Kick your SaaS company’s marketing strategies into overdrive using this comprehensive guide.
Here, you’ll find:
- The difference between traditional and SaaS digital marketing strategies
- Why understanding the SaaS buyer’s journey is important
- How to build an effective B2B SaaS marketing strategy
- What marketing channels to use in marketing for B2B SaaS
I was talking with my teenage nieces recently. One thing from our conversation stood out to me.
While on the topic of their school life, I asked them what their favorite subject was. They couldn’t decide on anything, so I instantly got up, pointed at them, and shouted, “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” then I burst out laughing.
Seinfeld fans would have gotten that reference in a snap. But the utter look of confusion on my nieces’ faces showed they didn’t have an inkling of what I was talking about.
I started analyzing what just happened (really, I did). Then, it hit me: they couldn’t understand what I said because they had never seen the show (good catch, right?).
And then I realized that pop culture is constantly evolving, so a lot of the stuff we found funny in the past may not be as funny today.
The same can be said about the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) B2B marketing landscape.
With the needs of the market constantly evolving, B2B SaaS companies are finding it more challenging to understand what works and what doesn’t. It’s one of the biggest challenges B2B SaaS companies continue to face. And it’s why many ending up failing to attract new customers and even more failing to nurture those along their sales funnel.
Every SaaS business understands how difficult it is to influence purchasing decisions when the landscape and the customers’ needs are constantly evolving. This is why it’s important to have the right strategy in place.
So, to help you get started, we created this ultimate guide to SaaS B2B marketing to give you a go-to resource on how to develop an effective marketing strategy.
What is SaaS B2B marketing?
SaaS B2B marketing is the act of promoting the services of businesses with a “software-as-a-service” business model. These companies offer an intangible product, which is cloud-based software, on a subscription basis to other businesses.
While SaaS B2B marketing differs from other types of marketing in many ways, there is one key distinction that sets it apart.
Because they operate on a subscription-based model (as opposed to single purchases), SaaS companies must be able to consistently show that their services are valuable enough to justify the subscription and subsequent renewals (more on this later).
This means that the B2B SaaS marketing funnel and buyer’s journey are different from traditional B2B marketing.
Understanding the B2B SaaS buyer’s journey
The customer journey is defined as the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand.
Some marketers may label each stage differently, but the customer journey is generally made up of the same stages:
Although there is some overlap with the traditional customer journey, B2B SaaS customers will potentially go through a different journey.
Let’s touch on each of these stages briefly.
Every customer journey begins with the awareness stage. At this stage, potential customers are aware of a problem they may have and are triggered to search for a solution.
They could be actively looking at search engine results, stumble upon your ads, or ask for a referral in search of a solution for their problem.
The consideration stage is when the customer starts to become serious about searching for a solution and is already weighing their options.
Brand awareness is always important at this stage as the customer will start debating options and comparing your offering with another product. They may be analyzing features and benefits, evaluating your unique value proposition, and considering pricing.
Now, the onboarding stage is where the customer journey for SaaS B2B customers will start to look different.
At this stage, the customer is strongly considering your offering as a potential solution to their problem. However, they will be looking to test your product on a trial basis before they are willing to sign up long-term.
Consider this an extension of the consideration stage, as customers may still be weighing their options.
The adoption stage happens immediately after customers leave the onboarding stage and will look to familiarize themselves with your product.
Once the customer fully understands its features and recognizes its value, they will then transition to an established user and a paying customer.
Pro tip: A good first impression drastically increases the likelihood of conversion. Focus on creating a seamless experience during the free trial to prevent the user from opting out before their ‘aha’ moment.
All subscription-based products have a renewal period. Depending on your product, this can occur on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis.
The first renewal period happens immediately after the free trial expires, marking the customer’s first purchase. This is an important transition step as it will determine whether or not your company breaks even.
The expansion stage is when you’re looking to generate additional revenue without acquiring new customers. Instead, you’re selling upsells and feature upgrades to your existing customers to increase your recurring revenue.
One example of an upsell in B2B SaaS is a tiered pricing model. where you invite the customer to opt for a higher-tiered plan with a more comprehensive package.
A customer that truly believes in the value that your product will rave about it and act as your unofficial brand ambassador. Your loyal customers become an additional lead generation channel through referrals.
One key advantage is that as first-hand users, their endorsement becomes more authentic, making their messaging more effective.
