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Digital marketing strategies have evolved much faster than the wider marketing industry, reshaping the landscape almost entirely over the last decade. Although the transition to digital marketing may feel like a natural evolution for many, it can still be hard for businesses to keep up on the specifics of the best and newest marketing strategies to employ each year.
As more and more SaaS products hit the market, the need for companies to stand out—and the exponential difficulty to do so—becomes a crucial consideration in setting a strategy for each new year.
According to Gartner, SaaS remains the largest portion of the public cloud services market, which reached $152 billion in end-user spending in 2021. This number is forecasted to rise to $176 billion in 2022, followed by a whopping $208 billion in 2023.
To remain a relevant player in the market of available SaaS products, it is no longer enough to just tackle inbound content marketing. Marketing strategies, from traditional affiliate partnerships to customer behavior tracking, are growing more sophisticated across the board.
To succeed with a marketing plan, SaaS companies need to be ready, equipped and engaged to meet customers where they are and to master new tools within content creation, social media and analytics.
Understanding Customers’ Digital Behavior
With competition for customers increasing in today’s SaaS market, it’s crucial to understand the customer in the most detailed way possible. Here, Google Analytics is still the most crucial baseline tool that will allow SaaS companies to get an understanding of its consumer demographic. However, like Abhi Jadhva of Bay Leaf Digital comments, it’s hard to understand customer intent from numbers alone.
“In the last few years, there has been an influx of analytics tools to help understand website behavior beyond what a standard Google Analytics installation could get you,” Jadhva shares. “Don’t get me wrong, Google Analytics is extremely powerful and can provide a large number of actionable insights to SaaS companies.
“However, understanding intent can be hard to infer from numbers alone. You could survey your target audience to get qualitative information. But the problem is that users don’t always do what they say. To fully understand buying behavior, look beyond session interactions. Identify typical journeys your audience takes across multiple sessions and enrich this data by using powerful visual analytics tools such as Hotjar and Auryc. Short of stalking your target audience, the combination of quantitative data analytics and qualitative visual analytics will get you a wholesome picture of your target market’s behavior.”
As Google Analytics data does not offer much in the way of consumer intent information, other software – like Hotjar and Auryc – can allow SaaS companies to acquire visuals that show the journey the audience is taking.
It’s also crucial to understand where a target consumer base is spending their digital time.
Wherever a SaaS businesses’ consumers are on social media is where the company should also be active. This could be a Facebook group, a Twitter thread, or Quora answers. By inserting itself into the actual conversations consumers are having, a SaaS company can listen, meet the customers early in the journey and directly observe the target audience’s buying behavior, intent, and feelings. Understanding customers’ buying behavior and intent are crucial to developing a well-targeted marketing campaign.
Finding Your Target Audience
There are three tiers that must be fulfilled before acquiring a new customer, and it is critical to explore them in-depth. The first is finding your target audience. While this can sometimes be a long process of trial and error, it is crucial in formulating a well-targeted digital marketing campaign.
Dani Shalmone of Shalmie notes that researching your target audience takes time.
“Finding the right targeting is the most challenging hurdle and may take some trial and error or learning a phase in the beginning. But let me explain – say you’re just starting out and have a product that solves a problem for e-commerce businesses. You’ve done your market research, you believe that any e-commerce business would benefit from your SaaS product, and you’re ready to launch and advertise it to the world.
“Then after spending (or wasting) tons of money on ads, you find out that that world is much smaller than you first thought; that your product only serves two or three verticals. The point is, you want to learn your audience as fast as possible,” she states.
Using keywords to your advantage can also be valuable in finding your target audience. Shalmone shares her top tips for finding the best keywords to test with Google Ads, including the difference in utility and content.
“If you’re running Google Ads, you’ll want to test both upper and lower funnel keywords. This is an easy way to gauge your reach fast. Upper funnel should consist of keywords that talk about what the product is, what the product can solve and for whom the product solves.
“Lower funnel gets down to the sub-categories or vertical for whom the product solves, pricing, demos, and brand. Running GDN (Google Display Network) in-market segments is also a cheap and easy way to reach upper funnel. I talk about this in my PPC guide for SaaS businesses.
