Launch your startup on the right foot with these strategies for effective SaaS marketing. 

Here, you’ll find: 

  • A brief explanation of startup marketing
  • Key elements of any successful marketing strategy
  • Unique marketing approaches for new SaaS companies
  • Tips to create your own SaaS startup marketing plan

The internet has changed the world in more ways than we can imagine, from global trends to the ability to connect with someone on the other side of the globe instantly. It’s has even brought forth whole new industries that couldn’t have been fathomed more than 30 years ago. 

Software as a service, or SaaS, is one of them. 

With around 30,000 SaaS companies in the world today, the industry won’t be slowing its growth anytime soon. If you’re joining the ranks with your own SaaS startup, you’ll need a solid marketing plan to get off the ground. 

What is SaaS startup marketing?

SaaS startup marketing is the overall process of spreading the word about your company, finding and converting leads into new customers, and keeping your audience informed of changes or updates as your company grows.

In the past, marketing a SaaS company was easier than it is today, largely because of the lack of competition. But with new SaaS startups launching every week, it’s more important than ever to make your business stand out.  

SaaS marketing involves many of the same best practices as marketing for any other industry. However, there are some tactics that bode especially well for this field, such as: 

  • Blog posts or written SEO content about your SaaS offerings
  • Video ads or instructional clips for emails or social media
  • Landing pages optimized for conversions like demo requests
  • Branding that is engaging for audiences and consistent with your brand values
  • Remarketing strategies for converting leads that have gone cold
  • Meeting your customers where they are and offering solutions to their biggest pain points
Young business people in office

When you’re starting to dip your toe into digital marketing for your SaaS company, keep these tips in mind.  (Image: Adobe Stock)

8 steps to create the ultimate SaaS marketing plan

Creating a marketing plan can be overwhelming, especially for startups that are moving quickly and pivoting often. By breaking down the process, though, you can dedicate ample time to each step and set up your business for success from the get-go.

When you’re starting to dip your toe into digital marketing for your SaaS company, keep these tips in mind.  

1. Deep dive into your market & customer base

You could have the greatest product in the world, but if you’re not reaching the right audience, all your hard work will go to waste. 

Early-stage startups can reap endless benefits from performing thorough market research from the beginning. You’ll be able to learn and grow with your audience and adapt to changes in the marketplace, all while staying true to the values of your company. 

In your research, think about who you’re marketing to. Are you running a B2B SaaS company? If so, your marketing should be targeted to the decision-makers at the businesses you want to work with. If your SaaS startup is focused on traditional customers, you can still narrow down your target audience based on various demographics like age, gender, income level, and more. 

During your market research, dive beyond the basics. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What are the biggest pain points that my audience faces?
  • How are my competitors drawing in customers? 
  • What is the current and predicted demand for my services?
  • Are my potential customers already using alternative options, and what would make them switch to my company? 

You can often find demographic information compiled through sources like the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you have more specific questions, conduct your research directly through surveys, interviews, or focus groups. 

Once you know more about your audience, you can create buyer personas to mimic your most common customers. Each buyer persona will have its own pain points and expectations, and your market fit (how well you’re addressing the market’s needs) will be different for each. This exercise can help you ensure your future marketing materials are truly intriguing to each of your audience segments. 

2. Meet your audience where they are

Now you should know quite a bit about your audience, including their values, pain points, and buying habits. All of this information will help you determine where you should be marketing. 

For example, if you’re in B2B SaaS, you’re dealing with working professionals. It would make more sense to target them by email or on LinkedIn instead of marketing on Instagram or Facebook. Alternatively, if you’re trying to reach college students, TikTok or Snapchat could be viable marketing channels. 

Your marketing efforts should also fall in line with your audience’s internet habits. Is your  audience online during the workday, or are you more likely to see them scrolling in the evenings? Simply knowing the right time to post on social media can skyrocket your chances of visibility. 

If you want to go a step further, look into influencer marketing. Influencers come with dedicated audiences who already know and trust the content creator in question. Companies can work with influencers to spread the word about their services and gain the attention of an already interested audience. 

Partnerships with influencers can be infinitely valuable, even if the influencer’s audience isn’t huge. Micro-influencers (those with a follower count between 1,000 and 100,000 people) generate up to 60% more engagement than macro-influencers (who have between 100,000 and 1 million followers). 

3. Show off what makes you different

In the creation of your business, you likely came up with a unique selling proposition, or USP. Now, it’s time to put it to use. 

Once you get a few customers behind you, you can create case studies to show future prospects how you’ve helped others. Case studies provide the perfect opportunity to showcase your company’s talents and emphasize your USPs to leads who might be shopping around. 

To go hand-in-hand with your USP, you should also know your value proposition. Come up with a short statement that clearly tells readers what you promise to deliver. In all your future marketing efforts, you can return to your value proposition to ensure your messaging is true to the heart of your company. 

4. Emphasize content marketing

As we covered earlier, SaaS startup marketing has lots of different elements to consider. But if you’re wondering where to start, it’s never too early to focus on content marketing. 