What makes SaaS B2B marketing unique
At their core, the B2B and B2C SaaS marketers will follow the same framework when it comes to marketing their products:
- Speak to the customer’s pain points
- Share what you can offer
- Explain what benefits they gain
So, what typically sets B2B SaaS marketing apart from others? The approaches taken and the marketing tactics employed.
This is because the B2B SaaS landscape is considerably different due to several factors. Let’s break them down.
The most significant difference between B2B and B2C SaaS marketing is the target audience.
In B2B SaaS marketing, businesses operate as customers, which means the scale of their purchases is considerably higher.
B2B SaaS buyers are typically experts in their respective fields. As a result, they expect a higher standard of professionalism, expertise, and reliability. They know what they want and are aware of other competing brands and software.
The messaging for B2C SaaS marketing campaigns will almost always focus on the end user, emphasizing pricing, convenience, or features.
In contrast, B2B SaaS marketing campaigns are aimed at key decision-makers at startup companies and small-to-large businesses. These experts know what their organizations need, so they won’t necessarily go for the best, most feature-packed product on the market.
Instead, what they want is real value. So, brand messaging will frame the product in terms of how it makes their business more efficient.
Relatively longer sales cycle
Unlike traditional software, SaaS products are not sold as a one-time purchase. The main goal of the SaaS business model is to increase recurring revenue through subscriptions from customers.
The sales cycle for most SaaS products tends to be short. When the messaging focuses on the end user, the approach taken will take advantage of the user’s fear of missing out to generate high-quality leads and conversions.
Meanwhile, for B2B SaaS, the sales cycle is relatively long, with marketing efforts running for longer periods of time.
As mentioned earlier, B2B buyers will always look for value. They’ll likely compare your product with the competition. This means your demand generation or sales team will need to keep reminding decision-makers that you offer the best value out of all your competitors.
How to develop an effective B2B SaaS marketing strategy
Before you start thinking about a customer acquisition plan, it’s important to first develop a marketing strategy that aligns your marketing efforts and acts as your roadmap for success.
Your overarching strategy encompasses everything you and your marketing team will need to generate qualified leads. This could include:
- The buyer persona to adopt
- Which marketing tools to use
- What marketing channels to prioritize
- Metrics to use to measure success
An effective marketing strategy addresses the customer’s journey. This allows you to develop a SaaS marketing plan that allows you to reach your intended audience.
Now, let’s move onto how to develop an effective B2B SaaS marketing strategy.
1. Understand your audience
As a B2B SaaS company, your ultimate goal is to cater to your clients’ needs through your software. In this case, your clients are businesses rather than individuals.
However, remember that the type of software you offer doesn’t matter to them. Instead, what matters more are solutions to their problems.
Of course, you’ve already developed the best product that solves one or a multitude of problems — and does so efficiently. Now, all you need is to let your customers know about it. But in order to do that, you will need a thorough understanding of your customers’ pain points.
Get to know the B2B SaaS customer journey, stay up to date with your customers’ pain points so you can create campaigns, and develop messaging that speaks to their needs.
The best way to do so is to talk to them directly. You can start by doing surveys, interviews, or creating focus groups to learn more about what problems they need to solve.
You can then tailor your content marketing strategy to the information you gather to convey the message that yours is the solution they’re looking for.
2. Determine your brand positioning
The market might be flooded by countless SaaS businesses targeting an audience similar to yours. That’s why it’s important to showcase what’s unique about your offering to stand out.
This is especially crucial for B2B SaaS companies as your unique selling proposition (USP) and your overall brand identity can help you establish a strong and recognizable company that your customers can recognize and trust.
While this may not be as vital for startups and companies in their early-to-mid stages, determining your brand positioning early on is still a good idea as it helps you lay a strong foundation for future success.
A well-crafted brand strategy is one that is based on your customers’ needs, your unique strengths, and the data acquired from performing competitor analysis. All of this information can help to increase your visibility, attract new customers, and strengthen your relationship with existing customers.
3. Identify your goals
Remember what we said earlier about your strategy being your roadmap for success?
Well, a map with no clear markers and directions will only get you lost and wandering aimlessly on the road.
In the same way, a SaaS marketing strategy without clearly defined goals will just be a collection of ideas and plans without structure.
Clearly defining your main goal is helpful as it gives you a clear destination. But cutting that trip into smaller destinations makes the trip easier and more manageable, allowing you to see your progress as you pass each marker.
What we’ve found to be helpful is to break up your main goal according to the customer journey and set up subgoals for each lifecycle stage. This is going to be the linchpin when you ultimately construct your SaaS marketing plan.
