How is SaaS Different from Conventional Digital Marketing Services?

November 26, 2020
Digital Marketing for SaaS Companies

Digital Marketing ‘in short’!

As we know, digital marketing is all about branding and public relations to drive in sales. That is, if any company needs to get a massive reach and attract leads, then they should make sure they are present digitally and are popular among their set of the target audience.

59% of consumers cited at least one or more digital channels as a source of initial awareness.

Digital marketing is unexceptionally chosen by almost all new and existing businesses across industry types for its outreach. A digital marketing application bundle includes Advertising, Direct-response, Relationship building, Sales transaction & Distribution, Lead generation of almost any product/service.

However, the same businesses also perceive it to be a hectic process to carry out. Which is why outsourcing digital marketing is seen as a preferred option for most businesses today.

Why is SaaS Marketing Different from Conventional Digital Marketing?

“SaaS Marketing is about promises, and not products…”

SaaS buyers are particular about their needs (so are all the buyers, but these people are extra scrutineers). So, the solution provided should convince them and meet up their needs (either business or entertainment). Hence, the digital marketing process should be in a certain way that’s fascinating to the buyers who feel there is more to make out from your product.

A ‘Buyer’s Journey’ is very much important to formulate the marketing strategies and this buyer’s journey dictates the behaviour of a buyer before and after making the purchase. Also, SaaS subscription models are interpreted to be quite sophisticated because the buyers were found to make purchases differently than elsewhere. The traits of SaaS are different from any other products, so are the marketing strategies for SaaS deals.

For instance…

Imagine yourself planning to get a mobile phone. What do you do? Fix the budget, ask Google, select some models, compare price, read reviews, go to the store, use a demonstrating product, if you are convinced, you either make the purchase instantly from the store or order it online. What if a non-physical product like SaaS solutions are to be marketed? Are any of the above phenomena possible?

One popular way is to make the customer feel the tangibility of the SaaS product by offering free trials. Let them use the product, get acquitted with the user experience and then purchase it.

In fact, going by the stat

70% of active free trial users are likely to buy paid services after reaching out.

So, this brings us to discuss…

What is SaaS?

Software as a service, commonly called SaaS is a cloud-based computing service. It is a licensing and software delivery model in which a centrally hosted software is made available for usage, most likely on a subscription basis.

SaaS is one of the three infrastructures in cloud-computing apart from PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) & IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service).

SaaS as a business model was available since the 1960s but the emergence of cloud computing has renovated SaaS solutions in the digital medium. The software to be used need not be installed or maintained locally. SaaS solutions are flexible, scalable and cost effective and can be used as long as the subscription plan remains active. Since this is a pay and use model, any user cannot white-collar or own the product. All one can do is, use it to the fullest!

Most common applications of SaaS products are found in:

Customer Relationship ManagementHuman Resources/ Talent ManagementEcommerce
Procurement/ Spending/ SourcingSoftware Development/ QA TestingBusiness Intelligence
Budgeting/ Reporting/ PlanningERP/ Manufacturing/ Supply ChainFinance/ Accounting

In terms of adoption, North America has the most mature SaaS market. North America along with the Asia Pacific SaaS market will demonstrate the highest rate of growth.

Some of the top SaaS application providing companies are:

  • G Suite – B2B & B2C
  • Dropbox – B2B & B2C
  • Hubspot – B2B
  • Salesforce – B2B
  • Spotify – B2C

All the products listed above are corporate monsters offering cloud-based SaaS services for it’s users.

A simple question…

Anywhere while reading about SaaS, did you think how these products gained popularity, forged their own throne and claimed it? Did you? If not, take a minute to think…

Yes! All they did was marketing themselves digitally and grabbing the attention of their target audiences who would possibly be their consumers today.

But to reach out to this majestic, they have had to put their utmost efforts to create marketing strategies, perform experiments, more importantly, ensure their relevance… It’s not an overnight effect but it will reap what you sowed!

How is Digital Marketing Performed in SaaS?

