SaaS Marketing Overview
Creating a low-risk avenue for customers to experience your offerings is the fastest way to get your software into the hands of your customers. While traditional sales cycles work for other industries, you have the unique opportunity to allow your customers to experience your offerings first-hand, and modern marketing can help you connect with your target audience before and after they try your offerings.
Instead of relying on word of mouth within the industries you serve, intent-based advertising and retargeting efforts engage your target audience and encourage them to use your low-risk option. An effective digital advertising program targets individuals who are actively searching for the type of software you offer and engages them with your low-risk offering so your software can speak for itself.
Whether your business is a B2B or a B2C, most SaaS businesses can utilize a low-risk offering option to encourage initial engagement and lessen the sales-intensive acquisition process. This can be automated through a specific marketing funnel using communications programs – such as drip email marketing campaigns, social media content, videos, and website content, as well as online reputation management—to increase brand awareness and engagement while nurturing leads. This automated marketing funnel can serve as part of your customer service efforts, too, aiding acquisition and retention.
Continue reading to learn how modern marketing can integrate with your offerings online and improve your customers’ experiences. Videos, website content, email marketing, blog articles, and urgent calls to action will typically encourage your low-risk option users to convert into long-term customers.
Your customers likely have a pressing need for your software, which is why establishing a marketing foundation based on a very low-risk package is ideal for your business. Then, after the introductory offering (we recommend starting out with a free trial for most SaaS businesses) it’s best to incrementally scale your customers into your regular pricing model. This way, new customers have a smooth transition from their first interactions with you to a “normal” interaction with your business. Plus, this self-serve trial basis helps your prospects experience your offerings on their terms and schedule, which a demo or chat with a customer service representative does not offer.
For this customer experience to be effective, your onboarding processes must be effective, as they are critical to your business’s success. This is where your marketing funnel comes in. Your sales process is the foundation of your marketing strategy, but also the beginning of your marketing funnel. When sales and marketing are fully integrated, your customers will experience a smooth onboarding process, successfully experience your offerings, and most will convert to paying customers.
The first foundational marketing initiative you must complete is market research. By determining your target audience and positioning within the competitive landscape, you can better determine how you truly benefit your audience. Whether you are launching a new business or starting a new marketing initiative, creating or revisiting your business’s market research can help you better serve your customers.
Who is your target audience? And what do they need? To answer these questions, look beyond demographics to better understand what makes them tick. Look beyond the scope of your software to determine other ways you can serve them. This is vital information you need to know before beginning to develop your messaging and positioning.
If you’re unsure where to begin, start asking your current and previous customers questions about why they sought out your software, why they chose your business, and what needs your software fulfills. They may offer you insights into aspects of your software that means a lot to your customers and maybe even aspects that can be improved.
If you do not have a lot of customers to ask or much feedback to review, start by asking different members of your team what they notice the most about how your software truly benefits your customers beyond the original scope of the software itself. If you can, conduct a survey sent to your target audience.
Throughout this process, it’s imperative that you and your team identify customer objections and roadblocks. When you know what your customers struggle with, you can accommodate them to the best of your ability through your software and customer service. This involves resolving those challenges for your customers. The key is to focus on how your business solves your customers’ challenges, not on the services you provide. This is the foundation of your positioning and messaging.
The basis of your messaging guidelines is determined by your positioning in the competitive landscape. This means you must be clear on who your target audience is and what their needs are. Once you know this, you must compare their needs with the benefits of your software. Then, compare those benefits with the benefits of your competitors’ benefits. This is the basis of your positioning.
At SharedTEAMS, we like to create a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of your top 3-4 competitors. This effort collects basic details of your top competitors, compares them with your business, and determines your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, which helps narrow your positioning in the landscape.
By focusing on promoting what your competitors lack in your marketing efforts, you stand apart in the industry. This also helps your audience find you based on your unique positioning according to their unique needs.
When you are able to clearly define your unique benefits (not features) to your customers within the competitive landscape, you are ready to define your messaging guidelines (see Branding).
Pricing can make or break your business. If you charge too much, your audience won’t bite. If you charge too little, your audience may not perceive your offerings as valuable. To find a middle ground, we recommend implementing a low-risk package pricing model. This “try before you buy” method is very effective for SaaS businesses because, unlike other products and services, your customers can experience the benefits of your software before they purchase it.
There are two ways you can offer a low-risk package pricing model: offer your complete software for free for a trial period or offer a small portion of your software for a free trial period. We recommend offering a portion of your software for the free trial period. Then, incrementally increase the functionality of your software and price in a fixed, predictable way for your customers. You may want to create plans based on the different needs of your various audience segments. This way, paying customers get the full experience, but prospects getting the trial period still receive a valuable experience and are likely to want more at the end of the trial period.
For example, a single person ordering a weekly food kit may require five to 14 meals, but a family of four would require 20 or more. Bundling meals at different price points helps the business maintain subscribers while catering to their unique needs. This business may have three plan options: 10 meals, 25 meals, and 50 meals per week.
While most SaaS businesses see success with free trials, some businesses in certain industries may see better success with discounted software rather than offering it for free. It’s also important to note that some customers view only paid options as valuable, so be sure to get audience feedback when you develop your pricing structure, and don’t be afraid to change your pricing structure if what you start with doesn’t work as well as you hoped (and be sure to grandfather current customers into the new plan).
Yet other SaaS businesses are successful with offering “forever free” plans with limited functionality that are not limited by a timed trial period. The choice of how you offer a trial period (timed and free, timed and discounted, or forever free but limited) will be determined by your software type, audience, industry, and competition.
The pricing strategy for SaaS businesses is to provide value on a small scale and encourage customers to increase their engagement with your business over time. The key is to provide a frictionless customer journey by being transparent about your processes and having not only a simple trial period but also a smooth transition into being a paying customer.
Your trial periods should not require your customers to provide payment details, as this only deters prospects from using your software when they likely can find a competitor’s software with a free trial that doesn’t require payment details. This trial period should be enough time to give your customers the experience without being too long, but the time period will depend on your functionality, industry, and audience. We recommend testing the length of this free trial to give your prospects time to try out your offerings as well as limiting it just enough to encourage them to purchase.
When determining the best prices for your software, you have two options: competitive or value-based pricing. Competitive pricing compares your software to your competitors’ software and prices them accordingly. Value-based pricing is determined solely by the value it has to your audience. We recommend value-based pricing for all consumer SaaS businesses because your software is unique. Even if you have competitors offering similar software, you likely offer a different amount of value to your customers through your competitive differentiators.
It’s important to start off with a good pricing strategy in the marketplace because customers often complain when businesses change their prices. You don’t want to price too low and be perceived as cheap and less valuable than your competitors, but you also don’t want to price too high and alienate your ideal audience.
To develop your value-based pricing strategy, you need to do the math on how much it really costs you to offer your software (including overhead costs) and compare that to how many software subscriptions you plan to sell this month and this year. You also need to research what your primary audience segments are willing to pay for your offerings.
When developing a value-based pricing strategy, we still recommend that you review your competitors’ pricing. You don’t necessarily need to be comparable because your value is different, but it is good to know where you stand in the competitive market, especially when it comes to price.
