SaaS, or Software as a Service, is a business model that offers cloud-based applications to customers over the internet. These products often handle numerous business functions and are generally sold as monthly subscriptions.
Remote access to cloud services has been one of the biggest technological disruptors. With this, SaaS adoption has expanded exponentially.
Forecasts by Gartner show that spending on public cloud services will reach $482 billion in 2022, with over $171 billion spent on SaaS only.
So the question is, how do you attract some of these big bucks? Effective SaaS product marketing is the way to go. Keep reading to see what this means for your SaaS business.
What is SaaS Product Marketing?
SaaS product marketing is the promotion, acquisition, and retention of leads for subscription-based SaaS products. It focuses on creating customer value, promoting expansion, and reducing unsubscriptions.
Your product marketing strategy must work as the link between the entire marketing department, sales teams, product managers, and customer success managers.
Many aspects of SaaS product marketing are similar to traditional marketing methods. So essentially, you could just pass off these duties to your sales and marketing team, right? Wrong.
Let me tell you why.
How Does SaaS Marketing Differ From Traditional Marketing
Perhaps the most significant difference between traditional and SaaS marketing is that you’re promoting a subscription service with the latter. Therefore, you have a much bigger burden to demonstrate to your users that the service is worthwhile.
Not only that, but the subscription element means that SaaS products are not one-time purchases. You want customers to stay subscribed to your software. The worst part? Users can reconsider their subscription at any time. In fact, in some cases and industries, users may evaluate the need for a software solution every month.
For example, if a user has been using your cold outreach software for two months and isn’t securing any deals, it wouldn’t take long before they re-evaluate whether they should continue their subscription. Perhaps it may be time for them to ditch your software and consider other marketing approaches.
That’s why having a good product is also really really important. A great marketing strategy can only get you so far if your product isn’t good enough. But with a great product, a solid marketing campaign will essentially be the rocket you need to scale your product and business.
Therefore, with SaaS marketing, you must continuously prove the value of your product. Your SaaS marketing plan needs to be scalable and constantly work to acquire and retain customers.
We have an entire article dedicated to how and why SaaS marketing is different from other forms of product marketing. You can go through that piece for more details.
For now, let’s look at how you can move your SaaS business in the right direction.
How Can You Create a SaaS Product Marketing Strategy
You cannot use just any standard marketing strategies and hope to win at SaaS product marketing. In this guide, we walk you through seven steps to a winning SaaS product marketing strategy. We also provide some tips on the industry’s best practices.
1. Create a Buyer Persona
Customers are at the core of every business – they are the reason you exist. You need to know them. For that, you need to create a buyer persona.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and accurate data about your existing customers.
Without buyer personas, you might be guilty of the generic “spray and pray” strategy – targeting anyone and everyone, hoping to find a lead.
To create a buyer persona, you must start by defining your target market. That may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s essential to be as specific as possible. For example, if you sell accounting software, your target market might be small businesses with under ten employees. Narrowing down your target market will make it easier to create a buyer persona that is realistic and accurate.
Then, do some research about your target market. Start by looking at your existing customer base – who are they? What do they do? What do they care about?
If you don’t have any existing customers, there are still ways to collect data. Try conducting surveys or interviews with potential customers to learn more about them. You can also scour social media platforms for insights into what potential customers are talking about.
You can also look at industry reports and demographic data to better understand your target market’s needs and wants. All of this information will be useful when creating your buyer persona. They are a close-up view of your target market.
Focus on gathering the following information to build your buyer persona:
- Demographic and firmographic information.
- Goals, pain points, and challenges.
- Role and job responsibilities.
- Buyer journey.
- Customer support inquiries.
These details are necessary for your business to develop and promote products that match customers’ needs. For example, Amanda; is the fictional ideal client for Optinmonster, a lead generation tool.
See how all her information makes her a perfect candidate for Optimmonster’s lead generation software. This buyer persona details what Amanda views as success factors, her priorities, perceived barriers, and the criteria she uses when making decisions.
2. Set Down Goals and KPIs
Every SaaS marketing department structure is streamlined to work towards specific goals. This is critical for SaaS product marketing. Product marketers need to set SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.
Below, we explain an example of a SMART goal for a SaaS business.
Goal: Increase industry-wide market share of our top-selling SaaS product by at least 15% by the end of the year.
Specific: The goal gives the area of growth, product line, and level of growth.
Measurable: The goal can be tracked by looking at the number of new customers and growth in new markets.
Achievable: Assuming this company grew by something like 12% the previous year, then this goal is achievable.
Relevant: The goal must be relevant to the company’s overall strategy.
Time-bound: It is clearly stated that the firm will try to reach its goal by the end of the year.
To ensure you are on track to achieving your goals, develop key performance indicators(KPIs). These are metrics used to check the progress of your product marketing activities.
There are a whole bunch of KPI metrics you could track to measure performance but let’s look at a few that really matter for SaaS product growth.
Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR): MRR is a simple yet effective metric sometimes referred to as a gold-standard KPI.
It provides valuable information about how fast your SaaS business is growing.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): This is the cost of acquiring a new customer. For CAC to have any meaning, you should measure acquisition costs across different periods, such as monthly or quarterly.
Expect high CAC as your business starts. However, aim to lower this cost by launching more effective campaigns that translate to more acquisitions.
Churn Rate: This is the percentage of customers who leave your business over a given time. This crucial metric shows the long-term viability of your business. If you lose more customers than you gain, you’re toast.
The level of churn is also a direct reflection of customer satisfaction and should be kept as low as possible.
SaaS churn rates vary greatly depending on the type of business, industry, and competition. For start-ups, a churn rate of around 5% is acceptable, and a 3% churn rate or less is above average.
Customer Retention Rate (CRR): CRR goes hand in hand with churn rates. It provides insight into the number of new subscribers who continue to do business with you. High retention rates positively impact profits, reduce marketing costs and create loyal customers.
There is no set benchmark for retention rates. However, businesses in the IT sector have an average retention rate of 81%.
Keep an eye on your lead generation stats to see how many marketing and sales-qualified leads your marketing efforts to generate. SaaS product teams should also track the number of potential customers signing up for free trials. How many of these are upgrading to paid plans?
3. Research Your Competitors
At the 2020 SaaStr Annual conference, G2’s Chief Marketing Officer revealed that up to 55% of companies intend to increase their spending on software in 2022. This increase in SaaS demand will require more SaaS suppliers – as if there wasn’t enough competition already!
A comprehensive competitor analysis will let you learn from your competitors’ mistakes and duplicate their successes. You can identify opportunities to help you outperform them and learn SaaS marketing trends. With this information, you can develop a unique value proposition for your product and market it accordingly.
Analyze your competitor’s most effective marketing techniques and communication methods. For example, check their paid ad campaigns, target keywords, and search ranking.
Use tools such as Ahrefs to search for websites directly competing with yours.
As you can see from a search for Leadgenius.com, Ahrefs generates a comprehensive list of competing domains. You can then use metrics from these sites to collect actionable insights. Look for information such as top-performing pages, unique keywords, and search volume.
4. Create an SEO Strategy
As a B2B company, you know that search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to driving leads and customers to your site.
To create an SEO strategy, you must understand what keywords your potential customers use to find products like yours. Then, you can begin optimizing your site for those keywords. Your title tags, meta descriptions, and headers must all include those keywords (but don’t overdo it – keyword stuffing will hurt your SEO).
In addition, your site’s content should be high-quality and informative if you want it to rank well in search results. If you’re not sure how well your site is currently optimized, consider running an SEO audit. There are several tools out there that can help with this, such as Semrush, Ahrefs, and Moz.
Search engines need to see that other websites are linking to your site to rank higher in search results. That’s why link building is integral to any good SEO strategy. There are a few ways to go about link building, such as guest blogging or participating in directory listings.
However, you should know that SEO is a long-term, continuous approach to generating results and ROI.
That said, doing SEO can be very tough and expensive when done in-house. You may be forced to create an entirely new department focused on just SEO. That can get costly so fast. For that reason, most SaaS brands opt to hire a top-level SaaS SEO Agency to develop and implement an SEO strategy on their behalf. This results in impressive and more cost-effective results.
For example, our crack SEO team used best SEO practices to help Writer.com. We helped them get in the top three SERPs for high-ranking keywords, even above proofreading giant Grammarly.
SEO can be tricky, so instead of going through the hassle of trial and error, let the pros get you started, and you can be on your merry way to pleasing Google.
5. Craft Quality Content and Promote It
Quality content shows off your company’s expertise. It also helps improve your SEO and attract more leads. Search engines track the credibility of a website and specific pieces of content before determining where to rank it. Therefore, producing high-quality SaaS content should always be a priority.
Unfortunately, crafting quality content isn’t always easy. It’s important to remember that the content you create should be for your audience and not for the search engines. While keywords are still important, your readers will quickly lose interest if your content is stuffed with keywords and isn’t interesting or helpful.
So instead, write naturally and focus on creating engaging and valuable content for your readers.
Also, ensure that everything you write is well-researched and accurate. This way, you’ll improve the quality of your content and show Google that your site is a reliable source of information.
The diagram below outlines the marketing funnel stages: ToFu, MoFu & BoFu. These simply stand for the top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel.
Marketers need to use buyer-targeted content at each stage of the sales funnel. This will help SaaS providers develop the best solution to a client’s software needs.
For example, in the MoFu stage. Your target audience is interested in your offerings but not yet ready to choose you over the competition. At this stage, you should provide more in-depth content like downloadable e-books like HubSpot does below.
Still, the best piece of content won’t do much good if no one sees it. That’s why promoting your blog posts and other types of content after you publish it is essential.
There are many ways to promote your content, but some of the most effective include social media, email marketing, and guest blogging.
