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Written by Jane Serra on Jun 1 , 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.

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.

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 your SaaS company adapts its marketing strategies to the changing times, there are a few key areas to focus on to make your paid search campaigns more effective. As one of the most effective digital marketing tactics in terms of ROI, this strategy can help ensure your SaaS company is set up to forge ahead. Here are some expert insights for how to do it right.

1. Aim for the right type of lead volume

Of course, there’s a drastic difference between increasing your SaaS lead count and attracting high-quality leads. If more people are clicking on your ad but there’s no increase in on-site conversions — or, ultimately, sales — you know adjustments need to be made. (This is especially crucial because you’re paying for each click.)

Sometimes, aligning yourself with well-known clients or customers can encourage higher caliber prospects to jump on board. Consider using recognizable industry names from your portfolio of happy customers in ads or on landing pages. This, paired with any industry awards, certifications or accolades, can boost your credibility and authority in the industry. 

2. Focus on the facts

As a SaaS company, 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.

3. 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. 

4. 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. 

Pro tip: Investing in remarketing is a great way to keep your brand top of mind with those who are already aware of your business but maybe weren’t yet ready to buy the last time they interacted with your site. 

10 Tips SaaS Companies Need to Know About Paid Search Marketing

Using charts, diagrams and grids can allow you to clearly display how you’re different from your competition. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Consider your landing page your lifeline

A landing page is where a user ends up after clicking your paid search ad. This page needs to present the purpose and products of your company clearly and convincingly. It should give viewers a reason to take an action, whether that’s downloading a piece of content or filling out a form. 

One way to create landing pages that offer a wow factor is to use impressive numbers and statistics as proof points. Think of it as walking the walk — not just talking the talk. For example, stating that you can save clients up to 50% or cut their customer service calls in half (and even offering a past customer example) is more convincing than saying your product “utilizes the latest technology.”

Along with potentially incorporating metrics, visual aids can be effective at drawing attention to the desired call to action (CTA). Using charts, diagrams and grids can allow you to more clearly display how you’re different from your competition in terms of:

  • Cost
  • Features and benefits
  • Contract or subscription type
  • Results

You can also mention specifics, like cost per user and “freemium” models. This helps attract clients’ attention and makes it easier for someone to familiarize themselves with your offerings before making a full-on purchase decision.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to target your competitors and their keywords with your SaaS paid search. This helps increase your exposure and gives you a chance to highlight what sets you apart from the rest, whether it’s a certain feature or a special offer.

6. 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 paid search 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.

7. Leverage 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. 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.

ten-tips-saas-companies

Offering educational content shows clients and prospects that you genuinely want to help them solve problems and illustrates that you’re a thought leader. (Image via Unsplash)

8. Aim to educate

While you’re certainly aware of the benefits your products and services offer, you have to assume prospective clients aren’t. That’s why educating your audience should be a big focus in your digital marketing strategy. You can do this through leveraging content like:

  • Demos
  • Video tutorials
  • White papers
  • Case studies

Offering educational content not only shows your clients and prospects that you genuinely want to help them solve problems, but it illustrates that you’re a thought leader in your space as well. You can offer this content via your paid search ad or on the landing page to get interested leads clicking around your site. 

9. Stay true to your brand

Using a variety of simultaneous campaigns and platforms is often a strong approach, since most viewers don’t become clients after one touchpoint or interaction. But even though you’re using different ad channels, your message and mission should be consistent across all of them.

Analyzing your data through Google Analytics or your CRM can highlight typical user patterns. This lets you focus your efforts on the best channels to increase ad effectiveness. When you know your standard user goes from an ad click to remarketing to white paper to a YouTube video before converting, you can budget better.

10. 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.

The takeaway

As you talk through your paid search 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. 

For example, you may achieve a lower CPC when you push content downloads and assets and then follow up with an email or retargeting instead of focusing solely on free trials and demos. 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.

