Ready to kick some SaaS? This step-by-step guide can help you build the ultimate SaaS digital marketing plan.
Here, you’ll find:
- Prerequisites to ensure your SaaS business is ready to scale
- How to build a solid foundation for your marketing plan
- The primary SaaS marketing strategies to consider
- How to tailor those marketing strategies to your business
If you’re a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business looking for a digital marketing blueprint, there’s no time to waste.
Your audience is eager to buy.
You’re ready to scale.
Your industry is growing fast.
The only thing standing in your way from complete industry domination is a rock solid marketing strategy geared toward SaaS specifically.
See, while digital marketing plans use the same tools from a shared proverbial toolbox (think inbound marketing a la paid search, SEO, and social media), SaaS businesses require their own hyper-specialized spin.
From funding pursuits to retention challenges to turning leads into subscribers over the long and winding sales cycle, you deserve a digital marketing plan that keeps your unique challenges in mind and allows you to scale.
The Digital Marketing Blueprint for SaaS Companies
- Define your offer, personas & goals
- Get your SaaS site conversion-ready (CRO)
- Make your educational content a priority
- Nurture leads through the long sales cycle (and beyond)
- Be present on the right social media platforms
- Pick a paid search strategy to scale
- SaaS-specific SEO
Step 1: Define your offer, personas & goals
For any business looking to build a marketing plan, the first step is to clearly define your:
- Buyer personas
But for a SaaS marketing plan, while your product may be complex — and your customer base may be a bit more savvy than the typical B2C customer — your messaging still needs to be simple. This is particularly true for your value proposition.
Define your offer
What do you do for your customers?
I’m not talking about technical features (although I’m sure you have many!). I’m talking benefits.
- What problem do you solve?
- How does your product change a customer’s life?
- What makes you different from your competitors?
- Why would a customer choose you over those competitors?
Once defined, the most effective way to communicate your core value proposition will be to feature an explainer video in the top portion of your landing page (we’ll talk about this again in step 2).
Define your customer personas
One massive difference between SaaS businesses and other industries is your high-level customer base. This is something we’ll keep in mind as we go through your entire digital marketing blueprint.
Start at the very beginning with your customer demographics:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- Are they married?
- How much money do they make?
- What is their education level?
Once you have a broad idea of your target customer base, get granular.
Because SaaS businesses often have tiered subscriptions with different pricing options, you can get ultra-segmented with your personas.
You can also segment differently based on geography. Understanding how your customer profile varies from region to region is a good idea.
- What are your potential customers’ biggest concerns or objections to your product?
- Which benefits matter most to them?
- What’s their budget?
- What are their pain points and goals?
- Where do they get their information? What do they read?
- What is the estimated CLV (customer lifetime value)?
- Similarly, what is the CAC (customer acquisition cost)?
If your SaaS company has been around for a while, it’ll be a whole lot easier to pull this clear-cut data from your customer relationship management (CRM) tool like HubSpot or Salesforce.
If you’re a newer SaaS business, it’s okay to start with a few ideal client personas and revisit this exercise down the road.
Define your goals
After defining your buyer personas’ goals, it’s time to turn the attention back to your own SaaS business and your marketing goals: What is your budget? What are your goals? Which metrics matter most?
- Brand awareness
- Traffic growth
- Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
- Sales qualified leads (SQLs)
- Return on ad spend (ROAS)
Measurement and attribution at each step of the customer journey
You should have an idea of all relevant metrics associated with your MQLs and SQLs (like conversion rates and average cost).
This includes linking your MQLs and SQLs back to the originating keyword, and if you have the data, attributing the revenue or the size of the deal back to the originating keyword, segment, or ad.
When it comes time to determine how much to bid on a keyword (or how much you are willing to pay for a lead), take CLV into consideration. This is key, since long-term contracts and recurring revenue are a norm in the space. You can learn more about CLV (and how to calculate it) here.
Finally, take a look at Google Analytics to learn more about the pathways that lead to revenue-generating opportunities: how many touch points, which channels, what sequence of steps.
That’s a lotta data to track, I know.
At HawkSEM, we keep track of clients’ buyer personas, visitor flow, and result tracking with our ConversionIQ system, a super robust reporting dashboard that collects and organizes marketing metrics from top (of the funnel) to bottom.
In other words, we connect leads back to keywords and revenue and use that data to make actionable marketing decisions. You can learn more about it here.
SaaS companies are often global in scale, reach, and ambition. Because of that, it’s important to have a well-thought-out “internationalization strategy” in place.
You also need the appropriate resources to support and build out in each region or territory.