Utilizing your positioning, you can create your branding foundation, which includes messaging and a visual branding strategy. Developing brand assets, such as your logo, helps tie your business’s offerings together, but they offer limited meaning without developing messaging guidelines, so don’t skip any of these foundational steps.
Your messaging should focus on your audience’s needs and the benefits of your software to resolve those needs. The key to messaging in this manner for SaaS businesses is to do so incrementally, just like you are letting them experience your software incrementally.
Your sales and marketing efforts should be split into three tiers. Each marketing tier should focus on getting the customer to the next tier of software service. The critical point is to do so without distracting them with other options.
Following this tier-based marketing, your messaging to non-customers should focus only on an entry-level or free software account. Then, once they are a paying customer, your messaging efforts should focus on the next tier. This process continues for each tier of your offerings. You will likely have three tiers: 1) Prospects, 2) New Customers, and 3) Affiliate Customers (see Lead Nurturing).
Tip: Each tier should focus on one major value-add to encourage your customers to move to the next tier.
Based on your sales and marketing tiers, you will develop messaging guidelines to help guide your prospects and customers to the next tier. In these guidelines, include what benefits (not features) your software offers and only include necessary information. Including additional information beyond the next tier will likely confuse or overwhelm your audience, so be concise and specific.
Remember: Messaging guidelines should be shared across all departments within your company so all team members creating any form of content for your audience will be sure to share the same messages to the right audience segments at the right time. This includes messages on your website, in your email marketing messages, in your platform or app, and more.
Tip: Focus on how you’re different from your competitors when you develop your messaging guidelines. If you and your competitors say, for example, “Our software is easy to use. Try us for free!” you won’t stand out from your competitors. But if you focus on your positioning when developing your messaging guidelines, you will clearly set your business apart in the competitive landscape in such a way that cannot be duplicated.
When developing your messaging guidelines, be sure to add details about your brand personality. This will help your team develop the tone of voice of your content as well as narrow in on how to portray your business to your audience. Depending on your services and your company culture, you will have a distinct brand personality and tone of voice. Your business’s brand personality is tied to the words you use, but it is also emotional. It’s important that your brand personality, messaging, and visual branding are cohesive to ensure a cohesive customer experience.
Developing your brand personality is usually easier for a small business because your brand personality is often much like the personality of you or the founders of the business. Are you formal or funny? Are you modern or classic? Are you young or mature? Are you premium or affordable? Are you masculine or feminine? Will you sound like an industry expert or a mentor – or both?
Overall, who are you as a brand? And how do you want to portray yourself to your audience? This is your brand personality. Use it to humanize and individualize your messaging. This will help you distinctly speak to your audience.
VISUAL BRANDING STRATEGY
After developing your messaging guidelines, it’s important to create visual branding that will resonate with your messaging. Together, your messaging and visual branding create your brand identity, helping your audience identify you in the competitive market over time – as long as it’s consistent. Together, they tell the story of your business, but good visual branding doesn’t need many, if any, words.
Visual branding evokes emotions. Often, when a prospect views your branding and connects with it, they want more; or, they immediately can tell that your brand is not for them based on your visual branding. This is why having a visual branding strategy is so important. Not only must it match your messaging and audience’s needs, but it also needs to represent your brand fluidly, across all projects and platforms.
Developing a visual branding strategy is very similar to developing messaging guidelines. You need to consider your business industry, unique offerings, and brand personality with the emotions you want to evoke.
For some software businesses, you will want your branding to convey a reputable, reliable, and trustworthy brand image, which may include elegant and simple lines and typography, while others will want to convey the ease and joy with which your customers experience when using your offerings, which may include more playful shapes, colors, and images.
VISUAL BRANDING DEVELOPMENT
Once you know your visual branding strategy, it’s time to develop your assets. Common assets include a logo, color palette, fonts, and types of images, but you may require additional assets based on your unique business needs.
As you develop your visual branding strategy, determine whether those pieces feel like your brand. Do they convey the message you want them to, even without words?
Collect your messaging guidelines, visual branding assets, and photography assets, if applicable, in one place that is accessible to your entire team. All team members across all departments (development, sales, marketing, etc.) should use these guidelines so all messages to your customers and prospects are cohesive.
Software businesses need an online foundation before beginning marketing initiatives. This involves having a website that is easy to navigate, a digital presence so your prospective clients can easily find you, and a plan in place to manage your online reputation. All of these pieces focus on helping your clients refer others to your business, directly and indirectly.
Your website content should be given to your audience incrementally. As the hub of your marketing efforts, your website should clearly provide the complete details of your software, which includes information about all tiers of your software service. While your website will include information on all tiers of your offerings, the primary call to action will focus on the first tier. (We recommend having the option to start any tier on your plans page, but on all other pages, only include the option for the first tier.)
This informs your prospects of all of your services without giving them too many options to get started, which simplifies the decision to use your software. By limiting the actionable options and combining that one option with a low-risk trial, they are more likely to begin using your software.
The goal of being transparent about your offerings while focusing on the low-risk, first-tier offering is to engage your prospects with your offerings so they can experience them on a small scale, experience the value and benefits of your software, and be more likely to purchase.
Note: In cases where a very low-cost or free first tier is not provided, a lead magnet call to action can be used instead.
Your website should be simple and incremental. On your homepage, focus on your tier one offerings, one bold statement that clearly lets your audience know how your offerings benefit them, and your clear call to action.
When a website visitor chooses to learn more rather than clicking on your call to action on the homepage, they should view your tier two web pages that provide more details about all of your services, your team, etc., and your one clear call to action, which still promotes that first tier. From there, again, if they don’t choose the free trial, they should view your tier three web pages, which dive even deeper into your services and business, as well as promote your one call to action, which is still the first-tier free trial.
This three-tiered website structure mirrors your pricing and service structure as well as your marketing structure, making it easy to navigate while simultaneously providing insight into how your business operates without needing to say so. This will help you provide a smooth customer journey for your audience.
Tip: Make it easy for your prospects and customers to contact you for help by making your contact information highly visible and easy to find on your website. This will not only help you offer great customer service, but it will also help you capture new customers and retain current customers. Customer retention is very important for SaaS businesses as repeat business makes up most of your business.
For many businesses, a detailed FAQ or troubleshooting page may also benefit your audience.
Directory Listings & Review Sites
In the SaaS space, when a prospect searches for your services, they are likely presented with multiple business listings, review sites, and review articles that focus on the “Top 10 Best…” in your industry. Since your prospects are likely to see review sites and business directories first, before your website comes up organically, it’s important to create business listings on these websites, such as Capterra and Clutch.
Choose review websites and business directories to create listings based on your industry, where your competitors are already listed, and where they are not already listed but look to be effective. Find these websites by using the search terms your prospects are likely using to ensure your business is listed on those top search listings.
You will also want to cover your bases by creating business listings on Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook. Since you likely serve a large geographic area, provide your address to showcase legitimacy and context on these listings, but also promote your service area; this can be done either in your “About” description or by showcasing a service area map.
Up next, it’s important to optimize these listings, respond to reviews on these platforms, and share those reviews on other platforms, such as social media and your website. Reviews are powerful, so share your positive reviews in many places.
