First came online transactions, then the marketplaces and cloud. To cater to businesses' growing everyday digital needs, application service providers (ASPs) came into existence to provide services over the internet, much like SaaS. But instead of being self-service, the suppliers would manually create logins and environments individually for their clients.
This was the norm until the launch of the most talked about CRM in 1999, Salesforce. It was the first ever SaaS solution built that survived against all odds, including the Great Recession and negative assumptions like their non-viability and instability. But today, 99% of companies worldwide are using one or more SaaS solutions to achieve their goals.
Their ubiquity, ease of use, and deployment have contributed to the tremendous growth the SaaS industry has achieved over the last decade. It is now valued at $186.6 billion and is expected to reach $700 billion by 2030.
While growth is a positive sign, it also brings in more competition which means it gets harder to market and stands out among the target audience. This is why we have curated this definitive guide to SaaS marketing for marketers like you. We will explore strategies, execution plans, and metrics to track, dissect & learn from some real-life marketing examples and more.
But before we get into the nuances of SaaS marketing, let us first take a quick look at what SaaS marketing is and how it differs from other marketing types.
As the name suggests, SaaS marketing refers to the marketing efforts focused on promoting and selling a SaaS product/platform, i.e., software delivered and accessed over the internet rather than installed on a local computer or server.
From identifying the target audience for the software to crafting messaging that speaks to their needs and pain points and using various marketing channels to reach and engage with them, SaaS marketing involves various targeted marketing activities.
For a better and deeper understanding, let’s take an example of how a company that offers a cloud-based project management tool for small businesses would market themselves and their product.
The company might use a variety of marketing tactics to reach its target audience, such as:
Michael Brooks, Founder and CEO of goLance, explains, “The reason why SaaS marketing exists and is being widely used and appreciated is that marketing a physical product or a one-time purchase product is completely different from marketing an intangible product/platform like SaaS wherein its usefulness needs to be proven every month to the current as well as potential customers. They must be convinced it's worth their money every month.”
Apart from this significant difference, many other nuances set SaaS marketing apart from different types of marketing.
Since SaaS products have a unique set of characteristics and cater to target audiences that follow a specific way of assessing and buying the products, they require a different approach to marketing.
Here are a few key ways in which SaaS marketing is different from every other type of marketing:
While the same marketing activities are carried out and implemented through various channels to market SaaS products, the strategies and tactics in the marketing plan are unique to SaaS products.
Let’s explore a few tried and tested SaaS marketing strategies that can help you get started with your marketing plan.
Generally, a marketing strategy refers to an approach to achieving goals and objectives and is often accompanied by various tactics describing action items to achieve those goals. Similarly, a SaaS marketing strategy contains multiple marketing strategies to achieve marketing goals.
There are many different types of SaaS marketing strategies that you can use, depending on your goals, target audience, resources, and growth stage. Following are various strategies along with tactics that can be utilized in different combinations to achieve your marketing goals:
Create and share informative, valuable, and relevant content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and drive profitable customer action. For example, creating a series of informative blogs to educate potential customers on the product's benefits, how it can solve specific problems, and address certain pain points within the industry.
Optimize your website and online presence to rank higher in search engine results for relevant keywords to attract more qualified traffic from organic search. Start with keyword research using tools like AnswerThePublic, Ahrefs, & Keyword Planner. Then take care of all the technical aspects of SEO like mobile friendliness, SSL certificate, loading speed, and more. And considering how the world is moving towards mobiles and watches, having a mobile-first website would also boost your SEO.
One of the most popular SEO strategies, or rather an activity, is to build links to your website through guest blogging, participating in online communities, and reaching out to other relevant sites with a similar target audience to request a connection. This will increase your website's visibility in search engine results.
Use social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to connect with potential customers and promote your SaaS product and remember to educate and create value for your audience. Also, make sure to have channel-wise strategies to realize the potential of various social media platforms.
For instance, you can create infotainment content for Instagram, quick-bite-sized content for Twitter, and informative, actionable content for LinkedIn showcasing your expertise. When creating an overall social media marketing plan, ensure the overarching strategies align with your comprehensive marketing plan.
Send targeted and personalized emails to your subscribers to promote your SaaS product and nurture leads. Create various segments based on demographics, interests, or behavior to make your emails more effective. Sending personalized emails based on segments can help convert and nurture your leads. And it’s always a good idea to have an email tracking tool in place to track and analyze the performance of your email marketing campaigns.
For instance, if your product is a project management software, you can create a campaign targeted at companies in the construction industry and another targeted at companies in the technology industry. By tailoring the emails' messaging and content to address each industry's specific pain points and challenges, you can increase the relevance and effectiveness of the campaign for each group.
Pro Tip: Always A/B test your emails for different segments to identify the most effective ones.
When it comes to SaaS products, more often than not, businesses use at least 3-4 complementary products at the same time for more efficiency and effectiveness. Hence, partnering with other companies or organizations having similar target audiences can help you cross-promote your SaaS product to each other's audiences.
