How to fine-tune an effective digital marketing strategy for SaaS.
Marketing SaaS can be quite different from marketing B2B eCommerce and other types of B2B lead generation. This is because the sale value attributed to a SaaS sale can be very high, it is a more considered purchase with a long lead-to-sale time, and it can have very specific targeting. Furthermore, SaaS typically operates on a subscription model which can cause issues with attribution, particularly if there are gaps in tracking.
Strategies vary depending on the level of brand-awareness associated with a business. For your target audience, you should consider whether or not people are:
- Unaware of the problem
- Aware of the problem
- Aware that there are solutions
- Aware of your service/solution
- Aware of your pricing and offers
The lower down this funnel you target, the greater the ROI. But ignoring the upper funnel will cost you volume down the line. If you only target lower down the funnel, you’ll have less opportunity to influence a user’s decision early in their customer journey, which could narrow your funnel further down, costing you unknown sales. For each point in this funnel, you’ll want to carefully consider your messaging and targeting in order to maximise your ROI.
Integration and accurate tracking are key to optimisation and proving the ROI at each stage of the funnel, so it’s vital to get this in place or you could be flying blind and wasting money.
You can help your market identify a problem with videos and special blog content on display platforms, like LinkedIn and Facebook. Use broad(ish) audiences based on job roles, industry and also target people similar-to your existing customers. This is the highest level of the funnel and will have the lowest attributable ROI, but it’s also a great way to expand your reach.
For advertisers who need a direct ROI from users who are problem unaware, problem aware, and solution aware, then gated content in the form of an eBook or whitepaper is more useful. These offerings build awareness, authoritativeness and expertise – and can simultaneously introduce decision-makers to problems and solutions they weren’t aware of. LinkedIn and Facebook are great for this because they offer ad formats with auto-populating lead-gen-forms.
Messaging at this stage should not be sales-focused – instead, it should be helpful and informative.
Since you have started to build remarketing lists based on video, special blog content and/or gated content views, you can start to demonstrate the user’s solution through the use of retargeting, and again targeting people who are similar-to your existing customers.
You can build audiences in Google Analytics based on website visitors from your highly targeted Linkedin campaigns. This allows you to extend your reach and remain “front of mind” by showing video ads and image ads to those users on YouTube and the Google Display Network. Since LinkedIn has such good B2B audience targeting, you are essentially recycling this high-quality audience into other channels.
As people become aware of problems they may begin to actively search for a solution. Search engine marketing (SEM) through PPC and SEO is useful here, but people may be using search terms you are not expecting. Be ready to have your content readily accessible and focused on solving the problem rather than on the service, when people are asking questions and conducting research on what it is that they need, rather than searches for a specific service.
Utilising Quora PPC can also be useful to get eyes on your brand when people are researching solutions.
Once people are aware of the solution that they need, they may begin to search specifically for the service that you offer. This is where advertisers typically see increased competition from competitors. The reason for this is partly attribution; advertisers typically see this the stage that generates most enquiries on a last-click basis – but it’s also where you generally get better ROI. At this point, in addition to SEM, you could also start to use Google’s powerful custom-intent audiences to reach people all over the web and increase your market share. You can also use social media to start targeting more refined audiences; perhaps by targeting users in your target demographic who have interests associated with your product. Use messaging that contains your USPs to help stand out against competitors.
If you have been successfully marketing to upper-funnel stages, and your brand has been present when people have been researching what their ideal solution could be, then you should expect a higher conversion rate when solution-aware people visit your website. This is due to the link between trust and ad frequency. When people specifically search for the service that you offer, there is an ad for your brand: already familiar to users, and associated with expertise in your area.
People might start searching directly for your brand name, or your competitor’s brand name. So this is a good opportunity to use keywords to target searches for your competitors. Use innovative messaging leading to “blockbuster content” to set you apart from the competition.
Website visitors might still not have made an enquiry, requiring additional information or an enhanced product offering before they do so. This is where your “traditional” remarketing comes in. When people have visited your website after engaging with a particular campaign or visited a certain landing page, you can begin to show ads on a range of display platforms. Reaching people all over the web helps your brand stay “front of mind” during long consideration periods. At this point messaging could include overcoming objections, promotional offers, and clear call to actions.
Effective marketing doesn’t stop when the enquiry comes in. Lead-quality is an important factor that is often overlooked. If you can increase lead quality, and the rate at which enquiries turn into sales, then you can justify a higher cost per lead. A higher cost per lead target means more market share and, ultimately, more leads. Full-funnel tracking allows us to see beyond the enquiry, and subsequently attribute actual sales to particular campaigns. Furthermore, the value of sales should be monitored – not just the initial sale but recurring subscriptions. Once you have this, you can link a long-term subscription customer right back to the initial click from when they were cold and solution-unaware, allowing you to properly identify and attribute LTV.
As the sales increase, you can feed data back into the top of the funnel through the use of more similar-to lists. More data allows the platforms to more accurately identify people who are more similar to your existing customers, and this helps improve your ROI at the upper top of the funnel.
The last step in our SaaS strategies typically involves ABM or upselling. With this, you can either target users who are between the enquiry and sales steps with messaging about your awards, or retargeted existing customers with your new innovations and their benefits. Since by definition, PPC advertising operates on a cost-per-click basis, you can gain a huge number of impressions at a low cost – raising awareness on the cheap.
Ultimately, a digital marketing strategy for SaaS will depend on business objectives. It may not be wise to begin by immediately targeting every stage of the funnel identified here. Frequently, advertisers instead choose to begin targeting mid-funnel and bottom-funnel users to maximise ROI and accrue data (which can then be used at the top of funnel). But if a business wishes to grow, it is vital to ensure that the top of the funnel is not forgotten or sidelined. Machine learning algorithms can deliver great results even at the upper funnel, particularly if you can feed them enough data.
This has just been a very top-level view of the stages involved in effectively bringing SaaS to market in the digital world. To get the most out of any strategy, a business will need a more in-depth strategy, professional copywriting, desirable content, proper account setup and accurate tracking. We have more information on these in our other posts!
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