Not long ago, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model was an esoteric concept that only the most cutting-edge technology companies were exploring. As more companies trade in the digital economy and increasingly migrate their data and IT infrastructures to the cloud, however, SaaS has become one of the most important keys to success.
But SaaS marketing doesn’t come easy. From selling an intangible product to keeping up with regular software updates, there are many challenges marketers have to overcome when marketing their platforms to potential customers.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and nailing a B2B SaaS marketing campaign can help your SaaS business stay ahead of the competition and ensure success in a crowded digital economy.
Keep reading to learn more about SaaS marketing and how to transform your marketing campaigns for SaaS success.
Marketing Your SaaS Brand: What You Need to Know
Let’s start with this: What is SaaS marketing? It’s a form of marketing that focuses on generating sales leads specifically for cloud-based software solutions. SaaS platforms are advantageous because they enable businesses to leverage advanced software without having to undergo costly installation and maintenance, outsourcing those responsibilities to the SaaS provider.
The advantages of SaaS are pretty straightforward, but marketing them is another story.
The Difference Between SaaS Marketing and Conventional Marketing
There are a few key differences to note. One is the length of the sales cycle. The SaaS sales cycle places extra emphasis on customer retention, putting it on the same level of importance as customer acquisition — if not higher. More than that, the entire SaaS model is centered around subscription licenses, meaning customers pay on a rolling basis to continue using the product.
All of that means marketers have to craft their strategies in a way that focuses on strengthening existing relationships by continuously providing valuable information, relevant service and product upgrades, and loyalty rewards that demonstrate the importance of the customer relationship to their business.
If that wasn’t enough, SaaS marketers have a number of other challenges they have to face to find success that make SaaS marketing different from conventional marketing. Some of the main ones include:
- It’s an intangible product: One of the great challenges when it comes to SaaS marketing is selling a product that customers can’t see or touch. That makes it a lot harder for them to understand how to deploy it and how it helps them. Your marketing campaign will need to navigate these challenges and ensure all customers are crystal clear about what it is they’re interacting with.
- Platforms are constantly changing: SaaS platforms are constantly undergoing upgrades, bug fixes and maintenance, meaning features can subtly change over time. That can be a challenge for marketing teams because their messaging could become outdated fast if they’re not keeping up with the latest changes. Marketing teams will need to be in constant communication with developers to ensure their materials accurately reflect the product as it stands.
- There’s usually a tiered pricing structure: The beauty of the SaaS delivery model is that you can charge different prices for different features by creating pricing tiers, helping you attract more business. However, that can be a challenge for marketers because it means you need to develop multiple distinct personas and market different tiers to each one separately. Crafting persona-specific messaging is critical to SaaS marketing success. Some companies even develop SaaS lifetime deals to reach a higher audience.
Best Practices for Your SaaS Marketing Campaign
1. Use Freemiums
One of the most effective ways to overcome all the SaaS marketing challenges listed above is to offer a free trial for new users. Better yet, include a free tier in your subscription model that gives users access to a few of the basic features of your platform to give them a taste of a full partnership with your SaaS company.
Freemium models give users a deeper understanding of how your software works and what specific business problems it can solve for them. It also helps you build trust between your brand and your existing customers, which will eventually make them feel more comfortable about upgrading to higher (meaning paid) tiers.
2. Target Keywords for Good SEO Performance
SaaS customers don’t just want products — they want information. In the pre-digital marketing days, product/service quality was all that really mattered when it came to winning new customers. That’s not the case anymore.
We live in an attention economy, so standing out is about more than just producing great content — you have to answer the specific questions your customers are asking to stand out in a hypercompetitive field of content producers.
When designing your content marketing strategies, select keywords that your target audience is searching and craft your content strategies around those. This helps ensure you’re getting your SaaS product in front of customers where it counts — and winning those crucial moments of attention.
3. Utilize Video
People are visual learners, and that’s especially true when it comes to understanding SaaS products. Nothing is more frustrating for SaaS customers than when marketers try to target them using confusing, garbled, jargon-laden language that does little to get them a good look and feel for the product.
That’s where video comes in. Create product demo videos that clearly demonstrate the main features of your product and how users interact with it, emphasizing its ease of use to entice them to learn more.
Video is an important tool in the SaaS marketer’s toolkit because it enables customers to properly visualize the product in action in a way other marketing forms have a hard time doing.
4. Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
Some SaaS companies think pushing their product as much as possible is the best way to get people to buy. Seems straightforward. After all, marketing is really about convincing people to buy your product, right?
It turns out, your potential customer doesn’t want to be bombarded with round-the-clock marketing materials. Your SaaS marketing team has to walk a fine line between staying in front of your potential customer while not seeming too eager.
