A Software-as-a-Service or SaaS marketing strategy should be different because we are selling something we can’t see, feel or touch. SaaS is pure benefits - well that’s what we hope it is - but we can’t photograph them as if we were selling chocolate cake.
If you think you could sell SaaS to impulsive users like chocolate eclairs then please rewind. Selling cloud-based solutions is more like converting people into members of political parties and churches. It’s a case of jam tomorrow but we want you to sign up today. Trust me, you are going to love it, and P.S. I want your card. BTW, that’s not the right way. Ask any of the SaaS Startups that didn't make it.
Main Challenges to Overcome When Marketing SaaS
But, there is a similarity between selling confectionery and SaaS solutions. We don’t buy chocolate cake for a rainy day, we buy it now because we want to eat it now. Signing for such product is an almost impulsive decision with logical undertones, because something is not working properly in the user’s brick-and-mortar computer, well digital really.
A SaaS strategy has to accommodate these realities:
- The sales cycle is short because the customer needs an immediate solution. See this through the user lens. They have a problem with their data/system/management/etc. They are going to choose the first workable solution that comes along. There is no time for foreplay when selling Software-as-a-Service. We have to be smooth operators in the lead generation and conversion process.
- The competition is immense because everybody in the industry is in overdrive like ants feeding on a squashed chocolate. Only the best ants get to the hazelnut praline.
If you plan to make Wednesday your no office day, then you are going to lose out on a seventh of your leads.
- We are selling intangible goods so we can’t post a sample (although we could offer a chicken burger and fries with a delivery app as a thank you, when we land a paying customer). This is why most SaaS vendors offer one or other kind of try-before-you-buy freemium sample. Accept that some users jump from offer to offer or get out. For the rest, we have to implement sound tactics to increase website conversion rates.
- For SaaS companies, brand awareness sucks. Users could not care less who created the software. They just want the spreadsheet and the reports and the rest does not matter. You are the new-kid-on-the-block with every enquiry. How you perform in the present moment matters. Nothing else does.
What Are the Primary Growth Goals for SaaS Companies?
There is no time to rest on oars, and admire the server LED twinkling as the users log on. The competition is like a tiger prowling around with burning bright eyes. They are after seducing our clients away and we will bleed some to them. We must design marketing strategies that will help us grow so we can stay alive. These are our primary growth goals:
- We must generate, massage, and convert qualified leads. The rest are a waste of time especially with the short sales cycle. If we are converting 10% of leads to paying customers, we could more than double our profit by doubling up on that percentage (because our fixed costs remain the same).
- Pretty much the same logic applies to retaining customers. Think about it. If we spend all that effort garnering, and converting qualified leads, how can we be so dumb as to let them drift away? Their reasons for exiting are a rich lode of gold. We must dig them out and exploit them.
- We create missionary clients by delivering them success from the cloud. These are the tangible, real people their friends know and trust. We will not grow our SaaS business if our software is yucky, or our server falls over. We might as well try to sell a chocolate cake gone moldy.
- You are not going grow if your B2B SaaS marketing strategy uses autoresponders. We have to invest personal time easing qualified leads through the inbound funnel. We want to increase the lifetime value of every signup. You can run your cloud-hosted software from a desert island but you have to be online.
5 Key Phases of a SaaS Marketing Strategy to Take Away
Our SaaS solution needs to be a close-coupled synthesis of the right product delivering outstanding customer experience, support that can be trusted, a competitive income model, and a smart inbound marketing strategy. It begins with offering the customers what they need when they need it, delivers what they expected, and generates two things, missionaries and money.
1. Who Are You Selling to?
Peter Drucker was interested in human behavior, and ways to influence thought. He famously said,
The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits them and sells itself.
He was not smart enough to solve the chicken-and egg paradigm though. So we face the eternal dilemma: Do we develop a product first, and then find the customers? Or, do we assemble the persona first? This step is crucial, as it will determine the appropriate marketing channels where we stand the best chance to shine.
Actually, we want to understand the persona’s needs first, and then find a way to meet them. If you do not have a good product-market fit, then your SaaS is useless regardless of how much you paid the programmer.
2. What's in It for the Lead?
A website is a grid like a table with information contained in rectangles. Take a look at SiO Digital's home page, where our brilliant CEO created a black space for the rotating rubik's cube, with a series of white ones below for intriguing information. Elsewhere, we have an amazing blog with everything you need to know about business. We give loads of information free. Visitors respond by becoming our leads.
The second phase is giving stuff away free: Not chocolate cakes and chicken burgers, but valuable information. If you want to generate leads you need to (a) explain the concept, (b) post genuine and true success stories, and (c) have product support ready and available in the form of tutorials or videos.
3. Make Your Product Human-Friendly
Most users treat their SaaS product like their autos: They never look under the hood and they call for help to change a tire. They want to see miracles before they convert, just like people in a mission tent. Make it incredibly easy for your customers to sign up, and create digital miracles on their machines using your service. There is no way around this, if you want to get your software out there and spoken of on social media. Your leads must be able to onboard within a minute without giving out secrets like card details, or granny’s frillies. You can upsell later, after they have got their minds around your freemium basic, though the earlier you work on it, the better.
4. Engagement Is not a Marriage Made in Heaven
In human relationships, engagement and marriage can be as far apart as tourism and migration. What looks good in the beginning can turn our very different in the cold light of a winter morning.
The same thing can happen with promising leads that seemed on target, if we abandon them in the free stage. We need to keep leads hot, and convert them to paid customers in the important first few days as they explore the free version. They will welcome email-marketing messages concealed in handy how-to tips. Surveys are a good way to gauge their mood. They will feel important as we keep them in the loop with upgrades and improvements, and ways to optimize it for themselves. This is where marketing automation will play a prominent role, producing 2 significants results: increase sales productivity thanks to lead qualification and segmentation, and increase our return on investment, especially our B2B Marketing ROI.
5. Quality Chocolate Is THE Most Important Ingredient for Taste
Cast your mind back to the meta tag description that may have caught your eye in a Google search. A SaaS marketing strategy is a synthesis of the right product, solid support, an income model the market can stand, and a marketing plan that delivers.
Our product is virtual, and our customers are on a cyber island. If we are not there when they need us through online resources, chat, and hotline, they are utterly on their own. If they become lost in a system they have not yet paid, can you think of a reason they would stay with us when the market is rich with substitutes?
We need to babysit them every step of the way, as they toddle through the dashboard and occasionally fall over (thank heavens they are out of diapers). When it comes to upselling to paid premium, and cross-selling to related products, they will go with the people that are their friends. This is the goal of a SaaS marketing strategy. We want to be their friends.
The two things that count the most when marketing SaaS, are the awesome quality of our product and the killer support customers receive. Although SaaS mistakes are dime a dozen, there is no reason why they should be unavoidable. The other things I touched on still count. But without those first two, they count for nothing.
Did I inspire you? Or,
Do you still think your product is so good, and so perfectly pitched that it will sell itself? Best of luck if you do.Tweet