Practical Guide to Digital Marketing for SaaS Companies in 2019 – 5+ Real Life Examples

Pete Lock, Performance Marketing

You’ve probably heard of the famous saying “build a good product, and it will sell itself”. Today, many founders still subscribe to this line of thinking.

Since you’re reading about SaaS marketing, though, you probably already know that this ideology is untrue. In fact, one of the main reasons for start-ups failing is the inability to market their product.

Even if your product is the best thing since sliced bread, people won’t know about it unless you market it.

In this guide, we’re going to teach you how, exactly, you can do that.

Introduction to SaaS Marketing

Every SaaS company should strive for constant growth. Whether you have just launched your MVP, or already have a successful product with a customer base, you can’t afford to stagnate.

Sometimes, it might seem like you’re not going anywhere. You might, one day, end up in a situation where…

  • The website isn’t getting enough traffic
  • Little of your traffic converts into demo sign-ups
  • Free trial users don’t upgrade to premium

Whichever the case is, mastering SaaS marketing will allow you to overcome these challenges and achieve explosive growth for your organization.

SaaS marketing, however, isn’t a niche topic – there’s a ton to read and learn. And as a given, we can’t fit all the marketing know-how into just one guide.

What we’re going to do, though, is give you all the must-knows of SaaS marketing, and point you in the right direction where you can learn more.

We’re going to start the guide with a rock-solid foundation for SaaS marketing. This is the theory you HAVE TO know, regardless of what strategy you’ll be employing. This involves figuring out which channels to employ (hint: you’ll rarely have to use all of them), tracking the right KPIs, and creating customer personas.

Theory, however, is nothing without practice. We’ll also cover six of the most popular SaaS marketing channels, explain how to use each, and provide a handful of the best resources on mastering any given channel.

Nailing the Right Channels

According to Peter Thiel, Co-Founder at PayPal and early investor in Facebook, one of the most common mistakes founders make is going spray-and-pray with all the marketing channels.

This, we believe, is very understandable. In today’s digital world, there are a lot of different ways to reach your customers: PPC, SEO, sales, PR, you name it! It’s easy to get lost in all the various activities.

At UsableMedia, we see this mistake a lot in our SaaS clients’ marketing efforts. They put a partial effort into a lot of different channels, with no real focus. In most cases, this ends up wasting a lot of their time and resources, without providing much of an ROI.

To get the most out of your SaaS marketing efforts, we believe that you should first nail the right channels. Experiment with individual strategies and measure everything. List the channels in order of ROI, and double-down on all the channels that work best for you.

Creating Rock-Solid Customer Personas

Before you can start working with any marketing channel, you need to get your customer personas right.

So, what’s a customer persona?

A customer persona is a detailed description of your ideal clients. It involves details such as demographics or psychographics and acts as a tool to give you a good idea about how to approach your audience.

After all, how are you going to sell something to a person if you don’t even know who they are?

Most companies tend to take the lazy route here, listing only the most basic information. What you should do, though, is dive deep. To get the most out of your marketing initiatives, you need to know your customer better than your closest friends.

So, figure out the following about your customers…

  • Demographics – Gender, age range, income, location
  • Hobbies and Interests
  • Online Activity – Where do they hang out digitally? Which social media channels do they prefer?
  • Common Objections – Why would they prefer not to use your product?
  • Goals – What do they strive for? What are their priorities?
  • Challenges – What challenges do your customers encounter on a regular basis? This could also include the problem you’re solving with your software.

Here’s what a good customer persona looks like, it’s one that we’ve created…

Example of a marketing persona

Once you’ve got your customer personas nailed down, you can use them in most of your marketing activities.

You could, for example, craft a Unique Value Proposition tailored to your customer’s interests or challenges. Or you could create tailored website copy, relevant ads, or simply adopt a brand voice that would resonate the most with your ideal customer.

Unless you get the personas right, it can sabotage your entire marketing initiative. Imagine putting all the effort into getting a customer to sign up for your software, only for them to leave within a month because they’re not delighted with the product.

Tracking the KPIs

To ensure that your SaaS marketing initiatives are successful, you need to track the right KPIs.

Many companies tend to get this wrong, using irrelevant metrics such as traffic as a measure of success. You can’t pay your employee salaries in traffic, though. You should, at all times, focus on the following three metrics…

  • Cost of Customer Acquisition (CAC) – The cost of acquiring a single customer by using any given marketing channel.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) – The average amount any given client will pay you throughout your working relationship.
  • Churn Rate – The annual percentage of your customers that drop off or unsubscribe from your product.

Whatever marketing channels you end up using, you should measure them with these three metrics. The golden rule is to find the channel that gives you the lowest CAC / CLTV ratio and scale in that direction.

