If you are developing a SaaS or any other digital product, you have to prepare yourself to compete against the bigger players in the market. In this post we will try to explain why that does not have to be the case by default and what marketing strategy for a SaaS startup should look like.
To talk about this topic at all, we must first define what SaaS marketing is. It is the process of promoting and selling software as a licensed product with the goal of returning the customer in each new round of purchase on a monthly, annual, or some other period.
When we break down this definition, we see that SaaS marketing consists of three parts:
- Acquisitions – where you reach new users,
- Monetizations/Conversions – where new users buy a product and become customers,
- Retentions – where you need to keep customers as long as possible as paying customers.
Each of these parts has its own elements, the harmonization of which brings results, and here is what makes everyday work easier.
Have Your Startup Tell the Story of the Problem It Solves
The first step is, at the same time, the need to show visitors as much information as possible in order to make a decision to test the product, and then, in the testing process, a new type of information in order to bring the purchase decision closer. This could be called Content Marketing, but it is not the one most often mentioned in the traditional e-commerce business models we are witnessing. This content should ‘talk’, recognize the problem, present the best solution, provide all the information – because, in the process of buying software, one of most of them is usually tested and chosen, for which you do not know the competitiveness at that moment.
That story, therefore, makes sense if trial versions of your application are made after it, and that would mean that you got interested enough someone to try it, to practically evaluate what you told them through the website, creating an e-mail marketing strategy building of which seems like a daunting task but, if you follow the right steps, including employing programs that are intended to bring in the potential customers and help you keep them (Benchmark is the first that comes to our mind), it can be easier than you might think. But beware – overpromise is easily recognized.
The next step is to optimize the site with the idea of conversion in all its forms. Conversion is most often understood as a purchase, however, in the SaaS world, conversions such as logging in to a blog, newsletter, downloading an e-book, and following on social networks provide important information about the behavior of potential customers.
In SaaS marketing, decision-making by feeling is minimal, and even that is subject to minimal A/B testing. You need to know the metrics that determine success in both the conversion process on the site and on the business side. It is usually observed as a whole in two parts, wherein the first – e.g. Conversion Rate – is clearly seen in each phase, followed by CAC – Customer Acquisition Cost… while in the other, MRR – Monthly Recurring Revenue, ARPA – Average Revenue Per Account… are measured. In practice, metrics are not separated but they are like parameters whose correlations give the right picture.
SaaS marketing is much more, with various limitations that will make you more creative, although at first, they seem like solid barriers.
First, Define the Person for Whom Your Startup Is Intended
The first necessary item in this area is close cooperation with sales and production.
Before any marketing activities, the focus of product marketing is to define and improve the ideal customer profiles, the so-called ICPs (Ideal Customer Profiles). Start by who your ideal customers are, their functions, titles, how they spend their time, where and how they buy, why they buy, what their goals are, and what their fears are. Based on these ICP cards, you look for channels to deliver your message and introduce potential customers to the shop – website.
Since a startup rarely has an advertising budget (plus all other resources are limited), understanding the basics of marketing is extremely important. It is useful to develop advertising writing, communication, and distribution skills.
Some of the activities that often bear fruit in startups are posting evergreen content on a website, e-books with people from industry, inclusion and automated targeting with direct messages on LinkedIn, connecting to Facebook groups and actively commenting and sharing expertise, assessment through different platforms (e.g. Capterra, G2Crowd…) In addition, there are answering and asking questions on Quora and many other things that are not necessarily and easily scalable, but create a huge engagement from potential customers.
Understand What Your Competitors’ Customers Don’t Like About Their Products
SaaS business marketing strategy depends on many factors – whether your business is a digital or physical product, how complex it is, whether it is sold to B2B and/or B2C customers, whether it solves a real problem or the need is synthetic, whether it is a unique or superior solution to a problem, how important that problem is (read: expensive) to end-users, etc.
What is common to almost all SaaS projects is inadequate communication between marketing and product teams, as well as a large gap between the description of target groups in marketing strategies and real feedback from potential users. Therefore, we firmly believe that each marketing strategy should have a special segment that should be implemented in the phase before the launch of the product/service and to serve as a reference and source of data according to which the product will be designed before the launch. This, of course, does not mean that development ends there – it is constantly being improved and developed on the basis of further data.
In our opinion, the only way for new stories to succeed is to be the first and unique (which, let’s be honest, is quite difficult) or to be better (which is equally difficult, but far more realistic at the same time).
So, if you are a startup, it means that you have limited resources, even if you are a funded startup – in 99 % of cases, you will not be able to compete with larger players in the market. This means that if you are competing in an industry where there are big players, you have to understand what it is that users do not like, how important it is to them, how to solve that specific part better, and how to distribute it so that everyone who needs to hear about it actually hears about it.
Whatever position you are in, what is almost certain is that you need to know that you cannot conquer the entire market at once and that it should be borne in mind at all times that the product is designed to solve the user’s problem.