Marketing isn’t easy.
It takes time, effort, and resources to convince a group of people to exchange their hard-earned cash for a product.
Barriers like ease-of-use and delivery costs stand in the way of you making a sale. And that’s just when marketing physical products. When the product is intangible, the hurdles you have to scale can seem insurmountable.
I’m talking about SaaS products.
Customers can’t physically touch the product, they’re loaded with complicated functionality, and they’re constantly changing. But perhaps the worst part is you expect users to continue paying for the product every month.
It goes without saying that SaaS products require a different approach when marketed. This article explains how and why that is.
1. Content Is King in SaaS Marketing
Any internet-based business serious about turning a profit online needs a content marketing strategy.
The above holds doubly true for SaaS businesses.
When you think about it, all digital marketing strategies (email marketing, social media marketing, etc.) involve sharing high-quality content in some way.
Why is that?
Because it works. Think about it:
- How else are you supposed to build credibility when your SaaS product is still a no-name brand?
- How else are you supposed to display thought leadership in a possibly crowded market?
- How else are you supposed to show potential customers that you understand their pain and that your SaaS product is the solution?
By consistently putting out informative content—that’s how.
The one advantage SaaS content marketing has over traditional marketing is that it’s less pushy. Rather than telling prospective customers about your wonder SaaS product, you put out content that addresses their stresses.
It’s no wonder 97% of respondents from a survey by Semrush claim to use content marketing.
The benefit of marketing your SaaS so indirectly is that prospective buyers come to view you as a trusted and knowledgeable companion. And when your audience is ready to purchase a product that solves their problem, a gentle nudge is all it’ll take to get them to try yours.
Achieving the above result all comes down to your content. Therefore, no matter the marketing channels or marketing tactics you use, make content marketing the linchpin of your SaaS customer acquisition strategy.
For example, the image below shows how OptinMonster has built credibility through blogging about topics related to its software:
Aura is another brilliant example. And we helped with their content marketing campaigns, so we have the inside scoop on their technique. Take a look at the image below.
The company focused on creating blog content related to digital scams and phishing. The niche is closely related to their Intelligent Digital Safety SaaS product. Publishing about a dozen blog posts per month.
We then built backlinks pointing to some of these pages. The results speak for themselves.
The company has seen its organic traffic move from 10,000 to over 500,000 in a little under 18 months. That’s the power of a well-executed saas content marketing plan.
With that said, your marketing efforts won’t amount to much if you don’t use search engine optimization. Content and SEO aren’t mutually exclusive, so take cognizance of both when marketing your SaaS.
2. Customer Retention Is Critical
It’s no secret that loyal customers make the software-as-a-service business model possible. After all, a software product wouldn’t qualify as belonging within the SaaS category if its current customers didn’t renew their subscriptions recurrently.
But what does any of that mean for SaaS marketing?
It means ferrying potential buyers to the end of their customer journeys (i.e., making a purchase) is only half the battle. With SaaS marketing, customer retention is just as important as customer acquisition, if not more so.
True, you can apply the concept of customer lifetime value to any other type of marketing or business. However, when marketing a SaaS product, there’s no getting around the fact that your future revenues depend on you retaining your satisfied customers.
And what exactly are SaaS brands doing to keep their customers satisfied? There are several ways to go about it. But first, you need a great product.
There is only so far you can go with a silly product. If your SaaS can’t live up to its promise, no amount of marketing or “great customer service” can help you retain users.
Next, excellent customer service is key to maintaining the balancing act between satisfying the needs of long-term and new customers.
Moreover, you’ll need to help your users with their struggles even after signing up for your product. This is where brands like HubSpot excel. They’ve built a content powerhouse full of how-to articles, blog posts, free courses, and so on.
Meanwhile, other brands like the SEO SaaS company, Ahrefs, have set up a Facebook group, giving their users access to a community.
Ahrefs Insider members can discuss with other members and get responses from Ahref staff when they have questions.
Hootsuite takes a slightly different approach to user retention. Through its Hootsuite Academy, the SaaS company provides certified courses to users who want to advance their social media skills:
Through educational content, community building, or other means, you can ensure your customers engage with your brand for years to come.
3. Giving Away Free Stuff Is a Genius Move
Giving away free stuff is an internet marketing tactic that’s almost as old as the internet. These days, it’s hard to find an online business that doesn’t use freebies like eBooks and more to attract their target market into their marketing funnel.
