5 Effective SaaS Marketing Strategies to try in 2020

The software industry has changed in the last decade. There has been a shift from single payment solutions that used to require millions of dollars of investment to the Software as a Service model. During this time, startups like Canva, which started life with a shoestring budget, have matured from small scale startups to hugely successful billion-dollar companies.

As these companies have scaled and shown just what is possible, competition has increased. Thanks to online hiring platforms, it’s relatively easy to find competent developers. This lowers the barriers to entry but increases the level of competition.

With over 4 billion people using the internet, the SaaS market continues to grow. If your company is engaged in SaaS, it needs to stand out in a very competitive environment. Below are five effective marketing strategies the most successful SaaS companies use to generate leads.

Use Content Marketing to Drive Leads

Businesses use content marketing to attract visitors, build their brand, and ultimately get paying customers. Content marketing is ideally suited to the online space. Good content will continue to drive leads as long as the content is available. 

We can think about it in terms of real estate: pay-per-click advertising is rented, while content is a fixed asset. Great examples of companies that have built successful SaaS businesses off the back of content marketing are Buffer, Hubspot, and Groove.

Your content marketing strategy should be aligned with the interests of your ideal customer persona. You may have multiple customer personas. For example, file-sharing giant Dropbox has four blogs: one for each of its customer personas. There’s the end-users, businesses, technology workers, and developers. Hubspot, on the other hand, has three blogs.

The content on the Dropbox business blog focuses on workplace best practices. In contrast, the developer blog puts out content specifically for those who implement and develop applications based on the Dropbox platform. 

You can also take advantage of new forms of content, like podcasting or video marketing. Content marketing is a great way to cement your SaaS company’s reputation as an innovation leader. Do it right, and you’ll be on top of people’s minds. 

Use SEO to Grow Your Audience and Brand

Good content doesn’t mean much if nobody ends up seeing the articles you spent so much time creating. To get more eyes on your content, especially online, means ranking in the top spot in the search engine results for terms relevant to your business. You need a coherent SEO strategy to achieve this. There are two parts to an SEO strategy.

On-page SEO is what you do before you press “publish.” It is the process of optimizing your content for a search engine. There are a couple of parts to this process. You need to:

  • Create a great piece of content that people searching for your chosen keyword would find interesting and useful
  • Optimize the content for your chosen keyword. This involves ensuring your content covers certain topics, and that the keywords are in the right place

Using the right combination of keywords, titles, and meta tags and descriptions will help position your content so it could rank on Google. To make your content rank, though, you need to build links to the content. This involves securing backlinks from trusted websites. One of the best ways to secure these links is through an active guest posting strategy.

Another proven way to increase your reach is by translating your content into other languages. This tactic is less used by startups, but you’ll see a large number of enterprise level SaaS products translate their content and landing pages into different languages.

Offer Free Product Trials

One of the best ways to get a person to make a purchase is by trying your product or service. This is why car dealerships offer leads a test drive before purchase. Understandably, a free product trial is a top source of leads for SaaS products.

If your company develops a product like a time clock app and you offer a free trial, it implies that you are confident of the quality and features. You’re confident that the software can speak for itself. 

However, free trials must come with a bit of hand-holding. You need to ensure that the users have a good experience with your product, so you need to provide some support. For larger-scale software, you may provide some onboarding in the form of webinars, email updates, or even in person training.

The key to effective trials is to give users enough of your product to make them want more, but not so much that they’ll end up drowning in features. Well-calibrated trial campaigns result in high sign up rates to customers.

Affiliate Marketing & Referrals

One of the best ways to get a stranger to promote your product is to pay them. Given this fact, it’s understandable that affiliate marketing and referrals are the primary marketing strategies for SaaS businesses.

More than half of sales reps say that referrals are “very important” because they close sales rather quickly for a fraction of the cost. However, just around 33% of businesses have referrals programs in place. The 67% of companies who don’t have referrals programs are still undecided between offering incentives and scaling back on them. 

Those in favor of incentives fear that referral rates go down once incentives are reduced. At the same time, those who oppose heavy incentivization say that most referrals are of low quality in the first place.

Both opinions have their merits. There are no cut-and-dried rules that govern referrals. Some SaaS vendors run through several iterations of referral programs to find a balance that works for them. 

Referral incentives don’t have to be monetary. Box offers $100 per customer referral. Its primary competitor, Dropbox, provides an additional 500 MB of storage per referral. 

At the very least, your SaaS business needs to make it easier for people to make referrals through your landing page and other online assets. Then, inform them whether you’ll give out incentives for referrals and how. There are dozens of referral software tools that could help you generate the leads you need.

Getting quality referrals increases your business’s chance of getting leads and conversions. You should give people a compelling reason to refer you to their friends.

Affiliate marketing works much the same as referral marketing. You generate interest in your product by offering a commission for each referral. Rates of commission for SaaS platforms generally range from 10-30%. While the amount you offer is important, a high conversion rate will play a larger role in attracting affiliates.

Co-Market with Other Brands

The final SaaS marketing strategy that we’ll cover in this guide is co-marketing. Co-marketing is the process of finding a company that offers a product or service that complements yours.

How do you co-market with another company? The most common (and least expensive) method is to come up with ebooks or white papers about topics that interest your target audience. You then promote the offer across your audiences.

One good example of a co-marketing initiative is between HubSpot and LinkedIn. They collaborated on an ebook about social media marketing. It tapped into both HubSpot’s expertise in social media marketing and LinkedIn’s influence among marketing executives and professionals. 

If your SaaS company cannot afford this type of collaboration, you can consider doing it on a smaller scale by co-creating blog posts. A guest post written by your company’s CEO, placed on an influential company’s blog, has a larger reach than the same content placed on your company’s own blog.

Co-marketing helps brands gain exposure to new audiences. When you choose to co-market with a potential partner, you must consider the type of audience that they already have. It’s also good practice to consider the reputation of the other brand.

Getting Started with SaaS Marketing

Marketing your SaaS platform is going to be hard work. Regardless of the niche, there will be a lot of competition and established companies you will need to battle against. While you will struggle to grow your company, there are proven SaaS marketing strategies you can emulate.

All of the tips above have been tried and tested by different SaaS companies, with varying results. There is no single recipe for SaaS marketing success. Just like the products you offer, SaaS marketing is an ongoing project that you have to keep testing, analyzing, tweaking, and iterating to meet and exceed customer expectations. With the strategies above, you’ll have an effective roadmap for success.

Owen Jones
Senior Content Marketer at Zoomshift
Owen Jones is the Senior Content Marketer at Zoomshift, an online schedule maker app. He is an experienced SaaS marketer, specializing in content marketing, CRO, and FB advertising.

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