Do you want to get a paying customer for your software as a service app with digital marketing every month? You need a B2B SaaS marketing plan to guide your efforts. This six-step plan will get you started on the path to acquiring your first (or next) paying customer.
Step 1: Start With Knowing Your Customer
Some SaaS companies make the mistake of turning to tactics like Social Media, content creation, or building a marketing funnel first. All of those ideas have their place. However, they are not your Starting place. Instead, start by defining your ideal customer profile.
Ideal Customer Definition:
1.1 What problems and needs do your customers have?
Example: A Marketing team may have a problem with high customer acquisition costs.
1.2 What are the common traits of your ideal customers?
Example: A Marketing team might posting questions in Reddit asking for advice on how to optimize content strategy or manage user-generated content. I’ve used Reddit to understand SaaS companies better and have created content to answer these questions: How do you actually get paying SaaS customers? (Reddit Question).
1.3 Where Do Your Potential Customers Gather Together?
In my case, my ideal customer profile includes marketers at software companies. To understand the needs and concerns of this group, I visit the following online gathering places:
- Review Sites. Capterra, G2, and Software Advice are some of my favorites.
- Content Publishers. I find resources such as the GetLatka.com, the Mixergy podcast, and events like TechTO to be beneficial.
Step 2: Choose Digital Marketing Media To Acquire Attention
Every B2B SaaS marketing plan should consider content marketing as a key strategy. With this strategy, your company becomes a thought leader to your customers. That means that your conversion rate will improve over time, and you will get more qualified leads.
To reach your lead generation goals, I recommend choosing one or two strategies to make the most of your marketing spend. If you have more than five marketing team members, then you can add more SaaS marketing channels.
Two recommended digital marketing options for SaaS companies:
1) Content Marketing Strategy: Content Creation And Email Marketing
Within this strategy, you will use several techniques, such as publishing answers to common pain points. You could also publish customer success stories like Braze.
2) Allocate Some Marketing Budget To Paid Promotion And Content
Whether you are paying for advertising or creating content or focused on link building and content syndication, you will need a budget in money or time. At the very least, you need an employee or contractor to spend their time on this strategy.
Attracting links is much easier when your website becomes known for exclusive content. For example, Gong has rich data on sales conversations, which they use to publish content like this: Data reveals the best time to talk price and budget.
Step 3: Give Your Leads One Task To Focus On (i.e., Free Trial, Demo or Email List)
Finding your sign-up form for a demo or free trial form should be simple. Without these calls to action featured front and center, you will lose many potential customers who can’t be bothered to contact you.
Use these tips to make your call to action more effective:
- Give a deadline to your free trials (e.g. “14 Day Free Trial” is better than “Free Trial” because the expiration encourages the user to take action)
- Use Social Proof (e.g., Join 2,000 people who are already using our app)
- Follow Up After The Sign Up With Email (i.e., send a welcome email that guides prospects through the next step to open their account and get something done)
For example, Moz offers a free 30 day trial for Moz Pro:
Step 4: Convert Potential Customer To A Paying Customer With A Sales Process
If you miss this step, your business model is broken. There needs to be a sequence of steps that guides free trial users or demo users to sign up for a paid account. Since free trials work differently than non-free trials, let’s consider each path to a paying customer differently.
Free Trial Approach (Or Low Price Trial)
In this approach, your prospective customer experiences your value proposition directly by using your product. You can convert them to a paid customer in a few ways. First, putting a 7-30 day expiration on the free account means they will have to pay. If conversions are low, experiment with a low pricing plan instead. For example, Ahrefs offers a $7 trial account instead of a free trial. If you find that users are requesting a free trial, but users are not taking action, then you need to give them an easy win.
Let’s say that a social media scheduling app like Buffer decided to use a free trial approach to convert users. You might invite a customer to schedule 5 updates, enough to cover a full work week. However, that could be a lot of work for the user! Instead, consider asking them to set up 1-2 days of social media posts in the service. That’s enough to see the product in action and start to experience customer satisfaction.
