Marketing a SaaS business can be difficult. These startups often enter the market with a new type of software that is unfamiliar, a product that may not be totally refined, and a skeptical audience who is weary about signing up for another monthly expense. Successful SaaS businesses have figured out how to quickly establish themselves as an authority through effective digital marketing techniques including utilizing content marketing and the best SEO software for startups.
The world of SaaS is extremely competitive. For every “new and disruptive” product that is launched today, there are ten competitors waiting to launch tomorrow. Brands that are able to introduce their product and educate the audience first are the ones who rise to the top, while the rest slowly fizzle out. To help you win with marketing your SaaS solution, we consulted several digital marketing, content marketing, and SEO experts to come up with the 19 most valuable marketing tips for SaaS startups!
Tip #1 – Sell It Before Day Zero
You’re starting a SaaS product, you should be selling it before Day Zero. Before you build your product, you should be doing things like content marketing, SEO, creating a landing page like a squeeze page where people can sign up. All these things will help you collect email addresses of potential users. So then that way, when you’re ready to launch, you have a customer base.
Tip #2 - Attract Qualified Buyers
Too many SaaS marketers cast super wide nets hoping to catch any type of fish. Don’t make that mistake. Be narrow, be deliberate, and be smart. You don’t just want to increase search traffic, you want to attract qualified buyers. This is easiest to do when you’re hyper-specific about who you’re targeting, what problem you’re trying to help them solve, and why you’re uniquely positioned to solve it.
Tip #3 - Be Patient
What is one mistake SaaS startups always make when it comes to SEO? Biting off more than they can chew. SEO takes time, patience, and persistence. Many SaaS startups want to boil the ocean. Unfortunately, search optimization doesn’t work like that. Yes, you can handle technical site-issues and optimize your pages in a few weeks if you have a handful of people dedicated to getting it done (depending on the size of the website). But the long-term activities that build domain authority, increase brand awareness and earn traffic? Those are going to take longer to achieve. Slow down, build a smart and ‘doable’ plan of action.
Tip #4 - Blog Constantly
That dedication of blogging five times a week is incredible. I think the thing that holds back smaller sized companies from developing a content strategy early on is that it’s a big time investment for a long-term payoff. It’s a real competitive advantage because so few people do it. If more people were actively blogging every day and producing truly valuable content on a regular basis, it would be very hard to stand out from the crowd. In many industries it already is. If in your industry or with your audience, there isn’t already that handful of people who are providing great content on a regular basis, then that’s a real opportunity. Yes, it takes a lot of time, and it’s a lot of sweat equity without a lot of short-term return… that’s precisely why it’s a good investment.
Tip #5 - Research Your Competitors
One of the best tactics that seems to be under-utilized these days in SEO practice is competitor research. If you’re having trouble coming up with creative keywords, do some competitor research and look into their top ranking keywords to get your brain waves flowing. Allowing yourself to see which keywords are being searched for most often will give you a great idea of what terms to use in your content and sales pages. Plus, researching your competitors and studying their successful strategies is always a good idea.
Tip #6 - Create Awesome Content
I believe that the best SaaS SEO Strategy for a one-man marketing team is to build rich, educational content around the core aspects of their product, and perhaps most importantly, show how it delivers value to the prospective users. Don’t focus just on signups, instead, fill out the funnel by educating users why they should signup. This content, created with on-page SEO basics and some common sense outreach, will work to close the expectation gap with their users, giving them more signups by those who really want the product.
Tip #7 - Make Sure Your Site is Crawlable
The number one thing that people kind of make a mistake on with SEO is that they don’t make their website crawlable. You want to look at your site through a search engine’s eyes, or use a text browser… If you can get through your entire site using only a text browser, you’re going to be in good shape, because most people don’t even bother with crawlability.
Tip #8 - Illustrate Knowledge of Your Industry
With a new SaaS company sprouting up every other day, SaaS startups need to emphasize why they are an authority in their industry. A great way to showcase a brand’s value is to illustrate the brand’s knowledge in their field. Do that with blogging. Write out a content calendar that organizes topics to write on a weekly basis. You must organize your strategy ahead of time. There is a big difference between trying to blog a time or two a week, twiddling your thumbs trying to think of a topic versus doing research and hammering out a variety of scheduled topics ahead of time. Blogging improves your website’s relevancy for improved rankings and will educate your audience and help convert readers to customers.