Customer Retention is a challenge here than Customer Acquisition…

When it comes to SaaS marketing, it’s quite a serious task. To be honest it demands more inputs, efforts and brainstorming than any other product or service digitally. This is because customer retention has an equal proportion of importance as customer acquisition.

In the case of marketing any other products or services digitally, we don’t expect the same person to come again to buy the same product that they bought. Whereas, in SaaS, you sell the same product again, which keeps on changing, which is not a physical entity, which could be questioned for the value of money when missing a slight margin.

But crossing this over and making the customer buy the product again is where your value proposition lies. This phenomenon can be the ripple effect of performing extraordinary marketing as defined by experts.

Before discussing some of the exclusive SaaS Marketing trends, let us look into the most common digital marketing channelsSEO, SEM/PPC, SMM, Email marketing, Video Marketing, ORM, Public relations, etc.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is the foremost digital marketing strategy to popularize any product. Though it is understood to be complex, with proper guidance and result-driven strategies followed, it’s going to pay off for sure! The framework covers up,
  • Keyword Research

    Perform keyword research and use informational keywords in the contents of the site.
  • Technical Structure

    A definite technical setup for your SaaS website is recommended to optimize your site in the search engine.
  • Content Strategy & Production

    Follow a perfect content strategy and publish valuable contents that capture the interest of the visitor.
  • Link Building

    This might be conventional but never goes out of style. Submit the link of your sites in authorized and well-performing websites with high domain authority. Winning backlinks from such sites advocate the quality and legitimacy of yours.
Not just limited to these, here is our SEO resource library for your convenience.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) / Pay Per Click (PPC)

Paid search or Search Engine Marketing is nothing but the PPC (pay per click) ad model. Here, search engines display a keyword-specific ad to the users and upon them making a click, will the advertisers be charged. This is important for SaaS marketers because paid search is playing a critical role in gaining leads in the sales cycle.

In PPC marketing, use the problem keywords rather than being simply persuasive like ‘buy now’ or ‘purchase’. For instance, if a visitor needs a flexible customer relationship management system, you must use ‘compact CRM’, ‘flexible CRM workflow’

Provide the solution by directing them to the ad and make them click. Take them to the landing page, get their contact details and provide educational content related to the problem (it will anyhow be related).

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

The powerful space asserting the era of technology is social media. Any set of target audience and users are found in millions. Creating social media marketing campaigns and advertisements will bring in many leads and prospects. Groom the product and launch the campaign. Make sure you keep the campaign going throughout the product lifetime.

Here is an interesting read on how SEO, SMM, Content Marketing and Influencer Marketing are all one and the same.

Email Marketing

Email marketers are working to target different audiences. Sending “SaaSssy” emails to the segmented subscribers increases the brand value and also drives sales. Send welcome descriptions, tell them about product updates, newsletters are quite engaging, promotional emails help too.

More importantly, timing matters to send the mail because it is found that 69% of people unsubscribe the mail alerts. Make sure you don’t stuff the users with boring emails. Learn more about email marketing right here…

Video Marketing

Video marketing is an awesome tool because people enjoy interpreting something by videos rather than reading or surfing. SaaS mandates video marketing to have a great reach, better understanding of SaaS solutions and also to get a lot of conversions.

There are many types of videos that are sent to subscribers. They include Educational videos, promotional videos, demonstration or explainer videos, and client testimonial videos. These videos have a direct influence over the decision making of the people in making a product purchase.

If stats were to be believed,

Visitors who watch demo videos are 1.81x more likely to buy SaaS services than non-viewers.

Check out our guide to successful video marketing.

Online Reputation Management (ORM)

Reputation management is directly influenced by your online presence and how people perceive your company. You don’t have any clue of how much having a negative comment on your social media handle could do to your revenue. So, focus on building a positive online presence. Interact with the customers, fulfil their requirements and create a positive image of yourselves.

SaaS solutions may barely care for their online/brand image but they need to address the security/privacy concerns of their software to their prospects by having a good reputation online.

Here are some tips for Online Reputation Management that could help you with some useful inputs. Take a look!

