SaaS industry is overcrowded with brands competing for users and market share. Standing out from the crowd and reaching your ideal customers is harder than ever.
But even now, there’s a lot you can do to attract, convert, and keep paying users for your SaaS brand. And in today’s article, we’ll show you exactly how to accomplish all this through smart marketing.
We’ll examine 5 marketing musts for SaaS businesses — what they are, how they benefit your brand, and how to implement them. Read on!
1. Relevant, targeted, and valuable content
Yes, the internet is flooded with content. Yes, there’s more and more content being produced literally every second. Yes, you’re up against companies with huge budgets and dedicated content marketing teams.
Now, does this mean that content creation has become something you do simply to tick the box and move on? Or is it still one of those marketing musts that actually generate ROI?
Whichever you choose, you’re right! You can treat content as the cost of doing business and create it because you’re supposed to… OR you can treat this massive “content bubble” as an opportunity!
Because guess what: your ideal customers are just as tired as you are of reading generic articles, watching poorly-made videos, listening to samey-sounding podcasts, and downloading mediocre PDFs.
- Hyper-specific and valuable content that helps them solve their unique problems.
- Charismatic content that speaks their language, using words and ideas that resonate.
- Entertaining and engaging content that tells a good story and creates emotion.
- Unusual content that looks at old topics they’ve seen before — with a fresh perspective.
It’s up to you to learn what your target market wants to read, hear, or watch, and create content that will meet this need. You don’t need a seven-figure content budget or a 50-person production team for that!
Tip: explainer videos and case studies are two types of content that will benefit any SaaS business. Find a fun, engaging way to explain what your product does; then, prove that it works by telling someone else’s success story. It’s a one-two punch of awesome content that doesn’t depend on making something epic, like an ultimate guide — or innovative, like an interactive video. It’s just a simple and straightforward way to talk about your target market’s burning problem and introduce your unique solution. Try it!
2. A word-of-mouth or referral strategy
All fastest-growing SaaS companies have one thing in common: they have cracked the code to attracting users through word-of-mouth and referrals.
Take Slack, Dropbox, Intercom, Airbnb, Uber, Evernote, and countless other success stories — and you’ll find that all of them have leveraged referrals and word-of-mouth to grow. Now, how can you do the same?
- Have a product worth recommending. If your software is the same as every other competitor’s, if it works poorly, or if it doesn’t deliver substantial benefits to users, then why would anybody rave about it to people they know?
- Refine your unique value proposition. Your product needs a memorable “hook” or story behind it to stand out and attract attention. For example, Slack positions itself as an alternative to email — or, as they put it, “email killer.” You want to find your own unique story and use it to generate word-of-mouth.
- Build sharing into your software. There are a million ways you can encourage word-of-mouth. For example, if you know that other people will see what your users create with your product, you can use “Powered by [your brand name]” watermarks and tiny small calls to action like, “Want to make a [thing] like this? Get your free [your brand name account] here.”
- Create a referral program. Reward your existing users for spreading the word about your SaaS brand. Again, there are many ways to do this: like giving them free weeks/months for every referral generated, giving them cash credits or discounts — or even (like Dropbox, Loom, and other companies) unlocking new features.
Note: if you’re an enterprise-level B2B SaaS brand, then referral marketing probably won’t be very effective for you. That said, you can still benefit from word-of-mouth marketing, especially if you want to increase adoption of your product within a single huge organization. You can also use co-marketing and business partnerships to generate referrals, without trying to do it directly.
3. A clear and logical path to monetization
You can think of SaaS marketing — or any marketing, really — as a combo of three elements:
- User acquisition, or attracting leads and converting them into free users.
- Monetization, or turning those users into paying customers.
- And retention, or keeping your paying customers for as long as possible.
Where do most SaaS brands go wrong? They over-invest into acquisition and neglect the other two components.
And when they need to convert those free users into paying customers, SaaS companies either:
- Send incessant promotional emails with discount codes for 10, 20, or 40 percent off in the hopes that the time-sensitive bargain will convince people to upgrade, OR
- Notify users that their free trial is ending and try to hard-sell them into signing up for a paid plan.