Tip #9 - Network with Journalists
Let journalists in your industry know about your new SaaS product. If it offers unique value, people want to know about it! If you created a new SaaS product for realtors, for instance, reach out to realtor blogs, journalists covering SaaS, real estate writers—you get the idea. If someone decides to write about your product, you’ll get a valuable link in return.
Tip #10 - Focus on Awareness Level Content
The most critical activity that every SaaS should focus on is creating valuable content that answers their customer’s needs. Since you’re new to the game, focus on awareness level content to introduce people to your brand. Conduct keyword research to understand how people search for your services on the web. Don’t just use Google to find this information, use other search engines including Amazon, YouTube, and Pinterest.
Start by identifying the core themes of your website and build your site architecture around those. Implement SEO best practices such as keyword research into the beginning of your processes to help identify what pages and sections of your site you should develop.
Tip #11 - Find the RIGHT Keywords
The fact is, SEO is a marketing strategy that takes time. It’s not like Facebook ads where you put money in and get traffic right away. It takes time to gain authority, it takes time to gain trust in Google. That being said, you can get results very very quickly with SEO and the key to doing that is to find the right keywords. Because, if you’re targeting keywords that are super competitive, you’re talking about years and not months before you start getting traction.
Tip #12 - Choose the RIGHT Framework
Your framework choice directly impacts time to market, cost and quality. Choose wisely. For most startups I recommend Wordpress. Why? Because it is the chassis for 28.3% of websites on the planet and that translates into you having more choice when it comes to your website design, build, optimization, and support. It means you will see results faster, cheaper, and have more conversions than you would have had you used a different website creation tool.
Tip #13 - Create Content with a Purpose
It’s important to think about the purpose of your content. Specifically, SaaS startups should create content that helps buyers at each stage of the journey. Don’t just create content for content’s sake – research the intent behind the terms you’re optimizing for, and build a content calendar that does a good job of addressing each part of the funnel.
Tip #14 - Dedicate a LOT of Time to Content Production
Startups should dedicate a lot of time to content production. All too often I see startup SaaS sites that have a handful of pages that never really get to grips with the product – and that’s it. It’s such a missed opportunity. If you’re a new player in an established field, you need to earn trust, authority and show that your product is great. Having excellent content is a good way to achieve this.
Useful content should be produced that answers every question a potential or existing client could possibly have. Creating a knowledge base is a good example of this type of technique in action. To get ideas about what content to produce, monitor your support and sales staff’s email inbox. Look for questions that crop up frequently. These are prime candidates to add to the knowledge base, or to form into a guide or tutorial. Keep chipping away at it over time and the amount of good quality, targeted content on your website will continue to grow. This will also give plenty of opportunities for internal linking through to other key pages on your website, which is great for SEO.
Also, don’t neglect the power of writing content with titles based around ‘(your SaaS product) vs (competitor SaaS product)’ or ‘(competitor Saas product) alternative’. These are likely to help you scoop up some engaged, long tail traffic. Big software comparison sites are using this exact model to capture huge amounts of traffic, simply because SaaS companies aren’t producing the content and are leaving the door wide open.
Tip #15 - Create Assets Worth Linking To
The best approach is to make an asset that warrants linking to. This could be a free-to-use tool or a definitive guide on a subject that troubles the sector but is either not well solved through current guides or hasn’t been covered at all. For example, if your software is for HR professionals to track employees then create a guide or series of guides on the subjects that trouble HRs on a day-to-day basis. This can range from productivity methods to guidelines on how best to communicate with troublesome employees. Just make sure it’s the written by an expert on the subject who can truly address and provide solutions to the issues people are experiencing.
If you’re a one-person marketing team, front-load your marketing by creating this asset the month before, then spending the next three-to-six months marketing it. Done right you can spend your time marketing something rather than continually having to create new buzz every few months through new content that has no shelf life.