By promoting your content across multiple channels, you’ll reach a wider audience and boost your chances of ranking higher on search engine results pages.
6. Tap Into Email Marketing
Like other marketing emails, SaaS email marketing aims to promote your services to new and existing clients. SaaS marketing emails can help you acquire new clients, maintain existing clients, and update prospects and customers.
You should start your email marketing strategy by personalizing your emails. This is especially important for SaaS brands because you want to set the tone that a real team behind the software cares about helping the customer find a solution to their unique needs.
Include visuals in your emails and use clear and concise language to make them even more personal. You can also include links to helpful resources or your company’s social media accounts so they can get to know you better.
You should also add a strong calls-to-action (CTAs) button in every email so recipients know exactly what you want them to do next, whether downloading a guide or signing up for a free trial.
In addition, your emails must have a clear goal. For example, promoting a new feature, sharing expert tips, or offering a discount on your product.
Below is an example from Streak that shows how you can use email to acquire new clients using irresistible offers.
This email from Streak’s founder came as the Covid-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc. Most businesses then were trying to figure out their software needs.
By offering an added month of free cloud services, the company placed itself first in mind for subscribers. Those who were still undecided were the obvious target.
7. Monitor Your Performance
81% of B2B decision makers expect a return on their investment within six weeks. This makes the demand for flawless performance from SaaS goods overwhelming.
Seek customer feedback, perform quality checks, and take corrective action. Aim to address the root cause of low-performance levels. Look at this email from MonsterInsights.
MonsterInsights uses Social proof in its emails during the subscription period to ask for feedback. This is how they source feedback from clients. This is essential to increase overall customer satisfaction and retention rates.
KPIs give a quick overview of business health. Continually track the KPIs important to your business to know how well your brand performs.
3 Best Practices for SaaS Product Marketing
So now you have the strategies down pat, how do you put them into practice? Here are three simple ways to get the most out of product marketing efforts.
1. Offer Free Trials to Users
Offering free product trials is not a new SaaS product marketing strategy. In fact, buyers have come to expect it.
Free trials provide most product functions for a limited time. Here’s an example from Start question company. It provides a free 14-day trial with no credit card required.
Free trials allow users to explore product features and get a glimpse of the value of a paid service. However, avoid offering trials for a long free trial as this can hurt your bottomline. You also want users to know that your tool is super valuable and needs to be paid for.
2. Smooth In-app Onboarding
Because users want to experience the full capabilities of your SaaS product, make the onboarding process as easy as possible.
Onboarding should focus on the customer outcome instead of the product features. Every part of the process should have a purpose so keep the steps few and simple.
Welcome screens like the one used by Canva segment potential customers in terms of their needs.
During the trial stage, invite users to informative webinars and product demos. This works as a way to encourage them to interact with your product thoroughly. It also helps show the full value or potential of your SaaS product.
3. Use Paid Ads to Market Your SaaS Product
Pay-per-click or PPC ads play a significant role in SaaS product marketing campaigns.
Because you only pay when your advert is clicked on, you might be tempted to place ads all over the internet willy-nilly. Remember ‘spray and pray’ from earlier? Yeah, still not a good strategy, even for ads.
You’ll need a proper paid ads strategy for your campaigns to be successful. For example, in the Google search ad below, Shopify targets a very competitive keyword with an optimized ad.
From the ad, aspiring online store owners can see that the tool is easy and quick to set up. There’s also a free trial. Plus, the brand has used Google ad extensions to add two more links, one for pricing and the other for getting started, i.e., “create your website.”
Use your buyer personas to decide which marketing channels will attract the most potential users. So you can also invest in social media ads on specific social platforms where your potential customers are likely to be.
SaaS product marketing is the process of raising awareness about your product offering so people try your software and keep using it. Part of the reason product marketing is so effective is the focus on customer success.
One of the best ways to understand the benefits of your product is by listening to customer support inquiries. This will help you understand why people use your platform, the pain points they face, and the benefits they are gaining. You can find more examples in this guide.
As you can see, a lot goes into marketing your SaaS product. However, if you can understand the above guide and adjust your approach accordingly, you’ll be well on your way to success in the competitive SaaS marketing world.
Start by creating buyer personas to ensure that your marketing efforts are laser-focused and that your sales team is targeting the right leads.
Also, don’t forget that your competitors are only a mouse click away, so keep track of their activities and strive to better them. At the same time, develop SEO strategies to boost your ranking and beef up your content at each level of the marketing funnel.
Leverage email to convert prospective customers into buyers. Email marketing will also help you nurture leads. Regularly measure your progress to ensure consistent product delivery and growth.
To put these strategies into practice, use free trials and paid ad campaigns. Also, make sure your onboarding process is smooth and hassle-free.
Too much to handle? No worries. Seek the assistance of a SaaS marketing agency. We can help you jumpstart your SaaS product marketing, and eventually, you’ll be able to take off the training wheels.
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.