B2B SaaS Marketing Strategies for Long-Term Success
The long view has never been more important for B2B SaaS marketers. Global SaaS sales were predicted to exceed $132 billion by the end of 2020, but the coronavirus outbreak led to staff layoffs and fears of a significant downturn in demand. The crisis left B2B SaaS marketers in need of a way to market that supported long term demand generation while they waited for their customers to recover.
When trade show and conference budgets got redirected, long term, fully online forms of marketing such as thought leadership marketing gained considerably more attention. In this article, I explore how your firm can use thought leadership in the context of its overall digital marketing plan. I also explain how B2B SaaS companies can get closer to the goal of turning their sites into lead generation machines.
B2B SaaS Marketing Goals
Every B2B SaaS company has three primary goals for their marketing program:
- Increasing visibility and authority in their industry
- Generating new, qualified leads
- Creating opportunities for upsells with existing clients
Thought leadership accomplishes all three, especially in combination with intentional social media and email marketing programs. Here’s how to use it to accomplish each goal:
Increase visibility using keyword selection
When business owners search for products and services, what they’re really looking for are ways to resolve the pain points they experience in their own business. Stepping in with solutions to those problems is the best way to build trust with those business owners. But having all the answers is only a part of the process; you’ll also need a well crafted B2B keyword strategy to make sure you reach the right people at the right time.
Transactional keywords are the key to doing so. These keywords are search phrases that indicate that the searcher is actively seeking a solution to a problem—they include words like “solutions”, “services”, and “software”. For example, if you make software for physician’s offices, you don’t need your website to reach someone at a real estate agency. By targeting a phrase like “electronic medical record systems”, you know your readers will be doctors or medical administrators looking for a way to manage their patients’ records.
Once you’ve chosen the keywords you want to target, the next step is to create truly excellent content. It’s easier said than done, but I dig into the process in detail here. The two most important principles are:
- Write at the lowest grade level that won’t insult your audience’s intelligence, and
- Don’t be afraid to use language that excludes visitors who won’t be using your product.
You should also use the format that is most helpful for your target audience. While buyer focused landing pages are great for ready-to-convert leads; long-form, in-depth content like guides, case studies, eBooks, and whitepapers will establish your authority and garner more interest from top of funnel traffic. And once you have a potential buyer’s interest, you can shift your focus to conversion.
Generate leads by pairing content marketing with free trials
The early stages of a sale are often complex and time consuming for both the potential client and your team, requiring multiple calls, demonstrations, and training sessions. Offering a free trial allows prospects to sample the benefits of your software—and start investing in learning your systems—without needing to commit to a purchase.
But even with a free trial reducing the monetary cost to zero, you still need to demonstrate that your product is worth spending time on. That’s why effective thought leadership amplifies the effectiveness of creating a free trial. It builds trust with your potential clients through your content marketing ahead of time. When you’ve already established your authority and demonstrated that you’re familiar with your clients’ pain points, they’ll be much more interested in trying out your product.
There are many ways to structure SaaS trials. A freemium offer provides the most basic version of the software, which may lack all the bells and whistles or have capacity limitations—think Grammarly and Slack. This type of product lets users experience the benefits and tends to keep prospects in the sales funnel for a longer duration. The downside to this approach is that some users may find all they need in the free version and never upgrade.
Another approach is to offer a free full-feature trial, but only for a limited time—either with an opt-in or an opt-out once the trial expires. Opt-in models that require no upfront payment information can increase trust and trial, as there are no risks. Basecamp, for example, offers a free 30-day offer that prompts users to enter payment information and continue using it for $99/month after the trial period. In our experience, this method is preferable to the opt-out “auto-renew,” which can leave users feeling like they’ve been duped.
Create upsell opportunities through email campaigns
It’s cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a new one. Email campaigns and other direct marketing methods can be a great way to create new opportunities within your existing user base, but too often, marketers will fill them with new product announcements, company news, and other low-interest content. Those emails will go unread, as business owners and other decision makers at companies have little attention to spare.
Instead, you need to offer those business owners something of real value to get them to open your emails. The content you’ve created for your other marketing efforts—content like white papers, case studies, problem/solution guides addressing their pain points—is a perfect source of relevant information. Once you’ve established your emails as something worth engaging with, your clients will feel confident that you’ll respect their time when you reach out about a potential upgrade.
Refining Your Approach
Once you’ve established the primary goals and methods for your marketing program, here are a few key steps you can take to further develop your strategy:
- Implement the right lead tracking, attribution, and reporting systems – For B2B SaaS companies in particular, a potential client may first learn about the company through a Google search. This means that quickly establishing the brand’s authority and trustworthiness is crucial—and identifying gaps in the sales funnel is key. A marketing strategy with robust tracking, attribution, and analysis capabilities is crucial to optimizing your conversion rates for each visitor. While individual needs vary, key pieces include a keyword research tool, a marketing automation platform, and a CRM.
- Develop a regular cadence for content – High-quality evergreen content can stay relevant and valuable for years, but search engine algorithms demand a steady stream of writing in order to recognize a company’s postings as fresh, relevant, and worthy of top positioning in search. Twice per week is generally the minimum cadence to be successful. Similarly, keeping the conversation going is crucial for social media engagement, visibility, and sustained leadership. Developing an editorial calendar takes considerable time—roughly three months from idea to publication—but it’s a necessary process for long-term growth.
- Delegate responsibility – In addition to time and planning, the right personnel are necessary to craft, publish, and share insightful, thought leadership content. SaaS marketing teams will need writers, editors, web designers, graphic designers, data analysts, and sales staff. Some individuals wear multiple hats, but the best results require a skilled team member for each.
You’ll need to pay close attention at the start of a new campaign to make sure you hit your core KPIs for each goal. When you feel confident that your strategy is headed in the right direction, it’s time to think about maintaining your lead generation system long-term.
Maintaining the Lead Generation Machine
Given the reality that it takes the average SaaS prospect anywhere from one to four months to convert, patience and confidence are necessary to stay the course. Given the time and cost of maintaining their campaigns for long periods of time, SaaS firms will often choose to delegate some of these responsibilities to an outsourced partner.
First Page Sage has a proven track record of creating a stream of qualified leads to B2B SaaS companies. Clients from New York to Silicon Valley have capitalized on our original approach to digital marketing for more than a decade. Contact us if you’d like to know more about our approach to B2B marketing.