To create your business listings, you first need to collect basic information about your business, including business name, business type, website URL, contact email and phone number, logo, and a basic description of your business. Then, you must distribute these across the business directories and review sites you determined necessary for your business. While there are third-party citation-building services, we recommend performing this task manually as most citation-building services focus on local citation rather than review sites.
BUILDING A DIGITAL PRESENCE
Prospective customers will research your business online, which is why it’s vital for your business to have a broad and accurate digital presence. This begins with directory listings and review sites, and continues with social media pages and more.
Once prospective customers have found your business through a review site, they will likely research the legitimacy of your business, which is often found by viewing multiple business listings, a website, and active social media pages. Businesses that only have a website can be a red flag to prospects, so be sure to build your digital presence across multiple platforms. Ensure your business details are accurate on each one, and that they all lead back to your website. This includes social media platforms as well as industry-specific platforms.
To determine which platforms you should be active on, research what platforms your audience is on and what platforms your competitors are on. Then, determine whether you will have the time and resources you need to maintain activity on those platforms. It’s important to not only be on these platforms but to also be active on them as it adds to your legitimacy for your prospects.
Online Reputation Strategy
Once you have business listings created on business directories and review sites, it’s important to manage your reputation on these websites and elsewhere online. This process involves requesting testimonials and reviews, and managing your online reputation and sentiment in a consistent manner.
While anyone can review your business on most business listings or social media pages, most people only do so if they were really wowed by your software or were really upset with your software. Negative reviews happen to everyone, which is why it’s so important to develop a strategy to monitor and improve your online reputation. This strategy will involve two things:
- A way to ask your customers to review your business
- A plan on how to respond to negative and positive reviews appropriately
When asking your customers to review your business, you can do so in person, in an email, via text messages, or in other ways. There are also platforms that automate this process for you, sending emails and texts on your behalf.
ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
ORM generally starts with your Business Listings. You will ask customers to review your offerings and send them directly to your Business Listings (Capterra and other top search listings will be most effective for SaaS businesses, but Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook can also be used) so they can leave your business a review. Prospects will read these reviews, so you need to review them, too. When you do, respond to each one, whether it’s positive or negative. If it’s negative, try to take the conversation off of that platform by encouraging them to email you (or you can email them first if you have their email address). This way, even negative reviews can promote how customer-focused your business is by showing prospects how you resolve issues.
In addition to monitoring and responding to reviews, ORM involves managing your entire online reputation, which includes random posts and comments across the internet. Monitoring your online reputation gives you a sense of your overall reputation, online and offline, which can help you know how your software is benefitting your customers as well as opportunities for improvement.
There are many tools that can help you monitor your online reputation. One free tool that many small businesses use is Google Alerts; create alerts for your business name and service names, if applicable, to monitor your brand mentions on any platform.
When reviewing your brand’s online reputation, it’s beneficial to view your brand sentiment. This narrows down to positive, negative, or neutral. The sentiment is the overall view of your brand from all online mentions. The goal is to have a positive sentiment, which doesn’t mean all reviews, posts, and comments are positive, but instead that most are. This positive view or sentiment shows that your customers and industry have a positive view of your business, which is critical to success.
If your sentiment is negative, then you need to resolve that with ORM, so start monitoring and responding to negative reviews, posts, and comments. If your sentiment is neutral, then your audience doesn’t really have an opinion about your business, which means not enough people know about it yet.
Your sentiment is heavily influenced by your online content, so focus on improving your content marketing efforts to boost your sentiment.
To begin your sentiment analysis for free, use Social Buzz (you need to pay to enable monitoring, but you can do searches for free) or Social Mention.
Connecting with your audience online is critical to your business’s success. In addition to your digital presence initiative, you can leverage your happy customers’ experiences through a referral program, which helps promote your low-risk and complete offerings.
Referral or Affiliate Program
Referrals are very important for SaaS businesses. Some businesses offer free software functionality for a time period, expanded functionality for a time period, or a discounted plan. The key here is to offer your customers an incentive so they will want to share your business’s software with their friends or colleagues. This can be called a referral program or an affiliate program, depending on how you want to organize it.
Once you have an incentive, you need to create the program itself. How will it work? How will you track the referrals? How will you give the customer their benefits? It’s best to answer these questions with automation to ensure your referral program runs smoothly and immediately rewards your customers for their referrals.
Get creative with your referral program. Think about how your customers will use it and make it simple for them to refer others with a click of a button.
If your referral program is not bringing in new leads, go straight to the source and ask your customers why they haven’t taken advantage of the offer. You might find out that the benefit of the program is too small, the benefit is too difficult to attain, or maybe they just didn’t know about the program. Whatever you find out from your customers, take the feedback back to the team and modify the program to better serve your customers.
Most businesses or consumers who are searching for your software need to be targeted and retargeted. They likely perform research before choosing the right software for their needs, especially because of the recurring, SaaS model, which means they may not try your offerings right away and need to be reminded of their benefits as well as your free or discounted trial. This is where advertising comes in.
To develop an advertising strategy, you first need to identify your goals, such as lead generation, brand awareness, impressions, and website visits. Then, identify the unique selling proposition for why visitors should choose your business instead of your competition. Lastly, who is your audience? The answers to these questions are the basis of your advertising strategy.
Before creating the advertising strategy, you need to spend time understanding the business, including learning its language and messaging guidelines. For this effort, you need more than just keywords that describe the software. Identify your customers’ problems and imagine what they might type into a search engine to find a solution. Whatever that solution might be, you want to include that in your ad copy. Ideally, use a mixture of short- and long-tail keywords. An example of a short-tail keyword would be “software for banks” and an example of a long-tail keyword would be “payment processor for all kinds of payments.” Spy on the competition to see what paid keywords they’re targeting. Look at their web design and observe how they’re driving conversions. What lead magnets are they using? Use a brand campaign to contain keywords related to your business and bid on your own company name as well.
Consider making a competitor campaign that would target keywords specific to each of your competitors’ brand names. This is a great opportunity for you to capture your competitors’ customers. Target their software names and brand names.
Utilizing display campaigns for retargeting is a must. For example, you should retarget all visitors who visited your web page and exhibited the behavior of someone who is likely to convert. This kind of behavior could be: viewed a certain number of pages per session, time per session, viewed a key page, etc. You can also use a display campaign to gain exposure and spread brand awareness.
Overall, Google Ads will be your best lead generation platform while LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are ideal for remarketing campaigns.
Google Ads are great for lead generation using industry-related, high-intent keywords. Some of your competitors probably don’t use this platform properly, which means they are likely to give up or stop funding these efforts. This is why it’s important to use Google Ads – it can give you opportunities your competitors are missing. This platform gives you the chance to capture your competitors’ customers with the right strategy, and it brings you in front of a customer who is searching with high intent to purchase from you.
For Google Ads, you have the option to choose to use the Search Network or the Display Network.
Search Network ads can help you target high-intent keywords. They look like text ads on the search results page to help people go further in the buying cycle.
