You have already figured out how to reach your target audience and acquire customers.
And when you find something that works, it’s important to go all in and make the most of it.
But businesses should never grow complacent — there is value in trying out new approaches and continuously experimenting to see what else might help take your business to the next level.
After all, in the United States only 33% of small businesses make it to their 10th year. You can’t afford to rest on your laurels in such a competitive market.
B2B SaaS companies can continue to attract customers by focusing on these four key marketing strategies:
- Paid advertising
- Content marketing
- Third party validation
- Owned events
Paid ads are an effective way to get new leads quickly.
It’s true that the learning curve for digital marketing is steep. It can take a while before you learn the behaviors of your customers and understand the science behind targeting. But once you figure it out, (or hire talent to help you figure it out) paid advertising can be an extremely powerful marketing tool.
Which ads work best for SaaS companies? It all depends on your product and on your target audience. Below are the most common types, but don’t be afraid to experiment. It is the only way to find out what truly works for your business.
Facebook is the most popular advertising engine. And with a user base of 2.38 billion, you can almost guarantee that some of your potential customers are on it. So, why not tap into this expansive social network?
For example, Laura Roeder from MeetEdgar used Facebook ads to get her startup off the ground.
In her interview on the Indie Hackers podcast, Laura explained that, while she’s a big fan of content marketing, it takes a significant investment in time and energy. Meanwhile, she found that she could pay Facebook, and they immediately put her in front of potential customers (provided that she target the right people).
Laura was spending $40,000 on Facebook ads right from the get-go. This might sound like a shocking figure, especially given that the company didn’t have any outside funding, but it proved to be an extremely impactful investment for MeetEdgar.
The strategy Laura used was very straightforward: She ran ads to people who were already using (or had expressed interest in) her competitors’ products.
She argues that using Facebook ads when businesses are just starting out makes a lot of sense. “I think people are scared of spending money, but I would rather spend more on ads in the beginning.” explains Laura.
After all, later on you can start allocating some of your paid advertising budget to tactics that are more effective for established businesses — like content marketing that boosts search engine traffic (SEO).
YouTube is another popular advertising engine.
It allows businesses to get their product in front of their target audience by advertising on YouTube channels that potential customers are subscribed to.
There are three types of YouTube ads:
- True View ads — The in-stream video ads that play before videos that users have chosen to watch, as well as the video discovery ads (related videos in search results and on the homepage) that appear among the regular videos.
- Preroll ads — These are non-skippable video ads that can be played before, in the middle of, or after a video.
- Bumper ads — These are short 6-second video ads that play before the video.
For example, if you go to Tim Ferris’ YouTube channel and click on an interview with Josh Waitzkin, you might see an a True View ad from MindValley promoting “The Evolution of Health & Fitness with Eric Edmeades” masterclass (the ad is 2 minutes long, but it’s skippable).
This is great targeting. MindValley knows that Tim Ferris’ audience is interested in health and fitness. This means that they will be more open to an opportunity to learn about this topic than the general population.
You can use one, two or even all three ad types, depending on your budget and marketing strategy. But, how do you create a successful video ad?
Noah Scott from Single Grain, one of the most respected digital marketing agencies out there, suggests these tactics:
- Make the first 5-8 seconds engaging to grab the viewer’s attention
- Ensure your ad mirrors the kind of video the viewer would expect to see on that channel
- Keep your message simple by focusing on only one point in your ad
Ultimately, you should ensure that you are showing your ads to people who might be interested in your product. Otherwise, your message is lost in a void and your advertising dollars are wasted.
You might also want to consider podcast ads depending on your industry and target customer.
Keep in mind that the return on investment for podcast ads is harder to measure. Though you can still get some data by providing podcast listeners with a tracked link.
For example, ConvertKit, an email marketing software company, advertised on TropicalMBA, which is a business podcast dedicated to entrepreneurship with a focus on building location-independent businesses.
Here’s how one of the hosts, Dan, introduced ConvertKit to his listeners on episode 408: Growing a Business With Your Spouse.
This week’s podcast is sponsored by ConvertKit. They make sophisticated email marketing simple. You can see how ConvertKit can help your business grow by trying out their software for free for 30 days. That offer is for TMBA listeners and it’s at convert.com/tmba.
