Have you ever stumbled on a SaaS website and you literally have no clue why you’re there and what they do?
You look everywhere on the website—I’m talking header, tag line, features—and you just don’t get it.
With over a hundred and one different things that could kill your cloud software business, poor marketing is the slow poison that can put it to sleep for good.
But is SaaS marketing different from other types of marketing?
Before you jump up and say, “marketing is marketing…all I have to do is find potential customers,” know this: If you use the same techniques to market your SaaS software as you do for a physical product or consulting service, you’re going to wind up burning money.
The SaaS space is filled with a constant influx of new companies trying to innovate and challenge the industry leaders. It’s a place where many of your toughest competitors will be giving away their products literally for free.
To make matters worse, B2B sales require approval from multiple stakeholders in a given company, so adrenaline-purchases by individual customers don’t happen the same way they do in B2C sales.
Therefore, marketing for a SaaS product requires a distinctly different approach.
Here are three ways SaaS marketing is different from every other type of marketing.
1. Product complexity
SaaS marketing requires you to break down a bunch of technical features into small crumbs that are easy to understand.
Any SaaS product is the result of months or even years of consistent building and testing by experienced programmers and beta testers before launch, and the leading SaaS products in any category tend to be loaded with features.
As a marketer, your biggest challenge is to take those numerous features and boil them down to just a handful of key benefits for a user. You need to have a straightforward answer to the question: How will this product make my customer more successful?
2. Target users
In B2C marketing, you can get away with creating marketing campaigns that target a wide swath of consumers, taking into consideration buyers of many demographics, industries, job roles, etc.
This sort of marketing technique doesn’t work and has never worked in SaaS.
For marketing SaaS, the user persona is the key driving factor that determines how a SaaS business will function. You need to know not just the types of companies that need your product, but which team members at the company will correctly be using it, and what specific challenges they’re trying to solve.
For example, let’s say your SaaS product helps NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) oversee their workflow and identify ways to improve productivity.
Now, you don’t just target NGOs; instead, you would tailor your marketing to the key decision-makers in your target industry who care about productivity the most. Knowing that, you might focus your marketing specifically on COOs (Chief Operating Officers) at NGOs.
Having a better understanding of your ideal buyer on a user level will make your marketing campaigns a lot more successful.
3. Pricing strategy
Launching a typical business and slapping on a preferred price based on your labor and unit costs might work for other businesses—most definitely not SaaS, though.
When setting a price for cloud software products, it’s not your typical “buy X for $499 for the next 3 hours” or “this goes for
$999, but you can get it for $99 today…”
Heck no! Pricing in SaaS is not a one-time transaction like other businesses. It’s a monthly or annually recurring expense for a business, so you have to think about it differently.
Most SaaS products often offer their products in 3-5 tiers of varying prices, which allows them to serve different buyer personas with a product that fits their needs—from small businesses and solopreneurs to larger enterprises.
Another thing you have to consider when setting your prices are the features that you include in your paid and free options. If many of the features available as paid options in your product are free on your competitor’s, then you have a problem.
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Five ways you can run your SaaS marketing campaign much more effectively:
1. Use content marketing to your advantage
No matter what industry you’re in or what niche you serve, a good content marketing program is the most cost-effective inbound marketing strategy for continuously generating quality leads for your SaaS business.
Creating content—everything from long-form blog articles to explainer videos to downloadable resources to weekly newsletters—draws in free traffic to your website and steadily adds email addresses to your marketing list.
Practical Example: VIDYARD
Vidyard is an online video platform known for helping businesses add videos to their emails, websites, social media, and everywhere else they want them to be.
As a platform known for making videos, they’ve naturally made video-based content marketing their go-to strategy.
Taking a look at most of their posts, they’ve included a mix of bite-sized explainer videos across their long-form content, which breaks down each segment of the article or resource.
This tactic educates visitors on the Vidyard website, and makes the brand seem like approachable experts.
2. Open the doors with free trials
Anything free gets tons of people interested, and SaaS isn’t an exception.
In SaaS, free trials are one of the most powerful lead generation techniques.
Every free trial aims to do one thing: give users a taste of what their life will be like when they’re a customer. You want them to experience not just what it’s like using your product, but also what it’s like to deal with your customer support and customer success teams.