For instance, if your product is project management software, you can collaborate with a company that offers time-tracking software. Together, you could create a joint marketing campaign that promotes the benefits of using both products in tandem, highlighting how the integration of the two can help your target audience streamline their workflow and improve productivity.
Incentivize your current customers to refer their friends and colleagues to your SaaS product to acquire new customers. Word of mouth travels faster and more impactful than any other form of marketing or advertising. And when you incentivize word of mouth for your customers, they turn into your brand ambassadors, creating a positive brand association in their networking circles.
For instance, if your product is cloud storage software, you can offer incentives to your current customers for referring new business to the company. In return, you can provide special pricing for the referred customers, making it more attractive for them to sign up and for the current customers to refer their friends.
Offline marketing is coming back in this post-covid world, and companies are jumping at every chance they get to interact with their peers and industry leaders. Hence, attending or sponsoring industry events, conferences, and trade shows to promote your SaaS product and connect with potential customers can be very beneficial, especially in the current situation, says Gene Fitzgerald, Head of Marketing at BOS.
One example of event marketing is hosting a conference or a user event specifically for the product. This event could target current customers, potential customers, industry experts, and thought leaders. The conference can serve as a platform for the company to showcase its product, share knowledge about the product and industry, and to network with other professionals in the field.
While this section gives us an overview of how various marketing strategies and tactics can be tweaked to market a SaaS product impactfully, we want to explore why every SaaS company must have an actionable marketing strategy in place.
In general, having a well-defined marketing strategy is essential as it can help achieve business goals, reach their target audience, and generate revenue more effectively and efficiently. Apart from that, there are a few nuanced ways that having a marketing strategy can help a SaaS company grow.
A marketing strategy can help you define your target audience, understand their needs and interests, and create content and messaging that speaks to them.
A marketing strategy enables you to prioritize your marketing efforts and allocate your resources (e.g., time, money, staff) in a way that is most likely to achieve your goals faster and more efficiently.
Having a plan in motion to market your SaaS product makes it easy to track, analyze and improve your customer’s experience with your product and thereby improve your relationship with them. In today’s day and age, above everything, it is essential to maintain a relationship and rapport with your customers -- it’s more impactful if you have resources to cater to them at a personal level.
Customer feedback is one of the most critical aspects of building a SaaS product or company. When you have a solid SaaS marketing plan, you ensure constant efforts to be in touch with your customers and potential customers, which helps build an impactful feedback loop for your product team.
A strategy helps you stay agile, adapt to your industry, market, or target audience changes, and pivot your marketing efforts as needed.
A good marketing strategy always includes metrics and benchmarks to track your progress and measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts.
Now that we have covered all our bases, including various marketing strategies, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how you should go about creating a result-driven marketing strategy for your SaaS product/company.
One of the worst mistakes you can make as a marketer is creating a marketing plan without research. Creating a marketing plan is a process that encompasses various steps, like creating user personas, understanding competitors, and more.
Here are ten universal steps you need to follow to create a result-driven SaaS marketing strategy for your company:
Start by identifying your ideal customers, including their demographics, needs, interests, and pain points. This will help you create targeted and relevant marketing messages. If you sell to enterprises, you must generate buyer and user personas and market them uniquely.
Get an idea of your good market and overall industry by conducting a thorough competitor analysis. By researching your competitors, you can understand their strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats in your market. This will help you differentiate your SaaS product and identify your competitive advantage, which can be the central theme for your marketing plans.
Creating a marketing plan without goals and OKRs (objectives & key results) is like roaming around as a headless chicken. By clearly defining your business goals, such as increasing revenue, acquiring new customers, or retaining existing ones, you can focus your marketing efforts on the most critical priorities, thereby driving better results more efficiently.
Based on your defined target audience and their behavior, you will need to choose marketing channels that are most effective for reaching your target audience and achieving your business goals, such as email marketing, social media, paid advertising, partnerships, etc.
After finalizing the marketing channels and their importance, you need to allocate a budget to each channel based on the forecasted results and their impact on achieving your business goals.
Create a plan for creating and sharing valuable, informative, and relevant content that addresses the needs and interests of your target audience. As mentioned above, this could include blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, etc.
Execute all the different aspects based on the content and overall marketing strategy. Once you start the execution process, keep analyzing to deploy automation to optimize various processes. For instance, instead of manually sending personalized emails in email marketing, use tools like AppFlows to create behavior-driven automation to send customized emails at scale.
Develop a timeline and action plan that outlines the specific tasks and milestones you need to achieve to execute your marketing strategy.
It’s always a good idea to go back to your milestones and forecasted results and compare them with the achieved results and goals to measure the effectiveness of your processes and overall marketing plan. It is also essential to monitor progress to ensure the timely execution of all the tasks.
Always conduct A/B testing to understand what resonates most with your target audience, especially if you are in the launch or growth stage of your business cycle.
Next, we will explore, in-depth, the metrics you need to track to ensure the effectiveness of your marketing strategy and stay ahead of your competitors.
While there are many metrics you can focus on in your SaaS marketing strategy, your metrics should depend on your business goals and objectives.