If you don’t have all that just yet, you can still work to clearly delineate guidelines for how campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and ads should vary across each geography. It’s a “think global, act local” philosophy.
Further, it’s important to ensure that your business is ready to scale once the leads start a-flowin’. Is your sales team ready to take an influx of leads? Do you have the infrastructure in place to handle rapid growth?
If you answered yes, it’s time to jump into step two of your SaaS marketing plan!
Step 2: Get your SaaS site conversion-ready (CRO)
Customers don’t usually walk into a mysterious building without a sign, right? And they definitely don’t stick around if they feel lost inside.
Here’s what I’m getting at: Think of your website (especially your homepage) as your virtual storefront. It should be somewhere your customers feel comfortable and understood upon arrival.
Your site should immediately communicate:
- Who you are
- What you offer
- How to move forward
And the most impactful way to communicate this is through video.
The power of video
Education is a hugely important component in the SaaS space.
And while copy and images are important on your site, videos fit more information faster — and leave a more lasting impression. Embed videos at the top of your landing pages to educate your prospects in the most effective way possible.
SaaS website CRO: beyond the homepage
Now that your visitor is comfy, let’s make sure they stay a while.
Your website should be easy to navigate, with all those important pages an easy click away.
The “about us” page is typically the second most frequently visited page on a website; that means your prospective customers want to know who you are.
Make sure your “about us” page speaks to the human component of your SaaS company: how and why you got started, the people who make up your team, who your customers are, and why you love what you do.
Your values will matter more as it comes closer to the buying decision.
This is extra important for SaaS.
Despite the complex nature of SaaS products, your messaging needs to be simple and revolve around benefits. This includes clear and helpful calls to action (CTAs) sprinkled throughout your site.
Social proof and credibility
Make sure your website visitor trusts you upon arrival with badges, logos, reviews, certifications, or awards (we’ll touch on case studies later).
Also, including a phone number and email in your “contact” sections solidifies that trust.
What makes you different?
A great way to easily communicate what makes you different is leveraging a competitive matrix that shows what sort of features you offer vs. the competition. This can shift the focus away from merely pricing or reputation, especially if you have confidence in your product and your feature set.
SaaS website CRO: let’s get technical
Did we mention your SaaS site should be easy to navigate?
Now that we’ve doubled-down on the critical importance of your site design and experience, let’s do a quick technical audit.
Your site should be:
- Error-free: Check monthly for any dreaded 4XX errors.
- Lightning-fast: You can check your site speed with PageSpeed Insights.
- Mobile friendly: Everything should render properly on any mobile device
Additionally, be sure to use high-resolution images. You can also take advantage of heatmapping or session recording tools to see how visitors interact with your site.
Lastly, advanced call-tracking software can help your sales team determine what’s important to hone in on, learn what customer pain points are, and suss out your positioning against competitors.
Step 3: Make educational content a priority
With so much competition in the SaaS industry, content is your chance to position yourself as the thought leader in your space and earn credibility.
Let’s cover a basic content marketing strategy for SaaS specifically.
Top-funnel content plan for SaaS businesses
First up, we want to create content that lives on your site geared toward helping prospective customers in the early research phase of their buying journey.
- Make a list of the most common questions your visitors might have
- Use each of those questions as an article topic
- Get to writing!
With all that competition, many customers will be bouncing from website to website seeking a definitive solution.
…And between two SaaS businesses with a virtually identical product, that customer will always choose the business with the most clear and helpful content.
We should never think of digital marketing as strictly transactional. But it is especially important to go beyond this way of thinking in the SaaS space, where education is such a massive component of the buyer’s (long) journey. Your prospective customers need extra consideration to purchase larger, longer-term contracts.
Every interaction should seek to inform, educate, and create a meaningful impression. Create quality content, and the organic traffic will come.
Middle-funnel content plan for SaaS businesses
Further down the road, you’ll need to create content that helps those prospective customers further evaluate how your SaaS product would solve their problem.
This calls for higher-level content, such as:
- How-to guides
- Case studies
Pick one or two educational resources to start.
Unlike your blogs, this content will only be accessible through a form fill on your site, exchanging your mega-valuable content for their email address. (Score!)
And remember, each action above should be credited with their own conversion “value.” For example, a download might be given less credit than a demo.
Step 4: Nurture leads through the long sales cycle (and beyond)
Because SaaS businesses have a longer sales cycle, email marketing is a mega-powerful piece of your digital marketing blueprint for engaging qualified leads as well as customer retention.
To get started, here’s what to focus on.
Drip campaign for leads: These automated emails should offer nothing but education and value: case studies, tools, demos — anything to warm ‘em up and nudge those prospective customers toward the sale.
