How to Market Your SaaS-Blueprint Plan
:: By Asher Elran, Dynamic Search ::
The day your SaaS (software as a service) launched, you embarked on a wild ride. Now that the celebratory champagne has been spilled and the cake has been eaten, it’s time to step into your next epic adventure: sales and marketing.
Before we delve into how to market your SaaS-blueprint plan, we first need to talk a little about marketing. What is its goal? According to the SaaS Marketing Plan SlideShare, the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits them like a glove and sells itself.
The Best Basic Strategy Involves Avoiding Common Pitfalls
Marketing requires strategy. A strong SaaS marketing plan focuses on tightly coupling all aspects of your business model, from your product and support to your revenue model and marketing. Perhaps the best basic strategy is to avoid making common marketing mistakes. Let’s look at the top 10 as reported by SalesForce.com and discuss the respective Dos and Don’ts:
1. DO NOT use the traditional enterprise software company approach: What’s the biggest different between traditional and SaaS companies? Traditional survive from one “big sale” to the next, whereas SaaS require a financial structure based on recurring revenues. Don’t fall into a traditional state of mind. Instead, focus on creating a financial process that can be closely tracked and managed. You’ll need a system in place for closely monitoring key financial metrics; including future income indicators (e.g. lead flow, renewal rates, and attrition).
2. DO NOT under-invest in lead generation or field sales: Timing is everything, especially in business. Right from the start, you want to avoid under-investing in lead generation or jumping into field sales too quickly. You’ll need to be innovative and find comprehensive ways to generate leads while accelerating the sales process without bleeding finances. Consider investing in an ability to offer “test drives.” Incentives are also worthy of contemplation and implementation. In addition, it doesn’t hurt to frequent the realms of e-marketing initiatives, segmented marketing, guerilla marketing and evangelizing customer references.
3. DO build programs to encourage and track product use: An unsatisfied or unhappy customer can leave at any moment, which is why encouraging and tracking product usage is super important. The SaaS business model has a sometimes-unleveraged perk: you have the power to know exactly how many consumers are actively using your product. It’s up to you to harness this power. Tracking mouse clicks and usage gives you a regular health check. The data derived can assist you in driving your marketing programs. KISSmetrics could be your best friend in analyzing this.
4. DO NOT settle into the Noah mentality: Just because you build it, does not mean that they will come. You still have to do your homework and remain competitive in the market. In other words, your product needs proper pricing, compelling and engaging offers and sales discipline. An aggressive promo strategy is also a must. Know exactly who your key audience is and how to best (and most efficiently) target them.
5. DO propagate dedicated employees for continual customer success: The best strategy for driving user adoption and long-term commitment is through a dedicated team of employees who act as ongoing advocates, coaches and consultants. These employees should be separate from your sales and support teams. Their job is to advise, communicate and advocate with customers, actively educating and reminding them of exactly how to get the most value from the product. What’s the goal? Zero attrition and 100 percent reference-able customers.
6. DO NOT underestimate the power of customer referrals, ever: It is your goal to maximize the return of every marketing penny spent. The worst mistake you can make is grossly underestimating the sheer power of customer references. Not only do referrals save you precious marketing money, but they also hand you one of the most highly effective sales methods on the planet: word of mouth. Customer references are built on satisfaction, value recognition, and trust. They practically guarantee future revenue.
7. DO NOT neglect user communities: It’s easy to do, but neglecting these communities means overlooking volunteer evangelism, which is an epic no-no. Seek ways to empower user communities. You’ll be helping your customers get the most out of your product, which will actively boost user adoption.
8. DO NOT use traditional methodologies: SaaS applications are a far cry from traditional methodologies. For example, in the SaaS world, releasing an incomplete product is more than OK; it’s practically standard. Customer engagement coupled with incorporation of their feedback is key. Focus on trading traditional for agile development methodologies.
9. DO outsource: Building an entire technology and development infrastructure from scratch is not worth the time or investment unless it gives you a marked advantage over the competition. Instead, you’re better off sticking to what you do best and outsourcing the rest as needed.
10. DO have an API strategy: For SaaS vendors, integration is vital. An API, or application programming interface, helps achieve this goal. An open strategy is recommended, and it will make your customers happy. As an added bonus, an open API will entice the developer community to enhance your product line through new extension creation.
Successful software as a service businesses will usually tell you that targeted marketing strategies are their best friends. No matter how amazing their product or how wide their customer reach, the fact remains that every dollar spent on marketing needs to produce a return. Targeted marketing is just the way to achieve this.
The Need to Optimize For Conversions
It is your job to optimize for conversions everywhere. This means that if someone lands on the smallest, most obscure page of your website, not only can they easily navigate your site, but they will also want to do so. Here’s how you accomplish optimization:
• Use headers that include links to important pages, such as your features and pricing pages.
• Use headers with links that include sign-up now, free trial and login options.
• Use a footer that incorporates the same items as your navigation bar, and add in links to you top social profiles.