Here are some standard metrics that SaaS companies might focus on include:
This is a measure of the predictable and recurring revenue your SaaS product generates each month and is a crucial indicator of the health and growth of your business.
As a result-driven marketer, always track unique visitors instead of just visitors, which is considered a vanity metric in the world of SaaS marketing. Tracking unique visitors will help you gauge the effectiveness of your content and SEO strategies.
Track the number of leads you generate from different marketing channels. You can also use this metric to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing activities as well as channel effectiveness which will help you create more targeted marketing plans in the future.
This is the percentage of visitors to your website or landing page who take the desired action (e.g., sign up for a trial, or make a purchase). Improving your conversion rates can help you generate more revenue from your marketing efforts.
Activation refers to turning a free trial user into a paying customer. You can increase the number of activations by providing a seamless SaaS onboarding process, educating users about the full range of features & benefits, engaging users regularly, and providing excellent customer support.
This is the percentage of customers that cancel their subscription or stop using your SaaS product within a given period. A high churn rate can signal customer dissatisfaction, which you should aim to minimize.
CLV estimates the total value a customer will bring to your business throughout their relationship with you. And CAC is the cost of acquiring a new customer, including all marketing and sales expenses. CLV: CAC ratio determines if you are making a profit or occurring losses. Ideally, you want to increase CLV and optimize CAC as much as possible to drive higher profits.
Now that you know how to create a SaaS marketing strategy and the metrics to track to maximize return on your marketing budget, let’s dive into the niche marketing strategies you can implement for your SaaS company.
Content marketing is a strategic approach to creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Here are some examples of content marketing for SaaS products include:
Email marketing is a powerful tool for promoting a SaaS product. Here are a few tips for using email marketing effectively:
A free trial is a common marketing strategy that SaaS companies use to allow potential customers to try out their product before committing to a paid subscription. Here are a few tips for offering a successful free trial:
SEO can help you gain organic traffic. Here are a few tips for developing an SEO strategy for a SaaS company:
Pro Tip: Regarding SEO, ‘beating the competition’ is not a strategy. In today’s digital-first world, where customers are also aware of marketing strategies, such a strategy would never generate results for you. Even with SEO, your primary focus should be creating a seamless customer experience which can be achieved by being present at all the customer touchpoints and for all their queries.
PPC advertising is a way to drive traffic to your website by placing ads on search engines or other websites and paying a fee each time someone clicks on your ad. Here are a few tips for developing a PPC strategy for a SaaS product:
SaaS review sites are a great way to get exposure to your product and gather user feedback. Here are a few tips for making the most of SaaS review sites:
Here are three real-life examples of SaaS marketing to help you understand the nuances of SaaS marketing.
Hubspot is a marketing and sales software company that uses various SaaS marketing techniques to attract and retain customers. These include:
For example, the company regularly produces blog posts, ebooks, and webinars that provide valuable information and tips to its target audience of marketers and sales professionals. It also uses social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to engage with its audience and promote its products.
Salesforce is a customer relationship management (CRM) software company that uses various SaaS marketing techniques to promote its products. These include
For example, the company uses its blog and social media channels to share industry news, best practices, and other relevant information with its target audience of business professionals. It also uses email marketing to communicate with customers and promote new product releases and updZoom
Zoom is a video conferencing software company that uses various SaaS marketing techniques to promote its products. These include
For example, the company regularly produces blog posts, ebooks, and other types of content that provide valuable information and tips to its target audience of business professionals. It also uses social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, to engage with its audience and promote its products. In addition, the company uses paid advertising, such as Google AdWords, to reach potential customers and drive traffic to its website.
Marketing SaaS products require a completely different approach to marketing, as discussed. In addition to the approach, SaaS marketing requires a different set of created products, keeping SaaS marketers like you in mind.
Jonathan Merry, CEO of Moneyzine, explains it with an example “One such product is AppFlows. It is a low-code tool to create behavior-driven email flows in a matter of minutes with the help of their drag-and-drop automation builder, which comes with its pre-built flows crafted by email marketing experts based on their experience and gathered data on behavior and performance.”
AppFlows can be used at various customer touch points:
Additionally, you can do more with AppFlows, like understanding your audiences’ behavior to enhance your SaaS marketing and take it to the next level.
B2B SaaS marketing refers to marketing software products and services to other businesses. B2B SaaS marketing is often focused on providing solutions to specific business problems or needs and typically involves a longer sales cycle than B2C (Business-to-Consumer) marketing.
Many different marketing channels can be effective for promoting a SaaS product. Here is a list of some common SaaS marketing channels:
SaaS marketing is a specific type of digital marketing that focuses on promoting software products and services to businesses and organizations. While SaaS marketing is a form of digital marketing, it has some unique characteristics that differentiate it from other types of digital marketing, including product type, sales cycle, channels, and customer success cycle.
Content writer by day and a book nerd by night, Ammar Mazhar has been writing for 3 years for B2B and B2C businesses. As a wordsmith, Ammar knows how to write SEO-optimized content that your users will find insightful, igniting results for your business.