Marketing Strategy

How to formulate the perfect marketing strategy for your SaaS business

For the longest time, a lot of software businesses banked on retaining their customers because of one simple truth - change is hard, and people hate changes, especially the time and effort needed to facilitate and get used to that change. Softwares needed time to get integrated and assimilated within the business processes, and a lot of time was spent in getting the right stakeholders trained in using the software and getting accustomed to it. For that reason, change was always frowned upon and considered a wasteful activity. Now, things are changing. Not entirely, but enough to make this much less true than it ever was.

Today, software is light, exists on the cloud, is designed to be intuitive and easy to use, and the cost to try out a new software is ridiculously low. Even if there is no free (or special price) trial available with the product, you can try out a product for a month for just a few bucks and access its value to your business. If it ends up feeling more valuable than your existing product/solution, the cost of switching from one to the next is minuscule as compared to what it used to be once.

Don’t get me wrong. The aversion to change still exists. But, if you are unhappy with the solutions currently at your disposal, it has now become much easier, faster and painless to switch over to a new service provider. So, naturally SaaS founders and marketers are always on their toes. There are both opportunities and risk everywhere. They need to be on point to pick up the slack when one of their competitors is dropping the ball. They need to constantly reach out to more and more customers. And most importantly, they need to remember that one bad experience in today’s ecosystem can be enough to make a customer churn out. Therefore, they need to constantly deliver the perfect experience to delight and retain the customer base they have so painstakingly amassed.

To succeed at every piece of that plan, you need a solid and tangible marketing and growth strategy, and that is what we are here to talk about today.

It’s all about long-term customers. “One and done” doesn’t cut it anymore.

Traditionally, once you sold a software license to a business, you knew you had them for the long haul. So, post sales, the involvement of the business would be largely restricted to offering support and taking care of tickets and complaints. Each sale would bring in tens of thousands of dollars in revenue, sometimes even millions, so it made sense to even invest in a dedicated sales team, and an army of account managers.

With SaaS products quickly and quietly replacing traditional software products, the game has now changed. Now, to be able to generate a healthy profit on each consumer, you need to retain each customer for months and years.

This has been one of the primary motivation for most SaaS businesses adopting a freemium model wherein they give away a basic version of the product for free in an effort to help more and more customers experience firsthand the value generated by their product. This way, when these free users ultimately become transacting customers, they are likely impressed enough by the product experience to stay onboard for a really long time.

The need to have a comprehensive and diverse marketing strategy

Customers of SaaS businesses navigate through quite a few twists and turns on their product discovery to usage journey. The journey of a customer going through the SaaS marketing funnel (as we have talked about in a couple of stories before) is anything but straightforward.

So, to reach out to customers at different stages and points in this journey, the right mode, method and tone of marketing communication can differ substantially from one another. You can’t follow a ‘one size fits all’ approach and expect it to deliver results.

This ultimately translates into the need to create a wide range of marketing activities based on how your customers are spread out throughout this journey.

And it all begins with formulating a comprehensive marketing strategy that covers all bases. One that is formulated based on a careful assessment of your customers. An ad-hoc approach or an impromptu ideation and execution session rarely cuts it.

Take our business for example. We are in the business of empowering growth for businesses, backed by their web analytics data. Our tool helps them measure and monitor their data, just like any web analytics product would, but its most important value is in the actionable growth-centric insights it delivers. Now, so far, these insights have always been generated by businesses by their in-house teams of marketers and experts, who spend hours every day sifting through and analyzing the data the business generates. Our product eliminates the need to have that much bandwidth and time involvement and yet deliver the same level of growth insights, if not more. But since our customers are used to their web analytics tool just delivering raw data and charts to them, if we create content around our insights module, it would rarely get found by our target base. After all, they are not looking for answers to questions around the topic. But they are looking for growth, and our tool does do that. So, we create content around growth enablement, and whenever the right fit in the content, showcase the value our product delivers.

So, what are some of the staple ingredients of a well crafted SaaS marketing strategy?

We are finally cooking now.

In order to craft the right marketing strategy for your SaaS business, you need to understand the different points on customers’ journey that hold your audience clusters and accordingly identify the marketing methodologies most suitable for the task. Some of the ways:

Email marketing

For all the hate email marketing receives, it continues to remain one of the most RoI positive marketing channels your business can adopt.

It is integral for all businesses, but it is absolutely critical for SaaS businesses. We already know that the customer journey for a SaaS product is quite intertwined and therefore long. Email marketing presents you with the opportunity to (1) keep your prospects engaged and not fall off the wagon, (2) continuously demonstrate the capabilities and value offering of your product, (3) onboard new customers in a way that invites action etc.

Search Engine Traffic / Organic Reach

I looked at the traffic indicators of businesses like Hubspot, Buffer, Semrush, SproutSocial. The one thing I found they all had in common was having a bulk of their traffic coming in from Search Engine results. All of them had Search Engines to thank for, for more than 40% of their overall traffic.

Pro tip: With more and more businesses, publications and blogs leveraging the engagement potential of list-format articles, chances are - for many of the queries your users make, there exists at least a couple of listicles. Getting featured in such lists would be a nice to have, isn’t it? So reach out to creators of lists relevant to you and pitch your product to them.

Product demos, video walkthroughs and comprehensive documentation

They don’t really sound like a part of marketing, do they?

In my opinion, they are a crucial part of it though.

All of these, right from video walkthroughs to documentation help illustrate both the capabilities of your product, as well as shed some light on how to best use the product. Extremely crucial and helpful when someone has just discovered your product and is wondering what challenges can this product specifically help them with.

Leveraging social media presence to boost engagement

Social media is conversational by nature, and the brands that have best succeeded at social media are the ones that have been successful in initiating dialogues with their consumers.

From having a one-on-one conversations with your customers (in full public view) to curating feedback about your product to generating ideas about future product roadmap to demonstrate the quality and success of your customer support, social media is amazingly effective at driving the right results and even more impact.

Your strategy would be unique to you and tailormade based on your business and your customers

You have to always remember that just because a particular approach worked for a business, it would work for you as well. Different businesses and their consumers differ from each other - both in who they are, as well as the motivating factors that drive transactions. So your marketing strategy will, in all probability, be unique to your business.

The basics, however, will remain the same.

  1. Consumers will follow a convoluted path in their journey to find the right product for their pain-point(s). Your job is to make sure you are there to help them out with their queries every step of the way.

  2. Using data backed strategies is not just recommended, it is the only way to create effective campaigns now and have enough insights to continue increasing the efficacy of all future campaigns. The performance indicators of what you do today has a bearing on how well can you execute future strategies. So, measure, monitor and analyze everything. The best you can.

  3. Different marketing channels differ from each other in how and when your customers will come across them, and what would be the driving force behind them at that point. The content you push out on different channels will be largely dependent on these factors. Ergo, you can’t follow the same approach across all channels indiscriminately. Be tactile in your approach.

There are a lot of moving pieces in SaaS marketing. To win at the game, you need to know the goals you are chasing, and what would your customer journey look like as you help them move closer to your goals.

Want to know more about how to approach formulating your own marketing strategy? Hit me up and I’ll talk about it in as detailed manner as you want. Using our own example. What we are doing, why we are doing it that way, and how would we be measuring the efficacy of our efforts. Any questions you may have, I will answer them all. With complete transparency. Lets have some fun talk. ;-)

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.

Cheers

Abhishek

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