SaaS marketing is the plans you make and the actions you take to promote and acquire customers for a software business across the entire sales funnel. The goal is to generate awareness and get potential customers to whip out their credit cards and purchavse your service.
Common SaaS marketing channels include PPC, social media, content, video, and events.
Essentially, SaaS marketing has a lot of similarities with standard business marketing of physical products, except for a few key differences.
4 Factors That Impact SaaS Marketing
The SaaS marketing strategy you develop will draw on your staff’s strengths and be based on your niche and your service. It will also draw on the strength of the marketing agency you partner with.
Here are four critical factors that impact your SaaS marketing strategy.
1. The Competition
Competition is important in SaaS marketing because it influences pricing, positioning, and differentiation. Understanding competitors helps a business identify gaps in the market, adapt to industry trends, and create value propositions that stand out.
Entering a crowded market requires a focus on differentiation and value proposition. In such markets, consumers already have multiple options, so a new entrant must offer something unique or better to gain attention.
Strategies for entering a crowded market may include:
- Targeting underserved customer segments
- Introducing innovative features
- Leveraging a unique business model
- Undercutting the pricing of competitors
Strong branding and marketing are crucial to stand out and communicate why the product or service is better or different from existing options. That is expensive. Just consider how much Monday has spent on marketing.
Entering a new market requires a focus on market education and establishing a strong presence early on.
Since you’re dealing with an untapped or nascent market, the primary objective is to inform potential customers about the problem you’re solving or the need you’re fulfilling. Two great books on category creation are “Blue Ocean Strategy” and “Play Bigger: How Rebels and Innovators Create New Categories and Dominate Markets“.
In a new market, you need to invest in marketing and public relations to build brand awareness and credibility. The early mover advantage allows you to set industry standards and capture market share before competitors arrive.
2. Your Unique Selling Point
Brand recognition and a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) are critical in SaaS marketing. High brand recognition ensures that consumers think of your product first when considering a purchase in your category.
A compelling USP sets you apart from competitors, offering a specific reason for consumers to choose your product over others. Both elements work in tandem to boost customer acquisition and loyalty, ultimately driving sales and business growth.
Unfortunately, many marketing campaigns are unremarkable. The products have similar features, the branding is safe, and the marketing campaigns are safe. It’s just a bit “vanilla”.
Check out these great logos to see what I mean.
In one word, unremarkable.
You want to be remarkable. Figure out what makes you special. Highlight this differentiator through every marketing campaign you run.
Mailchimp, an email marketing firm, is a great example of a memorable brand.
The company uses bright colors and an offhand writing style for its digital marketing content. That makes them memorable. And you want to be memorable.
3. Cost of Your Service
The cost of your service is pivotal in SaaS marketing as it influences both pricing and profitability. It sets the baseline for how much you need to charge to be profitable, affecting your competitiveness in the market.
Understanding your service cost also helps you set promotional budgets and defines your value proposition that resonates with target customers. That impacts both customer acquisition and retention.
You can take a couple of different approaches when pricing your product that will impact your marketing strategy. The table below covers the pros and cons of different pricing models.
|Low-Cost Service||Medium Cost Service||Expensive Service|
|Customer acquisition is easier.||Meh.||Customer acquisition is harder.|
|It is harder to provide great customer service.||Meh.||Can provide a better customer experience.|
|Less money to spend on product development.||Meh.||More money to spend on product development.|
|Less money to spend on customer acquisition.||Meh.||More money to spend on customer acquisition.|
I’ve oversimplified things.
Systeme.io, a Clickfunnels alternative, is a great example of a company that has used a cheap pricing model to attract customers. They market themselves as cheaper and simpler to use than the market leader. It’s an effective message for SaaS marketing campaigns.
One of the case studies at the end will discuss Systeme.
4. Your Target Audience: B2C, B2B, or Enterprise
Your target audience significantly shapes your approach to SaaS marketing, dictating the channels, messaging, and tactics you employ. In a B2B context, SaaS marketing often focuses on relationship-building, longer sales cycles, and multi-tiered decision-making processes, requiring specialized content like whitepapers or case studies.
B2C SaaS marketing, on the other hand, usually aims for broader appeal and quicker conversions, often leveraging emotional triggers and employing platforms suited for mass communication like social media. Understanding the specific needs and behaviors of your target audience, whether B2B or B2C, is crucial for crafting a tailored and effective marketing strategy.
