SaaS Marketing is on the rise: SaaS companies generated an estimated $72.2 billion in 2018.Gartner
Founders of modern tech businesses have realised that SaaS is the best way of making money with very little overhead, therefore SaaS marketing is now a thing.
A lot of SaaS businesses are essentially trying to build a self-serving product that users pay for on a monthly basis that’s easy to use.
The reality is slightly different, a lot of tech businesses have been around in different versions for a number of years, and the founders come from a variety of different backgrounds, some are ex-sales leaders, some CTOs and some university drop-ops with a big idea and some coding experience.
Marketing in these businesses can be tricky and it can help to self diagnose the type of technology business you are working in first.
SaaS vs Traditional B2B Tech
Short sales cycles. Typical or traditional B2B technology companies will tell you their sales cycles can be 12 months, minimum sometimes.
SaaS is different you still take into account recommendations and try a few tools but usually a sales cycle can take a few days rather than a few months – this is why lots of traditional B2B tech businesses are pivoting towards a SaaS model if they haven’t already.
The 3 Main Types of B2B Tech Businesses
There are lots of B2B tech companies that fall in between these 3 categories, but these are the 3 main types of businesses we see and work with.
The Pure SaaS Business
The pure SaaS tech business has a product that is hosted online (in the cloud) – it usually has some sort of low friction sign-up process and can be used a lot of the time by individuals as well as businesses – target the individual, get the business afterwards. Examples are Trello, MailChimp, Slack. You can use and download these tools for personal use and just by chance they are great for businesses too.
Targeting the individual means you have a larger audience and a greater potential for growth. Try and distill your SaaS product down to the one problem it solves really well. Then ask yourself, is this a problem for an individual as well as a business?
Being a SaaS marketer in this type of business requires you to help develop the product as much as market it.
Enterprise software specialists
In these businesses, the buyer journey is pretty lengthy, it usually involves requesting a demo, some sort of pre-sales cycle and then some sort of custom setup or installation.
These businesses have usually face competition by more SaaSy businesses and may be losing market share to them but usually only on a small scale.
These types of businesses tend to do better if they are serving enterprise grade clients as their product becomes very sticky and it’s difficult to shift. The roots of the software are deep within a business.
The software is often also very ‘customised’ and has a following of industry experts that make a living from just helping people set up this software.
The middleman. Stuck between knowing wether to go enterprise and more customised or whether to try and be more SaaSy and go after smaller businesses.
These are the most common types of B2B tech business. They serve SME and aspire to win larger clients as they develop and their product evolves.
Typically this is the company that is pivoting from being a service based software company, providing specialist solutions to each client towards one platform that can be customised by clients themselves – therefore becoming a software as a service business.
It’s a tricky tight-rope being in this type of business as the CEO, CTO and Founders can switch between what they want the company to be, and what the company is now.
Growth Marketing in a Tech Company
If you are working in marketing or as a Growth Manager/ Head of Growth in a B2B technology business the likelihood is you recognise at least some of the above and you are already part of the SaaS marketing ecosystem.
Below we have put together some useful tips for lead generation and generating growth that you may find useful.
B2B SaaS Lead Generation
Lead generation in a pure SaaS business normally skips the step of ‘speak to a human’. This means call to actions such as ‘Get in Touch’ or ‘Request a Demo’ are not where you are trying to drive people.
Instead you will be wanting people to “Sign Up” or “Start Your Free Trial”. Because ideally your SaaS product is setup so people can self-serve and perhaps go through a walkthrough of the product instead of having a sales rep give them a demo.
Sometimes companies have a combination of the two. 1 CTA that speaks to someone in sales or in customer success and 1 to get going without speaking to anyone. This is also a good way of addressing the difference in company profiles – you may want a different buyer journey for an enterprise client than a 1 man band.
Enterprise clients are more used to considered sales journeys and there is still the elitist mentality that it feels nice to have someone spend more time of you. This is why most SaaS businesses tend to evolve their enterprise offering over time so they will hire more people to cover off this account management part.
3 Examples of SaaS Website Call To Actions
We have pulled together 3 prime examples of some successful B2B SaaS websites to show how they are presenting CTAs to their website visitors.
1. Enterprise and Start-up Combo
Often SaaS businesses selling B2B will want to address a broad market. Unless you are specifically only targeting Enterprise size businesses or small start-ups you will need to have slightly different buyer journeys. One for a considered approach and one for the quick starters who want to get stuck in.
2. Free Trial and Login
This is the classic SaaS setup on a website homepage. You either have a) customers landing on your website wanting to login or b) new prospects wanting to find out more.
Buffer’s homepage has this classic setup and a very clear path for each visitor. It’s worth noting Buffer is a B2C and B2B tool so it has to address both types of customer.
