The SaaS market is seeing explosive growth—and that’s not hyperbole.
According to Gartner, worldwide spending on SaaS products grew from $117 million in 2021 to $138 million in 2022.
That growth represents a huge opportunity for companies in the B2B SaaS space. But, it's also resulted in a pretty crowded market, with an estimated 25,000 SaaS organizations worldwide.
To get ahead, SaaS companies need to stand out in the crowded market. That means rethinking our marketing strategies and using a tailored approach that leverages inbound marketing, content marketing, SEO, and other strategies to capture and convert high-quality leads.
This guide walks you through how to build a SaaS marketing strategy, including what channels and tactics are most effective—and a whole lot more.
Here's what you'll learn:
What is SaaS marketing?
How is SaaS marketing different from traditional marketing?
Important steps to create a saas marketing strategy
What is the Saas marketing funnel?
Most effective SaaS marketing strategies
What are SaaS metrics?
Key takeaways for SaaS marketers
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SaaS marketing is the practice of gaining and retaining customers for software as a service businesses. Unlike traditional marketing, SaaS marketing relies on product developers, support teams, and marketing working together to create a strong, scalable marketing plan.
SaaS marketing often employs different strategies than other businesses, including offering their software for free, building in-depth knowledge centers to leverage content marketing, and focusing on customer retention in addition to acquisition.
The SaaS market is different from traditional digital marketing strategies in several ways. In many cases, SaaS companies are B2B, which means a much longer sales process and interaction with multiple stakeholders.
B2B SaaS organizations must spend longer building trust and educating customers because of the subscription-based model. Customers need a deeper understanding of the value you deliver when they spend $79.99 monthly versus $79.99 once.
B2B SaaS marketing also focuses more on the post-purchase stage to keep users from churning. This means providing resources, increasing customer support, and streamlining the onboarding process.
Creating an effective marketing strategy for your SaaS company is a huge undertaking. Not sure where to start? We’ve got your back.
Define your ideal buyer persona
You can't increase revenue if you don't know who you're selling to. If you have customers already, take a look at your highest value/lowest effort clients. What attributes do they share? Are they in the same industry? Share demographics?
If you don't have a current client base, perform market research to see who your ideal buyer persona should be.
Pro tip: Review your ICP every year. You might find new markets or discover a previously great target audience is no longer driving revenue.
Identify your marketing goals and KPIs
Next, identify what you want to achieve with your SaaS marketing strategy. Are you looking to increase sign-ups, lower churn, or increase overall? Get specific and make sure to include which KPIs you'll track for each goal.
Consider setting both short and long-term goals. For example, your short-term goal might be to increase free trial sign-ups in the next month while your long-term goal is to increase revenue by 25 percent by next year.
Study your competition
There are two main reasons to study your competition: to see what works and find ways to improve your own marketing plan. Before creating a strategy, take a look at each of your competitors' marketing strategies.
Follow them on social media, sign up for their email marketing list, and take a deep dive into their website.
What type of content do they post? Are they ranking in Google for keywords you want to rank for? Do they have a podcast or webinar series?
Where are they missing the mark, and how can you use that knowledge to improve your digital marketing plan?
Build an SEO strategy
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the key to getting found through online searches. Building an SEO strategy should be a top priority because it also impacts your content marketing strategy, which is crucial for many SaaS companies.
Even better, SEO can help increase leads—not just traffic.
This SEO guide from Hubspot offers a comprehensive view of SEO. Remember, you'll need to adjust traditional SEO strategies to work for SaaS.
Targeting informational keywords related to customer pain points.
Managing your listings on review sites like Capterra or G2.
Focusing SEO marketing efforts on your specific target market
Make sure your technical SEO isn't causing issues.
Start by performing keyword research to find the top 3 to 5 keywords users type when looking for solutions like yours. From there, you can decide how to optimize your site. In the next section, we'll get into more detail about on-page and off-page SEO.
Create and distribute content effectively
Content marketing is a powerful marketing strategy for SaaS. That's because many SaaS companies are also B2B, and B2B buyers spend a great deal of time researching before they buy.
List out the topics your audience cares about (I recommend the hub and spoke content method) and make a plan for getting that content out there. Will you use paid social ads? Share in your newsletter? Start small and scale up as you figure out what works.
Strategize email marketing campaigns
For most SaaS companies, leads come in the form of email addresses.
Make a plan for how you will nurture those leads with email marketing. Will you send funny memes? Or Share informational content, like Quickbooks.
Depending on your industry, you might send industry news updates, educational resources, or product updates. Think about the emails your audience would be excited to open.
Monitor performance to make improvements
Sometimes, things look better on paper than they do in practice. Other times your audience doesn't respond to your super clever social media strategy.