At the same time, you should also focus on minimizing churn, be it through marketing efforts (educating users about how to best use the product), or product updates (making it more “usable” for your target personas).

Six Must-Use Digital Marketing Channels for SaaS Products

Now that we’ve got the theory out of the way, we can dive into the practical stuff. In this section, we’re going to give you a brief overview of each marketing channel, how to use it, and where you can learn more.

SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s one of the most misunderstood SaaS marketing channels out there.

If you’re new to internet marketing and haven’t heard of the term until now, SEO means optimizing your content for search engines (mainly Google, Bing and Yahoo), so that your websites or articles pop up on top.

As you can guess, one of the biggest wins your business can ever get is having people interested in the product coming to YOU, rather than having to seek them out.

This channel, however, isn’t necessarily for everyone. If you’ve invented something completely new, you can’t get much out of SEO, since people don’t know about the product’s existence (and hence, there’s no one Googling it).

If that’s not the case, though, there’s at least something you can get from SEO. There are two ways you could benefit from a search…

Product Keywords – Keywords related to your product. So, for example, if your SaaS is a resume builder (a tool that helps you create a resume or cv), you’d want to have pages ranked for “resume tool”, “resume builder”, “resume creator” and so on.

Relevant Content – Articles, videos, or guides related to your product. Using the resume builder example from before, you’d also want to rank on people looking for educational materials on the topic of building a resume. So, you’d want to create content on “how to make a resume”, “how to make a student resume” and so on.

Sounds useful enough? Good! Now, let’s talk about putting it into practice.

You’re probably wondering how does Google decide who deserves traffic and who doesn’t?

Google crawls and analyses all your web pages, then using a smart algorithm, figures out which pages are relevant for which keyword. If your landing page is about task management software, for example, you’re obviously not going to pop up on “spell-check software” or anything similar.  As a given, the page should also be optimized for the relevant keyword. To do this, you can simply use a content analysis tool such as Yoast. Simply follow the requirements set by the tool and you’re gold.

SaaS marketing example

To “qualify” to rank on a given keyword, though, you need to have some web authority – you can’t just create a new website based on a keyword and expect to rank the day after. Google judges this by your Domain Authority and Page Authority, which is determined by the amount and quality of links pointed towards your pages and the domain as a whole. You can learn more about backlinks with this handy guide from Moz.

Now, let’s talk rankings. Out of all the pages on Google for a given keyword, Google’s search algorithm tests how each page would perform on a given ranking. Meaning, it tracks how your website would perform if it was on any specific rank (rank #1, #2, etc.).

The Google measures several metrics to see what should rank and what shouldn’t…

  • Bounce Rate – The % of traffic that instantly jumps off your website
  • Average Stay Time – How long users spend looking at your web page
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR) – The % of people who pick your page over all the others in the results

So, if your web page has the lowest bounce rate, highest Avg. stay time, and highest CTR of all the other pages ranked, you’ll eventually end up as the #1 ranking.

Further Reading

To master SEO, you need to learn…

Content Marketing

Content Marketing is a type of marketing that involves creating online resources (articles, blog posts, videos, etc.) that are extremely useful for your target audience. The idea here is that you attract them with the information, and then you upsell your software.

Let’s say, for example, your software helps users learn any given language. You could create an article about “how to pick up new languages extremely fast”. Anyone who would be interested in this type of content would most likely also be interested in your software.

So, to simplify the whole process, here are the exact steps you’d take for a successful content marketing campaign…

  1. Do your research. Figure out the type of information your customers are interested in. You can figure this out by browsing relevant forums, Quora, Google, and just about anywhere else your customers hang out.
  2. List potential content ideas and create a publishing calendar.
  3. Create the relevant content.
  4. Figure out how to get the content in front of your audience. This usually involves asking influencers for shares, posting the article in relevant social media groups, answering questions on Quora, and so on.

In a lot of cases, content marketing is used in tandem with SEO. Let’s say, for example, you create an article about picking up new languages. You could also optimize it for a keyword like “how to pick up new languages”. If the article manages to rank, you get a steady stream of monthly organic traffic.

Further Reading

To master content marketing, you need to learn…

PPC

PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click, and it’s an umbrella term for all online advertising services. These include, but are not limited to advertising on…

  • Google AdWords – Ads targeted for specific keywords on Google. This can be very beneficial if your product is something searched for online. If you have software for personal productivity management, you can advertise for “productivity software”. While SEO is a long-term solution, you can get the same benefits by bidding on AdWords.
  • Facebook – Creating targeted ads for people who fit into your customer persona.
  • LinkedIn – As with Facebook, with the added benefit of having more data on the occupation of your customers. LI can be extremely useful for any B2B software, but the downside here is that it’s significantly more expensive than other types of ads.
  • Just about any website that allows for advertising. This can include forums, ad portals, review websites and so on.

