Your One-Stop Shop for SaaS Marketing Success [Tips, Tools & More]

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There are many advantages to the software as a service (SaaS) business model — lower costs, a shorter sales cycle, and recurring revenue, to name a few — but marketing is not one of them. (At least, you rarely, if ever, see business leaders touting marketing as their reason for getting into the SaaS industry.)

That’s because SaaS marketing can be challenging, for reasons we’ll soon explain. But before we share the keys to building a foolproof SaaS marketing plan, we need to talk about what SaaS marketing is.

Table of Contents

What is SaaS Marketing?
Making Sense of SaaS Marketing Alphabet Soup
Best Practices to Boost Your SaaS Marketing Efforts
6 Must-Have Tools for Your SaaS Marketing Toolkit
Assemble Your SaaS Marketing Dream Team

What is SaaS Marketing?

It’s simple, really. Unlike inbound marketing or content marketing, which refer to marketing techniques — more on those in just a minute — SaaS marketing is sort of a catch-all term that refers to any strategy used to market SaaS products. Pretty straightforward, right?

Just because it’s straightforward doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy. You see, SaaS marketers find themselves in the unenviable position of having to promote an intangible product, often one that is complex in nature, caters to a very niche audience, or both. That said, marketing SaaS products isn’t an insurmountable task — after all, if it were, SaaS brands such as Salesforce, Google, Spotify, and Slack wouldn’t be household names. It just takes the right combination of marketing savvy, tried-and-true best practices, and the right mix of automation to tie it all together.

Making Sense of SaaS Marketing Alphabet Soup

When it comes to marketing, a lot of jargon gets thrown around, some of which you may already be familiar with, and some which you’ve likely never heard before. Before we really get into the meat of SaaS marketing, we thought it would be helpful to provide a SaaS marketing glossary.

A/B Testing
A/B testing is the process of comparing two slightly different versions of the same variable to see which performs better. For example, if you were to A/B test an email marketing campaign, you might send out two emails that feature the same body copy but with different subject lines. The results of this test would indicate which subject line was more effective at persuading the recipient to open the email, which would provide your marketing team with some valuable insight for the next go-round.

Analytics refers to the process by which marketing teams identify meaningful patterns in the data collected from various campaigns and use that feedback to inform future marketing efforts. To throw it back to our A/B testing example for a moment, let’s say that of the two email subject lines you tested, the one that communicated a direct benefit achieved better results. Now, let’s say you saw the same outcomes from A/B tests for five other email marketing campaigns. Using analytics, your SaaS marketing team would be able to see a distinct pattern — that your customers respond best when offered an immediate benefit — and apply that logic to campaigns going forward.

Analytics can also be used to track other key performance metrics, such as campaign performance, website traffic, conversions, lead quality, cost, return on investment, and more.

Buyer Persona
Even those new to the world of marketing are likely familiar with this one. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your customer based, in part, on your actual customers.

There are a few ways to approach buyer personas, all of which employ rather Frankensteinian methods: You could build a buyer persona for the average customer based on information your SaaS marketing team has gathered through repeat interactions with your customer base. You could also create multiple buyer personas for different demographics within your customer base by using segmentation. Finally, you could build a buyer persona for the ideal customer by taking all of the best parts of your existing customer base and combining them into a single, archetypal individual. Whatever your preferred approach, buyer personas are a great way to define your target audience for both your sales and marketing teams.

Co-marketing happens when two brands that offer complementary products or services or have similar ideological values team up for a marketing campaign. The idea here is that by partnering with another brand, a company will gain exposure to an audience it may not otherwise reach. Another benefit to co-marketing is that it’s flexible. There’s really no right or wrong way to structure a co-marketing campaign — it could be anything from a piece of content that promotes both companies’ products to a discount for bundling both products.

For an example of co-marketing in action in the SaaS industry, look no further than Salesforce’s partnership with Apple. At Dreamforce 2019, Salesforce and Apple revealed the redesigned Salesforce Mobile app, the next-generation of Salesforce Mobile SDK, and Trailhead GO, the first-ever mobile version of Salesforce’s popular online learning platform. Each of these applications is exclusive to iOS and iPadOS, incentivizing current Salesforce customers to utilize Apple products.

A few pointers for those enterprising SaaS companies that want to give co-marketing a try: Look to partner with brands that have a similar ideal customer, sort out any potential conflicts of interest well in advance, and make sure that both parties have realistic goals and expectations.

Content Marketing
As its name implies, content marketing revolves around content creation. Content marketing consists of everything from blog posts and eBooks to videos and webinars. The trick to content marketing is to create content that isn’t overtly promotional. Rather than bombard people with information about a particular product or service, content marketing aims to educate the audience about a relevant topic or to help them solve a challenge they might be facing. Content marketing doesn’t point the audience directly to the thing but instead gently guides them in the right direction. Although content marketing has long existed in one form or another, in today’s digital-first world it prioritizes digital content and distribution over more traditional methods.

Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing — as opposed to outbound marketing — refers to a marketing technique in which brands try to attract inbound website traffic by developing exciting and interesting content that people are naturally drawn to. It’s the difference between seeking out customers vs. customers seeking you out. As you can imagine, inbound marketing strategy leans pretty heavily on content marketing in order to attract attention.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, HubSpot is one of the best companies to emulate when it comes to SaaS inbound marketing — with a seriously impressive content archive and CTAs galore, it’s no wonder the marketing software company’s blog gets over a million page views each month. If you’re new to the inbound marketing game, take a look at HubSpot’s blog for some inspiration.

Pay-per-click, more commonly abbreviated to PPC, is an internet advertising model in which brands feature their ads on popular websites and social media platforms, such as Facebook, Google, and Instagram, in an effort to drive traffic back to their website. For every click the ad receives, the brand pays a fee to the publisher; PPC ads can run SaaS companies anywhere from $50 to $50,000+ dollars a month, depending on their allotted PPC budget. Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) is currently the most popular PPC advertising platform market, raking in $116 billion in advertising revenue in 2018, alone.

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Referral Marketing
This one’s easy. Referral marketing is the method of promoting products by word of mouth. It is usually accompanied by some sort of offer that incentivizes referrals — for a SaaS company, that might look like a monthly discount or a free upgrade. For example, Dropbox’s customer referral programs offers users up to 32 GB of additional storage for inviting their friends to subscribe.

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The beauty of referral marketing is that it enables companies to leverage their existing customer base. Given that referral programs require a relatively low investment from a company’s marketing team but have a high rate of return, referral marketing is a cost-effective supplement, or even alternative, to other forms of SaaS marketing.

It would be wonderful if every person who visited your company’s website downloaded a piece of content or signed up for a free trial but, sadly, that isn’t the case. That said, just because someone visits your website without taking any action doesn’t mean that they’re gone forever. Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is the process by which companies monitor website visitors, see which other sites they regularly visit, and then run ads (often PPC ads) on those sites.

These ads typically feature copy written specifically to draw visitors’ attention — just think of any time you put an item in an online shopping cart and then abandoned that cart, only to later see an ad for that exact item. The goal of retargeting is to re-engage site visitors who have clicked away and draw them back to your site, so you get another chance to convince them to take action.

Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a core marketing strategy that aims to boost website traffic by making that site more easily discoverable on search engines, often by increasing its search engine ranking. In order to do so, webpages, blog posts, and other forms of content must be “optimized” — a term that, when used here, means to make sure that the content in question is written in such a way that it draws the largest audience possible.

There are a number of ways to do this, such as creating unique, high-quality content, linking to other relevant pieces of content, and incorporating top-ranking keywords into your copy. For a deep dive into the world of SEO, we recommend starting with this blog post for beginners from the SEO experts at Moz.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of marketing terms — we’ll leave that to the experts — but hopefully it provides some helpful context around what SaaS marketing entails and gives you a few ideas for how you might start to build your own SaaS marketing strategy. With that in mind, let’s talk SaaS marketing best practices.

Best Practices to Boost Your SaaS Marketing Efforts

In order to start your SaaS marketing plan off on the right foot, try implementing some of these tried-and-true SaaS marketing best practices:

  • Create an SLA for your sales and marketing teams. Now, we’re not suggesting that you draw up a literal service level agreement for sales and marketing but rather a metaphorical one. Oftentimes, these teams will point fingers at one another, with sales blaming marketing for bringing them poor quality leads, and marketing blaming sales for not following up on leads fast enough. From a SaaS marketing perspective, this conflict doesn’t do anyone any good, so it’s important for SaaS companies to ensure that both sides know what’s expected of them, and that both sales and marketing work together to achieve the same goal.
  • Only offer a free trial if it makes sense to. It seems like every SaaS company under the sun offers a free trial for its product or service — but just because you can offer a free trial doesn’t mean you should. Here at VennScience, we’re of the mind that free trials don’t always make sense, especially if your product is complex or comes with a steep learning curve. In fact, if either of those things apply to your product, a free trial could actually hurt your chances with prospective customers because they likely won’t have the chance to experience its full functionality within the trial period or might be frustrated by the barrier to entry.That said, free trials should be offered on a case-by-case basis. And, if you do ultimately decide to offer one, make it work for you by monitoring usage: A trial user who logs in several times over the course of a one-month trial period makes for a better lead than someone whose only login was when they first signed up.
  • Don’t make your site visitors hunt for more information. If we haven’t emphasized it enough by now, in the world of online SaaS marketing, content is king. Prospective customers are likely comparing multiple products, so it’s important that the content on your website be well-written and easy to access and that it present visitors with all information they need to commit to a purchase or, at the very least, to connect with your brand.
  • Be transparent about pricing. Similar to the previous item on our list, there’s no sense in hiding your pricing or making it challenging to understand. Clearly display your pricing tiers in a format that’s easy to comprehend so that prospective customers can quickly decide whether to move forward or move on.
  • Keep your product selection simple. The more subscription plans you offer, the more confusing it is for prospective customers. Limit your selection to no more than three plans (think entry level, mid-level, and pro-level) and be sure to clearly explain which features each version includes, either on their own separate webpages or on your pricing page.
  • Make it easy for prospects to sign up for things. In keeping with the concept of making things as easy from prospective customers as possible, it’s important that you streamline signup pages so that they aren’t stuck filling out dozens of fields just to gain access to an eBook or a free trial.
  • Always be optimizing. One of the core principles of SaaS marketing is to always look for ways to improve, whether that’s updating old blog posts with new information, A/B testing all of your marketing campaigns, or adding a chatbot module to your website to handle low-level customer inquiries. The more you invest in optimizing your current SaaS marketing strategy, the more returns you’ll see from it.
  • Offer deals (again, when it makes sense to). Offering customers some sort of incentive, such as a discount on a longer-term plan, can motivate sales. That said, much like free trials, whether you offer a deal — or what kind of deal you choose to offer — should be decided on a case-by-case basis so that you don’t lose out on any potential revenue.
  • Maintain a solid social media presence. One of the best things about using social media for SaaS marketing is that — with the exception of PPC ads — it’s free. Use analytics to determine which sites your audience frequents, and then proceed to build up a strong presence there. This will not only enable you to attract organic visitors, but also to build a rapport with your audience and strengthen your existing customer relationships.