Check out this podcast with Sujan Patel. He co-founded Mailshake, a sales outreach tool.
Sujan is trying to move Mailshake upstream from SME to enterprise. Rather than focus on SEO, Mailshake is investing in channels like Account Based Marketing (ABM) and podcasting to engage its target audience.
Be clear about your target audience. Especially if you have a tight marketing budget.
6 Proven SaaS Marketing Channels
Identifying the most effective channels for SaaS marketing is crucial for scaling your business and staying ahead of the competition. The right marketing channels not only help in acquiring new customers but also play a vital role in customer retention and upselling.
This section delves into the best SaaS marketing channels that have proven effective in reaching target audiences, driving engagement, and ultimately, converting leads into loyal customers.
1. Search Engine Optimization & Blogging
SEO is an effective SaaS marketing channel because it helps in achieving high visibility on search engines, and driving organic traffic to your website. This not only increases brand awareness but also targets users who are actively seeking solutions that your software provides.
Start your SaaS SEO efforts by creating content for relevant keywords that will make you money. SEO-optimized sales pages are a logical starting point.
You’ll probably want to create bottom-of-the-funnel list posts and comparison posts. You might even decide to create some free tools. From there, build out your content strategy to target the top and middle-of-the-funnel terms. Your goal is to create a content plan that generates leads and engages people across the sales funnel.
CoSchedule is a nice example of a company that took this approach. They identified an audience need – content creators wanted to create better headlines.
The company did the research and discovered around 10,000 people a month search the internet for a “headline analyzer.” So they made an awesome tool and released it online for free. Then they marketed it heavily.
That page gets an estimated 14,300 visitors a month.
The CEO of CoSchedule has repeatedly stated that this tool is one of their best customer acquisition channels. You can check out this podcast to get content insights from Garrett Moon, CEO of CoSchedule.
Writer, a company we support, also figured releasing free tools would be the fastest way to quickly grow an audience. They first identified a need; around 1.4 million people a month search for “grammar checker online.”
Then they developed and released a great tool.
We helped them rank for that target keyword through link building and on-site support.
Writer now gets 2.1 million visitors a month to its site, thanks to this freemium model.
That’s a lot of leads for the marketing funnel from a free tool.
Another effective strategy is turning your blog into a knowledge hub for potential customers. Atlassian has done a great job of this, for example, with their Github tutorials.
Over 696,000 visitors a month come to the site to read the GitHub tutorials. Those are great numbers. They’ve created a resource for people who are likely to use their paid project management tools.
We implemented a similar strategy with Right Inbox. It’s a tool for managing your Gmail inbox. They created a great content hub targeting Gmail-related search terms.
They are smashing it in the search rankings and getting lots of leads in the process. You want to create a great content hub that works with your business model.
Our SaaS agency can help you climb Google’s rankings quickly.
2. Paid Advertising (Social & Search)
Paid ads are an effective SaaS marketing channel because they offer immediate visibility and the ability to precisely target specific audiences. Unlike organic methods, which take time to build momentum, paid advertising can generate quick results and drive immediate traffic to your website or landing page.
A logical place to start with PPC is targeting branded keywords.
For example, you can run paid ads targeting your competitors. You can see a nice example of this in the screenshot below. Three companies are bidding on the brand name “process.st”.
Targeting branded keywords is a bit of an asshole thing to do. It does work, though.
The more successful you are, the higher the likelihood you’ll have to set aside part of your paid marketing budget to bid on your brand name. It’s one of those expenses you can’t avoid.
Another approach is to target relevant buying keywords.
Create custom landing pages for your paid advertising campaigns. It will boost your conversion rates and reduce your customer acquisition costs. Most software companies don’t bother doing this, but they should.
You’ll want to invest in search retargeting campaigns to maintain that engagement and drive people back to your site. You can use retargeting ads to get people on your email list. That way, you can nurture them so they become qualified leads.
Explore paid social media ads as well.
One of the most effective SaaS channels for social media marketing at the moment is probably YouTube. It’s a great channel for generating brand awareness.
As you can see from this LinkedIn post, Scribe retargets people who visited the site’s blog on YouTube. They discovered self-reported attribution for YouTube spiked after running YouTube retargeting ads from blog post visitors.
That just means people forgot they visited the blog and remembered seeing the YouTube ad.
