Landingi and Leadpages provide a 14-day free trial. Meanwhile, the design platforms like Canva go the freemium way.
Basic accounts are available for free. Users who want access to advanced features become paid subscribers.
Both models generate qualified leads.
Canva uses both limited-time and unlimited trial periods. Their freemium model gives prospects unlimited access to basic features. Potential customers who want advanced features get a 30-day trial on premium plans.
Free trials are a strong indicator of a prospect’s intent to buy. But it won’t matter how generous your trial period is if the experience is not worthwhile. Track your free trial conversion rates. Ask for customer feedback from unconverted leads about their experience.
Another way to showcase your SaaS brand is with SaaS review sites like G2 and Capterra. SaaS review sites let you harness the power of social proof. You can build customer trust with honest feedback about your product. After all, 95% of customers read reviews before buying.
Ensure you list your brand and products on these sites. Some sites offer premium services to spotlight your SaaS brand, expanding your reach.
10. Create a Referral Program
A referral program is a great SaaS marketing strategy because it leverages your existing customers to bring in new ones. People are more likely to trust recommendations from friends or colleagues over traditional advertising. In fact, 84% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know.
That’s why referrals are one of the most powerful SaaS marketing strategies.
In an ideal world, your customers love your SaaS product so much that they can’t stop raving about it. The reality is you have to motivate your customers to spread the word. A SaaS referral program with valuable incentives or rewards can grow your customer base at a low cost.
The best referral programs give incentives to both existing and potential customers. PayPal gives current customers up to $50 to market the service to friends and family. They hedge their chances of conversion by enticing referees with $10 when they open an account.
You can also leverage the power of influencers for referrals. Your influencer marketing program should be different from the referral program for regular customers. Influencers have millions of followers. A model like PayPal’s could harm your bottom line.
As you develop your referral program, define your program’s goals and identify appropriate referrers. For example, use your referral program to drive sales for premium accounts. Then track referral conversions to measure how successful your campaigns are.
11. Implement an Account-Based Marketing Strategy
Account Based Marketing (ABM) is one of the most effective B2B SaaS marketing strategies. Through ABM, you create a list of the accounts your business will be targeting. The account will contain all the details about each potential customer, including their contact details, the people involved in the decision-making process, and the records of the interactions you’ve had with them.
Account-based marketing helps you weed out unqualified leads early. It ensures your sales and marketing teams don’t waste time on leads unlikely to convert.
SaaS Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach to targeting high-value accounts. It uses the combined expertise of the marketing and sales teams. ABM starts by identifying prospects that fit your ideal customer profile and markets to them.
There are three components of ABM:
- Identification – Identify potential clients that fit your buyer persona.
- Research – Find out about their goals, pain points, and competitors
- Marketing – Create targeted campaigns specific to their needs
The benefits of ABM are a streamlined sales cycle and consistent customer experience. ABM does take a lot of time. The identification and research phases can take weeks. Save time with marketing automation to scale your outreach and lead acquisition.
12. Sponsor Industry Relevant Webinars
Webinar sponsorship is a great SaaS marketing strategy because it positions your company as a thought leader in the industry and provides a platform to showcase your product to a targeted audience. By aligning with a reputable webinar or hosting your own, you can reach potential customers who are already interested in the kind of solutions you offer.
Webinar sponsorship basically entails sponsoring a webinar and having the hosts play your ad somewhere within the episode. You can sponsor an entire webinar or pick specific episodes to sponsor.
Either way, sponsoring the right webinars helps build awareness about your brand and can generate leads for you.
Here is an example.
Taxbit is a cryptocurrency tax SaaS that helps investors calculate their tax liabilities. They sponsored a webinar by CoinDesk, a cryptocurrency news site, as seen above.
13. Scale your Paid Ads
Paid ads are an important SaaS marketing strategy because they offer a quick and targeted way to reach potential customers. Unlike organic methods, which can take time to yield results, paid advertising can drive immediate traffic to your website or landing page. That can be very profitable if you’ve nailed your conversion rates.
The king of SaaS paid advertising is Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Businesses pay big bucks to Google to show their ads in the search results. It involves bidding for high-value keywords. Some even go as far as bidding for branded search terms. The higher the keyword value, the higher the price.
So, if the keyword ‘CRM software for small business’ CPC value is $10, you pay $10 every time someone clicks on your ad.
Below is the keyword search result for “CRM software for small businesses.”
Sadly, paid searches can get expensive. If you’re a startup SaaS with a limited marketing budget, spending $58.55 per click is going to kill you.
You can reduce ad costs by focusing on long-tail keywords or running retargeting campaigns. For example, YouTube presents a great platform for retargeting campaigns. Companies like Asana and Monday.com spend a lot retargeting potential customers on YouTube marketing videos.