If you want to keep growing, make a plan to monitor your marketing ROI and make adjustments.
I do recommend giving new strategies time to work. Paid ads should run for a minimum of two weeks (in most cases), while SEO and content marketing can take several months to really take off.
The SaaS marketing funnel is a visual representation of the path leads follow to convert. It encapsulates multiple stages, starting with awareness, and extends to the period after the initial purchase.
Why is understanding the funnel important?
There's a good chance you are already familiar with the idea of a marketing funnel, but the SaaS funnel requires a slightly different approach.
The SaaS marketing funnel explained
Like most marketing funnels, the SaaS funnel includes top-of-the-funnel, middle-of-the-funnel, and bottom-of-the-funnel strategies.
Each stage progressively gets smaller as you filter out leads that aren't in your target audience or aren't quite ready to convert.
Top of funnel strategies for SaaS
Top-of-the-funnel is the largest stage in the SaaS marketing funnel and includes strategies aimed at building brand awareness or demand generation.
Depending on your market, this may include:
Paid ads targeting informational keywords.
Lead generation efforts, like white papers or webinars.
Organic social media efforts.
The goal in the TOFU stage is to get consumers familiar with your brand, so messaging should be more informative and less salesy.
The middle of the funnel is where you start filtering out leads that just aren't a good fit for your SaaS company.
Maybe they are in the wrong market, don't have the budget, or just don't need your specific solution.
Depending on your overall marketing goals, middle-of-the-funnel strategies can include:
Content marketing covering customer pain points.
Email marketing drip campaigns.
Share-worthy interactive content, like calculators.
Templates, spreadsheets, and other useful assets.
At Leadfeeder, this includes posting informational content like our sales and marketing blog.
We focus on topics important to sales and marketing teams, which filters out users who aren't in those positions and then track users that visit our site using Leadfeeder.
Bottom of funnel strategies
This is where things get real.
You're filtering out those leads who aren't ready to buy or don't fit your ideal customer profile. Maybe they are in marketing but at a smaller company, while you target enterprise. Or, maybe they aren't quite convinced they need your solution.
This stage is about zeroing in on the most valuable leads in your funnel. Bottom of the funnel strategies for SaaS includes:
Personalized landing pages.
Technical content covering product features.
Demos and detailed webinars.
How the SaaS marketing funnel works
The SaaS sales funnel works sort of like a map, showing you every step in the customer journey from the first time they hear about you until they finally convert.
Here's how the path works for SaaS businesses:
Step 1: Build Your Audience: Use content, social media, or paid ads to get your brand name out there and increase demand for your solution.
Step 2: Fill Your Funnel: Create a lead generation strategy. This might include offering downloadable guides, using a website tracking tool, or creating courses related to major industry pain points.
Step 3: Guide Your Customers: Focus on the value proposition and why your solution is the best fit for their struggles.
Step 4: Close Deals Faster: Make it easy to say yes. Reduce form fields on conversion pages and avoid complicated closing processes when possible.
We've covered what the SaaS marketing funnel looks like, let's talk about the most effective strategies. Unlike an e-commerce company, you can't just throw up a few Instagram ads and see a wave of conversions. 👎
If you're in B2B, your social media efforts are likely focused on LinkedIn. As a SaaS company, you sell a recurring product which means building trust is crucial—as is a smooth onboarding process.
So, what are the most effective marketing strategies and channels for SaaS companies?
A strong content marketing strategy is an excellent way to stand out in a crowded market. Think about the pain points your customers have that are easier to solve (and possibly unrelated to your specific product.)
For example, Pipedrive offers advice about sales strategies on their blog. They aren't just pushing their product, they are helping salespeople be more effective at their jobs.
Product trials are the bread and butter of SaaS marketing. Letting users try your product out lowers hesitation and helps prospects better understand the value you deliver.
You can either offer a full-featured free trial for a limited time or a freemium model, where users get access to a limited number of features, and you tempt them to upgrade.
At Leadfeeder, we actually do both! Our Lite version shows the last seven days of data, or users can try the whole platform free for two weeks.
This also means after their free trial expires, we can downgrade users who aren't ready to convert to the free plan and keep them in our funnel. 😉
Search engine optimization
SEO, aka search engine optimization, is all about optimizing your site to appear in the search engines when your target audience searches terms related to your industry.
For example, if you have an SEO tool, you might want your site to appear for searches like "best SEO tool" or "improve my SEO." Unlike e-commerce, retail, and service brands, (who can target high intent keywords like "buy red shoes") you'll also want to optimize for long-tail keywords like "why is my site not ranking."
