The software-as-a-service (SaaS) space is growing at a rapid rate, which presents a great opportunity for SaaS brands—but also a challenge. As the SaaS industry grows, there’s guaranteed to be an increasing amount of competition in your niche.
This means you’ll need a killer SaaS marketing strategy if you want to stand out from the crowd.
This post will walk you through five of the most prominent types of digital marketing in 2021: email marketing, webinars, SEO, PPC ads, and social media, and show you how to zero in on the most effective SaaS marketing strategies for each.
Let’s dive in!
If you were under the impression that email marketing is becoming obsolete, think again. SaaS businesses rely on email to stay in direct, regular communication with leads across the funnel.
Whether the recipient is brand new to the customer journey or a long-time customer, emails are one of the most powerful tools you can employ to keep your brand top of mind.
But while email can be an extremely powerful tool, the trick is to avoid sounding overtly sales-y. As Dorissa Saint-Juste writes for CoSchedule:
“Email marketing isn’t dead, but spammy email marketing practices are. Using poor email etiquette results in losing customers and being flagged as a spam sender.”
Sending blatant spam messages is not a good idea. To avoid falling into this trap, your emails should serve a useful purpose to the reader in addition to delivering promotional messages.
Some types of messages you could use for marketing include:
- Confirmation and welcome emails
- Onboarding and tutorial emails
- Purely promotional emails
- Updates and digests
In addition to providing value to the reader, each of these emails can help you strengthen your brand. If, for example, you make a creative logo with a logo maker and use it in your email messages, it can help raise overall brand awareness and stick in the mind of the receivers.
Let’s take a look at examples of each type below to see how they accomplish this. If you use proper SaaS email templates, intriguing subject lines, and great content, your efforts will be more efficient.
Confirmation and Welcome Emails
First, it’s just good manners to send a welcome email after a prospect signs up for your mailing list. It signals your appreciation that they’ve chosen your company and lays the foundation for your future relationship.
This welcome email from marketing tool HubSpot is a great example:
This message is friendly and helpful. It also goes beyond a simple “Welcome to the club!” message by immediately pointing readers to further resources and free tools that they can start using right away, which is a good strategy to adopt.
That way, it encourages them to learn more about the product, in a similar way to the next type of email we’ll cover.
Onboarding and Tutorial Emails
Another way to be useful to your audience is to suggest ways to get further use out of your tool. Send tutorials and educational content to help customers get the most out of your software.
For instance, Zapier, a popular automation tool, uses email as a way to gamify the automation process.
Offering a quiz to let readers find out what they should automate in their own workflows makes it feel exciting to try using Zapier’s product. It’s like a fun little nudge to get even more immersed in Zapier’s service.
You should find a similar way to keep user engagement high during the onboarding process, by sending personalized, well-optimized messages that incentivize users to do what you want them to do and strengthening their relationship with your brand.
Next is the inevitable promotional message. You have to encourage the users to use your product at some point, right?
But in order to avoid sounding too pushy while promoting it, keep your audience’s needs and wants as a focal point. Honey, a free Chrome extension that helps users find the best online shopping discounts and promo codes, does this well:
This promotional email invites readers to look through a roundup of the best deals of September.
And as a nice touch of personalization, the upper right corner of the email displays the recipient’s current ”Honey Gold” rewards balance.
This detail helps the email feel more personalized to the reader while prompting them to start using some of their rewards points on new purchases.
Updates and Digests
Another classic style of email marketing communication is an informational download. If your SaaS product is growing, updating, or experiencing any events—tell your audience about it to keep them in the loop!
For instance, Notion recently sent this email notifying its users of all the latest improvements they would benefit from with the new software update:
This type of email keeps users informed and serves as a great way to remain in touch with current or previous customers.
As your SaaS offering evolves, it’s important to nurture that connection with the audience. Each new and exciting feature is another possible reason for users to come back and try the updated version.
And beyond notifying your audience of bug fixes and improvements, this type of email is also a way to demonstrate that you listen to user input and take your customers’ suggestions seriously.
Finally, user surveys can pull double duty: they keep your audience engaged with and thinking about your product, while also gaining useful information about how users feel about your SaaS tool.
For example, the productivity and task management app Trello sent this short-and-sweet email with a clear ask: take our survey and give honest feedback about your user experience.
The copy is friendly and personable, which helps encourage recipients to participate in the survey.
Additionally, the user feels that their opinion and experience are valued, which motivates them to continue using the product.
Webinars are another excellent way to market to your audience. A webinar is a video presentation held online (hence the combination of the words “web” and “seminar”).
Many companies use webinars as a lead generation tactic. Not only do guests provide their contact information to sign up to attend the live (albeit virtual) event, but companies can use webinar recordings after the fact to attract even more leads.
