Step-by-Step SaaS Marketing Guide for SaaS Startups
In the ever-evolving SaaS landscape, a powerhouse marketing strategy isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity for success. Amidst new players and shifting market dynamics, a finely tuned approach sets your SaaS product apart, builds trust, and highlights its innovation, ensuring a continuous influx of new customers. Whether charting global expansion, attracting crucial funding, or riding the wave of tech innovations, a top-notch marketing strategy is your compass, steering your company toward enduring growth, customer satisfaction, and a leading position in the market.
This guide explores SaaS marketing strategies to maximize your results effectively.
What Is SaaS Marketing
Let’s start with the basics: Software as a Service (SaaS) marketing is a specialized form of marketing tailored to promote and sell subscription-based software solutions.
Why Is SaaS Marketing Different?
SaaS marketing differs from traditional product-centric marketing approaches. Instead of one-time transactions, SaaS marketing prioritizes cultivating enduring relationships with subscribers of software services. It’s a customer-focused, data-driven, and dynamic approach tailored for subscription-based software businesses. This evolving field intertwines digital marketing techniques with customer-centric strategies, analytics-driven decision-making, and a commitment to long-term customer relationships.
The marketing strategies for SaaS startups are all about understanding the target audience, delivering ongoing value, and continuously optimizing strategies for sustainable growth.
Product-Market Fit & B2B SaaS Marketing
Before diving into marketing tactics, SaaS startups must nail down their product-market fit. This involves identifying the specific audience that will benefit most from your software and ensuring that your product aligns with their needs. SaaS businesses should direct their marketing efforts toward this well-defined target audience.
15 Best SaaS Marketing Strategies for Startups
Once you´ve identified your product-market fit and your audience, it’s time to move on to marketing. Here’s a list of 15 working SaaS marketing strategies:
- Google Ads
- Social Media Marketing
- Content Marketing
- SaaS Remarketing
- Campaign & Channel Expansion
- Email Marketing
- Referral Marketing
- Review Sites & Testimonials
- Demo Videos
- Free Trials or Freemium
- Conversion Rate Optimization & UX Design
- Simple Sign-Up Flow
- Pricing Strategy
- Account-Based Marketing
Google Ads for SaaS
Your SaaS solution can gain rapid visibility through the strategic use of Google Ads, often considered the lowest-hanging fruit for SaaS scaling strategies. Google Ads is the most efficient means to capture the attention of users already on the hunt for a solution like yours. You place your brand in front of potential customers who are actively searching for your SaaS product and are more likely to engage.
Utilizing Google’s machine learning algorithms to create targeted ad campaigns tailored to specific audiences is vital to maximizing ROI.
Sending first-party data back to Google (and enriching the algorithms with a wealth of information) ensures optimal utilization of your budget. As users encounter your solution during their search, the likelihood of conversions grows. This strategic integration enhances brand exposure and facilitates a more efficient and cost-effective advertising approach.
If you’re unsure how to divide your ad budget between Google Ads and Facebook Ads, simply split it. Once your campaigns are running on both platforms, you’ll start getting data on their performance and adjust as needed.
Once you start monitoring how the campaigns perform, you may have to experiment with the free trial’s length and learn how to acquire the most subscriptions at the lowest customer acquisition costs (CAC). After you establish true and stable unit economics, you can scale your campaigns and expand aggressively.
SaaS Social Media Marketing
Integrating social media marketing into your PPC SaaS strategy is a powerful move to enhance brand visibility and engagement. By synchronizing your paid search efforts with a social media presence, you create a cohesive digital marketing ecosystem that reaches your target audience at various touchpoints.
Start by leveraging the targeting capabilities of social media platforms to align your ads with specific demographics, interests, and behaviors. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn offer granular targeting options, allowing you to refine your audience and tailor your message accordingly. Craft compelling ad creatives that align with the tone and style of each platform, ensuring your message resonates authentically.
Engagement is key in social media, so encourage users to interact with your content through likes, shares, and comments. Foster a sense of community by responding promptly to comments and inquiries. Social media is also an ideal space for showcasing the human side of your SaaS company—share behind-the-scenes glimpses, highlight team members, and celebrate milestones and product updates.