Public Relations

End of all Public Relations takes you to more heights than you could do it on your own otherwise. Of course, data or insights, whether it be the data you acquired while developing the product or it’s something you found as user statistics. Make it public.

Answer the requests of journalists quickly, sensibly and meticulously. Use Platforms like Quora for public interactions and make them feel you are not any different from the public and you are available for them. A detailed explanation of PR for SaaS is available here. Check it out!

Unique SaaS Marketing Trends

Feature Marketing to become mainstreamNative Advertising to reimagine company image
Marketing Automation needs with SaaSUnbundling strategy to draw in specific buyers

Feature Marketing to become mainstream

SaaS solutions are constantly evolving. While the base software remains the same, new features, tools, plug-ins get added to improve its functionality. In short, SaaS companies are creating parallel products which opens up scope for SaaS Marketers to act upon.

They can utilize this opportunity to update or create new content on websites. Fresh content is good for SEO. And as per the statistics, Updating websites with new content and images can increase organic traffic by as much as 106%.

Native Advertising to reimagine company image

With an increasing number of SaaS companies and solutions, competition for SaaS marketing is getting even tougher. Extreme situations require extraordinary solutions. Hence, informational native advertising can be adopted by SaaS Marketers to reimagine the company’s image.

Look at the above image. This is a good use of native advertising by being informational rather than promotional. The user would gain some information out of the sponsored blog post as well get attracted to the service/product the very blog is discussing about.

Marketing Automation needs with SaaS

Over 80% of B2B Marketers had already predicted Artificial Intelligence (AI) to heavily influence the industry by 2020.

Marketing Automation for SaaS powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) can be used to improve user experience (chat bots), provide dynamic pricing on service packages, intelligent content management (for blog posts, videos, emails, etc.) and also set benchmarks for upselling.

For example, a SaaS HR systems vendor, for example, can find in the system useful information on sick days, turnover, or time-to-fill open positions. Similarly, A CRM vendor can see the ratio of opportunities per lead and the average length of the sales cycle. An ERP vendor can see average inventory levels or key financial metrics.

These data can be later fed into AI and ML systems for desired outcomes to target customers with specific solutions.

Unbundling strategy to draw in specific buyers

When SaaS companies realise the worth of unbundling their services, the marketing messages get more precise and targeted. It helps increase the chances of conversions.

Clearbit Pricing Strategy

The above screenshot is taken from Clearbit’s Pricing page.

Any prospect looking for similar solutions can choose a specific product of their choice rather than buying the whole. This is a good way of SaaS sales & marketing.

Breaking the common myths on SaaS Marketing...

“Old” marketing tactics can’t be applied to SaaS Marketing

Ofcourse, the SaaS model of business is unique. Yet it doesn’t mean that traditional tactics need to be discarded completely for its marketing.

Some old tactics like attending Trade Shows (although the pandemic has called for a change), sending direct mails, or even bill-board/newspaper/radio advertising, etc. can work for SaaS companies well. This is especially true for B2C SaaS companies like OTT platforms.

Free Trials are always necessary.

No. Marketing SaaS solutions does not always mean free trials. Often will this high acquisition cost result in poor returns.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance to build trust with the prospects by listening and understanding their existing problems, gauging competitor solutions before offering them a hands-on demonstration of your SaaS solution.

Term “SaaS” is a differentiator

Prospective customers would often assume any modern application to be a SaaS solution. So touting SaaS solutions by highlighting “web-based” or “runs in the cloud” may not work.

It is a lot better to highlight: rapid deployment, regular updates, and fewer IT resources and other such benefits.

One smart “hack” is what it takes

Marketing SaaS solutions, especially to corporates, is not a one-step process. B2B SaaS Marketers require a multi-layered planning right from building visibility, attracting leads, cultivating opportunities, closing in on leads, to retaining, and upselling them.

Marketing B2B SaaS solutions is a journey. There’s a lot more to it than a few clever “hacks.”

