Digital marketing for SAAS companies is rather unique. Although the basic principles are similar to other industries, there are several things that only apply to SAAS companies, while on the other hand, there are common strategies that can work in other niches, but won’t work in the SAAS industry.
In this guide, we will share several effective digital marketing strategies for SAAS companies. Yet, before we begin, let us discuss several things that made the SAAS industry so unique compared to others, even among other B2B industries.
Why is SAAS Industry Unique?
1. Understanding The Sales Cycle of SAAS
The sales cycle of B2B businesses tend to be really, really long . In fact, many B2B businesses put shortening their sales cycle as one of their main focus.
Yet, although SAAS businesses are technically B2B, this principle doesn’t apply. On the other hand, the sales cycle for SAAS businesses are really short. When a potential SAAS customer need a certain solution, they will do some online research, ask around to their colleagues, and will try several different free-trial products or watch demo videos. After that, they will either buy the SAAS product or not.
The fact that SAAS products are far more affordable than other B2B products or services also contribute to this phenomenon.
What does this mean to your business? While the rapid sales cycle can indeed be a great benefit, it also offer a challenge: you have very short time to convince your leads. So, you will need to provide as much information, as much reassurance in the shortest possible time.
2. Your Product Is Not Only Your Software, But Also Your Content
As discussed on the previous point, SAAS digital marketing depends heavily on how well you are in providing information, not only about your software, but about your industry in general and your customer’s interests.
How can we achieve this? The only answer is through contents. Many of the leaders in SAAS understood this, and they are doing really well with their marketing. Hubspot and Buffer are good examples, their blogs are some of the most successful in the business.
Having great, informative contents are also very useful in building your brand reputation. So, we can even go as far as saying your content marketing and content distribution are as important as your product.
3. Don’t Forget the ‘Service’ in SAAS
SAAS stands for “Software as A Service”, yet, when thinking about marketing SAAS, we often give too much focus on selling the product, and forget the service aspect.
So, we first need to grasp the concept that a SAAS business is a fully-integrated business from the software itself, a support service, and a revenue model. Your help desk and support team are as important as your developers, programmers, and marketing team.
Sell your SAAS product by promoting your excellent service, and maintain relationships with your existing customers. The next point will tell you why.
4. Think Long-Term
Customer retention is extremely important in an SAAS business (), more than any other industries.Most of your future revenue will come from just 20% of your current customers. So, if you can increase customer retention by only 10%, it will translate to a significant increase in profitability.
So, start thinking and treating your customers long-term, and measure their lifetime value. How can you maintain your relationship in the long run? How can you interact with them better?
Instead of focusing too much on new acquisition, SAAS digital marketing is more about retention.
Common Marketing Mistakes on SAAS Businesses
Now that we’ve understood the key concepts unique to the SAAS business, let us learn some of the common mistakes often found in SAAS digital marketing cases.
1. Not Having Content Strategy (And Assuming You Have One)
We have discussed above that contents are really, really important for an SAAS marketing. There are, however, many SAAS businesses that aren’t producing contents at all, while some others are just posting random blog posts and tweeting without any plan at all.
Content strategy is not merely producing contents, you will need to plan your topics ahead, research your keywords, and think about how you will distribute those contents. Can you do well without content strategy? Probably, but you will definitely do much better with one.
2. Not Qualifying Your Leads
Above, we have mentioned that the sales cycle for SAAS business is extremely short. Meaning, if you focus your attention to unqualified leads, there is a great chance you mn miss out on qualified ones.
So, how can we measure the quality of our leads? There are many different approaches, but here are some guides that might help:
- This one is from HubSpot, which is also a key player in the SAAS industry. https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/ultimate-guide-to-sales-qualification
- This one from Inc.com is relatively old, but still very relevant.https://www.inc.com/guides/201108/how-to-qualify-a-sales-lead.html
- This one from Pardot is relatively simple, but accurate and to-the-point. https://www.pardot.com/blog/qualify-lead-minute/
3. Not Acknowledging Competitors
Your (potential) customers will always compare your software to your competitors’.Rather than shunning that fact, it is actually beneficial to acknowledge your customers by at least mentioning them, or even better, providing your user a comparison page.
