Written by Steve Dang on Apr 15 , 2020

Check off these boxes to ensure your paid search marketing strategies are on the right track for your software-as-a-service (SaaS) brand.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Dos and don’ts when it comes to PPC for SaaS brands
  • How to make your assets work for you
  • Why retargeting (the right way) is key
  • Tips for optimizing your SaaS landing pages

We’re calling it now: “pivot” is the theme of business in 2020. That goes for digital marketing, too. Across industries, customer needs and wants are changing. If you haven’t revisited your strategy playbook, now’s the time.

With long sales cycles and an emphasis on demos, SaaS brands have a unique set of marketing obstacles. Luckily, SaaS teams are often more familiar with ever-changing goal posts than most. Whether B2B or B2C, SaaS products and platforms play a huge role across many industries, from finance to project planning and everything in between.

As one of the most effective digital marketing tactics in terms of ROI, pay-per-click (also known as PPC or paid search) ads can help ensure your SaaS company is set up to forge ahead. Like most digital marketing methods, this strategy isn’t one size fits all. So, how can you make it work for your SaaS brand? Read on to find out.

1. Focus on credibility to convert visitors to leads

It’s especially key for SaaS brands to establish credibility from the beginning. If you look at users who are finding their way to you through a search engine, they may not be acquainted with your company (unless they’re searching through a brand term, of course).

Because of this, you want to make it clear to someone unfamiliar with your offering that your company is legit right off the bat. One effective way we’ve seen of doing this is to align your brand with well-known clients. If you have big-name Fortune 500 clients in your roster, it’s wise to leverage that. As long as there’s a level of recognizability, it’s a good idea to include those logos on your landing page (with permission). 

Even better: See if you can create a case study that highlights both your partnership with that brand and how they found success through working with you. Not only does this help establish credibility, but it allows people to understand your product and service on a deeper level.

HawkSEM: PPC for SaaS Brands in 2020: 6 Tips

OverOps uses brand logos and testimonials to illustrate their credibility.

You can also establish credibility through showcasing:

  • awards
  • press mentions
  • client testimonials
  • seller ratings

2. Always qualify your leads

Plenty of SaaS brands think they’re covering all the bases: They’ve got the proper CRM in place, and they perfectly store and track their leads. But if you’re not following up on those leads and doing the work of rating and scoring them based on their perceived value, you could be missing out on helpful insights. 

There are two ways to score leads. The first is quantitative, which scores leads from 1 to 10, zero to 100, or something in between, depending on how granular you want to get. The other way is qualitative. For this, you can score with metrics like low, medium, or high probability. (Here’s how to use lead scoring in Salesforce.)

Once you decide how you want to score them, the next step is to optimize your campaigns for qualified leads. You don’t want to fall into the trap of seeing the conversion data inside of Google Analytics and simply optimizing for those conversions

Once you score your leads, you also want to connect them back to the originating campaigns, ad groups, keywords, segments, and devices. It’s tempting to rely on intuition when you’re optimizing campaigns, but the data won’t steer you wrong.

3. Stick to the facts

As SaaS brands, successful sales often rely on how effectively you demonstrate the value of your product — and how it stands out from your competition. When you know the challenges faced by your prospective clients, you can cater your ads and content to the product features that will be most relevant to their needs.

Showing metrics is also a good way to prove your offering’s worth. It’s one thing to say you can save a company money, for example. It’s quite another to say you can potentially save them at least $50,000 — and have the data to back it up.

Paid search for SaaS: HawkSEM blog

An increase in client volume coupled with a decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA) can save you serious money. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Know how to properly use LTV

Too many SaaS marketing agencies focus on lead volume. But especially with the longer sales cycles that tend to come with SaaS, it’s crucial to be calculating lifetime value (LTV). This figure can be used to make critical decisions, such as how much you pay for user acquisition and how your target through paid search ads. This is why lead scoring, as we’ve mentioned before, is crucial for a strong SaaS marketing strategy.

Hubspot explains you can determine lifetime value by calculating the average purchase value, average purchase frequency rate, customer value, and average customer lifespan. Ultimately, multiplying customer value by the average customer lifespan should give you your LTV. Once you have an accurate number, compare that with your customer acquisition cost (CAC) to make sure you’re getting the ROI you want. 

5. Understand what constitutes quality conversions

Speaking of LTV, your goal should always be to create clients for life. Because it costs money to acquire new clients, the more clients you keep, the less it’ll cost you (no surprise there). Plus, an increase in client volume coupled with a decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA) can save you serious money.

Understanding this can help you market with the long game in mind. Big players and key clients will sometimes visit your website or contact you with questions many times before deciding to make a purchase, but that type of client can be more lucrative in the long run. 

HawkSEM blog: software as a service

A clear CTA, impressive stats, and a chatbot are all elements of an optimized landing page.

6. Put your best foot forward with landing pages

For SaaS companies in particular, your landing page is the starting point for many potential leads — the first step of the customer journey. That’s why you want to use all of the resources at your disposal to ensure your landing pages are as compelling and as effective as possible.

As a guiding principle, make sure your landing page has a clear purpose. You want to make sure all of the page elements work together to get the user to convert by filling out a form or performing some other desired call-to-action (CTA) step. You also want to entice visitors to scroll down through the entire page, if applicable, so it shouldn’t be too long.