Display Network ads typically show ads to people who are still in the “research” phase of the buying cycle. They can show ads on other websites with a topic related to your business, or to people who show an interest in your software. They can also show ads to people who have already visited your website in order to bring them back while they are researching. Using the Display Network, you also have the option to create new audiences to show ads to people who have similar traits.
LinkedIn is a great platform to build that remarketing list for remarketing on two phases of the buyer’s funnel. This platform allows you to soft-sell while forming a stronger connection, especially if you are a B2B software business or serve decision-makers. LinkedIn allows you to target people by job titles, company size, industry, skills, and more.
It’s important to note that since your audience is likely not actively searching for your software – like they would be on Google or Bing – they will be early in the buying cycle, and thus conversion rates are lower on LinkedIn than they are on other platforms.
However, LinkedIn has many unique benefits compared to other social media platforms. Not only can you target your audience by company, job title, industry, and more, but you can also layer multiple targeting options to reach the ideal customer.
There are multiple ad types on LinkedIn:
- Sponsored content ads are similar to “boosted” posts. They are made to feel like posts from the company’s own page, which are a good option for strengthening the company’s brand awareness.
- Text ads are similar to the ads shown on Google or Bing and are featured in the sidebar. These ads are smaller and less prevalent than the other ad types but may provide a cheaper source of clicks.
- Sponsored InMail ads are unique to LinkedIn. These allow marketers to send personalized messages directly to a person’s LinkedIn inbox. This ad type is not ideally used as the first touchpoint but is great for re-engaging prospects who’ve already interacted with the business.
When it comes to choosing which types of LinkedIn ads to use, consider your goals. Sponsored content ads and text ads are great for the initial outreach to decision-makers of companies in the industry you want to target, but don’t expect many direct purchases from these ads. Sponsored InMail ads work best as part of a remarketing strategy.
LinkedIn advertising does come with a few minimums that all advertisers must spend:
- $10 daily budget per campaign
- $10 total budget per campaign (this is optional for Sponsored Content)
- $2 bid for CPC or CPM on Text Ad campaigns
- LinkedIn advertising also has a minimum bid for Sponsored Content campaigns, but the exact amount for this ad will depend on the audience that you’re targeting.
FACEBOOK & Instagram
Facebook and Instagram are also great platforms to build remarketing lists for remarketing on two phases of the buyer’s funnel. It allows you to soft-sell and form stronger connections with your prospects.
Other Advertising Options
Gmail ads are worth trying to reach prospects who are being targeted by your competitors.
Paid ads on Quora are also worth trying because your competitors are most likely not using this platform. You can phrase your ad copy in the form of a question.
Try sponsoring your own software on a podcast that relates to your niche or your audience listens to.
When it comes to targeting your ideal audience through advertising, you will likely want to use a mixture of demographic, keyword, geographic, interest, and device targeting.
If you don’t know the demographics of your audience, then you must first collect data. Lower the bid significantly for the audience that is bringing only about 20% of the results. You want to focus on the demographics that are bringing in most of the traffic and are satisfying the current marketing objective.
Tip: At SharedTEAMS, we always recommend starting with a small budget to try out digital advertising. Your goal is to get data and results that reflect what you can expect, similar to sampling food before you buy. We highly recommend that you know as much information about the business first and who your target audience is because that will help improve the quality of results during the testing phase.
Facebook is continuing to improve its targeting options for the B2B industry as they add more to its targeting options, such as job titles, which is ideal for B2B and B2C. Be sure to properly split test different audience groups to gather enough data.
LinkedIn is going to be the obvious choice for social media B2B since they have more data on business professionals, but it may not be a good choice for B2C. If your business pursues LinkedIn advertising, properly split test different audience groups and use sponsored InMail campaigns to target specific job titles and company sizes.
Make bid adjustments in increments of 5% when enough data has been collected. Justify bid adjustments only when there is conversion data available, and there are either 100 clicks or 1-1.5k impressions; this is not a strict rule, but it is a good practice to follow. Never exclude a demographic, if possible; instead, try to significantly lower the bid.
Build a campaign for your ideal buyer. This could either be someone who knows the language of your business, or otherwise. If your ideal buyer is familiar with the language of the industry, then including acronyms can sometimes help as well.
Consider using the Display Network as it has a lower CPC than the Search Network. The Display Network is going to be able to allow you to remarket.
Start with keywords with at least mediocre search volume and keyword difficulty. Furthermore, you’ll typically be focused on keywords with low CPC. But some businesses are expected to have high CPC. If this is the case, you’ll probably need to start with long-tailed keywords to get results with a low monthly budget. Group all relevant keywords together in the same categorial ad group to facilitate a higher ad relevance score. Each ad group should have 5-10 keywords because you’re working with mostly small-budget accounts. In some rare cases, it might make sense to have 10-15 keywords in an ad group.
KEYWORD TARGETING STRATEGIES & CONSIDERATIONS
Ad Rank: Increase ad rank for the most important keywords by increasing the quality score and max bid. Increase the quality score by trying to increase expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Pro Tip: Google secretly keeps a blacklist of certain industries where the highest quality score you can get is 4-6 at most. Sometimes you can get lucky to increase this number – say, for example, from a 4 to a 6 quality score – by talking directly with a Google rep to ensure that you’re running a legit business. An example would be the word “Botox.”
Search Impression Share: Keep in mind the search impression share (IS) at the keyword and campaign level (budget search IS). Use data of “search IS” with data of “lost search IS.” For example, low-search IS, high-lost search IS, and low-search IS (at the campaign level) are clear indications that your bid for the keyword needs to be higher to stay competitive. If this is a high-intent keyword with a high conversion rate, then you need to allocate your budget appropriately to increase the search IS for this keyword. There are many moving parts, so this kind of adjustment is going to be on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, one fix is to pause many lower-performing keywords/ad groups since they are barely driving conversions. Of course, you’ll be spending more for the high-performing keywords and CPC will go up, but in the end, because you know that high-intent keyword has a high conversion rate, the cost will be offset by the potential increase in profits.
Bad Actors: One last thing to consider is bad actors who purposely click on your ads to drive up cost. This is typically coming from competitors. It’s probably more common in highly-competitive local businesses, but it is still important to monitor. Watch out for this, because in this case, you need to speak with a Google rep to get these bad actors filtered out because they are costing you time and money.
Try to avoid visitors who are “interested” in the location to prevent any traffic outside the country or unnecessary traffic. If the business covers the 50 states, then input all 50 states individually. If the business is very local, then set a small radius around the physical store (about a 1-mile to 10-mile radius). If the business is very local, try to include locations individually at a granular level, such as cities, zip codes, county, etc. However, choose one type, such as zip codes only. Exclude locations in rare scenarios where the general population is negative towards the business or laws do not favor the business.
Make bid adjustments at the granular level in 5% increments. All bid adjustments must be justified with some conversion data, at least 100 clicks and at least 1-1.5k impressions. This is a generally good practice and not a hard-and-fast rule. Lower the bid for low-performing locations.
First, start with the observational option to see the potential for in-market audiences. Use an observational approach for various in-market audiences who could convert to the business. Don’t be afraid to split test targeting vs. observation.