6 Must-Have Tools for Your SaaS Marketing Toolkit

VennScience SAAS Marketing Success must have tools

With so many SaaS marketing tools and platforms on the market today, it can be a little overwhelming to decide which ones you should actually implement, which is why we’ve put together this list of some of the best to help you narrow things down.

1. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a web analytics service that offers a detailed breakdown of website traffic metrics, including session duration, pages per session, and bounce rate. Google Analytics is an easy and effective way to collect and analyze data from the site traffic resulting from your company’s marketing campaigns. Best of all, you get all of the power of Google for free, making this SaaS marketing tool a no-brainer.

2. Wistia
If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at video marketing, then Wistia is the solution for you. Wistia might seem like any other free video hosting platform at a glance but take a closer look and you’ll see that its built-in marketing capabilities, including advanced data analytics, retargeting functionality, customer relationship management (CRM) system integration, and video SEO, make it a unique way to grow your SaaS marketing strategies.

3. Hootsuite
Social media is the next frontier of SaaS marketing but with so many platforms to keep track of — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, you name it — it can be challenging to develop a comprehensive social media strategy. Fortunately, Hootsuite’s free social media management platform enables you to schedule posts, monitor trending topics, curate content, analyze data to better understand social media performance, and more.

4. GoToMeeting
Although GoToMeeting isn’t a strictly SaaS marketing tool, its online meeting functionality can help your SaaS marketing team stay connected, especially if they’re spread out around the world. GoToMeeting’s video conferencing, screen sharing, mobile conferencing, and more make it possible for members of your marketing team to stay in touch not only with each other, but also with customers, all from the convenience of their desk.

5. Salesforce
Although HubSpot’s CRM offers a number of enticing capabilities, Salesforce remains the gold standard in CRM technology today. In addition to providing granular visibility into the entire SaaS sales cycle, Salesforce includes unique, marketing-specific features such as Salesforce Campaigns, a built-in Sales Cloud utility that enables you to monitor marketing initiatives, and Pardot for SaaS marketing automation — and that’s just scratching the surface. With so many features and functionalities to choose from, Salesforce is an invaluable addition to your SaaS marketing toolkit.

6. Pardot
Speaking of Pardot, Salesforce’s B2B marketing automation platform is so powerful that it merits its own entry in this list. When it comes to SaaS marketing strategies, marketing automation is table stakes. Using Pardot, your marketing team can create, deploy, and manage online marketing campaigns with just a few clicks of a button, all while drawing valuable data from ROI, lifecycle, and advanced email reporting to optimize campaign performance. Pardot integrates with other Salesforce marketing features, including Salesforce Campaigns, as well as other CRM platforms, which means even non-Salesforce users can reap the rewards of SaaS marketing automation.

Assemble Your SaaS Marketing Dream Team

Building a winning SaaS marketing plan takes a village. That village starts, naturally, with your own internal marketing team, which is responsible for creating the overall vision of your company’s marketing strategy, as well for defining key performance metrics. Next up is a creative agency, one that can churn out interesting and informative content relevant to your industry and build a dynamic and aesthetically pleasing website on which to host it all. (For what it’s worth, Vital Design is our agency of choice.)

Finally, you need a Salesforce consultant that can help you implement all of the tools and technologies you need to put your SaaS marketing plan into motion — a role that VennScience excels at. Although we can’t be your marketing team, we can certainly give you the tools to support it. From marketing automation integration to data cleanliness, VennScience is capable of ensuring that all of your SaaS marketing systems are not only up and running, but also communicating with each other in such a way that your marketing team gets accurate and up-to-the-minute reporting.

Curious about VennScience? Put us to the test with this guide to choosing the right Salesforce partner, or contact us directly to talk to one of our specialists.

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