That’s where content marketing comes in. Your SaaS marketing team should invest the time and money into developing a content marketing strategy that provides SaaS customers with valuable information about their industry to build trust and enhance brand recognition. At the end of the day, a good content marketing strategy keeps you at the top of your customers’ minds so they think of you when it’s time to buy.
A good content marketing strategy should include:
- Case studies.
- White papers.
Mistakes to Avoid
The biggest no-nos when it comes to SaaS marketing all come down to failing to utilize the most advanced marketing technologies and best practices at your disposal. SaaS customers are savvier than ever, and they expect you to be too. Don’t rely on outdated forms of digital marketing to sell a highly advanced product.
Here are some of the things to avoid when crafting your B2B SaaS marketing campaigns:
- Skipping social media.
- Neglecting the user experience.
- Targeting too big of an audience.
- Offering only paid service tiers.
- Crafting unclear messaging.
How to Measure Your Marketing Efforts
Where to start when measuring your marketing efforts? It all comes down to figuring out your goals and going from there. Maybe you just want to boost traffic to your site to increase brand recognition. Or perhaps you’re trying to establish your brand as a thought leader in your space.
Whatever your specific goals, the ultimate purpose of a dynamic SaaS marketing strategy should be to generate sales leads and point potential customers to your product. Here are a few of the KPIs you should be tracking to measure your marketing efforts:
- Customer Acquisition Cost: CAC is the amount of marketing dollars you have to spend to push people down the sales funnel and acquire a new customer. Measuring CAC helps you determine how effective (and efficient) your SaaS marketing campaigns are, and gives you insight into how you can improve them.
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL): The ultimate point of a marketing campaign is to drive qualified leads to your sales teams. MQL tracks engagement with your content, website and other assets to flag individuals as qualified leads. This helps you gauge your campaigns’ effectiveness but also pinpoint individuals who are more likely to convert.
- Conversion Rate: Good content marketing campaigns get consumers to do something after they’ve consumed your content — usually pointing them to another asset, form, product demo or another call to action. Conversion rates measure what percentage of content consumers are actually clicking through those CTAs and turning into sales leads.
- Referral Traffic: Track referral traffic to understand which links are driving traffic to your website. This metric is important because it helps you understand which external sources or which aspects of your strategy are most successfully driving the results you’re looking for. That can help you hone your referral marketing campaigns by targeting users on the sites where you’re getting the most referral traffic.
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4 Examples of Effective SaaS Marketing
HubSpot is the gold standard when it comes to online content marketing. Chances are, if you’ve Googled anything marketing or sales related at any time in the past five or so years, you’ve come across HubSpot. And that’s usually the case right there on the first page of Google.
From blog post writing guides to devising crafty Instagram hashtags, all of HubSpot’s content eventually points consumers to its CRM platform. By establishing itself as a highly trusted authority in the space, users can feel significantly more confident in HubSpot’s software product offerings.
Spotify has been a pioneer in music streaming services since its foundation in 2006. And it’s not hard to see why. Spotify rolled out a series of curated daily, weekly and annual music playlists based on users’ listening habits as well as those of other users indulging in the same artists and genres for a highly personalized listening experience.
Many of Spotify’s marketing materials — including its tagline, “Music for everyone” — emphasize the centrality of the customer in its business model. Not many SaaS companies have had the success of truly making the customer feel like a valued part of their business like Spotify has.
When work went remote in 2020, Slack was ready. Slack had already been bringing work communities together online since 2013, providing a communication platform that made sending messages, links, documents and attachments quick and easy.
Slack uses a tiered subscription model to sell its platform. But where Slack really made its money was through its freemium offering. Anyone can use Slack’s basic level features for free, but as companies have come to realize the importance of online communication tools — mostly by actually using them (hint, hint) — many of Slack’s users have decided to upgrade to the paid tiers for more advanced services.
ServiceNow is one of the top SaaS companies in the world. Offering an enterprise platform that optimizes internal workflows and customer management, a big part of ServiceNow’s success is its ability to translate complicated techspeak into simple, understandable messaging points.
The spirit of its tagline, “The smarter way to workflow,” is evident throughout its website, content and other assets, making it easy as can be for customers to know exactly what they’re getting when they adopt the ServiceNow platform.
Simplicity is key when it comes to SaaS marketing success, and that’s what ServiceNow’s marketing campaigns are built on.
SaaS is the future for many companies in the digital space, so marketers need to stay ahead of the curve by adopting SaaS marketing best practices to fine tune their campaigns and stay ahead of the competition.
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