With the entry barrier to starting a SaaS company at an all-time low, startups are finding it increasingly difficult to plan and implement a successful SaaS marketing strategy.
Being in a crowded space surrounded by a growing number of competitors makes it hard to compete – especially if that competition is between bootstrapped and funded businesses.
So, what does that mean for your startup when it comes to creating a successful SaaS marketing strategy? How can you stay in the race with the competitors and larger companies in your space? How do you ensure your marketing gets traction for your startup?
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the tactics that can help you grow sustainably – without blowing your budget.
The current state of SaaS marketing
It feels like everybody is starting a SaaS business these days. All you need is an idea and the ability to bring it to life. It’s a golden age of business where it seems easy to scale to $1M ARR (annual run rate) or get acquired by an industry giant.
While it’s simple enough to get started, creating a successful SaaS marketing strategy and growing a business in this highly competitive landscape is becoming more of a challenge, because:
The cost of paid advertising is skyrocketing
Consumer needs are changing rapidly
Customers are demanding more for less
People can shop around multiple competitors to get the best deal
Customers demand that service and support be available instantly and 24/7
Before you throw your hands up in despair, this explosion in SaaS startup numbers also has a huge upside for your business.
People are now very accustomed to the subscription-based business model, and are happy to pay for software that makes their lives easier or better. As consumers, we don’t really think twice about handing over our credit cards to sign up for services online anymore – as long as the company appears genuine, trustworthy, and provides a service we either need or want.
Building a trusted, engaging, and likable brand around your startup is one of the key tactics you can use to make your SaaS marketing strategy successful. This is becoming especially important in the B2B space.
While it’s true that creating an effective SaaS marketing strategy for your startup has become increasingly more difficult in recent years, due to increased competition, there are some common elements every successful SaaS marketing strategy prioritizes as areas of focus to achieve growth.
Priorities of a successful SaaS marketing strategy
You’ve built an awesome product and established your positioning. But how do you go about finding customers at a low enough cost to grow at a healthy rate?
Advertising is getting expensive. For many startups, paid advertising isn’t even viable as part of their marketing strategy.
Enterprise companies that pay for lead generation as part of their acquisition strategy are often spending $30,000 or more on Adwords, social media, and trade shows. That’s something a startup simply can’t compete with — especially when some of the paid channels give mediocre returns at best.
Secondly, if you rely on paid ads to do your lead generation and you offer a free trial (as most startups tend to do these days), you’ll be in a constant battle with free trial drop-offs. Your LTV to CAC ratio means your acquisition costs will be climbing with every tiny bit of extra marketing and human interaction that your team needs to try and onboard each new user. If your SaaS conversion rate after the trial ends is only a small percentage, then advertising just doesn’t make sense.
SaaS marketing doesn’t need to cost a fortune. It can be more beneficial in the long term to focus your marketing strategy on things that help you gain traction and grow sustainably.
These might include:
Increasing your brand awareness
Sharpening your website SEO to increase organic traffic
Focusing on content creation and distribution
Referral incentives for subscribers
Affiliate or partnership marketing with more established companies
If your SaaS marketing strategy doesn’t give you confidence in how your startup is expected to acquire new customers, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and make this a priority.
Whichever strategy you decide on to acquire new customers should be keenly monitored, measured, and optimized to make sure it’s delivering results for your startup as you move forward.
Acquiring one user for your startup can cost your company 500% more than keeping an existing customer. The opportunity around marketing efforts that focus on current customers is huge – and it’s something that startups tend to forget as they race to pursue more shiny new subscribers.
Companies in the United States alone lose around $136 billion a year due to avoidable consumer switching. This happens when companies don’t put enough priority into talking with their customers, making them feel valued, and sorting out any problems that might lead to them leaving in favor of the competition.
Placing an emphasis on marketing to your current customers can be extremely valuable. Even dormant customers in your system can be reactivated to help increase your revenue.
Retention should absolutely be a prioritized element of your SaaS marketing strategy, especially when you consider the fact it doesn’t even need to take anything out of your marketing budget. Time, creativity, and genuinely caring about your subscribers can make all the difference.
More B2B startups are beginning to think about their branding by taking a leaf from the B2C marketing playbook.
By treating your business as a brand, not just a product or service provider, it can open up a whole new world of marketing for your startup. This is something that may cost you to define and develop initially, but it can do a lot of heavy lifting for you over the long term when it comes to acquisition and referrals.
Creating a polished, memorable brand personality, a website that gives a great UI/UX experience, and consistent on-brand content can all help to increase awareness and visibility in your market. A strong brand helps people remember you and spread the word about your company.
An outstanding example of SaaS branding is time-tracking and productivity company Toggl. By crafting a unique, highly memorable website experience, they were able to grow past 1 million users by relying mainly on word of mouth for acquisition.
Features are no longer enough as part of a startup SaaS marketing plan. Your company personality, copywriting, design, and content all need to be cohesive and benefit-driven so they attract and engage your ideal audience and motivate them to interact with you.
A brand is something that you own. It’s something you can grow with and expand on. It’s one of the best marketing strategies you can have as a startup, and your best defense against the competition.
If you’re struggling to create content, it’s helpful to listen to your customers. Survey them, interview them, and look at what they’re saying online. What are their needs and pain points? What are they struggling with?
Creating content based around these struggles can help your startup create relevant and useful content resources that generate organic traffic and sign-ups. Partnering with established companies, guest posting, and encouraging content sharing can all help drive more potential business to your door.
As time-consuming and tedious as it might feel, content is an essential part of marketing your startup. Writing builds your authority and expands your awareness in the online space. Without it, you may as well be invisible.
Mailshake spent 6 months writing one piece of content that is now driving six figures in sales for their company. It’s also worth noting that they spent $0 on advertising in their first three years as a startup, because they had no budget!
5. Customer experience
Nobody sells your business like a happy customer. A great customer experience is everything. Word of mouth means more referrals and increased traffic. This is essentially free marketing for your startup. Looking at how you can create delight and excitement for your SaaS customers should be an important factor in your marketing.
As well as listening to the common issues that come up in your own startup support logs, do some light stalking of your competition by reading their reviews on forums or social media. What are their customers saying? Do they have bad support? A poor sales team? A website with terrible navigation and confusing messaging?
You can take your competitors’ weaknesses and make them your strengths. By listening to common customer problems, you can optimize the experience for your users to give them the best possible journey with your startup. From first contact, to onboarding, to retention – your customers should be excited about working with you.
6. Get your team involved
Everyone in your team can help with your marketing strategy. Sales, product development, support – all your internal people should be in touch with the end users of your product to help create better experiences, identify and fix problems, and generate fresh ideas.
Marketers can often be the furthest away from customers, so active brainstorming around strategy from your entire team can be incredibly helpful to shed light on new tactics that could be implemented to get you better results.
Key takeaways to create a strong SaaS marketing strategy
Creating a successful SaaS marketing strategy can seem overwhelming in the current online landscape. Crowded, competitive, and fast-paced, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
With advertising fees on the best channels becoming too expensive for many startups, it’s time to start getting creative and using the uniqueness of your startup to grow your business. A focus on branding, content, and customer experience should all play a core part in your marketing plan.
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