“For upper funnel keywords, you can test a piece of content like a whitepaper lead magnet or go straight to a form. For lower funnel keywords, you can go straight to a form. In both cases, your form should contain qualifiers to weed out the junk. For this reason, I like to run multi-step forms (especially in the learning phase), so you at least get some fast data. You can set up events in Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics to track this.”
When determining your target audience, data is incredibly useful to collect and analyze. Here, SaaS marketing agency Roketto‘s Ulf Lonegren advocates for relying on data rather than speculation.
“A great starting point would be to conduct a customer behavior analysis. There are a number of ways of doing this, and I recommend you do your own research to find out what process will work best for you. But regardless of the process and tools you use, my best tip here is to make sure you avoid guesswork and rely on real data to lead you to your answers,” Lonegren said.
By employing these strategies, SaaS companies will be able to understand and better acquire customers.
After a target audience is pinpointed, marketers must match that audience with enticing advertisements. The age of digital advertising has now migrated to the realm of social media. Targeting specific audiences on those media channels is best. Marketers are now able to pay for boosted and promoted ads on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
When creating these marketing campaigns, the social platform allows the marketer to specifically target a certain audience by age, gender, location, and supposed content preference, allowing SaaS companies to directly target their acquired audience. These targeted ad campaigns usually pose these questions to SaaS marketers: How can I deliver the use of the product most efficiently? Who will benefit most from the product? How can I incorporate proof of success?
After finding an audience and rolling out a targeted ad campaign, SaaS companies need to focus on giving consumers an onsite experience that is satisfiable. SaaS companies need to dig into the data to see how certain targeted ads span out and adjust based on hard facts. This can be the first step to creating an outstanding consumer experience.
Standing Out in a World Where Consumers Already Have Opinions
With many SaaS niches already at saturation points, SaaS marketers are now asking more than ever: How can we convince the consumer to subscribe to our product versus direct competitors?
“Delighting customers in a way that keeps them in control is a smart way of personalizing experiences.” Jadhva says. “An example of this would be an interactive voice recognition (IVR) that recognizes the number customers are dialing from and welcomes them. The same experience can be extended onto the web or mobile devices through two-factor authentication that can make it painless and secure at the same time.
“When the inner workings of a personalized experience are exposed to customers, they become more accepting of the experience. On the other hand, if you are looking to personalize the experience for current and potential leads on your website, then consider personalizing content for targets using personalization engines such as UpContent, Uberflip and PathFactory. Other ways include using smart chatbots to personalize experiences before conversion.”
There are a variety of marketing tools that SaaS businesses should be using on a regular basis if they want to stand out from the crowd. These include:
- Content marketing (blogs, articles, videos, images, etc.)
A blog is a major marketing asset. In fact, 60% of people purchase a product after first reading a blog post about it. SaaS companies’ blogs can serve consumers by producing education-style pieces. Given that SaaS and cloud computing, in general, can be difficult for consumers to understand, companies that can inform consumers will stand out. A blog is a cheap way to acquire new customers relative to PPC or other direct methods (and will largely continue to deliver unmonitored).
However, creating quality content that your audience wants to engage with goes beyond a blog. Most of the content that is being accessed by users today is video, and 87% of marketers say video has helped them increase traffic. This means SaaS companies need to be producing video content that attracts, informs and engages.
Jadhva noted that video was a key element in marketing strategies.
“While voice is an emerging trend, video is already here in a big way. So, if your content strategy doesn’t already include video, make room for it. A lot of it. Don’t make video for the sake of checking a box. Go through the same vertical-persona-buying stage exercise to determine what video makes sense for your target audience. Then figure out how to market this video. Your SaaS company’s content calendar for next year should look like that of a production house – print, audio, and video content being created and marketed on a regular basis.”
Keep in mind that there are several types of video content including testimonials, how-to’s or product explainers, entertaining clips, brand videos and more. The goal for your content will determine the type of video style you want to create. It is also important to know that you don’t need to have a huge budget to create engaging, quality videos. A lot can be achieved through smartphones and video editing software.
Lonegren explains that marketers need to consider all the channels available to them.