If you are using the targeting option, split-test various in-market audience combinations. Make bid adjustments in 5% increments, but ensure there is some conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and 1-1.5k impressions.
INTEREST TARGETING STRATEGIES & CONSIDERATIONS
Hour-Day Strategy: Adjust bids by day first, then by the hour. Increase bids where there is a higher probability of conversion to occur, and lower bids otherwise.
Ongoing Optimization: Make bid adjustments in increments of 5%. Justify bid adjustments with conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions. Depending on the business, you may want to exclude bids, if, for example, the business is getting phone calls at 3:00 AM, which is more than likely irrelevant to the business.
Users among various devices behave very differently. Increase bids where there is a higher probability of conversion to occur and lower bids otherwise. It’s best to significantly lower bids for lower-performing devices rather than completely excluding them.
Make bid adjustments in increments of 5%. Justify bid adjustments with conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions.
Advanced Bid Adjustment Strategy: If the business receives calls regularly, then it might make sense to make bid adjustments for call extensions. Observe the data collected first before making any bid adjustments.
Make progressive bid adjustments in increments of 5%. These adjustments need to be justified with some conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions.
Once you know what advertising channels you’re using, who you’re targeting, and how, it’s important to optimize your ads and strategy. You will optimize your first campaigns and continue optimizing campaigns as you continue your advertising program.
If the customer is further down the buyer funnel, the ad copy should be very specific to the segmented audience, which may be based on where they are in the customer journey. You will likely want to promote your free trial or discounted offer.
For Google ads, talk about the pain points or problems your customer is typing in, and then let them know how your software can offer a solution to that problem.
With a small budget, you’re most likely going to be split testing 2-3 ad copies to collect enough data within 30 days or so. Headers are expected to have the most impact. Split test everything from the ad text, phrasing (e.g. fun, catchy, negative first, cute, or emotional), benefits, offers, features, unique proposition, etc. It really depends on who your audience is, and that’s why you need to split test to understand who your high-converting customer is, and what they like to respond to.
Pause your lowest-performing ad copy (do not edit it!), and replace it with a fresh one that is modeled after the best-performing ad. Be sure not to edit the ad copy if it’s low-performing because you do not want to convolute the data when you, or especially when someone else, tries to analyze it.
SOCIAL MEDIA AD CONTENT
Use informative creatives because social media marketing is stronger for brand awareness. You will likely want to promote your free trial or discounted offer. Alternatively, you can give them the benefits of using your software, and then provide a lead magnet to nurture that interest. Ad copies vary because people are not buying on social platforms. You’re going to have to collect data as you spread brand awareness. You need to split-test various ad copies and pay very close attention to your demographic metrics to get a better sense of who you’re high-converting audience segment is.
Always have a clear CTA, such as “transform your business today” or “get that advantage over your competition.”
Let people know what to expect. Let them know that there’s no risk in your CTA, such as “Get Your Free Trial Today.”
Also, use success stories as the basis of your social media ad copy. To do so, showcase customer testimonials and quotes. This provides social proof within the ad copy.
Google Ads Optimization
Advertising your software on the Google Display Network can save a lot of money since it’s cheaper than the Search Network. A great tactic here is to use video ads.
Remarketing campaigns should showcase customer success stories, an ebook, or a guide (see Lead Magnets in Lead Nurturing). Use Google Ads remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) to remarket to prospects a second time to a wider set of keywords towards users who were previously retargeted and clicked the ad.
Social Media Advertising OPTIMIZATION
Use a remarketing campaign to promote customer success stories or a lead magnet. Use a Facebook remarketing campaign on the same retargeted audience, but this time with an offer.
Tip: Personalize the content based on demographics, such as geolocation, job title, buying habits, needs, etc.
Typically, LinkedIn might work better for enterprise-level SaaS businesses and B2B businesses, while Facebook might work better for B2C businesses. Maximize your sign-ups through Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Use direct sign-ups when you’re targeting high-intent keywords, retargeting your audience, you are a well-known brand, or your benefits are clear and your pricing is low.
For LinkedIn, split test different demographics, geolocations, etc., to zoom in on high-converting traffic. Create lead magnets to raise awareness. Create a promotional campaign using these assets. Use InMail offers to remarket to users who clicked the ad from the promotional campaign.
Optimizing Facebook, specifically, includes swapping the ad copies, testing the ad copies, and testing the ad sets, as well as creating a custom audience or lookalike audience and continuing to track custom conversions.
Swap Ad Copies: A study was already done, so it’s time to swap out ad copies with fresh ones, which is favorable to Facebook’s algorithm and will lower the overall cost of advertising. Use a similar theme because you want similar expected results.
Split Test Ad Copies: Same with Google Ads, the importance of split testing ads should be a natural optimization step.
Split Test Ad Sets: Use different segmented audiences to fine-tune and discover the best segmentation that is going to give the right balance between conversions and cost.
Custom Audience/Lookalike Audience: Keep analyzing and making adjustments as needed to increase the performance of lookalike audience targeting and custom audience retargeting based on those who have already visited your website.
Custom Conversions: Keep tracking custom conversions to understand important KPIs of the business. Eventually, after analyzing the data and making performance adjustments for a few months, switch campaign objectives to optimize for conversions. You need to justify this switch after analyzing and optimizing results (or conversions) and cost.
Allocate your budget to where 80% is focused on high conversion groups, and 20% is towards lower-performing or experimental groups. Make budget, bid, and segmentation adjustments as needed to follow the 80/20 rule (80% budget on results and 20% on experimentation).
Pay close attention to website performance because it’s as important as Google Ads performance; website performance can refer to load time speed, bounce rate, time per session, etc. One of the most common mistakes businesses make in digital marketing is wrongfully blaming poor performance on campaigns and advertising – when their website is poorly optimized for conversions. You can bring the highest quality traffic to the website at the lowest cost, but that doesn’t matter if they cannot convert due to the limitations of the website.
For software businesses, your lead nurturing strategy needs to embody your messaging guidelines. (When a lead nurturing strategy is focused on communications efforts, it may be called a communications strategy.) To nurture your leads, you need to create content that answers prospects’ and customers’ questions based on the intent behind their questions. To do so, you need a three-tier communications strategy based on the three tiers of your audience. For example, your three tiers may be 1) Prospects who are using your free trial, 2) New Customers, and 3) Affiliate Customers. Based on your tiers, you need to develop a lead nurturing strategy that conveys the best content for each tier. Following this example, you would create content for your prospects, including information on how your software works; new customers, including how to actually use your software, how to get the most out of them, and how to become an affiliate; and affiliate customers, including how to get the most out of your referral program as well as informing them first when you roll out updates.
For each tier, focus your content on the value and benefits of the next tier up. This will help them get the most out of your software through our content as well as see the value of upgrading to the next tier. For tier three customers, focus on the future of what your business will offer them because they are already brand advocates as well as customers.
Once you create your tiers, which you should already have in your messaging guidelines, you can determine what content you need to create for each audience segment (tier) and in what formats. Then, once you create the ideas for the blog articles, videos, ebooks, etc., you need a plan to distribute the content.
The combination of your audience tiers, content types, formats, and distribution plan will be the basis of your communications strategy.