A Chapter from Our Experience…

Our reputation as a trusted digital marketing partner for SaaS-based companies is certainly not built overnight. The experience that we have gained over these years in dealing with customers including those who had recently purchased a SaaS solution for their organization gives practical insights on SaaS Marketing. Infact, leading B2B SaaS Marketers such as Peter Cohen resonate with our views well.

If at all our readers, expert SaaS Marketers should know:

  • B2B SaaS solutions aren’t an impulse buy
  • There are other alternatives to free trials
  • Highlight your creation story
  • Don’t undersell your SaaS product
  • Keep reminding the customers why they are paying you
  • A bad customer can kill your business

B2B SaaS solutions aren’t impulse buy

It’s way more important to show that the customer has an urgent problem – one that cannot be ignored. Making a viral marketing campaign, showcasing all the features of the product may not help here. Only when the customers realize will they be ready to hear out the solution to the problem you have pointed out.

There are other alternatives to free trials:

What SaaS Marketers need to understand is that free trials are not the only “necessary” solution. It is equally important to give the customer the peace of mind to let them know that they won’t be stuck with something they don’t use.

It is always better to offer something different or alongside the free trial like:

  • An effective demo showcasing all the key features of the solution.
  • A short video of highlights to give an overview and attract prospects to see more.
  • A subscription model with no-obligation/no commitment, i.e. let the customer pay for the solution, but can cancel/stop paying when they’re not using it.
  • A money-back guarantee is also an attractive choice to offer.

Highlight your creation story

It is important to note that a SaaS solution is a promise and not a product. Therefore, besides talking about the functionality of the product, customers are eager to know who built it and why.

Don’t undersell your product

Presenting a SaaS solution can be tricky. Most companies focus on how long the list of amazing features it can offer, etc. They are in fact underselling their product!

But if you’re marketing a SaaS solution, rethink your strategy this way – Talk more about the “non-feature” as well – address more to the customer-centric questions like:

  • Can the solution be implemented successfully?
  • Will the implementation disrupt our business?
  • Will employees use it?
  • Will sensitive data be protected?
  • Will competent support be available to help us out when we get stuck?

Once you have addressed the customer’s problem, they will be interested to hear more about the product features.

Remind customers why they are paying you

It is important to stay in contact occasionally with your existing customers. As a SaaS Marketer, you must look to avoid reaching out to customers for the first time just days before the subscription expires.

Grammerly Email Marketing

Here is an email from Grammarly. It maintains constant interaction with its customers by reminding them of its services. Now, even the customer is encouraged to continue with its services.

A bad customer can kill your business

One last bit of advice. Bad customers are everywhere and if you’re a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, they can be much worse.

For one, these customers are likely to cost you more money while not covering up your higher acquisition cost. Second, these customers will drag you away from a single, standard SaaS solution. They’ll ask for additional features that may not be on the product development roadmap, special support terms or even non-standard deployment efforts.

All SaaS marketers must be reminded of – that’s not how SaaS works… or at least not how it works successfully. Deviating from the standard means problems and extra costs for development, marketing, sales, deployment, training, and support.

Identify these outliers early on in the sales process.

Wrapping Up

The blog has turned out to be quite informational, if not lengthier!

As a SaaS company owner or a marketer, it is crucial to understand the difference in general marketing and marketing for SaaS in the digital space. SaaS marketing requires having “feature and video marketing” upfront to educate the potential customers. Marketing automation needs for SaaS solutions via Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is picking up popularity. It goes a long way in better management of content marketing, ad campaigns, flexible pricing strategies for better lead conversions. And finally, think of SaaS marketing as a promise and not a product. It is essentially a new job for marketers today: one they didn’t have before SaaS – marketing to existing customers.

You may reach out to ColorWhistle for all your digital marketing requirements via message or call at +1 (919) 234-5140. We are happy to assist you further!

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About the Author - Anjana

Anjana is a full-time Copywriter at ColorWhistle managing content-related projects. She writes about website technologies, digital marketing, and industries such as travel. Plus, she has an unhealthy addiction towards online marketing, watching crime shows, and chocolates.

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