Tip #16 - Identify and Understand Your Audience
Building a crystal-clear picture of your typical customer is key to devising a strategy. Using Google Analytics is an easy way to identify how your audience is interacting with you and how to adjust your strategy.
Another great tool to lear about your customers is the Facebook Audience Manager. In the Audience Manager, you can get insights on people who have bought from you or converted in some other way (signing up for a webinar for example). The more you know about your audience, including your target customers and key influencers, the more impactful your SaaS marketing efforts will be.
Tip #17 - Start with On-Page SEO
It can be really difficult to know what to focus your time on as a one-person marketing team. However, in order to kickstart your SEO strategy in the best possible way, I definitely recommend starting with optimizing your On-Site SEO.
Ensuring your website is optimized for SEO could prove to be the most valuable and time-saving things you can do when starting up. If your website is optimized correctly from the beginning, then you’ll see yourself start ranking for the terms you’re targeting. This will also give you a solid foundation on which to build your wider SEO strategy, saving you precious time and money on future site developments that often crop up if this is done the other way around.
Another great tip to bear in mind is to reverse engineer your competitors SEO tactics. As a one-person team, your time will be extremely precious, so learning how to drink from someone else’s milkshake (Thanks, Vin Clancy for this wonderful metaphor!) before your own will pay off big time. Take advantage of tools that allow you to understand, replicate and improve on competitors keyword and link-building strategies, rather than starting your own from scratch.
Tip #18 - Diversify Your Marketing Tactics
Don’t go SEO crazy and start creating content only a search spider could stomach. Consider humans first and always err on the side of user experience. SEO is a slow burn, so don’t expect results overnight. In fact, the changes you make today could take months to pay dividends. SEO is a long term strategy but an important one. It should be part of a larger digital marketing strategy. Just remember that Google is always tweaking its algorithm, so your search traffic will go up and down as competition ebbs and flows in your niche. Don’t put all your eggs in the SEO basket… or any basket for that matter.
Tip #19 - Look for Peripheral Keywords
Many SaaS products are ‘first of a kind’ products, so people may not search for exactly what your product does. For instance, when marketing automation SaaS products first came out, very few people searched for ‘marketing automation’ as a keyword. So instead, smart SEOs focused on keywords based around email marketing. So, think about keywords that are at the periphery of what your product does, and which people still search for in volume. In time, your category might become better-known, and the keywords people use will change – for example, many people now search for ‘marketing automation’ as these systems are now widely adopted.
Tip #20 - Don’t Sacrifice SEO for UX
Sure, your website has a great UX, but when Google can’t understand your website then there isn’t much chance of them ranking you highly and sending you traffic. Do not overestimate Google’s ability to uncover all of your cut corners. You really need to be prepared to help Google help you. At the end of the day, if you’re still not using alt or title tags on images, have bad meta descriptions/titles or cryptic URLs like ‘www.website.com/pg=123‘ then you’re undercutting all of your hard graft elsewhere.
Bonus Tip from Sujan Patel
Build relationships with other SaaS companies in your space
Build solid relationships with non-competing companies in your space. Reach out with some flattery and offer a link to their site. This will open the door to other co-marketing opportunities, like guest posting, webinars, and even product partnerships. Marketing is all about relationships, both with your customers and with other marketers in your space.
You can implement something similar by strategizing and utilizing your content on multiple levels. Don’t just write an article targeting one head term and hit “publish.”
By following these expert startup marketing tips, you can ensure that your SaaS product won’t just be another “solution on the shelf”. Marketing a SaaS solution isn’t easy, but these marketing tips for startups will make your marketing journey more successful and effective. So what’s next? Start doing research to find the best keywords for your business, create awesome and optimized content around these keywords, and seek out online outlets where you can promote this content. All this SaaS marketing advice for startups won’t do anything unless you put it into action!
CanIRank makes it simple for SaaS businesses to find the keywords that they can rank for quickly, and shows them exactly what they need to do to start ranking and how to market your startup. Best of all, you can try CanIRank for free today!
For further reading, check out our list of the best SaaS marketing blogs here.