Although this isn’t a template, you can use the following as an example of what that might look like:
- Awareness stage (target: unaware audience) – increase impressions by 20% month-over-month (MoM)
- Consideration stage (target: aware audience) – Improve conversion rates by 3% by next quarter
- Adoption stage (target: new users) – increase adoption rate to 80% before end-of-year
- Renewal stage (target: existing customers) – reduce customer churn to below 5% before end-of-year
- Expansion stage (target: existing customers) – generate $50K in average annual return (AAR) from current customers
- Advocacy stage (target: existing customers) – gain 25 new customers through referrals by next quarter
4. Set a budget
With a clearer picture of what your targets are, you’ll have more information to create a more realistic budget to fund your marketing efforts.
Since most marketing tactics carry inherent costs, you will need to allocate the resources you have to fund those activities. But how much should you allocate?
Generally, most B2B SaaS companies spend about 31% of their revenue on marketing. Large companies like Salesforce could allocate even more, spending about 40-50% of their annual revenue on marketing alone.
But what about startups? HubSpot recommends allocating about 11% of your gross revenue to marketing.
However, setting a budget isn’t just about setting aside funds. It’s also about allocating the right resources for each marketing activity and identifying tactics that will allow you to maximize returns.
5. Identify what marketing tactics and channels work for you
Now that you’ve established your goals and set a realistic budget, it’s now time to develop marketing tactics that will help you generate leads and attract new customers.
But because this is a crucial step in developing your marketing plan, you should also consider your marketing team’s strengths before you dive into tactics and channels that work for everyone else.
For instance, many companies have enjoyed great success with influencer marketing. However, this strategy may not be as effective if your marketing team comprises mainly of introverts.
Generally, adopting an inbound marketing strategy offers plenty of value. Mainly, it helps you establish a long-term lead generation channel. With this strategy, you can combine your content marketing efforts with search engine optimization (SEO) to gradually build your online presence. Create different types of content, such as white papers, case studies, and blogs, to create more opportunities for discovery.
You can then supplement your inbound marketing efforts with a robust pay-per-click (PPC) strategy using Google Ads or social media ads focusing on B2B channels like LinkedIn. PPC is a good investment as it provides instant traffic while offering more control over your messaging and budget.
Other marketing tactics that you can apply include:
- Landing pages: a well-crafted bidding strategy, paired with an optimized landing page, is the perfect formula for PPC success
- Email marketing: low-cost marketing method that allows you to build relationships with potential and existing customers with plenty of potential for growth
- Events and webinars: provide plenty of opportunities to showcase your product’s capabilities while positioning you as an expert
- Doing podcasts: doing interviews on your own or other people’s podcasts helps your positioning as an industry expert
- Marketing with testimonials: testimonials from past or existing customers are great for social proof as they share positive experiences about a problem they were able to solve using your product
- Joining review sites like G2: software marketplaces and business review sites like G2, Capterra, and Clutch are great platforms for reaching intended customers in the Consideration stage of the customer journey
- Offering freemium access: gives potential customers unlimited access to your product for a limited time to allow them to test the solution
Remember: there’s no single template for success in marketing. It’s important to adopt what works for your B2B SaaS company based on your company’s strengths.
6. Develop a customer relationship marketing strategy
In B2B SaaS, the concept of one-time customers should never be in your vocabulary. While it’s always important to attract new customers to your business, customer retention should be your main priority in order to increase your recurring revenue.
To do that, you need a customer relationship marketing strategy.
Rather than your relationships being simply transactional, customer relationship marketing is all about establishing meaningful relationships with your customers through marketing strategies and activities with the goal of increasing satisfaction so they commit to being long-term customers.
This strategy involves the integration of general and client-specific strategies, such as creating a loyalty program, personalizing the customer journey, and creating content that your customers will find valuable.
7. Re-evaluate your strategies
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to B2B SaaS marketing. The landscape is constantly evolving, so what works for you now may not work in the coming years.
It’s important to re-evaluate your strategies every so often to find out what’s working for you and rule out the ones that need to be re-optimized or replaced.
B2B SaaS marketing is a complicated landscape that requires more than just getting your name out there. It requires a carefully-curated strategy that aligns your efforts and directs your tactics in order to reach your ultimate goal.
You can begin building an effective B2B SaaS marketing strategy by using the tips we shared above. But if you don’t have the time or resources to plan and execute your SaaS marketing strategy, you can rely on expert marketers like us for help.
Get in touch with our experts today to learn more.