If you want to grow, get more customers, and increase your revenue, marketing is a “necessary evil.”
Not because the marketing world isn't awesome (it is), but because it's difficult to get results.
Knowing where to begin is tough.
More difficult still to quantify your results.
Growth hacking is a popular buzzword in the SaaS world, but it really comes down to scratching and clawing for little victories.
Effective marketing is more than just a few tricks and hacks: It's a systematic and scalable approach to engaging with your target audience.
It's about knowing who you're talking to, what they want, and how to get it.
The good news?
In today's guide, we're going to take a closer look at SaaS marketing and walk you through how to craft an effective campaign from scratch.
Is SaaS Marketing Any Different From Traditional Marketing?
Well, yes and no.
The principles of marketing — product, price, promotion, people, etc. — remain the same. But SaaS comes with a few particular challenges that require a unique approach.
For one, SaaS can be pretty complex.
You're dealing with lots of moving parts and a high-touch sales cycle.
For another, in SaaS, the lines between marketing/sales/support are blurred.
In a traditional company, you have the luxury of time to develop a marketing campaign for a new product. Then, after deployment, you can measure the effectiveness of your campaign fairly easily.
But in SaaS, there's no telling when a new feature will be ready for public use. You need to be able to market in real time.
To do this well, you need to know how your marketing efforts are impacting other departments.
In a sense, it's the end of a siloed approach to marketing, and the beginning of something bigger.
SaaS Marketing is about developing a holistic customer acquisition and retention strategy that enables you to grow your business with certainty.
How Can You Create a Successful SaaS Marketing Campaign Strategy for Your Business?
To be honest, that's a tough question.
The “right” strategy will depend on myriad factors, including your industry, budget, business size, and even the nature of your product.
That said, here are a few tips that have guided successful SaaS growth strategies.
1. Start With the Customer Experience
Your marketing strategy should always be grounded in the current experience of customers.
For example, are customers requesting certain features? Has there been a significant internal change that may be causing customer churn?
Start here to get a sense of what you can do to improve your product. From there, the next step is to map out a marketing strategy that can support your efforts.
Keep in mind; great product experiences are also critical for marketing.
As product-led companies like Zendesk, Slack, and Buffer have demonstrated, well-executed customer support can be an incredible asset to marketing your product.
Your marketing strategy should always be grounded in the current experience of customers.
2. Don't Sell, Tell Stories
The best marketing strategies do not sell the product.
Instead, they tell a story that naturally brings your product into the fold.
For example, take Nike.
Their marketing campaigns revolve around their “Just Do It” story, which reinforces key values of the brand.
By telling stories, you can develop more organic ways of exposing your product, while also creating a sense of culture around your brand.
Now, many companies make the mistake of telling product-centric stories.
That doesn't work.
Your customers should be the main protagonist in your story.
Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Feature customers in your own stories: Replace customer testimonials with “customer spotlights” that tell the story of their experience.
- Develop narratives around your product: Develop stories about how customers are using your product to solve their problems.
- Make it easy for customers to share their stories: Integrate social media into your product, and give customers the opportunity to share their thoughts with others.
- Use videos: Even if you can't afford a video production team, there are plenty of tools — like Vidyard and Wistia — to create high-quality videos without breaking the bank.
These examples are simple, but they underscore the way storytelling can help you gain better, more engaged customers.
Remember; the best marketing strategies never try to sell the product directly. Instead, they tell stories that help customers visualize a better future — one with your product in it.
3. Use the Right Mix of Channels
Marketing is becoming increasingly about selecting the right mix of channels.
You need to understand the different channels and how they fit into your broader strategy.
One of the most effective ways to manage your mix is to use a “matrix” that maps your channels against three factors.
- Traction: Does this channel help you grow your base of customers?
- Engagement: Will this channel help you retain and engage your customers?
- Meaning: Do you believe that this channel reflects the culture of your brand?
Once you understand how each channel measures up, you can start deploying your different tactics.
For example, one tactic may be to use social media to gain quick traction; another might be using email marketing to engage customers.
You can also use these as focal points for your campaigns, ensuring that you're receiving actionable insights from each tactic.
4. Don't Stop at Leads and Revenue
Marketing is more than just generating leads and increasing revenue.
From the very beginning, your marketing strategy should be tied to your company's mission, vision, and values.
This will help you maintain a connection with customers that goes beyond the product.
For example, you could create a “customer success” team to provide after-sales support.
This helps you deliver the best possible experience to every customer, even after they've purchased your product.
You can create a similar process for referrals and other touchpoints that don't revolve around the traditional sales funnel.