Pay attention to the quality of your ads. You will waste a lot of advertising dollars by running boring ads or sending people to a bland landing page. So make sure the headline, meta descriptions, CTAs, and other elements are on point.
Monitoring and testing your ads is crucial to know the variations and combinations that generate the best ROI. That enables you to scale your campaigns by doubling down on what’s working.
14. Focus on Partner Marketing
Partner marketing is a valuable SaaS marketing strategy because it allows you to leverage the strengths and customer bases of other companies to mutual advantage. By collaborating with partners that offer complementary services or products, you can extend your reach to new audiences without the high cost of customer acquisition.
Joint ventures like bundled offers, co-hosted webinars, or shared content can introduce your SaaS solution to people who are likely to be interested but may not have discovered it otherwise. Plus, a recommendation from a trusted partner can boost your credibility
Allbound is an automated sales enablement software for partner marketing. They joined forces with Magnetude Consulting, a B2B marketing firm, to create a channel marketing ebook.
Working with other companies lets you leverage their following and grow your audience. Strategic co-marketing also helps you show thought leadership and industry authority.
15. Create Conversational Ads
Conversational ads are an innovative SaaS marketing strategy because they engage potential customers in a more personalized and interactive manner. Unlike traditional ads, which are often one-sided and passive, conversational ads invite the audience to interact, usually through chatbots or live chat features.
The advent of chatbot technology gave consumers increased and personalized access to brands.
Chatbots are artificial intelligence computer programs that simulate human conversation with users. ChatGPT is perhaps the most popular AI chatbot in recent times. You’ve likely seen a virtual assistant widget at the bottom left or right corner of a web page. That’s usually a chatbot.
Chatbots are common in customer service scenarios. However, it is possible to leverage their conversational AI for marketing. That makes it possible for marketers to make one-on-one connections with consumers.
Conversational ads follow a conversation structure, i.e., turn-taking. The conversation develops through a preset path based on inputs the customer makes. This real-time engagement allows for immediate clarification of doubts, personalized recommendations, and a more seamless transition from interest to action.
Below are examples of a LinkedIn message ad (right) and a LinkedIn conversational ad (left).
The message ad is static and one-way. It doesn’t provide a dynamic and interactive interaction like the conversational ad. Conversation ads help to grab customers’ attention. They also help SaaS brands personalize content, qualify target customers, and drive conversions.
How to Create A SaaS Marketing Strategy
To create a SaaS marketing strategy, you need to focus on more than just making sales. It’s important to attract new customers, keep them interested, and make sure they stick around for the long term. This means you’ll use a mix of online marketing methods to meet your goals.
Check out the details in the table below that provides a basic overview of how to market your software service effectively in a crowded market.
|Task||What You’ll Need to Do|
|Set your goals.||You want a single target for the company. Break this overarching goal down into mini objectives.|
|Agree on your marketing budget.||Figure out how much you can and/ or are willing to spend on your customers.|
|Define your customer persona.||Figure out exactly who you are targeting, what channels they use, and what pain points prospective customers have. This is super important for your go-to-market strategy.|
|Nail your product market fit.||Ensure the service you are offering is good enough to sell. The best way to judge success is by getting people to pay for your service.|
|Sort out your website.||You need a good website with nice landing pages. The site needs to offer a great user experience.|
|Decide on your approach.||Figure out what channels you’ll use. Spend time designing your marketing funnel and your content marketing strategy.|
|Create a plan with KPI.||Sort out a rough marketing strategy for the first two quarters. Figure out who will be responsible for the work.|
That is a very basic framework for SaaS marketing teams. Regardless of your niche, you’ll need to complete those tasks before running a campaign.
SaaS Marketing Strategies FAQ
A SaaS marketing strategy should create brand awareness and aid customer acquisition. Through strategic positioning and effective communication, SaaS marketing strategies help you build a strong reputation for your company and connect with your audience.
The most effective SaaS marketing strategy for your business will depend on your target audience. Proven strategies include SEO, Account Based Marketing, and a few lesser-known hacks. This guide covers some of the best approaches.
SaaS products are not like other products on the market. For starters, there isn’t a physical object you can exchange. So, you need different marketing strategies. SaaS marketing strategies rely on content marketing to sell products.
SaaS companies can prove the value of their virtual product in different ways. These include creating varied and engaging content, optimizing websites for search engines, building a reliable online presence, and the all-important free trial.
And just like in relationships, no one-size-fits-all strategy will work for all SaaS businesses. Ultimately, it comes down to your specific niche and target audience. This article has given you the roadmap you can use to reach your unique goals. Follow this roadmap, track your results, and adjust the strategy accordingly.
If you need help with your SaaS SEO, book a consultation with us, and we’ll give you a free SEO audit to kickstart your SEO campaign.
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.