We asked top industry experts what the best tried-and-true SaaS marketing tactics will work best in 2019 and gathered the results.
Answer three questions:
“What is great about SaaS marketing is the exact same thing that makes it hard: There is a huge variety of tactics! Paid ads, content, outbound, freemium, trade shows — there are so many ways to fuel growth in SaaS that many marketers just throw up their hands or try a bit of everything. This is understandable, but one of the most important SaaS marketing lessons I’ve learned is that it really pays to be more thoughtful about which channels to fuel. The way I think about it is that you first have to answer three questions:
• Are you building a better mousetrap or creating a new category?
• How complex are your deals?
• What channels are your competitors using?
Ultimately, the answers to these questions will help you zero in on the right channels to feed first. For example, inbound content might make more sense for a category creator, while ads and reviews may help more for a “better mousetrap.” Similarly, SaaS companies selling higher-priced, more complex deals may want to focus on Account-Based Marketing, while transactional models typically benefit more from a freemium option. And, of course, more than anything else: look for that whitespace. If your competitors are flooding the web with display ads, you’re likely to have more luck zagging where they zig by doubling down on outbound sales or events.”
And Mike is right, a full-funnel strategy is key! But what are some individual/actionable tactics you can try right now?
Retargeting can be done on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and a wide variety of other platforms. Driving people back to your site is easy, and relatively cheap!
“One of the most effective SaaS strategies that we used was retargeting. Needless to say, it’s hard to predict customer behavior. And even when you are offering a free product, which can either be an ebook, a checklist, free trial, etc., most of your website visitors don’t act as you would expect. Which leaves you with the only considerable option; retargeting. Tracking your website visitors and sharing your online ads on the web can drastically increase your conversions. I think that retargeting, which is also known as remarketing, gives you an opportunity to establish a more trustworthy, familiar and close relationship with your prospects.”
Oksana Chyketa, at Albacross.com a free B2B lead generation platform.
Jennifer “JJ” Johnson, the CMO of the newly public cybersecurity firm Tenable is a fan of category design. She explains what that means here:
“As someone who went from working her first job at McDonald’s to becoming a CMO before age 40, JJ has become one of the industry’s most prolific enterprise software marketers – in part due to her use of category design, which she sees as the missing link in the CMO’s arsenal. Category design is a strategy in which a company creates a new category within a competitive space to stand out from the pack. In a noisy landscape that only becomes more crowded with the addition of new technology, JJ encourages businesses to define and develop an entirely new category of business – and then dominate the niche, just as Tenable has become a leader in cybersecurity by defining the “cyber exposure” category.”
Webinars was one of the top most mentioned tools for SaaS marketers. And for good reason…
“I have found webinars to be proven strategy for promoting SaaS offerings, regardless of product or audience. The most effective events that I have conducted involved my SaaS company, along with a strategic partner. We would each market the webinar, which was NOT a sales pitch, but advice to address a problem likely experienced by the audience, to our respective audiences. The ideal partner would have a marketable list roughly the same size as ours. All registrants would be shared among both companies, allowing each to grow our internal list. We often had webinars between 100 and 800 registrants, with roughly 40% attending. Our sales team followed up with the registrants in with a goal of setting up a product demo.”
Greg from Brandywine Technologies.
Product led marketing:
Let your product do the marketing!
“While there are a lot of different channels to try out (organic, paid, etc), I have found that a product-led marketing strategy is one of the most effective ways to grow. Product-led means using your product as a part of your marketing strategy. This typically translates into offering parts of your product for free and sometimes even without having to sign up. Stripe (payment processing solution) is a good example here. They would let users play around with the product without having to provide a name or email address. This allows users to understand your product with minimum friction and eventually become your biggest advocates.”
Ruben from Practico Analytics
Long form content:
Content, content, content. Whether on-site or off-site, well written, engaging content was mentioned multiple times by our experts.
“Our number one marketing technique for software companies is to create long-form, SEO driven content. There’s a lot that goes into creating content that ranks, but once you can get a post to rank, you’ll bring in organic traffic month-to-month. However, 500-word posts simply don’t cut it anymore. Get your targeting right (by identifying easy to rank for keywords using a tool like Ahrefs) and produce the best content on a particular topic (many of the posts we produce are over 2,500 words to provide the most value possible).”
Cody Slingerland CEO of Jawfish Digital.
To get an example of the best SaaS marketing blogs ever written, take a look at this piece!
