What is SaaS marketing and why is it special?
That’s the question you have to answer if you want to grow your SaaS company consistently. Before going any further, let’s give a precise definition
What Is SaaS Marketing: The Basic Definition And My Definition
The answer is “SaaS marketing” is marketing focused on promoting and selling software as a service.
My definition is a bit different:
SaaS marketing is your system for attracting relevant prospects to your software product and encouraging them to engage with your company.
There are a few critical components to this definition that we need to unpack.
- System. In SaaS marketing, you do not want to act randomly. All of your marketing techniques and processes ought to be organized systematically. That means you can measure your SaaS marketing and determine if you are making progress.
- Attracting relevant prospects. You want to draw in only the right type of prospect. This is critically important to keep in mind. If it might be easy to attract college students as leads, but they are highly unlikely to purchase $1,000 per month marketing software.
- Engage with your company. This part of the definition takes us beyond mere “awareness.” I consider brand awareness to be the icing on the marketing cake only. For your SaaS marketing to be worthwhile, prospects need to take any action that signals their interest. Depending on your sophistication, you might have a single goal (e.g., free trial signups) or multiple goals (e.g., email list signup, webinar sign up, etc.).
This definition might come across as a bit abstract. That’s why we are going to look at what makes SaaS marketing distinct from other kinds of marketing.
What is SaaS Marketing: Five Unique Factors You Need To Know About
To fully answer the question “what is SaaS marketing,” you need to understand a few SaaS specific marketing issues.
1) Software Is Intangible
Despite what some people might say about demos, software products are intangible. There’s nothing you can hold in your hands. It requires considerable marketing effort to help people see the value of an intangible purchase.
2) You Are Marketing A Recurring Purchase
Think about purchasing a movie versus signing up for a Netflix subscription. In the first case, it is a simple one-time purchase, and you know exactly what you’re going to get – the Dark Knight Trilogy! In the latter case, access to a streaming service is an ongoing purchase. You might spend hundreds of dollars more throughout your subscription.
Most SaaS products are sold with an automatic billing program. That means that you have to keep marketing even after the purchase makes a purchase.
3) There’s Always A Learning Curve For SaaS Users
Your SaaS product produces no value until your prospect puts it into use. That’s why companies like Salesforce and HubSpot offer certification training programs and specialized consultants. There are real challenges to learn how to use new software. This challenge is even more significant if you are seeking to invent a new category.
4) SaaS Purchases Require Technical Integration
Over the past decade, SaaS integrations have exploded in popularity. For example, you can integrate Pipedrive CRM with Google Email. As a Pipedrive user, this integration means that I don’t have to copy and paste tracking information for emails sent and received. Instead, those messages are tracked automatically.
However, some SaaS integrations are more complex and need more work effort. From a marketing perspective, the requirement to do technical integration between your product and the customer’s existing systems is an issue. If a customer believes that these integrations are challenging to implement, they may be reluctant to use your product even on a free trial basis.
5) SaaS Purchases Often Involve Multiple Stakeholders
Focusing on B2B software products, you need to market to multiple people to reach success. Your account executives and sales development representatives may be inclined to focus on one or two decision-makers. In terms of closing the deal, such a laser-targeted focus is reasonable. However, marketing needs to take a broader perspective.
In addition to the primary decision-maker who signs off on the SaaS purchase, other stakeholders matter. For example, you may have to engage end-users like business analysts. If those users complain about your product or fail to use it regularly, you stand a higher risk of churn. Fundamentally, signing up customers only to have them cancel quickly doesn’t make sense.
Therefore, your marketing needs to consider multiple stakeholders. By all means, focus your efforts on the main decision-maker such as executives. However, some of your content marketing resources should address questions and concerns raised by other stakeholders. Less senior staff may not be able to
Three Universal Marketing Factors You Cannot Ignore
In different ways, SaaS marketing is not unique. Successful SaaS marketing also needs to cover traditional marketing requirements. Here are a few key elements to keep in mind.
What Is Your SaaS Positioning?