Content marketing involves creating blogs, landing pages, and other pieces of content to increase brand awareness and establish your company as an industry authority. Those case studies we just talked about? They’re part of content marketing, too! 

To be an effective inbound marketing tool, it’s crucial that your content is in line with your brand messaging. What are your main business values? How do you deliver on the value you promise to your customers? Let these questions guide the topics you cover and the tone you use when creating content. You can also get inspiration from authorities like HubSpot. 

Create a content marketing strategy to keep your team on task. A content calendar is a great tool for planning topics and ensuring every piece of content is completed in a timely manner. Your email marketing strategies can be part of your content plan as well. 

Within your content, remember the principles of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO can help improve your company’s standings in search engine results and bring in more organic traffic. Here are some basic SEO tips to follow: 

  • Conduct keyword research to learn what your audience is searching for. 
  • Optimize your website’s mobile view to improve loading times. 
  • Write like you’re talking to a person, not Google.
  • Post content consistently, whether on your blog or social media. 

5. Make product tours and demos easily accessible

In your SaaS marketing plan, make room for product tours and demos. Lead generation is one thing, but those leads won’t convert if they don’t know what they’re in for. 

Ideally, your potential customers should be able to find a product tour as soon as they interact with your site. You might want to make short video tours of some of your software’s specific features and post them on a landing page, encouraging prospects to provide their email address in exchange for a full product tour. 

Free trials or product demos are also valuable here. Especially in the SaaS world, the phrase “try before you buy” goes a long way! You’re much more likely to gain interest in your services if your potential customers can get a sample first. Alternatively, you could try a freemium strategy, offering a free account with basic features while saving more premium capabilities for paying customers. 

It’s also important to make sure your prospects or trial users can easily reach customer support if needed. Not only does quick and helpful service improve the reputation of your business, but it can also sway potential customers who aren’t ready to take the leap just yet. Plus, prospects should feel comfortable working with customer support during the onboarding process when (yes, when!) they do eventually convert. 

6. Offer perks for referrals

This next tip is especially helpful in B2B marketing, but it can be effective no matter what industry you’re in. Consider rewarding existing customers if a referral turns into a conversion. 

Customer acquisition is hard enough as it is. Why not let your current customers help you with the legwork? Your customers are probably already communicating with others in the industry, saving you the hard work of finding leads. Plus, the discount or perk you give for successful referrals will be more than worth the value of a new customer. 

The perks you offer for referrals should be particularly enticing. You may be able to offer a free month of premium access to your platform or a discount on recurring subscriptions. Your program should be appealing enough to make existing customers want to spread the word for you and new leads want to sign up using a referral link. 

Just like with every other aspect of your business, you should track how successful your referral program is. Ask for feedback from participants and compile performance reports to improve your program over time. 

7. Look toward the future

Marketing plans mean nothing if you can’t learn from them. So, use your current campaigns to inspire your future efforts. This process is known as growth marketing. 

With each marketing campaign you run, you should choose key metrics to track to help you analyze the campaign’s overall success. Your metrics will depend on what you’re trying to achieve, whether it be responses to a survey, clicks on a link, or purchases from a specific source. 

Some of the most common marketing metrics for SaaS startups to track include: 

  • Conversion rate
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Web traffic
  • Email conversion rate

Once you’ve collected your data, you can see what did and didn’t go well throughout your campaign. Then, you can shift your strategies accordingly to improve for Round 2. 

You can track your metrics through Google Analytics or other similar software, but for something more advanced, we created ConversionIQ. This proprietary marketing technology from HawkSEM drives actionable insights and high-quality conversions to help move your business forward with every campaign. 

8. Keep an eye on your churn rate

As much as we wish we could keep every single customer that signs on, it’s inevitable that your business will eventually have customers leave. What matters is how many.

The number of customers that say “goodbye” to your business in a certain time period is your  churn rate. To calculate it, choose data for one month and find out how many customers the business lost during that month. Then, divide by the total number of customers you had at the beginning of the month. Multiply by 12, and you’ve got your churn rate. 

If your churn rate is high, don’t panic. Use it as a catalyst to examine why so many customers are leaving. Are your subscription rates too high? Are customers not receiving what they expect from your services? Is your software unable to keep up with demand or lacking in functionality compared to your competitors?

Calculating your churn rate and working to find and fix the relevant issues is an incredibly effective way to continually improve your business. 

Keep in mind that, as your business grows, churn is bound to increase. Level your expectations when reviewing your churn rate and don’t be surprised if you experience more churn over the years. 

The takeaway

SaaS startup digital marketing has countless facets to consider, but when done right, your efforts are invaluable. Even when your business is no longer considered a startup, you can come back to these principles to guide your future marketing efforts.  

If you don’t have an in-house marketing team or need help figuring out where to start, reach out to us at HawkSEM. We’d love to learn more about your business and talk about how we can help you spread the word. 

Alexandra Thompson

Alexandra Thompson

Alexandra Thompson has been in the content marketing world since 2017 and is a proud member of the Hawk writing team. When she's not writing, she's probably got her nose in a book or a Disney movie on TV.