Additionally, consider running targeted social media campaigns to complement specific PPC initiatives. Whether it’s promoting a limited-time offer, a webinar, or a product launch, integrating social media into your PPC strategy creates a holistic digital marketing approach that maximizes your reach and impact.
Remember that paid channels alone cannot guarantee brand visibility, and as new competitors enter the market, they would be driving up the CPCs in Google Ads auctions and eroding your margins. The way to ensure sustainable growth is to start investing in SEO.
SEO for SaaS Startups
While PPC proves its effectiveness, the escalating costs in the face of growing competition make SEO an essential investment for a comprehensive approach to your SaaS marketing efforts. The early integration of SEO acts as a cost-effective counterbalance and lays the foundation for a sustainable and well-rounded marketing strategy.
As a SaaS startup, you should invest in SEO early on. This would ensure your website content is ranking organically on search engines and expand your audiences. The key elements in SEO for SaaS companies include fast websites, flawless technical performance, strategic keyword targeting, and strong E‑E-A-T signals.
You need to make sure your site provides a smooth and intuitive user experience with easy navigation and maximum speed and performance. Find keywords that speak to your audience, create content for all stages of the user journey, and always keep an eye out for your competitors.
Investing resources in SEO and Content is very cost-effective for SaaS startups. With relatively small websites and SEO-friendly platforms, you never have to face the challenges huge e-commerce sites have. Plus, your strong teams of in-house developers can quickly implement all necessary technical SEO changes. Make sure to keep your site up-to-date, have an attractive storefront, and provide a clear and clean view to your customers to simplify their journey and target them with the right content.
Retargeting helps you target customers who have already been to your site and showed interest but have not completed a purchase. Once you’ve created big enough audiences for your campaigns, you can remarket to different segments, depending on the buyer’s journey.
You can retarget people who are still in exploration mode with more informative and branded content. You can also focus on audiences comparing their options by showing them ads and landing pages to make your SaaS solution stand out. You could bring back people who are ready to convert to offer pages.
Retargeting is a guaranteed success as it helps you market your products to customers who are already familiar with your brand and are still in the decision-making process. Your retargeting ads can be just the nudge they need to convert.
Optimize and Expand Your Ad Campaigns and Channels
The bulk of your SaaS marketing efforts should stay focused on constantly optimizing your campaigns – segmenting and testing new audiences, expanding new keyword strategies, and developing and optimizing landing pages to get higher conversion rates.
If you suspect you’re beginning to saturate your local market, you can test international expansion, too. Start by identifying the search demand in the local language with some keyword research and test the waters with Google Search Ads.
If you’re investing heavily in paid marketing, make sure you can always see the full Return on Ad Spend picture. In case your conversions happen off-site, in a payment processing system, for example, see how you can track these post-free-trial conversions back in Google Analytics. This technique would allow you to train the algorithms to optimize PPC campaigns for users who not only sign up for free trials but also stay on the platform and convert to paying customers.
Content Marketing for SaaS
Content marketing is the best tool to help your audience discover you and grow demand for your SaaS product. Consider how people are searching for your solution and what problems it is solving, and create content to address this information need.
Ahrefs on combining product-led and SEO content
You can apply the buyer awareness matrix when you start planning your content strategy. In a nutshell, it’s a way of segmenting your audiences into 4 categories: unaware of the problem, problem-aware, solution-aware, and product-aware.
Your bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) content would target product-aware audiences with offers and landing pages, while the other 3 groups would need nurturing and informational content.
For example, head-to-head comparison landing pages could help solution-aware prospects who are exploring their options. You could lean on video content to better show potential solution-aware customers how to use your tool, describe features and benefits. Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content would address problem-unaware and solution-unaware audiences.
Many SaaS startups struggle when planning their content marketing strategies when the focus keywords that describe their solution have very low volumes or they are a new category creator. In such cases, you could consider keywords with adjacent intent.
