If you're marketing a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product to a B2B audience, there are some good news and bad news...
"Cloud computing" and "SaaS products" are becoming increasingly commonplace -- people are accustomed to how they work and understand the advantages of the subscription model.
However, running SaaS marketing campaigns also has its unique challenges. The low barrier of entry means competition is high while the subscription model means you need to engage your customers continuously in order to be profitable.
To design the most effective SaaS marketing strategies, you need to first understand how SaaS marketing differs from traditional B2B marketing and how you can overcome the challenges:
Why B2B SaaS Marketing Is Different
Marketing a SaaS product to a B2B audience has its unique challenges and here's why it's different :
It has a short sales cycle: unlike most B2B sales cycles, which can be as long as 12 months, purchasing decisions on SaaS products are often made within just a few days, if not a few hours. The quick-paced buying environment -- due to the low-priced, low-complexity, and self-service nature of most SaaS products -- could take some B2B buyers out of their comfort zone. It's therefore important for B2B SaaS marketers to build trust and reassurance by sharing as much relevant information as possible.
Customer relationships are long-term: thanks to the nature of the subscription model, a customer relationship only starts to get profitable after a few months of payment when the revenue from an account offsets the customer acquisition cost. As such, getting customers to sign up for a free trial or paid plan is just the first step. SaaS marketers are always "selling" to existing customers by driving usage and cultivating loyalty to reduce churn and maximize customer lifetime value.
Information is your asset: have you noticed that many leading blogs are published by SaaS companies? That's right, B2B customers seek information and one of the best ways to build trust and credibility is to establish yourself as an industry thought leader. When you share information, it'll lead the audience to the source -- your website and the SaaS products.
Top B2B SaaS Marketing Strategies
Effective SaaS marketing helps attract your target audience, generate leads, build trust, engage users, and retain customers. Here are some top SaaS marketing strategies:
57% of the buying process is done before B2B prospects engage with sales so you need to build trust with potential customers early in their research and buying process. Content marketing helps establish credibility and provide prospects with the information they need to trust your product, progress down the sales funnel, and make a purchasing decision.
Content (e.g., blog posts, infographics, videos) can be used in all the different stages of the customer lifecycle so you can deliver the most relevant information and offer to potential customers in the right place and at the right time to engage them from the awareness stage all the way to conversion and retention.
In addition, you can offer exclusive content to existing customers (e.g., webinars by industry experts, a resource library, product training) so you can continue building customer loyalty, improve retention rate, and increase customer lifetime value.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
89% of B2B buyers use the Internet for research so getting ranked high on relevant search results is one of the best ways to get in front of potential customers. While content marketing can definitely boost search engine results, there's more you can do to get found by potential customers when they research on the Internet.
Although keywords are still a key component of any SEO strategy, it's not the be-all-end-all as search engine algorithms evolve. In order to rank high in search results, your website needs to be perceived as relevant and high-quality by search engines.
On-page SEO involves creating content that people want to read, engage with, link to, and share -- which are all signals that search engines use to determine your content's relevance. In addition, optimize for other ranking factors, such as your website's load speed and mobile-friendliness.
Off-page SEO is closely related to your content distribution strategy and involves tactics such as link building and social media sharing. For example, you can get authority sites to feature your content (e.g., guest blogging,) work with industry influencers to promote your site, or ask employees and followers to share your links on social media.
This is one of the main lead generation tactics used by SaaS marketers. It encourages your target audience to experience the benefits of your product and engage with your brand since many of these tech-savvy customers prefer to test drive the products themselves rather than speaking to a sales rep.
In addition, when customers sign up for a free trial, you get the opportunity to send them through an onboarding sequence. It allows them to experience the product's capabilities over the course of a week or two so they don't get overwhelmed or confused.
Since a product trial is essentially a self-service process, the ROI can be rather high if it can effectively attract the right audience and convert them to paid plans. During this period, your sales team can identify highly qualified leads, so they can reach out and accelerate the sales cycle.
Referrals are one of the most effective types of leads since the cost is typically low while the conversion rate is generally high. Different types and levels of incentives work for different audiences, so you may need to test what appeals to your customers.
To encourage your customers to refer others to you, make it easy for them to do so. For example, use a software application to run a referral (or affiliate) program so customers can get referral links, graphics, and pre-written copy from an affiliate portal. At the very least, create a landing page and set up tracking codes for customers to send others to your website.
Don't forget that often times the easiest way to get referrals is to ask! Make it easy for sales, customer success, and tech support teams to ask for referrals by providing the appropriate materials, such as a template they can use in email communications or live chats.
B2B SaaS marketing is quite a different breed thanks to its fast pace and the need for ongoing engagement with prospects and customers.
Remember, getting potential customers to sign up for a free trial is just the first step. The challenge often lies in getting them to engage with your product, sign up for paid plans, and continue their subscriptions.
As such, your SaaS marketing strategy needs to engage your target audience throughout the entire customer lifecycle -- from the awareness stage and consideration stage to purchasing, retention, and advocacy -- so you can maximize customer lifetime value and profitability.
You can use your SaaS for the following marketing strategies:
- Content Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization
- Product Trials
- Referral Marketing