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

Jane Serra

Jane Serra

Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Steve Dang on May 27 , 2020

In SaaS, goals and plans often change fast — you need a marketing agency that can keep up.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How marketing agencies can benefit SaaS brands
  • What questions to ask potential agencies
  • How to prepare before you start searching
  • What red flags to look out for

Whether you’re building your company from the ground up or are slated for a near-future IPO, there are tons of benefits for SaaS brands looking to partner with a digital marketing agency. After all, a strong marketing strategy is key to properly targeting your audience and expanding your reach.

Working with an agency is one way to focus on growing your business while knowing your initiatives are in good hands. But how can you determine which SaaS marketing agency is right for you? Let’s find out.

hawksem: saas marketing agency

Once you’ve decided to look into partnering with an agency, there are steps to take before you start scheduling consultations. (Image via Rawpixel)

Know when it’s time to partner with an agency

Whether you’ve been operating your marketing program in-house or were working with a consultant, there are some signs that’ll tell you it might be time to partner with an agency. SaaS companies are fast-growing by nature. If you’re looking to scale your business, working with an experienced agency just makes sense.

With an agency, you get the perks of having multiple people with years of experience working on your marketing efforts without having to put together a full-time team yourself, which can end up costing a lot of money and time. For SaaS companies in search of top marketing talent, agencies can serve as a one-stop shop for PPC, SEO, and everything in between.

Clearly define your marketing goals

Once you’ve decided to explore a partnership, there are steps to take before you start scheduling consultations. Namely, you need to have your digital marketing goals clearly defined. Knowing your company’s roadmap is also helpful during this process, but the nature of SaaS is that roadmaps can change quickly — and often. A good SaaS marketing agency will understand that.

Whether you want to focus on one aspect of digital marketing (like PPC) or experiment with a few, you’ll likely find the most success through partnering with a well-rounded agency.

That’s because agencies with multiple specialties will be able to offer you suggestions for new programs or campaign approaches that have worked well for them in the past, versus simply sticking to one SaaS marketing vertical.

hawksem blog: saas marketing agency

Lead scoring is crucial for a strong SaaS marketing strategy, so make sure the agency you work with is doing it. (Image via Rawpixel)

Look for a SaaS marketing agency with experience

This may seem obvious, but it can’t be overstated how beneficial (and time-saving) it’ll be to find an agency with experience in your industry. Digital marketing strategies aren’t one size fits all. 

When you find an agency with SaaS experience, there’s a good chance they already have insight into things like:

Pro tip: Lead scoring is crucial for a strong SaaS marketing strategy. Ideally, you want the agency you work with to do end-to-end attribution, which means optimizing for business outcomes (and signed deals and contracts) rather than just leads.

Ask them how they’d optimize your program

During your searching and vetting process, you may encounter SaaS marketing agencies that boast incredibly impressive results and make big promises. While they should be able to show you past successes, make sure that they don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk as well.

One effective way to discern which agencies can actually deliver on their projections is by getting them to check out your program (if you already have one in place). Ask them what they recommend doing differently to achieve better results. Even a mini-analysis should give you helpful insight into their process, how they communicate, and whether or not they truly know their stuff.

Pro tip: The agency you choose should have a deep understanding of the SaaS sales process, which often means longer sales cycles and more emphasis on demos

Look out for any red flags

Under-delivering isn’t the only red flag you should be on the lookout for. While different agencies operate in different ways and work with the resources they have, you want to feel like you’re in good hands. 

Knowing you’ll be working with an experienced account manager instead of a more junior-level specialist is a great start. Having more than one person working on your account is also beneficial. This means you get the benefit of more combined skills, and leaves you less vulnerable to issues or hiccups if someone goes on leave or exits the company.

Low cost with a high promised return can be another red flag. In digital marketing, as in most aspects of business, you generally get what you pay for. If a firm offers a surprisingly low cost, that may mean they’re outsourcing your account to more low-level analysts who rely too much on automation and not enough on a personalized approach.

hawksem: saas marketing agency blog

Even if an agency checks all the boxes, if something feels off to you, don’t ignore it. (Image via Rawpixel)

Follow your instincts

There’s only so much vetting you can do before choosing a SaaS marketing agency, and no crystal ball can predict if your partnership will work out. Along with all of the tips outlined above, it’s most important to go with your gut.