More than anything else, positioning is a critical discipline process to separate your product from others in the marketplace. If your SaaS positioning is poorly developed, you are going to face more discount requests. If you are just getting started with positioning, I recommend reading “Positioning” By Al Ries and Jack Trout. For a focused application of positioning for the technology industry, read “The Positioning Manual For Technical Firms” by Philip Morgan.
What Is Your SaaS Pricing.
As a marketer, your SaaS pricing shapes much of your marketing strategy. Offering a lower-priced SaaS product that can be bought directly by credit card requires more of a direct response approach. In contrast, a proposal based SaaS marketing approach.
If you offer an enterprise SaaS product that is paid by invoice, then your approach to pricing will be entirely different. You may need to factor in professional services into your pricing. While complex pricing is sometimes necessary, consider pushing for simplicity. More and more SaaS products use simple pricing models such as $99 per user per month, for example.
What Marketing Channels Will You Use?
There are many different SaaS marketing channels available, many of which are in common with other types of marketing. For more insight into the available SaaS marketing channels, please read my article: SaaS Marketing Channels.
Three Simple Ways To Get More SaaS Leads And Customers
By this point, you have a clear answer to the question What is SaaS Marketing? Simply knowing the definition of just the start. You also need to look for ways to improve and improve your results. Here are a few ways to improve your results
1 Take inspiration from other content marketing examples in the industry
Content marketing is one of the best ways to get more leads in SaaS marketing. For guidance on how to get started, read my previous article on content marketing examples. Creating content might feel daunting if you have never done it before. The good news is that you can model what other successful companies are doing.
Even better, sign up for my email list to receive a weekly letter with marketing insights. You’ll be the first to hear about new articles, upcoming books and other insights I only share with email subscribers.
2 Get more user reviews
A decade ago, online reviews were mainly limited to consumer websites such as Amazon.com. That’s all changed with the rise of business software review websites like Capterra, G2 and Software Advice. These websites collectively have more than one million reviews from users. If your software product has no reviews, then you are going to lose the attention of prospects.
To get your first three user reviews, follow these steps. First, reach out to the sales team and ask them to make a list of their 10 most enthusiastic customers. Ask for an appointment to get on the phone with a few of these customers to hear their feedback about the product. If hear positive comments, ask to write a review. If you are particularly keen to get your first review, then consider holding their hand virtually through each step of the process.
It is well worth the effort of getting more reviews. First, it shows that people feel strongly enough about your product to leave a review. Further, reviews can help you to get more traffic because some business software review websites let you sort product listings by the number of reviews.
3 Recruit SaaS affiliates and partners
There is no need to rely exclusively on your sales and marketing employees to grow the top line. You can also achieve results by recruiting others to sell your product.
In terms of SaaS marketing, ClickFunnels and FreshBooks both offer competitive affiliate programs. For example, the Freshbooks affiliate program offers two different payments to affiliates. Each free trial sign up generates a $5 commission. In addition, the company offers a $55 payment for each free trial sign up that converts to a paid plan.
ClickFunnels, the marketing automation software company, has a more complex affiliate program. The company offers an increasing level of compensation and bonuses to affiliates. For instance, the company offers to pay for your “dream car” by offering bonus compensation. As a result, it is no surprise that ClickFunnels has recruited a large number of affiliates.
In reading the ClickFunnels affiliate agreement, you will see that the company currently offers four types of affiliate commissions:
- Badge Commission. 20% commission rate
- Front End Affiliate. 40% commission on front end offers.
- Open Affiliate. 30% commission on SaaS and 40% commission on front-end offers.
- Qualified Affiliated. 40% commission on SaaS plus 40% on front-end offers.
The company rewards affiliates with greater commissions after they generate a certain level of commissions. Unlike many other SaaS companies, ClickFunnels offers both software and front end offers. Front end offers typically include training products such as video recordings of seminars, audio books and printed books.
If you are just getting started with your affiliate program, I recommend modelling FreshBooks first. Their program has relatively few moving parts so it will be easier to operate. If you find good success with the affiliate marketing channel later, consider adopting ClickFunnels more complex model.