To do this, you need to create a more nuanced definition of “success.”
This might include expanding your product-market fit to include customers who don't even pay for your product.
It might also include increasing the number of channels you use, as well as internal processes, to better serve your customers.
After all, marketing isn't just about being successful in the short term — it's also about creating a successful business for the long term.
5. Use Analytics to Learn, Then Iterate
As you develop your marketing strategy, it's important that you're thoughtful about how you measure success.
Your tracking strategy should be multi-tiered, with the goal of learning how customers are interacting with your product at each stage.
For example, you might track how many people visit your website, but also what percentage of them reach the “Contact Us” page.
You can include information like how many people follow your social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and other channels.
You might also track things like conversion rates for each stage of the funnel.
You don't need to track every possible metric, but you do need to make sure that your strategy is providing insights on the metrics that matter most.
This is important for a few reasons.
Tracking success helps you understand how well your campaigns are performing, which can help you iterate on the ones that aren't as successful.
It also helps you understand how your marketing activities are impacting key metrics like customer acquisition and retention.
As you develop your strategy, keep in mind that learning is a never-ending process.
It's critical to regularly assess and revise your strategy — especially as new technologies and channels become popular.
What Are Some Common Pitfalls To Avoid When Implementing a SaaS Marketing Campaign?
Now that you know what makes a good campaign strategy, here are some common mistakes that you should avoid:
Not Being Flexible
Marketing strategies that aren't flexible will become obsolete as soon as the market changes.
Today's successful marketing campaigns are those that can quickly pivot as new technology and customer preferences emerge.
For example, marketers used to view mobile phones as a separate channel from the web.
Adobe's mobile Flash products, which provided an alternative to HTML5, may have initially seemed like a great idea.
Since mobile devices were slow to adopt HTML5, marketers may have thought that Flash would provide an edge over the competition.
But as smartphones grew in popularity, marketers realized that Flash was out of date and no longer necessary for mobile web development.
To be successful in SaaS marketing, you need to create a strategy that can adapt to future trends as they emerge.
As Charles Darwin said in The Origin of Species:
“It's not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”
Assuming That Bigger Is Better
Many marketing strategies try to get as much exposure as possible.
They may rely on splashy campaigns, such as huge television ads during the Super Bowl, that create tons of impressions.
Those huge ads aren't as cost-effective because they don't produce many conversions.
Instead, you should aim for a small but high-quality list of potential customers.
It's better to have a list of five million who know who you are than a list of 50 million who don't.”
Don't try to get every customer — just the ones that you know will become loyal.
Not Having a Process for Testing and Learning
You can't always predict which SaaS marketing activities will be the most successful for your business.
For example, your company could have a great webinar strategy but no social media presence.
While the former is meant to attract new customers, the latter is meant to retain existing ones.
To improve your chances of picking a good marketing strategy, you need a process for continuously testing and learning.
You should have a clear idea of what you want to learn before you even begin developing your strategy.
For example, you might want to figure out if your marketing is having any impact on customer acquisition and retention.
If so, how is it impacting each of these metrics?
If you aren't making any progress, you can tweak your campaign to be more effective.
The thing is, you won't be able to figure out the answers to these questions until you measure your metrics.
Many people fail to improve their marketing simply because they don't properly track their results.
By measuring, you can learn about what works and what doesn't work in your market.
Ignoring the Importance of Customer Success
One of the most important things about SaaS marketing today is understanding how your customers perceive you.
In the past, marketers have had a one-sided relationship with customers.
They would try to sell their product to them and forget about them once the transaction was over.
In a SaaS business, your customers expect a lot more from you.
They need support to help them use your software.
They need help with onboarding to get them using the product successfully.
They may have an endless list of questions about your service that are difficult to answer all at once.
To make sure your customers are happy, you need dedicated resources for customer success.
You can hire someone to provide support via phone, email, chat or social media.
Or you can create content that answers your customer's most common questions.
Don't expect your customers to use your product without any guidance.
You need to show them the ropes and help them if they get stuck.
If you have a lot of potential customers, hire a customer success manager to help people succeed with your product. This way, you can deal with the most difficult SaaS marketing problem: churn.
Marketing = Service
SaaS marketing is about more than just getting people to download your app or use your product. You need to provide support for new users and help them continue using your service over time.
You also need to constantly improve your strategy by experimenting with different marketing channels and keeping track of the results.
To make all of this work, you need to spend more money on customer success and less money on big ad campaigns.
There's a lot of work involved in creating a successful SaaS marketing strategy, but if you follow these steps, you can start off on the right foot.