When users take the initial step of trying your product free for a limited time, getting them to go further by taking another action (which is mostly paid) becomes more natural.
Practical Example: NUTSHELL
Yeah, you guessed it, writing a practical guide to SaaS marketing would be incomplete without including one of our own successful strategies.
Nutshell is a cloud-based CRM and sales automation tool for small businesses. With features such as sales automation, pipeline management, reporting, contact management, email, and team collaboration, it’s a complete tool for every sales team.
Before fully committing to using Nutshell, you get a 14-day free trial (no credit card required) to see if it’s a fit for your business and sales team.
The free trial offers you access to all the platform’s Pro tier features including a live support team to help you out if you run into any issue, and includes lots of clear in-app guidance for getting set up.
If there’s one thing that makes Nutshell’s approach to a free trial different, it’s that trial customers get unlimited access to live customer support—just like they would if they were paying customers.
3. Overdeliver on customer experience
SaaS businesses tend to focus too much on how their products work and don’t take into consideration what it feels like to be a customer.
Good customer experience is a gold mine, and you need to leverage it from all angles.
With every typical SaaS business, customer onboarding is crucial, because it’s in your best interest to make users as successful as possible with your product from day 1. The sooner they see the value of their purchase, the more likely they’ll be to stick around.
Your customers need to know you care—ask questions, send out personalized emails and thank you notes, and appreciate them in all stages of the relationship.
Practical example: INTERCOM
Intercom is one of the many SaaS companies in the chatbot business, and they sure do make you know that.
They understand that they are in a very competitive market and saying they’re “the best” doesn’t sell it.
Instead, they created a platform based on one-on-one interactions with customers. With that in place, Intercom was able to turn customer experience into a brand loyalty opportunity that helped build their online community.
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4. Add customers to the team
A good customer will make you more money than a good employee ever could. With an excellent customer experience in place, getting customers to join your team won’t be difficult.
Now, “getting them on your team” doesn’t mean asking for resumes. Instead, you invest in referral programs.
Take a look at your current best customers and imagine the network they must have. Capitalizing on them spreading the word about your SaaS product is way more effective than you can imagine.
It’s four times more likely for us to make a purchase when a referral comes from a friend or relative. To even make it better, referrals create as much as a 16% increase in customer LTV (lifetime value) compared to customers coming in from other sources.
Practical example: EVERNOTE
Unlike any other referral program where the company rewards users with percentages, Evernote rewards you with points.
Now here is the deal breaker—there’s no limit to the number of points you can receive as a customer. With these points, you don’t have to pay for their premium services with your money, but instead, with your points.
Rewards points, bonuses, and discounts are all referral tactics you can use today to run your SaaS marketing campaign effectively.
5. Go Live and Get Social
Moving into a new neighbourhood and not knowing who your next-door neighbour is doesn’t sit right. The same goes for running a SaaS business and not being social.
Among all the marketing tools you can ever use for your SaaS company, social media tools are the most indispensable. If you’re not steadily sharing your messages and helpful content to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, you don’t exist.
At first, no one knows you or your shiny little product. Well, maybe your close friends, relatives, and co-workers—but apart from that, no one else.
By building a presence on social media, you not only put yourself out there, but you’re also able to target your specific buyer personas.
Plus, by posting to social media, you can easily find out in real-time what your users think about your product and messaging.
Practical Example: 360Learning
Not everyone does a documentary about their new employee. Practically no one in SaaS has ever done such—until 360Learning stepped up and redefined what it means to go social.
360 Learning is a digital learning platform that focuses on peer learning to help companies onboard and train their employees.
Being a platform based on learning, they decided to go out of the usual “new job position” alert on Linkedin.
Onboarding with Joei was a 90-days docu-series that gave insight on how 360 learning runs, onboards, and manages their employees.
This approach was genius and welcomed by their targeted audience on Linkedin and Twitter, which increased the organic traffic of their website.
One final note on SaaS marketing…
Running a SaaS marketing campaign can’t be done with traditional marketing best practices.
From customer acquisition, monetization, all the way down to retention, your approach to each element matters. One cannot fall short of the other.
However, the key to building a sustainable marketing campaign is by trying out different approaches and using the insights you have about your target buyers to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Once you have a strategy in place, running an effective marketing campaign for your SaaS becomes easier.