In the digital marketing lexicon, these freebies are called lead magnets, and they are super effective.
SaaS marketing works in a similar way with one major difference: you can go as far as giving away your whole product for free forever. This sounded crazy a few years ago. But today, users have come to expect either a freemium plan or a free trial.
In any other business, giving away the goods would be inconceivable. In SaaS marketing, it’s a genius marketing ploy.
Think of your SaaS product like you would a souped-up car in a dealership. Sure, you can provide marketing materials and hire an excellent sales team to market your wheels. But don’t you think a potential lead would be more moved to buy if they were able to take the car for a test drive?
The same principle applies to SaaS marketing.
Offering a free plan or free trial gives your leads the opportunity to see if your software solution is the right one for them. They can decide for themselves whether your SaaS product solves their problem and test out its features.
That hands-on experience is more valuable than the most convincing 1000-word article the best marketing team in the world can develop. Plus, since the users have already experienced the value of your product, your sales team will have a much easier time convincing them to upgrade.
Free plans are, therefore, really helpful in helping SaaS companies grow. In fact, there are countless case studies to learn from.
For example, Webflow grew into a $350 million valuation with 45,000 users thanks to a well-orchestrated free plan. They also managed to raise $72 million in its second round of funding.
4. You Have to Sell Both the Software Product and Service
Earlier, I mentioned how every happy customer your SaaS product creates provides revenue for years to come. That means two things for your SaaS marketing activities: you have to offer an excellent product, and you need to give top-notch customer service.
The first component, offering a good product, is straightforward: your product has to do what it says on the tin. At the minimum, it should:
- Meet user needs by providing the functions and features needed to help them accomplish tasks
- Be user-friendly
- Offer integrations with third-party software (where applicable)
Essentially, if your product is marketed as being good for keyword analysis, it should help marketers find keywords.
As mentioned above, a free trial will help customers decide whether your product is right for them.
Getting the second component right, i.e., offering top-notch customer service, will be crucial to your recurring revenue.
No doubt, creating a good product minimizes customer support issues. However, your long-term and new customers will still face the odd issue. You need to provide help when that happens.
For starters, it’s a good idea to provide easily-accessible resources like video tutorials and software documentation. Those resources will help your tech-savvy customers troubleshoot their way through issues.
Also, excellent customer support involves assisting your customers through the following multiple channels, including:
- Social media handles
When your marketing combines great technology with timely customer service, it’ll make your customers happy.
And happy customers are crucial not just to your bottom line but also to your long-term success. They’ll be at the forefront acting as your brand ambassadors. Over time, this will reduce your customer acquisition costs while raising your customer lifetime value significantly.
5. The Sales Cycles Are Really Short
Compared to other businesses, the SaaS model has an incredibly short sales cycle, except for the occasional enterprise B2B SaaS.
A customer can go from searching for a solution to paying for and using a SaaS product in the space of a few days.
It also helps that most SaaS products are affordably priced, as it hastens the decision-making process.
What does that mean for your marketing strategy?
It means you have a very small window of opportunity to convert your qualified leads into buyers. And how do you accomplish that? By providing copious amounts of information about your software to aid their purchasing decision.
When customers can quickly learn about how a product helps them, it gives them confidence. Since they know what they’re getting, they’ll confidently reach into their wallet and make a purchase.
6. Having an Awesome Product Simplifies Everything
The above subheading says it all, really.
When you strip away all the jargon, SaaS marketing is incredibly simple: if you have an awesome product and market it well, you’re halfway there. Maybe even more than half, depending on your niche.
Throw in great customer service, and you’ll be positioning your SaaS product for unmatched success.
A good SaaS product sells itself.
When a customer has a positive experience with a product, they have no issues recommending it to others. The reverse is true as well.
To harness the power of word of mouth to your product’s benefit, your product has to be that good and your customer support on point.
It makes it easier to retain users and allows the users to recommend your product.
SaaS marketing may be different from other forms of marketing, but this presents unique opportunities. For example, the short sales cycle can help you convert more leads at a faster rate.
Meanwhile, the crucial role of content marketing means you can scale your SaaS brand without breaking the bank on paid advertising.
And lastly, we can’t stress enough how critical it is to make sure your product lives up to the hype and your customer service is on point.
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.