Tip: Use your messaging guidelines to create your communications strategy. Be sure that your content includes very focused messaging to easily convey the most important details to your audience segment in each tier.
Remember: Your content marketing efforts are only as strong as the distribution of your content, so don’t skip that step.
If a specific tier of content is underperforming, survey your audience to find out why. Reevaluate your content marketing plan and strategy for that tier and make changes accordingly.
For your email marketing efforts, it’s best to create different content based on the tier each subscriber is in. When your audience is split by tier, you can effectively give them the best messages concerning your business and software. While there will be some overlap, you will often want to let your biggest fans know about your latest updates before you let your casual (not paying) subscribers know.
SENDER ADDRESS & NAME
When you create your email address for your email marketing program, use your domain (this builds trust) and get creative, as long as it fits your messaging guidelines. For example, try [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected].
The key is to create an email address for each section of your sales and marketing efforts, so your customers can keep each aspect of your business separate in their email according to their personal preferences. E.g. [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]. Plus, if they unsubscribe to your marketing emails (or mark them as spam), for example, they’ll still receive transactional emails.
This setup is critical, so be mindful of this decision and get feedback from your team before setting up the email addresses and email marketing account. You want these email addresses to be used by your customers and prospects, so be sure to include that note in your emails, too. Then, be sure to assign team members (or add it to your to-do list as a solopreneur) to monitor each email account so you can provide customer service through these avenues.
Tip: Avoid using [email protected] or any free email address (e.g. @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @outlook.com) as they reduce your overall trustworthiness to customers. They also show customers that you don’t want to communicate with them via email, showing them that email is only a one-way ticket for your sales and marketing efforts. Don’t make these mistakes. Make your email addresses friendly so your customers feel comfortable communicating with you via email if they need your assistance. (Most customers prefer email communications, so let it be two-way.)
As a small business, you will likely want to say that your emails are from your Business Name. Typically, only celebrities can get away with being recognized by using their First and Last Name or Name from Business Name.
Tip: If you’re unsure of what sender name to use, A/B test. Then, once you have your winner, be consistent. Lacking consistency will only confuse subscribers and may lower your open rates.
CHOOSING AN EMAIL MARKETING PLATFORM
Using an email marketing platform is important to organize subscribers, review analytics, and automate the business’s email marketing program. Email marketing cannot be done effectively in Gmail or Outlook. It’s best to start by using a free email marketing platform, such as Zoho Campaigns, Mailchimp, MailerLite, SendPulse, or Sendinblue.
There are also industry-specific platforms available. Strategically, there are no big differences between each platform. The important thing to do is to choose a platform, start creating and sending emails, and gather subscriber email addresses. Once you do gather subscribers, it’s important to organize them in some way, either in different lists or by tags. This will not only help you send better campaigns to each audience, but it will also help you transfer lists to a different platform if you decide to use a different one later on.
COLLECTING AN AUDIENCE
SaaS businesses should never pay for an audience. Instead, they should create a simple system to request a prospect’s or new customer’s email address when they inquire about your business, sign up for a free trial, or purchase a software plan. The key is to separate prospects and customers so you can send them different email content that relates to their unique needs; this should be done based on your audience segments (tiers). This helps you better serve them wherever they are in the customer journey.
We recommend using a lead magnet to encourage your audience to sign up for your email list. This opt-in process typically involves a landing page on your website encouraging sign-ups in exchange for the lead magnet itself as well as the email that contains the lead magnet download. The email containing the lead magnet download should be a trigger-based automated email (stand-alone or sequence, though we recommend a full sequence) that automatically sends to your new subscribers when they are added to your list.
Use several custom lead magnets and calls to action so you have at least one unique lead magnet and CTA for each audience segment (tier). Creating these kinds of specific lead magnets is going to give you more information about that person because you know what they were interested in before they interacted with the CTA. Then, when they receive the email with the lead magnet, you can set your email marketing automation software to tag each subscriber based on which lead magnet they downloaded, offering you insights into their unique needs concerning your software.
Depending on your audience, it may be best to offer multiple lead magnets for each audience segment (tier). This will depend on your software, too. For example, an accounting software business may have lead magnets for consumers and businesses. To further target their audience segments, they may develop lead magnets for businesses by industry as well as a lead magnet for entrepreneurs who may need help separating their personal and business accounting needs.
To determine what will work best, start by offering lead magnets for the bulk of your audience. Then, when you start learning more about these subscribers and sending them successful email sequences, expand the number of lead magnets to narrow your audience targeting based on unique needs.
Tip: Never use generic forms or CTAs that say “Sign up for our newsletter,” “Sign up for updates,” or “Subscribe to our mailing list.” They rarely work anymore and don’t offer any benefit to your prospects.
EMAIL CREATION & DESIGN
Most emails are opened on a cell phone, which means campaigns developed solely for large computer screens are often useless on a small screen. Simple, mobile-friendly emails that are responsive are more effective than immaculately designed campaigns that aren’t responsive, so businesses should be sure to use a simple layout and test all emails on multiple devices (or use a service like Email on Acid) before sending them out. Within most email marketing platforms, businesses can see what devices their subscribers are using to view each email. Combined with testing, you can ensure that every email looks good on those devices.
Depending on the type of software offered, a SaaS business will want to showcase long- or short-form content within their emails. The length of the content depends on the intent of the email. If an email’s purpose is to provide a transactional purpose, such as confirming an account update or sending a digital bill, the content should be very short. If an email’s purpose is to provide an informative purpose, the content can be longer.
When a business uses both marketing and transactional emails, it’s best to have the same basic look for all emails to offer a better customer experience to each subscriber. It can be jarring if the latest campaign emails are on brand and inviting, and then the “Thank you for your purchase” email is colorless and stale. When beginning an email marketing program, you should unify the look of all emails. Yes, the look can change over time and adapt for individual campaigns, but there still needs to be cohesiveness among all emails so subscribers know it’s your business within the first one-second glance (see Visual Branding in Foundation).
Newsletters primarily educate and engage subscribers on a recurring basis, such as weekly or monthly, to help keep your brand top-of-mind with your subscribers. Newsletters are a great place to showcase customer reviews, blog articles, software updates and launches, and more.
Newsletters should follow the same format each time so subscribers can recognize the business. Be sure to split test frequency as well as send days and times to see what works best for your subscribers, and then be consistent for most of your newsletters. To start, send a monthly newsletter after a Welcome email.
Tip: Make your newsletter about the inside scoop on your software. Let your email subscribers be the first to know anything about your software.
In addition to regular newsletters, we recommend sending promotional emails as needed. These are one-time emails that promote a software launch, company news, sale, contest, survey, or something else. Typically, promotional emails promote one thing with one call to action.
When you do send promotional emails, you may benefit by using scarcity marketing tactics. This means you showcase a limited time frame of the sale. Whichever way you use this tactic, make sure it’s accurate. Only promote the limited time frame of a sale if you are not going to extend it. Scarcity marketing can increase the urgency and effectiveness of a sale when you do it with honesty and integrity.
For occasional promotional emails, you can increase the frequency (e.g. daily for three days for a three-day flash sale) and change the send days and times.