Case studies are a perfect way for you to showcase what you do, how you do it, and why your audience should care. Case studies are a great way to humanize your brand, and tell your story. Case studies can also be used further in email marketing campaigns, on your blog, as a sales collateral piece and so much more!
Take a look at our SEO for SaaS agency case study to see how we do it here!
It’s no secret that email marketing is a SaaS marketers dream. However, building lists should be too! This is why:
“The best SaaS marketing techniques I’ve used all revolve around list building. Hosting webinars and sharing high-value content (i.e. checklists and industry best practice infographics) in exchange for emails makes it easy to follow up and showcase your strengths as a company. Gating a demo that’s instantly accessed from a landing page is another a great strategy for capturing new leads to drive conversions over time.”
Owner of Mirelle Marketing Justine Beauregard
Creating meaningful conversations with customers through SaaS tools:
As technology advances allow marketers to do more, conversation and personalization become more and more important.
“Brands don’t get many opportunities to have a meaningful conversation with their audiences. When they do have an opportunity, they need to ensure the conversation doesn’t drop off. In essence, how you ask is everything. The key to success here is the ability to ask great questions in a way that encourages in-depth, thoughtful responses. For example, when putting together an online form, one tactic in helping make it more conversational — not interrogative — is to ask one clear question at a time as well as using more conversational language, similar to how you would initiate a conversation in real life. This is what our product, in essence, tries to drive”
David Okuniev, co-founder of Typeform, a creator of online forms and surveys.
At CanIRank, one of our favorite SaaS platforms we utilize is Intercom. Intercom helps us with everything from email campaigns, lead management, on-site chat, and so much more. Having a platform that allows you to integrate your campaigns and utilize the best of each products has proven to be extremely beneficial for us. We love Intercom.
Affiliate marketing/partner programs:
As one of the top mentioned strategies, affiliate marketing/partner programs are a huge win for SaaS agencies. Here’s what the experts say:
“The best SaaS marketing technique is our affiliate program. Our affiliated partners include WeWork, Payoneer, Bitbond, Foresting.io, etc. who have a big B2B user base and offer Transformify’s HR-software solutions on a commission basis.”
Lilia Stoyanov, CEO of Transformify.
The landing page giant, Unbounce recommended partner programs as well, stating:
“The highest value SaaS marketing technique we’ve incorporated into our strategy at Unbounce this year is the launch of a revenue share Partner Program. We live in a world where people want to recommend products they use and like, and consequently, more and more people are discovering products and services through the recommendations of the people they know and trust. Our partner program has given us a way to not only leverage positive recommendations but incentivize those who recommend Unbounce with the hopes that they’ll continue to. Partner programs also feed word-of-mouth marketing which remains the lowest cost and most effective way to generate brand awareness, new leads, and sales. But these programs don’t just bring new customers into your funnel, they help retain customers already in your funnel.
According to Forbes, a study conducted by Goethe University revealed that customers who were recommended to businesses were 18% more likely to remain a customer in comparison to customers who came from other channels. Simply put, people who have been referred by a peer typically stay loyal to a brand longer than those who came through other channels. Most notably, partner programs drive revenue — SaaS companies who utilize partner programs report an average 350% ROI and program revenue averaging 23% of overall revenue. Partner programs are an incredibly effective marketing technique and should be on the minds of SaaS marketers in as we head into 2019.”
Not one that I would have initially considered, but a fantastic contribution and idea for SaaS companies! Here’s why:
“My client World Wide Technology, a $10 billion technology solutions provider, can comment. One successful marketing strategy overall for them has been to sponsor a NASCAR driver this past year: Richard Petty Motorsports and WWT Announce New Partnership – WWT This has helped with overall name recognition as well as relationship-building with current and potential customers by bringing them to the races. WWT will have more news to share on this front next Tuesday.”
Interactive content is always fun, anything that breaks up the day-to-day of your regular marketing materials is an excellent way to engage, inspire, and interact with your users.
“At CrazyCall we made a great use out of quizzes. That is because people love interactive content which can give a personalized answer to the questions that they find interesting. Quizzes are quite easy to create and there is a high probability of your quiz going viral which is key in today’s growth hacking era. If the quiz is well-designed and the results are worth sharing, the success is just a matter of time and you’ll get a lot of traffic and top-quality leads.”
