Fueled by the technological advancements in the development of cloud-based applications and high internet penetration rates among the population, the software as a service (SaaS) industry is growing rapidly and is poised to see unprecedented growth over the next few years as well.
A recent research report on the SaaS market has predicted that the market size for SaaS businesses will grow by USD 60.36 billion in the 2019-23 period with a CAGR of 9.22 percent.
While the SaaS is surely going to be an area of rapid growth and expansion in the next few years, the rising competition will need the SaaS businesses to amp up their marketing efforts as they strive to make the most of the growing opportunities.
SaaS Marketing differs from traditional marketing
Marketing software as a service business model can be a tough nut to crack.
The sales cycle in the SaaS industry is typically short. The customers in need of a solution turn to the online resources available to them, take a demo or trial and finalize the purchase.
Unlike traditional product-based marketing, the element of tangibility when marketing a SaaS business is low. This coupled with the fact that software by nature is dynamic, the product keeps evolving in accordance with the market needs, and the sales cycle needs to be incredibly short makes SaaS marketing colossally challenging.
To add to the woes of SaaS marketers, since these businesses often target narrow verticals within the industry, finding its limited target audience and marketing to them becomes a tough job indeed.
While traditional marketing focuses primarily on customer acquisition and conversions, the SaaS marketing strategy needs to stress equally on customer retention. The SaaS business model relies heavily on ongoing subscriptions.
The SaaS sales cycle primarily comprises of three stages- acquisition, monetization, and retention. Profitwell analyzed the impact on the business’ bottom line by improving each stage by just 1 percent and discovered that focusing on retention and monetization has 2-4 times impact on growth when compared to focusing on acquisition.
Content marketing is the way forward in SaaS
If it wasn’t clear from the information above, let me speak it out loud. Cold calling prospects to tell them about your product or service is simply not going to cut it when marketing your SaaS business.
Leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for your prospect to follow via inbound marketing techniques and getting them to land on your SaaS website would not only generate qualified, warm leads, but it will also result in measurable RoI when analyzing your marketing returns.
While there are many best practices that the experts recommend, most of them involve you having to burn through your cash. Designing a content marketing strategy that gets the leads flowing into your sales pipeline is the strategy that promises the most value for money.
How do you formulate a strategy that gives you the most bang for your buck? Here’s what you need to do.
Formulating an effective SaaS marketing strategy
1. Focus on the right metrics right from the beginning
Your website getting high traffic isn’t really a sign of a rewarding strategy unless the visitors convert into leads by clicking on your website’s CTA. If your marketing strategy involves tracking the traffic that lands up on your blog and service pages, you are likely looking at the hyperinflated picture.
The actual success of the content marketing strategy needs to be quantifiable. Based upon the SaaS business model that you choose to follow, this can either be measured by looking directly at the conversion data obtained from the pricing page or by tracking the number of website visitors clicking on the CTA buttons and completing the email signup form, thus converting into qualified leads.
When the content marketing efforts can be translated into measurable RoI, only then you can expect returns in the form of conversions, qualified leads and generation of predictable revenue. Some important SaaS metrics that you should be looking at tracking to determine the success of your marketing strategy are conversion rate, customer acquisition cost, monthly or annual recurring revenue, and customer lifetime value.
While having a stellar SaaS offering that addresses and solves your customer’s pain points is important, having a website that facilitates customer conversions is equally crucial. Conduct A/B testing on your SaaS website to finalize a design that is the most conducive to conversions. Tracking the bounce rate on the different pages of your website can help you identify what’s wrong and taking the necessary corrective action.
2. Identify your target audience and understand their buyer journey
In B2B sales, identifying and targeting the right audience becomes of crucial importance. The content you create has to target the visitors searching for a solution to a problem that your SaaS offering solves.
Understanding the buyer journey is crucial for creating content that attracts the right prospects when they are in the awareness stage, nurtures them right through the consideration stage and eventually leads them to the landing pages on your SaaS website and getting them to convert.
3. Curate a targeted content strategy
When it comes to creating content, there isn’t a limit to the efforts you expend. You can keep churning one piece of content after another in the hope that it performs well in the search engine results, reaches your target audience and eventually gets them to convert. Or, you can take a more strategic approach instead. One that gives you the maximum rewards with the least amount of effort required.
A bottom-up content approach lets you strategically create content keeping the conversions in mind.
Step 1: Keyword Research
Primarily focus on the keywords that have conversion intent. These bottom of the funnel (BOFu), buy-intent keywords are the search queries that prospects searching for the SaaS product with features similar to yours would be searching across search engines for.
Step 2: Landing page optimization
Once you have identified the BOFu keywords, the next step is to optimize your landing pages via SEO to strategically rank for these keywords. If your SaaS website seems to be missing out on a landing page for a particular keyword, create one anew. Only when you optimize your website for relevant search queries can you work towards ranking on the search engine result pages.
Step 3: Content creation
Content has proven to be the most effective tool for attracting the prospects who are in the various stages of the buyer journey, bringing them right into the marketing funnel, and converting them into qualified leads for your SaaS business. Content pieces can also double up as templates through which you can easily build backlinks to the landing pages and get them to rank as well.
Focus on creating content that targets prospects who are in the consideration or decision phase of their buyer journey by creating content around the bottom and middle of the funnel keywords. Such an audience is better suited to converting rapidly as they are further along in their buyer journey and are nearing decision making.
Step 4: Building backlinks and content promotion
Link building is the definitive method to raise the authority of your website, drive relevant referral traffic and rise in the search engine results pages. Pitch to the high authority industry publications that target the same audience as yours and write content for them.
Once this piece of content gets ranking, it transfers the link equity to the blog page on your website which will in turn transfer it back to the landing page on your SaaS website getting both to rank while establishing thought leadership at the same time. Since the publication targets the same audience, people who are interested will organically get directed to your SaaS website as they click on the embedded links.
4. Don’t overlook retention
As I mentioned before, retention becomes highly important in the SaaS industry. When formulating the content strategy make sure to strategize for the existing customer base. The start of a long and rewarding customer relationship starts right from providing a memorable customer experience when onboarding and content can help you get it right.
From warm and welcoming onboarding emails to directing the first-time users towards a FAQs and how-to’s page about your SaaS product, every little step matters. The existing customers can also be the prime candidates for upselling and cross-selling whenever you introduce variations in the SaaS offering.
Following the traditional marketing practices when marketing your SaaS product isn’t a rewarding strategy. Without planning for the different stages of the SaaS sales cycle and strategizing for each aspect of the prospect’s journey succeeding in SaaS marketing is going to prove to be a tough task for SaaS marketers.
However, with adequate planning for acquisition, monetization and retention, content and SEO can prove to be the most vital tool in your marketing arsenal for nurturing the prospects, qualifying them into leads and eventually converting them into paying customers who are in for the long run.