Pay attention to how these potential agencies communicate with you: Do they seem to have positive attitudes? Are they transparent and clear? Do they seem organized and in the loop when it comes to SaaS marketing trends?

Even if an agency checks all the boxes, if something feels off to you, don’t ignore it, or you may be kicking yourself months down the road.

Pro tip: Don’t fall for a company that touts itself based solely on a few top-tier clients or how long they’ve been in business. While these can be signs of a good agency, you still want to see if they’re a good fit by doing your homework and asking for actionable insights into your current program.

The takeaway

Working with a marketing agency that’s experienced in the SaaS space means less time spent onboarding and familiarizing, and more time pinpointing exactly what changes need to be made to improve your program.

By knowing what to look for in a potential agency, you can partner with a team of knowledgeable experts that can transform your digital marketing and help you stand out from the competition.

Wondering how HawkSEM has achieved success for SaaS brands? Let’s talk.

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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    Written by Sam Yadegar on Nov 4 , 2019

    5 strategies to lower CPA for SaaS companies while keeping sales high

    Here, you’ll find:

    • Why PPC isn’t the only way to keep CPA low
    • How content, SEO, and landing pages can help lower CPA
    • Why audience targeting is crucial (and not just on Google)
    • Reasons why you should also measure LTV

    Sure, a productive tech company’s office needs things like pens, paper, and sticky notes. (Oh, and snacks — don’t forget the snacks). But at the end of the day, digital rules all. It’s what lives at the core of these businesses — and that includes software as a service (SaaS). 

    Whatever their market and target audience, SaaS brands create software to solve a problem. Because of this, it’s likely that digital marketing and paid search have been part of your core business from the start. But, no spoiler alert here: as your business changes, so should your digital marketing strategies.

    One metric you’re likely familiar with in your SaaS paid search strategy is the cost per acquisition (CPA). Also called cost per action, CPA is defined as an online advertising payment model in which payment is based solely on qualifying actions such as sales or registrations. 

    Many SaaS companies only associate PPC or paid search with improving cost per acquisition (CPA). And while you’ll find a wealth of information linking the two, it’s worth noting that these things are not mutually inclusive. 

    If you’re a SaaS company focused on CPA over cost per lead (CPL), you’re already ahead of the game. Many businesses get too hung up on low CPL. But even if an ad doesn’t bring in a ton of leads, if the conversion rate is high, you know you’re doing something right.

    Lowering your CPA is a broad-based task. PPC is just one tool available to help you accomplish this. As you’ll see, there are other digital marketing strategies that you can also leverage that’ll help you bring in new business without breaking the bank.

    HawkSEM blog: Digital Marketing Strategies to Lower SaaS Cost-per-Acquisition (CPA)

    You don’t need to overhaul your content in order to make it a solid tactic for attracting new, high-quality leads. (Image via Unsplash)

    1. Leverage good ‘ole SEO

    With new online marketing trends cropping up nearly every day, it can be easy to overlook the effectiveness of good old-fashioned search engine optimization (SEO). 

    This isn’t meant to downplay the complexity of this style of marketing. Rather, it’s to remind you that you don’t need to overhaul your content in order to make it a solid tactic for attracting new, high-quality leads.  

    By simply understanding search engine algorithms and how to mold your SaaS content to better accommodate them, you eliminate the need to rely solely on developing new advertising campaigns. By learning to master the intricacies of SEO, you can enjoy benefits such as:

    • ‘Evergreen’ sustainability
    • Greater ROI
    • More leads and sign-ups
    • Free or inexpensive traffic increases
    • Increased authority in your industry or field

    For SaaS companies, in particular, gating content is a great way to generate leads. However, it doesn’t do a whole lot for your SEO since the content isn’t publicly available without filling out a form. Content marketing can still be a big boon for your biz, though (we’ll get to that in the next section), whether or not it’s indexed for SEO.

    2. Focus on quality content marketing

    In the world of internet marketing, if SEO is what brings them in, then good content is what keeps them around. Rather than understanding how the search engine ranking system works and manipulating it to work in your favor, content marketing is about understanding your customer base and tailoring your content to them. 