Tip: When determining whether to include a promotion in a Newsletter with other updates or in a separate Promotional Email, consider how big the news is that you’re sharing. If it’s time-sensitive or you want to maximize click-throughs, send one or a few Promotional Emails. You can also tease a promotion in the Newsletter you send before the promotional email, if time allows, and on social media to drum up excitement.
Sending specific emails at the right times during the customer journey can improve the customer’s experience. These emails include:
- Welcome email
- Follow-up emails
- Thank you emails
These short and sweet emails show the subscriber that the business cares about them in a timely manner. These emails can be automated and trigger-based or they can be created in advance and sent in batches, depending on the structure of the business. Either way, they can help customers stay engaged with the business and help them through the customer journey in an automated fashion.
Tip: These emails are critical for SaaS businesses. Send them right after a prospect or customer signs up for a free trial or purchases from you, and be sure to remind them when their free trial or special offer is expiring. Also remind the subscriber of what they signed up for and what your business does in these emails, especially when they are in tiers zero and one.
Automated Email Sequences
The best approach for each SaaS business is to have a different sequenced email campaign for each tier of customers. For each sequence, it’s best to utilize ebook, blog, and video content to help customers through the tier they are currently in (within the customer journey as it relates to your software) and gradually push them to the next tier.
For example, if you have a 12-email sequence for new free trial users, you will create emails that showcase content you already have that explains how to use your software. The first few emails will give basic tutorials to navigate your software, as well as a CTA to create their free account. Then the next few emails will start talking about the tricks of using your offerings. Then, gradually incorporate your tier-two offerings as the primary CTA. By the end of the sequence, they will have had the opportunity to use all of your basic offerings (with guidance) within the trial and can sign up with just one click.
For all email sequences, it’s important to use data to validate and utilize the latest information about your subscribers. If a free trial user becomes a paying customer before the trial is over, you need to set the email marketing software you use to automatically update the subscriber’s details so they receive the appropriate sequence with the appropriate CTA.
To provide a personal touch, especially for SaaS businesses, include statistics in the emails. For example, if you are an accounting software business, then when your free trial user uploads their first contact and starts using your software, congratulate them in an email with statistics specific to their usage of your software. This can give them the motivation to continue using your software while providing a necessary personal touch.
Remember: Not every email in your sequences should push and sell. Instead, use email sequences to largely inform your subscribers; the information you include will help them make the decision for themselves. Just be sure to add a clear CTA for what action you want them to take, even if your copy is informative and entertaining rather than sales-focused. (Also, your clear CTA should be the same on every platform according to the tier your customer is in, but you will likely only use tier two and three messages less often than tier one messages overall.)
Tip: Try including social media share buttons in your emails, especially when statistics are involved. If your customer saved so much money or time by using your software, let them know—and make it easy for them to tell their friends.
EMAIL MARKETING BEST PRACTICES
Resend to Non-openers: Email is effective, but subscribers are busy. To increase the performance of campaigns with minimal additional effort, you can resend campaigns to non-openers. This can be automated in most email marketing platforms by checking a box or copying an email and setting the trigger to “did not open” the initial campaign. However, this should only be used on the most important campaigns because some subscribers may see the duplicate content as spam. To mitigate this possibility, businesses can limit the use of resends and be clear in the subject line that it’s a resend. In fact, you can A/B test your resend subject lines to see what performs best.
Segment Subscribers: Segmenting your audience is a great way to personalize messages to groups of your audience. Segments should be by tiers. Segments, however, can also be used with tags to increase personalization, allowing the business to send a specific message to a specific group of subscribers, increasing ROI immensely because the subscribers will find the email highly relevant based on their needs and place in the customer journey.
A/B Testing: Creating and sending content to subscribers isn’t enough for SaaS businesses. Emails should be tested using the A/B method. Testing means taking a small portion of the business’s list, say 10% each, to send two versions of the same email to see which one leads to more opens, clicks, and appointments. Each test should only test one thing, such as:
- Subject line
- Sender email/name
- Call to action button color
- Plain text vs. HTML
- Long- vs. short-form email content
After the test is done, the business can wait about 24 hours for the results to see who won. Which email led to more clickthroughs? Then the business should use the winning email to send to the rest of the audience.
Note: Some email automation platforms, like Mailchimp, don’t offer A/B testing for lists that have less than 10,000 subscribers. This is because they recommend a test group of 5,000 subscribers each. (Mailchimp also does not offer A/B testing on their free plan.) However, if your list is small, you can still A/B test sequences by copying and modifying them, and testing each for a certain number of new subscribers before determining the winner. Just remember to only change one thing for each test.
Email Scrubbing: Even with SaaS businesses, email subscribers can become unengaged. When more subscribers than usual are unsubscribing or reporting the business’s emails as spam, it’s time to scrub the list because an email marketing program is only as effective as its lists. Before scrubbing a list, it’s important to attempt to re-engage the unengaged subscribers first, especially if you are informing a subscriber that their account will be closed. This can be done by sending a re-engagement campaign to try to get them interested in the business again. This campaign can include a lead magnet or special promotion from the business. Those who open the re-engagement campaign stay. Those who don’t will be scrubbed from the list.
Scrubbing an email list means deleting inactive subscribers, looking for and removing spam and duplicate subscribers, and narrowing down the list to active subscribers who are likely to benefit the business. Spam email addresses can be easily spotted by searching for letters and numbers jumbled randomly in an email address. Duplicate subscribers can be found using a spreadsheet. There are email scrubbing services, but a small business can manage these processes in-house better because they know their customers.
Social media can be used to effectively engage and retarget prospects to encourage them to move from the prospect tier (tier zero) to tier one (a free trial user who is still a prospect but a hotter lead). The strategy SaaS businesses need to use is to maintain a presence on social media without allowing it to monopolize your overall marketing efforts. The exact time you spend on social media and the number of platforms you are on will depend on your industry and whether you are a B2B or B2C.
SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
For B2B SaaS businesses, less is more. Choose up to three platforms based on where your audience is. LinkedIn will likely be a good platform for you to use, as well as Twitter. Aim to grow your following to 1k followers per platform to convey reputability in online searches. Share news updates and helpful content at least once per week. YouTube may be a good platform for your business.
For B2C SaaS businesses, you will want to focus on social media more. Choose at least three platforms based on where your audience spends their time, such as Facebook and Instagram, and publish entertaining, fun, and informative content at least three times per week, if you have the time to do so. Pinterest and YouTube may also be good options for your business.
Remember: It’s better to be consistent with one platform than to be inconsistent on multiple platforms. Consistency is key, so focus on what your team can consistently do, even if it is less than what best practices recommend.
Social media pages should be consistently active. Daily posts or multiple posts per day are ideal, but unrealistic for many small businesses. Instead, focus on publishing three quality posts per week and scale from there if it benefits your business and you are able to do so.
The day and time you post don’t matter as much as being consistent because the algorithm for most platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, means posts are not seen right when they are published, but instead in the order the viewer is likely to want to see the posts based on interest.
When you need to promote something timely, such as a sale or event promotion, create multiple posts on the same topic and schedule them in advance to give your audience multiple reminders.