• Place conversion-focused items on your blog, and promote your posts throughout your website.
Optimizing for conversion is vital because without it, you’ll soon be a business without business; you’ll be dead.
Proven Ways to Ace Inbound Marketing for SaaS
The best how to guide for marketing a SaaS-blueprint plan is to follow in the footsteps of the companies who are doing it right, right now. Let’s look at some of the best tips on the nets used by some of the most successful companies:
Tip 1: Social media and content:
Founded in 2008, KISSmetrics has experienced constant and steady growth. In fact, Savvy Panda labels it as “one of the darlings of online marketing analytics.” Here is how they do it.
• Social Media: It’s the perfect outreach method, but the trick is making it work specifically for you. For example, KISSmetrics' Facebook page contains a surprisingly one-sided conversation carried on throughout status updates sharing blog links. One would expect their Facebook to be as active as their Twitter account, but it is not. The lesson to be learned is this: test out which social media channels generate the most return and put time and effort into nurturing those.
• Content: You can learn a lot from the KISSmetrics blog, starting with the fact that it is the cornerstone of their site. They don’t skim the surface of blogging either; they are hardcore. Most of their posts are 2,000-plus words. They aren’t afraid to go in-depth on complex subject matter. Their blog is why they’re an authority.
Tip 2: Branding and personality are essential
Sprout Social tackled one of the toughest things in the SaaS world: they assigned an identity to a SaaS product. Don’t overlook the most seen aspect of your company, your brand! Monitor your brand name and the way you display your company establishes the brand and reflects the business personality. It’s what immediately sets you apart—even above the competition when people hear your name.
Tip 3: Build a community
Founded in 2007, Zendesk has more than 30,000 customers. Through community building, Zendesk has taken their SaaS plan to the next level. Building a community around technical services and/or products is not easy, but this company tapped into a strength: interaction. The Support section of their website houses a hub where customer service pros can engage and share experiences. Not only does this encourage current and new customer interaction, but it also keeps the conversation going and draws in potential leads for conversion.
Tip 4: Build a subscriber list using “Guides”
Your customer base has core needs. One of the strongest strategies to leverage is building a subscriber list by using “guides” that cater to the core needs of your demographic. A “guide” can be anything that provides, well, guidance. Be creative! Try different formats and see which receives the most positive response. Drawing a blank? Try these:
• An eBook
• A detailed worksheet
• A cheat sheet
• Useful templates and themes
• An interactive guide
• A video guide
How do you use guides to build your subscriber list? You hit the highlights:
• Craft a clear call to action that catches the eye and entices clicks.
• People love free, so say it!
• Identify what the guide is (e.g. an eBook, worksheet, etc.) at least twice.
• Highlight what the guide includes and just how it is both useful and beneficial.
Tip 5: Create interesting infographics.
The best way to create an infographic that will appeal to your targeted audience is to focus on data that is unique to you. The goal is to entice shares. These trendy graphics don’t have to take ages to create either. In fact, HubSpot shows how you can create an infographic in an hour or less.
Tip 6: Integrate with other services.
You need to constantly bring in leads, which means you must continually grow your audience. How? One of the most efficient means is integrating with other services. In essence, you’re adopting someone else’s audience. This goes back to the API we discussed earlier.
Integration is not to be taken lightly. If you fail to integrate properly, you run the risk of creating an untrustworthy reputation. Here’s what to shoot for:
• Ensure the integration will benefit your customers significantly. If they’ve been asking for a certain integration, then that is the path to follow. Always allow your customers to serve as a directional compass.
• Ensure it will aid your marketing efforts. If it won’t, it’s not worth expending time or money. Ask yourself, will this integration open up an untapped, large user-base or subscriber list? Will the company I’m integrating with promote the integration with me?
• Be approachable. You won’t always be the one to initiate an integration. Other SaaS companies are reading this, too! Make a concentrated effort to be approachable. Do the groundwork.
• Promote the win-win benefits. Integration won’t happen if both parties fail to see the benefits. Don’t be afraid to point those puppies out. Don’t just talk about how it will help their customers, show them.
• Go long and mention the competition. Are they sitting on the fence? You can tell they’re interested, but they just can’t make that last little hop onto your side. Go long! Don’t be afraid to mention their competitors.
• Craft a tailored landing page. It’s sort of like groundwork. Make a landing page that displays the value, benefits, and virtues of using your service based on this integration. Nailing an integration is like sales. You have to prep. You have to sell yourself. You have to be so enticing that they can’t think of a good reason to say no.
Growing Your SaaS-Blueprint Plan to Infinity (And Beyond!)
The ultimate goal of any business owner is to exceed their expectations and projected growth. Achieving this goal will depend greatly on your marketing efforts. If you build a business model around your target demographic, track your finances well, and pinpoint the marketing strategies that produce the best results through trial and error, you will be well on your way to reaching infinity and striving for what lies beyond.