How do you market a product you can’t see or touch? That’s the challenge for software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers. The marketers with the best solutions will have an edge in the struggle for a significant prize: a share of the $327.3 billion in revenue projected by the end of 2026.
Luckily, we aren’t the first to ask this question. Experts in B2B marketing are constantly tweaking existing principles and even inventing new strategies from the ground up. They understand that, for SaaS operations, customer retention is as important as landing new accounts. Here are some tips on B2B SaaS marketing from the professionals who have seen what works for both growth and retention — and what doesn’t.
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1. Don’t neglect existing customers in your marketing efforts
Most SaaS companies operate as subscription services. That makes customer retention much more important than in the typical B2B marketing space, where bringing in new prospects is key. Even without a subscription model, customer retention is a winning strategy — some research suggests that a 5-percent increase in customer retention can boost profits anywhere from 25 to 95 percent.
When apportioning your SaaS marketing budget, invest in retention as well as reaching first-time customers, says Dean Levitt, COO at SaaS provider Thymebase. Just remember that retention-based marketing campaigns can take a little longer to show an ROI, so don’t abandon them too quickly.
“It can take months to materialize margins on a SaaS campaign,” Levitt says. “An ideal retention rate for SaaS is 24 months, so a holistic marketing campaign should aim to both acquire and retain customers.”
2. Offer a free trial that demonstrates clear benefits
The simplest answer to our opening question — how do you market a nonphysical product? — is to let your prospects experience the benefits before they buy. Damien Martin, marketing executive at SaaS company Shufti Pro, says free trials are a central element of their success with new users. “We offer a 14-day free trial,” he says. “It has helped us bag many customers, as it gives them a firsthand experience of our products.”
While conversion rates for SaaS trials vary wildly, one experienced SaaS marketer says that “the best SaaS companies with opt-in free trials see a conversion rate of greater than 25 percent.” Conversion data is scarce for SaaS companies that don’t offer trials, but brand recognition would have to be pretty strong to get customers to sign up without a taste of the goods.
3. Remember that you’re marketing to a team, not an individual
As in other B2B marketing scenarios, SaaS sellers can’t make a pitch to a single buyer. Instead, companies make decisions as teams, says Hilary Bird, marketing manager at Render Pilots.
“You’re marketing, typically, to a buying panel made up of multiple different stakeholders that care about very different key performance indicators,” she says. “You have to speak to each of those stakeholders in a way that is valuable to them, which requires a lot of different marketing materials.”
In practice, that may mean producing multiple marketing materials for a single lead. “For example, let’s say a prospect needs sign-off from the CEO, sales VP, and marketing director before buying your SaaS solution,” Bird says. “Make their job easier by providing marketing materials that show how your solution solves the CEO’s pain points, the sales VP’s pain points, and the marketing director’s pain points.”
4. Focus on content
“Content marketing alone does wonders for SaaS,” Martin says. But if your goal is to build organic traffic with your content, you’ll need to devote the resources to thrive in a competitive space.
In 2019, marketer Emily Byford analyzed the results of 500 SaaS companies’ content marketing campaigns. She found that the top-performing 10 percent of blogs in the industry received more than 100,000 visits every month through organic search alone. The very top-performing blogs saw 5 million visits per month.
If you think of every website visitor as a potential lead — and build lead generation forms into your site — site traffic can generate tremendous value.
The bottom 10 percent of SaaS blogs didn’t even achieve 30 visits per month. The lesson? Don’t waste time on low-quality content.
5. Automate mundane tasks to free up more time for quality content
Without automated solutions, SaaS marketers can get buried in data entry. You’ve got email lists to update, leads to enter into CRM systems, surveys to collate, and more. When you automate these tasks, you’ll have more time to generate leads through great content.
One easy way to achieve this automation is to collect data through an online form. If you’re using Jotform, add an integration to automatically transfer form data to the platform of your choice. Jotform offers marketing integrations to seamlessly send form data exactly where it needs to go — without data entry. Use a tool like HubSpot for lead management to automatically send leads personalized emails and optimize your marketing efforts.
With these simple tasks out of the way, you’ll have more time to develop B2B SaaS marketing innovations.