“Inbound marketing is so important in this day and age. Advertising still produces results, there’s no doubt about it, but CEOs and in-house marketers absolutely need to incorporate a customer-centric content strategy into their marketing plan. How do you think these customers form a view in the first place? It’s through the content they find in the channels they frequent. So, if you want to apply this to your customer experience, be the SaaS company who is visible in your customer’s content channels and provide the information that helps form their viewpoint.”
- Social Media (advertisement and engagement)
A decade ago, it was enough for a company to rely solely on Google Analytics, yet now there are endless software options and companies with more in-depth data that can be used to drive marketing strategies. On top of the rising number of platforms now available to collect analytics, there is newfound importance of creating an online presence on social outlets for SaaS companies.
The rise of social networks has altered the landscape of SaaS marketing in placing the importance of interacting directly with consumers through networks such as Twitter and Facebook. SaaS companies that have not stamped their presence on social media will not be as successful as one thoroughly utilizing those platforms.
As part of your marketing strategy, you should complete an audience analysis. This will give you some insight into the type of consumer you should target. These consumers are the ones that are most likely to become customers.
SaaS companies should have a social media presence, but it is also important to consider social media advertising options. Depending on your audience, you will not need to buy up space on every social media platform. Your audience analysis should have provided you with some direction about the platforms that your audience is most likely to use. Those are the social media sites you want to invest in when it comes to advertising. For example, if you want to target millennial-aged males with your advertising efforts, investing in Pinterest ads isn’t going to give you a good ROI as the platform is most popular with women over 30.
Already a staple on the websites of most organizations, chatbots are also integral to SaaS businesses. They can help advance a relationship with customers by providing information and answers quickly. Even if you already use them, consider auditing them. It is important to update and tweak your chatbot regularly to ensure it is providing the best customer service possible.
When it comes to developing or revamping your chatbot, be aware of the type of questions that customers may ask about your company or service. Also, be sure to add a little personality to your chatbot so that it feels more like a human conversation than a robot. To get the most from your chatbot, you can ask customers what they liked and didn’t like about the experience.
- Mobile (apps, website and more)
While mobile adaptability may not seem to fit into a marketing strategy, the number of mobile SaaS users makes it relevant. Statista notes there are around 15 billion mobile devices operating worldwide, and this number is expected to rise to over 18 billion by 2025. That means the more mobile services you offer, the bigger your customer database could be.
It is also vital to keep in mind that one of the main reasons organizations employ the cloud is for availability delivered almost exclusively through mobile apps. The number of fully remote employees increased by over four times from 2018 to 2021 – from 6% to 26.7%, respectively. SaaS organizations that can anticipate the need of remote workers either through their website or apps can win over loyal customers.
If you implement every marketing strategy we’ve recommended for SaaS companies but fail to track the data, your work will have been in vain. Not every aspect of a marketing strategy will be successful, and analytics are your best way of knowing what works and what doesn’t for your audience. Be sure that you are gathering the most relevant information and review it often. This can help you know what marketing tools are most effective at reaching your goals.
Shalmone explains there are many ways to measure marketing success.
“In terms of analytics, there’s plenty of data points to sift through that can help one understand buyer behavior and intent. For software like HubSpot and Salesforce, setting up your lead scoring is imperative. With Google Analytics, you’ll be looking at basic metrics like bounce rate, average time on site, conversion rate, and funnel analysis. I also love using the Cohort Analysis report. This helps one understand retention. Choose the cohort size by week and look at the last twelve weeks. Slice and dice that data by channel or landing page and you’re golden.”
Bringing it All Together
The SaaS industry has grown substantially over the past decade and is expected to continue to grow for the next several. This can make competing for consumers difficult, more so for companies that don’t have a solid marketing strategy or plan. One of the main components of any marketing strategy is an audience assessment. By narrowing down who your target audience is, you have a better chance at reaching them – or at the very least, a higher ROI.
To engage with their target audience, SaaS companies need to be utilizing tools like content creation, social media, mobile offerings, chatbots and analytics daily. Each element plays a unique and essential role in achieving growth targets.
SaaS companies that are already engaged in marketing campaigns should be reviewing the success of their efforts and staying up to date on changing trends within the digital marketing world. Those that do will have the best chance of success in what has become a thriving and competitive industry.