To publish social media content, you can use social media scheduling tools, such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and Buffer, which offer free plans, as well as Zoho Social, Oktopost, SocialOomph, Sprout Social, and more. We recommend choosing one social media scheduling tool based on your platforms, needs, and budget. This way, you can create posts in one sitting and schedule them to publish in a week, a month, or at a later time. This streamlines the time you spend on social media for your business, but don’t forget to check your pages, too. Alternatively, you can publish directly to each native platform, but this often takes longer, especially if you want to share a similar post on multiple platforms, and most platforms don’t have scheduling options, limiting your publishing times to “now.”
SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT
Promotional posts have their place, but educational and newsworthy posts should be the majority. Depending on your industry and personality, you may be able to showcase a behind-the-scenes look at your business, too. Live video works great for this. You also may be able to entertain your followers with creative posts, which can further showcase your reputability and brand personality.
Video content is powerful on most platforms, including social media and your website. Consider creating Q&A content, live or recorded, to answer customer questions about your offerings, or showcase an unboxing. Videos can be recorded and edited on a smartphone. Remember to use your messaging and visual branding guidelines when developing video content.
Tip: Shorter video clips are ideal content pieces for Instagram posts and Stories as well as Pinterest. However, if you plan on creating longer videos, we recommend uploading them to YouTube or Vimeo, and then snipping a short clip from that video for social media sharing.
Creating and sharing video content also involves adding helpful descriptions for YouTube or Vimeo and social sharing. Descriptions that help viewers understand the context of the video (beyond just the video title) can improve SEO as well.
To develop your video content strategy, you need to determine whether it will replace or augment other content you are sharing. Depending on your business and resources, your answer will vary; however, augmenting long-form content, such as blog articles, with videos can help showcase your expertise in a digestible format.
Social Media Influencers
Software businesses, B2B and B2C, can benefit from using social media influencers. The key is to find smaller influencers who have an engaged, niche following who are not promoting your competitors. You may be able to find influencers among your customers. Then, you can encourage them to promote your business even more with discounts or free swag.
The key to developing relationships with potential influencers before you email them and ask them to partner with you is to follow them on social media, and comment on and share their posts. Start the relationship with their business (and, likely, personal brand) before asking them to promote your business.
Social Media Contests
Contests on social media can accelerate brand awareness, lead generation, SaaS sales, and generate buzz about your business. This is especially important in the pre-launch phase of your business (when most other marketing efforts generally happen after your launch). When hosting a contest, be sure to have a relevant but not too expensive prize to offer the contest winner.
For people to enter, they typically have to like your post, comment on it, follow your page, and share your post; all or some of these pieces may be required while others may be additional entries into the contest. You can also request that they opt-in to your email marketing, either as a way to pre-qualify them as a lead or as an additional entry into the contest itself. Adding the email marketing opt-in can lower the number of bad leads you receive during the contest, but it can also lower the reach your contest has. It’s best to test what works best for your audience and industry.
USE THE DATA
Social media is always changing just as your customer’s needs are always changing, which is why it’s important to review social media analytics for all of your active pages at least monthly. This will help you review the latest comments, messages, and reviews, as well as see what content received the most engagement (likes and comments).
Engagement isn’t the top priority for software businesses (instead, informing your ideal audience is), but it’s still a good practice to see what content your followers like and what content helps reduce common customer questions. Since your social media pages are meant to convey reputability and skills, using the data to make changes to your social media program will only benefit your social media program and business all around because you will be helping your customers.
Social media is meant to be “social,” so SaaS businesses need at least one dedicated team member to check each social media platform daily, minimum, in order to reply to follower comments and DMs.
SaaS businesses can take advantage of many communication efforts to better serve your customers, including a variety of content formats and chatbots. Each one serves a unique purpose, driving prospects through the customer journey with helpful information.
To develop an effective content strategy, you first need to have refined messaging guidelines, as these are the base of your content strategy. This is because your content strategy should focus on meeting the needs of (and answering questions for) each audience segment in all three tiers of your business. By creating content for all three tiers, you are helping attract leads, convert leads into paying customers, and retain those paying customers. When you know what questions you need to answer and what tutorials your audience segments need, it’s easier to develop a content strategy and calendar. The how is the strategy; the when is the calendar.
Before creating content, develop a list of questions you want to answer for each audience segment. Then create a plan to address each of these questions over the next few months. This is the beginning of your content calendar.
In your content calendar, be sure to include the types of content you’ll create and where you will distribute them. Pinterest and YouTube are great social media platforms for content distribution because content on those platforms is not primarily used by date, but instead, by topic and interest.
Tip: Content should primarily be used to help create a better customer experience in all tiers. The content itself will also play a strong role in generating relevant traffic via on-page SEO efforts.
TYPES OF CONTENT
Software businesses have a lot of content types to pursue, but choosing where to publish will be determined by where your audience spends their time, and how much time you have to create and distribute content.
- Blog articles
- Podcasts (Either host one, be a guest speaker, or both)
- Webinars (Free on social media or gated)
- Guides (Usually used as lead magnets)
- Vendor comparisons
- Case studies
These pieces of content can generally target one or more audience segments, so be sure to solve your audience’s biggest pain points wherever they are in the customer journey through your content.
The best part about creating content that addresses your audience’s pain points is that you can use one piece of content to develop multiple pieces of content. For example, you can create a blog article, ebook, email (in a sequence), video, and podcast episode all focused on one topic with the same general content (words) but dressed up into different formats. Each format will still benefit your audience in different ways while addressing their unique needs, such as a preference for reading or listening to an article.
Tip: Create headlines that answer questions related to your audience’s problems.
Tip: Feature your customers in your content. This goes beyond a testimonial by providing more insight into how that specific person or business uses your software, and how it benefits them.
Chatbots are an ideal and cost-effective customer service solution for SaaS businesses. A chatbot helps lower operations costs by providing 24/7 customer service and focusing on the simpler requests of your audience. We recommend creating a chatbot for your website. (If you have a Facebook account, you can also set up a Facebook Messenger bot.) You decide whether you want it to help prospects walk through the customer journey by answering their questions, or by helping customers use your software by answering their questions and performing various tasks. To decide this, think about your prospects’ and customers’ common questions. Can most of them be distilled into a list? Or does either audience commonly ask complex questions? If most of their questions are routine for your customer service representatives, consider creating a chatbot. Then consider which tiers will benefit most by using the chatbot or if they all will.
You can also decide whether you want a fully-automated chatbot or one that can push your prospects and customers to a live representative for further help. That will, again, be determined by the audience’s common questions and whether or not you have customer service representatives. However, you can use a fully-automated chatbot and include an option to direct prospects to a customer service email or phone number.
To build a chatbot, there are many solutions for you to consider. Based on your intent for the chatbot, you will know what basic content to have in the conversation. We recommend using short-form, Q&A content to lead your audience through a conversation in order to figure out what their needs are and answer them.
On a consistent basis, such as quarterly, visit your chatbot analytics to see if there are any updates that need to be made to the conversation. Updates can include additional topics being added to the conversation that comes up for your live customer service representatives or topics that see high drop-off rates, indicating the message in the conversation is too long or unhelpful.