Stop sending the same email blast to everyone on your list. ConvertKit makes it simple to set up intelligent automations that convert prospects into clients and customers into repeat buyers. It only takes three minutes to set up a sophisticated automation sequence. Again, don’t send the same email to everyone on your list.
And because you are a TMBA listener, you can check it out for free, check out that offer! It’s at convertkit.com/tmba. For 30 days, see how ConvertKit can simplify and grow your business.
And a big thanks to ConvertKit for sponsoring the show.
They also added ConvertKit logo, information about the company and that special link for TropicalMBA listeners to the show notes:
Of course, you need to find a podcast that is a good fit for your product. Your offer has to be relevant to the podcast’s audience.
Regardless of what ad types you decide to use, what matters most is that you target the right customers. Take time before you buy advertising space to create user personas, identify ideal customers, and research the audience of each advertising platform. Your dollar will stretch farther when you deliver your message to the correct customers.
Effective content marketing strategies are ones that focus on creating useful content for target audiences. Unlike advertising, content marketing collateral shouldn’t be all about your company.
Instead, you should aim to be a thought leader in your industry by publishing content (blogs, whitepapers, infographics, and more) that customers, prospects and industry professionals alike can learn from and use as a resource.
Content marketing requires you to put in significant work upfront. But, if done successfully, will help your business reap rewards for years to come.
For example, Alex Turnbull used content marketing to grow Groove to $5,000,000 in annual recurring revenue.
Groove was at its low point. Their marketing efforts had failed. No one was buying their product. They were just a few months away from running out of cash.
And then, the company decided to bet everything on content marketing.
They started with research. They knew that they had a lot to learn. So they reached out to all the content marketers they respected.
After sending out more than 40 emails, a few content marketers agreed to hop on a call with the Groove team. These calls helped them see the flaws in their approach to content marketing — they were missing a unique angle and voice in the market.
They decided to go back to square one and conducted extensive market research. They went to the customer rather than waiting for the customer to come to them — analyzing conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit in which small business owners that fit their target market were interacting with one another and discussing their challenges.
What they realized was that small business owners were dealing with the same challenges that Groove team themselves were struggling with. They saw an opportunity to share their challenges with this audience, in hopes that business owners could learn something from Groove’s journey.
So they launched “A SaaS Startup’s Journey to $100,000 in Monthly Revenue” blog series with a simple premise:
It was immediately clear that this angle resonated with their target audience. After only 24 hours, the blog had 1,000 email subscribers. Within a month, the email list grew to 5,000 subscribers. Over the next three years, the blog grew to almost 250,000 unique visitors per month.
Content marketing helped Groove grow to more than $5,000,000 in annual recurring revenue in just three years.
Today Groove is doing better than ever. And they haven’t abandoned content marketing. They are still publishing high-quality articles for small business owners on their blog.
As you can see, content marketing can be incredibly effective when done right. However, keep in mind that the market is getting increasingly competitive each year. If you want to stand out amongst the noise, you must produce extremely high-quality content.
What constitutes high-quality content? Many things. But above all else — relevance. Make sure you do customer research first, identify what people in your target audience are struggling with, and find a unique angle from which to address these issues.
Third party validation
Word of mouth recommendations carry a lot of weight. But customers are busy and using more SaaS tools today than ever before. Companies should consider ways to incentivize customers to share their experiences and recommend your product to others.
When a potential customer is considering buying your product, the chances are that they won’t just read the information on your website, they will probably also go on Google and search for customer reviews.
When it comes to software, people often go to Capterra, a software review website. For example, if you look up Chargify on this site, you will see that we have a 4.5/5 rating (70 reviews), and will be able to read what our customers have to say
Another popular software review website is G2, if you look us up there, you will also see a 4.5/5 rating (107 reviews). Also, in their 2019 report, they ranked Chargify as the top subscription revenue management software.
You can encourage your customers to leave reviews on Capterra and G2 by mentioning these websites in your emails and asking for a review as a quick favor.
Getting great reviews on these websites will help you provide your potential customers with the social proof that they need to make the decision.
Having an affiliate program gives your customers a financial incentive to recommend your product to their peers.
For example, Nathan Barry from ConvertKit used a generous referral program to get more exposure.