There are two main types of SEO to know about:
On page SEO
On-page SEO refers to changes you make on your website. (Hence the name.) For example, adding keywords to headers, including meta descriptions, internal links, and alt tags to your images.
Off-page SEO are strategies that take place on other parts of the internet. (Meaning off your website.) Generally, this refers to backlinks, making sure you claim listings on review and testimonial sites and building social proof on other platforms.
This post from ahrefs covers the difference between the two types of SEO in more detail. SaaS companies should also ensure they're optimizing for long-tail and informational keywords, not just those indicating buyer intent.
This is another great strategy for SaaS companies. Essentially, you ask other businesses or influencers to refer leads to you and pay them a small commission. You might also hear this called an affiliate program.
Referral marketing is effective because people trust recommendations from friends, families, and their favorite influencers more than ads or marketing materials directly from brands.
At Leadfeeder, we have a partnership program that functions just like this—it does super well and proves to lead to high retention rates.
Google Ads is a paid ads platform where SaaS companies can pay to appear in search results (search ads) or on other websites (called display ads.) This can be an effective marketing strategy if you're looking to scale your business fast and drive conversion rates.
I recommend starting small with a few hundred dollars per month. Aim for less competitive keywords that have a decent search volume while you figure out what ads and copy are most effective.
This resource from WordStream covers Google Ad strategies for SaaS in greater detail.
Including co-marketing in your SaaS marketing strategy plan can increase trust and build brand awareness. For example, you might partner with another brand with a related audience to produce a report.
This attracts SaaS customers from their audience and increases brand awareness. It can also build trust in your offering, especially if the audience already trusts your co-marketing partner.
We mentioned earlier that SaaS customers tend to have a longer path to purchase. That makes retargeting key. Once customers have heard about you, look for ways to reach back out using retargeting ads on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google.
Retargeting can also help you reach back out to users who signed up for a free trial. For example, an app company might use social ads to target customers who downloaded the free version to entice them to subscribe.
Building your SaaS marketing strategy is just the first step. To drive long-term success, you'll need to track KPIs to ensure your marketing pays off.
Unlike e-commerce or publication websites, you're less worried about metrics like traffic or social media. Instead, focus on these SaaS metrics:
Churn rate refers to the percentage of customers that stop subscribing to your service. This is crucial in the SaaS industry because, as you may know, it's a lot cheaper to keep customers than find new ones.
There's an additional nuance to churn rate—pay attention to the demographics and customer lifetime value of customers that churn. If valuable customers have a higher rate of churn, look for ways to improve customer retention.
On the other hand, if you notice customers in a specific demographic churn more often, you may need to adjust your messaging to keep that cohort out of your funnel.
Activation rate is the percentage of customers that actually use your tool and find it valuable. (This is similar to the adoption rate but also tracks engagement.)
Essentially, are users actually using your tool? If not, you may need to adjust your marketing efforts or look for ways to improve the onboarding process.
Burn rate is the rate at which your company spends money to cover expenses. Unlike most of the other KPIs on this list, this has more to do with how you run your business.
Marketing isn't free—so keeping an eye on this is important to ensure your marketing efforts pay off.
Burn rate is especially important for startups and those relying on venture capital to stay afloat.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Customer lifetime value is the total value of a customer over the entire lifecycle, i.e., how much customers spend from the moment they convert until they churn.
Make sure to look at CLV by segment, not just the overall rate. For example, if enterprise companies have a lower CLV, they may need support or a better onboarding process.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
Customer acquisition cost tracks the amount you spend to acquire a new customer. Like churn rate and CLV, pay close attention to CAC for different customer segments and in comparison to lifetime value.
For example, it may cost a lot more to acquire an enterprise client, but that company may spend more long term.
However, if you're investing thousands in acquiring customers that churn, it might be time to reassess your marketing strategies.
Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)
Monthly recurring revenue is the amount of predictable income your SaaS company generates each month. It is calculated by multiplying the number of SaaS customers you have by their subscription cost and includes discounts, recurring ad-ons, and average churn rate.
For B2B SaaS marketing, you want to see this number increase every month.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Net promoter score is important for most businesses but especially for SaaS companies. NPS is a metric used to measure customer experience—and loyalty.
If your NPS drops, higher churn is likely to follow. By keeping an eye on your NPS, you can catch user experience and support issues before they impact your bottom line.
The goal of traditional marketing is to encourage customers to convert as quickly as possible. In SaaS marketing, the goal is to nurture a long-term relationship with your customer base.
That means taking the time to understand the challenges your target audience faces, helping them see the value of your solution, and making sure they continue to find value in your product even long after conversion.
Leadfeeder is a website visitor tracking tool that helps B2B SaaS companies find and convert quality leads. Try us free for 14 days.
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