The reason it’s called PPC is, well, because you pay for each click you get.

In today’s SaaS world (for anyone that’s new to the game, anyway), PPC is seen as a form of taboo. A lot of start-ups brag that they don’t pay a cent for their SaaS marketing.

This point of view, though, can be really harmful to your business. First off, even if you’re going for “free marketing”, i.e. SEO or content, you still end up paying salaries for these employees (which are an expense, after all).

Second, it might turn out that PPC marketing is the most profitable channel for your business. The biggest benefit you get from Pay-Per-Click is that it’s fast – you can get customers literally the moment you start running ads.

To make PPC work, you need to experiment with it. The idea here is to try different ad networks and measure the results. If you can figure out how to make your CLTV more than CAC with any given ad channel, you can then simply scale the ads as much as you want.

Further Reading

Depending on what type of PPC you’re going for, there’s a lot to learn. Here are some of our favourite guides for…

Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation is the use of certain software that helps you automate a chunk of your marketing efforts.

In the context of SaaS marketing, though, it usually means email automation.

So, what does that even mean? Well, let’s explain it through a practical example.

Let’s say someone signs up for your platform. Instead of manually reaching out to them and saying “hi”, you can have an email sequence set up to onboard them to the platform. If done right, this can help increase free-to-paid conversion, as well as reduce user churn.

Now you’re probably wondering “where do I even start?” Well, getting into marketing automation is pretty straightforward – simply register for the relevant software provider.

At UsableMedia, we usually recommend Hubspot or MailChimp.

Then, all you have to do is experiment. As a starter, you can begin with an onboarding sequence and explain to the users how best to use your software. Once you’ve got the hang of that, you can start using marketing automation for cases such as…

  • Special Offers – A user drops off? You can set up an automated email, offering the user a discount of the premium version of the software if they haven’t used it for more than 2–3 weeks.
  • Upsells – If a user spends a lot of their time on the software, you can send them an upsell for any product upgrades you offer.
  • Re-Engagement – Did a long-time user drop their subscription? You could set up an email that automatically asks them what their issue is, and how you could “win them back”.

Unlike most of the other marketing channels we’ve mentioned so far, marketing automation doesn’t require a lot of technical know-how (other than knowing how to use the software). What you do need to learn, though, is copywriting. QuickSprout’s guide to copywriting is the best place to get started with that.

Social Media Marketing

Just about every SaaS company uses social media marketing in one way or another.

Not that many of them, however, do it right. Your average company uses social media to simply repost their content, expecting results just to start rolling in from there.

True, in some cases that’s enough, but it’s nothing compared with all the other ways your SaaS marketing initiative can leverage social media.

At UsableMedia, we help our clients use social media marketing in two different ways…

  • Amplifying Reach – You can use social media to directly promote your content or product. Let’s say your software is about personal productivity. You could find communities on social media that are into that, and offer them a free trial of the software. If that seems a bit too much like blatant advertising, you could use content instead. You could, for example, publish an article about “How to Maximize Your Productivity – Effective Methods” and promote it to the same communities.
  • Automation – Does posting content on your social media channels daily seem like a complete chore to you? You can use software such as Buffer or HootSuite to schedule all the posting months in advance, saving you a lot of time and effort.

Further Reading

Want to learn more about social media marketing for your SaaS business? Here are some of the best resources on the topic…

Retargeting

Retargeting means running PPC ads for users who’ve visited your website but haven’t converted yet. You’ve probably experienced this first-hand – whenever you visit a website selling a product or service, you’re going to get stalked by ads all over the internet.

This works exactly the same way as a normal PPC ad, the one difference being that you don’t have to go into targeting – you already have your audience.

You can use just about any ad network to accomplish this, but the most widely used ones are Google and Facebook, mainly due to the fact that people spend most of their online time on either platform.

To get started with retargeting, you first need to install the relevant tag (here’s one for Google and another for Facebook) on your website. Then, all you have to do is pick these users as an audience when creating an ad, and you’re good to go!

Out of all the channels we’ve mentioned so far, this one’s the most universal – just about any SaaS product can benefit from retargeting. Compared with normal PPC advertising, retargeting boasts a click-through rate of 0.7%, as opposed to the average of 0.07% with display advertising.

Further Reading

Getting started with retargeting is easy. Mastering it? Not so much. You can learn a lot more about retargeting with these guides…

Conclusion

Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you already have an idea or two about how to start growing your SaaS business.

Ideas, though, are nothing without the execution. Unless you’re willing to invest a lot of time learning all the channels we’ve discussed, you’re going to have a hard time with SaaS marketing.