Extra elements, like a chatbot, can also be quite useful in a landing page. They allow you to engage with your audience, reduce your bounce rate, and get a conversation started right then and there. That way, you can address any particular pain points they might have while the lead is warm. Lastly, of course, you should always be testing your landing pages and optimizing accordingly.

Pro tip: We’ve seen more and more SaaS companies ungating their longer content (aka making it available without having to fill out a form), such as white papers and market research. Particularly when competition is stiff, this can be an effective way to get interaction instead of having the visitor simply bounce.

7. Study your ideal client and current clients

If your search marketing strategy isn’t working as well as you’d hoped, you may have misread what matters to your target audience. Especially for technical and niche business, keyword targeting is crucial.

Due to the hyper-focused nature of the lingo in some of these industries, one keyword may have multiple meanings, some of which may not apply to your business (like event planning software for businesses vs. ticketed event platforms). It can be helpful to go back through and make some of the following changes:

  • Adjust display times
  • Switch up keywords
  • Use more compelling ad copy
  • Tailor by language and location
  • Add negative keywords to your PPC for SaaS campaigns

Sometimes all you need is a display campaign targeted to a very narrow audience to start attracting the right kind of clients. When you choose to go this route, however, it’s key to pick your placements carefully and make sure they’re on relevant sites.

8. Nurture cross-channel alignment

Another common issue when it comes to PPC efforts for SaaS is that their various channels are too siloed and separate. Perhaps each channel is led by a different owner, and these owners don’t regularly check in with one another. This can result in miscommunications, unnecessary or repetitive efforts, and missed opportunities.

Synchronizing these different channels can keep everyone working towards the same goal with a cohesive vision. When aligning on an element like your copy, you’ll know that you’re speaking to your target audience with a consistent voice and tone, whether it’s a followup email or a landing page. Remedying this issue can be as simple as a brief weekly meeting to review and discuss current projects.

9. Take advantage of long-tail keywords

When it comes to paid search marketing, longer search terms often mean higher intent. Think of it this way: someone searches “blender,” and someone else searches “Vitamix black 5200 standard high performance blender.” Who do you think is more inclined to make a purchase?

The same goes for SaaS brands. Going after more relevant, long-tail keywords not only targets those with higher intent, but it also snags those who are potentially in the “research” stage of the funnel, which can be just as valuable.

HawkSEM software as a service blog

Having assets to cover each stage of the buyer’s journey, it’s easy to target the right person with the right content at the right time. (Image via Unsplash)

10. Leverage all of your assets

It’s common for companies to generate a hefty amount of assets in their lifetime. But problems arise when these assets get lost in the shuffle or can’t easily be found. After all, what good is spending time, money, and resources to create something that you’re not actually leveraging? 

SaaS marketing relies heavily on audience education — assets play a key part in that. You can use these pieces of content to educate and nurture your audience. Moreover, when you have assets to cover each stage of the buyer’s journey, it’s easy to target the right person with the right content at the right time.

Pro tip: Keep your assets organized in a spreadsheet — preferably a cloud-based doc that your team can access, such as Google Sheets. It can include things like links to each piece of content, what stage of the buyer’s journey it addresses, and the type of content it is.

11. Look beyond Google Ads

There’s no denying that, by and large, Google is the top search engine around. But that doesn’t mean others, like Microsoft’s Bing, are worth ignoring. In fact, Microsoft Advertising makes it easy to export your Google Ads campaigns to their platform. 

Not only that, but you could see better results with a lower average cost per click (CPC). Depending on your target audience, you may even find less competition on the Microsoft Ad platform, which includes those searching on the Bing, Yahoo, and AOL platforms.

12. Consider retargeting

Since SaaS brands tend to have longer sales cycles, retargeting (also called remarketing) can be a game-changer. Retargeting connects your SaaS offering with people who have already visited your site or mobile app. 

Google Ads is set up so that the default audience is generally set at 30 days. But this is often not enough time for the SaaS sales cycle, which can end up being three or six months out. Once you determine a rough estimate for how many days it takes your leads to convert, you can tailor your remarketing campaigns accordingly.

A lot of education can take place during the buyer’s journey. If you’re serving white papers or other content campaigns that last longer than 30 days, your retargeting should do the same. Lastly, don’t just retarget your entire audience. You want to make sure different audiences are getting different tailored experiences and messages when possible.

Pro tip: Platforms like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn all have their own retargeting tags, so make sure you’re placing each retargeting tag properly.

Speaking of LinkedIn, here’s a bonus video tip taken from our recent webinar all about PPC for SaaS:




The takeaway

PPC for SaaS brands often isn’t a straight-line path from A to B. Rather, it’s about a composite of different campaign types working together, nurturing your audience with education, and using PPC to serve up various resources that ultimately get them to convert. 

As you talk through your digital marketing goals and strategies, you may find that a SaaS marketing agency is what you need to take your program to the next level and leverage ideas you might not have thought of before. Whether you partner with pros or keep things in-house, the above best practices will set you up to craft winning paid search campaigns for your SaaS company. Want even more PPC tips for SaaS brands? Check out this webinar recording.

This post has been updated and was originally published in August 2019.

Steve Dang

Steve Dang

    Steve Dang is Director of Digital Marketing & Strategy at HawkSEM. He's got more than 10 years of experience leading digital teams and revenue growth, working with clients in SaaS, FinTech, E-commerce, higher education, financial services, and more. In his spare time, Steve enjoys long runs, long swims, and long books.

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