3. Request a demo on Marketo.com
Although request a demo is usually resigned for b2b companies that are not SaaS – it’s very common in businesses that are transitioning to a SaaS model, or they have a sales team already or if they are doing a lot of medium to large deals.
When a company is well established like Marketo they don’t need to do as much work to try and on-board new clients so they can get away with using the ‘request a demo’ CTA.
Sometimes if your product is fairly complex and needs a lot of context to be explained correctly you may want to include this is a barrier to entry so that your leads get the best experience possible when viewing the software.
SaaS Lead Generation Strategies
SaaS lead generation strategies are very similar if not identical to normal B2B Lead Generation strategies. They are just slightly tweaked in most cases to point you towards a different call to action.
5 Best B2B Lead Generation Strategies
Here are 5 tactics you can use (if you’re not already) for generating more SaaS leads.
1. YouTube Video Marketing
YouTube Video Ads are a good way to catch your prospects attention while they are searching for useful video content. They are also good for re-targeting campaigns.
You can include a CTA (bottom left in this picture). YouTube Video Ads are also fairly cheap in comparison to some other Paid channels like Search Ads.
YouTube is the 2nd most-visited website in existence, according to Alexa.
2. Podcast Advertising for SaaS
Podcasting is bigger than ever, 50% of all US homes are podcast fans (Nielsen, Aug 2017). The audience is engaged and are often intently listening on their commutes or while they work out.
SquareSpace and MailChimp are two SaaS companies that have used podcasting ads on platforms such as Spotify to reach new audiences. You can use a company such as Midroll to find relevant podcasts for your audience.
3. SEO based on problems
A staple of any successful B2B digital marketing strategy. SEO based on your prospects issues can be a good way to drive traffic to a blog on your website.
For example people searching for “how to manage projects better” would be interested in a SaaS product that could help them do this. So an article on “5 Ways to Manage Your Projects Better” is highly relevant to this searches intent.
A lot of B2B tech websites find their blog content can be the most viewed content on the website – even more than the homepage.
This type of SEO also places you as a thought leader as you are adding value beyond just providing a piece software, you giving some free advice that people can take or leave.
4. PPC for SaaS
Pay Per Click advertising is a good way to drive people towards Call To Actions like “Free Trial” or “Try it Today”. Often people are searching for things like “free software for….” this is a good opportunity to jump on these prospects to other them a free trial of your tool.
5. Content Marketing in SaaS Marketing
Content Marketing is the pillar of SEO and Inbound Marketing for B2B SaaS businesses. Specifically if you are making blog content, creating content that revolves around prospects and solutions can be particularly effective.
“How to manage inventory” throws up this search result below from the Shopify blog. Now Shopify sell e-commerce software, and part of that involves managing inventory.
Shopify understand that prospects may be searching for a solution to this problem but they are not aware that Shopify can solve this problem for them.
SaaS Marketing Strategies
If you are thinking of setting up, or in the process of setting up a SaaS business your marketing strategy kicks off before you finish making the product.
It’s important to understand that marketing and sales are not siloed departments – marketing, sales, product development are all the same thing in a SaaS business.
Pre-launch marketing tactics can be a great way of building your email list before you have even done anything yet.
The Slack Landing Page Example
Slack is now used by nearly every start-up I have ever encountered. Before it made it ‘big-time’ Slack applied a common start-up SaaS marketing tactic – the limited release sign-up page.
Why the limited release sign-up work
Psychology plays its part. Scarcity is a principle of persuasion. Humans naturally are drawn towards things that are ‘rare’ or ‘scarce’. A limited release plays on this principle and at the same time builds your email marketing list before you have even started doing anything.
You can combine this type of landing page with some Paid Advertising to really increase the volume of traffic quite quickly and start building up your email list.
Growth Hacking / Growth Marketing
Growth hacking is becoming more and more popular in SaaS B2B businesses. It’s now a legitimate job title – it kind of goes hand in hand with the Head of Growth job title – the difference is Head of Growth or Growth Marketing Manager sounds more professional than Growth Hacker.
What is Growth Hacking?
Growth Hacking just means getting the biggest impact for the smallest cost. It’s a move away from the typical marketing channels to try and find new and innovate ways to grow a business without spending a lot of money.
What is a Growth Hacker?
A ‘Growth Hacker’ is someone who sees themselves as an expert in generating growth in a business for a low cost – and quickly. Although everyone describes it differently depending on how philosophical they are feeling.
Examples of “Growth Hacking”
In SaaS marketing it’s important to understand that your biggest tool for growth is the product you’re making. You should try to make the product your developing as shareable as possible – it should advertise itself – a Marketing person in a SaaS business is a traditional mindset – you should try to grow your business by making your product grow by itself.
Google, pioneers of everything, and growth marketing.
