The Uniqueness of SaaS Marketing

Marketing a retail product is quite difficult but straight-forward. It requires tailoring specific messages to specific buyer types, specific age groups, and presenting the product in the best light possible. For every single product that is.

But what happens when you have no physical product? And this product is continuously changing and improving? OR, you have something only a few dozens of companies can use? How to do marketing on something that is a bespoke solution that only 10 companies in the world can use?

Can you even advertise something that solves a problem the customer isn’t even aware exists?

Welcome to the fun world of SaaS marketing, where good marketers become the best, and bad marketers, well, die like the rest. (ba dum tss!)

To say marketing a SaaS product is challenging is an understatement. It is, in fact, extremely difficult to have a successful SaaS business, period. And most start-ups today are SaaS products.

The proverbial “cherry” on top is people are very picky when it comes to SaaS products.

So, what now?

Take a deep breath… Okay? Read below.

SaaS Is the Most Unique Product Type

Software as a Service (SaaS) is, in its core, a cloud-based solution to a particular pain point the end-user has. Or, a solution to lots of pain points that can improve a person or an organization’s efficiency. Or it simply makes their lives easier.

The main difference between SaaS and other businesses is that the product is not physical, but digital. And, its core lives in a dedicated server located somewhere, and is, or isn’t accessible via a dedicated desktop or browser app.

That’s great and all, but when it comes to convincing a person, not even mentioning corporations, to make your SaaS product an integral part of their functioning is well, problematic?... to put it mildly.

The reality is that convincing someone to buy a personalized mug is quite easier than buying a whole SaaS solution. And I haven’t even started on monthly subscriptions.

Every SaaS Should Aim at Long-Term Relationships

Most SaaS products fall under the B2B category. Still, there are many B2C SaaS products too, but that’s not the case in point here. The point is the B2B sales cycle is applicable for SaaS too, and it is:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Monetization
  3. Retention

Traditional businesses might aim at the first two parts of the cycle, which are acquisition and monetization. But, if a SaaS focuses on those, it will fail.

At the end of the day, retention is the be-all, end-all for SaaS products.

The EXTREMELY Important SaaS Retention Metrics

Perhaps you’ve heard about CSAT and NPS, the two metrics that have gained a lot of traction in the past few years.

What do they measure? Why are they important for SaaS companies?

CSAT – Customer Satisfaction Rates

Customer satisfaction rates (or CSAT) is measured by variations of a single question:

“How would you rate your satisfaction with our product/service?”

The options are on a scale from 1 to 5, from “Very Unsatisfied” to “Very Satisfied.”

Although the answers will give numbers pointing out whether your service is good or bad, there is a formula for calculating the actual satisfaction score.

(Number of people who scored 4 and 5 / Number of Responses) x 100 = Customer Satisfaction Rates

CSAT shows overall satisfaction with the current service, but it doesn’t show the whole picture. The peak of customer satisfaction is when a customer at the level of recommending the service to a close friend or relative.

This is where the Net Promoters Score (NPS) comes into play.

NPS – Net Promoters Score

Similarly to CSAT, the Net Promoters Score (NPS) asks one very important question about a product/service:

“On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend the product/service to a friend or colleague?”

Based on the responses, customers are classified into 3 categories:

  1. Detractors
  2. Passives
  3. Promoters

The first category, detractors, includes all people who answered 6 or less. These people aren’t touched by the service, and the likelihood of them having any relationship with the company is very low. They are also prone to spread negative word of mouth, which can be detrimental for a SaaS product.

The second category, passives, includes all people who answered 7 or 8. These people are somewhat satisfied but will switch to a competitor if they have the opportunity.

The third category is promoters and includes people who answered 9 or 10. These people are amazed by the product, and they will spread the word and recommend it to anyone they know.

Okay, So How to Do Marketing For SaaS?

Now that you know that sales are just a grain in the whole SaaS marketing picture, you need to adjust your marketing strategy to retain customers. And not only that, you need to turn them into advocates for the brand.

Start By Having a Great Product

Today, there are those people who know a bit of coding, they put together a bunch of code, and think they’ve created the next big thing. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and what they’ve created is a thing that makes a two-button clicks process into one button click process.