Adjacent searcher intent means that people aren’t searching precisely for your solution but for something similar or complementary to what you offer. That is enough to qualify them as your addressable audience and to create content for their information needs to help them discover you.
SaaS Email Marketing
Email marketing has outshined social media ads, paid searches, and affiliate marketing. By devising the perfect email marketing journey and following through, you can easily increase your reach, improve customer engagement, and enhance personalized marketing. Email marketing enables you to reach out to potential customers or retain loyal customers by sending them quality content assets, as well as additional offers.
With email marketing, you can also utilize the data and analysis provided by analytical tools and segmentation. You can send targeted emails to customers based on their past purchases, interests, abandoned carts, lifetime value, and much more. Email marketing is also an easy and cost-effective solution and, thus, perfect for SaaS startups.
SaaS Referral Marketing
Referral marketing, also known as Word-of-Mouth marketing, enables business owners to use loyal customers to promote their products rather than traditional marketing channels. Referral marketing is effective as people are more likely to trust their friends than the testimonials on your website.
You can ask your loyal customers to join your referral program and enjoy benefits like discounts, coupons, free subscriptions, etc. You can also offer a discount to people who visited through a reference.
SaaS Review Sites & Customer Testimonials
When potential customers are considering your product, they want to hear from real users like them. That’s where SaaS review sites and testimonials come into play as your not-so-secret, secret weapons.
Review sites for SaaS products are goldmines of information. Platforms like G2, Capterra, TrustRadius, etc., allow users to share their honest thoughts, both the good and the not-so-good, about your software.
Don’t be shy about asking your happy customers for testimonials. Most are more than willing to share their positive experiences. An effective testimonial video that converts well places the spotlight on the customer’s pain points and challenges.
You can also make it easy for your loyal customers by providing a template or asking specific questions to guide their feedback. To maximize the value of your users’ feedback, steer clear of simple yes-or-no questions.
Testimonials are like little love letters from your customers. You can feature them on your website, in your marketing materials, and even on social media.
While it’s tempting to showcase only the glowing testimonials, remember that authenticity matters. A mix of positive and constructive feedback demonstrates that you’re interested in improving your product and providing the best experience.
Sales-Led Growth: SaaS Demo Video
In B2B SaaS, there are two growth motions: product-led growth (PLG) and sales-led growth. A PLG strategy involves offering a free trial or freemium model, allowing users to sign up and start using the product.
On the other hand, the sales-led approach includes engaging with the sales team or requesting a demo for a more personalized experience.
Companies like Navattic adopt the demo-driven strategy, but with a twist: they call it an “interactive demo.” It allows users to dive right into the product to get a taste of it before engaging in a sales conversation.
Our podcast episode on Paris Talks Marketing, featuring Natalie Marcotullio from Navattic, dives deeper into the topic of utilizing interactive demos.
PLG: Why Offer a SaaS Free Trial or Freemium
Many SaaS businesses offer free trials or freemium models to allow users to experience their software before committing to a subscription.
Imagine asking someone to buy a car without letting them take it for a test drive. Sounds absurd, right? Just like a test drive helps a person get familiar with a car’s features, a free trial or freemium tier allows users to explore your software. They can understand how it works, its interface, and whether it meets their needs.
Free Trial vs. Freemium Model
A free trial is a time-limited offer for a specific SaaS product. SaaS businesses often use free trials for products with steeper learning curves or more advanced features. They grant temporary full-feature access with the intention of converting users to paid subscribers.
In a freemium model, a permanently free version of the software is available. This free version typically offers limited features or capabilities, often with the option to upgrade to a paid plan for more functionality (or as the user’s needs grow).
Walking the freemium tightrope involves a delicate dance. You want to introduce the core value of your product in the freemium offering to excite users. Simultaneously, you should not give away so much value that monetization becomes challenging.
Time to value (TTV) is the measure of how quickly a new user can experience the value your product offers. The shorter the TTV, the more likely users are to stay engaged. Your product should prioritize user-friendly navigation and quick delivery of value.
Balancing the freemium tightrope and improving TTV are pivotal strategies in achieving success with a product-led growth approach.