Armen Karaoghlanian, Creative Director at Phonexa explains why thinking in terms of local marketing works for his SaaS platform:
“As an emerging SaaS platform, it’s natural to want to pursue all corners of the Earth with marketing efforts, but we found significant success by taking advantage of local opportunities. When Glendale, California—our company’s HQ city—announced a week-long celebration of tech, we joined as sponsors and enthusiastically participated in multiple events. This effort improved our SEO rankings, got our company mentioned in the LA Times, and helped us connect with new recruits who are now employees. While we do business around the world, we learned that sometimes you can find a marketing boost in your own backyard.”
Because content is definitely still King.
“I work with a variety of B2B SaaS startups to develop and execute marketing strategies. One of the most underrated SaaS marketing techniques is content syndication. I work with my clients to understand their ideal customer profile and then do intense research to identify the publications and websites they’re consuming… From there, I establish relationships with the publishers and pitch pieces. I would say 9 times out of 10 the publication is excited to have us. It can be a time-intensive technique which is why it’s crucial to do the initial research into what publications your ideal customers are consuming.”
Kathryn from Summit Sync.
Not even the best personalization can take place of a genuine human-to-human connection. While we had multiple entrepreneurs who mentioned personalization, human-to-human contact was mentioned far less. Here’s why it’s not to be ignored:
“Prolific has traditionally found that human to human relationships can lead to significant new business and the ability to retain customers. What we’ve seen to be most effective over the past year is identifying places we can personally connect with people – dinners, meet-ups, conferences – to have real conversations. When we personalize our marketing efforts we don’t come across as salesy, because we genuinely are not, and it allows us to position ourselves as partners and not just another SaaS vendor.”
Analytics can be tricky and complex, but for SaaS businesses, they definitely cannot be ignored.
Here’s what Lauren had to say about why:
“We have seen tremendous growth in marketing and sales alignment since incorporating predictive analytics into our marketing strategy through an ABM orchestration platform, 6sense. By mapping symbiotic ABM process flows to predict engagement levels of specific account contacts and segmenting accordingly, we’re able to tailor marketing messages — in turn, warming up leads and prioritizing accounts for sales. Through this technique, we have doubled our average deal size and have seen a 68 percent increase in time-to-contact and 77 percent increase in win rates. Everything starts with these insights and leads to the right sales or marketing activities.”
Lauren Weatherly, VP of Marketing, Demand Generation at PGi
Forums were mentioned multiple times by our experts, and if you aren’t using forums for your Saas business, you should be! Here’s why:
“We answer ad optimization related questions on Google Product Forums, Quora, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. We have found that this enables positive interactivity with sub-communities, establishes us as authorities and drives many leads as a result. Whenever we have an article that is relevant to that question, we will post it.”
Kean Graham of Monetize More
Always be testing!
“The key to our marketing wins, and 10x growth so far this year at Shift can be tied back to diligent testing, both through our paid marketing channels and in-app. When we started building Shift, what we had was a big idea, but we needed to test the market fit. We took a very performance-driven approach to prove this out via paid marketing channels like Facebook and Google. Once we felt confident that we were building a sustainable business, we had more flexibility to hone in on exciting new features, upgrade plans, and a robust onboarding and referral program. It also gave us room to invest in expanding our marketing channels, and ultimately build on the momentum. One great example is our Apps Directory, which has been an exciting growth tool, and something that our customers can’t live without. Finally, along the way, we have always made it a priority to keep in close communication with our customers. The organic feedback that this group provides helps us keep a finger on the pulse, and clear direction on the value we’re building as we continue to grow at such a fast pace.”
Nadia Tatlow from Shift
Sagi Gidali, co-founder and CPO of Perimeter 81, a cybersecurity SaaS service specifically designed to better secure remote access for the modern and distributed workforce explains:
“One of the marketing techniques we’ve found success with is engaging in social causes that allow a wider audience to benefit from our technology. Together with Movements..org, a human rights crowdsourcing platform, we established the initiative #UnblocktheWeb to offer free VPN service to dissidents and activists living in closed societies, so they too can access information and express themselves freely and openly online. We have interviewed activists around the world and discovered some amazing stories of people who are deprived of such basic human right as a freedom of speech. This partnership and interviews we made brought us great coverage in the leading media outlets.
Small startups usually don’t have a large following on social media accounts, and mega-influencers generally charge more money than they can afford. So what do they do? In niche markets, startups might generate a lot of awareness by partnering with micro-influencers who may charge low fees or simply request a free product or trial. Working with influencers of any size following might not necessarily convert directly into sales, but it can work very well for building brand awareness and social media engagement.”