Consumers have noticed this tendency of horrible SaaS and learned to be very picky when picking one.

Needless to say, if your product is bad, you’re going to have a bad time.

Next, Start Giving Away Free Stuff

Free stuff always works. Name a single person in this world who doesn’t love free stuff. I’ll wait.

Everyone loves free stuff.

Still, giving out free pens and mugs for your brand news SaaS software is… well… cliche? How do these things represent your software besides having your awesome, designer logo? Is your SaaS a cloud coffee machine? Or a cloud pen? Don’t turn to giving away physical stuff to promote your software. If you do decide to, do it good. Do it unusually. More on that below.

What you need to give away for free is your software. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t give away your product for free. You won’t make money that way, duh. But you should still give your product away for free.

Embrace free trials.

In all honesty, there are so many ways to do free trials that could make your head spin. You could do the traditional free trial, you can give away free trials with credit card information, freemium models, limited free versions, trial-to-paid models, just to name a few. Although these models are very different, they have one thing in common. And that is they are all free.

Giving away your SaaS solution for free is great. But don’t forget to have a strategy for what to do after you have captured those users that are using your product for free. If you don’t know what to do with them, you’ll end up with, well, users that are using your product for free.

You need to have a business model that makes your SaaS worth buying, and use the free version as a showcase to justify the reason to buy it.

Educate Your Audience

Every marketing effort depends on information. But, for SaaS, information is the biggest key to success.

If you don’t believe me, just look at your favorite blogs. There is almost a 100% certainty that most of them come from an organization that sells SaaS.

Literally everybody does it, from Moz, Backlinko, to HubSpot, Mailchimp and Hootsuite.

SaaS depends on authority, not on marketing. And marketing IS authority. Let me explain:

You don’t need to sell your product, you need to give relevant information for free. Your product is just something that people can either use or not. Your SaaS product is optional.

Become the Gandalf of your niche.

A meme of Gandalf pointing out the importance of information over sales.

If you want to sell SaaS, you must have a blog. You must be tweeting, talking, posting, commenting, answering, liking, sharing, guest posting, etc, etc. You must spread relevant information. Most SaaS are designed to solve a pain point people aren’t even aware of. Therefore, you must educate them first, and do the sale second.

Focus on the Service Part, Not the Software Part

Yes, SaaS stands for Software as a Service. Now, what you need to focus on is the service part, not the software part. This doesn’t mean your software can be mediocre. It MUST be exceptional, fast, reliable, and important.

Here’s the thing, making your SaaS with only developers and tech-savvy people in mind will only get you that far. These people are important, yes, but your SaaS must be all-inclusive because it will be used by lots of different people. Some of them might not know what a database is, and the closest thing coming to their mind when you mention Python is a ginormous snake.

This gives you the idea of how to design the front-end of your SaaS, but also the idea on how to spend your time and money. In a nutshell, you should sell your SaaS by promoting your service. Promote your service by giving relevant information. It really is that simple.

Don’t Forget the Customer Service

Since your product IS a service, you must have exceptional service for your service.

A meme containing the text about how software as a service must have exceptional service for their service.

All jokes aside, customer service is one of the keys to retain your customers. This means having staff who are ready to handle all kinds of customer requests.

If All Goes Well, Your SaaS Will Sell Itself

Reading this might’ve made you freak out. Don’t.

SaaS marketing isn’t complicated at all. Put the churn, retention rates, multi-channel acquisitions, LTV, ROI, RoaS… metrics aside.

Focus on the most important things, and all metrics will just fit into the puzzle on their own. Focus on what matters:

  1. Exceptional product
  2. Relevant information
  3. Ease of use
  4. Great customer support

If you get the above right, everything else will sort itself out.

I’ll end this with a funny story – one of our clients was selling a very specific SaaS tailored for medical care. Someone came up with the idea to send something that would resonate with them to all medical facilities. We did send everyone that something…

Can you guess what it was?

We sent them a box containing an apple, with the text “An apple a day keeps the doctor away, our software keeps your data at bay.”

It worked.