At UsableMedia, we’ve help SaaS and subscription-based companies generate more traffic, leads and sales. If you’re looking for help with implementing everything you’ve learned in this guide, feel free to contact schedule a consultation using the calendar below or reach out to us here.

Related Services

 
Digital Assessments
Branding & Design
Website Design & Build
Demand Generation
Hubspot
WordPress Security

Questions?

What is SaaS marketing?

SaaS marketing involves the acquisition, conversion and long-term retention of customers who seek software-based solutions to problems that arise in business or in daily life. The goal of SaaS marketing is to acquire customers, minimise churn or customer attrition and maximise per-customer revenue.

Although SaaS marketing typically employs a standard sales funnel, and SaaS marketers use familiar metrics for judging the success of campaigns, in practice, SaaS marketing is often much different than digital marketing for other industries. SaaS products are often hyper-focused on a highly specific niche. SaaS is also generally far more dependent on long-term revenue streams while simultaneously having a shorter sales cycle. All this means that SaaS marketing is heavily focused not only on customer acquisition but also on customer retention.

What is product marketing for a software-as-a-service company?

Product marketing for SaaS companies is the process by which prospective customers are acquired, leads converted to sales and existing customers retained and upsold, generally in the context of an ongoing subscription model.

How does marketing help SaaS companies?

Marketing is the single most important factor in determining the success of SaaS businesses. Because of their great importance in SaaS businesses, highly optimized campaigns designed to retain and upsell existing customers are one of the best ways for SaaS companies to increase revenues.

But customer retention can be tricky due to generally high churn rates in the industry. Additionally, initial customer acquisition channels can be very different than with other industries. One of the most challenging aspects of SaaS marketing is the highly restrictive focus that many of these firms have on their particular niche. This calls for carefully designed, long-term optimisation processes in order to determine the marketing channels that will best perform for each unique SaaS company.

What percentage of revenue should be spent on marketing for SaaS?

Across most industries, companies spend an average of around 10 percent of their revenues on marketing. However, as a general rule, companies should spend more as the level of competition rises. In the hyper-competitive SaaS industry, most firms are spending from 20 to 50 percent of revenues on marketing. But there are some firms, like Marketo and Salesforce, that spend 60 percent or more of revenues while driving strong growth.

Marketing spend is just one of many metrics that determine how quickly SaaS firms can grow. Equally important are the effectiveness of sales funnels, customer retention and the efforts to expand per-customer revenues. That said, the most successful SaaS firms tend to spend higher proportions of their revenues on their overall marketing efforts. Carefully optimizing both a company’s marketing spending for growth as well as its overall marketing strategy, including extensive testing and data collection, is the only definitively sound approach to knowing what level of marketing spending is best.

What is channel marketing for SaaS?

Marketing and sales channels are the media through which a product is marketed or sold. In SaaS businesses, common marketing channels include app stores, such as those offered by Apple, Google or Android. They also include traditional online advertising channels, such as Facebook, AdWords or advertisements on cellular networks.

Content marketing is one of the newest and most effective channels used by SaaS companies. This may include running blogs or webzines that confer valuable information to an appropriate target audience while subtly nudging prospects into the sales funnel.

What is inbound marketing for SaaS?

Inbound marketing refers to organic customer acquisition through search, inbound web links and other forms of drawing customers to a product or service rather than actively recruiting them.

For SaaS companies, this often entails the creation of great content in the form of authority sites and search-optimised blogs that provide valuable information.

What are the main marketing metrics that SaaS companies track?

SaaS companies pay close attention to a wide variety of metrics. These include basic stats like site visitors, unique views and marketing leads that are generated from those visits, often in the form of decisive indicators of interest from the prospective client, such as signing up to receive push notifications or email alerts.

Other commonly used metrics include customer churn rates, revenue churn, negative churn and per-customer revenue growth for existing customers. But the most important metrics in SaaS may be customer lifetime value and customer acquisition costs. These tend to be make-or-break measures for SaaS companies, with the former needing to be maximized relative to the latter.

What are the best tools for SaaS marketing?

Aside from the extensive use of free product trials and the freemium model, the tools for SaaS marketing tend to be similar to those used in other industries. Making optimal use of them in the context of SaaS is where the art form is.

Toggle How should you build a SaaS marketing strategy?

Due to the highly niche-specific nature of SaaS businesses, there are no hard and fast rules. Testing, tweaking and optimising and then repeating the process until the desired results are reached, may be the best general approach.

Audit, Optimise and Automate your sales funnels for predictable growth

Speak with an expert today: 03300 974493

Home  |  About us   |   Services   |   Results   |   Contact us

© Copyright Usable Media 2019