According to a Demio case study, 93.5% of SaaS companies organize educational webinars to connect to their audience. And education isn’t the only use for a webinar:
- 85.8% of SaaS companies demo their products via webinars
- 74.3% explain product features via webinars
- 17.9% use webinars for onboarding their customers
We’ll take a look at educational and onboarding webinar examples below.
Most webinars being advertised today focus on teaching about an industry-specific topic. People sign up for educational webinars to learn how to solve a problem or add a new skill to their repertoire.
For instance, Unbounce, a SaaS landing page builder, is building a library of useful resources for its target audience in the Unbounce Academy.
This resource library is full of one-hour webinars teaching viewers useful industry skills like writing successful landing page copy.
The best way to come up with effective educational webinar topics is to ask yourself: what problem does your SaaS product solve? Then, host a webinar dedicated to solving that problem in a generic way.
Your webinar will attract those who really need to solve that problem—and more importantly, those that are willing to invest the time to learn. Those same people will likely also be willing to invest money into your product if it solves their problem faster and easier.
Onboarding and Product Demonstrations
Another way to use webinars is as a live training session in using your SaaS product.
Some SaaS tools have a bit of a learning curve, which can be a barrier to entry for many new customers. Your tutorial webinar can walk them through some common use cases and leave time at the end to take questions in real-time.
Keap.com uses Live Demo Webinars as a way to train its audience to better use the SaaS tool. This strategy generates useful content for bottom-of-the-funnel leads who want a simple overview of how that tool works.
These webinars can be extremely beneficial for existing customers, as well; the more informed users are on how to best utilize your product, the more likely they’ll become loyal customers in the long run.
SEO (Organic Content Reach)
Next, content marketing is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal for attracting and building website traffic—which is the first step in online lead generation.
Using SEO-optimized blog content for growing SaaS companies is paramount if you want to:
- keep up with the competition,
- establish your brand as an authority in your niche, and
- develop evergreen content that will continue generating leads long after it’s published.
But content marketing is about so much more than just starting a blog. You need a strategy if you want to see real results. Otherwise, your blog may be the equivalent of shouting into the wind.
Even Buffer, the social media scheduling tool, took four years to reach a million visits to their blog. And that achievement took a dedicated strategy and consistent content.
Their strategy for success involved writing for their audience, publishing consistently, and promoting their content across various channels. Here’s how you can adopt the same approach.
Write for Your Audience
If your target audience consists of businesses, you’ve probably heard that you should write for the C-suite, since executives are the ones who make decisions.
But keep in mind that everyone in an organization has the potential to be involved in adopting new software, from the entry-level employee pointing out an inefficiency in the current workflow, to the mid-level manager researching alternative options.
So strive for your content to be accessible to everyone, not just those at the very top.
This means avoiding corporate jargon.
Avoid language barriers in your articles and keep them clear, conversational, and readable—regardless of how many years the reader has spent learning phrases like “change agent,” “growth hacking,” and “paradigm shift.”
Treat Your Blog Like a Resource Library
Some brands treat their blog like a magazine or publication. With that mindset, you’d write about each topic only once to avoid overlap. This approach can make it difficult to publish posts consistently.
However, blogs should be more like a resource library for your audience. Sure, some resources will talk about similar topics, but that just means the library is a rich hub of information.
This approach makes sense when you think about it: readers aren’t going to be checking your blog weekly for new posts.
Instead, if you’re doing it right, each post will be found via Google search, so readers won’t know (or care) if you have another article that covers some of the same topics. They simply care that the article they’re reading answers the question they initially typed into Google.
Cover Every Stage of the Sales Funnel
Your articles can cover the same topic from different angles and—most importantly—from different stages in the buyer’s journey.
Source: Smart eStrategy
At the top of the funnel, users likely aren’t aware of your brand. What they are aware of is that they have a problem, and they’re looking for ways to solve it. This is the stage in which you’ll want to put emphasis on optimizing content to appear for target keywords on search engines.
While you should target each stage of the buyer’s journey, it’s best to focus on the top-of-the-funnel topics, because that drives organic traffic and brand awareness.
In the middle of the funnel, users have a better idea of the potentially available solution. They’re likely familiar with a few products that can help them (yours being one of those).
At this stage, you’ll want to continue aiming for more specific keywords while demonstrating more precisely how your SaaS product can solve the reader’s problem.
Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, readers are aware of your brand and leaning towards purchasing your product. At this stage, you’ll want to write directly about your SaaS tool.
Attracting organic traffic to your website is essential, but there’s no denying that it takes time. That’s why pay-per-click (PPC) ads are an excellent supplemental strategy for getting eyes on your product more quickly.
Tara Thompson, SEO Content Manager of Markitors, puts it this way:
“Google Ads puts your business in front of a prospective customer at the exact moment they want your product the most.”
