Creating a SaaS growth strategy isn’t easy. For one, the SaaS market is a crowded and competitive space. In 2020, it’s projected to grow into a $157 billion dollar market, doubling where it was just 5 years ago in 2015 when it was at $69 million.
While competition in an industry can often be a good thing, SaaS marketing strategies have their own nuance as well. The business model of a SaaS company dictates that its marketing strategy needs to follow a separate set of rules and best practices as well.
For starters, selling a digital product like software means your product isn’t a physical, tangible item. While this is fine by itself, a SaaS company must convince its users to make their product an indispensable part of their business and daily routine – a pretty tough sell compared to convincing a customer to buy a new t-shirt.
Secondly, the t-shirt retailer only really needs to convince you to buy once, compared to the SaaS business model, which makes its money off ongoing subscriptions to drive monthly recurring revenue. This means that while acquisition is obviously important, monetization and retention are equally big levers (if not even bigger) for SaaS companies.
But fear not. At NoGood we’ve grown multiple SaaS brands ourselves and studied countless others to define the essential, tried and true SaaS growth strategies that you can start utilizing today.
1. Provide Utility and Demonstrate Authority – Content Marketing
While content marketing is a tactic that can be utilized by businesses across many markets, it’s practically a necessity in the SaaS space, and for good reason. When people are searching for something online, it’s often as a result of a pain point they’re looking for a solution to. If your SaaS can help solve that problem, you’re capturing not just traffic, but high intent traffic.
Answer Questions – This the first and most obvious use of content marketing for SaaS, but it bears repeating because of how essential it is. Look at any SaaS company and they likely have a blog, which serves to help draw in potential buys, as well as establish the company as a thought leader in their space. Consider the pain points of your target audience. What problems do they have and how does your software help solve that? Adress these questions with SEO optimized content and you’re helping your most qualified leads, as well as seamlessly transitioning them into your sales funnel.
For example, a search for “how to create an invoice” will yield many payroll software companies in the PPC results, but SquareUp offers a simple content piece that answers that very question.
The content piece itself offers multiple solutions for someone who might be looking for just a quick answer or solution, but also outlines how easy it is to create invoices with SquareUp, offering a step by step guide with links to create an account.
Conquesting Content – As we’ve mentioned, the SaaS market is a crowded space, where many products boast similar features and use cases. Users know this and know that if their current software isn’t meeting their needs, there’s likely something out there that will. A popular and effective tactic to capitalize on this is to create content for (and rank for) searches alternatives to your competitors. This is extremely high intent and can be tailor-made to this audience.
For example, say you were utilizing Asana for your team organization and project management, but for whatever reason, it just wasn’t working for your team and you were in the market for an alternative. The top search result for “Alternatives to Asana” is from Workzone, a direct competitor in the project management space, who knows they can fill a need for someone looking to move on from Asana.
This content also works as an AdWords tactic. Below are the top AdWords results for the same search, and as you can see, ClickUp and Scoro developed content specifically for people with this exact high intent search.
Feature Marketing – The early days of SaaS were mostly niche products that could solve one problem really well. Overwhelmed with email and want to streamline communication better? Try Slack. Want to take better notes during calls and meetings? Here’s Evernote. However, the growth of the SaaS market has led to an explosion of product development, where new features are constantly being added to fill consumers’ needs. Feature marketing stands out as a solution because it presents opportunities through all touchpoints of the SaaS marketing funnel.
Acquisition – having a more robust product is undoubtedly beneficial in bringing in new customers. Not only do you look better among your competitors, but adding new features opens up new opportunities for content and SEO.
Activation – as we’ll touch upon in the next section, the SaaS business model leans heavily on getting users into the funnel via free trials or free versions of your products. Adding these new features makes it more enticing for a user to upgrade their account from free to paid.
Retention – feature marketing can be utilized either offensively or defensively, but in either case, its primary objective is to keep your paying customers. From an offensive standpoint, features can be added as a result of customer surveys and persona research, having a deep understanding of your customer’s pain points and how to fix them. From a defensive standpoint, it’s about filling in gaps where your competitors might attempt to steal customers and market share because they have an offering that you don’t.
2. Let People Try The Product For Free
Similar to content marketing, free trials weren’t invented as SaaS growth strategy, but they’ve basically become an essential tactic for any product in the space. Free trials work for SaaS for two primary reasons. First, since the product is a digital offering, offering a trial of it doesn’t cost much, if anything to physically make. Second, onboarding a new SaaS software for an organization can be a big ask. Many products will require a revamp of internal processes, training on how to use it, and a cost per user per month. That’s a tough sell to make as it is, let alone if the future users or businesses don’t even know what it’s like to try and use the product. Thus, the free offering is practically required in the SaaS space (especially when all your competitors are offering it too). It can be a little complicated choosing how to structure your free offer, but here are the primary strategies used in SaaS.
Freemium – The freemium offers a version of the software that is completely free, but doesn’t include everything that the software can offer. Within freemium, offers typically fall into “limited feature” versions or “limited capacity.”
“Limited feature” models offer the basic features of the product, but to access everything, the user or team will need to upgrade to the paid version. The benefit of this model is that the free models themselves can still be beneficial to a team, meaning they’ll be kept in the sales funnel longer, giving you ample opportunity to upsell with new features. The downside is that users may often stay in this free model forever, and while there might not be a production cost associated with a digital product, their use can still eat up bandwidth.
Grammarly is a good example of this strategy. They’re a Chrome plugin that works essentially as an advanced spell checker on everything you type on the web. Their free model is available for anyone to download, but it will only help you so much. For their full suite of features, you’ll need to upgrade to their Premium plan.