Both strategies can be effective, depending on the company’s goals, product complexity, and the market they serve.
Allowing potential customers to try your product shows transparency and confidence in its value. Plus, free trials often come with opportunities for feedback. This feedback loop helps you improve your product and tailor it to your customers’ needs.
Free trials and freemium are effective ways to build trust and let potential customers see the value of your product firsthand, which increases the likelihood of conversion. The power of free is in creating a low-risk, high-reward experience for potential customers.
Conversion Rate Optimization for SaaS & SaaS UX Design
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is your must-have tool for transforming website visitors and trial users into paying customers, and it’s closely related to user experience (UX) design. A well-designed user experience can lead to higher user retention, lower churn rates, and increased customer satisfaction. Here’s how to get started with CRO:
Begin by understanding the path your users take, from the first touchpoint to conversion. Analyze each stage of the customer journey to identify potential friction points and areas where users might drop off.
Your landing pages are digital doorways to your SaaS offering. Ensure they are visually appealing, communicate your unique value proposition clearly, and feature persuasive and clear call-to-action (CTA) buttons that guide users toward the desired conversion action.
Optimize loading times and overall performance. Slow-loading pages and unresponsive interactions can frustrate users and lead to higher bounce rates.
Experimentation is key to optimization. Conduct A/B tests on various elements of your website, such as headlines, CTA buttons’ copy and colors, images, and page layouts, to identify what resonates best with your audience.
Provide an intuitive onboarding experience that guides users through initial setup and showcases key features. Highlight the immediate value they can derive from your SaaS solution and guide them through setting up their accounts.
SaaS Sign-Up Flow
Simplify the signup process for free trials or account creation. For example, consider combining the ‘First Name’ and ‘Last Name’ fields into a single entry, reducing user frustration.
The more complex and lengthy the form, the higher the chance of abandonment. Ask only for the essential information you need.
Offer social login options, such as “Sign up with Google” or “Facebook.” This reduces friction and accelerates the sign-up process for users who prefer this method.
Use visual cues like progress bars to indicate how far users are in the sign-up process. This helps manage user expectations and reduces anxiety.
If you offer free trials or require payment information upfront, make this process transparent. Clearly communicate trial durations and pricing information to set the right user expectations.
Once users have completed the sign-up process, provide a warm welcome. Offer guidance on the next steps they should take to maximize their experience with your SaaS product.
Saas Pricing Strategy
No matter your strategy, you need to be transparent about pricing and make it visual on your pricing page. Ambiguity about costs can lead to user hesitation. Offer clear pricing tiers and options to make it easy for users to understand the value they’ll receive. There are different pricing strategies you can choose from:
- Value-Based Pricing: Align your pricing with the value your SaaS product delivers to customers.
- Tiered Pricing: Offer different pricing tiers to cater to a range of customer needs. Typically, this includes a basic tier with essential features, a mid-tier with additional capabilities, and a premium tier for power users or enterprises.
- Usage-Based Pricing: For SaaS products that involve cloud storage or data usage, consider usage-based pricing models. Users pay according to how much they use the service.
- Freemium Model: As we already mentioned above, consider offering a free version of your SaaS product with limited features.
- Per-User or Per-Seat Pricing: Charge on a per-user basis, especially if your SaaS product is used by teams or organizations. This pricing model scales with the growth of your customers.
- Flat-Rate Pricing: Some SaaS products benefit from flat-rate pricing, where all users pay the same price regardless of features or usage.
- Annual vs. Monthly Billing: Provide flexibility in billing cycles. While monthly billing offers convenience, annual billing often comes with discounts and can boost customer retention.
Read more in our article about SaaS pricing page examples to learn what to include in your pricing page.
SaaS ABM Strategy
Unlike traditional marketing approaches, account-based marketing (ABM) targets your highest-value accounts, tailoring marketing efforts to their unique needs and preferences. It’s an approach that prioritizes quality over quantity, focusing on delivering personalized value to each target account.