Sales Process: The High Touch Approach To Share Your Value Proposition
Rather than customers buying the product with a credit card, A sales-based SaaS process involves presentations and discussions. The customer may raise pain point after pain point (e.g., “our digital marketing programs are not aligned with our sales process, so we are losing leads every day”). As those concerns come up, your sales team needs to address them.
By the way, pricing matters here! If you are offering a SaaS product that is $100 or less per month, then you probably cannot afford to sales staff. However, that price might still be too low, especially if you are competing for sales talent in a high cost of living areas like New York or California. In those areas, you will probably need to sell a SaaS product for $1,000 or more per month to justify the expense of a sales team.
For lower priced SaaS products, especially if there is minimal configuration and customization involved, choose free trials or “freemium” accounts to acquire customers.
Step 5: Measure Your B2B SaaS Marketing Plan Results
Generating a lead today is a success! However, it is not enough. The marketing team needs to build an engine capable of producing new customers over and over again. Without this predictable source of leads, your customer acquisition cost metrics will never come down. Let’s briefly address all three components of this step
Measure Your Marketing Results
Marketing data enthusiasts have never had more data available to them than today. In a single platform like Google Analytics, you can find statistics on nearly anything. However, you need to consider the best way to measure your results carefully. That’s why I recommend modeling Ryan Robinson’s philosophy in the following post: How Close.io Wins In The Crowded CRM Industry With Content Marketing.
The single marketing metric you choose to focus on should meet a few criteria:
Relatively easy to measure.
Choose a marketing metric that will not take days or hours to measure. That’s one reason why I like metrics like the number of free trial sign-ups or email list sign-ups. These data points are easy to measure.
Focus on leading indicators.
According to “The 4 Disciplines of Execution,” there are two types of measurements in business: leading and lagging indicators. A classic lagging indicator would be revenue and other financial results. Lagging indicators tell you what happened in the past. However, you cannot drive safely by exclusively looking in the rear-view mirror.
In your B2B SaaS Marketing plan, choose to focus on leading indicators that have a high likelihood of predicting the future, such as free trial sign-ups or demo requests.
For more insight on implementing leading and lagging indicators for a sales team, I recommend Alex Berman’s YouTube video: “How to Close 5 Deals Per Week“
-In your circle of influence.
Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “Of things that exist, some are in our power, and some are not in our power. Those that are in our power are conception, choice, desire, aversion, and in a word, those things that are our own doing.”
He probably wasn’t thinking about marketing software products, but it still applies. You want to choose marketing measurements that you can directly influence! Otherwise, the entire marketing team is going to get tremendously frustrated.,
Produce A Marketing Report
On a set schedule, produce a marketing report to discuss your results with the rest of the management team. This could be a simple one-page dashboard or something more elaborate. In this meeting, focus on a handful of key marketing metrics and show how they have changed. It is also important to seek input from other groups, especially the sales team.
Step 6: Optimize Your B2B Marketing Plan To Increase Conversions
The final step of any SaaS marketing plan is optimization. Since customer preferences and competitors change over time, your SaaS marketing plan also needs to evolve. For example, you may have a high performing Facebook Ad running today that is bringing in leads at a fantastic cost per lead. However, that ad creative will eventually lose effectiveness as more and more people see it. Therefore, you always need to test new ideas and put them into the marketplace.
Every month, use the following reflection questions to determine what changes to make to your SaaS marketing plan.
1) What worked well this month?
Identify the marketing techniques worked to bring in traffic and leads. Consider how you can fine-tune this process to get even more results.
2) What didn’t work well?
If something didn’t work in your marketing plan in the past month, look for ways to improve it. For example, your cost per lead with Facebook ads may be dramatically increasing. There are different ways you can fix that problem, such as testing more ad creative.
3) What do you want to start doing or stop doing next month?
This question encourages you to take a proactive focus on acquiring more paying customers. Ask everyone on the marketing team to contribute suggestions. Then choose one or two ideas that you can implement next month.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Do This Next
Building a full B2B SaaS marketing plan takes time. If you have a small team or limited resources, then you will need to take your time. Step one – getting to know your target market – is always the best place to start. Once you are confident about what your customers want, you can move on to other areas.