    However, knowing your customers entails a lot more than just having their names and email addresses on file. You need to understand what really makes them tick when it comes to doing business, such as their:

    • Buyer personas and backgrounds
    • Intent
    • Problems and pain points
    • Expectations
    • Values

    What makes SaaS content marketing such a cost-effective method at improving your CPA is that you already possess most of the information needed to improve your content. A thorough analysis of your sales history and the feedback provided by customers will give you a wealth of information on what content and topics really hook customers. 

    It’s also worth taking the time to see how your competition stacks up in the content marketing department. Which topics are they outranking you on, and how are they doing it? Identify content gaps and see how you can leverage them for your own brand’s benefit.

    By highlighting new trends and innovating ways to help your audience, you can start building the relationship and brand trust. See what you can learn from your competitors in the SaaS space, then determine how you can beat them at their own game. (In your own voice and without plagiarizing, of course.)

    Add into that a detailed analysis of keyword trends and their conversion rates, and content marketing allows you a virtual sneak peek inside of customers’ heads without them even knowing it.

    Understanding just how to use SEO and content marketing to bring new visitors to your site is key if you hope to see high conversion rates from your organic traffic.

    3. Optimize your landing pages

    In case it wasn’t already apparent, we’re big fans of landing pages around here. That’s because we know it’s a solid way to take a user from an organic search result, paid search ad, or marketing promotion straight to a specific page on your website with a clear call to action.

    An optimized landing page can be a major key to your digital marketing success, particularly when the competition is stiff and the cost-per-click (CPC) is high. A few ways to ensure yours are optimized include:

    • A killer headline
    • A consistent message
    • A mobile-friendly experience
    • A thoughtful design

    Experts know that designing your landing pages to have a specific purpose and drive a particular action will help boost your conversion rate.

    Plus, a lot of SaaS lead capture campaigns represent just the starting point. Once they’re in, you can work your lead through an email drip campaign or additional display remarketing that serves up something like a free whitepaper download. These follow-up efforts are natural areas to iterate on and optimize.

    HawkSEM blog: Digital Marketing Strategies to Lower SaaS Cost-per-Acquisition (CPA)

    Demographic targeting and ads on social media platforms are great methods for meeting your prospects where they are. (Image via Unsplash)

    4. Find your audience

    Google’s audience tools are great for targeting users in the consideration stage. You want to get your SaaS product in front of people who are looking to buy what you’re selling, are similar to an existing audience you have or are researching one of your competitors. 

    Using Google Ads audience targeting to pinpoint or even just “observe” these users can be highly valuable and help you lower your CPA. Just don’t forget to perform regular testing so you can be sure you’re aiming in the right places. 

    But this doesn’t just apply to Google. Demographic targeting and ads on the main social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn) are great methods for meeting your prospects where they are.

    Connect with these users through offering high-value content that shows you’re a thought leader and leads them right to (you guessed it) an eye-catching landing page.

    5. Don’t forget about lifetime value (LTV)

    CPA is no doubt a crucial metric for SaaS companies. But to get a full picture of your digital marketing ROI, you should also be looking at LTV. 

    Many SaaS companies operate on a subscription or annual contract level, meaning the transaction isn’t a one-and-done deal. Looking beyond the initial CPA can tell you much more about the actual value and ROI of your efforts. 

    For example, if your customer refers two other businesses who end up purchasing your product, you’ve just saved money by not having to use marketing to gain that business. The LTV can also be affected if your customer re-ups their contract for 2 years at once. 

    The Balance Small Business explains that a simple way to break down this number is through the following formula:

    LTV = Lifetime Customer Revenue – Lifetime Customer Costs

    The takeaway

    For SaaS companies, there’s no shortage of data — the key lies in translating all of that noise into a cohesive and useful narrative. 

    Combine these marketing strategies with a successful PPC campaign, and you can immediately see your site quickly transform into a powerful (and efficient) sales tool. 

    We’ve helped plenty of clients strengthen their online presence and achieve a greater ROI from their marketing dollars. Looking to join the ranks? Let’s chat.

    This post was originally published in September 2014 and was updated in November 2019.

     

    Sam Yadegar

    Sam Yadegar

    Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

    Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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