ABM’s success depends on strong collaboration between your sales and marketing teams. You need to ensure both teams are aligned on account priorities, messaging, and goals.
Here’s a closer look at crafting an effective SaaS ABM strategy:
- Begin by identifying the key accounts that hold the most potential for your SaaS product.
- Craft highly personalized and relevant messaging for each target account. Address their pain points, goals, and challenges directly. Show them how your SaaS product offers a tailored solution to meet their specific needs.
- Develop content that speaks directly to the challenges and needs of your target accounts. This might include case studies, whitepapers, webinars, or customized product demonstrations.
- Leverage a mix of marketing channels to engage with target accounts.
- As you achieve success with your initial target accounts, consider expanding your ABM efforts to include additional high-value accounts.
Such marketing strategies are sure to build brand awareness, increase sales, and traffic on your website. You can easily automate these marketing techniques with plugins and extensions – here’s a list of the Best WooCommerce Marketing Plugins to make it easier for you to pick the best.
SaaS Marketing Metrics to Monitor (+ Formulas)
SaaS marketing relies heavily on data and metrics to make informed decisions. Make sure to continuously monitor these key performance indicators (KPIs) for a winning SaaS marketing strategy:
- Customer Lifetime Value (LTV or CLV)
LTV = (Average Monthly Revenue per Customer) / (Churn Rate)
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
CAC = (Total Sales and Marketing Expenses) / (Number of New Customers Acquired)
- CLV:CAC Ratio
CLV:CAC Ratio = (Customer Lifetime Value) / (Customer Acquisition Cost)
- Customer Churn Rate
Churn Rate = (Customers at the Beginning of the Period – Customers at the End of the Period) / Customers at the Beginning of the Period
- Retention Rate, or Net Revenue Retention (NRR)
NRR = ((MRR at the End of the Period – Churned MRR – Downgraded MRR) / MRR at the Start of the Period) x 100
- Conversion Rate
Conversion Rate = (Number of Conversions) / (Number of Visitors or Leads) x 100
- Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
MRR = (Average Revenue per Customer) x (Total Number of Customers)
Databox’s research on the top SaaS metrics sales teams track
What to Look for When Hiring a SaaS Marketing Agency
An agency specializing in SaaS marketing, like Hop Online, can have a big impact on the growth of your SaaS business.
Here are key factors to look for when choosing the right SaaS marketing agency:
- SaaS Expertise: Ensure the agency has a deep understanding of the SaaS industry. They should be familiar with the unique challenges, trends, target audience (including their pain points, needs, and behaviors), and strategies that apply specifically to SaaS businesses.
- Proven Track Record: Review case studies and client testimonials to determine the agency’s ability to deliver results in terms of customer acquisition, retention, and revenue growth.
- Full-Stack Capabilities: A SaaS marketing agency should offer a range of services, including content marketing, SEO, paid advertising, email marketing, social media, and more. They should tailor these services to your specific needs.
- Transparency: The agency should provide regular reporting on campaign performance, budget allocation, and any changes in strategy.
- Scalability: Consider whether the agency can scale its efforts as your SaaS business grows. They should be adaptable and capable of handling increased marketing demands.
- Cost-Effective Solutions: While quality comes first, also consider whether the agency’s pricing aligns with your budget and offers a reasonable return on investment.
Take the time to evaluate your options, ask the right questions, and prioritize agencies that align with your goals and values.
SaaS Marketing Strategy to Help You Scale
When creating a SaaS startup marketing plan, the important thing is not to overload your strategy from the beginning. Start with channels that allow you to find customers who are already looking for your product. Once you’ve established unit economics, scale rapidly and expand aggressively to win the race to market. Stay agile, test and analyze results, and try new channels and techniques to be ahead of the curve.
Now that you’re familiar with the tried and true SaaS marketing strategies, learn how to strategically allocate your digital marketing budget.
This article is co-authored by Terez Tocheva, Director of Marketing at Hop Online, Desislava Arnaudova, Marketing Specialist at Hop Online, and guest writer Xaviera Khalid, Content Writer at WooKeeper.com who focuses on SEO content and provides factual writing.