A good example of Growth Hacking or growth marketing would be what Google did with Gmail when they started out in the 1990’s. They included a “sent with gmail” link at the bottom of every email (Apple have copied this most recently with the Sent from my iPhone text). They also used a referral scheme or a “invite a friend” program – seen in the screenshot below.
This type of tactic fuels possible exponential growth because it is not reliant on in-house marketing it relies on word of mouth and what later was coined ‘Viral’ marketing.
This is taking a classic recommendation from the ‘real’ world into the digital one. The key is making it easy, and making the thing you are recommending worth it.
Sent from my iPhone
Apple didn’t pioneer this little trick but they certainly have put it to good use. What seems as like a handy little tool for the user to let people know they are on the move is actually a marketing tactic that has been around for decades.
I call this creating brand residue. It’s what is left behind when you a user interacts with your product and leaves a trace of your brand somewhere else for someone else to find. (Think re-usable shopping bags).
Digital brand residue is the online version of putting a sticker on every lamp-post you walk past.
Creating brand residue in B2B SaaS products.
This is done quite a lot in SaaS products where the free version has the logo on it but the paid version doesn’t. A lot of people engage in these practices but don’t really know the point of them or they know they point (people don’t like the logo being there) – but its about creating brand residue too.
Another example of creating this sort of effect is through content marketing.
As well as being great for SEO, content marketing can be a good way to get your brand name spread across the internet. So if you are thinking about link building strategies for SEO, also think how these can be combined – it’s basically brand awareness. Have you added your logo?
Facebook Ads and Ad-recall lift
Brand awareness, brand residue, link building – all these elements are about spreading your brands name around.
Facebook actually has a cool measurement for this in the platform, it’s called Ad-recall lift. The estimated ad recall lift (people) metric shows how many people Facebook estimate would remember seeing your ad if asked within two days. You can find out more about it here
This concept is worth remembering when you are doing any Paid advertising like PPC – not everything you do has to be directly about Direct B2B Lead Generation, yes there are Lead Generation Forms on Facebook and LinkedIn and Google Ads can be configured to display ads to be optimised for Cost Per Click or Cost Per Acquisition, but being in front of people is just as important.
Dropbox referral marketing tactics
Dropbox is a huge success story in the growth hacking world. They have done a great job of incentivising sharing the software by providing perks like extra space for current users. This is the type of process that you should be building into your SaaS product to encourage growth.
Here are a few stats showing how successful Dropbox have been over the past decade.
- September 2008: 100K registered users
- December 2009: 4M registered users
- September 2017: 33.9M registered users, 10B evaluation + 1B revenue.
As most B2B SaaS marketers understand, referrals are often the best form of B2B Leads. Being referred to someone or something by a friend or a colleague is the strongest form of praise you can get as a product or service (this is the principle influencer marketing is born from).
Being able to build referrals into your product is a great way of ‘hacking’ your growth. It means your customers are doing the marketing for you.
Dropbox cleverly provided users with an extra 250mb if they invited a friend and they signed up. Since then they have launched lots of similar types of campaigns offering different incentives for spreading the word and getting more customers.
Building word of mouth on a digital platform
Growth hacking is essentially building word of mouth on a digital platform. Word of mouth is how most businesses grow organically. If you are interested in Growth Hacking tactics for B2B companies then you need to be thinking about it in the context of referrals and word of mouth.
At this point I would like to recommend two really useful books for any B2B Marketer looking into ways of scaling a SaaS technology business.
Growth Hacker Marketing
By Ryan Holiday
A short and concise book of examples and tips on growth hacking tactics. Some of which I have touched on in this article. A good quick engaging read for any SaaS marketer.
SaaS Marketing Strategies
There are always lots of different ways/strategies of approaching SaaS Marketing and technology marketing in general.
What I would say is first recognise the type of product you are working with. Is it truly a SaaS product or are you in-fact being told it is but in reality it requires installation and a sales introduction.
Questions you should be asking:
- Does it require someone to speak to sales person before they can use the product?
- Can you try it for free?
- Can it be used for personal use?
- Does it require customisation?
- Does it need someone to come and install it?
Whether you are a Growth Marketing Manager, Growth Hacker, Digital Marketing Manager or Marketing Manager. You need to recognise the type of product you are trying to grow.
From recognising the product you will then be able to focus on either more traditional B2B marketing strategies or get involved more in the product development and start to build growth into the product itself.
As a B2B marketer in a technology company, SaaS or not. You should be involved in the development and evolution of your companies product. You should be thinking of ways you can make the product more contagious and inspire word of mouth online.
More often that not, in B2B tech businesses the development team will make a product and then hand it over to marketing to “market”. This is an old fashioned and out-dated approach to B2B SaaS and businesses need to realise this.
The reality is in a lot of B2B tech businesses you need to both a generating leads through the typical marketing channels by engaging in content marketing and SEO as well as thinking of ways you can have an impact on the product to help spread word of mouth amongst your current customers.