New customer nurture: Keep existing customers confident in their decision with emails that help them get to know you better and ask for their feedback (showing you care).
There are so many opportunities with email marketing in your SaaS marketing blueprint. You can get super segmented, keep current customers engaged, and play around with A/B testing along the way.
But before you launch those email campaigns, make sure to determine your customers’ consideration period: How long do they take to commit to a purchase after that first moment of research?
This information will allow you to apply the right settings for remarketing lists, determine how long to drip leads, and really take advantage of seasonal purchase behavior.
Step 5: Be present on the right social media platforms
With a tech-savvy audience base, being present on social media is an important feature of your SaaS digital marketing blueprint. And because clear communication and brand authority is the name of the game — and social media offers an effective and affordable means to that goal.
A quick note: If you’re just getting started with your digital marketing blueprint, prioritize the channels where your customers are heavily populated.
Don’t overextend yourself by creating a social media marketing plan for every social platform out there. If most of your customers are active on LinkedIn, for example, focus your attention there first. As with everything else marketing: quality over quantity.
Organic social media marketing for SaaS
An active social presence builds trust and valuable networking, like an extension of your website. So, build a calendar of social posts that include:
- Photos and videos of your team and your product in action
- Educational content (articles, how-tos, demos, relevant news)
- Social proof like reviews, announcements, and case studies
With your content marketing plan in full swing, it’ll be easy to repurpose most of these assets.
Paid social media marketing SaaS
Focus on getting your organic social media plan cranking; but after some time, you might consider utilizing paid social media marketing as well to “boost” your best content or run paid ads that appear in front of your target audience.
Which leads us into:
Step 6: Pick a paid search strategy to scale
Ready to scale?
When executed correctly, paid search or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a wildly effective marketing strategy for lead generation because it revolves around user intent.
There is no other marketing method that allows you to get in front of your ideal customer at the moment they consider purchasing a product like yours.
Not only can you get in front of your target audience with paid search, but you can also use retargeting to re-engage consumers who showed an interest in your brand.
The power of retargeting
Retargeting ads are shown to users who took certain actions on or off your site, but didn’t follow through with the sale.
This is a huge assist to get back in front of your audience during the long sales cycle.
It’s important to keep in mind that many of these platforms, like Google Ads, have the default audience set at around 30 days — so be sure to tailor your campaigns to the rough estimate for how long it takes your leads to convert.
Choosing the right paid search strategy
You might notice I didn’t include any specific actionable steps for this section of your marketing plan — and here’s why:
Social media, email marketing, or paid search will carry different weight in your overall marketing blueprint — allocating more money in your marketing budget toward one or the other.
And while PPC is an extremely powerful form of digital marketing, it can take more money up front to yield those big returns.
Not sure how PPC should fit into your plan? Check out our Ultimate Guide to PPC for SaaS Brands.
And remember: Those PPC ads will direct prospects back to your website, so it’s extra important to make sure your content (especially the landing page) is irresistible.
When assessing the contribution of each channel, go beyond merely leads and conversions, and toward MQLs, SQLs, and revenue. Look at assisted conversions and how each channel plays into the larger picture by looking at Google Analytics data and the entire customer journey.
Step 7: SaaS-specific SEO
Finally, it’s time to talk about your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for your SaaS marketing plan.
To make sure your content reaches those prospective customers in the search engine results, you need an SEO strategy that incorporates:
Keyword research and competitor analysis
Determine what key phrases your audience uses to find you at every stage of the sales funnel — keeping in mind that prospective customers might not use the same words you would use to find your own product.
And don’t forget to analyze your top competitors’ sites and content to see what you might be missing in your own SEO plan.
- A regular content creation calendar: Use those keywords to drive your content creation plan.
- Content updates: Build in time to review older pieces of content to make any necessary edits or improvements.
- Technical SEO: Use the help of technical SEO experts to audit your site for on-and-off-page SEO
- Backlinks: Nothing says trust-worthy SaaS business like a link to your site from another relevant, high-quality website.
There’s no way around it: Creating a SaaS marketing plan is extremely nuanced due to the unique nature of the industry. It can be especially tricky for a SaaS startup or businesses with a smaller marketing team looking to take the plan into their own hands.
But it’s possible!
By setting a solid foundation first, prioritizing the proper marketing tactics, and leveraging the marketing channels that benefit your SaaS brand the most, you can home in on your strategy and rise to success.
Feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect of not only building your own marketing plan — but executing, managing, and optimizing those strategies, too? Reach out to learn how HawkSEM could help.