Notice anything wrong with these two strategies? That’s right — none of them give users a clear and compelling reason to pay. Most people don’t care about savings and expiration deadlines (it’s not like they see those marketing messages literally hundreds of times every week! #sarcasm)…
…unless they already like the product and want to keep using it.
So: help those free users to fall in love with your product! You can:
- Create an onboarding experience that helps them get up and running fast — and create meaningful results, not simply learn how everything works.
- Whenever they use your software to hit a meaningful milestone like making a sale, increasing conversion rate, driving traffic, saving time or money etc., notify them about it and celebrate it. See this article for examples (you need section #4).
- Make it easy for new users to solve problems and customize your product for their needs. Create tutorials, maintain a top-notch knowledge base, make a terrific demo, and provide plenty of support (more on that later).
Do this — and when the time comes to ask for the sale, your users will have a great reason to buy. Because by then, they will want your product to stay in their life!
4. An ongoing retention effort
A solid retention strategy is another one of those underrated marketing musts that every SaaS brand needs, without exception.
There’s nothing worse than spending all this time and money to recruit a paying customer… only to have them cancel on you after the first month or two. Sure, rejection stings a little bit (cue a single perfectly-shaped tear). But beyond that, you miss out on months and years of recurring revenue. Now that really hurts!
Luckily, there are things you can do to improve customer retention and lifetime value — and by extension, your cash flow and profit margins. Here are just a few ideas you can implement immediately:
- Reach out to your users regularly. Ask them how things are going, and if there’s anything you can help with. It sounds too simple to be effective, but because most businesses only contact their customers to sell something or give generic notifications, your users will appreciate the personal touch.
- Conduct exit surveys and interviews with users who leave. Do not, we repeat, do not try to persuade them to stay — just learn as much as possible about why they decided to cancel. This will give you priceless insights that you can use to keep those customers who are still around!
- Help your users make the most of your software. Create free courses, put on free workshops and webinars that teach them how to get awesome results with your product. The bigger the impact it makes on their life or business, the more they will want to keep using it!
- Reward your most loyal users. For example, upgrade them to a higher-tier plan — free of charge, effective immediately. Get in touch with them, explain all the awesome features and benefits they will get, and enjoy their jaw-dropped amazement!
- Raise your prices. No, seriously! Higher prices increase the perceived value of your offer, and customers who sign up at higher price points will stick around for longer. It’s just science.
By the way, those monetization strategies we mentioned in #3 also apply to retention, so feel free to use them, too!
5. Killer customer support
There’s a reason we keep harping on about the importance of customer support. Quite simply, it’s one of the most effective tools for attracting, converting, and retaining SaaS users. So much so that many prominent SaaS marketers name it as one of the two mission-critical marketing musts, right after having a great product.
Having an awesome SaaS offer and stellar support to complement it goes a looong way towards growing your brand. But what does “stellar support” actually look like in tangible terms?
Here are some helpful rules of thumb you can follow:
- Responding to all questions within 24 hours. And when dealing with paying customers, try to shave it down to 2 hours or less. Note that this is just about response time — when it comes to solving the actual problem, it doesn’t have to be instantaneous.
- Following up after each resolved issue. Not to ask the customer to fill out a survey (that’s just a nuisance), but to say, “Hey, remember how you reached out a while ago? How are things going right now? Is there anything else we can help you with?”
- Giving your support team the agency and authority to solve customer’s problems by themselves — without asking for permission from higher up the food chain. And if they do need to ask, make it easy for them to reach a decision-maker and get a response.
- Training your team to upsell the user if an opportunity presents itself, in a low-key, non-pushy way. For example, when they are asking about a feature that’s unavailable with their current plan. Then it makes total sense to offer an upgrade. It adds value to the customer and makes them better off in the long run!
What are some other marketing musts for SaaS businesses?
If you want to learn more about marketing your software-as-a-service brand in 2019 and beyond, we invite you to check out other articles on The Draw Shop blog:
Why Your SAAS Brand Needs a Strong Marketing Strategy — learn the most important reasons to develop an effective marketing strategy for your SaaS brand, and how you can take your own strategy from good to great.
How to Increase Your SaaS Business’ Conversion Rate — discover how to overcome the most common conversion “sticking points” in your SaaS marketing funnel, whether you’re a B2C or a B2B software-as-a-service brand.