Scribe isn’t the only SaaS company to use the channel to raise brand awareness. Monday, for example, spends millions of dollars monthly on YouTube ads.
I see an ad from Monday after almost every other video about marketing. They have an incredible SaaS retargeting strategy for YouTube.
You can use retargeting YouTube ads to raise brand awareness. It’s one of the cheapest social channels because making great videos is a royal pain.
3. Account Based Marketing
Account based marketing is an effective SaaS marketing channel because it allows for highly targeted, personalized outreach to specific high-value accounts. This targeted approach often results in higher conversion rates, larger deal sizes, and more efficient use of marketing resources.
Effective SaaS ABM is underpinned by a strong sales team. Here’s a quick overview of how to structure your sales team and where you’ll need input from marketing.
|Sales Support Function||Responsibilities of the Team|
|Sales Operations||The team optimizes your entire sales funnel for peak performance by fine-tuning your tech stack, including your CRM, and assisting with lead routing.|
|Sales Enablement||The team matches user content to prospective buyers. They create key sales assets like white papers and case studies and surfacing customer stories.|
|Customer Success||The team ensures that your customers stay successful and satisfied by providing customer support, fielding questions and feedback, and helping them get the most out of your product. The goal here is to reduce customer churn.|
You can see close coordination is needed between sales operations and sales enablement.
The marketing team will gain lots of insights by coordinating closely with the customer success team too. Your team should incorporate insights about customer pain points and successes into the marketing material they produce.
4. Affiliate & Referral Marketing
Affiliate and Referral Marketing are effective SaaS channels because they leverage the trust and credibility of existing customers or industry influencers to drive new business. These methods turn satisfied users into brand advocates, who then refer new customers, usually in exchange for some form of reward.
Successful affiliates will support a referral program that converts. You should only launch your program when you’ve nailed those conversion rates. Don’t launch a software referral marketing strategy before you do this. Affiliates will avoid it.
You can launch your affiliate program easily by:
- Create a Joint Venture page. This is where you outline your affiliate program. You’ll get more affiliates by treating the Joint Venture page as a sales page (share conversion rates, ad social proof, etc.).
- Create a list of people you’d like to have as affiliates.
- Pitch them the offer, and provide them with all the marketing materials they might need to support you. That could mean creating email swipes affiliates can use, marketing graphics, and other resources.
Launching an affiliate program is straightforward. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though.
You’ll need to put in a lot of work to make your affiliate program a success.
Longer-term, you’ll want to hire an affiliate manager to support your best affiliates. Your affiliate manager can come up with special deals for affiliates, campaign ideas, and more.
5. Video Marketing or Podcasting
Video marketing and podcasting are effective SaaS channels because they offer rich, engaging formats to explain complex products and establish thought leadership. Video can demonstrate a product’s functionality and benefits in an easily digestible way. Podcasts, meanwhile, provide a platform for longer, more in-depth conversations that build brand trust.
Both channels enable SaaS companies to reach their audience in a more personal, engaging manner, often leading to higher retention and conversion rates. There are plenty of examples of B2C and B2B SaaS companies that have made a success of podcasting or YouTubing.
Ahrefs is a nice example of a company that’s successfully invested in SaaS video marketing.
The Ahrefs YouTube channel has 326,000 subscribers.
The videos are mostly “how to” style guides. Most of the guides show you how to use Ahrefs to complete SEO tasks. Essentially, the content aligns with the interests of the buyer personas.
Figure out an interesting format if you’re going to invest in either podcasting or video marketing. You want to make relevant content that’s a little bit different from the competition.
6. Events & Community Building
Events and Community Building are effective SaaS marketing channels because they foster direct engagement and trust between the brand and its audience. Events provide a platform for live demonstrations, networking, and immediate feedback, helping to shorten the sales cycle.
Community building, whether online or offline, creates a loyal base of advocates who not only provide recurring revenue but also amplify brand messages. Both strategies help in establishing thought leadership and deepening relationships with customers, leading to higher retention and lifetime value.
Community building has been a key part of the marketing strategy for Notion. The Notion Subreddit has 268,000 members constantly posting things on the board.
You might notice that members are called “Notioners”.
Giving your audience a name linked to your company is something you’ll probably want to do.
You can create a focal point for your SaaS community on a social media or communication platform like Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Slack, or Discord. Creating the group is easy, but getting people active and involved takes time. You’ll want to hire a Community Manager to keep things on track if you’re serious about community building.