In his interview for Indie Hackers Nathan shared the story behind this affiliate program.
He used direct sales and word-of-mouth to reach about $20,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
Then he introduced an affiliate program. ConvertKit couldn’t really afford to pay large one-off commissions so they offered a recurring 30% commission instead. This worked incredibly well.
Nathan’s target audience is bloggers. Bloggers are not only familiar with affiliate marketing, but also have audiences of their own to whom they can promote affiliate products.
Moreover, bloggers crave financial stability, so to them a recurring monthly commission is a very appealing incentive.
But Nathan didn’t just leave it there. ConvertKit eventually started doing webinars with their affiliate partners to help these bloggers drive sales. This proved to be a great way to increase revenue.
Now, of course, you might not be selling software to bloggers, so your affiliate marketing program might work differently. But establishing an affiliate program with generous commissions can still help you get some sales that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
It’s important to build relationships in your industry because they can lead to growth opportunities for your business.
For example, if a person who is well-known in your industry gives you a shoutout on their blog, social media or at a conference, it will generate a lot of interest in your product.
However, if you want to build valuable relationships, you need to go about networking the right way.
In his article “How to connect with busy people” the NYT best-selling author and successful entrepreneur Ramit Sethi shares his advice on how to get a meeting with an important person, how to leave a good impression during that meeting and how to follow up with them in a way that makes you memorable.
- Get a meeting — Reach out through a warm contact, explain the similarities between you and the busy person, and send a brief, concise email. (Ramit emphasizes the brief and concise part.)
- Leave a good impression — Ask insightful questions. Don’t ask questions that you can answer with a simple Google search. It’s disrespectful. Also, spend 90% of the meeting listening. You are there to learn from them, not vice versa.
- Follow up — Use the Closing the Loop technique: send a thank you email the same day, send an email that adds value (say, share a link to an article that you think might be interesting to them) 1-2 weeks later, and then send another email that follows up on what you have done with their advice 2-3 weeks later. That will help you stand out among other people who have asked that person for advice.
And what is the number one networking mistake that people make?
“The biggest mistake people make when connecting with busy people is simply not doing it,” says Ramit.
So start building your network now. Slowly build relationships, nurture them over time, and then if you ever need a favor people will be much more open to your request. Moreover, your connections may lead to unexpected opportunities.
Launching a conference
Launching a conference series can help establish your company as an industry leader.
It allows you to strengthen the community that you have built around your product, provide additional value to your customers by educating them, and simply have a good time with likeminded people, all of which help you differentiate yourself from the competition.
Most importantly, conferences give you an opportunity to shape the future of your industry through sharing your ideas and inviting other experts to share theirs.
However, you need to remember that it’s not enough to just organize a one-off meetup. You have to commit to turning your conference into a well-known industry event. This will take time.
For example, Nathan Barry from ConvertKit created an annual Craft + Commerce conference for online creators.
In his post “Endure long enough to get noticed” he shared that getting a conference off the ground wasn’t easy.
The first year it was a struggle. New company, new conference, new city — the lack of awareness around the event made it a tough sell.
The second was easier because the company was better known and the conference had built a small reputation from the previous year. There were also return guests who enjoyed the initial event and were eager to attend again. But, ticket sales revenue only grew by 20%.
The conference began taking hold in the third year. The event had established a positive reputation and its name recognition allowed ConvertKit to sell 175 tickets before announcing a single speaker.
Nathan shared that it was necessary to keep at it when it was an uphill battle. It takes perseverance and persistence to get to the point where a conference gains momentum.
If your company decides that starting a conference is the correct business strategy, be sure to set the right expectations internally. It will take time, energy and a significant financial investment to organize a conference and build a reputation.
Ensure your business understands that they will need to be in it for the long haul, and avoid the urge to throw in the towel the moment you encounter predictable obstacles.
These strategies that we’ve discussed aren’t new — and there is a good chance you are already implementing some, if not all, of them. But it is crucial that your business always be on the lookout for new ways to spread the word about your product and acquire customers.
In this crowded market, it is the companies that foster relationships and provide value to customers and prospects that will stand out above the competition.
Do you use these marketing strategies and/or any others to drive growth for your SaaS business? Leave us a comment below.