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How do you market a product that has no physical presence? Or something that is constantly changing? These are the challenges SaaS marketers face on a daily basis. But, if you are able to perfect your SaaS marketing strategy, you will reap in the rewards.
In this article, with the help of leading experts in the SaaS industry, we take a closer look at what SaaS marketing is, how is it different, and what are the best strategies.
SaaS marketing refers to a process of promoting a SaaS product, a web-based software platform or other cloud offering that customers can use via a subscription or licensing basis. With a SaaS product, the vendor looks after maintenance, upgrades, and security. It is the “exact opposite” of marketing on-premise software where the customers buy the product once, and the onus is on them to maintain it.
Compared to other forms of marketing, as according to John Raguin, CMO at Seismic, SaaS marketers need to focus their messaging on the “value” their product provides. “SaaS marketers need to be focused on how [their product will] solve actual problems,” Raguin said. “While SaaS marketers should be well-versed in their unique value proposition, they need to stop talking about fancy new capabilities.”
Another differentiating factor in SaaS marketing is that the sales cycles are much shorter since there’s no physical technology to evaluate and prospective customers can see what they’ll be getting by accessing the dashboard. “Selling SaaS necessitates a shorter sales cycle to make it profitable,” said Tirena Dingeldein, content marketing director for Capterra. “Customers aren’t paying a large lump sum to obtain a product, they are paying on a subscription basis. The average B2B sales cycle for software is between six to twelve months depending on the software type, but that’s not possible in the SaaS industry.”
Dingeldein also added that the primary aim of SaaS marketing is to maintain customer retention. Sharing research conducted by Gartner, Dingeldein highlighted that 80 percent of future revenue will come from 20 percent of your current customers. “[With SaaS marketing], you’re not selling a one-time on-premises product, you’re marketing your services. That means you’re not only marketing a product, but also a relationship.”
Andy Zimmerman, CMO at Evergage, said SaaS marketing plans must have the following criteria:
With over 5000 SaaS solutions (aka martech), as according to the 2018 Martech Landscape report, it is essential that SaaS brands raise their awareness by sharing their USP through a variety of different channels. “There are tens of thousands of SaaS companies, with dozens in every niche, so competition is a given. With so many options, it can be confusing for buyers, so it’s critical for marketers to build brand awareness and help their company stand out from the noise,” Zimmerman said. “While there’s no silver bullet, areas such as public relations, analyst relations, speaking, awards and content programs are all key ingredients in establishing and promoting a brand identity.”
As mentioned, customer retention is the key objective of SaaS marketing. “Given the fast pace of SaaS innovation, development and deployments, it’s important to have a repeatable and dependable lead generation function,” Zimmerman explained.
The requirements of a well-rounded lead generation campaign, according to Zimmerman, include circulating and possessing high-quality content, the “right people,” a “solid” martech stack, and having the right processes in place.
Developing strong customer relations, and building on it is “paramount” for customer success. Zimmerman said that teams must prioritize on making sure their customers are satisfied. “For SaaS companies, customer success is paramount,” Zimmerman said. “Everyone shares responsibility for keeping customers happy. On the marketing side, content and programs [should] inspire customers [and] give them ideas [to] drive their success.”
“Content marketing is both key for building brand awareness and fueling demand generation. To stand out and to [persuade] buyers, SaaS companies need to be viewed as credible experts and thought-leaders. High-quality, relevant content is the way to do that,” Zimmerman explained.
Zimmerman said marketers can “harness” their data to identify specific demographics and segments, based on customer’s behaviors, interests and characteristics, and then deliver personalized content.
But to deliver personalized content successfully, timing is everything. “Hyper-personalization is what will win the day, but timing is still everything. Sales reps need to be able to pivot instantly in a sales pitch to provide prospects with the right content at the right time to close deals quickly,” Raguin said.
Brad Plothow, VP of brand and communications at Womply, said, “Content marketing is an integral component of our marketing strategy, and we deploy it through multiple channels, including email, our blog, social media, external PR, partners and more. Content marketing gives us the ability to create organic demand and highlight our product offering.”
Digital marketing thought leader Neil Patel shared on his blog that giving away a SaaS product for free, under a trial period, or with certain restrictions, can be beneficial. We asked Zimmerman for his thoughts on this area. “When deciding whether to offer free trial options, you need to consider your product, its complexity, usability, price point, modularity [and more],” Zimmerman said. “I’ve had experiences with freemium models and free trial offers, as well as with companies that don’t provide free experiences. The model used, and its success, depend on [different] factors.”
Plothow also agreed, “SaaS marketers have experimented with a range of models to encourage initial adoption, including free trials and so-called ‘freemium’ packages where a basic version is free, but higher functionality is reserved for subscribers. Most SaaS companies have some kind of free trial built into their models, but there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.