There are several industry leaders that use this approach with great results. For example, HubSpot has a dedicated comparison page to compare their product with Marketo, one of their biggest competitors. (https://www.hubspot.com/products/faq/hubspot-marketo-comparison). HappyFox even have three different comparison pages for their biggest competitors: Zendesk, Desk, and Kayako. (https://www.happyfox.com/help-desk-companies/).
Using this approach will also give you better search engine visibility, and can lower your bounce rate.
4. Not Tracking Your Progress
As with any marketing, tracking the right metrics and see what’s working are equally important as having the right goal and strategy. Since as we have discussed, most of your strategy should be focused on content marketing, you should focus on assessing which posts are providing value, and which distribution channels are effective.
You wouldn’t even need to invest on expensive analytic tools, as the free Google Analytics Tool http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2017/03/analytics-reports-content-marketer/ can provide you with quite a lot.
Track your progress, and pivot when necessary.
Working Strategies You Should Focus On
We’ve discussed the unique concepts of SAAS business, and several common mistakes many SAAS businesses often do in their digital marketing strategy. So, let us now answer the big question: what are the effective digital marketing strategies for SAAS business?
1. Content Marketing
We have addressed content marketing several times above, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. Utilizing content marketing as your SAAS digital marketing strategy is actually part of a bigger picture, which is inbound marketing.
There are many benefits of using contents to build interactions with customers:
- It is cost-effective, and can lower your cost for customer acquisition
- It establish your authority, and will build your reputation as a brand
- Can increase conversion and customer retention, which is extremely important in SAAS businesses
- Increase lifetime value (LTV) of a customer
So, how can you plan your content marketing effectively? Here are a few ideas:
- Brainstorm topics before you start creating any contents. If you are also doing SEO (you should), ran those topics through your keyword research tool, or discuss them with your SEO agency
- Build a content production team, or at least hire/outsource to capable content creators
- Create an editorial calendar. A full year calendar is ideal, but you can begin with at least a 3-month editorial calendar.
- Explore variety of formats, contents are not solely limited to blog and social media posts. Whitepapers and videos are extremely effective, and you can share them on your social media channels.
- Track each of your content regularly, analyze which are working, and which are not. Adjust your strategy based on performance.
SEO works hand-in-hand with content marketing, by making your contents discoverable in search engines, giving you more exposure, traffic, and ultimately, conversion.We already have several guides for SEO here(link), and so we won’t repeat ourselves with the details.
Yet, we can generally summarize SEO for SAAS in three simple steps ( although in reality, they are much more complicated):
- Create great, informative contents that people are going to link
- Promote your content using the right channels
- Take care of your on-site technical aspect of SEO (check our guides here)
So, again, your primary focus is to create linkable contents.
3. Free Trials
Giving free product trials in all the different iterations is the most common digital marketing practice in the SAAS industry. It is definitely an effective strategy, so if you haven’t offered one form of free trial or another, you should.
Giving free trials is also an easy way to measure the quality of your leads. If they are downloading the trial, it is a strong indicator of buying intent.
The key here is to provide as positive consumer experience as possible during the trial period. Obviously, your software should run flawlessly, but consider also providing free support during this period, if you haven’t already.
4. Referral Program
Referral marketing is also very effective for SAAS businesses, as long as you do it right. Referrals are generally low-cost, and several studies have suggested that referrals are the most effective leads.https://www.referralsaasquatch.com/17-referral-marketing-statistics/
The key here is proper incentive. It is true that you won’t generate too many referrals without valuable incentive in place. Yet, if you give too much, it might attract low-quality referrals. You might need a bit of trial and error before finding the right incentive, and then you can optimize on that.
Before you start optimizing, however, you should first start your referral marketing campaign. There are many affordable tools and software to aid you in this (https://referralrock.com/blog/an-epic-list-of-customer-referral-marketing-programs/), but if you are not willing to invest, you can start by building a landing page on your site for your referall program
Implementing digital marketing on an SAAS company can be a tricky task, as there are unique conditions that only apply to the SAAS industry. In this guide, we have discussed those oddities, as well as the common mistakes often made in SAAS digital marketing.
By following our guide above, you can have a solid foundation in planning, and executing your digital marketing tactics for your SAAS business. The key to success, above all, is to have a solid content marketing plan, including content promotion, distribution, and leverage.