You can always take your online group offline. Hubspot, which runs INBOUND, one of the largest SaaS conferences, invests heavily in event marketing. It’s a great way to grow your community and raise brand awareness.
3 SaaS Marketing Case Studies
One of the best ways to get inspiration when creating a plan is by analyzing the approach to SaaS marketing used by successful companies. You won’t be able to copy the strategies outright. After all, the more people use the same strategy, the less effective it becomes.
You don’t need to steal the ideas of these companies, though.
Just imitate the approaches that make the most sense and tweak them to fit your business goals. Do this, and you’ll probably scale faster and make fewer costly mistakes.
With that in mind, here are some cool case studies to review.
1. Writer: Freemium Tools
Providing stuff for free is a great way to generate exposure and a good reputation with your target audience. Take Writer, one of our clients, whom we talked about earlier.
They started out by creating a free grammar and punctuation checker, which makes sense. More than 800,000 people search online for a grammar checker every month. More search for variations of that keyword.
That’s a shitload of potential leads.
We helped Writer get the free tool ranking on Google. According to Ahrefs, 1,563,161 visitors check out the Grammar Checker tool. It’s a key part of the sales funnel. The tool is the primary source of new leads.
That’s pretty awesome.
You should always double down on your great ideas.
Writer now has four free tools. A plagiarism checker, punctuation checker, proofreading checker, grammar checker, and most recently, AI content detector. Those tools attract close to 1,700,000 people to the site. These are ideal target customers with a need, and a pain point Writer solves.
Writer is not the first company to take this approach. It won’t be the last, either.
Figure out if there are any relevant free tools you could release to get people to your SaaS site.
2. ClickFunnels: Create a Niche
ClickFunnels is a niche creator. They own the “sales funnel software” niche.
The sales funnel software niche is relatively new.
ClickFunnels has the following functionality; it’s a sales page builder with a simple email marketing solution bolted on it. Russel Brunson, the founder of ClickFunnels, calls his new platform “sales funnel software”.
After a lot of marketing, people started to talk about sales funnel software. And when they talked about sales funnel software, they think of ClickFunnels.
If you’ve spent time around the startup scene, especially in Silicon Valley, you’ll have heard people talk about category creation. The basic idea is you try to change the way people think about your service and make the competition irrelevant.
Let me give you an example:
- Uber – changed the way people booked taxis
- Airbnb – created a new holiday rental market
- Tesla – the electric car company
Each of these brands is instantly recognizable, which nicely leads me to the second benefit of this strategy; you become the market leader.
Being the market leader is awesome. You will get most of the customers without even trying because people associate you with your sector. If you’re interested in learning more about this idea, I suggest you read “Play Bigger: How Rebels and Innovators Create New Categories and Dominate Markets“.
3. Systeme.io: Fight the Market Leader
People are price-sensitive. If you’re entering a crowded niche where the incumbent is expensive, a simple but effective strategy is providing a cheaper service.
That’s exactly what Systeme.io did when they entered the “sales funnel software” space. They positioned themselves as the ClickFunnels killer.
Having an enemy is great for marketing.
They charged $27 a month for a starter plan. ClickFunnels charges a minimum of $97 a month. That’s a big saving and a nice differentiator.
Systeme.io then launched a marketing campaign targeting ClickFunnel branded search terms. You can see 466 pages on the Systeme.io domain reference ClickFunnels.
They even reference ClickFunnels on the homepage.
The strategy of targeting the incumbent in a profitable niche has paid off. Systeme is growing fast.
SaaS Marketing FAQ
SaaS marketing is the plans you make and the actions you take to promote and acquire customers for a software business across the entire sales funnel. The goal is to generate awareness and get potential customers to whip out their credit cards and purchase your service.
Important SaaS marketing channels include SEO, PPC, social media, email, content, video, podcasts, and events. This guide provides strategies and tactics to help you optimize your marketing efforts.
This guide covered some of the fundamentals of SaaS marketing. Hopefully, it’s given you some ideas about how to develop a marketing strategy for your SaaS business. Remember, this post is just a starting point for your research.
Crunch Marketing can provide you with support in developing your SaaS marketing strategy. We’ve helped companies like Writer, Mailshake, Shift4Shop, and many others scale customer acquisition through search and content marketing. Click here to learn more.
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.