PPC marketing does take some upfront investment —“pay” is there in the name, after all—but when used correctly, this strategy is a great way to stand out from the competition.
Here’s how you can do that.
Target Top-Of-The-Funnel Readers
To get the best bang for your buck when purchasing PPC Google ads, look higher up in the funnel than your competitors.
For instance, a podcast recording software brand may be tempted to target keywords like “podcast recording software.”
Notice that “podcast recording software” has a cost per click (CPC) estimate of $1.30. Let’s try moving up the funnel. What would an absolute beginner search for?
There are good odds that beginner podcasters will be wondering what equipment they’ll need to start a podcast, including a microphone, mixer, and recording and editing software. With that in mind, let’s try “podcast equipment” instead.
As you can see, the CPC here is much lower, at only $0.60 per click. This means that, by targeting this higher-level keyword, you’ll pay much less, and still reach audiences looking for software solutions for their new podcast.
One trick of the PPC trade is to advertise on search results for your competitors’ names. If users are searching for your competitor, it’s likely that they already know they need a product like yours. So they’re prime leads for your business.
The companies below have adopted the same strategy by bidding on the keyword for one of the leaders in their industry:
Of course, if your competitor catches wind that you’ve targeted them, they’ll probably bid on your keyword, too. So when advertising on competitor keywords, it’s best not to get too enthusiastic; bid judiciously and sparingly.
That way, you’ll make an impact by leveraging your competitors’ power, without inviting too much backlash.
Put as Much Value as Possible Into Your Ad Copy
Keep in mind that, when you’re dealing with Google search results, you have limited real estate to work with. Users will see only the first 50-60 characters of the title and the first 120-150 characters of the description. So make those count!
Take a look at this ad from Zoho, for example.
While concise, it manages to be extremely compelling. It highlights the real benefits users will see (“close more deals in less time”) while using social proof (“250,000 companies trust Zoho”). And they even squeeze in a mention of a free trial.
Organic Social Media
Social media tends to be intimidating to many, but it’s an essential component of any successful SaaS company.
Because your product is by definition a digital one, your customers will expect you to be savvy and comfortable in the digital space—which includes social media channels.
But that doesn’t mean you should start firing off tweets without a plan. Let’s look at a few tips for effective social media marketing for SaaS.
Don’t Try to Be Everywhere
One mistake many brands new to social media make is trying to be present on all the social media channels.
Spreading yourself so thin is often a mistake since you probably don’t have the manpower to effectively manage all of those accounts, publish regularly, and interact with your audience there.
Instead, choose a limited number of social accounts. Start with one or two and branch out slowly from there.
But what social media channels should you choose?
The answer depends on where your audience is. To get a good idea of where your target audience hangs out, take a look at where your competitors have a large presence. And when in doubt, think about what each social media channel is best used for.
For instance, Twitter is a place for thought-provoking conversations and news. SaaS companies like Sprout Social use the platform to share blog posts and articles that their audience may find useful.
Instagram, on the other hand, is a visual medium that’s best for humanizing your brand and relating to younger audiences. Shopify does this well by using its platform to highlight user success stories.
LinkedIn is for business professionals—which is usually a great target audience for B2B SaaS products. Mailchimp uses its LinkedIn profile to provide helpful information about some ways its B2B audience can maximize revenue and efficiency.
So, research your target audience to find out which social media platforms they frequent, and develop a strategy for that particular channel.
Post a Variety of Useful Content
Once you’ve decided on a channel or two, it’s time to make a content calendar.
Your content should be varied and follow the 80/20 rule: limit promotional content to 20% of your posts. The rest should be useful content for your readers.
Take a look at what your competitors are posting. What types of content seem to do well?
There are many different kinds of content you can publish on social media, such as:
- Marketing videos
- Testimonials from real users
- Announcements, product updates, and PR releases
- Thought-provoking quotes
- Industry-related statistics
- Jokes and memes
Make a list of the types of content that either seem to do well for your competitors or that match your brand tone and voice.
Once you know what kind of message you want to convey, it becomes that much easier to establish a consistent publishing schedule that’s varied enough not to bore viewers.
SaaS Marketing Strategies Wrap-Up
Sometimes, it can feel like marketing a SaaS brand takes an army.
Long gone are the days of spammy advertising tactics; now that customer loyalty is the name of the SaaS game, long-term customer engagement and satisfaction are critical. This means that you need to be present consistently across a variety of channels.
If you plan to keep up with the competition and improve conversion rates, you’ll need to employ a strategic mix of emails, webinars, SEO, PPC, and social media marketing.
The tips above can serve as a useful foundation for you to start building your own SaaS marketing strategy, no matter your brand’s size, industry, or budget.